Jan. 24th, 2017

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Roger Cohen on Trump's presidency.


I have tried to tread carefully with analogies between the Fascist ideologies of 1930s Europe and Trump. American democracy is resilient. But the first days of the Trump presidency — whose roots of course lie in far more than the American military debacles since 9/11 — pushed me over the top. The president is playing with fire.

To say, as he did, that the elected representatives of American democracy are worthless and that the people are everything is to lay the foundations of totalitarianism. It is to say that democratic institutions are irrelevant and all that counts is the great leader and the masses he arouses. To speak of “American carnage” is to deploy the dangerous lexicon of blood, soil and nation. To boast of “a historic movement, the likes of the which the world has never seen before” is to demonstrate consuming megalomania. To declaim “America first” and again, “America first,” is to recall the darkest clarion calls of nationalist dictators. To exalt protectionism is to risk a return to a world of barriers and confrontation. To utter falsehood after falsehood, directly or through a spokesman, is to foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen.

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window but a guard snatched it away. “Warum?” Levi asked (why?). To which the guard responded, “Hier ist kein warum” (here there is no why).

As the great historian Fritz Stern observed, “This denial of ‘why’ was the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization.”

Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why against the banal belligerence of Trump.

-- Roger Cohen at The New York Times



Jan. 24th, 2017 01:57 pm
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David Brooks: "I loathed Trump’s inaugural: It offered a zero-sum, ethnically pure, backward-looking brutalistic nationalism. But it was a coherent vision, and he is rallying a true and fervent love of our home." ... ... The Trump administration has imposed a gag order on people working in the Environmental Protection Agency, as they begin to dismantle its programs. [Huff Post] It's happening. It's no longer just exaggerated joking. Our worst dreams are just starting to come true. It's reality now. ... ... Sugar: "About to descend into a week-long hug of all women's curling, all the time. I may decide to stay there forever. A curling utopia in my mind." That would be more like my idea of hell, or at least purgatory. Unless the women were sexy hot and wore super-little short-shorts and bras were disallowed under mesh cut-off jerseys. Is there even such a thing as men curling? Pi says, "You see, Sugar would defriend you all over again for that." I know. I was never a great feminist. ... ... Orwell's "1984" is number one at Amazon. So, Trump is good for at least one thing. ... ... Orwell: "A thing is funny when - in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening - it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution." [Essays, p. 781]


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