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Armageddon, Anyone?

June 3, 2016

Armageddon“You, reader, I, writer,” said Mrs. Gaskell, “have each our great sorrow bearing down upon us.”* A telling and poetic sentiment. True, there’s a certain aura of First World comfort about it—the sorrow is singular, and it hasn’t arrived yet, unlike the multiple present agonies of so many around the globe—but it’s a good reminder that none of us is ultimately secure.

Reading Mrs. Gaskell the other day (more evidence of First Worldism: having the leisure to enjoy a 19th-century novelist), I wondered how her insight would apply to the specter of Donald Trump—because in the United States right now, it seems everything has to be measured in DTs.

Is it the lost sense of security that drives so many white working-class Americans toward The Donald’s blustering fraudulence? That’s what the standard analysis suggests.

Or, I wonder, is it just that so many don’t give a shit anymore? They don’t care if he tosses insults like a fifth grader, offends allies or even starts a new war. It’s time for revenge on the elites, folks—meaning those people who’ve been running things while the rest of us watch sit-coms and football. The elites deserve whatever mockery the Donald can dish out, the more vulgar the better.

And if this means a great sorrow is bearing down on us all, so what? We’ll go down in a blaze of glory—that is, a flaming spew of intolerance, ignorance and spite. It’ll be fun! Like Armageddon. Like The Hunger Games. Time to die, everyone!

Is it possible to have a national death wish?

I think it is.

 

*The quote is from Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, A Dark Night’s Work (1863), Chap. 4.

5 Responses to “Armageddon, Anyone?”


  1. It’ll be fun! Wasn’t Weimar Germany fun too?

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    • Sam Gridley Says:

      I was thinking about Weimar German psychology and presuming it was similar in some ways. But my knowledge of that era is limited, and I didn’t want to include the H- word, which has been overused of late, though it may well be appropriate. I’ve also been thinking about earlier demagogues in U.S. history, e.g., Huey Long, and the current right-wing crazies in Europe. Is it an exaggeration to suppose that, at some level of frustration, people just want to blow things up and no longer bother to think about the consequences?

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  2. […] Back in June I surmised that Americans might have, in essence, a national death wish, a desire to just blow up the system out of spite, frustration and boredom. Now Andrew O’Hehir has offered a similar, though more complicated, argument in Salon. “As I see it,” he writes, “Trump is on a suicide mission, acting out a deep-seated national desire for self-destruction that runs alongside America’s more optimistic self-image and interacts with it in unpredictable ways” (my boldface). Definitely worth reading. […]

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  3. […] as I’ve noted in in recent posts about the political landscape, we Americans just like knocking things down and admiring the […]

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  4. […] (An updated version of the printed column is here.) Her take on the election corresponds to what I wrote on June 3 about a national death wish. She talks about “the xenophobia and sexism and hatred and racism Americans either embrace or […]

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