In these ongoing thoughts about the year 2016, today’s topic is America, a country where far too many of us got shit for brains.
It’s an interesting aspect of the state of things today that I feel obliged to assert that this is not intended as a partisan statement. I don’t believe the average Trump supporter is a cretinous idiot any more than I believe the average Clinton supporter guilty of the same. Where I see Republicans gumming nonsense I also see liberals mindlessly chewing the rind of the Democratic Party, trying to convince themselves it not only tastes good but will somehow provide sustenance. Let’s simply note that party affiliation doesn’t seem to condemn one to stupidity any more than it provides one with wisdom (though, sadly, the same cannot be said about self-righteousness).
The previous paragraph’s attempt to broadly spread the guilt of ignorance having been duly made, it remains a castigating fact that 63-million voters, roughly half the electorate, selected the human fecal-storm known as The Donald, a man so distinctly unqualified for the position the very notion of his winning was spoofed by The Simpsons 16-years ago. This is a reality that gives rise to certain inevitable conclusions, as the following examples sadly demonstrate:
- 67% of Trump voters believe that during President Obama’s two terms the unemployment rate rose. However long it took me to type the following four words into Google: “Unemployment rate under Obama” is exactly how long it took to debunk that nonsense.
- 51% of Trump supporters believe The Donald either won the national popular vote or simply “aren’t sure” (He lost by roughly 3-million votes).
- 58% of Trump supporters believe the stock market went down under Obama’s tenure or “aren’t sure” (all major indexes are up hugely over 8-years ago).
And then there’s Pizzagate, which is both some seriously staggering shit and also one of my favorite terms of 2016. That we #-Gate everything in American politics is often numbing, but Pizzagate has got more than a little pickled pepperoncini punch to it, and as a result is currently competing for my Term of the Year with “post-truth”1 (Philosophy 101 students everywhere, spin that cycle), “self-investigate” (more on that in a minute), and “President-Elect Pussy Grabber,” a term that, as of mid-January, will likely convert to “The Chief Pussy Grabber.” (Variations of the latter still on the table include The Pussy Grabber in Chief, or perhaps Pussy-POTUS; editorial note: the latter would be a great name for an all-ladies Krautrock revival band.) With all these different options going head-to-head it’s difficult to predict who will win, but this much remains certain:
If you find it offensive that I’m calling The President of The United States The Chief Pussy Grabber and you voted for the man who swaggeringly and self-congratulatorily self-applied this term, I think you got some good ol’ Ricky Ricardo splainin’ to do. We’re going to expand upon this in a moment, but if you really want to try and defend your indignation, I’ve got more than a few women-friends, and their husbands, partners, brothers, and sons, who would love to be part of that conference call.
Pizzagate would be a hilarious term and scenario, something pulled from the lead of The Onion, but for the fact that a real human drove 350 real miles to a real pizza parlor where he fired three real bullets from a real AR-15 gun, fortunately injuring no one. All of this was undertaken in an effort to “self-investigate”2 the validity of a “news story” that could have been solved in the same manner as the above examples of unemployment stats, or, dare I suggest the following ludicrous notion: with the simple application of human reasoning. E.g.: Do leaked emails about our election, emails that we know were illegally obtained by a foreign state and released in a methodical manner to obtain an outcome in said election that they, the foreign state, desired, speak to activities that call into question the validity of this particular electoral process and outcome, or, more pertinently, do these same emails (stolen, manipulated, etc.) contain coded language indicating a child-sex-trafficking ring run out of a pizza parlor six miles from the White House??
To expand upon one man’s obvious shit-for-brains-ed-ness: only 54% of Trump supporters acknowledge the balls-out falsity of this “story”.
Here it’s worth pausing, because a lot of people, roughly 63-million of them, did vote for the pussy-grabbing president (as well as the homophobic, racist, anti-semitic, etc… one). Many of these people are reasonable human beings who fall outside the shit-for-brains umbrella of this essay. I see a couple big things going on here, the first being the actual things Trump has actually said, things that he either literally means, such as proudly grabbing pussies and building walls and imposing religious examinations, etc., or things about which he was “just kidding” or “didn’t mean” or other euphemistic legerdemain whose actual meaning, once you crampon up the sides of the Vaseline crevasses such bullshit inevitably sinks us in, is simply that he’s lying. One may try and talk down his language, bracket it as “locker room”3 banter, but the reality remains that 63-million of us still voted for him. For those of you who did: either you agree with the things he said (let’s grab them pussies!), you think he’s lying, or something else really weird and convoluted is going on.
Arriving at this Frostian fork in our narrative road two thoughts spring quickly to mind: how many Trump supporters felt any tension, and to what degree, as they considered the possible/likely-fact that their beloved Donald was lying as they simultaneously ranted about “Crooked Hillary??” Second, given the large number of women who’ve come forward with accusations of being fondled by Donald’s (obviously well-proportioned) hands, believing he’s lying about the subject of grabbing pussies must require some serious mental gymnastics, which forces us toward a salient point that exists beyond the act of grabbing pussies: namely, when a speaker creates this tension in a listener—Is what he’s saying truth or lie?—the listener is forced to aver that a) it’s the truth!, b) it’s a lie!, or c) it’s more complicated, c) being a complicated position that is made more complicated the more complicated the subject is, which partially explains why I continue referring to grabbing women’s pussies: you may not know a Mexican or a Muslim, but we all came from the same place (additionally, Mother’s Day is only five months away, so let’s all get good and uncomfortable together).
I don’t imagine I (or anyone else) will ever understand the insides of Trump’s brain, as expressed in his speeches or his endless Tweets, and while I see that as an affirmation of my own positive mental health and reasoning it nevertheless leaves gigantic question marks about his meaning, which might be fine if he was only selling me a steak (I’m assured it’d be “great”)4. However, 63-million of us just elected him to the most powerful position in the world. And it’s this meaning that otherwise reasonable Trump supports must answer for: either you voted for a) an unabashed pussy grabber (or racist, or homophobe, etc.) or you voted for b) an unashamed, proudly-up-front liar. Further, either one or neither of those things concerns you.
I know I mentioned a complicated option c) above. Like I said, it’s complicated, and I’m still trying to figure out the exact contours of such a thing, but I think it’s something like this: the wrinkle for many pro-Trump folks is that they claimed to be voting against the Obama-legacy/Clinton-continuation, as some sort of expression of their frustrations and unhappinesses with the world around them. One can hear a conservative saying, Yes, I think Trump is a pussy-grabber and/or a liar, but I’d prefer that to Hillary Clinton (again, one wonders about the Crooked Hillary chants). In other words, this was less a vote for Trump and more a vote against Clinton.
On the one hand, I can get this—as I wrote recently I think the Democratic Party is in a neoliberal-economic tailspin that’s failing most Americans5. And that would be fine but for this reality: given the realities of our almost-exclusively two-party system, by voting against what Clinton represented you actively voted for this turd. And we’re back where we were above: either you voted for someone who’s telling the truth about grabbing pussies, is lying about grabbing pussies, or the subject of grabbing pussies is oddly too complicated for you to define clearly. Should you want to try and hew to the latter, allow me to recommend the following experiment: convene an assembly at your local elementary-, middle- or high-school (it really doesn’t matter which), and explain to the children and parents in attendance exactly why this topic is too complicated for you to take a definitive stand upon.
I think all of this leaves us non-Trumpers at at a very curious and challenging socio-psychological and ethical intersection: we can’t trust Trump’s literal words enough to know if he’s lying or not, and so we’re forced to try and guess his intentions. More, we’re forced to try and guess the intentions of those who voted for him, a far more profuse group and an action that certainly made for some uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners. In both cases the problem is that intentions are historically rather difficult to measure, especially when they’re being verbalized through that puckered-asshole of a mouth. What is far easier to measure, however, is demonstrable reality: will he or will he not grab more pussies (or build a wall or ban Muslims, etc.), and will people support or not support these acts? If you’re wondering what the next four years are going to look like, here’s an opportunity to pull back the curtain and take a glance. How capably we resolve, negotiate and discuss such things will determine our futures.
I realize this essay, like runny pancake batter, went unpredictably sprawling. The original point is worth repeating: far too many of us got shit for brains. This isn’t just because we elected Trump, although his election is undeniably one of the biggest examples of our collective stupidity. The larger issue remains: a whole bunch of us simply ain’t real bright. That makes me sad to write, truly, deeply, existentially sad, for a whole host of reasons: it reduces my spirit to think of what is being missed by so many in terms of art, culture, thinking-as-a-simple-non-commercialized-act-of-pleasure, self-awareness, social engagements, etc. I take no pleasure in noting it, but it’s as unmissable as the big egg yolk think that goes across the sky every day. And so it bears repeating: 63-million of us decided this clown was the best option to run our country…
The simplest explanation I can see for this seems to be that our education system is failing to properly raise an informed and critically capable electorate. If you doubt that statement, please re-read everything written up to this point.
(The larger and more endemic explanation is of course that our existing industrial authority relations, what some people simply call capitalism, are more screwy than those crazy swirly-twirly loop straws kids use to gurgle Coke at a picnic. Compete, consume, privatize, get-yours, don’t-think-too-much-about-anything-that-would-question/criticize-those-earlier-words, repeat, etc., all create insanely untenable amounts of intra- and inter-personal anxiety, as well as a horribly tenuous social relationships. It’s no wonder we’re all so fucked up and endemically incapable of thinking well.)
Donald Trump is composed of many things. Unlike many liberals, I believe a lot of them are probably quite good. I also see that he represents the twin symbols of American success—Money and Power. It’s likely these are simply two sides of the same coin, and one thing I’ve noticed about that coin is that it is rarely sated and equally rarely curious about itself. As Money and Power continue to concentrate into an increasingly small fraction of our population, we need people with the critical thinking skills to question how Money and Power operate, for the simple reason that Money and Power will likely never do this on their own initiative (unless, of course, the act obtains them greater Money and Power).
There’s plenty to debate around education reform, far more than I’m qualified to cover, and frankly I’ve taken up enough of your time already. Still, the very fact that we’re here points to the reality that we need to make some serious investments in education before we end up with another Trump (and yes, even a Hillary, who was, among many things, highly competent as well as highly problemmatic). And if you think Betsy DeVos is the person to lead this campaign, I think you’ve just proved how desperately educational reforms are needed.
- Despite the prevalence of this term in recent discussions, I don’t believe it’s a serious problem for our country. Perhaps I’m being naive or optimistic or both, but I don’t think it’s a realistic problem for the simple reason that everything that you’re presently reading would, ultimately, cease to mean anything (or, potentially, mean only what you the reader chose it to mean), and I just don’t see that happening. Beyond the theoretical, I’m less concerned about the reality of “post-truth,” and instead see larger issues of integrity, power, money, fear, and greed at play in our country. I will note this, however, because I think it’s interesting: the seeds of “post-truth” can be traced back to a “post-modern” movement in certain 20th-Century philosophers. To date myself, when I was in college there was a lot of talk about Po-Mo and Deconstruction and Derrida and Foucault and reading-between-the-lines and so on, etc., all of which were fairly “liberal” readings of texts in which the otherwise “objective” meaning was replaced or subverted by the reader’s meaning. That is I, the author of this essay, say X, but you, the canny reader, dig around in the mucky playpen behind my words and determine that when I say X what I really actually truly mean is Y, ergo Y, not X, is what I really meant. This movement was strongly, and to a certain degree, understandably, countered by conservatives who insisted that X meant X, which allows for a reference to a popular, if slightly tangential, substantiation of this very debate: the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton, who defended his mendacious description of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky by insisting that, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” My point here is this: if conservatives who formerly hammered liberals for slip-sliding behind post-modern palimpsests are now invoking them to defend the Donald, well—what a curious world we live in after all. Now: if you’re an average human being who’s wondering What the hell does any of this nonsense have to do with anything??, I’d answer—little to nothing. In other words: my grandmother is no more likely to comprehend his footnote than she is to act upon its philosophical descriptions, all of which is why I again insist that post-truth isn’t the problem as much as the real world, material aspirations of those who want real world, material things to make their lives better/perpetuate what they already have. [↩]
- What’s initially and especially charming about this term is its redundancy; saying, I’m going to self-investigate something is about as ridiculous as saying I’m going to self-eat some pizza or I’m going to self-grab that woman by the pussy. The more salient point has to do with finding reality among the proliferation of information available via the internet; some of us are attempting to regress to a sort of epistemological Wild West, where six-shooters have been replaced by click-bait. In theory, this might be okay: if you want to spend your evening geeking out on 9/11 conspiracy theories, by all means go right ahead. But the stubborn fact remains that votes cast by these Cowboys of Codswallop count exactly the same as the votes of those of us whose hands are more assuredly wrapped about the reins of reality. Lastly, it’s pertinent to note that if you really are a cowboy, living, say, in Wyoming, this sad fact is true regardless your intelligence: your vote counted several times more than mine did this year. Go figure… [↩]
- I’d like to invite someone to write an essay in defense of locker rooms everywhere, because having spent my fair share of time in them I’ve never once actively thought about, fantasized, or discussed grabbing any woman by her pussy, in a locker room [or otherwise] [↩]
- Trump’s tongue has done to affirmative adjectives: “great,” “huge,” “amazing,” etc., what Jerry Sandusky did to the “tickle-monster”; you can’t use them any more without feeling a nauseating wrinkle of irony, dirtiness and dismay. [↩]
- Except for the already-rich, who, via their contributions — contributions that it’s worth noting are made as equally to Democrats as to Republicans — keep both parties in thrall to their desires, desires that, oddly enough, tend to be focused upon perpetuating their wealth and power, in other words, with keeping them rich [↩]