After Donald Trump’s inauguration, an event capping one of the most unbelievable upsets in modern political history, former president George W Bush reportedly turned to Hillary Clinton and said of the speech “That was some weird shit.”
Note: I do not advocate violence or acts of terrorism. Anything discussed in the following commentary is purely metaphorical for political action and should be taken as such.
During the 2016 election cycle my favorite candidate early on was Senator Rand Paul. I knew he did not have a chance of winning. I liked his idealism and his distaste for business as usual, especially when it came to foreign policy. I liked Donald Trump as well, particularly for his hard-line stance on immigration and lack of concern for hallowed institutions such as NATO and forever wars. I did not feel very strongly about who should win. I assumed Senator Rubio or Ohio Governor Kasich would pull it out in end. They were safe and media approved.
I was apathetic, and the stakes were low. After eight years of Obama, spanning from my late teen years to early adulthood, as he transformed from Jimmy Carter to George W Bush the sequel, I assumed nothing could change in politics. I assumed that it was a never-ending iron march of open borders, ever strengthening global institutions and godless love of the almighty GDP at all costs. That was until I read a piece in the Claremont Review of Books.
From the opening electrifying line of do-or-die absolute aught, I was hooked. All my right-wing gut instincts that had been suppressed by years of apathetic libertarian survival mechanisms activated. This was the real stuff. I wanted it shot directly into my veins. This is what I had been subconsciously knowing all along, as my childhood town became the fiesta edition of its former self, as the spectre of hard drugs infiltrated the periphery of the rural haunts of my youth. These were words I considered all the time and did not think anyone would ever say out loud. From that moment on, I was in it for Donald Trump.
Did I think he could win? No. Did I think he would follow through with his bold statements about immigration, foreign wars, trade and offshoring? Not really, but I could hope. My hope was that, in the slim chance he won, either the mechanisms of the state would tear each-other apart resulting in a slow-motion collapse or, even less likely, he would actually follow through on his promises.
Why did I want a collapse? I am not an anarchist. I favor peace whenever possible. In virtually all ways, I am a responsible tax-paying full-time employed citizen working like a bee to develop that sweet, sweet gross domestic product. The reason why I wanted a collapse is that, despite the invigorating quality of Mr. Anton’s commentary, I did not believe that a simple change of power to Trump could result in a nation I could be proud of. In short, I am a nationalist for a nation that does not exist anymore.
On March 8th 2014, Malaysian flight 370 disappeared on its trip from Malaysia to China. It was never found, and the fate of the survivors is to this day unknown.
Sometime after the Second World War, something went very, very wrong. If I were to pinpoint one presidency in specific, it would likely be Harry Truman’s. The development of the western hemisphere into a conglomerated mass of war machinery, propaganda and overlapping intelligence operations was kicked into high gear in 1950 with the writing of NSC 68 and tripling of the defense budget. I am not a child of the Cold War, and hindsight is of course 20/20, but it has always appeared to me that the end of the Second World War and transition to the Cold War was merely used as a pretense to transition America into an empire. Becoming an empire is a tricky thing. They offer immense amounts of power and influence but they always always come to an end. Additionally, as a general rule of thumb, the bigger and more dangerous the empire, the more damaging the collapse. Like any other law of physics, it is set in stone. There is no avoiding it. There is no end to history.
An additional damaging effect of empires is that they are an economy of scale. In order for an economy of scale to function properly, inputs must be kept at a fixed level where mass acquisition at a low value can support mass output to meet demand. This results in political pressure to preserve those factors and maintain inertia. Open borders provide low cost and plentiful labor at an input value that can maintain the economy of scale. Misadventures overseas at the expense of American blood continue the “free flow of energy from the region” (Obama’s words not mine). Thus, in order to maintain the consumptive power and needed growth to back the empire’s debt-based functions, you must be always running full sprint a few steps ahead of the finely balanced massive mechanism of its very existence.
The fall of communism should have brought a reduction in the militarization of America. Instead what remained was a hulking half-wit too afraid to give up the mantle of empire, despite knowing deep down that it would inevitably end in disaster. America had become complacent, godless, lacking any kind of identity whatsoever, aside from the local corporate sports franchise or putting up with one another long enough to make a buck. What followed and still follows are years of increased drug addiction, broken homes, atheism, and erosion of proven heroic values into an incomprehensible, amorphous sludge decorated with an afterthought of post hoc pseudo-intellectual labels.
By the end of Obama’s presidency, polling hovered from the mid 60s to nearly 70% of Americans saying the country was on the wrong track. In 2015 only 18% of Americans trusted the government to do what was right. It hasn’t risen above 60% since the 1960s. During the 2016 election, a Bloomberg poll found that 72% of Americans believed that the country was not as great as it used to be. None of these point toward a healthy future for the American empire. Despite all the nation building, mass expenditure on wars, construction of bases, and massive gifts of foreign aid, people are more unhappy with America and its future than they have ever been. The measure of success for the ruling class became not the happiness of the people but the maintenance of the empire.
The first two decades of the millenium embarked the American consciousness into a terrifying unknown. Like flight 370 with prescient passengers, they see the future as hostages to a fate that must end with their disappearance. The autopilot has taken over, and the craft slips silently and steadily into a bermuda triangle of destruction.
On August 10th, 2018, Richard Russell, an employee of Horizon Air, made an unauthorized takeoff in a Seattle Airlines Q400. He flew around the Puget Sound area and communicated with tower personnel before crashing into the ground.
Most people would likely shake their heads at this point and argue that I am being dramatic, that things are not really that bad. America is wealthy and people are relatively safe. If such metrics are the measure of the goodness or badness of a nation, then I would not disagree. On the other hand, I flatly reject these stipulations. In fact, the measures used to gauge America’s modern success (GDP, market stability, inflation rate, employment rate) are merely the factors needed to maintain an economy of scale. We have all been convinced over time that spreadsheet economics is the measure of national health. So long as the average citizen gets a marginal crumb of the year over year growth, then the political climate will remain relatively stable.
What happens if people were to vote against those policies? We have seen some anecdotal evidence of what happens. In the case of Bernie Sanders, the national party will simply put a finger on the scales to drum out a candidate who does not benefit them. In the case of Obama, a simple bait and switch offers voters a hope of change only to result in the same kind of puppet who merely maintains business as usual. In fact, in the 2008 election Obama actually received 34% higher donations from the defense industry than arch-hawk McCain. I am not claiming a conspiracy by a small cabal of shadowy puppet masters, merely that the massive empire machine contains many interdependent powerful groups that will all act in their own self-interest to maintain the status quo.
The case of Richard Russell is anecdotal but allegorical. He was married and seemed to have a relatively normal life. He wanted to be paid better. Even in his last hours of life, he mentioned that his white skin disadvantaged him in the court of public opinion. He knew something was wrong. He was broken but could not articulate exactly how or why. There was no flight plan, no goal, not even a shared experience. He was powerless, so he took the only power available to him. He reigned like a divine being for part of one evening. He took control, even if only tenuously and for a few hours.
Flight 93 Redux
This brings me back to Anton’s analogy of the fight for the controls of the airplane. He frames it as two groups vying for the yoke, admitting: “You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.” But what is the plane? The autopilot, the trajectory, the whole flight plan for the last quarter century at least was made by the contemptuous sort that, after hearing the speech by Donald Trump, turns to itself and says: “That was some weird shit.” We passengers on the plane are hostages to them. As much as I loved Anton’s commentary, it cannot have a happy ending. We fight for the cabin, Trump wins and we do what? Land safely in LaGuardia? Dulles? Reagan International? Why would we want to land the plane safely if the controls were gained? Trump’s recent turn to neoconservative politics as usual proves even more that Anton’s analogy was flawed. We landed the plane and are back to where we started.
Reactionaries who want a return to sanity, a return to a multipolar world where America is content to maintain its borders as a modest power, a nation that shows interest in its own people instead of propping up economic world order and servicing corporate power, need to realize that we, not the neoliberals or even Marxist idealogues, are the hijackers. Nothing in Washington: the Pentagon, the capitol building, the three letter agencies, the massive bureaucratic departments is going to side with you. They hate you and everything you love. What you love is incompatible with the infinitely tolerant, morally bankrupt, perfectly liquid culture of consumer slavery that benefits them, and they will kill you to maintain it.
Look no further than any advocate for self-interest for the American white working class. They are all silenced, financially ruined, legally shackled and openly mocked by the same people who made the flight plan for flight 93. They will import immigrants to replace you and debase the market value of your labor, they will call you racist for complaining, they will investigate you for trying to gather like-minded people to even discuss these issues in an unapproved setting.
Many of us voted for Trump because we thought he was a hijacker just like us. We hoped deep down that he would bring the plane crashing in a glorious explosion into the Capitol Building or the Pentagon. This is not nihilism. It’s desperation and a recognition that a friend of my enemy is also an enemy. Here we are. It has been over two years. The plane has landed. We continue on the never-ending iron march of open borders, ever strengthening global institutions and godless love of the almighty GDP at all costs. If anything, this is a wake-up call. If we find ourselves on another flight 93 somewhere over Eastern Pennsylvania, then we need to know exactly who we are: we are broken men, but we do know why we are broken. And if we get the controls for even a second, then we swing for the fences, straight down into the stinking heart of the beast that broke us.