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writing for godot

Josh Fall Down Go Boom

Written by Carl Peterson   
Sunday, 31 January 2021 10:01

It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us—of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.

Hannah Arendt,  Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

Who knows why Hannah Arendt used the words “banality of evil,” when, in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem she did not find the banality of evil itself, but only the banality of Adolf Eichmann, an unimaginative Nazi opportunist and careerist, yet executor of evil ends. [Eichmann, according to Arendt, was a serial failure until he became a Nazi, and he became a Nazi because he saw opportunity.] Instead of the banality of evil, Arendt seems to have demonstrated that evil, if it exists as a causal power independent of human design, can readily employ mediocre opportunists to achieve the ends of the most single-minded, depraved evil.  Yes, many Nazis, especially higher up in the hierarchy, all along kept an eye on the main chance, and, unlike Hitler, did not commit suicide, but clearly saw the end coming and used the time this foresight allowed to gather documents for new identities and new lives elsewhere.  

If for the last four years you have not been under the influence of the delusionary version of reality that lately finds our newest ex-president to have been cheated out of a second term, you have probably been punished repeatedly by the painful, nauseating, even horrifying spectacle of certain US senators and representatives stripped by historic events of their previous well-known, long-established political personas, and now walking the halls of the nation’s Capitol with their underwear down around their ankles.  Yes, elected women and men, in our nation’s Capitol, clattering down the halls, naked from the waist down, underwear tangling at the ankles, and it is a ridiculous, ugly and embarrassing sight.  But you will have taken note of this deeper vision of reality only if you are on a certain side of the American dispute about reality itself.  The other side has not noticed the new personas and orientations suddenly adopted by many of the well-known Republican politicians they have sent to Congress, but has been diverted from this spectacle by its focus on whom it perceives to be the millennial savior of the white race in America.  So, those whose lowered underwear now makes it difficult for them to be agile, or to gracefully maneuver the halls of Congress, nevertheless are consoled by the fact that almost half of the country and nearly all Republican voters have not noticed anything significantly different about them.  For compassless opportunists such as this, it is a breeze to once again pretend, even immediately after tripping and falling face-first, that history has not yanked their underwear down around their ankles.

Josh Hawley, 41, junior US Senator from Missouri, is of course an opportunist.  He read some history, and wrote some history, a book on Teddy Roosevelt; TR, at 42 the youngest person ever to become US president--is Josh’s hero, or even superhero, if you will.  Josh, at 41, is not yet president, but younger even than TR was when he first became president.  Hawley, born on the national political stage in the vacuous hole left by the final moments of the total moral collapse of the Republican party, sniffed the air, and like so many in the Trump era, smelled opportunity--  not the opportunity to selflessly come to the aid of his country in its time of crisis, but the opportunity for young Josh to gain national attention for himself while capturing the hearts of the masses who for four years have adored the recently displaced ex-president.  

Josh would have to rewrite himself a bit of course.  He would have to pretend to be a populist, a man of the people, even though it has been a long time since professional Republicans have even tried to contend, with a straight face, that they give a damn about the material interests of ordinary Americans.  And even though Josh has long been a member of the Federalist Society, a Supreme Court manipulating institution funded not by little guys but by plutocrats with big fat wallets, wanting to ensure to the greatest extent possible that the Supreme Court promotes plutocratic interests before all other interests, and with as few nasty surprises as possible.  

Alas, young Josh, overexcited by the scent of opportunity, somehow did not foresee that baselessly challenging the electoral college results--and throwing a fist in the air in solidarity with the soon-to-become violent crowd gathered at the Capitol on January 6, 2021--held the danger of putting himself in a tight spot.  It is plain that Josh had perceived that the campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination had already begun, and he, brilliant young constitutional law genius, was not going to let anyone steal a march on him.  Josh would be the first to retrieve the guidon dropped by the unhorsed soon-to-be ex-president; Josh would inherit the base before anyone else could.  

Unfortunately for young Josh, the ensuing events would pull his underwear down around his ankles at precisely the moment he raised the guidon, and at precisely the moment young Josh believed he was presenting himself in a big way for the first time on the national stage--as the true inheritor of the mantle of Trumpism.  Later, in trying to escape the trap he inadvertently set for himself, and yet lying prone on the national stage, tripped up by his own improperly secured underwear, young Josh claimed that his objections to the electoral college results–man of the people and small d democrat he--were merely the result of his dutiful desire to ensure that the election fraud concerns of his constituents were given a fair hearing.  Young Josh was upholding the traditions and values of our great republic, you see, not attempting to undermine them in furtherance of young Josh’s self-interest.  Josh was not attempting to ride manifold bogus election fraud conspiracy theories to prominence in the pursuit of the mantle of Trumpism. Not he. Not this latter day Teddy Roosevelt, proponent and “preacher of righteousness.”  No, not he.

Nevertheless there Josh is, face-planted on the national stage, underwear in a twist around his ankles, forced to attempt to justify one over-excited, unwise, imprudent, unpatriotic and selfish gambit based on lies, with more lies disbelieved by too many Americans to allow Josh to pull up his underwear and stand up straight and tall for the first time on the national stage.


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