Well, here we are a week into the unthinkable, and the response on the part of everyone left of center, high and low, north and south, young and old, has been one of chilled, paralyzed horror and nightmarish imaginings of the totalitarian future about to begin. Your Head Trucker, situated a good ways out of the mainstream of modern life, has taken a cold satisfaction in realizing that his own insights and fears are shared by many millions of others.
Indeed, the breadth of this essentially supine reaction across all sections and levels of enlightened society is a telling and perversely reassuring sign: we all see through the con man's bluster and brag, we all see the same things tucked up his sleeve or behind his back, we are not fooled. We could not, cannot all be simultaneously deluded this way, so it must be true: a fearsome great sinkhole has opened at our feet, and we all stand upon the very brink of a dark, putrid, bottomless abyss.
If you didn't sleep through World Lit, you fellas know that over the entrance to Dante's Hell was inscribed "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." And indeed, the temptation to despair, and to despair utterly, is great. What we all fear is not a temporary interruption in the nation's perennial progress towards a more just society, "a more perfect union" -- as we would if any other Republican had won the election -- no, what we fear is a savage, unmitigated assault on every civil liberty and human right, and indeed on the Constitutional order itself, by a howling, bloodthirsty horde of deplorables bent on cruel vengeance against the imagined crimes of "libruls," encouraged and empowered by a narcissistic tyrant at their head whose only law is whim.
Put another way, we now fear not the ordinary classroom bullies at the back of the room with their spitwads and rubber bands, but the greasy older kids in ripped shirts and tattoos who lurk just beyond the schoolyard gate with bike chains and switchblades, blocking the way home.
With the victory of marriage equality last year, I felt, among other things, a great sense of relief, the relief that comes when a long, hard task is finally done. I thought then that my work here with this blog -- I know it was only preaching to the choir, just one more background extra in a great crowd scene, of no more consequence in the world than an ant toting a grain of sand, but it often felt like carrying a great boulder uphill those seven weary years -- that my work was pretty much done, and that perhaps I should just let the Blue Truck dwindle down and fade away, its primary raison d'etre accomplished, imagining that a broad, smooth highway of equal rights and dignity for folks like us, and all the other despised, beaten-down people, stretched away to infinity under the sunshine.
But now we are stopped at the edge of the gaping, unbridgeable hole in the ground, with nowhere to go but backwards, the place we just escaped from. And night is falling. In the near distance, a coyote howls, and another, and another. In the sky, no moon, and strange lights. Where can we go? What can we do? We stare at each other wonderingly, characters trapped in a horror movie. What will happen next, we can hardly bear to think, alone here on the ruined road, defenseless and dismayed, and no help in sight.
At this point in the script, invariably one character with just a little more moxie than the others exclaims, "Here's something we can do!" and picks up a tire iron, a rock, a broken bottle, a piece of rope -- and out of suchlike meager resources proceeds to organize a defense. And somehow, against all odds, the terrified little band manages to escape to safety thereby.
I wish I were that character. I wish I had a lucky hunch. I wish I were as resourceful as Jimmy Stewart, or William Holden, or Steve McQueen. I wish I knew what to do. But I don't. I have no clever plan or brave words for you all, and even my halting prayers falter on my tongue. For I have read the history books and the tragedies, and I know what comes in the next act, barring some unlikely deus ex machina.
And I fully understand now what terrified people felt in other times, other countries, facing other disasters, praying that they might be averted, but then -- "that which they greatly feared came upon them." The ways of God are strange, and His purposes beyond knowing, we are taught; but for the faithful, no defeat is final, they say. Cold comfort now, in the gathering mists. Despair is a great sin, perhaps the greatest of all -- but how to resist it?
I am old now, and tired, effectively disabled and impoverished. I cannot march in the streets or carry signs or block traffic. My body and my faith are weak. And I have no sure answers. But I offer these thoughts, for whatever worth they have.
In some other movie, there is no one wielding a tire iron, but someone says quietly, "Pull yourselves together. Let's think this through." And that is what I say to my truckbuddies and readers now. For as yet, despite many ugly words and even threats, there is no irreversible action against us. There is yet time to figure out a plan, a means of resistance, an escape route: something other than silent, spineless submission, which would betray our proud heritage as Americans, the champions of liberty and justice for all. We are not entirely overthrown yet -- and perhaps, please God, we never shall be. For we are also taught that God helps those who help themselves.
For one thing, while the institutions of the Republic still exist and function as they should - that is to say, the courts, the legislatures, the police, and essential services -- we have recourse to them, and we must make quick and effective use of them in every instance of tyranny or terror. We have not come so far and fought so hard, these fifty years, to run from battle now at the first trumpet blast.
We can also organize and strategize at the grassroots all over the country, and discover who among us are those Jimmy Stewarts and other sensible, courageous leaders to point the way ahead.
We can speak the truth and call out every lie. We can cherish facts and ignore rumors. We can succor those who struggle, and comfort those who weep.
And even if it be that the first blows do not fall on our heads, we can speak up in defense of those groups and individuals who are attacked, and defend them as best we can -- for it is not a question of "our group" or "their group" but "Americans all." Remember that tyrants like to pick off their victims one at a time, and meanwhile pit one group against another. But we must not be lulled into a false sense of security - solidarity is the watchword.
And last, we can keep calm and carry on, living our lives with unbowed heads and remembering that no tyranny lasts forever; indeed, tyrants are somewhat more likely to die sooner than later, as we recall from our history books. And no blackhearted, jackbooted regime could flourish indefinitely on American soil, watered long since by the blood of patriots. Less than a quarter of the adult population voted for this new order, and some of them may soon repent their choice; we may feel friendless and alone, but we are not. Our friends and allies are legion, and will perhaps be found even in the most unlikely places.
It may be that this generation of Americans, red and yellow, black and white, male and female, straight and gay, once again has a mysterious rendezvous with destiny. Nor shall we turn from the challenge, in whatever form it takes, I believe. We are Americans, born to freedom and not slavery. We will not go quietly to the slaughter.
We are not as strong, as canny, as resourceful as our forefathers, perhaps, for the abundant comforts and distractions of modern life have softened us all -- but what our forebears were, we can learn to be once again, as necessity requires. The other side may have the guns - but we have our wits, and the right on our side, and the will to endure, and to prevail.
Tell me, brothers, we are not so soft that even at this late hour we can't cowboy up to defend ourselves and our liberties and our rights with wit and grit, by one means or another. Tell me again that love wins out and conquers all. Tell me, friends, that no matter how dark the night, we can find a path to safety and freedom together.
It's okay to be afraid. I am too. So give me your hands and say it, whisper it with me, guys, as we huddle here in the headlights that pierce the night air: Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.