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

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, A Conservative Übermensch Among Fools–A Political Odyssey

Mary Perkins had always been ornery.  She was a colicky baby, a fussbudget as a child, an impossible teenager, and a downright pissy and disagreeable adult.  She was persnickety, harbored grudges, and could never relax.  Everything was a big deal, a sweat, and arduous.  Things that others let slide, Mary could not; and not only that, they became a big deal.  She easily took umbrage, felt slighted at every turn, saw insult coming before it came, and rejected any and all overtures.  She did not get worse over time because her wires had been crossed at conception, bits of DNA from her most difficult and unpleasant forbears spliced into her genome.  She was a case for nature over nurture if there ever was one.

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“Mary reminds me of Uncle Dave”, her mother shared with her husband.  “You remember Dave, my Great Uncle, brother of my grandfather Hiram who looted McKenzie & Company and escaped to Idaho.  He was ornery too”.  

Dave Birkenthal was far more than ornery.  Born in Northern Ireland during one of the region’s worst communal episodes, he migrated to New York at the turn of the century and became a leader of one of the gangs of the Five Points of New York.  He was not only ornery, but murderous; and became the feared enforcer of Manhattan.  How bits of his genetic code got hived off and passed on through the female line to end up in Mary was one of the unexplained mysteries of nature; but there it was, unmistakably and irrevocably.

Mary refused to eat her peas on principle, shunned every boy who slid across the polished floor of Mrs. Linder’s dancing school, wore her school uniform at sixes and sevens, deliberately disheveled and outrageously disordered, crossed the lines of authority, spat and hawked like a longshoreman on the Senior Path, and headed to Harvard despite disparaging reviews thanks to perfect College Boards, an A+ scholastic average, and brilliance in debating, chess, and mathematics.

The Lefferts School, a tony preparatory school in Connecticut, not known for brilliance or excellence, swallowed its distaste for this difficult, unpleasant young woman, and cheered her matriculation to Cambridge.  She put Lefferts on the map and thanks to her, many talented young women applied, were accepted, and acquitted themselves well if not with honors.

Harvard was to be the perfect place for the young Mary Perkins.  At last she could be amongst her intellectual peers in an environment of open inquiry and academic honesty.  She was nonplussed and appalled at the university’s capitulation to the bourgeoisie – so much fanfare about righteousness and political decorum and so little foundational logic.  So much for the famed Ivy League and its storied reputation.  Harvard had become a radically conservative place of mob rule, intellectual indifference, and bad attitude.  It had been transformed in a few decades from a place of higher, independent learning to a nasty place of unoriginal ideas, venal ambition, and hopeless, vainglorious optimism and she wanted no part of it.  She would take its learning, reject its politics, and become her own intellectual peer.

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She, armed with her own inbred nastiness, high marks intelligence, and a Cantab degree entered the real world.

She was at first surprised at this world’s intellectual flaccidity, its complaisant willingness to be led, and its slavish obeisance to The New World Order; but she quickly learned that this political and philosophical ignorance would forever be to her advantage.  The true believer, absolute fealty, and slavish obeisance were the planks in her platform.  She could stand on them to a cheering crowd while at the same time sowing the seeds of disassembly.

She was as unique and fathomless as a unicorn – brilliant Harvard PhD, logician, philosopher, author of seminal articles on political ‘essence’ who dismissed the very principles on which she had based her career and academic renown.  She was at once a champion of intellectual anarchy, a trash-heap sendoff to received progressive wisdom, and a sexy, inimitable woman.   No one knew quite what to make of her.  She made the cover of Vogue and the New York Review of Books.  She was included in the literary reflections of Harold Bloom and the subject of late night television talk shows.

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Perhaps because of her stunning beauty and talk show fame, the press tended to give her and her radically conservative views a pass.  Although progressive naysayers wondered how a woman of such runway-ready beauty and sophistication could endorse such impossibly retrograde views, the popular press and popular opinion won the day.   She, without even reading a line from her doctoral dissertation, “The Rogue, Antidemocratic New Left – A Political, Intellectual Miasma”, became a national celebrity.  

Although liberal news outlets like MSNBC initially refused to give her air time, they, thanks to Nielsen ratings and popular polls, conceded.  The executives of the network, schooled, trained, and conditioned to air only the views of the Left, were initially flummoxed.  How, they debated in conference, could they spin this frenetic woman out the door? but her popularity won the day, and ratings went up.

Some critics wondered how such an intellectual renegade, a woman of superior means, ability, and insight, could possibly lower herself to prime time television; but once the numbers were in they had to look up from their coffee and donuts and deal with the resonance.  She was not only making sense but waves and connecting with their profoundly liberal audience.

This was to Mary was the height of personal satisfaction – tempting and seducing a complaisant, ignorant, but politically ambitious sector of the electorate to come over to her side.

Which side was that, exactly? She had long given up serious political commitment once she had understood the principle of fickleness – the easily swayed mob, the congregation who cheered Marc Antony and Coriolanus, who listened to and believed anyone who marched within close range - and was happy in the satisfaction of successful influence . She was a woman for all seasons, a brilliant interpreter of zeitgeist, of popular opinion, and sensor of the winds of the day.

“Who is Mary Perkins” was the headline of a CNN feature whose producers had anticipated the interview warily.  They had never featured a political conservative let alone a populist one, and never a highly respected, top of the line, Harvard intellectual.

Her CNN producers were overmatched, seduced by her beauty and disarming charm, yet obliged to discredit the conservative, retrograde Right, produced an amalgam – a talented, respected woman with a ‘forthright’ political view.  After the first few minutes of taping, they knew they were outdone, but could not consign her to the cutting floor.  Her center-stage performance was unmatched. 

Unarmed with live, cut-at-will authority, CNN producers had to give her free rein, and millions of Americans saw a beautiful, confident women lambaste the so-called ‘progressive’ policies of the liberal Left.  She was an instant, overnight hero, and the networks and its MSNBC associates had to grant her airtime while downplaying her political impact.

They could not, obviously, and given this national forum, Mary was in her element and in full throat.  Not only did she enunciate a clear, definable, and unimpeachable conservative vision, but was able to dismiss the preposterous assumptions of the Left. Overnight she became the new darling of the Right and the demon of the Left.

The next day postmortems were overwhelmingly in favor of Ms. Perkins.  She ‘told it like it is” and in a few minutes became the spokeswoman and the very icon of the loyal opposition.

It was not hard for this intelligent, historically-versed, disciplined intellectual to dismantle the frivolous, anti-historical, hopelessly idealistic and Utopian visions of the American Left.  She became a hero of the Right. She, a Harvard-trained intellectual of profoundly conservative roots, was able to thumb her nose at Cambridge political folly and American hopeless idealism, and still get airtime.  This was the most profound irony of all.  America, used to and loving celebrity, fame, and beauty, could at the blink of an eye turn coat and follow a conservative icon.

In retrospect it was not difficult to turn the tide, to influence flaccid, received wisdom, and to recruit new true believers.  Anyone with even a narrow glimpse of the past is aware of the immutable and irresistible forces of human nature, and the folly of constructed, hopeless ideals; and despite the imprecations, hammering, and sodden insistence of the Left, most Americans ‘get it’, are done with Utopian fol-de-rol, and voted Right.

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