They provoke in me a need to make sense of a world in which the loss of an über-creative soul (who has provided great music, pleasure and inspiration for me) somehow merged with Bernie’s loss in the New York primary, and, frankly, the loss of a certain hope and idealism connected with the Feel the Bern movement. I also feel a need to parse how the emotions and passions of this kind of loss could affect or even sever a relationship.
Passions run scalding hot during elections. Why shouldn’t they? They’re the large-scale equivalent of a tribe’s members determining which of their immediate family members will assume a kind of tacit authority over their lives. Who’s voice do I have to hear over dinner (on TV, print or in my head) for the next four years?
In a relationship, if you were a Trump fan and your girlfriend was a Hillary fan, would that be a deal breaker?
As I heard Louis CK ask in an interview with Charlie Rose: “What if you had to vote for someone who would be replacing your mother?” And he was right. You’d obviously have opinions. Possibly strong opinions. You’d have interest. Possibly rabid interest. You’d likely attempt to weigh the alternatives, see what each of your future mothers had to say, imagine how their positions might directly and indirectly affect your life. You’d check your instinctual, immediate vibe: Could I live in the same house with this person? The way they look, the sound of their voice, their style? Their smell?
Now… would you stop speaking to your sibling if he or she voiced a preference for a different primary parent than you did? Maybe.
Or… in a relationship, if you were a Trump fan and your girlfriend was a Hillary fan, would that be a deal breaker? Of course it’s hard to imagine that kind of relationship chemistry in the first place.
But with two responsible, sensitive partners: Would the relationship survive different views of which candidate they each wanted for president? In today’s political landscape, it’s not nearly as simple as being a Republican or Democrat. Those two political parties are on the verge of splintering into four or more! There’s a big difference between Trump and Cruz. And to many Bernie fans, Hillary isn’t even in the same party. Would you break up over this? Hold that thought.
There are certain creative people that you just want to know they exist. Prince was one of those. Whether you love all their creations or not, you just want to know that their force, their gravity, their essence is living and breathing the same air that you are.
I don’t have a clue what political affiliation Prince held. Hell, I hardly have a clue about any of the many affiliations he held. Male energy? Female energy? Falsetto, tenor, R&B, rock, soul? Pagan or Jehovah’s Witness? Prince was the ultimate shape-shifter. Or, as I heard someone say, “He’s the only guy who could steal your girl and her wardrobe.”
When I heard that he’d died, an odd, very specific sense of loss washed over me. It’s hard not to draw a comparison with the recent death of David Bowie—both insanely talented musicians were masters of the ephemeral, the indefinable. But whereas Bowie was deliberately theatrical in a cabaret tradition, I always felt that Prince was born that way, that his affectations were his birthright. Seeing him perform at The Apollo Theater in Harlem was, for me, a breathtaking, life-changing experience.
There are certain creative people that you just want to know they exist. Prince was one of those. Whether you love all their creations or not, you just want to know that their force, their gravity, their essence is living and breathing the same air that you are. You want to know that their beauty, mystery and unpredictability always exist—and are there to refer to, anticipate, be inspired by. Prince was one of those—a kind of babbling spring, a wonder of the physical world that gave you pause and made you spiritual.
Suddenly, with the loss of Prince, the world slightly contracted. And this was on top of another kind of loss, another kind of contraction: a few days earlier, with the definitive loss of Bernie Sanders to Hillary in the New York primary, I felt a collective sigh of disappointment and lessening for another kind of something missing in the universe. Crazy hope.
For those who felt the Bern, Sanders was the lone kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes pointing to the otherwise obvious, boldface falsity of our entire system.
Crazy hope is the long shot, it is the against all odds and the David facing Goliath. And for those who felt the Bern, Sanders was the lone kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes pointing to the otherwise obvious, boldface falsity of our entire system. A falsity so obvious and yet so collectively and deliberately obfuscated that if you blink twice it will disappear, and then you too will once again join the hypnotized masses watching the parade.
What’s this obviousness that I’m referring to? Among many things, it’s the fact that most polls show that a vast majority of Americans (of all parties) have little faith in our political system. And this is largely because everyone senses that politics is more bought and paid for than ever before. And Bernie was and is the only person shouting for removing money from politics.
The Bern-man might not have been the most presidential, but he was the most messengerial. And losing to such a degree in the New York primary sucked the air out of a horde of idealistic, hopeful, charged body-electric folks who sensed that this was the end of this one-time only, cantankerous uncle of a truth teller. And then, two days later, Prince died. Another one-time-only generator of joyous, iconoclastic music… gone.
A person and a sense of hope for positive change were dashed in a single week’s time. Meanwhile, the rest of us have to readjust to the subtle tug and flutter of the universe. I know for Hillary fans and for Republicans the Bernie loss was perhaps even a good thing. I can also imagine that Prince’s passing didn’t touch every individual like it did me.
For most of us, to not talk about that which we are passionate about is not workable. Not for me, anyway.
But obviously loss, or the fear of loss, affects us all no matter our political affiliation. And if our mates vote for another mom or dad than we want, that is, in a way, tantamount to supporting a future loss for us. A kind of death.
In narrative fiction writing we talk about how death is the wildcard. How a character reacts to another’s death might be entirely different to how we envisioned him/her. So, in a way, it’s understandable why a person whose buttons are pushed by even the thought of such an upset might act out and do something—like breaking up their relationship— that they might not ordinarily do. But, fortunately, we’re not really discussing the election of a direct family member, thank God!
Of course my wife can have different opinions than I do, and that isn’t or won’t be the basis for our demise. But come on, there are limits to the amount of ideological polarization that a relationship can withstand. Probably the most famous couple of political opposites are James Carville and Mary Matalin, professional political operatives of opposing parties. Their public explanation of how they do it is simply this: They don’t talk politics. It’s hard for me to believe it. But then again spies must do that all the time. For most of us, however, to not talk about that which we are passionate about is not workable. Not for me, anyway.
The point is, at a time when we lost a special artist and at least for some of us, as naive as it might sound, a special kind of hope, emotions can run deep. But onstead of acting rashly or breaking up with your partner because she doesn’t agree with you, maybe it would be better if both of you could just close your eyes and together sway to Purple Rain—and know that the spirit of the song’s magical creator, the movement behind your dashed hope and whatever loss that’s gnawing at you, still lives on…
Learn more about author Loren-Paul Caplin here.