24 Oct AND YOU WILL BE FASCINATED BY DEFEAT
I’m fascinated by John McCain.
Forty years from now, some future James Ellroy (or Ellroy himself, if we can find a way to remove his head and attach it to an indestructible writer-bot) will write a “Millennium Trilogy”, covering the Clintons, the rise and fall of Bush, and the ascendancy of Obama.
We stumbled into the early 90’s, led by a Southern good ole boy on a constant pussy hunt. But the good ole boy made everyone richer and then got impeached for a blow job. Then it was time to enter the new millennium with an East Coast, rich-boy, born-again cokehead draft dodger who got us into an unnecessary war. Now we’re about to elect a black guy raised by a single mom, whose middle name is the same as the dictator we toppled in the bullshit war the cowardly draft dodger started.
Try pitching that to New Line.
I’ve just done a blaze-through of Ellroy’s American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, in anticipation of Blood’s A Rover being released next year. Ellroy writes like a machine-gunner dry-swallowing Benzedrine, and that’s how you stutter-lurch through the Kennedy years – the 1960 election, Papa Kennedy’s power-lust, Bobby’s justice-lust, and Jack’s just plain lust, fueled by back pain and an obliquely expressed death-wish. I’ll probably re-read the goddamn things next summer, so I can fall straight into the third when it hits the stands. 1300 pages that read like a Chick tract.
And what the books do – with eerie cameos by J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Jack Ruby and Carlos Marcello – is show how the sure-footed and graceful actually dodged the darker, more instructive areas of our history. It was the confused, misguided, violent and despairing people who cracked reality, and sent us into the jungles of Vietnam, the streets of Chicago, and outer space. It took an innate failure of spirit to defeat and re-shape reality.
Obama is sure-footed and graceful. He’s going to win. He knows the moment he becomes angry he gets tagged as “militant”. So he’s armed himself with calm. Let his opponent shriek and bark like a meth head, and scare the populace.
He’s going to make history.
But McCain, someday, is going to make a great novel. He doesn’t want to be a part of it, but it’ll be one of the most readable things to come out of this dark spiral we’ve been going through for eight years. And worry – the spiral isn’t terminal. At the last minute – just like America’s always done – we’ll pull ourselves away from the spinning blades. There’s going to come a day when we won’t. That day isn’t now.
So, Obama’s going to win.
But all I can think of is McCain.
QUICK INTERLUDE, I:
I post, sometimes, about politics, on my MySpace page. I posted a thing, near the end of September, about Sarah Palin. It was about, obliquely, how frightening she is in her giddy, glowing ignorance. She’s Greg Stillman, from The Dead Zone, but with a vagina and a fake Midwestern accent. Remember – Martin Sheen played him in the movie? “The eagles are flying, Hallelujah”.
Stephen King could never have imagined a Sarah Palin. None of us could.
The post generated the most comments of anything I’ve ever written on the page. It’s nearing 300 comments as I write this.
Every negative comment is filled with misspellings, run-on sentences, and fourth-grade grammar.
And they all say variations of the same thing: “Who the fuck wants to hear some goddamn celebrity’s opinion of politics?”
Apparently, every one of the hateful posters on my MySpace page. Because they took the time to read it, and then post a comment. I didn’t force them to read a single word. And I’ll bet the main reason they went there is ‘cuz, “That’s a guy from on the TV box.”
I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries. I really, truly liked him. Liked him as a person, a candidate, and would have loved him as a president. He and Russ Feingold proposed one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation and managed to get enough people from both sides of the aisle to back it. That’s leadership. McCain was tainted by his associations with the Keating 5, but it seemed as if he glimpsed a real darkness there, and was atoning for it. That’s wisdom. I’m all for redemption, especially from people who have been to the brink. A knight with rust is a knight I trust, if you know what I mean.
He refused to exploit his time in the Hanoi Hilton. It seemed like an event in his life that profoundly changed him and, like a true warrior, he wasn’t about to burden others with it. Wow.
And he told the religious right to go fuck themselves. Yes.
So I’m fascinated at the McCain I’m seeing now. Can’t get enough of him.
QUICK INTERLUDE, II:
Joe the Plumber is not a licensed plumber. Keep in mind, every time they say, “Joe the Plumber”, they celebrate a man who’s taking jobs away from actual, hardworking plumbers.
John McCain has to work every day with the people that ruined him. When he ran against Bush in 2000, a firm hired by Karl Rove did evil, racist robo-calls in the southern states. They told lies about his adopted daughter. They slandered his wife.
John McCain is working with those same people now. He has to wake up in the morning, have coffee and donuts with them, map out new strategies of hatred against his opponent. They’re making new robo-calls against the black guy he’s running against. The calls are just as false and racist as the ones which shredded his White House hopes in 2000. The calls in 2000 helped a drafter dodger defeat him. The robo-calls in 2008 aren’t going to help him win against the black guy.
But they are winning him supporters he doesn’t want.
I remember, when I was working the road every weekend of my life as a comedian, back in the 80’s, I’d sometimes work with a headliner who’d given up. He/she still killed every night, packed rooms, made money. But somewhere, somewhere in a past I wasn’t a part of, they’d given up. Maybe they felt like they should have had a sitcom years ago, or were due one soon. And so they decided to appeal to the worst parts of the audience.
There’s a part in every human you can reach that laughs and thinks and maybe disagrees with you, but stays intrigued with you, in the long run. And that’s how you build a career and a body of work. It takes longer, but every minute is fun. And you never have to swallow anything that tastes sickening.
Then there’s the part of people that goes, “Whoooooo!” at shit they already agree with. That part’s easy to connect with, and you feel sticky and tired afterwards when you cash your check. You’re entertaining people whose company you would never entertain. Or, in the words of Peter Schaffer, you’re “…distinguished by people who don’t know how to distinguish.”
McCain knows the answers to the Ayers question, and the Rezko question, and the Reverend Wright question. But he knows there are people out there – the “under-informed voter” in the words of a McCain campaign advisor – who don’t. And these people couldn’t understand the complexities of the answers if those answers were laid out before them in block letters.
The defeated headliners knew the material they were doing was hackneyed and lowbrow, but they also knew there were comedy clubs full of people who didn’t know better. The mozzarella sticks and gallon-sized fun drinks sold, the club owner was happy, and a check got cut.
So McCain – who knows better, and who is actually better traveled and wiser and more connected intellectually than anyone else running for president – has to go out and act just as righteously angry and mystified as people who send their ignorance up on a flare every time they speak. Proudly, defiantly, smugly ignorant of the world.
How amazing a novel would that make? John McCain, or someone like him, who finds himself in an endless, shrieking gallery of howling stupidity. And the stupidity is sentient, passionate, and looks to him for love and approval.
QUICK INTERLUDE, III:
As I write this, a McCain campaign worker staged an operatic attack by a phantom “black man” who robbed her at knife-point at an ATM. He saw the McCain sticker on her car and carved a “B” on her cheek. But the “B” is carved backwards – ’cause she did it while looking in the mirror.
We’ve got ten days to go as I write this.
The hack-y headliners I worked with, back in the day, were always such nice people. They were friendly and helpful and fun to spend an afternoon with. Even though, at their core, they were sad, part of them still loved comedy. And they mourned the cheap road they took and short-term prize they grabbed.
The only times I’d ever see these guys get angry was when they met a younger, dumber, happy hack. Some feature act or emcee that had their future ahead of them, but came out of the womb mediocre, un-creative and stupid. A true believer in the lowest common denominator. Acolytes of the sell-out.
That’s when the hack-y headliner would get mean, rude, and anti-social. For the love of God, at least they came to their mediocrity through long years of struggle capped off by deep, cosmic defeat. But to start out that way? That was an insult to the harsh journey they’d survived.
What form of rage is John McCain tamping down whenever he’s around Sarah Palin? Or the robo-call people? Or when he’s buffeted by the braying, tomb-legion hate-screech of his adoring crowds?
These next ten days, remember – you’re not watching the ugly end of McCain’s hopes. You’re watching the prologue of an epic, redemptive, and cautionary American tragedy.
I can’t wait to read it.