By L Ron Brooks
THE HEARTLAND—I ran down to Target on Saturday; some idiot had brought home 1-ply TP from a previous errand run and found himself unexpectedly preparing to receive 2-ply houseguests. And I pulled into the parking lot and saw something I hadn’t seen since I don’t reckon I can recall: Cars! As far as I could see. I found a place several rows farther away than I’d been accustomed to sliding into over the last six months. Rounding the corner of the store; sure enough, the other lot was jammed, too.
I went into the store, thinking it was going to be Grand Central Station… and it was bustling, but everyone was masked. Shoppers stopped at aisle intersections and signaled other shoppers to cross their paths, cheerfully giving them wide berths and marking their passing with a kind word or a wave. I just stepped off the main drag of the SuperStore and took it in. I kept telling myself, “Don’t be [ridiculous]. I just showed up at a rush time. It’s a fluke that the election was called just a couple hours earlier.”
I mean, I wasn’t jubilant Saturday when it was “called” that I had backed the winning horse for a change. The whole “contest” aspect of the race for office has been especially uninteresting to me this cycle. (Search for ‘outrage machine’ on this newspapers’ website. I’ve covered this ground; for any who may have missed my serialized, spell-checked primal scream from earlier this year.) But…
I was relieved. Of course I was. At heart I’ll always be an oldschool hippie commie-pinko-Meathead Lib. Naturally I happy that the scary, angry man who was always on tv being mean to people was going to be replaced by the affable old Uncle we’d forgotten hadn’t died yet. This new old guy is a little touchie-feelie for the cultural moment, but in the way where his feelings take him over and he impulsively embraces people. Quick on the tear-in-the-eye, too, like W. And nobody but the fringies ever thought W was a mean guy, maybe just a too-malleable figurehead in his first term.
Anyhow, I ate any jubilation I ought to have been feeling. I do reckless things when I let myself get close to happiness. It clouds my judgment. So I was genuinely taken aback by everything about the crowd at Target. I asked a couple employees, at a couple different moments, whether this crowd was typical for this time on Saturday. One of them looked at me with an expression like she had just that-minute found out that Santa Claus was real! “No, not at all,” they both assured me. They were both kinda struck by it, the same way I was.
And seriously, my state went for The Donald in near-absolute lockstep. Leading up to election day, they had rallies downtown; they did all the stuff people do when they’re out barnstorming for a candidate. But in the last couple weeks before the election, Maga-American friends of mine who had been mouthing off about—you know, keenly anticipating bloody mayhem in the streets should their guy lose and very liberally [sic] hinting that they were itching to be part of it—just began to stop talking about armed insurrection. It was like some benevolent celestial entity was slowly, ever so slowly turning down the heat on the Zeitgeist. Nobody was budging an inch—and all of this applies to the whackaddodles on the Left, too—but nobody was talking about throwing down over it anymore either.
And then finally it was over (but for the lawsuits). And an entire nation unclenched their collective butt-cheeks. The fact that it happened out here, too, gives me hope that it was a truly widespread phenomenon.
Now we have to keep it up.
Fuggeddabout getting the Old, Pre-The Donald Normal back—the march of progress just doesn’t work like that. Actions have consequences, foreseen and not-so-much. The old way of life is over, like it or—more likely—not.
BUT! This also means the new Normal is forming on our watch, and we can have a hand in the direction it goes. We have a truly historic level of agency to effect change right now; just not in DC. DC is what it is; a power center, which are always packed with flawed and compromised individuals. Forget about it and focus on what we can do. We have to be the adults in our own neighborhoods and social circles and set a better example for our kids than they’ve grown used to.
We can do that soooo easily if we simply stop arguing about things we can’t change.
No big lifestyle adjustment, no additional expense or miles on the car, we just have to stop being mean to each other for sport on social media.
Folks, I’m not asking us to build the Hoover Dam here, with period tools and supplies. I’m just proposing we find a less destructive way to get our daily endorphin rush than ripping out the e-jugulars of people we used to love, who used to love us. … Maybe some Superman/Wonder Woman fan fiction now that everybody likes to write? Or pick your own public figures and put them in the compromising plotlines you always wanted to see them in but are otherwise denied.
Just before deciding to write this, I cracked-open the Mother of All Rancor, Facebook, with one eye closed to see how my POTUS-people were tearing up the internet with umbrage and fury… and all the usual suspects were posting about football and family accomplishments. And even more surprisingly, most of my friends from my left-wing days… were being civil and also posting about stuff that Facebook used to be the vehicle for, before it was weaponized against us.
We just may be able to pull this off; this transition to a New Normal that everyone can live peaceably together within. Maybe not always side-by-side, but all ultimately heading in the same direction: toward a more perfect union. Not a more perfect UFC match.
L Ron Brooks is an artist, poet and overall disappointment to his father.