- Jul 13, 2011
- Pacific Rim
- HMCS Velvet Glove; The Last Samurai
This article nicely sums up the state of American politics.
National Post said:Rex Murphy: American politics have become unhinged, and not only because of Trump
There is a madness running through American politics now. It is in the most fevered, irrational, and paranoid time of any in the modern era
Rex Murphy, August 18
I read somewhere recently that it is one of the benefits of great books that they give us solace in moments of stress and anxiety. Great quotations pop into the mind during periods of grief and allay our misery. More pertinently, a book like The Handmaid?s Tale helps us ?understand? Donald Trump and where he?s taking America. Literature, in other words, supplies high-toned sympathy cards in private crisis, and offers fancy elaborations of our flimsy predispositions during periods of public turmoil.
Literature, of course, does neither. A line from the Ode to the Nightingale will not help you get through real grief, and neither poetry nor prose?even of the highest accomplishment?will stay the progress of real world events or mitigate their great horrors. 1984 did not slow the advent of Mao, Pol Pot, the Taliban, or ISIS. Nor did the high rhetoric of Yeats? The Second Coming avert any of the miserable outbreaks of fanatic politics it appeared to warn against. Literature is not a security blanket, or an early warning system.
The Handmaid?s Tale is a grim and formulaic feminist fantasy that spells out a nightmare projection of America, one captured by religious fundamentalists and transformed into an ignorant and cruel patriarchal theocracy. Whatever the book?s properties as satire, as either descriptive or prophetic of America under Donald Trump, it is a bust. The idea that it is a map of America in the present moment is childishly ludicrous. Applied, however, as a map to the Taliban, or to the heartless treatment of hostage women in the sadistic grip of ISIS, or to any of the Middle Eastern countries that bury women in servitude to genuine patriarchal fundamentalists, the book could be seen as a map.
The popularity of The Handmaids Tale among those who truly despise the Great Vulgarian?and the claim that the book is a ?warning? of what has, or is to come, under Donald Trump?has nothing to do with the ?power of literature.? For of all that may be said of this wayward and undisciplined American president, the idea that he harbours totalitarian impulses is adolescent and absurd. Yet in a time of grotesque and hyper-heated politics, such a reading parades as insight to those who wish to see Trump as ?the rough beast slouching towards Jerusalem (Washington) to be born.? Handmaids Tale is an example of a fuller phenomenon.
There is a madness running through American politics now. It is in the most fevered, irrational, and paranoid time of any in the modern era. American politics has gone full Inquisitional. It is as if the jejune and anti-rational politics of the American campus has migrated?with all its jagged shibboleths of ?trigger-warnings? and speaker-bannings, its fierce embrace of tribal ?identity-politics,? and above all its streak of anti-rationalism and grievance-hunting?into the body politic of the American State.
The madness manifests itself everywhere. Such is the rush of hot news these days, that folks have forgotten last week?s excommunication ceremony, performed by the high-priests of Google?s diversity temple. One of their number issued a pallid memo merely querying whether Google had all the right policies on the holy concept of diversity. He actually favoured diversity. But he raised questions about its best pursuit. Fired in a day. A pure thought-crime, not to be tolerated in these dangerous times.
An odd pseudo-story in the New Yorker?which used to be a reasonably sane literary magazine, and is now a slightly less-well written version of the paranoid Nation?informed an eager world that Trudeau?s favourite adviser, Gerald Butts, was a ?friend? of Trump?s favoured advisor, Steve Bannon. In this age of Trump demonology, Bannon may not be the anti-Christ, Satan himself, but he is Beelzebub (I?m using Milton?s rankings here), the commanding first lieutenant of The Supreme Fiend.
That nugget of non-news caught the attention of the otherwise sensible Thomas Mulcair, who called with fervour for Butts to ?disavow? Bannon. Which must have been satisfying for those who have longed for a return of some form of the Inquisition in our time. ?Point and disown, for he is Unclean.? What was Mulcair thinking?
Down in the U.S., meanwhile, they are not only hauling down Confederate statues. Nancy Pelosi, who has sat in Congress for most of her life, now urgently calls for the purging of statuary that has surrounded her innocuously for near half a century. A statue of Abraham Lincoln, the only true moral genius America has every produced, has been vandalized by an acid attack. The great Moses-like representation in the Lincoln Memorial, set against the backdrop of his great Second Inaugural, inscribed in granite, now has ?F?K law? defiling it. Are vandals to be judges now, to rate the honour of the vanished dead?
The monuments to past heroes of the American experiment, in a mob-tempest of retrospective indignation, have been dragged by night off their pedestals. Worst of all, this fit of the new inquisitionism has hit the actual graveyards themselves, with the new Sanhedrin tearing off the plaques honouring long-dead Southern soldiers. Who was it spoke of those ?who hunger and thirst after righteousness?? Something about ?they shall have their fill.?
All of this turns on the fanatically overblown response to Donald Trump, for which he does bear large responsibility, but by no means?let me underline?anything like all.
And the final illustration I offer today comes from a paragon of news reliability and judgment, the CNN?s great Wolf Blizter. On Thursday, as the ISIS slaughter in Barcelona was unfolding, with 13 dead and more than a hundred injured, Blitzer turned to the really important question: Was this attack a ?copycat? attack following the model of last week?s clash between neo-Nazis and antifa protestors, and car killing, in Charlottesville?
Never mind that every schoolboy knows that ISIS has made major European cities their preferred killing ground in recent years, with Berlin, London, Nice, Paris and now Barcelona just the most recent examples. Blitzer is so saturated with anti-Trump politics he has forgotten how to think, and sees a Trump plot in an ISIS storyline.
Poor Lincoln. After the greatest upheaval in American history, and half a million dead in a civil war, he found the depth of feeling and understanding to write these words: ?With malice towards none, with charity towards all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.?
Present day U.S. politics is an insult to these words and their spirit. As for ?charity towards all? and striving ?to see the right,? how could such sentiments even exist when grave-digging is now a form of political action, and a great nation teeters towards a purge of its own past.
America is in a very delirium of unhinged total politics. It is the sheerest folly to believe this is all because of Donald Trump.