I did not watch the inauguration. This is nothing new, though, I rarely do. I saw Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, I watched Obama’s, parts of it, after the fact. I would rather read the inaugural addresses than listen, but really the main reason I skip them is that for me they don’t mean much. This is the party after the fight, so to speak. Parades, lots of glad-handing, important people with lots of money doing a Hollywood red carpet thing. It’s show.
Show is important in statecraft, certainly, but it’s not important to me, so…
But the aftermath this time has been fascinating. It’s a show, so why lie about what went on? Why try to tell the national press corps that what they saw with their own eyes was not the reality? Why start with petty numbers games as if the show was the only thing that mattered?
Well, Trump does do reality tv.
However, I would like to say a couple of things here about some of the images I’ve seen—and some of the vitriol attached—after the fact.
I’m not going to say one damn thing about Melania Trump unless she starts getting involved in policy. Which from all appearances, she will not. Likewise for his kids, especially Barron. I don’t believe in that “Well, your dad’s a so-n-so, so you must be, too!” kind of schoolyard bullying. I rejected that whole sins of the father argument back when I parted ways with christianity. I won’t go there.
I will say this, though, about her supporters and detractors: hypocrisy runs deep.
The so-called Christian Right lent considerable support to this man. His wife is a former model and sex symbol. She’s done nudes. She projects an image which I had thought ran counter to the standards of that so-called Christian Right. Had Michelle Obama done anything like that, these people would have declared the advent of Sodom and Gomorrah and the End Times. (Many of them do that anyway, on a regular basis.) These are people who collectively have made it clear they see the sexualization of culture as a decidedly Bad Thing. But they voted for him anyway and got in the face of anyone who criticized Melania for being what till now they claimed to oppose. This is Through The Looking Glass Time for them and I won’t pretend to claim any understanding, other than recognizing the serious two-faced hypocrisy evident.
As to those critics who have held old photographs of her up for disdain, mocking her and her husband thereby, as if the fact that she pursued a career which many of them might have made apologies about (women have so few options, etc) has anything to do with her suitability to be something else.
Lay off. This is all part of the same bifurcated mindset that places sex in one room and everything else in another and then treats public examples of it as alternately empowering or a disease.
Just because her husband treats her like a trophy doesn’t mean the rest of us get to repurpose her for our own ends.
I have no problem with pointing out the hypocrisy of the Family Values crowd over this, but I will not blame Melania for it. We just bid farewell to a presidential family that had no sex scandals of any kind and clearly set an example as a solid, loving, neuroses-free family—who suffered ongoing derision for 8 years at the hands of people who have violated their own professed standards in that that regard to elect someone who has pretty much been a poster-boy for everything they claim is wrong with America. Well, clearly the whole thing was a deep, deep neurosis on their part. I will not blame Melania for their shallowness, lack of integrity, and evident moral malleability.
Nor will I support attempts to ridicule him by holding her up as some example of unsuitability based on the opposite neurosis attaching to women who—
Well, let me put it this way: all those who were (and are) madly in love with Hillary and feel the world has ended because she is not the president—would you have supported her fervently if nude photos of her from her college years surfaced? With all the rest of her qualifications intact, had she taken a year to do something that doesn’t fit with an image of “stateswoman”, would the love have been there?
Food for thought.
But for now, unless she gets involved with policy—and if she does, I will wait to see how and what she produces—I will not credit any shaming that goes her way.
In my previous post I talked about the use—misuse—of a term: Snowflake. It was brought to my attention that I myself may be misusing it or at least misunderstanding it.
It derives from Fight Club, as a negative. “You are not special snowflakes…you are not unique…” More or less. Tyler Durden exhorting the new members of a club no one is supposed to speak about. Which kind of automatically makes them special. Exclusive club, deeply hidden, secret, and very radical. How much more special can you get short of joining the Masons or being recruited by the NSA?
The term then entered the language by way of gaming, applied to people claiming unique privileges—usually unearned—in the course of some rule-heavy role-playing extravaganza. It went from there to an appellation attached to Millennials of a certain mindset who had absorbed the pseudo-Montessori-esque lessons of specialness and uniqueness and then took it to the next level as sinecure that they, being unique and special, can do no wrong and are allowed to exercise a degree of privilege and intolerance based on that assumed status.
Like all such terms, obviously, it has been handed on, re-purposed, reapplied, contorted, enlarged, expanded, and now, today, it is being used to label anyone even glancingly allied to that other wonderful term that has come to be applied as a derogation, the Social Justice Warrior.
That’s the problem with labels. They start out one way, they inevitably become something else, and then history gets retroactively rewritten to incorporate the new meanings.
Democrats belong to the party of Jim Crow.
Republicans freed the slaves.
As if those claims describe what they are intended to today.
What I have witnessed and heard is the appropriation of the label Snowflake by people who are unfriendly to messages and arguments about social justice, equality, political correctness, diversity, and related issues so they can apply it where needed to shut down debate. Classifying someone as a Snowflake (or a Social Justice Warrior) is little more than an attempt to categorize what they have to say as a specific kind of rhetoric which we are not obliged to listen to or credit because it only describes the presumed delicate, unique, and supposedly privileged character of the speaker. We don’t have to listen to them because, well, it’s just the way they are.
And somehow these delicate souls manage to harass the virtuous manly men (male or female) who have right on their side to the point of silence.
I haven’t, if you’ll forgive the mixed usage here, seen the silence. On either side, frankly. What I have seen is a big fat fence raised between the deponents made up of labels.
Now, labels can be useful. I like to know which aisle contains the pet food as opposed to the household drygoods as opposed to the liquor. I like to know which building houses what services and addresses are very handy. I even like knowing what kind of music I’m likely to find on what station and it is helpful to know where in the bookstore I can find History as opposed to Humor.
But when it comes to people, labels are useless impediments to dialogue and intercourse. And just because those people over there insist on using labels does NOT justify labeling by anyone else. Because it is the nature of such things—language—that usage is hijacked, meanings change, and context shifts.
Back in the Sixties, there was an event in San Fransisco. There was a funeral for Hippy. The label, the tag, the identity. Because the people at the core of the counter culture saw what was happening—that what they were, how they dressed, talked, acted, was about to be appropriated as fashion. They knew that all they intended, all they meant for themselves, all they held important was about to be changed by the normal misuse of the American dialogue. So they declared Hippy dead and they held a funeral. There was, after that, no authentic hippy.
It didn’t stop the entire country from assuming it knew what a Hippy was and that they were all around.
In the Fifties the label Communist was horribly misapplied. A wide net of philosophical and political opinions caught people up and labeled them and lives were ruined. Because it’s easy to think in labels. Action follows thought.
I don’t care for labels like that. Especially when deployed in such a way as to shut down meaningful dialogue.
What I am seeing is the use of a term that once described something quite different being applied by people who think they have the right to determine what is meaningful by excluding what they think is without merit.
Does this go both ways? Of course. Labels have universal utility. They are shorthand. The problem with them is they make it easy to not think.
Just in case anyone thought I meant something else.
The clown car rolled into the station, the occupants decamped, and the frollicks began in earnest. Lots of shouting, foot-stamping, and low-grade denunciations from the podium of this or that.
Trump is almost universally seen by all but the most ardent supporters as unqualified for the office of the president. We keep hearing that, squeezed in between all the other verbiage being spewed about him. That in fact the only reason for some to vote for Hillary is because Trump is so thoroughly unqualified.
And yet, it would seem that most people who support him have a “Yeah? So?” reaction.
Consider: that very accusation, leveled by people despised by Trump supporters, makes him all the more appealing. For many, the very fact that he is unqualified to fill an office which they have believed filled primarily by ideologues of the “wrong” stripe for decades is a bonus. His very unsuitability in comparison to all others is the whole point. So hammering on the “unqualified to be president” charge is counterproductive. You’re only reinforcing what they already know—and approve.
What Trump has successfully managed is to project as counternarrative an image of the ideal outsider. Not only is he outside the mainstream of political circles but he is outside the traditional bounds of informed citizen. The people to which this appeals most strongly are those who no longer believe in any kind of constructive dialogue. In their bones, they seem to believe that because they either don’t understand the system or the language of cooperative discourse, they are always shut out of any major public dialogue. They’re tired of the ongoing discussions because, for them, nothing ever goes their way.
This is not Trump’s doing but he has tapped into it very well. He knows his audience. Tell them you’ll put up a gigantic wall to keep foreigners out, any attempt at examining the merits of that proposal will be met with impatience and derision. “We don’t care about your ethics or even your cost-benefit analyses, we like the idea of a wall, so stop telling me it won’t work or shouldn’t work or—more to the point—that I have no right to feel that way!”
Trump won the GOP nomination very simply, by appealing to those who are fed up trying to understand “processes” or “paradigms” or “dynamics” or the intricacies of a system they feel—often correctly—is bent on screwing them, by telling them that he will be their John Wayne and clean up the town. Which usually means gunplay and some form of segregation.
Yes, it does come directly from the implicit “Make America White Again” which is the essential motor in his campaign car.
The reason this never works and only succeeds in making a lot of other people extremely angry is that it is a fantasy.
And Trump knows how to play this. His wife’s speech at the convention, clearly cribbed from Michele Obama, is a seriously twisted example of cultural appropriation that compares well with anything George Orwell might have come up with. An anti-immigrant candidate’s Eastern European wife steals a speech from an educated native born black woman and represents it as a model of what the GOP should strive for. This is done without the least hint of irony and the floor erupted with glee at the profundities they heard. Which they had heard before and, as with just about everything else attached to Obama, rejected. Rejected without any consideration as to content only with regard to who was saying it.
Of course, if Trump’s presumed policies actually went into effect, his wife might have trouble staying here. He’d have to give her a special pardon.
But his base doesn’t care. Melania will be fine, she can stay, because what they want more than anything is the power to say who fits and who doesn’t.
Hence the comparisons to Nazism. The Green Card will become the new Yellow Star. What’s in your wallet?
Shifting to the other side, the lukewarm support for Hillary is in some ways based on the exact same set of criteria. Qualifications. She may well be the most qualified candidate for president we have ever seen. On paper, I cannot think of any presidential candidate ever who brings more preparedness to the office.
And that very thing is making a lot of people very uncomfortable. Because America has developed, over many decades, a culture that exudes contempt for professionalism, especially in politics and especially in someone who is the wrong kind of person.
The reason Melania Trump’s plagiarism (and let me stress, I don’t for a second believe Melania did that, her speech was written for her, but someone knew exactly what they were doing) will pass through the Trump base without stirring a leaf of indignation is because Michele Obama should never have been able to make it in the first place. She’s the “wrong” kind of person to be smart and powerful.
So, in similar fashion, is Hillary Clinton.
Now, if she were a man…
How can I suggest that? Because the kind of subterfuge, oligarchism, and political insider creds for which she is being criticized is shared by just about any career politician who has moved for any length of time at those levels of power. Dig deep enough, you can find exactly the kinds of shenanigans of which Hillary is suspected, but in the main none of it ever gets before a Senate committee, because in the main all of them are men and the overwhelming majority are white. It only becomes actionable when the status quo is threatened, and here the threat is to the gender bias that should have gone away in the Seventies.
At it’s simplest, the choice is this: we have a candidate who will effectively execute the office of president and run the country; and we have a candidate who will run the country into the ground. The funny thing is, both of them are in equal measure cheered and reviled over the exact same question of qualifications. One is amply qualified, the other is profoundly unqualified.
As for the direction of the country, I suggest that the important elections this year are not for the presidency. If Hillary wins—and I suspect she will—she will be overseeing a political landscape that will either be in chaos or will be in the early stages of serious reform. Her job will be to keep it together in either case. Because it will be in congress that the real changes need to be made. If we send the same congress back, Hillary will simply be there to be blamed for the same stagnant nonsense Obama has been putting up with. If, however, we see record voter turnout and a massive overhaul in the Senate and the House, then a great deal of repair work will start, and that will be messy in a different way. I’d still rather see Hillary there that Trump.
One thing, though, that has to change—our indifference to education and our suspicion of ability.
Oh, one other thing—we need to vote.