America First?

Dragging Our Flag Down Into the Mire

Sometimes, I think the United States was destroyed by our victory in the Second World War. It seemed that we found ourselves alone at the top of the heap even as we were surrounded by countries in ruins. That’s when the hubris set in. We were free to make mistakes, lots of mistakes, while trumpeting our prowess.

In an article for The New York Review of Books for November 19, 2020, Pankaj Mishra wrote:

In Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006), Jonathan Lear writes of the intellectual trauma of the Crow Indians. Forced to move in the mid-nineteenth century from a nomadic to a settled existence, they catastrophically lost not only their immemorial world but also “the conceptual resources” to understand their past and present. The problem for a Crow Indian, Lear writes, wasn’t just that “my way of life has come to an end.” It was that “I no longer have the concepts with which to understand myself or the world…. I have no idea what is going on.”

It is no exaggeration to say that many in the Anglo-American intelligentsia today resemble the Crow Indians, after being successively blindsided by far-right insurgencies, an uncontainable pandemic, and political revolts by disenfranchised minorities. For nearly three decades after the the end of the cold war, mainstream politicians, journalists, and business people in Britain and the US repeatedly broadcast their conviction that the world was being knit together peaceably by their guidelines for capitalism, democracy, and technology. The United States itself appeared to have entered, with Barack Obama’s election, a “post-racial age,” and Americans seemed set, as President Obama wrote in Wired a month for Donald Trump’s election, to “race for new frontiers” and ”inspire the world.”

Well, that didn’t happen. We had Trump for four years, and suddenly it appeared that we were headed for the dissolution of everything we held dear, while dumbasses from Red States crawled out of their caves and began to shake the foundations of our democracy.

It’s not over yet by a long shot. The one sentence I remember from my high school civics textbook is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” So we had best wake up.

Three Modern Day Gods

Romain Gary (1914-1980), French writer, at his place the day before his suicide. Paris, on December 1st, 1980.

There I was, reading the August 21, 2020 issue of the Times Literary Supplement in an article on the Franco-Lithuanian novelist Romain Gary, I suddenly came upon a new pantheon for our times:

  • Totoche, the god of stupidity
  • Merzavka, the god of absolute ideas
  • Filoche, the god of bigotry

The article goes into greater detail:

Totoche is a red-arsed monkey, adored by all who hurry humanity towards destruction: dim politicians who thump tubs, pure scientists who release genies from bottles, social psychologists who lead us up blind alleys, and demagogues who shout and bully. Merzavka is a cossack who stands gleefully, horsewhip in hand, on heaps of corpses industrially produced by concentration camps and torture chambers. Half of us lick his boots and the other half live or die by the religious, political and moral ideologies by which he rules and kills. Filoche is a concierge waiting to pounce on petty infringements of house rules, a hyena scavenging for scraps of racism, intolerance and orthodoxy with which to justify lynchings, holy wars and persecution.

The article, entitled “Brought to Book,” was written by David Coward.

In many ways, Gary’s invented deities were to perfectly describe the United States during the Trump Administration, even though Gary himself had long since (1980) passed on.

Unwoke

It’s the Left’s Equivalent of Jewish Space Lasers

Do I think that Andrew Cuomo should be impeached for being clueless about women? No, because I think most males are clueless when it comes to women; and there do exist angry women who think they should have their heads chopped off. Even the bit about undercounting Covid-19 deaths of nursing home patients is sort of a peccadillo. Let’s face it, our former president would have raped the young women and murdered the nursing home patients through spineless inaction. And moreover, he would have gotten off scot-free.

By insisting that Cuomo be thrown out of the New York governor’s office, people are just being woke. For that, they get one million S&H Stamps, which can be exchanged for a knowing smirk and a small baggie of fresh dogshit.

While the right was inventing Jewish space lasers and Democrats abusing toddlers in shady pizza parlors, the left was, usual, setting up a circular firing squad.

… In Which Democrats Are the Only Casualties

One of the reasons I left the Democratic Party was that I was sick and tired of seeing good politicians fall by the wayside due to political correctness—people like Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. Who gets points for otiose political virtue? No one. We all lose (except for the Green Stamps).

So am I woke? For one thing, I would never use the term in reference to myself. I am no Mother Teresa. I do not wash the feet of lepers. All I do is try to make my way through the labyrinth without destroying myself or it.

Vastness Breeds Craziness

America Divided? Look to the Land and Its Myths

This evening, two thoughts came together in my mind with a kind of grim ferocity. On one hand, I am troubled by the 74 million voters who backed Trump in 2020. Where did they come from? And why?

On the other hand, I read a wonderful essay by Geoff Dyer entitled “Ranging Across Texas” in the July 17, 2020 issue of The Times Literary Supplement. Dyer is one of those writers whose words set me to thinking. Ostensibly, his essay is about his experience reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. In it he quotes V. S. Naipaul who, in writing about John Steinbeck, says, “A writer is in the end, not his books, but his myth. And that myth is in the keeping of others.”

My ideas on this are still not well formed, but I am thinking that there is something about the American landscape and its vastness that gives rise to the crazies who belong to the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the Proud Boys, and others. In the narrowness of the European continent, people have to work together at the risk of repeated mutual slaughters. Americans, however, can hole up in a small town in the middle of nowhere and be as crazy as loons.

America is vast, particularly the West and the Great Plains, where much of Trump’s support is concentrated. (The rest is in the South, where the Civil War is still being contested in slow motion.)

In one of his essays, McMurtry writes:

In time I came to feel that there ought to be some congruity between prose and landscape. You wouldn’t adopt a Faulknerian baroque if your story was to be set on the flat unbaroque plains of west Texas.

I remember my visits to Patagonia where, in the rain shadow of the Andes, where there is almost always a howling wind, there is a similar history of crime and even anarchy.

We don’t much celebrate Columbus Day any more, because we are becoming more acutely conscious of the fact that we massacred millions of Indians for their land. In Patagonia, that was even more of a crime: There are relatively few aborigines in Argentina after the “Conquest of the Desert” of General Julio Argentino Roca in the 1870s.

I guess we have always tried to paper over our crimes with fine thoughts. We just have to recognize, in the words of Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, “Hieronymo is mad agayne!”

21-Gun Salute

Trumpie Wants a 21-Gun Salute, Which Gives Me an Idea

Because he was naturally the greatest president we’ve ever had, Donald Trump wants a 21-gun salute upon leaving the White House. I concur, with the following condition: Aim low and right on target. That way, we could kill two birds with one stone.

The Man Without a Country

The USS Constitution at Sea

As we suddenly find ourselves in the position of fending off sedition and insurrection by a mob of moronic yokels, I find myself in the position of wanting to make a modest proposal. I am irked that these clowns who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were waving the American flag and wearing red, white, and blue even as if they tried to overthrow the government in favor of a criminal president who is about to leave Washington under a cloud.

My proposal is this: There is an 1863 story by Edward Everett Hale called “The Man Without a Country.” It is about a stubborn criminal convicted of treason who is forced to spend the rest of his life aboard American ships on which no officer or crewman is allowed to mention anything about the United States. Perhaps Trump could be joined on such a ship with the would-be insurgents who have been convicted.

What with the global coronavirus epidemic, I am sure there are a lot of substandard passenger ships that could be used for ferrying such prisoners around the world without setting foot back on American soil. It would probably be cheaper than sending them to a Federal prison, and no effort need be made to have fancy food and cocktails or entertainment of any sort.

Hale’s story made an impression on me when I was young. I even remember having a Classic Comic Book based on it.

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909)

This would a a fitting fate for adherents of QAnon, the “Proud Boys,” and other troublemakers who have forgotten what a good deal they had in living in a democracy—one which they intended to wantonly destroy.

Not a Revolution

The Start of the French Revolution in 1789: The Oath on the Tennis Court

Sorry for continuing in a political vein, but the events of the last week have infuriated and energized me. The bozos who invaded the Capitol last Wednesday were not on any mission to represent the voters of the United States. In fact, they were attempting to disenfranchise the majority of American voters who had decided they had enough of Donald Trump and his cheapjack presidential administration.

Trump made much of the fact that 74 million voters were behind him. He totally ignored the fact that 81 million voters were against him. During his entire presidency, Trump only cared for the people that supported him; all the others were nasty haters. He never tried to increase the number of his supporters. Instead, he kept going back to the states that supported him to hold massive rallies.

Has he ever held a rally in Los Angeles? No. He has few supporters here, and lots of enemies (including me).

I fear that Monday, January 20, will see a rather tense inauguration for the presidency of Joe Biden. I certainly hope that he is backed up by armed military units that will be prepared to fire on violent demonstrators, and not the Capitol Police. Trump’s supporters will do nothing for me; they will do nothing for California; they will do nothing for the majority of Americans who voted him out of office.

After 1789, the French Revolution became bloody; but it did get rid of a privileged aristocracy that was bleeding the nation and a clueless king that was as dumb as a post.

Did I say “clueless king”? Hmm, reminds me of Trump. Bring on the guillotine!

A Trump Prezidenchul Library?

The Massive Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA

No, there isn’t currently a Trump Presidential Library, nor are there any plans under way to build one. There is an interesting story on the subject in the December 30, 2020 issue of the Palm Beach Post. Some interesting points are raised:

“Everything about the Trump presidency has been unconventional,” said historian Robert Watson at Lynn University. “To the point where I’ve been joking with some friends that of mine that we are going to have to rewrite all the textbooks because he has violated everything we said, what every textbook said, was a truism of the office.”

And consider, too, that as of December 30, there was no march on Washington by violent tattooed Yahoos in a failed attempt to wreak vengeance on Congress.

And if there were such a presidential library, what would be in it? What kind of attention to document preservation was there by the drooling sycophants who held office during his administration? Would there be a whole wall of Tweets (call it the Covfefe Collection), and maybe copies of all the presidential proclamations which were promulgated but never put into action?

Martine and I have visited three presidential libraries: the Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan libraries in Southern California and the John F. Kennedy library in Boston. All made an honest attempt to portray the conditions that prevailed during their respective administrations. What kind of honesty could we expect in a Trump library? Maybe an exhibit on QAnon and the Proud Boys? Perhaps videos of Trump saying “You’re fired!” from his TV reality show?

Perhaps the end result of such a collection would ultimately be only horror and dismay.

How Do I Ignore an Insurrection?

Oh, Are They Still Fighting That War?

You know that, when the Confederate Battle Flag comes out of the mothballs, that nothing good is going to happen. I wonder what Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson would think of the tattooed monkeys and other deplorables that descended on the nation’s capital yesterday.

I know that I promised not to write political posts any more, but I would like to say a few words about the events of January 6 and why it was such a miserable failure.

Adolph Hitler was nobody’s idea of a capable leader, but he had one quality that the Trumpster lacked. He had more or less capable chiefs at his side that he stood with for the whole duration of his rule. I include Joseph Göbbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, and Martin Bormann. Of course, Ernst Röhm of the SA didn’t last out the war, nor did Rudolf Hess—but for the most part, the Führer didn’t change his subordinates as often as he changed his underwear.

Hitler Did Know How to Hang On to “Good” People

Trump, on the other hand, couldn’t abide anyone for more than a few weeks. Then he would part company with them and make noises about never really knowing them that well. When he said that about Steve Bannon or his ex-attorney Michael Cohen, he thought it made him look good. Actually, it showed that he was an ingrate who couldn’t interact well with his subordinates. (Or that he didn’t choose them well to begin with.)

In a way, that’s good. If one has a malignant narcissist leading your country, you don’t want him to be all that effective. At least the Capitol Building is still standing, more or less.

Dostoyevsky Explains Trump’s Base

Proud Boys at Play

I have read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground several times over the last fifty years. At the same time, nothing has puzzled me so much in the last five years as the rise of Donald Trump and the persistence of the scraggly individuals that are referred to as his “base.” (An appropriate term, especially when used adjectivally.)

This time, on re-reading, something clicked. Dostoyevsky’s narrator was the archetypal Trumpite:

Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four? Of course I cannot break through the wall by battering my head against it if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.

The Underground Man is a spiteful creature who enjoys sticking his tongue out. And who better to nominate as your enemy than the Coastal Elites, the “Libtards,” who have the nerve to ignore or flout you.

You will ask why did I worry myself with such antics: answer, because it was very dull to sit with one’s hands folded, and so one began cutting capers. That is really it. Observe yourselves more carefully, gentlemen, then you will understand that it is so. I invented adventures for myself and made up a life, so as at least to live in some way. How many times it has happened to me–well, for instance, to take offence simply on purpose, for nothing; and one knows oneself, of course, that one is offended at nothing; that one is putting it on, but yet one brings oneself at last to the point of being really offended

He talks of others erecting a kind of Crystal Palace based on mathematical certainties, such as two plus two making four.

[M[an everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage dictated. And one may choose what is contrary to one’s own interests, and sometimes one POSITIVELY OUGHT (that is my idea). One’s own free unfettered choice, one’s own caprice, however wild it may be, one’s own fancy worked up at times to frenzy–is that very “most advantageous advantage” which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply INDEPENDENT choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice.

Here it all is. Sit down and read Part I of Notes from the Underground, and you will begin to understand why sick, poor, ignorant people will fight the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and college education. They had best be careful, because they can easily fall off the edge of the Flat Earth of their ideology and into the void.