Hey, Cope, I guess you probably heard about the latest pandemic. It’s popping as we speak, and it makes Covid look like a soft little mushy round cheese cake with teensy red white and blue stars on it. Right now, the new one seems to be occurring mostly at rest stops along the I-5 corridor from about near Eugene north to Portland. People are coming out of public restrooms up there–mostly tourists, I guess–walking out to their cars, and just flat dropping dead, either right by their cars or just after they get in. A few of them manage to drive a few miles before passing out behind the wheel, then crashing their cars. If there’s other people in the car with them, they either die or survive the crash. But if the driver stayed in the car while others got out to walk around or take a piss, then luckily, the car didn’t crash, but you still got passengers keeling over somewhere up the road, which must be pretty disconcerting. Luckily, it’s a divided highway up in there, so no head-on collisions thus far. I think that’s actually how it first got reported–state troopers noticing a surge of unexplained wrecks along the I-5.
Around the same time, believe it or not, some hick radio newscaster up in there must have heard about all those cars crashing and people keeling over, and put out a report—maybe half joking or maybe dead serious—that it was the End Times or the Rapture, at which point, hundreds of local yokels listening in, just walked out of their houses or left their cars on the side of the road and started walking down the I-5 in a kind of trance. Some of them were seen looking skyward with their arms upraised–I guess trying to persuade the Deity to beam them up. A helicopter spotted a horde of these goof-balls just north of Junction City. The pilot estimated their number at between 1,500 and 2,000, if you can believe that. He said they were just ambling along State Highway 99 like a herd of zombies.
Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of people died in a Creationist theme park just south of Beaverton. Some old lady–a retired school teacher, I think–found a nine-year-old kid slumped over the horns of a triceratops in the dinosaur diorama; a little gathering of fiberglass cavemen appeared to be looking on with appropriately horrified faces. I know it sounds like I’m joking, but I swear to God it’s all true. Just look it up, if you don’t believe me. It must be all over the net by now.
State health inspectors were dispatched to the area to do some preliminary investigating to see what might be happening in those restrooms and what it could have to do with people going in there–just going in there to pee, or whatever, or just take a shit, you know. And what they found, or at least the theory they’re working with now–well, you won’t believe it. They’re saying they found a mutant strain of Coronavirus in the urine in one of the public toilets right outside Eugene. From there, they started taking samples from all the public toilets along the I-5, mostly concentrating on rest stops. And it looks like a brand new strain, all right, unlike anything we’ve seen before. And it’s a real motherfucker. Initially, they were calling it the I-5 Virus, but pretty soon they rechristened it the Salmon Virus, and maybe, if you think about it, you can guess why. But if you can’t, I’ll tell you. This little fucker gets into people literally by swimming up the pee-stream. That’s right. And this is no joke. Apparently, it works like this: One person–a carrier–goes in, unzips or drops her dress and takes a piss, leaves the virus in the commode. Next one comes in, takes a piss, and voila! Walks out with the virus! Think about it: Your pee stream–male or female–makes a perfect unbroken line from the toilet right back up into your bladder. From there, it’s just an express passenger train through the blood stream to every major organ. It’s like the bladder is Penn Station to this spawn of Satan.
And they looked at it in the microscope and found that the knobs on your typical Covid virus appear now to have evolved into something like ten-thousand powerful little paddles, so these demonic little shits can literally swim (or paddle, I guess) up the pee-stream, like salmon going upriver to spawn. Hence, the name. Nor does it matter if you flush the toilet. Turns out this mutant has a super-sticky coating on it, similar to that found on the bellies of snails, only this coating is about 500 times stickier, to the point where it can cling to the inside of the toilet bowl–it’s almost like it knows when someone’s about to finish and flush–and it just fuckin locks down, so even the most powerful hydraulic flush is too weak to suck it out. They’ve never seen anything like it, and, as you can guess, it’s already spreading like wildfire. Nobody seems to know where it originated or if it just all of a sudden mutated in that first rest-stop outside Eugene and began its northward migration.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Department has issued a statewide warning, telling people to start carrying bottles of 70% ethyl alcohol to pour into any public toilet before using it. They’re saying it takes a whole 16 oz bottle to kill these beasts. But we know how that’s going to go over, don’t we. You can’t get half these nimrods to wear masks or go get the goddamn shot. Good luck telling Jubal or Elrod to go spend money to keep cases of ethyl alcohol in his car in addition to all the bags and baggage, the food, the bottled water, the gimcracks purchased at Cracker Barrel Restaurants every hundred miles, and the assault rifle, to pour in the toilet bowl every time he or the wife or little Junior or little Miss Priss or old grannykins wants to pull over and take a whiz.
Yeah, good luck with that, all right. Just one more encumbrance on his so-called “Freedom.”
“Who controls the past controls the future.” —George Orwell
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” —Unnamed senior advisor to President George W. Bush
“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”–Voltaire
LATEST NEWS FROM THE “NEW WORLD”
It seems a people having little to fall back on but the whim of their beliefs tend to make easy prey to the lies and manipulations of every charlatan that comes along, no less than sheep make easy meals for every passing wolf. Thus, many, already convinced that the Corona virus pandemic is a fraud were likewise lead to believe that Donald Trump won the election, and were thus transformed into a violent mob that can no longer distinguish reality from make-believe.
There’s more to this than simple gullibility. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges looks at the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol as “evidence of a deep despair that is gripping huge sections of the working class.” Asked to put the Capitol assault in historical perspective, Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, speaks of the fantasy that we see ourselves in some kind of “exceptional” light—“the city on the hill” — “deluding ourselves that we’re the ones who are civilized, versus the real savages, the real barbarians—indigenous people, migrants, workers, women, black folk, queer folk, all of them viewed as less than human, degraded, other.”
This mind-set extends outward to other countries viewed as “evil” or “out to get us.” Not just Russia or China, but Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. . . It’s a very long list. Like the Roman legions of old, the U.S. military in its “War On Terror” is now spread over 80 countries—40% of the nations on the planet.
With some 800,000 dead, 37-million refugees, and a cost to taxpayers of $6.4 trillion (so far), West suggests the capitol assault represents the “chickens coming home to roost.” But he also reminds us that the mobs of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates, are themselves victims:
It’s not just the notion that greed is good, but the massive shattering of families, communities, bonds, networks, so you end up with not just isolated, narcissistic persons, but you also end up with people unable to generate any kind of story to live by, unable to situate themselves in a national narrative that has any connection with reality. It is a profoundly nihilistic moment. And nihilism is a lived experience of a tremendous wound and hurt. When I looked in the eyes of the neo-Nazis (at Charlottesville), I saw deep wounds and hurts and joylessness and lovelessness, and a search for meaning. They just hated me, they wanted to kill me, but I could still understand the ways in which they were very much a product of a predatory capitalist culture that is just—money, money, money, and they’re actually being subjugated in their own distinctive ways.
The historian Howard Zinn, a long-time friend of West’s, who passed away in 2010, probably would not have been surprised by any of these events, from the rise of the proto-fascist Trump, to the misinformation campaigns and bizarre conspiracy theories leading up to the storming of the Capitol. Nor would he disagree with West’s assessment of them. Zinn’s groundbreaking book, A Peoples’ History Of The United States, actually traces the threads of this “predatory capitalism”—a system of brutality and subjugation—from its origin in the Spanish Conquest clear up to the present day. If the Latin for radical is root—literally one’s willingness to look at the origins and root causes of our social ills—then Zinn exemplifies the essence of what it is to be radical.
Zinn, who taught history at Spelman College and later at Boston University, came from a background of activism during the civil rights era of the late 1950’s and ’60’s, a period that gave rise to academics with a social conscience, out of which grew a deeper sense of fairness and justice for the underdog. These “bottom up” historians felt a duty to tell the stories often overlooked or glossed over in the traditional histories of America. And that, in essence, is what Peoples’ History sets out to do.
The fact that the book has proved through the years to be popular with students and teachers may explain why it has often been the target of propagandists on the right, who see it as a threat to the established order. One of those crusading propagandists is David Barton, whose article, “Before The West Was Won: Pre-Columbian Morality,” is intended as a smack-down of Zinn’s book.
Listed in the Southern Poverty Law Center along with other extremists and hate groups, Barton is an evangelical Christian who has made a career promoting the lie that Jefferson and the Founding Fathers intended to establish a “Christian nation,” rather than one based on separation of church and state. He is anti-gay, anti-government, a Muslim-basher. He has stated that gays should be in prison. He believes the minimum wage, unions, Environmentalism, and measures to combat global warming are all opposed to God.
In Texas, Barton, who lives in Aledo, has served as an “expert” consultant to the State Board Of Education, whose mostly far right evangelical members have been successful at rewriting textbooks to make them more conservative and Christian-friendly. Texas has a long tradition of promoting conservative or religious ideology in its schools. Looking back to the twenties, the state board, under pressure from religious conservatives and the Klan, excluded all mention of evolution in Texas school books. Nowadays, it’s the steady push to teach creationism—euphemistically described as “intelligent design”—alongside evolution in science classes.
Nor are the assaults on academia confined to Texas alone. In Arizona, for example, a notorious ban on ethnic studies in the Tucson public schools also included a ban on the following books, subsequently removed from the schools: Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, Bill Bigelow’s Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, and Howard Zinn’s Voices Of A Peoples’ History Of The United States.
Hm. . . There may be a reason why more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory.
* * *
From Henry Kissinger’s book, A World Restored, Zinn draws this quote: “History is the memory of states.” He then relates how Kissinger proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, while ignoring “the millions who suffered from those statesmens’ policies.” Zinn continues:
. . .But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation—a world not restored but disintegrated.
This is precisely Zinn’s view of the world of the native populations in his narrative of the Spanish Conquest (comprising the first chapter of Peoples’ History), a world not “restored” by civilized Christian morality, but “disintegrated” by it. Thus, he reasons, “We must not accept the memory of states as our own.” Zinn maintains that in such a world of conflict, of victims and executioners, “it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
Barton sticks with the fantasy. Adhering to the old “top-down” approach to history—found in most high school textbooks—he and his followers tend to see the world from the point of view of the “winners”—the heroic conquerors, the (slave-holding) Founding Fathers, the (white) pioneers who bravely carried out the divine mission of “Manifest Destiny,” by defeating the “savages,” taming the wilderness, bringing God, morals, and Free-Market Capitalism to the nascent empire.
Thus, for him, the over-arching story of American discovery and colonization was one of “progress and advancement.” Of mankind “piercing the mist of the Ocean Sea to plant the seeds of individual rights, liberty, and freedom on a faraway shore so that they could finally germinate and grow, providing its fruit to the world both Old and New.”
Barton seems obsessed with this notion of Columbus as a “planter of seeds.” The phrase turns up more than once, as when he later asserts that the great explorer “. . . planted the seeds of freedom on American shores which would eventually germinate into the nation which brought more liberty, stability, and prosperity than any other country in the history of the world.”
One can almost picture the writer penning these flatulent platitudes with a lump in his throat, his paper (or laptop) puddled from the tears dripping from his face.
If only it were true. . .
As the title of his article suggests, Barton’s primary concern in his idealized concept of history seems to be morals: who has them and who doesn’t. Moreover, his tolerance for bad behavior seems to run a little higher for those who have them (morals) than for those who supposedly do not. The problem with adhering to this myopic framework is somehow getting the facts to agree.
Projecting this mindset onto Zinn, Barton has him claiming “unilaterally” that the indigenous people held a “higher moral standard than the European nations at the time.”
Zinn did not use the word “moral” or “morals.” What he actually said was that “the Arawaks of the Bahamas were much like natives on the mainland who were remarkable for their hospitality, their belief in sharing.” Nor did this assessment come out of thin air; European observers had repeatedly said the same thing. Zinn goes on to add: “These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.”
As Zinn points out, Spain at the time, much like France, England, and Portugal, was populated mostly by poor peasants who worked for the nobility, who made up 2% of the population and owned 95% of the land. If those figures seem oddly familiar, perhaps it’s because 500 years after Columbus, the top 1-percent of U.S. households owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined.
But hold on—that’s pre-pandemic. For the moment—with vast numbers out of work, facing the end of their resources—we can only guess how many Americans are teetering on the brink of homelessness and starvation—possibly millions—owing to an entrenched leadership of oligarchs who are about as sensitive to the needs of the poor and powerless as the kings and popes of a by-gone era.
According to the Boston Globe, 60% of those charged in the Capitol riot showed prior money woes going back for years, ranging from bad debts, unpaid tax bills, and threats of eviction. At some point, 1 in 5 faced losing their homes. We do know that income inequality in the U.S. is currently the highest of all the G-7 nations.
If this is what germinated from Columbus’ seeds, then it looks like massive crop failure.
Nevertheless, Barton doubles down on his defense of Columbus, promoting the idea, in the face of scant evidence, that most of the indigenous tribes—even the peaceful Arawaks—were given over to war, slavery, and cannibalism. The problem is Barton’s moral framework, which more or less obligates him to enhance the Christian heroism of the conquerors while painting as disturbing a picture of the conquered as possible. He even goes so far as to assert “that in a primitive world of slaughter, sacrifice and cannibalism,” native enslavement under Columbus represented an improvement (!) —An “important stage of human progress.”
Perhaps Barton is justified in his thinking. In 1510, the Requerimiento [Requirement] was issued by the Council of Castile “to be read aloud as an ultimatum to conquered Indians in the Americas.” Asserting the religious authority of the Roman Catholic pope “over the entire earth,” it demanded that the conquered peoples accept Spanish rule and Christian preaching or risk subjugation, enslavement, and death.” As the National Humanities Center points out, the Requerimiento was often read in Latin to the Indians “with no interpreters present, or even delivered from shipboard to an empty beach, revealing its prime purpose as self-justification for the Spanish invaders.”
By the mid-1500’s, it became possible to consider native enslavement under the Spanish “an act of mercy” over killing them outright or leaving them free to be slaughtered (and possibly devoured) by more aggressive tribes.
So much better to be whipped and worked to death like a mule than to end up in your neighbor’s soup-pot.
One wonders if Barton would further justify the extermination of native people across the width of North America, from the burning to death of some five-hundred Pequots by Puritans in 1637 to the massacre of 300 Lakotas at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by the U.S. Cavalry in 1890. Surely a fair trade-off for the triumph of Christian morality—the white version, of course!
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME. . .
In The Rediscovery Of North America, by National Book Award winner and essayist Barry Lopez, Barton’s “moral trade-off” is nowhere to be found. “The quest for personal possessions,” Lopez observes, “was to be, from the outset, a series of raids, irresponsible and criminal, a spree, in which an end to it was never visible. . .in which an end to it had no meaning.” As Lopez reminds us, in the year 1492—the same year Jews were expelled from Spain by royal edict—a process began in the Bahamas “[which] we now call an incursion. In the name of distant and abstract powers, the Spanish began an appropriation of the place, a seizure of its people, its elements, whatever could be carried off.”
Lopez goes on to describe what went on for decades as “the acts of criminals”—murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, vandalism, child molestation, acts of cruelty, torture, and humiliation.
It was the systematic rape and destruction of a culture, indeed, of many cultures, of a people living in well-ordered and well-established societies hundreds of years before Columbus “discovered” them, for whom the “New World” was not new at all. Far from stumbling into an empty wilderness, as Zinn points out, the Spanish landed in “a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself.” A hundred-million people were scattered across South and North America, with hundreds of different tribal cultures speaking 2,000 different languages. The Arawak people (also called Tainos) occupied much of the Bahamas, the northern Lesser Antilles—Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, with perhaps three-million living on Hispaniola alone.
In addition to being skilled fishermen, the Arawaks had perfected the art of agriculture, raising vegetables, fruits, peanuts, chocolate, tobacco. They used irrigation, built canals and dams. They developed sophisticated art and ceramics; there were expert jewelry makers, sculptors and weavers.
Columbus described the first people he encountered as extraordinarily peaceful, gentle, happy, almost without guile—”the best in the world.” He was struck by their generosity, how, in exchange for very little, they would turn over “almost everything they had.” He also observed, with particular interest, that none of them carried weapons or even seemed to know much about them. Little surprise that he should foresee a bonanza in the slave trade: “. . .they would make fine servants,” he wrote. “With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
In Peoples’ History, Zinn relates the observations of the Spanish priest, Bartolomé de Las Casas, who lived among the Amerindians and witnessed first-hand the genocide of the indigenous population. He estimated a death-toll for the Indians across the Caribbean at 12- to 15-million due to war, disease, and forced labor in the mines. His figure may be high. . .or low. Maybe it’s only 8-million in the initial conquest.
In Rediscovery, Lopez tells us that Las Casas was an eyewitness to what he called “the obdurate and dreadful temper” of the Spanish, which “attended [their] unlimited and close-fisted avarice,” their vicious search for wealth. One day, as the priest looked on, the Spanish dismembered, beheaded or raped three-thousand people. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight,” he says, “as no age can parallel. . . .”
Lopez continues: the Spanish cut off the legs of children who ran from them, poured people full of boiling soap, made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. Babies were routinely yanked from their mothers’ breasts, slammed into rocks, or hacked up and fed to the dogs. He further describes the burning alive of natives—”in honor and Reverence for our redeemer and the twelve Apostles.”
“Who, in future generations will believe this?” Las Casas wrote. Nobody—if we’re to believe people like Barton, who, oddly enough, omits any mention of Las Casas or the priest’s numerous accounts of his years in the Caribbean, from his Short Account Of The Destruction Of The Indies to his three-volume History Of The Indies. It would be hard to find an accurate narrative of the Spanish conquest that leaves out Las Casas, a significant (and heroic) figure in the history of the Amerindians.
Nevertheless, Barton proffers this spectacular lie: “Without Columbus and his efforts, we would have no records of these cultures at all.” In fact, it’s largely thanks to Las Casas that we do have a thorough first-hand account of what became of these people, a narrative that aligns with Zinn’s and most historians’ while contrasting sharply with Barton’s.
Columbus also came into contact with the Carib people, who, prior to his arrival, had been expanding their territory by driving the more peaceful Arawaks further north, leaving the southern Lesser Antilles to the Caribs, as well as the neighboring shores of South America. In contrast with the Arawaks, Columbus finds the Caribs “aggressive and warlike.” And so they may have been. On the other hand, since they initially succeeded in fending off the aggressive and warlike colonizers, it might be just as accurate to describe the Caribs as “brave.” Certainly, they were more experienced fighters than the Arawaks, whose villages they sometimes attacked, carrying off (allegedly) Arawakan women for their own use. At any rate, they, too, eventually suffered the same fate as their neighbors throughout the Caribbean, and later, South America and Mexico.
Again, Barton makes much of native aggression as well as numerous reports of cannibalism by Columbus and other colonizers, accusations which fall heaviest on the Caribs. Relying exclusively, as Barton does, on the primary sources of Spanish witnesses leaves unasked some pertinent questions. To begin with, we know that Europeans were almost certainly predisposed to expect wild, fanciful tales told by their heroic explorers. Such stories originating from Africa and Asia were widely read and repeated. One such story involved certain native people who got around by hopping on one leg. Some were described as “Cyclopes” – ”one-eyed giants of a surly nature.” Walter Raleigh discusses men whose heads are in their chests and people whose feet pointed backwards, making them “very difficult to track”! Still other weird encounters included the Cynocephali—a race of people with “dogs’ heads and human bodies.”
That feeding on human flesh was almost a commonplace no matter where explorers went should at least raise some questions. Not to say that it did not occur. Accounts differ. It may have been practiced by the Caribs. If so, it was mostly confined to initiation and funerary rights, or to strike fear in their enemies. Or it was a myth—promoted to justify various and sundry atrocities including enslavement. It’s at least worth noting that Columbus described the Caribs as “mythical beings with snouts of dogs, who ate men.”
There’s little archaeological evidence the practice was wide-spread, even less that it occurred among the Arawaks. Certainly nothing on the level asserted by Barton, who defines “the complete and deliberate depopulation of entire islands and communities as “genocide through cannibalism.” An assertion so ludicrous as to have us believe that natives were chowing down on on each other at every opportunity.
Here’s what we do know: that from the beginning, Columbus began taking native people for slaves, even shipping them back to Spain. Others he put to work in the mines. His son, Fernando, witnessed the punishment natives could receive when failing to return from three month’s toil without his or her “hawk’s bell full of gold”: his father—calling himself “Christo Ferens” (Bearer of Christ)—lopped off their hands.
Slavery initially did not sit well with Queen Isabella who had strictly forbidden the practice for any of her subjects, which now included native people. But after some cajoling and arm-twisting, Columbus persuaded her to change her mind. Conditioning it in the interest of “protecting the colonies,” she allowed an exception for those natives—specifically Caribs—captured in war or who—on the word of Columbus—were practitioners of cannibalism.
It’s not long after that that charges of the revolting habit begin spreading throughout the Caribbean. The glowing reports of a gentle, peaceful people described by the explorer in his first encounter undergo a change. And since Caribs were initially more resistant, the Spanish naturally took the easy ones first. After all, any native people, even Arawaks, could be called “Caribs” to satisfy the Queen’s delicate requirement. From there, the practice was replicated through succeeding decades to include groups all over South America. In the Bahamas, Carib cannibalism became something like official dogma in routine government reports. To this day the word caribe persists in Castilian-Spanish as standard figurative for perana or savage. But in the age of conquest, the word cannibal applied to any native no matter what tribe or where found functioned much the same as terrorist does in today’s world when applied to anyone we don’t like and wish to destroy.
Apologists for Columbus will say about anything, I suppose: “The record is clear,” Barton writes, “that the original evangelistic-centered plan for colonization presented by Columbus, commissioned by the Sovereigns, and confirmed by the Pope, planted the seeds of a more progressive moral society.”
His further assertion that, “. . .Columbus was engaged in the widespread liberation of enslaved women,” is laughable. In fact, the sailors and other men under him took many Arawak women and girls (as young as nine years) for sexual slaves. Which, come to think of it, may account for all those seeds drifting in Barton’s day-dreams.
Reading Zinn’s narrative, or any of substance, should make clear the kind of “morals” the evangelical Europeans planted in the new world. Columbus was no more interested in “morals” than any modern-day venture-capitalist. What he and other Conquistadors were after, besides empire, was gold—what Lakota shaman Black Elk called, “the metal that makes white men crazy.” To that end, they adhered to what was expedient: a program of domination—economic and military—that continues to this day.
On his return to Spain, Las Casas continued his appeals to the authorities to stop the destruction in the Americas, including the process of evangelizing through the use of force and slavery. Even as he moved up in the church, and to the end of his days, the priest remained committed in his role as defender of native people. If there’s a hero in this story, it is surely not Columbus, but Las Casas. Contrasting the Spanish Empire, which he described as morally corrupt and violent, he argued that—even “without the light of faith,” the indigenous cultures of the Americas were as civilized as the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations, surpassing not only his own, but even the English and French.
It’s worth noting that whatever ideals of liberty and freedom ended up in our Constitution did not spring from Columbus, but from the philosophers of the Enlightenment, most of whom—ironically—would have referred to those native people who were obliterated as the source of their ideas.
”When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
With streams of effluent spewing daily from FOX News, bizarre conspiracies loosed on the wind, schools under assault, pirated textbooks, and rampaging villagers acting on the irrational inducements of a deranged con man, one could almost believe we are witnessing the triumph of make-believe.
Historians like Zinn would remind us that the fate of our country rests on our willingness to confront the truth about ourselves. But we must first renounce the myths.
Undoubtedly, the propagandist’s success relies on his or her ability to chip away or erode the realms of enlightenment: education, knowledge, faith in reason and science over delusion and make-believe. Such has been the case since Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition for the crime of seeing what he should not have seen through his telescope.
If hatred and prejudice are the fetid fruits of ignorance, the purveyors of fables and lies may justly count themselves the handmaids of bigotry. The tragedy of the white supremacists in D.C. and elsewhere is their failure to perceive who their real enemies are, while also failing to recognize their deeper connection to those hungering and thirsting millions here and around the world with whom they should be making common cause.
But to see that connection would require, at the least, an awakening, first to the putting away of childish things—namely, an adolescent gun fetish—then, renouncing the irrational hatred and bigotry that prevents them from perceiving their own subjugation and victimhood as just another bite off the same rotted fruit experienced by the poor and the working class, regardless of race, the world over—native and LGBTQ included. It is the failure to see clearly those with whom their fate is inextricably bound: to those mothers and fathers treated like animals on our southern border, locked away, separated from their children, carelessly, even routinely, exposed to the plague as if their lives counted for nothing; to the tortured and imprisoned of Guantanamo, and the tortured, condemned, and imprisoned everywhere; to the dead, the dying, the walking wounded, victims and refugees of our “forever wars,” of cruel sanctions and crippling economic policies inflicted not only on our own people, but in other countries and other lands—policies not of some Iran-Russia-China, or any “other” branded as “evil,” but of this one—this America, the “Exceptional”—whose greed and determination to dominate at all costs, has made life impossible for millions, and driven them from their homes. Without that awakening, the frustration and powerlessness felt by the mobs will only deepen and widen, with consequences not only for them, but for us all.
Reflecting on this, it’s hard not to think of Tom Joad’s parting words to his “Ma”—and by extension, perhaps, his “mother” country—in the The Grapes Of Wrath, a book as relevant today as when it came out in 1939:
. . .a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one— an’ then. . .Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. . .I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build— why, I’ll be there.
Yes, it’s nice to think Tom Joad may still be out there, somewhere, wandering in the dark night of our forlorn country, in spirit at least. . .
Meanwhile, the purveyors of lies, the tin-foil con men, will sally forth. A year before his failed presidential run, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, referring to the folksy, smooth-talking Barton, declared:
I don’t know anyone in America who is a more effective communicator. I just wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation. I almost wish there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced—at gunpoint no less—to listen to every David Barton message.
Barton, David. “Before The West Was Won: Pre-Columbian Morality.” Essay on Barton’s website, Wallbuilders
Churchill, Ward. (1994). “History Not Taught Is History Forgot: Columbus’ Legacy of Genocide,” from Indians Are Us? Culture And Genocide In Native North America. Minnesota Institute of Technology Archive. Excellent account excerpted in a legal brief from Ward Churchill’s book. The paper explains: “The defendants in the brief are leaders of the American Indian Movement who are charged with stopping a Columbus Day celebratory parade near the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, Colorado, on October 12, 1991.” Found Here: 9.11- Columbus’ History Of Genocide – MIT
Coogan, Timothy, Assistant Professor, Social Science. (2005). “History From The Bottom Up.” Laguardia College/City University Of New York. https://www.laguardia.edu/maus/bottomup.htm
Corbett, Bob, Dept. of Philosophy, Webster University. Online courses on Haitian history, pre-Columbian to the present. Interesting commentary on Las Casas, and so on. See his “Haitian History Page.”
Frankel, Todd C. (Feb. 10, 2021). A Majority Of The People Arrested For Capitol Riot Had A History Of Financial Trouble. The Boston Globe
Graeber, David, and Wengrow, David, “Hiding In Plain Sight.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Volume XIII, No. 3: p. 175. Lewis H. Lapham, editor, American Agora Foundation: NY.
Lopez, Barry. (1990). The Rediscovery Of North America. Vintage Books, Random House: New York.
Morgan, Edmund S. (Oct., 2009). “Columbus’ Confusion About The New World.” Smithsonian Magazine.
Rothera, Evan C. (2009). “’Since This Is A Horrible Thing To Think About’: European Perceptions Of Native American Cannibalism.” The Gettysburg Historical Journal, Vol. 8, Article 3. See: Gettysburg.
The Spanish and New World Slavery, The Low Country Digital Library, College of Charleston, South Carolina.
West, Cornel. Interview with Chris Hedges. “America’s Existential Crisis.” On Contact, Jan. 10, 2021. See: On Contact
Zinn, Howard. (1980). A Peoples’ History Of The United States. Harper/Collins: New York.
“I thought her unsinkable, and I based my opinion on the best expert advice.” –Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice President
“It’s a funny kind of mind-set. No one knows how it comes about. There’s different theories. Something in the water, maybe. Or in the air. It doesn’t seem to affect everyone the same way. Could it be a virus that can attack almost anyone, anywhere, that can easily slip past your defenses and take over your mind against your will? –A Voice In The Crowd
Do unto others. —Capitalist proverb
SCENE ONE, The Medicine Show
Welcome, one and all, to The Amazing Incredible Floating Circus. Today, we talk about–what else?–Donald Trump. Let’s begin with the Trump rallies.
The spookiest thing about Trump’s rallies is not just the outlandish horror fictions issuing from his mouth about every half minute, but the expressions of childlike wonder and approval on the faces of his adoring worshipers. It seems that no matter what their leader tells them, no matter how absurd, illogical, blatantly racist, no matter how divorced from science, reason or reality,, it all seems to flow magically from his mouth directly into their brains, unfiltered, unimpeded, undiluted, by any critical thought process.
Watching Trump mount the stage can be a shiver-inducing experience. Like turning down a dark alley by mistake, then, noticing–before you can put it in reverse–a clutch of zombies walking stiffly into your headlights.
The Zombie-In-Chief of our country is first and foremost a TV star, and TV stars are accustomed to some kind of musical accompaniment whenever they make an entrance. For Trump, it’s the soaring strains of Lee Greenwood’s wildly popular patriotic anthem, God Bless The U.S.A. Greenwood is a self-professed born-again Christian neocon, whose famous song is not only Trump’s preferred back-up, but also accompanied the inaugurations of Reagan and the two Bush’s. Trump appointed Greenwood to the board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts, along with actor Jon Voight, former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee, resort exec Kelly Roberts, and a host of other Trump supporters. All that remains is for Trump–who has never attended a single Kennedy Center Honors (a presidential tradition) to rename the center after J. Edgar Hoover or perhaps his old bosom buddy and mentor, Roy Cohn.
So. . .music up, and herrrrrre’s Donny! Right on cue. Melania walks out with him, sometimes, but, for some reason, he always seems a little stiff in her presence, as if he’s slightly intimidated by her. He doesn’t know whether to hold her hand or not, like a kid on his first date. He smiles and waves at the crowd, but you can tell he’s holding back. You get the feeling he’s dying to ditch the babe so he can relax, be himself, and yuck it up with the crowd. On the crowd’s side, they see him up there with her, and they think, what’s she doing here? It’s not that they don’t like her, exactly, they’re just not quite sure what to make of her. Unlike Michelle Obama, who waxed on so often that everybody finally got wise that she was running for president, Melania seldom opens her flap. Incidentally, during her husband’s years in the White House, and now even more since their return to so-called civilian life, Michelle actually managed to get her face pasted on more fashion magazine covers than the ex-professional model, Melania. Hard to believe, but in the world of the Floating Circus, all kinds of things can be true, regardless how weird or baffling.
The point is, in contrast to the voluble Michelle, it’s hard to tell what Melania is actually thinking. She smiles, but her face is inscrutable, like a sphinx. Maybe it’s her foreignness. Where’s she from, anyway? Slow-venia? Where is that? Is she a citizen? Didn’t Trump make a big to-do over Obama’s citizenship, demanding to see his birth certificate or a blood sample or something? Come to think of it, Melania was in on that, too. But Obama speaks English real good, as if he’s been here all his life. I mean, he don’t even sound black. If he was really from Africa, he’d be carrying a spear, wouldn’t he? On the other hand, Trump’s wife’s English ain’t so good. So, how can we be sure she’s a citizen? Should we be demanding papers on her? Can someone be First Lady if they’re not born here? Well, she is his wife, after all, and she is a babe, so. . .yeah, she’s all right. We just don’t like sharing him with her. We want him for ourselves.
So, there he is, and there they are–the folksy, drooling warmth of the crowd, some of them at near-rapture as their hero makes his entrance; we see splots of red TRUMP T-shirts and MAGA hats; the cell phones are up, snapping pictures, some fans calling out, “We love you” as he passes (you can’t actually hear them, but you can read their lips); meantime, he constantly smiles and waves, applauding them back; there’s the trademark fist-jab, the trade-mark finger-point at particular ones in the crowd, then waving and winking, as if he’s known them all his life.
At his June 20th rally in Tulsa, one sweet young thing momentarily stood out from the rest with her perfectly timed “hand-flutter”–so precious!–fanning back tears that might smear her carefully applied mascara. Given her proximity to the stage, and the near-certainty that her idol would see it and thereby notice her, the gesture seemed to contain–dare I say?–an almost erotic component. There is, of course, no adequate explanation for this, except that perhaps her delicate senses were so overwhelmed that somewhere along the path from her eyeballs to her brain, the actual physical appearance of this 74-year-old hamburger-fattened oaf was instantly converted, as if by magic, to the star quarterback of the University of Tulsa Fighting Yellow Jackets! Perhaps I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but I ask you: if you took the same blonde darling and plunked her down in a sea of similarly wrought females, would anyone doubt the meaning of that sudden over-spill of emotion and breathless fanning if Justin Bieber suddenly strutted onstage?
SCENE TWO, Hero Worship
Strange, the effects mindless adoration can impose on the senses. Nothing new, of course. Hitler’s rallies included literally thousands of adoring young girls (also mostly blonde), and look at him! Were the Fuhrer around today, such babe-magnetism would almost certainly outshine our president’s, and therefore, I suspect, be a source of gnawing aggravation for the Trumpster. –What’s this little weasel with the funny brush under his snoot got that I don’t got? Hmm. . .maybe it’s the uniform.
Wounded ego notwithstanding, I reckon the chief Nazi would be rather high on the list of dictators Trump has embraced. After all, he retweeted a quote attributed to Mussolini. He seems to have a thing for power-mad lunatics. Nowadays, it’s the likes of Duterte of the Phillipines, el Sissi of Egypt, Turkey’s Erdogan, Brazil’s Bolsonaro, and, of course, the murderous bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince. As we’ve seen, Trump usually invites them to the White House, but if they can’t make it, that’s okay, he’ll go to them. He couldn’t get Duterte to come out, so he and Melania jumped a plane and flew to Duterte. It’s that personal touch he craves, the Trump touch. Down and dirty. Bull sessions, a little hand-holding, and a bro-hug for the cameras.
Bin Salman dropped by the White House in the course of his whirlwind tour of the U.S. While there, he and Trump closed a deal for $8 billion worth of arms, the better to assist the Prince in his casual slaughters in Yemen. Death toll–currently around 230,000, with 20 million verging on famine, and thousands dying from Cholera. Business as usual!
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi-American dissident and journalist, kind of put a damper on the flood of celebrations honoring the Crown Prince, from New York to Seattle to Hollywood, the deals, the toasts, the general merry-making by Wall St. execs, by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk; by the cream of Hollywood–Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Rupert Murdock and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Khashoggi’s murder–strangulation and dismemberment with a bone-saw while inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul–was carried out by agents acting under the direction of–who else?–“Prince Charming.” Hm. In the wake of that charming little episode, Oprah–the exemplar of cheerful, high-minded morality–didn’t seem to have much to say. Nor did Bill Gates. Or Morgan Freeman. It was like they all walked outside in the cold light of day only to find that some kill-joy had gone and let the air out of their tires. They took their toys, their balloons, and their little paper hats, and shuffled home.
Since all the revelers were busy whooping it up over the prince, even as his mostly American-made bombs were leveling neighborhoods in Yemen, including schools, mosques and hospitals, it seems odd that anyone should now be startled or vaguely affronted by this one measly murder. Maybe it was the bone-saw that got to them. I mean, children with their arms or their legs blown off by bombs from the air, their homes blasted, their parents and loved ones obliterated–that’s one thing. But a bone-saw! That’s just too personal!
So, now what? The Prince, wanting to bring enlightenment to his country–allowing women to drive, for instance–had also proclaimed that maybe it would be okay to let his subjects go to the movies. To which end, he had made a deal with AMC Entertainment to build 30 movie theaters in his country, topping out at an even 100 by 2030. Then comes this savage butchery, sparking international outcry, causing AMC’s Chief Exec, Adam Aron, to go into deep reflection mode. “It certainly made me think in great depth,” Aron said. . .before going ahead with the deal.
SCENE THREE, The Mel And Donny Show
Trump also got Prime Minister Modi to drop by. The city of Houston staged a mass rally in honor of the Indian despot. Billed as the “Howdy Modi!” event, in keeping with the flavor of Texas, with its iconic images of cows and cowboys, blue bonnets and bullshit, it featured some 400 performers, with Modi and Trump as the opening act. Holding hands, the two of them marched around in the colossal NRG Stadium, looking like a pair of old lovers. The crowd of 50,000 went ape-shit, whooping and cheering. Hell, everybody loves dictators.
As luck would have it, I have a particular connection in the White House, my own “Deep Throat,” whose name I’m not at liberty to divulge, lest that person should land in a heaping, steaming barrel of shit, who just happened to be passing Melania’s bedroom (separate from her husband’s). It was a week after the “Howdy Modi!” in Houston. In the wake of that bizarre spectacle, Modi flew to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly, singling out–what else?–terrorism, as the greatest threat to the world “and all of humanity.” Wherever he goes, it seems everyone just opens their hearts to the cuddly little white-bearded Indian, with his progressive plans to bring affordable healthcare to his people and combat global warming. Meanwhile, back home, his neighbor, Pakistan, responds to Modi’s threats of nuclear holocaust with threats of its own. And in his home country, Muslims were finding themselves under violent attack by mobs inspired by the hateful rhetoric of leaders in Modi’s Hindu nationalist regime. No sooner would he return home from the U.N. than he would begin hammering out a series of draconian laws, aimed at revoking the citizenship of millions of Indian Muslims, including many families who have lived in the country for generations. More mob violence would follow with increasing brutality, often with police participating: the burning of homes, mosques, Muslim businesses, torture, murder, the building of camps, the rounding up of thousands. We’ve seen it all before.
But first, a stop at the White House for one night before his return to India–an unscheduled visit which, for some reason, was not announced to the press.
Time: approximately 1:30 in the morning. Thus, the following was overheard through the door (be aware–Melania’s English is choppy at times. And Trump occasionally mumbles in her presence. My source chose to extrapolate when lines were garbled or if the meaning wasn’t clear.):
MEL: It was just so. . .I don’t know. . .just. . .
DONNY: Just what?
MEL: I don’t know. Weird or something.
DONNY: What are you talkin’ about, honey?
MEL: Is that door locked?
DONNY: You don’t have to lock it, Mel. The Secret Service is right outside.
MEL: I don’t trust them, either. I don’t like the way they look at me.
DONNY: Are you kidding? Every man alive looks at you, unless he’s blind.
MEL: What about that creepy little man, is he still here?
DONNY: What creepy little man?
MEL: The one from India–Moki.
DONNY: His plane leaves tomorrow afternoon. And it’s Modi, honey, get it right.
MEL: Whatever. I just think it’s weird, that’s all.
DONNY: What’s weird?
MEL: You and him–parading in front of all those screaming–what are they–cowboys? Holding hands! My God! What’s with that, anyway?
DONNY: What’s with what?
MEL: These dictators? That’s what he is, isn’t he?
DONNY: I don’t know, what difference does it make?
MEL: It’s like you’re in love or something.
DONNY: It’s called diplomacy, baby. You ever heard of diplomacy?
MEL: Yeah, but holding hands?
DONNY: Whatever it takes, you know?
MEL: I mean, is it because you think they have big dicks, or what?
DONNY: Aw, Christ Jesus, Mel–
MEL: No, really, is that what it is, Donny?
DONNY: I don’t. . .NO! That’s not–God-damn, Mel! Jesus!
MEL: Here, unzip me.
MEL: And don’t get any ideas. You’re going to your room and I’m going straight to bed.
DONNY: Aw, come on, baby–
MEL: No! I’ve got a big day tomorrow. God, my feet are killing me. If we ever get out of here, I’ll never put on heels again.
DONNY: Aw, don’t say that, baby, I love the way you look in heels.
MEL: Whatever you’re thinking, you can forget it.
DONNY: I think the entire Secret Service knows we don’t do anything. They talk about us behind our backs. How do you like that?
MEL: I don’t care what they talk about.
DONNY: I can’t remember the last time we did it.
MEL: I can’t either. I’m trying to forget.
DONNY: Oh, you’re cruel, you are.
MEL (Big sigh): You’ve got your old Hustlers, honey, you can make love to them tonight.
DONNY: What–jack off? Again? Come on, Mel, I’m sick of jacking off. All I do is jack off. Christ, look at that.
MEL: Hm? What? What is it?
DONNY: My hand! Look at it!
MEL: Oooh. What is that?
DONNY: Warts! I’m gettin’ warts on my hand. Just this one! Look–the other one’s fine. See? Clean as a whistle!
MEL: Honey, you should see the doctor for that.
DONNY: See the doctor? Are you kidding me? And tell the whole goddamn world I’ve got warts on my hand–my right hand?
MEL (Laughing): Oh, yeah. I forgot.
DONNY: Yeah, you forgot. Shit. Man can’t even see a doctor without having to broadcast it to the world.
MEL: Maybe your new boyfriend will help you out. I’m sure he won’t mind you waking him up. His plane doesn’t leave right away. You can sleep in.
DONNY: Jeez, always breakin’ my balls. I’m workin’ a deal with him, all right, Mel?
MEL: Oh, sure, right.
DONNY: No, really. I’m trying to sell him some helicopters.
DONNY: Sikorsky Sea Hawks. Real high tech. Worth billions to us.
MEL: Yeah, okay.
DONNY: No, really. You should see these things, honey. They got sensors on ’em you wouldn’t believe. Super sonar. They can find submarines.
MEL: What do they do when they find them?
DONNY (Slight laugh): What do they do. I’ll tell you what they do. They destroy them, that’s what they do!
DONNY: How? With torpedoes!
MEL: They carry torpedoes?
DONNY: Hell, yeah. Torpedoes, Hell-fire missiles. . .Fuckers are loaded, baby. They can do anything. They can land on a dime. I think the Indian’s hot for ’em. That’s why I need you to step up, here, okay?
MEL: Step up? What do you mean, step up?
DONNY: You know. Just. . .be nice, that’s all.
MEL: Be nice? I am nice.
DONNY: Yeah, I know–
MEL: I’m always nice.
DONNY: Of course you are, honey, I’m just sayin’–
MEL: I’m too nice.
DONNY: Just–warm him up a little, okay? That’s all I’m asking. Wear something provocative. Somethin’ low cut. He loves all that shit. And boots, too. He loves those high tops you wear.
MEL: How do you know that?
DONNY: He told me. He likes leather, too. You should hear him talk, Mel. I tell you, that little Indian’s a horny little prick. Perverted, you know? Makes me look like a Sunday school teacher.
MEL: He’s rounding people up, Don, thousands of people.
DONNY: Ah, shit, honey, those are Muslims.
MEL: He’s got a giant police force working for him, night and day.
DONNY: Hey, he’s just protecting his borders, that’s all. What’s wrong with that? I mean he’s got a lot of problems, poor little guy.
MEL: Why don’t you show him your wall?
DONNY: Show him my–? Hey, goddamn, Mel, you know, that’s not a bad idea? Maybe we can teach him something. Yeah. Sell him on the idea. He’s got border problems, too, right? Might make him a deal on cement.
MEL: He doesn’t need a wall, Donny. He just kills them. Or. . .or puts them somewhere.
DONNY: Kills who?
MEL: Muslims, I guess. I. . .I don’t suppose it’s really very many. But at some point, seems like–I don’t know–like it gets out of hand. Like–mass murder or something? Right? What do they call that? Fancy word for it? Liberals use it a lot. Genocide?
DONNY: I wish I had a giant police force. . .
MEL: He’s putting them in concentration camps. Deporting them, torturing them. . .
DONNY: Aw, that’s a load of crap.
MEL: How do you know?
DONNY: ‘Cause I asked him.
MEL: Like hell you did.
DONNY: I did, I swear!
MEL: And you believed him?
DONNY: Sure, why not?
MEL: Don’t lie to me, Donny–I know when you’re lying.
DONNY: Okay, so, what? It’s all fake news, anyway. I’m gonna do something about that, believe me. I’m all over that.
MEL: Yeah? What are you gonna do Donny? Wipe out the press? Oh, I know! Let’s play president and throw away the Constitution!
DONNY: Fuck the Constitution. Who reads that? The UCLA? And who listens to them? Bunch of socialists wasting everybody’s time. That Modi’s got the right idea. I mean, what else is he gonna do? Huh? What would you do? He’s got serious problems, you know? People starving, shit in the streets, undocumenteds running around, like fleas on a mangy dog. Same as I got here. Job thieves, that’s what they are. You gotta save the jobs for your own people. Anybody knows that. It’s common sense.
MEL: No wonder you love him. He got rid of the press. Locked them in jail. Closed the internet, too, I think.
DONNY: The internet?
MEL: I think so. That’s what I heard.
DONNY: Nah, you can’t close the internet. Can you? I mean–well, hey, let’s check it out. Is your laptop on?
MEL: No! Not here! Jesus, honey!
DONNY: Well, where, then?
MEL: In India! Where do you think?
DONNY: Oh! . . . . .Yeah, I see. . . . . .Are you sure?
MEL: That’s what I heard.
DONNY: Well, goddamn, that little bastard. I wonder how he did it. How do you close the internet?
MEL: You can’t do that, Donny.
DONNY: Why not?
MEL: ‘Cause everybody uses it, that’s why. A lot of people rely on it.
DONNY: I don’t know. There’s some very bad stuff on there, Mel. Lot of fakery. Stirring people up. I mean, sure, there’s some good things on there, Alex Jones and a few others. But you gotta control it. There’s not enough control. A lot of Liberal bullshit, there. Very nasty. You’re getting a lot of ideas yourself, honey.
MEL: What are you talking about?
DONNY: Pretty bizarro stuff. Startin’ to sound like Nancy Pelosi.
MEL: DON’T CALL ME THAT! !
MEL: DON’T CALL ME NANCY PELOSI!
DONNY: Okay, okay! Jesus, honey! People can hear you all the way out on Pennsylvania Avenue!
MEL: I’ve told you not to call me that!
DONNY: Okay, already! Jesus! Don’t get all riled up. People are trying to sleep around here.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
MEL: Are we through here, ’cause I want to be alone, now.
DONNY: Yeah, I guess.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
DONNY: Come on, honey, let’s fool around a little.
MEL: No, Donny.
DONNY: Aw, come on.
MEL: No! Get out. Go back to your room. Go play with Modi.
DONNY: God-damnit, I wish you’d stop that. You know, you’re starting to sound just a little jealous, there, Mel.
MEL: Jealous? Oh, Donny, believe me, we’re way past that. We passed that long ago, after you and that–whatever she was–Stormy? Daniels? Really? Porn stars? My God!
DONNY: All right–
MEL: Can’t you do any better?
DONNY: Aw, come on, honey–
MEL: I did my duty, the way God told me–how to be a good wife. The way my mother taught me back home. I stood beside you and smiled for the press–those piranhas–the way Hillary stood by her pig husband and all the other pigs’ wives stand for them, and–and–you know, Barron was watching all that shit on Youtube? You know that, don’t you, Donny?
MEL: Your son, remember him? The fourteen-year-old who lives here? In the White House?
DONNY: I know, I know, God damn, Melly!
MEL: And don’t call me Melly.
DONNY: Why not? You used to like it.
MEL: Well, I don’t like it, now.
DONNY: All right. Jesus! . . . . . . . .What are you doin’, now? Takin’ off your makeup? You used to wear it to bed, remember that, baby?
MEL: You know how old Barron was when all that horrible shit came out? Just-twelve-years old, Don. You remember that?
DONNY: I told you, Mel, that was a bunch of goddamn liberals behind that. I told you!
MEL: Oh, yeah, that’s right–
DONNY: Yeah, goddamnit!
MEL: Is that why you paid off Stormy–to keep her quiet?
DONNY: Come on, Mel, I’m running a campaign. I don’t need some cheap gold-digger running around with her hot-shot New York Jew lawyer–big liberal Jew–stinkin’ up the room with a lot of wild accusations. It’s all part of that–that– “Me Too” jazz. Big money-grab! I mean, look at what they’re doing, honey. They’re going after everybody. It’s a witch hunt. McCarthyism! Harvey Weinstein–great movie producer! Bill Cosby? Come on! A lot of beautiful people, there. It’s a disgrace what they’re doing. And that bitch broke the contract. Broke the NDA! I’m gonna sue her ass. I’ll put Stormy on the street. She won’t be able to buy a Tootsie Roll.
MEL: Yeah, real tough guy. And there was little Barron, my little boy, twelve-years-old, wanted to know what Daddy was doing with a porn star while he was running for President. How do you tell a twelve-year-old his Daddy–running for President–fucks porn stars? Huh? How do you tell him that?
DONNY: Jesus, Mel, keep your voice down!
MEL: Then, all those other whores coming out of the woodwork. Like the floodgates opening or something.
DONNY: I don’t know why you can’t believe me when I tell you something. Just for once, huh? Is that asking too much? One lousy time? Why? Why can’t you do that, Mel?
MEL: ‘Cause you’re a liar, Donny. Nobody believes anything you say.
DONNY: I’m telling you right now, it was a Liberal Goddamn Conspiracy, all right? THE WHOLE GODDAMN THING!
MEL: Okay, get out. I want my bedroom, now.
DONNY: I’ll tell you who they are. You wanna know who they are?
MEL: No, I don’t give a flying shit.
DONNY: Pelosi, for starters. No good whore. Her boyfriend, Chuck Schumer, who jumps up her ass every other day. And–what’s that little Mexican whore’s name? Real nasty piece of work. Ocasio. . . ? And her little buddy, her little side-kick. Ill-Hand! Little smart-mouthed Muslim. Who the hell let this trash in our country, that’s what I want to know. I swear I’m gonna have ’em deported. Shipped out. Whatever it takes.
MEL: Aren’t they members of Congress?
DONNY: I don’t care what they are. I just want to see the look on their faces when ICE puts them on the boat. I’m gonna be there when it happens. Wave bye-bye to them. “Bye-Bye, Girls! Bye-Bye! Have a nice trip! I hope the boat sinks.” I’m tellin’ you, Mel, that whole liberal bunch, they’re still trying to get me for Hillary. Now, you know I’m right about that. Crooked Hillary. Fuckin bitch.
MEL: Quit it, Donny. Don’t talk like that.
DONNY: I whipped her liberal intellectual ass, and they can’t stand it. I HATE LIBERALS! I HATE EVERY GODDAMN ONE OF EM!
DONNY: I’LL SEE EM ALL IN HELL!
MEL: Donny, Donny, stop! STOP IT!
DONNY: What? –What is it–? What?
MEL: Calm down, Donny! My God! Your face is. . .it’s. . red as a–what do they call that–fire truck? You’re gonna have a stroke!
DONNY: No, no, no, I’m fine, I’m fine. . .
MEL: No, you’re not. Look at you. You’re shaking, and you’re–you’re–
DONNY: Oh, shit!
MEL: What is it?
DONNY: I don’t know. I can’t focus. Jesus, I’m. . .I’m seeing two of everything!
MEL: Oh, my God, honey, your eyes are crossed.
DONNY: What? Are you shittin’ me? What’s so funny?
MEL: Go on–look in the mirror–see for yourself.
DONNY: Why are you laughing?
MEL: I don’t know, I can’t help it.
DONNY: I don’t see what’s so fuckin’–Jesus Christ! Look at that. Goddamn, I look like a clown or something.
MEL: You must have blown something when you flipped out.
DONNY: Bullshit. I didn’t flip out.
MEL: I’m calling the doctor.
DONNY: No, no, don’t do that!
MEL: Are you sure? This is serious, Donny.
DONNY: Yeah, yeah. No, I’m. . I’m. . .I’ll be all right.
DONNY: Yeah. I’m. . .I’ll just. . .
MEL: You’ve got a press conference in the morning, don’t you? You can’t face the reporters like that. They’ll laugh you out of the room. And what about Modi? Better not let him see you like that.
DONNY: Oh, shit, no. I won’t be able to sell him a pocketknife. Just. . .give me a minute, all right? Lemme relax a minute, here.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
DONNY: Where’d you get that nighty? Did I give you that?
MEL: Hell, no.
DONNY: You’ve lost some weight, haven’t you, Mel? You’re lookin’ pretty hot, lately.
MEL: Go to bed, Donny.
DONNY: Hey, I know! We’ll go see those helicopters!
DONNY: The Sikorskys! Submarine killers!
MEL: I’m not going to see any helicopter.
DONNY: No, no, just me and the boy! Goddamn, the kid’ll flip out! Yeah! We’ll get in one, take her up for a ride. Make a day of it! Take a sack lunch!
MEL: Can you do that? I don’t think you can do that.
DONNY: Are you kiddin? I’m the Commander-In-Chief. I can do whatever I want. I can nuke China if I want to. I’ll order the pilot to take us somewhere. Go on a maneuver, you know? An Exercise! War games! Just like the big boys! Give the kid a taste of real life. Get him off that goddamn YouTube. I guarantee he’ll forget all about Stormy Daniels. We’ll track something down. Fire off one of those Hellfire Missiles. You can come, too, baby!
MEL: No! No way!
DONNY: Aw, why not? Nice family outing? The three of us? Seriously, Mel, when was the last time we went on a date?
MEL: Are you out of your mind?
DONNY: Come on, Mel. Wouldn’t you like to go up in one of those Sikorskys? How many wives get to do that?
MEL: I’m going to bed, now, Donny. I want to be left alone, so I can read my book. Then, I’m turning out the light.
DONNY: All right, all right. . . . . .Hey, look! My eyes are uncrossed!
DONNY: What’s that you’re reading? Let’s see. The Great Gasby? What’s that?
DONNY: Huh? Jesus, Mel, I hate it when you try to intellectualize. If I wanted somebody with brains, I would’a married Einstein.
MELANIA: Einstein’s dead, honey. Go to bed.
SCENE FIVE, The Apprentice
One can only imagine how a meeting with the Fuhrer might go. It does seem unlikely they could pull off a similar “Howdy Hitler!” event, but you never know what Americans will go for these days. I’m thinking something a little more low-key. Weather permitting, perhaps a quiet little intimate lunch in the Rose Garden, awash in the soothing fragrance of hyacinth and Pink Surprise. Fortunately, the White House chef has been briefed on the Austrian’s vegetarian preference (word is, he’s a little squeamish at the thought of animals being tortured), so his will be Eggs Benedict, minus the Canadian Bacon, served with some very dainty little round new potatoes, lightly roasted. Of course, the secret to the eggs is the Hollandaise, and word is the Chef’s recipe is to die for. (Sorry–no pun intended.) Trump will have his usual: two Big Macs and a generous pile of fries, liberally splattered with ketchup. While waiting to be served, and, unable to think of anything better to talk about, I imagine the two of them compare hair grooming secrets.
Luncheon is served. The two men mostly eat in silence, looking up now and then to grin at each other–a little awkwardly. Trump tries not to stare at the uniform. But, well–go ahead–try not to look at a Nazi uniform! And particularly his uniform! With him in it! So in your face! Donny can’t help it. A stab of envy shoots through his gut. How often as a child, he looked at those pictures–pored over them for hours up in his room: Hitler, addressing a crowd of thousands from a podium so high up, it’s almost in the clouds; there’s Hitler standing in his open car, as it slowly rolls past thousands lining the streets. Look at him smile, as he gives them the old stiff-arm. And just look at them–all so happy and gay! Waving their flags, saluting him back, throwing him kisses, some leaning out their windows, calling out “I love you’s” as the car rolls by. . .
Trump makes a mental note: –We need more parades in this country. We don’t have enough parades! And there it is, Donny’s favorite: the Fuhrer in a relaxed moment with his officers, His Boys!–Goebbels, Goring, Himmler, Borman, Hess–cutting up, laughing so amiably, having the time of their lives, resplendent in their uniforms with their decorations and blood red armbands! How wonderful it must be to belong, to be part of something grand!
Meanwhile, members of the press, seated nearby, can’t help noticing Hitler wincing, as Trump bites into the greasy, dripping red meat of his sandwich, dribbling a pink puddle onto his plate. One press corps member will later write that, “the Fuhrer’s furry little caterpillar kept twitching and jumping around on his upper lip, till it looked for a minute like it was about to jump up his nose.” Trump just flashes a toothy grin, smacking his lips, licking meat juice from his fingers, ala Stanley Kowalski.
They finish. Hitler, with a bowl of stewed fruit and tea served in his favorite Nymphenburg porcelain cup, which he brought along for the occasion, while Trump slurps Diet Coke straight from the can. Rumor has it that before Duterte rejected the President’s invitation to the White House, Trump was hoping his visit might coincide with Hitler’s, in which case, it would now be a threesome sitting down for lunch. Turns out, maybe it’s a good thing he didn’t show. The Philippine president, sometimes referred to as “Duterte Harry,” enjoys talking about butchering criminals and drug addicts, which might not ruffle the Austrian too much, but the wild little smiling Asian also brags of eating his enemies. Yes, you heard correctly. Addressing a group of Filipinos in Laos one time, he threatened to “eat” members of an Islamist militant group that was running loose in his country. “If I have to face them, you know, I can eat humans,” he told an audience that included children. “I will really open up your body. Just give me vinegar and salt, and I will eat you.”
It’s hard to be certain, but somehow, I don’t think dining on the objects of his hatred is something that would have occurred to the Fuhrer as an option, nor to any of his officers, who, as far as I know, apart from collecting their shoes and the gold from their teeth, were sufficiently content to simply gas them and incinerate them. At any rate, a careless remark of that nature brandished over lunch might prove too much for the Fuhrer’s tender stomach, and send him flying from the table. The sight of his idol bringing his eggs up in the Queen Elizabeth Grandiflora Roses might have been too distasteful even for Trump.
It seems to me, once the ice was broken, perhaps the less experienced Donald would seek his more seasoned guest’s advice on how he might get the attendance numbers up at his rallies. While our President has a hard time pulling more than a paltry few thousand in an afternoon, then later handing out some cockamamie blown up fairy-tale numbers to the press, who were there, after all, and could see for themselves, or at least glance at the pictures, Hitler’s rallies went on for days, drawing crowds in the hundreds of thousands. Not only that, but they were loads of fun–real cracker-jack affairs! There were parades and sing-alongs, Wagnerian overtures, human swastika formations, thundering orations by the Fuhrer and other Nazi big shots.
Everybody turned out. Hell, they called off work for it–not like here, where every poor overworked sap’s gotta punch a clock, even on voting days. Ha! “Super Tuesday,” my ass. Long lines at the polling place. . .that’s one thing those Germans didn’t have to put up with. And by the way, I’m pretty sure Mein Fuhrer was never heckled or interrupted by any unwashed, uncouth, protesters wielding “Jewish Lives Matter” signs.
The Hitler Youth–think Boy Scouts!–set up tent towns on the rally grounds, where the more hardy could camp out every night if they wanted to. To hell with work! Watching shirtless blonde boys put on boxing and wrestling displays that sometimes veered into bloody brawls, was way more fun. Those golden-haired Aryan whippersnappers really played it up for the merriment of the Schutzstaffel officers standing around, with lots of fanny-slapping, laughing off broken noses and fractured skulls. Imagine!–eight days of solid family entertainment! Goose-stepping marches, splashy red banners flying from every window, bonfires and spectacular fireworks displays that lit up the night. Compared to that, your average Trump rally hardly qualifies as a rally. More like a yawning afternoon at a Pee Wee League game in Plainville, Kansas.
Still, I think the Fuhrer would have to concede a grudging admiration for Donny’s 4th of July rally at Mount Rushmore. In terms of scale, it’s everything the chief Nazi could desire. An event over-seen by 60-foot tall heads of white guys carved in granite on the face of a mountain. And not just any old mountain. No, this one has special significance. It’s attached to the sacred Black Hills–Paha Sapa, in Lakota. By treaty, it still technically belongs to the first people who lived here. The Fuhrer would be beside himself. He was quite aware of the American extermination of native peoples, citing it as inspiration for his own comparatively modest project of ethnic cleansing of the Jews. Yes, in fact, a close look at the two records reveals a slight imbalance. Compared with the Nazis, with their tally of 6 million Jews and some ten to twelve million others, mostly Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, it appears the project in the Americas was grander, more ambitious, and far more successful. All told, beginning around 1492 with the genocide inflicted by Columbus in Hispaniola, all the way down to 1890–the final massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota–just over a hundred miles from Mount Rushmore–we arrive at a rough approximation somewhere north of 100-million dead. Giving the Fuhrer the benefit of the doubt, we might conclude that he simply ran out of time.
Oh, look–it’s the Blue Angels soaring over the monument–perfectly timed to coincide with the pink-golden sky of sundown, eliciting a mass exhale of awe from the crowd. And now, for the fireworks! It appears our Donny boy is finally getting the hang of it. And not a minute too soon, with the election just around the corner. Rest assured, there will be more rallies in the next four years. . .
That’s right, friends, the fix is in.
SCENE SIX, The Ravening Beasts
There’s a play by Ionesco about a man who notices one day that people around him are turning into rhinoceroses. No longer capable of intelligent thought or speech, they magically transform from human beings into brutish beasts charging about the streets smashing everything in their path. One of them smushes an old lady’s cat.
The man–Berenger–and his friends are shocked. This is terrible! We can’t allow this! Something must be done!
But then, something curious happens. While Berenger becomes more disconcerted, his friends and coworkers gradually appear to grow more accustomed to the menace now spreading over their village like a virus. Outside his window, we hear the grotesque trumpeting, the smashing, violent destruction of raving beasts, that gradually becomes the “new normal,” and steadily grows in intensity. Indeed, what at first seemed offensive, ugly, violent, now appears almost attractive, beautiful. Perhaps even–necessary. Then, one by one, they, too, succumb to the compulsion, an almost overwhelming urgency, and, at last, even Berenger’s girlfriend, falling into a mindless trance, drifts away and joins the herd, leaving him alone at the end.
Of course, Ionesco was writing about the rise of Fascism and the Nazis before World War II. And what he saw first-hand, what he found most alarming, was the change that occurred in the people around him, his neighbors, even some of his friends. How easily they were caught up in the ideology of a charismatic, fanatical leader, losing themselves in his irrational appeals to hatred and bigotry. What did they lose? Not only their ability to reason and think for themselves, but their capacity to transform hatred into compassion, without which, they soon lost their humanity and became mindless beasts.
Where were we? Ah, yes. Our friend, left alone after his cohorts have gone and joined the herd, whose pounding and crashing even now grow louder and more intense. Yet even as the curtain descends, Berenger refuses to give in to the madness. Determined to remain human to the last, he cries out:
“I WILL NOT CAPITULATE!”