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Friday, September 24, 2021

MV 2021

9.21.21

 

Martha’s Vineyard is lovely in mid-September. The evenings are cool, yet still comfortable outside, dining in a short-sleeved shirt.  We are staying at a house that occupies a prominence of land over the ocean, and the vegetation is still green, scruffy salt-resistant growths that do not resemble their Floridian cousins.  The plants do not grow high enough to obscure the view of the sea on this little tip of the western part of the island.  The roads are all two lane and there are no traffic lights anywhere.  Stop signs govern the passage of traffic, most of which must obey a speed limit of 30 miles per hour.  Cyclists further inhibit the time in which it takes to get to Edgartown, the largest village on the Vineyard 25 miles away. Part of our trip there includes a trek down a gravely, ungraded road that tortures the suspension of any car.   But it Is worth it.

 

Sitting out on the terrace of this house makes me contemplate the different culture here of the inhabitants, mostly affluent deserters of New York and Boston.  Edgartown is a Disneyfied collage of gingerbread houses, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, carefully maintained, curated, and restored.   Some of it seems to be unreal in its reality, like some Hollywood set prepared for a screwball Katherine Hepburn-Cary Grant rom-com. The stores and restaurants exude a come hither feeling for crustacean-stuffed inside some super fattening butter rolls.

 

There are no streetlights on the roads, which host nearby trees that one slip of the wheel could kill.  Still, the charm although a bit over the top, beckons one to return.  With all its preserved authenticity, it seems surreal and almost disingenuous.  Even so, there is no crime to speak of, because thieves would have to take the ferry to escape.   Not very practical.

 

Being here helps to not consider all the problems of America.  A rogue who wishes to destroy the rule of law, his enablers in the House and Senate who support his maledictions, and state governors and legislators, who, mounting an outrageous attack upon the franchise of the poor and the uneducated by exploiting the ignorance of their base whose attention span and literacy have now vanished into a fetid sea of social media, populism and tribal feuds, a divisive porridge of animosity, exacerbated by demagoguery.  Here, on the Vineyard, it all seems so remote.

 

I am wondering how this all will end just as those who, in 1860, saw the Union, a house divided, tumbling into a sanguinary Civil war ripping the nation to shreds.  Nations are born and die on a rule of law, designed to temper the passions of tribally impulsive inclinations, many of which are genetically violent. Our history is replete with demagogues preying upon the people for their own benefit, enabled by economic hard times and changes in technology.

 

The old trope of being condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past, is verified by the numerous wars and adventures culminating in failure since the end of World War II. I am not sure that the American public any longer has the capacity to understand the world around them.  When so many can believe that suppressing the vote will make the Union better, will provide more democracy, will ensure a better life and keep America white, nationalist and tribal, then we are in for a rough ride indeed. If the Confederacy had won the “war between the states,” what would have been the result?  Two nations?  One red and one blue? Isn’t that what we have now? Would there have been a civil rights movement in the Confederacy? 

 

Was that bloody war killing 700,000 Americans necessary?  While our culture is evolving (for the better), some would argue, not that much.  Think about it.  A southern confederacy of states based upon slavery existed, at least longer than it should have, and a northern industrial behemoth, outstripping it, also based on divisive wealth and inequality prevailed over a southern agricultural economy, the industry of which was supplying cotton to the mills of the north and to Europe, the upper classes of which profited from slavery in the south and economic servitude in the north.  Would that have changed if the Confederacy had survived?

 

Alternative histories as much as what really happened, are  philosophical/political speculations, but they are instructive. 

 

Philip Roth, in his prescient novel, “The Plot Against America” speculates what would have happened if Charles Lindbergh, a Germanophilic, racist Nazi sympathizer had been elected president in 1940, defeating FDR.   Jewish boys are sent to work camps, and a rabbi who thinks that he will win personal and political advancement, mistakes patronization and manipulation by Lindberg to him, in order to convince the Jewish community to support Charles Lindbergh. An ironical rabbinic dupe, who through his gullibility misleads his kin into a maelstrom of deceit.  At least he was just stupid, not a sociopathic liar.   Well, that is for another time.

 

Now it is time to leave this splendid island and return to Miami Beach the other island in my life, it being filled with diversity, excitement, and at my stage of the game hopefully a better year than last.

 

 

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Universe of Chaos

 

This past week, my grandson’s close friend and fraternity brother at U Chicago was shot in the neck by a stray bullet, while riding the L from a summer internship in downtown Chicago.   A random bullet severed his cervical spinal column.  Rushed to the hospital, placed on a ventilator, his family asked him to blink if he wanted to remain on life support.  He was alert and his mother, herself a physician, told him he would not be able to eat, talk, or breathe off a ventilator.   He responded that if he had to live that way, pull the plug. A rising junior at a solid institution, died a meaningless death.

 

Recently, a condominium collapsed not far from my home burying alive around 150 people whist they slept.   Some of them were religious Jews who probably said a prayer to God before bedtime; some were secular or religious Christians who also said their nightly prayer.

Some of those people attended daily religious services, hoping their prayers would be answered.  A friend of mine, deeply religious said she would “pray for them.” 

 

The first hurricane of the season has passed by Miami; part of an insensitive, uncaring universe, surrounding us in a web of uncertainty.  The hurricane will do damage elsewhere, nature randomly choosing another unfortunate destination.  People will pray that it does not hit their location, that it goes elsewhere.  But aren’t they indirectly praying that other people suffer instead of themselves?

 

If you are a deist, you believe that a force greater than yourself has created a mountain of chaos—the universe where there is no predestination, no plan, only a random lottery that determines where we are born, where our supposed choices take us, what sort of government will govern us, how we do not really understand the choices we make.  Like the man who walks down the sidewalk, a plant pot drops from a window above, killing him, or just misses because he has passed by a moment earlier.  By some accident of biology, we are born, fortunately not in Afghanistan.  

 

Religion offers comfort to those who believe that prayer will cohere friends around them, and the habit of observing primitive dietary rules will cement their beliefs to a ritual that will strengthen their tribe.  Catholics eat fish on Friday and a biscuit that represents the body of Christ.  Jews will not eat pork or shrimp or mix meat and dairy, because of rules set forth in a Bronze age text of unknown authorship.  Muslims will not eat pork. People belonging to organized religious groups thank whatever god they pray to will answer their prayers which are essentially selfish desires to make them stronger, to be protected in war, for victory over the enemy, to survive disease, to have the courage to move on or to be charitable, to help others, to give them a sense of community.  Or does it create a parochialism that either anathematizes them to other communities, makes them different, or a likely scapegoat for people in other tribes?  When disaster strikes, they achieve solace in thanking God for sparing them. If they die, loved ones say prayers to strengthen their own resilience. 

 

Does this delusion really create order in a chaotic world?  

 

If one argues about the survival of Jews, one could conclude that Judaism survived as a result of extraneous hate which prevented them from owning property or land, caused them to become moneylenders because the Church prohibited Christians from charging interest on loans to other Christians.  Therefore, Jews were the only ones who could do so, ergo the perverse anti-Semitic trope that Jews were greedy merchants of finance.

 

 

I wonder how many people in the Champlain towers said prayers before going to sleep, how many Jewish children of the two million murdered during the Holocaust said “shema Yisrael,” before being gassed to death, incinerated by unspeakably evil people who had been indoctrinated to believe that those children were subhuman rodents--it was their duty to exterminate them. Those Nazis followed their own religion, that of a murderous cult.  They did not evolve quickly; their religious indoctrination having followed 2000 years of church liturgy that said Jews were Christ killers, using the blood of Christian children to bake Matzos on Passover.   Generations of Jews guilty of the death of Christ, himself born a Jew and dying a Jew. One cannot argue with the cult of Trump. It has become its own abandonment of reason, its own religion.  His adherents believe his lies and attend his rallies as though they were a religious service.  Jewish Zealots believe that God gave them the land of Judea and Samaria, when it was the British and French promising the and to two disparate peoples at the dissolution of the Ottoman empire which had ruled the land for centuries.  The Ottomans picked the wrong side in the First World War.  One cannot argue with religion.

 

Human moral codes historically evolved before religion; polytheistic religions were certainly more tolerant than monotheistic, the latter of which is responsible for the a priori negation of other faiths.  Organized religion only evolved in the last 5000 years, on the evolutionary scale, an instant, on a geologic scale, a millisecond.  The Earth is 4.5 billion years old.  Yet during those 5000 years, it provided the justification for war, pogroms, crusades, charlatans, false prophets, and flocks of lemmings abandoning their sense of reason to hate others.  

 

Granted, religion also aspires for people to be good, love thy neighbor, but has it succeeded?  Evangelicals made a Faustian deal with a scoundrel and grifter, because they believed he would appoint a Supreme Court that would enforce an abnegation of the Founder’s strictures of separation of church and state, and that more of the country would join their megachurches, hypnotizing their congregations, compelling the flock to give the preacher a bigger house and a Rolex.  Politicians fixated on these beliefs, unctuously cater to these fantasies so they can win elections. They do not understand the framer’s intent: Freedom from religion. Ergo, the thriving of religion in this nation, and aspirational tolerance of others.  No state religion.

 

Elites like the brilliant Alexander Hamilton, thought that the common people were not able to govern themselves or devise our financial system, so he did it himself.  He did not believe that some supernatural force would do it for him.  Nor did he believe that evil would be dispelled by prayer.

 

Thomas Jefferson said to keep the preachers away from politics.  Jefferson understood human frailty and, for his time, thought that the people should govern themselves, but God should be left to theologians, not politicians; the theologians would keep the illiterate masses quiet, including his slaves.

 

Abraham Lincoln never mentioned the trinity, and some people thought he was a Jew.  He was not, but he invoked God in many of his speeches; perhaps he understood that his countrymen were not yet ready to liberate themselves from superstition so biblical allusions provoked loyalty in constituents or contributed profundity to his utterances.  Or perhaps he was a deist as many at the time accused him.

 

Religion is an excellent germination point for hypocrisy; giving those who profess it the opportunity to manipulate the flock, to incite people not to think for themselves or develop their own philosophy of life.  That is--to think for themselves.  They demagogy of theology. 

 

As science advances exponentially, religion has become more and more irrelevant, more difficult to reconcile with reality.  A majority of young people today do not attend religious services.  They engage in the new religions of Sports, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tinder.  They seek meaning in a life that many find meaningless.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Runaway Train


 

Been wondering lately about all the haters, negativists, half-baked opinionators, talking heads of whom I have become wretchedly weary in these days of almost post pandemic and post Trumpian cauchemars.

 

Been thinking about the early days of the Republic when there were no restrictions on immigration.  Actually, immigration was uncontrolled until 1921.  Whoever wanted to come could.  They faced sweatshops, unrestricted child labor, and unremitting social Darwinism.  These immigrants, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, German, and others all were white, and mostly able to read and write, enjoyed stable family structures upon which to build a semblance of a free life.  Let them come again, but they stood on the shoulders of those who came before.

 

They, and the backs of slaves built this country.  “Manifest destiny” was a euphemism for stealing land from native Americans and Mexicans. Although whites faced discrimination, they did not inherit the bones of Jim Crow as is manifested still by those who oppose the teaching of “critical race theory,” falsely claiming that it is teaching blacks to be racists, to hate whites.  This is simply a bold-faced lie as wretched as the lie that that the capitol insurrection was “just a small riot,” as averred by such “patriots” as Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, all of whom supported the big lie and charge Democrat racism based upon a rejection of historical fact.

 

African American immigrants arrived in slave ships, were sold into bondage, their families separated by slavers, who sold children, mothers, sons and fathers to different masters.  This stain on our history is comparable to the most unspeakable of human crimes. This grotesque history belies the premise that “all men are created equal.”

 

Now we are engaged in a possible transmogrification of our republic to a frightfully totalitarian dystopia, having a large portion of the population actually believing the ravings of a demented madman, that the election of 2020 was stolen from him, undermining the essential character of our Republic—free and fair elections.  GOP efforts abound in Republican legislatures to suppress the vote with restrictions aimed at minorities.

 

When President Biden met Mr. Putin this week in Geneva, Putin shamelessly argued the false equivalence that the insurrection at our capitol, killing 5, trying to send even lickspittle Mike Pence to be hanged, wounding others and threatening senators with death if they did not overturn the will of the people by returning Trump to the White House.  

 

Illustratively, Putin’s imprisonment of a political opponent he had poisoned unsuccessfully, successfully murdering other opponents, we see “How Democracies Die,” as the noted political historian Timothy Snyder of Yale has written.   The big lie is happening here, just as in Putin’s Russia.

 

It is not only the rule of law that protects us, but also the respect for the norms of democracy that bind us together.  Think about Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler, who was democratically elected but incrementally turned the nation of Beethoven, Schiller, and Wagner to a nation of hate and murderous rage against helpless men, women and children.

 

Leadership matters, as Philip Roth documented in his monumental work, “The Plot Against America,” wherein a Nazi sympathizing Charles Lindbergh becomes President of the United States defeating Franklin Roosevelt, resulting in totalitarian overtones of fascism, sending Jewish children to workcamps.

 

The question that must be asked of all thinking people of whatever caste or persuasion, whatever socio-economic status, is what they would do to prevent an economic and political catastrophe or which policies would best serve our nation.  Certainly, Mitch McConnell sees none, his Machiavellian breast to argue in the next election that Biden “did nothing.”  Democrats must deliver, abolish the filibuster, before it is too late. Use the power now, because it is fleeting.

 

 “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln famously said.   

 

We fell into a bloody civil war.  Brother against brother, father against son, families torn asunder, a war killing more than 700,000 on the bloody battlefields of Antietam, Manassas, Gettysburg and Chattanooga, among others. 

 

And if we look back, this war took from 1787 until 1860 to develop.  The original three fifths compromise, the Missouri compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska act.  All attempts to place a band aid over gangrene.  We face far greater challenges than how states would be admitted to the Union; we face a changing climate, international competition, rising authoritarianism, and we are anxious, depressed.  Jim Crow is alive, still.

 

If, however, identity politics caused wars, it was the economic causes engendered by religion and prejudice that lit the fire.  This tribal notion of “others” stealing our homes, our dignity and our fortunes certainly caused more war than religious disputes alone.  These two shibboleths are inherent in the human psyche.  Identity politics is the bĂȘte noir of society.  Until we have overcome these demons there will be no peace.  But the bad news is that cultures change very slowly; we are in a culture infused war both internally and worldwide.

 

One thing for sure, stilted propaganda TV is not helpful.  And we are not even sure that education makes a difference.  People may not agree on policy, but if they cannot agree that the sun shines during the day, we are on a runaway train without Denzel Washington to put on the brakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, January 8, 2021

How did this happen?

               “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American Public”

                      H. L. Mencken.

 

The end is near; Trump is exiting stage right in an ignominious testament to greed, narcissism, mendacity and ignorance.  The very idea of this Richard III presidency is something I have been trying to figure out for the past 4 years.  The enigma is a mystery, wrapped inside a riddle, as the Winston Churchill coinage goes.

 

Arguments range from Trump preying on the gullibility of the American public, to the intense rationalization that he was even able to convince intelligent people that he would “drain the swamp,” and clean up the fetid mess of corruption that is Washington, DC, a slog of lobbyists in Gucci loafers and congressmen in a never-ending rotating door, stuffing their pockets with cash in brown envelopes at the expense of the taxpayer.  Also, “job creating” plutocrats thinking Trump would improve their portfolios, keeping the stock market high and their taxes low.  Only 20% of Americans own stocks.

 

The grift continues, Trump having raised hundreds of millions of dollars, ostensibly for a 2024 run, but which will certainly be diverted to his legal defense as he is pursued by numerous district attorneys, the justice department, and attorneys general.  Not to mention his multitudinous oligarchical Deutche Bank creditors in Russia (Putin) and Saudi Arabia. And let’s not forget the rape and defamation suits by various women such as E. Jean Carol.

 

This week, a mob of insurrectionists invaded the Capitol, believing the lies promulgated by Trump, nakedly at a podium, lying to them, that he would march along with them toward the palace of our republic.  Instead, he got into his hermetically sealed limo and skulked back to the White House to view the spectacle he had created and delighted in viewing an enraged mob ransacking the place.   Trump probably entered nirvana when one of the invaders sat with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk, almost like his voyeuristic leering at the disrobed Miss Universe contestants in their dressing room.

 

While CNN pundits screeched outrage, “treason and sedition,” Laura Ingraham’s pallid, raspy imitation of Tallulah Bankhead’s voice discussed how the Democrats were trying to impeach Trump “never having given him the benefit of the doubt,” saying nothing about the desecration of the Capitol which Abraham Lincoln rushed to complete during the Civil War, emphasizing the strength of the Union.  Where Franklin D. Roosevelt requested a declaration of war upon Japan on December 8, 1941. Where Winston Churchill spoke during a joint session of congress in December 1941, shortly after the United States entered the war against Germany and Japan. Where Woodrow Wilson advocated for the League of Nations after the bloodletting of World War I. Where Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, John Lewis, and other great statesman had lain in state. Our historic Capitol, the seat of our government, the triumph of our democracy, where notables, and the framers enjoy memorialization and statuary, invaded by a mob of rabid rioters stoked by a deranged and deluded president, falsely alleging the election had been stolen.

 

Earlier, Ted Cruz, described as a “serpent covered in Vaseline,” and Josh Hawley, his fist held mob-high, disgraced themselves, turning a ceremonial procedure registering the electoral votes, to their own political benefit, sending fund raising emails.  History will not look kindly upon this sordid spectacle.   They should apologize and resign.

We saw Lindsey Graham, jumping over the side of the sinking Titanic, pushing women and children out of the way, securing his seat on the lifeboat.  This, after his demonstrated hypocrisy during the Merick Garland episode, the about face on Amy Barrett, and two switches from Trump denigrator to admirer.  Calling Graham a prostitute insults the world’s oldest profession.  The power-hungry Mitch McConnell, now minority leader, forgive the clichĂ©, had also sowed the wind and now reaps the whirlwind.  His enablement of Trump over the last four years will not sit well with historians, excepting perhaps the example of how power corrupts.

 

Responsibility for this abounds.  Fox news hosts and Rupert Murdoch have contributed mightily to the lying and false narrative presented to the public.  News used to be a nonprofit enterprise of the major networks, CBS, NBC and ABC, presented as a public service, now transmogrified into a greedy crucible determined by marketers and audience demographics.  Ratings avarice on Tucker and Laura and Hannity clearly do not help our country.  Orwellian presentation of the news divides the public and shames its progenitors.

 

Republican house members now see their ranks riven with mutual accusations of who bears the burden for the nation’s disheartening catastrophe.    A split of Republicans of principle and those of amoral self-interest dwells on the horizon.   Elected acolytes of Trumpian amorality should know that their day of reckoning has arrived.  

 

 

 

 

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Nation at Peril

A Nation at Peril

 

Several Republican friends have told me that Trump is better for Israel than Biden.  I find this trope hard to believe, since Democratic presidents and Republican presidents have supported Israel since its creation, in 1947, and dating back to Franklin Roosevelt who, in 1933, during a period of rampant American Anti-Semitism, expressed a desire for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  Harry Truman was the first to recognize the newly born state within a day of its creation, despite objections from the brazenly Anti-Semitic State Department which had done its level best to suppress Jewish immigration to the United States before and during World War II.  The specious logic they presented was that it would inflame the Arab world.

Stalin himself did not veto the partition, under the presumption that Israel would be a socialist-Marxist state.  It is, of course, not.

 

The premise that disagreeing with the Netanyahu government a priori means that support for Israel has evaporated under the leadership of Democrats is a red herring non-pariel. Israel is and has been our durable ally.  It shares intelligence, coordinates American interests with their own, facts recognized by all Americans on the left and on the right.  Of course, policy differences exist here in and in Israel, but those differences are at worst marginal.  These differences are over settlements and security and will eventually be solved by an Israel that must worry about its own demographic threats as a Jewish state. 

 

When I was a child, we hid under wooden desks in school because we were facing vaporization by Soviet missiles.  It took a while, but the Soviet Union collapsed when none of us ever thought it would.  It was to be an eternal enemy.  Now Putin struggles to maintain his power in what has become a third world economy.  His goal is to destabilize NATO, the EU and the United States.  He will fail.

 

The Middle East now entertains a new geopolitical power alignment:  Sunnis and Israelis against Hezbollah and Shiite Iran.  This dispute over who is the rightful heir to Mohammad has endured for 1,400 years, countless wars and crusades, bloodletting beyond the scale of human indignity and the baser instincts of tribal effrontery.  Now Israeli technology has enticed the scrutiny of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.   El Al flights now soar over Saudi Arabia with MBS permission to land in Abu Dhabi. The Arab world now seeks to share Israeli science, technology, and agricultural innovation; MBS has placed Palestinians a priority lower than beheadings.  Palestinians had their chance and blew it, they think in Riyadh, which is also contemplating their end of finite oil supplies and the exponential transformation to renewables.  And Putin?  He has the same problem a failing Russian economy and an increasing number of potential opponents who must be fed polonium or novochuk.  

 

It does not really matter in the realpolitik sense to Middle Eastern leaders who chop up dissident Journalists as long as their governments can derive economic benefit from the hook up with Israel.  It belies the aphorism of the scorpion requesting that the frog transmit him over the Jordan River, and the frog responding, "if I do, you will sting me and I will die."  The scorpion replies "do not worry, I do not want to drown."  Half way across the river the scorpion stings the frog, who says "why did you break your word, now we both will drown."  The scorpion replies, "this is the middle east."   Rather, the enemy of my enemy is my friend is the theme of the day.  Credit to Trump for recognizing this reality.  But no credit to him for the evolving geopolitical situation that now favors Israeli business with the Sunni Arab world.

 

The United States under its current leadership, torn by a looming election defeat, a pandemic and possible criminal indictment is moving in a parallel universe with Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who currently is under criminal indictment, and Trump, both of whom rail against the tide of history.

 

American Jews and Evangelists who magically think that Trump is a sincere supporter of Israel are grievously mistaken.  Trump wishes only his own aggrandizement; the fate of his country is to suffer the indignities of global ridicule and the loss of its preeminence as a world leader.   Pax Americana is on the path of Pax Britannia, though for different reasons.  Britain lost its empire because of emerging decolonisation.  India, Burma. Austrailia, Hong Kong, Canada left the empire for their own reasons, supported by the United States.  Throughout the war, Roosevelt opposed Churchill's imperialism, to the chagrin of the great British leader and defender of the Empire.

 

America, on the other hand, is losing its influence in the West and in the world because of decay from within, as did the Roman Empire.  A complacent public, a melding of social media and propaganda, a technological revolution, a failing system of public education and transport and the loss of a national unity and will, as it had propelled us during World War II.  A national effort, war bonds, self-sacrifice, Rosie the riveter, food rationing, no new cars and a host of other sacrificial measures.  No one complained. Now the national will is fractured by social media, mediated by Fox News and an unparalleled mercantilism that has shrunk the middle class and dashed the dreams of the young as it did in the gilded age, but eventually reined in by Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican trustbuster.  "The malefactors of great wealth," he intoned.

 

This election will determine as Churchill said in his 1940 speech to parliament, "Whether we will move into the broad sunlit uplands" or descend into the darkness." (of climate change, ecological and geopolitical disaster or an awakening once again of an American sleeping giant that defeated Fascism, Japanese militarism, and rebuilt Europe. )

 

Firstly, we have to face an election that the President has already questioned as illegitimate in advance and that he says will be rigged if he loses.  This is the first time in American History that an incumbent President has predicted such a foundational threat.  

 

Benjamin Franklin famously said, "we give you a republic, if you can keep it."

 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Captain of the Ship

 

The Captain should go down with the ship,  The ship should not go down because of the Captain.

 

I wake up late morning and wonder what the day will be like.

Actually, it is like every other day since March, a feeling of isolation and a never-ending wonder of what the winds of time will bring.

Albert Camus wrote that men were essentially searching for meaning in a world visiting evil upon individuals through no fault of their own, a random plague not differentiating between the virtuous or the sinner.

Men have continually searched for meaning when, perhaps there is none.  Melville talked about the white whale as a metaphor for death, and as Ahab pursued his nemesis, found his own.   Ishmael talked about finding meaning in every day life, a calming way toward the small pleasures, the sea, the air, the bracing wind. When Ishmael began his tale as narrator, ".... having little or no money in my purse and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world...with a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship..." Melville continues..."and still deeper that meaning of the story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned."

Ishmael, drawn into a vortex that will eventually kill all on board his ship, he being in search of adventure to distract him from a perception of a life of ennui.    And by his adventurous soul, his life devolves into a catastrophe not of his own making, barely escaping with his life.

Captain Ahab, a madman, projects onto his crew his obsession; rendering an oath in blood for all his crew to pursue the whale to the ends of the earth.   Ahab does not give a fig for his crew's welfare, only the mad pursuit of a white ghost that eventually slays him, together with the entire crew, save Ishmael, who lives to spin his awe-inspiring tale of narcissism, obsession and sociopathy.

I have not left my house since March, gone to a restaurant, seen friends, children, grandchildren, and crave to get on with life.   Finding the little pleasurable things as Melville spoke; bits of humanity aside from the political insanity of watching a destructive Narcissus, blaming his incompetence and hubris on everyone else, taking no responsibility for five million cases of Covid 19 in the Untied States with almost 200,000 deaths and climbing.  We speak not here of all the other malefactions; we have been listening to them for almost four years. 

My personal relationships with Trump supporters have fled down a drain of frustration and futility, attempting to persuade people living in some other universe.  Quantum mechanics physicists say that that alternate universes do exist as proven by obtuse mathematical equations, but we have just not seen the physical evidence.  But wait! maybe we have.  It exists in Laura Ingraham's and Sean Hannity's ability to generate advertising revenue for Rupert Murdoch, who placed an evil genius Roger Ailes, in charge of how Americans get their information.   Brian Stelter's new book  "Hoax," details the culture of Fox news and its climate of deception.  It is a frightening tale of avarice and self-dealing, the mouthpiece for Donald Trump and his minions. 

One particular friend says that the Democrats are "Marxists, Communists and constitute a mob that will ravage our cities.  I cannot fathom the depths of such hatred.   The recent events in Kenosha and other cities do have many complicated reasons.  Black frustration with policing, white anger about looting, ginned up fears of being disarmed.  Clearly if there is a mob outside, calling 911 is not the answer.

From all the crises faced by America, this is a big one, but we have seen much worse.  But we all need to responsibly act to preserve our institutions, our civil discourse and our understanding.  Our forbearance.

The president is squirming within an inferno of his own creation--his own voyage on the Pequod.  Those who think that the best quality of a president is character are seeing more vindication for their opinions.  A president, this Captain Ahab, need not be an intellectual giant.  He or she must have the emotional intelligence to understand the problems of his people, not whether his hair will suffer from a trip to a cemetery on a rainy French day to visit the World War I fallen, because he fancies them as "losers and suckers" or "what was in it for them?"

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

"It was the best of times. it was the worst of times....."

"It was the best of times.

it was the worst of times....."

 

Charles Dickens.

 

 

 

Discerning what it is that comprises a Trump voter at this stage of the game befuddles me.

Supposedly, we are to let the other side voice their opinions, to let them explain their puzzling positions.

 

I for one, cannot understand the continued support for Trump from any quarter.

As an American, I am thrown into a tree chipper of conundrums: the racism, the white supremacy, the paranoia against blacks and other minorities, the trashing of our allies and support for our adversaries, the virulently hidden financial black holes, the insults, the divisiveness, the disrespect for the Constitution and the rule of law, the misogynism,  the loutishness, the lies, the false claims of conspiracies and birtherism, the destruction of the American image of morality and generosity are among those inexplicable rendering me powerless, incompetent, bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.  Pax Americana?   It has been in the 75 years since the end of that colossal global tragedy, 50 million people killed.  Our alliances with our allies have kept the world together, maintained the peace.

 

When we and our allies won World War II, we did not seek to expand our colonial empire unlike the English who wished to do so; Churchill, an 19th century imperialist, wished to retain India and the other colonies,  and despite his courage and defiance of the Nazi tyranny, despite his holding on whilst German bombers blitzed London, he was forced to recognize the American peace would not include the maintenance of the British Empire.   After VE day, the Empire was on its way to dissolution.   No Army in the history of the world, except ours, sought just to come home without owning the territory it conquered.   Stalin did not agree.  He sought to expand its tyranny throughout Eastern Europe.  "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an Iron curtain has descended across the continent," Churchill said in his famous 1947 speech in Fulton, Missouri at the invitation of Harry Truman.

 

The United States, instead, instituted the Marshall plan to rebuild a war-ravaged, starving, communist-threatened Europe.  If Trump instead of Truman had been in charge, he would handed over Western Europe in exchange for Notre Dame cathedral with a gold "Trump" slapped over the entrance and that the Bois de Boulogne fashioned into a Trump golf course, and announced his deal with great fanfare, that he alone saved democracy.

 

I have friends who are Trumpist Republicans and whose beliefs diverge from mine.  I struggle to talk to them; they evince a selfishness and lack of empathy.  Can they really be so self-serving?   Can the economic perception of the preservation of their wealth through Trump be real?   Are they all racists?   Are they afraid of a minority-majority electorate?  Do they think that entrenched minority rule will not eventually degrade democracy? Do they really fear poor immigrants fleeing from oppression or worse?

 

I reminded one plutocratic friend who rails against demonstrators, that social movements generate change in societies.  The American Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil rights movement, the protests against the Viet Nam war all were the genesis of structural change.   The French Revolution, a violent undertaking, shook the foundations of European society, not to mention the following Napoleonic wars that changed the character of all of Europe.  Although bloody and horrific, Revolution resulted from the oppression of the lower castes, about whom royalty cared not a fig, "Let them eat cake" or as the GOP says, "raise your self up by the bootstraps," does not work for a vast number of unemployed who are in dire straits because of establishment indifference to transformational change and a raging, mishandled plague.   Many revolutions have begun with street demonstrations, called riots and suppressed by military and political forces...

 

No, violence is not good, and therein lies the reason why America must change structurally through socially peaceful means, almost like England did in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Sending Trump and Ivanka, "let them find something else to do," to the guillotine is not the solution, although it seems appealing in a gallows sort of way.  I dreamt of Trump being rolled through the streets of Washington standing on a tumbrel, wearing an18th century white night shirt, his arms tied before him, his balding orange hair having turned white as the horses clop down Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to his fate awaited by Madame la Guillotine posted by the Washington monument, trailing behind is Mitch McConnell, Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan, wrestling coach extraordinaire and defender of the crown, not to mention feigned pedophilia ignorance among  his colleagues at whatever high school or college that was.

 

Ivanka, her plastic face and sagging silicon implants, disheveled by her imprisonment and worry about her husband Jarad, who had been denounced by committee of Public Safety awaiting his turn the next day in the DC Jail (unfortunately no elegant Conciergerie in Washington, even though the town had been designed by a Frenchman).