The New Snopeses

Author: Gary Hart

Many years ago I wrote a graduate school term paper on the several levels of humor discussed by Aristotle and used William Faulkner’s trilogy The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion to show how Faulkner had qualified in every Aristotelean category.

Faulkner was using his great literary gifts to pillory the rise of a new class of ambitious, lower class, not well-educated clans then breaking into Southern politics and trades.  The family in the trilogy was called Snopes and they often gave themselves colorful names in a misbegotten effort to self-create status if not also nobility.

There was an Admiral Dewey Snopes, for example, a Montgomery Ward Snopes, and the patriarch was Flem Snopes who invented names for others who came along.  But the stories trace their lineage back to Flem.

The Snopes family appeared overnight in the hamlet and, after taking it over, moved onto the town, and then ended up […] Continue Reading…

Hope Versus Fear

Author: Gary Hart

To say that America is divided is to echo dozens if not hundreds of similar observations.  But this division isn’t just ideological or partisan.  It is between those who see the election as restoring hope and those locked in fear.

On the hopeful side are those who believe President-elect Joe Biden will now lead a great restoration project to return the nation to its principled roots and standards, repair our badly damaged relations with our allies, conquer the demon virus, and put us back on the path of reason, science, and facts.

On the fearful side is pretty much the entire Republican Party.  And this is a mystery.  What are all these senior elected officials, donors, interest groups, and ambitious candidates afraid of?  The answer is both simple and bewildering.  They are all afraid of Donald Trump.

But he is headed, willingly or not, to Mar-a-Lago.  What is the fear?

For the elected […] Continue Reading…

The Cure at Troy

Author: Gary Hart

Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize poet laureate, and late-in-life classicist, translated a play by Sophocles entitled Philoctetes.  He called it The Cure at Troy.

It is the story of a Greek warrior en route to Troy to join his countrymen in their epic siege at Troy.  Their ship stopped at a small island on the way to offer sacrifices to the goddess and Philoctetes was bitten by a venomous snake.  His malodorous wound so offended his shipmates that he was put ashore alone on the remote island of Lemnos.

There, alone and exiled, Philoctetes spent years suffering without companionship or news about the progress of the Trojan war.

Because of the war’s stalemate, the future wanderer of  the ages, Odysseus, and a companion, Neoptolemus, the son of the legendary Achilles,  backtracked to Lemnos to rescue Philoctetes and to convince him to return with them to Troy with his lone possession, a magical  bow […] Continue Reading…

Government: Problem or Door

Author: Gary Hart

One of the mysteries of modern times is how the United States went from “ask what you can do for your country” to “government is the problem” in the space of only 20 years.

John Kennedy did not necessarily urge young people to seek public office or even enter government service.  But he did offer the Peace Corps as an example of how, for a year or two, young idealists could make their country better while helping others.

Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, offered a sweeping condemnation of the government he had just been elected to manage.  What he did not do was specify exactly what parts of the government represented “the problem”.  In fact, when he left office eight years later there were still roughly the same number of people working in the national government, state and local governments had increased substantially, and budgets were much larger.

The “government” he […] Continue Reading…

Instability in the Castle

Author: Gary Hart

What to do when the King is, shall we say, not himself.  In the age of kings this question was as often as not a serious one.  He (or in the case of Queens, she) is after all king for life.  And dementia is not a new thing.  An addled ruler is still ruler.

The advent of the Enlightenment and then the evolution of democracy and the consent of the governed helped deal with the problem more directly with elections if nothing else.  And we are days away from this demonstration of democracy on a mass scale.

But increasingly bizarre behavior by the incumbent president on a daily basis causes concern about which might come first, the election or full-scale derangement.  For many of us, the doomsday scenario is re-election and full-scale derangement.

Woes pile up on woes.  Today, through his Fox megaphone the president is attacking senior members of his own […] Continue Reading…

A consensus seems to have formed that the national election November 3rd will be unprecedented in almost every respect, possibly including a defeated incumbent who refuses to turn over keys to the White House.

Numerous unlikely scenarios are complicated by a factor seldom discussed: presidential emergency action documents (PEADS).

Thanks largely to research conducted by scholars at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, we know there are somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and forty such documents, almost all of which are executive orders, presidential proclamations, and vote-ready legislation.  All are to be used in a national emergency declared by the president and all concentrate emergency powers in a single individual, often overriding even the U.S. Constitution itself, the president.

The origin of these documents date to the Eisenhower era shortly after the dawn of the Cold War.  The first wave of emergency powers accumulated […] Continue Reading…

The Man Without a Soul

Author: Gary Hart

It cannot be seen, touched, or operated on.  Yet many religions and spiritual people believe there is such a thing as a soul.  Though ideas about this may differ widely, there does seem to be a consensus of sorts that the soul encompasses the attributes of enlightened humanity, such as kindness, respect, decency, integrity, empathy, warm-heartedness, and much else.

We are drawn to people with qualities such as these.  We want to form friendships with them and to exhibit those same attributes.

(Throughout, “he” is used for both genders.)

Yet, history shows that many of the political leaders across the ages have had few if any of the qualities we associate with soulfulness.  The Hitlers, Stalins, and Mao tse-tungs of the previous century were among them and rose to power with the admiring support of throngs who seemed to care little for the human qualities of the soul.

A person without a soul […] Continue Reading…

…if you can keep it

Author: Gary Hart

A small group of patriots, myself included, has been working for weeks under the banner “Keep Our Republic” to combat treachery in its many tentacled forms leading up to and after the looming election.

More and more Americans are being reminded, including those who possibly never knew, that this phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin toward the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in response to a question from a citizen outside the Convention who asked what kind of structure and government was being formed.  He said: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

There has possibly never been a time in our nation’s complex 240-year history where that phrase has become more significant.  The American Republic and its ideal of democracy have never been more threatened from within.

Thus, Franklin’s epic challenge has never been more important.

At the expense of repeating several past essays, it is still worthwhile to state […] Continue Reading…

The Trial

Author: Gary Hart

The forthcoming national election will be like no other in our history.  Those already focused on this, despite the pandemic and economic collapse, are coming to agreement on that.  In traditional terms, this would be a contest between the Republican Trump and the Democratic Biden.  But in the past four years, America has left tradition behind.

During the Trump years, he has stood by while a deadly virus has killed more than 175,000 Americans and destroyed or badly injured more than half the nation’s economic base.  He has converted an 80-year bipartisan foreign policy based on international democratic alliances to an isolationist-nationalist retreat.  He has replaced conservation minded national leaders with lobbyists for oil and gas, mining, and timber industries who are selling off, for pennies on the dollar, the national resources that represent our sacred heritage for future generations.  He has abandoned decades of arms control agreements that made […] Continue Reading…

Treachery

Author: Gary Hart

At the dawn of the space age, the brilliant writer Norman Mailer wrote a great book entitled Of a Fire On the Moon.  In it he compared rocket designers to plumbers because, he wrote, “the job of both is to prevent treachery in closed systems.”

American politics and government are hardly closed systems.  But their rules are subject to treachery.

Our national election is now coming out of the far turn and headed for home.  Prepare for anything and everything.

We have already seen unidentified para-military units deployed on major city streets in unmarked vehicles.  These may be private contract militia outside the military chain of command. The cities involved have Democratic party leaders and are in key swing States.

The Trump loyalist appointed to manage the U.S. Postal Service is cutting back personnel and shortening hours to inhibit delivery of ballots to voters and filed ballots to official counting stations.

The top management […] Continue Reading…