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Soundtracking the Resistance - State of Things to Come

A Look at the State of the Union Address

Feb 02, 2018 Sonic Youth Bookmark and Share

It’s State of the Union time, an event that saw a slightly different Trump from the usual edition. Don’t worry, you can’t keep him subdued for long. Amongst other things, we also have a rouge memo, resigning lords, unimpressive awards, and Austra looking to a brighter future.

The Big Event

The State of the Union address is an odd affair, caught somewhere between dry legislative detailing, attempts at soaring rhetoric, and saccharine flag waving. It’s one of those political events that sound much better on paper (the only place it regularly existed before Woodrow Wilson turned delivering it as a speech into standard practice) than it ever does live.

That already means a lot of the hype is guaranteed to fall flat before the president even starts speaking, but the one thing Donald Trump does offer is unpredictability. His wildcard, loose canon schtick means any official event, or just any event, can turn unmissable, much like a car crash or the Super Bowl half-time show. You don’t want to watch, but it gets you anyway.

Disappointingly then, Trump’s first State of the Union address was routine, with few of his usual flourishes. He only just reached double figures in usages of the words “beautiful,” “tremendous,” and “incredible” combined, although “great” got wheeled out close to 30 times.

That doesn’t mean the content has suddenly become palatable of course. There was still immigrant bashing and nuclear weapons rattling going on, and an awful lot of bragging over economic figures. While the U.S. has a lot to brag about when it comes to job creation and unemployment rates, it’s also true improvements were happening well before Trump took over. He’s like a passenger getting to sit in the captain’s seat at cruising altitude with the auto-pilot engaged.

In his defense, every politician will grasp any positive news and spin it in their favor. Claiming credit for the work of previous administrations when something goes right is almost as common as blaming previous administrations after it all falls apart.

Still, it’s cheeky to claim 2.4 million jobs were created on his watch when a good chunk of those happened between election day and Trump’s inauguration. It’s not as inaccurate as the part of the speech where he said, “we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission.” Trump’s clear visions seem to last as long as it takes for the next Fox News segment to start.

He did also have the chutzpah to suggest in relation to his speech last year, “a new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land.” With consistently low favorability ratings, it can’t have been much of a wave. At least attention was paid to prisoner rehabilitation and tackling the drug epidemic spreading across the country.

Elsewhere Russia was listed as a rival (the ongoing row over the Nunes memo-see below-muddies the waters here somewhat), Guantanamo Bay rides again, or continues to ride since no one ever shut it, and North Korea gets a bashing. Oh, and America is great, and the flag is great, and everything else in that vein is great too.

So, it was all rather right-wing Republican in the end, unpleasant in places, but not out of keeping with positions pushed by many within the GOP. Occasionally the speech veered in other directions, forcing all the small government Paul Ryan fiscal puritans to suck up a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t incomprehensible and full of nonsensical detours. Evidently, Trump saves that for the rest of the year, unless he’s turned over a new leaf. Although he has since returned to Twitter to claim “45.6 million people watched, the highest in history.” Unfortunately, that’s more than 20 million fewer that Bill Clinton’s high-water mark, and lower than peak years for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Welcome back Mr. President.

What’s Going On

The Nunes memo, referring to the memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to release, is the latest hot topic in the ongoing hot topic that is the Russia investigation. Essentially, the memo goes big on fantasy, allegedly suggesting the FBI and Justice Department are part of some giant conspiracy to bring down Trump by buying into fabricated ties with Russia. It’s confusing and a lot of news outlets have been drawing diagrams to explain all the parts, but Trump has already decided to declassify a memo containing the kind of confidential information that imperils sources.

It can seem like every politician clings to office for as long as possible no matter how much their name has been sullied. Step forward Lord Michael Bates, a minister in the international development department in the United Kingdom to prove otherwise. Lord Bates was so appalled by his own discourtesy when he arrived a couple of minutes late to answer questions in the House of Lords, he immediately offered his resignation and walked out the chamber. It took some effort afterwards by colleagues and the Prime Minister to convince him to remain in the role.

Canada seems to be having a stab at setting itself up as the opposite of Trump’s America. The latest move saw the Canadian senate vote to change the words in the national anthem to make it gender neutral. “In all thy sons command” will now become “in all of us command” once the legislation is approved.

Speak Up!

The Grammys took place this week, a must-see event for all music fans. Or it would be if they didn’t seem to draw names out of a hat each year. The Recording Academy president Neil Portnow did liven things up by calling on women “to step up” which seemed a little rich when the awards show run by the organization he’s president of seemed determined to avoid handing any awards out to women. Only Alessia Cara received anything during the televised portion. This has understandably led to criticism, but what else should we really expect from the Grammys? The Simpsons said it best.

Sonic Youth guitarist and solo artist Thurston Moore has a new song in collaboration with poet Radieux Radio attacking the current administration and those within it making “a mockery of democracy.” It’s entitled “Mx Liberty” and set for full release on February 19th as part of the “Not My President’s Day” protests.

Song of the Week: Austra“Future Politics”

Can we skip ahead to sometime when things are better again, if that ahead exists? Without people doing what they can to make the future better it won’t come about of course, but the current shroud covering America doesn’t have to remain forever.

Katie Stelmanis and Austra have tried to look ahead, rocky as the present may be. In a week where Donald Trump is the person standing there giving the State of the Union speech, here’s to future politics.

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February 4th 2018

Awesome post.Thanks for sharing.