If only I had known that I was growing up in the nineties while I was doing it. I remember being afraid of war as a child; my father fought in Vietnam, and I was told often by my mother that it had “changed” him in some mysterious ways. A precocious history student, I had read books about the Holocaust and the Russian Revolution. I had a haunting sense of what life during wartime might be like; it happened in a world that was like my own, but subtly off in the unheimlich way of a bad dream.
I must have assumed that we lived in a time past war, or else in one of those golden gaps in history where nothing especially horrible happens to anyone who looks like you for entire decades at a time. Had anyone told me that we were living a small sliver of a gap between the Cold War and the age of terrorism, my teenaged dreams for the future would have shaped themselves differently, I think.
I don’t know how long it was after 9/11 before I started wondering when it would be over. I just know that the early 2000’s would have been much worse for me if I had realized that my bedrock underlying assumption, that there was a time not too far off when it would be over, was entirely mistaken.
We’re not technically at war at the moment. Do you feel like we’re at peace? I don’t. Maybe my grasp of what peace is is naive. Maybe what I’m actually waiting for is a return to that sense of global, political innocence that, if I’m being completely honest, might never have been anything more than my own memory mistaking what was a product of being 18 for what was true and eternal.
I wish I could go back and experience the 90s at the age I am now, like a vacation. It shouldn’t have been wasted on a teenager with no sense of context. Growing up in that decade was like being a cat who finds a warm patch of sunlight streaming in from the window: we assumed it was forever. We didn’t see any reason why the passage of time would take us to a less comfortable place.
I’m to a point of weariness where I’m nearly as nostalgic for the days when I thought it would end as I am for the days before it had ever happened. The early 2000’s weren’t that bad, in retrospect. I know I didn’t appreciate what I had at the time. God, back then we had George W. Bush. My God, how much I miss him. I miss his sweet little face and his unabashedly sincere smile, even his totally inauthentic folksy southern twang. I miss the way he would remember all the White House Press Corp reporter’s names. I miss the country music wholesomeness of his daughters, the everyone’s-favorite-librarian appeal of his wife. Most of all, I miss hating him. How sweet it would to hate a man as good as George W. Bush again.
God, how I thought that I hated George W. Bush. He was to me the apotheosis of my born-again, Moral Majority, religious-right childhood. And I didn’t even realize it until after 9/11. I didn’t care about him enough to mail in the absentee ballot form I’d used to vote for him. I wasn’t fully formed, mentally, at 18, so I thought I was a Republican. And yet, I couldn’t care less if he was elected. But that was when I was still in my 90’s mentality, where it didn’t really matter who was president, all politicians sucked anyway, and we were gonna be okay anyhow, so what did it matter? That changed on 9/11. My indifference became hate on 9/11.
Who did this bozo think he was? With his smarm and his completely fake grammatical mishaps that Karl Rove whispered in his ear to deceive the public into underestimating him. Who did this lifelong C student think he was, presuming to helm the United Fucking State in a time of war? Did he not understand what war was? Didn’t he know it was the eternal nightmare of nothing ever being right again?
I never loved hating him more than when all the conservatives around me were loving him their hardest. The more they waved their Freedom First bumper stickers and campaigned for “a less gay America!” and accused anyone who didn’t support the President of being treasonous, the more my righteous heart-star glowed with self-righteous energy. I was one of the True Witnesses to the End Times. I was one of the few who had eyes to see. God was not, as it turned out, a Dispensationalist, and he’d let my righteous ass survive to see the Tribulations.
What wouldn’t I give for a Constitutional amendment that would allow George W. Bush to run for a third term as the Republican presidential nominee? What wouldn’t I give for the exercises in bland perfect courtesy his debates with Hillary Clinton would be? I’d even let him bring along his evil wizard, his Jafar, his Karl Rove, to whisper poisonous lies in his sweet perfect shell of an ear.
Because then there wouldn’t be a Donald Trump in my damn face everywhere I look.
Or if there was, I could just mute the Twitter account of that one doofus I follow who actually likes him on The Apprentice.
What I wouldn’t give to spare my precious Hillary Clinton the Sisyphean nightmare of having to run against a man like Donald Trump. For Hillary Clinton, her first proper presidential race should have been a platform for her to glow and shine in all her precious bluestocking second-and-a-half-wave feminist glory. Instead, it has become a race about clinging to the lowest common denominator just to balance out of a little of Trump’s crazy. I guarantee you that half that woman’s daily calorie intake goes to fueling the control it takes to not lose your shit at that dreamsicle nightmare of a human being.
If Clinton could run against George W. Bush, I think my anxiety would decrease retroactively to such a level that I would start vomiting the Klonopin I took last year to control it. The future would be a fluffy kitten; the present would be…
You know what, I read this article the other day about Viggo Mortensen, who was once the iconoclastic love of my life. It says Viggo Mortensen is voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party for president. It says he will not vote for Hillary Clinton because she is dishonest.
Here’s where the true millennial shows her colors. Our parents are political naïfs compared to us. Because we? We grew up in the Clinton Administration. Viggo Mortensen is 20-some years my senior, and I feel so sorry for his sheltered mind. Because his generation brought us the Starr Report. We were in the room when our parents were listening to the news. We heard our parents talking about Bill Clinton, the President of the United States of America, like he was nobody. Like he was the shitty neighbor who ran over your cat and wouldn’t admit it. There was no respect for his office—and what an irony that was, when all those Bush lovers said that we were “disrespecting the office” when we called their guy “dumb”. There was no respect for Bill Clinton’s humanity, to say nothing of Monica Lewinsky, whom they burned at the stake. And speaking of women, his wife and daughter?
We remember you calling Hillary Clinton a feminazi. You acted like Hillary Clinton was the 16th century woman you tied to the cucking stool reserved for scolds and dunked in the river. You called Hillary Clinton’s sixteen-year-old daughter a slut for wearing a miniskirt to the Inauguration. Then you said that sixteen-year-old was ugly, because you Family Values voters think you have to right to sexually evaluate the teenage daughter of the President of the United States like you were offered her hand in marriage in the Elizabethan age.
You taught us that the government is a circus—that the President is sometimes the ringleader and more often the lion-tamer, and Congress are the lions.
The woman whom you stoned publicly in front of us for not baking enough goddamn cookies—she’s running for President. But you, Viggo Mortensen, can’t vote for her because she’s not more honest? What do you think honesty looks like, for a politician? She’s going to shake your hand and laugh at your joke and refrain from eating your heart in the marketplace, because you haven’t earned her honesty; you have earned her professionalism. Because, after all, she wants you to hire her for a job.
Clinton could be more honest, probably, if she wasn’t running against a man like Donald Trump. A man who epitomizes the age of “we are tired of experts”. If only she were running against George W. Bush, that hand-knitted doily of a man. But she isn’t; she’s running against a chimera. A man who does not have dangerous beliefs so much as he is willing to accommodate any belief if he thinks it will get him what he wants, which is his face tattooed across yours in reverse so it’s what you see whenever you look in the mirror.
I used to pray that God would send me , for literary purposes, a man that I could hate the way that Hunter S. Thompson hated Richard Nixon. And He answered me. But what he sent me wasn’t a man at all. Trump is a ghost, an unheimlich vapor. He is my nightmare. Donald Trump is a horseman of the apocalypse, War riding in on his Red Horse, granted to him to take peace from the earth.
I miss the tender joy of hating George W. Bush, because I can’t hate Donald Trump. He makes me too afraid.
The thing about George W. Bush, and what 9/11 made of him, is that we got over him, more or less. He was a president who could be got over. We got angry enough and hopeful enough that President Obama happened. We will not get over President Trump. Remember that Germany was a peaceful, dominant world power in Europe for about 50 years prior to World War I That’s about how long since the end of World War II that America has been sitting on top of this big blue marble. In other words, if we cohere to recent historical pattern, America’s time in the sun is just about up.
On 9/11, when I saw the Towers collapse, I said, out loud, “Oh my god, we’re going to war.” I just didn’t expect us to keep going and going and going and going.