Saturday, August 22, 2015

Is Donald Trump "The Magic Christian"?

The stare under the hair
The scene Friday night put an exclamation point on an extraordinary run in which the flamboyant mogul has thoroughly disrupted the presidential campaign and kindled a national discussion about not just politics but American culture itself. Washington Post
Like many of us, I have been trying to figure out what The Donald is all about, and most improbably it was none other than Glenn Beck, of all people, that lachrymose and venomous, conspiracy peddler, who put me on the track, with his FB question: "why are big name 'conservatives' supporting Trump?". 
(H)e was very pro abortion until very recently; he still says "don't defund planned parenthood"; he is pro "assault weapon ban"; he is in favor of a wealth tax that would just "take money out of people's bank accounts"; he is for boots on the ground in Iraq and 'taking the oil' from the Iraqi people; he is a progressive 'republican'; he says single payer health care works; he said he would give people more than just Obama care; the First Lady would be the first to have posed nude in lesbian porno shots; he said that he keeps all the bibles he is given in a "special place" outside the city - and he only goes to church on Christmas and Easter; he is generally not a likable guy; he has around 16% favorability with Hispanics and he has gone bankrupt 4 times. This is an honest question. I really want to understand: Why are big name "conservatives" supporting him? Glenn Beck - Facebook
I think it is logical to infer that Beck is insinuating that Trump is paying the "big name conservatives" to support him. I might also infer (Honi soit qui mal y pense) that Beck could be hinting that he'd like his cut too.

I was rolling this idea around in my mind and a tiny memory bell began tinkling at the back of my brain, something in all of this reminded me of a book or a film I had heard or seen or both, long, long ago, in my misspent youth... finally, (to mix metaphors) the penny dropped.

Of course! It was Terry Southern's 1959, comic novel, "The Magic Christian", which was (mixing metaphors again) tugging at my coat, this hilarious book was made into a hilarious film ten years later, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr and its main character, Guy Grand, the Magic Christian, was "my" Donald Trump.

Read this little description of Guy Grand, the eccentric billionaire and see if my "insight" makes any sense to you:
Guy Grand is an odd billionaire who spends most of his time playing elaborate practical jokes on people. A big spender, he does not mind losing large sums of money to complete strangers if he can have a good laugh. All his escapades are designed to prove his theory that everyone has their price—it just depends on the amount one is prepared to pay them. Wikipedia
More than a practical joker, I would describe Guy Grand's actions as performance art and I am beginning to suspect/hope that Trump's are too.

Grand's most famous "practical joke" and the one that put me on the Donald's "scent" is the following:
Grand buys a huge downtown vacant lot in a major city. He then has a three foot brick wall built around the perimeter and fills it with feces and offal into which bills of all denominations have been mixed. He then takes pleasure watching immaculately dressed people defiling themselves by braving the stench, and ruining their clothing and dignity, by wading through the muck for the bills.Wikipedia
Here is how the pool of excrement plays in the 1969 film starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr:

Donald Trump is undressing the conservative movement, the Republican party and even the entire American political system.  I don't know if that is his intention, but in fact, that is exactly what he is doing.  That might be healthy... Unless he is actually serious, but how can  we know? 

Is he a real life Guy Grand or an American Mussolini?

I am not interested right now in Donald Trump's specific positions and policy proposals, because, as Beck points out, taken together they make very little sense. What I am more interested in hearing about now is Trump the person and I don't mean the famous wheeler-dealer Trump, the reality show Trump...

The child is the father of the man: I am interested in hearing from people who went to grammar school with  little Donny Trump, people who knew his family when he was a child, taught him at Sunday school... Did other kids pick on him? Did he bully the other children? I want to hear from people that went to high school with him or taught him there, was he good at sports, was he popular? Who did he date? Who kicked his ass, whose ass did he kick or lick.  all of that.

We know what Trump does, but things have gone far enough for us to urgently need to learn who Donald Trump is. DS

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sweet 2016 - Sanders + Warren? We can dream!

I wonder if America deserves such a good POTUS as Bernie Sanders would make. Watching his thorough, at length, interview with Ezra Klein, I found myself thinking that I had never heard such a lucid, sensible politician speaking in my entire life. 

Truth to tell, I can't remember ever finding myself in such total agreement with an American (or any other nationality) politician before... and I go back quite a bit by now. I kept thinking as I listened to him talk, "Bernie, where have you been all my life?"

Please take the trouble to watch this video with complete attention and mentally compare it with the steady, endless, diet of bullshit that you are normally being fed.

In my title line I indicate that if, God willing, Bernie Sanders does take the Democratic nomination his running mate should be Senator Elizabeth Warren. Normally the Vice Presidential nominee is chosen to "balance" the ticket, but Bernie is 73 years old, and as someone also in his 70s, let me be frank, people our age have a way of keeling over dead and in my opinion President Sanders' Vice President should be someone that could be trusted to carry out his program and that person has to be Elizabeth Warren.

However, like the famous recipe for stewed rabbit begins... "first catch your rabbit".
In trying to move beyond his white liberal base, Sanders faces a huge challenge, but it would be folly to underestimate him. Thanks to the groundswell of support among progressive activists, young Democrats, and small donors, he has the money, the manpower, and the social-media presence to expand his footprint. And with televised Democratic debates starting in the fall, he will have the opportunity to introduce himself to a broader audience. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it seems likely that more potential Democratic voters will warm to his message. John Cassidy - The New Yorker
But we can dream, because for the first time in a long, long, time a person of truly remarkable lucidity, consistency and seasoning has a slim, but real, chance of being elected President of the United States. DS

Friday, August 07, 2015

Cecil, the dentist and the "Global Village"

Cecil (RIP)
Before going any further, I want to make it clear that Cecil the lion was truly "the king of the beasts" and that I hope his murderer spends a few years filling and extracting his fellow prisoners' teeth deep in the infirmary of some Zimbabwe jail.

Having said that and as much as the hideous, sadistic death of Cecil has shocked and appalled me, I confess to being just as horrified by the social media lynching that the rich, cruel, idiot who murdered him, has undergone. 

I think that the lynching is as, or even more important, than the hideous crime that provoked it because anyone in our society is much more likely to become the victim of similar electronic, mob-violence, than to ever be laid low by some malignant dentist's bow and arrow.

What has happened?

We now live in the "Global Village", whose birth Marshall McLuhan clairvoyantly prophesied way back in the 1960s, long before the Internet existed.
Today, the term "Global Village" can be used to describe the Internet and World Wide Web. On the Internet, physical distance is even less of a hindrance to the real-time communicative activities of people, and therefore social spheres are greatly expanded by the openness of the web and the ease at which people can search for online communities and interact with others who share the same interests and concerns. Wikipedia
The word, "village", has a generally positive ring, suggesting a rich community life, yet somehow, in most developed countries, the villagers have fled their villages in droves for the "soulless" anonymity of large urban centers.

Many people, never having experienced village life are puzzled by this flight, however, I might be able to clarify this question for them, as I  spent a lot of my childhood in a traditional 1950s, midwestern village, where only a rich neighbor's 100ft antenna could pick up the Chicago TV signals. A time capsule of classic American village life.

My grandmother had been raised in this wide place in the road by her grandfather, a Glaswegian Scots marble carver (tombstones, marble angels and tiny stone lambs). The town was founded by the rock-ribbed, New England diaspora in the 1820s. Anchored on the Illinois side of the Mississippi valley it lies about forty five minutes away from Tom Sawyer's, Hannibal Missouri...

Top that for a deep-American-traditional-village if you can.

For most of my childhood, when summer came, I left Chicago's North Shore to spend at least a month of my school vacation in a red brick house that my great, great, grandfather had built with his own skillful, hands, long years before the American Civil War.

Google Streets has finally gotten around to patrolling the place, and not long ago, through them I was able to revisit my grandmother's hometown and discover that, like so much of the Middle West, the idyllic, Disneyesque, village I knew as a child had been destroyed.

The once vibrant main street, in those days filled with charming, ornate, 19th century, brick store fronts was now a boarded-up, ruin, with weed-filled, gaping vacant lots like so many missing teeth... Devastated and hollowed out.

And with the main street, I imagine, the town's entire shopkeeper middle class has gone too, (the people who always funded and chaired the excellent public school, the churches and the library). Probably all the victims of some nearby, but not too nearby, big-box store that supplies the only (minimum wage) jobs left in the whole county.

I also discovered that the large, lovely, but hard to heat, 19th century houses, that had once lined the quiet streets under the leafy shade of  massive centenarian elm trees, including my great-great-grandfather's, had all been replaced with tacky, little, aluminum-sided horrors... and of course all the elm trees were long gone too.

All the continuity with its past had been broken and as memory is perhaps the most important quality that defines a true village and it is memory itself, or really the desire to leave memory behind that has driven more people to leave their charming home towns than anything else... probably even more than better job opportunities in the cities.

I'll give you some personal examples of traditional villager's memory.

Old men and women in the village, my grandmother's childhood friends, would laugh and tell me that my highly respectable, strait-laced, Victorian grandmother, had once been a spoiled brat who used to ride her big chestnut horse bareback (ladies rode side saddle in those days) and jump it over neighbors' fences with her long red hair flowing in the breeze... like some Maureen O'Hara. Fortunately they couldn't come up with anything worse... But not for want of trying, be sure of that.

In those Eisenhowerland, rural American days,  I was the only kid with divorced parents for leagues around and once when I was about six years old an old crone took me into her kitchen and plying me with homemade peach pie and ice cream got me to spill everything I knew about my parents... That's when my granny took me aside, sat me down and explained what villages were all about.

She told me that gossip is the passion of villages and "old-wives" are its practitioners... that villages are places where neighbors walk right into your house without knocking, where they know everything about you, from your birth (and any rumors connected to it) to your dying day, and everything about your family and your ancestors, is known to everyone and you in turn know everything about all of them too... The flipside to this being that there is a "balance of terror": anonymous, poison pen defamation is practically impossible and consequently the strongest, "everybody is watching", social repression and group conformity is essential and the only way to survive is to be discreet and on polite, even friendly terms, with everyone, all the time.

And now with the Global Village we have "Global Old-Wives"...  But the big difference with our new electronic Global Village and my granny's traditional one is that although some of the global old wives know everything about us, we now know precious little, almost nothing, about most of them. This is perhaps, in many ways, the worst of both worlds: a cruel village of intimate, encyclopedic and mostly anonymous gossip... and now there is no longer any faceless "big city" to run away to.

The moral of the story boys and girls is that there is nowhere to hide anymore... the world is a small town, but unlike a real village our global village is a paradise for anonymous defamation.

What to do?

Just like in my grandmother's village the only way to survive online today is to be discreet and on polite, even friendly terms, with everyone, all the time. Be careful what photos (nudity, dead lions, etc.) you put up in facebook, what you tweet, what you blog, what you comment... Remember, the Internet's memory is even longer than that of the old crones in my granny's home town. DS