Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Pennies for traitors

Judas Receiving the Wages of His Treason, by Augustin Hirschvogel (Metropolitan Museum)

     Thirty pieces of silver. Some red pottage. Ten thousand pounds and a military commission.
     I'm always struck by the paltry price received by those who betray their most cherished principles. How they sell out for trifles. Well, not the 10,000 pounds that Benedict Arnold got to sell out his country to the British. Quite a lot in Colonial times: you could buy and outfit 10 ships with that.
     But the silver flung at Judas. The stew that Esau sold his birthright to lap up. It matters that he was hungry. All traitors are hungry, in one way or another.
     And whatever they get in return, it is never much, not compared with what they give up.
     What do spiritually-famished Republicans get in return for betraying the American democratic system, a free press, science and factuality itself? The smirking faux approval of Donald Trump. The chance to imagine some notional band of liberals gnashing our teeth in frustration. (Sneering in disgust is closer to the truth). A one way ticket back to Fantasyland, some imagined America where white people rule, Muslims are going at each other with scimitars back in the land of the Arabian nights, and Black folk know their place, stepping off the sidewalk with a sincere, "Pardon me, suh!"     
     Oh, I suppose there's more. The joy of forcing conservative Christian sexual values on women too poor to go to a state where abortion is available. The frisson of believing you are the perpetual victim—bullies always believe this, the set-up for venting their anger on whomever they don't like. They have to pretend to be wronged first. That's where "critical race theory" comes in. To them, it isn't the mere teaching of American history, which in huge areas and for enormous blocks of time was a horror show. No, it's indoctrination. Making their kids feel bad. About what their grandparents did. 
     They leave off that last part.
     Of course traitors end up with something significant; though never what they expect. 
     American has not had a significant fascist movement until today, and it's natural to think back to the last time that totalitarianism was so ascendent in so many places around the globe—it isn't just here—and revisit that touchstone of my generation, World War II.
     Some readers know the war began on Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded its neighbor, Poland. Far less known is why, what they expected to get out of the deal. Yes, World War II was a continuation of World War I, with a pause to raise a new generation of cannon fodder. But how was the case made? Common wisdom is they were reacting to staggering reparations payments after World War I. But Germany never made these payments. The bill was presented but not paid. It was more the insult of being held accountable for your actions, the evergreen outrage that wrongdoers feel. Yes, their economy was suffering in the Great Depression, but so was every other country in the world. Some, like America, were trying to combat the Depression with massive social programs. A few, like Germany, Japan and Italy, were pouring that effort into their military. Their misery was blamed on other countries, and of course the Jews, and the lie told, again and again. If only Germany had more land, and no Jews, why then they would be great. Again.
     They told themselves that Germany had not lost World War I. Rather, the country had been betrayed. "Stabbed in the back!" Their loss was imaginary, fake news. Nor was it final. They would have a do-over. They would avenge the wrongs committed against them.
     Sound familiar?
     As in the Civil War, bigotry has so warped Germany that they would rather try to deform reality than admit it to themselves, particularly defeat. Since they had never been invaded, or occupied, they hadn't learned their lesson. They had to be beaten again, more catastrophically. That also is standard. The second American insurrection will be worse than Jan. 6. This is not good news, but we are supposed to be the people living in the real world, and we will have to understand what is happening and act accordingly. Evil is always unbelievable. The Germans taught us that. Or should have.


  1. I certainly have to agree that the fascists are not done, but think it unlikely that a repeat of the mini insurrection of January 6th on a grander scale is in the cards. Or to be feared for that matter. What I fear is a coup of some sort, maybe military in part, maybe an inside job subsequent to the election of another Donald Trump. We have seen in Europe, in Asia and in South and Central America how quickly a peaceful democratic state can be converted to a dictatorship. It could happen here.


  2. 2000 - 2004 "Your guy lost, get over it." "Disagreeing with the president is unpatriotic."
    2004 - 2008 More of the same.
    2008 - 2012 "How's that hopey, changey stuff working out?" When it was working out pretty well. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
    2008 - 2016 "This black guy wasn't even born in America."
    2016 - 2020 "Your gal lost, get over it."
    2020 - 2021 After losing by 7 million votes: "I won this election, by a lot!" Losing by 7 million votes calls for a 1776-style revolution. "Let's go, Brandon!"

  3. "Men can get used to anything, the scoundrels." The Inspector in "Crime and Punishment"


  4. Ssshhh. Don't let it out. If the people trying to ban queer books from high school libraries realize how seditious the classics can be, they'd ban libraries in toto.


    1. I just wish I could figure out a way to get them to ban MY books. Imagine the sales....


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