The Tower, at its most optimistic (which is not very) offers the destruction of illusions. I don’t know about you, but I feel like burning some shit down.
First, then: nobody is to blame for Trump’s election save for the people who voted for him. A failed resistance is not at fault for the actions it tried to prevent. Everyone in the circular firing squad is in the end wrong. The awful truth is that there is nothing you could have done to stop him. Let’s start, then, by jettisoning the illusion that said otherwise. The arc of the moral universe does not bend towards justice. The moral universe has no arc. The moral universe does not even exist. History is a butcher without face or agency – a thing that simply happens to people. There is no individual level response to it. Your relationship to history is not one of subject to narrative, but of meat to predator.
Accordingly, there is no refuge to be found in any of the liberal platitudes offered as possible modes of resistance. There is no benefit to be found in giving him an open mind. There is no point in appealing to the checks and balances of the very system that has just given him material power. There is no value in hoping that history is going to suddenly develop a benevolent streak. “What do we do for the next four years?” is as stupid a question as “What do we do about Syria?” was. We don’t do anything. We cannot stop history. It is going to proceed with a grim inevitability, as deterministic and implacable as planetary motion.
The flip side of that is that history has no moral legitimacy beyond the mere fact of its existence. The material fact that when Donald Trump orders a drone strike there will be a drone strike is not “right” or “just.” It’s just true, in the same way that a bullet is true. There is no moral dimension to mere existence. That is not to embrace the idiot fantasy of “#notmypresident” or anything. Of course he’s the President. But this is only true as a material fact, and only material concerns follow from it.
Put another way, being President has not made Trump any more morally justifiable. Nor has it made him any more competent. Even for a right-wing authoritarian he’s a fucking moron driven by easily manipulable pathologies. The material consequences of this are by and large easy to figure out, at least in the broad strokes. Spoiler: it goes badly, and not just for his targets. Deaths in the millions are the best case scenario. The worst is billions. You can’t change that either.
But that does not mean that there is no resistance to be had. It’s merely to understand that resistance starts as an individual program. The fact that there is no intrinsic morality to Trump’s material power does not mean that we cannot ascribe morality. Indeed, allow me to do so with utter bluntness: Trump is fucking evil. His supporters are fucking evil. Those who choose to serve him in government are fucking evil. Those in the legislative and judicial branches that collaborate with his administration are fucking evil. Empathize with any and all of them if you like, but do not shy away from this fact. Indeed, let it become absolute. Any definition requires a degree of negation – some moment where you don’t just say “this” but also “not that.” Let this be yours. “Who is the enemy?” is, at the moment, a question of brutal simplicity.
But what of the means of resistance? Our best weapon is, ironically, the same one as history’s – the very weapon that liberalism seeks to defang into the impotent data point of mere voting. We exist. We are a part of history, with all the implacable absoluteness that implies. And we resist by continuing at that. We resist by making sure that whatever history does, we persist. We resist by haunting the future.
An injunction, then: run. Find a bolt hole and dig deep into it. Form durable communities and live in them. Invest yourself in place until you have created what Archimedes called a firm spot to stand. If you live or are able to move somewhere with a strong leftist current, embrace that and build as much of a localized utopia as you can. If you are not, seek refuge in the virtual and imaginary. But find a space in which to live and do it. For my part, I’ll be throwing myself into the rabbit holes of my work with renewed determination, if not enthusiasm, freely losing myself in the fractal folds of times that are not right now. But this is not the only option by a mile, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest it as the best. One of the few advantages of living in uncompromising resistance to single vision is that there are an infinite number of ways to do it. This one’s just mine. Embody yours as completely as you can. But be clear: this does not mean withdrawal, or even necessarily retreat, although that is surely going to be necessary for some people. It means secession. It means engaging with Trump and the politics he represents from the outside, without the concession of participation.
Here’s the thing about ashes: they are often fertile. And in the face of such destructive forces as have presented themselves, the simple act of creativity is gloriously defiant. In a world defined by ruins, life itself is gloriously defiant. So we will exist. We will be a part of history.
It is possible that new forms of collective action will emerge from this. From this vantage point, at least, it is nearly impossible to imagine what they will look like. It seems unthinkable that they will straightforwardly be electoral politics. More plausible is that they will be a form of violence. But most of the obvious applications of violence are scarcely more satisfying than “vote Democrat next time” as a plan. A purge of Trump voters is both infeasible and pointless, and yet individual targets all fail to actually deprive the fire of its oxygen. It is possible that some clear-cut object that can be usefully destroyed will emerge, in which case we should show it not even the barest hint of mercy. But for now violence is as much a dead end as liberal democracy. Past that, most existing ideas are variations of things like a general strike – a utopian dream as impossible to summon up on an individual level as a Democratic majority in Wisconsin. But even if the much-theorized “opportunities for the left” never emerge and the course of history is simply that climate change gradually throttles resources until a massive human dieback occurs, we have our defiant and furious existence. A roaring in the ears of history.
No compromises. No accommodation. No surrender. Be everything that Donald Trump and his supporters want to destroy. Embody the very soul of what they hate. And then make them fucking choke on you.
We are still Eruditorum Press.