In this illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice encounters the Duchess and a squalling baby, as well as a cook and the Cheshire-Cat.
In a speech on January 15, President-elect Joe Biden condemned Republican members of Congress who refused to wear masks while locked down in close quarters during the insurrection by dangerous right wing loonies at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. on January 6. Biden praised Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, for offering masks to her colleagues, and he then commented on the Republicans who refused masks, among whom was macho man Representative Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma, saying, “What the hell is the matter with them? It’s time to grow up!”
Indeed it is long past time for anti-maskers, QAnon conspiracy nuts, and all the other right wing loonies to grow up. Sane people have run out of tolerance for their antics and ravings. The refusal by some Republican members of Congress to wear masks in one part of the Capitol building while the rest of it was being overrun by seditious rioters may seem like a small thing, but the two actions are nevertheless equivalent in their reckless disregard for others. Since the wing nuts will most likely refuse to grow up just as they refuse masks, then perhaps after Inauguration Day on Wednesday the rest of the country can ignore them more easily once their cult leader is out of power.
Demonstrators at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017 wear Pussy Hats. Photo by Liz Lemon.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thanks men and women of the National Guard protecting the Capitol during the second impeachment of the outgoing president on January 13, 2021. Photo from the Office of Nancy Pelosi.
Maybe after four long, horrible years of darkness, relations of all kinds will have an opportunity to breathe and become vital again once all the available oxygen isn’t being sucked up by a malignant narcissist in the White House and his vicious, tantrum-prone followers. Maybe soon we can get back to working on the real problems which bedevil us, undistracted by the cries for attention of whiny, overgrown toddlers.
An effigy of the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief gagged by what appears to be a Pussy Hat during the D.C. Women’s March on January 21, 2017. Photo by Lorie Shaull.
1 – Obsessiveness about Santa Claus results in the exclusion of practical considerations.
2 – Individual identity blurs with Santa Claus and the group surrounding him. In the follower’s mind, personal identity becomes fused with Santa Claus as involvement continues and deepens.
3 – Criticism or questioning of Santa Claus regarded as persecution.
4 – Stilted and programmed speech, mannerisms, and behavior in imitation of Santa Claus.
5 – Dependent on Santa Claus to solve problems, and to provide simple answers for complex questions without meaningful reflective thought. Unable to think independently or analyze situations without involving Santa Claus.
6 – Devotion to Santa Claus’s agenda, overriding personal goals and individual interests.
7 – Loss of perspective and sense of humor about Santa Claus and anything pertaining to him.
8 – Estrangement from family and friends who are not similarly enthusiastic about Santa Claus.
9 – Anything Santa Claus does is justified, no matter how ugly or hurtful.
10 – Former followers of Santa Claus considered evil and susceptible to bad influences. They cannot be trusted and must be shunned.
From the point of view of reasonable people, the last item could apply to current followers in a cult. Setting that aside for the sake of a seasonably charitable sentiment, Happy Chrismukkah to one and all, even the hard cases.
A classic Marx Brothers bit from their 1935 film A Night at the Opera, with Chico and Groucho Marx.
Tongues are wagging and fingers are busy typing all around the country about the Instagram influencer topic of “perineum sunning”. Or did the topic gain traction on Instagram from a post by a micro-influencer? Or even less popular than that? Wherever she was a week or two ago in the Instagram influencer pecking order, surely by now she is on her way to becoming a mega-influencer, if there is such a ranking.
The perineum is the part of the human body between the genitals and the anus, and according to Metaphysical Meagan, the influencer everyone is now talking and writing about, it feels good and is good for her – and possibly for you, too – to expose that area to direct sunlight for as little as less than a minute each day. Judging from pictures posted online by M. Meagan and others, the preferred method of achieving the proper exposure is lying naked on one’s back and splaying one’s legs in the air. The pictures of people baring their nether parts to the sun are hilarious.
A Miami Beach, Florida postcard from February 1967, in the Postcard Collection of the State Library and Archives of Florida.
As stupid trends go, this is relatively harmless, like mood rings or pet rocks. A few people will get rich off it, some others will buy into it and wonder why they did years later, and most will shake their heads and chuckle about it. In any event, the trend will pass soon, knocked off the radar by the next supposed big thing. The adherents of perineum sunning promote it’s dubious health benefits, and it is doubtful their claim will lead to great harm for Instagram devotees who follow prescribed practice and expose their perinea to the sun for less than a minute a day. Why talk or write about it then, and give this silliness more free publicity? Because of what this kind of ultimate silliness says about us and how we arrived at this moment.
First of all, the relatively recent phenomenon of the fascination with a suntanned physique as a sign of health and wealth is an attribute of white people generally, and of some white people with too much time and money on their hands particularly. Until the 1920s, a suntan was the mark of working class people who toiled outdoors all day for little pay, and the upper classes therefore scorned suntans and suntanned people. That flipped in the 1920s and ’30s, in some cases for worthwhile health reasons, such as the recognition that rickets was caused by a lack of vitamin D, a vitamin the skin produces upon exposure to sunlight. Other reasons had to do with displaying one’s wealth and the leisure time to be able to travel to far off, exotic locales and lie around in luxurious idleness soaking up the sun’s rays. Suddenly having a healthy glow from a tan was the in thing among the upper crust, and being pasty white was for the lower orders or the sick.
Now white folks with too much time and too much money are doffing all their clothes, lying back and flinging their legs in the air to get a warm, toasty feeling down where the sun don’t normally shine, and some of them are taking pictures of their frivolity and writing about it and distributing the goings-on to followers who eagerly soak it all in like the rays of the sun, for good or ill. Well, more power to them. It beats working for a living.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
It’s been 154 years since the Civil War ended and still Southern white supremacists expect everyone else in the country to walk on eggshells around them so as not to upset their mythology or the chips on their shoulders. Yesterday, July 13, was Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a holiday there since 1931, when it seemed like a good idea to commemorate a Confederate general who murdered captive black Union soldiers during the war, and after it became the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Now it’s 2019, and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee‘s lame excuse for continuing the practice is that it is what’s expected of him under the law, even though he could push to have the law changed if he had the political will and courage.
All this hiding behind the disingenuous mantra of “heritage, not hate” is for the purpose of upholding monuments to and celebrations of Confederate leaders whose actions and beliefs, however much they deluded themselves and others in their own times into feeling were noble and righteous, have in the past 154 years proven to be in the service of one overriding principle – white supremacy. Dress up evil however you want, turn somersaults in logic if you like – in the end it’s still evil. Once state and local governments withdraw their sponsorship of these Confederate monuments and celebrations, individuals are still free to honor them in private if they are so inclined. No one is infringing their First Amendment free speech rights in speaking out on behalf of their Confederate idols in the public square; it’s just that everyone else no longer has to be subject to the constant looming presence of publicly sponsored monuments and celebrations reminding them to know their place, particularly if they are the descendants of slaves.
Theater poster for the 1915 D.W. Griffith filmThe Birth of a Nation. The movie glorified the KKK and set the stage for the organization’s resurgence shortly afterward.
In the past two and a half years, because of the tone set by the White Supremacist-in-Chief occupying the Oval Office (proving not all white supremacists are Southerners, by any means), more awful people have crept from the shadows into the light than many decent people were aware existed. As the specter of awful behavior grows, it is not enough for decent people to shun it and the awful people who afflict society with their malevolent derangement; decent people need to confront it, preferably without violence, but by speaking out forcefully and often in public, because otherwise a bully will always take silence to mean assent, even approval.
A clip from an August 2017 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert which aired shortly after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After a generation has passed, will we erect monuments to the malignant culture that has grown within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol? Will we celebrate the concentration camps for brown-skinned immigrants at “detention sites” from Texas to California and elsewhere around the country? Stopping the cancerous growth of white supremacy will require more decent white people standing up to it and saying “enough already”, an outspoken attitude of noble and righteous indignation that is long past overdue, as evidenced by a state still celebrating in 2019 the hateful heritage of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Witnesseth: Old English, meaning bear witness to the following or take notice.
— paraphrased definition from Black’s Law Dictionary.
When teams of scientists and engineers worked together for years to bring out the first ever image of a black hole last week, some of the excitement was drained off by internet trolls belittling the contribution of one computer scientist, a woman named Dr. Katie Bouman. Dr. Bouman was initially credited online by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she had earned her master’s degree and doctorate, with an outsize role in the great work, probably due to nothing more than an excess of exuberance for the achievement of one of their own when they first heard the news. If Dr. Bouman had been male, it is doubtful the trolls would have seized on MIT’s innocent overstatement and launched their campaign of vitriol geared toward minimizing her contribution and smearing her character.
From the 1983 Draw-a-Scientist Test, one of the relatively few depictions of a female scientist. Photo by Yewhoenter.
The time for minimization of online trolling has long since past. The usual advice to ignore them has not worked. The situation with trolls is like what happens in an eighth grade classroom when a cadre of unruly boys – they are almost always boys – sits at the back of the class disrupting the learning the majority of students and the teacher would like to conduct peacefully and constructively. Has ignoring those jackasses ever worked? No, it has not. The only remedy that works is invocation of real consequences for their actions. The online world is no different. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube claim they are not interfering with free speech rights when they give free rein to trolls, but they are ignoring the unique qualities of the internet megaphone.
Almost all trolling is anonymous, and making personal attacks while hiding behind anonymity calls up a gray area in slander and libel law. The Tweeter-in-Chief obviously makes all his egregious political and personal attacks without anonymity, and in some tweets he barely conceals incitement to violence against people he dislikes for political or personal reasons. Still, Twitter has not shut down his account. It used to be that one vile person could pollute only a small portion of the world with odious views; now that vile person can disseminate ugliness over the entire world in an instant, and millions more can take up the banner of sexist, racist, or white supremacist internet comments within a day or two. The opposite is also possible, of course, and good things can come about. To make internet freedom rights work, there have to be referees protecting the interests of the majority who would prefer good outcomes without the distraction of constant juvenile disruption, just as in a classroom where a teacher backed up by the school administration and by parents can rule counterproductive behavior out of bounds, restoring the peace and order necessary for instructive dialogue.
The recent revelation that Lin Bennett, a Republican State Representative in South Carolina, subscribes to the QAnon internet conspiracy theory, means the followers of the QAnon cult surrounding the current president have another friend in a powerful position openly siding with them. Validation like that keeps the embers smoldering while the QAnon cult followers await prophesied heroics from their leader in the Oval Office. It’s all fun and games until some deluded idiot with access to weaponry takes it all too seriously and acts out self-righteously, as a fellow from North Carolina did in reaction to the Pizzagate conspiracy in December 2016.
With so much factual information available on the internet, it’s hard to understand how people can continue deluding themselves with conspiracy theories that common sense would see fall apart after the application of a few facts. A lack of common sense and a capacity for self-delusion are the very traits preventing some people from seeing the foolishness behind many conspiracy theories. For those people, the great amount of information available on the internet supports their pet theories even when the information is not in their favor. They do not lack for information concerning their theories, for or against. Where they fall short is in the self-confidence to accept and honestly examine divergent information, because to do so might undermine the fragile construct of their self-worth bound up in the things bigger than themselves they have lashed themselves to stay afloat in a world to their minds uncertain and threatening, the cult and the conspiracy.
Interior of the Old Church in Delft, a 1654trompe-l’œilpainting by Gerard Houckgeest (circa 1600-1661). Are the drapes real, or are they part of the painting?
People in prominent positions, like State Representative Bennett, are irresponsible to publicly endorse nonsense like QAnon, because of the loons who are more likely than ever to act out in light of her endorsement. Some conspiracy theories, like the Flat Earth one, are relatively harmless, and if Rep. Bennett had come out as a Flat Earther the majority of Americans would probably have shrugged and considered her nutty, maybe a little too nutty to be entrusted with public office, but otherwise nothing to worry about since it was unlikely her outlandish belief would have any effect on public policy or discourse. QAnon theorists are different because they advocate smearing, imprisonment, and summary execution of their opponents. It’s as bad as if Rep. Bennett had declared herself a member in good standing with the Ku Klux Klan.
What is real and what is illusion? One of the questions examined in The Manchurian Candidate, a 1962 film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey.
QAnon arose and spread entirely over the internet; there was no broad based movement addressing needs in the real world, with people openly discussing its tenets, adopting some and rejecting others. A few trolls threw up some outlandish claims on internet message boards and some of them stuck, not because they were true and promised to solve real problems, but because other people wanted them to be true and hoped they would solve their imaginary problems born of hate for the Other and their own self-loathing. But for responsible adults those are really nothing more than excuses. With more information available than ever before in history, remaining bigoted and ignorant is a conscious choice of chip-on-the-shoulder anti-intellectualism, and such people need to be held accountable for their vile behavior, the better to keep them in check before they act out violently on their delusions.
“troll – verb definition 2c: to harass, criticize, or antagonize (someone) especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts.”
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary
At a partisan political rally in Mississippi on Tuesday, the Troll-in-Chief entertained his audience of trolls with mockery of Christine Blasey Ford, who had testified before a Congressional committee the previous Thursday about an alleged sexual assault Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, had perpetrated against her in 1982. The crowd of trolls at the rally revived the “Lock her up” chant from the 2016 presidential election campaign, this time referring to Ms. Ford rather than to Hillary Clinton.
What did Ms. Ford have to gain by giving her testimony and subjecting herself to sneering from the Oval Office Oaf and his cadre of morally warped minions? What does Mr. Kavanaugh have to gain by avowing his innocence other than the crown jewel of his ambition, a seat on the Supreme Court? Encouraged by their Chief Manipulator, the trolls at the Mississippi rally laughed at Ms. Ford and her testimony while taking Mr. Kavanaugh seriously. It’s difficult to fathom the hardness of heart and smallness of spirit it must take to attend one of these rallies and show support for such a Cancerous Leader.
Before this political and social nightmare progresses to its foul end, there will be divisions within families and among friends and neighbors on a scale not seen in this country since the Civil War. If Cancerous Leader manages to consolidate his power in the elections of 2018 and 2020, then the divisions will be more like those in Nazi Germany, where a minority of sociopaths cowed the majority of decent people into silence about their casual cruelties and major abuses of power.
A compilation of clips from a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, titled “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”, written by Rod Serling, and starring William Windom as the Major and Susan Harrison as the Ballerina.
There will be similarities, but not exact resemblances as the United States fashions its own brand of totalitarianism based on worship of the Almighty Dollar. People will have to ask themselves, as some no doubt already have done, how can I possibly remain on good terms with that family member, that friend, that neighbor, when they support such foul rhetoric and willingly follow such despicable and cruel policies? Why should I, and how could I, without abandoning my principles, my self-respect, and the defense of their victims, among whom I can eventually almost certainly number myself?
Much printer’s ink and digital pixels have been expended the past few years by writers and mental health professionals attempting to analyze the current president’s psyche, which admittedly appears to be a mess. Amid all the speculation, two things appear to be certain about Supreme Leader’s mentality, and those are his overarching narcissism and his unhealthy obsession with Barack Obama, specifically with outdoing Mr. Obama if not in deed, at least in Supreme Leader’s own mind and in the minds of his followers. To that end, Supreme Leader is most likely obsessed by the possibility of coming away with a Nobel Peace Prize as a result of his recent talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
President Barack Obama with the Nobel Prize medal and diploma in Oslo, Norway, in December 2009. Photo by Pete Souza.
Nothing of substance was settled between the United States and North Korea during the June 12 talks, but that apparently hardly matters anymore to the Nobel committee after they cheapened the prize in 2009 by awarding it to the new American president, Barack Obama, for no evident reason other than he was NotBush. Some thought the committee awarded Mr. Obama the prize as an incentive to engage the United States in more peaceful behavior in the future. If that was the case, the committee members must have been chagrined at the very least over the next seven years as Mr. Obama expanded George W. Bush’s drone assassination program, and otherwise did little to validate their faith in his peaceful intentions. Mr. Obama was a tool of the American power elite, charming as his personal nature may have been, and if he hadn’t been the elite would not have allowed him to get anywhere near the seat of power.
No doubt the current president cares little about whether the Nobel committee was misguided in awarding the Peace Prize to Mr. Obama in 2009. All he cares about is that Obama got one, and now he wants one. His childish neediness requires it, and he may possibly be fueled by a need for revenge against his predecessor. None of that really matters to everyone else in the world except in the sense of how they are affected by the whims and personality foibles of a person at the head of the most powerful government and military machine on Earth.
An excerpt from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April 2011.
Some of the Roman emperors in the first few centuries of the Christian era were also mentally unstable individuals who led capriciously and selfishly. None of them had the powerful weaponry at their disposal such as that available to the current leader of the United States, and on the other hand they did not have the constraints on their exercise of power equivalent to those put in place by the founders of the American republic over two centuries ago, eroded as those constraints have become. The peasants of the empire still need to go about their business every day, and can do so today just as peasants did thousands of years ago largely unaware or unheeding of what was happening at the central seat of power, with the difference being that now far more more than then a disastrous decision by a mentally unbalanced person at the helm has the capacity to upend their lives. The deluded Roman emperors also sponsored games and awarded themselves prizes, but there is no evidence the lives of the peasants under their dominion were any better for it.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
— Hamlet to Horatio in Act I, scene v, of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
It’s fair to say most people in the Western world are more or less familiar with the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Ten Commandments in its Old Testament books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, which they honor perhaps more in the breach than in the observance. There is an Eleventh Commandment which is known to few people other than some evangelical Christians, and it addresses how to treat others in what might be considered a reverse or Bizarro Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is common to many religions around the world and is stated many ways, but the formulation probably most familiar to Westerners is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The Bizarro Golden Rule, also known as the Eleventh Commandment, informs adherents to “Be mean-spirited with those you dislike or disagree with, and as spiteful and hateful in your dealings with them as satisfies your shriveled, churlish spirit.” The latest Christian conservative to scrupulously honor the Eleventh Commandment is Briscoe Cain, a Republican state representative in the Texas legislature, who, soon after the death of English physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking on March 14, tweeted the following passive-aggressive remarks: “Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made. My condolences to his family.”
Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard, an 1839 painting by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).
If there was any doubt about the veiled hostility in his tweet, Mr. Cain later took away the veil by elaborating on his dislike for Mr. Hawking’s atheism and supposed mocking of God. As egregious behavior from a mean-spirited Christian conservative, or evangelical, this is small beer. It nevertheless illustrates a mind set that has corroded civil discourse in public life, and how nothing will stop such a person from taking pot shots at perceived or imagined enemies, even the recent death of perhaps the most well-known and generally beloved physicist since Albert Einstein. Stephen Hawking’s atheism was his own concern, something he never forced on others, unlike the behavior of many evangelical Christians like Briscoe Cain. As for mocking God, even if Mr. Hawking did such a thing only in the eyes of Mr. Cain, surely God is big enough to forgive and forget.
That is not the God of Briscoe Cain and others like him, however, who apparently see in God much of what they dimly perceive in themselves: a smallness of spirit, mean, petty, and vindictive, with spite considered a virtue, and charity withheld from anyone deemed Other. One would feel sorry for such small minded people if not for the tremendous damage they do to the rest of society every day. In this material world, Stephen Hawking will be well and fondly remembered by future generations, while Briscoe Cain’s legacy will fade away except for the enduring stain of his negative contributions, may they amount to no more than his snide remarks made at the expense of a person who never did him any harm.
But in Mr. Cain’s view, it could be Mr. Hawking did do him harm by denying his God and, worse, supposedly mocking that God, which to a person with fragile self-esteem is the same as denying him, not just Him, and mocking him, not just Him. For people like that, all their sense of self worth is bound up in their God, and how their God is regarded or disregarded by others is taken personally by them. In the next world, if there is one, perhaps Briscoe Cain and his vindictive and insecure co-religionists will be fortunate and discover a God more beneficent and embracing than the God they envisioned and claimed to embody here on Earth, and inflicted upon everyone else without concern for whether others merited simple human kindness and respect regardless of their religious beliefs.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, lines 254-5.
For those who are paying attention, it’s hard these days to keep up with the news coming from the seat of the federal government in Washington, D.C.. It can seem the news really is erupting from the seat with flatulent, obscene noises. The news can also be disheartening, even maddening. Have we slipped into another reality, or just a darker version with comic undertones? The nuclear nightmare has re-emerged after having slipped away into the dreamworld for more than thirty years.
The fealty of the dead is not respected, while the call goes out to stand in blind loyalty to a starred and striped cloth, ignoring the crimes of the police. It makes no sense, is even insane by any clinical standard, but still the lies and hypocrisy mount one on another, like flies dying on a windowsill. No, those aren’t flies beating themselves silly against the windows, liberal media. Is the media liberal? It must be; we have repeated the lie often enough. There’s a trick some have mastered of refocusing their eyes through the smudged window to what lies outside, where the world is sunny and new. They don’t see the flies.
Where does the new viewpoint lead but to some very old ideas? Beatings, torture, and more war. It’s okay because it all happens in a place away from here, and because the people on the receiving end deserve it, otherwise why would we be doing it to them? Those people would do the same to us and worse, given half a chance. We must not give them that chance, not even a smidgen of it. We must interdict. We must do to others before they do to us. That is Law. To do otherwise is to appear weak, and to appear weak is to be nothing. Let the meek inherit the Earth in the next life, this one belongs to the vicious.
Dante (He Hath Seen Hell), an 1864 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904).
There are people in the world who need destroying, no matter who they are. We know. God knows. God told us. Who are we? The ones who know what God knows, that’s who. One day we might look into our hearts as through a window, and see there only flies battering themselves to death against the glass rather than seeing through them to the green grass and blue skies outside, but that day will never come, God willing, because it’s been an awfully long time coming already and still the world goes on like it has for years, for ages, the rich getting richer, the lunatics insisting they should run things. Still, for all that, some wistful souls continue wanting to make things better by acknowledging there are flies buzzing the windowpanes, and they try opening the windows and shooing the flies back outside.