Is this what it felt like to be an adult in the cold war?
I remember once reading an article about “nuclear dread” or “cold war dread” that discussed how those who grew up in the Atomic Age–basically anybody who went to middle school in the 1950s until roughly the 1980s–had this low-level, simmering anxiety, that nuclear annihilation could come at any moment.
Right now, it feels like somebody turned the dimmer switch on the present down just a tad. There are few conversations happening amongst my friends in New York that don’t–at some point–dip into the latest outrage to roll out of the White House. The repulsiveness of the current political climate has become a meme. To crack a joke about waking up in the morning and checking your newsfeed for developments about the end of the world is about as fresh as making a “What’s the deal with lampshades” Jerry Seinfeld send-up.
I alternate between dread and hope. It’s encouraging to watch people finally get in the faces of politicians, and there’s something weirdly comforting about seeing a country so unanimously repulsed by a group of politicians. Sometimes I feel that if we make it to 2020–or even 2018–without any major catastrophes, that the tide is going to turn in a big bad way.
But then there are little things that make me wonder about the future, and how we’re all going to engage with each other ten, twenty, thirty years from now. We have duly elected officials openly and baldly lying and spitting on the electorate, and nobody really seems to care. Some folks keep cautioning against “normalization”, but at this point it’s hard to imagine ever not dropping my jaw open when I see Sean Spicer spewing stuttered misinformation, or Kellyanne Conway behaving like the ugly power broker at the bitchiest sorority. Reading the news is a constant reminder that the country is being run by the white trash version of The Kardashians, only less successful and with terrible taste.
I digress. What does it mean for the future when politicians feel OK reiterating the absolutely out of touch with reality assertion that most protesters are “paid”? The question will be whether voters react to this as they should (the civics equivalent of storming the castle and beheading the nobles), or if there really are enough out of touch shitheads in the world that believe this crap, who will keep the needle from moving too far in one direction or another.
In the past, it’s been achingly unhip to align passion, politics, and art. I went to a Raymond Pettibon exhibit at the New Museum yesterday (with Dana, James, Emily) and loved it. Achingly personal, unique, political, vulnerable, passionate, and beautiful work. One of my favorite takeaways was that Pettibon entitled one of his shows that came immediately after the outbreak of the Iraq War: “Here’s Your Irony Back.” Maybe we’re finally getting there.