An American Memorial- Donald Trump, the Mainstream Media and the Cannibalization of Liberalism Pt.1
I still remember the first time I saw Donald Trump. It was the early 90’s and he was on one of the tabloid television shows that defined the era (A Current Affair, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Inside Edition, etc). The reason why this memory stayed with me all of these years is because I remember my mom’s reaction as we watched this ugly man invade our TV screen and drone on about “luxury” or something equally stupid. I heard her let out a loud, “ugh” followed by the words, “What a disgusting man” and an abrupt channel change.
This was the first time I heard my mother describe somebody as “disgusting”. My mom has never been one to delve too deeply into politics, and at the time Trump wasn’t as politically inclined as he has been in recent years, so I’m assuming she disliked him because he represented everything she wasn’t- he was rich, powerful, brash and unapologetic. She, on the other hand, was a single Native American mom struggling to raise two boys in a modest basement suite on the southern end of Vancouver, BC. By all accounts, we were invisible.
As the years and decades rolled by, Donald Trump would pop up periodically. His bloated orange face would appear on our television screens, as if placed there by some coked up genie, and then he would disappear again. I, like most of us, always thought of him as more of a cartoon than anything- an amplified, hallucinated version of the American dream. He was like a caricature concocted by the imagination of Hunter S. Thompson as a way of describing the excessive nature of western culture. In my mind, he was the archetype for greed and pettiness- a thin skinned lizard basking in the warmth of tacky neon lights emanating from the letters T-R-U-M-P, built hundreds of feet high as a tribute to himself while the world around him either ignored or laughed at his self-aggradizement.
Then in 2012 he made a half-hearted attempt at a presidential campaign. It was obvious at the time that he had no intention of actually becoming president- this was just some extra promotion for his reality show, branded accessories and other mass produced garbage bearing those five capital letters. Just as it had in the past, the Hollywood cocaine wizard would wave his mighty hand and Trump would appear on your television set, brighter and more orange than ever. He was fodder for the media- something for us all to shake our heads at as he demanded President Obama show his birth certificate and prove he was indeed an American. But this time around something unique was beginning; while liberal America smugly dismissed the reigning king of buffoonery he was gaining a political audience.
Looking back on it now, Trump’s short lived presidential campaign in 2012 served a dual purpose. First, it shamelessly promoted his already shameless brand and second, and perhaps most importantly, it gave him an opportunity to introduce himself to his eventual voting base.
In the years following President Obama’s election to a second term, a heavy blanket of liberal hysteria descended upon North America. It began with the fight to legalize gay marriage- an issue that for most of us was a no-brainer. As a straight male, gay marriage wasn’t something that I put much thought into and to be completely honest, I didn’t see it as much of an issue at all. I wasn’t opposed or apathetic to it, I just felt like as a species and as a society we had evolved to a point where most of us could agree that if two people loved each other, they should have the right to get married regardless of their orientation. I was fully prepared to debate the issue, but every person I spoke to from a vast range of ages, genders, races, sexual preferences, political perspectives and religious backgrounds both in North America and abroad, felt exactly the same way. There was no argument.
But the narrative in the media was something different altogether. They made it appear as if there was real widespread resistance to the idea of gay marriage. They held their magnifying glasses over the extreme religious and conservative groups who spoke out against it. They hosted roundtable discussions, polls, special reports and covered small protest rallies to create the image of a strong opposing force. For months it was positioned in the mainstream media as a good versus evil battle for the right to love. It wasn’t enough to just agree with the overwhelming majority, you were expected to shout it from the rooftops and carry the rainbow flag wherever you went. The media and Hollywood were intent on forcing the population to pick a side and if you weren’t vocalizing your support for the issue constantly, then you found yourself lumped in with the minority who opposed.
Personally, the pressure began to irritate me to the point of anger. On a daily basis I found myself thinking, “Fuck, I GET IT. Jesus Christ, can they just vote on this thing and get it over with already?” but I couldn’t dare openly convey how I felt for fear of being labelled a homophobe. It would take too many words and too much energy to properly explain my emotions. I have gay friends whom I wanted to support and I know the subject of marriage was something that was important to them, so I stayed silent. But as the months progressed, and as rainbow profile pictures flooded my Facebook newsfeed, I began to feel resent towards the issue itself.
Once gay marriage was recognized by federal law, the liberal machine kept moving. In the years that followed, transgender rights, women’s rights and civil rights would all take center stage in the form of various movements. As somebody who believes in equality regardless of race, gender and sexual identity, I agreed with a lot of what these movements had to say. But as time progressed, they became more extreme and would develop into unorganized masses of contempt, promoting hatred and isolation rather than love and equality. Rape culture, pansexual, asexual, gender fluid, cisgender, cultural appropriation- these were all terms and phrases that entered the human vocabulary. It wasn’t enough for me to show my support for the core principles of the causes these groups represented, I now had to memorize thirty plus gender pronouns and alter the way I thought, spoke and interacted with the rest of the world. Being a straight male, I was perceived as being “privileged” despite my own humble beginnings coming from a poor, Native American single mother. That didn’t matter anymore- I didn’t matter. I was expected to submit and fall behind the trending social issue of the moment while accepting my position at the bottom based on nothing more than my gender, the white side of my genetic makeup and my sexual orientation.
This is where they lost me. I refused to cow tow, eat shit or “check my privilege”. My life has been filled with struggle and mine are no more or less significant than that of another- regardless of who they are. Life, like art, is subjective and we’ve all felt powerless, inadequate, unimportant and ignored at one time or another- perhaps some more often than others but that alone doesn’t permit some imaginary pecking order of oppression. We all deserve to be heard and we all deserve to be respected until proven otherwise.
It’s this sense of liberal entitlement that drove a lot of us, myself included, to lend an ear to Donald Trump as the presidential race went into full swing in 2015.