So much insanity. So little time to discuss it all.
Now people apparently are burning Harry Potter books in protest over J.K. Rowling’s unkind comments about he who must not be criticized — even if he leads us to war with Iran, Mexico and, now, Australia.
And that was just week two of his presidency.
It reminds me of a quote from Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451” – the temperature required for proper paper-scorching. “There are worse crimes than burning books,” he said. “One of them is not reading them.”
Of course, that is the curse of our age. People don’t read. They are too busy burning and professing outrage. Whether their anger is based on real facts or those of the alternative variety is inconsequential. Outrage is justification unto itself.
And of course the patron saint of this devotion to willful ignorance is No. 45 himself — Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, if we accept the Trump doctrine that writers are untrustworthy and that books and newspapers are good only for kindling, it’s hard to find material that will help us put these historic times in perspective. Fortunately, someone has already done that for us.
His name is Norman Jewison, and a half-century ago, during the height of the Cold War, he brought a Hollywood crew to Mendocino County to film a movie that captures so much of what is happening these days. It’s called “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming.” A classic.
As one reviewer put it after its release in 1966, “It’s a movie about paranoia, patriotism and stupidity.” What better summary of the past few weeks.
Although it was shot in Mendocino — with harbor scenes filmed in Noyo Harbor south of Fort Bragg — the movie is a star-studded comedy about a Russian submarine that runs aground off fictional Gloucester Island near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As a patrol of Russians, led by the brilliant Alan Arkin, try to get a boat to pull the submarine off the bar, chaos ensues as rumor spreads that the island is being invaded.
Although the level-headed Police Chief Link Mattocks (played by Brian Keith) tries to maintain calm, the blustering, saber-rattling Fendall Hawkins (played by Paul Ford) does the opposite, spreading fear and confusion. Ultimately, Hawkins is successful in taking command of a local militia and not a moment too soon as they hear what they believe are shots fired around the corner. “This may be it, men,” Ford shouts, directing the town folk to form a line of fire along the street. “Men with shotguns, don’t fire until you see the whites …”
Then the sum of their fears comes into view: It’s an out-of-control, back-firing motorcycle driven by a local eccentric — with a friend in a sidecar — who were out spreading word of the invasion.
“Get out of the way!” Ford shouts. “It’s Agnes Grill!”
It doesn’t take much to see the similarities between this scene and the madness of late. During his first 16 days in office, our sword-carrier in chief has made it clear that he is a Ford, not a Lincoln, a man bent on convincing the public that a new enemy lurks around every corner.
At first, the enemy was the media, whom he accused of being “the most dishonest human beings on earth.” His most authentic complaint? That a reporter got it wrong when he wrote on Jan. 20 that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. Time magazine writer Zeke Miller, who wrote the story, quickly acknowledged the mistake saying that someone had blocked his view of the bust when reporters were allowed into the room. The reporter personally apologized and sent out more than a dozen tweets accepting blame. But the president continues to fire away, saying as recently as Wednesday that it was an example of “fake news” and was a “disgrace.” Yes, we get it. Awful. Horrible. The worst thing ever.