The moment you saw this article was about the election, did you find yourself tensing up, ready to scour it for a sentence you disagree with? If so, you may be suffering from a disease known as Election Fever, though you probably don't have it as bad as I do -- I think I've now muted everyone on Facebook but the ads. Just yesterday I spent an hour getting mad at the comments on this article about Syrian refugees accidentally getting booked at a hotel during a furry convention.
The shitstorm is only going to get worse, so to prevent all of us from having a rage stroke between now and November, I decided to make a quick guide to help center us during these turdulent times. Simply take a moment to remember ...
#10. Fear Makes You Dumb
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Here's some life-changing advice my grandmother once whispered to me at a birthday party: "You must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration," she said, while sewing the same phrase into a cross-stitch. "And remember that he who controls the spice controls the universe."
Good old Grandma.
As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the key is not to confuse "Fear clouds your thoughts" with "The world is free from danger." The world is dangerous as shit! But fear shuts down the rational-thinking part of your brain, and these problems need rational thought, goddammit.
And here's the other thing I wish every human could get tattooed on their forearm at birth: "Fear makes you easy to manipulate, and every powerful person knows this."
You need that way more than yet another naked lady draped in a "Don't Tread On Me" banner.
Therefore, be skeptical of the guy constantly bringing you warnings of impending doom. The salesman and the doomsday prophet are both selling you something; they're just blowing different flavors of smoke up your ass.
#9. Elections Are What We Have Instead Of War
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You can usually break panic with context. Well, here's the context for the situation we're in today:
For most of human history, when somebody in the tribe decided they wanted to be chief, the "election" involved him bashing the current chief's skull in with a fucking rock. The chief was always just whoever was best at doing that. In much of the world, leaders are still chosen this way, only with more sophisticated weapons and/or the ability to brainwash uneducated people into dying for the upstart's cause.
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Where "campaign finance reform" means spending more money on rocket launchers
aimed directly at your opponent's face.
So in nearly all times and places on Earth, you knew when a change in power had occurred by the amount of blood and brain matter on the pavement. The new regime would spend years rounding up and imprisoning anyone who supported the old regime -- citizens had to be really fast at scraping off a bumper sticker. Peaceful power transitions are a recent invention, found only in one species on all of planet Earth.
So yes, elections are full of lies and insults and cowardly backstabbing. But the next transition of power -- even if the new president is a proverbial sack of rats chewing on a severed human butt -- will be peaceful. And that is a miracle.
#8. Yes, America Is On The Verge Of Violent Collapse (As Usual)
This is my favorite Twitter joke of all time:
It's a nice reminder that what looks like the apocalypse is simply the latest in a series of cyclical events that each look apocalyptic from the inside. "Americans are more polarized than ever!" says the pundit. "What happened to the unified nation I grew up with? Sure, we had our differences, but we all believed in America!"
Great question. Let's climb into my time machine to go pinpoint when exactly things went wrong. Where do I set the dial to find this nation of good-hearted patriots? Was it the 1960s, when protesters filled the streets and were gunned down by the military? When an actual riot broke out at the Democratic National Convention and a sitting president got his fucking head blown off?
Not far enough back, you say? How about the glorious post-war years, when black people weren't allowed to even be in the same movie theater as whites, and any career could be ruined by a single accusation of communism? Or was it earlier than that, when women weren't allowed to vote or have careers? Or when the Civil War left 800,000 butchered corpses scattered across the landscape? Or when black people were legally considered cattle?
Unless ... now bear with me, but is it possible you just looked at 2016 America and said, "There's no way it's always been this bad! The system would have fallen apart by now!" without actually checking to see if that statement is true? Because yeah, I think it's kind of always looked like this. Or, you know, worse.
#7. They're Your Neighbors, Not Monsters
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America is always on the verge of falling apart, because it began as a loose collection of colonies settled by starkly different cultures and ethnic groups, along with slaves and migrant labor from all over, with some land seized from Mexico thrown in. We call it a "melting pot," but you shouldn't be thinking fondue here -- you should be picturing a shower of angry sparks spraying out of a roaring blast furnace.
The values of someone who grew up in Mississippi will probably be downright repulsive to someone who grew up in San Francisco and vice-versa. It would be weird if they weren't. They will therefore feel bitter hatred for one another, but note that it's not personal hatred -- just an abstract sense that the other guys are Part Of The Problem.
Those people lining up to vote for [insert candidate you're most scared of] would, in the vast majority of cases, call for help if they saw you wounded in the street. Some of the ones with the most ignorant slogans on their T-shirts would dive into freezing water to save you from drowning. They're your neighbors, your co-workers, your customers. In the last month, one of them has probably offered you their spot in line at the grocery store and struck up a pleasant conversation about sports in the waiting room at the dentist.
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"I can't wait to see the wall ... when I visit Fenway next month."
"But," you say, "if they vote for [scary candidate], people will die! My life will be measurably worse! The time for being polite is over!"
No. Listen to me: Lives are at stake in every election. The next president will decide what wars we get into, what health coverage gets cut, what safety regulations can be repealed, how strongly we're protected from terrorists. Democracy is entirely about making the transition of power an orderly and peaceful event despite the fact that lives are at stake. That's what it's been about from the beginning.
And again, the reason I'm asking you to refrain from fearing/hating them isn't because they don't deserve it (I don't think they do, but that's irrelevant to my point); I'm saying that fear is the mind-killer, and anger is the mind's crystal meth. Fearing/hating someone shifts your brain into a fight-or-flight mode that draws blood away from the part that makes you human. Your IQ drops by 30 points. Your ears become deaf to criticism and your eyes blind to nuance.
Remember, the ignorant people you fear are being ignorant because they fear you and fear is the freaking mind-killer. Are you scared that a President Trump will start rounding up and persecuting innocent people? Well, conservatives said the same thing would happen under Obama.
#6. Yes, The System Is Run By Wealthy Elites (And Always Has Been)
My grandmother coined another saying years ago: "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then, when you get the money, you get the power. Then, when you get the power, you get the women."
Good old Grandma.
I think most voters would agree with her and insist that the American political system has been "hijacked" by the wealthy. Well, we're going to hop into my time machine again, and this time you're going to take me to an era prior to said hijacking.
The problem is that, unless the history books are wrong, we'll find that America's founding fathers were, for the most part, from wealthy families. By 1829, Andrew Jackson had made it an unspoken policy to reward large donors with government positions -- here's a political cartoon depicting Jackson riding a pig covered in dollar signs:
By 1883, you had political cartoons depicting all of American society propping up a few billionaires:
A then-4-year-old Bernie Sanders sees this and is inspired.
One 1885 Senate race was between a guy worth $500 million in today's money and a dude worth $1.3 billion. I'm not saying you should be OK with that; I'm just trying to give you context. The rich didn't hijack this flight -- they're the pilots, and also they own the airline. They have always acted on their own agenda while trying to convince the rest of us it was our idea (you know the majority of the colonists had no desire to go to war with Great Britain, right?).
They were perfectly content with their king, their tea, and their cartoonishly large heads.
But despite that, somehow, life has still gotten much better over the centuries. We have, in defiance of those wealthy elites, managed to free the slaves, abolish child labor, improve workplace safety, introduce a minimum wage, create labor unions, cut pollution, and push through thousands of other little improvements for the common working folk.
It's a brutal, unending battle, but one we do often win. You should be proud of that! It's pretty impressive when you think about it. But that just brings us to ...