Craptastic

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Your bright future written in the sign over a urinal (Photo: pnc)

I don’t know where it came from, but sometime after the 2016 election the word craptastic started rolling around in my head. Eventually it congealed into the title of something I want to write.

Some people use craptastic to mean “so bad it’s good,” like bad food you love. But to me it’s that thing you say when you thought something was going well — maybe turning around from a bad situation — and it suddenly turns out to be even worse than you thought. An early use appears in a 2007 young adult novel called Two Foot Punch:

“Come on. Now that we know where Derek is, we can get help!”

“Not yet,” I say. My voice becomes weak, even for a whisper. “He told the guys that if anyone comes, or if something goes wrong, they’re going to kill Derek.” …

Rain leans against the duct, shaking her head. “Craptastic.”

The situation with Derek was bad, but then they found out where he was (lucky break!), but it turns out if they act on that he will be killed (craptastic!).

Joy-Ann Reid has a descriptive piece up at Daily Beast called “The Enormous Emotional Toll of Trumpism,” in which she writes:

Dr. Jeffrey R. Gardere, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, said some of his patients over the past nine months “have expressed much frustration, unhappiness and stress with the present political climate,” and that he is seeing increased instances of “dysphoria, and sometimes the related eating and sleeping interruptions.”

We all know this is happening. My theory for Craptastic is that the catastrophic thinking and uncontrollable feelings of impending doom go beyond the very reasonable reaction to the Trump shitshow that any concerned person would have, and reflect a sense that things are turning around in a suddenly serious way, rupturing what Anthony Giddens describes as the progress narratives of modernity people use to organize their identities. People thought things were sort of going to keep getting better, arc of the moral universe and all that, but suddenly they realize what a naive fantasy that was. It’s not just terrible, it’s craptastic.

If that’s true, I suppose, it would be felt more strongly by relatively privileged people, who had the luxury of believing their good lives were just a little ahead of the lives of those obviously much worse off, so being happy wasn’t a betrayal of humanity, it was just a little premature. Now, they feel not just bad, but worse. (My insider perspective on this is a plus, right?)

I suspect that if America lives to see this chapter of its decline written, Trump will not be as big a part of the story as it seems he is right now. And that impending realization is one reason for the Trump-inspired dysphoria that so many people are feeling.

(Cohen forthcoming)*


* If you love this idea and want to help make it happen, please contact my agent. Or I guess be my agent.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Craptastic

  1. I think you’re on to something. Shouldn’t be too hard to get an initial take on this from public opinion data. For people in our world — professionally successful baby boomer progressives — especially academics with an activist past — Trump following Obama, with no January pivot, the revelation that there’s a huge segment of the white non-college educated population that has grievances over economic precarity and toxic resentment towards people like us, and so on.

    I started getting involved in civil rights issues in 1967, was radicalized by Vietnam, was horrified by Nixon/Agnew/Mitchell, but never dreamed that a half century later race relations would be in the sorry state they are today. And just a year ago, we were celebrating the rapid change in public opinion about LGBT issues, anticipating that the first African American president would be followed by the first woman president, that the Supreme Court would take a progressive change that would last generations, etc. Yeah, we know about dark side of the neoliberal turn and growing inequality, but still …

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