— Grotesque. That’s probably the best term to describe the appalling events surrounding Comrade Trump’s photo-op. The modern definition of ‘grotesque’ connotes something that’s distorted and unnatural in shape or size, something abnormal or incongruous, something hideous, ugly, but oddly compelling. The term carries slightly different meanings in art and literature, but the general idea is the same. It comes from the Latin grotta, referring to a cave, and was originally used to describe uncouth paintings discovered on the walls of excavated Roman ruins.
I came across ‘grotesque’ yesterday morning in an opinion piece by a WaPo fashion writer. She included descriptions of what the participants of the photo-op wore. Ivanka: “black cropped pants and blazer…a very large white handbag…a matching face mask with tiny metallic stars.” AG Barr: “slack-jawed in an open-collar shirt, no tie. His jacket was open.” Press secretary McEnany: “a closefitting double-breasted blazer with gold metallic buttons and skinny trousers. She was perched atop a pair of stiletto pumps.” But she ends with this astute observation:
The picture he orchestrated shows no hint of a commander in chief rising above or binding up anything. The photograph doesn’t convey power or competence. From every angle, in every iteration, it’s an image of a whitewashed group turning a deaf ear to a country convulsing over racial injustice.
— This reminds me. I’ve reached a point at which it’s difficult for me to watch US network television shows. It’s not so much that the shows are bad, but that almost every woman actor in a major role looks like a model. European television tends to cast actors who look like real people. It makes television more believable (which, I admit, is ridiculous). Why can’t American television cast actors based on their acting ability instead of on their appearance?
— On Tuesday, Congressman Steve King of Iowa was defeated in a primary race by an equally feral Republican who is canny enough NOT to say the stupid shit out loud. Somebody on Facebook noted the “competition for dumbest man in Congress just fell off a few levels.” Which made me think of Louie Gohmert, about whom I’ve written before.
I once devised a Gohmert Stupidity Scale to describe Republican stupidity. It was based on the Richter Scale for earthquakes. For example, a Gohmert 2 event would denote a minor stupid GOP action that would be felt slightly by some people, but cause no damage to buildings. A Gohmert 5 tremblor would be felt widely, causing damage of varying severity to poorly constructed social structures. Zero to slight damage to all other social institutions.
Trump’s photo-op was a Gohmert 8 event. Widespread major damage, traditional social structures likely to be destroyed. Moderate to heavy damage even to sturdiest disaster-resistant social institutions. Felt across extremely large regions.
— I’ve heard this story from a number of different sources over the years. I’ve never researched it, so I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s an urban myth but I think it’s revealing regardless. It’s about the last time the Insurrection Act of 1807 (the Act Trump has threatened to use) was implemented. That was in 1992, the Rodney King riots. Some nearby US Marine units were ordered to accompany LAPD officers on their calls. One police officer (with a pair of Marine riflemen) responded to a domestic disturbance call. As they approached the house, they heard a couple of shots fired. The police officer pulled his sidearm and told the Marines, “Cover me.”
And here’s the problem. To the police officer, ‘cover me’ means ‘draw your weapons and be prepared in case you need to use them.’ But to a Marine, ‘cover me’ means laying down a barrage of covering fire to allow their squadmates to advance. Which is what they did. They started shooting the shit out of the house. Luckily, nobody was killed, but it shows one of the many problems of having military personnel try to do a policing job.
— I’ve been thinking a lot about moral courage lately. Or the lack of it. I’m absolutely certain there are people in the Trump administration (and in Congress) who know Trump is corrupt, inept, and generally unfit to serve as POTUS, but refuse to act. That’s moral cowardice. I’m glad that Gen. James ‘Better Late than Never’ Mattis finally spoke up, but I wish he hadn’t waited until things got this ugly. The time to do the right thing is when you recognize it’s the right thing to do. Mattis resigned, but sat quietly until yesterday.
Compare him to US Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after writing a letter asking for help regarding the safety of his crew during a Covid-19 outbreak. He knew when he released that letter that he was ruining his career, but it was the right thing to do for his crew. So he did it. He didn’t wait until the death toll on his ship had hit a critical stage.
And I think about Dashiell Hammett and his civil rights and anti-fascist activities in the 1950s. He’d been subpoenaed to testify about a list of contributors to a bail fund (it was used to bail out suspected communists). Hammett refused to supply any information, and was found in contempt of court. He did six months in a federal prison rather than reveal the names of contributors. Prison, Lillian Hellman said, “had made a thin man thinner, a sick man sicker.” Hammett’s health never recovered.
Two years later, Hammett was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and again he refused to cooperate, knowing it might send him back to prison. He later said, “I don’t let cops or judges tell me what I think democracy is.” That’s moral courage.
— As I write this, we have 109,204 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the United States. The actual number of Covid-19 deaths is undoubtedly higher. There were 1134 new confirmed deaths yesterday. Despite the fact that a thousand Americans are dying every day, Covid-19 is largely being ignored by the Trump administration. Trump is bored with Covid-19. Besides folks were mean to him about it.
— That’s it. Random thoughts. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don’t be a dick.