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

Monday, January 31, 2022

Conversations With The Man Who Talks To Himself–Joining The Community Of The Unhinged

Most people want to make sense and at least put on a good show.  There are the usual non sequiturs and wandering off the rails into the reeds, but they come back to the main line, logical, consistent, and understandable.

That is why my conversations with The Man Who Talks To Himself take on a certain postmodern character.  Nothing really makes sense, philosophers say.  Nothing has any meaning, conditioned as it is by history and the random but significant influences of race, gender, and ethnicity; so why the big deal about making sense? A community of the disoriented and unhinged is better than one insisting on truth, fact, and reality.

I often visited my great aunt who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and although she appeared as normal as could be – genial, gracious, and warm – she made no sense whatsoever, circled around bend after bend from morning till night, but as happy as a clam in a world that she had created from bits and pieces of her past, television soap operas, the fairy tales of her childhood, and stories told by Uncle Harry or her grandfather Lucca, dimly remembered. 

She told stories of the Pope’s visit to her nursing home and how impressed she was with his red shoes and crozier; how they knelt together and he forgave her sins of a lifetime.  “Surely”, he said to me, “you never meant to do that”, and “I understand completely”; and “Come visit me in the Vatican”.

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Or the time that St. Margaret’s organized a male strip show, men straight from the Las Vegas runways, all G-strings, tinsel, glitter, and pasties, who took it all off and let the ladies sample the goods.

Or when the President of the United States finally got it off his chest, that romantic idyll he had had with the Czech physicist who looked like Hedy Lamarr and just as smart but who jilted him.  “Me, the President”, he said to me, my aunt said.  “Me? No one jilts the President”.  And so on.

Her sister and her daughter were obviously concerned about her mental wanderings, her loss of logic, and her inability to make sense.  Whenever they visited her, they kept trying to pull her back; but she resisted.  “Leora”, her sister would say, “Now, you know that the Pope didn’t really visit St. Margaret’s”, but Leora insisted that he had and went on to describe the altar boys he had brought along with him.

“Cute little things’, she said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they held something other than the paten”, and with that chuckled and chortled while her sister frowned and shook her head. “You should have been there, Essie”, Leora said.

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I being on a more remote branch of the family tree had no such compunctions about engaging Aunt Leora.  I happily joined in her fugues and happy idylls. It didn’t matter whether she was spinning yarns about the President, the Pope, or Las Vegas male strippers, she was still my great aunt, and no flights of fancy could change the way she had always been.  What did it matter if she made no sense if I could make no sense with her and enjoy her company the way I did ever since I was a child?

Which brings me to The Man Who Talks To Himself, a late middle aged man who comes to the gym at the same time I do, and who is more than likely an early retiree from Bethesda or Chevy Chase, completing the rhythm of long days like everyone else with exercise, schvitz, and a shower.  But as he undresses in the locker room, he talks loudly to himself and, like my great aunt, makes no sense at all.  He talks about impossible trips to the Yukon, berates himself for overeating, harps on about Millard Fillmore and Martin van Buren, and laughs out loud.

I don’t know him, but knowing that he has loose wiring, I prefer to keep my own counsel in my own space. Yet I cannot help talking to myself with him.  When we are alone in our corner of the locker room, we individually tell our own stories, laugh at our own inside jokes, and rattle on about everything and nothing in particular.  It is never a duet, more like a prayer meeting with call and response – my irrelevances after his in the same cadence and rhythm, in the same eager or petulant tone, and with the same guffaws.

He never acknowledges me, never turns in my direction, never looks me in the eye, but energized by my wandering soliloquies, amps up his own. It is crazy pas de deux.

The gym has its share of oddballs. There is Death, a grey, skeletal woman who not only runs on the treadmill, but seems to be outrunning something awful.  Her face becomes more drawn and ashen the more she runs.  She is as frightening as the woman on the stationary bike, all desperation and unholy intent.  No one can  remember ever seeing her get on or off. She is always there, pounding away in some horrible, unknown distance, eyes on some fearful thing waiting for her.

Jabba The Hut, is a mammoth 400 lb. fat man with elephantine legs and a huge bariatric scar from abdomen to gullet, a reminder of his failed operation to tie off his intestines.  He spends hours in the whirlpool, the only place that gives him some comfort, relieving as it does gravitational pull.  Rolls of fat shake from his neck to his feet every time he takes a step, water pours over the sides of the whirlpool as he slides in. As he sinks down to the very bottom, only his surprisingly very small head shows above the water line.  With all the foam, spume, and roiled waters of the pool, no one can tell who is in it; but when he gets  out, no one can look away. 

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The Man Who Polished His Balls is an entire vaudeville act.  When he finishes showering, he begins drying his balls – not the casual, practiced, indifferent rub; but a deliberate stropping.  With a hand on each end of the towel, he whacks away at his crotch like a shoeshine boy. Whippety, whippety, Whopp!. Whippety, whippety, Whopp!, first on one side then on the next. 

Then, changing direction and angle and bent over from the waist, he snaps the towel back and forth, up and down. “Be sure to get yourself nice and dry”, he says to himself, “Got to get at the important nooks and crannies of the body.  With a dry body you will never get a fungus."

The Barking Scarecrow is as nutty as a fruitcake.  She is tall, gangly, stringy, gangly, bony and neurasthenic. “Not an ounce of fat”, she barks.  Angular where there should have been no angles, protrusions instead of rounded flesh, scaly, corrugated shins and ankles.  She runs miles every day, then bikes tens more, comes to the gym to work out, and then rides and runs home.  

Halfway through her workout, she sits on one of the machines to eat her lunch of carrots, radishes, raw lima beans, and water.  And between bites she bangs on about her job at the elephant house at the zoo, her work with wounded raptors, and her engagement in liberal politics. The more you listen, the less she makes sense.  As she rattles on, her stories run together, elephants and elections, tendons and high fashion, girlhood and her bad marriage.  She is as batty as they come, but it is hard to turn away.

The older I get, the less I want to make sense, and want to drift into the same fabulous world as my great aunt; but my genes, family, education, and the conditioning of a long life have made it impossible.   I am as logical as can be, and my only concession to wobbly, wooly, and fantastical thinking is my pas de deux with The Man Who Talks To Himself and listening to the crazy rants of the barking scarecrow and the man who polishes his balls.

I am told that many people with Alzheimer’s do not have such genial visions of popes and strippers, and instead see horrible things, have terrible, frightening nights; so my great aunt was lucky, and so was I.  I could be part of her world even though she could not be part of mine.  As far as the crazies at the gym, I now never look askance at them.  I just listen and watch.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Africa–The Final Resting Ground Of Cultural Idealism

Africa has always been a difficult place for Europeans.  The Romans had extended their empire into Africa as far south as the northern limits of the Sahara and relied on Arab traders for slaves, salt, and natural resources from the interior.  Most of Sub-Saharan Africa was terra incognita, a place unexplored until many centuries later, but from whom came often fantastical tales of the jungle.   Because of the fertility of Egypt and the Maghreb and successful reliance on Arab trans-continental traders; and because of the impenetrability and reported mortal diseases endemic there, the Romans stayed north of the desert.

Image result for images romans in africa ancient

Paul Fraser had read Burton, Mungo Park, Paul du Chaillu, and Speke; Greene and Conrad; and modern analyses of Africa’s persistent poverty, mismanagement, corruption, and misrule.  

The memoirs of the great European explorers were tales of enslavement, disease, brutality, and Stone Age existence.  Africa was indeed the white man’s grave.  The French, Portuguese, and British found it impenetrable, resistant to European, Christian civilization, mysterious in its tribalism, and for its cabals.  It was no India, long ruled by the Guptas, the Mauryans, and the Aryans, a place where empire had long been established and where religion was complex, philosophically sophisticated, and millennia old, and a place where somehow Western and Eastern culture shared enough to make colonial rule possible, relatively easy, and longstanding.  

It was no Spanish America ruled by a colonial power for three hundred years, a rule which spread Christianity and European culture from Santa Barbara to Cape Horn, which after Simon Bolivar and the retreat of the Spanish remained.

Mungo Park was one of the first European travelers to explore central Africa and his adventures were recorded in a series of books chronicling his journeys in the late 1700s.  In The Life and Travels of Mungo Park in Central Africa he provides a firsthand account of life in heretofore unexplored regions of the continent.  The story was not pretty.  In fact, it was savage, brutal, and primitive.  

He himself had been captured many times, bartered as a slave, and only escaped death because of his value as a European and for the clothes he wore.Mungo Park in his journals wrote of being captured by African tribes, enslaved, and sold to other tribes for food, women, or land.  He was kept alive only because of his value – an oddity, a freakish white man in Africa to be displayed and tortured.  He brought back no Margaret Mead stories of tribes living simply, harmoniously, in tune with nature, the gods, and themselves.

He found only a barbaric primitivism without an inkling of civilized behavior.  These were not simple hunter-gatherers but savages who lived short, brutish, and cruel lives in the forest.  He returned to Europe to confirm what others suspected – Africa was indeed a dark, primitive, dangerous place.

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The eunuch and his four followers were here butchered, after a very slight resistance, and stripped within a few yards of me: their cries were dreadful; and even now, the feelings of that moment are fresh in my memory. My hopes of life were too faint to deserve the name. I was almost instantly surrounded, and incapable of making the least resistance, as I was unarmed, was as speedily stript; and whilst attempting first to save my shirt and then my trowsers, I was thrown on the ground. My pursuers made several thrusts at me with their spears, that badly wounded my hands in two places, and slightly my body, just under my ribs, on the right side. Indeed, I saw nothing before me but the same cruel death I had seen unmercifully inflicted on the few who had fallen into the power of those who now had possession of me; and they were only prevented from murdering me, in the first instance, I am persuaded, by the fear of injuring the value of my clothes, which appeared to them a rich booty,--but it was otherwise ordained.

In The Heart of Darkness, Conrad tells the story of Kurtz, who according to the manger of the Central Station, was one of the new breed of colonists sent out by the Company, charged with both dominating the ivory trade and bringing civilization to the natives.  Yet in his tragic end he became more African than the Africans. In arrogating divinity to himself through a manipulation of tribal beliefs; and by maintaining complete control over the natives because of this assumed power, he ruled absolutely, amassed a fortune in ivory, and became an authoritarian ruler.  Yet his assumption of African demonic spiritualism had a price.

As he spoke his last words, ‘The horror…the horror’, he finally understood that having descended completely into the primitive, having abandoned all traces of Western moral civilization, he was far worse than the natives of the jungle..  While the Africans who carried  out ritual sacrifice were doing so as part of a sophisticated cosmology, Kurtz, when he encouraged such sacrifice and ritual cannibalism only to promote his own longevity and power, descended into a completely amoral universe.

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Marlowe, the narrator of the story, saw Kurtz as a courageous man willing to abandon his Christian beliefs and to consider the power and primitive glory of African animism.

“The earth seemed unearthly”, Marlowe says. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one.

They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend.

And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything—because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage—who can tell?—but truth—truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder—the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore.

Fraser was not the first to wonder at Africa’s underdevelopment.  Was colonialism the root cause for the region’s endemic corruption? An understandable assumption of power by ‘big men’ who replaced autocratic colonial rule by their own oppressive and exploitative ones? 

Could it have been the dense jungles of central Africa which isolated tribal groups from outside contact, prevented any infusion of new ideas and assured that the native primitive animism would only turn more inward, less rational, and less adept at the trades and techniques of the modern world? Was it climate, the brutal heat and aridity of the Sahel, the proliferation of tropical disease, and cycles of high fertility and high mortality?

Was it tribalism which had lost the forest character of ritual sacrifice, animistic worship, slavery, and inter-tribal warfare noted by Mungo Park and Conrad, but had been transposed to modern rule?  

The Chief of Party of a World Bank economic mission to a West African country challenged a high government official, suggesting that he had only his own interests in mind, not the performance of the generous loan.  The African paused for a moment, smoothed his elegant, long silk, embroidered robe, looked at the Chief of Party and replied that he was where he was, atop the bureaucracy and in power thanks to his his family, his tribe, his community, and the nation. “And I will repay them in that order”, he said.  

Unlike India where a similarly tribal expression – the caste system – had been superseded by modern democratic opportunity, decisions were still made on the basis of ancient considerations.

By the time Fraser finally decided to visit Africa, it had gone from bad to worse.  There were no countries which had escaped misrule, and socio-economic indicators remained among the world’s worst.  Crime, corruption, civil conflict, and war were endemic, and there was little hope of progress or resolution.  Islamic terrorism had infiltrated the Sahara and the Sahel, and formerly moderate, reasonably-ruled countries like Mali had become military states, defying Tuareg separatism, and radical ISIS Islamic caliphate hegemony.  

Ghana and Senegal, two countries which had resisted autocracy and military rule, floundered economically.  Good governance was only relative, and underdevelopment was curiously endemic.

Image result for images isis terrorists in sahel

Despite Africa’s history, continuing poverty, underdevelopment, and corrupt governance, Fraser wanted to go there not only to see for himself whether the fictional and historical accounts were true, but to justify his long-held progressive notions about cultural relativity.  While Africa might be economically underdeveloped, there must be something in its tribal culture, its animism, and in its very survival which made it stand out, equal to any, poor sister to none.

During the Obama Administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Malian President Touré for his democracy and electoral reforms.  Free and fair elections, she said, were the hinges of democracy, and President Touré was a champion.  

She, of course, saw only what she wanted to see – a black African nation succeeding where none had in the past, giving the American black caucus something to be proud of, a statement of racial solidarity and commitment.  Touré was as corrupt as any African leader had been, and his heavy-handed favoritism, and bare-faced thievery in the face of a national threat in the desert, provoked his overthrow and descent into military rule.  His elections had been fraudulent, staged, and entirely false, but because Hillary had her own political agenda, she chose not to see what every Malian had.

Fraser worked for an international development agency offering financial aid and technical support to African nations.  He was responsible for a number of health and education programs designed in the United States, vetted and approved by recipient countries. 

The governments of these countries, true to form, wanted only unofficial rewards, and shortly after being awarded the grants began to siphon off funds for private bank accounts, channel even more to relatives and friends, and paid little or no attention to the performance of the projects.  

They knew that the United States, the World Bank, and European donors wanted and needed to give the money away even more than African countries wanted it.  It was blood money, unaccountable money, money which would be renewed at any cost.  Countries like Angola, sitting on billions of dollars of energy and mineral reserves, remained one of the continent’s poorest despite the efforts of US initiatives to encourage civil reform.

Again and again, in country after country, Fraser encountered the same problems.  The culture of the country was only this – monumental indifference and self-interested manipulation.  If there were any localized, valuable, ethnic, religious, or cultural traditions, they were lost within universal, endemic poverty and the overwhelming presence of big government.

As hard as he tried, he was one-upped by government functionaries at every turn  - diverted from economic objectives, shunted from social reform, and marginalized with les and less influence. It was time to quit, give up his idealism and cultural utopianism and go home.

As always and as predictably, Africa is still ignored.  It is time for governments to resolve their own problems, face eventual civil disorder and uprising, make good or be gone.  No more free money and time to borrow at market rates on the international capital markets.  No more optimism, false hope, or idealism.  Definitely about time.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary–Tale Of A Modern Shrew

Mary Canton was a cute little girl with pigtails, freckles, rosy cheeks and a sweet smile.  All her parents’ friends adored her, and thought she was the most adorable thing.  They loved their own daughters, of course, but to be honest there really was nothing like the Canton girl.  She was destined for the screen, they thought, recalling pictures of the young Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple.  Mary not only looked like a child star, but acted like one – pert, charming, and just a  bit coquettish to suggest a wide audience appeal.

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Unfortunately, beneath the calico dresses, ribbons, and dancing shoes, lay a nasty, rebellious, and selfish little girl.  Where she got this very disagreeable streak no one knew.  Her mother was a model of propriety – hospital auxiliary, charity, and church – and extremely good taste (Dior, Chanel, and Vreeland); and her father was as socially tailored as his wife (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce; and Cary Grant flannels).  

Yet before she had passed her fifth  birthday, she was a little shrew – demanding, selfish, unloving, and impertinent.  She threw her clothes on the floor and stomped on them; mashed her food into a pile on her plate and tipped it over the edge of the table, laughing while it slid, wobbled, and finally toppled onto the linoleum.

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She deliberately colored outside the lines, threw her watercolors at the loathsome girl at the next easel; interrupted, banged, and yelled in class; and was a little vixen on the playground.  Her parents were called into the principal’s office many times over, and told that if this were a private school, their daughter would be out the door and on the curb in an instant.  

Yet as often as her parents were counselled and as often as her teachers disciplined her (these were the days before woke tolerance, and disruptive children were put in the broom closet), she was unchanged and unrepentant.

The thing of it was, Mary was a very smart girl, gifted and talented actually, able to figure out math problems many grades above her own, a reader at three, and bi-lingual (her grandmother was French) by five.  “What a waste”, said her parents’ friends, the school principal, and the nuns at St. Catherine’s.  With her looks, intelligence, and obvious strong will she could be anything.

The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare’s tale of a young woman very much like Mary Canton – disobedient, demanding, and selfish; but smart – who meets a man who ‘tames’ her.  Yet Petruchio does not become her master, her overlord; but her lover, confidant, and friend.  He, a strong, virile, but attentive and sensitive man is just as attracted to Kate’s volubility, energy, and will as she is to his confidence and stability.  She, thanks to his love, loses her shrewishness, and her bitter resentment of her family.

A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.

Image result for Elizabeth Taylor Shrew

She is not committing herself to a life of servitude, but one of complementarity and equal love; and with her story, Shakespeare anticipates D.H. Lawrence who dismissed considerations of class, education, background, and upbringing as criteria for true union, and turned to sexual dynamics – a complementarity of wills, a satisfaction of dominance and submission without concern for traditional roles.   Kate’s soliloquy expresses this complementarity, this acknowledgement of sexual difference but a delight and pleasure in it.

Literature is filled with stories of men who are attracted to and tamed by willful, confident women.  Shakespeare’s comedies and romances are all stories of such women – Rosalind, Beatrice, and Viola – who run rings around the inferior, weak men who are besotted by them.  They ignore their solicitations and promises of wealth, status, and respect; and insist on finding complementary lovers who will satisfy them as women.  

Turgenev in his short stories Asla and First Love tells about beautiful, alluring, and demanding women who want more than the simple affection and predictable desire of simple men.  “I want to be broken in two”, Asla says, anticipating Lady Chatterley.  Antony cannot resist Cleopatra but she, having bedded Julius Caesar and Pompey wants nothing to do with this lapdog.  She jests with her female attendants about Antony’s insipidness and naïve fidelity. 

Image result for images move stills lady chatterleys lover

Life imitates art and young women have always been attracted to bad boys.  They might want fidelity, honesty, duty, and family responsibility in a husband, but just the opposite in a lover.  The more shrewish the woman, the more demanding she is of a complementary mate.

And so it was with Mary Canton who spent much of her young life looking for the right man. 

Feminists of course laugh at this idea.  There is no such thing as ‘the right man’, but only a serviceable one.  Their literary champion is Laura of Strindberg’s The Father who emotionally castrates her husband, commits him to a mental institution, and gains full control over their daughter.  “Now that you have fulfilled your function as an unfortunately necessary father and breadwinner, you are not needed any longer and you must go”, she says to her husband before his exile. Hedda Gabler, Rebekka West, and Hilda Wangel of Ibsen’s plays are equally illustrative of a woman’s sexual role – independent from men.

Mary had no time for those politically obsessed women for whom a lesbian relationship was ideal – a joining of two independent, strong women for sex and reproduction.  Mary’s heterosexuality and Lawrentian will made male sexual conquest essential – conquest not in the sense of domination or manipulation, but of taming, fitting sharp edges into grooves while keeping the puzzle intact.

Mary was most like Portia of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice who tolerates the many pompous, affected, ignorant suitors who come for her hand:

God made him and therefore let him pass for a man. In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but he!—why, he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan’s, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palatine. He is every man in no man. If a throstle sing, he falls straight a-capering. He will fence with his own shadow.

If I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me I would forgive him, for if he love me to madness I shall never requite him.

Image result for images portia merchant of venice

Mary’s suitors came and went, dismissed like the princes of Venice obliged to guess the content of Portia’s ‘caskets’ in her manipulative game of chance.  Mary never gave an inch, and never resorted to second best.  It was a matter of essence, not pride.

Socio-biologists are not surprised at women’s testing of men’s mettle.  After all, the choice of a poor hunter or a dunce in battle meant insecurity and weak genes.  Men chase women, but women are the final arbiters of worth.

It is hard to describe Mary’s approved relationship just as it would be to account for that between Lady Chatterley and Mellors.  Sexual dynamics are by nature ineffable.  As much as researchers can deconstruct the social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors that contribute to sexual choice, they are as bad at predicting success as old weather models predicting rain. ‘You know it when you see it’, or something like that – a sense that women have that corresponds to what they know about themselves but rarely admit.

Kate never admitted her shrewishness and only acknowledged it once it had been erased by Petruchio; and so Mary could never have put in words why she fell for X, but she also never doubted her instincts.  The marriage was a good one, not necessarily a faithful and consistent one, but a respectful one.  Marriage did not and does not mean closure, closeting aberrant desires, limiting sexual choices; but the best marriages are the ones where partners keep each other on their toes and where taming has its wrinkles.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Pasties, Sequins, Glitz, Glamour, And Tinsel–And The Penitential Humorlessness Of The Woke

When asked why progressives couldn’t crack a joke, a member of the Washington-based Progressive Coalition for Social Action said, “There is nothing to laugh about”; and there in a nutshell was the reason for the hopelessly pontifical attitude of the woke generation.  

Not only that, but anything other than expressionless behavior would be unseemly.  How could one possibly enjoy a Las Vegas show – America’s most carefree entertainment – when children were suffering, women were oppressed, and black people were still struggling under the boot heel of the white man?  How could any self-respecting serious woman wear anything but comfortable shoes and off-the-rack dresses. It was a matter of principle.  One had to empathize with the less fortunate.

Image result for images las vegas show girls

This wasn’t always the case.  Before the onset of social justice penitence, that infection of the seriously committed, there was plenty of hanky-panky, high spirits, shenanigans, and boozy dips in the Reflecting Pool. The representatives from the heartland were no aficionados of Pablo Casals and Robert Frost but of tight-fitting dresses and high heels, lots of perfume, arm candy, and male camaraderie. They couldn’t wait to get to Washington to be  treated like pashas who received supplicants and had harems. For what else did they scratch and pay their way up the ranks in forgotten districts of Nebraska and North Dakota?  

Besides, in those halcyon days governance was not a matter of bitter rectitude and holy crusade; and Washington was not the venue for exorcism and witch trials.  Good ol’ boys reached across the aisle, got drunk together, shared their love for floozies and tarts, and had a great old time.

The morbidness, endemic worry, and holy fear of Armageddon which took root a few decades before and had now become a Washington ethos, was happily disrupted by Donald Trump, a man who not only appreciated the glitz and tinsel of Las Vegas, but who embodied it.  Trump was a President without a serious bone in his body, a man of Hollywood, Barnum & Bailey, vaudeville, the Borscht Belt, and most of all the runways and catwalks of Sin City.  Arm candy, hundred-foot yachts, tropical resorts, and boozy galas.

Image result for images trump with miss connecticut

Bill Clinton who prided himself on his intellectual prowess, his logic, and his thorough command of the facts, hosted Renaissance Weekends, retreats for the nation’s intelligentsia to mull over and discuss the important issues of the day.  One might have a few drinks at the end of the day, but only if over a final parsing of the fine points of nuclear parity, women, or Russia.  ‘Fun’ was a relative term.  It was a social lubricant, a modest, temperate way of resolving differences.  Fun was never had for itself. 

Donald Trump was far removed from Bill Clinton’s Renaissance Weekends, Kennedy White House high culture, and especially the grim and joyless caucuses of liberal Washington.  As a true conservative, he understood that while governance demanded attention to resolving problems, there was nothing absolute in any of it.  The same problems have occurred with predictable frequency for millennia.  Man’s inhumanity to man is to be expected.  After all what else could come from an aggressive, self-interested, territorial human nature? 

Sad but true, the parade of indignity is a permanent feature of human society, and those who are intent on creating a more perfect world are just whistlin’ Dixie.

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What was the point of dogged seriousness when the world would never change; and when the pompous sanctimony of those who refused to accept the fact is itself hilarious? They are caricatures, puppets, mock images. 

Bob M had been a progressive since birth – a serious, easily upset child, a worried adolescent, and an adult on the frontlines of every cause for social justice.  He saw no humor in anything.  Human oddities were not funny at all, slipping on a banana peel was misfortune, not comedy.  All black people resonated with the pain of Jim Crow and tenant farming.  Women were never alluring, attractive, or seductive but victims of misogyny and male deceit.  

He was a Deconstructionist’s Deconstructionist.  Things were not what they seemed, but what they represented.  Historicism was not funny, Derrida and Lacan were not comedians.

No matter what the circumstances – dinner with old friends, coffee with classmates, casual conversation at a hotel bar – Bob was able to insert his concerns about women, blacks, and the environment. Before long, gab about football turned to Colin Kaepernick and social protest; reminiscences about topflight meals became disquisitions about the exploitation of restaurant workers; jokes between men about sexual exploits were deflected and replaced by considerations of sexual abuse, No Means No, and abortion rights.

He was insufferable, a throbbing, thudding bore; and yet he could not stop himself.  He could not hear even the most oblique, joking reference without taking umbrage and calling out the speaker.   All the women marching on the Mall were Saint Marys, all black men were images of Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King.  Bob  would abide no pimp walk, ghetto attitude, or black-speak.  All gay men were models of Jesus Christ.  No La Cage Aux Folles hilarity over gay swishing, cross-dressing, and hyper-sensitivity.  Gay men were the future of America.

Image result for images black pimps

Bob was not alone, and his kind were legion. They filled their dance cards at every event, their numbers crowded conference halls, church basements, and stadiums.  There was no moment when their guard was let down.  The world was in their hands, up to them to save, and not even one moment of frivolity was allowed.

Meanwhile just about everyone outside the Beltway and between the two coasts was waiting for the return of Donald Trump, not only for his very conservative political policies but for his Americanism, a character not defined by democracy, liberty, opportunity, and freedom; but for an unashamed, raucous championing of their culture; not the low culture sniffed at by the Washington elite, but the real, nuts and bolts, tractor and plow, factory floor cultural honesty.  An honesty which did not have to parse the lines of Balmain or Givenchy, but simply get off on the sparkling glitz of the wildly lit runways of Las Vegas.

Those with privilege, money, education, and profession can afford to be distant and serious about matters which don’t concern them; but Walmart greeters, factory workers, scullery maids, and dirt farmers cannot.  No reflection after a two-job day, no parsing, no consideration.  Just watching Hollywood imagery, arm candy, yachts, and hot beaches on television and wanting to be there. 

So, many Americans can’t wait for the return of Donald Trump not for what he proposes, but for who he is – outrageous, outlandish, happy, secure, and very, very American