Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has taken hold at The New Yorker. Hence, this idiotic story, which is advertised in a tweet from the magazine's official feed:
The attack on Rand Paul by his neighbor reveals a sinister banality of American life that, these days, is often emanating from Donald Trump. https://t.co/tTIPkEe9Ja
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) November 20, 2017
The actual story, written by Jeffrey Frank, is a minor classic of snide political-violence tourism, noting that Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican senator, lives in a gated community in Kentucky and that his attacker, a liberal Democrat, is supposedly a "near-perfect" neighbor, according to a (Republican!) resident. Near-perfect, of course, except for his violent attack on an unsuspecting Paul while he was mowing his lawn. The attack busted the senator's ribs and is, to put it mildly, fucked up. But, says Frank,
Although [Jim] Skaggs was once the chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, he seemed to side with Boucher, whom he called a "near-perfect" neighbor, as opposed to Paul, who, he said, was less willing to go along with the regulations of the homeowners association "because he has a strong belief in property rights."…
The Times reported that Paul grows pumpkins, and composts.
Pumpkins and compost may well be at the root of things. This fall has been unusually warm in Kentucky, and the heat may affect decomposing organic matter in unpleasant, olfactory ways. Paul, who leans toward libertarianism, could well have considered the compost of a private gardener, on private property, to be an inalienable right, and one can sympathize with that view.
Haw haw haw! Frank then dredges up a 1980 novel by Thomas Berger, Neighbors, that was "the basis of an unfunny movie starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd," because, well, you know, it's important to remind New Yorker readers that novels exist and are usually better than the movie version, right?
But the real point, of course, is that somehow Donald Trump is responsible for all that is baffling in this world, including an indefensible attack by a "near-perfect" neighbor who is a Democrat against a libertarianish Republican. Frank again:
Berger told the critic Richard Schickel what he'd learned from Kafka: "That at any moment banality might turn sinister, for existence was not meant to be unfailingly genial." The sinister banality of American life periodically moves into view, with a lot of it these days emanating from Donald J. Trump, the person who was elected President, a year ago.
Yeah, sure. Forget that maybe, just maybe, Boucher is responsible for his own sinister banality, whether his reported "feud" with Rand Paul had more to do with lawn-care issues than political ones. Then again, Boucher did post at Facebook his wish, "May Robert Mueller fry Trump's gonads." But isn't that how all doctors—Boucher is an anesthesiologist—talk?
I think there's a real problem with throwing violence perpetrated by individuals onto broad zeitgeist-y forces, partly because doing so minimizes the responsibility we all have for the choices we make and partly because it's so often wrong (remember how all that "right-wing" hate and paranoia in Dallas drove communist-sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald to plug JFK?). It's a small step from such atrributions to start blaming all sorts of things—books! movies! video games! Trump!—on whatever you happen to find objectionable. Donald Trump does this all the time, blaming immigrants, antifa, you name it for a phantom crime wave, job losses, and more. Do liberals at publications need to join him in such efforts? Of course not, but they're already blaming Trump not only for his misdeeds, but their own as well.