David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Prince. Anton Yelchin. Harper Lee. Muhammad Ali. Gene Wilder. Leonard Cohen. A.A. Gill. And many, many more.
You’ve been busy haven’t you, 2016? You macabre, sadistic, star-stealing little prick of a year, hmmm?
Ignore, for a moment, the relentlessly maudlin, first-world-problems preoccupation with the number of much-loved celebrities who have this year taken a one-way ride on a pale horse. Ignore, if you will, the very real possibility that, statistically speaking, the rate of glitteratus interruptus is not significantly higher this year than it has been in any other. Consider, arguendo, that we are simply more attuned to these comings and goings (well, to these goings, in this case), because we are, unsurprisingly and for better or for worse, more aware and connected via social media than ever before.
Watching the video above, it strikes me that, while jumping on the tear-sodden bandwagon and mourning the passing of our icons (or at least, taking note and liking some post on some feed somewhere), we’re missing the final throes of arguably one of the greatest icons the West has ever known. I’m not referring to common sense; if you ask me, that’s been dead for so long that you can expect to find it bubbling up from the La Brea Tar Pits in short order. I’m referring to America herself, undone at the hands of the supernally greedy and the preternaturally ignorant.
It was the founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who warned some 230 years ago that:
The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.
What we now seem to be witnessing is the prophetic inverse in full sway: undereducated and misinformed citizens voting in sufficient number to enable the ascendancy of a narcissistic fascist who, while initially appealing to, appeasing, and galvanising a broad working-class base, seems bent on trampling the Constitution into the ground, if not personally, then at least by proxy. His Cabinet picks speak volumes in their distaste for or ignorance of the positions to which they have been nominated, and his Senior Counselor, the odious Steve Bannon, is on the record as saying:
Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.
– which is to be expected from someone who learnt about strategy and statecraft from the Lord of the Nazgûl, aka the Witch-King of Angmar.
So Bernie Sanders held a town hall in Wisconsin recently with news network MSNBC, during which he discussed and took questions from a small group of the Trump-supporting educated electorate. Topical as always, one issue that came up (and which is the focus of the video clip) was the matter of healthcare, and social security in general. The argument – as far as I can tell, as there’s something gelatinous about it – seems to be that there’s not enough healthcare and social security, and “we the people” aren’t being listened to, therefore Trump.
Anyone who isn’t deaf (yes yes, poisoning the well) should have a reasonably good grasp of the upper limits of Trump’s verbal expression. In essence, he speaks in sentences of no more than 7 words, consisting of words of no more than two syllables, and is apparently not aware of the existence of subordinate clauses. His anaemic and stunted oratory contrasts dramatically with anyone speaking after him, from the 4th grade and upwards, so it is immensely refreshing to hear Bernie Sanders engage patiently, coherently, and eloquently, breaking down the Trump supporter’s argument for her.
In her defence, I feel some small measure of pity for her. Like most others, I suspect she probably didn’t vote for Trump out of malice or a desire to harm her country, its reputation, or her fellow citizens. She clearly, simply, doesn’t have the faculties to understand her own folly, even when it’s diplomatically dismantled for her and served up hot by the Bern. If you look carefully, you can see her hair waft slightly, as the implication sails over her head.
There exists a system of checks and balances, in theory, but those checks and balances are all technically on (or dominated by) the same team, rendering it near-impotent. To my eyes, the only thing standing between America and potentially irreparable damage is the possibility of a schism within the Republican Party, where old-school conservatives come out in support of an educated, common-sense, pragmatic approach to governing and to the future of the country, even if in support of their own interests. That would almost be preferable to leaving the country in the hands of an unaccountable man-child who wears his petty vindictiveness on his sleeve, and who governs by 140-character edict.
There is some comforting noise occurring currently, to the effect that the forthcoming Electoral College vote could yet stymie Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue pretensions, although it’s something of a Hail Mary pass. We will have to wait and see, and hope for the best. If not, the fear is that we may all be witnessing the passing of giant.