Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels election interference trial (for want of better words) carries on this coming week — what would Will Rogers say??

Apr 28th, 2024 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward, Coming Through (Ancestor2). 2024. Acrylic. 24”sq.

SPECIAL FROM CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2024. It’s raining up here in the exurban northern wilderness. — April showers that bring May flowers.

If only for a few hours I am trying to escape the troubling choppy waters of US politics on TV, in the new age of Trump on trial. For some reason I’m struck by what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke : “The Duke of Richmond comes from Richmond, England. He doesn’t have enough ancestors to come from Richmond, Virginia.”

Richmond, Virginia today deserves a somewhat better press. Will Rogers was born November 4, 1879 “on his parents’ Dog Iron Ranch in the Cherokee Nation … Indian Territory, near present-day Oologah, Oklahoma.” He “died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.”

Will Rogers … has a message for YOU! From his official website today.

(And as it happens the fateful US presidential election this year is on November 5, 2024 — the day after Will Rogers’s 145th birthday! Alas he died in the Alaskan plane crash 89 years ago when he was only 56.)

Even when I visited Richmond, VA for the first time in the early 1980s it was already becoming more of a hip place than it must have been in the 1920s, when Rogers’s career as a legendary folksy newspaper columnist, book author, radio personality, and movie star blossomed.

Maybe partly for that reason when I tried to google what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke about the Duke of Richmond, I couldn’t seem to turn anything up. But I did stumble across a number of earlier 20th century quotations from Will Rogers. And they somehow seem to fit the present troubling political scene of the USA in the earlier 21st century well enough.

Michael Seward, Back At Ya! 2024.

What is going on politically in Democracy in America today is genuinely unprecedented in a number of respects. A former American president has never before been a defendant in a criminal trial, even one about payments to a pornography actress and a former mistress, designed to hide certain truths about a candidate in a presidential election.

Yet contemplating some Will Rogers earlier 20th century American folklore quips does suggest that much of what is happening now is familiar enough in the longer story of the United States since the advent of the present constitution in 1789 (also the year the French Revolution broke out, back across the ocean in Western Europe). While contemplating the trial in Manhattan that started this past week in April 2024, eg, consider these wise Rogers propositions from America long ago :

Michael Seward, On a Roll. 2024. Acrylic. 20” x 24”.

Make crime pay. Become a lawyer … The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.”

“Things ain’t what they used to be and never were … Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke … If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics … People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.

A fool and his money are soon elected … The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office … The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”

Michael Seward, Bio-Space. 2024.

If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out.” (And my sources for these quotations are HERE and HERE.)

Thinking about these folksy Will Rogers Americana observations from the earlier 20th century has in any case put me in a somewhat lighter and more forward-looking frame of mind than reading two recent much heavier-duty pieces, on the current 2024 mess in Gaza and its echoes on “more than forty” US university campuses —

(1) Pankaj Mishra, “The Shoah after Gaza,” London Review of Books, Vol. 46 No. 6 · 21 March 2024 .

(2) Nadia Abu El-Haj, “Storm Over Columbia,” New York Review of Books (Online), Sat, Apr 27 at 2:52 p.m.

Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels election interference trial (for want of better words) carries on this coming week.

On one interpretation, for the wider American TV audience the trial so far has actually redeemed Trump’s public reputation somewhat, to the point where former Attorney General Bill “Barr, who said Trump shouldn’t be near Oval Office, says he will vote for him in 2024.”

Mmmm … It seems as well that all the grifting Mr. Trump needs to be acquitted in this case is a favourable vote from just one juror. And if the 12 + 6 alternates jury finally arrived at is remotely a random sample of the Manhattan electorate, that seems far from impossible.

Just over 12% of Manhattan actually voted for Trump in 2020. This translates into 1.4 of 12 jurors in a proper random sample. And on these numbers it is arguably hard enough to see how Donald Trump can possibly be convicted — even though he certainly is guilty of breaking more than a few laws of the land, from sea to shining sea.

Michael Seward, Abstraction. 2024.

And then there’s the current almost extreme right majority on the US Supreme Court … (no doubt cunningly engineered by almost extreme right forces in the larger American political system today — and for all too many years in the most recent past … and including Donald Trump of course!) …

It’s at this point— at more or less the same time as the hibernating bears are starting to arise and walk about this near northern exurban wilderness up here — that I start to think my counterweights colleague down in The Smoke, Randall White, may be onto something. And often enough nowadays I too “just start to pray … in the spirit of that old-time religion, that’s good enough for me. I don’t want to see the USA commit suicide next door” either.

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