Monday, January 29, 2007

Holyoke: The Belle Skinner Legacy, by Jack Dunn -- A Study In Bush Derangement Syndrome

Reprinted entire from last January. Got a lot of comments last time.

I was born in Holyoke, and my brother who lives in Western MA gave me this for Christmas. Just out last month. Autographed. We usually read what we give each other beforehand, but I suspect he didn't read this. He is considerably more liberal than I, and not averse to exposing me to ideas more congenial to him than to me, but he's not flipping nuts. (Update 2019: Though I still don't think my brother is nuts, I now know that he really does have this level of hatred and unreason about those he disagrees with. He is quite sure he knows their motives.)

Holyoke is an historical novel which flicks back and forth between Maggie, a female Kerry worker despondent about the 2004 election, and Belle Skinner, an early feminist and philanthropist from Holyoke. Before getting under weigh, the book has a Dedication, About the Author, Acknowlegements, Author's Note, Prologue, Introduction, and Preface. Not a good sign. But at least he gets right into it in Chapter One: Maggie O'Reilly's brain is home to every treasured, paranoiac, myth about George Bush and the Republicans; so unhinged that I kept expecting a punchline, or a good laugh at herself. Or something.

I quote exactly - this is not a parody. This is not written by a highschooler.
How could Bush have been "re-elected?" Had the elections been rigged or did voters actually want him to be president? Would the world survive another four years of him?

...The excitement she had felt, expecting a new beginning in America, had ended abruptly with the Republican machinery defeating the Democrats. How they had managed it, she still didn't know...In fact, she didn't even believe the elections were valid. Reinforcing her position, she remembered that Kerry had been the clear winner in the exit polls. Again, she wondered why the Democrats had not contested the election. There were some serious questions about the legitimacy of the last two presidential elections, when Bush had been "elected" and then "re-elected." Whether or not the elections had been fixed or the number of votes fabricated, the Republicans had squeaked to victory in key states. They had used computer hardware and software of dubious reliability; and relied on talk-radio and television to increase the level of voter fear and hate, mostly of outsiders and homosexuals. To Maggie, it didn't seem that gay rights should be a main issue for voters.

Those in John Kerry's camp who had anticipated that the Republicans would be this organized and devious, lost out to others who could not see the mind control that Bush's people were employing to get people to believe they were in imminent danger from terrorists and others...They had used God: to get elected, to get their mandate to kill, to gain more power and control and to accumulate more personal wealth. Maggie was still wondering when God had become so heavily involved in this election, and why the Bush people thought they were his chosen representatives on earth, when they were murdering innocent people for oil.

...Most of those working on the Kerry campaign needed to get the system fixed. They needed to stop the new moneymen from stealing from them and diverting their money to the ultra-wealthy, and to war. They had children to feed. With the spiral of effects, from companies cutting jobs and prices soaring, they had no savings left.

It turns out that Maggie attends Mass three times a week - yeah, those folks voted for Kerry in droves, huh? - and is handed a pamphlet by an African-American nun (of course). The nun had been crying over the dead Iraqi children, and of course the pamphlet shows how George Bush broke all the requirements for a Just War.

Knowing that George Bush and his administrators had never, and would never in the future, consider adhering to any of these conditions, Maggie nearly burst into tears too. She suspected that Bush and company did not have the ability to understand complex matters.

Today's question: What would be the evidence that one could reason with either the character Maggie, or the author Jack Dunn?


Gagdad Bob said...

I'm surprised a man wrote this. He really has an ear for that distinctive voice of ovary tower feminist cliterature.

Anonymous said...

Christ almighty. It's not even good writing.

gcotharn said...

You pose an interesting question. You already know my answer, but I've a yen for in interlude of indulgent self-expression.

It's my goal, when I speak to potential clients, to notice traits I genuinely appreciate about the client. Not only is this simply a pleasant way to work, but it helps the sale. People usually sense if you genuinely like them, or if you are being insincere at some level.

Sometimes - and it usually has more to do with my having a bad day than with the specific client - I can find nothing to like about the client. I find, as I am in conversation with them, that I detest them. Again - its really me - but, in the moment, I detest every miserable peccadillo and stupid opinion they have.

At such times, I try to consider if, were I drowning, and the client were on the dock with a life preserver hanging exactly beside them, would they toss the life preserver towards me? Most times, I believe they would, and it creates some warm feeling for them inside my heart.

Which is to say, both Maggie and the author have caring hearts, and this is the hope for them. It is maybe the only evidence in their favor.

Sometimes, I have potential clients who are hostile without having any noticeable reason for being so. They are worried about themselves. They don't like change, maybe, and they are worried they will want to change because of the obvious benefit of my product. Their hostility is really an indicator that the war has been decided. The point of no return has been crossed. In a faint echo of the Germans in the Bulge, or the Japanese at Iwo Jima, great hostility remains to be played out, but the issue has been decided.

Maggie would not be so vociferous if she did not have such determination to do the right thing, and to help society be as good as it can be. Maybe she sees the writing on the wall regarding her liberal viewpoints, and she is railing her despair and anger into the void.

Or not. I'm no expert!

Cappy said...

One could reason with him/her/it/them only if one were Dale Gribble or Art Bell.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Bell is good at getting people to spill over, isn't he? Beck does a great impression of him.

Anonymous said...

Being bad PAYS today.

The cruelest people make the headlines.

The heroes rarely do.

Nanny state pushers who aborted their own children set about playing Creator, seducing the people with sweet-sounding lies.

Yes, little ones, that child rapist is misunderstood. Move over and share your bed with this homeless victim.

Guns are bad, little ones. Mommy only needs to shake hands with the genocidal nutcase next door and he won't kill mommy or you.

Poor baby. Don't do that difficult work of learning, facing fear and discomfort and daily responsibilities and challenges and slings and arrows of real life. Don't grow up. Let me be in power and never question my motives or patriotism. I'll do the thinking for you. Just vote for me and go away, and come on back election day.

And pay no attention to that man with the dull sword behind the curtain..

And, pay no attention to the nanny state pusher who will save your life, and steal your soul.

Poor babies. Poor, poor babies.

Who needs respect?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

My first troll. I think I'll frame this.

Anonymous said...


Not a troll.

Just lost.

I wasn't mocking you. Maybe saying their is no answer for those so far gone, except to not reach out to them - to stay away.

Even Abraham had the help of angels to rescue Lot, and Sarah still turned back in longing.

Guess I am a troll after all.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, glad to hear you're not a troll then. You sound wounded, not lost.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the entire book? I ask because I had the same problems with his writing but ultimately felt his message came through loud and clear by the end. And I learned more about Holyoke had the book not ever been written. So I thank him for that.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I admit, no. After that, I browsed. Feeling ashamed, I rebrowsed. Still couldn't do it.

a guy in pajamas said...

A question for the ages. Too bad I don't have the answer.

I like what gcotharn said. I believe that's part of it. Another part is listening for their real concerns.

However, somewhere between listening for their real concerns and shattering the coherency of their worldview, I seem to be missing a few steps.

Thomas Kuhn posited that, to change a mind, it's not enough to convince the person he's wrong, but rather you must offer a better alternative. People will continue to believe something they suspect is wrong rather than step into the void of meaninglessness.

It also seems clear to me that a hostile alternative will not be seen as better.

It's a thought, anyway.