The election’s almost over. Can our broken nation be fixed?
American Underpants | by Anna Minard
Dear Canada: just in case a President Trump unhinges us from the continent and ejects us into low Earth orbit in an ultimate protectionist move — probably leaving behind Alaska and Hawaii, two of our coolest states, which you are welcome to enjoy — I’d like to say thank you for the time we’ve spent together. Being your geographical underpants has truly been an honour and a privilege.
Thank you for sharing images of your shaggy-haired, yoga-practicing prime minister just when we needed it, and you’re welcome for eight full years of Michelle Obama’s state dinner dresses.
But the headlines keep saying that it won’t go that way, that Trump’s in for a defeat, and when’s the last time national polls and conventional wisdom were really off right before a big election? I’m sorry, what’s that, UK voters? It sounds like you’re saying “breakfast.” Brex— ooohhhhhhhhh. Oh, good lord.
Well, uh, anyways, it still seems increasingly likely that the election will swing for Galactic Empress Clinton, which is reassuring — or at least as reassuring as someone telling you, “Don’t worry, nothing bad is going to happen to you” right after you watch a horror movie for 18 months straight.
The best thing about right now, obviously, is that in less than two weeks, the election will be over (GAH, again, I’ll stipulate: It’ll be over if the race isn’t so super-close we have to relive the 2000 election, and also if the Blustering Toupee Stand publicly accepts the results of a non-close election. So I guess what I’m saying is, just don’t pop the champagne right at 8 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 8.).
With the election almost over, it’s time for a uniquely important, painful version of our usual post-election ritual — a long session of How Did We Get Here, and Where Do We Go Now? It’s a much-needed exercise every presidential election year, as we knit back together all the things we ripped to shreds for the last year or more — our sense of shared values, our respect for our fellow citizens, our appreciation of the democratic process. But this time, it’s going to be hard. Really, really hard. I know Canadian Thanksgiving already happened in October, but American Thanksgiving is barely two weeks after the election, in what is either a cruel practical joke or a brilliant ploy to force us to confront face-to-face the people we love but disagree with.
As part of this annual tradition, I present a simple, four-point plan for moving forward after all this is through.
Step 1: Actually Vote For Hillary Clinton.
Okay, I know that’s not technically a post-election thing, but it’s an integral step. If this part doesn’t happen, all the other steps convert to just a long list of post-apocalypse skills (“Step 2: Learn How To Hunt Game. Step 3: Learn Forest Medicine. Step 4: Practice Living Without Electricity By Hiding Your Phone In The Next Room And Reading A Book By Candlelight.” Step 5: Practice Bartering).
And I know you Canadians can’t help us here, but to speak to my fellow Americans for a moment: if you’ve ever learned about some dramatic historical turning point and thought about what daring and brave thing you would do if you were alive when it happened, and yet you are currently considering voting third party or sitting out the election, we have got to talk. When you think back to those moments in history, do you picture yourself leaping out of a window with stolen ink to forge documents or taking up arms and fighting for freedom? And yet you, right now, living in the relative comfort of the U.S. in 2016, are not willing to vote for some lady with whom you have some policy disagreements? Please, think about how little you have to sacrifice to help prevent this terrifying thing from happening. No one’s asking you to cut off a limb or go into hiding. You just have to cast a ballot for someone who doesn’t inspire you. Please. Do it for Canada.
Step 2: Call Your Parents And Grandparents (And Siblings And Cousins And Etc.).
The election season is ugly and it hurts; we end up feeling so disconnected from the other side that it makes the world seem broken and strange. And yet many of us have political differences in our own families, and it often feels like the way forward is to ignore them so you can choke down food in front of each other without screaming or crying, at least once a year (See: American Thanksgiving.).
That doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore. Our political worldview is shaped by the media we consume and the politically segregated circles we run in. Our political divisions so often match demographic divisions, and more and more they match geographical divisions. If we spend all our time with the people we choose instead of the people we’re bound to by blood and legal documents and memories of the time all the bags flew off the top of the car while we were on the freeway on our way to the cabin, we’re just making those divisions harder to cross.
When the election is over, it would do us all a world of good to connect with our people, up to and including and especially the ones we can’t understand. Canadians, if you have American relatives whose politics make you sick, I hope you are preparing to love and forgive them — or at least to listen to them for a second, to try and figure out what’s going on.
Step 3: Get Off Facebook And Move Your Body Somewhere.
Thank you for your digital message of love, Canada. That video about how America’s already great, the one the Toronto ad agency made that had Canadians telling us what they love about America (jazz, national parks, charitable giving)? We got it. We saw it. THANK YOU!
But now it’s time for us to get off the damn Internet and go put our bodies in a place and communicate directly to other humans with our face holes.
The insidious creep of an Internet that, mirroring our geographical and social divisions, builds a digital cocoon around you that reflects back all the things you already think and already like? That is the fucking DEVIL. Kill it.
It’s time to fight back against your self-curated Twitter feed and your algorithm-based Facebook feed and the media you trust, and go be a person in the world in a place you don’t always go. Go see a new part of the country or breathe the same air as some new people in your town. Just get your body out of screen-prison for a second so you can see that all these people you’re fighting with are actual humans. The feelings behind our disagreements are real and valid — and probably not that hard to understand, once you’re listening.
Step 4: Remember what’s great about being alive right now.
I just visited a town in Oregon (it’s one of our provinces, which we call “states”) where, at one of the local brewpubs, you can drink well-made microbrews while watching enormous sea lions cuddle each other just feet away, their crazy ocean-dog barks ringing out all along the docks. And then I ate some gummi bears, and then went inside and turned on indoor heating. All within the span of an hour!
What I’m trying to convey here is a deep appreciation of the wonder of being here in the world at this moment.
Yes, really crappy things are happening right here, all around the world, and even up in the atmosphere. But there are a bunch of reasons why it’s worth it anyway, and I encourage everyone to find some.
Whatever it is for you, grab it and hold it and laugh about it for a minute. I’ll be down here thinking of all the gummi bears and cartoonish sea lions and beer just waiting to be drunk.
Cheers, Canada. You’re welcome/I’m sorry/thank you.