Sunday, October 15, 2017
In Plain Sight
Mr. Trump is conducting an experiment in advertising and power. It is beyond cynical, because the premise is patently contradictory. His presumption is the same as when he suggested, during his campaign, that he could actually shoot someone and be forgiven. (This is more or less what the nice folks grinning and chortling around the lynched in the many keepsake postcards from that era are also presuming.) His experiment is also entirely devoid of any empathy, which is one of his weird personality traits. See, e.g., the towel toss in Puerto Rico. If Trump remains in power he will be tossing paper towels to the ravaged in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, and no doubt his supporters in the throng will catch them with joy as the mineral wealth of those places they live will be even more quickly transferred to the billionaires who support Trump's policies. By then Puerto Rico will be losing its able-bodied population even more quickly, and valuable beach front real estate will pass into the hands of the main land monied.
Here is the contradiction embedded in Trump's experiment. He calls on every one, as a patriotic duty, to perform a particular ritual to "honor" the anthem and the flag. There will be no exceptions, and he suggests that any who make such efforts should be fired from their jobs. While he's referring explicitly to the NFL, he is presenting a universal policy at least in theory. Anyone who has a job should lose it, or be in some way punished, should they be "caught" failing this test of patriotism. This is the new "where's his flag pin?" The experiment is having remarkable success, although Trump is trying to leverage his own oligarch "class," and most of these folks are quite aware that their football money comes from the labor of highly skilled, mostly black athletes who are acutely aware of the problem of police racial attitudes in their own communities and who want to do something to change these attitudes. Nonetheless, when Aaron Rodgers suggested that his fans in Green Bay all link arms in the stadium during the National Anthem to express solidarity with the underlying problem of government racism, the fans (many of them) booed Rodgers during the Anthem.
As Rodgers noted in later comments, booing him during the Anthem was as "disrespectful" to the Anthem as anything he'd done. But Trump's experiment was to some degree proved. Cognitive dissonance was not an impediment to his exercise of power. And presumably the dissonance already embedded in the whole idea of being coerced into a patriotic gesture was similarly disarmed. Any number of veterans, of any number of wars, will tell you that they weren't fighting for a scrap of cloth, or a song, but for the freedom America stands for. If you want to think about this for a brief moment, consider the apparently most patriotic country in the world, North Korea. There is universal fealty in North Korea for the government and its leader. Mr. Kim Jong Un has made it clear that there are existential and immediate consequences to any apparent lack of support. He has shown that he will have you shot, or sent to the salt mine.
This is what Mr. Trump is also suggesting. Whether you lose your job, or get shot, is merely a matter of degree. And I'll posit another thought experiment here. If Libby and I go up to Martinsville for the NASCAR race in a couple of weeks (as we've done for nearly a decade, spring and fall), and if we were to wear Kaepernick jerseys and sit for the national anthem, and the race track prayer, and the flyover, my prediction would be that we'd be likely hit in the head by a full beer can or several flung from well above and behind us. That, of course, could even be a death sentence. Thus is American patriotism currently enforced in the land of NASCAR, which supported Trump's campaign almost 100%. But in truth, of course, patriotism cannot be ordered or enforced or bought and paid for. Patriotism is like love that way. It comes from within. The football players who were kneeling during the Anthem were expressing the same patriotism and respect as most of the fans who were standing with their hands over their hearts.
I saw an interview with a participant in the so-called "Values Summit" that Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon addressed last Friday and Saturday:
Mandeville, Louisiana-resident Denise Hopkins called it “absolute nonsense” that Bannon gave a platform to white nationalists.
“You know what’s emboldened neo-Nazis?” she countered. “Eight years of the previous regime saying ‘all white people are terrible and you have to pay back for what someone did 200 years ago’ and stir up racial stuff.”
Funny. I never heard Mr. Obama or his supporters or representatives say, not even one time, that "all white people are terrible." I guess you have your cognitive dissonance, and you have your projection, which might be a kind of psychological defense against the experience of such dissonance. How does one deal with the plain fact of Tamir Rice if any acknowledgement of collective grief is psychologically impossible.
There's a dissonance in the observation of a lot of nice people just having a good time together, if you harbor a burning hatred in your soul. You want to scream, "Fuck Your Feelings." Sometimes you even end up here:
Mr. Trump's experiment is working. God bless the USA.