Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#17)
Well, who expected anything different? The cliche, Hope Springs Eternal, proves itself again. From the time The Donald came down his escalator, he has been a buffoon, just what he always has been, a huckster dying for attention. One still wonders about the singularity of his elevation to President. I have been writing about this phenomenon – the accidental presidency – for many years, how chance plays such a disproportionate role in our modern (all I’m claiming) history. I don’t want to go through a litany, but let’s start with LBJ. Lee Harvey Oswald, the president maker. Need I say more? I could, but let’s carry on. But Trump descending from a Trump Tower escalator, as a metaphor, has no bottom. Down, down, down we go, went. I don’t know if debased comes from the de-basement, the cellar, but it appears there is no basement to be found with Trump. How he began is how he ends – though, given that there are more than 30 days left, we most likely haven’t gone as low as we can go. I recall the beginning of his reign, when there was some faint hope expressed that the presidency would “elevate” his conduct. Ha, ha, ha. One end of Trump the builder is Trump the wrecking ball. Out with the old, in with the new, the new being chaos and destruction. Trying to discern his appeal, I did notice his narrow version of populism. There’s always a bit of attraction in that. And never appearing to be smarter than his audience. That accounts for a large share of his horde of followers. And being so dumb that the powers-that-be in the GOP, ensconced in DC, thought, for the most part correctly, that they could do pretty much what the party leaders wanted. Even the cable media giants are worried these days about the boring Biden/Harris administration to come. The Donald did manage to create a new outrage a day, which fit with the times, given the 24 hour, short attention-span public of watchers. Though I never watched Trump’s “The Apprentice,” I occasionally land on some prime time network television show these days and find myself appalled anew. And the so-called intelligent shows, what few still exist (has anyone noticed the steep decline of “60 Minutes”?) have abandoned all hope and become weird versions of “Dateline,” often hosted by NBC’s prime television’s news anchor, cheery Lester Holt. PBS, I suppose, still tries, but, really? So we have to resort to the growing thirst for documentaries, which show up here and there, series often, rather than one-shots, for information, but here, too, entertainment values dominate. But back to Trump. Again, by just being morbidly contrary, he manages to rack up more firsts. The first sitting president of the new era, to damn democracy and libel elections, chanting daily, often hourly, how the whole system, the one the country has used for centuries, is a sham and a fraud. You would think that would upset a few people. But the citizens who seem most upset are Trump’s legions, agreeing with him. The Republican establishment thinks all his blandishments are just fine. They are patient parents to the worst of children, thinking he will outgrow, or become exhausted, and eventually abandon his tantrum. January 20th? Television will still succumb to The Donald’s catnip and, after he exits, it will feature him and his scurrilous antics for the sake of eyeballs and ratings in the parallel universe he already occupies (and helped create), contrasting it with whatever the Biden/Harris administration can mount as competition. Given the demon Mitch McConnell, that won’t be much, I’m afraid. We haven’t left crazy time and, I suppose, once again, it’s because of technology over sense, and the lowering of all standards over time. Along with the lowering, is the paradoxical rise in “liberals” censorious control of culture, where, in the last decade or so, neo-neologisms have prospered. Not invented words, but older language that has been newly dressed up. Two examples: “curated” and “cancel”, the new C words. When I began to hear fellow academics use the word curated, or curate, I took an interest in the sociology involved. It was “privileging” the role, not of the creator, but of the already created, those who notice or claim value, not the progenitors. I thought that dangerous. It seemed to be an abandonment, but also an elevation. The cancel culture followed. Those who choose can also not choose, but cancel. I’ve always been a fan of choosing between good and bad, but this was something different, a corporatization of judgment. Why do I mention, or go on, this tangent? Oh, I suppose it has to do with why Trump won, when so many educated people didn’t vote, or didn’t vote for Hillary, voting instead for the ridiculous third- and fourth-party candidates, or, because of the dispatched Bernie, might have cast their lot with the rube Trump as a protest vote. Trump didn’t so much win the 2016 election as it was forfeited by those who should have known better. We have all gone through a terrible four years, topped off with a Pandemic (without which Trump might actually, probably, have won reelection). And now he, dare I say legitimately, has about half of the country’s voters on his side. And absent a post-Xmas Miracle of Georgia the next four years loom ominously. Trouble ahead.