The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

American Flag Pin

Thanks to the current occupant of the White House, I am feeling less patriotic than ever. I have come to associate the ubiquitous flag pins that Republican politicians wear with the excesses of the Trump administration. As Dr. Samuel Johnson noted, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I don’t believe that for members of the older generation who have fought for our country, but for younger people, especially politicians, who use it to identify themselves as racists, white nationalists, saboteurs, and looters—in a word, Republicans. It is a symbol the course of being degraded beyond all recognition.

I am feeling out of touch with American voters. Can I trust them to actually love their country and send the Trump administration down to ignominious defeat? Not entirely, especially in certain parts of the country where politics is a form of resentment and regional hatred, especially against voters who live in large cities. It is the politics of Hooterville versus the politics of New York and California. (Though even New York and California have isolated pockets of atavistic tendencies.)

It has gotten to the point that I feel alienated from American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. (I now vote No Party Preference.) I don’t even classify myself as being Caucasian any more. As a Hungarian-American, I am Finno-Ugric, or “Other Race.” (Most of my rage is directed at White voters.)

I hope that this is only a phase I am going through until the politics of the United States returns to normal—that is, if it ever does.

Of Ideological Purity

Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Tower

One of the reasons the Democrats have such a hard time winning the hearts and minds of voters for the presidency is that they hamstring themselves with an insistence on ideological purity—even where it doesn’t matter. Take the issue of nuclear power, for instance. We know from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima that nuclear power can be deadly. So instead of improving the safety of nuclear power, many U.S. politicians have decided that all nuclear power is potentially deadly.

In a rush to legitimize the LGBTQRSTUV &c &c population, we have created a minefield on the subject of gender identity. And even more, with the #MeToo movement, while attempting to eliminate sexual harassment from the social sphere and workplace, we have created another minefield—one that has ensnared such relative innocents as Joe Biden and Al Franken.

To What Extent Is This Serious Sexual Harassment?

Granted that Biden’s and Franken’s touchie-feelie incidents are in poor taste, to what extent have they they done anything more than remind us that sometimes people can behave inappropriately while not at the same time criminally. Do such acts merit political banishment for all time?

Now we are finding that—if ever one went around in blackface for any reason and irrespective of time period—they are racist. Again, I just think such persons were being merely inappropriate.

Consider that our current president is one of the most inappropriate human beings on the planet. And he has gleefully admitted to behaving boorishly on issues relating to sex, race, religion, and just about any other issue about which people are insensitive. So why are Democrats doing Trump’s work for him, by banishing politicians for venial sins while the major malefactor laughs up his sleeve?

 

Real Genius

Hank Williams (1923-1953)

Where is the real artistic genius of America to be found? Sad to say, it’s not literature. It’s not painting or sculpture. Near as I can say, what the United States will be most remembered for is music—not only jazz, blues, soul, bluegrass, rockabilly, zydeco, gospel, country & western, but much of rock & roll as well. Names like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, and a host of others will answer the question: What has America produced that will stand the test of time?

As a self-proclaimed intellectual, I am aware that such a title cuts no mustard in the U S of A. Far from it. It’s almost a term of opprobrium.

Mississippi John Hurt (1892-1966)—A Favorite of Mine

Curiously, in such a racist country as ours, it’s the only place that comfortably cuts through the racial divide.Black artists copied from the whites, though not nearly as much as white artists copied from African-Americans.

Of course, there is no Nobel Prize for music. It registers in the heart—and, typically American, at the Box Office.

On the Bus

The MTA Santa Monica Blvd, #704 Express

Since I am now on a fixed income, I avoid expensive parking lot charges. For some of the places I hang out, I take the bus: It only costs 35¢ a ride rather than, say, the $25.00 or more it would cost to park downtown or $10.00 it would cost at the Fairfax Farmers Market. Today, I had to endure the abusive chatter of a Tourette’s Syndrome bum who was serially abusing all the passengers on the bus. Fortunately, he disembarked in Beverly Hills, where—no doubt—he started abusing the tourists who congregate there.

The Many Aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome, On the Surface and Below

I have found that Los Angeles has a fair number of angry African-American homeless persons who are angry and verbally abusive. Several months ago, on the same bus line, a bum started shouting at me. Angrily, in Hungarian, I told him I hoped he would be f*cked in the ass by a horse. Not hearing me right, he thought I was using the N-word at him, which is something I would never do. That ended with the police being called by the driver and the bum being evicted from the bus.

This time, I saw this bum approaching from a hundred feet away, enraged at the world and various unspecified rednecks. I knew he was going to be trouble. Fortunately, this particular bozo did not pick on me in particular; so I was able to maintain a neutral pose.

When I read the papers about the growing number of homeless in Los Angeles, I rarely see anything about mental illness and drug abuse. And yet those are the dominant characteristics of most homeless. It is not shelters they want (that would impinge on their freedom, such as it is), but either mental healthcare or drug treatment—that is, if they would submit to treatment at all.

 

Pride, Courage … and Justice

L.A.’s African American Firefighter Museum

Over the last few years, I have become a connoisseur of small museums. Instead of taking on a broad swath of subject matter, they appear to be restricted to a small, concentrated area. When they succeed, one finds that you have been led to confront larger issues than you originally anticipated. So it is with the African American Firefighter Museum at 14th Street and Central Avenue in downtown Los Angeles.

I expected to hear stories of pride and courage as firefighters sacrifice to save lives and property, but I came away with a sobering consciousness of American racism. For many years, black firefighters were restricted to two engine companies in the African American neighborhoods south of Downtown L.A., one of which, shown above, has been converted into a museum. Finally, in the 1950s, the LAFD was to be integrated. Consequently, existing black firefighters were distributed among hitherto white only engine companies.

Displays on the Second Floor of the Museum

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times commemorating the opening of the museum:

Only those who were there would remember.

The way Wallace DeCuir entered the station and greeted his colleagues every morning, knowing they would ignore him.

The way Reynaldo Lopez kept his cool, even after a “Whites Only” sign was hung from the kitchen door.

The day someone smeared feces on Earnest Roberts’ pillow, and the other men watched.

And laughed.

The year was 1955. LAFD Fire Chief John H. Alderson said that the segregation policy was being implemented on schedule, but that it would take five years or more to “take” in all the fire stations. In the meantime, he did nothing to enforce the agency’s integration policy and was finally forced to take an early retirement.

Exhibits like this reminded me of the way things were in the 1950s, which we whites considered to be some sort of Golden Age. Yes, but not for everybody.

I sat for a couple of hours looking at a scrapbook of news stories from the 1950s of what black firefighters had to endure in order to work side by side with their white colleagues. In the end, I was appalled that the men who are charged with saving our lives and property have to endure as a result of the racism of their colleagues.

Los Angeles has four museums dedicated to firefighters. So far I have visited three of them, and one of them, this one, taught me some sobering lessons.

This Is Indeed Poway

Why the Synagogue Shooting Happened There

The mayor of Poway, California, Steve Vaus by name, went on the air to say that the synagogue shooting on the last day of Passover was not representative of Poway. “This is not Poway,” he said. I beg to differ from him.

My own personal experience of Poway was a negative one. When I worked for Urban Decision Systems in the 1990s, we had to let our secretary go: She was getting too old. Her family had her move to Poway, and I went to visit her there. My impression of the town north of San Diego was that it was a sterile racially homogeneous suburban upper class slum. I hated the place and could hardly wait to leave. And that was over twenty years ago!

Now this type of place is a natural for a racist, bigoted shooter. It is easy to develop a hatred for Jews or Muslims or immigrants or African-Americans—if everyone around you is lily white and drinks the same Kool Aid as you do. They’re all in the same bubble.

I’ve read an interesting article in The New Yorker about what the Chinese are doing to keep dissidents from embarrassing the government at inopportune times:

While Presidemt Xi Jinping played host to African dignitaries in the Great Hall of the People, the police played host to [dissident Zha Jianguo] at various scenic spots in the province of Hubei, about a thousand kilometers away. A number of other Beijing activists and civil-rights lawyers … were treated to similar trips….

This practice is known as bei lüyou, “to be touristed.”

I begin to think the Chinese have the right idea. White racists should “be touristed” for several weeks at a time, perhaps to South Africa or Honduras or Afghanistan or even Israel. The idea is that no white person should be so ensconced in his bubble that he does not understand how people who are different need not be conceived of as being threatening.

On my vacations, I have visited a number of what our Presidente would call “shithole countries.” I have come to admire the Latin-American peoples to the south of us. They have been excellent hosts during my travels and more knowledgeable about us than we typically are of them.

 

LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ

We’ll Have To See About Adding More Colored Stripes

What do minority groups (of any stripe) do to get back at people who give them a hard time? Very simple. They keep changing the officially approved name by which they are to be referred. Needless to say, that doesn’t make for open communication—especially as one is always uncertain if one is using the right term of address. For instance: Negro, Black, African-American. Or: Indian, Amerind, Native American.

For sexual preference, there are any number of mostly pejorative terms. What is Fred Astaire’s The Gay Divorcee really about? Can an American teenager see that film without wincing at its title?

That wince is now a feature of American life. It even extends to Latin America. I once wrote a blog mentioning Peruvian Indians. The next morning, I noticed a comment that the moniker I used is now considered racist and I should call them campesinos. What? Does that mean that all Peruvian farmers are descended from native peoples? That can’t be true, as I know there are Peruvians of Japanese extraction, many of whom are profitably engaged in agriculture. And where do all the Chinese vegetables at Peruvian chifas (Chinese restaurants) come from if not from Chinese farmers living in Peru?

The most ridiculous politically correct minority name by far is LGBTQ. The Q (for Queer) was added later. Why? Who likes the idea of being referred to as a Queer? That’s a term from the bad old days, no?

I predict that sexual minorities will not be successfully integrated into our culture until all these politically correct terms are trashed. Whatever dignity is gained from the term is lost by the unwillingness of the majority culture to engage on that level. And what about that flag with all the colors? It’s like the American flag in the old days when they added not only a new star but a new stripe every time a state joined the union. And besides, how many other colors can we add?