Michelle Obama Scared the Hell Out of Us (For Good Reasons)

As inspirational and aspirational as former First Lady and current media superstar Michelle Obama's keynote speech on the first night of the Democratic National (Virtual) Convention was, what hit me hard was just how downright frightening it was. See, Obama is as level-headed, rational, and non-hyperbolic as anyone in public life, so if she's telling us that shit is scary out there, shit is definitely scary. The overriding message was, to quote Geena Davis in The Fly, "Be afraid. Be very afraid," with the addition of "And you better fucking well vote like you're afraid." Honestly, I was frightened of the possible dystopian Trumpian future. Now, I'm pissing myself in fear. 

What was also remarkable was how Obama went straight for Trump's jugular with attacks on his easily-bruised ego, delivered in a calm yet impassioned voice. Calling out people who chose not to vote in 2016, she said, "Whatever the reason, in the end, those choices sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes," following up that uppercut to the gut with a knee to the face: "In one of the states that determined the outcome, the winning margin averaged out to just two votes per precinct — two votes." You barely won, Obama is telling Trump, puncturing the whole myth of the great and mighty victory that Trump has touted for four years. When Michelle Obama is out of fucks to give, the national fuck tank is empty. 

When Obama said the brutal and much-quoted part of the speech, "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is," she framed it in terms of her "When they go low, we go high" dictum. Essentially, the speech was less a corollary to that and more a clarification: "[G]oing high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold, hard truth. So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can."

Again, while certainly not silent, Michelle Obama has steadfastly stayed above the fray. But even she recognizes that this path is unsustainable, that if the United States is going to stay, well, united, even by the frayed threads that barely hold us together now, we need to vote, as in all of us, including you motherfuckers on whatever side who want to sit out an election because your ideology hasn't been 100% validated by the Biden/Harris ticket. Your house is on fire. You can grab a bucket or watch it burn. 

Yesterday, in another nonsensical screaming narcissism session, this time in Mankato, Minnesota, Trump himself was giving the mirror image of Obama's speech. "We’re going to have an election that’s all about the survival, our nation," he said, later adding, drama queenly, about New York City in particular, "Our beautiful diamond of this country has been let go to hell."  He ranted about how quite moderate Joe Biden was going to be a puppet of some imaginary extreme left who "will kill the stock market, he will kill everything that we’re talking about today. He’d also abolish immigration enforcement, abolish bail, abolish the suburbs, abolish effective policing, abolish American energy, and abolish the American way of life." 

The only way Trump can win is by cheating or by convincing enough idiots that, sure, everything is shit now, but, wow, would it be shitty with the Democrats in charge. 

Of course, Trump doesn't see anything as shitty. He sees it all, all the deaths and poverty and rising hunger and homelessness, as magnificent and he's magnificent and no one but he could have made it all so magnificent and even those things that were doing well before him certainly don't count, like the economy he brags on, the pre-pandemic success of which had everything to do with President Obama and very little to do with Trump. 

But as Michelle Obama pointed out, Trump didn't just squander her husband's legacy. He chewed it up, shit it out, and then told everyone how awesome his shit is. She said, "When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20,000,000 people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. " And Trump just decided to fuck all that up for the sake of rage and envy. 

There is no sitting on the sidelines. Like Michelle Obama, I've seen the devolution of the Republican Party that started with Ronald Reagan (yes, you can argue it started with Nixon). I've seen how Reagan and H.W. Bush fucked shit up and Clinton corrected it, to a degree. I've seen how W. Bush fucked shit up even worse and Obama corrected it, to an even greater degree. A lot of us know of what we speak when we say that shit is really, really fucked up and that, yeah, more than usual, this is an existential crisis right now. 

I loved Obama's near-last line. "We have got to reassert our place in American history," she said. Yep. It's time to take the narrative back from the motherfuckers. Again.