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In How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, they discuss the breakdown of democratic systems and how authoritarian regimes emerge from the total disregard & destruction of political norms. Written in 2018, after TRUMPism had already firmly taken hold of some 45% of Americans, leading them in a downward spiral into a cult-like Spell, the authors describe in great detail how so-called populist politicians induce the people to embrace their grand narrative of lies & distortion.

Now that we are in a post-acquittal no man’s land, a dangerous limbo of not knowing what comes next, How Democracies Die is even more prescient, more foreboding, and more precise in its call for “political leaders from across the spectrum (who) have stared into the abyss to realize that if they do not find a way of addressing polarization, democracy will die.” They go on to say: “it is only when politicians suffer the trauma of violent dictatorship, that the stakes truly become clear.” …

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We all knew in the beginning he was a clown, a jester, a fool, out to prove he would become the Great Leader, who would transform the world. We all knew he was a buffoon, with coiffed hair and dubious airs, a wanna-be tyrant fixated on commanding the attention of the world with exaggerated & ridiculous bravado. Yes, we laughed, unable to take this faux madman seriously, he was a product of the Media, a medial construction, role-playing, a circus act of performance. …

It’s 2020, and when have we ever been so immersed in the daily media onslaught of political noise & partisan divisiveness? The narrative flows constantly 24/7 and all we can do is passively absorb the torrent of clashing punditry, White House scandal, Impeachment, etc. etc, ad nauseam. However, there are alternatives. WE ARE THE MEDIA! Yes, we as artists, activists & just plain everyday citizens can take to the Network and shape our own narratives, NOT beholden to the mainstream channels, the politicians, the pundits, left or right. …

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In the age of TRUMPological Episodic Drama, performance is reality, and reality is performance. We have lost all notion of the real in the impeachment saga. We are now deep in the cinematic spectacle. The Trial of the Century has been rendered as a mini-series with a cast of colorful, sordid characters that grips our attention daily, hourly!, with the most lurid details. This is pure XTreme TRUMPological scripting of the media spectacle. …

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On the one hand, there is the corrosive effect of Celebrity, which infiltrates & corrupts the human spirit through intrigue & scandal. We have already seen how this infiltration can worm its way into the political process to induce monstrous manipulation of the body politic. Celebrity can easily be weaponized and used to destroy the values that make us human, by appealing to an adrenalized stimulation of hatred and divisiveness. We have seen this in full force with XTreme TRUMPology. …

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Was the TRUMP impeachment a flaccid exercise in Congressional futility, a spit in the ocean, a tree falling in the silence of the forest? We saw TRUMP in his showbiz post-real mindset claiming it doesn’t “feel like impeachment,” or claiming it “impeachment-lite” as he blithely referred to how it felt to be only the third impeached president in American history. It might appear on the surface that nothing seemed to substantially change after the Congressional spanking was completed with the bang of Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.

But something did change. And very dramatically so. For the first time that I can remember, the dialogue in Congress was honing in on the core of democratic principles, it was unveiling the deep TRUMPological rupture in American values, it exposed, dramatically I dare say, the precarious state of a country teetering on the precipice of democracy and authoritarianism. No matter which side you are on, in that final hour of debate on Wednesday evening, December 18th, it was in its messiness all on the line, with everything at stake for both sides. …

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By now, many of us are experiencing ample doses of vertigo and nausea at the hypnotic repetition of partisan missives lobbed between two hardened perspectives, as the Impeachment unfolds before our glazed eyes. If ever we have witnessed Congressional gridlock, this is it. Checkmate. There is no real dialogue, interaction, nor negotiation. As far as the eye can see there is a severe split, not just between two positions, but between two opposing realities. We see before us absolute political meltdown and ferocious tribal warfare.

I never thought I would see any real value in the forces of XTreme TRUMPology, except as perhaps a case study in the demagogic rise of a dictator deconstructing reality, playing out right in front of us in all its televisual glory. But what is unfolding in front of us is actually a civics lesson for the ages. If we care about whatever humanity may be left in these dangerously cynical times, we now have a powerful opportunity to reconnect with and reaffirm the values, belief system, and rules that make up the system of a democratic society. …

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In the post reality, you are free to choose your own reality, no matter how absurd, illogical, or dangerous it may be. In the post reality, the mind is set free to invent extraordinary worlds of fabrication, even if that world runs entirely contrary to wisdom, truth, and logic. You may say this is beginning to sound a little like artistic invention, but not at all, because the artist is quite clear about art being art, and reality being reality. …

About

Randall Packer

Artist, composer, educator, and writer conducting reportage from the aesthetic edge.

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