Monday, October 8, 2018

The Mean Streets

Currently I am reading a biography of Raymond Chandler; well a fourth actually. In reading it I am reminded that when he started writing for “The Black Mask” in the ‘30’s he was living in L.A. He worked for the oil industry and was astounded at the level of corruption that flowed between the industry and the city. In creating Philip Marlowe, his detective, and the world Marlowe inhabits, the mean streets as Chandler generally calls it, the writer used the profound corruption of the city as his moral backdrop. Accordingly, Marlowe who is an honorable man is drawn in stark contrast to his world even though he is forced at times to engage in behavior that is less then honorable on the surface. In his essay, “The Simple Art of Murder,” Chandler defined his detective thus: "... down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." 

It is the quality of being neither tarnished nor afraid that inoculates Marlowe from the corruption. I say inoculates because it is clear in Chandler’s work that his view of corruption, like mine, is that it is a contagion.  Moving from person to person, place to place it swells and grows and feeds on itself. It can be barely perceptible in the beginning, but left to its own devises it will become rampant.  

Last week we watched an epidemic explode from the growing corruption that has plagued our body politic for a very long time. The legalized bribery and fraud that has grown evermore acceptable for both political parties have taken their toll in a numb acceptance of sleaze, hypocrisy, obfuscation and the outright swindling of the American people. The acceptance is so wide and deep as to make many Americans willing, even joyful, participants in their own abuse.

Donald Trump isn’t the first of his kind; he is just the worst of his kind.  A Libertine by disposition, a con artist and thug by philosophy and a cheat by profession, Trump fouls everything he touches. Those who follow him slavishly, admiring, supporting and making excuses for him are tarnished and afraid of everything he tells them to fear. As such they are irredeemable.
Out of dozens of jurists Trump picked the one most likely to save him from the law; a pathetic, aging frat boy with the firm belief that whatever he wants is his due.  What happened in the course of shoving this ill-suited man onto the court was a travesty against the American people, womanhood, the law, the Senate and the court. Trump and his cabal of screaming fanatics were acting out of pure self-interest. That is the only way Trump knows how to act. That is his corruption, and it is a contagion.

If we are going to become inoculated against the contagion, if we are going to become untarnished and unafraid we will have to face some facts. First, too few people run too much in this country.  From the electoral college that allowed a minority party to put its minority president in office; to the coalition of small Conservative states, with less than half the population of this country, which control the Judiciary Committee and have now forced their ideology up the people’s rear end against the people’s will, it is time for the majority to raise some serious hell. We can stop allowing the media to tell us we are outnumbered to start.

Secondly, in this country that harps on democracy and the rule of the people no one, but no one, should serve anywhere for life.  If the Supreme Court ever was a nonpartisan arbiter of the rule of law and the Constitution, Kavanaugh has demonstrated for all time that it is now the strong legal arm of a partisan agenda.

Finally, blind self-interest is not patriotism no matter what Trump says or what kind of behavior he models. Some people of whom I am suspicious, Graham who wants to be AG; McConnell who wants to load the court with people who serve the donors he servers, God is not one of them; and although what she got out of this is unknown, Collins who stood on her feminist bonafides and told women that a half-assed investigation by the FBI and the word of a man who demonstrably lied in two separate confirmation hearings makes him more credible then his accuser. All of this clearly confirms a pernicious level of corruption as one Senator after another impersonated their man in the Oval Office, with half-truths, phony outrage and yes, slut shaming.

Last week we were told by people only too happy to use the Tea Party as a vehicle to destroy our first African American President that women protesting a Supreme Court appointment which threatens our liberty represent a mob. We were instructed that the battle over Kavanaugh represented the lowest point in the Senate’s confirmation process by people only too happy to ignore the outrageous treatment of Merrick Garland. If we didn’t know it before we must see it now, hypocrisy is the default position of the morally bankrupt. However, truth does not die because some would murder it.

Like just about everybody I have talked to in the last forty-eight hours who witnessed our national descent into the worst stink of the contagion of Trump, I feel exhausted, a little sick and mad as hell.  I keep wishing I could hire Marlowe to ride forward in his single-breasted armor and fedora helmet with his .38 at the ready to do battle with the corruption of the day. But, Marlowe isn’t real. There isn’t a hero to save us. We must save ourselves using our voices and our votes, our values and our veracity. It is imperative that down the mean streets we alone must go, remaining untarnished and unafraid.