Mental Health

What They Voted For: #WhitePower

#WhitePower | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

Via Huffington Post, Nina Golgowski attempts to explain the what seems to be the latest fashionable trend among president-elect Trump’s voters:

A Chicago shopper was filmed having a meltdown inside of a Michaels craft store, during which she accused the staff of discriminating against her for being white and for voting for Donald Trump.

“And I voted for Trump, so there. You want to kick me out because of that? And look who won,” the unidentified woman is heard yelling at employees.

According to the 10-minute video uploaded to YouTube, the woman believed that a black employee had tried to “force” her to purchase a $1 reusable bag. Employees can be heard telling her that they offered her the bag because they were out of disposable ones that met the size of her larger items.

It didn’t take long before the shopper spotted Grady’s camera and turned on her. Among other things, the woman accused Grady’s toddler of shoplifting.

“I was just discriminated against by two black women and you being a white woman and you literally thinking that’s OK,” the angry woman tells her. “Why don’t you go home to your husband who’s cheating on you.”

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Musical Existentialism (Box of Noise)

Detail of frame from music video for "Box of Noise" by Lilly Wood and the Prick. (2016, Choke Industry Records; dir. Benjamin Cotto)

Ladies and gentlemen, Lilly Wood and The Prick.

No, really, I’m not certain what else goes here.

If I am ever stuck in silence, please kill me; for I would rather die than hear nothing. When I attempt to sleep, I get scared of the emptiness; I am so afraid of disappearing. If so, kill me. And if I feel like I am losing it―if so, kill me, kill me. If there is no reason to be, then kill me. Please put my body in a box, in a box of noise. Please don’t write anything on my box, on my box of noise. If they ever find a way to happiness, please wake me from this sleep. I can’t stand this: Is it bad to say that I am okay with numbing through this all? I won’t stand this: Could we please admit that nothing will fix this? I can’t stand this; I won’t stand this. Please put my body in a box, in a box of noise. Please don’t write anything on my box, on my box of noise.

Lilly Wood and the Prick, “Box of Noise” (2016)

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The Masculine-American Way (National Insecurity)

Detail of cartoon by Matt Bors, 13 July 2016, via Daily Kos Comics.And … that would be Matt Bors.

The artist, I mean. Not the closet case with the rifle.

The fun part about asking, “Any questions?” or, “Who needs this one explained?” is the lovely adventure, when someone raises a hand or clears their throat, of trying to figure out just what they need explained and why.

At some point, though, we probably shouldn’t laugh at these people. They unwell, terrified of everything, and carry a killing range on average between a quarter and half mile. As such, they are extraordinarily dangerous.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Matt Bors, via Daily Kos Comics, 13 July 2016

The Donald Trump Show (American Distress)

Detail of image via Trump campaign.

“Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 + 1 does not equal 5.”

Steve Benen

The thing about politics right now is that everything is really, really depressing. I’m deathly sick of Donald Trump, yet the question persists: How did this happen?

Nor do I mean that in any context suggesting plaintive puzzlement. We all have a reasonable idea how the abdication of civic leadership in the context of public service struck the Republican Party so low after decades of pandering to ill-educated bigotry.

Donald Trump saying something stupid really shouldn’t be headline news. It shouldn’t be anything unusual. It shouldn’t be anything the rest of us have any reason to give a damn about. Then again, just how the hell did Republicans find themselves with Donald Trump as their presidential nominee apparent?

Oh, right.

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The Donald Trump Show (Death Wish Double Trouble Super Fun Follow-Up Sequel Pak)

Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate who also happens to be a skeleton with an afro. (Detail of frame from 'Shonen Jump One Piece'.)

“He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance.”

Andrew O’Hehir

Sometimes the setup requires a bit of seemingly otherwise useless melodrama; and sometimes that seemingly otherwise useless melodrama―your buzzword for the week is, well, okay, two words: “October surprise”―works well enough to address certain otherwise seemingly obvious questions somehow obscured by a hazy addiction to synthesized melodrama. Or, more to the point:

We can’t be sure how many people really support Trump, [Thomas B.] Edsall reports, since there’s considerable evidence that they aren’t telling pollsters the truth. Voting for Trump, it appears, is something white people do in the shadows. It’s a forbidden desire that is both liberating and self-destructive, not unlike the married heterosexual who has a same-sex lover on the down-low, or the executive who powers through the day on crystal meth and OxyContin. Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)On some level you know the whole thing can’t end well, but boy does it feel good right now.

I have argued on multiple occasions that white Americans, considered in the aggregate, exhibit signs of an unconscious or semi-conscious death wish. I mean that both in the Freudian sense of a longing for release that is both erotic and self-destructive―the intermingling of Eros and Thanatos―and in a more straightforward sense. Consider the prevalence of guns in American society, the epidemic rates of suicide and obesity (which might be called slow-motion suicide) among low-income whites, the widespread willingness to ignore or deny climate science and the deeply rooted tendency of the white working class to vote against its own interests and empower those who have impoverished it. What other term can encompass all that?

Trump is the living embodiment of that contradictory desire for redemption and destruction. His incoherent speeches wander back and forth between those two poles, from infantile fantasies about forcing Mexico to build an $8 billion wall and rampant anti-Muslim paranoia to unfocused panegyrics about how “great” we will be one day and how much we will “win.” In his abundant vigor and ebullience and cloddish, mean-spirited good humor, Trump may seem like the opposite of the death wish. (He would certainly be insulted by any such suggestion. Wrong! Bad!) But everything he promises is impossible, and his supporters are not quite dumb enough not to see that. He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance. No wonder his voters are reluctant to ‘fess up.

(O’Hehir)

Nor is this a matter of making the obvious point; with Americans, it’s all in how you say it.

I mean, sure, we can all see it, but explaining the mess is a whole ‘nother thing.

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Image notes: Top ― Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate. (Detail of frame from Shonen Jump One Piece.) Right ― Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Appetite for destruction: White America’s death wish is the source of Trump’s hidden support”. Salon. 11 May 2016.

Two Bugs in an Office with a Severed Head

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 4 May 2016.You know, this time we don’t get to blame Adam; the white-collar rank and file would not have these problems if they had collective bargaining rights.

On the upside, the old lady was already dead; it’s not like the li’l bugger went on a spree.

Which raises another point about spree violence: Economic security might help reduce the number of incidents. So would good mental health benefits.

No, I don’t really have a plan for accomplishing all that, but, hey, if Bernie Sanders can make it this far without studying his own platform, it seems worth mentioning.

Yeah, you know, maybe I should just stick with bad puns and perverse vapidity for filler.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 4 May 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (The Duck Episode)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“Satirical humor only works if it is punching up. Humor that punches down is just mean. A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.”

Sophia A. McClennan

Playwright Neil Simon asserted that comedy is cruelty, a theme that serves well enough as a benchmark as long as we can figure out what it means. Sophia A. McClennen offers some definition, and while the point itself is reliable, whence comes its seeming obscurity? That is, McClennan offers a fairly clear standard, yet also incredibly simplistic, and in this case we ought not criticize the standard as wonder if the critic herself has somehow gaffed up.

The answer to that last, by the way, is no.

Still, we postulate the possibility because it really does seem like the sort of basic notion people shouldn’t need explained so simply. Why did the chicken cross the road? The audience suffers cruelty as the butt of the joke for overthinking it. The rape joke that isn’t a rape joke but instead a blonde joke or a cop joke? Pick your cruelty: Are all cops rapists? Are all blondes stupid? Are all women just there to stick your dick in their mouths? (Hint: “Not another breathalyzer!” is a rape joke.) There is the Sandbox Joke, ne’er to be repeated publicly, which heaps its cruelty on young children for having been born in dark skin.

Is dementia or Alzheimer’s humor ever funny? Perhaps there is an affirmative answer; the cruelty of how many surrealists it takes to screw in a light bulb is illustrative for its lack of abstract gravity―in the end, surrealists can’t complain and surrealism itself is inherently indifferent.

More directly, the heart of McClennen’s consideration:

Last October, Death and Taxes ran a piece wondering if Trump had dementia. They pointed to the fact that Trump’s father, Fred, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years prior to his death. They also highlighted Trump’s aggressive late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings. They explained that it would be really easy for Trump take some tests and prove that he is mentally fit. “Because if Trump can prove he’s not suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him with a damaged mind devoid of all shame or self-awareness, he might just be an asshole.”

Now it may seem like I’m taking this in a flip manner and not respecting the real health challenges that face those that suffer these ailments. But that’s actually my point. I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

Or, more directly:

Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight reminded viewers that Trump speaks at a fourth grade level. That makes him, according to Camp, scientifically proven to be the dumbest candidate of them all. But Camp’s joke is only funny if Trump is talking that way to attract voters who respond to his simplistic rhetoric. It’s not funny if he really has lost the ability to speak like a healthy adult.

It is enough, to the one, hearing the people around me wind up their disgust: “He’s crazy! Why does Trump say these things?” And, yes, it would seem pedantic to suggest they answer their own question. Such as things are, the exclamation ought to carry some weight.

At some point, craziness needs to stop being the punch line. There are, for instance, his supporters, and then everybody else; it’s hard to discern the gray area, the in-between, the fence made for sitting. And everybody else seems to inevitably land at some version of Donald Trump being crazy. Perhaps it’s time we start taking the question of mental health more seriously? Not only would incompetence be, as McClennen notes, specifically not funny, it also seems a grave and necessary question in considering who should serve as president. The title “Leader of the Free World” might well be colloquial, but it also seems fair enough to expect the person we entrust with this duty should not be, at the very least, psychiatrically incompetent.

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McClennen, Sophia A. “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?”. Salon. 25 April 2016.

Your Lede of the Day (Allegation and Alligator)

Er … okay ...

Authorities in Florida have arrested a man accused of throwing a live alligator through a restaurant’s drive-through window.

(Chokshi and Larimer)

If the lede isn’t strange enough, there is the detail:

Once approached by authorities, James admitted to having picked up the alligator along the side of a road, driving to Wendy’s and throwing the beast through the drive-through window.

A judge on Tuesday ordered James to stay away from all Wendy’s restaurants, to avoid possessing any weapons, to get a mental health evaluation and to limit his contact with animals to his mother’s dog, according to WPTV.

James’s parents described him to the TV station as an outdoorsman and harmless prankster, adding that he viewed famous crocodile hunter and conservationist Steve Irwin as an idol.

At some point, this really does start to sound like a farce that never should have seen a green light. For the suspect, Mr. James, and everyone else ranging from inconvenienced to terrified in the moment of dealing with an alligator chucked through the window, reality unfortunately reminds that this is apparently not some script for the next Will Ferrell movie.

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Chokshi, Niraj and Sarah Larimer. “Assault with a deadly weapon: Florida man charged with throwing alligator into Wendy’s”. The Washington Post. 9 February 2016.

A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

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