They say timing is everything. The day after I wrote Coup d’Doh, making fun of all the ham-fisted attempts to overturn the election through wild lies and dozens of asinine court battles, the mob of “very special” insurrectionists breached the Capitol after a raucous Trump rally when he encouraged the crowd to “take back their country.” At least five people were killed. They used American flags to beat down police. They used riot shields and fire extinguishers to smash through windows. They erected some scaffolds on the Capitol lawns and went searching for Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. They were “loved” by our current president who watched it all on T.V.
In the aftermath, the House voted to impeach Trump a second time. None of this bothered senate Republicans who, once again, acquitted him, letting him get away without repercussions while simultaneously deriding Democrats as “bitterly partisan.” George Orwell is smiling from his grave.
Do and say whatever you want while simultaneously deflecting attention away from your horrible behavior by screaming that someone else is doing exactly what you’re doing. A lie in full view, don’t bother hiding it, just scream the loudest. This is the level of bullshit we’ve come to folks: we’ve arrived at our horrible destination. The post-Trump era is giving a lot of Republicans a lot more room to show off what they’ve learned by grinding what’s left of the country’s tattered democracy into a thick fluid of fascist populism.
This is traditionally the time to start the “a pox on both your houses” argument, where I show that Democrats are equally guilty of the same Orwellian doublespeak. Believe me I tried. But don’t worry: once it’s firmly established that just lying loudly is a vote winner, because voters either don’t care or aren’t really paying attention to anything but volume and repetition, others will pick up the newspeak rhetoric all on their own. It’s a helluva lot easier than having principles you have to defend or an actual position on anything. Why bother?
The most terrifying realization here is that this proclivity was lying dormant here all the time. Bullshit and Orwellian tactics weren’t invented by the former president, and 74 million people from the Republican base didn’t just wake up one day ready to accept a steaming heap of conspicuously obvious lies. They were ready all along.
At this point the question isn’t can we put this B.S. genie back in the bottle. The question is whether it’s worth it.
Much has been written about the last four whirlwind years in American politics, mostly focusing on political division and a Pandora’s box of contradictory messaging, policies, anecdotes and leadership. It was a boon for political, news and comedy writers. You sure didn’t have to wait long to find something to write about. In fact choosing which fetid piece of bizarre-itude out of the maelstrom of choices was the central problem. It went something like this:
President: (says incoherent stuff for about 20 minutes until the entire press corp is numb from the onslaught of subject changes and then says he’d love to be a dictator)
Press: (rubbing neck from whiplash) Whew. Ok… so do we write about:
When faced with so many choices and limited column space, it’s a lose-lose situation. No matter what you pick, you’re ignoring the fact that the man with the nuclear football is standing in front of modern-day professional journalists rambling like your great-grandpa Huck, who used to compulsively collect used toilet paper tubes and build likenesses of confederate generals out of them until he couldn't find the door to his house. Even if you did write the “meta-story” fully half the readers would cheer him on, rather than stare at their phones in horror like they just watched a #covidiot tagged YouTube video of someone who did “The Clorox Challenge” recovering in the I.C.U.
This, as weird as it seems, created the context for nearly an entire nation all but ignoring an active coup attempt, while the rest of the world, presumably, laughs at our comeuppance. Such bizarre behavior has been indulged for so long, that a sitting U.S. President can openly mount a coup attempt while everyone sloughs it off. Generally trying to overthrow a lawfully elected government is taken somewhat seriously. Jim Garrison in J.F.K. wasn’t howling with laughter in the courtroom, and Tommy Lee Jones only smiled when it was particularly sinister.
Then again, the omnipotent diabolical forces portrayed in J.F.K. were competent, organized, and secretive, whereas this latest coup attempt was seemingly put together on the back of a bar napkin written in “Just For Men” hair dye and televised each day on every news outlet. Comical execution aside, we should probably take seriously someone trying their damnest to overthrow the government, even if “their damnest” sucks, particularly when that someone is the President of the United States and that government is the oldest democracy in the world.
Reality really is more bizarre than fiction. Particularly if we’re talking coup d’états.
As we all hunker in our bunkers this year, scarfing down microwaved turkey dinners and staring into the middle distance to Dark Side of the Moon, I thought it would be interesting to look back at Thanksgivings past to get some perspective. COVID has given us plenty of time for reflection, and that’s rarely a good thing.
I think we all have an idea of what Thanksgiving should be. We don’t see it in reality, but it’s there in myths and legends, fed by advertising campaigns and old movies. “Sure, my Thanksgiving is a dumpster fire,” we think, “but somewhere out there people are having a great time and eating noodle salad!”
The fact that other people out there are normal is comforting. It’s kinda like Bigfoot: you never see him yourself, but it feels good to know some grizzled prospector-type guy is out there with a flashlight and his phone looking for him. We want to believe.
Or so we thought. I mean, what inhumanely torturous process turns cranberries into gelatinous slop anyway? Do we really know anything?
Turns out that the Thanksgivings shown in a lot of movies aren’t the romanticized versions from our advertising-addled cranium. In fact, some have a downright horrible lesson, right there in front of us the whole time but we weren’t paying attention.
So crank that guitar rift, sit back and choke down that disgusting jellied cranberry sauce from 2018 as we explore some darker lessons Hollywood has secretly taught us about our favorite turkey day over the past 40 years.
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