I’m feeling a lump of opinion rise within me, in relation to the election. Yet I’m not sure if it’s really the election I want to write about. I believe that’s too narrow a frame.
What I want to write about is agency. And looking out, not up.
When I imagine people in relation to president, I see a brood of three hundred million hungry chicks, squawking up at mama-bird on a high branch – mama-bird who builds us shelter, brings us food. Each time we vote, we have the chance to join our squawks in a foghorn roar, too loud for mama-bird to ignore.
What if we quit looking up? What if we looked to each other?
What if mama-bird has long since flown away, leaving an automated birdroid, programmed to pacify but not nourish, in her place?
I have been looking up, in one way or another, for almost forty years. First, from my desk in a grid, I looked up to teachers and principals. Then I moved on to employers and professors. Then I joined Zendik, at the bottom of a pyramid that ascended, through many levels, to Arol. Leaving Zendik taught me to heed the wisdom of the body – and the body knows, it always knows, when the soul is being disparaged. Belittled. Looked down on. Yet I did not receive a visceral experience of a positive alternative until Occupy – which, for all its faults, and, I’m sure, its own subtle hierarchies, made it seem surreal to be in a muted crowd, looking up to a poo-bah (or panel of poo-bahs) commanding a podium. I felt I’d developed a healthy allergy to looking up.
Still, I continue to do it, in other ways (for example, I spent more than ten years looking up to the publishing industry, hoping for someone within it to swoop down and sweep me and my book to the stars). And, always, I feel its toxicity. I feel the impossibility of joining as friends and comrades with those I have to crane my neck to see.
The gift of an election in which both candidates are roundly despised (even by many who voted for them – cf. “Kerry Haters for Kerry”) is, perhaps, release from looking up.
A Clinton win, I suspect, would have perpetuated the story that there’s a benevolent presence above us, at least keeping order and making incremental improvements, if not throwing open the gates to a more beautiful world. This story, in turn, would have kept many of us frogs in the proverbial water pot from realizing it was building towards a boil. With Trump in office, on the other hand, we frogs know the water’s already scorching hot. The blender’s on. Instead of a pledge of a half billion solar panels, veiling an iron commitment to business as usual, we get bald threats to revive Keystone XL and burn more coal.
Mama-birdroid has left the branch. She won’t return (she was feeding us frankenworms anyway). Do we treasure our nest? Our tree? Our fellowbeings? Let’s lower our beaks. Chirp to each other. Squawk if we want to, knowing those we need to reach are all right here.