Sunday, February 21, 2016

TEDONALD CRUMP, as explained by an eight year old

I wrote a whole screed about the greedy, gollum-esque thing that would often happen inside formerly-incompetent treeplanting rookies when they'd finally catch on and start making money. It was sort of about capitalism, but I wrote it at a slant—angled down into the cesspool of current American politics—so as to take a stab at why Americans are seriously considering electing one of several sociopathic ding-dongs to their highest office.

But when I finished, it felt a little surface-y and a little yeah-duh.

So instead, I'm copying out a passage from one of my favorite books, "The Brothers K," by David James Duncan, that I think will perfectly explain where the nasty behavior of someone like, say, TeDonald Crump comes from, and why so many people are jumping on the nasty bandwagon.

It's a wee bit long, but if you make it to the end I think you'll understand how we got here, and also the only chance we've got avoid going further down the TeDonald Crump path.

By way of context, the following extended passage comes at a point in the story when the hyper-fundamentalist mother in the family has given up on her three most irreverent children, and the two youngest (twin girls) have joined forces with their atheist grandmother to play a game called "Famous Scientists," which is basically a bunch of made-up experiments.

The rest, I think, you should pick up from context:

- - -

4. Convergence of Rebel and Scientists


"The Hump of Energy" was a Famous Science experiment as tedious to outside observers as "Centrifuging Flickers" was interesting, but it remained a great favorite on sultry summer afternoons. To work this meager wonder the two Scientists would simply take time out from running through the sprinkler, disconnect the garden hose, stretch it straight out across the lawn, then give one end of it a violent, four-handed snap. The Ω-shaped hump that proceeded to fly from their hands down the length of the hose gave the experiment its name. They would do this six or eight times, scrutinizing the Ω with a look of far greater interest than they could possibly have felt. Then they'd reconnect the sprinkler, sprawl belly-down in the grass beneath the spray, and while the sun baked them hot and the sprinkler bathed them cool they would proceed to speculate—at unbelievable length—upon the possible "meanings" of the hump. 
   The charm of the experiment completely eluded my brothers and me. All that talk about the wiggle in a hose seemed more like an affliction, an attack of logorrhea maybe, than a scientific experiment. What we didn't know was that Grandawma, in a little lab journal she'd begun to help the twins keep, had written a description of the experiment that made quite a bit of sense. In a few flamingly uncharacteristic sentences she even attempted to gear her language down to the level of eight-year-olds. Here's what she wrote:

   The "Hump of Energy" is only superficially an experiment in physics. The undulation in the hose is of course a mild curiosity, but the more profound challenge here is to your imaginations—for which reason the very dullness of the hose becomes its chief value. Your aim should be to let the "Hump"—the little undulation—pass cleanly into your minds, and then to follow your thoughts wherever the undulation leads them. Don't work too hard at this. Don't judge or censor yourself, or each other. Just spin and bounce and juggle your ideas the way a circus seal juggles the ball on its nose; then, when you feel ready, start tossing your ideas back and forth, like two seals. Silly as it may seem at first... this is very like what scientists do when developing an idea. To maintain a spirit of playful cooperation, to keep the thinking lively while showing your partner's daftest notions no disrespect—these are the aims of the experiment, and the only valid measure of its "success."

   When Grandawma had first taken up with our two Scientists I'd feared that one more feisty faction had just shouldered its way into the family ideological wars, and that some rabid new form of brainwashing had begun. It was a pleasure to discover how wrong I was. In a completely noncombative way, the grumpy old so-called Atheist was attempting to sew together some of the rips being torn in our family in the names of "Christ" and "salvation." It's amazing, sometimes, how far away the name of a thing lands from the thing itself. 

One scorching-hot day during Famous Science's inaugural summer—long before my brothers and I learned of Grandawma's congenial definition—the "Hump of Energy" caught no less a thinker than Peter by surprise. Having just mowed a humongous lawn a few blocks up the street, he'd returned home dripping with sweat. And since, in those days, Peter's feelings about having sweat on his body were akin to most people's feelings about having feces on theirs, when he saw the sprinkler whirring and my sisters lolling beneath it, he took a short sprink, did his patented headfirst base-thieving slide across the soft, sopped grass, and came to a tidy halt right between them just in time to hear Beatrice say, "If a hose could reach from here clear to Spokane, do you think there could be a man strong enough to jerk it hard enough to make the Hump travel all the way?"
   The twins were fortunate: if Everett had been the one to overhear this sentence, he'd have taken the words, "hump," "hard," "hose," "jerk" and "all the way" and more or less robbed the twins' ears of their virginity. But Peter was a gentleman: all he did was groan. And when the twins ignored him, this pleased him. He liked it that the Scientists, while engaged in speculation, paid no heed to the banal protestations of the laity.
   "I don't know about Spokane," Freddy hesitantly replied. "I mean, I don't know how far a hump of energy could travel down a hose, because if some muscleman or machine or something jerked it really hard, I guess the hose might just break."
   "I never thought of that," said Bet.
   I didn't either, Peter thought.
   "But I do think," Freddy continued, there might be all sorts of humps of all sorts of energy that go traveling all sorts of directions people can't see. For instance when a person gets mad at somebody..." (Her words came quicker now, and her breathing had become audible.) "Like when you get really mad and maybe slap somebody or jerk their arm or something, like Mama does to us sometimes, I think an invisible hump of energy might go flying all the way up their arm and right into their skeleton or insides or whatever—a hump of mean, witchy energy—and I think it might fly round and round in there like a witch on a broomstick flies around the sky, and go right on hurting invisible parts of the person you don't even know you're hurting, because you can't see all the ways their insides are connected to the mean thing you did to their outside. And from then on, maybe that hump of mean energy sits inside the hurt person like a coiled-up hose or a rattlesnake, just waiting in there. And someday, when that person touches somebody else, maybe even way in the future, that rattlesnake energy might come humping up out of them by accident and hurt that next person too, even though the person didn't deserve it." She paused for a moment. Then, with feeling, concluded, "I think it happens. I really think it does. 
   "I think it does too," Peter said.
   He felt Bet's scowl, knew that he was trespassing on Scientific turf, but finished his thought anyway. "I think what you said can happen, does happen. But every witch who ever lived was once just a person like you or me, that's what I think anyway, till somewhere, sometime, they got hit by a big, mean hump of nasty energy themselves, and it shot inside them just like Freddy said, and crashed and smashed around, wrecking things in there, so that a witch was created. The thing is, though, I don't think that first big jolt is ever the poor witch's fault."
   Bet thought about this, and finally nodded cautiously. Freddy said nothing. The sprinkler hissed like a Halloween cat. "Another thing," Peter said, is that everybody gets jolted. You, me, before we die we'll all get nailed, lots of times. But that doesn't mean we'll all get turned into witches. You can't avoid getting zapped, but you can avoid passing the mean energy on. That's the interesting thing about witches, the challenge of them—learning not to hit back, or hit somebody else, when they zap you. You can just bury the zap, for instance, like the gods buried the Titans in the center of the earth. Or you can be like a river when a forest fire hits it—phshhhhhhhhhhhhh! Just drown it, drown all the heat and let it wash away..."
   Bet was scowling again, but Freddy just lay still, watching his face. "And the great thing," he said, "the reason you can lay a river in the path of any sort of wildfire is that there's not just rivers inside us, there's a world in there." Seeing Bet's scowl deepening, he added, "Not because I say so. Christ says so. And Krishna. But I feel it sometimes too. I've felt how there's a world, and rivers, and high mountains, whole ranges of mountains, in there. And there are lakes in those mountains—beautiful, pure, deep blue lakes. Thousands of them. Enough to wash away all the dirt and trouble and witchiness on earth."
   Bet's scowl was gone now, because her mind had eased down into a place where hiss of sprinkler, splash of drops and babbling of brother were all just soothing sensations. But Freddy was still watching Peter's face, and still listening when he said, "But to believe in them! To believe enough to remember them. That's where we blow it! Mountain lakes? In me? Naw! Jesus we believe in, long as He stays out of sight. But the things He said, things like The kingdom of heaven is within you, we believe only by dreaming up a heaven as stupid and boring as our churches. Something truly heavenly, something with mountains higher than St. Helens or Hood and lakes purer and deeper than any on earth—we never look for such things inside us. So when the humps of witchiness come at us, we've got nowhere to go, and just get hurt, or get mad, or pass them on and hurt somebody else. But if you want to stop the witchiness, if you want to put out the fires, you can do it. You can do it if you just remember to crawl, right while you're burning, to drag yourself if that's what it takes, clear up into those mountains inside you, and on down into those cool, pure lakes."
   Bet was half asleep by now, and Peter was gazing at the spray as if into a blaze, when, quite suddenly and quite loudly, Freddy burst into tears. "What!" Bet shouted, jumping clear to her feet. "Is it a bee sting? What is it? 
   "I'm sorry," Freddy sobbed, hiding her face. "I'm sorry. But... I'm just so glad!"
   "Glad?" Bet was flummoxed. "About a bee-sting? About what?"
   "The mountains!" Freddy whispered, eyes closed, tears streaming. "The lakes."

2 comments:

  1. And here, from that same Peter character, is an explanation of why you should take a candidate like Bernie Sanders seriously:

    "People who vote for candidates bought by private business interests are not politically free in any real sense. That's why I feel that voting has become a farce... I don't want my life to be a farce."

    -- first published in 1992

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  2. And then another quote from the book, from a university professor arguing patiently, carefully for why you maybe should be WORRIED about a candidate like Bernie Sanders:

    "'In order to become a true revolutionary,' Dr. Gurtzner continued, 'you must first of all jettison your ability to recall or honor the complexities of a nuanced historic or personal past. More details explain things more, but less details confuse things less, and a leader out to galvanize thousands of zealous followers must consistently shun complexity, even at the cost of lucidity and truth.'"

    ReplyDelete

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