Let's say your spouse comes home late with lipstick on the collar. Your questions elicit churlish protests: I what? No, nothing happened, really, it was perfect, leave me alone, gotta sleep....
Do you get back into bed with this person?
If you do, we'll say you're battered, afraid, misguided. If you do not, we'll call you assertive, honorable, healthy—right?
The abject submission of nearly half the US government and over a third of its voting citizens to repeated displays of this sort is astonishing to the rest of the country. And to the rest of the world. We are dumbfounded by the ongoing spectacle of flattery and degradation, watching the cuckolded partner climb obediently back into bed with the cheating spouse every single night, inside and outside the White House. What can cause this?
I've gotten back into bed with a lying lover—okay, two lying lovers, over the years—blind to the signs flashing in front of my own eyes. But you are the one I love! The phone was off the hook! Desperate fantasies, yes, thankfully running course with my suspension of disbelief. But what is happening in these very public cases, splashed across every screen from venerable DC halls of justice to London NATO banquets, from the Donbass to the Kurdish killing fields, from Saudi palaces to Jerusalem courtrooms—what prolongs the servility of these sorry fools throughout repeated acts of scorn, what makes their self-respect vulnerable to such chronic contempt?
We speculate: hidden financial leverage, livelihood or limbs threatened, innocent lives at stake?
Domestic violence counselors know well that charges will be dropped if children are involved. Mafia chiefs know exactly how much they can manipulate a debtor when family is threatened. PAC donors know just how far to push a politician-puppet if accustomed lifestyle is threatened. Likewise, cheating lovers precisely gauge how each note of betrayal strikes their prey so the resulting pas de deux comes off as magnificient, however injudicious, the lockstep performance.
So is it wealth and health keeping these double-crossed sychophants in line? Yes and no. Money likely figures in these scenarios, but it's not enough. This isn't about the usual ass-kissing involved in retaining off-shore bank accounts. Nor is it about patient gold-diggers pinching bits of arsenic into the daily tea. It's not even about threatening bones and bruises, since these Betrayed suck up punishment as masochistic due from their Loved One. I think this phenomenon of obsequiousness is about a promise far more visceral than instant wealth or sustained health, a promise about a kind of security known best in infancy, one that guarantees that your life makes sense and you will be taken care of no matter what. Forever, baby. We go ape-shit over this stuff. We lose our minds and follow the leader whithersoever thou goest. Even back into bed with the dirty lipstick collar reeking of foreign cologne.
Some idiot tripped in the coat closet!
Yes, dear. We struggle with the cartoon fib even as we bow our heads and soldier on, climbing back under the sheets. Naked images in flagrante delicto get shoved down deep under the debris of our dead principles. We will do anything for the Dear One, without whom we cannot go on, without whom life makes no sense. Is this the key? Has Dear Leader so destroyed our sense of self, our sense of logic, our sense of reality, that life itself no longer makes sense without our continual subjugation to whatever torment lies ahead? Perhaps we are caught in a maze so addicting, as if Mengele himself were dishing out intermittent reward to best lock in the conditioned response. You are powerless and completely at my mercy. The adrenaline rush we get with the random reward-dump is like crack heaven to our screaming nerves, like the blissful tumble of coins into our laps when Master Casino lets us win now and again.
You can't be reasonable with someone who is unreasonable, says Al-Anon. Even a sober drunk or penniless gambler is still "stinkin' thinkin'," making it pointless and premature to try. Are sychophants in a similar space, such that fact-checking falls on deaf ears? Lost in a world where no common logic or intersubjective evidence holds? Where the boy's cries of "The Emperor has no clothes!" are drowned in the rallying din of applause?
The stakes are so high for our misled compatriots. They cannot give up now. The coming vindication, the coming election, the coming Rapture—they are holding out as long as possible for their unholy sacrifice to pay off. For the rest of us, this interminable bloody car wreck forces our attention and we cannot look away, rubbernecking the insane tragic mess as we drive past.
We recognize the wild-eyed look of someone hell-bent on getting more of an angst-diminishing elixir. These faces are never happy and relaxed. Watching the impeachment hearings on silent, I could tell who was arguing pro and con just by looking at expressions and demeanor. Under duress, no one looks at ease.
We recognize the voice of someone defending the indefensible, what they themselves no longer believe, like the rush of speech from someone protecting a cheating lover as we beg them to shut up, wake up, walk away from such abuse. We cringe before the raised and strained voices, the barrage of words meant to distort and distract from the truth, implausible fallacies flying like Straw Men and Red Herrings from their mouths, ad hoc rescues of dead theories descending on the room like a plague of locusts from an angry Pharoah's curse.
Maybe it's too late for some of them. The curtain falls on Doktor Faustus with his soul still departed, with the tobacco still in his pouch, whatever he's smoking. Of course, ceci n'est pas une pipe.
21 DECEMBER 2019