Month: September 2016

The power and the glory

“Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ? Is it for His glory, or for yours?” That was the question from Kazim, a Brother of the Cruciform Sword in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s a quote that we should consider as we head out to the polls this fall. Those of us who plan to participate, that is.

I watched a few minutes of the presidential debate the other night. That‘s all that I could stomach. There was a time when I would’ve ingested the entire spectacle, but that time has passed. It’s all a bit too predictable and cliché at this point. Nothing new comes up, policy wise, in these things. It’s just a chance to get in one liners and rack up some sound bites for the media to hype until the next debate. As I watched this one, all I could think about was how mad I would be if I were a Democrat. They’d likely never admit it, but they must be furious. They have been force fed the worst candidate anyone could possibly imagine. Some would make the argument that the Republicans have been force fed as well, but that would be false. Whatever your qualms about Trump, he was the clear choice of the electorate. He’s unconventional, but his votes are his own. He won. Hillary however, won nothing. She was anointed for the spot. So afraid were the rank and file senators and governors in her party that they didn’t even try opposing her. She had the field almost completely cleared by sheer name power, and still nearly lost to the placeholder, socialist, geezer from the Northeast, Bernie Sanders. No one else even stepped in to challenge her. And now they’re stuck with her. I know exactly how they must feel. I felt that way in ‘96 when we were force fed Bob Dole as our “choice” to run against an enormously popular Bill Clinton. We all knew it would be a joke from the beginning, but it was his turn, so the establishment let him have it. They knew whoever ran would lose, so why not Bob? It happened again in ‘08 when we were stuck with John McCain. No Republican could follow Bush and win. McCain had been in Congress since Mash was the number one show on television. In 2008,  he should have been shopping for retirement homes and taking regular naps, not making a bid for the Whitehouse, but it was his turn.

Hillary was supposed to have gotten her turn in 2008, but the course of events got away from her. She had put in her time in the Senate, establishing her own pedigree sufficiently that she would be able to run then. And then Barack made that good speech, and the money men saw an opportunity. So deals were made, and Hillary got put on the back burner. She would have to wait until she was older than she’d have liked. A few concussions and God only knows what else later, she’s now in the fight of her life with a very unconventional candidate, and you might add in a very different country than what we were in 2008.

The debate was an overall snoozefest from what I’ve seen of the clips. Clinton said exactly what you would have expected, and Trump was far more restrained than anyone might have thought. He was polite and held his composure for ninety minutes; a plus for him. Clinton stood erect without coughing for ninety minutes; double plus good for her. All in all, it looked to be a draw, optics wise. Take away the obvious aid and comfort given to Clinton by Lester Holt (He may have been under duress; Clinton’s problems have a way of ending up dead), and you would’ve had a pretty even draw across the board. Quick aside: Theory posited online this week from professional poker players says that Clinton was tipping off Holt using hand signals. He did respond every time she touched her face. I’m just saying.

Price once said that the two party political system was nothing more than an illusion of choice; a veiled form of fascism where our vote doesn’t really count. It would be easy enough to agree when we are always faced with the lesser of two evils. We may not be facing that this time. As I look at the two candidates with all their flaws, I’m struck by this: Clinton is in it for her own glory. She has no special policies or abilities that couldn’t be put forth by any of 100 other more likable Democrats. She’s doing it because it’s what she has set out to do. Trump on the other hand has less to gain, and more rarity to offer. For as bombastic and arrogant as he can be, his desire to save the country seems genuine. He had a very comfortable life, and he is risking it. The paramount question is this: Was this risk for his glory, or for that of the Republic? Time shall tell.

Lyrical therapy

The world is a tough place. Everyone has their own way of getting by. There was a song a few years ago about making a choice between “drugs or Jesus.” There are more options than that though. Some people use liquor, some escape into television and movies, some read, others seek solace in music. Combination cures are popular as well. Lyrical therapy has always been one of my favorites though. I’ve written a few songs; novelties mostly. There’s “Cousin Sally” about an awkward love affair, and then my greatest hit was “Lola’s House.” It’s about a brothel frequented by all the self righteous in the community. Kind of like “Harper Valley PTA,” but slightly edgier. You won’t be hearing either on the radio. Despite my interest in many musical genres, my songs always come out country. Probably because they’re simple to write, and simple is a good descriptive of my musical ability.  It’s been years since I’ve written any songs. Now I mostly escape into other people’s lyrical wonderlands. Drive-By Truckers have one of my recent favorites, “If you’re supposed to watch your mouth all the time I doubt your eyes would be above it.” Classic.

Styx has been stuck in my head the last couple of weeks, specifically “The Grand Illusion.” It works on a macro and micro level because it paints a picture of the illusions in the media and our personal lives. Micro: Long time readers will remember a treatise I wrote several years ago against the Facebook. My opinion on the social platform hasn’t really changed, but last year I needed to get the word out on a local political issue. My business page was not the place to do it. I’ve used FB for years to peddle my stock in trade, but hadn’t used it personally until then. So over the last several months I’ve been experimenting with it, and I must say, I hate it even more than I thought. Between the immodest moms posting selfies of their finely toned abs, the lewd jokes, and the misspelled words, it is a tragicomedy of modern vanity and general stupidity. It’s the place people go to cast their illusions and pretend they have a wonderful life, or to garner sympathy for how pathetic their life is. They also announce to the world when they’re leaving town, who their kids are, and what they’re cooking for dinner. And I let it suck me in. Shame. Macro: The political cycle we are currently in has the media in a tailspin, literally. They spin, and spin, and spin. It’s getting to the point where I don’t believe any of it. They cut their sound-bites, and push their agendas, and can make anyone look bad (or good). Technology has reached a place beyond the imagination of Joseph Goebbels. Had he been afforded all our modern tools, the Third Reich would’ve ruled the world (and it may yet). While “The Grand Illusion” is a subtle reference to personal and political delusions, “I’m The Slime” by Frank Zappa is a more direct indictment of the corporate media and our personal weakness for their trickery. It’s not nearly as catchy though. Zappa is an acquired taste.

Wading through the levels of symbolism in another person’s lyrics can be a wonderful adventure. If you really want to get lost, Pink Floyd is a good place to start. If you want to go to the combination therapy I mentioned earlier, pair Pink with the Wizard of Oz and you’ll be lost for the next couple of years trying to figure it all out. I heard an author on a podcast a while back talking about The Wizard of Oz, and found that there are actually several levels of symbology going on there. His name was Robert W. Sullivan IV and he wrote Cinema Symbolism. I haven’t read the book yet, but based on his lecture it is one that I should pick up. It’s important to remember that these songs and movies (not unlike the article you’re reading now) are sometimes written for reasons beyond their face value. Some fiction is quite true, and some fact is highly fictionalized. Wonderful adventure that it may be, setting out on an expedition through pop art can also be dangerous. Thomas Cardinal Wolsey said, “Be very, very careful what you put in your head, because you’ll never, ever get it out.” Once you open your mind beyond the vulgar surface of things, it’s hard to go back on Facebook and see anything but stupidity and a lot of sad, sad people.