Are You There God, It's Me Jonathan

God, can you hear me now?  My reception sucks in this area.  How's it going?  Hope you don't mind me calling out of the blue.  Here's the deal.

I’m not sure what to do or think anymore.  Things are so . . .

Hey, God, you mind if I curse?

I do it all the time, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise YOU of all people.

God-- THINGS ARE FUCKED UP.  

There’s a guy in North Korea who wants to nuke us.  The planet keeps getting hotter.  My health insurance has gone up about 3000% in the last 5 years.  And God, you might not believe this, but some motherfuckers were marching around giving Nazi salutes and waving swastika banners in Charlottesville.  

Virginia.  

In the United States of Fucking America!

God am I having a nightmare?  Will I be waking up soon to see Bobby Ewing getting out of the shower?  It’s starting to feel like a haunted house that I can’t get out of.  A terrible roller coaster that won’t stop.  A FOUR YEAR VOMIT COMET.

What am I supposed to do, God?  If I go on with my daily life, am I burying my head in the sand?  If I call Congress all day and sign ACLU petitions, is anything really going to change?  Above all God, how the hell are we gonna get out of this mess?

And here’s another thing, God.  I’ve got friends who voted to go to this amusement park.  They thought it was gonna be TERRIFIC.  Jobs.  Pride.  MAGA.  The whole nine yards.  Now I just don’t know what to say to them.  Should I ask them how they think things are going?  Do I want to hear the answer?  Would I be able to truly remain friends with someone who is totally on board with this unholy shit show?

There’s more to life to politics.  Friends can be on opposite sides of the Red/Blue divide and still bond over any number of things.  

But is this more than politics, God?  Feels like this is a whole lot bigger.  Feels like when there isn’t much common ground on the environment, human rights, racial equality, health care, honesty, integrity and basic decency… what’s left?  Is there anything to build a bond on?

“Oh, Bob is sort of okay with those Nazis goose stepping through Charlottesville, but other than that he’s a good guy!”

I don’t know, God.  It’s hard.  This feels like the hardest thing anyone my age has gone through. We were babies when Watergate happened.  Babies and toddlers for Vietnam.  We lived through the anxiety of the Cold War, but nothing really happened.  Both Gulf Wars were terrible but they weren’t close to the scale of World War I or II.

It feels like the world is falling apart, God.  Truth be told (oh who am I kidding, you know this already) I’m not a religious guy, but we need some divine intervention right now.  I guess I might be one of those snowflakes who freaks out a little too easily.  Hey I can own it, I’ve always been a sensitive new age guy.

But here’s the thing, God.  I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive here.  I think shit is crazy right now.  And I kind of think this crazy train is either going to turn the bend into some kind of Valley of Miraculous Awakening (always darkest before the dawn?) or the engine is about to kick it Thelma and Louise style.

Anyway, God, I guess that’s my prayer.  More of a journal entry today.  Watch over us.  I know you always do.  Send us a few extra signals, maybe.  Make sure we remember all the good things in this world.  Make sure that we remember that no matter how fucked up it gets, we humans do seem to pull through.  Don’t forget about us, ok, God?

Thanks.  And Amen.

STATE OF MIND FOR THE STATE OF THE UNION

  

Boy, has this blog been put off for a while.  I have been saying to myself and others for weeks that I needed to have a game plan.  A road map. Some kind of mental framework to deal with the incoming administration.  People on either side of the aisle would have no trouble agreeing that we’re about to see a major pivot in U.S. politics. For some, this is a change they’ve been waiting 8 years for.  For folks like me, it’s a shift that’s casting all kinds of scary shadows.  Fear is never a good spot to be making decisions from.  Everything gets warped and out of proportion.  Then again, I’ve seen some very tangible evidence recently that we should keep the PANIC button at arm’s length.  

In my adulthood (and believe me, I use that term loosely), I’ve lived through 16 of 24 years with a democrat as president.  The remaining 8 had George W. Bush at the helm, and I think they were a disaster. Could it get any worse than an administration bullying a nation into war for reasons that were utterly false?  A war that ultimately cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars?  Plunging a nation into a needless war is the most damnable thing a leader can do, in my opinion.  And whether it’s fair or not to all republicans, George W. Bush is my generation’s reference point for a republican president.  

Huge, unmitigated FAIL.

Now with a new republican on the verge of taking power, liberals could be excused for jitters even if it was Mitt Romney.  But of course, Romney looks like Ward Cleaver these days.  We’re about to have some mashup of JR Ewing and Archie Bunker.  

What the F U C K I N G  F U C K E T Y  F U C K  are we in for???

Breathe, Jonathan, breathe.  Let’s make our plan.  These are My Commandments for The Trump Era.

1. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

This has become cliche, but is no less true as when the Brits used it back in WWII.  Trump will be president.  I have accepted it.  I’m not happy, but I also refuse to let his election tear me away from my goals and my passions.  I’m not going to spend 4 years in freak out mode, trying to decide how to counteract his regime.  This is my life, too.  I still want to make art, tell stupid jokes on Facebook, raise my kids and love my wife.  I will not let politics be the dictator of how I feel or what I want to do.

2. KNOW WHEN AND HOW TO SPEAK UP

If you’re on Facebook enough, you’ve seen one of those posts about how “your political meme totally changed my mind!”  I have certainly been guilty of hammering political nails in your Facebook feed.  Mea culpa.  I’ve resolved to use my blog to air fears and strategies concerning Mr. Trump.  It might not be 100% of my content, but I’ll keep it out of my Facebook posts, by and large, because really: that’s not what most of us are on social media for.  If you wanna read the blog, you will.  If you want to debate me, I welcome it.  But we’ll do it “the old fashioned way”-- in person or through direct contact like email. We’re all Americans.  We can have civil discourse.  I think now more than ever, it’s imperative. Speaking of which…

3.  DON’T FEED THE TROLLS

Some people get off on being dicks.  The less time I give them, the better.  So they will not only get zero keystrokes from me, I resolve to give them zero energy as well.  

But we should also remember…

4.  GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE

I have thought a lot about this since early November.  I have several friends, many of them long time buddies, who voted for Trump.  I want to stay in touch with their views.  I want to hear their voice.  They matter too-- even if we will never agree on some issues.  I think that’s one of the core pillars of our country: diverging opinions and cultures figuring it out together, in the open.  Not sealed up in our ideological boxes.  This extends to politics as “entertainment” too.  I have begun to wonder whether a steady diet of John Oliver and SNL is entirely good for me.  I have no qualms with our leader being lampooned over and over (you’re the most powerful man in the world, dude, get over it) but the undercurrent of derision for people who support Mr. Trump is what has begun to bother me.  I want to keep talking to people on all sides of an issue.

5.  PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

It’s much easier to ignore advocacy groups when “your” president is in power.  You’re running the show, right?  Why worry?  I have never been terribly interested in policy details or lobbying efforts, but I do want people fighting the good fight for the next 4 years.  So I have decided to give a little money every month to groups that advocate for our environment (my #1 issue) and a little to the ACLU, to make sure we are all protected under the law.  One person can’t financially support every advocacy group alone, so whatever issues you care deeply about, consider donating a few bucks regularly to the cause.  Also…

6.  PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

Smiling at a stranger on the street costs nothing.  Waving at the car behind you when they let you change lanes?  Zero dollars.  I am now more determined than ever to do little positive things (and perhaps the occasional BIG positive thing) for no other reason than spreading love. Spend an hour watching cable news and you might come away with the impression that Hate is our national pastime.  I’ve had enough.  I’d rather do something fun and kind as a lark, than spend the same amount of time and effort focused on division.

I guess that’s it.  We’re gonna make it, my fellow Americans!  Just keep coming back to your Gloria Gaynor mantra: I WILL SURVIVE!

And if you voted for Mr. Trump, I hope the next four years make you feel a sense of positivity about our country.  I really do.  And if that happens, share your story with me.  Maybe our discussion will become its own blog.  Meantime, I’ll be smiling at my studio, making more art, and trying to come up with silly gags for your Facebook feed.

 

  

CLOSING STATEMENT

Where do I even begin?  The last week or so has been a bumpy emotional ride, and even as things begin to level out, I’m left with so much uncertainty and occasional anxiety.  Donald Trump will be our president.  The words are still difficult to write.

I have many friends who voted for Mr. Trump.  Their perspective on politics and the state of our country stands in such contrast from mine, I sometimes marvel at the fact that we’re friends at all.  But I count it on balance as a good thing.  

I’ve begun to think that I have sealed myself off too much from the outside world and from outside opinions. For one thing, I certainly am sealed off geographically.  Living only 10 miles from The People’s Republic of Boulder, I do not run in many circles that challenge my view of things.  And for the most part, I like that.  Confrontation is uncomfortable.  I think we’ve been conditioned by social media to fire off nasty and/or dismissive talking points without delving into any of the substance behind our disagreements.

I also think the 24 hour news cycle isn’t good for us.  I’m not sure where the line is between being informed and being controlled is, but I do feel sure that we are past it.  Is it possible for an entire nation to turn off the web/tv/radio pipeline and take a collective breath or two?

Maybe it’s time for Hands Across America 2016.

If I identify in a particular way spiritually, it is as a Buddhist.  One of the central tenets of Buddhism is not clinging.  To not be rigid.  These are concepts that are easier to practice when things are going our way.  It’s like the parenting strategies I come up with in my shrink’s office.  They sound so ideal in the bubble of therapy.  Quite a bit different to put into effect when shit is blowing up at home.

But: this is it.  This is happening.  How will I cope with it?  Will I gnash my teeth and scream into the wind for the next 4 years?  How do I fight and not let the fight become everything I’m about?  How do I advocate and stand up for what I believe in without surrendering too much of myself and my peace to the cause?

I am allowing myself a rebound period to let the poison of the election season recede.  Let things settle down.  Take a break from Facebook, the rantings, the fake news and the vitriol.  If I really want this country to change and for healing to begin:   where does it start?  

With me.  Period.  Simple, but not easy.

But I am also guarding against accepting some of the viewpoints Donald Trump has legitimized as normal.  This was something that John Oliver brought up on his post election show.  I believe that many of the things Mr. Trump has said and many of the fringe groups he has emboldened should be rejected.

So as I try to move forward and leave the rancor behind, I want to go on record:

I am not okay with the way he has treated women.

I am not okay with multiple infidelities.

I am not okay with demonizing Muslims or immigrants.

I am not okay with the KKK.  (which kind of sounds like the whitest Public Enemy song ever written)

I am not okay with declaring bankruptcy and stiffing contractors.

I am not okay with mocking people with disabilities.

I am not okay with making abortion illegal.

I am not okay with denying climate change.

And I am not okay with rolling back any rights of the LGBTQ community.

NOT OKAY.  OK?

That said… (breath) …  I am willing to be optimistic.  I am willing to take a leap of faith.  

I will treat Mr. Trump in a manner that I would like every president to be treated:  respectfully, if cautiously.  I will not tear him down before he’s even been sworn in.

If he begins to do things that I believe are wrong, I will fight.  And I hope that if he compromises basic principles that we claim to believe in as a nation, that the fight will not be a battle of the left or right, but one that all Americans will join.

I’m Jonathan Hanst, and I approve of more cat videos.