Friday, January 14, 2011

Not Weak Enough (Killer's Eyes, Part 2)

Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait As A Desperate Man, 1843

      Once, early in my funeral-going life, I asked my mother why people didn't bring cameras to funerals.  

Those are not weak enough
But these are not as strong
That handful of buried men
Who understood their ground

      Reviewing my last several days' posts here, I discern futile attempts to distract, distance and/or cheer myself up following last Saturday's killings in Tucson.  Reading through the roll of the dead and  injured  and learning what has been discovered so far (with more details being reported every day) about Jared Lee Loughner's life, mind and motivations are both, obviously, horrifying enough, but what has made the Tucson experience so unexpectedly and searingly scarring has been the reflexive and visceral political reaction to the event. 


Francisco Goya, Beautiful Teacher (From Los Caprichos), 1797-98     

      This can only be described as a pre-emptive, opportunistic political war initiated by national, state and local Democrat office holders and their media supporters (including so-called "social media" participants) at all levels against anyone who might disagree with their views about virtually anything at all.  For the first time in my life (remembering, among other notable events, Chicago 1968, the Rodney King riots, my experiences as a prosecutor in Brooklyn, and the powerful and real Los Angeles/millenium movie Strange Days), the foregoing "liberal" (using the term in its current political, rather than its classic philosophical sense) cohort now includes an actual law enforcement complement in the figure of the feckless Pima County sheriff who failed to prevent what appears to have been an entirely foreseeable crime and who seems intent on undercutting its prosecution through his repeated intemperate and inappropriate self-serving public statements made to a compliant and sadly complicit news corps -- statements clearly calculated ab initio to draw public attention away from his own gross incompetence and to suborn scrutiny of his department's history and actions.  

Handy cunning wrapped around a heavy lexicon
It's weak enough to do, but it went on and on
And started up -- that's how it all began
It put that ball of wax in gear and man it ran

      The many ways in which all of these parties have contorted common sense and corrupted language by tying Loughner's psychotic acts to the speech, purported attitudes and an  amorphous, fractious "atmosphere" supposedly generated by political opponents makes you think that crazy people occasionally do have something valuable to tell us and that the question Loughner posed to Rep. Giffords at their first meeting in 2007 (it was Giffords’ response, which Loughner thought deficient, that apparently was the proximate cause of his rage and these horrific events) -- "What is the use of government if words have no meaning?" -- makes some sort of odd sense.

My people raised me on pure superstition
The stars were put up there for us to wish upon
They brought me unconscious from over the water
I'm used to not knowing which side I'm on

      This nightmare crescendoed at Wednesday evening's strange and dishonorable political rally in Arizona, culminating in the president's speech and the many, many standing ovations it received from the assembled “celebrants”, including the president's wife and members of his administration, all of whom could and should have behaved with a sense of sobriety befitting a memorial staged even prior to the funerals of some of Loughner’s victims.   

Ad Reinhardt, Black Painting, 1960-66


      News reporting to the contrary notwithstanding, the manner in which this event was conducted could not possibly have been spontaneous, accidental or unknown in advance to its featured actors.  Things just don't happen that way in our tightly scripted and meticulously packaged media times.   This was our own Truman Show and some of the play-by-play commentary I picked up on friends’ Facebook pages (e.g., “we’re crying in Cali”; “Thank you, Mr. President!”), contrasted with gratuitous, vicious, mostly anti-Sarah Palin remarks from some of these same individuals and/or consonant friends of theirs playing on the lower parts of the moral register, confirms this for me.  I don't think I have ever read such a set of venomous statements directed toward a person not one of the writers knew personally, nor whose actions could possibly have affected any of them in a significant way previously unless, possibly, they were Alaska residents.

Francisco Goya, Those Specks of Dust (From Los Caprichos), 1797-98

        It is one thing (and brainless enough) to keep getting one’s “hip ticket punched” by basing your political life around voting against Richard Nixon every four years (post-mortem!), but it is quite another to establish and support cults of personality and construct living hagiography.   On this morning’s news I actually heard Rep. Giffords’ physician suggesting that the encouraging progress in the congresswoman's  medical condition (appearing to open her eyes voluntarily, thank heavens) was somehow linked to the president’s visit to her and to his primetime address later that evening, which the doctor said was playing on her hospital room television.

Strange to tell it was cooler down in Hell
So mellow and relaxed
I've got to lease some place
Cheap with lots of space
And I’m never coming back

      In response to my question regarding funerals, my mother explained both the private and the limited shared (but not publicly exploited) nature of grief and sketched for me the metes and bounds of modesty and propriety.  State funerals aside, which perforce feature elements of pomp, circumstance and a public relations component,  the simple and direct answer my mother gave me then still seems perfectly sensible and complete,  and it has helped me through my own personal difficulties and allowed me to be a friend to others during theirs.   The Tucson rally travesty and its attendant and ongoing press coverage makes one wish to adopt Senator Joseph Welch’s question to Senator Joseph McCarthy  --  “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” -- and pose it to every principal and accomplice to these events.   

     One has to wonder how soon Together We Thrive t-shirts will be available on eBay?

Those are not weak enough
But these are not as strong
That handful of buried men
Who understood their ground
Handy cunning wrapped around a heavy lexicon
It's weak enough to do, but it went on and on and on.....

Francisco Goya, The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters (From Los Caprichos), 1797-98 

Not Weak Enough lyrics by Peter Blegvad

Note to readers: On a more cheerful subject (sort of), after a week of repeated viewings, I've come to really like Inception. 

1/17/11 Note to readers:  Together We Thrive t-shirts are now being sold on eBay.

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