“And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . . So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
— Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
“The ship! The hearse! – the second hearse!” cried Ahab from the boat; “its wood could only be American!”
— Herman Melville
— Moby Dick
Random thoughts on a rainy Sunday. Strange ideas and mysterious signs. Kind of Blue in the background. The cat keeping an eye out for birds and squirrels. The Warriors in full domination mode. Europe once more in the hall of mirrors and a state of chaos.
America was always The Pequod.
Everyone is onboard and every fact of the epic story we call America is included and Queequeg is at work on his own coffin by which he means our death.
The first myth of America was that a new Eden had been discovered. This was a fusion of a broken religious myth among the Europeans and the fact of terra incognita. We know now that the continent had already been discovered but that was not common knowledge among the people with the guns and the whiskey and the small pox.
But they were also the people described centuries later by a poet who said of them and us:
“We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune”
But we’re thinking of Ahab. His obsession. The whale of whom he says be thee principal or be thee agent I shall seek thee out.
He makes his obsession their obsession. They will through him capture that which cannot be captured and destroy it; and in destroying it surpass it and in surpassing and destroying it become that which they seek to surpass and destroy.
Let’s speak of Trump.
A bigot, obviously. A lack of control, also obviously. Incoherent, shallow, narcissistic, lecherous, terrified, foul tempered, with the cunning of a second rate pimp. Or a real estate goon from Queens.
When pressed, when threatened (and like all fragile thugs he feels threatened at all times) he lashes out but always in two ways. First there is the hissing torrent of words that are incoherent, infantile and nasty; relying on a kind of fit – a torrent of rage. But then secondly there is the temper tantrum designed to reverse the situation. Having been accused of something – anything – he lets fly the vomit of words but in doing so he draws attention back to himself because the narcissism rules and is in command of the fragile ego.
But then, the third component: the temper tantrum is of such proportions that the crew has only three choices. Either it surrenders and enters into the dream state of occupation and collaboration in which it allows him to do as he pleases and to acquiesce in supporting his outrageous actions or it must be in a constant state of siege which of course adds ignition to an never ending cycle of temper tantrums. Or it must destroy him before he destroys everyone and sinks the ship.
We assume for Trump the whale is his mother who was an unobtainable hostage owned by his all powerful monster of a father. But she was not an unwilling hostage and must have been a cold hearted sadistic harpy. His father did as he pleased. Obviously he was a bigot and obviously he had affairs because he was a wealthy white man in an era when wealthy white men ruled and did as they pleased.
Make America great again means obviously a return to the era before the late 60s. An era of apartheid and Jim Crow; of June and Ward Cleaver when women were in the kitchen and men worked and the kids did as they were told.
But there’s no going back and Trump, deep into the big muddy says press on, and the whale beckons.
Other perfectly well reasoned and well written versions of the national crisis have found in Trump a touch of Gatsby chasing the dream in the green light at the end of the dock. The fraud and the gangster who represents a specific type of corruption intrinsically American.
We do not exclude that but we see more Ahab than Gatsby. Gatsby destroyed himself and took down a few others with him which is awful enough.
Trump is crouched atop the nation’s soul. He’s going to get us all killed. He’s going to destroy the ship.
The cowards, the treasonous whores and assorted fanatics in the Senate and the House who would rather follow him in long boats, harpoons at the ready, than stand up for the good of the ship and its crew, can not be allowed to escape their responsibility. And having failed to do their duty must be held accountable.
The spineless liberals who dither while Ahab screams for more rowers to pile into the boats are just as culpable. They too must be held accountable.
I alone, says Ishmael as Job, am survived to tell thee.
In the end he floats away from the wreckage on Queequeg’s coffin; the coffin of America.
He is rescued by devious-cruising Rachel searching for orphans of the catastrophe.
We shall draw another parallel. America’s current state is analogous to France during the Occupation. Trump Ahab is not genocidal but he is insane and utterly self destructive. The other side of the Nazi cult – distinct from its obsession with inflicting pain on others – was its obsession with nihilism. They were addicted to their own extinction. Hitler speaking to close associates often said he had a limited amount of time in which to act because his destiny – and thus the destiny of Germany – was death. And if his risks, his rolls of the dice did not produced total annihilating victory than it was the dictatorship of fate that had decreed everyone must die. The rhetoric of the thousand year empire was a con; a feeble stab at all powerful fate. But the Occupation is a dream state. Terror is constant and people habituate themselves to it. They conjure a kind of psychological dissonance in which they distort reality in order to continue to function. They collaborate with the machine, with each other but mostly with their own souls. Occupied and occupier become one and the same.
Ahab is a type that moves through history; across time. He has many names. Kurtz, in the jungle, or a conquistador in search of Eldorado. Trump in search of the thing that will quiet the fear and the rage. Adulation as a sign that he has permission to do as he pleases and in being free to do as he pleases to never be questioned by anyone; never challenged, never doubted never restrained. His father told him he could do anything except for all the things he could not do. And when he tried and inevitably failed his parents laughed at him and humiliated him. Thus, the rage.
He is going to destroy everything.
He is going to get us all killed and if not directly in the sense of provoking a radiated nightmare then in the sense of reducing the established norms to a pile of irradiated rhetorical rubble in which only barbarians will survive.
That the ship was left to Ahab is no small thing. The ones who came before him failed in spectacular fashion. Their bottomless narcissism, their moral compromises, their refusal to grasp that history – the joker – laughs at them as well – condemns us to a fate that should not be ours (though we are also responsible) but becomes how we are defined. By their failures we are named.
Ahab is the summation of sins. Genocide, colonization, justifications for rape and savagery. A sadomasochistic commitment to the self before the crew.
Adrift on a coffin, Ishmael alone is survived to tell thee.
The time is fast approaching when you will have no choice. You will be on one side of the barricade or the other. You will follow Ahab or you will resist.