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The Fools in Town Are on Our Side! (With Sincere Apologies to Mark Twain and Ross Thomas)

I recently made the tactical mistake, not to mention the social gaffe, of disagreeing with someone on his page, in regard to a post, a meme, to whit, the top image depicting the now all too familiar red gowned, white bonneted Handmaids from the television series based on the HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood, the bottom a montage of equally familiar iconic movie superheroines behaving in typical fierce movie superheroine ways.

The headline accompanying the top photo read something like “WHAT THEY WANT…”

The headline attached to the bottom photo read something like “…WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO GET.”

This meme has been around awhile, popping up in reaction to whatever misogynist heartbreak is all too often dismayingly discharged from that side that has made of this ongoing horseshit a brand of which they are clearly button popping proud.

Its deployment here was in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to continue its ongoing commitment to terraforming the former United States into a continent crossing Dark Ages theme park, only with opioids, fast food and the internet.

My mistake, my gaffe, was to offer the opinion that this meme seemed unjustifiably optimistic.  I hasten to add I did not elaborate, as I intended to do, to say that it was also delusionally puerile in its complete misreading of human nature.

I was shouted down, and dismissed, and rightfully so—who the fuck was I to offer an unsolicited opinion to people who were perfectly entitled not to hear it?  With that understanding I left the field, politely I might add, for those of you who think I’m just congenitally rude.  As often noted, I am only situationally kind.  This was one of those admittedly rare situations.

That said, these vapid, mentally deficient shmucks are entitled to express their moronic and profoundly uninformed opinions on their own forum, and I’m not here to stand in the way of the willful expression of ignorance and stupidity, those two great tastes that go great together.

Understand, as the shouters and dismissers might have not—I wish this meme, no more than a digital bumper sticker to be sure, were true, and that somehow, some way, there would be an uprising in resistance to the judicially engineered ongoing collapse of Western Civilization, American style.

This seems unlikely, however, not the least of which because both images used to support this meme, this whistling in the dark aspirational point of view, are fantasies—the first, melodramatic doom porn, over dramatizing what is actually a brutal but utterly banal reality, the second, well, if you’ve read me before, you know where I stand on the super duper stuff.

Adolescent power fantasies.  They’re not just for developmentally arrested boy men anymore.  They’re gender fluid, intersectional and delightfully binary!

It’s been my sad and regretful experience that such fantasies rarely, if ever, result in supercharging anything even vaguely resembling actual resistance, genuine change.

Rather, such public displays of “Rah rah let’s go get ‘em,” or as the unfortunately discredited phrase “Virtue signaling” might indicate, despite that discrediting, are far more likely to sap any such motivation by distracting and satisfying a polity that often can’t, or let’s face it, won’t distinguish intentions from actions, or whining from voting, let alone fantasy from reality.

Magical thinking, accompanied by cultural amnesia and willful ignorance, transcends politics, ethnicity and generations.

For reasons that may become clear—I promise nothing in this regard—this made me think of collusion, of unwittingly doing the other side’s work, of the misreading of history, of agents provocateur—and I don’t mean Maggie Gyllenhaal’s officially endorsed underwear, glorious as that lingerie may very well be.

And now, moments ago, just as I set out to put this screed together, I was shown a TIKTOK video of seven as, I recall, seven dances to defeat the elimination of Roe v. Wade.

After rueful laughter and envy at something so brilliantly satiric, I was brought up good and short when it was confirmed by reliable sources that this was not an Onion joke.

Maybe if it had been superheroes dancing…I just don’t know.  Who can really say, right?

Right?

All this led me down a rabbit hole of memory, to the revelation, back in the early sixties, in the days before, it must be noted, the sixties became THE SIXTIES, that a number of leftwing, frankly Democratic Socialist magazines of that era were being substantially funded by the Central Intelligence Agency—in many cases, with the collusive knowledge of the names at the tops of the editorial mastheads—for quite a few years.

When confronted on this strange bed-fellows arrangement, the CIA naturally denied everything, while the names on those mastheads, caught with their hands in the federal clandestine intelligence apparatus cookie jar, ultimately justified their collusion with an organization with a complex relationship to personal freedom by functionally deploying that age old trope, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Suffice to say this justification met with mixed reviews among many of the anti-Soviet leftist readers of these magazines, who had nearly as little use for the Central Intelligence Agency as it did for its Russian counterpart, the KGB.  I have to believe that this muddle contributed to the tectonic adjustment of political affiliation, as several of those witting participants shifted from left to right to forge what ultimately became known as neoconservatism, to the benefit of absolutely no one.

I learned about this fascinating bit of Cold War chicanery at the age of fourteen from Ernie Rosenbaum, a neighbor of ours, an expansive, shrewd, witty and skeptical old Leftie and World War II infantry vet, whose patient wife was a confidant of my bewildered and despairing mother, a man who gave me my first job as what can perhaps too generously be described as an artist—pasteup and mechanicals—four years later.

Apropos of nothing, Ernie was the first pothead I ever met, with two bohemian daughters who were spoiled, spiteful and just plain awful.  I would have killed to have a father, let alone a father like Ernie.  Of course, he may have been a complete shit to his own offspring.  That said, there’s a part of me that would love to know how and where those two ended up.  Ernie also gave me, for my fifteenth birthday, Tom Lehrer’s self-recorded and self-published albums, two well-worn ten-inch LPs that became prizes of mine.

Lehrer was not new to me; I’d been introduced to his work in the George Woodbridge illustrated lyrics in MAD. The recordings, however, were a revelation, and had as much an influence on my all too pliable adolescent mind as Alexander King, Jack Douglas, Max Shulman, Patrick Dennis, Paul Krassner and Lord Buckley.

A few years later, when those recordings were rereleased on a commercial label, I continued to buy Lehrer’s albums.  Contemporaneous with what might be his most renowned and remembered song outside of his work for The Children’s Television Workshop, the notorious “VATICAN RAG,” he featured a song on one of those albums, a tune entitled “THE FOLK SONG ARMY.”

Its scathing premise was one of dismissive scorn for the folk singers of the era. Not the Mike Seeger wing, who heard the Harry Smith Sides and set out to maintain that traditional sound, but the Pete Singer wing, who heard those same Harry Smith sides and translated them thematically into criticisms of then accepted American values, American culture, American beliefs—in sum, the BROADSIDE magazine crowd, the protest singers of that benighted decade.

(Tangentially, in what MAD magazine might have called THE HIP HIP HYPOCRISY DEPT., it might be worth noting that Pete Seeger, a man who spent his life denying any connection to the Communist party, toed the Comintern line of pacifism and insistent noninvolvement in the European conflict for the duration of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.  The moment the Wehrmacht crossed into the Soviet Union and broke the mutual nonaggression treaty, Seeger and his fellows in the Almanac Singers made a 180 turn, and the soundtrack of the Popular Front was born.

The masters of those earlier “Let’s leave Europe to solve its own problems and avoid foreign entanglements” recordings were destroyed.  Go figure.)

And yes, I do digress.

The last line of Lehrer’s song summed up his disdain perfectly—no surprise, here, since no less a giant than Stephen Sondheim revered Lehrer as a brilliant and witty lyricist— “…We’re the folk song army…ready, aim, sing.”  Not to over explain, but in our post irony and nuance bereft era, I’ll take no chances, Lehrer was saying those folk singers, or to be more specific as noted above, protest singers, were a lot of talk and no action, all hat and no cattle…songs, like talk, being cheap.

As a fan of many of those performers, I took umbrage at this, despite my furtive discomfited suspicion that he might have had a point.  I remained a fan of both Lehrer and the singers he dismissed, while retaining that discomfiture, until it blossomed into complete acceptance and agreement of Lehrer’s perspective the day I left the antiwar protests behind, moving on as a result of witnessing my first flag burning.

The burning of an American flag made me deeply and unexpectedly queasy, as I understood in that moment, despite not having the words to describe this understanding until years later, that burning the flag was an act of morally performative and sublimely self-destructive nihilism, handing a symbol of enormous value to the other side with compliments in the name of public display.

I was unable to effectively articulate my issues with this event, and I was sneered at by the two bigger, better looking, and certainly more socialized and swaggering culprits burning the flag in a trash can, to the whoops of delight from other protesters.

A year later, I heard a quote from that great American Socialist, Norman Thomas, a sentence that perfectly summed up my reaction, who said, “If you want a symbolic gesture, don’t burn the flag; wash it.”

I’d be willing to bet even money that one or both of those slick as shit flag burning customers were among my many contemporaries who voted Republican in 2016, and, to be sure, not for the first time, either.

This experience informed my utter lack of surprise at the social arc taken by Jerry Rubin from Yippie public destruction in the late 1960s to Yuppie hedge fund private destruction a decade later.  Lulz before lulz were lulz, to be sure.

This came to mind during the unrest and riots that broke out across the country after the George Floyd murder, specifically in the reports of white rioters breaking store windows and engaging in violent anti property mischief.  There were reports implying these were agents provocateur, White supremacists doing their false flag work in tribute to the Reichstag fire.

(Not that they had any idea what the fuck the Reichstag fire was, exactly, or what its significance was, or how that event compared to White supremacists doing dirty work during a protest of the very things for which they stood, but I certainly hope you do, or not to be any more condescending than usual, you’ll look it the fuck up.)

I gather some of these assholes were unmasked as racist shitstains, but I have to believe that at least some were simply overenthusiastic White boys bringing their White guilt to its morally performative peak.  Those mooks burning the flag in the late 1960s gained coup via their sticking it to the man outrage, achieving nothing but that outrage, other than, of course, alienating potential allies by their actions.  By the same token, I’m certain that more than one of those shitheads breaking windows mentioned above were the spiritual grandchildren of those smirking mooks.

And speaking of White guilt… when the first American Civil war was an ongoing franchise, my maternal Great great-grandparents (as noted in an earlier post, I am clueless beyond an unfortunately common name as to any knowledge of my paternity) were doing everything possible to keep my great grandparents safe from Cossack rape and murder.

I am a second generation American, a Jew by birth.  Despite all the cliches society insists upon, with that smug knowing smirk, about the comfortable and coddled middle class lives presumably lived by others of that particular caste and designation, I was raised, along with my two brothers, by a single mother, on welfare, among other poor families who were puzzled to share a tenement hovel with Jews, for fuck’s sake—particularly considering the fact that the only Jew with whom they had the most regular familiarity with was the German Jew slumlord who owned the building, a fucking creep who got out of the old country with plenty of time and all of his money.

All this is to say that having grown up bereft of what might ever be mistaken for White privilege, I am equally devoid of White guilt.

This, of course, is only one of the several—or maybe many, the day is young, after all—aspects of my character that alienates me from my progressive brethren and sistren.  This cadre, in many ways the latter-day equivalents of Tom Lehrer’s folk song army, with what must be identitarianism manuals, non GMO Vegan hair shirts and of course their self-abnegation kits, in order to get the maxima out of their mea culpas in the modern and secular religion that thinks it’s sweeping the nation, but is actually aiding and abetting the other side in its successful drive toward totalitarianism by dint of so many of its aspirational policies.

As noted at the top of this screed, what set all this off for me was a meme, posted in response to the Supreme Court’s striking down of Roe V. Wade.  As unconnected, as barely tangential as this may seem to what I’ve laid out above, the tissue that connects all this is about intentions mistaking itself for action, about demonstrative gesture in lieu of actual and effective work toward a solution, about the personal and solipsistic need for self-serving drama sucking the life out of the doing what is necessary drudgery to achieve a worthwhile goal.

Again, not to be condescending, but to make myself perfectly clear, I know what side I’m on.  I know we are up against an army of misbegotten miseducated serfs who have been conditioned over several generations to believe a line of bullshit by the media tools of an American oligarchy, deeply private men and women who have been working since the Roosevelt administration to dismantle the social safety net that has maintained those serfs…cannon fodder who now are willing to destroy that net, that system, in order to deny those benefits of what they have finally been successfully convinced is a zero sum game to others they have been trained to despise.

The Democratic party, for its part, has never truly recovered from the White flight of the civil rights era.  It has become the party of social elites, of technocrats, on the one hand, of lip service to liberal and progressive virtues, using racialism and victim culture to add luster to its brand, and on the other the willing handmaiden of big banking interests, corporate monoliths willing to spread money on both sides of the trench to see which investment pays off first and best in a socially engineered exacta.

The latter is shameful, but is, it must be said, the keystone of American politics, certainly since, once that first American Civil War came to what we now recognize as an indeterminate conclusion, the country went from “The United States of America are…” to “The United States of America is…”

Mark Twain called those twilight decades of the 19th century the Gilded Age as an irony, a scornful indictment of the rapacious criminals whose fortunes, accumulated through war profiteering, genocidal territorial acquisition, financial chicanery and outright theft financed what would be the American Century.

It’s the former that saddens and yes, terrifies the fuck out of me.  Like those shmucks burning the flag, because, hey, they could, far too much of what comes out of the progressive echo chamber is performative, grandstanding and demonstrative nonsense, intended to generate those insidious likes which substitute for substantive results.

Add to this the dismal and dreary fantasies of an uprising, encouraged by a massively comic book movie perverted, diverted and diminished mentality, buying wholesale the belief that a hero will rise to save us at the last possible moment.  Highly unlikely, to say the very least.

As idiotic as the various Q and non-Q related horseshit that comes from that knuckle dragging pack of Christian impersonating shitheads on the right, TikTok dances and the weaponizing of pictures of fantasy superheroines are no less ridiculous than those Jewish Space Lasers or pedophilic pizza joints.

Face it—the ideologically incoherent right is a team.

The ideologically incoherent left is a league.

Thus, the identitarian splintering of the left into what seems to be an ever increasing collection of agenda driven subsets, in which no compromise, no popular accord, no acceptance of a point of view that doesn’t completely match and align with your own is a completely unacceptable nonstarter, offers aid and comfort to those successfully making what will likely be an Autocratic totalitarian Theo-hypocrital American future come true, with all the bread and circuses required to maintain the fiction that it isn’t happening, and if it is, it’s okay, too—because people who believe in this sort of fantasy bullshit, be they left or right, can be convinced of anything.

As ever, I remain,

Howard Victor Chaykin…a Prince; melancholy, but no Dane.

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