I could only watch snatches of the GOP convention this week. My endurance for bullshit has eroded with age. But during my short visits, as I listened to speakers and watched close ups of delegates on the convention floor, all I could hear in my head was someone reciting parts of Kurt Vonnegut's book, Mother Night.
In particular the part where, in post World War II America, his protagonist finds himself invited by a group of new friends to a meeting. These friends were, as best he could tell, entirely normal, intelligent folks. When he gets to the meeting he discovers it's really a secret neo-Nazi cell to which his new friends belong. The meeting gets raided by G-men.
During all the commotion, Vonnegut's protagonist tries to figure out how folks who, outwardly at least, appear so normal, so good, so successful, so smart, could be wrapped up in a movement so clearly, well, evil.
Yes, I know, we are not supposed to compare anyone in modern times to Nazis. Well, sorry. If the shoe fits. Anyway, here's the passage that rattled around in my head on a continuous loops even in my sleep last night. (Thanks a million Clint and Mitt!)
Anyway, as I said, if the shoe fits... Try to tell me that, as you read this, the terms "Tea Party," and "Neocon," don't jump to mind. And, when done reading this short excerpt, ask yourself how many teeth Mitt Romney and his new little sidekick have missing from their intellectual clockwork.
Written by Kurt Vonnegut
And then the raiders broke in.
The forces of law and order plunged in through every door, waving guns, blowing whistles, shining dazzling lights where there was plenty of light already.
There was a small army of them, and they exclaimed over all the melodramatically evil goodies in the cellar.
More raiders came down the stairs prodding the Reverend Dr. Lionel J. D. Jones, the Black Fuehrer,and Father Keeley before them.
Dr. Jones stopped halfway down the stairs, confronted his tormentors. "All I've done," he said majestically, "is do what you people should be doing."
"What should we be doing?" said a G-man. He was obviously in command of the raid.
"Protecting the Republic," said Jones. "Why bother us?
Everything we do is to make the country stronger! Join with us, and let's go after the people who are trying to make it weaker!"
"Who's that?" said the G-man.
"I have to tell you?" said Jones. "Haven't you even found that out in the course of your work? The Jews! The Catholics! The Negroes! The Orientals! The Unitarians! The foreign-born, who don't have any understanding of democracy, who play right into the hands of the socialists, the communists,the anarchists, the anti-Christ and the Jews!"
"For your information,""said the G-man in cool triumph, "I am a Jew."
"That proves what I've just been saying!" said Jones.
"How's that?" said the G-man.
"The Jews have infiltrated everything!" said Jones, smiling the smile of a logician who could never be topped.
"You talk about the Catholics and the Negroes""said the G-man, "and yet, here your two best friends are a Catholic and a Negro."
"What's so mysterious about that?" said Jones.
"Don't you hate them?" said the G-man.
"Certainly not," said Jones. "We all believe the same basic thing."
"What's that?" said the G-man.
"This once-proud country of ours is falling Into the hands of the wrong people," said Jones. He nodded, and so did Father Keeley and the Black Fuehrer.
"And, before it gets back on the right track,""said Jones, "some heads are going to roll."
I have never seen a more sublime demonstration of the totalitarian mind, a mind which might be likened unto a system of gears whose teeth have been filed off at random. Such a snuggle-toothed thought machine, driven by a standard or even a substandard libido, whirls with the jerky, noisy, gaudy pointlessness of a cuckoo clock in Hell.
The boss G-man concluded wrongly that there were no teeth on the gears in the mind of Jones.
"You''re completely crazy," he said.
Jones wasn't completely crazy. The dismaying thing about the classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, though mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined.
Hence the cuckoo clock in Hell-keeping perfect time for eight minutes and thirty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time for two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year.
The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten-year-olds, in most cases.
The willful filing off of gear teeth, the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information, That was how a household as contradictory as one composed of Jones, Father Keeley, Vice-Bundesfuebrer Krapptauer, and the Black Fuehrer could exist in relative harmony.
Since there is no one else to praise me, I will praise myself-will say that I have never tampered with a single tooth in my thought machine, such as it is. There are teeth missing, God knows, some I was born without, teeth that will never grow. And other teeth have been stripped by the clutch less shifts of history.
But never have I willfully destroyed a tooth on a gear of my thinking machine. Never have I said to myself, "This fact I can do without."