“General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – David (Hugh Grant), Love Actually (2003)
Mankind, at some point, took a wrong turn.
I know that sentence will annoy some folks. They’ll argue about when things were best or how things might be. I’ll hold that evidence is slowly uncovering the truth. But here’s the thing. I think we can both agree that people have been loudly proclaiming that things have been going wrong since the beginning of recorded history.
People being, well, people have been trying to fix it. They’ve been told by the people in power that this is just the way things are. This is natural (it’s not). So they’ve been imagining how a solution would look.
A lot of it has come down to messiahs. One person, divinely inspired, who will show you through the shit-show that is reality to at least a decent life. Basically, they’re looking for a father; someone to look out for them, to provide, to inform, and most importantly, to protect. And sadly, it hasn’t worked. No messianic figure, whether embodied in royalty or an elected position or an individual, has worked out, mainly because you can’t maintain the same system that causes the problem and expect different results.
This is very important to keep in mind when discussing the 2016 presidential election.
People have been spreading a lot of vitriol about who to vote for and how to vote. You’re wasting a vote on Bernie Sanders. You’re wasting a vote not voting for Hilary Clinton. You’re wasting your vote on Trump. You get the point.
My point is that they, in typical American fashion, modern messiahs, anointed to look out for us, to provide, to inform, and most importantly, to protect.
Small catch, though. If you are feeling terrified and panicked at your side losing, as many people are, that means that this is a far bigger problem than one person. That means there is a credible force on the other side. These people, your opponents, are not going away. And no messianic person is going to fix it by winning a presidential election. The narrative for the other side is never going to be “Oh! The forces of good and decency won. We’d better rethink our positions.” It’s going to be “The Empire is here to claim us all.”
People are, pretty much, always the heroes of their own saga.
Here’s two narratives that are in play:
In the first, the messiah appeals to emotion, openly criticizes the establishment. The messiah is a clever jester, who teaches in story and provides examples of how one can turn the current order right on its head. Individual responsibility, enabled by the messiah’s sacrifices, is the key to a good life.
In the second, the messiah appeals to the rule of law, creates and encourages a system that binds together the best of beliefs and politics, embraces diversity and inspires a road map for world security. Common experience are what binds us together, as well as an educated populace who are thoroughly versed in the copious writings and interpretations so as to have a unifying blueprint on which to begin.
The above stories refer to Jesus and Mohammed.
Or they refer to Trump and Clinton.
Regardless of how you may feel right now about comparing Trump to Jesus, that’s how the other side sees him, figuratively though not literally. His story is as old as the Christian religion, as much as you can argue Clinton’s is as old as the papacy or Islam.
It’s funny that I can hear people scoff, even as I write this, and yet I’m saying it again: people are the heroes of their own story.
If the heroes win, then they go about trying to settle their house, eliminate the last of the evil and bring a brighter future to mankind. If they lose, they rise up, find ways to fight and tear down the evil oppressors who are bringing about Armageddon.
Voting for a messiah doesn’t make a significant difference. Voting for the apostles and saints of our government, who occupy the next tier of power, doesn’t make a significant difference either. Only by reaching out to our friends and neighbors, to the current opposition can we address the very real possibility of a civil war.
Only that way, and not in the voting booth, are we truly heroes.