Dummheit

’Rona Isn’t the Only Outbreak We Are Experiencing

The following quote is from Sarah Bakewell’s excellent book At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails. It describes a conversation between a French reporter and the Nazi-leaning philosopher Martin Heidegger:

When, also in 1945, the French writer Frédéric de Towarnicki weakened Heidegger’s defences with a bottle of good wine before asking him ‘why?’, Heidegger responded by leaning forward and saying, in the tone of someone solemnly confiding a secret, ‘Dummheit.’ He repeated the word again, with emphasis, ‘Dummheit.’ Stupidity.

As I with great reluctance view the day’s news, I am appalled by what appears to be the rank stupidity of around half the American population. It has gotten so bad that, when I meet someone new, I become less forthcoming in my responses because there is a 50% chance that the person is an idiot.

It Certainly Seems So

In fact, I am beginning to dislike Americans, barring any specific reason not to. I was born in this country, but it was a very different country at that time. It was not full of tattooed monkeys with scraggly beards who think that living in the streets and taking Oxycontin, Heroin, or Crystal Meth is better than a job. There weren’t quite so many of the “I Got Mine!” types who think that anyone not a member of their country club should be deported.

There is an epidemic of stupidity which looks to be growing. In November, we can vote Trump out of office—and he might even leave the White House. But we can’t do anything to the people who form his “Base.” Those red MAGA hats must have a side-effect of shriveling their brains. (They are, after all, manufactured in China.)

I ask you: Am I being too harsh?

 

 

Worse Than Al-Qaida

Morgue Overflow Into Hospital Corridor

Today we commemorate the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, in which some 3,000 Americans lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

We are fighting another enemy now that has killed 200,000 Americans this year to date, and infected 6.5 million of our countrymen with a virulent disease which we are just beginning to understand. Many thousands of those dead from coronavirus died needlessly, and millions of those afflicted with the virus need not have suffered from it.

Solidly to blame is our leadership in the White House. President Trump persistently downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak (though now he claims he knew back then the danger). Millions of Americans did not know what to think. Many Trump voters now claim there was no pandemic, and that all this is false news. They refuse to wear face masks—largely because their President has sent mixed messages, frequently at variance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Even people think less of Trump than I do (there must be some, somewhere) are confused as to what to do in the face of the outbreak.

I hold Trump responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of sickened Americans. One of the responsibilities of those in power is to make sure the right information gets to the people. It didn’t, with horrendous results.

Very few other countries had an experience as bad as ours, with so many needless casualties due to misinformation. To cover his ass, Trump lied that we had done better than any other country.

Why do people still believe his lies? I guess it’s a case of misplaced faith, as Mr. Spock explains below:

I’ll Go Along With That

 

Mount Trumpmore

Oh Great, That’s All We Needed!

If our current president were to get his face of Mount Rushmore, as he has urged, it would be tantamount to painting over the Sistine Chapel with a convocation of demons.

It is the opinion of most right-thinking Americans that Trump deserves no more than a footnote in the history books, similar to the contribution of Aaron Burr (who actually made it to the vice presidency in Thomas Jefferson’s first term) and Benedict Arnold and perhaps the fictional Man Without a Country. Will there be a Trump presidential library? (If there were, it would consist mostly of Tweets and executive statements of dubious legality.) When George W. Bush was in office, I mused that his Prezidenchul Lie-Berry wouldn’t amount to much. Trump’s would be even more laughable.

Think about it: What would be the legacy of Trump? Once you get past the corruption, the braggadocio, the conspiracy theories, and the outright lies, there wouldn’t be much else left. So sad.

When the Emperor Nero was forced to commit suicide by his enemies, he is said by Suetonius to have exclaimed “Oh what an artist dies in me!” I cannot help but think that sounds like our man in Washington, or is it Mar-a-Lago?

 

Serendipity: The Age of Kali

The Goddess Kali Is Not the Most Welcoming of Hindu Deities

I have just started reading William Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters. He uses the story of Kali as a parallel to what is happening in India as of 1998, when the book was published. I find the following paragraphs from the Introduction an interesting warning for Americans in the age of Trump and rampant Republicanism.

The book’s title [The Age of Kali] is a reference to the concept in ancient Hindu cosmology that time is divided into four great epochs. Each age (or yug) is named after one of four throws, from best to worst, in a traditional Indian game of dice; accordingly, each successive age represents a period of increasing moral and social deterioration. The ancient mythological Golden Age, named after the highest throw of the dice, is known as the Krita Yug, or Age of Perfection. As I was told again and again on my travels around the Subcontinent, India is now in the throes of the Kali Yug, the Age of Kali, the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness and disintegration. In the Age of Kali the great gods Vishnu and Shiva are asleep and do not hear the prayers of their devotees. In such an age, normal conversations fall apart: anything is possible. As the seventh-century Vishnu Purana puts it:

The kings of the Kali Yug will be addicted to corruption and will seize the property of their subjects, but will, for the most part, be of limited power, rising and falling rapidly. Then property and wealth alone will confer rank; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation. Corruption will be the universal means of subsistence. At the end, unable to support their avaricious kings, the people of the Kali Age will take refuge in the chasms between mountains, they will wear ragged garments, and they will have too many children. Thus in the Kali Age shall strife and decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches annihilation.

 

 

On Taking Surveys

’Tis the Season

Now that we are coming up on another presidential election, my telephone is ringing with invitations to join “Town Halls,” whatever those are; and my inbox is full of invitations to participate in political surveys. In my old age, I have become skeptical to the nth degree. When people in front of supermarkets approach me with clipboards in hand, I wave them away.

To me, participating in a democracy means voting—but not necessarily submitting to a whole slew of ancillary events whose main thrust is to change my mind. Today, I received an e-mail that let me know right up front that I might be too quick to support Joe Biden. Thank you, Mr. Putin!

I know for a fact that the Orange King (no names, please!) is going to be in big trouble when he no longer has access to the power of the presidency. Strange things are happening: The U.S. Postal Service is being gutted to discourage mail-in ballots. That, despite the fact that the Donald himself has voted by mail in the past. Now it is too subject to fraud. Well, yes, everything is subject to fraud that that man touches.

Why do I feel that we have all taken democracy for granted? All one has to do is to elect a corrupt megalomaniac to office before the ground appears to disappear from under one’s feet.

 

 

Putting Myself Down

I Have Always Underestimated Myself…

When I was young, I was always one of the shortest kids in my class—and one of the sickest. The result was that I habitually underestimated myself. Everyone else looked taller, happier, and more accomplished than me. And that even after I was the valedictorian of my class at Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio. In fact, it was not until I reached the age of forty that I realized what I had been doing to myself. That was the age at which I was finally able to drive. Before that, I was on a medication (Catapres) that made me fall asleep whenever I got into a moving vehicle.

Within weeks after I got off Catapres, I took driving lessons and passed with flying colors. But then something happened to my picture of other people: The moment I saw drivers who committed moving violations at the rate of once every hundred feet or so, I began to revise my impressions of the rest of the human race.

Politics also stepped in to lower my estimation of my fellow Americans. I first became aware of political conservatism during the 1964 election, when Barry Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson. Conservatism was to become my bête noire during the following decades, where now I regard most Republicans and Trump followers to be mental defectives. Now that so many of these so many of these Trumpists are advocating a return to normalcy during a dreadful epidemic, I now look at people such as the individuals in the above photograph as suicidal fools who would think nothing of infecting their friends, neighbors, and families with a potentially fatal disease.

Do I have any regrets for being so hard on myself all those years? Not a bit. I think that I am happier than most people and less likely to be played like a marionette out of baseless fears.

 

 

Plague Diary 28: The Great MAGA Virus

Does Trump Really Want to Kill Off His Supporters?

With the coronavirus rising again, especially in the Southern states that have formed the core of the president’s base, I seriously wonder if the Donald is trying to kill off his staunchest supporters? While eating lunch, I happened upon an article by Fintan O’Toole in the May 14, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books entitled “Vector in Chief” from which this quote is excerpted:

We must bear in mind that Trump’s “real people,” the ones who make up his electoral base, are disproportionately prone to the chronic illnesses (“the underlying conditions”) that make Covid-19 more likely to prove fatal. A 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than three thousand counties in the US reported that

poor public health was significantly associated with the additional Republican presidential votes cast in 2016 over those from 2012. A substantial association was seen between poor health and a switch in political parties in the last [presidential] election.

For every marker of the prevalence of poor health (such as diabetes, obesity, days of illness, and mortality rates), there as a marked shift roward voting for Trump. Trump has acted in relation to Covid-19 like the God who tells the Jews to mark their homes with a sign so that the plague he is inflicting on Egypt will pass by their doors—with the malign twist that he has marked out his own chosen people for special harm.

How ironic! Following the example of their Great White Hope in the Whitest of White Houses, the voters attending his rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix are mostly not masked, and sneezing and coughing and shouting streams of coronavirus throughout the crowd. So far, Trump appears to be immune, but that is helped by the fact that he is a germaphobe who washes his hands incessantly with hand sanitizer.

More Evil Than Trump

Yes, There Are Forces in America Even More Evil

I have friends who think that all that needs to happen for the good times to come again is for President Squid Lips to be ignominiously defeated and face a lifetime of legal actions arising from his grotesque corruption. But there are worse things to fear.

Most particularly, the people who support Trump are still around. These are the Ayn Rand followers, the ignoramuses of Flyover Country, the rich who want government to make them more rich, the racist haters, the sociopathic gun-lovers, and Confederates who refuse to recognize the surrender at Appomattox. Worst of all are the billionaires and millionaires, the heads of corporations whose sole political principle is self-aggrandizement. Even if the Trumpster dies in office from Coronavirus or STDs or just plain rotting from the inside just like Herod, the people who put him in office are still around. People like the “My Pillow” guy or the various criminals who occupy seats in the cabinet, the Barrs, the Mnuchins, the DeVoses.

Whatever happens to Trump, the United States is in for a long fight to protect their voting rights and their livelihoods and—in the case of African-Americans—their lives.

Election day is only a few months away. The Current Occupant will resume his red-hat rallies in Tulsa (scene of a 1921 massacre of blacks) on June 19 (or Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Texas). With luck, his cohorts and co-conspirators will dwindle away between now and November—but don’t count on it!

 

 

Down with Twitter!

I Owe This Drawing to Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed

There is something deeply troubling about a President that spends the wee hours of the morning on the shitter while tweeting his unedited dissatisfactions at length. There are two possible solutions:

  1. Get rid of the President.
  2. Get rid of Twitter

If Trump were dipped into hot tar, coated with chicken feathers, and ridden out of Washington on a rail, we probably would not have to cringe at his disruptive Tweets. Ditto if society decided that Twitter as a medium of expression is best allowed to die—unsung and unloved. It would even be better if both options were put into action.

Never before has the United States had a leader whose every written (or even verbal) communication causes nothing but dismay or disgust.

That leads me to an interesting thought. If there were a Trump Presidential Library, what would go into it? There would be the Tweets, of course, and a series of Presidential Proclamations whose principal purpose was to undo the accomplishments of previous administrations. And also, who would pay to visit such a library? I suspect that even the 40% of the population that supports Trump would give such an institution a wide berth. (Bad-asses don’t read.)

The Trump Administration reminds me of the Coronavirus. It’s something I am dead set against, but prefer not to think about.

 

Plague Diary 25: False Dawn

A New Dawn Is Approaching … But Look Out for Storms

Yes, the authorities are gradually releasing us from our long quarantine; but we’re not out of the woods yet. After the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic, the United States entered into a ten-year period of prosperity, until the Crash of 1929 put the kibosh on that. It would be nice to think that everything will be hunky-dory within a few weeks or so. Fat chance.

Except for one thing: That man in the White House. He was personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, and he is itching to send thousands more into the next world. He continues to be supported of legions of bitter-enders who will support him regardless what he does, because he is one of them—a bona fide bad ass. If Trump should be reelected this November, I think the United States is in for it. In the end, I even think there will be another attempt at secession, and maybe that’s what it’ll take in the long run. The bad-asses will want to set up their own New Revised Confederate States of America.

As I look into the future, I have no pollyanna visions of everything coming together in a great cumbia of toleration. The battle lines are being drawn, and they look pretty hard and fast to me.