An excellent time for Directive: Has there ever been a better time to ponder Robert Frost's Directive?
It's generally taken to be one of his last major poems. He started up like this:
Back out of all this now too much for us,For today, we'll focus on that opening line:
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
"Back out of all this now too much for us."
After decades of rapidly creeping nonsense, has "all this" finally become "too much for us?"
Are we a culture that is no more a culture? Are we in need of "a guide?"
Has "all this" become "too much?" We ask that question for a reason. We ask because a front-page report in today's New York Times actually starts as shown below, hard-copy headlines included:
GRYNBAUM (7/1/17): The Battle of ‘Morning Joe’: A Presidential FeudTwo "cable news" hosts, a gossip magazine—and the fellow who holds the nuclear codes. In a surreal dispute!
A Spectacle Fit for TV Rages with Talk of Extortion
President Trump remained embroiled in a rumpus with two cable talk-show hosts on Friday, a surreal dispute featuring allegations of extortion, dueling tweets and low-rent insults that has little precedent in recent political history.
With major policy battles over health care and taxation looming, Mr. Trump has devoted several days to squabbling with the stars of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who on Friday accused the White House of demanding they apologize to the president to keep a gossip magazine from unmasking their romantic relationship.
The spectacle might seem too outlandish even for the pages of a supermarket tabloid were The National Enquirer not the magazine in question.
Last night, that surreal dispute dominated the small-bore world of cable news pseudo-discussion. "Major policy battles" over health care be damned!
We'll only add this: the dumbness of this episode is heightened by the presence of a new form of cultural assessment. As with James B. Comey (Comey the God), so too now with Mika and Joe:
They're judged to be major white-hatted stars because they stand opposed to Donald J. Trump. In effect, they're part of the class now known as NABATs:
Not As Bad As Trump.
Directive is a difficult poem. That said, we woke with that opening line in our heads. Fifty years after the arrival of our radio "shock jocks," we finally have our first "shock president." And let's be truthful:
Though he bumps a fifty-year trend to a new level, that trend predated his behavior. Our mainstream press corps was full of Trumps by the time of the Clinton/Gore years. Trump has simply accelerated a cultural trend which has been underway, largely unnoticed, for decades.
Our crack team of calendrical analysts came to us early this morning with the news that this is the start of a four-day holiday weekend. After carefully checking their work, we have endorsed their claim.
We still plan to return to this piece at the new Salon, which captures the way our own liberal tribe has added to the decay in question. But this morning, Joe and Mika, and the Enquirer, are hogging page one of the Times.
"Drink and be whole again beyond confusion?" Easier said than done!
Trump before Trump: Below, you see a (very) small sample of Trump before Trump from December 1999.
This particular Trump before Trump was talking about Senate candidate Hillary Clinton with biographer Gail Sheehy. What follows is a tiny sample of his ranting that night and that month:
MATTHEWS (12/6/99): First of all, Hillary Clinton got the message wrong. The American people want to have health care for people who work for a living.According to this particular Trump before Trump, first lady Hillary Clinton wanted to give health care to everyone, whether they were legal or illegal, so they would have to bring flowers to her like she was Evita.
Working families should get a good wage and they should get health care as part of a living income. She said, "I'm going to give you universal coverage. I want to give every man who gets into this country, legally or illegally, free health care, and they're going to have to thank me for it, and bring flowers to me like I'm Evita." That's different than giving people workers' rights, or giving them what they go out and work for a living for, including health care.
She didn't want to sell it as a workers' benefit. She wanted to sell it as socialism, because then she could get credit for it. She and the government, like Eleanor Roosevelt, her hero.
SHEEHY: Well, I don't think she wanted to sell it as socialism...
She wanted to be a socialist, like her hero Eleanor Roosevelt.
This particular Trump before Trump was working for CEO Jack Welch at this time. This is a very tiny sample of his highly disordered behavior during the death-dealing era. For more of his madness, click here.
Candidate Gore? “He doesn’t look like one of us...He doesn’t seem very American, even,” this horrific Trump before Trump once told his shock jock pal, Don Imus. The name-calling, misstatements and craziness went on, unremarked, for years.
Our current president didn't invent the lunatic syndrome in which we're immersed. Through our laziness and our silence, we the ridiculous liberals did, in concert with other groups badly in need of a guide.