Tag Archives: The American Way

Fear and Loathing in the Time of Trump

In America, all one has are problems. Financial problems. Marital woes and family dysfunction. Drinking and drug addictions. If you live here, chances are you have more than one.

Is anyone really happy here? According to some researchers, despite our great personal and national wealth, our overall sense of well-being has dwindled since the turn of the century. We’re more depressed than ever, and prescription and opioid drug abuse is alarmingly high, even amongst affluent whites. People in this country live in unceasing turmoil, yet few do the obvious and leave.

Perhaps we’re afraid of not being part of the (shit) show. Living in America is akin to being part of an elaborate performance. The rest of the world sits and watches, at times jeering and throwing things onstage. Every now and then, an “audience member” joins us onstage, but in the end, we are the main attraction. Our domination of the international “stage” is what keeps many of us in line. Being an American, or even just living here, grants benefits and privileges most of the world doesn’t have access to. 

Also, we all need something to be outraged about. If we lived in a calmer, safer, saner, and overall better country than the U.S., what would we have to be angry, outraged, offended, and fired up about? If our politicians were honorable, whom would we have to blame?

Soon, we may be electing a billionaire real estate tycoon President, after decades of rule by establishment politicians with law degrees. The problem isn’t so much Donald Trump’s money, or his über-privileged life and upbringing, although that does put him at odds with the average person who lives paycheck-to-paycheck, or worse. It’s his attitude and his belief system. He has never held elected office, but somehow, he feels entitled to the Presidency, because only he can fix the myriad problems in this country. He proposes extreme half-baked “solutions” to complex sociopolitical issues, declaring that he will deport all illegal immigrants, build a wall to keep them out, and ban any and all Muslims from entering the country. While hordes of people have fallen for his shtick, many of us are terrified at the prospect of a Trump Presidency.

But even if we don’t want Trump – and we’re becoming more and more aware that we don’t want Trump – do we really want another establishment politician with a law degree? Must we really choose between stagnation and obliteration?

Then again, would that be so surprising? America is the Land of the Extremes, where we are commanded daily to Pick a Side! – Republican or Democrat, Christian or Atheist. Soon, we’ll be asked to choose between Clinton the Corrupt and Trump the Terrible. In America, you’re either a winner or a loser, black or white, good or bad, a capitalist or a socialist, a have or a have-not. As a people, we don’t appreciate subtlety or depth; we don’t consider the nuances and intricacies of issues, identities, and ideologies. 

This bullheaded, black-and-white way of viewing humanity has made it easier for figures such as Trump to divide us all. America is a country galvanized by fear and hate. Our long history of racism and propaganda proves this, and now, the rise of Donald Trump only further exemplifies it. And because we live in a culture that thrives on fear and hostilities, the people are, you guessed it, filled with and governed by fear and hostility.

Of course, Trump’s entire modus operandi has been to prey on these fears, namely those of the white working classes, and a good share of the elite as well. This is a man whose campaign began as a punch line, who only really started garnering attention with crude, outlandish statements (“Mexicans…. are all rapists and drug dealers”). Every word he’s spoken since then has been an escalation of this. Trump’s strategy is simple: point out the “enemy,” propose the most extreme solution for dealing with the enemy, gain the rabid devotion of people who were too angry to listen to reason to begin with. He’s tapping into unexpressed rage and irrational fear. Maybe the Hitler comparison is on point, after all.

We can talk ad-nauseam about how abrasive America’s culture and politics are, but really, it’s personal. America has ruined us all. We’ve become entitled, resentful, and embattled, because we’ve been discarded by the political and corporate system. Our dreams have been dashed, trashed, and rendered void. Unable to cope, we turn to antidepressants and alcohol, high fructose corn syrup and heroin. We escape into reality TV, porn, social media, and 24-hour news coverage. We seek out constant distractions and entertainments, instant gratifications. The American people were ready for a candidate like Donald Trump: a one-man show whose anger and hatred they could readily empathize with, whose wealth they could live through vicariously. 

The collective cynicism of the people is indicative of where we are now. In the past, we set out to put a man on the moon and cure polio, purely to advance humanity (Salk wouldn’t even patent his cure). Now Virgin Galactic is testing $250,000 commercial space flights, and pharmaceutical companies are charging hundreds of dollars a pill for HIV medication. Even art is fully commercialized. The album is nearly dead because we prefer to buy songs on iTunes. Hollywood has tarnished cinema with an assembly-line approach to moviemaking, churning out remakes, reboots, and sequels to sequels. We now live in a country where everything is exploited for max gain. 

This is the Time of Trump whether we like it or not (I don’t like it, not at all). Plan your exit strategy! Or strap in. This country will never be quite the same again. Who’s to say ‘Ye can’t run for President in 2020, if Trump can in 2016? Who’s to say anyone can’t? Maybe this is just fierce democracy in action – or the beginning of a very dark chapter in American history.