The world—my Amerocentric ass says, the world, immediately presuming that America equals the entire world, well, let me take responsibility—my world, through the lens of a twenty-something white guy from Indiana, has reached a level of absurdity for which even my comic books did not prepare me. Over the last year, bearing witness to the utter inanity that is the Trump administration and the state of America at-large has changed a lot about what I thought I knew.
Boundaries were always the reason for our comfort, I guess. And perhaps that is the problem that Trump’s election is indicting. Boundaries that made things black and white, good and evil, Jesus and Satan. Politicians were bred from the start to become those banal, symbolic figures who are clean and rigidly-defined if incessantly demure. There was a gap between us, and them. But somewhere along the line, the integration of media into the everyday-American’s life breached the boundary, that televisual Great Wall that made children ask their parents what planet the TV-people lived on. It could have been social media, putting our own faces up on a screen with Myspace, then Facebook and the rest; or it might have been reality TV and the more obscure parts of our heterogeneous culture making it on mainstream television. Either way, the dam has been knocked down. And the era of segregating truth from fiction has gone the way of the dinosaur.
I think we are still in the stage of looking at one another and asking “is this really happening?” And who can blame us? The surreality of the world we have sewn is definitely hard to accept. It defies all that we been raised to expect (perhaps my generation [b. 1994] is the cutoff]) Yet we cannot turn to any other planet for find company in our misery. We have no context to know whether or not this is atypical for the evolution of a species angling toward some kind of transcendence—we think.
And so, the idealism that inspired us as young children—noble, but still part and parcel of the binary-thinking that has led to our breakdown—must also be traded in, for a new—and though it may feel inappropriate, light-hearted—pragmatism, that accepts the limitations of our yet transient individual existences. Meaning, we must accept, even embrace the absurd, and take advantage of the malleability that this newfound post-truth culture has given us. And that is why I am asking you to consider a seemingly ridiculous possibility for the 2020 United States Presidential Election: NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich.
The use of words like “segregation” and phrases such as “black and white” in reference to the American Platonism of the last 50 years was not accidental. I believe that race relations, especially between black and white people in the United States, are the biggest reason for the violent energy that has befogged our country. I think that, despite dissolving the lines between pedigreed politicians and cultural figureheads, the current administration has sought to sustain itself by denying the primary reason behind its own path to power, by saying: things are simply what they are, tautologically. By reducing things to a singular physical version of themselves, they oversimplify and thereby attribute cause to the most superficial dimension of any issue. Crime in black communities is therefore attributed to physical blackness, rather than any underlying cause that you can name (poverty, social inequality, etc.) The ease with which proponents of this physical reductivism are able to dismiss this “underlying cause” theory as lunacy—in a national, gaslighting trend—is enough to infuriate those who are committed to a spectrum-based (or what some might call an “open minded”) approach. It’s enough to make the most anti-second amendment “liberal” want to buy a gun, and I believe it is at least in part the inspiration behind radical leftist movements that harken back to Che and Fidel—also icons, also idealists.
Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps history will forever be motivated by clashes between extremes. Bloody revolutions and the like. But aren’t we all adults here? At least, we thought we were, pre-2016. And adults, real human beings that have made that leap—or, at least stuck our chins over the cusp—compromise. They adapt, and at some point if we are going to win the grand cosmic marathon and transcend our fleshly entombments, we are going to have to start acting without being motivated by instincts masquerading as ideals.
And that, my friends, is why Kerr and Poppovich are the perfect choices for 2020. One boundary that rapidly dissipated in the last year was the one that existed between sports and politics. National Anthem Protests, White House Visits rejected and rescinded; we have seen the icons of disparate realms rub shoulders, and cold ones.
Gone are the days when politicians held their tongues, lest they say something misinterpretable. Donald Trump tweets violent, incendiary and hateful messages out on the daily. There can be no return to the time of Camelot, when the great orator and clean-cut American idealist John F. Kennedy helmed the “greatest country in the world.” The only effective response must be to kneel, deign to the level of the Manacheist American, and approach the problem sans emotion (as much as one can be asked to, obviously as a white male I speak from a place that more simply facilitates a dispassionate, unaffected philosophy).
And the most pragmatic solution, which both embraces the absurd new world and accounts for the realities of the binary thinking that is still so prevalent, is to vote for two white guys who have lived and worked in a community that is predominantly black—and moreover, two men who have used their platform in privilege for the better, by consistently speaking out against the oft-denied but all too thinly-veiled white supremacy of the current administration.
It is not that they simply have “worked with the black community.” More importantly, they have worked with and spoken out for men who have transcended the social shackles that hamper the average black person in America. Men who are in that sense, larger than life, and worthy of tons of respect—but still, far too easily dismissed by a large population of Americans, with platitudinous disparagements like “stick to sports,” and the suggestion that “we pay your salary.” You don’t hear anyone telling Donald Trump that he should stick to shitty reality TV and going bankrupt. Instead, it is far too easy for the white population to ignore the protests of these black men, who seemed only to demonstrate any societal worth by sheer luck, being 6’8” and “freakishly athletic,” to dismiss their accomplishments in a manner that is totally racist, but covertly enough to be denied.
Michelle Obama used to say “when they go low, we go high,” and in a way, I’m still championing that mentality. Just, in a subversive, and probably harder to swallow way. I am suggesting that “we,” whatever faction we may be, go low—get on the same level, digress for the sake of progress. LeBron James, probably the best player in the NBA and one of the greatest of all time, rose up from an impoverished life in Akron, Ohio to become not only a tremendous athlete, but a tremendous man and role-model for young people everywhere. But I am simply not sure that our nation will vote for LeBron James, despite how deserving he might be. Trump, in a large sense, is a backlash reaction to the election of Barack Obama. This dramatic shift has all the violent feeling of a revolution, and some of the blood. I fear that electing another black man as president would only increase the philosophical divide. Moreover, the responsibility of bringing us up, of delivering us from this muck, does not fall on the black community. It falls on the white community, namely the white man, whose desperate desire to stave off obsolescence has been the origin of much of the violence in our country for the last 300 years.
Popovich and Kerr are potentially the perfect intermediaries for a peaceful transition. Popovich is virulent in his criticism of Trump. In October, he said: “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner– and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets.” He went on: “We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day.”
Kerr wrote in Sports Illustrated in September: “Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’”
Kerr is the main seat on the ticket, because of his cool-headedness—his nickname in college was “ice”—and Pop the VP, for his passionate fire. Joseph Campbell once wrote that a good coach sees a player’s personal abilities and encourages his natural tendencies, rather than trying to put him in a box and make him play a certain way. These men are successful coaches because they do just that—they treat their players as people, as partners, not as cogs to be put into boxes. Trump has garnered support by appealing to simpleton logic that categorizes people and things, uncritically—and that appeal, sadly, is something to be taken into consideration. Its popularity in our country today is the reason why we just can’t see eye to eye, why people can’t comprehend why saying something like “it’s OK to be white” is racist. That is the point of what I’m saying here. I don’t know if Kerr or Popovich are actually fit for the office. They probably don’t want the job either—but I would argue that it might very well be a duty owed. Nor am I trying to say that a black man who is deserving of the position should not be considered. I guess, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as choosing between turning the other cheek or fighting fire with fire. I admit, it could just be that we are in a really, terribly shitty time and riding it out is the only choice. And, and I mean this sincerely, it might just be that I am being a coward. That I am too afraid of a collision that I fear is imminent, that I am being a real Neville Chamberlain and adapting a policy of appeasement to a bully. I suppose you can never underestimate your own tendency toward self-preservation, especially when you’re a white dude whose personal experience of racially-motivated violence is almost always mediated by a computer screen. After all, I wrote this without much exogenous research, telling myself it was purposeful, to express my authentic feelings minus the pretensions of statistics and citations. But I’m forced to admit to myself that it might just be that I’m inhibited by the knowledge of my own irrelevancy. It could be that I am totally out of bounds here. But I can’t help but feel that if we approach the conflicts of our country today with the same mentality as we always have, without remembering that this is just a game, then we may be in danger of losing—big.