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CSotD: Define the Universe and give two examples

Kal Kallaugher, either deliberately or by happenstance, offers a cartoon that compares Donald Trump to Miguel de Cervantes character, Don Quixote de la Mancha and does so by employing Cervantes’ own theme of a delusional fellow who mistakes a set of windmills for a group of giants.

Kallaugher suggests that Trump is delusional in believing there is voter fraud, which extensive (and expensive) investigations have proven to be so rare in reality as to be statistically insignificant and to pose no threat.

He extends the literary allusion by showing an elephant — symbolizing the Republican Party — in the character of Sancho Panza, Quixote’s faithful servant who raised only the most feeble protests attempting to bring the old fellow back to reality.

It would have been a much shorter book had he aided the Don by wrestling him to the ground and confining him to a retirement home somewhere.

As it is, as I wrote in another life, it’s a very long work that falls under Twain’s definition of a classic as “A book which people praise and don’t read.”

Don Quixote tilts with the windmills within the first seven percent of the book. Nobody ever alludes to anything after that.

The commentary here would be unremarkable if we hadn’t just had a dust-up in which Ben Garrison had also depicted Trump as Quixote, only as a truly sane man chasing real windmill monsters, which, as DDDegg noted in a follow up, Garrison defended as his own deliberately counter-literary view of the Knight Errant.

That appears to be a blend of Pee Wee Herman’s defense, “I meant to do that,” and the explanation I once read in a children’s book about saints, which was that the author didn’t claim these things had happened, only that they would have happened if God had wanted them to.

It’s a form of reasoning that might not seem to matter in issues like whether or not Elvis faked his death or if JFK was living in a persistent vegetative state on a Greek island under the tender care of Aristotle Onassis, who was pretending to be married to Jackie so she could be there.

And yet it does, because allowing silly fabrications to go unchallenged opens the door to the more serious lies that threaten our democracy, including, as Kal depicts, the delusional idea that you can’t trust our electoral system.

And when it begins to appear that Sancho is not simply humoring a crazy old man but following along in hopes of becoming a knight himself and perhaps even King.

Crowned by fatuous nitwits like Loren Boebert who once bragged of how tough her childhood had been, living on welfare checks and eating government cheese, but now exhorts her followers to reject government benefits, and to refuse to accept the vaccines that could save their lives, mocking 600,000 dead Americans as “Fauci ouchies.”

The thing about lemmings leaping over a cliff to their death is also a lie. They didn’t jump. Walt Disney pushed them.

Then he made a hero of Zorro, but barred anyone from visiting Disneyland who looked like he’d challenge the evil capitano, and he had Davy Crockett die heroically at the Alamo, swinging Ol’ Betsy to the last, when Crockett actually surrendered and was executed.

Creating a myth that Texas Governor James Abbott insists must be taught in place of the actual history.

 

Nick Anderson (Tribune) also plays upon our concept of history and values, and he’s only marking the fulfillment of Abbie Hoffman’s wisecrack, that Neil Armstrong could have become a millionaire if, instead of reciting that quote about small steps for a man, he’d have stepped off the lander and shouted, “Drink Coca-Cola!”

Today’s joke becomes tomorrow’s truth, as Richard Branson won the race of the plutocrats into space, or into near-space, or wherever.

 

Branson’s flight was less than Alan Shepard’s but he at least equaled the Flight of Ham, and, I would add, with less rigorous training but apparently with the same level of self-satisfaction.

In “The Right Stuff,” Wolfe notes the ridicule the Mercury astronauts faced for essentially doing what chimps had already accomplished, and now Bezos and Musk will be imitating a rival who imitated a chimp.

Call me when you can direct the thing to a moon landing, but, then again, don’t bother.

 

I was driving across the country in 1970 with two hitchhikers, a fairly conservative black man in his late 20s, early 30s, and a young Potawatomi coming back from the American Indian Movement occupation of Alcatraz, and somehow the Moon Landing the previous summer came up. I had one of them reach into the back and unroll this poster, a parody of media reaction to the event.

The black guy was gobsmacked.

The Indian and I explained that we were more offended by all the bragging and flag-waving than we were impressed with the technical achievement, but he was still shocked, asking if we weren’t proud that an American had been the first to walk on the Moon.

At which point, the Potawatomi gave him a religious lesson, telling of how his people’s holy men had walked on the Moon thousands of years ago and that sending your spirit there is a greater accomplishment than simply transporting your body.

Which would be an unchallengeable truth in our current world, if those holy men had been speaking Aramaic instead of Anishinaabe.

We weren’t so stubborn about listening to each other back in those days, and I suspect that that black guy got out of the car with a whole different head than he’d had when he stepped in.

 

Though, as Man Overboard suggests, before you can learn to live with your own truth, or even with other people’s views of truth, you need to be able to reject the pretty lies — personal, political, cosmological — that seem so much more inviting and attractive.

About a year after I had that car ride, Joni Mitchell released this album, whose truth has only become more universal, and more personal, and more sad, in the half century since:

 

Community Comments

#1 Mary Ella
July/12/2021
@ 8:27 am

I’m reminded of getting teased by a classmate in high school for suggesting that the book report assignment we just got wasn’t that hard (and it wasn’t—read 200 pages a month in a different genre and write a few paragraphs about it; with some creative interpretation of the categories I was able to do most of it with Stephen King books.) If reading 200 pages of trashy horror novels a month in your free time is enough to get you labeled the biggest nerd on the planet, the bar for pointy-headed nerddom really must not be that high. The bar for being an ivory tower, “out of touch with real America” elitist now is apparently set at understanding a reference that’s common enough to have made it’s way into Saturday morning cartoons.

#2 Kip Williams
July/12/2021
@ 9:25 am

Also, bear in mind that no matter how stupid it is, or even if the bulk of the Gops have shrugged and walked away from it, anything any of them says will have defenders who will argue every definition of every word in it for decades.

#3 Susan Conover
July/12/2021
@ 10:56 am

“Creating a myth that Texas Governor James Abbott insists must be taught in place of the actual history.”

Who?

#4 David Spitko
July/12/2021
@ 2:56 pm

::Geez:: Susan – give Mike a break. He is writing at 6 AM in the morning. Of course he means Gov. Greg Abbott.

#5 Mike Peterson
July/13/2021
@ 4:40 am

That would be the explanation, David. Jim Abbott was someone I worked with for many years and, in fact, I’m sure he’d be in favor of teaching real history, not mythology. At that hour of the morning, a subconscious typo.

Anyway, “Texas Governor … Abbott” gave me 75%, which is a passing grade.

#6 Ignatz
July/13/2021
@ 5:36 am

An early Christian Rock Musician named Larry Norman (back when they were “Jesus Freaks” and not right-wing loonies) wrote the following on an album, which gave me a different perspective on the moon landing:

“You say we beat the Russians to the moon,
And I say you starved your children to do it.”

“They brought back a big bag of rocks.
Only cost 13 billion.
Must be nice rocks.”

#7 E Oliver
July/13/2021
@ 7:08 am

Not that Lauren Boebert isn’t a despicable idiot or worse, but “Fauci ouchies” refer to vaccinations, not deaths.

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