Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: ben carson

Marilynne Robinson on Trump

Sleepy ol’ Ben Carson can be a struggle to decipher. Not only does he have that peculiarly soothing whisper of a voice, but he’s a chronic mumbler, so I didn’t quite catch everything he was saying this morning at his public endorsement of Trump*. To my ears it sounded as if he was saying that the Trump that he had gotten to know during the campaign was “super evil” – a point not many would argue with. However, after reading the reports of his endorsement, it turns out he was actually saying that the Trump he had gotten to know during the campaign was “cerebral” – a point a few would argue with.

Meanwhile, someone who is genuinely cerebral, Marilynne Robinson, wrote on America’s favorite vulgarian for The Guardian today.

American elections are long and grueling, just as they ought to be. We will spend months learning how things are with us. This is good and necessary, especially now when divisions in the society are deepening. They are deepening not only because of the stresses of the new economy, which a functioning government would meliorate, or the threats brought on by global disorder, which must be managed and will be, but because fear, anxiety and resentment are the stock in trade of important media and the politicians allied or symbiotic with them.






*Another public emasculation of a former rival by Trump. Christie is the obvious example, but we should’t forget how weak he made Huckabee and Santorum look in having them attend one of his events on the night that he skipped the Fox News debate. It is somewhat uncomfortable; as if he were cuckolding them.

I’ve found a friend in Jesus: Exit Doctor Carson, stage right.

If Trump has tiny hands with stubby little fingers, the hands of a pygmy chimpanzee, well then Carson has gifted hands, healing hands, the hands of a Swedish masseuse…

In a further blow to Cuba Gooding Jr’s faltering career, Ben Carson announced that he “sees no path forward” for his Presidential run. Accordingly, he has withdrawn from tomorrow’s GOP debate (Debate 11 for those keeping score), presumably realizing that he has been receiving such little speaking time in the last few debates that carrying on isn’t going to increase his profile any further nor is it going to sell him any more books.

I find myself admiring (begrudgingly) Carson when that claim is made about him – that his candidacy was never serious, it was only ever about his profile and book sales. I rather wished some novelists tried a similar tack. Roth, Franzen and DeLillo running in an effort to increase their sales and somehow finding an unexpected connection with Middle America; perhaps they’d turn out to be demagogues who we’d end up terrified of in case they got themselves elected to higher office. Joyce Carol Oates and Jonathan Franzen as elected officials would – I imagine – be insufferable. Upton Sinclair and Gore Vidal are the only novelists that spring to mind as having ran for office*. Still, rather a novelist trying to pass themselves off as a politician than a politician trying to pass themselves off as a novelist – looking at you, Gary Hart and Newt Gingrich.

But there is more to Carson than just his inspirational books and highly remunerated speaking engagements; he also added a much needed touch of the absurd to this election. The grotesque can be found everywhere in Election 2016, so moments of absurdism, by contrast, are almost to be welcomed. There has been nothing more absurdist this cycle than those individual who, as recently as yesterday, continued to try to find meaning in the soporific mutterings of Doctor Carson, and, despite odd pronouncements about fruit salad and pyramids, still felt they could, in good faith, cast their ballot for him.

Even though he, and his gifted hands, are now gone, the memories linger. We’ll always have the rap campaign ad – the idea that some shitty hip-hop would help him appeal to young African-American males. Question marks about Carson’s oft-repeated story that as a teenager he tried to stab another teen. We all know those are healing hands, not fighting hands. But, most of all, we’ll always have that portrait of Ben and Jesus Christ that hangs proudly in Ben’s office. They are both dressed in transfiguration white – Ben is in a white jacket with the wide lapels favored by patrons of Studio 54, Jesus is in what looks suspiciously like a bath gown – and Jesus’ right hand rests on Ben’s shoulders while his open left hand is raised towards the viewer. Jesus’ face seems to say, “this guy, this guy is the one with the real healing hands.” And yet not even a Messiah could raise this campaign from the dead.




*Thinking specifically of America here. Disraeli the obvious counterexample, and if we include theatre there’s Václav Havel.

GOP Debate, 25th February 2016

The tenth GOP debate of the cycle. Tenth?!  Familiarity really has bred my contempt for these men. It’s an odd situation in that whoever the Republicans pick, Clinton, despite half-a-lifetime under public scrutiny, may well end up seeming fresher in comparison, purely because the Democratic campaign doesn’t seem to have had such media saturation as the GOP’s. Body language, vocal inflections, the strange gurning faces The Donald pulls, I think I’m done with all these candidates now – and yet I keep finding myself mesmerized by it all. I could have not looked. I’m pretty certain that when Indiana Jones commanded Marion not to look at what was coming out of the Ark of the Covenant it was a broadcast of this debate.

These were some of the thoughts I had while watching it (i.e. a regurgitation of my twitter feed).

Wondering where in Queens Trump will build his Presidential library. Wherever it is, I’m sure it’ll house a single book – a copy of “The Art of the Deal” propped on a velvet pillow embroidered with the name Trump.

CNN cuts to shot of Pres. George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush. She’d gladly take out Cruz, Rubio and Trump.

Kasich talks (again, he’s almost as bad as Rubio and being the child of immigrants) about his father being a postman. Not sure about the Presidency, but I certainly believe Kasich would make for a passionate Postmaster General.

Getting Jeb! vibes from Rubio tonight. Trying to bite but forgotting he’s all gums.

Rubio would be annihilated by Clinton in a debate. To be honest, I think he’d be annihilated by any candidate in a one-on-one debate. Attacking Trump, but looks like he might break into tears himself.

Maria from Telemundo asks Kasich a question, interrupting him from the sly game of Candy Crush he was playing under the podium.

Carson – surgeon by training but an anesthetist by personality.

In fairness, I believe Hugh Hewitt when he says he’s kept up at night by thoughts of religious liberty. Bet it’s annoying being married to him.

Kudos to Hugh Hewitt. In under five minutes he managed to comes across as the most irritating, smug man in the room. That took skills

This Hugh Hewitt interlude is driving me crazy. Remember back to the good days of the first few dates when the broadcasters felt they could get away with nonsense questions such as “what would be your secret service name?” and “which woman would you like to see on American currency?” and the candidates came back with toecurling answers like Thatcher, Mother Teresa, their Mom (obviously, and unfortunately, these were answers to the currency question and not the secret service name question. Can’t we ask some of these again? Out of Assad, Kim Jong-un and Putin who would you fuck, marry, or kill? That sort of thing. Instead we get Hugh Hewitt and his fucking hobby horse.

Carson: “I wish someone would insult me.” Do a twitter search for yourself, Ben, you’re going to be delighted.

Did Carson just say he would look at the “fruit salad of their life”? I’m tired. Surely I misheard.

No, that is something he said. Fruit salad. He’s trolling us now, isn’t he? His continued presence in the campaign is a trolling of the whole country.

Unless fruit salad is an American idiomatic expression that has been passing me by all these years.

Does anyone outside the media bubble actually care about tax returns? I don’t think the GOP base does.

I really look forward to stumbling across this debate in 30 years time when channel surfing C-SPAN.

Wolf Blitzer has all the commanding authority of a substitute teacher.

Carson’s summing up: “Vote for me, Cuba Gooding Jr. once portrayed me in a TV movie. Just look at these hands… soft like a lady’s.”

I’ll say once thing about when we used to have Trump as President; at least the trains always ran on time.

Favorite moment of the night, Donald’s response to CNN anchor on his employing of Polish workers: “It was like thirty years ago. I had the most beautiful head of hair. I’m still doing well, it’s hanging in there.”