Why I Dread Elections

On Tuesday, June 7, California will hold a primary election. It used to be that primary elections were relatively boring affairs. No more! It seems that every candidate, every proposition is fought à l’outrance (to the death). Now that it seems that Trumpism is at war with reasonable governance, it seems that all of civilization is at stake, even in elections of judges, school board members, and dog catchers.

Every day for the last six weeks, my mailbox has been stuffed with four-color political puff pieces printed on card stock. The biggest offender is billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who is running to replace termed-out mayor Eric Garcetti, who is currently in limbo regarding Biden’s selection of him as ambassador to India. Not that I liked Garcetti, who was much too comfortable with real estate interests. And if I didn’t like Garcetti, I should vote to replace him with a real estate developer. Gack!! Ptttui!

If the onslaught were limited to my mailbox, it would be half tolerable. But now my phone rings several times a day with a SPAM RISK indicator, mostly either politicians, political groups, or so-called opinion surveys—none of which I answer.

If American politics winds up being a months-long assault on the patience of voters, no wonder I feel a sense of dread when elections are in the offing.

Naturally, the 24/7 news media are also affected by this intense combativeness. In addition, there are all the negative political TV and radio ads, which succeed only at increasing the sense of malaise. I know that we spend an inordinate amount of money on our elections. I would propose adding another expense: mailing every voter a supply of barf bags.

Doubling Down

Russian Troops in Ukraine

The term comes from the card game Blackjack when a player doubles the bid in exchange for one more card to be drawn. Politically, it means to become more tenacious, zealous, or resolute in a position or undertaking, particularly if it is risky. It seems to be ever more common, as if everyone is deathly afraid of backing down, even if the road ahead is full of traps.

I have made a number of mistakes in my life, but I have rarely been persistent in my errors. True, I might have become a soulless millionaire instead of a mere survivor. But, in my book, surviving is a good thing.

For people like Vladimir Putin or Donald J. Trump, surrender is never an option. Trump may well wind up in prison, and it is entirely possible for Putin to be forcibly escorted out of the Kremlin. But for the time being, they will remain resolute as if they were immortal and all-powerful—which they aren’t.

Stupid in Their Straightforwardness

Scene During the Siege of Sarajevo, Bosnia

Ethnic hatreds have in the last hundred years led to some of the most barbarous episodes in European history. I have just finished reading Brian Hall’s account of the beginning of the fragmentation of Yugoslavia into independent republics, The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia. Again and again, he is brought up short by the mutual hatred of Croats, Serbs, Muslims, and the other peoples of that sad Balkan land. Toward the end of his book, the author muses:

It had now become a truism among journalists, including veterans of Vietnam, Angola, Cambodia, and the Gulf War, that Yugoslavia was the most dangerous assignment any of them ever had, the principal reason being that the Serbs seemed to be deliberately targeting them. Croats and Albanians had a history of getting what they wanted by ingratiating themselves, sometimes shamelessly. with one or another of the great powers, and so, by extension, their natural inclination was to seduce journalists. But the Serbs, used to relying on themselves, felt such calculation was beneath them, so at first they had simply shut western journalists out, while Croats and Albanians had taken them to dinner…. Then, when the Serbs perceived in western newspaper reports what any fool could have predicted, namely a Croatian and Albanian point of view, they could only conclude that journalists were enemy agents, and the only response they could think of was to start shooting. In short, of all the elements of the Serbs’ self-serving self-image, the truest was that they were stunningly stupid in their straightforwardness.

The weird thing was that Croats and Serbs spoke the same language—Serbo-Croatian—though they insisted that Serbian and Croatian were separate languages. Croatians were mostly Catholic, and Serbians were mostly Orthodox. The Croatians used the Roman alphabet, while the Serbians used the Cyrillic alphabet.

Frank Gorshin in the “Let That Be Your Last Battle” Episode of Star Trek

I am reminded of the famous “Let That Be Your Last Battle” episode of the original Star Trek, in which space aliens whose faces were black and white were in a life and death struggle with those whose faces were white and black.

The Serbs were ultimately the biggest losers in the Yugoslav breakup because they constantly whined that other people did not understand them; at the same time they acted in such a way that nobody could side with them. The defining moment of their history is their loss to the Turks at the battle of Kossovo in 1389 AD—very much like many Southerners see their defining moment as their Civil War loss to the Union.

So beware of ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural prejudices. When they continue unchecked, violence is the inevitable result.

Manageable Chaos

A Hindu devotee shows his painted back with a message stating “GST (Global Service Tax) – A new boon or a lasting burden?” ahead of the rollout of the new tax in India, during the annual Rath Yatra, or chariot procession, in Ahmedabad, India 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave

According to sociologist Ashis Nandy, writing in 1990:

In India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos, between humane and inhuman anarchy, and between tolerable and intolerable disorder.

I am currently reading V. S. Naipaul’s book India: A Million Mutinies Now (1991). It is the last of the late author’s three books on India. The others are An Area of Darkness (1964) and India: A Wounded Civilization (1977). Born in Trinidad of Indian ancestry, Vidia Naipaul was a British citizen who kept trying to understand the land of his forebears.

India is a land of multiple languages, multiple religions, multiple political factions, multiple ethnicities. In a word it is a land of multiple multiplicities. And it is becoming ever more centrifugal as time goes on. Hardly a day passes without news of massacres, rapes, terrorism, and murders directed at the other guy.

V S Naipaul (1932-2018)

In trying to understand India, Naipaul has helped all of us see more clearly what is an increasingly shattered society, yet one that manages to soldier on despite everything. I, who am so despairing of the split between the Trumpists and everyone else in the United States, am truly amazed that India is able to manage its own chaos so well. For now, anyway.

Following the Funnies

I have always loved reading the comics page in whatever newspaper my family or I ever got. Oh, I would scan the news first, and even the editorial page, but it was always the funnies that got my closest attention. You see, the news stories were to my mind, more subject to distortion than the funnies. The funnies are a clear indication what people are really thinking, but the news stories are typically designed to keep readers tense and upset.

On December 3, the Los Angeles Times got into my bad books by canceling one of my favorite strips, “9 Chickweed Lane” by Brooke McEldowney. It was replaced a couple weeks later by “Lu Ann,” which is considerably more tepid in every way.

And what excited the ire of some woke nincompoop leading to the decision? It was the following pane from the December 1 offering:

Huh? Pen Sallywright shoots down a Jap zero, commenting, “He was in the wrong hemisphere. He had it coming if you get my drift.” Now this is all part of a fantasy involving an RAF officer named Charge Chucker, and a mysterious, sexy Polish (and possibly space alien) spy who wears a ray gun holstered to her thigh. You can tell it’s a fantasy because Pen Sallywright shoots down a Zero with a hand weapon, and because she’s like from outer space.

I really do hate people who are too effing woke for their own good. I still read “9 Chickweed Lane” on a website which can be accessed here.

There used to be some awfully boring comics years back when “Gasoline Alley,“ “Mary Worth,” and “Rex Morgan MD” were running. But there were some great strips as well, such as “Pogo” and “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.” Ah well, times change.

Among the Orc-Minded

I have been spending some time in Middle Earth the last few days, watching Sir Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. It made me think of much I don’t like about my fellow Americans, particularly white males. With their scruffy look, tattoos, and exaggerated machismo, I see many of them as little better than Tolkien’s orcs. Take this quote from The Lord of the Rings:

Much of the same sort of degraded and filthy talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong. [Italics mine]

Look at our movie heroes. How many of them remind you of the figure above? Sly Stallone, Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Russell Crowe—all could be cast as Middle Earth villains. The tent-dwelling homeless population of Los Angeles all look like orcs. It’s a look they tend to strive for: The “No one messes with me” look. I mean, who would want to? Even the police are not eager to make contact with males who look mean and diseased at the same time. Would you even want to share a police cruiser with one of them?

As for myself, I’m not into aggressive squalor. I’d prefer to throw in my lot with the elves, hobbits, wizards, dwarves, and men of Middle Earth.

Return from Ecuador

La Plaza Grande in Quito, Ecuador

I returned from my last vacation in South America under a dark cloud. It was November 9, 2016. I had spent a sleepless night at the Viejo Cuba Hotel on La Niña in Mariscal watching the election returns on CNN. I could not believe my eyes. Twenty times I would shut off the television and try to drift off to sleep; and twenty times I sprang awake and turned it back on because I could not believe my eyes.

Despite my dislike for Hillary Clinton, I had gone to considerable trouble to vote for her before flying off to Ecuador. I had to drive all the way to Norwalk on the I-105 in a heinous traffic jam. And now I would have to return to the United States to see my country attempt to survive the next four years under a malicious buffoon.

I managed to compose myself enough to take a taxi to Mariscal Sucré International Airport and catch my return flight on Copa Airlines to Los Angeles via Panama City.

When I landed at LAX, though, I was conscious of being in a different country than the one I had left three weeks before. Quite suddenly, all kinds of disreputable figures emerged from their hidey-holes into the broad daylight. And now, even though the Lardfather is no longer president, I feel the ground has shifted beneath my feet. The look on my face is of a skeptical vigilance.

A Hyphenated American

Although I was born in the United States, I prefer to think of myself as a hyphenated American, specifically a Hungarian-American. My native language is Magyar (Hungarian). I did not speak any amount of English until I was six or seven years old. Something happens when you grow up as a bi-lingual person: You find yourself not quite so committed to the land of your birth.

Let me be more direct: I find myself intensely disliking the political and religious beliefs of approximately half of our population, such as the young idiots in the above photo. At present, I am not likely to fly on any American air carriers because most of their passengers are Americans, and I don’t want to be involved in any violence in the air because some yahoo refuses to wear a mask as required by law. I feel safer on a foreign carrier.

When some stranger addresses me in public, I invariably reply to them in Hungarian. The last instance was on a commuter train on which two African-Americans were arguing about Covid-19, and one of them solicited my opinion. I politely told them, in Magyar, that I didn’t (really: wouldn’t) speak their language.

I typically do not celebrate national holidays because I find them more productive of stress than of enjoyment, particularly Christmas, which has evolved into some sort of national potlatch ritual.

Perhaps these responses of mine are the result of a growing lack of faith in my fellow Americans. Particularly white males, though the Republican Party has given us some really monstrous travesties of women.

Does that mean I am withdrawing in any way? Not really. I vote in every election. And I try to remain close to my friends. I’ll stick to being a Hungarian-American, even though the American side of things is going to hell in a hand basket.

The State of Jefferson

Just What We Need: Another Rural Republican State with Two Senators

Although the California gubernatorial recall election failed by an almost two-to-one margin, there are a large number of rural Californians who have MAGA tattooed over their hearts who want to secede from California so that they could get their needs met. And what are those needs? In a word, anything that would outrage us Libtards. These are areas that voted for Trump and would like to see city people washed away to sea.

I can’t see why any Democrat would vote to split the state in two, thereby giving the Republicans a majority in the Senate and two more electoral votes to ascribe to the Lardfather in the presidential election of 2024.

Do you see any major population centers in this agglomeration of rural counties? Redding? Eureka? Crescent City? Up against that you have Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno, and maybe two dozen other cities larger than anything in the “State of Jefferson.”

I have a theory about this doomed scheme:

Proposed Flag of the State of Jefferson

The Great Seal of the putative State of Jefferson reminds me of a brand of Mexican Beer. Dos Equis is, to my mind, an excellent beer, but it will rot your mind if you drink too much of it:

Look Familiar?

I suppose Dos Equis (XX) beer is better than Budweiser, but I doubt that a case of cerveza is grounds for re-doing the Great State of California—even if there are a lot of disgruntled ranchers who can’t win a statewide election.

The California Recall

The Leading Republican Contender in the Attempt to Unseat Governor Newsom

Tomorrow, we will discover whether our mostly popular governor will be unseated by a Republican shock jock, or manage to hold his seat. If he is unseated, he will be replaced by someone who does not have his vote-drawing ability.

It is not a good sign that Larry Elder is complaining that he will lose as a result of an unfair election … before the votes are even tabulated! I don’t see where that makes any sense; but then, very little that the Republican Party makes any sense at all, unless one obtains power by any means necessary—fair or foul.

Recall elections are one aspect of California politics that I would like to see amended. In the race to unseat Gavin Newsom, there were a total of 46 candidates, none of whom are qualified to govern the most populous state in the Union. The field is in fact so lackluster that it must require very few signatures to qualify.

One candidate, Holly L. Baade (D) describes her contribution as “Leadership for a brighter tomorrow.” Then there is Angelyne (No Party), the Billboard Queen, famous only for advertising herself on billboards for several decades. A Green Party candidate, Dan Kapelovitz, only says, “Can you dig it?” (Answer: No.) Another, Adam Papagan (No Party) says only, “Love U.” (Love not returned.)

No Way, Angelyne!

The politicians we elect to power are by no means perfect. And yes, Gavin Newsom has made some horrible mistakes. Does that mean we have to replace him with someone who is even less qualified, less perfect for the role?

I can only hope that none of the 46 even comes close to unseating Governor Newsom when the ballots are counted.