Nachos in Luxembourg
Have you ever eaten nachos in Luxembourg? If not, please don’t. Just trust me on this one. One biggish chip, subdivided into four quadrants, with a threadbare carpet of cheddarlike cheese under the dispirited crown of a far-traveled piece of jalapeno shrapnel, garnished by a pickle looking just as surprised as I was by its presence on the plate. For about $6. But I hadn’t gone into Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurant for the food.
That cold January night nearly nine years ago I needed a television. Everyone else in town was watching soccer, but Chi Chi’s had theirs turned off. Perhaps perplexed by pickled pointlessness, they didn’t care when I commandeered it.
“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.” I was stunned. More than a bit in love. My nation’s new leader was saying intelligent things and telling the truth, not regurgitating soundbites as nutritious as styrofoam, nor pandering to a fatal overabundance of blind patriotism. He was treating us like a nation of adults, with brains and courage.
“We will restore science to its rightful place” alone had me cheering, feeling tension flow out of me after eight years when data was treated like an opinion.
“This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” By that point I was crying in Chi Chi’s.
The first time I remember evaluating a political event was the presidential debate of 2000 when Al Gore annihilated George W Bush with intelligence, preparation, and a clearly superior understanding of the issues…and lost the election because of it.
So for my entire adult life American politics had defied basic reason, intelligence, and morality. I watched, dumbstruck, as we destabilized the Middle East to create profit for the VP’s buddies, I hoped I’d never have to face the people whose children were dying of diseases that could have been cured by stem cell treatments that were left undeveloped to score talking points, and dreaded the times when foreigners would ask me to explain how the hell my country had elected such a corrupt regime. Twice.
It was agony. And now it’s The Good Old Days. Before we in our snug white privilege were forced to see the extent of the malignant American racism that hobbled Obama’s greatness and helped elect this cancer to the Oval Office.
But for those eight years when President Obama did Herculean work redeeming our nation in the eyes of the world and so many of us here at home, I was able to stand taller. I don’t want to talk about what happened in November, 2016.
Let’s skip right to this moment. When blasphemously overdue accountability is catching up with sexual miscreants. When several of Trump’s most outlandishly unqualified and downright nefarious nominees have been stopped. And when a civil rights advocate defeated a racist, homophobic, Russia-sympathizing scumbag with no understanding of the separation of church and state who also happened to likely be a child molester. Granted, that last one is about as obvious of a choice as humanly possible (without resurrecting Hitler to run against Mother Theresa) and he barely won, but let’s stay positive.
Because right now I’m returning to Chi Chi’s, a crummy restaurant where I witnessed greatness and felt confidence in America on a cold winter’s night. We’re not yet a year into Trump’s reign of madness, and the appalling actions mount day by day, but they are not invincible, they are not unopposed, and they are in defiance of the fundamental human decency that powers us. The future will get better. And not just the nachos.