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Trump of the Will


Susan Zakin

When I returned to the U.S. after my first long stint in the kind of country Donald Trump calls a shithole, I remember going to a movie and feeling startled. It was a good film, don't get me wrong: Sexy Beast, about British gangsters with Ben Kingsley, as usual, giving a tour de force performance.

The film was loud and big and yet somehow starved, my peripheral vision lost in unaccustomed darkness, the theater bereft of sunlight, smells, and random sounds. Just Cockney menace. I thought: This is what Americans do instead of live.

I had never been bored in Madagascar. In Antananarivo, the traffic lights had been stolen and the electricity was a sometime thing. Tiny, colorful Peugot taxis ebbed and flowed in their jazz improvisation on the steep cobblestoned streets, the city's warm red colonial buildings reflected the afternoon light, hawkers and beggars and music were everywhere.

Our world was so impoverished by comparison.

But it was loud. Very loud.

We are like undersea creatures who live only in the movies or in the even smaller fishbowl of the TV.

Donald Trump's presidency is all the proof we need.

After the untoward events of January 6, the rest of us started paying attention--closer attention--to the rhetoric fueling the so-called rebels. While there may have been only a few thousand people who invaded the Capitol, polls show that 18 million Americans think it might not have been such a bad idea.

Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda film Triumph of the Will gave Hitler a cinematic mythology. On the side of our modern-day "Rebels" a filmmaker invoked similar tropes to incite a rebellion on Inauguration Day.

We couldn't help noticing that retired Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger invoked similar flourishes--including his Conan the Barbarian sword--for the cause of rationality.

We ask: Is the Medium the Message? If so, we're in deep shit.

Conan. Come back, Conan.

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We'll take this one, waiter, thank you very much

Susan Zakin is editor of Journal of the Plague Year. Her first book, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement was recently reissued by Markham Press.