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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/11/21


I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend. I am sadly amused by a joke I received on January 8th “I’ve had the seven day free trial for 2021—I’d like to cancel my subscription.” IT’S NOT A VIDEO GAME During the armed attack on the Capitol, I was struck with the juvenile nature of many of the participants, including the guys in helmets with horns, painted faces and other idiocy. I don’t mean to minimize the participation of the well-armed militias, die-hard racists, anti-Semites and defenders of the “lost cause.” These people constitute a very real threat—one that I fear we will be living with for a while. But as I watched some of these marauders walking through the Capitol, I noticed some percentage with “oh golly” looks on their faces, walking through the Capitol while staying inside the stanchions set up for tourists. That’s when I realized that some of these morons may think they were playing an extension of some sort of video game. Just a bunch of “good old boys” out on a fun field trip. When we were in the midst of recounts, over 60 post-election lawsuits and the urgings of Josh Hawley (he of the raised fist) and others, many lemmings followed the pronouncements of right wing “news” sites, railing about a stolen election and taking back their country. They assured their friends that the missing piece of the grand conspiracy was being secured, after which they would “release the Kracken” (yes, they actually are referring to fictional a Norse sea creature). It was as if these idiots were playing video games without consequence, playing out a fantasy consisting of some combination of American patriot, defender of the heartland, and Johnny Depp’s crew members in Pirates of the Caribbean. It might be easy to dismiss these knuckleheads for their childish transgressions; only their little experiment in rebellion was in the real world. Life is not lived on-line and we are not real world extensions of on-line avatars. On-line, one can do all number of foolish things and not be held accountable. But when you let the avatar out, there are consequences. I remember when I was in elementary school. I dreamt of being Superman, flying around saving the world. Occasionally I would sit in my room, soaring about in my daydreams, interrupted by my mother’s voice reminding me to tie my shoes, put on my sweater and head off to school. Unfortunately for some of these idiots, the voice they hear is the law, reminding them of the magnitude of extending their fantasies into action. They’ll be headed to court and later prison, rather than school. They all must be prosecuted and punished, so that the next “armchair revolutionaries” will just reload the game they’re playing and stay put in their Barcalounger in the basemane. CAPITOL ATTACK, REDUX As we try to make some sense of the rioting last Wednesday, I want to call out again two shirts that were worm by criminals attacking the Capitol: “6MWE”—Six million weren’t enough “Camp Auschwitz”—and on the back, “Staff Member” These people were invited to Washington to disrupt Congress by our President. “It will be wild,” he said. In this instance, he actually told the truth. Right before they marched on the Capitol, they were further emboldened by Rudy Giuliani’s encouragement of “trial by combat” and Donald Trump, Jr.’s warning to Congress, “we’re coming for you.” Our Dear Leader suggested it was time to “stop fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back.” And when finally compelled to urge the mob to break up, Mr. Trump said, “I love you” and “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” My goodness…still the self-pity…still the misinformation…still the rationalization… IT IS THE COMPANY THAT YOU KEEP I grow weary of the unrelenting apologists, people who cannot see clear to condemn bad behaviors when they come from a perceived “ally.” Is it enough now, even for the most die-hard Trumpist, to concede that the Mad King really is mad and that his actions and words have harmed our nation, including most recently the attack on Congress? And isn’t it enough now, even for the most die-hard “big tent” right-winger to acknowledge there are dangerous fanatics in their midst—people who, by their own admission, are out to “take back” their country from the perceived advantages bestowed on minorities? And are they listening to the words of those who claimed they were staging what they believed to be the first steps of a revolution on Wednesday evening? A poll by YouGov shows that 45% of all Republicans supported the attack on the Capitol. Imagine that… There apparently are some people who have built a wall around themselves, incapable of allowing contrary facts or opinions to breach their wall of protection. Why is it that so many people will hang on for dear life to a belief, twisting themselves into Gordian knots of rationalization, when they could simply admit that perhaps—even a little bit—they might be wrong? At least the completely amoral dynamic duo of craven self-promotion, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here on that “amoral” description) are pursuing a cynical political calculus in order to rack-up votes from the alt-right. But why are doctors in Los Angeles, real estate financiers in New York, and small business owners in the Midwest still on the “Make America Great” bandwagon? The majority of the Republicans in the House (and perhaps a majority in the Senate) has made a Faustian bargain with those of bad intent, whom they do not control—Qanon, the “proud boys,” the “boogaloo boys” and, yes, the imbalanced serially-bankrupt (financially and morally) Donald Trump. With that, they bear responsibility for their actions and the destruction they bring. This is not a time without precedent—a little history might help. Back in the early 1960s, William F. Buckley, the conservative intellectual, publicly condemned the John Birch Society, a racist rabidly anti-Communist group (they even believed Dwight Eisenhower was a tool of the Communists). He urged Barry Goldwater, the soon-to-be Republican nominee for president, also to disavow the Birchers. Goldwater didn’t and went down in one of the most spectacular landslides in American history. Patriots like George Will, David Frum, Max Boot, and Bill Kristol (among others) similarly broke with these people years ago and the Republican leadership didn’t listen. History may well repeat itself. Here is what Buckley said nearly 60 years ago: “The underlying problem is whether conservatives can continue to acquiesce quietly in a rendition of the causes of the decline of the Republic…which is false.” In this age of the aforementioned “good people” on the other side, these words echo through history. The just reward for the enablers will be a period in the political wilderness. LISTEN TO THE GOOD DOCTOR My father, Bill Sonnenberg, was a pediatrician. I can remember a conversation we had when I was in college when he told me the most important child-rearing advice he could give a parent was to watch the people with whom their children associate. A few good friends will help steer them the right direction. Hanging around with the wrong people will likewise shape—and define—who they will become. Most of the Republicans in the House and Senate been hanging around with the wrong kids for a while now. In their efforts to demonstrate their “leadership” they parrot key phrases they learned from the President or from their “constituents.” What many increasingly are learning is they have been playing with fire. In the childish boasts on line that they would “release the Kracken,” I think they now may realize the fierce beast of legend cannot be controlled. It will take a concerted effort to put it back. INTENT MATTERS I also grow tired of people trying to establish a false dichotomy between the protests of police violence against Black victims and the storming of the Capitol. Besides the shamefully dissimilar treatment of the protesters by law enforcement, let’s remember that the Black Lives Matter protesters had a legitimate beef and their primary purpose was to increase awareness and demand legal reform. The people storming the Capitol came with the intent of disruption and revolution. To infer they are even remotely the same (because property was damaged in both cases) is sophistry at its best. That said, there is no excuse for the violence in Portland and Seattle. All violence and destruction must be condemned—whether intended or not. MORE PHRASES TO DESCRIBE 2020 A week ago, I shared some of the phrases chosen by the Yale Law School Library to describe 2020 and added a few of my own. I asked for others to provide some and they did. Here are some of the best (with attribution for a few of the best)

  1. “A lot of people are saying” (Phil Frengs, Peter Bain and Laura Stovitz)

  2. “Stay at home”

  3. “Quarantine fatigue”

  4. “I’m hearing from a lot of people” (Peter Bain)

  5. “I won this election—by a landslide!” (Peter)

  6. “I’m Zoomeranging from call to call” (Chris Maling)

  7. “You’re on mute” (Allison Gingold)

  8. “What do you want to order from DoorDash tonight?” (Allison)

  9. …returning from a walk, “I forgot my mask” (Allison)

  10. “The internet is down”

  11. “Don’t come in; I’m on a zoom call” (Allison)

Have a great day, Glenn

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