MONDAY NIGHT MASSACRE
My tracking the Chaffetz Embarrassment (CE) is on brief hiatus while I comment on the Monday Night Massacre, not to be confused with the tragic loss of life in Bowling Green. If you think I will never catch him, given CE’s head-start and impressive lead, you are probably right.
"ALL THINGS REVOLVE AROUND ME"
The Roman Inquisition investigated Galileo Galilei for championing the Copernican theory known as heliocentrism. With a growing body of undeniable empirical support, heliocentrism hypothesized that the earth was not the center of the universe. Galileo was eventually tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy," and forced to recant in favor of
egocentrism geocentrism, making America Rome and the Holy See Great Again. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Between 1615 and his death in 1642 he did some of his best work in observational astronomy, physics and the scientific method, giving the church the proverbial finger. His work and writings effectively recanted his recantation. This is true.
My father’s commentary on a religious or other large organization's insistence on alternative facts includes his 1995 watercolor Galileo’s Recantation:
Galileo’s Recantation, Watercolor, 42" x 51", Richard J Van Wagoner, 1995, Courtesy of Angela Moore*
This is reputed to be true. Pope Simplicius and his Apostolic Council comprising Cardinals Pius, Hilarius, Supremisius, Xenophobius, Sachsus, and Caligulus, threatened to cut all funding for any hard sciences they deemed to be "foolish and absurd in philosophy.” Banished would be those who refused to swear a blood-oath that their hypotheses and conclusions would never “contradict the sense of the Holy Writ.” Papal Decree mandated heliocentric denial.
Even in 17th Century Rome, leaks served their political purpose. Some of Galileo’s Inquisition was hacked and released. The Official Tribunal Report, loosely translated from the original Latin, revealed: “Galileo blasphemes by declaring that neither the Holy Father nor His massive Papal Obelisk is the center of the universe. Galileo’s malicious fabrications find no support in the slanderous measurements and equations he publishes for all to see. Geocentric syndrome notwithstanding, Pope Simplicius shall proudly pronounce his daily mantra before the Holy See: ‘All things revolve around me.’” The Report warned: “Excommunication awaits any who challenge the extemporaneous musings of the inspired Holy Father who, as all can see, is fully robed.”
In 2010 Squad Leader Lawrence La Croix held fast to his code: “A lot of people . . . say, ‘you can’t follow an illegal order.’ Trust me. There is no such thing. Not in the military. If I go into a combat situation and I tell them, ‘No, I’m not going. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to follow that order,’ well, they’d put me up against the wall and shoot me." Assigning responsibility to his platoon leader who had issued the order, La Croix was, of course, explaining why he was legally obliged to commit mass murder. U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (American) Infantry Division massacred between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. Victims included women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.
Sally Yates’ Monday Night defiance of Trump's thinly-veiled Muslim ban both conjured and triggered other massacres. She was figuratively lined up against the wall and shot. In 1973 President Nixon ordered the termination of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who had subpoenaed recordings Mr. Nixon was uncomfortable turning over. The Attorney General and one of Yates' predecessor Deputy Attorneys General both resigned in lieu of complying with an order they deemed to be illegal. Robert Bork Jr., a pretty smart and ambitious guy, proved to be the only soldier loyal enough to pull the trigger on Mr. Cox. President Nixon promised as quid pro quo Bork’s appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Resigning in disgrace soon thereafter, Mr. Nixon was unable to perform his part of the bargain, but his fellow Californian Ronald Regan did. In 1987, the United States Senate rejected President Reagan’s nomination of Mr. Bork to the Supreme Court by 42-58. He’d been Borked. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in his place 97-0. Karma’s a bitch.
By definition the manifestations of malignant narcissism are incapable of allowing themselves to be masked. Pathology is the most transparent quality of the current regime. One of Trump’s impulsive counter-punches glibly invoked Nazism on a thin-skinned whim because . . . well . . . it popped into his amazing brilliant beautiful mind. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” he tweeted January 11. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” This last reference was more projection of his own disheveled spontaneous propaganda machine and protestation of his vulnerability to Russian extortion than accurate description of anything external to himself, such as the intelligence community. Trump’s Liddean ethical construct starkly, and unapologetically, equates morality and power. That’s when the focus of applied power turns away from serving its constituents to amassing, consolidating, protecting and preserving itself. That works for only those with power and, as a result, for only so long.
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.
It would seem that many people set on Making American Great Again are lining up behind the current regime as loyal soldiers in the mold of Bork and La Croix. Karma’s gonna be a bitch.
*An interview of my father conducted by Levi Peterson was published in Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 39, No. 2, Summer 2006 titled Astonished Each Day:
Peterson: One of your most startling and gripping paintings is Galileo’s Recantation. It features windblown crosses, a lonely automobile on what might be a vast salt flat, a brooding sky, and a shrouded Galileo who looks something like yourself. Would you explain the idea you hoped to convey to your viewer in this painting?
Van Wagoner: This is a large watercolor that most people seem to like, even though many don’t have a clue what it refers to. It’s about the suppression of thought and scientific investigation by a church or other powerful organization. In the seventeenth century, Galileo’s support of Copernican astronomy and his own discovery new planets in the solar system were at odds with the Catholic Church’s teaching that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun revolved around it. Threatened by the Inquisition with torture and death, he recanted his views.
Galileo’s Recantation presents Galileo at the front right, holding his hand in a sort of traffic-stopping gesture toward a highly decorated building, suggesting a church that continues to mislead the people. It is as if Galileo is recanting his original recantation. To further emphasize the untruths pronounced and upheld by the church, several empty shrouds hang on crosses as if crucified, lining the way to the contemporary church.
If viewer’s cant’ accept this explanation of the painting, I have no problem with their creating a personal version. In fact, it pleases me to think that my paintings help people interpret experience in a variety of unpredictable ways.