Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22 Rolls Around Again

If you live in a distant backwater, as I do, the "big events" happen, but it's easy to remain fairly sanguine. Nothing much has happened out here. Now that my job has ended, the only Latino person I encounter is a very nice man who is among the staff caring for my father-in-law, who I call the old vet herein. He's in his 20s, and spent some time in France before returning to his home town--here. When I see him in the evenings I sometimes wave and say "Bon soir" with a smile. He smiles back. Last night I didn't go see the old vet but watched Monday night football. The Raiders and the Houston Texans were playing in an historic stadium in Mexico City, the place where Carlos and Smith held up black gloved fists in '68; the place where many famous soccer matches have been played. It seemed that the fans last night favored the Raiders. One of them even had a small laser spot and shown it into the eyes of the Houston players now and again. The Raiders eventually won. Twenty-one million people live in Mexico City.

It's hard to come to some realistic appraisal of what has happened. Partly this is because relatively speaking, nothing has happened, not yet. What we have at the moment is a very weird fact. A person who cannot fly the airplane has taken the controls and is locked into the cockpit. We're still at a comfortable 35 thousand feet. The attendants still have their snack trays, and our neighbors are having extra peanuts and a slosh of bourbon with ice. We listen intently for some change in the sound of the engines, or check to see if the ground remains a comfortable distance below, or if the plane is remaining in a level position. Soon it will be night, removing some of those comforting visual cues.

On the TV everything is reassurance. There is very little to suggest that we have actually given control of our lives to a person who very clearly and obviously told us he could not fly the plane. I wondered this morning if it's just been far too many entertainments over the years, too many romantically attractive Godfathers and Tony Sopranos. The very entertaining movie by Tony Scott, True Romance, came to mind unbidden. There's nothing much funnier, on the funny scale, than the scene with Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. Oh yes, it's gallows humor to be sure, and a lot of other things swirling around us now, like the fall leaves. Tony Scott said he could never figure out how to end his movies, except with a big shootout. He thought that was a directorial weakness, but it might have been a logical feature of his plots. Something Peckinpah came up against back in '68, same year as Carlos and Smith. Before the shooting started Peckinpah liked to have a scene where the Bunch tossed around a bottle of whiskey, shared it to the end, and laughed. We have a city named Phoenix. That's a curiosity, isn't it.

I read a blog now and again which is comprised of high level legal people, some of them Constitutional lawyers, talking seriously about the meaning of things. I ran into this today:


Professor Levinson is seriously arguing that the last safety net between us and that locked cockpit door is a coalition of Electors taking it upon themselves to refuse to vote for Trump. That's a hell of a note. Here's a bit of Levinson, but you should read it all.

I joined my two University of Texas colleagues Jeff Tulis and Jeremy Suri in writing an op-ed, published in today's New York Daily News. As you can see (if you open it), it calls for a coalition of Democratic and at least 37 Republican electors to ally to vote for a Republican other than Donald Trump and thus throw the election into the House, which would presumably elect the alternative Republican and save us from the Trumpian menace, the character of which seems clearer day by day. Even though he cannot be assigned direct responsibility, I note the following postcard that I received today at my Harvard Law School office, mailed, it seems, from the UK. It reads, in toto: "Hey Sandy You just got your kike ass kicked. fuck you kykie. We're gonna Drain the Swamp at Harvard Law. Juden Raus!" There can be no doubt that Trump and Bannon have liberated the worst instincts of a lot of truly deplorable people. The most unequivocally happy supporter of the new Trump regime is David Duke, which makes a lot of sense. This is precisely why it is important for conservatives of good will to come together, at long last, for a true "never Trump" movement that would act completely constitutionally by imploring electors to accept the responsibilities actually envisioned for them by the Philadelphia Framers...

The arguments, which never go away, about racial identity, are like the formulae for the atomic bomb. Last night during halftime I watched a bit of coverage concerning the alt.right convention just past in DC. It ended with Seig Heil salutes, and an oily tongued guy named Spencer talking about "them and us, your race and mine." I ran into people running that line back at UNC, in '63. They never go away, the words just change with the times. Sometimes the moves are slick. George Herbert Walker Bush, who mostly seems like a distant liberal President from some other Century (well, yes, the 20th) from the perspective of this post-election sleep-walk, gave us Clarence Thomas. "You say you want a black justice? Try this one." Things have changed. All the apologists keep saying is, "Oh, it's really not that bad." What's the point in having a riot at 35 thousand feet?

There aren't many options. "Let's roll" doesn't really get you very far. It's another Peckinpah ending. And it's like the fact that Americans who desperately need Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare have actually voted to take all that away. It's no wonder Dan Rather had decided to spend his golden years interviewing country singing divas and aging rock stars. He tried to warn us about George W. Bush.

Here's another paragraph from Levinson:

How, if [Trump] becomes president, might the civil war begin, since there will certainly be no Fort Sumter to signal the beginning, and the California vote for secession apparently won't take place until 2019. I think the most likely beginning would be reminiscent of the violence in the streets of Boston over the rendition of fugitive slaves like Anthony Burns. [It should be clear, incidentally, that Burns violated the law by fleeing his confinement as a slave, and the august Supreme Court, in the worst single decision in our history, worse even than Dred Scott, upheld the Fugitive Slave Law of 1893 in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, and Abraham Lincoln himself, the Great Emancipator, declared that Republicans had a duty to support the Fugitive Slave Law as part of the deal that had been made with the slaveowners in order to get the Constitution in the first place.] That is, if peaceful families of undocumented aliens start being rounded up and sent to concentration camps prior to their deportation, it becomes the duty of all of us to stand in solidarity with them and prevent the legal authorities from being able to carry out their "duties" without becoming aware of the absolute contempt in which they are held. (Obviously, there will also be many people cheering them on.)

This is what Churchill meant by the gathering storm. He could see disaster coming. Sometimes the worst disasters are those which are driven by compelling moral arguments. You simply cannot sit back and watch the lines march into the ovens.

Some years after filming that remarkable scene exactly as written by Quintin Tarantino, in True Romance, Tony Scott jumped off a bridge in Los Angeles. Perhaps he had looked into the abyss. We are standing at the abyss right now.

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