Weblog From Nowhere-Land
December 28, 2016
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. —Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I hear the voices of reason—those urging us to come together—but mine won’t be among them this time. You can’t “reason” with the willfully ignorant. I’m not talking only about underemployed white people in flyover country. I know and like a lot of those people. In fact, I’m one of them. Plenty of wealthy white people who should have known better voted for Trump, too.
I hear the calls for calm and forbearance, but there’s a timidity in the voices, as if they feared that if we engage this beast, we’ll have to fight it to the death, and that would be ugly. That’s true enough, but the beast has already engaged us, and his terms are zero-sum.
I hear America groaning with the fat that even its undernourished poor carry under their belts. Groaning from the opioid-induced constipation that demands new pills, and pills on top of those. I hear America belching and farting and scratching at its groin. Why not? He does. These poor souls believe that some redemption is in store because they’ve got one of their own in the White House, his old man’s paunch and bald pate costumed with beauty pageant tricks. But he isn’t going to redeem them. He’ll just wait for them to die, and with the health regimen he’s about to usher in, that will happen soon enough. Let them eat Carl’s, Jr., he’ll say. Let them burn coal. Let them learn to duck 'n' cover again.
I hear America whining, too, on both sides of the great gulf. The aggrieved on the left whine that it isn’t safe anymore, and that justice comes less than instantly. The aggrieved on the right whine that they’ve lost their rightful place in the social order; that status isn't permanently granted. Neither sound becomes the citizens of a great nation. To frighten the beast away, we’ll need to sound our barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world. The more educated trolls of the right (the secret Trump voters) ridicule the shrill rage of those they label “social justice warriors” (SJW’s), but they haven’t heard rage until they’ve heard ten million roaring “I Am Spartacus!” (A script, by the way, penned by the target of another regime of fear, led by another bully, abetted by the lizard-like legal maneuverings of a certain Roy Cohn, who also served as a mentor and consigliere to a young Donald J. Trump. It all comes back, you see. Like the Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, we keep running but the world around us stays the same. The conflict is an eternal one).
2016, its digits adding up to a Satanic number 9 (the number of the ego: when used as a multiplier, it always returns to itself), has been the year of the Big Death. There’s been a lot of public mourning. Most of the mortality has hit members of my generation, the so-called Boomers. That's only natural. We are beginning to pass from the world. It’s painful, but more painful still would be to pass from a world returned into the hands of those we thought we'd vanquished. If by adding my own death to this year's roster I could strike a deal with God and spare my first grandchild, born in this signal year, from the depredations of Trump, his avaricious children, and the minions they’ve enlisted, I would lay it on the table. God, are you listening? My life may not hold much value in casino chips, but hell, he’s old and physically unfit and probably ready for a coronary anyway. Easy trade, no?
Failing the acceptance of my offer, I’m ready to fight. The young, I worry, won't fight, even though it’s their fight to make. A generational personality formed by excessive sheltering, over-medicating, and “everybody wins” pop psychology has made them conflict-shy. They are a large generation, but they haven’t yet found their power. I hope they prove me wrong, but until then, it may be that the old will have to fight for the sake of the young. It may be that the purest bequest we can make to our children is the example of civil disobedience. That might help to atone for our excesses in the Eighties and Nineties, and for failing to rid the world of dragons.
I want so badly to concur with those who argue that beneath the barnacles of malice that encrust the likes of Trump, Gingrich, Bannon, Flynn, Conway, Ingraham, Limbaugh, et al, there is to be found some human commonality. Some core cooperative impulse or, at the least, self-interested charity. Some way for us to connect. But then I look at someone like Trump’s New York campaign chairman, Carl Paladino, and his wish that Michelle Obama be sent back to the Kenyan savannah to mate and die with the other cattle, and I say, No, this man is not of my species. This man had to have been marked from birth in some way. And it’s his time now. The heyday of the sociopath is upon us. Ayn Rand posters are back on dormitory walls and “fashy” haircuts are in style. The lizard king reigns.
In 2007, Carroll & Graf published my second novel, THE LAST DAYS OF MADAME REY, in hardcover, followed by Counterpoint Press’s updated paperback edition in 2010. It was a metaphysical hard-boiled detective novel, equal parts Philip Marlowe and The Night Stalker, but owing something to Blade Runner, and its heavy was the suavely brutish leader of a right-wing militia that subscribed to Hitler’s Hollow Earth theory. For me, though, the detective-protagonist’s most intriguing discovery was that the true sociopaths of the world—those without any capacity for empathy—were physically identifiable by the presence of a stunted coccyx or tailbone. Their sub-species had “bifurcated” from the main genetic line six-thousand years ago, but were still among us, spreading the mutation through selective breeding. They even had a nickname: they were called Stumps. Shift the first 'S' two places to the right and trade it for an “r.” No story is ever too far from some kind of truth. You want to see Trump’s income taxes, right? I want to see his tailbone.
Stumps can't be bargained with. Even the most modest compromise—say, to keep a tiny piece of your health care subsidy or hot lunches for your kid at school—involves a sliver of your soul. They come out ahead in any deal, because dealing is what they do. They are the agents of the Prime Directive. And they are relentlessly on-message when it comes to fear, because they know it so well. This is their weakness. They must be engaged and defeated locally, at kitchen tables and in school board meetings. They must be interfered with on the old-world radio frequencies they’ve come to dominate. And of course, they must be met on the digital battlefield. A meme-for-a-meme and a tweet-for-a-tweet. But also, if it comes down to it, eye for eye and tooth for tooth.
Remember: they think we're weak. Soft, effete, and ineffectual. We need to muscle up.
Can they be won over? Converted to a doctrine of kindness and inclusion? If you believe in grace, it’s possible. And I will extend the hand wherever and whenever I can, because it’s a kind and inclusive world I want for my children and grandchildren. But I'll keep a set of brass knuckles in my pocket, and try to remember that I, too, am Spartacus.
This is my resolution.