Setting out with hundreds of millions of his father’s money along with the help of tabloid journalism and primetime television, it was easy for Trump to be whatever he wanted to be. It would be easy for anyone to be whatever he or she wanted with that much on their side. Smoking makes you a man and Donald Trump is out for the little guy. Both have been believed in the core being of millions of people. Both are not true.
I’ve just finished my 7th (and final, at least for now) essay about America. I’m not a writer so it did take me awhile. And the stories aren’t as good as if an actual writer did the same project. But I still think they matter. Why? Short answer: because they’re timely, personal, and as political pieces they were written by someone who doesn’t (really) work in politics.
So here are my notes. Why I spent so much time working on these stories. And full discloser, I did enjoy all the reworking, restructuring, and refining. As a person who spends most of his days concerned with images it was nice to be so concerned with the words.
And why so concerned with America? Well, because:
I think these times are extraordinary. Whether you whole-heartedly support what’s been happening to America in the last two years or you whole-heartedly don’t, I really wanted to go on the record in all this madness. While it was still happening. Without much distance for reflection. Instead, a gut level response to the events that will shape our lifetimes for decades to come.
I’ve always (and I mean always) been very concerned with what it means to be an American. From a very young age. My grandfather, like so many others, fought against fascism in WWII. When he was 22 he was fighting Nazis. When I was 22 I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life. He did something consequential, how was I going to do that? The fact that I live in America at this moment in time, seems to me, that I should do something that matters. Still working on what exactly that is.
I’m not professionally qualified to write on any of the topics covered aside from the finer point that I’m an American citizen and I think every American citizen should do the same thing I did. Meaning, don’t just root and cheer or bitch and moan in the privacy of your own head. Get your thoughts out there because the process of doing so is beneficial to both you and others.
Even though I’m professionally qualified to be a graphic designer, and after all these years that’s where I put on the most comfortable hat, I do technically work in politics. I’ve designed for activist campaigns, politicians, and other political efforts. The highlight? President Obama’s re-election campaign. But still, I speak the language of design, not politics. So when I have taken to long form writing, it’s typically been about design. And process. And projects. Things I am, in fact, an expert on. But I suppose I brush up close enough to the world of politics where I felt I needed to evolve a bit. And that I had something interesting to say.
I’m super liberal. I’m quite an informed citizen—NPR, the New York Times, all sorts of political podcast. I live in a very Republican red state. And I grew up in a super duper conservative small town where Democrats were referred to as baby-killers, terrorist-sympathizers, and anti-America. It was great. Mashing all that together for a series of stories about America, that should be interesting, yeah?
Just something to note. If you’re a conservative, don’t let your kids grow up listening to punk rock. There’s no telling what will happen.
Also, note. These stories were written for readers. My editor really pushed to also make them scannable with a good amount of subheads. In the end, I always agreed with her. I mean 16 minutes, whose gonna read something that long?
I wanted to work on my writing. This was as good an exercise as any. Hence, I worked with an editor and each story was fine-tuned so it was presented in the way I fully intended. Not just spouting off on Facebook here and there.
I think that’s it. If you’re interested, you can read all 7 stories on Medium.
As Americans, we debate whether or not climate change is real, despite hard scientific evidence it is. We debate how hard we should make voting because of voter fraud, which is very much not a thing. We debate constantly the benefits of trickle-down economics, how having more guns makes us more safe, and maybe Nazis aren’t that bad. We’ve even found a way to debate whether or not debating civility is more important than separating kids from their parents.
We are a country of gaps, with an increasing distance between a life of achievement, economic prosperity, career accomplishment, and enriching relationships for some and a life of suffering, squalor, degradation, and loneliness for others. We have chosen to allow these gaps to happen and we let them persist.
Tonight I’m participating in a roundtable discussion on design and social justice hosted by the AIGA student group at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. We’ll be talking about how to use design to bring about change in your community. And you’ll be able to buy posters to benefit Nebraska Appleseed. See you there!
Graphic design can make you smile. Make you mad. Make you change your behavior. It illuminates and can silence all irrelevant noise with magnificent clarity by perfectly capturing the core of an idea. It’s an obvious tool for social change as seen in the history of successful movements for justice. And it will continue to be so.
The epic tug of war between the forces of progression or regression will always be with us. Before the kook was given the keys to the kingdom, it seemed as if progress was winning out. But instead, the forces of regression combined with a general sense of apathy to make the jerk backward as jarring as possible.
If we’re going to behave this way—keep out immigrants, make it hard for people vote, make it easier for businesses to pollute, and generally give all the breaks to very rich people who already are doing extraordinarily well—what is the point of all this? This American experiment in freedom and self-determination, this “American Dream.”