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Karen II: The Revenge

I’ve written (a little) and talked (a lot) about the evolving vision I have for this blog. I like the idea of reaching people, inspiring conversation. I don’t have a platform I’m peddling or a position I’m defending or advancing. I like to think I’m an independent thinker and I believe the world would be better if there were more of us.

And I tend to flinch away from the hot stove of partisan politics, not because I am without opinion but rather because I believe my words and thoughts will disappear in the ugliness of dissension and reach precisely no one: Those who agree with me will gain nothing, and those who don’t will stop reading. Lose-lose.

But today’s post veers directly into the oncoming headlights of politics, not to take a side necessarily but to examine the interesting phenomenon of communication and the different ways we move people in one direction or another, push and pull, sometimes using shorthand of our own design.

Sorry, Mom. You might want to skip this one.

***

Some of you will remember I wrote about the psycho lady in Trader Joe’s (moment of silence for Trader Ming’s tempura vegetable bird’s nests) who flipped out when asked to put on a mask. I wasn’t so much interested in her reasoning, or any political significance thereof. I was mostly curious as to her widely being referred to as “Karen.”

Since then my perception of “Karen” as a social media burn has grown exponentially until today, when I think a new plateau was achieved. Today I saw where Kayleigh McEnany, the Austin Powers FemBot who grew up to be a White House press secretary, called Lori Lightfoot “the derelict mayor of Chicago” on social media. Lightfoot, the first black, female, lesbian, duly elected mayor of the nation’s third-largest city, responded in kind: “Hey, Karen. Watch your mouth.”

Damn. Wait, am I allowed to say ‘damn?’ ‘Cause DAMN.

Where does one start? There is much to unpack here. First, you shouldn’t kick dirt on someone’s shoes unless you’re prepared to get dirt on yours. I think Kayleigh knows that and isn’t afraid of no mayors.

Second, again with the “Karen.” I’m kind of liking it now, I have to admit. There’s a simplicity to it that speaks to me. And “Karen” is just close enough to “Kayleigh,” which underscores the point even further. If anything, Kayleigh is even more of a white suburban name, especially when she dots the “i” with a little heart.

Third, have you seen Lori Lightfoot? And if you have, under what circumstances would you think it’s OK to pick a fight with her? She’s hands down the baddest bitch to come out of Chi-town since Al Capone. And I don’t mean the real one, I mean the one played by Robert DeNiro in The Untouchables, specifically the dinner scene where he talks about baseball.

All of this leads me to the story behind the story, which is:

Back when he began his presidential bid, those who didn’t believe Donald Trump could win were intrigued and maybe even a little impressed by the cajones he displayed in trying to run at all. He said he wanted to “drain the swamp,” and you often heard people say things like, “He says the things everyone’s thinking but is too scared, or too politically correct, to say.” And, apart from the times he talked about grabbing women by their private parts, some of the things he said were a little cool, just because they were SO un-presidential.

Hey, we didn’t think he would win. We thought he was something between a character and a caricature, a snake oil salesman with a poorly hidden agenda trying to monetize the election like he had monetized real estate, reality television, casinos, and a half dozen other industries and endeavors. Then he won, and to everyone’s amazement it turned out he wasn’t doing shtick at all. That was really him, and he assumed full license to double down based on his election victory.

What started out being brilliant strategy – win the election by stepping far outside the bounds of the traditional and the presidential – became progressively destructive as he refused to bow to any expectation of traditional, any measure of presidential. Except now he was the actual president. I feel like many Americans like the idea of boosting up the underdog, the new guy, the one who breaks the glass and commands our attention. But we have learned and are learning, the hard way, what happens when you pull the trigger on an interesting premise and end up eating four years of what-the-fuck.

So now we’re coming up on crunch time and it doesn’t look good for our hero: COVID is kicking our ass, and the economy’s in the toilet. The tolerance for racial injustice, which has apparently existed in America since, well, since America, has hit a nice, rolling boil just in time to spill out all over the shoes of the only modern US president who could reasonably be called the poster child for racism. It’s not a great time for an election if you’re the incumbent. Maybe we could postpone the election? Hey it was just an idea!

If you’re Donald Trump there’s only one strategy. You can’t reverse course, because you will lose what base you still have. You can’t moderate because no one in the middle of the bell curve trusts you. It’s a little funny, really. A Democratic operative formerly associated with the Bernie Sanders campaign actually said the 2020 election is like sitting in front of a plate of shit and being told you only have to eat half of it. Being the whole-plate option in such an election must sting like a sum’bitch.

So there’s only one plan of attack, assuming you are still planning to attack, and that is to poke at the most fundamental fears and hot-buttons in your base – fan those time-honored flames – and, at the same time, force your opponents’ hand: Make them reveal the little rough edges that make moderate, well-intentioned whites cringe a little in the dark and hope for the best.

So I’m Trump and I have Beltway Barbie out there talking tough on my behalf. That’s adorable. It’s like having a toddler who says “fuck” at Thanksgiving dinner: What are you going to do, hit her? And she goes after Lori Lightfoot, who’s the real deal. A former prosecutor, an inner city badass, someone who won Chicago because she is Chicago. Not Oak Brook, mind you – Chicago.

Now in Philadelphia we instinctively get our Rocky on and root for Her Honor the mayor. We love someone willing to step up to the blond bimbo and say “go for it.” Remember Rocky IV? It’s literally the defining moment of the whole movie! We live for that stuff.

But everywhere else, not so much. Like in the South, where such women are not generally endorsed and the more acceptable deprecating remark is a withering, “bless your heart.”

What’s the moral here? Well there are two, as I see it. One is that Donald Trump has showed us every day since he was elected that he is anything but a paper tiger. The methods he used to get elected are the methods he uses to govern, no more, no less. What you see is what you get. This should be a comfort in an era where we can’t trust politicians, or anyone else for that matter, to be who they say or do what they say. But it’s not comforting at all, not in the least.

And second, we need to acknowledge that it’s dinner time and shit is on the menu. None of us want it, although most of us ordered it. We need to man up, and start thinking about breakfast and tomorrow’s lunch and beyond. Start thinking about a diet that’s going to be good for our shared body, even if it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient in the short term.

Every few years I steel myself and try beets again, just because I trust that they are probably good for me. It hasn’t worked so far, but I remain committed.

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