I will say that I remember the first time I saw Teen Spirit (cast party for a high school production of Romeo & Juliet, drunk for the first time). By the time he died had given up on Kurt Cobain and the movement he represented. As progressive as he might have been, there was not a lot of hope in his music and that it was so popular was deeply disturbing––to him, at the end. I realized quick that grunge acolytes were proto-Trumpers and that little hope lay in the carcass-of-American-greatness in the currents of pop music. There were no wise, loopy Beatles to unify a generation. The splintering had begun.
The next defining moment of mass recollection would have to be 9-11. Despite the unspeakable tragedy involved, I was scarred less than most. Two months into a job that stretched nearly five years teaching English in Japan, exploring a culture unlike my own, I did not own a television or have Internet. I got my news from AFAN radio and was thus brought to a new reality by the quavery voice of Mayor Rudy Giuliani addressing live the people of New York, sounding very afraid. Learning of the towers' collapse, I was in a funk for a couple days but did not have the luxury of skipping a day of work.
On the first day my Japanese students consoled me, on the second or third day 9-11 had ceased to be the prevalent topic of conversation. What was happening in their own country was of much more pressing interest, US events and Islamic threats were far from any known reality. I had to get over it, kick myself in gear, get past all angry thoughts of retribution that, as we know, festered in the American psyche for years and created demons that were not released in the long festering slog of Iraqi involvement.
Trump was also scarred by 9-11 and took it so personally that he turned his hatred inward, toward those within the country he held to blame. If Hitler had his months in the trenches to solidify existing prejudices into maniacal hatred, Trump had the destruction of what he felt he had constructed. A perfect world of money, steel, pussy, and concrete. The dreams of Richie Rich shattered
15 years later, give or take a month, I was a year into a tumultuous sojourn in the Philippines which saw populist fist-bumping Duterte elected and steered his country toward very dangerous shoals. I saw the ingrained habit of laughing at adversity and singing videoke turn into something much more volatile.... the gradual transition from democracy to dictatorial corralling of power. It is a chilling process, having read enough history books to realize that what seemed remote, inconceivable, has happened all too often before. And that a critical mass of people have to suffer grave injustice before the masses wake up enough not to want it to occur again.
Even with these portents, I had a certain sense of ingrained optimism. Of "fighting the good fight" through recording inclusive tribal flute deluxe Fabric - Chasing the Sun. I believed the establishment media enough to think that Brexit, Duterte, were isolated cases, that progress toward a greener, more equitable, more democratic tomorrow was not coming undone.
On election day I was on a 12 hour ferry from Boracay to Manila, again unconnected, adrift. I took a long nap in my bunk, hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. Woke up and they had a weak television signal and through the lines I saw the crowds, a female figure excitedly addressing the masses from a stage. "Ok as expected, Hillary won." A closer look on the way to the bathroom revealed this leader to be an imposter in drag, presiding over some inane Philippine game show. Two hours later, reawakening from nap, the words on the screen were unmistakably vivid "Trump President." The blood drained and never came back. And now I have come back to US and it is deja vu, the same feeling I had after Duterte was elected. All the previous certainties are gone, a sense of the bull being let out in the ring before the bloodletting.