March 11, 2017

“Going once, going twice, sold!”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:31 pm by chuckredman

It hasn’t sunk in yet. Even after four months. That the Presidency of our nation is now just a piece of property. That can be acquired. That can be acquired through dealings and leveraging. Through bids and transactions, proffers and presents.  In other words, the Office of President has finally been privatized.

It’s no longer regulated. It can make its own rules. It can do, say, decree, undecree, prioritize, deprioritize, reveal, conceal, validate or invalidate whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and however it wants. It now owns us, we don’t own it.

I hear it’s planning on selling off the Constitution, one Article at a time. The Bill of Rights will be sold at auction. Cash or letters of credit only.

Advertisements

February 11, 2017

The H-word

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:13 am by chuckredman

Never has one man been called so many names by so many people. Never before has any man deserved to be called so many names by so many people. Demagogue, bully, fascist, misogynist, lummox. Lummox?

I have called him quite a few myself. I think I’ve finally decided which one is the most fitting. But nevermind that.

Here’s what’s bothering me: Doesn’t it feel good to attach colorful epithets to someone we consider so malicious? Why is that? Why do we enjoy making it personal? The question I’m really asking is: Is it OK to attack hateful ideas or hurtful rhetoric with hurt and hate? Is it OK to hate hate?

That’s a moral question, or maybe psychological. I’m not sure I want to know the answer, even if there is one. I sort of hope it is OK, because I can’t help it. I do hate hate. But only hateful hate, not the unhateful hate that only hates hateful hate.

Maybe the best we can ask of ourselves is that we keep careful track of our emotions and our reasons. Why we do or say the things we do. And judge ourselves as we do the people we call names. It’s a work in progress. Kind of like democracy.

 

December 24, 2016

It Can’t Happen Here — Sinclair Lewis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:46 pm by chuckredman

“Aw, shoot, Dad—and you too, Julian, you young paranoiac—you’re monomaniacs! Dictatorship? Better come into the office and let me examine your heads! Why, America’s the only free nation on earth. Besides! Country’s too big for a revolution. No, no! Couldn’t happen here!”

I just read the most amazing book I’ve read since 1984 (the book, not the year). Possibly the most amazing since 1973 (the year, not the book). Actually, Sinclair Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here, which was published in 1935, predated 1984 (the book, not the year) by fourteen years. Which means that Lewis did not have the benefit of hindsight when he recognized what too few people seemed to recognize around the middle of the Great Depression. Sinclair Lewis saw what was happening in Europe. He also heard frighteningly similar rumblings in this country. His book, written half a decade before the true magnitude of European fascism could be witnessed and understood, was a chillingly accurate forecast.

So did Lewis also predict what we in the U.S. have just witnessed and are struggling to understand: the election as President of a populist demagogue, in the mold of Senator Buzz Windrip in the novel? Well, Lewis’s protagonist, liberal journalist Doremus Jessup, listens only half-concerned to the national radio broadcast of the nominating convention, but the similarity is striking:

. . . every delegate knew that Mr. Roosevelt and Miss Perkins were far too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nation’s hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ringmaster-revolutionist like Senator Windrip.

Though Lewis begins his book in satirical tone, we’re not too many chapters in before we realize, along with Doremus, that this story—the rise of a political movement based on anger, hate and false rhetoric—is no joke. It is nearly, in fact, as powerful and sobering as Orwell’s 1984. Here is how Doremus saw Senator/President Windrip’s quasi-official partisans, the “Minute Men”, or “M.M.”, which protected Windrip’s surging popularity by terrorizing the general population and appealing to its basest impulses:

They had the Jews and the Negroes to look down on, more and more. The M.M.’s saw to that. Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on. . . . Their mutter became louder, less human, more like the snap of burning rafters. Their glances joined in one. He was, frankly, scared.

Could Lewis have had the Nazi SS in mind? Seems likely.

I just realized that, for better or for worse, many of my favorite books are about the oppression of large segments of society by vindictive, self-righteous governments or ruling classes. A Tale of Two Cities, The Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, Mother, Doctor Zhivago, Homage To Catalonia, Fahrenheit 451, and the two brave books discussed above. You should probably read these books, all of these books, while they’re still on our shelves. Before they start hurling them into big piles in our city squares and torching them. Which is what happened to Doremus Jessup’s personal collection of books. Which could happen here.

 

November 30, 2016

Oh say can you see . . . ?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:13 pm by chuckredman

It’s one thing to burn the flag with a cigarette lighter. That’s a sad thing to see, but it illuminates the fact that someone feels very desperate about the choices our country seems to be making.

But to burn the flag with hateful rhetoric, personal attacks on anyone with opposing views, and Presidential threats which would shred the Bill of Rights: that’s a real act of destruction. That’s the kind of burning that actually hurts people, scars them, chars our society.

If there’s any kind of flag-burning that needs to be punished, it’s that kind.

 

November 12, 2016

Bow-Wow

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:55 am by chuckredman

I have decided to be a dog. Dogs don’t have a President. And they do just fine without one. Well, they could use a few more parks and a few less kennels.

Or a bird. Even better. Birds can fly above all this nonsense. They can fly to lakes or forests, over mountains or almost as high as the sun. Donald Trump cannot control the sunshine, or the land, or the oceans. Except for global warming, that is, which he won’t lift a finger for.

Our mistake is confusing reality with our society. You won’t find reality in this so-called world that we’ve created. Reality is in nature. It’s in the deserts and canyons and jungles and rivers. It’s in all the beautiful species who cohabitate. Go out and take a hike today, explore the hills, trees, whatever you can find. Be a dog. Chase a rabbit. Howl at the moon.

Ruff, ruff.

November 3, 2016

The Thinking to Talking Ratio

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:31 pm by chuckredman

Recent years have seen world records smashed for both the highest and the lowest Thinking to Talking Ratio. For the highest Thinking to Talking Ratio, it is no contest: Stephen Hawking walks away with the title—not literally, of course, but morally. With a ratio of 936 to 1, there is no one even in his league.

Likewise, the new record-holder for the lowest Thinking to Talking Ratio is also a runaway. No one else comes close. But Mr. Trump is quite humble about having set this impressive record: an astounding 1 to 1,876. “Even though the media tried to rig the whole thing,” says Mr. Trump, “this world record is mine, and I’m keeping it. It’s not for sale.”

Hillary, by the way, has a ratio of 23.4 to 1, which, for a politician, is really pretty good.

October 28, 2016

How proud we must be . . .

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:01 pm by chuckredman

Americans are the most open-minded people in the world. Look at all those overworked and underpaid reactionaries across the country who are willing to give a clueless, overbearing New York billionaire a chance to be their President.

Some minds are so open that everything has fallen out.

October 15, 2016

The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:31 am by chuckredman

“Welcome to the Trump Library. Are you here for the Survivors’ Conference?”

“No. Cancer Survivors?”

“Not really. Just anyone who’s still alive five years after the North Korean attack. You know—mostly rich people who bought one of the Trump Designer Fallout Shelters from his offshore holding company.”

“I see. It’s too bad Mr. Trump had to tweet those insults about Kim Jong Un’s haircut.”

“Yes. And calling him a putz in his inaugural address probably didn’t help either. How did you folks survive?”

“Oh, we were out of the country, visiting relatives in the Islamic Caliphate. Things are relatively peaceful there.”

“I was in Moscow. Any friend of Donald Trump’s is a friend of Putin, you know.”

“Why are there so many Secret Service people here? To maintain security at the conference?”

“Actually, they’re always here. We need them here to keep Mr. Trump out. He tends to wander down from the penthouse in his pajamas and annoy and molest young women here in the Library.”

“My stars! Are we the type he would, uh—?”

“No. I don’t think you ladies have anything to worry about. By the way, what were you interested in seeing on your visit today?”

“The books, mostly.”

“Books? Oh. Well, on the right you’ll find the Fifty Shades of Grey Room. We have over eight hundred first edition copies. And on your left is the Machiavelli Room, with ten thousand copies of The Prince. Enjoy your visit!”

January 13, 2016

Shakespeare for President

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:55 pm by chuckredman

Shakespeare apparently knew exactly what the political climate would be in our 2016 election:

“The dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits.”

As You Like It, Act I, Scene 2

December 27, 2015

What books will they write?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:04 pm by chuckredman

I do not want a future generation of world scholars to have to write books with titles like “The Rise of Fascism in America”. But the subject matter for such books is happening before our eyes, and such history cannot be unwritten.

If a major political party cannot manage its own organization, how can it expect to manage the country? If that party allows a dangerous fascist (dangerous because of his money and his cult following) to run for office under its banner, then that party may someday become a party of armbands.

The Republican Party needs to oust Mr. Trump from its membership list, and bar him from its primaries. I don’t believe there is any legal reason why it cannot do exactly that. He can run independently, if he wishes. This is America.

If the Republican Party does not expel Mr. Trump, I don’t see how it can be respected or taken seriously, let alone continue as a part of our central government.

Perhaps this is a good time to think about whether we want to begin moving away from partisan politics altogether. Maybe our system of government would function better if there were no parties or labels, only ideas and individuals. Could such a change be the silver lining of this whole scary episode? Could such a lovely reform be the final, happier chapter of those books that a future generation of scholars will be writing?

December 13, 2015

Mr. Trump Latches the Gate

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:23 am by chuckredman

“What’s your name?”

“Ouseph Al-Sabbagh.”

“I’m Donald Trump.”

“Yes, I—”

“Is it the hair?”

“It looks more natural on television.”

“Where are you from?”

“Syria.”

“So you’re a Muslim.”

“No, I’m Christian.”

“How do I know that?”

“Half my village was murdered by ISIS.”

“You might be a terrorist pretending to be a refugee. There’s something about your eyes that I don’t like.”

“I haven’t eaten or slept in days.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to try some other country. Maybe Texas.”

“I think Syria might be safer.”

“Boy you get all kinds. What’s your name?”

“Ismail Habib.”

“From?”

“Israel.”

“You gotta be Muslim with a name like that.”

“I’m Jewish.”

“You look more Middle Eastern than the last guy.”

“I am Middle Eastern. So what?”

“So you’re not coming in.”

“Mr. Trump, are you familiar with Crimes Against Humanity?”

“Is that that new reality show?”

“No it’s—oh nevermind. Jerusalem suddenly sounds very peaceful to me.”

“Next? Stand up please. Oh, you are standing up. How old are you?”

“Nine.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Mina.”

“And you’re from Iraq?”

“I think so.”

“And you’re a Muslim little girl, aren’t you? Don’t just shake your head, sweetie, I need an answer.”

“I’m Yazidi.”

“That some kind of Islam thing, right? Well, you can’t come here, sweetie. You might grow up to be a terrorist. You don’t know what that is? Guns. Killing. Bang, bang.”

“I’m afraid of guns.”

“I’m not. You should see my collection.”

“Please don’t send me back, mister. Those bad men took me and, and—. Please don’t make me go back there.”

“Now, now. This is a very expensive suit, sweetie, I can’t have it water-spotted. Somebody take this little girl to the return line. Name, sir?”

“Mohammad Mohammad.”

“From?”

“Cleveland.”

“So why are you coming from Istanbul?”

“International human rights conference. I’m a U.S. District Court Judge.”

“You’re Muslim, and this time I’m not listening to any alibis.”

“I am Muslim. Non-practicing. But I’ve been thinking about becoming more observant.”

“Yeah, yeah. Tell it to the bleeding hearts back in Istanbul.”

“Hey, you can’t—I have a full docket tomorrow, I have to pick my robe up at the cleaners!”

“Get him outa here, boys. One less troublemaker. OK. Let’s have the name.”

“Johnny Jones.”

“British passport, Mr. Jones?”

“Righto.”

“Let’s see. You’ve just come from Pakistan.”

“Indeed.”

“With a stopover in Libya.”

“Quite.”

“I trust you had a pleasant holiday.”

“Splendid, actually. Business and pleasure, you know.”

“Wonderful. What business, may I ask?”

“Oh, I’m a group organizer, also an internet strategist. And I do a little munitions acquisition as well.”

“Ah, a man after my own heart. Now, please forgive me, Mr. Jones, but I have to ask this question, purely routine: are you now or have you ever been a person of the Muslim persuasion?”

“Mr. Trump. Do I look like a Muslim?”

“That’s the answer I was looking for! Welcome to the U.S., Mr. Jones.”

“Thank you awfully. Say, I wonder if you might help me. I would love to find the nearest wholesale/retail weapons emporium. Would you by any chance—”

“Mr. Jones, there’s a wonderful outlet not three blocks from my penthouse. Here, take one of my cards. You tell em Donald sent you. They’ll give you 15% off. Plus free delivery within a ten mile radius.”

 Chuck Redman

 

November 29, 2015

Farsightedness

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 7:45 pm by chuckredman

What ISIS is is the world’s largest street gang: made up, like all street gangs, of wayward and disaffected youth exploited by a handful of megalomaniacs. ISIS is simply the 18th Street gang gone viral; the Mara Salvatrucha with a Middle Eastern flavor.

Where there is poverty, there will be fertile ground for the cultivation of such groups. Where feudalism or unbridled capitalism create such disparities between rich and poor, haves and have nots, a violent discontent is often the chief economic product. As long as poverty rampages, so will its youth.

This concept may not provide much insight for dealing with ISIS in the short term, but is it possible we might want to use a little foresight as well? When ISIS is old news, who will be the new bully on the block? Who will be the new boyz in the hood?

November 3, 2013

Honoring Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 5:34 pm by chuckredman

It’s only right that we honor the people who have fought for us against tyranny and aggression.  But please remember that going to war is not always right or justified.  We have been wrong just as many times as we have been right, I’m afraid.  We must make better decisions.  And we must honor peace more than war.  Books I have read in the recent past have said it much better than I could ever say it:

 

And some day we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1950)

 

The soldier never becomes wholly familiar with the conception of his foes as men like himself; he cannot divest himself of the feeling that they are another order of beings, differently conditioned, in an environment not altogether of the earth. — Ambrose Bierce, “A Son of the Gods”, Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1892)

 

. . . all the scenes he had since been through had not dimmed the horror, the terror of that moment, when his boy comrade fell, with only a breath between a laugh and a death groan. — Hamlin Garland, “The Return of a Private”, Main-Travelled Roads (1891)

 

In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles, and the enemy.  In winter on the Zaragoza front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last. . . The real preoccupation of both armies was trying to keep warm. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)

 

One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)

 

It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one’s heart leap as guns always do, and reviving that pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, that war is glorious after all. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)

 

It is doubtful whether our soldiers would be maintained if there were not pacific people at home who like to fancy themselves soldiers.  War, like other dramatic spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a ‘public’. — George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

 

Above all, innocence alone

Commands a kingdom of its own.

This kingdom needs no armed defense,

No horseman, nor that vain pretence

Of Parthian archers who, in flight,

Shoot arrows to prolong the fight.

It has no need of cannon balls

And guns to batter city walls.

To have no fear of anything,

To want not, is to be a king.

This is the kingdom every man

Gives to himself, as each man can.

Let others scale dominion’s slippery peak;

Peace and obscurity are all I seek. . .

Death’s terrors are for him who, too well known,

Will die a stranger to himself alone.

— Seneca, Thyestes (1st century A.D.) – translation by E.F. Watling