(Image by Michael Vadon)
We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
– H.L. Mencken
Has anyone ever considered that maybe a Trump presidency is exactly what this country deserves?
They say that hauntings are the result of past trauma, passions accumulated through the years and then released in a catharsis of spectral manifestation. If that is true, I would like to submit this as an explanation for the remarkable, yet not entirely incredible, success of The Donald’s presidential campaign thus far: as a nation, we are being haunted by the ghost of ourselves.
Trump, as a political thinker (if such is an accurate term for the regurgitative extrospection he exercises on camera) is the immaculate culmination of the phenomenon known ’round the world as “the ugly American.” He is our national id, as Jon Stewart (may his memory increase) so aptly noted after the initial announcement. He is everything we want, but are too afraid of social sanctions, to say. Since Trump can afford to ignore those sanctions, he is rapidly becoming a collective escape valve for our inner sociopathy–the means whereby we dump our boiler, lest the Overlook explode around us, blanketing us all in a cloud of radioactive Fox-planation…
But this is nothing some pundit or other hasn’t already said. The salient point here is simply this: we asked for it.
I recently asked a Dutch friend what he thought about our two-party political system. It does not, he said, allow for nuance: two parties mean two sides to any given issue, black and white, right and wrong (interchangeable according to the views of the speaker). Yes, we have “third parties” and “independents,” but I think Ralph Nader’s political career is indicative of those groups’ viability. Two parties, two teams, two ideological armies locked in rhetorical stalemate.
Add to this the fact that politics is considered a “career,” and that anytime someone dares to mention term limits they are immediately shouted down (by the very people who spend all their time complaining about “imperial presidencies”), and it’s a wonder we’ve made it as far as we have as a nation. It’s not democracy; it’s pure dumb luck.
Given the incessant pissing contest in which we’ve engaged the whole world since the 1950s (at least), it was really only a matter of time before somebody ended up pissing on us. I’ve never quite figured out the dismay with which people react to terrorist threats and/or attacks on US soil; of course they are a bad thing, an evil thing, but to expect anything else is simply naive. One cannot spend his days tossing bombs over the back fence without assuming that, at some point, his neighbor’s gonna toss one back.
We have rested too long on imaginary laurels. We police the world but consider ourselves accountable to no one. We are not the watchdog; we are the bully. And we worry now that Trump’s foreign policy will alienate potential allies? That cat, my friends, done got out the bag.
Ultimately, we can’t talk productively amongst ourselves, which means we can’t talk credibly to our “allies” (defined, lately, as “whoever we aren’t bombing today”). And underneath a thin veneer of cosmopolitan globalism, a strong current of pre-1940s isolationism still flows: there is a fine line between exceptionalism and “go-fuck-yourselves,” and Donald Trump seems determined to erase it, one idiotic tweet at a time. The longer we insist that we don’t need the world (that we, in fact, are the world, Coca-Cola and all), the more likely it becomes that the rest of the world will realize it doesn’t really need us at all. At that point, it won’t matter who’s in the White House, because we’ll all be in the dog house.
Perhaps what we as a polity need is a swift kick to the groin, as a reminder of our unmitigated hubris. And what better stand-in for Uncle Sam’s crotch than good ol’ D.T.? And it’s an honest mistake: he is a bit of a dick.
If the prospect of Trump in the Oval doesn’t get us to sit up and take notice; if The Donald doesn’t inspire us to re-engage one another in some sort of peaceful and constructive way; if we continue to be so deeply inspired by idiocy, well, then…I give you…
When we can’t pretend we aren’t who we are