Esquire ran the story today but I heard it yesterday and one thing that Trump has showed us all is that yesterday counts for nothing; he’ll have told another four lies since breakfast. When he came out with this one at a press conference there was nothing but reverential silence from the crowd of supposedly impartial Clark Kents and Lois Lanes all devoted to truth ‘N’ freedom, Gahd, Mom ‘N’ apple pie.
Donald Trump just met the Korean dictator, or as Fox News put it, two dictators met each other. After saying that he’d make North Korea give up all their nukes or goshdurnit, them Commies would pay the meeting ended with Trump basically saying what a nice guy Kim Yung Un was and how he, Trump, had done a brilliant thing when nobody else could and how everybody loved him. So far, so normal.
As was the Big Lie slipped in. Trump said he’d managed to secure the remains of GI’s killed in the Korean War, a Very Big Deal because, he said, so many of their parents had come to see him to say gee Mr Donald, when you go to that there Korea, could you bring back whatever’s left of Jim Buck, my boy in the 427th?
The details I made up, but the gist was what he said. The problem being, nobody laughed. The whole Press pack soaked this rubbish up in reverential silence as if God himself was sitting there lying.
For better or worse, the Korean War ended in 1953. Anyone fighting and dying in it from the USA would have had to be at least 18 when they fought and fell, which means at a minimum they’d have to have been born in 1935. Even by Southern States’ standards, an average of 20 probably held right for parenting back then, which takes us to 1915. This isn’t any tricky statistics, just boring old maths. And according to President Trump, ‘so many’ people aged over 100 years old not only attended his stump meets but came up to him personally to ask him a favour.
Except they didn’t and everybody knows they didn’t. Except the Press corps dutifully, silently, willingly and without comment soaked-up and repeated this stupid, childish, provable lie. It isn’t good enough that a style magazine gets snide about it the next day. Our problem is the mainstream news happily repeats lies instead of falling about laughing at the liar. Maybe God made Man. Maybe,and maybe the mighty should look on these works and despair. But without any question, the Press made Trump and more than just the mighty need to despair at that.
Once upon a time, in a land long ago, I was at a rodeo.
It was in a place called Greencastle, In., and the only way you’ll ever have heard of it is if you work for IBM, know where one of two V1 rockets in the USA are (apart from Werner von Braun’s den, obviously), or you’re an alumni of De Pauw university. Or you know something about Dillinger or the way any old bank robbery in the 1930s got attributed to the famous robbers if the actual robbers didn’t get caught and escaped in a car. Or maybe, like me, you were chasing a red-haired cheerleader called Nancy-Jean and driving a ludicrously big old car that probably extinguished three species on its own.
Anyway, it was a Saturday, Nancy-Jean was out of town, I was staying at her folks’ place in her room with the rainbow painted on the wall (as Werner used to say, ach, it vas all so long
ago…), I’d done a week’s worth of pretending to be in a Springsteen song working in a sawmill the other side of the tracks and apart from golf, which I don’t do because I don’t, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. As we used to say.
I sat there on the bleachers (oh because that’s what they’re CALLED, ok?) and had myself a darned fine time. The steer wrestling was good. They got a steer and let it loose and anyone who thought they were hard enough grabbed it by the horns and wrestled it to the ground. Then they let it go. They didn’t have a whip or a gun or a stick, just their hands. It looked pretty equal to me.
Look, I know, ok? I’m not like that now. It was the past, it was definitely another country and they did things very differently there. But actually not so much, speaking as someone who had to get a lorry load of bullocks out of a pen and into a truck one dawn at Bridgewater Market. I was fourteen. I learned that bullocks are more scared of you than you are of them but it’s close. That if you twist the ring in their nose they’ll go anywhere you want. And that if you don’t you might end up sneezing your lungs out of your nose after they’ve slammed you into a metal fence and trodden on you.
I still wasn’t gonna go an wrassle a bull and that ain’t no lie.
I just watched and listened. A guy who was about my age now, wearing a cowboy hat, was talking a few feet away. I liked him. He was one of those people who could turn pretty much anything he said into a story and a good-natured one at that.
Even when what he was saying was serious. And sad. He told a woman a few seats away and pretty much anyone else who wanted to hear about his daughter. She’d bought herself one of those fancy Japanese cars, a Honda or a Toyota or something. And in the real world of Indiana back then, you didn’t do that. So he stopped talking to her. It had been months.
He said it was for a reason. Sure, it was a good car. Maybe better than a comparable American car. In fact no, definitely. She was smart. And it was cheaper. But if everybody did that there wouldn’t be no car industry. And that meant Americans, real ones he knew, up in Flint and Gary not even a hundred miles away, wouldn’t have jobs.
I don’t have much sympathy for the people who voted for Trump for a lot of reasons, but this one is up at the front. Actions have consequences. The first time I went to the US all the clothes in shops were from the USA. The second time, 12 years later, I couldn’t find any that were and they were less than half the price. If you buy cheap import stuff I don’t think you have the option of complaining about the lack of jobs at home.
And before anyone writes that off as elitist, that people on low incomes don’t have those choices, they do. They chose to buy a phone made in China and a network data plan instead of a $40 shirt from the USA. But they still need a shirt so they get a $15 one made in Guatamala instead. Funny how that factory closed and there ain’t no jobs here no more. Dang Democrats and their elitist globalisation. Trump all the way.
Tom Petty had to live with some hard promises. Springsteen told us we could count so many foreign ways to the price we paid. And now I’m as old as the guy in the cowboy hat back at the rodeo, I know they were both right. And Trump and his supporters are wrong and always wrong. Because there aren’t easy answers. What you do comes back to you.
Life, as Dr Hook put it, ain’t easy and nothing ain’t free. And cheap stuff isn’t. Sometimes you have to do without the things you want because of what will happen if you get them. Don’t want globalisation? Then don’t buy its products. People like Trump always promise it’s about personal responsibility; Thatcher did it too. But their biggest message was always the opposite: the bad stuff, that’s always someone else’s fault.
I ate a hot dog, watched the men wrassling steers and drove my big old Chevrolet back to Nancy-Jean’s house, up on the hill by the golf course, the good side of the tracks. A week later I drove down to Bloomington to see her, then drove out west on I-70 into my life, leaving her to hers.