As a Red Diaper Baby, born and toddling in the Rosenberged Bronx near the height of McCarthy witch hunt hysteria, I have been living in hopeless anticipation of a better world for my entire life.
The fact that the social physiognomy of that better world looked much more like Denmark than the Soviet Union was just one of the inconsistencies I was expected to reconcile for myself. Okay, so I operated in the expectation that at some point during my lifetime, my country would become as socially responsible as Denmark, Sweden, or even Canada.
The high-minded rhetoric and committed activism of the Civil Rights Movement, morphing into the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, all the rallies, marches and demonstrations, all the songs that became the backdrop of my life — before, during and after adolescence — gave me hope that a new, just, and caring United States was just around the corner.
I started to get suspicious that this might not be the case around 1970, with the fractionalization of the “movement” into Balkanized racial, ethnic, and gender-based identity politics; self-actualization navel gazing; back-to-the-land urban desertions; self-help and fitness programs; herds of gurus and yogis — all of which were ostensibly calculated to produce the kind of human who could achieve the enlightened political state while achieving an enlightened spiritual state.
In retrospect, of course, I believe this was our intelligence community under Tricky Dick employing a standard divide-and-conquer strategy that worked wonderfully well. By the mid-’70’s it was clear that there would be no more massive demonstrations. The celebration on Sheep’s Meadow of the end of our Vietnam incursion was the last I recall until recent events shoved more freshly minted humans out into the streets along with their arthritic predecessors.
Once upon a time, in the hazy, historic, Woody Guthrie Left of long ago, elitism, advanced degrees, and erudition were things to be, if not exactly ashamed of, then things not to be paraded around as badges of honor. Their holders were at best suspect. If you grew up wearing blue jeans, this is in large part why. The Left understood its mission. It understood whom it needed to court in order to achieve its goals — blue-collar workers, the proletariat. Its primary tool for reaching them and getting them on the side of the angels were labor unions.
That subject requires volumes. Suffice it to say that the power of the unions — and the remnants of the Left — was broken by Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers. I was ecstatic when I first heard the news. “Great!” I thought. “Now there will be a general strike by all the other unions, and they’ll make him eat it.” But it was not to be. The American Left pretty much died then and there, not with a bang but with a sleepy, “What the fuck?”
Meanwhile the ideological, theocratic machine that hadn’t been invited to the counterculture’s orgies, had been hard at work sharpening their spite, disdain, grievances and hatred at being born square. With the unions in ruins or run by colluding thugs, blue-collar America was up for grabs, with many feeling spite, disdain, humiliation, and hatred. In short, they were ready for the Jesse Venturas and Donald Trumps of the world to feed the flames, validating their grievances without providing any solutions to the overwhelming problems that the new oligarchs were bringing down upon their heads. And so here we are.
You have to care passionately about something to be truly evil, which makes Trump less strictly evil than thoroughly amoral, though he can certainly DO evil things. I see him and his cronies as a devouring force. They devour hope, the idea of a beneficial social order, and meaning itself.
Some people describe Hell as distance from God, from love. Trump is an isolated appetite. Nothing can satisfy him or cure his cravings because nothing has meaning for him, nothing has value. He pitifully seeks constant affirmation, some confirmation that he actually exists. Like Satan, he doesn’t. He is more of an absence than a presence, and I think there is a strong possibility that he will soon resign — the purposelessness of his escapade makes it increasingly wearying. Just no fun anymore.