Many years ago, when I was 12 or 13, I asked my father what he did during the war. Without pause he replied, "Drank tea and smoked cigarettes." End of discussion. When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, my Dad had just turned 20. While he was living in an Ireland that had, just eight years earlier, drafted and ratified its own Constitution and rejected membership of the then British Empire, the people of neutral Ireland were very much affected by the near-cataclysmic events occurring on their doorstep.
I have mulled over his terse 'tea & cigs' response many times over the years, mostly as it became more apparent that the man had a history he did not want to share...and to his dying day, he didn't.
Small pieces of the puzzle have been filled in over the years. I'd prefer not to go into detail here about what he may or may not have done for his or another country in his younger years, mainly because what really happened during the period immediately following the war he took to his grave - and will likely remain as mere rumour, conjecture & occasionally fanciful wonderings. But everything I do know about my father leads me to believe he was, in some way, 'active'. As for my mother, I don't know. She died when I was very young, but she did work as a journalist in the days when that meant a lot more than it does now.
By sharp contrast, I am not 'active'. I haven't had to be. The biggest wars of the 20th Century were long since fought, the sacrifices made by the time I was born. The day I came bigmouthing into the world, some poor bastard was spending his third day trying to clean up a huge mess made in a field near Woodstock, NY, muttering cusswords about hippies.
I grew up in a world where people were dying in wars that, like almost every war, didn't need fighting. As a baby I moved from a relatively peaceful country to an even more peaceful one, albeit a far more remote one that only three years earlier had granted citizenship to its indigenous inhabitants.
In my teens the callow fires of indignation so common to the young began to burn stupid in my belly. I became interested in politics and was totally besotted with American politics. For a time I was active on my school's student council and became one of my school's councillors/'aldermen' on my little city's junior council. Around this time a few people began to sense in me the ability to communicate & argue reasonably well, if speciously, and it was expressed to me that I was just the sort of person who could rally the younger generation - if I wanted it, a career in party politics beckoned.
But then weed & girls & theatre. I'd like to say otherwise, but no. Weed & girls & theatre. And, as the years progressed, then some.
I am not 'active'. Through wars and corruption and domestic violence and religious intolerance and racism and all of the world's ills, I have not been 'active'. I was a bigmouth, as evidenced by this blog and blogs long gone, As old years faded and new years jaded, I was never 'active'.
Then along came November 8, 2016.
Like most everyone on the planet who has the luxury of looking at these things as opposed to looking for potable water, my prediction on the outcome of the election was horribly wrong. Before polls had closed, I boasted of my 8-zip presidential election success rate and saw nothing that would interfere with ending the day at 9-zip.
I shared the bulk of the unfoldings that day with my friend Penny. She started the day worried and stayed worried, despite my attempts at mollification. As it became apparent that my worry began to equal hers, the once abstract fear of such a ludicrous outcome burst from the back of my mind and poisoned the rest of it. Penny and I parted before 270, as we both had days to finish doing other things. In our farewell embrace, she was convinced it was a done deal - and my continued attempts at pacifying her sounded wan as they dribbled out of my head.
With a few hours up my sleeve before a scheduled play rehearsal, I decided to find a quiet place downtown to wait for the 270 call, if there was one, and gauge the reaction of my friends on the big FB.
During this little respite in Anzac Square my phone, text, messenger went nuts - with one notable exception (hi Flash) people were incensed, terrified, disgusted, perplexed (Flash was mildly perplexed, but he has a resting heart rate of 12)...asking me how it could have happened, railing against the soon-to-be President-elect, some quavering on the edge of tears. Two American friends contacted me with requests for information on emigrating to Australia. But this was nothing compared to the response on my Facebook feed. I won't bore either of us with that - you all were there (and some of you still are) - suffice it to say it shocked me more than the eventual result. Yes, I know that, with few exceptions, my FB contacts are liberal/left libertarian but I couldn't understand how, from June 2015 to November 2016, having witnessed the total shit show that was the primary season and the campaign and especially the entire media's complete inability to do its job, anything could surprise. Shock and horror, sure.
I was shocked too, but not surprised. The ability to surprise ended about halfway through the GOP primary season. 'If he can get this far, saying the things he's said, having done the things he's done, being the utterly reprehensible human he is...anything is possible.'
And it was and he won and the freak out was immense. But I didn't freak out. Please understand I'm not saying that as a throwaway - it is anything but. Under normal circumstances, I am sure that my rage and fear and blame and disgust and horror, not to mention my vicious, vituperative hatred of Donald Trump would have matched any on Earth. But I didn't feel it. This was anything but a normal circumstance.
It was very confusing - I had hitherto not felt such a visceral contempt for a politician or any aspirant to high office. As strange as it may seem in this age of polarized, hateful, facile discourse, I have shared a few enjoyable experiences with politicians of a different stripe - I once spent a good 30 minutes having a very pleasant phone conversation with Pauline Hanson. Despite disagreeing with some politicians on just about every issue, I had never thought that, whatever nefarious deeds were being done in the corridors of power, that a president or prime minister during my lifetime was inherently, moustache-twirlingly eeeeeeevil.
They just held radically different views to mine on how the world works and should work, beholden as they are to their own ideology as both internal and external interests too numerous to mention.
But I fucking despise Donald Trump and the one thing he represents - Donald Trump. My belief that he displays major traits of all four Cluster B personality disorders grows more trenchant by the day.
So using that 'fear & loathing' of a Trump presidency as a yardstick, I should have been tearing the joint apart with fury.
But I didn't. I didn't react with hows & whys & the end is nigh. I didn't blame rural whites for showing up or anyone else for staying home. I didn't blame the Dems for screwing the pooch in either their choice of candidate, the methods by which that candidate was chosen or the campaign she ran, which, by now clearly obliterated models, was strong. I didn't blame Trump and his surrogates for the many and varied lies they told. I didn't attack the electoral college system. I certainly didn't secretly revel in the notion that America brought this on itself and deserves what it gets. I didn't get angry with voters who have consistently been gulled by a false socio-political narrative. I felt and still feel that autopsies and 're-litigation' (a word that should go away now the shitfight is done, along with cuck, shill, Zionist, sheeple & triggered) are a waste of time. It was a free & fair election, so...what now?
That fed no impulse but one - the need for immediate and calculated resistance. I felt activated.
Nobody knows exactly what a Trump presidency will bring. Outside of his ability to behave like a total fuck biscuit faster than the news cycle could keep up with his crunchy fuck biscuitry, his campaign was defined largely by the simple, vivid and broad brush strokes of his divisive campaign promises.
Given that so many of us have been pulled up short by his unlikely victory, it's fair to say that it's impossible to predict the veracity of his alleged intentions. But we can say they cover a spectrum, from mere pandering to a certain cross-section of the electorate - suggesting that he has no idea what the hell he's going to do once in office and may even be shitting his pants at the prospect of having to really deliver on this shit - walls and deportations and immigration bans. On the other end - like, he's actually totes serious'n'shit? That will result in military and economic isolationism and the dismantling of the fundamental principles of America as codified by the Founders, which in turn will, as they say in the classics, royally fuck America as a nation and weaken the position of its allies.
Let's look at the former first. Trump didn't expect to win and now he has he's having to come to terms with it. This was best expressed by a friend of mine in Houston, Geoff, who wrote on Facebook recently that "Trump and the Republicans are like Max Bialystock learning that 'Springtime for Hitler' is a smash. Now all eyes are on them, and will demand an accounting." If those who bought into the Trump narrative really do stay vigilant in their desire to see he follows through on all his horseshit and he doesn't...he's gone.
Personally, I'm not prepared to wait and see. The risk of having this man in charge demands that we envisage the worst case scenario, purely because we have very recent and horrific examples of what happens when power is left unchecked. If the GOP-controlled Congress can't keep him in line, the Dems are powerless to for at least two years and the SCOTUS ends up with a 5-4 conservative leaning, surely it is incumbent upon US to ensure 'freedom' through 'eternal vigilance'.
This is where I hit a soft wall, because I have not been, to this point, an activist. I can barely get people who like me to read my blog entries. At this point, with the clear and present danger of a Trump presidency instilling in me a nascent yet powerful feeling of the need for mass resistance, I can't honestly say what we need to do. But I can say what we shouldn't do.
We shouldn't engage in anything other than forward movement.
We shouldn't block freeways like petulant toddlers.
Recrimination is not resistance.
Do not fall victim to fear.
Do not perpetuate what you claim to oppose or despise.
Artists - do not be fooled by this notion that your art alone is enough to effect change. Whenever you think it, remind yourself of the Peter Cook line about the condemnatory satirical cabarets in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s doing so much to thwart the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.
We shouldn't engage in the divisive rhetoric that has played such a large part in bringing us to this point, not just in America, but as a species. Reject that in favour of the most respectful and nuanced of discourse, always with a compassionate and rational outlook as our benchmark.
We must not wish for America to fail - consider the alternative.
Don't exclude those who wish to join this resistance just because they eat meat, don't like the smell of patchouli & don't identify as SJW's. We need everybody and those people are allowed to be less left-leaning than you think you are.
We must not exclude those with whom we disagree, these are the people to engage. Argument does not mean fight. Argument does not mean hate.
We are not the Judean People's Front or the People's Front of Judea. We're just people with a common focus - to ensure that what was built to become egalitarian and inclusive becomes more egalitarian and inclusive.
And we will not let this self-serving, narcissistic popinjay out of our grasp for one second. One false move and we're on him.
I'd be lying if I said there was no anger...there is. But it can be channelled into something meaningful. We can't just have a pint and wait till it all blows over.
So...with all that said - whatever ad hoc wake you were indulging in is over now. This is a wake up.