#692: The Beautiful Catastrophe

September 28th, 2016

I thought I was meant to laugh unending.

I thought I was meant to joke and taunt, bouncing unbruised from one fiasco to another, enthusiasm unflagged. I would joke away the Bushes, the Cruz, the neverending Romneys pop pop popping up like four-year perennials.

I would win one of these days, I thought, because I was smarter, younger, more vicious, more willing to laugh and joke the crowds away. I would win because how could I not? How could I not laugh the murderers and fools out of sight by being so very damn clever?

I can’t laugh right now. I can’t laugh at what happened Monday.

He, the goblin he was trounced and outmaneuvered and outflanked at every gulping sneer he pulled, and it will not matter.

He was foolish and fooled, deluded and deluding, a sin against reason and truth and basic human assurances.

And it will not matter.

Those who love his hate will continue to love him. Those who hate his hate will continue to hate him.

But the core, unavoidable term there is hate. He never has to live in a world of climate change. Pure, unbridled hatred is his renewable resource.

Laughter used to be mine.

Even should he lose, which I pray my godless prayers he does, I will not be able to laugh this away. I can’t laugh away how close he came.

I see my father, swept with a crowd into rocking the car of George Wallace, chewed out later by the order for appearing at a protest in full Roman collar.

I see my grandfather, tired from the factory, saying in the quiet, assured way I miss so much that no Republican ever did a thing for the working man.

I see generations back, spitting and sprawling back to a dozen European countries. I see Irish boggers, hillrods from Bavaria, Jews chased out from a dozen lands, long-snooted farmboys from that bit of Holstein that couldn’t decide if it was Denmark or Germany but was Denmark when we left.

They came here where others were carted by slave ship, or had their lands stripped from them, gifted with baubles and smallpox blankets and marched to the wilderness to die. My people sought this nation others were forced into and I can no longer laugh.

Half the nation wants to put him in charge.

“We’re going to raise babies in this,” she whispered to me during the booze-fueled watching party.

“I know,” I whispered back, putting my arm around her.

No, I cannot laugh.

But I’m a writer, a talker born. If I can’t crack jokes and laugh it all away, what can I say? What can I say now that I’m stuck with this unrelenting, imprisoning sincerity?

Here’s all I can think to say, a laugher turned terminally sincere.

I say here’s to America, that beautiful catastrophe. That land of heroes and monsters and the uncomfortable backthought that what’s one of yours is the other of mine.

Here’s to the land that tells the black and brown they’re valuable as long as they vote for the donkey and then shut up, that tells young white men to do as they’re told or else they’ll look foolish. Here’s to the land that tells the young, rich and lily they’re a protected class, as endangered and ennobled as an exotic butterfly.

Here’s to the land that values the will of a 3K-old desert tome more than the future of a pregnant teen who cannot have this baby.

Here’s to the dead we killed.

Here’s to the dead we will kill.

Here’s to the land that promises hope, that has acted as a beacon since the early immigrants came to these shores seeking greater religious persecution than was available in England at the time.

(And apologies to Garrison Keillor for stealing his gag.)

And here’s to the land that dreams, that lives, that breathes, the land whose sacred contract is one of evolution. Here’s to the greatest clause in the greatest document this nation knows. Not pledges for guns or free speech or our god-given right not to quarter soldiers or even the amendment flipping the other amendment that said we couldn’t have cold frosty ones.

Here’s to Article V of the United States Constitution.

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

I want to cry just reading it. Those beautiful lines, those beautiful lines let us make amendments. They let us know the greatest thing a nation can do is change.

We can live without our sins. We can grow beyond slavery, beyond rights denied because of a fable of apples and snakes. We can ban cold frosty ones and then flip it back because our government’s covenant is that we can do better.

We will do better.

Unless we stop.

Unless we give these powers to a monster.

I can’t laugh at him anymore. He is not a clown or a misguided child. He is a savvy and calculating master of outrage who has taken our laughter and our superior kidding and turned it to a shot at power beyond any of our imagining.

If he wins, we will get a minimum of two Supreme Court picks.

He will get nuclear weapons.

I cannot laugh.

We are this beautiful catastrophe of a nation, of a land born in blood and oppression whose motto is “Let’s figure this out.” We are America, America is us.

We can figure this out. We must figure this out. We must become better than the better angels of our nature and, no, we no longer have the right to laugh.

I believe in nothing, but god bless the land of the terminally sincere.

A few more thoughts on America

How I find hope

It will be

What's this?

You are currently reading #692: The Beautiful Catastrophe by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.