A Face in the Crowd

Island Life


There is a feeling I get sometimes- fortunately it is one that does not recur on a regular basis. It is a feeling that seems to start with a physical reaction in the stomach- not so much a gut punch as a sensation that a black hole has suddenly formed down there in the middle of things and it has begun to suck away motor function control as well as every ounce of what some might call hope. For a while its residual effects are quite paralyzing- it is one of those bodily functions that does not require a verbal prompt along the lines of “you’d better sit down”, as it tends to sweep one’s legs away without asking. Somewhere in there you begin to realize that your brain has become stuck in a loop, repeating the thing that came along to bring you to your knees, while still understanding somewhere at a basic level that the words and/or deeds that have taken you to this place make absolutely no sense in the general order of things.

Most recently this happened to me following the current United States’ attorney general’s feeble attempt at summarizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the current so-called president’s reaction to it. There is more there, but I’ll leave it at that. I believe I have mentioned here before that I have become somewhat addicted to the weekly/nightly reporting that has been done on the cable channel known as MSNBC. While I have dipped into the land of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! for a less corporate viewpoint on all of this, I have primarily been stuck in front of the teevee, tuned to cable 661 as if it were some sort of serialized, episodic drama that some nights find the spooling out of investigative journalism to be fascinating and appalling at the same time, as one wave of White House news breaks over the next. We sit and watch because we can’t believe what we are seeing, while at the same time we are waiting to finally see what seemingly could be the only, apparently possible outcome- the resignation or impeachment of a self-absorbed, national disgrace. And then we have the previously mentioned attorney general coming out to say that he has seen this Mueller report and that there is nothing there to see. This was the Wizard of Oz ducking back behind the curtain and Winston Smith’s memory hole at the Ministry of Truth all rolled into one. It was then that my stomach imploded, I suspended all belief and sat down for a session of multiple cans of Nice Day IPA, because in all of this I really needed to hold on to at least my sense of irony, having lost most everything else.

Part of my experience in this has to do with the old “walks like a duck” proof of postulate. With a litany of reports having come and gone on the nightly cable reality news drama that spoke quite to the contrary of Barr’s mysterious conclusion, it didn’t make any sense at all that this grand exoneration was anything but a fibbing fiction. And throughout all of this madness I was flashing back to the entire debacle with my now former female sibling and her indiscretion with the family so-called fortune that was discussed here a while back. There had been my blind trust in her handling of the estate, which had also been bolstered by the fact that my parents had also named a prominent lawyer as co-executor. I trusted in that process as I had no reason not to, until the reality of that situation reared its ugly head. That was one of the last times the stomach black hole came to visit, when the estate was accounted for and when what should have been there wasn’t, and what wasn’t there  came to the fore, and the lawyer made the pronouncement that there ‘just doesn’t seem to be much cash left’, as if this was some sort of a surprise to him. As co-executor he should have known way before then about what was and wasn’t still around- that was his job. If he did or if he didn’t know what had been going on, he still had not been doing his job either way. But we went to mediation and I didn’t have the money to fight and he got away without a scratch and my former sibling avoided jail time while half of what was still left to me went to legal fees taxes and penalties that otherwise could have been a help to my retirement.

So as it is, I do not see that law and justice mean a whole lot these days. As the Barr hearings grind on today I have been tuning in occasionally to see what twists and injustices might continue to prevail. I just found a thing on the youtubes of Mazie Hirono’s blistering questioning and roast of Mr. Barr. Her questions were all valid and to the point- his answers were evasive and mostly non-answers at best. And in the end I believe that it was Lindsey Graham who accused Ms. Hirono of slander because she accused Barr of lying. As had been established the night before on the news,  after the release of Mr. Mueller’s letter to Mr. Barr in which he expressed concern over Barr’s revisionist version of Mueller’s work, it had then come to light that Mr. Barr’s statement to a congressional committee that he had no idea how Mueller felt about Barr’s characterization of that report was in fact untrue. It would seem that calling that statement a lie was the most charitable thing one could do.

It has become clear through all of this that it is mostly impossible to say how all of this will end. While it may be a bit of an over simplification, I think it’s mostly fair to say that Bill Clinton got impeached for a blow job and because the Republicans needed any excuse at all to get rid of him. That didn’t work out so well for them. As of the latest accounting in the New York Times, the current occupant of the White House has told over 10,000 lies of varying degrees in two years of his so-called presidency (illegitimate at best because of both Russian meddling and Republican gerrymandering and polling place rule changes and manipulation), which should in some universe speak to what he has brought to the office. Somewhere in that dirty laundry list of prevarication there sits more than a few untruths that were told about dalliances with a porn star and a playmate as well as a recording about grabbing pussy, which for some reason is now all okay in this not so brave new world of hyper-partisan politics. Somewhere there is an answer as to why this is all now okay, but I have yet to find a way to understand it.

As a related aside to all the above, I get these announcements from the classic film group Criterion on occasion, and recently was made aware of a film they were offering on disc that I had not heard of before titled ‘A Face in the Crowd’ from Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg. It tells the tale of the meteoric rise of one Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, as played by Andy Griffith in his film debut. Griffith plays a singer and storyteller who was discovered by a small town radio personality named Marcia Jeffries as played by Patricia Neal. It is a fascinating character study, but also a prescient morality tale of sorts about media manipulation and the power of television, as television was just getting started back in 1957. It is even more interesting to think that the vision portrayed here is a cautionary tale about that medium that mostly went unheeded, especially in light of the current political situation. On the other hand, maybe it was the template for where we are now. It would have been interesting to see how this Griffith character might have been received in Mayberry as an evil twin doppelganger. One can only imagine our current president (in spite of his less than humble beginnings) in the role of Lonesome Rhodes- actually in many ways it’s not hard to imagine at all. In the final nighttime cityscape scene in the film we see a multitude of cars on the street, while the trademark script words spelling Coca-Cola glow in the darkness above. This shot does seem like more than just a product placement, given the arc of the film. In many ways it’s as if we are being reminded again that we are always being sold something- we don’t necessarily have to buy it.