What follows is a transcript of Episode #2 of the Spaghetti Junction Podcast:
ROD: The Spaghetti Junction Podcast…
SOUND BRIDGE ROLLOVER…
ROD: Welcome to Spaghetti Junction — At the intersection of everything; because, today, that’s how life is. Often messy… confusing, off-putting, and contradictory. My name is R.E. Harter, and I’ll be your host, asking questions at the messy intersection of life, art, sports, and politics: The Spaghetti Junction Podcast.
H.L. Mencken described conscience as an inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking. Think of me as your inner voice at Spaghetti Junction. Episode #2 poses three questions. First, Has Our Reach Exceeded Our Grasp? Secondly, Have You Noticed How Complex Plots Have Become? And finally, Will History Judge LeBron Differently?
EPISODE 2, SECTION 1
At the conclusion of the Constitutional convention, a woman asked Ben Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we a Republic, or a monarchy?” “A Republic,” He replied, “if you can keep it.” I worry that we can’t. Keep it… Franklin addressed the same convention with these words: ”when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.” Sounds familiar. What’s the contemporary expression? Ripped from the headlines…?
Stories of conflicting passions among families and friends during the Civil War are well documented, and serve as inspiration for countless novels and movies laying bare those internecine schisms. These interfamily feuds were a go-to plot twist for many movies and novels: The outcast cowboy still fighting the civil war or avenging the murder of his family. Today, the predictable local police investigation thwarted or upstaged by a federal investigation involving national security is widely used. These stories of internal schisms are ubiquitous, and should serve as a warning.
There is a part of me that knows I don’t truly appreciate the depth or breadth of those Civil War era emotions — until now. Until recently, I accepted intellectually divided families and divided allegiances during the Civil War; but, I did not truly comprehend the veracity of emotion, or mental carnage that often followed. My life includes no modern experiences equal or analogous to those Civil War fractious disputes. The head is not the heart, and that matters. Stories move us because they resonate with some internal emotion, and experience.
We are now considerably more narrow: in our interests, our focus, our experiences; our thoughts are not very deep. How deep can one get in one hundred and forty characters. We live in a virtual reality of few consequences — there’s always a do-over available; but, living is not a game.
Consider our mostly known or accepted history: A melting pot of immigrants; and one nation under God…
Our melting pot — that historic crucible for changing or melding identities into a new brand — no longer melts; but, separates into tribes. Identities matter now. We are not mixing to create something new; we are separating to become homogeneous. Both of my parents grew up in bi-lingual homes; but, were only allowed to speak English because: “They were going to be Americans.”
Our Founding Fathers were acutely aware of the challenges facing this young republic that spread across a continent with distinctly different local needs and interests. We possessed at that time a certain homogeneity, or shared experience: We were basically white, mostly Christian, spoke the same language, shared a revolutionary experience, identified with similar cultural values, and believed in English Common Law. The revolutionary philosophy was, however, more expansive with its declaration that “All_ men are created equal, and that _they_ are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Monuments and edifices erected subsequently continued to extoll this revolutionary spirit: “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore… Send these…”
And they came; they came with skills, ideas, trades, energy and a passion for freedom. They came ready to assimilate, to meld, with this grand experiment in democracy: that is rule by the majority; but with respect and equal treatment for the minority.
The assimilation was not always easy, and there are plenty of movies and novels that chronicle this issue of assimilation. Cities within cities became very much the norm for the major urban locations. Large metropolitan cities all had a Little Italy, China Town, Jew Town, or a Ghetto.
Hardly a school child exists who can not identify the words posted inside the Statue of liberty readily; at least I hope. Few probably know or recognize the entire sonnet, which changes substantially the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. The French offered Miss Liberty as a tribute to revolution and democracy, but the sonnet by Emma Lazarus changes that focus from revolution to immigrants. Listen to the entire sonnet… Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We are at odds with our history… and that’s troubling.
I often wonder how many Americans could identify the Pre-amble to the Constitution, or the opening of the Declaration of Independence? Not many, is my guess. Our narrow comprehension of history seems to suggest that as a democracy our reach has exceeded our grasp! We spoke eloquently for years of our melting pot, and recited the few lines from Emma Lazarus’ Sonnet; but I don’t think we ever grasped its meaning. Now that we have achieved a diversity that threatens our “selfie” as a white dominant race of Christians, we dig our heels into the ground looking to preserve something we never set as a goal: a homogeneous religious and social culture. We have this notion of separation of churches — other than mine — and state.
The oft repeated mantras of our founding principles and the images of freedom and the pursuit of happiness, equal opportunity, and the American Dream seem hypocritical in light of our own genocide with Native Americans, or Civil War. Fear of the multicultural world has bread distrust, hostility, and fear because, quite frankly, it’s a threat to our power and position.. The founding fathers distrusted the mix of religion and state, many were atheists or deists: the expression endowed by their creator is a deists construction, not Christian.
In this country the left and the right do not talk to each other, but talk at each other. Our circular news cycles further erode any willingness to engage the other side. Rather than look for commonality, we look to demonize and destroy. Within the past ten years democracy has turned back on itself. The people don’t chose their representatives, the representatives chose their constituency, and two significant efforts to disenfranchise minority voters in Texas and North Carolina have been rejected by the Supreme Court.
With the rise of political purity, the necessity to protect ones position has resulted in an attack on the Fourth Estate, the press. Media, the narrative goes, run fake stories and lies. All media is left leaning and favor progressive stories, while conducting witch hunts on the right. Destroy the credibility of the Fourth Estate, and it is a slippery slide to fear and distrust of all institutions. The only destination is anarchy.
This polarization has reached down to my personal life, in that I have seen acquaintances and their families wherein the family members are so extremely conservative or progressive that they cannot talk to each other. They have experienced emotionally charged discussions that have deteriorated into name calling and an unwillingness to discuss rationally without crutch support from internet talking points. Furthermore, everything is seen as somehow politically motivated. Their interactions are guarded, fragile, and frankly tiresome – if they occur at all. This is the Civil War revisited.
George Will is a well-established elderly Conservative columnist who has left the Republican Party, and who openly challenges the mental health of our sitting president. George Will is about as even tempered as they come, and exhibits tremendous self-control, but he is angered. This should serve as a warning.
We have to talk without the echo-chamber affect. We have to respect and engage if we are to meet this existential crisis for our democracy. ”when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.”
Even our present Constitution didn’t get it right the first time. The first ten amendments called the Bill of Rights was added after the fact, and through the years the rights and privileges of all citizens have been clarified, amended, or expanded. The only venture taken into social engineering was the 18th Amendment that outlawed alcohol- prohibition. The 21 Amendment repealed prohibition.
Keeping our republic will be a challenge since we are not schooled nor practiced in critical thinking and are hopelessly challenged to remain vigilant, knowledgeable, and active in our participation in governance. We are too much “into ourselves”. Patience, perspective, and open minds regarding what is good for all is necessary for us to survive. It starts at home and in the schools. The journey is long and we’d better start now…
EPISODE #2, SECTION 2…
Television programing is no longer dominated by short-stories. Instead, we have seasons long narratives that have become as complex and convoluted as our daily life. Call them Novel-length Movies.
This is not a criticism, but bears considering. We are not fed endless short-stories any longer, but are teased into viewing novel length movies of very generous breadth and complexity.
Recently, despite my initial resistance, I found myself succumbing to the appeal of Bosch, an HBO series chronicling the work of an LAPD detective, who is seemingly ethical to a fault, but unliked by most of his fellow officers. The many silent sequences of him peering out from his high on a hill condo to see the vista that is Los Angeles, repeatedly tells us he is introspective and complex. He is basically an ethical cop in an unethical world, and even he succumbs to an unethical action — for the most ethical of reasons. Hollywood money purchased the digs — a mildly successful movie based upon his character supposedly bought the condo; but he has come to eschew Hollywood.
I enjoyed watching the episodes and found him to be compelling, with anecdotal insights into single parent frustrations and problems. He never lets anyone get too close. He has moments of intimacy; but one questions how intimate they really are, because there is always this wall of responsibility as a cop that separates him from the world. During the three seasons of episodes I watched this divorced cop had two liaisons with women, the first a fellow officer, and secondly with an Assistant DA. Work and his responsibility to his badge always interceded and he coldly breaks off the relationships when work and relationship get too close. The press is alternately investigative, but also somewhat hysterical for dirt.
Bosch is basically accused by his fellow officers of bending the rules to get convictions. I never understood the rule-breaking cop tag, so much as his smug superiority that was always born out – with the exception of a blond porn actress who murdered her husband/producer… But, I suspect that’s sitting out there for him to solve too. She will return. Bosch is not so much insufferable, as relentless.
His irritable best is seen in a scene with the police chief who squashed an untruthful investigation into his culpability in a murder. When the Chief, expecting a thank you, tells him not to worry because the investigation is quashed, Bosch’s reply is: “Good, you’re just doing your job.” The not so surprised chief actually smiles and notes that they are “now even.” Bosch went to extraordinary lengths to help capture the chief’s son’s murderer.
The salivating press, ever present, and ever sniffing out the worst among the cops makes for an interesting contemporary point. Given our current world and the polarization of the population, Bosch’s integrity in a world lacking in ethics under constant scrutiny by a scandal-starved media looking for another Watergate moment is a chilling reminder of how complex and convoluted our world has become.
Movies made from books are often knocked for not being able to capture the entire book faithfully. This may change, because with the development of Bosch and other series like it, our story-tellers are nearly offering novel length movies over extended number of seasons, creating a new palette for binge watching of a particular series on Netflix or Amazon Prime or others.
Bosch is confirmation of the unethical world and the ensuing struggles for domination that we see in our day to day world… in the Spaghetti Junction.
Episode 2, section 3
The expected clash of titans, the NBA finals, between Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers begins this week. The backstory is compelling and well known: Revenge or Repeat is the meme!
The body of work to this point in LeBron James’ career qualifies him to be considered among the best to have ever played the game. He has played in seven consecutive NBA finals, losing only once to date in the post-season. Closing out the Celtics he surpassed a record point total in post-season, eclipsing the great Michael Jordan. During a furious comeback in the Boston series a video clip of Lebron’s athleticism outwitting a Celtic defender while sweeping to the basket to lay it in, went viral. The complaint was “He carried the ball!” He probably did… So?
Watch any NBA team, not just the elite ones, and I guarantee you will find multiple instances of _/carrying the ball/_, as well as _/steps/_! Modern players engage in frequent walking and/or carrying of the ball. It’s not right; it’s not the game; but, it’s a judgement call referees don’t always see because of the speed and intensity of the game. They are looking for more flagrant violations; and, two men covering ten moving behemoth parts, is not easy. Sometimes you can’t see through these mountainous bodies and flailing extremities. Fast and furious is a movie franchise, as well as an NBA meme.
Still, for LeBron James, respect seems to come begrudgingly. He was not even included among the finalists for the MVP award this year – one of his statistical best.
History will be kinder to LeBron.
Free from all the incessant chatter about MJ, the Event, his early failures in the league, James will get his due as one of, if not the most complete player to play the game. He will meet or exceed championships attained by MJ, I am confident.
Why will it take time? Why are we not jumping on the bandwagon now; God knows, fans love to jump into the pool of hyperbole and declare this or that the best, the greatest, the most superior to ever wear the uniform!
It’s complicated, I think. The fans want to anoint a player as the best ever. It’s an unwritten rule of fandom.
I suspect his self-annointed _/King James/_ moniker, and the _/Event/_ eclipsed his talent to a large degree. We seem to like humility among our athletic heroes. While Ali also called himself the greatest, his showmanship and poetry seemed to mask the hype with a certain likable honesty and integrity. I’m not suggesting LeBron lacks integrity. There is something bordering on _/un-likable/_ that gets in the way. He doesn’t float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! It’s a personality thing, I guess.
Michael Jordan always appeared approachable; not so much, LeBron James. Fans honored MJ; he never demanded honor by calling himself King James. There is one other element that may have traction too. As LeBron pointed out so succinctly during a press conference following racist rants painted on his house. “Racism is not dead in this country.”
This gets complicated, but I think it’s there; much as it was there with Barack Obama — too smart and too well spoken. LeBron — too intimidating, and too gifted.
Time will mute the whispers and background chatter, and we shall be left with an impressive resume of accomplishments that will put him among — if not at the top — of the Mount Rushmore elites of basketball.
Fans bestow greatness, and some don’t like it when greatness is thrust upon them. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying this is the Spaghetti Junction…
It’s a messy place, this Spaghetti Junction. But, it’s all we have, and our attention must be focused on how it all relates, if we want to keep it all!
This has been Spaghetti Junction. Thank you for joining us. Special thanks to Podomatic, Audiojungle and music ideas, and also to Austin and the guys at Composite Creative. CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE AND BLOG AT REHARTER.COM – THE WRITER’S STORM…
I’m R.E. Harter, for The Spaghetti Junction Podcast…