The Repulsive American

Not long after the needle dropped on the new Wilco record, Schmilco, I heard the pejorative lyric “Always afraid of those normal American kids.” It’s a good song, for those of us alt-rock, alt-country, noise-rock fans (which I think has now become “Dad-rock”), but I immediately reacted negatively: do we have to have another cultural critique? Jeff Tweedy is a little older than I am, a GenXer in his 40s (he’s 49), so I know he’s heard how bad America is his whole life. When it comes to American culture, I have never seen or heard anything but criticism. What cultural or popular fad, meme, or trend has there ever been, in my lifetime, that praises normal American kids? Still, it’s a great song, very appropriate, reflecting my own experiences, yada yada yada…

When I was 21, I visited my uncle, who lives in Munich, a large city in Bavaria which has its own nefarious near history. In fact, at the time, he lived in a large house, even by American standards, on the Starnberger See, very close to the Schloss Neuschwanstein, Crazy King Luey’s swan song, before he kinda sorta drowned/was drowned before he could drain all the money from all the pockets in Bavaria to build it, and which inspired Walt Disney. Before both my feet had crossed the threshold to his home, my uncle declared, in his very best broken English, “George Bush is evil.” Those were his first words to me; I’d never met him before. Here is my nephew, the son of my beloved sister. I shall greet him, I the son of two Nazis, by deeming his head of state evil. 

This is the milquetoast George H. W. Bush, by the way.

Eventually, I shrugged it off, the offense redeemed by some grilled weisswurst and enormous pretzels. Oh, and beer.

It is my great fortune to work in Canada three days a week, but Canadian cuisine is not quite enough to redeem the same offenses, which are given on a weekly basis, especially now that Trump is threatening to take over the nuclear codes, surely damning the world to a nuclear winter. But even twelve years ago, long before Trump was a national political figure, the greeting was tinged with America is evil.

A student of mine this fall, even, a gentleman from Punjab, an immigrant to Canada, one of those fellows who really is smarter than the professor (and by a long shot), but who is kind enough not to shame me, said, when I first introduced myself to him, without any context nor any provocation, “America can’t be number one. No way, not with seventeen percent literacy. American can’t be number one.” Perhaps he said seventy-six percent; I don’t remember. I shrugged, being a guest in a very nice country Nevertheless, this unprovoked outburst against America was telling, and it did fertilize a few thoughts.

Why did he instantly refer to America’s literacy rate? That was interesting. His rhetorical move, there, was reminiscent of that notorious clip from The Newsroom, in which Jeff Daniels lists off all the things that demonstrably takes America down a few pegs. How long ago was that? Five years ago? Who was expressing pride in America five years ago? When was the last time you heard anyone of any intellectual or cultural capacity uttering the jingoistic “We’re number one!”? Donald Trump’s campaign slogan assumes the exact opposite! Jeff Daniels’ speech, of course, is an American Left wet dream, filled with metrics. America can’t possibly be number one. I mean, you’ve got to watch out for those normal American kids.

I was visiting other family over there, in Germany, which put me in the working and middle class neighborhoods throughout the region of Baden-Wurttemberg, you know, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, and Baden-Baden. Traveling back and forth to see grandparents (divorced), uncles, and cousins put me on the mass transit system many afternoons, where I could witness the behavior of normal German kids, just released from their literacy-building centers. Lookit, you’ve got to believe me when I tell you: German culture has never actually forsworn pagan culture. After seeing that unceasing cacophony day after day, I honestly don’t know how Western Civilization is going to survive, guided by those normal German kids.

Why literacy? Why did he glom onto that metric? How is literacy associated with greatness? When was America ever first in literacy? Was America ever great?

It must be discomfiting for the many non-Americans who must answer to this great nation, the United States of America, observing that it is truly ruled by stupid and superstitious people. And I know, for example, that my Punjab student, like so many who were given just a tiny advantage in birth, who took care of that advantage so that he might by careful living and hard work emigrate from a crowded, impoverished, violent hellhole to a great nation of peace and freedom like Canada, must be infuriated to see Americans laze about, scratching their full bellies, living like kings, and squealing about the unfairness of a little state redistribution, the hypocrites. There’s no way America can be number one, no way, not ruled by people like that. My God, they might even elect Donald Trump!

Is America great? It can’t be, can it? Not now, not run by those whose names appear on the first page of the Boston area phone book. It should be run by those whose names appear atop the Dean’s List at Harvard and MIT; then America would be great. In that day and at that time (may it hasten unto us!), policy would align with carefully investigated and researched university and foundation policy papers, and America could truly take its place in the pantheon of all the other run-of-the-mill social democracies, without error and with social justice. That would be greatness, greatness which can be measured according to so many delightful metrics.

As for me, I far prefer pursuing happiness, over against just about anything else. To me, true national greatness is a nation whose domestic policy is less policy, more distrust of government implementation, whose justice is worked out as locally as possible. I suppose the vestiges of that ideal are being cleaned up and swept away, regardless of whichever evil we choose this November. I think it is true now, as it was true then: “Always afraid of those normal American kids.”

velvetelvisjesus

 

Trump is My Doing

We all knew that the fix was in for Hillary, over on that side (poor Bernie!): she’s been siphoning money from corporate America and the world’s glitterati to bribe as many of her party’s potentates so that she could finally make a legitimate run for the top administrative post in the land, without any upstart usurpers from Illinois, the most corrupt state in the Union.

But what to do about the other side? The early 2010s showed a disturbing tendency towards earnest patriotism over there: Tea Party, Libertarians, and outright Conservatives. Dear God!

I fixed it in my heart, and it has been the soul of my mind ever since, that the Millennials would not inherit anything in the way of a functioning government or society, not if I had anything to say about it.

Now, I know that there are rational theories and punditry theories, even wonderful conspiracy theories to explain Trump’s provenance, my favorite being that every time a Clinton makes a play for the presidency, a kooky billionaire shows up to run interference against the GOP and split the populist vote from the conservative vote. Nice try, conspiracy theorists.

No, it’s much easier than that: I produced Trump. It wasn’t that hard to do, really, and any megalomaniac would have done. The real genius was in picking Trump, having him tell absolute whoppers that not even children would believe, lies of a disturbing pathology, and having him demonstrate reasoning of the most tortuous depravity, but also having him who was born of USA’s toilet, Manhattan, pass himself off as Middle America.

I drank a lot of scotch Tuesday night, celebrating what I had done.

If Generation X is going to be the perpetual Middle Child of America, the Meh Generation pinned between the Me Generation and the Millennials, then it is obvious that we’re going to be passed over for our turn at leadership, with the inevitable doom of becoming the Fredo of America, the World’s Cosa Nostra. Why not do what we can to sabotage little brother, whose mind is bent toward pulling the strings with so many time-series graphs? Why leave them with a trajectory leftward or rightward when we can leave them with higgledy-piggledy?

So, yes, Millennials, Trump is a gift from me, personally, to you, to bring you the rot of the greediest, most immoral, undisciplined, perpetually adolescent generation in the history of mankind–to bring that filth, which we grew up in, right into your nice, clean policy advocacy, designed especially by your sterile, unemotional robots, controlled by nearly perfect, lightning-fast algorithms. You think you’re so smart: fix this, why don’t you?

Heh.

Heh heh.

Heh heh heh heh heh..

The Appeal of Fascism

Or: It’s Going To Be All Right

When we call Trump a fascist, we mean something bad, but we don’t mean fascism. If you look at it the right way, the numbers are kind of comforting: About 30% of Republican primary voters, in some states, are all in on Trumpscism, or whatever you want to call the Trump brand of fascism. Populascism? I don’t know. It’s such a fun thing to watch, regardless.

The numbers, not too long ago, were much more disturbing, back when everyone went in for fascism, properly speaking; the entire Western world went all-in for fascism, right before all the homosexuals, blacks, Jews, and other undesirables were cleared off the streets and disappeared. The difficult truth about disappearing the undesirables made fascism itself undesirable, so it fell out of favor as a term with the university class. Now fascism is a moniker for something else, a name for the perversion of conservative political doctrine.

We ought to be careful about calling Trump a fascist and a racist, despite the elements of fascism and racism attached to his message and persona, and despite the fact that he’s running in the GOP, which is also the home of conservatives, mainly because that’s an awfully broad brush which covers people who aren’t fascists, while it leaves unpainted actual fascists, who probably don’t have any party affiliation.

When you offer a general population the following planks in a campaign platform: strong national identity, strong central government, (un)willing participation of corporate entities, high taxes paying for universal services, while also demonizing opposition (and even sabotaging the opposition’s efforts), well, you’re going to get some votes. Wiser politicians than Trump have long known how to offer fascism without the nasty side-effect of attracting an openly racist voter bloc, that which is the final plank in the platform known as fascism. Without racism, it’s an appealing political doctrine today, and it held the world in sway, once upon a time, when history was still in black and white.

The conservative argument against the appeal of fascism, whatever its actual name today, is that it can’t really be done without a great deal of disruption. The characteristics necessary to create a leader who will implement that platform is unlikely to produce a leader who will observe the pleasanter traditions of constitutional democracy. Liberal and Leftist pundits will be wise to note that the conservative movement in the United States has vociferously rejected Trump (see National Review), especially where his doctrine (such as it is) overlaps with a properly defined fascism. Those conservative voices in popular media who actually have endorsed Trump are hardly making a conservative case for him–because it’s impossible.

Now, as for the name fascism, and its application to perversions of conservative doctrines: well, it’s a tough cruel world, and conservatives are going to just have to get over it, continuing to argue for free markets, smaller federal governments, the Western canon, inter alia, acknowledging weakness and pointing out strength.

No worries.