A Year of Resistance: What Went Wrong

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by Guy Walker

As Donald Trump wipes his stubby fingers clean of 2017, the pomaded residue from a year of nihilistic triumph is left like a vague stain on every surface. His first year in office will be remembered as the dumpster fire that we all had to witness, day after day. His name, his trademark sullen profile, his jelly-soaked face—it’s TRUMP in its totality, and it follows us everywhere. His daily routine has been thrown at us like it were important: he goes to his room by 6:30pm, alone; he locks the door, turns on all three televisions, the sound blaring all-Trump all-the-time like the mangled orchestra of his own ego. There’s a growing heap of Diet Coke cans and Big Mac wrappers that have gone transparent from grease drippings, there’s shredded lettuce caught in his glittered chest hair like a fly trap, bits of decade-old American cheese mummified beautifully under the folds of his tits. He rummages around for awhile, for a dried out morsel of a chocolate malted, oinking victoriously on all fours when he discovers his evening treat.

But in part because of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, we know he didn’t want any of this. Hillary Clinton and her whole campaign staff and donors have to live with the grim reality that not only did they lose to a reality TV star who boasted about sexual assault and was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but also that he undisputably tried to lose. According to Wolff’s book, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump were floating rumors of a new media empire—a Trump TV of sorts—following their triumphant loss to Clinton. It would have been built on the progression of mania, the paranoia and delusion so severe it would have made Alex Jones seem as drab and dim-witted as Wolf Blitzer reading off a grocery list.

Even with the cartoonish hellscape that has propogated under him, Trump’s presidency is the best thing that could have happened. If Ted Cruz had won, he would have led like a greased-up lord of squalor, pushing the same oppressive policy as Trump but without any of his brazen ineptitude. If Clinton won, the stampede of reactionaries would have been successfully gruesome in their protest, marching with tiki torches in support of their illiterate ghoul-hero. Congress and the Senate would have gridlocked every dithering attempt of hers to spread her tepid liberalism further. Her closeted racism would have remained mostly unscathed. The alt-right may have become more emboldened because of a Trump presidency, but the conspiratorial charade that would have entirely engulfed a Clinton presidency would have given them the momentum they really need and crave.

They won a contest they never wanted to win. The Bannons and Millers and Trumps of the world function best in their spluttering hostility from the sidelines. Their message is perversely apt only when they are the fringe extremists, squealing like lost pigs in a storm. Resistance under the guise of patriotism worked, but it worked too well. Now they’re in charge, and liberals are in the position the klansmen much preferred, clawing their way towards some respectability. The Democratic Party especially has postured itself as the party of resistance. Resistance was the main theme of 2017, but it resulted in little more than a hashtag.

The problem is in large part due to the fact that the political left has no understanding how to resist effectively. The day after Trump’s inauguration marked the beginning of an era of voyeuristic pusillanimousness—a pacified resistance movement that’s overly pleased with itself. The Women’s March didn’t have a single arrest. In what was deemed “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history,” by The Washington Post, with an estimated 4 million attendees at demonstrations across the country, and not cause for a single arrest, the #Resistance movement was off to its start of withering fruitlessness. It was self-pacified, concerned not with halting the fascistic menology of a Trump administration, but posing with your other nasty gals for another hit Instagram post. It was, after all, a day of fashion. Were the pink pussy-eared hats part of a feminist hallmark, something of a suffragette anatomical allusion, or were they just a response to Donald Trump’s red hats? If the presidency was won with a cheap red hat, then surely it could be taken away with a pink one. One almost expected the alt-right to respond with exaggerated scrotums sagging from side to side on their heads, chanting Balls Are Beautiful! as they summited a hill for everyone to see.

As the year dragged on however, the left did demonstrate that they can indeed incite outrage. When the conservative provocateur, Milo Yiannopolous, came to speak at UC Berkeley, antifa erupted in protest by smashing storefront windows and setting cars ablaze. When conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro came to the same campus, he required $600,000 worth of security. When professor Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State College issued his disagreement when white students were encouraged not to attend campus as part of Day of Presence/Day of Absence, students deemed him a racist, and responded by patrolling the campus with baseball bats. It was as if all the pent up rage had spurted out in the most self-immolating ways, the ineffectiveness of it all making a mockery of their cause.

When did resistance become so petulant? It drives a Prius with a #HillYes bumpersticker fourteen months after the election; it eats mud and then proceeds to brag about it. The Democratic Party confirmed they only want to lose when they elected Tom Perez as chairman of the DNC, completing the powerhouse trilogy of dying turkey-gizzard aristocrats with Pelosi and Schumer.

It wasn’t always this way. In Henry Kissinger’s first volume of memoirs, White House Years, he recounts a Richard Nixon who was terrified that Vietnam War protestors were going to summit over the barricades of empty city buses surrounding the White House gates. In a PBS News Hour interview, The Presidency of Richard Nixon author, Melvin Small, put it this way:

“Henry Kissinger said Washington and the White House were besieged. There were district buses lined up around the White House for who knows what. The 82ndAirborne was in the basement of the Executive Office Building across the street.”

The tyrants were cowering. They feared the people enough to admit it even decades later. The Nixon administration was perhaps the last in which the peoples’ contempt made a lasting impression. When George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the Iraq War protests, he said he welcomed them, because they were expressions of democracy, a freedom they were going to bring to the Iraqi people. In effect, the American peoples’ collective voice was silenced. Resistance never evolved beyond the Gandhian salt march, beyond the quiet stubbornness of Rosa Parks. In today’s hailstorm of controversy and content, an action similar to Parks would never make headlines, much less the history books.

But there’s other reasons why resistance no longer works like it used to. It’s been said elsewhere that one of the key differences between Trump and Nixon is Nixon was capable of shame. Even in his rotten pastiche of character, in his alcoholic’s hallucinatory furor, he somehow had enough rectitude and awareness to be shamed out of office. Trump doesn’t have that capacity, but he is far less impervious than he pretends.

The justice system is heavily bent on its own intimidation of (and sometimes, alliance with) white nationalists. Waco and Ruby Ridge were public relations disasters for the state, directly inspiring the Oklahoma City bombing, and solidifying the suspicions from gray state paranoia. Since these instances, the federal authorities have been tepid at best when dealing with rightwing militant standoffs. They eventually surrendered to Cliven Bundy, releasing back his cattle, presuming the conclusion that if you are white and have enough guns you are immune from federal crimes. And the charges against the Bundys were most recently dismissed by a federal judge, allowing them to walk free after leading an armed standoff. As noted before, there were no arrests during The Women’s March, but there was an unduly amount the day before, during the inauguration. Compare the dismissal of the Bundy case with these arrests, now known as the J-20 trials, involving 230 people, many of whom are journalists. Of these, photojournalist Alexei Wood was indicted on eight felony charges and could face up to 60 years in prison. It’s this kind of justice system that makes resistance as we knew it impossible.

Trump’s mental stability has been called into question by his own staff, his pathological bluster seeming to weaken in its conviction. We want a professional to diagnose him as the madman he is, thinking that this would somehow finally convince his base of his actual ineptitude. But we can’t. Under the “Goldwater rule,” the American Psychiatric Association denies its members from diagnosing members of the public from afar, without having them as actual patients. It is evident though, his ever-worsening madness catapulted his electability in the first place. This is why traditional forms of resistance don’t work—his madness is his greatest asset.

In Foucault’s History of Madness, he describes the Classical Age as one of which the mad were revered for bestowing an unusual kind of wisdom. The literature and art of the time, according to Foucault, cast the schizophrenics and hallucinating as minor prophets wading into other realms of the senses. This is, of course, how supporters of Trump see him. Forgetting the words to the national anthem is actually cool. Not knowing how to read is tantamount to true enlightenment.

By the end of Trump’s term, he’s sitting in the Oval Office, in a pile of hay and newspaper shredding, in just his underwear, his bloated flesh spilling over the sides of the elastic band, blabbering nonsense like he were mimicking De Niro in the final scene of Cape Fear. Kellyanne Conway is standing over him, writing in her clipboard. “That’s great,” she says aloud, “I love where you’re coming from. Keeping your promises to the American people.”

This is how it will end. And if the Democrats and the rest of the #Resistance movement hoist up someone like Oprah Winfrey to compete with him in 2020, it won’t matter who wins—it will be one enormous dystopic circus until the end of time. “Modern man no longer communicates with the madman,” Foucault writes in the preface. And not by diminishing into a language of celebrity and spectacle will the “rupture in dialogue” be restored. A lasting, meaningful resistance is effective through elevated reason, through a dialectical materialism evolved for here and now.

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