'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Michelle Goldberg - The first month of the Trump presidency has been more cruel and destructive than the majority of Americans feared
Many in Trump’s
America are facing material emergencies such as deportation or the loss of
health insurance… Trump lies so much it’s as if he’s intentionally mocking the
impotence of truth. He shamelessly profits off his office, reveling in our
powerlessness to stop him.
Right after Donald Trump was elected
president, I interviewed Masha Gessen, the Russian dissident writer, for an
essay I was thinking of calling “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Fascism.”
The idea became obsolete when Gessen published her own superlative piece on the
same theme, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” But during the first
surreal, harrowing, humiliating month of the Trump presidency, I’ve often
thought back to that conversation, and particularly Gessen’s answer to one of
my questions: How do you stay sane when a despicable man is in your head all
Basically, she told
me, you don’t. Gessen’s family immigrated to the United States when she was a
teenager, and she later returned to Russia but then moved back to America three
years ago to escape mounting
anti-gay persecution by Vladimir Putin’s government. “In the last three years,
since I got to this country, I realized what a mental price I had paid for living
in a state of siege and a state of battle for a decade and a half,” she told
me. At times, she said, being part of the righteous opposition was
exhilarating, “but it’s intellectually deadening. When you are fighting, you
stop learning. You stop reading theory. You stop reading about things that
aren’t part of the immediate fight.”
enervation is a luxury problem. Many in Trump’s America are facing material
emergencies such as deportation or the loss of health insurance. A leaked draft of an executive order revealed on
Friday would seek to use the National Guard to round up and detain undocumented
immigrants, an idea that will spread terror even if it’s never implemented.
Compared to this, Trump’s denial-of-service
attacks on our attention are nothing. But they have still ruined
the daily fabric of life in this country.
Every day there’s a
new Trumpian outrage that in an ordinary presidency would be a multiday
scandal: an ostensibly light-hearted
threat to invade Mexico, a casual
dismissal of a potential Palestinian state, a feud with a reporter
or an actor or a department store. Trump lies so much it’s as if he’s
intentionally mocking the impotence of truth. He shamelessly profits off his office,
reveling in our powerlessness to stop him. His closest aide is an unkempt
racist who has described Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl as
a role model. A senior adviser uses her administration perch to hawk the
president’s daughter’s line of polyester-blend workwear in a blatant
violation of ethics rules. Trump himself is either enmeshed in a
subversive relationship with Vladimir Putin, or he’s willing to appear to be.
He and his coterie make a fetish of patriotism yet take a perverse antinomian
pleasure in defiling the presidency.
Those of us who are
part of the growing majority of Americans who hate what’s
happening look at each other and say: This is not normal. But let’s
be honest: One month in, constant low-grade panic interspersed with bursts of
manic outrage is starting to feel more normal than it should.
I will meet someone
for lunch or coffee, and after an hour offline, we will both warily check our
phones, wondering what new horror transpired while we were away. My mind has
grown coarse. I hold on to distant hopes that the intelligence community will
save us. In the past, I would have been intrigued by the moral complexities of
the deep state undermining an elected but compromised president. Now I think: Do
whatever it takes to get him out of there.
John Podhoretz, an anti-Trump conservative, worries that potential Democratic efforts to
remove Trump from the presidency for possible legal and constitutional
violations could trigger “political violence of a sort we haven’t seen in 50
years, and maybe haven’t really seen in this country in the modern era. Those
who believe Trump is a unique menace … to our democratic way of life will be
met with those who believe the elites are using illicit means to oust the
legitimately elected president of the United States.” I hope this is not true.
But if it is, it would mean that the problem with black
bloc anarchists isn’t that they’re adolescent vandals who don’t
respect liberal values like free speech. It would mean that the real problem is
that there aren’t enough of them, and unlike their enemies on the right, they
aren’t armed. It would mean that the real problem isn’t too much left-wing
militancy, but too little.
To talk about Trump as
a menace to our democratic way of life understates the crisis. The more
significant issue is that right now America isn’t really a democracy. Some
conservatives will say that it was never supposed to be—it was conceived as a
constitutional republic. In recent years, however, this was mostly an academic
distinction, because there was usually some correspondence between the
intentions of at least the plurality of voters and the results of elections
(2000 aside, obviously). That’s no longer the case. The majority of people did
not want to elect Trump. The majority of people disapprove of what he is doing.
But the majority of people have little power.
Worse, that may not
change anytime soon… read more: