Recently, Allison and I have been rewatching Parks and Rec. It’s not a proper binge, as we just put it on here and there. There wasn’t really a reason for starting it, other than that I think one day I just wanted to watch something enjoyable, and the theme song is basically my happy place.
We didn’t have a strictly political reason to watch, even though nearly all decisions made now have a political patina to them, and that the specter of our idiot leader looms over everything. But as we watched it, there has been happiness at being in that world, where good people work together to do good things, and to be at a time when we weren’t in an open kakistocracy.
It’s more than the show being about nice people, of course (although their fundamental decency is a huge part of the appeal). It’s what the show is actually about: it is a celebration of the common good, and the idea that the government is a collection of who we are, and not an alien enemy. That it can be frustrating and maddening and prone to charlatans manipulating it and dummies hijacking it, but at the end, it is us.
We happened to watch the Debate episode, where Leslie Knope is running for city council. This is her closing statement, after he opponent, a rich scion (who is actually just an amiable dope) said that his daddy would pull the one big factory out of town if he lost. (I can’t seem to find a video)
I’m very angry. Angry Bobby Newport would hold this town hostage & threaten to leave if you don’t give him what he wants. Its despicable. Corporations are not allowed to dictate what a city needs. That power belongs to the people. Bobby Newport and his daddy would like you to think it belongs to them. I love this town. And when you love something, you don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. As your City Councilman, I will make sure that no one takes advantage of Pawnee. If i seem too passionate, it’s because i care. If I come on too strong, its because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This is my home, you are my family, and I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.”
You put it first. That’s the ethos: that we come together, despite everything, and fight for something other than our own short-term glory.
Needless to say, we aren’t living in that world.
Trump’s Military Parada
By now you know all about Trump’s idea to have a big, beautiful military parade in which we’ll show off all our uniforms and tanks and guns and everything. We all know it’ll cost some $20 million, given military budget estimations, which means it will be around $11 trillion. And we know that while we’ll be hearing how it is unpatriotic NOT to salute our military, that this parade is about one thing: Trump.
It’s about him getting to stand there and show off his toys. It’s about him showing the world that all these people are loyal to him, and they are his warriors, with the implication that they aren’t loyal due to the Constitution, but out of love.
That’s what this is: it is a feeder for his endless, empty vanity and his terrifyingly hollow self-obsession. It’s why he’s wanted it for years, and why it is happening. He’s been grousing that this is his desire, and now the wheels of government have sprung into motion.
This is the state of our democracy. The entire apparatus of government is based around satiating one man’s feelings, about turning his pleas for self-worth into reality. It is about pulling the images from the funhouse mirror of his mind and contorting them to fit with awkward and grotesque angles onto our world.
There is of course more to this; there always is. The right-wing would love this. They’ve been wanting to turn the cult of military and first-responders into a national duty for years. They want to solidify the idea that they, and only they, control that worship. It’s part of the program. It casts anyone objecting to having their necks crushed by the force of the police as treason.
They’re helped by Trump. As always, his personal pathologies turn out to be an ideal reflection of right-wing goals. He defines treason as anything against him, and feels that all law-and-order, and the military, is his personal plaything. That these forces are almost always used to suppress democracy is a huge benefit for the right.
That is the exact opposite vision of the Parks and Rec ethos. It is about making government smaller, more pinched, loyal to only a few and serving an even smaller number. It is about destroying the idea of the common good.
Trump, who has zero faith in the common good, is the perfect avatar of this, and he’s making the infantile narrowness of his vision our national identity.
A few days ago, James Fallows asked what we should call this idea of government. “Trumpocracy?” “Dying democracy?” “Tribalism?” “Fascism?” These are all good, moving as they do between the personal malevolence of one man and the structures that enable him.
But to me, this is the Era of the Fake King. We’ve empowered a spoiled dauphin, and his courtiers manipulate him to plunder the kingdom and vanquish their enemies, but at the end of the day, none can match his wrecking power. He is the darkness, the inborn idiot of our system’s perversions. He’s been given birthright license to purge his bile over the rest of us, and all we can do is fight like hell to overthrow their vile ideas.
So fucking vote this year. Let’s have a nation of Leslie Knopes. It’s what we need.