Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Leftovers, A Parable for Trump's America

Emily Nussbaum, writing in the New Yorker observed that the "White Walkers" who are the zombies of "Game of Thrones" can be seen simply as global warming, a cataclysmic threat which will make all the wars among the various factions we have been watching irrelevant, because, as at least some of the warring parties recognize, if the White Walkers sweep through the kingdoms, nobody will survive. Once you see the story line of Game of Thrones that way, you see the whole point of the series differently.

The same must be true for "The Leftovers" which has multiple story lines, but the main story line, the overarching theme is the whole notion of belief, particularly the belief in consoling fantasy in the face of loss and unbearable truth, and the importance of delusion to people who cling to delusion. Without their belief, they have nothing.

The background story is that 2% of all people on earth, in the United States as elsewhere, simply disappear, and usually it's just some members of a family, so the others are left bereft.  And everyone feels threatened because they do not know when the next disappearance, or "departure" as it's called will happen.

In a sense the fact that it was only 2% directly removed, but so many more affected by the loss of children, parents, siblings, friends that makes it worse. Why are we stricken and so many others not afflicted. That must occur to the folks in the small town in Wisconsin who see their factory close, while down the road, people are still working. 

The wonderful song played behind the opening credits of each episode of Season Two is perfect: It addresses the basic mystery of life we all live with--where did we come from before we were born and where are we going after life? People have dreamed up explanations. Some people need an explanation, no matter how outlandish that explanation might be--they feel better having one.

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be
Some say once you're gone you're gone forever
And some say you're gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack

Some say that they're comin' back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I'll just let the mystery be

If you see the departure as the loss of factories in the Rust Belt, the loss of financial security, the wrecking of family life, as young people disappear off in search of a living elsewhere, if you see the Departure as the laying waste to all those red, Trump counties across the fly over territory between the coasts, you can see the three seasons as an exploration of the importance of creating an explanation for what happened. Doesn't matter if the explanation is wrong, if it is pure fantasy; people need something to believe in, they need some explanation other than, "It just happened. We don't know why."

Some characters decide to simply feed into this, to give people something to believe in, so they intentionally create scams to deceive people who are looking for explanations into believing reassuring explanations--the wife of the town policeman conspires with a man to offer people as sort of seance experience to explain things. 

A deranged man leaps from a tower and his wife claims he departed and she saw it, because the people who camped out around the tower want his disappearance to make sense, to be part of a bigger trend.

So it is with Donald Trump, who offers explanations for the collapse of the economy, the loss of jobs, the withering of life in the Rust Belt and in those empty counties in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. He knows why all this happened: Those horrible trade deals, those hordes of illegal immigrants, those terrible, incompetent civil service workers in Washington, D.C.

All those talk radio shows, from Rush Limbaugh to the prosperity churches offer certainty. They are all cocksure.  They know. 

There are investigators, like the liberal media, in "The Leftovers" who try to expose lies and delusional thinking and they are hated and reviled. 

It's a tale for the modern age.
I haven't seen the entire final season, but there are indications, things do not end well.

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