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For what it’s Worth

Before I start, let me state categorically that I did not support either Presidential candidate. A number of sources, myself included, sum it up this way. The good news is that Clinton lost, and the bad news is Trump won. This election was America’s Kobayashi Maru test. If we manage to avoid a coup or a civil war of some kind, I would submit that we pass. There was no good outcome. Either we get a crooked career politician who is a card-carrying member of the political establishment, or we get a foul-mouthed, pompous ass who gives every indication that he has no idea what he’s doing. Either we get more of the same political approach that favors the money and corporate forces that have slowly wormed their way into every aspect of our lives, or we get a complete outsider who knows nothing about politics, essentially a spin of the roulette wheel for our country’s future. It’s a sign of the times that around half the country is, in fact, that desperate for change.

Now it’s over, and the President Elect is Donald Trump. It sounds absurd. It is absurd. What has happened is historically absurd, probably historically bad, but historic nonetheless. Trump’s victory is not the desirable outcome, but it is, at least, the more interesting outcome. I’m not happy with President Trump, but then again, I wouldn’t be happy with President Clinton either, and for me, there’s no lesser evil, there’s just different kinds of screwed.

I was surprised at how wrong the polls were, given how much research and care goes into them. I expected that Hillary would win, because that’s what every poll has said for weeks. Yet, if we consider the nature of humanity, the result shouldn’t really be that surprising. We humans are storytelling creatures. Sometimes the characters change, and sometimes just the actors, but what appeals to us is the story, and from the beginning, Trump’s ascent has been a narrative that ultimately isn’t about Trump himself, but rather what he represents.

One often finds truth in strange and unexpected places, and this election, both in process, and in its eventual outcome resembles the improbably theatrical world of professional wrestling. In the late 90’s, the truth, justice, and the American way hero suddenly wasn’t putting enough asses in the seats. Try as he might, Vince McMahon couldn’t manage to create a new version of Hulk Hogan or Randy Macho Man Savage. Everything people used to love was suddenly lame. So, along comes a guy that who drinks beer straight from the can in the ring, flips off the audience, constantly curses, disrespects the Bible, basically spits on everything nice and wholesome…and the people LOVED him for it, and so Stone Cold Steve Austin was born. I was an angry teenager at the time, and I loved the guy too. Suddenly, he was the biggest star in wrestling, and how did they foil that? Why, they created a sycophantic goody two shoes that follows all the rules, always toes the company line, and kisses up to the boss, the corporate champion. The popularity of this angle skyrocketed the popularity of pro wrestling and made the WWF (now the WWE) relevant again.

Does this sound familiar? It should, because we’ve been watching it for the past year. Once again, some guy comes along, thumbs his nose at the system, breaks all the rules, acts like a fool, and the people, at least half of them anyway, loved him for it. The establishment tried to stop him. They tried to foist Jeb Bush on the people, then Rubio, then Cruz. Every man they supported fell before the crazy outsider. Then the establishment of the Republicans did the previously unthinkable and supported the Democratic candidate. Yes, indeed, they supported the establishment, the system, over their own party, and over their own voters. Had they understood what was going on, the story that was unfolding before them, they would surely have shut their mouths and gotten out of their own way. It’s been said that we create the thing we fear, and Trump is a creation of the establishment’s failure to listen to the will of the people. The man himself is unimportant. It’s the story that appeals to people. Trump isn’t the good guy, he isn’t even supposed to be. That’s not how the narrative goes. He’s the rogue, the loose cannon, the gadfly, the anti-hero. He’s mean, he’s ruthless, he can’t be bought or influenced. He’s the guy who will fight fire with fire, who will get his hands dirty, who will do things ordinary heroes won’t, but like a regular hero, he’s supposed to win. Whether you agree or disagree with it, this is the narrative that much of middle America was listening to.

But now the story is over, and people are going to expect the same things from Trump that they expect from all their leaders, plus a lot of other things that are going to be hard to deliver, so let’s not be melodramatic. The world is not ending. The sun will rise tomorrow. This too shall pass.

I daresay very few of us are pleased with the outcome of this election, but let’s take what solace we can. Most of the people who voted against Trump did so not because of politics, but because he’s a vile and disgusting human being, which while relevant, is not a particularly useful indicator of competence. Many, if not most great leaders, were not particularly good men. The use of power is dirty, ugly, and never nice. It very nearly precludes anyone with pristine morality. Is he a racist? Maybe? Is he a misogynist? Probably. Is he a good role model for children? Absolutely not. Still, if he balances the budget, brings some jobs to middle America, and keeps America safe and out of unnecessary wars, most people won’t give a rip. After all, Bill Clinton had an affair with his intern while in office, and perjured himself, and by and large, nobody cared. The budget was balanced and the economy was booming. You can be a good man and a bad President, or vice versa.

Let’s also remember that just because you’re the President, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. The world doesn’t work that way and it never has. I hope Trump himself is intelligent enough to understand that. I sincerely hope he’s not as stupid as he’s looked during this campaign. If he really is that stupid, we have a procedure for that too. It’s called impeachment, and whatever the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors, if he goes too far and angers enough people, he will be subject to it. Personally, I wish the new President Elect wisdom and grace in the coming months and years. Heaven knows he is going to need it. The American people have spun the roulette wheel. Let’s hope we get lucky.

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