Mark Twain, to me, America's first true original author, is said to have observed that history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
We've all heard that, of course, but I found myself perusing some old commentaries, and was a little astonished at the battles we were fighting just two administrations, and a governor ago. We like to complain that the partisan divide has worsened, but we've been stuck at this level of hell for longer than we remember. In case you need a refresher, here are Dante's circles of Hades. See if this sounds familiar…
First Circle: Limbo
Eh, you might even meet a philosopher or two here.
Second Circle: Lust
Third Circle: Gluttony
Think: Food Network or anyone's twitter feed of an artfully arranged meal or a Facebook photo of your breakfast.
Fourth Circle: Greed
Think: Billionaires who build anatomically correct spacecraft.
Fifth Circle: Anger
Oh...MAGA rallies, BLM protests, Capitol stormings, random shootings of joggers, etc.
Sixth Circle: Heresy
Think: Pastors praising a philandering, non-religious huckster....Elmer Gantry with a gold toilet, a political Bernie Madoff with a nude model trophy wife.
Seventh Circle: Violence
See Anger above.
Eighth Circle: Fraud
See philandering huckster.
Ninth Circle: Treachery
See Tucker Carlson.
But looking back on the titanic political struggles of recent years, or what passed for them, I find we were here many times before. For example, remember the cluster-f**k over the former President's place of birth? Substitute the constant drumbeat over the current occupant’s age and mental state. Here is what I wrote then:
"This particularly virulent strain of wingnut loopiness contends, as you all know by now, that President Slats is not a citizen.
Apparently, his mom, from the day of his birth, was conspiring to make her
bouncing baby boy the first African-American occupant of that big joint on
The birth announcement in the local paper, the official state birth certificate
thingy-type document....shown to any bozo who wants to look at it, all are part of
the plot. You have to admit, this was long range planning at its best.
I expected the usual collection of righty-tighties on talk radio to fan these goofball
embers, and Beck to shed a few tears in the process. But even America’s favorite
nutty, old, fat drunk Lou Dobbs has weighed in on how the Prez needs to come
clean about this cabal involving himself and…uh…our entire 51st state.
But no one, no one is coming close to honesty here. This is all about melanin.
And don’t give me any crap to the contrary. This is about a guy who’s black, with
an African father, and a white Kansas girl for a mother. Don’t kid
yourself about this strain in the American psyche. It is there, and it isn’t limited to
East Backwater, Mississippi either. You saw it in full bloom at the so-called tea-
This bull-goose looniness and the craven fear on the part of far too many office-
holders to call it such, is undermining the GOP and making the slog back that
much harder. Thank heaven, for their sakes, that the health care debate has so
many moving parts and complications. Otherwise, we’d be focused on this crap. "
And, by the way, this “strain” in the American psyche is even bolder now, and unafraid to express its essential George Wallaceness. Watch the online nastiness as the new Supreme Court nominee is debated.
Then there is the "fight" over Texas curriculum requirements. I watched that unguided missile we call a Lieutenant Governor on the aforesaid Tucker Carlson show the other night. He attempted to explain Critical Race Theory as Tucker assumed that face of his that resembles a chimp staring at a locked suitcase. Big Dan said it means a teacher will point to a white kid and say, "You're white, so you're a racist." And he'll point to a black kid and say, "you're black so you're a victim." Wow, the money we could have saved on studies, research and books.
Seeing this pathetic spectacle of willful misinformation, I now know who will be co-hosting the end times.
Suffice to say, it's the kind of ignorant nonsense that typifies our legislative "leadership" these days, who are not so much interested in improving the lives of folks battered by the pandemic and oil slump, but scoring the next slot on Fox. But it isn't new. Here's what I wrote about the battle over history and social studies in Texas years ago.
"Our good friends at the Texas Board of “Education” have decided there’s just too
darned much Thurgood Marshall and not enough Billy Graham in our state’s
social studies curriculum.
The “social conservatives,” which, in this case, is a euphemism for flat-earthers, have struck again. The evangelical faction on the board, who now have regained the Presidency, have named three reviewers to examine social studies and get all that dadgummed ethnic and secular claptrap out of there and get back to fundamentals…literally.
These, and three reviewers appointed by the moderates on the board, made their
recommendations to a meeting of social studies teachers. The teachers, who really
ought to be deciding this, will then make their suggestions to the 15-member
board, dominated by the fundamentalists.
The three conservative reviewers, only one of which was an academic, included
one joker who said Hurricane Katrina, Watergate and Viet Nam were God’s
judgment on America (see Chapter 3 of the new state Social Studies text).
The conservatives want to replace Thurgood Marshall, who won the Brown v.
Board of Education case thus ending school segregation, and was the first black Supreme Court Justice, with either Harriet Tubman or Sam Houston. My initial question is, why replace any of them? All were important figures in history. Is this a zero-sum game? A quota?
One of the reviewers, the Reverend Peter Marshall calls Thurgood Marshall (no
relation) a “weak example” of those who have influenced the course of history.
Anyway, these guys all want more religion and religious figures included. I am
religious and have no problem with a curriculum that emphasizes it’s importance,
and I am a huge fan of Billy Graham. But replacing figures like Cesar Chavez, the
Latino labor leader, is just politics and racial politics at that.
Oh, and they don’t like phrases like “democratic values.” They want that replaced
with “republican values,” since they don’t seem to understand that the phrase
doesn’t denote party affiliation. Seriously, they suggested that. And these morons
are the ones the board majority trust to recommend changes. Excuse me while I
lift my jaw off the floor.
Add this to the anti-intellectual, anti-science stance of many on the board, and it’s
enough to make a sane person throw up their hands, or simply throw up period.
The older I get, and that’s a pretty darned depressing story in itself, the more I
have come to realize that our elected officials, for the most part, are too bloody
scared to really change anything."
Does any of this sound familiar? And as I watch the POTUS struggle, ineffectually to be honest, with his build Back Better Plan, and trim and nip and tuck to please a couple of recalcitrant malcontents on his team, one of whom actually owns a coal company for crying out loud, I'm reminded we were here before on health care with his old boss. What I wrote then:
"I mentioned courage in my last entry in regard to the healthcare debate. Well, I
have to say it doesn’t look like President Slats is overly endowed with it.
Say what you will about “W,” he wasn’t afraid to muscle his way in - oh - a war,
for example. It didn’t matter if it made any sense, or if he was actually telling
the truth. By gosh, he wanted it and it was going to happen and the hell with the
Dems if they didn’t like it.
We are on an unsustainable course and those big old mean insurance and drug
companies are running ads lying about health care. Those big old mean Repubs
are also lying about the plan. So, what does the Big O do about it? He keeps
praising them and reaching out. And cutting out the parts of the plan they’re lying about.
Somewhere, Lyndon is fairly screaming from the grave… “Cowboy up, son, and
just f**king get it done! Screw ‘em if they won’t play nice! It’s called politics, kid,
and when you’ve got the majority, even if it includes medical bribery suspects
like Max Baucus, pummel their sorry asses and get them in line!”
I just don’t think the Prez has it in him.
It’s all about courage, folks. It’s about the courage to do what’s right in the face of
misunderstanding, money, ignorance and partisanship. It’s about leadership, and the fact that we have damned little of it.
I have become increasingly convinced that whenever a major change in this
society is obviously necessary, it can only occur if the financial impact on major
industries is minimal. The bigger the money involved, the less likely the change can happen.
Chalk it up to terminal naivete, but I don’t know why it took so long for me to
realize this, having talked, reported and written about politicians for the last 39
years of my working life.
The long knives are out for healthcare reform, and the industry ATM cards are
smoking hot. The political money involved is momentous and big pharma, big
hospitals and big insurance are damned well going to stop this just like they have
since Harry Truman first proposed it 60-some-odd years ago.
And most of the public is stupid enough, to use a Presidential term, that they’ll
believe what their eyes and monthly budgets say is simply not true. The system is
just fine. After all, Rush and Sean and the gang, all of whom are rich and can
afford as much oxycontin as they want, say it is.
Just look at these moronic “town-hall meetings.” The level of information involved in the Norma Desmond-quality histrionics is somewhere between a chain e-mail and the National Enquirer. “Death Panels?!?!” How damned dumb are we anyway? Well, if the evidence is anything to go by…pretty damned dumb.
But to me, anyway, it is obvious now that it won’t happen in any meaningful way.
Obama could have handled it better, I suppose. He could have cut to the chase
and simply expanded Medicare to cover everyone, redirected all those insurance
premiums we now pay to various fat cats in the industry to fund the thing, and
told everyone this is it.
But he tried to woo the GOP, which is unwooable for political reasons, and the
so-called “blue dog” Democrats, who are simply spineless, greedy or both. That
cost him time and momentum. Now, as far as I’m concerned, it’s over. Like
Merrill-Lynch, we’ll just have to watch it all go under before everyone finally
realizes we could have done something early on.
Let me take a moment to single out Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The
Senator was actually recorded the other day…recorded, for crying out loud, where all the conservatives in her state could see and hear, saying we shouldn’t be lying about health care reform and goofball “death panel” internet rumors.
She didn’t cater to the 20-watt mentality in evidence at various town halls around the land of the free. She didn’t condescend to the equally dim twitterings of Alaska’s former twit in chief, Caribou Barbie. She simply said, let’s debate the
facts. You don’t have to be for it as long as you’re behaving like a responsible adult.
Holy crap! You mean, you don’t have to be a traitorous weasel like Max Baucus
or Chuck Grassley? You can, as Lyndon once observed and I paraphrase, take the lobbyists money, drink their whisky, screw their women, and vote against them the next day? You don’t have to become the personal cabana boy of big pharma?
Wait a minute, we appear to be witnessing in Senator Murkowski, something we
used to call common sense.
While talk show pinheads like former rock and roll morning man turned sociological historian, Glenn Beck, weave strange conspiracies involving eugenics, which Glenn actually looked up on Google, and Nazis and President Barack Mengele, Murkowski is counseling a real debate on real facts?
Pardon me while I do a spit take."
Is it all coming back now? Substitute school board meetings for the town-hall gatherings during the healthcare debate, arguments over CRT for history and social studies controversies. Luckily, the former President was more Machiavelian than I thought, and we squeaked through with a watered-down health plan.
So, I implore the ghost of Lyndon to imbue people of goodwill, on both sides, to suck it up and do the right thing. Come on, don't be dense. We all know what it is. We just can't say it in front of Uncle Lou.