Tuesday, 8 November 2016

If it goes down as we fear it may tonight...

In a weird way, a grim way, I'm kind of prepared for Trump to win. If he does, that means we have to accept the way we do democracy in the West is broken, dead and buried. It means that between the 2015 General Election, Brexit, and Trump, our masters have no mandate, our nations no legitimacy. From here no lines are drawn, to quote Tori Amos' song about the 9/11 attacks, I Can't See New York. From here, no lands are owned.

I think history will judge the election of Trump, if it happens, as a catastrophe on the same scale as the attacks of September 11th, of which earlier enormity Trump's political career, his resistible rise, is the grotesque result. How sickening has it been to see New York City's '9/11 Mayor', Rudolph Giuliani, shilling for this sub-mobster, this comedy tycoon from Central Casting? Yet there he is, little Rudy, the Grover Dill to Trump's Scut Farkus, cheering on the American Empire's nigh-inevitable Caligula. Who knew on that bright late summer day when dust bloomed through the intersections and he toured the wreckage - with Hillary Clinton! - who knew, then, that in fifteen years this assclown, this malevolent dingleberry, would weep, in his dank and secret heart, weep wishing for another 9/11, another chance to stand tall and have dignity. Well. You got your new disaster, chum: but it's left you with less dignity than Salacious Crumb.

You maybe got your new disaster, chum. Who knows? Clinton  - I prefer to follow the convention when writing about Presidential candidates and use her surname, rather than reducing her to the chummier 'Hillary' - may swing it. If women, LGBT people, people of colour, Latinxs, Muslims and others opposed to Trump turn out in huge numbers, if progressives turn out for her the way they turned out for Obama, then Trump hasn't got a hope, and his candidacy, and the reserves of White Fear it drew on, are a force being forced to the margins of US politics, not before time. In fact, even a Trump victory is arguably a rearguard action on the part of that declining species, the ignorant straight white cisgender male (and those pathetic people who, though fortunate enough to not share at least one characteristic with this lummox, insist on impersonating and toadying up to him, in the craven hope that closeness to the bully will mean taking fewer blows).

If. If, if, if, if...If wishes were horses...But the problem is that, in the past couple of years, I've learnt to see the evil side of every if I'm shown, and I'm endlessly proved right. I was a fiery spoken word activist once: but that was before I saw how deeply the claws of misogyny and rape culture were sunk into the scene I held so dear. You can only hear that so many rising stars aren't safe in taxis for so long. And I've noticed the gender thing, chaps: how mediocre male feature acts can guarantee packed rooms, but more talented women artists will struggle for audience. Even the most supposedly progressive scene, if you're a woman, can leave you feeling useless and surrounded. Men, even allegedly progressive men, will turn up for their bros in ways they don't for women. And that worries me. Maybe the much-bruited 'Bernie Bros' who would rather Trump than the first woman to win the Democratic party nomination were motivated as much, or more, by bad grace than misogyny: but still, they worry me. I fear that men won't turn out for Clinton; fear that, worse, some supposedly progressive men might, in the privacy of the voting booth, turn out to be Shy Trumpists. It's happened before.

I don't know. All I know is that I really hope, for once, democracy doesn't let us down. But if it has...Well, there's a reason I've been leaning on the 9/11 comparisons rather heavily in this piece. It's because I'm currently at work on the sequel to Incidents of Trespass, and parts of that story take place in flashback to 2001, to the weeks and months following the attacks. When I write about a time or a place, I naturally reconnect with my memories of that time and place and use them to colour the writing. And one of the chief memories I have of the period after September 11th 2001 was of a sort of awful excitement. 

There's a grim thrill to be had from the discovery that one's own relatively mundane life has been thrown into sharp relief by the malignant contingency of history. It's a thrill which, in all its nausea and giddiness, we Brits have felt since Brexit: as brittle, brief and brutal as a nitrous oxide high. But a high we can ride, for a time, as we've learned, if you hold your nerve. We might even, somehow, survive. 

That, and this - which I hope is more of a dark fantasia than a prophecy - are the best I have to offer. 


I met a traveller from an antic land
who said: 'A solitary baseball cap
lies in the crater. Near it, on the ground,
the wreckage of a portrait lies, whose frown,
absurdist wig and perma-blasted tan
show that its painter caught well how grotesque
life has become, when such unlifelike things,
mocked as they were, beguiled us to elect
this squamous filth which fattens on our fear.
The psychopath we welcomed as our King
brought ruin to his kingdom in a year,
and with it went the world. No things remain:
on every side the line of sight lies bare.
Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair.'

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