“What happens to a [Trumper’s] dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?
–modified Langston Hughes
The 4 more years dream of the Trump coalition of red-hatted truckers, greasy bikers, tough guys, rough gals, stock traders, rich pricks and uninformed uncles all over America was squashed with Biden’s November victory. Yet, leave it to those puckered-up Trumpet minions to snag shame from the jaws of defeat by literally invading our Capitol. Faced with the prospect of the dread label of LOSER, Trump pushed all his slimeball chips to the center and effectively tweeted: “All in. Election was rigged. Support me or else YOU lose.” Trump claimed the election he WON was rigged, so of course the one he lost was, too. So afraid of losing, so afraid at the mocking chants of “Loooser, Loooser” he’d hear in his tortured nightmares coming from his dead father, Trump decided to burn it down.
So, why did this never happen during Obama’s time. The whackos hated him too. Why did a TV showman with baggy suits bring out the crazy? It’s a question we’ve all been struggling with and will fill tomes on library shelves one day. For me, I have a theory. I believe that beginning with the 2008 recession and the decades long loss of meaningful social contacts, coupled with politics changing into a pseudo-sport of winning and losing and the drastic growth of income inequality created the lightning in the bottle that is DJT. The unity of 9/11 lasted a few years, but was completely erased with two unpopular wars, the 2008 crash and Obama’s election. Americans chose sides: coastal or central; red or blue. We stopped agreeing on what was best and could only debate who was worse. That’s a longer story for another time, back to Insurrection Day 2021.
The senators were clutching their pearls metaphorically and literally yesterday. Shock at the “insurrectionists” (a generous title as insurrection implies a plan, but they seemed more interested in selfies and flag waving) who barged into the Capitol must have had those ivory tower eggheads screaming foul before hiding their jewelry behind locked doors. Republicans will say, “This is not us.” Democrats will say, “This is Trump’s fault.” They’re both right and both wrong. This is America. America was regrettably and awkwardly promised to the white man from the beginning. Black men were in chains; women were in the kitchen; white men were leading from inside the castle surrounded by a moat. It’s unnecessary to argue this fact. It’s not an alternative fact. Until one hundred years ago, women couldn’t vote. Until ~60 years ago, black people faced sinister danger when voting. Throughout our history, lynching, rape, inequality, fear, public policy, money, and all the various structures of repression dug that white man’s moat a little deeper and a little wider. Paraphrasing Orwell: All men are created equal, though some men are more equal.
I’ve heard the American Dream described as a waiting line, check the boxes, wait in line and you’ll get your decent-paying job and house with picket fence, two-car garage and front lawn. White men checking boxes and waiting in the same line their parents did started seeing “minorities” (i.e. women, people of color, immigrants) getting bumped ahead of them. Unfortunately, nobody is actually moving forward. The line is static. Nobody is moving, yet the line keeps getting longer. The line is not a line of meritocracy (gov’t by ability), but oligarchy (gov’t by few), kleptocracy (gov’t through corruption), and especially plutocracy (gov’t by money).
That line is not moving because you need money to get out of the line. What jobs can get you out of that line? Doctor, lawyer, finance? Those jobs require lengthy, advanced degrees with non-guaranteed career returns. It can take 15-20 years or more to repay school loans. In the best case, you get a related job out of college and work your bones raw, take a week off every year, wearing your socks thin as you pay down that education. Now, you’re around 50, kids go to school, time to start paying new loans until you’re 70. And that’s if you’re lucky! I read that top universities could cost around or above six figures by 2040 when those little babies start off to the Ivy League. Education has become a gamble and only available to those who have the time to dedicate to such goals.
Most people will spend half to 2/3 of their income on rent and rent gives no home equity. You’re one or two missed payments away from being a homeless family. There’s no savings. 40% of Americans couldn’t pay for a $400 emergency. That uncertainty will multiply and morph into distrust of the system that keeps you so uncertain. Money can’t buy love; money can’t buy happiness; but money can buy groceries! Why are people so taken to Trump, so religiously, zealously, dogmatically, stubbornly devoted to that pompadour of pomposity, that spray-tanned monstrosity, that clinking, clanking, clattering collection of Caligulous junk? (I think I invented a new adjective: Caligulous—as in similar to or derivative of Caligula, the Roman emperor notorious for psychopathic and sordid behavior.) Why? Trump seemingly, purportedly doesn’t have to worry about money. He has for years been a punch line for “rich person.” He was what poor people imagine rich people are—gold apartments, private jet, model wives, small hands, plenty of hair spray, limousines and Plaza hotels. What we don’t see is the bankruptcies, the unpaid laborers, the ugly divorces, the sexual predation, the flab under that suit, the emptiness of never actually laughing.
Seriously, to put aside all the terrible things (which there are many) of Trump, have you ever seen him laugh at someone else’s joke? I can remember Obama, Bush, (Bill) Clinton laughing. I would argue all of them have a good sense of humor, maybe Reagan too. Jimmy Carter probably tells cute Bible jokes, but you could probably get him to giggle with a peanut pun. Something is WRONG with you if you’ve never laughed at anything but your own jokes. You take yourself and all the human foibles too seriously!
Well, that rich man who’s never laughed at anything, who historically deuced on anyone who didn’t Yes-Man everything he said, who is plainly a narcissistic psychopath, who insults disability, war service, femaleness, men without model wives, truth and fashion was our president for four years. He wasn’t loved because of charm, but in fact, the opposite of charm—repellence. Those line-waiters who understand that they can’t afford to live in America anymore, expect Trump will pay their rent if they love him enough or at least just evict their Mexican neighbors with a better car. They’re not naïve enough to think old tight-fist Scrooge McTrump will give them money. They just think he will deport millions of workers, thereby creating a demand for jobs that could bring back the 1950’s wages coupled with 1950’s prices and the surety that a man can support his family by working no matter how dumb, racist, ignorant or drunk he is. There’s a lot there innit?
People (not only men) should be able to support a family through honest, hard work. Wages should match prices. Immigrants should go through proper vetting. Trump is a scoundrel. America is great but has lots of difficult history. But, we know the world is an imperfect place and screws fall out all the time. That repellence that a certain sector of America has been feeling directed at them, well, ol’ Trumpy told them he feels the same! He doesn’t like all this PC culture, low-flow showers, weak flush toilets, tax the rich, take care of poor people nonsense
Here’s what I saw with those rebels in the Capitol. Hopelessness. They are hopeless for believing in Trump to begin with. That man is a drunk clown’s left-handed sketch of a president. But more, they are hopeless in both present and future. They are hopeless in both body and spirit. The guy in the Speaker of the House’s chair knows he will never sit there legitimately. The guy stealing the podium will never give a speech to an attentive audience of his peers. The guy screaming so hard spit was flying out of his face doesn’t feel the same anger for being fired from the hardware store, because he knows he was stealing sandpaper and nails.
Politics has done nothing but call them deplorable, given jobs to China and still not fixed that pothole on Main Street! They wanted a change; they got a change. But Trump only offered window dressing with empty shelves. He’s like a North Korean grocery store. Lots to advertise on the signs, but nothing to sell.
The epidemic of COVID is horrible and stultifying. But what about the epidemic of loneliness, despair and opiate abuse? These people are to be pitied for their beliefs and what it led them to do in storming their Capitol. They should be pitied for their insistence and devotion to a con-man. They needed something in their lives. They needed community. They found a phony who pretends to love them. They found a way to fight those quixotic windmills. What could be more exhilarating than to be in a self-identified righteous mob and slaying imaginary dragons?
Social networks are now mostly online echo chambers instead of being personal and challenging relationships. Those hopeless souls careening along the plush carpets and mahogany-paneled walls, blustering about among the busts of yesteryear seemed to be subliminally screaming, “Whaddyathink ya better than me?”
Nobody will condone the doofus donutheads who pulled a B & E on America’s Capitol. However unjustified their method of acting out, inequality and indignation will do that! Look at the French Revolution. At one point bread cost half a month’s wages! Since we know that some individuals are always “more equal” and have “more bread” than others, we need to figure out some way to boost the assets of the less equal folk. Although it is a slippery slope trying to level the playing field, let’s start with everyone having a guaranteed roof over their head and enough bread to eat. Someone screamed in that craziness yesterday, “Make the guillotine great again.” What will he be screaming (or doing?) if he is not just angry about an election, but hungry too?
I may be giving too much credit to the gaggle of wannabe goose-steppers. I may be projecting my own worries about America onto them. I may not understand the true depth of cult-thought that Trump has created. I may be wrong about a lot, but here is a quote from The New Yorker: “Our congressmen should be shitting their pants. They need to fear, because they’re too posh. Their jobs are too cush, and their personal gain has taken priority over their sense of duty. Maybe they all started off with a good heart, you know, but power corrupts.” If they mean everyone, all senators, whether with an R or D next to their name, it can’t be about politics anymore! How can the party be corrupt but the leader be faultless? How can you slow the echo of “rigged election” among the chat rooms? How can we actually make America great if we can’t agree on what great means and who gets to enjoy this greatness?
Again, from The New Yorker: “a bald man in a white shirt and Trump-style red tie, shouted into a megaphone: ‘Our world is broken, our system is broken.’” World, system. Those are HUGE things to be broken, or even to feel as though they are broken. Is it a broken world because Trump lost? Is it a broken system because Trump lost unfairly? Is the broken world their own world extrapolated in their mind upon the country as a whole? Is the world’s system broken because they believe the horrible conspiracy stories? What would you do if you actually, truly believed, or even just willed yourself to believe in the Pizzagate where a DC ping pong/pizza shop kept child sex slaves chained in the basement whose blood was milked for the purpose of maintaining Democratic bigwigs’ skin tight and genitals robust? What would you do if you actually, truly believed Joe Biden won by cheating? I think we are seeing the first glimpse of what some people might do. What if they had brought more guns? What if they had brought more bombs? What if the police killed hundreds of the mob? What if they keep up this attack for the next four years?
The Simpsons has an episode in season 5 where Bart wins an elephant via a radio giveaway. The elephant naturally runs wild and nearly ruins the town until they find a sanctuary for Stampy the elephant to live. The zookeeper, when trying to explain to Marge and Lisa about animal behavior says, “Animals are a lot like people. Some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life or been mistreated, but like people, some of them are just, jerks.”