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MOMENT OF TRUTH

Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

Masculinity and Capitalism

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I was raised in a shitty suburb of Detroit full of bullies or aspiring bullies. As a child my biggest worry was being noticed. I preferred anonymity. Being singled out in a crowd was a prelude to horrible things.

I say I preferred to remain anonymous. It never occurred to me to make friends. I didn't know what that was about. I had friends by default. Anyone who interacted with me without insulting or bullying was my friend. And even then I didn't always trust them. I just knew they had chosen to behave like a friend and that was their choice. Until they behaved otherwise, they were my friend. I didn't understand myself as an active being in the community. I was much more concerned with how the community was acting upon me.

A little later on people would recount their memories of our interactions. I then began, slowly, to understand that I had a presence among others. I was not invisible. I did and said things, which actions and statements were remembered by others. A relationship began to develop between my observing eye and this reported thing that was, I guessed, some aspect of me. I began to watch myself, just as I had been watching the world. I saw myself through the eyes of others. And the more I heard about my presence in the lives of others, the more I saw myself as the main character in a story being told.

I'm going to name the observer, "The Gaze" and the observed, "The Hero," just for the sake of simplicity. The Gaze evaluates what's going on, and the Hero is the main character in the drama the Gaze is watching. Somewhere in between those two was an empty space. My true identity began to be built in the empty space between these conflicting aspects of myself as both an invisible observer and an observed character. And I had no idea what was being built. And I had no desire to know.

I don't know if everyone's identity is constructed this way, or if I'm just one of the unlucky ones who found himself with an empty space where a self should be, letting it build itself without my cultivation or conscious awareness, like an autonomous, unseen detective building an image of a crime from pieces of evidence, discarding whatever judgments prove faulty, incorporating what seems reliable. But I do believe we all have shells made out of Gaze and Hero, and we all have a space within, where our self is built, however they begin and are put together.

When I began to hear about myself from others, how I had said or done one thing or another, whatever they reported I'd said or done, whether bad or good from their point of view, I distrusted any report that didn't jibe with my view of myself as a blameless Hero or flawless Gaze. I was working hard on this story, so I didn't want to abandon it just because a few details didn't fit. I built a story in which anything could be justified – or rather, in which nothing needed to be justified. I assigned no negative or positive morality, they were just actions. Nor could anyone else's memory be trusted more than my own.

Eventually, though, that story fell apart. It turned out to be nothing more than a shell narrative the Gaze and Hero were weaving together. So many discrepancies cropped up between my narrative and what was reported to me that I couldn't sustain the view of my Gaze as infallible. Nor could I sustain my view of my Hero as blameless. The shell lost its integrity, revealing that what I had believed my morality-free identity was full of pollutants. The older I got, the more polluted I became, until I understood on some level that underneath whatever Gaze/Hero shell I was building, at any given time, what I really was underneath it all was just a big glass pillar of incomprehensible, chaotic pollution with no narrative structure whatsoever.

Maybe it was the real story of who I was. Or maybe it was something utterly other and unthinkable. Regardless, I didn't want to examine and I sure wasn't going to allow anyone else to see it.

That was fine, though. I'd become so accustomed to leaving my inner self, whatever that was, out of life that I found it quite easy and in fact necessary to rebuild the shell over and over, to elide the existence of the pollution, and to conceal it. There were some gems among the pollution. Maybe I had made someone laugh or given them a thoughtful gift or impressed them in some way. That gem I would clean off and put into the story. The Gaze would see this gem that the Hero had bestowed on the world. The dirtiness of the pollution I would just ignore and forget. Surely I'm not worse than anyone else, I thought. Everyone's polluted, I told myself, and they don't seem to bother about it. Why should I?

Representing oneself in the best possible light is both masculine and capitalist. It's masculine because a Hero with flaws is an anti-hero, and that's not what a traditional man is. But even when acknowledging one's flaws, as eventually becomes necessary for most people, being a non-traditional man, an anti-hero is still being a Hero in some sense. Because regardless of his flaws, he's what matters most in the story. So even as your narration matures, as long as you are the Hero of your own story, nothing else matters as much as yourself.

And as the viewer of your story, everything exists for you. In capitalism you are both product, to be advertized, and consumer, to be deceived, like being Hero and Gaze. The inner self is left out. It's a dirty, polluted, morally compromised thing that needn't be discussed let alone dealt with. If it has a gem in it, by all means, clean off that gem and display it on yourself. But otherwise steer clear of any mention of it.

This dynamic, in which all that matters are representation and perception, is why men are so afraid of being laughed at. They lose control of how they're perceived. Since there's nothing of value inside the shell of representation and perception, since it's so polluted and unfiltered that it cannot be profited from or even acknowledged, any flaw in the shell threatens to leave a person denuded of value. If the shell collapses, all that is left is the inside. And inside is the real, polluted, impure self, a thing too embarrassing and disgusting to allow out into the world.

The inner thing is afraid, it's lonely, it's trivial, it cries, it bleeds, it loses, it is weak, it has unfulfilled desires, it fails to rise to the top of its field, it's going to get old and die. It's chaotic, lacks narrative order, and one suspects it is therefore frighteningly meaningless.

All of these qualities are all right for women and other inferior beings, but a man is something simpler and better. A man is solid. His shell is solid, and even were his shell to be penetrated, well, with such a shell as he has, he must have an equally virtuous self inside, supporting it.

A man wins. And what he doesn't win through moral or ethical virtue he wins by being the most interesting character in the story.

Obviously there is something pathetically immature about the construct of masculinity in the USA. Infantile, even. And capitalism is merely masculinity writ large. Capitalism is all about the superficial, the unsubtle, the material. If you can't count it, you can't prove that you have more of it than others do, and therefore you can't prove quantitatively your moral superiority to them. When men become homeless we are confronted by the weakness of their shell and repulsed. In this way we demonstrate that we've internalized the shallowness of masculinity and the hateful status hierarchy of capitalism.

Under a global system with similar values as these, or with what we assume are similar values, when nations go broke they are emasculated. Their men become nationalistic fascists, valorizing the ability to do violence, turning brutal domination into a virtue. All out of fear of revealing what they themselves have no stomach to examine.

And this is where we are. Many of us look outside ourselves and see a world that cares nothing for the weak. How does it profit us, we wonder, to make that inner journey to ourselves, to build a real, moral, accountable, yet untamable, unrestrained, limitless self, when outside us is a world that refuses to do the same work? We fear we would just be weakening what projects strength if we failed to properly maintain our shell, while the capitalist world refuses to remove its cleats, stamping those with vulnerable shells into the turf.

Of course, capitalism shifts the blame for the misfortunes it causes onto other things, as does the male. The world, the horrible world, with its disasters, and human nature, that unpredictable, awful, cowardly, inherently violent thing, these are to blame, these are the reasons the capitalist and the male have to keep their armor strong. These are why only the capitalist can be entrusted with wealth and information and only the man can protect us from others. Everyone else is under threat of being crushed, and the crushed cannot lead. All they can become is either victims or criminal threats.

Evolution is not just the development of the individual, but an ecological development. The organism and the environment are involved with each other. We are the collective. Disarming the world can't just begin with individual actions of peace, we need an environment to be peaceful within. At some point the individual has to trust that it's safe to let down his guard, and the society has to trust the individual to be civil. But trust is not what we in the current United States understand as either manly or profitable.

Masculinity and capitalism right now seem to have won. They seem to have formed a monolithic framework to prevent either society or the individual from developing a viable core of self to exist without a defensive shell of false superiority.

Fortunately, though, there are always principles developing to bring beings other than masculine ones into importance, and to bring profitlessness into the realm of economy. There have been such principles for a long time, with waxing and waning influence, and because nothing maintains its hegemony forever, their influence increases even as the old regime flails more violently against change.

It's nowhere written that men and capital will always dominate the story. Other values and other characters are demanding focus, and altering the drama and what lies behind it in ways even too subtle to be termed "demanding." The shell is just a shell and can't be sustained. Examples of the miserable inadequacy of capitalism and masculinity reappear again and again, confronting us, despite our reluctance to see, or our self-indoctrinated inability to understand. But we can't be deceived, or deceive ourselves, forever. Eventually, the evidence contradicting the deception will destroy it.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 The Origin Of Conflict: Part 1, Probably

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

It's important at all times, but especially at such times as these, when tragedy and catastrophe dominate the news, to remember the origins of conflict. Obviously, our understanding of the origins of conflict depend on our point of view. What historical period are we in? Where do we live? What language do we speak? What economic class do we inhabit? What is our social position, and how likely is it to change? And how far back are we willing to go when we look for the origins of conflict?

We might as well begin at the beginning. In the beginning, a spontaneous fluctuation out of nothing created the Big Bang. That may seem to be going a bit farther back than necessary, but maybe not. After all, if we're going to consider root causes, why not consider the root of all roots?

It's a little silly, I guess. Nonetheless, let's see what fruit the tree of silliness bears. We eat the fruit of worse trees every day. Silliness isn't the worst of human crimes.

Immediately after the Big Bang, there was a great deal of heat and expansion. It's possible the heat was so hot it couldn't even be called heat. I'm not even sure what I mean by that but, trust me, odds are there are at least three cosmologists who know what I'm talking about, even if I don't.

Leaving aside heat, then, there was expansion. Expansion, now there's a cause of conflict. And to think it all started with the Big Bang. It's a cosmic principle, expansion. In human terms it's gone by various names: Manifest Destiny, lebensraum, and the popular umbrella, imperialism.

Is it possible that the desire of some groups of humans to control ever larger areas of land can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the universe? No, it's not. See what kind of truth the tree of silliness can bear? We've already debunked a notion that, in the desire to acquire greater territory, humans are channeling a cosmic principle.

The question arises now: why is it even necessary to debunk a doctrine no one holds? I would answer, We've tried debunking doctrines people do hold, and that hasn't worked out at all. We can't even debunk easily disproven lies that the most transparently mendacious people tell. Studies have shown both that people are reluctant to accept new information running counter to their beliefs, and that even when they're open to contrary information, telling them exactly why and how a falsehood is untrue generally has the effect of somehow reinforcing the falsehood. Seems like it's our fate to hold wrong opinions.

Evidence suggests human beings are innately incapable of having their minds changed, and it takes utmost good faith, compassion, empathy and openness to counter the instinct to stick to our ideological guns. And, let's face it, the people whose beliefs are most destructive and therefore most in need of disabusal are not overflowing with good faith, compassion, empathy and openness.

Or to put it the way Yeats did, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." But I think my way is slightly more charitable to "the best."

In any case, I have an idea that this situation might be why we've seen the phrase "we are so fucked" (or its various paraphrases) come into vogue with such ubiquity.

But are we so screwed, fucked, reamed or fisted? Isn't it just abdication to another deterministic theory of human nature to think so? Are we anymore fucked by intellectual intransigence than we are by the expansion of the universe? Probably. I would say, definitely. Still, maybe it's not as bleak as all that.

Then again, I tend to look on the bright side only when things are about to go horribly wrong. So we probably are fucked, at least if we go by my theory of the faultiness of my intuition. Bear in mind, though, that I'm the one who set us on the course of going all the way back to the Big Bang to understand the roots of conflict. Although, come to think of it, that's just more evidence of my bad judgment.

Basically, if we've learned anything, it's not to trust my instincts.

I mean, if we really did things my way, most of human technological effort would be directed toward developing new flavors of gelato.

But would that really be such a bad thing? Would we really miss the internal combustion engine so much if we had flavors of gelato that took us to heights of unimaginable ecstasy? We would if we had to drive a horse and buggy forty miles to get it, I guess.

Once again we're faced with the untrustworthiness of my way of thinking, doing and being. I don't think I'm being unduly harsh on myself when I say, "Don't go by me."

However, I refuse to allow my unreliability as a historical and social philosopher, or whatever it is I'm pretending to be, to stop me from writing with the aim of improving the human condition. It would be typical of me to give up now that I've been proven to be so terrible at it, and if this essay has taught me anything, it's not to do what I usually do, and certainly not to take my own advice. So I'm going to second guess myself here, and persist. It goes against every intuition vibrating in my frame, but I will continue in the coming new year of 2017 to do what I've been such a miserable failure at for over a quarter of a century.

And perhaps in this way I'm no different from humanity at large. We've been trying since recorded history to go on in the face of our utter failure. In fact, failure is the least of our problems. It's our rare successes that trick us into believing there's some great potential in us to aspire to. We wouldn't even bother to fail if success weren't at least a bit plausible.

For every singular Frida Kahlo there are thousands of failed painters. For every Malala Yousafzai there are thousands of women whose educations are aborted by violence. For every Hedy Lamar there are thousands of actors who don't invent frequency hopping. Maybe that's why the population is growing, to increase the odds of one of us achieving something inspirational so the rest of us can sustain the delusion that it's worth struggling on.

And maybe that's why there are so many billions of galaxies filled with so many billions of stars and planets. Maybe on one of those planets they're getting it right, and we'll find out about it someday. Or, here's a scary thought: maybe we're the ones getting right, and this is as right as it can get.

And with that I'll just wish you all the best, and I'll talk your ears off in the new year. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

Meet the New Normal, Same as the Old

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

As the fateful moment draws nigh when the man with an orange face and no tan from his brow ridge to his cheeks like a Creamsicle raccoon puts his hand on an ancient book and lies to its god about upholding a Constitution which is itself being eaten away from within the very structures it delineates, the slow-motion farcical death of democracy is playing itself out on the stage of the 24-hour news cycle.

Don't normalize this! Don't normalize this! It's too late, it's been normal for decades. I know, you're hollering about the fascism, the racism, the anti-Semitism of Semites both Jewish and Muslim, the misogyny, the xenophobia and LGBTQ+phobia. But as someone who's been on the receiving end of at least one of those pathologies, and as I've heard other of their targets report for decades, these threads make up the normal fiber of many a US patriot. It's not a surprise at all that a Creamsicle raccoon channeled them in order to serve himself up a heapin' helpin' of presidentially leveraged wealth an power. Leftists of every stripe, from the unrepentant Stalinist to the anarcho-feminist queer, have been predicting the rise of the Creamsicle Raccoon with ever more certainty since the days of Joe Hill.

Nothing could be more normal than sociopathic fascists using government as a festive bazaar for exchanging money and influence with each other. That's what government is: the currency exchange, complete with speculation, on the way to advancement into the Spectacle, but at this currency exchange they serve alcohol.

When was the last time a political figure was jailed for influence peddling? Or was censured for conflict of interest? Or forced to resign for giving a corporation in which they had a stake access to an open tap gushing public money, stealing from working people, the elderly, the unemployed, and school kids to stack up money and favors in the private sector and then wandering over to collect them through the public sector's revolving door? No, you have to send someone a picture of your dick to warrant removal from office. But if you bend a few hundred million people over and screw them, well, that's normal.

There's no one watching the henhouse. It's amazing there are any hens left. The only way we the people have secured the eggs we have has been by banding together and forcing the scum to loosen their miserly grip.

The thing that's new and slightly abnormal is we've got a Creamsicle Raccoon who's so uncouth as to flaunt his crimes before the public. Not that conflicts of interest weren't public knowledge before, it's just they weren't carried out in such a way as to offend the tender sensibilities of anyone powerful enough to matter. Maybe the bald egregiousness of the Creamsicle Raccoon's behavior will bring down the whole house of cards, after so many years of over-privileged scum having built it up, deal by deal, crime by crime, distraction by distraction. Maybe some combination of FDR and Elliot Ness will stroll into town and bring back law and order or some such mixed metaphorical crap.

Every legal flag we've been able to plant is being burned. The Voting Rights Act was one. Roe v Wade isn't even history yet and all but 5 states have laws allowing health care providers to deny abortions. Organized labor is barely a force at all. Poverty and dark skin are criminalized. They're burning all the flags staking out our territories and now they're talking about punishing us for burning flags.

We've relied on a system that rewards anti-social behavior and selfishness, manifesting as financially screwing over communities and even poisoning them, killing indigenous peoples, stealing money meant to educate, house, feed and heal – this is the system we've relied on to guarantee our rights. And the people who succeed under such a system are those whose virtuous impulses, which are ever less in evidence daily, are all that's preventing our complete technocratic enslavement, the utter loss of control over our living conditions and our bodies themselves.

So, what's in it for us? If there's no control over acquisitive, mendacious, Machiavellian impulses at the top – and in fact, if those impulses are encouraged – why should anyone resist any impulse? Why should anyone resist stealing from the cash register at whatever level of society? The big boys are doing it, why shouldn't we? Clearly, rules are for suckers. Voting is for suckers. Laws are for suckers.

Each person is able to take action from within the limits of his or her circumstances. What happens when society gives us the choice either to act as suckers or as criminals? Only the slavishly patriotic will choose the sucker's path.

It would be nice to reject either choice and simply be free. So many of our limits are social constructs, and if there's one thing dissidents of patriarchal white Christian capitalism have honed, it's our belief that almost everything that seems natural is in fact a synthetic lie meant to oppress us, to the advantage of the powerful. So, while opting out of the criminal/sucker existential dichotomy may not be easy, it's most certainly within the scope of our thought and language.

Some people are growing organic food on small farms. My hat is off to them. That to me is a fundamental way of opting out of the criminal/sucker duality. Some are teaching critical thinking to children in public schools despite the pressure to do otherwise, pressure applied ultimately by increasing privatization of everything once held in common by communities. Some are health care workers serving communities where evidence of the virtue of the rulers is nowhere to be seen. If nothing else, these activities sustain a level of opposition to capitalism, albeit mitigated by the way in which they help to some degree to maintain it by merely participating in it.

Some make art, entertainment, journalism and other ostensible "products" regardless of their lack of popularity or viability in the marketplace. Here we're getting closer to my ideal method of combating systemic exploitation. Producing things the system has no use for is an active form of anti-productivity.

I prefer the passive approach. My flag is the hammock. I wrap myself in it. If they want to burn my flag, they'll have to burn me with it. Nothing is less useful to capitalism than sleep. Granted, sleep restores the worker's ability to work. Which is why, to be truly subversive, one must nap to excess. Nap till it hurts. Nap till it hurts the economy. More than that, one must stare into space. Wander aimlessly. Take up space in the pool without doing laps. And nap some more.

Some are talking about a general strike on the day the Creamsicle Raccoon is inaugurated. A number of marches are planned for that day; all protests these days qualify as aimless wandering, and are thus part of the general strike and are generally striking a blow for anti-productivity. Starve the beast, at least for a day.

Be an impediment. Be a traffic hazard. Loiter in a doorway. I don't have a big tent, I have a big hammock. Join me. Dr. King had a dream. I'm gonna have a bunch of them.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Planet of the Pig

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

The great British socialist standup comic, Stewart Lee, does a bit where he talks about the "iconic final scene" of the original Planet of the Apes movie, "one of the truly iconic scenes in cinema. Apparently, on their world, the apes have made an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty. And it's never explained why ... and Charlton Heston is angry, he goes, 'Dammit, why have you done this, you dirty apes, why? It's a society of apes, why would you make a statue of a human?' And the apes go, 'We don't know, we've just done it.' It's one of the most iconic scenes in cinema and it's completely meaningless and stupid."

He then goes on to explain that the author of the original novel the movie was based on, Pierre Boulle, was a socialist, thus the novel was clearly meant as satire, and he then helpfully defines satire this way: "If any ever asks you what satire is, and you want to appear clever, just say, 'Satire is where it's the same as it is now, except there's animals in it.'"

I haven't read the book, Durov's Pig: Clowns, Politics and Theatre, by Joel Schecter, in over twenty-five years, but it came to mind late this week. I'm not sure I ever owned a copy. I've had the chance to refer to a very difficult-to-navigate PDF copy I downloaded yesterday afternoon. In it, Schecter quotes US playwright George S. Kaufman's definition of satire: "Satire is what closes on Saturday night."

I now quote Schecter's description of Vladimir Durov's performance with his pig in Berlin in 1907:

"Durov placed a German officer's cap, or 'helm' as he called it, in the circus ring, and his trained pig ran to retrieve it. Using ventriloquism, Durov made the pig appear to be saying 'Ich will helm,' meaning 'I want the helmet.' But the phrase could also be translated 'I am Wilhelm,' thereby equating Germany’s Emperor, Wilhelm II, with a trained pig. 'The audience understood the pun at once and applauded it. The German police understood it too,' according to Russian critic Emanuel Dvinsky’s account of the event. Durov was arrested. The pig escaped without prosecution."

Schecter goes on to discuss politically satirical clowning in far greater depth than I can synopsize here. But he seems to conclude that theatrical satire as it was understood at this prewar moment, and between and during the wars as well, was not something that could happen in a place as genteel as the theater. It happened in beer halls, circus rings, and the public streets. It was low comedy, the point of which was to bring the powerful down to the level of the public, or even to the level of a pig, where they could be judged by those they presumed to rule.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was a vain man, and easily offended by mockery – remind you of anyone? – and developed a habit of imprisoning people who pricked his delicate ego.

Who is the Durov's pig of today? Clearly, Alec Baldwin has been chosen to play the part of the pig. But then who is Durov? Lorne Michaels? No, we can't really consider Michaels the ventriloquist who voices the pig – he just doesn't have the chops. Vladimir Durov was a brilliant clown and animal trainer. We might have to go all the way back to the beginning of Second City, and among all those present I'd nominate the late Del Close as the legacy trainer of all those animals.

Stephen Colbert, before he took over from David Letterman, was a Durov's pig, but he was also his own ventriloquist – he and his writers – bringing low, in his way, the rightwing pundits he mimicked.

But despite the best efforts of Vladimir Durov and his fellow satirists of the time, such as writer Frank Wedekind, and transgressive artists like Picasso, Europe was eventually plunged into World War I. Then, despite the best efforts of the German Expressionists and the Dadaists and the satirists of their time, Europe was plunged into World War II.

So we have no reason to believe the Alec Baldwins, or even the Samantha Bees and John Olivers and their ilk, will have any more luck in preventing World War III than their predecessors did preventing the first two.

It's all well and good to bring the mighty low in order to pass judgment on them. But if the people don't then rise up and execute a sentence upon the real pigs, the whole effort is Pyrrhic. Or at best Sisyphean. Not to say that revolution itself, violent or velvet, is not itself a Sisyphean endeavor. But at least you get the appearance of progress.

Feeling despondent, I flipped ahead in Schecter's book to Chapter 7, entitled "The Clown Who Says No." It begins with a quotation from Bertolt Brecht: "I have no backbone for being exterminated. There is only one way to fight authority . . . outlive it."

Brecht did indeed outlive one singular authority, and though he wasn't a Jew he was subversive and "deranged" enough, by Nazi standards, to have to flee Germany. So I don't take his advice lightly.

A majority of the chapter is taken up with discussing a character called, originally, "Svejk." Svejk is a classic ne'er-do-well who somehow accidentally does well. Svejk was the invention of anarchist writer Jaroslav Hasek, who also founded a tongue-in- cheek political party called The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law. Between the world wars, director Erwin Piscator adapted Hasek's novel The Good Soldier Svejk for the stage as a picaresque play. Brecht later took up the character himself in his play, "Schwejk in World War II."

In discussing the plot and comic devices of Brecht's play, Shecter says this:

"The Little Man's cowardice, feigned idiocy and exploitation of 'what minute opportunities are left' lead to comic departures from the Great Man's plan. The plan requires total order, total submission and self-sacrifice... Remnants of individuality and an instinct for survival disrupt the plan."

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of me or the drivel I espouse as my "philosophy" will recognize me in Schecter's description of the Little Man. Anyone who's had an hourly job in a large organization, it needn't be an army, will recognize some of her co-workers if not herself.

Totalitarianism is a lost cause. It doesn't work because nothing "total" ever works on humans. Democracy attempts to adjust to dissent. Capitalism attempts to co-opt dissent. But I promise you, anti-productivity can defeat them all. I'll be discussing this further in the future.

The time will soon come when each of us will be called upon to do a turn as Svejk, to sabotage the machine by following its orders to the letter but not the spirit, or by heeling too closely to the spirit, or simply to gum up the works with the flesh of our inconvenient existence.

We now have a pig dressed up as Kaiser Wilhelm ready to inhabit the White House. We're already great at laughing at and judging pigs, so we've got that covered. We're seeing at Standing Rock, and wherever else marginalized citizens protest the excesses of the oligarchy and its policing organizations, what kind of violence their resistance provokes from the rulers.

I know I'm ahead of my time in advocating anti-productivity, strategic lethargy, and uncivil skepticism of civilization. But history is rapidly catching up to me. See you when you all get here! I'll be the one in the hammock. Wake me up when the bacon is ready.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

SHOT: the election considered as a failed hangover cure

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Alcohol is, among other things, a remedy for some of the symptoms of injustice. When abused properly, alcohol produces a hangover, which can seem more painful than injustice, though injustice is more chronic and intractable. Maybe that's why there are more remedies for hangovers than there are for injustice.

The hangover is a medical condition affecting the brain, mostly, but what affects the brain affects the entire body. The model where every part of the body corresponds to a part of the brain is called "Penfield's homunculus." It is. Look it up. Not coincidentally, Penfield's is also a brand of wine. Look that up. I believe people recognized at some point that when you drank too much Penfield's wine your brain turned into a Penfield's homunculus. I think that is the science of the thing.

There is also a Penfield's homunculus of the butt. The butt and the brain are analogous to each other. For example, they both comprise a pair of lobes. And like the brain, every part of the body has a corresponding region of the buttocks. This is the Gluteus maximal version of reflexology. Basically, the brain is like a peeled buttocks protected inside your skull instead of your pants. And because of the homunculus, it's basically a peeled YOU inside your cranium.

Now, when you drink too much alcohol, you get dehydrated. The lubricating fluids around the brain dry up. So in the morning, your brain scrapes against the inside of you skull, which is very rough. And it chafes. And the brain, being a peeled buttocks, is very tender. Very tender.

So what's a better hangover cure, coffee or more alcohol? Well, coffee is a diuretic, so it will dehydrate you more. And alcohol also dehydrates you. So neither is as good for you as a big greasy breakfast, in my opinion.

But a lot of America disagrees. We part ways on this. The George W Bush administration was like a miserable drunken Neo-conservative night of tearing up the town. We woke up at the end of spring, 2008, all our three trillion dollar surplus gone, we didn't remember how or where we spent it, we'd done things we don't remember to make all our friends hate us, and the global economy which we'd been driving was wrapped around a telephone pole.

So America said to itself, How do we cure this Bush hangover? Let's try coffee first. And Americans like their coffee like they like their presidents: black, thin but not transparent, Kenyan, not too belligerent, not bitter, strong notes of vanilla, with a not-too-secret drone assassination program.

I've been waking up to a cup of Obama every day for the past 8 years, and whatever else I can say, he certainly made me feel like we were a civilized nation. There are a couple of cafes here in LA that will serve you a little glass of sparkling water with your shot of espresso. That's civilized. No, it's not going to cure your hangover, but it's a start, and you feel a little less like a discarded filthy rag. It's a story you tell yourself: I'm a human being. I sip espresso. My president has grace and class.

But a lot of America weren't interested in a civilized espresso with a little sparkle. They threw it back in the barrista's face. Eight years later, like many a drunk whose hangover cure didn't work fast or strong enough by their impatient estimation, they decided to throw something harder at it: a shot.

What is a shot? A shot of espresso was too coastally elitist, too much like what they'd already denounced. A shot of B-12? Too scientific. Who believes in science anymore, all that evolution and climate change crap? A shot in the brain? Just a little too suicidal. "We're not there yet," they said, "Let's just take a little hair of the dog."

Hair of the dog that bit you. Back in the day, if a werewolf bit you, it was believed that eating a few werewolf hairs would prevent you from turning into one.

So maybe drinking a bit of the alcohol that did the damage would somehow fix the damage. Like fighting fire with fire. Which, incidentally, is not a good way to fight most fires.

But somehow, in their impatience to get a quick, strong cure for the hangover, a lot of the country went overboard. Instead of hair of the dog, they swallowed the whole dog. Maybe, in their impatience, they were trying to combine the hair of the dog remedy with the greasy breakfast remedy by eating a huge greasy old hound with a golden retriever comb-over.

I don't know. I just don't know. But the secret's out now. We're in large part an alcoholic nation. Cuz that's what the hair of the dog cure really is: an alcoholic's excuse to start drinking again right at the start of the very next day. That's all it is.

Fact is, hangover cures don't work. They're just stories we tell ourselves to make us feel like we can cure the incurable.

Whatever Gloria Steinem or Cornell West or Tom Hanks may say by way of recrimination or encouragement is just so much CO2. We're all gonna take a shot of whatever we need to keep moving, to defend others and ourselves. Myself, I've been eating like a wet/dry-vacuum, with no thought to the consequences. Cuz the consequences of not doing so are without doubt going to be worse. Whatever your cure for this new doubled-down hangover, do it. Whatever you need to tell yourself to feel like you're free, like you still have some power to make things better, tell it. Cuz if you're going out to fight fascists, you need all the help you can get, even if it's just from your attitude.

Remember, the brain and the butt are connected. Fortify your brain, and your butt will follow.

It's worth a shot!

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

The Tears of Saint Peter

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Le Lagrime di San Pietro, the Tears of St. Peter, is a piece of choral music by Orlando di Lasso, composed in 1594. The text is by the Petrarchian poet, Luigi Trasillo, written about thirty-five years early. Wednesday morning I sat in Disney Concert Hall watching singers from the Masters Chorale, under the direction of Peter Sellars, rehearse the piece. I was lucky enough to have a friend among the singers, and it was she who'd invited me.

The singing and staging were sublime, and singing and staging covers just about everything about the piece, so it was a sublime experience. Supertitles appeared above the stage, and the text was also sublime. So imagine yourselves there, as a low-rent bum like myself, occasionally treated to sublime things due to having occasional truck with wealthy or brilliant people – my friend, incidentally, being brilliant rather than wealthy, and thus, despite her relatively humble, in Los Angeles terms at least, condition, seeming to exist solely among the sublime, having the sublime pour out of her, and channeling the sublime to others – and there you are, enveloped in the exquisite for a while before you must rudely collapse back into your rodent's nest of a life, which in many ways you've chosen, albeit you curse your choices several times every day.

You'll remember Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. He wasn't the brightest of the apostles. Jesus told him beforehand he'd do it, you'd think he'd have been on his toes, he'd see it coming like déjà vu and at least try to thwart the prophecy, but never mind. He denied Jesus three times so he wouldn't get into trouble with the authorities. And Jesus looked into Peter's betraying eyes, and that look is the source of Peter's tears. Whenever he wakes up to the crowing of the cock, Peter recalls that look and starts to cry.

It's quite a look. It's like arrows. Jesus' eyes are like bows, and the gaze is arrows. Later the eyes are swift tongues, and Peter's eyes are ears. What is said wordlessly with that gaze is more than even the most canny ear could hear in a hundred years. Describing the recriminations communicated by this look would shatter the listener, says Trasillo, and so sing the singers in some kind of, I guess, Italian.

A couple weeks ago I spoke on this show about the way we derogate and discard moral idealism (as opposed to philosophical idealism), and I used Gandhi as an example of the practical nature of the idealistic, starry-eyed, experimental approach to problem-solving. And this is just the same, really, only told through the tears of St. Peter and the suffering of Jesus. It's a shame Western Poetry has had to focus so much of its attention on one man. It's a shame for Jesus. He's had to be mutilated by European languages countless times over the centuries. For the longest time he had to bear all pain himself, he couldn't share his pain because all pain was his pain. And what a pain. A total pain.

Jesus's eyes say to Peter, "Your disloyalty is worse than the buffeting, scourging and crucifixion I went through. You whom I loved most hurt me worst with your denial." And Peter's crying those tears of his, remembering that look, the divine stink-eye of Jesus. Peter chose the easy path of avoiding danger, but of course it turned out to be anything but easy.

We all cave in a little to the easy way, as if earning a living or avoiding legal trouble is somehow easy for us mortals. But I'm told we all make compromises, moral compromises. And why would I be told so if it weren't at least mostly true? Who wants to admit such a thing, after all? Peter doesn't, that's for sure, but every time the cock crows and reminds him, he's at it again with the waterworks.

And writ large, the way we as a species have ravaged our world is a sickening reminder of the compromises we make routinely. In fact, to call what's been causing us to destroy our environment and each other "compromises" is to apply Geisha makeup to a warthog. Either all our individual compromises somehow add up to one horribly evil inclination, or the evil inclination rules over all, allowing most of us to believe we have the free will to make relatively insignificant moral choices beneath the horrid umbrella.

All my thoughts keep circling back to the notion that with enough belief in ideal moral behavior, heedless of the consequences to our bodies and immediate peace of mind, we could shirk the burden of human folly with all its cuts and explosions and poisoning of everything. I don't mean to say I believe it, just that everything I've experienced over the past three weeks keeps pointing me in that direction. It's the state of mind I happen to be in.

It might have something to do with autumn. Even here in Los Angeles we have autumn. The sun goes down earlier. It's like a coffin lid closing.

And of course the election draws nearer and nearer, another coffin lid closing, or maybe the same lid. It's a metaphorical lid, so you really only need one. To seal the entire deal. Whatever the deal might be.

If the deal is the ice caps melting and megastorms raging across poisoned oceans and land and a great impoverishment of the masses and a sixth great extinction, even as Standing Rock Sioux are beaten and pepper-sprayed and arrested trying to protect the water, and there are indeed people working hard everywhere, if usually in vain, to reverse the angle of our evil inclination, and with every sip of water I'm drinking Saint Peter's tears, then that's a pretty raw deal, isn't it? But I'm guessing it's the descent of the season's coffin lid bringing on this feeling. I could choose instead to focus all my attention on beer and science fiction. Hard as it might be with the coffin lid cutting out the light like it is.

But sometimes a sixteenth-century poet writes a poem all about the look Jesus gave Peter, only about that single moment when that look was delivered and received, and later a composer sets the text in twenty madrigals and an envoi motet. Maybe a friend of yours has the gift of music, and she looks and moves and speaks just as you'd imagine such a person with such a gift would. And you get to sit for an hour while that mythical moment unfolds through the voices of twenty-one singers, the group of them moving dramatically in a staging of the piece like no other version that's ever been performed.

It doesn't stop the descent of the coffin lid, which in any case is a metaphor, so you ought to be able to stop it yourself, but it doesn't stop, because every metaphor is part of an allegory with its own necessity. And you wonder how much of that necessity is really necessary, but even if you could puzzle out that it's not necessary at all you doubt you could stop it.

Still, for the time elapsing during that a capella performance, and for some time afterwards, you can forget the taste of Peter's tears and the falling of the lid, and just live in the fact that people do such things as write and compose and sing in complex, incomprehensibly heavenly harmony about devastating moments. And you can hope there's something ennobling in that immersion that might permanently penetrate your scaly hide. And maybe you can communicate something of the transcendent to others, and maybe that can be a good thing, or at least add to the accounts on the good side of the ledger, if anyone's keeping track.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

Why Not Kill Gandhi Every Day?

One symptom of my depression is that I will find any excuse to give up. This stems from a general background belief that life is not worth living, yet if it must be lived, then it had better justify the effort and not pull dirty tricks like ruining my marriage or breaking the antenna off of my car or hiding my wallet, tricking me into thinking I've left it on the sand at the beach.

Depression is funny because the rational thoughts initiating throes of it are taken to such irrational extremes. The simple notion, Maybe such and such isn't worth the effort, extends instantly to all things, from washing my hands to keeping the myriad pieces of the cosmos in motion. Which, if you didn't know, sometimes requires great effort on my part.

So idealistic people puzzle me. I don't know if they have unquenchable faith or resilient hope or just some lifelong autopilot setting that keeps them going. Being a hopeless sort, but not so hopeless I'm ready to throw in the towel altogether, at least not all the time, I cling to stories of these people and watch them through their struggles waiting to see exactly how the perverse universe or at least hateful humanity will thwart and ultimately crush them.

I've been reading about one of the greatest disasters in history, the Independence and Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The events surrounding it provide delicious fodder for anyone who suspects fate is manipulated by a demon. It's far too complicated a mess to even scratch the surface here in a Moment of Truth, but some of it bears sketching out in relation to the existential question of whether anything is worth the effort. The existential question of hope.

Dickie Mountbatten, one of Queen Victoria's grandsons and a kind of Teflon goldenboy screwup in the British military, was appointed Viceroy of India in February of 1947. It would be his job to negotiate and organize the transition of India from the Jewel in the British colonial crown to a sovereign independent nation.

Pakistan at that point was only a theory, albeit supported with a great deal of evidence, such as the existence of millions of Muslims. India was a fact, as much as a nation can be without actually being run by its own people.

When Mountbatten got to Delhi, there were many characters he had to cajole and appease, but I'm going to compress them into three: Nehru, leader of the Congress Party, who would be India's first Prime Minister; Jinnah, elder statesman of the political organization representing India's Muslims, the Muslim League; and Gandhi, elder statesman of the Congress Party, but replaced in practical terms by Nehru. Nehru had been a great devotee of Gandhi but had developed many policy differences with his erstwhile mentor. Jinnah, the rational, British-educated Muslim, Nehru, the rational pragmatist, and Gandhi, the spiritual and moral symbol of India's dreams of self-determination.

Dickie finds there are three positions on the table proffered by the three players: Jinnah wants the northern provinces of India to be allowed to secede and become a Muslim majority nation, which for the most part it already was, called Pakistan. This position we'll call Partition. Nehru wants a unified India, but if he can't have it peacefully without placating Jinnah, then he'll eventually give in to Partition. This position we'll call the lesser of two evils, the other evil being no Independence at all. In fact, though, that second evil wasn't even remotely possible. Britain was deep in debt after WWII. Thanks, Hitler! They just couldn't afford to administrate a colony of hundreds of millions of people anymore. In fact, every day Independence was delayed was racking up more bills for the Crown. It's not clear how aware Nehru was of the severity of British brokeness.

Gandhi's position we could call the idealistic one, or the crazy one, or the brilliant one. For now let's just call it Gandhi's position. Gandhi said, please, let's keep India one country, one multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, and let Jinnah be its first Prime Minister. The first Prime Minister of a newly minted majority Hindu nation, a Muslim! That would certainly reassure India's Muslims that their interests weren't going to be ignored, and that India would truly honor its mission as a secular socialist union.

Had Gandhi's position won out it might have saved millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims from violent deaths at each other's hands. But of course Gandhi's always wandering around in that weird-ass diaper, with his spinning wheel, sleeping with young girls, spending one day a week not speaking a word, lying on mud floors with dung poultices on his belly for some mysterious digestive purpose – he was hardly a model of the sober modern political thinker of the 1940s, of whatever nationality. And all that non-violence crap, as effective as it might have been at one time, was based on a mystical belief about truth having a magic power of some kind. Whatever, no one took Gandhi's position seriously.

I'm not saying it's a sure thing that the mass murders around Independence would have been avoided. I'm just saying it seems to me that the best tactic for keeping India peaceful was dismissed without even the courtesy of a disrespectful mocking.

Why Gandhi didn't try threatening to fast unto death to get his position considered and accepted I'm not sure. Near the end of his life he threatened fasting unto death, and during that fast, which almost killed him, he kept peace on the streets of Delhi and exacted a few other moral and practical demands from his Congress Party, the party that had relegated him to the status of entertaining, freakish moral mascot. Gandhi in fact had gone to several areas where inter-religious riots had killed whole neighborhoods of Muslims or Hindus, and kept peace there just by sitting and praying. Calcutta was one such place where the psychosis of hateful slaughter was kept at bay for almost a month by a tiny bald man spinning cotton for cloth to make dhotis like the one he wore. The actions taken by other players in the drama prevented hardly any violence at all. Gandhi kept entire teeming cities from drowning in blood and burning themselves to the ground. In real life.

After he recovered from his fast in Delhi, Gandhi held public prayer audiences. It was during one of these that he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic for appeasing Muslims and standing in the way of Hindu power.

Of course. Of course. The power of moronic hatred is unremarkable because of its ubiquity. Governments make policy in order to accommodate moronic hatred. It's part of business as usual. The power of idealism is considered a myth, and when it does achieve something big enough to get noticed, its miraculousness is all but impossible to fathom, and nearly inassimilable into the historic narrative. Think about how the Hillary supporters sneered about Bernie "waving a magic wand" to get universal health care. I can't imagine they would have understood Gandhi's position at all. I mean, realism is what we want. Because we live in reality. And that's good enough for anyone with any common sense.

I happen to be very impressionable. I'm still a child in many ways. I listen to people around me. I buckle under peer pressure. If the majority of people say the most humans can hope for from ourselves is what we've already demonstrated we're capable of, that the poor we will always have with us, that people are basically fearful and selfish, or at least fear and selfishness are more powerful than whatever redemptive errata the shopworn broken record of human behavior can crackle out, well, if that's what most people are saying, hey, I'm no better than most people. Why should I believe any different?

I want to dream big. But is it worth the effort?

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

The Pitfalls of Counter-intuition

 

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Before I begin, I'd like to pre-amble on a personal note and say that, based on my experience the morning after, I don't think vegan pepperoni is any healthier for you than regular pepperoni.

In other news, the redundantly named Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (as opposed to the Massachusetts Supreme Arthurian Court, maybe?) has vacated charges of illegal possession of a firearm based partly on its findings that it's reasonable for a black man to run away from the Boston police. Yes. If you're black and you run away from the Boston police, your flight can't be considered probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the cops to stop you. Harassment of black citizens by Boston cops is so disproportionately frequent and abusive that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts deemed it completely sane, normal, non-suspicious behavior for said citizens to flee from them. It's like running away from a rattlesnake, a ticking time bomb, or any other possibly lethal nuisance.

Speaking of possibly lethal nuisance: Mike Pence, professional asshole, running mate of GOP presidential candidate and celebrity id Donald Johann Drumpf, tweeted recently about Skittles. He's suspicious of them. He seems to think three out of every 72-or-so Skittles is laced with cyanide. And he compares this with his feeling that three out of every 72-or-so Syrian refugees is a suicide bomber. And he believes we as a nation should make policy based on his candy paranoia, which is evidently rooted in a trauma-induced eating disorder he has yet to engage professional help in dealing with.

A similar calculation was attributed to Vice President and amoral ambulatory conflict of interest Dick "Dick" Cheney by journalist Ron Susskind in his book, The One Percent Doctrine, summarized in this slightly edited quotation from Cheney: "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty. It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence.”

Not about evidence, just about what we want to feel about stuff and make others feel in order to get what we want. Susskind helped elucidate the difference between the reality-based community and the ideologically-driven petro-mafia wing of what was by then an already discredited Republican Party. Incredibly, the GOP has sunk even lower in the esteem of those of us who take events in the world outside our own heads into consideration when making decisions such as whether to destroy a country thousands of miles away. Or, say, prevent those fleeing the destruction of their nation from taking refuge in ours.

The long and the short of it is this: it has been the policy of Republicans to make decisions catastrophically affecting the lives of millions of people based on their feelings about petroleum availability, arbitrarily-calculated risk, and their suspicions about bowls of candy. These are some of the least intuitive people on earth, making drastic decisions based on intuition. Letting them run the country is like letting a blind person pick out your wallpaper, if an unappealing wallpaper choice had a tendency to cause your house to explode.

The Massachusetts high court, on the other hand, relied on studies of actual police activity. And based on the data the court used, it's not only reasonable behavior for a black person to flee a police officer attempting to stop him or her, it can be read as an entirely natural act of self-preservation. Figure in specific nationwide examples and data of black people losing their lives during interactions with the police, and one wonders what would happen if the nation's black population decided to live according to some hybrid of the Cheney and Skittles approach to possible danger.

Viewed in this light, it is evidence of remarkable restraint on the part of black citizens that they choose for the most part to march in protest rather than attempt to preemptively incapacitate law enforcement. In fact, every morning white people wake up with their heads still attached to their necks is a testament to the patience of everyone else in the world.

 The incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma ending in the shooting death of hapless motorist and innocent black man Terence Crutcher provides a window through which one can view two universes as once.

Have any of you read Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby's side of the story, incidentally? You really get the sense that she's terrified of Terence Crutcher, this large but utterly innocent black man with his hands in the air. Shelby says again and again that he was not following her commands. She sounds like someone who isn't listening. She sounds, even as she explains her thought process, like a panicked individual incapable of assessing a threat level. She remarks that Crutcher "put his hands up in the air, even though he was not instructed to do so, which [she] found strange." Yes, how odd. A black man keeping his hands in full view of a police officer. I can imagine – well, I don't have to imagine, because it's on the video – Shelby and other cops present spastically barking orders while Crutcher can't get a word in edgewise to explain his situation. I've had one or two experiences with cops in this state of mind, the non-assessing or prejudging of a situation, the filling of the event with the sounds of their own aggressive commands – Shelby clearly had a reason to shoot, but that reason was based on a fantasy assessment, not unlike the Skittles and One Percent method of intuitive statistics.

Crutcher, in contrast, though not running away, was operating in response to fairly well-established precedent. He had every reason to put his hands in the air when confronted with an emotionally disturbed or overreacting police officer. Shelby thought Crutcher putting his hands in the air was "strange." Had she not been paying attention to what's been happening between cops and black men? Or has she been, but drawn unrealistic conclusions based on assumptions about the behavior of certain men with certain features and complexion?

Crutcher had certainly been paying attention to current events, and drawn conclusions as well. His, sadly, were based on assumptions about police behavior that turned out to be accurate.

Along with their magical thinking about climate science, members of the Skittles- based community seem to inhabit a reality diverging ever more drastically from the world as it is. Terence Crutcher's actions meant one thing to him, and I think the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial (as opposed to Handball) Court, with its opinions based on the study of police behavior, would back him up. Crutcher's actions meant something entirely different to officer Shelby, though, something wildly divergent from their true nature – so divergent that she and Crutcher seem to have been in separate universes, until that cosmic gulf was finally bridged by a few bullets, and unity was achieved.

So, don't say violence never solved anything. It brought two completely separate realities together into one, a collision so profound that one man literally died.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Trump in the Turd Degree or What We Talk About When We Talk About Drumpf

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Like Paul Krugman, Matt Taibbi, and Garrison Keillor before me, I have arrived at the time I must write a think piece on Donald Trump, what he is and what he means in the context of our social and political evolution.

It's no secret that Donald Trump was born a wet wad of feces, rectal mucus, gravel, benzoate of soda, and minced twine. He emerged from Satan's anus, looked around, and declared himself a masterpiece. He then oozed, slug-like, across the linoleum of an abandoned, but haunted, state mental hospital toward the drain down which countless gallons of blood from tortured inmates had flowed. For the next twenty years he lived in the sewers of New Jersey among mutant fetuses who had somehow survived being flushed down toilets after back-alley abortions. He watched as they paraded along the excremental effluence on the backs of albino alligators similarly discarded, carrying torches fashioned from toilet plunger handles and used diapers.

Knowing he could never compete among the fetus creatures for mates, being many degrees uglier than even the most translucent and veiny of his cohort, he instinctively understood he would have to distinguish himself in some other way. He taught himself to communicate via fits of vomiting, a kind of Morse code of convulsive regurgitation of the very filth from which he was made. This he called "serenading," much as today he strives to label with pretty words such as "debate" and "speech" the putrid slurry of his various secretions.

It has been frequently reported that he is a physical abomination, and rightly so. To call the joints of his legs "knees" is to bestow upon them a compliment they in no way deserve. They are rotten tubers joining the vile armadillo sausages he has in place of thighs and calves. It would be remarkable that he has an anus where his mouth should be, if not for the fact that every orifice and aperture in his body is an anus as well. Disturbingly, Paul Krugman neglects to mention this. Light penetrates Trump's eye anuses like quickly melting suppositories. Sound enters his ear anuses the way Newt Gingrich's scaly erection violates the butthole of a shrieking piglet – a common enough occurrence, yet one we ought to be careful never to grow accustomed to. A minor tremor of revulsion, at the very least, is always appropriate. Newt's bestial sodomy is a direct result of the policies and rhetoric pursued by the GOP for decades. The blame for the Republican party's current status as a halfway house for practitioners of pedophilia, necrophilia, scatophilia, and penile cannibalism can be laid at no one's feet but its own.

Much has been made of Trump's genital deformity, but as is always the case, the truth is far more repulsive. In place of a penis he has a finger. The wormy cocktail franks that serve as digits on his fore-flippers each take a turn dangling above his testicles. His balls, incidentally, are two sacs of eel larvae, the elvers bursting out every three months in the shower to make the long journey back to the Sargasso Sea where normally eels are born. Thus Trump conjures a Satanic, obscene reversal of the normal eel life cycle. Travel by drain and subterranean plumbing has been a recurrent theme in Trump's life, which explains a great deal about the values he espouses.

As many an author has pointed out, Trump's vomit-serenades represent not some new territory for the GOP, but rather the culmination of the exact basic policy stances they have been formulating into a de facto fascist manifesto over the past three decades. The difference now lies only in the presentation. The wad of detritus Trump descended from is in fact the contents of the very well of filth the GOP has gone back to draw from over and over. When Mitch McConnell states that the House will not meet to consider Merrick Garland for appointment to the Supreme Court, he is merely stating in a slightly less offensive fashion Trump's own overtly voiced sentiment that, "Anything a black president touches has black-person germs on it. Anything he even says he likes is all negro-germy, just from him saying he likes it, like Islam, Africa, corn bread, Air Jordans, and FM radio. Disgusting. I wouldn't talk to anyone he picked for anything. That's a good way to get zika. That's what happens. And they give each other fist mumps, can you believe that? Do you want that? Mumps on your fist? Do you know how sad that is, to be a white person with fist mumps? Sad."

We know who is to blame for Trump. He's not anything out of the ordinary, ideologically speaking, that is resolved. The question now is, can the nation recover from having its squalid fascist undergarments of xenophobic resentment waved around in front of the entire world for the past year? Can the US rise above such shame even domestically and carry on as before? And will we ever recover our respectability on the world stage? Will we ever again be able to look Albania in the eye and say, "You're like a joke country, Albania. You're a kind of cartoon country, with a currency backed by generic laundry detergent and a half-assed hack government oppressing a tawdry, exhausted population of voiceless cartoon slaves," without Albania coming back with, "Uh, not to be rude, but: Trump."

The answer is no. We will never recover. Not internally, where even now the war between the reasonable but cowardly people and the unreasonable but cowardly people curdles to a chunky froth. And not internationally, where our face will be forever seen as bearing a slight tinge of orange, as if we'd been hit in the face with a salty duck egg, a Donald duck egg, and have never been able to wipe the yolk off completely.

So can we please stop pretending? Can we stop behaving as if there were some method to Trump's spastic barrage of gall? Can we agree that the next headline on the subject will be, "Yeah, More Trump Again?"

It occurs to me, of course, that entirely dismissing a candidate whom a great many in the nation are intent on voting for might be a mistake. It may just further divide us. It may further alienate the majority of Trump's supporters: the entitled racist white people making above the median income who are awakening to the concept of white privilege, resent being so rudely awakened, and resent even more that people without that privilege recognize it. Trump might, in fact, win, and we will have dismissed him as nothing more than a blustering buffoon farting out nonsensical soundwaves whose crests and troughs happen to intersect with a parallel waveform of jingoistic wailing.

But haven't we wasted enough time dignifying that cacophony by trying to give it an evaluative hearing? Plaintive though that cacophony might be, the flatulence purporting to represent its legitimate fears and hatreds has not only stunk up our discourse, but forced us into unhealthy thought habits. And they're not even pleasant or easy thought habits. The process of normalizing Trump, and the pre- Trump Republicanism that set the stage for him, is as uncomfortable as it would be to eliminate the physical man himself entirely from one's bowels.

It's difficult enough to pretend we live in a functioning democracy since the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush. It's enough of a chore to put a brave face on our servitude and act as if, yes, with just a few tweaks of the system, the price tag of a college degree and a home and an EpiPen will someday come into reasonable alignment with a worker's paycheck. It strains the spine to tilt the head so that a system of upside-down civic priorities looks like something worth going in to work for every day. It's enough of a doublethink contortion to pretend to wonder what exactly was agreed upon at this or that climate summit while we watch our cities flood and our planet die from our honoring the taboos and etiquette of capitalism.

At least give us this, now that we've weighed all the evidence: Trump is a grotesque turd. At least give us that. At least credit us with enough intelligence to appreciate when the drama of the political spectacle has plummeted to such a depth that it no longer requires the dignity of reasoned analysis. How about it? How about we just call a turd a turd?

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!