Thursday, April 28, 2016

Twain on Trump

There is a company that specializes in selling mints in “cleverly” ornamented little containers. The latest are the “Hillary” mints whose cover features a beaming Clinton with the captions “Hillary for Peppermint” and “A mint whose time has come.” Unlike the Obama “Don’t like the Affordable Care Act? Take two of these and call me a socialist in the morning” mints, it didn’t even have the honesty to be satirical or ironic, let alone amusing.  Why is it that people choose to deceive themselves by portraying Clinton as a source of “positive” energy, when the truth is she is a cruel, selfish and vindictive individual with no ethical values?

I recently encountered a person who urged people in her general vicinity to go out and vote this year. I enquired about who she was voting for; perhaps I should not have been surprised to learn it was Clinton. She claimed that Bernie Sander was too “liberal” and was “unelectable.” That of course set me off. Sanders had as much chance or better than Clinton against anyone in the Republican field—particularly given his lack of “baggage.” That he was not “electable” was a pro-Clinton media shibboleth. What did I have against Hillary? That she was corrupt and a liar. What could I be referring to? I ran down the list of her ethical and moral “irregularities” dating from 1979, including the Foster “suicide,” all of which were greeted with exasperation (as for Foster, he was “suicidal,” to which I retorted that all roads there led straight back to Hillary Clinton and her unethical and fanatical demands on a man who prided himself on honesty). When she observed that Clinton was more suitable because she was more “conservative,” I cynically observed that “So she is lying about being a ‘liberal’ now?” which ended that line of conversation, although I overheard her say that the anti-Hillary voters would eventually learn the error of their ways. Personally, I plan on boycotting this fraud of an election.

But that is an anecdote; it is mere repetition of sordid truth, and I wanted to give the issue of Clinton a rest for a minute or two. After all, another of these mint cases features the usual blustering caricature of Donald Trump, the presumptuous Republican candidate who wiped out the field in this past Tuesday’s primaries, continuing the truism that even supposedly intelligent and “informed” voters in both parties tend to follow the herd. Betraying the company selling these mints political bias, the caption reads “National Embarrassmints”—ha-ha—with Trump wearing a cap with a “Make America Stupid” logo. There are, of course, different levels and varieties of “stupid,” as mentioned previously.

In any case, I again defer (or refer) to Mark Twain’s judgment on such matters. What would he say about Trump’s attracting mobs of thugs and fascists, which apparently constitutes at least a third of white voters?

There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

On the notion of unabashed white supremacists who are flocking to Trump’s standard that birds of a feather naturally flock together simply on the notion that they are “prettier” than other species: 

(While watching Londoners pass by his window) No end of people whose skins are dull and characterless modifications of the tint which we miscall white…It seems to be designed as a catch-all for everything that can damage it. 

On the habit of many in white America to damn select minorities to damnation, particularly during election campaigns—just substitute the mentioned despised group for today’s flavor of the month (i.e. immigrants from south of the border): 

It was in this way that the boy (who was throwing rocks at some Chinese immigrants) found out that a Chinaman had no rights that any man was bound to respect; that he had no sorrows that any man was bound to pity, that neither is life nor liberty was worth the purchase of a penny when a white man needed a scapegoat, that nobody loved Chinamen, that nobody befriend them, that nobody spare them suffering when it was convenient to inflict it.

Trump also wants to make America “great” again, and that of course would include inflicting great pain on our foreign “enemies.” Bernie Sanders is opposed to continuing U.S. “interventions” in other country’s affairs, but Clinton apes Trump’s chest-thumping stupidities in trying to shoe-horn our hypocritical “principles” into unwilling countries whose cultures and religions we haven’t the foggiest understanding of, and continuously get it “wrong” over and over again, making bad situations ten time worse for us, and many more times worse for the inhabitants touched by the meddling of our armchair politicians and presidential wannabes. In his essay “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” Twain sets us straight on such failures of moral capacity:

That’s shall we go on conferring our civilization upon the people that sit in darkness, or shall we give these poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the games, or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first? Would it not be prudent to get our civilization tools together, and see how much stock is left on hand in the way of glass beads and theology, and maxim guns and hymn books, and trade gin and torches of progress and enlightenment (patent adjustable ones, good to fire villages with, upon occasion), and balance the books, and arrive at the profit and loss, so that we may intelligently decide whether to continue the business or sell out the property and start a new civilization scheme on the proceeds?

Thus all of this country’s bombs and bullets make a greater impression than our “butter” on the “beneficiaries” of our benevolent need to loot countries of oil and seek to manufacture “allies” against those who just wanted us to leave them alone. The “blessings” of Western civilization may appear to those who have benefitted best from it in this country that everyone desires it as well, although even in this country, it’s legitimacy for all citizens does not stand up to bright lights. Why should it elsewhere?

(Those who sit in darkness) have become suspicious of the blessings of civilization. More—they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The blessings of civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; these could not be better in a dim light. In the right kind of light, and at a proper distance, the goods a little out of focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the gentlemen who sit in darkness:

Twain then sets forth a list of stereotypically admirable traits of Western civilization, noting that “It will bring into camp any idiot that sits in darkness anywhere.” But

The brand is strictly for export—apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially it is nothing of the kind. (The manufacture of wars to “deliver” it have) a sort of dim, vague respectability about it somewhere, if he could only find the spot; and that, by and by, he can scour the flag clean again after he has finished dragging it through the mud…And only for money? 

Do those people who are the recipients of this country’s need to boast in their faces of our “superiority” have any right to oppose our unwanted and misguided interventions in their affairs? During the Boxer Rebellion in China, a peasant uprising supported by the empress dowager against foreigners, but mainly a reaction against the violation of Chinese customs by Christian missionaries and converts, the German Kaiser was one of many “offended” European rulers who demanded reparations from the Chinese for their losses in the country. Twain observes

Would Germany charge Americans $200,000 for two missionaries and shake the mailed fist in her face, and send warships, and send soldiers, and say “seize twelve miles of territory, worth 20 millions of dollars…”And later would Germany say to her soldiers: “March through America and slay, giving no quarter; make the German face there, as has been our Hun-face here, a terror for a thousand years; march through the great republic and slay, slay, slay, carving a road for our offended religion through its heart and bowels.”

Twain was writing over a century ago, and it would appear that nothing has changed save time and place. But that doesn’t excuse our activities in Vietnam, Iran, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Syria or any other place where we lied, bullied and offended.

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