♪ There’s a bedtime story
Lovers, war, and kings
They belong to yesterday
As if it were a dream
Don’t know why
Don’t do that
Dry your eyes
Don’t look back ♪
— “Don’t Look Back,” Treat Her Right1
While the only surrealist anyone can name of the top of his or her head2 Salvador Dali may never have said, “So little of what could happen does happen,” the internet agrees with your truism-spouting Weekend Politics Thread host in averring that the painter must have. If anyone ever uttered that string of words with intent, Dali earned the distinction.
By Uvular’s recollection, the wacky Spaniard spoke his immortal apocrypha while appearing on the <i>Tonight Show</i> and explaining to Johnny Carson why the clocks melt. “Why,” Dali continues in Uvular’s account of the probably untrue tale, “when I order the salmon does the waiter not bring me a flaming telephone book?”
Which neatly encapsulates a summation of and lamentation for the magic that humans almost never encounter in their workaday lives. Sure, weird and unexpected things occur. The Chicago Cubs win a World Series. A 60-something multimillionaire murders 58 people attending a country music festival in Las Vegas. But everyone can imagine both that good thing and that worst thing. When the odds of anything happening stand at one to x, that thing will happen at least once.3
So it really only matters that Dali should have said what he may have said about happenstance and the desire for surprise. Note, too, that it matters how completely Uvular fleshed out the scene of the declamation. He will continue believing his version even after receiving irrefutable proof of its untruth. He likes his flawed memory.
Uvular has begun to frame Trumpism, the rise of nationalism in Europe, and the theocratization of regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa as the result of agreeing to the veracity of the faulty recollections of the people with the worst intent. Going through that process requires denying reality in the same way that Uvular insists on placing Dali in that talk show seat beside Carson, only replace the duo with Idi Amin precising genocide to Pol Pot.4
A committed few can spread a lie so far so fast that untruths thoroughly supplant facts and reclaiming any sense of history as it actually played out becomes impossible. Remember how mere repetition made Trump’s claim that Obama’s economic policies had failed a driving narrative of the 2016 presidential campaign? The unemployment, GDP, stock market, consumer confidence, and inflation numbers easily put the lie to Trump’s fervid verbal flatulences, but few reporters even bothered to look.
Now, in mid-July 2018, Trump took time out of yet another harangue unhinged enough to shame Hugo Chavez to tell American veterans of foreign wars, quote, “And just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”5 In other words, do not merely disbelieve your lying eyes, but purge all memory of objective reality.
Following Trump’s diktat6 eases the wiped-consciousness consciences of those who endorse setting up concentration camps for “not Mexico’s best” even though the internees come from Guatemala and satisfy Republicans’ baseline definition of good parents by just wanting a better lives for their children.
Entering Trump’s mirror world further compels nodding in agreement when a lawyer praised last week as strong and honest today gets denounced as a lifelong dope and liar.7
Falling in line with Trump on anything requires rejecting the entirety of one’s experience and knowledge of the world. But, and the heart of the problem, Trumpists only needed an excuse. They prayed — literally in the white evangelical community — for a figurehead who would give aegis to and broadcast their racism, xenophobia, misogyny, greed, and cruelty. They had already abandoned the project of learning life lessons, so Trump, again literally, appeared as a godsend. He does all their not-thinking for them
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