The Daylight Discourse

If character is what you do in the dark, I say: light 'em up.

It's been said that character is what you do in the dark.

It's also been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

I have some doubts about the broad applicability of the latter phrase. 

I mean, it's literally true that sunlight disinfects: UV radiation damages fragile organic molecules. What can result in sunburn or even cancer for us complex multicellular organizations can shatter bacteria and viruses outright, given sufficient exposure.

Just as a fascinating sidenote, but most of the things that we think of as vampire banes -- silver, garlic, fire, even running water, and yes, sunlight -- are useful for dealing with microbial infections. Silver disinfects. Garlic disinfects. And yes, sunlight disinfects.

But often the cry of "Sunlight is the best disinfectant!" is used to excuse elevating hate speech and giving it a platform, even protecting it from criticism. So I'm dubious when I hear someone saying it, because too often what they mean is we need to invite dapper young Nazis to speak on college campuses, where they can incite hatred and violence against some of the very students whose fees are paying for the event.

As I sit back and watch the unfolding theatrics of this year's (three-weeks-and-counting-long) election day, though I'm thinking about that saying in a new light, and also thinking about its intersection with the former phrase: character is what you do in the dark.

We're dealing with a cast of characters that, quite frankly, have no character to speak of. There's the Tan Who Would Be King himself, Donald Trump, and there's his feeble grifting circus of clown lawyers, and the pundits who boost them, and the Republican officials at various state and local levels.

Right now, with Trump having ceremonially and grudgingly okayed the transition process and the legal efforts in shambles, there's a streak of stubborn, self-consciously savvy contrarianism running through the Twittersphere that is trying to make out like Trump's efforts to steal the election were always so self-evidently doomed that more the fools were we for ever worrying about those efforts in the first place.


I've selected this example (the tweet being quoted by Eric Haywood, not Haywood's) for both being an example of this strain of contrarian finger-wagging and also kind of neatly encapsulating my response to it. He's right, this is what happened: the coup has thus far failed in no small part because we the people in ways big and small have been pointing out that it's happening.

I think Lindsey Graham is an outlier in his shamelessness but not in his impulses, as far as being willing to throw out votes wholesale and just overturn the election by any means possible and necessary. But for anyone less shameless than him, the bright light we have thrown on all the telegraphed avenues of attack has raised the bar for "possible". The state legislatures know we're watching. The election boards and voting commissions know we're watching. The Federalist Society judges know we're watching. The whole world knows we're watching, and they're watching along with it.

The contrarians don't want us to call it a coup and don't want us to call Trump an aspiring authoritarian, fascist, despot, or dictator, but I don't think it's possible to overstate how important it has been that we have clearly and repeatedly identified the coup attempt in progress as a coup from the beginning. It's easy to say that the whole Republican Party has no shame in the age of Trump, but most people have a sense of shame. What the party of Trump has that allows it to act so shamelessly is a load of comforting illusions, and we've done as much as we can to take those away from them.

Character is what they do in the dark. 

Therefore, those who have no character must be allowed no darkness in which to act. Not one scintilla of shade. Not one gram of gloom. Not one cubic inch of cover. 

Can it work? It's been working so far. We've been shining great big glowing lights right in the faces of the corrupt and the corruptible, and while the clown lawyers have shown few signs they're ready to be gonged off the stage, many of the people in the audience they're playing to have blinked in the glare of those high-beams.

This isn't over until it's over, and likely not even then. It's not over yet. I have a bottle of single malt Scotch I bought for election night and then never felt an appropriately climactic or pivotal moment on that night to open, so I decided to put it up on the shelf until the electors vote and seal Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the people's choice for the 46th presidential administration. I'm not opening it yet. Nor do I feel like I can relax.

But I feel... good. Optimistic. We haven't won, though we are winning, and while it can be tiring to win over and over again in this drawn-out fashion (who knew that of all things would be the one thing Trump got right?) I'm not ready to rest, but I'm content that what we're doing is working, and that it will continue to work.