Monday, January 16, 2017

We were warned

An image representing the article Writing in Place: On Geolocating Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem in the Dec. 15 London Review of Books:

...Are we to reach out to the Trump voter in tender empathy for their fear and pain, which is surely experienced as real, yet was partly cultivated by lies? Or should we do so out of cynical realpolitik (we need those states)? They’ve smashed themselves in the face again, electing this craven, gold-plated Ponzi-capitalist. But they’ve smashed us in the face too. Perhaps all empathy should be nipped in the bud, in righteous condemnation of the racist and sexist complicity---the betrayal of American idealism! of American exceptionalism!---reflected in a Trump vote. 

Anyhow we’re pretty sure that, taking account of lynchings, internments, black ops, waterboarding, drones, inequities, America was never great to begin with. The clearest evidence is also the nearest to hand: all the intolerant voters in the woodwork. This is our Naked Lunch, then, in William Burroughs’s words, "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork"...

When the time comes, we’ll all report ourselves to the registry as Muslim: since we’re all Spartacus around here, that’s the way we roll. Sanctuaries for the persecuted are being readied, as well as vibrant protests; we’re scheming from within our own woodwork, from under the floorboards, and trust me, we’ll be heard from. I could tell you more, but then I’d have to, you know, empathise with you.

Such mania is the only antidote to despondency and disassociation, but, really, we’re taking both the poison and the antidote in one cocktail on a daily ‘hair of the dog that bit me’ basis. We should have known, of course. We were warned by Richard Rorty in 1998:

Something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for---someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

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