A brief explanation about how it’s going to go for the next four years

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Thursday night, my partner and I drove down to LA to see Princess in concert. For those uninitiated, it’s Maya Rudolph (SNL, Bridesmaids…and the best Queen Bey ever) and her bestie from UC Santa Cruz Gretchen Lieberum’s Prince cover band. Yes, they do Prince covers, that’s all they do. Yes, it was (I know the word is overused but it applies in this case) amazing.

Rudolph took the stage and said, “We’re gonna party like it’s Thursday night mutherfucaks. Actually, this is the end of something. So tonight we get down. Because tomorrow, shit is about to get so so real.”

Followed by the words every Prince fan knows by heart, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”

In hindsight I couldn’t think of a more fitting, jubilant way to put a capstone on the last eight years. An evening that was cathartic and pure and happy and energy-filled. And while Rudolph shook and shimmied and smiled her sardonic half smile at Lieberum, Lieberum for her part played the other half of the collective subconscious.

“She’s scared shitless,” Rudolph said during a chardonnay break.

“I am,” Lieberum said back, eyes turned down from the glare of the purple spotlight. “I really am.”

So that was it in a nutshell. More of a wake than a celebration. More of a collective last deep breath before we plunge into this mess. How long we’ll be underwater and whether we ever resurface, we don’t know. And not knowing is the scary part.

For me, the metrics are simple about how the next four years is going to go. First off, I want to eliminate the word “politics” from the discussion. This isn’t politics and this isn’t me being “political” (air quotes!) OK. The Gretchen Lieberums of the country far far outnumber the rest of you. And frankly, if you aren’t scared, you haven’t been paying attention.

A man rose to power outside the normal conventions. He did it first building his base off a ribald, fringe, race-fueled lie (the Birther movement) that the president was born on the African continent. Makes sense, because, you know, he’s black. There were no subtleties, no dog-whistle about it and nothing close to resembling evidence. It was 100-percent good old-fashioned brewed in the barn out back American hate.

He took that and the fringe politic and he built on it and built on it and built on it handing out shitty little red hats to throngs of opiate-addicted, ignorant assholes in search of an authoritarian figure. And along the way he tore up the book on what’s acceptable. His refusal to disclose his finances, his inability to divest himself from his businesses, his admitted and proven predatory behaviors toward women along with his daily pile of lies, bullshit, scapegoating, singling out, insults and distraction — he is not just the worst person we’ve ever elected to public office, he may be the worst example of an American, in history — period.

So, this is not normal. And it will not become normal…unless we let it. And we have done our best thus far to not stand in its way. There was a poorly attended inauguration ceremony along with a parade that had fewer attendees than a Smell the Glove album signing yesterday. But today, the people are speaking with their signs, their feet, their hands, their chants…and yes, even their pussies. Even in this day of hope, resistance and an attempt to initiate the pendulum to swing the other way, the fact remains the barbarians have stormed the castle and taken power.

The cabinet is filled with an action movie trope of who’s who chosen specifically for their ability to debase and destroy their chosen position and/or agency. Within minutes of the swearing in, the White House’s official .gov website took down the climate change, the LGBT and the information page for persons with disabilities. In their stead, a page that sells first lady Melania Trump’s QVC jewelry line. Forest Service officials yesterday, along with numerous other government agencies, were told to halt their tweets by the Trump administration which also decided to make it harder for citizens to get a mortgage first thing Saturday morning.

They are going to defund the humanities, altogether. And rely on, I don’t know, corporate gifts (?) for the preservation of arts in this nation. Science will at minimum be questioned and in all likelihood ignored. Trump and his spider web of companies will financially benefit from mega infrastructure projects to hotel stays while he’s in power.

And, for good measure, if you’re not down for tank parades, militarized small sheriffs offices, doing time in for-profit jails for exercising your First Amendment rights and packing some heat along with your second grader’s lunch in case of “bears” (<– I’m assuming they’re referring to furry gay Patton Oswalt look-alikes) then you might not get along so well with those who just took power.

So here’s the deal. Here’s the pact I made with Maya and Gretchen and the thousand other like-minded folks in the Teragram Ballroom on Thursday night. Here’s what I told myself at sushi earlier that evening in Little Tokyo where I was certainly, happily the minority eating at the bar as a Caucasian male. Here’s what I silently promised to my actor/writer/singer Uber driver who was just trying to make it go among the 14 million in the Los Angeles Basin:

This isn’t normal. This isn’t politics. This isn’t business as usual. I am scared shitless. But every day, I will do something small to change it. Annoyed by me? That’s fine. That’s what it’s going to take. That’s what I’m signing up for.

If you are a supporter of this regime, congratulations on being on the wrong side of history. You will be cast as the faceless brand of evil, the feckless stand-around army Braveheart and his outnumbered painted-faced men pummeled. We may have grown up together or gone to school together or worked together or even be related by blood. But I have no time or willingness to listen to someone who can’t seem to understand that every human deserves basic agency and a voice. That this country, for its good and its bad and its indifference, is predicated on the promise that everyone should be given a fair and equal shot.

I will say this with sadness in my heart: Until you reconsider your support of this country’s destruction in exchange for untold profit you will never see, I have nothing more to say to you. Unfriend me, curse my name, say I’ve changed, whatever. I know right from wrong and I am willing to sacrifice — much more than you are — to stay on course in pursuit of the what’s right and what’s good…and to defend the principles that really did make this country great with everything I’ve got.

It’s going to take everything, every last ounce of strength and courage and aptitude to rise up. And frankly, I don’t have the energy to spare to try to convince you why you need to start acting like a decent human being again.

For those of you who understand why this regime is bad but become weary or tired, especially when it comes to the rants, of the constant barrage of people like me: Let it go for a minute dude, relax, enjoy life…that’s a little more complicated. Because I get it. And I understand. I need to have a beer and watch crap TV and dial it down once in awhile just like everyone else. Plus, there’s parenting and working and trying to be a decent partner, friend, son, neighbor among all that. It can’t be self-flagellating and chest thumping all the time. I understand that. But at the same time, it’s going to take an inordinate amount of pushing from this direction just to get back to where we were on Thursday night. This is not a time for passivity. Not a time to see what happens. And not a time for waiting around for it to get better while it gets really bad.

In case you did not read between the lines (or listen directly) to the inaugural address, Trump and his regime is setting up to be a war machine.

The war will play out in one of two ways: 1) Against dissenters, the people. 2) Against a foreign enemy (imagined or real). That’s it. Their goal is singular. War suppresses the masses and galvanizes the few in power who have to sacrifice nothing. It also makes them very very rich. Rich beyond rich. The dystopian image he laid out was a call to arms. To plan for war is to create war.

W.E.B. Du Bois once said, “To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires.” And we’ve got a one big old conflagration in this country. And sometimes, the only way to fight fire is to light an even bigger one.

In all things, remember, we never asked for this. We did not vote for this. We can not approve of this. And together we will overcome this.

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no. Let’s go!

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of the novellaBurgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.

 

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