The Silver Lining: Trump and the Crisis of White, Patriarchy’s Archetypes

The silver lining to Trump and America’s white-patriarchal crisis.

In his recent interview with Bill Moyers, Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country, Burn Again, contextualizes Trump’s ascent to power within America’s (popular) culture, clarifying the ways our current political circumstances far from rose out of a vacuum. As an immigrant to this country and a keen observer of its culture, I’ve seen this truth as self-evident since the 2016 primaries. Fountain points to the popularity of J.R. Ewing — a Trumpian, villain proto-type — a character who, in the year I emigrated from England to the US, (1977), morosely captivated what was then still a fledgling, “global” popular culture. His image was so compelling my friends joked that I would surely return one day in a ten-gallon hat. J.R. Ewing and his tough, good-guy counterpart, John Wayne, hold sway as powerful, mythic white, male archetypes — the existence of which, in today’s evolving America, have become deeply threatened to their celluloid core.

J.R. Ewing from the TV series DallasFountain’s analysis begins to touch on the ways the Trump phenomenon is inseparable from the culture in which it was born. I remember hearing the predictions of a famous Vedic astrologer before the 2016 election that “America will get the president it deserves” — and we have. Fountain weaves connections between American popular culture, the failures of the American dream under its waking-life capitalism, and our propensity to escape, exponentially compounded today by the addictive appeal of our “devices”. Fountain is dead on here as he points to the complexity of the problems we face in this country; he makes it clear it will require much more than the time it takes for Trump to leave office to address them. (Assuming he leaves, which I still have some faith will eventually happen.)

However, there is something important missing in Fountain’s analysis — at least as it appears in this interview. American culture, its economic institutions, and this country’s values are infused at their foundation by the impact of a patriarchal worldview. As those institutions are increasingly threatened, the question is begged: What might be able to emerge on the other side? Continue reading “The Silver Lining: Trump and the Crisis of White, Patriarchy’s Archetypes”

Calibrating the Civic Heart

Time to start taking our lessons from those who’ve been there and done that for decades.

Movements are about more than moments; they are about thoughtful networks of dissent built over time.

These words shared in the New York Times, by Blair Kelley, a professor of Civil Rights History echo sentiments I shared in an article I wrote in the fateful weeks after Trump’s election.

To say it has been hard to hold the vision for justice in America through Trump’s steady, aggressive onslaught against it — the defining signature of his presidency — is, let’s just agree, an understatement. But understanding the long arc of commitment in the civil rights movement does give me faith. Continue reading “Calibrating the Civic Heart”

In a Country That Has Lost Its Mind

Eleven dead and counting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

I grew up in Pittsburgh (age 11–18). My high school played sports against the high school in Squirrel Hill where this shooting took place today. What happened there is yet another tragedy in a string of gun-violence tragedies in a country where gasoline is being poured on existing nationalist fires by a demagogical president. I resent the disturbing familiarity of the phrase “Senseless Act of Violence” for failing to capture the absurd tragedy of the mounting losses. How do you capture in words what no longer makes sense.

There is a sickness a-foot and it’s time now to move beyond our anxiety and fears into the full recognition of what is here. A friend and father of two young children who has shared my anxiety this past two years said to me earlier this week “It’s grown-up time”. Time to be awake, to do some straight-thinking, straight talking, straight walking in a crooked, volatile and truly dangerous moment in our country’s history.

It really sunk in for me this week how much the US is manifesting a pre-WWII Germany mentality. I know many have been saying it and, until recently, I have empathized but have also rationalized it is not *that* bad. Not yet.

Hitler rose to power in a country where the German citizenry was feeling such deep insecurity about its identity following the fall out and shaming of WWI. He did this in a “proud” country full of “patriotic” citizens that felt the need to defensively defend against shame TO THE CORE. There was so much insecurity, so much of a need to re-gain pride, so much desire to be “great again”. Continue reading “In a Country That Has Lost Its Mind”

Judge Kavanaugh, You Say You “Will Not Give Up.” You have my word. Neither will I.

Brett Kavanaugh. Angry. Defiant. Defensive. How, after seeing Dr. Ford’s testimony this morning and the media spin that couldn’t imagine how Kavanaugh might hope to gain ground, how does his angry, defiant, defensive performance leave people finding him believable? He began the hearing pursed lips, eyes fierce, forehead creased, deeply offended for being attacked. Within minutes he was hailing his mother, a lawyer, herself, as inspiration to him in his career, then, behind tears, he recollects the impact on his children and his wise daughter who said “we should pray for the woman.” An indignant, noble, family man. It is all too painfully familiar… Continue reading “Judge Kavanaugh, You Say You “Will Not Give Up.” You have my word. Neither will I.”

The “Lies” Aren’t the Story: Mental Health Is.

Repeat after me: Disengage

Like a lot of alarmed American progressives, I’m reeling over the reality of a Trump presidency and the Democrats oh-so-painful disconnect from the working class base. But there’s a third frontier that’s working me: the Press. The Press’ embroilment in un-believable statements from the White House show me daily their ensnarement in the high-stakes antics of Donald Trump’s narcissism. Jeffrey Frank at the New Yorker describes the effect of leaving us “speechless” — he may actually be pointing to one of our best hopes for resistance. Continue reading “The “Lies” Aren’t the Story: Mental Health Is.”