Monday, December 19, 2022

Chapter 34 of East of Eden is about Donald Trump and Elon Musk (and all the Trumps and Musks of our past and future)

I am reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden right now as the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is recommending criminal charges against the ex-President for some of his obvious crimes; during today's hearing, Hope Hicks was shown on video paraphrasing her ex-boss as saying "nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is winning." Late last night I happened to read Chapter 34, which is entirely about legacy and how we are remembered after we're gone (it's also a very short chapter in a very long and great book; if you have seen the movie with James Dean, the events depicted in the movie haven't even begun by Chapter 34). It's an interesting and atypical chapter in the book in that it doesn't even mention a single one of the large cast of characters in the novel by name, but it speaks about and to all of us and gives an insight into John Steinbeck's view of all literature -- of all art.

I want to pull out lines to emphasize, but the chapter is so short that I'm just reproducing it here...


Chapter 34

A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?” 

   I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught–in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too–in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well–or ill? 

   Herodotus, in the Persian War, tells a story of how Croesus, the richest and most-favored king of his time, asked Solon the Athenian a leading question. He would not have asked it if he had not been worried about the answer. “Who,” he asked, “is the luckiest person in the world?” He must have been eaten with doubt and hungry for reassurance. Solon told him of three lucky people in old times. And Croesus more than likely did not listen, so anxious was he about himself. And when Solon did not mention him, Croesus was forced to say, “Do you not consider me lucky?” 

   Solon did not hesitate in his answer. “How can I tell?” he said. “You aren’t dead yet.” 

   And this answer must have haunted Croesus dismally as his luck disappeared, and his wealth and his kingdom. And as he was being burned on a tall fire, he may have thought of it and perhaps wish he had not asked or not been answered. 

   And in our time, when a man dies–if he has had wealth and influence and power and all the vestments that arouse envy, and after the living take stock of the dead man’s property and his eminence and works and monuments–the question is still there: Was his life good or was it evil?–which is another way of putting Croesus’s question. Envies are gone, and the measuring stick is: “Was he loved or was he hated? Is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come from it?” 

   I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone received the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.” 

   Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise and, just beneath, with gladness that he was dead. 

   There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by the few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now? How can we go on without him?” 

   In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world. 

   We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Why Are You Voting for Democrats on November 8? A True Blue Liberal Twitter Poll.

There are so many reasons, of course, but what's your number one reason to #VoteBlueIn2022?

Do you want to protect democracy and the rule of law by defeating election deniers and #TrumpCoupAttempt co-conspirators and apologists? Protect a woman's right to choose by electing Democrats who will codify the protections of Roe v. Wade legislatively and defeating Republicans, some of whom would outlaw abortion nationally? Protect Social Security and Medicare from Republicans under Rick Scott who promise to end these "entitlement" programs that so many of us depend upon (and have paid dedicated taxes to support throughout our working lives)? Or is it some other issue that rises to the top for you this November (if so, add in the comments here and on Twitter)? 

 This poll will be open for a week.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Twitter Poll: Which member of the #TrumpCrimeFamily will fly the coop first?

The slow drip of Trump investigation news continued today with the report that New York Attorney General Letitia James has subpoenaed Donald Junior and Ivanka as part of the fraud investigation into the Trump Organization. That led me to post a poll on Twitter that I've asked earlier.

Because we all know that the cowardly crime family members would rather live on a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai than in a jail cell in upstate New York, don't we?

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

"The World Is Too Much With Us..." Happy 251st Birthday to William Wordsworth

 The World Is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.
And if you're looking for books to read (and who isn't), I'd wholeheartedly recommend a book from Jonathan Bate that published in time for Wordsworth's 250th birthday last year, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World. Or, even better, the beautiful illustrated and annotated edition of Wordsworth's masterpiece, The Prelude, published by David R. Godine in 2016.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

POLL: Who was the G. Gordon Liddy of #StupidWatergate?

Yesterday the news broke that G. Gordon Liddy died at the age of 90. Liddy was one of the organizers of the original Watergate burglary that eventually led to the downfall of Richard Nixon and he remained totally unrepentant about his actions.

Liddy's return to the news brings up the obvious question. Who was the G. Gordon Liddy for the #StupidWatergate(s) of the twice-impeached ex-president now hiding out at Mar-a-Lago? 


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Today's True Blue Liberal Bible Lesson for the "Christians" Gathered in Orlando This Weekend

It's been too long since we posted a True Blue Liberal bible verse here on this blog, but the golden T***p statue displayed in Orlando this weekend at #CPAC2021 demands a reference to Exodus chapter 32.


Exodus Chapter 32
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron and said unto him, Up, make us gods which shall go before us : for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 
  2   And Aaron saide unto them, Breake off the golden earerings which are in the eares of your wives, of your sonnes, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
  3   So all the people brake off the golden earerings, which were in their eares and brought them unto Aaron.
  4   And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving toole, and he had made it a golden calfe : and they said, These are thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!
  5  And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.
  6  And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings : and the people sate downe to eate and drinke and rose up to play.

This is taken, of course, from the 1611 King James Version, known here at as "The Real Bible For Real Christians."

More video of the overstuffed golden calfe of 2021:

POLL: What's the Official Name of Orlando's QAnon Convention This Weekend?


Here's your reminder that the object of abject veneration at #QPAC 2021 (or maybe it's #CPAQ) refused their invitation in 2016 and held his own rally because he was mad at #CPAC 2016's star and favorite presidential candidate, "L-Y-E-N" Ted Cruz.

"You have lyin' Ted Cruz.
I call him.
I nicknamed him -- lyin'.
I say ly - in'.
How would you spell that?
L - Y - E - N.
With a big [making double airquotes with stubby fingers while pausing to search for the big word] apostrophe."
-Donald J. T***p, Wichita, Kansas, 5 March 2016
This concludes your T***p University spelling lesson for the day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Our Long National Nightmare is [Almost] Over"

 I hope President Joe Biden's first remarks as President of the United States [in an hour from now] nod toward the speech of President Gerald Ford delivered on August 9, 1974:

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule."


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

POLL: Which Trump Crime Family Member Will Flee from the Country First?