America’s true lies

Donald Trump’s triumph should make America finally face a few home truths.

Written by Srijana Mitra Das | Published:December 1, 2016 12:05 am
Donald Trump, President elect Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, elections 2016, Presidential elections, US elections, election recount, wisconsin recount, world news, US news US President-elect Donald Trump.

The star-spangled dust of the American Presidential election has settled — but wails over it still rise. Hillary Clinton’s camp has joined demands for a vote recount. What a scam, snarls Donald Trump, who promised exactly such a negation of the system if he lost. But as the Democrats try to turn the hands of poll-time backward, in The New Yorker, star journalist David Remnick, with smooth, prosy beauty, describes the ugly victory of a man who’s degraded every Other, demeaned women, evaded rules and remained “knowledge-free” of morality.

Remnick’s article, titled with F. Scott Fitzgerald-like dark elan, “The Great American Tragedy”, dovetails beautifully with the Oxford Dictionaries announcing 2016’s word of the year with a gloomy thud: “Post-truth”. Echoing like an elephant stomping through the US election jungle, “post-truth” means: “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Post-truth helped Trump win, Remnick writes, pointing to the “platform of resentment” on which Trump towers today, balanced on an alt-right altar of “lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories”. Post-truth won, Remnick despairs, but advises, Americans, defend American values.

It’s so lovely — but forgive me while I laugh, for both Remnick and The Dictionaries are comically wrong. “Post-truth” and “The Great American Tragedy” are not path-breaking events defining 2016. Both actually happened 13 years ago, in 2003, when America invaded Iraq, searching for “weapons of mass destruction”. It never found the weapons but it provided mass destruction anyhow. The Great American Tragedy happened when US bombs, rained on Baghdad, glowing like malicious fireflies on TV screens, CNN bringing you humanity’s first televised war, palpable excitement ruffling its correspondents’ immaculate scarves.

In that “post-truth” world, a democratically elected American demagogue — US leaders serve full terms, a luxury not enjoyed by nations like Chile, where President Allende, loved by all except the CIA, was removed in 1973 — crushed a world of doubts. Our questions, our objections were crunched like pretzels in a bar full of US contractors running Iraq That, and the breaking of the United Nations’ spine, was the first Great American Tragedy impacting my generation.

But while the world woke up and smelled the blood (currently Syrian) , why is America still droning on about truth? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Literally. American pop culture is a magical — and dangerous — beast. It’s sung songs, danced defiance, stuck its tongue out at authority, giving heart to many wronged by history. Miles Davis’s jazz connected to rolling, moaning African slave ships; Madonna’s cheek added zing to feminism; Michael Jordan lent swing to Afro-American rap, which drew from a heartbeat that simply wouldn’t be crushed.

But you can have too much of a good thing. Revolutionary, American pop culture became pastiche, a hall of mirrors reflecting not what’s real — but what should be. Half-history, half-make-up, mesmerises, presenting truth with extra cheese. Thus, murdered Martin Luther King looks comfy on coasters today. Malcolm X adorns cushions; Vietnam glows on screens where helicopters and napalm become routine, as the crack of whips on enslaved backs fades outside films, as guns in Bowling For Columbine present a reality so leaden, America chooses Mad Men.

With commerce, the truth becomes a T-shirt; one of such charming irony (featuring Che Guevera mostly) that it melts resistance and endears. Thanks to Hollywood, art, music, slang — America’s signal contributions include the “F-word”, that ubiquitous exclamation celebrating sexual violation which makes users tiny Trumps — the Truth comes with botox now. But the truth isn’t lovely. It’s ugly and sad, a discomfiting image of inhumanity and how little that’s changed.

Yet, in America, truth’s discomfort has faded, becoming a soft-focus shot where 12 years of being a slave end in a group hug, where re-tweeting #Black LivesMatter answers police killing kids, where, despite sticking by a man who overawed an intern into a sex act, Hillary Clinton is projected as an independent woman. Against this, Trump — perhaps the most truthful thing in politics today, an awful, twisted truth, but the kind that makes us angry enough to refuse more Cabernet — has won. Trump’s time is the Great American Tragi-Comedy, where America will realise lies, like truths, need no passport. What you gift the world will come home too.

srijana.das@expressindia.com

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. V
    Vikram
    Dec 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm
    The triumph of Donald Trump is the triumph of Americans over ultra-leftist corrupt politicians. Trump finally put faith in the power of democracy, which the leftists do not want to accept. Hillary made fun of Trump when Trump said before election that he may not blindly accept the election results. She, along with the media made Trump look like a mad man. But the average American looked at Trump as a man who will save their jobs, get out of the unwanted Syrian war, cut the 20 trillion dollar deficit Obama built up, and rebuild America’s infrastructure and pride. Trump will make America great again.
    Reply
    1. D
      D.C.
      Dec 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm
      What the heck did I just read?lt;br/gt;Surely this sour mash can't be called journalism.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jaago
        Dec 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm
        The hatred for America is palpable. She is parroting the over the top views of Remnick, who is prone to histrionics anyway, and is trying to sound analytical by attempting to correlate TG expertise current election result to the Iraq War, however ill advised it may have been. All the while, the media she uses to express her views is an invention of the US. Irony is a b! chlt;br/gt;Agree fully with Raman and Ahmad
        Reply
        1. K
          K SHESHU
          Dec 1, 2016 at 1:17 pm
          The agitation of various communities show bifurcation of society into right and librals
          Reply
          1. A
            Ahmad
            Dec 1, 2016 at 8:09 am
            Exceptionally turgid writing... and this is a rehash of widespread anti-American ideas. I don't understand why this kind of shrill posturing is considered worth publishing as an opinion in a respectable newspaper.
            Reply
            1. a
              anand-m
              Dec 1, 2016 at 8:16 pm
              @DC - this is freedom of speech, and is furthermore an opinion not a report.
              Reply
              1. a
                anand-m
                Dec 1, 2016 at 8:20 pm
                Convenient, isn't it? First start a war and then chicken out! Bush in Iraq and Obama (why on earth was HE awarded the Nobel Prize!?) in Syria! American pride??? What does it have that it can be proud of? Even the nation has been built on stolen land!
                Reply
                1. a
                  anand-m
                  Dec 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm
                  Nicel very nice essay!!! However, let us not forget the helpers and their helpers, who worked in the background - EUROPE! Poland, for example, which provided premises to the CIA to conduct their torture. Or Germany, where the US has airbases out of which attacks were coordinated and wounded GIs flown in. The drones, which today cowardly bomb innocent civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere are controlled via Germany. All that, a self-proclamation of upholding human rights. What a farce!!
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments