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Stella Suberman: The Jew Store

Shine, Perishing Republic


This was my Fourth of July picture in 2015, not long after the Obergefell decision. It remains appropriate, but the reversal of Roe v. Wade is an occasion of hope that maybe the republic is not done for yet. Whatever you think about abortion, it was a victory for the constitution and therefore for the country.

The title is from the famous Robinson Jeffers poem. Our troubles are not the same as those of his time, but that phrase is one of those that comes into my head whenever I think of our political-cultural situation. I'm not linking to it because the only online texts I can find are pretty unappealing visually. But you'll find one quickly enough if you search for the title.


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We watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington last night. I was depressed afterwards. I think I was experiencing mourning for America.

I experience that frequently. It's not that things were so uniformly wonderful 50 years ago, but we're acting out the words of a T-Bone Burnett song: keep all the bad, destroy the good.

I had that experience too, recently. Happened to drive through a couple small rural Ohio towns that were obviously struggling but at least still trying to keep their heads above water. My thought was, "I bet some nice, normal people live here. Too bad the Machine wants them too."

Of course, in a sense that's unrealistic and romantic. But I often wonder if there are places that the rot hasn't quite taken over, places that for whatever reason have something of a buffer against it.

I don't really spend much time worrying about it. To me most of it is politicians pitting people against each other, which is of course unfortunate. I just spent my 3-week summer vacation going from Wyoming to: Missouri, Alabama, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and then back here. All of these places have people that are more alike than they are different. Some are off the rails about politics, crazed from the right or from the left. When they are not foaming at the mouth about these things they tend to be fine. Our republic probably needs to institute changes to the system, since it apparently does not work very well any more. I guess we will at some point in the future. While I certainly do not think the USA is the "greatest country in the world" or any other patriotic gobbly-gook, I'm happy to be here and not in Ukraine for instance. I would recommend limiting your news to the weather and sports. The first might actively effect your life, and the second is so meaningless that you can just take it for the entertainment it is.

I was going to say something similar about the general condition of things. The rot is far from taking over here. We have all kinds of long-standing problems but there's no sense of collapse or madness. I would say more but am tapping this on a tablet and it's too cumbersome.

"When they are not foaming at the mouth about these things they tend to be fine. "

I have a friend who lives in rural Wisconsin. She has worked with the public schools. Her report is that the small, rural community in which she lives is devastated by broken families, domestic violence, opioids--that doesn't even mention the effect that internet pornography has had on the young people and marriage and family.

You can't easily watch that much of that kind of tv and listen to that much of that kind of music and view that much of that kind of internet and retain anything like a sense of decency.

This is not a right wing/left wing problem.

In our neighborhood, which, though suburban, has a very small-town vibe, there is a huge sign that says, "---- Biden." I don't think you would have seen that even ten years ago. Something has gone seriously amiss. I think the rot is more pervasive than you think.

To the extent that the center still holds, it does so at a very subterranean level.

All of that is sad, Robert. I agree with all that you say. How was my life so much more innocent growing up? Doesn't seem that long ago. More and more I just think that the internet has been a bad thing. *Sigh*

I think the internet has definitely done more harm than good.

Far be it from me to appear optimistic.:-) All the problems Robert mentions are very present here or at least not far away. And I think the long-term prospects for the country are grim from several points of view. But in my immediate environment, meaning southwest Alabama, there is not generally that sense of collapse and crisis in the air.

Re the public use of the f-word: it's repulsive. What a victory for the forces of liberation. Which reminds me that I have yet to hear any but a very very few hippies of my generation recognize that maybe the whole sex and drugs revolution was a bad idea.

Two things that jumped out in a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, "Well, I swear: A brief f---ing history of profanity in the movies" (https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/well-i-swear-a-brief-fing-history-of-profanity-in-the-movies-20140901-10axdu.html):

"The title of most profane filmmaker on the planet must go to Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street set a new record for the number of f--s in a feature film: 569, or 3.16 a minute."


"The everyday street language of some American communities is now much more familiar, as in The Wire, in which there is a scene in the first series that consists of nothing but the word f--, repeated 38 times in three minutes, 45 seconds."

That article was written in 2014. Wonder if either of those two records has been topped yet?

I remember that scene from The Wire. McNulty and Bunk, two detectives, are looking over a crime scene. Probably a shooting though I don't remember, and they keep expressing their dismay with that word, but in a quiet and detached sort of way. It's meant to be funny, or seems to be at least, maybe a comment on their limited vocabulary.

Haven't seen those mafia movies, or only bits. I dislike them.

There's a direct line of descent from the hippie liberation of the f-word to transgender ideology. Not a necessary one but an actual one.

"It's meant to be funny, or seems to be at least, maybe a comment on their limited vocabulary."

Re-watched the series not long ago. I think that it starts off as them expressing their dismay, as you say, but it seems to turn into a sort of contest between them, like in that older movie (can't remember which) where the characters have a conversation consisting entirely of the word "dude" said with various intonations and inflections. It may have even been a parody of that scene.

I recall reading somewhere that part of the unconscious attraction of the word is that it's a naturally very easy word to pronounce. It starts at the lips with a outward breath, moves back to the throat with the "uh", then ends abruptly with the 'k.' In a sense, it literally "rolls off the tongue."

That being said, it's no excuse for the public use of the word. I find it repulsive as well. And I see no reason why it needs to be used to these extremes in TV and movies.

I have seen one of those signs/flags outside a home here in my town as well. My first response was that someone needs to complain to I guess the police? Children should not have to see this and think it is normal. My second response was that since I do not have any children here I guess it's not my problem, but then we should all be standing up for what is correct, right?

There is a difference between public displays of the F word and R-rated cinema. I don't know anything about The Wire except that lots of people recommend it and I don't want to watch it. If it aired on TV back before "streaming" how could it include profane language?

For the record The Wolf of Wall Street is not a mobster movie.

That brings up today's death of James Caan, who was in arguably the greatest mobster movie every made. RIP Jimmy Caan.

Okay, I just looked and The Wire was on HBO, so you don't have to answer that question, Mac. I have nothing against profanity in "the arts" that are not aimed at children, I just do not enjoy these shows that take place in inner-cities. Even the one in New Mexico I have only watched episode 1 and that was enough...the title escapes me right now. I did finally give in and start watching Ozark though...it is hard to stop watching and I'm sure just as horrible as The Wire and the other!

If the New Mexico one you mention is Breaking Bad, then you've settled on the worst of the three to actually watch. Way to go. :-) Not that Ozark is bad but the other two are way better.

I'm watching Ozark right now -- on the last episode of season two. It's good, but not nearly as good as B.B. or The Wire.

I've also made it through two seasons of Yellowstone. Much more melodramatic than any of the above, and to me more of a diversion than anything else. I like it, but I don't really find myself pulled in. As a friend says, it's like watching an R-rated version of Dallas.

I've heard something similar about Yellowstone. Moot point for me because it's on one of the services I don't have.

I've watched more than one of these shows without liking it all that much because unless I strongly dislike it one or two episodes can be enough for the simple desire to know what happens kicks in.

I watched Yellowstone on DVD from the library.

I wanted to finish watching Narcos, but discovered that the later seasons weren't on DVD, so I signed up for Netflix. After I finished it I went to Ozark, which is also not on DVD. I'll probably cancel after I'm done, as there's not much more on there I'm all that interested in seeing.

Just got American Rust from the library. It got mixed reviews, but it was filmed not far from where I live -- in the town where my parish church is, actually -- so I'm mainly watching it for the local connection.

I may have some Netflix recommendations that would make it worth your while for a bit longer. I'll have to refresh my memory. Chances are pretty good that you would already have seen them on dvd I guess.

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