Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: Expat

All the dark nights, America


President Trump’s Twitter: January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again!

And then it was over, after almost two years of campaigning featuring a menagerie of candidates and hanger-ons it climaxes with the unnerving reality that Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. His entrance into this election’s narrative appeared easy to write off; a move not born from a sincere wish for public service, but rather a desperate ruse to boost ratings and media attention for his flagging reality show. But instead of giving him Nielsen ratings, we gave him the nuclear arsenal.

Going back to that day at the Fresno Convention Center when American-ness was conferred on me (a profound and almost transcendent experience that forever alters you – your voice will from now on be louder in public, covering bacon and sausage with maple syrup will no longer nauseate you, the deciphering of irony will be just a millisecond slower than it was before) I keep thinking that the ceremony involves the playing of a video greeting from the President to what is now a room of “fellow Americans.”

At some point, either today or in the coming week, Trump will sit down and record his greeting. Presumably welcoming those watching as the right sort of immigrant, ones for whom the wall is not intended. And yet with all his latent Nativist talk over the last year, I can’t imagine his message will be an encouraging one to many new citizens; who, if it follows the demographics of my ceremony, are overwhelmingly immigrants from regions he has vilified, bad hombres, to use his phrase.

While I have never for one moment doubted the President’s (how bizarre to finally use that in relation to Donald Trump) ability to lie, and to lie well, I suspect a warm and sincere greeting and congratulations to new, primarily brown, Americans may be a lie too far.

4 long, dark nights for America: Election Dramatis Personae Part I

Four long, dark nights to go. 

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “If Obama worked as hard on straightening out our country as he has trying to protect and elect Hillary, we would all be much better off!”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “The presidency doesn’t change who you are—it reveals who you are. And we’ve seen all we need to of Donald Trump.

Daily election article of interest: The Surreal Election Season of a Hillary Clinton Impersonator

As the election draws to its climax, I’m again drawn to how it exisits as an inescapble narrative we all live through for 18 months. That there may be some Americans out there who don’t know what is happening in this election is not, in my view, ignorance on their part, but rather an almost admirable intransigence because I don’t know where you could be in this country and fail to, at least, not know the Cliff Notes to this election. When we treat our election like a reality show, it shouldn’t surprise us that we end up running an actual reality TV star for President.

So if this is a ridiculous reality show, or a rambling satricial novel, I ended up jotting all the characters, the dramatis personae, that have featured in it. For one, it seems like an interesting way to look back in the final nights before the election, so to start things off I jotted down all the characters connected with Trump that have made an impact on my experience of this election.

Donald Trump: Real estate developer, author, reality TV star, purveyor of high quality steaks, GOP Presidential Candidate and demagogue (though someone called him that once and he misheard it as demigod). A large number of outside interests does not, however, a Renaissance man make, as Trump feels like someone who would be better suited for the Dark Ages.

Donald Trump Jr: Eldest child of the Trump scion trinity – that is the children from his first marriage to Ivana Trump. Has a definite meatball-head quality to his features.

Eric Trump: The youngest of the scion trinity. Often seen on stage when the Donald is making speeches nodding sinisterly.

Barron Trump: Trump’s youngest child. Looked absolutely miserable at having to attend the GOP convention which makes him the only Trump people have been able to relate to.

Melania Trump:  Melania Trump is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Through her four main initiatives, she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education.

Ivanka Trump:  Middle child of the scion trinity. Has been utilized in an interesting way by the Trump campaign helping to try and soften Trump’s message and make him appear more appealing to female voters. It’s a useful trick as Jean-Marie Le Pen discovered in the 80s with Marine Le Pen.  Ivanka has done a lot of the campaigning that you would normally expect the candidate’s spouse to do. Donald loves his daughter, but not in a creepy way.

Fred Trump:  The Trump patriarch. His arrest in 1927 following a riot between supporters of Mussolini and the KKK was a controversial story early in the campaign.

Tiffany Trump:  The forgotten Trump child, and all the more endearing for it.

Jared Kushner:   Husband of Ivanka Trump and seemingly influential figure in the Trump campaign. Reports suggest that it was he that linked the trump team with the data mining Cambridge Analytica team as well as pushing for the presence of victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual abuse being at the second Presidential debate.

Mike Pence:  GOP Governor of Indiana and Trump’s running mate. His most notable moments are performing well in the VP debate by boldly denying everything his running mate has ever said and for his plane running off the runway at La Guardia when landing. Whatever happens, it seems like he will leave the election with his reputation enhanced with the GOP base and the GOP establishment after the election which is impressive considering Trump’s running mate feels like it was a definite poisoned chalice. May be in a good position for a run at 2020 – an actual Trump win on Tuesday would fuck all that up.

Corey Lewandowski: Trump’s former campaign manager and who ran the campaign with the motto “Let Trump be Trump,” thus allowing the Presidential candidate to regularly sound like your unhinged racist uncle shouting at the TV. Grabbed Michelle Fields, a reporter for Breitbart, by the arm when she tried asking Trump a question. Now provides guerrilla marketing for the Trump campaign in his guise as a CNN commentator.

Roger Stone: Feyly sinister and dandyish political consultant and lobbyist. Assisted Trump early on in the campaign cycle and introduced the candidate to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones whose show Stone has regularly been a guest on. Like Tom Wolfe, Stone enjoys wearing a well-tailored white suit, a move that leaves him permanently in danger from the splash back.

Paul Manafort: Sinisterly fey political consultant and lobbyist. Brought in to the Trump campaign to try and bring some discipline and strategy to it. Resigned from the campaign when The New York Times claimed he had been receiving illegal, off-the-book payments of over $12M from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Hope Hicks:  Trump’s 27 year old Press Secretary who for the most part doesn’t respond to the press. It has been claimed that her name is an accurate distillation of the Trump phenomenon itself.

Steve Bannon: Frustrated screenwriter, Breitbart executive and current CEO of Trump’s campaign. Introduced Trump to Farage so this is not a man doing God’s work.

Kellyanne Conway:  Trump’s latest campaign manager who is well remunerated for appearing on cable news trying to spin her boss’s latest bizarre statement.

Alex Jones:  Austin based radio host, 9/11 truther who thinks the Sandy Hook massacre was faked. Jones has been a huge and increasingly influential presence in the conspiracy theorist world for over a decade. That Trump has been willing to align with someone like Jones is a remarkable development.

Rudy Giuliani:  Former mayor of New York and Trump’s attack dog on various cable news networks. Increasingly taking on the appearance of an egg shell that someone has drawn an angry face on.

David Borenstein:  Trump’s doctor and author of a risible health letter about the candidate

Chris Christie:  Pinguid GOP Governor of New Jersey and candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination. Following his decision to drop out of the GOP race, he became an important member of the Trump team as well as taking delivery of Trump’s fast food orders. Currently managing their transition team in the event of a Trump victory. Americans got to watch in real time the demise of Christie’s soul as he stood awkwardly behind Trump during a Trump speech staring blankly into the middle distance. As a side note, Christie is also one of that intriguing group of right-wing politicians despised by their left-leaning music idol. In Christie’s case, Bruce Springsteen. See also, David Cameron and The Smiths.

Ben Carson:   Retired neurosurgeon, candidate for GOP Presidential nomination, somnambulist, and a friend in Jesus. Like Christie endorsed Trump following his own decision to leave the race. Occasionally appears on cable news spouting ridiculous things at journalists, but his permanently tired demeanor is at odds with such a hyper environment as this election, so even when he is being ignorantly offensive it’s really hard to care about what he’s saying.

Jeffrey Lord:   CNN’s sniveling Trump cheerleader and, judging from his cadaver grey pallor, possibly one of the undead

Kayleigh McEnany:  CNN’s other regular Trump supporter because things were too exhausting for Jeffrey Lord all there by himself.

Jimmy Fallon:  Trump’s hair ruffler in chief

Roger Ailes:   Former head of Fox News and sexual abuser. Helped Trump with debate prep about how to best grip the debate audience by the pussy.

Scott Baio:   Trump supporter who was roundly mocked for being the “celebrity” at this year’s GOP convention.

Howard Stern: Legendary radio host whose shows Trump would regularly call in to in the 90s for off color conversations, many of them about women.

David Duke:   Holocaust denier, former Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan and Trump supporter

52 long, dark nights for America: In need of a Donald*

Fifty-two long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Wacky , who hardly knows me, makes up things that I never said for her boring interviews and column. A neurotic dope! The failing has gone nuts that Crooked Hillary is doing so badly. They are willing to say anything, has become a laughingstock rag! My lawyers want to sue the failing so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “As said, this election is about what kind of country we want to be and what we want to leave behind for future generations.”

Daily election article of interest: Jimmy Fallon Mussing Donald Trump’s Hair Is the Point of No Return

I really don’t intend these nightly bleatings to be so Trump-centric. As I keep observing, thinking deeply about Trump, like eating cheese, is probably best not done just before sleep, and yet inevitably at the end of each day there is another list of absurd statements that he has made that play on all my fears. He haunts this election so how can he not be the last thought before sleep?

During the primaries I made the very pretentious analogy of this election being like Bleak House ; the Democrat race being the like the dull first-person Esther Summerson chapters while the Republicans are the alternating third-person chapters which are full of all the grime and the grotesques – i.e. the readable half of the novel. The turgid, earnest, self-righteous Esther chapters are something you simply have to plough through before you can get back to the good stuff. Well that pretentious (and convoluted) analogy still, for me, holds now that we’ve whittled the field down to Trump and Clinton. Clinton, bless her, even seems to have made herself something of a paragon of the Dickensian heroine by coming down with an inopportune illness, while Trump – a name Dickens would have been proud to have christened one of his characters – carries on being the vibrantly evil grotesque he is**.

That vibrancy was on display again last night with Trump’s suggestion that Clinton’s bodyguards be disarmed and then “Let’s see what happens to her.” And with that, I give you Peter Serafinowicz’s Cockney Trump …




* Donald as cockney rhyming slang.

** The Phiz caricature of Trump would be something to behold.


63 long, dark nights for America: Returning to the question of God for a second again

Sixty-three long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive “hacking” or coughing attack, yet it is #1 trending. What’s up?”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Trump says he “knows more about ISIS than the generals do.” Not only is that wrong, it’s disrespectful to our men and women in uniform'”

Daily election article of interest: Trump won’t talk about being a birther — or many other controversial comments

Thought before bed tonight is another look at Donald and his faith. In an interview last year with CBN News, an American-Christian production company founded by Pat “Hurricane Katrina is God’s punishment for America’s abortion policy” Robertson, the following conversation took place:

David Brody: “Who is God to you? What are some of your thoughts on this? Clearly, you’re a smart man, you’re a smart businessman, you’ve contemplated this before or have you contemplate this?”

Donald Trump: “Well I say God is the ultimate. You know you look at this? Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it fifteen years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals. We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this (points to his golf course and nature surrounding it), and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.”

So there is God to Donald and I take it back my earlier thought that Donald couldn’t possibly believe in a being superior to himself. Instead God is the guy who can make great deals happen, creates golf courses that Donald can own, allows him to make “one of the great deals they say ever” and yet doesn’t even ask Donald for a percentage stake. Donald is no Gerald Manley Hopkins, we’re not talking about a man of deep, complicated faith here.

Just sixty-three dark nights of the soul to go, America! 

68 long, dark nights for America: “This is the worst party I’ve ever been to.”

Sixty-eight long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “I am promising you a new legacy for America. We’re going to create a new American future. Thank you OHIO!

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Turns out, hosting Miss Universe pageants abroad doesn’t equate to diplomatic skills.”

Daily election article of interest: How to Talk to a Trump Voter Who is Wearing Headphones

The primaries took place a lifetime ago, an almost forgotten antediluvian epoch back when behemoths still roamed the plains and we considered Iowa politically relevant. They were the salad days when Lincoln Davenport Chafee was a just a crazy kid with an even crazier dream – and now … well … the salad has gone bad, the mayo has turned (we are talking America here so I am, of course, assuming that the metaphorical salad is a potato salad).

The photographer M. Scott Brauer has a great project of that period, a first hand look at the sheer banality of a modern American primary, in this case New Hampshire – This is the worst party I’ve ever been to.

“I’ve taken a different approach as I photograph this story, using a harsh and direct flash, evocative of early press photography. The campaigns usually bring in their own lighting and backdrops, and this technique is a deliberate attempt to subvert their control of the optics of politics. Shooting in this way reveals the edges of this political spectacle: cold food left on a buffet line, duct tape holding up the banners, wiring in the corner of the room, bored staffers and journalists, binder clips keeping the American flag in perfect posture.”


I found looking through Brauer’s images, rather than reacquainting myself with the day’s news, a more fulfilling use of the hour before sleep.There is something about the banality of the American election that is oddly reassuring in the face of the current heightened rhetoric, that it is dull normalcy that will eventually set things right.