Among the many hoary traditions of the endless political infomercial that is the State of the Union address, one felt particularly appropriate for Donald Trump: the ritualistic insistence that the state of the union is strong. Trump himself put a little spin on it, saying “the state of the union is strong because the people are strong” which I felt strangely compelled to translate into German when I heard it — “DER UNION IST STARK, WEIL DER VOLK STARK IST!!” just in case you were wondering. The thing that puts that tired convention squarely in Trump’s wheelhouse is that ‘strong’ is maybe his third favorite of the eight adjectives in his 80-word vocabulary.
Great, beautiful, incredible, huge, strong, powerful, terrible, and disastrous (and “American” if you want to run wild with it). These are the words that comprise the bulk of our current President’s expressive power, and they rang out assuredly through the House chamber tonight, punctuated only by the sound of the president clapping at his own speech two feet away from the microphone. That was unquestionably the most infuriating audio pollution I’ve had to deal with since those goddamn vuvuzelas at the South Africa World Cup.
To give credit where credit is due: the President certainly made effective use of special guests, employing ordinary people of uncommon character (and color) to weave a shroud of decency with which to hide his own ruined soul. I particularly enjoyed the tale of North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, who heroically escaped North Korea on crutches, as well as the tale of the North Koreans who heroically shot his father to stop him from chain-migrating into South Korea — the juxtaposition was a clever way of staying on-message.
I was also deeply moved by the story of the Cuevas-Rodriguez and Alvarado-Mickens families, whose daughters selflessly gave their lives to justify driving out the goddamn Latinos once and for all. In that vein, I was greatly impressed by ICE Special Agent Celestino “he goes by DJ… or CJ, but he said to call me either one, so we’ll call him CJ” Martinez, whose resolute bravery against MS-13 gave him the strength to be used as a prop to denigrate the Red Man, while his professionalism prevented him from betraying even a twinge of confusion as the president got his name wrong, then made up a story that the SA had previously told the president that he has two weirdly similar nicknames, before calling him by his actual nickname. Inspiring.
Also in the president’s favor: he cannily played on Americans love of our flag when he said that we have a “great flag.” I personally think it lacks the brand-forward graphic-design cohesion of the South African flag, the Brazilian Positivist diamond, the Union Jack, or the Swastika, but I know Old Glory is sure a hell of a lot better than some weak-ass tricolor, like the one his boss’s country has been using since they dropped the hammer and sickle.
In terms of pure rhetorical accomplishment, Trump made more prominent use of misleading statistics than his predecessors, which scored him big points, and he similarly ramped the baseless claims of credit for trends that started under the previous administration. He didn’t reinvent the wheel, but was nonetheless innovative in the way he spouted the typical SOTU pablum with a brute-force, predator-satiation approach.
Now for the areas where I thought he fell short: first and foremost, he made the mistake of bringing the life experiences, attitudes, and priorities of Donald J. Trump into a situation where doing so was wildly inappropriate. That’s actually my baseline complaint about everything he does in the office, though, so let me get more specific.
It will never piss me off any less to hear him claim credit for the historically low black unemployment rate, not only because it fell almost entirely during the Obama Administration, but on account of the fact that he rather vocally despises black people. Also, he could’ve stood to bring that up before he went out of his way to take one more petty dig at Kaepernick.
He promised to get tough on Russia and China, like eight hours after defying his statutory obligations to pass sanctions on Russia. On the topic of Russia, I thought that his line about giving cabinet secretaries the power to fire anyone who abuses the public trust was the usual Republican crap about federal employees being a human cancer, until I realized he was probably talking about purging the DOJ employees. That’s disquieting as ever, but I’m getting used to it.
For all his focus on the flow of allegedly nation-shattering human filth flowing from the south to drown our freedom in rape, he didn’t have one word to say about the polar glacial melt water literally drowning us from the north, south, and all directions, really. I know we don’t believe in climate change these days, so he can’t be expected to talk about a harebrained theory that only 7.5 billion people ascribe to — what, are we supposed to admit the rest of the world is right about soccer, too? Still, for all his expounding on the beauty of coal, I felt that climate change would merit a mention. On the other hand, it’s undeniable that coal is beautiful.
This speech was an empty exercise in bullshit television pageantry well before Trump got involved — well, except for the time George W. Bush insinuated that two nations who despise each other and a third with nothing to do with the other two were an “Axis of Evil” which set back Khatami’s reforms by giving juice to the Iranian hardliners — so I’m trying not to betray any sincere emotion about how the speech made me feel, lest I give him undue credit for fucking up something that actually matters.
But when I heard about him “protecting the nuclear family” by barring members of immigrants’ nuclear families from entering the United States, I wanted to break my TV. With each ass-licking chorus that rose up at every vaguely patriotic-sounding ejaculation of tribal resentment, I grew ever more furious. Every time I heard him use the word ‘citizens,’ cheapening my sacred investiture in the Republic with the connotation that only those who were passively shit out of an American vagina are worthy of that honor, especially since it was those very “citizens” who thought so little of their duty that they elected this troglodyte, my fists clenched, and my blood boiled.
I thought I had grown sufficiently inured to the thought that our president is a walking insult to the concept of public service, but I was broken down anew by that throbbing pustule growing from everything unworthy and deficient in the American character. After roughly six hours of listening to that gibbering animal profane the Republic with the sycophantic assent of the Republican party, I was forced to truly face the horrifying truth for the first time in months: that contemptible jackass is doing Abraham Lincoln’s job. I despaired, in the absence of any reason for hope.
And then, a Congressman descended from — and named after — a horrible Irish sociopath strode up to a podium in front of a classic car of unknown provenance, and reminded me that an America worth defending still exists. Armed with a fire and passion so great that even the misapplied lip gloss couldn’t ruin it, Joe Kennedy III said the words “Build a wall, and my generation will tear it down” and I was transported to Wenceslas Square and the Brandenburg Gate in 1989, where our ideals answered communism’s challenge with a victorious roar. For a fleeting second, I felt what my father did watching the congressman’s great-uncle that January morning in 1961, when he was told not to ask what his country could do for him, but what he could do for his country. That’s a sentiment Donald Trump has never had any use for, and it’s why his pathetic charade will not defeat us.
In either case, fuck all the wallowing in their sins: Kennedy go Bragh.