All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.
The above is but one paragraph from a penetrating and, I suspect, prescient, article by David Remnick in the New Yorker. Even if you are feeling sated from Trump coverage, try to make room for this piece, rich as it is in insight and prediction.
What especially resonated with me in the above was Remnick's observation that Trump's election is a crushing blow to the spirit. I doubt that I am alone in feeling both dazed and demoralized by a demagogue's elevation to the highest office in the U.S. When it happened, I felt that a giant middle finger had been offered to all the things that I and most progressives believe in: education, critical thinking, fairness, acceptance and compassion, to name but five. For about two days I was mired in a kind of existentialist funk, wondering what the point was in continuing to write and advocate for the things I value - none of it seemed anything more than an exercise in vanity, catharsis and futility.
But after two days, my perspective changed.
I realized that to stop, to give in to despair, would be to abdicate to all the things that I despise in my life: racism, intolerance, ignorance and profound, willful stupidity. And so the fight continues.
I will take but one more excerpt from the Remnick article to comment upon:
In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”
We are, of course, already seeing the normalization of Trump, the legitimization, if you will, of a man who inhabits his own universe, at the centre of which is a black hole sucking in values and beliefs that most of us hold as preeminent guidelines to anything approximating a civil society. This normalization would not be possible without the cooperation of what Henry Giroux calls 'a supine media.' A good illustration would be the interview last night on 60 Minutes with the president-elect and his cheering entourage, a.k.a., his family. I did not watch it, but saw a sufficient number of clips touting the interview to get a good sense of it. Soon, some people will be saying, "Trump's not really a bad guy at all."
Another disheartening example of normalization came from a disappointing piece written by Garrison Keilor. While he may not be happy over what the electorate has chosen, his ultimate advice is to take it in stride:
We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.That is something none of us should do. We need, as Michael Moore said the other day, to be resolute and active against all that Trump represents:
“White people, no matter how painful, have a responsibility to reject anybody who stands in front of a camera who spews racism. Who spews sexism, misogyny. Who brags about being a sexual predator. I don’t care what your race is, but especially if you’re white. Because that means that you belong to the race that’s been in power forever. This a country that was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. So you have a special responsibility as a white person to always object to anybody who uses racism, who spews this hatred.”Donald Trump now has something he has always dreamed of: the adoration of many, the attention of all. What he will never have, I hope, is respect from the people who truly matter to our humanity.
I have no illusions about the reach or efficacy of my little soapbox called a blog. But if it helps me, and perhaps a few others, to penetrate the darkness we are mired in, it is worth it. The alternative is just too frightening to contemplate.