The jellyfish of August

Donald J. Trump is a grotesque figure and utterly transparent. It’s obvious he believes in nothing and so he’s also completely translucent. There are no interior details to examine. His identity is whatever he attaches himself to today, whatever he wants to be at this moment, whatever suits his immediate needs or desires. He changes form that easily. It’s disturbing. He must be a deeply wounded person and could benefit from years of professional psychological help. At seventy years of age though, he’s running out of time. And so are we. And so is the United States and the world. Seven months into his term and it’s only going to get worse. We’re nowhere near bottom. I suspect we’ll see a campaign-style rally for the president very soon, to boost his fragile, fractured ego, and then a full-on foreign war this fall. The upcoming rally will be held at an Air Force base or on an Evangelical college campus. Once again, as in mid 2016, a gleeful crowd will cheer his name and chant his slogans. This president after all needs to be told constantly that he’s wonderful. He wants to be adored. And he wants more than anything for the press to love him unconditionally. They won’t, so he despises them. He ran for office on an open racism rather than the usual dog-whistle politics. This should’ve got him voted out in the primaries. Instead he won the Oval Office after a general election in which nothing of substance was discussed and during which he faced a candidate who was hated almost as much as he was. He continues to campaign to this day, even though he’s held the presidency since January and was elected nearly a year ago. That campaigning includes what we saw yesterday: an American president again equivocating on neo-Nazis and racial violence. It’s truly astounding. What’s more astounding to me, though, is the silence, in many quarters, of those Americans on the right and center-right who should know better. If a person cannot speak up against Trump now because he or she is somehow lashed to Fox News or the GOP, then there’s no point to thinking anymore. Hand in your brain. Turn yourself inside out. You’ve become translucent like Trump and the jellyfish of August. You have no interior details left to examine.

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Who doubts G.E.?

Compare our monastery and the General Electric plant in Louisville. Which one is the more serious and more ‘religious’ institution? One might be tempted to say ‘the monastery,’ out of sheer habit. But, in fact, the religious seriousness of the monastery is like sandlot baseball compared with the big-league seriousness of General Electric. It may in fact occur to many, including the monks, to doubt the monastery and what it represents. Who doubts G.E.?”

The year 2015 is the centennial of Thomas Merton’s birth. Above is another quote from Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Today he might have written instead, “Who doubts Google?” Or: “Who doubts Facebook?” Or started the paragraph:

Compare our monastery and the Apple store in Louisville…the religious seriousness of the monastery is like no-contact peewee football compared with the NFL seriousness of Cupertino….

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Politics, American-style

Quote

On days like this I’ll recall Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer:

“Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upsidedown: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.

“Down I plunk myself with a liberal weekly at one of the massive tables, read it from cover to cover, nodding to myself whenever the writer scores a point. Damn right, old son, I say, jerking my chair in approval. Pour it on them. Then up and over to the rack for a conservative monthly and down in a fresh cool chair to join the counterattack. Oh ho, say I, and hold fast to the chair arm: that one did it: eviscerated! And then out and away into the sunlight, my neck prickling with satisfaction.”

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