Friday, November 11, 2016

Fear and Loathing in America 2016 *

God has special Providence for drunks, children 
and the United States of America

Otto von Bismarck

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Leonard Cohen

ON THURSDAY, Donald Trump went to Washington. The next president of the United States, a man thunderously endorsed by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, went to the nation’s capital to meet the African American president who occupies the White House for the next 10 weeks.

This happened the day after the night when anti-Trump protesters clogged the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles and thronged the Trump Tower in Manhattan and gathered at Parkman Bandstand in Boston and marched through downtown Chicago to protest at Trump Tower in Chicago and hit the streets of Oakland and San Francisco and Portland and Boulder and Philadelphia and Phoenix. This was the day after the night when Lily, a Latina protesting in Los Angeles, told CNN exactly what the stakes may well have become.

“If we don’t fight, who is going to fight for us? People had to die for your freedom where we’re at today. We can’t just do rallies, we have to fight back. There will be casualties on both sides. There will be, because people have to die to make a change in this world.”

◊ ◊ ◊

On Tuesday night, Donald John Trump, the nominally Republican [x]illionaire attention addict and pornographic self-pitchman, finally catapulted to victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and achieved the Oval Office, set to become the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017. It was a victory no one saw coming.

Maybe it was something we should have expected. Earlier in the year, there was a tweet released by the social-media staff at The thing went little noticed in the Twitterverse on May 3, when it first came out. It was one of those innocently snarky items Twitter is famous for: a tweet from Captain Obvious,’s Edwardian-elegant wiseass of a pitchman, asking questions that now seem all too tantalizingly pertinent:

“Is Canada starting to sound like a good option? Why not make a trip North before November? Be a tourist before becoming a resident.” If you had any doubt about the real thrust of the tweet, what it was that provoked it, the tweet offered an inescapable clue: “#ElectingToMove”

◊ ◊ ◊

A YOUTUBE live video feed of protesters from Fox10 in Phoenix tapped into the mood of much of the country tonight. A live chat on the same You Tube page as the video revealed the written mood of people watching and reacting in real time. The CAPS LOCK cognoscenti weighs in:









LIKE WITH Lonesome Rhodes, the charismatic protagonist/antagonist of Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” Donald Trump blinded much of the country with the candlepower of his own mythology — the way it had already blinded him. In a variety of ways, we’re paying the price for that now. Or we soon will.

We’re paying the cost of having let him get close early on. When the media wasn’t yet fully dazzled by the daring of his bluster. When he wasn’t fully held to account for statements made in the past. When we let him walk on releasing his tax returns.

We’re paying the price for buying into this most malign aspect of our obsession with celebrity and power: our willingness to confuse heat with light; our willingness to imbue celebrity with sagacity; our willingness to pretend that American society’s more marginalized citizens are America’s most privileged; our willingness to lash out in unthinking rage, to burn down our village in order to save it.

And worse. Irony of ironies: After months on the trail essentially saying nothing, picking fights with demographic others, inciting violence at his own campaign rallies, riding the crest of emotionalism without deep-diving into policy, Donald Trump really didn’t even bother to define himself beyond the bullshit veneer of gilt-edged horndog maverick businessman ... concealing the real Donald Trump: a flamboyant, self-absorbed, hot-headed charlatan whose inexperience with our government somehow recommends him to run our government; a relentless publicity ho whose presidential campaign was, ultimately, nothing more than one man’s monument to himself.

And irony upon irony: Turns out that was enough to win. The country let him get away with it. We’re paying the price for our willingness to let that happen.

◊ ◊ ◊

On Thursday night, after an apparently expansive meeting with President Obama, the president-elect took to Twitter to react to the wave of protests that were emerging across the country — protests that continue right now. His first reaction was as tone-deaf, as insensitive as we’ve come to expect over the last 17 months.

“Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Then, perhaps realizing (or more likely having been advised by his aides) that a tweet like that did nothing to help close the national wounds that his own campaign had created and worsened, it decided that maybe a new tack was needed. Trump did the pivot at 3:14 Friday morning, nine hours after the first tweet:

“Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”

◊ ◊ ◊

TAKE NOTE of his first instinct: to respond with a snide, butthurt innuendo, making an unproven claim — protests “incited by the media”? Really? — in the course of his weak grievance. Then, and only then, hours later, comes the sunnier, more anodyne reaction — one which, on the basis of previous campaign performance, we’re invited to believe may not even be sincere.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy spoke at Vanderbilt University and characterized Richard Nixon, then seeking the presidency, in the heat of RFK’s one and only presidential campaign: “Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit.”

Today, at long last Nixon has his forthcoming successor, his heir apparent. And for the next four years, we’ll be paying the price for our willingness to let that happen too.

Image credits: Double Trump: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press. Captain Obvious tweet: Two-image illustration: Lonesome Rhodes: from "A Face in the Crowd." Trump mouth: via The Guardian (UK).     * All due propers to Hunter S. Thompson.

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