At eleven o’clock every Sunday morning, for over a decade, an eclectic group meets for brunch. I joined them the week Trump became President-Elect. We meet at a truck stop where the owners replace the restroom’s broken tiles with cardboard. It’s easy to overlook because I’m drawn to the collective memory at the table which is photographic, encyclopedic, and experiential. I feel like I’m sitting in a reference library where the books talk to you.
Most past encounters start with genial and general conversation. “How did your week go?” “Did you ever see this movie?” I order. Fifteen minutes later the waitress serves my coffee, two poached eggs, and hash browns, burned. In that time, the discussion turns political, infused with comments by former activists-turned-cynics.
“If you think you can change anything, you’re wasting your time.” “Many have tried before this with little to no success.” “We’re in a cycle. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. We just have to ride it out.”
I fight back. “You’re just going to sit here and let Trump and his cronies happen?”
“Cheer up. There won’t be enough food by 2050 and we’ll all be dead.”
Their hopelessness seeps into, and depresses, me. Some weeks, I skip the torture.
This day will be different. I am determined to parry every discouraging discourse with the cry of the resistance, “Power of the People,” and remind them of the battle for seats in all levels of government in two years and four. I believe challenging the Trump agenda matters. I not be brought down by skepticism.
I order breakfast. We talk about plays and the cultural life in Czechoslovakia. All good and non-threatening. My food arrives as the topic shifts to racism in Hollywood.
Dan says, “Racism is one of the reasons many of the old films have been shelved. It’s part of Birth of A Nation and The Sheik right up through the Star Wars Trilogy.” My companions cite screenplay, lines, and screen images.
Aware of this troubling issue, I’ve not much to add. I’m listening—stomach calm, head clear.
Bob says, “Speaking of racism, that’s the big issue with the new Star Wars film.”
I take a sip of coffee. Having neither seen the movie nor thought about it, I say, “Why, what’s different?”
He says, “Female lead and multi-ethnic cast.”
Being the only female at the table, I don’t see the problem. I say, “Isn’t it time for people get over themselves and shelve their misogyny and racism, even if our government-elect thinks it’s the way to go.”
“That’s not how the fans see it. They don’t want to see anything change from their beloved trilogy — male, white, token female.”
I only saw the first movie in the series and didn’t notice.
Jim says, “Trump didn’t happen by accident, you know. This country and its greedy corporations, especially media and its insatiable need for capital, have been priming the pump for years.”
My ears perk up.
Bob says, “Think about all the sex and violence in the gaming industry. Kids sit in front of consoles all day and night playing war games—blowing up people, buildings, animals with abandon because it’s fun.”
“I’m not a fan of graphic violence,” I say. “It’s always a crapshoot if the unformed mind can distinguish between fantasy and reality.”
Bob says, “And, when I say sex, I mean rape. Yup. Violence and rape. That’s why nothing Trump said to his minions ever fazed them.”
My stomach tightens. “Wait a minute,” I say. “Are you telling me that a gamer can simulate raping a ‘person’ by manipulating controllers?”
Dan says, “Grand Theft Auto. Most popular game of all time. Offers the entire manly experience.”
I am so appalled I can’t even ask if the rape simulation limits itself to females or, in fact, includes males and perhaps animals. “Are you kidding me?”
Heads nod in unison. Jim says, “It’s not the only one either.”
A cloud permeates the walls and drifts my way.
“Corporate greed,” Bob says. “These programs make a ton of money.”
The cloud picks up speed.
Dan says, “Not only can you get games of violence and sex, you can find racially charged games. If the kid programmers can think it, they can design it.”
The cloud stops above my head and darkens.
I push my coffee away and say, “Isn’t there some kind of oversight to stop putting out content that rewards absolute power at any cost regardless of the consequences?”
Shrugs around the table. Bob chuckles. “If the big guys don’t do it, the new kid on the block will. No way they’re going to let that happen. Too much money involved.”
Thunder shakes the cloud and lightning pierces it. I say, “That means millions of Americans spend a good part of their lives filling their brains with wanton murder, torture, and rape.”
Heads nod. Jim says, “We just inform. It’s the way of the world. Nothing to be done.”
Their truth makes my heart sink. Corporate America has been conditioning the population to accept a Trump presidency. He is the embodiment of the “power” player — larger than life, impervious to attack, abusive to females, rule breaker, unaccountable, irresponsible, and high scorer on the game console of life.
Damn the video games — not about fun at all.
Photo: Getty Images