Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Answer to Every Question is "More Guns"

Here's a little twitter "conversation" from Mr. Driftglass:

Here's a photo Digby posted yesterday:

There were other shots in the post, of people with protest signs saying "Go Home Obama," and a confederate flag was also flown. Here's the link:

So it's not really that surprising that someone can post a fictional quote from George Washington, be refuted as a matter of actual history, and still be defended. Colbert's brilliant concept of truthiness thrives. It's not surprising because people who saw the actual blood can still summon up enough energy to go out and stand in a protest against what was in fact a Presidential visit of comfort, not politics. The denialists just scream louder. It's what they do. To the objection that Mr. Obama is "politicizing" the Oregon murders, that it is "too soon," he might well respond that he is just now politicizing the murders at Sandy Hook, because enough time has passed. "The thing that separates the American Christian from every other person on earth is the fact that he would rather die on his feet than live on his knees!" --George Washington. The poster adds, "Why do liberals find this so offensive?"

According to reports I read, the shootings at Northern Arizona University yesterday were the result of some sort of gun battle between two groups of students. That some survived is obviously an indication that more guns, bigger guns, more dangerous bullets, etc., are still needed. Sometime good guys have to fight it out with good guys.

There's a fine short story by Annie Proulx about some people who drive off from one watering hole to the next in a state of argument. It's in the book "Close Range." When the police find them, they're all dead. A gun fight had occurred. When the evidence is examined more closely it seems that one of the victims was shot from behind. Ms Proulx saw this coming some time back. A good defense lawyer could raise endless questions about noggin orientation, and how bullets can change direction in flight. At the inquest I mean. There's always some stuff to divide up amongst the inheritors.

When I was in the 5th Grade my principal brought a German Luger to class. He'd picked it up when he was marching into Germany, in 1945. He said people tossed weapons out of their windows, and this one landed at his feet, so he brought it home. We passed it around the class, from desk to desk. I don't recall anyone snapping the trigger, or pointing at a classmate, but mostly I recall the event as a whole, the story of the weapon's capture, the cold black steel and how it fit in the hand, even a kid's hand. Mr. Edwards had a blond crew cut and was probably in his mid-30s. I wish I knew what division he served in, as my father-in-law was also in that march in '45. Of course there were many marches, many moments.

Donald Trump this week called for the execution of Sgt. Bergdahl. He was cheered. Perhaps if he is elected, as his first Presidential Act (and the final conclusion to the experiment in American democracy, which has been on its death bed since at least the JFK assassination), Mr. Trump can actually shoot Sgt. Bergdahl in the back of the head on live teevee. That would be bracing to Trump's supporters. After that they can rise up and get on with the project of deporting 12 million undocumented people and their American citizen children.

We obviously need more guns.

[photo from the Holocaust Museum, from 1942, Ukraine]

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We're Being Trumped

When I got home from work last night Libby had saved a chunk of a documentary for me to watch, "You've Been Trumped." She ran into it in progress, so we didn't see the beginning. Netflix to the rescue. I may add something to this after it arrives. But the main story was there. Donald Trump decides to build a golf course on the coast of Scotland. He sells the idea to the local politicians and to the government of Scotland as an economic engine. (Reminded me of our fetish, here in Chatham County, NC, for building "mega-sites" in the hopes of attracting industry, and the hell with the property owners who are affected.)

When Trump's engineers and equipment arrive they start nudging the folks who live in the vicinity, farmers and such, to move. The nudges involve subtle events such as crushing the water line to a man's house, removing another man's shed and fence, and fooling with the electricity. When these "hints" don't prevail, larger measures are enlisted. A huge berm is built around one man's home so that he finds himself in a bowl with no view, just huge earthen walls, surrounding his home. There was once a plain, sand dunes, a distance beach. The film is about these details, and the ultimately failing efforts of ordinary folks to manage to stop Mr. Trump.

But what struck me in this campaign season was this. In this film we see in something of a microcosm exactly what Mr. Trump's political policies would be like should he gain the power of the Presidency, and particularly should he have the support of the neo-fascists who now control the Congressional Republican Party behind him. Mr. Trump believes in power. He's just fine with bullying and strong-arming and probably much worse. He really is fine with rounding up 12 million people who live and work here and putting them on trains and buses and military transport vehicles and hauling them off to... somewhere. He believes in the carrot and the stick, but he believes in the stick. The carrot is charm and bluster, the pleasure of at least telling off phonies like Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. Mr. Trump doesn't show the stick on the campaign trail.

And the worst part of "You've Been Trumped" is the way some Scots intellectuals accept his ruthless arguments. The little farms surrounding Mr. Trump's mega-site are "untidy." They'll look bad to the rich American tourists flying in to Aberdeen to golf weekends. Therefore, they must be bulldozed. This is what an economics professor at a local college (which has awarded Trump an honorary degree) says to the camera. Meanwhile, the local police arrest the camera-man for filming them early in the film. This is how fascism works. This is what Mr. Trump is selling, with the fresh paint still sticky, of "American greatness." Too many Americans seem to think that being great means knocking all opposition down. Smash mouth offense, to borrow a popular NFL term. He apologized to the world, these people whine about Mr. Obama's efforts to repair our relations with the world. America, they think, should never admit mistakes, should never apologize.

We'd do well to look at the final chapters of our last smash-mouth foreign policy efforts, now unfolding across the other half of the world. Iraq is in tatters. Syria becomes more jumbled with every day, and hundreds of thousands of refugees walk across Europe, with winter now on their heels. And in Afganistan, a significant city, Kunduz, has now fallen to the Taliban.

As someone on the teevee said the other day, Trump's method is always the same. Win, and then if necessary, declare bankruptcy and walk away. What does it mean, this comfortable solution, when he's President? It's not like he can pull a Sarah Palin and recoup with another book tour. The roads may not be working so well after he blows up the US government.

One of the sad and strange features of "You've Been Trumped" is the resonance of the little opposition. Around these parts we're mostly of the Scots-Irish descent. These bitter faces look familiar, and they even fly a Confederate flag once or twice, as a symbol of defiance. Yet here white Southerners are flocking to the Trump bandwagon. As ever, they like a winner, or a seeming winner, and don't want to even think about the possibility that they might be, themselves, standing across the line from some Trumpean bulldozer. But that's the real deal with Trump and his fascist methods. "I don't like losers," he says.

Someone should call him on that. If nothing else, the old Confederacy is certainly a band of losers.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Wedding, A Separation

I ran into this video this morning on a website called "Why Evolution is True."

Yesterday Libby and I went to a perfect wedding. It was held out in the country near Saxapahaw, NC, on an organic farm. The farmers catered the wedding, serving delicious barbeque and baked beans. There were puffy white clouds in the brilliant blue September sky. In North Carolina we get two different Septembers, the ones with hurricanes, and the ones like this present one, fairly dry, not overly hot, a gentle procession into the coming fall. Most of the leaves are still green, but a few early plants, at the edge of the woods, have changed to scarlet. I meant to take a photo of one of these little bushes with sharp, narrow leaves last time I mowed. They look spray painted. I used to love September without resevation, having experienced Hurricane Hazel long ago, as a child, where it was mostly an adventure that passed and caused no personal damage. But then came the hurricanes of the '90s, and we were living on Ocracoke Island, where one takes notice and must decide, over and over again, what to do, whether to leave. There were many opportunities. Two notables: Hurricane Fran, in '96, and Hurricane Floyd, in '99. Floyd was particularly devastating to North Carolina as it caused wide-spread flooding which nearly isolated the coastal plain from the rest of the state, and killed over 50 people, mostly folks who drove across flooded roadways and were swept away.

Behind the stage where Libby and I played music as the celebrants chatted and sipped, there was a field of yellow flowers. Amongst the flowers were probably 12 or so Guinea hens, industriously hunting for food. When I walked up to the stage they all popped their heads up and buzzed with alarm. After I stood there a while they went back to their grazing. In these parts it's said that Gunieas will get rid of ticks. We didn't get bit. It might be a plan!

September, after Fran and Floyd, became a month I didn't look forward to much. But at the moment, meaning this year, it seems that hurricanes are not threatening us here on the eastern seaboard. Out in the Pacific it's a different story. Anyways, yesterday was a perfect day for an outdoor wedding. The bride was beautiful, her family was really terrific, and Libby and I got to play some music and visit with some old friends and generally have a very nice day. Today seems a repeat, and we're doing a nice cookout today up in Greensboro celebrating the various family birthdays that occur in September, the month with the most birthdays according to someone in the office. It's certainly got the most birhdays in our family.

We got home after dark, unpacked the music gear. Then we watched the Iranian film, A Separation. This is what films used to be like, that is, it has some depth and seriousness and is interested in a story about real life inhabited by real people. It might be called The Turn of the Screw, but that title is pretty much taken. It is a story about earnest, good people who despite their efforts grow more and more entangled in tragedy and despair. They are all caught in a web. The web is their principles and good intentions. No one has magic powers or an automatic pistol. The film should be viewed by anyone who blathers on about incinerating Iran if it doesn't kow-tow to the desires of the West. If he could find within himself some ability to sit still and think, it would benefit Mr. Trump to watch this film. It's an unlikely thought experiment I know.

Mr. Trump has decided to run as George Wallace. There's no way around this conclusion. Back in '68, Wallace would have loved to have been running as the candidate of one of the two major parties. Instead, both parties rejected him, and he was forced to mount a third-party effort, arguing like Trump today that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between the two major parties and their candidates. This is a new experiment for us, or perhaps an old one that we thought was relegated to the ash heap. Trump is running on straight-up racism and prejudice. He has nothing but a great stack of lies concerning people who are in various ways "different" from the white people in the country who think it their right as white Christians to have the final say in governance, and who think anytime they don't get that final say, something undemocratic has happened. Trump wants to see if that cohort of bitterness is big enough and engaged enough to win a Presidential election. He's saying now, straight up, vote Trump, vote your hate.

There is such a vast distance from that little field we played fiddle tunes in yesterday, full of happy people immersed in the "golden hour," and the bitterness of Trump's campaign. It's surely at least as far as the distance from the sun to Neptune. Out there, in the bitter black, there is nothing else but ice, even if gravity still works its magic, and the center "holds." As the twilight advances, Libby and I chatted with two old friends we hadn't seen in several years. This is how it is at weddings. It was very heartening to discover that they saw these realities as we did. If one just watched "the news," which is pretty much what all of us do now, one might eventually begin to believe in the terrors that animate the typical Trump supporter.

Mr. Reagan set this loose back in the '80s, when he got rid of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." That little vandalism, almost unnoticed in the glare of Iran-Contra and the destruction of the Air Traffic Controller union, and grounded in the idea that the blind marketplace will sort out truth from fiction, has opened the door to a media of lies. Now millions believe that a small, rural community of Muslims who live together to practice their faith is in fact some terrorist training camp. Yesterday, Mr. Trump promised to end the war on Christmas. Libby reported this Trump news after I'd gone up to bed. She said Trump's promise was actually the war on Christmas. This is as strange as a guy named Les Izmore running for State Comptroller.