Drop me a line

When I was a teenager, and I made friends who lived in other states, we’d keep in touch by letters and phone calls. Long distance calls were expensive, but letters could be written any time, drawn on, dropped in the mail and delivered within two or three days for the price of a full-sized chocolate bar (in those days less than a quarter, believe it or not). “Drop me a line,” we’d say, taking our leave of each other, and get busy, on a bus, a train, lying on a couch, setting pen to paper. It was always a great moment when a return letter arrived, particularly when a friend came up with an inventive envelope (for a time we always tried to top each other with wild, ridiculous hand-made envelopes).

Now, those were, to be sure, primitive times, very similar, in terms of communication, to the previous hundred years or so. We did not carry small, powerful personal computers in our pockets that could also be used to text, tweet, make phone calls and video chats. We sat and wrote by hand, folded the pages, put them in an envelope, addressed it, put a stamp on it and dropped it in the mail box. Seems unreal now, even though I sometimes still send drawings and scrawled notes to a small circle of people from time to time.

Here’s a “funny” thing, though. People regularly don’t know what to say when they get something in the mail (and, admittedly, my letters are often more visual than literary, so theres’s also that). As often as not I never even find out my letter has reached its intended recipient, unless I follow up later by text. I have a few theories, including that people in general don’t know how to react to “art” (particularly if it is not monetized, official, etc.), but it is notable, I think, that if you ask a question in a colorful, handwritten letter, you will virtually never get an answer to that question. Although, of course, it’s not hard to see why this letter may not have received a response:

I get that there’s something a bit maniacal-looking there. It is part of my graphomania, when it strikes, I am helpless against it. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to have a question, asked simply, unaddressed when it is written on a page, with other stuff, and mailed to somebody. This is my experience anyway, not many people are attuned to the art of old-time correspondence in our era of super-terse hyper LOL instant response-demanding knee jerks. It was not always this way, my young friends, and, like anything else, the old way was not without its pains in the ass.

I had a close friend for many years, a prodigious correspondent, who was a solipcist. By this I mean that he was convinced of his own reality in the world, (because he thought, and therefore, he was), but was not convinced anyone could ever truly know what was in somebody else’s mind or heart, or even if they actually existed, independently, outside of his perception. This belief, to me, is the essence of intellectualized alienation and a ticket to misery, as it was in his case, but he sure loved to write long, complex letters, in spite of his deep skepticism about anyone actually being able to truly understand anything he expressed.

At a certain point, tired of getting ten page, two-sided letters, mostly about his troubles and unresponsive to anything I’d written, I negotiated a deal with him. We agreed that in every letter, often at the end, we’d re-read the other person’s letter and briefly respond to everything of note. These quick responses would be set off between ellipses, the old dot dot dot (or in the Orange Polyp’s case dot dot dot dot dot dot) in the manner of famous antisemitic doctor and novelist Ferdinand Celine… the Celine section we called it… as in “now I will review and Celine your latest”.

It turned out to be a great innovation. You’d get actual feedback on things you’d written, a response.

“Yer description of the putz — on the nose … no, I never tried ayahuasca, did you ever find some?… she’s always like that, remember August 1971 for but one famous example … they suck, as you have noted whenever the name of their Nazi owner comes up … funny bit about your urinary troubles, if you know what I mean … further comments on the issue of solipcism are in order, remind me next time, if you actually DO exist independent of my perceptions of you …”

While not spontaneous or ideal, this enforced mutual responsiveness was a great improvement to our correspondence and probably extended our friendship by several years.

To me, having a dialogue is like having a leisurely catch. You throw me the ball, I hold it for a second, feeling its texture and its weight, and I toss it back to you, placing the ball in the air where you can easily catch it. We do this until we agree we’ve done it enough. Nothing is more natural, I think, than tossing a ball back and forth on a nice day.

This kind of meditative back and forth is tragically a more and more rare experience in our always in a hurry, time is money, make your point in 140 characters, too late, wait, I was distracted, what was I saying? society. Because we are always in a hurry, and time is not only money but money is free speech, and because so much free speech is also false, and the firehose of mendacity sprays full bore, torrent so powerful it can rip your skin off … I’m sorry, what were you saying? Wait, I’m getting another call… oh, God, here’s a text coming in too, a very important one, can you… hang on, Oh I don’t believe it! I don’t fucking believe it! Wait til I send you this… on second thought, maybe not, can you hold, can I call… what the hell do they want now?… can you text me later?

Ah, you know what, I’ll drop you a line.

Though I’ve learned to deal with it better and better in recent years, I am predisposed to a tic about silence by way of reply, because my father, in his most sadistic moments, would simply refuse to reply, deploying the old deniable silence (“what are you whining about, I didn’t even fucking hear you”) to wound quite effectively. So silence by way of reply when I ask a question has long had a kryptonite effect on me. Still, as a general rule, we all want to know we are being heard and replied to sensibly. It does not happen enough these days in general, which is one major reason people are so isolated and ready to jump into an online rabbit hole like QAnon that provides a false sense of community to those lonely, crazy souls who embrace it, “where we go one, we go all”, and shit.

It is worth the minute or two it might take, when a friend asks you a question that requires an answer, to actually digest what they are looking for, indicate confusion if there is any, wait for clarification and then think for ten seconds or so before giving your thoughtful reply. Worth it in my humble (and my conceited) opinion, anyway.

With the benefit of hindsight

Sometimes it is impossible to see a thing clearly, if you you feel a certain way about it, until you can look at it with the benefit of hindsight. Something you had no way to understand as significant when it happened can become clear as part of a pattern you can only see looking back. A seemingly small thing you didn’t see as any kind of problem can come into focus as an important clue of what went wrong, once the entire situation is in the past tense.

I used to be good friends with a cheerful madman, hospitalized periodically for bouts of mania, who inflicted terrible, fatal damage on his old friend’s beautiful Gibson ES-335 (BB King’s Lucille was an ES-335). The lovely guitar, a pleasure to play, had its F-holes gouged out with a file, its mellow Humbucker pickups pried out, it’s perfectly formed, smooth mahogany colored hollow body partially bashed in. The neck was violently pried off, splintering some more great wood. Its remains were then left floating in a bathtub full of soapy water covered with hair the nut had maniacally clipped from his partially shaved head. The guy in the guitar shop just shook his head sadly when he saw the brutality of what had been done to this wonderful instrument. He pronounced it dead.

With hindsight I came to understand how deep my friend’s reservoir of rage was, but that was a lesson I’d learn much later. As for the guitar he destroyed, I knew the back story right away. It makes no sense in the cold light of pure Reason, but I understood part of the rage that made the gleeful desecration seem momentarily justified to my out of control friend. The occasionally crazed man was a fairly good musician who could sometimes come up with cool parts for the songs of his friend the songwriter. He often added inventive keyboard parts that greatly enhanced his friend’s songs. The songwriter always viewed his friend as a side kick, his loyal accompanist. The songwriter, like Lennon and McCartney before him (when they gave Harrison no credit for his many great arrangement ideas and melodic contributions, like the brilliant, soulful song-making opening riff in “And I Love Her”) never gave him any songwriting credit. It wore on him over the years. Finally in a bout of mania he fucked up the guy’s expensive, vintage guitar (this guy I’m talking about, not George Harrison).

Footnote: credit or no credit was purely academic since not one of the songwriter’s songs was ever published, let alone performed and monetized. As a sign of respect, the songwriter would have been well advised to give some credit to his friend for his major help on a bunch of his tunes. Particularly in light of how things ended for that beautiful guitar, and their long friendship.

I had a friend, since Junior High School, who became a locally well-known lawyer. He had explained to me, when we were adolescents, that he had to work hard in school, to graduate at the top of his class, to maximize his chances for getting into a top school that would be a ticket to professional success and ultimate happiness. His vision of success, he explained (as I smoked a joint he would no longer share — he had extra credit homework to complete), was coming home every night to a beautiful home where his beautiful wife would hand him a perfect drink as he relaxed, admiring his sunset view, as the final touches were put on his gourmet dinner. It struck me as a shallow vision of the good life, even at fourteen, but who the hell was I to judge? To each his own, or as we learned to say in our Junior High School French class “a chacun son gout“.

He worked hard, graduated at the top of his specialized high school class, went on to Harvard and then Columbia for his law degree. He got a highly paid job at a prestigious law firm which involved, among other things, defending toxic polluters against lawsuits from tree huggers. After a relatively short time, he changed sides. He took the litigation skills he developed at that corporate law firm and, taking a big cut in pay, went to work defending the environment as the lead lawyer in a branch office of The Earth’s Law Firm, fighting the same powerful world destroying scoundrels he used to represent. This move was the right thing to do, and as far as I know, he never regretted making it.

We remained close friends over the years. He didn’t like to talk about personal troubles of his own very often, feeling that the world is a bitter enough place without adding his complaints to the conversation. He seemingly enjoyed talking about my personal troubles, though, probing for the intimate details, playing devil’s advocate to show me that, arguably, the person I was having trouble with no doubt saw me as the culpable asshole, and not without reasons, which he would lay out and I would counter. I took all this in the spirit of what I thought of as friendship, in accordance with the emotional limitations of what this unhappy, critical old friend was capable of giving.

Until one day not long ago, when he called me in agitation, to challenge me about strong feelings I’d expressed to him in an email. He was very concerned, he said, that I seemed to be so disproportionately angry about a relatively small thing that had happened to me (the illegal termination of my ACA health insurance in January 2020). He was angry, in fact, that I seemed so irrationally angry, and was worried that I was going to kill myself with unhealthy rage. It appeared to him that I was full of destructive self-pity, seeing myself as the only person fucked by a giant fucking machine he was up against every minute of his life, as was everybody else. He eventually challenged me to tell him to go fuck himself. I declined, which, in hindsight was a mistake. Within a few months, after a lot of futile effort to avoid it, I essentially had to tell him that anyway.

But here’s the thing that hit me so clearly, looking at it in hindsight the other day, out of the blue, as I kept a steady pulse with a few simple chords on my guitar. I’d visited him at his new girlfriend’s house in California. He had two nice guitars and I began playing a steady, easy to improvise to rhythm part on one guitar. He began soloing over the simple changes on the other guitar. His girlfriend passed by with a big smile, commenting on how good we sounded. I played rhythm guitar behind him for the whole time we played together. The sound of a few notes in harmony, placed just right against the beat, and keeping the pulse steady as a heartbeat is the soul of guitar playing, to many of us. I never mind playing accompaniment behind a singer or another instrumentalist.

We’d both been playing since we were fourteen, he’d started a bit before me. He had been a hardworking lawyer while I’d spent those same working years, as a lawyer, working as little as possible, mostly as a low-paid court appointed piss boy, and before that, a teacher. I see now the great advantage I’d had over the years in the music department, because I loved guitar I’d spent countless hours of my life of leisure learning to play it. In his busy life of great responsibility, with much less time to play, he focused on mastering scales and modes, to solo. His soloing sounded pretty good.

After an hour or so I asked him to play a three or four chord vamp, so I could show him a bit of Gypsy guitar I’d learned. He said he couldn’t do it. The chords were simple, I don’t know what his reason was, but I didn’t press the matter. When it came up later, I told him it was fine, I’d had fun accompanying him, he sounded good.

Now, in the cool light of hindsight, this odd refusal to do a simple thing makes a certain amount of sense. Since reading the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant together in ninth grade French class, my hardworking friend often referred to himself as the Ant, while I was, clearly, the Grasshopper. In this morality play the Grasshopper played violin all the time and wanted nothing to do with his fretful friend the Ant’s constant neurotic reminders that winter was coming and that he’d better start gathering food for those long cold months. The Grasshopper mocked the Ant, played some fancy violin, and the Ant furrowed his brow and went back to work. When winter came, and food became scarce, the Grasshopper, starving, finally swallowed his pride and went to ask his friend the Ant for food. The Ant, who had worked his ass off and had no time to “enjoy” life in the reckless manner of the self-indulgent Grasshopper he had tried to warn, tells the Grasshopper to fuck off. The Grasshopper starves to death. FIN.

In that context, my friend’s anger at my anger is as understandable as his claim that he couldn’t play a D, G7 and C chord, the chords every guitar player learns in the first week of playing. He has always been a competitive man, number 26 in his highly competitive graduating class in HS, degrees from two top Ivy League schools. I have always been an under-achiever, trying my best to gain insight and become a better person. To him, as to many ambitious people, achievement and success are the only measures of self-worth, and trying to become a “better person” is an illusory pursuit, a foolish exercise in self-deception. To me, doing what I love as well as I can and treating myself and the people I care about gently seem to be my top two loser priorities.

So, picture this — he’s playing live music, with a friend who plays a steady vamp that is open and easy to improvise to, and his girlfriend loves it. Why would he start playing possibly shaky rhythm guitar, which he hasn’t spent decades perfecting and polishing (as the fucking Grasshopper, in his life of infinite leisure, has) so that his shiftless friend can start improvising in a way that could, possibly, make him look bad? It’s lose/lose for him. So he simply says “I can’t do that.”

Seen in this new light I’m tempted to drop my old friend a line, tell him concisely how contemptible and ultimately self-destructive his reflexive competitiveness is, using this petty but telling example of his inability to play three simple chords for two minutes. I’d follow up with a couple of choice politically incorrect insults from our adolescence characterizing the unfair, childishly insecure type who is afraid, in front of his girlfriend and the best friend he ever had (“I love you like a brother”) of “looking bad” somehow — or worse, letting his unworthy friend look good. Because, as every successful person knows, playing music is actually about proving your dominance over the other players…

Funny, in the moment, most of us tend to let these kind of things slip by, in the spirit of not sweating the small stuff, not making a friend uncomfortable for no reason. Those of us who are not, by nature and long habit, carping, argumentative, super-competitive douche bags (his favorite phrase for worms, from back in the day), at any rate.

And the Lord slew him, also

The Bible is full of great, if sometimes divinely ambiguous, passages. Somewhere in the Book of Leviticus (chapter 26) God tells His People about the blessings He will bestow on them if they heed His commandments. He does this in a full paragraph of generous promises. In the next few pages He details the escalating curses He will afflict them with if they disobey His commands. In the end their great-great-grandchildren are eating their own children and fleeing in terror from the rustling of a leaf on a tree [1]. Great stuff from the All-Merciful.

Perhaps my favorite short bit is the brief story of Onan. Onan is known in polite society as the father of onanism, which is Victorian slang for masturbation [2]. It is not recorded that he actually did the solitary, self-pleasuring for which Victorian children were severely punished. Onan, every Bible reader knows, practiced coitus interruptus, as detailed in Genesis 38:9.

The story is that Onan’s older brother died and Onan’s father instructed him to do his duty to his brother, impregnate his widow, as the law demanded, and raise up seed to his brother’s name. This would allow the baby of the eldest son to inherit all of his grandfather’s property when the old man died, cutting Onan out of the inheritance entirely. Onan went to do his duty, had second thoughts, pulled out, spilling his seed on the ground. He apparently got in the habit of doing this, as Er’s widow, Tamar was not getting pregnant in spite of his many conjugal visits. Then, my favorite bit:

And what Onan did was hateful in the sight of the Lord and the Lord slew him, also.

Also!

Meaning, one assumes, that the Lord had slain Onan’s older brother, for some wickedness not reported in the Bible.

I am not a faithful or careful reader of the Old Testament, am only fleetingly acquainted with the New Testament. Of course, the fault here is my sloppy reading. The Holy One, blessed be He, didn’t spring this as a mischievous surprise, a punchline, the way I did, He carefully explained everything in Genesis 38:8, writing in His customary third person:

…6 Now Judah acquired a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; so the LORD put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife. Perform your duty as her brother-in-law and raise up offspring for your brother.”…

Genesis 38:6-8

Always remember, the Devil can cite scripture, for a laugh. If you think that’s funny, try swallowing a bite of your child’s tender flesh as you fight your need to flee in terror from the sound of the wind rustling a dead leaf on a tree branch, punk.

Further reading:

Job 5:2
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.

[1] from the final part of the great Leviticus 26:

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.’”

more here

[2]

OK, you got me, I pulled that Victorian reference out of my ass, here’s the actual origin:

early 18th century: from French onanisme or modern Latin onanismus, from the name Onan (Gen. 38:9), who practiced coitus interruptus.

We brought out the worst in each other

I stand by my original comment.

“From when I asked you what was the reason for your final, fatal estrangement?”

Yeah, when I told you we brought out the worst in each other.

“Yeah, I remember when you said that, but I have to confess, I never really got that.”

I fucking shot the guy, twice.

“OK, but it seems clear you had no intent to actually kill him.”

I took a gun and shot my oldest amigo twice, once in the thigh, once in the kneecap. In the kneecap, because it’s supposed to be excruciatingly painful to be shot in the knee. I would say the worst in each of us had been brought out by that point.

“Not so, I beg to differ, not the worst, he didn’t bring out the worst in you (though you may well have brought out the worst in him). The worst would have caused you to shoot to kill, you would have blown his brains out or shot him twice in the gut, so he’d die slowly and in great agony like in the Westerns when somebody gets gut shot

Well, sure, killing him would have been worse, in a strict sense the worst, but goddamn it, I shot a guy I’ve been friends with since we were ten years old. I would say we brought out the worst in each other, or, at the least, very bad things.

“As you admit, not the worst, bad, sure, very bad, but by your own admission, not the worst.”

Well, as Shakespeare has some poor devil say in King Lear, “as long as you can say it’s the worst, it’s not the worst.”

“Ah, you mean:

  • Edgar[aside] O gods! Who is’t can say ‘I am at the worst’?
    I am worse than e’er I was.
  • Old ManTis poor mad Tom.
  • Edgar[aside] And worse I may be yet. The worst is not
    So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.’ “

Yes, I lack your eidetic, photogenic memory.

“You mean my lightning fast google fingers.”

Yes, I’m sure that is what I mean.

“But anyway, I’m interested in hearing more of this ‘we brought out the worst in each other’ business.”

Well, shooting my old friend was about as bad as it got, and, of course, I only winged the guy, or crippled him I guess is more accurate, so I guess nothing really bad happened between us…

“No need to be snide, Clyde. Precision in language is important, as you know, being an officer of the court. Bringing out ‘bad enough’ in each other is far from bringing out the ‘worst'”

Is there a point to this exercise in semantics?

“Are you referring to lexical or conceptual semantics?”

Plain old school yard semantics.

“It’s just that you are in the habit of making wild claims you later are unable to back up, I’m trying to help you communicate more clearly and not contradict yourself.”

So to avoid contradiction, for you, I need to make it clear that we brought out very bad, dark, violent things in each other, that while shooting him was, admittedly, bad, and I spent two years on probation (talk about a good lawyer), we did not actually bring out the absolute ‘worst’ in each other, unless you consider that perhaps the worst I could do was shoot somebody I’ve known for years twice, deliberately, to cause maximum pain.

“No need to be so snippy about it, I’m just making a point.”

Snippy, you say, could you give me the lexical semantic etymology of that term of art?

“Snippy is a colloquial phrase, as you well know. It means short-tempered, snarky, bitten off with an overtone of hostility, as in snipping, or perhaps, nipping. I don’t think it’s fair to take it out on me if you habitually seek a pass, a poetic license, for speaking with imprecision.”

I made the point that we stopped being friends for good once I finally understood that we were in an eternal struggle, that there was no chance of coming to any understanding, that we were locked in a zero sum game for who had the right to be more disappointed by the other, whose anger and hostility was more justified. Our rotting cadaver of a friendship had by then become toxic, septic, it had to be put out of its misery for everyone’s good. My shorthand for all that, and my abiding belief, when pressed for a summary of the reason we are no longer friends, after almost half a century, is that we brought out the worst in each other. We had no empathy towards each other, to put it as mildly, and unsnippily as I can.

“Well, there’s no reason to be so fucking snide…”

Argumentative, your Honor!

“I’m not the one making floridly exaggerated claims.”

Floridly, you say, as in floridly psychotic, complete with the fragrant bouquet of hallucinations and addled brain full of false beliefs?

“Whatever… you know, for someone as smart as you are it’s kind of sad that you can’t have a simple intellectual disagreement with somebody without getting all bent out of shape and taking it out on the other person, charging me with being argumentative. You know argument is sport with me, and I can as easily argue your side of the debate as the side I am staunchly defending against you. Why do you take it so personally?”

I only take it personally, I suppose, because I am personally being subjected to this hectoring lecture on precision in language, over a heinous and painful thing I personally did to an old friend after years of escalating hostility. I personally have to defend myself against your sporty, fun ‘I get such a kick out of being contrary!’ inquisition, or maybe prosecution is more accurate, I have to check to see if my poetic license has expired or not.

“Jesus, you really are a fucking hard-ass. You can certainly dish out the punishment but you seem incapable of taking even a gentle push to make yourself more clear.”

The only way I could be more clear, at this point, is by going home, getting my legally possessed gun (great lawyer!) and pointing it at your fucking knee.

“Oh, you talk a good game, tough guy, but this would be a second offense and you’d do prison time.”

Not necessarily, not if I killed you and buried your body here, at this scenic spot where your carcass would never be found.

(He pulls a gun out of his backpack and clicks off the safety).

“You talk a good game, pal, but now that you’ve threatened to kill me, this would be self-defense, standing my ground in reasonable, or at least articulable, fear of deadly assault, here in the great state of Florida.”

We’re in Mississippi, friend.

“Same shit, different state motto”

Well, you might as well shoot me, but, not in the knee, please, for the love of God.

“Don’t worry about that, there is only one reason to shoot somebody, and it’s not to make him limp for the rest of his miserable life.”

Your clearheadedness is an inspiration to everybody in the Laughing Academy, sir.

“Oh, I’m the crazy one? On your knees, motherfucker.”

You shouldn’t use the ‘f-word’.

“Are you fucking mocking me?!”

Oy, I wouldn’t dream of it!

Why Do You Write? (2)

The world comes into focus when I sit down to write. As I write, and rewrite, what I mean to say becomes clearer and clearer, to me and to anyone who reads the words. Writing feels very much like having a meaningful conversation with another person, an unhurried exchange with no regretted, blurted word, as little ambiguity as possible, the endless chance to make things as clear as they can be made, nothing that can’t be fixed before it’s a problem. Writing and careful editing can make everything more understandable, which in itself is a beautiful thing.

Writing feels like a talk where everyone is listened to, all confusion is heard and responded to thoughtfully, every complexity clarified. This is rare in conversation, sadly, and we fondly recall those conversations where we take the time to really hear and are listened to this way. I feel the embrace of this kind of intimate talk virtually every time I sit down to write. It matters little to me, as I write, that very few people, or no people, will read a particular piece. The conversation goes on in any case, ready to be joined at any time.

What is it, exactly, that is spurring me to write today? What do I want to talk with you about? Once you give your thoughts a title (an excellent suggestion from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I read, and took to heart, as a sprout) it becomes much easier to follow them, to corral them, to get the flow of them to make sense. Today I am writing about why we write, though, of course, I have little insight into why YOU write.

I speak for myself, obviously, as I write these words. I’m certain that many of you experience a similar feeling of connection to others when you sit down to write. This feeling is particularly precious in our atomized, virtual world where much of our communication is done in short text bursts or other digitized interactions, without the nuances of eye contact or body language. The conversational/connection angle of writing and rewriting will resonate with those of you who are motivated the same way I am.

Vonnegut said he always wrote imagining his bright, well-read sister’s reaction. If he could picture her shaking her head over something he wrote, that passage would have to be rewritten until it met her high standards, or tossed. When I write, I sometimes picture a literate stranger, in India, China, or the Ukraine, and strive to make my prose as clear and my train of thought as focused as I can. I also sometimes picture my mother’s reactions when I write, she was a keen appreciator of good writing.

When I was a boy, I used to write much more emotionally, driven by the mistaken belief that I could include everything I’d ever felt, thought or learned in the piece I was writing. I was driven by a strong need to sum everything up every time I sat down to write. I have heard this impulse compared to trying to hit a mammoth home run every time up. It took time to adjust my expectations, get better control of my swing, to learn that making good contact is the point of this game. It took time to learn to choose one thing to focus on at a time. That’s where Vonnegut’s advice comes in so handy. The universe swirls, an infinite multi-dimensional kaleidoscope, in constant, frenetic motion, making it impossible to focus on the giant themes we often feel up against. Unless you focus on one specific thing at a time, and naming that one thing up top helps. Which, of course, is not always as simple a matter as it seems.

For example, I heard a few snippets of some of the speeches at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (mein kampference [1]) in Dallas. The former president, a compulsive liar loved by 39% of Americans, continues to lie about his second term being treacherously stolen from him in a fake election. The faithful do not doubt that his lie (which would, of course, require a national, bipartisan conspiracy against him) is true — if not literally true, based only on evidence, then true in the higher, faith-based sense that true believers believe is a higher truth than the earthly, limited fact-based variant. To verify that his endlessly repeated claim of a stolen election is an audacious, incendiary lie, we need look no further than the many Republicans and Trump-appointed judges who found there was no fraud in the election the Orange Polyp still claims was rigged to steal from the rightful winner, him. To see how provocative and dangerous this lie is, we need look no further than the deadly January 6 riot and the GOP’s continued far-fetched defense of a stirred up insurrectionist mob that violently stormed the Capitol and successfully stopped the peaceful transfer of power for several hours, at the exhortation of the former president and his faithful, like his son Junior, Rudy and Alabama Representative Mo Brooks. Yet, the CPAC crowd [2] drowned the lying speakers in adulation, chose the ex-president by 70% in a poll of who these extremists want to represent their party in 2024. This paragraph would become the seed of a post, after I called it something like “Nazi rallies had nothing on these cute pups!”.

So I realize another reason I write is to digest things that are otherwise indigestible to me and to make my point of view known. Most people I know have little tolerance for discussing the depressing battle over our nation’s soul, they want to relax, enjoy life, be out in nature, eat good food together, not be tortured by someone making an all-too convincing case that we are living in Berlin, 1932. Or the soon to be violently sundered United States of 1860. I can gently judge them without blaming them, I understand their point of view, nobody likes a fucking party pooper, I hate them myself. Here, on the other hand, I can lay things out that would otherwise suffocate me, if left unvented. Writing it out here helps me process things and leaves me able to say much less to friends about the details of this ongoing horror movie we are all living in.

Thoughts lead where they do, and if we follow them carefully we can make the path of those thoughts intelligible. It gives some comfort, at least to me, to be able to see things in perspective. In the case of the paragraph about CPAC, it leads, invariably to certain related thoughts and questions. The MAGA riot actually stopped the function of government, as it was intended to, which is the legal definition of an insurrection, so why is nobody on trial for inciting insurrection? Why have none of the funders ($50,000,000 on advertising alone), organizers and promoters of the attack on the Capitol been indicted for anything? Why are there no senate investigations into senators who actively spread the Big Lie and then actively contested the counting of uncontroversial votes, based on the prevalent Republican belief in the Lie they had helped to spread (Lying’ Ted, you brazen little vampire!)? Same in the House, why no ethics investigations if members were seen conducting tours of the building for the rioters in the days before January 6? Is Merrick Garland, a thoughtful, decent man who cried at his confirmation hearing recounting how this country had saved his family from the Nazis, the right man to face off against our home-grown American Nazis? I’d have loved the even-tempered, fair-minded jurist on the Supreme Court, but I don’t know that he has the stomach to do what must be done to face down the virulent antidemocratic threat we are up against.

I see I’ll have to go where these thoughts lead me today, but I’ll go there later, in another post. Another great feature of writing is that you can leave off wherever it makes sense to leave off, and hours, even days later, pick right up after reading everything you wrote in the previous session. What you have already written leads you directly to your next thought.

Which is a magical thing about reading and writing, along with our human ability to string letter symbols into words which can then be fashioned into expressions of even our most complicated thoughts and feelings. Wow.

Another beautiful thing, you can go back, proof-read, trim, fix, reorganize, restate, clarify, polish, as many times as you need to. I’ll no doubt be back to this post a few times in the next day or two, making little tweaks.

Hey, stop me if I asked you this before: why do you write?

[1]

An obnoxious little (parenthetical) darling, adding nothing, likely subtracting, that I should almost certainly murder …

[2]

reads a bit like it was written by Dr. Bronner, but surely the work of a true patriot:

Why do you write?

People write for different reasons, just like we play music for different reasons. Thinking of music, I know some people who play music for the applause, in hope of fame, dreaming of playing to and impressing large, appreciative audiences and being thought of by others as a real musician. In writing it that way, I see I am passing judgment on them, just for doing the normal, natural thing in a competitive society where all we are is what we can prove to others we do better than most. It also suggests there is another way to think about making beautiful sounds, about writing, about doing anything we love. I will explain.

When you play an instrument to produce the best possible sounds you can on it, you are attuned to it, related to it, and you will always play as well as possible. When you pay attention to your intonation, the dynamics of your notes, how you produce different sounds, which sounds most make you love the instrument in your hands, how you bend the note, or slide to the note, or hammer it from a lower note, you are playing in a universe that has nothing to do with others appreciating it. You play for love of what you are doing, love of the sounds your fingers (or breath) and the instrument are making.

I suspect every great instrumentalist plays this way, because they love the sounds they begin to master, love the instrument that produces the sounds, love the way it interacts with other instruments in the mix. When you are in this zone, nothing else really matters to you. When you play out of this kind of love, you naturally get better and better, because it’s not a matter of practicing to attain a goal, it’s always a matter of joyful play. You are absorbed in making a beautiful melody sound as beautiful as you can, laying in a harmony or counterpoint line as perfectly as you can. There really is no better work.

You play a note on the piano. You can bang it hard, stepping on the sustain pedal, and have it ring like a gong. The instrument is called the pianoforte because it is capable of playing pianissimo (quietly) or forte (strong!). A good player can make a piano whisper too, whenever needed. You can sound some notes loudly and others quietly to achieve all kinds of subtle effects. There is a range of things you can do on an instrument capable of this palette of dynamics that were impossible to do on the instruments that preceded the piano, like its direct ancestor the harpsichord. Writing is the same thing, there is a vast range of what you can do with words, lining them up in different ways, loud and soft, for different effects.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I’m officially an old man now. I often wrote out of a feeling of being unable to understand and make myself understood. Though I always spoke well enough, it was not enough. There were things I struggled to express, things I barely understood myself, and I found early on that writing, and thinking, and editing, clarifying what I felt and what I was actually trying to say about what I was wrestling with, was a very helpful process. Writing led me to understand things that perplexed me and it allowed me to share them, through the writing itself or talking, in light of what I’d worked out on the page.

What struck me more and more as I went along was the incomparable beauty of clarity. The writers I admire most set things out clearly. If you don’t give the reader all the necessary background, set out concisely so as not to waste her time, you are doing nobody any favors. If the solid back story needed to understand a point is missing, ambiguity floods in. There’s enough of that in life, it does not enhance expository writing, in my experience.

My goal when I write is clear expression, and I cut away anything that interferes with clarity. I often have to murder a darling, resist the impulse to make the words dance, or shimmy, or call attention to themselves. My main thought when I’m reviewing and revising my words is to make them as plain and clear as I can. This is particularly important when dealing with a difficult, perplexing subject.

For example, and this example stretches over decades, you are perplexed at an unresolvable contradiction about a parent. In my case my father was very smart, very funny, his politics always favored the underdog, the oppressed, he loved animals and treated them with great tenderness, he was insightful, keenly interested in the world and could be very reassuring when he wanted to be. A wonderful man. At the same time, he was very often irritable, angry, critical and mean. He was an abusive prick to my little sister and a determined enemy to me for most of my life. How do you reconcile these things? How is it possible not to take your father’s seething anger at you personally?

If you internalize this kind of parent’s view of you, it makes no sense, the world makes no sense, your life is a painful jumble. A devoted friend of the underdog, a man who believes deep in his soul in human equality, in a right to be free of tyranny, who teaches you to be kind to others, to treat animals with tenderness, snarling every night that you’re a venomous snake … WTF?

How do you understand this? You take an insight, like George Grosz’s comment that in order to understand how someone can behave brutally you have to study the humiliation they underwent. You read this in a biography of Grosz you are reading as you research how this political artist used his talent as a weapon, how he was forced to flee by the Nazis, who would have happily made a gruesome example of him, how he struggled in the US. You started reading about Grosz because your father once compared your drawings to Grosz’s, a compliment you did not take to heart at the time, but one you cherish in hindsight.

You have to study the humiliation that makes a man act with brutality. How do you do this? You can’t really ask the man. One kind of writer would write a novel, create a character she could interrogate, put in different situations, see how he acted, what made him brutal, fill in the imagined humiliation that made the story make sense. I am not this kind of writer, though I love good fiction I’m not drawn to writing it, my attempts over the years strike me as mostly sketchy. I need actual details to work with directly, to describe as accurately as I am able.

So I spent many, many hours conversing with my father’s beloved seventeen years older first cousin, Eli. The man was mostly estranged from his own three children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the result of his tyrannical insistence on raising them as he saw fit, not as they might have liked to have been raised. He could be very difficult, flew into a rage easily, but also, as with my mother, was very easy for me to placate if I acted the right way, backing off just a bit, like I was easing up on the gas pedal.

As easily as Eli’s face turned purple, spittle formed on his lips and he became savage as a leaping panther, he would calm down and return to being a funny, wonderful story-teller. I suppose it was the same dynamic between him and me as the one between my mother and him. They loved each other and fought constantly.

As often as he was blind to the needs of others, to his own role in making people miserable, he also had frequent moments of great insight. It was fascinating to watch these two contradictory things marching forward side by side in our conversations. If I’d spent 40 hours talking to him, I’d never have learned what I needed to know. It took hundreds of hours, over the course of dozens of drives up the twisting Sawmill River Parkway to visit him, before he thought to reveal the difficult truth I needed to know about how my father was humiliated, from the time he could stand.

It was a crushing revelation and he made it with all appropriate hesitation and regret to have to tell me, but describing it to me was an act of love that turned a light on in the universe and enabled me to start to let go of much of the pain and anger that had been building in me for decades. It allowed my father, a few years later, to have a son standing next to his deathbed who knew exactly why he felt his life was over by the time he was two. In a sense, it is a miracle my father did only as much damage to my sister and me as he did.

I have mused about this, and Eli’s gift, over the course of a thousand page first draft that is sitting on this blahg, needing another pass to start turning it into a book you could read and extract lessons from for your own life. Click on the subject “Book of Irv” to the right of this post and you will see what I’m talking about.

A word about “by Oinsketta” instead of publicizing my name, Eliot Widaen, as any normal writer would do. When I started this blahg it was to get access to a supposed archive of research on Malcolm X compiled by Manning Marable a scholar who died shortly after (or maybe right before) the publication of his biography of Malcolm X, El Hadj Malik el Shabbaz. I’d read the book in fascination, thinking it was a great and insightful work, and then the critical shit hit the fan. People who loved Malcolm (as my father had, as I do) were outraged by some of Marable’s assertions in the book. I’d seen a reference to an online archive of Marable’s research, went looking for it, found it, logged in and found virtually nothing of use there.

I remember feeling quite disgusted at the “archive”, that the sources of the controversial parts of what Marable had written had apparently gone with him to the grave. Before being able to access the Malcolm research archive site, I had to log in to something called WordPress. I logged in as my late, beloved cat, Oinsketta, created a PIN and was given a blog. That was about ten years ago. I don’t think I can change the author’s name at this point, on the other hand, I never really checked it out. On the other hand, I suppose I don’t really care enough to research it. At the same time, the clock is ticking, and I’m trying to get some of the best of my thousands of pages of writing into publishable form.

Why do you write?

A few definitions

Some, I’m sure, will recoil from my use of the term Nazi for the public facing Republican party, with the lockstep obstructionist unity we are seeing these days. Highly partisan, sure, taking names and kicking ass, OK, sometimes a bit unfair, even unscrupulous, for sure, using the law to protect friends and prosecute, even persecute, enemies, fair enough, vindictive, all right, lying about an organized, well-financed riot to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, bad, sure, deliberately spreading a deranged lie about a “stolen” election and fundraising on that lie, not good, admittedly. Nazis though? Do I realize what Nazis actually did?

I know very well what Nazis did. They calculatingly used the rage of a suffering populace to fuel a right wing revolution in Germany and install an anti-democratic one-party government. Nazis were pioneers in the now popular technique of the Big Lie — an audacious and incendiary lie (Biden, the Clintons and Tom Hanks all fuck children and drink their blood, BLM and antifa stole your president from you!!!) to keep the rage and fear levels high. They employed street violence (brown shirt squads, kicking ass and taking names) which they defended as necessary to save the nation from radical leftists who wanted to destroy Germany. They called for the execution of all critics of Nazism (and soon got around to doing it). They had the backing of many of Germany’s top industries, who feared socialist reforms in poverty-stricken post-WWI Germany more than they did street violence in the name of the free market, militarization and, soon, vastly increased profit from Nazi government slave labor programs and the like. They instituted loyalty pledges and purged all non-Nazis from public positions, civil service, professorships, medicine, law. They went along, step by step, first “euthanizing” people in mental hospitals, then conducting nationwide pogroms against a hated minority, then taking the citizenship away from classes of citizens, then detaining them, confiscating their property, deporting now stateless “resident aliens”, etc. It was years until they had everyone ready for what they became famous for during the last three years of the war, high tech mechanized mass murder of hated subhumans. The Nazi one-party police state advanced step by step, with the support of millions of purposefully deluded Germans and the willing connivance of a fully Nazi judiciary.

So when I refer to these motherfuckers, fond of calling their Democratic colleagues “brown shirts” and Nazis (for crimes like trying to force people to take safety precautions during a highly infectious pandemic), well, I have to call a party committed to a series of absolute falsehoods (no systemic racism in US, bipartisan conspiracy to defraud the never defeated president who lost, witch hunts with no basis in law or fact, Capitol riot was a totally legal peaceful protest, taxation of the rich kills jobs, a screaming need to pass restrictive voting laws to defend “election integrity,” mask mandate = tyranny, vaccine = Nazism, etc.) and slavishly devoted to a deranged leader what they actually are: Nazis.

Some of them (Stephen Miller, for example) are literally the same as their Nazi forebears, driven by hatred and a radical desire to reshape the world according to their passionate prejudices. Most of the others, the moral mediocrities who make this scary moment possible, like many of the original Nazi party members, are simply ambitious careerists who calculate that the Nazi juggernaut is worth getting on if they want to attain and keep power.

Though he has lied about it, the former president’s first wife (he paid women he cheated on his third wife with to dummy up — no crime, no crime! His first wife retracted the claim that he raped her toward the end of their doomed marriage, retracted!!) revealed that he kept a book of Hitler’s collected speeches in a special cabinet near his bed. A friend always said his speeches, including his use of derisive, biting “humor” to reduce his many enemies to subhuman status, were remarkably similar to Hitler speeches he’d heard. I always said the clown was more like Mussolini, a strutting, posing, incompetent braggart who regards himself as a genius. Events have proved my friend was closer to the truth than I was.

In fairness to the former president, his ambitious rags to riches German born grandfather’s nationality and criminal instincts (he wound up deported from Germany) do not suggest any Nazi tendencies and, besides, he died in 1918 (of the last pandemic) before the formation of the National German Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP).

The same applies to his driven father, there is no proof that he attended a Klan rally in Queens as a young man because he agreed with their racist worldview. He may have gone as a mere spectator, the police arrest report is sketchy on which it was. It may be pure coincidence that as a wealthy builder of government subsidized (he made millions on tax breaks) middle class housing he refused to rent to Blacks and Hispanics, a practice that was not illegal until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it so. Roy Cohn got him out of that case, by settling the federal discrimination lawsuit with no admission of deliberate wrongdoing in trying to honestly preserve the segregation of his working class apartment complexes. So, you know, fair is fair.

Who are the most hated enemies of the modern Republican party and the armed militants who support the former president? Anti-fascists. I rest my case, boys and girls. And God bless these United Shaysssssh.

Why do they keep attacking the guy?

Unscrupulous prosecutors are now going after the small family business of the former president, the Orange Polyp, for allegedly cutting corners (and keeping two sets of books) the way any hugely successful business does to pay less tax. The man is out of office, out of power, all he does now is appear at rallies to continue insisting that the 2020 election was stolen from him and that he will ruin anyone in his party who says otherwise.

He is still immensely popular among his solid 39% base, he works closely with the RNC (who supported him in him in his literally hundreds of fruitless anti-voting suits) and his party leaders and foot soldiers obey him unconditionally, but otherwise, it’s not like he’s an active threat to democracy, unless the laws passed in many states based on his transparent but galvanizing lie about rigged elections work as designed and his candidates win majorities in both houses in 2022. Of course, that scenario is about as likely to happen as thousands descending on, and hundreds overrunning, the US Capitol building in the belief that they’ve been deputized to stop an injustice in progress by their lawful president.

Look, to be honest, the only thing they actually have on him are that his “university” was a fraud, though he didn’t have to admit it when he shut it down and paid only $25,000,000 to settle the case. They also have the fraudulent charity he ran, a charitable foundation that gave almost no money to charitable causes and was shut down after negotiations with vengeful NY State authorities.

Paying off a porn star for silence about having sex with her right after your wife gives birth? Nothing, at worst a technical violation of some kind of campaign finance law nobody ever heard of. Hundreds of pious Christian pastors defend him for that bit of prudent adultery, not nearly as bad as what God’s other flawed vessel, Kind David, did when he sent Bathsheba’s husband off to die in battle so he could possess the woman he coveted. And the union between King David and Queen Bathsheba gave us King Solomon, so, God indeed works in mysterious ways!

The rest of the accusations agains the Orange Polyp are all just allegations: his perfect call to Ukrainian president Zelensky asking for a political favor, arguably a tiny bit imperfect, his call to Georgia Secretary of State Raffensberger to get him to “find” 11,780 votes, that might have crossed a line, even violated a local Georgia law that makes it a crime to try to influence an election outcome. The fact is, they have nothing really concrete and airtight on the guy. Sure he’s on tape doing everything possible to get Raffensberger to change electoral results that have already been recounted and certified, but why wouldn’t he do that?

Sure, some “evidence”-based court may find differently at some point, after other indictments begin rolling out (hello, Fania Willis in Fulton County, GA!) but at least 74,000,000 of our fellow Americans believe that these cases will all be witch hunts, like the toothless witch hunt Mueller headed (he found nothing, less than 140 points of collusion with Russia, no collusion!), and the second so-called impeachment over simply making a speech that supposedly set off an “insurrection”, because when you’re a big star they let you get away with all these nickel and dime “offenses” they are trying to throw at the former celebrity pussy-grabber.

The rule of law is crucial to the administration of justice. Which is why these partisans have no business trying to come up with supposedly legal ways to get this guy. His trial, if any, should only be in the court of public opinion. If the public repudiates him, his ratings will go down and he will have less influence, that’s the way Free Market democracy is supposed to work, after all.

It’s not like he actually did shoot somebody in the face on Fifth Avenue (which, by the way, the law would have allowed him to do, without consequences, had Pence done his fucking job and made him president for life). People are always so brutally unfair to the true prophets of their age! They crucified Jesus, just for speaking God’s truth, and they’re trying to crucify this guy, just because he may have lied a few thousand times. Sheesh.

Facts, anyone?

In light of the wide acceptance of Trump’s Big Lie (that his “landslide victory” was stolen by a bipartisan conspiracy against him), by tens of millions of Americans, it would appear that making a winning argument based on evidence and what you can actually prove, from a practical, tactical point of view, is a thing of the past — at least to a good 40% of our fellow citizens.

The real Big Lie, according to Trump, is that that everybody beside him, and those completely loyal to him, is lying about the rigged election he actually won in a “landslide.” The truth, Tump insists, is that a landslide victory was illegally stolen from him by massive voter fraud and a wide-ranging bipartisan conspiracy to deprive him of his rightful office and illegally install the illegitimate Joe Biden as the “president”. Hence, the rioters who stormed the Capitol January 6 had, as they believed, every right to be enraged, to fight like hell to protect their country and do what their president insisted was their patriotic duty — fight like hell to stop the steal of democracy in progress in the Capitol.

Not that long ago, facts (things that can be shown to have actually happened, things that are witnessed, that people swear to, that are recorded on cameras from multiple angles) supporting each side of an argument were weighed before deciding who was right and who was mistaken. Now, for purposes of American politics, one need only repeat the party line (“alternative facts” work beautifully), loudly and without deviation, and the “perception” of truth will do just fine for that loud minority of Americans.

If a violent mob unleashed by your party’s leader attacked you and threatened to kill your vice president, who, arguably, deserved to be punished for his cowardice and treachery, after all, you must say that there never was a lawless mob and nobody threatened violence against anybody. Anybody who says there was an armed, angry mob, 140 injuries to police, five deaths and threats to Pence and other elected officials is a bald-faced liar! Case closed, loser!

If a sitting president’s deliberate, months long, coordinated, well-funded attempt to violently stop the peaceful transition of power at the last possible moment doesn’t demand a fact-based reckoning, and accountability for the organizers and inciters of the violence, we all might as well just wait to be told where to report for re-education.

Facts still mattered in American court cases, in arguments over public policy, in basic agreement about what is reality and what is delusion, in our very recent history… (this doesn’t necessarily apply in the unappealable Supreme Court, of course, that non-political body Justice Breyer defends the impartiality of… [1])

It’s easy to forget important facts when a powerful firehose of ever more violent bullshit is constantly flooding our perceptions. Remember how Trump mega-donor Postmaster William DeJoy openly removed hundreds of mailboxes from urban areas and ordered urban high speed mail sorting machines dismantled? These moves were targeted to minimize the mail-in votes of Democrats. DeJoy was ordered to put the mailboxes back, but the high speed mail sorting machines could not be replaced, they were literally in a million pieces, already shipped somewhere to be sold for scrap. Sorry.

Polls showed Democrats were much more likely than Trump anti-maskers (future anti-vaxxers) to vote by mail during a pandemic. Trump and his mega-donor then made every effort to eliminate as much mail-in voting as possible, as he and Barr continued to spread furor with unfounded, evidence-free claims about fraud-rife mail-in voting, setting the stage for #Stop the Steal and the January 6 MAGA riot. (After the damage was done Barr claims to have told Trump the voter fraud business was “bullshit” and that he’d “suspected” that was the case even as he ordered — and announced — federal investigations of criminal voter fraud).

Trump won in 2016 by 78,000 votes delivered in key Electoral College districts in three states. One of them was Pennsylvania which he won by less than 1%. He could improve his odds of winning greatly in 2020 if he could eliminate a sizable percentage of anti-Trump votes in swing states where voting is always close. His party’s chances of winning elections are tied directly to voter suppression, particularly after Trump lost an election where he had the second highest number of votes cast, all-time, in an election that set the record for voter turnout, (during a pandemic, mind you).

CandidateYearPartyPopular vote
Joe Biden2020Democratic81,268,924
Donald Trump2020Republican74,216,154
Barack Obama2008Democratic69,498,516

The sixty baseless lawsuits challenging the 2020 elections brought by Trump and the RNC were famously all dismissed, often for lack of evidence. Sometimes forgotten is that before the 2020 election Trump and the Republican National Committee brought literally hundreds of lawsuits to stop forms of voting they felt would put them at a disadvantage. One was a federal suit in western Pennsylvania challenging the state’s plan to expand mail-in voting, and drop boxes, for an election during the second wave of a deadly pandemic. The judge ordered Trump/RNC to produce evidence of their claims that these long-used methods of voting would introduce massive fraud into the election. If they did not produce evidence, the judge ordered, they must state that they have no evidence.

The federal judge, J. Nicholas Ranjan, had been appointed by Trump and for a time it looked like he was bending over backwards not to dismiss the case. He wasn’t, as it turned out.

The Trump/RNC’s legal team’s initial response to Judge Ranjan’s order (which granted the state of Pennsylvania’s motion demanding evidence) by Trump’s attorneys was (according to Reuters):

The Trump campaign says the ballot drop box invites fraud. The federal judge asked the campaign to provide evidence of actual fraud, but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case.

source

In the end Trump’s lawyers obeyed the judge’s order by submitting several hundred pages, screenshots and stories from Breitbart, FOX, OANN, Newsmax and similar outfits, alleging massive fraud, without presenting any actual evidence of widespread fraud. Even the right-wing non-profit Heritage Foundation’s zealous crackpot documenter of voter fraud, Hans von Spakovsky, has found a statistically insignificant number of actual voting fraud since 1984.

When Judge Ranjan finally dismissed the Trump/RNC case he wrote that since Trump and the RNC were likely to file an appeal, that he would explicitly lay out the law supporting every facet of his dismissal, basically appeal-proofing his dismissal of the evidence-free lawsuit. He did so over the course of more than 100 pages.

“Frivolous suit” is the usual term for a lawsuit submitted without any credible evidence in support. These lawsuits are designed to harass, intimidate, bully, bankrupt and they are deeply frowned on by American courts. Law students are taught that lawyers who submit frivolous lawsuits abuse the legal process, violate their ethical obligations as “officers of the court” and are subject to sanctions including disbarment.

Millions of Americans are waiting, without much hope, for the legal consequences of this wave of frivolous, evidence-free Trump lawsuits that created the “perception” that there was massive voting fraud because an angry, powerful man who has never lied told us it was true, and filed countless lawsuits. Suspending Rudy’s law license seems a few hundred wrist slaps too few.

Where the Trump-appointed J. Nicholas Ranjan demanded actual proof of fraud, the 6-3 Federalist Society majority on the Supreme Court (5 of the 6 appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote) had no such scruples before ruling in favor of their party. The “perception of fraud” was good enough for Samuel Alito to rule that perception of fraud alone is sufficient reason for, admittedly partisan voter suppression laws you can’t actually prove were passed with anything but good old partisan intent. It’s the quiet Nazis you’ have to watch out for, the silently smoldering ones, particularly when they’re protected by a robust like-minded majority of extremists.

Even (or especially) in a country where a good 40% of voters are entirely faith-based, rather than reality-based, facts need to be known. Thousands of enraged Trump supporters violently assaulted the Capitol to Stop the Steal. The procedure for calling in the National Guard had been changed by “federal officials” shortly before the riot, delaying the deployment of waiting troops that quickly stopped the riot when they arrived, four hours too late to prevent the multiple breaches of the Capitol. When the National Guard arrived, and surrounded the crowd, the riot was quickly over and, instead of the arrest of every rioter, the rioters were allowed to go in peace, no harm no foul. They celebrated their triumph, they actually did stop a joint session of Congress, and posted selfies and videos that got many of them arrested weeks later.

It is too simple a point to make that had this been a crowd of angry Black people, January 6 would be remembered as the day police and National Guard massacred hundreds of American citizens in front of the Capitol.

We are to be consoled, six full months later, that perhaps as many as half of the violent “protesters” who breached the Capitol that day and beat down police officers are facing charges for things like trespassing. Merrick Garland is no radical, after all. Now, calling for an investigation of this violence, planned and incited by the former president and several sitting Congressmen, aided and abetted by multiple senators, is a political hot potato in a land where facts are as malleable as the clay God originally formed into the first man.

On the other hand…

It may be that in following an unhinged but popular leader the now extremist GOP may have finally sealed its fate — no matter how many voter suppression laws they pass, their over the top extremism may be punished at the polls by voters determined to vote, and organizing to defeat the laws designed to disenfranchise them. Heather Cox Richardson provides a great historical echo for that proposition. It may be that, like celebrity psychopath Al Capone, it will be the former president’s greed, cheapness and true belief that he is untouchable, even for shooting someone in the face, that brings him, and his whole criminal empire, down. I can hear his faithful, should that day arrive: “For that? For that?!!!”.

For those who have the stomach for the hideous facts, here’s the NY Times visual account of Trump’s January 6 MAGA riot, very well-done — the video is harrowing [2].

see the full video here
  • Video Investigation: Day of Rage

    [1]

    “My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” [Breyer] said last month in a lecture at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”

    source

    Just ask any of your six Federalist Society colleagues about that one, Steve. I’m sure even Clarence Thomas would agree with you…

    [2]

    A few handy links from the NY Times video investigation of January 6, 2021 .

    Capitol Riot Fallout