How Trump’s State of the Union Guests Embodied His Politics of Fear and Dread

Trump is certainly not the first President to shape a story by inviting people to be lauded during his State of the Union address. Barack Obama invited twenty-three different people to his last address, in 2016; at least fifteen of them were activists, working on causes including homelessness, opioid addiction, access to education, same-sex marriage, discrimination against Muslims, and more. The stories they embodied were ones of overcoming adversity but also of working with others toward a better future. Trump’s guests, on the other hand, were all survivors.

They survived D Day.

They survived decades in American prisons and, through the study of religion, earned second chances in their late middle age.

They survived unimaginable grief.

They survived immigration.

They survived cancer. (Notably, although one of Trump’s more ambitious promises was to eliminate new H.I.V. infections within ten years, there was no guest with a story of surviving with H.I.V.)

They survived losing a child.

They survived a mass shooting.

And they survived the Holocaust.

The sole exception to this narrative was the astronaut whose achievement was fifty years old.

Living with a sense of danger so profound and so constant, a people would be unable to think of much beyond immediate survival. They could have little ambition for technological or scientific achievement. They could have no vision of organizing their society in a better, more equitable way. With fear as their only political motivator, their only goal could be a united front. If they felt constantly on the brink of extinction, that might help explain why, on the one hand, they armed themselves obsessively, and, on the other, they put people behind bars for decades at a time. And, living in this constant state of dread, they could not have the presence of mind, or the imagination, to tackle the longer-term danger of climate change—which, of course, makes it less likely that a future historian will be looking at Trump’s State of the Union address at all.

Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) refer to some of the most intensive and frequently occurring sources of stress that children may suffer early in life. Such experiences include multiple types of abuse; neglect; violence between parents or caregivers; other kinds of serious household dysfunction such as alcohol and substance abuse; and peer, community and collective violence.

It has been shown that considerable and prolonged stress in childhood has life-long consequences for a person’s health and well-being. It can disrupt early brain development and compromise functioning of the nervous and immune systems. In addition because of the behaviours adopted by some people who have faced ACEs, such stress can lead to serious problems such as alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Antifa and the Alt-Right, Growing in Opposition to One Another

There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.

.. America has cancer. On Saturday, a crowd of alt-right white supremacists, neo-confederates, and Nazi sympathizers marched in Charlottesville, Va.; they were confronted by a large group of protesters including members of the Marxist Antifa — a group that has time and again plunged volatile situations into violence, from Sacramento to Berkeley. There’s still no certain knowledge of who began the violence, but before long, the sides had broken into the sort of brutal scrum that used to characterize Weimer-era Germany.

.. The president of the United States promptly failed egregiously to condemn alt-right racism; instead, he opted for a milquetoast statement condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”

New York Times journalist Sheryl Gay Stolberg for having the temerity to report that “the hard left seemed as hate-filled as the alt-right”; and suggesting that all conservatives were, at root, sympathizers with the Nazi-friendly alt-right.

.. On the one side, a racist, identity-politics Left dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate beneficiaries of privilege and therefore must be excised from political power; on the other side, a reactionary, racist, identity-politics alt-right dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate victims of the social-justice class and therefore must regain political power through race-group solidarity.

But both movements had been steadily shrinking until the last few years. Now they’re growing. And they’re largely growing in opposition to one another. In fact, the growth of each side reinforces the growth of the other: The mainstream Left, convinced that the enemies of social-justice warriors are all alt-right Nazis, winks and nods at left-wing violence; the right, convinced that its SJW enemies are focused on racial polarization, embraces the alt-right as a form of resistance. Antifa becomes merely a radical adjunct to traditional Democratic-party politics; the alt-right becomes merely a useful tool for scurrilous Republican politicians and media figures.

  1. President Obama allowed the politics of racial fragmentation to fester on his watch; he repeatedly trafficked in broad generalities about American racism. Obama focused incessantly on the specter of white bigotry: “the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives,” embedded in our collective DNA. In response, an identity politics began creepily infusing the Right, with some white people embracing the mold cast upon them by the Left, creating a soft racial solidarity in backlash. This, of course, only strengthened the Left’s views of white privilege, which in turn strengthened the Right’s views of white victimhood.
  2. Left-wing media — and “objective” media — saw an advantage in highlighting the antics of racists such as Richard Spencer and David Duke. Focusing on the racist alt-right allowed the media to draw the convenient conclusion that the alt-right was a growing force in Republican politics that had to be fought through support for Democrats. Meanwhile, the media cast a blind eye toward Antifa’s violent Weimer-style rioting in Sacramento and Berkeley… shills such as Milo Yiannopoulos. That rebranding provided a convenient way of fighting the Left: “If the Left is calling us alt-right, that’s just because they hate that we stand for Western civilization!”.. [Obama] made excuses for riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. He used the shooting of Dallas police officers by a radical black activist as an opportunity to lecture Americans about the evils of racist policing. He knew that his political support came in large measure from SJWs, and he cultivated them.

    .. Meanwhile, on the right, Trump did the same. During the campaign, he ignored opportunity after opportunity to break with the alt-right. He refused to condemn the KKK on national television; he refused to condemn his supporters’ sending anti-Semitic messages to journalists; he hired as his campaign strategist Steve Bannon, a man who openly celebrated turning Breitbart into a “platform for the alt-right.” Trump saw the alt-right as convenient allies

..The mainstream Left has been increasingly suckered into walking hand-in-hand with the SJWs while ignoring the most egregious activities of Antifa; the mainstream Right has been increasingly seduced into footsie with alt-right associates while feigning ignorance at the alt-right itself.

That’s why Charlottesville matters: not only because we saw destruction and terror, but because if all Americans of good conscience won’t do some soul-searching and move to excise the evil in their midst, that evil will metastasize. There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.