The other one

This will not surprise you. It may not even unsettle you. It’s what we have come to expect from the current season’s crop of GOP contenders. Still, it deserves attention.

It’s a clip from a campaign speech. You’ll have no difficulty identifying the speaker.

His words are clear, his meaning straightforward, his sincerity indisputable. Do watch to the end of the clip — it’s only half a minute long — to appreciate the speaker’s own reaction, apparently to the crowd as well as to his own recently-articulated position on international affairs.

It is worth noting, I believe, that this speech was delivered during a rally at a Christian Academy.

Why him, why them, why now?

You might be wondering just which people support Donald Trump. And why. Polling figures illustrate the first part of an answer.

The first two — perhaps the strongest — factors in describing Trump supporters:

  • They didn’t go to college.
  • They don’t think they have a political voice.

The next two, and somewhat touchier factors:

  • They want to wage an interior war against outsiders.
  • They live in parts of the country with racial resentment.

Why those folks? You can check out technical and political and economic and sociological and so on details at The Atlantic.

These are not definitive or conclusive. Yet. But in my mind, there’s what I’ll call a narrative thread running through them. I’ll get around to trying to describe it some other time, but right now look at what seems to me a damn near perfect summary of the problems in a story from this afternoon’s news. A story from the coal mining region of West Virginia — about as close as you can come to a good example of Trump territory.

Former Coal Executive Don Blankenship Sentenced To 1 year In Prison

Four months after former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was found guilty for his role in a 2010 mining disaster that killed 29 miners, he has been sentenced to the maximum one year in prison and another year of supervised release.

Just to show how sorry he was, Blankenship, addressing the reactions of victims’ family members, said, “I feel badly for them. It’s a lot of emotion and that’s understandable.”

Is that a man who understands how the families of 29 dead men feel about his connivance in their death? Maybe when he gets out — in one year — he can spend the next year of “supervised release” in a university someplace, learning to be a social worker.

Now then, is it at all surprising that people in that place, in that situation, might go for the kind of claims and accusations and boasts we hear from Trump?


The Path Not Taken

A writing drill suggested one time in a writer’s group meeting — a starting point for working on memoir — was this: “I meant to be. . .”

Try it if you like, though if you’re younger than, say, fifty, it might not hit with the same force some of us old folks feel. I meant to be — damn, all the painful reverie lines you can follow with that.

But it’s not about you or me I’m writing. It’s about that guy in the news all the time. You know the one. Where would that line — “I meant to be” — have taken him?

Here’s what I think. It would take him to, say, the School of Drama at Yale. A substantial career would lie ahead of him. Imagine, earning his MFA and tackling the Broadway audition circuit. Would he not have been, and very quickly, a dominant presence?

You think I jest, but no. Stop for a moment. Think about drama and actors and the stage and all that stuff. Consider Shakespeare. Henry IV, for instance. Would the man not have made a stupendous Falstaff?

But it is not in the classical theatre that he would have found his niche. I thought for a moment about The Music Man and Professor Harold Hill. Then I thought no, not quite. He would, however, have been magnificent as Max Bialystock in The Producers. Not as good as Zero Mostel, but then who could be? Better than Nathan Lane, though? Yes, I think so. A better Max Bialystock than Nathan Lane.

Ah well. The theater’s loss is the GOP’s loss as well. And richly deserved.

The Real One

Yeah, there’s an elephant in the room. It isn’t Trump or Cruz, it isn’t the Mexican Wall, it isn’t any of the various immigrant disposal plans. We acknowledge and even talk about those figures. They no longer fit the elephant definition.

The real one is standing behind those figures. It’s the one we’ll have to face as soon as we endorse one of those figures.

It’s nothing new, really. Although fiercely denied by the occasional recidivist, it’s an undeniable fact of history.

Germany probably come first to mind.

But there’s also Turkey.

And Bosnia.

And Rwanda.

The list goes on and on.

It even includes us.

Once a group, a population, a family is singled out for abuse, is identified as less worthy, less deserving, less human, in our instance less American, once that identification — however spurious — once it settles into the civic mind, the next step is governmental acknowledgement. And logically, the final step has to be elimination.

And if you think that among us there are few if any who would endorse and even take part in such elimination programs — willingly or otherwise — I suggest you do not know your fellow citizens as well as you think you do.


Trump and his posse — so much more civilized a word than “mob” — are on a route they believe must  lead to the future, the future where America is great again, where disruptive and un-American groups like immigrants and losers are denied entrance or if inconveniently already in place are denied public voice and then are branded and finally simply expunged. I like that word “expunged.” It gets rid of undesirables quietly and bloodlessly, a simple lexical gimmick. Sterile and trouble-free. And no man of the people — or his people — will dispute the need for such procedure.

But I digress. Or do I? Get rid of undesirables. It seems at first a defensible goal. I mean, if they are undesirable, we don’t want them. That’s what the word means. Yes. So we close our borders and then our laws and then our eyes and then our hearts. It becomes heartless, mindless, this America of the future, the one shown to us by those who would make us great again.

And I come back to the start, a book review about the delusions we must buy into if we want to preserve AMERICANNESS. It’s covered in Imbeciles where I find “Our research on eugenics was so sophisticated that we became the envy of the Germans; our Immigration Act of 1924 earned praise from no less than Hitler in Mein Kampf.”

And music playing in the background now. It’s Borodin’s Symphony #2. Russian. I like Russian composers. Borodin. Shostakovich. Rachmaninoff. They make me feel as if maybe I’m really more Russian than Irish. After all, the Irish haven’t produced any big-name composers, have we? But then on a per capita basis we’ve turned out a lot of writers, some of them pretty good. But why did I think then of the Irish? Oh yeah, I know. It’s because of the line that used to appear in help wanted ads, No Irish Need Apply. Was it their Irishness, or the likelihood they were Catholic? I wonder how my great-great-grandfathers ever got a job.

Kunduz and Columbia

I won’t need to provide links, you’re already familiar with outlines of the stories. I do have a few comments to make about similarities in what happened, and about one striking difference in official response.

The two are US attack on a MSF hospital in Afghanistan, and a Deputy Sheriff in South Carolina throwing a student to the floor.

The similarity I find is that, in each instance, excessive force was called into a situation which — so far as we outsiders can determine — could have been resolved far less dramatically.

At the hospital (and here I am limited to such information as has been made public) a Green Beret unit called in firepower to attack a building where they believed a Taliban figure was hiding. The GB unit understood that the building was, or included, a hospital occupied by patients and medical staff. Nevertheless, in what seems a flagrant violation of Rules of Engagement, or Just Warfare, an AC 130 gunship was called in. It circled and attacked the building for nearly an hour. The toll you probably already know.

Details of the South Caroline story also are — and understandably — open to debate and interpretation. Still, it is clear from a video of the ridiculous — I use that word quite deliberately here — confrontation that a young girl, whose only offense may have been teen-age defiance, was thrown to the floor and led away in handcuffs, as was another girl who had the temerity to complain of the first girl’s treatment. The crucial factor, so far as this argument goes, is that the girl refused to hand over her cell phone. She refused the teacher, who then summoned a principal. The girl refused to hand over to the principal, who then summoned a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the school. And the DS tossed her to the floor when she refused him.

The critical item — call it the resolution point — in each scenario was an “official” determination to call in brute force. At the hospital, it was the Green Beret team. At the school, it was the principal.

In Afghanistan, other shoes have yet to fall. In South Carolina, the Sheriff has fired his Deputy. I say hurray for the Sheriff, yet I also have to say I’m just a tiny bit sympathetic to the Deputy. He ought never to have been called into the classroom. A teen-age girl won’t hand over her cell phone and the principal calls in the cops? Absolutely and unquestionably uncalled for. It’s the Deputy who got fired, it’s the principal who ought to take the fall.

And at the hospital, who knows when or even if any resolution will come. US forces managed in a painfully blundering fashion to exacerbate the problem by trying, after the attack, to bulldoze their way into the hospital to look for evidence. And that is a second example of the central issue in these situations.

Someone is uncertain what to do, or lacks the courage to do it, so calls in a higher power to do the dirty work. A higher power which, in both these situations, was absolutely uncalled for.