Trump, scha·den·freu·de, and righteous anger

I’m working something out.

Until very recently, my Republican (not Conservative) acquaintances have felt perfectly comfortable mocking my liberal friends for wearing masks during the world-outbreak of “the novel coronavirus.” Their contempt fit. It made sense, given that Republicans have allowed Trump to mock disabled Americans; women; indigenous Americans; Latinos; all minorities; immigrants and the countries immigrants fled; overweight women (truly ironic, given his obesity); people whose “genes” might not hold up to the scrutiny of Minnesotan Trumpers; women in professions like journalism.

Republicans let Trump run wild, and eagerly took up his cause. They refused to wear masks. Not wearing masks became, as I recently read, the equivalent of a MAGA hat, a sign of political opposition to “lib-tards.” Grandchildren in arms, mask-less Republicans patiently explained to me that “people die.” They wanted their stores opened! They wanted to Restaurant! Grandchildren not in arms, they screamed at essential grocery store employees about their rights, about produce workers trying to take away freedom. In the privacy of their Facebook worlds, they posted images of Jews being loaded onto trains in Germany with captions that read, “Now I know how this happened.” Because public health = deep-state final-solution.

They promoted Civil War. “Locked and Loaded” read many Twitter feeds, particularly in the South or anywhere David Nunes and Kevin McCarthy stepped foot in California (they don’t come to LA or San Francisco very frequently).

So. Now. Something’s changed. I wonder what.

President Trump has COVID – 19. He and his wife. Potentially, Sean Hannity. Chris Wallace. His primary political opponent. Anybody whose come to his mask-less events. Other legislators. Reporters. Those he ridiculed for caring about other people’s health.

True to form, there has been an avalanche of “appropriate commentary” from liberals who just recently considered him an Enemy of the State. “I wish him a speedy recovery.” “Let’s not engage in schadenfreude — he’s a man, first, and we shouldn’t wish sickness on anyone.”

How moral…and how correct. We shouldn’t…be happy.

Republicans wouldn’t be so moral, I don’t think. Remember when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died? According to the Washington Post, the President’s aides didn’t tell Trump before a rally performance she had passed because they were afraid he would tell his adoring crowds and they would cheer. On my own Facebook feed, one of my acquaintances suggested RBG’s death was an act of God, and wrote “Thank God she’d dead.” If Biden had COVID, Republicans would be prepping stakes to put him out of his misery. Just imagine Tom Cotton carving a stake, and see how real that image is.

But this doesn’t matter, not really. Judging my actions with a Republican yardstick is…not wise. Even though Trump has now been struck by the very disease he discredited, and pointing out that irony in ways subtle and gross would give me much pleasure, there is something stopping me.

What?

Those very people who support this walking disgrace to the Presidency stop me from being happy. This is what I’m working out. His supporters/enablers/complicitors (which is evidently becoming a word) are probably hurting. And maybe scared. They now have existential proof that not taking nature seriously…is a serious mistake. Their icon and idol will probably get better, as he’ll have much better care than Black America has had with respect to COVID, but that doesn’t compute in Red America right now. It hurts to have your gods de-godded. As Gustave Flaubert said in Madame Bovary, you have to be careful in dealing with golden icons; the gilt surface rubs off very easily.

Consider Trump rubbed clean. That’s got to hurt those who trusted the plating.

Which is why scha·den·freu·de is wrong. The word means, literally, “harm-joy.” Taking joy in some else’s suffering. Let’s be clear here: schadenfreude rarely occurs outside an atmosphere of hypocrisy; getting happy at the suffering of an ethical person doesn’t usually make much sense. But “watching,” say, the President of Liberty University get strung up in a sexual threesome (ooops, audienced twosome) makes sense when you remember that the Falwells have been carving moral judgement into bludgeons for decades.

Honestly, there is hypocrisy here in Trump’s case. There are lies and misinformation, and Trump seems to have been felled by his own world-view (or weltanschauung): he’s a man, men are strong, etc., etc. But I am not happy he has been infected, and not because he matters to me. Consonant with public Republican pronouncements, not every human being matters; remember, they were the ones who want to storm-open the economy because “PEOPLE DIE ANYWAY.”

No. I am not happy Trump is sick because I still have some affection for some of his supporters. I don’t want to see them in pain. I’m working through this. But as it stands, schadenfreude is out. I hope Trump gets better. It does feel wrong to want anyone to suffer, even those people who have caused so much suffering. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m working through it.

But on another point, I’m crystal clear. While I’m not happy he’s sick, I am very very angry that he has caused so much suffering, reflected rather than assuaged our country’s divisions, given shout-outs to ProudBoys even as he mocks a candidate for wearing a big mask. Trump doesn’t deserve my joy that he has a potentially deadly disease. I know what it’s like to have people look on disease and wish it on others (Republicans during the AIDS crisis); I never want to cause that kind of pain, and a small part of me still believes in redemption.

That is where anger comes in. Trump does deserve my anger. He has done horrific things, many of them to people who cannot fight back. He deserves the anger of a nation he lied to. He deserves our anger for becoming an icon of modern civil war. (Make no mistake, Republicans: he is not a mirror, as you claim; he is mirroring America’s divisions, and like a funhouse game blowing us out of proportion.)

My anger is healthy. Anger is necessary. Anger is redemptive. I’m angry this stupid man was allowed to inflict his moronic ego on the nation, which means I’m also angry at Trump’s enablers. I wish him a speedy recovery. But if I’m honest, I wish him that recovery so that I still have the chance to make him — and his supporters — pay for what they have done to the country.

Trump’s illness is a chance to remember our humanity. His recovery is a chance to exact justice. That won’t happen unless my liberal friends remember that it is completely necessary to be both humane toward and angry at a man who got burned by his own wildfire.

Victory

“Stand back, stand by.”

I am about to know

I have loam and rock for a back
and blue-grey sky for a head

honor an orange sun yellow
and gaze purple into ink

rest in love
as I have done all these years,
wake to heartbeats
and sleep with all sighs.

Then 

when unripe Boys rape in dirt
and shoot dark;

masturbate dry pricks
blood-smear voided genitals

kill this body
gorge on dull meat
eat our kind
burn our memory;

then

my arms Earth and Sky
my companion-Sun
my love this man

envelop me
pierce this hell
carry me home.

More poetry HERE.

Trump’s Audience and the RNC

One thing I think is true: nobody spends money on putting a message out into the world unless there is an audience to hear it. (Except for poetry writers, and even we want someone to read our words.)

So Trump’s convention is not spitting into the wind. It has purpose. And its purpose is connected to an intended audience.

Another thing I think is true:  People with nothing to lose are the most dangerous people in the room (or in a nation).  People who have nothing can’t have anything taken away from them.  You can’t hold anything over their heads — which might feel like freedom, but it produces something else:  anarchy.  

This is where my thoughts converge.

Trump knows his audience. It is a clan that has nothing to lose, nothing to hold up as their own, so they don’t mind napalming civilization.  Many Americans not in Trump’s camp don’t want anarchy because we’ve worked hard to make something of ourselves and don’t want that blown up.  We have houses and bank accounts and loved ones we care about.  It’s why I can support Black Lives Matter and hate looting.  I have something to lose, something I don’t want to see destroyed. 

Not Trump’s militia — and he knows this.  Trumpers don’t care if the nation catches fire because they don’t have anything that can burn.  Nothing important to them. They want the fire. It’s Holy Fire anyway, right?  God coming to strip away…everything they don’t have. 

What I think what we’re seeing in the Republican National Convention (for those watching, that is) is the activation of people who have nothing to lose.  I think the Republican party has found a way to speak to failed, small men and women in a way that makes their failure and their smallness the fault of others, and then encourages them to actively hate anyone who might challenge that perspective.  Or say, “Hey man, it’s not the democrat’s fault.  It’s yours.” 

If I didn’t care about the effects of Trump’s rhetoric, I’d say his course of action is brilliant. I’d say he’s filled a void in the lives of people defined by emptiness. It’s stupid to think the RNC’s message isn’t effective; it’s being heard by a very important audience, loud and clear — those who want to  think they have honor even as they blame everyone for their lives.  It’s saying out loud what they’ve longed to hear.

I think it will work.  The problem, of course, will be that once those who have nothing to lose have been activated (Trump’s audience), it will be impossible to govern them (napalm is hard to direct).  They will, eventually, go after their makers; it’s in their nature. It’s why dogs that kill have to be put down — once they’ve tasted blood, and all that. The only question to me is how much will have to be destroyed before they turn on themselves.

(Originally published in The Washington Post)

This is real: Bern-ers take their marbles and go home

A list — see if it makes sense:

  • 2000 — a muzzled Clinton/Ralph Nader
  • 2008 — Obama
  • 2012 — Obama
  • 2016 — Sanders
  • 2020 — Sanders

Two observations, and a prediction:

  • a Democratic presidential candidate cannot — and rightfully cannot — win a general election without the support of African Americans;
  • millennial Sanders supporters, having constructed purity politics/cancel culture, will invalidate the African American vote by declaring the election rigged;
  • Trump will win re-election.

A question:

Do those pushing Sanders realize that the reason Trump won is because the Democratic vote was essentially split between realists and purists? Just as it was for George Bush Sr. in 1992 (Ross Perot)? As it was for Al Gore (Ralph Nader taking more than enough votes from Gore in Florida to make a recount necessary)? As it was in 2016, when Sanders’ supporters ignored his feeble attempt at pacification and “decided not to participate”?

My answer? Sadly, no. They’ll just keep yelling “Establishment!” because they think it means something more than the MY WAY! purity temper-tantrum it is. They have seen the light — and if they can’t have their light, it’s game over. Who cares if African American voters — the single-most important voting demographic in American politics — are lining up behind Biden. “Establishment!” Who cares if Biden is drawing support from troops-on-the-ground in battleground states. “It’s rigged!”

Bern-ers — Sanders’ most Trump-like supporters — are attracted to him because he resembles them in a very important way: he will not compromise. He’s pure. The RealDeal. He sees, the world be damned. It doesn’t matter that “Medicare for All” is DOA for Senior Citizens who will (rightfully) see in the expansion of benefits a danger to their own. It doesn’t matter that Fidel Castro quarantined HIV/AIDS patients or created conditions so dire that Cubans would rather take their chances on the open ocean than remain in Cuba. Center-left Democrats and Republicans who see in Biden someone they could vote for, someone of measured authority? So what. Sanders and his supporters see the world the way they see the world, and nothing — no argument, no Florida Democrat upheaval, no appeal to the raised voices of Others — can change that perspective.

This sort of ideological purity is usually seen in parents looking at their newborn, cooing that their offspring is the pinnacle of human potential. Their myopia is understandable, and easily forgiven. Nobody expects a parent (at least in the first two years) to admit their child is, say, ugly. Or not-quite-the-brightest. It’s probably why we’ve survived as a species, this sort of blind adoration. Sadly, however, some (many?) millennials believed their parents — and only their parents — and continue to see themselves as flawless arbiters of the good and the right. Their purity, their blessedness, has deep roots in those planned communities of which they are a part, in social and educational arrogance; having little experience with being wrong, Bern-ers — here, mainly white millennials — cannot admit opposing thought because, first, few have had to actually encounter a world beyond their control (play-dates, anyone?), and second, why should they? They are, after all, paragons of virtue and intelligence, far above those low-lifes who would “compromise” their principles for electoral victory.

The consequence of such intellectual elitism/real-world ignorance is, of course, a massive blind spot: a sort of infantile fascism, founded (just like in history) on the twin pillars of innocence and arrogance, that can’t recognize itself as fascism because, well, “we’re for universal health care”…as they declare “the process” political and cancel American democracy-in-action — or anything else they don’t agree with.

Get ready for Four More Years. One way or another, Bern-ers will cancel the African American vote — which, again, is essential to a Democratic win — regardless of what happens in the primaries. The predicted landscape: another conservative Supreme Court Justice; the ending of the ACA (just watch — this is the reason the deficit is being fueled: soon, a call for “fiscal responsibility” will overtake the call for affordable care); and the further erosion of the important line between church and state. Oh, and reproductive choice? Are you kidding?

Not quite the kind of Bern I’d like.

(A caveat: we could always hope for a recession. Then Democrats could run Jill Stein — another Green Party purists — and win.)


Some interesting reading:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/04/these-myths-died-super-tuesday/