The master of smarm


It’s been almost a century since the first phase of the 31 Years’ War slaughtered sixteen or so million people. You might think it would be possible, at this distance in history, to back quietly off from some of the spreadeagle propaganda which justified the bloodbath at the time.

Not if Obie has anything to say about it. And he did have a good deal to say about it, during a visit to an American military cemetery in Belgium recently:

As His Majesty and the Prime Minister mentioned, we just spent some quiet moments among the final resting places of young men who fell nearly a century ago. And it is impossible not to be awed by the profound sacrifice they made so that we might stand here today. In this place, we remember the courage of “Brave Little Belgium.”

We talked about how many of the Americans who fought on Belgian soil during the Great War did so under the command of His Majesty’s great-grandfather, King Albert. And while they didn’t always share a common heritage or even a common language, the soldiers who manned the trenches were united by something larger — a willingness to fight, and die, for the freedom that we enjoy as their heirs.

Pardon me while I visit the vomitorium(*). — There, that’s better.

Obie, I feel sure, is not a stupid, or an ignorant man. So it baffles me how he can utter words like these with a straight face. Electoral politics must have a more deeply corrosive effect on the soul than even I would have thought.

The only freedom for which World War I was fought was the freedom to plunder. ‘Brave little Belgium’, though not the greatest of the colonial powers, was arguably the worst. The King Albert to whom Obie alludes, above, was the nephew and successor of vile King Leopold, the butcher of the Belgian Congo. After the hiatus of hostilities in 1918, brave little Albert continued to preside over the Belgian empire in Africa until he fell off a mountain and broke his unspeakable neck in 1934.

Every child knows these things. Maybe Obie had to visit, and maybe he had to say something, but surely he could have found something to say that wouldn’t have been yet another cynical mockery of all those poor sods under the sod. Wilfred Owen called bullshit on that dulce-et-decorum stuff pretty much as it was happening. You have to be a real dog-faced brass-balled Heepish liar — a liar who enjoys lying — to insist on that “old lie”, as Owen called it, a hundred years down the road.

How’s the stomach? Feel like another shot of Obiean emetic?

Belgians and Americans have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies in World War II and through a long Cold War, then from Afghanistan to Libya.

I’d also note that the lessons of that war speak to us still. Our nations are part of the international effort to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons…

And so this visit, this hallowed ground, reminds us that we must never, ever take our progress for granted.

Well, the nauseating pottle wouldn’t have been complete, would it, without a dash of ‘progress’?

Perhaps the contemporary references explain Obie’s otherwise inexplicable insistence on the “old lie”. I’m reminded, not for the first time, that in some ways very little has changed in the last hundred years, or hundred fifty. It’s still all about the Freedom To Plunder, and contention among the plunderers.

(*) I know, I know, ‘vomitorium’ doesn’t really mean that. But it should. Every public building should have a convenient vomitorium — perhaps one on every floor — for use after seeing the various inscriptions scattered about the place, and the allegorical statuary. It’s a public health measure. Progress demands it.

12 thoughts on “The master of smarm

  1. Gotta love how they perfectly framed the Star of David grave marker front and center in that photo. I’m sure that was just a coincidence owing to the massive percentage of Jewish graves there. I suppose mention of Israel’s fight for freedom would have been less subtle, if more puke-worthy.

    Reminds me of the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” at the end where they frame a lone Jewish grave in the shot and then pan out to a sea of Christian crosses, perhaps having the opposite effect of that intended.

    Relevant part at 3:30

  2. Michael, I have been using the word “vomitorium,” probably incorrectly, for many years. I used to show a nine-part animated movie called The History Book. It was made by a Danish film collective, and it was the most radical film I have ever seen that describes the beginnings of capitalism and the devastating consequences of its development. A rat narrates it, following Bertolt Brecht’s dictum that we need a rat’s eye view of history, from the bottom up so to speak. There are great scenes in the section on WW!, in which we see a battle scene, over which the rat appears and says, “Kill the capitalists, not each other.” Needless to say, many students found the entire film objectionable; a retired Marine said he nearly came down the aisle and strangled me. But back to vomitorium, in another section, we see more elite African young men going to school in the U.S., where they are being taught the “appropriate” imperialist values. In one scene, a disgusting looking business man opens up the black students skull and vomits a storeful of consumer goods into his brain. So I got in the habit of saying that our economy produces a vomitorium of goods and services.

    BTW, Obama has initiated a twelve-year celebration of the War in Viet Nam. I think he really believes this shit. He is absolutely as keen on war as Bush. It won’t be he or his kids who die.

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