Saturday, September 17, 2011

I smacked myself upside the head

     So I went to my folks’ place for lunch, and they were yackin’ like they do. “What’s up?” asked my dad, and so I told ‘im I got caught up in some pissing contest with some bozo on my blog.
     But my folks were raised in Nazi Germany, and this sort of news always causes their wolf ears to stand up straight and their wolf eyes to narrow. Could be trouble….don’t make trouble…..
     They were concerned. “Is someone angry with you?” asked mom. She was thinkin’ of silent visits from the Gestapo in the night. That’s just the way she is. There’s nothing to be done about it. My dad isn’t too bad that way. But he’s definitely down on pointless squabblage. I think he thinks all squabblage is pointless. (I do believe he voted for Bush. Twice.)
     “Well, it’s like this, see” I began. Communicating with my folks is always tricky, unless you’re just saying “ouch” or “hey!” or you’re dropping to the floor or crashing through glass. With my folks, communication is all body language and movements and attitude—and almost no verbiage. In fact, words just get in the way, especially if you insist on using them carefully, articulately. Do that, and they stare, bewildered, at your mouth. Then they say (at your mouth), “Ach, you’re talking just like a lawyer!”*
     So, anyway, you’ve got to make adjustments when you tell my folks a story—especially if the story concerns abstractions. You’ve got to give ‘em a parable or something. Or maybe get some napkins and rubber bands and do a little puppet show. Everything must be exaggerated. Avoid distinctions. Keep it simple. Give one puppet a name like “Asshole” or “Adolf” just to be ultra-clear.
     “So it’s like this. In the last few years, all [note the word “all”] conservative political voices have been completely [again, take note] drowned out by LOUTS. That’s essentially what’s happened.”
     (I thought: “But what, dear boy, is a ‘lout’?”)
     I then said: “Now, a lout is a guy. He’s the kind of guy who’ll watch you trip and he’ll right away laugh, and he clearly doesn’t care if you crack your head open and die.”
     Mom produced a look of intense concern. “Nobody would do that,” she said.
     “Like a punk kid?” suggested my dad.
     “Yeah. Immaturity seems to be the core of loutishness. Dunno. So, a lout will listen to your thoughtful remark about, say, health care, and then he’ll look a little bewildered; then, he’ll grunt unpleasantly and say: ‘Fuckin’ LIB-TARD.’ He won’t make a point or offer an argument. It’s straight to ‘lib-tard’ or ‘fiberal.’ Or he’ll just start asserting things to the contrary of your beliefs.”
     “Like a jerk or a jackass,” offered my mom in her German accent. (She still had that look of concern.)
     “Not a jackass, more a jerk. Maybe an asshole or a yahoo,” offered my dad.
     “Yeah. This lout thing started a few years ago. You say something that sounds liberal or progressive—it might actually be the opposite—and then, suddenly, people—usually men—show up to basically heckle or sneer or call you names. And they think they’re debating! It’s like sitting down to dinner, prepared for some delightful repartee, and then some guy just lets out an enormous belch. Or worse! Imagine!”
     “That vould be awful!” said mom.
      Next, I told them about San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Derek Reeve, who recently made a point of telling the world that he named his dog “Muhammad.”
     I said: “That’s like finding a Jewish guy somewhere and then bringing ‘im a pig and saying, 'You're a Jew, right? Meet my pal Moses.'"
     My folks nodded.
Louts
     “So this Reeve is some kind of lout. But he’s a lout who’s working on his doctorate at Claremont.”
     “Claremont?” asked my dad.
     Uh-oh. Forty years ago, my folks took a philosophy class at Golden West, and they got to know the professor—he was a charismatic guy named Catanzaro (he once guested on the Tonight show cuz he resembled Carson)—who earned his degree at Claremont Graduate School. My dad being my dad, there is only one thing that can now occur. He must now state everything he “learned” about Claremont forty years ago. It will be a pointless recitation of great length; soon, it will be impossible for anyone to remember what we were talking about.
     —My dad began to speak. Ruthlessly, I cut him off.
     —“PLUS, he’s a lawyer and realtor in SJC. And now he’s on the City Council, and he’s making these rude noises—about guns, about Muslims—and he’s getting some attention. So I wrote about this ‘Muhammad the dog’ thing, mostly because Reeve is also a part-timer who teaches Poli Sci at Saddleback College. He’s one of our own!
     “Did you attack him?” asked my mom.
     “Claremont—” began my dad. (In my head, I heard: "Kumquats!")**
     “NOPE," I roared. "I mostly just laid out the facts and let ‘em speak for themselves. That’s always the best way. But the facts pretty much say, ‘Reeve is a lout.’”
     “A punk, an asshole,” said my dad.
     “So he’s now attacking you?” asked mom.
     “No. Some anonymous tea party louts have noticed the blog and they somehow detected its criticism of Reeve. So they’re leaving their so-called comments. It’s like they’re leaving farts.” Mom laughed. “Not vile v’ere eating!” she said.
     “It’s no big deal. It’s nothing,” I said. “Forget about it.” I smacked myself upside the head. That ended it.
     We ate lunch. I’ve been telling my mom that I’m on a strict diet, low carb. Naturally, she made a huge pile of grilled cheese sandwiches.
     “I love this, I really do, but I shouldn’t be eating it, you know,” I said.
     “Don’t be silly. It’s all healthy,” she replied. Later, she brought out a big bowl of fruit salad, comprising fresh fruit floating in a vast sea of canned peaches in syrup.
     "Wow, that's a lot of fruit," I said. "Fruit is healthy," she said. My dad then commenced lecturing us about the health benefits of eating fruit.
     It was no use. I said nothing.

*OK, I'm exaggerating just a tad. Love my folks. 
**A particularly hilarious scene from "It's a Gift" (1934). 

For an account of my recent adventures with my folks in Europe, go to Pomeranian Pilgrimage

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the funniest goddamned thing I've read in a year. Thank you, BvT.

Anonymous said...

Your people are good people. So are you.

Anonymous said...

Exaggeration is the sincerest form of flattery.

Anonymous said...

You did what you could.

Anonymous said...

Perfect.

Anonymous said...

And...? Bvt, where's your parent's valuable insight & wisdom? You've ended this article at midpoint.

Anonymous said...

Jeez bvd, you treat your folks as if they're trolls on your blog.

B. von Traven said...

I've often written about them, here and elsewhere. This is but one small episode. It is not intended as a full portrait.

Anonymous said...

I think what 11:02 means is their insight about the National Socialsts disarming the population, telling people in the ghettos to calm down and not to be hysterical, and then their take on our second amendment, for or against...

Anonymous said...

Since they've actually lived through the evils of National Socialism.

B. von Traven said...

My dad owned a hunting gun when we lived in Canada, but he's not touched a gun since he's come to the U.S. (in 1960). My parents have often spoken about Nazi Germany, but they've never linked its arrival to gun policies and I'm sure that they'd regard this "taking people's guns away led to (or permitted) Naziism" theorizing as ridiculous. My impression is that they viewed the rise of Hitler as a reaction to the poverty and chaos of the twenties plus a desire to set aright the injustices of the Versailles Treaty--and simply to prosper. They have expressed no awareness of any powerful desire amongst German citizens to rise up and take out the Nazi authorities, even when those authorities were widely hated (as they were). The attitude was more: well, we're in this war now, and we don't want to be invaded. The defense of Germany was in no sense viewed as a defense of Naziism. For what it's worth, neither of my parents has ever expressed any fidelity to, or even interest in, the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. That enthusiasm appears to be very American, not at all European.

Anonymous said...

Bvt, I think you neglected an important temporal issue. The Nazis reined for a good 15 years in which in the begining they were welcomed, change was gradual, relatively peaceful, and most people didn't think twice about the suggestion of giving up their guns. It wasn't until much later when state policies toward the Jews changed, and by then it was too late for citizens to rearm themselves.

B. von Traven said...

Yes, but as I suggested, at least going by the impression my folks (and other relatives/friends) have left me with, there was no revolutionary spirit in Germany in the final years. The Nazi leadership was largely hated, yes, but the people were not inclined to revolt, held back only by a lack of guns. They did not identify the regime with what we now call the Holocaust; they viewed it as failing and losing. Their impulse was to defend the homeland. I just don't see how the availability of guns would have made any difference. But these are questions for historians, not philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Failing and losing. Sounds just like our current ragime...

Anonymous said...

Sans nationalism, of course.

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy the repetitive usage of "National Socialists" which is, of course, used in an attempt to paint socialism as Naziism. It's so obvious and so fatuous, and of course, utterly predictable.

Anonymous said...

National Socialism, i.e. the National Socialist Party, Fascism and Nazism, are all synonymous. I’m not aware of any other way to describe the phenomenon. Are you? It is what it is, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

When it becomes common parlance to hear of the Holocaust perpetuated by the National Socialists instead of the Nazis, your point, such as it is, may have more credence. Until then, your usage is clearly meant to poison the well regarding a discussion of socialism, which works quite well in Scandinavia and is relatively Nazi free. Frank Luntz would be proud of you, though. Good job.

Anonymous said...

I believe 2:59 is correct. Since the end of WWII the left’s been painting the right as extremist and Nazi-like every chance they get. Every opportunity they get, they take that shot. In fact, children are taught early-on by their progressive educators, that Nazism came about from the radical right, and that the radical left only produces a peaceful kind of noble socialism/communism where everyone’s treated equally, has a job, and nobody ever goes hungry or is homeless; Utopia. Of course they conveniently omit the largest genocide ever perpetrated on human civilization by Mao Zedong. How about the Nazis unleashing on the Jews, practically everything that was preached 30 years earlier by Fabian Socialist & famous playwright George Bernard Shaw, i.e. paraphrasing Shaw, people must be held to account; they must be able to justify their usefulness and very existence to the state, otherwise they must be eliminated. And, we must be able to invent some sort of “friendly gas” to achieve those ends. (Shaw) Why not finally set the record straight about the radical left?

Anonymous said...

Now that's what I'm talking about, 3:26! There's some fine right wing talking points--and as often as possible, just exaggerate the hell out of things. If you don't mind, though, I'd like a fact or two.

Do you have, for example, any example of a child taught by a progressive educator any of those things you coughed up? One will do. A name of a child, a school, an an educator, all in that order, please.

Also, please pony up an exact quote from Shaw that says anything like what you just barfed out.

Then and sorry to be demanding, connect Shaw to the Nazis and how GBS is the progenitor of the Holocaust.

I'll give you a point--people in general overuse the term "Nazi" and it often undercuts an argument, more than anything because it's a cliche.

Anyway, we'll wait for your responses to the above. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I’m anticipating someone’s now going to chime-in with the predictable, boiler-plate progressive excuse that what Shaw said was just irony, or just a metaphor for describing something else like say one of his stories, or he really didn’t mean it that way, it was a joke, etc... Excuse me for beating you to the punch.

Anonymous said...

3:41, I was that child and that’s what I was taught. Shaw is well documented on film saying these things. You haven’t seen it yet? There’s a most comprehensive Wikipedia page on Shaw that’s been up so long the moderators/scholars have picked through it with a fine tooth comb and have verified it to death, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw

Anonymous said...

Oh, and BTW 3:41, none of what I've wrote above is "right wing talking points." It's all factual and backed up with evidence and you know it. It’s just that the left seems to get really bothered when ever it’s brought up. That’s because they’ve managed to keep it hush for such a long time.

Anonymous said...

Very clever, 3:52, in which you apparently have deflected interpretation by a clever declaration of victory. Did you know, by the way, that Jonathan Swift actually ate babies? Braised in a white wine sauce, as I recall.

Sure you were, 3:41. Pony up some actual facts of your horrific childhood--it's ok to use pseudonyms to protect the innocent. And I don't know why you're going off on Shaw, when you could just as easily be talking about the Sinclair Lewis. See, anyone can deflect an argument just to confuse things. We were talking about the obvious manipulative usage of the term "National Socialists" and then you got all discombobulated.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 4:00, I don't know any such thing. It's just stuff you and your ilk keep saying. If you think it's been kept "hush" maybe that's due to the fact that "it" doesn't actually exist.

Anonymous said...

Off to a meeting--hopefully the litte conservatives will have some actual facts lined up for tomorrow. Let's see!

Anonymous said...

I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

Okay 4:06, you asked for FACTS and here they are. Below is just a little taste of "liberal Democrat" politics of race and hate from after the civil war to the present. Out of consideration for this blog I will not attempt to post the whole thing as its quite lengthy. Curious readers can find the entire list here:

http://patriotupdate.com/articles/democratic-party-birth-of-racism-in-america

It has always been the Republicans, not Democrats who have stood up to protect the rights of blacks. In FACT the Democrats were and still remain the obstructionists. Here’s a little taste:

October 13, 1858
During Lincoln-Douglas debates, U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas (D-IL) states: “I do not regard the Negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever”; Douglas became Democratic Party’s 1860 presidential nominee

April 16, 1862
Republican President Lincoln signs bill abolishing slavery in District of Columbia; in Congress, 99% of Republicans vote yes, 83% of Democrats vote no

July 17, 1862
Over unanimous Democrat opposition, Republican Congress passes Confiscation Act stating that slaves of the Confederacy “shall be forever free”

January 31, 1865
13th Amendment banning slavery passed by U.S. House with unanimous Republican support, intense Democrat opposition

April 8, 1865
13th Amendment banning slavery passed by U.S. Senate with 100% Republican support, 63% Democrat opposition


After reading this I quite honestly can’t understand why anyone would want to be associated with the Democrat party. Can you?

Anonymous said...

Alright, I see some facts have been provided. Where's the left's response? Have they not responded because they've obviously lost this argument? I went and checked out that link. Pretty damning to Dems if you ask me. They have been the real party of hate and intolerance.

B. von Traven said...

We've been through all of this before. After the Civil War, Southerners refused to have anything to do with Lincoln's party; hence, they were Democrats. That all changed in the 60s, when Southerners confronted the civil rights movement and its Democratic leadership--and then Nixon's "southern" strategy. Good Lord you people are clueless. Even your truths are lies.

Anonymous said...

And hence, the Dems are the party of hate. Evidently history shows the Republicans were/are the civil rights party, not the Dems. Perhaps the Dems changed a little in the 60, but if anything, it was for the wose. The history clearly shows how they've done nothing but obstruct the cause of equality and civil rights. According to history your argument is indefensable. Of corse you'll reject the historical facts, thats what College professors do so they can launch some kind of new study and secure Fed grant money. No suprize...

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