I recall from my early teens, the Judgment at Nuremberg movie, which made a big impression then about “justice” and the “rightness and virtue” of the Allied cause. But when I watched the movie on TV, years later, it was the Richard Widmark character–one of the prosecuting colonels, I believe–who made the deepest impression because, by the end of the movie, it was he who saw how the whole process would devolve, how the “winners” would become corrupt and misuse their power, and, in fact, become just like the people they conquered!
As usual, I have much to absorb and learn….
Those political, Republicratic “conventions” of 2016 clarified nothing and — despite the glitter, sparkle, balloons and flags, the pledges of allegiance, hands over the Constitution &/or one’s heart, the pretty words and gruff challenges — they succeeded in confounding and bewildering.
I have had two songs playing in my head since then. (That’s not unusual because so much of modern life involves dredging up the subconscious fantasies and mingling them with the real horrors and fantasies of our Zeitgeist. We are what we eat — and think, and feel, and dream….)
One recent song running thru my head is from the 1941 movie The Strawberry Blonde, with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and (the amazing centenarian) Olivia de Havilland. If you’re of my parents’ generation and a New Year’s Eve Guy Lombardo fan, you may have heard a recording of this 1895 song, here:
It begins thus:
Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde…
and the band played on.
He’d glide ‘cross the floor with the girl he adored…
and the band played on.
His brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,
the poor girl would shake with alarm…
And it continues….
Somehow, Casey doesn’t explode, the girl’s alarm is assuaged, and “the band plays on.”
And this is the US political scene now! A barrage of imagery and fantasies—onrushing and nearly exploding our heads…and the band plays on!
Look for substance, and you will not find it. It’s a mirage. A chimera. It’s smoke in your hands.
I wondered about what some smart friends were thinking. After all, this is not just our phantasmagoria! “We are the world,” Michael Jackson sang, “We are the children.” (And are we not the “exceptional people”? And doesn’t that mean, as Obama informs us, that we have the duty to lead, and, as “Full Spectrum Dominance” implies, that we have the right to define the terms?)
A new friend, writing from Nigeria, responds:
“The US media is… foaming at the mouth with unsubstantiated allegations that Russia is attempting to influence US elections! The commentators on the US mainstream media declare: “How dare Russia try to influence our elections!” Frankly, I can’t believe this level of foolishness and arrogance!—coming from a country with such an unclean record of involvement in other countries for decades! This is another case of ‘We are exceptional and indispensable’; and, ‘We involve ourselves in other countries’ affairs for the sake of democracy and human rights.’ Frankly, that makes me sick!”
Wow! I remember Bette Davis in the movie based on Somerset Maughm’s classic, Of Human Bondage. Bette is telling her hapless lover, Leslie Howard, how every time he kissed her he “made me sick! Made me sick!” (Here Bette emphatically—as only she could!–wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, expunging the horrid taste and memory! Just Google it!)
Could things be that bad?
I read an article by much-admired economist, political and social commentator, Paul Craig Roberts. I passed on the news to poet-friend and sometime-collaborator Charles Orloski:
“I just read PCR’s latest, “Fissures in the Empire.” For the first time, as far as I know, he is calling Hillary “Hitlery”! Wow! He’s saying that the Dems want a war with Russia — at least Cold War II. What do you think? Is that where we’re headed?”
“I am 64 and I’m nearing life’s ninth Inning, and I’m fearful (angry!)…. To hold my tongue now would be a betrayal of all that my life has amounted to.
“First, I suggest that the majority of people (who ever lived) have wisely concluded that the ‘Law of the Lion’ dampens their enthusiasm for having an actual ‘say’ in world processes, including that of the ‘brimming’ US Empire. Second, many will accept being brought ‘lower’ and will numbly work in suffocating cages, be happy with the US Empire’s general dehumanization program, and being served a bi-weekly paycheck that’s rapidly taken away by the negative pressure of appetites and bills!”
And I respond:
I’m just finishing a book called Meet You in Hell by Les Standiford — about Carnegie and Frick, the mass-killings during the Homestead Strike of 1892, and our “Gilded Age” (Twain’s description) of the 1890s and early 1900s. Most Americans have no idea how long we have been in this circle of Hell!
There’s a very minimal percentage of humanity who see things from the long perspective…. Knowing physical life is short, they try to mentally/spiritually surmount anything which desires to make them ‘lower.’ I can spend lots of time recounting American people and institutions which have tried to make me sink lower — to their futile exhaustion!
Yes, I can recall too many such people. The memories gnaw!
“You may recall, how I noted in a previous email how de Chardin asserted, ‘Anything that makes me sink lower, that is the real evil.’ For me, as one who believes in both Man and God as described by de Chardin, I hope for the straight of mind and body to keep making positive progress despite all shapes & sizes of impediments, presented by evil Lions, would-be Lions…and, lest I forget, the evil that lurks in my lower self.”
Spoken/written as a true poet/seeker/thinker. If only the hoi polloi had done their homework, too! If only they were reading Teilhard de Chardin, thinking about evil lurking there… and within!
Most of us are not that advanced! Most Americans are still getting their news from the Howdy-Doody-TV-Network “newsmen” and the Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring dolls of Fox. Six corporations — and a very special group it is!– control our news “media,” and we best recall what Voltaire wrote: “If you want to know who controls you, look at those you are forbidden to criticize.”
Some people do manage to get through the morass! I missed most of the Dem Convention (thank God!), including most of the Khan family mini-drama. But the mini-series ignited by the media played on…and on…and on…. Friends sent me links, and I watched as that pathetic couple was exploited by the Dems and the Media — the hydra-headed Beast!
And no one asked, “How did their son wind up dying in a ‘War on Terror’ precipitated by the USA?”
Or, “Who is this maniac General Allen, whooping up the audience from the stage with war-cries about US exceptionalism, and who are these fools shouting back, ‘USA! USA! USA!’…?” (It is reported later — mostly in the Alternative Media, but also at Fox News, that those cries were drowning out protests from the “Bernie” crowd and others: “No more war!” The lights were also turned off on them! How symbolic!)
And what is the hydra-headed media response to this war-fever, this crazed American version of the Nuremberg Rally?
Well, remember Voltaire’s dictum.
Fortunately, not all of us are dead or deadened by the US war-machine and its very complicit media. Activist-actress Margot Kidder would not be silenced:
You people have no idea what it is like for people from other countries to hear you boast and cheer for your guns and your bombs and your soldiers and your murderous military leaders and your war criminals and your murdering and conscienceless Commander in Chief. All those soaring words are received by the rest of us, by us non-Americans, by all the cells in our body, as absolutely repugnant and obscene.
Pivotal NATO “ally” Turkey has an aborted coup d’etat, but our non-bright lights in the MSM can’t cover that because they’re too busy going over and over and over Trump’s latest gaffe. This week, “The Donald” has said a little too much about the “2nd Amendment” people getting together to defeat Hillary so that she can’t appoint the next Supreme Court Justices. Anybody who watches the tape — which is played over and over, as “the band plays on,” will easily understand what he’s saying. But, Dan Rather, revived from mummy-land, where he has been under wraps since his absurd performances as ABC news anchor, informs us — as do others of his ilk — that Trump is threatening assassination! What universe are these chumps living in? What shape-shifting lizards are they channeling? Why does no one of that inky ilk criticize former CIA head-honcho Mike Morell who writes a lead article for the New York Times (“all the news that’s fit to print”) about how a Trump presidency threatens the Republic? Isn’t that signaling some nincompoop patriot to assassinate Trump for the sake of preserving our “democracy”?
I ask with Job, “Where can wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?”
If we are not constantly striving for the whole truths of history, we shall surely bury ourselves in the half-truths of it!
The extent of the delusions on all sides of our political system ascend and descend under the August heat dome!
The other song that has been playing in my head these past few weeks as a pleasant distraction from the insane distractions of the US media-political circus: It’s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.” (Listen to the Simon and Garfunkel rendition, as I first did decades ago, and it will play in your head, too):
Last night I had the strangest dream I’ve ever known before
I dreamed that all the world agreed to put an end to war
I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the papers
They were signing said they’d never fight again….
“What will it take to revive our moribund peace movement?” I wonder to new friend-correspondent-writer, Eric Walberg. (It turns out this Canadian knows the work of my freshman roommate, David Noble — too soon, no longer with us — who was a “draft dodger” during the Vietnam war, settled in Toronto, taught at York University, wrote books about the Luddites and the dislocations and anomie of modern technological “breakthroughs.”) Surely, it would have been better if there had been a “draft” for the “War on Terror?” I wonder.
“Yes. Conscription did [motivate the peace movement] in Vietnam. And why wasn’t that enough?! Mind you — the US had lots of other non-conscript wars — Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Philippines….
“The United States first employed a form of conscription during the War of 1812…. The imposition of a draft during the American Civil War touched off the New York Draft Riots in July, 1863. The Confederate States instituted conscription in 1862, and resistance was both widespread and violent, with comparisons made between conscription and slavery. Both sides permitted conscripts to hire substitutes….”
Good info! And here’s Eric’s kicker:
“No one has been prosecuted for failure to comply with draft registration since 1986, in part because prosecutions of draft resisters proved counter-productive for the government, and in part because of the difficulty of proving that noncompliance with the law was “knowing and willful.” Many people don’t register at all, register late, or change addresses without notifying the Selective Service System.”
To put it another way: the Government, the War-Machine, figured out how to deal with war-resistance. The Machine could grind the resistance up, and spit it out, cover the tombs at Arlington with little red-white-and-blue flags Made-in-China. It could “re-tool” warfare, robotize it, “drone” it, eliminate the “grunts” — the questioners, the non-believers.
The Machine could teach us to sing in chorus the patriotic songs — from “Over There” to “Born in the USA.”
It could mesmerize us with flag-waving “Conventions” and re-playing tapes of towers falling magically into their footprints….
And, though our heads might nearly “explode” while holding the “girl with strawberry curls” in our arms–that fragile, evanescent image of beauty, grace and wonder—
The band would play on, and we would dance…and we would succumb to the momentary dream.
Gary Corseri has published and posted articles, fiction and poems at hundreds of venues, including, The Seattle Star, The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine and Counterpunch. He has published 2 novels and 2 collections of poetry, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum, and he has taught in universities in the US and Japan, and in US public schools and prisons. Contact: Gary_Corseri [at] comcast.net.