Sunday, October 09, 2016


Trump without his facade.

At least we seem to have a consensus on one thing: this presidential election is the most miserable to live through of any so far.  How did this squalid wretch of a clown with his schoolboy idea of sex, his total lack of boundaries, and little button features under preposterous hair ever manage to become the leader of the Republicans and potentially the nation?  I never am around people normally, since I sit at this keyboard all day, but in the last few weeks I’ve been getting medical checkups and taking stuff out to the trash roll-off dump, so I’ve talked to a few Trump admirers.  I was incredulous.  I tend to sneer.

Then I thought, so much of my life has been focused on understanding people who are nothing like me, who are a puzzle because their circumstances are so different.  Why am I not trying to figure out the Trumpies.  The big healthy dominant man at the dump said,  “At least Trump tells it like it is.”  It’s clear that Trumpies think that “like it is” means a deplorable, prosperity-killing mess.  They believe that people used to be better, life used to be moral, institutions used to be trustworthy.  

None of these people making these judgements are Native American for obvious reasons, but plenty of rez outsiders believe that the rez and the tribal government has gone to hell.  Insider tribal members might agree but express the same resentment of internal elites, a reflection of the national and global skew of economics.

The focus does seem to be economic, but the sexual revolution plays into it as well.  This big guy who was my one-person sample belongs to the generation that just missed it.  As another man in a distant place once mourned in my presence, “I spent my entire life restraining myself and suppressing desire in order to protect women, and now they don’t even care.  But I’m too old.”  That’s not quite the case, but I can see how it would look that way.  Economics and sex interact in evil ways: sometimes opportunity and sometimes — esp. if one adds disease and drugs just plain death. (Is there a difference between disease and drugs?)  Add massive population displacement due to war and drought — so on.  We saw it coming, but couldn't think what to do.

There’s another factor that we’ve always considered a force for good:  truth, honesty, transparency, “telling it like it is.”  The stripping away of hypocrisy, the invention of protective laws and regulations, turning against trash talk and stigmatizing of “Others.”  This turns out to have been painful and confusing for people who had to change.  Inevitably resenting whoever benefits.  It’s quite true that we “can’t handle the truth.”

John Kennedy’s sexual behavior was worse than Trump’s — though Trump probably imagines his behavior is the same and therefore makes him presidential material — but it appears to have been seduction-based and with a complicit media, though sharing a moll with gangsters is a bit much.  Trump prefers Russians.  But JFK was an educated man with classy manners and high theoretical ideals he could speak of eloquently.  Trump is just a pig, but he makes an ordinary high-school-graduate working stiff look honorable.  Being outclassed makes people resentful.  

Trump makes Howard Stern look classy and Stern knows it, using it to lure Trump out into the swamp, but many people can’t see it, because they have lost their sense of irony, their grip on a reality that makes irony possible because the meaning is in the gap between the cynical assertion and the facts.  No doubt you’ll be able to listen to Trump’s self-deception on actual tapes all you can stand, but I thought Virginia Heffernan’s article was insightful.

There are dozens of typologies going.  Carl Eric Scott says, “Whether Trump wins or loses, the question of what to do about Trumpism is going to be with us for some time.

Other interesting observations are that whatever happens in the election, the Republican party is shattered, probably for most of the rest of the century, and the judgement that the main people who have the guts and integrity to dump Trump at this point are the original and true conservatives.  The others are simply rats who have abandoned their sinking ships and are balancing on the social debris, the Republican cobbled together raft.

I particularly admired this post.  Much of this body of writing has been unfamiliar to me.  I tend to waver back and forth between the psychological and the mythological, which are relevant but rather restricted.  But I don’t think this is unusual.  When the nurse taking my blood sample discovers that I’m a writer, her instant assumption is that I’m writing fiction of some genre.  Nonfiction or any kind of analysis seems to be confined to the editorial page and therefore to be skipped as “just opinion” on the way to the high school athletic scores, the surrogate for small town prestige.  This may have been the result of forbidding religion and politics at the supper table.

But in the UU circles — who are supposed to be the pinnacle of informed, intelligent idealists — awareness is no higher.  Their idea of the Other keeps those unfortunates as objects, but objects of love rather than oppression.  Silk scarf bondage. They don’t “get” the oppression of “love”, esp. snuff-based love.  (Mother Teresa who lets the starving babies die to “save” them rather than using the donations sent to her.)

I look back to my childhood and see the neighborhood Presbyterian minister was a social-climbing racist and homophobe.  I see that my eighth grade English teacher, a young man, was fired for looking down the fronts of the girls’ blouses.  I remember that Portland at the time was such a corrupt sinkhole that Dorothy McColloch Lee had to put on her hat and go on the warpath until, as mayor, she had cleaned up the town.  

As an animal control officer, not a nice lady at the shelter, but someone who went into the streets, I saw things you don’t want to know about.  As a simple clerk in the Nineties, I rode the bus with comatose addicts who had shit themselves and drug peddlers who shot at each other in the downtown streets, bringing down innocent bystanders.  Not long before, my UU church had tried to shelter some of the many displaced kids in town and had been set on fire by one of them.  Pendulums that swing that far come back hard.

I had the idea that my family — though only my mother was religious — was honorable, hard-working, and dependable.  From every angle they showed all the markers of middle-class people: not smoking or drinking or cursing, dressing nicely, speaking well, keeping dependable jobs, sending the new generations to college.  But as I investigated (which was resented and resisted) and began to make connections, the inevitable cracks showed up.  

There was no crime; no one was in prison. But there were madness, alcoholism, feuds, odd children who were dependent all their lives, and the kind of thing that is basically being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  For instance, epidemic swept England in early days, leaving many orphans.  It seemed entirely logical to gather them up and send them to the unpopulated Canadian West with the assumption that families there would accept them.  Some did; some didn’t.  The emotional effects still goad members of the family.  We are risk-averse, private, home-guarding, suspicious of wealth.

That’s me.  But I heard myself say to the blood-drawing nurse,  “I’m way too over-educated for this town.”  She looked at me quickly to see what I meant, but I didn’t try to explain.  Most people here would think I was being arrogant and patronizing.  But I was really reacting to the radical difference in my point of view.  I suppose I’m some sort of post-modern, verging on the post-post-modern.  I still don’t really understand French philosophers, but I keep trying.

Trump’s sexual behavior is all talk; I suspect he’s been impotent for decades.  As for his business acumen, once an institution gets rolling, it is lifted out of the hands of the supposed owner and becomes invested in self-perpetuation of the institution itself.  I doubt that Trump really knows what goes on, much less makes any decisions.  How else would he have time to fool around with frivolous beauty contests and demeaning game shows?  I couldn’t care less if GOP now stands for “Grab Our Pussy.”  (There's a button on the market.)  It’s not much more cynical than calling Repubs the “Grand Old Party.”

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