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Freudian Slips

My mother, as a carefree young medical student at the U of Vienna, before the genocide.


There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.


― Ernest Hemingway, "For Whom the Bell Tolls"



My mother became a neo-Freudian psychoanalyst later in life, studying at the dining room table while my sister was still in her high chair and I was doing my homework. I remember the day she first mentioned Freudian slips. I thought she was talking about underwear, but no, it wasn't that. It took me a few years to understand that she thought she knew more than I knew about me because she could peer into my unconscious, via malaprops, which she called Freudian slips. What teenager wants an intrusive mother in her face? Rhetorical question. That said, I would have enjoyed her take on Tucker Carlson's obsession with testicles and testosterone. Let me try to understand: Because the All-American White Male is losing his potency, he has to air out his testicles on a beach in the Bahamas. Get some sun on them. Is that it? In one frame in Tucker's testosterone video, a  naked man on top of a pile of rocks exposes his genitals to a red light emanating from an air purifier to the sounds of a film score resembling  the 2001 Space Odyssey.


What say you Freudians among us?


Equally fascinating are the pundits who have not mentioned that this obsession is a wee bit weird, a wee bit idiotic. As the Roman Gladiator Decimus Maximus once said, "There is only one thing worse than an idiot: An idiot with a following."  Meaning that the idiot is a demagogue and like all demagogues, he is vulgar, racist, a whore among orators. Yet, when Tucker and/or Trump—and at times they seem interchangeable—spew their falsehoods, there is a flame inside them that attracts a huge following, even love letters from bereft women yet to be abused or raped. (Hitler was the recipient of many love letters.) These men live on spite and hate. They resemble mangy wolves scouring the dregs of society in the hinterland.  


America has a long tradition of demagogues on its air waves—radio before television, television before cable. I'm reminded of Father Charles Coughlin, who I studied in graduate school. I listened to his screeds at the Museum of Broadcasting as Philip Roth must have as he was writing The Plot Against America. Or, maybe Roth heard them live.  


Coughlin railed against the Jews as Hitler was murdering my family. Of the 120 million Americans alive at that time, 30 million listened to this demagogue on the radio. My family had just arrived in New York as refugees, and when they turned on the radio, they wondered if Hitler had arrived in America before them. Coughlin was finally shut down in 1942  by FDR's Attorney General, Francis Biddle, but it took America's entry into the war after Pearl Harbor to invoke the controversial 1917 Espionage Act to shut him down.


God Bless America and our First Amendment. The Europeans think we are nuts, that someone is shouting fire in the theater all the time, a loophole in our democracy, or a black hole?

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