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

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Greta Thunberg–Not Satisfied With Her Fifteen Minutes Of Fame, The Little Ankle-Biter Goes For More

Greta Thunberg is back and with a vengeance, letting the august men of the latest environmental conference have it.  “Blah, blah”, she said, "yada, yada, yakety-yak”, all words and no action while the Earth is burning.  They should be ashamed of themselves, she intoned, more pedantic, hectoring, and numbing than she had ever been. She loved the sound of her own voice and oversized image on the monitor which would be broadcast around the world. 

Image result for images greta thunberg lecturing milan conferees

Little Greta, manipulated and co-opted by media-hungry environmentalists who love any free press they can get; who jumped on the young ingénue's wagon from the start, but who were growing impatient with her Vogue covers and childishness, were ready to jump off as soon as her engine went balky and the wheels began to wobble, or when she hit a bad bump, thrown into the bushes.  

Then came Milan and the chance for real, serious exposure.  The conference would be their chance to make hay, to put the young girl up on the podium and let her loose.  She would be the emotive counter to facts and figures.  She would be the face of the new generation’s fears and concerns.  The old men would have to listen to her.

The participants, of course, were unmoved, stifled their yawns, gave a polite round of applause, wished she would go away, and hoped that this would be the last time that they would have to be subjected to her puerile nonsense. 

Yet she is not about to go away.  There is plenty more where that came from. Disney has recently announced that they will be making a documentary about Greta, and if there was any corporate bandwagon-jumping, this is it.  Disney is sure to get the cohort crowd – youngsters, always Disney’s prime target audience, who want to be famous (first) for espousing a (good) cause – young adults who are proud to have such an idealistic, hopeful person in their midst, and all the movie investors who hope to make a bundle before the fifteen minutes are up.  The Federalist had an even better idea. Why should Disney be so humdrum and make a documentary?

Disney and Hulu should launch Greta as a full-blown princess, a perfect role for her. Driven by anger, her greatest love is for the cause, there are no men to steer her off course, she depends on the kindness of strangers, and she’s got long braids and a boat. The musical numbers practically write themselves. There could be Climate March ballet with a woke teen choir carrying banners and singing about how having children is irresponsible, a duet between Greta and a giant, ugly Trump puppet who spews gas, and a lovely little number where she communes with sea creatures while en route across the Atlantic who thank her for saving the world from corporate polluters.

Image result for images disney movie cinderella

Better that Greta be turned over to Hollywood handlers than to environmentalists.  At least the American public will love her as a princess in crinoline and wands and sparkle rather than have to put up with her wearisome badgering.  In the hands of Disney, Greta and environmentalism will be given a much-needed makeover, some prettiness, and happy doings. 

Andy Warhol was right when he said that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes.  Everyone in America wants to be famous, and thanks to the culture of fame, celebrity and  Hollywood glamour, the endless news cycle and the popularity of social media, everyone can be famous. It just takes some quirk of personality or looks, some hot media-ready coincidence (as in the case of Greta, catastrophe and idealism), commercial interest, political venality, and an ambitious mother to actually be famous.

It’s too bad that Greta will find out later rather than sooner that nobody really, deep down, cares about her, her ideas, her passion or her idealism.  There are enough people, far more attractive, smart, and and media-savvy already hogging the spotlight for attention about any number of causes.  The Oscars and Golden Globes alone have become little more than a stage for grandstanding the obvious, and every day someone from Hollywood is crying foul and mouthing off about the climate, capitalism, homophobia, and whales.  

Greta is up against a mighty celebrity machine which turns out new stars all the time.  The difference is that Richard Gere, Robert De Niro, and Sasha Baron Cohen have lucrative studio contracts – they and their agents have successfully parlayed their initial fifteen minutes of fame into years. 

Greta will undoubtedly end up like legions of lesser time-bound celebrities who make the news, are quoted, photographed, sought after, and then left on the curb. Although she has offended no one, she is simply a popular, but temporary shill for others’ political issues.  Since she is neither an environmental ecologist nor an economist with charts, nor a politician with electoral cards on the table; and has only innocence (i.e. not tangled up in complexity) and eagerness in her favor, she will toddle along for a while until she is gobbled up and forgotten.

A few years ago Billy Graham was everywhere – on television, kneeling alongside Presidents (his account of praying with a tearful Richard Nixon made headlines), lecturing, and preaching at tent revivals.  He was America’s evangelist, the public face of our deep Christian spirituality.  We looked to him for moral and ethical guidance.

Or not.  To many he was a charlatan, one more publicity-seeking, Bible-thumping huckster in the long tradition of American revivalists, snake-oil salesman, and get-rich-quick carny con men. Burt Lancaster played a perfect Billy Graham in Elmer Gantry, the Sinclair Lewis itinerant preacher out to make a buck, get in Sister Ruth’s pants, and take every rural rube in the country for a ride. Lancaster could have been portraying Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Pat Robertson, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, or a hundred other evangelists who have barnstormed the country since the wagons went west.

There was no escaping Billy Graham for almost fifty years. He was everywhere and with everyone. He was America’s go-to good person. Being seen with Billy Graham had no downside whatsoever.

Those few who thought him a sanctimonious publicity hound were too few to matter. Politicians and political wannabees trotted him out even when he was doddering and never sure who had invited him.

It was a win-win game.  Politicos used Graham to pander to their fundamentalist voters, to show the Christian flag, and to stand publicly for morality and righteousness.  And Graham basked in the reflected glory of public figures.  He didn’t seem to care who they were or what they stood for.  He was uninterested in the straightness of their moral spine, the cut of their ethical jib, or the purpose in their hearts.  He would stand, kneel, and sing with anybody.

Yet this is no cautionary tale about the greed of capitalistic enterprise, progressive coattail morality, or the dumbed-down electorate.  It is simply descriptive – it always helps to have great examples of populism – and sad.  When Greta finds herself left hanging, she will have no idea why.

Most Americans say, yes, global warming is a potential problem, but when asked whether they would be willing to put up with the cost, inconvenience, and federal legislation to enable action, they demur.  First let’s deal with COVID and Afghanistan, and Black Lives Matter, getting back to work, and improving elementary education, they say, and then maybe we will consider some non-invasive, light, first steps to controlling gases and bad air that don’t impinge on freedom, driving, fast food, and fireworks.  

One thing they don’t want is to hear about it any more.  There is a saturation threshold in everyone, but progressive activists seem to ignore it, hammering away as they do about gender fluidity, gay rights, Black Lives Matter; ethnicity, identity, inclusivity, and diversity.  Enough already, say all but the most obsessed.  We get it, now go home.

So, the old men at the environment summit in Milan were exceedingly polite to Greta, but they, like the rest of us just wanted some peace and quiet.  Not to worry, Greta was lucky to get a second fifteen minutes, but they will soon be up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

In Praise Of Ignorance–Why Foul The Truth With Facts? How True Belief Corrupts Absolutely

Much has been made of ‘truth’ in the last few years.  Donald Trump was accused of distorting, obfuscating, and dismissing the truth in favor of politically convenient lies.  Joe Biden ran on a platform of truth, honesty, and transparency.  Of course Trump’s way is the American way, and voters have learned how to parse politicians’ words and how to decipher meaning from expression.

As a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas; a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, Trump didn’t ever mean what he said.  He said what he meant.  His was a political circus act with a semiotic foundation.  Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, Trump spoke a firestorm but was as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who spoke in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to ‘experience’. No one but unreconstructed liberal elite take him at face value.  Everyone knows that his call for expatriating all illegal immigrants is purposeful hyperbole, circus act exaggeration, and vaudeville at its very best. 

Image result for images donald trump with miss connecticut

Deconstructionists insist that all texts are equivalent.  There is no such thing as artistic genius, and the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Dostoevsky should be read only within the narrow context of  race, gender, and ethnicity.  Hamlet and Macbeth are nothing more than plays about political power, the corrupt nature of elites, and the alienation of the many to serve the powerful.  If one reads the text carefully, deconstructionists say, one will discover the true meaning behind the words which are mere and artificial constructs of individuals who can but express political zeitgeist and the particular configurations of social, economic, and cultural conflict.

So where were these deconstructionists when it came to parsing the stump performances of Donald Trump? Why were they so literal in their interpretation of his words?  How could they have assumed that his hot button rhetoric was anything more than getting sinners to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus as their personal savior.  Their true belief got in the way.  Trump was a demon, an incubus, an evil man who usurped the Presidency and must at all costs be removed from office.  His critics refused to look behind the bombast to see what Trump meant, what his policies were, how he would govern.  Trump was as clear as day when it came to his political principles concerning energy, taxation, economic opportunity, geopolitical balance of power, trade, religious freedom, sexuality, and free speech.  His bombast and braggadocio, his Borscht Belt humor, his political incorrectness were his popular appeal.  His supporters loved him for his dismissal of the cant, sanctimony, and intellectual arrogance of the Left, cheered him at every whistle stop, but also heard his simple, principled message.

At least Donald Trump was vaudevillian in his approach to the ‘truth’.  His performance was an act, the best of the best, top billing, star power entertainment.  Most politicians, on the other hand, are devious, dangerous, and scary in their out-and-out, bald-faced lies.  Entertainers, athletes, and preachers are no different and as insidious.

Everyone in America lies – or so it seems.  After so much deceit, evasion, deliberate distortion of the facts, and bald-faced chutzpah, how can we take any politician seriously. Nixon stonewalled, destroyed evidence, and out-and-out lied to the American people.  Lyndon Johnson used the fictitious Gulf of Tonkin incident as a casus belli. Bill Clinton tried to hide his dalliances through careful parsing of language, denials, and fancy dancing.  North Carolinian Mark Sanford used a walk on the Appalachian Trail to cover is unexplained absences from the State House and his fugues to see his Argentine lover.  John Edwards lied about his affair to his dying wife and to the public; and when the media got scent of a lovechild, his evasive acrobatics were worthy of Gary Hart, another well-known politician who lied through his teeth about his affairs.

Bill Clinton II

Lance Armstrong not only lied about his doping, but intimidated his teammates, reporters, and sports officials with threats of lawsuits and character assassination.  In a chilling documentary on Lance Armstrong, Stop at Nothing (Showtime), Australian filmmaker Alex Holmes tells of the cyclist’s rise and fall:

Comprehensively reported, director Alex Holmes’ documentary makes devastating use of Armstrong’s depositions and press conferences to illustrate the vehemence with which he denied doping allegations before coming clean, though not enough to soothe the feelings of those he badgered and sought to intimidate. Perhaps foremost, as shrewdly depicted, the story captures the collective hunger for heroes — and the speed  at which media can turn away from them (Brian Lowry, Variety 11.14)

It was not just that Armstrong lied about his years of doping, but intimidated others to lie as well. According to the documentary Armstrong, leader of the US Postal Service team, convinced all his colleagues to take Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED), maintain a code of silence as absolute and punitive as any Mafia pledge of omertà. As he won more and more medals (seven Tours de France), as his star power increased, and as he became an American hero, his ability to threaten and menace others to guarantee their complicity and silence was complete.

Alex Rodriguez lied to the Yankees, to the public, and to his teammates about his doping, and only after years of federal investigation and the likelihood of jail time did he cut a deal and agree to a year off from baseball. He was not the only athlete who doped, lied, and finally admitted what he had done.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams admitted to making up a story about taking enemy fire while in Iraq in 2003. When recently exposed, he said that he had ‘conflated’ his helicopter which did not take fire and the helicopter in front of him which did.  An unfortunate error in judgment for which he apologized.

Investigation into his reporting on Katrina from New Orleans has suggested that he made shit up there, too. His reports of suicides that didn’t happen, bodies falling from the top of buildings which never flew, and other distortions, misrepresentations, and flat-out inventions are being scrutinized for ‘veracity’.

The ‘conflation’ issue is inexcusable; for not only does it damage the cause of investigative reporting and honest journalism, it makes a joke of the men and women who do come under enemy fire.   It is scandalous.

Evangelists for two hundred years have shamelessly lied about their indiscretions, financial dealings, and secular ambition. We cannot possibly take Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart seriously.  However, we discount their personal dishonesty.  It is the Word of God we want to hear, and they preach a very good sermon indeed.

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It is one thing to confabulate, exaggerate, and create believable, satirical scenarios.  Everyone but the most humorless progressive touts laughed at Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ line about Elizabeth Warren who disingenuously – no, callously – claimed American Indian heritage in order to consolidate her position with her race-gender-ethnicity-identity-obsessed progressive supporters.  Warren did no harm by her ridiculous claim and deserved every joke and chortle it encouraged.  Nixon’s lies were profoundly damaging to the Republic.  LBJ’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin were deliberately designed to influence Congress to declare a state of war against Vietnam.

Edwards, Hart, Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Sanford all lied about their sexual indiscretions.  They were judged by their constituents, some more harshly than others, but damaged only the reputation of politicians – hardly a low blow since indiscretion and lying has always been their stock in trade.

JFK lied – or at least manipulated press and Secret Service – to keep his dalliances quiet; but J. Edgar Hoover found out and blackmailed the President with the information.  Because of that blackmail, the cause of civil rights – which Hoover opposed – was delayed unconscionably.

Now the issue of ‘truth’ has taken on a new and much more insidious dimension.  Today’s progressives, so convinced are they of the rightness and goodness of their agenda, label all dissenting opinions as lies, distortions, and craven manipulations.  All evidence that suggests that global warming might not be the existential threat liberals content, is dismissed as ignorant blather, and those scientists who dare to speak out are damned as shills and claques of the Right.  The gender spectrum – i.e.  sexuality is a choice not a biological given – is presented as absolute, undeniable, and permanent; and anyone objecting is cast as racist, homophobic, and sexist.  The Pro-Life movement, outspokenly against abortion, is maligned as gullible, misinformed, patriarchal,and misogynist

These progressive activists are the worst type of liars, for they are inhibiting the search for facts, objective data, and scientific inquiry.  It is lying by omission.  The social media have jumped on this anti-cultural, anti-social bandwagon; and have instituted measures to limit free speech, and specifically that speech which counter the progressive agenda.

It is the phenomenon of received wisdom at its worst.  Not only is there no need to question global warming, alternative sexuality, redistribution of wealth, racial preferences, and liberal fiscal and financial policies; it is wrong to do so.  The truth has been received, and anyone contending it, is a liar.

This is not to say that the electorate is innocent in all this.  Americans are historically gullible, credulous, and easily manipulated.  Which is why the disingenuous, exploitive, use of cant and ceremony in the place of objectivity is even more suspect and damaging.  Progressive censorious absolutism has become so mindlessly adopted in politics, social media, and public and private institutions that objectivity has lost all meaning.  Unless one fully subscribes to the liberal agenda, one is an anti-democratic, obstructionist liar. 

While Trump paraded and strutted and was as deft as a magician, he understood the side show, big top ethos of America; but beneath our love of circuses, melodrama, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, we are not stupid.  We can listen, sift, laugh, judge, and decide.  We are sophisticated about lying and know when it is part of fictional melodrama, part of a stage persona, personal weakness, or malicious intent.

The Left insists that there are too many of us on the idiot fringe – conspiracy theorists, hard racists, and capitalist overseers – to permit the free flow of ideas.  Yet the current ethos of restricting debate, closuring of discussion, and inhibiting free speech in the name of truth, while directed at the margins, affects us all.  Lies, both of commission and omission are equally reprehensible. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Saga Of Blythe Harper–A Happy Hooker In A Censorious Age

Blythe Harper wanted to make her First Communion when she was seven years old, a full year before the Church-sanctioned age of eight.  Despite the encouragement of her mother and the support of her local parish priest, the archdiocese refused.  Rules are rules, they said.

Blythe was disappointed and wore her First Communion outfit – white crinoline skirt, pumps, and gloves, and floral tiara woven from flowers grown in her garden – every Sunday before being told to change into her ordinary Sunday best.  Every morning she knelt before the shrine she had constructed in her bedroom – a crucifix, statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a picture of Jesus among the poor – said a prayer in remembrance of her dead grandmother, and asked Jesus not to forget her when it came time for Resurrection. 

Image result for images little girls making first communion

She made her First Communion the following year, but her mother had to buy her another dress, so wrinkled and worn was the old one from so many Sundays of wear, and new soft, white kid gloves to replace those which had gotten stained and creased. The old pumps were still shiny and white, and the garden just as full of verbena, lilies, foxglove, and baby’s breath as in previous years. 

As she walked up the aisle to the altar, she tried to keep her head down, and feel humble and unworthy so that the moment of first receiving the body and blood of Jesus would feel all that more miraculous.  She couldn’t resist looking at the rows of parishioners and saw her parents who gave her a discreet wave and each other a hug, basking in the glorious, transforming moment of the Sacrament.

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The nuns and priests of St. Anthony’s were sure that little Blythe had a gift and that she would certainly join the Oblates of The Little Flower.  Never in the life of the church had  the seen such a pious, devoted, lovingly spiritual girl.  They told her parents as much, and no word of praise could have been more welcome. 

The Harpers were a modest couple, he a pharmacist, she a nurses aide, both with modest schooling and from modest social backgrounds.  They never expected their daughter to be a bright light on Wall Street, academia, or medicine and had no intention of encouraging her.  On the contrary, both Harpers could only imagine their only daughter, married to Christ and living with him in the holy matrimony of the spirit.

When she was only ten, she felt the rush of hormones which in most girls came a year or two later.  One morning she woke up to find herself living in someone else’s body , one that felt good and eager for something unexplored and unexplained.  Nothing seemed the same to her – not the hot porridge her mother served every morning, not the dog barking next door, the squirrels scrambling up the birdfeeder, the wind in the oak trees, or the patches of snow still on the ground.

She went to school as before, but for the first time noticed people – not the silly boys in the back of her class or the silliest girls giggling up and down the staircase, or the headmaster, but Mr. Henry the science teacher and football coach and Mr. Lang, the Latin teacher.  

Before her ‘morning’ she had paid no attention to them, and listened to their explanations of air pressure and declensions with indifference and boredom; but after her epiphany she looked at them.  How they stood, how they smiled, how they gestured when they talked; and when they looked at her she smiled and waited for a smile back.

She felt increasingly funny in her clothes – schoolgirl clothes she thought – and told her mother she wanted a change, something more ‘fitting’, something “older”.  Alarm bells rang, for Mrs. Harper had gone through a difficult adolescence that she never talked about – a time of sexual exploration and adventure only contained by the discipline of her father and the hellfire admonishments of Father Brophy, a fire-and-brimstone gunslinger whose obsession with sexual waywardness was well known.

The survivors of Noah’s ark went on to populate the world with heathen fornicators, blasphemers, and the morally corrupt, Father Brophy warned, and God should never should have let them off.  Extermination of a foul, disobedient, insolent race should have been the penalty for such denial.

Here Father Brophy paused, looked over the congregation, past the flowered women, the shaved and collared men, and the restless children, and fixed his eyes on a man standing in the vestry.

The vile putrefaction of sin, disobedience, and abandonment of Jesus Christ is alive and well in our own parish.  There are some who fornicate at will – adulterers, masturbators, alley cats whose carnal appetites have no  bounds, no barriers, no Do Not Enter signs.  These are the men and women who will be condemned to a roasting, everlasting hellfire.

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The man in the vestry squirmed, and edged his way towards the door of the church, but he was called back.  “You, sinner, cannot escape God’s wrath, his eternal punishment, and your consignment to a burning, merciless punishment ever after.”

Mrs. Harper was always glad to hear Father Brophy go on like this, calling out the fallen, the disreputable, and the godless.  She was happy that she had received God’s grace and only prayed that her daughter would remain on her holy path to prayer and salvation at the Oblates.

It wasn’t to be.  Whether it was the influence of her Aunt Milly, a showgirl, a ‘dancer’ and featured Las Vegas runway star; or her second cousin Blanche who had married and divorced twice, each time to a man with money who set her up in a life of ease which she took to like a duck to water and became famous for her sexual soirees in New York; or perhaps some genetic inheritance from a distant Victorian burlesque queen who made headlines for her ‘degeneracy and sexual profligacy’ (She was called a vixen, a succubus, an unwanted harridan on both stage and streets by the New York Herald), she, in one fell swoop gave up thoughts of the oblates, the Catholic Church, propriety, and motherhood.

“You slattern!”, shouted her mother when Blythe came in, barely 15, dressed like a streetwalker, the spitting image of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, hooking on Times Square.  “Get out of this house!”, she yelled, blessing herself, reaching for her rosary beads. “What have you done to me?”, she asked the Lord Jesus, unware of her blasphemy and her own malediction so mad with rage was she. 

Image result for Images Jodie Foster Taxi Driver. Size: 137 x 204. Source: fineartamerica.com

No amount of second hand psychoanalysis; no parsing of his extensive memoirs; no exegesis of his plays, poetry, and short fiction could explain Tennessee Williams’ promiscuity, his fascination with the trash of the gay world, with violent sex and humiliation, abuse, and abandonment; and no gentle look into the psyche, family, or random influences of Blythe Harper’s life could have predicted her slide from grace.

None of this mattered to her, however, and she took up sexual deviance with a vengeance.  Far from the self-destructive, painfully dependent Williams, she was a happy hooker, a woman in full form and full sexual promise; and if the shared one thing with the playwright, it was her sense of futility with the prescribed order of things, received wisdom, and righteousness.  Human nature, wrote Williams, has nothing to do with such propriety, such denial of sexual expression, such patriarchal hammering shut of the female soul.

Yet she was no Belle du Jour, the intriguing Catherine Deneuve character of the Luis Bunuel film – a high class sophisticate of the best Parisian society by day and a high class prostitute by night.  Blythe had none of the Deneuve character’s reticence and initial timidity, vestiges of her own Catholic upbringing.  Blythe embraced the lifestyle, loved the lobbies of the Mayflower, the Ritz Carlton, and the Plaza.  She was like the Bree Daniels character in the Alan Pakula film, Klute, a strong, confident woman who confides to her therapist that she is proud of her profession and her talent of making men happy. 

Image result for images catherine deneuve belle du jour

Blythe had bits of Belle, Bree, and Williams – a sense of independence, individuality, and philosophical conviction that all is possible in a neurally-determined world of infinite, random choice.  She was happy as a woman, as a prostitute, and as a defiantly independent woman.

Of course women like her were censored by the progressive Left.  Prostitution was an abasement of the female spirit, an abject submission to the hormone-ridden, ignorant male predators of the world.  Pornography was anathema – a putrid, disgraceful pandering to male bestiality and testosterone-sodden impulse, only permitted in the direst of economic circumstances, an occasion not of sin or subjection but of profitable commercial activity.

Blythe paid them no mind.  They, like many of Tennessee Williams’ theatregoers, misunderstood female sexuality in all its expressiveness. If a woman’s body was indeed her own, and all reproductive choices her own, then so were her sexual choices. One should neither condemn nor praise Blanche Dubois for her prostitution, her duplicity, her theatricality, and her animal sexual desires. 

Blythe and her mother were long estranged – not because of Blythe by any means, as comfortable as she was in her own skin, but because of her mother, a sorely disappointed woman, angry and feeling discarded.  Not only did her precious, holy daughter give up the Oblates and the Church, but roamed the deepest of immoral depths.

Life and age have ways of sorting things out.  Blythe had a pull-by date and never regretted the day when she closed her little black book, retired to Florida, and bought a small book shop in the Keys.  No one knew her there, and if they did, she would be lionized.  There, where beats the heart of sexual freedom, she would have been a goddess. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Billy Bob’s Odyssey - How A Coon Dog Cracker Came To Vote For Joe Biden

During last year’s election Joe Biden’s inner circle told him to forget the rural South – ‘coon dog, bass boat, gunrack, trailer trash’, they said, ‘leave them be’.  Yet the Senator from Delaware, in the spirit of inclusivity and diversity, felt he owed this constituency a visit.  After all, if he had included blacks, gays, women, Latinos, and Muslims in his embrace, why shouldn’t good ol’ boys be included as well.

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Billy Bob Thatcher was one of the five men on the porch of Randall Tire and Tackle who saw The Presidential Candidate arrive in a limousine with a bad shimmy, tires caked with enough Alabama red dirt mud to stop a half-track.  Out came The Candidate, all smiles, dressed in his sharkskin suit that caught the morning rays of the midsummer sun and glinted.  His Secret Service detail positioned themselves around The Candidate as he picked his way through the mud towards the porch and the good ol’ boys.

 “I wonder how they do that all at once?”, The Candidate asked himself as he watched Billy Bob adjust his chaw, take a swig of Bud, and spit into a rusted Maxwell House can at his feet.

He also noticed a rack of flayed squirrels, chickens pecking under the porch, dead flies stuck on the gummy fly strip, children playing in a rusted pick up on blocks, a dog in the dust, and a woman yelling in the yard. 

Image result for images squirrel skins drying on a rack

“I’m Joe Biden.  I’m running for President, and I’d like to have your vote”.  He extended his hand through the porch railing and waited.  “Perhaps Dorothea was right.  I shouldn’t have come here”, he thought as he felt a wet hand take his fingers and hold them.  What was on those fingers, wondered The Candidate.  Motor oil? Fatback grease? Dog slobber, or God forbid, worse?

He had a politician’s careful sense of appropriate intimacy and didn’t want to withdraw his hand too quickly, especially when he was used to the two hand clasp of friendship and solidarity he used at every whistle stop; but he couldn’t manage that here, extended as his hand was up through the porch railing and held by the fingers.  So he spoke while held.  “What would you fellows like to see me accomplish once I am in office?”.

The man holding Joe’s fingers let go, stood up, shook his pants, and said, “What are you proposing?”, and with that The Candidate was off and running, a litany of tax reform, health care, foreign policy, and environmental programs.  He stopped short of his favorite, preferred topic – transgenderism and the gender spectrum – not willing to upset the applecart before he had barely got started; but on second thought he reconsidered since he knew that incest and bestiality were de rigeur down here.

His aide de camp knew his boss well, and saw what was coming, so pulled him aside.  “Don’t Senator, please”, he said, gently touching his elbow; so The Candidate moved on to global warming, desiccated plains, empty reservoirs, and dry, parched fields.

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None of these blandishments got a rise out of Billy Bob and his friends, who sat and chewed.  “What’s he talking about, Earl?”, Billy Bob said.  “No idea”, Earl said, tossing a crust of cornbread to the chickens below; to which Biden gave his familiar, classic, full-face smile, and offered to clarify the issues, explain their impact on the little man, the forgotten, alienated, marginalized poor.  He was warming to his audience now and, energized, pushed on about the great transfers of wealth he envisaged, dismantling Wall Street and sharing the wealth “among you folks”.

A blue jay jeered in a loblolly pine, a hound stirred in the dust, and Billy Bob scraped his chair, got up, and pulled another Bud from the cooler.  The Candidate began to have another one of his fade-out déjà vu episodes.  He could swear that he had been here before; and although he knew that Wilmington, Dewey Beach, and Newark were nowhere in sight, and these good men on the porch were not his kith and kin, he couldn’t help thinking that the coon dog was his own faithful Lab, Mickey, that the tire and tackle store was his grandfather’s shoe shop on Grand Avenue, and that the smell of frying bacon from somewhere off in the trees was from his grandmother’s kitchen.  How he loved the old woman!

The wall of silence continued, and no one replied to The Candidate.  It was as if they were figures on a frieze, like the one on the Pension Building in Washington, not far from his Senate office building, or on the Parthenon.  He began to smile, not the broad, pinned on smile he gave to constituents and voters, but a happy, reminiscent smile reflective of happier times.

Image result for images pension building civil war frieze

“Tell him about Pa Ferguson”, said Rainey Howell.  The last man in Beecher County to vote Democrat, great grandson of the chairman of the local Freedmen’s Bureau, which although sponsored by Congressional Republicans was crazily liberal, taking lands from legitimate landlords, installing illiterate, former slaves in the state legislature, forcing young white Confederate widows to beg and steal, and defiling the Cavalier tradition of the Old South. 

 “He had a point”, said Howell, “but no one since has ever put his X by a Democrat”.

“Times haven’t changed”, said The Candidate, looking dreamily up into the milky blue, warm Southern sky.  “Republicans are still the party of the privileged rich, the party that cares about Wall Street and not Main Street, the party that has forgotten good people like you, the party…”; and here Joe’s voice trailed off as he lost his train of thought.  Civil War history, let alone Reconstruction, Radical Republicans, and agrarian reform were beyond him.  

Thank goodness that Delaware had little to do with the War, always minded its own P’s and Q’s, and came out, like Switzerland, neutral but moral.  “Now, where was I”, he said, figuring that he, after decades in Washington, could spin any yarn and make it believable, and that no errant train of thought was ever lost. 

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The man next to Billy Bob scratched the ears of the dog lying under his chair, moved his paws from under the rocker, got up, and headed for the outhouse.  “Nature calls”, he said, swallowing the last of his Bud and tossing the can into the yard

It was no use, thought The Candidate.  I never should have come.  Inclusivity has its limits.  The Big Tent isn’t that big, and these cornholing crackers can go fuck themselves. 

 “Gentlemen”, The Candidate intoned, “It has been a real pleasure, I must say.  Have a good day”; and with that, he and his entourage left in a cloud of red dirt dust.

“Let’s vote for the old guy”, said Billy Bob.  “Why not?”; and so the democratic process actually worked; and if it could work in Beecher County, it could work anywhere.  It had only been within recent history that this, the most rural county in the state had even gotten a polling station, and it had been so remote and removed from any and all political discourse that voting meant only picking up spare parts and cornmeal in town, pull one lever, pull another, same difference.

As everyone knows Joe Biden won the election.  The new President, fondly remembering his visit to Beecher County asked his aides to report on voting there.  Only a handful of votes had been cast, scattered among the major candidates and three write-ins, but the results had been quickly challenged, fraud determined, and all votes were thrown out.

However, the good ol’ boys on the porch of Randall Tire and Tackle, voting or not, were seminal in the new President’s thinking.  He now had no doubts whatsoever that his attention should be paid to the poor blacks in the inner city, still oppressed, still suffering the legacy of white privilege and systemic racism, and still in desperate need of his help  - not the buggering, overalled, backwoods crackers of Beecher County.  His ‘Man For All The People’ stopped at the Coosa River.