The Great American Blackout | The Smirking Chimp


I wear a small medallion around my neck attesting to the fact that I have lived without booze for over 27 years now.

Not boasting, just sayin’.

I got sober because I could no longer bear the shame and the terror of the blackouts I had begun to experience during some of my weekly Friday night binges. Someone would later describe binges of the kind I knew as being like a tape recorder that was recording and erasing simultaneously.

Waking up after one of those nights left me ashamed, not for what I’d done, but for what I might have done and could not recall.

That was terrifying. It seemed akin to those tales of alien abduction in which the extra-terrestrials injected their earthling subjects with something that erased all memory that they’d ever been taken.

My country seems to have become like a stumbling drunk, making messes on a regular basis, then completely blacking out all memory of what was done.

I remember a recovering drunk telling me how he went into a men’s room in Phoenix, Arizona and came out of another one in Portland, Maine with no memory of how he got from one to the other. No memory whatsoever.

Could there ever be a better example of such a complete blackout than the one suffered by millions of Republicans who have utterly blacked out the events of January 6th of this year? Some of them fill in that blank with the nutty explanation that it was just another day of excited tourists in the nation’s capital. Others seem to think nothing much happened that day and all the talk of it is just those damned radical Democrat and communists and the lyin’ media trying to gaslight them with more Trump-hater lies.

That’s how it goes with blackouts. In the absence of memory, you can be told most anything and you lack the resources to sort it all out for yourself. Once, while in a blackout at a very dark time near the end of my drinking life, I drunk-dialed my then-estranged wife 27 times. I had absolutely zero memory of having done that until I got a phone bill showing that I had, indeed, made those calls. Apparently, after the first couple of calls, she let her answering machine pick up. Thankfully, I will never know what messages I may have left and I’m glad she had the good sense to erase them all without listening to them.

It was as far from my proudest moment as I ever hope to get, but it was a major contribution to making me take my problem seriously, to awaken me from the darkness that was then enveloping me.

A darkness similar to mine has descended over this country, though it is not a new thing for Americans to readily forget things that have happened when they were passed out, not paying attention, or entirely clueless. Forgetting things is, in fact, more of a national pastime than baseball. We black out lots of stuff, and we’d really rather not be reminded of some of what our country was when it went on one of its frequent benders to, let’s say, the Philippines, or to Viet Nam, or to Iraq.. Like slobbering drunks, we would rather cling to sugar-coated denials that allow us to go on invading or exploiting weaker nations and continuing our rampages against the planet that sustains us.

We didn’t want to remember the long history of slavery, for instance, so we put up statuary all over the place honoring people who fought to keep it. Consistent with that flight from the truth, a big chunk of Americans is currently incensed about teaching much history at all, especially when they can be told and can so readily believe that things like critical race theory are just an attempt by “communists” to make American kids hate their own country.

Just as drunks don’t like to hear about how they pissed themselves while drunk, Americans generally don’t like people telling them much about history, of what a nation with power like ours did or can do while in a blackout. If they come to believe these terrible stories, they might have to seek reform or recovery. And, like drunks, they’d really rather not suffer the withdrawal. Being told they have a problem only produces denial and rage. If they can’t kill the messenger outright, perhaps they can drown out his message by drinking the Kool-aid on Fox and other fog machines to which they have become addicted. For more than a few, that works, ensuring memory is erased and stays erased.

So it is and so it has been that huge numbers of us found and continue to find it easy to forget and/or deny our collective past, which now includes things that happened as recently as yesterday.

And now, one of the two major political parties is comprised of people who forget nearly everything Donald Trump said or done in defiance of those principles. His boasting of “pussy grabbing” just never happened. He never mocked a reporter with a disability.” They forget, deny, or reinterpret his overweening love of brutal dictators like Erdogan, Duterte, Putin, or Kim Jong Un. (Many of his most fervent supporters think America would be better off with such people in charge, people who would crack down hard on protesters, blacks, and uppity women). They forget and deny (or merely share) his bigotry and his ignorance. They were in a blackout, apparently, when he suggested they drink bleach or shine lights in their orifices to fight COVID. They blacked out thousands of lies as he spread lethal misinformation about how the pandemic would just magically disappear. Their memories were erased about the dozens of sexual assault charges against him. They prefer wandering around drunk. Getting sober would be a real drag.

So, of course, they have no recollection whatsoever of the President of the United States stirring up hatred for his own Vice President, the shameless sycophant and enabler. Wasn’t Trump in Mar-a-Lago on January 6th? They are pretty sure he was, but if he was in D.C. that day, he surely didn’t do anything to steer those “tourists” to the Capitol Building, and had never said or done a single thing to suggest that the election had been stolen from him, though it clearly had been. It’s easy to believe if you were in a blackout during the dozens of times he said so.

Because so many Americans are fumbling around in darkness, drunk on their desperate denial of the truth, staggering deeper into this nightmare, slouching toward Bethlehem, led by an anti-Christ who has appointed himself their savior. Some of them even think Trump is the Second Coming of you-know-who. How drunk would you have to be to believe a thing like that?

But a majority of us know what rough beast this is. He’s come before, and he left not all that long ago. Or wouldn’t leave, to be exact. We know because most of us weren’t passed out drunk, weren’t experiencing a blackout from which we couldn’t or wouldn’t awaken.

The Kool-Aid was spiked. The aliens had their way with millions of Americans and returned them to earth without memory of where they’d been. For those still blacked out, the nightmare they’d lived through was transformed into ugly dreams of greatness.

And to have those dreams back again, all they have to do is think of Donald J. Trump and dream, dream, dream.

Even more darkly this time.


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