Scattered Thoughts About the US in the First Few Weeks of Trump’s Enigmatic Rule

 

The ideological intertwining of the US as land of the pursuit of happiness and as land of appearances masking reality, the land where the motion pictures industry reached its zenith first, becoming, along with sports, the main motor for the transformation of people from doers into viewers. A 21st Century, technologically enhanced version of the Roman bread and circuses, for a declining empire facing the challenges of a multipolar world.

 

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As the window of opportunity for the US being an unchallengeable, sole world power closed in the early two thousands, it would be interesting to analyze the shift in the viewing arts, going from the primacy of movies to that of television (a harbinger perhaps of the fact that a TV show host would become President of the US?). Hand in hand with that shift was also the one towards the primacy of social media, so it is not surprising to have a tweeting President, who has as his principal adviser (and perhaps brain) the director of an online, right wing news outlet.

 

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The tale of the Wizard of Oz is a quintessential admonition to look behind the curtain and not disregard the man handling the visual effects (interestingly it is the dog Toto, an element of “nature” that prompts the protagonists to move beyond the emotions they feel and look at/see the fatal flaw that reveals the deception). Could the elements of nature (read “climate change”), denied by the presidency, and those still close to the forces of nature (read “Indigenous people”) who are the first to be ruthlessly attacked,  be the ones that will force the ‘viewers’ to wake up from  their status and force the Very Bad Man and the system behind him out of his manipulation booth?

 

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After the first B-movie actor Governor (of California) and later President of the US Ronald Reagan, there was a second B-movie actor who transitioned into politics at the gubernatorial level- Arnold Schwarzenegger (and, unsurprisingly then got in a row with a reality show host millionaire turned president Donald Trump). In the hiatus, the same road was taken by a practitioner of a “high intensity” spectacular sport i.e., Jesse Ventura, who went from professional wrestling to acting to being elected governor of Minnesota.

 

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The cow-boy paradigm was the predominant one for the actor President of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, as the rise of neoliberalism necessitated a certain wild outlook, a “Go West, young man!” ethos. For the international and internal rearranging that is needed now by the economic powers that be on a global scale, a more technological frame is needed, one that calls into question the very nature of reality and perception, hence we walk into a Matrix –like terrain with an orange haired President tweeting alternative facts, feigning to be a people’s champion.

 

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Shortly after his inauguration, the newly elected President goes on to denounce fake news, while promoting alternative facts. All of this in the land where the pursuit of happiness, embodied by the Trump Tower, has come into a collision course with the reality of the widening gap between rich and poor.

 

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Another illusion that has come smack against the windshield of reality is that of the post-racial society, the realities of race relations have visited black and brown people throughout the years of the Obama administration, and their symbolic weight have most likely fueled the demand to “Make America Great again”. Those who have already been engaging in struggle against the very real punch of those shadows don’t necessarily naturally coalesce with the more recently awakened resisters, who are shocked by what they see as a rupture, rather than a leap forward within a continuum. Thus there is a certain disconnect between the outside world, that has withstood wars and drones waged during more “benevolent” administrations, those internal segments of the populations that have been repressed or neglected during the “good” times and those who have felt compelled to react only now.

 

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New York as the city of Towers, from those that disappeared in an “event” whose nature has never been really clarified to the Trump Tower, the embodiment of illusionary luxury, that descended from the bordello of the Wild West built by Trump’s grandfather, a glistening locus of pleasure envisioned by a purveyor of the Old World to keep the New World happy.

 

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Hard to discern whether politics is the screen upon which the visual effects are being projected or the curtain hiding the projectionist, but one thing is certain even though fighting the very real consequences of what appear to be irrational edicts by ‘madman’ Trump, what is projected on the political screen are shadows (Chinese shadow theater?) meant to hide different and deeper international, economic processes at work.

 

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Within this picture, it should come as no surprise that the reaction to the above scenario would contain shared cultural elements and discourses: Celebrities of the Left and Dionysian culture (Madonna) giving speeches at the Women’s March; certain elements of the resistance would manifest a somewhat festive, ironical and self-congratulatory tone rather than a solemn one. After all there is still is certain degree of disbelief when facing something that cannot be possibly called Fascism, as the American exceptionalism myth is still in effect.

 

Pina Piccolo, February 8, 2017