I AM TRYING: THE RELEVANCE OF SOUTH PARK IN A TRUMP WORLD.
I haven't watched South Park in many years, but the thing that always struck me about this silly, hilarious, foul-mouthed group of characters was its steadfast focus on doing one thing really well: skewering hypocrisy. No subject, no group, no smug leader could get away with saying one thing and doing another, and expect to get a free pass.
In the spirit of de-escalating hyperbole, I will keep my statement simple and adjective-free-ish: I am sad and troubled about Donald J. Trump winning the election.
I have also accepted that he will be our next President. Fairly elected in the system we've set up. Didn't go how I wanted it to go, BUT I wasn't prepared to complain about the system when I thought the candidate I supported was going to win. So I'm not going to complain now and act like his win is somehow invalid.
Four years ago - November 9, 2012 - I posted a drawing I did. It was a picture of Trump, who at that point was still almost three years away from actually entering politics at all, let alone the presidential election. I wrote several posts about his candidacy in 2012 because that's what I often do: imagine surreal scenarios and place them alongside reality. But this was so...far out, that I could not imagine it being prescient in any way.
I was prepared to feel sorry for him, should he ever enter politics, for the inevitable bucket of cold water reality that would be thrown in his face, baring naked his historical record of failures in virtually every aspect of his life, from relationships to ethics to business...the only areas I saw him relentlessly succeed at were last-man-on-the-boat-survival and a canny level of self-marketing that was so monumental how could he not be playing a giant prank on the world, and in reality have a stunning sense of humor and self-deprecation?
Never thought what happened would actually happen, despite my reading and re-reading of one of the great books of the last thirty years, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, and its mantra of how history has been shaped again and again by black swan events no one can believe will ever happen, and then...they happen. And the world is changed and the same "experts" try to retroactively explain how what they said couldn't happen did happen.
It happened. We have a President-elect that has the capacity and stated willingness to change the lives of entire groups on a massive scale in a way no President of the 20th century, arguably, has been so blatant or cavalier about. Yes, that is a big statement. Feel free to post your links to Wikipedia articles about Woodrow Wilson, et al, if you want. Maybe we can have a friendly disagreement over coffee. You're buying, and I'm getting something expensive, plus a bagel to go.
Now is reality. AND NOW IS THE TIME TO SHOW WHETHER WE ARE HYPOCRITES OR NOT. I'm not even sure about the value of me posting anything at this point, but I'm going to because it's helping me think through how I'm going to move forward in a healthy manner, affect my corners of the world in positive ways, and choose the battles I'm going to fight carefully. And this is where I'm at right now. My thoughts on this have been influenced by a variety of people, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, Errol Morris, Dorothy Parker, Mr. Taleb, Malcolm Gladwell, Jim Becraft, Kurt Vonnegut, and Trey Parker, in addition to my ongoing family-wide dialogues that have been illuminating on seventeen levels.
So I guess here is my manifesto for myself, of sorts, for the upcoming reign of President-elect Trump. Technically, I guess it's more a Code of Conduct, but I prefer Manifesto, and come on...at this point, what's the big deal over appropriate usage of language? :)
This is what I'm gonna try to do.
I. I will oppose him on POLICY, not PERSONALITY. To paraphrase Obama, he deserves a chance to do the right thing. To make good decisions. I cannot say with a clear mind and full heart that I expect him to make a lot of decisions I agree with. But when and if he does, I will TRY to be strong and wise enough to support those areas of policy I can and not dismiss them, blanket-style, because he is who he is.
II. I have not forgotten who he is and what he stands for. I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN AND WILL NOT FORGET. History is so important. But. In the spirit of that whole hypocrisy thing, I will not condemn his every action or block, oppose, or battle everything he does preemptively, as so many did to Obama for eight years, and as Clinton was promised should she be elected (preemptive blocking of any Supreme Court appointments). Unconscionable. Indefensible for a certain group of politicians to do. I will try to keep a consistent position now that he is atop the mountain. I hope there will be wise politicians who will be strong enough to stand up to him when he needs to be stood up to, and strong enough to stand with him if and when he pushes mandates that are thoughtful, possible, and wise.
III. He will be my President. Honestly, I don't get the #notmypresident memes. Do I want him to be? No. But this is cold hard reality. He. Is. Going. To. Be. I DEMANDED of my students that President Obama be referred to with respect. Did the same with President Bush, and will try to do the same with the next. Yes, this was an election like no other. But: it was also an election like EVERY OTHER in the sense that we voted and one side won and we have a choice to respect or not respect the process. You don't get to respect it ONLY if your side wins.
IV. The more-qualified candidate lost. Period. History will reflect that. That is not opinion. May he surprise many people, including myself, and be a wise and effective leader. But at this point in history, based on everything each candidate brought to the table, factually and specifically, there is no question that a vote for him was affirmation for what he has PROMISED, not what he has actually done. In four years, should he still be in office, we can examine what his record is and again, I will do my best to give him his due when he actually follows through and finishes something he has promised. My respect will go up for him if he is able to acknowledge and take responsibility for his failures, because at the very best, he will have them, and his response to those failures will be something I will judge him on heavily. Will he take any responsibility? Or will he point fingers? A traditional hallmark of true conservatism is a sense personal responsibility and accountability. I want to see him model that as President. I will TRY to not simply judge him on his failures, but I will be very, very observant as to how he REACTS to his upcoming failures, however many or few they may be.
V. If you are a Christian, read your Bible. Read it lots. And be strong enough, the next four years, to demand that the President-elect adhere to the values he said he would; to not cherry-pick Old Testament passages and conveniently redact the inconvenient ones (hint: Sermon on the Mount is not a late 20th century insert). In deference to him :) , I'll say this bluntly: he has thumbed his nose consistently at all the Commandments he didn't like. So now is your chance, as a Trump voter, to demand greatness from our next President; to demand that because he won the support of many in the Christian community, that he uphold the values of some of the Biblical figures he's less comfortable with. Like Jesus.
VI. Study history. Pay attention. If you take the attitude that everything new YOU see happening is actually new to the world, then you're likely wrong about more than a few things. Pay attention and study what HAS happened; what's occurred in cycles, what people have done to change the world in the past to make it better or worse. Don't re-invent the triangle. Of course, studying history can't help us predict everything, such as what just happened, but it can help us understand larger trends in culture, in thinking, in education, in moving forward, and ideally help to avoid some of the same reactionary errors that have happened previously.
SEVEN. Stop using words like "uneducated" to refer to Trump voters. This bugs me. If I was a Trump voter, I would be offended at how that gets thrown around. I have very strong opinions on the First Amendment and issues of free speech, which sometimes gives me some strange allies on both sides at this point in history. Sometimes we need to just call something what it is; but at the same time, words, THE SPECIFIC USE OF WORDS matters, and to use unkind words and epithets and derogatory phrases to describe an entire group of people...let's not be those people, peeps.
VIII. I have learned from people in many of your social networks. A non-inclusive list - and this is simply an acknowledgment of my respect for their thought processes, so don't take their inclusion as necessarily reflecting my opinions here - but people like Carl Wilkens, Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, Brian Vistaunet, Liesl Vistaunet, Jeffrey Townsend, Stephen Lundquist, Rick Hughes, Nathan Nelson, the many loud and kind and intelligent voices in my family, immediate and out. People who have consistently shown a capacity for modeling articulate ideas in overall kind, thought-provoking, and often humorous ways. Thank you.
This is kind of an aside, but: my dad. Lee Long.One of the strongest people I know for many reasons, but especially this one: the strength to LISTEN AND TO CHANGE. It's only been the last several years that I've finally realized how much I took this for granted: that frequently adults, the older we get, lack the strength or interest or motivation to keep our brains nimble and flexible enough to process new ideas and information. He has done this, and I know that is not an easy thing to do. To be strong enough to stand firm on what's truly important, and strong enough to keep heart, ears, and mind agile for everything else.
Where did he learn this? See: his wife. My mom. Sue Long. Heh heh. Thanks dudes.
And children. I have learned a great deal from children about the importance of always asking questions. Questions asked out of curiosity that are in good faith and intended to learn and discover something, not questions used as rhetorical devices to divine someone's allegiance and batter them across the clavicle with their ignorance. Children understand simple concepts like fairness, truthfulness/honesty, kindness, and respect pretty gosh-darn well, and then we do a pretty unfortunate job of helping make them complicated to the point they start unlearning them.
Students. We all have areas where we can grow, learn, improve, and be humble. Let's, like, be better at being humble than anyone else in the world.
IX. Make something. Make. Something. There's a time to destruct, and a time to construct, and always a time to understand the importance of both. Start a company. Run for office. Be an attentive, mindful parent. Do good, now. And stick up for who and what needs to be stuck up for.
X. Twenty-twenty. 20/20. 2020. Never too early to start laying the foundation for what's important. I have a student who's already informed me he's eligible in 2035. Plan ahead, right now it's an open field.
11. We are persons; collectively we are Americans, and in a bigger sense, humanity, though I prefer to use the common abbreviation "anity." That's a pretty great word. Anity, also known as Humanity. Aah, aha, the humanity. I will work on being a slightly better human tomorrow than today. Forgive me my trespasses and buy me a coffee. And bagel to go. Then we'll go watch South Park together. Even if you voted the wrong way. :)
NOT THE END YET!
I get tired of people repeating variations of "nobody's mind ever got changed by a dumb Facebook post." Because the fact is, many of you have given me a lot to think about; sometimes interacting and dialoguing, other times passively absorbing and contemplating thoughtful posts. My mind is strong enough to not need it walled off from valuable learning experiences.
Look forward to continued existence with you all, overall, mostly.
There. That's my stake in history, for better or for worse. Au revoir (that's for you, Karen Keltz and Renan Serrano, also two influential individuals in my life).
I want to watch an episode of The Network now, so preemptively half accept my quarter apologies for A) the brevity of this and B) the inadvertent exclusion of the many others important to me as well, due to banging this out hastily.
Stripes, stars, hearts.
Mr. Joseph Ivan Long,