Election 2020: A Lyric Essay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElectoralCollege2020.svg

Jim Crow Ash

A black reverend represents Georgia and for white fucks, this is yet another loss for the Confederacy. After all, the senator’s surname features the root word “war.” The whitelash was as predictable as Brady’s MAGA cap. In the wake of the Grand Antebellum Party’s collapse, a young white man harvested Asian blood and old white men shackled a black woman during a democracy eradication ritual.

After the Asian Spa Massacre, the topic of gun control was resurrected in time for Easter. I think we need to look at this issue anew since America already stores half of the planet’s firearms. It’s high time for crow hunting. For every voter suppression legislation you support, expect a tattoo with an American bullet wound beneath your white abdomen. I will then swallow medication which produces blue urine to complete human bomb pops. Luckily, Republicans don’t consider white coxcombs inciting a riot to be an impeachable offense.

After I published my lyric essay about the 2016 election, I worried that the anger would not age well. In retrospect, the tone wasn’t fucking angry enough. After Donald Trump lost in humiliating fashion in 2020, his supporters stormed the capitol puppeteering the confederate flag in perceived triumph. While the television news anchors looked on with fresh horror, I saw it as an Omaha Incident Reboot. Nearly a century earlier, a reformist became mayor of that city, threatening to soften white supremacy. White men stormed their city government and nearly lynched him. He never returned to politics. A black man did not survive the incident. Not a single criminal served any prison time. The fact that this happened again after a black man ascended to the senate is not a goddamn coincidence. Political scientist Robert A. Pape said, “You see a common pattern in the Capitol Insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.”

Donald Trump later ass-dialed Fox News and claimed the insurrectionists were hugging and kissing law enforcement. While the corporate news pundits roundhouse kicked this tomato can with a NEWS DESK FACT CHECK, they missed the larger point. Whenever white supremacy is threatened, it feels like lawlessness to many white Americans and therefore these New Balanced terrorists were temporarily replacing ineffective police. As a classroom reward for his pupils, Trump workshopped klavern fan fiction.

For conservatives, democracy has malfunctioned. The only places where the party finds consistent success is in the exarchates late capitalism has pounded into ivory powder. Therefore, it should not be shocking that their voters lust to incinerate elections into ash, so wrinkled Uncle Sam salts them as the urn’s top layer.

Rolling Stone Age

 I have a subscription to Rolling Stone. I never asked for it or paid for it. It comes to my parents’ home in the Finger Lakes. It appeared in the mailbox while I housesat in July 2020. My brother, who was born with a heart defect, was once again in the hospital. He survived another surgery, to the tune of a million dollars. Since he has a preexisting condition, Republicans would have him pay every fucking dime of it.

I guess I’m the age where I receive this magazine now? Which means I’m halfway toward Readers Digest populating my restroom. While leafing through my free issue, it looked much different than when I’d sneak glances at my local Borders. Back then, album reviews of legacy acts read more like press releases than criticism. Anything new or interesting (IDM was the premiere underground genre of the era) received minimal attention.

That month’s issue featured an essay by Andy Kroll where he writes, “The contest between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is not a choice between competing policy agendas or rival ideologies. It’s a choice between reality and anti-reality.”

In an election retrospective, Peter Slevin of the New Yorker said this about campaigning in Iowa: “A central lesson is that facts matter little when […] pivotal groups of voters stick to what they think they know.”

What these two observations have in common is that most Americans are dumb as fuck and the media is too cowardly to admit it. American Exceptionalism DNA can be found splattered across the murder scenes of most political coverage. News outlets address white voters as royalty and only the court jesters of The Daily Show are authorized by corporate sponsors to treat them with the derision they require.

My political takes as a young adult were thermal vomit. Luckily, MySpace did millennials a solid and pressure-washed them into the digital void. However, I’m always open to being wrong and challenge myself to read a hundred books per year. I usually fall short of this goal, especially with grading and real-life nonsense interfering, but it pushes me to read more than I normally would, and as a result, I become a better writer, teacher, and thinker. It appears that Rolling Stone also has improved beyond abject boomer worship, so I won’t discontinue my free subscription.

Rushing to Death

 If you’ve spent any time in the American hinterlands, you have come into contact with The Rush Limbaugh Show. While most young people think of terrestrial radio the way you think about the fax machine or phonograph, conservative talk radio fills our vast rural emptiness. If you’ve never heard his show, it’s ad-sponsored demotic execration for anyone who fails to perform routine maintenance on our cultural hierarchy. An easy Google search yields all the liquid shit this fucker splashed from his khaki asshole.

When Limbaugh broadcasted his lung cancer diagnosis in February 2020, I fully expected him to recover. Not because he is a particularly strong man, but because even cancer cells were mortified to cohabitate with his voice. His quarantine beard made him resemble a frothing hound mesmerized by scrapyard carcasses. Ta-Nehisi Coates describes him as the “bard of white decline.”

Donald J. Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award is to recognize Americans who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” A pill-popping dropout seems to not measure up to these qualifications, but how many wealthy white men are legitimately qualified for the work that they do? The nine richest Americans are all white men. They all founded companies with the amazing innovation of exploiting other humans for profit. Every single president except one has been a white man and they all supported racial imperialism. Is it shocking that Rush Limbaugh became so wealthy? Most white men are not rich, but that doesn’t stop them from assuming that this indigenous massacre of a nation could help them become panjandrums. It’s the immigrants or trans athletes or trans immigrant athletes who prevent them from achieving their boring dream of a sports car and a luxury fortress with an electronic fence.

The last few episodes of Rush’s shows were a public wake for Donald Trump’s failed campaign. For months this shitheel claimed that this was going to be just like 2016, where election experts will be proven to be incorrect, while his righteous audience will once again vanquish the unholy dragon of moderate liberalism. For Rush’s audience, who avoid eye contact with black text, the results were bewildering.

One caller in particular sobbed through his sentence fragments. “Trump…and you are all we have left…Rush. […] We were in Washington on Saturday…me and my thirty-three-year-old adult son…we saw more people than we’ve ever seen in our lifetime! Ever! […] I am not a revolutionary. Rush, but I would die for my president.”

Like any prospective suicide bomber, this geezer is a sinister mark. His life clearly signifies little to himself and therefore craves a purposeful death to produce spiritual meaning. Instead of realizing that capitalism has reduced his human worth to nothing, he looks to richer white men’s approval for validation.

Frank Bruni decided to use his platform of The New York Times to tut-tut anyone celebrating Limbaugh’s death. With his headmaster’s tone, he expressed his disappointment with all of us: “crudeness only perpetuates a kind of discourse that tracks too closely with Twitter: all spleen, no soul […] it doesn’t leave us the room for reasoned and reasonable debate on which a healthy democracy thrives.”

So according to the source of liberal boomers, American democracy depends on the left being cordial while the right deifies attack-dog rhetoricians. Fuck that and fuck you, Bruni. I know that opining for The Times means maintaining a tone that won’t disturb morning tea in Maine, but I’m hamstrung by an unshakable moral core. I fully encourage the desecration of Rush’s grave by advocating for equality so his soul may never find peace.

Tik Tok Motherfucker

In June 2020, Trump chose Tulsa, OK, to kick off his reelection campaign. Despite the fact that a global pandemic made any mass gathering a public health risk, the American president wasn’t going to make a silly thing like human suffering stop him from throwing a goddamn party.

This rally was hyped to be the television counterpunch to a badly damaged campaign. How can these poll numbers be accurate when so many people love Donald Trump? This was going to be real America. Not that fucking fake coastal snowflake shit. Let Trump’s revenge tour commence!

Only no one showed up. I’ve seen madrigal choirs in upstate malls attract bigger crowds. Even the die-hards who braved the virus appeared despondent. Campaign manager Brad Parscale had been hyping his “Death Star” of an operation, apparently without watching the third act of any Star Wars feature film.  

Unbeknownst to the Trump team, Tik Tok teens requested tickets they had no intention of using. The man who trolled his way to the White House got beat at his own game. While I’m fully supportive of any platform that angers politicians, I cannot in good faith actually recommend this particular application. Tik Tok exposes the brutal truth that most people struggle to express themselves. The same dance routines, the same audio clips, and the same lazy observations replicate infinitely across the cloud. I know this is the slushiest of takes, but there’s something dispiriting about endless people reveling in unoriginality. John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s, once described the Internet as “[not] much more than a gigantic Xerox machine.” I despise when anti-labor dragurs are right.

Jia Tolentino writes in the New Yorker that “I found it both freeing and disturbing to spend time on a platform that didn’t ask me to pretend that I was on the Internet for a good reason.” A rapper told Pitchfork that when composing songs for the application, to make sure “it doesn’t sound professional. The masses can relate to it because they can feel like they can do it too, almost.”  

Like most drugs, Tik Tok’s main purpose is a controlled burning of unused time when you suffer from too much of it. A professional-sounding song would depress you because it’s a reminder that other people experience time passionately. In this way, it makes sense why Tik Tok users delivered a body blow to the Trump campaign. They have intimate knowledge about pissing life away.

Show of Wonder

Some of the best television journalism of the past twenty years was done by children on Wonder Showzen. It was a short-lived series produced during the George W. Bush presidency and was the grotesque version of Sesame Street. These curious tykes would ask adults to comment on accepted cultural perceptions, only to expose the blank minds responsible for the world’s most powerful economy.

Some questions included “Is America #1?” A white male office worker answered in the affirmative. That is when the elementary school student came back with an unblocked uppercut: he asked the office worker, “Why?” The response comprised of monochromatic logical dead ends usually reserved for hostage videos. In another segment, a child asked FiDi workers “Who did you exploit today?” Almost all of answers included “I don’t think I did.” What this revealed is that buried within the subconscious of the financial sector is the knowledge that the guidelines are grossly unfair. Three years after this segment aired, the world economy crashed due to Wall Street malfeasance.

Before each episode, a warning screen appeared in all caps stating, “WONDER SHOWZEN CONTAINS OFFENSIVE, DESPICABLE CONTENT THAT IS TOO CONTROVERSIAL AND TOO AWESOME FOR ACTUAL CHILDREN. THE STARK, UGLY, PROFOUND TRUTHS WONDER SHOWZEN EXPOSES MAY BE SOUL CRUSHING TO THE WEAK OF SPIRIT.” What this show revealed, however, is that the actual children are the majority of American adults, who possess fairy-tale renditions of their own people and history. The minors involved in the production had a better sense of the carnival economics that power Old Glory.

In 2017, the creators of Wonder Showzen gave an interview about its legacy. John Lee said, “There’s so much shit that’s just never said on TV, everybody’s cooperating in this one game and one agreed upon thing.” Vernon Chatman added “I never associated anger or frustration with the truth we were ‘telling.’ I always thought that it [w]as more gleeful than angry.” This is why Wonder Showzen is art and social media threads are not. Anger is a powerful fuel when refined, but in its raw form, just sloshes in ugly barrels to be bought and sold by tech companies. In 2020, Lee said “Injustice and inequality never change. That’s the tragedy of Wonder Showzen.

Just Asking Questions

If bloody cleats acupunctured Tucker Carlson in a campfire, would he curse himself as he leathered from white to red to smoke? Would conservatives venerate the second amendment as comrades flooded their homes during his primetime slot? Hypnotized by White Power Hour, would they notice the lead trickle of AR-15s tickling their spines? If you blast several quislings at once, does it cause hell to traffic jam? Is this non-literal commentary? Did they have a gun? Did they have drugs in the house? What were they wearing?

Life Hacks

Every spring semester while I’m grading, I revisit the three volumes of the Hackers soundtrack. My fascination with the film began with its initial release and my appreciation for it has only grown over the subsequent decades. There were several computer-related thrillers released at the time, but Hackers by far is the best. It tells the tale of a teenage hacker played by Johnny Lee Miller who moves from Seattle to Manhattan for his senior year of high school. He befriends multicultural hacker adolescents and they become ensnared in a reprocessed Hollywood plot in which covetous corporate employees pilfer money from digital accounts. I even watched an original 35mm print at a pre-pandemic screening at Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.

The movie was criticized at the time for its fantastical representation of the primitive Internet. Hackers would not seem very powerful if their modems disconnected by repeated phone calls from relatives. However, its resistance to accurately representing nineties Internet is what gives it staying power. The characters’ fascination with technology can be used to represent any niche hobby that alienates teenagers from their peers. As someone who attended a bland upstate school where everyone had the same basic interests, the idea that you could go to a downstate school and find fellow misfits amazed me more than the ability to penetrate international banks with MacOS 7.5. My advanced classes consisted of privileged students obsessed with exam scores as opposed to cultural awareness.

The soundtrack is wonderful. It consists of all the big electronica acts of the era, including Prodigy, Underworld, and Orbital. What makes me return to these early techno groups is the craftsmanship. Peter Kruder said that “each step took a million years.” Today anyone with a passing interest in ProTools can fuck around and share to TikTok for instant listening. At the genre’s genesis, finding an audience was difficult. Compact discs were also expensive, and you’d need adventurous record shoppers to make money beyond the urban core.

Rob Birch of the Stereo MCs describes early electronica as “rebel music.” Laurence Mason, who plays “Lord Nikon” in the film, said, “all this music had a primitive element to them, a universality [that] speaks to everyone.” Iain Softley, the film’s director, said that film executives requested grunge music because “Nobody in America listens to techno.” The suits desired a downstate film catered to upstate sensibilities.

Grading is easily the worst part of my profession. It’s also the impetus to avoid many social media applications. If I am employed to read amateur writing, then why would I perform that labor pro bono publico? The Hackers soundtrack, however, helps remind me of being their coeval and figuring things out. Each essay assignment is an opportunity for young adults to critique culture, character, or an image. Building an enlightened electorate requires assistance with elevating American prose. To encourage the development of rebel music.

Rhymes with Orange

After four years of WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump, there was not a single fictional character more refreshing in professional wrestling than Orange Cassidy. Similar to Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive, Cassidy is a droll recluse in a chaotic world. In a television genre where the cocaine rants of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are considered foundational texts, Orange Cassidy loiters on camera while quasi-comatose. 

When in the ring, Cassidy plays off audience expectations. Traditionally, when a wrestler lands a stiff strike, the audience responds with “OHHH” like a Greek chorus. Knowing this, Cassidy attacks with the slightest of touches, with the crowd getting louder and louder with each successive kick becoming lazier and more lethargic.

Professional wrestling, like any dramatic art, features moments of comedy to make the serious beats hit slightly harder. Orange Cassidy takes the opposite approach—the majority of his act is comedy, and therefore his serious moments are emotional explosions. Despite having a roster loaded with main event stars from across the globe, Orange Cassidy is the most popular combatant in All Elite Wrestling.

In an era where even the president floods social media with outrage, Cassidy appears perpetually hungover and withdrawn. In an uncustomary moment of reality, Cassidy described his character as “a wrestler who doesn’t want to wrestle. Whatever he can do just to get by is what he’s going to do.” This is what makes him such a radical character in American culture—ambitious sociopaths are lauded for their planetary exploitation by a complicit media infrastructure operated by other ambitious sociopaths. Orange Cassidy’s motivation is to bypass conflict altogether. His hometown? “Wherever.” Weight? “Whatever.” In a nation where the digits in your zip code and bathroom scale dominate cultural perceptions, Cassidy reminds the audience that America’s image obsession is a fucking joke.

Yub Nub!

Despite his best attempts at fascism, one of which got him impeached, Donald Trump lost the election. Joe Biden was not my choice to represent Democrats but the backbone of the party, black voters, selected him over the other candidates. To show just how despised Trump is with most of America, Delaware centrist Joe Biden received more votes than anyone in history.

I was pressure washing my new home when my neighbor signaled for me to remove my headphones. Joe Biden won the election! I killed the engine and heard a symphony of car horns and screams. My phone was overwhelmed with messages from family. I told my sister that I was playing “Yub Nub” from Return of the Jedi. Her husband was streaming it as well.

Return of the Jedi has always been my favorite movie from the series because aside from coke-fueled Carrie Fisher, it tells the most complete story. In the first act, Luke Skywalker overthrows the crime family responsible for his home planet’s outlaw culture. Luke then discovers the tragedy of his father’s young adulthood from his mentor’s ghost. Finally, he passes the moral test that his father failed and completes the prophecy of Anakin balancing the force. When Luke returns to celebrate with his friends, the autochthonous Ewoks perform a science fiction slave hymn which translates to “Hooray, Freedom!”

Late in the song, Luke sees the force ghosts of Yoda, Obi Wan, and his father. Although Luke was originally too old to become a jedi, he stumbled across the finish line thanks to the galaxy’s leftist coalition. Decatur, GA, had recently adopted open container laws due to the pandemic, and so later that afternoon my girlfriend and I wanted to celebrate. Like most American cities, there was jubilation in the streets. Parents, children, and young adults all reveled with music, desserts, and social-distanced dance. Georgia was turning blue. Parscale’s Death Star had been reduced to a white firework. Although pot-holed roads were ahead on every issue, at least we were getting towed out of the ditch. Hooray. Freedom.

 

Photo at the top of the page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElectoralCollege2020.svg

Rejection Letter for My Traumatic Brain Injury

"Fogged" by Premnath Thirumalaisamy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Dear Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.):

Thank you for applying to the position of ‘what happened on Susan’s way home on May 5’ here at The Rest of Susan’s Life, Inc.

We do really appreciate that you considered us, when we know there are a lot of places taking applications. We received and have reviewed a large number of applications, including from ‘256 Broken Bones’, his cousins ‘247 Broken Bones’ and ‘212 Broken Bones’, ‘Fractured Ribs causing pneumothorax’, ‘Liver impaled by gearshift’, ‘Exsanguinated at roadside’, ‘Trapped in exploding car’, and simply ‘Crushed to death’.

There was so much working for you. Your résumé is remarkable. Your involvement in extracurricular activities (boxing, football, and equestrian sports in particular) were duly noted. Your background in the military service, especially on the front lines, was striking. And your references, including Jackie Chan, Roald Dahl, and Lady Gaga, were most impressive. When we called them, however, they unfortunately revealed some negative feedback about you.

When we wrote in the job description that we sought a candidate who could really ‘shake things up’, we were not referring to shaking up Susan’s brain matter or causing vertigo. We weren’t really sure how to interpret your cover letter about ‘taking the bull by the horns’, or how you’re known to ‘always hit the nail on the head.’

The team was really impressed with the way that you offered to help Susan develop more appreciation for the small pleasures in life—like staying awake for more than a half-hour at a time, reading more than three pages of a book and retaining them, and even remembering whether she had turned on the oven. However, after reviewing the applications, we felt that another applicant was better suited for the position.

We are declining to move forward with your application.

Your responses to job application questions were certainly cunning. Under ‘special skills’, you wrote ‘can cause headache and vertigo without warning.’ No one knows when you’re there—you don’t always identify yourself. You might let us sleep—just not soundly. Your thinking might appear clear, but really you are as foggy as a San Francisco harbor on a summer day. And you might go totally incognito for days, only to come raging back in the form of dizziness, confusion, and a total lack of coordination. And that is just not going to work out for us in a professional workplace.

We are currently focusing on candidates who require less accommodation, for our needs at The Rest of Susan’s Life right now. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of work (with physical therapy, occupational therapy, neuropsychology, acupuncture, massage therapy, home health aides, and of course visits to the ER and Susan’s GP) required to adapt the position to your needs makes the situation untenable for us. We are but a small company.

You were the only external candidate to make it so far in the hiring process, and we really wanted you. Ultimately, in the interest of full transparency, we decided to go with an internal candidate. The internal candidate ‘Had a safe drive home’ has already been approached and plans to take the position of ‘what happened on Susan’s way home on May 5.’ We found the internal candidate to be better suited to our goals here at The Rest of Susan’s Life: family, friends, awake time, and most importantly, memories.

Finally, we regret to remind you of our policy that those who are not hired, may never reapply for a position in The Rest of Susan’s Life. Also, even if you think it is clever to change your name to ‘Concussion’, please know that the internal policy is for no reapplications and we have ways of checking on this.

Thank you for your interest in working with us. We’re sorry that it didn’t work out. Best of luck in the rest of your search. You might want to check out the NFL. We’re pretty sure you would fit in there perfectly.

With Gratitude,

The Rest of Susan’s Life

Image at the top of the page: “Fogged” by Premnath Thirumalaisamy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Disfigured, 1995

"Guilt" by h.koppdelaney is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

He sits stooped in bed, scowling. “I look like a corpse.”

Robert’s face and neck are disfigured from surgery and radiation. His body is bruised and bone skinny. A tracheostomy tube juts from his neck, a feeding tube from his belly. It is cancer; too many cigarettes for too many years.

“And I smell like shit; I’m rotting from the inside out. I bet you couldn’t eat lunch in my room.” His head pivots to the side; he glares. “Well?”

“Yes I could,” I blurt. My words are duplicitous and inappropriate. My face reddens in embarrassment.  

He coughs. A stringy glob of bloody mucous heaves from his tracheostomy and lands on the bed sheet. I stare, uncomfortably. I glance upward; our eyes meet. “See, you can’t, you can’t eat lunch in my room.”

My shoulders slump. “It’s just not appropriate.”

“It’s okay, no need for excuses. But you’d feel the same if you were in my shoes.” I am ashamed; I would feel the same, likely.

He fidgets with his hospital gown. “I want to die now. I’m stopping the tube feedings, but I don’t want to linger.” His eyes roam the room. “Send me home on hospice, then help me die, now. No one would know.” He has no spouse. He has no children. He has no siblings. He is right, no one would know, except the pharmacist.

I advise him physician-assisted death is illegal in this state. His eyes flare feral. He clenches his hands and pounds his thighs. “No! That’s not acceptable.” His shakes the bedrails. “I’m suffering. I’m dying. You could do it if you wanted to.”

I try to reason with him; my words are lip service. “I have a gun,” he says. He is manipulative, but is he suicidal? Psychiatry has asserted he is not; however, I am uncertain. He appears desperate.

I tell him I can keep him comfortable after he stops the tube feedings, sedate him so he sleeps. It may be days before he dies, but he will be comfortable and unaware. He flicks his hand in dismissal, then curls into a fetal position. I attempt to visit for three days; he refuses to see me.

He dies ten days later, thirteen days after discontinuing tube feedings. He lingered as he feared. He suffered physically and existentially. My guilt is insufferable.

 

Source: “Guilt” by h.koppdelaney is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.