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

Monday, November 30, 2020

Bent Out Of Shape–A Sorry Tale Of Umbrage And Righteousness

Harry Keneally seemed always bent out of shape – or that’s how his older friends referred to him.  A man not yet old but still young enough to worry about being on the right side of history and doing good while he was at it, Harry was always deeply concerned about something, which would have been understandable given the state of the world if he hadn’t taken everything so personally.  The saying ‘bent out of shape’ was meant for him, for his umbrage – his sense of offended dignity – was physical.  When anyone spoke of Donald Trump, for example, Harry would double up like a side show freak, his face distorted, his shoulders hunching and arching, his fists clenched, and his legs rocking like a drunken sailor.  There as no way that he could take the President’s buffoonery without notice.  Nothing Trump ever said could possibly roll off Harry’s back to be tallied up as simply another freaky episode of a deus ex machina that came out of the factory with sticky tappets and bad alignment. Although where the President came from, what he did, and where he was going would be soon incidental, Harry could not ignore the horrible insult his Presidency had inflicted on patriotic Americans.  As the World Turns would soon be back to its regular programming; and adultery, sickness, greed, deception, and family jealousies would replace Trump’s summary firings, lies, fabrications, Borscht Belt insults, and political bulldozing as go-to-television.  Yet until that jackal was physically out of office, Harry Keneally would continue to be bent out of shape.

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The lesser of his friends like Bob Allen, a college classmate who could never abide Harry’s sanctimony, deliberately tried to rile him up.  Harry’s apoplexy was Barnum & Bailey’s hairy woman, half-breed dwarf, baby with two heads, and Apache buffalo boy all rolled into one once he got going; and it was not hard to move him off the mark.   At one mention of Trump the gyrations, deaf-boy grimaces, tics, and palsy began.  His speech was tangled and unintelligible as his throat constricted and his tongue jumped ahead.

Donald Trump wasn’t the only set-off point for Harry’s St Vitus’ dance.  It was anything that touched a raw nerve.  A dismissive comment about global warming was enough to trigger gyrations and neurasthenic shakes.  A reference to women’s corporate ascent set off a minor temblor and volcanic rumblings.  A suggestion that Black Lives Matter was an unruly, inchoate mob of hoodlums was enough to send him flying off the ledge of sanity.  He gargled and shook, twisted his head fore and aft, kicked the air with paralytic flails, and turned as red as a beet.

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His wife, ironically and fortunately the diametric opposite to Harry – a composed, temperate, and politically indifferent woman – was the only thing that stood between him and lunacy.  She deflected all loaded references to causes, issues, and liable; played Mantovani, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, chose vacation rentals without Wi-Fi, invited only milquetoasts and good parents to dinner, and unsubscribed to the New York Times.  Of course Harry had a mind and will of his own and could have objected to her blandishments and happy diversions, but he knew that his nerves were jangling and his wiring loose.  In one of his apoplectic episodes he felt some ‘fizzle and pop’ inside his brain.  For a moment he could make no sense nor see any around him.  A warning, perhaps, that a brain was only protoplasm wired with electrical circuits which could short on their own.  Although he really hated her treacly choices of music and people, he put up with them as self-medication.  Since he could not control his synapses or his reactions, better safe than sorry.

Of course the world did not make life easy for Harry.  In fact, not a day passed by that some bit of aggravating news got through his wife’s firewall. Fires in Australia, further melting of the polar ice cap, an unexpected GOP win in California, more sexual abuse among conservative cabals, black virtual lynchings, transgender men/women kept from teaching kindergarten, more unsafe American rattletraps shipped to dealerships, waves of leftover Trump wall-building fanatics demonstrating on the border, and much more.  What was a mother to do? Despite Patti Page and the Ames Brothers, The Sound of Music, and Around the World in Eighty Days he was exercised and flummoxed.  His ghastly twitches and hopping tics came out in his own living room when he was alone and in place.  He had a residual memory of stored-up insults and injuries, and in horror vacui moments, poked through his own psychological armor and agitated him.  Just the thought of Donald Trump, now pretty much a thing of the past, was enough to give him delirium tremens.  Only after his wife heard him banging on the settee and rattling the knick-knacks on the highboy and came in to see what was what, did he calm down. 

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“Joe Biden will make things better”, she said soothingly, and he smiled at the thought.  Now all his worries would be over – more women would be selected to serve in the Cabinet; there would be a rollback of Trump-era discriminatory anti-progressive legislation;  the promotion of a kinder, more considerate and more collaborative foreign policy; aggressive orders to defund the police; and an elevation of Black Lives Matter to iconic status.  “I can breathe again” would be Harry’s own, ironic, telling meme for the next four years.

Harry’s parents had worried about him as a child.  He was always a morose, worried boy who suffered teasing worse than his classmates; and of course the more that they saw their teasing sting and hurt, the more they ramped it up.  By the third grade Harry Keneally was the class whipping boy, the one that could be reduced to tears by someone taking his pencil or erasing his numbers.

By the sixth grade he had gotten over his pusillanimity – and while not exactly standing up to bullies, he had figured out ways around them.  He become devious; but somewhere along the way, the wires which had been crossed since birth buzzing and snapping in the testosterone broth of adolescence turned him in to a street-corner preacher.  He began to rail against the privilege, wealth, and the ‘ignorance of idleness’ that had infected and corroded the principles and morals of those who tormented him.  They were easy targets –the  inbreeding of old New England’s best families designed to create a super-class, turned out wrong and was unkind to their descendants.  Bullying was the only higher order of social interaction these morons could manage.  Harry’s venomous diction was lost on them but did Harry a great deal of good – a kind of self-help catharsis and righting of his emotional ship.

it was in college when the ‘full-blown Harry’ emerged.  There surrounded not by the cretins of the West End but by the smarter children of privilege who, despite breeding and education, still didn’t know what was what, Harry came into his own and in his eyes became the man of principle, the big moralist on campus; the John Brown, righteous prophetic hero.  To his classmates he was simply a dork who had no life.  By the time he graduated, he was on his way.  The tics, palsies, and paralytic blubbering came soon thereafter.

The causes he joined – climate change, transgender affirmation, redistributive socialism, tables-turned black privilege, and unilateral disarmament – had their own Howard Beales, the madman of Paddy Chayefsky’s ‘Network’ who shouted out his New York apartment window, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more”.  Those on the front lines of the progressive movement were all upset and crazed by what they saw was the downward spiral of civilization to an ultimate fiery Armageddon all because of capitalist greed, male patriarchy, and white privilege.  Yet none of them could match Harry’s unhinged zeal, his transformation, his demonic possession.  Still, amidst a collection of wild, true believers, Harry’s ‘uniqueness’ went almost unnoticed.  He was simply the best of the lot, a poster boy for passionate activism; and he was happy.   No one paid this tics, grimaces, and ghoulish scowls any mind.

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The trouble began when he was cashiered by these groups now dominated by leaders of their own ilk.  Only black men and women could lead the fight against racial injustice and police brutality.  Only women could fight for women’s rights.   Only gay men, lesbians, and transgender make-overs could spearhead the gender spectrum movement.  Only global warmers welcomed him, but by them the cause had fizzled.  No one cared that much.  And so, all the energy and passion that Harry was able to express in advocacy for these causes was not turned inward, and it was not long that his wife found him alone in the living room, talking to himself, yelling at the walls, and screaming to no one in particular about injustice.

Resolution of Harry’s now quite obvious ‘problem’ was not easy.  He, like most increasingly demented and schizophrenic people, at first never realized he had a problem, then refused to admit it, and finally rejected all offers of help.  He would have to wind down on his own, if that was God’s plan.

So, his wife committed him, and after a few years no one even asked where he was.  Nobody missed him which all goes to show that, all things considered, umbrage, causes, movements, and political passion mean very little

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Aliens, Genghis Khan, And Armageddon–The Allure Of Annihilation

After reading hundreds of dime store comic books about aliens Robbie Flint wondered if the real McCoy would be anything like those he read about – ghoulish, humanoid creatures bent on the annihilation of the world, shaking great cities with the pounding of with their giant, clawed feet – or something else unimaginable.  The H.G. Wells War of the Worlds images were the go-to memes for Fifties comic cartoonists; and the days of benign aliens – Cocoon, ET, Encounters of the Third Kind – or the more sophisticated, intellectual notions of 2001 A Space Odyssey were still many years off. 

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It would be so cool to see flying saucers hovering over Earth, he thought, blasting New York to smithereens with death rays then disgorging their horrible crews.  In his mind’s eye there could be no gentle aliens, only those out to destroy, conquer, and leave charred bodies, collapsed buildings, and burning cars behind. 

Aliens would all have superior intelligence, advanced technology, and the limitless will for universal empire.   No Jesus Christ, no prayer, no appeal to mercy would stop them or make them reconsider their bloody conquest and return to their own planet.  They would be implacable.  They would take no prisoners.  There would be no frozen gulags or hellish Turkish prisons.  Marauders, destroyers, and killers leave nothing behind.

Robbie was in awe of these alien invaders and their absolute power. Perhaps he had been fed too many stories of Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the Final Day of Judgment by Pastor Jenkins, the evangelical preacher of The First Baptist Church of Aberdeen who knew no temperance.  His sermons began quietly and invoked the kinder, gentler Jesus of Sunday school readers.  He then progressed to sin and sinfulness, pointing to the worst philanderers, cheats, and and spiritual derelicts in the back pews. They had not only turned their backs on Jesus, they had as much as  hammered in the nails.  They were reprobates, vile sinners, and unrepentant fools.

His voice rose at this point and he became more animated as he could see the storm clouds of the Apocalypse brewing.  It was imminent he said, and out of those clouds would come thundering the four horsemen followed by legions of God’s final crusade who would cut the heads off every man, disembowel every woman, and impale every child on a stake to be incinerated in the Holy Fire.

By this time, Pastor Jenkins had become a mad man, a wild, inspired prophet of doom.  Once he began to invoke the fiery destruction of Armageddon, there was no stopping him.  He described the field of battle after the horsemen had thundered on – its bloated corpses, its stinking filth, its horrendous rivers of blood – and then told of the shaking, cowardly, sinful populations who were next, who first saw the dust cloud of the the horsemen’s armies, then their silhouettes against the rising sun, and finally the terrible clamor of their swords and armor as they slaughtered in God’s name.

So it was no wonder that Robbie Flint had his own childish notions of alien invasion.  It would be pretty much like that of the Final Days but far worse.  Aliens with their rays and cosmic power would upset the Earth’s poles, freeze men in their tracks on one hemisphere and burn them to a crisp on the other.  They would snipe at stragglers from sleek fighter rockets, blasting them from existence and incinerating forests, cities, and suburbs along with them.  They would reverse gravitational fields and then shake the Earth so that millions flew off into space.  Only then, only after a completely depopulated, destroyed, smoldering world remained, would they go home.

As he got older, Robbie smiled at his boyhood fantasies but never really forgot them.  The idea of absolute destruction, willful power and conquest fascinated him. He imagined Genghis Khan with an army of ten thousand men thundering out of the Steppes, slaying all in his wake,  laying waste to village after village, and nothing but carnage and death from the Far East to Europe. 

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He and his armies were known for their cruelty and barbarity, and the sight of them advancing across the battlefield in a storm of dust, the feel of the earth shaking with the thunder of 40,000 hooves were enough to send enemies into retreat; but the thought alone of this terrible, bloodthirsty, and mighty warrior would have done the trick.

Genghis Khan was a man of absolute will and power, a frightening figure of power and vengeance.  He was a horseman of the Apocalypse.

The battles were exalting in their ferocity –  banners flying, swords flashing, and thickets of arrows flying them through the dust of battle.  Armed horsemen – mammoth, incredible figures to most enemies who had never seen horses – charged through the enemy lines, slashing all from their mounts until the battlefield was littered with dead.

The Crusades were Christian but just as barbaric.  Pope Urban’s armies were sent out to destroy and annihilate the Muslim occupiers of Jerusalem, to rid the world of them and their godless, heathen, insidious religion.  The mayhem and slaughter wreaked by the crusading armies was little different from that of Genghis Khan.

The world’s wars and conflicts, long, persistent, and disruptive were more traditional – powerful armies arrayed against each other, engaged in battle.  Stalemate was the outcome of most until, like the Hundred Years war or the War of the Roses, combatants simply wore out.  WWII had a fiery, nuclear end; but it was fought like all wars - battle lines and pitched battles.

It was not until Vietnam that the spectacle of real war again appeared.  F-16 jet fighters were Apocalyptic as they rained terror down from the skies.  The destruction was Biblical and epic.

Despite Hinduism’s image as one of shanti, Om, and peace, its mythology is based on endless cycles of destruction and rebirth.  The goddess Kali is the Destroyer and the god Siva dances for its rebirth.

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Despite our intentions to end war and to progress towards a peaceful, accommodating, compassionate, and respectful Utopia, brutal, bloody, insensate conflicts will – as always – exist.   How can millennia of violent, aggressive, brutal, human history not be of relevance? Genghis Khan is more expressive of human nature than Jesus Christ ever was. 

The Old Testament, of course, reads in parts like the chronicles of Genghis Khan.  Yahweh having seen how badly the Garden of Eden turned out, destroyed the world in the Flood.   When the world repopulated and returned to its evil ways, God sent a message to the sinful.  He destroyed the entire populations of Sodom and Gomorrah – men, women, children, and babies – in a vengeful, murderous purge.  That too did not work, and he sent Jesus to deal with a seemingly irremediable world.  His message of love, compassion, and brotherhood went unheeded, and the world now is no different than it ever was.  God anticipated this, of course, and vowed to destroy the entire universe in a fiery inferno.

So aliens, Genghis Khan, the Crusades, Sodom and Gomorrah, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Dresden, the napalming of Vietnam, and the nuclear intentions of rogue states are all part of the same, predictable scenario.  The comic books of the Fifties were not aberrations but prophetic.  It would not be aliens who would destroy the world, but ourselves.  The same inevitability, the same destiny. 

A few years back American boys played with He-man figures and created out of imagination and popular lore their own existential battles.

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The New Age has tried to tame such fantasies, and boys are encouraged not to destroy things but to build them – trucks, cranes, and bulldozers are sought-after toys by concerned parents – but little boys find ways to engage the trucks in battle, to crash them, overturn them, and destroy them.  It’s in our genes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Our Loss Of Nobility And The Demise Of Moral Grace

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

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Invoking nobility Shakespeare elevated the question of morality – to accept one’s fate with dignity no matter how great or outrageous the insult; or to rise up against this outrage, this ‘sea of troubles’ – to its highest human expression.  Nobility requires more than choosing between philosophical alternatives and taking right action.  The decision to remain stoic in the face of the worst that the world has to offer is less a conclusion than a moral conviction.  To assess the world as a meaningless, purposeless, and amoral place and to accept it with equanimity and grace requires intelligence, principle, logic, and profound understanding.  To fight the worst that this random, insulting, demeaning world has to offer requires more than political or personal conviction.  To take up arms against venality, greed, hostility, and indifference knowing that these expressions of human nature will  recur infinitely in perpetual cycles requires moral stature.  Although these slings and arrows are predictable and familiar and nothing of one’s own doing in a necessarily narrow universe, there is still moral cause.  Standing by, regardless of cosmology, is immoral.

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Nobility – the state or quality of being morally or spiritually good; having dignity – was a commonly accepted quality in ancient Rome.  It was rare, endowed, and admired as the best of humanity.  The moral philosopher Cato the Elder instilled principles of nobility in the future leaders of the Empire.  Not only were they instructed in the practical affairs of governance, international relations, and warfare but in the essential components of proper leadership – courage, duty, respect, honor, and compassion.  While Cato knew that only a few of his students would ever attain such nobility, they would be among the very select.

Nobility, Cato knew, was hard to achieve even among those who were born with a certain moral sensibility.  Fortune was indeed outrageous and the temptation to succumb to the worst instincts of the human soul was irresistible.  Many a leader found ways to circumvent the principles and values he knew to be permanently valid, justifying his actions by layer upon layer of expediency and limited objectives.  Only the most enlightened, the most noble, would find the courage to act morally within an amoral world.

Two plays about Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and friend and foe of Henry II illustrate this nobility.  In the Jean Anouilh version, Becket has left behind his whoring student days and macho camaraderie with the King and become a man of principle and rectitude. No bond of friendship, no patriotic duty to King and country, no sense of duty or responsibility of office could sway him from his moral principles.  The Church, as the true representative of Christ on earth, would always have primacy despite the divine right of kings, and it would never buckle under to the secular demands of the monarch.   There was a certain nobility in Becket’s objection to the King , one based on moral principle, expressed with courage in the face of assassination, and stated with God’s very authority.

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At the same time, Anouilh suggests that arrogance if not megalomania was behind his militancy.  There certainly were many avenues of compromise that Becket could have taken and still remain faithful to the principle of separation of Church and State; and yet he obstinately refused.  Perhaps he was not so noble after all suggests Anouilh.

In T.S. Eliot’s play four Tempters appear, one after the other, to tempt Becket. The First Tempter says that Becket should return to the secular life of pleasure that he led as a young man. The Second Tempter tells Becket that he should become Chancellor of England again, saying that he can do more to help the poor in a political position than in a purely religious one. The Third Tempter suggests that Becket form a new government composed of the nation’s barons, allowing him to effectively rule England. Becket finds these temptations easy to resist because they are things which he has already experienced.

The Fourth Tempter’s proposition is quite different. He suggests that Becket should seek to become a martyr. In death, his cause would be recognized as just and his enemies would be condemned. His name would long outlast those of the men that killed him. Becket recognizes this as the worst temptation of all, that of “doing the right thing for the wrong reason”. He says that he will not try to become a martyr but will accept his fate, whatever it is (N. Mabrol, Literary Theory and Criticism).

Eliot is much more explicit about the conditions of nobility.  Whereas Anouilh only suggested Becket’s ambitions, Eliot lets Becket speak for himself.  Yet the moral issue cannot be ignored.  Can Becket be believed in his demurral and acceptance of fate? Doubtful, for as Cato the Elder knew, most men will fall prey either to temptation or to the weakness of their character.  In any case Eliot’s Becket not only expresses no doubt about the rightness of his action, but couches it in the most powerful spiritual terms.

Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ? By no means. Just as we rejoice and mourn at one, in the Birth and in the Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

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Today nobility is thought of only as a function of past kings, courtiers and empire.  European nobility included only a select group of families whose titles were a function of ancestry, heredity, and patrimony; and because of that patently anti-democratic, anti-progressive origin and justification, should be discredited and ignored.  The growth of Western civilization and the encouragement of art, culture, science, language, and thought is irrelevant.  Only the aggression, oppression, and hegemonic violence of this malevolently entitled class should be remembered if at all.  

The aggression and expansionism of modern societies may have changed little from that of Medieval and Renaissance empire, but they are without any overarching purpose.  Ambition remains personal, venal, and narrowly political.  

There was something grand, enviable, and noble about the ambitions of Louis XIV, the Sun King, Queen Elizabeth I,  Emperor Caesar Augustus, or Han Guangwudi. While the first ruler of the Eastern Han Dynasty cannot be credited as his predecessors were for uniting China or doubling its territory, Han Guangwudi was renowned for being consultative and merciful, qualities rare among Chinese emperors. Guangwudi revitalized the dying Han Dynasty and assured its rule for another two centuries. His subsequent reforms and military successes enabled another golden age in China.  Without Guangwudi’s accomplishments, China could have reverted to being a collection of warring states.

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The idea of personal nobility -  grace of spirit, essential morality and rectitude, courage, and higher purpose – is all but gone today.   FDR is considered by many to be the savior of Depression-era America and the architect of progressive, liberal democracy, but others see his establishment of a government megalith as the force destroying the American values of individualism, enterprise, and freedom.  Winston Churchill, the British leader who was the heart and soul of the nation during WWII and the Battle of Britain, the brilliant political philosopher and historian, military strategist and warrior, is as close as the modern era has come to nobility.  Churchill was a man of breeding, principle, patriotism, and higher values, and never accused of venality or personal ambition.  Yet he too is vilified by today’s Left for his persistent defense of Empire.

Both men’s rectitude, moral grace, and nobility if even recognized, are dismissed by political partisans.  Moral worth and probity – the essence of leadership – have seemingly no place in the fearsome democratic politics of today.  Alexander Hamilton warned Jefferson about trusting the mob – majority rule – and insisted on some form of aristocratic oversight, men of the aforesaid moral principle and rectitude able to see beyond petty disputes and venal interests.  Hamilton would be appalled at the state of American democracy today, mob rule at its worst under the guise of ‘diversity. Identity politics has assured the interment of any higher value.  Identification with a racial, ethnic, or sexual grouping is all that is needed in terms of moral verification; and given that generalization, there are no moral brakes.

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The literature of the day reflects this moral dissimilitude.  The Golden Age of American Theatre – Williams, Miller, and O’Neill – an age where moral principle was tested and retested is gone.  The greatest work of Faulkner – Absalom, Absalom – a complex story of the Sutpen family, its racial divisions, family jealousies, ambitions, and deceptions could never be written today in a literature dominated by temporal, social issues of race, gender, and ethnicity and political issues of inequality, injustice, or oppression.  More than anything today's works are confessional, stories of growing up poor, disadvantaged, or abused.  There is no nobility in these stories, only a melodramatic dime-store peep into ordinary lives.

Of course there are exceptions – men of personal dignity, integrity, compassion, and excellence.  Spiritual devotion without evangelism; professionalism without award or accolade; duty and responsibility with no public acknowledgement.  Men of dignity, moral grace, and sincerity.  They are often lost in mergers, acquisitions, joint practices, and the commercialization of most enterprise.  The species is endangered.  If we are lucky, we know one.  We never read about them in alumni notes or in press releases.  Their obituaries sum up the visible pieces of their lives without mention of their real worth; and family lore keeps their memories alive with anecdotes and ‘remember when’ stories of years past.

Yet, although the species is endangered, it is not yet extinct, and thank God for that.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Without Trump To Hate, What Will The Haters Do With Themselves?

Danny Billups had been on the frontline of the Hate Trump vendetta for the four years since the President’s election.  Although he had a job – a quite respectable one in progressive circles, and one far removed from any taint of opportunism, unearned wealth, or possible exploitation of others – he spent most of his time at the barricades, online, at the podium, lectern, and pulpit.  He was a deacon at the most important and influential Presbyterian church in Washington, one which prided itself on social engagement and activism, and every other Sunday at the church’s second service, congregants could hear his thundering condemnation of the President, his greed, misogyny, homophobia, and racism.  

Of course Danny had to be somewhat careful to couch his calumny in Christian terms  Although the congregation was as progressive as any in the Capital and boasted privately of its liberal solidarity, it was a place of worship after all, and as hateful as the President was, the injunction of Christ’s teachings about loving thy neighbor could not be overlooked.

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Danny’s posts on social media, his op-ed pieces in the Washington Post and New York Times, and his participation in televised roundtables were legion and renowned.  He was a progressive’s progressive, never without a harsh word for Trump and his dwarfish coterie, never a screed unpublished about the President’s abuse of women, gays, and minorities or his xenophobic, fascist positions against the international poor, and his regressive ideas about the importance of religion in society.  

Like most of his colleagues, he was not only unremitting in his personal crusade to dun Trump out of office and to discredit the entire conservative establishment, but he was passionate about it.  Trump indeed represented the forces of Evil and electing him for a second term would surely usher in the darkest years before the Second Coming.

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So when the Old Man was defeated by Joe Biden, Danny Billups was at sixes and sevens.  His side had won, and now what?  During the past four years he had not formulated any alternate policies on foreign affairs, energy, social welfare, equity, distribution of wealth, and affirmative action.  He had only spewed animus and bilious hatred.  Neither he nor any one of his colleagues really cared about policy.  

His campaign would be a religious one – the casting out of the Devil and the exorcism of the evil of capitalist conservatism.  No details, no position papers, no data, no historical references.  Nothing in fact except for venom, bile, hellfire, and brimstone.  It worked – the progressive faithful were as single-minded and fundamentalist as he was and voted Trump out of office not because of his policies or his attitude, but because he was a bad person, a blighted one, and a profoundly sinful one.

So Danny and his fellow members of his Washington liberal cabal sat around the table in mid-November after the final votes were counted and lawsuits dismissed and Biden was all but declared President-Elect, and looked blankly at each other.  Now what?

Of course most of them before Donald Trump had been engaged in a variety of social causes – civil rights, Global Warming, affirmative action,  the gender spectrum, and immigration – and could always go back to them; but after the halcyon hate years, engagement seemed rather tepid.  Trump not only stood for dismissal of environmental issues, rejection of please for black justice, indifference to gay rights and sexual agenda, he ridiculed those who promoted them.  

Progressives were namby-pamby wusses.  They were hopelessly idealistic, childish, given to tantrums, offended without provocation, thin-skinned retro-bigots.  Now this was a man progressives could hate, a man who embodied the virulent ignorance of the conservative electorate.  

Without Trump to hate there would be no one else - no one single embodiment of evil, just fragmented ills.  No allegation of police brutality, racial discrimination, subverted gay rights, or private sector exploitation of workers will ever get the same defamatory press as when Trump was in office.  He was the one behind all of America’s ills and cared nothing about him.  He was the sinkhole of all conservative evil, the huckster for it, the facilitator of it, and its eternal defender.  

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So the blank looks were not surprising.  Without someone to hate, their job would be dull,, boring, and unfulfilling.  These progressives lived for their hatred of Donald Trump.  It animated them, energized them, and defined them.  Now they were little more than ciphers – like their man, Biden, if they were to speak honestly.

A few months after the 2020 election a COVID vaccine became universally available, and in person events were permitted.  Special consideration was given by the Biden Administration to those organizing groups which had supported him and had been instrumental in defeating Donald Trump and Danny was able to attend the National Women’s Alliance annual meeting in Washington.  

It was a tepid affair.  The jubilation over Biden’s victory had passed, and the hatred for Donald Trump was mitigated by time and the need to focus on the future, and the air was out of the balloon.  Speaker after speaker spoke about transgender discrimination, the still unbreakable glass ceiling, the sexual abuse on college campuses, and the shameful resurgence of girly-girl-ism but to muted applause.  More women were checking their phones than paying attention,  The fun of hatred had irretrievably gone.  There was no misogynist like Donald Trump and there never could be.  Picking on little guys was no fight.  Without the main event, the whole idea seemed a bit frivolous.

Environmental groups shut down and locked down by COVID once again emerged, and their own shills again began to peddle their wares; but without The Great Denier, the man for whom climate change was a liberal fiction, for whom a few higher tides meant nothing more than fishing closer to shore, and whose blind trust investments in Canadian golf courses were already paying off, the spirit was gone.  Without Trump to hate, climate change just didn’t seem all that important. The wind was out of their sails as well. 

Worst of all without Trump to hate, the solidarity of the progressive movement began to weaken.  Each activist stuck with his own .  When Trump was around to hate, they all – environmentalists, civil rights activists, socialists, sexual revolutionaries – partied in one big tent.  Now they were in their own little pup tents.

Image result for images anti trump demonstrations

They scanned the horizon for Trump successors but found none.  There was a handful of right-wing politicians from the Far West who had made some noise in their own states but who had stumbled on the national stage.  A few televangelist bigots who attracted large crowds and donations but who were known by relatively few.  It was a desert out there.

In any case Danny, near the end of his career, found it easy to hang up his spurs and retire to Florida.  He could do so knowing he had won the gunfight, had always been on the side of the right and righteous, and was recognized for it.  He felt sorry for the young radicals of his party’s Left wing.  They would miss the hand-to-hand combat, the absolute exhilaration of political hatred, and the ecstatic moment of victory.  Where would they go?  What would they do?  Become conservative as they got older as most liberals do? Or live in secure enclaves like New York’s Upper West Side where old Jewish liberals still remember Samuel Gompers, revere Noam Chomsky, and rant and rave about Marx, Lenin, and Engels whose genius was distorted and ruined by the Soviet Union.

Danny spent the rest of his life fishing for bonito, playing golf, lying on the beach, and enjoying sundowners with his friends on the balcony of his condominium. There is a time and a place for everything, he said, time to hold it and time to fold it.