The Election of 2016 is a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace

By ann summers

What if Strindberg wrote Hellzapoppin’ or as we’ve seen, 10 Downing Street wrote a memo about WMDs or President Obama gave Syria away like the Sudetenland with the current Iran Nuke deal?

With all due respect to Frank Rich and Marvel Comics, our lives are no different than the fictions promoted in the interwar period between WWI and WWII. As we’ve seen with Jon Stewart’s retirement, if you “smell something, say something”, and the current Generation-Z has been fed fictions of escape and the ability to be dangerously stupid as I witnessed yesterday with a person in the middle lane of the highway driving too slowly, blinkers on, and texting. Like that moment of insanity where you want to act morally and decisively for future generations, I instead took the next exit because Rand Paul would defend my choice as anti-statist and mine, just let Karma choose to even out the actuarial calculus of texting drivers,  like the collateral damage from civilian drones, or spinster landladies doing St Peter’s work preemptively since they believe that God will know his Own, even if they’re moldering in the window seat?

2016 will traffic no differently in terms of interwar electoral cluelessness except we now live in an intrawar period, where in terms of US military casualties we can afford to accept a decade’s worth of death that is at a 10:1 fraction of the last major foreign war. West Asia’s Syria and Iran are the Sudetenland, and the bodies of lonely old RW men will continue to be buried in the Daily Cellar.

Our generation will object (as often it does in various venues to the misuses of the term “black” as though we can’t have a black comedy that reveals actual government policies like naming strategic defense initiatives after sci-fi flicks). Like Arsenic and Old Lace (A&OL), we are still fighting about marriage, however absurdly, although the RWNJs haven’t raised an uproar about the first gay divorces and like most Capra narratives, POCs just don’t exist just like the neocolonial fantasies of RWNJs who forget that the English Only mania is the historical consequence of American jingoistic imperialism.

We know as Frank Capra propagandized, “Why we fight”, and 2016 for the left will be a watershed if we capitulate to the insanity of GOP stupidity much like the cops in A&OL. It still emerges occasionally that we might still fight about the Panama Canal, TR’s policies, especially about protecting the environment, and find ourselves unable to institutionalize the senile contradictions of legal suicide and illegal abortion. And we continue to see the continuing meme of genocide, eugenics, and euthanasia not really ended by the war of the Greatest Generation who had already survived a final, yet penultimate “Great War”, as well as the crisis and shock of an interwar global depression and the rise of fascism.

Yet there is a GOP willing to continue that global set of conflicts still based on ethnic hatreds in order to prop up a capitalism predicated on crisis and shock, still willing to charge to a top floor where no one is home. And we worry about Zombieland, still as though we’re still fighting in Transylvania; but wait, we might still yet be there, what with the penchant to even listen to an entire GOP ticket of reanimated policy nostrums from the interwar periods which conveniently ignore that tactical nuclear weapons are still a viable military option that will never be ignored much like Dick Cheney should always keep a cyanide capsule handy when traveling. It’s a lot easier to swallow than Ted Cruz’s bacon wrapped around an M-4 carbine’s muzzle.

Arsenic and Old Lace is a play by the American playwright Joseph Kesselring, written in 1939. It has become best known through the film adaptation starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.

(The lead role of Mortimer Brewster was originally intended for Bob Hope, but he could not be released from his contract with Paramount. Capra had also approached Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan before learning that Grant would accept the role…

The play was written by Joseph Kesselring, son of German immigrants and a former professor at Bethel College, a pacifist Mennonite college. It was written in the antiwar atmosphere of the late 1930s. Capra scholar Matthew C. Gunter argues that the deep theme of the play and film is the conflict in American history between the liberty to do anything (which the Brewsters demand), and America’s bloody hidden past)

The play is a farcical black comedy revolving around the Brewster family, descended from the “Mayflower,” but now composed of insane homicidal maniacs. The hero, Mortimer Brewster, is a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and local police in Brooklyn, NY, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves.

His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home (which then serve as graves for the aunts’ victims; he thinks that they died of Yellow Fever); and a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein (a character based on real-life gangland surgeon Joseph Moran) to conceal his identity, and now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff (a self-referential joke, as the part was originally played on Broadway by Karloff). The film adaptation follows the same basic plot, with a few minor changes.

August Strindberg is referenced by the character Mortimer Brewster when he compares the stories of his eccentric, and frequently murderous and disturbed, family as being as if “…Strindberg wrote Hellzapoppin’.”

This entry was posted in American History, Barack Obama, Big Oil, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, Countries, Democracy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Election of 2016 is a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace

  1. po says:

    and find ourselves unable to institutionalize the senile contradictions of legal suicide and illegal abortion. And yet we continue to see the continuing meme of genocide, eugenics, and euthanasia not really ended by the war of the Greatest Generation who had already survived a final “Great War”.

    Yet there is a GOP willing to continue that global set of conflicts still based on ethnic hatreds in order to prop up a capitalism predicated on crisis and shock, still willing to charge to a top floor where no one is home. And we worry about Zombieland, still as though we’re still fighting in Transylvania, wait, we might still be yet be there, what with the penchant to even listen to an entire GOP ticket of reanimated policy nostrums from the interwar periods that conveniently ignore that tactical nuclear weapons are still a military option that will never be ignored much like Dick Cheney should always keep a cyanide capsule handy when traveling.
    DAMN!!!!!!!!!!
    Those are the most potent couple of paragraphs I have read in a while!

  2. When Brandi was about 14 years old, she was talking with a friend, who happens to be a psychiatrist. He is also Muslim, originally from Syria. He still has family in Syria, and she never failed to ask him about his family, and if they were OK.

    Exasperated, little 14 y/o Brandi asked him, “Why can’t they just sit down and talk it out?”

    He patted her on the shoulder, “Brandi, they have been fighting like that for three thousand years. It is a way of life over there. What makes us think we can go in and change a three thousand year old culture almost overnight?”

    She nodded, understanding his words, then just shook her head.

    The best question in the world, from the mouth of a young girl.

    And a former President has a 98,000 acre bug-out shelter in Paraguay. Just in case.

  3. pete says:

    Or that some are taking “Springtime for Hitler” seriously. But, hey, don’t worry. Twenty congressional hearings on BENGHAZI! have proven that no one would ever resort to violence over a movie.

  4. wordcloud9 says:

    I give you extra points for the correct use of “jingoistic.”

    Why are we fighting any current war with tactics from some previous war, and almost always on the side of the oppressors? I’ve been asking this question since 1967, and haven’t been given an answer that satisfies me yet.

  5. gbk says:

    wordcloud9:

    “Why are we fighting any current war with tactics from some previous war, and almost always on the side of the oppressors?”

    There are three distinct questions in your quote above.

    The first is: why are we fighting any current war?
    The second is implied: with tactics from some previous war?
    The third is, paraphrased: [why are we] almost always on the side of the oppressors?

    They are easily answered working backwards from your third question:
    “[why are we] almost always on the side of the oppressors?”

    Because American foreign policy has always been oppressive. There are a few exceptions of grandeur, but on the whole American foreign policy has served the needs of capital growth.

    Which leads to your second question:
    “. . . with tactics from some previous war?”

    Our tactics have not changed. Military superiority–and the threat of–has been a hallmark of American foreign policy since its inception.

    Which leads to your first question:
    “Why are we fighting any current war?”

    Because it serves those that have the means.

  6. wordcloud9 says:

    Thank you for an excellent response, but sadly, one that does not satisfy the underlying question, which is “Why is our foreign policy so at odds with who we say we are?” and that is really about the still deeper question of “Who are we?”

    Existential angst, which can never be satisfied, because I want to live in that country we were promised as children where there is Liberty and Justice for All, and instead I am living in a country that is ruled by the Greed and Expedience of the Few.

  7. gbk says:

    wordcloud9,

    “. . . does not satisfy the underlying question, which is ‘[w]hy is our foreign policy so at odds with who we say we are?’”

    Maybe you should read it all again. Existential angst is not a physical phenomena, it is cultural.

    Many, in this world, are dealing with the reality of the wars we wage in a physical context — as in death, blood, and destruction of their cultural underpinnings — as trite as this might sound.

    You have addressed your own questions in your second paragraph if you choose to see it.

    As to specifically answer you question of, ‘[w]hy is our foreign policy so at odds with who we say we are?’ I can only point to ourselves and the inattention most Americans exhibit in this realm of perception.

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