Vote Parmesan on Super Tuesday.
Vote Parmesan on Super Tuesday.
This is a biology question – not a sociology or demographic one – and I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t the neocortex. Some people have accused Trump supporters of lacking in brains, but I think that’s unfair. Trump voters have brains, but those (later, primate) areas involved in reason, advanced learning, and analytic thought are somehow disconnected from the (earlier on the evolutionary scale) parts of their brains that generate aggression, hate, and fear. So whence Trump votes?
The limbic system is a convenient way of describing several functionally and anatomically interconnected nuclei and cortical structures that are located in the telencephalon and diencephalon. These nuclei serve several functions, however most have to do with control of functions necessary for self preservation and species preservation. They regulate autonomic and endocrine function, particularly in response to emotional stimuli. They set the level of arousal and are involved in motivation and reinforcing behaviors. Some of these regions are closely connected to the olfactory system, since this system is critical to survival of many species.
Hark, I smell a Trump!
Coming soon: A Combover in the Crowd (Fear and Loathing on the Trump Trail, Part I).
The ones who always made me laugh. (Instead of cry over the state of our nation.) In the late Sixties, the short-lived The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour revolutionized the TV variety show by making serious political issues of the day (such as civil rights and Vietnam and drugs) the brunt of sharp-witted sketches and by filling the musical slots with counterculture rock and pop acts.
Future Seventies comedy greats like Steve Martin and Albert Brooks were staff writers on the show and one can imagine Jon Stewart (who would have been seven or eight at the time) watching the Smothers Brothers with his parents and taking notes.
If you need help deciding which pair of siblings you prefer, I recommend these two books.
Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)
How do I hate thee, Steve Jobs? Let me count the ways.
Yes, I know it’s his birthday – Jobs would have turned 60 today – and therefore churlish, but let me count them anyway. I’m four years too late to send him an exploding cake.
Most Jobs haters would start with the fact that he was a complete prick: he screwed over his business partners, fucked over his handful of friends, refused to acknowledge paternity of his first daughter and support her until forced, engaged in a felonious stock swindle because his sorry entitled ass hadn’t been feeling “special” lately, and made his employees feel both unappreciated at work and miserable at home for no reason other than Jobs’s own need to feel powerful and important. Apple products would have been just as successful – possibly more so – with half the mishegoss and none of the sociopathology.
A recent just-okay documentary and a hyperventilated feature (by Danny Boyle) portrayed these and Jobs’s other personal transgressions reasonably well, but none of that matters to me in the least. I didn’t work for Steve Jobs or know him personally, so his prickness is water cooler gossip – nothing more – and doesn’t make me “think different” about the products he supervised and marketed. Things that do matter (because they have impact beyond one businessman’s inner circle) include the following: an already rich Apple used virtual slave labor in China to make a rich Jobs and the company’s rich stockholders exponentially richer; Apple shipped countless other jobs overseas that could have stayed home, again to make the filthy rich filthier; Apple (and Jobs personally) used tax dodges and other morally indefensible behavior to make sure the United States government and its people enjoyed sparse benefit from this made-in-America company’s success.
Some of the the above, fairly standard Robber Baron stuff (worthy of a lesser Koch brother, Bill maybe) wouldn’t bother me as much if Jobs hadn’t pretended to be this real spiritual dude, an acid-dropping hippie dude, the Sad-Eyed Dylan of the Microchips. No, Steverino, you weren’t any of those things. You weren’t even an inventor, man. You were just Henry Ford in designer jeans. And, for a few years – the NEXT years, after the Board of Apple sent you into exile – you were Edsel Ford in Target-wear.
A lot of business guys – even narcissistic possible sociopaths such as Jobs – would settle for Henry Ford on a casual Friday with unimaginable wealth, but not the guy who used to pass out hand-written Dylan songs to potential girlfriends as if to say: “See, this is who I really am.” No, Steve, that is who Bob Dylan was and is and who you never could be. You were a little better at writing code than song lyrics, but not by much. And you don’t belong in a photo alongside important people of history – some of whom were geniuses – any more than whoever is currently president of McCann Erickson.
One of the worst things about Steve Jobs’s delusion that he was a creator, a visionary, a genius on a par with his Much Betters and More Importants was that he persuaded so many others … mostly young people … to share it. Thereby cheapening (possibly forever) the idea of what it means to be those things. And popularizing the notion that you can acquire them – and just about any quality, really – through the purchase of the right technology. You can download creativity. Sample vision. Remix yourself into a genius. At least for a moment. In your own mind. And on your screensaver.
On this date – in 1940 – Woody Guthrie pens lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land”
Guthrie wrote the lyrics of his signature song (to an existing melody) at the Hanover House, a cheap New York hotel for transients where he had just rented a room. He had arrived in New York the week before after hitchhiking across America, a coast-to-coast trip that helped shape both the words to the song and Woody’s thoughts on the country he loved. He also wrote it in partial response to the Irving Berlin hit, “God Bless America,” which Kate Smith was then belting from every radio he passed. And which Woody – given his experiences – found to be a bit on the fatuous side and somewhat less than persuasive.
Woody would make his home – off and on – in various parts of New York City for the next 26 years. But the Hanover House was his first residence and the composition place of his most famous song, which would not be recorded until 1944. It would be published the year after in a booklet of ten songs with Guthrie’s hand drawings that he sold for 25 cents.
As far as I can tell, there is no truth to the rumor that the Koch Brothers are planning to record a cover of Guthrie’s song entitled, “This Land Is My Land, This Land Is My Land.” But, just in case, I hope someone locates Woody’s famous “machine” and uses it on them.
Morley Callaghan (February 22, 1903 – August 25, 1990)
It’s a mystery why some authors survive in print and others fall away. I would like to report that it has to do entirely with the quality of their writing and that the literary cream always rises to the top as the decades go by. I would like to report that, but it isn’t true.
With the exception of those few dozen writers (Hemingway and Fitzgerald are two American examples) who take up permanent residency in The Canon, staying in print would seem to have more to do with what house published you, whether that house still exists, and whether someone at the house that owns your back list thinks money can be made by keeping it current. Movie adaptations used to rescue the occasional forgotten author from obscurity, but comic books are just about the only kind of “books” made into films these days … American films, anyway … so that lifeline has been cut.
I was both pleased – and very surprised – to discover that nearly all of Morley Callaghan’s novels and his collected short stories remain in print; and that his famous memoir of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other expatriate American writers (entitled That Summer in Paris) is available in a new, expanded edition. Callaghan was one of Canada’s most popular and critically acclaimed writers from the 1930s until his declining years – his slightly pugnacious Irish face once adorned a Canadian postage stamp – and, during his lifetime, he attracted a solid readership in the United States for his novels and especially his stories, many of which appeared in The New Yorker during the heyest of its hey days. But I have not met a single non-Canadian under about the age of 50 who has even heard of Morley Callaghan, let alone read his books.
Callaghan was of Irish ancestry – his parents immigrated to Toronto – and a devout Catholic. His novels often have vaguely Biblical titles and (if you look closely enough) semi-religious themes, usually involving sin and the possibilities of redemption. His characters divide up about equally between criminal types and priestly ones. I suspect the Catholic flavorings may have something to do with Callaghan’s loss of readers below the border in recent years. He was most popular during the period when movie actors such as Bing Crosby were playing priests and Ingrid Bergman was playing nuns. Nice priests and nuns, too!
My favorite of the Callaghan novels that I’ve read are More Joy in Heaven (1937) about an ex-con who becomes a reluctant society’s darling; and Such Is My Beloved (1934) about two prostitutes and the young naive priest who tries to help them. The latter is considered Callaghan’s finest book. I highly recommend both novels and any collection of Callaghan’s superb short stories. His fellow reporter at the Toronto Daily Star, Ernest Hemingway, compared Callaghan’s short stories to James Joyce’s. I would compare them to Ernest Hemingway’s … and compare them favorably. Which brings us to that famous (or infamous) summer in Paris. A late 1920s summer that Callaghan spent with his friends (Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) and during which he met just about every other prominent exiled writer of the time who put in time near the Eiffel Tower … from Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound to the aforementioned Joyce.
I’m going to take a wild guess that Callaghan wrote That Summer in Paris (1967), which appeared three years after Hemingway’s own bestselling memoir of expatriate Paris (A Moveable Feast), to cash in on the earlier book’s success. Callaghan achieved his presumptive goal – his own book sold well and still does, particularly when interest in Hemingway is high – but the book stands on its own. And his good but not great memoir has something that Hemingway’s lacks: veracity. Callaghan’s book gets some of the minor details wrong (e.g., where exactly the boxing match between him and Hemingway took place) but it is true about the events and the people it describes. A Moveable Feast gets most of the minor details right and that’s about it, although it is Hemingway (in a sort of late return to stylistic form) so a lot of the lies are beautifully written.
This disparity between the two men’s writing had a parallel in their athletic prowess. Callaghan was a trained and experienced amateur boxer. Hemingway just pretended to be, especially when he was drunk and bragging to other delusional drunks. Papa badgered the younger and lighter Callaghan into a boxing match that was to be officiated by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scott was also to keep time: three minute rounds with one minute of rest in between. I’ll let Callaghan tell you what happened next.
“Our first round was like most of the rounds we had fought that summer, with me shuffling around, and Ernest, familiar with my style, leading and chasing after me. No longer did he rush in with his old brisk confidence. Now he kept an eye on my left hand and he was harder to hit. As I shuffled around I could hear the sound of clicking billiard balls in the adjoining room.”
(Fitzgerald called time and the three men joked around until it was time to fight again.)
“Right at the beginning of that round Ernest got careless; he came in too fast, his left down, and he got smacked on the mouth. His lip began to bleed. It had often happened. It should have meant nothing to him. Hadn’t he joked with Jimmy, the bartender, about always having me for a friend while I could make his lip bleed? Out of the corner of his eye he may have seen the shocked expression on Scott’s face. Or the taste of blood in his mouth may have made him want to fight more savagely. He came lunging in, swinging more recklessly. As I circled him, I kept jabbing at his bleeding mouth. I had to forget all about Scott, for Ernest had become rougher, his punching a little wilder than usual. His heavy punches, if they had landed, would have stunned me. I had to punch faster and harder myself to keep away from him. It bothered me that he was taking the punches on the face like a man telling himself he only needed to land one punch himself.”
(Callaghan noticed that other people at the club were starting to watch, and noticed that Fitzgerald seemed to be in awe.)
“I was wondering why I was tiring, for I hadn’t been hit solidly. Then Ernest, wiping the blood from his mouth with his gloves, and probably made careless with exasperation and embarrassment from having Scott there, came leaping in at me. Stepping in, I beat him to the punch. The timing must have been just right. I caught him on the jaw; spinning he went down, sprawled out on his back.
“If Ernest and I had been there alone I would have laughed. I was sure of my boxing friendship with him; in a sense I was sure of him, too. Ridiculous things had happened in that room. Hadn’t he spat in my face? And I felt no surprise in seeing him flat on his back. Shaking his head a little to clear it, he rested a moment on his back. As he rose slowly, I expected him to curse, then laugh.”
(It was then that Fitzgerald realized that he’d let the round go an extra minute.)
“‘Christ!’ Ernest yelled. He got up. He was silent for a few seconds, Scott, staring at his watch, was mute and wondering. I wished I were miles away. ‘All right, Scott,’ Ernest said savagely, ‘If you want to see me getting the shit knocked out of me, just say so. Only don’t say you made a mistake,’ and he stomped off to the shower room to wipe the blood from his mouth.’”
The friendship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald ended that very day – in that moment – and Hemingway attempted to exact a measure of revenge with a stupid, childish, reportedly false anecdote (in A Moveable Feast, of course) about the relative size of their penises. The friendship between Hemingway and Callaghan ended a short time later, when word of the boxing match’s result reached American shores. Callaghan was judged the liar at the time. History has reversed that decision. And Hemingway is most likely still petitioning the Afterlife for a rematch. A contest that everyone – except possibly the equally delusional ghost of Hemingway’s great admirer, Norman “Can’t Box Worth a Shit Either” Mailer – knows that Papa would lose.
Writers should stick to writing.
Wait. No. It was at a Democratic Party event? Really? You don’t mean this Dolores Huerta?!
Well, I certainly hope the ignorant assholes who booed and hissed the 85-year-old Huerta were The Donald supporters who got lost on their way to a Funny Car race or WWE cage smackdown. It’s the only explanation that doesn’t reflect badly on Bernie Sanders. If you’re a Bernie supporter, the smart political move (not to mention the only moral one) is to disassociate yourself from that sort of boorish behavior. Apologize for the boneheads in your midst and invite them to find another candidate to support. (Such as Trump.) Because they’re sure as hell not helping yours.
Whatever you do, don’t go on social media and try to distract or deflect with nitpicky fights about a “neutral translator” – LOL! – or whether the assholes showing Huerta disrespect also shouted “English only.” Who cares? The crowd’s behavior was stupid and trashy enough to warrant an admonition from the event moderator: “It’s Dolores Huerta, my goodness!” Which was caught on tape. And that’s all anyone needs to know.
P.S. I suspect most of the dumbasses at the event (and quite a few of the Twitter et al defenders of their behavior) have no idea who Dolores Huerta is and how important she has been to American history. Which is why God made Google. Get a clue before you boo! Actually, just don’t boo … it’s not a wrestling match … listen politely and act like adults.
With comfortable chairs and decent lighting. Bring me Jacob’s ladder!
The correct answer to the above question, at least if you’re Ted Cruz – who I now believe will be the GOP nominee when all is said and Trump is done – is “yes, sir, I am an immigrant, but don’t tell anybody, k?” And The Donald is finally factually correct about something – besides, of course, his ratings in the presidential polls, he’s on that shit – Ted Cruz is not a “natural born citizen” and is thereby disqualified to become President of the United States. Or, as I like to call it, Ted Cruz’s adopted home.
Watch the strict constructionists spin this one … well, “natural born” could mean a whole lotta things, you know? Just like strict constructionists – faced with the need to please rightwing sponsors and a Higher Power called the NRA – decided that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” must’ve been a misprint and the 2nd Amendment actually confers an inviolable individual right to bear arms. All arms, apparently, up to and including AK-47s, mortars, and nuclear suitcase bombs.
In the present instance – Cruz was born in Canada – purist jurists and the GOP will deconstruct the Constitution to add words such as “born outside the United States but to an American citizen.” Just like they added the words “or in a military hospital in Panama” when John McCain was the GOP nominee. Or, even farther back, when Barry Goldwater (who was born in Arizona before it became the 48th state) ran for President and they added the words “or in a Territory of the United States.”
See how strict constructionism works? When the Constitution works in favor of the political positions you already hold, you declare it the ultimate and only authority and leave it alone. When it works against your politics, you can add words or take out words to make the Constitution the ultimate and only authority. And the best thing is that you don’t have to physically change the words of the Constitution – through the Amendment process – you can just pretend the words are there. And be “strict” about it.
And how funny is it that the crowd who gave us eight years of Birther Bullshit is now poised to nominate its third national candidate who is not Constitutionally qualified to be President AND has the birth certificate to prove it? But if you’ve watched one of the GOP debates this year … or tuned into FOX news lately or should I say ever? … you know what I’m just learning: that the Republican Party is now ENTIRELY populated by voters who are a) capable of believing almost any fool thing if it confirms their preconceived notions and satisfies them emotionally; and b) incapable of believing anything that is evidence-based and demonstrably true. Has the GOP been kidnapped and brainwashed to become a sort of Manchurian Candidate programmed to assassinate American intelligence and reason?
I finally got around to watching the last GOP so-called debate and all I can say is: “Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!” It was this debate that convinced me Ted Cruz is going to win the nomination and that Donald Trump will be happy to support him, despite the fact that Trump is the one who most recently pointed out that Cruz is not qualified. But what’s a little thing like a Constitution between political allies? Not to mention that Trump – if he doesn’t let Teddy slide – might have to also advocate building a wall between us and Canada “to keep all the Cruzes out.”
And here’s what I think Candidate Cruz will campaign on … after he gets done providing lip service to Job Creators, Bad Taxes and Badder Regulations, Making America Great again post-Kenyan, and putting Jesus in charge of the Fed … the creation of a new HUAC. Only he will change the name from the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee to the House on UnAmerican Assimilation Committee. The new HUAC will investigate everyone even suspected of being an immigrant – except Ted himself, of course, and possibly Marco Rubio’s parents – and will hold them, among other things, in contempt of English, in support of ISIS, and guilty of working three minimum wage jobs a week that natural-born Americans have all turned down.
Hmm … where have I seen this guy before?
Published on this date – in 1885 – Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Poor Huck. His mom dies, his monstrous father beats him, school sucks and church is worse, the Widow Douglas expects a whole lot of sivilizin’ for three hots and a cot, and his only real friend (Tom Sawyer) never gets in trouble and gets all the great girls. Well, the town’s one great girl, anyway: Becky Thatcher. And then, when Huck finally has some adventures of his own, which he tells about in his own barely-literate 14-year-old voice, the whole damn world – starting with Mark Twain’s wife, who hated Huck’s guts – jumps down his throat and tells him he’s done a bunch of stuff wrong.
Most books just commit one sin in the eye of a single, fairly predictable beholder (e.g., Ulysses is “obscene” if you’re uncomfortable with English as spoken and with sex being spoken of at all; 1984 is politically incorrect if your politics happen to be Soviet; Oliver Twist fails to provide a positive Jewish role model with the character of Fagin). But Mark Twain’s masterpiece managed to commit a multitude of sins and keeps on committing new ones. It has been reviled in more quarters – and banned for more varied reasons – than just about any book in the history of world literature. Which, in my opinion, is one measure of its value. It takes a truly great book to piss that many different people off.
Mark Twain’s wife found Huckleberry Finn vulgar and urged Twain to make radical changes, some of which he made. Reviewers at the time objected to the novel’s language – Huck’s first-person vernacular language – as ill-suited to respectable literature. Church folk in the world at large (just as in Finn’s home town) considered the trash-talking, pipe-smoking, shoe-hating, not-always-freshly-bathed Huck a bad example for other boys. They still do. Teachers hated Huck’s poor grammar and questionable word choice. And virulent racists and fans of the recently defeated Confederacy (the Civil War had only ended twenty years prior) hated the book for obvious reasons. And agreed with Huck Finn himself that he would go to Hell for helping Jim escape slavery.
Before I proceed further, let me say a few words about book banners. I’m agin’ ’em. I spit in their eye. I’d invite ’em – if I thought they was worth the trouble of turnin’ around and bendin’ over – to kiss my ass. Any questions?
In recent years, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been most often attacked – and banned – because of charges of racism and because Huck and some of the other characters (but mostly Huck) use the “N word” a total of 210 times. A bowdlerized edition of the book has been published that replaces the N word with “slave” and changes the two instances of “Injun” to Indian. Presumably so that it can be read by young children.
Part of Twain’s genius was to present the book as a boy’s adventure (a companion to his first Tom Sawyer book). And to have a boy narrate it. If a 14-year-old without a family to speak of, no use for religion, and little education can figure out that slavery is wrong – and find the courage to do something about it – what the hell happened to the rest of us?
Huckleberry Finn is racist in spots – so is Uncle Tom’s Cabin – at least by contemporary standards. (Despite both books’ good intentions.) And it is not a book for children. In my opinion, Mark Twain’s finest work (and one of the greatest, most important works of American literature) should not be read until high school. By students a little older than Huck. At which time it should be read as written and in its entirety. If you’re old enough to learn about the horrors of slavery, you’re old enough and sophisticated enough to read the language of its day. Words don’t hurt nearly as much as bull whips, being separated from your family, being sold at auction, and never breathing a free breath as long as you live.
Molière ( 15 January 1622 – 17 February 1673)
On this date in 1673, the great French theatrical hyphenate Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (aka Moliere) was performing the lead role of the hypochondriac in his last play, The Imaginary Invalid, when he suffered a coughing fit, hemorrhaged, collapsed, then insisted on continuing to the end of the show. Moliere died at home – a few hours later – from the tuberculosis that (legend has it) he’d contracted while being imprisoned for debt. Argan, the character Moliere was playing in his final performance, was clad in green.
Debtor’s prison (or its moral equivalent) remains a standard job hazard for anyone attempting to make a living from theater or any of the Arts. Especially these days. In this place. And the irony of Moliere dying during a production in which he plays a hypochondriac has not been lost to history. It is also emblematic of the principal theme of his profoundly comic plays – including his first The Learned Ladies, The Misanthrope, The Miser, and Tartuffe – which could be summarized as, “We are not who we think we are.”
Several highly effective treatments for tuberculosis have been developed since the 17th century; although not wiped out – and occasionally threatening to make a comeback – tuberculosis is not the hazard it once was. No such luck, however, with the human strains of hypocrisy and self-delusion. They are more prevalent now than ever. There would appear to be no cure. And they ensure that Moliere’s plays never date.
Actors are a superstitious lot. They say “break a leg” instead of “good luck” (which is considered bad luck). When appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they live in terror of speaking the play’s name and refer to it only as “The Scottish Play.” As an occasional actor myself, I share that fear and it scares me just writing Macbeth. (Twice now! I think I peed a little!) And, because of Moliere’s death costume in The Imaginary Invalid, we actors don’t like appearing onstage wearing green. Costumers, beware!
I don’t know exactly why actors are superstitious. I’m sure it has something to do with being present – in our bodies, live – while we practice our art, thereby risking the also-live slings and arrows of outrageous audience members. Or of slipping on our own flop sweat and falling to our deaths, metaphorical or otherwise. I do know, however, that if I’m ever lucky enough to perform the role of Argan in Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, I’ll insist on a red costume and – just to be on the safe side – call it “The Hypochondriac Play.” I hope I break a leg.
Department Store – 1964 – Garry Winogrand
On this date – in 1898 – an explosion sinks the USS Maine in Havana Harbor
First, some facts. On February 15, 1898, a massive explosion aboard a U.S. battleship – the Maine – killed 260 American members of the approximately 400-member crew and sank the ship in Havana Harbor. The USS Maine was one of the first commissioned American battleships in what would become the world’s largest Navy. It cost more than $2 million to build (back when a cool million was a lot of money) and weighed 6,000 tons.
Ostensibly on a “friendly” visit, the Maine was parked in the Cuban harbor as a kind of Big Hello to Spain that American “interests” – meaning, of course, almost 100% private American business interests – would be protected during the ongoing Cuban revolution and its suppression by Spain.
In 1976, a team of expert investigators concluded that the Maine tragedy was most likely caused by a below-decks fire that ignited the battleship’s own ammunition stocks. At the time, it was announced that a mine had sunk the Maine and the blame put on Spain. The full version of the public battle cry was, “Remember the Maine! The Hell with Spain!”
So why did we really go to war? Well, and I’m only slightly exaggerating, because then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt (and assorted friends and politicians) wanted to go to war. With somebody. Somewhere. And Teddy (I’m again only slightly exaggerating) wanted to go to war for the same reason he liked to shoot big animals. And stick his chest out. ‘Cause, you know he’d been sickly as a child and he didn’t want anyone to think he was … you know. Read the wonderful recent political history by Evan Thomas called The War Lovers (2010) for a fuller and more responsible explanation.
The result was a three-and-a-half-month charade called the Spanish-American War that set the mold both for 20th and 21st century American imperialism and for the attendant series of mostly bullshit wars by which U.S. business and domestic political interests have been served. The pretexts for these wars are grossly exaggerated or made up altogether, the real reasons for the wars are not the stated reasons, U.S. businesses nearly always make shitloads of money at public expense, and politicians earn Street Cred or Buy Time to weather a crisis in the polls by distracting a significant portion of the population (which always now includes FOX viewers) from America’s real problems, generally caused by the same folks who beat the war drums. And if a current war is lacking, politicians and pundits make do with Soon-to-Be Wars and Rumors of War.
Spain wasn’t much of a combatant in 1898: yellow fever and the heavy losses already sustained from the Cuban revolt had pretty much done them in by the time Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders set foot on Cuban soil with their hand-picked embed reporters and their film crews. Which also established a pattern for future American history: go to battle with great fanfare against an outgunned and outmanned opponent you know you can whip in your sleep (at least to the point where you can declare “Mission Accomplished”) … act like it was really, really hard and created lots of Real American Heroes … hand out shiny medals and make speeches and do musical tributes. And don’t forget the flags and the fireworks. All that patriotic stuff helps drive away the doubt.