Smeared across my smart-phone’s news app are multiple and varied images of an angry face, puffy and twisted. It has a mouth to rival any hemorrhoidal rear end, puckered and tight. Atop its coral-hued puffy visage rests a swathe of dubious flocculence that reminds me of the gnarled fox/stole that hung in my grandmother’s closet. I recoil in terror.
You know who I am talking about and maybe appreciate the visual allusions. Perhaps you even chuckle. To be fair, I didn’t know what “flocculence” meant either until I discovered it in the thesaurus (“resembling wool especially in loose fluffy organization”).
The feces that erupts from this Orange Pustule’s mouth on a daily basis is nothing short of sickening. The things he says about women, immigrants, Blue Star families, veterans, the electoral system, African Americans, the physically disabled, tax-payers, the tax system, Muslims, beauty queens and crying babies are nothing short of disturbing. I am appalled, offended, shocked, embarrassed, and queasy. But I am also deeply, deeply saddened, because I live in a country that has granted such an individual the loftiest of platforms from which to spew his diarrhetic hate-speak.
Given America’s propensity for self-exultation this is hardly surprising. It is, after all, a country built upon many a myth of its own superiority, irrespective of fact. American Exceptionalism. American Bravado. American Might. These myths are fed by a constant stream of grandiose gesture and boastful talk: “The biggest”, “the most”, “the freest”.
We hear it in the political speeches of our politicians but also in the day-to-day speech patterns of our friends and families. “The greatest country in the world.” “The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” America is a country where the superlative expression of its inalienable rights has become an inalienable aspect of its demeanor. I talk (the loudest), therefore I am (American).
The Orange Pustule is arguably the epitome of what it means to be American in this day and age: a bloated gas-bag of crass soundbites fighting to maintain a sense of mythical former glory. His double-down tactics of aggressive self-assertion are merely a reflection of Americans who themselves cannot back down from who they imagine themselves to be, getting progressively louder and more insistent that this is what it means to be American. And enough people love it to put him within striking distance of speaking (yelling, bragging, threatening, attacking, leering, insulting, condemning) for the entire country.
This poisonous smear of a man has commandeered the American sense of self, baptizing it in his narcissistic cesspool of fury. If things are not “the best” then they are undeniably “the worst”, and no amount of Blue-hued politicians emphatically reminding us that things aren’t that bad is going to dissuade us from this apocalyptic view. He has taken the social/economic/security issues that this country contends with (much like any other country) and decried them as nothing short of a disaster. The only answer to such woes is to annihilate anything and everything in our path, with the Orange Pustule leading the way to salvation. It is yet another American myth, that of the lone-wolf standing up to the establishment and all the direst of evils it embodies. How we lap it up.
The truly sad thing is that I’m not sure we know who we are otherwise.
How do we redefine ourselves if the myths we built our lives on have proven to be misguided? How do we retreat from the brink of insanity (or maybe we’ve passed that brink) and reimagine a different America, one humbled and in check with reality?
Maybe we can’t. Maybe this is the dying gasp of a nation that needed to scream that it was “the greatest” more than it needed to listen and address its needs. Or maybe this is merely a rite of passage, a time when Americans must rage like adolescent children against all the unfairness and disappointments of life only to calm down, apologize for bad behavior, and finally become adults.