Donald Trump is not a new phenomenon of “post truth” in American politics. Truth, has never been part of the American experience.
It’s more insidious than just lying; we’re awash in assumptions that are not representative of our environment. It’s akin to a fish being oblivious of the water flushing through its gills. We’re raised and socialized by our education, media, and government to not just believe, but unquestionably know that America is the land of the free, a beacon for freedom and democracy in the world, and by definition any action we take is principled and by definition right. This strident and invisible but ever present nationalism, empirically has no basis in reality.
What does it mean to assert as a cultural truth that we’re the “land of the free” when 25% of the world’s prison population is held in cages in America cities, with the last Republican president presiding over a torture program, and the current democratic President signing legislation allowing for the indefinite detention of Americans? Not to mention being the most surveiled population in history. You can call it many things, but liberty and freedom are not one of them.
How do we reconcile the assumed untruth about being a “beacon of democracy” and the “one indispensable nation” when we’ve silently toppled democratically elected governments throughout the Middle East and South America, installed and materially supported brutal dictators in the same regions, and militarily intervened for strategic corporate interest? The bulk of the American public is in the dark, but the rest of the world, particularly the tens of millions of people that have been materially and physically injured, have no such illusions.
I firmly agree that Donald Trump is a professional liar. Whether it’s the nonexistent millions of “illegals” that voted in VA or the thousands of invisible Muslims celebrating after 9/11 that only he had the magical ability to see; I don’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth. If he told me he was a person, I’d ask for this birth certificate. But he’s a bad and clumsy liar. I’m more concerned about the untruths told by pretty faces and shiny suits that grow into monsters that claw at our livelihood and bite at our conscience.
President Obama stood on stage at a Nike plant to denounce the detractors of his Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying it’s “the most progressive trade agreement in history“, that it’s good for America, and screamed to a cheering audience “just do it!” At the same time, completely ignoring that the agreement was released on Wikileaks. The cheering audience of useful idiots was supporting an agreement that destroyed any notion of U.S. sovereignty, allowing for an international tribunal of corporate lawyers that would supersede the laws of this country and allow multinational corporations to sue the U.S. government if we passed a law or regulation that adversely affected their profits.
It’s not just the internalized facade on politics, but also the fourth estate; the media. Americans have a completely unfounded belief in modern media to hold power accountable. In the lead up to the war of U.S. aggression on Iraq that was responsible for upwards of 1 million deaths and 6 trillion wasted dollars, Dick Cheney would give anonymous and bogus information to that bastion of liberalism the NY Times. The same Dick Cheney would then go on news shows and reference the article that he was responsible for creating as independent “factual evidence” of his political position. In ironic contrast, that same NY Times reprimanded an actual journalist familiar with the Middle East, foreign war correspondent Chris Hedges, for denouncing the White House’s position as nonreality based thinking.
Also, with all the investigation capacity of a world wide news agency like CNN, when President George Bush said, “they hate us for our freedom”, no one mentioned the “Bruce-Lovett Report” (report resulting from the 1957 committee commissioned to investigate CIA clandestine mischief in the Middle East) to try and provide context on how that mischief fomented American resentment. The report described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Egypt; actions that the American public was blissfully unaware of, but that everyday Arabs knew of very well. If we widen the scope to the Middle East as a whole, there is no mention of the CIA’s assisting in the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran because the secular leader wanted to renegotiate the oil deal with British Petroleum. No mention of us helping to radicalize Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, believing it would assist the fervor in fighting the Soviets. These same fighters, eventually arriving to fight us in Iraq after we smashed it to pieces.
We can’t forget the last illusion; our elections are the envy of the world. No … they’re not. Politicians are openly bribed by special interest with tens of millions of dollars. Comically, media plays along and calls these bribes “donations”. State parties are allowed to control the machinery of federal elections in which they have a vested stake in winning. In clear and demonstrable cases, they’ve scrubbed people off voter roles for bogus reasons, shutdown polls in areas of opposition, manufactured from whole cloth “voter fraud” as an excuse for voter id laws that disadvantage hundreds of thousands of people missing viable identification. Not to mention the last national indignity, of the man with the least amount of votes and the most disliked even on election day (57% of people disliked him as he won), winning entirely due to an antiquated electoral system constructed based on slavery; that will force the first African-American president to cede power to the man that indignantly demanded his birth certificate.
It’s not “post truth”, it’s the fracturing of the lie of Americanism as being no longer plausible enough to reconcile itself with the actual experience. Politicians are recognized to be shills for the people that pay them, media is distrusted, both agencies carry approval ratings in near single digits. The masses were so desperate for change that they threw themselves at the feet of a grimy unknown quantity, as opposed to the punishing attrition of sameness.
I think Trump will do some great and terrible things, and I’ve grown uneasily comfortable with a nervous and disquieting energy that has haunted me since the election. The one thing I won’t miss is the facade of temperament to hide those great and miserable things.