[Note: I’ve had to delete some inflammatory comments on this post. I did so without apology and will continue to do so. However, in the course of one rant, a person did ask why I am making an analogy to a “horrific” show that “no Christian should be watching.” In response to this, I do offer the caveat that much of it is horrific, and I personally stopped watching after Season 1. I would recommend similar discernment in other Christian viewers. However, my attention was recently drawn to a specific couple of tragically poignant, well-written scenes from the show past the point at which I stopped watching, and this was why it happened to be on my mind at the time of the election.]
Half of America woke up yesterday morning feeling despair. The other half woke up feeling drunk elation.
I woke up feeling nothing.
A few of my friends are mourning Hillary Clinton’s national humiliation, but I cannot muster the sympathy to comfort them. I shed no tears for the fall of the Clinton dynasty. She got nothing. She lost. Good day, ma’am.
More of my friends are celebrating Donald Trump’s poll-defying, media-shaming win. Yet I cannot muster the enthusiasm to join them.
I read post-mortems dissecting the demographic breakdown. I surveyed bar graphs and maps showing in stark red and blue how the sleeping giant of underclass America had been roused to cast their ballots, like a wretched dog that’s been slapped across the nose one too many times. I read anecdotal reports of people physically bringing their mail-in ballots to the polls, just to be sure.
But amidst all the cheering, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth and quaking of stock markets, all I could think of was Jesse Pinkman’s wooden box.
In the show Breaking Bad, chemistry teacher Walter White creates the perfect meth formula and becomes a powerful drug-dealer. Along the way, he recruits and corrupts his former student Jesse, who drifts in and out of addiction throughout the series as the two wade deeper into crime together. At one point, Jesse makes a stab at attending a support group, but no amount of vapid self-help talk can touch the guilt that relentlessly gnaws him.
In one of the most heart-breaking scenes, he opens up and shares about the passion he used to have for wood-working in high school. His first attempt at creating a box was greeted with a brief, “Is that the best you got?” by his carpentry teacher. It was not unkind, it was an honest question. The honest answer was no. He would try again. He would do better.
And one day, it was finished: the most beautiful thing he had ever made with his own two hands. It glinted in the light with a dark richness. It filled his nostrils with scent when he put his nose in it. It was perfect.
“What happened to the box?” asks the group leader.
“I traded it for an ounce of weed.”
At that moment, the viewer is yanked back to the present with an echoing clang. The memory of the box was a daydream. Jesse is now bearded and haggard, enslaved to a rival gang who is forcing him to cook White’s meth recipe for them.
I think of Jesse when I think about the people who voted for Donald Trump. I think about the losers, the white trash, with their bad teeth and B. O. and nothing to give away but their souls.
I think about the people who didn’t just vote for Trump because the only other choice was Hillary, but because he had tapped into something inside them, something deep and raw and primal.
I think about the people who didn’t just tolerate Trump. They needed Trump. They needed to hear that they were not forgotten, that they were liked, and they were powerful. They needed to hear it again, and again, and again. Because all they had been hearing before was that they were racist, sexist, irrelevant, deplorable.
And maybe they were at that. “Deplorable.” They liked how that sounded. Very well then. They would own it. They would be everything the left said they were, by embracing a candidate who was everything the left said he was. They would put their hand on their heart and swear fealty to the one who understood them enough to say he cared about them, and despised them enough to let them think it was true. They followed the one who understood their sins so well, because they were his sins too. And like him, they would never repent.
Some said a vote for Trump was a vote for life. How could that be, when the stench of so many dying souls hangs about him? To play upon man’s worst appetites in return for loyalty and flattery, what manner of affection is this? What manner of love?
I did not see life set before me. I saw death. I saw darkness. I saw millstones draped about bowed necks. I saw people’s faces rapt with worship, as they pledged in deadly earnest, “In Trump we trust.”
I see their faces still.