Like a lot of comic book enthusiasts, I spent much of my misspent youth reading dystopic, end of or post end of the world fiction. WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, and its sequel, AFTER WORLDS COLLIDE. ON THE BEACH. ALAS, BABYLON. A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ.
All these novels and movies depicted a future so apocalyptically horrible that it made whatever adolescent mischegas I was dealing with at the time seem positively serene and homey by comparison.
Of course, that was the subtext, not to say much of the implicit point of this particular subgenre of fiction. Be grateful for your life today — look at the shitstorm that might happen to you tomorrow.
Suffice to say I outgrew this sort of stuff and moved on to other equally unsavory fiction, although, as it should be obvious to anyone who knows me or my work, this early obsession supports and undergirds AMERICAN FLAGG!, which I’ve described, more than once as a post-holocaust dystopic fantasy as burlesque comedy.
And now, of course, this brings us to the current reality — which, to be fair, is far more surreal than any future I ever read about or envisioned for the early 21st century — but, in its own special way just as apocalyptic.
The “event — ” that seismic, shift of the paradigm for which some of us believe our oligarchic overlords — you know, the ones who are responsible for this shitstorm in the first place-are secretly preparing has yet to happen…but the day is young, if you catch my drift.
But even without that catastrophe, be it nuclear, biological, climatic, viral or any of the other man constructed clusterfucks that could potentially doom most of us, I think we’re done here.
I have come to believe that there is no cause for optimism, guarded or otherwise…which is not to say, needless to say, that I’ve spent my life awash in unwarranted optimism in the first place.
Like many if not most of the members of my generation, I went to bed nightly assuming I’d awaken as a glowing red pile of radioactive ash as a result of a nuclear exchange between capitalism and communism. Spoiler alert — we dodged that bullet, and managed to get old…
…Old enough to witness, and in too many cases vote for, an administration made up of liars, charlatans, degenerates and mountebanks, most if not all in thrall and service to a predatory elite determined to remake what was once a republic into a kleptocracy…
…And, thanks in no small part to an army of serfs which has been successfully miseducated through social engineering, they’re doing just fine at this mission.
So, for me, the current dystopia isn’t as top down an affair as it might seem to our international cousins. Yes, the administration, and all the rest of the Nazi accommodating tools of the Mercer and Koch families are genuinely and obviously repellent.
But for me, the current apocalypse is all about us — or at least the us who seem to be at best okay with the way things are, and at worst, just fucking delighted at what this country, in only a few short years, has become…or perhaps, to be more honest about it, what it’s revealed itself to be.
Say, just for consideration, that he’s not reelected in 2020. Who knows how these things work out? Remember, for as loathsome as he is, his approval rating has remained steady. It really could go either way despite your outrage at the very thought.
So, as noted, let’s just say he loses the election. And suppose, just for argument’s sake, he accepts the results of the election, acknowledging that such an election was in good faith.
Now stop laughing. It might happen — even with the fucking electoral college almost guaranteed to fuck everything up as it so often does and does so well.
And then suppose that his more violence prone acolytes — you know, the Nazi shitheads who’ve been providing the armed and homicidal component to the second American Civil War we’ve been fighting, whether we care to admit or not, for the past few decades — decide that all this mass murder in the name of white supremacy just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
That, for the sake of our current argument, these socially inbred gunslingers who just can’t grasp why those pornstars don’t drop to their knees to worship at their manhood don’t act as a posse comitatus to defend the realm against the black, brown and Jewish tide intent on replacing them at what I presume is delivering Domino’s pizza and stocking the shelves at Walmart.
Again, it might happen.
All this assumes that the rest of America’s voters…the Independents, the Democrats, the Progressives…take a break for a moment from the slicing and dicing into ever smaller and ever more specific ideological slivers, each identifying as a special interest group operating on the contradictory and oxymoronic assumption of diversity and inclusivity.
This leaves us, in the dawning third decade of the 21st century, with not so much a nation, but the remains of that nation. The United States of America has forever told itself a series of aspirational lies, from its inception as a plural-as in “the United States are…” to the first American Civil War, that failed attempt at social engineering, from which, after the premature self-congratulation of apparent victory, the nation emerged as a singular — as in “the United States is…”
But many of us knew, and many more know now, that this “…One nation, under God…” stuff was just a lot of spurious and guilelessly self-regarding nonsense. We’ve always been a collection of widely variegated communities, factions and sensibilities.
With apologies to our international cousins, who, when they think of the United States in what little remains of positive terms, it’s New York and California that comes to their minds. Not to be difficult, but the rest of America hates, mistrusts and dismisses both coasts as not America.
Too brown. Too Jewish. Too black. Too gay. Too elitist. Too…just too too, if you catch my drift.
It’s those other citizens — the ones who identify as “real Americans — ” who despise the values, ideals, and ideas that have made up the aspirational part of the American dream for well over a century — in particular, if not in all ways, when those values, ideals and ideas serve anyone not white and Christian.
We’re talking about that pack of wolves who shouted “Lock her up!” Who wore t-shirts that made it clear that they’d “…Rather be Russian than a democrat!” That crowd of deeply sensitive Christian hypocrites who vote against each and every one of their best interests in order to bathe in “Libtard tears.”
Needless to say, this pack of swineherds didn’t come by this set of bullshit belief systems naturally. Not to let them off the hook, mind, but they’ve been fed a steady diet of mind-warping nonsense disguised as news and education for at least the past half century.
The lethal combination of willful ignorance with a fatuous and credulous need to have that ignorance flattered has led us to this juncture — an energized political base in the thrall of a nihilistic cohort who couldn’t give a fuck about that base, except as it serves their oligarchic masters’ needs.
This swarm has been fed on the B western doctrine of an almost comical if it weren’t so tragically rigged rugged individualism, convinced that they’re under attack from outside forces of various colors and ethnicities, as their lives are actually ruined by the oligarchic shitheels with whom they mistakenly believe they share values, as opposed to nothing more than white European heritage.
Morlocks who love being Morlocks. USA! USA!
And speaking of education, or perhaps, miseducation…what else could account for the arrogant, guileless self-regard and willful ignorance that passes for awareness and knowledge…or rather in that supposed declaration of diversity, which of course actually serves the “us versus them” nature of divisiveness, namely “Woke.”
While it’s relatively easy to be a part of the oligarch’s cohort of all too willing serfs — hate the same people, be casually or actively racist and/or antisemitic, with or without a ready denial, reject science, in the name of the supernatural, or if it contradicts what you’ve been fed to believe by your owners…
…The membership requirements of those who congratulate themselves as “the Resistance” is all too frequently a convoluted and occasionally contradictory list of commitments to what has been designated as Social Justice.
The term is both one of pride and derision, depending on who’s using it…but the bottom line for those on this side of the aisle is an ever evolving litmus test of what might be called Social Purity, which is clearly intended to separate the woke from the unwoke, but whose unintended consequence is to create a disunited swarm of self-interested, all too often performatively moral splinters, many of whom cannot countenance an alliance with another equally self-interested sliver that doesn’t entirely jibe with its own dogmatic belief system.
Now, to be clear, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that my sympathies and loyalties lie entirely on the Social Justice side of the aisle.
(Of course, the world isn’t made up of geniuses, and there is a pile of shmucks who believe in their hearts that I’m a man of the right. Fucking morons — you may or may not know who you are, but please die soon, preferably tasting your own blood.)
But a victim of that litmus test is iconoclasm, and I am an iconoclast. I’m willing to sign off on, sign on with, and frankly occasionally barely tolerate some of the tenets of the so-called resistance…
…But fuck all if they’ll sign on with mine. See above as per Social purity, litmus test. I even have the nerve to have friends with whom I don’t agree — apparently a lost aspect of former plural America — which seems to offend my side of the aisle.
Eloi waxing proud over their victimhood. Yay!
And of course, both sides of this discussion share a number of characteristics in common, first and foremost a heightened sensitivity to criticism of any kind, but of ideology in particular. The left still hasn’t shaken off the mantle of “Snowflake,” with its thin-skinned reaction to discomfiting speech — ie., anything that hurts those feelings is just another form of violence.
But let us not forget the right’s all too frequent calls for ”civility,” usually following an act of outrage that misappropriates the Christian bible in order to fuck with innocents here and abroad, or those wet faced temper tantrums exhibited by entitled white men whose dignity has been assaulted and whose feelings have been hurt.
“Snowflakes,” indeed. Victim culture has found its voice in both cadres.
Both sides are motivated by a blind inchoate rage that demands exclusivity…and both sides selectively reject any science that doesn’t support its belief system-or, to put it bluntly, how it feels.
And of course, both cadres hate the Jews…for different reasons, of course, but with the same unapologetic assumptions that of all the various forms of prejudice, Jew baiting is just a default to good common sense and perfectly understandable to anyone paying attention.
For the victim culturists on the left, the Jews are money shrewd, pitiless oppressors of a victimized culture — held to a higher moral standard than any other, because…well, just because.
For those on the right, Jews are master manipulators of culture behind the scenes, somehow managing to be both rapacious communists and ruthless capitalists simultaneously.
(To be clear — those last sentences are personal to me and my fellow landsmen. Your mileage may vary…so make what you will of them.)
So. Optimism. He loses in 2020…and the country once again finds itself governed by an administration fronted by a president who doesn’t immediately make you wonder whether tertiary syphilis is only one of the myriad health issues on the annual chief executive physical examination being kept from public view.
But…and it’s a big but…unfortunately we’re not really a country anymore.
If we’ve learned anything since the 2016 election — and like that but, it’s a big if, since the losing side is still trying to find other reasons and justifications for his election beyond the fact that their candidate had a sense of unjustified entitlement to the job, and that his base hates everyone and everything but itself — it’s that those aspirational lies we’ve told ourselves and each other for well over two centuries have been exposed as the self-aggrandizing bullshit they are and have always been.
We managed to keep it together for two hundred and fifty years, mostly I suspect through civility, or in another words, faking respect for each other’s beliefs for public consumption, while letting it all hang out in private. This worked for quite a while and worked well, too…until the system started cracking around the middle of the last century.
Civil rights. Women’s rights. Gay rights. Minority rights. Battles fought, battles won — but with victors, there are always resentful losers…and in this case, a secretive ruling class with an agenda that didn’t include anything more than lip service to rights that didn’t end in profit for themselves and their fellow oligarchic predators.
And so, instead of a nation of citizens, we have a swathe of geography packed with subsets, a large minority of crypto Christian hypocrites who refuse to believe they have any responsibility for their problems on one side of this divide, and a majority made up of a huge collection of single-issue voting blocs with chips on their easily offended shoulders on the other.
These factions are, whether they know it, or admit it, or not, are already engaged in the various stages of class warfare, gender warfare, race warfare…with neither an end nor a solution in sight. And as noted above, the shooting part of this Second American Civil War has already begun.
And as much as we hope and pray, and yes, whistle in the dark, I can’t believe this divisiveness is simply going to vanish with the exit of this crew of criminals and its replacement by whatever the Democrats grudgingly manage to agree on, whether socialist or centrist, or any combination of the flavors of that party.
We hate them. They hate us. That’s America to me.
In his lifetime, Gore Vidal was often dismissed as a Jeremiah, a bitchy queen whose pronunciamentos about the imminent collapse of the charade that was the United States of Amnesia were regarded as ridiculous and overheated hysteria.
It’s abundantly clear now that Vidal was, rather, a Cassandra…a man who knew his country and didn’t lie to himself or his fellow citizens about what seemed to him its unavoidable disintegration.
So yes, I am bereft of optimism…and like mankind in many of those dystopic fictions I devoured as a kid, I believe the onetime United States of America has been broken on the wheel of kleptocratic fascism, and will not be revived by any change in management, no matter how progressive, or for that matter, no matter how woke. The republic is dead. The empire has collapsed. We are, I fear, done here.
And finally, and of course, I do hope it’s abundantly clear that I sincerely hope to fuck I’m wrong.
With all good wishes, as ever, I remain,
Howard Victor Chaykin