Beyond Thunderdome: Inside the RNC 2016

Recently, I came across a news story that I thought was parody, but now appears to be completely and totally real. That the two can no longer be safely distinguished at a glance may tell you something about the times we live in.

The story: Over 45,000 people (as of March 28,2016) have signed a petition to allow firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July. Guns are currently not allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena (its real name, I swear), where the event will take place. The petition, which is adorned with a lovingly detailed illustration of a military-grade assault rifle topped with a laser sight, states, “Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life.”

This immediately raises questions, like: At what point have we wandered into a Batman movie? Who are these “criminals and evil-doers” and will they be wearing capes and/or identifiable insignia? And, most importantly, if firearms are to be confiscated at the door, from, like, everyone, why would the good people standing guard at the entrances not also confiscate them from said criminals and evildoers? That sounds like a serious breach of security.

The wording of the statement also tends to conjure up images of Dr. Robotnik piloting some sort of gargantuan BattleMech, punching a hole through the ceiling of the arena to terrorize the hardworking, fiscally responsible citizens of our nation. In which case guns may be less effective than the petitioners think.

My reaction to the petition went through several stages. They were, in order: eye-rolling, followed by shock and alarm, followed by concern, and finally by a resolve to avoid the city of Cleveland altogether this summer. It seems like the safest option, and the one least likely to get me shot.

And yet, after careful consideration and consulting my colleagues on the matter (okay, fine: “roommates with beer.” Happy now?), I think I may have a firmer grasp of the situation. The Republican Party has long been dedicated to its goal of remaking the United States into something like the future envisioned by Mad Max. This is not a secret.

It accounts for most of the foreign and domestic policies of the GOP for the past 30-plus years: military interventionism, destructive environmental policies, dismantling social services, education and basically the entire public sector of our society, etc. All of this seems oriented to the sort of social and environmental conditions that made the Mad Max franchise so popular with audiences over the years.

The petitioners, it seems, have simply decided to act on Gandhi’s admonition to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” To this end the petitioners seek to recreate, within the confines of the arena itself, the exact conditions of 1985’s Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome.

To the uninitiated: In the film, Thunderdome is a gladiatorial combat arena where disputes are settled by fighting to the death. This is, of course, to take nothing away from the usual Mad Max fare—the vast unbreachable post-apocalyptic wasteland, death, explosions, multiple battle scenes and so on. It is a Mad Max movie, after all.

And when it comes to deciding on a single nominee to represent the Republican Party, it really is all about a fight to the finish. Donald Trump’s experience in professional wrestling alone makes him uniquely qualified for the event. It also promises to be a refreshingly honest portrayal of the entire two-party political system—a pro-wrestling style death-match by which our collective political fates are sealed. In other words, it promises to educate as well as entertain.

Creating a real-life Thunderdome in reality is, of course, no easy task. But arming all 20,562 people (the capacity for Quicken Loans Arena) would certainly make it more manageable. And it is refreshing to see political action being taken at the grassroots level. Here we have a group of people willing to make their own convention into a microcosm of the world they wish to see, regardless of the sacrifice or loss of life due to untold numbers of shooting deaths, intentional or otherwise. Folks, this is the sort of bold political action this country needs. It is the sort of vision that has made this country great, and will perhaps, to borrow the phrase of one contender for the Republican nomination, “Make America great again.”

I suppose it does raise a final question: Why would Republicans want to recreate the world of Mad Max to begin with? What possible purpose can this serve? The petitioners have not provided us with an answer to this question. It is basically anybody’s guess at this point. But then again, who am I to criticize someone else’s dream? If you dream of a world where all people have the freedom to ride around in the desert, unhindered by things like trees and bodies of fresh water getting in the way, protected under the soothing reassurance of Uzis and assault rifles and flame-thrower guitars, then who am I to say you’re wrong?

It would be a world, after all, where anyone regardless of race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or place of national origin can one day fulfill his or her dream of entering the gates of Valhalla, “shiny and chrome,” to do whatever one does up there. And that, perhaps, is a future I can believe in.