It occurs that in this 2,016th year of our Lord, little else says "Christmas" like the 2001 "Oh Christ!" prescience of culture critic Gary Kamiya. In reflecting on millions of Americans' seasonal film favorite, It's a Wonderful Life, Kamiya took an unsentimental, satirical look at George W. Bush's Grinchy America and saw -- President-elect Donald Trump's, with assists by the equally hideous likes of Paul Ryan & Co.
"Pottersville" [reeks] of Donald Trump-like vulgarity -- but is that such a bad thing? Being named after a ruthless captain of industry casts a long, Ayn Randian shadow over a city, giving tacit permission to its inhabitants to pursue their pleasures in the enveloping moral darkness.... [In] the real world, Potter won.
We all live in Pottersville now. Bedford Falls is gone. The plucky little Savings and Loan closed down years ago, just like in George’s nightmare. Cleaned up, his evil eyebrows removed, armed with a good PR firm, Mr. Potter goes merrily about his business, "consolidating" the George Baileys of the world. To cling to dreams of a bucolic America where the little guy defeats the forces of Big Business ... is just to ask for heartbreak and confusion....
So don’t fight it. It’s a Pottersville world!
Which is to say, in contemporary terms, that Donald Trump is essentially picking up where George Bush left off. Re-ensconced in the republic's highest office is the swaggering, beclouded spirit of philistinism -- a gaudy anti-intellectualism and hermetically impervious ignorance parading themselves as a reinvigorated zeitgeist of an America greatly remade. Precisely how Trump's illiterate "vision" will materialize over the next four years is a frightful uncertainty to ponder, but the proleptic splendor of Humean empiricism suggests 48 streaming months of stupendous con artistry, naked mendacity, unprecedented unaccountability and a caving house of cards -- including more than a few extra jokers -- resembling every other authoritarian populism of history's ultimate horrors.
Incautious flimflammer that he is, implicit in Trump's "picking up where George Bush left off" is the spectre of an exponentially shameless presidency scamming its base but fooling no others. That we others who have never been entranced or tempted by Trumpism encompass a three-fifths majority of the body politic only aggravates the sickening awareness that the enemy is within. Perhaps worse than that was the majority's rather indifferent refusal to heave the sundry depravities of Trumpism in November's dumpster -- a squalid stain on the national character whose indelibility is incontestable.
And yet therein lies my hope for America, cynical optimist that I am. Many of us believed we had hit rock bottom in the bumbling, godawful Bush years, thus we further had no where else to go but up. Momentarily we did -- quite some way, in fact -- but the scurrilous triumph of far-grimmer Trumpism has served as what I trust will be a useful corrective to what rock bottom really looks like. Four years of the rolling national disgrace that is Donald Trump (with aforementioned assists by his hideous congressional allies), relentlessly assailed and exposed by enlightened voices of protest, just might, after all, reinvigorate an authentically virtuous zeitgeist of American nobility, honor, and true greatness.
With that in mind I can genuinely say to you, Merry Christmas. For symbolically, today is a day of hope and rebirth. May its symbolism prove to be something more, much more.