Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Stench of Mendacity

Boy oh boy do I love watching Burl Ives deliver that line. Here's a bit of it:

The thing about Williams is, nothing is ever quite as simple as it looks, because he's writing about family and a world where much is always left unsaid, indeed, unspeakable. But Tennessee Williams was one sharp observer. When he met Marlon Brando he said, to Elia Kazan in a letter, that Brando was a closeted homosexual, even to himself, and would likely end up an eccentric isolated old man with few friends. It took another twenty years for Brando to make Reflections in a Golden Eye, and another ten after that to get to Last Tango, which ripped away all the veils he'd carefully constructed and left him ruined. And then the tragedies of his children began in earnest.

This is Brando on the set of Last Tango. But at least he remained alive, to the world, to himself. Maybe he didn't or couldn't grow into who he really was; at least he could make brave stabs at it, on the screen.

I was surfing the Dish last night--not much on as it turned out, and we ended up watching a movie called Ali's Greatest Fight which Libby'd saved earlier, and which I certainly recommend. I'd forgotten how articulate and accurate Ali was when he spoke of why he wasn't going to accept induction into the Army. It's interesting to think about Ali making such a stand, versus Elvis' meek acceptance of the draft--and in peace time no less--a decade earlier. Elvis was nearly as wild a rebel as Ali, particularly in the view of the respectable of the time. Preachers railed about him. The public spontaneously combusted when he appeared. When Ali's case finally came before the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall recused himself because Ali was not in favor of "integration." That's a pretty amazing, little known fact. When Ali defends his religion he says that without it he would be a punch-drunk bum in the gutter. He's talking, more or less, about Joe Lewis, and Sonny Liston. He had many things to say about his "profession." He was acutely aware of the mendacity factor--much more aware than most of the crowd that swelled to the attraction of his charisma.

Before we got to Ali's Greatest Fight I watched a few minutes of our local weekly discussion of state politics. They had a Democrat and a Republican, both insiders but neither candidates. Here in NC we just had our second primary. The first one was back in March, where we voted for most of the folks up for offices. But the Legislature had gerrymandered the districts in such a fashion that the Democratic Party felt the need to object legally, and so they did, winning a court case in early March which forced the Legislature to redraw the districts. This new map was not ready by the March vote deadline, so instead of putting the whole thing off till last Tuesday, they split it up into two votes. This was yet another bit of mendacious activity, since in so doing the Republican majority protected an incumbent state supreme court justice from facing the likely larger turnout of the March primary (and indeed the turnout was as expected, much lower in June). The justice vote was further muddled by the Legislature having removed all party labels from judges, so in fact what Libby and I got to vote for last Tuesday was a simple list of names for judge. We had bothered to read up on who these folks were. We are a tiny minority.

So anyways, this Republican operative, last night on the local political news show, said that it wasn't right that the Democrats keep saying the Republicans are repressing the vote in North Carolina. Because the thing that repressed the vote in last Tuesday's election was the fact that the Democrats had sued to get the Districts redrawn, which then caused the primary to be split, thus creating a situation where there would be "naturally" less turnout for the later one.

That's about where I turned it off, and thought about Burl Ives. The moderator didn't spew his coffee over the camera, no one said anything much. It's what the Republicans do now. They are always grinding their boots into the necks of the oppressed, and always complaining in the same breath that the uneven footing is causing them chronic pain in their ankles. In NC at the moment the only hope is to throw all of the Republicans out. They have, however, fashioned districts in such a way as to make that close to impossible without a whole lot more money tossed into capable advertising. No doubt many Republican legislators are running unopposed. Anybody that is opposed is going to point and shout at their opponent that "She wants to let big sweaty black men with beards use the woman's restrooms if they wear a dress over their Nikes." That's the game here.

I hope you'll find that movie, Ali's Greatest Fight. It harks back to a day when one justice, John Harlan, actually changes his mind on the basis of legal facts. Harlan is a Republican. Here's a marker of how far we've come. At that time there had never been a woman on the Supreme Court. In the 1980s Ronald Reagan finally appointed a woman, Sandra Day O'Connor. And in 2000 she voted with the majority to give George W. Bush the election.

"I wish a Ford and a Chevy, would still last ten years like they should..."

Speaking of Ali, an announcer at a Nationals baseball game this week said that Billy Crystal's eulogy to Ali at his funeral in Louisville was one of the best things he'd ever heard. Here 'tis:

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