November 21, 2016

Anti-normalization Tips: Occupy the Interrobang (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the ‽)




There’s a face I keep making as I talk about Donald Trump.

It’s a kind of scrunched-up half-shrug, accompanied by a rise in intonation. It seems to be a way of broadcasting my inner struggle to process the raw material of reality in a world where basic facts have become intensely bizarre. As though something inside me, reeling with disbelief, is grasping to turn what I’m saying into a question — even while my rational mind knows the words to be flatly true.

It is the face, in other words, that I have to make to get through uttering a sentence like this one: “Saturday morning, the president-elect of the United States, dangerously far behind in his transition efforts and assailed by a massive protest movement, took the time to… start a flame war with the cast of Hamilton?”

It’s the face I make when I add, “The next morning he returned… to attack Saturday Night Live? Which he… hosted last year? And no longer likes because they… made fun of him? After he… won a presidential election?”

It’s the face I have to make to say, “The president-elect once… got in a fight with a baby?”

Already twelve days into the Trump Interregnum, the sheer incongruity of events makes it difficult to acknowledge or contemplate the fact that they are happening. We believe six impossible things before breakfast. If we bother to call out just how exotic each of these things is every time we talk about it, we will exhaust ourselves. If we don’t call it out at all, we will, inevitably, begin to think of it as normal. And a president-elect for whom more than eighty percent of the country did not vote brandishing his profound insecurities in so public and unguarded a way… well, it’s not normal. It is a spectacle of republican decay so glittering and massive that one’s entire sense of scale feels punch-drunk and useless after looking at it.

And yet we must find a way to write about what’s going on. As it happens, I have a modest proposal. Let’s use the interrobang

Invented in 1962 by an editor at Type Talks magazine named Martin Specktor, the interrobang is simple: it’s a question mark overlaid on an exclamation mark. It means both.

I propose we adapt the interrobang and start using it to conclude sentences about Trump that we can’t believe we’re typing, but still need to get through. (There are already so many. And it hasn’t even been two weeks yet‽) I think we should call this “the trumpsclamation mark.”

The trumpsclamation mark means, “The very void is howling through my bones as I write this, but hey, that’s no reason not to talk about it.”

I have already started using trumpsclamation marks, and, honestly, they are a balm to my jangled soul. I don’t have to get all bent out of shape — I can just state the truth, give a brief nod to the yawning existential chasm between what has become of reality and my own inner sense of the laws of possibility, and mosey along to get a sandwich. It’s not ideal but, as a compromise, it works.

A failed businessman sixty-two million Americans elected president just agreed to pay $25 million to victims of a “university” he operated in violation of law, decency, and the Carnie Code‽

The reality TV star who won the election has decided to hire a white supremacist counselor who literally roots for Darth Vader

He tweeted his demand, in ransom-note English, that a Broadway actor apologize for saying the words, “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us”‽

He also tweeted that, standing on deck for a job that is often referred to as “leader of the free world,” he couldn’t take being razzed on a late night TV show, making Richard Nixon look like Patrick Stewart

Then he demanded equal time for an undisclosed “us,” in defiance of the Supreme Court‽

His wife and kid are going to remain in Trump Tower—the actually existing, supervillain-style lair that bears his name—meaning that, while he’s president, visitors to the HQ of the business he is refusing to let go of will be greeted by a White House-style security force, which the Trump corporation will presumably bill the federal government for‽

I honestly can’t tell which of these things is a distraction from which‽

It’s been twelve days‽

See? Problem solved.



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.