For the conspiracy theorists among you…


I’ve been wondering for a couple days about the nastiness of some of those protesting against the maneuvers and machinations of the Trump regime. Wassa matta you guys, you don’t realize you’re playing into the man’s hands?

Then I tried to find out how many arrests had been made — for instance, at Berkley the other night — and learned almost nothing. Let’s have a look at those idiots, find out what they thought they were going to accomplish with hooliganism. Did they want to give the other protesters a bad name?

Then I came upon this piece by Robert Reich, tackling the very same question. You might find his speculation interesting. It matched my own pretty closely — which is to say, I’ll need some serious evidence before I let go of the suspicion that it was deliberate operation, the purpose of which was to make the whole protest business look bad.

Wait, wait. Am I trying to suggest that a man who has the ear of the President, I mean, somebody like Steve Bannon,  would engineer such a move?

Well, yeah, that’s about it.

This is not a comment on current affairs. It is simply a fable to amuse one reader.

The king, a genial and popular fellow, kept constantly on the alert for the newest fashions. So when a team of shrewd tailors offered him a most stylish and attractive new suit — expensive, quite expensive, but absolutely de rigueur — the king was most interested. And when they added that this new outfit would be visible only to His Highness’ most sincerely devoted followers, he was sold. High-fashion threads and a test of loyalty, all in one swell suit. He handed them sacks full of money.

(That it was not his money but the people’s is irrelevant at this point in the story.)

After a persuasive session of fussing and finagling, the tailors declared the king ready to go, tip-top, and altogether fit and fine. The king and his retinue set off on a parade through the capital.

Millions lined the streets.

(That figure was provided by a spokesperson for the king but later called into question by outside observers)

Virtually every one of them reported being able to see the new suit, and each of them was most laudatory in describing it.

(Historians have discovered that there were, among those in the crowd, occasional disagreements on such details as fit, color, and texture of the fabric.)

Still, all were in general agreement. All, that is, save one young chap known to the authorities as a trouble maker. He stared, and stared, and finally announced to those around him that, “The king is naked.”

A hush fell on the crowd. People were stunned. They looked again at their king in his finery, and asked him to repeat his observation. The young fellow looked again, then turned to the crowd and said, “You nitwits, the king’s bare ass is hanging out.”

Well, that was enough. That did it. The crowd rose up as one, grabbed the young fellow, threw him outside the city gates, and warned him never to return.

MORAL: It’s good to be the king.

Hell of a way to run a railroad

If you’re in need of head-scratching material, try an on-line search for differences between “democracy” and “republic.”

Once you’ve decided how they differ, consider which one accurately describes what we — the USA — are. A casual read of the material, and a somewhat-less-casual fit of head-scratching led me to categorize us as two different places, trying to co-exist.

As is linguistically inevitable, Republicans follow in Republic’s footsteps, and Democrats in Democracy’s. So are we — in our political thinking — captives of casual nomenclature? What would happen if the two parties were called, say, the Fizzies and the Bubbles? Might we then find it easier to reach accord, to come to agreement, to resolve differences?

Please do not fritter away any more time here. I’m just rambling and figeting, trying to ignore all the media accounts of strange behavior on the part of those in power. But I cannot ignore them, of course. For one thing, they seem to imply that we are neither democracy or republic.

We are somewhere between kingdom and plutocracy.

The ratings machine, etc

The more I watch and listen — to the main-stream media and friends and neighbors — the more certain I become of two factors in the last election.

  1. Trump did not win. Clinton lost. Her loss stemmed from two distinct but interrelated factors. One was her connection to — read: friendship and reliance on — big banks. The other comes from her casual dismissal of “deplorables.” It was not the specific quote, it was what having used that word revealed about her attitude toward millions of US citizens.
  2. It is — or will be at least for the first few months — counterproductive to make fun of Trump’s egomaniacal presentation. Mock his zeal for — and his success in gaining — the limelight and the headline, that splashy monomania is a big part of what makes him attractive. We’d like to think we had a President who was above tweeting at 3 am about his particular talent — “DJT the ratings machine” — but look, that’s exactly it. Ratings. Viewers. We might as well have elected one of the Kardashians.

Well, maybe I won’t go that far.

Cooking a frog…

It was at least twenty-five years ago that I came upon a quote which grabbed me by the scruples. It was from John Moore Cornwell (alias John le Carré). I printed it out on a decorative sheet of paper, and since then it’s been posted on the wall of whichever room I considered my office, staring at me so continuously that, as can happen with the familiar and the frequently-encountered, it slipped out of focus. It was there, but it no longer spoke to me. Or rather, it spoke to me non-stop, but I stopped listening.

Then a couple days ago I saw it again — really saw it — and once again listened.


So what can you do when the world around you, the one you thought you understood, the one you assumed would be the world around you for all time, suddenly begins to disintegrate? You want to reach out, take hold of it, keep it safe and close. But your reach is small and your hand is weak. You cannot, it seems, do anything big enough, powerful enough, to rescue that world, all at once to pull it back close.

For — call it hope, call it opportunity, call it challenge — here’s a passage from All the Light We Cannot See, which won the Pulitzer Prize a couple years back. It’s about people in Europe during World War II, ordinary people trying to hold onto their world.

Madame Manec snaps open the door of the icebox. Marie-Laure can hear her rummage through a drawer. A match flares; a cigarette lights. Soon enough a bowl of undercooked potatoes appears before Marie-Laure. She feels around the table for a fork but finds none.
“Do you know, Etienne,” says Madame Etienne from the other side of the kitchen, “what happens when you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water?”
“You will tell us, I am sure.”
“It jumps out. But do you know what happens when you put the frog into a pot of cool water and then slowly bring it to a boil? You know what happens then?”
Marie-Laure waits. The potatoes steam.
Madame Manec says, “The frog cooks.”

A Moderate Proposal

Last evening, trying to put a tolerable if not tolerant face on the news, I had a momentary insight. It was this. I do not fully understand the reasoning of the political other side.

I have friends, neighbors, relatives who voted for Trump, people I often see and talk with. But we never discuss politics, never even verge close to it. We both know there’s no middle ground where we can stand — or sit — peacefully and discuss our differences without distress or rancor.

But why not? Why can’t we try to do that?

And then, that moment of insight, and an answer. Let’s establish a neutral zone, a place to meet and explain ourselves to each other without interruption, or insult, or argument.


Start a brawl at a family picnic? Or a troll-and-slam fest online? I don’t think so. It has to start, at least, somewhere else.

Then I thought about old technology. The US Mail Service. We could write letters back and forth. It’s a different kind of communication. You have to write it out — with a pen or a keyboard — editing and revising as you go. Look at it again and decide to send it. Find an envelope and address it. Buy a stamp. Get to the post office or a drop box.

Then a reply, also done over time. And that’s the advantage. It takes time, which at least implies a level of thought and precision.

I’ll try for a while, see what happens. If you have a comment, to agree or elaborate or challenge, please add on.

My next move will be to reserve a mailbox at the local post office, to emphasize the “neutral zone” idea. If it works, I’ll post that mailbox address here, and invite anyone who’s interested to join in.