Some words just simply don’t go together. Diligent crocodile. Honorary Hyena. Loving rattlesnake. The image just doesn’t come through for the sane mind. The absence, therefore, of these lunatic expressions in our daily discourse is not at all conspicuous.
If you’re an average non-sociopath, another word combo could easily torment your brain cells: President Trump. Now here are two words whose use could only be realistically imagined in a comedy script, or satire. This is because a little over a year ago, the reality of this ever actually happening was as likely as Maulana Sherani quoting Voltaire. But gradually, like a slow malignant growth, the disorienting image of Donald Trump in the White House crept towards reality and finally culminated in it.
And this is the itchy, unbelievable truth the world must contend with: a brash, racist, humanity debasing, female trashing, misanthrope of a man who couldn’t reach the lowest baseline of basic human decency if he stood on stilts, will now occupy the highest executive office in the world.
Imagine what example this election sets for this generation of kids, who are preached on the one hand the value of ethics, honesty, civility and morality, yet are presented with the frightening image of this billboard of a man who violates every single one of those principles as though he were getting paid for it. This is both depressing and embarrassing. Embarrassing in fact for all of humanity, because if America is construed as a global leader in nation states, then its choice of leader says a lot about our civilisational progress, or lack thereof. But more specifically, this is doubly embarrassing for America itself. It’s embarrassing not simply because this is a man whose policies fail any connection with reality. To go even that far in analysing him is to invest in him a certain level of intellectual seriousness. Trump is embarrassing because he is the overgrown image of a school yard bully who lacks any passing attribute, let alone finesse, so required of a commander in chief. He is embarrassing for America because he is, on some basic level, psychologically and morally defunct — and he demonstrates this every time he opens his mouth. He is embarrassing for America because this is a country that produced Jeffersons, Hamiltons and Kennedys, as it gave the world a blueprint of what constitutional democracy can look like at its finest manifestation, and yet has now managed to somehow elect this implausible comic-strip figure to its highest office.
Ironically, November 9 (1921) is the day when the National Fascist Party was founded. Who would have known the echoes of fascism would carry over across space and time to November 9, 2016. But this was also the day the Berlin Wall came down, dissolving hate between a separated people. Ironic again that 27 years to the day, the greatest democracy on Earth elects a man whose entire campaign is about erecting walls.
So what does this all say about American ideals? And American exceptionalism? What does it say about a country which prides itself as that line on the map along which every society must try to align — our moral North, if you will? And what does it say about a country that’s long claimed itself a warrior in a battle against fanatics and bigots. A country which trumpets itself as the flag-bearer of freedom and liberty, not just for a certain cross-section of humanity, but a land where all colours and races blend and mend.
Trump’s victory was not just an electoral one, he nearly paralleled Hilary in the popular vote. Think about it. Trump the man who mimicked a handicapped reporter, who rubbished a female TV anchor on live TV, whose leaked audios are a guided tour into the inner recesses of a diseased mind, who talked about first use of nuclear weapons with psychotic calm, who attacked people of colour with degrading epithets, who demanded that Obama — because he is black — produce his birth certificate, who frequently appealed to the worst instincts of his supporters at his rallies rousing them to mob fury against protestors, and a man who to this day refuses to disclose his tax information, just like he has lied on just about any issue he has ever touched. This is the man America has entrusted with its nuclear codes.
About a year ago, Hollywood made a movie on Kim Jong-un, another unhinged man-child that rules North Korea. How does it look now, when a man almost just as bizarre and morally problematic comes to the White House? Hollywood, it appears, will need to put a four year pause on comedic takes on foreign leaders.
Forget Trump’s talk of banning trade with the far-east, of banning Muslims or deporting illegal immigrants by the millions, forget also his take on the economy and the tax breaks he proposes for the vampiric super elite of which he is a member, forget all that, because policies are only secondary when the core itself is rotten.
Truth is Trump’s election is a slap across the face of all those who have long kept America on an illusory pedestal. But it’s also a sobering event. It reminds us that no matter how technology advanced you are, how many PHDs you produce, how many ivy leagues you house, you could still, quite easily, surrender to your most base instincts when the distance between your trumpeted ideals and actual reality becomes the measure of your hypocrisy and subsequent resentment. After all, what Trump offered was a salve to the bleeding wounds of many middle-income Americans. This was essentially the core of his message: ‘I will give you your jobs back. I will give you your country back. Here’s how: I will kill trade. I will block immigration. I will build walls. I will make America great again. I am, after all, a winner.’ The fact the he delivered his message with the gruff clarity of a New York construction worker, resonated all the more with the yahoos. You could almost imagine middle-America on horseback chanting yeehaw in one massive chorus.
But the uglier truth is this: while the expression of peoples’ resentment has been surprising, its character is not. As Dr Cornel West said in a recent publication, Trump is the neofascist response to Hillary’s neoliberalism. This no way means Trump is any less of a neoliberal, in fact he’s all about tax breaks for the rich, but when the common American looks at the stoic, plastered, smiley face Hillary Clinton wears to her rallies, a woman whose donors range from Saudi royals to Wall St wolves, he finds nothing to emotionally connect with, so far removed is this woman — and whatever she represents — from his lived reality. So long as the economic distance between the ruled and those they elect continues to increase in America, there will remain a giant petri dish of resentment among Americans, from which will emerge not one but many Trumps.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2016.
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