NEW YORK CITY, near America
A decade ago, the opening fusillades of bigotry were fired at Barack Obama, first African American president of the United States, prompting a professor at Northwestern University in Illinois to issue prescient warning of the worst to come. In an essay for a Manhattan weekly newspaper, under the headline WHITE AMERICA HAS LOST ITS MIND, Steven Thrasher wrote in the now defunct Village Voice—
“About 12:01 on the afternoon of January 20, 2009, the white American mind began to unravel. It had been a pretty good run up to that point. The brains of white folks had been humming along cogently for near on four hundred years on this continent, with little sign that any serious trouble was brewing. White people, after all, had managed to invent a spiffy new form of self-government so that all white men (and, eventually, women) could have a say in how white people were taxed and governed. White minds had also nearly universally occupied just about every branch of that government and, for more than two centuries, had kept sole possession of the leadership of its executive branch (whose parsonage, after all, is called the White House).
“But when that streak was broken—and, for the first time, a non-white president accepted the oath—white America rapidly began to lose its grip.
“As with other forms of dementia, the signs weren’t obvious at first. After the 2008 election, when former House majority leader Tom DeLay suggested that instead of a formal inauguration, Barack Obama should ‘have a nice little chicken dinner, and we’ll save the $125 million,’ black folks didn’t miss the implication. References to chicken, particularly of the fried variety, have long served as a kind of code when white folks referred to black people and their gustatory preferences…and weren’t many of us already accustomed to older white politicians making such gaffes?
“But who among us sensed that it was a harbinger that an entire nation was plunging into madness—?”
Today, it is clear to some of us Americans that our nation has plunged indeed—as Mr. Thrasher predicted. And in accordance with a core proposition, as I see it: racism as the shabby costume of naked stupidity.
Today, it is clear that an unholy number of The Stupid are in cultish thrall of President Obama’s dangerously unhinged successor: Donald J. Trump, a man whose conduct as a “psychologically disordered” president is described by Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, as a “national and global emergency.”
In an interview last year with the online magazine Salon, Dr. Lee spoke to the profoundly negative social effect on a polity headed by a psychopath, as elaborated in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” the book she co-authored with thirty-seven other mental health professionals. The book’s treatise links Mr. Trump’s “malignant narcissism” to a logical outcome known by the world of psychiatry as “malignant normality.” As a non-psychiatrist, I call it just plain stupidity. But as the good doctor more tenderly explains:
“[A] malignant normality will set in where we will accept what is malignant as being normal. That is described as ‘loss of insight.’ This happens when an individual or a group no longer sees what is wrong, destructive, and pathological as abnormal but actually accept it as normal.
“We know what happens to patients when they lose their ability to have insight. …[T]he afflicted person starts to see delusions and hallucinations as real. …[A] sick, delusional person will force family members and those around them to abandon their own sense of reality and espouse the sick person’s delusions and conspiracy theories.”
Speaking of conspiracy theories, Mr. Trump’s Republican Party true-believers have lately flocked to the strange and mysterious universe of QAnon, in which the faithful are convinced that Dear Leader is secretly investigating a number of Democratic Party officials and entertainers who worship Satan and operate a child sex-trafficking ring. On occasion, members of this evil cabal, joined by reptiles from Outer Space who actually run the U.S. government, drink the blood of trafficked youngsters and/or eat their flesh.
I am not making this up. Not a word of it.
Cryptic hints regarding the progress of the secret investigation are meted out via internet message boards by an elusive cabinet-level officer of the Trump administration. All joined in righteous cause look forward to what Q references as “the storm,” at which time Dear Leader will summarily execute the wicked—among these, Democratic A-listers Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (and/or her clone), and Hollywood celebrities Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation classifies QAnon as a racist hate group with potential for domestic terrorism. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has said the stalwarts of QAnon are “people that (sic) love our country.”
Republican grandees merely wink at the outlandishness of QAnon. Substantially behind in opinion polling for November’s presidential election, the party needs votes of people stupid enough to take the nonsense seriously. Meanwhile, Q-ists flood the zone wherever and whenever a presidential entourage appears at campaign events.
Hence Mr. Trump’s enthusiastic endorsements of seven QAnon candidates for Congress in November. Republicans all, they are Jo Rae Perkins of Oregon, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Mike Cargile and Erin Cruz of California, Theresa Raborn of Illinois, Burgess Owens of Utah, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia (a lithe blonde businesswoman who appears to be the lecherous president’s type).
Of the six, the semiautomatic rifle-toting Ms. Greene is a shoo-in for victory in her overwhelmingly rightwing Republican district, despite her declared belief that the al-Qaeda aerial attack on the Pentagon Building outside Washington, D.C. in September of 2001 is a “hoax”—and despite hours of videos she produced for social media that demean African Americans, Jews, and Muslims. Mr. Trump lauded her as a “future Republican star” who is “strong on everything and never gives up.”
As if the QAnon crowd was not sufficiently crackpot for the president and his minions, a quack from Houston has affirmed Mr. Trump’s pet flimflam notion on preventing, possibly even curing the pandemic of coronavirus disease discovered last year, commonly known as Covid-19.
The disease has resulted in 186,874 American deaths, more than triple the number of U.S. military fatalities during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and ‘70s. According to comparison figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nowhere else on Earth is Covid-19 death rate so high, nor the number of confirmed infections—now at 6,140,096 as I write on August 31.
Now comes one Stella “Dr. Demon Sperm” Immanuel, deemed worthy of medical licensure in pediatrics in the state of Texas. She is a proponent of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a repurposed therapeutic for Covid-19. Mr. Trump claims that he himself uses hydroxychloroquine on occasion.
—NOTE: The White House has produced no evidence that the president has ever ingested hydroxychloroquine. There is evidence, however, of Donald Trump’s financial stake in Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical firm that peddles a private brand of the drug.)
Dr. Immanuel, who according to her self-styled Facebook profile is also a “prophet of God to the nations,” is a proponent of so much more than a sham elixir. Among her nostrums, medical and sociological:
• Gynecological problems come from dreams of sex with demons, who somehow manage to deposit sperm
• Dastardly scientists are hard at work formulating a vaccine against religion
• Hydroxychloroquine eliminates the need of facemasks
• Gay Americans are practitioners of “homosexual terrorism”
• Per her sermons, delivered weekly from her strip mall Firepower Ministries church, “Children need to whipped”
Again, I am not making this up. About neither the reverend/doctor’s philosophy, nor Donald Trump’s belief that Stella Immanuel is “impressive” and owns “a voice that should be heard.”
Nor the fact that an unholy number of Trump-trusting ‘murican dotards buy the Reverend Doctor’s bushwa.
And finally, this summer’s four-night Season of The Stupid capped off with the Republican National Convention—a TV studio show of ersatz ballyhoo in lieu of live bodies packed close together for maxim pageantry and pomposity. Save for a series finale on the White House Lawn, featuring approximately one thousand obedient party machers, all but a few mask-less. The assembled sycophants were tightly grouped for the TV cameras in rows of folding chairs, there to risk Covid-19 infestation as they applauded Donald Trump’s flaccid schtick: denunciations, personal insults, incoherency, and lies.
Prior to the hour-long presidential address, a parade of inane champions of the Republican cause warned their audience—a thousand live (for the nonce), and the 21.6 million Americans watching TV that momentous evening—that victory over Mr. Trump by his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, would render America a hellhole of violence and depravity. (Presumably, even more so than violence and depravity as known by authors of the Holy Bible.) Among my favorite floggers on behalf of Mr. Trump:
• Ben Carson. The African American secretary of Housing and Urban Development said those who accuse the president of white racism “couldn’t be more wrong,” never mind that real estate developer Donald Trump has twice been ordered by federal courts to pay multi-million-dollar fines for barring prospective black tenants from rental properties.
• Kimberly Guilfoyle. The heavily lacquered ex-Fox TV personality and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. was dubbed by subversive journalists as “Screamin’ Kim” in the wake of her extremely loud and hyperkinetic speech to an empty TV studio, in which she said “cosmopolitan élites” of the Democratic Party “want to steal your liberty, your freedom” and “control what you see and think.”
• Rudy Giuliani. The spittle-spewing ex-mayor of New York and current personal attorney for Mr. Trump, said Joe Biden is a “Trojan horse” for the Democratic Party’s “entire left wing, just waiting to execute their pro-criminal, anti-police policies.”
• Rand Paul. The rightwing senator from Kentucky put it to voters this way: “To those of you who want to stand up and fight the socialists poisoning our schools and burning our cities, join me in supporting President Trump.”
• Kellyanne Conway. A bleach-blonde “senior advisor” to the president, famous for her advocacy of “alternative facts,” leaves her White House post in September due to messy trouble on the homefront: Her husband, George, called Mr. Trump “boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent…and racist” in an essay for the Washington Post; in a Twitter pleading, their teenage daughter sought “emancipation” from her mother. Putting aside reality—the dozens of credible sexual assault accusations against her boss, the fact of America’s crumbling economy, unemployment not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s—Ms. Conway declared, “President Trump and Vice President Pence have lifted Americans [and] provided them with dignity, opportunity and results.”
• Jim Jordan. The über-Republican high school wrestling coach-cum-congressman from Ohio credibly accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of teenage boys in his charge, said his Democratic colleagues in Washington are permitting “crime, violence, and mob rule” run rampant throughout America. What’s more, “The Democrat Party (sic) wants to take away your guns.”
• Kristi Noem. A skeptic of Covid-19’s threat to public health, the South Dakota governor and rising Republican star said she and the president are fighting “Democrats and their radical supporters” in cities “overrun by violent mobs.”
• Burgess Owens. A Republican candidate for Congress from Utah, the retired African American football player wrote a heavily plagiarized, self-published memoir titled “Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism.” His party convention message last month: “Mobs torch our cities while popular members of Congress promote…socialism. We have a Democratic candidate for president who says that I’m not black if I don’t vote for him.”
Luckily for America and Europe, we have 26-year-old podcaster Charlie Kirk to set us straight about Donald Trump. In the weeks prior to the Republican convention, he earned what Trumpists consider a badge of honor: banishment from Twitter for falsely claiming, among other whoppers, that social distancing regulations at church services were part of a Democratic plot to destroy Christianity. At the convention, Mr. Kirk declared the president no less than “the bodyguard of western civilization.”
One may laugh off the foregoing foolery of Republican expounders, and their obsession with socialism as inchoate evil that would provide healthcare, guaranteed employment, and quality healthcare on an equal basis to all Americans—including non-white Americans. (Horrors!)
Laugh as you will, but there remain two starkly undeniable facts: 1) Foolish Republicans represent fully half the U.S. political establishment, and they are not likely to go away when Mr. Trump is ejected from the White House; 2) Their transparently stupid and willfully ignorant claims have fashioned an American “idiocracy” determined to supplant one of the world’s oldest and once most respected continuing democracies.
Leader of the idiocracy is the current president, of course, a man who describes himself as a “very stable genius.” During his party’s convention, the genius was asked by New York Times reporter Peter Baker about his programmatic intentions should he win a second term. Here is exactly how the bodyguard of western civilization responded to the softball question, in full and per transcript of Mr. Baker’s recorded interview:
“But so I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we’d have a very solid, we would continue what we’re doing, we’d solidify what we’ve done, and we have other things on our plate that we want to get done.”
Professor Thrasher led this piece on the theory that America’s plunge into madness is attributable to fault lines and historical crimes of the nation’s insistently dominant culture. As a white gentleman born to the post-World War 2 “baby boom” generation, it is more than slightly disturbing to acknowledge the truth of his premise. As an American who respects his own self-interest, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Thrasher’s theoretical conclusion, based on the changing demographics of my beloved country—changes that disturb me not in the least:
“[G]raying boomers will hate to pay for the education, health, and welfare of the coming browns. They’ll be stingy about it. They’ll scream about it. But they’ll have no choice but to do it.
“After all, who but the hordes of young browns will be around to work when the grays retire? To pay taxes? To fund their Medicare and Social Security? And how will they earn enough money to finance boomers in their retirement if they’re not well educated and healthy?
“Too do this dance effectively, the white American mind is going to have to focus and prioritize.
“Maybe, just maybe, it might be required to act with a little ever-loving sanity now and again.”
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag