At the Core of the Contemporary American Problem

[This is a continuation of the preliminary set of notes called “Trump and Bannon Alone Are NOT the Problem” – if you wish to read that, it is here: http://www.richardvaningram.com/?p=473
However, there is no necessity in doing so to understand what I will say here.  Clarity will be my aim.]

“You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won’t be many live
To see it really end
‘Cause the fire in the street
Ain’t like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won’t amount to nothin’ more
Than watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor…”
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
from “Trouble Every Day,” 1966

I.

How did Donald J. Trump wind up in office?

The American voters put him there.

Yes, he lost the popular vote by 3 million; but our system is not a direct democracy.  Because he won the states with the most Electoral College votes,
he wound up in the White House.

Never mind the Russian espionage that greased the tracks and slid him in.  Never mind he and his administration and untold numbers interacted with and collaborated with Putin and his mobster oligarchy to achieve this end.  Never mind that US Americans were bombarded with literally unbelievable propaganda across social media and through actual, legitimate news services that did not perform due diligence concerning the truth of the information and stories they spread.

No, shift your attention to the very people who read, saw, and believed the unbelievable: The voting public.  And of that public, only 25% or so bothered to go to the polls; some gave up on the process; some refused to vote for Trump but would not vote for Clinton – meaning, they did not see Trump as any sort of genuine threat.  And plenty believed and continue to believe whatever, whichever story — wholly fictional — that appealed to their gut beliefs and unexamined prejudices.

How is this situation a new thing in the world? — in the USA, at any rate.

It isn’t.  It is not new, simply qualitatively worse.

Historically, as time and human affairs are a continuum, more akin to a river than a string of pearls, each isolated and distinct, it is a difficult thing to point to any particular region of events and say, “Ah!  There.  It began there.”  It is possible to unravel strands of events back to momentous changes, though usually small and unnoticed at the moment they occur.  “There,” we say, “is the cause.”

Yet this is problematic.   It seems that human affairs (if not all affairs in this world) are the outcome of multiple causes — some more important, perhaps, than others, but all play some role; and which perspective one chooses, what questions one asks will tend to reveal a cause or cluster of causes while obscuring or hiding the others… allowing us to pretend “as if” they are not there.

(But that is another, epistemological and ontological, tale.   I mention it simply to put the reader on guard against overly simplified explanations of this and any  phenomenon.)

II.

Where did the public, the citizenry of the USA go wrong?  They did go wrong — I take this as given seeing what is running this country now and how it got into power.  There was no coup, no military takeover, nothing akin to these.  Instead, liberal democracy was employed to defeat the very idea of liberal democracy.

When Stephen Bannon says, in his pseudo-intellectual way, that he is up to “dismantling the administrative state,” he means: “destroying liberal democracy” – our republic, the res publica, the “public thing” of law, of civil liberties and civil rights, of protection of the minority against the unbridled will of the majority, whatever that “minority” may be: intellectual; non-European ethnic; non-fundamentalist Christian religious; non-wealthy white male; non-Eurocentric cultural.

He and the Trumpists are up to wrecking the notion of responsibility, social and political.  And every other virtue… which, oddly enough, are the heart of the good inheritances preserved within Western culture.

Trump himself (more on this later) could probably care less one way or another about this.  Playing on the prejudices of the white population got him power.  Being a cheap nihilist who values nothing except self-aggrandizement by any means necessary, Trump was happy to appeal to neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, neo-Klan, and other “alt right” groups as represented by Bannon.  He also appealed to as many other groups and their particular hopes and fears as well, some (if not many) diametrically opposed to one anther.

The people bought it.  They each heard what they wished to hear, ignored everything else.

One can and should see Trump as a sort of screen upon which each group projected whatever they wished for most fervently.  In return, he and his spokespeople reinforced the diverse and opposed wishes by speaking vaguely, lying outright, and by reinterpreting what was said and claimed to match each groups’ desires.

In return, each group paid attention to whichever messenger told them what they wished to hear and blocked out the messengers and interpreters who presented an opposed message to a differing group.  Everyone was promised whatever they wanted, no matter how impossible, within very few limits.

That was the activity; I think it is well-established now and noticed even by traditional political commentators from both American right and left.

How, then, did the public become disoriented in this fashion, to the point they put the most incompetent, careless candidate possible into office?

1975.

Could be that the set of moments we are looking for as a starting place (but not origin) occurred a bit before or after ’75, but 1975 will do.

By 1975, the Baby Boom came of age and the Boom outnumbered their earliest children, Generation X, tremendously; and Gen X was still underage, in control of nothing.

Those in control were mainly of the now so-called Greatest Generation which, at the time, the Boom could not hold in lower esteem.  This changed, but at that moment, the Boom lost all faith in most things the WWII Generation valued, good or bad.

Among these things was government in general and the Federal Government in particular, and not without reason.

I could talk about domestic spying by the FBI and CIA in the 1960s and early ’70s.  I could talk about the Vietnam War and the lies that escalated it and were tied up in keeping it running… for what, in the end, turned out to be no real purpose whatsoever.  When Vietnam fell to the NVA, no other “dominoes” followed.  Except in the ruins of Cambodia, which were ruins because of our illegalities in Vietnam, opening a vacuum to be filled by the insanities of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and their “Year Zero” which we conveniently ignored.

No, the obvious place to look is Richard Milhous Nixon, the paranoid bully, and his administration that rigged the 1972 election, among other things.  Chased from office under an inevitable impeachment and prosecution, his vice-president, Ford, immediately pardoned him, placing him simultaneously in the category of guilty by admission and untouchable by law.

Now, here the people, the majority of whom still supported Nixon even as he left, saw their “hero” brought low ostensibly by leaks, the legitimate media (which began to be called “liberal,” as in politically slanted to the left), and “radicals.”  So the right wing went further right and saw that even the conservatives in Congress turned on their hero, in the end — there came the loss of faith in Congress.

The left and liberals lost faith in government down the line — governmental power was used, illegitimately , to lie to the people, oppress protesters and minorities, and send an entire generation off to die for no good reason.

As a whole, the Boomers “dropped out” again.  Became egocentric.  Stopped caring for the country in general, taking responsibility for it.  Every evil or failure was the failure of someone or something else — usually called “government.”  The hippies became the Me Generation devoted to the Hustle (in every sense) and an extreme sort of hedonism and consumerism.

By 1980, they voted Ronald Reagan into office.  Reagan who, as governor of California, hammered away at “hippies.” How strange!

But not really — Reagan told them what they wished to hear: “Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem.” He announced this as his administration began dismantling all the governmental programs and regulations that made the Boom the most privileged, healthy, and educated in our history.  The Boom, in turn, was more than happy to give up on the future of anyone besides themselves.

The Me Generation became Yuppies and began chasing the almighty buck.  They moved into management.  As a group, they became the “I got mine, fuck you” generation — the children of Ayn Rand and other pop-philosophy, pop-psychology, fundamentalist religious movements.  With the advent of the commercial internet, the Californian Ideology emerged, again, heavily influenced by Ayn Rand.  The belief was that, using the web, atomistic egos, each motivated by her own utterly selfish interests would cause order to spontaneously erupt, making government obsolete.

This was “The Invisible Hand” of Adam Smith and laissez-faire capitalism turned into an absolute principle of human and political reality, not simply economics (where it isn’t true, either, in any case).

2001, 11 September, New York.

On this day, after America watched a terrorist attack live on television, complete with unedited footage of desperate human beings hurling themselves out windows of the World Trade Center and exploding on the concrete below.  Then the things collapsed — something that they were allegedly designed against.

This gave rise to several things:

1.  The USA abandoned its commitment to civil liberties and rights in the name of “safety,” which is a myth of the worst sort.
2. Right-wing hate radio began spreading rumors about 9/11 being an “inside job” of some sort; “Truthers,” as they became called, spread baseless rumors that the government blew up the World Trade Center, not the jets and terrorists.  Further, they began saying no Jews died — they were warned not to show up to work that day, which is factually untrue and ridiculous.  The intention of this latter lie being to spread the neo-Nazi paranoid message that “The Jews” control world history and power — a conspiracy theory contained in the Czarist Russian forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”,  a booklet from about 1900 that has been proven many times to be utterly false but which always has an audience with the fearful, prejudiced, and propagandized.
This was the beginning of a new era of conspiracy theorists and propagandists such as Infowars and Breitbart… but the internet was soon swarming with lesser known neo-fascist, Klan, and Nazi speakers smelling their moment for a power grab.
3. It was declared by the American right-wing that history had changed — that we are in a “new world” calling for a “new approach” that includes declaring wars before the fact of threat, kidnapping, illegal indefinite imprisonment, torture, murder, spying on US citizens with or without legal permission, and other acts contrary to the spirit and letter of The Constitution, Bill of Rights, Common Law, and over 200 years of interpretation and application of law in our country.

“Safety” not law, not effort, not responsibility, and never virtue.  The ends justify any means.

The majority of the people enthusiastically and angrily went right along.  They threw away their liberties, protections, and those of others without a second thought and attacked and marginalized anyone who spoke out to the contrary.

“You are either for us or against us.”

About 72% of Americans supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 23% opposed it, according to some polls.  Of that 72%, about 52% now claim they were part of the 23% in 2003, oddly.  Americans, it seems, cannot even own a mistake, even a massive one — they rewrite their own personal histories.  Example:
http://reason.com/poll/2014/10/16/poll-reveals-americans-supported-iraq-wa

2008

The “housing crash,” which was the outcome of 37 years of market deregulation, Ayn Rand/libertarian belief in an infinitely expanding, self-regulating market, and fraudulent banking practices on a nigh universal scale.

Common people were left holding the bag, including ownership of houses beyond their means to afford without credit, loss of employment, and being stuck with paying off multi-billionaires and millionaires on Wall Street with tax money to keep the banks solvent and market running.  No real conditions to help homeowners or people who lost everything in the stock market crash (after decades of being forced to place retirement funds in 401K stock investment schemes) were placed on the bail-out.  So no help was forthcoming.

This was the conservative farewell of the Bush Administration… yet people largely blamed the next president, Barack Obama as the racist reaction to the election of a “black man to the White House” began.

Donald Trump jumped on this bandwagon, fueling the “Birther” conspiracy movement — the groundless assertion that President Obama was not born in America, not an American, and so Constitutionally, an illegitimate president.  All nonsense, proven to be so again and again.

But plenty of people, white people, Boomer white people, preferred that tall tale to the prosaic reality and their elected officials on the right and harder-right got into office feeding the overt and covert racism.  Pure, hateful fiction replaced reality — and the people, having lost all faith in liberal democracy, government, law, helping one another, and half-terrified of nigh everything put the most ridiculous collection of politicians into office in 2010, 2012, and 2016.  The unifying theme: We will destroy the federal government and give the power to the states.  Pure Klan-secessionist nonsense we fought a Civil War over in the 1860s and definitively settled… for awhile.

The capstone was the election of Trump.  The ultimate representative of the nihilistic, xenophobic, immigrant-hating, ultra-nationalistic, white racist streak that feels free to walk about in public again in all states, not just the Deep South.  Some think this is the “last gasp” of the old disorder, the end of the rule of a majority white, European, nominally Christian upper class.  I think this judgment is premature in the extreme.

III.

Beginning in the 1980s, our public education system was slowly dismantled.  The general education required to raise a minimally responsible set of citizens to, at the very least, vote responsibly and informed was wrecked.  Vocational, overly specialized education for “useful employment” became the order of the day, not an education geared for historical background knowledge, clear thinking, judgment, and distinguishing false from true, doubtful from trustworthy.

It is no wonder to me that the vast majority of students who come to even good colleges and universities have absolutely no knowledge of history, even recent history.  Math, yes.  Some science, maybe.  But plenty of them are functionally illiterate — they can read a page out loud perfectly well, but as for interpreting it meaningfully, not so much.  Nor do they care or believe such is important.  The function of their hoped-for degree is an entrance ticket to a good, high-paying job, and that is all.

And the average attention span is next to nonexistent if the classroom is not kept as entertained as possible and everything broken down into bits than can be regurgitated on a test… preferably multiple choice.

The rest of the citizenry cannot get into college; hardly anyone can afford it with the destruction of the Federal Grant programs.  So they pick up their education off mass media — whatever mass media repeats the rumors that square up with their ingrained prejudices and never challenges them to doubt themselves and their beliefs.

A “self-organizing” populace, indeed:

…Otherwise known as a “mob.”  And all a mob can do is go along in the general direction everyone else is going because “they” say to do so.  Who are “they”?  No one in particular.  Common opinion.  Yesterday “they” loved the Iraq War; today “they” hate it and even lie about their support for it.  Because it’s “the thing to do.”

Not following along makes one seen as an “outsider,” even an “outlaw,”  Dangerous.  Perhaps such a person is a threat to our safety, is the general thoughtless thought.  Isolate them, ignore them; eventually, doubtless, attack them.  Direct action — violence, the “solutions” of fascism — not indirect action and tolerance, which are the values of civil society and liberal democracy… which are quaint, delicate things we can no longer afford in this new, muscular age of action and destruction.

Donald J. Trump and Company are simply the utterly common, vulgar, valueless destructive mob writ large.  “He speaks his mind!” — as if he has a mind or clear thoughts.  “He sounds like one of us!” — which is absolutely true — and the sure sign we are as deep in trouble as a society and people as we have ever been.  He and they (the GOP and the people who support them) are here to destroy, not create, not preserve, and certainly not to learn.

IV.

Do not look to me for answers beyond this point.

Not that I don’t have suggestions or some understanding.  But no one is listening. People do plenty of talking and hearing; but there is precious little consideration and listening,   My voice, added to that cacophony, will be just one more noise added to the din at this moment.

“People say,” “they say.”  This is an age of gossip and lies and the cheapest of fictions substituted for truth.  And of a populace unequipped to preserve or even value a constitutional republic, a liberal democracy:  the default preference is for action based on gossip and lies that sound pleasant, for cashing everything in right now; not for the effort required to truly be a citizen, an individual apart from, yet a part of and  responsible for her community both now and for a future she will never see.

Nothing I say will matter in the face of that.  So, I do more showing than telling.

25-25 July 2017
Richard Van Ingram

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GOP NAZIS #1, Underground Comix in the 21st Century

GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds

 

 

GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds
GOP NAZIS #1 Richard Van Ingram, Scott Stripling, Andrew Hamill, Kyle Reynolds

 

In the USA, Mexico, or Canada, to order a copy of this comic, write loser@losercomix.com for details. $5.00 + $1.50 p/h.

Outside the USA, I may consider emailing a high-quality .pdf for $1.00 USD or one Euro, whichever’s easiest. Write and inquire.

Anyone wishing to publish, distribute, or donate money towards the printing of future issues, write and speak up. I take PayPal.

Cover: RVI, August 2016.

“Mr. Gloom…,” RVI, November 2016 – January 2017

“Division,” January 2017, Scott Stripling at Scott_Stripling_Art on Instagram

“Trump Memes,” Andrew Hamill, January 2017, Atomic Detonator Productions on Facebook and http://atomicdetonatorart.squarespace.com/

“Fame & Fortuna, Part One” – RVI , July 2016; “Part Two,” November 2016

Political cartoons and sketches were all made in July 2016 at the RNC Convention, Cleveland, OH by Richard Van Ingram.

Thank you, Kyle Reynolds at www.slugnuts.com for the financial and moral support – Read Slugnuts’ “THE END TIMES #1”; excellent satirical work. And just plain funny.

27 April 2017

Richard Van Ingram


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Trump and Bannon Alone Are NOT the Problem

ICE STATION ZERO SURFACING FOR TRANSMISSION

16 APRIL 2017

I.

In the months and weeks leading to the 2016 Republican National Convention, I found a nagging suspicion – a number of them, really, all related – that far more was at work within and behind the phenomenon of Trump and his rise to power than could be grasped through the constant public “show”.

On the streets of Cleveland, OH, covering the convention as a political cartoonist, these suspicions began to reveal themselves as useful, accurate intuitions from which to construct interpretive theories.

My first public essay — neither technical nor complete – I shared, for what it’s worth without hope it would made any difference; it was more an exercise in bearing witness and sounding a small alarm that, eventually, might have a hearing by someone who could employ it, flesh it out, expand it.

The essay was The Living Rorschach Test which you may read here:

http://www.richardvaningram.com/?p=401

My second, more thorough pass at providing an historical background and orientation to the Trump phenomenon in its wider context was It Has Happened Here, leading to this passage in particular:

Donald Trump as nihilistic, empty Rorschach Test gaining supporters from varied groups.
Donald Trump as nihilistic, empty Rorschach Test gaining supporters from varied groups.

and this:

(You may read the previous essay in its entirety here:

http://www.richardvaningram.com/?p=433 )

Of course, at the convention and writing these two essays I had no notion of the Russian involvement behind “false news stories” (aka propaganda designed to misinform and mislead American voters and the involvement of the Multi-billionaire Mercer family.  The Mercers, represented by daughter, Rebekah, intend to disrupt the Republican Party – already in a shambles – and, perhaps, oppose the very institutions of liberal democracy.

(The best written and researched article on the Mercers is here: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/mercers/ ).

All of this could be guessed at, vaguely, but only guessed at without the information now leaking out from American and international intelligence services.  Not that, had we known, the election would have turned out differently: How many of Trump’s supporters supported and support him because of his values (he has none)?  No, he was their vehicle to invade government and destroy it — weaken its ability to enforce the laws that keep the peace, establish a minimal tolerance, and suppress our extremist right-wing neo-Nazis and fascists repackaged for the Millennials as the hipster “Alt-Right.”

So, you got Trump – who lost the popular vote by 3 million.  And every far-right extremist group now feel emboldened to begin planning a future that doesn’t include may of us: non-white immigrants; Muslims; Jews; anyone wearing a turban; black people; Native Americans; and, yes, generationally poor whites… who are always the ill-educated cannon-fodder used to attack the enemies of the wealthy and the racists, even to the point of death on battlefields and the streets.

Happy deaths on battlefields and streets as they have, for all their lives, been sold the myth that their place is to work for nothing until dead, expect nothing better for their children, and that they are descendants of some false nobility passed down through “the blood” – Anglo-Saxons, Celts, sometimes Norse; and their god/genetically-ordained task is to stand between the race-mixing hordes, the leveling liberals, and democratic ideals in rights and economics to protect “the pure aristocracy” at top.

All this never understanding there is, ontologically, no such thing as “race.”  It’s a story told to subjugate our brothers and sisters while elevating ourselves, just as no one is born of a “certain class” it is their destiny to remain within.  Race and class are myths with which we culturally enslave one another, reduce one another to beings “less-than” human.

This will be the starting point for part two of this essay.

(((Richard Van Ingram)))

16 April 2017

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Dahlonega, Georgia, Home of the Klan Klubhouse

Roberta Green-Garrett, Klansman
Roberta Green-Garrett, Klansman

UPDATE: 15 March 2017: http://patch.com/georgia/atlanta/kkk-sign-dahlonega-incites-raw-emotions-controversy

UPDATE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-northern-georgia-a-kkk-banner-seemed-to-some-a-sign-of-the-times/2017/03/12/de5a3518-05bd-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.c4fe2a9b8f62

http://www.forsythnews.com/section/1/article/32218/

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Free Speech; A Personal Story

Gentle reader, assuming this is read: What follows is a matter of personal history. This is a letter to the editor and publisher of The Dahlonega Nugget, Terrie Ellerbie, from 2008.  Not many months following this, I left Dahlonega finding it intolerant and intolerable — but, for me, that was nothing new.  I’d found it as such, increasingly, since the early 1970s when I began to be aware of many things about that community; I moved away to go to university in the mid 1980s with no intention of returning — yet, as Townes Van Zandt once said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

So, HaShem saw fit to strand me, financially broke, jobless, homeless, sick back in my “hometown” — and I chose to get busy, sort of like an absurd Count of Monte Christo, and make my “prison” a place where I would learn what no university could teach, to prepare for a future I never really expected would arrive — a day when I could get in a car and drive away permanently to a different world, one which would listen to the little I had to share, read what I wrote, look at the art I made.

So, I learned.  I dealt with many sorts of people, many situations from the soul-crushing to the enlightening, and, little by little, I improved.  And I began to write freelance editorials on contemporary issues for the small local paper to share, to examine, to offer an alternative point of view; unpopular, to be certain, but one I thought needed to be heard from.  Especially as torture, concentration camps, dehumanization, and loss of civil liberties and rights became the order of the day.

I also began teaching ethics and philosophy at the local university along with my regular day job at public mental health… and dealing with a very confusing, depressing, intense personal life.

I got myself well-hated because of the writing, to paraphrase a poet.  But I also made friends, a couple permanent, maybe, most fair-weather who disappeared just as soon as I was banned — yes, banned — from being published in that paper because, ostensibly, of about twenty anonymous, unpublished complaints.

It didn’t shut me up but it did shut me down.  And I fell into a deep depression for a long while — it left a wound.  Sometimes, still, the wound seeps.  But I learned a very important set of lessons: when you stand up openly to be counted, you will be counted; there is only one of you; don’t count on anyone else who, in private, supports you, to do anything except hide when the counter-attack comes on you from the hateful and intolerant; and never expect them to come back and even speak to you after you’ve been “disposed of” by a vocal majority or the powerful.

“So it goes,” as the man often said.  

That is the life of anyone who becomes controversial or stands against injustice in a place where people believe the unjust to be their absolute right.  You’re out there by yourself. If others show up or “have your back,” that is damned good fortune.  And you never count on “good fortune” — bad fortune is what you prepare for as, really, it is far more likely.  Fear keeps good people silent, it keeps them in hiding, it causes them to censor themselves.  They are only rarely going to come out in any way when the danger of speaking up becomes greater, not lesser.

If you choose to speak up about anything that needs to be said, expect to find yourself bearing witness alone… except for the pack of wolves who come out to tear your reputation to shreds.  And maybe your livelihood… and, once in a while, your life itself.

A cautionary tale, but not a dissuasive one.  You are only what you choose to do and the inherent quality of what you choose to value and incarnate in this world through your actions.  The end.  I have no shame for that part of my life.  It was worthwhile.

After being banned, I wrote, over two years, three letters to the editor — the short farewell, which was published; a protest against a letter writer who encouraged physical violence for those who were “liberal’ — they published a heavily edited version of that; and this letter in defence of free speech in the paper, the sole public platform in that community, even for an editorialist who was a hate-monger, who had attacked me in the pages of the paper.  This one, of course, never saw the light of day.  You’ll see why should one choose to read on.

So, without further comment.

RVI, 22 February 2017

*****

“Dear Editor,

“Uncharacteristically, I will keep my words to a minimum.  This concerns your editorial comments of 27 February 2008 in “What you need to know about Moore & Martin.”

“I can sympathize with your frustrations, especially concerning the complaints about Mr. Martin’s column – but only to a point.

“You said:

‘ “We do not “endorse” any columnist, period. We publish what people write, because this is the place for that to happen. [ . . .] This is a public forum, not a private country club. We will not apologize for giving people with differing backgrounds and views a place to express themselves in their own words.
“I will say this: If you do not like what Jason Martin had to say, I suggest you muster up the courage to speak up and speak out yourself and express your own views.” ‘

“You seemed to show more than a little exasperation with your readers who won’t sign their names to complaints about Mr. Martin and those who have gotten the idea that, if they complain enough about someone expressing opinions in your paper, you will remove that person and refuse to print their columns in the future.

“Where, oh where, pray tell, could they have gotten such an idea?

“When, I wonder, was such a precedent ever set for that sort of decision-making in your paper?

“Could it have been, perhaps, a bit over a year-and-a-half ago when you publicly refused to print any more of my columns because some locals could no longer bear to be exposed to my point of view – one wholly opposed to Mr. Martin’s?

“Where was this editorial statement when a determined fragment of your readership — in some cases anonymously, in some cases not — railed that poorly written trash such as I compose should never waste ink in your fine publication again?  And all this mainly because I don’t sound or think like most people “from ’round these here parts.”

“As one of your more censorious letter writers used to say of me, “He isn’t one of us.”  Which is true enough, but in 2006 that sentiment was enough for you to publicly refuse to accept any more columns from my hand.

“So now, the tables are turned.  Your Mr. Martin has inspired a wave of people who don’t particularly want to read a column in which the writer so glibly excuses torture as “the final solution” for our nation’s terrorism problem, and don’t want to hear that “ideas and people that ain’t from ’round these here parts should leave on the road that brung ’em.”

“So they want you to ban him – which I think is a terrible idea.  By all means, let the man speak; as you say, it’s not as if what “he said is not being repeated in conversations all over this county . . ..”

“But, then again, the same could have been said in defense of my own columns.

“In Dahlonega, the local paper is the only real public platform for speech.  Therefore, it has an obligation to allow even the rude, ignorant, utterly parochial, and the crank to express an opinion.

“If it doesn’t allow that much, the paper may not print the words of anyone representing any controversial or unpopular position, even a reasonable one, whenever it becomes simply easier to silence those words.

“That’s not the sort of paper I want for my town.  It wasn’t what I wanted in 2006; it isn’t what we need now.

“Richard Van Ingram”

  • 02/29/08 at 1:41PM 
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For All and For None

Trepidation — that is what I experience much of the time when I speak of anything important, make an image, write words.  The struggle with this, for me, is intense and often crippling: Is this a genuine fear of hubris — of trespassing on matters I am not called to explore?  Or is it a form of grandiosity — and, mind you, grandiosity resides in the strangest of locales?  I mean, am I afraid to speak because I “know” many will hear  and some believe?

Do I really possess that latter power?  People will be moved to action because of my words and drawings?

That, truly, is foolishness.

The power to speak, to a degree, is something I can perform; the power to speak rashly and with poor judgment, even incorrectly out of naivete or stupidity — that is a defect that often possesses me.  The desire to please: well, that is a wretched thing indeed and often lies behind the moments I’ve played fast and loose with truthfulness in favor of rhetoric.  A tongue may be golden because it passes on a genuine gift; or it may be but gold-plated because it is manipulative, seeking lesser things, seeking ultimately to receive, not share, not help, not mentor.

Those moments, the latter sort, are fewer and fewer as I mature, and haste born of passion is something I spend time in extinguishing.  Delay and consideration are not luxuries, not for a human being — they are among the necessities.

So, I can speak, I can write, I can make art — and these may emerge from deep meditation and consideration, restrained, or they may be extravagant and self-aggrandizing. Even the silence can be grandiose if not properly motivated… and no one, outside myself, can tell or judge my motivations in such matters without themselves attempting to substitute a manipulating fiction for my own story, the story that is my autobiography, is me in this world.

As for treading where angels fear to go… that is the birthright and responsibility of a human.  The world, this world, the world of life was no more made for angels than it was for monstrosities — morally stunted or deformed egomaniacs or zealots who never doubt themselves because “They Know.”

“They Know” what the Absolute Truth is, as if they were gods, and they know what they desire, and they will possess what they want or destroy any who get in their way or resist.  In such manner, people make themselves a living plague, something to be completely avoided or resisted.

Angels have no choice.  Monstrosities choose to serve the black depths of insatiable ego at any cost, rationalizing and creating whatever fiction suits them best in the moment and in the long-term.

‘Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” ‘ Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

I’ve considered this passage from the sage for a very long time.  Years.  In fact, I meditated on it before knowing Hillel (or anyone else) summed this very human crisis up as succinctly as he did.

Notice the three questions: One without the next is misleading.  And the first question has, itself, two portions, and if that question is not adequately faced with some humility, all is lost.  The error in interpretation will breed a deadly monstrosity called “egoism.”

The commentaries point out that, in the first question, two “I”s, not one, are referred to — The first is said to be the sacred, holy “soul,” my – and your – true self that has never departed from the presence of HaShem – The Ineffable One.  That “I” is pure and untouched by this world, in a deep sense — the sense of the prayer, “My soul within me, she is pure.”

Obviously, I am not pure in any really meaningful way — I am full of error, stupidity, foolishness, imperfections, even evil.  Part of me is stained black as night.  I have done wrong, many, many times.  But that other “I” — she has done no wrong and will not.  How odd.

Why?  How can such a paradox exist as a unified “me”?

Because, in part, the burning mystery of that Spark of the Divine — the “image and likeness” – is the “I” whom I must strive to bring forth within this world of history, circumstance, flux, through the vehicle of my actions and intentions, however limited.  The first “I” is my destiny, the one that I must choose to realize and make my vital project, that guides and gives form to my life in whatever time and in whatever place I am given to perform it.

If justice is to be here in the world, I must choose it, value it, interpret it, and become a just person by consistent and painful degrees.  If there is to be mercy, forgiveness, courage, thoughtfulness, carefulness, generosity, peacefulness, beauty, truthfulness, hopefulness… if there are to be qualities such as these, I must bring them into the world in my own way without departing from their standards, their requirements.

Thus, if I am not for me — if my deepest Self does not shine even dimly for me, guide me, orient me, direct me to true Light, and if I do not choose to “become who I am,” to actually perform my proper labor, my destiny, my work… no one else can force me, perform my work – however modest – in my place.  No one else can become me… or you, or any of us.

In the words of Ortega y Gasset, paraphrased, “We are each irreplaceable, each necessary,” all of us, each pursuing her destiny, all supporting her.  Human existence is a matter of “all of us or none of us.”

Perhaps human life has always seemed cheap to most people — I do not know.  We are faced, once more, with entire groups of people, majorities, who have decided those “unlike them” are “The Other”: and The Other is the object of fear and hatred, to be expelled, monitored, locked up, destroyed.  Instead of beholding an Alter-Ego, “another I,” when considering others, they take full possession of “I” for themselves and themselves alone, their tribe, their beliefs, their skin color, their fictions.  Anyone else, any dissent, any culture, individuality, creativity, belief, even tribe or color or any other form of love than the majority’s becomes threatening.

Threats, if taken seriously enough, get eradicated after being randomly defined as “unnatural,” “wicked,” “abominable,” “lies,” “leeches,” — any and everything except “human” and sacred.  Criminals by birth.

So – “If I am only for myself, who am I?”  Even HaShem “stooped” to grant humans existence out of nothing; The Divinity shared with us the great gift of being, and there was no necessity in it.  We did not have to come into existence — any one of us or all of us together, even this or any other universe.  Even the possibility of universes is not, in itself, self-explicable in the sense of metaphysical being.  The Divine began – as far as we are concerned – by sharing something beyond comprehension with us, out of a free, creative choice, out of mercy.

Out of an inexplicable love and friendship.

And what is given, then, is given to be shared, not hoarded up.  Not given here but refused out of disdain there.  We receive, we learn, we create in order to pass on, to share, not because it must be “earned” by the other, but because if I do not share, who do I become by my selfishness? How can I become myself, my true self, without acknowledging the other?

It is not as if I, myself sprang into being without others — in reality, first, there are the others: only afterwards and slowly is there the “I” who exists in the world, who begins to value and choose and create.  I emerge from the others and their labor.  They gave me language, they gave me beliefs, ideas, they taught me to think, to value, they gave me culture, they passed on to me certain valuable (and not so valuable) practices — and even where wrong or misguided, I cannot turn around and perform the labor — give the gift — of improving, reforming, or even excising errors from the culture for the future without, first, being brought up and given certain gifts.

“If not now, when?”

When will I choose to learn that I and other implicate one another, require one another?  When will I begin to doubt myself long enough in to hear my “True Self,” my calling, my vocation, my destiny?  When will I perform who I am — become who I truly am?

Now.  Or never.  You and I have a now that is ever-passing; soon enough, there will be no “now” that includes me, even as a memory.  Only a now that includes whether or not I did my work, did it well, did it poorly… and no one save HaShem will have any memory of that.

“…[I]s it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of those applauding hands. The people who praise us; how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region it takes place. The whole earth a point in space – and most of it uninhabited.”

Marcus Aurelius, THE MEDITATIONS

No, it is not that your life is meaningless: It is that your life and the lives of all other people are the only conduits of meaningfulness in this universe we know anything about.  Yet meaningfulness and fame, fortune, comfort, and other preferable situations — there is no link between these two sets of things at all except accidentally, in terms of “fortune.”  If one only lives for the “preferable” and falls apart when these depart — as they must, one will never strive for meaningfulness.  One will fail to value it.  One may even grow to find meaning repulsive and painful.

Hence, monstrosities are born, create themselves, serve themselves, demand service for themselves, all while ignoring and discarding… themselves.

And, so, we arrive at the end of all I wish to say for the moment.

Richard Van Ingram

20 November 2016

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It HAS Happened Here.

It HAS Happened Here – free pdf

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31 October 2016

Richard Van Ingram

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Trump the Woman-Hating Racist, Neo-Nazi, White Trash, Klan Suck-Up.

Has Trump screwed the pooch,finally? It appears he’s screwed everything and everyone else with just as little care.
Yes, this version [link below] has all the “dirty words.” You didn’t care about him summoning up every white trash supremacist piece of shit in the country; you did not care he summoned up every neo-Nazi in America AND Europe; you don’t care he hates Muslims; you do not care he hates Latinos; you do not care he hates black people; you do not care he is the most openly racist candidate since Strom Thurmond, if not more so and casually.

He is an authoritarian.

He is in love with dictators, including Putin.

He has elevated conspiracy “theorists” — liars and mythologists –to high levels in his party.

He has destroyed the RNC and converted it nearly completely into a party of White Nationalism.

Mike Pence, the ultra right-wing Conservative Evangelical theocrat, pretends he doesn’t say or do things that are on video and taped — probably so he can run next go ’round, being as opportunistic as Trump. And you were STILL going to vote for this shithead.

But “dirty words” and obvious misogyny — as if we haven’t seen 16 tons of misogyny out of him for 40 years — that’s going to be the “last straw”? I doubt it. I don’t have that much faith in humanity or “white” Americans, to be honest or them who suck up to them.

He’ll fake an apology and you’ll say, “but Bill Clinton” — as if Bill Clinton is up for office in this election, and you’ll say “Hillary is horrible” — as if that’s not the outcome of 35 years of right-wing propaganda mixed with Hillary’s occasional fuck-up… even though, morally and in terms of character and judgment, she’s STILL a paragon of virtue and intelligence when compared with the bully boy in the 70 year-old body.

I hope he doesn’t drop out. I hope he and your worthless white trash party loses, goes on the junk-heap of history, and you conservatives come to your senses. Reform your party. Purge the Tea Party, the nihilists, the Nazis, and go back pre-Goldwater and start all over looking to Eisenhower for something like guidance. Or maybe Lincoln, but, of course, he’s too damn liberal for you, so let’s take it slow.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/donald-trump-access-hollywood-vulgar-comments-hot-mic

7 October 2016

Richard Van Ingram

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The Living Rorschach Test

All Along The Watchtower

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl

© 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music

There he was.  Saw his helicopters coming in to the Quicken Building because, you know, he sleeps in New York, not podunk Cleveland, Ohio.  That would not sound sexy enough — that would tarnish the image, sleeping among the commoners, even of the political party he now owns, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.

I was there on Day Zero, the new beginning, the deformation of the United States of America: Me, down in the streets drawing political cartoons and observational sketches of the goings on, trying to make sense of utter senselessness.  Which, of course, is my calling as a philosopher; so I was switching back and forth among three personas — the observer, the theorist, and the satirist.    Cleveland, Ohio, a beautiful place with wonderful people, interesting people, most of whom were in hiding or hustling “Hillary for Prison 2016” tee shirts on the sidewalks, not because they believed in that, but because they were going to fleece these sons of bitches for invading their town.

One of the guys I was with said he asked a vendor, a black man, why he was selling those shirts and worse.

“Leave me alone, man,” was the response, “you’ve got your hustle, I’ve got mine.”

“There’s a sucker born every minute” and those RNC conventioneers had “sucker” written all over them.  Marks, every last one of them.  And you, too, could see that, assuming you tuned in to any of the floor action from the convention.  Suckers for believing in the man with the weird hair who helicoptered in and out of the Quicken Center so he did not have to get up close and personal with his filthy flock or run the risk of being questioned by a reporter who may have had the audacity to press him for something more substantive than an off the wall, fact-free assertion or a slogan.

If I heard “build a wall” or “ban all Muslims” or “Make America Safe Again” once that week, I heard it a bloody blue million times.  What I did not hear was why those were good things, much less possible things, what they would accomplish, and, certainly, I never heard how it would get done.  Those latter things are above the pay grade of the citizen and voter: Trump will just do it.

Trust me.  Trust me,” as he says often and loudly.

Law and Order — you know, like Nixon, and the return of the Silent Majority.  Rip-off after rip-off, from Trump’s slogans to Melania’s plagiarized speech.  And the suckers don’t care while the rest of you have given up.  It doesn’t matter what the man says, truly — it punches the emotional buttons of frightened, angry white people; it keeps him the subject of every news and infotainment program 24 hours a day; it creates a shiny caucasian fantasy of a sparking, brown-free land where “foreigners” do not belong, where everyone is a certain, acceptable form of Evangelical Christian, where “our culture and heritage” are never again tainted by notions from alien sources.

Not that any of these people know any history or are cultured, in any meaningful sense.  Or else they’d know the strength of Western culture at its best was always that it would borrow and absorb ideas and beliefs from anywhere, adjust itself, correct itself.  That it was revitalized and saved by the Moors of Al-Andalus who preserved Greek learning for the world and a better form of mathematics and science and medicine.  Those Moors, black people, Muslim, reached the heights of civilized life and rescued, made possible… a future worthy of humans.

“Ban all Muslims” indeed.

These people know nothing of The Enlightenment that once fought to rescue humanity from superstition, religious enthusiasm, monarchical absolutism and despotism.  They know nothing of the hard-won Western value of “tolerance,” or the establishment of “human rights.”  They know nothing of Voltaire’s 18th c. war on “being put to the question” — torture, in other words — or the real meaning of his battle cry, “Ecrasez l’Infame!”

Torture the terrorists, even harsher this time!

Law and Order.  Make America Safe Again.  Build the wall.

Believe me.

Sucker.

He’s got his hustle, too, this Donald J. Trump.

By all appearances, he is a human, an all-too-human human.  But look closely and you will see what has become clearer to me over the preceding months, finally confirmed on the streets of Cleveland.

Trump is an empty space, a vacuum, a back hole.  An ink blot and, so, a walking Rorschach Test.  That’s the man’s interior — there is nothing meaningful in itself there at all.  There never has been.  He has no belief in anything of value beyond himself… whom he does not value enough to wonder at.  He believes in appearances, in gaudy material things, in the trophy wives, in his brand, “TRUMP,” which, for a nominal service fee can be and has been pasted on anything.  Because, in itself, it means nothing, stands for nothing, is nothingness.

The secret of Donald Trump is not that the emperor has no clothes; it’s worse: The emperor isn’t even really there.  He is a nihilist.  Power for the sake of power, attention for the sake of  attention — that’s his activity, his function.

He is a black ink splatter and you see in him whatever you project.

For the neo-Nazi, for the Klansman, for David Duke, for the white people afraid the Age of the White People is drawing to a close, he is a neo-Nazi, a Klansman, a reflection of David Duke’s life-long fantasies; he is the savior of racist, white, Evangelical Christian America.

For the greedy, the money-hungry, or the working aspirant to the higher classes he is “financial success,” he is “the art of the deal,” he is “the rebirth of the American Dream.”  No, his record bears none of this out, sketchy as it is.  But reality is not the point; it’s that Trump has become all things to all men because he, in his depths, stands for nothing in particular.  He is happy to seem to be whomever or whatever you wish… just as is a Rorschach Test.

For the Tea Party, he is a weird, irreconcilable mix of libertarianism and protectionism and the confusion of church with state.  He is the promised reaction to LGBTQ rights, the final judgment on Socialized Medicine — both extensions of justice and human rights, long overdue.   And which don’t fully exist here, but he’ll make certain they go away, nonetheless.  Because you are throwing your fears into that black center and he echoes them back to you, only louder.

On the streets of Cleveland I witnessed a carnival without the fun, a carnival of incivility and anger, a celebration of laughing hatred and monstrous beliefs.  Halloween minus the holiness, all tricks and precious few treats.  Dueling bullhorns blaring unadulterated bullshit.  Hope that hopelessness will tear this entire nation into warring groups, each thinking Trump supports them, each utterly incorrect.

Not that, given power, he won’t step back and allow each hateful, fearful group to have their orgy of violence and exclusion… all the better to ignore dear Trump as he lives it up on the public dole and commands the airwaves to say whatever will fill up the otherwise empty 24/7 news cycles.

That’s worked for him so far; until it doesn’t, he’ll keep it up.

He’ll get his attention, make his narcissist’s sociopathic pronouncements, build the financial value of his brand, “TRUMP,” and then cash it all in and leave us an ungovernable, uncooperative shambles.

Perhaps he will go live with Putin whom, today, he openly encouraged to spy on the Democratic Party.  Crooked as Nixon was, he at least was ashamed enough to keep his treasonous, illegal, immoral activities hidden.  Trump couldn’t and does not have the capacity to steal the microscopic shred of conscience that barely lived within Richard Nixon — because that would require him to stand for something beyond his own empty self.  No, he just takes the slogans: Law and Order, Silent Majority.

Empty words.  Emptiness emerging from his dark emptiness.

And you’ve missed it.  The media misunderstood they were being used and played like a cheap piano.


27 July 2016

Richard Van Ingram

http://www.comixcast.com

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loser@losercomix.com

@RVI777

 

 

 

 

 

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