I hate like hell to admit it, but John Steinbeck was right:
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
Has it occurred to you that this Obama administration, now well into its eighth year, has been shockingly free of venal scandal? I mean, I can’t think of a single Obama White House functionary who’s been brought up on charges of swiping from the public trough or peddling his or her influence for personal gain.
Usually, presidential administrations in their second terms are wracked by accusations, investigations, and indictments of major and minor officials who’ve fattened their wallets thanks to their positions of power.
Not now, though. Not in this presidency.
Obama seems a decent human being. Perhaps his leadership imperative, communicated to all hirees from the get-go, was Do no wrong. It can’t be just dumb luck can it?
And, believe me, if there were even a hint of malfeasance, the vultures who control the House and Senate as well as those in talk media and the blogosphere would have been on it like flies on dog droppings.
Phew, That Could Have Been Terrorizing!
Here’s something I just don’t understand. Perhaps you can explain it to me.
Yesterday, a mentally-broken man went on a knife rampage in Taunton, Mass., killing two and injuring four others before an off-duty sheriff’s deputy shot him to death. The man apparently went on the random spree after ramming his car into a truck outside a home in Taunton. He then entered the home and stabbed an 80-year-old woman to death and seriously injured the her daughter. He went out on the street, jumped back in his car, and wound up at a nearby mall. There, he attacked several other people, killing one before the deputy stopped him.
A horrible story, indeed. But, somehow, authorities wished to console us in our confusion and worry over the incident. Taunton police made certain to tell reporters the attacks were not related to “terrorism.”
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole affair.
Was the aim of such an announcement to comfort us that no swarthy foreigners were responsible for the death and carnage, but simply a misguided poor soul from this holy land?
And if these attacks are not “terrorism,” what are they? Merely lack of impulse control on the part of a fellow citizen — who, thank god, happens not to be dark or unbearably different. That’s better?
Have you seen that social media meme aimed at Bernie-ites purportedly showing them how to make home-made glow sticks but in reality is actually a recipe for a mini-bomb?
No one knows where this ugly little “joke” came from but I guaran-goddamn-tee at least some Bernie true believers are convinced it was the handiwork of operatives from Hillary’s campaign. Hell, there’s gotta be some in this holy land who are certain Hillary herself posted the freakin’ thing!
The Stark Truth
The Loved One and I watched All the King’s Men last night, the 1949 movie based on Robert Penn Warren‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Willie Stark, a populist demagogue who rises to power from the dirt furrows of farm country. Stark becomes wildly adored, with wits and wags wondering if he’s a messiah or a tyrant. The movie based on the book won the Academy Award for Best Picture just four years after Warren won his Pulitzer.
Willie Stark is nothing like Donald Trump but the whole idolatry thing, the “outsider” challenging the powers-that-be, the snake-oil salesman promising a new way of running things, is at the core of Trump’s appeal.
Smart guys used to fear a new Huey Long (upon whom, it is said, Willie Stark was based) coming along, galvanizing the poor and the disenfranchised by telling them what a lousy deal they’re getting and how the big boys are laughing their way to the bank on the backs of the common clay.
It’s tempting to say ATKM is a harbinger of the 2016 presidential race wherein populist demagogue Donald Trump roars to the Republican nomination despite all the analyses of the experts who pooh-poohed his quest. But it’s not. Trump most certainly is not a man who came from dirt furrows and challenged the powers that be. He was a trust fund baby who inherited tens of millions of dollars from his slippery daddy-o and has always been one of the powers that be.
Sure, many of those going gaga over Trump are poor but many, many more are reasonably comfortable, at least in relation to the rest of the world. A Trump rally is not populated by modern day analogs to the subjects of, say, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos.
Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (1936)
Trump’s fanboys and -girls, in fact, look awfully well fed and clearly have had a good night’s sleep in warm, comfy beds. King-sized, most likely.
They see themselves as unduly screwed, which is bizarre. And Trump keeps telling them they are, which is only the first of his bald-faced lies, of which he’s trafficked in an alarming many.
Guys like the fictional Willie Stark and the real Huey Long had an extremely limited appeal, touching the hearts only of those self-aware enough to accept that they were dirt-poor hicks — “Just like me!” Stark roared. Today, nobody wants to admit they’re a dirt poor hick. Screwed, yeah. Dirt poor, no. Let’s go to Faulkner again, who hit it square:
[The American poor] see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
And not only the Murrican poor see themselves that way. Even the well-fed and cozy comfy feel they’re only one lucky break away from sharing caviar and Moët et Chandon w/ the likes of Donald Trump or the Kardashians. These days, they desperately believe, those lucky breaks are being denied them which is a far worse injustice than mass starvation in Bangladesh or the kidnapping, raping, and killing of schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Only a borderline sociopathic liar like Trump could feed and reinforce in people this line of bushwa. Nothing Trump says is based on any set of acts or reality, which sets up his ultimate untrue punchlines. Murricans have been waiting breathlessly for an uber-rich man to come along and lie to them. Rich men, too many in this holy land deeply believe, are special, a higher form of life, nearly messianic.
Their words are scripture, their bank accounts proof of their divinity.
Naw, America never needed to worry about a fascist demagogue coming along and appealing to the poor. The real danger was the incendiary who spoke to the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
May 11th Birthdays
Laskarina Bouboulina — Known as the heroine of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, she commanded the rebel Greek fleet and, later, became an admiral in the Russian navy.
Chang and Eng Bunker — The most famous Siamese (now, more acceptably, conjoined) twins. Both married (two separate women) and had, between them, 21 children.
Harriet Quimby — The first women to be awarded a pilot’s license in the United States and the first female to aviate across the English Channel. She also was a Hollywood screenwriter, penning scripts for seven films directed by D.W. Griffith.
Irving Berlin — Born Israel Isidore Baline, he wrote gazillions of standards now in the great American songbook including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and countless others.
Martha Graham — Perhaps the most revered American dancer in history, she conjured the “Graham Technique,” a method of modern dance style and teaching that revolutionized the art form.
Salvadore Dali — Painter and art world personality.
Richard Feynman — Nobel Prize winning physicist, iconoclast, bongo player, and author of, among others, Six Easy Pieces. One of my favorite humans ever.
Mort Sahl — Humorist who specialized in political and social issues, he used a newspaper as a prop onstage, opening it up and commenting on stories within. Steve Allen called him “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.”
Louis Farrakhan — Controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, an American organization dedicated to the uplift of Black Muslim young men. Farrakhan also has spouted anti-semitic and anti-gay lines. Many in the American Black Muslim community believe he was involved in the plot to assassinate Malcolm X.
Martha Quinn — One of the original five VJs on MTV.
And, finally, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, died on this day in 2001.