For those who doubt that a political or philosophical screed can be successfully communicated through the milieu of Fifteen, stick around for this one.
Those who have been reading my blog for longer than it’s been a celebration of an obscure teen soap opera know that I have a tendency to deal in the abstract. I feel most comfortable expressing my thoughts with philosophical and metaphysical language and often reach a point where all pragmatism disappears in a vast cloud of ontology that borders on the mystical.
The Buddhists have an answer to the seeming dichotomy between down-to-earth logic and non-conceptual meditative states of mind, albeit an imperfect one due to the constrictions of language. The Sutras often speak of two realities, carefully reminding us of the symbolism inherent in this artificial division of the inherently indivisible. They speak of “relative reality” and “ultimate reality”, conjuring an imaginary line of demarcation between the grossly physical and the subtly spiritual.
Therefore, when I opine that ego-driven individuals are willfully incapable of recognizing the unbreakable unity of all beings, things and events, I am simply indulging in an interesting but impractical intellectual exercise informed by my own personal spiritual and philosophical ideals. It would be impossible for me to extricate my own ego from the equation when I am in the process of trying to persuade others to view things in the way that I find most “sensible”. This ensures that the end result of such essays is invariably a useless manifesto attempting to express the “ultimate” through the purview of my own ego (the “relative”). This all gets very convoluted and I know there are quite a few of you oot there who realize that when I attempt to “say something”, I usually end up saying nothing at all, hoping that the employment of erudite linguistics will blind readers to its lack of practical meaning.
Therefore, this post, if I may once again appropriate a tenet of Eastern wisdom, will remain firmly in the realm of relative speech. To that aim, let’s dispense of a few lofty bits of nonsense that we as Americans still love to throw around as if they’re unquestionable truths. There is no such fucking thing as “the soul of America” (or any other arbitrarily defined sovereign nation) or “the fabric of America” or even “the people of America” when used to imply a social, cultural or spiritual homogeneity. To say that “Americans are good/resourceful/courageous people” is just as devoid of a foundation as to say that “Americans are bad/lazy/cowardly people”. Americans, like any other group numbering in the millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions, have just one verifiable common bond, which is that of species. Of course, that renders the notion of national origin utterly meaningless since it puts everyone on Earth in the same generalized boat, but this is the reality, even if it offends your ego-driven, fear-based embrace of patriotism. Biology is our only common bond.
When I derive a sense of meaning from reminding readers of our intrinsic lack thereof, I may be giving an honest assessment of my cosmological view but I am also neglecting to admit my own emotional investment in that meaningless existence. In other words, despite my best efforts to present myself otherwise, I still get pissed off, depressed, frightened and insecure. I would guess that I now suffer from such “negative” states of mind far less frequently than the average person due to my habit of analyzing myself into non-existence each and every time my ego wants to loudly assert itself, but intellect is an ultimately impotent tool in the nurturing of spirituality or even genuine stoicism, for that matter. In other words, I still feel shit, whether I like it or not.
And so do the students of Hillside High, of course. They feel shit so strongly that even pleasure seems like pain to these little melodramatists. Most of them embody age-old stereotypes and that’s where they become very useful examples for this post. Although the actors (and characters) themselves are Canadian, to my mind, some of those stereotypes better exemplify American caricatures while others are more suited to north-of-the-border conventions. Again, there is no actual commonality besides biology and imagined citizenry between the constituents of a country. But there are sweeping impressions that become an invented “national character” and in this case, it is the Ugly American versus the Friendly Canadian.
First, the Canadians:
Janice, Olaf, Arseman, Jake and Dave. The common characteristics of these five fictional Vancouverites are harmlessness and a sort of charming naivete.
Now the Americans:
Brooke, Amanda, Courtney, Matt, Chris and Ashley.
Possessed by one or all of these characters are the following traits that most non-Americans understandably attribute to the country’s populace at large: self-absorption, pettiness, insecurity, strength through cruelty, dishonesty, drunkenness, lack of subtlety, theatrical melodrama, manipulation, judgment and discrimination.
Now let’s see how applicable the aforementioned and unevenly distributed adjectives apply to each country’s primary representative on the world stage:
Canada: Justin Trudeau
USA: Donald J. Trump
Even though I already acknowledged the lack of homogeneity in any nation’s citizenry, these are still eerily accurate parallels of the way most of us feel in our gut aboot those who live just one thin invisible border away from us. Since I am not Canadian and have thus never had the experience of living among those who are, I can only level honest gut-felt criticism at those who live within the same borders as I. So this goes oot to those Americans whose values, beliefs and viewpoints are so diametrically opposed to my own that I find it increasingly difficult to even recognize our biological bond.
If you still support the illiterate dictator squatting in the Oval Office, YOU ARE A RACIST.
This is not open to debate. Let’s check in with Merriam-Webster, shall we?
Racist (noun) a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another. Synonyms: bigot, racialist, chauvinist, xenophobe
If you react to the above statement with offense and begin to list off black/Hispanic/gay/Muslim friends you’ve had over the years, you are simply bringing your racism into sharper focus.
If you really don’t indulge in conscious racial or ethnic animus but intend to vote for Orangina because your 401K has done well under his watch, you are worse than a racist. You’re a racist enabler who should know better, but value your own comfort over the civil rights of others. This is simple cowardice.
I’ve written before aboot the neuroscientific fact that larger amygdalas generally inform conservative sociopolitical views. A more accessible term for that walnut-sized primitive area of the brain is the “fear center”. In other words, in order to harbor racist, misogynist or discriminatory ideals above and beyond subtle areas of genuine ignorance, one must be afraid, even cowardly.
Which brings me to my second and final point:
If you still support the illiterate dictator squatting in the Oval Office, YOU ARE A COWARD.
I do not believe that my or anyone else’s words can have any significant effect on an arc of human history that is currently driven by nearly 8 billion people. I do not have hope for the future, nor do I fear it, because either mindset requires an erroneous sense of simple linear cause and effect, though in reality, it is far more complicated and multifaceted than anyone can imagine. That’s ultimate reality.
I do believe that nearly half the population of the United States consists of racists and cowards. That’s relative reality, though it is just as impervious to debate as the ultimate and if you disagree with that assessment, go back to the top of the post and read it again, then consult Google for a compendium of your Fuhrer’s most shameless and baseless Twitter rants.
When you find yourself behind that voting booth curtain in 2020, sincerely ask yourself: am I Brooke or am I Janice? The honest answer may surprise you. Whether we come oot of that election looking more like a nation or Brookes or of Janices, I won’t be surprised by the results. Though we may seem to much of the world like a collective of angry buffoons at the moment, the most imaginary thing of all is some set-in-stone essence of character in any given individual. Here’s hoping more of us find the courage to embrace our inner Janices or Olafs before casting those votes.