Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Era of Contempt



     People try to soften the sting of whatever humiliation Donald Trump is inflicting upon the nation today by pronouncing it "the bottom," but that is based on the giddiest kind of optimism, the faulty logic that just because our leadership has sunk to a startling new low, it can't get worse. 
     When in fact, if a stone is sinking, experience tells us it'll keep going deeper and deeper. Yes, there's a hoped-for bottom, somewhere, in theory. But merely being deep underwater doesn't mean we're there. Stones don't bob back up to the surface just because they've sunk a long way.
     With a new low every day, or nearly, there is no reason to even suspect that today's depth will not be exceeded by worse tomorrow. I would be sincerely delighted if I believed this is as bad as it is going to get.
    But I don't. Rather, it will go on for years and years and get worse and worse and this country will be severely damaged. We're damaged already, in ways we haven't begun to consider.
     That said, I am human too, and like to comfort myself, when I can. Not by saying that today is as bad as it'll get, but by remembering that it must end. It has to. Not now, alas, not even soon, but someday. 
     Someday it'll be over and we'll have the luxury of looking back and wondering what it meant. Someday there will be history books, I hope, and one chapter in those as-yet-unlived histories will be about now. And as is common with such texts, the chapter will begin with a descriptive phrase. "A Nation Sundered" for the Civil War, and such.
     For our current betrayal of American values and norms, I'd like to nominate "The Era of Contempt." Because that is the basic operating principle here: yes, there is ignorance, and vanity, and greed. But those are specifics, related to a particular situation or three. Contempt — visceral disregard and scorn—is the overarching principle, the general theme. It's what Donald Trump appeals to and has always appealed to. It's why he was elected. He touched Americans in a certain spot and they reacted with a purr. He stroked the meanest, basest, most scornful and scoffing core of many Americans, and told them it was okay be like that. In fact, it was great.
     And they believed him. Believe him. Always will believe him. Why would they not?
     His followers manifest this sneering disdain like tuning forks. It's really all they ever say. I hear it every day. They do not write to argue, or observe, or reflect. They write to mock, to ridicule, not realizing that, to an outside observer, since the ridicule is coming from a person such as themselves, really, how much weight can their thoughts be given? Not only don't I write back, but I'm not even tempted to write back anymore. And say what? "You know, the low opinion of someone going hog wild for a bully, fraud, liar and most likely traitor just doesn't carry the heft you seem to think it does."
     In their defense, their opinion certainly counted in November, 2016. It's counting now, on an international scale. 
     Why bother talking back? Even if you would score points—and you can't, even if you could defeat them rhetorically—and you won't—well, congratulations: you bested a moron.
     So I silently put such people in the filter, where they gibber to each other, sometimes for years. Every few days I look in the spam filter, like a man looking at eels swimming around a watery pit. Letters still arrive, and I tend to throw them away unopened if they don't have a return address, and most don't. Maybe open them and read I line or two if I'm bored.
    But this one had a pre-printed sticker, with name and street address—Alan Leonard of Tinley Park. So I started reading, maybe because the handwriting is so neat. And that purple stationery. I read to the end, and decided it is in some ways an epitome, a classic example of its genre. It should be presented for your shock and edification. I originally said, "for your entertainment" but it really isn't funny. Rather, it is funny, but it shouldn't be. That future history will not be kind to us, and this is why. Should we survive this era and anyone bother to write fact-based histories, which is not the certainty it was two years ago. 
     No comment is really necessary, though you are free to remark upon its various wonders. It wasn't the only letter he sent me this week. Once they start, they seem to have trouble stopping.




37 comments:

  1. It's "weasel", not "wessel". "Deeds", not "deads". "Whine", not "wine". "Wring", not "ring". "Spineless", not "spinless". "Grotesquely", not "grotesquly".

    The Dunning-Kruger Effect, Exhibit 1.

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    1. Don't forget that it, should be "your," not "you're," in the opening sentence. Usually the error is made in other way around.

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  2. Fairly typical of the genre, identical to the angry rants of fifty years ago, when folks exactly like Mr. Leonard, the Archie Bunkers of that era, spewed and stewed about hippies and yippies, Commies and draft-dodgers, pinkos and yellow-bellied peaceniks.

    Sadly, not much has changed. The chirps and the squawks of the red-faced right-winged whitebird still echo across the land. But now he tweets, too.

    You weren't around for Howard Miller, a local AM morning radio gasbag in the Sixties. He fashioned a long career out of similar sputterings and diatribes. Royko used to mock him. Never listened to Miller, and never felt the need. I got enough up-chuckles from the letters to the editor in the Tribune.

    As a former copy editor and proofreader, I couldn't help seeing the humor in Mr. Leonard's mistakes: Breakfeast table, heroic deads, wine and squirm, ring your tiny hands, and constant critical critic. But I was totally mystified by a slur I have never seen or heard before--"wessec"--what the hell is that? Does he mean a wussy? Is it something from the Yiddish, maybe?

    You can always learn something new, even from your detractors. Thanks for sharing...it was, as the film critics used to say, a "laff riot"...but in these times, one has to laugh to keep from crying. Or screaming.

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    1. I'm guessing he meant "weasel."

      Neil underestimates the amusement value of this letter IMO. I particularly liked "heroic deads."

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    2. asshole is one word not two tell those assholes

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    3. I'm thinking Alan made an unconscious reference to the "Horst Wessel Song."

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  3. I don't find it particularly worthwhile to argue with Trump supporters either, but since around 2014 I've noticed a steadily growing faction of the left that is just as resilient to critical thinking. That is very dangerous and it is something I haven't seen the media try to tackle in any significant way.

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    1. Well, they are not in power making ill advised decisions with long term ramifications to ourselves and our children.. So, I'd rather focus my energy on the problem at hand.

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  4. I wont even mention bone spurs in response to his rant- just say that what hurts is not his extolling the empty, rancid suit in today's White House, but insulting the class act that was Obama .

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    1. I agree, C'est Moi. Also, his maligning the beautiful Michelle is hurtful. It's racist. It's ignorant. It's disgusting.

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  5. Mr. Leonard is nearly heroically stupid--damn near the essence of stupidity itself... he should be part of the Altar of Stupid... this is screamingly funny in the saddest way...

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  6. Here Here. I hate the comment about Michelle but otherwise a wonderful American family. Steinberg just wants establishment politicians that operate in the bullshit parameters him and the legacy (quickly fading and losing power) media establish. Trump's presidency is a big Fuck You to the establishment. Hillary was just another whore you could control. But I must say your rantings lately have become manic. Perhaps you should get on your meds or perhaps change them up.

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    1. Trump's presidency is a big Fuck You to the establishment.

      And it's every bit as rational, well-considered and productive as saying "Fuck you" usually is.

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    2. A wonderful American family gathered around the breakfast table reading the Sun-Times. Don't care if their president is a whore, so long as he isn't a ni**** or a woman.

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    3. What a misogynist you are, Paul.

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  7. I remember thinkg when Nixon was going through his troubles that it was good that he wasn't a Kennedy-like popular president, but Dick Nixon who was used to getting "kicked around." In Trump, we have a "crook" for president, who contrary to Nixon is hugely popular with a large segment of Americans, including all too many military people. I really fear the extent that these people might go to protect their beloved "wonderful president." During the presidential campaign, he himself hinted at an insurgency if the election were "rigged" against him. As Neil says, the situation in America can get a whole lot worse.

    john

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    1. I had fears of what "these people" might do if Hillary won what they considered a "stolen victory" and became insurgents and insurrectionists. Now I have fears of what that same red side may do if His Orangeness is booted from office, and begins persecuting blue dissidents. Liberal or progressive does not mean unarmed or defenseless. It could mean Civil War 2.0--or maybe just two, three, a hundred Northern Irelands. The near future may become the dearly remembered days of peace, before America tears itself apart and flushes itself down the latrine. Enjoy them...while you still can.

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  8. I, too, am disheartened by any of my family and friends who focus on and deride the Trump qualities that distract from the man's words and actions--discussing his orangeness, his hair, hands, wife, children, etc. It displays the same contempt. It's a facile and feel-good approach that ultimately undermines.

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  9. I would write back but as you point out - to what end? We have become more attached to our tribe's viewpoint (and contemptuous, as you say, of others, dodging and sending arrows from our team's forts). It is a relational thing, where our circles are drawn. If I respond, I'd likely draw my own circle that leaves him feeling shut out, along with a boatload of people whom I actually love despite their contempt for my ilk. And so I won't. But maybe a voice of consciousness from the poets here, maybe Edwin Markham from an obscure past? Surely we're more than the hard edges of our Sharpies.

    "He drew a circle that shut me out-
    Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
    But love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle and took him In !

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  10. It was very nice of his wife to allow him to use her flowery stationery. That said, I'm going to assume, since cursive writing seems beyond his abilities, that a.) he never advanced beyond the second grade, or b.) he is a draftsman in training. (Certainly not an architect, because the majority of them that I worked with were much neater and knew how to spell.) How sad he can't see the "big picture"; sadder still that he can't comprehend that he is a major part of the problem. I doubt that he even realizes that his comments about President Obama and the First Lady are blatantly racist, and would deny that if challenged. My hope rests with the children of this Nation, who see Trump and his minions for what they are: ill-informed, poorly educated and frightened individuals who -- in the scheme of things -- are as insignificant as a nit on a flea on God's ass. We are better than this.

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    1. he prob took the paper from his wife against her will

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  11. The party in power is using that power. If we expect reason to win over power in that the pen is mightier than the sword way we may well be sorely disappointed.

    In life the stronger more ruthless are more often Victor's .It's a shame and I don't like it but it's true.

    We can wring our hands and whine and critizice peoples grammar punctuation and spelling. We can imagine ourselfs as smarter and right. But as Neil points out we lost. That's what makes us losers.

    If we don't acknowledge that the folks who support the president are a large segment of our society and that we will continue to lose if we don't change our tactics we will likely go down in Noble defeat once again .the midterms are right around the corner.

    If The big pile of slag running for govenor is the best Democrats have to offer we should be ashamed.

    Name a viable candidate for President in 2020 . We are failing . We are weak. We were replaced as leaders in 2016 by a reality TV star .

    The majority of Americans aren't responsible for this . Not even the majority of those who voted. Stop focusing on the opposition and get our house in order. Quickly.

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    1. Very Macchiavelian, FME.

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    2. Concern troll is concerned.

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  12. I think historians will refer to our times as The Chump Era.

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  13. You have to admit "heroic deads" is funny.

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  14. You almost have to pity people like the above author of the letter written on his wife's pretty stationary. They believe Trump is their savior, while he trashes the standing of this country and tries to undermine democracy every day. Even if we fall into a deep depression or economy draining war, will they wise up? No, they'll accept personal and financial loss while Trump laughs his way to the bank with the millions he took from taxpayers. This fanaticism goes beyond mere ignorance.

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  15. While we're at it, the sentence "We suffered through 8 years of a spineless fraud as president and now we have a real one." implies that our current president is a real fraud, as opposed to a spineless one.

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    1. Yes. The English language is a tricky beast. One thinks of the unfortunate woman who said after hearing a funny joke that she hadn't laughed that hard since her husband died.

      Tom

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  16. Paul @ 7:39 "hates the comment about Michelle," but is happy to call Hillary a whore 3 sentences later, while charging that Neil's "rantings have become manic." Uh, got it, Chief.

    Honestly, I can almost understand a certain kind of person -- somebody who believes abortion is murder, somebody who cares more about tax breaks for the wealthy than about the environment, somebody who thinks coal jobs "coming back" would be a good thing for everybody, somebody who is threatened by the very idea of a woman president, etc. -- voting *against* Hillary and, almost by default, *for* Trump.

    What I'll *never* understand is how the nominally Christian folks who make up the Republican base, longtime champions of the supposedly moral side in the culture wars, were so adamant about denigrating the wonderful first family that last occupied the White House. Many of them, like this letter-writer, don't just very grudgingly *tolerate* Trump, in order to see their agenda advanced, but celebrate the thrice-married, serial-cheating (in both personal and business matters) libertine liar and charlatan as "wonderful" and "glorious," as Mr. Leonard writes. Remarkable. Disgusting.

    This letter is preposterous, as written, obviously. But it could have been a well-argued, brilliant assessment of the current political climate, written by a knowledgeable analyst, and it would still immediately be discounted as unacceptable and beneath contempt, simply because of the false, vile and egregious cheap shots at the Obamas.

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  17. Well said, Neil. I told my teacher son that I would really like to have a discussion with a well-informed Trump supporter who used fact-based evidence to counter mine. He said, “I’ve tried, but all I get is “Yeah, but what about..?.” I didn’t get it, so he explained further: “Yeah, but what about... Clinton? What about Fast and Furious? What about ‘you can keep your doctor’? What about JFK and his girlfriends?” Benghazi!!!” No rational defense of d.t., just attacks on Democrats past. Of course what is not acknowledged is the deeply rooted racism and xenophobia that motivates these people.

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  18. Wow, sending old fashioned stationary letters...we know who the real deranged one is and it's not NS. Bet that writer will be mad you published his name.

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    1. oops, meant stationery

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  19. Some people should not be trusted with stationery. For one thing, it has no auto-correct.

    Who honestly believes Michelle Obama is ugly, let alone grotesquely ugly? Only, I submit, someone who has determined to disregard the evidence of his own eyes in furtherance of his agenda of hate.

    And I am still waiting to hear, from any of these Wessels, what exactly constituted the "suffering" they claim to have experienced personally as the result of having a biracial President--oh wait, I mean as the result of having a spinless President (clearly they prefer Presidents WITH spin).

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  20. In my mind's eye, I see Neil's correspondent Alan being aged at late sixties and up. But wouldn't it be horrible if we find out he was 33 years old? I can't wait for the bigoted old folks to die off. It's not coming soon enough.

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  21. Never assume, Kat. It makes an ass out of u & me...but in this case, mostly you. Are "u" 33, by chance? Your "bigoted old folks" snark was obviously directed toward the early Baby Boomers of the late Forties or early Fifties, and it stinks of ageism. Every sixty-something (or beyond) isn't a real-life Archie Bunker. People of that age cohort...MY age cohort...were (and still are) all over the map...from Fascist to Communist, and everything in between.

    After reading this far, you're probably hoping this old lefty will soon die off, too, and get out of your face. I can't wait for the young'uns to wake up...and to wise up. It can't happen soon enough. But it probably won't, and if I'm somehow wrong, I won't be around to see it.

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