from Skiing Uphill  Hart Williams' first blog

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

CONFESSIONS OF A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN or, IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU'D BE HOME BY NOW

The last Republican who ever tricked me is dead, now.

In 1980, thinking myself to be a clever fellow, and worried about the very state of the presidency -- after Nixon, bumbling Ford and congenitally incapable of decisiveness Carter -- I voted for Ronald Reagan.

Now, don't think I had any illusions. No: I was kind of worried about the overwhelmingly Democratic congress, who had swept in unprecedented numbers to overpowering numbers in the house and senate in the Landslide of 1974.

The landslide was so overwhelming that I remember pundits and talking heads seriously yabbling for a silly season "could this be the END of the Republican party?"

Well, not being an idiot, and having some slight sense of history, I would usually hiss back at the boob on the boob tube: "So what? They'd reform as another party, just as the Republicans formed out of the collapse of the Whigs."

But they didn't listen to me. And they're still dithering and blithering and blathering. Have you ever bothered to track all the nonsense spewed out of your idiot-box? The weatherman regularly gets it wrong, but continues, night after night, as though he were (or, increasingly, because of the eye candy factor, she) the Joe DiMaggio of meteorology, riding an unbroken streak of 'hits.'

Worse, if you track it further, you'll note that the pundits make those weatherhominids look like utter Nostradamuses. Or is that Nostradamii? Onward.

At any event, the Democrats had swept to power on a tide of rage at Nixonian predations, and were such utter cascading CFs that they managed to even stymie Carter's entire term. It was a cock fight between the Presidency and the Congress, and it looked like the Congress was going to win.

They were cocky. They were cock-sure, they were self-righteous, they were staunchly scattered, and I viewed them with deep suspicion. Because NOTHING was getting done. The whole government was in PeeCee trainwreck mode.

And, so, foolish little I voted for Blue-Haired Ronnie Death Valley Daze, and even convinced my Italian wife to do so, too, for which I deeply apologize to her.

I was wrong, but with a reason, and I think a valid one: I figured that if they could so stymie Carter, Reagan wouldn't have a chance.

And so there would be a chess game in a natural state of "check." Silly me.

And I lived in Hollywood, so Reagan's hokum and movie tricks were just what they were to me: hokum and movie tricks. He was a second-rate actor, but as a politician he at least played a first-rate one. So, I didn't mind a figurehead in the White House for four years.

How wrong and right I was. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Because he really WAS a figurehead. And the people behind him have been behind an awful lot of the political fecal matter that's hitting the rotating blades.

In fact, they were so keen to keep Carter from pulling off an "October Surprise" (the genesis of the term in political parlance) and get the hostages back, that they sent George I and Bill Casey to Madrid to negotiate with the Ayatollah Khomeni: If you hold the hostages until AFTER the election, we'll secretly sell you the parts for all your U.S.-made F-16 that we sold the Shah. And the other spare parts you need for your war with Iraq.

You see, American High Tech military gear is sold on the dealer/junkie model: you need a constant stream of spare parts and upgrades, and you can only get them ONE place.

And mostly, at that time, it was in Orange County, California, where McDonnell Douglas, Ford Aerospace, and a crapload of other defense contractors were headquartered. But we're coming to that.

Ronnie pulled his phony Hollywood crap, but, as an entertainment professional (hey, I've worked in theater, movies, the music industry, newspapers, magazines, and the various multimedia bleedovers thereof and wherefore), well, as an entertainment professional, it was nice to see SOMEBODY hitting his marks, and only occasionally flubbing his lines. To this very day, the act of allowing a politician in front of a microphone is an act of sheerest sonic masochism, at least to a sound engineer. The old Chair of the DPLC, the Union Goonatrice, used to bend down and scream into that poor little hyper-sensitive microphone in Harris Hall to the point I'd go outside, just to get away from the hideous screech of a self-important amateur blowing out a sensitive and expensive sound system.

I've run open mics in several places, and the most amateurish musician knows more about a microphone than the most polished politician, it seems. But, to a politician, a microphone and a TV camera are like honey to a bee.

Here's a little trick, kiddies. If you're ever at a convocation of models -- clothed or un - -- make sure you have a good looking camera. Whether it has film in it or not, doesn't matter. You will be the focus of all those models' attention. The same holds true for a politician and a microphone.

So, I voted for Ronnie, and got my wish. As they say, be very careful what you wish for.

Skip forward in time to 1987. The Meese Commission was jackbooting through my industry (men's magazines and porn films were the only place that a white boy without a bachelor's degree and an uncle in the business could get a job), and I foolishly decided to enter the "honest" world of "legitimate" business. They were raiding Valley warehouses looking for Tracy Lords tapes, and work was drying up everywhere. So, it seemed, like that foolish vote, to be a good idea at the time.

I got a job in Orange County.

o

Lyn Nofziger has a blog. Or, rather, HAD a blog. Lyn Nofziger was the media Karl Rove behind Reagan. He was one of those evil fixers we like to call "political strategists," and I believe that the one who actually tricked me on the Reagan vote was Nofziger.

Here is one of his last blog entries:

http://www.lynnofziger.com/musings.htm

No one doubts Mr. Murtha's bravery or patriotism, nor should they. But that does not, and should not, exempt him from doubts about his IQ or his common sense. The fact is there is no correlation between brains and bravery. Neither do medals for heroism fit a man to set policy for the country. The liberals know or should know these things, but they figure a lot of their fellow Americans do not.

So they hold up John Murtha as a wise old warrior whose medals and wounds qualify him as one whose advice should be heeded, even when that advice means abandoning an ally and a cause. Why not? Murtha must wonder. We did it in his war-Vietnam-so why not here?

This is not a very nice war. No wars are nice. This one, however, is less so because our leaders made the same mistake another generation made in Vietnam; they thought the enemy would be a pushover.

But because the road is longer than they thought and the way is tougher and the libs have begun clamoring, there is no reason for the United States to fold it tents and go home, John Murtha to the contrary not withstanding.

The United States did that in Korea and again in Vietnam. Who could ever trust us again if we make it three out of three? What soldier would ever again go willingly into battle if he knew that those who sent him there had their white flags cleaned and pressed and ready to wave.

Not even John Murtha, I'll bet.

Well, you can take the boy out of Right Wing Washington politics, but I guess you can't take the Right Wing Washington politics out of the boy. We'll get back to Nofziger in a minute.

o

At first I lived in Whittier, and commuted to downtown Santa Ana, where I worked for an evil little accountant and his hammer-toed Nebraska wife, who ran a place called AAA-o. The "AAA" was so that they'd be FIRST in the phone book.

They did resumes. But first, you had to apprentice directly in their offices, so that they could teach you properly how to screw unemployed families out of their rent money. It was a profoundly disturbing thing to me, having just come from pornography, to move into something so predatory and overtly evil. But that was what was available, and so I took the OCTD bus from a park and ride every morning, a long trip from Whittier to Santa Ana down I-5, past Disneyland.

In fact, I learned an interesting thing about the Orange County Transit District riding that bus.

I had to transfer, of course, and the transfer point was the Disneyland hotel. You see, back when Anaheim was mostly orange groves, and was the sleepy center of the Number One Agricultural County in the U.S.A., the only real traffic draw was Disneyland. So, naturally, all lines converged there. And, at the Disneyland hotel, half of the buses in Orange County converged. That was the transfer point.

Now, in order to be going the right way to drop you off at the Disneyland hotel bus stop, the bus always had to take a big loop around the block opposite Disneyland, mostly residential, at that time.

And, as we came around the back side of Disneyland, every day, I saw something that no tourist ever saw, and which burned into me something that is part and parcel of that California Republican idea that Reagan and his handlers carried from the Land of El Gringo Fascisto to Washington, D.C.

Behind Disneyland, there was a large vacant area as the bus made the turn. The first thing that caught your eye was the absurdist "Disneyland" sign, utterly alone in a strawberry field, with its backdrop of a thirty-foot-high ivy-covered fence: a massive chain-link fence that formed an almost impenetrable backdrop.

The sign itself was one of those telescopic signs you see in front of a Denny's, with a plastic "Disneyland" bas-relief logo over what were undoubtedly fluorescent lights. At the base, there was a well-rutted patch of bare dirt, always muddy by the base of the sign. And a concrete pedestal.

If you had the bus window open, you could kind of hear the Mine Ride roller-coaster behind it, but Disneyland itself might as well have been on another planet.

There was a depressed spot in the curb for trucks to pull in, and the mud around the sign bore mute witness to countless heavy trucks making the circle into the field, and then back around to the other curb exit.

The first time I saw it, that was what I saw.

But after that, I saw something else.

In the strawberry field, dozens of Mexican peasants stooped, picking fruit in the broiling sunshine. The women wore shawls, and some of the men were barefoot. They looked like people from another time, another world. And, in the heat of the midday sun, they soaked their feet in the cool mud, sitting on the pedestal of that Disneyland sign, taking advantage of the only shade to be had.

And I thought of these peasants, doing backbreaking work, shoeless, many homeless, and right through that Ivy Curtain, the whole American Dream screamed with false joy at the twists and turns of the wild mine ride.

The magic kingdom had a dark shadow that I saw every day. In the distance, there was a new block of condos going up, and there was a banner with a phone number that said: "If you lived here, you'd be home by now."

And I thought: what must they think of us?

We, sitting in our Disney shorts, with our Disney cameras slung over our Mickey Mouse T-shirts, gaily blowing more cash than any of these illegals would see in a year.

And I felt a dark rage that persists to this day. Who the hell were we? How could we stuff our fat faces with obscene amounts of junk food, and blow hundreds and thousands of dollars in the false magic of the kingdom, where Goofy is King, and Mickey rules, like the red death, o'er all.

There was something poisonous and shameful about it.

At the resume office, I was learning, for minimum wage, to use the vanity and false pride of the yuppies who would soon be occupying those condos, but they didn't like the cut of my jib, and called me into the office in the middle of a $400 sale, to fire me.

It had been a bad day, anyway. I had been looking at TIME magazine, and one of the actresses I'd known from the old days was being feted in its pages as a "Feminist filmmaker," while I was doing a two-hour bus commute every day, invisible to TIME magazine because of my gender, even though I had worked in the same industry, and had done better work.

But, like those peasants in the fields, I was a second-class citizen.

Except that I was a citizen, and white, and they were illegal and brown. I had rights. They did not.

Do you hear me?

They did not.

You see, this whole false debate foisted on us by the most incompetent bunch of thugs since St. Bruno was sacking the temples of Venus, this whole phony debate has been based on the point of view of the overfed, overpampered visitors blowing their vacation money to ride Space Mountain and the Matterhorn.

And these pampered gluttons pompously and self-righteously bray about how those barefoot peasants are a threat ... to THEM! What a "threat" those poor, desperate, underfed, barely paid, no rights, no legal recourse, no identity and no prospects are ... to THEM!

To US!

If you lived here, you'd be home by now.

I got another job. Typesetting for one of those Orange County firms that services the defense industry. We were in the same building that the "Walter Foster" art books headquarters was in. You can only see the "Walter Foster" logo from the freeway, by the way. The building itself is at the end of a cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood with avocado trees -- whose fruit I used to mix with Del-Taco mayonnaise for meals when my paychecks bounced, which started happening within a few months.

I was living in a place between the two main freeways in Santa Ana -- the 5 and the 55 -- called "The Bluebird Motel." The money I made typesetting presentations for TOW missiles, space stations, McDonnell Douglas management manuals and fireplace equipment catalogs just covered the cost of the motel every week.

There was a brand-new mirrored building, and a used car lot on that block. Across the street was a Harley-Davidson dealership that was always frequented by actual Southern California bikers. But as the glass high-rises of high-tech Orange County rose everywhere in the boom I'd ridden in on, there were still fields here and there, oases of Orange County as it used to be.

And in the strawberry fields in front of that mirror building, between the used-car lot and the freeway off-ramp, Mexican peasants stooped in the hot sun, without shade, and picked our strawberries for us. For slave wages, you might say, except you should stop and think about what you just said.

When you have no rights, are you not a slave? When you can be turned in (as often happened and happens still) by the field owner, before he pays you. When your women can be raped, your belongings stolen, or when you can be beaten mercilessly and NO ONE will lift a finger, except to deport you, aren't you a slave? You are in no wise a free man, that is certain.

And so, I typeset for Reagan's defense contractors, and wrote book reviews for the Orange County Register, and did my level best not to feel horrible guilt every day when I saw those people in the fields. Our slaves. Making sure that we had cheap lettuce and cheap strawberries at the supermarket.

And at the vending booths there in Disneyland.

The typesetting shop started bouncing checks, but the owner of the Bluebird Motel took pity on me, and instead of kicking me out into the street, he agreed to hold onto their check until they made good on it, and even cashed it for me. He was a tough old Armenian, but he thought I was honest, even if I was a second-class citizen, living week to week in the "bad" part of Santa Ana.

And in the fields, day after day, they bent over in the hot sun, picking strawberries.

o

Lyn Nofziger was an old California political pro. Here, from his blog:

http://www.lynnofziger.com/index.html

I'm Lyn Nofziger and this is my website.

If you're looking for a female exhibitionist with a digital camera you've come to the wrong place. ...

The odds are you've never heard of me, which is all right because I've probably never heard of you either, so let me tell you a little bit about myself. ...

I am a Californian, a World War II army veteran, a former newspaperman, a politician and the author of four published Western novels. I make an occasional political speech, write an occasional political column or op ed piece and complain a lot. If you visit this page from time to time you will be able to see what I complain about.

In more detail, I spent 16 years as a newspaperman, including eight as a Washington Correspondent for the Copley Newspapers of California and Illinois.

I served in Ronald Reagan's governor's office and White House and in Richard Nixon's White House. I have run and participated in numerous political campaigns, including five for president, and have won some and lost some. Once I even worked at the Republican National Committee. ...

o

In Disneyland, they herd you in cattle-stalls, just like at the abattoir. There are too many people, and you spend most of your time at the "Magic Kingdom" standing in line.

Disney was a good Republican. He was a "freedom lovin'" self made man, who had that John Wayne, I-made-myself-why-don't-you attitude. Disneyland and Orange County were a good mix. The barons of the orchards and endless fields had absolute sway over their Mexicans, just as they'd had absolute sway over the Okies back during those old "Grapes of Wrath" days.

Only, eventually, the Okies got rights. And, with their white skins and pale complexions, they were able to climb the ladder of California society.

But, even though California was a big chunk of the half of Mexico that we stole in Polk's Mexican War of 1846, the Mexicans, whether living in California originally or not, never really had any chance of climbing that ladder.

[Parenthetical: please realize that only about HALF of the "illegal aliens" that the big hoo-haw is about are Hispanics from South of the Border. But the big hoo-haw is actually ABOUT those Mexicans, and Salvadorans, and Hondurans, and Panamanians, Columbians, and other "Americans" whose names we fatasses in our Mickey Mouse ears bluster and arrogate as ONLY us.]

The whole economy of Southern California would collapse without underpaid, sub-minimum wage workers, and the only people who fall into that category are the undocumented. There was an unwritten code among the police to ignore them, unless they made trouble.

You would see them, on the streets of Santa Ana, five and six in a cheap used car they'd pooled their money to buy, unlicensed, no papers, driving, driving. They had those flat-brimmed hats, and you could tell that they were Mexican farmers, not city boys, not sophisticates.

And they cooled their bare, cracked feet in the mud at the base of the Disneyland sign.

o

How are they hurting these arrogant Americans? They take the jobs that the Unions demand too much to take, while the owners take the lion's share of the profits from the illegal work, and dole out as much of a pittance as can be gotten away with.

I moved up, and ended up running a resume office for another company. Serendipitously, I'd already been trained. And I lived in Trabuco Canyon, in one of several converted cabins that remained from a dude ranch that had been there in the 20's and '30s. Where rich East Coasteners would send their chubby-faced little darlings to pretend that they were cowboys and cowgirls.

The dude ranch had long since gone out of fashion, but cowboy transvestitism (where you dress up like a cowboy and pretend to be John Wayne, or Tom Mix, or Willam S. Hart) hasn't gone out of fashion. Just look at Ronald (Illinois) Reagan or George (Connecticut) Bush.

And, as I took the long way 'round every morning to my office across the street from the Orange County Airport, just renamed the "John Wayne Airport" with a huge statue of "The Duke," I would pass Orange and Katella, where a long line of fresh immigrants would line up along the wall by the McDonald's and Burger King, and pickup trucks would come by, and three or four would jump in and go off for a day of underpaid, backbreaking work.

It was a lot like watching the prostitutes working Sunset Boulevard west of La Brea.

If some Ed Gein decided to make himself a Mexican Nipple Belt, or an eyeball bolero, no one would ever be the wiser. These were rightless people. They were expendible. The were free-lance slaves.

You could always tell the ones fresh over the border. We didn't call them "wetbacks" in California, because there was no Rio Grande to swim. That's only in Texas.

No, they were just "Beaners." Or "Messikans." Or worse.

And the fat, overstuffed, rosy-cheeked little darlings of Orange County used to yell "clever" things at them, lined up there in the morning.

They thought that they would look American if they wore a "Dallas Cowboys" t-shirt, and a "Los Angeles Dodgers" baseball cap. It was the uniform of the newly arrived.

And they stood there in the sun, at 7:30 in the morning, waiting for work of any kind. Mostly, they got it. The lines were long, but the pickup trucks were steady.

If you lived here, you'd be home by now.

o

Lyn Nofziger was a poster-child of that Libertarian "It's MINE!" set. I'm sure that he was as offended by those damned Messikans coming over taking jobs as anyone else. But I bet he knew where to get five strong backs to move boulders and pick weeds in his garden when he needed them.

No "gum'mint" interference going to keep these proud individualists, these self-made men of Southern California from exercising their God-given right to pay as little for as much work as they could mule a man out of.

I knew a mixed-race couple.

He was a Jew. She was black. They had a Salvadoran maid, who spoke no English. They paid her nothing, just room and board for taking care of their chubby-cheeked, cherubic little pampered darlings. She worked seven days a week.

Don't ask me how I found out. I did, that's all. I just did.

And when I gently brought it up to them, they were extremely mortified. Good lord, EVERYBODY does it.

Hell, she's LUCKY to have a roof over her head and plenty to eat. It's MINE! MINE!

No pay. No days off. And, if "Massa" wants to bend her over the couch and have his way with her, who is she going to complain to? Trust me, it happens a LOT more in Southern California than anyone will ever admit. It is our secret shame and our secret sin for keeping these human beings as slaves, with no legal rights, no human rights.

Slavery corrupts both the slave and the slave-owner. If any civilized nation ought to know that, WE ought to.

But no. This is the philosophy that won the west. The gospel according to Nofziger:

... Sometimes I wish I were a Democrat because Democrats seem to have more fun. At other times I wish I were a Libertarian because Republicans are too much like Democrats.

What I actually am is a right-wing independent who is registered Republican because there isn't any place else to go. In the future I expect to be critical of both parties and their leadership and a lot of other people and things, too... [ibid.]

o

Try as I might, though, I could never scrape above subsistence, living in Orange County. When I had to use the bus, I still found myself taking that back turn around Disneyland to connect at the hotel, and they were still soaking their feet in the mud.

When you have to deep-six ten years of your writing life on your resume, the only thing you're qualified to do is write resumes for other people. I watched the boom in Orange County, as an endless stream of job-seekers came through my door, but I could never bring myself to gouge them deeply enough to make any real money at it.

Just a second class citizen, sitting in a mostly empty office, trying to pay my rent. And in the fields, and along the cinderblock walls at the intersections, sun-blackened men in Dodger caps and wearing Dallas Cowboys t-shirts waited for the willing trucks.

o

Lyn Nofziger has passed away, the last Republican to trick me, but, sadly, not the last trickster Republican. Let us not speak ill of the dead. He is what he is, and I have given him to you in his own words.

But I wish he were still alive so that I could ask him about this statement on his site of his core belief:

"I am a Republican because I believe that freedom is more important than government-provided security."

Did he mean freedom from having to pay decent wages to workers -- which is what fuels the two-faced hypocrisy of our collective behavior towards those Messikans that the yabblers are all yabbling about on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress?

Or did he mean freedom from Patriot Acts, Departments of Homeland Security, massive national debts (which have halved the value of our money, so, take that "DOW JONES" index and recognize that in real dollars, it's HALF of what it was during the Clinton years) and Nixonesque spying, dirty tricks, surveillance and propaganda?

What "freedom" did he mean?

Surely not "freedom" for those illegal wetback beaner sons-a-bitches. Surely not for them. Surely freedom from taxes, from regulations, from environmental laws that stop us from spreading ant-poison and herbicide, and hiring a couple of illegals to get out in the poison fields and hack the ivy vines off of the oak tree so that they can plant nasturtiums and columbines. What freedom did you mean, Mr. Nofziger? And how, in the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush regimes did you serve it?

Well, of course, Nofziger is dead and cannot answer, so we will leave him to his trek to that great Disneyland in the Sky.

Oh, and even though I didn't register as a Democrat until 1988, eight years later, that vote for Reagan in 1980 was the very last Republican vote I ever cast.

You live and you learn: better to be a second class citizen than no citizen at all.

Courage.

Posted by: harto / 3/29/2006 02:22:00 PM

 

 

 

 

return to