Looking over the back issues of this blog I realized how much political writing I’ve inflicted on you. Much of that dealt with topics other than Trump whom I tried to avoid after going at him full bore in a former blog, jazzinsideandout.com, now deleted. Yet, as for many of us, he became a near obsession for me that has persisted into recent years.
I also wrote speeches and coached a lot of political folks over time so that, in a way, politics became a real passion. Now I feel trapped in the political world Trump et al. have created, obsessing over the insistent daily news reports of indictments, trials, MAGA defectors, poll numbers, mass delusions and conspiracies, Republican collapse, all of it. With elections looming in a year, this stuff has recently gotten much more insidious and virulent. Politics right now is sickening.
Many of us must feel like we’re locked inside some mad media carnival of craziness, powerless to escape. For breakfast we get fried pickles and funnel cake served up by WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin; then comes a later ride on the CNN Tilt-A-Whirl, where the same stories go up and down, round and round daily.
The Democrats are also victims of their own madness. They refuse to confront the real issues the public is concerned about. Like Biden’s age which worries some 77% of voters, while two-thirds want somebody else to run. The government glosses over their consistent gripes about the economy and inflation. It’s hard to believe but the administration’s measure of core inflation doesn’t include food or energy, the two volatile areas of most concern for people.
I often look at these developments with feelings of schadenfreude, especially on the Republican side since the party seems to have embarked on a singular road to ruin.
I don’t want to be called an elitist, but in some ways I am. I want to balance my long-shot liberalism with the more stable truths of music, art, history and literature. Well, that’s become pretty difficult. Right now, I’m rereading Thomas Mann’s great novel from the 1940s, Doctor Faustus, and the book is full of political implications. (Does everything have political implications?)
The author’s mad genius of music, Adrian Leverkhün, makes his Faustian deal with the devil for musical mastery. One reviewer notes that Zeitblom, the book’s narrator,
fatally turns a blind eye, distracted by social events and awed by Adrian’s genius. He misjudges Adrian in the same way that the [German] nation misjudges Hitler until it’s too late. (And if this doesn’t make you think of Donald Trump, you haven’t been paying attention).
So much of what I read these days seems to echo or predict Trump and the ensuing nightmare he has brought us. American Midnight by Adam Hochschild presents the horrifying history of America’s descent into racial and anti-Red madness from WW I to the 1920s. The parallels to what we are now living through—hatred, violence, corruption, political chaos—are manifest on every page.
Once we understand such history, escaping its relevance is practically impossible. Yet what’s relevant is not always what’s significant, and you can’t read significance into everything political today, which is what so many of us do. Getting away from the news is hard, so you need to live by other truths. Sadly, the older we get, the more we become creatures of habit and custom. Independent thought becomes more difficult.
And finally, I do have my doubts about achieving any kind of genuine detachment about politics. It’s too ingrained in my life, and you have to dig into your soul to find the resources to keep sane. Still, it becomes a matter of keeping one’s mental health in balance. If everything becomes significant, nothing is significant.