The Doggerel-Gone-It Impeachment Blues

andrew-johnson-impeachment-summons-340x191

 

The Doggerel-Gone-It Impeachment Blues

 

The stench of wet coal, politicians . . .

Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”

 

Johnson’s impeachment occurred so far back.

No one can remember the Tenure of Office Act.

 

Once upon a more recent time,

J Gordon Liddy committed a crime,

 

a burglary some have called third rate,

which led, of course, to Watergate.

 

Dick Nixon was forced to take the fall

(in those days Republicans sported balls),

 

which sadly isn’t the case today.

They had Goldwater; we have Graham.

 

Weak-willed Bill Clinton in the Oval Office

ran afoul of a couple of orifices,

 

creating quite a sordid mess,

alleged perjury, a stained blue dress.

 

Yet the Senate voted not to convict,

(though most agreed he was a prick).

 

So here we are again, forsooth,

dealing with presidential abuse:

 

The number of allegations should give us pause:

obstructing justice, violating the Emolument Clause,

 

withholding aid for dirt in a quid pro quo.

The days go past, the catalogue grows.

 

I say let’s subpoena those stories killed by the Enquirer

so we can extinguish this orange dumpster fire.

 

It’s time we got back to something like normal

With a Commander-in-Chief less hormonal.

Why Paul Ryan Should Read Flannery O’Connor

book-cover

“As far as I am concerned,” she said and glared at him fiercely, Christ was just another D.P.”

Mrs. May to Father Flynn in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person”

 

The most heartbreaking of all Flannery O’Connor’s stories, “The Displaced Person,” seems particularly poignant given the ban on Muslim refugees instated last weekend.[1] Set right after WW2, the story dramatizes the attempted assimilation of a Polish refugee into bigoted backwoods Georgia.

As David Griffith points out in his excellent essay on the story in The Paris Review:

O’Connor takes her title from the Displaced Persons Act, which, between 1948 and 1952, permitted the immigration of some four hundred thousand European refugees into the United States. President Truman signed the bill with “very great reluctance” for what he saw as its discriminatory policy toward Jews and Catholics: the Act stipulated that, in order to be eligible, one must have entered Germany, Italy, or Austria before December 22, 1945, which, according to Truman, ruled out 90 percent of the remaining Jewish people displaced by the war. Similarly excluded were the many Catholics who’d fled their largely Communist countries after the December 22 deadline.

“The bad points of the bill are numerous,” Truman wrote. “Together they form a pattern of discrimination and intolerance wholly inconsistent with the American sense of justice.” He called the decision to enforce the December 1945 deadline “inexplicable, except upon the abhorrent ground of intolerance.”

In the story, O’Connor’s displaced person’s work ethic so far exceeds that of the slothful, under-compensated blacks and whites who work on Mrs. May’s farm that he threatens their livelihoods. Worse than that, he violates Southern taboo of racial purity when tries to contract a marriage between a black field hand and his young Polish cousin languishing in a camp back home.

When an outraged Mrs. May confronts Mr. Guizac about the proposed interracial marriage — “You would bring [that] poor innocent child over here and try to marry her to a half-witted thieving black stinking nigger” — he says quite sensibly, “She no care black [. . .] She in camp three year.”

In the end, xenophobia and bigotry triumph over charity as the displaced person – the one good man to be found in that collection called A Good Man Is Hard to Find – is done away with.

She had felt her eyes and Mr. Shortley’s eyes and the Negro’s eyes come together in one look that froze in collusion forever, and she heard the little noise the Pole made as the tractor wheel broke his backbone.

* * *

Obviously, refugees rank as some of the planet’s most vulnerable souls, driven from their homelands — from their familiar cultures — into alien worlds of gibberish, incomprehensible mores, and worse.

The refugees turned away this weekend had undergone as much as 48 months of vetting from several agencies and pose virtually no terrorism threat whatsoever. No one from the banned countries has ever committed a terrorist attack on US soil – unlike citizens from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Pakistan, who weren’t included in the ban, people from countries where Trump has business interests.

Imagine the refugees’ heartache after so much suffering, boarding a plane headed for their dreamed of destination, only to be turned away and sent on a long, long flight back to perdition.

Of course, it’s not surprising that the sadist Trump would shatter the hopes of the dispossessed to score political points. After all, as many have pointed out, he’s cruel, hosted a reality TV show in which he lovingly embraced the chance to humiliate people with the words “you’re fired.” No one would expect him to take refugees’ plights to heart.

On the other hand, you might think Paul Ryan, who embraces his Catholicism the way Steve Bannon does his booze, would take Jesus’s words more to heart. But Ryan has come out fully supporting the ban.

I’ll let Jesus – the ultimate Displaced Person – have the last say:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. .5:11-12

Oh, by the way, what was the percentage of evangelists’ votes Trump garnered?


[1] The Trump’s claim that it’s not a ban on Muslims rings hollow when the administration offers exemptions to Christians and Jews.

tissot-the-lords-prayer

A Fate Worse Than Death

shapeimage_2

This is the time of year when I typically publish my annual “That Was the Year That Was” post, sashaying down memory lane reprising old chestnuts from the last 12 months in an egotistical attempt to drive up my hit totals before the new year. (This year’s total to date 23,358, but who’s counting?)

However, 2016 has been so horrible with the deaths of friends, the reoccurrence of Judy’s cancer, and the election of the Tangerine ManBaby™, I can’t summon the strength to revisit what has seemed the entire 14th Century [1] compressed into 366 dolorous days.

illustration from a Norwegian newspaper

illustration from a Norwegian newspaper

Instead, I’m going to reprise a post from my all-but-defunct Late Empire Ruminations blog from 2011, back when Donald Trump was, according to Barbara Walters, merely one of the year’s “10 most fascinating people” (as opposed to a Mad Tweeter with access to nuclear weapons).

Anyway, Enjoy, and Merry Xmas/Happy Hanukkah/Wonderful Kwanzaa/ Super Saturnalia, etc.


Jean Paul Sartre’s existential hell of No Exit seems downright paradisal if you imagine the unspeakable horror of being trapped in an open boat with Barbara Walter’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2011*, i.e., Herman Cain, Katy Perry, Eric Stonestreet and sitcom co-star Tyler Ferguson, the Kardashians, Simon Cowell, Derek Jeter, Amanda Knox, Pippa Middleton, Donald Trump, and the late Steve Jobs, who in this scenario would be cannibalized by the survivors.

One wonders if such an array of narcissists in such a small space might upset the delicate balance of matter v. anti-matter, their collective self-absorption sucking the entire universe into the insatiable black hole of their egos.


*For some odd reason BW deems the Kardashian sisters as one person and the duo of Stonestreet and Ferguson as one person as well (perhaps because they play a gay adoptive couple on television). Otherwise, we actually have 14 fascinating people.

black-hole

Come to think of it, this idea would make one hell of a movie, if any investors out there are ready to kick in some capital and send it my way. Of course, the film will begin on the QE2 in the near future, our 14 fascinating cast members on their way to Iran to entertain occupying troops in the first term of the Gingrich Administration.* Unfortunately, killer drones attack the luxury liner, killing Derek Jeter and Pippa Middleton, perhaps the least egotistical of the fourteen.


*2016 note:  Yipes, I wasn’t too far off.

As the survivors vie for attention (imagine the McLaughlin Group in full-throat contention), the electromagnetic force of their egos creates a black hole that sucks them to a new universe where they each form a separate planet (with its unique costuming) and the rest of the movie is devoted to their preparations for an intergalactic war that will put all six Star Wars movies to shame.

I mean, it’s like Open Water 2 meets Starship Troopers. Picture Donald Trump attempting to fit the cotton-candied parallelogram of his hair inside a space helmet or Amanda Knox skipping out on amassing an air force to go clubbing at the mos-eisley-cantina.

mos-eisley-cantina

We’re talking boffo box office, investors. You know how to contact me.


[1] A few highlights from Century 14: the Great Famine of 1315-1317 kills millions in Europe, the Hundred Years’ War begins in 1367, the bubonic plague hits its peak in the years 1346-1353 reducing the world population an estimated 350-375 million. I know those plague death numbers sound unbelievable, even by Wikipedia standards.

How Democritus and Heraclites Might Have Reacted to the Trump Election

four-elements

 

This evening after a series of minor vexations – son sick, Gamecocks clobbered, eye invaded by wayward particle – I got to thinking about Horace Walpole’s observation that “[l]ife is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think.” I quote Walpole when I’m teaching tragedy and ask students to offer an interpretation.

It’s a hard question, hard to put the answer into words.

Of course, to address the question, you need context.   For example, let’s examine the thinking/ feeling/comedy/tragedy conundrum from the perspective of Trump’s election.

(I know some of you may have supported Trump, perhaps because you feel immigrants are overrunning the country or that massive tax cuts will defy history and fuel an economic boom or that you consider Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama Satanic spawn or some/all of the above).

However, the [tautology alert] a priori premise in this thought experiment is that Trump is a vulgarian with authoritarian tendencies whose boorish pronouncements during the campaign have eroded codes of civility and whose total lack of a sense-of-history and intellectual curiosity make his election as leader of the free world very, very unfortunate.

Not to mention his pathological avariciousness.

Democritus

Democritus

Okay, let’s bring in the cynical pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, aka “the laughing philosopher.”

Seneca claimed that Democritus, whom he called “the Mocker,” laughingly held human beings in disdain, modeling a detached amusement at the foibles of the masses. In temperament think Bill Maier as opposed to Louis Black.

If human folly is laughable, this election might very well provoke Democritus to guffawing at this turn of events:

A swindler and pathological liar who pleads guilty to fraud a week after the election and who referred to his opponent as “Crooked Hillary” with the help of Fox News and Russian hackers (not to mention the New York Times) convinces a majority populace that he’s “more trustworthy” than she.

[cue laugh track]

Coal miners in Kentucky counties who have decreased their uninsured rate by almost twenty percent vote 93% to 6% for a man who wants to abolish the estate tax.

[cue laugh track]

Thinkers like Democritus take the long view.   Human folly is essentially history’s major motif. Thinkers are familiar with not only Huck Finn’s the “Duke and the Dolphin” but have read Swift and Shakespeare and perhaps Horace and Juvenal.

In their view, only incredibly naïve pollyannas would expect their generation to be less prone to foolishness than their forebears. Most of humankind is purblind, always have been, always will be.

After all, anyone reading this will be literally dead in 80 years. So what if the American Experiment fails? So what if Arizona once again boasts a view of the Pacific? Letting the little people decide was a very, very bad idea.

Just desserts.

By the way, should I add that this view might be considered elitist?

Heraclitus

Heraclitus

Heraclitus, on the other hand, aka the “weeping philosopher,” was a feeler, invested in the here and now. So what if Swift’s view of Yahoos was essentially correct? Those yahoos who voted for Trump in Kentucky lives will not get any better but actually worse: they will lose that recently acquired insurance, babies will die, and those promised coal mining jobs ain’t coming back ever.  Once again, they’ve been lied to.

How horrible, Heraclitus laments, that such chicanery is so rewarded. A spoiled, 70-year-old adolescent tweets preposterous lies and pays no apparent price for his dishonesty and in the mean time transforms the Founding Fathers’ republican democracy into an authoritarian kleptocracy!

People are real, not abstractions to be mocked. Pain is real.

In fact, sorry. My eye is killing me. I got to sign off.

 

fallout1

 

 

The Con: You Can Fool a Whole Lot of People a Lot of the Time

snake-oil

Last Tuesday, lots of low information voters stood in the relatively short lines where white people vote and cast their ballots for Donald Trump because they’re sick of Washington DC and wanted to take a sledge-hammer to the status quo.

These people are unaware that not much got done in Washington under Obama (except for saving the economy and adding 20 million to the ranks of the insured) because the Republican Congress thwarted his every move. Mitch McConnell infamously announced right from the get-go, i.e. right after Obama’s first inauguration, that his goal was to make sure that Obama would be a one-term president.

Well, these low info whites are going to get their way now because things are about to get done in Washington – the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, massive tax cuts signed into law, environmental protections gutted, banks deregulated – sis-boom-bah!

Perhaps because Trump’s gruff plain speech echoed their thoughts and expressed their prejudices, they figured he would give a shit about them and get those factories humming again, but, of course, all Donald Trump cares about is Donald Trump, and certainly his polices aren’t going to help those disaffected Michiganders and Ohioans; indeed, they’ll make their lives even less lavish. No doubt, these pissed off citizens don’t know that Trump literally defecates in gold-plated toilets. They couldn’t see that he’s the great-great grandson of the charlatan who sold their great-great grandfathers that snake oil.

Trey Lott and the lobbyists, on the other hand, will do right well as deficits rise like volcanoes, necessitating drastic cuts in non-military spending in subsequent years. The real irony, though, is that after the election, it’s not Republican Party that is, to quote Matthew Yglesias, “a smoldering heap,” but the Democratic Party instead.

Although Abe Lincoln’s famous statement, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” might very well be true, it’s also true that you can “fool a whole lot of people a lot of the time — over and over again.”

The Zombie Apocalypse Blues (We’re All Gonna Die!)

Zombie Apcolpse

 

Born six years and ten months after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I am old enough to remember looking up at the stars above the steeple of the Methodist Church across the street from our rented house to see if I could detect Sputnik inching its way across the night sky.

We’re all gonna die!

Five years later, I would crouch underneath my desk at Summerville Elementary School as we practiced surviving a Soviet nuclear attack.[1]

We’re all gonna die!

A few months ago, I huddled beneath a Harkness table with high school students as we practiced surviving an assault from a deranged assailant.[2]

We’re all gonna die!

* * *

In the swirl of everyday events, it’s sometimes difficult to see strange occurrences as nothing more than mundane. In our particular culture, mass murder has become mundane. I’m not at all surprised to awaken to the news that some disaffected religious fanatic or marginalized bigot clad in body armor has decided to take out his grievances on complete strangers. Chances are that the murderer here in the United States is a native-born citizen of the-home-of-the-brave-and-the-land-of-the- free. Chances are he feels unaccepted so decides to throw a tempter tantrum.

Now, even the loneliest of the alienated can commune with fellow disaffected psyches on the Internet, cross-pollinating hatreds. Omar Mateen, our butcher de jour, actually checked his Facebook page during the carnage to see if the shootings had gone viral. Despite his having sworn fealty to ISIS right before the attack, I suspect that repressed-queerness, a tyrannical father, and high-school unpopularity had as much to do with his rage as geo-political/religious fanaticism.   Maybe he didn’t get enough positive attention when he was growing up. Now, he has gone viral, achieved infamy, set the Internet ablaze by obliterating the lives of his victims, their families, and friends.

Meanwhile, Congress is unwilling to ban the sale of assault weapons to people on no-fly lists, the Republicans have nominated PT Barnum-Meets-Mussolini, the Democrats a woman with a 55% disapproval rate, forest fires roar and oceans rise as satellites galore orbit the Earth keeping tabs and providing entertainment that features zombie apocalypses.

We’re all gonna die!


[1] Did they do this in the “separate-but-equal” African American school across town?

[2] Did little colonists in their one-room schools practice for a possible Indian attack?

 

Yeats’ s Second Coming, the 2016 Election Edition

 

Turning and turning in the never-ending news cycle

The primary voter cannot hear the RNC;

Coalitions fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Donald Trump is loosed upon the world.

The slime-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of commonsense is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revolution is at hand;

Surely another revolution is at hand.

Another revolution! Hardly are those words out

When a vaunting image out of black-and-white newsreels

Troubles my sight: raised hands at rallies where

A shape with a man’s body and the hair of a troll,

A face with stunted gaze and a sphincter-like mouth,

Spews feces of hate while all about him

Swarm legions of lemming-like whites,

Shouting curses and slugging protesters!

It looks as if a half-century of stony sleep has been

vexed into nightmare by yet another authoritarian,

who now that his hour has come round again

slouches towards Washington to be sworn.

donald sphinx

A Kennel of Doggerel for Donald

A Kennel of Doggerel for Donald

 

 

Guess what? Sometimes the past isn’t prologue.

Take, for example, Donald J Trump.

The pundits just knew he’d sink in the slog

slinging that shit out there on the stump.

 

Looks as if the pundits were wrong

to base their predictions on Bachmann and Cain,

who got off to strong starts in 2008

but ended up missing the convention-bound train.

 

They’re not Trump. Both lacking and defying gravity,

he bloviates brandishing a bloodstained skewer.

Confronting him seems like sheer insanity —

like picking a fight with Jessie Ventura.

 

Guess what? Sometimes the past isn’t prologue.

Take, for example, Donald J Trump.

The pundits just knew he’d sink in the slog

slinging that shit out there on the stump.

 

Jessie Ventura, former Governor of Minnesota

Jessie Ventura, former Governor of Minnesota

That Was the Year That Was

One of the many Mongolians who didn't click on this site in 2014

One of the many Mongolians who didn’t click on this site in 2015

Thanks to all of ya’ll who clicked on the blog this year, which received 20.022 hits by visitors from 110 countries. I’d like especially to thank those solo souls in Lithuania, Guadeloupe, Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, the Isle of Man, Libya, Congo-Kinshasa, not to mention whoever it was in Papua New Guinea looking for porn who got sidetracked in Hoodooland.

Of course, several countries were no-shows, including predictable sourpusses like North Korea, Mongolia, and Greenland, but come on, Botswana, Paraguay, and Fiji, where’s your sense of adventure?

Happily, except for a death-haunted January that featured a stem cell transplant, 2015 was a big improvement over 2014, so I thought I’d offer a reprise of some of the most popular posts.

January

Although “Endangered Lowcountry SC Locutions,” featuring my mother and written exactly a week before my her death, was by far January’s the most popular post, I prefer “Super Bowl XLIX Preview,” which I could easily update this year by merely dropping those clunky Roman Numerals designating forty-nine for the sleek – dare I call them Arabic – numerals 5 and 0.

February

20140511_inq_jriordan11-bOne of the top news stories in February was an outbreak of measles at Disney World, which brought to light that luddites on both the far right and far left are not vaccinating their replicated DNA, so I produced this piece “Natural Selection at Work” that features not only a vintage photo of smiling polio victims but also a full color photo of an autistic dog.

February also brought us the Brian Williams scandal, which sent me into true confession mode. Dear Readers, believe it or not, I’m no stranger to “misremembering,” as the self-explanatory title “My Most Cherished Mismemory Debunked” testifies.

 

March

March came in like a lion with a very popular post, “Ten Literary Riddles.” If you don’t want to see the answers, don’t scroll down past number 10.”

April

granda-and-ted2What better way to celebrate a month dedicated to fools than a post entitled “A Brief Analysis of the Likability of 2016 Presidential Candidates,” which is so fair and balanced that Larry Sally, my most ardently Republican friend, says he more or less agrees with it.

I also caught Dylan in concert for the only-god-knows-how-manyeth-time, and “Review of Bob Dylan Concert 17 April 2015” got a ton of hits.

May

governor-watching-tvMay brought the news that Texas’s wheelchair bound governor was preparing the state for an invasion from the US Federal government, and I realized what a great movie it would make, hence, “The Invasion of Texas – Coming to a Theater Near You Soon!”

Like Donald Trump, I ain’t no fan of political correctness, as this piece “Political Correctness Academy” demonstrates.

 

June

Folly Beach, my adopted home barrier island, is a frequent subject, and this piece “Folly Beach’s Cat Lady, Potential Serial Killer” still generates some traffic on the site.

Also, in June, I got my hands on the uncorrected proofs of “Elijah’s Wald’s ‘Dylan Goes Electric,’” which was picked up by the mega Dylan website “Expecting Rain: Bob Dylan.” Wald himself weighs in with a comment on the post.

Alas, June also brought us the Charleston Massacre, and this post “Way Past Time” struck a chord.

I also finally got to go to a Jewish wedding: “My First Jewish Wedding.”

July

A lazy month that featured video of a hotdog eating contest (“Celebrating the 4th on Folly after the Alcohol Ban”), a paean to drive-in movies (“Enjoying Genocide at the Drive-in“), and more spoiled elite college student bashing (“America’s Culture of Hyperachievemnt among the Affluent).

August

donald-trump-750x455Oh my God, where has the summer gone? Life is short. I’ll be dead in no time. Better turn to the Good Book. And who better to lead a Bible lesson than the Donald: “Bible Study with Donald Trump.

September

Here’s a poem: “What Guilt Feels Like: A Series of Pickpocketed Similes,” an exercise in collage.

And a behind-the-scenes peek of my decadent lifestyle hanging out with beat poets at Chico Feo: “Folly Beach Life, Ain’t the Good Life, But It’s My Life.”

kaye-paulAnd I’m surprised this post didn’t catch on, a “Casting the Republican Primary Farce,” in which I find photos of dead movie/tv starts who are – drumroll – dead ringers for the Republican candidates.

October

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang upon those bows that shake against the cold, what better time than to go all nostalgic: “That Time I Threatened to Hang Myself If Student Housing Didn’t Transfer me out of That Dorm Suite I Shared with Antithetical Monsters.

November

Actually, not only do leaves not turn yellow where I live, they don’t even fall from the trees: “Whining on Thanksgiving.”

December

Which brings us to December, today, Christmas. I’ll give Santa the final word:

“Santa Agonistes.”

Naw, I get the final word. Thanks so much for reading. I sincerely appreciate it.

Trump’s Bombastic Trumpeting

221686821_b05eb71b96_oIn the last couple of days, the insult “un-American” has been slung at Donald Trump as if xenophobia is atypical in the home of the brave and land of the free, as if historically, the sons and daughters of the nation’s original Anglican immigrants rolled out red carpets of welcome for those hordes of Irish and Italian immigrants who poured into Manhattan back in the day, as if FDR didn’t round up law-abiding Japanese-American citizens and lock them away in internment camps during WW2, as if the Supreme Court didn’t uphold that action as constitutional.   Although I’m opening myself up to the charge of being one of those “hate-America-first” lefties, we should not forget that genocide and enslavement play important roles in the founding of our country. In fact, you could argue – and virtually all the neighbors who flocked to see the Donald at the Yorktown Monday would agree – it’s I-and-I who is un-American for bringing up those offputting historical blights.

In the current Harpers, Lewis H Lapham, this century’s HL Mencken, casts his satirical eye at the United States’ democratic traditions and the current presidential campaign. I encourage you to read the entire piece [found here], but in the tradition of Harper’s itself, I thought I’d share a few of its highlights, to sort of excerpt the article, and then to end with some personal observations on the Donald.

Lewis H Lapham

Lewis H Lapham

Lapham begins the piece by claiming that “throughout most of its history” the US has preferred “concentrated wealth” to “democracy.” He cites Plato’s contention in The Republic that “’noble falsehood’ is the stuff that binds a society together in self-preserving myth.” The myth in this case is that the god who created men “mixed gold into some of them” and that these men “are adequately equipped to rule, because they are the most valuable.” Lapham suggests that the Founding Fathers essentially agreed with Socrates’ elitist vision of leadership and so created “a government in which a privileged few would arrange the distribution of law and property to and for the less fortunate many, an enlightened oligarchy that would nurture both the private and the public good, accommodating both the motions of the heart and the movements of a market.”

These leaders, to quote Madison, possessed the “most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society.” “But not enough virtue and wisdom,” Lapham reminds us, “to free the republic of its slaves.” That task was left to men neither enlightened nor rich giving their ‘last full measure of devotion’ to consecrate ‘the proposition that all men are created equal.” In other words, common men with rifles who fought fiercely at places like Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania accomplished the task of emancipation.

Lapham credits Lincoln with the establishment of the myth of equality but laments  that the myth has lost its power. He argues that now “presidential-election campaigns [are] designed to be seen, not heard, the viewers invited to understand government as representative in the theatrical, not the constitutional, sense of the word.” He goes on to say that “this simplified concept of politics installed Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1981 to represent the country’s preferred image of itself, uproot the democratic style of thought and feeling that underwrote Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, restore America to its rightful place where “someone can always get rich.”

Let’s just say that Lapham is immune to the Gipper’s charms.

The evening [of the welcoming ceremony produced by Frank Sinatra at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, on the night before Reagan’s inauguration] set the tone of the incoming Republican political agenda, promising a happy return to an imaginary American past — to the amber waves of grain from sea to shining sea, the home on the range made safe from Apaches by John Wayne in John Ford’s Stagecoach. The great leap backward was billed as a bright new morning in an America once again cowboy-hatted and standing tall, risen from the ashes of defeat in Vietnam, cleansed of its Watergate impurities, outspending the Russians on weapons of mass destruction. During the whole of his eight years in office Reagan was near perfect in his lines — “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” — sure of hitting his marks on Omaha and Malibu Beach, snapping a sunny salute to a Girl Scout cookie or a nuclear submarine. The president maybe hadn’t read Plato in the ancient Greek, but myth was his métier, and he had the script by heart. Facts didn’t matter because, as he was apt to say, “facts are stupid things.” What mattered was the warmth of Reagan’s bandleader smile, his golden album of red, white, and blue sentiment instilling consumer confidence in the virtuous virtual reality of an America that wasn’t there. The television cameras loved him; so did the voters. To this day he remains up there with Abraham Lincoln in the annual polls asking who was America’s greatest president.

Nor does Lapham have a “man-crush” on Bill Clinton:

The cameras also loved Bill Clinton, who modeled his presidency on The Oprah Winfrey Show rebooted to star himself as both bighearted celebrity host and shamefaced celebrity guest, reaching out at the top of the hour for more love and more cheeseburgers, after the commercial break dealing bravely with the paternity of the stains on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. He was admired not only for the ease with which he told smiling and welcome lies but also for his capacity to bear insult and humiliation with the imperturbable calm of a piñata spilling forth presidential largesse as corporate subsidy and tabloid scandal.

Nowadays, “The proposition that all men are created equal no longer wins the hearts and minds of America’s downwardly mobile working classes — employed and unemployed, lower, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle, adjunct, and retired.”

Political campaigns distinguish voters “not by the fact of being American but by the ancillary characteristics that reduce them to a commodity: gun-carrying American, female American, white American, gay American, African American, Hispanic American, Native American, swing-state American, Christian American, alienated American. The subordination of the noun to the adjective makes a mockery of the democratic premise and fosters the bitter separation of private goods, not the binding together of a public good.” A handful of billionaires possess incredible leverage in determining who becomes the nominee, billionaires “said to have earmarked $900 million to be scattered like baubles from a Mardi Gras parade float among Republican hopefuls able to quote from the Constitution as well as from the Bible.”

But, hold on, wait a minute. Enter Donald Trump. He don’t need their filthy lucre:

Trump established the bona fides of his claim to the White House on the simple but all-encompassing and imperishable truth that he was really, really rich, unbought and therefore unbossed, so magnificently rich that he was free to say whatever it came into his head to say, to do whatever it took to root out the corruption and stupidity in Washington, clean up the mess in the Middle East, or wherever else in the world ungrateful foreigners were neglecting their duty to do the bidding of the United States of America, the greatest show on earth, which deserved the helping hand of Trump, the greatest name on earth, to make it worthy of his signature men’s colognes (Empire and Success) and set it free to fulfill the destiny emblazoned on his baseball cap: make America great again

Well, if Ronald Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s prodigious charm can’t penetrate the force field Lewis H Lapham’s cynicism, how could a Vaudevillian vulgarian like Trump have a chance:

The man [is] a preposterous self-promoting clown, a vulgar lout, an unscripted canary flown from its gilded cage, a braggart in boorish violation of the political-correctness codes, referring to Mexicans (some Mexicans, not all Mexicans) as “criminals” and “rapists,” questioning John McCain’s credentials as a war hero (“I like people who weren’t captured”), telling Megyn Kelly on Fox News that if from time to time he had been heard to describe women he didn’t like as “dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” he meant “only Rosie O’Donnell.”

Lapham ends on this melancholy note:

The electorate over the past forty years has been taught to believe that the future can be bought instead of made, and the active presence of the citizen has given way to the passive absence of the consumer. A debased electorate asks of their rulers what the rich ask of their servants — comfort us, tell us what to do. The wish to be cared for replaces the will to act, the spirit of freedom trumped by the faith invested in a dear leader. The camera doesn’t lend itself to democracy, but if it’s blind to muddy boots on common ground, it gazes adoringly at polished boots mounted on horseback.

Lapham wrote this piece before the Paris and San Bernardino attacks and so wasn’t privy to Trump’s incendiary ideas of banning Muslims, statements that aid ISIS in propagandizing the USA as a land of Islam-loathing infidels. Some commentators have jacked up his demagogic profile from being a latter-day self-promoting PT Barnum to a Joe McCarthy and now, most recently, to a Mussolini or Hitler.

trumo as barnumObviously, Trump is an incredibly needy, insecure man who has somehow confused the ability to amass money with wisdom. Back in the summer I found his gargantuan self-aggrandizement amusing –  like a blaring trumpeter who’s so bad, it’s funny.  It’s gone on long enough.  It has become tiresome — if not dangerous.

In fact, I’m getting a little bit scared – not that he’ll be elected President but that his super nationalistic rantings have generated such a following. Check out the screaming woman in the picture below. Is she a protestor who has somehow made her way to the front of the crowd or someone bellowing to keep the damn Muslims out?  She certainly doesn’t look like a likely Trump supporter.  Nor does the Whitman-looking fellow three people back on the left.  Is this a picture of un-American Americans or merely a portrait of likely South Carolina primary voters?

 

08-trump-yorktown3.w529.h352