This is America

It's Thursday. Hour 51 of the democracy show. How is John King still standing?

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“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“We got more money. We got more brains. We got better houses, apartments. We got nicer boats. We’re smarter than they are.”

– Donald Trump

“This is America. Guns in my area. I got the strap. I gotta carry ’em.”

– Childish Gambino

CNN’s John King stands at the board like a modern-day Archimedes, part mathematician, part sorcerer, waving his hands over America as if to cast a spell that might restore the Republic.

Michigan. Wisconsin. Pennsylvania.

Michigan. Wisconsin. Pennsylvania.


Cut to commercial break.

A man receives a mobile alert while sitting on the beach.

Burglars have come to steal his property. Their leader — a gaunt, unkempt man in black — creeps towards the front door. But he’s foiled by a small camera broadcasting an image of the crime to a cell phone on a beach in the Caribbean. The man chastises the burglar from the comfort of his lawn chair. The burglar flees.

It’s unclear if he’s thrown in a dungeon with the other scum or whether he escapes, having learned not to take from the landed gentry.

More commercials — life insurance, an exercise bicycle that will give your marriage the jumpstart it needs, organic smoothies, wealth management, debt consolidation, Kevin Costner with a shotgun at a theatre near you.

Back to CNN’s election night coverage. Thursday. Hour 51 of the democracy show. John King can turn a blue state red and back to blue again. But without new data to feed his magic board, he can only tell us what we already know: Joe Biden is ahead in Arizona and pulling to within striking distance of President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.

“A win in Pennsylvania and it’s game over for Donald Trump,” King says.

“You know he makes $6 million a year?” my dad says, scrolling through his phone. “Jesus, that’s a lot of fucking money.”

Cut to Maricopa County, Arizona.

A mob descends on the voting tabulation centre after dark, decrying voter fraud and irregularities the likes of which have never been seen in this American democracy.

Their leader is a bull-shouldered man called Alex Jones, who addresses the crowd in a raspy growl. They wave Make America Great Again flags and hang on his every word. If Trump is their deity, Jones is their howling prophet.

“Hundreds of thousands of dead are voting! … We’re not going to attack the methhead antifa scum … we’re going right after the Nazi bastards.”

Jones, possibly the most famous conspiracy theorist in the United States, is either sincere in his beliefs or just another huckster selling snake oil to a dying nation. It’s hard to tell these days.

This is America.

Last month 1.2 million Americans underwent background checks to purchase a firearm. There have been 17.2 million of these background checks since January, making it a record-breaking year for gun sales in America. That’s not counting the hardware they purchase at gun shows, where no background checks are required.

And the year isn’t even over yet.

Back to the election desk at CNN headquarters. Anderson Cooper says there were over 100,000 new cases of coronavirus in the United States Thursday. A new record. Nearly a quarter million Americans have died since the pandemic hit the country last March.

Back then, Trump said it would all just go away by April.

This is America.

“What did Anderson make last year?” my dad asks, typing the question into his phone. “Holy shit, $12 million.”

Studies suggest that between 60 and 75 per cent of Americans are living paycheque to paycheque. Over 10 million Americans have lost their jobs since March. There are more than 300 million privately owned guns in the U.S.

This is America.

Cut to commercial: a masked burglar is frightened by an alarm system, falls down the stairs and rubs his cartoonishly swollen head. Better luck next time! The alarm system is surprisingly affordable and links to your mobile phone so you can watch over your property in case marauding bandits try to take it.

More commercials: a flashlight that uses military-grade aluminum, blood pressure medication, wealth management, a luxury car that runs on electricity so you don’t have to feel bad about all the wealth you’re managing.

Election gridlock.

Dad goes to bed. I stay up with Marie-Pier. Whiskey, beer, cannabis and whiskey again. A video splicing together clips of Trump saying “billions and billions” for five minutes.


Friday morning. Dad pours himself a cup of coffee and leaves to be with my mother and grandfather, who has an appointment for end-of-life care at 1:30 p.m. He’s asked that his children visit him one last time.

Facetime call. It’s mom, who passes the phone to Grand-papa Arthur.

“Buddy, I just want you to know I love you,” he says. “Your grandfather is proud of you. You’re going to miss me but I won’t miss you because I’ll be gone. But don’t worry. We’re gonna have a fête!”

His dying wish was to see Trump lose. A few minutes after our Facetime, Election Tracker calls the election for Biden. He won Pennsylvania, after all, pushing him past the 270 electoral college votes he needed to win.

There are still about 500 children who haven’t been reunited with their parents since they were kidnapped and put in cages by the U.S. government while crossing the border. Sixty-nine million people voted to re-elect the man whose administration tortures migrant children.

This is America.

On Tuesday I asked my grandfather if he believed in God.

“I do. His name is love,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen when I’m gone but I know about love. That’s all that matters.”

I helped carry him to bed that night.

Arthur spent the week with his five children and their spouses, drinking rum and cokes, smoking Mohawk cigarettes and chasing plates of red meat with buttery cubes of sucre à la crême. My mother hasn’t left his side.

America is at war with the Middle East, funding a campaign against militants in Yemen as children starve and die.

The fighting began before Trump was elected and it will continue after he leaves office. If he leaves office. Soldiers are still on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. The military is still holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

This is America.

I turn the TV off and step outside.

The geese honk and scream as they fly over Lake of Two Mountains and the sun feels warm against my skin. It’s a good day to die. It’s a good day to be reborn. It’s always a good day to fight for something you love.

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