Friday, October 30, 2020

Euphemisms

In my dotage I’m thinking fondly of euphemisms. There was something endearing about saying, Shoot, I just bit my tongue or Darn that freakin' neighbor.

Fig leaves fall as they must on their way to language Heck.  By Golly isn’t that where people go who don’t believe in Gosh?

Holy Moly, I suspect all the gods can handle being taken in vain every now and then from Jumping Jehoshaphat to Geez to Gad Zooks.

Having now endured four years of Donald, Dad Rat It, we can begin to assess the wreckage. With his eight-year old vocabulary he has debased the language to my dang ears like no public official before him.

If you can fake authenticity all the rest is a piece of cake. Movies have an obligatory vomit scene as if that confers a note of edgy reality. Trump has tapped into what he calls locker-room talk which allows for racist and misogynist slang. Grab her by her pussy, says the man who sits where Lincoln and the two Roosevelts sat.

He tells the American people that certain countries are shit holes. In a speech recently he described China as Mother fuckers. If someone at a rally looks suspicious, he yellsthrow the sonofabitch out. I suppose this plays well in a crowd of maskless morons ready to gulp his Corona-spiced Kool-Aid.

He utters lies but they are naked lies. Is trash-talk any more truthful than decent speech? At least athletes’ chatter comes out of raw emotions. Trump's words are calculated. The real-estate mogul is slumming among those he would otherwise describe as losers and suckers.

My ears are burning, my mind is tortured. We must remove this man-child from office, lickity-split.

If you know any Trump voters remind them that Election Day was moved to Wednesday.

 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Buttons

Did I ever tell you about the time I……….

Yes, Grandpa you did, many times.

 

Well, I was seven years old during the campaign of 1940. I remember the beanie cap I wore covered with FDR buttons. Henry Wallace was his running mate and Wendell Willkie, the bad guy.

Roosevelt was not only my hero; he was God incarnate. He spoke with patrician authority as if from on high with his fireside chats. I even imagined the fire.

Of course, Willkie turned out to be one of the best bad guys in political history. He and Roosevelt were on the same page in so far as recognizing the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazi war machine. The isolationist Republicans disowned him as he got trounced 449-82 in the electoral vote of 1940.

After the election FDR asked him to serve as a roving ambassador and he traveled abroad pleading the internationalist cause. In his book, One World, he not only advocated for a world order but also denounced Colonialism. Sadly, he died before the war was over.

Willkie deserved a special place he was never accorded on my beanie. Of course, my beanie is long gone but I do have a political button collection going back to Abraham Lincoln. Skip a few decades and I see Grover Cleveland’s face on one along with his running mate and there are William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson and I even have a Roosevelt/Cox button from his unsuccessful bid in 1920.  

George McGovern must have put all his meager resources into buttons. I have about forty of them. By the time Clinton ran, buttons started getting larger. An Obama button is ten times the size of some of FDR’s. I have one button showing the faces of nineteen ex-Presidents. 

Maybe that was a sign of their demise. I don’t see buttons anymore. Instead they’ve been replaced first by bumper stickers, then T-shirts and lawn signs and now by red caps and unmasked faces. We are walking billboards.

No button is large enough to contain Trump’s egomania. The only button needed for the first Presidential debate was the one Trump should have had on his lip. His behavior was so maniacal it called for a muzzle or mute button in last night’s debate though I don’t think it was used. In spite of his rambling bluster he did a fine impersonation of a grown-up.

I wonder if he has a Russian-American dictionary in his desk along with a one-way ticket to Moscow. The thought of his finger on the button to launch the nukes for another term is a prospect devoutly to be dreaded.

 

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

LOST

Will the person who climbed through the window and stole my glasses please return them? No need for forced entry; just drop them off at the front door. No questions asked.

All right, forget all that. I’ll take the rap. I haven’t been out for three days so it’s got to be here somewhere. The truth is I don’t wear them much. They are bifocals and I can read better without them except for tiny subtitles and when I’m driving.

It’s understandable that the glasses might be upset. The last time I drove (I can’t remember when) I sprayed on some shaving cream to prevent them from fogging up. After wiping, the film is supposed to prevent the haze from wearing a mask.  

Or maybe they’re upset because Peggy has about seven reading glasses from the Ninety-Nine Cent Store scattered around the house and they don’t want to be associated with low-life cousins. It could be they escaped like some of my socks. I could swear a few of them made their way across the street and showed up in yard sales.

Looking for anything always turns up something else. So far, I’ve discovered a small flashlight behind my night stand and a set of car keys from a Honda I owned eleven years ago. Usually I find my credit card when I’m looking for my checkbook. Of course, my cell phone knows how to ding when called.

Listen to me, glasses, if you're out there, it's true I've never cared for you much. I was always afraid someone would mistake me for an intellectual. And then what? So maybe this is payback. You're hiding because of my constant vacillation. One day I'm seeing through rose colored lenses and the next through a glass darkly. I can't help myself. Call it existential dread.

Could it be you are hiding to teach me a lesson? If you think I'll go blind and suddenly play the piano, forget about it.  Nor will I become a seer even with the beginning of macular degeneration. There's a long tradition in literature to assign inner vision to the blind. I have no wish to become either Tiresias or Homer. However I have gained a bit of insight in this grand search.

I have discovered a most profound philosophical concept. Are you ready? Namely, drumbeat……… that Everything is Somewhere. The converse is also true: Nothing is Nowhere. This is the kind of wisdom that is hard-earned after losing something every couple of weeks over the past 87 years.  

Now I’ve taken to imaging. I can picture my glasses all spread out behind or under something. They’re just lying there with their astigmatic correction maybe missing my nose or my ears. Who knows what emotional attachments they’ve made?

I can’t take this much longer. It’s one thing to lose my glasses but another thing to be numbered among those known as Losers. Trump has got my number. Not only a Loser but maybe a Sucker also. If I find them will I suddenly become a Winner?

Ah-ha, I got up this morning and spotted them looking forlorn on the floor around my computer. I forgive them for their wanton ways. In the words of Donald, I take all of the credit and none of the blame.

 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Untied States of America

 America is a sandwich with artisanal squiggly breads of rocky shores on either side and rigid perpendiculars of Dakotas in the middle.

The Blue coastal states are a bluesy sax blowing grievances and joy as if those islands in the Pacific Northwest were new ideas bubbling overhead in a comic strip and the Florida Keys, a work in progress. Maybe someone took a bite and these were the indigestible chunks.

California is a baguette and Oregon an Everything Bagel while Puget Sound is the piece of an argument that resists containment, giggling and probing into some vivid unseen.

Jersey is seeded rye. The Carolinas ready to burst and Georgia has a blue moon rising. Maine is mainly independent indigo and from Massachusetts to New York harbor diverse as huddled masses yearning to be free.

Here are Wisconsin and Michigan which obey no ruler, shaped by the deep blue lakes and Pennsylvania is stretched out in blue-collar blue under an azure sky.

The swampy bottom of Louisiana is shaped by a parade down South Basin Street to the St. James Infirmary. I’m seeing red going to purple or is that Texas inching out of the red from the Rio Grande northbound.

In the mayonnaise middle is Oklahoma, long as their buried Trail of Cherokee Tears. Alabama, the Crimson Tide. Mississippi, red from Strange Fruit that hung from their trees. Arkansas red as rednecks.

And what does West Virginia think it is doing sprawled out in public with Kentucky blushing red as a MAGA cap while Illinois is belly-laughing into Missouri?

Kansas and Nebraska, lined up like Boy Scouts busy behaving themselves at the hundredth meridian. There’s Utah and Wyoming, straight as the page of Donald’s tax return, caught red-handed. Iowa is straight as a cereal box.

Arizona, home of well-fixed retirees used to be red as John Phillip Souza’s um-pa-pa marching in file on their fixed border but now there is a purple dawn rising.

We are a color chart turning from red herrings to blue remembered hills. From rectilinear slabs of red meat to plates of quinoa and kale. Not yet united but, at least, untied.     

Monday, October 12, 2020

Monarchs

I am monarch by decree

To which my family all agree

Whose praise the heartland heartily chants

And so do my daughter and my sycophants

My daughter and my sycophants   

                                    (With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)


 

Look, Peggy enthused, at that huge monarch butterfly.

She saw it flutter down, through the window,

and settle on the end of that branch.

Five minutes later it still hadn’t moved.

Perhaps, just perhaps it was a golden bough unleaving,

from the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem.

 

That’s the way it is with monarchs.

They can make us see what isn’t there.

Sometimes it’s not the butterfly that flutters by.

We can’t wish its existence like monarchs do

from inside their wooly caterpillar chrysalis.

 

Donald is having another tantrum flapping

his monarchial orange fuzzy-wuzzy

as if he were a maga lepidoptera

buoyant and flamboyant   

having astonished his mother-worm

with leaves masquerading as wings.

                                                                                            

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Individualism: Rugged or Rigged?

Having been born into the Great Depression followed by World War II the role of the federal government felt like mother’s milk, even after I was weaned from the bottle. Roosevelt provided alphabet soup with his NRA, WPA, CCC  et al. If the New Deal had its enemies most of them fell away on that day of infamy, Dec. 7th 1941. The pronoun, WE, was the order of the day.

Since the second half of the 20th century, We the People, has given way to, Me/Mine. We’ve gone from plural to singular. On the political spectrum the greedy who ask, What’s in it for me or I got mine, don’t bother me, are aligned with the so-called rugged individualists who love their guns almost as much as the gospel. Together they comprise the Republican Party.

The Wild West on the frontier is now wild Appalachia and the Heartland for whom the beneficent government of my day has become, in their eyes, some diabolical force out to take away their Social Security and Medicare even though the government is the provider.

The notion of Man-Alone translated to Indian-Killers, slave-owner’s inhumanity vigilantes, and the lawlessness of Jim Crow lynch-mobs. 

The irony is that the so-called rugged individualists are really the conformists who march in lock-step to the demagogue having abdicated their autonomy in mindless obedience.

Poor Karl Marx. He got it all wrong. Groucho could have done better. The working class is allied with Wall St., coalmine operators and hedge-fund operators. The down-trodden masses have swallowed the opiate in massive doses. Maybe that’s why they are unmasked. After all, Macho men don’t get sick and I suppose they don’t care if you do.

Masks are the new bumper-stickers, the great signifiers. The unmasked face is the emblem of pathological individualism. Donald’s behavior suggests masks are for suckers and if you happen to die I suppose you’re nothing but a loser.

Walt Whitman in Song of Myself wrote, I celebrate myself, I sing myself. Even on the Progressive wing there is a confusion between Individuation and Individualism. Psychotherapists have long urged their clients become their own best friend. Self-actualization is not the language of community or necessarily receptive to global responsibility. In a perverse way it can lead to the Not In My Backyard argument as we see in the rejection of homeless shelters or wind-farms which are perceived as driving real estate values down.

We lack the words for collective social discourse, the language to express programs for the greater good. The case for public service or even sacrifice has been subsumed by louder protests of self-interest. America-First translates to America alone heedless of global concerns.

If asked why one either supports or opposes measures to meet the challenges of climate change, the answer is regarded as authentic if they make the person feel better about themselves. This, I submit, is a poverty of language. We are inarticulate speaking in moral terms.

Trump, of course, has exacerbated the situation with his malignant narcissism. If Whitman were alive today would he still hear America Singing? I expect he would hear two tribal camps in a discord of voices.