The Controversy of “After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Are Not Ready For 2020”
Diary entry, February 19, 2020
There is a Medium article by the author Karlyn Borysenko which has been circulating. “After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Are Not Ready For 2020”. It’s been making an appearance on a few of my friend’s Facebook walls. And along with it, some controversy.
Now, for myself, I’m not interested in whether this is a work of honest truth, or some fact-fiction medley. I find myself reflecting on the piece just as I would any piece of artwork at the museum. Whether the paint strokes or photography depict fantasy or not, it doesn’t matter. After all, no factual falsification could cause me to dismiss the object of my experience — which is not the work before my eyes, but my own impressions!
What happens to me with this piece? Does the narrative of this work resonate? Does it disclose the world that I live in? And where do I find myself now after reading it? What do I find myself encouraged to do with those impressions? One answer, I can tell you truthfully; I do find myself inclined to share the article. And I suppose this is with the hope that I can have my experience together with someone else. But is this reason truthful? I mean, I do feel hesitation in sharing the article. This hesitation is why I write to you today, Diary.
The concern which presents itself over to me is as follows: if I share the article on my Facebook wall, I not only put the piece in new context, but I also transform it. In my hands the article goes from being Karlyn’s story into a “fact”. And I am certain that there are real differences between “story” and “fact”. When I think about reading this article from the perspective of a friend looking at my Facebook wall, then the very object which I hoped to share — my impression — that object is somehow obscured. The affirmation which this article gives me recedes. I stand behind the factual. Yes, I am its supporter, but it is also my fortification. The article safely ushers my impression into exposure.
It seems to me the skeptic who doubts the article’s factuality along with the affirmed believer play with facts all the same. As a diversion. Likely, unwittingly. I know this sounds nasty. My friends would likely object. But this is undoubtedly the cause of my hesitation. This article will take the form a factual building block in my hands. Bricks are solid — they are closed objects! Bricks are used to lay empires — one truth stacked upon the other. Of course, there is a times for facts, but it seems to me that often my countrymen’s prioritization of the factual diverts us from a good discussion. Of course, there are always more facts to discover. So, perhaps we will never be full equipped for a discussion. But this seems to reveal the ugly demand of knowledge. Living in a factual world seems to have repressed the frequency of discussion. We animate the falsifiable, proof and disproof — from science to politics to religion. Perhaps you will find me sharing a story with you next Thanksgiving.
I remember the abortion debate. It was reduced to facts. On one hand I heard facts about the fetus, and on the other I heard statistics disclosing a world with less crime. But it seems to me what we really wanted to say was how we felt. Perhaps we should have all started with, “Having an abortion is nothing to celebrate”. But instead we trained our “persuasive muscle” not our “truthful muscle”. We stood behind the fortification.
Now, this talk of empires — it reminds me of something I read once in a translation of Martin Heidegger’s lectures on Parmenides. Something of a polemic on the driving force of modernization — the cosmic force of “power”. Now Diary, this idea of a cosmic Will to Power, it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’m not even sure I have a will. Or if instead, I am completely subjected to the phenomena of the world — whether that phenomena comes to me from ‘interior’ feelings or ‘exterior’ matter. And so, it feels totally out of the question to project a “will” onto the world on account of my own, such as Arthur Schopenhauer had done. But I do have to admit, sometimes it’s hard to see outside of it. I mean, I often hear of biology spoken about in terms of power. And I have even been tempted to use that coinage which Herbert Spencer made popular, “the survival of the fittest”.
I have often thought of democracy itself as a manifestation of power. Or rather, that democracy is the civil infrastructure for managing power. But even here, there is something which feels filtered. I mean, I can imagine a democracy otherwise — one not concerned with choosing between black/white, choice/life, for example. I can imagine a democracy which is occupied with prioritization, not persuasion.
In many ways, the art museum is much easier. Likely why I draw so much enjoyment out of it. The museum provides something of a “safe space” for my impressions. There is time for reflection. My action is postponed. And I do enjoy discussing my impressions — even together with strangers at the museum. Imagine a political debate that felt this way! But it just is a different game out here. Outside the museum artworks become propaganda in my hands. Whether I am purchasing products, or hanging the free ones on my Facebook wall, or applauding for them on Medium, liking them on Instagram — these transactions seem to shift around this metaphysical object “power”. And these venues, they encourage me to play into the game. I become part of that cosmic force. I shouldn’t be surprised to find a hostile environment.
Well now, it seems I have diagnosed a second reason for my hesitation, dear Diary! I’m not interested in encourage that picture of the world as one of power. It’s honestly easier for me to feel the force of gravity while standing completely still!
Now, I have to say, I’m starting to feel some courage. This time spent with you has been good. And I’ve come to a resolve. I believe I have found a key to the lockbox of my certainty. I think I will share the article, but I will add a subtitle: “Neither fact nor fiction. A time for the discussion of impressions.” And you know what? At the same time, I’m starting to believe the skeptics — the article feels like a work of art. After all, facts only lend support to a feeling which is deep inside the human soul. Language is a mere refinement. Refinement an art.
I would enjoy a “safe space” for a refinement of my impressions — even my disgust, for example. Or my appreciation of the beautiful. But I don’t want to share my impression as closed objects, not as a fact. One which a “you” would now have to contend with. But instead, as an experience which I had. Let us put the factual fortifications aside. And I wonder what I will hear in return? I mean, what if I hear something discomforting? What if I encounter the story of someone’s homophobic experience during this encounter? Well, good. Let it be discussed! Let us put aside our concerns over normalizing. Normalizing is another move in the game of power. One more building brick in the empire! I believe today is a day for discussion.
Imagine what we free ourselves for? What blue prints could we engineer? We could refine our critiques of capitalism, for example; or the proposed solutions of social ownership; or of the estrangement I feel from within a democracy the size of 325 million. Let us discuss not only the marginalization of ethnic groups — yes, we will discuss them — but also the marginalization of the individual. Let us consider a dissolution of the Federal Government of the United States — if that is what it takes! Let us go wild. Let us fantasize! And I would cherish my time shared in a “safe space” with anyone from either “side” of any issue.
— This article is written as part of a promotional campaign for the American Political Metamodern manifesto, Opuscule 04: Vision of a Metamodern Society.
— It accompanies my YouTube channel satisfying the same objective.