Donald Trump's Truth

“America is already great.”

From the incumbent party in the White house, this is the refrain we’ve heard again and again in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention and at the DNC itself. In politics, I guess you take whatever opening your opponent gives you.

Except the reality for tens of millions of Americans is that the United States is not great. They are left out and left behind. They turn on the news and talk to their friends and don’t recognize the world they live in. The economic recovery of the last eight years has been a recovery for everyone but them. Their life expectancy has dropped for the first time in American history. Their children will do worse than they have done, not better. Their rates of incarceration are rising year after year. The family, formerly one of the most stable units of social cohesion, is in tatters largely due to economic unrest. The church offers them nothing. Their wages are flat, their healthcare is expensive, and their jobs are drudgery. On one side of the political divide they’re called idiots and on the other they’re spoon-fed a constant diet of fear.

Donald Trump is vile. He’s a cartoon character, a melodrama villain, a charlatan, an incarnation of cynical political gamesmanship, and very likely a fascist who would be an epic disaster for the United States and the world. But he has tapped into a truth that speaks to a huge segment of the American population: America is not great for everybody. This is a truth liberals should recognize (and do when it suits them). But here they do not. Why?

Because liberals lack the basic empathetic imagination to recognize this, blinded as they are by their own ideology of inclusion. The pain felt by people who support Trump expresses itself as racist, nationalist, jingoistic, misogynistic bullshit, and so it is dismissed by liberals. But of course it takes that shape! People are using the only language they have been offered to voice their frustrations.

Liturgy defines a space in which participants may grope and gesture toward truth. “Make America Great Again” is a counter-liturgy offered by a fascist demagogue to a public looking for any meaning, any answer outside the status quo offered by technocratic, neoliberal priest/politicians bowing and supplicating themselves before the vengeful god of The Market. The truth Trump’s liturgy points toward is this: “Our country does not feel 'great already' to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair.” Yes, it’s true this counter-liturgy is chanted by a death cult, but I guess the bad tan and worse hair are too distracting for people to notice.

It is vitally important that the social and economic pain identified by Trump be met with real solutions (something Trump and the Republican Party are incapable of). But Liberals think they're exempt from understanding Trump's appeal to hurting people because they hate Trump and everything he represents. So they have offered no compelling alternative to business as usual, which is exactly what Hillary Clinton represents.

Look, Hillary Clinton will win this election because she’s tough as nails. Her campaign is a juggernaut and Donald Trump is a joke. She’ll get things done. Republicans are terrified of her because of her political acumen. She will govern effectively and stand as an important symbol for woman and girls for decades to come.

But mark my words, over the next eight years there will be another economic downturn. Liberals will still have offered no voice to people whipping in the winds of abstract, inhumane domestic and international economic policies which primarily seek the ever-increasing accumulation of capital and the enrichment of faceless corporations at the expense of masses of under-educated, economically depressed people.

The situation will get worse, not only for current Trump supporters but for Clinton voters as well. And Democrats will be left holding the bag this time, not Republicans as in 2008. Then a real politician will rise to take advantage of the liturgy first chanted by Donald Trump.

Violent Aberrations

While gun control is a touchy subject, it is nonetheless one worth wrestling with. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting there are hosts of bills concerning the regulation of firearms before state legislatures across the country. Indeed, a bipartisan bill that would require background checks to purchase a gun was before the US Senate just yesterday. It would have passed but it failed to gain a 60 vote super majority and was filibustered off the floor by Senate Republicans.

So gun control is in the news daily. I've been thinking about it. And I think I have a take on the issue that I can stand and that might prompt interesting conversation no matter who I'm talking to.

I want to preface this by saying that I don't agree with the tired old line "guns don't kill people, people kill people". It seems obvious to me that limiting private access to assault weapons and high yield hand guns should also limit deaths from guns in the United States. I understand that there arguments that refute this, but I don't find them convincing.

That being said, while it is the nature and purpose of a firearm to deliver a huge amount of force to an object from a distance, and this fact may make it easier to carry out violent acts upon animals and humans alike where the physical manipulation of a blade, for example, might not be so easy, a gun doesn't have a mystical power to turn a person into a killer. So the question is, what about our society, as opposed to a country like Canada (where gun ownership is also high), leads people to carry out acts of destructive violence against other human beings? This isn't the politically practical question, but it is the question conservatives and liberals alike should be asking themselves and discussing together.

As the beginning of an answer to my own question, I propose that violent acts like Sandy Hook, the Aurora theater shooting, and -- yes -- the Boston bombings, are not violent aberrations within an otherwise peaceful society. Instead, these acts of incredible violence happen against a backdrop of subtly violent interactions that make up our systems of economics, politics, foreign policy, law enforcement, public education, physical health care, mental health, entertainment, religious observance, and sports. We come ever so close to having an at least tangential discussion about these issues when we talk about mental health. However, usually we end up demonizing the mentally ill as the perpetrators of violence while ignoring their victimization at the hands of a society that has largely forgotten its human responsibility to see to their well-being (including in the piece linked above by Gabrielle Giffords) and so we redouble the violence against them through the discussion itself.

We encourage this violence and take part in it to our individual benefit and to our collective downfall. While I support gun control, and believe it not only to be constitutional in general but also specifically constitutionally mandated, it is really only so much blabbing in the face of the problems that really beset our society.