The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Max Azzarello: ‘Just Another American Driven Insane by the Past Few Years’

Posted on | April 20, 2024 | Comments Off on Max Azzarello: ‘Just Another American Driven Insane by the Past Few Years’

Start a f**king revolution!
Start a f**king revolution!
Start a f**king revolution!
You’ve got nothing to lose!

Max Azzarello, January 10, 2024
(sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”)

Well, Max, maybe you “had nothing to lose,” before you set yourself on fire outside the Trump trial in New York City, but the rest of us generally do have something to lose. We have our sanity, for example, and we’re not going to risk that by running down the rathole of paranoia that led you to believe we’re threatened by “an apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

Many thanks to Sasha Stone for doing a “deep dive on Azzarello” and supplying the summary quote in the headline. Sasha’s main point is that Azzarello is not some kind of “right-wing extremist,” but is in fact the polar opposite. He was a “Bernie Bro,” who sported an “Eat the Rich” T-shirt to express his support for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. If you read his “manifesto,” you’ll see that a lot of his rhetoric is about Bill and HIllary Clinton being essentially the same as Republicans, so that, in his words, “the Democrat vs. Republican division has been entirely manufactured,” like fake villains in pro wrestling.

This is a common theme of extremists, both left and right, that the two-party system is essentially phony, that leaders of both parties are “sold out” to the same set of wealthy corporate donors. This extremist claim is persuasive because . . . Well, it’s basically true. Anyone with two eyes and a brain can see how the Clintons have gotten rich from politics while claiming to represent the interests of “working families.” And any Republican could point to figures on our side of the aisle (e.g., Mitch McConnell) who seem to care more about their corporate donors than they do about the voters who elected them. But however corrupt and phony our leaders may be, we do not surrender to despair.

Despair is the essence of the kind of radicalism that leads people to engage in suicidal gestures (Azzarello died late Friday night). And despite my general cynicism about politics, I consider it my duty to remain hopeful, never forgetting these words:

“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
Robert E. Lee, 1870

Think about what Lee had lived through, and the discouraging situation of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Contemplate the contrast between that desolate time and our own era of widespread affluence and opportunity, then perhaps you can try to explain why we should feel hopeless now, but don’t expect to persuade me.

You know, I hear a lot about how bad young people have it nowadays, but when I look at my own kids, they’re doing fine. What was Max Azzarello’s problem, other than his enthusiasm for “revolution”? He was 37 years old and got his undergraduate degree in anthropology and public policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009, then got a master’s degree in city and regional planning in Rutgers University in New Jersey in 2012. UNC-Chapel Hill is rather prestigious — it requires a high SAT and top grades for admission — and Azzarello should have had very nice career prospects, but something went wrong:

Associates of Azzarello told The Daily Beast that he’d “gone a little haywire” in recent years, with his posts to Facebook growing more and more unhinged.
“[He is] a very personable guy, not an idiot when you’re sitting around talking with him, but over the course of the last few years he’s become more and more involved with the thought process that everything is a conspiracy against the common person,” his former landlord, Larry Altman, told The Daily Beast. “Authority is not doing anything to help you.”
Despite him showing signs of going off the rails, Altman added that Azzarello gave no indication he might do something as radical as setting himself ablaze.
“I would find it difficult to believe he was burning himself because he didn’t like Trump,” Altman said. “He might be burning himself because he doesn’t like authority in general and maybe he was feeling the trial was a show trial .. I don’t know. I can’t even imagine him going that far.”
“He has been unwell,” said one family friend, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. They said Azzarello was living in St. Augustine and working as a consultant but previously lived in New York. “He was very intelligent and a very strong-willed person who was extremely kind. He was a kind guy. He had a big heart. He just battled with some mental illness.”

“Some mental illness,” no doubt similar to the insanity that inspired Jew-hater Aaron Bushnell to self-immolate in February, or that inspired James Hodgkinson to open fire on Republicans practicing for the annual congressional baseball game in 2017. It is not politics, per se, that drives these people crazy, but rather the despair caused by their inability to bring about whatever idiotic “ideal” they’re obsessed with. They believe themselves to be “on the right side of history,” and see the world going in what they consider to be the wrong direction, and become frustrated by their own powerlessness. They aspire to be important, to achieve some kind of historical notoriety, and thus feel compelled to do something — a symbolic gesture — that will attract widespread attention.

Let’s face it, dear reader: The whole world has gone crazy, except for me and you, and I’m not too sure about you. All things considered, few of my friends expected me to become The Last Sane Man in America, but nevertheless, here I am, clinging tightly to reality, while watching everybody else go spiraling off into craziness. The key to staying sane amid the pervasive lunacy is to ignore politics as much as possible. The endless drama of the 24/7 news cycle, piped into your brain via cable TV and social media, is a formula for psychosis. Turn off the TV, find a hobby, something to distract yourself from the Permanent Crisis, and also, while you’re at it, maybe hit a blogger’s tip jar once in a while, so that I can buy some fireworks. There’s nothing wrong with me that can’t be cured by buying a few cases of fireworks and fusing together a big aerial bombardment for the Fourth of July. But I digress . . .

Have I mentioned lately that Crazy People Are Dangerous? That’s pretty important to remember, although perhaps nothing is more important than the Five Most Important Words in the English Language:



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