Barry’s Blog # 367: We Contain Multitudes, Part Three of Three

The Curious Case of Lee Atwater

Perception is reality – Lee Atwater

Born in South Carolina in 1951, Atwater was one of the most complicated and influential personalities of the 20th century. He redefined the role of the reactionary political operative, enlarging upon Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy.” His “dirty tricks,” racially charged tactics and magnification of emotional wedge issues such as abortion and crime helped Republicans win over disaffected white working-class voters to a largely pro-business agenda and away from the New Deal priorities of the Democrats. A friend of Atwater’s – a friend – observed, “Resentment became the future of the Republican Party.”

Without him, there might not have been a Ronald Reagan Presidency, and certainly no Bush (I or II), nor few of the horrors of the past thirty years: no war on terror, no war on drugs, no mass incarceration, no destruction of Welfare, no destruction of the tax laws, no mass voter suppression and no Trumpus.

Atwater was assistant campaign manager in Reagan’s 1984 re-election. That Ronald Reagan, the man about whom James Baldwin said, “What I really found unspeakable about the man was his contempt, his brutal contempt, for the poor.” By 1988 Atwater was George H.W. Bush’s campaign manager, and he created the reprehensible “Willie Horton” attack ad that portrayed Michael Dukakis as soft on crime and a friend to rapists and murderers. After the election, Atwater rose to become chairman of the Republican National Committee.

He was not only a brilliant, evil genius who faithfully served three Presidents. He was also a vicious infighter among his own peers, about whom he said, “There’s always a bunch of guys trying to outsmart you, to stick it to you. Your job is to stick it to them first.”How nasty was this bastard? Working for Reagan in 1981, he admitted:

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger”. By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the back-burner.

Atwater, despite never having run for office, was perhaps the person most responsible for shifting the country’s priorities toward a reactionary stance in which we could well ask – as I writeDid the South Win the Civil War? The man was a political thug who, in a time when America was beginning to welcome all the “Others” into the family, helped resurrect the most hateful and hurtful aspects of our national psyche. But now this story starts to get downright weird.

In 1989, still RNC chairman, Atwater was appointed to the Board of Trustees of historically black Howard University. But students rose up in protest and disrupted its 122nd anniversary celebrations, forcing him to resign. The next year, sick with a brain tumor and apparently seeking redemption, he claimed to have converted to Catholicism and very publicly apologized to several people whom his tactics had hurt, including Dukakis. In 1991, the dying Atwater wrote in Life Magazine:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The 1980s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty…It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

An odd and heartwarming story, right? Well, it gets stranger. As a teenager Atwater played in rock bands. He was good enough to briefly play backup guitar for visiting soul singers such as Percy Sledge and Marvin Gaye. Years later, even at the height of his political power, he often played concerts, solo or – are you ready? – with B.B. King. In 1988 he and other Republican politicians opened a barbecue and music restaurant, Red Hot and Blue, in Washington.

Lee Atwater was a Blues cat.

In 1989 he produced an inaugural concert for Bush the elder, clowning onstage along with him and many Black performers. Ben Sisario writes:

Atwater’s reputation preceded him with some of the musicians he pursued, but playing for a president is a hard gig to turn down…(Koko) Taylor’s manager recalled bringing the offer to his client. “I went to Koko and said, ‘These awful people who I hate and think are a bunch of racists want you to come and perform at an inaugural ball.” And she said, ‘I want to play for a president.”  As the guitarist Joe Louis Walker put it, “It’s an honor for the blues to go all the way from the outhouse to the White House, no matter who the president is.”

Recalling the event, several of the musicians said they were paid well and treated with respect. Still, there were odd moments. Willie Dixon wore a “Jesse Jackson for President” button. The music scholar Peter Guralnick wrote in an essay for the DVD of seeing musicians backstage, “…each wearing an expression of incredulity on his or her face that as much as said, What are you doing here?”

In 1990 Atwater released a Blues album featuring him playing with Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore, Chuck Jackson, and King. What the Hell is going on here? Professor and author Jelani Cobb, who was one of those students protesting at Howard University in 1989, writes:

Atwater was exemplary of a nuance in Southern politics, that people can be virulent race-baiters and still have an intimate familiarity with black and shared Southern culture, that those things are not at all contradictory.

Rock critic Dave Marsh was more direct: “Even if (Atwater was a great performer), the presence of the Republican Party chairman on the recording scene would be toxic.”

Hayes (ironically predicting the Blues Foundation’s 2021 response to Morganfield) responded,

First of all, music should be for all people…It should be free. No one should put a tag on music and say who’s to like what. If it suits your fancy, you embrace it, and that’s what that little boy from South Carolina did. I don’t see it having anything to do with party affiliation.

Hayes was being kind, with the capacity for forgiveness that perhaps only African Americans can achieve. Jackson actually insists that he and Atwater were close friends. But I’m not that kind. I’m left with the fact that Atwater deeply loved Black culture, and probably Black people, but was willing to support politicians and policies that contributed quite directly to the suffering and deaths of millions of those people.

So – We all contain multitudes, don’t we? It gets weirder still. One of the essential, even archetypally American characters residing among those multitudes is the con man, about whom I write here. If there is one thing we can say about Lee Atwater that might – weirdly – give some insight into his (and perhaps our) character, it is that almost every Republican interviewed in the ironically titled 2008 documentary Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story comments on the man’s sheer cynicism.

According to these people, he really didn’t believe in any of his hateful rhetoric. He probably didn’t even believe that he was a racist; only that absolutely anyone or any group could and should be used for his personal aggrandizement. One long-time friend even says that he could just as well have been a Democrat. All he cared for was proximity to power. Ed Rollins, another GOP operative and all-round horrible person, says of Atwater: “Those were the eyes of a killer.”

Remember his dying conversion and very public apologies? In the film, Rollins admits:

Atwater was telling this story about how a Living Bible was what was giving him faith and I said to Mary [Matalin], “I really, sincerely hope that he found peace”.

Matalin is another person carrying a mountain of contradictions. The lifelong reactionary operative who is married to Democratic consultant James Carville responded,

“Ed, when we were cleaning up his things afterwards, the Bible was still wrapped in the cellophane and had never been taken out of the package”, which just told you everything there was. He was spinning right to the end.

Let’s not miss the bigger picture. Are people like Atwater, Matalin and Carville too big a bunch of contradictions to wrap our minds around? Sorry, we don’t get that luxury this time around. Atwater and all the rest of the racist white Blues cats – and all the millions of us white folks who refuse to understand, let alone admit, let alone do something about our privilege – are Americans. Atwater stands in for us all. Yes, his hypocrisy was more extreme, but, as I’ve argued about Donald Trump – Trumpus – he is us. Our work is to understand this basic American story, and to work to reframe it. I conclude my book pondering about it:

Shared suffering is the great gift otherness offers us. We would realize that if we suffered together in a ritual container, democracy would invite a higher (in Christian terms, the Holy Spirit) or deeper (in pagan terms, the spirit of the land) intelligence that could resolve conflict. We would realize that an appropriate metaphor has already arisen out of this land: the spirit of Jazz improvisation. Here is Wynton Marsalis: “… to play Jazz, you’ve got to listen (to each other). The music forces you at all times to address what other people are thinking, and for you to interact with them with empathy…it gives us a glimpse into what America is going to be when it becomes itself.”

Our work is to look into our darkness, identify these multitudes, welcome them, and, as Fred LaMotte writes:

Don’t pretend that earth is not one family.
Don’t pretend we never hung from the same branch.
Don’t pretend we don’t ripen on each other’s breath.
Don’t pretend we didn’t come here to forgive.

Thanks for reading. You might like two other essays of mine on music:

Driving Dixie Down

Evolution of a Song

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Barry’s Blog # 366: We Contain Multitudes, Part Two of Three

We Are Multiple

The ultimate cliché: no one’s perfect. We have a culture of celebrity because our modern, literalistic religious imagination will not enable us to access the old Pagan deities, who in their particular ways were perfect. Now, we have (in Caroline Casey’s words) only the “toxic mimic” of that imagination, which once enabled us to make images that reflected our own innate possibilities. So if we want some view of those possibilities we have little choice but to raise up and celebrate an infinite procession of movie stars, pop musicians, athletes and the occasional politician to the level of demi-god.

But this involves the psychological process of projection; we almost literally project a part of ourselves onto these people (or in reality, onto images of these people). We give part of ourselves away to them, and at some point, we need to take those parts back.

When we inevitably discover that our heroes are limited, imperfect or even fraudulent (the list of male celebrities, preachers, gurus and politicians accused of sexual harassment alone is infinite), we react with the disappointed innocence of children. Or we double down, refuse to admit the obvious and defend the hill of lies we’ve created, rather than allowing ourselves to experience the pain of disillusionment. It’s complicated: should Al Franken have resigned from the Senate because of old harassment accusations? Wouldn’t an apology have been sufficient? But most of us find new celebrities to project upon. Stir, cancel culture and repeat. It’s an endless, addictive cycle because it never satisfies the need that produced it.

This kind of disillusionment has its own potential. Taking back those projections, we may well discover that they are us – and welcome them back. Not “part of us” but “us.” But it is long and difficult work:

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify. — D. H. Lawrence

And it may require re-assessing our modern notions of the Self.

I am not I. I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
the one who remains silent while I talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die. — Juan Ramon Jimenez

Do we all contain multitudes? Or is it more accurate to say that we are composed of multitudes? For most of its existence since Freud, therapeutic Psychology has been dominated by “Ego Psychology.” Its various permutations use a theoretical and convenient construct called the ego to explain how we make rational decisions to interact with the world. The ego gives identity and is essential for mental health. The goal of psychotherapy is to strengthen and empower the ego so it can function well in society – regardless of the moral quality of that society – to, in Freud’s phrase, “love and work.”

In the 1960s James Hillman formulated Archetypal Psychology as a criticism of Ego Psychology, which includes Jung’s idea of individuation, much of what passes for “Depth Psychology,” and all notions of “self-realization.” The idea of one dominant psychic factor reflects the monotheistic tradition of the western world, with its colonial domination of traditional cultures. Other “mono-words” share the brittleness of one correct way: monopoly, monogamy, monolithic, monarchy, monotonous, monoculture.

Exclusive focus on the practical concerns of the ego fits well in particular with the radical individualism of American culture that has led to a world of constant warfare, environmental degradation, the culture of celebrity, the “Me Generation,” a historical procession of con men, narcissistic politicians, ideas that corporations are people, and a consensus valuation of the needs of the individual over the society.

In psychotherapy, this leads to what Hillman called the “therapeutic culture,” the first assumption of which is that emotional maturity entails a progressive differentiation of self from others, especially family. He argued that American psychology had come to mirror its economics: the heroic, isolated, libertarian ego in a hostile world who looks out only for himself. In our myths, he rises and succeeds entirely on his own merits:

Do you see the complete harmony between central dictatorship, fascism, political callousness, and the self-centeredness of the spiritual point of view?…Economics is our contemporary theology, regardless of how we spend Sunday.

Exclusive focus on the ego, the self (“big” self or “lesser” self), or the light, or any of the ways in which we consciously identify (white, rational, progressive, or even compassionate or peace-loving) as individual or as a national group – each of them – inevitably constellates a shadow voice, often one that would disappear into the selflessness of extreme conformism:

…the idea of surrendering to the fascist mob is the result of the separated self. It’s the old Apollonian ego, aloof and clear, panicked by the Dionysian flow.”

It is also reflects our American form of Protestant religiosity which buttresses the notion that if we fail, it is entirely our own fault, not that of social forces greater than ourselves.

Hillman offered another model, claiming that in polytheistic societies like Ancient Greece, religion reflected the understanding that the soul is inherently multiple. Only a polytheistic psychology takes this into account. Personality is a drama in which “I” participate but may not even be the main character:

I like to imagine a person’s psyche to be like a boardinghouse full of characters. The ones who show up regularly and who habitually follow the house rules may not have met other long-term residents who stay behind closed doors, or who only appear at night. An adequate theory of character must make room for character actors, for the stuntmen and animal handlers, for all the figures who play bit parts and produce unexpected acts.

So to him even the whole range of self-help books with titles such as Gods in Everyman, Goddesses in Every Woman, Awakening the Heroes Within, Healing the Inner Child, Discovering the Inner Mother, Dethroning Your Inner Critic, The Inner Self, The Giant Within, The Therapist Within, etc, though often quite valuable, still represent a “colonialism of the ego” that is entirely analogous to any centralized political power. To Hillman, that ego does not “have” images:

Images are not in the psyche as in a container but are the psyche. In other words, images mirror the psyche just as it is – as constantly imagining.

And those images inevitably demand to be recognized. For a thorough look at the theme of “the return of the repressed”, see Chapter Four of my book. As Jungian Marie-Louise Von Franz wrote, “Nothing in the human psyche is more destructive than unrealized, unconscious creative impulses.” Exactly that happened during the period we know as “the sixties”, which produced a long overdue explosion of under-valued or repressed experiences, value systems and identities (often quite justifiably angry) and led to new emphasis on diversity as opposed to the flattening effect of the old image of a “melting pot.”  

In the 1980s the controversial idea of multiple or “split” personalities, or “Dissociative Identity Disorder” received much publicity (we recall that “person” and “personality” derive from “persona,” the mask in Greek Tragedy). Researchers claimed that 90% of people diagnosed with DID were victims of childhood trauma (affecting, they claim, 1.5% of the population), and that it is a response to unbearable life conditions. But their broader perspective is ego psychology; the condition is a “disorder” in which what should be a strong ego has been damaged. Hillman, by contrast, saw pathology itself as a road to the soul.

Is multiplicity a disorder, or is it something natural? Many psychological schools have emerged that acknowledged the multiple nature of the soul, as well as the idea that psychopathology does not reside in the individual, but rather in a disturbed system of family relations. These include Family Systems Theory and Parts Psychology. Ecopsychology goes even further, suggesting that much of our distress stems from our modern loss of connection with the other parts of ourselves (in the broader sense) – the natural world.

Most recently, Your Symphony of Selves: Discover and Understand More of Who We Are, by James Fadiman and Jordan Gruber, summarizes the research and celebrates our multiplicity. They go so far as to argue that

We are multitudes, and the sooner we get comfortable with this realization, the sooner we can get on with the business of forgiving ourselves – that “long difficult repentance” – and others, with all their inconsistencies and contradictions. And this offers the added possibility of welcoming and encouraging others to express the better angels of their natures.

Rumi writes:

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honorably –  

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the sham, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

But what about those racist white Blues cats? Read Part Three here.

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Barry’s Blog # 365: We Contain Multitudes, Part One of Three

Part One: Racist White Blues Cats

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.) – Walt Whitman

I’m a lifelong fan of African American music, especially Blues, and I’ve written about the subject extensively in Chapter Eleven of my book, as well as here, here, here, here, and here.

So I was surprised to learn about a recent decision by the Blues Foundation to rescind Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 2021 Blues Music Awards nomination for best blues/rock artist. But I was stunned to discover the reason: apparently Shepherd had portrayed the Confederate flag on his car and guitars. A Blues cat displaying something that any African American (and most Euro-Americans) would instantly recognize as a symbol of racial hatred and multi-generational suffering?

It gets stranger. Had the board of directors independently determined the inappropriateness of nominating this guy for an award (less than two weeks after a Confederate flag-carrying mob attacked the Capitol building)? Why, no. It took a long social media post by Mercy Morganfield, daughter of – yes – McKinley Morganfield, otherwise known as Muddy Waters, to get their attention. Her post – “The Way My Daddy Looks At a White Man Winning a Blues Foundation Music Award While Waving A F*****g Confederate Flag” – was a masterpiece of righteous polemic, part of which I quote:

My daddy did it (played Blues) because he had no choice. He was born in the early twentieth century when a blk man could become strange fruit in the blink of an eye…(his) greatest rebellion was refusing to return to Mississippi to perform…What is y’all’s excuse? Why haven’t y’all descended on the Blues Foundation in droves and demand they rescind that award to that motherfucking racist?…It was born in bondage. In the southernmost part of the Mississippi delta. Where a confederate flag represented the very bondage it was born into and the very men who would gladly have hanged McKinley Morganfield from a tree if he was in their town after sundown…Now, you give a blues award to a man who feels the need to decorate his fucking car with a Confederate Flag? That’s a brand new kind of stupid…If one of the whitest institutions in American history, NASCAR, can ban the Confederate Flag, Blues Foundation, why can’t you?

The Foundation initially responded, “We are not a political organization” before public pressure forced them to do the right thing. Shepherd issued an apology with the lame explanation that the car is a replica copy of the “General Lee,” (yes, that General Lee) featured in the favorite TV show of his childhood, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Was the apology helpful? I doubt it. Not when the flag had been removed from toy versions of the car back in 2013.

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, Tom Wopat, John Schneider, 1979-1985. © CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Well, I hadn’t been paying attention to this kind of stuff. But an internet search reveals that simply because they play Blues, white musicians are not always politically sympathetic to Black people. Several (Willie J Campbell, Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh) are apparently Trump supporters. Then we have the case of Eric Clapton, who went full racist in a live 1976 concert (Notice the URL):

Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know?…this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah…I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country…I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell…Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans…this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake?…Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

Clapton has repeatedly apologized over the years, blaming his heavy drug and alcohol addictions for his racist diatribes. In the old movie cliché, the “liquor made him do it,” or in Homeric terms, some god made him say those things. Such refusal to take full responsibility is, according to one Black writer, a form of “whitesplaining.”

These men are second and third-generation white Blues cats. Back in the first generation, they didn’t even bother with apologies. Greil Marcus writes that Jerry Lee Lewis,

…far more than Elvis, came to represent all the mythical strangeness of the redneck South: lynch-mob blood lust, populist frenzies, even incest.

Lewis also flew the Confederate flag, back when few fans even noticed, and freely used the N-word.

Lewis’ cousin is the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who (like many other TV preachers) suffered a series of scandals involving prostitutes in the 1980s and 90s. This may offer us a clue to their world. In Chapter Eleven of my book I write of Southern religion:

Throughout the Jim Crow era this spirit survived in the black church. Even though many of its members absorbed the conservative social values of their former masters, there was never any mind-body split in the practice of their religion, which some white churches copied. Southerners, both white and black, have been in this bind for generations, writes Michael Ventura. “A doctrine that denied the body, preached by a practice that excited the body, would eventually drive the body into fulfilling itself elsewhere.” The call-and-response chanting and rhythmic bodily movement typical of southern preachers absolutely contradict their moralistic sermons. This contributes to “the terrible tension that drives their unchecked paranoias.”

Only such a “terrible tension” can produce people who love Black culture but are willing to insulate themselves from the social realities that convert that tension into white supremacy, or that allow them to appropriate and profit from that same culture. We’ll return to this question, but let’s contemplate a related theme.

Muddy Waters is one of my culture heroes. But what of some of my intellectual heroes? Carl Jung, according to some of his detractors (and current Neo-Nazis), was at least a borderline anti-Semite, although he opposed the Nazis in World War Two. (At the same time, Ezra Pound supported Italian Fascism and was a proud anti-Semite.) A similar controversy swirls around the legacy of Joseph Campbell, the father of modern mythological studies.

Never mind all those mass killers like Columbus, slaveholders like Washington and Jefferson and Indian killers like Lincoln whose names are being stripped off public schools. Never mind “they were men of their times.” This is America: many socialists like Jack London were outspoken racists; feminist Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. We could go on and on. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, “That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about (Ernest) Hemingway, is that in the Whitmanesque sense, he contained multitudes.”

Read Part Two here.

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Barry’s Blog # 364: Odyssey in Southeastern Mexico, 1989

¡Bienvenudo al Mundo Tercero! Driving south from Texas in a huge SUV with my friend Michael who is on his way to do anthropology field work in Belize. Me, I’m simply escaping an unbearable emotional crisis at home, the breakdown of my marriage and all I had ever thought of as normal. All is illusion, Maya.

We have great conversations as I grieve inwardly – Jazz on the tape deck – tiny, thatched huts – transition from desert to semi-tropics, from cacti to palm trees – cornfields, distant volcanoes – town drunks, – sixteenth-century churches, grinding poverty. Macho truck drivers passing each other on dangerous curves, challenging la muerte.

Our first night out, in our motel we are awakened at 4:00 AM by the screams of a pig being slaughtered outside our window – beach resorts – watching baseball games with chickens wandering through the outfield – flowering papaya trees – men on horses and burros – sugar cane – short, tired women with ubiquitous pregnant bellies – giant speed bumps (topes) at the entrance to each town force us to slow down, where we are quickly surrounded by kids begging or selling Chicklets. Colossal Olmec stone heads.

Burning cane fields: yellow flames, grey smoke, impossibly green grass, with brilliantly white egrets feasting on insects at the edge of each fire – fruit stands with huge bunches of bananas – shrines to the dead everywhere on the sides of the highway – open trucks full of farmworkers – pineapple plantations – everyone in the towns selling something – cantinas/whorehouses.

Faithful to one woman for eighteen years, I want to make a ritual gesture of separation. However, as The People’s Guide to Mexico says, “A visit to a brothel that caters to campesinos and local businessmen is funny and surrealistic rather than erotic.” The gesture will have to wait.

Oil towns – moneychangers – plastic “crafts” – campesinos walking in the dark near a VW dealership – a bridge next to the road, crossing nothing – pollo en mole con arroz – platanos fritos, pescados murrader (with the dreaded jabanero pepper known as “El Chernobilito”), liquados, corn on the cob stands on three-wheel bicycles – cattle ranches – RV caravans driven by fat Texans– a happy madness – passeos in the zocalostheme from Exodus wafting out of a craft shop – local merchants patiently letting me try to bargain in primitive Spanish, then switching to English for the credit card transaction – swimming at a beautiful natural spring with friendly locals, then returning to the SUV with anti-gringo curses written in the dust caked on the vehicle – the exuberance and complexity of the visual/auditory/olfactory world competing with, almost mirroring, the loopy turmoil of my inner world.

A bizarre but common sight: local police or military standing with shotguns in front of every bank or public building in every town, no matter how small – guarding what? From whom? These peasants? Who is the freer, more advanced population? We Norteamericanos who (after eight years of Ronald Reagan) don’t need to have the dominant paradigms of power prominently displayed or shoved down our throats, because we have utterly internalized them – or these people, heirs to a living history of resistance? Indeed, a mere five years later, in towns not so far from here, the Zapatista rebellion would begin.

Sensory overload in the towns – heat and traffic in Tuxpan, smelly Tampico, Coatzacoalas, Cardenas, Olmec ruins at La Venta, Mayan ruins at Xpujil, Villa Hermosa, Escarcega – then the vast cultural complex and psychedelic Mecca of Palenque, with its hoards of tall, blonde European tourists, the young women dressed scandalously in this conservatively Catholic region – the further south we go, the more we see signs saying “Maya” this, “Maya” that, on every billboard or bus – the slanting facial profiles of the tiny, barefoot indigenas selling souvenirs exactly matching those on the ancient sculptures.

All along, we have been seeing gigantic trucks bearing “dichos” (mottos or proverbs) on their front fenders. Many are muy macho; others are self-mocking, sad or philosophical: Rambo, El Chillero, El Timido, Zorro, Casi un Angel, Corre Caminos (Road Runner), El Puma, Dios me Permitte Regresso, Cruz Azul, Christo Negro – Casi Siempre, Don Juan, No Vale la Pena, Super Galan, Angel Salvage – Vagabudo – Ama sin Dueno – Coronel Javiercito – En el Nombrese de Dios – Christo Rey, Comanche, Bonanza, Creo en Ti, Senor, Bandolero, Huevitos, Lo Siento por Ti, Quien como Dios? (For more, see Grant La Farge’s delightful book, Faith in God and Full Speed Ahead!: Fe En Dios Y Adelante : Dichos from the Trucks and Buses of Mexico and Latin America).

The SUV breaks down twice, but each time it restarts after cooling off. Approaching Vera Cruz, we encounter the gigantic Pemex petroleum refinery, stretching for vast distances along the highway, with dozens of 100-foot-tall steel towers and smokestacks, miles of interconnecting pipes, steam, noise – a surreal, futuristic scene, yet evoking images of Hindu temples, Spanish cathedrals, Cape Canaveral, sci-fi cityscapes, the place as much a shrine to the gods of technology as the other buildings are to theirs.

Then trouble: the SUV stalls out yet again. We pull over and open the hood, waiting for the engine to cool down again. I get out and take some photos of this bizarre scene directly across the highway from us, then return to the SUV. Soon, we see two jeep loads of soldiers approaching – to help us repair the truck? ¡Pero no! Turning to my right, I encounter the muzzles of two M-16 rifles inches from my face! I think this is rather funny, until Michael jabs me in the side with his elbow, informing me that my irreverence is somewhat inappropriate.

Courteously but firmly, the commanding officer informs us that we (did I mention that both of us are long-haired and unshaven?) look like terroristas, and that it is forbidden to photograph the oil refinery. After reviewing our identification, he demands my camera so as to expose my role of film (remember film?), when Michael explains in his excellent Spanish that he’s an anthropologist and that we’d only been photographing ruins and cultural sights (true enough) before seeing the refinery, the photos of which were at the end of the film roll.

El teniente is flattered, polite, if somewhat lax in security terms; he possesses that Hispanic quality of extreme honor and dignity known as pundonor. Taking us at our word, deciding that we are harmless, he gallantly exposes only the last pictures on the roll and hands it back to me with the remaining frames intact. He offers us his compliments, wishes us buen viaje, collects his troops and drives off – without offering any assistance with our SUV, which eventually starts up on its own. We depart from that mysterious place, unaware that 27 years later a massive explosion there will kill 24 workers.

A few hours later we stall yet again after gassing up at a rural gas station that has no services. We watch some more baseball for a while, but it still won’t restart. Eventually, some bored guys who’d been waiting for a bus approach us and offer to help. They tell us the local gasoline is muy malo and often clogs fuel filters, resulting in that double entendre, No hay tigre en el tanque.

We have extra filters, but no wrench to remove the old one. No problemo, they respond, and ask for a large screwdriver and a hammer, which we do have. One of them climbs onto the engine, whacks the screwdriver with the hammer, drives it all the way through the fuel filter, grabs both ends of the screwdriver and turns it until he has unscrewed and removed the filter! They call their method El estilo Mexicano: use whatever you have on hand to get the job done. They refuse cash payment but do accept several beers, which we share in the heat. The SUV starts up, we embrace our new friends and move on.

Vera Cruz on a weekend: thousands of partiers, soldiers, gringo tourists, police, children, musicians, Indians, food carts, teenagers and prostitutes. And, in front of every small mercado, postcard stands with five-cent pictures of the same Pemex refinery, from every angle, the same photos we’d almost been shot for taking! ¡El estilo Mexicano! ¡Como Mexico no hay dos!

More of my articles about Mexico:

Mexico’s Mother Goddess

Protest, Grief and Memory in Mexico

The Prince of Flowers

The Weeping Woman

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Barry’s Blog # 363: Creative Etymology for a World Gone Mad, Part Three of Three

How powerful are the words we use? How have they influenced the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves? To really understand, we need to know how Christianity arose.

Only monotheistic thinking, with its simplistic dualisms, sees difference as a threat to be eliminated; whatever isn’t aligned with our god must necessarily follow his opposite. Here is a clue: if your people consider their story to be literally true and other people’s stories are “myths,” then you and your people are thinking mythically or literally. Other mono-words share the brittleness of one correct way: monopoly, monogamy, monolithic, monarchy, monotonous.

By the time of Jesus the idea that humans are alienated from God was firmly in place (Genesis 6: 5-6). And so was the idea that the children of light must forever confront the children of darkness. God forbade men to create “graven images,” which were central to indigenous spirituality. Later Christians would fight brutal wars over this question. This was the birth of monotheism’s assault upon the imagination.

Word One: Hamartia

Greek mythmakers had long told stories of tragic heroes. Aristotle used the word hamartia (“error” or “missing the mark,” a term from archery) to describe the hero’s inevitably fatal flaw, the wound that connected him to his potential. It was, paradoxically, the very thing that made him unique. In both the Greek and the Celtic worlds, if sin had any meaning at all, it meant “failure,” and – this is critical – potentially any failure can be reversed. Christians, however, interpreted hamartia as inherent and inescapable sinfulness, mankind’s literal inheritance from Adam’s original mythic transgression. From this thinking came the doctrine of original sin. Men needed discipline and moral purification to control their darker side.

The change in the meaning of hamartia is an historical marker that drags us into a fearsome new world in which every single person is tainted from birth with the mark of evil. By this logic, children are corrupt by nature and must be kept from polluting adults through baptism (“to dip, steep, dye, color”) very soon after birth. It was a toxic mimic of indigenous initiation ritual.

Word Two: Daimon

Another factor in the solidification of Christian dogma (originally, “opinion”) was the rational and ascetic Greek philosophical tradition. The Church turned Plato’s notion of a realm of pure ideas into the afterlife, which was a higher, better place than the sensual world. Another old word took on new meaning. Plato wrote that before birth each soul receives a unique soul-companion or daimon that selects a pattern for it to live on earth. James Hillman explains, “The daimon remembers what is in your image and belongs to your pattern, and…is the carrier of your destiny.” It was known as genius (related to gene, generate) by the Romans and jinn or genie by the Arabs.

Like hamartia, daimon was connected to the universal notion of purpose. Older traditions understood the vast complexity of the human soul, but Greek dualism marked a clear boundary between good from evil. In the second century B.C.E., the seventy men who translated the Hebrew Bible into a Greek book (the Septuagint) used daimonion to denote evil or unclean spirits.

Thus, with two linguistic shifts, western man gradually lost both his guiding spirits and his sense of his innate purpose in life. Eventually, one’s intuition, if it disputed church dogma, would express only the voice of the demonic, and the pagan gods, archetypal images of human and cosmic potential, became demons.

Changes in language signaled changes in cult practice. The breakdown of ritual eventually led to a condition in which human urges that were once hallowed to the gods became acts of evil. The church repressed them into the personal and collective unconscious and blamed all suffering upon human sinfulness. Orphism had taught that the soul (derived from Dionysus) was potentially good; but the body (from the ashes of the Titans) was its prison, where it remained until all guilt had been expiated. This led, writes E. R. Dodds, to “a horror of the body and a revulsion against the life of the senses.” The Orphics themselves had written: “Pleasure is in all circumstances bad; for we came here to be punished.”

As the age of mythological thinking neared its end, it became more difficult to think in terms of the symbolic processes of initiation and rebirth. The holy text that emerged out of this period omitted the few metaphors of the sacred Earth that had been allowed into Hebrew scripture. As a result, writes Paul Shepard, the New Testament is “one of the world’s most antiorganic and antisensuous masterpieces of abstract ideology.”

All these factors were rolled into the messianic tradition. Pagan cults had expressed a longing for the return of the king or the divine child who was reborn in the hearts of the initiates. But as mythological thinking declined, the Jews longed for a literal messiah (“the anointed”, Khristos in Greek). They witnessed the quick passing of many such figures, including the historic Jesus. After his death, however, he became “The Christ,” a concept, writes Arthur Evans, that was molded by traditions that had “…nothing to do with his life, applied by people who never knew him, recorded in a language he never used.”

Word Three: Apocalypse

At first, the Roman world welcomed the new god. Their cosmos was still marked by epiphany, the continual manifestation of spirit in the world. Paganism never needed to create structures of belief. Celebration of multiple divine images was one of its most essential characteristics.

But it was precisely this animating connection between cosmos, Earth and individual that Christianity sought to replace. Its transcendent god could only enter the world through revelation, which led to dogma and reduced a world of possibilities to one of dreadful certainties. This god was kept alive through belief, not through sacrifices. Saint John of Patmos interpreted his apocalyptic dream vision not as an internal initiation experience, a “lifting of the veils,” but as universal destruction. His Book of Revelation is ecstatic poetry. Interpreted literally, however, it is the very definition of – and a prescription for – madness. To Puritans obsessed with judgment and evil it became the Bible’s most important section. Later, they would invent the Antichrist to embody the world’s resistance to the Word, who “…became flesh and resided among us.”

Word Four: Pagan

For generations, the new belief (a word that has long lost its etymological connection to “love”) system was primarily urban. Everywhere across Europe, rural people were the last to be forcefully converted (some not until the 14th century), since they lived closer to the natural and still magical world that had been served by the older cults. Christians called them “country dwellers” (paganus). Eventually the term Pagan became so thoroughly defamed that today’s English language can barely describe it in value-neutral terms. Common dictionary definitions include “an irreligious or hedonistic person.” For millennia these people had gratefully accepted the mysterious bounty of the earth in the form of Dionysus’ wine and Demeter’s bread. The Eucharist (“thanksgiving, gratitude”) ritual eventually expressed this same mystery, after having removed both Dionysus and Demeter.

In the late fourth century the Church set the Christian canon (“measuring line, rule”), which excluded much writing that posed alternatives to the new orthodoxy (“right, true, straight”). It declared that Jesus had been born on December 25th. Now, his birth coincided with the rebirth of the sun, and the symbolism of his light conquering darkness matched a common theme in ancient hero myths. Other old beliefs, such as reincarnation, died slowly. Early theologians had embraced it, but eventually the church opposed it because it promoted the idea that men could find the truth for themselves, without intercession by religion. It wasn’t until 543, however, that they declared it anathema (“devoted to evil”).

Absolutely nothing attributed to Jesus in the Gospels suggested anything about his death as a sacrifice. Saint Paul, however, changed Christianity’s central image from the birth of the Divine Child to his death and resurrection. An invitation to immanence became an excuse for transcendence. A religion of love became an obsession with suffering. It taught that Christ’s sacrifice had occurred once, not as part of an unending cycle. Emphasis on this single event and the progression from creation to salvation solidified our concept of linear time and led to the invention of clocks, which eventually contributed to the regulation of social behavior for the purpose of production (the word “calendar” came from the Latin calends, the first day of the month, when business accounts had to be settled). The western world understood myth literally, as actual history. Jesus, unlike Dionysus, had died not to symbolize the cycle of creation but as a payment for humanity’s bad behavior.

In the indigenous world men had always understood the necessity of symbolically killing the child-nature in their boys to invite their full participation in the adult world. But the crushing of paganism produced a different narrative, the actual sacrifice of a child for the glory of his father. Fanatics emulated this god, and Europe feasted on the bodies of its young in constant warfare.

Word Five: Martyr

Jesus was now the suffering god, but not the ecstatic, bisexual destroyer of boundaries, and no longer a Prince of Peace. Worshipers beheld his stern figure, the Pantocrator (“ruler of all”), glaring down from church ceilings, amid horrifying scenes of the Last Judgment. “Because a monotheistic psychology must be dedicated to unity,” writes Hillman, “its psychopathology is intolerance of difference.” For centuries, white men would rape and pillage to hasten the coming of the Prince of Peace. The meaning of the word martyr gradually changed. Abraham’s knife became a soldier’s sword in Christian iconography. Dying as Christ (around 100AD) became dying for Christ (500), which became killing for Christ (1000).

Word Six: Breath

Dualistic thinking and misogyny were interlinked in language. Men identified with mind and spirit and associated women with nature and the body. We can follow the linguistic shift. The Old Testament Hebrew word ruah (spirit/breath) is feminine. Translated to Greek it became pneuma, which is neuter. But Saint Paul elevated pneuma to the Trinity as the Holy Ghost, which became the masculine spiritus in Latin. In a long, mysterious process, spirit would become an Alchemical term, a substance that unites the fixed and volatile elements of the philosopher’s stone, and eventually the essence of distilled alcohol.

Word Seven: Evil

As I mentioned in Part One, the Aramaic word used by Jesus and translated into Greek as diabolos and into English as “evil” actually means “unripe.” An unripe person is not evil; he is simply immature, or in ritual terms, uninitiated. His antisocial behavior may be nothing more than a cry for help. The classic Hero doesn’t overcome evil, not even an evil part of himself, but his own “unripeness.” Through the corruption of the term hamartia, however, the Church made it clear that no one was unripe; everyone was inherently evil.

Word Eight: Devil

The Holy Ghost required an evil twin. In Hebrew myth, Satan was originally an adversary of humans and enforcer of Jehovah’s will. His meaning gradually changed from “opponent” into a personality whose nature is to obstruct, a rebellious prince in eternal opposition to the divine will. The Septuagint used the Greek word diabolikos (accuser, slanderer, “to throw across”), which became the English “devil.” Hebrew myths of the fallen angel (Lucifer, or “light-bringer”) added to the image of this eternal opposition: “How thou art fallen, oh day-star…” (Isaiah 14:12).

This established the foundations for European racism. Light/white became synonymous with spirit/goodness, while dark/black represented the material and sensual world. The New Testament solidified the image; Barnabus described Satan as the “Black One.” Saint Jerome linked blackness with sex; the Devil’s strength was “in his loins.” Augustine (himself a North African) claimed that everyone is black until he accepts Christ.

The choice was now clear and unambiguous. If one wasn’t an observant Christian, he followed the dark prince. In this form, writes Jacob Needleman, the Devil becomes irredeemably evil: “All the truly terrifying images of the devil are in one way or another rooted in the diabolical.”

As early as the second century, Clement of Alexandria declared that the gods of all other religions were demons. Since their mere existence placed in doubt the belief in one true God, they could only be in league with Satan. The church now had an “Other” to justify its Catholic (“universally accepted”) self-perception – and justification for its genocidal crusades.

Scholars disagree as to how Satan received his popular image. Some claim that the earliest model was the lecherous goat-god Pan. Early Christians feared Pan because of his shameless sexuality and his association with the wilderness, where hostile spirits lay in wait. He caused panic. They depicted Satan with Pan’s hooves, oversized phallus and horns, which carry a potent ambiguity, writes historian Jeffrey Russell. They symbolize Satan’s power and evoke the “mysterious, frightening otherness of animals…not only fertility but also night, darkness and death.”

Some link Satan with the European Horned God, consort of many Goddesses, especially those worshipped on the island of Crete. These images evoked the ambiguous mix of fertility and death (not evil) that indigenous people still understand, but which the modern mind splits into two figures.

Others connected Satan with Hades, ruler of the underworld, but the Greeks also knew Hades as Pluto (“wealth,” root of “plutocrat”). Here is as sharp a divide as we can find between monotheism and Pagan thinking, which perceives a wealth of possibilities both under the ground and in the psychological underworld. The Western world would not begin to imagine these possibilities until the late 19th century, when Freud “discovered” the unconscious, although he admitted, “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”

Word Nine: Heretic

The paranoid imagination created enemies within to match those without. More dangerous than pagans were Satan’s followers who took the form of schismatics who divided the community with false doctrines, and heretics (“able to choose”).

Word Ten: Hell

When Christians assigned Satan a realm to administer, they named it after Hella, Nordic goddess of the underworld, sister of the wolf who threatens to emerge and wreck vengeance upon the gods of the upper world. Greece, however, has retained indigenous associations. There, the lord of Hell is still Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx (“the hateful”), and rural Greeks still place coins over a dead person’s eyes to pay for the journey. If Hades (as Pluto/wealth) is forgotten, his ferryman still makes a tidy profit.

———-

When words come together they can form metaphors. In America, those metaphors often carry specifically martial meanings that, in turn, can give us insight into our American mythology. For more, see my essay Military Madness – The Unacknowledged Metaphors in Our Daily Speech

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Barry’s Blog # 362: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Twenty-Three

Conclusion with Three Questions

First Question: Why was Joe Biden nominated?

Long before the primaries it was clear that Biden had no charisma, no base of voters, and no chance of beating Trumpus. But as I argued throughout this essay, the corporate Democrats feared their own left wing (even as the public favored it) more than it feared any Republicans. It feared the insurance companies more than the 69% of the public who supported Medicare For All. In Part Three I showed how they manipulated the primary results to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders, just as they had done in 2016. As Johnstone writes, “There’s no point telling the Democratic establishment that Bernie would have won. They know Bernie would have won. That’s why they stopped him.”

Second Question: Why did Biden win (or Trumpus lose)?

1 – With the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in U.S. history, it still took a pandemic with 300,000 dead (by the election) and an economic depression with forty million unemployed. With no pandemic, Trumpus would be in his second term. Here is a study confirming this.

2 – A second major factor is that 108 million people voted early, nearly 70% of all votes cast. Those early ballots (and millions of other votes cast in voting booths on election day) were all paper ballots that could not be compromised or flipped by corrupted machines (as they certainly were in many states).

Certainly, an astonishingly large number of people still preferred Trumpus. But he didn’t receive 74 million votes. The official number was greatly swelled (and Biden’s greatly reduced) by those same corrupted machines (see below) in the 26 states ruled by Republicans. We will never know the actual numbers, but it’s clear that Biden won by even more than the official numbers. However, this leads to a deeper question:

Third Question: Why did the Democrats perform so badly in the House and Senate?

Why didn’t the biggest turnout in history sweep the Republicans away? Why didn’t the Democrats clobber this buffoon and his allies in massive landslides at every level? What happened to the expected “blue wave”? Why (once again) were the polls so wrong? Why did millions of people apparently split their ballots, rejecting Trumpus but re-electing Republicans who supported his policies?

Despite the heroic efforts of Tracey Abrams and countless others, voter suppression was still a major factor. The biggest turnout in history was still much smaller than the numbers of people who actually wanted to vote or thought that their votes had been counted. We know for example that over 300,000 ballots were checked into the mail system but not checked out of it. As Palast reminds us, 22% of all mail-in votes never get counted.

And there were other factors.

1 – Fraud: Can any reasonable person believe that over a million Floridians voted for raising the minimum wage but also supported Trumpus over Biden? In Kentucky, as I showed in Part Twenty, McConnellhad under 40% approval on election day, but beat Amy McGrath (who received more votes than Biden in in 119 of 120 counties) by 19 points. And, we are told, McConnell won by landslides in heavily Democratic areas, most of them using the easily hackable ES&S machines. In South Carolina, Lindsay Graham won in the same dubious manner. The pattern was repeated in Maine, Texas, Iowa, Florida and other states.

I think we can say that election commissioners in most of those 26 Republican-controlled states gamed the electronic voting machines to flip five percent of the votes. If we were to subtract 5% of Trumpus’ national totals – perhaps four million – and add them back into the other column we might have a clearer idea of Biden’s victory. And we’d have a clearer sense of what happened in the Senate and House.

Going forward, there have been two unanticipated result of Trumpus’ constant predictions – and then claims – of voter fraud. One is that millions of right wingers have been confirmed in their sense of victimhood. They have a new “Lost Cause” to organize around. The second is that once again, liberals find themselves on the defensive and have been forced to insist that there was no fraud, thus repressing, once again, the issue of the massive crimes that actually did occur and will occur next time.

2 – Apathy and voters’ distaste for moderate Dems. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots, but that still means a third – eighty million adults – did not. A majority of these non-voters believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino. Only 52% of Latinos surveyed said they were registered to vote, compared to 80% of whites and 78% of Blacks.

A strong endorsement of Medicare For All would have made a major difference. As mentioned before, progressives won almost all their races, while many of the Dem losses were by moderates and freshman congresspeople in essentially blue districts. And there was much vote-splitting, in which people voted against Trumpus (rather than for Biden) and left the rest of their ballots empty. Susan Collins, for example, won by 55,000 votes. But 50,000 voters who voted for the top of the ticket failed to cast a vote in that Senate race. Early in the Georgia (pre-runoff) count, Jon Ossoff trailed David Perdue by 90,000 votes. But 98,000 voters who voted for President failed to vote in this race.“Hidden Trumpers”? Nope. I dealt with that issue in Part Twelve.

3 – Ignorance: The government provided enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks (even if it provided for no taxes to pay for them) to millions of households. Partially as a result, 40% of polled voters thought they were better off financially than they were four years ago and apparently saw little reason to vote for change.

4 – Fear: The Dems allowed the Repubs to reframe the BLM protests and the “defund the police” issue into the old standby of “law and order.” As a result, Trumpus won a higher percentage of white women than he did in 2016. And although 55% of registered young voters turned out, a much higher number – 65% – of elderly people responded to the fearmongering and chose to vote for policies that might protect their investments and privileges but would most deprive their own grandchildren of a future. Once again, we find ourselves in the realm of mythology – the killing of the children.

The Inauguration: The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

So where does this whole election cycle – and the $14 billion that was spent on it – fit into our understanding of myth? The most basic narrative at the base of the American story is that of the killing of the children. What lies on top of that within our psyches is American innocence. So at the end, I refer back to the questions I ask in interviews: When did you lose your innocence? and When did you lose it again?

When innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture refuses to offer its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people have little choice but to live lives of denial and perpetual childishness. When the inevitable tears in the fabric of the myth of innocence appear, it quickly closes back up, and each loss of innocence, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time. So only the most naïve among us should be surprised to see that Nancy Pelosi’s initial statement about the Capitol insurrection was: We’ve really lost our innocence.

Conclusion: Auguries

After five years of non-stop lies, insults, boasts, threats, buffoonery, misogyny, racism and gratuitous cruelty, Trumpus had so alienated so many of us that exhaustion, massive anxiety and a collective PTSD had set in even before the insurrection at the Capitol. Brand Trumpus was so toxic to all but the legions who had turned him into a cult leader that it actually had the effect of building up Brand Biden. By inauguration day, liberal America had conjured up an image of a kindly, religious, poetry-spouting, emotionally accessible – yet determined, laser-focused, purposeful leader. A public servant and “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief,” whom the San Francisco Chronicle called our “mourner in chief.”

The sentiment was authentic, even as we know (or should know) his deepest allegiances. We know of course that the Empire will abide. We know that the military-industrial complex was happy with either candidate. We know that the incomprehensively expensive and cruel “War on Terror” will continue. We know Biden’s long history of facilitating mass incarceration. We know that 24 hours after presiding over a memorial to the victims of the pandemic, the new administration announced that it will continue Trumpus’ murderous policies in Palestine and Venezuela. We know that one of the invited guests listening to Biden’s denunciation of fascist violence was Carlos Vecchio, who in 2014 had fled to the United States to escape “incitement of violence” charges in Venezuela. And we remember Noam Chomsky’s quote: If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.

But – for one moment at least – having left his stuttering and self-sabotaging behind him, Biden stepped into the role of Sacred King, or at least a guy you might actually want to have a beer with.

The word inaugurate (“induction into an office with suitable ceremonies”) comes from the same root as augury. An augur was a religious official in ancient Rome who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens. The deeper root may be avis (bird), since the flights, singing, and feeding of birds were important objects of divination, leading to words such as auspicious. One of ancient Greece’s greatest mythmakers, Aeschylus, said of another one, Euripides, “He shows people who they are, and I show them who they might be.” The essence of the ritual imagination may well be the willingness to hold the tension of the opposites while still imagining a positive outcome. May it be so.

The end of this election cycle leaves us exhausted, fearful, sick and broke, yet relieved to put Trumpus (if not the conditions that led to him) behind us. We know we felt this way when Clinton replaced one Bush and Obama replaced another. We know that they manipulated our innocent expectations of a happy ending. Looking back, we know that they served the Empire just as their predecessors had. And we know that we have no choice at this point but to imagine something better. May the birds return and show us the signs.

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Barry’s Blog # 361: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Twenty-Two

Welcome to 2021, or 2020.2

Be there, be wild! – Trumpus

I beat the socialist! – Joe Biden

This election will not be over until the Bidens move into the White House. Prior to that event, with its possibility of bringing some degree of calm, two main events occurred. The first showed us who we might be, while the second reminded us of who we are.

Georgia: A victory over racism

Trumpus brazenly tried to force Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to flip the election results. Was Trumpus, knowing that the conversation was being recorded, unconsciously attempting once again to destroy himself? In another example of a broken clock being right twice a day, Raffensperger refused, instantly becoming a hero to liberals. Greg Palast, however, reminds us that Raffensperger had been at the very center of massive voter suppression, “misleading a federal court to keep 198,000 Georgians from voting” in the run-off. Palast also points out that the Georgia Repubs were working directly with provocateur extremists who went on to lead the riot in Washington.

But the faithful found themselves in a bind (one that Black people are very familiar with): if the other side had stolen their democracy, was there any point in voting? Trumpus helped out (“We’re all victims here.”) The night before the election he told a Georgia crowd, “The deck’s stacked against you. They’re cheating and stealing it. Go vote anyway.” Marjorie Taylor Greene, congresswoman for Northwest Georgia and noted QAnon sympathizer, was equally vocal about the “fix.” The result? Her heavily Republican area became the worst-performing area of the entire state. Perhaps there is a God.

Once again, people of color saved the day. But there was a deeper issue to be learned from this madness. Throughout the campaign, Biden and most the leading Dems had steered clear of any possible accusations of “socialism.” Then came December and the debate over pandemic stimulus checks. Keaton Weiss writes:

Enough voters realized that, because House Democrats backed Trump’s $2,000 proposal and Mitch McConnell didn’t, that they would need to elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock if they hoped to see more stimulus money…Then, as election day drew nearer, Democrats made their promise of $2,000 payments central to their closing argument…The GOP incumbents held a small but steady lead until it was made entirely clear to Georgians that they would receive more government assistance if they voted blue.

The lesson? Just as in the general election, when moderate Dems usually lost and almost all progressive Dems won, people get excited when politicians listen to people’s needs and promise to redistribute the wealth for the greater good. It’s called democratic socialism.

The real winners? My inner idealist says: Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris and the people of Georgia, of course. My inner cynic says: Joe Manchin. You haven’t heard of him? He’s the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. Sensing the moment, he came out against the proposed $2,000 stimulus checks to his own suffering people in West Fucking Virginia. This was a personal message to Biden: You are going to have to come through me to get anything passed in the Senate. As the swing vote in a perfectly divided body, he will be the new Mitch McConnell.

Washington: A victory for racism

Let’s be clear about what, several days later, still isn’t obvious to the mainstream media.

First: This was a riot of white supremacists led by members of well-known hate groups who, compared to almost any BLM activists, enjoyed the privilege of gentle treatment by law enforcement (82 arrests as opposed to hundreds).

Indeed, many of the participants were off-duty police and military who flashed their badges and ID cards as they entered the Capitol building. The mob included at least six Republican officeholders, one of whom later claimed to have no regrets for having attacked the Capitol. Another resigned after posting video of himself.

Second: Responses by the various security agencies in this most-surveilled city in the world were shamefully slow. This was despite the fact that right wing websites had publicized their plans for the event long before Trumpus incited the crowd and retired to his tent party to watch it on TV. Afterwards, with hundreds of videos available, the FBI, in an insult to the entire nation, claimed to require public assistance in identifying them.

The Metropolitan Police Department claimed to have had “no intelligence” suggesting “there would be a breach of the US Capitol.” The Capitol Police knew about the threat days before it took place, but reportedly rejected offers of help. Officials explained that they wanted to avoid using federal force against Americans! Michael Moore reports that only about a fifth of the Capitol Police were told to come to work. There were no mounted police and no helicopters. Everyone in Congress knew there would be trouble; most told their staffers to stay home because of the danger. Moore continues:

This attack on the Capitol was an Inside Job in which some Republican members of Congress and their staffs assisted the mob in getting into and through the Capitol building…Current members of the NYPD and the Seattle police force have been identified in footage as part of the mob. Reports say they’ve also identified active duty troops participating in the attack – plus a police chief and a sheriff – as members of the mob. The guy inside the House chamber carrying the large number of police-grade handcuff zip-ties is a retired Lt. Colonel…This attack was a dry run for more violent attacks the terrorists are planning to launch before the Inauguration…Of the very few terrorists who have now been arrested, not one of them has been charged with domestic terrorism. “Trespassing” is the most common charge.

Mayor Muriel Bowser had requested support before the rally, but the Pentagon told her that it would limit the local National Guard to managing traffic. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. When the Capitol Police finally requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, Defense officials held back the Guard for about three hours before ordering it in.

I suppose it’s possible that some of the leadership were truly naïve about the intentions of the fascist leaders, well-publicized as they were. But more likely, both their lack of preparedness and their tepid response are evidence of a deeper problem that some of us have been noting for two decades: the infiltration of police departments by white nationalists. No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. Since at least as far back as 2006 the FBI has been aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” It has also known that skinhead groups have encouraged ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies.

It’s much worse when leadership shares their values. “You don’t get to ransack the Capitol for hours, then calmly walk away, unless law enforcement and its command share your views,” wrote Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America. “What we saw yesterday was tacit approval of the rioters.”

Who exactly was responsible? Federal officials who still supported Trumpus, or local officials (a few blocks away) who knew very well how tenuous their control over their own racist cops actually was? Or were even these leaders complicit? Consider for example New York City’s profoundly racist Police Benevolent Association with its 24,000 members and its leader who endorsed Trumpus. So far, the only persons of rank to be called to account, kind of, are Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who has resigned, and the Sergeants at Arms of both Houses of Congress. Sund deserves a far worse punishment than retirement with a huge pension. There seems to be no doubt that either he is part of a conspiracy to allow the destruction, or he was ordered to do what he did by someone else.

Third: Most of the day was performative rather than goal-oriented. Yes, many people were hurt and five died (including a woman carrying a “Don’t tread on me” flag who was trampled to death). But once the cops allowed the crowd into the building the violence dissipated. Then it quickly became clear that almost no one had any political agenda other than Confederate flag-waving, petty theft, vandalism, posing in outrageous costumes for journalists, smearing of graffiti and feces, exploring of government computer screens, selfie-taking (in at least one case, with a cop), racist slogan-shouting and live-streaming of their exploits. Supporters of Israel displayed anti-Semitic T-shirts. “Blue Lives Matter” fans pissed on symbols of authority. It appeared to be a party atmosphere reminiscent of tourists at Mardi Gras, frat boys at Spring Beak, live action role-playing games, or a twisted version of Burning Man.

From a psychological perspective, this release of inhibitions was an example of Freud’s phrase, “the return of the repressed.” Mythologically, it was an expression of what Robert Johnson called “low-quality Dionysus.” For much more on this issue, see Chapters Four and Ten of my book, or my essay, The Dionysian Moment. Trump Lets the Dogs Out. There is a profound, and profoundly dark potential in this story, as I acknowledge in Part Seven:  

Here I must confess to a certain naiveté. In much of my writing I’ve tended to see the return of the repressed as a good thing, as in liberated sexuality, as the return of the Goddess or as political revolution. And I still think that way – in the long run. But perhaps I’ve been ignoring my own text: What was a human impulse can become monstrous.

And one of the most welcome – and most dangerous – characteristics of demagogues from Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler to Reagan to the architects of the Rwandan and Armenian holocausts to Trump has been their ability to “lift the burden of individual responsibility” from their followers, to dissolve their isolated egos. It is to grant them permission to let out the dogs of their most repressed, violent fantasies that had previously been held in control by superficial notions such as goodness, fair play, tolerance, rationality, justice – and democracy.

But curiously, it was Trumpus who helped out again, this time by inciting the riot in the first place and making it easy (once the danger passed) for even thugs like Lindsay Graham to emerge from their thick cocoons of hypocrisy and denounce him. This ensured that the Presidential confirmation vote would flow smoothly – precisely what the mob had been trying to stop.

Fourteen Republican senators had announced they would object to counting the certified votes; in the evening count the number dropped to six, most notably Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. But in the House, 138 Republicans, more than half the Republican caucus, doubled down and stuck with Trumpus, even after the riot.

For five years the Repubs and their corporate owners have allowed Trumpus to serve their interests by letting the dogs out, but they may have painted themselves into a corner. Now it appears that they are divided into two groups. One is composed of true believers in various versions of the Trumpus / QAnon narrative – none of whom hold any real power in the party.

The second, the great majority, are absolutely non-ideological, lying con men who have utilized the first group as their useful idiots. Here’s a rule of thumb: the higher the visibility and influence, the less sincere their rhetoric. This group includes several Senators and Congresspersons vying to lead the last-ditch effort to derail the election results. It is obvious that none of them give a damn about Trumpus. Aside from the money they continue to fleece the true believers out of, this has been nothing other than a PR stunt (one that resulted in five deaths). Their only motivation is in building brands that might identify them as inheritors of his base. Trumpus has taught them well – their first principle is how can I take advantage of this?

Even if Trumpus keeps his own candidacy alive (to grab more money), each of them wants to be the best-known right-wing loony when and if the boss retires (or goes to jail). This has nothing to do with 2020 and everything to do with tactics regarding 2024. Some of those tactics involve low comedy. Cruz tweeted that Biden was not working hard enough to “bring us together or promote healing” and that “vicious partisan rhetoric only tears our country apart.”

Others took the opportunity to claim the high road and denounce Trumpus. Some (including the rulers of Facebook and Twitter ) waited as long as possible to drop off his money-raising tit, as did Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos, who resigned from the Cabinet (possibly to avoid having to vote on deposing him under the 25th Amendment).

Speaking of con men (and women), most Evangelical leaders, watching which way the winds were blowing, initially kept quiet. Eventually, most expressed mild condemnation of the riot, without acknowledging their own complicity in creating the conditions that led to it. Some put out false equivalencies about BLM events. Most avoided linking Trumpus to the attack or criticizing him personally. By the end of the week, with the political winds becoming clearer, they, like many of the GOP leaders, began to distance themselves from him.

At this point, absolutely anything that any Repub official has to say, whether pro-Trumpus or anti-Trumpus, is about 2024. One poll indicates that 45% of Republicans approve of the storming of the Capitol. Another poll claims that Trumpus is the most admired person in America. And regardless of Democratic talk of impeachment, he still has ten days – and beyond – to lurch through our nightmares like Frankenstein’s monster. And it’s a serious question whether his thugs will go away once he does. As Richard Seymour writes,

Trumpism is not an aberration, but a mass phenomenon. Trump greatly expanded his base between 2016 and 2020, adding more than 10 million votes to its total. He expanded into places and demographic constituencies thought to be closed to him. No other Republican presidential candidate could have done this. And it was achieved precisely through the same means that led to the spectacle in the Capitol. To hope that Joe Biden can defuse this by restoring civility and bipartisanship to Washington would be unforgivably complacent.

First as farce, then as tragedy. But this week let’s remember Georgia.

Read Part Twenty-three here.

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Barry’s Blog # 360: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Twenty-One

Part Twenty-One: 2021

Ah yes, America. The country where Republicans spend all day screaming that socialism is happening and Democrats spend all day making sure it never does. – Caitlin Johnstone

The eternal mystery of Trumpus. Of course, he’s a gross misogynist, a sadist and a racist who appears to hunger for opportunities to exert gratuitous cruelty. But for five years, liberal commentators have wavered between two major views of what he is at the core, each of which has been backed by mounds of evidence. Is he shamelessly ignorant, a steaming cesspool of idiocy and denial who believes the image that the media has created for him? Or is he a brilliant con man, plotting several moves ahead, the leader of an organized crime family who’s made an entire career of stealing from those who most adore him?

The final weeks and now days before the inauguration have him displaying both sides. Is he hiding out at Mar-A-Largo playing golf, emerging only to tweet nonsense or berate subordinates, or is he slyly continuing to exhort his base to protest the election, even as he pockets over $250 million from them?

For those of us who can avoid the temptation of easy demonization and take a step back into American myth, there’s a third possibility: yes / and. Behind our superficial religiosity, aren’t we all at the core both materialists hoping to “get ahead” and astonishingly stupid (see Parts 16 and 17)? No con man or any other kind of celebrity can exist for long in our culture without the collusion of the public. Trumpus is the essential American. He is us. We needed him to arise in these years. We dreamed him up and vomited him out onto our projective landscape of the imagination so as to bring out the darkest truths of our collective racial and military madness, our culture of uninitiated adults,

Republican Corruption: Over two million people have voted prior to the January fifth Georgia run-offs. A judge has ordered officials in two rural counties to stop invalidating voter registrations due to so-called “unreliable” change of address information, a ruling that could protect over 4,000 residents from voter suppression. Meanwhile, in Cobb County (whose half million voters had preferred Biden over Trumpus by 56% to 42%), officials cut the number of early voting stations from eleven during the general election down to five for the runoff. And over 120 counties simply and illegally closed polling stations on the weekends. 

It’s hard to keep up with Trumpus’ level of sleaze, but Ted Cruz is trying. He is raising money for the runoff – but the actual beneficiary is his own campaign committee. And he’s not the only one, writes Lachlan Markay. The National Republican Senatorial Committee “encouraged its members to use grassroots donor enthusiasm surrounding the runoffs to help build their own fundraising programs.” Several politicians, including McConnell – and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – have lined up to feed at this particular trough.

How would you like your sleaze? The previously disgraced and recently pardoned General Michael Flynn (whom many believe is Q himself) is now hawking QAnon merchandise.

Meanwhile, speculation continues about what Trumpus and friends will do on January 6th, when Congress is supposed to count the electoral ballots and give final confirmation for Biden:

Here’s how the rest of Trump’s desperate effort to stay in power will play out

Conservative writer reveals 3 main fears insiders have about Trump’s last days in office

Trump Encourages ‘Wild’ Protests in D.C. on Date of Electoral College Vote Count

Pro-Trump Missouri senator announces he will contest Biden’s certification

Gohmert suit may force Pence’s hand in effort to overturn Trump’s defeat

Once that date passes, there will still be two weeks of crazy before the inauguration, during which Trumpus can still make his last stand. The U.S. military has sent missile-laden cruisers to the South China Sea and B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf. Iran’s foreign Minister voiced what is obvious to anyone but believers in American innocence, that Trumpus is fabricating a pretext to attack Iran. Although last year’s widely feared October Surprise never happened, anything could still happen, because it has happened in the past.

Got Democracy? Yes, there was a large increase in voters in November. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots, but that still means a third – eighty million adults – did not. Finally, somebody (the Medill School of Journalism) has surveyed non-voters, and the results should not surprise critics of the Democratic National Committee.

Twenty percent disliked both candidates. A majority of those eighty million people believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. They are less likely to say that elections in this country are free and fair for all. They are also more likely to be younger and make less money than voters – and they are exactly the demographic the Dems might have been interested in. However, fewer than a quarter of them (compared to almost half of voters) said any political campaigns had reached out to them. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino. Only 52% of Latinos surveyed said they were registered to vote, compared to 80% of whites and 78% of Blacks.

Although Latinos heavily favored Biden, the DNC’s still-incomprehensible unwillingness to reach out to them with appropriate vigor and raise their voting numbers certainly cost them the Senate. With real Latino turnout, the Georgia runoffs would be an afterthought.

Read Part Twenty-Two here.

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Barry’s Blog # 359: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Twenty

Winter Solstice

I’m very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome. – United States Senator Rand Paul, 12/17

Republican Corruption: Timothy Noah asks: “How can you tell that the GOP has accepted Biden is the duly elected president?” His answer: “They’re trying to destroy the economy.” These thugs in black suits have squeezed what they could out of the economy for their corporate masters, and now they are shifting their focus to sabotaging the transition, prolonging the recession and convincing the base that Biden will be responsible.

And more statistics have arisen showing what that base is composed of, what color they are and why Trumpus came so close (in the Electoral College) to winning. I take these numbers with a grain of salt, because no one really knows the opinions of those who voted by mail; but clearly it’s all about race, as Dan Siegal summarizes:

The election was close only because Trump won overwhelmingly among white voters, who cast two-thirds of the votes nationally…(White evangelicals) made up 28%of the electorate, and Trump won 76% of their votes, his largest bloc by far. Biden won among all other voters by a margin of 62-36. In other words, Trump’s near victory was the result of his support by white evangelicals…Trump won a majority of the votes in 15 of the 17 states where evangelicals make up 21 percent or more of the population…

Sixty-nine percent of voters say that racism is an important problem in the U.S. These voters supported Biden, 68-30. The voters who believe that racism is a minor problem supported Trump 84-14. Voters with favorable and unfavorable attitudes about Black Lives Matter split along almost identical lines. The most accurate predictors of who would vote for Trump were (1) identifying as White; (2) membership in evangelical churches; (3) residence in the South or Midwest; and (4) attitudes about the importance of racism.

How close did Trumpus come? The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit, bogus as it was, by a margin of only 4-3, with the swing vote coming from a right-wing judge suffering from a rare case of cojones.

And let us not forget that Trumpus’ attempts to steal back the election – incompetent and laughable as they are – have been entirely about race. As Elie Mystal writes,

This election witnessed new and destructive attempts by the GOP to win: Instead of merely trying to suppress the votes of Black people, the party tried to nullify those votes altogether. In predominately Black city after predominately Black city, Republicans urged courts, state boards of elections, and secretaries of state to throw away ballots cast by legitimately registered voters on the basis of “voter fraud.” They offered no evidence for these allegations but expected officials to throw out literally hundreds of thousands of votes anyway.

And it almost worked. In Michigan, for instance, the two GOP members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers…initially refused to certify the results in their county, which includes Detroit. Palmer indicated she’d be willing to certify results everywhere in her jurisdiction except for precincts in that predominately Black city.

But it’s much weirder than that. We need to address an even deeper level of rot. I predicted all through the election cycle that the Repubs would corrupt the voting machines and flip votes in all or most of the 26 states where they control the counting process, and that individual Democratic candidates would need at least a 5% lead in the polls in order to offset the vote theft. By October it was clear that the vast numbers of people voting by mail would make comparisons between official results and exit polls useless, and that’s what happened. Exit polls only tell us so much.

But now we have the first analysis of actual vote patterns, not exit polls, showing that electronic election theft is precisely what happened, and it happened on a massive scale just as it did four years ago. This article by Alternet – Busted? Why the numbers behind Mitch McConnell’s re-election don’t add upgoes into deep detail:

In Kentucky, McConnell, with under 40% approval on election day, beat Amy McGrath by 19 points. “Hidden Trumper” votes? I’ve already debunked that theory, but even if they existed, in 119 of 120 counties, McGrath got more votes than Biden. Evidently, one in five Kentuckians voted for both her and the pussy-grabber Trumpus! It also appears that McConnell won easily in Democratic strongholds, including counties that he had never before carried, some of which had voted overwhelmingly for Democrats as recently as last year. For example, in his six previous Senate elections, Elliott and Wolfe counties had never voted for McConnell. Yet in November, McConnell won 64% of the votes in Wolfe and 66% in Elliott. Or so we are told.

Landslide winner in Democratic counties

In one of the looniest and most incompetent post-election lawsuits, the Trumpus team may have intended to accuse Dems of election fraud, but in describing a possible plot, they actually attributed the cheating to themselves and inadvertently revealed their own con game. In a Dec. 4 filing in Georgia, they referred to a “machine-controlled algorithm deliberately run” by a voting machine vendor that “generally took more than 2.5% of the votes from Mr. Biden and flipped them to Mr. Trump.”

The article goes on to generalize to the entire political map. It would appear that the electronic culprit was not Dominion, as Trumpus has been claiming, but another company, ES&S.

McConnell had his biggest percentage of registered Democrats voting Republican in counties using ES&S machines…Other Republican incumbents, whom polls indicated would have close races, had similar luck to their majority leader on election day…Lindsey Graham’s race in South Carolina was so tight that he infamously begged for money, yet he won with a comfortable 10% lead—tabulated on ES&S machines throughout the state. In Susan Collins’s Maine, where she never had a lead in a poll after July 2, almost every ballot was fed through ES&S machines. Kentucky, South Carolina, Maine, Texas, Iowa and Florida are all states that use ES&S machines…when Trump calls this the most fraudulent election in our history, maybe he knows of what he speaks.

The Democrats: A tale of two appointments — Pete Buttigieg (who has never administered anything larger than a city with a population of 100,000) received Biden’s nomination to run the Department of Transportation (with a $73 billion budget and 55,000 employees). First gay cabinet member? Great! Payback for entering the presidential race with the sole intention of helping defeat Bernie Sanders? Bet on it.

Biden also nominated Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary. First Native American cabinet member? Great! She could be his most progressive choice so far – and there’s the rub. This decision could be just what it appears to be, the right choice at the right time. But Biden is nothing if not a politician, and this will be a win-win (maybe a rare one) for him. If the Dems win both Georgia races, he gets his way with all his nominations, including his atrocious war hawk foreign policy picks. If they don’t – consider the quote in Part Eighteen of this series about Neera Tanden. If the Repubs consider this person a “leftist” who “stands zero chance of being confirmed,”then Haaland shouldn’t even bother attending her confirmation hearing. But Biden will receive mucho acclaim for having nominated her.

Read Part Twenty-One here.

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Barry’s Blog # 358: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Nineteen

Mid-December

Some people take, some people get took, and they know they’re getting took, and there’s nothing they can do about it. – Shirley MacLaine, inThe Apartment”

The Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit. Supported by 17 Repub attorneys-general and over a hundred congresspersons, it was absurd and had no legal standing. But with all those reactionary justices, including three who had helped G. W. Bush steal the 2000 election from Al Gore, this was no forgone conclusion. But they actually did the right thing legally, and to many innocent liberals, it appears that they are now more respectful of the Constitution than the majority of Repub elected officials (or that, by “resigning”, Bill Barr has suddenly been infected by an ethics virus).

Bullshit. These same thugs in black gowns are planning to destroy abortion rights sometime next year. If they decided to put a legal seal on Trumpus’ fall from grace, we should assume that they were simply acknowledging that the useful idiot is no longer useful to their corporate masters – or that he will be more useful as a vengeful, fund-raising ex-president with his own TV network threatening to run again in 2024.

Republican Corruption: Trumpus is reportedly dangling Presidential pardons like Papal indulgences for people who haven’t even been accused of anything, even as he expects to execute thirteen federal prisoners this year. Meanwhile, he and the entire Repub leadership thrive on the creation and maintenance of anxiety. This is who they are and what they do – and how they raise money. So it appears that some of them will contest the election right up to the Georgia primary on January 5th (which will probably not be decided that day), and into the 6th, when some of them will probably stage a final challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Officials in another Georgia county (Camden) took voter suppression to a new low by ordering that voters would have exactly one day of early voting. In the long run, we should take note of how their policies have and will continue to infect the public’s confidence in the political process. Palast quotes James Kwak’s Washington Post article (yes, this broken clock can be right twice a day):

For years, it’s been clear that American democracy faces a real threat: voter suppression policies (generally implemented by Republican state legislatures or governors)…But today, Trump has shifted the frame: Many of his supporters believe the conspiracy theories he tweets and retweets, forcing Democrats and state election officials to declare that the electoral process is healthy and robust simply because it is not contaminated by widespread fraud.

For the next four years, it’s likely that debates about elections will focus on the nonissue of whether the 2020 presidential election was stolen. In the meantime, real voter suppression will continue, largely out of sight and out of mind…Now Trump has truly hijacked the conversation.

Democratic Corruption:

The Georgia Senate race is offering us yet another view of the rot at the core of the Democratic Party. Even as Abrams builds her well-deserved reputation as the leader of the fight against voter suppression and female people of color establish themselves as the activist base of the party, Reverend Raphael Warnock has responded to Kelly Loeffler’s anti-Semitism-baiting by rejecting his previous criticism of Israel:

I condemned BDS, its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. And I support President Obama’s memorandum of understanding [$3.8 billion in aid a year], it’s the largest such commitment made in history…Our aid and support to Israel is something I would advance as a member of the Senate. And there’s no question that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon.

His statement had its intended effect, as he won the endorsement of a well-healed Israel lobby group. Yes, yes, I know – one does what one has to do to gain power, including trashing one’s principles for incremental gain, and the perfect is the enemy of the good, etc, yadda, yadda.

And Palestinian children will die because this “progressive” gave in to the warmongers.

Censorship: On December 9th, after the states had certified the election, YouTube announced that it was deleting any user videos that claim the election was fraudulent. Good idea, huh? But consider that the statement never claimed that any of the videos (loony as most of them undoubtedly are) endanger anyone’s health, incite violence or mislead voters (six weeks after the election). As Johnstone writes,

It’s simply deleting the videos because they are believed to be wrong. This is an important distinction, because it’s a marked deviation from the previous policy of content deletion used by YouTube and other new media platforms.

Taibbi agreed, insisting on a tech-supported double standard. Democrats and most of the MSM have pushed their own unprovable narratives about Trumpus’ collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election for four years, while Trump supporters are now banned from doing essentially the same thing.

Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and mainstream news agencies have been preparing us for this concept for years as well. This dates back to the infamous 2016 Washington Post story hyping PropOrNot, a shadowy organization that identified a long list of homegrown American news sites like Consortium, TruthDig, Naked Capitalism, and Antiwar.Com as vehicles for “Russian propaganda.”…(Meanwhile) Unrestrained speculation about the illegitimacy of the 2016 election had a major impact on the public. Surveys showed 50 percent of Clinton voters by December of 2016 believed the Russians actually hacked vote tallies in states, something no official agency ever alleged even at the peak of the Russiagate madness.

Right-wing media distracts right-wingers and mainstream media distracts liberals. As I argued at length here, it wasn’t the Russians but the Republicans who hacked that election. But the combination of Russiagate and the marginalizing of legitimate progressive news served to keep the public from a much-needed discussion of the real reasons while Clinton lost, including her party’s abandonment of its working-class base.

In sum, it’s okay to stoke public paranoia, encourage voters to protest legal election results, spread conspiracy theories about stolen elections, refuse to endorse legal election tallies, and even to file lawsuits challenging the validity of presidential results, so long as all of this activity is sanctified by officials in the right party, or by intelligence vets, or by friendlies at CNN, NBC, the New York Times, etc…If, however, the theories are coming from Donald Trump…then it’s time for companies like YouTube to move in and wipe out 8000+ videos and nudge people to channels like CBS and NBC, as well as to the home page of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This is a process YouTube calls “connecting people to authoritative information.”

With the press, we put up with gossip and errors and lies not because we think those things are socially beneficial, but because we don’t want an aristocratic political establishment having a monopoly on those abuses. By allowing some conspiracy theories but not others, that’s exactly the system we’re building…Acts like the YouTube ban…(will) almost certainly further radicalize this population…now you’re removing some of the last incentives to behave like citizens…This is a stupid, dangerous, wrong policy, guaranteed to make things worse.

Liberals don’t care about censorship, as long as it’s the right kind of censorship. Meanwhile, the big news is that three days after the Supreme Court refused to hear the Texas lawsuit, the Electoral College certified the election. The next day, McConnell congratulated Biden. And if the Dems don’t run the table in Georgia, Biden ought to return the favor, as he will have about as much power as a constitutional monarch, and McConnell will be the de facto President.

Read Part Twenty here.

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