Friday, November 13, 2020


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.
George Orwell, 1984

I once lived in the South of Spain.

In the province of Andalucia, in a small sun drenched town on the Atlantic Bay of Cádiz near the Port of Santa María. 

You might recognize those names. Christopher Columbus outfitted his first expedition on the Rio Tinto, which empties into the bay (whether or not the expedition's flagship was named for the port and/or municipality there is subject to much conjecture). Some of the few surviving ships of the first Spanish Armada returned to the bay after their disastrous defeat in the English Channel and later the British invaded Cádiz to prevent a second Armada, sacking the city and leaving it in flames. 

The area is steeped in the history and culture of many nations, of Kings and Queens and castles and wars long gone, and nowadays it is wonderful idyllic tourist destination of sparkling beaches and great food and friendly people. 

I lived there in the 1980s, not all that long after the end of Francoist regime. 

Francisco Franco. 

He was once the nation's youngest general, a monarchist, brash, popular, he commanded Spain's forces in colonial Africa at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and then through a complicated series of events and a lot of dead people, ended up Generalissimo and Spain's head of state in 1936. 

They called him el Caudillo, which means something like "warlord" or "strongman" or mostly just dictator. 

And he was certainly that. 

With Franco came the "Limpieza Social," the cleansing of society, the purge of liberals and Spanish Republicans. No one is really sure how many died in those early years of the regime. Franco repressed all opposition, making Spain a one party nation, and sent tens of thousand of his political opponents to concentration camps. Forced labor and mass executions killed maybe 200,000 Spaniards. Murders, rapes, and beatings by the military and police under Franco were common. And worse, much, much worse. 

In Spanish history, this time was known as "the White Terror." 

But, then there was the other side of it. 

Franco kept Spain "neutral" during WWII. More or less. 

Franco was sympathetic to Hitler and Mussolini, who had supported him during the Spanish Civil War. He famously met with Hitler in France to negotiate Spain's incorporation into the Axis powers. But Franco demanded too much from Germany and the deal never went through. So Spain mostly sat out the war, though gold and supplies flowed into occupied France via the infamous Canfranc international railway station in the Aragón Valley and the occasional trainload of Jews flowed out -- followed in the final days of the war by fleeing Nazis themselves. But most of Spain was glad to avoid the conflict. 

After the defeat of Germany and Italy and the coming of the Cold War, Franco presided over what would become known as the "Spanish Miracle," a period of rapid economic and social growth. Franco mellowed a bit, allowing for some limited political opposition and increasing ties to the West, particularly the United States. 

It was a time of peace, prosperity, and especially law and order. 

And that's important, because we're going to come back to that. Peace. Prosperity. Law and order. 

In his later years Franco struggled with Parkinson's disease and eventually began divesting himself of the day-to-day management of the nation -- though he remained in power until his death in 1975. 

By the time I got there the Monarchy had been restored under King Juan Carlos and Spain had become a benign democracy governed by a parliamentary system. 

Nowadays, Spain, like any other nation has its problems. The economy ebbs and flows, there are ethnic minorities who sometimes resort to terrorism in a bid for autonomy, there is crime, all the usual things. 

And that's the thing, right there. 

Those usual things didn't exist under Franco. Or not nearly as much. 

When I lived there, I would daily meet people who missed el Caudillo.

It wasn't so much the brutal dictatorship they missed. 

But rather it was the peace, the prosperity, and especially the order Franco imposed on the nation with an iron fist.

Let me give you an example: 

One day, I was robbed by gypsies.

Down in the harbor. Fortunately for me, they weren't interested in the expensive camera equipment I was carrying, just the American dollars in my wallet. Heroin, one of them explained, threatening me with a broken grappling hook taken from a fishing boat. They needed money for drugs. I got roughed up, lost $50, and walked away mostly intact. 

I reported the assault to the Spanish police, they shrugged. Gypsies, not much anyone can do about that

I reported the robbery to the American military police on the local base, they took down the information and shrugged. Gypsies. Stay out of the harbor, man. 

I told my landlord about it. She spat on the floor. Gypsies. During Franco's time, she explained, they would have been shot on sight by La Guardia Nacional. Nobody was ever robbed by gypsies under Franco, the streets were safe. 

You can go to Spain today and still find those who miss Francisco Franco. 

Not as much as when I lived there, but some. The older generation. The conservatives. 

The streets were safe. 



Law and Order. 

That's what they miss.

They weren't the ones disappeared into the camps. They weren't the ones shot down in the street. They were the ones who built businesses and lives and homes under Franco's Spanish Miracle. And they were decent people, they were. Kind, friendly, hard working. But, they missed the dictator. 

The longer Franco was dead, the more nostalgic they were for that time. 

No one was robbed by gypsies under Franco. 

The streets were safe.

That's how it's going to be for us. 

Oh, Trump isn't any el Caudillo. 

Franco really was a tough guy, Trump is a sack of soggy tissue paper who just pretends to be. 

Still, even though Trump didn't -- as yet -- herd his political enemies into concentration camps, 230,000 Americans are dead by his hand anyway. More will certainly die before he leaves office. And maybe Franco was a piker in comparison. 

And now that Trump's days are numbered, now that a benign government waits to take over in his stead, it's important to remember that there will be those who miss him. 

Peace, they'll say. Trump got us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He kept us out of Syria. 

Prosperity, they'll point out. Trump was good for the stock market, for bankers, for Wall Street, for rich people. And what's good for the wealthy is good for us. 

Law and Order, they'll tell us, nostalgically. Trump kept the streets safe. 

None of this is true, of course, just as it never really was in Spain. But that's how they'll remember it. With fondness. 

Because it wasn't them

Because it wasn't their lives. It wasn't their rights. It wasn't their fathers who died in some foreign land at the orders of an incompetent. It wasn't their children shot down in the streets for the crime of being Black in America. It wasn't their mother who died alone, afraid, in a hospital on a respirator. It wasn't their liberty, their justice, their freedom, that was in peril. 

No, they got a tax break. They turned a profit. They got rich. They got license to exploit America's resources without regard to the future or any responsibility for the consequences. 

And it's more than that, more than just greed and selfishness, it's that Trump told them they were great. 

Trump made it okay to be a racist, a bigot, a sexist. Trump made it so they didn't have to hide who they really are, down there underneath the thin veneer of civilization. Trump let them wave the Nazi flag and said they were good people. The Klan, the Confederates, the Proud Boys, the Incels, and the raggedy-ass militia just spoiling for a limpieza social of their own, Trump was their Jesus -- a white Republican Jesus, who didn't tell them to be better, but instead gave them permission to be who they already were. 

They're gonna miss Trump.

They don't want him to go. 

They don't want to have to go back to pretending to be civilized. 

Most of all they don't want to admit what Trump actually is. 

I mean, they know, but they're terrified of it being out in the open. Of what comes next. Of having to admit they followed a guy who is a monster. 

Trump thought, like any dictator, that he was going to stay in office for life. He joked about it, a third term, maybe a fourth, a dynasty. 

But it wasn't really a joke. He believed it.

He mocked those who lost political elections as "losers" and failures and sissy boys. 

And now, because of that, he can't face his own defeat. 

His supporters -- those wannabe stormtroopers, those revolutionaries -- they can't face his defeat. 

He's shamed, literally ashamed by his defeat. He can't face it. Can't face the public. Can't face his supporters. Can't face himself. 

Because he just can't imagine himself losing. 

And yet he has. 

Every day his defeat grows greater. He's losing one ballot count after another and he'll lose the recounts too. 

Every day he loses another lawsuit, another attempt to win the election by fiat. He'll lose them all, every one of them. 

Every day he loses those he trusted the most. He's lost Fox News, he'll lose the rest of them too. 

And he's ashamed. Mortified. He just can't admit it. He'll never admit it. He'll find some way to claim victory, even as Joe Biden swears the Oath of Office and settles into the White House. 

And so, like a spoiled child, he rages. He's holed up, furiously tweeting, red faced in shame. Grasping at anything, Hannity, Dobbs, OAN, anything and anyone who'll tell him he's not a loser. 

That's Trump, that's who he's always been, a manufactured narrative and a fragile ego inflated by the adulation of others. Even if he's got to buy that attention. 

He says he won't go, but he will. 

He will. 

There might might be violence, but in the end he's going to go. 

Trump is no Franco. And America isn't 1930s Spain. 

In the end, after the counts and recounts, after the lawsuits have been thrown out, after the tantrums and the tweets and the threats to run again in 2024, in the end he'll fold. In the end, Trump will stumble down the steps of the White House for the last time and a helicopter will carry him away into oblivion. 

Because Trump isn't any revolutionary.

He's just a sad broken old man who never grew up.

If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier. As long as I'm the dictator. Hehehe.
George W. Bush

Tuesday, November 3, 2020


On Undecided Voters: To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?" 

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
David Sedaris, American humorist 

It's Election Day in America.

The choices have never been more stark.

Rarely, in the history of this nation have the choices been more polar opposites, more obvious.

So, if you're still undecided this morning...

...maybe democracy isn't for you

...seriously, maybe you're just too damn stupid for democracy

...maybe you should be living in a monarchy where government is made up of a hereditary chinless hemophiliac aristocracy and you don't actually have to do anything other than just follow orders like a good little peasant

...or one of those "Democratic Republic of" totalitarian states where you get to vote for whoever the government tells you to vote for and everybody else gets taken out back and shot

...yeah, maybe totalitarianism is more your speed

...maybe you're just a fascist. 


Because if you're still undecided at this point, you're basically those Germans who pretended they weren't actual Nazis while the ash from the crematoriums fell around them like snow.

The truth of the matter is that you've decided. 

You've decided. 

See, if you're still undecided at this point you've decided on fascism.

If you're still undecided at this point, you've decided that no matter how it shakes out, you'll be okay.

You've decided that you don't give a shit about anybody but yourself. And you? Well, you'll be fine. You're white. You're male. You're straight. You're Christian. You're rich -- or rich enough. You're privileged in some way, in enough ways, that you'll be fine. You're okay. You'll be dead before the bill comes due. It's not you they're coming for. You can afford to be undecided. You can stay home. You can throw your vote away.

You've decided that only profit matters. 

You've decided it's okay for you to pay for the wealthy, and they they shouldn't have to pay their fair share. 

You've decided freedom, liberty, justice, those things are only for those who can afford it.

You've decided you don't give a damn about the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the disfranchised.  You've decided that those people have it coming. 

You've decided you don't care if American citizens get shot down in the street by militarized police. 

You've decided that you're okay with racism. 

You've decided that seeing the Nazi flag and that of the Confederacy in the streets of America, the very symbols of hate, genocide, and slavery, is something you're comfortable with. 

You've decided that a president who daily lies to your face and calls it patriotism is something you want. 

You've decided you prefer conspiracy theory and hysteria to unpleasant truth and science and reason. 

You've decided that you just don't give a goddamn about the future, about the world you're leaving for your children and mine. If the seas rise and the forests burn and the crops die, you're okay with that. After all, you won't be around to see it and you've decided your profit and your comfort and your politics today are more important to you than a decent future for someone else. 

You've decided that 220,000 dead Americans don't matter. They were just losers anyway. 

You've decided that owning the libs, pissing people off, malice for the sake of malice, is who you are. 

That's you. 

That's who you are. 

You've decided that you want to live in a nation surrounded by walls and barbed wire and machine guns. You've decided that you want to live in a prison of your own making, rather than do one goddamned thing to make the world a better place. 

If you're undecided at this point, you've decided. 

You're just ashamed of your decision and don't have the guts to admit it.

You're not a patriot. 

You're not an idealist. 

You're not standing on principle, because you really don't have any. 

No. You're an arsonist. 

But, see, people die in a fire, and you, you dirty rotten lazy selfish son of bitch, you just want to watch them burn. 

Arson isn't principle, it's terrorism.

And if even if you yourself didn't light the match, if you stand by, undecided, and watch others start the fire, well, you're still a terrorist. 

That's who you've decided to be.

But you can change that. 

You can.

If you truly want a better nation, then you need to be a better citizen. 

Now -- right now -- is that moment. 

You can't blame anyone else. No one but yourself. You have to make your own choices and live every agonizing day with the consequences of those choices.
Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War