We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under

20 08 2019

I want to move off a bit from naming, and on to claiming.

Claiming is a related concept to naming, but one which emphasizes belonging: I claim this as mine. (This is the positive part of Carl Schmitt’s dictum that “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motive can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” Friends belong; enemies, who are of course negative, must be excluded.)

I’ve stated in the past that a politics reduced to the friends/enemies distinction is a bad one, but in a well-rounded and healthy politics, the notion of us-vs-them isn’t terrible. If you define your side solely by who you oppose, well, that ain’t productive, but also by it? That’s fine.

Anyway, the words aren’t coming tonight, but I did want to get to Elizabeth’s Bruenig’s piece in the Washington Post on white evangelical support for Trump. The short version is that those evangelicals who like Trump like him because he recognizes them, claims them. Many don’t go so far as to return that claim back—they don’t necessarily see him as a Christian—but they are ardently glad that he sees them as his.

And, most importantly, they are glad they stand together against Them (ie, folks like me). He doesn’t have to make things better; he just has to keep my kind from making things worse.

Scholar Lydia Bean notes that “Basically, it’s like a fortress mentality, where it’s like — the best we can do is lock up the gates and just pour boiling oil over the gates at the libs.”

So it’s that Schmittian amalgamation of GO US! with FUCK YOU!; they feel positively toward Trump because he’s willing to fuck over leftists/libs/SJWs/etc on their behalf. They don’t even have to believe that he believes in their deeper or long-term agenda, just that he congratulates them for being on the right side.

Trump, Bob Collins said, “has done something no other politician has done: He’s circumvented the press. The press has a problem now. … I wish he would not do the personal attacks, but he needs to get the message out, even if it’s a blunt, brute-force message.” For them, the message was a welcome one. “We’re deplorables,” the Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” Barber added. “Even though Donald Trump is different than me, the Donald Trump White House tries to move toward evangelicals like me.”

And whatever their qualms, two mentioned that they prefer Trump to a more godly man:

At first, there were murmurs about the possibility of Vice President Pence. But then Maria Ivy warned that Pence is soft compared with Trump, too decent and mannerly to take on the job. Bob Collins agreed: “The president is having to deal with a den of vipers,” he said. “I’m not sure Pence could do that.” “It’s spiritual warfare,” Dale Ivy added, emphasizing that Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.

There’s a lot more there, but I want to focus on this exchange between a father and son:

“Basically,” Joe argued, “Trump is everyone, without the filters. I’m sure at some time you’ve thought some horrible things, but you had a filter there to keep you from saying it.”

“But is that a defense?” Daniel asked.

“No, that’s just —”

“A fact to you?”

“Just an explanation of why. I mean, he is a raw personality with all filters removed. . . . I think he pretty much exemplifies this sin that we all carry with us. He just doesn’t know how to repress it.”

Daniel nodded, and pressed: “But it would seem like a natural question would be, you just sounded like you just described some pretty good reasons not to support the man.”

I don’t want to attribute this sentiment to every Trump supporter, but I’ve heard variations of this over the years: Trump is who we all really are, deep down.

Which is a pretty grim view of us. I don’t hold what I think is an elevated opinion of our species, but, jesus, this holds that we are all, at root, terrible.

It also means, as not a few others have noticed before, that they like him because he’s terrible: he liberates them.

~~~

Once again, I don’t know what to do with this. It points to a sense among Trump’s supporters that they’re being pushed out of . . . the culture, the country, the mainstream—some place in society they value, and he’s saying No, no, you’re at the center, here with me.





I’m not angry

6 03 2017

Oh my god, I am so fucking angry.

At least once a day, every day, I am hit anew with the incredible fact that Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, and that over 60 million of my fellow Americans voted for this. . . man, and that a good chunk of them approve of his job performance.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

Oh, yeah, I keep reading and thinking, but I’ve fallen off in every other way because it all feels too much like performing resistance and not enough actual resistance. I’m not a lawyer, can’t help with immigration; not rich, can’t afford to stuff money into empty pockets; and while I can do things, including writing (real writing, not just this blog), everything I can do someone else can do as well.

The anger is fine, anger is useful, but anger and helplessness enrages in precisely the way that will send me spinning into myself rather than out into the world, where the anger can be put to use and the helplessness dissipated. There actually are things to do, and I’m not doing them.

~~~

This is not just inward-anger: I am also angry at those fellow Americans who cannot be bothered to do the barest amount of work to educate themselves about politics and argumentation and reason and consequences. They’ll believe insane conspiracy theories and bat away any notion that logic or evidence have any role whatsoever in politics. They’ll burn the village to save it and if the village isn’t saved, well, then, at least it’s burned.

(Do I need the sidenote that political fevers cross boundaries, that bananapants may be worn by anyone who gets her march on? Fine, noted.)

I’ve said that Carl Schmitt gets something right in highlighting the friends/enemies distinction in politics, that theorists who forget this forget something essential about politics. But politics and, especially, governance, is about more than tribalism. Politics is not just war with words.

I have to remind myself of this, to not let my anger at Trump supporters transform me from citizen to soldier. If I’m angered that they can’t be bothered to perform some of the most basic duties of citizenship, I can’t forget that they are, in fact, my fellow citizens, and that I have obligations to something more than my tribe, regardless.

~~~

The anger manifested itself as moodiness this weekend as I watched the second and third seasons of The Fall.

I watched the first season around the time it came out, then just a bit of season two. This past weekend I watched the very last episode of season 3, then went back and filled in the rest. I don’t know if The Fall is any good—I admit to zipping through scenes that focused exclusively on the killer—but I did find it compelling.

Again, I was in a moody mood—had I been more upbeat I might have thought it all so boring—and there are some blind alleys, plot-wise, but I appreciated the sharper edge on sexual politics. Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson makes some shit decisions and is not a hero, but she is brave, and I wish I were as unflinching as she.

I think it was that sharper edge that pulled me in. As I said, I video-skimmed the killer’s story (yet another sexual-sadist-with-a-backstory who hates women) which likely had the effect of making more apparent the meanness of the culture in which he was able to kill. At one point the assistant chief constable—and one-time lover of Stella’s—attacks her; she fends him off, then, pityingly, tends to the wounds she inflicted. Later, he insists to her that he’s “not the same” as the killer; Stella agrees, then notes, “but you did cross a line.”

I don’t know why, but that exchange shivved me. I’ve never been a victim of sexual violence and haven’t had to deal with much harassment, but that notion, of having to tend to the feelings of a man who cares nothing for my own, well. Stella is tired of it, it’s clear, and all-too-practices in  maneuvering around it.

All of that maneuvering, all of those thickets and brambles, the constant need to pick burrs out of one’s hair and ignore the scratches and kick aside the rocks and duck the swaying branches and just get on with it. I’m not Stella, not by a long shot, but I felt a rather intense sympathy for her—a sympathy which morphed into empathy—that I didn’t when I first tuned in.

~~~

My reaction to The Fall made me think of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,  which was, apparently, initially titled Men Who Hate Women. (I didn’t love the book, thought the Swedish movie adaptation better, and didn’t read or see the second and third installments.) I once thought that first title a bit of a joke, a kind of over-the-top absurdism.

I don’t anymore.

No, no, #NotAllMen. But while I recognized almost immediately how shook I was by the acceptance of racism as manifested in Trump’s victory, only now are the quakes from the misogyny moving through me. I’m mostly over the shock of the racism; I’m just beginning to come to terms with how much women, as women, are despised.

Again, I thought I knew, thought long consideration—decades-long consideration—gave me clear sight. But, again, so much I didn’t see that was always right there.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter

21 08 2016

Few bits:

I’m a fan of President Obama’s cool-competence approach to governing, and think he’s right to wait a bit before visiting flooded Louisiana (or burnt-over California): aid before optics.

That said, optics do matter, and some extended public remarks by the president (and candidate Clinton) about these disasters beyond a tweet or two wouldn’t interfere with the recovery, and might help to soothe some (although certainly not all) distressed people.

Material help matters, a lot, but so does recognition.

~~~

Is the Trump statue body-shaming?

Yeah, maybe, probably. From a cultural-studies point of view, the critics of the statue (and of many mirthful reactions to it) are likely correct.

But I’m reading this less from a cultural perspective than a political one, and that political one says, Look at this ridiculous man who thinks he should be president.

Is it nasty? Absolutely, as are the Hillary nutcrackers, as are most political paraphernalia  aimed at political opponents. They allow Us to smirk at Them, to cut them down, to reduce the other side’s champion to a joke; it’s not elevating, but then, put-downs rarely are.

There’s a lot that Carl Schmitt missed about politics, but he also nailed an aspect of it the more genteel would prefer to ignore: politics is a fight, and anything that can be weaponized, will be.

~~~

Have you listened to this old audio of Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley address?

She sounds so relaxed, so confident.

So unlike how she sounds today.

It was another online writer—who I can’t find—who first pointed out how at ease she was back then in front of a microphone. She was direct and open and conversational and even inspirational. She is as yet unbroken.

It’s tough to think of her, likely 45th president of the most powerful nation on earth, as broken, but I think the decades of political battering have shattered some bones. And while I admire those who, like Obama, seem to glide right past whatever hits are directed their way, there’s something to be said for the scrappers.

In any case, that she has been shattered doesn’t mean she hasn’t recovered: she is hardly fragile. But she is scarred, and that her experiences have toughened up has meant she’ll likely never be as easy and open as she was as that 21-year-old graduate.

There’s no tragedy in that—many of us grow wary as we grow older—nor any pity. It’s just the cost of experience.