It seems like all that’s left is to escape into comedy. Even that is becoming quite a strain however, both to keep up with the surreal hilarity of the Trump Administration, and to keep laughing in the face of seriously scary shit.
Carrying slickly self-referential, self-deprecating humor to new heights of loopy loopiness, Steven Colbert and Brad Pitt recently aimed for existential humor on a skit, “Reaching for the Stars With Even Bigger Stars,” and fell flat on their backs.
The thread through the Pitt skit was that you’re a fool to think on and care about nature and humanity. Colbert reveled in his shallowness, while Pitt affected a creepy, boyish innocence that only reminded viewers of sad events in his own recent life.
People are hurting, depressed and really afraid as the Trumpian zeitgeist careens toward catastrophe. Laughing helps momentarily, but those hoping Colbert and Baldwin will get them through this nightmare need to wake up.
“Thought leaders” link the call for radical change to fanaticism: “It is the mark of every millenarian fanatic to assume that the world stands on the verge of a precipice, and that only radical or violent action can save it.”
Sounding like a fanatic himself, the same author says in the next paragraph: “Maybe 2016 was the Flight 93 election. Maybe the pilots are dead. Maybe the passengers failed to storm the cockpit. Maybe the hijackers reached their target by landing on the White House after all.”
Newspaper and cable bloviators refuse to grasp the fact that Pax Americana is history. They say things like, “the world is led by a child;” and “a witless and unmastered man in an office with these powers…over the world that our imperium bestrides.”
“Our imperium bestrides?” Now that’s funny!
The default position on the left and moderate-right is the less-than-half-truth “our institutions and the checks and balances of our government are working.” Even as we’re in the chaos phase of the crisis, the intelligentsia refuses to see the looming catastrophe.
Trump and his followers inside and outside the West Wing aren’t the only ones comfortable with contradiction. On one hand pundits worry about an unhinged, vengeful president with “the ability to launch nuclear strikes that would pretty much destroy the world.”
From the other side of their minds the same people say absurd things like, “the rigorous coverage of Trump since he took office has made me proud to be a journalist…subscriptions to mainstream news outlets like the New York Times are the price for a democracy.”
Beyond the chatter about impeaching Trump, or the moonshot idea of removing him as unfit for office under the 25th Amendment, we need to ask: What happens when this deranged POTUS orders the use of nuclear weapons in reaction to some real or provoked conflict in the world? Will the United States military obey?
The denial of a crisis is an invitation to chaos, which leads inexorably to catastrophe. Democrats and the commentariat refused to see what had happened and was happening to the American body politic, and Trump walked in the back door of the White House. Now they’re refusing to see where things are headed.
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Democrats are also responsible for America coming to this pass, not just extremist Republicans. Donald Trump is a manifestation; making him the sole focus and locus of the forces that made him president only makes things worse.
Trump is becoming a cornered animal, and like all cornered animals, he’ll attack. As he said at his Coast Guard commencement address on Wednesday: “You have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.”
Whining with presidential victimhood in Connecticut Wednesday, President Trump complained, “No politician in history—and I say this with great surety—has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Then he mumbled to the graduates, “Enjoy your life,” and malignantly laughed as he walked offstage.
When Trump begins to realize that he’s being branded as a loser, the worst president in history, making people pine for W, he’ll lash out in a desperate attempt to claim the glory he thinks he’s earned, and to unify America in the one way historically guaranteed to do so: war.
Invoking the Schlesinger solution for Trump (named after President Nixon’s defense secretary James Schlesinger, who secretly instructed the US military not to carry out any White House order to use nuclear weapons unless confirmed by him or Henry Kissinger) is another fantasy of the left. The military loves Trump, and will follow his orders.
You can sense some things are inevitable even as you work to prevent them. Pax Americana is history; what will take its place?
Laugh at Colbert’s standup and Baldwin’s impersonation, but also ask the questions that have no answers except radical change. We need to pour the foundation for a new order before the old one lands on all our heads.
Steven Colbert and Brad Pitt: “Big Questions With Even Bigger Stars”: