Donald Trump and America’s Confused Values

The 2016 presidential election posed a grim choice: “I’m with her” Hillary (note how her slogan was not “She’s with me,” because she wasn’t), and Donald Trump. I chose neither.

The best descriptor of our current president is Joe Bageant’s: “a careening set of brainless balls.” (Joe wrote this long before Trump became a candidate.) Lately, those brainless balls have been careening ever more violently into racist territory, yet his support seems as strong as ever. Something is rotten in the State of America, and it won’t be cleaned up even when Trump is gone. As I argued in this post from May 2017, America’s values are seriously screwed up. With allegedly devout Christians embracing Trump as some sort of prophet if not savior, you just know all of this is not going to end well.

Bracing Views

Better days are here, for some of us.

W.J. Astore

Joe Bageant was a remarkable writer, the author of “Deer Hunting with Jesus” as well as “Rainbow Pie.”  A self-confessed “redneck,” he worked his way into the middle class as an editor, but he never forgot his roots in Appalachia and the subsistence farming of his Scots-Irish family. Bageant had a brutally honest and unadorned way of speaking and writing, and also a great affection and deep respect for traditional communal values in America.


The other day, I was reading an old essay Bageant wrote, “Live from Planet Norte” (June 2010), long before Donald Trump was even remotely considered to be presidential material.  As usual, Joe nailed it:

[I]n the process of building our own gilded rat-cage, we have proven that old saw about democracy eventually leading to mediocrity to be true. Especially if you keep dumbing down all the rats. After all, Dan Quayle…

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17 thoughts on “Donald Trump and America’s Confused Values

  1. I got a big kick out of the linked-to essay by Joe Bageant, “Live From The Planet Norte,” especially the following:

    This theme of engorgement and spectacle endures, thrives really, year after year, despite even the slowly unfolding world economic collapse. But it is Americans in particular who become stupider by any historical measure of intelligence. Millions pay money to visit Branson, Missouri. Or Holy Land Christian Theme Park, in Orlando, where you can have the improbable experience of “fun with the world’s most popular Biblical characters” (Hmmmm, maybe Mary Magdalene) [emphasis added] and watch Jesus get crucified daily.

    Speaking of “improbable fun with Mary Magdalene,” I had a bit of that myself a decade ago, imagining such a person — or her received reputation — doing an interview on Rupert Murdoch’s red-meat Republican television network:

    Unfair and Unbalanced

    Maligned Madam Does Fox News
    (An ahistorical, speculative interview)

    “And now we have, for our next guest,
    A lady of the night,
    Who has, for reasons none too clear,
    Agreed to speak what we shall hear:
    Some ‘answers’ meant to bring a leer
    To lips that freely grin or sneer
    When overhearing questions queer,
    Profound, or simply trite.”

    “We thank you, Madame Magdalene,
    For giving of your time
    To scandalize the girls and boys
    With lurid tales of wanton joys
    Supplied for rent to Jews and Goys
    Entrapped by your seductive ploys
    While honest men, your hapless toys,
    Must suffer from your crime.”

    “But au contraire! I say to you,
    My bogus blowhard host:
    I only serve your vain desire
    And offer up what you require,
    And, yes, I do it all for hire,
    While you ejaculate, retire,
    And afterwards feel only ire,
    Or else the urge to boast.”

    “I only see the truth too well,
    And live by what I do.
    I understand men’s vanity,
    And lives filled with inanity
    Till driven to insanity
    By Murdoch, Fox, and Hannity
    You use me like profanity
    And swear: ‘GAWD told me to!’”

    “But, Madam, what of Juliet,
    Whose virtue fiction tells?
    Does not her pure, Platonic love
    Deflect the need to rudely shove
    Some Romeo without a glove
    Into an orifice above,
    Below, or in the region of
    Some pulchritude that sells?”

    “Oh, no, dear sir! Such fantasies
    Just fan the flames of lust.
    As I have often told the priest,
    My holes are not for sale, just leased
    To poles whose sweaty palms have greased
    My own with cash, and not the least
    With ‘love’ for me, a meager feast
    For wretched lives gone bust.”

    “Then might I ask, Ms Magdalene,
    About Ophelia’s tale?
    You know, the Danish maid who pined
    For Hamlet’s love: the crazy kind,
    Both unrequited and resigned
    To ambiguity; designed
    By Shakespeare, meaning: ‘Never mind.
    Such tragic love must fail.’”

    “Ophelia, just like Juliet,
    My case could never plead.
    Because – as fiction, unlike me –
    She lives in books for men who flee
    From nature, like the urge to pee;
    Who make up tales that don’t agree
    (Except when offered on TV)
    With what they really need.”

    “So have you any final thoughts
    Here as we end the hour?
    Do you not have a heart of gold
    Despite the johns that you have rolled
    Together with your pimp who sold
    Your services to young and old
    Who wanted heat but got the cold
    Of sordid sex gone sour?”

    Mais oui, Monsieur! but let me say
    To males by us enthralled:
    That we who ply the oldest trade;
    Who make our living in the shade;
    Who walk our alley promenade
    Until our looks begin to fade
    Know men will call a heart a spade
    To get their ashes hauled.”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009


  2. Bageant, certainly gets it right on so many points. The sterility of suburbia, multiplied many times over. Lawns sprayed until not a living thing can exist on them, except what the chemical and lawn service companies have deemed appropriate. Fruits and vegetables devoid of any taste and who knows what toxic chemicals were sprayed on them.

    It is not just President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence that have added to the confusion. Twenty or thirty years ago Agent Orange would have been attacked for lacking “family values” by the evangelical bible thumper’s. Today he is hero for them, an imperfect vessel to be sure. For President Agent Orange it is all about centering all that adulation and fervor on himself, he plays the evangelical bible thumper’s like a virtuoso musician.

    An interesting column from The Onion made me laugh out loud:
    Pelosi Concerned Outspoken Progressive Flank Of Party Could Harm Democrats’ Reputation As Ineffectual Cowards.

    Admitting she had worries about the rise of left-leaning activist groups within her party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed concerns Thursday that outspoken progressives could do permanent damage to Democrats’ reputation as ineffectual cowards.

    We are dithering, incompetent doormats who are infinitesimally less objectionable than our opposition.”

    The Onion is satire. There is more than a grain of truth in what they have written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s not satire, ML. That’s truth. 🙂

      My wife and I have noticed the absence of crickets and grasshoppers. Our neighbors have gone the chemlawn/pesticide route. Here the big fear is of ticks, but there’s a lot of collateral damage in the process.

      “Silent Spring” has increasingly become silent summer nights as well — though not completely silent, as there are always loud trucks and motorcycles in the distance. Like jet noise, the “sound of freedom,” perhaps?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. As Barack Obama, the empty-suit teleprompter-rhetoric-reciter demonstrated like no other “moderate Republican” Democrat could have, the Democrats suffer from a self-induced political affliction best described as:

      Congenital Stockholm Syndrome

      He started by giving up quickly,
      Surrendering early his case.
      He offered to kiss their asses.
      Replying, they pissed in his face.

      Their urine, he thought, tasted strangely;
      Yet not at all bad to his taste.
      He’d gotten so used to it, plainly.
      Why let such a drink go to waste?

      The people who voted in favor
      Of him and his promise of “change”
      Now see in his many betrayals
      A poodle afflicted with mange.

      Each time that the surly and crazy
      Republicans out for his skin
      Condemn him for living and breathing,
      He graciously helps them to win.

      He’ll turn on his base in an instant
      With threats and disdain and neglect
      While bombing some Muslims so Cheney
      Might thrill to the lives that he’s wrecked.

      A black man in love with apartheid
      He offers his stalwart support
      To Zionists and their extortion
      With “More, please!” his only retort.

      A masochist begging for beatings
      Obama takes joy in abuse
      Receiving just what he has asked for
      Which makes him of no earthly use

      The little brown men that he’s murdered
      In homes far away from our land
      Bring profits obscene to his backers
      Who give him the back of their hand.

      Obama seeks praise from the vicious
      Republicans, no matter what.
      He suffers, apparently, nothing
      So much as his need to kiss butt.

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011


      1. Obama, by his own admission, was basically an Eisenhower Republican with his policies. And the Republicans hated him anyway.

        Now we have the “moderates” among the Democratic presidential candidates, the so-called sensible ones like Joe Biden, who simply want to repeat what Obama did, but without his charisma and ability to mobilize and motivate the Black vote in 2020. I can easily spell “defeat.”

        Months ago, I predicted a Biden/Harris ticket. After Harris directly attacked Uncle Joe, maybe Amy Klobuchar or Kirsten Gillibrand will take her place as VP. We can’t have a “socialist” like Bernie Sanders who actually mobilizes and motivates people. That’s crazy.


        1. I wouldn’t say that the Republicans “hated” President Barack Obama. “Hatred” is an emotion usually directed at others whom one fears and respects. The plutocratic American oligarchs who wrecked the U.S. and world economy in 1929 sincerely hated FDR — and he welcomed their hatred — because he won election four times enacting legislation that mostly offered some assistance to the lower middle classes and working poor (like my maternal grandfather who got his first secure job and pay check thanks to the WPA). But for spineless, quisling Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who asked for instructions from Republicans so they could say they “got things done,” contempt and loathing serve as the operative Republican emotions. As the American scientist-philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce said back at the end of the nineteenth century:

          “Where different faiths flourish side by side, renegades are looked upon with contempt, even by the party whose beliefs they have adopted.”

          To recapitulate: for the Republicans to “hate” the Democrats, they would first have to fear and respect them, an unlikely prospect what with “Existential Demon Russia” helpfully providing all the excuse they require to avoid causing Republicans a moment of lost sleep.


  3. To me the Sound of freedom is the “Sounds of Silence” not unlike on that 1st Armistice Day –the one that truly counted! My whole property I’m proud to say is Low maintenance, and overgrown. I have a Microcosm/ Macrocosm of Bugs–Crickets, Katydid’s, Butterfly’s, Firefly’s., Grasshoppers, Mantises, you name it its there, and I’m not afraid of a few Weeds to feed what little Bees are left. Paradoxically I’ve never seen a Tick, or had one on me (yet) But, then again I no longer Low Crawl through the Weeds like when I was taking Air Base Ground Defense Training back in the early & mid. Seventies! This Joe Bageant is no ordinary Joe…! :/ :o) Happy Summah.


  4. I wrote a comment that WP claimed they couldn’t publish. It was basically about my feelings of “Lyme disease”, perhaps a CIA mad scientists gone wrong..I also brought up JFK & his assassination tying into the story. If you don’t receive this, then I know WP is just as bad as the others!


  5. Well they let me publish! But to finish, I wonder if these dreadful ‘insecticides’ are trying to control agriculture. Brazil announced today they’re proud with their Fac-up! Stop! “President” thinks these insecticides are “great”! What it’s going to do to Brazilian agriculture in the future. America has the same questions. Farmers have centuries of dealing with weeds, and survived. Multi Nationals want to turn bananas & coffee etc into Wall Street commodities. Let’s see if I’m thrown off again! Lol


  6. Yeah, my new word: “Fac-up”. I mean “facts up”. They don’t count anymore! Fascist Prez Bolsenaro of Brazil likes agri poisons to increase profits, poisoning. Brasil for generations. America should fear the same with fracking. Sorry, but maybe not “Confused Values” – people are waking up.
    At 73yo, white & middle class, I had friends in Baltimore; stayed with them, went out to restaurants & bars. No problem; walked home. All gone.
    Yet Clinton, Serbia, Bush, Iraq, Obama, Libya, worried about highways, etc. for ‘them’. What these dreadful “exceptionalists” failed to realise is no country is rich enough to support it’s populace and also fight wasteful foreign wars. Our cities suffered, still do.
    It’s not a “racial” or “party” that let us down, it’s our insane hope for world dominance. Won’t happen: Baltimore ++++ proves it….. We AMERICANS have to work to STOP it!
    Closing, I wonder if these NeoCons, NeoLiberals, really thought Imperialist Wars would save US from a Baltimore, etc. I think they did! And Oh! were they wrong…


    1. Baltimore? Who cares?, I think, is their attitude. Not when there’s money to be made.

      (I went to school in Baltimore, 1988-90. Not a bad city. Some less-than-safe areas, like all cities, but plenty of good spots and good people.)


  7. “A truth that’s told with bad intent
    Beats all the lies you can invent.” — William Blake

    The thoroughly corrupt corporate Democrats stupidly handed the even-more-corrupt and even-more-corporate Republicans a demonstrable truth: namely, that the Democrats’ “Russiagate” jihad amounts to nothing but a colossal fraud. The Republicans will now use that truth to help them achieve re-election to political power and all the wealth and privilege that go with it. And to make things even worse for the Democrats, the Trump administration will have every right — and duty — to prosecute some very high-level former officials of the Obama administration.

    As Ray McGovern wrote recently for Consortium News (July 31, 2019):

    Shortly before President Donald Trump announced he had nominated Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe made it clear he intends to hit the deck running on the “crimes” behind Russiagate.

    “What I do know as a former federal prosecutor is it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration,” Ratcliffe told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. Mincing few words, he claimed the Democrats “accused Donald Trump of a crime and then tried to reverse engineer a process to justify that accusation.”

    It’s an extravagant claim. But it is also true, and the proof is in the pudding of which we should have a steady diet in the months to come.

    (See: DNI Nominee Intent on Getting to Bottom of Russiagate)

    I know of the Shakespearian expression, “hoist with his own petard” (blown up with his own bomb), but somehow I find it lacking as a suitably graphic illustration of the Democrats’ political self-gelding. So, I tried to come up with a metaphorical image that would adequately convey the essence of this tragi-comic farce. So far, I’ve had little luck, but I’ll keep trying. At any rate …

    Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout “Gawd Bless!”
    Rent a few Democrats, they’ll lose for less.

    This will get uglier and uglier. The Republicans will pursue this priceless gift with every ounce of vicious partisan venality for which the world has long known them. And they will do it joyfully, brandishing a club called “truth” which the Democrats handed them without their even asking. So much for Republican “values.” A den of pit vipers has a higher standard of ethics and morality. But who needs those, when you have Democrats refusing — ever, under any circumstances — to form an opposition party, most especially one representing the working-class, anti-war “Left”?

    The United States could sure use a second political party. It hasn’t had one since FDR, and LBJ (before U.S. military blundering in Vietnam destroyed him). It will come as quite a surprise if anything resembling an “opposition” to the Republicans emerges from the Democratic party primaries in time to seriously contest the corporate-sponsored-and-scripted 2020 general elections. Too much emphasis on the President as Messiah, anyway. If the Dems can’t capture the Senate while keeping the House, a “A Democratic” President would just turn out like a Clinton or Obama, asking the Republicans what they would really like to have in order to “get things done,” even if no sane working-class person would ever want such things done to them under any circumstances.


    1. Your last sentence, Mike, is a perfect description of a Biden administration. Or any other Democrat currently running except Bernie, Tulsi, or Warren.


  8. Warren and Sanders demolished the “Centrists” in the debate and Bernie demolished CNN.
    Concerning the last debate:
    “By the way, the healthcare industry will be advertising tonight on this program,” Sanders said after accusing CNN moderator Jake Tapper of deploying “a Republican talking point” against Medicare for All. “They will be advertising tonight with that talking point.”

    As Variety reported last week, CNN—which is owned by AT&T—required “a commitment of $300,000 in advertising on the network before a potential sponsor can purchase commercials within the two debate telecasts.”

    From Common Dreams:
    The comedian George Carlin liked to marvel at oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence.” Now, as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination intensifies, reporters and pundits at corporate media outlets are escalating their use of a one-word political oxymoron—”moderate.”

    As a practical matter, in the routine lexicon of U.S. mass media, “moderate” actually means pro-corporate and reliably unwilling to disrupt the dominant power structures. “Moderate” is a term of endearment in elite circles, a label conferred on politicians who won’t rock establishment boats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, ML. I was going to say something about the “moderate” label.

      Yes, we can’t have “radicals” like Bernie who actually want to help regular working stiffs.


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