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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


composition in gray #20
Who's to say that a lie is always bad

and who's to say that the truth is always good?

You're a fool to wring your neck by searching for the truth.

A character in today's film, The Lower Depths, originally a play by Russian playwright Maxim Gorky. It was made for film by Akira Kurosawa in Japan, 1957, b&w. It became a Japanese story of a dozen or so characters in the slum of a slum. Most interesting to me was the characters who were brought down by their own excesses in our human ways. One man drank so much he ruined his liver and is about to die. A woman who'd lived a particularly rough life died of some slow breakdown. None of them had foresight. They all reacted emotionally to each other instead of responding sensibly. Wranglings among them were going all the time like monkeys in a tree.

A poor traveler dropped in to stay awhile to rest in his travels. It turns out he was something like a wandering monk who would, from time to time, show some compassion, gave them sound advice they didn't understand. He said to them once, lies trump the truth every time. Another name that would work for these characters is lost souls. The wandering monk frequently stopped one from doing or saying something that would be a mistake with disastrous results. But they didn't understand him. He seemed to talk in riddles. They were not people who could comprehend such a concept as lies trumping truth. What? They didn't have tv and they didn't have today's news. Throughout my adult life I've seen over and over that lies do indeed trump truth. The nature of the American judicial system is an attempt to separate truths from lies. Turns out it's a public poker game between two players with the judge a referee.

The way things turn out, by the time the wandering monk is ready to move on, issues erupted between the characters that had been held back too long. It turned out it probably would have been best if he'd never appeared. By the time he was gone the characters were defeated by themselves. He did what he could, but they didn't understand, so they did what they interpreted he said and made things worse. I was watching it thinking this seemed awfully familiar. Like history. Like what went with Christendom after Jesus. What happened to Islam after Mohamed. In our time our Fundamentalist boys and girls want to go to Iraq and Afghanistan for jihad to kill infidels. Muslim Fundamentalists strap dynamite around their waists and kill as many infidels as they can. I call it the Fundamentalist war. The Christians want to kill Muslims and Muslims want to kill Christians over dogma and interpretation and anything else you want to throw in to keep the fire going. It's all there. For both sides it's a religious war. The American Fundamentalists believe they're bringing on Armageddon and the Muslims are calling jihad.

What I don't get is Christendom has for it's foundation Love and love only. Forgive, forget, care, assist, understand, help the poor. Sounds crazy. It's what sounds crazy about those words in relation to American Christendom, Fundamentalism, that made the wandering monk in the movie an enigma to the people. Looks like that's what happened with Jesus too. It looks like it would have been better for humanity if he'd left it alone. But it wouldn't have. They were in a time then like we're in now where decency broke down and, like Wm Butler Yeats put it, the center didn't hold. Divine guidance altered directions and they came through it, all of civilization came through it. One thing I don't get is this enthusiasm I see in young Christian guys to get on with the holy war. Doing it for Jesus. It's a mind I don't understand at all, except that I grew up in Kansas Fundamentalism. Kansas is like the Vatican of Fundamentalism.

It made an unbeliever, like in uncola and unsweet. Like took out what was already there. I had a hard time believing God was behind Joe McCarthy in the early 50s. Later, after growing up a bit, I find out about all the people in DC who jumped out of office windows, homes wrecked, honorable people's lives wrecked so one alcoholic dunce with an IQ right down there with Rush Limbaugh's can commandeer media attention trumping the truth with lies. When I heard the man in the film say, "lies trump the truth every time." I hesitated with the "every time." As a rule, I see it. Especially in politics. Republicans are masters at it. Tell a lie enough times and it becomes true. It's a truth in propaganda that always works. Even as a kid, it didn't seem right to me for a preacher to be telling the people how to vote, praise McCarthy, and come down on Communists because they're unrepentent atheists, the same as dead. Heard on the news today Sarah Palin's back, spinning reality with lies, this time more pumped up than ever. She's been groomed for something to do with the lower depths. We'll be seeing the Party's role for her soon.

My parents believed the preacher's praise of McCarthy, but I didn't. He preached too much about evangelists and his awe for Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, and getting more preaching on television and radio and learning to perform winning body language while talking before a crowd. They were modeling themselves after business, advertising, going for the big bucks. I didn't trust it. The trend created Tammy Faye and Jim Baker, the most obvious frauds of the host of tv evengelists in the 80s who were on the take. Many of them fell with a crash. I found it interesting that Jerry Falwell fell well. I don't know where I got this from unless it was the preacher himself talking about things Jesus said and did. A kid in jr hi, it did not compute with me that church stuff, religion, would do any good modeling itself after business. I could see it only diluting the religion further, making itself secular. I couldn't talk with any of the adults about my thoughts. I'd be heard as something like a barking dog and told by wise crack the preacher knows more than I do or I'd be the one up there preaching. I knew how it would be received before I asked the question, so I didn't ask the question. Figured it out for myself.

I was possibly 14 when I got up on Saturday morning and walked through the living room on the way to the kitchen, daddy sitting on the couch looking at the paper. As I walked by him, he said, "If you ever join the Communist Party, I'll kill you." Gee thanks, Daddy, I think you're expendable, too. Of course, a fascination for communism was conceived that moment. I wanted to be a communist more than anything. Every time I saw pictures or heard on news about Russia and communism, the hammer and sickle that spread terror through the world of Christendom, I'd listen close and see if I could learn something about it. All through the high school years I carried a secret longing to be a communist. In the college years I read about Lenin, Stalin, Mao like they were way high up special great ones.

Then I began to see what treacherous varmints they all were and not one of them gave the first shit about the working people. They were thugs with absolute power. Stalin killed more Russians than Hitler did. These guys were serious egomaniacal despots. I knew I would end up in Siberia or dead if I lived under any of them. I figured that was worse than fundamentalism in Kansas by so many leaps and bounds it made the suburbs look good. I rode a train through Soviet occupied Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in 1971. The men with Soviet green coats that went to the floor and a red star in the center of their caps, were frightening. Spooky to me, but mortifying to the Yugoslavs on the train. The men snapped to attention, addressed them as though they were physical manifestations of absolute power. I was thinking, This isn't it. They were lies told so many times they became the truth.

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