35. Presidential Body Watch

November 20, 2016

You know how crazy people often don’t know they’re crazy? Technically it’s called, “lack of insight”.

That is how the tizzy in the press has seemed to me for the past week. Reporters and commentators of nearly every stripe were aghast and alarmed when President Elect Trump and his family decided to go to “21” for dinner without notifying them.

This set off specific discussions among the press, who were already generally horrified at having been utterly unprepared for the eventuality of his election. They were so in the bag for liberals that they had discounted any and all signs that Trump might actually do well at the polls. The real polls, not the pseudo-statistical ones.

Therefore when he “ditched” them (their word, from high school as I recall), and went to dinner with his family, and later when he met in his home with the prime minister of Japan, in transit through NYC, they convinced themselves they were righteously indignant over his breach of what they think of as their “right” to stalk him like paparazzi in pursuit of some half-naked starlet out on the town.

Senior journalists explained with great gravity that the Presidential “pool” is a small selection of press representatives designated to what is known variously as, “the Presidential protection pool” and “the Body Watch”. This, several explained without even gagging, was instigated after the November assassination of JFK in Dallas, and exists so that the public would have immediate access to first-hand eyewitness accounts and photos should some similar catastrophe befall the sitting president. Or, as those who have the good grace to find themselves ashamed of that admission add as an afterthought, should some other newsworthy event intrude upon this particular day of his life. This necessity, they allege, is based upon what they characterize as “the public’s right to know”, as if that phrase included knowing everything, immediately.

One cannot hear this shameful rationale without thinking how ghoulish it sounds.

And from whence did this imaginary right of the public to immediate access arise? A little reflection suggests that the assumption of this non-existent right sprang from the public’s own abandonment of any claim to privacy, as it has, for several years, e-mailed, facebooked, tweeted and insta-thissed and insta-thatted micro-second by micro-second of its own physical and mental state into the internet void.

From which the Fourth Estate appears first to have inferred, then reified, a reciprocal right for everyone to know, this second, everything about the life of another… in this case the president, with or without that person’s assent.

In other words, THEY FUCKING MADE IT UP, because it serves their agenda, to feed the appetite they themselves have created in the public for the consumption of “news” at a rate much higher than actual “news” occurs.

Now, because the press has the attention-span, memory and perspective of a gnat, or because they think we do, they speak of it as if it were a REAL right against which the President-elect has given offense.

Well, it started my day off well. It’s always a pleasure to laugh and shake one’s head at people who think they’re really smart, who are acting stupidly, and who don’t have a clue about it.


34. Talk of Killing an Opponent…

Election Day

November 8, 2016

This is going to sound a little bit like New York City’s 99th mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia reading the Sunday funny papers to kids on the radio during the newspaper strike in the summer of 1945. He read the words in the cartoon balloons and described the action in the pictures. I know it will sound like that because I heard him do it at the time.

Last evening, on the eve of today’s presidential election, someone forwarded to me a photograph, with added dialog balloons, that is apparently making the internet rounds.

In it, one of the actors who played James Bond, wearing a tux, is walking in an elegant palatial interior setting, a couple of paces behind the elderly Queen Elizabeth.

In his balloon he is asking, “….. & DONALD TRUMP, MA’AM?”

Her poker-faced response, is, “MAKE IT LOOK LIKE AN ACCIDENT, OO7”

Sure, I laughed at the cartoon at 3 am, before clicking the e-mail into the trash without a responding comment.  But in my peri-hypnopompic state on Election Day morning, I detected the echo of a subliminal shudder, the epicenter of which became apparent when I unearthed the joke from the trash file and took another look.

In earlier times a cartoon about the assassination of a presidential candidate would have been shocking, and I find it sad that a leading candidate has somehow made it every-day and mundane.  The implied threat is, after all, merely a slight escalation from his own threat to imprison his rival.

I see the nature of the present political campaign as the logical extension of a decades-long process of Jerry Springerization of the news and of public discourse, which has been a primer in how to turn any discussion into a physical fight:  the antithesis of conflict resolution — Springer has popularized conflict escalation.

Nearly twenty years ago I led a group therapy session among forensic patients at a state hospital, all committed to our locked ward after having been found guilty of some terrible act or other, but not criminally culpable because of a mental defect or disorder — “not guilty by reason of insanity”.  Included in the group were several murderers, as well as perpetrators of other grave but non-fatal assaults. As is often the case, the underlying interpersonal dynamic was easier to spot when dealing with the most extreme stories.  Perhaps because it is more difficult to deny and dismiss than when the elements are more subtle but still significantly damaging.

Jumping right to the heart of the matter, the single ground rule to which all who would engage in peaceful interactions must agree, whether interpersonal or international, is the assumption and the granting of the sovereign jurisdiction of each person over his or her thoughts, feelings and opinions, and of each nation over all that occurs within its borders.  This is a concession of powers and rights, that declares that all unwanted and uninvited intrusions across personal and national boundaries are invasions, and are a priori wrong in the eyes of the world.

In the case of nations, that principle was established in 1648 in the Treaty of Westphalia.  In the case of persons in the United States, it is established by our laws defining adulthood and competency, and is at the core of all our laws against interpersonal assaults and attacks.  All questions appertaining thereto are decided by judges in courts of law.

One can fairly say that while it is not legal to prevent others from speaking their opinions, it is also fundamental that, after the age of majority, no one is in any way obligated to listen to any unsolicited opinions, from any other person. Much less is anyone obliged to accept any touching or other physical intrusion upon person or property without giving concurrent and continuing consent.

Perhaps the most common tactic people employ in order to force their opinion upon another is to claim they must listen “because it is the truth”.  When “in truth” it is likely that everything presented as truth is merely opinion.  Even what we commonly call “scientific truth” is actually someone’s theoretical model or metaphor and subject to regular revision or outright change when it no longer describes all the observable phenomena.

“Religious truth”, when foisted upon a second party of a different belief, is merely an opinion, often the product of an outright delusion or hallucination, coupled with an appeal to a higher authority: an authority that doesn’t actually exist, except through a personal decision in the mind of the believer, to believe that it does.  If an effort is made by a first party to force a second party to acknowledge the superiority of any idea, or behave according to that idea, that constitutes the imposition of pure power across a personal, sovereign boundary, and violates both our laws pertaining to freedom of belief, and what have become international norms regarding personal rights and freedoms. Under that construct, for example, slavery itself becomes a special case of infringement by force and by the assertion of a false right, upon the personal sovereignty of another person.

When it becomes acceptable to make jokes about killing a political opponent, we have slipped across an important line, between persuasion and the imposition of intimidation and physical force.  I find it ironic that in this instance the side making the joke is the one theoretically averse to taking things by force. At the same time it is not actually surprising that the joke of the putatively more peaceful faction, the anti-war, anti-gun party, makes reference to murder by the icon of stealth and perfidy, the international spy with a “license to kill”.

I conclude that the only difference between the faction that talks peace and the one that advocates confrontation, is the degree to which the motives of the former are less overt, and their aggressions  more passive and concealed.

As if, of the cartoon they might later say, “Oops! Did I say that out loud?”

If the over-arching concept is personal sovereignty, is making or repeating a joke about killing someone less offensive than making a joke about committing a sexual assault upon someone? Is such a joke merely political locker-room talk?

As a good mom would say when the kids are fighting . . . “Use your words!”