Boys Scouts, Trump and American Values

To paraphrase he-who-shall-not-be-named “who the hell wants to talk about politics on a writing blog?” Alas. These are the times we live in. Times when we have no choice but to acknowledge the shitshow unfolding in the World’s Greatest Nation (TM).

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Even the Senegalese hawkers selling beach blankets on Andalusia’s Costa de la Luz have opinions about HWSNBN, and are happy to share them. We can hide, apparently, but we can’t run from the catastrophic wrong of 8 November, 2016.

That disaster touched down at the Boy Scouts Jamboree on 24 July, ripping through common sense and common decency like a Russian-sponsored tornado.

A few things I learned reading the TIME transcript of Trump’s Boy Scout speech.

The United States has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts.

Boys, ONLY BOYS, make the best citizens.

“Many of my top advisers in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my cabinet were Scouts.”

Or maybe just the best yes-men to megalomaniacs?

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is here tonight…. Ryan is an Eagle Scout from Big Sky Country in Montana…. He makes sure that we leave our national parks and federal lands better than we found them in the best scouting tradition.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry of Texas, an Eagle Scout from the great state…. So, Rick, thank you very much for being here. And we’re doing — we’re doing a lot with energy. And very soon, Rick, we will be an energy exporter. Isn’t that nice? An energy exporter.

What he didn’t add was that the administration’s bright idea for energy production involves stripping federal lands of environmental protections so private companies can devastate more of America’s vanishing wilderness.

Secretary Tom Price is also here today. Dr. Price still lives the Scout oath… And hopefully he’s going to gets the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us.

Ah yes, it’s Obamacare that hurts people. Not being bankrupted by medical bills; watching a loved one die too soon because they couldn’t afford healthcare; or being shut out of healthcare by rapacious insurance companies that refuse to cover “preexisting conditions”. Nope. Not that. Definitely the Affordable Care Act. Definitely to blame.

As the Scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal — we could use some more loyalty I will tell that you that.

Blind loyalty. Wonderful character trait. For a Nazi foot soldier.

The fake media will say, “President Trump spoke” — you know what is — “President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.” That’s some — that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.

Go on. Infect the minds of impressionable kids with your disgusting, manipulative paranoia-mongering bullshit. Your the President. It’s your prerogative.

he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.
(CROWD CHANTING)
Should I tell you? Should I tell you?
(APPLAUSE)
You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.

Did it involve pussy grabbing?

We have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College. Popular vote is much easier.

Which you lost.

Under the Trump administration you’ll be saying “Merry Christmas” again when you go shopping, believe me.

But only in December. The rest of the year it’ll be: Sieg heil!

Do you see the billions and billions and billions of additional money that we’re putting back into our military? Billions of dollars. New planes, new ships, great equipment for our people that are so great to us. We love our vets. We love our soldiers.

Not enough to, you know, provide them with proper healthcare or mental health services, but still.

It’s the newest, largest and most advanced aircraft carrier anywhere in the world, and it’s named for an Eagle Scout — the USS Gerald R. Ford. Everywhere it sails that great Scout’s name will be feared and revered,

“Feared and revered” — it’s the new “winning hearts and minds”.

What you’ve done few have done before you.

Erm, been a Boy Scout? Pretty sure a few people have done that in the past 107 years.

But the words “duty,” “country” and “God” are beautiful words.

As long as you’re not Muslim. If you’re Muslim and say anything about duty or God we’ll call you a terrorist and lock you the fuck up.

What we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for make America great again.

Either he’s admitting voter fraud, or he’s confused about the age of Boy Scouts.

 

This should be funny. It’s not, because it’s true. There is nothing funny about that man. Nothing funny about the wrecking ball he is gleefully swinging at the already fragile American infrastructure. Nothing funny for the people trapped in the rubble.

We have to find the words to fight back. Here are some books that can help us find them.

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Common Sense – Thomas Payne

On Liberty – John Stuart Mill

No is Not Enough – Naomi Klein

Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

Requiem for the American Dream – Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

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Highway 61, Visited

Clarksdale, Mississippi is where, according to legend, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. The alleged swap took place at the junction of Highway 49 and Highway 61, crossroads now marked with a blue-and-white sign and a guitar. Across the street: Church’s Chicken and a gas station. Opposite, Abe’s Barbecue “Swine dining since 1924.” You can judge a place by the length of time since anything noteworthy happened.

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Carnegie Library

There is a Carnegie Library, built in 1913. Blue plaques commemorate Ike Turner and WROX Radio. Ground Zero blues club, part-owned by Morgan Freeman, looks like a cross between the set of The Wire and the toilets in an indie rock club: busted sofas, a bench seat from some ancient automobile, scrawls and music stickers slapped on the walls. Its patio looks like Miss Del’s “garden” a few blocks down — a concrete plot sprouting mismatched furniture beneath a wall blazoned “God Speed the Plow.” Miss Del’s garden, like the adjoining General Store, is slumped and peeling. The only bright spot a crisp red-and-white “For Sale by Owner” sign.

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Ground Zero Blues Club

 

Whoever sells these signs has the only growth industry in town. The grocery store is boarded over; sheets drape the windows of Dependable Appliances; the Sunflower Building is a rambling corrugated iron shed that betrays no sense of purpose; “Customer parking only / Others towed at owner’s expense” warns a sign in front of a derelict drive-through. Mag-pie Gift shop is one of the few establishments that looks alive but it’s Sunday afternoon. What business gets done in Clarksdale doesn’t happen on the Lord’s day. Especially not as dull a one as this.

Highway 61 runs through pancake flats of mud broken by lines of black, leafless trees. Rain falls, unremitting, feeding shallow silver pools of water. Occasionally a line of bright green-and-yellow John Deere tractors breaks the monotony; less predictably, a shack roofed yellow parachute fabric. God gave good advice: If you want some killing done, no one will notice here.

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Highway 61, Mississippi delta

Above, flat silvery clouds; alongside, sodden fields; ahead, burnished concrete ribbon unspooling at the speed of our tires. For an open space, it feels awfully cramped. Tension splits the sullen sky and black Delta mud. This land’s richest days sprang from the slavery. Its finest heritage is heart-cries of anguish distilled through despair to bittersweet blues. What becomes of a place whose only pride is the beauty of its ugliness?

 

Judging by Clarksdale, it crumbles, contracting in a permanent spasm of hopelessness, too broke to sustain even the liquor store. You can buy beer at the gas station next door, though. A big, elderly black woman stands between thebattered gas-pumps and the shop’s iron-barred door, her red sun hat blooming like a flower above a royal purple dress. She’s the only sign of life on the streets, apart from a heavysetman wrangling two small children across an empty intersection. Do they bother to teach kids to look both ways here? Is anyone ever coming?

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Clarksdale town center

Levon’s Bar and Grill is the only place to get a drink or assurance you’ve not stumbled into a nightmare. Two white-haired white guys play the blues. On the guitar, Mr Pony-tail, beret and handlebar mustache; on harmonica, vocals and kick-drum, Mr Clean-shaven in a loose-fitting black button-down, says he has a wife but doesn’t wear a ring. They play “Sunshine of Your Love” and “It’s Alright Mama”, run through a joke about topless hippies that’s as threadbare as knees on old Levi’s.

 

Behind the bar, Mr Birdsong chirps. His daddy is a retired firefighter-cum-blues historian who tends bar across town. Mr B the younger, a “fourth or fifth generation” Clarksdaler, got away all the way to Tupelo (two hours east) to apprentice as a portrait painter. Spent 13 years learning his art then moved back, 14 years ago, tended bar with his daddy till Levon wrangled him. “I have kids running around, ex-wives on my nerves,” he says, grinning.

There are half a dozen of us in the room. A tattooed tourist from Milan wearing a fancy-dress take on Easy Rider chic: denim vest over a leather jacket, cowboy boots, red bandana tied over a frizzy curls that swish around his shoulders, rings on every finger. Sharing his table, a big man with bloodhound jowls wearing overalls and hoodie. Tucked in the corner is a tidy, middle aged couple in matching black puffa jackets. They’re from Brazil, which means they must have read about the Delta Blues Museum and Highway 61, must have come looking for some magic. I wonder if this enough.

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Crossroads, Clarksdale

Blues was survival music. Here in Clarksdale, whose famous sons and daughters include John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Son House, Sam Cooke, Johnny B. Moore, and many others, it still is. Those fields of Mississippi mud aren’t likely to birth anything better and it is a long way to somewhere else on Highway 61.

Read: Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters, Ted Gioia

Listen: Bob Dylan, Hwy 61 Revisited