I'm giving in. I've told myself, time and time again, that I wasn't going to weigh in on the 2016 United States Election. I told myself that it was too hot of a mess, that too many (far superior) commentators were offering their much more sophisticated opinions. Not to mention the minor fact that I'm not American.
But today is the eve of the vote count, and I have friends from Texas to Washington State to Boston all threatening to really angrily post on Facebook if the results take a dark turn. Only problem is, nobody can agree which candidate represents the dark turn.
The two nominees for this election are a career politician who has alienated her voting base through a lack of feminine charisma and giving off a general "Lizard Person" vibe, and a mouth-frothing oligarch with a hair-trigger for tantrums and a hearty contempt for anyone who isn't also a crusty old white man who also inherited and mismanaged a financial empire into (four) bankruptcies.
Sure, the latter candidate might start jabbing the Big Red Button after he mistakes it for the trap door that hurtles any advisor who dares defy him to a Russian bear pit... but he boasts an anarchic charm to a voting bloc who don't appreciate - or, dare I say, understand - the purpose of a sprawling, decentralised Government.
Like, it's structured that way to basically circumvent this entire mess, guys. But cool. Glad you're feeling heard.
2016 is the year that fiction becomes reality. Our media diet has consisted largely of shows like House of Cards that pique our appetite for controlled political chaos. We cheer when Kevin Spacey's character decides that when he doesn't like the way a table is set, so he flips the entire thing. And now, life is caricaturing art, crafting the ultimate showdown between the Old Guard of the Political Establishment, and a Wildcard Dictator-in-the-Making.
It's starting to feel like the Season Finale of America, and since I'm an author of politically dystopian novels, I'm beginning to think I might be well-placed to offer a little commentary after all.
With so many bit characters having been killed off in their primes (see: Barefoot Prince Bernie, Sir Jeb of the Pitiful "Please Clap"), and a new scandal spewing forth with every 24-hour news cycle, we've boiled down the tastiest morsels into the Soylent mush our political palates have come to love. We've barked bite-sized shorthands of complicated topics as fact rather than opinion, silently congratulating ourselves for our brevity.
But how can we blame ourselves? We're merely mimicking what we see on the T.V.
"He's Russia's puppet!"
"She's a war criminal!"
"He doesn't pay taxes!"
"Even women don't like her!"
"He said: 'Grab her by the pussy!'"
"Email servers! That's a crime! Can't trust Gmail!"
As a matter of fact, the barb about the emails is the only one I can't allow to slide past the goalie without comment. Whilst political sledging has been fundamental to these Blunder Games, we mustn't lose our humanity when innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire. I'm not talking about Hillary - fuck it, she's laughing all the way to the White House - but Google. Poor, innocent Google, whose corporate motto is Don't Be Evil, even as their integrity is constantly denigrated by politicians from both sides of the floor. Hand to heart, I'd wager that Google's C-Suite have mopped up rivers of tears with fistfuls of hundreds ever since the email scandal broke.
When two behemoths go head-to-head, sometimes it's the quaint village underfoot which sustains the most damage. Maybe it's the Mexican immigrant who has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American economy, but can never legitimise his career path for fear of deportation. Maybe it's the woman enduring a risky pregnancy who needs Planned Parenthood services to help her bring her foetuses to term. Maybe it's the people of Flint and Standing Rock whose very real human need for clean drinking water is being skimmed over in the media in exchange for breathless "Oh no they di-in't!" commentary.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's the humble little multinational conglomerate who just wants to give the Secretary of State (and potential future President) the best damn email server she could ever hope for.
Regardless of how things turn our tomorrow, let's be honest with ourselves: it's been fun. We've bloated ourselves on bread and circuses, and are now approaching the brutal finale. It's come down to a candidate who allegedly defended a child molester and a candidate who, allegedly, is one. But there are millions of people whose lives are riding on this outcome, and when so many people are this deeply invested in such a sinister narrative arc, any outcome bodes poorly for us all.
This is no case of good versus evil. Life - and leaders - are too ambiguous for that. By this time tomorrow, we may well see the streets of America flooded with rioting Republicans whose anger, or joy, demands violence - maybe well before a frontrunner has even become evident. And even if the Democrats snatch victory from Trump's eerily tiny hands, there's no going back to the way things were. This election cycle has snapped Pandora's Box wide open, flooding the political arena with a venom and fury that can never be re-filed cleanly. However this show ends, there will be a sequel... and it will come with no guarantees to the quality of cast or plot.
So in the spirit of clashing dystopia with reality, culture with mob mentality, and democracy with pageantry, I'd like to finish with one concluding observation, borne through enmeshing two of my own beloved cultural icons, T.S. Eliot and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
This is how the world ends: with hard knocks, and orange arseholes.
Scarlett Hawkins writes novels... But in her spare time, she writes rants.