Notes On Maureen Dowd’s “Trump, Neo-Nazis and the Klan”

Last summer, at the RNC Convention as I drew a group of young men with Trump Vanguard flags – and heavy wooden poles – that I titled “The New Hitler Youth,” I got interviewed by at least 7 major news outlets, from NPR to The Financial Times of London, and some folks shooting documentary footage. I doubt a damn bit of it was used or ever will be. C’est la vie.

Soon, Roger Stone was standing about two feet to my left (pacing) and that fruit loop from Infowars came, stood 5 feet in front of me and stoked up the all-white crowd with a stirring speech about: “globalist conspiracy” of “Illuminati” (i.e. the Jews and Freemasons); taking “our” country back (from whom, other Americans? to where – 1860? for what – another Civil War?); and other home-spun fascist/Nazi bullshit.

In all my interviews, in the first minute of talking, I made my only important point: Donald J. Trump is a nihilist. Empty, devoid of any real ethical values or belief in any, he is a simultaneously a black hole sucking in attention and “fame” at any cost and a blank screen onto which various groups of people are projecting their fantasies, wishes, and fears – him offering vague calls and dog whistles to each group, even opposed groups, and seeming to promise them all the impossible fulfillment of their prejudices and darkest desires.

Because he was using them and they him, a deal among scam artists all waiting to stab one another right after they wreck everything in sight.

If there were cutting room floors anymore, all my words would be there in the debris. My diagnosis was too cerebral(?), not vernacular enough, not filled with insults or interesting stuff for a camera. Just some random bearded old idiot sitting on the sidewalk in Cleveland drawing a cartoon of soon-to-be little brainwashed Nazis who menaced people with their wooden sticks while actual extremist authoritarians wandered the sidewalks and gave rabble-rousing speeches.

Now, that latter bit was good for screen and radio; me, not so much.

But before that day, I swear I never heard anyone diagnose the “Trump phenomena” as nihilistic in constitution.

Now, it’s “the thing.” Because I was correct, to that degree. Others would see it later, as in this column in the New York Times by Maureen Dowd: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/opinion/sunday/trump-neo-nazis-and-the-klan.html

Read it. It’s good, But Dowd, being optimistic and from another generation (Boomer) than my own (front-end “X”), is just a bit too sanguine. She thinks this era will pass and ‘all this” racism and hatred will go with it. Ironically, she says this right after talking about, after the end of WWII, Klansmen doing the same shit as the Nazis in her hometown.

Just as they keep doing now, just as they taught their kids and grand kids and great-grand kids and people who have never worn a sheet or use their crude speech… yet believe the same things, nonetheless. And might even be insulted if you brought that to their attention and called it by name.

Bad beliefs and old lies, once brought into the world, do not die – they await resurrection when people fear or are uneducated or mis-educated and live on tall-tales and deadly myths instead of history and humility of some sort, desire for truthfulness and have an habitual self-doubt. They practice mercy. Practice justice… strive for a life in the service of these and are satisfied with nothing less.

That is a tall order at this moment just as it always was.

Whole states or regions with churches that openly discriminate and preach coded messages that are racist misinterpretations, making God responsible for justifying and approving their idiocy and hatred of other human beings….

Ms. Dowd, that is not going away. Not automatically. We never got past it, even after 1864, WWII, the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, laws… it lived on, vampire-like, hidden in the darkness of our culture’s soul, our souls, our language, stereotypes, images.  We never owned up to this darkness invented by white people and used as a bludgeon against anyone defined as not “white” enough.  And with this bludgeon powerful men and women lorded over all of us, white and darker than white, not-Christian or not-the-right-kind-of-Christian for centuries, some enslaved in chains, some enslaved by fear and awe of “power.”

And now it’s wholly alive again, resurrected by living people, white people, fearful and propagandized, terrified, full of foolishness led by a fool who is headed… nowhere.

Germany’s Dritte Reich didn’t arise or go away automatically… and, in some sense, never died even after it, too, was led by a fool Nowhere. Its spirit just migrated here to the USA, attached to those moronic, already existing Klan-ish beliefs, vampiric, now alive again in its walking dead state. When it was driven out of Germany at the end of World War II, it took millions atop millions with it in blood, fire, fury, and absurdity.

We will be fortunate indeed to throw this set of undead beliefs back into a graveyard hole for awhile without a similar destruction here and around the world again.

20 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram

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For All and For None

Trepidation — that is what I experience much of the time when I speak of anything important, make an image, write words.  The struggle with this, for me, is intense and often crippling: Is this a genuine fear of hubris — of trespassing on matters I am not called to explore?  Or is it a form of grandiosity — and, mind you, grandiosity resides in the strangest of locales?  I mean, am I afraid to speak because I “know” many will hear  and some believe?

Do I really possess that latter power?  People will be moved to action because of my words and drawings?

That, truly, is foolishness.

The power to speak, to a degree, is something I can perform; the power to speak rashly and with poor judgment, even incorrectly out of naivete or stupidity — that is a defect that often possesses me.  The desire to please: well, that is a wretched thing indeed and often lies behind the moments I’ve played fast and loose with truthfulness in favor of rhetoric.  A tongue may be golden because it passes on a genuine gift; or it may be but gold-plated because it is manipulative, seeking lesser things, seeking ultimately to receive, not share, not help, not mentor.

Those moments, the latter sort, are fewer and fewer as I mature, and haste born of passion is something I spend time in extinguishing.  Delay and consideration are not luxuries, not for a human being — they are among the necessities.

So, I can speak, I can write, I can make art — and these may emerge from deep meditation and consideration, restrained, or they may be extravagant and self-aggrandizing. Even the silence can be grandiose if not properly motivated… and no one, outside myself, can tell or judge my motivations in such matters without themselves attempting to substitute a manipulating fiction for my own story, the story that is my autobiography, is me in this world.

As for treading where angels fear to go… that is the birthright and responsibility of a human.  The world, this world, the world of life was no more made for angels than it was for monstrosities — morally stunted or deformed egomaniacs or zealots who never doubt themselves because “They Know.”

“They Know” what the Absolute Truth is, as if they were gods, and they know what they desire, and they will possess what they want or destroy any who get in their way or resist.  In such manner, people make themselves a living plague, something to be completely avoided or resisted.

Angels have no choice.  Monstrosities choose to serve the black depths of insatiable ego at any cost, rationalizing and creating whatever fiction suits them best in the moment and in the long-term.

‘Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” ‘ Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

I’ve considered this passage from the sage for a very long time.  Years.  In fact, I meditated on it before knowing Hillel (or anyone else) summed this very human crisis up as succinctly as he did.

Notice the three questions: One without the next is misleading.  And the first question has, itself, two portions, and if that question is not adequately faced with some humility, all is lost.  The error in interpretation will breed a deadly monstrosity called “egoism.”

The commentaries point out that, in the first question, two “I”s, not one, are referred to — The first is said to be the sacred, holy “soul,” my – and your – true self that has never departed from the presence of HaShem – The Ineffable One.  That “I” is pure and untouched by this world, in a deep sense — the sense of the prayer, “My soul within me, she is pure.”

Obviously, I am not pure in any really meaningful way — I am full of error, stupidity, foolishness, imperfections, even evil.  Part of me is stained black as night.  I have done wrong, many, many times.  But that other “I” — she has done no wrong and will not.  How odd.

Why?  How can such a paradox exist as a unified “me”?

Because, in part, the burning mystery of that Spark of the Divine — the “image and likeness” – is the “I” whom I must strive to bring forth within this world of history, circumstance, flux, through the vehicle of my actions and intentions, however limited.  The first “I” is my destiny, the one that I must choose to realize and make my vital project, that guides and gives form to my life in whatever time and in whatever place I am given to perform it.

If justice is to be here in the world, I must choose it, value it, interpret it, and become a just person by consistent and painful degrees.  If there is to be mercy, forgiveness, courage, thoughtfulness, carefulness, generosity, peacefulness, beauty, truthfulness, hopefulness… if there are to be qualities such as these, I must bring them into the world in my own way without departing from their standards, their requirements.

Thus, if I am not for me — if my deepest Self does not shine even dimly for me, guide me, orient me, direct me to true Light, and if I do not choose to “become who I am,” to actually perform my proper labor, my destiny, my work… no one else can force me, perform my work – however modest – in my place.  No one else can become me… or you, or any of us.

In the words of Ortega y Gasset, paraphrased, “We are each irreplaceable, each necessary,” all of us, each pursuing her destiny, all supporting her.  Human existence is a matter of “all of us or none of us.”

Perhaps human life has always seemed cheap to most people — I do not know.  We are faced, once more, with entire groups of people, majorities, who have decided those “unlike them” are “The Other”: and The Other is the object of fear and hatred, to be expelled, monitored, locked up, destroyed.  Instead of beholding an Alter-Ego, “another I,” when considering others, they take full possession of “I” for themselves and themselves alone, their tribe, their beliefs, their skin color, their fictions.  Anyone else, any dissent, any culture, individuality, creativity, belief, even tribe or color or any other form of love than the majority’s becomes threatening.

Threats, if taken seriously enough, get eradicated after being randomly defined as “unnatural,” “wicked,” “abominable,” “lies,” “leeches,” — any and everything except “human” and sacred.  Criminals by birth.

So – “If I am only for myself, who am I?”  Even HaShem “stooped” to grant humans existence out of nothing; The Divinity shared with us the great gift of being, and there was no necessity in it.  We did not have to come into existence — any one of us or all of us together, even this or any other universe.  Even the possibility of universes is not, in itself, self-explicable in the sense of metaphysical being.  The Divine began – as far as we are concerned – by sharing something beyond comprehension with us, out of a free, creative choice, out of mercy.

Out of an inexplicable love and friendship.

And what is given, then, is given to be shared, not hoarded up.  Not given here but refused out of disdain there.  We receive, we learn, we create in order to pass on, to share, not because it must be “earned” by the other, but because if I do not share, who do I become by my selfishness? How can I become myself, my true self, without acknowledging the other?

It is not as if I, myself sprang into being without others — in reality, first, there are the others: only afterwards and slowly is there the “I” who exists in the world, who begins to value and choose and create.  I emerge from the others and their labor.  They gave me language, they gave me beliefs, ideas, they taught me to think, to value, they gave me culture, they passed on to me certain valuable (and not so valuable) practices — and even where wrong or misguided, I cannot turn around and perform the labor — give the gift — of improving, reforming, or even excising errors from the culture for the future without, first, being brought up and given certain gifts.

“If not now, when?”

When will I choose to learn that I and other implicate one another, require one another?  When will I begin to doubt myself long enough in to hear my “True Self,” my calling, my vocation, my destiny?  When will I perform who I am — become who I truly am?

Now.  Or never.  You and I have a now that is ever-passing; soon enough, there will be no “now” that includes me, even as a memory.  Only a now that includes whether or not I did my work, did it well, did it poorly… and no one save HaShem will have any memory of that.

“…[I]s it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of those applauding hands. The people who praise us; how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region it takes place. The whole earth a point in space – and most of it uninhabited.”

Marcus Aurelius, THE MEDITATIONS

No, it is not that your life is meaningless: It is that your life and the lives of all other people are the only conduits of meaningfulness in this universe we know anything about.  Yet meaningfulness and fame, fortune, comfort, and other preferable situations — there is no link between these two sets of things at all except accidentally, in terms of “fortune.”  If one only lives for the “preferable” and falls apart when these depart — as they must, one will never strive for meaningfulness.  One will fail to value it.  One may even grow to find meaning repulsive and painful.

Hence, monstrosities are born, create themselves, serve themselves, demand service for themselves, all while ignoring and discarding… themselves.

And, so, we arrive at the end of all I wish to say for the moment.

Richard Van Ingram

20 November 2016

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The Living Rorschach Test

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.

Believe me.

Sucker.

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

http://www.comixcast.com

http://www. losercomix.com

loser@losercomix.com

@RVI777

 

 

 

 

 

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