Back when the colony elites were creating America on paper, Thomas Jefferson and his camp, attuned to the Enlightenment thinking of the day, fought for a leadership based on talents and virtues. A “natural aristocracy,” they called it. The time was ripe to set aside the old world “artificial aristocracy,” based on birth and wealth — of which, unfortunately, Jefferson and most of the key founding fathers were card carrying members, i.e., slave holders.

An old problem. What you promote isn’t what you are. All too often not even close.

Too bad that Jefferson and the boys didn’t have the inner wherewithal to up and say “And it starts with us; we surrender our slaves to their liberty and pursuit of happiness.” … But, hey, it’s nigh unto impossible to think outside of the framework of your times. Plus, well, gosh darn the luck, slaves were worth a lot of money. And money was status, political clout, same as it is now.

Sad, sad America. From the get-go, so rich in ideals, so poor in their practice. Bottom line: ideals are a great thing to have, when one is urgently reaching for them. But as lip service, they become breeding grounds of hypocrisy, the good intentions that pave the road to hell.

250 years later, our “more perfect government … of, by, and for the people” fosters and protects an economic system within which three individuals have more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans combined; within which our “freely” elected Congress is an exclusive club of multi-millionaires; within which we now have our first billionaire president, who has sustained into his 70 ’s all of the qualities of a playground bully.

Why kid ourselves. To this day the full blown artificial aristocracy – minus robes and crowns, dukes and earls — still runs the country, buoyed up by the propaganda that we the people have so long loved to hear: that we are different here in America, something special, more free, the last best hope of man on earth, etc.

This gaping chasm between the ideal and the reality — who wants to see it? Near the end of the last century, then President Clinton famously said, “the party with the most money wins,” which was kind of a half-assed confession of where the soul of America is actually located. Money, money, big money. (The way big money is earned? Who cares, if you get away with it?)

And how soon does that axiom become “the person with the most money wins”?… Well, if it’s not here already, it’s around the corner. Multi-billionaire former New York mayor (and former Republican), Michael Bloomberg has entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, pledging to use 31 million of his own dollars to mount a campaign media blitz.

But why stop there? 31 million is pocket change to a multi-billionaire. People in general think of billionaires as millionaires plus, but they’re not even distant cousins. Billionaires are another beast altogether. Count to a million one dollar a second, if you could stay awake, you’d arrive at a million in thirteen days. Count to a billion one dollar a second, you’d arrive at a billion in thirty-six years.

Last count, Bloomberg had 53 and ½ of those billions. Such staggering wealth, ever more woven into our political workings, reveals the runaway train we’ve been riding on here, well, from our republic’s inception: a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. A country can only go so far in pretending to be one thing while becoming ever more rapidly the opposite, before it crashes.

Shine, Perishing Republic.

Or maybe not quite yet. Look upon that hill. That masked man and his humble Indian companion. Here they come. “Hi ho, Silver, away.”

Bernie Sanders, at age 78, has risen up from his heart attack to soldier on in the upcoming Democratic primaries. Elizabeth Warren, 70, also makes some rational sense, the both of them delivering pretty good punches at the ever-growing accumulations of wealth in a few persons’ hands. Only modest millionaires themselves, Bernie and Elizabeth are passionately crying out to tax these plutocrats down to human size before they totally take us over. Hey. The citizenry in general, the minimum wage folks, for example, could use a couple extra bucks.

I hear you, Bernie. I hear you, Elizabeth…. But, alas, can I get it up one more time to think that politics can lead us out of this dark night of the soul that it led us into in the first place.

Four years ago, yes, there was still a sliver of that hope within me. “Four years ago” came back to me recently as in a very specific memory of a former student, in his mid-thirties, living in Michigan, who had taken a couple weeks of vacation time to return to Martinsburg, WV to act in a play I had written. In his student years, he’d been the lead in several plays I had directed. He is a terrific actor, and when I asked him if he’d consider coming back to take one last role, he said yes, if I could put him up. Him and his dog Scout.

Of course, of course. I was thrilled to have him. In the play, in flashback scenes, he would play the past, the younger, idealistic version of the character I would play in the present, a half broken older man, but maybe with one last burst of real life in him.

Anyway, I already knew that it would be great to work with Joe – I’ll call him Joe – on the stage again; but what I was about to learn is that he was also great to hang out with after practice, our conversations sometimes going until three in the morning, often focusing on the politics of the day.

At the time, Bernie was running against Hillary for the Democratic nomination, coming out of nowhere and doing surprisingly well, igniting the flame of idealism in the young. Joe was “all in,” had been “all in” for months already. He was a passionate Bernie man. I was stunned at first. I had seen no inkling of this politically-minded side of him before.

Here’s how he saw it. Bernie probably couldn’t win the Democratic nomination in ’16. But that was alright. Let Hillary be the bag-holder while the economy went to hell (at that time it was assumed that she would trounce Trump in the ’16 election), and by 2020, America world would be ripe for a different kind of candidate. Bernie might be too old by then. But Elizabeth Warren, perhaps. Somebody progressive. Somebody that would challenge the ongoing politics of ever increasing corruption.

“Wishful thinking,” was my repeated comeback, Scout stretched out on a throw rug between us. Meanwhile a crucial insight into myself was growing bigger by the day: that being around a young politically astute and positive thinker for two weeks was good for me, was a healthy experience, a breath of fresh air. He reminded me of me back in the 60’s and 70’s. He would say, “I just can’t believe that human beings will allow ourselves to go down. It’s unthinkable.” And I would say, “I’m glad you feel that way, even if I can’t.”

I didn’t hear from Joe after he returned to Michigan. I didn’t take it personally. He said, upon leaving, that wasn’t his way to keep in touch: e-mails, phone calls.

Later on that same day that I had been reflecting on his four-years-ago visit, I absent-mindedly picked an old book by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh off my bookshelves. The Mystic Experience. One of his very early ones. My copy is falling apart because I read it so many times back in the 70’s, when Rajneesh’s voice was huge in my life.

Opening it at random, these are the first words I came onto: “In the coming fifty years, the fate of human culture will be decided. The struggle that has been going on for centuries will have come to a decisive point…”

I immediately checked the dates that these talks were given, the book being a verbatim recording of them. A-ha. In the spring and summer of 1970. Forty-nine and a half years ago. Forty-nine and a half years (of the half-century that Rajneesh said would hold within it the up or down destiny of human kind) has been already frittered away, is now behind us, with no sign that this “decisive point” in our fate is looking favorable.

How very odd that at this moment I had thoughtlessly pulled this book off my shelf: Rajneesh, whom I don’t read anymore, suddenly in my hands, speaking to me in the last days of this 50 year window of time that he said humanity had left to change course or go down.

That is what Carl Jung would refer to as a synchronistic event, a “meaningful coincidence with no apparent causal relationship.” Or, in more personal language, what Hamlet meant when he said “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

That evening, I watched the fourth game of the World Series, at a friend’s house, since I don’t have a TV. I was restless, perhaps because of the strangeness of the day thus far, but also not happy with myself for once again buying into these ever present escapes, like spectator sports, from the gravity of the moment that is upon us. It’s an ideal of mine to not buy in. Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

When I arrived home, about eleven-thirty, there was a car I didn’t recognize in the driveway. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t my young friend. For some reason, even mysterious to him, he’d driven, with Scout in the passenger seat, all the way from Manistee, Michigan to ponder with me what t’ hell was coming down the pike.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them both.


  1. Patricia Henley

    I enjoyed both the rational thought in this and the irrational hope.

    Warren was born in 1949. So she is considerably younger than Bernie.

    1. jamesralston@hotmail.com (Post author)

      Thanks, Patricia, for drawing attention to the error concerning Warren’s age. Even more so, thank you for your positive remark. Couldn’t have come at a better time. (Another synchronistic moment, I’ll take that as.)

  2. Chris HERSH

    “The Mystic Experience,” looks like I left that stone unturned. I may have to go educate myself. The most successful politician ever would be the one who suddenly found himself homeless, jobless, transportaionless, and penniless. The meaning of “go get a job” would take on a whole new meaning. You have to have an address, a picture ID, interview clothes, consistent hygiene, phone number, and access to a computer to get a job. I have all those things and have been looking for a new job for close to three years now. A couple of days of being without would be a true gift to the modestly rich presidential hopefuls. Nicely written Prof. ( Tips hat, winks)

    1. jamesralston@hotmail.com (Post author)

      So many politicians have no idea of the world that most of “we the people” are living in. No idea. Thanks for your comment, for bringing that home in a detailed way, Chris

  3. jamesralston@hotmail.com (Post author)

    Leonard, just wondering. You referred to this spring’s play, which will be five one acts with the theme of “the battle of the sexes” running through them. I know you know Joe, are a friend of his. I’ve lost touch, even since his last visit. There’s a narrator’s voice (that I’m writing) that runs through these five one-acts. It will look something like that narrator in “Our Town,” very important, though not so extensive. I’d love it if he could come back and take that part. Would involve only ten days or so of actually being here. Say the 12th through the 22 of March. It would be inspiring to me as I wrote in that role, knowing that he’d be playing the part. If you can get in touch with him, tell him I’d put him (and Scout) up again. Tell him it could be a lot of fun.

  4. Leonard Washington

    What’s happening Jim, nice to see your still writing. I was starting to think you might have retired the blog.
    Enjoyed your last piece. Wild times we’re living in. If someone told me 10 years ago that Donald Trump would be the President someday If would have seriously questioned their sanity. Even 4 years ago I didn’t believe it could be possible. I suppose It’s just the time I grew up, and not having at TV for most of the last 25 years. I had no idea he was so popular. I thought it was a joke until Mike Pence came along. I had my money on Lindsey Lohan.
    That what I get for believing polls, probably should have known better than to trust the propagandists and the outrage porn machine they’ve built. A last ditch, Hail Mary effort to compete with the internet.
    I Wouldn’t get to excited about Warren or Sanders. I suspect their hearts are in the right places. There was a time they might have been able to do some good, when we were a less divided nation. I’m afraid that time may come and gone.
    It’s not the democratic candidates that are the problem. It’s the army of spiky blue haired sociopaths and gamma cucks that are lurking in the shadows behind them. They seem harmless, even friendly. But stand by. There’s truly no limit to what some of these people will do for the opportunity to advance their social status, you probably won’t even be aware it is happening until it’s over. Devils in disguise.
    Who knows if Mr. Trump is corrupt? Probably to some extent, who isn’t? But any more corrupt then every other politician? My guess-probably not. I suspect they’re all just upset that he isn’t beholden to the same pay to play system they’ve all sold they’re souls to. Not just upset though…OUTRAGED!… it’s so unfair. Who do these American peasants…I mean people think they are not electing the person we picked to be our first female president?
    Are you doing a play this year, I can’t remember?
    Hope all is well with you and yours. Talk to you later Jim

    1. jamesralston@hotmail.com (Post author)

      Hey, nice to hear from you Leonard. Interesting response. Yeah, we’re doing some one-acts in March, all stuff taught in various lit classes here at BRCTC. A muted battle of the sexes theme runs through them, although in the one modern play of the bunch, not muted at all. The all out war. I’m going to narrate a bit between plays, a little like the stage manager in “Our Town.” I’m sure you’re familiar with that play.

      (By the way, what’s a gamma cuck?)

      1. Leonard Washington

        I see your still boycotting Google. Good for you Jim.
        Well, they’re hard to describe. And if you go online, you’ll see a wide variety of definitions. You might even run into one that makes you question yourself. I suppose that’s because they represent a wide variety of men. They’re certainly not exclusive to the left, though they seem more prominent on that side at the present time.
        Let me give you a couple examples
        Most men who associate with or consider themselves a member of Antifa. Virtue signaling is a hallmark
        Most men who associate with or consider themselves a member of the Alt Right. Nationalism disguised as patriotism is a hallmark.
        They appear different, but they’re really one in the same. Same mental illness anyway
        If you are looking for something closer to home, you could just attend a tea party meeting. Or you could go to Shepherdstown watch all those fake hippy dudes try to throw dick at college girls. A solid 50% of either would fall into the category.
        A despicable little shit that can’t be trusted. A man who identifies the right thing to do, as the right thing to do for himself and his own status, while projecting his virtues to all within his group identity. The type of man who’ll fuck you over and sit in the shadows grinning like possum eating shit out of a bowl.
        Gen X men grew up calling them fags until a bunch of overly sensitive homosexuals stole our method of communicating their behavior. It’s taken 20 years to redefine them. And before anyone gets all up in arms let me just say I think that word should be brought back by that same overly sensitive group and used…liberally. It’s well-known at this point that any adult man who attacks sexuality in this way is likely projecting shame related to his own latent tendencies. Why not rub his nose in it? I hope that wasn’t too mean, but they really do need to be put in their place.
        Battles of the sexes, certainly relevant to the politics of the day. I hope they go well. Take care Jim.


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