image from Anxiety Dream Zine by Alana Mohamed
by Hal Niedzviecki
Among the most ridiculous warnings about the Trump presidency is that we can’t allow the Trump phenomenon to become ‘normal’. Alas, I take a pretty dim view of humanity. For me, blowhard demagogues who get rich and powerful with their daddy’s money who then use that money and power to get more power (and money) is as normal as apple pie and hand guns. The ascendancy of Trump and his lizard cabinet of billionaire cronies is yet another lesson in the banality of evil as channeled through the conformity and passivity of the hyper-mediated crowd. In a modern age that brought us Hiroshima, Hitler and many other capital H horrors, Trump’s normalcy should no more be questioned than his legitimacy. Might makes right, it always has and it always will.
I have also heard people saying that the Trump election will be a good thing for independent and underground culture. Their reasoning is that the denizens of zine culture will be at the forefront of the opposition. We will be more important than ever.
It’s always nice to feel needed, but I don’t buy that argument either.
Donald Trump backlash isn’t exactly on the fringe. When hating the orange one puts you in the same company as every New York Times columnist, every Bush, every Clinton and every Silicon Valley Richie-rich with a conscience (note: Elon Musk does not have a conscience), it’s time to rethink the idea that you’re on the vanguard of the opposition.
But that doesn’t mean I’m letting you off easy. Doctors on the frontlines would probably rather be diagnosing pneumonias then sawing off legs shattered by land mines. Zinesters would probably rather be writing about their latest breakup or crappy wage-slave job than confronting the disturbing notion that the president of America hates not just them (it was always thus) but also the platform of rights and freedoms that make ‘them’ possible. We’re not on the vanguard, we’re not an important part of a nascent protest movement, but we do have a duty.
Our duty is to what’s left of our communities. Trump’s election shows just how shattered and fragmented we are as a social unit. It should be way harder for a con artist who became famous for hosting a mildly diverting reality TV show peddling a fantasy of upward mobility to take the presidency. We can blame the deer-in-the-self-driving-car’s-headlights media or a bunch of Schlitz guzzling good old boys on welfare in some hellish swing-state we’ve already forgotten the name of, but really we only have ourselves to blame.
What have you done lately to break out of your bubble? To strengthen your community? To spread the gospel of free expression in the only form it truly exists – as independent media? Trump’s a consequence of our own passivity. If nothing else, Trump’s mockery of an election teaches us that a Facebook profile isn’t a voice. Liking a link isn’t making yourself heard. We have to get out there and make sure that as many people as possible see that there are other ways to talk to each other, to themselves, to strangers and friends. The issue isn’t what kind of politics people have, it’s that they feel like they should bother having a politics. If a vote is cast and it doesn’t matter because the winner ends up being the loser (and a loser) did that voter get heard? There has to be a better way. There is a better way. It’s the zine culture way. In which we empower people to believe that they and their communities matter.
So over the next four years, yes, it’s important to keep making stuff. It’s important to keep making stuff that trashes Trump. But it’s even more important to make zines about the people you talk to on the bus; go to a school and teach kids how to make mini-zines about their favourite candy bars; make a comic about a part of your city you’ve never been to then hand it out in that area. The community garden and zine making space you start in the abandoned back alley around the corner will have more of an impact in your community than ten thousand #dumptrump tweets. Sure, we want to Dump the orange-haired molester-in-chief and his freaky robo-blonde children, but that’s not going to happen by trashing Trump. What matters is that you are doing everything you can to spread the ideas of zine culture, the values of an independent not-for-profit media. The best opposition to Trump is to break through the barriers, build connections and communities, and make your tiny sliver of the world great again.
Hal Niedzviecki is the founder and publisher of Broken Pencil magazine. His latest books are Trees On Mars: Our Obsession with the Future, and The Archaeologists: A Novel.