The Witches are Coming, by Lindy West

Some time ago, a preview of this book appeared in various places around the internet; reddit, Twitter, and a few others. I encountered it, and knew at once that this is a book I would need to own and read. And I was right.

The excerpt reads as follows:

My husband plays the trumpet, which is a sort of loud pretzel originally invented to blow down the walls of fucking Jericho and, later, to let Civil War soldiers know it was time to kill each other in a river while you chilled eating pigeon in your officer’s tent twenty miles away, yet somehow, in modern times, it has become socially acceptable to toot the bad cone inside your house before 10:00 a.m. because “it’s your job” and your wife should “get up.” What a world! If one was feeling uncharitable, one might describe the trumpet as a machine where you put in compressed air and divorce comes out, but despite this—despite operating a piece of biblical demolition equipment inside the home every bright, cold morning of his wife’s one and only life—the trumpet is not the most annoying thing about my husband.

West, Lindy, The Witches Are Coming

Once I had read the book, I felt morally obligated to leave a review at Amazon, if for nothing else than to give this beautiful collection of essays a signal boost. This is a cross-post of that review, with a bit of amplification.


A witty, acerbic, and irreverent look at sexism in the 21st Century (and other critical issues that are crying out to be addressed).

Make no mistake, this book will resonate with women… but it’s a book for men. We as those who hold supreme privilege in our society by simple roll-of-the-dice virtue of having a Y chromosome cannot be allies in the fight for gender equality (indeed, for human equality) – we must be the frontline warriors.

We can no more expect women to overcome misogyny than we can expect people of color to overcome racism. The problem is not them; the problem is us. Until people like Donald J. Trump and those who think like him can be rendered irrelevant or educated (and doing either will be an Augean task, if even possible), writers and influencers like Ms. West can continue to publish and speak and agitate, but they must become the rear guard. It is up to men to take up the cause and win the war.

At the age of 70, I do not expect to see a bloodsoaked fatal flawless victory in my lifetime, but battles are being won.

The #MeToo movement and its consequences are just one example. But that’s still a sortie in the war, waged by the oppressed minority. Do you wonder why there are so many “strident” feminists out there?¹ It’s because their stridency is the moral equivalent of the Watts riots and so many subsequent outbreaks of violence by people of color who have been enslaved, oppressed, lynched, sidelined, and minimized for over 400 years. Read up on history and you’ll see that women have been waging a battle for equality for just as long, if not longer.

Men, buy this book and read it. Then think about it, and read it again. Despite its biting humor and delicious writing, it’s not a book to entertain or amuse. It should be a textbook for anyone who wants to understand why the problem of misogyny is so rampant, and what needs to be done moving forward.


I’ve written about racism before. For all the talk about Critcal Race Theory, (an academic theory that is not being taught in K-12 schools, no matter what Tucker Carlson may be telling you), white America needs to face the fact that racism is real, and rampant, and deeply ingrained in our society.

But in all honesty, there should be a Critical Gender Theory as well. Donald Trump and his “locker room talk,” Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and so many others bear not mute but loud and blatant testimony that for far too many men, women are still less-than: objects to be used, property to be managed. Ms. West’s book offers few real solutions to the issue. She’s loud and funny and sharp and biting, and shows in delicious prose where our society has gone wrong and how much there is to do, but in the end analysis it will be up to the faction in power (read: men) to make the difference.

Fixing Hollywood and the media would be a good place to start, but I honestly don’t hold out much hope for that in the short run. As long as there are dollars to be made by depicting women as pliant sex toys in drama and advertising, nothing short of the zombie apocalypse will get entertainment and advertising moguls to wise up.

In the meantime: Men, read this book. It’s not just the pathetic moanings of a whiny liberal feminist; it’s an unashamed accounting of what women in general have to face on a daily basis. If you, by the grace of God, get a sense that maybe you’re part of the problem even without wanting to be, this is a good place to start as I mentioned in my other post on racism:

It won’t be easy, but it has to be done.

(And if you care about the climate and the impending destruction of our global environment which we may not have any way to reverse, you should read this book as well.)

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes

¹ You might also be interested in watching Ms. West’s Shrill, a 2019 Emmy Award-nominated drama about a woman who seeks out ways to change her life without changing her body.

In Praise of Tabasco Sauce

This post is cobbled together from a couple of different entries at my Livejournal back in 2009

Leigh Callaway, wherever you are, I owe you dinner.¹

The year was 1965, I was 14, and it was my senior year at Camp Wildwood in Bridgton, Maine.²

In this my 4th year at camp, the pinnacle of the year was, prophetically, travel. I sucked at team sports – still do – but loved traveling, camping, the woods and individual challenges; in short, I lived for tripping. Not that kind. Shut up.

My yearbook blurb quoted, “However unorganized his body of knowledge may be, he still is a source of many bits of information and despite his mere 85 lb. bulk, was one of our most energetic and determined trippers.” By the dessicated skull of Mogg’s grandfather, how prophetic was that?

After a 5-day canoe trip to Rangeley Lake early in the summer, six of us, accompanied by several counselors, took another 5-day trip in canoes from Lobster Lake down the Penobscot River to Chesuncook Lake in Maine. It was a trip never to be forgotten.

The Rangeley Lakes complex in western Maine

What does all this have to do with Tabasco Sauce? Hush. We’ll get to that.

The year, as I mentioned, was 1965, and inland Maine was still pretty untouched in most places. It was five days of canoeing, camping, 20 miles of river, camping, 4 miles of rapids, camping, portages, camping, woods, camping, absolutely glacial pools and waterfalls which we reveled in as a test of manhood, more camping, and breathtaking scenery.

Are you starting to see a pattern?

When you camp, you cook whatever you have along. That means a lot of dehydrated chicken soup and noodles carbonara and canned stuff and interesting stuff and things you might never fix at home.

One of the counsellors that accompanied us on this trip was a young man named Leigh Callaway.

Now to a 14-year-old, all our counselors were ageless. If they were counselors, they were adults – so I can’t tell you how old he was at the time, but he was probably not much more than a kid himself. So all I can tell you about him was that he was extremely kind to me (huge points!) and had a BMW motorcycle (more huge points), and that I worshiped the ground he walked on. And he could cook.

One night, whether out of inventiveness or desperation, Leigh fried up a huge cast-iron skillet full of rice until the grains were golden brown, and then filled the pan with water. When the rice was cooked soft, he threw in a can of tuna or three, sauteed it up a bit longer, and then seasoned the whole thing with Tabasco™. Lots and lots of Tabasco™.

Now my mother, bless her soul, took me to many ethnic restaurants in New York while I was young, and one of our favorites was this little Aztec-Mexican hole in the wall called Xochitl.³ They had a hot sauce there that would rival much of what Blair offers (certainly not their 16-million scoville pure capsaicin insanity, but highly effective nonetheless.) I remember that a tiny drop of this stuff on a toothpick, applied to the tongue, was enough to bring tears to the eyes. So I was no stranger to odd and savory foods. (Hm. How that I’m thinking of it, perhaps I should give Mom some credit at my Banquet from Hell.) That said, cooking at home was pretty basic meat-and-potatoes fare, and there wasn’t a lot of exotic stuff around, so I had never used Tabasco™ before.

Well, anyway. When you’ve been paddling a canoe for 12 hours, and you’re exhausted and starving, it doesn’t matter much what’s on the fire. I think if Leigh had fried up a beaver tail, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. As it was, we had fried rice and tuna with Tabasco™ – and I tucked in like a trencherman. Mogg’s teeth – it was so good. It would be easy to say that my enjoyment was born of famine, but given that I have prepared this concoction and many others like it many times in my life thereafter, I can discount that theory. Simply put, I was hooked on Tabasco™.

Now, I like Frank’s Original Red Hot too – it’s got a nice flavor, and I always keep a bottle of it handy, but there’s something about Tabasco™ that just can’t be matched.⁴ Yes, I’m well and truly addicted.

So Leigh, wherever you are, know that you made a huge impression on me that summer, and your influence is still being felt *mops brow* 44 years later.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS – I still remember the taste of black coffee sweetened with maple syrup, too…


Footnotes

¹ Leigh, bless his heart, saw this post and actually responded with a bit of information about his subsequent experiences. He recommended that since I loved Tabasco I should try Sambal Oelek, an Indonesian chili paste that apparently puts Sriracha to shame. I was grateful for the recommendation, but would have loved some hint about how to contact him. Which he did not provide, the rascal. I would have loved to renew the acquaintance and catch up in person.

² Camp Wildwood is a superb boys’ camp run – at the time – by Leo Mayer and Ed Hartman, which is still operating in Bridgton, Maine, although it has passed through other owners since then.

³ Another one was “La Fonda del Sol”, a very upscale place which I loved eating at. Now gone. *snif* But there are some memories here.

⁴ In fact, as I was typing my earlier post at Livejournal and thinking about a nice dish of fettucine with tuna and hot sauce, my ears were burning and I was experiencing all the symptoms of a good solid capsaicin flush. Which confirmed my theory. I love hot food; there’s nothing like a good capsaicin burn. The last two times I had prepared spicy foods, though, I had a very unusual experience – the flush to the face began as soon as I had opened the bottle of hot sauce – and hadn’t even eaten it yet. The first time it happened, I thought I was “imagining things.” But it happened again… as I was liberally lacing some burritos with Tabasco, I started getting the burning and vascular dilation that I always experience with certain peppers – very much like a Niacin flush, if you’ve ever experienced that. And, what’s even stranger, I experienced a repeat as I typed this. Just thinking about it was sufficient to recall the physiological response.

Now that’s just weird. Maybe if I salivate enough, I can get my doorbell to ring. 

New York’s Chinatown Fair and the Animated Dragon

I grew up in New York City in the ’50s and ’60s. Much has gone since that time, but my memories include hings I deeply miss about New York in my early days:

  • The myriad small businesses instead of brass-and-glass
  • Little Italy full of Italians, and the Feasts of San Antonio and San Gennaro
  • Yellow Cabs with huge back seats and those little jumpseats (Yes, unsafe, but they were so fun)
  • Air-conditioned movie theaters with giant screens and velvet curtains where you could stay all day for 50¢ and watch a cartoon, a short subject, a newsreel, and the main feature over and over again
  • the 42nd Street Subway Stations with Red and Blue lights guiding you to your line of choice, IRT, BMT, or IND, or the Shuttle
  • Underground OJ bars and other odd little shops in the subways such as Al Stevenson’s magic store (otherwise known as the Wizard’s Workshop)
  • Hole-in-the-wall pizza joints where you could order pizza by the “Slice!” for 15¢.
  • The Staten Island ferry for a nickel
  • Christmas trees up and down Park Avenue, and the stars that would twinkle on the 666 building
  • the Lord and Taylor Christmas windows
  • And so many more…

But one of my most indelible memories is from Chinatown, where my mother would take me on occasion. There were myriad stores and restaurants selling the ubiquitous Chinese back-scratchers, finger traps, and wonderful puzzle boxes, some of which I wish I still had.

Alamy stock photo of a Chinese puzzle box, very similar to one I once owned.

But the most wondrous thing to my young eyes was the Chinatown Fair.

Before it became an electronic game arcade, it featured dancing chickens, tic-tac-toe chickens (you can read about these at Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York), and the amazing animatronic dragon.

8 Mott Street, Chinatown, New York, New York, USA — Performing Chicken in New York Arcade — Image by © Adam Woolfitt/CORBIS

Sadly, no photos of the latter wonder appear to have been saved to the Internet as of this moment, but who knows? Perhaps someone will come across a picture in their old archives and post it in the future. If you happen to stumble across this blog post and have such a photo, please let me know; I would love to feature it here.

At any rate, you would walk up to this row of little windows, each with a coin slot for quarters; drop one in and your window would open, and below you was this most amazing animated dragon which would move and roar at you. Commenter “Donald” at the website Scouting New York had this to say, which syncs with my own memories perfectly:

Yes!! The dragon peep show…. why doesn’t anybody ever mention the dragon peep show? I thought that was the most bizarre “game” I ever saw… you’d drop a quarter in and a sliding plastic window would rise, exposing a glass window underneath (similar to a peep show booth) and literally laying on the basement floor – you’d see this huge animatronic dragon moving it’s head and tail – and from a speaker would blare the soundtrack from an old Godzilla movie… that familiar Godzilla roar. Now the dragon you were looking at and the Godzilla you were hearing of course had nothing to do with each other – but that just added to the cheezy entertainment value of the whole thing. I thought it was great… but nobody ever mentions it. I ALWAYS hear about the Tic Tac Toe Chicken… but never my old dragon friend.

A later photo of The Chinatown Fair at night, from The Chinatown Fair Archive.

The Fair later became a video arcade, but closed in 2011. Some other great memories are archived at Scouting New York, The Gothamist, Ganker, and Huffpost; apparently the arcade featured in a 2015 documentary called The Lost Arcade; in its later years it “the arcade became a shelter to a community as diverse as the city surrounding it and changed lives in doing so.” (IMDB)

According to The Verge, the arcade re-opened in 2012, but the reviews were mixed. Apparently it’s still there, but without that amazing dragon it will never be the same for me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Those days were not so nice.

Found this at a Facebook group dedicated to outstanding illustration.

The picture is beautiful. The colonialist sentiment, not so much. But that was Kipling’s day.

I recall with both amusement and horror browsing in a used bookstore somewhere (I think it was San Francisco), and coming across an English-Hindustani phrasebook written for British soldiers billeted in India. I swear on a stack of Bibles I’m not making this up: One of the phrases was, “You black bastard, you call these boots 𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑛?” I wish I had bought it, just so I could get past the “pix or it didn’t happen” crowd, but I remember being (even in the ’90s) rocked to my very core to find something like that. 😳

We have come a long way. But we still have a very long way to go.

Critical Race Theory is very simple, but because of political (and prejudicial) undercurrents in certain segments of our society, it is widely misunderstood and misrepresented.

The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Formerly Disgracing the Oval Office is quoted as having said,

“Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”

45’s Remarks at White House History Conference, September 17, 2020

This is not Critical Race Theory. It is pushback from a white supremacist world view, trying to make something important and human into something frightening and oppressive.

To teach that racism is still baked into our social system, and to serve as a catalyst for change toward a more equal and representative system (in other words, to make America the land of equality and equal opportunity that it has long trumpeted itself to be) is the most peaceful and human thing I could imagine.

Children – and adults – need to understand and see where and how racism operates to perpetuate the lie of Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, to the effect that:

“Our new government[‘s] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”[2]

For the most part, we have come past the days when black people could be lynched by white mobs with impunity. But if you read the news, it’s hard to ignore the fact that racism and outright homicide is still endemic in many of the police forces of our nation.

George Floyd’s homicide was widely publicized, but in terms of endemic racism, it’s only the most current tip of the iceberg.

This is not OK, and no amount of pearl-clutching and flag-wrapped pushback or “blue lives matter” wailing can make it so.

But it’s not just policing and inequity in incarceration and a failed drug war and an oppression campaign pushed by the Nixon administration. Racism touches almost everything in obvious and not so obvious ways.

  • Access to equal housing.
  • Access to equal financing.
  • Access to equal education.
  • Access to equal employment.
  • Access to equal relationships.
  • Access to equal voting privileges.
  • And the list goes on.

Racism taints it all. If you’re black, or brown, or yellow – you and your ancestry have certainly encountered this, and continue to do so, in myriad ways that would not even be evident to someone born and raised in white privilege unless they have made a concerted effort to be aware of history.

America is not a wicked country, or a Marxist country, and Critical Race Theory doesn’t make any attempt to paint it as such. America is a human country – filled with brave and noble men and women who strove to make it a great nation for all. But it’s also a country that made mistakes, some of which have echoes which continue to ripple down to the present day. And it’s those mistakes that people of good will seek to recognize, and enshrine in our official chronicles, and remediate in the fastest and best way possible.

I applaud the idea.

This is not a matter of debate. It’s a reality. Those who have eyes to see will see, and do their best to make a difference.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

For the Easiest Travel on Earth…

Cross-posted from Livejournal 5/3/2021, and edited slightly for current relevance

♫ For the easiest travel on earth,
Take a Trailways, take a Trailways,
For the easiest travel on earth,
Take a Continental Trailways bus. ♫

♫ Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us! ♫

A post in Teresa Burritt’s Frog Blog (an earlier version, now defunct, but the current one is still full of interesting things) included the following picture:

Like many of her posts, this got the old gears grinding and brought back many memories of cross-country bus travel, some pleasant and others… well, “interesting.”

Back in the 50’s, you could truck around for $99.00 for 99 days, unlimited travel to unlimited destinations, and break your journey anywhere; I suspect this is what the poster above referred to. Naturally, it was the 50’s, and the buses were notorious for intolerance and segregation¹ (see here for some of the details of that shameful situation), but also became a focal point for the civil-rights movement. For comparison, you can read the Trailways Wikipedia entry.

Back in the 60’s I took several trips by bus from New York to California and back; there’s no denying that it was challenging. Even as a relative youngster, sleeping on a bus is less than luxury. The seats didn’t recline much if at all, much like the cattle-class seats on a modern airliner. Stopping at all hours of the night at lonely, sometimes seedy cafés in Broken Clavicle, Iowa or Whistling Rock, Wyoming is not luxurious… and I will forever associate such places with the smell of Postum™ ². As I drink neither coffee nor tea, it was all I could get if I wanted something hot besides cocoa; like Sanka™, it came with a metal pot of hot water and little envelopes.

Sanka and Postum, as offered in restaurants

Sleeping on the bus was so challenging for me I would often resort to sleeping pills, but those made the night-time stops fairly grueling – staggering to the restroom while under the influence of those soporifics is unpleasant at best. Eventually I stopped using them and just toughed it out.

One upside was being able to watch the countryside go by without worrying about the stresses of driving, and another was the interesting people one could meet on the way. Yes, there were the “other” kind of people as well, along with the fat ladies puking in the aisle if they couldn’t make it to the onboard lavatory, but the really unpleasant incidents that one hears about were thankfully quite rare, and I never encountered one. While I never lost a bag during an actual trip, one box I shipped from New York to Pennsylvania via Greyhound arrived opened, damaged, with much missing, and full of gravel. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see what happened to that one.

I’ve checked – you can still travel by bus today, if you are hardy. But the advantages seem few, given the cost of other alternatives.

A round-trip fare from SLC to JFK would cost $499.00 at senior, economy rates, and take about 48 hours each way. Allow a bit for what passes for food and such along the route.

That compares to the lowest airfare of $353.00 for the same dates.

It would cost around $381.00 for gas in a 40mpg Prius at an average cost of $3.50 per gallon (which would take at least 8 days, coming and going, meaning additional lodging and food costs.)

Amtrak would cost $492.00 and take 61 hours, if one can get through without service disruptions.

At this point, the biggest advantage, shared with Amtrak, seems to be seeing a lot of countryside without having to do the driving yourself. The fact that Greyhound is still in business speaks to the fact that many people are willing to take this option – and naturally, there are other routes which may make taking the bus more advantageous.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes

¹ John Howard Griffin’s experiences at a Greyhound Bus station in the South in 1960, as well as on the bus trip itself, recounted in Black Like Me, are chilling.

² Postum faded into history in 2007 but enough people clamored for it that it was successfully revived by Eliza’s Quest Food in 2013. There are recipes for home-made varieties, and one product, Ersatz™, claims to be a good Postum™ substitute. During the war, Ersatzkaffee was commonly given to Allied POW’s, and here we have an Ersatzersatzkaffee being marketed to those who crave it. The world is so full of a number of things. Now one can get things at the grocery store like Pero™, a European coffee substitute (known in Europe as Karo™) which is similar but much better-tasting, but rarely available in restaurants.

Once Upon a Time, A Long Time Ago… it was Great to be a White Male in America

I grew up in New York City in the ’50s. So when a friend of mine posted this, and I watched it, I was naturally struck with feelings of nostalgia for times and events in my life that are now gone forever.

But along with the nostalgia and wistfulness was an overpowering awareness that I was watching the documentary of a reality that only existed for some Americans. The stark contrast, totally ignored in this yearning little video, is well represented in this image from Life Magazine:

Those happy folks in the back, smiling in their car… those are the people we see in the video. The ones in the front, waiting in a bread line, were not even visible anywhere.

It was great to be white in the ’50s.

You grow up in that environment, and you grow up a racist, and a sexist, even though there may not be a malicious bone in your body. Racism and sexism were in the blood and bones and DNA of society, and you were bombarded with blatant or subconscious reminders that women’s place was in the kitchen (barefoot, pregnant, and with no vote)¹, and black lives didn’t only not matter, they were totally invisible.

See Dad and Jim play. Watch Mom and Mary wash the dishes. And enjoy it.

This one was relatively subtle. There was much, much worse out there.

With a history like that, anyone born in the ’50s or even the ’60s is going to have these attitudes driven deep into their psyches, and they are devilishly hard to expurgate completely. That’s why a person who wants to have a positive effect on the world around them needs to pay attention to the advice below (which applies to any “-ism,” not just racism) and practice it on a daily basis. Not unlike alcoholics in recovery who realize and understand that they are never really “cured,” these ways of thinking will surface at a moment’s notice given half a chance.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes

¹ Things have improved, at least on the surface – but sexism in American society is still a very real phenomenon, particularly in the workplace. Advertising agencies, still embarrassingly aware that sex sells almost more than anything, still pump out sexist ads, although in the #MeToo era, some companies are issuing mea culpas (but only when they get caught out).

As for racism? Sometimes I wonder if we’ve made any progress at all since Selma. Some of the things I’m seeing now in terms of voter suppression in Georgia and other GOP states recalls a very dark stage of American history, as outlined brilliantly by Heather Cox Richardson.

For the Ward Clerks out there

If you happened to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the ’60s and were ever called as a Ward Clerk, or one of the assistant clerks – Historical, Financial, or Membership – you may remember the old Adler 200 typewriters.¹

Long before the advent of computers or word processors or even IBM Selectrics or Daisy-wheel typewriters, Adler was the go-to brand if you wanted a typewriter with an unusual font. I don’t know how many Adlers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased over time, but I’d bet they kept a lot of factory workers and typewriter repair personnel in business for decades.

The LDS Adler had a specific keyboard layout, as well: you didn’t have to shift for numbers (because they were used mostly for entering financial records) and symbols were on additional keys.

The font that came with these machines was OCR-A, a font created in 1968, in the early days of computer optical character recognition, when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans.” (Wikipedia) It looked like this:

In the case of financial donations, members would fill out donation slips (being admonished to always write their names the same way each time):

and clerks would painstakingly transcribe these slips onto a ledger sheet on the typewriter, which was then sent by snail mail to headquarters where the records were scanned and entered into mainframe databases. Other information was also recorded using these machines, which were built like Sherman tanks, and like a Timex watch they would “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.”

Ward clerks often served for extended periods of time; whereas service callings in the Church today generally only last a few years, back in the day it was not uncommon for a clerk to serve for decades, especially if he did a good job.

The Ward Clerk

He kept the minutes, typed each note,
And put them in the file.
The membership he knew by rote;
He labored with a smile.

The ordinations, births and deaths
He faithfully recorded
For forty years, until at last
He went to be rewarded.

The people he had known so well
Turned out to shed a tear,
And pay respect to this good man,
Gone to another sphere.

But as the choir rose to sing,
They saw with consternation
The good man from his coffin step
To count the congregation!

-Author Unknown

It is said in the navy that the Captain may command the ship, but the E-7’s (Chief petty officers) keep the show running. Much the same could be said about a ward or branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Bishop or Branch President may be in charge, but the ward clerks keep the wheels greased and everything running smoothly so the leaders can focus on ministering rather than administering.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes

¹ The typewriter photos used in this post are from typewriter hunter Jake Fisher at the Typewriter Database.

Benedict Arnold was bupkis

Joseph Biden, Jr. won our latest presidential election, the most secure in our history. It’s a confirmed fact.

The idiot currently in the White House, in my lifetime’s greatest display of pettiness, infantile spite, and breathtaking narcissism, has continually refused to honor our nation’s traditions and concede his spectacular loss – both in the popular vote and the electoral college – and continues to claim that he won the election by “a lot,” that millions of votes were cast illegally by democrats and dead people, and that the election should be overturned in his favor. Legal scholars could debate this for a lifetime, but from where I sit this is not just arrogance and megalomania, it’s an attack on American institutions and the Constitution, and hence rises to the definition of treason.

But that’s not unexpected from this incompetent, unqualified clown. In fact, given the daily outflow of lies, conspiracy theories, misrepresentations, insults, and heart-stopping displays of abject stupidity seen on this con-man’s Twitter feed, it’s exactly what many people predicted would happen. So it’s not exactly astonishing.

What is astonishing is the number of people in positions of power and influence – almost exclusively Republicans – who have hitched their wagon to this pathetic, dying star and are supporting both the man and his insane attempt to stay in a position of power that he has for too long disgraced and abused.

They have filed lawsuit after lawsuit on his behalf, the vast majority of which – over 59 as of December 13th and counting, according to a running tally on Twitter – they have definitively lost in front of judges and courts, many of which were appointed by the Buffoon-in-Chief himself. Their claims have been absurd and frivolous, and all of them (except one or two about minor procedural matters) have been appropriately dismissed by these jurists and indeed, by the Supreme Court.

Now comes Louie Gohmert, Republican congressman from Texas, who has filed a suit against Vice President Mike Pence, demanding, in the words of Jim Wright, the author of Stonekettle Station,

“that the Court give Pence the “Exclusive Authority” to decide which Electoral College votes to count and which ones to ignore during the upcoming congressional session on January 6th when the House certifies the election. The lawsuit LITERALLY demands that Pence be given the exclusive authority to decide the election.”

Breathtaking doesn’t cover it. Heart-stopping doesn’t cover it. Mind-raping doesn’t cover it. The abject stupidity and un-Americanism of all these attempts to overturn a United States presidential election, not only by juridical means but also by loudly and repeatedly trumpeting the lie that the election was stolen by Democrats, is absolutely impossible for me to fathom. In the words of a certain segment of a previous generation, “I just can’t even.”

And the saddest part of it all is that I don’t see any consequences forthcoming for this army of sycophants and followers of our modern-day caudillo¹, all of whom have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the world and of history. Certainly, on January 20th The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office will either walk out of the White House (or be frogmarched out by the Secret Service, which I have to admit would be a more satisfying spectacle), and fade into obscurity to become an ignominious footnote in history, along with the rest of his corrupt clan and hangers-on.

Image by Cathygraphics.com

That’s an indisputable consequence. And it pleases me to think that despite any executive pardons either already issued or forthcoming, many states are lined up at the starting gate with indictments and subpœnas in hand, waiting to delve into the personal and political corruption that has been on public display for the last four years. But for many of the people who have foolishly attached their names to lawsuits, or signed on as friends of the court, or done anything to try to subvert a constitutionally-conducted election, I fear that our nation is simply too complex, and the issues facing us at the present time – not the least of which is the Covid pandemic – are so pressing that things will simply return to business as usual and there will be neither punishments nor repercussions.

And there should be. There must be. From the Republican Senate’s refusal to hear evidence or witnesses during the impeachment trial, issuing a verdict based on political ideology rather than facts, to the current insanity of a disputed election, there must be consequences or our nation’s political process will remain forever tainted. Every senator who stated – in advance! – that they would not be an impartial jurist during the impeachment trial; every senator or congressperson who joined lawsuits to try to keep a drooling cretin in power for four more years despite the will of the American people – should not be seated in January or should be immediatly recalled. They have disgraced themselves, disgraced their legislative bodies, and disgraced the Constitution of the United States. If they are attorneys themselves, as so many of them are, local or national bar associations should sanction or disbar them. What they have done and continue to do is virtually inexcusable.

That’s what I demand, as a citizen of a once-great nation which has been made decidedly less great by a harlequin in a red hat. I hold out a faint glimmer of hope that in some cases, elected officials will be voted out during their next run for office, and retire in disgrace. I hope against hope that there will be legal consequences for some of them. But whether or not these things happen, I am content to have said my piece to the world. To my children and grandchildren and whatever posterity I am blessed with, know that I stood against this raging tide of folly, I voted my conscience, and did what I could to end the madness.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹ If you’re not familiar with the term,

“Historian John Lynch states that “Before 1810 the caudillo was unknown. … The caudillo entered history as a local hero whom larger events promoted to a military chieftain.” He gained in power by his success as a military leader. In a rural area that lacked any institutions of the state, and where the environment was one of violence and anarchy, a caudillo could impose order, often by using violence himself to achieve it. His local control as a strongman needed to be maintained by assuring the loyalty of his followers, so his bestowing material rewards reinforced his own position. Caudillos could also maintain their position by protecting the interests of regional elites. A local strongman who built a regional base could aspire to becoming a national caudillo, taking control of the state. In this situation, caudillos could bestow patronage on a large retinue of clients, who in turn gave him their loyalty. In general, caudillos’ power benefited elites. But these strongmen were also mediators between elites and the popular classes, recruiting them into the power base, but also restraining them from achieving power themselves.” (Wikipedia)

Trumping Columbus

Yesterday the White House issued a proclamation on Columbus Day, purportedly from the *president.

First of all, let’s be honest: The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office had virtually nothing to do with this proclamation.

  1. Columbus Day is not even on his radar, because it makes him no money.
  2. It’s full of vocabulary that is only taught after the third grade, which means there’s no way the Orange Screechweasel could have penned it. It was doubtless written by one of his sycophantic staff, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been penned by Stephen Miller, it’s so full of jingoistic, nationalist rhetoric.

One paragraph is especially egregious:

Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.  These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.  Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.  They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy.  We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history.  We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.

Instead of providing inspiring national leadership, 45’s *administration can never resist an opportunity to demonize his political opponents in particular and liberals in general. Fortunately, there are people like Justin P. Cowan, Associate Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Western Connecticut State University. He took the “red pen of rational thought” to this paragraph and crafted something far more reasonable.

The edited version is a much more satisfying read:

“Thankfully, in recent years, thoughtful citizens have sought to contextualize Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These mindful people seek to broaden discussion of his vast contributions by recognizing his failings, evaluating his discoveries alongside his atrocities, and acknowledging his achievements while not overlooking his transgressions. Rather than ignore our history, this centrist ideology and its adherents seek to engage with it, recognize its splendor, while not overlooking its sinister acts. They seek to cultivate a generation of thinkers and intellectuals. We must celebrate these tactics and consent to a more well-rounded, representative, and factual view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the relocation of monuments to our problematic heroes like Columbus to museums where both their achievements and inherent flaws can be equally evaluated.”

I appreciated Dr. Cowan’s re-imagining of what a proclamation from a normal, human president might look like. It admits of Columbus’s significant contributions while at the same time refusing to whitewash the severe consequences of his journeys. Although Dr. Cowan is not a historian by profession, Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is, and in her “Letters from an American” she states,

For all of Trump’s attention to patriotic education, his proclamation is quite bad history. Aside from its whitewashing of the effects of Columbus’s voyage of “discovery,” the proclamation misrepresents the original point of Columbus Day, which had a lot more to do with putting down white supremacy than celebrating the “enduring significance” of Columbus in opening “a new chapter in world history.”

Her complete essay about the proclamation and other events of the day is definitely worth a read.

Don’t get the idea that I’m jumping on the “Hate Columbus” bandwagon with these thoughts. Half of my blood comes from Italy, and I respect and love that heritage. Columbus is part of the reason that I get to live under the Constitution of this nation, for which I am immensely grateful. But as Dr. Richardson went on to explain,

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.

As an aside, these are things I never knew; I certainly wasn’t taught these facts in school. History must of necessity take all factors into account if it is to be a valid basis for national introspection and growth. We can’t look just at the good, or just at the bad.

I’m grateful for the positive results of the voyages of Cristoforo Colombo, but I’m mindful of the atrocities that were perpetrated along the way. The best thing humanity can do to atone for the destruction of the Taino and Carib populations is to take a good hard look at the realities of the Spanish conquest of the Americas and vow to treat all people with equality, dignity, and respect in the future. As a race of people, we’ll never make it to the stars if we can’t stop rolling in the mud.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Listen to this speech, and then vote to elect this man.

Watch this video (Begin at the 3:00) mark. Listen to Joe Biden’s words. If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript below.

While not as heart-pumping as Bill Pullman’s “we will not go quietly into the night” speech from Independence Day, this one is the real thing, addressing real issues and real dangers that we as a nation face. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative – this is the kind of president we need right now. Issues and concerns can be debated, positions can be put forward, compromises can be made, once people of good will – not obstructive, power-hungry ideologues – are in charge of leading us.


“Thank you all for being here. Thank you. I appreciate you being here on this gorgeous day in a magnificent, magnificent setting, until you think about all the lives that were lost here. Y’all please, all have a seat.

On July 4th, 1863, American woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle in American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg; three days of violence, three days of carnage, 50,000 casualties, wounded, captured, missing, or dead, over three days of fighting. When the sun rose on that Independence Day, Lee would retreat. The war would go on for nearly two more years, but the back of the Confederacy had been broken. The Union would be saved. Slavery would be abolished, government of by and for the people would not perish from the earth, and freedom would be born anew in our land.

There’s no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg, to talk about the cost of division. About how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment, we must come together as a nation. For President Lincoln, the Civil War was about the greatest of causes. The end of slavery, widening equality, pursuit of justice, the creation of opportunity, and the sanctity of freedom.

His words would live ever after. We hear them in our heads. We know them in our hearts. We draw on them when we seek hope in hours of darkness; “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Here on this sacred ground, Abraham Lincoln, re-imagined America itself. Here, a president of the United States spoke of the price of division, and the meaning of sacrifice.

He believed in the rescue, redemption, and rededication of the union. All this in a time, not just of ferocious division, but of widespread death, structural inequity, and fear of the future. And he taught us this, a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth. Today, once again, we are a house divided, but that my friends can no longer be. We’re facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have to bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the Shoals of anger and hate, and division.

As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again, what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked. As I look across America today, I’m concerned. The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many Americans see our public life, not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting, partisan warfare.

Instead of treating each other’s party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. A spirit of being able to work with one another. When I say that, and I’ve been saying it for two years now, I’m accused of being naive. I’m told, “Maybe that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.” Well, I’m here to tell you they can, and they must if we’re going to get anything done.

I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me, as those who do. That’s the job of a president; the duty to care for everyone. Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.

And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well. That’s the choice I’ll make as president. But there’s something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion, competing viewpoints give life and vibrancy to our democracy. No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper. Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them, we must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fist clenched, but our arms open. We have to seek not to tear each other apart, we seek to come together. You don’t have to agree with me on everything, or even on most things, to see that we’re experiencing today is neither good nor normal.

I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville. Close your eyes, and remember what you saw. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches light, veins bulging, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile herd across Europe in the ’30s. It was hate on the march, in the open, in America. Hate never goes away, it only hides. And when it’s given oxygen, when it’s given an opportunity to spread, when it’s treated as normal and acceptable behavior, we’ve opened a door in this country that we must move quickly to close. As president, that’s just what I will do. I will send a clear unequivocal message to the entire nation, there is no place for hate in America.

It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It’ll be given no
safe harbor. In recent weeks and months, the country has been riled by instances of excessive police force, heart-wrenching cases of racial injustice and lives needlessly and senselessly lost, by peaceful protesters, given voice to the calls for justice, by examples of violence and looting and burning that can not be tolerated. I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police.

But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, the moment when black men, women, and children first were brought here in chains. I do not believe we have to choose between law and order, and racial justice in America. We can have both. This is the nation strong enough to both honestly face systemic racism and strong enough to provide safe streets for our families and small businesses. The two often bear the brunt of this looting and burning.

We have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacy groups, menacing our communities. If you say, “We should trust America’s law enforcement authorities to do the job,” as I do, then let them do their job without extremist groups acting as vigilantes. If you say, “We have no need to face racial injustice in the country,” you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.

There’ve been powerful voices for justice in recent weeks and months, George Floyd’s, six year old daughter, who I met with, who looked at me and said in her small child’s voice, “Daddy changed the world.” Also, Jacob Blake’s mother was another. When she said, “Violence didn’t reflect her son and this nation needed healing.” And Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”

I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country. That has for far too long, never been recognized. What we need in America’s leadership that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communications, to bring us together, to heal, to hope. As president, that’s precisely what I will do. We paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact on how we deal with the Coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead, and the number’s climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year; enough, no more. Let’s just set partisanship aside, let’s end the politics and follow the science.

Wearing a mask… wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Testing, tracing, the development and all approval and distribution of a vaccine, isn’t a political statement. It is a science-based decision. We can’t undo what has been done. We can’t go back. We can do so much better. We can do better starting today. We can have a national strategy that puts politics aside and saves lives.

We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation. This pandemic is not a red state or blue state issue. This virus doesn’t care whether you live, or where you live, what political party you belong to, it affects us all. It will take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.

There’s another enduring division in America that we must end, the division in our economic life. That gives opportunity only to the privileged few. America has to be about mobility. It has to be the kind of country where an Abraham Lincoln, a child of the distant frontier, can rise to the highest office in the land. America has to be about possibilities.

The possibility of prosperity, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, for all of us. Working people on their kids deserve an opportunity. Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people, and I quote, “An open field and a fair chance. An open field and a fair chance.” That’s what we’re going to do in America. We’re going to build together. We fought a civil war that would secure a union that would seek to fulfill the promise of equality for all.

And by fits and starts, our better angels had prevailed again, just enough, just enough against our worst impulses to make a new and better nation. And those better angels can prevail again, now. They must prevail again, now. 100 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the vice president, Lyndon B Johnson also came here, and here’s what he said.

He said, “Our nation founded soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg, we must not lose that soul in dishonor, now, on the fields of hate.” Today, we’re engaged, once again, in the battle for the soul of the nation, the forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down and holding us back. We must free ourselves of all of them. As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. And light, not darkness. I’ll be a president who appeals to the best in us, not the worst.

I’ll be a president who pushes toward the future, not one who clings to the past. I’m ready to fight for you and for our nation every day, without exception, without reservation, with a full and devoted heart. We cannot, and will not, allow extremest and white supremacist to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas, to overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores, to overturn the America that has been a Haven and a home for everyone, no matter their background.

From Seneca falls to Selma, to Stonewall we’re at our best when the promise of America is available to all, we cannot, and we will not allow violence in the street to threaten the people of this nation. We cannot and will not walk away from our obligation to at long last, face the wrecking on race and racial justice in this country. We cannot and will not continue to be struck in the partisan politics that lets us, this virus, thrive, while the public health of this nation suffers.

We cannot and will not accept an economic equation that only favors those who have already got it made; everybody deserves a shot at prosperity. Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will Marshall the ingenuity and Goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another.

In the second inaugural Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we’re in to build up the nation’s wounds, bind up the nation’s wounds.” Now, we have our work to reunite America. To bind up our nation’s wounds. To move past shadow and suspicion. And so we, you and I together, we press on, even now. After hearing the second inaugural address, Frederick Douglas told President Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” We have to be dedicated to our own sacred effort. The promise of Gettysburg and the new birth of freedom was in hand.

I think it’s at risk. Every generation that’s followed Gettysburg has been faced with a moment when it must answer this question, will they allow the sacrifices made here to be in vain, or be fulfilled? This is our moment to answer this essential American question, for ourselves and for our time. And my answer is this, it cannot be that after all this country has been through, after all that America’s accomplished, after all the years, we have stood as a beacon of light to the world.

It cannot be that here and now in 2020, we will allow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people to perish this earth. No, it cannot. And it must not. We have it in our hands, the ultimate power. The power to vote. Its the note instrument ever devised to register our will in a peaceable and productive fashion. And so we must. We must vote. We will vote. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our way, because once America votes, America will be heard.

Lincoln said, “The nation is worth fighting for.” So it was. And so it is, together as one nation under God, indivisible. Let us join forces to fight the common foe of injustice and inequality, hate and fear. Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born.

You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.”


I want our nation to return to sanity. The mad divisiveness that infects our politics now is not anything that our founders envisioned. We need to get back to government by reason and compromise instead of bombastic ideological warfare and obstruction. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.

This coming November, please vote to sweep the authoritarians from power, and return our nation to the democratic republic that we were given at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. ¹

The Old Wolf has spoken, but Joe Biden has spoken better.


Footnotes:

¹ A good exploration of Franklin’s quote, “A republic if you can keep it” can be found here.