Tears in Heaven…

M.C. Escher’s lithograph, Convex and Concave, 1955

In Franz Kafka’s short story Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, the traveling salesman, wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. The rest of the story deals with his attempt manage his new condition and explain it to his family.

In The Trial, Kafka’s Joseph K finds himself mysteriously on trial for no discernable reason.“Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” Traduce is an arcane, seldom used verb, that means “to tell lies about someone so as to damage their reputation.” It should be in current usage, for sure.

The narrator goes on, “Who could these men be? What were they talking about? What authority could they represent? K lived in a country with a legal constitution, there was universal peace, all the laws were in force; who dared seize him in his own dwelling? He had always been inclined to take things easily, to believe in the worst only when the worst happened, to take no care for the morrow, even when the outlook was threatening.”

Since the Presidential election the American landscape has become Kafkaesque. We are living in an America where we are either Gregor Samsa or Joseph K.  We are squishable insects or bewildered non-persons to our own government.  On November 9, 2016 Americans awoke to an absurdist landscape that has been harder to accept with each passing day. We play by the rules but the rules change. We ask for clarification and are ignored. We challenge the rules and are met with derision. What’s next?

I never intended to write a political blog, but I’m tired of screaming at the TV. We all have a responsibility to speak out when we find ourselves in a threatening, absurdist, Gregor Samsa world. Keep your head on straight. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Take on the bullies.

As a freelance, self-employed person I can order my day any way I wish. I try to be disciplined and keep things in perspective but it’s hard. I can ignore the lure of email and Facebook; it will always be there so I avoid the temptation as much as possible and only go there once or twice a day. News discipline is harder. When the spigot is on full blast all day – tweets, news briefings, confirmation hearings, Executive Orders, hirings, firings, and angry outbursts – the pull is magnetic. I try to stay in my lane and avoid distractions but find myself lifting the flap and peeking under the circus tent more often than my good sense tells me is advisable. I don’t want to miss the colossal train wreck when it happens.

Marilynn and I had dinner with friends last weekend and the weekend before. Good friends. Smart, engaged, people from a variety of vocations and backgrounds. Two doctors. A journalist. A Gates Foundation operative. A non-profit CEO. A headhunter. A management consultant. All we could talk about was the chaos, chutzpah, and fuck-you quality of the Executive Orders pouring out of the White House since the inauguration. In spite of the enormous women’s march the day after the inauguration, the spontaneous worldwide demonstrations in opposition to his presidency, and the public outrage at the immigration ban last weekend, nothing seems to have deterred the relentless assault on fairness and We the People government.

Is it any wonder that George Orwell’s 1984 has risen to #1 on the Amazon best seller list? In a “post-truth” world of “alternative facts,” it makes perfect sense that a dystopian novel where  the government espouses the principle that “whatever the Party says is truth is truth” has become required reading.

I want a “safe word,” a no-fly zone, an injunction, a cease-fire, to regain my balance, but it’s clear that Bannon’s White House strategy is based on creating chaos in order to hide the duplicity of his underlying plan to destabilize American democracy. This about says it all.

I want to return to my little bubble, where I rise in the morning, grind the beans to make my perfect latte, scan the NY Times while watching Morning Joe, go to work in my office writing about films or food, take a break to play the guitar, write some more, take another break to play tennis or ride my bike, write some more, and then make a fresh pasta and salad dinner with Marilynn before finishing the day with a movie or play – in or out.

That’s inside the bubble, but “disruption” is the rule and it’s on speed dial now. I have a hard time staying inside that bubble. There are too many things happening too fast and they’re hard to follow. I try to maintain my routine but find myself lifting the flap and peeking out.

The cynic in me thinks that Bannon and Trump won’t care if the immigration ban is overturned. The goal was disruption and that’s already been achieved. The pieces have already been scattered. Some of these EO’s will probably fail but some will stick and they will have changed the game.

It’s clear there are conflicts and competing power centers in the White House. It looks like Bannon is winning, but I wonder about Jared Kushner, Donald’s son-in-law. How is he feeling these days? He’s supposed to have The Donald’s ear and be a modulating influence (if such a thing is possible). I wonder if, as an Orthodox Jew, he is troubled by the timing of the big news stories of the past two weeks. It seems they’ve been breaking on Friday night when he and Ivanka are observing Shabbat? In addition to the immigration ban, did he notice last Friday that there was no mention of anti-Semitism or the Jews in the White House statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Six-million dead – omitted intentionally, according to a White House spokesperson.

Bannon is shrewd. Trump is in his pocket. Jared and Ivanka are observing Shabbat. Only two cabinet secretaries have been confirmed. Why not shoot the lights out?

I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until now, but the song I’m learning these days is Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. Simple strum and simple chords but excruciatingly sad words.

“Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees. Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.

Tears in Heaven

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong and carry on
‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I’ll find my way through night and day
‘Cause I know I just can’t stay here in heaven.

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.

 I hope this isn’t an omen.

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Comments

  1. We without words need you Jack. I fear no profiles in courage will arise from the president’s party. None. Few politicians will jeopardize their new power, however evil.

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