AMERICA IS AT WAR WITH HER VERY SOUL: UNCLE SAM AND LADY LIBERTY ARE HAVING A DOMESTIC DISPUTE
As 2016 draws to a close and the upcoming American Inauguration approaches, I am pausing to reflect upon the very Herculean task with which President Elect Donald Trump is currently faced. People on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and around the world can talk all they want about what they think of Mr. Trump as a person and speak all manner of ad hominin calumny against him concerning his personal appearance, proclivities, mannerisms, and off-the-cuff extemporaneous outbursts of seemingly histrionic levels of dramaturgy, but the fact remains that he will soon take the Oath of Office and be duly sworn in as the President of the United States of America and be hailed as the putative leader of the so-called ‘free world’, whatever that means in this post-Cold War paradigm.
Donald Trump will soon have a lot on his plate. I don’t envy the man for one moment, quite frankly. Honestly, I feel we should all pray for him as well as all world leaders. They all have very difficult and demanding jobs to do, which entail making often very morally dubious and compromising decisions in real time which have life and death consequences for thousands of people both at home and abroad. I would not wish to take that burden upon myself for all the tea in China if you ask me. Donald Trump obviously feels that America, as a going concern, requires his undivided attention, and has gone so far as to stake his entire reputation and personal fortune and destiny as an individual and character within the Pantheon of American political and capitalist hierarchy, to stick his neck out so as to address some of the most pressing structural deficiencies that have ever faced the Great Republic since her inception in 1776.
America, to put it bluntly, is at war with her very soul. The very existence of America as an idea is at stake here. The very idea of America as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, of Mom and Apple Pie, of John Mellencamp’s ‘Little Pink Houses for You and Me’, the very ability of the American Dream to survive, thrive and replicate itself in real time for the new generation of post-Ellis Island Americans who have come to America under different circumstances, and have been welcomed often with not so open arms by an already established series of American demographic cohorts from the Ellis Island years onward within a context of a shrinking core-periphery landscape of a closed frontier, an already crowded rural-urban fringe with substantial traffic congestion and scarcity of resources all around, these are the challenges facing the new post-modern and post-industrial seekers of the American Dream, within a land of now much more limited opportunity.
America now finds herself not only at war with the world, but with her very ‘raison d’être’, or ‘reason for being’, that is to say, a beacon of liberty and freedom for the oppressed, the proverbial ‘ Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’ This is the inscription that the American poet Emma Lazarus wrote for the plaque which was affixed to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It was seen by thousands of immigrants who were processed through Ellis Island in the early 20th century.
Back then, America was just in the process of exploding with industrial growth and these immigrants built the factories, mills, skyscrapers, bridges and other infrastructure which made America famous around the world. Now, however, the new generation of immigrants from places like Mexico and elsewhere are stuck in a holding pattern and are often compelled to immigrate illegally to America and often spend decades working in the underground economy and cannot even get a Social Security number so as to start paying taxes to Uncle Sam so as to obtain services from him legally so as to benefit from the virtues of Lady Liberty’s promise of a better life contained within the American Dream.
What we have now in America, which President-Elect Trump (formerly ‘The Donald’) will have to contend with, is a heterogeneous mish-mash of contending constituents, all of whom are deeply convinced of their right to liberty and freedom at the individual level, but simultaneously are very fractious, contentious, passionate to the point of being pathologically belligerent and dysfunctional in the expression of their dissatisfaction with the status quo, gun happy, poverty-stricken, mentally unstable, and generally predisposed to potentially take very drastic measures to settle their differences with their neighbours in real time, which usually ends with blows being exchanged, or shots fired and blood being spilled.
In walks Sheriff Wyatt ‘Donald Trump’ Earp into the proverbial ‘Tombstone’ of America writ large and has to contend with the macrocosm of what Tombstone itself in Wild West lore represented: unbridled personal liberty and freedom on the one hand in an untamed frontier which was being developed by men of money, power, property, prestige, and personalities, and the need to balance the needs and wants of the few with the good of the many and of all in the town of ‘Tombstone USA’, which is faced with the same predicament as the original Wyatt Earp faced back in the day, only on a much more massive and egregious and morally corrupt and concupiscent scale than in the days of the Old West.
The soul that America is at war with is contained in a veil of mortal flesh which is increasingly at odds with the very nature of American ‘free enterprise’ itself, that is to say, the notion of consumerism based on the maximization of production and consumption of goods and services by individuals and families at all costs, even if it means an epidemic of obesity, specifically an agro-industrial landscape awash in both junk food comestibles and junk food employment (witness the explosion in the so-called ‘service sector’ of the American economy since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980-81 and the subsequent union-busting of the American northeast, Midwest and the Canadian Quebec-Windsor corridor and the subsequent rise in the proliferation of low-paying junk food ‘service sector’ jobs in North America since that time of de-industrialization), which has only served to impoverish the average family unit even more, by making them dependent on wages which are below subsistence level, producing goods and services which are nutritionally deficient, even toxic to the human organism, and hence toxic to the social and moral fabric of society in general.
The soul that America is at war with is predicated upon the notion that ‘bigger is better’, that ‘size matters’, of ‘onward and upward’, of an unfettered and unbridled form of temporal growth in the production and consumption of material wealth and of unlimited and unbridled personal desires, but which exist within a world of scarcity, which is the first thing they teach us in economics class in High School, is that free market capitalist democracy is based on scarcity of temporal resources, but unlimited wants and desires of people, which essentially is a recipe for disaster, which we are now witnessing with America in her crisis of leadership within the domestic sphere as well as the international realm.
Donald Trump, of all people, being a person of massive ego and Gargantuan-sized personality, basically has the unenviable task of reigning in over 300 million self-centred, self-seeking, self-absorbed, gun-toting, trigger happy, poverty-stricken, desperate, mentally unstable, as well as egregiously wealthy, plutocratic, proto-fascist, neo-feudal corporate barons, whose only common denominator or notion of having any sense of a notion of the common good or of the greater good, is some sort of hagiographic notion within American creation mythology that America is a nation of destiny and of sanctified and sacralised God-chosen, Messianic missionary vision to be the proverbial ‘City on a Hill’, the shining beacon of light which Puritan John Winthrop spoke of in a 1630 sermon to the Massachusetts Bay colonists, as they were still aboard ship. It was based upon Christ’s famous ‘salt and light’ parable from the Sermon on the Mount from Mathew 5:14, and has since been quoted by both Democratic and Republican Presidents alike such as JFK and Ronald Reagan.
Basically pretty much all Americans see themselves as a ‘great nation’ and a ‘beacon of liberty’, and have some sense of greatness that their way of life is the ‘best’ and that everybody else should somehow follow their lead and do as they say not necessarily do as they do. This is the biggest hurdle that President-Elect Trump faces going forward. What the world sees of America is Lady Liberty, a bloated old fat tart who eats and drinks way too much, is obnoxious with her fellow citizens as well as her neighbours, and is married to Uncle Sam, the metaphorical male manifestation of a top-hatted bourgeois robber-baron corporate capitalist predatory and rapaciously opportunistic person, who is essentially now an old fogy being kept alive by an increasingly impoverished and overburdened and overwrought underclass of younger people, who want nothing more than to make an honest living in America and around the world so as to fulfill the promise of her much ballyhooed ‘Dream.’
Essentially, Lady Liberty is now fat and old and needs to lose a lot of weight, not to mention needing a trip to the Fountain of Youth to ideologically rejuvenate herself and her notion of what she actually stands for, as opposed to basing herself on a corrupted notion of an old White Anglo-Saxon Protestant notion of being the ‘Elect’ or ‘Chosen People of God’, destined to rule by Divine Fiat, along with the other English-speaking countries of the world, such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which I still hear Evangelical preachers speak about on the Christian channel on TV on Sunday mornings when they are given free air time to express their views. The most common mistake, or attribute of all Imperial powers in the course of history, including America, the British, the Romans, French, Germans, Spanish, Chinese, and so on, is to see themselves as the centre of the universe, and to view all others as essentially ‘Barbarians’, or at the very least, on the periphery, as the ‘I’, or ‘eye’ of the beholder, being the Imperial power, looks out from the vantage point of himself as the belly button of the universe, and sees all others within creation as peripheral, or essentially external, to himself, being the ‘them’ to the ‘us’ or in this case the ‘US.’
The whole notion of Social Work is predicated upon the notion of ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ and ‘Radical Empathy’ for our client or the ‘other person,’, which is diametrically opposed to the notion of imperialism, which is based upon hegemony or domination, of seeking to have all others bend to your will and to have others be ruled by your laws, not to meet the other guy ‘half way’, much less see things ‘his way’, which is what Social Workers are asked to do, while still trying to effectuate change in the client’s thought and behaviour by ‘leading the horse to water’ so that the client can ‘drink from the waters of salvation’ of their own volition, without feeling as if they are being forced or coerced into doing something which goes against their right of self-determination.
Donald Trump, despite his personality, is going to have to try and bring to bear to both his domestic policy and foreign policy, a measure of Radical Empathy and Unconditional Positive Regard for the people and organizations which he will be dealing with, because America is currently not in a morally upstanding position to be ‘preaching to the gallery’ so to speak, as an example of a nation which deserves to be emulated either in thought or behaviour and that goes for Canada as well. We are grossly overweight, we eat too much, drink too much, we don’t exercise enough, if at all, we take all sorts of illicit drugs, we smoke way too much, we still drive huge trucks and SUVs that consume way too much fuel which we are obliged to procure from increasingly environmentally and militarily unstable parts of the world, putting thousands of lives at risk, and we still have yet to implement a viable solution to our dysfunctional love affair with the automobile, which is essentially stuck in a holding pattern created by the denizens of corporate America during the World’s Fair in New York just before WWII, when the ‘Master Plan’ for our current situation was laid out for us.
Good luck to President Elect Donald Trump. He’s going to need it if he has a hope in heck of saving America’s troubled Revolution. When a couple are in the middle of a long-standing domestic dispute, usually both sides are right and both sides are wrong at the same time. Also, both sides usually essentially want the same thing, which is to be happy, healthy and prosperous, for both themselves, and their ‘kids’, (the American people and the rest of the world). The question is, not are Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam both able to come to terms with each other and their ‘kids’, but are they ready and willing to go to any length to be transformed by the power of the Spirit of the Creator who was responsible from the outset and the get go in the formative process of America itself as a vehicle for the propagation of liberty, freedom and ultimately, for the salvation of humanity in the emerging process of a global consensus of world governance which is only beginning to take concrete shape, and in which America is the one and only principal hope which has enough firepower and ideological moxy to stand up to the emerging geo-political and socio-economic and military-industrial and cultural behemoth of Communist China.
For America needs to stop this war within her very soul and needs to make peace with the world which it feels increasingly surrounded and besieged by. America needs not to ‘circle the wagons’ as in days of yore when the pioneers found themselves besieged by ‘savages’ on the Oregon Trail, but rather must deal with the real and concrete issues on the world stage which push today’s post-Ellis Island immigrants from the Middle East and Central Asia to sometimes become ‘Trojan Horses’ in this new post 9/11 ‘War on Terror’, which, in my opinion, has more to do with America’s ongoing policy of expansionism and encircling of the Russian Bear along her soft Middle Eastern and Central Asian ‘underbelly’, as well as her continued encircling and expansion into South Asia and South East Asia and her longstanding policy of expansionism into the Pacific, which began as far back as the 1840s with Commodore Perry’s Gunboat Diplomacy with the Japanese, resulting in the bombing of Pearl Harbour 100 years later and the subsequent subjugation of Imperial Japan by unleashing the hellfire of atomic annihilation upon the people of Japan in exchange for their entrance into the community of western liberal democratic nations.
God bless Donald Trump and God bless America. I don’t know how he will behave as America’s new President, but there are forces at work in this world which are more powerful than even what ‘The Donald’ can muster. He cannot just cavalierly say ‘you’re fired’, and be done with it, and get good ratings as a result. This is truly ‘reality TV’, not Hollywood’s version of ‘reality TV.’ I’m anxious to see how a ‘reality TV’ host fares as a US President, as compared to a ‘B movie Bedtime for Bonzo’ President. This should be interesting. Like Bono from U2 said in the song ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, ‘and it’s true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality.’
Essentially, the old expression used to be ‘art imitates life.’ However, in the post-modern, post-industrial media-digital age, it is increasingly evident that ‘life imitates art’ in that like the quote from U2, most people’s ‘reality’ these days is socially constructed through television and the internet, and to a lesser extent through radio and print media. Essentially what people see on TV, the movies and the internet as well as in their music is ‘reality’ as they see it and live it and experience it. The French-Canadian singer Luc de la Rochelière had a song in the early 1990s called ‘Cash City’ which had lyrics which, translated into English, stated, ‘everybody has ideas borrowed from television, everybody is dressed in their store-bought outfit and dances alone in their corner, everybody is their own hero (or legend in their own mind), everybody has their own pornographic fantasy, but when the moment of truth comes with a real person, they are ultimately disappointed, everybody has a poster of Marilyn Monroe on their wall, everybody wants everybody to love everybody, but nobody truly loves everybody, in cash city.’ So essentially, what the artist was saying is that ‘reality’ for most people, is now socially constructed by the pop-cultural corporately controlled and dominated ‘artistic’ industry, which essentially trades in stereotypes and archetypes.
So getting back to Donald Trump. I think the American Presidential system and the Office of the President of the United States of America has now become more a product of the Hollywood generated depiction of American Presidents, as depicted in 1980s and onward ‘action-adventure’ and ‘spy thriller’ movies, than any real life reality of Presidential politics. Like Marshal McLuhan said ‘The medium is the message.’ In other words, the mediatized depiction of America and her President and political culture and ‘free enterprise’ system and notions of ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’, are more ‘real’ than reality itself, which has become essentially increasingly ethereal and ephemeral to most Americans and the rest of the world. Like Jim Morrison of the Doors said in his swan song ‘American Prayer’, which was released posthumously in 1978, ‘Where is the new wine, the wine dying on the vine? We used to believe in the good old days, we still receive in little ways the things of kindness and unsporting brow, forget and allow. Did you know freedom exists in a school book? Did you know mad men are running in our prison within a gaol within a white free Protestant maelstrom? We’re perched headlong on the edge of boredom, we’re reaching for death on the end of a candle, we’re trying for something that’s already found us.’
Jim Morrison knew what he was talking about. His Father was an Admiral in the US Navy. He was the son of a man who was part of the American military elite. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his last speech before retiring from politics in the late 1950s, gave his famous speech where he said ‘beware the military-industrial complex.’ And this from a conservative President and general who was a war hero from WWII. Both Morrison and Eisenhower saw the writing on the wall regarding the takeover of US society by the white Anglo-Saxon protestant military industrial elite caste within American society. Donald Trump will have to contend with those people. JFK took them on and lost big time, so did his brother. Barak Obama tried his best to take on the Washington and Wall Street establishment and saw his political capital all but exhausted by the end of his first term with the tragically-flawed passage of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obama Care, leaving him essentially a lame duck and spent force as soon as he was inaugurated for his second term.
How Donald Trump will fare is anybody’s guess. He comes to this vocation with no previous experience in politics and essentially no preconceived notions about how things are run in Washington, which could help or hinder him either way. It will definitely endear himself to some, and make himself the mortal enemy of many a man and woman of influence and vested interests in money, power, property, prestige and personalities.
So three cheers for President Elect Donald Trump. Hail to the Chief who will soon be the Grand pooh bah of the Great Republic that still ‘thinks it can’, like the ‘Little Engine That Could.’ That old Walt Disney record is still in my collection somewhere. I’ve had it since childhood, and ever since that time, it’s been broken, with a chunk broken off of it. My Mother used to carefully take it out of its sleeve and put it on the turntable for me to listen to. I always got a thrill out of listening to the ‘Little Engine That Could’ going ‘ I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can’ when it was trying to get up ‘that great big hill of hope, for a destination.’ I guess that’s a fitting metaphor for America, the ‘Little Engine That Could’, which is a bit of a damaged commodity, but still capable of taking a spin on the turntable so as to demonstrate to itself and the world what it is capable of. What I came to realize later, when I grew up and listened to that record again as an adult, was that the ‘Little Engine that Could’ was female! And here I had always ascribed a male gender to it, since I am a man and I always associated locomotives as being more masculine. Maybe Lady Liberty is the Little Engine That Could and the engineer driving her is Uncle Sam. Hmmm…. Maybe Donald Trump needs to give The Little Engine That Could an electric motor and power source and tell Uncle Sam to step on the accelerator to get ‘up that great big hill of hope, for a destination’ so as to save America’s ‘troubled Revolution.’
Otherwise we might all ‘wake in the morning and…step outside, and take a deep breath and…get real high and scream at the top of…[our] lungs what’s goin’ on!!!’ Then it might be too late for all of ‘us’ as well as the ‘US.’
God bless you all, and Merry Christmas by the way.