American politics, Barack Obama, CNN, Donald Trump, election, media manipulation, political essay, political melancholy, politics, populism, presidential election, Republicans, stupidity of the public, the media
I am not a political analyst, whatever that is anymore; nor am I adequately educated in the patterns of American history to perhaps really have the depth of understanding I need, we all need, during this moment of American, and therefore world, crisis.
The crisis to which I refer, of course, is Donald Trump. I remember several blissfully unaware weeks ago, sitting around my coffee table with my father, and saying, “Did you see that the man from TV, the real estate guy who ruins all those properties and wears a squirrel on his head, thinks he’s running for President? It’s so bizarre; is it some kind Kanye-self-involved-media-driven performance art?” My father looked at me with genuine terror and surprise in his eyes: “Bear. (my nickname) Bear. He’s running. It’s real. He could win. He’s leading.”
Because my father has almost physical scars remaining from the McGovern campaign, I thought he was panicking. Exaggerating, obviously. We gave the world Barack. Rallies for Barack are the only political rallies I have ever attended. And even though he’s not come through in some important, closely beloved issues, he has done what he can with a Republican party that, mainly from racism and pure selfish stupidity, has stymied him, and his general humanism, at every turn. I still love Barack. And I’m still proud of him, and proud that our country elected a man of such brilliance and thoughtful, humane temperament. Also, he sounds exactly like Al Greene when he sings, which just isn’t even fair given his other attributes. I expect probably even greater things from him when he no longer has to deal with the willful stupidity of Republicans. He is a Great Man, in my eyes.
When we elected Barack the world celebrated, and breathed a sigh of palpable relief. Gone, finally, the lies and deceptions and war mongering of the Bush days – although we see now that they are tragically very much still with us, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan – but at least the man himself has left the damn house.
Now we would be so lucky to have him back. Did I write that? I suppose I did. Because I still don’t understand how a human being who is not, frankly, profoundly learning disabled could put a checkmark next to Donald Trump’s name for anything but 1. profound and deep crimes against aesthetics 2. ruining the environment (see golf courses in Scotland) 3. tax fraud, at some point, you know it’s true 4. racism, sexism, almost any other ism…. But certainly not…. president.
I have asked people to explain it to me. No one can. Here in France the people I have met are lovely enough to awkwardly change the subject if it’s brought up. What, exactly, is there to say? This goes beyond the usual American incompetence, arrogance, and stupidity for which our country is so well known around the world.
What is this man? He is absolutely a pathological narcissist, a solipsist to the highest degree possible. He reflexively hates women of power or anything he views as other. It is astonishing to see Joe-Dude truck drivers and their wives who work at K-Mart if they’re lucky standing around applauding a man who hates them, hates them if he’s ever even thought of them. Aaah yes, the populist Donald Trump.
Bullshit, more shit, piled so high no one can see out of it anymore. I have been so confused by it. It is a truism that the Republican party hates poor people, that has been the case since at least the Reagan years, but a man like Donald Trump hates… everyone. As much as he feels or thinks about anything. Ted Cruz might have close to Nazi politics, but he’s brilliant, and he’s a believer. He believes in…. something, even if his intelligence and beliefs have clearly led him to, as he might put it, the Devil.
Donald Trump doesn’t believe in anything except his own power, and using his power for his own entertainment. That the American public can’t see that is terrifying, and, until last night, totally confusing.
But then last night I watched CNN. I don’t watch television, so putting CNN on was like visiting a foreign country. And it was a revelation and an explanation about why Donald Trump maintains the power he does. The media fucking loves this man. They are addicted to him like crack. The ratings! People might even watch CNN now, in order to catch a glimpse of the angry pinch lipped man with a squirrel on his head saying something bombastic and racist.
Donald Trump is the World Wide wrestling entertainment show of politics, complete with beer drinking rednecks surrounding the cage, egging him on to the next blow. And CNN is there to give all the commentary, as if it’s real, as if it’s something legitimate. Even the New York Times, which as much as it bugs me with its smug city-life self-love and myopic understanding of wealth, is still the finest paper in the country – even that news source has become awed by Trump, and has begun to treat him as something… tangible and concrete.
So now he is real. Even though he’s not. He has no ideology, he has no ideals. He has no plan, no experience, and crucially absolutely no understanding of foreign policy. Does he even know what foreign policy is? Can he find Syria on a map when he makes the call to bomb, or will he just rely on his generals or his phone’s GPS for geographic guidance? Does he know about the recent decisions in Paris about climate change? Does he know what the word “climate” means, outside of “I am hot” or “I am cold, some servant, probably one of my voters, get me a damn jacket?”
It is a hallucinatory wave, now, of back and forth, back and forth, and one becomes dizzy trying to understand. The media feeds him to us, like geese being fattened for foie gras. And then we become full with him, he is our reality, our sustenance, he is something real. See? He’s angry! I am angry too! Ah, we are alike, Mr. Trump and me. We are both outsiders. He will save us, CNN says so. The commentators, they stand around in awe, and secret glee, because here, finally, is a man with no filter, a true performer, and he will save our TV shows! So the media feeds more of him, the public does not see that there are other things to eat. He is all that’s on the menu.
But no! Wait! If we turn them off, the commentators and the TV and the New York Times, which is not doing a good job calling this (they, too, want to feed their readers, but maybe with a more sensitive tube), and just see. There is something else to eat, and one need not live in the rabbit hole forever, getting fat on what is only an illusion anyway.
We had better climb out fast. Or Mr. Trump will hire one of his contractors to build a manhole cover, made of the thickest steel, guaranteed to last at least four years, before we can escape.
If you don’t take my word for it, and why should you, then read or reread Being There. Mr. Kosinski lived that world, and it almost killed him. A Trump world would certainly kill us.