Friday, October 17, 2014

CA GOP: The Theater of the Absurd? (Rhinoceros)

When I was studying French at UC Irvine, one of the French modern classics was the dramatist Eugene Ionesco.

His writings exposed the shallow emptiness of a contemporary, godless modern culture, although secular academics point out his exploration of themes such as the hollow nature of bourgeois culture and alienation in the human condition.

Eugene Ionesco

One of his funniest, yet also disturbing plays was "La Cantatrice Chauve", translated for English speaking audience as "The Bald Soprano."

In that play, a domestic couple engaged in nonsensical talk, speaking out platitudes which Ionesco had read in a primer for French-speaking English Language learners.  The silly dialogue explodes into a running river of puns, when another couple enters the scene. The dialogue gets heated, then unintelligible, until the two couples start fighting with each other. The lights go out, and then the second couple is seated in the same position as the first couple, at which point they begin stating the same comments as the first couple had in the first scene. . . .

Ionesco was a leader in the avant-garde movement, presenting plays with wacky dialogue, characters who exposed the corrupting influence of political conformity, or the frustration

The Romanian-born French playwright's most famous, and most accessible play was called


In this play, the main character Berenger finds himself in a city where everyone is turning into rhinos.

In the first scene, he is arguing with his friend Jean, an arrogant intellectual. Soon, a rhino tears up the house, then another rhino stampedes on stage and kills a cat.

The entire French town gets angry, organizes a mass movement to do something about these rhinos and the rhinoceritis illness plaguing them.

In the next Act, and throughout the play, reporters in the local paper argue about whether the rhinos exist, and other people start contemplating whether they really pose a danger to the city. This dithering leads to more townspeople turning into rhinos themselves.

Then the audience, and the main character starts to realize where all these rhinos are coming from: the people in the town are slowly transforming into rhinos! Unfeeling monsters who destroy everything in their path, these rhinos become the dangerous majority in the town.

Berenger runs to Jean, who is sick at home. An inexplicable illness has overtaken him. The two start arguing about the proliferation of rhinos in their town. Jean starts sounding conciliatory, even accommodating of these new creatures, first questioning whether these transformations are actually happening, then arguing that there is nothing immoral about these changes.

Then Jean turns green, sprouts a horn on his forehead, starts raging around the room like a wild animal. He turns on his friend Berenger who runs out of the room.

Another resident has turned into a rhino. Scary!

In the last Act, only three human beings are left, while everyone else has joined the herd, so to speak, and turned into the thick, lumbering creatures. Berenger and his girlfriend stay safe for a little while with their friend Dudard.

Dudard begins to waffle about the rhinos, claiming that people are entitled to choose what they do with their lives, even transform into rhinos. Berenger slams Dudard, reminding him that the transformation was not voluntary, then talks about his friend Jean who was opposed to rhinos, then suddenly started changing his mind. Dudard doesn't agree, then decides that he will join with everyone else, who have "chosen" to be rhinos.

Finally, Berenger is alone with his girlfriend Daisy. Because they are the only humans left, Berenger suggests that they must reproduce and repopulate the earth with human beings. Suddenly, Daisy gets offended, claiming that her boyfriend does not understand what love really is. Berenger gets angry, hits his girlfriend, then fears that he is becoming a rhino. While checking for signs of rhinoceritis, he learns that his love Daisy has left him to join the herd.

Now all alone, Berenger tries to become a rhino himself, but is unable to join them. The end of the play features the main character raging at the crowd of  monsters, refusing to give in.

File:Pecking Order (367220814) (2).jpg
Rhinos must run when the Elephant arrives

Anti-establishment plays like Ionesco's carry powerful messages about political conformity, the tragedies of modern life, in which man's desires to stand on their own fall away to his deeper need for acceptance and have left a bittersweet taste in modern audiences and literary critics. One may refuse to conform, but how can anyone overcome man's deeper need for acceptance?

And where do we get the resolve to stand for something, when everyone else has chosen to go with the flow?

If you haven't picked up on those ideological undertones, then I also have to explain another message: the California GOP finds itself in the same mess.

"RINOs" seem to be taking over, not just because they are endorsing Democrats instead of remaining quiet or strengthening Republican challengers. Republicans are taking on Democratic talking points (pro-abortion, tax increases, expanding welfare, blanket amnesty, same-sex marriage, race-baiting as political persuasion), hoping that tilting to the left will increase their chances of winning elections in a state which has gone from trending to falling blue.

Republicans whom many young partisans used to respect are succumbing to rhinoceritis.

Chairman Jim Brulte has taken union money, and from two of the most corrupt and left-leaning groups out there: the CTA and SEIU.

Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillion is pro-abortion and same-sex marriage. CA GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashari supports the same illiberal social values along with drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Charlie Munger Jr.  is pumping millions of dollars into key races, focusing on GOP v. GOP contests, in spite of numerous contests which Munger could sway toward a Republican taking on a Democrat.

Local assembly candidates have wavered on expanding food stamps. One special election winner voted for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. How can anyone clamor for a safe and secure border, yet at the same time support allowing people to drive legally in the state of California?
Statewide, Republicans in the legislature and across the state are capitulating on key issues, fearing that they will remain a permanent minority if they do not cave to illiberal, statist demands and help turn California into a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants.

They ought to look at Rhode Island, where easy welfare and non-enforcement (plus public sector bullying) have bankrupted the state. California is heading there now. California Republicans could learn from New England conservatives, too, like Paul LePage of Maine, who is fighting for his seat. Republicans may win big in New England legislatures this year, too.

Not only are California Republicans getting infected with this unseemly rhinoceritis, but the infighting among those not yet infected is inadvertently spreading the contagion. Anyone who wavers on one or two points from the party platform gets tagged "RINO"! A blatant example took place in Washington last year, when US Senator Ted Cruz, during his twenty-two hour non-filibuster, inadvertently insinuated that anyone voting for cloture was voting to fund Obamacare. US Senator Tom Coburn bristled: "So, I'm a RINO now?" (He has the highest conservative voting record rating, by the way).

US Senator Tom Coburn
"Am I a RINO, too?"

What is happening, and what can be done about it?

Politics is about unity as well as values, about acceptance as well as clear principles. For too long, the backbone of these values -- individual liberty, limited government, constitutional rule -- have become separated from the biblical narrative which defined and supported them. The goal is not about forcing religion on people, but even the deist Founding Fathers acknowledged that a free people is a moral people.

When the basis for these morals is removed, there is no strength to stand against the winds of change. There is no resolve to withstand attacks against established institutions. Debate cannot end when there are no fixed parameters. Certain values are not open for debate, yet when people seek to debate them, right away their value as eternal verities gives way.

A party cannot stand if there are no clear, concise principles. If there is nothing but debate and disagreement, there is no standard, there is no party, there is nothing but the herd mentality and the need to conform.

Is the California Republican Party becoming another installment of the Theater of the Absurd? Are all California Republicans destined to become Rhinos? Or will members of the California Republican learn from the failures of "Big Tent Outreach" which has made an empty tent, and seek clear borders and defined principles?

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Elephant fighting a Rhinoceros
"Life is a struggle, it's cowardly not to put up a fight!"

Not if we learn some key lessons from Ionesco's play, encapsulated in these quotes:

"I sometimes wonder if I exist myself."

Republicans needs to start asking key questions: why does this party exist? What are the core values which define this party? Former Congressman Allen West asked Rhode Island Republicans that question last year in Kingston.

"There are certain things which enter the minds of even people without one."

If leaders and activists do not start staking clear claims to key ideas, then rhinoceritis will be inevitable. Nature and politics abhor a vaccum, and Democrats have been reaching to neglected communities who would embrace Republican values, but for the onslaught of distortions and conflict promoted by Democratic party operatives. Think Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine, for example.

"So then logically speaking, my dog must be a cat?"
"Logically, yes. But the contrary is also true."

All the double-talk about RINOs, the proper definition of limited government, constitutional rule, and individual liberty can no longer be subject to debate. Clear terms, concise platforms, with a definite understanding of the political opposition, without wavering and waffling.

"When you're involved yourself…you can't help feeling directly concerned."

More Republicans, whether voting or campaigning, feel set apart from the party structure, waiting for someone to let them have a greater say. Board of Equalization candidate Rick Marshall released an email asking readers to do one of five things, none of which cost money.

"I'm not capitulating!"

The main character shouted this line at the end of the play. While his forlorn solitude might elicit pity from the audience, one man standing on principle does not shape the culture, nor define a new trajectory. Calvin Coolidge stood his ground, and implemented sweeping cuts to Washington waste, fraud, and dysfunction. Ronald Reagan refused to give up the dream that the world would be rid of Communism and the Evil Empire. The Republicans who protested slavery, who fought for women's rights, and who have agitated for fiscal prudence did not give in. While the mainstream media would call such stalwarts "extremists",

This is the non-negotiable element: certain principles and platform policies must not be up for debate. Republicans need to stand on their values, not run from them, and refuse to give into the crowd. Liberal-leaning elements cannot be tolerated, yet repudiating these elements will remain impossible if leaders  in the state party, and candidates at the local level, refuse to take clear stands on key issues.

Will the California GOP turn into another turn in the Theater of the Absurd? Or will state conservatives start identifying with eternal principles and expect their leaders to do the same? Ionesco died having no idea where he was going. Hopefully, the California Republican Party and the silent majority of conservatives in this state will not have to suffer a similar fate.

File:Qu'a-t-on fait de Rhinocéros d'Eugène Ionesco à travers la monde.jpg

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