Monday, January 18, 2021

Bidding No Trump

Caligula (photo: Louis Le Grand)

If you believe in Hegel’s world-historical individuals, otherwise known as the great man theory of history, you might cotton to the idea that Donald Trump literally changed the world, in this case for the worse. Countervailingly FDR could be said to have changed the world for the better, giving us the New Deal and the blueprint for all the entitlements that gunslingers like Trump want to do away with. Now Trump is plainly a product as well as a shaper of history. You couldn’t have a Trump, if you didn’t have a base. You couldn’t have had Hitler unless you had the conditions of Weimar Germany following the Versailles Treaty that left a large class of unemployed workers and army veterans, the lumpenproletariat (like some of the ones arrested for the attack on the capitol) who demonstrated an almost avian ability to tweet Sieg Heil in chorus. But let’s put the onus on Trump particularly around the subject of coronavirus since despite all the death, it’s the first disease in history that's been regarded as a political conspiracy.Trump’s mantra was “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.” After the election, Covid would disappear. But that’s not what happened. In fact Covid spiked. In the course of serving up the idea that Covid was created solely to foil his attempts at reelection, Trump was responsible for a campaign that did to the human race what the Ice Age did to dinosaurs—well almost. At least life has been forever changed. Once Americans are vaccinated life will not return to normal. “We are giving our children a different world,” one parent commented. Trump may not have been able to move mountains, but he will have moved cities, if boarded up storefronts and vacated skyscrapers (some with the Trump imprimatur) are the result.  "No Trump" is a bid in bridge, but it's also what a cry of protest. A destructive historical force is like a vector powered by inertial force. Then you have someone like Donald Trump. “The rest,” as Hamlet says, “is silence.”

Friday, January 15, 2021

Ford to City

The frontpage headline of the of the print edition of the January 9th Times was “HOUSE PREPARES ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT.” “IMPEACHED” in double-sized characters was the headline on the morning of January 14th and below it, “TRUMP, AFTER INCITING RAMPAGE IN CAPITOL, IS FIRST PRESIDENT TO FACE 2ND SENATE TRIAL. In between on January 8th the headline in the print edition was CALLS GROW TO REMOVE TRUMP AS U.S. OFFICIALS HEAD FOR EXIT.” In the old days before 24-hour cable news, headlines carried the freight. On December 7, l941, The Times headline was “JAPAN ATTACKS PEARL HARBOR.” “THE WAR IN EUROPE IS ENDED! SURRENDER IS UNCONDITIONAL; V-E WILL BE PROCLAIMED TODAY; OUR TROOPS ON OKINAWA GAIN” was the headline of May 6, 1945. “MEN WALK ON MOON” was the headline July 21, 1969. Remember the newsreels in movie theaters, the newsboys on the streets with the iconic “Extra, Extra?” Now it’s "Breaking News." “CNN projects that Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election and will become the 46th president of the United States,” Wolf Blitzer announced on November 6, 2020. If you get your Times delivered, you intake these stories when you open the front door and look down at your doormat. That's the old-fashioned way of watching the world turn. Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message,” If you got The Daily News on October 29, l975, you read “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.”


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Donald Trump in Nighttown

Zero Mostel in Ulysses in Nighttown (photo: Carl Van Vechten)

Do you set tyrants out to pasture like you do an aging cow or horse, who has outlived its usefulness? Imagine Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban and Putin all chewing their cud. It’s reminiscent of the old joke about reincarnation where the guy who reports that in his new life, composed solely of fucking and eating, he’s a bull in Minnesota. When you read theological tracts about the next life, it’s never clear what the relationship is between a person’s past life and what he becomes when he’s reborn. For instance, what would a born again Christian be reborn as? It’s easy to say that Mitch McConnell or Lindsay Graham would be snakes or that Donald Trump's rage would be frozen in the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno, but perhaps Trump’s fate is destined to be more prosaic. When the Mossad finally caught up with Eichmann, he was living in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires under the alias Ricardo Klement. Whatever changes he did or didn’t evince, he certainly was no longer the commandant of a concentration camp. In the afterlife Trump and Putin will both be relieved of their status and power. Imagine the famous rower Charon, pulling up to the funeral procession of Donald Trump and ushering the once outspoken political figure onto his boat. True to form, Trump would undoubtedly utter, “this is the Styx” as he boarded.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


postcard with Pied Piper (1902)

Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative. He's what Chris Cuomo has termed a "Retrumplican." In fact, he’s a revolutionary who’s out to destroy the established order. Remember that both Mussolini and Hitler were scarcely different than Stalin. Fascism and Leninism were tantamount in their dismissing of the due process and constitutionalism associated with democratic institutions. The price paid for the dictatorship of the proletariat turned out to be individual liberty. Hitler, Mussolini Stalin (and now Trump) were all interested in the ends. At a certain point what these ends are became murky in all their cases. So what civilization was left with was a despot's millenarian ideology. In the case of Trump, this amounts to little more than a cult of personality.The famous Santayana quote need not be repeated but the question it poses is still confounding. What kind of psychic trauma makes different generations of people continue to follow the latest Pied Piper leading them to imbibe the  delusional hallucinogen of undefined hope? It's ironical because Trump has done nothing and offered nothing for a so-called base that's apparently still willing to die and in some cases kill for him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Trumpty Dance

Is there anything to be learned from catastrophic events? What would the world be like without Antietam, Pearl Harbor, the siege of Leningrad or most recently 9/11? Let’s say that the sound was turned down just enough for Hitler, Stalin and Osama bin Laden to have stayed in business. You can institutionalize repression and even murder, if there are trade-offs and a certain tampering down of the initial insults to humanity. That’s precisely what Trump did in his equivocal response towards the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by MBS. Luckily most tyrants have a built-in self-destruct mechanism. Just the other day Trump evidenced such behavior by taking his campaign one step too far and inciting a riot in congress. Joseph McCarthy met his match when he challenged the army, Hitler when he neglected the lesson of Napoleon’s defeat described in War and Peace by attacking Russia in the middle of winter. A violent attack on Congress is an unthinkable nightmare, but let’s imagine what would happen if Trump and his allies were a bit smarter. In
 Man in the High Castle and The Plot Against America both Philip K. Dick and Philip Roth imagine alternate universes where the allies weren’t successful in rising up against the axis powers. Let’s say you had a Republican controlled House of Representatives along with the present Republican controlled senate. Let’s say there was no attack on congress. The unimaginable might very well have occurred. The majority of Americans could have voted for Biden. The electors could have presented their ballots and Congress could have failed to confirm the election of a new president. No one wants apocalypse, but it’s like green gases. You can keep letting them build up, but one day they’re going to take their revenge. Would you rather be poisoned to death slowly or get really sick and have the chance to nip the infection in the bud?

Monday, January 11, 2021

DJT or How I Learned to Love the Bomb

Now that Trump’s Twitter account has been closed down, will he drop the bomb? Trump is unstable and dangerous. There's been a good deal of concern about his possessing the code necessary to ignite a nuclear holocaust. In all probability there would be mutiny on the part of the Joint Chiefs if Trump were ever unhinged enough to invite Armageddon. And BTW who would he unleash it upon? The Russians who were the enemy way back in Dr. Strangelove days are his allies. It’s unlikely NATO, or in particular Paris, where the Climate Accord was signed, would finally be his targets. Where would Melania get her outfits? Maybe it would be New York whose Attorney General Letitia James is lying in wait (along with DA Cyrus Vance) for his departure from office. Or perhaps Scotland, where he owns a golf club, Turnberry, from which he was recently banned--ostensibly due to Coronavirus restrictions (there had been rumors Trump might be planning a golf outing there at the time of the inauguration). But forgetting a literal bomb, he's going to need an outlet.That's where the problem lies. Eventually he may unite his base, cause the secession of Palm Beach from the United States and rename it Trumptymania. Or he'll simply team up with right wing media outlets like Newsmax and Parler to create TBC, Trump Broadcasting Network which would be notable for its reruns. However until he has a plan, he'll be like a teapot that's whistling loudly, ready to boil over at any moment. CNN reported he was upset about the renovations of his private compound at Mar-a-Lago which were coordinated by Melania. Don’t be surprised if you hear reports about domestic abuse once the Trumps vacate The White House.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Corona and MAGA Virus Sweep the Country

There are two diseases affecting America today Coronvirus and MAGA. You have read about the contagious forms of Coronavirus which originated in England and South Africa and are now beginning to show up on these shores. On January 6
th Americans were horrified to see the new strain of MAGA which finally unleashed itself with full force on the capitol. MAGA rallies presided over by Trump were always derisive affairs in which the president created racist and sexist soubriquets to fit all his perceived enemies.There were, in addition, numerous incidents where MAGA inspired cavalcades of cars terrorized highways and in one occasion even a Biden campaign bus. But the newest strain of MAGA, the one that was evidenced at the capitol (were windows were broken, with members of congress fleeing for their lives), seems not only more contagious, but also  immune to the vaccine of coalition which President Elect Biden is attempting to inject into the body politic. If you watched the events as they unfolded on TV, you may find yourself beginning to suffer a kind of PTSD as the reality of what transpired really begins to become clear. At first television's six degrees of separation offered the viewing audience a new sport. MAGA protestors v. Capitol Police. It was the first real competition to Netflix series like The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown and Babylon, Berlin which have also become a kind of contagion. It was almost entertaining to see thugs out of Clockwork Orange sitting behind Nancy Pelosi’s desk or presiding over the senate in the very chair Mike Pence had occupied minutes before. Then as the reality set in along with images which included a protestor wearing a Camp Auschwitz hoody and another sporting a Confederate flag, the realization that if congress wasn’t safe from state sponsored hooligans like the Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers, you could hardly feel safe on the roads where traveling Trump roadshows are a constant threat or even in your home. Both Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi’s residences have been vandalized. The new MAGA virus is particularly deadly to minorities. The images of crowds of looters breaking down what is perhaps the most sacred American landmark was horrifyingly reminiscent of both the Reichstag fire (February 27, 1933) and Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938).