A Plea and a Warning About Our Dying Religious Holidays

What I am most thankful for during the holiday of Thanksgiving is always the thing I dare not name until after its completion: my son’s visit.  Now that he has safely landed back in Denver, I may say that I’m greatly relieved at his having secured a good job—paying half again as much as I ever earned, and no thanks to his costly Bachelor’s degree—and that I am deeply grateful that he traveled safely.  This species of “gratitude”, to be sure, has more than a little of the heathen about it.  Solon lectured Croesus a long time ago on the risks of declaring any man happy before his span on earth is finished; and the Irish have a saying, Mol an lá um trathnóna (“Praise the day at sundown”) which speaks to the same point.

As Ruth Finnegan says, we’re all pretty much the same underneath our thin veneer of literate conditioning: still a bunch of nervous primates watching out for the next tawny pair of predator’s ears in the tall grass.  And our civilized surfaces grow thinner by the hour, it seems.  If there’s one habit my beloved boy brings home with him that I would as soon see left at the airport, it’s his taste in television fare.  I’m not being theatrical or “snowflakey” when I declare that the level of grotesque violence in movies—and these, to boot, advertised as “comedies”—offends me almost to the boiling point.  Mayhem is not a source of amusement; it was not so even for our caveman progenitors.  Perhaps I am particularly irritable on this subject because of the self-righteous outcry against private possession of firearms that issues from Hollywood as steadily as smog from the streets of LA.  If there are indeed governable influences in play behind most of our mass-shootings, then the desensitization to the pain of others purveyed by the film industry’s blood-porn must rank at the top of the list.  Seldom can this brutality be squeezed behind the fig leaf of realism.  It is a luridly stylized and highly staged orgy, rather, of mauling and maiming, with all the human agony removed.

I know of no words adequate to describe the spiritual squalor of the anomic parasites who grind out such utterly debased and irredeemable “amusement”.  In their company, whores are saints.

On a related but less oppressive note, I was also somewhat dumbfounded by the volume of wholly “pagan” advertising that has clustered around the approach of Christmas.  Yes, I well know that I am naive to be thus surprised.  My wife and I consume perhaps an hour of TV daily (much of it divided between couples flipping houses and the Weather Channel).  Football, a game I now despise for more reasons than ever before, has an attraction for my lad and turns out to be an ideal vehicle for commercial breaks numerous and lengthy (Reason 28 for why I hate the game).  I won’t bore you—or torment myself—by trying to give a full account of all the car ads (speaking of vehicles), electronics ads, and home-improvement ads that washed over my eardrums this past weekend.  I will say as follows: a visitor from another world might be forgiven for supposing that Black Friday and the adipose graybeard belching out, “Ho, ho, ho!” are integrally related and fundamental to some impending celebration.

Or let me put it this way, very bluntly—for I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else volunteering an insight quite the same as the one that at last settled upon me.  The degree of commercialism in our Christmas season has grown obscene: no originality in that observation.  The counter-cultural forces in Hollywood, academe, the news room, and the board room have made the time look almost as grotesque as do those blood-red “comedies” aired abundantly over the same weeks.  One might have supposed that the board room, at least, would have an interest in sparing capitalism the bludgeoning it receives from other quarters… but capitalist marketers have taken almost to parodying the “greed” drive of consumerism (in the same way that bullet-riddled bodies are now so cliché as to be comic).  A few of us realize, as well, that big business is no friend to free enterprise—that the corporatism mingling the DNA of Big Auto and Big Com Tech with Big Government is probably happy enough to hear college professors trashing fair, open competition.

So here’s my climatic insight for the morning.  As our counter-cultural progressive elite has systematically purged Thanksgiving and Christmas of their religious significance, it has of necessity driven those occasions deeper and deeper into an unsavory secularist pit of loud hucksterism.  In other words, the thing most hated by the political Left about our major Christian holidays is a quality largely generated by its own “demystifying” of them.  The more we take Christ out of Christmas, the more we see of Ho-Ho steering his red BMW with the help of a GPS on his smartphone.

To the young, a plea… or a warning: you won’t reduce the vulgarity in our moribund culture by turning your back on religious holidays.  You will, on the contrary, enhance that terminal vulgarity by forgetting that the holidays have a religious foundation.  Don’t let the producers, the professors, the broadcasters, and the marketers fool you: the coarseness lies in their neutering of a mystical time, not in the time’s primitive, outdated mystery.

The War on Mystery: Stars vs. Robots

When I pulled together some short stories last month from my scribbling over the past two decades, I didn’t really understand that “open-endedness” was their common denominator until I saw the collected whole.  All of the twenty tales left something unresolved, or else resolved the critical question in a way that confronted the reader with mystery.  Now, if you write “mystery” or “fantasy” in the context of a literary creation, readers naturally picture a supersleuth detective or a journey to Unicorn Land through a wormhole.  That’s not what I have in mind.  Out here on my thickly wooded hillside, the Milky Way unfolds mystery after sunset: sending Captain Kirk out to map its corridors with script and cast of thousands reduces that mystery to childish fantasy.  All irreducible mystery belongs to God.  All reduced or resolved mystery belongs to the dustbin of crumpled wrappers after a child has pillaged his pile of Christmas gifts.

The educated elite, of course, have pledged themselves to “demystifying” the world far and wide.  This they may accomplish (in their arrogant minds) by exposing the political propaganda hiding in a fairy tale and laying bare the gender-stereotyped brainwash circulating through a classic novel… or they may—the “scientists” among them—more empirically assign our longings to a certain gene or hormone, or establish that no life-supporting planet could possibly be orbiting Sirius.  They make a desert and call it progress.

Sirius has actually become quite prominent at my bedside.  It is now well up (on clear nights) by the time I turn in, and its very distinctive blue-red flickers lead one irresistibly to suppose… well, that it’s on fire.  Sirius is burning.  I know that the flickers are “in fact” caused by interstellar dust absorbing and re-emitting light waves at their differing component frequencies… but it pleases me to impose a metaphorical value upon this evocative spectacle, as if I could watch the star’s mane blaze across light-years.  Is it the untamed hair of Camilla joyously descending from her mountain ridge… or is it the wild hair of Cassandra running through the doomed halls of Troy?  Is it a greeting or a warning?  I see a higher power, in any case, which is invisible in its direct and perfect truth.  I see beauty, for I sense more of a message than I can read.  The image turns the key on doors that must remain locked forever to dull eyes.

The “scientific” community appears willing enough, in its way, to tap the enthusiasm of those who divine secrets in the stars: messages transmitted, not by the voice of God, but by alien civilizations.  Okay (smiles the cosmologist in need of a grant—and not averse to camera time)… so maybe there really are little green men trying to send us a handshake in the night.  New planets are being discovered all the time—and who’s to say that only a terrestrial equivalent could support intelligent life, when life on Earth was itself so improbable and when life indeed prospers within Earth’s oceans that never sees daylight?  And so on, and so on… until we arrive at Steven Spielberg, and a nice little grant to book a few hours on Mt. Palomar’s telescope.

Spielberg, by the way—I can never let this irony pass—was the home of the prison where Silvio Pellico wasted away for fifteen years after openly criticizing a tyrannical regime.  Our space fantasies, if they assume any real life at all, always seem to join the trajectory of political totalitarianism rather quickly.  Space exploration will require a wholehearted and minutely coordinated commitment of energy and resources.  Political centralization will prove essential.  The mass of taxpaying citizens, who are the tiniest, humblest of tributaries in a vast root system, must accept that our “destiny” is to colonize the stars—to “evolve”.  Those who resist occupy the indefensible position of the old granny in the magnificent Elia Kazan film, Wild River: they sit upon an island slated for flooding in order that progress may be brought to eager thousands.  Granny is eventually carted off, retrograde to the end, in her rocker to the mainland, where she dies within days.

And why is contact with superior beings our destiny?  What are they going to tell us with Sibylline urgency—how to make an anti-gravity engine?  How to draw unlimited electricity from thin air, as Tesla is supposed to have managed before he was silenced?  (To this mindset, conspiracies always aim at keeping us from our destiny.)  What will we do with all of our sudden wealth in free kilowatts?  Travel to farther star systems?  To what end?  To discover men more lime than green?  To discover an all-female planet, like something out of Ariosto?  And in what way will that advance us?  Having reduced hundreds of fairy-tale possibilities to a single reality… what then?  On to the next planet of mystery, to pull off another wrapper and find another shockingly confined and humdrum species?

I seem to be straying into the War on Mystery these days no matter which way I flee.  The academic world I abandoned had come to insist (with characteristic stifling smugness) that all stories are propaganda, and that good stories are those that promote an insurgent cause over the status quo.  I, on the other hand, have lately grown convinced that great tales are those which leave the reader swollen with a sense of the untold—of the “untellable” rendered almost told.  Narrative is the poetry of time.  It is flickering Sirius transposed into a series of events.  It leads to an end, when done well, which is yet not quite an end.

To the Academy, a female Sherlock Holmes receives an automatic stamp of approval.  To me, even the Conan Doyle original fails to reach the top tier because our sleuth simply dissects enigmas like a master samurai practicing on a stalk of bamboo.  The dramatizations of the Holmes mysteries that embed their resolution within the misfit, vaguely sociopathic qualities of a bizarre genius are literary triumphs.  Behind the solved mystery of the stolen jewels remains the unsolved mystery of a loner so maladjusted that he is never lured astray by routine expectations.  (I think of the Holmes played by Jeremy Brett: the latest version, with Lucy Liu as Watson—wouldn’t you know?—goes too overtly Freudian, as if a deadbeat dad explains everything.)

Lest I seem to ramble unforgivably, let me converge on my own evasive ending for the day by declaring that an answer to my last week’s question also lurks here.  Why is our society in “self-destruct mode”—why do we grind out talking heads, intellectuals, chronic misfits, and young people who loathe our collective past and want to see the republic turned upside-down?  I offered several suggestions specific to the American cultural experience; here’s one that applies to all humanity.  When there are no more wrappers to shred under the Christmas tree, we attack the tree itself.  Demystified of its lights and ornaments, it turns out just to be a sad mass of withering needles.  What else can we ravage—where else might mystery be hiding?  See the warm light in the neighbor’s window?  Maybe his Christmas was better—maybe that’s where our ultimate heart’s delight awaits us… and if it doesn’t, we’ll raze the deceptive space with a vengeance, like Genghis Khan punishing a resistant fortress.

When we do not accept mystery as the permanent projection of the divine into our material world, we must create and destroy one material mystery after another.  That is our destiny, as a people with its collective back stubbornly turned upon the spiritual.  Have you detected the recent but contagious longing to fuse with robots that moves among us?  To be a robot… to live forever (with occasional recharging), to have one’s “soul” passed along in the form of an information-laden chip to robotic upgrades (what a debased notion of the soul—information!)… and unspoken beneath this fatal romance, yet very much courted in my opinion, is the death of mystery.  At last!  Finally!  To be a robot… and to feel the tug of mystery no more.  To look up at Sirius and perform immediately a spectral analysis, but otherwise to have no response whatever… oh, what liberation!  To undo what God has created… to be a spiritual being no more!

We will continue our search-and-destroy mission against mystery until we indeed render all terrestrial societies uninhabitable for human beings, because it seems that we must.  Or maybe not; maybe we will—some of us—pull out of the death spiral as others of us plunge to annihilation.  After all, we were made to adore mystery: that, too, is our destiny.

“I Believe,” “Me, Too”: Women and Transferred or Postponed Rage (Part Two)

Words like “transference” do not typically grow in my author’s garden.  “Postponement” is a little more characteristic of literary haunts, and seems to me (in my amateur’s carelessness) to point to a very similar psychological phenomenon.  That women in Western societies have delayed or suppressed a lot of rage at the male sex is smack-in-the-face obvious to me.  Today I will try to extend my case to the idea of how that rage, broken loose at last, might transfer itself to a particular target (the original source of outrage having vanished, quite often, into murky decades).

First, to recap: I accept that many women today have been abused and violated by men in the past.  It’s grossly unfair to accuse all of us men of such behavior… but we who minded our manners were not “players” in the Seventies and Eighties, only mute bystanders.  Indeed, academic feminism, which I hold ultimately most responsible for the contemporary woman’s plight, began in the assumption that “men get to play around”.  I recall that notion from fifty years ago—I recall such blather flying from the mouth of a high school English teacher; and I further recall muttering to myself in futile protest, “Men in my family don’t play around.”

That was the point of departure: take the most reprehensible behavior of the most undisciplined males… and make it the standard which, in simple fairness, should also apply to females.  Once women began stooping to pass beneath a steeply lowered bar, men either followed their lead or… well, to repeat, some of us were left spectating from the game’s sidelines in gaping disbelief.

I didn’t write this last time, but I should say it now in so many words.  Today’s women don’t live up to men’s expectations: those times are branded “the patriarchy” and consigned to the Dark Ages.  Instead, men adapt themselves to women’s expectations in modern Western society—and the vector of those expectations was decidedly downward in 1980.

A second quick addendum: women are far less apt than men, in my experience, to be shamed by the example of an upright individual and to alter their habits accordingly.  Instead, they are likely to savage the “good girl” mercilessly until they drag her into the mud wrestling.  The female ego is stunningly fragile in that regard: it will sooner transform the whole world into a gallery of the macabre than recognize that it has allowed itself to be disfigured and corrupted.  (In that respect, women are natural progressives: they prefer blundering forward with back firmly turned on a dubious past to brooding over errors in a confessional, corrective frame of mind.)  No doubt, we men bear some of the blame for this.  To become “unpleasant” or to acquire “soiling” experiences is practically a death sentence in the female mind, whereas to a male it can be viewed as the Prodigal Son’s constructive adventure to the bottom.

Imagine, then (and here I pivot to this day’s subject), a woman whose head was filled from early adolescence with the “virtues” of freedom and self-assertion as expressed by giving her body casually to a different male every month, or every weekend… or every day or hour.  (There’s a satanic progression in such conditioning, just as may be observed when the gang recruit’s initiatory shooting graduates to cold-blooded mass-executions.) Imagine, for instance, someone like singer/actress Alyssa Milano: endowed (cursed?) with an angelic face, swallowed up before the age of consent into the most malodorous cesspool of moral degeneracy in American life (the entertainment industry), submitted to more kinds of assault and seduction than were ever seen by patrons of a Tiberian bath house, and finally spewed out with fading looks upon a pile of money with a mic and camera never far away.  At whom would such a person flail, now that she may safely throw a punch or two?  The agents and producers on whose couches she first auditioned have long, long ago drifted far, far out to sea (where, as this male hopes, the fishes gnaw their rotten bones).  The soirées where memory has “redacted” all the details with the thick black stylus of booze and drugs are not likely to yield back their secrets… unless under hypnosis or “therapy”.  In any case, much of life remains to be lived, even though the leading roles for “hot, sexy” young things are no longer forthcoming.  Is it wise to accuse Pilate of the Crucifixion at this point instead of a palace guard?

If I single out Ms. Milano, it’s because a) her voice in these matters is among the most persistent, audible, and imbecilic; and b) because I cannot quite shake myself of utter infatuation with her lovely face (male pig that I am: it’s infuriating sometimes, ladies, to be subjugated to the hard-wired male adoration of beauty).  Yet I should append here a bit of wisdom imparted by the roommate to whose nuggets I was briefly privy at the College of Willian and Mary: plain girls are easier prey, because they’re grateful for any attention they receive.  As the irrepressibly randy old Ben Franklin put it, all cats are gray in the dark.

A man needn’t be so naive as to suppose, therefore, that beautiful women were most tarnished by the sexual revolution’s debacle.  It may very well have been Plain Jane, rather, who had the widest experience of one-night stands in her bid to be pleasing and “hip”.  O vocal chorus of outraged women, address your wails to people like my roommate (who was on probation for drug-dealing, and from whose company I soon parted) for some of those raw mornings on the trash heap—but devote a strophe to Gloria Steinem, as well: louder, longer round of outraged wails.

According to the hair-rending logic of shrieking choruses… who pays?  Now that #MeToo has attracted a supportive mass of victims from the backstreets, whose neck gets fitted for a noose?  Every man a girl has ever dated?  But you can’t hang them all, much as you’d like to.  Who most deserves to be hanged… who, symbolically, is the most compelling villain?

Why, Dad, of course!  You know: the Man Who Wasn’t There, just when you needed him—the guy who was busy making tubs of money to send you to the very best schools.  During your high school years, you could coax a smile from his weary face (on rare occasions when you saw him) by bringing home A’s from Saint Tiffany’s Academy… and you secured an A in English by writing about how women should be allowed to sleep around just as men have always done.  (Did Dad really do that?  You knew he didn’t… he just wouldn’t.)  Then it was off to Rutgers or Purdue; and Daddy Dearest certainly couldn’t have disapproved of keg parties and weekend hook-ups, because he was oh-so-proud of you for getting accepting into one of the nation’s premier ivory towers.  (So maybe… maybe the other stuff really was part of his secret life.)  How were you supposed to figure out, at eighteen, that physically walking these ivy-draped corridors was a high honor, but that listening to the subversive, nihilistic rigmarole echoing through them was a plunge into the abyss?

Why didn’t Daddy explain all this to you, if he approved but disapproved?  It needed sorting out.  Why did he turn his back on you, once more and at the most critical moment?

Yes, Dad should pay… but he’s your father, and you love him (between and behind the times when you hate him).  Daddy should hang for letting you be taken out with the trash… but not precisely Daddy.  Somebody like him.  Some very prominent spokesman for his “values”: for God, country, family, free enterprise… for rationality, objectivity, order… for the System.  The System that let boys treat you like a toiletry before flushing you away.  All rise for the Pledge!

Who gets croaked for all that?  Why, Brett Kananaugh, of course.

To the Alyssa Milanos of this world, and to their Plain Jane sisters, I believe there is a weirdly logical cogency in the “I believe her” professions.  Yes, he did it!  The wrapped-in-flag Mr. Clean who made straight A’s as you were supposed to do and drew the priest’s benediction that was supposed to be yours—all the while enjoying his beer-guzzling games with rowdy mates and being Man About Campus though saving himself for his future bride… what nauseating hypocrisy!  The sham of it all!  The lie of it all!  Oh, yes, the specifics—the details!  They make it look as though the truth is on his side and the lies on yours.  You always get snared in details, because that’s how the game’s creators set it up.  So Justice Kavanaugh gets off on a technicality?  Not on your life!

He’s worse than the boy who wouldn’t stop when you said “no”, the young man whose panting face on top of you doesn’t quite crystallize from the fraternity house’s drunken mob, the boss who showed up in your apartment to go over tomorrow’s presentation and wouldn’t leave… he’s the man who facilitated it all.  The pimp.  The hypocrite who nods, smiles, collects his fee, and shuts the door on you.  He needs to hang till his face turns black and puffy.

I can understand all that.  It’s wrong-headed thinking.  It’s miserably misguided: the degree of transfer is pitiful, surely pathological.  And yet… and yet, is such a transfer of fury entirely irrational?  The lunacy must stop—but the hypocrisy which drives weaker characters to lunacy must stop, as well.

We should no longer surrender our daughters for sacrifice, like Aztec maidens about to have their hearts cut out, to polluted “institutions of higher learning”—and we should no longer patronize an industry that degrades them for our amusement.  Both of these cultural burn barrels are radioactive with hatred of the American mainstream… and the American mainstream, in retaliation, continues to channel its impressionable youth straight into their furnaces.  Why is that?

The “Offense-Eligible” Class and the New Age Shakedown

The pressure upon even very minor public figures to bend a knee to radical progressivism is nearing terrorist proportions.  It’s reminiscent of the Mob’s glory days, when store-owners would pay “protection money” to local thugs so that their merchandise wouldn’t end up out in the street and their right arm in a sling.  Does that overstate the rawness of today’s intimidation-dealers, do you think?  I admit that every pronouncement on current events seems hyperbolic in the Twitter Age, which thrives on the “I’ll find your kids and sell them to a cartel pimp” kind of utterance engineered to get views.

Yet when a robust young man virtually breaks into tears during a press conference—and this merely because he Tweeted, “You’re Gay!” to a friend while both parties were high school students—the look and smell of terror cling to the incident.  Everything this boy in his early twenties has ever worked for not only teeters over the abyss, but its threatened plunge beyond the edge would leave him professionally stigmatized forever in our sad, twisted world as “the gay-bashing kid”.

My reference is to baseball player Trey Turner—one of a growing list of boy/men in that sport whose Twitter past is being researched with NSA-caliber rigor by unnamed Thought Police and punished with Kafkaesque solemnity by ESPN’s mind-control goons.  Another lad named Sean Newcomb was targeted on the day when he almost threw a no-hitter, as if to send the message, “Feel comfortable in your success?  Don’t.  We’re watching you, and we can come for you whenever we like.”  A somewhat more mature victim this week, All Star outfielder J.D. Martinez, refused to present his throat to hounds of the press corps when questioned (read “harassed”) about a Tweet from five years ago featuring Hitler’s mug.  The contention appears to have been floated that Martinez was high-fiving the Fuehrer, even though the post clearly connected the Nazi policy of collecting privately owned firearms with the birth of a civil nightmare.  Logic isn’t required in these terrorist assaults, however.  “I mean… you want individuals to have the right to own guns, correct, J.D.?  So why are you not a Nazi?  See, there’s Hitler’s pic in your post.”

A “defense” I read of Martinez even rebuked him for being so indiscreet as to employ a Fuerher-image.  What?  This “off-limit association” code was apparently violated within hours from another quarter, when Florida representative Ron Desantis flirted with “racism” by using a morph of the phrase, “monkey around”.  “I mean… I mean, everybody knows that white folks think of black folks when they hear the word ‘monkey’—right?  I mean, those white folks, not the ones like me.  I mean, I don’t have those thoughts… but I know they do, and we need to slap those people down or they’ll start lynching by torchlight.  Just like the Hitler photo.  I know how Martinez intended that—don’t give me that crap about reading his Tweet!”

Really sick of this, my friends… and yes, it’s nascent terrorism—and yes, it’s getting worse.  For the record, may I say in a small voice that I am extremely offended at the arrogantly implied association of the loaded Ruger at my bedside with Nazi politics?  The chances of a squad car reaching our remote rustic dwelling on a treacherous dirt road in timely fashion if someone should kick in our window at midnight are… well, about the same as getting the Nazi-calling lynch mob to pipe down and hear me out.  My previous house, located smack between a state university and a city school in a town of almost one hundred thousand, had its back door kicked wide open in broad daylight one beautiful November morning.  After discovering the raid on all of our portable electronics when I returned for lunch and calling 911, I waited (wondering if the looters were truly finished or would reappear) for an hour… whereupon a lone officer—a young woman who seemed to be on her first assignment—took a quick stroll through the main hall and then asked me if I’d interviewed the neighbors.  Not exactly the protocol that The First 48 had led me to expect.

So… do I get to register offense if you not only tee up my wife and me for murder by home-invaders, but call us Nazis because we want a six-shot piece handy to give us a chance?  No, I’m out of order.  I don’t belong to an “offense-eligible” class.

Actually, I get offended all the time by the maniacally violent movie-teasers with which I’m assaulted while trying to watch an episode of Expedition Unknown before bed.  Curious and ironic, isn’t it, that the very people who want me utterly disarmed also grind out an incessant stream of sadistic claptrap glorifying counter-conformist, bullet-spraying outlaws.  I don’t watch movies.  I haven’t paid to see a film since we took our son (in early youth) to Wallace and Grommet and the Wer-Rabbit.  What offends me, I emphasize, is the twenty second blitz on my evening’s peace by punks waving guns in people’s faces, shooting off smart-ass remarks, skidding cars over bridges, and disrobing women on the kitchen counter.  It all happens too fast even for me to sit up and grab the remote stick (which does everything but probate your will).  Why do I have to put up with this?  It’s offensive.

Too bad.  Any offense I register is deserved.  I belong to the “unoffendable class”.

The new series of Sling commercials offends me in a different way.  These silly skits obviously bank upon the viewer’s being versed enough in street lingo to catch some allusion to “swing” or “swinging”: I’m supposed to guffaw, that is, as the idiot male starts to strip while other people in the room are watching Sling on TV.  Takes me back to my first days teaching high school, when you couldn’t use the word “come” because it had some connection to coitus.  I don’t turn the box on for a few minutes in order to be transported back into the world of eighth-grade bathroom stalls.  I’m offended.

So deal with it.  No one cares.

—But the #MeToo movement demands that every male behave like Beau Brummell… and this kind of humor…

—You don’t have any sense of humor, man. Your ignorance of the urban dictionary is really tedious.  Nobody cares about your dead Puritan white guy hang-ups.  We’ll tell you when to laugh and when to turn to stone. So watch for the cues. Otherwise, just f— off!

I’ve spent too much time in this column’s space, perhaps, chronicling my irritation at how the Confederacy is portrayed in popular culture.  The vast majority of Southern soldiers owned no slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation did not liberate slaves held in Northern states, miscegenation laws existed in the South rather than the North because (as Tocqueville and others remark) a Northerner would not ever have dreamed of so “degrading” a union… Richard Robert O’Madden witnessed a budding riot when he was observed attending mass with black Catholics in New York City two decades before the Civil War, which was itself a looting expedition that left blacks and whites alike destitute throughout Virginia and the Carolinas… but no, but no, I’m all wrong again.  Southerners are bigots and racists.  The war was fought only so that these redneck degenerates might keep their slaves: even Glenn Beck insists upon this staple of Hollywood historicizing, and hits his period hard.

So… take your Southern-fried offended feelings and shove them, buddy.  We’re tearing down all those racist statues and purging all those racist names from school books—except as examples of racism.  The KKK march in Charlottesville showed all of you for what you are.  We don’t care about your objections, about your counter-arguments and documented evidence.  You don’t belong to that class.

And who, exactly, belongs to the “offense-eligible” class?  Women and blacks, of course—but not black women whose politics are wrong, like Mia Love and Candace Owens; gays, lesbians, and “trans” people—but not those like Milo Yiannopoulos and Tammy Bruce whose politics are wrong; any religious people whose faith claims only a small minority in a Christian society—but not those like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and Dr. Qanta Ahmed whose politics are wrong.  Politics, it appears, plays a decisive role.  Why, you can even be a white male born of Angles and Saxons yet enjoy protected status if your politics is proper.  You might feel Cherokee or African today, and you can always declare yourself representative of an undiscovered gender.

Are you laughing?  Were you once laughing, perhaps, as a boy of fifteen?  Then we’ll have your carcass.  The Turner boy’s career was almost ruined in a trice, though his public apologies were so abject that he seems to have earned probation.  Martinez’s fate is probably secure just because Boston’s hope of a pennant hangs heavily upon him.  These fellows, you will have noticed, are not public figures in any sense that might affect policy.  They have not even been engaged in that celebrity advocacy of political positions so familiar in Tinseltown.  All the better to make the point, to transmit the message: “Don’t you cross us.  Don’t you dare even joke about us—even as a child.  All you children, watch closely if you want to survive as adults.  We closed up all the shops on that side of the street.  We can do your side, too, if you don’t give us the free choice of your merchandise when we walk in.”

This is definitive thuggery.  Are there enough adults with vertebral columns left to tell these punks to stop waving their guns?

When the Left Serves “Nazi”, the Right Volleys “Confederate”: Ping-Pong of Slurs (Part Two)

I wish ye all a… what?  A “happy” Fourth of July?  Happy, when man/boy relationships will soon be demanding the legitimacy of marriage, as we see in Europe?  When you may soon be hounded out of a restaurant because the owner finds that you have made a politically incorrect post on Facebook?  When parents are already taking their kids to the old ballpark and having to explain to them what the LBGTQ promotion is all about?  Well, enjoy the fireworks… and don’t get indigestion on your hotdog.

Speaking of things queer… what did I read in Star Parker’s columns (whose name I misspelled earlier, apparently) a week ago?  That the LBGTQ rainbow flag reminds her of the Stars and Bars in its symbolizing of suppressed speech (I think that was the analogy’s crux)? And, in a later post, that the near-fatal beating of abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks in 1856 is a precise historical analogue to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ being shamed out of a restaurant?  Did I imagine that?  Or… Ms. Parker, have you, too, lost your ever-loving mind?

Our radical Left today, tout court, is the modern incarnation of the Southern Confederacy: that’s what I seem to be picking up from more and more “conservative” commentators.

Simply on the evidence of the prisoner-of-war question (reviewed briefly in Part One), a rational, fair-minded adult would be forced to conclude (as were the Union’s own officers, in several cases) that the North’s operations were much the most cynical, statist, and ruthless thing going in 1864.  Yet twenty-first century America—or a significant part of its intelligentsia—has decided to remember the Confederacy as our own closest brush with goose-stepping Nazism.  This is precisely Glenn Beck’s argument for preserving Southern monuments: that they remind us of the diabolical infamy that once poisoned a sector of our society, and that they should therefore stand forever as a cautionary kind of scarlet latter throughout the South.  Now we can add Bolshevism to Nazism.

It is, in fact, hardly surprising that Star Parker would echo Glenn Beck.  He has served as her publicist and benefactor in recent years—a service for which I give him due praise.  Yet I find it distressing that canny observers like Parker should be lured by the Beck mystique into equating the Confederacy with the Third Reich—and now, it appears, with Antifa.  Along with deploring Southern prisons as anticipating Treblinka and Auschwitz, Beck is also the loudest contemporary magnifier of the Sumner-Brooks incident.  I have little doubt that Parker absorbed it from one of his diatribes.  Sumner’s brutal caning is supposed to have been (sayeth the prophet) a kind of dry run for a KKK lynching, with the Senator’s advocacy of abolition the sole catalyst of the homicidal South Carolinian smackdown.  To hear Beck spin the tale, you’d never know that the feud had been simmering away for some while and that scurrilous, personally insulting language had flowed from both sides.  Brooks, indeed, had originally considered dueling with his senatorial adversary, but he decided that Sumner lacked sufficient gentlemanly credentials to be so honored.

Another recent Beck “adoptee” is Dinesh D’Souza, a genuine martyr for free speech cast into prison by the Obama “Justice” Department.  The other night I saw a very brief excerpt of D’Souza’s forthcoming documentary—saw a briefer portion than the brief one aired, because my blood pressure instantly spiked and I hammered the “off” button.  Abraham Lincoln, that lion of liberty who plunged his nation into war solely to strike off the chains of Southern slaves, was juxtaposed with another irrepressible champion of the people, Donald Trump.  Fireworks, flags waving… all stand—and no knees, please.  I suppose Trump could also have been Churchill, since “Confederate” is code for “Nazi”.

I share Beck’s deep admiration for D’Souza… and for Star Parker, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz.  I am so familiar with the Beck universe, in fact, because I tried for years to tag along with his broadcasts, despite their causing me to cry foul from time to time.  The maligning of Debra Medina (Rick Perry’s quondam competitor for Texas governor) and Geert Wilders (whose name the Beck crew can’t pronounce but whose heart they have read) are but two cases that leap to mind.  Beck, alas, has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to reach across the aisle to his ideological enemies and to join these detractors in savaging shared sacrificial victims.  Trump is only the most spectacular example of such “outreach”–and is actually fair game insofar as his conservative convictions seem very hard to locate; yet Beck’s “never Trump” opposition has already morphed into a MAGA baseball cap worn on the set (hence the green light to D’Souza’s Lincoln/Trump conceit).

The point of such hop-scotching along the boundary line of principle is perhaps to acquire some cred as a free thinker who works with both sides and only wants truth and goodness to prevail.  (“I’m not a partisan… you see?  I just shot one of our guys for you!”)  Yet I don’t really see such cynicism operating in Glenn Beck at a conscious level: I think his motive is a more pathological compulsion to keep heads spinning (perhaps, especially, his own: witness the frequent public confessions—“I was so wrong then! It was my fault, mea maxima culpa!”). Occasionally some minor, remote, or uninteresting figure comes available to slip into a load-bearing crevice of the cloud-climbing Beck edifice… and in that crack the figure must forever dwell.  Better that one should be squeezed beyond recognition than that The Prophetic Vision should come toppling down.

I see relative innocents like Parker and D’Souza being swept up in the rhetorical tornado of Beck and other dynamos of mass media whose impulses draw them toward tradition (and who therefore cling to words like “Christian” and “conservative”).  Ben Shapiro is probably in the group, though an Orthodox Jew.  Even Louie Gohmert played along during Beck’s exhibitionist “soccer balls and teddy bears” expedition to South Texas (a microscopically short-term and unhelpful response to the ongoing use of children as pawns in border politics).

The magnetism of this man’s charism upon younger or less dynamic figures is a shame… but probably inevitable.  I once felt that attraction myself; but the slandering of my ancestors—of people like my father’s father and my mother’s mother—as a race of irredeemably vile, degenerate human beings snapped my last tie to the microphone and the megaphone of Glenn Beck.  Those people, to be sure, had flaws, and well they knew it—and bitterly did they pay for it.  Yet we hope (do we not?) to see a Christian, especially one whose professions are so stentorian, to understand that even the footsoldiers who wore the Nazi uniform were not all utterly evil.

I leave this week’s ramble in the hope that I have raised two points worthy of consideration.  One, of course, is that the Southern Confederacy has endured well over a century of being deliberately, wickedly caricatured—and that naive thinkers have now been duped to accept the cartoon as a fixed historical constellation.  There really are a lot of analogous distortions ongoing in contemporary academe and the news media, if such things interest you!  The vast majority of these are launched by the Left, but…

But my second and final point is that we are witnessing the birth of a new “catch-all defamation” from the Right.  Conservative luminaries have for years quite justifiably protested their being labeled “Nazi” because they think that the two sexes should have separate restrooms or because they think that a nation should have a border.  Some among them, driven to distraction by the unfairness of it all, have apparently found an abundant puddle of mud to sling back: “Confederate”.  You call me a Nazi… I’ll call you a Confederate.  Take that!  “The Deep South that nurtured the KKK, you know, voted solid Democrat for decades.”  How many times have I heard this enthymeme from Beck and others—as if the party of Truman, even, were that of LBJ?  And then the same mouths, within an hour, will opine from their other side, “JFK wouldn’t recognize his party if he were alive today!”

The only constant in this shifting equation, it seems, is that Southerners have always been wicked racists… and you, Linda Sarsour, are a Confederate!  And you and you, Saul Alinsky and Margaret Sanger, are Confederates! Stars and Bars to you, Louis Farrakhan!

The irony is that Glenn Beck—or so I thought (so he said)—opposed Donald Trump precisely for exploiting this ruinous “us/them” instinct in a nervous, resentful electorate.  Now Glenn has found his own one-size-fits-all category of villain.  His example often makes me recall the classic Claude Rains line from Lawrence of Arabia: “A man who tells half-truths is worse than a liar—because a liar only conceals the truth, but a man who tells half-truths has forgotten where he put it.”

When the Left Serves “Nazi”, the Right Volleys “Confederate”: Ping-Pong of Slurs (Part One)

I’m facing another week of yo-yoing between states as I attempt to finalize a move, so my ideas, too, are probably somewhat wandering.  The text I’ve long wished to review, published in 1910, is also a fairly complicated document.  I think I can do no better than to offer several excerpts and then (in Part Two later this week—always assuming the presence of Internet) relate these to the current scene.

Have you ever heard about the dismal Confederate prisoner-of-war camps?  I have… all my life.  As a wee bairn, I recall (for instance) an episode of a briefly running series produced by National Geographic.  I think it was called Great Adventures.  James MacArthur was a young GI who was going deaf but died bravely charging a machine-gun nest… Lloyd Bridges was Wild Bill Hickok… and then there was an hour segment about Libby Prison.  I can still hear the warden drawling “Lubby Pri-uson” in that fanciful Hollywood imitation of a Southern accent, y’awl—and pouring a syrupy sadism over it that left Burl Ives’ character in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof standing closer to Burl Ives’ rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”.

So, yes, I grew up simply accepting that the South operated death camps.  At the near end of my life’s spectrum, I could recount hearing Glenn Beck discuss the death of some great-great uncle or other in one of these detention centers with a more seething fury in his voice than I’ve ever witnessed any Auschwitz survivor to evoke.  (Glenn and that uncle would obviously have been very close if the latter hadn’t died young and been born almost a century and a half before his illustrious descendant.)  I’ll have much more to say about the conservative commentary-class (most of whom hail from comfortably north of the Mason-Dixon Line) in Part Two.

For now… well, would it shock you to learn that the “Confederate death camp” chapter in our history books is a canard?

From The Confederate Cause and Conduct of the War Between the States, Item 1:

“‘It is hard on our men to be held in Southern prisons,’ said Grant, in an official communication, ‘not to exchange them; but it is humane to those left in the ranks to fight our battles.  If we commence a system of exchanges which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated.  If we hold those [Southerners] caught they are no more than dead men.’

Let’s be clear about what U.S. Grant is saying here: the North is consistently refusing to effect exchanges of prisoners with the South (as was the custom at that time) because his side has far easier access to replacement troops than does the other side.  If prisoners on both sides rot in jail, then the North wins.

Item 2:

“This evidence (says Dana) [Charles A. Dana, U.S. Assistant Secretary of War] must be taken as conclusive.  It proves that it was not the Confederate authorities who insisted on keeping our prisoners in distress, want and disease, but the commander of our own armies.”

Dana’s comment alludes to Grant’s decision, described just above.

Item 3:

Union internment camps contained approximately 220,000 prisoners of war in contrast to the 270,000 interned in Southern camps, yet 4,000 more men died in Northern detention centers.

I cast this item in my own words.  The figures here are perhaps lowballing the truth, for earlier in the book I recall the approximate numbers 60,000 (for how many more Federals than Confederates were in detention) and 6,000 (for how many more Southerners died in detention). By any measure, the prospects of surviving as a prisoner-of-war were about fifty percent worse if you were in a Northern prison.

Item 5:

“I said,” says General Butler [in conferring with General Grant], “I doubted whether, if we stopped exchanging man for man, simply on the ground that our soldiers were more useful to us in Rebel prisons than they would be in our lines, however true that might be, or speciously stated to the country, the proposition could not be sustained against the clamor that would at once arise against the [Lincoln] administration.”

This ornately convoluted statement represents Butler’s tactful observation to Grant that President Lincoln would be excoriated in the court of public opinion if it became known that the North was deliberately keeping Southern jails crammed with captives.

Item 6:

“Thus it will be seen that 260 out of the 3,800 prisoners had died in twenty-one days, a rate of mortality which, if continued, would secure their total extermination in about 320 days.” Report of Dr. Van Buren’s Sanitary Commission from Albany, New York, about the state of a federal prison camp

The verdict rendered here issues from a distinguished health official of the Union.  His dry observation (probably not intended to be taken fully at face value) is that every one of the Southern captives in the prison he surveyed would be dead within a year, given prevailing conditions.

Item 7:

After Mr. Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation went into effect, as we have said, on January 1st, the Federals enrolled a large number of slaves in their armies.

This seemingly neutral observation has far greater significance in the light of the decision—reached covertly in the upper echelons of the Union hierarchy—to decline exchanges.  Union leadership wished to glut Southern prisons with inmates that couldn’t be fed or cared for.  Who better to use in this glutting than the slaves freed by Sherman during his plundering expedition into the Southern heartland?  Often thrust into the front lines, the freedmen were the ultimate pawns—and indeed, have remained so in many ways.

The authors of the study do not make the point explicitly—but a freeing and arming of slaves (many of whom knew little to nothing about handling firearms, by the way) would also throw Confederate enlistees into extreme anxiety about the security of their families back home, given the recent memories of John Brown’s sanguinary insurrection. This would be true even of the ninety-five percent of soldiers whose household included no slaves. As a means of undermining Southern morale, one might call the tactic brilliant. It’s something on the order of praying Allahu Akbar loudly on a crowded airplane in order to distract the passengers.

The Confederate Cause and Conduct of the War Between the States, as I say, was a century-old document authored by men of letters that protested how the Civil War was being presented to Southern schoolchildren.  The excerpts above, drawn only from the chapter about prisons, should suffice to suggest how the history books were—and still are—playing a propagandistic game with the miserable conditions prevalent in Confederate prisoner-of-war camps.  I have cited only a few items.  I have insufficient time, for instance, to provide details of the persistent cold shoulder that Lincoln’s Union turned to ambassadors from Richmond who tried to arrange humane exchanges—and even, later in the war, to offer Northern doctors unencumbered access to their captive soldiers.  (More deaths in Southern prisons meant more fuel for firing up public sentiment against the South.)  There were also incidents involving the execution of Southern prisoners, and sometimes of non-combatants.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee considered retaliating in kind, but decided that trading off barbaric acts would not ameliorate the situation.

Yet the statues we must tear down because they commemorate American Nazism represent, not Lincoln or Grant (or General Pope, who declared open season on non-combatant civilians), but… Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.  As we approach July 4 and contemplate nation-haters who parade our flag around upside-down, maybe we should consider whether we ourselves—or our most trusted standard-bearers—have not in the past foolishly or cynically inverted the most precious values represented by that flag.

Another Slaughter of Children—Another Round of Staged Whining

I wanted my next post to pursue the reactions that I registered during my Denver trip, and I have something all ready to go for tomorrow.  Another high school shooting has intruded into our shared world, however—we who share nothing any more but some real estate on a certain planet—and I need to clear my mind.

More “ban the guns” chanting from the Left, which is too dishonest (among its elite architects) or too stupid (among its tail-wagging minions) to admit that the endgame here is an irresistible centralized authority with an Obama-style “national police force”… more “paid shills of the Nazi NRA” baiting of anyone who proposes a serious analysis of the problem… more staged “how many of our children have to die?” whining from the crowd whose favorite comics and sitcoms joke about slaughtering babies in the womb…

I’m so sick of this.

Here are my questions.  Primo: how does a kid wearing a trench coat on a humid 90-degree Houston morning walk into a high school unchecked in 2018?  How in hell could that ever happen?

Secundo: why do idiot legislators in places like California and Boulder, Colorado, continue to brandish the mean-nothing phrase “assault rifle” in cases like this, where the murders were apparently perpetrated with a shotgun and a pistol (snitched from their legal owner)?  May we not at least converge upon sufficient coherence in this “debate” to admit that the gun designation du jour is arbitrary, and that the real target is every gun in private possession?  This sorry little prick also planned to ignite a number of bombs—but that atrocity, if successful, would likewise not have shifted the tone of whining on the Left in any way whatsoever.

Tertio: is it not clear by now that the bad-boy infamy heaped upon these pathetic ghosts of the social-media Limbo actually draws more of them to atrocious action?  The press dedicated to the Parkland, Florida, butchery has not yet subsided, though the same press corps utterly ignored a machete massacre (with killed and wounded numbers around 30 and 100) about a month ago in China’s contested Xinjiang province.  If you were a sociopathic punk who wanted to post a selfie that no one would ever forget, would you drive over twenty cheerleaders in your dad’s pickup, or would you shoot five of them with your dad’s Glock?

Quarto et ultimo: why is “entertainment” a dead issue in these discussions?  I’ve virtually given up on network TV and movies because of the gratuitous violence.  It sickens me beyond my endurance-threshold.  All of my son’s generation, at least among the males, consider Breaking Bad to be a classic.  I’m appalled.  How does a normal human being sit comfortably in his armchair and watch a young woman get executed with a bullet through the back of the head as her gagged lover is forced to look on from a van, on one side, and as her toddler stands in the front doorway, on the other?  This is entertainment?  The weaning of an entire generation on such nihilistic vomit of perverse creativity—on such hard-core pornography of the inner soul—cannot be free of consequences, especially when such “cool” diversions have become the stuff of contemporary tee-shirts and trivia games.

But Brian Cranston, the dark star of this bituminous epic poem, is an outspoken, even virulent anti-gun advocate.  Oh.  I guess all is well, then.

I can’t write any more, unless I am to lapse into a long string of four-letter words.

Misplacing Bigfoot: Turning a Great Quest into a Brainless Shouting Match

Todd Standing recently released a documentary on Netflix titled—informatively if not creatively—Bigfoot.  Taking these ninety minutes in conjunction with yet another season of Finding Bigfoot leads me irresistibly into a few reflections.

Standing is the real deal.  On his own weekly serial called Survivorman, Canadian naturalist and hiker-extraordinaire Les Stroud tramped through British Columbia with Standing for a couple of episodes two or three years back and was probably more than half persuaded by his host of the gigantic crypto-hominid’s existence.  Standing spends days and weeks at a time quietly fusing with some of the wildest terrain in the Northern Hemisphere.  He is the source of what must surely be the best close-up photos ever taken of a Sasquatch (on the assumption, of course, that the photos are genuine).  Yet he is no black belt when it comes to producing entertainment for the broadcast media.  Stroud, having logged years of experience filming his own series, integrated Standing into two riveting episodes.  Their well-edited pace preserved a flow sadly lacking in Todd’s just-released documentary.

Nevertheless, both Bigfoot and Survivorman share a potentially lethal liability, from the mainstream marketer’s perspective: they have no bells and whistles, no fireworks and hoopla.  Investigators of this caliber (and there aren’t many) examine unnaturally bent or snapped trees in highly artificial formations, they scrutinize indentations in the moss that might be enormous footprints, and they assess the tidy disappearance of apples and other goodies placed high on spindly branches that wouldn’t support a squirrel and would require a mangling assault from a bird.  All very CSI, very professional… just not likely to induce the consumer of reality shows to dribble potato chips and pizza from his dropped jaw.

Now, the FB Four Stooges, as I’ve grown fond of calling them, have their shtick down pat.  Entry scene in van cruising along an interstate, initial night exploration with hoots and hollers, “townhall” meeting, interviews of individual witnesses as one of the party camps out in a “likely spot”, then reunion for the final night’s grand finale of more hoots and hollers… which of course turn up nothing—“but we’ll be coming back here.”  No kidding.  As long as the cow gives milk, keep pulling on her udders.

I’m afraid I’ve taken a positive dislike to the Stooges.  They’ve milked their cash cow for too long.  Unless they are themselves representative of some less evolved primate species, they’re bound to realize that the routine isn’t going to produce close contact after… what is it?  Six or seven years?  A Sasquatch just might respond from a very great distance—if the moon is blue—to one of their yodels with a howl that no audio equipment can capture.  As soon as they repeat the cry in the wrong pitch or cadence, however, or fail to repeat it after the proper interval, the critter and his whole clan know for the remnant of this infrared media blitz to stay under cover.  Bigfoot doesn’t want to be seen, idiots—and you don’t know his language!

A good case could be made, I know, that we’re the idiots for watching.  I, for one, am watching no more—or perhaps fast-forwarding to the eye-witness accounts, which are much the most relevant information gathered by the series.  On the other hand, I think the hubris of this lot is very genuine.  The presumption that Bigfoot is a lumbering mega-gorilla without enough sense to invent clothes or leave trash in the open infuses the entire hour, year after year.  The high-handed digital imposition of a young King Kong in the bushes to animate every witness’s testimony is especially annoying.  These mock-ups look nothing like Standing’s photographs.  Have you noticed that the witnesses themselves are never invited to comment upon the accuracy of the cartoonish reconstructions?

The Stooges are now in full celebrity mode, trotting out family members, devoting episodes to their favorite reminiscences, traveling the country to do live gigs on campuses… laughing all the way to the bank, and posing all the way to Hollywood-class stardom.  Meanwhile, poor grunts like Todd Standing try to keep pace by piping in Heavy Metal from some old Rambo flick to cover transitions from one scene to another as an ATV crashes through the underbrush.  Todd, please take a tip from Les Stroud.  Just stay simple.  People who are receptive to this possibility are few and thoughtful, if popularly represented as weirdo wackos.  The multitude who mock and rail are tuning into Animal Planet because the prospect of several adults screaming wildly into the night turns them on.  Let the wheat and the chaff separate.

Snotty Ideologues of Film Industry Again Rape American Frontier

If I’m any sort of a critic, I’ll claim to be one of culture rather than film.  The two are not widely separated—yet perhaps too widely, for all that, when irredeemable garbage like the “Danish Western” (you read that right) inscrutably titled The Salvation can be released upon the world.  As has become my wont on Netflix, I fast-forwarded through huge sections after witnessing the sick beginning, pausing only to take in two minutes here and there.  I had to see just where the thing was going, you know: I simply couldn’t believe that the only direction was down.  Boy, was I ever wrong!

Here’s a Wikipedia summation of about two-thirds of this sagebrush saloperie.

The family [a rancher reunited after years with his wife and young son from Denmark] boards a stagecoach bound for their small residence while Peter [the rancher’s sidekick or foreman or… who cares?] stays behind. Their coach is also boarded by two recently released criminals, Paul and Lester. Following a tense struggle, the two criminals throw Jon out of the moving coach after which they rape and kill Jon’s wife. They also kill his son and the stagecoach drivers.

With great effort, Jon catches up to the coach to find his family murdered. Enraged, he kills the two convicts.

Unbeknownst to Jon, Paul is the brother of Henry Delarue, a notorious gang leader and land baron. Upon hearing the news, Delarue kills three innocent citizens of Black Creek, the town that reports the deaths to him. He also forces the townspeople to cooperate and find his brother’s killer.

After burying his wife and son, Jon decides to leave the town with Peter and sells his land to Keane, Black Creek’s mayor and undertaker. Before they can leave, Jon and Peter are captured by the town Sheriff, Mallick. As Jon sits in his cell, Mallick tells him that his death will buy the town more time while he tries to alert higher authorities of Delarue’s actions. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Delarue is working with the Standard Atlantic Oil Company and with the help of Mayor Keane, had been acquiring Black Creek and its surrounding land, which was close to an untapped oil reserve. Delarue’s now widowed sister-in-law, Madelaine, acts as his accountant and suffers sexual and physical abuse from him.

I won’t torment you any longer.  Frankly, what little I could make out of the remaining “plot” was merely more of the same ghoulish blood-fantasy.  I’d utterly missed all the crapola about Standard Oil.  Stagecoaches, long-barreled revolvers… and Standard Oil?  Was the CIA also involved, perchance?

This all pisses me off highly, for several reasons.  First, don’t pretend that you’re making a Western if you can’t play by the chronological rules.  Colts are not AK-47’s.  Stagecoach drivers don’t rumble along obliviously while their passengers rape and murder just under the floorboards.  Frontier towns whose every occupant is equipped with a Winchester do not quake in fear as a half-dozen psychopaths put bullets through the skulls of old women; and as for that, the number of criminals who raped men’s wives, slit their children’s throats, and executed their grandmothers was pretty close to zero in my considerable reading of Western history and first-hand accounts.  Precisely because practically everybody carried a gun, a Charles Manson who sought forcible entry into your house would be sure to meet with a dozen bullets from a dozen directions. I only wish the Manson-in-becoming sixth-grader who composed this script had met with an analogous reception from parents with switches and yardsticks.

Hollywood, of course, doesn’t “get” the fine points of gun ownership.  Europeans, a fortiori, can’t begin to understand the concept of effective self-defense (which is why they’re waiting for us, perhaps, to chase Putin out of Ukraine).  If this moronic video screed were only aimed at the firearm… but my discovering the role of Standard Oil in the sadistic fantasy is a scintillating example of something I’ve written about very recently.  The European intelligentsia, like other cultists of the political Left, knows no bounds—neither those of shame nor of common sense—in the matter of projecting every perversion and atrocity a deranged or over-medicated mind can imagine onto their ideological adversaries.  “Americans?” mulls Danish Filmmaker. “Think big business.  Think brutal, wanton murder.  Think rape and infanticide.”  And the only white hat in the satanic comic strip is a quiet émigré from Denmark!

Jeez, why did we bother helping you guys in 1941?  (Oooh, that’s right–I forgot you were Hitler’s ally.)  And you won’t raise a peep against radical Islam! Who is it nowadays, by the way, that’s requiring young children in public school to finger their pudenda and play sex games before their voices change?  Remind me again… who is the pervert here? On that basis, at least, Islamic fundamentalists and American Christians could agree to throw the EU off the stagecoach.

Yet the “critical response”, according to Wikipedia, was quite positive in general.  Referring to a Web nexus of professional critics, the oracle informs us,

The site’s critical consensus reads, “It’s all but impossible to add anything new or fresh to the traditional Western, but – thanks in no small part to Mads Mikkelson’s [sic] performance – The Salvation comes close.”  On Metacritic the film has a score of 64 out of a 100 based on 19 critics, signifying “generally favorable” reviews.

Look, I get t that historical films are always ultimately about the here and now.  Yet at the same time, you accept certain realistic limitations in selecting a historical period as your context.  Arthurian knights must not greet each other with a hearty, “What up, dawg?”  Al Capone shouldn’t be storing the bodies of victims in a freezer for his dinner.  Nelson’s Victory didn’t fire torpedoes.

From what I’m seeing lately, the film industry throughout the decadent West (and I mean Europe and the U.S.) has developed an obsession with thrusting psychotic attributes onto exotically sick villains said to belong to the past and then having sensitive cosmopolitan types who sport “I’m with her” stickers on their chariot’s bumper or horse’s butt barge in like avenging angels.  This kind of scenario abuses the past in ways that I consider unforgivable and despicable.  At the same time, it sheds no light whatever on the human condition in any age, because its Manichaean moral polarities are childish—“pre-school” childish.  What sickens me most is that I can’t even picture myself, as a creator, imposing some of these obscene, twisted behaviors on history’s true villains.  If I were making a film about Stalin’s unleashing his troops like ravening wolves upon a fallen Berlin now inhabited by no one but women and children, I would still paint some of my lupine characters with a tortured conscience.  After all, in the depths of their depravity, something stubbornly human must have sparked within at least a few of these butchers.

Nope—that’s not how our political adversaries see us.  If we’re not slavering hellhounds, then we’re wimpy pseudo-pious hypocrites. (Did you catch the irony of the mayor-preacher’s being a pimp for Standard Oil?) And they use a grotesque caricature of the American West to give a location to their Hell.  My God, what snotty, overweening arrogance!

American-Made Claptrap Butchers History and Entertainment at One Blow

Hollywood is right: we inhabit a sick nation. One irrefutable proof of this is the non-stop claptrap churned out by Hollywood.

I don’t write movie reviews—and I did not, in any case, make it halfway through this sixth-grade collision of a camera with a boilerplate script. One does find oneself, however, retreating to the Tube over holidays and other occasions that bring relatives together who’d rather not listen to each other talk any longer than necessary.

Not being a film critic (the last great war movie I saw may have been Breaker Morant), I admittedly have little to fall back on by way of reference and context. I’ll simply content myself with saying this much about American Made: it appears to me to extend upon an incomprehensible style than even I can identify as a template (thanks to earlier holidays and similarly forcible exposure to “what’s hot”). Why would you combine a comedy with an opus claiming to be about history? Or to put it another way, what would cause anyone to view history as a stock of cliché jokes hatched at the expense of clueless two-dimensional cartoon characters? Was The Honeymooners the story of D-Day? Was Barney Fife at Thermopylae?

This idiot flick purports to tell the truth of the Iran-Contra scandal through the eyes of a pilot who graduated from taking reconnaissance photos to smuggling drugs to smuggling arms to… well, as I confessed, I made my excuses and left the room about halfway through. The pilot very annoyingly projects an almost utter incompetency in world geography, basic English diction (I told you a band of sixth-graders produced the script), and “buenos dias” level Spanish… yet, curiously, he’s meant to be cool. I suppose the subtext is that only an imbecile (and all Southerners are imbeciles to Hollywood) would get into bed with the CIA, and that our foreign operations are all run exclusively by such imbeciles. Or not quite exclusively: the recruiter of imbeciles is himself something like a combination of Mafia thug, Machiavellian cynic, and Gestapo fanatic. And lest that description mislead anyone into suspecting depth of characterization… no: I’m trying to portray a train wreck of stereotypes, not a coherent human psyche.

The blonde wife was the one source of relief, being extraordinarily cute—but that remark, of course, is no longer permissible thanks to its noxious degree of “objectifying” (even though her object-value is the “actress’s” sole reason for being in the film, and even though, as noted, all parts are thoroughly stereotypical).

Somehow, in Hollywood, you can project all the moral trespasses you claim most to deplore—bigotry, sexism, greed, corruption, exploitation, hypocrisy, gross abuse of power—onto representatives of the political ideology you most despise… and emerge satisfied that you have recreated history. This is a game that I observed to be played last year during another holiday “bonding” ordeal whose first hour I failed to endure: an infantilized rendition of a gun-running scandal called War Dogs. Still waiting for Hollywood’s take on Operation Fast and Furious, which actually possessed many of the qualities found in the undertakings of Middle School drop-outs.

Is this kind of thing, I wonder, just the utopian-brat class’s cathartic urination on adult events too complex and uncooperative to leave its hallucinogenic worldview unembarrassed? I mean, does the general public really pay money to sit through such pseudo-artistic excrement? Even worse… do young people in the audience, perhaps, really believe that history is a cartoon produced by bungling villains with cliché-filled balloons trailing out of their mouths?