Judgment In A Mad, Mad World

by Gary Gordon

Last Tuesday night a neighborhood activist who lives adjacent to Edgemar on Main Street argued that expanding the lobby in the proposed theatre space there was an intensification of commercial activity and therefore he opposed it. When it was pointed out that expansion of the lobby did not expand the footprint of the theatre, did not increase the number of seats in the theatre, and would likely create more space inside for theater-goers, thus minimizing the number who might stand noisily outside waiting to get in, he replied that that didn't matter, he was opposed to expanding the commercial area because it would intensify the commercialization of the space.

Would that this curious thinking was confined to the lobby space in the proposed theatre, where the meeting was held.

Cut to Washington D.C., always a source of curious thinking. Republicans, whose leaders pardoned Nixon, Casper Weinberger and others for charges having to do with mis-use of the military and civilian police authorities, obstruction of justice, lying to Congress etc., are going after Clinton for pardoning a person whom Republican lawyers once defended, as if defending him was pardonable but pardoning him wasn't. And Clinton is actually maintaining that the vast political contributions of this man and other thugs had nothing to do with the pardons. And many Republicans are saying "of course the pardons were bought" at the same time many of them fervently deny any link between campaign contributions and votes and therefore oppose campaign finance reform.

Cut to Atlanta (another source of curious thinking, thanks to CNN): Talk-back live discusses news coverage of the recent presidential election night with various talking heads weighing in on whether or not exit polls should be conducted and whether or not predictions should be made and no one-no one-- brings up the numerous irregularities and illegalities in Florida, as if it was the media's coverage that was the problem and not antiquated voting machines and organized obstructions that lead to Bush's "win".

Back to Santa Monica, where no one seems to want to mention the ugly truth: there was never a proposal voted on or rejected for an actual living wage for all working people in the city. One side that was for the living wage wanted it just in the Coastal zone and the other side wanted it just to apply to businesses doing business with the City, so even though both sides claimed to be for a living wage, actually neither was.

Back to D.C., where Senator Arlen Spectre, author of the incredible "single bullet theory" in the Warren Commission report on the assassination of JFK and defender of the notion that Clarence Thomas was not disingenuous when he said he had never thought about Roe v. Wade and therefore had no position on it, leads, with a straight face, the investigation of the Clinton pardons. Unlike the JFK assassination and the Thomas frown affair, in this case he suspects conspiracy and falsehood.

Then there's Japan. Offshore. A US Navy sub with civilians on board sinks a Japanese ship and the Navy and its defenders have the audacity to claim having civilians on board is necessary not just for public relations but-here's the kicker-to insure the historic civilian oversight of the military as intended by the Founding Fathers. The thinking here seems to be that fat-cat civilian joy-riders constitute oversight and that without civilian oversight we would have a military that would run amuck andů sink Japanese ships.

Back to the Talk Show circuit, where former Lt. Col. Oliver North self-righteously condemns Clinton for not following standard procedures in pursuing the pardons issued and for hiding behind technicalities-this is the same North who lied to Congress, did not follow procedures, and got off on technicalities.

Meanwhile, Justice Rehnquist invokes the equal protection clause of the Constitution to authorize the cessation of vote-counting, arguing essentially that the votes of the people that have already been counted deserve protection from the votes of the people that hadn't been counted.

Cut to California, where the powers that be decided deregulation of the utilities was the answer (not having stated the problem), and lead the state into electric chaos, ignoring one prominent American who warned at the time against deregulation-Ralph Nader-but then ignoring Nader is pretty much an American past-time.

Meanwhile, in Texas, the story of oil & power millionaires who gave vast sums to Dubya Bush, who is now ignoring Califorina, to the delight and profit of his contributors and to the detriment of tax- and ratepayers statewide and elsewhere goes virtually unreported-why? Well, obviously, because these pardons, which affect very few people, are more important and deserve volumes of coverage and Congressional investigations.

Cut to Iraq, where our new President, W., fresh from installing organized religion in the White House, forgets to ask "What would Jesus do?" and bombs more people, and the media report it as if a baby has taken his first step-too much idiocy, contradiction, convolution, Freudian interpretation, and hypocrisy in this one to deconstruct, but can't not mention (note the Bush double-negative syntax) that only 8 out of 25 bombs hit the targets.

Back in America, the nation's politicians point fingers at each other over the absence of a national energy policy and the people who elected Reagan and recently declared him to be the best president ever wonder why we're in this energy mess, importing twice as much foreign oil as we did in 1973, forgetting that Reagan ripped the solar panels from the White House roof after he was elected.

Meanwhile, throughout the nation, the movie Traffic is celebrated as a bold expose of the failed war on drugs although it does not have any scenes about all the folks imprisoned for minor possession and possession of marijuana and it has no scenes with corrupt American cops and contains no discussion of the Prison Industrial Complex or the uneven sentencing patterns and disparities in the arresting and sentencing of coke and crack users. But it does have corrupt Mexican cops and White upper-middle class families with kids on smack. (It's the upper-middle class White kids that catch the Academy's attention.) The horror...

Back in Hollywood, the new movie with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts is called: The Mexican. Huh?

Elsewhere in L.A., the movie The Gladiator, in which a gladiator whose name is not Spartacus does not lead a rebellion against the Roman Empire, is in the poll position to win the Academy Awards.

Then along comes Eminem, with song lyrics hostile to women and gays, and he is celebrated, and it is argued that music is music (as if Blowin' In The Wind and Deutschland Uber Alles are equivalent), and it is argued that to condemn him is a violation of his free speech as if one should defend and uphold free speech by not exercising it to criticize speech filled with hate.

Then Stanley Kramer dies. This renown producer and director whose credits included High Noon, The Defiant Ones, Inherit The Wind, Judgment At Nuremberg, and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Although he never made a movie about the size of the lobby of a theater, or a living wage debate, or presidential pardons, his movies seem to have application today. Courage to stand for justice amidst a crowd so apathetic as to be self-destructive. Courage to overcome bigotry and intolerance and embrace humanity. Courage to think critically in the face of narrow-minded blind faith. Courage to bring justice to a place devoid of all human decency.

And as for Mad World: the cop is corrupt, and at the end of the movie, for what it's worth, the treasure is under the W.