The Moment of Truth — March 23, 2002
The Case for a Flat Earth
Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the little shrine in the house of the atheist.
I don’t know how to begin my explanation of why I am in favor of a flat Earth. It’s not that I believe the Earth to be flat, by the way. I’m just in favor of it being flat. If there were an option. And I’m certainly in favor of those who DO believe it to be flat. I support and applaud them, and hope they keep on keepin’ on.
There are so many facets to my position, so many points of attack in the struggle to express it, maybe it’s best simply to allow my thoughts to emerge according to the fragmentary nature of the structure comprising them.
Here’s a facet: poop and pee. Here’s another: nazi. I’ll return to these rhetorical touchstones later. For now, let me just say that the Cato Institute has recently denigrated the Moment of Truth for resorting to immature rhetoric involving scatology and references to rightwing totalitarian movements of twentieth-century European history. The Cato Institute, for those unfamiliar with it, is a think tank that specializes in producing fascist fecal matter, putting it into envelopes marked “public policy,” setting them on fire, ringing the doorbell of John Q Babbit and running away.
Here’s a quote from Akhter Ahsen’s introduction to his poem, “Ganesh, the Broken and the Misshapen”:
“The poet is not a big, overblown child who simply stopped growing up at one time, but one who co-lives a vision with the child after having transitioned into an adult. That vision is a truth which adults forgot when they grew up, but poets still remember.”
I remember when I was about five years old, I heard about war. I’m not sure what I heard. It had to do with knights on horses, or at least that was the image in my mind. And I remember that for the next couple years I would think to myself how strange a thing it was that at one time people used to run at each other in large groups and kill each other. I knew there had been a time when there weren’t cars or electric lights, and war seemed to me part of that primitive past. So when I found out — it couldn’t have been later than when I was in second grade — that not only did war exist in our present, enlightened time, but that we were IN one, I was stunned. It really shook my world, that we were in a war. It was as if someone had told me black people were still owned as property, or women couldn’t vote, or there were still cavemen in Europe.
I remember lying on my bed, thinking about democracy, about voting, about the Constitution. Because these civic talismans were inserted into my and my fellow students’ cultural logic at an early stage. And it was over the next few months that I really began to get an image of history as something out of control, something with its own momentum and logic. History was the world you came into. It was all that existed before you got to the planet. All the social structures and institutions were already there when you got here. They’d already accumulated over lifetimes after lifetimes. Things were already rolling. Then how had we got such conscious efforts as the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation? Apparently, every once in a while there came a moment when history could be greatly affected by people in their own lifetimes.
Because I’d read “Horton Hears a Who.” And I’d heard of how the Maccabees had refused to bow down to idols, and how they’d been willing to die for doing so, and how as a historical consequence the Jews had eventually proven that idolatry was outmoded superstition. But the martyrdom strategy seemed like an awful big gamble, and not very satisfying even if you hit the jackpot. But, wow, you could also affect history and live to tell about it, at least for a while, if what they said about Jefferson and Lincoln was true.
To jump to another fragment: I believe satire is a linguistic trope for expressing truth. When I say, “The Moment of Truth,” I mean that there is poetic truth in what I write. Since 9-11 I’ve waffled a little, I think, at least inwardly. I’ve been embarrassed when expressing or trying to express the truth that adults have forgotten. I’ve felt like I should have grown up by now, now that the Twin Towers have been destroyed in broad daylight, in that waking nightmare, and the momentous disaster attenuates into the century. But screw the Cato Institute or whoever from Cambridge or Oxford doesn’t like my nazi poop and pee. I don’t write for them snobs. Screw their dignity. They smell, they have no fun, and they cause the gods to suffer from urethral discharges.
I write for me and whoever else wants to get a laugh or remember something he or she forgot or sometimes feels there oughta be a leftwing version of Rush Limbaugh. People who don’t mind reading or listening to the unreasonable and infantile because they identify with the frustration and idealism expressed by it. People who can read between the lines, who can interpolate the truth that poetry cleverly or even not so cleverly disguised as poop and pee reveals. People who understand the paradoxical dignity conferred on one who abdicates dignity. That’s all of you, you wise wise people.
Nation Magazine office assistant Marc Cooper recently had his radio show canceled here in LA, at KPFK. There’s definitely something Stalinist in the new Pacifica Radio board’s discussion of the “mission.” Read the Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is what should guide us. Nevertheless, when the facts are all taken together, they did save Pacifica Radio from becoming National Petroleum Radio, and those like Cooper who disinformed listeners either didn’t grasp what was at stake or didn’t care.
Anyway, that is all unintelligible to those of you not familiar with the struggle to save Pacifica Radio from being corporatized or sold, but you get that there was a struggle, and Marc Cooper got fired for being on the losing side. And he sent out an email denouncing the new board as flat-Earth leftists who were dooming Pacifica to irrelevance. He talked about how many awards he’d won and how his career wouldn’t suffer and how the grapes were probably sour anyhow.
And I wrote back to him that I was sorry he’d left under such contentious circumstances. But I also felt that the flat-Earth leftists deserved a radio network of their own, and if he wanted even-handedness and professionalism and respectability, he could certainly go on “All Things Considered” where he would be counterbalanced with Danesh D’Souza from the American Nazi Poop Institute. I opined that the political spectrum needed a leftwing radical fringe, if only to show where the middle of the road REALLY might lie. In order to show that national health care wasn’t a nutty idea, it was actually a pretty typical idea operating in every other advanced democracy, and what was nutty was thinking that after a certain number of monkeys figured out how to wash potatoes, everyone would spontaneously start building chi-powered communal biodomes out of hemp.
On a spherical Earth, by the way, whoever has the most money gets to declare where the center of the world is. On a flat disk it would not be so easy to pull the wool over the people’s eyes, especially the eyes of cartographers. The True Believer knows that on an objective map drawn by cartographers with integrity his beliefs would inhabit the Golden Mean. And I am a True Believer, for the purposes of these essays.
Part of the evenhandedness Cooper felt was being fought at KPFK was his right to have Robert MacNamara, former Undersecretary of State under Johnson, among other things, on his show. MacNamara helped escalate the war in Vietnam, but has since come out with a book denouncing his former position. I felt Cooper should not only have the right to interview him, I was in fact very interested in the interview. One would have thought, however, that Cooper might have asked the question on many listeners’ minds: isn’t this book too little too late, Robert MacNamara? I mean, Cooper, in shouting down the head of the new interim board of the station, called himself “brash” and “bold” and an asker of the tough questions by way of excusing his rude behavior. How about, “How do you sleep at night, Mr. MacNamara, knowing that decisions you made, actions you took, caused millions of deaths and irreparable damage to millions of lives?” Or would that have been unprofessional?
Here’s another example of evenhandedness at KPFK. Barbara Osbourne interviews the author of a hardbound piece of nazi pee that claims there’s a liberal bias in the media. She introduces him by challenging us, the flat-Earth lefty listeners, not to prejudge, but to listen with an open mind, because this author really has some insightful things to say in his book. She never asked a single challenging question, though, and in the end let the rightwing prick bluster through an entire half hour with an extremely uninformative rant worthy of Bill O’Reilly or Chris Mathews. The mental exhaustion I suffered from fighting my natural prejudices was for naught, and all because this evenhanded bonehead was too lazy or stupid or cowardly to draw out what she thought was going to make the interview worth my time.
This is the kind of evenhandedness that lets the Republicans spend the entire Clinton administration trying to frame the president, but counsels the Democrats to approve the appointment of John Ashcroft to Chancellor, I mean Attorney General, or whatever he is. Screw evenhandedness. Screw respectability. Screw all compromise presented in the guise of wisdom. And screw all willful stupidity posing as common sense. Except mine.
Christopher Hitchens wrote an article for Salon entitled, “Guess what? The bombing worked like a charm.” Okay, support the war. Be happy the Taliban got deposed and now Persians can jump over fire at New Year’s. But a charm? Yeah, a charm that blows people’s torsos apart. A charm that sends millions of poor people into refugee camps. What a great charm! That’s the kind of charms you’d get in Lucky Charms if the IRA made them. “Oh, those Ulster Unionists, always after me lucky charms!” Maybe we should see how Hitchens would like eating a bowl of exploding marshmallow shamrocks. The moral philosophy of this second grader is affronted and joy taken in a bloodbath, and I don’t look down on that kid, that kid had a lot on the ball. That kid knew that war is a really sad thing to still be doing at this stage of civilization. That kid had a native understanding of what history is, and a visceral sense of the individual’s place in it.
I am not a flat-Earth leftist, of course. I am the lone voice of sanity in an amoral wilderness. I do, however, support the flat-Earth leftists’ right to have five measly radio stations in a nation where you’re never out of range of a Christian fundamentalist signal. Let those crazy goyim suffer through our atheist pagan commie homo propaganda when driving through Southern California and the Bay Area. See how they like it.
Oh, yeah. The best thing about having a flat Earth would be pushing all the nazis off the edge of the world into the ocean of poop. They deserve it. Know why? Cuz they’re assholes.
Thank you for once again indulging my inner child. I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been another Moment of Truth.