Given the endless procession of freshly minted atrocities on the front pages of credible newspapers, it’s tempting to invoke the apocryphal Chinese curse that bestowed the condemnation of “interesting times.” But we’ve crossed well beyond that battle-scarred region. We’ve moved on to a swirling abomination that can only be thought of as “exhausting times.” Being engaged in the current political stories that flash and pop with the frantic urgency of an overloading pinball machine is an invitation to madness, or at least a version of unwanted enlightening that is particularly soul-crushing.
None of these examples of egregious abdication of sensible civic duty are entirely new, mind you. The current occupant of the White House is uniquely inept, grotesquely immoral human being, but he’s more an extension of the corruption that has beset our politics than a frothing polyp that arrived out of nowhere. As proof, I offer up some words that were penned approximately four years ago, when a certain serial sex offender and bafflingly incompetent real estate developer was mainly occupied with handing out junior capitalism challenges to Gary Busey and Stephen Baldwin:
“We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too….We have elected a national legislature in which the true power resides in a cabal of vandals, a nihilistic brigade….We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons.”
I’d say those words still carry the harsh sting of pertinence. They were penned by Charles P. Pierce, who has held down the politics page of Esquire magazine’s website since the autumn of 2011.
As I have glumly surveyed the most grievous infractions against kind-hearted societal progress in recent years — the muddled thinking of one political party transformed into crackpot lunacy, a happenstance evidently catalyzed by the duly elected elevation to the highest office in the land of a man with darker skin than they preferred — the ferocious, intelligent, barbed language of Pierce has been my salve.
Whether opining on the crimes against decency perpetrated by those at the federal level or shrewdly honing in on the more shrouded shenanigans happening in statehouses across the land, Pierce has a way of spinning outrage into caustically funny testimony that is also intellectually sound enough to stand up in the most uptight court of law. (In that, Pierce is miles ahead of the superficially similar Matt Taibbi, who deploys his colorful insults as a way of obscuring an indifference to underlying knowledge.) Pierce is all too happy to pile on the worst transgressors (he routinely refers to Scott Walker, the misbegotten governor of my home state as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”), but the virulent verbosity is always partnered with a convincing argument.
Today, Pierce obviously devoted a robust spread of digital column inches to the jaw-dropping dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, complete with the requisite comparisons to the malevolent machinations of Richard Nixon, whose is surely being replaced as the poster child for executive brach corruption. But Pierce also somehow found the emotional fortitude to write about the chicanery around the U.S. Census office, the ongoing suppression of the news media, and the abject dishonesty of Mike Pence (perfectly described by Pierce as “a remarkable piece of smarm sculpture”).
All of these missives were admittedly mere Band-Aids on a wound that is tearing wider every last day. (Thankfully, intrepid reporters at The New York Times and other major media outlets are doing their damnedest to be the trauma surgeons the nation needs right now.) Even so, I appreciate Pierce’s no-nonsense commitment to continuing to apply the treatment. There’s only so much outrage I can handle without feeling like theres some kindred, agitated souls out there. I value the like-minded spirit of a writer who’s surveying the same attempted decimation of the republic and refuses to do so without raising a helluva racket.
Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “My Writers” tag.