Freud Today – Does He Still Matter?

Freud is food for indigestion. Indigestion! What a mistake. That’s not what I meant to say, which was “food for thought.” Are you sure about that? asks Freud. In fact, you have committed a Freudian slip, whereby you unintentionally reveal your true thoughts through a slip of the tongue. And you are not alone. Everyone does this sooner or later. It can’t be helped. In his Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud catalogues the instances. It makes amusing if discomfiting reading – the stumbles of the mind.

Sigmund Freud c. 1935

Not even the Washington elite are immune from such stumbles. At a lavish dinner party, Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush, started to talk about a recent encounter with her boss. “As I was telling my husb…as I was telling the President.” The slip, suggestive of an affection beyond the political, was the talk of the cocktail circuit for many days.

Yet speaking of Freud in terms of indigestion is not wide of the mark. That’s how many people feel when they first read him. His unsparing search of the unconscious turns up many items you would just as soon not know about. That’s his method. By removing the repressions that conceal your thoughts and desires, he lets you live more comfortably with yourself, no longer burdened with memories of past abuse, particularly from childhood. Freudian psychoanalysis is liberating, not only for the individual but also for society. After the trauma of the First World War, people were ready for the emotional release that Freud offered. His theories caught on in America more than anywhere else.

In fact, he didn’t much care for America – too egalitarian. He had a lofty view of his own role as leading humanity to the promised land of psychoanalysis much as Moses led the Jewish people from Egypt to Canaan. In fact, defying tradition, he identified Moses not as Jewish but as a gentile Egyptian, which was one iconoclastic act too many for his once adoring public. Enough of his theories of psychosexual development. They didn’t pan out and were scientifically invalid. He was overly concerned with self, said critics, especially the sexual self. And psychoanalysis didn’t seem to be of more help to the mentally disturbed than other kinds of treatment. Freudianism was a fad. Its time was up.

Moses by Michelangelo

Yet Freud persevered. He was aways open to change and refinement of theory. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he acknowledged that pleasure or happiness is not necessarily the main goal in life as he had once thought. He struggled to describe what he termed the death instinct in human beings, made all too vivid by the carnage of the First World War. He abhorred the resulting communism and was imperiled by Nazism.

There is something inherently aggressive in human life, he decided, regardless of circumstance or system. Love is not a solution since love for one group implies enmity toward another. Reality is a permanent “struggle between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction as it works itself out in the human species.” Freud says he is no prophet and cannot offer the consolation that everyone demands from the “wildest revolutionaries no less passionately than the most virtuous believers.” It’s not the stuff of lullaby. The warring instincts are within us all and we must choose. It’s not easy, but then neither is life. Civilization and its Discontents is Freud’s last disturbing word. With that he is finished …oops, a slip… he is forever.

The Last Supper and a Touch of Venice

As you pass along a main street in the border town of Douglas, you see a sign in a window: “The Last Supper.” You assume it’s telling you that this is the last time you will eat in Douglas or maybe that it’s the last time you will want to eat in Douglas. But neither is the case. It refers to the Biblical Last Supper when Christ and the twelve apostles dined together. Behind the window is an array of paintings and sculptures – 2,500 altogether – that depict that last gathering before the next day’s crucifixion and the birth of Christianity. The event is portrayed in astonishing variety by artists, plain and grand, from all over the world.

What is all this doing in dusty, sleepy Douglas? It was a momentary impulse, says collector Eric Braverman: “My gift to Douglas and the border, which get a bad rap.” True enough since so much attention is focused on drugs and immigration. This is a diversion and then some. Get your mind on the eternal. It was also an impulse – an epiphany – that started the collection in the first place. As a youngster, Braverman saw a life-like model of the Last Supper and couldn’t get it out of his mind – for decades as it turned out. Today he gets daily offers to add to his collection. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply.

Eric Braverman and several items of his vast collection

He’s not religious but there’s nothing unseemly or satirical about any of the works on hand. They are all properly devout in their own special ways. There’s a hint of motivation. Jewish himself, Braverman notes with a touch of pride that the figures in the depictions are Jewish about to abet the astounding creation of Christianity here on display in Douglas.

This is one of two main attractions in the town, a reason to make a perfectly safe trip there. Right across the street is the Gadsden Hotel, which looks as if it belongs In Venice. Within is an Italian marble staircase fit for a king or at least for famed guerrilla fighter Pancho Villa, who is said to have ridden his horse part way up. On either side are soaring marble columns reaching a ceiling of spectacular stained glass depicting desert scenes beyond. No one has to go to Europe to experience Old World Beauty.

Marble stairway where Pancho Villa rode part way up on his horse

What is it doing in Douglas? It was built in 1907 during the copper mining boom that brought wealth, fame and some notoriety to the town. Who says we can’t be as good as the snooty Europeans? The Gadsden Hotel will show them, and indeed it does. A series of managements has been struggling to be worthy of the beautiful building they occupy. Gadsden remains an awkward standout in a town of many empty buildings with little sign of renewal. A former Gadsden owner, Anel Lopez, says that can soon change. Out-of-state investors are showing an interest in the area and buying property. Now Parks and Recreation Manager, she and others are fashioning a tourist route that links Douglas with other nearby towns of western vintage and color that can spark a revival. There will be more to Douglas than even Gadsden and The Last Supper.

School children performing the Wizard of Oz in lobby of Gadsden hotel

Another Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., wants to be U.S. President. Aside from his famous family name, his career has been that of an environmentalist. If there were an Environmental President, he would be favored, a shoo-in. He has targeted polluters far and wide, on land and sea, saving rivers, parks, whales and drinking water with a blizzard of lawsuits, books and speeches. He spent a month in a Puerto Rican jail while protesting U.S. Naval weapons testing on the island of Vieques that killed protected species and hurt the local economy.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (photo by Gage Skidmore)

Fair enough, but does that qualify him for the give and take, the rough and tumble of politics? Protected species don’t vote. What a question! Politics is bred into the Kennedys. There’s no avoiding it. In many respects RFK, Jr., fits nicely into current Democratic Party politics. He’s alarmed by climate change. He wants fossil fuels replaced by renewable energy though natural gas can do for the interim. He opposes finding more oil by fracking. As an environmentalist, he is particularly concerned with the effects of pollution on the less privileged. He says that “polluters always choose the easy target of poverty.” He found that most hazardous waste dumps are in black communities with the largest in the south side of Chicago.

But on two major issues RFK stands athwart the current Democratic party. While President Biden urges on the Ukraine war to weaken Russia, RFK says as President he will end the war with a compromise acceptable to both sides. U.S. policy is too militarized in too many parts of the world, he says. Diplomacy and statecraft are needed to contend with today’s challenges. “We will bring the troops home. We will start the process of unwinding empire. We will stop racking up unpayable debt to fight one war after another. The military will return to its proper role of defending our country.”

United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy

In his book “The Real Anthony Fauci,” Kennedy attacks an icon of the Democrats who he claims has misled and impaired the health of Americans from his prominent U.S. Gov’t. perch. In collusion with the pharmaceutical companies he is supposed to regulate Fauci has imposed lockdowns for Covid that have proved more deadly than the disease and disparaged inexpensive treatment for Covid in favor of a highly profitable and dubious vaccine. With an annual five billion dollar budget Fauci can reward those who agree with him and punish those who do not. Kennedy’s passionately written, exhaustively documented book has been met with outrage by defenders of Fauci who dismiss the author as a conspiratorial anti-vaxxer.

President John F. Kennedy (photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House)

If RFK, Jr., should come closer to the Presidency or achieve it, he will have to come to terms with the assassination of the two Kennedys before him. Unlike the assassination of three previous U.S. Presidents whose killers and motives were not in doubt, the death of John Kennedy remains as contentious today as ever. Thousands of books and articles have charged one or another group with responsibility for the assassination, dismissing the conventional view of a lone gunman. About to emerge as the Democratic nominee in 1968 with a clear shot at the Presidency, Bobby knew he would finally have access to White House papers shedding light on the matter. It was not to be.

In turn, RFK, Jr., would face the same challenge – elements of a Deep State determined that he fail in his quest and not carry on any Kennedy agenda of transparency. This country owes the Kennedys – two leaders cut down in the prime of life and power to the detriment of the country they served. It’s not just a Kennedy who is being tested in the coming months. It’s also the country.

The U.S. – Warrior Nation

The U. S. has not been a particularly peaceful country. Aside from a devastating Civil War, it has been caught up In a number of others that almost always ended in victories with mission accomplished: freedom from British rule, westward and then overseas expansion at the expense of Mexico and Spain, overcoming German militarism in the First World War and Nazism in the Second, containing Stalinist Russian aggression in the Cold War leading to the regime’s ultimate collapse with only the Vietnam War a serious loss. It was always clear why we were fighting and what constituted victory.


Not so since 9/11. The U.S has been involved in one war after another, more than any other nation during this period with unclear goals and dismal outcomes. Some 900,000 people have been killed with immense damage to the Middle East and North Africa and 38 million refugees clamoring for admission to a weakened Europe. With the current prolonged war in Ukraine there’s no end in sight.  It’s time for an overdue review of these conflicts.

Every country – monarchist, autocratic, totalitarian, democratic – relies on a chosen few, a clique – to guide it through a crisis, e.g., war. That’s the way the world works at least since the Roman Republic tried two-man rule. The leader of the group in charge may be good – Augustus, Charlemagne, Bismarck, Lincoln – or not so good, even terrible – Nero, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin. In that case it’s up to the aggrieved country to remove him, which is not always easily done. There was no attempt to remove Stalin since he had killed almost everybody around him.

Emperor Nero

On a less draconian level, the so-called neoconservatives have dominated U.S foreign policy since 9/11. Capable, well organized with an instinct for the jugular, they have a special aim in view – the pre-eminence, not to say supremacy of the U.S. in world affairs. That requires a lot of military activity. Hence, the series of wars. But is that really in the U.S interest?  The U.S. was once considered a republic that would be true unto itself whatever the rest of the world may be doing – attentive to world affairs but not always  militarily involved in them.

The post- 9/11 wars got off to a bad start with the 2003 invasion of Iraq based completely on fabrications. Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein was said to have weapons of mass destruction and a role in the 9/ll attack neither of which was true. But in the resulting debacle no one was called to account. In fact, the neocons went on to promote and extend other wars – Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia – backed by kindred spirits in the media. Because of close ties to Israel, neocons are accused of wanting to destroy its enemies. But how does Israel or anybody benefit from a region in chaos?

It’s time for a replacement. There are competent strategists throughout the U.S. with no ax to grind who are currently walled out of influence by ideology. Let’s break down the barrier and let them in.

Drug Cartels in the U.S.

She hardly looks like a drug trafficker, but looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Joanne Marian Segovia, 64, a glamorous grandmotherly drug dealer, was recently arrested at her home in a gated community in San Jose, California. She had received some sixty shipments of illegal drugs, including lethal Fentanyl, from Hong Kong, Hungary, India and elsewhere that she in turn conveyed to cartel members for delivery and sale across the U.S. She got away with this for some years because she had been a police union director supposedly fighting the drugs she was profiting from. This is the nightmare of law enforcement – one pf their own gone bad.

Her neighbors were stunned. How could this friendly grandmother, always talking affectionately about her grandchildren, be so criminally involved? “She was the kind of person who would have chocolate cookies ready for the kids,” a close neighbor of Segovia told the New York Post. In fact, one of the drug packages she received was labeled “Chocolate Sweets.” The cartels are adept at finding the perfect cover. The DEA does its best to uncover such a ruse, but its annual budget is three billion dollars  compared to the near two hundred billion dollars spent so far on the war in Ukraine with a far distant border.

Across the continent in Providence, Rhode Island, Rafael Jimenez-Martinez was the center of drug distribution in the Northeast – plenty of Fentanyl and white powder cocaine for endless demand. Though he had been twice deported and served a five-year sentence for his activities, he was well supplied with drugs from California (Segovia, maybe? and seemed unstoppable. But he was not part of the Mexican setup where family loyalty served to protect members. He was working with dealers from the Dominican Republic, say investigators, and they want to turn a fast back as quickly as possible. Jimenez-Martinez was their man. No one was faster at picking up drugs, delivering and selling them. An also vulnerable to alert law enforcement.

He had taken other steps to avoid detection like dipping his fingertips in acid to burn off his fingerprints and assuming various aliases like Carlos, Ismael and Junior. He changed license plates according to where he was driving. But he was caught on wiretap complaining to cartel members about money. In June he was given a fifteen-year prison sentence. It was noted in court that he had delivered enough Fentanyl to wipe out the entire population of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

In contrast to the rest of the media the Louisville Courier Journal provides serious coverage of the drug cartels in both Mexico and the U.S. Jimenez-Martinez is typical. But much more attention, not to say action is needed. The current open border allows drugs and unknown people to pour into the country and also agents of the cartels who add to their extensive and underestimated network in the U.S. It is fast becoming a solid component of the country much to its detriment.

Taking On the Drug Cartels

More drugs than ever are crossing the U.S. Mexican border along with related violence usually directed at Mexicans but now involving Americans. Four were recently kidnapped by drug cartels in Mexico just over the border and two were killed. U.S. politicians, generally indifferent to the carnage in Mexico, reacted strongly to this attack on their own citizens and called for some kind of military action. Some Republican senators said they would introduce legislation allowing the deployment of U.S. troops in Mexico. Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr spoke for many: “The cartels hold Mexico in a python-like stranglehold. Our leadership is needed to help Mexico break free from this. We cannot accept a failed narco state on our border, providing sanctuary to narco terrorists preying on the American people.”

The tactics contemplated seemed somewhat vague. The U.S. military is skittish about another invasion and full-scale war. The cartels are well organized, heavily armed and know their terrain. The thought of trying to occupy a portion of Mexico after the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere gives pause. Former President Trump has urged firing missiles into fentanyl labs across the border, but the cartels can resort to others no doubt well hidden. U.S. intelligence on Mexico is sketch. The last U.S. incursion into Mexico serves as a kind of example. During the Mexican revolution of the early 1900’s, one of the violent participants, Pancho Villa, crossed the border to murder some Americans, cartel style. General John Pershing, subsequent victor of World War One, was sent into Mexico to catch Villa. While he eluded capture, Pershing destroyed most of his forces and then withdrew, making it clear that no more violence across the border would be tolerated until today’s invasion of drugs.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador blatantly denied his country has anything to do with Fentanyl and added that the drugs are an American problem. On this he has a point. If Americans were not consuming almost all their drugs, the cartels would not exist or at least be in very sorry shape. All the Americans would have to do is stop taking the drugs. But that seems unlikely considering the risk taking with even lethal Fentanyl. The alternative is closing the border which is now wide open. This can be done by using some forty thousand U.S. troops to seal the border. Unlike the present Border Patrol and National Guard they would not be limited in firing their weapons but could shoot first if necessary.

At present the cartels can quite freely cross the border and are becoming more adventurous in their activities. They may toss small children over the wall or they may be visibly directing drug traffic on the other side of the Rio-Grande border. In such cases, U.S. troops could take action and if necessary pursue the invaders into Mexico. But only so far. The message is clear – stay away. The aim is to stop the drugs and weaken the cartels, not demolish them. Leave that to the Mexican people who will take heart once they see the U.S acting decisively. Courage is not lacking in a people whose journalists are murdered in greater number than anywhere else on earth and yet continue to report on their oppressors. In time, stymied at the border and demoralized, the gangsters can be overthrown, and Mexico can once again become a normal country.

Purists will say the U.S. has no business carrying the fight to the cartels inside Mexico, a sovereign country. But that’s not what it is. As Bill Barr, among others, says, it’s a narco state, a criminal enterprise in the guise of a genuine country. This seems to baffle much of the media and the U.S. Government who have yet to provide a serious analysis of what’s really going on. We may finally get it as the  U.S. military, properly deployed, achieves a victory over the current greatest threat to the U.S.

A Mother’s Plea on Drugs

The common number for annual fentanyl deaths in the U.S. Is 100,000 – an impressive figure but still an abstraction that may not sink in. At a recent U.S. Congressional hearing, Rebecca Kiessling of Rochester Hills, Michigan, put flesh on these numbers by describing how her two sons Caleb, 20, and Kyler, 18, died of fentanyl that had been laced into the painkiller Percocet. They like many others, didn’t realize they were killing themselves. There was no warning of the mixture from the drug dealer.

Kiessling complained that the criminal received only an eight to fifteen year prison sentence for ending the lives of her sons. When is this crisis going to be taken seriously? she asked. The dead bodies from fentanyl are piling up in funeral homes. “If Chinese troops lined up along our border with weapons aimed at our people, you damn well would do something about it. A Chinese balloon comes across our country, no one dies but everyone is freaked out. This is war. Act on it.”

Members of congress who listened appeared concerned, but action is unlikely. The problem has been around for many years with little being done. The wealthy donors who keep the politicians in office don’t seem interested, and some may have connections to the enormously lucrative drug trade. The media displays the same indifference at a time when newspapers are in serious financial trouble. The Mexican drug cartels are on hand to provide relief for one and all.  At an Arizona state senate hearing, an investigator for the Harris/Thaler law firm offered 120 documents to show that forty public officials in Arizona had been bribed by the powerful Sinaloa cartel in Mexico anxious to keep the U.S. border open for its drugs. Republicans and Democrats alike expressed disbelief and outrage. Sinaloa didn’t comment.

The aftermath of Kiessling’s testimony was not encouraging. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said that the two boys might still be alive if President Bader had secured the border and stopped the flow of drug into the U.S. In turn, the President denied that he was responsible for the deaths. “That fentanyl they took came during the last (Trump) administration,” he said with something of a chuckle. “How dare you!” replied Kiessling. “Almost every Democrat on the committee offered their condolences You don’t even do that. You have to mock my pain.”  

The emotional exchange points up the severity of the problem. The genuine solution is for Americans to forgo their drugs, which would also eliminate the drug cartels. They sell almost entirely to the U .S. which alone keeps them in business. Without drugs their other crimes – extorting migrants to the U.S, sex trafficking, kidnapping – would hardly suffice. And their reach is increasing. They control with armed guards many thousands of illegal marijuana farms in California, Oregon and Wisconsin that undercut legitimate American growers and add to their astonishing profits. We don’t know how much they’re involved in local elections and government, but there are signs pointing to it. You took half of Mexico in the 1840’s war, they might say. Now we are taking it back in our own way.