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.

Too Many Freedoms

Maybe Wee Need to Stop Desiring “Freedoms” That Were Never Guaranteed to Us

Look what happened to our Second Amendment. Somehow, the original text—“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”—became in the minds of our dimmest and most criminally inclined citizens an invitation to accumulate military grade weapons for non-militia use.

As school children, we all heard that we didn’t have the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Now I think almost half the population would disagree with this.

The outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic has created a whole slew of crypto-freedoms, such as the freedom to refuse Covid-19 vaccination or to wear a mask to protect oneself and others from the virus.

I have just finished reading a collection of Franz Kafka’s shorter works that were published during his lifetime. In one of the stories, entitled “A Report to an Academy,” we find this very germane discussion in a speech given by a talking ape:

I deliberately do not use the word “freedom.” I do not mean the spacious feeling of freedom on all sides. As an ape, perhaps, I knew that, and I have met men who yearn for it. But for my part I desired such freedom neither then nor now. In passing, may I say that all too often men are betrayed by the word freedom. And as freedom is counted among the most sublime feelings, so the corresponding disillusionment can be also sublime.

Take a look at the above picture of the January 6 insurrection by Trump’s followers at the Capitol in Washington. This insurrection was conducted by people who have decided to take a lie (that Trump won the 2020 election) and make it into a cause for revolt. Repeating a lie at the top of one’s voice, even when accompanied by violence, is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Such freedoms I can do without!

Disunited States

We Created a Situation in Which the States Are at War with One Another

The words of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution seem innocuous enough:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The United States of America didn’t suddenly come into being as a harmonious united country. Before there was a constitution, there was a document referred to as the Articles of Confederation, which were in force from 1781 until replaced by the Constitution in 1789. That initial document didn’t work out all that well because of some serious problems, such as:

  • Congress could not regulate trade
  • There was no uniform system of currency
  • The Federal Government (such as it was) had no power to tax
  • There was no independent judiciary, foreign affairs head, and no ability to deal with internal or external threats

In other words, the various states had all the power, and the Federal Government, virtually none. It seems to me that, even with the Constitution ratified by all the states, that some states still think they are in charge. That’s one of the major causes for the Civil War of 1861-1865—a conflict whose resolution has been partial at best.

Although I am a Citizen of the United States, there are some states which I would think twice before visiting; as I doubt but that my rights would be abridged.

When it comes to issues such as abortion, one can see clear cultural fault lines:

Foreigners visiting the United States are often surprised that, in some states, there is a different set of laws. If one is traveling from ocean to ocean, one could find oneself in a different legal situation not only from state to state, but sometimes from county to county—especially if you are trying to buy alcoholic beverages or marijuana products.

When traveling in Europe or Latin America, I faced no such situation, even in areas where there were strong cultural differences, such as in some of the islands off the coast of Scotland where the Wee Frees form a large part of the population.

It’s Already Here

Lone Fire Fighter in Midst of Rapidly Growing Brush Fire

We have become used to talking about climate change as something that’ll take place in the future. Sorry, but it’s here already. It’s not like the Cold War, when we were constantly afraid of a nuclear holocaust that never happened, because both sides acted fairly reasonably.

But this is not the same America any more. Half the voting population is cray-cray, thinking that Democrats eat babies in the nonexistent basements of pizza parlors (as qAnon believes). Yes, and water flows uphill; the earth is flat; and the sun revolves around the earth. Vladimir Putin looked and acted more reasonable than our last president, who sounds more and more demented every time he opens his mouth.

Who would ever have thought that we, as a country, could become a victim of Alzheimer’s? Yet, it appears that we have.

So what am I going to do about it? I will continue to vote reasonably even if the others won’t. They are accumulating very bad juju and will eventually pay the price for it. I have some faith that the world will eventually right itself even if we continue to make disastrous mistakes.

I guess that makes me an optimist. Who would have thunk it?

Greed

José Clemente Orozco Mural at Dartmouth College

So many of our problems as a nation are due to the institutionalization of greed in our culture. Even in our Declaration of Independence, we are declared to have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Originally, the text read “Property” instead of “the pursuit of Happiness.”

So here we are, with the 21st century well under way, admiring billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, as well as self-declared billionaires (but not really) like Donald J. Trump. As a people, we still believe the rich are job creators, even when they get rich by sending American jobs overseas, in which case they could be regarded as job destroyers. In the meantime, we are becoming poorer as a nation, even while believing the opposite.

When José Clemente Orozco painted his famous murals at Dartmouth College’s Baker Library, he was commenting on the betrayal of ideals in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, which came hard on the heels of the Porfiriato, the stifling military dictatorship of Don Porfirio Díaz, which ran from 1876 to 1910. He also painted elsewhere on campus, the so-called “Hovey Murals,” which were so controversial that they were painted over for offending wealthy alumni donors.

Small wonder that they weren’t offended by the above panel from the Baker Library murals.

The wealthy are correct to regard the United States as the land of opportunity. This opportunity, however, comes at a cost. We are too ready to enthrone greed as an American virtue while treating the American poor as somehow losers in the game of life.

Republicans

What Comes First? The Death of the Republican Party or the Death of Our Democracy?

As much as I hate talking about politics in America, I cannot shut up when I see one of our two political parties attempt to destroy the country even as they destroy their own party. It’s like a race to the bottom—that shit pit of death cults and failed states.

I can hardly believe that over 70 million Americans have drunk the Republicans’ poisoned Kool-Aid. I regret to say that the woman I love is one of them. Martine not only refuses to get the shots protecting against Covid-19, but she keeps trying to show me “evidence” from right-wing websites which the AM talk radio pundits cite for their over-the-air lies. Take a look at Natural Health News for its take Defending Health, Life and Liberty (followed, of course, by the obligatory American flag).

These people are the enemy. Follow their advice, and risk dying. Martine is convinced that the Covid shots are more dangerous than the disease they were formulated to fight. She says that her health is too fragile for the shots. How would she fare, however, if she contracted the coronavirus? Better? I don’t think so.

If Martine doesn’t want to take the vaccine, I’m not going to force her. But I have nothing but contempt for her “news” sources. The Republican cultists have created their own plastic bubble of destructive falsehoods in which they, and perhaps ultimately all of us, are weakening and perhaps failing.