A Poem for Memorial Day

The War After the War
by Debora Greger

for Greg Greger


Where were the neighbors? Out of town?
In my pajamas, I sat at my father’s feet
in front of their squat, myopic television,
the first in our neighborhood.

On a screen the size of a salad plate,
toy airplanes droned over quilted fields.
Bouquets of jellyfish fell: parachutes abloom,
gray toy soldiers drifting together, drifting apart—

the way families do, but I didn’t know that yet.
I was six or seven. The tv was an aquarium:
steely fish fell from the belly of a plane,
then burst into flame when they hit bottom.

A dollhouse surrendered a wall, the way such houses do.
Furniture hung onto wallpaper for dear life.
Down in the crumble of what had been a street,
women tore brick from brick, filling a baby carriage.


What was my young father,
just a few years back from that war,
looking for? The farm boy from Nebraska
he’d been before he’d seen Dachau?

Next door, my brother and sister fought
the Battle of Bedtime, bath by bath.
Next door, in the living room,
a two-tone cowboy lay where he fell,
too bowlegged to stand. Where was his horse?
And the Indian who’d come apart at the waist—
where were his legs to be found?
A fireman, licorice-red from helmet to boot,

a coil of white rope slung over his arm
like a mint Lifesaver, tried to help.
A few inches of ladder crawled under a cushion,
looking for crumbs. Between the sag of couch

and the slump of rocker, past a pickle-green soldier,
a plastic foxhole, cocoa brown, dug itself
into the rug of no man’s land
and waited to trip my mother.


Am I the oldest one here? In the theater,
the air of expectation soured by mouse and mold—
in the dark, a constellation of postage stamps:
the screens of cell phones glow.

And then we were in Algiers, we were in Marseille.
On foot, we fell in behind a ragged file
of North African infantry. Farther north
than they’d ever been, we trudged

straight into the arms of the enemy:
winter, 1944. Why did the French want to live in France,
the youngest wondered while they hid,
waiting capture by the cold.

They relieved a dead German soldier
of greatcoat and boots. Village by muddy village,
they stole, shadow to shadow, trying to last
until the Americans arrived—

as if, just out of range of the lens,
the open trucks of my father’s unit
would rumble over the rutted horizon.
Good with a rifle, a farsighted farm boy

made company clerk because he’d learned to type
in high school—how young he would look,
not half my age, and no one to tell him
he’ll survive those months in Europe,

he’ll be spared the Pacific by Hiroshima.
Fifty years from then, one evening,
from the drawer where he kept
the tv remote, next to his flint-knapping tools,

he’d take out a small gray notebook
and show his eldest daughter
how, in pencil, in tiny hurried script,
he kept the names of those who died around him.


Things That Are Even Creepier Now That We Know Josh Duggar Molested Minors

How many times do we have to go through this before we understand that the entire industry built around supposedly good Christian families who condemn the rest of us is like a balsa wood dildo? You can enjoy the pleasure for a little while, but that fucker is gonna snap off inside you. Now we have Joshua Duggar, eldest son of Jim Bob Duggar, part of the now-canceled 19 Kids and Counting clan on TLC, which used to stand for "The Learning Channel," but now pretty much means "Totally Lying Criminals." In a joke that is barely worth writing, it was InTouch magazine that discovered that Duggar fondled kids when he was a teenager. We don't know the ages of the girls whose breasts and genitals he fingered, but we know it wasn't consensual. And we know that the Duggar family hid it for at least a year.

Josh Duggar was the executive director of the nutzoid evangelical Family Research Council's Action division, which meant that he was out there in public, meeting politicians and speaking against allowing same-sex couples to marry, among other issues.

Of course, one of the things that such revelations force us to do is to place Duggar's life in another context (see early Bill Cosby routines and writings for how that works). And it makes a lot of what he did creepy - no, creepier - than hell.

1. The Twitter hashtag "#theyfeelpain," which Duggar promoted to lobby for an anti-abortion bill:

2. This quote, which puts a frightening spin on the past:

3. The name of the event "ProLifeCon," which seems more appropriate than ever since Josh Duggar spoke multiple times.

4. This tweet, which begins with what now seems like a reason to call the cops:

5. Let's just face it: Going through Duggar's bizarrely still-available Twitter feed is a parade of horrors, from the "He is risen" proclamations to "Got milk?" to "Once God shows us His will -- we must obey Him instantly and fully! #TotalSurrender."

The point here is not merely schadenfreude for the fall of another family values hypocrite. Christ, we could build bridges with all their bones at this point.

No, the reason this is relevant to our political discourse is because of how many craven politicians and anti-women, anti-LGBT groups hitched their wagons to the Duggars' star. "These people are a real family," we're told. "This is who you should want to be." It's always a lie because it has to be. But so many people believe the lie or weave its web so that it appears to be real. Yet webs can always be destroyed by plucking one strand.

The FRC (motto: "A safe haven for criminals and closet cases") issued a tentative statement that was careful not to condemn Duggar, who had made the FRC a shit-ton of cash: "Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years." And there's the defense: Oh, he was a dumb, horny teenager.

And, hey, at least he didn't want to marry a dude.


In Brief: Louisiana's Rape Problem Is Also a Cop Problem

"You performed oral sex on him the night before. So the thing is this: What motive would he have to put a date rape drug in your drink?"

That's what East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jacques Jackson told Lyndsi Lambert. Lambert had asked the police officer why he didn't take a urine sample or do a toxicology test on her blood to determine whether or not she had been drugged the night she said she was raped. The New Orleans Times-Picayune is publishing a series of stories by Diana Samuels about Lambert's case, and it will make you feel skeevy.

That quote up top from Jackson is from a recording Lambert made of her October 15, 2014 interaction with the cop when she was following up to see what he was doing to arrest the man she accused of rape. Unlike other fucked-up things Jackson said while initially interviewing Lambert at Woman's Hospital of Baton Rouge on September 26, this is not Lambert relating what Jackson said. It's Jackson. It's a cop telling a possible rape victim that she couldn't have been raped. You can hear the recording at the newspaper's website.

Lambert angrily tells Jackson that she gave him a motive in their first meeting: "She said she had told the [alleged rapist] after the one time they had sexual intercourse, about a week and a half before the alleged rape, that the sex wasn't good."

On the recording, Jackson argues, "You didn't tell me that." The report that Jackson filed on the case on September 27 reads, "She indicated that a possible motive...was because he was upset that she told him that he was not good in bed."

Let's put aside whether or not the rape took place. Ask yourself: Should Lambert have been treated like this? Should she have been accused, as she was, of lying because she had exchanged sexy texts with the man? Should it have taken five months to test her blood for potential drugs that would have impaired Lambert? And, really, what the fuck is wrong with Louisiana?

As columnist Jarvis DeBerry points out, to say that this was a case of police doing their jobs in the course of an investigation is bullshit at best, insidious at worst: "If police routinely did their jobs, we wouldn't have seen the story last year about five New Orleans police officers who failed to even write reports for 86 percent of the almost 1,300 sexual assault or child-abuse calls they were assigned.

Lambert says that, in the hospital that first day, she broke down crying while talking to Jackson. "Are you done? Can we move on?" she says Jackson asked her. Obviously, that's what the cops around Baton Rouge want to do.

Check out the series so far. Tomorrow, Samuels writes about how arrests for rapes have declined in East Baton Rouge parish. It wouldn't be wrong to wonder if it's because women know how they'll be treated by the cops.


The Deeply Subversive Genius of David Letterman

If you weren't around or weren't old enough to watch David Letterman's Late Night on NBC in the 1980s, there's a good chance that you have no idea why people are genuinely mournful over Letterman's departure tonight from the airwaves after 33 years in late night broadcasting. You don't know what it means when people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, even, talk wistfully about the Guy Under the Seats, Larry "Bud" Melman, Bookmobile Lady, Pea Boy, the Velcro Suit, the Alka-Seltzer Suit, and so very much more. If you want to understand why Jay Leno was a thing, watch his early appearances on Late Night. Prior to YouTube, we traded these moments on VHS tapes and watched them over and over.

Many of the encomiums to Letterman emphasize how he nearly single-handedly radically transformed comedy, popular culture, and television itself. But what was more important to my younger self was that, in his ironic yet sincere, smug yet self-deprecating way, Letterman was subverting the Reagan era itself, and, goddamn, that was a rush.

See, what we were sold at the beginning of the presidency of Ronald Reagan was that the older generation, the "Greatest Generation" (if you ignore all that racism, sexism, and homophobia), had all the answers. The nation had indulged itself by electing allegedly squishy liberal Jimmy Carter and we were all supposed to believe Carter's presidency was a long, national nightmare, a dragon that was vanquished by the rise of Reagan and the return of hegemonic patriarchal power.

"Your culture is worthless," the Reaganites told the youth of the nation. "You need to go back to the wholesome times of old." This is not hyperbole. Many books and articles were written that specifically degraded the rising Generation X's power over pop culture and social ideology. "Listen to the old men who know better," we were told, even as MTV, hip-hop, hell, even Madonna, with her connections to queer culture, told us otherwise. What David Letterman did was to step into a void and say, "Yeah, screw those old guys."

For me, the moment I knew that Letterman was on my wavelength happened during Letterman's brief stint as a morning talk show host. If I'm recalling it right, Letterman was sitting at his desk, talking, when a mannequin fell from above and onto the desk, like a dead man had just dropped from above. It was startling, hilarious, and completely out of place. I remember thinking, "Oh, the old people sitting at home watching this are gonna be confused." And that was it.

The stunts on Late Night were Letterman's way of calling "bullshit" on the old paradigms of television, of pop culture itself. "This is dumb, right?" he was saying (sometimes actually saying). "So let's do dumb stuff." But that dumb stuff was a specific critique of the way in which the older generation revered their rigid formats and identities. You couldn't call Letterman's stunts "stupid" because he already did. But, damn, wasn't it funny? And wasn't that reason enough to drop things off of 5-story building? That bit, which morphed into crushing things under a steamroller or in a hydraulic press, showed us that things don't need a reason or logic. Against the divisive gender, racial, and class roles the Reagan administration presented, against the rising religious right, which was attacking music, film, and TV with a renewed vigor that hearkened to the 1950s, Letterman tossed two six-packs, light beer and regular beer, as a reenactment of Galileo's experiments with gravity, off that building.

But the thing that I thought was most fascinating was Letterman's celebration of not just the average American, but of the weirdness of America. "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" were more than gimmicks. They were honestly, forthrightly celebratory of the things people do to occupy their time. Letterman's devotion to the quotidian was always on display. He began hosting the annual champion grocery bagger for a showdown with him, since he had bagged groceries as a teenager. Of course, the first thing you thought was "There's a grocery bagging championship?" And then you got into the competition. If you were weaned on Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and Johnny Carson, that was an incredible thing for a TV host to do: to get in the trenches in a serious, not jokey, way with everyday people.

This extended even more to the guests he would bring on with regularity. The misanthropic comic book writer Harvey Pekar appeared numerous times just to be taunted by Letterman into poetic heights of rage. The bizarro stand-up comic Brother Theodore was also a regular, with Letterman pushing him to the edge with a nearly villainous antagonism. This isn't even to get into Andy Kaufman; he and Letterman used each other to create media firestorms long before Jimmy Kimmel ever made a viral video that turned out to be fake. Regular Larry "Bud" Melman was like a character out of Glengarry Glen Ross forced to do pitches on a street corner.

Even more to the point, Letterman was not above screwing with his corporate masters. While you might know him for needling CBS and Les Moonves, watch Letterman try to deliver a fruit basket to GE headquarters when that company bought NBC. Imagine a good-natured Michael Moore nearly getting beaten by a pissed-off security guard. It said everything you could want about the soulless center of capitalism. (Pekar would make Letterman cringe in an appearance attacking GE shortly after.)

And it can't go without saying that in those early years Letterman's head writer was Merrill Markoe and that having a female head writer was an extraordinary, embarrassing rarity then (and it hasn't changed a whole lot since then). Markoe helped invent Letterman's schtick: "What we were also consciously aware of was a dislike for the standard kind of closed-club superficial show business demeanor that had dominated the entertainment of the generation before us," she said recently about Late Night. "So what you might say we did was open the door and invite the rest of the world in."

Writing this, I keep remembering things that I loved from early Letterman: "Small Town News," Jay Leno's appearances where Dave would start each sit-down with "What's your beef?", musical performances from bands like X to annual appearances by Darlene Love to sing, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," cameras on monkeys and dogs, the 360 degree episode, the episode where Letterman broadcast from home because he was waiting for the cable company to show up, the times when Letterman honestly disliked a guest and didn't care if they knew it.

The best show to compare Late Night with is All in the Family. Norman Lear's sitcom came in and blew away the stale 1960s format, saying that mainstream comedy could be socially-relevant while murdering The Beverly Hillbillies and the like. It was a revolutionary show that had effects on everything that came after it in television and pop culture. And it forced viewers to confront those in power with greater suspicion.

In its absurdist way, Late Night showed us that we don't need to abide by the old ways of doing things, that the act of dropping a beautifully decorated wedding cake off a building just to see what happens is its own kind of subversion. Letterman would become more specifically political later in his CBS show, but to those of us who were feeling broken by the cultural and social oppressiveness of the Reagan era and didn't have access to the music scene in L.A. or the performance art scene in New York City, Letterman was sticking it to the man for us.


On Foreign Policy, Chris Christie Will Suck All the Dicks Before He Announces He's Running for President

Following up Lindsey Graham's call for more American blood to be spilled while trying to unfuck Iraq, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared yesterday, "Line up all the dicks. I'm gonna suck 'em one by one." The occasion was an address in New Hampshire on American foreign policy, generally not something a governor from another state does unless he's gonna run for president because, otherwise, who the fuck cares what you have to say about military interventions. In a speech that ranged from idiotic shit we tried already and failed to even more idiotic shit that isn't working, Christie's simple message was "If you present me with a dick, I will suck it."

So, with all the dicks on display, Christie went to work, right on down the line, putting one dick after another into his jowls and sucking them like the sweetest popsicles on the hottest summer day. "American power is in retreat and we’ve backed away from the principles that made us a source of strength and stability," Christie said, deep-throating one throbbing meat stick, "No one understands any longer whom America stands with or whom we stand against. No one understands exactly what we stand for and what we’re willing to sacrifice to stand up for it."

Then the man who never once sacrificed for his country said that what the United States needs is a bigger military with more soldiers, more warships, more warplanes, more shit we don't need, more intelligence funding, more money we don't have to spend, more roads that won't get rebuilt because we're too busy buying fucking aircraft carriers, but, goddamn, he grabbed that dick and vigorously jacked it off into his mouth. That expansion will help America "keep its edge," he said, swallowing with a satisfied moan, adding that America should intervene even more in overseas conflicts. Whose fault is it? Not George W. Bush for fucking the pooch of the U.S.'s international status. "[President Obama] has damaged the credibility of the American presidency," Christie said, slobberingly knob-bobbing.

Then he moved on, declaring that anyone who doesn't want the government to get constant fecal samples from your toilets in order to see if you've been eating too much terrorist hummus is just a pussy who is waiting for ISIS to behead your dog: "They want you to think that there's a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids. They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of The Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more."

Jesus, this dick was so tasty he didn't want to stop sucking it, ignoring the fact that there is a government spook logging every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids, especially if they're overseas, ignoring that the House of Representatives just voted to limit the collection of data precisely because this was going on, ignoring that bulk collection of data hasn't done a damn thing to make us safer. Christie didn't care. It's hard to hear over all the grunts of pleasure, murmured from a mouth filled with dick.

He saved the biggest dick for last, a monumental cock that made his cheeks puff out from the effort, looking like Dizzy Gillespie on the trumpet. "President Reagan once said that 'above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have,'" Christie fellated. "He was right. And that will and courage will lead us forward." Yes, Ronnie was right, except for the fact that he was wrong about so many things, but that doesn't matter, not when you're cupping those balls and taking that flesh pole to mouth town.

Of course, as a kind of after-dinner treat, Christie couldn't resist sucking one more dick for the road. At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Christie played the skin flute: "There are going to be some who are going to come before you and are going to say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. This is not what the Founders intended.’ The Founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people, and we can do this in a way that’s smart and cost-effective and protects civil liberties. But you know, you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin."

Wait, that wasn't sucking a dick. That was just Christie jacking off.


Lindsey Graham: "When I'm President, I'll Send Phallic Murder Missiles to Penetrate Your Thoughts"

Senator Lindsey Graham, the prettiest Scarlett O'Hara wannabe in DC, is running for president because "I think the world is falling apart." That's the kind of drama queen stuff that'd make the contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race say, "Oh, butch it up a little, Mary."

In Iowa this weekend at the Lincoln Day Dinner, where candidates and potential candidates do a brief sashay to debut their new dresses for election season for the pleasure of 1400 gathered Republicans who have an inflated sense of their value in picking a new president, Graham had harsh words for Americans who might not be thinking very American thoughts, "If I'm president of the United States and you're thinking about joining Al Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinking about that? — I'm not going to call a judge, I'm going to call a drone and we will kill you."

Call a drone? Was he gonna pick up the phone and say, "Hey, there, Drone. We had such a good time last week when we blew up that wedding in Yemen. Mmm-hmmm. What are you wearing? Oh, baby, say, 'Hellfire' again. It makes me so hard. Not as hard or big as you. Listen, I just want to grab you and aim you and make you fire, make you fire so good, this time at an American in Detroit who tweeted that he supported al-Shabaab. It's Detroit, so no one will notice a little ol'...sorry, I mean a big ol' missile explosion. Do you want me to aim you at his ass or mouth? Oh, you so dirty, Drone. Remember to send me pictures."

Now, of course, you can say Graham was trafficking in rhetorical hyperbole for a bunch of people with shit on their shoes and in their heads, but the blind acceptance of drone murdering American citizens without charge or trial, without even action beyond a Google search and a couple of emails, speaks to how far we've fallen in what we consider freedom. Someone does need to ask Graham if he'd drone kill the fuck out of bad thinkers in Europe. Or Texas.

The other thing that Graham is promising us (as are many of the Republicans) is everlasting war. He wants at least 10,000 American soldiers in Iraq to fight Isis, the rise of which he totally blames on Obama because what the fuck else is Graham gonna say? He wants to keep a fuck of a lot of troops in Afghanistan. "How many of you think the Iranians want to build a peaceful nuclear power plant and how many think they want to build a weapon?" he asked the slavering, dining horde. And if you think Iraq wants to build a power plant? Well, motherfucker, you "shouldn’t be allowed to drive in Iowa." Man, Lindsey Graham is a total dickhead to people who disagree with him.

So that makes it weird that he would say, "I've been accused of working with Democrats too much. In my view Democrats and Republicans work together too little and I would try to change that if I got to be president." Bitch, how many filibusters did you vote to uphold? Who threatened to block all Obama administration nominees unless he got the answers he wanted on Benghazi? Lindsey Graham professing a desire to be bipartisan is like a dog professing a desire to shit in a toilet. We all know the dog's just gonna shit on the ground, no matter how much he says he wants to do otherwise.

But welcome to the race to lose to Hillary Clinton, Senator Graham. And when you do, well, hell, maybe you'll be lucky enough to impeach another Clinton since you're so very open to working across the aisle.


Republicans Killed the Amtrak Derailment Victims

Speaker of the House John Boehner, who increasingly looks like he's made of smoky phlegm coughed up by Mad Men characters, was asked yesterday if lack of federal funding for rail safety contributed to the deadly derailment of the Amtrak train in Philadelphia on Tuesday. With a look of the kind of contempt one gives a cat who just figured out how to get the fish out of the aquarium, he said, "Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?"

Of course, it's not a stupid question. It is, in fact, the only question. Because, see, the last time Amtrak was funded through a reauthorization of funds by Congress was in 2008. That bill expired in 2013, and Congress hasn't been able to do dick since then. The previous reauthorization of funding expired in 2002. It took Congress six years to pass something that wasn't bare bones funding by tacked-on amendment to another bill. And that's when Congress was a functioning body, approving worthless wars and shit.

Also in 2008, Congress said that all railroads needed to install technology that would detect speeding, out-of-control trains and slow them down. It is supposed to be completed by the end of this year. Of course, Congress hasn't provided near enough funding. If that system had been running, the wreck would have been prevented.

Who is responsible for spending bills getting out of Congress in the last couple of years? Right: John Boehner and Republicans. So was it really a stupid question?

Actually, the level of fuckery of Amtrak goes further, and it tells you everything you need to know about why nothing will ever be done to save the infrastructure of this country (seriously, the Rude Pundit drives on major highways in the Northeast that are worse than some dirt roads). Listen: "because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make [Positive Train Control] work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband."

You might think, "Wait, what the fuck?" Yeah, as David Sirota reports, "[W]hen Congress in 2008 mandated that rail companies like Amtrak install PTC on their tracks, lawmakers did not require the FCC to set aside any of those airwaves for this exclusive function."

You might still be thinking, "Okay, this sounds like something bad, but I really don't fucking understand and I'm about to tune you out." Okay, okay, fuck, hold on.

See, Congress said, "Yeah, Amtrak, we cut the fuck out of your budget, but you go with your hat in your hand to broadband companies and buy some bandwidth." Of course, the PTC system itself could have operated...

You might think, "It's Friday. Can you just shut up about this hard stuff and say something mean about Republicans?"

Fine. Republican spoogebuckets were busy this week, post-crash, cutting funding for Amtrak because fuck those yankees and their Northern Corridor public transportation. A House committee voted to cut 15% from Amtrak's budget. When Democrats brought up the derailment during the debate, Idaho Republican Mike Simpson said, "You have no idea, no idea, what caused this accident. Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you." Because Republicans would never use a tragedy to advance their agendas, oh, no, they are as pure as yellow snow.

Republicans will say, "We're not cutting the budget on safety for passengers." Which is technically true, but if the budget is shit to begin with, then it's pretty hard to make the case that you are standing up for the railroads. If you are responsible for making sure that safety systems are funded to help save lives and you don't fund them properly, then you bear blame for the deaths that occur due to your failure. Of course Boehner wants to shut up questions about it. He has blood on his nicotine-dyed hands.

Let's give the last quote to Florida Republican John Mica: "There's no question the United States has a third-world rail system. It's a monopoly run in a Soviet-style operation. Amtrak."

Unpack that statement: Amtrak is run by the federal government. If it's a third-world level system, who the fuck made it that way?