The Death of Idealism

It’s the last weekend before the election, and I know most of you are sick of hearing about it. The news, the opinions, the arguments, the spin. It’s abundantly abundant, and everyone just wants it to be over. I’m sorry to say that I don’t quite share that sentiment because the importance of any, but particularly this, election doesn’t make me feel impotent or lazy, it makes me want to hustle. It energizes me. It’s the next fucking president that we’re electing, not to mention senators, house representatives, governors, etc.. It’s very fucking important, and if it makes you feel impotent and lazy, and you don’t want to hear about it anymore, maybe you should reconsider whether you’re really an American. Maybe what you want isn’t a democracy. Maybe you just want a unilateral dictator to run the show so you can live in your happy little bubble with your phone and all your animal videos.

I’m not a journalist or a pundit. For that matter, I’m not a psychologist either, though with the (albeit limited) research I’ve done, both through reading and just living life, I can say with confidence and without reservation that Donald Trump is a sociopathic aspiring dictator. To say that he’s the lesser of two evils is absolutely ignorant and shows a fundamental lack of understanding about not only democracy at a base level, but the principles that we (Americans) live by, who we are as a people, and who these two candidates are as people. But let me rewind here. I’d like to share with you a brief synopsis of my journey with politics and idealism during my twenty years of life as an “adult.”

Discovery

When I finally graduated from high school–a year late after a troubled adolescence–I didn’t qualify to go to a four-year college. I had to do the community college thing first, get through those two years successfully to prove that I could handle college, and then I would be able to go to a four-year university. I didn’t mind though. The prospect of going away to college after all I’d been through in high school was a bit overwhelming. The local community college was only ten minutes away from my parents’ house, so it was a way to dip my toes in the cool waters of college before jumping in.

By the time I’d graduated high school, I was enthusiastic about school in general. I was excited to go to community college. I could feel in my bones that there was a lot I didn’t know about the world and about life, and I was a plentifully porous sponge just waiting to absorb everything I could.

The two classes I remember most vividly in those two years of community college were a basic sociology class and a basic politics class. I’d always, through my teenage years, had a keen interest in politics (and by default, sociology). In a core part of my soul, I knew there was something wrong with our world–an imbalance that favored the rich over the poor, more than anything, but also the light-skinned over the dark-skinned, the straight over the gay, the “normals” over the “weirdos.” It was everywhere, but I didn’t know how to express it except through rage, rebellion, and angsty teenage poetry. What happened when I went to community college, where learning wasn’t just about choking down information to pass tests to get to the next grade and ultimately graduate but about actually learning, taking in information to process it, to integrate it into your psyche and expand as a human being. To become a better person with more wisdom and knowledge.

Well. What I learned was that the world was just as fucked up as I’d always suspected, but now I had the information to prove it. Yes, our society was severely economically stratified, and wealth was favored towards white people, largely. Yes, the prisons were filled with dark-skinned people. Yes, education in the deep south, where slavery once was the foundation of their economy, was generally terrible. Yes, American politics  was exactly that, politics. It was ugly, divisive, dishonest. Yes, there was much going on beneath the surface that Americans didn’t know or see or seem to care to know or see.

After those two years in community college, I stood in the middle of the world with my arms out defeatedly but angrily, aghast, trying to comprehend how so much could be wrong in the world and so few people could seem to care about it enough to actually do anything about it. This was my dawn of idealism.

The Reckoning

After community college, I did go to a four-year university. And then I went to graduate school after that. Soon after I started graduate school at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, which was located just about an hour away from Manhattan, 9/11 happened. My first year in graduate school had just started. At the time, I was married. My husband at the time and I were staying with my parents, as we were between apartments. I woke up that Tuesday to the phone ringing off the hook and Mom making gasping noises in the living room. I went out to see what the hell was going on and as I entered the living room, on the TV, I saw a plane sticking out of the World Trade Center, orange and black everywhere. I couldn’t understand what was happening. At that point, everyone still thought it was an accident. I rubbed my eyes. “Oh my god.” That’s what everyone said. It was horrific enough. Jesus, how could a pilot accidentally fly into one of the towers?

And then came along another plane and hit the other one. Remember that gasp the world made in that moment? Yeah, me too. Nope, it wasn’t an accident. Not an accident at all.

And soon enough, the towers were falling to the ground. All those people. All that liquefied metal and smoke and ash and dust and fire, in just a moment that no one ever saw coming. I’m a writer, and I’ve never written extensively about it. I simply couldn’t. It was just too painful a moment in history. It was personal. I grew up 90 miles from Manhattan. I went there often all throughout my childhood. I love New York with all of my heart. It fucking hurt. I was mortally wounded.

And 9/11 happened shortly after Bush had become president in a tight election, which Gore really won but ultimately went to the Republicans. The victory of Bush was a blow to start with, but then 9/11 happened while he was president, and if you’ve never seen the video of him when he was told that terrorists had just crashed into the World Trade Center, watch it (https://youtu.be/suB5wNSNBjs). There’s no question that Bush, the prodigal son of the first Bush, was inept as a president. His bullish, money-grubbing cronies ran the country throughout his presidency. None of us liberals liked him or wanted him to be president, and we said awful things about him for the whole eight years. I myself remember comparing him to a dictator because he declared war on Iraq (the WRONG country) in response to 9/11 without the consent of congress. I hated Bush, I did, I admit it.

Between 9/11 (which really set in motion a fall from grace for our country in ways no one could’ve predicted), Bush’s presidency, and the invasion of Iraq, this period of time was the death of idealism for me. Where before I saw what was wrong in the world, the injustices, the prejudice, the cynicism and simultaneously saw an innate goodness in people that fueled my passion for trying to open people’s eyes … because if they only saw how badly some of our country’s citizens were treated they OF COURSE would want to do something about it … now, after 9/11, after Bush’s victory, after the Iraq invasion, all I saw was ugly. Everywhere I looked, both in my daily life and in the larger view, all I saw was rudeness, selfishness, apathy and hatred. It was a vulgar, disgusting society. I began to hate New York. I hated what 9/11 had done to our innocence–it had born out our most abhorrent traits, not our best. We wanted the blood of all Muslims. No one was safe. We chose the path of fear, not love, and it showed. And I wanted out. That was when I convinced my then husband to move out of New York, to North Carolina. North Carolina was cheaper, warmer, and it wasn’t New York.

I became a cynic. I toyed with nihilism for years. I believed in virtue but I didn’t believe in people. My idealism had been shot in the gut and when it died on the floor, I kicked it into the crevasse between me and my ideals to rot while I put down my hope for humanity and went on. If no one cared, I wasn’t going to care either. Fuck. Everything.

It was a long, awful period. My writing took a hit too. I couldn’t finish any project that didn’t have a horrid outlook for life, for love, for relationships. My writing was darker than the darkest recesses of hell. It reflected the sickness of my soul. I’m ashamed, looking back, because in the end, I was no better than what I complained about and criticized.

The Revival

So let’s fast forward to now. I’ve been through some serious shit in my personal life, which you can read in the book I wrote about it, Meta Was Here, shit that made me appreciate how small I am in the larger scheme of things. Sometimes life gets so hard that you are forced to look at yourself, at your choices, at your beliefs, and for your own survival, you have to choose: Am I going to be the person I’ve always wanted to be in my heart, or am I going to give in to the desire for revenge on the non-entity of hardship and be utterly selfish and ugly? Walk the path of love or the path of fear? It takes strength to be virtuous at rock bottom, to decide that you’re going to keep fighting no matter how futile the effort seems. It’s not easy, and while I’ve made some mistakes, I think I’m doing pretty alright so far.

And what became of my cynicism, my resentment of people? It didn’t melt away, for I’m not a flower-eyed idealist anymore. I’m also not a nihilist. There is somewhere in between that I like to think of as grown up.

We don’t live in a perfect world. It’s the oldest proverb in the book, because it’s fucking true. There are people dying everywhere at the hands of other people and there are no easy answers or solutions. There is still racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-gay-ism, etc. etc. ad nauseam. I don’t want to turn this into a speech about voting. I really don’t. But a sociopath. is. running. for. president. And there are those of you who are ummmm-ing and ahhhh-ing about who to vote for, or to maybe not vote for anyone. Our government is plenty fucked up. There’s plenty of corruption and lying and favoring rich over poor, and all of it. Yes, there is. But have some appreciation for the fact that democracy will never be perfect because people are not perfect. And for fuck’s sake. It’s not Russia. Please. Please. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be cynical. Be proactive if only in your vote. It’s not a joke. It’s for real.

I apologize for sounding a bit cliche. But fuck you. Go and love on your democracy.

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Published by: crucifixionqueen

Full-time freelance developmental editor and evaluator, writer, mom, know-it-all. I have an MFA in fiction from NC State University, an MA from Manhattanville College, and a BA from SUNY Purchase. I'm here to make the world a better place.

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