This is not a political blog, but one of the things that unfolded over the time I was doing my original song-a-day Bowie tribute in 2016 was the surreal political ascent of Donald Trump. I used several of Bowie’s songs, including this one, as an excuse to comment on the race at the time. I don’t know Brian Gray, but this cover opens the door once again.
Last night, Trump announced his third presidential campaign. I watched the first half or so of the speech, which was virtually incoherent. To the extent I understood what the man was saying, I heard him say things that were so flagrantly false as to underscore the long-agreed upon realization that he is incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy. But the thing that really stood out is that more than any other politician I know of, Donald Trump communicates in nudges, winks, dog whistles and words that carry hidden meanings. He uses pronouns without establishing who the pronouns refer to, presumably because his followers “know who he’s talking about.” He strings together phrases that are not meant to convey literal meaning but instead carry the meta message that he’s great and his opponents are subhuman. His sources are “people” who “are saying.” He speaks of a world that never existed as an aspirational goal to which we as a people should strive to return. Up is down, black is white.
There are a few stories about his many falsehoods. Here are a (very) few that stick out to me as not only being lies, but requiring a leap of faith to understand:
– “I’ve gone decades, decades without a war. The first president to do it for that long a period.” This is a series of words that, placed in this order make less and less sense the more you think about it. Let’s start with the fact that the United States was at war in Afghanistan the entire time Trump was president. And while true, the United States did not declare a war while he was president, that hadn’t actually happened since World War 2. The US engaged in multiple military actions while Trump was president. So, actually, I’m not sure what he was even trying to imply here.
– “And Ukraine, which would have never happened if I were your president.” I think he’s saying that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine had he remained president. While the irony of this statement requires no further explanation, I would point out that he didn’t actually say that Russia wouldn’t have invaded. He just said…well, look again at the sentence. Its meaningless.
– “There are a lot of bad things, like going to Idaho and saying, ‘Welcome to the state of Florida, I really love it.’” I’m pretty sure he’s trying to imply that President Biden went to Idaho and said the bit about Florida. This did not happen, but then again Trump didn’t actually say it happened. This is actually fairly typical for Trump, prefacing an assertion with a confusing but ultimately meaningless qualifier— “there are a lot of bad things…” This combination of words assigns no actions to anyone, and distinctly does not attach what follows to anybody having actually done the type of “bad thing” that simply is.
– “If you look at the numbers, if you look at what’s happened with Hispanic, with African American, with Asian, and just look at what’s happening.” I didn’t follow what he was saying when I heard him say this, and seeing the words in print doesn’t help. No clue, really.
– “Prior to Covid coming in, the people were calling me. … You wouldn’t believe it, people that were so far-left, I figured they’d never speak to me and I would never speak to them.” This was one but not the only time Trump seemed to be suggesting that liberals openly praised Trump for his performance as president. As with many of his utterances, he doesn’t actually say that. Again, these words don’t actually carry a meaning. I suppose the first sentence conveys a discernible thought, though he never did identify “the people” who were calling him. The second grouping of words implies that those people were far-leftists, but this is an uncheckable statement. Any attempt to challenge what he’s saying here, as elsewhere, would run up against the wall of him having actually said nothing at all.
I could probably write my own Trump blog, and certainly could go on about the awful things he did manage to get across in his speech, but I’ll come back around to “Saviour Machine,” which Bowie unknowing wrote about Trump decades before Trump ever ran for office. Whoever Brian Gray is interprets the song as if it were a Dylan song, a consequence of which is that the lyrics are easier to understand than in Bowie’s own version. So if you listen, you’ll understand what I mean…