Taos Antinomianism and the Absurd
“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”—Michael Corleone (Godfather III)
It was April in Taos—almost May. As the wind died down, the dust, hovering in the gray skies, drifted down onto the highways. The residents drove their pickups along the byways, looking at brightly colored signs but couldn’t understand the message. Who are these people seeking election to public office?
For almost three years, the pesky insect (PI) worked the art beat—checking out the visualists, the literatteurs, and the interested humanists. He’d forgotten about local crime and political corruption though he wrote the occasional blurb on the blog to satisfy friends.
The real story about one of the “Prettiest Towns in America” was consistently redlined by the local press. Nobody wanted to discuss why locals say, “Taos is a great place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live here.” The increasing number of empty storefronts in the historic district confirms the loss of faith in the beauty and humor of the local culture.
In a column, “Sam Spade at Starbucks” (April 12, 2012) David Brooks of The New York Times reminded the local PI of his existential duty, saying “There’s only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality and disorder head-on…(and) start with the novels of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or at least the movies based on them.” The pesky insect, like Spade, was born in San Francisco.
The color of the rainbow arching over the Sacred Mountain had turned gray and dark in April. Flavio, the legman, said God withdrew his blessings from Taos when the local WarChief shot and killed a cow in cold blood. Los politicos will also shoot themselves in the foot–when they can’t inflict punishment on their primos, amigos, or on you–if they can’t find a cow.
Flavio calls the current political plague by a big name: Antinomianism. Sure enough, when H.L. Mencken went down to cover the Monkey Trial in Tennessee for the Baltimore Sun, he wrote, “Even in Dayton, I found, though the mob was up to do execution upon Scopes, there was a strong smell of antinomianism.” The antinomians believe they possess the truth. Therefore moral law, the rule of law, and good works are unnecessary evidence of goodness. The proof is the pudding—the claim–not in the expression or due process. Demagogues wear self-righteousness on their sleeves.
By elevating the notion of common political corruption to the divine tradition, called antinomianism, the symbolic boss, El Patron, justifies using the cops, courts, and the mob to inflict pain for the sake of sadistic pleasure. While driving out dissenters or punishing them with fines and jail, El Patron breaks dissenters’ bodies on the rack of the legal system.
The famed campaign artist, Batman, says laughingly, “Politics is a game.” But the average Americano or Taoseno suffers when caught in the cross hairs. Lip service does not compassion make. Compare a burglar to a politician or a judge. One steals your television set while the other steals a part of your soul. A feeling of nihilism follows and The Theatre of the Absurd becomes the paradigm of government: Nobody’s to blame, nobody’s right or wrong. The stronger rules.
Once, the Broken Wheel Artists and the legendary visitors to Mabel Dodge’s house focused on beauty in Taos. Even the natives of Taos Pueblo bent an American President to their will in the Battle of Blue Lake on behalf of spiritual reconciliation with the transcendent landscape—the beauty, too, of Mother Nature. Writer John Nichols memorialized the famed environs and the hospitable humor of la gente in “The Milagro Beanfield War,” and threw a bone to the comic newcomers in “Nirvana Blues.” But now Nichols darker tragedy, “The Magic Journey,” wherein activists are killed for speaking up, has become the Kafkaesque vision apropos today’s political culture.
Like the water that leaks out of the upper watersheds and mountains down into the Rio Grande and nurtures New Mexico, so the plague drifts south and haunts the high-minded judges, members of the higher courts and lawmakers at the Roundhouse.
You can hide from the truth like an Ostrich but the Jungian shadows of Frank Waters’ “The Man Who Killed the Deer (not a cow!) will resurface. While the county commissioners fight for the culture of local land use at the new Complex, shadowy figures—aka Las Tusas–burrow into the offices of the judiciary, where they make decisions behind closed doors. (You know who you are.)
Seer and psychic researcher Joseph Campbell wrote about the “archetypes of the collective unconscious” and pointed out how buildings reflect social values. In the past, western society built cathedrals—monuments meant to glorify God–as did Taosenos albeit on a smaller scale. Now Taosenos have built cages—a prison—for relatives and friends, as well as offices for the professional minder-members of the octopus-like criminal justice system.
We all pay for tickets to this theatre of the absurd, where the practitioners of antinomianism flourish–preserved in bronze–protected from the people by gun-toting guardians. And since we citizens tithe—pay taxes–so that District Attorney, District Court Judges (and their betters in Santa Fe) can sit on lofty thrones, we should know more about those whose hands weigh so heavily on the scales of justice.
In the next installment, the P.I. will name some of the players, who inhabit the halls of Antinomianism and the Theatre of the Absurd aqui en Taos. He will draw on a number of documents from the courts—and news reports—not to mention experience, to underscore motions to dismiss candidates from your consideration.
As Chaucer Henderson has said, “When you can’t get justice in the courts, you can try the case in the press (or online).”