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Escaping the Cult

Last time I watched mainstream TV, I was with my sister Laura, traveling after attending our niece’s wedding. One of the interchangeable anchors asked a Trump fan about her candidate’s obvious lies. (Funny, since they all lie.) She said she doesn’t care. She likes him, will support him, regardless.

Recently I read that Sally Field is using adjectives like “brilliant” and “miraculous” to promote Hillary Clinton. The actor and I agree. War enthusiast HRC brilliantly and miraculously uses the vagina card to firmly hold onto mostly older female and male feminists. War orgasmic Clinton has brilliantly and miraculously convinced a significant number of voters that she’ll work on their behalf, not Wall Street’s.

The accolades continue for Sanders—that he offers hope for the future. Please. He’s presented himself as revolutionary, but words are cheap and slogans are chump change. Let’s look not to him or his faux socialism for hope but instead to his youthful supporters. If this many young people value what Sanders claims to embrace, perhaps they are our hope.

Damn, I’m weary of these candidates, weary of another election cycle said to be the most hideously divisive we’ve seen, yet it’s not this particular rotation that provoked my disillusionment. I can tell you precisely when that happened—in the wake of the 2006 midterm elections when the Democrats took control of the House and Senate and Nancy Pelosi became Madam Speaker. I’m embarrassed to admit I felt a short-lived exhilaration, thinking the Democrats would end war. Embarrassed to admit it took years for me to realize that electoral politics, the system itself, is an obscene hoax.

Eventually I also realized that rallies and protests are instruments that provide opportunities for the powerful to say, “This is democracy in action.”

Still, I continued to meet with my activist friends, to be among people whose values aligned with mine, then quit to care for my husband Charles during the illness that killed him. For a year after his death, I sat behind closed draperies until Cindy Sheehan emailed and asked me to join her at Martha’s Vineyard to challenge Obama’s war crimes. Laura and I went, gathering with a small group. A small group, because at the time criticizing Obama was considered treachery by so many peaceniks. (He was being compared to Martin Luther King, Jr.) Laura and I stayed at the house of a longtime peace advocate whose door displayed a large poster image of Obama. Our host said she’d vetted Sheehan, disapproved of her anti-Obama rhetoric. Laura and I moved to a hotel after a couple of nights.

The president makers had selected wisely, convincing the people that this was a candidate who’d bring salvation after the savage Bush years. They cast a Black man who extended an olive branch to the Middle East and made a promise to deliver “Change We Can Believe In”. Gifted marketing strategy. Anyone who condemned Obama would be called racist. Soon the Nobel Peace Prize recipient proceeded to out-Bush Bush. And currently he’s fever-pitching WW III with insane aggression toward Russia and China.

Clinton just clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination. Maybe. Sure, I’d like to see a woman finally occupy the WH, territory marked with male piss to designate ownership. (Seems appropriate I initially wrote terrortory.) A female in the Oval Office would be cool, just not HRC who will out-Obama Obama.

Meanwhile, I see the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee who was found facedown on a Turkish beach in 2015. The crisis continues. During a three-day period at the end of May 2016, more than 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while seeking safety.

Did any mainstream TV anchor cover this? I don’t know, but since it’s an election year, probably not. What Trump said, what Clinton did, and what Sanders will do take precedence. The election, the election, the election. And we must be counted and counted on to exercise something we’ve been told is sacred. “People have died for the right to vote.” True, but what has participation yielded?

Society is steeped in mythology. Demythologizing necessitates learning the authentic history of oppression, the truth of U.S. domestic and foreign atrocities. It’s difficult to escape the cult of exceptionalism though, where comfort is derived from the belief that the U.S. divinely is required to intervene and set an example for Earth’s unexceptional Others.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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