Interview with John Cusack: “You vote for Trump and then you fight”

Donald Trump has no more frank and consistent criticism than John Cusack, the iconic actor who has starred in films including Say anything . . . , scammers, Being John Malkovich, High fidelity, and War, Inc. and is featured in a new web TV series, Utopia.

Cusack has always been political. He has been a strong advocate for whistleblowers, served on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, met Edward Snowden, and co-authored the book. Things that can and cannot be said with author and activist Arundhati Roy.

As the enemy of the Iraq war, Cusack decried the Bush-Cheney administration as “depressing, corrupt, illegal and tragically absurd”. A sharp critic of Democratic business and the neoliberal agenda as expressed in both major parties, Cusack campaigned this year for Bernie Sanders. Now, like many progressives, he supports Joe Biden in ending Trump’s presidency. Cusack reflected on the election in several recent conversations, from which this interview is taken.

Q: You campaigned for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and you were pretty critical of Joe Biden. Now, however, you find yourself arguing that a vote for Biden is urgent. Give me an idea of ​​what you think of the November election.

John Cusack: I think we vote for Biden and then the very next day we haunt him with every one of Bernie’s political positions. Here we go: health care, living wage, student debt, green energy. We keep that pressure on him from day one.

We have to recognize that, as Noam Chomsky says, we are voting against neofascism, and yet we are also voting for more neoliberalism. After the elections, we must push back the neoliberals under the New Deal as required by the time. It will take an FDR type intervention.

There must be an account.

It’s interesting that Democrats want to bask in the glow of the FDR, but they actually don’t want to make any of its policies. I don’t know why they don’t just say, “There won’t be a permanent underclass in debt with Democrats in charge.” We’re going to make the billionaires pay and we’re going to get economic justice in all of these areas where we all know this has to happen. “

So what I’m really saying is if you don’t feel like you can vote for Joe Biden then you are voting against Trump. You vote against Trump and you fight.

Q: You said how frustrating it is that Democrats don’t just present themselves as progressives. We both know that when the party wing on Wall Street sends the message out, they never reach a large number of disenfranchised and disenchanted voters.

“Trump is a con artist, but he’s a bad guy. I think he’s more of a sociopath. He’s decided that it doesn’t matter what he lies about or how much he lies.

Cossack: And they still can’t, even then now, when you see Trump running to the left. I mean, he sure lies about everything he says, but he always runs to the left of Democrats on endless wars and stuff. Because he knows this hypocrisy exists.

For me if you don’t make a living wage, if you don’t take care of health care, if you don’t take NRA, if you don’t do medical and student debt relief, energy green, if you can’t come out and say that the Democratic Party is not going to allow a permanent underclass, subject to the whims of neoliberal capitalism, that’s a problem. I don’t know how they can think they are going to win with Rahm Emanuel’s playbook.

Q: You hit on something big when you notice Trump figured out hypocrisy and how to talk about it.

Cossack: He’s going to say, “Oh yeah, I know the swamp, I know all these people. They all do the same thing. And you know what? He’s a liar, but a con artist always works with partial truths. The partial truth is that no one did anything. The neoliberal establishment threw the working class under the bus thirty years ago.

Q: You’ve been getting angry with Donald Trump ever since he took to the political arena. A lot of people treated him like a jerk, but you took the threat he posed seriously from the start.

Cossack: In essence, I think the pre-Trump landscape, neoliberalism, is the landscape that gave us Trump. So it is the logical kind of dark and absurd extension of this kind of wild and uncontrolled capitalism that is unleashed.

We knew this person had some sort of gangster or gangster instinct in all of these things, and he clearly has no temper or principle. He cannot even understand the concept of service to others. The idea of ​​service in any way is something that troubles him. He doesn’t understand anything that is not just completely transactional.

But, studying history and playwrights, we know that fascists are generally seen as clowns and buffoons, and then you look below and there’s war paint behind the makeup of the clowns.

As soon as Trump started snatching children from their mothers’ arms, he was no longer a false fascist. He was not a false fascist. It was not a fascist reality TV show. It was on. It was real.

I knew, I think from 2016, that this was not going to be trivial. From the night of his election, I believed that democracy was scrutinizing the abyss. We were under existential threat, and now we see things we never imagined in our lives almost every week.

Q: Trump has relied on racism and xenophobia so aggressively, so overtly. What does that tell us about him, and frankly what does it tell us about America?

Cossack: The pandemic has given us an x-ray machine to examine all the cruel injustices that pass for business as usual, hasn’t it?

So Trump, whatever you may say about him, it’s not business as usual. It’s a chaos machine. But he exploits all this hypocrisy.

I’ve been saying for a while: what we have here is the policy of Helter Skelter. We know what he’s doing. He demonizes immigrants and people of color. It uses the language of white supremacy and white nationalism, the classic fascist language. He’s trying to create a policy that causes such deep divisions that people really fear a race war. Then he wants to intervene as a law and order guy, coming to put in place the repression.

Q: You talk a lot about how what was once unacceptable is now normalized.

Cossack: What I’m saying is: where is this sense of your father, my father? There was a sense of fiduciary responsibility that people had in this WWII generation, which they still say was the greatest generation. I remember when you were talking to people who were lawyers or doctors or whatever, of a certain age, they had professional ethics.

Trump is truly exposing the decadence of our institutions and our culture, and he makes sense of it. He has the sense of a gangster for that, for the weak points, the soft stomach. He understands where to hurt you.

Q: Well, you played a crook. You must have put yourself in the crook’s mind at some point. Doesn’t it make sense that the crook, at this point in our history, becomes political?

Cossack: Yes, although I don’t like the Trump analogy too much because he’s not even a good con artist. He’s just a gangster.

I mean, with the crooks, in a way, there was an ethic. You know, you had a mark, there were rules to the game. It was a dark part of human nature, but there was always honor among thieves.

Trump is a crook, but he’s a bad one. I think he’s more of a sociopath. He decided that it doesn’t matter what he lies about or how much he lies. If that makes him happy in the moment or if it gets more people excited about him, he doesn’t care. He is beyond shame.

I remember when I was playing a sociopath, a guy who was a serial killer in Alaska, and I didn’t know how to play the guy, right? I didn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing. While I was doing it, my eyes kept betraying all my sympathies and dislikes towards the behavior he was doing.

I listened to the tapes [of him during] interrogation, and at one point I heard her voice crack, and I realized that it was really just her ego.

Trump is the kind of person who doesn’t know he has a soul. I don’t think there is empathy, [or] sympathy, I don’t think there is anything in there.

I think he’s having a good time. I think he draws all the attention to himself. He gets to talk about himself. He can invent any reality he wants. He manages to impose, to dominate, to be punitive, to be cruel. He gets to do the things he loves to do.

So I don’t see him as a Henry Gondorff in The bite. I don’t see him as a crook. I see him as a sociopath.

Q: How did we get to this place, where someone like Donald Trump is the President of the United States?

Cossack: Do you remember when Bernie Sanders went to meet The New York Times Editorial board? It’s, you know, The New York Times, law? They’re supposed to be on top of all this depravity, chasing the odds out of the gutters.

they cut like a reality show. As Bernie said, “Hey, you know, I’m not your usual friendly type. I’m not going to call you on Thursday to tell you that I love you. They cut the very uncomfortable faces of the editorial board, and they had kind of reality music.

I thought, “This is what it is, the whole culture. Everything is spectacle. There is no longer a sense of professional ethics, fiduciary responsibility or accountability to others at the highest level.

On a daily basis, in the streets, in the communities, we see it everywhere. I think things have been transactional for so long that everyone feels like as long as they have theirs, what do they care?

Looks like there was kind of a slow descent into this kind of madness.

Q: How do we get out of this mess?

Cossack: Usually everyone tells you that you have to separate church and state. But I think the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do you believe that you have a soul? “

If you believe that you have a soul, while other people have a soul, then you have to start looking in a different way. You have to start by not worshiping capitalism. You have to start having different values.

The guy I read and studied, Rudolf Steiner, says that we live in a time of materialism, and our thinking is even materialistic, and we need to know spiritual truths and spiritual laws, and if we don’t learn them or adopt them of our own free will, we will have cataclysms.

Right now, we need to be shaken out of our materialistic, self-centered view of the world, where people are either customers or brands. Capitalism will sell you the rope with which to hang you, then make you pay for the coffin and pass the debt onto your children.

So people need to realize that human beings have souls and we need to treat each other with compassion and grace.

And by the way, we have to tax billionaires! I mean, they have to pay! Michael Bloomberg has to pay! Law? All these guys have to pay.

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