Serendipity: ¡Viva La Muerte!

Some of the Issues from the Spanish Civil War Seem Very Contemporary

I am currently reading the First Edition of Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1961).  Many issues between the Nationalists (Franco’s Fascists) and the Republic (very like our Democratic Party) seem to ring equally true for today’s overcharged political environment. On August 15, 1936, the Nationalists adopted the flag of the Spanish monarchy and made a number of speeches. After Generalissimo Francisco Franco and Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Serra, there was a third speaker:

Next to speak was [José] Millán Astray, a man from whom there seemed to be more shot away than there was of flesh remaining. He had but one leg, one eye, one arm, few fingers left on his one remaining hand. ‘We have no fear of them [the Leftists],’ he shouted, ‘let them come and see what we are capable of under this flag.’ A voice was heard crying‘¡Viva Millán Astray!’ ‘What’s that?’ cried the General, ‘no vivas for me! But let them all shout with me “¡Viva la muerte! ¡Abajo la inteligencia!”’ (Long live death! Down with intelligence!). The crowd echoed this mad slogan. He added, ‘Now let the Reds come! Death to them all!’ So saying, he flung his cap into the crowd amid extraordinary excitement. [Page 272]

Fascist General Millán Astray

How like the Fascists to praise death and downgrade intelligence. “Don’t think too much,” they seem to be saying. “Just follow orders!” The Spanish left was like our Democrats: A Circular firing squad. There was the CNT (Anarcho-Syndicalist Trades Union), the FAI (an Anarchist secret society), POUM (Trotskyites), PSUC (the United Catalan Socialist-Communist Party), and UGT (the Socialist Trade Union). On the Left were militias, propagandists, the International Brigades from all over Europe and the Americas, and a whole plethora of irreconcilable beliefs and opinions. On the Right was the Spanish Army led by Franco and supplies and manpower from Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

Where Are Our Courageous Reporters?

Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

The late 1960s were a bad time for the United States. We were in a fiercely unpopular war in Viet Nam. I had gotten radicalized and joined the Resistance, which not only protested the war but attempted to interfere with the draft induction process. I returned by draft card to the Selective Service System in Cleveland and told them politely what they could do with it. Running for president that year was Richard Nixon for the Republicans, with Democratic candidates to be chosen later in Chicago.

Reporting on that convention was Norman Mailer, who within a short time became like a god to me. (So he went off the rails a bit later: He was human after all.) Mailer had come out with a number of nonfiction books that I read and re-read religiously. They included:

  • Advertisements for Myself (1959)
  • The Presidential Papers (1963)
  • Cannibals and Christians (1966)
  • Armies of the Night (1968)
  • Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968)

I just finished re-reading Miami and the Siege of Chicago, which made me shake my head sadly that there was no such quality reportage during the ongoing train wreck that is Trumpf. Mailer died ten years ago, and the only other candidate—Hunter S. Thompson—blew out his brains two years earlier. There are thousands of voices raised against Trumpf, but they seem tinny in comparison to what Mailer and Thompson were capable of.

Take this prophetic quote from Mailer’s description of Nixon’s convention win in Miami:

Of course, Republicans might yet prove frightening, and were much, if not three-quarters, to blame for every ill in sight, they did not deserve the Presidency, never, and yet if democracy was the free and fair play of human forces then perhaps the Wasp must now hold the game in his direction for a time. The Left was not ready, the Left was years away from a vision sufficiently complex to give life to the land, the Left had not yet learned to talk across the rugged individualism of the more Rugged in America, the Left was still too full of kicks and pot and the freakings of sodium amytol and orgy, the howl of electronics and LSD. The Left could also find room to grow up. If the Left had to live through a species of political exile for four or eight or twelve good years [try 50!], it might even be right. They might be forced to study what was alive in the conservative dream. For certain the world could not be saved by technology or government or genetics, and much of the Left had that still to learn.

Perhaps the biggest lesson they had to learn was unity. The Left is known today as a circular firing squad, wounding itself repeatedly over minor issues and leaving the major ones to the Right.

Chicago Riot Police 1968

The conservatives of 1968 were nothing compared to the Alt-Right, the Ku Klux Lan, and the other fascist forces brought into prominence by Trumpf’s 2016 victory. I will write what I can, when I can, but I am far from being either a Mailer or a Thompson.

And in this, our time of maximum danger, the media have failed America by bowing instead to the wishes of their corporate overlords.

 

Interdict

Why I Probably Should Not Go Into Politics

Why I Probably Should Not Go Into Politics

In Catholic Canon Law, the Pope may ban an individual person or even an entire area from participation in the rites of the church. During the Middle Ages, there were many such interdicts, especially when heresy was involved.

If I were elected President of the U.S., I would place under interdict certain Congressional Districts or even States whose voters have habitually elected Tea Party types to lead them. Instead of depriving the residents of participation in the church, however, I would cancel government contracts, prohibit certain senators and representatives from being paid, and remove accreditation from local colleges and universities. That would be tough on Maine, Wisconsin, and Kansas—but if the kids helped oust Governors LePage, Walker, and Brownback respectively, and perhaps even tar and feather them, and ride them out on a rail, it would be worth the effort.

That, of course, would be after I arranged for the messy execution of conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and a few dozen others. Oh, and also most of the people associated with the Trump for President campaign.

I’m afraid I would not be a very constitutional president, but it would certainly make me feel that justice has been served.

The above image, called “Interdict,” appropriately enough, is the work of FotoN-Ike.

Antinomians, Ranters and Republicans

We Are Reliving a Strange Period in English History

We Are Reliving a Strange Period in English History

The Seventeenth Century in England saw some strange happenings. Not only was King Charles I tried for treason and beheaded, but there was an outbreak of religious eccentricity that was at times chaotic and even lunatic. According to Christopher Hill in his book The World Turned Upside-Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution:

From, say, 1645 to 1653, there was a great overturning, questioning, revaluing, of everything in England. Old institutions, old beliefs, old values came in question. Men moved easily from one critical group to another, and a Quaker of the early 1650s had far more in common with a Leveller, a Digger or a Ranter than with a modern member of the Society of Friends.

Levellers? Diggers? Ranters? These were just some of the strange splinter groups that flourished during that time. There were also Fifth Monarchists, Seekers, Mechanic Preachers, Grindletonians, Millenarians, Familists, Brownists, and scores of other types of sectaries that were more or less disorganized, frequently localized (especially in the North of England). Some cherry-picked the Bible; others cast the Bible away as more or less a distraction.

What was common to all these groups was that they were antinomian. According to the Theopedia,

Antinomianism comes from the Greek meaning lawless. In Christian theology it is a pejorative term for the teaching that Christians are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality. Few, if any, would explicitly call themselves “antinomian,” hence, it is usually a charge leveled by one group against an opposing group.

Antinomianism may be viewed as the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation. In this sense, both antinomianism and legalism are considered errant extremes.

Ranter Document, Illustrating Free Love

Ranter Document, Illustrating Free Love

Essentially, antinomians believe that the law comes from inside their minds and hearts, not from any received set of beliefs. It does not matter what many or most people believe. Hill continues:

In the following April troopers in Suffolk were saying they would never disband ‘till we have cut all the priests’ throats.’ Three months earlier, when a group of Presbyterian ministers visited the New Model Army at Oxford, ‘the multitude of soldiers in a violent manner called upon us to prove our calling … whether those that are called ministers had any more authority to preach in public than private Christians which were gifted.’

All men and women, if they had the inner light, were their own prophets and preachers.

Now translate some of this behavior into our own time, with Truthers and Tea Partiers and climate change deniers. The U.S. House of Representatives has dozens of members who thing that whatever they believe is, ipso facto, true. Everything in the news, in magazines, on the Internet is in effect a giant conspiracy and that only they know what is true.

Of course, our own Ranters tend to be Conservative Republicans—though God knows what they are conserving.

A Brummagem Martyrdom

Kim Davis, Going for the Brass Ring

Kim Davis, County Clerk, Going for the Brass Ring

It’s not often that I have occasion to quote Oprah Winfrey, but this time it fits: “If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.” The clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky—Kim Davis—is making her run for fame as it is understood in the Tea Party and Evangelical Christian worlds. By refusing a Supreme Court order to allow for same-sex marriages, irrespective of her religious beliefs, she is seeking a brummagem martyrdom which will enable her to cash in by appealing to her ever-outraged fellow religious and political cohorts. At the same time, she will find herself swirling in clouds of infamy which will probably sink her little boat.

Gay Activist Dan Savage has the lady all figured out:

I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in. I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.

If Kim Davis aims to be the champion of heterosexual marriage, she has certainly enough experience, having been wed four times and borne children out of wedlock. By gum, it’s great to be born again: It wipes the slate clean and allows one to commit fresh infamies without being called to account.

I think she is following the example of the twenty-odd Republican presidential candidates, most of whom don’t stand a ghost of a chance (Thank God!) running this country … into the ground. As long as American political conservatism is going through this vampire phase, people like Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee will be able to make a living by lining their wallets with cash from the voters in the Bible States who persist in being ignorant, outraged, and relatively well off. Look at Sarah Palin: Why should she have to work at being Governor of Alaska when she get get people to pay to listen to her?

 

Time to Climb Off the Carousel

Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative—Just Going Round in Circles

Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative—Just Going Round in Circles

You’ve probably learned by now that political labels in American politics are primarily for assigning blame, whether due or not. That’s why I decided to not to write any more outrage pieces on my blog site. It was too easy to react to stupid things the other side was saying.

Oh, I’m still a Democrat, but as my hero Will Rogers once said: “I am not a member of any organized party—I am a Democrat.” But I do not accept phone calls from any political party. And I’ve contacted the Democratic fund raisers who were bombarding my e-mail to stop it. Of course, Republicans and Libertarians know better than to try to contact me for any reason. I have my doubts about Democrats (a.k.a. The Circular Firing Squad), but I like the other guys even less. I figure that if Faux News has something good to say about anybody, they’re probably a serial child molester and would-be tyrant.

Do I consider myself a Liberal? Not really. Fiscally, I’m a bit on the Conservative side. My goal is not to see the Federal, State, and Local governments all spend themselves into bankruptcy; but I think that we can’t neglect the poor, the way that many troglodyte Conservatives advocate.

All the political labels have resulted only in a lot of Americans hating one another solely for their stated political affiliation. I’d prefer to judge people on the way they act.

 

Letting Entertainers Control Your Thinking?

They Make Money from Your Indecision

They Make Money from Your Indecision

We live in a country in which we increasingly let paid entertainers do our thinking for us. As a result, we are advocating our favorite stand-ins against the entertainers we don’t like. It could be as simple as watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, laughing, and leaving the whole argument as, “What you said!” Or it could be as nefarious as chewing our fingernails in fear listening to Glenn Beck (above) or Sean Hannity and going to bed angry.

Remember: These people are all well-paid entertainers. They aim at a particular demographic and work on them so as to keep them coming back for more.

I used to be very upset with these fake pundits, particularly those on the right. If you go back and look at my earlier postings are the tags “conservatives,” “republicans,” or “tea-party,” you will find that I had spent a lot of time getting exercised by people who were just doing what they were paid to do. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t care whether I hate his guts, no more than the actors who played James Bond villains like Auric Goldfinger or Ernst Stavro Blofeld care whether audiences detested them. These guys are all paid villains. It’s what they do for a living.

To uneducated yokels who have been “left behind” in dying rural areas, they are calls to action coming as if from the mouths of angels. Scores of our fellow Americans have been killed because people with a tenuous grasp on their sanity have decided to pick up their guns and take direct action. Rush didn’t tell them to shoot anybody. Glenn didn’t do it, nor did Sean. Even Wayne La Pierre of the NRA didn’t give his blessing. They’re innocent of all wrongdoing, while these poor loonies are surprised that people not only hate and fear them (instead of showering them with candy and flowers) but want to see them receive the maximum punishment.

The danger of using stand-ins to do all our thinking for us is that we could make the mistake of thinking the whole world believes in what their particular set of entertainers say. When they suddenly discover how divided we are, it could come as a serious shock.

So, Democrats, watch Faux News for a while just to see the snake oil that is being sold to the feeble-minded. And wingnuts, stay up late and watch Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher just to see that people may think differently from you.

Take away those blinders, and see the mess we’re in!