Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Nov
05

          October will never be the same. It is after all a season of change: Summer’s green turns to myriad colors, and we complain not.

          But, oh, the howl that arose when someone dared suggest there’s something suspicious about our cultural myth of this continent’s founding—and not just from those of Italian descent. Indeed, ‘tis the greatest shame of all that self-serving wags of yore would tell a lie with which time and truth were bound to catch up.

          “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” which he did. What he didn’t do was “discover” what he said he did. Seeking a passage to India he came upon some brown-skins and said something akin to, “Look! Indians!”

          But kids in earliest grades, upon our first hearing the account, have always been heard to say, “But if he ‘discovered’ it, who were the people he met there?” Potted plants?—a reaction met with the kindly authoritarian rejoinder of “Now, now, children” followed by a “because-I-said-so,” which kids already learn closes any subject under debate.

          Truth is, Columbus was wandering around lost–and the natives found him. But might makes right and one party to the event had the power of a throne behind him and the other was about to become slaves to said wienies.

          It’s a twisted tale with variations in other times and places. Couple years ago I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was the October time of year and I was told how lucky I was to bear witness to the famed “Entrada,” or “Arrival” celebration of that fair city, whose name is translated, “Holy Faith,” and for good reason.

          It was the selfsame year that, whilst I beheld the cheesiest re-enactment of anything ever, as the Spanish establishment of that burg deemed again to spread the b.s. that the arrival of their foreparents into that region was a delightful event that brought nothing but good to the natives, who again were “there first” and largely residents of the many and scattered “pueblos”—as well as Mexicans who had migrated north from south of the Border and, again, were there “before” the Spanish.

          But victors tend to write the history, ignoring that later historians are bound to find the truth of the matter—that the Spanish enslaved all the native elements for forced labor, made them change their religion and when necessary separated children from their families so that the transformation of youth would go more easily as adulthood approached.

          The very year that I first saw the bogus “Entrada” in Santa Fe was the beginning of the end. Before I could register my own holding-of-the-nose in the presence of that stupid imitation of the #BigFatLie, an angry crowd was forming and I, a lifelong activist and protester, plunged in to join them. At the moment I wondered how long it would take for this reaction to have an effect, if any.

          Silly me, it had a solid and everlasting impact. It was the Second Uprising of the pueblecitos, so to speak, who had taken objection with a justified bloody insurrection in the late 17th century that of course incurred worse retaliation from the Holy Faith contingent, and things went back to normal—you know, slavery, torture, land-gabbing and gob-slapping.

          And now, just like that, there is no more Entrada, and thank the gods that be: after all, if you’re the longstanding “establishment” somewhere and have enjoyed all power and privilege, put on a gang-busters show about it, not a poorly-acted fairy tale that has long since morphed into an amateur presentation unworthy of your own kids’ pre-school Parents Night.

          But that’s what happens to lies: in time, no one believes them and they fall into discredit and ruin.

          In another trice, the movement in Santa Fe resulted in changing a “day” for Columbus into one for the Indigenous People of the region, the true believers and same folks who had claimed and tended the land long before snobs from a Galaxy Far Away came with artillery and so-called “better” ways, behavior and beliefs to change everything.          

          As I watched young Natives performing astounding Hoop dances and Interpretive movements, and heard speakers talk not of snobbery and social caste superiority, but of healing divides and the inclusion of all who come to their gates and communities, I knew I was seeing a Better World and a Holier Faith.

          Then I thought of my resident state of liberal Massachusetts and my town of Newburyport and wondered: why the hell is there no Indigenous Peoples Day here? Who and what are we afraid of? Our reputation? Then what about the reputation of being afraid of our reputation?

 

 

 

Nov
05

        Two “50s” occurred recently, i.e., half-century anniversaries of events that seem equally to have captivated the public mind. 

          There will always be commemorations of the Moon Landing, unto perpetuity, meaning fifty years from now and beyond. Woodstock will not. Woodstock will be forgotten, and with good reason. They couldn’t even pull off an anniversary concert for it. 

          What happened on a New York dairy farm in August of 1969 was a miracle for what didn’t happen, i.e., a tragedy. Modern music concerts are to make money, and that year it would have been a tidy sum had not twice as many people showed up as the 200K that were invited, making tickets a joke. 

          The photo of a pair wrapped in blissful embrace boggles the mind to be hence called “iconic”—it’s not a good pic and one face is unseen–a long way from the sailor-kissing-girl that captured the end of World War II. Other Woodstock photos were better but limited to bare-chested guys glad to be far from the din of war and gals too with bared breasts, twirling blithely in the flowing moon-skirts of the day.  

          Other concerts have followed, ranging from mild to disappointing to violent. But one thing organizers have learned is to make sure the revelers pay, unlike the freeloaders of ’69, with a business model of corporate efficiency. Such was the one four years later at Watkins Glen raceway in New York, but who remembers that? All went well, only three bands played, but mucho bucks were made. Can’t say the same where Hell’s Angels were hired as security, and shortly after Woodstock at Altamont Speedway when someone was murdered right in front of a Stones performance.  

          Some may opine I was just an old phart out of touch with his feelings for the time, tsk-tsk-ing at the Generation Gap that yawned before him. That would be a No: I ran a newspaper of the genre called the “alternative press” which was challenging, yea, assaulting big-city papers by running off with their younger readers. We targeted ages 18-35, for which I had a special gift of knowing precisely what they wanted to read and talk about. 

          But my ambition, throughout careers involving speaking and writing, was to make people think about what they’re believing and doing in the name of anything, whether life, love, morals or God. It never appealed to me to leap without looking when it came to fads of the day or to join the crowds of monkey-see, monkey-do. 

          In pot-filled rooms I was the unpopular one finally to say, to the dismay of many, that we needed new acts and new material. I guessed right that there was a mixture of anger and guilt for that goddam unholy mess in Vietnam which, yes, was brought on by the older generation at the expense of the young. Pot parties were escapes, but so were after-work bars filled with the pin-striped crowd that drank every day because they were selling their souls to “company stores” while violating their own morals and ethics.  

           So the bloom hath gone from the rose, everybody, like Topsy, has just “growed” up now and back in the old rut–some even casting ballots for Trump. But the youthful thought of being destined for eternal freedom was a mirage.  

          Among my companion careers has been conflict management, primarily for small businesses, newspapers and churches—the last of which are the worst. One was a large congregation near the nation’s capital, where I was sent to fetch the beleaguered clergyman before someone put thumb screws to him.

         His sins, as they became clear, were lesser than his enemies would have one think, and in the middle were four couples who were former hippies. It was a tense moment when I met solely with them and asked what the hell had happened to all the Peace and Love: they didn’t want the poor schmuck gone, they wanted to kill him.

        To me it was symbolic of the days of yore, when I knew that all the hugging and rhetoric was a cover for a human nature that will always be the same: “hare today, goon tomorrow.”

        This life and the world we live in is serious business, and it’s terminal; we won’t get out of it alive. The era of Trump is to me a logical conclusion—bad karma. As long as we believe anything without questioning, and do nothing but follow the leader and his crowd, we’ll end with as many Trumps as the Romans had bad emperors.

Nov
05

           Fifty years of bragging rights for landing on the moon cheers our hearts but, lest we forget, there were and still are plenty of knuckleheads who buy none of it.

          What it is about the contrarian mind, I know not, nor from whence it comes, but it would best believe nonsense than facts. But they are our countrymen, and we are locked with them in an everlasting embrace.

          After the space marvel feat of half a century ago, and as the intrepid editor of a new Atlanta newspaper, I found my way to Zeke Segal, Southeastern bureau chief for CBS who treated me to one of the daily Cronkite-led conferences with all regional chiefs. Walter’s genius was displayed in those crisp, no-nonsense reviews of what would—and would not—play on that evening’s news menu, ending always with the characteristic human-interest story.

          Later Zeke re-played clips of the then-recent Armstrong & Co. landing—and pix of the staged studio mock-ups used to simplify complicated details for the less technically savvy—and brought reminders of countless calls to the stations nationwide claiming that news channels were trying to fool viewers by presenting the staged version as the actual moon episode. Nothing apparently can turn a flat head into a normal cranium: a good quarter of Americans doubted that what was seen even from moon-zero was actual footage.

          Not long after arose another spaceman, so called, named Bill Lee, one of the most interesting and entertaining, not to mention capable, pitchers of the Boston Red Sox of those struggling times for the team. He was different, no doubt, and dubbed Spaceman due to certain antics and to his evasive but tempting answers as to whether he pitched while under the influence of weed. Don Zimmer was the Sox manager and didn’t like people who wouldn’t play the old-fashioned way—you know, with maws full of chewing tobacco, which led oft-times to mouth cancer—and ol’ Zimm, in his ignorance, pulled Lee, a real Yankee-killer at the time, out of a crucial game with the Bombers for little other reason than he didn’t like him and loathed the idea of the Spaceman being a hero.

          The back and forth between Lee and his detractors led to vocal  knots of defenders and detractors, and may have occasioned Spaceman Lee being taken less seriously as an ace pitcher. Some declared he was a selfish, self-absorbed egotist who cared for nothing but himself.

          In a recent year Lee was a presenter at our local Literary Festival, after which, in conversation, he misjudged my age and, finding me older than he thought, with characteristic humor asked if I were the Devil. In later trips to Vermont, passing close to his home in Craftsbury, I called, but always in his absence, and left voicemail greetings.

          Later, following a bad fall in that selfsame state I was rushed to a small hospital with broken ribs, half of which were completely apart, and every movement akin to a thousand little knives assaulting each nerve in my back and torso. How Lee found out, I don’t know, but after my departure for home the Spaceman showed up at the hospital to visit and wish me well.

          It’s hard to think of someone whom I hardly know as self-centered when he bothers to seek me out in my distress. Actually, I still haven’t seen him since, given his constant ball-playing where he yet swings a mean bat and strikes out ballers much younger than he. But I’m not among his doubters and will take said Spaceman over Zimmer any time—(I cheered when the latter once charged Pedro Martinez on the mound and unceremoniously ended on his own butt).

          Today in our wonderful republic where there is a palpable sinking sensation, we need more spacemen and women who will dare to do the un-doable, as on the moon; and those who will refreshingly march to their own drummers in a time while others follow false idols as do  ducklings scrambling after a rubber ball in the absence of their mother.

          I close with a word worth knowing but seldom used: kakistocracy; viz., government by the least suitable or competent citizens.

          May we rise above the muck of the current presidential swamp and into the rarefied air of the space above, where dwell daring, intelligent scions of science—and of people who know who they are, and live it, and have greatness of heart along with it.

Jun
26

          America’s certified moral diseases have returned with a vengeance, and old craziness is resurrected in multiple forms.

          Startled as we are by flagrant racism; violence towards women and children; as well as gays, lesbians, bi- and trans-sexual citizens, should we be? In my earliest career as an aspiring reformer, I was abused of the notion that people need but hear and know the truth, and the national character will be transformed in a trice. Silly me.

         Annual celebrations of M.L. King, Jr.’s life and message but remind us to re-set our expectations of racial equality. Courts continue to be filled with cases of domestic and family abuse, and hardly a day passes without news items of horrific torture and killing of those who are not strictly heterosexual. Racism as we really know it began with the forceful transport of slaves to this hemisphere. And though women have typically been second-class or worse in historical civilizations they have also been queens, priests and sometimes the sole authorities in scattered societies to which of course we pay scant attention in our education.

           That said, I wish to speak of the oldest hatred of all: antisemitism. The ravaging of Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg came amid holiday preparations, the latter of which ever trump serious concerns.

           Hatred towards Jews is old enough to have beards longer than all  patriarchs put together. The Jewish problems is not that they are too smart for their own good but admirably too smart to suit the rest of us. Never mind that Jewish immigration from all over the world has enhanced U.S. culture and intellectual heft. That migration, by the way, is never as large as sometimes touted: they are and always have been a fraction of world population. So what’s the problem?

          The big gripe is the misbegotten notion that since the beginning of time they’ve always been around the money. Nay, they began as did all peoples, tillers of soil with this distinction: they were among the best of cultivators, and powerful elites, making mountains out of religious and cultural molehills, found ways to take it for themselves, always with lame excuses that invoked fear and loathing of perceived differences.

          It didn’t help that the ancient land of the Hebrews was necessarily as small as the number of inhabitants, and became a football kicked between superpowers of the times–brutish dogs of war unleashed by Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and the like. Along the way Jews were forced by exclusion to seek other means of gainful endeavor, viz., shopkeepers and artisans, though many, due to their brain power and ability were chosen to serve in the courts of sovereigns—until a new and intolerant reign swooped them out again, using all the lame excuses.

          During their many dispersals, never at peace and loathed by all, they traveled by foot selling wares borne on their backs or as tinkers, or menders of pots, and those who stayed behind were left in communities unsupported by government. Each time, due to discrimination or too much success they were evicted from all livelihoods, till world nations found themselves in financial pickles and discovered that Jews were among the emerging wizards who could bail them out. And once out, said nations gave them the boot once again but not until Jews financed some of the great cathedrals of Europe—a curious irony among Christian leaders who at auspicious time invoked the “Christ-killer” canard on their Jewish economic saviors.

          Why a Baptist boy from the Missouri Ozarks could ever come to care about Jews and Judaism is a tale of growing up during World War II and post-conflict discovery of a “holocaust” of destruction unleashed by the Axis powers. I saw post-war movies that highlighted some of the horror and were jerked from screens for showing Jews too much as victims which, by the way, they were.

          Among my father’s effects after his death decades ago was “A History of the Jews” by Abram Sachar, as much of an objective account as one could possibly expect from a Jewish intellectual, which I absorbed to my everlasting benefit, and which I returned to 20 years ago and then again after the Tree of Life atrocity. I’ve often said that Americans would do well to read a damn book once in a while instead of gulping down misleading, anecdotal jabberings of Fox News and Alex Jones. Sachar’s text is long but readable and more relevant than romance novels and what’s on the latest menu of brain-eaters.

           Life is a journey of learning and happiness is knowledge. I thought that all discriminations would have ended with the past century but they remain and it is daunting to think that the oldest one of all is so far from banished. Perhaps if we solve that, the rest will follow.

          

Jun
25

          Blackface?–making a comeback? This is lost on the younger generation, but they’ll learn quickly via the realm of celebrity: Katy Perry’s brand has dropped two pairs of shoes from its line, and Gucci tried to cash in on black celebrity with a tasteless production of an expensive knit top—both losing their sophisticated repute in the process. And it didn’t stop there: Prada used blackface on new figurines while Moncler adorned a luxury coat with it.

          Dear me. On the Mississippi River, where I grew up, blackface was already going out of style among Southern sensitivities that surrounded me. Now what is black in hue is making lots of people see red.

          The face of this renaissance in stupidity begins with Gov. Northum of Old Virginny whose decades-old school yearbook showed a feller in blackface and another in KKK garb, leading him first to apologize, then to deny that either knucklehead was him.

          This led to an outcry that he jump ship to assuage not only black folk but outraged white liberals. Alas and alack, his black voting constituents urged him to stay on. This of course complicated the issue and he was able to buy time whilst controversy of other sorts swam around his lieutenant governor and the state AG.

          It also gave modern Southern Rebels a respite from assaults on their defense of Confederate statues, which comprise a frightful number throughout Old Dixie—including Virginia itself, which as of 2015 has taken to honor John Wilkes Booth for trying to do the country what he thought was a favor and, sadly, succeeded in doing so. And just in the nick of time too as most folks, North and South alike, had already forgotten the Garrett Farm near Port Royal where Booth was caught and driven from his mortal coil.

          The whole problem here is the human memory, which tends to forget a lot: for one thing, that blackface entertainment, first done by white people using cork and polish to resemble another race, had been going on since slaves arrived in these parts some 200 years ago.

          Its comic value was in derisive stereotyping of slaves in what came to be called minstrel shows. Why was it so funny, and how could that be? After all, tragic circumstance had forcibly brought persons of a different color here and shoved them into a system that taught them  nothing but inhuman toil and whippings, let alone the language in which they would have to communicate.

          The psychology of it was possibly a subliminal desensitization process for whites to the horrors of slavery. Sadly, it was the only depiction many of them had of black people—portrayed as lazy, dumb, cowardly and hypersexual. And it was also funny to white audiences for the use of black vernacular. As luck would have it, such entertainments spread from the South to the Northern U.S.

          And should you think that the elite of dominant culture rose above this, consider that Al Jolson wore blackface in “Jazz Singer” as late as 1927, and forget not that some of the most beloved child stars of the age also donned the look: Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney among them. Two knuckleheads, Charlie Cornell and Freeman Gosden, did the worst such portrayal and, thankfully, were the last I was destined to see: they looked neither black nor white, just a couple of bums trying to do something, though we knew not what.

          So while we debate whether the Northums of the world should be judged for long-ago mistakes, or cut some slack in the name of “second chances,” we should know and understand why all of this is so hurtful to blacks, not only now but Back Then. All of it was a cruel lie and we tend more to carry the worst of it into our subconscious thinking and acting, making it harder to see and acknowledge that those among us of African descent are undeserving of such derision and stereotyping.

          But as it stands, white culture thinks this crisis and its debate is all about them. So here we go again.

          

May
15

          Let’s talk about the budding presidential primaries. The Dems so far have 20+ candidates and counting, which is a good thing. The GOP had 17 three years ago and that was a good thing too—they found out who they were, and it wasn’t who they thought they were: they hadn’t a clue that by the end of it they would be all-in as the Party of Trump.

          Now it’s the Democrats’ turn and we don’t know who we are either. It’s a conversation desperately needed. They will talk and we will listen. A lot of assumptions have been made since the 2016 travesty, to wit, that we are all agreed who we are and, again, we are wrong as can be. Yes, we’re all agreed that Trump stinks up the body politic and needs to be exorcised, but disunity lurks beneath and waiting to be revealed before we come together again to defeat Trump.

          At times it may not be a pretty sight but a necessary one: in time we’ll know what we will and won’t put up with, and from it will come the necessary synthesis of agreement with which we’ll sail into the ocean of politics to divest it of the Great Orange Whale.

          This is what primaries should do, at necessary times. America is no longer what we used to be—children of a notable heritage descended from the Judeo-Christian tradition and nourished thereafter by respected rebels like the English and American poets, but reaching clear back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to World War, and through racial, anti-semitic and gender struggles.

          Well, forget about that. Of late we’ve lost our couth, innocence and civility. It began with the GOP primaries of three years ago: lest we forget, the first person to forge ahead was—Herman Cain, pizza king and knothead whose “Nine-Nine-Nine” domestic plan and “Beki-Beki-stan-stan” foreign policy jarred even GOP sensibilities, and that’s saying a lot.

          Next came Ben Carson, whose career as brain surgeon somehow made sense to Republicans as a grand segue to running a country. The two just cited fooled no one with a brain not in need of a scalpel: conservatives were seeking a “good, decent” black man who would say nasty things about Obama, and give cover to white people to follow suit with their own racist scorn.

          Others in the GOP Clown Car ranged from Ted Cruz to Jeb Bush, the biggest targets of Trump’s invective. But, as said, the GOP found the latter’s insults and indignities more pleasing, and reflective of them, than sanity and moderation. And here we are today.

          The Dem lineup overall is by far more reasonable, regardless of who you like or don’t like. Liz Warren had every right to run though many think she lacks public encouragement to do so this time around; no one asked Donald either, but he rode down a golden escalator with a trophy bride and at the bottom found the presidency. How ironic that he found it at the bottom, where it’s remained since his arrival.

           The clutch of Democrats with ambition is far better than the former clutter of Republicans, the banality of which made possible the likes of DJT. What’s not to like about Mayor Pete, unless you despise gays?—sure, he’s short on specifics but at least he’s  not a crackpot. Or Kamala Harris, save for the sins of being black and female? Bernie’s the man who would’ve been prez save for the bruising internecine politics of the 2016 moment. But even Trump likes him.

          Biden rightfully scares the Orange Man because Joe has his own grip on the states that elected Donald. And Seth Moulton will get his necessary name- and face-recognition in this run; he’s only 40 years old with a lifetime ahead to become Commander in Chief. As a war hero he has more guts than Gen. Bonespurs would have in a thousand reincarnations. And good for Seth for taking on Pelosi, yet another conversation Democrats had to have because there were whispers about her effectiveness and it gave her a chance to show her real chops as a party leade–and not a lick of harm came of it in the process.

          So let the games begin. We’ll soon know what American really is: lying, sarcastic and gun-totin’—or a return to respectability from its flirtation with idiocy.

          It’s a conversation worth having.

          

May
15

          What drives the national divide today? Partially, but largely, a standoff between differing cultures in America. Growing up in the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks, whatever I heard on radio and saw on TV had nothing to do with my life or of those around me.

          It was all about what we now call the “elites” of the east and west coasts—what they were saying and doing, what they liked and didn’t like. And, by default, their amusements and concerns were ours too because nothing else was on the tube. Our tastes were home-made and lacking in the sophistication (and manipulation) of those who controlled the major sources of information. But ours at least were for, and about, us. But we were invisible to the rest of America.

          A look at the larger world drove me at last to take the first stagecoach out of Dodge, so to speak, and come to terms with what theretofore was alien territory. Laugh if you will, but my first diagnostic test flatly revealed that I was “culturally deprived” but accepted into a private grad school due to IQ.

Yet my speech separated me from those reared elsewhere. It is not rare even now to hear Southern politicians admit that they know other Americans feel that they “talk funny” and I’m here to tell you they have not a clue why, any more than Brits know we think they have silly speech patterns that only posturing snobs and celebrities care to emulate. In your case, you would talk funny too if you were reared in a home with Jeff Sessions for a dad: “There but for the grace of God,” and all that.

          Years of broader exposure have occasioned a different person. Only those with the keenest ear can detect rudiments of my former speech, and only those who knew me “then” know the differences in my head and heart.

          But I have not forgotten where I came from, or the people there. They have a national inferiority complex whether they admit it or not, and—news flash!–on a personal basis they have more ego strength than sophisticates burdened with much more inner conflict, whether they too admit it or not. Sophisticated northerners, especially New Englanders, are far greater male chauvinists than educated Southern men, and haven’t a clue how obvious is their cloaked racism regardless what they think they know of the southern variety.

          Those who’ve had this country their way for too long are unaware of other subtleties, i.e., back when celebrity crooners like Sinatra, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, et al, were sucking up all the cultural air, country singers outsold them hands down in albums, sheer sales and money. And when people wondered why followers of televangelists continued to support their disgraced preachers, it was that cameras at crusades and revivals showed at last the forgotten people who were never in the news or on TV—and clearly were different from the self-described sophisticates and intelligentsia. To take down their preachers would ensure that they too, again, would disappear.

          In truth, that is no different than the rest of humanity: if you’re young and not into every new Rock group regardless of the inanity of lyrics, you’re a nobody. Cam-pan an Improv crowd and you know the only reason those people look like their having a good time laughing at lame jokes is because they’re drunk and know they’re on television.  

          As the noose tightens around Donald Trumps’s neck and we begin that sigh of relief at finally dodging a terrible bullet, let us not forget that along with a changing world that scares the hell out of some people and makes them lash out in equal parts at perceived authorities and any designated minority, we can continue to do our part to dig the cultural divide even deeper—and risk another Donald Trump that we won’t be able to get rid of.

           This warning is not about haters—that’s another subject, but it’s about a lesser animus that threatens ever to turn into hate. We look down on the kind of person I once was and short of hating them, we simply ignore them the way people pitied the poor in Dickens’ England.

          But America’s forgotten can’t ignore us and they don’t quite hate you. But they sure as hell don’t like you. And that’s why they voted for Donald. And will vote for him again.

          So be aware. And now that we know what Donald is like: be very, very afraid.

         .

Oct
09

          In all wars, everyone loses. And the costs are devastating. We are in a civil war and the price will be with us for decades. Once again it’s parent against child, sibling against sibling. Just like old times. Someday Ken Burns will sort it all out for our viewing pleasure.

          If nation binds us, this conflict has torn us apart. Aside from the politics of it, the recent brawl for the Supreme Court stands to make assaulters of women only bolder. For victims there has been little shelter and there will be little to come. And, in time, bye-bye Roe v Wade. The commanders in the field, so to speak, are politicians and between them it is personal, and calls for reason in their bitter struggle are useless. This is not about morality and justice, it’s about winning. What we never learn is that all such victories are pyrrhic. Look it up.

          Following are the declared heroes, but as in Homer’s epics, their wounds and gripes are grievous: Achilles pouts in his tent, Hector is dragged around Troy, Agamemnon goes home to be off-ed by his wife and her lover, Cassandra knows the truth but no one believes her, a Horse is treated like an elephant in the room–and full of mischief for all who deny it. And Helen, the cause of it all, is lost in the chaos. Others are:

          Jeff Flake: aptly named and loved by no one; owing nothing to his Party, his voters or to Trump—all of whom had already rejected him and forced him to retire, he was dealt the perfect hand for this poker game but squandered it by bidding too low. Now his face is as sad as the little man that he is.

          Susan Collins: cagier than imagined, playing both sides of the political game as well as any man in the Senate, and can bait-and-switch with the best of them. She masterfully angled for her fifteen minutes of fame, took an hour instead, then deftly said it wasn’t about her. Sadly, she opted for the wrong side of history.

          Mitch McConnell: he taught us something we didn’t know—that all it takes is one man to hold up a Supreme Court nomination, and keep it in storage for a prez of his own liking. There’s a civics lesson in that, maybe one to be looked at by the Supremes.

          Lindsey Graham: whoever remembers him as an independent thinker can think again. Once the “McCain, Jr.” of the Senate, he’s now presidential lapdog. Why? He already told us that AG Sessions is not long for this world and, hello!—he wants Jeffy’s job; so his righteous indignation lacks, well, righteousness.

          Democrats: if anything proves Seth Moulton right, it’s about Dems needing fresh faces. Schumer and Pelosi don’t need to go away, just move over. New blood is having to wait in line longer than necessary, so any Blue Wave needs to raise their boats. And please stop talking about Impeachment, whether of Trump or Kavanaugh. That’s a sink-hole. Take back Congress, if not both Houses, at the Mid-terms, thus de-claw and de-fang Trump, shut down his playpen, and watch all his rats jump ship.

          Sarah Sanders: It don’t git no better’n than havin’ the world’s elite journalistic corps lectured by Hillbilly Huckabee, queen of the Arkansas mountains. A master of minimalist press conferences, she even dares to say they’ll soon be things of the past, when it’s her we want to go away, not them.

          Evangelicals: the reason why Jesus and Saints Peter and Paul are turning over in their graves. They think God is using Trump to better America, but Donald is using them to make us a world laughingstock.

          Kavanaugh: this little frat boy will have to hide his partying from here on out, as he takes his place at the shallow end of the gene pool wherein swim the Supremes; Thomas and Gorsuch are already somewhere to the right of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Bret’s now their drinking buddy. The new game in town will be who can make nice with Brett, offer him a beer and see if he can stop at one. If he starts throwing ice at us, then we can start thinking of Impeachment.

 

           

         

Sep
08

             Should this be deemed a bridge too far in current political discourse–don’t even get started with me.

          Fallout from the Trump presidency has dumped a ton of filth on our national conversation and I will not allow high ground to be claimed by political thugs whilst they shame others for naming names.

           I’ve not been happy with many press secretaries but their infractions have been at worst bad judgment in the heat of the trench warfare in which they toil, a pressure-cooker not to be wished on anyone loved or held dear.

          Often they bolt from the blue of happenstance encounters with a political comer, then morph into his face and voice, as did Jody Powell, a southerner from near Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm in Georgia—and whom I did not so much dislike as felt that Carter could have done so much better. At times a shrewd party hack gets the job and becomes further proof of the Peter Principle when elevated to facing the nation’s press; or like Marlin Fitzwater, who served both Reagan and the elder Bush but later was suckered into a disastrous interview with Ali G that hurt his brand and cost his chance for the Congressional Gold Medal. Dana Perino served George W—she of the missing sparkplugs and lackluster demeanor, though at times such actually serves one well in politics.

          Robert Gibbs, an Obama choice, merrily took on Barack’s critics, calling them the “professional left” and suggesting they all be drug tested. What made each different from the current podium-holder was that on the whole they respected the press corps, regardless of the battles and scars, dutifully taking their lumps while answering virtually all questions.

          Not Sarah Sanders, proud product of Oauchita Baptist Coll—er, now “University” in Arkadelphia, near the Ozark Mountainss. The website advises us it’s to be pronounced, “Wash-Uh-Taw,” though I needed no prompting, given my familiarity with a pack of them who once descended on a grad school in Kansas City.

          This Sarah, not be confused with Palin, may not see Russia from her house but she’d have us think she knows-it-all, and why not, as daughter of Mike Huckabee, Baptist preacher and liar-in-chief of the southern wing of the GOP, thereby giving both God and religion a bad name in those parts. You’d think Sarah had a Ph.D from God himself as she snubs a press corps that is galaxies beyond her intelligence, a fact lost on her as she dismisses questions, promises to “get back to” or to “keep posted” the press corps when she has no intention of doing so. She pouted at being denied restaurant service shortly after praising a bakery’s refusal to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The days of Sean Spicer are made to seem halcyon by comparison—though just as I said those words aloud, my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth.

          Sarah is the embodiment of the old Ozarkian joke about a woman much like her in age and appearance, clad in a flower-sack dress and puffing up a dusty lane pursued by a 13-year old hickseed who, when called out by a passerby to leave the woman alone, yells back, “But her’s my ma—her’s weanin’ me.”

          In the interest of full disclosure, I’m native to the Ozarks, on the Missouri side of the line. To some, the trick is somehow to escape that culture by dint of education—or just get the hell out to save one’s soul: I’ve lived and worked all over the U.S. and with hindsight sadly reflect that too many Ozarkians and Ouachitans have addictions to their own ignorance. God bless those who remain and manage to keep their sanity.

          In sum, that is Sarah Sanders—silly, sad and sorrowfully over her head; dumb as a post, arrogant in her benightedness, and a perfect fit for the man who said he’d hire the brightest and best, then hi-jacked every knucklehead heretofore unknown and unheard of to be the face of government in these United States.

          Look not for Sarah’s visage on a future postage stamp or any biography to grace the Best Seller list. Any references to her current tenure will say much more than I have here, and in darker, bolder terms, and at best found in the Humor section of out-of-the-way bookstores.

          On the other hand, it may be that an authorized autobiography will come to anchor a bookshelf of that renowned bastion of high culture in Arkadelphia, in the section labelled Sacred History.

                              

Aug
02

          You would think Donald Trump was doing the Lord’s work. As with all messiahs who show up now and then, everything seems to go his way, regardless, as it hath been down through history. His GOP base increaseth in its love for him, edging towards 90% of support for anything he says or does, calling to mind the adage that when even two people think exactly alike, one of them isn’t thinking.

          Everything we’ve known as fair play, decent and good is out the window, and it’s everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost, Donald being both “himself” and the devil.

          He struts like Mussolini, complete with facial expressions, at his iconic “campaign” rallies, and unlike prior tyrants who unleashed goons with orders to beat up opposition, elements of his base need no instructions, feeling authorized to do so on their own, after all, this is a democracy. And don’t even get started with me about poor li’l Sarah Sanders being denied restaurant service—she’s all-ok with bakers who won’t make cakes for gay weddings.

          So what does Donald have to fear—only fear itself? Well, it’s a start. Here’s a guy whose colossal ego needs neither God’s forgiveness, nor the asking for it, as he asserted long ago, and who loves our enemies and hates his own countrymen: imagine the goodwill he may have merited by giving credit for predecessors’ building-blocks from which he has benefited, such as Obama’s economic bailout, and even Barack’s earlier call for NATO nations to up their ante on mutual defense.

          Let’s go back to Aristotle, one of many dead poets, so to speak, who got everything right the first time: his definition of tragedy was that when such folk, by hook or crook, become apparently unstoppable—they end up doing in themselves. The ego finally goes too far and they, being blind to it, serve up the means of their own destruction. A man of moderate temper might catch himself before a fall, but not an ego-maniac, not when he thinks he’s God himself.

          It was Aristotle too who long before had proposed the idea of a mixed-constitution that got its first test during the Roman Empire, which became a Republic along the way. Ari knew all the forms of government—rule by one, the few and the many, ergo, monarchies, aristocracies and democracies. He imagined a combo of them and the Romans did just that. They didn’t always have emperors and when they didn’t there were consuls who indeed had absolute authority, but only in war and in national crisis.

          Their senate was not elected, but chosen, from elite families and outstanding heroes, which implied breeding, experience and, necessarily, the benefit of age and the wisdom and judgment for big decisions made in foreign policy, going to war and making treaties. Last were popular assemblies who voted to place people in office—including the two consuls—along with determining rewards and punishments.

          And it worked. On occasion it got stretched, sometimes shrunk, but overall an elastic system that helped them to survive at times the worst of tyrants. Actually it was better than anything the Greeks or Spartans had managed in Ari’s own day.

          And, aye, here’s the rub for now, but only if Donald’s rants aren’t drowning it out. We’ve got a guy not elected by the majority but by a well-placed minority (our so-called and controversial Electoral College); who thinks he’s god (as did the emperors); and who’s broken the balance-of-power via political sycophants (the U.S. Congress—both Houses). A recipe for temporary success—and ultimate disaster.

          I’m old enough to remember 20th century tyrants, notable for having everything go right for a time; their growing approval by a populace who thought he could do no wrong; but in time were swinging by their heels or avoiding judgment by killing themselves and/or their own children, and in rather short periods of time. We don’t work that way here, at least I hope so; we just want a plausible outcome, a democracy that bends and flexes, swings and sways, but always holding together—and always one of laws, not of men, however good or bad.

          Thus, as so many of us flounder, feeling dis-empowered and regularly insulted by our own president, there’s a message herein for the leader himself:

          Fear nothing now. But fear the future. And fear yourself. And then be very, very afraid.