The Blare of the Brass Trump

“There are two sides to a trumpeter’s personality.  There is the one that lives only to lay waste to the woodwinds and strings, leaving them lying blue and lifeless along the swath of destruction that is the trumpeter’s fury.  And then there’s the dark side.” Anonymous

TrumpMuch has been written of the Trump phenomenon, about ignorant, angry, racist voters who have taken more than enough and can’t take anymore. Far deeper and more intransigent than that, I’m afraid. The glib Donald proposes no real or even thoughtful solutions – only simplistic pandering, and he displays little depth of knowledge in any of the subjects about which he harangues. How is a privileged narcissist, a vain bully whose signature is insult and schoolboy humiliation of anyone who voices even minor criticism, successfully pretending as a “tell it like it is” savior of the common man? What vein is he mining?

Peggy Noonan this weekend starts the conversation best, I think, in her Wall Street Journal column, and I recommend it to you: “Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected.” She writes that the divide between the “protected” (well to do, influential, comfortable and safe) and the “unprotected” (everybody else) has widened to nearly unbridgeable and is intolerably frustrating to those on the vulnerable side. Noonan suggests that the protected includes most politicians, academia, the majority of both conservative and progressive media, the educated and the wealthy – defined as anyone not constantly worried about paycheck to paycheck necessities for their families.

The protected have no insight into what the majority of people deal with on Monday morning or in middle of the night sweats; the unprotected are in frigid water without a lifeboat while the Titanic goes down. The elite have for the most part abandoned public schools for their own children except for lip service to the teacher’s union. They converse smugly among themselves about the witlessness of the average person along with some occasional painless and riskless tsk, tsking about minorities and the disadvantaged, who need to be rescued by the government or free enterprise or some combination thereof. The protected and unprotected stand on the precipices of opposite sides of a canyon and shout bumper sticker slogans at each other.

Trumpism is not a joke, much as we wish it was, and neither is it an eruption without a cause. We can see it as the other side of the same coin as Obamaism. We long for a demagogue to lead us out of the bewilderment of our own inability to grasp what’s really going on. We are awash in information and immediacy of communication and bereft of understanding and wisdom, overloaded with bits of knowledge, and unable to piece together a meaningful picture of the whole. So we grasp at the self-serving kindness of strangers and fantasize that the expert, the manager, the technocrat can pick their way through the obstacles that no one else understands and bring us safely home.

“The vast accumulations of knowledge – or at least information – deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when everyone knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts.” T.S. Eliot, from the essay, “The Perfect Critic”

G.K. Chesterton wrote over a century ago in his brilliant short essay on juries, “The Twelve Men,” [i] The Fabian argument of the expert, that the man who is trained should be the man who is trusted would be absolutely unanswerable if it were really true that a man who studied a thing and practiced it every day went on seeing more and more of its significance. But he does not. He goes on seeing less and less of its significance. In the same way, alas! we all go on every day, unless we are continually goading ourselves into gratitude and humility, seeing less and less of the significance of the sky or the stones.”

Our culture is in great danger of intellectual and moral surrender to the expert, to the manager whom we believe knows all and can fix all, like Donald Trump, or for that matter, Barack Obama. We retreat from an overwhelming onslaught of data and information and cede authority to those longing to assume it. We flee into distractions, entertainments and the frivolous because we fear we cannot bear or understand what it is we need to understand and to bear. Mistaking management for leadership, we willingly turn over our governance to those we hope see the light that we do not.

“Trumpet players see each other, and it’s like we’re getting ready to square off and get into a fight.” Wynton Marsalis

 

 

 

[i] See free online version of Chesterton’s collection, “Tremendous Trifles” from the Gutenberg Project: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8092/8092-h/8092-h.htm#link2H_4_0012

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12 Comments

Filed under Culture views, Politics and government

12 responses to “The Blare of the Brass Trump

  1. Rita

    God gives all of us free will. But, just like a caring parent who wants their children to learn from their mistakes, He allows us to reap the bitter fruit sown by a culture that has been choosing the road to death for many, many decades. A road that is all about ourselves… We’ve turned our backs on God and placed ourselves at the center of the universe. We’re not doing a very good job of playing the part of God.

    With these candidates, both Democrat and Republican, I fear we are going to have to suffer even more for the choices many of us have made in the past, including me. It took us many years to get here and will take us many years to turn things around. Lest I sound hopeless, I repeat the words of St. John Paul II at the beginning of his papacy when he encouraged us with the words “Be not afraid!” JPII lived through the Nazi invasion of Poland and the Russian invasion of Poland and yet he told us not to fear… He saw the end of the “Cold War”, but prophesied about the “Culture of Death” that was lurking under the smiley faces of the West. Evil was much easier to identify during WWII. Now we cannot even bring it up in many conversations without being scorned.

    Be not afraid! Pick up your cross and move on with the joy filled smile of JPII on your lips and the promise of God to always be with us…

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    • Dearest Rita, You frequently see the big picture, not just the symptoms that are on display in this post. We have retreated not just in front of the onslaught of information, but the onslaught of the trivial. Hiding from any view of the transcendent because it asks questions we’d sooner not answer, we seek comfort in escape. As you know, the troubles come anyway, our shields are down.

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  2. Anthony Vinson

    You and Rita are both correct. The Democrats and Republicans are equally culpable and anyone who fails to understand that simple fact is blinded by their own biases. As to Trump, I think he the natural result of the remnants of the Tea Party movement, combined with the messages broadcast by FOX News, and conservative talk radio. Far too many “angry” white people on the right have spent a decade suckled up to a single channel of what Harlan Ellison called the glass teat, and the milk they consumed was far more toxic than Flint, Michigan drinking water. For what it’s worth I will paste a post from my mini-blog The Red Pill Diaries that sums up my feelings, followed by a link to a John Oliver segment that absolutely nails Trump. Yes, it’s twenty minutes long, but worth the time. Language warning to the faint of heart before reading my brief blog post; I write from the hip. Blog post follows:

    It’s all bullshit and it is nothing new. If you doubt me, just take a look around. The world is awash in bullshit and the leading manufacturer and exporter is the United States of America.

    Now before some of you get your jingoistic red, white, and blue boxers, briefs, or granny panties in a twist, let’s be honest. Our country was founded on a firm foundation of the stuff. It was mixed with the ink used by Jefferson to craft the Declaration of Independence. Did he really believe that “all men are created equal”? Of course not! It was brilliant rhetorical bullshit. And it worked. Since then it has only gotten worse.

    Today we sit upon a heaping high-top mountain of manure and ask, “What happened?” Well, shit happened, that’s what, and we the people not only allowed it, we encouraged it. Well, some of us more than others, but we are all at least marginally guilty if only through inaction and inattention. We watched as politicians and corporations repeatedly rigged the games in their favor, all the while tossing out fistfuls of amusing trinkets without even asking us to show our tits. All the while the transfer of wealth and power flowed steadily upward, pumped merrily along by our collusion and tacit support of their off-shoring, outsourcing, and third-world sweatshops.

    It’s been a longtime coming. And as with the most recent housing bubble, the clues are there for anyone to follow. Anyone that is, willing to swallow the red pill instead of another spoonful of bullshit. We can slow it down and perhaps even stop it. But it won’t be easy and I cynically wonder if we are up to it. Just in case, here are a couple of ideas to get us started.

    Stop single-sourcing your news and information. Read the ideas and opinions of the opposite side for yourself instead of counting on social media. Understand the simple concepts that no one is always right and that there is tremendous strength in diversity. Carefully examine your personal biases. And perhaps most importantly, question everything. As Mark Twain wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ

    Av

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  3. Rita

    Thanks Anthony. Laughed hysterically until he threw his mike over his back like Trump threw “Rubio’s water bottle” over his shoulder. Then reality prevailed. (…and yet, I didn’t even get my granny panties in a twist.)

    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/presidential-politics-and-the-death-of-character

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  4. Mike Amaral

    Anthony: Good comments. Without being able to pay for countless subscriptions, I do my best to monitor all “sides”. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, FOX, Huffington Post, WSJ, even Russia Today. (Most alike: Russia Today and Fox News…in my opinion). To sort out the bullshit is trying even for someone of above average intelligence, and unfortunately of course, that doesn’t include most people! I seriously do not consider Trump the flip side of the same coin as the President as Jack implies. There is a vast-sea of differences in intellectual basis between them. One, I trust to be cool under difficult circumstances, and uses caution in talking about American Power, the other: an immature nincompoop running for president of 3rd Grade at the local school yard who very well seems more in-line with the nutball North Korean dictator! Noted: home town Walpole went all out for Donald Trump….Walpole, Mass., ground zero for White Supremacy in New England. (I’m expecting a return of the Rebel Flag waving any day now). Peace 🙂

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  5. A few comments to clarify my apparently myopic point of view on these things in no particular order:
    • I believe Jefferson believed in “all men are created equal,” not as a patronizing bromide, but as a deeply held belief in the intrinsic value, even sacred value of every human person – obviously not equal in ability, wisdom or knowledge, but equal of soul, a unique creation, and equally inheriting and worthy of respect. I do so similarly believe.
    • Our country since before its codification as a country has held sacrosanct in fragile equipoise two inherently contradictory concepts: radical egalitarianism and radical individualism. Therein lies much of the cultural conflict of our ideas and values.
    • I will answer your implied “when did you stop beating your wife?” question without trying to be too defensive. My views are informed by reading books, lots of books, old and current. By listening to NPR Radio news, watching Fox News, reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I read several news magazines as well, admittedly conservative, but not radically so.
    • John Oliver is a very funny guy, and I laughed out loud.
    • When I said Trumpism is the other side of the coin from Obamism, I wasn’t clear I guess. I wasn’t suggesting that Trump and Obama were cut of the same cloth, only that their minions hoped desperately for “hope and change” in a world where they saw little prospects of either. Obama delivered sawdust, and I fear Trump would be even worse, if that’s possible. Maybe gasoline soaked sawdust.
    • Finally, did you see the video of Chris Christie standing behind Drumpf taking his victory lap last night? Could a guy be more uncomfortable or more clearly thinking, “WTF am I doing here? Whatever he promised me wasn’t enough.” Maybe he has pictures? I almost, but not quite, felt sorry for the fool. He has made his bed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO_C41yuLls#t=33
    • He was in as bad a position as Representative Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, standing behind the Weiner while he apologized for Tweeting out soft porn pictures of his crotch to underage girls. Her only consolation is it might get worse if Hillary throws her under the bus for the email server.
    As Anthony would say TTFN….

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  6. Martin Parquette

    Trump’s popularity , to me, is partly based on his firm grasp of what scares people. As you know, people are often motivated by fear and greed. He exploits the weakness in others. He speaks in sound bites that his followers deem to be ‘plain spoken truths’. He’s a buffoon. American popular culture embraces buffoonery. He is also the anti- Obama. Folks grew weary of PC rhetoric, shameless self promotion, and a general sense of American emasculation. Naturally then, Trumps’ say anything, do anything, chest thumping, stumping is going to strike a chord. Eight years of smarm comes with a cost. The pendulum swings.

    To me, degrading the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is a trendy component of fashionable hippy chic. Once correctly categorized as such ,I give it no more consideration. But it’s pretty cool you can put anti American hyperbole out there, open the window and shout it out- blog it out, and no one from the government comes and hauls you away. I keep a copy of the Constitution at my desk for inspiration, I love it.

    And lastly, yes, us denizens of Dixie north, Walpole MA, are ready to rock the confederate flag. Why just the other night, at the cross burning, I was making plans to bring my flag to the book bonfire! Yee ha!

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  7. Anthony Vinson

    Allow me a couple of points of clarification.
    • Adding my recent blog was not an attempt to preach, pontificate, or point fingers. Merely a way of adding to the conversation without rewriting what I’d previously written so recently.
    • Degrading the Constitution or Declaration of Independence? Moi? Not sure where you got that idea. Never mentioned the Constitution – or did I? The Constitution is a marvel. Spent nine years in uniform after raising my right hand and swearing to support and defend it against all enemies. Meant it then and still feel the same way today. And to that end, should I ever choose to denigrate it for any reason or none at all, I feel I have earned the right more than some.
    • As for the Declaration, it was, at heart, an open letter to King George. While brilliantly composed it was designed specifically to garner a desired effect from HRH. And boy did it ever!
    • I may have long hair, but I’m a few years too young to be a hippy. As for trendy, I doubt that anyone would describe me as such…
    • Jefferson was a slaveholder. I cannot accept that he believed that “all men” are created equal. He may have wanted to believe it, but as you pointed out, cognitive dissonance is a bitch to resolve.

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    • Anthony, I would never denigrate your patriotism or knowledge. Though we disagree on some things, we are cognitively harmonious on many others. I know your warmth, big heart, good faith and thoughtfulness to be real. Your service to our country prompts nothing but great gratitude fron me, and your funny criticisms of the foibles and occasional ridiculousness of Army ways, while maintaining respect for your fellows are from inside knowledge and experience I do not have. I hope you enjoy our good natured jousting as much as I do.
      Be well, j

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      • Anthony Vinson

        Jack, my apologies! I was responding to two different posts; one from you and the other from Martin. In doing so I failed to clearly direct my comments and muddied the waters. I do enjoy our jousting. As I have said before, I always learn something and am inspired to think more broadly and deeply.

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  8. Mark Parquette

    Woe is us of less intelligence that we fall prey to the likes of the trumpeter and are unable to sort the BS. Some of us may be scared as Martin said but I feel the majority of folks are just feed up with Washington partisan infighting, a lame duck president, and the circus called the Republican Party. Donald Trump is exploiting a weakness be it fear, anger or both with all his extraordinary experience at it and making it work for him for the moment. I have to believe that if he gets nominated and the real possibility of him becoming the next President becomes clear, he’ll go down in flames. Hopefully sooner than later and maybe one of the other qualified republican candidates, and at this point any of them please, will be nominated. We are not that stupid……….

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