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Thomas Adcock: American Rage Machine Kaput


American Rage Machine Kaput

Build Back Brighter?

by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2021 – Thomas Adcock

NEW YORK CITY, near America

Dare I disagree with the esteemed Robert Kagan, Ph.D.—alumnus of Harvard and Yale universities, senior fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at the lofty Brookings Institution, co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century?

Whoa! An Ivy League think tanker versus little old me? Credentialed pessimism versus my own fitful pursuit of the positive?

In a September 23 essay for the Washington Post, Mr. Kagan sees darkness ahead—no less than a collapse of the United States of America.  Granted, a prophecy of national doom seems logical in the face of a clear and present danger posed by the malevolent existence of Donald Trump and his flock of criminals and bullyboys and fascist fools, and by Republican Party poohbahs surrendered to such a mafia—more likely cowed by death threats and physical assault in the shameful name of its capo di tutti capi.

The opening paragraphs of Mr. Kagan’s essay has scared the bejesus out of an American media caste ever adjudging the zeitgeist with deference to the polity’s loudest voices, seldom hearing those of quiet determination and strategic ridicule. Each chorus represents a minority opinion, each with the potential of overcoming its opposite.

“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War,” Mr. Kagan thunders, “with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into…warring enclaves.”

He continues:

                “[A]bout these things there should be no doubt:

“First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional…

“Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever mean necessary. …The stage is thus being set for chaos…Partisans on both sides [will] be better armed and more willing to inflict harm…

“…Most Americans, and all but a handful of politicians, have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation.”

On the other hand, let us consider the problem of overestimation, part of which is the trap of assuming that everything said by an expensively educated scholar is accurate and admirable. Such is predicate for my quarrel with gloomy notions of an American dystopia, as begun with a capital-B bang in Mr. Kagan’s essay, but which fails to imagine the possibility of Cassandra ending her song in a whimper, then a sigh.

More importantly, Mr. Kagan seems unaware of boomerang value in the ludicrous personality of Donald Trump—how his buffoonish appearance and conduct can and should be turned against him.

The man is a racist, an anti-Semite, a cheapskate, and a sexual abuser; he owns weird yellow hair, a tanning bed complexion, oddly small hands, and a cheeseburger belly; day and day out, his kewpie doll lips spew ignorance, gibberish, and lies. Think of these appalling characteristics as comedic weapons, bullets that remind us how we may blast open a famously puff-chested misanthrope.   

We Americans snicker at this twice-impeached ex-president in equal measure to fearing him, Mr. Kagan aside. His appearance alone invites mockery. We have invented scores of jokey descriptives for Donald “Stinky” Trump, a reference to the British slang term for flatulence. Here, a few more: Screaming Carrot Demon, White Pride Piper, Mango Mussolini, Orange Oaf, Trumplethinskin, Deadbeat Donald, Fatso the Führer, Oval Office Seat Moistener, Tangerine Trash Fire, Short-Fingered Vulgarian, His Bloatedness, Lumbering Liar, Fart-Powered Bagpipe…

…The point being: comedic weaponry upsets the order, more so an emergent fascist order—an admitted possibility for America. In 1945, the year of German fascism’s Waterloo, the English novelist George Orwell (né Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950) wrote of effective resistance to authoritarian rule: “Every joke is a tiny revolution.”

Further, wrote Mr. Orwell, “If you had to define humour in a single phrase, you might define it as dignity sitting on a [thumb tack]. Whatever destroys dignity, and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny. And the bigger the fall, the bigger the joke.”

It took some years for the man none dared call a joke to fall, but fall he certainly did, helped along with a comedic push from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 motion picture satire “The Great Dictator.”

Beyond that which we find repulsive or perilous about him, Donald Trump is a big fat joke. Increasingly, the more sentient among his ornery cult understand that the joke is now (and has always been) on them. Accordingly, Mr. Trump sees a successive drop in attendance at hate-filled jamborees, à la Nazi rallies in Nuremberg in the 1930s. Empty seats greet him everywhere these days, no matter his ceaseless assertion that the November 2020 election was “rigged,” ergo he is still the U.S. president.

And though Herr Trump’s raucous call for insurrection at the Capitol Building in Washington last January 6 inspired thousands of his Sturmtrupen, the effort failed in the end—as some six hundred poor slobs arrested on charges ranging from trespass to felony assault will attest, not to forget one screaming insurrectionist lawfully shot dead by a policeman as she bashed her way through a window. Nevertheless, the same confederation of domestic terrorists that birthed January’s siege staged an encore on September 18, attracting fewer than a hundred suckers unable to elicit much attention from the considerably larger crowd of cops and journalists.  

Weeks after the pathetic reminiscence, the results of a laughably contrived “audit” of votes cast in the state of Arizona during last November’s presidential election embarrassed Trump cultists and Dear Leader himself—as well as the state Republican Party, which sponsored the absurdity, in which briskly paid “auditors” with zero experience in auditing found Donald Trump losing to President Joe Biden by a even more votes than initially tallied. For a while there, Dear Leader kept his mouth shut.

But comedy shortly ensued. Mr. Trump and his dwindling band of disciples set about further audit burlesques in a number of states lost to Biden last November. In particular, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and for some inscrutable reason the southern state of Texas, where Mr. Trump handily defeated Mr. Biden, candidate of the Democratic Party. In the adjacent southern state of Georgia, however, Mr. Biden prevailed last year and brought with him two additionally stunning victories for Democrats—the newly-elected Senators Raphael Warnock, an African American, and Jon Ossoff, a Jew.

Out west in California a few weeks ago, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom survived a recall election by waging a stridently anti-Trump campaign against his Republican opponent. Mr. Newsom triumphed in a landslide win against a hardcore Trumpisto named Larry Elder.  

Now pity the fate of flunkies employed by the blessedly brief Trump regime. A special investigative committee in Congress charged with apportioning blame for the ex-president’s insurrection recently issued subpoenas for a quartet of his toadies.

Sure to be dragged kicking and screaming to the witness table are the following four:

Kashyap Patel, who fed Mr. Trump highly suspect information that fed his fantasy of an allegedly corrupt government of Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election, in aid of that year’s Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Steve Bannon, onetime chief strategist for Mr. Trump and the handsomest guy at the liquor store. For defrauding supporters of the then-president by using financial contributions to a giant wall along the Mexican border for his own lavish pleasures, Mr. Bannon received a presidential pardon in the days before Mr. Trump’s exit from the White House.

Mark Meadows, a former member of Congress who became Mr. Trump’s chief of staff and facilitated what is likely to soon be prosecuted as a criminal proposition: Donald Trump’s telephone appeal to the chief election official of Georgia to “find” an additional 11,780 votes in his favor—a conversation preserved on audio tape.

Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s former golf caddy. As deputy to Mark Meadows, it was Mr. Scavino’s job to write Donald Trump’s bombastic and routinely misspelled tweets—back in the days before the ex-president was banned from Twitter due to his penchant for lies and disinformation.

Then, too, there is the matter of Rudy Giuliani. The former gang-busting Manhattan federal prosecutor turned mayor of New York City somehow became Mr. Trump’s bumbling personal attorney. As a frequently inebriated presidential counselor, Mr. Giuliani roamed the country propagating the Big Lie about supposed election tampering that torpedoed Mr. Trump’s 2020 reëlection chances.

Among Mr. Giuliani’s contributions to the Big Lie was his claim that a manufacturer of voting machines was in league with mysterious communists from Venezuela who quashed millions of ballots in several states in the cause of thwarting Mr. Trump last November. The manufacturer, Dominion Voting Systems, filed a $1.3 billion (€1.11 billion) defamation suit against Mr. Giuliani, now pending in federal court.

Additionally, Mr. Giuliani’s license to practice law in New York was recently suspended by the state’s highest court due to “false and misleading statements” regarding the 2020 election. In Washington, meanwhile, his law license is under temporary suspension while New York conducts an ethics investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s behavior.

Donald Trump will not be advocating for his consiglieri. He and Mr. Giuliani have apparently severed their professional and social ties. The reason, according to the newly published tell-all book “Peril” (by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa), is Mr. Trump’s assessment of Mr. Giuliani: “He’s crazy. He says crazy shit.”

Others in the Trump orbit had or have trouble with the law. Mr. Bannon is but one name in a long list of White House operatives arrested, indicted, or imprisoned for crimes on behalf of the most corrupt president in U.S. history. Dear Leader’s veteran money man and even his offspring are subject to Lady Justice.

Thus far, fifteen criminal charges have been filed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. against Allen Weisselberg, longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, an eponymous corporate entity. Charges against him include tax fraud, grand larceny and defrauding the government. Mr. Weisselberg has declared innocence.

On the morning of September 2, a New York judge ordered three of Mr. Trump’s children—sons Eric and Donald Jr., and semi-glamorous daughter Ivanka—to “preserve, collect, and produce all documents responsive to subpoenas issued by [New York State Attorney General Letitia James] as part of a civil probe into whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its assets for [bank] loans and tax breaks,” constituting rather serious felonies.

As for the law of physics, what goes up must come down. Thus, Donald J. Trump’s improbable rise to the presidency has fallen with a thud heard ‘round the world. So, too, the undeserved ascensions of his dubious friends and family members. What Mr. Kagan cites in his scary essay, therefore, is the storm before the calm.

And what of his prediction that Mr. Trump, now age 78, will launch another presidential run three years hence? Mr. Trump’s estranged niece agrees, up to a point. She reasoned that the opportunity to fleece his flock of campaign donations is too tempting for Uncle Don to ignore.

“He will pretend to run for sure,” said Mary Trump during an appearance on MSNBC-Television.

A clinical psychologist who has described Mr. Trump as “criminal, cruel, and traitorous,” offered a simple motive for her uncle’s coming faux campaign: “Think about how much money he made in the last few months,” she said. “More since Biden won the election than he has in his entire life. I don’t think he’ll let that go so soon.”

Unsurprisingly, the potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024 has given himself an out. Asked by a host on the rightwing television program “Real America’s Voice” what might prevent him from seeking office again, Mr. Trump responded, “I guess a bad call from a doctor or something…You get that call, they say, ‘Come on down here and see us because we had a bad report.’ Things happen, through God they happen. But I feel so good.”

Given his age and girth, it is not too soon to consider the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency. Anger and stupidity come to mind, both powerful human forces unhappily evidenced by a significant number of Americans whose faith in expensive magical elixirs as curative for the covid-19 pandemic eclipses the proven, cost-free vaccines developed by scientists.

At present, the stupidly angry have descended on local school boards in suspiciously organized fashion to serve up delusionary, near psychotic anti-vaccine/anti-mask tirades.

Such was the case on August 17 in San Diego, California. A bearded, red-faced man with ginger-colored dreadlocks and a high-volume rasp who called himself Matt Baker rose to deliver a contentious, spittle-packed speech during the public comment phase of a hearing meant to examine the merits of mandatory student vaccinations and classroom masking.

Expressing a special disdain for Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Mr. Baker exploded with, “You are about to open a pit of Hell! You do not get a vaccine passport put on us!”

Mr. Baker’s agitation grew as he continued to scream at tolerant public officials.

“Do you think that the four feet of marble that holds you above, high in this chamber, will help you from the fate of humanity which [sic] you are unleashing? No, it won’t! Your children and your children’s children will be subjugated. They will be asked, ‘How many vaccines have you had? Have you been a good little Nazi?’

“Heil Fauci! Heil Fauci! Heil Fauci!”

Enough, my fellow Americans silently say. Here in New York City, once the epicenter of pandemic, 71 percent of us are vaccinated against covid as of September 28. Nationwide, the vaccination rate approaches 60 percent—twice the global measure.

Just as the world may always contend with alarmists on the order of Robert Kagan, Ph.D., and fascist leaders popping up like poison mushrooms after a rainstorm, there will always be Matt Bakers to prove a favored maxim of the French philosopher Voltaire (né François-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778): “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

In the wake of all this, may America and the world build back brighter. May we all enjoy the balm of comedy—and the god of irony, as he appeared to us on September 21 when an unidentified man streaked nude through the streets of midtown Manhattan, past a glass booth on the outdoor set of NBC-Television’s “Today” show.

“Oh, there’s a—there was a naked runner,” said a nonchalant NBC news reader as he flagged his fellow broadcasters to the spectacle. Unperturbed, he then proceeded to report news of the day, including updates on angry and stupid objections to wearing facemasks as a means of containing the covid spread.

Notably, the otherwise stark-naked streaker wore a facemask.

Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag

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