One of my earliest memories of being freaked out by a film (beside the Peanuts cartoon when Snoopy ran away from Charlie Brown and didn't come home) came to me when I was in first or second grade and my sisters and I were visiting my grandparents in Sherburne, New York. I don't have a lot of specific memories with my grandpa Ken, but I do remember the time he took me for a walk on Main Street to calm my nerves down. I'm not sure if we discussed my anxiousness or the fact that I was disturbed, but I know he sensed a fear within me and he walked me down the street to get an ice cream cone.
I'm unclear on where my grandmother was, or my parents - I'm not even sure if my sisters were with me. I vaguely remember that Dusty, our dog, was in the room when my grandfather and I settled down to watch a rerun of the 1958 film, The Blob. Something about the old man taking a walking stick to poke the egg-like apparatus that eventually oozed out gelatin that crept up the twig he used launched an acute anxiousness in my little mind's way of knowing. I watched the entire movie (and it wasn't as hot as I found the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman). Nope, The Blob petrified me and I didn't like the way it consumed all it encountered, sucking it into its membranes.
Fast forward to 2016 and a brief 'catching-up' textual exchange with Dr. Tonya Perry of the University of Alabama. She was describing that this year's election has sort of been like a blob oozing its way across the nation. At that moment, I realized that the anxiety that film caused me as a kid is similar to the eerie feelings I've had watching the political discourse this year as its meanders towards the White House.
Something has fed this oozing and it continues to get bigger and bigger. I know that this something is fear and hate, and I'm reluctant to blame those caught in its movements or the ones proclaiming the deplorable nature of those who support it. There has never been an 'us vs. them' ideology in my thinking. Rather, it's all of us on the same voyage responsible to one another. The very fact that a monstrosity has grown to the enormous magnitude that it has is the result of several generations ostracizing groups of people along the way. These people are looking for an alibi to explain their struggles and concern and I'm afraid the smarminess of the educated class has done little to appease them. In fact, I believe it has alienated them more.
I watched the Town Hall debate worrying that the very dispositions that perplex me, anger me, and rile me up, are the same ones that others find attractive. It's like a Rowling's text, "Voldemort is back." The Death Eaters have rebranded themselves with tattoos of distrust, shaming, and contempt. I wouldn't be uneasy with the rolling blob of animosity, except that there are so many who seem to be captivated by it.
I realize that the ways my blood has been moving through my body (flight or fight) is a result of the 2016 Blob that is on all our news stations and televisions, and in every break room and restaurant conversation.
Hate is real in the United States and divisions within the democracy have not been conjoined for resolutions (Gosh, Trump even acknowledged a divided nation and seems to prey on it), but left to fester in this troubling time (is it the result of the demographic reality that our country is more diverse than ever before and that the immigrants of yesteryear do not look like the ones arriving now?). I'm hoping to be optimistic, but The Blob scares me...not so much for the immediate effects it would inevitably have on the worlds I interact with, but on the total history of this nation and what it was theoretically devised to represent.
Only time will tell, and for now I'm traveling uneasy. We need to do better. I'm simply trying to figure out a way to do this. Watching the debate, I simply became frightened at the fact that there is support for the behaviors, remarks, and language that is being used. Frightening, indeed.
It's Phillip Roth's book, Plot Against America.