I totally get the Trump thing.
Several years ago I read a book about people’s frustration with Washington and politics in general. The guy who wrote it is further out than Bernie Sanders. His name is Chris Hedges and the book is called ‘The Death of the Liberal Class’. It is an autopsy on our broken American system that explored the discouragement, anger and alienation that so many feel.
The past decade of congressional gridlock, filibusters over the debt ceiling, threats to shutdown the government and the citizen’s united ruling/’corporations are people’ debacle has been enough to discourage even someone like me who is only marginally political.
I have watch with great discomfort as the Tea Party has emerged chanting ‘we want our country back’ and I have been forced to learn what gerrymandering is. I get agitated when voting rights a repealed and am horrified when birther conspiracies and anti-Muslim sentiments are loudly broadcast.
I was one of those snobby-onlookers who chuckled at Trump’s opening escalator decent to his announcement with its Toby Keith style rhetoric and actors hired to fill out the ‘crowd’. It was not long before I came to realize that this was not your regular publicity stunt. There was something different about this one – even from the bombastic and inflammatory style of precursors like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
Keep in mind that on a good day I have to be careful not to pull a muscle rolling my eyes at staged theatrics and choreographed spectacle. I don’t have cable. I refuse to watch ‘reality TV’. I buy my organic-free range groceries at Sprouts. I bike to work most days. I brag about how long it has been since I shopped at Wal-Mart or ate at McDonalds. I listen to Democracy Now as I brew my single-region fair-trade coffee in a french-press.
I’m that guy.
I am also a public theologian with a propensity toward cultural criticism however. Last week I posted a 10 min video where I proposed that we live up against the end. I don’t mean ‘the end of the world’ or the End Times in a Left-Behind rapturous sort of way. I mean the end of this current configuration.
We are up against the end of some significant categories:
- Economy – global markets and unregulated capitalism.
- Political – democracy in both domestic and foreign policy manifestations.
- War – the ‘wars’ on terror, drugs and Christmas are but 3 examples of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
- Environment – Views of natural ‘resources’ of the earth impact both water and air.
- Media – Movies, music, TV, art and internet can be weapons of mass-distraction at best and empty repetitions of imitation and stimulation (simulacra) at worst.
It is no surprise to me that we are in the moment of Trump. He is the perfect fusion of 3 significant areas: politics, economy, and entertainment. He is a billionaire media-personality who is largely funding his own campaign as an irreverent trash-talking outsider.
That equation makes perfect sense to me. It terrifies me but at least the trajectory lines up!
Take equal parts reality TV, Palin/Tea Party, Citizens United, anti-Obama backlash and the war on terror … stir it up and pour it over a healthy dose of frustration about ‘political correctness’ (aka being able to say what you want about people of other religions, races or sexualities) and serve it hot.
If you are interested in talking about a spent society and our cultural exhaustion, I would encourage you to watch the 10 min video and let me know what you think.
Seen through this lens, the Trump phenomenon makes total sense. He is not a ‘sign of the end’ but just one prominent symptom of a sickness hanging in the air.