Runcible Blog

Trump Is Not My President

When people say, “he’s not MY president!”, I wonder what they mean. Citizens don’t have presidents; federal governments have presidents. Unless you work in the federal government, the president isn’t your boss.

I suppose they mean the president doesn’t represent the people who live in the country, or the country’s values. But why do we believe in countries, anyway? Why do we believe that something tangible called “The United States of America” exists across 4 million square miles of land, and no further?

If you take one step over the imaginary border between USA and Canada, then you’re in an entirely different region, with different concerns and problems. Step back into the USA, and you coexist with 350 million countrymen. If you live in New York, you can pretend to care about issues in California while being totally ignorant of issues in Ontario or Oaxaca, because those are other places, not your country. You can say you care about the plight of some identity group in this country, but you don’t know about the same identity group in another country. If someone were to bomb Muslims in Cleveland, you’d be outraged. When the same someone (for instance, the US government) bombs Muslims across the globe, you don’t even hear about it.

Despite our enlightened, progressive beliefs, human nature seems to act from tribal instincts. If you had to choose between sparing your friend or a stranger from Uganda, you’d choose your friend. And you’d choose your son over your neighbor, your pet dog over a pig. So, why do most of us pretend to care about the 350 million other people who live in this fabricated country? As long as you don’t care about the person in Bangladesh who made your t-shirt, you don’t care about an anonymous landscaper in Podunk, Iowa, either. If you don’t care about all beings everywhere — neighbors and foreigners, cows, trees, mosquitos — then you must admit that your compassion is limited, abstract, and tribalistic. And if compassion is tribalistic and abstract, why brandish it like a shield or sword?

Many upset voters now feel like the election of Trump is apocalypse for the U.S.A. Do they not realize that the federal government has been exporting apocalypse around the world? Militaries and institutions bearing this flag have turned Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and others into failed states, where every day feels like the end of their world. Even inside this fictional country, there are places full of people experiencing desperation and strife.

Electing somebody odious to manage one aspect of an imaginary nation isn’t itself “the end of days” for humanity. What is hastening the end of days is the way of living espoused by people who call themselves Americans. Every time we drive to work or the mall or turn on the television, we pollute the atmosphere and further all of humanity (not only the special “American” identity group) toward apocalypse. The economic system people have created relies on extraction and destruction. It’s entirely fictional, maintained by the mass delusion that this is the best [only] way to survive. “Currency” isn’t baked into our DNA or designed by a deity. Strip-mining, industrial agriculture, political parties, global networks of trade and information powered by limited resources — those aren’t requirements for any species’ survival. We participate because we believe, as we believe in “America”, the internet, clothing, three square meals, and millions of other, arbitrary ideas. Our ideas shape but cannot control reality. The consequences of our actions happen to be transforming the planet into a place inhospitable to human life. There are other ways of living that don’t rely on this particular scrapheap of ideas. We can change this reality by dropping and changing ideas.

After all, this constructed reality flows and expands from the basic delusion that “I” exist as a separate entity, and everything “out there” is not also me. Vast suffering results: ecosystem destruction, systemic oppression and it’s opposite — weaponized compassion.

As we fret about the imaginary future of an imaginary country, we can contemplate how these are just more ideas that contribute to reality — if held onto and acted upon.

Otherwise, they float away like bubbles and return to nonexistence.