Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Unthinkable

This week, in some State primaries, Trump won over 60% of the vote. Not 50%, which is terrifying, but 60%, which makes him a real threat to our democracy. Trump as President presents an unthinkable thought. In National polling, Hillary defeats Trump, 50% to 39%. In the 1976 election, at the beginning of the campaign, Carter held a twenty point advantage over Ford, but when the dust settled, he barely squeaked out a victory. Trump will pull out all stops to destroy “criminal Hillary.” After 25 years of Clinton bashing, with an electorate madder than hell, she is vulnerable, regardess of her current 11% lead. Kierkegaard would say Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents are suspended over 70,000 fathoms.

More durable than diamonds is character. That an enlarging consensus, at this late date, subscribes to the delusion Trump can change his ways and “act Presidential” boggles the mind.  Yesterday, he gave a speech on foreign policy that amounted to word salad. Yet today, Senator Corker claimed that this mish-mash indicated Trump was evolving. Are you kidding me! And what did the citizenry in five States shout to the heavens last Tuesday? We believe! They believe this one man, an escapee from reality TV, wields omnipotent powers. Why? Trump said so! while peddling his rubbish for nearly a year. He bestrides the globe like a colossus. He comes unleashing the thunderbolts of Zeus.  When that great voice speaks, he says it the way it is, and the planet, north and south, east and west, listens to every word. Show-biz can do that for you.

The astonishing fact is the problem has been brilliantly diagnosed. It’s known as The Charlie Brown Syndrome. Poor Charlie never learns, never pays attention to his experience, preferring his fantasies. He can’t just accept the cruel fact that wishing won’t make it so. Lucy is forever Lucy. At his press conference with David Cameron, President Obama urged the 28 nations comprising the European Union not to have local Lucys’ run the show with a return to nationalism. Working together brought 75 years of peace, a re-built continent. In the 20th century, Lucy brought a re-run of The Thirty Years War. Charlie, are you listening?

When Lucy showed up in a Nazi uniform, Charlie believed. Charlie and Lucy go way back. When Napolean escaped from Elbe,  though he had turned Europe into a charnel house, Charlie believed. 100 days later, 50,000 died at Waterloo.

Brutus heard the people shouting, dazzled by Caesar, a political rally packed with Roman citizenry.  He takes counsel with himself.

He would be crowned.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder,
And that craves wary walking. Crown him king,
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg
Which hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.

 

no global shudder

April 23, 2016

400 years ago today. 23 April, 1616,  the unfathomable spirit of Will Shakespeare left us. As Stephen Greenblatt notes, no “global shudder” shook the planet. He was not buried in Westminster Abbey. He died as he lived, an ordinary citizen and man.

I have the Yale Shakespeare containing all his works, including the 154 sonnets and the long poems. It is over one thousand, five  hundred pages, each page wide enough for two columns of iambic pentameter. Recently I read Romeo and Juliet, written in his late twenties and then Macbeth, written in his early forties. As a linguist at UCLA told me years ago, “By whatever name, it is a single mind.” Yes, indeed. Reading a Shakespeare play is like entering a cathedral with towering organ pipes promising thunder. Of course, more than likely the cathedral transmogrifies quickly into a bawdy street scene or a roaring tavern with – you guessed it –  “sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, honest Jack Falstaff, brave Jack Falstaff, and therefore even more brave, given that he is old Jack Falstaff” —Falstaff, one of the world’s most memorable human beings. Of course, he never lived, except in that unfathomable mind.

What has always puzzled me since meeting up with Will a lifetime ago is that he made no effort to preserve his plays. His sonnets, yes, written in his twenties. He needed to make a name for himself.  When his theatre buddies, Heminges and Condell, put together The First Folio seven yearrs after his death, it included 18 plays never before published in quarto form, including incomparable masterpieces like Macbeth. Half his oeuvre would have simply vanished into the ether. How could he let this happen?

Scholars have insisted that The Tempest was his last play, written in 1611, that is, five years before his death. We now know he had a hand in three other plays, at least through 1613. Will couldn’t stop working! He wrote two great plays a year, tirelessly, a prodigious output.

Why?

He didn’t own a smart phone!

The smartest man who ever lived knew The Now is eternal. Suppose Elizabeth the First came borne splendidly through his part of London. He couldn’t bother with a gadget, however miraculous. NOW was the time to EXPERIENCE seeing  The Queen.  In fact, his mind was a thoroughfare where NOW he experienced Falstaff. And NOW he experienced Macbeth. Do you know that over 500 folks, kings and beggars and clowns and grand ladies came down that unfathomable mind as he experienced them NOW? And 400 years later, so do we.

I’m sure publishers asked him to publish. “Now’s not the time,” Will invariably answered.

 

The Bowels of Christ

Oliver Cromwell famously said, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, my favorite philosopher, observed, “We see the individual constantly clinging  to his errors; with the mass of men it is even worse: once they have acquired an opinion, experience and instruction can labor for centuries against it and labor in vain.”

Have you heard of any big-wig Republican renounce his Party in its travails with madness? When the presidential contenders for the Republican nomination were asked if they would support Donald Trump were he their Party’s candidate in the General election, this after having denounced The Donald as a fraud, a con man, unstable in his temperament, the last person to entrust the nuclear arsenal, they all said, Yes they would!

That is breathtaking! Trump is either a pathologic liar or so caught up in the make-believe world of reality television that he is unable to differentiate fact from fiction. Unfit to serve as president, the rest of the world is appalled and frightened and discouraged that this incompetent Made for TV bozo has sucked all the oxygen from sane American political discourse.

How is one to make sense of this terrifying threat to our country? Sure, it’s easy enough to cluck-cluck Trump would not win the general election, but Cromwell and Schopenhauer know better. We elected George Bush for a second term after the disaster of Iraq. Bush had not only plunged us into a two trillion dollar horror, not to mention nearly 5,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded , but he also gave tax breaks to the rich and prescription discounts to the elderly IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR, driving our country over the cliff economically. And how did he manage to get re-elected?  By suggesting that opposition to the government bordered on treason.

What comes into play during a presidential election is the dynamics of The Group. We are fundamentally Group animals. For uncounted millennia, our survival depended on loyalty to our Group. As recent as the ancient Greeks, exile was a death sentence. The 250 Greek cities had all the houses looking inward. Beyond the city walls, lurked The Other, an alien tribe.  Same for the 800 plus  gigantic volcanic statues, moai, on Easter  Island, their backs turned to the sea.

Most presidential elections are decided by two to four percentage points. What is so frightening about Trump is that EVERY prediction about Trump’s appeal has been WRONG. He has defied all the rules of campaigning.

There is good news tonight. Trump took a thumping in Wisconsin today. His odds of coming to the Republican convention in July with 1,237 delegates  are not in his favor. Kasich is likely finished. That leaves Cruz.

We’ll deal with one poison at a time.