Recommended Reading (and Thinking)

The merit of Mary L. Trump’s energizing and persuasive new book, The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal, which usefully combines psychology with our national history, is its demonstration of the diverse ways that denial shapes not only much of our politics but most of our media. It might also be argued that, as Mary Trump periodically implies, the principal agent of that denial is capitalism, which trumps democracy (pun intended) whenever it can.

The main form of denial Mary Trump’s book is concerned with is related to the trauma caused by American genocide and enslavement and the myth of white supremacy that has sought to justify and sustain these practices, but it applies equally well to the history of this country’s obscurely motivated and ill-defined wars, most recently the military occupation of Afghanistan. The media’s emphasis on the messinessn of our military withdrawal is predicated entirely on capitalist assumptions that (1) messiness is always what people want to watch the most, (2) ignoring and in effect denying the messiness of previous unnecessary wars to make the end of the present one seem unique and unprecedented. Our other military occupations, and our eventual messy withdrawals (e.g., Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq) are made to seem irrelevant, and denying them helps to keep us watching the current messy withdrawal ahistorically, as if all of this has never happened before (and will never happen again), and (3) as Paul Krugman recently pointed out, people hate to admit that they’ve been wrong for the past two decades.

Capitalism is devoted to selling us not what we want (which nobody can determine, because no one knows what that is, least of all us or capitalist media) but what it thinks we want to buy, meaning what our reflexes say, which isn’t even the same thing as our minds or what we want, but pretends otherwise, as capitalism often does. It’s the same capitalist boondoggle that sells masklessness as a form of freedom or political virtue,sometimes lethal CV remedies like Chlorox and horse dewormers, and Donald himself, the ideal empty capitalist product, to millions of customers, complete with built-in denials. All of this, of course, so that he and other stupid, angry, immoral people can make more money, which they don’t even need or know how to spend. [8/24/2021]

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