To what can we ascribe the continuing metastasis of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which has come to infect America, and indeed the world, almost to the level of a true plague?
The most recent of the seemingly endless incidents/outbreaks range from the ridiculous (hapless movie star Johnny Depp making a joke about assassinating the president and then recanting it…his agent must have called) to the genuinely creepy (a Democratic Party official declaring he was glad Steve Scalise was shot).
Yes, this last one was about a congressman, not the president. But we know the atmosphere that condoned it — the same atmosphere that enabled thirty GOP congressmen either to have been violently attacked or to have had their lives threatened since the beginning of May. (Such things did not happen BT/Before Trump.)
In the case of Depp, it was not so much his pathetic remarks that horrified — the actor is in the midst of a public nervous breakdown — but the raucous approval of his comments by the Glastonbury Festival audience, as if he had just given a shout-out to the local football team.
This automatic reaction by the rabble is just another example of the reach of Trump Derangement Syndrome, where assassination talk is de rigueur and Trump is regarded as a combination of Daddy Warbucks and Caligula with a little of The Joker thrown in. (Just the other day, author Michael Chabon told an Israel Radio interviewer that he wakes up every morning with the hope that Trump “is going to have a massive stroke, and, you know, be carted out of the White House on a gurney.” The surprised Israeli interviewer told Breitbart he naturally thought Chabon was just joking, but then realized he wasn’t. )
Of course the Congress, with its astoundingly tedious and extraordinarily phony Russia investigations, has congressmen and senators competing on an infinite loop to see who… mirror, mirror, on the wall… can be the most hypocritical of all. (Winner so far: Senator Mark Warner. Runner-up: Rep. Adam Schiff). They help spread the infection, scratching scabs that were, at best, of the most tangential interest months ago, until they gush blood all over again, keeping the Russia controversy alive and kicking, at least until Jon Ossoff makes his presidential run of 2032. (Not sure I’m joking.)
And speaking of competitions, the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN are no longer actual news organizations but contestants locked in a non-stop gladiatorial to dethrone Donald Trump via ceaseless leaks, most of which are either disinformation or absurdly trivial, and virtually all of which are illegal in the first place. But they don’t care. It doesn’t even seem to bother them that their journalistic reputations may be affected. They are infected. By this New Plague.
So they carry the infection on, spewing the bacterium, spreading the TDS Plague as assiduously as did the rats of the Middle Ages, the hated Yersinia pestis, no antidotes allowed, not on their pages anyway. At Blue State cocktail parties from Manhattan to Brentwood, people dare not open their mouths to say a tiny thing in favor of Trump, even to old friends, for fear of eternal ostracism. In our schools, conservatives are not allowed to speak. Patriotic films are only made if Clint Eastwood agrees, or maybe now Mark Wahlberg, on a nice day.
And then, of course, there are the #NeverTrumpers who still can’t stand Trump because he’s… well, I’m not sure I ever understood them in the first place, but I guess it’s because he’s vulgar. He may have gone to Wharton but talks as if he’s gone to Queens College.
All this is occurring although Trump, since taking office, has been, in his actions, a basically middle-of-the-road president, rather like, of all people, Bill Clinton after he made his accommodation with Gingrich. Of course, unlike Billy boy, he hasn’t misbehaved, to my knowledge, in the Oval Office. More precisely, Trump governs slightly from the right as Clinton governed slightly from the left. The differences are not greater than we have seen many times before.
Yet the Plague grows, edging almost inexorably toward violence. Why?
The “Deep State” bureaucrats feel their jobs are in jeopardy. I get that. But the rest?
May I suggest that what we are witnessing in our culture (and outwardly across the globe, because willy-nilly the U.S. is still the leading factor) is a form of mass hysterical conformism. I emphasize the conformism because by nature most human beings are conformists — we want to get along.
My generation — I regret to say since I was part of this — was nurtured in a kind of counter-cultural conformity, everyone in tie-dye and smoking joints, thinking the same inchoate ideas. Peace and Love. Hey, hey, LBJ… You’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem…. Power to the People. Right on! Tune in, turn on, drop out!
As we grew up — taking over media, entertainment, and the schools — we formed a new cohort that was as truly conformist (probably more) as the generations before us. That New Conformism (actually pretty old at this point) generated this New Plague — how could it not, even though Donald was (technically) one of them — with everyone against Trump no matter what, pass it on. Otherwise, you will be read out of the new version of the hipster Volvo-becoming-Tesla country club. Trump was too Rat Pack for us (too like our parents or what our parents thought was cool). We wanted a smooth, black dude or, failing that, a righteous Latina, whatever that was. These days not even the Dalai Lama is acceptable.
It was all image. Almost none of it was substance, although we wanted to pretend it was. We were Eliot’s hollow, stuffed men, the ghosts of our parents’ Greatest Generation. But the image prevailed anyway — bland and unexamined as it was. Clichéd. Our image. John Lennon lite. It’s everywhere now. (“Imagine there’s no Donald. It isn’t hard to do.” Right, Michael Chabon?)
Younger generations, of course, get this. They hear it in the schools and they watch it on television and it’s shoveled at them on BuzzFeed and the like. They are given little chance to think for themselves. And if they do, they know the risks.
Meanwhile, the Plague keeps spreading. In the 1330s the “Black Death” took about a third of Europe. It’s unlikely things would get that bad in this country on a personal level, but our democracy is already being littered with symbolic corpses, logical thought among the earliest and most consistent of victims.
Does anyone have an antidote to Trump Derangement Syndrome? I think I hear something scampering around my basement. Either it’s one of the plague rats of my generation spreading its… okay… I won’t say it.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. He tweets @rogerlsimon.