America Is Trembling: Jean Genet’s Answer to Donald Trump
Students in a line, holding hands during May Day demonstrations. Photographs used in the publication of the Yale Alumni Magazine, ca. 1917-1973 (inclusive) (courtesy Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University)
[We ought to ask ourselves] Structural questions like: what kind of knowledgeable electorate can a nation cultivate while its primary news channels remain owned and overseen by entertainment empires such as 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Walt Disney and Facebook? And what forms of confrontation could undo the insanity of the US Supreme Court’s decision to legalize political bribery through its Citizens United ruling?
And, finally, how to replace a two-party system representing a single power structure manipulated by financiers and bankers, one that recently fielded, on the one hand, a former childhood poverty advocate turned Wall Street motivational speaker and, on the other, a real-estate magnate who still produces a television show designed to fulfill its viewers’ need to normalize and enjoy a dehumanized economy?
Genet, a playwright and a hustler, could have easily seen through theatrics as cheap and nihilistic as Trump’s. Forced into that spectacle for the foreseeable future, the nation trembles at the potentially horrifying absence behind the role the man has been playacting. “The essence of theatre is the need to create not merely signs,” Genet writes, “but complete and compact images masking a reality that may consist in absence of being.”