Halloween is around the corner, and if you live in a neighborhood like mine you’re bound to be soon visited by a variety of characters: monsters, princesses, avengers, and awkward pre-teens hanging on to childhood.
By far the scariest costumes you’ll see this year are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The grunting, staggering monster with arms outstretched, hungering for brains, is almost cartoonish now. Instead, a genuinely frightening monster is one in which, like Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo, we meet the enemy and he is us.
One of the most popular monster tales is Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” in which the eponymous Swiss scientist robs murderers’ graves and brings their sewn-together parts to life. Frankenstein’s creature grows to loves, learns to read, and even longs for companionship, while still being capable of appalling violence. Frankenstein’s creature cannot be simply labeled a “monster” because the monster is a reflection of humanity cobbled together.
The Monsters We’ve Sewn Together
I’ve been thinking a lot about “Frankenstein” as the election year has progressed. There’s been extensive discussion lately about how our modern American culture has created the two most disappointing options we’ve ever seen. This election feels like Montezuma’s revenge, and the only public option is either a freezing cold or creepily warm toilet seat.
There’s probably some truth to the claim that we all, liberal and conservative alike, share some blame in the monsters we have sewn together. However, I think the reason we despise Trump and Hillary goes beyond the simple fact that we brought them to life. I think we despise them because they are an embodied projection of what goes on in our hearts and minds. We have, like the creature, caught a glimpse of our own reflection in a pool:
At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity.
In this election, both Republican and Democrat have seen what we’re capable of, and we’re disgusted.
In the past year, we’ve heard Trump say a lot of things. We’ve heard him say that Hillary Clinton can’t sexually satisfy her husband. He’s suggested his opponent is an adulteress. He called Rosie O’Donnell fat. He claimed Robert Pattinson could do better than Kristen Stewart. He made fun of a disabled person. He refers to women as possessions. He finds his own daughter sexually attractive, and he gave a figurative fist-bump to a 14 year-old child who has been raped by his teacher.
As a result, Trump has been praised by a generation of conservatives who are simply worn down by the fascist undercurrents of the politically correct movement. He’s heralded by many for providing a voice for those who are tired of the entitled, whiney, immoral liberals who are eroding the fabric of the nation. More accurately, though, it’s been noted that Trump has actually made PC culture worse because of the simple fact that he’s a tactless jerk.
That’s just the problem: he’s us. More accurately, he says things that we all secretly think at times. All the dirty, embarrassing, mean-spirited little thoughts that pop into our brains, he actually says out loud. His supporters pretend that’s a good thing, but it’s not.
The Red Angel and the White Angel
The more Trump talks, the more we collectively squirm, because listening to him starts to sound eerily like the inner dialogue we try to resist. That’s why voting for Trump feels like a vote for the little red devil that sits on one’s shoulder and tells one to do bad things. It feels good because he scares liberals, but we’re basically saying “Beetlejuice” three times to make a problem go away.
We normally prefer our politicians to lie, because it hides the ugliness and corruption we know exists behind a squeaky-clean mask of confident leadership. We know they’re human like us, but want them to at least pretend to be better than us. In this regard, Hillary Clinton is a perfect antithesis for Trump, and an equally accurate depiction of the monstrosity of human nature. In the past year, Hillary has done a lot of things. She has broken the law, lied, blackmailed, stolen, and murdered her way to the top. We act outraged that she has somehow avoided prison, but we know those in power don’t live by the same rules.
Yet her scarecrow of lies is bursting at the seams. Hillary has built her platform on pretending to champion progressive values, when even her supporters know she’s a true “House of Cards” politician. The Democratic Party backs her because, although her lies are almost comically blatant, she’s familiar. She’s like going back to the loser ex who treated you badly but at least you know what to expect.
At this point, we fully expect our politicians to be corrupt liars, but we’d rather not know how the sausage is made. Hillary is the float queen in a decades-long parade of dirty, corrupt politicians who would sell their own mothers for a bit of power. We are at fault—liberal, conservative, Bible-belt Christian, and urban progressive hippie—because we designed and built her from a trash-heap of lowered standards.
But there’s hope, albeit small. This is the first presidential election where we can all finally agree that everybody sucks. When the American political system has reached the point where Mickey Mouse has the best shot he’s ever had, maybe we can agree to do something different.
I think we all miss the good ol’ days, when we could say, “My candidate will make things better and your candidate sucks.” The best vote we could do this November is for scrapping our loser candidates (and yes, even third-party ones), and calling for a do-over. There’s got to be better out there, or next Halloween will be even scarier than this one.