A post-apocalyptic guide to preparing for Donald Trump
Welcome to the last day of the world.
OK, maybe not the absolute last day. But it does look like Donald Trump may become President tomorrow.
Of course, I’m still holding out hope that my eldest child is going to trap us all in a time loop, so that we can be protected from Trump the way kids are protected in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, living in our own perpetual Groundhog Day. It’s also possible that my youngest will at some point invent a time machine so he can come back and ensure Hillary becomes President, taking a page from 11/22/63.
And even if the timeline proceeds uncorrected, it’s still likely it will take Trump at least two or three weeks to bring it all to a terrible end. Sure, he could demonstrate his enthusiasm for nuclear weapons by triggering the kind of nuclear World War III envisaged in On The Beach, but that probably won’t happen in week one. His weird flirtation with anti-vaxxers could culminate in a rollback of mass vaccination, and we could enjoy the spectacular plague that won Station Eleven the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction — but again, you’ve got to figure on an incubation period. Or Trump could decide that since Octavia Butler anticipated his whole “Make American Great Again” trope in her Parables novels, the least he can do is deliver on her vision of an authoritarian regime presiding over economic collapse and class warfare…but again, full-scale class warfare takes time, people.
So no, today probably isn’t the absolute last day of the world. But for those of us who read dystopian novels and watch dystopian movies, this territory is starting to feel familiar. You’ve got a society heading towards the kind of climate catastrophe anticipated by The Water Knife, with strains of the religious fundamentalism and virulent anti-feminism of The Handmaid’s Tale. We’re already well on the way to the divisions between rich and poor that are chronicled in On Such a Full Sea or The Heart Goes Last. How long can it be before we’re surveilling one another, like in The Circle — or eating each other alive, like in The Road?
After years of anticipating humanity’s near-term and rather unsavory demise through my reading and movie-going, it’s something of a relief to know that this, actually, is how it’s going to wrap up. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m still curious about the actual details. A world war like the one depicted in Ghost Fleet? Mass plagues unleashed by unfettered capitalism, like in The Windup Girl? Or simply the end of the American moment in world history, and the ascendance of China — like in China Mountain Zhang? While these specific questions remain unanswered, the days since November 9th have at least given me the general satisfaction of knowing, so this is how it all comes to an end.
Not that all my dystopian reading has left me particularly prepared in any logistical sense. I’ve yet to establish my off-the-grid compound on a remote island, nor have I learned how to use a gun. (Essential, particularly if it turns out you need to defend yourself from zombies as well as garden-variety hungry people.) I’m still wasting time and money on stupid long-run investments like organic food, retirement savings and orthodonture for my kids, because people look at you funny if you give up on that stuff and put all your money into composting toilets.
My preparation is of the interior kind: learning to make peace with our civilization’s inevitable and increasingly proximate demise. From Ready Player One came the epiphany that actually, a computer geek like me could be pretty happy living out her life in virtuality until our species or our energy supplies dry up forever. From Cloud Atlas came the profound realization that even thinking about the end of the world is a privilege: for many cultures and many peoples, the world has long since ended, and it’s only a relatively wealthy handful of mostly white first-worlders who get to imagine otherwise. From Never Let Me Go I learned that even when we face utter despair and the certainty of our own demise, there is still beauty and joy and love…at least for the moment.
So here we are, in that moment: if not the last day of the world, then the last day that is going to feel like our world for quite some time. The day when my dystopian novels and movies suggest I should be making love on a field that is symbolically perched atop a cliff, or getting what turns out to be an ironic tattoo of the infinity sign. The day when my conscience suggests I should be doing anything and everything to stop the end of the world from happening, the way I desperately wish I could go back in time and stop November 8th from happening, too.
But I can’t throw myself into a last-minute bacchanal, anymore than I can throw myself back in time and avert tomorrow’s disaster. Instead, I’ll do what every good dystopian protagonist must — at least in the novels that don’t end with people killing one another in a bunker.
I’ll seek out my fellow humans, the ones who share my stubborn-yet-charming determination to create a better tomorrow even when it seems there is barely a shred of hope. We will exchange witty banter, gradually share our disparate yet similarly moving back stories, and discover our remarkably eclectic yet complementary intellectual, technical and martial skills. Together, we will fight power with creativity, restore hope to humanity, and repopulate the earth.
Want to join us?