The Golden Gavel

The most talked about show this week was the one where a group of adult politicians squirmed in desperation, objected in glee and eventually screamed with pride as they finally, after 15 torturous televised parliamentary procedure-moderated votes, managed to elect a new Speaker of the 2023 U.S. House of Representatives.

Well whoop de doo

And yet no single image summed up the marathon. multi-day event better than this behind-the-scenes photo snapped of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), she of handy-dandy, I will school you, portable white board fame, as she sat patiently waiting for the just barely-in-the-majority opposing party to get it together enough to agree on some one to take possession of that much hallowed Speaker’s gavel.

We stan

When Holly, our beloved NFAC executive editor, private messaged me the photo of our beloved Katie reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck amid all the chaos on the House Floor my first thought was:

 OMG, I bet that’s exactly what she’d say after a glass a wine and exactly what she’d do, née read publicly, if she WASN’T a politician.

I also thought. What a f’n great title for a book!  Someone should write that rather than just spend time merely reproducing it for some snide meme people like me would like.

Well, never let it be said that I don’t tell tales on myself out of school and don’t appreciate former college professor Katie (Note: And current one, Holly) for both their nerve AND for schooling me once more.

As it turns out, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, written by blogger Mark Manson, is indeed a REAL BOOK.  In fact, it’s a N.Y. Times bestseller that to date has sold 20 million copies and has been translated into 65 different languages. 

And it has a sequel!

Not only that, but he’s the subject of a 2023 documentary feature now playing in movie theatres, entitled….well, figure it out.

I’m so out of it. 

But, well, at least I know it.  And clearly I DON’T give a f*ck.   Nothing subtle about that.

Cheers to you Chairy!

But let’s get back to Katie and Mark and how together they’ve captured the national zeitgeist, as far as public reaction goes, to the Speaker of the House election.

“F” bombs flew, fingers wagged, and a fistfight nearly broke out among that very special group of political, ahem, elites, by the time a razor thin majority of Republicans dragged their new leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), across the finish line. 

The final vote had McCarthy with 50.5% of the chamber, excluding six members of his own party that could only bring themselves to vote present (Note: A House version of abstaining) rather than granting their candidate a full-on endorsement.

Press it again!

This, of course, was nowhere near the spectacle of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol Building that ironically occurred exactly two years ago to the day in exactly the same place  and in front of many of the same people that this final vote was taking place.

Way back on Jan. 6, 2021  there was a storming of the entire Capitol Building to stop the count of a free and fair PRESIDENTIAL election.  And on that day many, many dozens of people were actually physically injured, including 140 members of law enforcement.   Windows and doors were broken, offices were defaced and feces were spread all over the walls.

Oh and also, five people died.

Never forget

A number of politicians who supported that insurrection, attempted coup or patriotic peaceful protest of the Republican base of disgruntled and suspicious voters – depending on how you want it referred to and whether you believe in fact or fiction – were, in fact, actually among those whose votes, or votes of PRESENT, granted Rep. McCarthy his….victory two years later.

People like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the subject of an extensive federal probe of sex-trafficking/having sex with a 17-year-old girl; and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a twice arrested gun enthusiast and anti-gay marriage crusader who believes the church is supposed to direct the (U.S.) government.

This this this

Not to mention several more we won’t name who were in on the planning of Jan. 6 2021, along with POTUS #45.

Speaking of #45, another McCarthy voter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA), she of the Jewish space lasers, gleefully approached one of the McCarthy PRESENT holdouts with her cell phone at the 11th hour and urged him to take the call of D.T. (aka #45), which he promptly refused.  (Note: Okay, twist my arm, it was Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-CO)).

But, as the reporting goes, #45 did manage to reach Rep. Gaetz and urged him to wrap things up and get the vote done.

Which, miraculously, he did at the eleventh and a half hour.

But not before Rep. Greene was then caught by intrepid C-SPAN cameras yucking it up with about to be newly minted, lair, liar pants on fire Congressman George Santos (R-NY).

Where’s my cringe button?

In case you don’t remember, that’s the guy who lied about everything on his resume, including his college degree, work history in finance, and mysterious million dollar plus increase in annual income in 2021 and 2022 (Note: From $50,000 the year prior), that became one of the chief funding mechanisms that enabled his campaign win.

Like Gaetz,  #45 and a bunch of other Congressional McCarthy voters, he is also currently the subject of multiple investigations.

I guess this isn’t funny.  Or maybe it is.   We’ll know in a few months. 

But how many of us will give a you know what about it, or much of anything, by then?

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” Trailer

Tale as Old as Time

The supposed finale episode of the Jan. 6th hearings happened this week and they happened to coincide with the death of theatre-film-TV icon Angela Lansbury.

Timing aside, you may be asking:

Chair, how do these two events have anything in common?

Because as far as we can tell, death is final and a TV series, even a real-life, limited one, never truly ends.

Well, let me explain.

Go on…

It is true that no TV show, be it a limited series, news program or super indie non-network offering that was once viewed somewhere via some barely gettable online platform, is EVER safe from resurrection, rebooting or, well, theft.

And that not even Elon Musk, the richest human on the planet, (Note: Okay, the italicized may be questionable), who was last heard to be confabbing with Russian President and fellow Bond villain Vladimir Putin, has figured out a way to truly cheat death.

Despite all evidences to the contrary.

Central casting couldn’t have done this good #idiot

Yet each – the TV show finale and the Death – reminded me of what we now refer to as 21st century tribalism, AKA a term that most appropriately describes the world as we now experience it, at its best AND its worst.

Definition, please —-

   Tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Human evolution has primarily occurred in small hunter-gatherer groups, as opposed to larger and more recently settled civilizations.  So in a political context, tribalism can mean discriminatory behavior or attitudes towards out-groups, based on in-group loyalty.

Let’s start with Angela Lansbury, since speaking of her is much more pleasant.

Hey girl

There are few in any group who have not been positively touched by her talents.  One of the most accomplished performers in the entertainment business over a seven-decade career, Dame Angela momentarily made many tens of millions of people better with such iconic performances as Jessica Fletcher on the long-running TV series Murder, She Wrote; Broadway’s original Mame, in the Tony-award winning self-titled lead role; and in three indelible, Oscar-nominated roles, most notably as the forever evilest mother of them all in the 1962 classic suspense drama, The Manchurian Candidate.

But the part that probably brought her the most and broadest attention, especially from young people, was her voicing (and singing) of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s perennial animated classic, Beauty and the Beast.

Who doesn’t love Mrs. Potts?

It is not an exaggeration to write, as I have before, that seeing Ms. Lansbury make her entrance down a spiral staircase as Mame on the set of her rambling Beekman Place penthouse to a roomful of Manhattan sophisticates back in the mid-sixties, is what made me first want to be in show business as a little boy.

Yes, Mame

Up until then I felt that I didn’t fit in anywhere and all the sassy retorts and sparkly glamour I was suppressing on the inside (Note: barely) were destined to eat me alive unless they and me finally got out.

But once I saw her version of Auntie Mame emerge in her glittery gold pantsuit and take her nephew (who was about my age at the time) by the hand and introduce him to her world of….brilliance… I knew I had found my tribe.

My people

I didn’t know how I could get to them or when I would but I knew it was where I belonged.  In a place where I could talk uncensored about the theatre, politics, or pretty much anything else happening in society while simultaneously being stylishly dressed and slightly (ahem) snide.

If it wasn’t always the loftiest of goals it at least gave me a framework I could modify to my personal style.  And, as the years moved on I would become, well hopefully, a bit wiser and more truly sophisticated myself.

I would learn that what I at the time mistook for being city-sophisticated meant merely being smart, educated and open to all opinions on the issues of the day without losing your sense of humor.

… and a little gay too

As for being snide and stylish — okay, that hasn’t changed, much.  Or at all.  Some things are just baked into your cake.

So yeah, Dame Angela gave this 10 year old A LOT.  So much more than a reality TV performer turned the unlikely POTUS (#45) and most powerful human on the planet, has done for his followers.

Watching the compilation of interviews and clips of January 6, 2021, how is one not grabbed by the mob mentality and violence against law enforcement and sacred government landmarks like the Capitol Building, not to mention the salivating mouths of armed followers threatening personal harm against elected representatives from all FIFTY states they were forcing to hide inside their coat closets and elsewhere for protection?

This footage especially

Generations of Americans took their kids on tours of the Capitol. What do you say about a tribe of people smearing feces on the walls of those same offices?

How do you respond to this tribe’s construction of a medieval gallows and rope from which to hang the sitting Vice President of their own political party because he would not turn his back on every citizen who voted in the 2020 presidential election and not ratify duly counted votes submitted by each of the states? 

Moreover, how can anyone respect their tribal leader, who represented everything they were standing for simply by sitting back and letting their violence and mass hysteria continue, and allowing the pleas for help from the broad swath of citizens they threatened, citizens he was elected to also represent, go unanswered, all the while watching it play out on television and by every account salivating at the pandemonium he presumed would allow him to illegally stay in office?

I’m out of breath!

How does anyone of any American tribe root for an illogical, 18th century temper tantrum as the answer to an imagined 21st century dispute fueled by 19th and 20th century resentments?

Hell, if I know. 

I want to reason with other tribes, come to some sort of consensus and build our society up as best we can.  I don’t seek their approval, merely our coexistence based on the rules and a shared, rational reality.

I wish I could say the same of them based on what I saw in the Jan 6th TV finale – and see elsewhere.

Forever true

The latter extends to the reaction of Alex Jones, the alt right shock jock and snake oil pitchman who has spent years spreading lies that the deaths of elementary school children at the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary massacre was staged by actors.  Mr. Jones was ordered to pay almost $1 billion in damages to their surviving families this week and, as the verdict was being read, was broadcasting his reactions live, laughing and mocking these parents and survivors as he solicited his listeners to buy more of his fake potions so he could continue his legal appeals.

It also extends to far right conspiracy theorist Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), as he faced his opponent for re-election, Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Black man, in a televised debate.

Asked to say something positive about his opponent, Sen. Johnson noted that he appreciates that Barnes had loving parents, a school teacher, father who worked third shift, admitting he had good upbringing.  Before pausing and quickly adding: I guess what puzzles me about that is with that upbringing, why has he turned against America?

This

Of course, the week prior Sen. Johnson, who is now ahead in the polls, was on tape telling a group of several thousand supporters on the campaign trail that Democrats don’t particularly like this country moments after lamenting over all the anger and division in the country.l

Talk about adding fuel to the fire.

Well, Full Confession:

I may be a snide, partisan and only sometime stylishly dressed Democrat who has spent most of his life in and around show business, but the one thing you can’t say about me is that I am not a thoughtful listener who doesn’t reason things out logically or someone who doesn’t like engaging with both sides of a debate.

But where does that get you?  

Nowhere… fast

What do you do when you are faced with tribes who operate on a set of alternate facts as they riot and lie and put their virtual hands over their ears in order to get their way at all costs?

One thing you can do is go to the head of the snake and subpoena their tribal leader to testify under oath about what is true.  Treat him no differently than any other member of any American tribe if and/or when it is proven that he or they have committed crimes, or even lied under oath to those tasked with carrying out the law.

One can dream

Sure, that’s one alternative.  And the path the bi-partisan members of the Jan. 6th committee have chosen to take.

But there is another. 

Grab some old Angela Lansbury recordings and remember that in a civilized society there are still peak moments of pleasure to be had.

Even if the majority of them seem rooted in the past. 

Angela Lansbury – “Beauty and the Beast”