Saturday, January 9, 2021

What a Week That Was



Within the past seven days America experienced (a) its worst week yet in the grip of an apocalyptic unmanaged plague, (b) an as good as it gets display of political justice with the election in deep-south Georgia of a black pastor and a white 32-year-old Jew to the United States Senate, and (c) nearly its last week as a democracy.


All of that kept me glued to the TV and away from the keyboard for days. After all, how can composing fiction possibly compete with living through such outrageous reality!


Which leads me to three thoughts I’d like to share with you this Saturday. None is original to me, but each seems right for the times.


Number One.


At some point before the 2016 presidential election, I heard or read a commentor make this observation comparing the choice between electing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump president.


“We are faced with the choice of electing either a bad president or the last president.”


I cannot for the life of me recall who made that prediction, but I’d certainly like to borrow that prophet’s crystal ball.


Number Two.


This comes from a copyrighted newsletter of one of America’s finest hospitals. It’s written by Dr. Craig R. Smith, Chairman of its Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief.  The newsletter is dated December 31, 2020, and starts off with, “2020 is not going down without a fight,” followed by a description of the status of his Department’s everyone-on-deck role in the Covid war. I will spare you that part, for it is Dr. Smith’s concluding paragraph that reveals the enduring spirit one cannot help but admire in those risking everything in this ferocious battle at the frontlines.


2021 comes in as anxiously desired, and freighted with hope, as any first-born. It is also a serial-pair year (20,21); each century is allotted one—does that help? The most recent one, 1920, was notable for the last “yes” vote (from holdout Tennessee) that ratified women’s suffrage. However, 1920 was also marked by the largest terrorist act in US history, when a horse-drawn carriage filled with explosives exploded on Wall Street, killing 38 people. Since a Covid resurgence clouds this New Year, gravely testing our resilience and stamina, I’d rather go back to 1415, to the Battle of Agincourt, when Henry V defeated a vastly superior French force through ingenuity, archery, and inspiration. Agincourt also inspired Shakespeare’s Henry V, which might seem like the perfect set-up to show off over-used quotes like “Once more into the breach, dear friends!” or the Crispin’s day speech (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”). I prefer “All things be ready, if the mind be so.”  2021, give us your best shot.




Number Three.


Somehow, somewhere it crept into my mind that what played a major part in defeating the widespread influence of the Klu Klux Klan was humor. Yes, you read that right. By concentrating on the silliness of KKK dress and ceremonies, it was made to look ridiculous in the eyes of potential recruits.  To borrow a word or two from some of their ethnic targets, “Bye bye mister macho, hello mishuganah.


In other words, battle today’s bad guys in the social media environments where they live. Create a Department of Nonsense, staffed with quick-witted sorts (even with Scottish accents) who’ll expose them through humor for what they really are. Humiliate the movements, NOT the people they seek to convert to their agendas. For those souls, the nation must do all that can be done to better their lives and make them less susceptible to the lies and enticements of demagogues.


See you next week. I hope.




PS. Oh yes, Murder in Mykonos, the first book in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Series was re-released this week—on January 5 to be precise—and although the nightly news shows somehow were too fixated on other stories to cover it, you can find a place to buy in on my brand new website that went live that same day… another overlooked major event of last week.


  1. Such bad luck about the book release being forced off the front page, Jeff. But it'll hold its own!
    Thanks for the thoughts. I must go back through these "pair" years...

  2. Interestingly, in searching for the source of your Number 1 quote, I came upon this page:
    which claims FDR said something very similar about himself at the time of his first inauguration.

  3. Well, Bro, we are almost always on the same page, and I do agree with and admire much of what you say here. But I have to correct the record on one point. It was not humor that brought down the KKK. I wish such a transformation were possible using such a weapon. If it were, Charlie Chaplain's The Great Dictator would have done away with megalomania once and for all. In the case of the KKK, its demise was brought about by the Southern Poverty Law Center and their civil lawsuits. The first big one was Brown vs The Invisible Empire, KKK in 1980. Then, it was still almost certain that, even in that rare instance of criminal charges being brought against lynchers, KKK goons got acquitted in Southern courts. SPLC, led by the great Morris Dees, saw the power of civil suits in such an arena. They began suing the KKK for damages on behalf of the families of the dead. They eventually bankrupted the KKK. In the case I cite here, their first bid victory, the family of the KKK's victim wound up owning the KKK's real estate and bank accounts.

    These days, one of the things the Center does is keep data bases on white supremacist and other hate groups--like those disgusting thugs who desecrated the temple of our democracy. Lots of people I know laughed at Trump when he became a candidate. They were right. He is absurd. But not everyone laughed. has a donate button!

    1. Sis, I'm obviously aware of what legal efforts it took to bring down the KKK, but I also recalled reading somewhere about humor having helped bring it down by humor discouraging recruitment. Your comment made me do a Google search and voila look what I found. It whether or not it's accurate I can't attest to, but at least my memory is still working. Here it is...

      [W]hen a young writer and activist named Stetson Kennedy decided to expose the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, he looked to a certain superhero for inspiration.

      In the post-World War II era, the Klan experienced a huge resurgence. Its membership was skyrocketing, and its political influence was increasing, so Kennedy went undercover to infiltrate the group. By regularly attending meetings, he became privy to the organization's secrets. But when he took the information to local authorities, they had little interest in using it. The Klan had become so powerful and intimidating that police were hesitant to build a case against them.

      Struggling to make use of his findings, Kennedy approached the writers of the Superman radio serial. It was perfect timing. With the war over and the Nazis no longer a threat, the producers were looking for a new villain for Superman to fight. The KKK was a great fit for the role.


      As the storyline progressed, the shows exposed many of the KKK's most guarded secrets. By revealing everything from code words to rituals, the program completely stripped the Klan of its mystique. Within two weeks of the broadcast, KKK recruitment was down to zero. And by 1948, people were showing up to Klan rallies just to mock them.

    2. Bro, I am sure that you say is true, BUT:
      In 1964 in Neshoba, Mississippi the KKK murdered three young men who were trying to register Black voters. And in 1981, the KKK lynched Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama. To name just two. Okay. In 1948, Kennedy made people laugh. But not everybody laughed.

    3. Sis, I'm not saying Kennedy's technique wiped out the KKK. just that it helped diminish KKK's widespread influence. In fact, today the KKK is still very much alive just west of where you're living! It, like many extremist groups provides tinder waiting for the right spark to set it afire. What I'm saying is, steps must be taken to deny any burning tinder access to a ready supply of fuel to add to the fire. That requires a multifaceted approach.

    4. I agree. So many murders by Klansmen, Emmett Till, among the victims, in 1955, setting off the historic Civil Rights Movement. And many others, Medgar Evers, Dr. King, Viola Liuzzo after the Selma march. It isn't humorous to me what happened in D.C., as I wrote below. The Confederacy has re-emerged boldly with various allies, like neo-Nazis and ultraright groups. People were really endangered in the Capitol. I'm more worried about the human lives than the building, which can always be repaired. Also, as Don Lemon said so well on CNN, "it's not their house. Enslaved people built it."
      I hope this set back anyone who voted for this megalomaniac white supremacist, and they think about what they did. There were rich people in that mob and middle-class people. Some women flew in on a private jet. We'll see what happens with the perpetrators and why the Capitol police let people into the Capitol and why the National Guard troops took hours to arrive.

  4. Are there any openings in your fan club yet? Every time I try to join, I gat an AT FULL CAPACITY message.

    1. Sorry about that, Tim, I keep telling my membership chair to get her homonyms straight. :) WE MISS YOU.

  5. I found no humor in what happened in Washington on Wednesday. Although some of those guys looked ridiculous, many were dangerous, armed and looking to destroy and kill. They were gunning for Nancy Pelosi, other Congress members and Senators and did injure some journalists. They even threatened to kill the VP. There was a noose and gallows outside. People up in the gallery, especially Black congress members or journalists, were worried about lynching. And where was the National Guard? Leaders of the House and Senate called the DofD looking for troops. It took hours.
    Few were arrested, and those who arrested were mostly charged with violating the curfew. Only after an outcry arose from congress members, senators, the public and the media did the investigations of who broke in, destroyed, threatened and harmed people occur.
    Those people, crazed as some seemed, thought they had impunity. Many told camera people their names. I hope they all have to serve time.
    There were neo-Nazis and white supremacists there. Guns, bombs and molotov cocktails were around. I am not laughing. I am wondering what this bunch of thugs will do next and who will stop them.

  6. Of course there is no humor to be found in what happened on Wednesday, Kathy. At least not among the sane. HOWEVER, if humor works as a tool toward eliminating the influence of those responsible, I'm all for it.

  7. Well, humor works for a lot of things. But people are dead, congress members and journalists terrified. (They were gunning for CNN reporters, I gather.) And there is more violence planned in state capitols.

    I could laugh about the guy with horns and furs. But he's in Qanon, which believes that Democrats are Satanist pedophiles. And they're white supremacists. And there was another guy in furs who is the son of an Orthodox Jewish judge.

    How does anyone Jewish mix in with a dangerous bunch who are anti-Semitic? There were T-shirt and sign slogans that promoted the Holocaust.

    So does the lure of white supremacy and attacking congress members and journalists outweigh the horrors of WWII?

    And woe be on to any Black person who ventured in? That mob chased a Black Capitol police officer and who knows what they would have done to him?

    This is a dangerous coalition with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. A guy with assault weapons threatened to kill Nancy Pelosi.

    So I'm not laughing. I want to see justice and prevention of more of the same.

    1. These are very treacherous times, Kathy. Thankfully, there will soon be leaders in authority who recognize that.