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?