I think I’ve come full circle on Donald Trump. It’s an opposite circle from the one I traveled with William Shatner (and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama). This time I started out appalled, began to rethink my position, but moved back to appalled after all. So while I’m back to liking Shatner, Clinton, and Obama, I’m also back to hating Donald Trump.
His disgraceful apparent behavior, regardless of who he really is behind the circus ringmaster, is enough to disqualify him from politics (let alone from the Presidency of the USA).
His slogan claims he’ll make America great again. The “again” deserves some unpacking, but I got to thinking about the “great” part…
Let’s accept the premise that (North) America (by which I mean its culture and society) is less great than it once was. I’ve certainly made that very point around here many times.
I stand by it. I do believe our culture — our society — is arguably in decline. Our technology does improve, and so do many other things, but I agree with many observers who see declines in other areas.
So here’s a question: What’s the bullet list for America The Great? Is it weighted towards the past? Was there more greatness then compared to now?
Obviously this depends on how we define the “greatness” of a country.
Suppose we look for things that are generally admired notable feature of a country. Things that stand out at a national level, but they shouldn’t be things other countries might mock. We want things other countries might envy.
These things don’t need to be unique, just notable. They should stand out from the crowd in some way (thus making them enviable).
Here’s my first pass at such a list:
Mark Twain, David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, and other great writers who described key parts of the American mindset. (Of course, Shakespeare wasn’t American. We have no monopoly on writers or artists.)
Our universities, which are indeed the envy of the world and a big draw to immigrants. (On the other hand: Cambridge and Oxford, to name just two others.)
The US Post Office which has been around for a while (like, 1775). Think of it: a stamped addressed envelope delivered anywhere in America within days. And still today it costs less than half a buck. And much more personal than an email.
The Panama Canal, the TVA project, Hoover Dam (and others), the Apollo program (with Mercury and Gemini before that), and most recently robots on Mars and out to (planet) Pluto. (On the other hand, CERN. We passed on the Super Collider.)
Our interstate highway system, our bridges and tunnels, our railways (once the greatest in the world), even our air travel (of the 44,000 airports worldwide, 15,000 are in the USA — a touch over one-third).
As this list developed it became clear that many of these aren’t particular to the USA, although we do seem to have a lot of great things here.
The real point — really the only point — I would make here is that these are the things I think are great about America.
But I’m not at all sure that’s what the hat is talking about.
The hat seems to talk a lot about winning.
Which is nice, but I’m not hearing much how.
The hat uses words like “tremendous” and “amazing” (and “great”), but it sounds like showman’s patter — all empty words.
I’m astonished that, still, people are falling for this.
It’s slowly beginning to dawn on people that this is an authoritarian bully who is creating what amounts to a personality cult filled with blind followers. I really thought people would either have gotten bored or caught on by now.
But, as I’ve said repeatedly, when it comes to surface over substance, assertion as fact, and a complete disconnect between words and their meaning, modern culture is a huge driver of that process.
Trump is exactly what you get as a result of that process.
Trump is our fault. (I say “our” but I mean “your!” I had nothing to do with it. I’m the one that’s been arguing against this sort of shit for over 40 years, so don’t blame me.)
But back to the List of Greatness.
Here’s the thing. That list does seem weighted towards our past.
One problem in judging (besides personal bias) is the idea of “plowed ground.”
The lightbulb and the airplane have been invented. Rock and Jazz (and many other art forms) have been well-explored. Most scientific discovery these days is deep and specialized. Sectors of science and technology and art can be more or less tapped out.
There is also the problem of scope. When many thousands of artists all vie for recognition, it’s hard for any one to stand out. Among the sheer volume of content generated today, it can be hard to be even noticed.
Scope also means that, when something does catch on, it often catches on in a huge way. On the other end of that spectrum, if it catches on at all, even a small share of tons of people is still a lot of people.
Further, content comes along in such great volume (in both senses of the word) every day that anything big today is lost downriver very quickly.
The first Star Wars movie changed the world and loomed large in the public eye for many years after it opened. We’ve already moved on from the latest one (which opened less than three months ago).
All these factors muddy the water and make a claim of culture decay subject to debate.
What’s not debatable is the decline in our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
What’s not debatable is the obvious decline in our politics or the longer decline in our government.
What’s not debatable is the increasing polarization of society.
If you’ll forgive a badly mixed metaphor, it has come clear to me that the lemmings are going to push this train off a cliff. They really are going to try to cut off their nose to spite their face.
This is the Dark Side of the force. When you lead with your heart rather than your head, you’d better hope your heart is in the right place.
And when it comes to Trump supporters… well, it sure seems their hearts are in a dark place.
Win at all costs. Screw principle. Screw character. Screw logic.
When people tell you it doesn’t matter what you say, that is very, very scary. Terrifying. It’s pure cult, and all rationality is out the window.
WTF, America? W! T! F!?