On Your Marks, Get Set, Stop!

Those who viewed the President’s inaugural speech were treated to a description of the country that read like the script for a “Mad Max” movie. The problems that bedevil every recent administration, such as poverty (which is going down) a decline in factory jobs (which are not coming back), some underperforming schools (although the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high) and crime (which is still near an all-time low) were described as “carnage.” Merrian-Webster online describes “carnage” as: “the flesh of slain animals or humans” or a “great and usually bloody slaughter or injury.” That may apply to Aleppo, or the Pulse Nightclub, but America?

Comrade Trump might be onto something if you consider the Pulse Nightclub massacre, the ongoing slaughter in Chicago, and the tragic numbers killed and wounded by firearms. No American can accept tens of thousands killed and wounded annually as reasonable or necessary, or as an inevitable side effect of the Second Amendment. Carnage in the name of the Constitution is never inevitable or defensible. It’s wrong to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. It’s wrong to open fire in one, too.

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The Battle of Little Big Hands

He was vain. He was known for his striking blonde hair, cinnamon scented and longer than the fashion of the day, as essential to his image as twinkle to a star. Gold braids adorned his clothing. He enjoyed success early in life, earning a promotion that made him the youngest general in the Union Army. To honor the occasion, and himself, he donned a special uniform partly because, according to History.net, “he wanted a distinctive uniform so his men could see him during combat.”  The impact was not limited to the troops who served under him. As the same website notes, “Superior officers and newspapermen could also see such striking attire, unlike any other in the army.” That was not an accident. He was one of the first media personalities in American history and was skilled in his use of the news outlets of the day.

He was arrogant and sometimes broke the rules. He violated a treaty and ventured into Native American lands when gold was discovered there, resulting in hostility on the part of the tribes and an effort to confine them to reservations. He once went absent without leave and was court-martialed twice. He failed to follow the orders of his commander and, on the second such occasion, did not live to regret it. He was an author and sought out book deals. He publicly feuded with the President, Ulysses S. Grant, and wrote magazine articles critical of Grant’s attempt to achieve peaceful relations with Native American tribes. He dreamed of becoming President and told associates his future would include the White House.

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Make America Firm Again

Is Donald Trump political Viagra? If the answer is yes, it may explain the success of the most unusual, invulnerable, and unexpected President-elect in history. Viagra sells dreams. That is why it is the most popular impotence drug in the world, despite its lack of satisfactory results. Its primary competitor, Cialis, rates much higher in customer satisfaction surveys, including those that include female partners. But compare the commercials. Cialis offers a remedy aimed at your average Jack and Jill. When Jack can’t scale the hill he takes a pill to thrill Jill and, in the blink of an eye (from Jill’s perspective) they are enjoying a post-connubial soak in paired bathtubs. Jack and Jill are average folks and could be your neighbors, except for the odd bathtub thing.

Viagra commercials are located in dreamland, not Jack-and-Jill-ville. They are set in exotic, luxurious resort locales, where tropical breezes riffle wispy nightgowns as the tide foams in the background. The women are not your average Jills. They are Super Models, fantasy creatures, who pose seductively and invite male viewers into their web of pulchritude. You never see the men in those commercials, at least not their faces. The most you see is the man from the neck down as he transports a cart of expensive designer luggage. The man’s identity is left vacant so that the viewer can inhabit it. Never mind that the advertiser’s target could never afford the resort or the woman, not to mention the luggage. When your skill set is obsolete, your values disparaged, your income jeopardized if not eliminated, and your life expectancy dropping because of despair and drug abuse, a dream may seem like salvation.

Donald Trump is the Viagra dream personified.

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Reefer Madman

One of the most popular films of 1933 was a slapstick, vaudeville-inspired romp called “International House,” starring W. C. Fields and featuring, among others, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Bela Lugosi. Filmed in the days before the Motion Picture Production Code took much of the fun out of America cinema, it concluded with a rousing musical number by Cab Calloway and his orchestra entitled “Reefer Man.” “Man what’s the matter with that cat there?” asked Calloway in the intro. The answer: “Must be full of reefer.” The song clearly and unabashedly was about marijuana and was not the only reference to the herb in movies of the time. Even the beloved Harpo Marx apparently smoked a joint in the film Animal Crackers. Cannabis was not widely used and generally confined to entertainers, black musicians, and Hispanic immigrants. Its association with the latter two categories led to its national prohibition.

While a handful of state and local jurisdictions attempted to regulate marijuana, there was no national effort until Harry Anslinger found his calling as America’s anti-pot crusader. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, initially disputed that marijuana should be banned. His view changed when the Department of Prohibition became obsolete after Prohibition ended and he did what any potentially obsolete Prohibitionist would do under the circumstances: he invented a new prohibition and turned his gaze on grass.

Anslinger needed political support for his new prohibition and called on a Golden Oldie: American racism. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S.,” he said, “and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers.” He also stated, “Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use.” Then, the coup de grace: “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” (They had names like “Shifty” and “D-Money,” he didn’t add!) The campaign worked and Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, the beginning of a national marijuana prohibition. The prohibition remained in effect as long as Anslinger lived and only recently began to break down as 29 states legalized cannabis for medical reasons and eight legalized, or will legalize it, for recreational use.

Which brings us to Senator Jefferson “don’t Beauregard that joint” Sessions III.

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