Let me speak, then (draft)

[Just going to leave this mess here so I don’t forget how I felt the day Donald Trump was elected President of the USA.]

“Let me speak then, to find some relief;
            I must open my lips and reply.(Job 32:20)

I mustered the will to go class today because I figured not going to class would be some sort of capitulation.  Plus the moment I woke up this morning I felt submerged in a cold wave of anxiety, like I’d just slept through a final exam or something.

I feel apocalyptic. Or maybe, as Tim Morton has argued, the apocalypse already happened a long time ago. And this is just another symptom, another spasm of it. We must write these things down so we don’t forget what this felt like, once this awful new world gets normalized, and we accept this new absurd. For the first time in my life I keep hearing lines from the bible:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2.)

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.” (Chapter 1, Loomings)

“For be a (wo)man’s intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that forever keeps God’s true princes of the Empire from the world’s hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency. But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralisation. Nor will the tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hint, incidentally so important in his art, as the one now alluded to.” (Chapter 33, ‘The Specksynder’)

“Hark ye yet again—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.”

Kubler Ross model

  1. Denial – The first reaction is denial. In this stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.
  2. Anger – When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated, especially at proximate individuals. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”.
  3. Bargaining – The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise.
  4. Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
    During the fourth stage, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.
  5. Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
    In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. People dying may precede the survivors in this state, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable condition of emotions.

The fifth of November passed just a few days ago, and to celebrate, I watched V for Vendetta with some of my students. I hadn’t intended for the lesson of that film to be so imminently topical.

America just voted, in mass, to not just let people die, but also to kill them.

I forgot–which way do the arms go on swastikas again?

THIS WILL BE THE NEW NORMAL. This will get normalized. This is what will be normal. This is what we do now. This is us.

Everything we’ve seen here we’ve already seen before.

 I am having a tremendous amount of trouble writing coherently about this.


We just learned everything twice.

It is tough to know where to start, to imagine how in the weeks and months to come, what we have just seen in this election will become the new normal.

We just saw how the Democratic Party, through its own astounding incompetence, can fully face plant versus the weakest candidate the Republican Party has put forward in a century by undermining the democratic primaries and thoroughly failing to kindle any sort of excitement in their tepid, safe, uninspiring nominee.

We just saw again the awful power of misogyny.

Since words no longer mean things.

Postmodernist theory seems to offer us the most useful tools for understanding this situation, or at least describing it, even if the theory offers us little in the way of praxis.

Derrida. Foucault. They teach us the slipperiness of meaning. If there is anything Trump has shown us, it is that words do not necessarily mean anything. That you can say a sentence, state a fact, but facts are utterly relative, subject to interpretation. Absurdism. Kafkaesque.

Cause and effect seem decoupled, in the Hume-ean sense.  This happens, then that happens. Whether or how they are related is entirely a matter interpretation.

The majority of Americans hate ? Yes quite possibly.

I wait to see the demographics — to wonder at the many people who so willingly vote against themselves.  To marvel at those masses of people who will very soon be actively persecuted. Did they vote?


Jill Lepore wrote recently on the dissolution of facts. Facts have long been the useless tools of bothersome drudges.

Foreign language skills will be more important than ever



War. Where precisely? Wherever the whim of Trump wills.

Supreme Court — the only thing the Democrats can do is continue the precedent set by the Republicans and refuse to vote on any nominees.  Anything else will mean giving the executive branch the rubber stamp of the judicial.

I wonder

What we can expect:

I just don’t know where to start.

It is safe to say Obamacare will be gone.

We can expect mass deportations.

Overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

Shuttering of Planned Parenthood.

Total ban on Muslim immigration.

Massive deportations of immigrants.

Explicit repercussions for political opponents.

Limitations on the freedom of press.

Unpredictable wars around the world.

Use of nuclear weapons a viable option.

Massively increase the American military.

Massively increase border vigilantees.

Wars. Horrible wars. Bella, horrida bella

“Rule of Law” — police crackdowns on poor neighborhoods; revitalization of the war on drugs; ..more police murders.

Utter disregard for global warming.

None of this was persuasive to the majority of people in the United States, who elected Donald Trump with 58,935,231 votes.

Songs that take on new meaning.

Hello my name is Jimmy Pop and I’m a dumb white guy,
I’m not old or new but middle school fifth grade like junior high,
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn,
Burn motherfucker burn.

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It’s nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home

I recommend writing down how you felt on November 9th. For me, it was the above. It’s largely incoherent, but it is what I felt.  At the very least, I can come back to this, and remind myself of how I felt, and remember that this isn’t normal.




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