When dead birds fly

“O all ye exorcizers come and exorcize now, and ye clergymen draw nigh and clerge,
For I wish to be purged of an urge.”

– Ogden Nash, from “So Does Everybody Else, Only Not So Much”


Sweet, sweet surrender to a rising, raging reflex against the inanity of these pretentious, portentous times, these zany first days of our newest new year.

It is time again to purge, to gnaw the bitter root of the plentiful American ipecacuanha, that unending parade of peculiarities, that unbroken procession of all that is outrageous and odd.

But take heed, friends, for there is an urgency to this purgency!  The world will end on May 21 for all but the unrighteous, unless the latest cosmological recalibrations of Harold Egbert Camping are as askew now as they were back in 1994…

If ye seeketh after signs, look no further than right here in Arkansas, where there have been strange, word-addled stories about dead birds flying suddenly and violently into the small-but-unforgiving burg of Beebe.  (Quoi?  Peut des oiseaux mort voler?!)  And not too far away, something is mysteriously killing drum fish, by the thousands, along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River.  Coincidence?  Death ray from outer-space jihadists?

Maybe, and maybe not.  There are other oddities even closer to home.  For example, Comrade Clark, ringmaster of Garland County’s grandiose old party, wrote a fascinating letter to swell the ranks of his huddled, muddled masses.

…conservatives are always appreciated under our big tent. Whether you be religious zealots, tea partiers, heartless businessmen, pro-life maniacs, tobacco chewin’ gun totin’ NRAers, Bambi killers, war glorifying military servicemen and retirees, money grubbing professionals, Uncle Toms, “ignorant” blue collar workers, Fox News watchers, (gas guzzling) SUV driving soccer moms, selfish retirees, or just plain ol’ dumb hillbilly Southerners, you are welcome in the Republican Party. The line forms on the right.

Jehoshaphat jumps and scores!  A mangy, yellow-dog Democrat couldn’t have said it any better.  Maybe that hoary maxim about honesty being best policy really is true, because even in the murky circus shadows, by the light of November’s lingering afterglow, oh say can you see Clark’s motley mob of gaggled Republicans?  Bound together not by common purpose, but by a shared horror of all that is outside their tent, bright and beautiful in the clear sunshine of reason.

Then there’s the world-famous Garland County TEA Party.  Sigh.  They are graciously offering free, twice-a-week Constitution classes, using “The 5000 Year Leap” as their textbook.  Isn’t that precious?  The book is a Glenn Beck fave (anyone surprised?) that was written 30 years ago by the late, great Willard Cleon Skousen, a frequent lecturer for the John Birch Society who was convinced President Eisenhower was a communist agent.  Should be an interesting class, n’est pas?

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Das Kapitol, the first few days of government business were as weird as our local political pageantry.  Representatives lined up like schoolchildren to take turns reading sanitized fragments of the Constitution in a first-ever rite that will surely evolve into high-church ritual replete with mumbled secret incantations and genuflection before Boehner’s mighty compensatory gavel.

Excusez-moi, but when did our Constitution become sacred writ?  Have two centuries of willful, accreted amnesia transfigured our founding documents into religious relics that rival the very stone tablets Moses brought down from Sinai?  We seem to have forgotten the Constitution was crafted, not by the hand of God, but by bickering and compromising politicians who fought to keep their favorite naughty bits.  Such as the lofty notion that a slave was to be counted as only three-fifths of a lily-white “We the People.”

We seem to forget, perhaps because it doesn’t fit well with our fair-and-balanced, spoon-fed concepts of history, that the Constitution has been changing ever since it was established.  As has America and the world it is part of…

Shift happens.  Get over it.  And please stop pretending our founding documents magically exude the sweet fragrance of America’s “Judaeo-Christian” heritage.  The superstars of your imaginary “Judaeo-Christianity” – Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ – don’t even make a cameo appearance in the Constitution.  And the other gods in your pantheon of nationalism?  Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, and a host of Fox News darlings like David Barton?  Well, they aren’t mentioned either.  Sorry.

Facts are awkward little things, n’est pas?  When the term “Judaeo-Christian” was first used, it was not to rally angry teabaggers or conflate church-state separation issues, but to write about Jewish converts to Christianity during the first centuries of the so-called Christian Era.  Your beloved, hyphenated hybrid was not used in its current sense until 1939, more than 150 years after the Constitution was ratified.  Jewish theologians rightly criticize it as an invention of right-wing politics.

But in this silly season, facts are airy, unimportant things.  “We the People” have anchored all manner of cherished beliefs on flimsy whimsies masqueraded as absolute truths.  If “We the People” desperately want to believe in Barton’s footnoted fabrication about our now-sacrosanct founders, why should facts matter?  So what if that treasured belief hangs on an improbable blending of two very exclusive religions, and endless cherry-picking from obscure historical documents?  Why let a few inconvenient facts get in the way?

And while we’re at it, why cling to quaint ideals like justice and equality?  Like discomforting facts, they are gauzy, obsolete things, easily abandoned for a morsel, for the bedtime stories that we’re still number one, that we’re always right, that we really can be protected from every terror, real or imagined.  Ideals are easy to discard, easy to discredit as elitist, impractical fantasies when “We the People” would rather wallow in fear and loathing of every infidel, every bogeyman and buggerer du jour.

The truth is supposed to set us free, but it’s a lot more fun to cower before an unseen horde of swarthy Muslims arrayed just beyond reality’s horizon.  It’s a lot more fun believing in the romance of perpetual war when you’re convinced a “Judaeo-Christian” God is on your side.  Even while you also believe that equal rights for all will somehow emasculate the world’s biggest, baddest military.  How ever will Americans fight forever, in faraway forgotten quagmires, when women-loving men and men-loving women have all fled from the front lines of American Empire?

Maybe truth is expendable, and maybe freedom’s just another word (for nothing left to lose), because outlandish conspiracy theories are always so much more fun, especially when they appeal to racist impulses and celebrate manifest ignorance.  Who knew our President was born in an African hut, and was suckled by wild hyenas, and is now a secret Black Muslim hell-bent on unplugging grandma?

Who knew an amateur “Judaeo-Christian” historian like David Barton could single-handedly unravel the original intent of our founding fathers?  Clearly, that funky fraternity of rabble-rousing deists wanted nothing less than an unholy return to Old Testament theocracy, a hunkered-down America waiting impatiently for the end of days, for its angry, make-my-day, New Testament Jesus to come back and smite the evil-doers who are left behind.

We may not have long to wait, if that wacky, perennial prognosticator really has cracked the code this time.  But just in case, please make a note to check on your Fundamentalist neighbors.  May 22 is the day after their scheduled rapture.  If they’re still here, be kind, rewind, because they got left behind, too.

– Monsieur d’Nalgar

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2011/01/09/when-dead-birds-fly/


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  1. This was finally published in today’s Sentinel Record (Sunday, January 22, 2011), in the “In My Opinion” section, more or less intact until near the end, when the last five or six paragraphs were savaged by the editor’s butchery. Some of what got left out:

    How ever will Americans fight forever, in faraway forgotten quagmires, when women-loving men and men-loving women have all fled from the front lines of American Empire?

    Who knew our President was born in an African hut, and was suckled by wild hyenas, and is now a secret Black Muslim hell-bent on unplugging grandma?

    Who knew an amateur “Judaeo-Christian” historian like David Barton could single-handedly unravel the original intent of our founding fathers?

    But just in case, please make a note to check on your Fundamentalist neighbors.

    Perhaps if they had sacrificed the inch-and-a-half headline for a normal one… Still, I am grateful that any of it was printed. The essence of what I wanted to say was said, even if not exactly as I wanted.

    • Joy on January 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I am amazed they print such long letters! The St Louis Post Dispatch has something like a 300 word limit.

  2. From today’s letters to the editor in the Sentinel Record…

    Brings clarity on Constitution

    Dear editor:

    I wish to compliment [Jacques d’Nalgar] for the best In my opinion (Sunday, Jan. 23) I have seen in your paper, or for that matter any paper.

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar] has presented a clear and brilliant assessment of the Constitution problem. It would be so much easier to communicate on a useful level if those who write letters exhibiting limited and biased views of constitutional law and history could understand the rationale illustrated by [Jacques’] commentary.

    I find it disturbing to think that persons with views as exhibited by Jock MacGregor and the Garland County TEA Party are teaching courses about the Constitution based on the biased, irrational and prejudiced principles of Skousen.

    I congratulate [Jacques] for a masterful combination of literary excellence, common sense and a clear understanding of the Constitution as well as human values. If Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas could exhibit such an understanding, I would feel more comfortable about our nation’s future.

    Mike Nunn
    Hot Springs

  3. From today’s letters to the editor in the Sentinel Record…

    Why such vitriol?

    Dear editor:

    Having just finished the In My Opinion piece in Sunday’s paper, I have to wonder what engenders such vitriol in this writer (and others of his ilk) against people who believe in God and the essential rightness of the Founders’ writings. The people under attack (tea-partiers to the newly elected politicians) are no different in their humanness than the opinion writer’s. We all have our strengths, weaknesses and imperfections; they come with being a part of “… all of God’s children” (“I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1963).

    What could these writers possibly be afraid of? What is embedded in our Judeo-Christian heritage that sends them into such paroxysms of anger? What is it in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that threatens them so? I am truly at a loss to understand why these writers have such a visceral dislike for the concepts of God-given rights, minimal governmental interference in the lives of individuals and a bountiful free-market economic system.

    Perhaps a little more time spent reading the Founding Fathers instead of Sol Alinsky would open these writers to a broader understanding of the brilliance of the Constitution’s limitations on the enhancement of power (one of mankind’s most corrosive and destructive tendencies). After all, the purpose of the Constitution is to put limits on government’s power, not limits on the people’s power. In these writers’ socialist utopia, the government is all powerful and the people are all equally downtrodden.

    The government’s primary constitutional duty is to protect the rights of the American people and their property. If you truly understand the concept of constitutional, bottom-up governance and you objectively study history, you will find that the American Republic has provided the individual with more social mobility, more economic freedom and less limitation on individual fulfillment (physical and spiritual), than any other societal structure in history or in the world today.

    I would welcome a policy debate, based on the facts rather than on polemic propaganda. A debate that speaks of personal responsibility and genuine compassion, not the same old failed nostrums that pass as policy today and are doing more harm than good.

    John “Jock” MacGregor
    Garland County TEA Party
    Constitution Study Course

  4. So who is this Sol (Saul?) Alinsky me and my ilk spend more time reading than the Founding Fathers? When I got home to my socialist utopia tonight (we go to church, a Christian church, on most Wednesday nights), this is what I found:

    Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing and has been compared to Thomas Paine as being “one of the great American leaders of the nonsocialist left.”

    In the course of nearly four decades of organizing the poor for social action, Alinsky made many enemies, but also received praise from an array of public figures. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across North America. In the 1950s, he began turning his attention to improving conditions of the African-American ghettos, beginning with Chicago’s and later traveling to other ghettos in California, Michigan, New York City, and a dozen other “trouble spots.”

    His ideas were later adapted by some US college students and other young organizers in the late 1960s and formed part of their strategies for organizing on campus and beyond. Time magazine once wrote that “American democracy is being altered by Alinsky’s ideas,” and conservative author William F. Buckley said he was “very close to being an organizational genius.”

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky

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