October 9, 2016. Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The second presidential debate is kicking off with a question to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A woman asks about the negative tone of the current campaign, to which Secretary Clinton responds:
“I think it is very important for us to make clear to our children that our country really is great because we're good. And we are going to respect one another, lift each other up. We are going to be looking for ways to celebrate our diversity, and we are going to try to reach out to every boy and girl, as well as every adult, to bring them in to working on behalf of our country.”
But that's not what 2016 America came for. The beacon of freedom and justice was entangled in a temporary sense of insanity, a desire for the worst parts of ourselves to be given a sense a validity, a purge of the nastiness and selfishness that entangled us at our core. Because Americans have a strong sense of conscience, we knew exactly what we were doing.
The Purge film series depicts an America in which we are allowed to express the most barbaric elements of our nature in a night in which (almost) all crime is legal. Notably, any acts of violence against the top tier of society is forbidden, as their ilk has organized this horrific night in an attempt to decimate the lower classes that are a drain on their ability to concentrate wealth and dominate the economy.
But we wouldn't know anything about that, would we?
A central theme of the film series is that human nature cannot be denied, that we are genetically predetermined to have absolutely detestable desires that will manifest in the most horrific of scenarios. I won't debate the ethical premise of the series, but I will say that the tone of the 2016 election seems to validate the idea that we are extremely sick at our core. We need to put down the “others” in order to validate our own sense of worth, given that the overall genesis of this tone is an imposed sense of being falsely oppressed by the actually oppressed. The script was written for us and we are but players in the larger narrative.
Fun fact: Joe, the African American store owner in The Purge: Election Year, was played by Michael “Mykelti” Williamson. Mr. Williamson's breakthrough role happened in 1994, when he played the endearing Bubba Blue in the film Forrest Gump. Joe embodies everything that modern day America has been designed to become.
Joe is denied the insurance he needs to survive the anarchy of purge night. He is a minority small business owner who is threatened not only by the powers that be, but also from sicker elements within his own oppressed community, portrayed by the millennial Brittany Mirabilé in the role of Kimmy. For modern context and comparison, this angst-riddled teen is the minuscule MS-13 element in a larger population of immigrants seeking asylum in what used to be a haven for refuge.
Every victim on the horrific night depicted in each of these films is the embodiment of every American citizen who woke up on November 9, 2016 feeling like something inside had been violated and killed. Every American who values decency and civility felt the ugly weight of this election result as if it were a guillotine blade separating head from body in some random alley, a senseless act that violates everything they were raised to believe was right about America. We felt as if we'd been purged from our home.
Thankfully, the story doesn't end in this senseless violence. Edwin Hodges' role as the evasive rebel Danté Bishop gives us some hope that active resistance to such oppressive violence will win out in time. While some Americans may have purged themselves in the 2016 ballot box, we have the capacity to awaken them to the better angels of their nature, to acknowledge our harsher desires and find a less extreme manner in which to express them.
It starts in November. A large progressive midterm election turnout is the perfect way to purge ourselves of these carnal expressions, as we can venture to undo the self-inflicted damage of 2016.
Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn. May God be with you all.