Sunday, September 23, 2018


So much nasty stuff comes out about people in the Republican party, sometimes disclosed by themselves as though these naughty things were proudful entitlements.  This is the first side of the Repubs in which they PERFORMED abortion -- a small fetal murder, if you think that way -- by slipping abortifacients in a smoothie to their mistress.  This is quite a new kink in the story of chemical birth control.

All this stuff is disturbing and it happens all the time.  Did it always or is this some evolutionary step in the unraveling of culture?  To what end?

I just got my October "Atlantic" magazine -- which they assure me came in the mail a week ago, which shows about how much they know about here.  It's a lot farther and more different than they think.  They picked up on the sense that we're in the middle of a degeneration that may be a disassembling of democracy.  The most frank was a review of William T. Vollmann's latest book, "Carbon Ideologues" which became two books "No Immediate Danger" and "No Good Alternative."  The pessimistic idea, says the reviewer (Nathaniel Rich) is not a warning but a suicide note.  We're already killing ourselves.

The most beguiling article is from Helen MacDonald, the one who loves hawks, but this time she is praising "The Brilliant, Playful, Bloodthirsty Raven" who loves to eat corpses and is fond of dogbones soaked in blood.  (No specificity about whose blood.)  There are books, specifically about the ravens that live in the Tower of London, providing an aura of "Game of Thrones" to assure us that the world has been destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again.

Much of the rest is a set of essays by people like Justice Breyer and other eminences about why we are in such a mess.  No one suggests remedies, just hand-wringing.

I particularly liked and saved a quote from Woodrow Wilson, unlikely as that might seem.  Less so when you know he wrote it in 1901 and much of my basic moral scaffolding comes from that period via my grandmother's books, mostly by Gene Stratton-Porter.  (I have a nearly complete set of her novels which explains why I manage resources always as though the Depression is just around the corner.)

This is from "Democracy and Efficiency" by Wilson, not Stratton-Porter:

"We have looked upon nothing but our own way of living, and have been formed in isolation.  This has made us -- not provincial, exactly: upon so big and various a continent there could not be a single pattern of thought and manners and purpose to be found cloistered in a secluded province.  But if provincial be not the proper word, it suggests the actual fact.  We have, like provincials, to habitually confined our view to the range of our experiences.  We have acquired a false self-confidence, a false self-sufficiency, because we have heeded no successes or failures but our own."

So I would like to know just how old "Chuck" Grassley was when he was waylaid on his way to the bathroom at a party, dragged into a bedroom with a locking door, and pounced upon by two healthy strong young men who tried to strip his clothes off.  If he can't at least imagine it, how can he judge a fifteen-year-old girl whose parents would be really mad if they knew she were drinking alcohol?  Or was Grassley the pouncer?  This girl was little more than a child even if she were from the same entitled background -- the yearbook photos show her as well as the two 17-year-old young men whose bodies were way more developed than their brains.

But Grassley was not a "prince of the realm" the apt phrase for those Yale-bound guys.  During the 1950s, Grassley farmed and worked in factories in Iowa, first as a sheet metal shearer and then as an assembly line worker. He pursued a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Iowa, but ultimately did not complete the degree.  His college work was humble but respectable.  But he DID join a frat that had a bad rep in some places.  The entire rest of his life has been as a politician.  He knows that when the head turtle says "snap", it's because he's a snapping turtle.  Obey or hurt.  

Actually, Grassley's record is pretty sensible until the recent issues about Russia and the NRA, which are closely linked.  Then, like so many others, he began to seem nuts, responding to something none of us can see.  I don't think it's celestial voices.  I don't think he did something sexual, like aborting someone's baby.  I think he doesn't know how to step down.  I think he's used.

Hordes of reporters are out there searching the archives and interviewing people, seining society for fresh and thrashing stories that might give us some clues about how to think about all this.

While I was reading, someone knocked on the door, which startled me and the cats, since no one but Fed Express ever does it.  The knocker was running for office in Brady, another small town like Valier but on the other side of Conrad, the county seat that ignores us both.  He "wanted to ask me some questions."  Every night about 8PM, which is some people's suppertime, a different foreignly-accented voice wants to ask me questions.  The Twitter feeds from mags and news feeds and organizations all want answers, vignettes, stirring little stories -- in short, content they are unwilling to pay for.

So this very nice mild man from Brady just retired from farming recently and was approached by others to replace a controversial politician.  I was hostile.  We visited until it developed that he had just spent weeks wrestling with Medicare over his need for a new insulin pump because he has diabetes.  Then we warmed up.  I just spent an afternoon trying to break the circle between website and phone message in order to get my driver's license renewed.  One referred me back around to the other.  Then I went through the same tail-chase trying to get registered on "My Acoount" for Medicare.  Both of these are legally required.  They make me feel desperate.  He agreed.  What good did it do to answer questions?  Even if he gets elected?  The party will tell him what to do.

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