Trump’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Articles, The Column

Well, looking at the upside — since we already know all we need to know about the downside – we can at least say that a kind of reliable weekly rhythm is being established by the Trump administration and its oddball realtor and Reality TV star — he with the funny comb-forward birds nest hairdo — who is the regime’s not-so-presidential President.

Trumps: Donald and Melania.

Three, four weeks ago, it was Apocalypse Now – North Korean missiles, “fire and fury,” “locked and loaded” and all that. The week after that it was Civil War — you remember: Neo-Nazi-KKK-KFC-White Supremacist demonstration and counter-demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, around the Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Emancipation Park. Wait, mistake. Scratch that KFC entry. No Kentucky Fried Chicken for the fascist thugs. Then the next week it was Natural Disaster (Houston). And this week we’re back to Apocalypse All Over Again.

Kim Jong Un and bomb.

Actually, given that the day after Monday’s U.N. Security Council emergency meeting to consider what to do about North Korea’s latest hydrogen bomb test on the weekend, which U.S. UN ambassador Nikki Haley characterized as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “begging for war” (Apocalypse) – got all that? I know, I know, it’s so complicated — Trump got his hardline anti-immigration Attorney-General Jeff Sessions the next day to announce the imminent cancellation of the DACA program for 800,000 technically illegal immigrants (who had been brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own and grew up there and are now about as American as anybody else) (more Civil War), and given that now (the morning after that) we’re looking at a big, colored, swirly, moving weather map on TV and the meteorologist standing next to it in hip-waders is explaining that Category Five Hurricane Irma is or isn’t heading straight for Florida (Natural Disaster)… well, maybe, just maybe, all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding together in a Perfect Storm of Revelation. Whew! What an exhausting sentence. And what’s with all those Capitalized Words? That’s what life is like in The Age of Trump.

Durer: The Four Horsemen.

For the befuddled and ungodly among you, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Pestilence, Famine, War, and Death (or, in its 2017 edition, Civil War, Climate Change, Nuclear Armageddon and Trump) – come from the Bible’s Book of Revelation, and are the ominous precursors to the Last Judgment. If you don’t believe me, then drop by Pastor Joel Osteen’s 50,000-seat Lakewood mega-church in Houston where the so-called Gospel of Prosperity is preached every Sunday. When the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey rose up the walls of Houston, Osteen was a bit hesitant about his mighty fortress being used as an emergency shelter, and wanted to see the bank account balances of potential shelter seekers before admitting them to sanctuary. The pastor, in true Christian fashion, advised parishioners and survivors not to have a “poor old me mentality” about the flood catastrophe. Okay, ‘nuff theology for now.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Instead, let’s briefly appreciate how cruel and vile and cowardly the decision is about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy – referring to the young people who are collectively known as the Dreamers.  As the New York Times morning-after editorial put it, “President Trump didn’t even have the guts to do the job himself. Instead, he hid in the shadows and sent his attorney general to do the dirty work.” In “a short, disingenuous speech,” said the Times, A-G Jeff Sessions claimed the program, set up by former president Barack Obama in 2012, was a “lawless policy that ‘yielded terrible humanitarian consequences’ and denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of American citizens.” The Obama policy, which was implemented when Congress failed to agree on an immigration plan, allowed “dreamers” to stay in the U.S. on renewable two-year permits, go to school, serve in the military and work. According to polling, some 80 per cent of the public supports the policy. However, A-G Sessions claimed that threatening the deportation of the raised-in-America immigrants (many of whom are Hispanic) was a matter of “rule of law”  and that “failure to enforce the law… has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and terror.” Replied the Times, “False, false, false and false.” (The Editorial Board, “Trump’s Cowardice on ‘Dreamers’,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2017.)

Protests immediately broke out in front of the White House, the Department of Justice and in cities across the country. Even business leaders, who tend to support Trump’s policies, or at least not make much of a fuss, were volubly unhappy. Javier Palomarez, president of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce immediately announced his resignation from Trump’s so-called “Diversity Council.” “Many actions taken by this White House,” said Palomarez, “have profoundly rattled my confidence in its commitment to inclusivity and its respect for diversity. But today’s decision was the worst of all… That is why I have chosen to resign from the President’s National Diversity Coalition effective immediately.” He added, “It’s now clear that Mr. Trump’s assurances [about diversity] were a lie… No amount of sound advice is enough to keep Mr. Trump’s reckless and divisive impulses in check.” (Javier Palomarez, “Why I’m Resigning from Trump’s Diversity Coalition,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2017.)

The founder of Facebook and the undeclared Senator from Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg, posted a somber FB message. “This is a sad day for our country,” he said. “The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.” (Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Moves to End DACA and Calls on Congress to Act,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2017.)

And in case there was any doubt, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, weighed in to explain why the move was very bad economics. Trump’s decision, said Krugman, “is first and foremost, a moral obscenity: throwing out 800,000 young people who are Americans in every way that matters, who have done nothing wrong, basically for racial reasons.” No, the “dreamers” are not taking away jobs from others, and yes, they are part of the solution to an ageing workforce problem. “So this is a double blow to the U.S. economy; it will make everyone worse off. There is no upside what ever to this cruelty, unless you want to have fewer people with brown skin and Hispanic surnames around. Which is, of course, what this is really all about.” (Paul Krugman, “The Very Bad Economics of Killing DACA,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2017.)

North Korea’s Pink Lady.

As they used to say on TV, We now return you to normal programming. Or, actually, we don’t. We return you to North Korean programming. In the midst of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse marauding on the darkening horizon, the strangest story of the day was about the Pink Lady. As the Guardian newspaper put it, “The apocalypse will be televised, and it will be presented by a pink-clad North Korean (DPRK) woman announcing the news in a near scream.” The North Korean TV anchor, a.k.a. the Pink Lady, was on everybody’s boob tube via video clips over the weekend, enthusiastically declaring the success of the country’s latest nuclear bomb test.

In case you needed to know, enterprising Guardian journalists reported that the Pink Lady is Ri Chun-Hee, 74, known as “the people’s broadcaster” and is usually seen sporting a bright pink hanbok, traditional Korean attire. According to North Korean mainstream media (MSM – of course, in the DPRK, there is only mainstream media), the very sound of Ri’s voice makes “enemies tremble in fear.” The Guardian headlined its featurette, “North Korea’s ‘pink lady’: the newscaster set to announce the end of the world.” Wags on Facebook were quick to chime in with paraphrased quotes. “It ain’t over ‘til the Pink Lady sings,” declared one. Said another, semi-citing the ancient rock band, REM, “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel nauseous.”

The one thing I’ve seldom seen mentioned in the MSM or the minorstream media is what Trump’s confusing strategy is all about. His tough talk on North Korea distracts us from his “heartfelt” talk on DACA which in turn distracts us from his comforter-in-chief talk about last week’s Hurricane Harvey and next week’s Hurricane Irma, and all of the talk and all of the tweets are directed not to us but to Trump’s “base,” about 35 per cent of the American voting public, according to current polls. This is 10 points down from the percentage Trump got at the ballot box last November. You might think he would be worried.

But contrary to assumptions, the chief Horseman of the Apocalypse continues to double down and keeps playing to his “base.” What hasn’t been said often enough is that Trump’s strategy rests on the belief that his base is enough, that playing to the base is sufficient in case of emergency or attempted coup (and Trump even has a corollary belief that he can enlarge the base, although so far there’s been no evidence of that from any of the polling).

All of the urging of the respectable Establishment or the angry Resistance, to get Trump to be more “presidential,” or even slightly more sane, is misplaced. Welcome to Fake Government. He wants to be the cranky avenging Horseman who shouts at the TV screen and brings about the Last Judgement, or the final episode of Game of Thrones.

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Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).