Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Carpe Diem: 2017.12.07 HONORABLE LOSERS?


This morning Al Franken announced that he is resigning his (“giant of . . .”) Senate seat, two days after John Conyers tripped over his dick. Two seats the politically-sinking Democrats didn’t need to lose. At least Franken, who was besieged by a howling Democrat caucus before he could get a day in court before the Senate Ethics committee (even though he was doomed by his admitted gropey hands), took the opportunity to point out that the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief remains comfortably ensconced in the Oval Office, where he will likely greet a new senator from Alabama who prefers his feminine flesh extremely fresh.

Therein joins the elements of my theme of today, which reminds me of those ethical dilemmas of praxis that used to energize my graduate seminars—that old bugaboo of does the end justify the means. Certainly, it can be said that Franken and Conyers are at least doing the “honorable” thing of falling on their (ahem) “swords.” The Republicans are, as we know, rather less contrite about their malfeasances, heeding legendary football coach Vince Lombardi’s dictum that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” And winning they are. Screw those nicely polished ethical medals.

Well, of course the Dems might be playing the long game here (ignoring J.M. Keynes’ dictum), figuring that there is indeed a moral/ethical core to the good ole US of A, and that the polity will eventually favor representation that has not got one hand delivering more wealth to the wealthy and the other up some damsel’s skirt. Just how good a bet that strategy might be depends on how a political circumstance that appears unprecedented in America (although rather reminiscent of 1930s Germany) is going to play out.

Not that this piece needs more metaphor but I kind of see us as a country that is drowning into its own fen of delusion, denial and corruption. The fact is that Trump is the culmination of many years of inexorable deterioration of the American democratic process. America never was “great”. It had its moments when it seemed to lurch toward living up to its professed ideals, but mostly its historical record is deplorable and its soi disant “greatness” a self-delusional, hubristic myth. But the recent sixteen year surge toward authoritarianism began with the ease with which the country accepted the stolen election of George W. Bush in 2000 and then slept-walked through the feckless, there was no there there, eight years of Barack Obama. Capitalism had produced the ultimate consumer culture in which more is always better and so long as Americans were given more and the access to debt to acquire it, they were complicit with the constrictor squeezing of wealth to the economic elites, the –sapping insidious wars, the mindless reality-television, celebrity-worshipping entertainment, and the pharmacology for anything that ailed them. Both the Clinton and Obama administrations essentially fell into the same trap of aligning themselves with Wall Street, playing to the 1% while allowing unions to die and pretending that they were concerned with the common man working man, but appeared more concerned with oppressed minority constituencies. By the time Hillary was chanting the same empty Democratic promises the country was set up to be conned by an authoritarian who channeled the festering currents of American racism and xenophobia. It was not those odious Islamists who “hate our freedom”; it was us.

We have reached a point where we have never been before—an American Cultural Revolution that might yet rival Chairman Mao’s—that will produce the catharsis—maybe it will be Trump’s desire for a nuclear bar fight with “Rocket Boy,” or perhaps throwing a diplomatic Molotov cocktail like recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. Who knows, but a #MeeToo seems unlikely; the fact is that Trump carried White women who apparently like the grope of those diminutive digits.

We might have to—like a swimmer sinking to the bottom of a lake—have to hit bottom before we can push off toward the surface, where things will not be “great again,” but hopefully, tolerable.