On Nostalgia, Joe Biden, and the ‘Shortcomings’ of the Young

God, it’s such good sport to beat up on Joe:

Don’t misread here: He’s being a tool about a lot of things and if he’d just shut his goddamn trap he could likely coast to a primary victory, but he can’t stop setting his brand on fire in the street. Whether that’s good or not is totally impossible to say, since “electability” is for suckers and national head-to-head polls are stupid as hell.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen next spring. Shit, we barely know what’s going to happen next WEEK, so my enthusiasm for wading into this nonsense at this point is pretty limited. I was a Deaniac and still am a Kerry stan, guys. Once bitten, etc. But there’s something going on with Biden that I think is interesting beyond just the usual “here’s a dude running for president.” I mean, there are lots and lots of dudes running.

(We hear about them constantly because it’s either that or talk about the women, after all.)

So, Biden:

“I know how to make government work,” Biden said. “I’ve worked across the aisle. I’ve worked to reach consensus.” It wasn’t just a call back to his time as Barack Obama’s wingman vice president but also to his days in the Senate when, to hear him tell the tale, politicians ruled in the best interests of everyone, regularly struck bipartisan deals, and didn’t shout at or demonize their opponents in the pursuit of scoring political points.

There is, of course, a hunger for what we think of as normalcy, which is really a return to a time when we were happy. When that was depends hugely on what you look like, where you live, and what you want. I remember the late 1970s/early 1980s as joyous because my grandparents were alive and I was five years old. Every day was sunny and we had enough to eat and my dad was stealing cable from the neighbors. It was excellent, you know?

Iranian-American children might not have had as much fun in those years, just for example. So while I would dearly love to go back to a time when I was totally ignorant of the world’s problems, I can understand that for others the lure is less. If you can legally marry the love of your life now, you might not want to return to a time when you could be jailed for such a thing. Again, just for example.

The Biden Administration is unlikely to go out of its way to put immigrant children in concentration camps nor attack loving couples whose adopted children were born in the United States. The Biden Administration is unlikely to nominate an actual fascist to replace RBG. The Biden Administration is unlikely, perhaps, to slap its collective dick on China’s dinner table. And if what we face is four more years of Trump cosplaying the Declaration of Independence BUT AS KING GEORGE then I will loudly, enthusiastically, and downright gleefully vote for the Biden Administration in all its dumbass 1950s glory.

I will post memes. I will quit my job and buy a panel van and follow that shit around like the Grateful Dead. My Jackie-O suits will come out of storage.

That’s not the choice yet, though, so here’s my thing with nostalgia. It’s fucking pointless, and it’s sad, and it doesn’t help anything, and its entire function is to let you off the hook for working hard to keep up with the world and being wrong about it as you try to understand.

Do you know, I run in a lot of totebagger circles. I spend SO MUCH TIME listening to people lament division and partisanship and information silo-ing and how we’ve somehow suddenly developed the inability to tell fact from fiction and listen to each other. We need to build bridges, don’t you know. We need to reach out to each other. We need to come together and remember we’re all human!

WE NEED TO STOP KILLING EACH OTHER, is the main thing I want to scream in response, as white supremacists shoot up schools and synagogues week after week after week, as the price of insulin skyrockets, as kids with cancer beg their friends to run lemonade stands for them. Middle- and upper-class white people need civility because then politics can stop distracting us, but everybody else needs to be able to stop dying.

And in order for that to happen we’re going to have to reckon with the world we created in a way that I know our mainstream media sources, the morning shows and quick sports-radio asides that drive the thrust of our national narrative, don’t have the resources or the intelligence or the desire to do.

So to spend the next two years talking about being nice to Republicans, about “reaching across the aisle,” about yearning for the days when things were simpler and kinder … it isn’t just that the prospect doesn’t appeal to me personally (though of course it could). It’s that all it’s going to do is make us smaller, weaker, more powerless, less able to do what needs to be done.

The cultural fracturing isn’t going to stop; too many new stories are being told. Republican malfeasance, criminality and treason aren’t going to stop. And previously marginalized people who are developing the ability to fight back aren’t going to stop, because it’s not the culture or civility or some idea of their childhood they’re fighting for. It’s their lives, right now, right fucking now, today.

In the face of that reality we need someone who can recognize it for what it is, and greet it warmly, arms wide open, enthusiastic for the tumult and the shouting because burning is the only way anything new can be born. More likely it’s not just one person who can bring the energy we see all around us to our politics. More likely it’s dozens, elected by people who aren’t interested in our yesterdays, who can see the waves coming into the shore and not turn their backs.

Who can greet what we have now with strength and courage, and not deplore the lack of what never was, not for all of us, not even once.

A.

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