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Friday, August 31, 2018


An easy non-judgmental affability is a useful personality trait in an entrepreneur.  If you are in the cut throat business of wresting a profit from heartless competitors, it is best to adopt a hale fellow well met public face, for today’s market enemy may be tomorrow’s investment friend.  Hence, the popularity of fraternal organizations – the Elks, the Masons, the Knights of Columbus – where two men, each of whom would happily drive the other into bankruptcy, can share drinks, slap backs, tell stories, and in general preserve that façade of congeniality on which tomorrow’s business deal can be built.  By contrast, aristocrats are prickly, proud, stubborn, and prone to nurse grievances, as Alexis de Tocqueville observes in his classic work, Democracy in America. 

Like all good Marxists, I applaud capitalism as a revolutionary way station on the road to socialism, but I must confess to a secret nostalgia for those pre-capitalist traits of the aristos.  This anti-historical longing of mine was called from its resting place deep in my soul by the elaborate funeral arrangements made by John McCain in preparation for his death from brain cancer.

McCain had many faults, as the commentators on this blog have noted at length, but he had certain endearing traits, and one, which speaks to his quasi-aristocratic life, was on full display this week.  I speak, of course, of his infinite capacity to be personally and visibly affronted.

The organizing and defining incident of McCain’s persona was his captivity in North Viet Nam.  I am not speaking of the truth of the matter, but rather of what it meant to him.  On that five year captivity and torture was built both his self-understanding and his political career.  When Donald Trump cavalierly dismissed that experience, saying that McCain was only a hero because he got captured [“I prefer those who don’t get captured”], he sought to rip away McCain’s reason for being, his essence, his claim upon our admiration. 

It was, I thought, transparently obvious that McCain’s dramatic thumbs-down on the repeal of Obamacare was a middle finger to Trump.  But like the aristocrats of old, McCain neither forgot nor forgave.  So it was that when he confronted the inevitability of his own death, he deliberately devised funereal rites specifically intended to achieve a final retribution for Trump’s insult.

McCain began by excluding Trump from the proceedings, thereby depriving Trump of his most precious possession – the daily news cycle. Trump has been compelled to endure an entire week devoted to someone other than himself.  But that was only the start.  He invited both George W. Bush and Barack Obama to the funeral, a second slight.   Then, as a final insult, McCain invited, as a memorial speaker, a Black NFL player!  All the proceedings lacked was a biblical reading by Stormy Daniels.

I must confess it.  I like a man who can hold a grudge even from beyond the grave.


Anonymous said...

For what it’s worth, the Washington Post reports today that in a nationwide poll conducted within the last 5 days, Trump’s disapproval rating has hit a high point of 60 percent. It also notes that “nearly half of Americans, 49 percent, say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Trump being removed from office, while 46 percent say Congress should not.” The WP doesn’t mention this, but perhaps Trump’s churlish performance vis-à-vis McCain’s death contributed to the polling results. Maybe McCain will get the last laugh earlier than might otherwise have been expected.

s. wallerstein said...

Nietzsche's master morality can be very attractive at times.

MS said...

Well put. Revenge is a dish best served cold, especially from the grave. Trump has no way to retaliate. He is left sputtering, gnawing on his phone, with no recipient to tweet to.

Below is a link to a review of Joe Biden's eulogy for Sen. McCain. It ends on an optimistic note. I hope the author is correct.

LFC said...

I happened to listen to a bit of the memorial service in Arizona. I heard the football player for the Arizona NFL team, who had been friends w/ McCain, and he was fine. Then came Biden. The first part of Biden's eulogy was well-delivered, almost sotto voce, and it struck the right personal notes and was actually quite moving, e.g. when Biden mentioned McCain, Ted Kennedy, and Biden's son all having died from the same disease.

But then the eulogy moved into a different gear as Biden talked about McCain's values and American ideals, and Biden's voice rose in volume. This was basically repetitive boilerplate and it went on too long. When Biden started quoting the Decl of Independence, I couldn't take any more and turned the radio off. Nothing vs. the Decl of Independence, but enough is enough. One of Biden's problems, perhaps the main one, has always been that he does not know when to stop talking.

LFC said...

p.s. C-Span radio carried it (in case someone was wondering).

MS said...

I am sitting here watching the funeral service for Aretha Franklin in Detroit. Bill Clinton has just finished delivering his eulogy. That man can still give a phenomenal speech. Witty; personal; and touching. And then a woman who I don't know came to the dais and sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," a Gospel song that I am not familiar with. It was amazing!

MS said...

Jessie Jackson has just concluded his eulogy. He said that it is sad that we have long lines for a funeral, and short lines for voting. If you leave here today and don't register to vote, you dishonor Aretha.

Jerry Fresia said...

"...prickly, proud, stubborn, and prone to nurse grievances...." would characterize working class types too, and for similar reasons. In fact, not having been trained to hold one's cards close to one's vest, working class types often burn bridges
for breakfast and go on from there, wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

"I like a man who can hold a grudge even from beyond the grave."

You would. Holding millennia-long grudges is a typical Jewish trait.