Ecce Homo

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What vessel is this, into which half of America has poured so much hope and expectation?

Are you putting them on? Will you be dancing with Hillary at her inauguration?  Was that the plan all along?

What demons are you grappling with?  What windmill spins before you? Are you the man at the card table determined to lose?

You are staging a public psychodrama well beyond Nixonian self-pity.  The course of the nation is now hostage to your tweets.

Behold the man.  Beyond intervention.

A Drama Surrounding a Phenomenon

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Leave it to David Brooks of the New York Times to coin the perfect weasel phrase suitable for PBS viewers:  “…the fact that there is all this violence and all this drama surrounding the whole Trump phenomenon could be nervous-making and it could drive some people.”

Uh, which people? Drive them….to what?  What is the drama referenced here? Does it involve a woman being surrounded by a jeering mob and pelted with water bottles and eggs as she walks alone and undefended into a Trump event?

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Does it involve cold-cocking someone on the way to the parking lot?

The media loves the passive voice, never more so when it discusses the Trump campaign. It is awfully coy, even now, months into it, as to just who is doing what to whom, and how.

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Let us try a simple thought experiment. Pretend the man in the picture is wearing an I’m With Hillary t-shirt.  Pretend the people in the crowd are conservative white males, hounding and obstructing his ingress to a Clinton rally.  Would this not be the lead story on cable news for weeks on end? Would this not be the touchstone for endless think pieces on the rise of literal, as opposed to hypothetical, fascism in the United States?

Take a good look at the expression on the man’s face. Would you trade places with him for a moment? Is his constitutional right to peaceably assemble to hear the candidate of his choosing being protected or abridged in this case?  By refusing to make this distinction is the press not, in effect, siding with the mob?

The media has been writing journalistic permission slips to rioters going back to Ferguson.  When convenience stores are looted, this is the fault of the police for over-reacting.  When thugs descend on a Trump event to assault and badger the attendees, if not shut the event down entirely, Trump’s rhetoric is blamed.

Piece by piece, the guardrails to the electoral process are being disassembled and removed.

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What’s with the Mexican flags?  What’s with the gang signs?  The death threats?

One can outsource the assassination gambit to an unnamed “cartel” to avoid the reach of the Secret Service, but to verbalize something, to put it in writing, is the first step toward action.  What begins in wish fulfillment ends as all Pygmalion-like creation myths do. Carve a woman from marble and your own feverish longing,  and you will fall in love with her.

The firecracker is coming.

Let’s hope it’s only that.

Here Comes The Firecracker

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“I feel like I’m having a civil war inside my head,” said my Wise Artist pal. “I’m so divided.”  She had a secret she wished to share. Only the day before, she crossed the Rubicon. She re-registered as a Republican so she could cast her ballot for Trump in the upcoming primary.

“I want to light a firecracker under this country.”

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On Sunday morning I was in Watts, at the CicLAvia. In liberal, cosmopolitan Los Angeles, very few white people joined us on the trek.  As a veteran CicLAvian, I found the low attendance disloyal and unpatriotic.

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If one wanted to see the full measure of the economic hollowing out of America, here was the place the Bernie people and the Trump people could agree upon.

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Along the way, I encountered a white man with a broken arm and his hand on a bible, sitting at a table in front of a closed church, nodding significantly at the riders as they went past as though beckoning them toward something.  Of what, I could only guess.

Later that night we were in Pasadena at an awards dinner for Mrs. UpintheValley, hosted by a lovely, gracious woman who lives in the kind of house which ignites bonfires of envy in the hearts of working-class guests from Van Nuys.  And everyone at the table was lovely and gracious and prosperous. And the host mentioned a former student who is now Digital Media Director for Elizabeth Warren, and this elicited giddy approval, for what higher calling could there be? Practically an appointment to the secular Vatican itself.  And wouldn’t it be delightful if Hillary picked Warren as a running mate? Trump has zero chance of winning, after all. For the moment we were all two degrees of separation from the Good People Who Really Matter and didn’t that make the demi-glace on the hanger steak all the tastier?

Then on Monday I am at an industry workshop at AFI, where an actress/writer I’ve known for years, tough and talented, a woman you’ve seen on TV plenty of times, is staging a work-in-progress which included a Donald Trump-esque speech about immigrants.  Afterward, in the notes, people argued whether it was Sarah Palin or Trump himself speaking, then someone said it couldn’t possibly be Palin, because the character was utilizing multi-syllabic words, and thus beyond Palin’s speaking ability. In Los Feliz, people found this observation clever and uproarious. Mirth owned the room.

The next morning I drove to Home Depot in Panorama City to buy a tape measure and there were dozens of men crowding cars in the parking lot, leaning into windows, pleading for day work.

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Later, I took Trixie for her evening constitutional and we passed an Ayn Rand-ian tableau of trucks in my neighborhood filled with scrap metal.

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Around the corner, we encountered this gorgeous example of late post-war American industry, preserved in amber, right down to the whitewalls.  It felt like another signpost. We are nearing the end of something.

The firecrackers are coming.

Oy, gevalt. Double never.

Bystanders, once more
Put a fork in ’em

Admit it, you were beginning to feel tingles of excitement. This year, your vote was going to count, for the first time ever, perhaps.  Your inbox was filling with solicitations to donate, to volunteer. Snatches of political gossip fluttered about you like the flappings of moths, as you went about your day.

Trump this!  Sanders that! 

Be honest, these are the only two you heard anyone talking about.

California, on the verge of 1968 all over again.  Minus the assassination. (We hope)

All the old rules were in the wind.

Our two districts in the Valley were about to be hotly contested battlegrounds in which twelve precious delegates were to be dispersed, six for each party.  Twelve! Like a jury pool, we waited in attention, preparing for the deluge.  The fate of the country, down to us, on the final day of the primary season. One felt so enfranchised

Yesterday, Other People, ahead of us in line, settled it.   Boo!

Now we’re stuck with two candidates who are the subject of “#never” campaigns as the presumptive nominees.  If you vote for Trump are you voting for or against the Republican party?  It’s unclear. If you vote for Hillary you are voting for Wall Street. But she swears you’re not.  What if you’re a double never, and earlier vowed, rashly, to support neither? What now to do?

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You can put your palms together and come to center and bring a measure of order to the chaos of the world.

For Amber Waves of Grain…

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“…and Florida…we love Florida! And Tennessee! And Ohio, we’re beating the Governor there!  And Michigan, they love us there! The whole thing, it’s just….and we love Nevada! We won with the young! We won with the old!  We won with the highly educated. We won with the poorly educated. I love the poorly educated!  We’re the smartest people and we’re the most loyal people!  It’s going to be an amazing two months!  We might not need the two months!   We’re not going to be the people who are pushed around anymore…”

Yes. It’s happening.  With a greater ease and dispatch than anyone thought.  Trump is upon us, glad and big.

Mexico will build the wall. It’s gonna happen. They know it. You know it. We all know it. We have a trade deficit with Mexico. They will pay for it. We will be proud of our country again. We will Win Win Win.  We will love winning. 

Winning is a lovely sentiment. It would help a bit if the phrase hadn’t been trademarked by a guy with a straw permanently welded to his nostril and a call girl young enough to be his daughter under each arm.

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Maybe there’s just something about banging hot chicks that lends itself to joyous megalomania. One watches Trump addressing the arena and cant help but think prophetic literature has overtaken life and Willie Stark has, Pygmalion-like, been made flesh.

I have three observations:

a)  people want a functioning border wall to the United States.

b)  they hate the Establishment media in this country, and the prevailing ethos of political correctness which forecloses discussion of the above, among many, many other things.

c) people are hungry for an unapologetic American nationalism, and are willing to cheer for a very flawed man who is willing to stand up to (B) on behalf of (A).

All the old arguments and creeds have been snatched away by the gale force winds of these ignored truths.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.

This is an Altar Call for the Forgotten Man.

Mrs. UpintheValley and I were in West Hollywood last week, at uber-trendy Gracias Madre, and Trump was being discussed at the adjoining table in favorable terms. In WeHo!  The man’s female dinner companion remained skeptical.  “He’s gonna get something blown up somewhere, somehow, with that mouth of his…”

Mrs. U, reliably sensible in matters political, vows never to give her vote to a “blustering bully who speaks dismissively of other people”.   In absence of a champion for good manners, she hopes for a well-chosen running mate, followed by a fortuitous assassination.

Willie Stark, again.

I think I’ll have another beer.

Wither gravity?

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Is this really happening?

He’s boorish and says distasteful things about women and says them reflexively. He writes checks with his mouth America will not be able to cash, like announcing the Iranians will turn over all hostages before he assume the Oval Office.  Or the Mexican government will pay to build a wall between us. He, who never served, mocked John McCain for being a POW. He dismissed Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon of renown as “an okay doctor, who hired maybe one nurse, but not great”. He dismissed Hugh Hewitt, with 25,000 interviews to his credit, as a “third-rate talk show host”, when Hugh innocently revealed through questions Trump could not distinguish between Quds and Kurds.

And yet! There he is, making the weather, defying all political laws. A Sun King, in waiting.  To quote pollster Stu Rothenberg:

 “I have been arguing that once Iowa Republicans start to see the caucuses as an opportunity to select the next president, rather than an opportunity to express their frustration and anger, they will turn away from Trump and toward politically experienced, mainstream contenders. After combing through the most recent surveys from the Iowa caucuses and talking with veteran Republican strategists, I can no longer say that with any certainty…”

My father, a George McGovern/Bernie Sanders liberal to the bone, loves Trump.

Over beers at Macleod last night, three of us confessed were the election held today, in a matchup between Hillary and Trump we would all vote for Mr. Bombastic, despite his baggage.  None of us wanted to. But given the choice….

Secretly we wished he would say or do something so terrible it would derail his candidacy once and for all, so we wouldn’t have to choose.  But hasn’t he done that five times already?

If nothing else, Trump is right about one thing: illegal immigration and how deeply it is resented in this country. What is resented even more is the institutionalized deceit with which it is protected by the political media.  I say this as someone who resides happily in a neighborhood of first generation Latino and Asian immigrants, strivers all. My beloved working-class brigadoon of Van Nuys.

Sometimes all it takes is one fundamental truth to ride to power. When the distance between what one is publicly permitted to say and what is privately felt becomes unsustainable, there’s a fissure, and the geyser erupts. After that, all bets are off.

What then, though? Suppose he wins? Having taken the prize, we are left with the man, and all his frailties.