King of the Bingo Game
Post date: Nov 10, 2016 4:36:55 PM
Here we are. We have arrived at the place we have been traveling to all along and yet so many of us are waking up and asking, “What happened!?” I am one of those waking in disbelief. It’s like I’m in a fog in some new world with some new future that I don’t recognize and have no interest in. It is an episode of the Twilight Zone. I have actually fallen into the television somehow—Yes, that’s it. I fell in. I have seen it happen. It can actually happen—I’ve seen it on television before. Oh wait. I forgot, not everything you see on television is real, not even the stuff called “reality television.”I shift from fog to frenzy: I wag my big, long, caricature-of-a-finger and sputter on about “them, there newfangled contraptions that have us staring into a box or a rectangle, distracted and all on our own—all screwed up.” I’m actually picturing myself in a flowing polka-dot “house dress” with flip-flop slippers, bowed legs and a dog by my side, sporting oversized glasses and curls tight to my head (maybe still in rollers). No, I am not the lady from the Shoebox cards (Remember paper greeting cards . . . remember paper?). I bear no resemblance to her, but that is how I feel in this “new” age with the persona I am picturing. I am wagging a big, wrinkly finger and scowling with that told-you-so face. I am not old, per se—we won’t go there—but more and more my values seem old. My attitude seems old. The ways I like to stay in touch—having a party, talking to a neighbor, calling on the phone, even emailing—increasingly seems “old”. And so, I will picture myself as the lady from the old Shoebox greeting cards. I just looked it up. Her name is Maxine. Yes, I know—most of you don’t know what I’m talking about!
“So, here we are . . .” I wrote on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, “the day we have been dreading would arrive and wishing would be behind us—all in one long, labored breath.” Yes, this is what I wrote on Election Day morning, before I knew the worst of it. I had already voted weeks ago in an effort to somehow distance myself from this whole mess. I voted the very first hour of the very first day I was allowed to. I needed to purge this dark cloud from my body and soul. And, yet, here we are and so I think back.
When I was in college, we read a short story that had an impression on me and still holds a space in my memory. The story is called “King of the Bingo Game” and it was written by Ralph Ellison (no, not Ralph Waldo Emerson—completely different guy!). I took away from it, perhaps not the most accurate or intended literary idea, but at the time and drawing from a class discussion I plucked the idea that I have always gone back to. The essence that always stuck with me from the story was that this man—however he had gotten into the situation, I didn’t remember—was watching a wheel spin and spin and spin and he was lost in the time between getting the chance to spin the wheel and actually finding out what the wheel would land on. That time was a time when he didn’t win—but he could imagine what he would do if he did win—and yet he hadn’t lost either and suffered the bitter reality and finality of that outcome. The space in between was like a soft, safe pocket in time when everything was possible and as long as that wheel was spinning there was hope.
After I reread that story today there was so much more I took from it and so many other points of view. Some were much more sinister. Some were more desperate and sad. I can picture a candidate for President being the one to press that button at the Bingo Game and feeling the power of it, feeling like they are God. And then, in turn I could see the voters as they sit and hope to hit Bingo and get control of that button. They want to take a chance and truly believe that the result will save their family, will answer their prayers and save their lives. Nothing else seems to be working. They believe. They are scared. They think the man with the suit and the shine and the sharp slogans will save them.
So, here we are . . . the day we have been always leading up to and I am afraid of the results. I just want to stay in this pocket of time where I can have hope for where this spinning wheel will land. Hope we can believe in. Remember that?
Here’s what I wrote the morning of the election, while the wheel had begun to spin and was still spinning with all the hope in the world, “This journey to today has been painful as we watch two people enter a ring and try to destroy each other. It seems that it is all for some sick, twisted idea of entertainment in the end. Who pays to see this? Who sits with popcorn and a beer to see two human beings be reduced to their basest animal instincts? And so, here we are—some of us practically drooling at the vision playing out before us. Others trying to hide our eyes, wriggling uncomfortably in our seats—sinking as close to the ground as we can get. We are wishing ourselves somewhere safe and sane and sunny. Someplace else—any place else. We hear the crowd roar and steal a glimpse—wanting to see something worth cheering about, but it is simply carnage and more carnage.”
“I wish I didn’t look. I wish I could un-see it all. I try to shield my children’s eyes—but even if they cannot see—they hear. How can you not hear? The taunting and the jeers are all around us. I try to explain that this is not democracy at its best—in fact, it is not even democracy at its worst. This is reality television and what happens when real life gets too confused with entertainment. It is something straight out of the Twilight Zone or the Black Mirror. How are we alright with this? Where is the love? Where is the decency? Where will we end up when we wake tomorrow? It is so scary to find out how this will end.”
In the above paragraph I made a type-o. When I went to correct it, which I did, it didn’t look like a type-o at all today. It looked just right. I had mistakenly replaced a “c” with a “z” to create “democrazy”. Sometimes mistakes can say a lot. And so, that is all I can hope for us as a nation—that this mistake says a lot and that we learn from what it says, but that will take some listening. That will take some self-control.