Utterly (not) impressed

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of things back home in the US. Being on another side of the world means that news doesn’t travel slower, it just happens largely overnight and greets me in the morning. It’s as if I’m on a ship reading the news bulletins from back home, slowly drifting further away from what I knew. Or maybe the country I left is drifting further out to the proverbial sea in relation to how I knew it? Regardless, it’s a strange feeling.

Letter from wartime by Ed Simon sums it up pretty well:

As the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy wrote, “Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?/Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?/Because the barbarians are coming today.” We’re beyond the point of disagreeing without being disagreeable, the era of going high when they go low is as chimerical as it ever was. There is something different in the United States today, and I know that you feel it; something noxious, toxic, sick, diseased, and most of all decadent. The wealthiest nation on Earth with such iniquity, where pandemic burnt—still burns—through the population while the gameshow host emperor froths his supporters into bouts of political necromancy. There is no legislation today because it increasingly feels like this is not a nation of laws, but something lower and uglier.

The thought of where things are going in terms of concrete policies is hard for me to agree with, but I can appreciate that there are different approaches to problems and am not firmly on one side or the other from that perspective (definitely socially liberal, probably more fiscally conservative). That being said, policies and laws should be vehemently argued over, tested and revised to avoid injustice and all the other bad shit that can happen as a result. We can agree to have different beliefs about where we go.

But what seems impossible and unbearable to me is the way things are going in terms of how we all are acting, or pretending to act, as we do this. It’s easy to pick on one-leader as the cause of all of this, and I’m not giving any pardons here, but he’s just the tip-of-the-spear of something bigger, a representative.

A friend recently told a group of us the following when asked if he’s truly a Trump supporter:

…overall I do like Trump. I like his America first policies, I like his ability to move the wheels of government and accomplish things, I like that he’s an outsider, and I am utterly impressed by his accomplishments as POTUS both domestically and on the world stage.

This is a friend that I admire for his integrity and intelligence. He is knowledgeable in domains that I am functionally illiterate. He is someone who I have known for a long time and who has stood up for me and is a stand up guy himself. But it’s evident that I completely don’t understand him.

I don’t understand what he means by being impressed by accomplishments, but I’ll readily admit I’m also not familiar enough with the details to debate claims of political and economic significance. That doesn’t bother me really. What I don’t understand, and what really troubles me, is that these are accomplishments made through overt and public acts of bullying and fear: demeaning the disabled, degrading women, and refusing to denounce racial hate, to name a few.

When I say that there is a decadence, I mean it in the fullest sense of that word. Not in the way that some reactionaries mean, always with their bad faith interpretations; nor exactly in the manner that my fellow leftists often mean, enraptured as they are to that ghost called “materialism.” Rather I mean a fallenness of spirit, a casual cruelty that if I were a praying man I’d identify as being almost devilish. (Letter from wartime, Ed Simon)

Is this OK? Are you going to be proud to talk about this with your kids one day and said that was “my guy” and this was something I encouraged? Would you want to read this book of tweets to your grandkids?

Please don’t mistake this for being a sore loser, nor being oblivious to the misdeeds and ugliness perpetuated by both parties. I just would like to understand this: If we’re willing to look the other way and say those things are ok, as long as you get things done, where is the limit?

7 responses

  1. I’ve seen enough videos of kids at rallies screaming the same things as their parents that I’m firmly convinced there’s plenty of people that have no problem talking about “their guy” to their kids. I have seen some conservatives say they wish he was more restrained with his tweets. Like everything else there’s a spectrum.

    1. Yeah, I believe it Alex.

  2. There were a couple of things this article triggered for me Nick: (1) The first thing was our experience leaving the United States for four years to live in England. What happened was unexpected for us but not for most ExPats – we gained an appreciation for how decadent the United States is – the pervasiveness of excessive greed and inequality (and our complicit role in it). Personal liberty vs. the greater good – choose at your peril. If you’re a sucker you’ll choose the greater good and be taken advantage of. If you choose personal liberty, well…at least you got yours before anyone else could. This “othering” is and zero sum game is a foundational flaw in the country and across the world where this mindset has been exported because it ignores a fundamental truth about what makes humans amazing – our ability to cooperate to achieve amazing things. We are interdependent and interconnected with each other and with the rest of life. (2) The value of Trump can not be dismissed. He has activated more people across a broad spectrum of issues – from climate to racial injustice to healthcare and education. More women and under represented groups are engaged than ever before and while we might all disagree with the methods (I certainly do), you can’t deny the result (an overwhelming countervailing force of activism). For example, at this point in the election we have 50 times more people who have engaged to vote than any other time in history. Why? It’s not because people think that what’s happening right now is OK or acceptable. It’s not OK or acceptable but as our president has so eloquently put it: “It is what it is”. Now, if the arc of the moral universe is true (which is a great debate), we get to witness justice as we watch the Trump game of fear, confusion, and deception come to an end. In the wake of that end, we need to look really hard at the systems and structures that allowed this to come to pass and do the hard work to rehabilitate the country so we can tackle the big, global problems of our time.

    1. Beautifully put Scott!

    2. Dear Nick and Scott,

      I can’t agree with you more. Regarding the POTUS’ Twitter account, some would even argue that it should have been suspended or terminated a long time ago for continually unleashing falsehood, misinformation and mass distrust. Fortunately, he has not (yet) been given free access to software or button(s) with which to launch weapon(s) of mass destruction.

      In any case, those who are fair-minded and discerning are not easily swayed by his constant thrashing around and beating in the bush. Speaking of whether “the president really is a very stable genius”, SoundEagle’s adage is that Trump is a fool’s idea of a genius. In addition, the POTUS has long slid from being a “Law and Order” President to a “Flaw and Border” President.

      The whole saga of this presidency can be summed up in one cartoon at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/best-quotation-to-win-an-exclusive-loyal-contract-to-make-pig-boss-company-great-again/

    3. Dear Nick and Scott,

      Speaking of “getting stuck the ditch filled with murky corruption”, the USA is now mired in protracted and worsening political trench warfare.

      Referring to the POTUS’s business track record, given that he has had six bankruptcies, it may be stated (concretely, figuratively or otherwise) that his seventh bankruptcy will involve not just his businesses but the USA as a whole, and the scopes will not just pertain to the economic sphere but also the moral, sociocultural, political, civil, governmental, constitutional, judicial, ministerial and environmental domains.

      Whilst Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet, the planet of America has already ascended to plutocracy, being plagued in varying degrees by post-truth politics, demagoguery, ochlocracy, oligarchy, kleptocracy and narcissistic leadership, plus other complex issues extensively discussed in my much extended and continually improved post at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/

      Journalism is indeed the “fourth estate” of government, and is under great pressure and assault. However, what journalism is facing is much more than just corporate consolidation and failure of media competition, as you can find out from reading my said post.

      To a large extent, ignorance is poison to a democratic republic, although I have also highlighted in my post many other factors in relation to the erosion of democratic principles, civil societies and social norms.

      Thank you for composing this post and sharing your recent findings with us, Nick.

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      Happy October to you and your family!

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