The president didn’t get us into this mess on his own— he had enablers at every turn

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Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

It is now more or less official to say Donald Trump will not be serving a second term as president of the United States. Sweeping a shambling, defeated loser off the stage to jeers and boos is cathartic, and Trump deserves every measure of the ridicule and shame being heaped on him. He is a thoroughly odious human being, dishonest to the core — a nasty bully, whose chaotic presidency was driven by a deep-seated compulsion to cause torment. He should live the rest of his life in utter disgrace.

Trump is already being scapegoated for all of America’s problems. But we must remember that one man couldn’t have caused all this damage. He had enablers at every turn. Now that it’s clear the ship is sinking, all the rats are leaping off and seeking safety. …


No matter who becomes president, the country may be past the point of no return

Composite image of Donald Trump and Joe Biden during their last presidential debate.
Composite image of Donald Trump and Joe Biden during their last presidential debate.
US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. Photos: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI,JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The United States is at a precipice. No matter who becomes the next president, the political landscape has shifted so much (in particular, the right-wing capture of the Supreme Court) that the nation’s civic life has been irrevocably altered. Chaos and uncertainty have become the new normal. Is a Joe Biden presidency enough to put the lid back on Pandora’s box?

Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Trumpism is American fascism, and it isn’t new. …


Stop Demanding We Romanticize Struggle

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Photo by Attentie Attentie on Unsplash

Struggle is necessary to change ourselves and to change the world. It’s not inherently ennobling or virtuous, though. Not everything worthwhile should be hard-won. Some things should be easy.

Struggle happens against an obstacle. In many cases, that obstacle was erected deliberately. That wall you’re chipping away at with a nail file: who built it? Who handed you such a woefully inadequate tool? Why don’t you have a sledgehammer or, better yet, some dynamite? Struggle is nearly always about power. Those barriers are about keeping that power in the same hands. Some things should be easy. Other people choose to make them hard. They know struggle is a choice too, and that we can opt out. …


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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Every six months or so, I seriously consider deleting my social media accounts. I’m at that fork in the road again. I’ve had a couple of unpleasant skirmishes online, but I’ve never been attacked in a way that made me feel threatened. I don’t have a large enough social media platform to draw any real attention. I like it that way. My online life is pretty quiet. Even so, I have reservations about whether or not I should stay on social media. I worry about the larger philosophical and ethical issues regarding privacy, hate speech, etc., …


Don’t ask me to pray for Trump’s health

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Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

When news broke that Donald Trump was infected with Covid-19, a schism among his detractors appeared on social media almost immediately. On one side, people wished him a speedy recovery, sometimes begrudgingly, while declaring they were going to “vote him out” in November. On the other side, there was no empathy: Some expressed indifference at the president’s illness, and some outright cheered for Comrade Corona. It was, as someone on my Twitter timeline pointed out, the exact opposite of a prayer circle. A debate began to rage over the question: Should you wish a fascist well?

Norms — that’s what this argument is really about. Should the norm of wishing an ill person a full recovery extend to a fascist? Is applying these norms to everyone — as Michelle Obama would say, “going high” — morally superior and better for society? This isn’t merely a moral or philosophical difference. This is also about real-world consequences. That’s why one side’s emphasis on voting as a solution — and, by extension, their belief that norms will hold under fascism — is so important. …


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Photo by Max Letek on Unsplash

The United States is collapsing. I wrote a piece with that title in June 2018. In hindsight, it was far too passive a statement. The United States isn’t collapsing. Fascists have seized the reins of power, and every guardrail, every check and balance that should have thwarted them broke like a rotten stick. They will soon have complete control of the Supreme Court. That means the fix will already be in for the November presidential election. Cries of “Vote!” are reverberating throughout the country. Americans should turn out en masse to vote to throw Donald Trump out of the White House. Things are much more complicated than casting ballots, though. …


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Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

The airwaves globally are filled with cop stories. Why? It’s possible to present a compelling “whodunnit” without involving the police. Intrepid journalists, nosy neighbours, amateur detectives, private eyes, or concerned friends and family seeking answers can all play the role of investigators. The tension and opportunities for dramatic effect may even be greater, because there’s no backup to call. They’ll likely be mostly on their own when they face down danger. Also, wouldn’t audiences relate more to heroes whose lives mirror theirs more closely? There’s something besides dramatic license at work in the decision to center cops in entertainment. Cop shows perform well in the ratings. They’re reliable. They’re familiar. They seem to provide comfort. People want to watch them. …


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Film poster of The Truman Show

One of the most important lessons of the Trump presidency is the power of propaganda masquerading as entertainment. Make no mistake, Donald Trump ascended to the Oval Office because of his history of carnival barking in tabloids, books, and on reality television, not in spite of it. He also took on the role of Twitter troll rather adeptly. Trump is a reality TV president for a reality TV age. I think about this connection a great deal and have written about it before. This time, those thoughts coincided with my rewatching of The Truman Show.

The Truman Show, released in 1998, stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, who unknowingly has been the star of the most popular television show in the world: a 24/7, non-stop broadcast of every day of his life since he was in the womb. It’s an incredibly sinister premise that’s masked by the film’s light tone. The Truman Show is a horror movie set in a terrifying dystopia. I didn’t really see or understand that during my earlier viewings. Reality TV had to truly come of age to bring that message home to me. …


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Poster for the 25th anniversary re-release of Back to the Future

I recently rewatched Back to the Future. It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen the film that I didn’t remember much of the plot beyond the broad strokes and was surprised by how much the story resonated in today’s mad world. It’s about a present that’s gone horribly, violently wrong and an ill-considered escape to the past — to the 1950s, to be precise. That describes the United States, doesn’t it? And it has for some time.

Back to the Future mostly holds up. It’s known for being such a quintessentially 80s film that I didn’t expect that. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few “yikes…” moments. An eccentric, elderly man summoning a teenage boy to meet him secretly in the wee hours of the morning hits differently now than it did then. The threat that sends the hero, Marty McFly, hurtling into the past for safe refuge is a gang of heavily armed Libyan nationalists, who are enraged that Doc Brown conned them out of plutonium and wouldn’t make a bomb for them. Violent Arabs are the danger, not the hubristic white man pilfering weapons-grade nuclear material to tamper with the space-time continuum. All the shooting and exploding and fast car driving happening in the parking lot of a mall with a massive JCPenney looming in the background was funny in 1985, when the film was released, because malls were safe gathering places then. Malls have receded in importance in American society, and if heavily-armed men were shooting up the place today, they would likely be young, white men looking to mow down as many shoppers as possible in broad daylight. The film also normalizes peeping tom behavior and the use of unwanted sexual advances (feigned on the boy’s part but expected to be real for the girl) as a strategy to create a rescue scenario. An actual violent assault takes place instead. The PG rating may be what saved the film from veering off into really ugly territory. These and other tropes still persist, though, and I don’t think Back to the Future would have been seen as too far out of step with much of the viewing public if it had been released much more recently. …


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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In case you missed it, DeSean Jackson, a wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles, posted anti-Semitic content on his social media, including a quote that’s been misattributed to Adolf Hitler, which said, in part, white Jews “will blackmail America. [They] will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.” He was excoriated and apologized, after denying he was anti-Semitic. Stephen Jackson leapt into the fray to defend him for “speaking the truth” and took to his Instagram to speak about the issue.

The naked anti-Semitism was shocking coming from people with quite a lot to lose, but it’s deeper than that. The statement that set this all off was so irrational, so bizarre, so idiotic, such obvious conspiracist nonsense. Why did DeShaun Jackson believe it and share it, and why did Stephen Jackson defend it so vociferously? …

About

Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | IG: kitanyaharrison

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