The Problem with the Republican Party

Once upon a time, on a Facebook post about the Republican Party’s personal problems, I commented something to the effect that I’d spent my life trying to be someone a Nazi would despise, and that Nazis and white supremacists are only attracted to the Republican Party. What’s up with that? What about that party attracts them?

draketown GA 4-18
Draketown, GA. April, 2018

Some stranger replied, “I can’t think of any response that doesn’t make me sound like a sympathizer.”

Just so.

Really, the question is rhetorical. We know what attracts them. Over the past two years we’ve seen a steady increase in overt racism and the growth of hate groups. You know why. We all know why. Look, I understand that political correctness has gotten out of hand, but to consider Nazis the definition of the bad guys is not exaggerated political correctness. They were the bad guys before political correctness was ever a thing.

I don’t have to explain why. I better not have to explain why.

The KKK are the bad guys. The Proud Boys are the bad guys. Christian Evangelicals have trump grahambecome the bad guys.

Half a century ago, William F. Buckley Jr., long considered the Father of Modern Conservatism, rejected the John Birch Society because he considered its right wing extremism, which included racism, anti-semitism and labelling then President Dwight Eisenhower a communist,  a threat to the survival of the Republican Party.

Now, even the John Birch Society is back.

The Society’s ideas, once on the fringe, are increasingly commonplace in today’s Republican Party. And where Birchers once looked upon national Republican leaders as mortal enemies, the ones I met in Texas see an ally in the president. “All of us here voted for Trump,” says Jan Carter, leader of The Central Texas Chapter of the John Birch Society. “And we’re optimistic about what he will do.” ~Politico, 7/16/17

Plainly, the impulse toward racism in the Republican Party is nothing new, it’s always been there, but wiser heads once kept it chained tightly to a post where it couldn’t overtly hurt the party. Remember just a few years ago when overt expressions of racism were shameful?

No longer.

Many, if not most, of the “wiser heads” have abandoned the Republican Party because that once restrained impulse is now unchained, legitimized, stoked by the current President* and ignored by the party leadership while they loot the Treasury and steal  your Social security and Medicare.

(For an excellent analysis of how the GOP got to where it is today, I strongly recommend this by Max Boot, prominent conservative  and former editor at The Wall Street Journal: The dark side of American conservatism has taken over.)

Yes, the Republican Party attracts  the most vile, visceral and dark expressions of human nature. But it had, until now, suppressed  it, compartmentalized it, and dismissed it just enough to keep the party from self-destructing and allow members to be able to claim that they were members, but not one of them.

But it would seem that William Buckley’s status of the Father of Modern Conservatism is at an end, as is his temperance. The new father?

Donald Trump.

Members of the Republican Party can no longer hide behind a party that once kept its monster locked in the basement, because that party no longer exists.

And so, there’s no way to justify that membership without sounding like a Nazi sympathiser.

As I write this, the midterm elections are sixteen days away, and the Republican Party, now an extremist organization driven by racism, has been employing every corrupt practice known to maintain and solidify power.

This is the most important election in the history of the United States.

Vote as if Democracy and the Constitution depend on it. They do.

king

Liberals: Satan’s Spawn or I’ll See You in Hell Newt Gingrich

Had an  interesting, and telling, exchange on a friend’s post last year about Pence’s racist stunt at the Niners-Colts game while Nazis were back in Charlottesville. Someone commented by equating BLM with Nazis. Because I’ve been giving my snarky side some slack these days, I remarked how gifted the poster is at revealing himself as a racist.

Said racist replied with:

“If I’m a racist then your (sic) a liberal.”

These eight words are symptomatic of one of the most successful propaganda campaignsnewt in history.  Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz started it in the 1990’s by purposefully, and effectively, reframing political rhetoric to associate anything or anyone considered anywhere near “Left” with negative vocabulary. Then these talking points would be repeated ad nauseum until they entered the greater political narrative.

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank once said of Gingrich:

He transformed American politics from one in which people presume the good will of their opponents, even as they disagreed, into one in which people treated the people with whom they disagreed as bad and immoral. He was a kind of McCarthy-ite who succeeded.

So much for the critical idea of “loyal opposition.”

The current GOP under Mitch McConnell, transformed into an extremist right wing organization, and the absurd, surreal election of Donald Trump are the bastard children of this campaign brought to you by Fox News and the rest of the right wing media fog machine.

You hear a lot today about the ugly state of political discourse. Sure there are grossly uncivil lefties venting their spleen on social media, but it’s important to consider that “conservatard” is not a thing. liberalism-a-mental-disorder

Most liberals I know disagree with conservatives, but don’t consider them with the animus liberals have been subjected to from the right.

The campaign to demonize “liberal” has been profoundly successful. There are probably those on the right who accept that liberalism is a legitimate worldview, and even that it’s a necessary balance to that of the conservative.

Can’t recall a moment when one defended it, though. (To be honest, if I were a conservative, I’d be concerned that doing so would have me kicked out of the club and branded as a …liberal.) “Liberal” is thrown around like the most vile insult conceivable. “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”  Ironically, that’s a frame that was popular in Soviet Russia where any criticism of the regime was labelled a mental illness and it’s off to the gulag with you for fixing. And if you think those who believe this wouldn’t like to see liberals rounded up, you’re not appreciating the seriousness of the situation.

And because of the false equivalency of ‘democrat = liberal,’ and liberalism framed as illegitimate, only one option is left. Just one. The side which successfully made sure the other side is considered a dangerous virus.

Liberals and liberalism have been so effectively demonized by the right-wing propaganda machine that for far too many Americans “liberalism” is no longer a legitimate worldview. It is not to be accepted or tolerated. It is as “unAmerican” as Satanism is heresy to an Evangelical Christian. It’s not just an unacceptable choice. It’s not a choice at all.

So much for Democracy.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who told me, straight faced, that one of the objectives of the Left is to desensitize society to pedophilia. I had two choices: smile and change the subject or respond as if she was completely out of her mind. (The social situation I was in required the former.) Days later I first heard of Qanon.

Liberals are pedophiles. Just Google it.

How many voted, or didn’t vote at all, for Trump, conscious of his despicable behavior and character, because Clinton wasn’t a legitimate choice. She was viewed as liberal, along with being guilty of all the fictional crimes Fox News accused her of. That many lefties scoff at the idea of a “liberal hillary Clinton” is irrelevant. All that matters is the frame.

We constantly hear that we must try to have a respectful dialogue with those on the right. I know that there are those on the right with whom this is possible. But they’ve become something of a novelty, seems to me.

There is no dialogue possible until such time as liberalism is rehabilitated in the public narrative. Anything a liberal has to say will be considered as much as, well, what a Nazi has to say to a liberal.

“If I’m a racist then your (sic) a liberal.”

Just what are you supposed to do with that? How can you have any kind of political dialogue with someone who inhabits a carefully constructed alternate reality?

You can’t. So arguing the point is useless and absolutely the same as trying to convince a Scientologist, or any other cult member, that they’ve been badly abused. You can’t rearrange another’s reality. Only deprogrammers can do that.

We can’t convince them. We just have to defeat them at the polls and, if necessary, in the streets.

Next time: What is up with Republicans and Nazis?

Here are some links related to Gingrich and the right wing framing campaign

NY Times: The Framing Wars

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Gingrich’s language set new course

Business Insider: Democrats and Republicans speak different languages — and it helps explain why we’re so divided

The Atlantic: The Man Who Broke Politics

Conversation with Kurt, Revisited

Back in 2007, when Bush II was the worst things could get (Oh how wrong we were!), I amused myself by writing a blog post imagining a conversation about the Declaration and Constitution between Clemsy and Kurt Vonnegut. As it’s both relevant and snarky, I’ll give it another whirl…

Clemsy sits at his dining room table drinking far too much coffee, tapping his fingers, scrunching his eyebrows and seriously trying to wrap his head around a thought or two while not noticing big, black Toby giving definite signals of his need to visit his favorite tree.

“Dang,” he mumbled. “That many people can’t be that wrong, can they?”

He looks back down at the coffee stained document.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Hmmm. ‘Self-evident.’ That might be the problem.”

“May have a point there, boy,” said Kurt looking over Clemsy’s shoulder. He sat down to Clemsy’s left. “I think your dog is trying to tell you something.”

“Inna minute,” Clemsy replied. “What’s my point?”

“Well, what does ‘self-evident’ mean?”

“It means… er…. hmmm. Lessee…” Clemsy opens his laptop for a quick Google. Entering the term he reads:

clear enough to need no proof

“Well, that’s easy enough.”

“You’d think. Overestimating people’s intelligence is a species character flaw. Now, what does ‘unalienable mean?'”

“Haven’t a clue.” Clemsy refers back to his computer.

Not to be separated, given away, or taken away

“Okay, let me get this straight. As Americans this is what we should think, right? We have no-brainer rights that no one can take away.”

“Now you’re catching on. Sounds great doesn’t it? Too bad it’s a load of shit.”

“What?!”

“Sure, it’s correct when you think about it, but what the hell’s the point when people don’t have the vocabulary of a chipmunk and all those spelling and vocabulary lists you supposedly memorized in school aren’t worth a damn. You get a vocabulary by reading and writing at home. Who thinks about what they read and write in school? How about this little word: among, as in ‘among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ What does that mean?”

“Well,” Clemsy draws his eyebrows together looking for a trap. “Seems simple enough. The list of rights is longer than just those three things.”

“Good boy. And the rest of them are no-brainers also, right?”

“Right!”

“Wrong!”

“Wrong?”

“Right!”

“What?”

“Listen. Thomas Jefferson was making some god awful assumptions here, the dolt. ‘Self evident?’ What was he thinking? The only things self evident to a chipmunk are food, sex and the fox trying to eat him. People are chipmunks. They need things spelled out for them as in ‘please tell me how to think and what to believe so I can concentrate on food, sex and foxes.’ The Founders really did know this. If not, what’s the point of the Bill of Rights?”

“To make sure we know what our rights are?”

“Right. Kind of like saying, ‘Look moron. You should already know this but if history is any guide you’re going to let the republic ride the great swirl in a hurry unless we give you directions. Here are the most important rights we could think of. Read them carefully. Eventually you’re going to elect people who will try to take them away from you. Don’t let them. They’re also going to try to tell you that these are the only rights you have. Not true. You’re going to have some holy rollers who resent no longer being able to hang witches tell you that the Constitution is like the Bible, read it literally or burn in hell. These are your rights. No additions, deletions or, most importantly, interpretations. So if the Bill of Rights says nothing about birth control, then you have no right to it. And if you’re not a citizen, than you have no rights at all because the Constitution only applies to U.S. citizens. In fact, if you behave in a manner we define as against the greater good, than you forfeit all those rights.”

“Whoa! Hold on! That doesn’t say that anywhere!”

“Right. So what? If ‘We the People’ listen to them, then it becomes true.”

“Sounds like religion to me.”

“Now you’re being clever. Exactly! One nation under God, lad! And now a nation based on a Revolution that says things about ‘all men,’ ‘self evident’ and ‘unalienable’ acts like an Old Testament, xenophobic religion. So torture is fine if you’re from another tribe or get kicked out of this one. Grab brown babies from brown mothers at the southern border? No problem. Now that’s self-evident.”

“But, but… but,” Clemsy stuttered.

“Eloquent. Further, you know that Christians have done the same thing to Christ that’s been done to Jefferson. For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

“Wait a bit!” Clemsy shouted. “I know we can do something to turn things around! Got to!”

“Well, here’s the big problem as I see it. There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nutcases want to be president.

But, when you stop to think about it, only a nut case would want to be a human being, if he or she had a choice. Such treacherous, untrustworthy, lying and greedy animals we are!

I was born a human being in 1922 A.D. What does “A.D.” signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. With him still conscious, they hammered spikes through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they set the cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the shortest person in the crowd could see him writhing this way and that.

Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?

No problem. That’s entertainment, and entertainment is the opiate of the masses, and as long as everyone’s more concerned about who’s winning on Survivor or The Voice or the sex kitten de jour’s weight, then they won’t be reading and writing and improving their vocabulary so they can know what easy words like self-evident or unalienable mean.

I know I’m mixing metaphors, but the chickens have elected Colonel Sanders, you know.”

“But is there anything I can do, Kurt?”

“Sure. Write this conversation down and publish it in your blog. At least you’ll be able to say you did something. And btw, as they say today, good thing I’m dead. Your dog just peed on my leg.”

“Dang.”

(Author’s note: There are some actual Vonnegut quotes up there.)

Cheers,

Clemsy

In Appreciation of the Moment

perseus
Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear…”

What an interesting time to be alive! The world has seemingly gone mad, kind of like a little child whose very important something is down there in the basement.

Cue creaking basement door. The light switch, of course, doesn’t work.

It’s down there somewhere in all that dark. Sure it is.

Oh geez! Looks like we have a call to adventure on our hands!

“No way,” says our not so intrepid hero. “I’ll just go back to bed and curl up into a ball under the covers.”

And there’s the refusal of the call. Happens every time.

But we all know how the story will go. That very important something will eat at the little lad (And it is a little lad. That’s important as we’ll soon see.) until he girds his loins, dons the plastic armor and helmet he got for Halloween, takes up his plastic shield and sword and VENTURES FORTH. But until then he’s going to be a tangled up little neurotic. Psychotic if he puts it off long enough.

Poor lil guy. How he will suffer.

Let’s call him… Donnie. There are other names, sure. Mitch. Paul. Jeff. Lindsey. (Wait. Lindsey? isn’t that a… Oh never mind.) And Donnie will either hold fast to the known and comfortable until he outgrows the armor and lives the life of hollow men worldwide, or he does the loin girding thing and confronts his fear.

Fast forward and, sure enough, psychosis everywhere. And here the simile ends.

So right now a whole lot of people, unfortunately with a whole lot of money and power, are so afraid of the deep, dark future that they’re working hammer and tongs to hide us all in the 1950’s, but without the tax rates. Pluralism and globalism and gender equality! Oh my! And these guys, and, yes, women with an acute case of Stockholm Syndrome, all utter the same war cry: Save Western Civilization!

Now that’s really an interesting war cry when you think about it. I mean, back in the 18th Century, some clever men of their time worked pretty hard and bled a lot of very real blood lopping off their connection to that “Western Civilization” with its divine right of kings and queens and a centuries long religious fanaticism that put the “dark” in the Middle Ages. Enter the age of democracy and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!  And my how we’ve evolved since then! To this point. To this moment right here. Right now.

The other day I posted the following on Facebook:

The “Western Civilization” the right is so worried about saving is the one conquered by an Eastern religion in the 4th Century.

Prior to that, “Western Civilization” gave us democracy and the republic, didn’t really care what god or gods you worshipped, what your skin color was, or if you were gay.

Both, alas, were misogynist as hell.

Isn’t that interesting?

So the Founders, and this was very hip at the time, went all retro by hopscotching the Christian Middle Ages and dusting off some ancient, but very good, ideas. (Kudos to the Renaissance for birthing the Enlightenment.) Now this isn’t a matter of bashing Christianity. Not at all. The Founders were, or what passed for at the time, “good Christians.” (No, they wouldn’t pass for “good Christians” today. Except John Adams, maybe. Not Jefferson. And certainly not Tom Paine, omg.)

But the fact is, Christianity brought a kind of really intolerant tribalism to Europe. It didn’t mean to. In fact it went all kinds of opposite day because certain people really did mean to. (See Theodosius, Constantine and others for details.) And that’s the Western Civilization rich, white men want to save today.

But, as Arlo says, that’s not what I came to tell you about.

We all know the tale of the guy in the image up top. (If you don’t, you should. Here. Read it now.) The tale of Perseus and Medusa, a classic hero’s adventure, is one of the oldest stories in the Greco-Roman tradition, going back around 3,000 years. It can be interpreted in any number of ways, except literally. (Alas that I have to even add that, but in a time when the likes of Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson are running wild best to say so. Kind of like warning labels on plastic bags. )

But let’s run with it, as Joe Campbell tells us, as myth as cultural, collective dream:

Professor Hammond assigns the historical King Perseus of Mycenae to a date c. 1290 B.C., as the founder of a dynasty; and Robert Graves — whose two volumes on The Greek Myths are particularly noteworthy for their suggestive historical applications — proposes that the legend of Perseus beheading Medusa means, specifically, that “the Hellenes overran the goddess’s chief shrines” and “stripped her priestesses of their Gorgon masks…” That is to say, there occurred in the early thirteenth century B.C. an actual historic rupture, a sort of sociological trauma, which has been registered in this myth, much as what Freud terms the latent content of a neurosis is registered in the manifest content of a dream: registered yet hidden, registered in the unconscious yet unknown or misconstrued by the conscious mind. And in every such screening myth — in every such mythology… — there inheres an essential duplicity, the consequences of which cannot be disregarded or suppressed. Mother Nature, Mother Eve, Mother Mistress-of-the-World is there to be dealt with all the time, and the more sternly she is cut down, the more frightening will her Gorgoneum be. This may cause her matricidal son to achieve a lot of extremely spectacular escape work, and he may end by becoming master of the surface of the earth… (from Masks of God: Occidental Mythology by Joseph Campbell, Arkana Publishing, 1991. pg. 152)

In other words, the image of Perseus and Medusa is a snapshot of a moment when the feminine divine was actively suppressed and demonized by an invading, patriarchal society. This occured in the European Basin at the same time the patriarchal, semitic tribes were doing the same thing in the Nuclear Near East. In Greece we got Medusa. In Palestine we got Eve. In both, the feminine became subordinate and women, for centuries, little better than slaves.

But subordinate to this very day.

And this is the moment, right now, today, that our cultural evolution, with democracy as its center of gravity, has brought us to. This is the moment when the feminine regains its place and status. The classical images of the goddess are always associated with the serpent, the symbol of the ever renewing cycle of life. If you’ve ever watched a snake shed its skin, you know it struggles. It isn’t easy. Being born is hard work.

Compare the following image, which showed up on the Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythic Salon Facebook page a few months ago, with the one above. It then reappeared recently within the context of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a brave woman who gritted her teeth and walked down those stairs into the dark, and dared to challenge a patriarchy desperate to save itself from the  frightening Gorgoneum with the sword.

I would expect, just as with any powerful, mythic imagery, it might elicit a visceral response. A bit uncomfortable, boys? It is jarring. It throws the world off kilter.

Good.

It’s been 3,000 years. Ladies, you’ve waited long enough.

Medusa
If anyone knows the artist’s name, please let me know!

 

It’s rather cool to be here. Of all the times we could have been, this is the time we are, when we do cross that threshold, journey down the stairs to find it’s not so dark after all.

“The fates lead him who will; him who won’t they drag.”~ Seneca

Cheers,

Clemsy

Clemsy Moves to Another Corner

Greetings Dear Readers Old and New,

I’ve moved to a new and slicker platform to regale you with my random thoughts, rants, deep dives and, hopefully, the occasional chuckles which would otherwise sink into the vast oblivion where all social media posts are equal.

But I’ll leave a link to the old blog here, in memoriam. After all, 204 posts over 12 years covering the godawful Bush years and the seemingly endless war against the Dark Council of Education Reform should not also be relegated to digital oblivion.

There’s a lot of effort in those damn posts!

So here, for posterity, sleeps Clemsy’s Corner.

Stay tuned while I caffeinate. Something’s bubbling and Death Wish Coffee will help set it free.

Cheers,

Clemsy