Post-Presidential Debate Hangover (When America Wants to Wake from a Very Bad Dream)


I sigh and shake my head while turning down sheets

To forget this madness called America’s presidential debate.

We have just clicked off talking heads,

Numbed ourselves with Facebook feeds and now we hit the hay in hopes of sweet oblivion.

I toss and turn until midnight only to fall into a twisted dream—Canadians Instagraming pictures of a mama moose lounging

In a suburban front yard. Her twin moose babies splash next to her in a blow-up pool.

Nonchalantly, they watch the neighbors’ minivan burn.

That’s us. I wake with a start.

It’s all just a dream.

After an hour, sleep comes.

But somewhere between 1 and 2 A.M., I hear Bono in my head saying he’s just an Irishman with no vote here, but America’s about to trump its own dream.

I try to wake myself but can’t.

Images swim in my head: political lackeys waving fingers in Southern pulpits as they try to convince me

To vote against the devil.

I see my seven-year old boy going to bed terrified.

He doesn’t want to shut his eyes

Because he fears the political waters will rise

Creeping up round his bed while he sleeps. He knows the black flood will rise up the stairs undetected and push back his second floor door.

The quiet drift will carry his bed and his choice off without so much as a sound, right out the window.

God, it’s here.

I open my eyes. The sheets, twisted and damp, stick to my legs.

Thank goodness it isn’t real. It was feeling like an episode of The High Castle.

I go downstairs, pour myself a glass of water, and vow not to vote.

That’s the ticket.

Do nothing.

It’s what I do when I can’t choose between two good things.

Is it right for the most awful possible imagining?

Nope, it’s a cop-out.

Our country must choose whom will inflict the least damage.

We told ourselves and our children it would never come to this.

Still it comes.

We said it was too absurd to be true.

But it’s happening.

Can’t we just go back to bed and console ourselves with past presidential disasters?

Look at us, world, we’re still here after 250 years.

Today is more than different as I look out over my lawn.

This reckoning with reality feels something awful.

America is waking groggy and very badly wrecked—

The worst kind of hangover.

I imagine my country today,

Finding herself alone with her conscience in a field.

Why is she wearing someone else’s clothes?

This is not a dream.

She’s got keys in her hand but no car in sight.

“What just happened?”

She’s scratching her head in a God-forsaken desert.

She remembers something in the back of her mind, a knock on the door months ago.

Was it the neighbor, saying, “Hey, I thought you should know,

your car is on fire.”

We have ignored the signs, and for this, we weep,

For ourselves and the world.

America, we know it’s never been about us.

Our political system is failing miserably, it seems. (Again.)

Can any of us take responsibility for the night we don’t remember and

The minivan flaming in the driveway?


No, blame isn’t the game to get us home.

We are a nation who must remember, though our heads are spinning.

We must admit we’re on the verge of a nearly irredeemable mess.

Back to America, hungover in the desert.

A cell phone rings in the brush. She picks it up.

“Hey, you.” It’s the neighbor.

“You better get back before your van sets the whole street on fire. An Uber’s on its way.”

It’s not Bono, or a nice Canadian moose, just a middle-aged fatherly voice telling her to come back to the hood.

Like magic, a blue hatchback appears on the horizon.

She has no choice but to get in and take the ride.

The burning wreckage catches her eye long before her feet hit home asphalt.

Wild ride.

She gets out and turns to pay the driver, but she’s got nothing.

He’s gone anyway.

I look at her weary eyes, hand her a fire hose, and a triple-shot espresso in a Jumbo cup laced with hope.

Yes, America, I drank 10 cups of coffee in your honor today. We’re not going to sleep for a long time.

We’ve got work to do.

Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

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September 27, 2016