I was never a big fan of Sonny & Cher (or their music, for that matter), yet one of their most popular songs – The Beat Goes On (1967) – has certainly lasted longer than they did, and it’s arguably one of the Sixties’ so-called signature songs. The lyric’s major theme, to me, anyway, is “the more things change the more they stay the same,” and events of late certainly seem to bear that out. The last eight or so months have been a nightmare, yet the times, they are a-changin’…
‘The Sixties,’ the good part, I might add, seemed to me to be about exploration – mixed with a growing sense of repudiation. The ‘times’ were as much about recognizing that things weren’t all rosy in La-La-Land – and that it was high-time to do something about the mess we were in – as they were about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Pollution was certainly one of the things that qualified as part of that mess, and if you lived in a city like LA or anywhere around Jersey or Philly you probably remember what smog could do to your eyes, but there was also Vietnam, the civil rights movement, JFK, RFK, MLK, Kent State, Woodstock…and then…to top it all off, there was Tricky Dick.
And as a result of all this stuff, our generation was going to change the world, remember?
Turns out that it’s always been easier to sell out than work for real change, and who knows, maybe the Boomer generation will turn out to be among the biggest sell-out generations of all time, but our day of reckoning is coming, and soon. Because Trump is one of us, isn’t he?
So, the question is: will the beat go on?
The whole climate change “debate” we seem to be having right now was at the forefront of activist’s minds, in Berkeley and elsewhere, back in 1967. Books like Inadvertent Climate Modification were making the rounds as little things like DDT and agent orange crept into the national consciousness, then Love Canal slipped into the newspapers and onto the evening news – and a kind of awakening took place. Even Nixon couldn’t ignore the political implications, which is why and how the EPA came to be…
But Nixon was a different kind of animal. He, like Reagan and Carter, lived within a political world where things like Duty, Honor, Country still meant something. These days, in Trumptopia, the words ring hollow because they’ve been overused in the sound-bite theatre of the politically absurd we now call home. So many people read or hear those three words these days and think they’re being manipulated, yet the sad truth of the matter is far more complex, for things didn’t get like this way overnight. W’s team unmercifully manipulated war imagery for political gain, yet both Clinton and Obama did too, though never to the extent Bush II did, which only goes to show people get can get used to just about anything, I guess.
And the beat goes on? Will we get used to Trump – and stop caring?
One gets the impression words like Duty Honor and Country may not have ever occurred to Donald Trump – until quite recently – say, perhaps, last Monday. Even Trump’s word salad denials ring hollow these days…his denying ‘I guess he knew what he signed up for’ comment hardly surprise us anymore (and the new line on this? Knowing “what you’re signing up for” is a badge of honor among families of special ops personnel). Trump is a pathological liar, or so the popular mytholgy in the media goes, yet he’s hardly the first politician to be so-labeled, though perhaps, arguably, the first to make it to the White House. Yet, even so, the newness of all this blatant, pathological dishonesty kind of shocks some in the media – like they can’t believe a politician would actually lie to their face. Or, at least it gives them the opportunity to behave as if they’re shocked – yet you’d think that after a year of finding yet another Trump lie the newness would kinda be over by now. But that’s the Liar’s Paradox for you. How do you know when the Lying Liar is telling the Truth? And…what happens if, in this case, the man speaking can’t tell the difference anymore?
Do you think the Fat Kid with the Bad Haircut knows?
And, speaking of, take a look at this image, would you?
What kind of launchers are those behind the sail on that boomer arriving in SK last week? If indeed they are launchers…? And what about Tillerson’s comment that we will keep up the diplomatic efforts – right up until “the bombs start falling”? And then word creeps out that US personnel in SK are practicing evacuating in case of imminent action by…somebody?
Anyone have any ideas what China or Russia might do if we attack NK? Even with provocation? And just what happens if the Fat Kid with the Bad Haircut decides to lob an ICBM towards Guam? Or Hawaii? Or…the US east coast? People are going to die, a lot of people – in NK, in SK, or the US. I wonder if Trump sees that as a thing to be avoided, or if it appears to him as a way out of his Russia problems.
And the beat goes on, right?
And now we, as in all of us, everywhere, get to face this whole climate change thing together. Because for the past fifty years we’ve – collectively – ignored it ’til we were all blue in the face. This week a category three hurricane hit Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, an unprecedented event and one entirely absent from the media landscape in the US. The climate change deniers don’t miss a beat, either: it’s just normal climate variability, so move along folks…nothing to see here.
Funny, though, reading through accounts of evangelicals in Beaumont, Texas as they struggle with reconstructing their churches after Hurricane Charley visited. They’re kind of, oh, I don’t know, experiencing a little epiphany all their own down there…like maybe climate change is a wake-up call from God…that maybe we’d better get our act together, and real soon like, because these weather phenomena might be signs that God is mighty upset with us for ruining His creation. Funny, too, how people can bend their philosophies to fit in with changing realities. Like, maybe, there are no fallacies in your original philosophy. Maybe we just need to fine-tune it a little?
And, so, the beat goes on?
It’s the old parable about the frog in the pot of water, isn’t it? You know the one…toss a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll hop right out, but put him in warm water and slowly turn up the heat and he’ll stay put until he boils to death…? Is it just me, or does the whole climate change thing boil down to that? Reading about the church-going-set in Beaumont, I was struck by one thing most of all. It always comes down to the economic argument, every time. As in, we can’t afford to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, because what do we do after that? These are, by and large, oil-field workers, so, of course, that’s probably just natural, but when do we – as a people, as a species – wake up to the emergent reality that we may be running out of time. That we might not have the resources to hop out of the scalding water…?
The federal government resolutely claims that less than 40 people died in Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rican officials claim the number is over 400. Three and a half million US citizens living under bare survival conditions – yet some members of the federal government are disavowing their responsibility almost every day. At what point does the federal government lose credibility? What happens when the people of Puerto Rico say ‘enough!’ – and walk into the arms of some other country willing to step in and take over. Say, for instance, China?
This is a grand time to be an opponent of America. Never in our history has our place in the world (that we created!) been so tenuous, never has sentiment turned so rapidly against us, yet, even so, the question still remains unasked: Why? What happened?
Well, isolationists have been with us ever since there’s been a Republican Party (just ask FDR about that when you see him next), but Americans always had the good sense to ignore them, until 2016, anyway. Now we’re stuck in Crazyville, lock, stock, and barrel, and the world is coming apart at the seams. It seems those stuck-up, snobby elites actually went to school and studied this shit, so they know (knew?) how to handle it. Trump comes along and shows them the door and guess what? Garbage-in, garbage-out. You throw away seven decades of institutional experience at the State Department and what happens to your so-called “diplomatic solution”? It’s gone.
It’s gone, and the beat goes on.
So, you downplay the intel coming to you from your intel agencies and guess what? Bad stuff is going to happen to you. Like…Republicans have demonstrated a remarkable propensity for destroying government, leaving the rest of us sitting around dumbfounded when Russia does this or China does that. Especially when we turn to government to fix the many ills we’re confronting as a result of someone’s hubris. Turns out one thing the government is still real good at is throwing people in jail (aka, privatized prisons) so the whole civil disobedience thing might not be in your best interest these days, either.
So…bad stuff happens while the beat goes on. Don’t step on anyone’s toes, don’t you know. Don’t make waves if you don’t know how to swim.
So, yeah…one political party has demonstrated a remarkable propensity for destroying government, leaving the rest of us sitting around in open-mouthed wonder when unprecedented rains fall and government is actually, like, ya know, needed. When the lights don’t turn on when you flip the switch, say, or when you turn on the tap and not even hot air comes out…?
So, taking stock for a moment, we’ve got bored accountants with interesting gambling habits setting up thirty semi-automatic “hunting rifles” in a hotel room and shooting over 600 people in ten or so minutes. We have four “unprecedented” hurricanes in about as many weeks, doing “unprecedented” damage from Texas to Ireland, and then “unprecedented” firestorms in California leveling whole cities – and still, many of our intrepid Republican senators deny the existence of man-made climate change. Still, they deny guns are a problem. Still, they vote to kill off mental health coverage in the ACA, then go on to blame systemic mental health problems every time a new massacre shows up on CNN. Like…does anyone remember when Reagan systematically defunded state mental health coverage – back in the 80s? I do. I saw the impact every day on the street – as a cop. We watched as state mental health hospitals were shut down all over Texas, watched as patients drifted out onto our streets and into our jails, and our morgues. I was on the front lines of that little war, and it was ugly, yet somehow the Republicans never take ownership of that little issue.
I do. I saw the impact every day on the street – as a cop. We watched as state mental health hospitals were shut down all over Texas, watched as patients drifted out onto our streets and into our jails, and our morgues. I was on the front lines of that little war, and it was ugly, yet somehow the Republicans never take ownership of that little issue.
I saw the impact every day on the street – as a cop on some pretty mean streets. We watched as state mental health hospitals were shut down all over Texas, watched as patients drifted out onto our streets and into our jails, and our morgues. I was on the front lines of that little war for a while and it was ugly, yet somehow the Republicans never take ownership of that little issue. When you’ve been around long enough you see patterns, you recognize a lie for a lie. Like…
Homelessness was never a big problem in this country until Reagan came along, but Republicans had a ready answer to that issue, too. Pretend it doesn’t exist. I remember at one point, during the first Bush presidency, the feds reported there were fewer than 15,000 homeless in New York City, (like 15,000 is a number to be proud of) yet about that time a book came out – called The Mole People – that described homeless ‘villages’ in abandoned subway lines under the city – that police were terrified to enter, and that contained upwards of 50,000 people (some estimates were a lot higher). Yes, the population of homeless people exploded after mental health facilities were boarded up during the Reagan years, but who cares, right? If you repeat a lie often enough, it kind of becomes the truth. Right, Ms Conway?
What’s that called? Willful ignorance? Politically motivated duplicity? But why is it that we’re so overrun with problems that our media organizations can’t cover such systemic political deceit? You kill off government services that exist to shelter a very vulnerable segment of our population (the mentally ill, the developmentally challenged), and then, when the consequences of your actions become a little too in-your-face to ignore, you cover it up by saying there really isn’t a problem? You can’t do that without a willfully corrupt, and complicit, media, but you tell me…is that what’s meant by “corporate control of media,” or are we simply too tired to fight for the truth anymore?
And, so, is that what it means when…the beat goes on?
Maybe, when you stare Death in the eye you develop the backbone necessary to tell it like it is. To call a lie a lie, and a liar, a liar.
Enter John McCain, one more time. Watch the video at the link, think about what he has to say about certain trends overtaking events in this country, then think about Mr. Trump’s response: “I’m being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.” So said Mr. Trump to reporters when responding to questions about McCain’s comments earlier in the week. This may be one of the most coherent sentences of his presidency, too, or at least that I’ve heard our president speak so far. Ain’t that a peach?
Alas, Senator McCain then said, when asked by journalists about Mr. Trump’s remarks: “I have faced tougher adversaries.” If that’s the epitaph of his political career, it ain’t bad…but somehow I don’t think John McCain is gone quite yet.
McCain has, one assumes, experienced more as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, but I wonder what Mr. Trump had in mind when he spewed forth with that nonsense? Dueling pistols at dawn, perhaps, but to paraphrase another senator, Stuart Symington, if memory serves, “Have you no shame, Mr. President?” Of course, that was at the Army-McCarthy hearings, when yet another crazy Republican was on the loose, but Trump makes Joseph McCarthy look like a saint.
So, gee, see any patterns yet?
A few more instances of this week’s partisan mirth come to mind, in case the meaning of all this isn’t clear yet:
And, well, I could go on and on, like the Louisiana senator (GOP) who thinks Trump’s healthcare overhaul (price increases, higher deductibles) will be better for American families, or the Missouri congresswoman (GOP) who thinks emergency rooms ought to be able to refuse people who don’t have insurance, but I think that’s about all I have the stomach for.
But…the beat goes on…’cause we’re gonna wake up soon and it’ll all be over. Because nightmares always end, don’t they? Just like all stories have happy endings, and the bad guy always wears a black hat.
Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare
Where the seeds have withered, silent children shivered in the cold
Now their faces captured in the lenses of the jackals for gold
I’ll be there
I’ll be there
I will be there
Suffering in silence, they’ve all been betrayed
They hurt them and they beat them, in a terrible way
Praying for survival at the end of the day
There is no compassion for those who stay
I’ll be there!
I’ll be there!
I will be there!
There must be someone who can set them free:
To take their sorrow from this odyssey
To help the helpless and the refugee
To protect what’s left of humanity
Can’t you see?
Can’t you see?
Can’t you see?
To heal their sorrow
To beg and borrow
Step inside, hello! We’ve a most amazing show!
You’ll enjoy it all we know
Step inside! Step inside!
We’ve got thrills and shocks, supersonic fighting cocks!
Leave your hammers at the box
Come inside! Come inside!
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!
See the show!
Left behind the bars, rows of Bishops’ heads in jars
And a bomb inside a car
If you follow me there’s a speciality
Some tears for you to see
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!
See the show!
Next upon the bill in our House of Vaudeville
We’ve a stripper in a till
What a thrill! What a thrill!
And not content with that
With our hands behind our backs
We’ll pull Jesus from a hat!
Get into that! Get into that!
Emerson Lake & Palmer | Karn Evil 9 | Brain Salad Surgery | 1973
Get into that…while the beat goes on.