When I was in 9th grade, our homework assignment for November 20, 1983 was to watch the ABC TV movie “The Day After.”
For those who don’t remember the early 80’s or the controversy this particular movie caused, suffice it to say that it created a shitstorm. Parents were outraged at the prospect of their 14-year-old children watching a movie about nuclear war; today, the backlash seems positively quaint. I seem to remember an alternative assignment being offered for those who were forbidden to see it, myself among them. (Correct me if I’m wrong, high school classmates who have better memories than I do.)
And I remember going to school the next day, a Monday, and seeing the terrified and shaken faces of my classmates who watched “The Day After.” I guess that’s to be expected when you’ve just seen a coming attraction of how the world would end.
I mention all this because after watching Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at last night’s Republican National Convention, and waking up feeling so empty and defeated this morning, I realized there was something oddly familiar. If this is bad, I thought, imagine how horrible November 9 and January 20 will be. The days after. It will feel like we’re watching the end of the world.
One of the things that was so frightening about “The Day After” was that it seemed so real. Again, I didn’t watch it — never have — but from what I remember then and now, it was plausible. So realistic. This could actually happen IN OUR LIFETIMES. You have to put into context the times, I guess. We were living in a Reagan presidency and “Star Wars” was more than just a movie.
Now it’s decades later, and the threat of our way of life changing dramatically or even ending altogether looks quite like the reality show this election has become. And yes, there’s lots to poke fun at and laugh about and salivate over like the gluttonous, obscene, morally and culturally bankrupt creatures we are.
But the presidency of the United States of America isn’t a reality show or a made-for-TV movie. And when you get right down to it, that’s exactly why there’s a very strong possibility that Donald Trump could win this thing. He’s a master of combining fear-mongering and showmanship, and he knows how to package it into something we can’t resist. If there’s anything that Americans crave, it’s the need to be entertained. Constantly. When presented with someone who’s a snarling doppelganger of Heat Miser, who has no compunction about touching his own daughter quite inappropriately (this really needed to be more of a national story today, for real), the glitz and entertainment factor will always win. We eat this shit up and this gluttony, combined with our complacency, has the very real possibility of giving us more than a bad case of indigestion.
That sick, sinking feeling of terror, hopelessness and despair is not something I want to experience on November 9 or January 20.
Or any of the days after.
This is post #54 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.