the fever dream of impeachment

January 15, 2019
51 Picks

The feeling of doom is a casual acquaintance underneath Trump’s presidency. Since his election, I’ve found myself in an unique position as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction narratives, because Trump has sucked the power out of righteous fiction. A piece of fiction is a lie, but one that means to illuminate not disguise. I forget that writers love lies. We love fantasies. We love half-truths and blurred perspectives, because in those fallacies we can tell more radical truths about our lived experiences.

Since Trump has occupied the White House, I believe our collective relationship to fiction has changed. “Once upon a time” is not the childhood fiction that we once embraced to better understand value, love, and moral integrity. Now, the phrase is the beginning of policy speeches. We’ve been made to live in an author’s bad fiction story, and if you’re a writer, there’s no escaping the fantasy. Even outward defiance is absorbed into the cartoon that is the presidential stint of our Tycoon-in-chief.

Just yesterday, Donald Trump was pictured with rows of food from McDonalds. I think to myself that Chick-Fil-A must be jealous. They’ve been taken to task for their funding of extremist and oppressive groups and support of homophobic policies, yet it was McDonalds logos that filled the White House as staff members lit candles for a most bizarre iteration of greed and domination. It’s not the reality that most Americans want to embrace: a fascist exhibiting a junk-food brand that became an economic powerhouse for its ability to market trash to the general public for the cheapest price and most profit. It is the fantasy that America deserves: the image is nightmarish, but also perfect and true. This is the crescendo of all that makes America the powerhouse and the hellish dream it is. The fantasy of a few white men centuries ago, drenched in domination and a lust for power, has come to be. And it looks ridiculous.

The confusion Trump has created with such real-life fictions has morphed into a collective haze from the citizens being gaslit as a group. We’re all made to believe that what we’re witnessing and hearing is completely — or, at least significantly — broken enough to doubt whether to believe it or not. This has made us all vulnerable to the absurd. The two choices  we’re left with are either to ignore — and risk the type of political ignorance that may not serve you, if you’re interested in being sufficiently notified about nuclear war before it happens — or to dive into the fiction and fight it with reality.

I do not know what will or won’t happen underneath Trump, but I do know that there’s a type of fever-dream that has woken me up in cold sweats. The fiction that electrifies me at times, and makes me too numb to think about more positive possibilities. But, clinging to my own fantasies has proven to be the only way to survive these continued assaults.

Still, it feels so peculiarly American to cling to fantasies, especially now. I daydream about an alert coming to my phone announcing Trump’s impeachment. Friends tell me about their fantasies that are more morbid, and I realize that we must be truthful about our make-believe, even those that are dark and political.

The environment that most of us have inherited is a clinging to normalcy. Pundits and politicians alike are tethered to slogans like “this is not normal”, but that’s not the whole truth, is it? Many people don’t even feel correct saying such a thing because America’s history proves that, although heinous and abrupt, Trump has yet to breach America’s rules on normalcy.

With all this claustrophobic darkness, combined with generational exhaustion — now warmly referred to as millennial burnout — there’s a feeling that we’ve loosened our grip on reality and our ability to control what we once thought could be reasoned with logic.

I’ve never had that much faith in the American project, but I do have faith in the human imagination, and I’ve wondered how come more people haven’t chosen to fight fiction with fiction. Why are we relying so much on moral integrity and political experience? They are important components, but obviously fail in the spaces where many fascists are empowered: the imagination and fiction. The fascist ability to call on fairy tales — about coal jobs, binary gender, and welfare queens — should be countered with radical fantasies.

Toni Morrison, when speaking about her novel Paradise, said that paradise is most defined by who is not allowed in. For me, the literary practice of critique has always operated as a way to express and fantasize about what and who should not be allowed in. The world of critique is necessary and present, but there is something limiting about only being able to oppose what exists or recall what has been. There is ultimate in power in willing and speaking and creating what has yet to be. This is where I think people who do not see themselves as artists have failed since their sense of reality has been disturbed. There has been nothing but resist, resist, #resist. Meanwhile, fascists have been imagining (even if met with failure) a fantastic horror story that has moved the social, political, and cultural needle whether we’d like to admit this or not.

When asked by Anderson Cooper if Trump was racist, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “Yeah, yeah. No question.” As if being asked about pizza toppings. More than most, Ocasio-Cortez has quickly and effectively cut through the orange haze by not so much grappling with the obvious, but dismissing it with facts and moving on to her own fantasies. Hers feel just as distant as those produced by those interested in dominating others, but seems to not center a politics of greed or white supremacy, but one of community empowerment, with programs to protect vulnerable people. It delights me to think that if dreams of the unattractive, unqualified hyper-wealthy capitalist that practices white supremacy fine dining on fast food can come true, perhaps other more radical fantasies can as well.

We can’t just have a fever dream of impeachment, we must have clear fantasies and fictions about the reality we’d like to inhabit. A reality that feels like such a lie that bigger truths about our reality can fit in it. Why is it ridiculous or impossible to dream of a queer utopia? Don’t let the impossibility stop you. Let it anger you. Let it make you cling to the fantasy and its potential to materialize fiercely. If we are to have a revolutionary future, we have to start embracing radical fantasies today.