Scenes From a Reaction
BY: Sonny Bunch
Jon, 38, enters a Nebraska Starbucks he had just last year sworn to boycott because its owner asked patrons not to carry firearms inside. Two weeks ago, Jon was complaining about triggers and safe spaces. Today, he wants to buy a latte (venti, triple, no foam) and demand that the woman at the counter (Elisha, 27, who, unbeknownst to Jon, voted GOP for the third straight cycle) write “Trump” on the cup in the hopes that she will refuse him service and he can claim a grievance against her and the company writ large. He hopes, like all good Americans, to “go viral.”
Barbara and Susan (39 and 41, respectively, combined income $428,987) left their two- and three-year-old girls (again, respectively) at home with the nanny they share for a night on Broadway, feeling it appropriate to pay scalper’s prices for Hamilton tickets given the terrible days they, and the country, have recently endured. In between congratulating each other for their tolerance and worrying about what the new protofascist regime in Washington means for their Dominican nanny (who is not receiving overtime for her labor tonight; the thought literally never even occurred to Babs or Suse), they boo a politician they despise because they learned from fake news sites that he wants to electroshock every gay American straight.
On two coasts, two swastikas are being scrawled on two alley walls. One is being spray painted by Joshua (24), who voted for Trump and spends most of his day on Reddit after getting laid off from the local bakery when California hiked its minimum wage. He thinks of all the lulz while he does so. Sarah (19), meanwhile, is a sophomore at Brooklyn College. She spends most of her days surrounded by people who wonder what has happened to their country. She thinks of all the awareness she will raise while she does so.
Every liberal will assume both actions are legitimate hate crimes, having been conditioned by years of college courses to think of America as a place where white supremacy lurks just under the surface. Every conservative will assume both actions are fake hate crimes, having been conditioned by years of similarly faked incidents on college campuses to dismiss such events out of hand until incontrovertible proof is proffered.
An artist tries to imagine the best way to display his displeasure with the incoming president, knowing that for all his chatter about fascism and repression and the death of the First Amendment, he faces literally no repercussions for his actions. He will be rewarded with adulation from his peers.
A journalist tries to figure out the best way to highlight the brave actions of the artist she loves who is sticking it to a politician she hates—is this a listicle or a think piece or a personal essay or a vlog or maybe just a tweet storm? She will be rewarded by clicks and likes and follows and favorites and retweets.
A politician surprised by his own success watches the denunciations pile up and the think pieces proliferate and smiles, knowing that all these reactions do is confirm his base’s suspicions that the establishment and the elites hate and despise him and the people they support. He will be rewarded by votes and donations and a party that solidifies around him as his enemies go out of their way to make him a sympathetic figure.