From now until at least the midterm elections in November, we’ll be featuring essays from powerful cultural voices alongside one simple thing, chosen by the author, that you can do to take action against the paralyzing apoplexy of the daily news. Maybe it’ll be an organization that deserves your donation; maybe it’ll be an issue that deserves greater awareness. Whatever it is, our aim is to remind you, and ourselves, of the big and small things we can do to work toward justice and change.
by Patton Oswalt
Trump puts it all on our shoulders.
Look, I don’t think a president should fully take the burden of living off the public. I’m not arguing for a nanny state, or whatever the latest anti-progressive buzzphrase is that’s chewing on the far-right wing of the discourse.
But one of the reasons we elect any leader to a position of authority — be it a president, a governor, a senator, or even a dogcatcher — is to take some of the burden of everyday living off of us. So that we can build our own lives in whatever way we see fit. So that, in the midst of raising families, or pursuing careers, or just idly looking at the stars and trying to figure ourselves out, we know that water will come out of spigots, lights will illume at the flick of a switch, roads will be paved. That the autonomic functions of the twenty-first century will hum along to the best of their ability, providing the basics of existence to the greatest number of people.
Trump represents the stark opposite. On top of whatever daily pressures an individual faces, Trump’s presidency assumes we’ll fend for ourselves when we’re flooded, burned, earthquaked or tornadoed by life. Help isn’t coming after the crash. We’re on our own.
But there’s something deeper and more sinister underneath the prosaic “we won’t be there for you” rhetoric of Trump’s Casino-Buffet Presidency. It’s a mantra, barely discernible under the trebly chatter of bragging, hatred, and self-loathing. It’s this:
Cooler heads do not prevail.
There is no firm, guiding hand on the tiller of statecraft, the economy, diplomacy, or infrastructure. There is puerile, adolescent emotion and momentary libidinal pleasure. And the rest is up to us. We march in the streets, we petition our representatives, we raise money and signal-boost fundraisers for the weak, vulnerable, and unlucky. Because this is the epoch of the entitled bully, and everyone else — even those who support the bullies but just so happen to be weak — can fuck right off. If we see racism? We call it out and deal with it. They’re not going to step in. If we see blatant hypocrisy and greed? We do our best to curtail it, ’cause it’s what they’re aspiring to.
America is off-course, brakeless, blindly rushing toward oblivion? We should steal our neighbor’s seatbelts and try to save ourselves, because not only is there no one at the wheel — we’re not even allowed near the driver’s seat.
It’s. All. On. Us.
Take action today:
Sign the petition to impeach Donald Trump.
Patton Oswalt’s most recent comedy special, Annihilation, is on Netflix now.