Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Robert Christgau on the End of the World (as We Know It)

1. No one I know is sleeping. Writing Friday morning, I've been at around four hours a night since Tuesday, and was pretty anxious Monday night too--her late Michigan visit worried me. I know I took half a Klonopin--the second of my life--one night this week, and I think a five-mg Zolpidem after one wakeup. Not even sure anymore. This situation is not conducive to anyone's coherence including my own, hence my decision to bullet-point a reaction piece that was going nowhere slowly. Of course, the end of the world as we know it isn't conducive to coherence either.

2. Insomnia is a common affliction of the elderly, a demographic that includes me. At 74, I'm still working pretty hard, but not like when I had the NYU job I quit after two years. I have my health, too--my cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure all came down as soon as I retired. Now I bet my insomnia becomes chronic and my numbers go up again.

3. Nor is that the only way Trump will rob me of my old age. I quit NYU in part because I had a dream of relaxing with the wife I adore while we can both still walk. I don't want to spend my late seventies attending demos. I want to spend them enjoying the flawed democracy I love, the democracy I've spent my entire career celebrating. In my work, "democratic" is one of my major praisewords, and as a rock critic I love this democracy above all for its Afro-European heritage, unjust and incomplete though its racial politics have stubbornly remained. And I should add that--not because I was raised liberal, which I wasn't, but because I took I Corinthians 13:13 literally--I was advocating for multiethnic immigration at age fifteen. The validated racism and xenophobia of Trump's coalition not only disgusts me, it breaks my fucking heart. And the wife I adore reminds that the misogyny this election has released is at least as disheartening. How do we pursue happiness now?

4. Two tweets I've liked this week--really three. The simple one is by David Frum: "The lovely American confidence that 'everything will be all right' has itself now become a serious danger to everything being all right." The two from a highly recommended longer thread are by 5'7 Black Male: "That knot in your stomach, that feeling of heartache? That uncertainty about your safety? That deep sense of fundamental injustice?" And then: "For many marginalized people, this spike in distress you feel this morning is what we feel EVERY morning."

5. One of Obama's most impressive achievements is a post-Great Recession growth rate far exceeding that of any European nation--a recovery that has definitely begun to touch the very class of white people whose disaffection is widely reported to have powered Trump's victory. "Economic anxiety," this is generally called. I say we start thinking instead about "economic anomie." Yes, real financial worries are involved. But basically the bad feeling they want to extirpate is cultural--and often, fuck yes, racial.

6. One reason Hillary lost was that she didn't dominate the women's vote the way she and we expected. Which I take as indicating that women are more tolerant of sexism than we believed. And even more it means that the slanders the right has been slathering her with since 1993 stuck. I mean, Jill Stein believes them, and she's got a doctorate from Harvard!

7. That said, I kept waiting in those final few weeks for Hillary to lay off Donald and bear down on her economic agenda. She never did. For sure the Comey intervention was a distraction, though I don't believe it cost her the election in itself. But as I've said previously, no one ever mistook her for a strong candidate-as-candidate.

8. There is reason to figure that Trump's inevitable failure to make good on his promises will accelerate the customary off-year opposition gains in 2018. But don't get your hopes up. What he's sure to put into effect right away is deregulation and an all-out attack on the environment--the kind of disastrous stuff that hurts voters only over the long haul. Social Security will be whittled at, not abolished, and if Paul Ryan somehow manages to privatize Medicare, I bet--and as a 74-year-old, ardently hope--us elders will be grandfathered in.

9. It's not inconceivable that Trump will commit (or has already committed) an impeachable offense, and there are plenty of Republicans who would happily kick him out if one surfaced. But be careful what you wish for. Mike Pence is not only a homophobic Christianist horror, he's slick. The next four years could bring us not just the worst president in history, but the two worst.

10. Have a nice day.

Village Voice, Nov. 15, 2016

Postscript Notes:

The Village Voice shortened the title to Robert Christgau on the End of the World.