Of Mice and Trumpers
Of Mice and Trumpers
Over the past few days, we’ve seen more than a few essays about the sad and pathetic Trumpers, who are so unmoored from reality that they all should probably just be put down, in as kind and merciful a way as possible. Many of these essays have been written by the Trumpers’ fellow conservatives – their friends, comrades, former colleagues, who had the sad, tragic responsibility of doing what real friends do. As their friend Slim, told ‘em, “they just hadda!”:
Lennie removed his hat dutifully and laid it on the ground in front of him. The shadow in the valley was bluer, and the evening came fast. On the wind the sound of crashing in the brush came to them.
Lennie said, “Tell how it’s gonna be.”
George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he was businesslike. “Look acrost the river, Lennie, an’ I’ll tell you so you can almost see it.”
Lennie turned his head and looked off across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Gabilans. “We gonna get a little place,” George began. He reached in his side pocket and brought out Carlson’s Luger; he snapped off the safety, and the hand and gun lay on the ground behind Lennie’s back. He looked at the back of Lennie’s head, at the place where the spine and skull were joined.
A man’s voice called from up the river, and another man answered.
“Go on,” said Lennie.
George raised the gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again.
“Go on,” said Lennie. “How’s it gonna be. We gonna get a little place.”
“We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens.
. . . an’ down the flat we’ll have a . . . . little piece alfalfa—”
“For the rabbits,” Lennie shouted.
“For the rabbits,” George repeated.
“And I get to tend the rabbits.”
“An’ you get to tend the rabbits.”
Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live on the fatta the lan’.”
Lennie turned his head.
“No, Lennie. Look down there acrost the river, like you can almost see the place.”
Lennie obeyed him. George looked down at the gun.
There were crashing footsteps in the brush now. George turned and looked toward them.
“Go on, George. When we gonna do it?”
“Gonna do it soon.”
“Me an’ you.”
“You . . . . an’ me. Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em.” Lennie said, “I thought you was mad at me, George.”
“No,” said George. “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.”
The voices came close now. George raised the gun and listened to the voices. Lennie begged, “Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”
And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again. Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand, and he lay without quivering.
In all seriousness, the “Trumpers vs. Reality” genre has exploded in the wake of the riot on Capitol Hill, and a few examples of the variety have even been helpful and clarifying. As is often the case, perhaps the most thoughtful such piece comes from Yuval Levin, who out it as follows, writing at The Dispatch:
Like so much of what Trump has wrought, the attack on the Capitol had the feel of fiction, and even many of the people involved seemed to be playing out a fantasy in their heads, living in a world in which sinister forces had stolen the election from their lion-hearted hero and they had come to set things straight by a show of strength. It’s all a lie, every part of it, yet the actions taken by the crowd were very real, and very dangerous.
There has always been something of this unreality about Trump’s behavior in the presidency. From the very beginning, it has seemed that Trump almost fully inhabits a boorish, narcissistic psychodrama playing in his head. Through the power of his personality and celebrity, he has been able to draw others into that fantasy world for decades, and through the power of the presidency he has now been able to project it onto the real world and draw yet more followers into it.
Over at his perch at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher, also questioned the Trump fans’ connection to reality, although from a slightly different angle:
[I]n the past few days I am realizing that I did not know how far the Trump cult had gone into conquering the minds of its adherents. I mentioned that over the weekend, I spoke with a friend who completely believes that the MAGA riot on Capitol Hill was actually an Antifa operation, and, of course, that Trump obviously won the election in a landslide. Nothing anyone can say can falsify what this friend believes….
They have given themselves over to an ideology that seeks to define and control reality. Wokeness is the same kind of thing. As a conservative, and as a more or less normal person, I no more want to be ruled by QAnon/MAGA loonies than I want to be ruled by the Woke. But you see the totalitarian temptation on both sides.
Both of these assessments are, we think, reasonably accurate, but both also miss the bigger picture. In Levin’s case, what he has identified here is the same phenomenon that we’ve discussed several times over the last few years, most recently in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot and killed a man during the Kenosha, Wisconsin protests this fall. In our post-modern, post-meaning age, man is beset by doubt, fear, and loneliness, and is driven to recapture what he sees as the purpose of life, often crafting for himself a new reality in which he can be both heroic and happy. Or, as we put it one of our pieces on Rittenhouse:
We’ve spent the last several days (and weeks) pointing out the general dumbassery of the tedious white LARPers who make up the majority of the “Black Lives Matter” protesters in various cities and towns across the country. (And for those of you who may not know, LARP = Live Action Role Play; and LARPers are people who dress up in costumes to act out scenarios from their favorite movies, genres, or general fantasies). These “woke” kids and their allies are classic sufferers of White Savior Complex, believing that it’s their absolute obligation, as beneficiaries of white privilege, to dress up and play-act as revolutionaries who are determined to save their black “allies” by aggressively and relentlessly attacking less-enlightened white people.
Unfortunately, the LARPers to the Left of us are no longer the only LARPers in the game. There are LARPers to the Right of us as well – meaning that here we are, stuck in the middle with you. Given this, it’s only fair today that we talk a little about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old from Illinois who has been charged with the shootings of three men and the deaths of two of those men during a protest last week in Kenosha, Wisconsin….
We want to be careful about how we say this: We don’t think it’s fair to speculate about who or what Rittenhouse may or may not have become if he hadn’t gone to Kenosha. Moreover, there are tens of thousands of young men in this country right now, who are in precisely the same circumstances as Rittenhouse, who will nonetheless grow up to be perfectly normal, well-adjusted, happy members of society. ALL OF THAT SAID, if you were to construct a profile on a “typical” spree or school shooter, among the characteristics included would be social isolation; trouble/failure in school; a victim of bullying; fascination with weapons; recent serious setback in life/career/future plans; and raised in a home where his biological father was not present, etc.
Again, this is NOT to say that Rittenhouse would have become a spree shooter. But it is to say that he shares many notable familial and social characteristics with spree shooters – as well as with Western jihadis, and, frankly, the white-savior protesters whom he shot. They had guns too, recall. And they too were out fighting for or protecting that which they think is important – or at least what they want other people to think they think is important….
Kyle Rittenhouse’s entire identity, his entire sense of self was wrapped up in the idea that police forces exist exclusively to “protect and serve,” and that as a hopeful future police officer, he had a duty to protect and serve as well – even to protect and serve real-life police officers. He went to Kenosha to be a hero, to defend property, to defend the police, to stand up for what is right.
As we say, the thing that distinguishes Rittenhouse from those whom he shot is not his propensity for violence, not his feelings of helplessness and disillusion, and certainly not his desire to be a great warrior and noble servant in the battle for what is good and right and true. No, the only thing that distinguishes him from the protesters/rioters/looters is the way in which he defines what is good and right and true. He and they are two sides of the same coin – the same sad, nihilistic, hopeless, loveless, despairing coin.
What this tells us is that there is little chance, under present circumstances, that the violence that plagues our country is going to end any time soon. When this particular fire has burned itself out, we will move on to the next one and then the next one after that. And in the periods between fires, there will be spree shootings, and mass murder, and religious radicalization, and heaven knows what else.
As for Dreher’s analysis, he too hits on a theme we have discussed often over the years, namely the fact that the entire intellectual, social, and political zeitgeist of the last seventy-five years or so has centered on the destabilization of the erstwhile inarguable idea that “objective” reality both exists and is understood intuitively. The postmodernists, the critical-theorists, the indentitarians, and even the pragmatists have all insisted that objective reality is an artificial construct created by the dominant cultural players (the in-group) to maintain and amass power and thus to deny the out-group its rightful place in society. Each of these intellectual creeds offers a different means by which to overcome the in-group and its entrenched power, but each begins with the same basic premise that what we see and understand as reality is actually the manipulation of the truth by the cultural hegemons.
We could, we suppose, throw a few quotes at you, from our previous writing and, more importantly, from people who are much smarter than we are and who understand these ideas more thoroughly. But today, we’ll spare you, figuring you get the point. The ENTIRE post-war period in the West has been dominated by these intellectual streams, which are now not merely pervasive in American culture, but are, in fact, the dominant schools of thought in American education, higher education especially.
Our point here, we suppose, is that while Dreher and Levin are both right to be concerned about the construction of alternate realities by diehard Trumpers, they should hardly be surprised. And nor should they expect that there will be a remedy for any of this any time soon. Levin writes that “A recovery of responsibility, broadly understood, is called for in many arenas of American life. But putting Trumpism behind us would certainly be a start.” HMMMMMM….maybe. We don’t know if that’s the case or not, but we suspect that if it is a start, it would be a very small one. An entire revamping of the culture is more likely what is required, a retaking of the institutions by which culture is transferred from one generation to the next and a commitment to identify and practice the virtues that, at one point, created and enabled a national ethos, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Until then, we can expect the creation of alternative realities to continue and for men and women of parties, all ideologies, all walks of life to resort to violence to establish their reality as dominant.