Thursday, August 11, 2022

Donald Trump and the Drunken Fist



Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. 


--Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scivener: A Story of Wall-Street"


The quote from Melville ties in at the bottom, but first, thanks to my friend JDG, I've been thinking about the Drunken Fist style of fighting as an explanation for pretty much everything happening in the 21st Century. The Drunken Fist totally explains the eel-like slipperiness of Donald J. Trump along with the Democrats' earnest inability to grab him and hold on.


His hallmark has been getting away with outrageous breaches of decorum -- “Do you believe in Santa Claus? I know it’s marginal at seven.” The artlessness of saying such a thing to a seven-year-old is beyond parody, as is “Look at my African American.” To criticize such is to get sucked into a whole different energy, where you'll always look like a pursed-lip librarian.  


Trump’s not the first American president who could disarm his opponents by being willing to play the fool. On camera once, George W. Bush, on the golf course, talking about the Middle East -- "We've got to stop the terror" -- then ending with, “Watch this drive,” and hitting a good line shot. “See ya in church,” he says, and drives off in his electric cart. We all know it’s somehow wrong behavior or silly tone-deafness for a president, but trying to explain why it’s wrong only comes across as a fuddy-duddy's self-parody.


Abbie Hoffman – he nominated a pig for president, he levitated the Pentagon, and when our elders brought him up as an example of godless unAmericanism, didn't they all sound like impossibly square citizens who didn't even recognize that the joke's on them. 


That’s the heart of it. That's the secret of the drunken fist.


"Drunken Fist" as Kung-Fu Style


I'm aware there's a bunch of movies exploring the drunken Kung-Fu fighter, but I haven't seen them and clearly I need to. Drunken Fist, I found out, is considered a "bona fide style" in the Kung-Fu schools and uses footwork and surprise strikes "developed out of the stumbling gait of a drunken fool." It's a technique used by the accomplished kung fu master when trying to confuse and trick his opponents "into thinking he is incapacitated, insignificant, and unworthy of attention."


Recently (if you'll indulge me), I was socially incapacitated, like by a drunken fist, when the energy I was exhibiting met a totally different wave. Here's the story: I heard while deep inside my house a loud banging somewhere out in our front yard, which was shielded by plantings of shrubs and trees. So I walked out there and came on a scene on the very grass that I mow, an employee of the DOT pounding into the turf, on my property (the state owns zero right of way on Old 421), a big steel post for a highway sign. 


The man's wearing ear plugs, because the work is loud. He can't hear me at first, sees me gesticulating behind him, jerks out the earplugs, and I repeat, "We own this property, all the way to the pavement."


That tickled him. "You probably own to the center of the pavement." He said it in the best good humor, and I knew he was right, for when the old 421 was built in the early '30s, the state retained no right of way. We learned that when they wanted to put a gasline through our yard and take out three 70-year-old shade trees. The man from DOT was laughing at the obviousness of it. 

I countered with, "We didn't get any notification that this was happening." And that tickled him even more. "Oh, we never do that!" like I'm an idiot for thinking such a thing. The state doesn't need right of way to regulate the road, obviously, or there'd be no signage at all on Old 421. And in that moment, I'm completely defeated. After a little more apologetic fact-finding by me, I slink off back to the house and report to higher authorities. Embarassing.


When I tell this story, laughing at my own weakness, JDG says, "You got drunken-fisted." Thereby launching a discussion that's been going on now for days.


It's all about energy, cooling or confusing an opponent's own aggressive energy or his assumed social dominance. And then Pow! the uppercut you didn't see coming. It's Donald Trump when he tries "dancing" on stage, his little hands in fists and his arms pulled up like chicken legs, and those little dainty steps. Then a minute later he's stirring up people to look forward to a day of violence and vengeance on his enemies.

How do you counter the politician who would be King, if he's playing the fool?


Bartleby the Scivener as Model Drunken-Fister


JDG reminded me of Bartleby, the Herman Melville character who works at a Wall Street law office as a hand copier of legal documents, a well paid job in the 1850s (waaay before typewriters and copier machines), and who one day begins refusing certain tasks. "I would prefer not to." That line from that story became a knowing joke in my day, when many of the anti-war university crowd that I was adjacent to quoted it as comeuppance for the establishment, especially, say, the Selective Service. 


"I would prefer not to" -- its mysterious politeness mixed with brazen affrontery has puzzled generations of readers and spawned multiple high falutin interpretations about the meaning of Bartleby's placid (and ultimately self-destructive) stubbornness. As the story progresses, Bartleby's Wall Street employer -- who's actually telling this story -- is totally disarmed and defeated as an employer. Bartleby unaccountably remains in the office all the time, day and night, and prefers not to do any number of things including eventually refusing to recognize his own dismissal from the firm. Ultimately, and to the employer's actual guilty regret, he's physically removed from the premises but remains perched on the stairs outside until he's carted off to an asylum where he dies, still preferring not to.


Here's the first appearance of "I would prefer not to" in the story:


Imagine my surprise … when … Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied,"I would prefer not to."


"Prefer not to," echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride, "What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here--take it," and I thrust it towards him.


"I would prefer not to," said he.


I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises. 


"Had there been any thing ordinarily human about him." I can't but flash on the Trump we know, and I feel like I understand the principle that playing the fool can be an almost infallible first step to turning the tables.


Wolf's Head said...

Well, whatever the reason that made the FBI think that raiding Mar a Lago with thirty FBI agents was a good idea, it sure played into the hands of the conspiracy theorists.

The rightwing ones, not the ones on the left that forced the country to endure 4 years of the Russia hoax.

As Trump is not likely to kneel behind his desk with an ar-15 to defend his office, the raid seems excessive.

Maybe there's a legitimate reason for it all, but our world is one of optics and perception, and to Trump's supporters this will be another rallying cry.

Personally, I think this is Garland getting back at Trump for nominating a Justice to the Supreme court when Garland felt should have been him under Obama. It also allows the left to stick it to Trump's supporters as well.

We all know this is just another attempt to ensure that Trump never, ever, becomes President again.

Anyway, it all brings us closer to that day when the left and the right finally duke it out.

As for the facts, well, as Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 said,

"Truth is usually just an excuse for lack of an imagination."

Wolf's Head said...

I saw an interview with Trumps attorney who was at Mar a Lago during the FBI 'raid'.

She was shown a warrant, but not allowed to read it. She was not permitted to observe the search inside the residence. She was notified after the raid was in progress, and arrived while the agents were searching the premises. The FBI demanded that all surveillance cameras be turned off, but that was not complied with.


The democrats have given us show trials, the Russia collusion fiasco, The Mueller song and dance, the two impeachments which were an unsuccessful joke, Trump associates are raided, handcuffed, shackled and paraded before the press to humiliate them, and now a former President of the United States has his home raided and it is televised across the planet making the US look like a third world banana republic.

Which we are.


O Suzannah said...

Oh, we get it, Wolf's Head. You love a conspiracy. And for someone so inherently skeptical of what you hear in the mainstream press, you seem extremely willing (gullible?) to believe everything the Trump lawyer said on Fox News -- because, after all, the Trump team has always been so honest. And by your accounting, the people being investigated and having their phones seized are the most persecuted political actors in American history. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

"Trump attorney Christina Bobb told the right-wing outlet Real America's Voice on Thursday that Trump and his family were able to view 'the whole thing' from New York through surveillance cameras at the resort."

Wolf's Head said...

The interview I saw was Lindsey Halligan on O'Reilly's YouTube channel.

NOT on Fox.

She was Trump's attorney ON SITE, at Mar a Lago talking to the Feds and observing the raid. From her statements the surveillance cameras were left on, but there are no surveillance cameras in Trumps personal quarters, so they don't know what was done there.

Trump has said he wants the warrant made public. What's he trying to hide?

As usual, you all are missing the point here, which is the left and right are ramping up their hostilities to each other.

JW already considers republicans as not being human, which seems to be a popular sentiment amongst the left.

This will keep getting worse and the people in this country will suffer for it.

J.W. Williamson said...

Yep. It's all my fault. All of it. Everything.

Wolf's Head said...

Nonsense JW. I was just using you as an example of what is common thinking on the left.

Just as I'm sure the left will make an example of Trump.

Anonymous said...

Trump is making an example of Trump.

Anonymous said...

Republican, christian white nationalists are spinning their own necks trying to align their QAnon conspiracies with their kryptonite...Facts. Of course their foundation is that white christians are under threat and need to use any means necessary to maintain control. Maintaining privilege is a powerful motivator for the fearful.

Good time to be a chiropractor.


Anonymous said...

It's fascinating that Wolf's Head and others are so obsessed with the action to retreive materials at Mar-A-Lago as a political act, directed at Trump by some vague conspiracy by "the left".

Take a step back and listen to yourself.

Trump held on to these documents for months in clear violation of the law. They were kept in his residence at Mar-A-Lago, where staff and anyone with enough motivation could waltz in and access them.

Some of the material was classified at the highest level and not allowed to be taken out of "clean rooms" for examination. Those documents have a clear paper trail of who can see them and where they are located. Even Trump's own staff have openly discussed how, during his term, Trump hoarded these documents in his office and wouldn't give them back.

The FBI and National Archives spent months trying to get these documents back. The so-called "raid" wasn't a "spur of the moment" thing. They gave Trump many opportunities to comply with the law. He did not.

And if you blurt out "But he was President! He could declassify them!", that's just bullshit. There's a whole procedure for declassifying documents - the President can initiate that process, but it has to be signed off on my multiple people in different agencies to ensure that the release doesn't endanger national security in ways one person might not catch.

Trump created his own problems here.

You might be mislead by the spin coming from one of his own lawyers, but keep in mind, they work for Trump. They have no reason to tell the truth if it means protecting their client. They can spout off nonsense and lies on a right-wing talk show, but they're not testifying under oath under a possible penalty of perjury.

If, after the January 6th hearings and now this, you're still making excuses for Trump, you don't believe in the basic values of the United States - you are supporting and advocating the kind of authoritarian dictatorship of a "banana republic" that you decry.

Face it. Trump and the GOP leadership supporting him don't give a shit about you. They're just interested in maintaining their power.

If you think just being on the "winning side" in a struggle like this is enough to protect you, think again. When countries devolve into civil war or authoritarian regimes, even supporters of the "Dear Leader" are persecuted for not being "loyal enough" by people with a chip on their shoulder and a gun who are wanting to settle old scores.

No, the actions by the FBI weren't about left versus right or politics. It is all about maintaining the rule of law and our Constitution.

Wolf's Head said...

Well, I'm sure everything will come out in the Trump show trial.

Perhaps we could reinstate public execution just for Trump, it would help CNN ratings and democrat fundraising.

BUT I do agree republican politicians don't give a shit about anyone but their donors and themselves.

JUST like the democrats.