Messengers

I add this as a brief footnote to an excellent essay, “The Messenger” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I often lack the calm to write clearly and eloquently on Ron Paul, but in his writing, Mr. Coates appears never in want.

The title, but as well as much of the piece, made me recall a moment from The Losers by Michael Lewis.

Chapter Five is entitled “The Messenger”, focuses on christian activist Alan Keyes, with its title derived from the idea of Keyes as christian messenger, and Keyes as instrument of christian message. This quote from Alan Keyes serves as a concise embodiment:

[A campaign worker named John] didn’t come here because Alan Keyes asked him to. I just present the message. If they care about it they come forward. I don’t thank anybody. I don’t care what their name is, what their background is, who they think they are for helping this campaign. Because I think this campaign has to rely on the strength of the message and the power of God, and we will get where we’re supposed to get. If people feel that’s right they’ll come forward.

However, Mr. Coates’ piece reminded me of this moment most of all, from Chapter 10, “Blue Collar Blues”:

Within about thirty seconds of arriving at a gathering of Detroit autoworkers who support Pat Buchanan—Citizens for Better Government, they call themselves—I find myself at a restaurant table with the two men who run the show. They are the only two autoworkers who have turned up, at least for the moment. The first one, named Gordon, hands me a flyer headlined “UAW Rank and File behind Buchanan” that lists the names of the thirteen autoworkers who have “endorsed” Buchanan. The second one, Henry, turns out to be the real leader of this cryptic force. He’s a huge, pale man, maybe fifty-five years old, who sits across from me and glares as if I’m the enemy, which I slowly become.

“How many people are involved in this movement?” I ask him.

“We don’t discuss that,” he says.

“It’s national.”

“Well,” I say, “who is the head of it, nationally?”

“We don’t discuss that,” he says.“What trades do the members belong to?”

“We don’t discuss that.”

At that point I drop my grilled lamb hoagie onto the plate and say, “Well, look, what’s the point of organizing into a political movement if you won’t discuss it?” He blinks for a moment and then says, “We don’t discuss that either.”

The force of Henry’s view of the world as a conspiracy against him and his fellows is such that I have to close my eyes and remind myself that I’m not interviewing a militiaman.

“Does any of your movement favor Ross Perot?” I ask, on a hunch. “The true grassroots people abandoned Ross Perot,” says Henry, angrily emerging from his shell. “It’s the opportunists and the gullibles that stayed with him.”

An hour into the ceremony Buchanan arrives and shakes hands with his blue-collar following. He doesn’t give them much of a speech, maybe because there aren’t a whole lot of them to talk to; but he does offer up a version of the passage that he has worked into his routine to appeal to the politically self-conscious workingman. It is a curious thing to hear, coming as it does from the lips of a Republican:

Someone has got to stand up for the workingmen and-women of America who don’t have no representatives at these trade negotiations where they decide what industries are going to live and what are gonna die. It is wrong to negotiate trade deals for the benefit of transnational corporations that encourage them to shut down their plants in Toledo and Youngstown and to open up a plant in Singapore or China because that takes away jobs from American workers and hollows out our manufacturing base. Look, we won World War Two. You know why? We had great generals like MacArthur and Patton. And admirals like Nimitz. We had great soldiers, great American soldiers. But we also had this great industrial heartland of America. The productive capacity of this nation. And it is being gutted and hollowed out. We went up to Youngstown, Ohio. We went up along that river, the Mahoning Valley. Steel mills. Factories. Gone. Dead. Shut down for fifteen years. Take a look. Take a look at what we were and what we are. Those are the dying husks of what almost appears to be a dying civilization.

The bolds are my own, I make them given current events.

There is a quote apropros, most of all, which prefaces neither chapter, but applies to both, and what takes place now. There is the myth that any piece of information can be found instantly on the internet, but I am unable to find where this was originally written, since I very much would like to read the rest of it.

It is by Stanley Crouch: “In a democracy you never know who the messenger will be.”.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,
%d bloggers like this: