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

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Sunset Boulevard On The Potomac - Aging Badly In The Corridors Of Power

Hedda Madison was ready for her knee replacement.  Walking a few blocks or up a flight of stairs was getting more and more difficult, lying on her favorite side impossible, and her off-kilter rhythmic gait a joke.

“No problem”, said Harbor Lansing, one of Washington’s top orthopedic surgeons. “We’ll have you in and out of here in a day, and before you know it, you will be the woman you once were”.  Ah, yes, she thought, a younger, more agile, more confident me with the stroke of a blade.  She was no stranger to the knife, having decided years ago that a few tucks and pulls would do wonders.  The surgery turned out well and indeed shaved a good ten years from advancing middle age.  Under the cover of COVID she had sequestered herself in a cabin in the New Hampshire woods and emerged a new woman, still recognizable (she didn’t opt for star surgery although she was given the choice of Hollywood beauties on which the surgeon would base his ‘reconfiguration’) and very much like the lively beauty she had been in her forties.

This knee thing was a whole different story, however.  There was nothing cosmetic about it except perhaps for her gait.  She was tired of walking the deck like a sailor on a listing ship.  No, this was about, ugh, mobility and range of motion; and besides, although she never would admit it, if anyone other than her husband were to touch her,  it should be Harbor Lansing.  Admittedly, this was not gynecology, and her preferences for male gynecologists was shamelessly sexual. Although she knew all about professional ethics, there was something erotic about an exam ‘down there’ despite the spreaders, probes, and lasers.  How could any woman not think of sexual penetration when she was being opened, manipulated, and explored?

Young Dr. Lansing was her go-to in the Washington Orthopedic Center.  Friends had suggested that she choose someone with more experience – more notches in his surgical belt – but if she had to have an operation, she might as well be under the care of someone whom she found physically and sexually attractive.

As far as Harbor Lansing was concerned, Hedda Madison was just one more fading Sunset Boulevard queen who had seen better days; and he ignored her flirtation with professional aplomb and complete indifference.  Why were all these old bags coming to me when others much older and much more experienced were right in the next office? 

Sunset Blvd. (1950) - IMDb

What is it with these women? Lansing wondered. Somehow knee replacement had become for them a strange elixir, a drink from the fountain of youth.  The saw themselves in frilly tennis skirts chasing backhands or parring the long par five at Congressional.  It would never happen.  His new knees would last another twenty years but they would not.  Better limp and whinge for a few more years before something out of his hands took them down.

Take Rosalind Mellors, la crème de la crème of the Philadelphia Main Line who kept herself in trim, balance, and svelte grace and who was, thanks to her beauty, sexual allure, and aristocratic carriage,  the belle of Rittenhouse Square society until she dropped dead on the eighth hole.  She had aligned her second shot on the edge of the sawgrass, chosen a six iron, and practiced a swing which would cut deep into the grass and send her ball high and arcing close to the pin.  As she stood firmly over the ball, she saw stars and black clouds, and fell lifeless into the rough.

The 25 Hottest Female Golfers of 2023

She had approached Harbor Lansing for a hip replacement, surgery she had been putting off for months because of a busy schedule, court dates, and litigation; but the discomfort had become unsettling.  Like Hedda Madison, the surgery was not just bionic but psychic.  Not only would her natural, beautifully a la Leonardo graceful arced swing return, but she would be a young woman again.

He had become, far from the simple mechanic and repairer of joints he had trained to be, a Ponce de Leon for fading, desperate women.  Who would have thought that a bone-pulling surgeon would ever become a rejuvenating icon, a restorer of youth?

So, he raised his rates.  Most of the women who came to him had well-packed investment portfolios and could easily spring for the extra thousands he charged.  Other surgeons also tried raising their rates, but they had nothing to offer other than partial joint replacement, resurfacing, or the latest in computer-enabled high-tech polymer protheses. 

Harbor Lansing was no Hollywood glamour boy by any means, but he had that indefinable male allure that women always fall for.  He listened to them; and after decades of being spoken to by clueless husbands, they were delighted to find a man who was interested in them as women, people,and persons.  When he said, “I will take good care of you”, he struck the most sensitive, resonant chord in a woman’s orchestral suite.  In an instant, they became his, and would do anything for this master, this god.

“I don’t get it”, he said to a colleague when he saw his calendar booked for six months with older women and his refusal rate nearing 100 percent.  “What have I done?”  Had anyone tried to answer the question, they would have been lost in a morass of sexual complex.  D.H. Lawrence in his most epiphanic or Freud at his most psychologically devious could never have anticipated such sexual desire in such a pedestrian orthopedic encounter.  Yet there it was. Women from all over the United States called for appointments not to be had.  The greater the demand, the lesser the supply, the more the reputation of transformative lover.

D.H. Lawrence | English writer | Britannica

Under normal circumstances, the likes of Harbor Lansing would alleviate the pain of thousands of men and women with debilitating osteoarthritis.  Orthopedics as a pedestrian specialty but a practical, worthwhile one.  No life and death brain or heart surgery, just advanced car repair.  Raise the patient on the hydraulic lift, open the hood, remove the accelerators and conductors, replace them, and be done.  Knee surgery was not meant to be an existential event.

The date for her knee replacement arrived, and Hedda was in a great state of anxiety and sexual arousal.  She would be put to sleep under Harbor Lansing’s knife and he could have his way with her.  She would wake up with a new knee, sexual satisfaction, and a renewed life ahead of her.

The surgery was a success and Hedda was delighted with the outcome.  The misery of rehabilitation was a Via Dolorosa, a slow, painful march to Golgotha and resurrection and at every post-operative visit to Dr. Lansing, she cried – not from the pain of physical restitution but from the joy of his miracle.

Despite the unexpected riches filling his bank account, and an enviable list of waiting list patients, Lansing was sick and tired of playing John the Baptist and Jesus Christ to this laggard line of old women.  He opted for retraining and studied pediatric orthopedics.  After graduation and internship, he joined a small practice in the Midwest and was never happier. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

When True Believers Get Weird–How The Crazed, Impossible Conspiracy Theories Of The Left Spread Like Wildfire

Anne Founder was a member of Americans For Democratic Justice, The Association of Concerned Citizens, and The Environmental Caucus; and was the leading spokesperson for The Progressive Alliance, an umbrella group comprised of all major organizations subscribing to the ethos of inclusivity, diversity, environmental sanity, and economic equity.  In other words an organization which brought together all likeminded advocates for social justice, civil reform, political action, and economic change.  It had been the spearhead of the One Wall Street anti-capitalist movement which underlay all progressive causes.  It was capitalism, the organization’s leaders wrote and Anne Founder eloquently articulated, that was the base evil of the American system, the end all of social justice, the destroyer of the aspiring, the predator of the people’s wealth, and the home for the renegades of the right.

Vintage Circus Freak Bearded Lady PHOTO PT Barnum Sideshow Woman Girl | eBay

The Progressive Alliance was a big tent, a revivalist community of the likeminded, the committed, and the willing.  Within it sectoral issues were set aside in a chorus of unity.  Environmentalists sat with gay activists who raised their voices in unison with feminists.  The hymns were anthems of allegiance to one another and to the cause of social revolution.  There were no discordant choristers, none who sang out of tune or rhythm.  It was a congregation of true believers who signed contracts in blood for the elimination of the greedy, oppressive, racist American system.

Anne had become a progressive early on.  She was an early adopter, a first responder to civil rights, environmental action, and economic replacement.  She was a tireless supporter of all liberal causes and favored none.  They were all branches of the same tree, equally important, equally strong, and equally lambent and extensive.  As such she was favored by older activists who saw in her catholic approach to social justice an ideal spokesperson for the movement.  She understood that capitalism was the cause of hatred and oppression, and that without a socialist restructuring of the American economy, no individual cause would succeed.  She was unabashed in her praise and adulation for Eugene Victor Debs, socialist, labor leader, and community activist.  Paolo Freire was her hero for his untiring work among the working classes of the Americas.  Marx and Engels were intellectual giants who understood the pernicious nature of capitalism, the inherent wisdom and power of the working class, and who promised early, lasting revolution.

The progressivism of the early 21st century was a heady time.  It was a political movement, a philosophical standard for social reform, and perhaps best of all a vibrant, loving community.  Everyone within the big tent loved each other with genuine affection.  They spoke the same language, were acolytes to the same secular church, and belonged to each other even more closely than brothers, joined as they were in unified civil purpose.

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey combined shows circus poster - NYPL  Digital Collections

From the podium, on podcasts, and in print Founder spewed bilious hatred for Donald Trump and the radical, subversive movement he headed.  Her speeches were electric.  The big tent roared with approval and hurrahs of support.  She talked of solidarity, spirit, and passion and spoke of the movement as holy, anointed, and meant to be.  She contrasted it with the evil of MAGA, the new silver shirts, the deep, malignant state of political renegades and anarchists led by Donald Trump.  As her speeches roused more and more applause and universal cries of approval, she expanded her vision of Donald Trump’s America.  He is no different from Hitler, she said, recalling images of brown shirts, the Gestapo, and the camps.  “It is no different in America today”, she shouted to thousands gathered in a Cleveland arena.  “Fascists, Nazis, storm troopers, and murder….and we are here to stop them”.  The thousands in the audience roared their approval, raising their fists in anger and solidarity.

Nazi's personal life revealed in trove of writings, photos

Before long even more circumspect, reasonable people were repeating these charges.  Social psychologists have long understood the nature of true believers and the conspiracy theories they spawn and endorse.  The more likeminded people talk only to each other, ideas become exaggerated versions of the original.  Once one accepts that Donald Trump is pathologically evil, then any rumor of wild subversive anarchists plotting to overthrow the government becomes part of the canon, never challenged, inherently right, and permanent.  Once one accepts that Donald Trump is a race-bating, racist, demon, then no one doubts his marshalling of the likes of Bull Connor and his ax handle-wielding white supremacist goons.  Once one accepts that Donald Trump is an abusive woman hater and a hateful homophobe every act of intolerance or gay-baiting can be laid on his doorstep.

If true believers talk only to themselves, then the idea of man-induced climate change becomes settled science, and every serious weather event can be linked to it.  No tornado, warm spell, flood, or earthquake can ever be an individual event.  The LGBTQ+ movement which started out to be a lesson in tolerance and inclusiveness, has now – thanks to an insular, closed environment – become a baroque championship of strange sexual alternatives.  The list of approved sexualities is endless, and every possible strange and impossible permutation exists on the gender spectrum.  Once the list becomes as set in stone and its tablets set forth as Biblical in nature and importance, there can be no questioning of its validity.

The more the movement gained foothold and made headway outside the coasts, the more exaggerations were openly stated.  The big tent, now even bigger, became a raucous side show of impossible claims.  Listening to this now completely inward-looking bunch, one would be convinced of America’s brutal but long-awaited demise.  According to these champions of social justice, America was a sinkhole of white, racist oppression; of predatory, destructive capitalism, and of raging murderous homophobes.  The bigger the crowd, the more synapses are formed within it – exaggerations become overstatements which become wild, unproven theories which become truth which demands justice.

Anne Founder has done her job brilliantly.  Now even the supposedly most thoughtful, reasonable people spout cockamamie conspiracy theories.  History is forgotten in the political fever of gross exaggerations.  How could anyone compare Trump to Hitler and America to Nazi Germany?  Has no one heard of Kristallnacht, torchlight parades, the SS, the Gestapo, and Treblinka?  Has selective memory airbrushed out the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust?  The tens of thousands killed in the Nazi blitzkriegs and the Battle of Britain? How could anyone compare modern history’s one, true, evil person to a vaudevillian, a clown, a lover of Las Vegas, glitz, cheap glamour, yachts, and arm candy?

Auschwitz: How death camp became centre of Nazi Holocaust - BBC News

Yet many people do, caught within the closed circle of true belief.  They speak these absurdities so often to themselves that they begin to believe it more than political reality but spiritual faith.  One hears conspiracy theories so loony, so wild and freakish, and so downright fantastical so often that the only conclusion is mass hysteria – a loss of reason and rationality.  Nut cases far more off the rails than the man they attack.

Social scientists suggest that people react on the basis of ‘dispositional’ factors – i.e. internal factors that have nothing to do with objective reality.

Conspiracy theorists are more likely to blame [Sociologist] Hofstadter’s  ‘preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network’ even when adequate situational explanations are available. This may be especially true when people are outraged or distressed and seek to justify their emotional state by claiming intentionality of actions even in the absence of evidence.

In very simple terms, many people are already disposed, for various reasons, to mistrust ‘the facts’ and have already internalized a belief that something is or is not true.  Those people who believe that 9/11 was an insidious plot by Bush, the CIA, or the Israelis; or that Donald Trump is plotting to overthrow the government of the United States are unlikely to change their beliefs on the basis of ‘situational factors’ – historical antecedents and the forensic evidence.  When these individuals join groups of likeminded conspiracy theorists, they are free to invent, fantasize, and create new, impossible realities with impunity.  Their claims will simply be taken up by their fellow conspiracy theorists and will make the rounds, increasing in intensity and transforming from one person to the next until the claims become unworldly.

Anne Founder is now in an assisted living community where she reportedly talks to the walls.  She has few visitors.  There is nothing lasting or memorable about a political side show.  One and done is the rule.  Once the big top is taken down and the circus moves on, few remember details about the clowns or the trained bears.  What they might remember is the bearded lady and the two-headed baby – stand-ins for true believing freaks.