50 years. Still remembered, still missed.

Toast

For all the Saturdays missed,
For the sad Sinatra lyrics unheard
on countless grey evenings,
For one soft kiss
From a sister to her kid brother,
For half a century
of having to make each memory last,
I raise this glass.
To you.

News Comments in the Parler

Our local online news source allows registered readers to comment. They have turned a parlor game into a Parler game, exercising their free speech by trashing Joe Biden, the CDC, the FDA, etc. But this does not stop even when the topics are not political or do not deal with the pandemic. Even a simple weather update receives a slew of negative political diatribes, complete with name-calling and insults.

Coyotes howl at the moon
as if the moon had caused the night.
Wild dogs fear the snow
and blame the President.

A 9-Minute Summary

This tweet from Leslie Jones contains a video clip that perfectly summarizes in a little over 9 minutes exactly what has gone wrong.

The Parade Around Wannsee

In 1990, attorney Mike Godwin stated that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope) the probability of a comparison involving nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches certainty. This became known as Godwin’s Law, and if you evoke such a comparison you’re automatically derided online. I’m sure I’ll be accused of invoking Godwin’s Law for this. Don’t bother to register your criticism; you’re wrong. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (per Freud) — and sometimes a nazi is just a nazi.

Here begins my transgression of Godwin’s Law.

Once again, republicans have blocked the rights of Americans to vote. They used the filibuster, a political tactic that emerged in order to preserve racist policies after the Civil War. Adding insult to this injury, they defend blocking voting rights through the use of indirect language — almost a code — with terms that conceal their real intentions.

Hiding goals behind benign language is an old technique. It’s ironic and appropriate that this is the 80th anniversary of the nazi Wannsee meeting (held 1/20/1942). At that conference, 15 nazi officials devoted a mere 90 minutes to develop and lay out their “final solution” for slaughtering millions of people. They deliberately concealed their goals through neutral, even benign, language. For a more thorough account of Wannsee, see this New York Times article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/world/europe/lake-wannsee-conference-final-solution-holocaust.html

Of the the 15 nazi officials who participated in the Wannsee conference, some ended up commanding or organizing murder squads, while others set up a legal framework for genocide. By the end of the war in 1945, 6 had died; 3 were tried for unrelated offenses and given mild sentences; and 4 were never even charged with their crimes. Only 2 ever stood trial for war crimes, the more well-known being Adolf Eichmann — who had hidden out in Argentina for years until he was taken to Israel, tried and eventually executed.

That trial and execution took place when I was a child, and I vividly remember animated discussions in my neighborhood about whether the trial was fair. Even as a child, I was surprised to hear adults argue about this. It was shocking to hear some of my own neighbors defending a man who engineered the murder of millions of people. I was embarrassed for my neighbors, because I expected that — one day — they would come to regret their defense of the indefensible. I hope they did. Defending nazi atrocities isn’t a good look.

A common defense of past errors of moral judgment is that “those were different times.” Maybe genocide was ok then? After all, the Wannsee nazi Gerhard Klopfer continued working as a lawyer after the war, and his 1987 obituary celebrated “a fulfilled life that was to the benefit of all those who came under his sphere of influence.”

That obit is a perfect example of denial and self-justification beyond the point of insanity.

So now we’re back to Godwin. Is my reference nothing more than “Reductio ad Hitlerum“? No. The republican goals are not entirely dissimilar from the nazis. Sure, they don’t say they’d like to slaughter millions of people (although their media outlets have recently celebrated the murderers of a number of Black Americans) — but the first step toward genocide is to de-legitimize The Other. Thus, the republicans remove the ability of The Other to vote; they separate The Other from Us, as Mitch McConnell did when he differentiated African-Americans from Americans in his statement. And while you’re at it, minimize murder of The Other; this will help when you try a violent overthrow of the government in a coup.

The republicans already helped promote an attempted coup — their lame version of the Reichstag fire, I suppose. And they deny that it was an attempted coup.

The slope is not slippery at all; it isn’t even a slope. It is a deliberate march around the perimeter of Wannsee, with McConnell, Greene, Boebert, McCarthy, Cruz et al. leading the troops.

And they’re closing in.

“A Three-Hour Riot”

Majorly Failure Greene now characterizes the coup attempt as “just a 3-hour riot.”
Reading that, I couldn’t get the theme of Gilligan’s Island out of my head.
So I wrote this and tweeted it out in a string of Replies to a post.

Just sit right down and shut your mouth
And hear a tale of fear.
About a little gathering
Earlier this year.

The leader was an orange man,
Who said he’d like to try it:
Some hundreds all set out that day
For a three hour riot, a three hour riot.

The crowd began to demonstrate,
They broke down every fence,
If not for the exit of the congress folk
They would’ve hanged Mike Pence, they would’ve hanged Mike Pence.

The crowd dispersed and sent out tweets, before long they were caught
With Failure Greene,
The Turtle too,
The fake billionaire and his wife,
The Proudest Boys and the rest
Here on Giuliani Isle.

Closed

Closed 2021

All I can say after the latest round of republican party maneuvers to restrict voting and impose new, biased limits on the right to vote.

75 Years Ago

It’s amazing how much life can be compressed into such a small paper artifact.

Nestled in an old cardboard box, amid my mother’s canceled checks, I discovered a purple ticket stub from the Ethel Barrymore Theater, dated March 30, 1946.

A search online* revealed that from December 26, 1945 through July 1, 1946 Pygmalion was playing there.

So now I know one more fragment of information about my parents and their shared love for the theater.

The Rosetta Stone connecting older New York with Pygmalion

More research uncovered more information. The Playbill site** told me who was in the cast: Gertrude Lawrence played Eliza Doolittle and Raymond Massey played Henry Higgins. Cedrick Hardwicke is credited with Staging.

These details give me a sense — possibly illusory — that I know a bit more about what they experienced that evening. And I see them as a young couple, out on the town for a Saturday night; enjoying the new, post-war era of peace; looking forward, ready to dance into the future.

A few months later, they were married.

It was 75 years ago.

The decades since that evening brought their changes. The hope of a new home. Adorable children. Debts that grew with the slow inevitability of a mountain range emerging from an ancient plain. Mortgage. One child after another is frighteningly ill. Someone develops cancer. More debts. One child after another is a rebellious disappointment. Eventually, the festering conflicts resolve; or they do not.

After 75 years, the story’s various endings are clear, and they all seem unbearably sad. I have never been comfortable with change. Do all stories end in death?

I can see two simultaneous images of my brother: a giggling little boy who was his father’s great joy; and an old man in pain, swollen with malignancy and the burden of years, regretting his mistakes and his lost innocence — every breath an effort despite the mechanical ventilator beeping with the regularity of a loyal dog sighing at his bedside. Meanwhile, the little boy is sitting in a row boat, waiting for his father to take him out fishing on a warm sunny morning.

I prefer to see that little boy.

For the same reason, I choose not to see my father in his final moments — sick and weak, a thin replica of his younger self; or my mother — 15 years later, experiencing the same symptoms in the same room. I prefer to see them at the Barrymore, eagerly anticipating an evening of theatrical magic. They are happy, in love and at the height of their powers.

They are entering the theater and the show.

Pygmalion 1946

— Robert Gengerke
4/26/2021–4/27/2021


* At https://broadwayscene.com/h-m/the-ethyl-barrymore-theatre
** At https://www.playbill.com/production/pygmalion-ethel-barrymore-theatre-vault-0000004406

On Derek Chauvin

Amid the somber celebration of this victory for justice, there are sobering facts we should consider about the trial of Derek Chauvin. The circumstances of the trial show us how far we have fallen from the ideal of justice rendered impartially to all.

What? How can this be? Wasn’t the killer convicted? Doesn’t this prove that the system works? Well, yes — kind of.

If I (or anyone I know — i.e., non-police, non-celebrity folks) was recorded on camera committing an obvious murder, there would not be a trial; there would be only a brief plea-bargaining session during which I would be begging for the lightest possible sentence in exchange for not making more trouble by causing delays and incurring court expenses, costing prosecutors time, etc. I would not take the risk that a jury would ignore the obvious evidence of my guilt. I would not assume that exoneration was my right by birth. I certainly would not brazenly tough it out, slouching in court every day and sneering at the prosecution’s witnesses.

But then there is Derek Chauvin. He’s different. He gambled that a jury wouldn’t dare convict him, regardless of the undeniable, incontrovertible evidence. Fortunately, his gamble failed.

What’s sad is that this is not the end. We can’t relax and sit back, confident that because the system worked this time everything is just fine. It isn’t fine. This case was so incredibly open-and-shut that we should not have felt uncertainty about the outcome. Even the trial itself wasn’t a given; it took protests and many months of hard work to get to court. Had there not been a separate video recorded by a witness, we might never have known the truth about George Floyd’s death. Nothing in this case was certain — although it should have been. All of the uncertainties demonstrate how lost our nation is with regard to equal justice under the law. If Derek Chauvin had been a black man, the trial — if there was one — would have been over quickly, with an easy “guilty” verdict that was never in doubt.

The next case may not be so easy nor the proof so obvious; many similar cases are less well documented. Police body cameras “fail” at critical moments with suspicious frequency. Witnesses may testify, but if there’s no clear, clean video recording then all witness testimony is typically challenged. This means that tomorrow’s Chauvin case may not be so easy. The effort to root out rogue actors and to restore honor to law enforcement is arduous, but it must continue.

This work may be daunting, but there is an up side. The outcome of this case is one more stone in the creation of a monument to justice. We simply need to keep hewing, cutting and carving.

We need more stones.

A Visit from Saint Mitch

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all thro’ the land
The Congress was buzzed
‘Bout a gift they had planned.

They wrote up a list
To surprise the whole nation
With financial relief
In a new legislation.

When faced with the bill,
They spluttered and thundered:
You wanted two thousand?
Shut up! Take six hundred!

Then they spoke not a word
But went straight to their work
Of looting the treasury
Like a meth-crazy jerk.

On Marco! On Jodi!
You lying no-brainers!
McConnell! McCarthy!
There were no abstainers.

More pork-barrel stealing!
More swampy revisions!
Let our king pardon all!
This was their decision.

They’d rob from the poor
And find someone to blame
For electoral fraud
And other mad claims.

I gave up and shrugged
And I went back to bed
While visions of Joe Biden
Danced in my head.

Prediction for December 2020

I think there are two plans in place for this dangerous “president.” Either:

  1. He will deliberately do nothing in order to allow the pandemic to worsen, so that he can then declare a national emergency in order to prevent Joe Biden’s inauguration; or,
  2. He will spring a surprise attack on a foreign country, and use the ensuing debacle (and chaos) to declare a national emergency — again, in order to prevent the inauguration. 

“Moscow Mitch” McConnell has probably already agreed to these options, and will use any power that he can wield in the Senate in order to help ensure that the congressional receipt of elector’s vote counts does not take place. Without that acceptance of the votes from states’ electors, the election’s outcome cannot be certified. It’s a nasty end run around the Constitution that would have the effect of disenfranchising most of the US voters.

You doubt me?  These politicians are criminal sleazebags.  They will do anything.