The Hateful Climate: Notes on Impending Doom

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“If you don’t like the weather in New Hampshire, then wait five minutes.” This infuriating adage, one which we embrace all the more warmly because it deceives, might be repurposed more fittingly for the nation at large: “If you think the political climate can’t get any more hostile, then refresh your Twitter feed.” Gentlemen and -women have never survived on the campaign trail, a ruthless wasteland in which decency and kindness are only weaknesses, but never before have I, at least, observed such spirited contempt for the very pretense of empathy and affability. Our capacity for cruelty—one might say, our carnal appetite for such—has only deepened in the last four years, and unless we adopt new tastes immediately, we will acquire a bloodlust more passionate still.

The Iowa caucus looms, and with it the next stage of our hateful evolution. Hatred is so much more than an emotion: it is a motivation, too, a source of compulsive energy to be expended or exploited. Politicians respect the variegated value and power of hate, but they acknowledged this influential element only recently: Trump invited us to hate the aristocrats and the colored immigrants whom they pretend to protect, while Hillary encouraged us to hate the working class and the other victims of our social structure. Liberated of the hateful taboo, we consciously expect, perhaps even prefer, hatred to be expressed by politicians. Concordantly, the omnipresent spectacle of the presidential primary has become a cascade of hate, with the candidates promising to unleash greater stores of psychic firepower against the enemy in the White House.

[All except Marianne Williamson, that is: the only candidate who acknowledged the “dark psychic force” was pilloried in the press and manhandled in the media. Conspicuously, none of the fourth-wave feminists rushed to her defense, nor did anyone who claimed to represent the counterculture note that a true political outsider might be of interest to voters once again.]

We have been inundated, culturally as well as psychologically, with this toxicity for the last several months—actually, for much longer than that. Nevertheless, this deluge of demagogues must pass through some kind of filter, lest we be too scatterbrained to focus on the task at hand. Most of the candidates have already been purged on the orders of the DNC, and several more will founder in Des Moines, where the first of the corporate donors will finally make their choice. Commanding our attention to a single candidate, the stage managers will ensure our hateful energies are directed toward a specific end, thereby narrowing and strengthening our malignant passion simultaneously.

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In Search of Tulsi Gabbard, Part VII: Darkness and Squalor

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Tulsi Gabbard speaks in Rochester, New Hampshire. Notice the young man with the “Keep America Great” cap in the front row.

A brutal rain besieged the New Hampshire seacoast on the night before Thanksgiving, reducing my windshield to a soggy, bleached-out blur as I made my way across Route 125. Long before the squall started raging, I’d regretted my decision to drive all the way to the border of Maine to attend yet another Tulsi Gabbard town hall. It wasn’t because I lost count long ago of the number of times I’d heard her speak, though this event would be my fiftieth, at least. No, I was reluctant because I get the grimmest feeling whenever I travel to Rochester—supposedly known as the Lilac City, but truly known as the City of the Dead. While it is not New Hampshire’s poorest or most pathetic city, for me it is the most striking illustration of the Granite State’s decline.

Rochester was never an inspiring city. For the fourth quarter of the twentieth century, it was known throughout the rest of the State for its dysfunctional schools, ubiquitous boozing, and belligerent working class, but it possessed enough momentum and spunk—required of every living culture—to sustain it. As the second quarter of the twenty-first century nears, Rochester has been reduced to an awkward punchline, a surreal portrait of the past continuously attempting to overwrite itself. Walk the undulating streets of downtown or explore the claustrophobic husk of the Lilac Mall and you will witness the rotation of temporary shops and businesses, opening weeks before they shutter and shuttering months before they open once again.

As the internal economy tanks, the peripheral society decomposes. The denizens of Rochester are no longer a group of sympathetic, if visibly unstable, blue-collar spirits; they are now the wayward sufferers of opioid addiction and impoverished inertia. Thrashed and disfigured by the economic crises of the last twenty years, they know their days of relative strength are over, and their prophecy is unrelentingly dreary. Strafford County may have gone for Hillary, but only because Rochester and Somersworth—or Rottenchester and Scummersworth, as the millennials say—couldn’t outmuscle Barrington, Dover, and Durham at once. Thus, Rochester stands concealed behind the Spaulding Turnpike, which whisks away the wealthy and the unsuspecting to prettier places, like Newington and Portsmouth, bringing us the face but denying us the heart.

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Specter at the Feast: Michael Bennet on Julian Assange

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“I have seen the future, and it is death.” This gloomy truism, though it be as irresistible as the flow of time, never resonates for me, never really rings, until the suffocating freeze of winter makes its annual descent upon New Hampshire. Only in this state of seasonal paralysis, when those who are not thwarted by the snow will split their own skin in the sadistic winds blowing them back, is death a tangible force, even as it remains an abstract concept. We steel ourselves against the lethal chill and remind ourselves we will survive it, but so, too, do we ask ourselves: “For how much longer?” The year, at least, will not endure for more than a number of weeks, and with the end of this year, we will see the demise of more than one presidential campaign.

With so many Democrats competing for their party’s blessing, it’s been tough to keep track of who has dropped out, even among the bottom tier. A week ago, I was stunned and somewhat queasy to learn that John Delaney is still in the race, even after twenty-eight months of existential irrelevance and the shocking absence of pretended principles, even. I was much less surprised, but also much more disgusted, to learn that Michael Bennet was still in the race as of Saturday, December the 7th. While Delaney is a crude caricature of the sexless Washington sleazeball, his incurably awkward manner seems to have stopped everyone from buying into his scam. Bennet, on the other hand, has mastered the art of pretending to be one of the people, evincing a convincingly gregarious warmth that is associated exclusively with the down-to-earth. He swindles people, even those who know he and Delaney stand the same chance of becoming president.

Certainly, Bennet isn’t the first politician to don inexpensive threads, slump his shoulders, and try to pretend he’s an average joe. This populist masquerade, while obscenely disrespectful to middle- and working-class citizens who lack Bennet’s $16 million net worth, did not begin when this man set foot on the floor of the United States Senate. Nor is he the first millionaire to pose for ridiculous pictures in front of mountaintops to play the role of a rugged commoner; as a New Hampshirite, I am all too conversant with this cheesy practice. Nevertheless, I have an exceptional contempt for Bennet, not because there is anything unique to his chicanery, but because he distinguished himself in the mass persecution of Julian Assange.

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Kamala Harris Postmortem: The Neoliberal Dirge

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Imagine my good fortune, discovering Joy Reid’s bizarre presentation on the inspiring strength—and tragic victimization—of Kamala Harris on Monday, December the 2nd. In a baffling dialogue with several faithful spokespersons for the establishment, Reid insisted that Harris’s presidential campaign was far from finished and scolded her competitors in the corporate media for penning Harris’s “obituaries” prematurely. As we have come to learn, they were delivered just a few days early, for Harris has quit her battle for the powers of the presidency. While I seldom indulge in the pleasures of sadism and schadenfreude, I can make an exception in this case, relishing the national humiliation of a right-wing authoritarian disguised as an Aunt Tammy, one who had sent innocent people of color to death row and who would have allowed our military to murder innocent people of color overseas. If my delight in her political and personal devastation is uncouth, then consider it an antidote to the tasteless toxicity of the lachrymose eulogies delivered in the press.

We will change the channel from MSNBC and turn to CNN, where Kyung Lah could not conceal her own heartbreak. Reflecting wistfully on the righteous “hope and promise” of the lost campaign, she described Harris as the destined redeemer, one who would deliver the progressives to the land of justice and splendor. She saw her as “somebody who represents the coalition, the candidate who potentially could string together black voters, college educated women, potentially the working class, left and right.” A broader organization of Americans I can’t imagine, but Lah does not define the constituency as such. Rather, she begins with the reflection and works her way backwards: “What the Democrats were looking for was someone who looked like them.”

In a single sentence, the entire intellectual power of progressivism is reduced to an expectation of appearance! We don’t care about who the candidate is, or what she stands for, or what she resents; we care only about what she looks like. Now, it would be reckless and crass, not to mention nakedly racist, to accuse left-wing voters of harboring such shallow sentiment collectively, but isn’t it time for us to acknowledge the predatory tendency of the neoliberal media to exploit the superficiality of identity politics? The commentators of cable news commend their consumers for trusting Harris, even in the midst of overwhelming proof of her moral rot. These viewers were ordered to maintain their faith, not because of anything Harris ever did, but because she “looked like” them—or, if the viewers were white, then she “looked like” something wholesome.

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Traitors of Journalism: Joy Reid and the Minstrel Performers of MSNBC

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Joy Reid accuses the author of a Politico article that was published on 11/15/2019 of placing too much emphasis on a Quinnipiac poll that was released on 11/26/2019.

Good fortune is common enough, even in the protracted misery of human life, but serendipity falls upon us only rarely, and, for some people, never at all. It is delightfully fitting that, in the United States, it usually begins with losing your job: a new opportunity is suddenly presented. Therefore, we must never be so crude as to mistake good fortune for serendipity, or vice-versa. We have the good fortune to be alive today, when we are afforded such a spectacular view of the decline of the American Empire. But it was an act of blessed serendipity that the producers and showrunners of MSNBC chose to mount an obscenely racist defense of Kamala Harris on the same day that I read the closing section of Soul of Ice, a collection of essays by Eldridge Cleaver.

Eldridge Cleaver’s name and literature have been concealed, if not buried, by the architects of our collective amnesia. A black man who was raised in Arkansas, but who grew up in California, he was arrested on a charge of possession of pot at the age of nineteen. While imprisoned, he placed a poster of a woman in his cell, and was shocked when one of the guards destroyed it—not because he disliked pornography, which abounded in the prison, but because the woman in the poster was white.

This incident, as well as the incessant psychic trauma that is the distinction of the thoughtful as well as the clueless, inspired Cleaver, upon his release, to become a serial rapist targeting white women. Unfortunately for Cleaver, the presiding judge did not approve of his approach to racial retribution, and he was delivered to prison once again. Upon his release, for which several female intellectuals campaigned, Cleaver became a prolific critic of the American culture, writing several essays on the subjects of race, sexuality, and group psychologically. If his writing never reached the scope of grandeur of the best of Dubois, still it was much more credible and poignant than anything that has been said on the subject of race relations since—including by the wealthy pundits appearing on cable news.

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Reading “Mein Kampf”, Part III: Fear of White Trash

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Are we wrong to reduce Mein Kampf to a commentary on the Trumpish Age? I think not, though this question places itself before me and the page every time I write another one of these articles, which are really more like diary entries than formal essays. There is probably no other way for us, the people living and working and politicking today, to approach Hitler’s autobiography except as a commentary on our own present. Sometimes, there is a narcissistic motivation in our reading of the present in the past, or the past in the present, but we will be free of this prejudicial error in the case of Mein Kampf, provided that two conditions are met:

  • We do not believe the political state of America in the year 2019 is any more “important”, for lack of better word, than the political state of Germany in the year 1925.
  • We promise to revisit Mein Kampf twenty years from now and discover what it says about America

Come to think of it, the most recent Houghton Mifflin edition of Mein Kampf, the only one readily available in American bookstores, was published twenty years ago. Its release must have inspired at least one historian to write a contemporary interpretation, possibly by contrasting the widespread poverty of early-twentieth-century Germany with the ubiquitous wealth of late-twentieth-century America. Wealth is still omnipresent in America today, but poverty is, too, and the coexistence of these extremes has come to define our cultural schizophrenia.

Hitler recognized a comparable dynamic in the Germany of his time, and the elemental hypocrisy of a society that tolerates it. “The environment of my youth consisted of petty-bourgeois circles,” he recalls, “hence of a world having very little relation to the purely manual worker.” His affluent upbringing shielded his eyes from the upper classes’ excesses and the lower classes’ struggles, but his ignorance ended in adulthood, when he was forced to make his own way. Many of us who grew up in the abundant luxury of late-twentieth-century America, who were pacified and pampered by its artificial riches, have been traumatized by our inability to sustain that degree of comfort in our working lives.

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Reading “Mein Kampf”, Part II: The Social Justice Warriors Can’t Define Nationalism

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As soon as we establish, however tentatively, our “right” to read Mein Kampf, we are called upon to answer questions without end pertaining to our motivations and intent. Why do we want to read Mein Kampf and what do we hope to get out of it? We might respond to this with some questions of our own: “Who wants to know? What makes you ask? Why do we have to justify ourselves?”

Noticeably, it is not the neo-Nazis who keep us from the book, interested though they would be in protecting Hitler’s word from the distortions of graceless outsiders. Au contraire, our interrogator is the self-declared mortal enemy of all things fascistic, racist, and totalitarian—literary censorship notwithstanding, maybe. This alleged angel of pacifism guards the library doors and observes our every move, lest we hurt someone with one of the books.

All right, enough of the euphemisms. The people who want to stop you from reading Mein Kampf are social justice warriors. Now, in pursuit of objectivity, let’s examine this issue from their point of view. They want to halt the spread of fascism, yes? If that’s the case, and if Mein Kampf is one big instruction manual for aspiring fascists, then does it make sense to them to halt the spread of that book, too?

It doesn’t make sense to Abraham Foxman, the scholar who wrote the introduction to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Mein Kampf. While I strongly disagree with his cheerful belief that “our societies have taken promising steps” to acknowledge political evil since the Second World War, I applaud his conclusion that it is “our responsibility”, the responsibility of those who take the time to study books like Mein Kampf, “to ensure the continuing progress of that civilizing trend”. How can you understand that which you are unwilling to learn? How can you achieve enlightenment and clarity when you are trapped before the blinding light of fear?

You can’t, of course, which is why censorship inevitably fails: to ignore a problem is not to solve it, yet the social justice warriors claim to be the only people able to solve the problem of modern fascism. They compare Trump to Hitler, sometimes unfavorably, but deny themselves the greatest chance to furnish proof of their charge—if such proof exists. And in their ignorance, they forfeit any claim to credibility: no one would expect to be cured of a disease by a doctor who refused to learn about it. At the very least, the SJWs make themselves vulnerable to spurious interpretations of the book—by their enemies and allies alike.

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