Category Archives: America

The Banality of Freefall

these people signed a contract, man

Nina Jackson was older than shit, piss-poor, and black as coal. All I knew about her was that she owned a house in a blighted neighborhood in Houston, that she defaulted on her mortgage, and when she went to file for bankruptcy pro se she made an error in the pleadings and the judge apathetically kicked her case back for re-filing. This lifted the stay against repossession and automatically imposed a 180-day interim before she’d be allowed to re-file. During that time, the bank took her house.

Texas is a title state, meaning the bank holds title to a borrowers’ house and can repossess upon default without first going to court. They changed the locks while she was out, and now Nina Jackson is homeless. I know this about Nina Jackson because I was the clerk at a creditor-side firm in Denver who drafted the motion to dismiss her petition to reimpose the stay and allow her back into her house until she could re-file for bankruptcy.

Law school was a woke shit show. I made enemies. Summers, the only internships I could get were with rural prosecutor’s offices because I had three kids and wasn’t about to spend my time outside of class networking with the gilded goblins of the LoDo transactional scene. I just needed the degree. Driving an ambulance didn’t pay, IT sales was soul-crushing, and when I got laid off I found myself waiting tables at Pappadeaux in that humiliating little red bow-tie while my lush spinster sister-in-law harangued my wife about what a louse I am. Law school was the sewer grate at the end of my personal cul-de-sac with the scary clown underneath it. There’s an old bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus Is Coming. Look Busy.” Whoever came up with that never had a wife, and a beater car on the driveway, and credit card bills piling up and kids who need winter clothes and braces and karate lessons. If you can afford to wait for Jesus, you’re doing great.

So there I was in my thirties, on my way to becoming the professional-man scary clown I’d spent my twenties pretentiously running away from. And what I learned is that the court system is a nanny for adult babies, which is the vast majority of people, and that it gives lawyers a license to swindle them on their way to tattle on each other, and that the people who leverage this system the best are the absolute worst kinds of people. The banality of evil is everywhere in this country, yet the only real evil the system requires is your assent. After that, it’ll do the rest of the dirty work for you.

I failed the Colorado bar my first time out, and had to take whatever I could get in the way of work while I studied for my second attempt. This meant a clerkship at a pop-up “creditors’ rights” firm filing foreclosure paperwork against line cooks and truckers. It was basically just data entry, with the occasional research assignment.

Now, creditors’ rights sounds horrible. And it is. But the thing about it was, I didn’t have options less cynical, because no one else would hire me. So I told myself that I’d give it six months and see if they’d make me an offer when I passed the bar the second time around. How much could it hurt to pull eighteen months in this place? Experience was experience. But for the whole first month, each day was worse than the last. There I was with my JD, and some walleyed Nurse Ratchet who should’ve been making me photocopies was my direct supervisor.

Her name was Gretchen. She was in her mid-fifties, unmarried, fat and miserable like everyone else on staff, but with the intense competence in granular meniality of one of those office lady kapos whose revenge on the world is to give the system a better blowjob than anyone else, by achieving a mind-meld with a dozen software systems and being snarky with anyone who didn’t know all she knew about filing foreclosure paperwork. After the first few weeks they sat her beside me in my cubicle to train me for a week on scheduling foreclosure sales. She chewed reeking salads and burritos with her mouth open and typed so loud and so fast you thought she’d break the keyboard, to the point I couldn’t hear myself think. She spoke all the time in a foul, impatient tone and issued constant reminders to work faster.

Finally, I snapped.

“Um, Gretchen… I caught an error in this notification and I’m wondering whether….”

“Why do you have an error?”

“Well, I think LawLink just auto-filled the caption wrong when it merged the document, and…”

“No, that doesn’t happen. You have to manually enter an error in your Sale Info XE tab under the Calculations Bracket for that to happen. Why are you still manually entering errors? You don’t get that that’s a write-off for the firm if a filing like that goes to the court? We can’t bill the client for that time. Do you even understand what the setting of sale process is all about?”

“Yeah, so the sale can go through and these evil banks can get their money.” I tried to catch myself by chuckling to indicate sarcasm, but it was too late.

“No. No. No.” She was already intense and condescending; now she was getting ardent, and loud. “These people sign a contract, and then violate the terms. Don’t borrow the money if you can’t pay it back. If I default on my obligations, that’s on me.”

“Okay, okay, sorry. It was a joke. Jeezus.”

“You need to get back to work and stop wasting my time.”

“Um, why are you talking to me like that?”

“Because I have to get you trained and you’re being rude and not making an effort.”

“Gretchen, you’re the rudest person here. You’re the only rude person here, everyone else is minimally pleasant and sociable. You’re the only consistently unpleasant person I’ve encountered, and you need to dial it back and stop talking to me like you’ve been doing. It’s counter-productive.”

She gasped, stood up affectedly, shoved her wheeled ergonomic chair across the hallway, and stormed off. That was when my Outlook pinged: an email from the senior litigation attorney, urgently requesting a research memo on Fifth Circuit bankruptcy cases and whether the client could repossess within the 180-day window for refiling, along with a draft answer to the borrower’s motion. The email contained no please, no thank you, no salutation even, from this person I had never met. She said she needed the information by five o’clock Friday. It was Thursday at three forty-five.

I opened the attachment. The house was already repossessed, but the borrower had engaged some do-gooder non-prof to file an appeal in federal district court, on the grounds that Ms. Brown’s petition for bankruptcy had bern tossed inproperly. There were some technicalities to the case that made this plausible, and a response was due Monday morning; thus the urgent email from the litigation team.

As I read through the borrower’s motion I felt worse and worse for her. This prompted me to suck it up and start taking her argument with a grain of salt—these were attorneys after all, doing their thing. The shrewd and shaded wording was all there; the burden was misstated, several of the cases they cited clearly didn’t support their arguments well, and one was a very surreptitiously added bit of state law that had no bearing on the issues in a federal case. I was going to tear this thing to shreds.

Then I reached the paragraph where opposing counsel had cut-and-pasted the borrower’s letter to the court, begging the judge to allow her to amend her petition, rather than dismissing it.

“Dear Judge Lindman,

“I have done all I can as a pro se petitioner. I have utilized the courts’ websites, read the bankruptcy code, and Googled everything I can. It is apparent to me now that I must hire an attorney. I tried not to do this before because I do not have the money. I have reached out to several law firms in the area and am awaiting responses. I am begging this honorable court not to dismiss my case. If the stay is lifted and I lose my house, I will have nowhere else to go.

“Yours Very Sincerely,

Ms. Nina Jackson”

All of a sudden I had a hard time getting a breath. It felt like my soul had flown away from me. I put my blue blockers down and looked around the building. Every square inch of this banal space now was hiding an unutterable evil. “These people sign a contract, and then violate the terms.” Yeah.

All through law school, as it became more and more apparent that this profession was not for me, I kept telling myself that I would take my degree and just do whatever was necessary to provide for my family. That it didn’t matter where to work. That work life is miserable anyway, that we have an adversarial system where no party is purely in the right and somebody’s going to get fucked whether I participate or not, and no matter how. As I ran through that script again, I knew it was wrong. It felt despicable. I had given in, to exactly what it was I hated. I was giving the system my squeamish, rationalized blowjob.

But for now, I needed the paycheck, badly, and if they weren’t going to fire me for standing up to Gretchen I was going to have to stay until I could find something else. So I came in Friday morning and got to work. By about 1:30 I had everything prepared. Then the office manager, Betsy, appeared behind me at my cubicle along the hallway. Gretchen was with her.

“Sam, could you come see me in my office?” I knew I was being fired.

They frog-marched me down the hall. “Have a seat.”

“Sure, Betsy.”

“Sam, you’ve been here a month, and after reviewing your work, we feel you’re not a good fit for this office.”

“Sure, Betsy. Do you need anything from me at this time?”

“No. Just please log into TimeBank and clock out. Then you’re free to take your things and leave,”

“No problem Betsy. Thank you for the opportunity.”

I walked back to my desk and began opening the app to clock out. Then I remembered: there it was, on my Microsoft desktop. The Word document I’d spent all day on. “Appellee’s Answer to Appellant’s Motion to Set Aside the Bankruptcy Court’s Dismissal.” The litigation team needed it urgently. I right-clicked, and selected “Delete.” Then I went into the Recycle Bin and nuked it for good.

Good luck, Nina Jackson.

Literally Violence, Pt. V

It’s dusk in mid-October. We’re situated in a row, slumped behind an embankment along a muddy, sulfuric canal somewhere outside Ramadi, flush against the ground at about an 80 percent grade, craning our necks with our spines curved in and trying not to slide downward. The earth beneath our bellies is loose, blond and gravelly, making the SAW a bit inconvenient to set in place without burying the tripod and sending kitty litter down into our faces. But the reeds poking up from the canal side are profuse and they’re good cover.

About a hundred yards north across the desert, three old Toyota pickups come into view, traveling eastward with a squad apiece hunkered into the flatbed. That’s them – the martyrs of the local God-Knows-Who-Brigades, of which there are too many to keep track in Iraq nowadays. For reasons unbeknownst to us, our assignment is to torch these motherfuckers extra crispy. We crawl toward the crest of the embankment and begin firing wildly into the encroaching darkness. The crawling was about as much coordination as we had in us.

The trucks all come to a halt. The one in back plows into the one in between, but the one in front floors it in the direction of a mud brick shanty down the mesa, about 200 yards east. At that point we all directed fire toward the escaping lead, like cats tracking a ball of yarn. This gave the back two squads respite to bail and take cover behind their vehicles – the guys who weren’t dead, anyway.

Under fire, the lead truck managed to make the shanty, and now we’ve got x out of a dozen or so guys dug in real good, and we’re taking fire from two directions. The shanty has no roof but there are pretty high, thick walls and it’s farther away than the two trucks, but Lieutenant orders some of the guys with M4s off to my left to start firing grenades at it. Obviously these would be better spent on the dudes behind the trucks, and pretty soon Sarge and Lieutenant are conferring at the tops of their lungs. 

Sarge and Lieutenant are way off to my left, about a dozen guys over; I’m at the far right, on the 240, so naturally I’m firing in the direction of this stupid hut. Because of the high walls, our counterparts don’t have a real good way to aim, but they manage, and every minute or so a spurt kicks up dirt and rocks right in front of me. Pretty soon a game of telephone makes its way down, and the guy to my left is shouting into my ear to do exactly what I’m already doing. Then all of a sudden I hear the shrieking of the Jav. In the darkness the back blast blinds my left peripheral vision, and in seconds the building I’ve been firing on is a cloud of ash and smoke. 

The boys have been on those two trucks with the grenades meanwhile, and as the dust from the mud brick hut is settling, the return fire from that direction starts to die down. Then a lone Iraqi staggered out from behind the Toyotas, which were shredded pretty badly. He wasn’t moving fast, but he was ambulatory, and he just started screaming curses at the sky as he made his way toward us, firing his Klatch erratically. Then Sarge stood up, slapped a new magazine into the 249, and emptied it into him.

Back: Part IV

Literally Violence, Pt. IV

With no job I was pretty discouraged, so I decided to join the military. This was an old, recurring fetish of mine. You know: heroism, adventure, they’ll be sorry when I’m dead; that sort of thing. There was a recruiting center out by the mall south of town, off the highway. I took a bus.

The building was a U-shaped strip mall, with a PayLess, a coffee shop and a dojo all facing the surrounding parking lagoon, and the recruiting offices arrayed around an inner courtyard in back.

First, I went to the Navy. The recruiter was a big horse-faced ruddy peckerwood who looked to be playing snake on a flip phone when I walked in. After making me wait a minute he looked up and smiled wide, right at me. “Good to see ya, brother. What can we do ya for?”

“Well, I’m thinking about joining the service.” I walked over and reached across the desk. His red hand was massive, his handshake smothering. I took a seat across from him.

“You’ve made a bold decision. Boy I’ll tell ya, joining the Navy was the best thing I ever done in my life.” Judging by his folksy accent, he didn’t seem to be from the area. “I’ve been to Hong Kong, Saipan, Australia, the Philippines, paid off m’truck.” He jerked a massive thumb in the direction of the window facing the back lot, where a Dodge Ram was parked, lifted on ridiculously large tires, with Monster Energy decals and a star-spangled Punisher skull on its tinted back window, and an “America’s Navy” sticker on the bumper. Then he leaned forward, looked left, looked right, then straight at me with one eyebrow raised. “You ever been to a brothel?”

“Uh, no?” There was an awkward pause. I looked down at my feet. He leaned back, sighed, and put his feet up on the desk.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. Decision’s yours, but I’d sure like to make it easier on you by having you take a practice exam and get some idea of what you’d be qualified to do for America’s Navy. You got your driver’s license, state ID card, something like that?”

“Uh, I think I left it in the car.”

In the summers it’s always foggy in Santa Carla. I walked back out to the front and looked up at the soupy grey sky. Then I went back around again, but along the opposite side of the building so the Navy guy wouldn’t see me go into the Marine recruiter’s office across from him. I waited there in the front entrance for a couple minutes until a neckless, Sponge Bob shaped little Hispanic Oompa Loompa came waddling intensely from the back in jogging gear and dropped a Walkman loudly on the front desk. Scowling, he pointed at me and asked, “You think you got what it takes to be a Marine?”

“Uh…. Yes?” We each took a seat across from one another at the desk.

“Name’s Marquez, but you can call me Sarge,” he said, self-importantly. “It’s rough out there nowadays. Unless you wanna join one of these inferior branches of service and jack off all damn day, your only other options is pretty much delivering pizzas.” It was clear he had practiced this little monologue many times over. “So, what do you do for a living right now?”

“Uh, I uh, I’m uh….” I paused for a minute. “I’m a stand-up comedian.”

An awkward couple of seconds passed with him staring at me blankly. Then all of a sudden, this taciturn little beaner let out a belly laugh like he’d just heard an incredible joke. “No way!” he bellowed. “Hey Richie, Satchmo, come on out here.” He swiveled around, shouting down the hallway around the corner from his desk. “We got ourselves a comedian!” He turned back to me, smiling ear-to-ear with his mouth agape and a vacant look in his eyes. Before long a rail thin blond-blue farmboy-looking high school jock in fatigues materialized behind Marquez, along with a diminutive black dude in gym shorts, a Marines t-shirt and thick glasses.

Marquez leaned back in his ergonomic chair, arms akimbo. “Let’s hear a joke!” They all had the same open-mouthed smiles, preemptively transfixed in anticipation of raucous laughter.

I lobbed a one-liner. “Uh, I go to hospitals and sell imaginary friends to sick kids.”

Crickets. Same fixed, grinning stares.

“Yeah, that one’s no good. Okay, okay, how ‘bout, uh…. Oh! I know.” I cleared my throat. “You really gotta watch out for undercover cops in this town,” I started. “The other day a homeless dude asked me for fifty cents. I told him, ‘Suck my dick!’ and next thing I know I’m under arrest for soliciting prostitution!” Their faces just stayed the same, all three of them, like wax figurines. Vacant eyes, gap-jawed grins. It wasn’t just that the material was lousy. They didn’t realize they’d missed the punchline.

“Hey, listen guys. I think I left my ID in the car.” I left and walked over to the Army office.

Behind the front desk sat this tall, gangly Asian in coke-bottle glasses with a snide, jaded mug. The name on his shirt was Park. He glanced up from his paperwork, gave me a once-over, then back down at his desk and continued filling out the form he’d been working on. “You sure you wanna do this?”

“Well, I like a kiss before I get fucked.”

“Can you count to ten and touch your toes?”

I gave a demonstration.

“Know how to read?”

“Backwards and forwards.”

“Well then you’ve got the makings of a goddamned hero.” He looked up and motioned toward a chair. “Have a seat.”

Forward: Part V

Back: Part III

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

generation identitaire

I said I like my enemies ridiculous, and the universe did not disappoint:

There are only two things that Antifa, the Vatican, grooming gangs, neo-Nazis and BLM all have in common: (1) they are god-awful reprobates, and (2) they reflexively support the Palestine Arabs. It was only a matter of time before unibrowed Insta slags began slithering that direction—a cherry-on-top that is most fitting, and not only for its circumference. There really is nothing more intellectually lazy than anti-Zionism; when you look at all the factoids and incidents that Israel’s habitual detractors busy themselves flapping about, you’ll eventually notice three things: (1) a kind of high-powered microscopy, as if to the exclusion of all other topics this one holds no end of fascination; (2) a penchant for sensationalism coupled with a distinct and remarkably consistent aversion to context; and (3) indictment counts that could just as readily be turned on anyone, e.g., callousness, “privilege,” solipsism, etc. Sure, the Jews are wicked. But they are wicked in the way of all flesh. Ultimately, the cause of their detractors’ singularly circuitous loathing is that the Jews are trying to live, and we don’t like it when others do that. The Palestinians are trying to live as well, and (if they had the whip hand) would treat their neighbors most sadistically. They’re not shy about this. But they lack the whip hand, and pity is cathartic, and taking a criminal for what he is would force us to look too closely in the mirror.

Lord knows I’ve picked my arguments with Zionism; but no creature in the world is sicklier than an anti-Zionist Jew, so I tried to at least make my criticism a novel and constructive one, viz., that Zionism, despite its blood-and-soil mythos and martial culture, is in large part a victimology and thus a fitting spearhead for some of the worst cultural and technological excesses of global liberalism. But liberals have never been comfortable with Israel, because Israel is a constant reminder that what opposes one’s life and thriving must be regarded as evil, rather than misguided.

To regard conscientious, unabashed criminality and celebration of murder as misguided is to presume to arbitrate moral law; to treat it as justifiable is to vicariously absolve oneself of moral duty. That is why Palestine is a cause célèbre. It unites a remarkably broad coalition the world over, because it is a vocation of moralfags and a refuge for ulterior motives of every variety; a veritable Burning Man of ego defense and weaponized magnanimity. The Jews may not be Christ-like but our detractors undoubtedly are Pharisees. And as I said in my takedown of Grand Inquisitor E. Michael Jones, if the Jews are the enemies of all mankind, then mankind is not the enemy of itself, and believers can very cheaply be absolved of a great deal of introspection. A faith so cheaply bought is chaff for the wind—-its nihilistic heart reveals itself at length:

Of course I don’t blame anyone for pitying Arab children, even if they’d never pity Jewish ones—-because if it’s between my kid and someone else’s on a playground somewhere, I hope my child gives the other a pummeling, and I won’t be made to feel guilty about it. So I think it’s high time the Jews learned to embrace the world’s opprobrium. Get the fuck off social media and get over it. The whole late 20th-century Jewish discourse of “tolerance” and moral sniveling is sick and regressive. As Mencius Moldbug pointed out,

Animosity, when expressed from higher to lower, appears as contempt. Expressed from lower to higher, it comes out as resentment

You cannot evidence contempt for something you aren’t taking at face value. If someone insists that I am his superior—-my “influence,” my intellectualism, my persistence in thriving, in full view of him—-who am I to argue? A man who lives in resentment will avenge you, upon himself, without needing to be asked. And if I have the power to give offense merely by existing, why should I deprive myself of this power by attempting to placate someone who cannot be reasoned with in any case? Why should I lower myself to counter-signal him? It makes no sense. The human creature is titillated by being shown disdain; the PR dividends will pay themselves.

Every atrophied impulse that reactionaries fetishize is latent in Zionism, because the question of Palestine is conveniently beyond good and evil. It is not a question of whether there can be peace, or who has what rights. It is not a question of fine-wrought claims adjudication and who did what to whom. Peoples clash. They migrate and conquer, they form armies and flee from armies, are conquered and displaced in turn. It is the way of the world. Fundamentalist Muslims will feel assured of their rights even if it desecrates justice from here to eternity, because they understand this very well. So the question of Palestine is whether the Palestine Muslims are to be some kind of sacrosanct exception to it, and because the obvious answer (because there are no exceptions, no matter how many stars we wish upon) is no, the real question reveals itself as, if I am not for myself, who will be for me?

In that context, being reviled with the kind of cheap and scurrilous rectitude that always accosts the Jews is an honor.

Please Hate Israel More

they’re the same picture

Alt-right tropes have been percolating into populist conservatism for awhile now. Chief among these is an outsized opprobrium of Jews and Zionism as major sources of national and societal ills. As the 2020s progress and the boomers die off, this dime-store eschatology will only intensify and spread. And you know what? I can’t wait.

I love being hated. I’m a born contrarian. The other foot is never any better than the shoe, and moral rectitude is always a mask. That’s why anti-semites are invariably all windy mediocrities. Some things never change.

Please don’t misunderstand—my recent polemics may have given the wrong impression. I am emphatically not urging anyone to hush-up their sniveling about Israel. On the contrary, please, please keep it coming. I like my enemies ridiculous, and if you ever stop honking your red rubber nose I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. Five years ago, these midwits were a vanguard; today, with reactionary clichés selling like Beatlemania, T.S. Eliot’s “freethinking Jews” are the stuff of teenybopper nightmares.

Chief among “dissident”-right dilettantism’s apostles to the magapedes is the lithe and dilated carnival barker, Nick Fuentes, who this week emerged triumphant from a debate with an obscure boomercon attorney, hosted by Alex Jones, on the subject (what else?) of perfidious Israel. Who that is impressed by this can rightfully complain about boomers? The fruit nowadays is as rotten as the vegetables. If Sacha Baron Cohen and Jonathan Greenblatt were to sodomize them in a pizza parlor and delete their Twitter app, I’d fall down laughing.

you get what you fucking deserve

What does it mean, “America First”? It’s a spiteful, circuitous admission of worthlessness and defeat. It means, “why is no one defending me? Why can’t we have nice things? Where is my safe space to criticize your privilege? I’d like to please speak to a manager.” It is a syndrome of grown men who’ve only lately had the milk tit removed from their gibbering gobs.

And who is this American, who must be put first? What is an American? He is someone who would resent you if he had to lift a leg to step over your dying body on a hot sidewalk to get through the entrance of Panda Express. He’s a passive-aggressive spiritual carnie who loves his dog more than his next-door neighbor. Mountebanks like Fuentes out insisting he be catered to give no more of a shit about him than Lindsey Graham or Sean Hannity do.

The chief objective of U.S. foreign policy and military strategy since 1945 is unassailable technological and geospatial dominance. Jews ex machina is just the cost of doing business, when your business is to be in everybody else’s business. America was toppling legitimate governments, occupying foreign lands and handing out no-bid contracts to crimson profiteers long before Israel existed. It uses its reserve currency to decimate the economies of whole hemispheres and suck the surplus value out of them like a marrow bone. No one in the alt-right has anything to say about this unless they can pretend to blame it on Jews (which is obviously easier than closing your web browser and zipping your fly.) “I can’t believe I’m doing this, I’m not that kind of girl.” Show me a radcon newly woke to ZOG, and I’ll show you a replicant who has no affirmative vision of what an “America First” foreign or military policy would look like. When the money changers are driven from the temple, the Groypers will follow them to Wal Mart.

all the hasbara we need

Conspiracy Tales

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 12.24.09 AM

the new normal

The town where I grew up is a hotbed of effete radicalism and low-grade mental illness. I came back in my mid-twenties to finish community college. There’s this hipster coffee shop downtown where I used to do all my homework—I’ll call it Café Tangier. One day I noticed a girl there reading a Hebrew novel. Let’s call her Shirley. We hit it off. She was going to university and working in a mall kiosk with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend—all Israelis.

None of these three were bad people. However, they had a friend who was. We’ll call him Lior. Lior had a friend named Jake. They claimed to be working for some kind of IT start-up, but the two of them were always just down at the Tangier, scoping people out, or hanging around the various student co-ops around town: the Caesar Chavez Co-op, Food Not Bombs House, etc. They gave the impression of a couple of con-men with a traveling act, like there was an invisible mist between them that only the two of them could see.

A cell of would-be ecoterrorists had been uncovered—entrapped, really—at the Tangier by an undercover FBI agent about a year before. At the nearby anarchist co-op (which had a neat little bookstore I would occasionally peruse) there was a flyer on the corkboard denouncing the cafe’s owners for allegedly cooperating with the FBI from the get-go of the case, denouncing Tangier hipsters as sell-outs, and warning people to stay away from the place. But it was a hopping little place, lots of coeds, good music, good conversation.

There were other odd characters around the Tangier, too. One of them looked like Bruce Willis—cue-ball bald, mid-forties, in decent shape (but bedraggled in a way that wasn’t convincing) and constantly at the Tangier as if he had nothing else going on. He had this shady gregariousness about him. I’d watch him befriend impressionable looking loners and overhear him shit-test them by peppering them with the most astounding BS.

Anyway, this Lior and Jake—there was something off about them, too. They couldn’t have been younger than 27. Lior was Israeli, in the States (according to him) since adolescence. Jake was a regular American. Their back story kept changing, not in the sense of glaring inconsistencies, but in the sense that it seemed improvised. We used to go out with Shirley and her sister and the sister’s boyfriend, and these two weasels—this Lior and Jake—would hone in on the youngest, most vulnerable looking girls they could find at the bars. One night, Lior showed up at Shirley’s place with a girl who was obviously a high schooler, painfully shy, homely… The whole thing looked very bad.

Now, if you’re thinking I’m a POS for not intervening, what can I tell you? Perversion is a triage situation. It was a boisterous house party and I had my own concerns.

Anyway, I used to ride my bike around town a lot, and one day I started seeing these flyers all over, on lampposts and bus benches: “We are anarchists. We are everywhere.” There was additional text. All I remember was that it contained some threat of violence, but the grievance wasn’t too clear. This was odd, considering not only that the campus radicals and cat-lady activists around town never threatened anyone, but were always very specific about what they were advocating. But this “We are anarchists” business just looked like a vacuous art project from some out-patient rehab.

One day I was on a foot path beneath a bridge when I got a flat tire. I used to do these road trips in the summer, by bicycle, from the coast up into the Sierras, and I was very proficient with all aspects of bike repair. So I knelt down to patch my tire. Once I had it patched and the glue was drying, I cast my gaze up the path. It ran along a river, but there was a park on the other side. Basically, I’m in the shadow under this bridge, looking up the path, with the river on the left side of my vision, and the park on the right. In the distance, I notice the Bruce Willis-looking guy from the Tangier. He had on a white t-shirt tucked into cargo pants, with this pair of absolutely autistic looking bus station urchins, half his age at most, straggling along behind him. He also had a stack of paper in one hand and a roll of packing tape in the other.

It was mid-morning on a weekday. The park was empty, but I was in the shadow of the bridge, so they couldn’t see me. I watched as this guy directed these two mouth breathers to post flyers on the park benches, and (with no one around to see him) his bearing was just unmistakably military. I went back later to the park, and just as I’d suspected, it was those dumb-fuck “We are anarchists” flyers, all over the playground and picnic tables.

Less than a week later, there was a little kristallnacht along the main downtown drag. Someone smashed up the windows of about a dozen shops late one night and spray-painted a bunch of menacing slogans, “We are anarchists” among them. After that, the city council passed emergency regulations, applied for (and received) federal grants to blanket the downtown in surveillance cameras, and the FBI permanently stationed a squadron of some kind at the local police station.

A month or so later, Occupy Wall Street broke out. Hippy liberalville being what it is, a camp mushroomed up at that park where I’d gotten my flat tire. Meanwhile, Lior was the ringleader of a cadre that broke into and holed up in a vacant storefront across from the county courthouse. He ran their Facebook page, and throughout their “occupation” he was constantly on Facebook posting appeals for food and blankets and for people to join in—a rather odd commitment for someone who was supposedly working full-time at a start-up. His rather benign LARP-sesh was broken up after a week, and four of the participants—all American Apparel shopper college students—got hit with serious federal charges, including “terrorism” shit.

But Lior never faced any consequences.

I didn’t like the guy, nor respect him, but before that I’d at least have greeted him when he saw me. But afterwards? No way. I stayed the fuck away from that dude from then on, and I never went back to Café Tangier.

Boatman’s Bluff

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The year after college I was an ambulance EMT. I started in July, and it wasn’t until September that I was assigned a steady shift with a partner. Before that I just bounced around between paramedics, snoozing, reading, and writing this blog on my cellphone between inventory and 911 calls.

My first code blue was an OD, on my first day of work. We arrived on scene before fire to find a supine fat kid unresponsive on a back driveway, with a gaggle of bleary-eyed teenagers who’d obviously waited too long to call, and were real quiet and vague about what happened to their friend.

I attached the EKG nodes and started bagging while my paramedic trainer pounded on his chest. No cardio activity. Fire arrived and they started banging on his chest in a rotation. Still no activity. Then someone offered to bag while I pumped, and I went to town so hard on this kid that I cracked his sternum. The snapping sound was horrific, but the moment it happened the heart monitor gave a beep and started going.

The thing about it was, everything happened in under ten minutes, and although he died later that day, when we dropped him in the ER the kid was still alive—unconscious and intubated, but alive. It wasn’t until November that year that I actually witnessed a death.

Now, I’m an omega, a contrarian loner who hates rules and rarely strikes up a lasting friendship. I’m also fairly tall and large-framed, but my first paramedic partner, Tommy Gonzales, was a medic second lieutenant in the National Guard, the kind of beta-simp who joins the service to compensate. He looked like Eugene Levy—gaunt, about 5’6″, and very uptight, but highly intelligent, which necessitated bending the rules as often as they got in the way of logic. I respected him for that.

One night just about dusk as I was driving Tommy around the Sonic drive-thru, we got coded to a trailer park. Again, we got there before fire. Again, the patient was supine, this time on a shabby carpet. It was a double-wide with fake wood paneling and a bunch of taxidermied elk heads on the walls. The guy must’ve been in his mid-sixties. He was shirtless and barefoot in a pair of jeans that hadn’t been washed in a coon’s age, skinny-fat like alcoholics often are, and covered in a half-inch layer of wooly grey body hair that went all the way up his neck to an untrimmed beard. The place was strewn with empty pint bottles and crushed-up Coors cans.

The family was all assembled—son, daughter, daughter-in-law, adult grandkid. They said they’d found him the way he appeared, unresponsive, not breathing. They thought he’d choked on a turkey sandwich he’d been eating lying down, and that he must’ve rolled off the couch onto the floor. That was what it looked like. I had to shave him to place the EKG nodes, then Tommy and I started doing our thing.

It was a long night. The monitor gave just enough activity after a minute of CPR that we had to keep going even though the guy’s chances were very slim. Fire got on scene and Tommy started trying to intubate, but the laryngoscope kept bringing up turkey sandwich. The firefighters and I rotated doing CPR while Tommy smeared gob after gob of partly digested food like pâté onto the inner lining of a red haz bag. Eventually we got the guy tubed. His cardio kept flopping and starting back up with just enough activity for hope.

At one point I stood up to stretch my legs. Across the room, the family was piled around a card table in the corner, faces downcast, their arms draped around one another, watching their patriarch recede into eternity past indifferent, knee-jerk bureaucracy—past us, with two forms of state-issued ID over his eyes. We were the boatmen.

Above the family on the wall was a framed and faded portrait of a proud and fearsome Marine with a flag half-draped across the background. That was the guy we were trying to save. The two of them couldn’t have looked more different. He wasn’t in his body anyway, yet he might not’ve been further away than that portrait. I felt this sudden sense of reverent foreboding in the pit of my stomach, that this man lying dead at my feet was witnessing his family’s despair, and screaming desperately from just out of reach of them.

After three hours, Tommy advised the family that things weren’t going to turn around. They nodded stoically. We called up to the hospital and signed the necessary forms. Then we packed up our equipment in haz bags and debriefed with the firefighters before leaving them to wait for the coroner.

That shift went long. We went back to base, cleaned up, and tried to get a nap, but the calls just kept coming. The 24-hour shift that had begun just before that code in the Sonic drive-thru turned into 35, 36, then 40, and topped out at 51.

At one point we dropped someone at the ER. It was about 9 in the morning. I was sitting in the driver’s seat of the ambulance waiting for Tommy to snag Graham crackers and juice boxes from inside at the nurse’s station, when all of a sudden I started sobbing maniacally, just huge choking sobs without any kind of buildup or anticipation whatsoever. It was so primal. There was no reflection, no social pressure (I was completely alone) and no reason to feel anything. I hadn’t known the guy, the Marine—I hadn’t known him. I’d run plenty of codes, seen lots of pitiable people in sorry states and felt bad for them, and I’d gone hours by then without it occurring to me that I’d been impacted at all. It was just a job, I was just exhausted, I just wanted to go home to my family, I just wanted a burrito. This is America—nobody has real feelings. I remember that I’ve had them, back when I was a kid, but I don’t even remember what real feelings feel like. It’s been six years since that 911 call and in all that time I haven’t experienced a comparably spontaneous and authentic emotion. And yet it happened, in spite of every social pressure militating against it.

It’s strange how things incubate in us when we thought they didn’t matter, or that we’d forgotten them. Sometimes when I discipline our kids, my wife gets on me and says, “This isn’t the army, you know!” On the one hand, when I hear this it sounds odd, because the army is the furthest thing from my memory and my motivations. On the other hand, my first reaction is to feel she’s being unreasonable, because life is rough, and it’s better they learn it first from their dad. But what she sees me doing that I can’t see myself is sublimating an experience that’s constantly with me in ways I’m almost never aware of, forgotten humiliations and death by a thousand cuts, and spinning the wheels of borrowed time.

A shopping excursion

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this weimerican life

I keep having these dreams where I can’t get out of the room. Some grim dinner party or shabby hotel cafeteria where I’m exposed somehow to a whole gallery of faces I can’t quite make out. Where I’m stuck with someone from my past or present who wants something I can’t give, or knows something I’d rather they didn’t. Sometimes I’m able to escape, but then can’t seem to find my way out of the building—the trap just expands, until at some point I’m hit by the dread realization that no matter what they look like, each person I encounter is exactly the same on the inside.

Sometimes it’s a labyrinthine airport, incredibly futuristic, where I keep following bad directions or encountering incomprehensible bureaucratic obstacles requiring me to traipse back and forth between ticket counters and security checkpoints and terminals. I can never seem to make my flight, yet it’s always imminent, and panic builds until finally I wake up grinding my teeth and repeating incomprehensible nonsense to myself in a low whisper until well after I’ve had my coffee, like I got high the night before and it still hasn’t worn off.

Other times I’ve committed a crime of passion. As I begin to realize what I’ve done, my surroundings become dim, narrow, subterranean. Acquaintances and passersby all take on a uniform, alien quality. I feel I have to hide from them as I go about planning how to cover my tracks, but I can’t get out of public and they keep questioning me and I keep piling lie upon lie until I’m all out of lies and no longer believe myself.

Lana wanted to have a date—clothes shopping at the mall. It’s not how I would choose to spend a couple hours away from the kids, and she knows it. The clock slows; my blood congeals. I’d resist, but I’ve got to buy my next reprieve. We’re living on borrowed time, so why not live on a little more borrowed money?

On the way, we discuss what to buy. What the kids may like. Then a hopeful note underlying the subject of job prospects turns to debts, bills. Once that subject is wandered into, we fall silent. Her phone comes out of her purse. Like having to eat a failed attempt at some new recipe, I’ve ruined our afternoon, but still have to see it through.

The unspoken tension ratchets up as we near the mall. I fight traffic on the proximate boulevards and join a rotating queue of drivers, presumably all grimacing and overweight, as we circulate the packed rows of parking spaces, now stopping as some optimistic rube slams his breaks behind a pair of glowing tail lights, now proceeding again, now stopping, all in a row—trapped together, but unknown to one another. Some ham-faced slob in a ginormous pickup nearly backs into us as he jerkingly vacates a parking spot without looking over his disgusting shoulder. Honking, shouting, shaking his fist, he ejaculates his soul’s phonetically memorized plaque and drives off in a cloud of diesel exhaust. In my own grey-green, calcified heart I blame Lana, realizing all this could’ve been avoided. She feels it, and lowers her face into the refuge of the pillar of blue light emanating from her stupid smartphone, which may be the only thing keeping us married.

The mall is filled with wretched refuse and flooded via loudspeaker with the vacant crooning of some new ethnically ambiguous slag of the month. Huge families of eggplant shaped Mexicans block our progress as they amble along at a snail’s pace, shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the walkways, stuffing their faces as they go, from carafes of nachos, fries and mega-sized slushies all teetering precariously atop the canopies and cupholders of baby strollers occupied for some strange reason by five, six and seven-year olds. I nearly trip over a morbidly obese preteen in ankle shorts and a Nike shirt that reads, “Skilled in Every Position” when the family’s uppity little garden-gnome patriarch casts a threatening glance, holding up his cartoonishly oversized pant-waist with one hand like he’s somewhere on a prison yard.

Lana peruses the racks of a store. We stand in the massive checkout line with her items. A couple of shameless, mercenary orientals are in front, delaying everybody’s day to interminability, yapping scarcely comprehensible harangues at indifferent teenage cashiers in an attempt to find some grift in a system that permits no haggling otherwise.

Some ghastly, freckled, androgynous high-yellow in a denim vest and fedora is staring out of a wall-length advertisement with a quote emblazoned along his misshapen flank: “sometimes, you just gotta do you.” Somewhere in a stock photo lean-in high in a glass tower some shrewd hypnotist wants you to think of these pontoon-lipped vacancies like a quotable Confucius or St. Matthew. It seems with each passing day that being white and remotely genteel in America is more and more like being a ruined old noble in a Chekhov play. We’re living through this long night, and we can’t bring ourselves to turn the lights out, but we’ve had too much time to ruminate and it isn’t getting us anywhere.

Lest you find all this bigoted—which it is—allow me the caveat that I consider these plague rats the real Americans. Their ready, unreflecting belief in magic, their vulgar fixation on commerce and utter abandonment of traditional scruples in the hubbub and banal, intermittent terror of this strange new land—as new to me today as it was to them last week—make them far worthier to be called Americans than all the brokeback whites longing for cowboy chivalry as they use their bottom incisors to greedily scrape the Dorito dust of this neurasthenic consumerist birdcage off the tips of their fat, diabetic fingers.

We pass the food court, the metastasis of sickening flesh in sweat pants with little cups of frozen sugar and cardboard palettes overflowing with cheap sauces. Then we make our way into another one of the undifferentiated neon storefronts so Lana can look for jeans. Somewhere over the rainbow, beyond every sales display and stack of merchandise lies the smoke-shrouded neo-Dickensian charnel house it all emanates from, the ant-farms and blood-sausage of Christmas present, and corrugated metal dwellings stacked along alleys strewn with plastic rubbish, flowing with human excrement, and interminable fields of shipping crates transiting sweltering ports. It’s only mid-July, but in my head I hear jingle bells. I start to wonder whether we’ll ever get away from this, whether we’ll ever be self-sufficient and free, or will we always just be employees and consumers and patients, avatars and reflections, bar-coded replicants, objects to whom all meaning in life is provided, administered, and presented like food to a capricious toddler. The wax paper burger wrapper wafting along the ground that fifteen hundred people just stepped over, the cigarette butts floating in the urinal, the fluorescent lights overhead, the LED screens in our palms, the model on the wall poster like a whore in a red-light district window, her snide smile doubtless masking every private misery, and the thousand hidden thoughts or inarticulate nagging doubts between hand-holding couples with lowered expectations, their acne, their cankles, their flat feet, fat asses, and venal cravings—the yawning gap between what you own and what you owe, and the sense of resignation to a trap so thorough we dream what it feeds us and conceptualize nature itself like a kind of unknowable death.

This is the cross. These are the nails.

“I’m so fat.” She’s in front of the mirror in the narrow corridor across from her changing room.

The worst part of marriage is the lying. Falling in love is this perfect kind of exposure that relieves you of everything you thought you needed to hide, and you reciprocate this to your lover and she accepts it with tender ecstacy and you’re free and she’s free and the world is light and song. But marriage builds lie upon lie, just in order to function. There are never enough sorries. There are never enough I love you’s.

“You look great, babe.” And she does.

A Death in Reno

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If a man dies in Reno, did he ever really live?

Lou was a Serb from Cincinnati. I knew him because his mail-order bride was a friend of my Russian mother-in-law. Her name was Yulia. She’d been a schoolteacher in Ukraine.

Neither of them had any kids. Except for her mother back home, neither of them had any relatives, period. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment a few blocks down from us. I’d see him maybe twice a year at my in-laws’ place, and when we had them over for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving—that was my big act of charity for this guy, and a week later, every year, we’d get a package with treats and toys for the kids, and a thank-you card with a hand-written note that couldn’t have been more heartfelt. Just thinking about those packages, I feel awful. This guy languished and died three blocks down from me, for six years, almost totally alone—no kids, no friends, no extended family—and I knew, and I saw him less often than I see the garbageman.

At one time, years ago, Lou had a good-paying, white-collar job with some big company, but he’d been in a car wreck and lost a good deal of his mind. He was soft-spoken. He liked to talk politics, or high-brow movies, but he’d get confused real easy and lose his train of thought in mid-sentence. Once in awhile he’d make a wicked, salty joke, and you’d catch a glimpse of the man that used to inhabit him—witty, irreverent, self-assured. But mostly he just seemed vulnerable, because he knew he was crippled in the head, and when he realized that you knew, he’d get real embarrassed and clam up. I made it a policy to make conversation and treat him like he was perfectly normal. This was easy to do, because my in-laws and a lot of the friends they’d have around for parties were all educated and very self-righteously liberal, but Lou was conservative, which meant that even with his 6.5% rate of brain usage (or whatever it was) he was still smarter than most of them.

He and Yulia lived on his social security, and a pension from his old employer, but it wasn’t much, so they had to work. They were well into their seventies when we met. He worked “security” (I’d make the scare quotes bigger if I could) at a golf course. The place paid nine bucks an hour. She used to fold clothes seasonally, at department stores, which scarcely paid more. A couple of better-off Russian families in the neighborhood would hire her to give their kids language lessons, but they never stuck with it.

Yulia was already in her sixties when Lou brought her to the United States. She got her green card after they married, but she never became a citizen, because she spent six months out of the year with her elderly mother in Ukraine. She had a meager pension over there that she lived off of and used for airfare. This couldn’t have been entirely for her mother’s benefit, because she never went back during the winter. While she was gone, Lou would subsist on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu, and cheap TV dinners. He had a tremor in his hands. I doubt he could’ve opened a can of tuna.

Eventually, the golf course let him go, so he started driving for Uber. It made him feel pretty slick, like he was on the cutting edge. He even bought a pair of sunglasses and a faux-leather jacket, but he drove so far below the speed limit and racked up so many complaints about it that Uber fired him, too. Then he started driving for Lyft. This was right around the time the iPhone 7 came out, and some floozy passenger left one in his car. A couple hours later, as he was driving around, the thing started ringing like crazy from beneath the seat, so he pulled over and retrieved it, but he was embarrassed to answer because he was too confused to know where it came from or how to give it back, and too embarrassed to admit that he was too confused to figure it all out. So he went to McDonald’s to get a coffee and think things through, but all he came up with was to toss the phone in the bathroom trashcan and delete his Lyft app for good, forfeiting three or four hundred dollars of his own in the process.

The cancer took him quick—it couldn’t have been more than six weeks ago that I heard he’d gotten the diagnosis. It had probably been a decade or more since he’d even had a routine physical. I never went to see him in the hospital. My wife works sixty hours a week, I’m in medical school, our kids are growing—who has time? Yulia reached out to his nearest relative, a grand-niece somewhere in Illinois. Apparently, she isn’t interested. Yulia’s not going to host a funeral for him either. She’s trying to save money. She didn’t even bother to have his body dressed up, so he wore a hospital gown to his cremation. She plans to send his ashes to this niece by regular mail, probably in a store-brand freezer bag, and go back to Ukraine with his life insurance payout.

Thanksgiving—that was my big act of charity that I did for Lou. Everything we do for others in America is fetishized, performative, peremptory, and remote. Toys for Tots, breast cancer, all this kind of de-personalized annual bullshit. If we listened to our hearts, we might have to take Jesus’s advice. And then what would become of Uber, and McDonald’s, and the iPhone 7?

A man—a Serb—died this month, in Reno, on All Souls Day, alone, in an indifferent hospital ward named for the mother of God, off an interstate freeway that never stops. I hope there’s something better for him beyond.

The Four Freedumbs

I’m not an inveterate conservative. Show me an innovation or reform that actually improves life, and I’ll take it. But that never happens anymore, which is why no one identifies any longer as”progressive.” You never even hear the word anymore, because pretending that their agenda is constructive would be too shameless even for liberals.

As a perfect example of this, consider if you will the following 21st-century reimagining of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms:

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Freedom of Speech

(1) Freedom of Speech: In the original, two apparently established, white-collared gents are craning their necks to hear a frumpy blue-collar Joe speak his mind, because one’s value to the community depends on more than money and professional credentials.

In the revision, in contrast, two men who apparently sell burner phones in a mall are craning their necks toward a moon-faced woman in a plunging blouse, whose value to the community is as unclear as a LinkedIn profile with a bio that reads “Seeking opportunities.” Superficial characteristics such as the subjects’ ethnicity, gender and/or personal style are the sole and total measures of their intrinsic worth.

Incidentally, in order to emphasize the lone white male on the bottom right (presumably a bartender or used car salesman) listening to the lady-POC, the artists not only cast him as the best-dressed (i.e., the richest) person in the room, but they intuit, in spite of their ideological conditioning, that in order to be the kind of white male who cares what she has to say, he would need to have a rapey neck tattoo. Just as it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism, the browning of America is easier to imagine as a temp-to-hire gig economy than as a workforce with real bargaining power.

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Freedom of Worship

(2) Freedom of Worship: In the original, you have a Jew (foreground, right), Protestants (the elderly couple with clasped hands), a Catholic (the blond in the middle with the Rosary), a skeptic or agnostic (the pensive-looking, dark-haired man behind her with one hand tugging on his chin) and a black woman, presumably Southern Baptist, in the back (in the original you can see more of her; part of the frame is cut out here).

Meanwhile, in the revision, there’s no discernible religious or even ethnic diversity, unless the arresting prettiness of the girl in the star-spangled hijab is intended to imply that she’s a convert, or a fair-skinned Bosnian or Levantine, i.e., (in either case) that whiteness, being intrinsically more beautiful than the alternatives, is something to which Muslims, too, can aspire. The co-mingling here of genders at a Muslim prayer service is likewise illusory, a multi-culti fantasy, total bullshit. Though there is a man with a hand on his chin, this is probably just unthoughtful mimicry of the original, because overt skepticism is so unlikely in a Muslim prayer quorum. But supposing he’s a skeptic—in the future this painting imagines and fetishizes, there’s only one religion to be skeptical of (the prayer beads of the partially-visible man in the top right are Muslim, not a Rosary). That’s what is meant here by diversity. Wild, huh?

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Freedom from Want

(3) Freedom from Want: There’s a discernible reduction here (on the left) in freedom from want, with a loaf of bread (or psyllium-husk dry-cake of some kind) replacing the turkey. It’s fair to assume that in the original, nearly everyone at the table is related. In the redux, the man of the house is serving a bunch of people who are clearly not related. Why does he have his jacket on in the dining room? Also, no grandma—it appears as though the food was not plentiful enough to include her; perhaps she’s already been dumped in an insurance-bilking hospice. Again, the sole measures of human worth in the revision are superficial: ethnicity, gender, beard-thickness, all in service of the conceit that the revolution has gone ahead and we’re all now freely flying our freak flags.

Obviously, bourgeois Anglos can be extremely fake and mercenary—there’s been an unending stream of literature and film about this subject since the 1950s. But this quality is absent from the original Rockwell, whereas the redux has the kind of eyeless-smile energy you sense, e.g., in a nouveau-cutsie neoliberal uptown brunch spot.

Notice as well that the revision fails to recapitulate Rockwell’s alignment, i.e., other than the woman with the baby, no one in the update is gazing directly at anyone else—and the baby looks a tad apprehensive, as though he’s just been passed to a stranger. The woman wears an expression like she’s like she’s holding someone else’s baby for the first time. Or perhaps it’s hers, and was only just recently harvested from her Nepalese surrogate.

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Freedom from Fear

(4) Freedom from Fear: I’ve read somewhere that nearly fifty percent of gay men report having been molested as children—if true, this certainly comports with what I know from gay friends and acquaintances. In any case, the kids on the left have intentionally been deprived of their mother (a mother still being a requirement of being born), so theirs is a qualitatively worse situation than that of the children on the right. It’s only the adults whose lives have ostensibly improved. Of course, the original was entitled “Freedom from Fear”—ask yourself whether kids in 2018 are more likely than their 1943 counterparts to be free to play outside unsupervised without fear, and you’ll immediately grasp how obscene and delusional is the suggestion that things have either improved or not deteriorated utterly in terms of children’s freedom from fear. But then, the ideological milieu this Rockwell redux emerged from foes really give a shit about children in any visceral sense. Mimicry of Eisenhower-era family values is the great irony of gay marriage, and it strongly underscores how completely artificial the neoliberal brownie-points moralism exemplified in these paintings is—it has no original quality and in its self-loathing envy must plunder from the past it reviles, wearing it like a skin. It is the sad loaf of bread to the juicy roast turkey, the swivel-eyed jazz-hound to the loving matriarch, the cryogenically fertile poofter imitators to the biologically complimentary genuine article.

There’s a movie about precisely the transition this Rockwell-redux is conceptualizing, proposing, and documenting.—it’s called Idiocracy.

Of course Rockwell was Pollyannaish, even by the standards of his day—I don’t imagine that his work portrayed contemporary reality verbatim. But does the 21st-century redux of The Four Freedoms bear the same degree of symmetry with reality as the original? Of course it does; you only have to look at the world around you and see all the changes. Does that mean we still have the four freedoms that Rockwell extolled, and suggested we needed to fight for? That they’ve somehow been refined or extended? Do we enjoy the kind of quality of life that Americans enjoyed in 1943?

Of course not. If the connection between that, and the precise social changes we see in those new paintings isn’t clear, then they are for you.