Recently I have been trying to decide how much of myself I am willing to commit to being myself. This is exactly as dumb and esoteric as it sounds. I was well into my third Thursday night bourbon and water when I floated the idea that maybe “Thursday-night-bourbon-and-water” was not a worthwhile tradition to develop. I slept on the couch all weekend, trying not to forget that this happens every time.
I read these pieces recently. Just because.
A year before the Peekskill riots, Guthrie wrote in his diary, “Fascism is the gospel of hate that makes so much noise. You’d think that the gospel of hate was more in our mainstream than down in our undertow. The yells of hate are not as loud as the soft little echo of love and democracy. This fascist hate will wax your ears and spike your eyes, and love and love alone can heal the dead.” For Guthrie, this soft little echo of love and democracy was the only thing that could stand up to the Goliath of homegrown fascism. For many Americans now, it is the only tool they have left.
In the end, Kremlinology said a lot more about the people practicing it than it ever did about the Soviet Union. Like all fantasies, it expressed a desire. A universe that could make sense, if only you were smart enough to understand it. A politics that could be reduced to the competing ambitions of a few graying and liver-spotted men. Above all, a global order that—like the dull machinations of MI6 or the CIA—is always powered by conspiracy. So it’s significant that Kremlinology is back. Except this time, the mysterious closed system to be analyzed is no longer far away on the chilly edge of Europe. America has turned its suspicions inward, on the strange and spooky world of Donald Trump.
This has been going on for a while now: During the campaign, it was almost impossible to publicly laugh at his latest hammy and ludicrous tweet without someone coming along to tell you that actually, this is all just a distraction, he’s hogging the headlines to divert your attention from whatever serious allegation was about to sink his presidential bid on that particular week. (As if any allegation, his pussy-grabbing, his tax returns, could halt a Donald Train screaming toward Washington on rails greased with malice and revenge.) But now, with Trump sprawling lugubriously all over the White House, it’s gone into overdrive. As thousands blockade airports and fill up city streets, a new generation of amateur Kremlinologists is coming forward with its hastily assembled theories, assembled from bureaucratic signifiers, to say that by trying to stop the harm he’s actually doing, all we’ve done is play into his tiny, tiny hands.
We must face the facts: A big fat grinning fucker is the president now. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. What are we to make of this? Mainstream American liberalism has spent the past three months in confusion, unsure of what comes next; worse, they are unsure of how to understand the millions of their countrymen who voted for Donald Trump. In the immediate aftermath of the election, liberals’ status changed by the hour. They were the working class in revolt, then bigots longing for the reich. They were hypnotized by reality television. They were unreachable. They could be organized. They must be recruited. They must be fought. Some sort of ruling was needed; the usual experts were coming up short.
Suddenly, a voice came howling out of the past, highlighted in pull quotes and conveyed in memes. Her stern face is screwed up in contemplation of the profound. Who is she? What is she saying? The words are difficult to make out at first. They’re half-remembered, if remembered at all — Did I do the reading that week of college? A quick Google provides clarity. Of course: The woman is Hannah Arendt, and she has come back from the wilderness to deliver us a message: Fascists are bad news.
… just because