“Be it life or death, we crave only reality.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oh how things have changed since Henry David Thoreau’s 1854, when he first published Walden. How things have changed since 1896, when Adolph Ochs purchased and began transforming the New York Times. How things have changed since 1917, when Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks dismantled the Tsarist autocracy in Russia. How things have changed since the Moral Majority and the racist white South, still longing for a pre-Civil War world, helped Ronald Reagan ascend from B-actor in 1980 to President of the United States.
The changes just keep on coming, and not many of them for good, it seems in these times, when a C-student Ivy League frat boy like George W. Bush seems like not so bad a president after all compared to the multiple track train wreck launched from Trump Tower by Donald J. Trump. It is hard to imagine things getting any worse, short of a nuclear bomb.
But just wait a few minutes. It will get much worse before it gets any better, unless certain institutions in our society act fast to slam on the brakes and stop the train before it crashes us all.
I want to quote Thoreau here, although I find his subtle thoughts almost too slow for the job. But let me try, even at the expense of losing a few readers by going back too far into the past and way over some heads.
“Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.”
I’ll get back to the point about reality in the end.
First I want to talk about American society like scholars and journalists used to talk about politics in the Soviet Union. I do not have the books or journal articles at hand, but back in the Reagan era, when I studied Soviet politics under a political science professor who studied in turn under Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, we analyzed power by looking at the institutions in society and whose side they were on. We’ve never done that with American politics (with the notable exception of Noam Chomsky), but perhaps it is high time we did.
After all, our Tweeter-in-Chief so admires Vladimir Putin and the Russian capitalist dictatorship so much that it is clear he wants to take us down that road. He actually thinks he can get away with it.
If he was any smarter about it, or a better student of history, it would be far more dangerous than it is right now.
He doesn’t seem to realize his little hands and feet are already caught in some big bear traps, and any day now, they will bring him down in pain. Our Republic can’t take many more months of this. He is as doomed as Richard Nixon. He just doesn’t know it yet. Steve Bannon must have told him that once he wins the White House, a president has tremendous power — and it’s almost impossible to get rid of one, at least for four years. In reality TV time, that would be four seasons that could last for many years even on broadcast television in syndication. But Trump is in way over his head.
Trump thinks he has the business class on his side. Wall Street is finding a way to profit from all the uncertainty he is creating. But in the end, they will eat their own just as fast as a mother grizzly bear will eat her cubs — if there are not enough berries around to keep the entire family alive.
Trump thinks he has the military on his side, just because he praises them in speeches and makes claims about increasing their budget and helping them get better health care. But guys with lots of guns tend to be cynical, and loyal only to a point. When they feel betrayed, look out.
Clearly Trump does not have the intelligence community on his side, or the legal system in general. He can fire as many FBI directors and attorneys general as we wants. Clearly Jeff Sessions of Alabama has one foot out the door already. The latest revelation in Friday’s Washington Post has secret intercepts quoting Sessions discussing campaign issues with the Russian ambassador, in direct contradiction to how he testified under oath.
In the end the legal system will eat Trump alive in the courts.
Then there is the press. The Fourth Estate.
One thing about the press has changed since Thoreau’s time. He still has a valid point with this, but it is a different world now.
“And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter—we never need read of another. One is enough. … To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip … not a few are greedy after this gossip.”
In the absence of a real crisis, this would be true of the American press today as it was in the 1990s, when O.J., Michael Jackson and Monica Lewinsky dominated the headlines. But since we are teetering on the brink of a full-blown constitutional crisis, and instead of kissing their asses the Commander in Chief has taken them on in a full frontal assault, the press has stepped up as an institution and is taking him on.
Yes, Trump has much of the Republican Party power structure behind him, at least for now, and they control the two houses of Congress by slim majorities. He thinks he has the Supreme Court, but I suspect once Robert Mueller gets done with Trump, there will be at least 5 votes on our side.
He may have 36 percent of voters. But many of them are barely breathing with the help of tubes and machines. At least 50 percent are about ready to storm the ramparts and remove him. So 14 percent will stand on the sidelines agape.
Thoreau had little confidence in his fellow man.
“Look at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all go to pieces in your account of them. Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the last man.”
But he was the first to talk scientifically of finding a gauge to judge truth. He called it a Realometer.
“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry—determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin (in) a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. … Be it life or death, we crave only reality.”
The reality is Trump’s reality show can’t go on much longer. He’s had a season as a real president. It will survive in re-runs already even without three seasons. Let him brag of six months in the office the rest of his days, and admit that he is not fit and must relinquish his post — and take most of his team of corporate capitalists hellbent on destroying the U.S. government and democracy with him. The trial balloon has already been floated that Trump might step down for health reasons.
It has been said so many times before that it is like crying wolf. But it really is true this time. Trump has to go. He will go anyway eventually, one way or another. I for one would like to have a country left before the FBI, the courts and Congress and the press and the people put a stop to the damage. Hey, if the military wants to help, that would be great too. Do not follow this guy’s orders. They are not morally based.
If Trump tries to use the military to remain in power, we must treat him like the Third World dictator he seems to want to be. Noriega got his prison cell. Saddam Hussein his spider hole. Trump can keep his damn towers, if he will just go away. If he persists, we have the perfect private prison for a rogue nutjob terrorist like Trump. He would fit right in at Guantanamo Bay.
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.