So, I’m tired. The circus that is the 2016 electoral race is gradually progressing toward a pivotal moment in the Union’s politics, now being called by many the “Post-Truth” era. This is an era of reactionary and sensationalized journalism, an era where facts no longer matter, trumped — pun intended — by an equally disturbing blind acceptance of lies and misinformation.
None has epitomized the “Post-Truth” trend better than Donald Trump, whose debunked claims about seeing thousands cheering on 9/11, Obama planning to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees, Blacks killing 81 percent of white homicide victims, and/or Mexico sending “the bad ones over” have only elicited adoration. A cursory examination of Politifact’s file on Trump reveals a dissertation-worthy habit of mythmaking, and he’s only getting more popular, with a mind-boggling 36 percent approval rating among Republicans, according to a recent poll. Now consider that this mogul has never held an office in politics, yet continues to be taken seriously on matters of gov’t policy. And he’s not the only one.
Instead of integrity in politics, we’re witnessing a cultural zeitgeist in which xenophobic propaganda and anti-intellectualism are once again prioritized in favor of protecting the status quo. “Telling it like it is”, no matter how oxymoronic in retrospect, overrides personal accountability. Anyone who disagrees is simply being “PC” or afraid to be responsible for their actions. Throw cries of “censorship” in there somewhere in addition to tired lines about Respectability Politics and what assassinated Civil Rights leaders would do, as well as the occasional token spokesperson for ___ community, and you’ll cover the gist of their mentality.
This era of Post-Truth, of naked lies and fanatical narratives, is why we can have a woman deliberately lie in a viral video about Planned Parenthood and use “liberal bias” as a scapegoat when she’s criticized after a terrorist attack. It’s why Trump, whose modus operandi borders on pathological, can continue to magick facts from thin air without consequences. It’s why All Lives Matter but Black ones.
I read the stories about Trump et al daily, watch clips of his outrageous antics, and mull the articles published by major sites, featuring so-called intellectuals pondering why — without a single shred of irony — the GOP has two serious candidates with nil political savvy. I smile when they lament the obvious ineptitude of Carson or his wife’s cringe-worthy singing voice. I may have even cracked a joke once about how Cruz’s erasable pen was a metaphor for his presidential campaign (hint: they smudge easily, and always leave a nasty mark). Beneath all of the gossip and the outrage; beneath the satirical memes and skits; beneath the commentary from critics awestruck by the bigotry, my reaction remains the same:
So fucking what?
Or, as the saying goes in pop culture, “water is wet.”
Any person of color is aware that we live in a society openly hostile toward us. We’ve long known that one’s proximity to whiteness and heteronormative ethos is often the difference between a mass murderer being labeled a“troubled loner” and a 12-year-old being mistaken for 20. We’ve mourned the likes of Hadiya Pendelton and others lost to needless violence, whose deaths have been exploited to excuse state-sanctioned killings. We’ve protested for the Grants, the Boyds, and the Circle Bears, and watched the media put their lives on trial after their deaths. A single flaw merits our execution, and even those ruled “innocent” by the Court of Public Opinion are buried underneath the next hot topic: Drake memes and/or Bryant’s basketball legacy.
The “Truth” has only mattered when it protected the interests of the system that allowed or enabled these atrocities to happen. It’s why the public is largely silent about the Holtzclaw case, with some even insinuating that all of the women raped by him are somehow lying. It’s why the mentally ill, despite being more likely to harm themselves or be victims of violence, are routinely thrown under the bus in conversations about gun control. It’s why a segment of people continue, in the face of legions of evidence, to believe that President Obama is a Muslim sleeper agent that was never born in Hawai’i.
It’s why people can pass bills policing a woman’s body based on well-documented falsehoods. It’s why we have a flagrant racist — and mediocre president — on our 20 dollar bill and a holiday devoted to a man who murdered countless of my Native ancestors when he “discovered” us. It’s why we haven’t even had a semblance of equal rights for a century despite slavery being “so long ago”. It’s why my father’s homeland is a colony whose infrastructure is being sold to the highest bidder. This country has long been plagued by false narratives. The folks surprised have simply had the privilege of never having to challenge them.
So what the hell does Donald Trump have to do with this?
In academia, there’s a habit we have as far as woo and pseudoscience is concerned; we ignore it. Wasting one’s time to debunk some troll obsessed with conspiracies about the powers of melanin and pineal glands, or more popularly, Young Earth Creationism, lends credence to their ridiculous claims. We know, as people aren’t monolithic, that there will always be a segment of people who believe with an unflinching fervor that Muslims are inherently terrorists, that the poor are mostly lazy welfare queens and crack addicts, or that the mere presence of Queer folk signifies the erasure of straight people. We also know that no amount of criticism or lengthy treatises on the deception of Trump and his ilk will halt his rise as a cultural signifier of the very privilege and oppression minorities have battled since the Union’s inception.
So we fight and we protest, even despite the violence and ugliness laid bare in the political climate. We shout that Black Lives do matter, and move to challenge the system that created a society where our lives don’t. We check the people claiming to be our allies when they get out of pocket, and we welcome those who are willing to listen. We roast the caricatures clearly being used to patronize us, and we persevere by keeping the memories of those we love and/or have lost to state-sanctioned violence alive. We admire the progress made for marriage equality, yet honor Islan Nettles, Fred Martinez, and the myriad neglected transwomen murdered or jailed for defending themselves.
We don’t, however, play the Trump card. We’ve long known his playbook, and he’s not the first to use it. It’s high time people remembered that.