Transpartisan Note #31
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
“I have a running war with the media. They’re scum. They are horrible people. . . . [T]he media is the opposition party in many ways,” Trump says of the media. “You are a liar,” the media says of Trump. More eyeballs watched each. The attention boosted the ratings of both.
We think they often speak different languages.
Some disagreements over ‘facts,’ we think, come from different modes of communication. The media speak in a literal, objective language, the traditional political language, while Trump meanders between a literal and a metaphorical, subjective language that requires ‘decoding’ to see ‘facts.’
One recent fight raged over crowd size. Rules from previous fights blocked official estimates. We think Inaugural Trump felt like a million bucks, and he subjectively saw a million people. The more objective Washington Monument camera saw many fewer people. The fight came. The time, the ground, the intention, etc., of the pictures, all fed the fray. The fight revealed divergent views: “facts” and ‘facts.’
“How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years,” by John McWhorter (NYT, 1/21/17), gives pointers for peace of mind that fit our sense of Trump, Trumpian talking, and transpartisan listening.
“Mr. Trump talks,” says Mr. McWhorter, “the way any number of people would over drinks, and many of us might be surprised to see elements of that style in our own downtime speech if transcribed.”
“Still, we wonder,” he continued, ”what is someone with this after-hours baggy way of talking doing in the Oval Office? The reality is, it was only a matter of time. America’s relationship to language has become more informal by the decade since the 1960s, just as it has to dress, sexual matters, culinary habits, dance and much else.”
Here are some Trumpian era reactions called to our attention since publication of the first issue of The Transpartisan Review on January 20:
- “The Trump Truth: If You Can Handle It,” by Billy Phillips, the Kabbalah Student, (1/24/17): “Whatever you see wrong in others, whatever it is, make no mistake — none whatsoever — that the negative trait and insolent behavior that you are witnessing is also inside of you and that is why it angers you so much.”
- “A Completely Different Perspective On Trump’s Presidency. This Will Make You Think,” by Bernhard Guenther, Collective Evolution, (1/17/17): “Here’s the thing from a basic Jungian perspective: Trump is your shadow, America, a reflection of your unconscious…”
- “Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self Correction,” by philosopher Ken Wilber: Both sides feel pain and suffering from a “much too narrow view, …a more expansive stance …allow(s) one to work on whatever side one wishes . . .[and make] self-correcting evolutionary realignments…”
- George Monbiot writes in The Guardian (11/23/16): “The failure by mainstream political parties to produce a new and persuasive economic narrative, which does not rely on sustaining impossible levels of growth and generating illusory jobs, provides a marvelous opening for demagogues everywhere.” Also for Transpartisans?
- “#Brexit, the Populist Surge and the Crisis of Complexity,” on the Paul Arbair, website (7/5/16): “There is indeed a growing sense that political and economic leaders across the world are increasingly at the mercy of economic and geopolitical forces beyond their control . . . leading to a sort of slow-motion ‘sophisticated state failure’” (all state institutions work well, but nothing gets done).
- A hospice social worker in New England writes, “Stop attacking Trump. He is vulnerable, cornered, and frightened. He needs comforting. I can’t say this publicly or my lefty pals will burn me at the stake.”
- A (maybe transpartisan?) humorist writes, “Madonna attacking Trump? Don’t be silly. That’s the way New Yorkers make love.”
- A partisan says, “Stop calling him Hitler. He is obviously the Red Queen. ‘You’re Fired’ is the new ‘Off With Their Heads!’”
Such comments and others do not fit neatly on a left-right continuum.
Some Trump/media exchanges feature fights about ‘facts’ and ‘alternative facts.’ Some media claim Trump lives in a ‘post-fact’ world. According to the website BrainyQuote, Will Rogers, the American Jon Stewart between WWI and WWII said “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
Keeping in mind that this Trump/media fact fight is talking over drinks rather than speaking for the ages might make the words easier to take and more understandable. Listening this way might lead us to broader, transpartisan conversation — for example, about the rise of the responsive state; more ‘work,’ with fewer ‘jobs;’ shared ownership of public spaces. The Trump vs. media debate opens up discussion beyond the politically normal.