March 31, 2016

Desperation and Rage in the Time of Trump (I)

Donald Trump is a deeply sickening, horrifying person. It is an abomination to be forced to consider seriously the prospect of Trump becoming President of the United States. He vomits forth hideous, vicious ideas, he insults and condemns large swaths of humanity, and he offers idiotic policy prescriptions, to the extent he offers prescriptions at all, but which are almost always so vague as to be meaningless, except for being horrifying and abominable. Obviously. Trump lives in the gutter and seeks to drag all the rest of us down into the filth- and disease-infested waters with him. He is utterly classless, and he is unspeakably vulgar. His vulgarity is overwhelming. It is unspeakable, or, rather, it once would have been unspeakable for a presidential candidate to brag -- in a debate, mind you, in a debate! -- about the size of his member, as if that were a qualification for office. Any decent human being recoils from Trump and thoroughly condemns his pollution of our civil discourse. He is a blight on our country, indeed on the world. Trump embodies a pestilence that must be eradicated, completely and, one would hope, for all time.

There. Everybody happy now? Have I managed to pass the stringent test that determines whether I might lay my head on the gentle bosom of the civilized world? (Note: You may employ words such as "bosom" only when they plainly carry no sexual meaning whatsoever.) May I be admitted to the delicately manicured gardens of oh-so-polite society, to the world of genteel civilization. where no one speaks above a whisper and we all partake of our afternoon tea with pinkies gently crooked in demonstration of mastery over our baser nature?

As an unspeakably vulgar person might say: What a load of crap. Hell, let's give our inner Trump freer rein: What a load of shit. The spectacle that arrests one's attention is not Trump himself, but the near-unanimity of the chorus that condemns him as a horrifying abomination. A caution is in order: when you condemn Trump in this way, you must eschew too vehement a manner. You certainly must never raise your voice, or allow your visage to reveal your disgust, except in the subtlest manner. The image you should hold before you as your infallible guide is that of a doddering dowager who beholds a lowly maid with a wrinkled apron, or perhaps a water spot on but a single crystal goblet on a dinner table set for 30 of the finest people. "My dear, such things are simply not done. Fix it immediately, and we shall never speak of this again." Your condemnation increases in lethality as it approaches inaudibility.

But those who condemn Trump appear not to be acquainted with the doddering dowager. Their condemnation erupts out of barely controlled hysteria; on many occasions, the hysteria is not controlled at all. Trump has undone them. You would be correct to recall an overused cliche, one which is all too apt in the instant case: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." I am not referring to the condemnations to be heard from the small, self-selected audience that finds its way to the offerings here. If a person is genuinely and consistently opposed to the U.S.'s murderous policies abroad and at home (or, more broadly, to the West's same policies), that person will understandably and legitimately condemn much about Trump and his views.

The spectacle of interest here is the non-stop barrage of raging condemnation offered by those who are full-time members of the political mainstream: those who dependably inform us of the unique, world- and history-altering significance of a presidential election every four years, who refuse to even consider the idea that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a monstrous war crime that unleashed a genocide of historic proportions, who endlessly lecture us about the proper "tone" that we must use whenever we wish to register even the mildest of complaints, who steadfastly ignore the fact that every recent president has been -- and is -- a war criminal, just as any president in the foreseeable future will necessarily be a war criminal as well. What is the source of the condemnations of Trump from all these people? The source cannot be that they view Trump's proposed policies with horror, that they think his policies represent the embrace of evil. While they may differ with Trump on specific prescriptions, the policies they favor proceed from the same premises. In that sense, Trump's policies and theirs are variations on a theme; in many cases, Trump's policies are indistinguishable from those advanced by those who condemn him. We therefore must wonder: What is it about Trump that has caused them to become so unhinged?

And it is beyond dispute that they are unhinged. Take a look at this column from Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy is a useful specimen, and we have dissected his blatherings before. (We have a long memory.) I don't read McCarthy regularly; I may not, unfortunately, be a stranger to self-punishment, but even I have limits. On that occasion in 2007, McCarthy was hysterical about "militant Islam" which "wants everything." In the current piece, he is hysterical about our "sick society," where "the gutter became mainstream." He's also hysterical about "Trump's vulgarity." Considering these two articles penned nine years apart, it appears that hysteria is McCarthy's natural state. Remember the dowager, Andy! Crook your little finger before it's too late!

To assure us that he is an actual human being and not merely a mechanized program that churns out exercises in hysteria at regular intervals, altering only the source of his derangement of the moment, MCarthy insists that, "I'm hardly a prude." I dunno about that. When you're screaming about our culture's "rot" and "deterioration," and the first example you offer to prove your point is Viagra commercials on television, prude may not be the first word to come to mind, but it's certainly the second or third. ("Idiot" is probably the first.) Add to that McCarthy's paragraphs-long frothing concerning Trump's boast about the size of his penis, coupled with McCarthy's refusal to use the word "penis" and his use instead of euphemisms such as "Trump Tower" (that's an improvement?), along with his inclusion of other "jokes" that would embarrass a semi-intelligent teenager ("the 2016 erection election"), and the prude's self-portrait is complete. (There are further examples of McCarthy's prudery, but I wouldn't dream of depriving you of the fiendish delight in discovering them for yourselves.)

McCarthy reveals the phoniness of his alleged outrage at Trump's boorishness when he turns to what he regards as genuinely grave errors in Trump's policy prescriptions. McCarthy begins the final section of his column by stating that "[t]he most egregious part [of the debate], though, was Trump’s vow that, as commander-in-chief, he would compel the finest, best-trained armed forces in the history of the planet to commit war crimes — because there are evil people doing unspeakable things, as if that never happened before." And then, in the very next paragraph, McCarthy states:
For a number of years in the mid-aughts, we debated the merits vel non of waterboarding. I defended the legality of this interrogation method — in the restrained practice of the CIA, not as cruelly administered historically — mostly based on a strict interpretation of the federal torture statute. It was not an endorsement of the tactic in any particular case.
That is: McCarthy defended the legal use of torture, provided it's "restrained" torture. And he certainly wasn't saying, "Go out and torture!" He was only saying: "If you go out and torture, it's perfectly legal. No problem." That is, McCarthy advocates the "legal" commission of war crimes, which aren't actually war crimes according to McCarthy, because they can't be war crimes if we've defined them as "legal." See how simple that is? That boorish Trump is unable to grasp this elementary exercise in logic.

McCarthy goes on to say:
What I most remember about the waterboarding debate, though, is that it was an anguished one. We confronted excruciating choices, aware that we were talking about the outer margin of right and wrong — and burdened, as serious people must be, by the very real possibility that we were on the wrong side of the margin. Most of that happened only eight to ten years ago. Now a man running for the Republican nomination to be president of the United States has repeatedly promised to discourage terrorists by having our soldiers kill their families — women and children — and to liberally use interrogation tactics more extreme than waterboarding. And he’s winning.
Thus, McCarthy tells us what are, in his view, the actual requirements for admission to the hushed garden of civilization. You may advocate war crimes, you may endorse the most barbaric practices (being careful not to endorse their use "in any particular case"), you may advocate and implement policies that necessarily result in the deaths of many thousands (and even of over a million) of entirely innocent human beings -- you may do all of this, and more, as long as you are properly "anguished" about it, as long as you state that you know you are making "excruciating choices."

In other words: you may be a monster, as long as you are an exquisitely well-mannered one. Provided you never raise your voice (except to hurl screaming denunciations at those who lack your unmatched gentility) and always remember to crook your little finger in just the right way, no one will call you a monster. You may be steeped in blood, notably including the blood of countless innocent people, and none of your friends or colleagues will ever remark upon that fact. It's only the polite thing to do, after all. As for McCarthy's feigned horror at the brutality of Trump's proposal -- note how his alleged horror is underlined by McCarthy's italicization of "women and children" -- honest to God, what can one say? How many innocent women and children have been murdered by the policies that McCarthy enthusiastically supported? How many innocent people are being murdered today and will be murdered tomorrow, and will be murdered for all the tomorrows to come, as the direct result of policies that McCarthy endorses? Trump has proposed nothing that differs from U.S. policy in the past, or from what the U.S. does today and will do again tomorrow. But those in the political mainstream have agreed to lie about all of it, and when they speak of these crimes (which, of course, are not crimes when we commit them), they writhe in anguish about these very serious and excruciating matters.

Trump dispenses with the lies and the pretense. He gives us the horror straight and undiluted. Trump does this not only in connection with this example, but with any other example you care to name. The pattern is the same. Trump has ripped off the fig leaf of "civilization" and revealed the mangled corpse that lies beneath. This, I submit, is perhaps the most significant unacknowledged element that explains the mainstream's neverending, ear-splitting denunciations. If people were forced to confront the horror head-on, and if they ever made the connection and realized that the nauseating corpse is now what the United States stands for, who knows what might happen? In time, they might understand how sickening and destructive the reality is, and they might demand that it be changed. On that day, McCarthy and his numerous compatriots would be out of business. The dowager's version of "civilization" would be finished. Trump represents a threat that the political mainstream cannot tolerate, or forgive. From one perspective -- although I acknowledge that the perspective can only be maintained for a brief moment, given the amount of blood that has been spilled, and that is all too likely to be spilled in the future -- the justice is perfect. Trump took them at their word, and he embodies the full reality of their policies. He is a monster -- and they created him. But for them, the monster would not exist.

Although the general public might one day reject the monster if they came to understand these connections, that day is tragically not here now. Many people respond positively to Trump; the most common explanations for Trump's success are his "authenticity" and that he gives voice to the profound anger that many people feel (which most observers acknowledge is largely justified anger). I agree that these two factors are very significant in Trump's success, but not in the way most people conceive them. To explain these dynamics, we must delve deeper into the underlying causes. I will turn to those issues next time.

March 01, 2016

Double Trouble

A very quick emergency bleg. I've been bedridden for most of the past month with horrible health problems. Very sorry for my continued absence. And I thought I had about $400 more than it turns out I actually have for the March rent. So I'm short by that amount.

And then this morning, I'm having all kinds of problems with my computer. Still trying to figure out what's going on. But I no longer have a backup computer. The computer I'm using is it. If anything dire happens to this one, I'm pretty much sunk. I honestly have no idea what I'll do if this computer craps out. But it will be pretty terrible, no doubt about that.

If you can spare anything at all, I would be hugely grateful. I swear I'll make all this (by which, I mean approximately the last year) up to you somehow, someday. If I can just manage to get through this next, hopefully-not-awful-and-world-ending bit...

Many thanks, as always. I'll give you an update on my situation with rent, computer, health, etc. in the next day or two (assuming the computer still works).

My deepest gratitude as always. Now if I can just get this massive anxiety attack to subside...