Monday, November 18, 2013

History For Dummies

History is a funny thing. When you have an understanding of it you can spot it rattling down the street like a steam roller and you can leap out of the way in time. When you're oblivious to history, you never see it coming until it rolls you over and transforms you into road pizza. If you are a political actor in the current tragi-comedy taking place in the U.S. Congress, and also ignorant of history, the rest of of us have seen this tedious play before and in the third act, you can depend upon the past sneaking up and biting you in your collective dumb asses. So it is with the Tea Party suckers who have been bamboozled by the rich man's agenda. Senate Republicans propose bill after bill to cut the top income tax rate and abolish the estate tax, or now that it has been Frank Luntzified, the death tax. Their agenda has nothing to do with helping the middle class, yet they know there is a grass roots movement behind them who are anti-government and hate Obama. As long as the plutocrats make nice, the plebeians will do their dirty work for them. Thus, the mainstream Republicans have made an unholy alliance with radicals and racists, and if history is a harbinger of things to come, the Tea Party will either devour the GOP from within, or become a fringe third party.

As the Republicans look toward 2016, their best chance to win the presidency is with the right-wing Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. But he's not right-wing enough for the clueless caucus of the GOP, who seem to prefer the plagiarist Sen. Rand Paul as their candidate. If I may just make an aside here, I realize that having sport with someones looks is the lowest form of criticism. Having said that, am I the only one that thinks Rand Paul looks like Lee Harvey Oswald? They have the same pinched, weasel face and an expression of combative, smug assurance. Paul is the perfect Tea Party candidate. He's a libertarian one moment and a right-wing flame thrower the next. He has said, "I have a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We've come to take our government back." Paul has also expressed reservations about provisions of the Civil Rights Act and had an aide on his staff who was forced to resign when it became known that he was a former shock-jock and Neo-Confederate activist known as the "Southern Avenger." The Tea Party is thought to be made up of the common angry citizen but a current Pew Poll shows the typical member to be older, whiter, and wealthier than your average yahoo. The same poll found that forty-nine percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party. But that ain't gonna stop them and they will continue to be a tapeworm in the GOP's small intestine.

The parallel universe in which the Tea Party exists is the same one that once enraptured the Dixiecrats. They were also a party that favored home-rule and opposition to the Federal government. But before that, they were part of a post-war Democratic coalition that included the "Solid South." The South could be depended upon to vote Democratic because of a poisonous political bargain to accommodate racists and white supremacists within the party. When Harry Truman established a Presidential Commission on Civil Rights, there was a rebellion in the party among the far right. At the 1948 Democratic Convention, when the platform committee adopted a Hubert Humphrey plank calling for civil rights, the right flank bolted and formed the States Rights Democratic Party, better known as the Dixiecrats, and nominated a presidential candidate of their own, J. Strom Thurmond, the miscegenating Governor of the great state of South Carolina. Their platform was to protect the Southern way of life beset by an oppressive federal government, and to uphold Jim Crow laws concerning voter suppression and white supremacy. Even after an ignominious defeat, the segregationists were welcomed back into the party, and remained there well into the sixties.

When the Democratic-sponsored Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965 were signed into law, Lyndon Johnson said that the Democrats had probably lost the South for a generation. Even LBJ underestimated the right-wing resentment that animates the opposition nearly fifty years later and manifests itself in the Tea Party. Richard Nixon made all the pigeons flock to him with the cynical "Southern Strategy" of 1968. The GOP started whistling "Dixie," and all the goobers converted to Republicanism. Tricky Dick won seventy percent of the popular vote in the deep South, but lost ninety percent of the black vote. And so it stands. The Democrats didn't win a lot of elections after 1968. Even Jimmy Carter lost the South when running for a second term. The Dems payed dearly for their embrace of right-wing radicals and segregationist Southern politicians, but it was necessary to purge the obstructionists to construct a true progressive agenda. The radicals are still on the right-wing, railing over Obamacare now just like they did over civil rights in the past. But they are the asp in the bosom of the Republican Party now, and if they don't get their way come convention time, history says they're gonna bite.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Back In Your Burqa

Last week Melody and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. Thank you. It was my pleasure. When asked why I waited so late in life to get married, I reply that I was just waiting for Melody to come back on the market. I'd been kind of interested in her for some time, but she kept marrying the wrong guys. I first met her forty years ago when she was a young hippie chick working in an Overton Square leather shop owned by my former college roommate. She drove a black VW Beetle and lived in a communal house on Edgewood Street. I admired her spunk and good humor, but mostly I was impressed with her sense of independence. Melody could hang with the big dogs and possessed a quick wit that allowed her to give as good as she got. I quickly began eyeballing her as my potential new girlfriend, but she wasn't studying me. When I was sitting on a tall barstool playing and singing at the Looking Glass, Melody worked in the cloakroom because she was too young to come in to the bar. When it was late and the crowd had cleared out, she came in anyway to listen, and I sang the Bee Gee's song "Melody Fair" for her. I got a hug and kiss, but still no dice. I probably should have asked her out on an actual date, but that seemed so passe' in the freewheeling seventies.
Before I could manage to clearly express my feelings, she got married, but even after that we remained friends. I had no choice because she married my saxophone player. When they moved to California, we lost touch but for second-hand information. I later heard she was divorced and remarried and living on a naval base in the Philippines, and I was bewildered by the thought. Years passed and Melody faded from memory, although mutual friends would occasionally speak of her. Then, my band played for the thirtieth high school reunion for the White Station class of 1967, and Melody was there with her sister. We laughed and talked and I was reminded of how fondly I felt about her but she was still a married woman. Several eons later, I was playing in a club with an acoustic trio when Melody and her husband came in with a large group. I checked out the lucky guy. He looked like he could kick my ass. It wasn't that much later when she came back in one night with some girlfriends and I was told she was separated. We had the obligatory dinner and a movie and shortly thereafter, I concluded that some damn fool had discarded a perfectly good wife.
Our friendship rekindled, I noticed how easy it was to spend time with her and how much we had to talk about. I had just recently escaped an emotionally abusive relationship and was nursing a battered ego, so Melody was like oxygen. After a period of going middle-aged steady and winning the tacit approval of my teenage step-son and daughter-to-be, marriage seemed like the next logical step. I would finally get to hang out with Melody. We approached the Rabbi at Temple Israel and agreed to take Jewish classes in return for his blessing. Melody was charmed by Micah Greenstein and we both agree that he has so much charisma, if he weren't a rabbi, he could start his own cult. When he asked if we had any personal additions to our vows, I replied that right after Melody said, "I do," I would like the Rabbi was to say to her, "Now, get back in your burqa." We shared a chuckle and forgot about it until the actual ceremony where I wasn't entirely sure that I wasn't going to pass out at any moment. I made it through the whole deal before God and everybody and was only waiting for the Rabbi's pronouncement when he said, "And now, Randy, it's time for you to get back in your burqa." I guess you had to be there, but it sure made me guffaw. Whenever I see the Rabbi, I like to tell him that he married us so good, I believe that it stuck.
At age 54, I would never have considered living with a teenage high-school boy, because all I to compare him with was me. As a grown-up, I most certainly wouldn't tolerate living with a teenaged me. Fortunately, Cameron, my step-son, was already a good guy and the only "Dad" thing I insisted on doing was playing catch in the backyard. Melody's daughter was already off at college, but since I never had offspring, I enjoyed teaching a young man how to tie his tie and drive a car. I was delighted to contribute cuff links and cummerbund to his first formal attire and to advise him that a gentleman always wears a pocket square. The rest of the time, he pretty much stayed in his room and I would see him when he surfaced to eat. I liked all his buddies and when they gathered, I was reminded so much of my own youth, I had to restrain myself from participating in their frivolity and risk appearing the old fool. Now that eleven years have passed, everyone's grown and on their own. It's back to just me and Melody once again, if you don't count the three rescue dogs, and she's still happy to see me when I come home from work. We recommend late-in-life marriages. Your priorities change from a half-mad, youthful, libido driven relationship, into one of good conversation and companionship. That's where all that pre-marital friendship comes in handy. Besides, it's good to have someone to argue with about what to watch on television for the rest of your life.