“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . .”
Think about it. Fifty-nine million people got the lesser of two evils. Fifty-nine million people got the greater of two evils. America is divided about evenly, and there’s a whole spectrum of thought and opinion. So, if you want to write a white hero-guy who kicks poor, brown ass and enjoys his Budweiser, there’s a market for that. If you want to write a diverse cast of characters, fighting The Man like time-travelling hippies and enjoying a little recreational marijuana, there’s a market for that. I predict that escapist fantasy is going to have a heyday. Why?
Because “now is the winter of our discontent” – not yet made glorious by any sun.
We’re at 4 a.m., folks, the darkest before the dawn. Nobody’s happy right now. People who voted for Clinton, Johnson or Stein didn’t win; Clinton supporters are particularly upset with the electoral college system. We, as a nation, have been beefing about this ever since I was getting Weekly Readers in elementary school – probably longer. Nobody has taken active steps toward changing the electoral system. I doubt it’s going to change in the next two years, since the system has helped the Republicans win a presidency twice in my living memory. The Republican majority in Congress must think, “Why change what works?” and I don’t blame them much. Not much.
But the Republicans don’t have it easy-peasy, either. A great many of them are upset about the “very bad attitudes” of a large minority, and let’s face it, they aren’t the most cohesive party in the nation, either. A lot of hard words were exchanged during the campaign that boil down to Republican-on-Republican violence. A lot of Republicans are unhappy about how hard it’s going to be to heal the rifts, internally and externally.
This wide-spread national unhappiness is going to affect most of us, sooner or later. I worry most about the world economic system, and also micro- and macro-aggressions from people who think a Trump victory means they now have a mandate to personally vigilante-ize their communities. Other people (on all sides) have other worries, which may or may not be quite valid, concerning women’s rights, minority rights, health care, business, war, terrorism and crime. It doesn’t matter, really, whether those fears are fact-based or likely; Franklin Roosevelt said, “(T)he only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . .” Well, that’s not quite ALL we have to fear, but fear and anxiety are important enemies to clear thought and planning. Fear and anxiety drain us of hope, and seep into every corner of our lives.
So, that’s where escapist fiction comes in. First, it can distract us from unwholesome fear and anxiety. Second, it can present new ideas and viewpoints in fun, palatable packages of romance, science fiction and fantasy and thrillers (including mysteries). Third, it can promote discussions of issues couched in “not real” (fictional) terms, which can make it easier to discuss hypotheticals both in person or online.
Because after all, “(W)e are such stuff As dreams are made on . . . .”
We are going to be forced to take a break from the Big Picture for the next few years. Sure, it’ll be lurking in the back of our minds, but I think it’s time to concentrate on the Little Details. Instead of internationalization and world cooperation, we need to take time to look at our own communities. We need to listen to those who are hurting, and not just dismiss it as whining.
Instead of depending on the federal government to enact humane laws and procedures, we need to work to implement those ideals of human intercourse into our state and local laws, as well as our neighborhoods. The Republican viewpoint has been, “Charity begins at home,” and they are not wrong. People who belong to churches and other religious centers can work through those structures. People who aren’t religious need to look into bringing back some old-fashioned grassroots organizations, such as The Grange, or look at the British Women’s Institute as models for a new kind of coming together.
We have to stop expecting great leaders to appear, and start working to create – or even be – great leaders in our communities, so we have a bigger pool of experienced, hard-working leaders who know how to cooperate and get people working together. That’s going to take a lot longer than four years to accomplish, but it’s so important. I think we’ve taken leadership-quality people for granted for far too long, and it’s time to look at what goes into the making of truly great leaders.
And so, this is a very 19th century attitude, but maybe our novels and stories and writings can help guide the American market into a place of understanding and compromise. We can provide a moral guide – not through a moral bludgeon, because nobody’s going to want to read that, but through gentle humor, realistic conflict, and the great reward of happy endings.
We can do it. Let’s go write today.
But if you need it, further distractions:
Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities is hardly a comfort read right now, but the politics and intrigue might take you away from it all. Full text from Literature.org.
Richard III by William Shakespeare opens with the winter of discontent quote. Actually, the glorious sun of York is a bit of an asshole in the play, but I got so caught up in Shakespeare’s prose that I almost said, “To heck with my blog post; I’m going to read this!” (-: My duty to the internet prevailed, but I’m going to read it before November is over, bit by bit. Full text from MIT.
Roosevelt’s inauguration speech is well worth reading at this time. See it from The U.S. Survey Course on the Web, here.
Shakespeare is great, isn’t he? Unfortunately, a lot of the best, romantic, sweet and intelligent quotes come from characters who really represent something else. I think the real meaning of this quote is that we are weak and ineffectual shadows on the wall . . . but to my American mind, the quote taken out of context sounds like, “We are the ones who will make dreams come true.” Americans: we’re optimistic, even when it’s totally uncalled for. And you know what? Sometimes it’s all that’s called for! (See fear quote.) Here’s the text of Prospero’s speech from The Tempest from MIT.
John Oliver talks about “The Most Defiant Nation” on YouTube. Gosh, I hope it stays up long enough for you to see it! Defiance is an extreme form of identifying the problems, and naming them. Fuck, yeah! (Ahem, excuse my language.)
Ready to be part of the solution instead of sitting back and watching the world go to hell? Check out these rabble-rousers from the past!
The Grange was an American movement of farmers, started in 1867 after the Civil War. The Grangers helped support third party movements that had a national voice, but not a lot of national muscle. Still, it was a start. The Grange helped people in their farming businesses, helped give a non-religious social life, and brought all sorts of people together. Women and “any teen old enough to draw a plow” were allowed to participate. The Grange is still active today. See this article from Wikipedia for a little more information.
The Women’s Institute in Great Britain formed in 1915 after World War I, and gave women a structure to not only make their voices heard, but to create the kind of programs to give them the world they wanted. See this Telegraph (U.K.) article celebrating 100 years of the Women’s Institute. (Bonus: the WI shows up in a lot of British fiction, so if you know what it is, you’ll get a lot more out of escapist British women’s fiction (-:.)