I’ve been sitting here thinking about the regret I’m starting to see from many quarters. Like a bad one-night-stand that came with a surprise wedding ring, that face just won’t go away, and all the skull sweat in the world won’t change the reality. Yes, you did that.
Believe it or not, I have some personal insight into this, one I’d forgotten about. Mind you, this is minor league, childish stuff, but startlingly relevant.
Long ago, as a teenager, I was a member of the DeMolay. Junior Masons, basically. Named after the last grand master of the Knights Templar, Jacques De Molay, who King Phillip the Fair (there’s a name for you) tortured and then put to death when he sacked all the Templar temples looking for gold and endeavoring to erase his debt to the Templars. Legend has it when the raids began, the king’s men found empty temples, no gold, and managed to arrest only a handful of Templars before they could escape, among them Jacques.
Fast forward and we have the establishment of a youth branch of the Masons in 1919. Anyway, it was cool in a very adolescent way. Secret rituals, passwords, officer positions, and we got to wear these excellent black satin capes and carry ornamental swords from time to time. It was one of the rare times I willingly joined something like this and it was fun for a couple of years.
Now, we did do a lot of community service, charity work, and other things. There was serious purpose to the organization and we did some meaningful things. Obviously it was a stepping stone into fullblown masonry, so there was grooming and preparation and the assumption of responsibilities. We pretty much ran our own lodge, although there were of course some adults around to make sure we didn’t get out of hand.
The officer positions were sort of on automatic rotation. Once you took a position, you ascended as a matter of course.
Except for the top three positions. Master Councilor, Senior Councilor, and Junior Councilor. These seats were voted on by the members of the lodge. Even then, it was almost pro forma. The only one of the three that ever actually was in question was Junior Councilor. Moving up from there was just a given. It was the Junior Councilor seat that was regularly empty when a Master Councilor’s term was up and he stepped down.
My third year, though, an unusual event happened—all three posts became vacant at the same time. So we had to vote to fill each one from the membership of the lodge.
I threw my hat in. A couple of others did, too, friends of mine who then proceeded to plan what we would do when we were all in the councilors’ chairs.
Only thing is, I lost every single vote.
Not just lost, but was brutally trounced, receiving two votes for each chair. I had to sit there and listen to the tallies until it was over. The other two who thought I’d be up there with them started looking at me in shock, as if to say “What the hell!”
I sat through the rest of that meeting, performed my duties, and left. I did not go back. I’d been humiliated before, but never so publicly and so thoroughly.
Best I could determine from things later said, everyone thought I would be a hard ass and make them work. I had ideas, I’d never been shy about criticizing what I thought of as stupidity, and I was not particularly popular. Naively, I didn’t think that last mattered. I thought ability was what counted. I was wrong.
I went back about six months later and sitting around with several of them in the lounge I listened to them moan about how badly things were being run and how this went wrong and that was going south in a big way and so-and-so was an ass, etc etc etc. I sat and listened with a rapidly vanishing sympathy. “We should have voted you in,” one of them said. Heads nodded all around.
I was quiet for a few moments, then stood. “Yeah, you should have,” I said. “Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. But frankly I’m glad you didn’t.”
Shocked expressions all around.
“Because I would’ve been stuck trying to manage you bunch of morons.”
I left and never went back.
I have joined exactly two organizations since.
Buyer’s remorse can be a real bitter thing. It looks so shiny, so cool! It makes those agreeable noises and feels powerful.
Then you get it on the road and find out what a lemon it is.
I have zero sympathy for those who voted for this guy and now are stunned, horrified, shocked, and disappointed at what they got. Just a reminder, I suppose, that so many people never do mature past someteen, no matter how old they are. The thing that grinds is, they saddled the rest of us with this mess, too.
Just a couple of thoughts. We’ve been hearing for months, here and there, how Donald Trump might be a trojan horse placed by the Democrats to discredit the Republican Party. That, presumably, a deal was done between The Donald and Hillary to run the most absurd campaign and make her look like the only viable choice. Not a bad idea for a potboiler political thriller. And the closer to the election we get, some variation of that idea is making more sense.
However. Despite what pessimists might say, the American electoral landscape is not really that controllable. And any such actual plan would long since have been discovered and revealed. You can’t keep something like that secret for this long. Someone will know and will tell. Just because that’s how things roll here.
But it’s not at all unlikely that some kind of a deal was done inside the GOP involving Trump.
Given the roster of candidates taking the field last year, what is perfectly plausible is that Trump was invited—maybe not even formally—to throw his hat in the ring. Be a Republican candidate. It would have been easy to tickle his vanity and get him to do it.
Because he’s a known berserker. We all know The Donald. He could stand up there and say things none of the others could and make them look like rational choices by comparison. Good cop bad cop. When you look at the row of right wing crazy that was running—people dedicated to deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, bigger military build-up, gutting healthcare reform, reinforcing corporate personhood, using immigrants as strawman threats against labor, natavism, anti-civil rights, security state wonks, anti-science pro-fundamentalist christian, nothing but a bucket of bad news for working class people—they needed, or thought they would benefit from, having someone who could draw attention away from all that by standing up there and being all the things Trump has been all along. The others would look civil, thoughtful, responsible. We would overlook their basic anti-egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism and, in some cases, their anti-humanitarianism, choose one of them, and clear the field for a fistfight they thought they could win with Hillary. Or Bernie.
It went pear shaped very quickly. They lost control of their candidate.
And the problem was they couldn’t really contradict him without making themselves vulnerable by their records, because Trump has not said a thing policy-wise that they had not all said, only in “nicer” terms. He didn’t contradict one policy plank. All he did was strip away the shiny so we could see the ugly underneath.
And they lost control. Is this possible?
It’s happened before. Back in the late Seventies the GOP courted the fundamentalist christian community, which till then had been traditionally apolitical. They went in, backed a guy named Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, invited them into the tent to participate, made them promises about returning the country to a christian moral code (as defined by them, of course). It was a very cynical move because they clearly never intended to follow through on those promises. All they wanted was a kind of religious fifth column that would stir up the conservative base and get out the votes. It took longer, but they lost control of them. By the Nineties they had morphed into neocons and eventually gave birth to the Tea Party. That traditionally apolitical group got a taste for power politics and took matters into their own hands and look at the mess we have now. The Republican Party lost control.
And a lot of sane, responsible, decent Republicans lost elections or just left the field, unwilling to mix it up with the fanatics.
The GOP grew this faction from a bean and it has now lurched into the field flailing against anything that is not consistent with—
Well, that’s part of the problem. The Party apparatus itself knows that if it comes right out and says what the goals really are they could lose and lose bigtime. By actions if not words it has been clear for a long time they want an oligarchy. They don’t trust the average American, who may be too concerned with taking care of his or her family and might vote for things which will remove power from the privileged classes. You can argue if you want, but just follow the money—and the jobs—and the voting records of those who have enabled the decimation of the middle class and the empowerment of the corporate elite.
But now the Party apparatus has a bigger problem—the frightened mob they have nurtured since 1976 has turned into a mindless mass of terror-driven reactionaries, poorly educated, selfish, and aggressively anti-progressive. And they have lost control of that mob.
Which voted for the guy who was never supposed to get the nomination.
Now the rest of us have a problem. Trump is not only uncontrollable by the GOP, his supporters are beginning to sound like those fifth columnists the religious right was supposed to be. Except they aren’t talking about voting conscience—as far as I can tell, they don’t have one—but about taking up arms if Hillary wins.
And some of the GOP stalwarts are doubling down. McCain declaring that the Republicans will block all supreme court nominees made by Clinton is nothing but an attempt to appease that mob who seem to want no government rather than one they can’t understand.
They’re all complaining now that this isn’t what they intended, that they can’t support Trump, they never meant for this—
I’m reminded of the film Judgment At Nuremberg, in which Spencer Tracy plays a justice on the war crimes court, hearing the case of a German jurist, played by Burt Lancaster. At the end, Lancaster tells Tracy “We never meant for it to go so far.” To which Tracy responds, “Sir, it went that far the first time you sentenced an innocent man.” Or something to that effect. One could say to those now-chagrined and embarrassed GOP apparatchits claiming they never intended this: “It went this far the first time you placed party over country.”
We have a few weeks till the election. I don’t think there’s much else to say. We have a choice between progress and destruction. I believe that, no hyperbole intended. The destruction has been coming for a long time. Presidential election aside, we must expunge that mob of deplorables from the halls of power. Maybe Hillary had to apologize for that, but she was right. They are the worst aspects of our nature and—I’ll say it—too stupid to know how stupid they are. But that’s not their fault. They’ve been succored on the milk of ignorance by a cynical party machine that is now about to choke on its own poisons.
Vote. Vote congressional seats. Right now they’re as if not more important than who ends up in the oval office.
In my previous post I talked about the use—misuse—of a term: Snowflake. It was brought to my attention that I myself may be misusing it or at least misunderstanding it.
It derives from Fight Club, as a negative. “You are not special snowflakes…you are not unique…” More or less. Tyler Durden exhorting the new members of a club no one is supposed to speak about. Which kind of automatically makes them special. Exclusive club, deeply hidden, secret, and very radical. How much more special can you get short of joining the Masons or being recruited by the NSA?
The term then entered the language by way of gaming, applied to people claiming unique privileges—usually unearned—in the course of some rule-heavy role-playing extravaganza. It went from there to an appellation attached to Millennials of a certain mindset who had absorbed the pseudo-Montessori-esque lessons of specialness and uniqueness and then took it to the next level as sinecure that they, being unique and special, can do no wrong and are allowed to exercise a degree of privilege and intolerance based on that assumed status.
Like all such terms, obviously, it has been handed on, re-purposed, reapplied, contorted, enlarged, expanded, and now, today, it is being used to label anyone even glancingly allied to that other wonderful term that has come to be applied as a derogation, the Social Justice Warrior.
That’s the problem with labels. They start out one way, they inevitably become something else, and then history gets retroactively rewritten to incorporate the new meanings.
Democrats belong to the party of Jim Crow.
Republicans freed the slaves.
As if those claims describe what they are intended to today.
What I have witnessed and heard is the appropriation of the label Snowflake by people who are unfriendly to messages and arguments about social justice, equality, political correctness, diversity, and related issues so they can apply it where needed to shut down debate. Classifying someone as a Snowflake (or a Social Justice Warrior) is little more than an attempt to categorize what they have to say as a specific kind of rhetoric which we are not obliged to listen to or credit because it only describes the presumed delicate, unique, and supposedly privileged character of the speaker. We don’t have to listen to them because, well, it’s just the way they are.
And somehow these delicate souls manage to harass the virtuous manly men (male or female) who have right on their side to the point of silence.
I haven’t, if you’ll forgive the mixed usage here, seen the silence. On either side, frankly. What I have seen is a big fat fence raised between the deponents made up of labels.
Now, labels can be useful. I like to know which aisle contains the pet food as opposed to the household drygoods as opposed to the liquor. I like to know which building houses what services and addresses are very handy. I even like knowing what kind of music I’m likely to find on what station and it is helpful to know where in the bookstore I can find History as opposed to Humor.
But when it comes to people, labels are useless impediments to dialogue and intercourse. And just because those people over there insist on using labels does NOT justify labeling by anyone else. Because it is the nature of such things—language—that usage is hijacked, meanings change, and context shifts.
Back in the Sixties, there was an event in San Fransisco. There was a funeral for Hippy. The label, the tag, the identity. Because the people at the core of the counter culture saw what was happening—that what they were, how they dressed, talked, acted, was about to be appropriated as fashion. They knew that all they intended, all they meant for themselves, all they held important was about to be changed by the normal misuse of the American dialogue. So they declared Hippy dead and they held a funeral. There was, after that, no authentic hippy.
It didn’t stop the entire country from assuming it knew what a Hippy was and that they were all around.
In the Fifties the label Communist was horribly misapplied. A wide net of philosophical and political opinions caught people up and labeled them and lives were ruined. Because it’s easy to think in labels. Action follows thought.
I don’t care for labels like that. Especially when deployed in such a way as to shut down meaningful dialogue.
What I am seeing is the use of a term that once described something quite different being applied by people who think they have the right to determine what is meaningful by excluding what they think is without merit.
Does this go both ways? Of course. Labels have universal utility. They are shorthand. The problem with them is they make it easy to not think.
Just in case anyone thought I meant something else.