Latrell Sprewell and Donald Trump
It’s Labor Day night and I am sitting in bed at 11:30 eating a piece of onion topped grandma’s pizza and sipping on a tiny mug of rum, watching Game 5 of the 1999 NBA playoffs 1st round Eastern Conference matchup between the NY Knicks and Miami Heat. It’s a video that helps me return to everything I miss about that time of my life, when I was 10 and attending summer camp and not thinking deeply and circularly about existence and purpose, not othering things that ongoingly imprison me in the present.
Like enduring sadness, or sitting with the mortality of others, trudging through regrets. Everyone does it and it’s uneven to suggest otherwise by pushing yourself to suppress that fact. Just as it’s often uneven to blind suppress our less popular human qualities in an effort to forge some lesser-evil version of Now.
But Patrick Ewing, who played like he was marching through a sandstorm, Allan Houston, a man of quiet dignity, gracious and subdued and meaningfully explosive, and Latrell Sprewell exist in this past and but, also in this Now, still. And though there’s only one Latrell Sprewell — there’s only one of all of the above but if you know the man then you know the cliche’s application — then you may also suspect that defining him as some unique entity is too common, it’s inexact because there are too many Latrell Sprewells to name and it only takes a tweak to look at his traipse through our spotlight as representative of an action we know well but fear articulating.
And that’s the irony of show business, or spectacle, or of the mechanics of sorting that we all play into. That we uphold as archetypes of normalcy the very antonyms of normalcy, and in so doing we reject normalcy, we degrade it. Latrell is unique, but not because of his personality or his behavior. It’s because he’s able to showcase some of the more familiar features of normal human being at a level that history has decided is unacceptable, as transgressive. Transgression is often tragic. And the Tragicommons is what is produced when all of us, in our collective cognitive dissonance, are unable to recognize an example of some emerging old, suddenly important truth in time enough to really swim with it.
Latrell is an admission of not baseness or violence, the things we don’t want allowed in our society or rather the things we want made spectacular and encaged — he is an example of how powerless the moral order is capable of being. He reached a certain level of fame, acted in full view of the public in a manner that the public is told cannot be allowed, and yet continued on. He was punished, but he was not destroyed — because he was regarded as unique, needed, exciting, explosive.
Trump is no different. Trump is an example of how powerless the political order can be, how penetrable it is when the right force is applied — human or otherwise. And people don’t seem to want to view this as inspiring, for some reason. They don’t see it as Hope in the way Hope has been defined, and they’re being militarized to fight against what is essentially a very hopeful situation — the government isn’t monotonous. They want it to represent something more sinister — just as his supporters do. Paranoia is a symptom of powerlessness, as is depression, anxiety. We have done such great work in classifying all the different kinds of powerless feelings and actions, we’ve done a great service to the Science of Powerlessness, we’ve made great strides in insufferably explaining human responses to life but we will fail to capitalize on what has very clearly been a genuine breach in the system if we are unable to look at the events of the last year as INSPIRING rather than DESPAIRING and thus endeavor to move from explaining to acting.