Thursday, January 18, 2018

If There is No Wall

Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8, 1923. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Donald Trump is best known as an oral poet, a jammer, improvising his work for a live audience from a repertory of formulas, like an ancient Irish bard in the banquet hall of heroes. In his other main literary genre, the Tweet, many of the same features are found, the formulaic repetition, the hortation, the dart from topic to topic, but it has never seemed at least to this reader to add up to poetry—too instrumental, I think, too devoted to trying to dominate the reader with its threats and demands and even cries of pain, a combination of the imperial rescript, the child's whine, and the barking of the Labradoodle. The recent doubling of the maximum Tweet length from 140 to 280 characters may be changing that, though, giving him room to stretch and lyricize, if this morning's cycle is anything to go by.

Note especially the way he veers playfully off topic in the third section and then returns, bringing the larger work to a unifying close.

If There is No Wall
by Donald Trump

I. The Wall is the Wall
The Wall is the Wall,
it has never changed or evolved
from the first day I conceived of it.
Parts will be, of necessity,
see through and it was never
intended to be built in areas
where there is natural protection
such as mountains, wastelands
or tough rivers or water.....
II. NAFTA is a Bad Joke
....The Wall will be paid for,
directly or indirectly,
or through longer term reimbursement,
by Mexico, which has a ridiculous
$71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.
The $20 billion dollar Wall
is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes
from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!
III. We Need More Republicans
Will be going to Pennsylvania today
in order to give my total support
to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress
in a Special Election (March 13).
Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans
to continue our already successful agenda!
IV. If There is No Wall
We need the Wall for the safety
and security of our country.
We need the Wall to help stop
the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico,
now rated the number one
most dangerous country in the world.
If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!

Politifact reminds us that half the opioid deaths in the US are from overdoses of prescription drugs like OxyContin that are not smuggled into the country at all. Fentanyl, the most dangerous of the illegal drugs entering the country, is manufactured mostly in China and arrives especially through the United States Postal Service; some is brought in from entry points in Mexico, but just as much comes through Canada. Of the illegal drugs that enter the US from Mexico, most arrives in vehicles passing legally through official crossings. Other frequently used techniques that would not be stopped by a 30-foot wall include drones, boats, tunnels (225 discovered between 1990 and 2016), and catapults (!).

According to the 2017 report of the World Economic Forum listing the 20 most dangerous countries in the world, Mexico is not one of them. The Global Peace Index report from the Institute for Economics and Peace lists it as no. 22. Mexico is not included in the UK Foreign Office list of the world's 17 most dangerous countries. Forbes magazine notes that Mexico has been the subject of the most State Department Travel Warnings between 2009 and 2017, and that more Americans have been killed in Mexico over the same period than in any other country in absolute terms, but in per capita terms (number of killings per 100,000 US visitors) Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines are considerably more dangerous and Mexico is just no. 10 over all. The Travel Warnings don't correlate at all well with the actual danger to US citizens (Israel is no. 3 on that list, tied with Pakistan, and Thailand is not one of the top 25).

I won't even start on the strange association in his mind between the Wall and the US-Mexico balance of trade, as if charging the Mexican government for building the thing would somehow right the wrong they do us by encouraging the existence of factories to make products that Americans buy, as if smugglers were shooting cars over the border with catapults as well.

To dwell on these humdrum questions of ordinary reality would be to run the danger of completely missing the magic of the Trumpian mind, as he watches his Fox first thing in the morning, and the objective correlatives bump into each other like billiard balls on the baize of his brain, the Wall always exists, whether it's built or not, and the Deal depends on it.

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