“The Kennedy Center respects the decision made today by the office of the President of the United States. In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the Administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the Honorees. We are grateful for this gesture.”
The Kennedy Center may be relieved, but I find that I am not.
Back at the beginning of our current national nightmare, I wrote a brief but blistering statement about the gobsmack stupidity necessary to even consider defunding the National Endowment for the Arts. I predicted at the time that lacking any semblance of genuine courage, Trump would never set foot in the Kennedy Center for any reason. This required no great feat of prescience, but now that it has officially come to pass, I find myself entirely unsurprised, yet unexpectedly troubled. I’m not sure what the precise sentiment is; it goes beyond sadness and well beyond dismay; it falls somewhere in the vicinity of that deep black inner void hollowed out by heartsickness and raw civic rage.
One can easily make the case that the Kennedy Center Honors represent the very highest and best ideals that the constitutional structure of our society is designed to encourage. The creation of art and of beauty — the pursuit of truth in all its forms — is that most essential striving of all sentient beings. It is how we labor in our finest moments, when the necessities of life have been attended to, and a moment of inner freedom appears. To eschew this as an individual, as Trump has now done, is to deny the very essence of the human condition. To deny this civically is to eliminate the most transcendent reason why any organized society exists at all. To deny this as an American is reduce us to the sheer mercantile militarism which our national character otherwise so eagerly adopts. To deny it politically is to fortify the ugly ignorance and stupidity now on display from whitebread simian-brained alt-idiots, who wouldn’t know good art if it punched them in the swastika. Like all the authoritarian tyrants that precede him, Trump would reduce us all to subservience; malleable, trainable, and governed by fear — precisely the opposite of everything that the Kennedy Center, and the arts that it celebrates, stands for.
Trump’s claims about political distraction are undeniably true, as the majority of this year’s honorees had already chosen to boycott the reception afterwards. But political distraction is a technique that he has long since perfected, and that he foments casually. He relishes controversy far beyond fact, and eagerly embraces it in every other circumstance in which he is not required to smile—yet another ordinary human behavior of which he seems incapable. This is the larger, and more deeply troubling point. This is not actually a matter of choice—this is is a matter of sheer, stupefying ineptitude.
In the final analysis, Trump will not attend because the Kennedy Center Honors, quite simply, are not about him. As the ostensible representative of the American People, he would be required, like all Presidents before him, to honor the inductees—who are not him—for the work they have done—which he cannot take credit for—and for the contributions they have made to the enhancement of American society—a concept that is anathema to his entire misbegotten life, and that is flagrantly contradicted by virtually every action he has taken since his inauguration. Donald Trump is utterly incapable of serving in this capacity, and is in fact incapable of even pretending to do so.
So the President* will be skipping one of the great events of the American cultural landscape for reasons that have nothing to do with “political distraction.” He will do so because he is utterly souless, because the performing arts are bête noire to a hollow, gold-gilded homunculus, and above all, because he is a cornpone coward. There could be no more perfect illustration of his profound unfitness for office.
The Kennedy Center Honors will take place on December 3, 2017. With any luck, President* Trump will have been removed from office by then, and with him, the sordid controversy that surrounds our most sacred civic institutions.