All Along The Watchtower
WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl
© 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music
There he was. Saw his helicopters coming in to the Quicken Building because, you know, he sleeps in New York, not podunk Cleveland, Ohio. That would not sound sexy enough — that would tarnish the image, sleeping among the commoners, even of the political party he now owns, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.
I was there on Day Zero, the new beginning, the deformation of the United States of America: Me, down in the streets drawing political cartoons and observational sketches of the goings on, trying to make sense of utter senselessness. Which, of course, is my calling as a philosopher; so I was switching back and forth among three personas — the observer, the theorist, and the satirist. Cleveland, Ohio, a beautiful place with wonderful people, interesting people, most of whom were in hiding or hustling “Hillary for Prison 2016” tee shirts on the sidewalks, not because they believed in that, but because they were going to fleece these sons of bitches for invading their town.
One of the guys I was with said he asked a vendor, a black man, why he was selling those shirts and worse.
“Leave me alone, man,” was the response, “you’ve got your hustle, I’ve got mine.”
“There’s a sucker born every minute” and those RNC conventioneers had “sucker” written all over them. Marks, every last one of them. And you, too, could see that, assuming you tuned in to any of the floor action from the convention. Suckers for believing in the man with the weird hair who helicoptered in and out of the Quicken Center so he did not have to get up close and personal with his filthy flock or run the risk of being questioned by a reporter who may have had the audacity to press him for something more substantive than an off the wall, fact-free assertion or a slogan.
If I heard “build a wall” or “ban all Muslims” or “Make America Safe Again” once that week, I heard it a bloody blue million times. What I did not hear was why those were good things, much less possible things, what they would accomplish, and, certainly, I never heard how it would get done. Those latter things are above the pay grade of the citizen and voter: Trump will just do it.
“Trust me. Trust me,” as he says often and loudly.
Law and Order — you know, like Nixon, and the return of the Silent Majority. Rip-off after rip-off, from Trump’s slogans to Melania’s plagiarized speech. And the suckers don’t care while the rest of you have given up. It doesn’t matter what the man says, truly — it punches the emotional buttons of frightened, angry white people; it keeps him the subject of every news and infotainment program 24 hours a day; it creates a shiny caucasian fantasy of a sparking, brown-free land where “foreigners” do not belong, where everyone is a certain, acceptable form of Evangelical Christian, where “our culture and heritage” are never again tainted by notions from alien sources.
Not that any of these people know any history or are cultured, in any meaningful sense. Or else they’d know the strength of Western culture at its best was always that it would borrow and absorb ideas and beliefs from anywhere, adjust itself, correct itself. That it was revitalized and saved by the Moors of Al-Andalus who preserved Greek learning for the world and a better form of mathematics and science and medicine. Those Moors, black people, Muslim, reached the heights of civilized life and rescued, made possible… a future worthy of humans.
“Ban all Muslims” indeed.
These people know nothing of The Enlightenment that once fought to rescue humanity from superstition, religious enthusiasm, monarchical absolutism and despotism. They know nothing of the hard-won Western value of “tolerance,” or the establishment of “human rights.” They know nothing of Voltaire’s 18th c. war on “being put to the question” — torture, in other words — or the real meaning of his battle cry, “Ecrasez l’Infame!”
“Torture the terrorists, even harsher this time!”
Law and Order. Make America Safe Again. Build the wall.
He’s got his hustle, too, this Donald J. Trump.
By all appearances, he is a human, an all-too-human human. But look closely and you will see what has become clearer to me over the preceding months, finally confirmed on the streets of Cleveland.
Trump is an empty space, a vacuum, a back hole. An ink blot and, so, a walking Rorschach Test. That’s the man’s interior — there is nothing meaningful in itself there at all. There never has been. He has no belief in anything of value beyond himself… whom he does not value enough to wonder at. He believes in appearances, in gaudy material things, in the trophy wives, in his brand, “TRUMP,” which, for a nominal service fee can be and has been pasted on anything. Because, in itself, it means nothing, stands for nothing, is nothingness.
The secret of Donald Trump is not that the emperor has no clothes; it’s worse: The emperor isn’t even really there. He is a nihilist. Power for the sake of power, attention for the sake of attention — that’s his activity, his function.
He is a black ink splatter and you see in him whatever you project.
For the neo-Nazi, for the Klansman, for David Duke, for the white people afraid the Age of the White People is drawing to a close, he is a neo-Nazi, a Klansman, a reflection of David Duke’s life-long fantasies; he is the savior of racist, white, Evangelical Christian America.
For the greedy, the money-hungry, or the working aspirant to the higher classes he is “financial success,” he is “the art of the deal,” he is “the rebirth of the American Dream.” No, his record bears none of this out, sketchy as it is. But reality is not the point; it’s that Trump has become all things to all men because he, in his depths, stands for nothing in particular. He is happy to seem to be whomever or whatever you wish… just as is a Rorschach Test.
For the Tea Party, he is a weird, irreconcilable mix of libertarianism and protectionism and the confusion of church with state. He is the promised reaction to LGBTQ rights, the final judgment on Socialized Medicine — both extensions of justice and human rights, long overdue. And which don’t fully exist here, but he’ll make certain they go away, nonetheless. Because you are throwing your fears into that black center and he echoes them back to you, only louder.
On the streets of Cleveland I witnessed a carnival without the fun, a carnival of incivility and anger, a celebration of laughing hatred and monstrous beliefs. Halloween minus the holiness, all tricks and precious few treats. Dueling bullhorns blaring unadulterated bullshit. Hope that hopelessness will tear this entire nation into warring groups, each thinking Trump supports them, each utterly incorrect.
Not that, given power, he won’t step back and allow each hateful, fearful group to have their orgy of violence and exclusion… all the better to ignore dear Trump as he lives it up on the public dole and commands the airwaves to say whatever will fill up the otherwise empty 24/7 news cycles.
That’s worked for him so far; until it doesn’t, he’ll keep it up.
He’ll get his attention, make his narcissist’s sociopathic pronouncements, build the financial value of his brand, “TRUMP,” and then cash it all in and leave us an ungovernable, uncooperative shambles.
Perhaps he will go live with Putin whom, today, he openly encouraged to spy on the Democratic Party. Crooked as Nixon was, he at least was ashamed enough to keep his treasonous, illegal, immoral activities hidden. Trump couldn’t and does not have the capacity to steal the microscopic shred of conscience that barely lived within Richard Nixon — because that would require him to stand for something beyond his own empty self. No, he just takes the slogans: Law and Order, Silent Majority.
Empty words. Emptiness emerging from his dark emptiness.
And you’ve missed it. The media misunderstood they were being used and played like a cheap piano.
27 July 2016
Richard Van Ingram