Letter to Virginia – 8/17/2019

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Dear Virginia,

Haven’t written in a while, but I thought about you today.
I’m reading again that novel we both read in high school, though I can’t remember whether I bought it first and you wanted it because I had it… or whether I saw you reading it and went out that weekend and bought it myself, so I could flash it at study hall and you’d notice… and we could talk about it together in a corner because… I looked for excuses back then, reasons for us to talk about things for which you had such a passionate interest… just for the pleasure of hearing the fire in your voice.
It was an old book then, old and somewhat obscure. I remember the jacket said it was a very big deal in Russia, in Europe… everywhere. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold.
The Gadfly… remember? A novel first published in the late 1890s by Ethel Voynich, not well known any more, but for some reason it experienced a brief resurgence in the early 1960s, so that anyone with half a brain for books… anyone with a capacity for intense intellectual notions had to read it… tried to read it, tried to understand why people said it was important, meaningful, even timely, though it wasn’t really timely… not yet, though it would be soon enough… in the latter years of that decade, in fact.
It was about revolution, a thing we did not yet ever think about, except for the thrill of the concepts surrounding rebellion… like the Victor Hugo book… the Paris Commune, the barricades, the red flags, the romance and the fire of a time we could only imagine… as it was historic, a prop, alien then, at least to us.
Eight years later, you must have felt it as I did, the possibility, the passion in the air, the word itself tossed around like so much excess… excess of guile… an excess of promise unfulfilled… revolution this and revolution that, until the word itself lost all meaning, ended up cynical and droll.
The revolution that was televised, commercialized, marketized, costumed and produced, packaged and seduced, but… before we knew it? They won. The revolution? Our revolution? It went right into reruns.
So… The Gadfly… I’m reading it now… again… because I need to remember what it was like to be hopeful and passionate… and I’ll admit it… I remember so little about it now, and I wonder if I ever really finished reading it. My head was already full of notions then. I’d read so much… more than I had the capacity to grasp, but tried anyway… Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Voltaire, and I’d just started Don Quixote when I saw you carrying The Gadfly and knew I had to be reading it as well.
So there… I remember now… you had it first, didn’t you?
You had it, so I had to have it as well
God, but we were young.
Impressionable.
Naive.
We went off in totally different directions, didn’t we?
Really lost track.
I hope you’re well.
So damn many times over the past decades… years in which I’ve not seen or heard from you… or even known where you’ve gone, I think about you often, unable to imagine how life might have received you… rewarded you for the visions you had so long ago. I’ve wondered how you fared, if you were happy, if you found the things you wanted, the things you wished for…
Most of all, I miss the things we shared.
So maybe that’s why I’m reading that book again
And thinking about you.

Your old friend,
James the Least

Creative Commons License Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Night Letters to America – 8/11/2019

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The purpose and the spark of a humane and civilizing influence is some ineffable quality for which we strive… and its existence serves as foundation for all of our religions, our liberating philosophies, our governing documents, our laws, our visions and our dreams.  We labor above all to attain first, but thereafter to retain that quality in our culture, in our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children.  Call it innocence… call it grace… call it joy… it springs from a desire for peace and safety.  It thrives in love and it is the goal of every good gesture, every act of courage and every evolving, intelligent impulse within our social constructs, a product we will call… for the sake of definition, an observable innocence of mind.

Innocence is a delicate and a finite resource, however, difficult and… at times… impossible to regenerate once it has been destroyed.  It can be mimicked, but only at the cost of what is true, since every time we produce some false sense of security in safety, it requires the dismantling of innocence in proportions dictated by some unwritten metaphysical law.

The “right to bear arms” in the twenty-first century is the perfect example.

One of many justifications used to oppose the regulation of firearms in America is the manufactured illusion that an armed citizenry creates a safe and secure society, requires the same sort of delusion, though on a global scale, that drove the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II, each nation arming itself to the degree that each could destroy its rival and the entire population of the world many times over and in so brief a period of time, the very notion of this competition was called a “balance of power” through the capability of “mutual destruction.”  The cost of this tenuous purchase of national security was a generational nihilism that essentially destroyed the innocence of its participant nations and robbed all neutral parties of their own safety and security and the incessant ignition of small proxy wars in the Third World.

Let’s put that horrendous example into the perspectives that have evolved through the auspices of the National Rifle Association and their benefactor, the gun manufacturers of America.  Based upon a premise within the vague wording of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and fueled by money supplied to them by gun manufacturers, the NRA has become one of the most powerful propaganda agencies, marketing influences, and political lobbies in the entire free world, convincing a huge swath of the American population that they need to live like their pioneer forebearers, who, at least in popular fiction, were surrounded by hostile populations of men and beasts… a dark force in a lawless frontier that perpetually threatened not only their fortune, but their lives.

In the name of this… heritage… they have convinced Americans and bribed their politicians to vindicate the notion that our freedom, our “heritage” and our personal safety demands that every American has the right to bear arms without regulation, license, or constraint.  The result?  One hundred Americans die on any given day by way of gun violence.  Think about that… one hundred people… human beings, men, women, children.

What does that look like?  One hundred people.

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

Every one of the Xs above represents a human being murdered by a gun… one hundred Xs, a fair representation of the sum of any one day’s average slaughter by guns in America.  However, it is not a fair representation of the victims themselves, nor the broad expanse of grief, hardship and loss that each death implies.  These Xs stand for people… individuals with lives that affect others.  They represent mothers fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters all… baby girls, baby boys, sweethearts, friends, lovers, the innocent and the not so innocent, but each one of the was a living human being one moment and a nameless cipher in the news a day later.

For me?

X = Charlie

He died, according to a police report, on 06/25/1991.  His death caused by ”… a single gunshot wound to his head while sleeping.”  Charlie was the youngest of four siblings.  He was my brother.  He was 35 years old and apparently on the upswing after hard times.  Hopeful.  His parents, my mother and father, were forced to do that which any parent shudders to imagine… to bury one of their children.  He was loved by many people, and by everyone in his family, each one devastated and unalterably affected by his sudden and violent death.  But it’s one thing to bury your brother after the devastating effects of some disease… quite another in the wake of a senseless murder by person or persons unknown, a random crime with no apparent motive, no witnesses, no suspects.

One hundred violent deaths every day of every week of every month of every year in America causes a rippling effect touches the lives of others, such that each single death must surely effect at least a hundred others, friends, families… a hundred times one hundred lives affected in the wake of a death by gunshot.

What does that look like?

I won’t waste the space just to give you a visual representation of 10,000 Xs, but I think you can imagine page after page after page… and I’m willing to wager that most people in America have lost someone to gun violence in their lifetime, but how many more who are wounded, physically and mentally traumatized.  The numbers reach incomprehensible proportions.

Today?  Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and occur in places where none would expect… classrooms, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples… anywhere people collect and expect to be safe from harm.

America is a war zone.

How did that happen?

It would take volumes to describe the perfect storm that has culminated in this age of violence and insecurity, where no parent can be certain that their child will not be killed on any given day in a classroom… where no one can be certain that their prayers in any church, any synagogue, any mosque, any temple, any sacred place of worship will not be suddenly and violently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

When do we say, “Enough.”

Not this time… apparently.  Here it is, but mere days following the murder of 22 people and the injury of 24 more in a Wal-Mart in El Paso by a lone gunman armed with a military assault rifle and, the news cycle changes, the outrage takes a back seat to the suicide of a storied, sex trafficking billionaire, whose life has launched a hundred rumors… and whose death has launched a hundred more.

And so it goes.

No one will long remember El Paso.  Who’s fault is that… if not yours and mine?

 

Creative Commons License Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below.  I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism.  It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.

 

Night Letters to America – 8/1/2019

From the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning.

Presidential Grandiloquence – Part One

When I think of the American presidency, I think of slogans and of epochs.  The duration of each administration’s sway upon the nation could be termed as an epoch, historically… a period of time that is often defined by the character and stated ideals of each individual President inevitably framed by slogans.  More often, however, the slogans are lost and their idealistic definitions are tempered in remembrance by the realities surrounding each administration, by facts rather than by the carefully chosen words they use to define themselves.

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Bob Daugherty, AP Archives

For instance, the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson attempted to characterize itself with florid descriptions of his signature achievements in civil rights and social justice legislation, an idealistic political agenda branded with vaunting, and not necessarily inaccurate labels.  We cannot fault such ambitious programs as the War on Poverty and The Great Society, but all pretense comes to a crashing end and his happy place in history took a back seat to the stain of his one and horrific misadventure, the war in Vietnam, a can that had been kicked down the road by two previous administrations, but an issue he chose to tackle in the worst manner possible, with a war that was never actually declared, but was viciously and violently waged for a decade, killing over 55,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.

unnamedHis successor?  Recent revelations disclose the fact that Richard Nixon sabotaged Johnson’s peace initiatives by brokering a secret deal with North Vietnam before he was President as he rode to victory on the phrase, “Peace with honor” which was, in retrospect, a monument to cynical mendacity.  But then, Nixon was no stranger to the perversion of truth.  In fact, he earned a second term on a symphony of “law and order” with horns and percussion, played with verve and passion to his beloved audience, “the silent majority” of Americans who were dismayed by political and social upheaval over the war that Nixon had prolonged with his deception.  But no one quite imagined how cynical it might be for Nixon to run on a platform that invoked law and order until they learned that the thrust of his entire administration was marked with such incredible violations of law and disruption of order that his corruption and crimes eventually forced him to resign in disgrace.  Only a pardon by the next and quickly forgotten President Ford kept him from serving a justified term in a Federal prison.

jimmy-carterJimmy Carter’s presidency is difficult to characterize, since an honest man is not generally as glib in the realm of self-aggrandizement as the average politician, so he was more often defined by his critics and particularly by his successor in rather vilifying and dismissive words.  Nonetheless, Carter was possibly the most forward thinking President in terms of a national energy policy, a political agenda that recognized the growing dangers of indiscriminate and  poorly regulated use of fossil fuels and the very real cost of dependence on foreign oil.  But like Obama in his second term, however, Carter suffered from an animated opposition by a Republican-controlled Congress during his first term, a fact that essentially crippled many of his initiatives.  The death blow to his administration was certainly not of his making… a hostage crisis in Iran following a popular Islamist revolt.  The uprising was the result of an American led coup and regime change in the mid-1950s and the hatred of the revolution for the USA was fueled by subsequent, generous American support of an oppressive regime.  The hostage crisis was such an embarrassment to the nation that someone had to take the blame.  Carter became the perfect scapegoat.  His campaign for a second term quite collapsed when our military attempted to rescue the hostages and failed, the result of a peculiar regional weather event and an unfortunate accident in the wake of it.  Carter’s Republican opponent in the election, Ronald Reagan, took advantage of both the incident and the ongoing, ever-present embarrassment, the loss of national pride… and won handily.

ReaganBerlinWall130612Ronald Reagan?  Where can I start?  The apostle of “trickle down economics” who invoked an image of an old, disproved, and rationally absurd economic theory that favors corporations and the wealthy as “engines of the economy” declaring corporate success as “a rising tide that lifts all boats…” Riding this absurd metaphor like a boogey board, Reagan proceeded to dismantle America’s post-WWII prosperity by shifting the burden of all taxation to middle and lower class Americans… by destroying the influence of labor unions… by giving tax breaks to the wealthy… by reducing “unnecessary” programs of social welfare… and by de-regulating commerce… thus creating a new American aristocracy and initiating economic trends that have given us the greatest disparity in wealth and income since the Gilded Age.  Yet, even today, both Democrats and Republicans invoke his style with reverence as some sort of political benchmark for the ages.  Unfortunately, that benchmark proved to be built upon such unstable foundations that it became a formula for failure.  It has been the cause of unprecedented economic disparity and its philosophy can do naught but foment social inequity, based as it is on a lie… but let’s move on.

George H. BushThe first President Bush, the product of a more florid era of political rhetoric, had a particular gift for the iconic phrase… with such poetic entries as “a thousand points of light” which program was, essentially, another way to give awards to rich people who have so much money they can spend a little bit of it on poor people.  The theory is that philanthropy, the largesse of wealthy people can ultimately supplant the need for social welfare.  But the phrase that actually got him elected “Read my lips…” when he declared “…no new taxes…” is the phrase that eventually brought him down in his attempt for a second term because reality forced his administration to reconsider and he… you guessed it… raised the tax rate.

clinton-saxBill Clinton came in behind Bush on the merits of such sentiments as “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Clinton “…didn’t inhale.” And, he “…never had sex with that woman.”  In fact he was, as my sainted grandmother would put it, “…so full of it…” one has to wonder how he ever got away with as much as he did.  I don’t know what to say about Clinton, since this Democratic president, though adorned with the mantle of a liberal freely given him by his peers in spite of his apparent and obvious predilections to conservatism, managed to move the Party of FDR and the New Deal into territory once held by Republican elites.  How did he do it?  Charm and charisma?  The ability to smile and to tell us an absolute lie while doing the exact opposite of what he said?  Perhaps, but his legacy is written in the growth of policies that imprisoned more non-violent offenders and for such interminable periods of time that their lives were essentially destroyed.  Prison populations soared.  The war on poverty was lost in the Clinton administration through “workfare” programs and tough, even brutal attitudes toward crime and punishment.  And though his administration did more to oppress black people in America than was ever publicly acknowledged, his ability to play the saxophone and the audacity to wear sunglasses while doing so on television, earned him the erstwhile label, “America’s first black president.”  Charming.

bush_cheney-620x412The second Bush, pictured here in proximity to the toxic Mr. Cheney, was chosen by the American Supreme Court rather than by the electorate… the result of difficult and obscene mismanagement of the election in the crucial State of Florida where Bush brother Jed was Governor.  Little Georgie Bush had run on the notion of his Christianity against Gore, the Vice-President under Clinton.  The sitting President’s support of Gore was more or less withheld, since Clinton’s sexual indiscretions had finally caught up with him and made him politically toxic.  Bush was hardly charismatic, even a bit “unclever” when speaking in public and, for the life of me, I cannot remember much about his rhetoric on the run up to the election… though there was some talk about “compassionate conservatism” supposedly based upon the fact that Bush was a “born again” Christian.  However… in America and, to my recollection and personal experience, compassionate Christian evangelicals tend to be a rather judgmental group, given more to compassion within their own ranks than toward the public at large… but that’s not relevant here, is it?  Either way, following the 911 attacks, George H. W. Bush’s little boy, George was given unprecedented license by a too-generous and overly patriotic Congress and he used it to take America to war in Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which harbored Al Qaeda, which was the group that planned the attack.  Then, for reasons known only to God, the Holy Spirit and Dick Cheney, Bush decided we had to go to war with Iraq, which had no connection whatsoever to Al Qaeda or the attacks on 911.  Following a subsequently relentless attack on Iraq, punctuated and propagandized with televised displays of “shock and awe” scorched earth military attacks… when Bush had utterly broken the governments and infrastructure of both Iraq and Afghanistan, such as it existed, he led America into a huge debt spiral from the cost of both wars and subsequent unaudited defense contracts which attempted to put the countries we had destroyed back together again.  When he saw what he had done… and in spite of the huge national debt… Bush decided to give enormous tax breaks to America’s rich people because… well who the hell knows why… but his Presidency very nearly caused a second Great Depression… which it was, although nobody was willing to admit it, so we’ll pretend it was not a Great Depression, but a really bad recession… even though most Americans who weren’t rich have yet to recover what they lost, but the rich people got richer, and they own all the media, so…   Anyway, we can’t really blame Little Boy Bush for the problem since, from what I hear, Dick Cheney was in charge, but hey…

Then came Obama…  But let’s save that for next week when we will continue to deconstruct everyone’s favorite president.

Creative Commons License Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below.  I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism.  It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.

Night Letters to America

UntitledFrom the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning

Back in the days when Western Union telegrams were a common method of communication across great distances, much of what needed to be said took more than the few words condensed and clipped into phrases that were applied to the text in order to save the sender money.  The sender paid for the service at a rate of so many cents per word with a minimum, usually of nine to twelve words.  These telegrams would be sent immediately and delivered by phone or by hand.  When a customer wanted to send more than just a line or two, they could pay a cheaper rate per word, with a minimum of about 25 words.  These longer, less expensive telegram were called Night Letters.  They would be held overnight to be sent the following morning in the early hours when traffic on the wire was light and were delivered the following day.

Before I began writing full time and while I was working in the daytime, I wrote whenever I could, usually when my wife and children were sleeping, sometimes long into the night.  It was difficult to write something like a novel and sometimes, when I was forced to work long hours in harsh physical conditions, I was too tired to take on a large project and wrote what could be called vignettes, short pieces that were complete and not reliant on sequential, periodic progression, not unlike the pieces we call flash or micro fiction today… vignettes that I sometimes referred to as night letters.

They kept me going, progressing as a writer, developing perspectives and a style that I would have lost had I entirely abandoned the idea of writing… the hope of becoming a writer… which is itself, these days, an abstract notion in terms of a profession.  More of a calling now, than a career, since few can make a living at it, commercial success being no great measure of quality in literature, but of value beyond its artistic appeal.  The art has taken a back seat to the value of writing as either a tool of influence in the marketing or political arena… or as one of many inputs to a cinematic product.  Even literature for the sake of literature as art is ordered and licensed in a rigid, somewhat cloistered academic construct.

To be sure, I am glad that I kept the practice going throughout my life and, eventually, I enjoyed some small success in publishing shorter works in literary magazines worldwide and, today, in addition to ongoing efforts to succeed as a novelist, I have written many essays, composed in those hours while others are sleeping… night letters.

Beginning next week, I will attempt to produce one serious essay per week and post them on my web page.  I’m calling them, Night Letters to America and invite you to read them and comment, as your feedback is helpful to me always.  I will announce on both Facebook and Twitter when the series begins and whenever there is a new posting.

Creative Commons License
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Socialism, American Style – The Book

If you’ve been reading here, you know that I have been writing a series of essays, titled Socialism, American Style, essays that are more of a voyage of discovery for me,,, an attempt to find a uniquely American approach to the concept of socialism. Although I’ve put the essays temporarily on hold, I have continued to work on the concept.   last week, while doing some research and writing down my thoughts, I had an idea, something a little different, which may or may not be one of those big ideas you just happen to stumble upon like someone groping their way through the dark… a flash of light, maybe, a serendipitous thought that starts with a question…

In the United States, certain trends in the political realm have resulted in what can only be called a conservative bias in both political parties, marked by corporatism and autocratic tendencies, the result of influences that are subtle, even invisible to the electorate, but which lead to an untenable condition of economic and social inequality that feels as though we are going backwards, not forward into any recognizable semblance of a better world.

For instance, a firm cultural bias toward specialists, so-called “experts” has become increasingly evident in government. Technocrats, we call them, or we did at one time. Today? Their role is less visible, but their influence?  More profound.

Both parties love them and employ them regularly in roles that often usurp those which our Constitution reserves to our elected representatives. They save legislators time and effort by providing their “expertise” in writing legislation, so our Senators and Representatives don’t have to do the work of research and needn’t try to understand the complexities involved. Unfortunately, these technocrats also bring their predilection for satisfying their industry’s own special interests and their corresponding professional biases to the task as well.   The common welfare of the American people will always and thus be of little… if any… consideration for cause in the drafting of legislation or the writing of policies affecting the corresponding commercial interests of their unelected authors.

“What’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for America.”

Accordingly, we have people from the insurance industry composing legislation like the Affordable Care Act… lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry composing the language and provisions for Medicare Part D… or “experts” from the alumni of Goldman Sachs and other financial organization recruited by the Executive branch to write the policies by which the same institutions will be regulated.

fox hen house.aspx

“Morning, ladies. My name is A. Faufox McChicken and I’m announcing my candidacy for Congress.”

Fox in the henhouse metaphors, if you will, are entirely relevant here.

So… if both political parties are thus corrupted, determined to serve the interests of commerce and corporations over the common welfare of the average American… and we, the people, are limited by tradition to only two relevant political parties… both of which are dominated by wealthy families, corporate donors, lobbyists and special interests, what is the answer to our dilemma?

Third parties have seldom been successful in modern times and efforts to reform both parties from within only seem to further advance the creep of autocracy in the inevitable reactionary blow-back. And the public is further frustrated in attempts at reform by very subtle campaigns of genetically modified “populist” movements influenced from abroad and from within… and, again, by profoundly powerful special interest groups with buckets of cash and opportunistic, amoral leadership. Witness the Tea Party.

So… here is the question I posed to myself last week:
If not a Third Party… what’s the answer?

Now? I think I have it… the answer. A new idea. A way forward where there seems… at least to me… to be none. A totally different approach and maybe even a unique solution. Now all I have to do is find a way to adequately communicate its construct. So… for now? I’m suspending the essays and working on what will probably be a project the size of a book that will attempt to offer a solution to our very present and frustrating political impasse.

Conventional-Steel-Fabrication-450x194Watch this space.

Mueller speaks !!

I watched and listened. This is both a report and an opinion…

It was enlightening to finally watch and listen to him today after two years of silence and to observe that Robert Mueller walks and speaks with an unexpected air of humility. For some reason, I expected more gravitas and the baritone certitude that some men in high office seem to exude… accordingly, his demeanor makes him more believable, the voice of an intelligent, reticent, and capable observer.
Three things he seemed especially focused upon that I could discern as important matters to relate were these:
1. Indictment of a sitting President was and is NOT allowed under DOJ guidelines and thus no indictment… nor even an accusation against the President was ever going to be part of the process or the report, but Mueller re-iterated that if the President could have been exonerated of wrongdoing through obstruction, the report would thus state, however it did state that he could NOT be thus exonerated.
2. “…the work (the Mueller Report) speaks for itself.”
3. “…there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere with our election.”
God only knows what the pundits will make of Mueller’s statements… I’ve more or less stopped listening, but the greatest take away can be summed up in the following three statements:
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
When you do… and if you read it with an open mind and an understanding of the law, our Constitution, and the moral imperatives of governance… you will come to the logical conclusion that immediate impeachment of President Trump and all of those in government who have enabled him in his wrongdoing is not only justified, but essential to the preservation of our Republic.

 

I suppose the greater tragedy in events surrounding the Mueller report and the incredible maelstrom of misinformation that surrounds what may or may not be contained therein is that not only the American people, but such a large number of their representatives in Congress have not read it and spend more time demanding to know what is not included in the report than in actually discovering what is.
Read it for yourself and see if you do not agree with me when I say that “Even the redacted version presents as clear a case of obstruction of justice as any sentient human being needs to impeach the President. It only needs to be read.”
Read it and then contact your representatives and tell them that Trump must be impeached now… today.

Read it here:  DOJ Mueller Report in .pdf file

You can view the press conference here:  Mueller Press Conference 5/29/2019

 

The parallax view from here….

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.”  Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.

74a72e9d61ef6e8fb175031b4318632dThe novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis.  Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944.  Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten.  As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.

The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic,  The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid.  All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill.  Thankfully he was thwarted.  The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow.  The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump.  Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable.  He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.

On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way.  What is it that makes this man invulnerable?

Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration?  We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy.  But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.

Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed?  Are they afraid of him?  Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective.  Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture.  Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.

Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?

Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence?  Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation?  If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it.  And soon.

Time is not our friend.