The Unsaid In Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’

The ambiguous nature of the Turn of the Screw has led to many interpretations of its meaning since its publication in 1898. Cranfill and Clark (1970) survey the many forms of this ghost story and demonstrate its appeal to academics and non-academics alike. Questions linger about the ghosts and whether or not they were a manifestation of the repressed feelings for the governess’s employer (Heilman (1947).  Renner (1988) on argues that the timing of the appearance of the ghosts is significant.  Vague allusions to corruption (TS 18) are scattered throughout the novel, an important key that can be used to make meaning of the story.  This paper proposes that The Turn of the Screw is a ‘controlled experiment ‘(Bromwich 2011) of narrative form that through the use of plot and allusion, examines Victorian ideas of innocence and sexuality.

A turn of the screw is an action that makes a bad situation worse; especially one that forces someone to do something (Cambridge Dictionary).  With this definition in hand, an esoteric name for a ghost story transforms into an apt title for a novella in which the governess’s actions bring her into worse and worse circumstances.  In judging a book by its title alone, it could at a glance be taken for a charmingly named construction manual.  The marionette strings that James uses to control the action of the plot are not very well disguised.  James is deliberately ambiguous (Beidler 1992).  If we peek too closely, we might see a glimpse of that man behind the curtain.  The problem is that all the subterfuge, this borderline melodrama and the lack of explanation could be considered a retroactive continuity on the part of the narrator.  The connection between Douglas and the first narrator may be of a homosexual nature (Taylor 1988), which then foreshadows that between Miles and Quint.  Taylor’s argument is plausible, but does not fully account for narrator bias.  By the time it is set down in its present form for the reader, this is a thrice repeated story.  The governess has written it several years after the events at Bly.  Douglas reads her account aloud to the gathering, how faithfully is a matter of debate  The first narrator says he made an ‘exact transcript’ (TS 6) of the governess’s own writing, but we cannot verify whether that is in fact the case.  

In essence, the story, through repetition by the various narrators, could have been corrupted, which is an important theme in the Turn of the Screw.  Contamination as understood by the governess is corruption (TS 18), a concern for a young girl arriving at a country house straight from being ‘privately bred’ (TS 24).  It is also a concern carried from the Romantics into the Victorian age.  Upon first meeting her charges, the governess is profuse with praise for the wonderfulness and innocence of the children.  Flora was “the most beautiful child’ (TS 12), Miles a ‘positive fragrance of purity’ (TS 21).  The governess describes herself as being ‘easily carried away’ (TS 13).  These descriptions comport with the Romantic idea of original innocence (Sky 2002).  The Romantics were taken by Rousseau’s idea of original innocence as a counterpoint to original sin: “God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.” (in Sky 2002).  Nature to the Romantics (and subsequently to the Victorians) was not a thing to be feared, but was pure.  James takes Rousseau’s words to heart, in that the more time the governess spends with the children; the more she starts to see them not as paragons of beauty and purity, but as evil, corrupted children.  As with much of the rest of the story, the very nature of that corruption, while a horror, is never explained.  It is a frustration for the reader, but a wonderful feat for the author.

At the age of twenty, on her own and in charge for the first time, the governess was in a liminal state between that of childhood innocence and the sexual adult who must contend with the fall from purity into original sin (Sky 2002).  While Heilman’s (1947) refutation of the governess’s repression of her sexual awakening is not without merit, the arguments of the Freudians cannot be summarily dismissed.  Not repression, but suppression.  It is as she was fantasizing about her employer that the governess first comes upon Quint: “[w[hat arrested me on the spot – and with a shock much greater than any vision had allowed for – was the sense that my imagination had, in a flash, turned real. . . . . (TS 24).  The governess is also struck with this supposed gentleman’s lack of a hat (TS 25).  A red-haired man of Quint’s description was to be understood as a criminal man (Renner 1988), and criminals could not be seen as innocent or pure.  

No words are exchanged between the governess and either of the ghosts.  Nowhere in the story does anyone other than the governess profess to see Quint, or Miss Jessel.  The governess has conflated the appearance of this man both with fears of her own desires as well as with that of his being there when he supposedly died.  He is unnatural; therefore he represents death of innocence, of life itself.  He is a particular danger for the two most innocent, Flora and Miles.  He is a danger at least until the governess comes to think that Miles is beyond saving, which is why she does not send him away with Flora.  

Miles’s uttered confession, what there was of it (TS 123) signifies the end of the story, the end of his life, and thus the end of innocence.  In his lack of full explanation he, too, could stand for a symbolic death of the last of the governess’s innocence. She did indeed let herself be carried away.  From a sheltered twenty year old girl who was excited at the prospect of seeing her employer, to a girl who saw corruption and evil everywhere when no one else did, is evidence of a girl overwhelmed.  She was becoming a woman, leaving behind her original innocence.  She was indeed ‘carried away’, and far from retreating into any former semblance of her life, she moved on to another position, took a fancy for someone else, as Douglas alludes to in the prologue.  

The abrupt end to the story leaves the reader with many questions about the governess.  One such question: what is to be believed if the story hinges on the recollection of a potentially mad woman (Bromwich, 2011) who may have smothered Miles to death? (Beidler 1992)  What is to be made of it is that Henry James is a master of plot, and of showing us what might have happened without telling it.  As Stephen King says “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s (2000).  Description is on full display in The Turn of the Screw.  The governess’s explanation to Mrs. Grose over why she didn’t say anything about seeing Quint was ‘for reasons.” (TS 34).  What are those reasons?  The reader is left to decide for themselves.

In a short one hundred and twenty pages, the Turn of the screw controls the plot and every word the governess utters.  A turn of the screw stands for the control James has over the plot as much as his narrator, the governess, has over the actions at Bly.  Victorian ideals of innocence and sexuality are on display, and because of these the governess perhaps brings about the death of one of the innocent children under her charge.  The ghosts serve as symbols for the death and possible corruption of that innocence that the governess tries to very closely guard, to her detriment.  The lack of full explanation of anything is a function of the narrative style, or experiment (Bromwich 2011) that James uses to tell his tale, as well as those Victorian ideals that prevent description of anything that might lead to corruption.  The number of retellings and the survival of this unsaying yet verbose story speak to the success of James’s experiment.  

Works Cited


‘A Turn of the Screw.’  Cambridge Dictionaries.  Web. 21 Mar. 2017


Beidler, Paul Gorman. 1992. Frames in James :  The Turn of the screw, What Maisie knew, and the Ambassadors. Theses and Dissertations. Paper 107.  Accessed 21 March 2017


Bromwich, David. 2011. Introduction. In The Turn of the Screw. By Henry James.  New York. Penguin Books  xiii-xxxv


Cranfill, Thomas M. And Robert L. Clark, Jr. 1970. The Provocativeness of The Turn of the Screw.  Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 12(1), 93-100.


Heilman, Robert B.  1947. The Freudian Reading of the Turn of the Screw.  Modern Language Notes, 62(7), 433-445.


James, Henry.  1908. The Turn of the Screw.  New York: Penguin Books.


King, Stephen. 2000. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner.


Renner, Stanley. 1988.  Sexual Hysteria, Physiognomical Bogeymen, and the “Ghosts’ in The Turn of the Screw. Nineteenth Century Literature, 43(2), 175-194


Sky, Jeanette. 2002. Myths of Innocence and Imagination: The Case of the Fairy Tale. Literature and Theology, 16(4) 363-376.


Taylor, Michael J. H. 1982. A Note on the First Narrator of “The Turn of the Screw.’  American Literature, 53(4), 717-722.

Erotic Innocence – James R. Kincaid

Synchronicity strikes again. Jung would be so proud. After just finishing James R. Kincaid’s book Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting, what story happens to be dominating social media? The takedown of one of the most controversial and obnoxious conservative commentators, Milo Yiannopoulos, for comments made about pedophilia. Barely had the question formed in my mind about whether our society had got any better about this problem when I had my answer. If only the accusations about Trump and young girls had stuck, alas . . . 
Kincaid’s is a compelling argument, and one that it is impossible to fully agree with. Since the Romantic age, children have been seen as angels and innocent darlings who need to be protected from all the horrors of the world. If something terrible happens to them we are scandalized, we are outraged. But, on the other hand, they are monstrous little beings who we can be scared of. This is why they are abandoned and abused.  
We are horrified by the idea that there has been abuse – especially sexual abuse – of these poor innocent children and yet, Kincaid argues, we are fascinated by it. Movies purportedly for kids are filled with sexual innuendos (from Shirley Temple to Home Alone – Kincaid was writing in the late 1990s). In our media, he argues, parents are dismissive of the kids and it comes to an outsider from the family to rescue the kid, and then they develop a bond with that (often) older male who protects them from being abused again. For our job is to look but never touch. And, of course, childhood is sacrosanct. He quotes Stand by Me (king/Reiner) and the statement: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?”
The answer to this question is a resounding no, and it does have to do with that thorny concept of innocence. When we are in our teens, or friendships can become bogged down in sex, sexuality, and more responsibility (work, school, family). I agree that we do see an attraction to the innocence of childhood, the lack of cynicism, the freedom of not having to worry about getting and keeping a job, budgeting enough for retirement, the mortgage, the car payment, that ever elusive work/life balance. I long for the days when summer vacation was two months long and I would take that trip to the local movie theatre with friends and cousins to go see the latest matinee – who the hell wouldn’t? But not everything is about sex.  
I disagree with his main argument, however, I do agree that when sex in relation to kids comes up it does have a tendency to be a hyper-maniacal spectacle. I am old enough to remember the tail end of Satanic Panic, and to have read Michelle Remembers, which freaked me out completely until I was in university and studying repressed memories. Now it seems like a load of bunk. But we as a society feed on this stuff. Television and print media (and I would suspect social media even more) thrive on ratings and clicks. Whatever it takes to get a story, the juicier the better, and what is more juicy than the lurid details of what happened to JonBenet Ramsey, or Amanda Berry (admittedly a little older). We are a society of voyeurs.  

De-Fanging the Big Bad Wolf: An Examination of the Wolf in NBC’s Grimm

NBC’s Grimm continues the practice of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow in retelling and reshaping fairy tales for the modern world.  In this series, the Brothers Grimm are not just collectors of folktales, but are part of a long line of monster hunters.  Magical realism becomes the order of the day, and we are treated to the juxtaposition of nature and science, the civilized and the wild.  The setting for Grimm is Portland, Oregon a useful location that pits the relative orderliness and safety of the city against the untamed dangerousness of the woods (Lindsay 2016).


Grimm is a show that straddles several lines: the us/them or culture/folklore line, and the line between society and civilization versus nature and wildness and monstrousness.  Through dealing with the Monster of the Week (MOTW)  (Tosenberger 2010) the show aims to answer questions about nature versus nurture, siding often with nature (monstrousness is genetic, manifests during puberty, and therefore is uncontrollable).  The monster is ‘them’ that undefinable Other  On the culture side we have Nick Burkhardt, the Grimm.  He is a new kind of Grimm who asks questions before he shoots.  To help him along is one of the key figures of the series: Monroe: a reformed Big Bad Wolf (or Wieder Blutbad in Grimm parlance).


Monroe, can control his monstrousness through ‘diet, drugs and Pilates.’  In other words, he has made a conscious choice to move away from his nature and embrace culture.  He does not eat meat, he works as a clockmaker, and eventually comes to marry a Fuchsbau (a fox-like being).  He is the consummate tame wolf, and modern man.


Monroe is a conduit through which we are given the message of the show: through culture the Big Bad Wolf can be de-fanged.  Monroe chooses to live in town, not in the forests.  He makes the choice not to eat meat because doesn’t like what happens to him when he does.  He adheres to a strict regimen to ensure that he does not slip back into his old and uncivilized ways.  He is mostly mild mannered, though in later episodes we see that he can be more intimidating.   We can never fully control our nature.


The pilot episode introduces us to the Jekyll and Hyde of Big Bad Wolves.  Monroe is Jekyll, and the MOTW is Hyde.  A non-reformed Blutbad kidnaps young girls (from prepubescent to young adult), all of whom were wearing red and carrying something (in one case an iPod, how modern is that?) .  The Little Red Cap/Riding Hood who survives is rescued from the belly of the wolf’s house (the basement) not from the wolf itself.  (This is prime time television, we can’t get too gruesome).  And the wolf is shot by the Grimm’s partner, Hank, an action that could perhaps be seen as the modern and less grizzly version of cutting someone up.


Brown (2014) discusses two written versions of the Red Riding Hood tale: Perrault’s version where the wolf wins, and the Grimm’s version where the girl wins.  Perrault’s version was published more than a century before the Grimm’s version.  The change in endings could be due to the audience (the Grimm’s quickly began to write for children), but it seems more likely to be due to a change in Weltanshauung, or outlook on life.  Life in the 1800s would have been better than in the late 1600s.  If this is the case, then it makes sense that two hundred years after the Grimm’s version of Red Riding Hood was published, the Big Bad Wolf been fully tamed by society.  What’s so scary about big teeth and claws when we have bright, on demand electric lighting, when the wolf dispatched at a distance with a gun, and explained away by genetics?  Nothing scary there, the wolf has been de-fanged.


Works Cited

Brown, Nathan Robert.  “Red Hoodies and Cross-dressing Blutbaden.”  The Mythology of         Grimm.  Berkeley Boulevard Books, New York, 2014.

“Grimm Wiki – Monroe.” Wikia, 24 Feb 2017,

Lindsay, Julianna. “The Magic and Science of Grimm: A Television Fairy Tale for Modern Americans.” Humanities, 5.2 (2016): 34. CrossRef. Web. . <;.

“Pilot.” Grimm: Season One, Written By David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, and Stephen Carpenter, directed by Marc Buckland,  2011, Universal Studios Home entertainment.

Tosenberger, Catherine.  “Kinda Like the Folklore of Its Day.” Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol. 4, 2010,, Acessed 26 Feb 2017.


The Hypocrisy of Cussing

Aw shucks, this malarkey showed up in my Facebook feed today. For cryin’ out loud, why did this have to show up, with all of its accusations about the amount of profanity that I use? Does this make me a bad person because I am more apt to use the phrase ‘Shut the fuck up’ than ‘Shut the Front Door?’ If I go back to the words that my mother told me, I could answer this question in the affirmative. No, that is not entirely accurate. The conversation that I had with my mother pinpointed how it was uneducated people who tended to swear more often. While that is-probably true, I have evolved on the matter of profanity, not only because I am a frequent user of some of the more colourful of these words (and none of the ones that are on this list, to be honest), but also because I know some highly educated people who swear all the fucking time.   
George Carlin’s famous seven words that cannot be said on television are among my favorites. Some are profane, many relate to either sex or bathroom activities. Many of these are used as short hand by people who many not have the ability to express themselves more eloquently or poetically. This is the education piece. I do not doubt that some of the people who might be considered lower class or have less education frequently use these words in more inappropriate contexts than the more educated, which I argue is what tends to separate them from other people. Very few people can get by in their lives without using some forms of profanity. The difference is the context under which it is used.

Yes, context is key for so many things. By saying this I do not mean to imply that everyone would start taking the Lord’s name in vain, or telling people what they can do to themselves. Some will not use even the cleanest of curses, and while that seems unnatural to those of us who have partaken, there is nothing wrong with them. It is a personal choice. People are even entitled to their opinions on the subject. Some will not like cussing because it offends their sensibilities. 
For people who genuinely don’t like to hear profane words, I am sorry, and I beg you to bear with me a little longer. What many of us who speak in colorful vernacular do have a problem with is the hypocrisy that often comes along with someone’s delicate ears. Saying you do not like to hear swearing because it is an affront to your religion (for example) while performing acts that are the very essence of the profane makes you a hypocrite and someone who we should stop allowing to dictate our own actions. An anecdotal example: a former neighbour of ours was ‘a Christian.’ You know the type, I am sure: the sort that partake of the religion on Sunday and are secular the rest of the week. This was a person who acted all innocent and pure and was scandalized at the idea of someone using profanity. Scandalized at the use of the words fuck, bitch, or shit, but not at all scandalized by constantly playing on people’s sympathy to get things, taking things from charities at which they were volunteering, and doing tons of other dishonest and disingenuous shit. 
It it not my intention to disparage genuinely religious people, but far too often it has become a racket for the scammers, the selfish, those trying to escape trouble, and the self-righteous. They preach the Good Word and parade in front of everyone all the good deeds that they are doing, while completely ignoring the spirit of their own religion. As I wrote in another post, Jesus would be so proud.  
In closing, here’s a suggestion: rather than being so fucking worried about the appearance of goodness and charity, try actually being good and charitable. Worry less about what others are doing or not doing, and more about your own house. Go about using works like malarkey, phooey or caca instead of shit. That’s fine. That’s your right. We might laugh because it sounds silly and outdated, but we would never deny you your right. Don’t deny us ours, and don’t think you’r’e better than us cussers.  

The Effect of Othering in an ‘Alternative Facts’ World

Twenty five years ago when the Internet was in its infancy, it was deemed to be the information superhighway.  The entire world would be connected and we would be able to get more information than ever, and up to date information at that.  In just a few short years traditional Encyclopedias died out, replaced by online sites such as Wikipedia.   The internet is still useful for such purposes, but it has become a minefield for urban legends, misinformation, ‘alternative facts’, and above all, for propaganda.


Propaganda is nothing new, with recorded instances of it as far back as Ancient Greece and Rome.  What is new is the ability for this propaganda to be disseminated to millions of people within seconds, all without leaving the comfort of our desk, chair, or bed.  Combining this capability with the anti-intellectualism and racist streaks that have run through contemporary western society has created a powder keg, as evidenced by the atrocious attacks on a Quebec City mosque just a few days ago.


Left and right wing people have their own bubbles that they live in.  For instance, I recognize in myself a tendency to believe everything bad and shitty about Donald Trump, and doubt the same sort of stories told about former President Obama or current Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.  Recognizing this. however, I do try to fact check as much of this stuff as I can (on both sides). Making allowances for individual differences, I think, on average, left-leaning people tend to be more fair and balanced and more likely to fact check, than conservative people, especially in the US.  Some of this might have to do with the fact that left-leaning people tend to be found in more urban areas, which also tend to be better educated and more diverse.  Diversity leads to more interactions with many types of people, and less chance of seeing different people as the dangerous “Other.” Again, I make allowances for individual differences, and am speaking of average tolerances.


This brings me to the point of my post today.  While scrolling through Facebook, that veritable minefield of ignorance and hate, I came across an article written by The Daily Wire, a conservative website which stated that it was unfair to claim that the current Muslim refugee crisis was similar to that of the Jews during the Third Reich.  The points the article made were as follows:


  1. There was no threat of Jewish terrorists infiltrating the United States.  The same cannot be said about Muslim Terrorists.
  2. Jewish Refugees of the Holocaust had nowhere else to go.  Muslim refugees do.
  3. The proliferation of Muslim refugees is a result of an intra-religious, Islamic civil war dating back to the founding of Islam in the 7th century.  Judaism’s theological disputes are solved with the pen, not the sword.
  4. Muslim refugees are far more religious (with many submitting to Qur’anic literalism) than Jewish refugees during WWII, an ethnographic-religious block that was predominantly secular, assimilated into Western society, and already integrated into the mainstream European social fabric
  5. Muslim immigrants have disproportionately contributed to racist attacks against other minority groups, notably Jews.  European Jews are still victims., rather than perpetrators or anti-Semitic, white and Islamo-Supremacists, acts of harassment, bulling and intimidation


Some of the points are, unfortunately true.  The Pew research poll quoted in the article does find that the favourability ratings of Jews among Muslims is low, but more so in predominately Muslim countries – Turkey, Jordan, Egyptian, and so on.  What this article fails to note, however, is that in Europe, Muslims are viewed more unfavourably than Jews, and both groups are disliked by conservative right-wingers, even among the more secular nations like France.


The article likewise is correct in saying that religion and governance are more intertwined in some Islamic counties then they are in the west.  I believe, as Reza Aslan does, that this is because there has not yet been a Muslim version of the Protestant Reformation.  Perhaps that is coming, perhaps not.  It is not for us in the west to judge whether another country, or group of countries changes to a more secular way of life.


As for radicals and terrorists there are two issues to consider.  On the first hand, we have to decide on a definition of terrorist.  If we take it to mean any act that causes terror in a civilian population, any number of things could be tagged as examples.  The ongoing drone strikes being conducted by the US military could be viewed as a form of terrorism..  One could make an argument that Donald Trump’s campaign threats to arrest women who had an abortion were a form of terrorism.  Dealing strictly with those acts that cause immediate injury or death, the numbers of domestic terrorists in the US, and here in Canada, far outweigh any number of foreign terror attacks.  It is the unknown that frightens people, more so than any individual person or group of people.  And if we step away from Cape Fear for a moment and think about things more rationally, is it really plausible that people who are fleeing countries in the middle of civil wars are really those that are the terrorists?  I would think not.


This speaks to the first point of the article.  Nowhere in evidence is the fact that most Muslims want to come to western countries to perpetrate acts of terror.  Are there some who do?  Of course.  But why would they come in droves for that purpose when ISIS is perfectly happy promoting home grown terrorists?  Another point: vetting potential immigrants is a time intensive process.  No one is saying to open the floodgates and let everyone in, but some common sense needs to be applied.


The second and third points of this article are the ones that make the least historical sense.  Was not the displacement of the Jews over and over again a result of religious wars and persecution?  Seriously! And, anyone who has studied their history in any depth will know that the circumstances around the Jewish people trying to flee Nazi persecution, and the Muslims trying to flee ISIS persecution are similar.  Boats of Jews coming to North America and to other western countries were turned back.  We all have to live with that on our collective national consciouses.  It feels to me that The Daily Wire is functioning as the same sort of propaganda machine that worked to such great and disastrous effect in Nazi Germany.
The same shit is happening with Muslims now, however, with the exception that many western European nations are taking refugees in where they can.  Yes, other Muslim nations should do their part.  No one is saying they shouldn’t, but that does not mean that other western countries should not help also.  Differences in religion and culture aside, we are all human beings.


Here in Canada we have accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees and to date the only act of terrorism was perpetrated by a white man in Quebec.  How is that for radicalism?


Stop “Othering” people and you’ll find it is the ideologies that need to be attacked not the people.  It isn’t lost on most of us who read, that it is the supposedly “Christian” people (usually right-wing, conservatives) who are the lest charitable and compassionate people.  Jesus would be so proud.



2017: The Scariest One Yet!

Politically, I think that this could turn out to be a scary year.  Who knows if we will even still be here in 2018.  Let’s hope that the year of the Grim Reaper that was 2016 was not a practice run for what 2017 will be.


Even if the world does not destroy itself through mutually assured destruction, I have a feeling I might wish I was dead by 2017.  Here was what I wanted to get accomplished for 2016:


  • Reduce the amount of TV watched so I can read and write more.
  • Read 100 books (including finishing my Stephen King Odyssey), by reading 2 hours a day.
  • Write three stories, including my original (non-fan fiction) ghost story.  (First drafts)
  • Blog at least a few times a week.
  • Write 2 – 4 short stories
  • Complete and pass my PFP certification exam.
  • Finish my Canadian History Course


The only one of those that I accomplished was finishing the Canadian History course.  I decided against writing the PFP certification exam because it is truly pointless given current work circumstances.  I only read a total of 48 books, and the only thing I did was write about 2/3 to 3/4 of the Madness of Tobias Sinclair.  So what did I do with my year?  That’s a good question, and one I don’t have an answer for, except to say I changed my mind and reversed my decision not to take classes in the 2016 fall term.  I ended up taking my final class (Cognitive Psychology) for my BA.  And I took a course called Myth, Magic and Shamanism – a deceptive title for Anthropology of Religion.  This second was helpful in understanding Joseph Campbell though, so I don’t consider it a total loss.



2017 is going to be a hell of a year.  First draft goals are to complete the following:

  1. Reading Culture (English class)
  2. Reading to Write (English class)
  3. Indigenous Politics and Governance (Indigenous Studies Course
  4. Read 150 books (Including school books, Stephen King books, etc)
  5. Write at least draft one of ghost story.
  6. Write 1000 words a day, everyday, 3 months on, one off (total of 270,000 words)
  7. Finish all shows that I am currently watching.
  8. Sleep!
  9. Don’t stab anyone.


For at least the next four months I will probably be neglecting this blog more than usual, but I will try to keep on top of things as much as I can.

Remember that Time We Ran Out Of Fire Extinguishers?

Soooo . . . . The Americans decided to elect an arrogant, ignorant, uneducated, inexperienced racist, misogynistic lunatic to the highest office in the world, and they also brought along to accelerate the destruction of the world control of both congress and the senate.  It is also very likely (dare I say inevitable?) that they are also going to hand over the Supreme Court.  Goodbye Roe vs. Wade, goodbye any hope of overturning Citizens United.  Cross off the idea of getting any substance reinstated to the Voting Rights Bill.  The rest of the world looks on aghast this morning.  Hillary Clinton might not have shattered the glass ceiling, but it still feels as though we’ve been hit by shrapnel.


One question: why?


One answer:  Because Americans are nihilists.


It is not just the fact that Trump is inexperienced.  Arguments could (and have) been made that President Obama was inexperienced.  Here in Canada, Justin Trudeau was far from a career politician when we elected his Liberal party to power (another vote for change).  This is not just about inexperience, though.  President Obama was right when he questioned why they would want to elect someone with no public service experience to such a position of power.  Change merely for the sake of change is dangerous and naive – especially when the change is to someone who is violently unstable, vengeful, easily provoked and will have access to the most powerful military, and the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.  This was indeed a referendum on Obama’s legacy, on meritocracy and sadly it empowered the Republican base of angry, racist, misogynistic white men to get out and vote.


Some say the election was about the economy – the loss of factory jobs that paid well, to Walmart jobs which do not.  We could scream ourselves hoarse how Americans (or their fathers before them) did this to themselves, but what good would that do?  Facts don’t penetrate that Fox News filled bubble.  The people protesting the establishment as represented by Hillary Clinton (and the 16 other Republican competitors to Trump) should have to be strapped to a chair and force fed a history lesson.   Factories were leaving the US before the 1980’s, but Reagan’s deregulation of Wall Street allowed them to accelerate their exodus to markets with cheaper labor.  This deregulation also led riskier behavior and a boom/bust bubble that brought on Black Monday and then even more frighteningly, led to the 2008 financial crisis.  With the wave that Obama rode in on, they were able to put some training wheels back on the economic bike, but now taking them off, they (the establishment Republicans) have allowed that bike to crash into a hate-fueled tree that is going to explode and engulf all of us In flames.


Some pundits say this was an election filled with fear, and they would be correct.  Fear begets hatred and there was plenty of that to go around.  Trump came out swinging – calling Mexicans rapists (takes one to know one, I guess?), that he would ban – and even deport – all Muslims, that it was a criminal offense to get an abortion, that he would ‘bomb the shit’ out of ISIS, that Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war, was not a war hero, that he would jail Hillary Clinton, riling up his base to potentially assassinate her, innumerable attacks on the media, and so forth.  And he’s always got the ‘greatest’ plan, or ‘the greatest temperament’.  No specifics ever, but he assures us that it will all be great.  Yeah, a great, steaming pile of –


I am afraid now, as I write this.  I am not an American, I don’t live in America.  I do, however, live less than 200 miles from an American border.  If the US gets attacked, either from within or outside of the country, that affects my country, too.  And even if Trump doesn’t decide to nuke some country in retaliation for some insulting tweet from Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, there are still vastly entangled international issues that he just doesn’t understand.  NATO, NAFTA, North Korea, Russia, ISIS, Al  Qaeda, these are all in play in a way that is neither good nor safe.


In a society where Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social media sites have become people’s main source of news coverage, it is hardly surprising that so many Americans are dumber than a post about policy issues.  They don’t get TPP, or the intricacies of polling, or that immigration from Mexico is down, not up, OK, this lack of knowledge is in keeping with their character, so I should not be surprised.  The one thing that overshadows all other ignorance over policy, is the treatment of women.  And not just the rhetoric of calling them fat, or disgusting, or saying that they might be menstruating.  There have been a dozen or so women who have come forward saying that he groped them.  He is on tape in multiple places, verifying this behavior.  Who’s the rapist now, you misogynistic prick?  AND YET WOMEN STILL VOTED FOR HIM.  WHAT. THE. FUCK?  Hillary Clinton might be a little right of center for my taste, but she would not have blown up the world.


Each Republican president over the last thirty years has had their terrible military fault, and each has got worse and worse.  Reagan had Iran Contra.  Bush Sr. had the war in Iraq (though with allied support at least).  Bush Jr was led in total by Dick Cheney, and together they used a national tragedy, and false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to enter Iraq, to destabilize the world and bring about ISIS.  Each successive incarnation of Republican has made the world less safe, more war-torn, and more prone to terrorism.  One can hope that Trump’s campaign was all rhetoric and a cooler head will prevail now, but past is not prologue here.  If we (that is the world) can make it out of this presidency  with some of our retirement savings, our limbs, and our sanity intact, it will be a damned miracle.


Elections have consequences, and we have not yet even seen the least disastrous of them.


So not only might this election bring us the consequence of a third world war, especially if the Republicans in the house and senate hand over a blank cheque to their Commander in Chief, but we’ve set back the women’s movement, and the Civil Rights movement by seventy years.  Nice going.


Bill Maher was right when he said that Hollywood’s obsession with dystopian stories was going to come back and bite us in the ass.  And I say us, because this Global Village is real and what affects one country absolutely affects its neighbors.


I have to disagree with Billy Joel here and say, you sure fucking did start the fire this time.