The Machine of Morbius

The nettle that I do not think we can grasp easily is that Trump is not Trump for some of his devoted voters. Meaning that his actual attributes, character, quality of leadership, integrity, history, matter almost not at all.

What Trump is for many of his closest supporters is someone that scares and horrifies their social enemies, and that’s all he needs to be. Trump is the leader of a social crusade: his meaning is the crusade itself. Trump is a sign, not a man.

Trump is vengeance for every teacher who made someone feel stupid, for every promotion that went to someone with a higher degree, for every younger boss who asked for your TPS reports or moved your cubicle, for every kid who lectured you about intersectionality and told you that you should call yourself ‘cisgendered’, for every tech-sector nouveau riche who bought up all the property in your formerly sleepy town and then relentlessly pressured the school board to put more money into gifted programs and get rid of the trade-school electives.

He’s payback for every memo that told the secretaries they’d have to learn a new software program by Monday or be fired, for every gay marriage the local clerk had to perform, for every corner store where suddenly it seemed one day the customers all spoke Spanish. Trump is punishment for every old blue blood who looked you up and down when you showed up at a social function bursting with pride about your new successful business. Trump is sticking it to the insurance agent who makes you fill out a thousand forms and then denies your claim, for the car inspection that tells you have to make a five-hundred dollar repair that you can’t afford just so the car doesn’t pollute so much, for the social worker who pokes into your life because you slapped your kid in the market once. For every kid that left home to go to the big city, for every sibling that became a meth addict. For every church that closed and every mortgage that went underwater. For every time you were told by someone who presumed to imply authority over you that things you thought were true were false. For the things that you thought would never change that have changed. For the regrets that you cannot bear to admit are your own fault and for the sorrows that come from things done to you by others.

Trump is all of that and more. I think for now we are even unequal to the task of separating out those grievances which with good and unhesitant conscience we could call bigotry or injustice from those which we might admit, possibly to our own shame or embarrassment, have some justice to them. I’ve been proud my own life of knowing a lot of things and of being pretty sure of myself in giving counsel based on knowing, but my memories can sift out many times when that’s been an intrusion or a presumption, when if I’m really serious about knowledge, I should have listened and learned instead.

But I think the time may be here when if we want to stop Trump, we first have to stop assuming that the next revelation about his gross unsuitability for the office will be sufficient. Maybe that will be enough for him to lose, in fact–but it will not get us very far past that loss.

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10 Responses to The Machine of Morbius

  1. Jo Brown says:

    Right on. The grievances are real, and many are caused by predatory capitalism and the entitlement it spawns. It’s the bizarre expectation that a predatory capitalist will solve them that seems baffling, until we see that this is how the ringleader recruits his gang: injure them, or cause them to injure each other, then rush in with promises of relief for the very injury that he caused, forming a traumatic bond, and issuing a license to harm the nxt recruit. Your essay helps explain why the baffling expectation persists. Thank you.

  2. lemmy caution says:

    Trump has a little bit less support than normal losing republican presidential candidates.

  3. Bitman says:

    lemmy: Trump’s odiousness notwithstanding, it’s exactly your sort of elite non-responsiveness that will eventually usher in your doom, though I know it’s probably impossible for you to understand that.

  4. Joe says:

    This is such a great post. We have to learn to listen to each other. We have to take the time to sit together with our stories, and our pain. We don’t have to accept the logic or the solutions which come out of them, but we need to not jump to our own logic and solutions without first really practicing empathy. For as long as we dismiss all of this – as though we right-thinking folk had never been judged or bullied or hoodwinked – we will never build solutions together.

    Only connect.

  5. Mzungu wa China says:

    I kind of like the idea of a nation divided. There is something authentic about it. While I am equally appalled at our current political situation, I’m not sure it is clear what kind of country we could all get behind. No one has much national vision and upon reflection I’m not sure that is such a bad thing in and of itself given that most such visions have historically been built on lies and puffery. It might be fun to explore what an America with a looser, less united, societal structure might look like. And I don’t buy the argument that a socially more diverse, less cohesive America must inevitably be a more bigoted one. Live and Let Live might be a good new motto.

  6. You are on the mark, Herr Doktor Professor. Down here in Texas we make a practice of selecting our governor, the Chair of the Textbook Committee, and the Attorney General by using the method you described for Trump. We live in a fantasy world. We don’t really care much about reality.

  7. Jane says:

    I agree Trump is (among other things) a vehicle of grievance. I just want to point out that so is Clinton, so was Sanders. But in the case of Trump the aggrieved are represented by Republicans – this is a beauty of our two party system. Everyone should have a party they can take their grievances to, and they should be able to seek real readdress through our political process.

    I don’t understand why this isn’t happening. And I’m not a natural representative of the aggrieved. I can be less of an ass, but that doesn’t really matter. There has to be an acceptable political outlet for these angers.

    And I guess the thing is – retributive grievance is fundamentally not acceptable. We can engage in the work of making people whole from past errors, but the vengeful aspect of this Crusade is a problem regardless of how unjust those harms were.

    And I guess it’s exactly Trump’s lone willingness to be Vengeance that makes him appealing.

  8. In the provinces says:

    You might want to compare the remarks you made in this post with the ones in your previous post.

  9. Timothy Burke says:

    I think that’s a fair point, provinces. Different voices in the two, and a different understanding of how to move forward. I am not sure that at all times and all circumstances that any of us can remain infinitely open to dialogic engagement on the things we feel strongly about. There are moments where policies are the right tool for thinking through change. I think they tend to be highly specific and they tend to involve operations which are specifically governmental rather than civic or social. But I do take the observation.

  10. lemmy caution says:

    “lemmy: Trump’s odiousness notwithstanding, it’s exactly your sort of elite non-responsiveness that will eventually usher in your doom, though I know it’s probably impossible for you to understand that.”

    Trump isn’t righteous vengeance for elite missteps. He is just a rich asshole who has the republican nomination.

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