Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America chronicles the possibility of Charles Lindbergh, American hero and Nazi sympathizer, defeating Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 election, leading America into isolationism and violent Antisemitism. Most striking of all about this alternate reality is its similarities with today’s Trump America: “…when they turned on the news, they were devastated by the speed with which everything dreadful was happening.” (329) In the book’s postscript, Roth reprints Lindbergh’s speech against involvement in World War II on September 11, 1941:
The subterfuge and propaganda that exists in our country is obvious on every side. These war agitators comprise only a small minority of our people, but they control a tremendous influence. Against the determination of the American people…they have marshaled the power of the propaganda, their money, their patronage. The Jewish people’s greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.
Trump, identical to Lindbergh, refuses to address the hate and violence that stems from words like these. And instead soldiers forth, blind and naked, leaving us to wonder where this reality, not as alternate as most would like, might lead.
So-Called President Trump’s refusal to answer questions is nothing new. Charlton Heston nailed this role beautifully in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. As did Tom Cruise in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. Well, as have many young folks from time immemorial.
Ava DuVernay’s Academy-nominated documentary 13th exposes the intrinsic flaw of America’s 13th Amendment. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
While abolishing slavery is well and good – how did it ever happen in the first place?! – the amendment allows for the practice to continue through the penal system, a system that systematically incarcerates black males in America, a population that, only 4% of the overall population, accounts for 40% of prisoners. DuVernay outlines America’s dismal history of discrimination and servitude, citing Jim Crow laws as well as the systematic targeting of black leaders such as Angela Davis and Black Panther Fred Hampton.Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton are all indicted for the role in the morass as well as So-Called President Trump. Most insidious of all is the monetization of the mass incarcerations – corporations such as WalMart and Time Warner directly profiting from these policies – as well as the understanding that another iteration of the racist laws awaits us all. DuVernay’s film needs to be seen. Okay, so what are you doing? Watch it now!
President Trump’s Appointee for Secretary of Education, Corinne, tries to stay on point: “You are rude. You don’t say hi to anyone.You have a skank look on your face. You’re just not nice. It’s just weird and uncomfortable. I know how to get to people like (you). What does that say about your emotional intelligence, bitch?”“I’m nice until you cross me,” she admits. And for anyone who does that? “How do you make a voodoo doll for one person?”
This was my first political rally, complete with chants – No Hate, No Fear! Refugees are welcome here! – signs and speakers. New York politicians showed up in force: Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, Mayor Bill De Blasio, Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Adriano Espaillat, along with a host of city council members. The only thing that Trump’s despotic methods have managed to achieve so far is galvanize the opposition against him; the past indifference – liking, tweeting and such – has evolved into activism, protests appearing everywhere in the country and around the world. What wicked thing has he in store next? Week two has only just begun.
But again and again there comes a time in history when the man dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death. The schoolteacher is well aware of this. And the question is not one of knowing what punishment or reward attends the making of this calculation. The question is that of knowing whether two and two do make four. The essential thing was to save the greatest possible number of persons from dying and being doomed to unending separation. And to do this there was only one resource: to fight the plague. There was nothing admirable about this attitude; it was merely logical.*
Surprisingly, Stephen Bannon – apparently the Goebbels-to-be in the Trump Administration – got one thing right in his recent anti-media rant: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and listen for awhile.”
The only thing is that Bannon’s context is wrong. The media should have shut up and listened when Trump made his first speech and then stopped their obsessive coverage on the campaign trail. As reported in The New York Times, “Media commentators have accused CNN of giving preferential treatment to Mr. Trump to lift ratings. The network is on track this year to collect $1 billion in profit.” Yes, that ship has now sailed.
As terrible as Trump is – uber-racist-liar-son-of-satan and all – the bigger problem is this money problem of capitalism. There’s nothing else to it, no empathy and understanding, nothing but making money and then more of it, which is why Trump is in the White House and why we’re all going to die. Prematurely, I mean, from a fucked-up planet. Trump isn’t the thing. And Bannon most certainly isn’t the thing. We’re the thing. It’s my problem and yours, this wanting, this pretending to care with likes and shares, this superficial bullshit that is dragging us down, back to the ooze. So, yeah, Bannon is right, they should shut up and listen. And so should he. And I guess me too.