This last week was rough in the United States, and as hours began to tick by and events in Washington became more surreal and disturbing, my mind returned again and again to a riveting, intensely unpleasant scene from a movie to which I would say I have some form of addiction -- Denis Villeneuve's "Blade Runner 2049." (A snippet of the scene I kept recalling is shown above.) In it, a police lieutenant and her hired-gun henchman tensely discuss the ramifications of a reality that neither one wants to accept, wherein a child could be born to machines, "replicants" ... an appalling and unimaginable reality, since replicants were believed to be nonliving, killable when they refused to expire as expected. Lieutenant Joshi, played by Robin Wright, and a human, expresses horror and disgust at the possibility of these purportedly subhuman creatures being able to create life. Ryan Gosling's K, a replicant himself, mostly stands mutely while she rages.
She says two things in this scene that have been ricocheting inside my skull this week. First, she growls at K, "That's what we do here, we keep order," and later, indignantly she insists that the reality before them simply cannot exist, that it must be stopped from existing:
"Am I the only one who can see the fucking sunrise here? This breaks the world, K!"
"This breaks the world."
For Joshi, keeping order in their world, keeping things from breaking, roots in protecting previous assumptions -- but it means preserving lies. She cannot imagine a world where the replicants she has hunted, the work she has dedicated her life to, was not extinguishing junk but murdering living things. Living things that can have babies, families, destinies, and dreams.
This awareness breaks the world, to her mind. And maybe it would, to have an entire universe built on the backs of creatures that were disposable but now no longer can be. She cannot imagine the effort it would take, so she says it's not possible and proceeds to erase the truth, to continue the lie.
No matter one's politics, the mob of rioters boiling into the halls of the United States' government, something typically described as "a cradle," seemed to be a moment of the world breaking. Where was order? Who wasn't keeping order?! Who would desecrate our national buildings this way, and for what purpose?! Who would mangle the apparatus of our long-held rights and freedoms this way? I always imagined the Capitol building as a place of hushed hallways, respectful whispering, and the occasional sharply-ringing voices of well-intentioned (if not well-articulated) argument. But shouting? Gunfire? Vandalism? Pushing police officers over railings to fall to the floor below? Battering officers to their deaths? Never in my imagination was this possible in this day and age; in my short lifetime this was unprecedented. (Violence has occurred in various buildings housing the United States government, but it has been exceedingly rare.)
Was the world breaking?
Where in what world are we? Where are we, that citizens of the same country find themselves so beleaguered by their lives here that they would believed unfounded rumors spread by a man who behaves like a megalomaniac (defined as: a pathological egotist, that is, someone with a psychological disorder with symptoms like delusions of grandeur and an obsession with power) and act merely to keep him in power instead of working to preserve the country we all live and and the pursuit of truth? Dozens of appeals on these "stolen election" rumors were vetted by learned teams of experts across multiple states across the entire country and raised to the independent third arm of our government -- the courts, staffed in large part now by the same megalomaniac making these spurious, divisive claims -- and every single one of the courts said there was no evidence. The rumors were just that -- false, unsubstantiated. Wanting a thing to be true does not make it true. When did so many Americans become merely children? Only children run wild and break things to demonstrate their pique to petulantly demand their way. Certainly those rioters would rather break and steal shit than get to the truth of the matter. They support a man whom we describe in the exact same ways as themselves: petulant, violent, ill-equipped to have grown-up conversations. A bully and a racketeer, with a history of fraud, bribery, loansharking, extortion, nepotism, and cronyism. All of his business efforts have ended in bankruptcy.
What were they thinking? WERE they thinking? Who didn't stare at the images of these people -- American citizens, not enemies from outside but enemies from within us -- carrying off podiums and shattering glass and stomping ever closer to their elected officials, while carrying loaded guns ... what did they think would happen as a result of their actions? Did they feel entitled to rampage? Don't they decry others in the country for that same evil -- entitlement? Some of these men were equipped to commit torture and murder!
Has the entire country gone made? Have we all become children, incapable of nuanced thinking, of speaking to each other with respect, of wanting the truth to be known, even if it's not a truth that makes us feel warm and fuzzy and in the right?
This is all deranging. This country has become deranged. The world where the United States was anything to aspire to, model, or emulate ... it is broken. Trump did not make America great again; it was already great, but it is no longer.
Trump has broken the world.