Tag: Donald Trump

With All Due Respect, Fuck Civility

With All Due Respect, Fuck Civility

Occasionally, I make a dreadful life mistake and I read a pundit. I know, disgusting habit. I’m trying to quit, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. (Maybe pundits are lacing their columns with extra nicotine, like Brown and Williamson. Someone should look into that.) And so it was that I read Marc Theissen’s Washington Post column, “America Is On Its Way to Divorce Court“, calling for greater civility toward Republicans who are, at this moment, trying to shred my health insurance so rich people can have more money.

So if you can, disable your gag reflex, and we’ll dive right in.

There is a place for contempt in our public discourse. We should have contempt for a regime in North Korea that brutalized a young American student named Otto Warmbier. We should have contempt for a regime in Syria that uses poison gas to massacre innocent men, women and children. We should have contempt for Islamic State terrorists who behead Americans, burn people alive in cages and systematically rape Yazidi girls.

But we should not have contempt for each other.

Really, Marc? We shouldn’t have contempt for each other? Why not? Do all the others who do nasty things live outside our borders or follow religions that aren’t dominant here? Our current President, just for one, is a serial rapist and con man who ignores crimes committed by our local Nazis. And since those local Nazis are presumably also part of our geographically determined “each other”, we’re not allowed to have contempt for them either?

Yet, we do. Our politics today is descending into a bitter spiral of contempt. And we saw the consequences in the attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress on a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., last week. Back when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in 2011, many on the left were quick to blame conservative political rhetoric — falsely it turned out. But the attack on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his colleagues was politically motivated. The assassin volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called President Trump a “traitor” on social media and, according to witnesses, asked if the players were Republicans before opening fire.

Well, I suppose it would be unfair to bring up the murder of George Tiller (egged on by the now disgraced and ever disgraceful Bill O’Reilly) or the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building, both of which involved plenty of right-wing political motivation. But both-sideism is a boring game, so fine, if it makes you feel better, I don’t like politically motivated violence any more than you do, Marc. Not only is it ethically dubious at best, but on a purely practical level, it usually creates more problems than it solves. (See Marcus Brutus–including the version of him in the play that has the Trump people so pissed off.) Barack Obama expressed it well, “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

See, Marc, the last President covered the only halfway useful message of your column in 138 characters. The Post could have saved column inches by just printing that instead.

Onward.

No one is responsible except the would-be assassin. But his actions should serve as a wake-up call that the demonization of our fellow Americans who disagree with us has gone too far. The culture of contempt permeating our politics has now had near-fatal consequences. We need to put on the brakes and learn how to distinguish once again between our opponents and our enemies.

Oh, Marc, you’ve only just now noticed that politics in this country can be a lethal business. Oh, diddums. You know who’s known this for a long time? Women and pretty much every ethnic, racial, and sexual minority in this country going back to those whom white people enslaved and those whose land white people stole. To take just one example, here’s how Americans expressed their politics just a grandfather ago.

strangefruit

Notice the guy near bottom left corner grinning. This picture of a lynching was taken in 1930. If you hurry and catch someone in a nursing home before the Senate kills their funding, you might find someone who remembers what this was like. My Dad, a black man in New Orleans during this period, lived with the threat every day, which was why he always made it a point to tell me to be careful every time I went outside.

Many of us have been aware of the difference between opponents and enemies for some time, long enough to know that the difference between them is often so fine as to become invisible.

Case in point: A few weeks before the Alexandria shooting, Hillary Clinton gave a commencement speech at Wellesley College where she declared that Trump’s budget is “an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest” (emphasis added). No, it is not. Using nerve agent on the innocent is “an attack of unimaginable cruelty.” Putting a hapless college student into a coma is an “attack of unimaginable cruelty.” Reducing the growth of government spending is not.

I have a pretty dark imagination, so I consider both of these deeds attacks of perfectly imaginable cruelty. But whether you’re killed through government action or through deliberate government neglect (“Reducing the growth of government spending” is French for neglecting the vulnerable), you’re equally dead.

Think for a moment what Clinton was saying: It’s not simply that Democrats and Republicans have an honest disagreement about how best to help the most vulnerable among us. In Clinton’s telling, Republicans are waging war on the vulnerable. That is toxic.

No. We’re not having an honest disagreement at the moment. If we were, Republicans would own up to not really wanting to help the most vulnerable. That would be contemptible on its own, but would have virtue of honesty. Instead, Republicans pretend that $800 billion in Medicaid cuts aren’t cuts, and that health care access and affordable and worthwhile health insurance are the same things. Republicans have been lying about this issue, among others, for years, to promulgate plans that do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. That’s what’s toxic, Marc. It’s exhausting to be lied to, especially when the lies are meant to cover deliberate harm.

No doubt, Trump has contributed mightily to our descent into the culture of contempt. (For example, the media is not the “enemy of the American people,” Mr. President). But since Trump’s election, the scope and scale of political contempt on the left have reached unprecedented heights. Just a few months ago, when President Barack Obama was in office, it would have been unimaginable for a comedian to proudly pose for a photo holding up the president’s bloody, severed head.

You keep using that word “unimaginable”, Marc. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

That aside, you don’t seem to get that these two things are not equivalent. Kathy Griffin did something in bad taste. (Not that we need taste lectures from the people who elected Donald Trump.) She got her share of shit for it. Done. Trump, by quite stark contrast, isn’t just in bad taste. He was a year ago, but he’s President now. When he declares the press an “enemy of the people”, he’s actually threatening freedom of the press. When he bombards the nation with daily and often hourly doses of lies, it corrodes the trust that citizens and allies have in every pronouncement of our government. The damage Trump can do with a single idiotic tweet is now catastrophic, and it’s hard to live in this country day by day knowing that. That you can live with it so easily says things about you that are less than flattering, Marc.

Worst of all, we are in the process of cementing these attitudes in the next generation. On college campuses, students are being taught that it is acceptable to treat with contempt those with different ideas. We saw this phenomenon on display when Charles Murray — a distinguished conservative scholar — was shouted down and assaulted at Middlebury College in a riot that sent a professor to the hospital. Not a single student suffered any real consequences. Similar incidents are taking place on campuses across the country. Young Americans are learning that people they disagree with are not to be listened to respectfully and debated; they are to be silenced and driven out of the public square.

Again, fine, it’s awful Charles Murray and the professor interviewing him were assaulted. Violence isn’t the answer to Murray. The answer to Murray is to note that his views have already been debunked, repeat the reasons why they’ve been debunked, point out that his “different ideas” function merely to give apparent verbal and statistical solidity to what is purely racist wind, and treat him henceforth the way we’d treat a creationist or a 9/11 truther.

That said, sadly, Charles Murray remains firmly in the public square, receiving far more respect than he deserves. The same is true of Ann Coulter and even Milo Y. As long as there are right-wing audiences who either enjoy what these figures say or love how they piss off liberals, they’ll never lack for a platform or a dinner invitation.

This is not to suggest that there is no role for righteous anger in political discourse. Conservatives felt anger about many of Obama’s policies, and liberals have every right to be angry about Trump’s policies they find objectionable. And they have every right to fight like hell to stop them.

But it wasn’t so long ago that, despite bitter differences over policies, Republicans and Democrats still found ways to work together. President Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress worked together to pass NAFTA and welfare reform. George W. Bush and congressional Democrats cooperated to pass tax cuts and education reform. Today, that kind of cooperation is unimaginable.

Marc, I’m beginning to suspect you have no imagination at all. Russia sanctions recently passed the U.S. Senate 97-2, so I gather working together across the aisle on the Hill does occasionally happen.

As for the rest, oh, thank you. You’ll allow me to be angry then? That’s right neighborly of you. Are there any other emotions I’m allowed to have, Marc? I’ll be sure to wait until I get word from you before I feel any of them.

And the reason is simple: When anger transforms into contempt, permanent damage takes place. As American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks points out, a marriage can recover from anger. But when couples become contemptuous of each other, they will almost certainly end up in divorce court. That is where our country is headed today.

At least we reach the absurd heart of Theissen’s column. Citizenship is not analogous to a marriage. Marriage requires a level of trust and intimacy far beyond that of any other social relationship. All I require of my fellow citizens is that they follow the same laws I do, signal before they change lanes, and refrain from farting in elevators (you fuckers know who you are). I don’t have to trust them beyond that–and don’t, or there’d be no need for laws. If they do shitty, stupid things, I can think they’re shitty, stupid people. If they do shitty things that hurt me, I can be intensely pissed at them. In this, citizenship of a nation less like marriage and more like having a college roommate in the days when colleges didn’t care much who they stuck you in a dorm room with. You try to get along, but in the end, you may be stuck with someone who teaches you, by puking all over your lab notes, the pleasures of solitude. Your goal is to make it through the year without killing each other, and you might make it, but contempt is definitely going to be felt.

Liberals need to understand: When they show contempt for Trump, they are expressing contempt for the millions of Americans who voted for him — including millions who twice voted for Obama. These Americans felt that the establishments of both parties were ignoring them and wanted to send Washington a message. The response they are receiving could not be clearer: We have contempt for the man you elected, and we have contempt for all of you who put him into office. They will never forget it.

We need to pull back from this spiral of contempt before it is too late. North Korea is our enemy. Our fellow Americans who disagree with us are not. It’s time we learn the difference — before someone gets killed.

know I feel contempt for the millions of Americans who voted for Trump, including those who voted twice for Obama. You’ve got to be a special kind of dipshit to have been an Obama/Trump voter. “I know who I want next: someone who’ll crap on everything the guy I voted for twice did.”

And I won’t forget it either. There are things I consider unforgivable. Voting for Trump is one of them. If you did that, may your hair get cowlicks right before a big job interview. May every peach you eat from this day on be mealy. May you get run over by a Bentley purchased with money that could have gone to your health insurance, you shitty, racist fuck.

Oh, and Marc, not to belabor this, but people have been killed, just not the people you care enough to write columns about. By an extraordinary coincidence, they’re the people Trump, for whom I’m not allowed to feel contempt, declared open season on.

Well, fuck you, Marc. I feel contempt for Trump and for the perpetrators. I consider them my enemy, a deadlier enemy than North Korea is likely to be for me. You don’t, because you’re confident they’re not coming after you and yours. I get that. I have contempt for that too, but I don’t consider it unimaginable. I get it.

 

Mugs and Suckers

Last year, much to my surprise, Donald Trump, in all his appalling ignorance, taught me what may be the most important lesson I could’ve learned in 2016. You see, throughout that campaign, I took it as read that Trump could never be elected President because he was such an obvious con artist. No way, I thought, could a guy who’s basically a gold plated Angel Martin from The Rockford Files ever get to 50%+1. There just aren’t enough stupid people in the United States to make that happen. After the November 8th horror, I had to rethink this, and I remembered something crucial.

The success of a scam depends not on the skill of the grifter but on the greed and fear of the marks.

This is what con artists will tell you about their victims, that there’s no way they could have stung them if they weren’t consumed with some combination of avarice and paranoia. Greed and fear are extraordinary motivators, and the person who can manipulate them, however crudely, can take power others. He can get them to invest in fake companies. He can get them to buy worthless information. He can get them to vote for him for President.

Now I and 65 million others weren’t taken in by Trump’s con, and I while I think that’s to our credit, I don’t think it’s because we’re significantly smarter than Trump voters. Instead, I think it’s because our fears and desires don’t match up with Trump’s pitch at all. I don’t fear or hate immigrants, refugees, liberals, or racial minorities. I’m not afraid of women. I’m not worried about someone shipping my job overseas. I’m not aching for an upper-class tax cut or the deregulation of my business. I don’t worry that my health insurance premiums are too high. I don’t worry about someone taking my guns. I don’t see myself as a temporarily embarrassed rich person who’d get my villa and Maserati if only Washington bureaucrats would get out of my way. I’m not a fundamentalist Christian who can’t handle gays getting married or women getting their contraception paid for by their health insurance. Trump could pitch at me all day and get nothing back but my hostility.

But Trump’s voters are afflicted by at least some, if not all, of those fears and desires. They feel them in different combinations and different levels of intensity, but as long as Trump hit on each of these in turn, any given Trump voters could rationalize supporting him. Hey, I may not like the racism, but he sounds like he’s really going to stick it to those Washington bureaucrats and get me my Maserati. Or You know, the whole immigrant thing bothers me, but I don’t think he’ll really hurt them, and I really want a Supreme Court justice who’ll make women carry babies to term. Or Maybe I don’t need that upper class tax cut, but I love how he puts blacks in their place and drives the liberals crazy.

Sadly, the people with the most reasonable fears, those afraid of losing their jobs to automation or overseas competition and those sweating their health insurance premiums, are the ones Trump’ll sting the hardest. Even if he cared about helping them–and since he was hoping to sign a bill that would strip them of their health care entirely, it’s obvious he doesn’t–he has no clue what to do for them. Trump’s a thief, not an economist or public policy expert. They’d have better odds of getting their share of a Nigerian Prince’s fortune. The people driven by pure greed or fear, greed for upper class tax cuts, fear of women or minorities, will probably get something to make them happy. Trump’s a con man, but he’s a genuine bigot and misogynist, and he’ll endorse any scheme that inflicts pain on those that he hates or that makes them pay his taxes for him.

The depressing part of this is that it’ll be nigh impossible to argue Trump supporters out of their choice. Since most people find nothing more embarrassing than admitting they’ve been had, they’ll instead concoct elaborate rationalizations to explain away Trump’s behavior. They’ll try to shift responsibility by saying they wouldn’t have voted for Trump if coastal elites weren’t always calling them bigots. (So you voted for a bigot just to prove you’re not a bigot? I guess you showed me.) The more time they’ve put in to supporting Trump, the harder they’ll be to talk out of it. And the smarter Trump supporters will be hardest of all because smart people build better rationalizations. However much he hurts them, most of them will stick with him. This doesn’t owe to any special talent on Trump’s part, but rather his supporters terrible willingness to suspend their disbelief.

For a bit more context on this, here’s Laurence Rees on Hitler, describing a similar dynamic between Hitler and his followers.

Can’t You Trump Voters Just Own It, Already?

Trump voters are sad that people are mad at their support for the Orange Menace. From the New York Times:

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”

Others claim that they’ve been denied dates or that the sight of protests upsets them. It’s enough to make you weep, I know. If I weren’t in a cold sweat about families being broken up by deportation squads or my own health insurance going into the shredder, I might spare a thought for their woes.

But you know what really frosts my shorts, Trump voters? This “I didn’t choose a side” garbage.

You fucking well did, and you know it.

For irony’s sake, I’m going to drag out a shopworn phrase from your side of the political divide: “personal responsibility”. You have agency in life, my orange-president-cult worshipping friends. You voted for a racist, sexist criminal fraud because you wanted to vote for a racist, sexist criminal fraud. You looked at Trump in all his cartoonish awfulness, assessed him, and concluded he was preferable to a dedicated center-left public servant. Your choice. You weren’t duped by him. You sure as hell weren’t forced by us.

But it is interesting that the reaction of others to your vote distresses you so. If, a few years ago, I said on Twitter that I voted for Obama and some troll said something nasty about it, I blocked the motherfucker and went on with my life. It didn’t bother me that I’d annoyed him. It didn’t make me happy either. My vote wasn’t about him. I was comfortable with my choice and didn’t give a damn what he or anyone else thought of it. I’m tempted to think of your comparative angst and shame as a sign of consciousness of guilt. You know who feels consciousness of guilt? The guilty.

So, Trump voters who feel shitty right now, own up. You voted for Trump not because of the media, or your annoying liberal Facebook friend, or that person on Tinder who sees you in your Make America Great Again hat and swipes left. You voted for him because you wanted to. And maybe you now feel some guilt about it because you know he’s going to hurt a lot of people and that suffering is partly your doing. But if you keep supporting him, you’re reaffirming that you’re fine with families being torn apart and people dying sooner or going broke because they lack health insurance. If that’s the case, don’t blame Meryl Streep, or CNN, or me because your friends and neighbors look at your choices and decide they mean you’re an asshole.

I Understand You

lizza-trump-theories-1200Hey, you. White dude with the red cap. You with the gun rack in your pickup’s rear window. You who live in a white rural town where people are real and eat real food and have real values and go to real churches.

I understand you.

You think I don’t, but I do.

What? Did you think I was born in a city? Well, actually you’re right. I was. I was born in Santa Monica, CA. But I didn’t stay there long. I’ve lived in Ohio. I’ve lived in Texas. I spent six years of my life in rural Utah, and there’s a good chance my town was smaller and whiter than yours.

I understand you.

It’s not hard. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that deep.

I know that people of color in your towns have to be careful how they act, lest they eat your shit. The only reason I got a pass was that I was passing. My skin is light enough that people didn’t know, right away, that I was “a n—–.” (They’d have felt no embarrassment at spelling out the slur.) I know that gays and lesbians have to hide who they are to avoid your violence. I know how religion binds your communities, because I saw, from the outside looking in, how it bound mine.

I know the stories you use to explain your lives to yourselves. I know you see yourselves as standing in a line. It’s a long line. At the front are the rich people, and you think that if you stay in the line, don’t ask for too much, and behave yourselves, the rich people at the front will one day shower you with riches and all will be happy. You don’t question why there has to be a line, or why you’re the one standing in it. As long as the rich people at the front pass down an occasional treat, it’s a sign of their goodwill. And as long as the darker people are behind you, which they deserve because they’re more unruly and impatient than you, and don’t talk English as good as you talk it, all is right and just.

This is the story your ancestors used to explain slavery to themselves. Most of the more southerly of them didn’t own slaves, but they hoped if they stood in line, one day they could. Later, under our nation’s 100 post-civil-war years of legal apartheid, your grandparents could still tell themselves that no matter how bad off they were, they were better than the “n——“. They could vote, get the front seat on the bus, and ogle a white girl’s ass without dying for it. And if any “n—–” tried to get in line in front of them, there were hoods to wear, crosses to burn, and branches suitable for nooses.

When this system of apartheid was dismantled, suddenly people wouldn’t let your parents, or you, use the word “n—–” anymore. You got yelled at for it, and that hurt, partly because feeling guilty hurts, but partly because that meant that the darker people had moved up in line a little. Soon, black people were on TV and in movies and ads. They played sports. They were cops and lawyers and business executives. Black bodies were closing in on your position in line. Some were ahead. And what’s more, it looked like some of your fellow pale people, ones who lived in cities and always made fun of you, were helping them cut in front!

Yeah, I think I understand you.

Then along came a black President, with a foreign, black name. He never could have been in line. Now he’s at the front of it! How can that be fair? The treats were supposed to come to you first! And when he sends something down the line to you, bails out your auto industry, stabilizes the banks, gets you health care, you’re bewildered. Where does that–you won’t say the word because you’re not racist–get off trying to help you? And why isn’t he doing more? And why is he also helping those other people you don’t like: the gays and lesbians and Mexicans and Asians who don’t live in your town because…well…any one of them who tries gets the message? Now you’re pissed off. And now those fancy types are telling you you’re racist and sexist because you’re angry about all the non-white, non-male people ahead of you. You’re not mad because you hate them. You don’t hate. You’re mad because people of color and women don’t deserve those spots. The rich people promised your grandpappy.

I understand you.

You never got mad at the rich guys or their promises, even though they’re made of lies. You’ll never get that they told your grandpappy to stand in line because they feared he might revolt and then died laughing when the poor sap fell for it. You’ll never ask why your grandpappy, or your pappy, or you, never made common cause with the people of color to take what the rich man was denying all of you. Instead, you’ll let the rich guys pollute your land, air, and water if it means a job. And you’ll elect the smiling toady the rich man asks you to vote for so he can go to Washington and make sure that no uppity people ever try to give you health care, education programs, housing assistance, or the right to form a union. Why would you want those things? The rich guys at the front of the line will be passing down a treat for you anytime now. Anytime.

I understand you.

At last, one day, the rich guys stopped passing their treats down to you. They took your factories away and left you. And that confused you. Where’d the line go? Where’s your shower of riches? They couldn’t have been fibbing all along, could they? No. It must be the fault of those liberals in Washington. They regulated them too much. They drove them away. They’ll pay for that, them and the city slickers in Hollywood who make jokes at your expense and sip lattes and drive nice cars and know Jews. (Not that you’re antisemitic. Why would we think that?)

Idiots. You think voting for Trump upset the elites in Washington? They’ll adapt. They have money, influence, and time. They’ll be here long after Trump’s gone to Orange, Rapist, Con-Man Heaven. You may think by electing Trump you threw a brick at Washington Elites, but you hit poor people, the elderly, the vulnerable, and yourselves. After four years of Trump, your pockets will be emptier, and his fuller. Your towns will still be sucky and poor, and you’ll still be sad, paranoid, and angry. But maybe, if you’re good, Trump’ll send you some of those Trump Steaks. That should tide you over, because now that he’s at the front of the line,  the wait for the shower of goodies can’t be much longer. You’re so close. Right?

Yeah, I understand you.

 

Requiem

“There are times when I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.” –Colonel Dax Paths of Glory

I am in a state of utter desolation. My country has done something I didn’t believe it had it in itself to do. Something broke tonight, and broken things are hard to mend, if we’ll even still have the will to mend them. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.

I can’t excuse it by saying the country was desperate. It had no cause to feel desperate. Its pathologies, now embodied in its likely President-Elect, are ancient, yes, but they have no relationship to understandable, common, rational reality. They’ve just festered here, an ugly undergrowth of what we’ve hoped was a worthwhile civilization, and we’ve allowed them to become very dangerous.

I don’t know where we go from here. Many will suffer real and great harm, and it saddens me to think that the winners of this election will take joy in its infliction, all to sate a rage that comes from…what? A President who tried to get them health care?

I don’t know who or what we are anymore, or if enough of us care enough to even bother to try to make sense again. I fear the damage we’ll do to ourselves and to the world in this state. Countries that give themselves over this this kind of raging, paranoid, sexist, racist nationalism seldom come to happy ends. I know. I wrote a book about one.

Comfort? I have none to offer. I’d like some if anyone has some. The best I can offer are a couple of poems to take you into the dark night.

Watching The Shining In the Time of Trump

Watching The Shining In the Time of Trump

This evening, thanks to TCM and Lincoln Square Cinemas, I caught The Shining on the big screen for the first time. Though I’ve seen the picture dozens of times over the years, seeing it in a theater gave me a new appreciation for the impact of the steadicam, and just how frightening Jack Nicholson can be when his face is twenty feet tall.

I also thought about how I see this movie in the age of Trump. I won’t do a lengthy close reading. I’ll just lay out the film’s story as it seemed to me tonight, my head full of the themes and tropes of Election 2016.

A middle aged white guy with a wife and kid goes for a job interview at a hotel that caters to the 1%. He hopes very much to fit in and be a part of the hierarchy of the place, even though the job they offer him, winter caretaker, is pretty low. His alcoholism has led him to abuse his family in the past. He’s given up the bottle, but he resents the guilt that his wife and son make him feel for his past violence.

A month into this man’s job at the hotel, his wife ends up doing all his work to support him while he wrestles with his writer’s block. His son is seeing visions of terrible things in the hotel, but his supernatural guide assures him these things aren’t real. The man is also seeing visions, but lacking a guide to explain the situation to him, he takes them to be genuine, and he likes them because they appear to put him in positions of power. He loves the hotel, he tells his son, and wishes they could stay there “forever, and ever, and ever”.

Eventually, the man’s son succumbs to his curiosity about the forbidden room 237, and one of the visions attacks him. He escapes but is traumatized. The man’s wife accuses him of abusing their son again–a logical deduction. The man, enraged not only at being accused of something he didn’t do but at being reminded of his guilt for things he did do, heads to the hotel bar, where a phantom waiter invites him to drink. The man doesn’t question the phantom because he’s giving him what he wants, and under the influence of imaginary alcohol, he pours out his hatred of the mother of his child and lays claim to having to bear the “white man’s burden”. This vision is interrupted by the man’s wife, who comes to tell him that there’s a “crazy woman in one of the bedrooms”.

In the meantime, the son sends a black man the visions of his father entering Room 237. At first, the man’s vision is one of a Penthouse Letters-style male fantasy: he walks in on an attractive woman in a tub. She gets out of the tub, gives him a come-hither look, and they kiss. Only when the man looks in the mirror does the man see he’s kissing a rotting corpse.

The man flees the vision, but lies to his wife about it. When the wife suggests that they need to get their traumatized son away from the hotel, the man, sensing that his connection to the hotel and its power structure is threatened, berates her, storms from the room, and winds up in the ballroom at a lavish white-tie-and-tails party, a party where he appears to be a welcome guest.

A butler spills drinks on him, and in the bathroom, while cleaning him up, tells him that his son has been in touch with “a nigger” who threatens to disrupt the unfolding situation. The butler also explains that he’s “always” been the hotel’s caretakers, and that the butler has also “always” been here. This suggests the prize the hotel offers to the man, a paradise in which the past is permanent, white male supremacy is forever assured, and guilt over abuses to family members is erased under the euphemism of “correcting” them. The price of admission to this nostalgic paradise: the violent deaths of the man’s wife and son.

And so, the man decides to cut the hotel off from outside aid. When his wife comes to question him, he tries to kill her, but she hits him in the head and locks him up. The specters of the hotel taunt the man with the idea that his wife might be cleverer and more resourceful than he, which is sufficient to drive him to his final, murderous rampage. He finds an axe, uses it to chop through the locked doors to his family’s quarters, and pauses only because the African American cook’s snow cat pulls up to the front of the hotel. The man stalks the cook through the hotel, ambushes him, and kills him. The man’s son screams, starting a chase that leads out into the hotel’s hedge maze. The son outwits his father, escapes the maze, and joins his mother. The son and the mother escape as the man freezes in the maze, screaming “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE”. The man freezes to death, only to reappear, possibly in evidence of his rebirth, in a photograph of the hotel’s 1921 July 4th party, where he stands forever, in a jacket and tie, among “all the best people”.

I see the man of our story, Jack Torrance, as a Trump supporter. The spirit of the Overlook Hotel is Trump, a gilded fraud dangling booze, naked chicks, and phony promises of restoring a white male supremacist past to someone whose life circumstances make him a sucker for nostalgia. Jack hates the idea that anyone, much less a woman or a child, should make him feel guilty for his past abuses and longs to be in an environment free of that. The past, when men supposedly dominated and even “corrected” their families without need of explanation or apology, offers that environment. He’s a powerless man who wants to be connected to the power structure, to feel like he has a chance to move up in it by dint of his “work” and “moral or ethical principles”. This is the promise the rich have been dangling to the middle class and poor forever, without delivering. And Jack rages when the needs or actions of others (particularly women or people of color) threaten his shot at advancement. For Jack, the hotel is salvation. He believes in it fanatically, and if a blood sacrifice must be made to it to grant him his salvation, there’s nothing he looks forward to with greater pleasure.

Wendy, Danny, Dick Halloran are just struggling to either bring Jack to his senses or contain the damage he does to himself, mainly because they want to keep breathing, but also because the past the Overlook shows them, however attractive to Jack, holds no charms for them. Certainly none worth taking an axe in the chest for. Dick Halloran is unlucky, but Wendy and Danny survive and get what Jack will never have, and probably never wanted: a future.