Essays: Political


The Above↑ Follows Below↓


 From this tiny shoal in a swift-moving stream among the stars, one can imagine the historian Henry Adams musing that history is brief, empire briefer, and the bellicosity of nations of minor moment. At a less distant perspective, one can, as well, recall George W. Bush outlining the threat of Hussein’s Iraq to Western Civilization and the presumptive choice of preemption and war that he then embarked upon. Henry Adams and George W. Bush survey their worlds from the beginning of their respective centuries. This is a brief rumination of distinctions that arise in a parallax of their views.

John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush share a pair of peculiarities that of all our Presidents they alone possess. Each succeeded their fathers to the highest office in the land. Each, as well, was elected to the Presidency with fewer popular votes than the opponent they defeated. The Adams election was decided against Andrew Jackson in the House of Representatives. The Bush election was decided against Al Gore by political faction in the Supreme Court of the United States.  Only the reconstruction shenanigans of the Tilden/Hayes contest  is remembered as divisive an affair.

Henry Adams was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the great grandson of the nation’s 2nd President, John Adams. George W. Bush was the son of President George Herbert Walker Bush and the grandson of Senator Prescott Bush. Both men assumed that they, as well, would be heir to national office. It seemed the natural course for the sons and scions of Senators and Presidents.

The Education of Henry Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in the year of the author’s death, 1918. His “education” was predicated on an ideal enlightenment that was always just out of reach; the more the scion tried to overtake it the more distantly the image appeared to withdraw.

Early in the 20th century he would write:

America was posing as the champion of order and legitimacy… no one in Washington was fitted for his duties… The only defense of the system was that, as the Government did nothing well, it had best do nothing … The few people who thought they knew something were more in error than those who knew nothing.

Subsequent to the 2005’s hurricane Katrina, the devastation in New Orleans and the profound debacle of FEMA, we find little has changed, early in the 21st. Like a Yankee Socrates, Adams was forever lamenting that he knew nothing and was not likely to ever know more:

All state education is a sort of dynamo machine for polarizing the popular mind; for turning and holding its lines of force in the direction supposed to be most effective for State purposes… One began at last to see that a great many impressions were needed to make a very little education …. How many would turn out to be wrong, or whether any would turn out to be right was ultimate wisdom… he asked only a pretext for throwing all education to the East wind.

The charm of the book is in an erudition which its third person narrator finds impossible to disguise. Before he entered into his chosen vocation he was engaged as a diplomatic assistant to his father during the elder Adam’s tenure as Minister to Great Britain. Few would argue that diplomacy is Bush’s strongest suit. He has squandered a worldwide empathy and replaced it with a seething bitterness over America’s adventures along the Tigris and Euphrates.

Henry Adams was America’s great cosmopolitan. He traveled throughout the world and was no stranger to the extensive blossoming and expansion of his own country. In an early monogram on Captain John Smith he famously debunked the romance and myth of Smith’s reported rescue by Pocahontas. He later chronicled the History of the United States through monumental volumes on the administrations of Jefferson and Madison. He was an intimate in salons of power in Europe and Washington. As visitor, friend and confident he was the counsel of successive administrations from his childhood until his death. Along with his political histories he wrote extensively on Gothic architecture. His idea of Paradise was motoring through France to Chartres or Mont St. Michel.

Adams enjoyed the friendship of scientists, authors and inventors and had a discerning eye for character. A hundred years ago he reflected on the degree of its presence in the son of a great Southern leader.

He was simple beyond analysis; so simple that even the simple New England student could not realize him. No one knew enough to know how ignorant he was; how childlike; how helpless before the relative complexity of a school. As an animal the Southerner seemed to have every advantage, but even as an animal he steadily lost ground. He was not a scholar; he had no intellectual training; he could not analyze an idea.

The classmate of which Adams spoke was Ronald Lee. Adams knew him a few years before Ronald’s father, General Robert E. Lee, would lead battles from which many of their fellow students would not return. A sterling character in a father does not, of necessity, produce one in the child.

Speaking of Lee’s son, Adams reports that if he:

…brooded a few days over an imaginary grief and substantial whiskey, none of his Northern friends could be sure that he might not be waiting, round the corner with a knife or pistol …

In September of 2002 President Bush confessed to a congregation of clergy:

You know I had a drinking problem. Right now I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office. There is only one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar. I found faith. I found God.

And here is a supremely ironic Adams a century before the invasion and occupation of Iraq:

… he had viewed the world chiefly as a thing to be reformed, filled with evil forces to be abolished … that duty implied not only resistance to evil, but hatred of it … whether boy or man in his long struggle with a stingy or hostile universe, [he] had learned also to love the pleasure of hating: his joys were few.

History will show Saddam Hussein to have been an extension of America’s own reach into the oilfields and politics of the Middle East. Historian Adams reflected on Victoria’s reach and empire: “Rome was actual; it was England; it was going to be America.”

To the despair of the civilized world, George W. Bush is America. This President has given up strong drink yet remains intoxicated with the same righteous swill of the perpetrators of 9/11 or any who kill believing in the absolution of their chosen god.

Adam’s is caustically sympathetic:

… as long as he could argue that his opponents were wicked he could join in robbing and killing them without question. Education insisted on finding a moral foundation for robbery. He could hope to begin life in the character of no animal more moral than a monkey unless he could satisfy himself [as to] when and why robbery and murder were a virtue and duty.

The “Axis of Evil” is at the crossroads of any despotism too psychically buried to be recognized by the imagination. The American war dead have long exceeded the number of those lost in the falling towers of New York; the President admits to Iraqi civilian deaths of ten times that number and he  remains insanely resolute to increase these numbers until the bitter end of his administration.  I leave to the reader the determination of whom the world presently believes more likely to be lurking round the corner with a knife or pistol.


I am upset. I am likely to be indelicate.  I  might even appear insensitive to the feelings of  half of my fellow countrymen. This is likely a rant.  Nonetheless I shall proceed.

If you own a gun for purposes of protection you are a moron. The events of December 14 go some distance in making my argument.  Adam Lanza’s mom was a gun enthusiast. She lived with her mentally defective son in Newtown Connecticut  before he shot her four times in the face. He then employed her protective firepower to extinguish the lives of  twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Half of the people who kill with guns kill themselves. Most of these prefer to end their existence without harming anyone other than themselves. Would that Adam Lanza had followed their example before he murdered his mother,  the kindergartners and their teachers, rather than after.

Half of the people in the country oppose gun control. They are morons. Those who pack heat in our urban enclaves are mostly thugs, criminals and gang members–also moronic.  I hold them to account even more than the mentally aberrant Adam who torched the Tree of Life in this quiet New England Eden.  Lanza was responsible for one of the most monstrous gun crimes in American History.  The gun-lovers are responsible for them all.

I think that morons who make up half the electorate should all live together. Half the country goes to gun-lovers the other half to gun-controllers. The morons can love their guns, their hunting, and suffer their school massacres in the Gun-loving States of America. The rest of us would reside in the remaining Gun-controlling States of America. The logistics are a bit fuzzy but I am sure we could work them out.

The gun lobby,  the manufacturers of said guns, and the National Rifle Association would hopefully  self-deport to those areas that embrace them with such warmth, affection and obvious love. The Gun-loving States of America can keep their 2nd Amendment and expand the so called militia-rights anyway they please. Hell, they can even require every man, woman and child to holster pistols, rack shotguns, and position machine-guns on each of their rooftops–you want a bazooka, you get a bazooka.  As they are fond of chanting: “Atomic Bombs don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Welcome to the Apocalypse–you’ve earned it.

Next to slavery, the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic weaponry aimed at arming the civilian population of the United States is the greatest obscenity ever visited upon the country.  I and those of like mind would rather live in states scrubbed free of any and all armaments that constitute the private  citizen armory– we wish above all to be sanitized of the insanity. No gun toting moron would ever kill a baby again. We’ve had enough of that from Columbine to Connecticut.

The founding fathers gave us the 2nd Amendment but they also gave us Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution.  The so-called 3/5 Compromise provided for the legitimacy of slavery.  Each slave was considered to be 3/5 of a citizen without however any of the rights of the citizenry.  You shall have your guns but we shall not infringe upon the commerce of human chattel. Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal  but  owned, during his lifetime, three hundred slaves–at least one of whom, Sally Hemings was expected to service him regularly in his stately bed chambers after the death of his wife–the progeny their union remained slaves and servants during their respective childhoods. Sally Hemings was fair skinned.  Her father was Jefferson’s wife’s brother, John Wayles.  Jefferson inherited the Wayles slaves a year after his marriage to Martha Wayles  Skelton.  Tom and Martha decided to keep their sordid progeny “all in the family.” It took us the better part of a century to banish slavery–even if its bitter fruits were decreed and tasted by our  enlightened founders.

It is time to ban the gun and banish anyone discovered with one either to jail or to the moronic Gun-loving States of America. The gun loving morons deserve their guns and the gun-loving companionship of each other. Their lusty embrace of the manly gun culture will, however, be as likely short-lived as the safety clips on their revolvers — they won’t miss the rest of us, either–they probably think we’re gay.


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