Sunday, November 27, 2005

Can Buffy Save the Democrats? Can Mark Warner?

There is something here in the air of New England which was not here when I was a child. It seems to have come into the world like a spirit born of its own accord about the time when the great elms died all throughout the region’s countryside. It is the dissident spirit of trash social studies which pervades the university, politics, the press and the public culture up here and it has mushroomed in my lifetime.

Nathanial Hawthorne says it is a life force from the spirit world which has always been here. It is a witch spirit, he says, from “those strange old times, when fantastic dreams and madmen’s reveries were realized among the actual circumstances of life.” That would be the Puritans he was referring to, those high-minded early New England settlers who were big on concepts and religious fanaticism, but unable to farm enough food to keep themselves from starving to death. I think it has come back. Maybe it is that witch spirit which prevents Boston area politicians from being able to properly route traffic, coordinate transportation or generally help you find your way around the region.

When I attended the University of Massachusetts this spirit rose into the world and Awakened, much like the corpse plant that is hatching today in the Smithsonian’s Botanical Garden. Surely every strain of humanity from Southie, Cohasset and Roxbury was there then, smoking a joint – sometimes with the professor – before the 10 am class . . . something funkatatious in the popular culture oeuvre, most likely, which you might want to take pass/fail. I think we were assigned The Autobiography of Malcom X even for math class in those days. I distinctly remember being assigned it for economics.

It was a spirit pretentious and somewhat pitiful. It seeped throughout my generation and pervaded New England, like the ooze of industrial sludge which covered the ponds in towns like Fall River, where I grew up. It was a kind of half-knowledge and half-hostility which saw itself exclusively in opposition to power. That was the ticket. I’d just caught the end of it as I’d spent the late Sixties in military service. But it was still in blossom in the early 1970s when I attended college.

In those days teachers still openly called themselves Marxists. But these pale, suburban political nihilists who came to lead us young people further into confusion were absurd caricatures compared to their fierce spiritual ancestors in Russia and China. (As one commentator said back then, “These people don’t want to take over the world. They want to take over the English Department!”) I saw this as a by-product of class mobility in an industrial region – proles aspiring to higher class, coming from the honest desire of parents to get their kids to do better than they did – but then the kid didn’t really do any better, just put on airs – perhaps they weren’t so smart as the parents thought they were.

This condition was well expressed by the second generation, New Jersey Italian psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi – that would be Tony Soprano’s shrink - in an episode where she was having dinner with her yuppie son, who happened to be a student at Bard (Tony’s daughter also considered Bard – Yankeeland colleges like Bard represents a step up socially to Paulie Walnuts & crew). She asked him how his studies were going and what he was studying. “I’m studying some of the Deconstructionists,” he told her. Her sardonic response: “A Deconstructivist. And your grandfather a General Contractor.”

This episode flashed to mind last year when I brought my son to one of the most formidable of New England colleges and one of the most hallowed in the oldest Calvinist New England tradition. It was the college once honored with the presence of Joshua Chamberlain as its President.

There was a time when all New Englanders knew who Joshua Chamberlain was and honored him. Joshua Chamberlain was a soldier from Maine who served in the Civil War. At the time of his enlistment soldiers served with brigades from their own state, and Chamberlain & company one day defended a piece of real estate on the top of Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg. The ensuing combat intensified and the Maine soldiers ran out of ammunition. But they saw no reinforcements coming in. So they continued to defend their position with the butt end of their rifles and with knives and stones against the Confederates. Historians consider this to be one of the most important moments in the Civil War. In hindsight, it is one of the most important moments in human history in the past few hundred years as it not only changed the course of the Civil War, but opened the gate to the American condition and its tempo, which would change the way of the world for 150 years and continues to do so today.

But when we went to look at the college, the perky undergraduate who gave us the tour had little regard for “the soldiers” that they used to make such a fuss over. Indeed, she could barely conceal her contempt. That was before they allowed women on campus, she pointed out, although I didn’t see the connection. Things were different now, she said. Now you could take a course on “the evolution of Bart Simpson,” she told us with great enthusiasm and flourishing of the arms.

So this condition not only afflicts the pitiful fictional children of the New Jersey suburbs like Dr. Melfi’s - neither masters nor men, and stuck somewhere in the ozone between gentry and proletariat - but the traditional New Englanders of greater means and their schools as well. From Joshua Chamberlain to Bart Simpson in just 40 years. Seems like a paraphrase of my Marxist math teachers from university days, who often quoted Trotsky’s famous New Man dictum. How did that go? Every man a Plato, every man a Lincoln, every man a Marx . . . ? But here we have it: Every man a Bush, every man an Oprah, every man a Bart Simpson.

So I was pleased with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a New Englander like myself, when he refused to submit to the Demon Spirit and call the new spruce in Boston a “Holiday Tree.” It is a Christmas Tree, said the mayor.

In Boston, many residents voiced their dismay over the state’s official Web site that promoted a December 1 ceremony for "Boston's Official Holiday Tree Lighting.” The official reference is to a Holiday Tree they were lighting up. But Menino said he would keep calling the Nova Scotia spruce a "Christmas tree" regardless of what it said on the city's official Web site.

"I grew up with a Christmas tree, I'm going to stay with a Christmas tree," Menino told reporters on Thursday.

This is not really about Christmas trees. It is about refusing to be territorialized by the language and the pseudo-anthropology of Revenge Demons. Regular viewers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer know what Revenge Demons are. (See I don’t have anything against pop culture studies, per se.) They are spirits which identify at every turn with the discontent, rather than with the civilization. They come out of the earth just when you are doing something joyful, healthy and family-like, such as trimming the Christmas Tree or stuffing stockings, and they attempt to disrupt the situation.

Buffy is the avatar and front line of defense against Revenge Demons. In Buffy World, men are no longer men and they no longer have the political will to defend themselves, their traditions and their families. Indeed, family is a shattered shard of the past and men who once defended the hearth have been made cowering wimps by these Creatures from Beneath the Earth. So Buffy – (for aficionados, she is technically the Earth Mother Incarnate and we call her The Slayer) – has to take it back by herself and her few heroic mortal apprentices.

Christmas is prime time for Revenge Demons, as the Christmas Tree and its sacred celebration descends to the spirit of the English-speaking people like no other and goes to the core of our spirit. The crazy Puritans who settled up here in the northern hills tried to ban Christmas and did so successfully for awhile. It was only when the more sensible English, Irish, Portuguese, Italian and French came over later that things returned to normalcy. But as we see today in Boston, Hawthorne’s spirit force from the Hollow of the Three Hills lies dormant and waits, occasionally awakening.

Until now, New England politicians have been easy prey for Revenge Demons. But Thomas Menino has an inherently happy nature and won’t be taken in by these critters from the Dark Side. Frankly, I’m surprised Governor Mitt Romney allowed it. I thought he had more cajones. So far as I know, the only other prominent politician this side of the Mason-Dixon Line who calls it a Christmas Tree is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But the Christmas Tree ruckus, like the annual crèche ruckus is only one manifestation of Revenge Demons. The spirit seems to pervade the Democratic Party like a virus, to some degree infecting almost all Democratic contenders and aspirants to public office. It is this spirit which lifts up the hearts and minds at the thought of new hope for the sick and the weak in the world at a Global Initiative Conference, like the one Bill Clinton recently held, then sinks them when he invites Mick Jagger to make his presence felt (did somebody say Symphony for the Devil?). It is this spirit in which his First Lady, when she finally condescended to speak to the general public in a general interest woman’s magazine in her husband’s first term, venomous commented about “taking back this country” from the “damage done in the Reagan administration” (will somebody tell this woman that 49 out of 50 states voted for Reagan?) It is this spirit which bewilders the average working man and woman after a anomalous candidate like Howard Dean, governor of a state with no actual economy and whose main run of citizens consist of vacationers and retirees, destroys the chances of victory for serious Democratic contenders in the last Presidential primary. It is this spirit which leads the Democratic Party’s most out-of-touch rank and file to appoint him to be Party leader (and leaves them crippled in their fund-raising attempts). And most unfortunately, it is this spirit which invariably pervades the rhetoric of he who held the Democratic Party standard against George Bush in the last Presidential race.

It is a spirit which seems to come, as Hawthorne said, out of New England itself. It is this spirit which presents itself as Victim. It is this spirit which sees itself as self-righteous, indignant and high-minded. It is this spirit which calls itself victorious, even in defeat. And it is this spirit which will destroy the Democratic Party or force it to self-destruct, much like the effete Whig Party, captive of its own witch spirit and lost in the reverie of its own righteous indignation, self destructed in the 1830s.

I think Democratic politicians today should be sent to court-ordered therapy, much as first offenders are sent to Anger Management therapy for minor infractions. The therapists would all wear t-shirts which said, “It’s a management thing. You wouldn’t understand.” I’d force them to watch some of the recent C-Span shows, like the one featuring Newt Gingrich on “Road to the White House” this past week. It shows Gingrich talking about business management. It shows Gingrich talking about attending class recently with W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality control strategies of manufacturing, which allowed America to make good cars again in the 1980s and 1990s. It has Gingrich quoting Peter Drucker. It has Gingrich talking about failure of the Katrina rescue on three levels, federal, state and local and writing Failure on the board three times. It has Gingrich talking about these issues as management failures. It has Gingrich talking enthusiastically about how to face the challenges in economy coming from India and China today and outlining in a quiet voice and in a measured manner how we can address these challenges and grow by these challenges.

Gingrich might be running for President pretty soon. This is how he will present himself to the public.

If the Democrats are going to survive the Jacksonian Presidency of George Bush and not self destruct as their New England Whig ancestors did, they need a new start. Tom Menino appears to have immunity from Revenge Demons. He is a good manager. I hope he runs for Governor of Massachusetts. Perhaps Menino could lead us to the other side of the river.

The first thing Democrats have to ask themselves is what candidates do we have who are noted for management? Wes Clark, Russ Feingold. But by far and away Virginia governor Mark Warner leads the pack. Recently, he was voted by Time to be the Governor of one of the five best-managed states in the country. And recently, The Wall Street Journal has written that there is a strong argument to be made that he would be the party's strongest conceivable general election candidate.

He is a breath of fresh air in a party that is suffocating itself to death.

Warner said recently to the graduating class at Virginia Military Institute, “I come from the business world, where you have to look beyond the next horizon to survive. If you don’t have annual goals, two year goals, and five year goals -- you’re out of business before too long.”

When was the last time the Democrats had a candidate from the business world? When was the last time a Democrat had a five-year plan?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mark, not George: Mark Warner in New Hampshire

I don’t know if you all get it – maybe it is a regional thing. We have up here on occasion recently, visits of those considering a run for the Presidency in 2008. It is aired on C-Span as “Road to the White House.” Got that rural, church basement New Hampshire cache – not unlike an Iowa or Nebraska church basement, but way unlike something in New York or Washington, D.C. Mark Warner, the governor of Virginia, was up here last week for a visit and we were surprised by his gracious and naturally friendly temperament, more Indiana than Virginia, he seemed to us. He made the comment that a few years back he ran for the U.S. Senate against Senator John Warner and there was a bumper sticker which said, “Mark, not John” which some thought was a biblical reference.

I happened to be in the region at that time and Virginia was a grim place in parts of the hinterland. Out of somewhere in the mountains thereabouts came an indigenous feeling that the world was coming to an end and if you turned on mountain radio you’d get the greatest and most sincere blue grass and folk preachers, but taking a dark turn somewhere around 1992 - a feeling that after all this time, Jesus comin.’ Armageddon pervaded the country air. At the time Senator John McCain, a Virginian whose ancestors served with George Washington was called a coward by the burgeoning religious right, which was even then looking for a fight.

Warner represents the Virginia which Washington, Jefferson and John McCain would be proud of. First impressions of Gov. Warner were much like those when I heard him last Spring at the Governor’s conference on education – he is an American wide-awake guy who sees everything like most of the awake see it (as it it right in front of our face) – hey, India is putting out twice as many engineering students as we are – how are we supposed to be competitive? Why don’t we start in the high schools and get them oriented there?

Makes perfect sense. But as the current administration looks to the Middle East for all things and with the wiggiest of ideas to “jump start a new American century” and pretend China and India are not in existence, Warner sees the real issues at home and across the Pacific. Its about work and its about management and he proudly calls Virginia “the best managed state in America.” Perhaps because the rest of politics is either negative or in denial, the contrast Warner presents is so positively charged.

I believe Warner could well change the tempo of American politics, much as Ronald Reagan changed the prevailing wind in the 1980s. His responsible voice in a Democratic primary – which last time almost resembled a political edition of American Idol – will entirely change the tone. He doesn’t seem to have a negative bone in his body – refreshing when I get daily emails from several other Democratic contenders consistently attacking the Republicans – they know who they are not, but they don’t know who they are.

Mark Warner knows who he is and you get that right away. Herewith is the man from the heartland; Indiana born – slightly disheveled like Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds and not unlike John Roberts – very much like John Roberts in a sense. There is a sense of natural competence and optimism about him as there is with John Roberts which is neither partisan nor ideological, neither North nor South but thoroughly American, and an assurance that the job ahead will naturally open up to him and he will meet it as he was born to it. Like John Roberts, that his is a whole person, competent, formidable, one of us – as Bono said about Johnny Cash, “extraordinary and ordinary” – this it the free American condition awakening in the heartland, awakening in the world and sayin’ hey.

Up here in New Hampshire where surly pervades the mountains, the Virginia governor brought charm and humor – the first Democrat perhaps with an organic sense of humor since JFK. “ . . . if they can build it in Bangalore, they can build it in Martinsville.” “. . . the Democrat Party has to be something more than against the Administration."

Warner’s could be the voice for new movement, for a new Awakening in the Democratic Party and in the country. A true family man, he loves the political crowd, but seems itching to get home to his wife and three daughters. The curse of the new Democrats is a Starbuck’s class culture, a phony “upper working class” quality which alienates them from ordinary folks – Patsy Cline, Hank Williams folk like most Virginians. There are none of these pretentions about Mark Warner. Harvard Law School, but he makes no distinction – he sponsors gun legislation in a state with an honest tradition of hunting and promotes his agenda at the NASCAR track. He will play well up here in New Hampshire. More to come.

Russ Feingold - a sea change

Recently, George Will suggested that Russ Feingold could lead the Democrats in a Presidential Race against John McCain. Below is an article I wrote about Russ Feingold in October, 2005, when he after he visited New Hampshire.

Only in the Bush administration can somebody be sent up to the Supreme Court who, " . . has no constitutionalist credentials that I know of," as one of Bush's own closest allies put it. After the sterling choice of Chief Justice John Roberts - and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if perhaps Justice Rehnquist had some subtle influence on his own replacement - it appears that Bush has put his foot down and said, "now its my turn to pick one." And then picked his own personal secretary for the Supreme Court.

There is something deeply disturbing in having a Chief Executive who has no apparent male friends his own age except the ones provided to him by his family and the Republican National Committee to play with. His closest real advisor - as Madison was to Jefferson, Marshall to Eisenhower, Stonewall Jackson to Lee – is always a middle-aged woman, and one whose skills are more empathetic than analytical. I'm surprised he didn't appoint Barbara to the high court.

It is more of the same. Awhile back, pundit David Brooks of the Weekly Standard crew said we face a hard turn ahead. We will look to a new figure for a new generation - John McCain perhaps. Then after Katrina, he said we are now past the turning point and at the breaking point. But still we get more of the same.

But Brooks is right - a sea change is at hand. It just hasn't changed yet. The neocons have left town, the Pentagon is off to Cloud Cookoo Land making war plans against China, and several of the President's closest allies could be behind bars before long. And although it still plays in New York, the Clinton season has passed as well. Hillary was always over-scripted. I'm always reminded of "the Protestant chick who never killed anybody," – the pithy self-description by the wife in the Corleone satire "Mafia!" - when I see her around Bill Clinton and his Deep South cadre, James Carville and recently, Wes Clark. Something new has to happen soon.

John McCain would be the classic Gray Champion – the old soldier which Nathaniel Hawthorne referred to who rises up out of the passive crowd to face down the tyrant to begin a new era. Grover Norquist, architect of the recent Republican movement which brought Bush to power, hates and fears McCain the most. It was McCain who first stood up and warned the world about the danger our country faced by the political blend of religion and politics growing in his own party. But I see a problem here.

There is no question that John McCain would win in a primary here in independent New Hampshire hands down today. He is a man of unquestionable character, a war hero and a folk hero. But people grow tired of war. And when people tire of war they don't vote for military men.

It is one of the simple facts of life. The cycles of history come and go and when war drags on too long, people want to leave it behind entirely and forget all about war. Peace movements are born in the midst of war. Stephen Ambrose made that point in his early work, Rise to Globalism. We looked to the atom bomb to end World War II quickly, he said, because pressure was building to bring the boys home. Ulysses S. Grant made the same point in his personal memoirs. Toward the end of the Civil War he was declared a barbarian and a butcher for the slaughter incurred in the final battles in Virginia. Even President Lincoln condemned his actions. But Grant stated calmly in his autobiography that he did what he did because he had to end the war in four months, before the Confederates could muster a Spring offensive. The North had tired of fighting, new recruits were hard to come by and anti-draft and anti-war movements were growing in the North.

In such times, unless there is a great victory, a military man is not the best choice. And we do not face a great victory in Iraq.

But we had a bright moment here in New Hampshire last week when Russ Feingold, the Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, came up to give us a talk. Feingold is not running for President but the series in which he spoke is called, "Road to the White House." So it is not an impossibility, and it must be somewhere in the back of his mind.

Feingold is a unique politician and one of the six who voted in opposition to the war on Iraq. But he is not a consistent pacifist, or an “alternative” candidate like Howard Dean or a perennial oppositional leftist like Ted Kennedy by any means. He is main stream and main street. He supported the President fully after the tragic events of 9/11 and supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Against the best interests of his own party, he thought then, because Bush, with such overwhelming support between 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, had such full support of the American people that his party was certain to win reelection.

Feingold is not an old venerable, like Jim Jeffords or Fritz Hollings or the formidable Robert C. Byrd, senators who also voted against the Iraq resolution. They have the luxury of the wise posture late in their careers. He is still a young man and voting to oppose the invasion was personally a very dangerous career move for him. The country was in the blinding grip of war fever at the beginning of the invasion. Over 75% of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq. Had it been successful it would have been a great victory for the President and his party. In spite of that, Feingold kept his head and voted no on the infamous Iraq resolution because he did not believe the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein existed, and proof was not brought forth convincingly by the President. He is a man of conscience and ability and as the tide turns, it could well turn in his direction.

I've not enjoyed hearing such a politician in quite a long time. Feingold brings that clear voice from the storied land of Nick Adams where the sky swirls colors endlessly, which Hemingway wrote of in his greatest tales and Willa Cather saw as the backbone and future of America. The Land of the White Buffalo where Native Americans see a new world awakening and Black Elk pointed to as the “center of the world.” He speaks from the solid stock of the country to which we return when we fail in our vast pretensions, affectations and misguided meanderings. His is the can-do, no frills self-reliant America. He is also the kind of new Democrat which oddly resembles the Republicans of old New England in the 1950s. A vigorous, plain-spoken man and a fiscal conservative with a focus on trimming the deficit.

There are other good new faces out there – Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, whose plans to invest in America by investing in secondary education will help us in the real world of global competition with China and India. And Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts, a likely candidate for president, who is one of the most decent of men and one of the best of managers in either party.

But I rarely recall the fresh feeling of new beginnings I felt as when I heard Feingold's speech the other night. From the darkest hour comes the clear light of dawn.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wes Clark as Bull Dog

Wes Clark should be the bull dog heart of a new Democratic Party movement and a new patriotic era much as Tedy Bruschi is the heart of the New England Patriots.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Waiting for Wesley Clark

Angry words and personal insults erupted in Congress this week when a representative from Ohio with barely two-months tenure in the august body suggested Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Marine decorated for combat duty in Vietnam, was a coward when he proposed that the war in Iraq was a failure. More of this acrimony should swirl around Dick Cheney, who took five deferments to dodge the draft during the Vietnam period. What else is here – the daily Kos, among the most influential of the blogs – has Wesley Clark desired by more that 34% of his readership, far more than any other contender for Democratic leadership. Clark’s stock will rise now in the party and in the country. Here is an essay I wrote about Wesley Clark in late August, 2005 for The Free Liberal. Murtha is wrong on the issue of withdrawal and General Clark is right. But what will bring Clark through is character – he is a warrior through and through.

The (Wes) Clark Campaign, Remembered

By Bernie Quigley

I remember first of all Wesley Clark’s silvery-grey hair and his great smile, almost ear to ear when he is among friends, as he was in Little Rock, standing at a podium and addressing a small group who had come out to hear him announce that he would be running for President of the United States. It is the smile of a man with a certain Southern innocence – a man seemingly incapable of duplicity; or at least incapable of intending to be duplicitous – a smile unbeknownst to us northernmost New Englanders who have to think before we smile. It is a smile that is an honest and spontaneous reaction to life that is characteristic of many Southerners. But behind the Southern General could be seen the strong, classical lines in the distinctively handsome Semitic face that came from his Chicago father. Somehow, right away, I was reminded of Anwar Sadat, who had the same innocence and fundamental joy of being, and instinctively bolted to soldier’s attention without a moment’s hesitation to receive the bullet in the chest that would take his life, with complete and solemn acceptance. Wes Clark would be a man like that. But that a man of such simple faith and honest patriotism could gain the Democratic nomination was a reach. That he would even try was curious, so maybe the crowd was less than convinced.

I was lucky enough to be in the crowd that greeted him a short while later when he first arrived in New Hampshire to enter the primary. There was not much interest at first, but then it started to grow. Clark was a natural in independent New Hampshire, but two of our neighbors – Howard Dean across the river, and John Kerry from Massachusetts below – would naturally draw attention as favorite sons.

Howard Dean was a local phenomenon. Deaniacs were everywhere . . . middle-aged urban types with orange hats, the Starbucks crowd and loads of college kids with great enthusiasm. Armies came to my door. Before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries I invited them all in to warm before the wood stove during one of the coldest winters on record, and asked them who Dr. Dean should pick for vice president. Most often they said “Wesley Clark.” John Kerry seemed a nonentity until he suddenly emerged in Iowa. It was all Wes Clark and Howard Dean, and people in my town and neighborhood started talking about a Howard Dean/Wes Clark ticket like it was an accepted thing.

Then at one point General Clark said, “I’m not going to be Howard Dean’s Dick Cheney,” replying to the suggestion that Howard Dean had asked him to be Vice President if he won the nomination, and before Iowa for awhile it looked like he would. It was a brilliant reply as it pointed out to Dean supporters that what they were seeking in Dr. Dean was in fact a figurehead, as President Bush was seen to be an empty and symbolic figure while Dick Cheney ran the country.

But beneath that was an instinct related to the actual work that needed to be done, and there they saw Wesley Clark. I made phone calls and wrote letters for General Clark throughout the New Hampshire primary season and the same people that liked Howard Dean at the beginning genuinely liked General Clark as well.

But this was disturbing: they seemed afraid of him. They were afraid of him because although they could see that he was a gracious and gentle man, he was a Southern General. And he was a Southern General who spoke without duplicity. When George W. Bush said he would bring Osama Bin Laden back “dead or alive” it was the hubris, bluff and extended innocence of a man who had never truly served his country in uniform.

When General Clark, who had come back from Vietnam literally a basket of wounds and broken bones, said the same thing, it meant it would be his head on a pike. And people knew, we knew what had to be done, we were just not quite ready to do it yet.

Maybe we still aren’t ready. My thought during the presidential campaign was that there were two radical reactions to the invasion of Iraq that were largely psychological avoidances. The one was the “strong man” response – like the rise of the Superman comic in World War II, there was a desire to “get big” to fight a nefarious enemy. This brought the rapid rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger, matinee Big Man, to power. But the matinee Arnold was a caricature of power (which is unfortunate for Arnold the Governor because he appears to be in my estimation a good and quite competent governor, but now his fickle constituents want him out). The other was the Howard Dean response – like King Arthur’s to the French invaders and the Knights Who Say Nee: “Run away!” In fact, Dr. Dean had never taken a pacifist posture and during the campaign his approach to Iraq and Middle East terrorism was quite similar to Wesley Clark’s. But Dean, as governor of VermontAmerica’s Magic Mountain – was somehow perceived to be pacifist and was unconvincing as a warrior. These are denial responses that are characteristic in times of crisis and great change. It took two years of chaotic fighting in random surges and retreats before the North truly faced the situation in the Civil War. It took several years of conflict abroad and a direct attack on Pearl Harbor before America faced its fate in World War II. We faced a difficult situation after 9/11 and again after the invasion of Iraq. We face a difficult situation today.

When he signed the register to enter the New Hampshire primary, Clark held a news conference for the few reporters present and told them that he would engage the Saudis and seek their help in going after Osama bin Laden. He opposed the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq at every turn, but accepted the new realities of America’s situation in the Middle East as the situation unfolded. Today, most Democrats are characteristically ambiguous about the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East, although John Edwards, through his wife Elizabeth, seems to be edging toward opposition and pulling out. Likewise, there is a movement among Republicans to cut and run.

Not so with Wes Clark. Recently he has been appearing on Sunday talk shows and has posted an op-ed in The Washington Post, expressing his position very clearly.

“In the old, familiar fashion, mounting US casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war,” he writes. “Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They’re right. But it would also be a mistake now to pull out, start pulling out, or set a date to pull out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq – a strategy the administration has failed to develop and articulate.”

From the onset, he says, we needed a three-pronged strategy in Iraq - diplomatic, political and military. And we needed to engage Iraq’s neighbors to ensure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them. He gives a highly detailed approach to stabilizing Iraq, the kind of thing that often tested reporters looking for 30-second sound bites during his campaign in New Hampshire.

But as Iraq faces a descent into chaos if the Sunni’s fail to endorse the constitution upon which the Bush administration is staking their claim to victory, Clark takes a different approach. “The U.S. should tone down its raw rhetoric for U.S-style democracy as an answer to all problems and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region,” he says.

Clark calls for a public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq which would also be helpful in engaging both regional and Iraqi support at this point. And in addition, he says the U.S. needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice - along with additional U.S. civilian personnel aimed at strengthening the institutions of government. There will be continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training and international monitoring for years to come and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqi sovereignty. Countries far away like Canada, France and Germany should be called in to assist and the Gulf States should also provide observers and technical assistance. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters and over time, American forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.

“The growing chorus of voices demanding a pull-out should seriously alarm the Bush Administration,” he writes. “For President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam – failing to craft a realistic and effective policy, and in its place, simply demanding that the American people show resolve.”

General Clark, as he has shown in Vietnam and Kosovo, is nothing if not tenacious. And the issues he presents will not go away. His reemergence in the press may be a sign that we are beginning to face the mess we created when more than 75% of voters in our country approved of this mind-boggling fiasco in Iraq. It has been my feeling from the beginning that when we are ready to face the music we will turn to Wesley Clark.

Monday, November 14, 2005

How Mark Warner Can Win the Presidency

Hire Bill Daley. Had Al Gore hired Bill Daley three months before, he would have won the Presidency. Had John Kerry hired Bill Daley he would have won the Presidency. Warner has what the country needs: Management. Bill Daley has what the Democrats sorely need: Testosterone.
Mark Warner for President

With the Democratic victory in Virginia, Mark Warner, Governor of "the best managed state in America," is sure to enter the Presidential race. He brings to Presidential Politics a quality it has lacked these long years: Adulthood. A McCain/Romney ticket would be hard to beat but a race against Warner & Russ Feingold, or Warner and Wes Clark, or (my preference) Warner and Nancy Pelosi, would return the country to good health.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

John McCain for President: America’s Gray Champion

Just prior to the first Bush term one of Washington’s wisest columnists voiced the opinion that what a Bush Jr. presidency would do was return the country back to normalcy after some turmoil created by childish disgrace in the Oval Office by the former President, Bill Clinton. In a reverse kind of way the Jimmy Carter Presidency did the same thing. At that time, the country did well to have a decent and honest man – a Southern Sunday-school teacher – bring us out of the duplicity of Watergate and the lying, deception and crippling march of poorly conceived foreign policy that was Vietnam. The Carter Presidency did just that and for the first time brought the South out of shadow to the mainstream of events in our country.

Perhaps the more recent thought was that a Connecticut Yankee, even one costumed in cowboy suit and swinging his arms like a boy not fully matured, would have the same stabilizing effect. What a good notion, but how tragically misplaced. There is something troubling about a man like George W. Bush who appears to have no male friends his own age and has participated in the life and times of the American Republic only as an agent of a generation not his own. And one who appeared in early life, even to live in opposition to his own generation. And furthermore, there is something strange and oppositional about a son who hires the men to run his life – men like Perle and Wolfowitz – that his father tossed out of his office as two dangerous and misguided to conduct foreign policy ten years before.

And men like Dick Cheney who, like Bush, aspires to a vision of warfare as a moral tool in the world. I don’t disagree with that in principal but it depends who is doing the talking, as this was surely Eisenhower’s vision and Lee’s as well as Grant’s. But ‘tis not so much that these men never fired a shot in anger – neither did Lincoln - but when they were called to serve they actually ducked out at a time when people their age and my own age found it nearly impossible to avoid the draft without duplicity – Cheney, playing the exemption card all the way almost to mid-life, with five draft exemption. With these men at the helm it is not surprise that virtually everything they put their hand to in these past five years has gone tragically wrong.

We did need correction and new direction from the Clinton period, but now we need it more than ever. Last night Larry King asked John McCain if he was running for President. He said that he thinks every Senator would like to be President, but he wouldn’t make an announcement before the 2006 election. One problem he faces; the unsavory lot which still holds sway in the Republican Party, featuring Pat Robertson and his millennialist religious zealots, hate McCain and would perhaps not grant him the nomination. McCain would win today hands down in a Republican primary in New Hampshire. But even the most entrenched Democrats up here speak well of him. And I know Yellow Dog Democrats in the South who still today have never voted for a Republican yet are actually looking forward to his candidacy.

My fellow New England countryman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote in 1835 of an earlier time in our history when the population of our country was cowed in the face of tyranny and complacent after years of fat, until an old veteran stepped forward from the multitude and “displaying a face of antique majesty,” made only a gesture at once of encouragement and warning, and with that, the crowd awakened. John McCain, is our Gray Champion, his manner kind and encouraging like the Virginia old school of Washington’s day, from which his ancestor hails. After years of torture and imprisonment in a POW camp he stands up to weak and cowardly men like Cheney who seeks today to legalize torture in the name of our Republic.

My family and McCain’s share the same old-time prayer book,The Book of Common Prayer, and on Thanksgiving we annually recite the same prayer from it. The prayer For Quiet Confidence tells us that in returning and rest we shall be saved and in quietness and confidence we shall find strength.

When we in our country return to ourselves, we will return to John McCain.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Every State a Free State: A States Rights Defense Against Dick Cheney
Last year a group of youthful Libertarians moved to my state to start a Free State Movement. Largely they were mocked and patronized by the press. I published this essay in The Free Market News Network, March 22, 2005, to greet them and welcome them as neighbors. These people show initiative and courage and they should be listened to. As our greatest ambassador, George Kennan, stated recently - virtually on his death bed - our country has taken such tragically wrong turns in recent years that regions with the character to do so should consider making their own way in the world. Today, news services report that Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to Republican senators this week to allow exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in U.S. custody, according to participants in a closed-door session. Most Americans would find abhorrent the notion of condoning torture. But if our Republic as a whole has come to this state of collective disgrace, the parts which remain Jeffersonian in spirit should begin to consider Kennan’s wise counsel.

On first reports that a group of Libertarians was looking for a place to make a fresh start and this was one of the locations they were looking at, nor'easterners responded with a Yankee sense of concerned indifference and phlegmatic detachment. Come on up, the governor responded. It was a good place to come - cheap living shrouded in beautiful mountains with six months of snow and silence, and in the spring, bear and moose wandering into your back yard. There is nothing quite like a clear, cold night sky full of stars with coyotes crying on the edge of the forest to bring you back to first principles. And nothing clarifies the mind and brings it out of slumber like stoking a good New England wood stove on a crisp, cold morning - one in the kitchen, preferably, where family will share the warmth. Especially if you have split your own wood and harvested your own trees.
That these young people would seek secession if they didn't get what they wanted didn't cause much of a stir. Daniel Shays down in northern Massachusetts had done the same after western Massachusetts farmers quickly discerned that Sam Adams was just pulling their leg about taxes and all before the Revolution. Adams' slogan, "No taxation without representation," worked better among the Clipper ship captains, China merchants and newly rich real estate agents in Boston which was in direct economic competition with London, than it did in the north country, where most of the farmers were indifferent to governance by either London or Washington - both seemed far beyond their reach and their imagination. Then after the Revolution, taxes didn't go down as Adams said they would. They went up. Most everyone in the United States has forgotten Daniel Shays and his Rebellion which brought about the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia but up here we haven't as it is our native history. Maybe there is still something antiquated in our mind that doesn't quite gel with the big world of the federalists and the globalists that followed Sam Adam's tax rebellion.
I was born and reared about three hours away from where I sit now and like others, I guess there is a sense that something has passed us by. In Rhode Island we even had our own accents and used funny words like "parlor" and "piazza" when referring to the screened wooden porch out back. And if we left town people had a hard time understanding what we were saying. In those days, the country roads among the swamp Yankees who lived in places like Little Compton and Nanaquarket - places that still had beautiful Indian names - were lined with huge elegant elm trees. Every quiet country road in New England was lined with elm trees that rose like cathedrals. Then something happened and they all died. Every one of them. And all at once they died all over New England. And something else happened. They put a bridge in between Newport and Jamestown and our quaint little towns were no longer eight or ten hours away from New York City on secondary roads, but two hours on good roads. And that was the end of that. So a few Libertarians with new ideas didn't seem like much of a threat and if anything, they appeared to our eyes to resemble our own Daniel Shays more than they did the New Yorkers, one of whom bought an entire street of old colonial houses in Little Compton all in one afternoon.
In New England, we understood about federalism. We understood what it meant and what it would bring. And we understood its symbolism and how it changed us. When the New England town common that I live on here in New Hampshire was built in the mid-1700s, in the center was a stone well, the most ancient symbol of any people, the symbol of soul, tradition, earth and animals as they all meet together in secular and divine community. We meet at a stone circle and carrying water from the well brings nourishment, spiritual as well as physical. When people meet at the well they meet the elements of earth and water of which they are apart and there they find their union with the world and with the Universe. Most stone wells are round in New England and in the English tradition - the circle representing the collective psyche and Mother Earth. Yank farmers of English stock also had a particularly special tree if front of their house that they built their farm around and honored in the same agrarian tradition and one New Hampshire man even penned a song you still hear today at winter solstice combining traditions called, "Jesus, the Apple Tree." The town common today is nicely restored but they took the well away. You can still see it - they put it down the road, off to the side and out and away from the common. What they put in its place was a flag pole and an American flag - not even a state flag until I called to whine, just an American flag. Federalists have no use for stone circles.
New England understands federalism because we lost our original spirit to federalism in the build-up to the Civil War. Just as the South would yield to the New Yorkers - they of the "Empire State" - so too would New England submit. Our great poets and speakers - Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott who brought us natural religion and Theodore Parker who brought us warfare - were our best. But in my opinion, they were also our last. Now, like Andrew Wyeth's great but haunted paintings of Maine's manor houses and farmsteads, New England's spiritual house is empty.
This is a consequence of federalism. New England went willfully under the banner of federalism to great effect, but there are consequences as well. Until now, northern people have never challenged the principles of federalism. Generally speaking they were satisfied with their lot and had won the day. From the early part of our passing century we had conquered the world. From 1865 onward, complaint of the nature of the federal compact had come only from the South. But now, for the first time since the Civil War, the federalist principle is being challenged by northern people and that is a consequence of the war on Iraq. When the Libertarians moved to Littleton bringing with them the idea of states rights and an independent spirit, the only other coherent voices on the continent making a credible claim for the same rights were The League of the South and the Parti Quebecois in Quebec Province, both of which sought independence through non-violent and democratic means. Now there are perhaps more than a dozen such groups, like the Free California movement and the Republic of Cascadia. And some have fancy web sites and fancy lawyers. All of these new groups are in the so-called blue states.
The war on Iraq began to explain federalism to people who hadn't thought about it or who took it for granted for 140 years. Federalism means that if Washington, D.C. declares war on some other country for whatever purpose, the states have no say in the matter. Nor do the states have a say in any other matter. For practical purposes one can dissent only as an individual.
At the beginning of the war on Iraq I proposed that we in the northernmost states of New England did not have to participate and under Thomas Jefferson's view of the Constitution we had the right not to participate as states. And anyway, if we felt it was wrong to do so AS A STATE we had the moral obligation not to do so. This was based on Jefferson's having written a secession clause to the Virginia constitution and the Kentucky Resolutions which he wrote in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, stating clearly his purpose that the states were the final arbiters of the Constitution. The Constitution, like marriage, should open you up and Awaken you, not shut you down and cripple you. My proposal received surprising support from the most liberal quarters in the north as it did from conservative Southerners. But most northern people I spoke to then had never before considered themselves to be citizens of a particular state and region and having particular rights as a citizen of that state. My explanation was that which the stone circle signifies - you are a citizen of a real place - a state with formidable mountains and great beauty and character and with its own way of earth, water, wind and bears in the woods and clear nights in winter and its own soul and traditions and its own personality - in federalism you are the citizen of a concept; a citizen of an economic policy. In federalism you do not live in a place. You live in an economic zone.
Until the war on Iraq and the reelection of George W. Bush northern people didn't care about this as they felt they held the balance of power in the federation. But now no. Now they look at states rights again and now it is time to look at Jefferson again. My claim at the beginning of the war on Iraq was that we in New Hampshire had the right to secede at least temporarily as Jefferson had written a secession contract into Virginia's contract. My home state of Rhode Island had one as well and these natural rights had only been removed as an expedient during the Civil War. And just as the Southern states had their sovereignty taken from them, so too the New England had yielded its sovereignty and its soul up to a principle.
Having lived in two states in my life with strong and unique identities, Rhode Island and North Carolina, I cannot understand why any state would not want to be a free state as Jefferson proposed it. Every state should have the same secession clause that Jefferson wrote into Virginia's contract when he tentatively entered Virginia into federation and I cannot conceive of a state today with its own personality and life force not desiring and demanding to have such a clause. Every state should be a free state and every state should have a constitution declaring itself to be a free state and allowing it to gather with its own neighboring states and regions in any way it so desires.
Part of the education we receive which demonizes Daniel Shays and the Whisky Rebellion and the Hartford Convention also condemns the Dread Scott case as en expedient for the cause of the Southern states. It rightfully should. Dread Scott was bad law put into effect for political expediency. But it seems entirely possible that the Supreme Court's rapid work to nullify Jefferson's perspective in the midst of Civil War against the Southern states was also shadowed by expediency. History remembers those who restore order - Washington, Lincoln, and Eisenhower - and leaves nuance to the hagiographers. We should go back there and look at this again in the clear light of a New England morning.
I have no doubt to the outcome if the Supreme Court were to be asked to look again at these issues. We would find a predictable result. Most often the Constitution becomes a mere talisman at such crucial junctures and supports the prevailing orthodoxy - increasingly, in our times. But the Constitutional right to self determination seems clear. As Jefferson said, this is natural law. What needs to happen is that every state should look to take back its own inalienable rights as the Free Staters in New Hampshire look to Be Free. Every state should call on its state government to renew itself and review its contract with the federal government and if doesn't allow for the free association of states and regions to write a new compact. Each state should insure that their federal compact affirms Jefferson's view of the states as safest guardian of the liberties and the domestic interests of the people and the surest bulwark against anti-republic tendencies as he clearly states his position in his inaugural address.
Prior to the Civil War, New England was closer to Jefferson's view than to Hamilton's view. It is our natural birthright and we should reclaim it and call for the reapportioning of states rights and federal rights and perhaps regional rights. States rights and secession are the same issue. We were a fledgling continent when we were first declared a federation. 230 years later we require a new culture of government including state and county circles, regional circles and continental circles. Wisely, George Washington put the center of the country between Northern and Southern regions which had already been in contention by opposing principle for almost two hundred years. But now we are a full continent, North, South, East and West and perhaps it is time to meet again in a new Constitutional Congress at a more appropriate place between the four corners and consider both Daniel Shays and Thomas Jefferson.

Imagine There’s No Heaven: John Lennon’s Shamanic Journey

This essay was recently published in The Free Liberal (August 19, 2005) at the time of the opening of the Broadway musical “Lennon.” I wrote it several years ago and it is part of a work-in-progress about transitions in culture. A much longer version appears on Cynthia Lennon’s web site with dense footnotes and far more mischief, under the name Parthalon Flyingsnake DeCoursy, posted there on the 40th anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles in America ( (Youth wants to know: Who is Parthalon Flyingsnake DeCoursy? See “Quigley in Exile” [links] which features advanced dharma, but after Thanksgiving. I’m too busy.) Lennon is endlessly interesting. As it was said of Robin Hood, his dark side was equal to his light side. All of his artistic transformation took place in England and India, then later, in the United States he appeared to enter a new reality. (From Old Soul to New Soul. Perhaps we all have. Listen to his sad song “Mother” as a good bye to England and its Earth Mother tradition – Big Ben chimes at the beginning). Still today – perhaps more so lately – there are regular spontaneous impressions of fans who compare him with Jesus, most recently in a CBC documentary on the writing of the song “Give Peace a Chance.” Thankfully, Big Nurse invariably enters the class room and whips the children, returning them back to order and sobriety.

The Sixties was a cacophony of a million sounds and smells and voices and music and colors and textures, but especially music. The electric guitar was like a key; an ancient iron ornamented key to a mediaeval dream door that would open to an age. Now that the music has stopped and the storm has subsided, it is not that difficult to determine who were the authentic voices and who were background and chorus.

Every age, every period, has a beginning, a middle and an end, like a person’s life, and this age was no exception. This age, someone pointed out, came with its own sound track. And it rose and fell rather quickly.

In the center were the Beatles, and the Sixties rose and fell with the fate of the Beatles. And at dead center, the man in the center of the Beatles was John Lennon. From beginning to end the Beatles was about John Lennon. He was not the most important innovator or instigator of the period, except in music. But the music would become secondary to the period and to his life, as literature had become secondary to Tolstoy. That is why he is important: the passage he made was one of transformation and the generation transformed with him.

He was one of us, common and working class, but of course, more gifted. And the transformation we made, he made, eventually leaving the Beatles behind to complete the passage himself. He was the man at the center who made passage with us and for us and completed the journey on our behalf. And I don’t think we could have or would have completed passage without him.

The remaining Beatles say they were transformed by Bob Dylan like the rest of us were. And John was as well. It shows in his pictures. It shows in his clothes and in music like Norwegian Wood, a folksy, spare song inspired by the folk scene, written when the Beatles would begin to rise to a higher artistic level. John, they say, wanted to conquer the world, which the Beatles did with ease. Then, when they heard Bob Dylan, they aspired to be artists.

Dylan opened the gate and performed the rite of entry to the age with his soulful cohort Joan Baez, and the age rose to the center when the Beatles reached their artistic apex. Then it followed the rite of exit with Joni Mitchell and the howling animal cries of Neil Young, mourning the passing of the brief and sacred moment. The Earth Mother arose with great electrified amplification as if to compensate for 700 years of silence in an extraordinary hippie scene at San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in 1967 and 1968, then it was all over. The Rolling Stones would linger like a cloud for a decade – the Beatles energy shadow, like Santa’s Black Peter – but the tiger had already gone back into the forest by 1969.

The Beatles, at the top of their creative arc – that would be somewhere within the Sgt. Peppers area – brought the defining moment for everyone of my generation. Some 30 years later, in January, 2001, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in contrasting the Sixty-ish Clintons with George Bush, Jr. in his first month in office writes, “He said he never liked The Beatles after they got into that ‘kind of a weird psychedelic period.’” One either crossed the river or did not, and those who did not, created a counter-force. (Ten weeks into his presidency Dowd reports going hungry for a shred of modernity. “Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it’s redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas,” she laments. “What’s next? Asbestos, DDT, bomb shelters, filterless cigaretttes? Patti Page?”)

John Lennon was preoccupied with Jesus. You could see it early on with the trouble he got into when the Beatles were first big. Fans would crowd them and overwhelm them and once John said to a crowd of reporters, “We’re more popular than Jesus.” There was no arrogance to it, but subtle awareness. The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

In The Tao of Jung, psychiatrist and Jung scholar David H. Rosen discusses Jung’s descent into the shadowy world of the collective unconscious, the world beyond the conscious ego. On the way into the “cave” of the unconscious stood a dwarf with a leathery skin, as if he were mummified, which Jung squeezed past. Rosen explains this in terms of Indian mythology: “Shiva steps on a dwarf that represents the ego when this deity does its creative dance of death and rebirth.” Likewise it is with the Beatles. When they began their real creative work, they left behind the casings of their early ego identity, pictured as four mop-top wax dummies in early Beatles suits at what appears to be a burial on the cover of the Sgt. Peppers album, while the “new” Beatles appeared above like butterflies just left the cocoon in brightly colored satins and playful epaulets.

At the building vortex of their work, John went through a classic shaman’s arc, the same as the one described by Dante in The Divine Comedy; the same ascribed to Jesus by his followers thus, “. . .he descended into hell the third day . . . . he ascended into heaven.” (As E.C. Krupp writes that Santa Claus, an archaic remnant of a Norse shaman, enters the subtle realms of the archetypal shamanic journey by descending the chimney to the Underworld and flying through the Cosmic Heavens with magical reindeer.) This is the classic pattern of the journey of the shaman described by anthropologists and it occurred with John as the Beatles rose to the top of their creative arc. The man or woman who is about to enter into the role of the shaman is taken, out of nowhere and against his or her will, into a funk. He falls into a torpor, a sickness of the mind and heart and feels a worthlessness to his life, which he had previously found to be perfectly happy. He goes through a period of spiritual death and descends deep into the earth. After he ascends and rises into heaven. Finally he emerges transfigured, and enlightened god king, leaves the celestial place and comes out, usually down from a mountain with a simple transforming idea for the tribe, a gift from the land of the dead.

John went through such a transformation, falling into a psychological funk and getting fat and afraid at the peak of the Beatles initial popularity (“Help,” he sang. “I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be.”) Then at the Revolver album, something new began to happen. Suddenly there is a sense of entering the river, an image which occurs in dreams at times of birth or death (“turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,”). In Taoism, it is the sign of a new awakening. He sang a second song on the same album about floating downstream in a transcendent, blissful sleep, while everyone thinks he is just lazy, (but “I don’t mind,” he sings, “I think they’re crazy”). Some say I’m Only Sleeping is aesthetically the best song he ever composed.

In terms of anthropology, this is the first orientation of the shaman getting his feet in the Underworld – the creative unconscious – the world under the earth, where he will take you down with him into the density of the earth, but the subtle realm of the earth, the Underworld, where “nothing is real” in Strawberry Fields. And there he finds clarity and confidence, but in a new world, the world of the unconscious where there is understanding of all you see with eyes closed, and the old world becomes a shell, a mere caricature of psychic life. The shaman then ascends out of the earth and into the sky, like Jesus rising out of the tomb and entering heaven. John and the Beatles rise then to the very height of their work in Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. And here at their best work is the shaman’s archetypal ascent to the heavens in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Like the Underworld of Strawberry Fields, the astral heavens also have otherworldly features, like newspaper taxies and magical rivers with tangerine trees and marmalade skies (like the tree “showered with reddish blossoms” blazed in light in Jung’s “vision of unearthly beauty” that was his Liverpool dream).

At the peak, John wrote a song called “I am the Walrus” in which he invoked the Upanishads, which along with The Autobiography of a Yogi was very popular back in those days. John wrote, “I am he,” about the swimming together of all of us at the peak of the Sixties, and “we are all together.” “I am the Eggman,” he sang, with his characteristic Liverpool humor, “. . . they are the Eggmen. I am the Walrus.”

It is all comic and hidden, but it reflects an awareness he had about being a man like Jesus, at the center of a world in transformation. The words, “I am he,” are from the core of Eastern spirituality and are well known to its practitioners. This expression reflects the sentiment of the Upanishads in which the Atman (the Eggman) or the individual soul, finds itself at one with another individual soul, then another, then the whole soul, the world soul, the God consciousness, the Brahmin (the Walrus). It is what Jesus had become after he had gone through the Transfiguration, referring to himself as at one with the God force, at one with the Father. This is the Brahmin consciousness.

The Beatles were at their peak with Sgt. Peppers. There John would find fulfillment, anthropologically speaking. Then he would journey to the East, although Paul and Ringo were bored, and find the mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a father figure to him, but a Great Father, a spiritual father, not an earthly father.

That is it. The shaman’s work is essentially over by then, except to bring the gift idea to the community. The shaman has brought the tribe with him through the transformation of the unconscious and then his role is up. It is up to us after that, with the idea he brought us from the dead.

Yet some of the Beatles greatest work would come as they traveled down the back side of the mountain. The White Album is still a favorite to fans. One song, I’m So Tired, wonderfully reflects the rite of exit of the exhausted artist that comes at the end of the transformational passage, balancing the liberating I’m Only Sleeping, at the rite of entry.

It is characteristic of the dark side of the passage that the archetypes reverse themselves and show themselves not as they are in the holistic form of the inner life, but just the opposite, shattered in the outside world, reflecting that the center has been passed through and we have once again entered the flat consciousness of the everyday world. And in this instance, it was a hostile world at war in Vietnam and on the streets and campuses of the United States (“Happiness is a warm gun,” sang John). Here the Beatles reject their psychological god-king, the Maharishi, and even publicly denounce him. Here John sings, “My mother is of the sky.” Lucy is of the sky, his anima, his female counterpart whom he found in the air of Aquarius. The mother is of the earth. And the tricksters continue their playful treachery, fooling their audience and keeping them off guard with pranks like this one: “ . . . here’s another clue for you all. The Walrus was Paul.”

The Walrus, of course, was John.

Coming off the backside of the mountain John sometimes believed he was carrying – channeling, we say – Jesus and said so to the Beatles. And he made occasional references, even paraphrasing the Gospel of Thomas [Ed: a long-lost gospel by the apostle Thomas, rediscovered in 1945 in Egypt, that is not included in the New Testament] (“. . . the inside is out/the outside is in. . .” on the White Album). “Christ, you know it ain’t easy,” he sang in one of his last songs, suggesting in The Ballad of John and Yoko that he, like Jesus, would be crucified.

Certainly he made himself look like Jesus at the end of the Beatles. On their last album cover, Abbey Road, he is dressed all in white, like Jesus after the Transfiguration, the Beatles trailing him across the road, like the Three Celestial Ones, following in his wake. (The old Catholic myth about the three secrets revealed to the children at Fatima by the Blessed Mother took a pernicious turn into hippie lore in the late 1990s when the Pope revealed the third secret to be about a “man in white” who would be gunned down when he returned from the mountain top. The Pope, who had been wounded in an attack at the same time that Lennon was murdered, revealed the contents of the letter to the public because he said the prophecy had been fulfilled. John Paul II, who wore white garments at public ceremonies, claimed to be the man identified in the prophecy.)

Even later, at the very end of his life, Jesus is suggested. All through the most creative period, the shaman’s journey from Sgt. Peppers to the end of Abbey Road, John wore a special flowered talisman around his neck. Afterwards, he stopped wearing it. But in New York, in one of the last pictures ever taken of him, a well-known photograph where he is wearing a t-shirt that says New York City across the front, there is a tiny cross hanging from his neck.

At the end of the Beatles period John continued the archetypal journey of the shaman whose duty it is to rejoin the world. Like Moses and the Boddhisattva, he returns from a celestial vision on top of the mountain with a simple transforming idea, as Moses did with the tablets.

It is the same idea that has occurred throughout the century but is new to our century. It is Emerson’s message and here it is again expressed ten years before the Beatles by C.G. Jung: “Our world has shrunk, and it is dawning on us that humanity is one, with one psyche. Humanity is a not unconsiderable virtue which should prompt Christians, for the sake of charity – the greatest of all virtues – to set a good example and acknowledge that though there is only one truth it speaks in many tongues, and that if we still cannot see this it is simply due to lack of understanding. No one is so godlike that he alone knows the true word.” As Woodstock guru Satchidananda put it, “One truth, many paths.”

It is the same idea that Leo Tolstoy, a Great Father figure to the non-violence movement of the Sixties, had brought to the world after his night of the dark soul when he went through a religious transformation.

Lennon, with his wife Yoko Ono, entered the peace movement when he left the Beatles, and like Tolstoy, attempted to apply his natural gifts didactically to public purpose. Lennon is said to have been reading Tolstoy’s late non-fiction work on religion and non-violence as many were in the 1960s, and his final word, the simple transforming idea he brought down from the mountain is precisely the same thought as Tolstoy’s: “Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do. . . Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

Tolstoy claimed that there was one singular thought in Christ’s work and that was do not return violence with violence. On this he built the doctrine that would inspire Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the anti-war activists of the 1960s. Furthermore, in Patriotism and Government, Tolstoy wrote that patriotism was a practicable solution for nations early in their development, but it was time now to abandon national prejudices. Even Gandhi, who he corresponded with and who admired Tolstoy enormously, had failed in this, he said. The non-violent approach was the right approach, but, said Tolstoy, declaring the nation to be Hindu, “ruins everything.”

It was time for the removal of all barriers. No country, and no religion, too. This would be Lennon’s final impression on the people: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you can, no hell below us, a brotherhood of man.”

This is precisely Tolstoy’s religious conviction at the end of his life. He advocated abandoning identity with a particular prophet as one would abandon nationalism. In one of his last writings on the subject Tolstoy clearly states his opinion: “Attributing a prophetic mission peculiar to certain beings such as Moses, Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Haha’u’llah as well as several others is one of the major causes of division and hatred between men.”

John’s swan song, Imagine, is likely an intentional reconstruction of Tolstoyan philosophy. Intended or not, it completes the shaman’s journey and begins the transformation of the group.

William Butler Yeats writes: “What portion in the world can the artist have/Who has awakened from the common dream/But dissipation and despair?” Such was the lot of John Lennon. Later in life, in torment, he wrote, “I was the Walrus, but now I’m John.”

One of his biographers writes that he was never happy again after the Sgt. Peppers period. The pictures show it. He never smiled again for the camera after he returned from India.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The UN Should Move to Toronto

by Bernie Quigley. Published at The Free Liberal on September 20, 2005.

At the UN summit this September Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed that the UN should move out of New York. He’s right, it should. Some of us here in New England made that same point a few years ago.

At the beginning of the war on Iraq several groups here in the mountains and the top hills and ridges of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine known in these parts as the North Country, proposed that the northernmost states of New England should refuse to participate in the war on Iraq, and that based on Jefferson’s original writings, they had the Constitutional right not to participate.

At the time, the Administration’s propaganda war was in full flower and the President’s men, neocon apparatchiks Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz in particular, were dispatched globally to denounce the UN and even normally sane and moderate voices like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times held their coats. The New England groups proposed that if the United States no longer wanted to participate in the United Nations, the New England states should send its own observer to the United Nations.

This idea of ad hoc secession -- an idea that states could leave the federation at will and come back when they wanted -- was a new idea. In some ways it was like the current Anglican world community, in which groups could leave at least temporarily if they disapproved of the work of the official body. Or they could be tossed out temporarily, as the Episcopalians were last year for their support of gay marriage.

The proposal received surprising support from the most liberal quarters in the north as it did from conservative Southerners. Most northern people I spoke to then had never before considered themselves to be citizens of a particular state and region and having particular rights as a citizen of that state. Until the war on Iraq and the reelection of George W. Bush northern people didn’t care about issues of states rights as they felt they held the balance of power in the federation. But now, no. Now they began to look again to Madison and Jefferson.

Support came from surprising quarters. The venerable John Kenneth Galbraith, still spry and at his desk at 100 years old at Harvard, responded that “Vermont’s desire to establish its own foreign policy is wonderfully to the good.” And America’s greatest diplomat, George Kennan, writing from his sick bed got the very last word: " . . . the idea of the three American states' ultimate independence [Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine], whether separately or in union, I see nothing fanciful ... I see no other means of ultimate preservation of cultural and societal values that will not only be endangered but eventually destroyed by an endlessly prolonged association [with] the remainder of what is now the U.S.A."

The idea that we in these parts were developing a unique, regional identity began to emerge even before the war on Iraq. As Howard Dean, when still governor of the state of Vermont, stated in one of his last weekly televised press conferences, “We in the northeast have more in common with the Eastern Provinces of Canada than we do with Texas.”

This was an organic view of governance reemerging – a view of history as a natural organism that changes its shape naturally over time so long as it is not interfered with; a view brought forth by Oswald Spengler shortly after World War I and advanced later by Arnold Toynbee. The American Revolution was a birth pang or an early growth spasm. The North American lands were virtually empty outside of the colonies when we were first declared a federation. The western states were lines drawn on the map. Since then most of Canada and the United States had developed into fully populated regions, forming natural states with their own temperaments and identities and some of them have developed the full characteristics of independent and individualistic peoples.

From Vancouver to Texas to the sweet and gentle French villages in the Laurentian Mountains to the undisturbed small-church Gospel culture of the southern Appalachians, these cultures are vastly different and unique, like the independent states of the European Union. The Great Lakes region was a “jewel heart” – a pastoral vortex center that united these varied regions and cultures, integrating them into a dynamic North American continent.

In this view we in the U.S. and Canada are unfinished peoples. Until now we in the U.S. were stuck in a North/South condition and the current enmity between Blue states and Red states was merely an extension of Civil War by other means. But we are rapidly becoming an East/West nation in an East/West world. Inevitably over a longer period, our capital would shift to a more center natural to the new condition, one between East and West rather than North and South.

Washington, D.C. was the perfect “benign center” between the industrial Northern and the pastoral and agricultural Southern states in the colonial period but lost that positioning with the opening of the West. In Canada, the “little lumber town” of Ottawa was the proper center for the Province of Canada, which consisted only of Quebec and Ontario when Queen Victoria declared it the capital in 1857. It too was centrally located on the border between the two regions when the large Western cities of Vancouver and Calgary were nonexistent.

As far as I know, most of the people who espoused these views are silent now and gone back to their humble tasks, but the point about having the capital of a place in the appropriate place is still salient and it is more important to the UN. The UN could learn from this scenario. A nation’s capital of a world capital is a mandala – a benign vortex of countervailing forces which in their entirety make up that world’s Universe.

New York City was a terrible place for the UN to begin with. Placing a capital at the seat of power makes it an authoritarian Empire. No question, New York was the capital of an American global economic empire in the post-war world. It might have been better to make it a temporary Authority while the rest of the world, much of it in ruins, got back to strength. But once the world was on its feet again and fully empowered, the wise view of Victoria and Washington, finding the benign center of world between strong forces should prevail. New York City is a pocket of influence and is susceptible to looking out for its own kind. Authoritarianism is innate in a situation like this and breeds contempt.

And the world we face ahead without question, is an East/West world, one delicately balanced between the burgeoning Asian economies, India and China in particular, and the recently reunified European Union. World-class corporations recognize this, as Boeing did when it moved its world headquarters recently from Seattle to Chicago.

This is where the millennium begins. Its center – the center of the world ahead - is the Lakes Region, and in cities like Detroit, Toronto, Chicago or Windsor, Ontario. From Pat Moynihan to John Bolton, hostility toward the UN has been extraordinary and crippling to positive action from Bosnia to Iraq, most recently. Canada, with its great humanitarian Romeo Dallaire on the ground at Rwanda, was the voice of one calling in the desert, in a failure of leadership by the U.S. even greater than that today in Iraq. Since its onset, Canada has shown itself to be a better world citizen than the United States. If the United States no longer wants to be part of the UN, the UN should move to Toronto.