By Rory Winston
For those who believed that Sarah Palin was suffering from a rare form of mental permafrost – a syndrome wherein the brain suddenly freezes but the mouth, unimpeded, continues to speak – there are now troubling signs that Palin’s symptoms, rather than reflecting an isolated case, are part of a growing epidemic in Alaska. The most recent victim: Alaskan State representative David Eastman. In a state of delirium bordering on religious revelation, Eastman announced to members of the media that “women are glad to become pregnant so they can travel for Medicaid-funded abortions.” Somehow, in Eastman’s mind abortions are synonymous with extravagant madcap adventures. Abortions, he figured, are nothing if not a fun-filled excursion – an all-expenses-paid vacation to a romantic hospital destination of their choice. Ahh, the raptures of surgery.
When asked to elucidate on his wild claim, Eastman had, what can best be described, as a Trumpian seizure of FBI proportions. Eyes aglow with moral certitude, lips quivering with paranoia, he careened slightly forward and announced: “You have individuals who are in villages and are glad to be pregnant so that they can have an abortion because there’s a free trip to Anchorage involved.”
Eastman had seen the light and wanted to shine it into all our eyes. His contention was that ‘Girls from small Alaskan villages will do whatever they have to – from purposefully getting pregnant to waiting till they’re way past first trimester – just to indulge in a whimsical road trip to an emergency room. After all, how many of us wouldn’t be willing to go through a series of horrendous spasms, sharp pains and a long and tiring medical procedure when what we were being offered in return was… well, basically, a series of horrendous spasms, sharp pains and a long medical procedure all in the luxurious setting of a hospital. Not any hospital, mind you, but one that overlooks Anchorage – crazy, urban boho-hipster Anchorage, a city whose resplendent nightlife can only be compared to bustling areas like Passaic New Jersey or Syosset, New York. And this, according to Eastman, is what motivates women to get themselves pregnant and abort.
Although Eastman couldn’t conceal the envy he felt for the women who miscarried or aborted in Anchorage, a well-seasoned reporter from the Associated Press felt compelled to ask Eastman what evidence he had for the outlandish claims he was making.
Evidence? Eastman quickly put two and two together and, after waiting in vain for five, realized that he was standing face to face with his nemesis, an emissary from that malevolent faction known as Fake News. Yes, the right honorable Republican Statesman Eastman was being hounded by a man bent on destroying all that was wholesome and pure in the age-old institution of Tweets.
Though Eastman was aware that the Press regularly undermined truth with facts, he had also learnt one trick from his President: how to continue lying even after being ‘found out.’ Lies, Donald Trump had taught him, should not be valued based on how successful they are in fooling people. The important thing is how you yourself feel about them. What people often don’t realize about Trump is that for him it is of little concern whether his lies are discovered. Like a parody version of a contemporary psychiatric patient, the main issue for Trump is always: How does it make you feel, Donny?
THE COURAGE TO LIE
The subtext to most Trump comments is simple: “I create my own reality and I don’t ever let anyone else come between me and my lie.” It is also what Trump had taught the fledgling liar, Eastman. Trump gave him the confidence to lie with impunity, to lie without the pressure of having to sound credible. To Trump, lies are a matter of personal choice, like what tie you choose. If you like the lie you’re wearing, keep it, insist on it, flaunt it with honor. After all, you never know if some old retro lie will be back in style tomorrow.
To Trump, a member of the Press is nothing more than the nerd at school who thought insight and truth can unmask the bully and destroy him. Though nerds may go on hoping to become heroes, taking on bigger and bigger tyrants, defending the weak against a host of oppressors, a true demagogue knows these public avengers are only powerful when those they call out still have a sense of shame. Trump suffers from no such weakness, he is impervious to humiliation and incapable of being embarrassed. His level of self-delusion is unaffected by someone showing him up for what he is.
Trump is a post-modern magician whose trick doesn’t suffer from being unveiled. Instead of feeling embarrassed, he carries on, treating those who spot the rouse as bad sports. For Trump, truth is a heckler who’s missed the point of the show. The show is not about the illusion being presented but about the mass-hypnosis employed to counteract the discovery. Regardless what is revealed, he will convince his supporters that those who bring up truth are nothing more than privileged elitists there to undermine all that is sacred and pure in our irrational inclination to blame and vilify outsiders. Like all true demagogues what Trump is really saying is: “Don’t listen to seductive facts because those who are giving you these facts are trying to outsmart you with truth while reality is what you subjectively feel in your heart.”
And so Eastman felt emboldened. He saw the Press for what it was: Snowflakes in Alaska. Not the luscious white Klan-like sheet of snow that covers his untainted Alaska; but the other kind, the tiny particles of ash that still drift from the crematoriums of Auschwitz calling his manifest destiny into question. Yes, Eastman felt empowered. And so he took on Fake News, real liberals, Jewish Media, Soros, Feminists, gays, all of them, in the name of his glorious leader, the Tweet Meister of America, Donald Trump.
NERDS OF TRUTH VS. ETERNAL BULLIES
The representative from the Associated Press was no more than a frightened nerd trying to do the right thing and heckle the bully with truth and Eastman knew it. And so Eastman gave way to an odd simper and with wild abandon, decided then and there to back up his idiotic theory rather than back down from a confrontation. He had already committed himself to the concept that women were getting abortions just for the fun of it, getting pregnant and aborting just so they could take road trips to hospitals. Going a step further into the land of the ‘big lie’ could certainly do no greater harm than had already been done. In fact, it would show courage, resolve. His mentor would be proud. And so, channeling Trump, rather than continuing to turn away from the camera, Eastman leered straight into its lens.
“I can think of a case that was brought to our attention,” he announced defiantly. “A case,” he pontificated, “that was brought to our attention earlier this season where you had a family.” Eastman paused as if he were waiting for the cries of unborn fetuses to give him strength to continue. Outing the ‘feeble vacation-seeking abortionists’ once and for all, he finally said, “You had a family who was very glad to hear that their abortion had gone beyond a certain point because (that meant) they were going to be heading to Seattle.”
It was done. Eastman had stood in place. Plastered within a beatific smile, he bore the satisfaction of someone who had just testified against a heretic. He had informed on a family in hiding. He had fulfilled his sacred duty by having denounced all those “women of pro-choice repute.” Take that Hester Prynne, take that witches of Salem, take that you heretics who will as surely burn today as you have throughout history. Eastman had gone from a failed thinker into a man who worked in the service of this country’s President-manqué but Fuhrer-presumptive, Donald Trump.
Still, I couldn’t help think about his final seemingly random remark: “…very glad to hear that their abortion had gone beyond a certain point because (that meant) they were going to be heading to Seattle.”
Seattle? A hospital in Seattle? The comment was absurd. It made no sense; though by this time the man working for the Associated Press no longer had the volition to pursue. Trump had succeeded in endowing every third rate pundit, ad man, propagandist, social media organizer and troll with the confidence of someone who could shape their own destiny and alter the course of history. He had empowered them to make up stories, hold on dearly to their lies, and live free from the fear of future accountability. Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher and Baldur von Schirach would have been dazzled by just how little schooling and effort it took nowadays to win a following and turn even the seemingly relentless press meek.
SYMBOLIC BATTLE: ALASKA VS. SEATTLE
But, whether Eastman was winging his final response or not, the word ‘Seattle’ was so odd that it stuck in my head like an unforgettable hook to an awful pop song, forcing me to revisit Eastman’s response over and over again. What was Eastman on about? There was an air of absurdity and disdain to how the Alaskan representative said Seattle. Seattle – the seaport city that was forever undergoing change as Alaska continuously regressed. Seattle of Grunge. Seattle of youthful angst, alienation, and apathy. Seattle with its overwhelming drive towards freedom. No. Whether Eastman was aware of it or not, he had said Seattle for a reason. He would never allow his Alaska to become Seattle. Nor would it become the American counterpart to Vancouver where a former coal mining outpost would evolve into a music and art capital. His Alaska would remain unblemished by our nation’s development, untarnished by the changes our society had painstakingly undergone, untainted by the evolution we were still in the process of undergoing. Eastman’s Alaska was a place free of struggles, free of moral victories. His Alaska was the snow white vacuum of a non-Multicultural vision. It was the precise symbol for the country that Trump had wanted to reinstate when he beckoned all the xenophobes, racists, and isolationist monsters in our country with the words: Make America Great Again.
In Trumpian discourse, greatness is a thing to be found in the past. Trump’s ‘greatness’ holds the promise of return to a time of unchecked management, monopolies and Fat Cats, a return to the fear-mongering of Senator Joseph McCarthy, a return to the values espoused by the recently lauded slave owner and President Andrew Jackson. The “again” in case we missed it during the election campaign is what Lincoln fought against, what FDR had partially tackled with the New Deal, what Dr. Martin Luther King marched against, what the thousands who crowded Woodstock railed in opposition to as a visiting Brit band called The Who sang “Won’t get fooled again.” It was the ‘Again’ that students at Ken State died protesting. It was the type of ‘again’ that was met with the unconquerable sound of every holocaust survivor who ever bemoaned apathy and indifference and shouted out: “Never again.”
The Alaska of Sarah Palin and Eastman is a perfect setting for Trump’s ‘again.’ It is an Alaska devoid of concern for climate change, an Alaska barren of diversity, an Alaska that had all but entirely gutted the remaining spirit of its indigent tribes. This Alaska is indeed Trump’s symbolic capital. And juxtaposing it with Seattle is telling.
Instead of Seattle’s Stone Temple Pilots, Trump’s Alaska holds the promise of Stone Temples – religiously sanctified walls to isolate us with doctrines that promise to make prisoners of us all. Instead of Nirvana, this Alaska is one that opts for a Christian heaven where the impoverished and the weak are the biblical meek who are expected to wait for an afterlife before inheriting anything at all. Instead of Alice in Chains, Alaska would have Alice, Mary, Janet or any other feminist for that matter in legal chains. A new set of laws could employ false economic arguments to justify old patriarchal values. Pro-life arguments must sound awfully familiar to historians of the deep south. After all, many of the confederate leaders were savvy enough to eschew the ethical question about slavery and responded to questions about freedom with an inherently amoral economical answer based on industrial exigency. The abortion issue is getting similar treatment by many of the savvier Republican representatives of today. When not on the campaign trail appealing to those who value imagined life more than existent ones, Republicans often leave God out of the abortion equation entirely and veil their objections in a language that simply wants to curb federal powers. As for how all these newly imposed chains will effect women, well ‘Go Ask Alice.’
Alaska is a perfect setting for the way in which Trump wants to make America great again. It will make America great by making Americans miserable. While a few select industrialists can look forward to greater profits, the rest can say adieu to multi-culturalism, culture (any kind for that matter), education, healthcare and the basic rights we fought so hard to ensure. In fact, we can even say goodbye to media – the one solitary fixture that for a brief time in history remained devoid of political influence and was there to admonish those in power.
Seeing Alaska today, many have noted a number of issues that need urgent remedies: the population’s depression, the abject poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, the rapidly declining population, the demise of tribal culture in its final throes, the endangered species and the climate change. But, of course, that’s only when seeing Alaska from ground level, only when being compelled to live among people, only when hearing abandoned children crying, or seeing the marauding number of emaciated polar bears. It’s not the Alaska of Donald Trump, not the pristine white landscape viewed from a private jet at 30,000 feet. That’s a different Alaska, an Alaska devoid of ordinary humans or wildlife. It is an Alaska with tremendous growth potential for big business, an Alaska which like America itself is bound to become ‘great again’ – the great slave nation it once was, the land with education for the few, sweat shops for the many, backstreet abortion clinics, white supremacist groups, and, as a nuance, the kind of leader we had prior to our revolution against the monarchy. But before political permafrost sets in, perhaps we should set aside words like ‘great’ for a while and focus instead on the few ‘good’ things we have managed to achieve and still have left.