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The Uncivil Servant: Nausea

Mitchell Abidor
November 9, 2016

by Mitchell Abidor

I WILL ADMIT this is the second version of my postmortem on the election. It seemed obvious just a day or so ago that though we’d gone to the brink, white America was not going to throw the country off the cliff and vote in Trump.

Even so, I was less than convinced that we were out of the woods. I ended my original version with the final words from Camus’ great novel The Plague, his allegory of fascism. As the novel ends, it seems the plague has been defeated, but we receive a warning from the novel’s main character, Dr. Rieux, who had led the fight against the disease:

And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

I was too optimistic. Instead of living the end of the novel, we are living its beginning. The bacillus of fascism has entered our body politic. It won’t be the fascism of the 1930s, with a party-state and a corporatist ideology, but rather a homegrown version, with racism and xenophobia given free rein, and the uniformed thugs of the SA replaced by armed militia men. The anti-Semitism that exploded in the last few months, with journalists with Jewish names victims of racist attacks, and Ted Nugent tweeting the images of twelve opponents of the NRA, all of them Jewish, and in case the point was missed, adding Israeli flags next to their names, can now expand.

Freedom of the press is imperiled, millions will lose their health care, the Supreme Court will undo anything that was positive in the country, and, not to put too fine a point to it, we’re fucked -- we who read JC less so than Latinos, blacks, and Muslims, but we’re all fucked nonetheless.

I SHOULD have seen this coming. Almost exactly a year ago, in response to our refusal to assist refugees from Syria, I wrote here that this kind of heartlessness was “exactly who we are.” We are not “the better angels of our nature” that Lincoln invoked; we are a mean-spirited, spiteful nation. And white America has shown that it is not to be counted out just yet. This vote was its attempt to win back the privileges it lost. It has flexed its muscle, and be certain that it will strike out.

I was more than skeptical regarding the whining about the fate of the poor American working man, how his frustrations with the elites who have ignored his plight led him to vote for Trump, who was the voice of this frustration. People who think deportations and closed borders are the solutions to their problems are to be condemned, not coddled. People who chant “Lock Her Up” about their opponent are not just the insulted and injured they depict themselves to be, they are people who are a blot on our society. They voted en masse for a man who is a liar, a sexual predator, a bully, and an ignoramus. They knew this to be so, and they did it anyway. They took their revenge on modernity.

Factory jobs aren’t coming back, and we all know it. Whites in the heartland were led by a Pied Piper who sold them a bill of goods that “the jobs are coming back.” If Trump was a socialist, he could direct a planned economy to channel funds to depressed areas to get factories up and running. That’s clearly not going to happen. The white working class, eaten up with its hatred of everyone not them, will be no better off under Trump than they are now, while the entire country will be infinitely worse off. Think of Attorney General Christie and secretary of Homeland Security Giuliani, and try not to quake with fear.

The working class that the left has spent almost two centuries holding out as mankind’s savior are lemmings who have driven everyone off the cliff.

Along with The Plague there’s another existentialist novel with a title that perfectly describes our situation: Nausea.

Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is the recipient of a Hemingway Grant from the French Ministry of Culture for his translation of Emmanuel Bove’s A Raskolnikoff. His other new books include Voices of the Paris Commune and his collection of writings by and about the anarchist “propagandists of the deed,” Death to Bourgeois Society. His translations of the poetry of Benjamin Fondane can be found in the collection Cinepoems and Others, published by NYRB Poetry.

Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. Among his books are a translation of Victor Serge’s Notebooks 1936-1947, May Made Me: An Oral History of My 1968 in France, and I’ll Forget it When I Die, a history of the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Liberties, Dissent, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.