FROM MY CORNER
Of Nuance and Nonsense
The New Yorker’s latest Andy Borowitz satire of Trump, which I recently shared with those reading my occasional words, has awakened in me a refreshed understanding of the amazingly diverse mental locations etched inside the heads of Americans these days.
Some people immediately saw the prickly humor in Andy’s satire. Others judged it to be “fake news,” or “regular news.” This is one of my favorite subjects: the annihilation of nuance in America’s national dialogue during the insipid age of Trump and friends.
This chasm is demonstrated by a west coast financial friend’s literal interpretation of Andy’s writing versus a more tongue-in-cheek view: the satirical understanding that a Boston Brahmin or New York City resident might perceive.
We Americans have become sharply divided intellectually into a wide range of viewpoints that almost define different countries rather than individual people. One of us finds belly-laughing humor in Andy’s work only to be confronted by another who, abandoning awareness of the humor, dubs it “faked” commentary.
As this disparity of viewpoints surfaced in return emails to me, another related issue appeared when a well meaning acquaintance of mine suggesteda guidebook of plots I might use in writing a novel he knows I am contemplating.
As do most serious scribblers I admire, I do not preplan plots when I write fiction. Rather, I perceive and embrace them as they mysteriously unfold through the telling of a tale. This magically occurs one word at a time from my characters whom I also do not recognize until they have spoken several times.
It is harder than hard to explain. The canyon between Americans’ various viewpoints can be quite sharply edged – exhibiting entirely different modes of perception when observing the same subject.
We are so divided today we do not even speak the same language! It may pretend to be English, but in reality it is not. What is it? That is a pregnant question for us to ponder.
It appears to be even more than the seven or eight regional American dialects that grammarians define: rising out of the far west, the southwest, the south, the northeast, the southeast, the northwest, the plains states.
There are American dialects created by individual occupations and hobbies. And these, it seems to me, have divided us so far that our once common language has the ability to convey its meaning of words solely by our individual interpretations.
It may always look like English, but it is not the same English at all. We each havedifferent definitions of words that we cannot even accurately share with oneanother, we are each so absorbed in our own viewpoints.
It is quite a messy way to communicate. Perhaps that is why Trump does not even pretend to speak the truth. He seems to love his knack of speaking without connecting anything he says to tangible reality at all. What a fine luxury money can create: the capacity to ignore rational meaning as being altogether irrelevant.
Another friend of mine told me recently I should stop criticizing Trump in my writing. He said political commentary has become so prevalent it is all essentially superfluous. He said I should write of other things. It is hard to do so when the entire world is focused on the man’s strangeness.
At bottom, I am most dismayed at our country’s loss of any cohesive glue. We seem largely to exist in the solitude of our individual thoughts nowadays without any valid sense of togetherness. We do not share a national vision.
Perhaps it is simply our loss of innocence. Less than three hundred years have passed here, while Europe and Asia are each a few thousand years in the making. Possibly it is simply premature to push the idea of our wholeness, of any true hoped-for congruity.
Or is the present just proof of our immense diversity? I think not. It is more a splintering of it. Trump is not the cause. He is only the symptom. He is so intellectually shallow he is incapable of causing anything but distraction, destruction, and chaos.
However, I have said something before. Permit me to repeat it. From Trump’s disturbing existence, I believe we will find a new sense of unity. This will not be a unity of finances. No dollar numbers can spell it out. This will not be a unity of Law. No legislation can define it.
This is an evolutionary contest between people who sincerely love and care for humanity, and a people who no longer understand what the term means. So immersed in moneyed illusions and privilege, those now in power are able only to project a pretense of caring for humanity.
Therefore, it is vital for all actually caring for marginalized people to group together, for those concerned for all races, all skin shades, all sexualities, for all the dispossessed, for all the entire, naturally-endowed dissimilitude of our species.
In a sense it is an intellectual battle between the combined force of science, philosophy, and art – – and those mired in the irrational love of virtueless laws they measure primarily by moneyed wealth.
I believe knowledge-based compassion and empathy will win over luxury and privilege in the long run. This is the lesson of history. It is a tough lesson, but it is its strength.
Valid knowledge and kind-heartedness have always eventually defeated ignorance, shallow beliefs, meanness, and unjust laws. In the long run, they are the intrinsic human truth to believe in, because they are the values of the majority of us.