Tweets. Emails. Nuclear launch codes.
Russian cyberspies. WikiLeaks hacktivist “cutouts.” Kremlin-sponsored kompromat (“compromising material”) operations against the presidential candidate of one party but not the other.
Not against the Greatest One. The Manchurian candidate. The Ukrainian candidate. The Manafortian candidate. The Cyberian candidate.
An existential threat, wrapped in a con game, inside a spy vs. spy plot. Veiled “Second Amendment” hints suggesting assassination of political opponents. Conspiracy as the continuation of ideology by other means.
Can a deliberative political process, born and raised in the age of print, survive the digital era’s onslaught of instant-gratification (mis)(dis)information? Today’s favorite tomorrows are always already so yesterday. We’re over the rainbow, Dorothy. We can’t go home again.
Do social media powerfully potentiate virtual tribalism? Will the thumb-twiddling Twitterpated flash mob’s fast fury overwhelm the slow wisdom of the contemplative, individual, private mind? We’re through the Looking-glass, Alice. There’s no way back.
Lost in cyberspace’s nowhere frontier, we will have to make it here – even when there is no here, here. The internet was an American invention designed to survive a nuclear war with Russia, but will American democracy survive an internet war covertly waged by Russia?
Stay tuned. Stay buffooned. Stay granfallooned.
And if the Greatest One – that snake-oil tanker of secret Russian registry, leaking and spewing toxic filth upon the waters of our national political discourse – sails to the presidency, will we say, “I did not vote, because the Greatest One’s opponent was too far from perfect”?
After he begins deporting the foreign-born who lack papers, will we say, “I said nothing, because I was native born and all my papers were in order”? After he imposes religious litmus tests, will we say, “I said nothing, because I was not of the religion being tested”? After he builds his long-threatened Wall, will we say, “I said nothing, because I believed I was on the right side of the Wall”?
After the petty, vindictive Greatest One has used the powers of the executive branch to sic our 16 national intelligence agencies on any citizen he perceives as unfriendly to him, will we say, “I said nothing, because I believed I had nothing to fear”? After he has used the powers of agencies ranging from the FBI to the IRS to persecute all those who might question his reign, will we say, “I said nothing, because I believed I had nothing to hide”?
After the Greatest One has declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus, will we say, “I said nothing, because the officers who took me into custody would not allow me to speak”? Having been convicted on trumped-up charges by a sham court – having been put on the trains and sent to the Patriotic Purity camps for re-education – having realized we are on the wrong side of the Wall, after all – will we have no choice but to say, “There was no one left to speak up for me”?
Having realized the Greatest One – the worst of America, who brought out the worst in Americans – constituted an existential threat not only to the future of the American republic but (with the world’s mightiest military and its vast nuclear arsenal under his out-of-control control) also an existential threat to the future of the human species on this planet – what will we say then?
Of course, it will be far too late to say or do much of anything at Zero Time. Too late, after the falling-out between bromantic strongmen leads to the rockets’ red glare, nuclear bombs bursting in air, and fallout everywhere. Too late, after the world is rendered a post-apocalyptic hellscape, in which we few scattered remnants of humanity find ourselves finally free – to struggle, desperately, for survival.
When our ragged, sickly children, born since the world ended, ask endlessly, “Didn’t you see it coming?” – what will we say to them? Will we lie and tell them that we didn’t foresee how putting the Greatest One in the Oval Office would be equivalent to giving Hitler nuclear weapons? Will they understand that reference, after the last end of history? Will we tell them of all that we saw – and all the nothing that we said, despite having been told for so long, in times of terror, “See something, say something”?
Hoping to help those born after the End comprehend what happened, let us lead them on treks into Dotgog, the Desert of the Greatest One’s Gamble. Let us show them where the Greatest One’s name still stands – in five gilt letters each 100 feet high, sinking crookedly into the lone and level sands of our world’s colossal wreck. Let us point out to them how, around that name, nothing else remains.
Perhaps then they will begin to understand.
Shaver Lake resident Howard V. Hendrix, the author of six science-fiction novels, has held jobs ranging from janitor to fish hatchery manager to university professor and administrator.