America is Not a Simulation

SimCity Godzilla (New)

Note: I originally wrote this article for Huffington Post on October 10, 2016. You can find it on the HuffPost website here.


When I was a kid, I used to like to play SimCity. Actually… that’s misleading. I didn’t exactly play it. I didn’t have the patience to build cities from scratch or try to manage one of the fully-developed ones that came with the game. Instead, I would load a pre-made city — Boston was my favorite — and unleash as many disasters on it as I could. Earthquakes, tornadoes… there was even a Godzilla! What can I say… I was only 15 at the time and that sort of stuff was fun to watch. Then I’d delight in the destruction that I had caused, quit the game (without saving), and come back and do it again.

That’s what I’m reminded of when I hear people talk about electing Donald Trump as a “destabilizing force” who will “blow up Washington” and build a new, presumably better system in its place. I understand the rationale, in theory — burn down what you perceive as a broken system so that a phoenix may rise from its ashes — but I have a couple of problems with that. First, is Trump really a good choice to do the rebuilding? Does he have the experience required to handle what would be a monumentally complex and delicate task? And how he envisions this “America Reborn” is still maddeningly unclear to me. He says it’s supposed to be great again, but that’s really all we know. Where are the specifics? I’m not sure Donald himself knows the answer to that question.

Second, and more importantly, is that I believe that our current system of government, for the most part, works. Yeah, it’s not perfect… far from it, in fact. Watching the Congressional deadlock over the last six years has been excruciating, and our economic recovery from the Great Recession isn’t as fast as many would like it to be. But our country is by and large successful, it’s resilient, and in the course of a measly 240 years — a drop in the historical bucket — we’ve become that “shining city on a hill” that Reagan so optimistically portrayed in 1980, and stayed there. Yeah, we can do better. We can always do better. But we’re already doing pretty damn good, and I believe that to blow it up now would be a devastating blow to our democracy… clearing the way for a demagogue like Trump to fill the ensuing vacuum. But there’s no “King of America” for a reason. Our Founding Fathers envisioned our country as a democracy, not an authoritarian regime. So when Donald Trump uses phrases like “I alone can fix this,” it quite frankly scares the crap out of me.

The kid in me still appreciates the appeal of unleashing Godzilla just to see what happens, and what kind of destruction it would wreak. But America isn’t a simulation. There’s much more at stake here, and you have to live with the consequences of the devastation you unleash. You can’t just hit reset and start again. We should elect a leader who understands that, and knows that while we have to keep improving, we should also appreciate and cherish what we’ve already accomplished and just how far we’ve come.
 

4 replies
  1. David Pierre-Louis
    David Pierre-Louis says:

    You are so right. I’m hoping along with my vote this this November, we elect Hillary. She not perfect, but at least she knows how to handle what’s coming and to help move us forward. I’m just hoping we gain a workable congress aswell that will help and not hinder.

    Reply
  2. Frank
    Frank says:

    Jesse, you said in your well-reasoned writing that “Our founding fathers envisioned our country as a democracy…” Actually, the Founding Fathers did not envision the new Constitution as creating a democracy, but a republic. In a republic, the people are led by a group of dedicated citizens, acting in the best interests of all. How do we know that? Look at what they created:

    Presidency: We do not elect a president. We elect Electors to the Electoral College who, in turn, elect the president. Further, in the Federalist Papers, James Madison, who wrote the Constitution (Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence but was Ambassador to France in 1787), said that if the people make the “wrong” choice, the Electoral College can correct their error.

    Remember the election of 2000? Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes but George W. Bush won the Electoral College vote and became president.

    Judiciary: We do not elect federal judges; they are appointed by the President, with Senate advice and consent before assuming their judgeships.

    Senate: In the original 1787 version of the Constitution, US senators were elected by state legislatures, thus interposing a group in between the people and the office-holder. A Constitutional Amendment 100 years ago changed that to direct election (note that in 1856 Abraham Lincoln wanted to be a US Senator from Illinois, but the Illinois legislature elected Douglas instead).

    House of Representatives: This is the only place where the people have a direct selection as to who represents them. For that reason, the House is often referred to as the “People’s House”.

    The Founding Fathers believed in legal equality but definitely did not believe in political equality; thus, the document they produced sets up a republican form of government.

    Reply

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