Sleep has never come easily for me. I suffered sleepless nights as a child due to anxiety before I even knew what the word meant. All I knew was that, at some point while preparing for bed, a realization of some kind would hit me and I would spend the remainder of the night fretting over it, tossing in sweaty sheets with worry.
Often, the things which kept me awake were large matters in the adult world I had no business concerning my seven-year-old mind with. I remember distinctly being unable to sleep over a mental image I had of Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office and Mikhail Gorbachev in his Kremlin office, both of them standing at their respective desks, with angry expressions on their faces, hands precipitously poised above large red buttons. These buttons, of course, if pressed, would lead to the end of the world as any of us knew it. Even at seven, I had a surprisingly solid grasp on the concept of mutually assured destruction.
Later on, the troubling imagery my insomnia was based upon would narrow in scope, and became about my personal world. How do I navigate safely through these broiling tensions at home? How do I behave at school so no one knows how racked with fear I am? How do I avoid saying the wrong thing to the wrong kid and getting hit in the head. A blow to the head has been a potentially fatal proposition for me since I was seven and had to have a device called a shunt surgically placed in my head. I was, predictably, not very skilled at avoiding such blows over the years. The very same shunt remains there to this day, and causes me constant pain.
Now, as a man of thirty-five years, I am still plagued with insomnia. Many of my nights are still filled with anxiety. But, mostly nowadays I don’t sleep due to physical pain. I’ve become adept at shutting out the large, world-wide calamities, and instead devote most of my anxiety to the next stabbing pain in my head, or the next time my leg trembles beneath me because of the lightning strikes happening behind my eyes. It becomes easy to ignore the world outside all that. Other chronic pain sufferers know what it is to have your world shrink down to a single point, to an epicenter of suffering.
That said, I still manage to notice what is happening in the world occasionally. And what I’ve seen recently is terrifying. There is a storm gathering, people. The masses are no longer content with the status quo. This message has not reached the powers that be, yet, it seems. How could it, when they (the aforementioned powers) prepare to perform yet another campaign season act? They prepare to do “battle” on “critical issues,” even though we know all that means is a protracted argument about American Exceptionalism. Two candidates (both immediate family members of prior presidents) will shout talking points about things neither of which will be able to accomplish if they win.
They truss up these current mathematically calculated, statistically-probable favorite candidates (again, because of the name recognition), and tell them what to say and into which camera. They repeat this process with ever-increasing volume and over-inflated importance until they have people clearly lined up behind their chosen candidate and keep them there until they have cast their ballots and done their civic duty.
The thing they don’t realize is, there are a growing number of people who haven’t had any more sleep than me who can also see the charade. Who can see that one candidate is no better than the other, and that they are all owned by the same handful of people. The thing they don’t realize is, we see them for what they are. We see them and their army of storm troopers with badges and automatic weapons aimed AT the people. We see it, and we know the system is not fixable because it isn’t broken. It works exactly as designed. The system doesn’t need fixing, it needs replacing. I hope there are some very smart people walking the floors at night with me. I hope they’re taking notes. And I hope they’re all a lot stronger than I am. Because, one way or another, the center will not hold.