• Righties, Lefties & Social Consciousness in the Novelist

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Rants & Raves     Comments 5 comments

    by Martin Barkley

    For five years I’ve been doing research on the history of political and corporate corruption in America for a novel I’m writing. Not just the bare historical facts, but how corruption happens, the nexus of it and the human players, large and small, behind it. It makes for disheartening reading, and sometimes, quite honestly, I get stumped on the big picture. That is, the big human picture. How can people, I ask myself, do such things? That’s the essence of what stumps me. Not too complicated, I know, but it is the kind of question that novelists, at least some them, tend to explore. It’s not an easy question to answer, either, and at times I don’t even want to write a novel that looks closely at what makes human beings commit lasting acts that are hurtful to the public good.

    I won’t finger-point—not just yet—by invoking political labels, but whether they’re duped authorities or outright bamboozlers, those making the list historically for “Atrocities Committed” do seem to demonstrate a nexus. Here is my annotated short-list:

    Ulysses S. Grant (duped authority), William Tecumseh Sherman (lying genocidist), George Armstrong Custer (lying, duped genocidist), Jay Gould (fraud), James Fisk (fraud), J.P. Morgan (fraud), Warren Gamaliel Harding (duped authority and fraud), Albert B. Fall (lying, cheating fraud), Charles Forbes (simple cheat and fraud), Herbert Hoover (simple dupe), Dwight David Eisenhower (………), Richard effing Milhouse Nixon (fucking lying, cheating authority and fraud), John Erlichman (accessory to lying, cheating authority), Spiro T. Agnew (duped liar), John Dean (effing liar), Henry Kissinger (fucking liar), Ronald Wilson Reagan (duped authority), Oliver North (duper of said authority), Elliot Abrams (dupe), Robert McFarlane (dupe), et al numerous Reagan officials (all dupes), Oscar Wyatt (fraud), Kenneth Lay (duped fraud), Jeffrey Skilling (fraud and bilker extraordinaire), Dennis Kozlowski (fraud), Mark Swartz (fraud), Bernie Ebbers (fraud), Richard “Dick” Cheney (effing lying, cheating authority and fraud), Henry Paulson (duped dupe), Angelo Mozilo (common fraud and bilker), George W. Bush (duped bamboozler), et al ad infinitum—a lineal descent of duped authorities, liars, frauds, cheats, bilkers and bamboozlers.

    You’ll probably have to read up on this list of culprits for a fuller understanding—there’s just not sufficient time here—but you get the idea, I think. But, once again, I ask, how and why do these things continue to happen? Especially when, by now, we should know better.

    Which brings me to the labels I previously avoided.

    Now, as I’m sure you know, religious conservatives, as a matter of principle, believe in the doctrine of Original Sin. Which says, in case you haven’t heard, that those of us inhabiting this terrestrial orb are fallen and sinful from birth and, therefore, responsible for all the bad stuff that happens down here, while God gets general immunity for the whole sordid affair. (That’s just a little theology. Don’t let it worry you too much.)

    Now, you’d think that a religious conservative would want to regulate the bedeviling shit out of Fallen Man. Right? See where I’m going here? You can’t trust a human being not to fall back into natural-born sin. Right? Especially where there’s large sums of money involved. But does the religious conservative want to regulate anyone, like, say, the bankers and CEOs who just drove the economy into a shitter? Why, no, that would be against conservative principles. When it comes to your genitalia, though–well, regulating those, I guess, resides in the category of a fallen nature, whereas thieving fat-cat bankers don’t. But your genitalia are an exception. Generally, the Righties frown on regulation. On principle, of course. Go figure. There must be something about free will I’m missing here.

    On the other hand, the Lefties, who mostly look askance at all this Fall-of-Man falderal, know, for a fact, that you can’t trust human beings not to be thieving, lying, reprobate sons-a-bitches. So they are willing to regulate the bedeviling shit out of the fat-cat bankers. The Lefties, though, don’t rely on ancient texts to tell them that humankind is a messed up lot, and, therefore, the Glass-Steagall Act was probably a pretty damn good idea on its face. No, they just know from the daily headlines that people—especially powerful people—are largely boogered up, and, left to themselves, couldn’t do the right thing if they had the Golden Rule tattooed on their foreheads. Once again, go figure. Nobody had to tell the Lefties this; they just know.

    There’s a paradox in all this, I think, when you compare the motives of the Righties and the Lefties. The Righties, since they have the Bible to back them up, should want to regulate, whereas the Lefties, with only innate common sense and jurisprudence, maybe not so much. In any case, since they both know, albeit from different sources, that human history is a disaster waiting to happen, why can’t they just huddle up on the subject of regulating the fat-cats? I think that’s a good question.

    Of course, I’m posing all this in terms that highlight the folly of it all. Reasonable voices, like Brooksley Born, for one, and Elizabeth Warren, for another, tried to warn Congress, respectively, before and after the recent crisis, that regulation is necessary and not tantamount to heresy, but they lost their arguments to the opposition’s “principles.”

    (For more on Brooksley Born and Elizabeth Warren, see the Frontline story “The Warning.”)

    So now, in my opinion, the aftermath is proper territory for satire and other exposition. In fact, I’d say, as hard as it might be, novelists and artists are able to sort out political turbulence in meaningful ways that journalists, public officials, and academics just can’t.

    Agree? Disagree? Names to add to the list of dupers, dupees, and bamboozlers? Let us know below.


    Martin Barkley resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife of twenty years. He is writing a novel on corporate stupidity.


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    […] Who, by the way, has two books on the list of banned titles in that Arizona mess, and writes about it here. (“I want to thank (Gracias, gracias!) the state of Arizona for its recognition,” he writes.) (via Martin Barkley) […]


    Right. Dago Gilb’s The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women have been banned by the Hitlerian Lollapalooza Junta in Arizona, who waste no opportunity to put the “uppity” so-called minority folks in their place. In all seriousness, though, the State of Arizona has banned Gilb’s work, along with a long list of other renowned Latino authors, from use in the public school curriculum. This is beyond one step forward and two steps back; this is retrograde in the extreme. And now I’ve just read that they’ve discontinued altogether the Mexican-American studies programs in the public schools (The Observer, February… Read more »


    “Hitlerian Lollapalooza Junta.” Laughed.

    Let’s face it, though. As long as there are books and people, there will be people banning books. Want to stop the practice of banning books? Get rid of all the people.

    This issue with the Mexican-American studies program is way bigger than books. Which you seem to know.


    Banning books only brings increased notoriety for the authors banned, an age-old lesson that the censors never seem to grasp, but that’s a hell of a road to fame for the writers who have to endure it. It’s wrong, we shouldn’t give in to it; in fact, we should stand with these writers and scream our disapproval of State censorship from the rooftops.

    What’s a Mexican-American studies program worth, anyway, if a long list of Latino luminaries don’t have their voices heard there? Find the “list” here:


    […] Righties, Lefties & Social Consciousness in the Novelist […]

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