Golfing While America Burns
Trump declared a national emergency, then flew off to Mar-a-Lago to play golf all day. Was that a Nero-fiddling-while-Rome-burns moment?
This is why we are hearing, loud and louder, the voice of Ocasio-Cortez. Everyone says, right-on and bright as she is, that she is too young, too new to Congress, too green (and legally too young) to win the Democratic nomination. But her message is filtering up the ranks and across the country and down to the younger voters. She is beating a drum that has more shrill and vibrant authenticity than any of Trump’s flatulent-minded followers will ever hear.
But fascism never won by majority rule. Fascists seized every public platform and entrained their media guns on ears they filled with truly fake news and plain-old mendacious propaganda.
“[T]hese politicians must possess the oratorical power of a Demosthenes and the persuasive infighting political savvy of a Roosevelt.”
I have a neighbor, a one-time liberal, who out of loneliness and boredom tuned his radio to talk shows which are dominated by radical, lying right-wing zealots who have mastered the art of endless mind-boggling, mind-bending dogma. Suddenly he emerged a low-minded conservative, he who at age forty cheated his way onto a state workmen’s compensation pension and social security for disability. Like the Trumpers on federal retirement benefits, he sees undeserving, non-white people as exploiting the tax-paying white majority, usurping his pride of place, the one he never earned and deserves less.
Many people near and dear to me, all genetic liberals, have fallen under the mirage of false principles and unprincipled leaders. Because those defenders of the Constitution, the congressional Republican majority, are measuring our future by the number of votes they hope to retain, they cling tenaciously to their place on the greed stream that feeds them and promises them more to come, if only they blind their eyes and block their ears.
It’s as if the whole country is being pushed onto a seamy gravy train that is actually heading toward a socio-political Auschwitz where nothing will make us free, or prosperous or happy.
We need master politicians whose passion is democracy with all its world-beloved precepts: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, along with freedom of the press, separation of state and religion, and even reasonable gun possession which entails rational control.
And these politicians must possess the oratorical power of a Demosthenes and the persuasive infighting political savvy of a Roosevelt.
Meanwhile, the voice of reason and the practiced rule of law must be pushed forward by the true majority of Americans. The wake-up call has been sounded, is being shouted. But it must be heard. The silence of those in power must be pushed to find its veracious, honest voice. They must be shamed or somehow persuaded to save democracy, to honor the Constitution they have all sworn to defend and uphold.
Freud, who never lived in a democracy and did not understand its true worth, tried to comprehend the ways of nationhood in his Civilization and Its Discontents. It would seem he overvalued the force of greed and the pride of authority. But those qualities he understood too well. They are becoming the vermicular, slivery keystone of current American politics. These corrupting values are sliding under us. Freud’s idea that second generations must seize power and eschew their forebears’ reigns of governance is being enacted here and now. Our constitution, that still proud mode of living and ruling, appears about to be shredded and discarded.
Was Freud right after all? Are democracy and all its trappings only to be tossed aside as moments of some deep psychosocial fantasy? The ancient Greeks invented democracy—and then invented much of the genius of western civilization — but it lasted only one hundred years. Our democracy has been going for two hundred and fifty years. Is its time up?
What we lack is a theory of mass media psychology. Lots had been written about group psychology and the herding instinct as well as group pressure toward conformity and alignment of personal belief and group emotional responsivity. Freud’s pessimism led him to produce his theory of the “death instinct” which will topple every civilization.
Mass media works two-fold: it magnifies the group processes that shift whole sections of society’s belief system, and it re-shapes the internalized, emotion-driven aspect of the listening, watching self. The frenzy we see at Trump rallies, like those we can see of Hitler and Mussolini rallies, display in miniature the crowd effect now being blown up by mass media to almost global dimensions. The public becomes hostage to an invidious, invasive, internally revisionary socio-psychology. Principles and beliefs and behavior shift irrevocably. Truth will be written out of our lives.
How are we going to cope with all that, America?
Will we save ourselves? Will we Ssve democracy?