We Need a Patriot

Once upon a time, I worked in a building on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. By virtue of its proximity to the beautiful views of the Chicago River and glorious architecture of the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, it was a popular location for film sets. It wasn't unusual to see actors from television shows or movies set in Chicago filming exterior scenes, with two characters having a stroll and a chat along the riverwalk, or a character having a dramatic moment on the DuSable Bridge.

One day, I was heading out at lunchtime to pick up some antibiotics. I had a devilish and persistent case of bronchitis, and my doctor had called in a prescription for me. In the lobby, I was met and stopped by a muscled security guard in a black t-shirt. A film set had materialized just outside the windows and rotating doors of the building's entrance, and he told me it would be five minutes while they shot the scene.

Five minutes passed. People began to gather. The building has 36 floors, serving as workspace for thousands of employees, so people were always coming and going. As each new person arrived, the security guard told them it would be about five minutes, as ten minutes passed since I'd arrived on the scene, and then fifteen, and then twenty.

"You told me it was going to be five minutes twenty minutes ago," I said. "This is unreasonable."

It was an important movie, we were told, starring an important dude. We could all see the A-list actor through the glass. If anyone was impressed, the luster of adjacency to stardom was quickly tarnished by the annoyance of inconvenience.

This was before the ubiquity of mobile phones. People had important meetings to get to. Just five more minutes.

A crowd had amassed in the lobby. Everyone was sighing and shifting their weight from foot to foot with impatience, but no one was saying anything.

Everyone was angry, but simultaneously seemed to accept that this was just our new collective reality—waiting endlessly for Mr. Bigshot to film his scene, no matter what it cost any of us.

I began to wonder if we were all just going to live in this lobby forever.

* * *

This is how life in the United States feels to me now—like we're all trapped in a lobby, waiting for someone to let us go on with our lives.

Every day, I wake up and wonder why the hell we are collectively (if not individually) just agreeing to uphold the results of this election. I wonder, angrily, why powerbrokers have decided to allow Donald Trump to do so much damage, when it's clear his win was completely illegitimate.

I know there is no precedent or guide for vacating election results, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

It's not like Trump was fairly elected and is now just doing terrible things. He wasn't. That is clear. It becomes clearer every day, with each piece of breaking news, including the latest: The arrest of a contractor who leaked an NSA document detailing "Russian efforts to hack voting systems in the U.S a week prior to the 2016 presidential election."

It is just mindblowing to me, every minute of every day, that we're indulging this grand farce, especially when the president who assumed his office with zero legitimacy or credibility, is endangering this nation and its people.

I understand the reasons, intellectually. I have both the capacity and willingness to comprehend why this is happening, why there are so many people, including and especially the people with the power to alter this course, who are intransigently committed to trying to force this deeply abnormal square peg into a round hole of normalcy.

But I resent it. And I resist it.

I refuse to participate in the normalization of a presidency that simply should not be. And I reject the notion that there's some worthy objective to abet a national gaslighting, as a majority of us try to convince ourselves and each other that all of this makes sense.

It does not make sense. We have a colossally dangerous president doing reckless and hateful things, from a position he attained by nefarious means. And the only thing that makes sense is to stop that. To stop him.

Someone, from either party, who has the power to change the national conversation, to break this sickening spell, must step forward and say the thing that no one of prominence wants to say. Someone has to have the courage and the patriotism to be extraordinary in this extraordinary moment.

Someone has to get us all the fuck out of this lobby.

* * *

It had been a half hour, and still we were trapped. Still we were hearing it would just be five minutes: Be patient.

Maybe it was because I was sick, or maybe it's just who I am at my indelible core, but I refused to stand like a corralled sheep any longer. I pushed past the security guard and walked out the front door, straight onto the set, to the immediate sound of someone yelling, "Cut!"

The actor's face contorted into a scowl. "We're trying to shoot a film here!" he yelled at me.

I turned on my heel to face him. "I'm trying to live my life here!" I yelled back. I pivoted quickly and walked down the sidewalk toward my long-delayed destination.

My heart was pumping so hard I could hear my pulse in my ears. I expected someone to grab my shoulder from behind. But the only footsteps that came after me were those of the people pouring out of the lobby, leaving on their way to get on with the business of living their own lives.

Sometimes, all it takes to break a spell is one person refusing to be enchanted by it.

We need a patriot. Who is it going to be?

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