John McCain could lift his head and say, “The sky is blue, the earth is round” and I would have to hesitate and double-check my knowledge of physics and geography. There is little upon which we agree, but he is an honorable man who suffered beatings and torture and stayed constant to his fellow POW’s when his captors pushed him to go home ahead of men who had been shot down before him. He knew that “the Code of Conduct says, ‘You will not accept parole or amnesty,’ and that ‘you will not accept special favors.’ For somebody to go home earlier is a special favor. There’s no other way you can cut it.”
He refused. Then they went to work on him.
“When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room—about 10 of them—really laid into me. They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room. For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn’t have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes. For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.” US News and World Report
Of John McCain, Donald Trump said, “He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” He said this in 2015 while running for President.
His service to his country while John McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton was this: interviewed by Howard Stern in 1997, Trump spoke of how his sexual life and his avoidance of STD was his own Vietnam: “I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
I wanted to describe at length this … exchange … this contrast. It is not new. It was well reported during the Republican Primaries. Trump was elected in spite of it (and ten thousand other bits of ugliness). And on Wednesday came the report that in private Trump physically mocks McCain, a man who cannot lift his arms above his head because of the rope torture he endured all those years ago.
When Trump wraps himself in the flag, my abiding reaction is nausea.
Of course, in the 8 months he has been in office, now exercising real power, he has made the state of the nation much worse.
Trump has unleashed and is encouraging a drive deeper and deeper into heartlessness, into the myopia of racial fear and resentment. We are close to another time when many who support him may believe they should only embrace as human those closest to their white skin — a child, a parent, a husband or wife, the blood relation and the friend of equally white opinions. No one else.
Trump plays mindless, bully-boy brinksmanship with North Korea and Iran. Russia remains unchallenged on what they did to our election. Pruitt and Zinke go on destroying the EPA and proposing the ruination of wilderness. A “Tax Reform” effort is coming meant to permanently cripple the Federal government and create a permanent American aristocracy of corporations and the super-wealthy, the ruling class come to full power. Local police departments have been re-encouraged to become predatory war machines … and on … and on.
In my night-waking insomniac visions (and they are still with me), I just see it becoming so much worse — nuclear war worse, poisoned land worse, an implacable Republican Death Cult worse, an evangelical denigration of women worse, a mega-church philistinism worse, a Wall Street Master and Serf worse, a ‘fuck-everyone-but-me-and-mine-worse’. It all feels like an inevitable, entropic slide toward something apocalyptic.
I do not see how we put the nation back together again.
Trump reminds me of the Theater of Cruelty, a style of performance originated by Antonin Artaud in France in the 1930’s: “Artaud believed that civilization had turned humans into sick and repressed creatures and that the true function of the theatre was to rid humankind of these repressions and liberate each individual’s instinctual energy. He proposed removing the barrier of the stage between performers and audience and producing mythic spectacles that would include verbal incantations, groans and screams, pulsating lighting effects, and oversized stage puppets and props.”
Does that not fit? Theater meant to drive his supporters to catharsis — his wee Nuremberg rallies, his rain of tweets, his ‘stream of consciousness’ rants, his cunning ability to find the find the right wound into which to pour acid, his cruelty made acceptable to his ‘good American’ supporters. For 40% or more of the nation, the applause not only continues, it grows more fervent.
Unlike McCain, Romney, even Reagan, even Bush II, Trump has become the pulsatingredline in our national and personal relationships. Those who support him now, after everything they and we have witnessed for eight months, those people are three steps away from a collective responsibility for the deaths of millions if Trump does the unthinkable with North Korea.
Where has the personal not become the political?
How do we recover from this disease of deadly American innocence and historical blindness?
How can a nation so transfixed by Christian religion with all its dogma about original sin and the normal state of being always that of a sinner have become so transfixed by the myth of our inherent American goodness and white innocence?
It is as if we as white Americans are living in several passenger cars of a broken train, abandoned on some branch line or siding. It is a pleasant car. The air conditioning still works. We have hot food, rules, clean sheets on the bed and a doctor on call. We expect to be picked up momentarily. After all, we have paid our fee. Our tickets are good. But as time drags on, we step onto the back platform and can smell smoke, can see it thickening, and we tell ourselves that the fire will never reach us. The powers that be know who pays their bills. We’ll be fine. The replacement train should be here any minute.
For me, this cleavage has been a long time coming.
Something broke off from me after the massacre of children in Newtown. It has never come back. I watched the NRA do its devious work. I watched Senators and Congressmen and women hem and mouth blank words of pity. I watched Pres. Obama weep after visiting those bereft parents. And Nothing Happened. No wave of moral fury rose up to demand that we craft laws that chose guns over babies. Something in me said “this is no longer my country. It has become a place ruled by complacent moral imbeciles who cry victim and and who feel nothing, who are empty of imagination, who cannot think themselves into another’s life.”
And now Trump … and all the poison he has set free in our collective blood stream.
His daily horror show.
I am sick at heart and so often privately furious. I have no answers, just rage.
I think something terrible is coming.
I hate thinking something terrible is coming.
We will not escape this reckoning.