AMERICAN CARNAGE (MY 100TH BLOG POST)
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Donald J. Trump, January 20, 2017
Roadkill (originally titled Waiting to Exit), Oil on Panel, 35.5" x 46.5", 1990 (the roadkill and birds were added later), Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
January 30, 2017
This post includes my first blog post from January 30, 2017. It’s short. That post may be more relevant now than when I first published it, relevant to the 15-year-old daughter of a congressman, to white male privilege, entitled, elitist and otherwise, to misogyny, to contempt for facts and truth, to form over substance, to a child bully who controls the most lethal military and weapons in history, who whimsically flaunts nuclear destruction, to white supremacy and nationalism, to the acceleration of American carnage at the southern border, but also to the hope and call to action in Mr. Obama’s final speech as President of the United States:
“It began with Chaffetz. My itch to blog grew as our most embarrassing congressman politicized tragedy and used verifiably false data, unabashed partisanship, and a powerful chairmanship for self-promotion. His lack of self-awareness and introspection and aggressive self-aggrandizing serve him well in the current regime. A brief moment of hope surprised us all, I suspect, when he expressed outrage, albeit feigned for political theater we would learn, over his candidate’s unvarnished hubris about what he does — and is entitled to do — to women because he is . . . well . . . him.
“The news clip we deserved to see? ‘After father’s moral abandonment, court grants 15-year-old’s emancipation petition and terminates parental rights. Reached for comment, Chaffetz renounced his daughter: “If malignant narcissism, xenophobia, misogyny, alternative facts, racial and religious discrimination, fear-mongering, nuclear proliferation, conflicts of interest, breaching alliances, undermining US credibility throughout the world, and governance by impulse, and a very very important father, are not good enough for her, she deserves to be on her own. Good riddance. Hillary Clinton’s emails could have been hacked, for heck’s sake. And did I mention how important her father is?”’
“Trump, of course, bore on my motivation. After listening to a twelve-year-old bully, or its equivalent, for 18 months I thought I had hopelessly concluded we deserve whatever this thing is we elected. Immediately after 12:00 noon on January 20, 2017, the big-league carnage ensued, only to escalate through the first week.
“We all want to feel better and if we can’t to feel less. I could not see my way to feeling better. It was time to check out, turn off the news, cancel my Times subscription. Then, I listened — twice — to Mr. Obama’s final speech as President. The itch returned. I put on and laced-up my shoes.
“My father’s struggle is metaphor for my own. Although of few words, my dad was a most expressive person. As a visual artist, a painter primarily and sometimes-sculptor, he gave the world glimpses into his mind through two- and three-dimensional images which, as with words, are subject to differing interpretations based largely on the observers’ filters. Often subtle, sometimes emphatic, seldom sarcastic and satirical, occasionally portentous, frequently defiant, abstractly descriptive, hauntingly realistic, his work divulged an inner turmoil in sharp contrast to his deportment. I leave for a later post discussion of his curiosity, exploration, and stuckness.
“What seems relevant to me, however, is his life-long archetypal struggle for meaning, for purpose, for relevance. Does art matter? Does his art matter? Does his expression make a difference? Why does he create? For whom? In the end, he found peace — he felt better — in self-expression as an end in itself, both process and product. He passed on Christmas day 2013, leaving as legacy proliferate reminders, many still buried I suspect, of an extraordinarily rich and conflicted mind.
“Whether what I say has meaning, purpose or relevance, whether it matters or makes a difference, whether anyone else cares, the process matters to me. The product will pale by comparison to the importance, complexity and beauty of my father’s work. But that’s okay. Many of his important pieces hang on the walls of my home and office. I plan to publish some of his works here.
“As I considered the regime’s manipulation and suppression of information, its stated goals of preventing transparency and expression, its curtailment of thought and ideas, “Last Amendment” came to me as a URL for a blog. I’ll try feeling better, and not less, at least for now. It’s time to launch. . . .”
I’VE EATEN MY SHARE OF CROW
The key is to eat the crow while it’s young. Goes down a lot easier.
I recently argued Dr. Ford should not accept the Senate Judiciary Committee’s invitation to testify unless and until the FBI conducted a full investigation. I was wrong. I am not predicting whether her appearance and testimony before the committee will derail this train. She certainly slowed its momentum. That may matter less in the end. She had very capable counsel, was prepared, and came across as among the most credible witnesses I have seen. The format demanded by the majority backfired by revealing their cowardice and unwillingness to allow the facts to unfold through their surrogate at the very point she started getting serious quizzing Mr. Kavanaugh about his calendar. Senator Graham’s epic tantrum, facial contortions and politicization were outdone only by the nominee’s.
Most importantly, I was wrong by focusing on whether Dr. Ford would be attacked, belittled and dismissed as was Anita Hill and without a full impartial FBI investigation her appearance and testimony would suffer the same outcome. Whether this nominee ultimately sits on the high court as an associate justice matters. What may matter more, however, is Dr. Ford’s mettle, her example, her reluctant willingness to shine light on life-altering darkness, her voice and the wrenching respite millions of women throughout the world were able to experience, if only vicariously, because of her courage. The unfolding process and the Republicans revealed why the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and assault suffer in silence, keep it to themselves, for years, decades, ever. The resulting memes and vile attacks are by small-minded, insecure men. Not unlike the insecurity and entitlement central to white nationalism, men want to maintain their historical and hopefully diminishing control, the power disparity and entitlement between and among the genders.
Maybe disruption to effect a greater balance of power is necessary. If that’s carnage, so be it.
AMERICAN CARNAGE, MCONNELL STYLE
As I said in my most recent post, the high court is itself now a political body, roughly evenly split, with a likely swing vote on critical civil, individual privacy and other fundamental rights issues in the balance. Controlling the high court, the third co-equal branch of government, for decades is worth the political cost, if any, to Mr. McConnell and his party. By breaching his oath of office and declaring war on a presidency — the one he assured his base would be limited to one-term — Mr. McConnell turned the process of nominating and appointing justices to the United States Supreme Court into pure political graft. Mr. Graham’s Judiciary Committee rant against the supposed dishonesty and lack of ethics on the other side, notwithstanding, Mr. McConnell stole the will of the millions of voters who chose President Obama over Mitt Romney, completely undermining the authority bestowed on the president under the Constitution.
Democrats and independents must challenge Mr. Trump’s litmus-tested nominations to the United States Supreme Court with everything they can legally and politically muster. Let that carnage continue.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.