"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, December 31, 2018

Existential Disorder - The Spiritual Disruption Of Getting, Keeping, And Throwing Away

There were only a few things of value in the Pritchard house – a 10th century Hindu head from Khajuraho bought in a Calcutta market, shipped in a lift van home from Bombay, and displayed on the mantel for 30 years, a late 18th century gold plated Revere silver creamer, a 19th century Edo print, and a rare 17th century Korean koan-inspired calligraphic brush-and-ink work of grasses.  Rowan Pritchard paid little attention to anything else, although nothing had been bought thoughtlessly.  There were Turkish ceramics, Victorian glassware, and British prints of India from the days of the Raj – all of series or common for the genre so not valuable per se; but such value was incidental to Rowan.  He could not look at the Khajuraho head, a piece of remarkable grace and subtlety, without reflection – of his days in India, his own immature but serious search for meaning, and the surprising spiritual energy of India’s most holy places, of Benares, Hardwar, Allahabad, Nasik, and Allahabad.  He would miss nothing else in the house except the Khajuraho head.

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The house had never been decorated, nor had thought ever been paid to interior design, what should go where, or what went well with what.  The Pritchards had found things they liked, displayed them because they liked them, and after many years of travel had settled on the best.  There was not only no need to add to their collection, but doing so would have disturbed the particular personal artistic and even spiritual integrity of the place.  More acquisitions would have meant making room on the mantel, displacing the pre-Colombian terracottas , moving the Mogul miniatures, edging out the Bolivian Aymara silver spoons.  Not that there wasn’t room – the Pritchards’ walls, windowsills, tables, and highboys had ample space for new things –it was that the intimacy of the rooms would be disturbed.  Every house, especially one as carefully considered as the Pritchards’ has a character – not just ‘character’ but a distinctly personal character, as innate and unchangeable as the characters of its owners.  It is a matter of equilibrium.  The house had ‘settled’ years before and nothing should alter its now essential, unchangeable character.

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Rowan Pritchard’s sense of this unchangeability extended to other rooms of the house, those where the most important objects were displayed.  His office had grown from a desk and chairs to his own personal space – one not unlike the downstairs living room, had been carefully although not deliberately arrayed with pieces from his personal, intimate past – photos of his children but as importantly of him as a child.  Their clay ashtrays and dragons, but also his childhood sketches and mobiles.  There was nothing that reflected his long marriage – no pictures of his wife or their times together, no familiarity, no intimations of their relationship which in itself suggested more than he was willing to admit – but everything about his life, his travels, his adventures, his tastes, and his preferences.

His sense of place and surroundings even extended to the practical, more mundane areas of the house – the kitchen, the patio, the landings, and the porch.  The cane furniture on the porch had long since outlived its utility and had begun to crack and fray after many hot Washington summers and cold winters.  The kitchen appliances, cabinets, and floors had long since fallen into semi-disrepair.  Things worked, but not well.  Enclosures enclosed but barely.  Rice, beans, anchovies, and Turkish figs were crowed into old, narrow storage space.  The pots and pans were stored too low; the pasta and teas too high; the sink too small, and the dishwasher old and obsolete.  Yet Rowan wanted no part of renovation, especially re-making – transforming the old, cranky kitchen into a gleaming, track lights-and-tile, butcher-block, high-performance workplace.  Although he did the kitchen, and he would have benefitted from the improvements, he resisted.  There was something upsetting about disrupting the settled nature of the place.

Perhaps it was because as he grew older, change was more and more upsetting per se.  Although he might say he was concerned about feng shui and the native, settled place in which he lived, his wife thought him simply old and obstinate.  Khajuraho head notwithstanding, what was the problem with a new ceiling fan, more spacious refrigerator, and more room?

Neither she nor any of their DIY friends understood.  A house was not a home, but a place in which to live, one subject to age, deterioration, and inefficiency; and one without the essence and personal integrity upon which Rowan insisted.  Nothing was fixed, immutable, or sacred. 

On the contrary, thought Rowan, retention was not a crime, nor a old man’s folly.  It was as important as the permanence of the Khajuraho head – an expression of being not subject to vagary, taste, or efficiency.

An aged aunt of his wife had died recently, and while the old woman had not been a compulsive hoarder, she had acquired more than her share of crockery, flatware, pots and pans, utensils, fans, and throw rugs.  It would be a shame to give all that to Goodwill, said her children, a waste of good things.  So the clarion was blown and the distribution des biscuits began.  Rowan’s wife had been offered the pick of the crop – the blender, the heavy-duty pot, the juicer, and an array of cutlery collected and cared-for since the aunt’s marriage.

Rowan wanted none of it.  He was doing just fine; and except for the lower shelves (it was becoming harder and harder to reach the baking dish in the back), saw no need for any improvements, replacements, or additions.  Goodwill was the benefactor of his obstinacy (ref: his wife), his hopelessly old-fashioned ways (ref:his children); and his stupidly, idealistic, and romantic ideas (ref:his own).

While it is true that older people do indeed get stuck in their ways and hopelessly stuck in the past, Rowan was not a hoarder, someone whom the first responders would have trouble locating because of the piles of old newspapers, New Yorker magazines, cat food, baby clothes, and wedding outfits blocking the way; and would die unencumbered.  His would never be the spare, existential, simple, perfectly-ordered Kyoto ryokan, but it would be the Western approximation – more things and appurtenances, but simple, well-defined, and meaningful nonetheless.

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The typical American house is recyclable, transformable, dispensable. Items are bought, displayed or used, stored, and eventually thrown out, given away, or sold.  The basement is a very American institution.  It originally served to provide a layer of underground insulation against the harshness of New England winters, but was transformed into a storage space – a place for continued storage of items still thought too valuable to discard but not valuable enough to display or use.  It was the essential link in the American consumer chain.  A holding pen, a deciding area, a last resort for those who could simply not throw out Grandma’s settee.

The more the modern American family buys, the more the basement fills up; but the more quickly are its contents disposed of.  If anyone were to look, they would find the repository of American consumerism.

Given Rowan’s attachment to old things, both valuable and practical, and given his resistance to the legacies of dead aunts and great-grandmothers it was not surprising that his basement was uncluttered. 

There are always stories of old women whose hoarding has become so obsessive that there is no way out.  They live within abandoned walls of newspapers, phone books, old correspondence, hair dryers, pamphlets, and children’s toys and are hard to extract.  They are at the excessive, extreme end of the American dream.  Rowan Pritchard was at the other – spare, uncluttered, unencumbered, unbothered, and unmoved. 

No one really needs a pot with a heavy duty base and more circumference, an extra set of kitchen knives, a crocheted blanket, or set of dessert spoons.  Yet they have an insistence.  Grandma’s kitchenware cannot be discarded without finding a family home; nor her Mother Hubbards, lace shawls, and Easter hats.  Only the Rowan Pritchards of the world can resist them, discard them, and be done with them as though they never existed.  Like Grandma herself.

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There was no ulterior purpose to Rowan’s particularity.  His rejection of things had nothing to do with either the things he kept or threw away or the people who owned them; but only some vague sense of order – disruption was a greater sin than fornication . Yet his was indeed a spiritual life, one whose existential mandates, although not consciously realized, were imperative.  Keeping, preserving, withholding, maintaining – even when it came to appliances or silverware – had more to do with existential order than any old, fuddy-duddy, old man’s persnicketiness.

Rowan Pritchard was more than a survivor.  He was a latter-day prophet.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Good Girls And Bad Boys–A Match Made In Heaven

Good girls love bad boys, the kinds their mothers dread – Deadbeat Doug, the high-school dropout, Army recruit, he of the long rap sheet, the only one of a hundred tame classmates, harnessed and tethered well before puberty, trained to march in line, be respectful, and do one’s duty, to give full rein to the bits and pieces of Great Grandfather Hiram’s DNA – that Hiram Mycomb the black sheep not only of the immediate family but of generations of Mycombs, the bad boy who was a petty thief by the time he was ten, a numbers runner by fourteen, a gofer at Mme. LaMotte’s by sixteen, and a well-to-do procurer, boulevardier, and man-about-town by twenty.  Doug Mycomb couldn’t help himself, always in trouble with priests, teachers, and police, all of whom wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to this smart, socially precocious, and canny young man but who could not ignore or forgive serious breeches of the law.

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By the time Petty Bingham had met him, his die had been cast.  He was always on one side of the law or the other, impatient with its rules and restive behind its unjust bars; but not only did girls never mind, they flocked to him.  He had swagger, attitude, and confidence all of which had been squeezed out of his classmates.  To the law, to parents and teachers, and to priests and counselors, he was something the genetic potting wheel had cast according to plan, thrown with taste and care, but because of some irregularity in the wheel, the clay, or the hands of the potter, had come out unlike the other figurines on the shelf – not exactly misshapen but unmistakably different and unsalable.

To Petty, however, he was irresistible.  No matter what her parents said or how much they warned, she couldn’t keep her hands or mind off Deadbeat Doug.  While she read pioneer journals, did advanced calculus, and learned French, Doug hung out in Rockville packs, hustled Georgetown day-trippers, and made enough off of low-grade, below-the-radar dope deals to keep him solvent. 

Petty met him at a rave, wasted on E, sexy as hell, dancing with anyone who crossed from Aisle A to Aisle B and then heading up and dancing through the after-hours parties on the Anacostia.  He was always what she wanted – the fuck-all piss of her father, the Prince Charming of her childhood fairy tales, and the incarnation of everything her proper, conservative mother hated.

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Mr. and Mrs. Prentice Bingham both came from solid, upper middle-class stock.  He from a proper New England family, captains of minor industry (millers and hatters from Danbury); and she from the best society that the Midwest could muster – a respectable matron by way of Saint Margaret’s, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, and Vassar.  They were careful to enroll their daughter in the best Washington private schools.  Especially in the culturally porous, multi-ethnic, diversity of the Capital, one had to take certain precautions - build firewalls and no-fly zones, monitor phone conversations, install mini-cams, and vet every non-academic interchange on the calendar; but to the surprise of no one, these attempts were vain and bumbling.  As much as they tried, no friendship with the son of Senator Billings of Missouri or the daughter of Fed Chairman Randall ever matured; and if it had, it would have resulted in trouble – the same trouble that Deadbeat Doug got into, mitigated only because of connections and political influence.

So Petty hung out with Doug Mycomb no matter how much her parents objected until all the training, high-class education, and downright, old-fashioned Protestant rectitude kicked in.  Following Deadbeat Doug to Alabama, betting on the dogs in Mobile, and hanging out with offshore oil riggers and displaced Haitians was not in the cards.  As much as Doug appealed to her sense of adventure, sex, and defiance, she knew that he would never be more than what her parents suspected – a deadbeat ne’er-do-well with sexy overtones.   By the end of her sophomore year at Brown, Deadbeat Doug was history.

Petty had a number of affairs in her early post-college years, and the spirit of Doug Mycomb was invested in all of them.  There was Cameron Wright, a mixed-race Princeton graduate, graphic artist for a Hollywood studio, who, thanks to his stunning good looks and irresistible sexual allure was what Deadbeat Doug had always wanted to be but could never muster.  Chris Martin, another unstoppable bad boy who had tamed his wilder instincts, kept the most attractive, and slept and wangled his way into the best Burbank stables.  And finally Piotr Alexandrov, a Russian émigré with an aristocratic pedigree, a European playboy history, and a coldly indifferent attitude towards women.

Petty of course was not alone in her attraction to bad boys, whether lowlife Deadbeat Doug or high-toned Count Alexandrov.  All girls wanted nothing to do with the bridled, tamed, and sexually neutered males of the feminist, post-modern generation.  While academic canons, popular media, and received wisdom all pointed to the sensitive, respectful, orderly male, young women were having nothing of it.  They may have marched in solidarity with the MeToo movement against sexual abuse, enrolled in in post-modern courses on feminine ‘natural autocracy’ and will, and demurred on any invitation to dance; but they never hesitated before the advances of the Apollos, Casanovas, and Lotharios of their generation.  Petty and her girlfriends were no different from generations of women before her who had been nurtured, brought up, educated, and trained to single out the best of the best, but who fell for the worst – the rakes, Don Juans, casual seducers, and top dogs of the street.

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The New Age, sensitive man was simply not what God had planned when he created Adam; but women ended up with one, a man easily seduced by Eve, a moral weakling, a man without principles or the insatiable sexual will to populate the world.  He is the feminist ideal, not Darwin’s male – aggressive, insensitive, male to the roots, dominant, and unalloyed.   Women are not such easy marks.  They get the difference, know that they want nothing to do with the Adams of the world and are far more seduced by the likes of Milton’s Satan, a creature of intelligence, will, determination, sexual poise and confidence, and ultimate power.
Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.
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D.H. Lawrence understood sexual dynamics better than any author – better than Henry Miller, Albee, or even Shakespeare.  Men and women sought sexual mutuality which could only be attained after a struggle of wills.  Sensitivity, appreciation, and gender fluidity are irrelevant to the centrality of sexual will.  Sexually timid, uncertain, equivocal men and overly dependent, longing, idealistic women are part of this irrelevancy.  They will always search for sexual completion and satisfaction but will never achieve it because of their lack of focus, purpose, and desire.  

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Women may want supportive men at feminist conferences, but not in their beds.  They may respect male solidarity in the fight against sexual abuse, patriarchy, and male dominance but want a man who will, like Lawrence’s characters, refuse to be feminized, accept their maleness and aggressive pursuit, and never back off or back down in the essential struggle between male and female.

In Gone with the Wind Scarlett, after two years of indifferent marriage to Rhett Butler whom she married for his money, is forcefully raped by him, and she loves it. Sex with Rhett, drunk, angry, abusive, and irresistibly male is the first passionate, consuming, and fully sexual experience she has ever had.

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Until human DNA has been recombined to change sexual nature, urgent demands to reject male-female polarity and substitute for it a fluid gender spectrum, will fall on deaf ears.  The sexual battles fought by Shakespeare’s powerful women – Tamora, Dionyza, Goneril, Regan, Cleopatra, Rosalind, and Beatrice - and the willful power of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Strindberg’s Laura will continue to be the essential, determining struggles of women.

Powerful, determined women will never look for male sensitivity, accommodation, or complaisance to satisfy them.  They will always look to society’s bad boys – the ineffably irresistible males who offer confidence, strength, and sexual prowess.  Canny men understand this, know how to negotiate the flimsy and artificial constraints imposed on them by a politically-motivated society, and always win the most desirable woman across the floor.

Pipes, Curtains, And Grouting–The Stuff Of Marriage And Ways Of Escape

The Painters were to all appearances a couple in a good marriage of many decades.  They had divided responsibilities equitably, brought up two children well, and were loving grandparents. They co-existed, each in their own spheres of interest – different friends, occupations, diversions – rarely got in each other’s way, and all in all rode even rails with only an occasional loose shunting.

Their early years had been good, although it was not long after their marriage that Robbie had begun his affairs.  At first short, desultory pairings in exotic locations; then more serious ones but necessarily brief.  Robbie had no intention of leaving his wife or children, was perfectly satisfied with the short shelf life of his meet-and-mate liaisons, and eventually they became part of a well-balanced life.  As his marriage became more and more predictable, and as his wife became more and more occupied with house and home, forgetting the adventure and romance of their earlier years as if it had never existed , Robbie felt the need to chart his own course and navigate by very different stars.

“I just work here”, said a friend, following the instructions of his wife, admitting the less-than-ideal relationship with a woman of fixed ideas and assuming that since all husbands were complaisant helpers to insistent, practical wives, he could be honest.  Robbie understood the predicament.  Despite claims to the contrary, women were indeed nest-builders, even those who had lived much of their lives in the boardroom.  It was not that women wanted a secure place for their families as they always had.  It was that there were no natural brakes on the impulse.  The earliest women had little to build their nests with – more mud and wattle, tighter weaving of the sticks and twigs, deeper swales to catch and channel the rainwater – but the modern woman had everything. Not only to repair leaks and cracks, but to redo – reupholster couches, repaper the walls, reconfigure the family room, bump out the kitchen, add a sunroom, retile the bathroom floors – and remake for no other reason than some vestigial impulse to rethatch the roof. 

Men, Robbie thought, either helped, got out of the way, or reconfigured their own lives.  Bill Lincoln, for example, had always been scarce or unavailable for Sunday morning outings.  Margot wanted him to grout the bathroom tub, replace the screen doors, or repoint the chimney.  Bill never complained, was always a dutiful husband and companion, and placed his wife’s concerns over his interests.   It turned out, however, that shortly after his death, his wife discovered email correspondence between Bill and his Honduran lover with whom he had been having an affair for ten years.  Those trips to Tegucigalpa were not as innocent and work-related as they had seemed.

Dark-eyed beauty

Bill had simply traded uxoriousness for a life of sexual adventure, love, and intimacy with another woman.  His dutiful obligation, his deference, and his constant attention to his wife was the perfect cover.  She suspected nothing.  The revelation after his death came as a shock and complete surprise.  She not only felt cheated, but tricked.  It was one thing for a husband to stray; another thing to act the part of dutiful spouse with such fidelity than even the most critical audience would have suspended disbelief. 

“It served her right”, said one of Bill’s friends during their coffee post-mortem.  Far better for her to have found out after his death than before.  He had to suffer no screams and recriminations.  No pound of flesh, no hectoring, harping, and surveillance; and she had to endure years of painful, frustrated anger and unrequited revenge.  He couldn’t have engineered a better or more fitting end to a woman who had been bsimply too difficult to get rid of.

Robbie’s route was ironically more honest than Bill’s ever was.  Robbie refused to help re-grout the shower and help select new drapes and kept a mistress in Port of Spain.  It was a question of personality.  His wife was so preoccupied with the mud-and-wattle of her life that she ignored the cost.  It was far more important for her to have a new kitchen and bumped-out sunroom than it was to get any spousal support; and that enterprise kept her nose out of Robbie’s affairs.  When he finally pulled up, settled for a nice bed of hay and a warm stable, his wife was none the wiser.  She was only happy that his busy professional life was winding down and coming to an end.  He would be underfoot to be sure, as unwilling to help out as before, but still, it would be nice to have him home.  Their relationship had always been skewed in his favor.

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Perhaps it was motherhood that so defined women’s mud-and-wattle character.  A baby cannot simply be left to the elements.  Cold air whistling through the cracks has to be stopped, the leak in in the thatch repaired, the dung floor resurfaced, and the briar fence replaced.  Home improvements are not for the mother but for the baby; but just as Australian shepherds will herd little children when there are no sheep in the pasture, women cannot stop refurbishing, redoing, and renovating once their children are out of the house. 

Perhaps it had more to do with historical legacy.  Women had been confined to house and home for centuries, so it is no surprise that they busy themselves with drapes, curtains, rugs, and glassware long after they have entered the competitive male workplace.

When the reshuffling of the furniture, the in-and-out of sofas, highboys, and tables, and the replacement of the flagstones got too much, Robbie headed out to meet his lover in Miami Beach, or drink rum punches at the Oloffson, or even rekindle old affairs in Sioux City. 

Robbie and his wife stayed married for decades, their home had been featured in House and Garden, and their family remained intact.  Robbie assumed that either his wife knew about his meanderings and ignored them, intent as she was about her own, very practical ends; or that she had no idea what he did after he closed the front door.  In either case she was happy to have him out from underfoot as she reupholstered and refinished, and he was happy to leave this workshop.

They had never shared a ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ moment either before their marriage or after, so perhaps it was that diffidence or patient indifference that kept them together.  Who is to say what marriage should be, as artificial a social construct as it has been? And perhaps the best marriages are those where husband and wife follow their own hardwired, pre-historic instincts but still manage to co-habit.

Many women might claim that such duplicitous and deceitful marriages such as Robbie’s and Bill’s are fundamentally wrong and the ends do not justify the means.  An intact, ‘happy’ marriage cannot justify treachery and dishonesty.  Yet many marriages come apart for a lot less, and most are unhappy, dreary, affairs.  What is wrong with one built on the honest desire to be busy, constructive, and hearth-building; and on the faithful, although temporary, return of a sexual wanderer?

Nigel Nicholson wrote Portrait of a Marriage, a memoir of the unusual open marriage between his mother, Vita Sackville-West and his father, Harold Nicholson.  Literary critic Nava Atlas describes it this way:

Sir Harold, distinguished writer, scholar, diplomat, and statesman, was a social, extroverted being; Vita, a poet and novelist, was the product of mingled Spanish and English blood, once described as “romantic, secret, and undomesticated.” They both thought marriage “unnatural,” but realized that, “as a happy marriage is ‘the greatest of human benefits,’ husband and wife must strive hard for its success. Each must be supple enough, subtle enough, to mold their characters and behavior to fit the other’s facet to facet, convex to concave.”

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Robbie’s marriage was neither as open nor dramatic as the Nicholsons’.  By comparison to the English couple’s sexual adventures, high-living, fame, and wealth, his was ordinary and conservative.  Yet given the precariousness of marriage, it is hard to criticize either one or any one.

The fact that few men would want to be married to Robbie’s wife – a life of pipes, curtains, and grouting sounds very unappealing– most applauded Robbie for his evasion and his commitment.  Marriage was not to be dismissed lightly; but avoidance of the worst sequelae was not only necessary but expected.

Robbie and his wife stayed together until the end.  Admittedly once Robbie had accepted the hay, feed, and stable he was not as happy as he once had been; but he adjusted. He kept out of his wife’s way when she was involved in one of her projects.  His daughter was particularly sympathetic and welcomed him; but once the dust had settled, he returned, not exactly with enthusiasm, but a return nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Diary Of A Trump Hater–A Fairy Tale

Marfa Poitiers grew up in a normal, serious, politically moderate family.  Her grandparents on her father’s side had been conservative Republicans, but in an era before Barry Goldwater and the naissance of radical conservatism.  They were Eisenhower Republicans who believed simply in the greatness of America – and who could doubt that proposition after victory over Germany in World War II, an America with unshakable beliefs in God, family, community, and country, and a powerful economic engine which would drive recovery in Europe and power American industrial revival? 

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Her grandparents on her mother’s side were moderate Democrats who believed in the New Deal and government instrumentalism.  They had loved Roosevelt, voted for Stevenson, ‘the little man’, small business, labor unions, and the welfare state; and looked to European social democracies as the way forward. 

Both sets of grandparents hardened their positions as they aged into their eighties and nineties.  By the time Marfa was a young adult, her grandparents had slid off moderate political rails and shunted themselves onto more extreme sidetracks, but were still within walking distance of church, community, flag, and country.

Her parents had both begun their political lives as 60s quasi-radicals; but bred well-enough within an upper middle class ethos of moderation within a patriotic framework and educated within patrician rationalism and social probity to stay within bounds.  They sympathized with the Far Left but intellectually not actually.  They never rode the Freedom Ride buses, crossed the Pettis Bridge in Selma, or demonstrated with Martin Luther King on the Washington Mall.  They were serious enough in their political convictions, but never throttled up, joined, or insisted.

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Perhaps because of her parents’ political diffidence – only the fainthearted and weak-willed cheered on the sidelines while blood was spilled in the cause of freedom, civil rights, and moral rectitude – she felt obliged to take a more principled and active stand.  Looking more to her grandparents – both outspoken in their political opinions and in a day before street protests, as loud and unintimidated as any – she made a choice.  Liberal progressivism with a storied intellectual political history from Karl Marx, Samuel Gompers, Saul Alinsky; and a radical revolutionary history from the Black Panthers, Mark Rudd, and the Weathermen, had more staying power.  It had moral authority, religious sanction, and social relevance.  Conservatism, while originally based on Enlightenment individualism and Scottish free market enterprise, had become deformed into a chaise longue patriotism, Sinclair Lewis small business boosterism, and Biblical sanctimony.

Marfa not only veered Left, she careened off any intellectual, rational, moderate rails and ended up in the radical fringe.  Unfortunately she came of age in the Donald Trump era, and whatever reasonability she might have had; whatever innate patriotic moderation she might have inherited from her grandparents; and whatever intellectual diffidence she might have adopted from her parents, were set aside, ignored, or jettisoned.

She became a Trump Hater, a woman of absolutely confirmed righteousness and moral outrage.  She hated Trump for his misogyny, his racism, his crass materialism, and his absurd, bourgeois, uncultured, ridiculous persona.  She hated Trump before he ever signed a bill, an executive order, or political directive.  She made up her mind during the 2016 campaign, convinced herself that the man was a boneheaded, macho, self-centered ignoramus.  His one-liners and ad hominem tweets were examples of his simple-mindedness – a man incapable of considered political thought, enlightened social judgement, and anything but capitalist greed incarnate.  He hated women, gays, blacks, and Native Americans.  His vision of cultural homogeneity, Christian hegemony, and economic elitism were not just wrong, but hateful.

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Her hatred was so deep, pernicious, and corrosive, that she lost any sense of balance.  Anyone who considered even or a moment the ideas behind the hyperbole, the motives behind the grand guignol or the purpose behind the vaudeville was a traitor.  There was only one way forward – the complete, total, destruction of an American Hitler.

Marfa was not alone of course, and she found a sense of belonging, community, and family in the progressive movement.  Here there were brothers and sisters who shared the same hatred, who all despised the villainy and retrograde ignorance of the President and his sycophants.  They were a team out to win, a progressive avant-garde, a phalanx of the righteous.  It felt good at night after the hoopla, the banners and signs, the tear gas and dogs, the courage of African Americans and the transgendered, and the great emotional sweep of generational good.

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Hatred became a positive good.  The Movement to remove and destroy Donald Trump had nothing to do with Christian tolerance or Buddhist acceptance.  Jesus and the Tao were irrelevant, too soft, generous, or philosophically wobbly in the face of such malevolence.  Trump was no less than a Hitler, a Stalin, and a Pol Pot – a vicious, amoral, dangerous, and destructive force.

Of course from a more rational, objective perspective Marfa was disillusioned – an impressionable young woman who had paid too much attention to her parents and grandparents, too little to Adam Smith, John Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and far too much to Cuban apologists, unreconstructed Marxists, and European Social Democrats, 

It would be too much to say that she was lost, a victim of idealism and a deformed reading of history.  She was far more intelligent than the MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, opportunists whose one claim to fame was their manipulation of the gullibility and idealism of their supporters.  She was a micro part of macro-history.  She was part of a local zeitgeist which meant nothing when considered within a larger historical context but which was characteristic of the times.  In effect, she was an unsuspecting, willing pawn in a hysterical political moment.

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Perhaps for the first time in recent American history has there been such vitriol, profound hatred, and hysterical frenzy over a president.  A dispassionate observer would quickly conclude that the violent opposition to Donald Trump has little to do with the man, his policies, or his governance than progressive idealism.  Such a man and such a populist, conservative movement was not supposed to interrupt the progressive movement towards a better world.   Progressivism, it was thought, was part of the end of history, a final movement of social justice which would resolve international conflict, configure a multi-cultural, tolerant, and inclusive American society, even out capitalist excesses and inequalities, and balance faith and secularism.  How could such an intrusion into a beautiful, purposeful, ideal vision ever happen?

Hatred was the only responsible response to such a man and his deformed vision.  There could be no such thing as a loyal opposition, no reasonable, moderate, and temperate response to perfidy and evil.

However, life and human nature being what it is, Marfa, like many of her progressive colleagues, simply found themselves having babies, mothering, and working at demanding professional careers. It was not that she turned Right or saw the hysteria of her political excess for what it was; nor that she grew older and lost her youthful fire and idealism.  It was simply that she wore out. For one thing radical populism and conservatism were spreading throughout Europe and Asia.  The inertia of this movement would serve to propel it farther and longer than anyone had expected.  Continued opposition to America's version of such drastic cultural and political change would be wasted. And besides that, there was more to life than Donald Trump.

As for Donald Trump himself? He was no worse nor no better than any of his predecessors.  Yes, he was certainly not cut from the same cloth as they, culturally conservative members of the social or intellectual elites; and yes, he was certainly his vaudevillian, Las Vegas, Hollywood, mean streets of New York persona was indeed something new; but so what?  The more she watched him, the more she enjoyed the show - a spectacular show of glamour and glitz, irreverence and Borscht Belt humor, and as politically incorrect as the young Eddie Murphy and Joan Rivers.

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What was she thinking when she went off into the deep, dark end of the pool?  So many anxieties, worries, and concerns in this progressive establishment there.  No light, no fun, no historical perspective.  It was, after all, a desperately ugly place for a young, attractive woman to be.

She was never happier than when she jumped ship, gave up on the progressive moroseness and universal anger, and began to live again.  She got out of her dowdy clothes, dressed to the nines, wore perfume and high heels, stepped out, joined high-toned revelers who had like her given up politics.  Life was certainly too short to be morose, she now realized, regardless of who was in the White House.