i.e. what is it all About, man?
I originally started this website shortly after the 2016 election; at that time shock and anger held sway among great swaths of the populace both in the United States and abroad. Whilst there was overwhelming glee in certain circles (most notably white supremacists and a hyper-cynical mainstream republicans), even staunch republicans and Trump voters were not sure what the future held. My personal feeling was unmitigated anger that a dull-witted narcissist who most people would not hire to run a shoe store would now be president.
I originally meant the website to look at the Republican party as essentially a dysfunctional comedy act – a political clown show that was holding the United States hostage by adhering to a retrograde, irrational and (more or less closeted) racist point of view.
In any case the debates about Trump’s real or imagined business acumen, instability and general lack of interest in actually learning anything about how government works rage on. I will not add my voice to that particular argument (OK, I probably will). I am more interested in examining the GOP, for better or worse.
The Republicans are clearly the dominant force in American politics right now. While relics like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton bicker about how many freebies they can hand out to their ‘base’ (whatever that is right now), the Republicans control the zeitgeist of the moment. Of course things change rapidly and the smart money would put at least a small bet on the whole Republican coalition (and that word means less now than it has in a long time) splintering into many spiteful factions not long from now.
When I first set about writing my little essays and parodies in November 2016 I realized quickly that I was becoming quite depressed. A tipping point came when I spent parts of 2 days perusing the Breitbart website in an attempt at making sense of the alt-right’s specific intentions and influence. Whew! You definitely need a long shower after spending even a short amount of time with that sort of ‘journalism’. Try reading the comments section if you want to meet the dark thoughts behind many of your seemingly innocuous fellow citizens.
I thus abandoned the website. At the time I really thought anything could happen, including Trump and his minions declaring martial law, canceling elections, etc. in the name of some emergency. There had been sporadic support for various moves of this nature and anyone who doubts Trumps and Bannon’s dictatorial tendencies is simply not paying attention (bannon infamously boasted that they would “rule 50 years”). As far as the GOP leadership’s commitment to democracy and the constitution, that will be a discussion for another time. Suffice to say I have never had the utmost confidence in something that silly.
Why (re)launch it now? I have no good answer for that. I do have some observations and, er, stuff to get off my chest and I’d rather do it in essay form than tweet about it incessantly or rant on Facebook. Hopefully it may even initiate a discourse somewhat more elevated than our national debate about various issues, which has now descended to the head bloviator screaming “fake news” and launching insults that would embarrass a 12 year old.
The original title of The Houseplant was Scalia’s Houseplant. This was a blog project that was never launched, probably because I had a full time job at the time, and realized it would be terrifically time-consuming to write a fresh essay about politics, republicans and/or houseplants every few days. It would also pay very little, i.e. nothing
This title referred to Clarence Thomas, who behaved exactly as a houseplant would, i.e. a houseplant that Antonin Scalia would bring into the Supreme Court. A houseplant that would have a vote on all cases of course, a vote that would be cast by Scalia, effectively giving him 2 votes, because:
Houseplants stay silent, and never do anything. Much like Clarence Thomas has done his entire career on the court, with this notable one exception:
It should be noted that this actual news making event occurred after Scalia’s death, so perhaps our ‘quiet’ (or somnambulant?) judge must now seek guidance on his own, having lost his guiding light. It was duly noted in the article that Thomas had not asked a single question whilst (allegedly) hearing ‘hundreds of oral arguments’.
Thomas has also been publicly quoted as answering “Well, I just go down the hall and ask Scalia what the right answer is” upon being asked how he goes about deciding cases. What compromises my original concept somewhat is that Thomas did occasionally diverge from Scalia in the past. However he also has closely resembled a houseplant in his demeanor, if not his appearance.
The (Scalia’s) Houseplant is not meant to be about Clarence Thomas, who of course does not do very much. He was just going to be the mascot. At this point we’ll see if he will still serve in that role (do we need a mascot?). One must wonder how he feels about a conservative movement (and especially a great many of its nascent, energized followers) openly embracing a rather coarse strain of bigotry. Naturally there will be more chat here regarding the exceptional fondness and optimism various White Supremacist movements are displaying for the newly minted executive branch.
The clown show has of course now become overt and explicit, with a semi-literate* chest-beating reality show star proudly strutting his stuff as president. Although I want to keep the content light and entertaining (at least sometimes) that ship may have sailed. Although there are certainly many comedic aspects to the Brave New American World (farce is probably a better word than comedy), it is more of a full blown Tragicomedy, and really has great potential to develop into a Tragedy pure and simple. The eagerness of GOP luminaries to wind the clock backwards and turn the US into something resembling 1930’s Alabama is already noticeable and disturbing. Ironically, the sprint to destroy all social safety nets and government programs will hurt Trump’s core supporters more than it will affect e.g. the moneyed software class in California that advocated en masse for a Clinton presidency. Naturally any programs intended to reform immigration laws and/or promote ethnic diversity are being merrily junked, in the interests of “small government”, “states’ rights”, etc. (you can insert the laugh track here). There will be more on these issues to come shortly.
The Houseplant will not be a ‘journalism’ site, although it’s my hope to offer weekly recaps of events (ah, so many aspirations and so little time). Much of it will be speculation and prognostication, which means I can say anything. And I can say anything anyway, it’s my site.
I do realize there is a need to be either entertaining and/or informative, as anyone who starts a blog does so in the hope someone reads it (preferably many someone’s). And keeping the tone dead serious is not really my style and will get torpid quickly, at least on my end. I’m also a natural smart ass, and while the GOP takeover is deadly serious, there can be no doubt it offers plentiful and ongoing opportunities for satire. So perhaps a mix of serious and satire? Comedic and concerned? Optimistic and apocalyptic? Stay tuned and we’ll find out together.
I welcome all comments, although naturally I will apply some filters to the incoming opinions. Death threats are generally discouraged, unless presented with a modicum of creativity: threatening to shoot me probably wouldn’t get published but offering to prop me on a rogue missile Strangelove-style might make the cut.
As a final, serious note: Much continues to be made about the fury and anger of Middle America, and how this election was a referendum on smug liberal attitudes, establishment politicians, etc. What we are seeing early on is an equal and opposite fury from millions upon millions of Americans outraged over the legitimation of racism, anti-intellectualism, crackpot conspiracy theories and irrational beliefs that have no basis in any kind of fact. I am hoping the latter fury not only smolders, but erupts into a permanent opposition to the absolutely incompetent and dangerous train wreck the Republican Party has become.
I hope it is time to push back.
* Trump has admitted to reading no other books besides his (ghost-written) autobiographies in the last 2 decades. He is widely considered to have Attention Deficit Disorder