I always wanted Ariel Pink’s music to do more for me. The initial allure was mostly there but ultimately I never found he was able to do much with it. His best albums never left me more than lukewarm. I’m not just saying that because he’s now being (reasonably) treated as persona non-grata since he and John Maus were spotted at last week’s putsch, or because of his pathetic interview on Tucker Carlson. Pink has had credible allegations of abuse swirling around him for years, and he’s never really bothered refuting his scummy statements on race and gender. It hasn’t been easy to take him seriously for a while now.
Today, a gaggle of armed fascists and white supremacists managed to break through four fences and a line of armed police to swarm into the Capitol Building. At the time of writing they are still occupying Congress. There is, in my view, little likelihood of them changing the results of the election, of Joe Biden being confirmed as the next president. But that is not the main takeaway.
We have become numb. Safe little phrases like “pandemic fatigue” don’t begin to cover it. Headlines about spiking death tolls and overwhelmed hospitals, new strains and nations cut off from the world interchange in our minds with news of friends and family sick or dead. The pain of intimate loss and the horror of the grand tragic-historical fill in for one another.
If the headlines are to be believed then a new relief bill is going to be passed any day now. Millions of people who have been tossed into poverty since the expiration of the CARES Act five goddamned months ago are going to finally be tossed a paltry lifeline. Whether it’s enough to lift them back out of poverty is an open question, given that the direct relief for working people – $600 stimulus checks, and an added $300 in weekly unemployment benefit supplement payments – is about half what it was back in the spring and summer.
Entering Donald Trump’s world felt like entering into a bad fiction. For me the feeling was amplified given that news of the elections reached me, in real time, high above the planet’s surface. Months before the 2016 elections I had booked a flight from Chicago (where I lived at the time) to London (where I was speaking at a conference) on election day. Like most people I was under the foolish impression that this puffed up billionaire reality star didn’t stand a chance.
Not only have we turned the corner, / I know what lies on its other side. / So divine is my inspiration, I can tell you with certainty: / democracy is for chumps. / Jack, you’ve stirred your last chicory. / Armies of clogged noses stand behind me, / and they are formidable… so long / as they stay on their god-dang knees.
Compared to the hellish turn events have taken over the past four years, the Great Clown Panic of 2016 is easy to forget. But as I wrote at the time, this bizarre phenomenon – part prank, part media hype, part soccer mom moral panic – was not as alien to America as it appeared. Far from it, it seemed to be symptomatic of a country whose already threadbare psyche was completely unraveling. If you believed in omens, it would be easy to see this as a preamble to something far more menacing in store.
Santa Claus is a fascist. He always has been and always will be. I can hear your shock and outrage at my writing that from here, but I have the facts on my side. Not only does this man run a sweatshop whose workers are basically treated like slaves, his whole reason for being is that he can bring gifts only to Christian kids. We’ve seen this type of selective charity before, but most of the time the groups that do it have been named things like “National Socialist People’s Welfare.”
He has survived. This braying, sniveling coward whose vindictive petulance has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people, has survived. Of course we always knew he was going to. He has access to the best treatment imaginable – round-the-clock care, experimental drugs, even a hospital room that looked more like a suite at the Waldorf. A few caveats aside – “not out of the woods yet,” his shortness of breath – Donald Trump has survived Covid-19.
From now on every autumn / will burn / The only question / will be whether the flames / are set by figments / or by nature.