When you’re young it’s hard to understand how strong the muscle of state repression is.
Pop culture, whether in the 60’s or the 21st century insists, over and over, sexily, temper and performative exaggerations are enough to bring about freedom. Maybe you won’t shoot the sheriff or bring down the temples of Babylon but for a moment, a moment which sometimes lasts years, you think it’s possible.
Then one day when you’re middle aged, weakened by responsibility, you watch as a democrat (small d) like Bill Clinton, destroys the social safety net for the poor, effectively completing Reagan’s work, while proclaiming a new era of prosperity for all. Later you watch as successive presidents, Republican and Democratic, promote perpetual war. Finally you just live long enough to see an authentic fascist sympathizer take the reins of government. The songs you loved didn’t help. That poetry reading you attended where all the writers joined hands and aimed to levitate the pentagon didn’t work.
Of course it didn’t work. The world ain’t what you think it is, it’s just what it is. The line is from the folk singer Greg Brown.
I’m old. Politics are as ugly as ever. Watching today as Donald Trump doubled down on his rebarbative and shriveled opinion that there are two sides at fault when it comes to neo-nazi extremism and terror reminded me the world is never what I think it is, until it is.
Periods of progress come and go. History tells us this. Even American history. But there’s never been enough progress for people of color. Not for native Americans. Not enough for women. Gays? Don’t make me laugh. The disabled? Many remain locked up in institutions against their wills.
Trump is working the fascist-neo-lib dial, hoping to make Nazis customary—in his version of the United States all you have to do is say they have a point, just like those people who are repulsed. God forbid you should say a fascist might deserve a punch in the mouth after shouting expletives about the jews.
“What is wrong with 45?” people keep saying. Nothing. He’s a dyed in the wool racist who won an election. He cannot lead. He can only fan the flames of discontent. That’s what his electoral base wants. They’re getting it. Don’t confuse “The Donald” with a man who feels genuine sorrow or outrage for as long as he can fan the mob’s rage he’s getting his version of the job done.