Shelter From The Stormy

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount

But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts

And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn

Come in, she said

I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

-Bob Dylan, Shelter From The Storm

Can Donald Trump be taken down? Life in Donald’s America gets more farcical every day. We cannot dump the Donald despite our collective desire to. At this point most Americans would welcome any replacement. We are caught in a dangerous storm and we would trust near any neighbor to take us in. Even one as creepy as Mike Pence. Who will give us shelter from the storm? Lately it appears to be an aptly named porn star, Stormy Daniels. Porn is also the apt comparison for the Donald saga. Absurd, painful and relentlessly climatic. Meanwhile on CNN and more surreptitious browsers, porn rumbles on.

Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon released a YouTube video detailing some of the abuse they have taken at the hands of the porn industry. Just weeks ago we learned of Donald Trump’s affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Stormy has become the liberal media’s latest sweetheart, perhaps second only to FBI man Bob Mueller. The real storms and droughts that are ravaging the natural world take a back seat to all scandalous details. Stopping the dismantling of environmental protections by Donald Trump could in theory make all frivolous investigations worth it. That is assuming that Mike Pence, Paul Ryan and co. are any better. I’d say don’t count on it. With a smoother operator in town Democrats would be even more hapless in fighting for the environment. The Republican Party’s libertarian commitment to dismantling the protections of the state would continue. The only sort of protection the rich want are protections from the people. This is done through militarizing the cops in poor communities. It is also done through taking away impediments to profit. Who needs safety regulations or environmental protections when they impede on the profits of the rich?

The mainstream media has paid little attention to Trump’s war on the environment and has instead focused on abstract values, most namely a “liberal democracy.” Too often democracy, especially a liberal democracy, is equated with capitalism. Freedom is defined by the individual’s right to make a profit and to form an identity from this profit. This freedom is gained at expense of the earth and the people of the Global South. Global trade deals that abuse workers of poor countries and strip protections from the environment are seen as an expression of the never been freer global market. The right to find one’s passion and voice is seen as the greatest freedom here in America. The people of other countries and the earth we stand upon get no voice. For every new invention and new expansion comes new exploitation and new destruction of the earth.

At the same time the value of democracy is being questioned by the elites because the poor supposedly brought us Donald Trump. The rich want to correct the mistakes of the poor through unelected bureaucrats like Bob Mueller. The rich fail to understand that in our society money means representation. The rich get the policies and politicians they want and the poor do not. The concerns about campaign finance reform and inequality brought up by the Bernie Sanders campaign and Occupy Wall St. are swept under the rug.

The dismissal of Sanders, Occupy and the like are part of a broader dismissal of young people. Millennials are cast off as lazy when they don’t come out to vote for hopeless Democrats or heartless Republicans. On the contrary, I see the lack of young people voting as a sign of hope. We understand that our liberal capitalist democracy is not working, regardless of who runs the show. How we create a new world is a much more difficult question. I see denial of the old one as a fine first step.

The mainstream media is so out of touch with young people it has become a joke to even engage with the high brow liberal outlets, even the ones who are potentially quite thoughtful. Take this recent New Yorker article with an intriguing title: “Donald Trump and the Stress Test of Liberal Democracy”. The author David Remnick quotes Yascha Mounk: “Mounk, who teaches government at Harvard, points out that one reason for the increasing indifference to democratic rule and the rising enthusiasm for authoritarian alternatives, particularly among young people, is the widening historical distance from any direct experience of the horrors of German Fascism or Soviet Communism.” Huh? It has been the old people who are mislabeling Trump a fascist and Obama a communist. The young people see that both men are capitalists. It is the old people who are questioning the value of democracy. They are right to call Trump undemocratic in his actions. But they get really confused when they try to explain his success. How did he do it without the endorsement of established undemocratic American institutions they ask. They naturally just blame the dumb people who elected Trump rather than the capitalists who took away their education, jobs, and economic security.

To the author’s point though I think that young people are seeing the limits of a an unequal liberal democracy. We have elections and free speech, which is awesome. But we have no time or money or long term security. The politicians answer overwhelmingly to corporate interests. How are we supposed to become politically involved?

The broader question we are asking is: how valuable is a society that liberates the individual at the expense of the society? This is the ideology of neoliberalism. Basically all actions are done with the word “liberal” in mine. Liberate the markets through stripping protections for workers and the planet. Liberate the Other in a distant land through military intervention. Liberate each person so they can make a profit off of people if they work hard enough or play dirty enough.

My only criticism of the millennial generation is that we have chosen to interact through self-focused and inherently isolating social media, internet, and entertainment platforms. It is very easy to construct a world of one’s own online. Making a world that works for all of us must be done away from our phones, laptops and headphones.

The porn industry is seen as one of the ways our society is more liberated than ever before. Like other industries of consumption the conditions of the workers are ignored. If a product is cheap for the consumer it is seen as liberating. They say we have never had so many options to buy and consume things, which is true. But what about the people who make these things? What about the people who cannot get jobs because of this newfound efficiency? What about the resources we take from the earth as we consume? To each their own, the liberal democracy answers.

There was some justified horror about the death threats that porn star Mia Khalifa received from ISIS. ISIS is a child of the liberating American Empire but their actions are always blamed on the Muslim community. We are told that the East hates women and that the West loves women. We are told that “our” women are sexually free while “their” women are sexually oppressed. We are told that porn is a way for women to empower themselves. Like all relationships under the free market, the relationship between women and men are assumed to be “free and equal.”

What then to make of this latest story from Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon? They were forced to eat apples to induce vomit from the blow jobs they were to give. The blow job induced choking and despite signals from the actors, the man in the scene would not let up. Raven says: “I got in trouble and was beat vigorously with the largest, strongest hands you can imagine,” … “I proceeded to get slapped in the face, I proceeded to be slapped on my ass, my thighs, my inner thighs, and at this point I begin to cry and now I’m not just crying because I’m deep-throating a dick.”….“He recognized the fact that my legs were shaking and he found it funny and he made me sit up higher, which made it hurt a lot more,”…“I was being penetrated extremely, extremely deep”… “I was squeezing his leg, his left thigh, I think, as hard as I could while pushing away and wincing in pain and tears coming down my face, and he would smack my hand away, say some sort of ‘dumb white bitch’ comment.”….“I’m pretty sure, like, the first thing that happens in the intro video with Rico is he comes in and just slaps me across the face really hard, like really hard.”….“I couldn’t breathe, it went black, I saw stars, I was stunned. Near unconscious.”

Why didn’t they leave? Because they needed to pay rent. They feared repercussions, perhaps sexual ones, from their superiors. This is not so uncommon now for millennials, as sex for rent is something demanded by landlords too. As internet hero Jimmy McMillan tells us: the rent is just too damn high.

What the rich do not realize is that to survive under capitalism one must do whatever it takes to pay the bills. Incarcerating drug dealers who have no other way to make a living is one prevalent example of the punishing of the poor in an unequal society. Ultimately these stories are a result of the failure of the state to provide the basic needs for the individual. Now is the time for a Universal Basic Income. No one should have to live like this to survive.

Stormy Daniels is the latest beacon of hope for the liberals looking to take down Trump. Let’s hope she succeeds. But just as Bob Mueller was paraded through the headlines everyday without a mention of the evils of the FBI, Stormy is brought up everyday without a mention of the cruelty of the porn industry. There is no mention of the negative implications of watching porn either. One would think there could be some links drawn between porn and the violence against women exposed through the #MeToo movement. Although as I have noted before, domestic violence remains an untouchable subject for the media. The toxic nature of porn has been well-documented by many feminists, most notably, Andrea Dworkin. Porn tells us that it is a freedom to be cruel to other people. Could anything better fit the mentality of Donald Trump?

Don’t look for the defenders of a free market democracy to help us either. As nice as it may sound as a principle, the implications of such a self-centered society have been deadly. There are few left in the mainstream who question the ultimate freedom that capitalism brings to us. Stormy Daniels, Russia, or any other scandal may ultimately give us shelter from the storm of Donald Trump. The rent for this shelter unfortunately still depends on the benevolence of those with the freedom to exploit us under capitalism. Regardless of whether we survive Hurricane Donald, liberal democracy has a leaky roof. It will be up to those of us interested in a collective society to build something more durable.

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Nick Pemberton is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College. He is currently employed by Gustavus Dining Services. Nick was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He can be reached at pemberton.nick@gmail.com

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