State of the Union


State of the Union by James Howard Kunstler

It’s conceivable, in a nation that absolutely can’t make sense of itself, that Mr. Trump’s annual report to congress will be as incomprehensible as this year’s Superbowl halftime show. Even the weather in Atlanta was a complete mystery with Maroon 5’s front man, Adam Levine, capering half-naked in tattoo drag amid artificial fires-of-hell, and then local hero rapper Big Boi’s triumphal entry in a limo, nearly lost inside what looked like the pelt of a giant ground sloth — an eight-year-old’s idea of what it means to be important. Or maybe it was just all code for two sides of the climate change debate.

You can be sure the atmosphere will be frosty to the max when the Golden Golem of Greatness lumbers down the aisle of congress’s house on Tuesday night. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Democratic majority turns its backs on him during the always excruciating preliminaries and then just walks out of the chamber. Don’t expect the usual excessive rounds of applause from the president’s own party this time, either, in the big, half-empty room. They don’t know what to do about him at this point… or what to do with themselves, for that matter.

The running theme for State of the Union (SOTU) messages going back to Ronald Reagan is American Wonderfulness, so expect at least forty minutes of national self-esteem therapy, which nobody will believe. Throw in another ten minutes of elevating sob stories about “special guests” up in the galleries. But leave a little time for Mr. Trump to roll a few cherry bombs down the aisles. He must be good and goddam sick of all the guff shoveled at him for two years.

The hinge of the whole story will be how fabulous the US economy is. Mr. Trump performed miracles like unto Moses in Egyptland. The manufacturing economy that made America great in the 1950s is back (not). Unemployment has been vanquished (not). We are “energy independent” (not). The once-again rising stock market is proof-of-life for US business prospects (not). We have the best medical care and higher ed in the world (cough cough). It would all come as a surprise to the people dining on dog food with ketchup out in the flyover precincts — but they are not exactly the types to sit around and listen to Don Lemon and Jeffrey Toobin dissect the speech post-game.

Following the new-ish tradition of a designated opposition respondent to the SOTU, Democratic sore loser Stacy Abrams (Georgia Governor’s race, 2018), will virtue-signal her party’s dedication to identity politics, concealing its dark connection to the Wall Street / K Street grift machine, and to the Neocon war hawks so eager to manufacture failed states in parts of the world that are too bothersome to try to get along with. I suppose she will try to revive the Russian collusion angle, with a spin on how the Georgia election of 2018 was also rigged by malign forces to prevent her victory.

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James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler says he wrote The Geography of Nowhere, “Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” Home From Nowhere was a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on the remedies. A portion of it appeared as the cover story in the September 1996 Atlantic Monthly. His next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, published by Simon & Schuster / Free Press, is a look a wide-ranging look at cities here and abroad, an inquiry into what makes them great (or miserable), and in particular what America is going to do with it’s mutilated cities.