Atlas: Shrug!

Yesterday on my Facebook I was challenged once again to justify all the “pro-Trump propaganda bullshit” I post.  If you’re a consistent reader, you’ll recall that the last time this happened, it was because I’d posted a link to an NIH study showing that, of 455 people exposed to an asymptomatic person with ‘Rona, zero of those people came down with it.  This study was important because the entire justification for much of the COVID response has been based on the much-touted earlier assumption that people contract it and become asymptomatic spreaders for a couple weeks, prior to onset of symptoms.  I remember the lit memes about it, in fact: before and after photos of ‘Rona-positive people — before in their home, and after in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, a beach with a huge point break, on a jetliner, etc. 

Up to that point, I’d never posted a single pro-Trump thing on my timeline, although I had actively criticized Biden because how can you not.  I mean, they wheel him out, pray to god he’ll just stick to what’s on the teleprompter and not try to sniff anyone’s hair, and then cut to commercial just as he shows signs of gathering himself to go fully off the rails.  He says racist things (“you ain’t black”; “poor kids can be just as bright as white kids”; Mitt Romney will “put y’all back in chains”; Obama is “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean”; etc)  before anyone can stop him.  Then, with a palpable sense of relief, they wheel him back.  I exaggerate but only very slightly.  The man isn’t well.  If he was my elderly father and acted like that, I would line up some care and cancel my plans for a bit.

Anyway, yes, at that point my own thinking on POTUS was still quite influenced by the MSM.  Not through me actively seeking out that thought climate, but because it’s impossible to resist or avoid — it’s just sort of there.  I considered him to be a man with tragic tics, a buffoon, a blow hard, probably good at something business-y but that wasn’t fleshed out for me, and incidentally quite honest, to the extent his synapses fired in order.  Increasingly to me it seemed, he’d somehow bumbled himself into this position and, simply by not being one of the inner-circle lawyer-lobbyist political elite, was putting a monkey wrench in the gears of something big, probably inadvertently, in a way I tended to ambiently enjoy.  

The list of things I don’t follow, and don’t know much about, is long, including and extending well beyond US and world politics.  I’m not a movie buff or an armchair quarterback or an indie singer-songwriter encyclopedia.  I wrote a poem, in grad school, called The Knowing of Things, which seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle but anyway explored Knowing, with a capital K, as this weaponized performance art we leverage against one another, meanwhile missing chance after chance to know, little case k, deeper, quieter, realer things, particularly about ourselves, all along the way.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an empath — I doubt I fully understand what that even means — but it’s something like that, for me, where the world can easily feel like a tumult, and where the resonance I naturally seek with others can compel but also derail me.  I like to have one foot in the outside world (the tumult) and one foot in my inner space.  Everyone/everything I encounter feels like a source of potential overwhelment, first, and whatever other set of characteristics as a distant second.  So there’s no “type” of people I gravitate to, or social set or even setting, as we normally define those things.  It’s just a question of how intrusive the energy feels, first, and then IF the energy feels good and like something I can easily disengage from or consume on my own terms without a big power struggle — and that’s a big if — THEN I’ll feel interested in and curious about whatever opinions, characteristics, or circumstances surround this thing or person.  That’s a quick Hannah psychology 101 for you.  

I guess the synopsis would be, I get my red lights or green lights about people and situations on a level well below performed knowledge, demographics, or apparent similarities or dissimilarities from myself.  We’ve largely abandoned gnosticism — knowledge arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means — in favor of capital K knowing.  But I haven’t.  I can’t, because that’s how I work.  

So: back to Trump.  At the time of the first accusation of being a Trump nut, I was honestly aggrieved.  Things are so polarized right now — “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, essentially.  This just doesn’t play with me, period, about anything, because I can’t tolerate a bully, and only a bully would say this.  I’m pretty sure I could get in a time machine and go back to any point in human civilization, whatever is going on, however right or wrong or messy or clean that might be, and if someone walked up and told me, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” I’d be like, “okay, I guess I’m against you then.”  Seriously, fuck off with that.  

So I post nothing about Trump, an NIH article implying ‘Rona is not nearly as transmissible by asymptomatic people as we thought, and probably a slew of other things accurately reflecting my perspective, which is not even secretly pro-Trump — I’m still not even caring about that guy — oh, I remember what pissed people off, I had marked myself “safe” from the fake pandemic, which despite being comedic actually does reflect my impressions.  The virus is real, the pandemic is mostly political — and this actual friend comes at me with accusations of “pro-Trump bullshit propaganda”.  

I responded to that as best I was able, at the time, which was mainly to explain the obvious fact that a person can hold a broad variety of opinions about Trump and still acknowledge that Biden is a dumpster fire.  I think it’s almost a form of abuse to put him in office, frankly.  Abuse of him, I mean.  He’s so frail and so confused.  The video where he talks about his leg hair, and people touching his leg hair, and kids sitting in his lap, on national television — such cringe.  

Anyway, that friend hasn’t talked to me since and that’s fine.  The point of friendship is to agree to disagree sometimes, and that works great until the other person rolls out with “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, at which point I would literally gnaw off my own arm to get out from under that.  I’ve felt pretty anxious and sad and urgent for a long time about what we’re doing to animals in industrial settings and factory farming and on a lot of levels, and I’ve never once taken the tack of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”.  You don’t get people that way.  You don’t raise consciousness that way, which is obviously the whole point.  You actually violate your own level of consciousness that way, and this is the root source of violence.  Also, Person B might have another really important consciousness “mission” that they’re on, following the call of their own soul, and for Person A to say “my priority is more important than your priority” is a resoundingly clear indicator that Person A needs to check their own priorities.

So short story long, that’s not the level at which I’m willing to have any discussion, about anything, because it’s not a discussion.  Accordingly, it occurred to me that Trump as a symbol — whoever that guy is, whatever he represents, which has not seemed urgent for me to suss out, because unlike most people I can actually drive past the scene of an accident on the highway without rubbernecking or going off the road — Trump as a symbol was appearing again and again as the determining factor in the tone of personal exchanges.  Was that tone peace and light and live and let live, from Trump’s detractors, and “if you’re not with us you’re against us” from Trump’s fans?  Actually no.  Actually the opposite.  And people that I like, people that I know pretty well, would object to my perspective not based on its own merit or fallacy, but based on first a conflation with Trumpism and second a reaction-retaliation around that.  

It was so strange — like suddenly finding myself encased in some type of holographic avatar projection, visible to them but not to me.  I’m still doing what I do, thinking what I think, saying what I say, and none of it gets through.  Apparently I’m this slavering objectionable evil threatening retard, from the perspective of the same people talking about democracy, free speech, freedom, rights, and diversity.  And I’m either signaling their same virtues or mistaken for everything they oppose — no middle ground.  

Meanwhile, it shouldn’t shock you to hear that many people who actually work for a living like Trump.  They may like him actively, they may like him passively, they may avoid the whole political-rhetorical catastrophe as I have tended to, but they like him.  They like America.  They don’t want to be interfered with.  They don’t get their feathers easily ruffled.  They speak their mind regardless of how it’s received.  They don’t virtue signal.  There’s no one to virtue signal to.  Fire camps, for instance, are a hot bed of people who have a valuable skill or trade, they’ve put it into service on behalf of the USFS or contracting, they drive trucks or fix engines or dig ditches or jump out of airplanes or prepare food or set up tents or drive around delivering hundreds of pounds of 3” hose to drop sites, or whatever. 

Is confirmation bias at play?  Probably.  It’s never not, let’s just say, because the Law of Attraction, like gravity, is everywhere applicable.  Suffice to say, I was personally just fine to let Trump remain a “whatever” abstract in my realm, and to let other people argue about him, and to continue to seek and easily find resonance and intelligibility with others, as I always have and still generally do.  

However, it became functionally unavoidable to take this on, in one way or another.  I mean, it didn’t even have to be Trump.  The symbol could have been anything — a golden calf, a burning bush, whatever.  If I was going to be constantly mistaken, and hated?, for a Trump supporter simply because I continued to have a perspective and identity outside of the official recommended hysteria (and marked myself safe from the fake pandemic), I might as well figure out what the fuck that guy is actually saying, right?  

So the first thing I noticed was that I never stumbled across any direct source media or material from Trump, at length — a brief clip or soundbite or image of him looking doofy, if anything.  The lengthy material was always a pre-digested version; someone’s commentary, someone’s spin, someone’s analysis.  As a person capable of basic ass critical thinking, once I noticed this, I couldn’t un-notice it.  

A parallel, also a true story: I read Ayn Rand in high school, both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  I enjoyed them very much.  I read (mostly fiction) voraciously all my life, certainly in high school, and my biggest problem was running out of books, or good books being too short.  I read her, I read Douglas Adams, I read Isaac Asimov, I read Tanith Lee, George R.R. Martin, Tolkien, Bram Stoker, Percival, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Neal Stephenson, Margaret Atwood, Robert Heinlein, Orson Wells, Piers Anthony, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Brooks, Michael Chrichton, Lord Dunsaney, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimon, Aldous Huxley, a tiny bit of Stephen King (not my thing), Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, and yes, Ayn Rand.  

Guess what?  She wasn’t controversial back then, or not that I was aware.  I really appreciated the effect her books had on me, too.  On the Navajo Rez, there’s not pressure to excel; there’s pressure to not excel, or at least not in any way that’s considered too unusual or too obvious.  Don’t be a lightning rod, you know what happens to lightning rods.  I couldn’t help being unusual, at least racially, and certainly in my bookishness which felt natural to me but looked like a big dumb waste of time I suppose to most of my friends and classmates, and Ayn Rand’s fictional stories sort of gave me a different lens through which to experience all that.  Maybe it’s not about getting anyone’s agreement or approval; maybe the very fact of being often misinterpreted is the reason, in itself, to focus less on bland intelligibility and more on individual excellence, ie unintelligibility, along whatever trajectory my soul seems most inclined.  Ayn Rand was a much needed voice for me, then.  

I went on to, you know, grow up and shit, and suddenly years down the line, Ayn Rand was the antichrist.  And here’s the part I want you to see: people would just go into seizure if her name or ideas were mentioned.  And I would say, “I liked her books.”  Just that, the honest truth — I liked her books.  This was — you don’t even understand, this was perceived as the most regressive, aggressive, non-intellectual, non-everything-good statement a person could make.  I even asked about her in grad school, in my Women and Women’s Literature class.  “Are we gonna talk about Ayn Rand at all?”  I knew, by then, I was stirring the pot a little bit.  But, I mean, the woman sold 30 million books.  The super woke prof hated me from that moment on, and gave me the only B of my grad school career.  Literally the only one.  

Point being, I was involved in a minor handful of tête-à-têtes, over the years, relative to Ayn Rand.  In 100% of these cases, I was not asserting that anyone else should read Ayn Rand, or read her and like it — I was simply stating that I had read her fiction and liked it.  I never read her philosophy, simply because I don’t read philosophy unless it’s woo woo af.  Also in 100% of these cases, the person being offended that I liked her fiction had not, themselves, ever read any Ayn Rand.  Not one book, not one paragraph.  They had been issued their impression of Ayn Rand entirely 2nd hand.

Right there, I’m like: ok.  Don’t even come at me with how my opinion of something I have experienced first-hand, and you haven’t, should be different.  In fact, how are people not just ashamed of themselves, in that moment?  I’ve overstepped lots of times, and when/if it becomes clear to me that the other person has more direct experience of a thing than I have — especially if it turns out I have none — what am I gonna say??  Except, sorry, forgive me, please tell me what you think about that.  That’s the only rational form of recovery.  

You know, I should have woken up to it then.  Everything I’m experiencing about SJW culture now is just a rehash of my bewildering Ayn Rand conversations in the early 2000’s.  “If you’re not with us, on this thing we have so little direct experience of that we can’t even assess whether you do or not, or what that might mean — then you’re against us.”  

So back to Trump, yes, I had the glimmering of enough critical thinking to realize: I don’t know if any of us know what we’re talking about.  I certainly don’t.  I don’t have any direct experience of listening to Trump’s speeches, outside of the one he gave upon winning the 2016 election, which I resonated with, and perhaps more importantly — it appears as if I must actually seek out those direct experiences, in order to form some kind of opinion, since they aren’t being easily funneled to me.  I don’t think they’re being funneled to anyone.  In fact, I think that we all think we know what we’re talking about but what we’re really doing is eating the remnants of food someone else already chewed up and spit out for us, baby bird style.  

So yeah, in the last couple of months I’ve made a little side project of doing the work — it’s actual work — to seek out transcripts of his interviews, to watch videos of extended length of his speeches and addresses, to actually look at the executive orders he’s signed into law in 2020 alone and read about them, to examine what isn’t being said, or might not be included, in the daily frothing seizure of news cycle activity; to get it from the horse’s mouth if I’m going to get it at all.  

The relevant thing here is not the explorative conversations I’ve had, as a result, with people at least as reasonable and open as myself, of which there are many, most of whom work for a living; the relevant thing is that it’s like fucking Groundhog Day, exactly mimicking this disconcerting experience I already had around liking Ayn Rand.  Oh, President Trump’s 4th of July speech at Mt. Rushmore was “divisive, racist, aggressive”?  It was “fascist”?  Okay, I’ll cue that shit up and listen to it myself.  So I’m listening and I’m like, uhm-hm, ok, uhm-hm, ok…waiting for it to get divisive and fascist.  Never did.  He knocked it outta the park.  That guy loves his country and doesn’t mince words about what he thinks is fantastic about the American people and the American spirit.

So, I could go on, but it doesn’t matter.  Either people have the sense to critique the entire one-sided manner in which they’re receiving the information forming the basis of their impressions, or they don’t.  I’m not implying that it’s impossible to listen to Trump directly and disagree with his perspective (as does Russel Brand), I’m just saying that that’s not where the rubber seems to meet the road in these interpersonal blowouts.  I’m also not implying I’m some kind of expert on Trump as a symbol, as a leader, or as a person; I am saying that I’ve crossed the rubicon, in terms of being willing to inherit my intel about him second-hand, and I think that, short of direct and intentional engagement with what the guy is saying, doing, and focusing on, it’s nearly impossible to get a clear sense of the media’s standard deviation.  

The media as a whole is, in this regard, useless, except as a broken clock that’s only accurate now and then by accident, which of course begs the question — why?  No one wants to acknowledge that just a small handful of parent corporations own the media in its entirey, just like no one wants to acknowledge that like four companies own all the slaughter and meatpacking operations in the US, but it’s true.  It’s easily possible for us to receive what appears to be a myriad of viewpoints, and we’re encouraged to choose among them, like used cars at a shitty car lot, which are actually coordinated by one consolidated interest.  Consolidated power is everywhere apparent.  The stakes are getting higher and higher, socially, for people to toe the ideological and political line, or at least pay it lip service, to virtue signal correctly, because, you know — if you’re not with us you’re against us.

I find that the people willing to entertain Trump’s actual ideas and actual sentiments and actual priorities are also willing to have an actual conversation with me, about any topic on which we differ.  I find that the people who go into apoplexy that I’m signaling dangerous un-woke ideas and perspectives are the shittiest, meanest, most close-minded people, or manifestations of themselves, I’ve ever encountered.  Like I said, I’m to some extent empathic, or in that neighborhood, and the threshold at which green lights and red lights are occurring for me is certainly well below some asinine surface level mutual massaging.  

So, wrapping up, let’s see — yeah, I posted something perceived as critical of AOC — it was a tweet I wasn’t sure she was responsible for, it was either fake or real but had been deleted — nothing about Trump — and AOC, by the way, firmly jumped the shark for me when she explained that “pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps is a physical impossibility” — and so a guy jumps on and is like, “You can’t honestly tell me you support Trump??”  

I thought about that.  I finally said, “Yeah.  Change my mind.”  It’s an oversimplified misdirect in the first place, but oh well, that’s all you can expect these days.  

So he jumps on and makes 8 comments!  Eight comments!  Basically, saying he wouldn’t lower himself to such an endeavor, and then go ahead, he’s all ears, and then “Well…?” And then, “I thought so”, and just like going into actual harassment mode.  Meanwhile I have other shit I’m doing, I don’t just live on Facebook.  Nick and I finished narrating a new audiobook yesterday, by the way.  The guy is still just raging on there, “Well?  Well?  You got nothing, ha, I knew it!  Well?”  I checked my notifications and was just like, oh my god, what a psycho!  So, what I ended up doing was just blocking him.  These days, it probably appears as if I block people because I love Trump, but it’s actually because, like I said, anyone who tells me I’m against them if I’m not with them is out.  That felt good.  

So, it all seemed relevant enough to write a blog about.  Like I said, I certainly don’t know much, and am a Jenny-Come-Lately to this party of even trying to directly react to original political content, and not its distorted media avatar, and all I can say is that I’ll continue to seek out more context, think for myself, form my own opinions, and block insane internet bullies who think they’re woke.                                                          

2 thoughts on “Atlas: Shrug!

  1. Beautifully put. Love Stephenson and spent my early teens consuming T. Brooks’ Sword of Shannara series. Who was that druid guy (an obvious Gandalf knock off) but he was awesome who finally succumbed after his battle with the unbeatable beast the the jachyra. I forget, did he ever come back like Gandalf the white kinda deal? Anyhow. It’s comforting to know there are still people out there with the capacity to reason even as our civilization is being torn down around us because the MSM and its fellow traveling politicians have decided to go full communist and try for another Maoist revolution here. Makes you wonder what they are really hiding? It’s gotta be some unGodly brutal and inhuman stuff.

    1. Yeah. I’m not normally a big fan of the “redistribution of wealth” idea but if the $170+ trillion or whatever got seized from the cabal and sprinkled around, I would be totally fine with that, just saying. I did not read the Sword of Shannara series; I think my brother gave it a B, and I usually only inherited his A books haha! There was this one author that I was just crazy about, read lots of their books, cannot remember the name or anything enough to even bring it up in Google….agh…

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