A profoundly American phenomenon
“…a majority of white voters backed a candidate who assured them that they will never have to share this country with people of color as equals. That is the reality that all Americans will have to deal with, and one that most of the country has yet to confront.” – Adam Serwer, The Atlantic.
The bewildering contradiction in American politics right now is why on earth 37% of the voters (and 80% of Republican voters) still believe fervently in the presidency of Donald J Trump, after nearly a year of unremitting, humiliating chaos in the White House.
A year of edgy farce, entirely the fault of the President’s un-Presidential ineptitude and the evident behavior of a spoilt, vindictive, thuggish brat in the first stages of senility. A year of daily leaks and childish tweets, bringing the office of President and by extension, an entire nation into the deepest disrepute; yet with seemingly no comebacks.
A year, during which the Golden One has failed to deliver most of his election promises, pushed the nation’s friends away and brought its enemies right inside the camp, promoting many unstable, not to say corrupt and incompetent, cronies from the depths of the Washington sewer and the corporate lobbies to positions of destructive power in his Administration, in flagrant disregard of his oft-repeated pledge to ‘drain the Swamp’.
When Trump boasted in his customary fashion, a man apparently disconnected from the rest of humanity, that he could shoot somebody dead in Times Square and his core supporters would still vote for him, he defined something about the country that many modern Americans and non-Americans alike find deeply disturbing; apart from revealing, along with his frequent references to women bleeding from the eyes, that he is an irredeemable psychopath.
That ‘something’ is carefully and logically explored at length in a new essay timed to coincide with the annual Thanksgiving day celebration by the chief political correspondent of The Atlantic magazine, Adam Serwer.
It doesn’t make easy reading.
For, the contradiction is identified as a persisting strand of radical Puritanism in American society; a nativist instinct more redolent of colonialism than of unionism.
And not just among the supposedly disaffected, economically disadvantaged rural white working class, that hotbed of sub-violent neo-Nazi posturing underpinned by the Second Amendment ‘right to bear arms’ – though not to massacre schoolchildren. Serwer finds a disturbing bias in the attitudes of the middle-class towards people unlike themselves, that has found resonance in the Bannon-inspired, rambling rhetoric of a man most of the rest of the world believes to be temperamentally unfit to hold office; and they don’t care. He writes:
“Trumpism emerged from a haze of delusion, denial, pride, and cruelty—not as a historical anomaly, but as a profoundly American phenomenon. This explains both how tens of millions of white Americans could pull the lever for a candidate running on a racist platform and justify doing so, and why a predominantly white political class would search so desperately for an alternative explanation for what it had just seen. To acknowledge the centrality of racial inequality to American democracy is to question its legitimacy—so it must be denied.”
Serwer carefully demolishes the self-excoriating, liberal-media-generated myth that ‘Trumpism’ is based on inequality, economic stagnation and a groundswell of anti-Establishment, anti-globalist feeling. Few people are worse off than urban blacks and hispanics, yet they didn’t vote for Trump in numbers. Instead, he points to something white voters will hotly deny: that their deep-seated antipathy towards religious and ethnic minorities and their desire to exclude ‘foreigners’ from the life of the nation is evidence of generations of racial bias. Regardless of the obvious fact that the USA is an immigrant society from the outset, those instincts were mostly imported along with the Europeans, encouraged by the lowly position of forcibly indentured Africans.
In many ways, Serwer argues, far from being victories for moderation and tolerance, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement and the Obama era have only served to sharpen, rather than smooth away, the racial and religious divisions in America; and to heighten fear, suspicion and prejudice.
But, he argues, that is exactly the gallery that Trump is playing to.
Little else matters to the dumbfucks (as The Pumpkin affectionately calls them). Not…
- his contemptuous efforts at demolishing healthcare for the masses, destroying what shreds of a social safety net still remain for the poorest in the most unequal economy in the world, where the dice are fully loaded in favour of the wealthiest;
- his huge tax cuts for the top 1%, three of whom already own half of the national wealth between them;
- his draining of the economy to further glut the already bloated military-industrial complex; his crude militarism and ‘bomb the shit out of them’ diplomacy;
- his vainglorious threats of unleashing nuclear holocaust against impoverished and demonized nations outside the ambit of US corporate interests;
- his hollowing-out of the key departments of governance and global strategy in favour of simplistic formulae;
- his scientifically illiterate attempts at removing consumer and endangered wildlife rights and environmental protections, undermining the global scientific consensus on climate change and censoring research;
- his permitting of dinosaur industries to ravage national parks, monuments and protected lands and pollute the air and waterways ad libitum;
- his economic illiteracy, evidenced in his instinct for futile and damaging protectionism and threats against foreign manufacturers;
- his blatant promotion of his family’s business interests and self-enrichment from his office; his nepotistic appointments;
- his lack of concentration and temper tantrums – his desperate need for constant flattery – evidence of seriously arrested emotional development;
- his heavy threats against the women who accuse him of inappropriate conduct; his childish inability to resist retaliating to every perceived slight;
- his compulsive lying on every subject; his appalling record of appointments and firings; his constantly blaming the Democrats for his victory and inflating his terrible approval ratings;
- even the suspicion – more than a suspicion – of collusion with Russia in rigging the election; his criminal attempts to defeat independent investigation of his campaign staff and his family’s business interests;
…those are seen in Trump’s heartland community as negligible failings compared with the one policy thread that he has pursued with vigor: namely the further marginalization of those considered not properly deserving of their place in American society: which is to say, not white, virtuous and Christian.
“Overall, poor and working-class Americans did not support Trump; it was white Americans on all levels of the income spectrum who secured his victory.”
The Pumpkin has always been fascinated by the white American belief in the black man as somehow inferior, since the black man has played more than his part in lifting America to what the rest of the world would consider its greatness. We regard ‘Great’ America as being its eclectic culture, its vibrant musical heritage, its industry, its sporting supremacy in many fields, its willingness to sacrifice in the cause of justice (when it is not creating injustice) – not its abusive domestic policies, its appalling record on foreign relations or, indeed, its ‘whiteness’. It must really rankle when world-heroes like Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King are celebrated in the polls as ‘the greatest human being who ever lived’.
Yet the whites who vote time and again against their own economic interest for men like Trump and the swivel-eyed lunatics on the fringe of the Republican party will, Serwer points out, hotly deny to a man and woman that they are ‘racist’. The very suggestion empowers their feelings of alienation.
And I think herein lies a distinction I have often tried making, which Serwer really fails to make, that we need to separate racism from ‘racialism’ – the first implying some active and unprovoked animus towards people of a different caste; the latter being a bogus, pseudo-scientific belief in a hierarchy of ‘races’ – in which the white man naturally stands at the apex of Creation, and (perhaps) owes a duty of tolerant care and even fatherly kindness to the lesser of the species, as long as they remember their place.
The Pumpkin further observes that American Christianity has little or nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings, since its fundamentals are those of the Old Testament, not the later Gospels. While American Christians will hold their callused hands up to heaven and proclaim Jesus as their lord and saviour, if not also their best friend and cheap substitute for Obamacare, absolutely nothing he is alleged to have said or done in his short lifetime with regard to love of one’s neighbour (regardless of origin), forgiveness of error or compassion for the poor seems to have registered; except perhaps with the black community, an irony, since Christianity was first fed to them as a means of oppression.
A certain threadbare meanness seems built-in to the white nativist mindset that is hardly cause for prideful celebration; let alone elevation to national office.
Another fundamental contradiction is therefore that American Christianity has more resonance with Biblical Hebraism – belief in an intolerant, autocratic and vengeful sun-God. But you may not find many American Christians willing to acknowledge that Christ was himself a Jew, the end-product they acknowledge and revere having been created from a purely Jewish myth, and non-white. (Nor will they ever acknowledge that Islam is only a very minor variant of Hebraism and was not invented in 2001 by terrorists! Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, whatever that means, is essential, even if belief in his teachings isn’t.)
Antisemitism is another core component of middle-American attitudes, a carry-over from the post-medieval religion of the supposed ‘Founding Fathers’: a rather unpleasant, bigoted minority sect and a disorganized, pox-laden bunch of misfits whose hardscrabble survival on the very margin of the world Americans celebrate at this time of year as a vindication of hardy individualism over softheaded and dangerous collectivist tendencies: celebrate by collectively slaughtering and sitting down to consume millions of hapless turkeys, followed by flavorless pumpkin pie, all on the same day – together.
There is thus something repugnantly hypocritical and self-centered about American Christianity, which seems to have a great deal more to do with the vast enrichment of its more egregious snake-oil salesmen and the exploitation of the poor, the selling of indulgences (your pass to Heaven), the maintenance of inbred ignorance and fear of the Other, that sits uneasily alongside the more open-minded, generous, tolerant and outward-looking traditions of the rest of American society.
That this oppressive and distrustful minority should have seized power through a corrupt avatar and be celebrating the triumph of narrow-minded selfishness and crass anti-intellectualism today is faintly depressing to the rest of us since, unlike them, we cannot just ignore the rather obvious downsides to the Trump regime.
The truth is that Trump, the self-inflating ‘Reality TV’ blimp beyond satire, who exploits solemn occasions to get back at his enemies or extol his ratings, who tweets out incoherent abuse of his own citizens and foreign leaders at four in the morning, does not himself believe in anything he says or tries to do. He lacks the mental capacity, knowledge and experience beyond his own narrow interests, and has a teenager’s disinterest in listening to advice.
It’s a further cause for concern, since the manner in which his brutal campaign speeches aroused the monsters lurking in the hearts of middle America was so clearly dictated by other, even darker interests, of which the voters would have known – and still care to know – nothing. Fake news.
The question is, where does America go next? After a year in which ‘alternative truths’ became the currency of political discourse, a year in which politicians have shown well-remunerated disregard for the deep pit into which Trump is dragging their country – a year of political cowardice in which the ugly spectre of a European-style fascism has received unchallenged endorsement from the Oval Office – The Pumpkin senses the setting-in of a hopeless neurasthenia among the bien-pensant class.
Insults and ridicule have not worked to extract him; neither have forensic research and critical analysis, informed debate in a media dismissed as ‘fake news’ by the likes of Steve Bannon and Fox News’ Sean Hannity, cynical purveyors of the new nihilism. Rational argument is banished with easy scoffing and threats of imprisonment or worse, while Trump’s continuing election rallies reinforce the message of hate and American native exceptionalism. Not for nothing have parallels been drawn with early 1930s Germany.
Frankly, at the moment there seems to be nowhere to go but down – possibly for another seven years, maybe with worse to come after.
Americans as they gather today to give thanks for all this are not a happy bunch of bunnies; those, that is, who still retain a measure of goodwill to all men. The others, still thankfully only a minority, will be firing their AR-15s in the air, filled with the turkey-cock sense of pride in their newfound supremacy, feeling power swell within their grasp.
Worryingly, The Pumpkin concludes, we may not know exactly how far this innate racialism has penetrated the wider American psyche; when it might emerge from the national hypothalamus, the ‘reptile brain’, to become the new normal.
Within one minute of concluding the first draft of this piece, wrapping up against the gale and heading out of the office to walk Hunzi, my phone buzzed to say I had an email. It was from WordPress, relaying a ‘Like’ from a speed-reader calling himself Godinterest (but in capitals).
I’ve commented before on how strange I find it that whenever I mention anything to do with religion, Christian bloggers are queuing up to congratulate me, as I’m frequently not very complimentary about the nature of their beliefs.
Perhaps they’re just grateful someone is talking about Jesus. Whatever the reason, thank you, welcome to The BogPo/The Pumpkin (two websites for the price of one!). Kindly know that anything Posted here is subject to frequent additions, editorial revisions and corrections, as this one is already being, sometimes over a period of days or months. I revisit regularly – so you can too!
The Game Set: Matching the Face to the Project
Maria Sharapova, the brilliant tennis champion suspended a while ago for a drugs violation – well, she’s Russian – and charismatic Ivanka Trump lookey-likey, is in hot water again.
Not an after-match shower, but over a property deal she lent her name to in India, whose developers have run off with the deposit money paid by investors, without a brick being laid.
Real estate firm Homestead Infrastructure is accused of taking tens of millions of rupees – millions of dollars – from home buyers for a project named Ballet by Maria Sharapova, a luxury apartment complex with its own helipad, tennis academy and other amenities. – BBC News
Five-times Grand Slam champion, Sharapova is ‘under investigation’, although there is no suggestion at this stage that she had any closer relationship with Homestead than just a coup for her PR people, and a bit of fee income when she wasn’t earning on the circuit, that’s gone horribly wrong. But a lawyer for one of the indignant investors, who has lost $86 thousand, has put his finger on the problem:
Singh said the police investigation based on his client’s complaint was testing relatively new legal ground – that celebrities endorsing projects that draw vast sums of money from investors had a responsibility “to do some due diligence” on the project before lending their name and credibility to it.
So, guess who else we’re thinking about now? That’s right!