America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Fear and Loathing from Beyond the Campaign Trail
By Flavian Mark Lupinetti
19 February 2017
While performing my janitorial duties in the basement of a biweekly newspaper that once wrote about music, I knocked over a box labeled “M.W.” An ancient fax machine tumbled out. My god, could I have stumbled onto the Mojo Wire, the apparatus Hunter S. Thompson used to file his stories, his rants, his drug-fueled invective? Just then, despite the absence of electrical or phone connections, the device whirred to life and began spitting out greasy pages.
You’ve awakened Dr. Gonzo from his long dirt nap, a disturbance appropriate only if you fuckers have synthesized some good new pharmaceuticals. Because from this plane of nonexistence it looks like all you’ve discovered are longer acting boner drugs. You’ve got to be shitting me. Seventy bazillion dollars a year to the National Institutes of Health and you have nothing more to show for it than a hard on? Son, if you can’t get a hard on from any third-rate chorus girl in a fourth-rate Vegas club—only twenty bucks on Locals Night with Clark County ID—maybe you should just shoot yourself like I did.
I suppose you want my thoughts on the election. Perhaps you think the news of legal pot, soon available at every third storefront in every state worth actually living in, would cheer me up. How little you must think of me, that I would consider your civilization advanced because fat white golfers can go one toke over the line at the country club. Death has its disadvantages, but consorting with market analysts and intellectual property lawyers getting high while listening to Matchbox 20 is not among them.
Just kidding. I know what you want to hear about, the most bilious and venom-infused presidential election since ’68. A good point of reference, although instead of one candidate getting shot in the head, several shot themselves in the foot, and while America didn’t murder any black men with the star power of Martin Luther King, you made up for it in numbers.
What can one say about an election that saw the party of FDR doomed because white working class voters turned out in large numbers? The Democratic establishment will suicidally blame racism, nativism, misogyny, religiosity, and other tribal impulses, all of which indeed rose to the surface like the smelliest turds in a waste treatment plant. The Dems will not, however, place the blame where it belongs, on themselves and on their candidate, a small-time grifter who never understood that America loves those who steal in large amounts but hates the chiseler and the cheap hustler. This nation despises the person who picks your pocket for change but reveres him who plunders your 401k.
The specifics of her thievery require no elaboration, but the sheer durability of her grasping does, as a demonstration of character. When her priapic husband got voted out of office as governor of Arkansas, she considered herself “broke”—revealing her tangential understanding of the meaning of that word—and recognized the potential for Slick Willie to dump her in favor of a Miss Fayetteville Pulled Pork. Add to that her questionable opportunities for employment (She never did pass the DC bar exam.). To buffer her financial picture she invested in cattle futures, an activity that produces pissing of pants among the most savvy and cold-blooded of traders. Yet with no prerequisites, she turned a thousand dollars into a hundred thousand in a few months, a success no less remarkable than a bison dancing with the Bolshoi. The only conceivable explanation for such brilliance is that her broker, a political connection, bought a series of futures contracts on behalf of multiple clients. Normally, some of these contracts win big, some lose big, some break even. But if after the fact, a favored client gets assigned the winners, huge profits can accrue in no time. Necessarily, so favored a client gains what other clients lose. Pickpocketing, if you will. Understanding this helps to clarify how solicitation of donations from bastions of democracy such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Morocco must have felt less like extortion and more like business as usual.
Recall that this advocate for women and children served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, the corporation that exploits more women than any other in this country, pays them less than their male counterparts, denies them health care coverage, and busts unions that might mitigate these abuses. Recall that she supported her husband’s reforms that threw millions of poor children off welfare and threw millions of black men, many supporting their families, behind bars for unconscionably long sentences.
You have to applaud the sheer nerve of someone brazenly trumpeting experience when that experience includes voting to invade Iraq without bothering to read the National Intelligence Estimate that undermined the case for war. And overthrowing Qaddafi, contributing to his murder, plunging Libya into anarchy, and providing ISIS with a base of operations. And supporting the military junta that overthrew the government of Honduras and murdered activist Berta Cárceres. A wise person once said that people who remember their SAT scores after the age of 25 are assholes, but remembering them is one thing and using them as a primary argument for election to the highest office in the world requires a level of assholery without precedent.
She will blame her defeat on excessive media coverage of her private email server and the FBI investigation thereof. But she never understood why this matter gave offense. After all, her server turned out to be pretty damn secure, far more secure than the servers of the Democratic National Committee, hacked to a faretheewell by Assange or Putin or someone in his parents’ basement; more secure than Dell, the private outsourced security firm that let Edward Snowden get away with everything short of nuclear launch codes. Hardly surprising that the FBI had to strain at gnats to detect leakage of important secrets because ninety percent of classified material has the security valence of the late night menu at Applebee’s. Furthermore, I regard lying to FBI agents not as a crime, but as a sacrament. No, what made her actions offensive was her desire to keep her own communications private while voting for the Patriot Act and endorsing government snooping that invades the privacy of everyone else.
Could she have done anything different? Yes. She could have stopped dry-humping Wall Street long enough to divorce her bastard husband, and not merely in the marital sense. She could have divorced herself from NAFTA, repeal of Glass-Steagall, the Defense of Marriage Act, and deregulation of financial derivatives. She could have divorced herself from Bubba’s bombing of Serbia, Iraq, and Sudan. Instead, she belittled Tammy Wynette (who has more talent in her little finger than she has in her entire pant-suited frame) for singing about standing by her man, but cleaved to an unfaithful yokel more embarrassing than any of Tammy’s liaisons. Imagine this alternative: A wronged woman affirms her independence, politically most of all. Millions of women with similar biographies would have seen her as an inspiration.
History will remember Hillary Rodham Kissinger Goldman Sachs Clinton as a latter-day Richard Nixon, someone kicked around for substantive reasons, someone also kicked around because it gave us so darn much pleasure to do so.
We must not throw the last clods of dirt on her political grave without reflecting on what her failings have bequeathed, four years of the issue of an unholy mating of Eva Braun and an orangutan of low character. But do not compare America to 1932 Germany. A better comparison is 1940 Vichy France, a society that legally moved the levers of government to transform itself into fascism light, a country that deported Jews to gas chambers but upheld excellence in food and wine, just as New America drools at the prospect of victimizing its least favored minorities while maintaining the highest standards of professional sports. Admittedly even the Vichy analogy is strained because Marshall Pétain served with valor in his country’s army and had a work ethic.
I can’t deny that a Trump presidency has certain benefits. It will retire the quaint notion that whatever we think of a particular President, we must respect the office. Not even Nixon could extinguish that hoary tribute to eight-grade civics class. But even before his inauguration Trump has made it acceptable to regard the chief executive with scorn normally reserved for child sex abusers, deadbeats, and imbeciles, largely by embodying the worst qualities of those groups. And the shit will roll downhill. A Trump cabinet will resemble nothing so much as a collection of orcs from “The Lord of the Rings” movies plus Rudy Giuliani, considered a friend because he also eats human flesh. Assembling a complete set of Presidential appointees may prove troublesome. Torquemada—Supreme Court—is unavailable. Adolf Eichmann—Immigration and Customs Enforcement—may not pass the background check. Hannibal Lecter—Health and Human Services—they say didn’t pay Social Security taxes on his nanny. But if they can spring him from prison, I hear Dylann Roof will agree to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department.
If you search for consolation in a Trump Presidency, grab onto this: Few, at least few white men with steady incomes, will feel more miserable over the next four years than Donald Trump himself. Like a dog chasing a car without a clue about what to do if it caught the vehicle, Trump has never contemplated what comes with his new job. His new demanding job that requires reading things, long things, long complicated things. His job that will require him to pay attention for more than three seconds at a time and to meet with leaders of Uruguay and Indonesia and Malawi, to learn where Uruguay and Indonesia and Malawi are. This is not a man who likes to get his hands dirty . . . except when performing his unique version of foreplay.
Consider the strain on Trump’s family. His oldest sons, Quday and Usay, sentenced to guide all enterprises Trump, must brace themselves for a siege by con artists not unlike dear old dad, and they will find themselves taken to the cleaners as if they were a pair of Amish brothers on their first trip to the big dirty city. Trump’s lust object daughter, the family genius, will stew as her enterprises fall victim to consumer boycotts and—why not?—shoplifting and vandalism. And what of the little one? Well, the kid’s already a dead ringer for Satan’s offspring in “The Omen.” Here’s a warning, Melania. If a light bulb goes out or you need to get something off a high shelf, let the maid get it. Do not stand on the chair.
Poor Melania. If there exists an exception to my prediction that no one will experience more misery than the synthetically-coiffed vulgarian, it is pitiful wife 3.0. Until now she could walk Fifth Avenue anonymously, just another aging, collagen-pumped, curare-injected clothing rack, blissfully consorting with her fellow Eurotrash and partying, partying, partying. Think her head won’t explode the first time she has to spend an afternoon entertaining Mrs. Mitch McConnell or a busload of kids who won the cerebral palsy essay contest?
Yes, a Trump administration will inflict enormous damage on Trump. But you, you generation of swine, have the capacity to inflict even more. This man has skin so thin you can see aneurysms form and start to bulge almost to the point of cerebral hemorrhage. Don’t think for a second that he doesn’t notice the “Not Our President” chants in Miami, in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in Bangor Fucking Maine. He turned apoplectic when he felt insulted by Hillary Clinton, a person he at least acknowledges as existing on a plane similar to his own. Think of his psychic scars when he hears “Not Our President” from longshoremen in Long Beach, teachers in Topeka, or unemployed steel workers in Steubenville, Ohio. And how much more agonizing for him when he learns you aided a family of Syrian refugees or stashed undocumented Mexicans in your basement . . . or if you saw a swastika-tattooed cretin on the subway giving a hijab-clad woman a hard time and told him, “Hey. Cut it out.” You must not rest until every Trump property has a cordon of AR-15 toting security guards that make the upscale business traveler say, “Fuck it. I’m staying at the Marriott.”
Now. Get out there and invent some good drugs.
Flavian Mark Lupinetti, a writer and cardiac surgeon in eastern Maine, obtained his MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
His stories and poems have appeared in Barrelhouse, Bellevue Literary Review, Cutthroat, The Examined Life, Neon, Red Rock Review, and ZYZZYVA.