Melissa Roen Reflects... Satire, Shakespeare, Another US Election.
By Indie Publisher and Author, Melissa Roen
It’s early autumn at my home in the South of France. Today, the sky and the sea is a startling azure blue and golden light gilds the landscape. On days like this, even though there’s a nip in the October air, it seems impossible that the gray, rainy days of November will ever come.
But as inevitable as death and taxes, the dreary days of November are around the corner and, on November 8th, Americans go to the polls to elect our 45th president. It’s being touted as a historic election for the direction and soul of America. Never before have two presidential candidates been so disliked or mistrusted. Never has the mudslinging been so intense. Or the divisiveness between Americans exposed as a deep chasm dividing the nation. The world watches aghast as the reality show cum circus of this year’s election keeps reaching new lows, while many Americans despair of the choice facing them on November 8, 2016.
Instead of electing the best and the brightest, both Trump and Clinton are seriously flawed. For many undecided voters, such as me, this troubling election is the choice between the lesser of two evils. Like trying to decide between, “Which cancer do you want to kill you?”
On one hand, we have The Lone Rager, Donald J. Trump. A Washington outsider and thin-skinned billionaire, racist, bigot, demagogue, with narcissist tendencies and anger management issues, all rolled into one.
Trump appeals to voters who are angry and fed up with the corrupt and ineffectual government of the political elite. Granted, most Americans can relate to an urgent need for a change in government, which is why we have seen the rise and appeal of populist candidates like Trump and Bernie Sanders. However, Trump’s vision of making America Great Again--in his image--has sinister overtones.
Trump’s type of populist appeal needs a scapegoat. Scratch the surface of Trump’s appeal and you find the insidious fear of the “browning” of America. It’s the last stand at the Alamo for the angry white electorate, who fear the loss of their bastion of white privilege. They’re outraged and frightened by the demographic projections that the non-Hispanic white population of America will be a minority by 2050.
Everyone from disabled to African Americans; Mexicans and Moslems; a war hero’s parents and a decorated prisoner of war have been the targets of Trump’s slurs and vindictiveness on the campaign trail.
A misogynist, he reserves a special brand of degrading treatment for women. By now, everyone has heard that tape of Pussygate. Poor Tic Tacs: guilt by association. To be branded, hereafter, as the secret weapon in a sexual assailant’s bag of tricks. The innocuous little breath mints will never live it down…
Using hyperbole, disdaining political correctness and preaching exclusion of minorities and immigrants, he’s able to tap into the anger and fear of his millions of predominately white supporters. More disturbingly, he’s brought boiling to the surface the vast subterranean reservoir of racism and bigotry that is rampant in America. Trump aspires to the highest office in the land by advocating violence against, and threatens, if elected, to prosecute and imprison his political opponent; a play straight out of an African dictator’s handbook.
A belligerent bully: an aura of violence clings to him. Trump yearns for the good old days when he could settle scores by “knocking the crap out” of the people with whom he disagrees. He reminisced with his supporters, while a black protestor was being ejected from one of his rallies, “Remember the good old days, folks, when a guy like that would leave on a stretcher...?” Yep, them good ole days: when lynching and Jim Crow were the law of the land.
Trump's vision of America is a dark dystopian dictatorship with him as Supreme Leader. Good luck, with Trump having his tiny fingers on the nuclear button, if anyone slights him.
Be afraid, World—very afraid…
Then there's Hillary, the "presumed" one-world-government-conspiracy-high-priestess-of-the-Illuminati candidate. Voters may dread another Clinton White House; however, Hillary is the only option to stop the dark tide of Trump. On the surface-- discounting the fact that if she is elected, Bill and his rusty ole saxophone will be moving back into the White House--Hillary appears to be the lesser of two evils.
The quintessential political insider, she has a lot of skeletons in her closet. She knows where the bodies are buried, and according to right-wing conspiracy theorists, may have had a hand in digging a few of those graves.
The age-appropriate hairstyle and grandmotherly pant suits can’t change the fact that forty percent of her own Democrat base doesn’t trust her. It may be the naked hunger for the presidency that consumes Hillary, which makes voters wary. There’s a sense that Hillary will do anything to win, which many find unsettling. She thought she had the Democratic nomination in the bag in 2008, until that upstart Obama derailed her plans.
This time around, she’s had eight years to lay the groundwork: call in favors from the party elite; court the media; stack the cards; weigh the dice. Hillary’s bided her time. She’s paid her dues. She’s tired of waiting in the wings all these years. Now, it’s her turn to be president!
She’s being touted by Democratic party pundits as being the most “capable and qualified” candidate to ever run for the presidency. As a writer, I pay close attention to diction: the choice and use of words in speech or writing. I checked my Thesaurus, as far as I can tell, neither, capable, nor qualified, is a synonym for corrupt.
There’s no way around it—there’s just something shady about Hillary. To her detractors, she’s the American version of Lady Macbeth. “Allegedly” involved in more nefarious plots and cover ups than any modern day presidential candidate since Tricky Dick. Actually, Hillary makes Nixon look like a rank amateur.
Innuendo and controversy have swirled around Hillary since the scandal-ridden Clinton Presidency: Whitewater, Troopergate, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Travelgate and Vince Foster’s suicide, to name a few. Fast forward to more recent investigations: Benghazi, the conflict of interest and “pay for play” of the Clinton Foundation donors, and the FBI investigation of her private email server during her years as Secretary of State.
Her supporters cite her long career and “experience” in public service as to why Hillary is eminently qualified to become president. This claim of “experience” has merit, if you count the fact that she has been the target of more investigations by special prosecutors, congressional committees and the FBI than any other modern day presidential candidate.
Which may be why it’s so difficult to muster the necessary enthusiasm for a Clinton win on November 8th. Granted, she will save America from the dark and hateful four years of a Trump Presidency. However, with Trump we know what hell is in store for us…. What worries so many voters is which Hillary Clinton will show up if elected President? Hillary’s more than a bit of a shapeshifter; which mask will she wear? The bland, professional, hard-working, policy wonk, or Lady Macbeth?
Is it any wonder that so many Americans despair of what the next four years will bring?
Meanwhile, gallows humor aside, as I observe this presidential election from the distance and perspective of my life in the South of France, I can’t help feel sick at heart by the way the vitriol and divisiveness of Trump’s campaign has brought out into the open the ugly specter of racism and bigotry in so many of my fellow Americans. For me personally, the most shocking and disheartening fallout from this election season has been to discover that there are people I’ve known, loved and respected all my life, who now feel comfortable in openly espousing Trump’s rhetoric of exclusion and hatred.
It’s as though a sickness of the spirit and soul has infected my country. Trump’s ascendancy in this election cycle, has made it acceptable—almost mainstream—to voice views that can only turn us against each other and tear our country apart. Let’s be very clear about this, anyone who condones, or practices, racial or religious discrimination, is in essence saying, “It’s okay that I treat you in this degrading manner, or deprive you of your rights, because you are less human than I…”
Trump claims he will make “America Great Again,” by destroying one of the bedrock principals upon which America was built: a policy of immigration, which embraces all people of the world. We are the world’s melting pot, represented by every nationality, race and religion, and the vibrancy of our multicultural society is one our greatest strengths. Inclusion---not exclusion—is interwoven into the fabric of our nation. It’s a part of our national soul.
Although I’m an American expat, who has spent most of her adult life in France, I realize it may be idealistic to cling to increasingly outmoded principals and symbols of our past. Still, like an old lover whose annoying habits get blurred by the passage of time, I want to remember the qualities and ideals that make me proud to be an American, even, if by choice, I am so far from home.
My story isn’t exceptional. Every American—with the exception of Native Americans—are the descendant of immigrants. Or immigrants, themselves. Each of us have our own narrative as to why they, or their ancestors, immigrated to these shores. Only the details of our individual stories change, and the people who have a lasting influence on our ethics and ideals.
On my father’s side, I’m the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland. My ancestors fled persecution because of their religion. They made the long and arduous voyage because of what the promise of America meant to them: a chance for a new and better life…
It may be a fanciful writer’s indulgence, but if I close my eyes and let my imagination roam free, I can envision the day that my grandfather-- a young boy of ten summers, fleeing his homeland of bloody pogroms and the dark, wretched ghettos of Polish Jews at the turn of the 20th century— may have first seen her rising from the mists like a mythic figure of old as the ship carrying him, his family and hundreds of other immigrants approached the promised shore.
Possibly, he watched from the crowded ship’s deck as her form slowly emerged through tendrils of fog. Maybe, a shaft of sunlight pierced the gloom and haloed her crown and noble brow. Then, she would have filled his vision: a colossal statue of the roman goddess Libertas; a pale, green patina from the corroding salt of waves and sea air softening the lines of her copper form. A torch held aloft in one hand to enlighten the world and in her other hand, held close to her breast, a tabula ansata evoking the law. At her feet lay a broken chain, symbolizing the end of slavery.
Of course, my grandfather would have been too far away to read these words, but they were the reason, he, his family and countless other immigrants have made this perilous voyage. On Liberty’s pedestal, engraved in bronze, the following words proclaim to the world the promise of freedom from persecution and safe haven for all:
--Emma Lazarus (1883)
These words should hold as much power and promise today—and continue to define who we are as a nation—as when they were first written one hundred and thirty-three years ago. They proclaim our humanity and tolerance, and are still a symbol of hope to many oppressed and displaced people around the world.
In the intervening years, Liberty hasn’t always lived up to her promise, made when America was a young nation struggling to rise from the ashes of civil war, and the end of slavery. Her shining light has been dimmed and her lofty ideals tarnished.
Today, it’s hard to see the face of Liberty, or hear her promise, through the miasma of fear and paranoia that on the eve of the U.S. elections is sweeping her land and dividing her people. Her robes are in tatters and blood is on her hands from racially-motivated police brutality, dirty politics, a long history of wars for profit, corruption and greed. But, the spirit of Liberty is, still, here with us: weary and sagging under all the layers of disillusion and grime. Her words and promise can, still, resonate as America’s truth.
It’s the natural order of things that empires and great nations rise and fall. Possibly, we’re witnessing the twilight years of America; the great social experiment torn apart from within. Or, the pundits are correct when they say this election is the defining moment for the direction and soul of America. Which America will we become? Trump’s dark vision of a xenophobic, paranoid world bully? Or a continuation of business as usual in the Great Welfare State for the Corporate and Financial Elite of America under Clinton’s “capable” hands? Or—somehow, some way—can we evolve into something better?
We probably won’t need to worry about being defeated by terrorists like ISIS, or enemies outside our borders. It appears we are more than capable of destroying ourselves. However, one thing is certain: if we don’t turn away from this path of hatred, intolerance and exclusion – let fear and paranoia divide us and turn us against each other--we will surely bring about our own fall.
The choice is ours…to heal ourselves, or continue to hate.
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