Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last Call at the Last Refuge

As a callow youth, imbibing clean-shaven and under-aged undergraduate at Rutgers on a stool in Mosco’s Bar in New Brunswick near the Douglass College (for Women) campus, I grew used to the bartenders’ last call. It was always the same, “you don’t have to go home, but you do have to go.”

I just googled Mosco’s and came up dry-as opposed to seeking out (and finding) cross-town favorite and bookend bar, Olde Queens Tavern. I guess you can go home again but your folks rented out the room.

Samuel Johnson once offered “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” and in light of the number of times we’ve watched politicians wrap themselves in the flag when caught or cornered on some ethical or behavioral matter that seems about right. 

The former mayor of New York, Rudolph Guiliani invoked echoes of the “P”  word earlier in the week, say news reports, when he suggested the President of the United States (a position Rudy himself once coveted (though I suspect he wouldn’t have liked the pay cut) didn’t “love America.”

I already didn’t understand what that meant when he offered an explanation on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal whose allegiance to money is unquestioned and where patriotism is notional and never national.  All that “think piece” did, I submit, was allow the double-decker bus that has been called into commission as the 2016 Presidential Klown Kar of Kandidates and Analysts to slow down and let a few more wild-haired weirdos get on.

I very much enjoyed the pop-up window back there that solicited a donation for some cause or other by telling me ‘defunding amnesty is defending America.’ Maybe we can go ahead and raffle off that Statue in New York Harbor and give ‘em the money from the sale since we don’t seem to have any further use for the huddled masses on the dirty boulevard.

I have to admit in recent years American politics has more closely resembled underwater kabuki theater than anything else I can think of. Words take on meanings that I can only guess. Perusing a leading light’s prepared remarks (and party affiliation makes no difference) is like being in a library with books in a language you don’t read.

I’m told actions speak louder than words, but we have too many people who’d rather crank up the volume rather than improve their original argument. Tina Turner once asked ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and that may be the last intelligent thing I remember anyone saying, and she wasn’t even speaking about politics

As a kid when we had ‘cut battles’ (mocking one another) we had a rule: no mothers. You could make fun of anything and everything else, but not Mom. It was a good rule, and I think with some adaptation we can make it work at the national level in pursuit of a more civil dialogue among and between us.

George Bernard Shaw whose works have always led me to believe he could’ve sat on my front stoop on Bloomfield Avenue offered this thought on loyalty based on the accident of where you were born,  “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

I have always preferred the thoughts of Carl Schurz but I’m told oldest children spend a lot time getting and setting things in order. It’s what we do. Sometimes living like that means I’m not allowed to eat at the cool kids’ table for lunch in high school, but that’s alright; I needed to lose a few pounds anyway.

-bill kenny

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