What's a mesmerized, terrified outsider to do about the U.S. election spectacle?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Are these really days of awe? That's how the Jewish holidays just past are known. It also sounds like the U.S. election.

Hillary Clinton told the New York Times, "I'm the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse." She sounded Trumpian. The Times aptly ended an interminable story on her with it.

Fareed Zakaria says the world is "freaking out" over Trump. By world Zakaria always means those with wealth and power but it applies to the remnant as well. CNN's Michael Smerconish said last weekend it had been a unique moment in the history of politics -- and I already can't remember which moment he meant.

This is annoyingly braggadocious. Loopy elections and candidates occur everywhere. Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is more sinister and monstrous than Trump. Human rights groups say he's responsible for about 1,500 "extrajudicial" killings and assassinations of drug dealers and street kids, which he's more or less proud of. For causing a traffic jam, he told the Pope ("son of a whore") to go home.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi has been consistently outrageous over a longer period with more varied plot lines. He's had underage sex scandals and criminal convictions but keeps chugging. He has a stamina for public indignity that Trump, who flies home each night to sleep in his own bed, lacks. And Trump is way less entertaining and spontaneous than Rob Ford was.

The main reason the "world" can't avert its eyes from the Trump drama isn't because it's imaginative and dazzling but because it's happening in a nation that has fateful impacts on everyone beyond it. It's like watching a tragic play that will engulf you but you're not even a character in it. When the melodrama transforms into reality, it will ripple out over the audience beyond the apron. Americans loved the Ford show because they could tune in and out; it was a diversion. In Toronto we couldn't. It was our ongoing reality.

This is a version of imperialism. People all over the world watch not merely in fascination but dread. That's untrue of any other nation's politics. Not only do they invade and occupy you, then extract your wealth and undermine your culture -- they may even be doing it without forethought, since they're absorbed in their own domestic dramas. Some of it is conscious and planned, some inadvertent and oblivious -- like the casual obliteration of Pacific island nations.

There was news this week about U.S. warships firing on rebels in Yemen, as a distant result of U.S. policies toward the region going back 60 years, including the Iraq invasion. Generations of lives in the region have been crushed, it spills over into terror in Europe, the U.S. and here. The carnage in Colombia since the 1960s wouldn't have occurred without U.S. meddling. If not for such effects, their electoral capering would be merely amusing, like the Fords to outsiders.

But U.S. leaders are both willing and able to incinerate the planet for their pathetically macho reasons. JFK was, in 1962, over missiles in Cuba -- and he was one of their more thoughtful leaders. He didn't want to, hoped he wouldn't have to but was utterly prepared to. Clinton and Trump are both of that era.

What's a mesmerized yet terrified outsider to do in a situation like this U.S. election spectacle? Maybe fight awe with awe.

Though my own religious observance lapsed eons ago, I still try in a fitful way to mark moments like Yom Kippur. It helps pull you out of whatever you're mired in and see with clearer eyes. Back then I found the Jewish Sabbath had the same clarifying effect, weekly: distance and perspective. Ramadan is an extended version of the technique. It needn't be explicitly religious. I think it's what people seek in mindfulness -- on a retreat, in the office or on the subway.

People like me, who've been through the religious mill, often emerge clutching the ethical or social justice elements -- "Justice, justice thou shalt pursue" -- as a way to retain a connection.

But that route also has challenges. It's worth hanging onto the other side, the transcendent piece, if you can: Looking up like Zhivago (in the film) as he rides across a frozen lake during the chaos of the Russian Revolution, suddenly seeing the serene moon and being transported to another, stiller realm -- from which, refreshed and renewed, he'll return.

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group/flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.