Part Two of my post about my all-time musical top ten will be delayed a week or two for technical reasons. In the mean-time, there’s something that’s been on my mind.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of the Trump phenomenon. Political pundits are giving post-hoc analyses of why they so severely underestimated his chances. Harry Enten of 538.com has a good take here, backed up by similar musings from David Byler at RealClear Politics here. Both contain good points that tell a lot of the story. But I think we all should have seen this coming for two completely different reasons.
1. Reality TV. I’ve posted a few times in Social Media how his candidacy is the culmination of what nearly a generation of Reality TV has prepared America for. We are the Kardashian Nation, and we are finally getting the election we’ve had coming. It turns out that I’m not the only person thinking along these lines, see similar musings from Van Jones here.
2. The Online Comments Section. Several people have noted that Trump is like the Online Comments Section come to life and running for President. Anybody who has read a story of any social or political import online in the past few years and then ventured into the comments section afterwards knows what I mean. There have been a lot of people with dark views, maximum bile, and minimum decency out there for a long time, all they needed was the right signal to draw them out. Which brings me to…
In Spring 2014, I did an exercise that I’ve done several times, using a format inspired by Brad Henderson and Andy Jones of the Writing Program at UC Davis, to write 40 poems in 40 days in response to a series of prompts. I forget the exact prompt the particular poem I’m about to share came from, but it had something to do with taking news items from one medium and then re-positioning the lines to make a poem. In my case, I was curious to see what would happen if I took highlights from the online comments sections of a few articles and re-worked them.
I choose a couple of mainstream articles covering the usual suspect topics- something about feminism, something about race, something about the gay community, etc. I highlighted lines from the comments section following the articles that were particularly evocative, and then ran them through a few rounds of an online version of the “cut-up” technique championed by William S. Burroughs. I then took what came out of that and arranged it into lines of roughly similar length, and did a minimum of rewording and punctuation to make proper sentences out of it.
The thing about cut-ups, and why I wanted to try it in the first place, is that they have an uncanny ability to reveal subtexts beneath a text. The results, though vile, were strangely coherent and compelling. I immediately felt that I couldn’t see myself submitting it anywhere, or bringing it to a workshop. Art can be prophecy, can use personas that aren’t the artist’s own to alert us to what’s out there. But I blinked and lost my nerve, because the results can be so easily misunderstood. I now kind of wish I hadn’t, because this is what was rattling around out there. We all should have seen Trump coming.
Poem follows below, all appropriate trigger warnings are in effect.
The Online Comments Section (Reading Between the Lines)
Just stay lose gay I’ve included
church-owned bibles for you,
or a million handy WHITE
Congregationalists will fight your
Homosexual agenda (and the blacks too)
with the right kind of pistol.
Motherhood bible-believing people
will snuff your stinking well-educated life
and will save Christians from the pressure
of Jewish sexuality (those eternal animals),
breaking your Harvard governmental
very wrong crap no matter what price.
Careful Homie Bankers, our core covenants
are stronger in history than the Hell
of your well-crafted need-based Conspiracy
and the decades-old distributed colony
of your sexual bankers, their stinking appetites
attacking students, homes and fatherhood.
You think you can actually attack Christians
with your so-called propaganda, drugs,
and worthless Jewish campaign money.
Our race-based purity principles
will defeat your efforts.