The Coup2K Experience of
“I understood everything, and my past angers were awakened
to merge with and strengthen my current outrage.
It’s hard for me to be civil … at work,
so I mostly wander around lost in my thoughts,
and ponder the implications of the harsh,
new realities of the world that I now inhabit.”
Dear Diva, (I know that I can call you Tammy, but you’ll always be the DIVA to me)
Thanks again for another week of great commentary and satire. The “Steal Penny” seems to be getting a lot of play on the net - another stroke of genius!
A few weeks back I had mentioned to you that I have been keeping a journal of sorts (actually more like just random notes) of my feelings and emotions re: coup2K. Then, I started to try to turn these random notes into a “narrative”, for reasons that were unclear to me at the time. At first, I just thought that I was doing it for myself, to help me sort things out. Then, I thought that maybe I was doing this for my children, so that when and if in the future they asked me what it was like to live through the first “hostile takeover” of America I would have a response that was not clouded by the passage of time. I briefly toyed with the idea of sending it to the BBBR, but I dropped that idea thinking that it was awfully self indulgent of me to presume that anyone would be interested in hearing about my “post election disorders”. But your commentary this weekend has forced a change of mind – particularly #5 of “ 5 Habits of Highly Effective Dissidents” - “Provide Emotional Support to Allies”. Life has proven to me time and time again, that no matter how unique I think that I am, I’m in fact just a fairly average person. Any seemingly profound thought, insight, or feeling that I may have, is soon revealed to have arisen simultaneously in the minds of thousands/millions of my contemporaries. So, with my average-ness in mind, I offer my “journal” to you - if it can help someone clarify their own feelings, if it can help someone to know that they are not alone, if it can help someone to understand why they cannot just “get over it”, then great. (And you did say that you wanted to hear from the guys out there!) If you think that it’s not “postable” (did I invent a new word?... Nah!), then just take it as a “heart to heart” from one angry citizen to another.
Your friend (if I may be so bold!),
Robert C. (you can “out” me if you want, I have nothing to hide)
December 12, 2000
“I go to sleep tonight in a far different America than the one that I woke up into today.”
That’s how it started, a random thought from a very confused mind. When the supreme court decision came down on CNN, I became inarticulate. Although I had expected something like this, (Scalia had made the handwriting on the wall very apparent) I was simply not prepared for the finality of it, or the duplicity, I still held out that “justice” and “decency” would win out. I simply could not wrap my mind around what I was hearing and seeing. Like a pot of boiling pasta (hey, I’m of Italian heritage), thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, but the water was too hot for me to grab one of them and examine it. After muttering and shaking my head for a while I told my family that I was going to sleep.
On the way to the bedroom this thought popped into my mind. If you believe in the left-brain, right-brain theory of how the brain works (I do!), it was like my right-brain had made some kind of sense out of my fevered thoughts, and came up with the phrase and wanted the left-brain to remember it, so I typed it into my computer before going to sleep - my left-brain has learned over the years to pay attention when the right-brain “talks”.
December 13, 2000
(It was because of my experiences on this day that I decided to start this quasi journal.)
The day after the coup (this was another thing that my right-brain told me last night - this is our country’s first coup d’ etat), and everything looks the same. No tanks rolling down the streets. No soldiers on the corner (like I had seen in photos that some friends had taken in Berkeley, CA., in 1970, a few weeks before I arrived). People go to work (like me and my wife), kids go to school (like mine), the radio and TV are transmitting, (no reported riots) water comes out of the faucet, stores are open, it’s just a normal day, right? But I have a knot in my stomach that won’t quit! Something is wrong, and I can’t put my finger on it. People at work say the expected pleasantries and I want to scream! I go outside for a cigarette (I’ve taken up the habit again, with a vengeance, since the election.) Even the trees look wrong. Like a subtle shade of color has somehow disappeared. The world looks the same, but somehow it isn’t. And what to make of the anxiety, the vague sense of fear and danger? I’m on edge - hair-trigger stuff! My friends say that I’m quiet today; I just smile and say that I’m tired. Why doesn’t anybody else say anything different from what they say all the time? It’s like I’m living in a different reality. Like a bad ‘50’s sci-fi movie, the pod people have taken over; if I say anything they’ll know I’m not one of them!
I was in a car accident once (not my fault) and I remember that sense of absolute clarity, each second was mine for as long as I wanted to examine it, but I was powerless to change the eventual outcome of all those seconds when they were added together. I’m afraid, and I have to work hard not to cry, but I don’t know why! At lunchtime, in my car, the all-news station says that Al Gore will make a speech tonight, and then later so will “Dubya”. It’s over, he’s going to concede, there’s no place else to appeal. I’m inarticulate again. Someone at work asks me if I’ve “heard anything?” I say, “Gore is giving a speech tonight”. They respond, “Oh, I better get my tissues!” Self-control is a wonderful thing, and I don’t rip out their throat! They notice my “mini-me” Bush printout in my cube and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, maybe you’re a Gore supporter.” Later I remove the “clown supreme court” jpeg that I just made my PC’s wallpaper in the morning, I don’t want any confrontations. I go home. I type my impressions into my computer - my sweet iMac, at least “she” (and all my Macs have been feminine!) looks normal. My wife and I cook dinner, we eat, we clean up, and at 9 PM Al Gore concedes. I have to turn away from my kids; I don’t want them to see Daddy crying. I turn off the TV; I don’t choose to listen to Dubya. I kiss everyone good night, I tell my wife, “He’s not my president!” She’s in shock like I am, but she’s still the Mommy, and has the bedtime ritual to attend to. I go to bed, and try to read. (I’m rereading “Dust” by the scientist, Dr. Charles Pellegrino, a sci-fi, end-of-the-world, ecological disaster novel- all the insects suddenly die! - a dark topic for my dark mood.) But I can’t concentrate. I wrap the covers over me - my body’s tired, but my mind is racing!
The next day my son sees Dubya’s face on the cover of the newspaper and asks, “Does that mean that Bush won?” I explain to him that he had not won, but that the supreme court (no respect, so no caps) had decided that he should be the president. My son (only in 6th grade) looks confused, but then again, so am I.
The rest of the week is filled with preparations for the upcoming holidays - last minute cards, gift buying, cleaning out the house in anticipation of my parent’s holiday visit - my additions to the “journal” are fragmentary at best, but several thoughts coalesce. First off, this is not about what happened to Al Gore, although I am sure (no, positive) that he would have made the better president (heck, I voted for him in the NY State democratic primary in 1988! - and don’t get me started on “Earth in the Balance”!) No, this is about what happened to me! It wasn’t so much that the world had changed, it was how I was seeing the world, with a certain hard-edged clarity. Some of my emotions become clearer at this point, I feel violated, I feel betrayed, I feel cheated, and I feel like something very important has been taken from me, mocked, insulted, and trampled upon.
I remember the concept of being “radicalized” from the Vietnam War era, which held that when soft, middle class students felt the heel of the oppressive power structure via the police’s truncheon across the skull, or the tear gas in the face, that the experience would transform their consciousness, and turn them into revolutionary fighters. Well, many back then felt that heel, and some others were “radicalized” out of existence - remember Kent State? Being young and foolish at the time (but not THAT foolish!), I never had that experience, I never put myself in harm’s way (although I did wander once, in Charlie Chaplin style, between a group of protesters and the National Guard on the campus at Berkeley, California, who were playing an engaging game of “hot potato” with live, sizzling tear gas canisters, and I learned, too late I might add, that the best way to remove chemicals from your face that are designed to irritate your mucous membranes, is not by splashing water on it - ouch!).
But today I feel, as surely as if a nightstick had cracked my head, radicalized! I have been mugged by the supreme court, and they have robbed me of much of my belief in a fair and just society. And I still have spasms of anger when I see other people laughing and having fun, like nothing has changed in their worldview, just another day after the theft of the presidency! What angers me even more is the way the whole issue has just evaporated from the news. Is there no one out there who feels as angry as me? I soon discover a rag tag army of outraged citizens on the Internet, but I worry about bogus sites and disinformation, so I just “lurk”.
My parents arrive for their annual holiday visit (from guess where? Florida!), the first thing that we talk about after they get settled in is, what else, the election. I’m glad to hear that they are as angry as I am. I guess that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree after all! I show them some of the cartoons and web sites that I’ve discovered, and we have a good time making up juvenile jokes, like when the newspapers print a photo of Smirk (fast becoming our favorite way of addressing him) and his Secretary of State designee, Mr. Powell, standing next to each other, we say, “See, I told you the colon (Colin) was next the asshole!” Ha, ha! But joking does not do much to quell my anger.
It’s on a drive to work, one day in the week before Christmas, when I finally get the whole picture, a metaphor that puts it all together, a thought that suddenly “snaps” (and I can literally hear the snaps!) all the pieces of the puzzle together and leaves me momentarily stunned. My right-brain has obviously been working on this, and has decided to let my left-brain (which has been busy with the day to day stuff) in on what it’s come up with. This was an unbidden thought, a flood of realizations and connections - I can only be thankful that my right-brain was considerate enough to wait for a red light before releasing this “brain dump”. Had I been driving I might have veered off the road!
It was simply this - I remembered an article that I had once read about a woman who lost a child in a sudden accident. She had described her emotions afterwards, the pain, the denial, the sense of helplessness, the constant knot in her stomach, the sense of dread and fear, her heightened sense of perception, and her anger, her anger at other people, how could they carry on like nothing had happened? How could they joke and laugh? Couldn’t they see the tragedy? I guess this left an impression on me, because although I’ve never lost anyone really close to me as an adult, as a father I could understand how loosing a child could hurl you into a place where everyday life seemed strange and disconcerting. (Snap!) And in as much as these were exactly the same emotions that I have been struggling to understand in myself, I understood fully now that I was in fact mourning, I was - make no doubt of it - mourning the death of Democracy! A metaphor that I have seen many times recently on the net has been the reality that I have been living in! (Snap!)
It explains much, but leads to deeper and darker thoughts. Democracy hasn’t been ill lately, and she hasn’t just died of old age. She does seem to suffer from a chronic wasting disease, which usually flares up during republican administrations, but she always seems to rebound. (Snap!) And then the anger returns, crawling up from the pit of my stomach to envelope the “reptilian” brain, and then to burn in a white-hot fever behind my eyes! How could I be so stupid! She was MURDERED! The perpetrators snuck out the back door of the crime scene under cover of darkness, but I know who they are. They didn’t dare sign their names to the death warrant, but the dissent clearly points to the identity of the guilty. I saw the aftermath on TV, we all did! (Snap! Snap!) And now I understand my sense of dread, the nameless fear that has been haunting me - they are going to get away with it! They are getting away with it! They have gotten away with it! The highest legal authority in the country has committed this crime in full view of the TV cameras, if they can get away with this, they can get away with anything! A string of constitutional abuses and assaults on American ideals floods my mind, and the common thread in all of them is the Republican Party. Watergate and the secret war in Cambodia, where Truth was the first casualty. Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Then the back door contacts by the Regan campaign, led by ex-CIA director William Casey, to ensure that American hostages remained captive in Iran for the purely political reason of diminishing the Carter presidency in the election of 1980. Freedom, particularly the freedom of those Americans held hostage, took the big hit here. The resulting illegal sale of arms to Iran and the subsequent diversion of funds to support the Contras, the CIA run drug smuggling operations. All American ideals get shredded on this one. Bush’s pardon of Casper Weinberger and others. The slow motion assassination attempt on Bill Clinton’s political life, turning a trivial (but unfortunate) sexual escapade into full-blown impeachment proceedings, with the Will of the People being trampled in the process. And the supreme court’s part in the impeachment - allowing the Paula Jones civil suit to proceed, forcing the Secret Service to testify, the shredding of attorney-client privilege. The whole scope of the decades long conspiracy against Democracy was revealed in a nanosecond! The Republican Party and its corporate sponsors, the federalist society, the christian right, shadowy CIA operatives, and now the supreme court.
I understood everything, and my past angers were awakened to merge with and strengthen my current outrage. It’s hard for me to be civil that day at work, so I mostly wander around lost in my thoughts, and ponder the implications of the harsh, new realities of the world that I now inhabit.
With the cabinet appointments adding exponentially to my fear and anger, I almost create a scene at my cousin’s Christmas eve dinner when some of his in-laws (not my family, thank god!) start talking about how glad they are that the supreme court stopped Al Gore from “stealing” the election! My Dad, ever the diplomat, managed to defuse the tensions, and I caught his silent plea - not here, not now! So I backed off, muttering something about how I still loved them all, even if they were misinformed. And my Dad was correct, with both my sisters and their husbands up from Florida for the holidays, along with my uncle and aunt, the whole surviving 3 generations of my grandparents descendants were together for the holidays for the first time in years. The lines of the song “To every season...” ran through my head, and I knew that there would be plenty of time for anger. And I didn’t have to wait long. The next day at our house for Christmas dinner with my family (parents and sisters), and my wife’s family, we were all stunned when my wife’s cousin, a good church going, Irish catholic woman, let loose with a string of profanities regarding the election, the supreme court, The Jerk, and other related matters. God, it felt good to be in the company of angry democrats! I began to allow myself to hope that the dissatisfaction with this “election” was broader and deeper than I suspected.
I guess I have to watch what I say around the children. Today my daughter said that she had a nightmare last night. She says that she saw soldiers on the rooftops of our neighbors’ houses, and climbing over our back fence. I asked her what they were doing there. She said that they were coming for people who made fun of the president. Goosebumps on goosebumps!
January 6th, and I watch in horror as Al Gore presides over the legalization of the theft of his presidency. I weep as the members of the Black Congressional Caucus plead for one senator, just one, to join their challenge of the Florida electors. Not one stands up, and I feel that another little part of me has died. I wonder briefly how much more of this nightmare can I take, and then I realize that it hasn’t really even started yet, that this is still just the prologue. January 20th is still 2 weeks away, and then the real nightmare begins. I decide that I can no longer just keep this anger inside me. I have to try to funnel this anger into action of some kind. I cannot allow this crime to stand without protest. I join on-line petitions, I send e-mail letters to newspapers, I send e-mail to senators and congressmen (and congresswomen). I spend lots of time on the Internet, visiting sites of other angry citizens, and then I do something that I’ve never done before, I send an e-mail to one of them. Not content to lurk silently anymore, I need to have my voice heard, I need to join the chorus of people saying, “We will not stand for this! We are angry and we will not go away!”
I become a Bush Brothers Banana Republic Resistance Fighter.