Fear and anxiety in the U.S. election
Fear and anxiety in the U.S. election
This is it, we’re here—the final and most difficult leg of the election season. As always, the race is “close,” (the latest polls showing Hillary only two points up on Trump) and in such a polarizing election one can be sure that all voters, regardless of party affiliation, are straining through gritted teeth to remain positive in the face of perceived apocalypse. Every mundane task pales at the prospect of a Trump presidency, and for others the thought of another Clinton administration is cause to hole up in the woods and start learning to grow your own food. This is a fraught moment for the American people (each candidate painted by the opposing party as an embodiment of all that is base and vile) and it feels appropriate it should fall so close to trick-or-treating, costume parties, parades, and a season of general debauchery and painted faces.
Halloween was the the storm before the calm. The party before the end of the world. But under the circulating paranoia, and the things we do to find release, is a deeper fear—the fear that after the storm there is no calm. Trump’s inability to accept his poor performance in polls, and his exceedingly vague answers about accepting the outcome of the election, has led many to believe that a Trump loss could mean backlash and violence from his gun-touting supporters. A Hillary loss would undoubtedly mobilize liberal voters around the country to demonstrate and occupy. The fact is, even if your candidate wins, the country remains the two-faced monster of nightmares. Even if Hillary is elected, your neighbor still voted for Trump, and vice versa. What’s behind the mask of American politics has been revealed, and it’s more terrifying than you could have imagined.
If you can’t canvas and phone bank your political woes away, try drinking them away, or stabbing a large knife through the orange flesh of a pumpkin, squash, or other head-shaped vegetable. Whatever helps you sleep at night. Don’t like to cook or be around organic produce? Not a problem. Just grab your AR-15 and pop off a few rounds in the comfort of your local shooting range.
But to be serious, the issue of transparency has plagued the campaign trail. And while the candidates remain as opaque as ever, perpetually hiding behind their curated personas, ghost written speeches, and party-line policies, the state of the Union has become strikingly clear—we are divided, misinformed, and riddled with anxiety. And if you’re ashamed? Good. We’ve only made it easier for talking heads to bring out the worst in us. We’ve become more impassioned and less logical, more cautious and less productive, more cynical and less skeptical, more afraid.
I suppose it all makes sense when one looks back at two Bush presidencies, two wars, and inflamed rhetoric surrounding terrorism, the Middle East, gang violence, immigration, banking, and nuclear weapons, to name a few hot button issues. But by internalizing polarizing rhetoric we’ve in the process learned to sacrifice parts of our autonomy. Not our political autonomy, in the Brexit sense, but our autonomy of thought. We’ve let a two-party system monopolize our thoughts and emotions and capitalize on the resulting disarray. One need not look far for other examples of two-party shortcomings. Nations like Colombia and Mexico have also struggled historically with two-party dominance; the resulting conflicts spelling disaster for many of their citizens. The point is, we’ve let others tell us when to be angry and when to feel calm. When to be violent and when to be peaceful. Never has this been so clear. And yet we still cling to candidates and parties as if they will be our voice and speak to our interests.
You know why you’re so terrified. Somewhere deep down you know that, no matter the outcome, this is the political society we live in. And no matter how we seek catharsis, we’ll all wake up on November 9th in the same country, different president.
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