Life In Trump's America: The Political Thriller Of Our Lifetimes Is Also Theater Of The Absurd

Our inner animals knew it instinctively even as the tide was turning election night 2016. We were being told something that every fiber of our being knew was untrue — or knew was truth complicated by layers of deception, deceit and treachery — that Trump had “won” the presidency.

Ever read the details on exactly what happened chronologically on election night in the Trump campaign — especially between Trump and his flotus to be? Trump wasn’t just “surprised” that he won, he was shocked. And not because he had “pulled it out”. Trump knew better than anyone that THAT was not what happened election night. Trump knew better than anyone that “The Boss” — Vlad Putin — had suppressed, propagandized or — via internet-connected-voting machines — literally stolen just enough votes in three key states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin & Michigan, three states for which Oleg Deripaska had received proprietary polling data from Paul Manafort) to GIVE Trump the EC victory.

Melania wept openly. She raged at Trump — who, per Steve Bannon, morphed from a “disbelieving Trump into a horrified Trump”. That’s disbelieving he could win to being horrified that he HAD “won”. Winning wasn’t part of Trump’s plan. Using a presidential run to platform launch a Trump-branded news network was. Winning — once victory was gettable (via cheating) — was absolutely Vladimir Putin’s plan. Putin saw a way to put Trump in the White House — the greatest intelligence coup in the history of intelligence — and he took it.

Keep in mind — Putin had already compromised enough of the Republican Party that he knew he could keep them in line. Take Lindsey Graham, for example. You can practically see the Kompromat Vlad’s holding over Lindsey play in Lindsey’s mind’s eye every time he speaks.

That’s where it starts crossing over from John Le Carre territory into Becket — from George Smiley realpolitik into waiting for a Godot who will never, ever appear. Our spy movie as real life beats anything any writer could possibly imagine — or get away with if they did imagine.

We’ve got intrigue and treason and cyber war and actual war and murders out the wazoo. We’ve got a handful of heroes and scoundrels by the bucket. And we’ve got a Main Stream News Media that makes an unsatisfying hash of the whole damned thing. We’ve got liars lying, rapists raping and con artists conning.

The feeling, watching this madness rush by on a daily basis, is a lot like watching an English pantomime (a Christmastime tradition in England). Based on old chestnuts like “Puss In Boots” or “Cinderella”, panto’s are very much the groundlings having a good time at their local theater — talking back to the characters on stage as if a fourth wall never existed.

One of the moments every panto must have — the villain (upstage) creeps toward the hero who’s downstage — while the audience tries to warn the hero. Every time the hero looks toward where the audience points — the villain ducks or disappears — then reappears the moment the hero has turned away again. It’s absurd, of course, because the truth is so apparent — and yet so impossible to hold onto.

It is numbing — by design — how far from “normal” we’ve shifted. It’s inconceivable that Donald Trump’s presidential bid didn’t end the moment he started it by telling us all how Mexicans were rapists. More absurdity compounded by pussy grabbing — compounded exponentially when “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” went back seat to “her emails” sitting in the front seat of the news media’s Scooby van.

Looking back today at “But her emails” — even Ionesco at his most obtuse couldn’t touch the absurdity of our news media obsessing over an abstraction over constant evidence of dubious, devious behavior. Despite three years of this madness, of Trump’s lying, deceitfulness and cruelty, our news media still wants to give him the benefit of the doubt — as if “this time”, Trump “could be” telling the truth.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve shouted far too often at the news “professionals” on your TV set — “FFS, don’t be absurd!”

Is it really asking that much to have our political theater be one thing and our theater of the absurd be something else entirely? Apparently so…

Our Problem Is We Are Living Inside A Bonkers Theater Of The Absurd Play — And Don’t Know It

Rene Magritte’s Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe poses the perfect “is it?/isn’t it? existential question (true fact — its actual name is The Treachery Of Images). What really is — or, more to the point, is anything really “is”? Is anything real?

For those of us (me, for instance) who love wrestling with esoteric brain puzzles, this is a top of the line WWF cage match.

On the one hand — the viewer has to disagree — “What’re ya talking about? Of course it’s a pipe!” But, as Magritte himself pointed out when his piece first started making viewers crazy, “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”

What really is vs what actually isn’t. Can we believe anything anymore?

For the non-theater majors, Theater Of The Absurd was a literary genre that emerged from World War II like existentialism’s louder, loonier twin sister. Like existentialism, Theater Of The Absurd saw human beings as pointless. After all, didn’t most of humanity just fight a world-wide duel nearly to the death?

For comparison’s sake, a very similar reaction occurred after World War I. The Dadaist movement rejected everything about capitalism and its “values”. Art itself had no value to the Dadaists — even as they created it. A famous, wonderful example is Marcel Duchamp’s series of “readymades” including this shovel. The shovel, Ducamp claimed, was already art. All the artist had to do was sign his name on it.

Dadaists got what existentialists & Theater Of The Absurdists later got — our faith in humans being logical, rational and just is based entirely on bullshit. We’re all bonkers and need to face that fact. Theater Of The Absurd put words in the mouth of our insanity.

The most famous — most performed — example of Theater Of The Absurd is Samuel Becket’s Waiting For Godot.

Spoiler Alert — Godot never shows. That’s the point — lots of waiting, lots of speculating, lots of hoping, lots of random cruelty — and all for nought. Who knows if Godot even exists?

For pure existential crunchy goodness though, the quintessential Theater Of The Absurd play is Eugene Ionesco’s La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano) — which has played continually at the Theatre De La Huchette in Paris since 1957. Nothing in the play means anything. A husband tries to remember where he’s met his wife before — perhaps in the bed they’ve shared every night for years? All information is meaningless. All communication futile. “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.”

And what’s the point of fighting it? “Who has any interest in prolonging this confusion? I don’t know. Let’s not try to know. Let’s leave things as they are.”

A more recent version comes from Alex Cox’s exquisitely nihilistic movie Repo Man: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

Does that not feel like us — in the here & now? Does it not feel like we’ve come all this way only to discover we never left home. Well, some of us never left home. Some of us still live in our parents’ basement — if mentally.

Watch any hour of CNN or MSNBC and I DARE you not to feel like you’re Waiting For Godot — justice in our case. I DARE you not to feel like the dialogue spewing from any talking head discussion has all the weight of a mal-formed soap bubble. The one thing you can probably count on, when the bubble bursts, the soap will get in your eye.