The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Part VII


Graffiti outside the bar where the Tulsi Gabbard debate watch party was held in Manchester, New Hampshire. Not a poor illustration of the political process, either.

Before we commence the seventh devastating round of these masochistic Democratic debates, we really ought to identify the eponymous masochist in this televised orgy of political sodomy. Is it the shameless politician who prostrates himself before a national audience, vowing his submission to the most ruthless desires of an insatiable electorate? Is it the voter who yields to the candidate’s lust for power, his machtgelüst, and makes himself the vessel whereby the powerbroker achieves his righteous climax? Or is it you, the reader, who, in your obsequious affections for Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, or Bernie Sanders—let us not pretend you are hard-hearted enough to support any of the other contestants—have emerged from the romantic depths convinced that your beloved will inevitably triumph?

Alas, even at their most humbling state, none of these could be as pathetic as I. While the politician degrades himself in the present, he does so only in the pursuit of a dignified future; and although the voters volunteer themselves for another’s service, they, too, do so in the belief that their work will eventually redound back unto them. I, on the other hand, stand to gain nothing at all from my continuous immersion in the squalor, in the swampy spectacle of wealthy warmongers squabbling like drunks at the bar—and not unlike drunks at the bar, bullying the few intellectual adults out of the discussion. Why do I subject myself to such bitter inanity when I lack even the foolhardy hope that good will prevail? Must I do so only out of a suicidal penchant for the grief that poisons my heart? Ridi del duol che t’avvelena il cor? Or is the grief laughing at me?

Masochism remains an unfathomable neurosis. Self-preservation is a straightforward instinct, but to take pleasure in the most convoluted, melodramatic, and unnecessary pageantry of this instinct betrays a depth of suffering that never can be measured. Even my own masochism bewilders me. Is it my way of preparing myself for the worst, a rational pessimism readying me for Gabbard’s inevitable electoral loss? It can’t be, because I take no pleasure in the slow political execution of Gabbard through the hemlock of shadow blocking, and in any case, I know whence this rational pessimism stems: I learned it from my own misguided, ill-fated confidence in Ron Paul’s campaign eight years ago. Meanwhile, the source of my masochism remains a mystery.


Kamala Harris’s Demise Does Not Help Tulsi Gabbard


I didn’t attend Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. I never even thought to apply for enrollment, not at an institution charging every student more than $42,000 in annual tuition. I went to the University of New Hampshire-Manchester instead, where I paid one-fourth the price to receive one-fourth the strength of education. Or so I was told: while only the helpless would fail at a school as undemanding as UNH-M, the academic standards of Saint Anselm’s are rumored to be so rigorous as to earn it the nickname Saint Cs.

However, my one visit to the campus suggested a decidedly different culture. I was in the library, drilling through a couple of essays until I rose in search of the bathroom. The light in the bathroom was activated by a motion senor, so when I entered, it was dark as night . . . and yet, a student was sitting in one of the stalls. He cleared his throat as soon as the fluorescence flooded the room, but it was too late: I knew he had been masturbating in the comforting privacy of darkness, only to be thrown most rudely out of rhythm by my sudden entrance.

Unwilling to be the churl, I left as soon as I could, though not before reading the following, written in pen just outside the aforementioned stall: “All I think about is suicide and sex.” Well, there are probably a lot of millennials who feel similarly, and at the time, I probably had the same fixations. There is no moral wisdom to be gleaned from this story, not from my analysis of it, at least. But I remember it every time the media reports on the latest political poll conducted by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center.


Reading “Mein Kampf”, Part I: An Introduction


Americans are rigidly unappreciative people. Born into an exorbitant culture, they are smothered by the satisfaction of their every desire until they learn to expect it. What they really expect is not the receipt of perpetual pleasure, but an unending protection from displeasure and disappointment. Both are equally unnatural, and by demanding each, Americans betray not only their irrationality, but their corrupted values, as well. Consider their right to freedom of speech: what ought to be an audacious embrace of all intellectual challenges, especially the most frightening, is reduced in the American imagination to the receipt of pleasing speech and the protection from displeasing speech. Having been given everything they want, Americans have forgotten to find what they need, and at long last, they are reaping the poisoned fruits of another farmer’s harvest.

This corruption of the principle of free expression is not the only symptom of American cultural malignancy, but it does provide a coldly clear view of the disease. I was fortunate, really, to grow up at a time of psychological transition for the American people: they defended their sovereignty, however insincerely, for the first half of my youth, but surrendered it per the government’s request after 9/11; they also maintained their right to free expression, however unenthusiastically, until I reached adulthood, at which time they agreed to surrender it per the media’s request.

The government’s bogeymen—Islamic terrorists—were awfully hard to find, but at least they were defined. The media’s demons, on the other hand, are maddeningly nebulous: why would we throw our hands up before someone or something we cannot see, hear, name, or even describe? To fear the ethereal is unbecoming enough, but to submit to it? Clearly, the American people, infantilized by the corrosive impact of their pampered upbringing, lack the intellectual maturity to process the philosophy of freedom, including the right to free expression. In the midst of such puerile plebs, one need not defend this right to be a revolutionary; one need only exercise it.


Deleted Scenes from the Campaign Trail: Filing Day for Andrew Yang and Joe Biden


Part One: Yang and Biden: A Paranoiac’s Episode

For the fourth year in a row, autumn and winter have run together in New Hampshire. Back when I was a kid, as New Hampshirites are obsessively fond of saying, the Indian summer and the winter were partitioned clearly and cleanly by six or seven weeks of distinctly autumn weather, the type of weather that the hacks describe as crisp. But the evolving climate has shuffled the deck, and fall has been reduced to a two-week afterthought, sandwiched between an overextended summer and an aggressive winter. Nowadays, we don’t gradually wade into the wintry freeze: when it arrives, it kicks in the door and tears down the curtains and tosses out into the bitter wind. The last several winters have been especially windy, sweeping through the state with seriously skin-splitting force. When Dickens said the cold moved through Scrooge, he meant the old man was oblivious to the chill, but the reality of such wintry penetration isn’t quite so painless.

[What were you doing? Standing outside in the nude, waiting for the men in white coats to punch your ticket?]

No, I was on my way to the capitol building on Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire, where Andrew Yang and Joe Biden were signing the papers to appear on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary. The candidates have been flooding the state in the past couple of weeks for this specific purpose. Tulsi Gabbard filed earlier in the week, Pete Buttigieg had been here a couple of days before, and Amy Klobuchar made her own embarrassing appearance around the same time. Beto O’Rourke had arranged to file a few hours after Biden, but that was before he ended his surreal odyssey prematurely. Only the memory remains, the memory and the uncomfortable fantasy of what might have been.


Replacing Veterans Day with Yom Kippur


The American Empire formally celebrates its military’s achievements on three holidays: Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. While the first two have been successfully solidified in our cultural consciousness, the third remains something of a puzzling afterthought. Hitherto, no one has learned how to market or commercialize it, at least not effectively: for decades, Hollywood has released big-budget blockbusters-to-be over the Memorial Day weekend, and even those living under a rock cannot ignore the obsessive-compulsive promotion of the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, Veterans Day has no signature capitalistic event, notwithstanding a few clearance sales at the local car dealership. Most of us have to check our calendars twice, just to see if we get the day off from work or school.

This year, Veterans Day falls on a Monday, and the three-day weekend presents a rare opportunity to squeeze some dollars out of the holiday. The Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation decided to do precisely that, releasing a patriotic action film titled Midway: set during World War II, the film mourns the deaths of Americans in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Battle of Midway while celebrating the brutal demises of Japanese soldiers. While such a simplistic moral reduction of American military activity is nothing new (especially for the film’s director, Roland Emmerich, the man behind similar propaganda pieces like The Patriot and White House Down), the timing of this particular release is interesting, and not just because I recently read this printed on a bumper sticker: “Without Pearl Harbor, there wouldn’t have been a Hiroshima.”

The timing is of note because the American Empire is struggling to inspire jingoism in its citizens. National pride, which is a graceful way of saying “nationalism”, is a difficult selling point today, as Americans are struggling to reconcile their governmental and cultural dysfunction with their shallow understanding of American exceptionalism. The abundant evidence of our decadence and mediocrity, symbolized by the incompetents and charlatans in Washington, poses a psychological obstacle to the propagandists, who want us to cheer and applaud and love America unconditionally. Alas, America hasn’t earned our love, and so, the propagandists must convince us that it has.


In Search of Tulsi Gabbard, Part VI: Halftime


Times have changed, and the search for Tulsi Gabbard has changed with them. Do you remember that spunky, naïve, and hideous young man who set foot on the campaign trail early in the morning on the Fourth of July? Three days later, he was sitting with Tulsi Gabbard, asking her why the media ignores her, why the country should defend Julian Assange, and why Donald Trump has failed to keep his promise to end these “stupid regime-change wars”.

Well, that was four months ago; since then, the media has paid only fragmentary attention to Gabbard, and then only as a punchline to Hillary Clinton’s crude, idiotic joke; Assange is dying in HM Prison Belmarsh, losing thirty pounds since April and displaying all the symptoms of mental decay; and least surprisingly, the American government continues to ensnare itself in any number of foreign intrigues, its suicidal theft of Syrian oil being only the most recent example.

And the only presidential candidate who warned us against any of this might not make the next televised debate. By the time you read this sentence, she will have less than a week to play another round of the DNC’s increasingly preposterous game of limbo, an extra-institutional ritual that lost its last justification, tenuous though it already was, with the news that Beto O’Rourke has quit the race. How sickly ironic: as the space on the debate stage expands, the path to media representation narrows. The funnel—designed, shaped, and formed by the DNC—is becoming solid at last, and only the unnaturally malleable will pass.


A scene from Jess Griffin’s house party.

Should the DNC succeed in leaving Gabbard behind, she will be swallowed up by the hard frost of a media whiteout, an unnatural force that has been brewing for years. In February 2016, Gabbard stepped down from her post as Vice Chair of the DNC to endorse Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries, much to the chagrin of Clinton’s band of thieves. One of Clinton’s financiers curtly told Gabbard that she would no longer receive any of his (meaning, Clinton’s) support in fundraising, and Clinton’s campaign chairman was so pleased, he failed to proofread his two-word message of approval. Those thugs may be lost to the campaign trail, but their incestuous legacy of corruption endures, and they will never allow Gabbard, who failed to turn the tide in Bernie’s favor, any life in this presidential battle.


The Calm Before the Storm: Forecasting 2020


One year from today, thirty percent of the American population will cast their ballots to select their next president. They will not choose their next president, as that would require meaningful volition, but they will pick among the scarce, unappealing options presented to them. Nobody knows what specifically will happen on that date, just as nobody knows what other political developments will transpire in the twelve months preceding . . . nobody, that is, except for the plutocratic puppeteers who are busily rehearsing the scripted spectacle. We lack their advantage of omniscience, but we anticipate the cavalcade of rabbling, scandal, and bloodshed to which the election will be only an empty climax. We must observe a shameful display of noisome and potentially tragic controversy before the curtain closes on this squalid drama, though only until the start of the next act.

As our neighbors descend to animalistic frenzy, squealing and thrashing against forces they could never understand, our task will be our own preservation. The meaning and means of preservation will differ for each of us, and so will our answer to the question of how we shall help our neighbors, if at all. Do you know these people well enough to intervene without placing yourself at needless or impractical risk? You will have to reach your own conclusion, preferably before the moment of (in)action, but I would make one request: consider whether these people can be protected, even by the most capable among us. If your life has value, then do not squander it on something worthless.

Unpleasant though this subject matter is, we do ourselves a favor by diving into it now, rather than avoiding it in the self-destructive hope that it remains only a theoretical possibility. We are unlikely to witness the complete unraveling of the social fabric in twelve short months, but we will witness degradation, decomposition, and decline—of this, there can be no doubt, and the only uncertainty is the severity of the breakdown. But break we will, down we will slide, and we will be worse off on November 3rd, 2020 than we are on November 3rd, 2019. The good news is that the process will be just gradual enough to be tolerable; imagine how many people would have killed themselves on November 3rd, 2019 if they had been told all of the grisly domestic depravities coming down the pike. The bad news is that the agonies will be much more excruciating individually.