A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Huh. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Trump’s “very optimistic and upbeat” convention swiftly morphed into a screeching, gaslighting, “pornographic scaremongering” rage fest, part Klan rally, part CPAC swarm, all apocalyptic fever dream of right-wing grievance and fear. Awkwardly huddling under Mike Pence’s limp call to “Make America Great Again, Again” – wait, didn’t we already make it great during lo the last ceaseless decades of this regime? – a parade of pasty robots gathered, video-hostage-like, to clamor that Joe Biden and his “radical left Democrats” constitute a “vengeful mob that wishes to destroy our way of life” by abolishing doctors, suburbs, babies, freedom, and hamberders to create an America of chaos and violence “coming to a neighborhood near you” that will be even scarier than the chaos-and-violence-ridden America we now inhabit, though, wait, Trump runs it, but yeah, for sure, 12 more years! Dug deep into this alternate, them-and-us, obsequious reality, the party of Lincoln has so utterly curdled into the party of Trump they couldn’t even be bothered to write a platform of ostensible ideas and policies they could then abandon, opting to go with their “strong support” for The Con and everything he does, aka, “Yeah, We’re With Stupid.” So it was two-and-a-half ghastly hours kicked off with Trump rambling and whining: Obama spied on him, the election will be “the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think,” he did great on COVID-19 – almost 180,000 deaths are “the governors’ fault – how about Tennessee’s “beautiful war fields” and those “302 great Supreme Court justices” (there are nine) and he’s done more for everyone than anyone ever in the history of this make-believe galaxy and some others, bigly.
Remarkably, it got worse. (Thanks to the tireless Aaron Rupar for wading through the hysteria, often with a succinct, “wut?”) Their “really shitty open-mic poetry slam” included Louisiana’s GOP chair ranting “Joe Biden is HIDING in the DARK waiting to take the lives of our UNBORN BABIES!,” Maryland’s chair touting their “greatest segregationists,” young Charlie Kirk declaring Trump “the bodyguard of Western civilization” for an “American way of life” at risk from “bitter, deceitful, vengeful, arrogant activists,” Matt Gaetz warning Biden will “lock you in your homes and move in gang members next door” with “no refuge for freedom should we fail,” a school “choice” lady saying unions are “subverting our Republic” and “undermining morality,” and Mark and Patty McCloskey, of wielding-guns-at-BLM-marchers-in-St.Louis fame, going full racist foghorn: “They want to abolish the suburbs (with) policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you…No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.” Still, the high-voltage, riots-in-the-streets, “human sex drug traffickers”-obsessed Kimberly Guilfoyle, formerly of Fox News and now Don Jr’s girlfriend, was the night’s batshit star, shrieking into the cavernous void, “They want to destroy this country and everything we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.” Rupar: “Guilfoyle is !!!!!!!SCREAMING!!!!!” Others: “Who is this woman and why she be looking like Satanic Elmo?” Thanks to her and Don Jr’s glassy-eyed performance – observers suggested that, whatever they took backstage, “it was too much” – the next day saw #Cocaine Convention trending, which was likely not what Trump Team was aiming for. One perturbed response to Guilfoyle: “Oh dear, America really has lost the plot.” Yes. But we hope to find it again.
Illustration by Rebecca Zisser. Getty Images
In a rare move, John Prine recorded a song by someone else – poet and playwright R.B. Morris, who Prine signed to his Oh Boy record label – on his “Fair and Square” EP. “That’s How Every Empire Falls” dates to the G.W. Bush/Iraq years, but, sorrowfully, it’s about today too.
A bitter wind blows through the country
A hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning
There must be something we don’t see
What fire begets this fire?
Like torches thrown into the straw
If no one asks, then no one answers
That’s how every empire falls.