I tend to use video game metaphors to cope with the increasingly insane world of American politics. Systems within systems is as good a way to internalize needed action as any in my book, and besides, America will never be great again until there’s a new Chrono Trigger game on the market in any case.
Recently I had a friend ask me what is to be done about the fact that America has elected a Reddit thread in desperate need of a lying cat to be President. Donald Trump, in addition to his own disregard for the Constitution in the name of his fascist utopia, has enshrined in a position of power the country’s foremost purveyor of rightwing nonsense, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon. That means the man who will essentially be the new Karl Rove to the President is also the man responsible for stories promoting anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and other vileness that has come to define the post-fact world.
So what’s the answer?
When I was a kid my favorite game for many years was Final Fantasy IV (released on the Super Nintendo here as Final Fantasy II). Now, the original American port of that game had an inherent problem with its level-pacing. By the time you returned to the Kingdom of Baron, which had banished you, so you could unseat the demon that was impersonating the king, you were usually under-leveled for the boss fight. This was exacerbated by the fact that your main character, Cecil, had just changed classes, needing all new gear, and had started back over at Level 1.
Coming out of a fairly mundane dungeon were two really hard boss fights. This asshole…
And THIS asshole…
I spent way too much of my household’s phone bill calling tip lines (ask your parents, kids) trying to find a way to beat these two. The only way to win was to go back down into the last dungeon and fight until you reached a high enough level. It was boring, time-consuming and definitely unfair to a kid who could only play it on a two-day rental from Blockbuster (see previous parenthetical statement). Often, I even had to backtrack the whole thing to buy restorative supplies when the ones I brought wore out.
Sometimes I'd get impatient and try to go fight the boss when I wasn't strong enough yet. Every once in a while, with luck, I’d win, but usually it was just death. The only sure way was inching your way up through fighting to the level needed.
Later, when the game was re-released over the next couple of decades on various systems, the company that made the game remembered the complaints and fixed this area so you could just smoothly flow through the story without level grinding. Of course, it added its own new things in other places that had their own new headaches, and that would require their own new fixes in future versions, and that would also add new things, and so on and so on ad infinitum.
My point, and how it relates to Donald Trump? We go back to the dungeon and we level up by fighting lesser enemies. One of the things the radical third-party people never seem to grasp is that they keep going up against boss fights with under-leveled characters every four years. Texas Democrats have a really, really bad habit, as well, of taking the non-presidential election years off and letting the game progress without them.
The real fight for the Lone Star State comes in 2018, when politicians like Governor Greg Abbot, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senator Ted Cruz will be up for re-election, not to mention a whole host of down-ballot tickets. Hillary Clinton may have come closer to turning Texas blue than any other Democrat in a generation, but that particular boss fight is still going to need some levels to beat.
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In the meantime, get involved. Call your representatives weekly and in quick, concise and courteous language tell them what’s on your mind. Organize your friends to do the same. Follow them on social media and attend local meetings open to the public. Join a party, and volunteer your time. Get back in the dungeon and start fighting.
Or if you like, make your voice heard. Not in some pointless open letter on Facebook that no one of substance will ever read. Start a blog, or pitch an article like this one to an outlet. At the very least, try correcting the minor falsehoods you come across every day. Those little battles against old high school friends and racist uncles are tedious and unrewarding, but they do at least create a tiny bit of advance toward something better for the undecideds on the sidelines.
Best yet, run for office. Be the change you want to be. Here’s where you can do that by starting small for the Democrats. Or maybe you’re a Republican who wants to change the system from inside. Here are all the requirements you need to get yourself into a primary in two years. Think of it as an epic quest, a fantasy in which you slay bureaucratic beasts and save worlds.
Change in America, at least change for the better, is rarely quick and easy. It’s a long fight through countless minor obstacles, each one making the endeavor a little stronger for having beaten them. The only way you win is one slain goblin at a time.