Embracing Stupid

I’m hearing from some folks about Brexit and by and large what I’m hearing says this is a calamity.  The idiots “broke the U.K.”

There were plenty of people explaining what would likely happen if they did this, but hey, what do experts know?

Well, quite a lot, actually, but that fact alone makes them unpalatable to the voters who actually cast a Leave vote.  We see precisely that kind of—what would we call it?—“learning fatigue” here.  Who do you think supports Trump?  People who know little or all the most useless things when it comes to politics and economics and quite adamantly do not want to know, because knowing would contradict the fantasy world in which they stand forth at weekend keggers loudly proclaiming positions that might hold some value in a Game of Thrones episode, but since the folks they’re holding forth to know just as little or less, no one challenges them and they feel justified in clinging to their ignorance.

This is the same crowd whose collective eyes glaze over when you start talking about the mechanisms of trade deals, the dynamics of boom-and-bust cycles, or the pathology of bigotry.  People who can’t seem to think outside of very broad categories (i.e. Radical Islamists are Muslims therefore all Muslims want to kill us) and feel empowered whenever someone gets up on a podium and tells them they’re right to be terrified of boogeymen.

So a lot of people, and by the demographics a majority of older British voters, decided that leaving the EU is the same as getting rid of the immigration problem (and somehow they’ll be safer, even though they ought to know better because of past history, namely the IRA, but they at least were white) and that all their money, which will now disappear at an even greater rate because of the catch-up homegrown institutions will have to do to replace EU systems (either that or just let people die, which may happen anyway), will magically reappear in their private bank accounts, and anyway they didn’t understand a lot about what was going in Greece much less down in the Levant and they’d rather not know, as if removing themselves from a source of information somehow eliminates the problem.

Look, knowing things is hard.  Not only is it a bit of work to find out in the first place, but it can be difficult to know what to do with what you’ve learned, and often enough knowledge has the consequence of making you feel responsible.

And that, I think, is where much of the problem is.  People are past exhausted being told to give a damn.  And the less they know, the easier it is to be confident in dismissing problems that don’t seem to have anything to do with them.

But of course, problems always have something to do with you.  Maybe not directly or even tomorrow, but somewhat and eventually, and left ignored will grow.

Isolation is a guarantee of eventual extinction.

I’ll let that sit out there for a while.  More later.  But think about it.

Isolation is a guarantee of eventual extinction.

Come Again?

The evangelical embrace of Donald Trump is, to my mind, one of the most bizarre aspects of this election cycle.  The pretzel logic by which these endorsements come defies Oedipus.   If there had been any doubt before that the Christian Right (which is in substance neither) is dedicated to any program that will see the established order overturned to make room for their brand of idiocracy, this would be it.

Because the only way this makes sense is to see Trump as the prophesied  Anti-christ who will bring about the Apocalypse and prepare the way for His return.  Back when Bush was in the oval office, it came out that a umber of “advisors” were pushing his Middle East campaigns because it comported with their view of biblical fate.  Whether Bush himself bought into this is a matter of conjecture, but some of the people whispering in his ear did.

So whatever the evangelical right claims to believe about Trump, on its face  they can only hope to gain one thing—the demise of the secular state, either through mismanagement, revolution, or the intervention of heavenly hosts.  Trump, if his rhetoric is to be believed, will bring a wrecking ball to the office of president and, lo, chaos shall follow.

Jerry Falwell must be grinning in his grave.

I listened this morning to such a booster on NPR describe in glowing terms how he “knows” Trump and sees a man ready for repentance.  Wouldn’t that be a feather in their cap, to convert a man like this?  And his serious ineptitude is a bonus.  This is a flawed, fallen soul who will fail and in failing come to the lord and all these sycophants will be waiting with prayers and possibly militias behind them to move into the gap left behind by broken institutions.  Trump, they must imagine, will preside over the end of the secular United States, thus bringing on the Last Days and the salvation of the world!

Because such people say “Jesus” every third or fourth sentence, people are loathe to see them for the empty suits they are.  Well, some people.  I suspect most people find them…odious.  But it’s hard sometimes to condemn the mouthpiece without being seen to condemn the apparent message.

On the other hand, if, as might be possible, Trump has been playing the part of the Big Guy in the ultimate reality show, and is doing all this in order to bring the vermin out of the woodwork and completely disrupt the Fundie poison that has been sickening our republic since Reagan brought the Moral Majority into mainstream politics, then these fatuous rubes are playing into his hands with the wide-eyed fecklessness of a kid at Christmas, participating in what could be their ultimate loss of any political credibility.  Trump is making them all look like the fools they seem unable to understand.

Moderate Republicans, if any actually remain in the Party, have been scratching themselves, trying to get the funk off, seeing what is nothing less than the distillation of everything the GOP has been moving toward, supporting, and embracing since 1979 rise up out the swamp and shamble toward the convention.  Because of the Tea Party, because of the Christian Right, because of the supposed constitution fundamentalists—because, really, all these elements have been bought and paid for by the moneyed interests who would love to see the federal government either completely emasculated or safely conjoined to Wall Street—and the unholy growth of the thing Eisenhower warned us about back in 1960, the GOP is a caricature of what it once was.  It has become a haven for the intolerant, the small-minded, the regressive, the xenophobic.  Perversely, I think, not because they actually hate but because protecting the rights of the marginalized, the other, the outgroup requires a strong government dedicated to civil rights.  And they have set themselves in opposition to a strong government purely because it is strong.

And the Religious Right has cheered them on because they see, whether admitted or not, a strong government as a barrier to their preferred template for the country.  If the government says you may not discriminate against anyone based on their religion—or lack thereof—then they have no real power to aggressively convert.  When you let people make up their own minds, many, maybe most, will do things you just don’t like.

It’s been a close-run thing for them all this time.  They had to couch their intentions in rhetoric that played well to an audience not wholly sympathetic.  They couldn’t just come right out and say what they wanted.

Till now.  They think they have their shot.  Trump’s their guy.  So the gloves are coming off.

I think they’re in for a serious shock.

Phobic Identity

Here’s a the thing.  If you need someone to be in some way “less” than you in order for you to feel good—or even adequate—about yourself, you have a problem.  It’s not their problem, it’s yours.

This “pastor” who spewed all over Twitter that we shouldn’t feel bad about the Orlando killings because they were “perverts” is a prime example.  If he’s really a pastor, a religious leader, there is no reason for him to say any of that unless he’s just trying to assert superiority.  Which is entirely not the point of Christianity, as I understand it.  The point is to embrace the commonalities among people, not sort them out into boxes labeled “Preferred Types” and “Types To Be Condemned.”  No, he’s just indulging in bolstering a shaky self-image by dumping his own head full of crap on a group he finds personally—

What?  Offensive? Incomprehensible? Or simply indifferent to his beliefs.

But, then, how would he know?

People who try to make themselves feel better by denigrating others have always been among us but they have never been so able to broadcast their inadequacies so loudly and regularly and they have found each other and formed support groups. I can’t imagine a gloomier or, frankly, duller forum.

I have found that prejudice rarely survives real knowledge.  Actually knowing someone makes it very difficult to shove them into a category and hate “just because” they are a particular “type.”  Oh, it’s possible.  I have heard all manner of tortured rationalization to continue hating a group while embracing individuals from that group as friends.  But that requires, I think, a profound myopia. (And I have to wonder how much of a “friend” they can be.)  Generally, once you know someone, I believe it becomes harder and harder to categorically judge and hate them and those like them.

Which is why much of this hatred is based on ignorance.

But a particular kind of ignorance, one based on identity.

After 9/11 we saw people who suggested we learn more about Islam condemned as some species of traitor.  How dare you suggest we learn something about this group that just hurt us so badly!  How dare you suggest that we can’t programmatically cast all of them into the same box and deal with our pain by blaming them all and hating them!  How dare you suggest that more knowledge will benefit us!

It was a spasm of national smallness.  “I know who the enemy is, don’t tell me more about him or I might stop hating him.”

Reality is always more complicated.

People who feel squeezed by circumstance, unable often by virtue of their own ignorance to make the decisions necessary to get themselves out of their own cesspools of anger and frustration, seem to contract into themselves and put up a wall to keep out any ideas or facts that might tell them they are in error.  They end up hating, many of them, and you see it all over, with signs that are not only wrong-headed but in too many cases suggestive of poor education, illiteracy, and parochialisms that reinforce a siege mentality that grows daily more dense and difficult to penetrate.

No, sir or madam, “they” are not the problem.  There are conditions and circumstances that make for a toxic situation and someone has told you that “they” are the cause, the consequence, and the catalyst, all rolled into one, and if we can just be rid of “them” then you will stop being afraid.  Whoever told you that lied to you, probably because in so doing they have made themselves feel (falsely) more in control of their situation or they have a power agenda that depends on you buying into the lie.  It certainly depends on you never asking deeper questions.  Easier to just target and hate.  There, the shots have been fired, the bodies are on the floor, “they” have been dealt a blow.

Then why don’t you feel any safer?  Why can’t you get past the hate?

Why must we now shift aim to yet another group you know nothing about except that they don’t look or sound or act like you?

Too many people in this country harbor and nurture identity hatreds—we know who we are because we hate those people over there, who are different.

While you’re feeding on that, someone has been stealing your soul to use for purposes you’re too busy hating gays or Muslims or socialists or single parents or blacks or Latinos or Asians or Liberals or Democrats or anyone who knows something you don’t know or has an education or a vocabulary or anyone who reads or supports birth control or feminists or accepts evolution or advocates tolerance or the group of the day to notice.

On some level, along the way, inside, you are one or more of these very things. Hate them, you hate yourself.  And if by so doing you define who you are, then you have created for yourself a prison, with bars on the inside, through which to look and resent a world of which you have little understanding.  Because you refuse to.

And that pastor?  He’s one of the wardens.

The Anxiety of Innocence

I have too many reactions to what has occurred in Orlando. They clamor for attention, shove each other aside, roil and ripple. Fifty dead, and why?

Because a man decided, on his own, to “do something” about homosexuals.

Why?

I don’t think anyone will ever have an satisfactory answer to that, but it would seem to stem from the same impulse that drives certain men to beat their wives, to terrorize their children, to post hate-filled screeds on social media, and then, once they have done all these terrible things, go arm themselves in anticipation of the inevitable storm troopers they expect to come silence them.

And when those storm troopers do not show up?

They have the weapons, they might as well carry the fight to the enemy.

An enemy they have created, for themselves, to give shape to the loathing inside that dominates all their waking hours.

It must.  Everyone has a bad day, gets up with an antisocial cloud around them, from time to time. Snapping and snarling, nothing working right, stumbling through interactions that do nothing but abrade.

But we don’t kill people as a result. We solve the problem, get some sleep, be with friends, and the mood or whatever passes.  To get anywhere close to this kind of insane reaction, you’d have to live with the brooding ugliness day in and day out, for months or years, until you can’t even see other people anymore, only the threat they represent.  Until you can’t carry it anymore and you have to Do Something.

But where does that come from?

That someone can get to this point does not dismay me.  It saddens me.

That others goad him on, cheer him, then in cowardly support behind the anonymity of a faceless mod fistpump the air when the bodies have dropped—that enrages me.

One post I saw applauding his actions was glad that he’d “taken out” the perverts.

It’s that question of innocence that seems to underlay so much of this.  Protecting the innocent, dealing with the guilty.  Somewhere back in the 1980s Reagan dropped a remark, late in his presidency, about AIDS victims after visiting a hospital ward with infants and children:  he didn’t know “innocent” people could die from this disease.

Innocent.

We hear this in so much.  Innocent people.

Who are they?  Why aren’t we all?

More to the point: who the hell are you to say who is or is not?

We feed on hatred, vampirically. It drips, intravenously, daily. Most of us seem immune to the worst effects, but some embrace it.

Omar Mateen thought They were out to get him. They must have been, he hated them, it only makes sense that they hate him back.  And we helped him do the hating, every microcerebral homophobic lapel-pin patriot goading him on, ranting about the state of the country, posturing and pissing in the ocean, venting frustration as if it were a holy cause, listening to professional demagogues who peddle bigotry to meet their bottom-line who delight in the slaughter because it makes their irrational squeelings seem somehow prophetic, and then the rest of us who are polite or incapable of separating common sense from ideology or want to believe we do not enable the broken and malign, who are so terrified of losing a presumed right that we hand over our humanity in exchange for a safety we refuse to believe can be had by better means.

Because when our bitter uncle or our next-door neighbor starts ranting about how They are ruining the country, we demure, we don’t want to make a scene, we don’t want to wreck the day. Worse, we may not be so certain they’re wrong, because who, after all, among us is innocent? Maybe…maybe…it might be…well, I don’t know…everyone is entitled to their opinion…who am I…?

And then one day we wake to the news that the monster has fed.  We’re shocked.  We condemn.  But maybe we helped.  Not directly. No, we didn’t give him the gun or send him to the address or—

We just never challenged the sickness.

Make America…Again

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican candidate.  One may wonder how things have gotten to this, but it’s not that hard to understand, just hard to accept.

There is a good side to this.  Ted Cruz will not be the next president.  We may see him try again, but not this time.  All the rest of the slate that began last year has fallen by the wayside and rarely have we seen a scarier bunch of potentials.  It’s not even so much their policies as that they seemed so incredibly unintelligent and uninformed.

But this is America and if it’s one thing we have plenty of it is unintelligent and uniformed people.  Someone has to represent them, I suppose.

Not that Trump is any better.  In fact, he’s become representative of the fact that for some people the less substantive content you put out there, the more you’re liked.

His tag line has been Make America Great Again.

I hate that line.  We’ve seen it before, it’s not like Trump is doing anything original here, but it doesn’t matter who uses it, I find it offensive.

Not, for anyone who might challenge me, because I wish my country not be great, but because that line is a fraud.

First, it assumes we’re not.  Great, that is.  In order to make that claim you have to define what you mean by Great. Right there we run into a problem.  Great by what metric?  According to who?  In what way?  Define your terms.  What do you mean when you suggest that we are not great?

And you then run into the million-issue problem.  What I might mean by the term is not what you mean.  And what you mean might be cause for me to reject that definition.

But set that aside for the moment.  Assume your terms.  Next, you have to explain why we are no longer that.  Why aren’t we great, even according to your values?

Then look around and see how true it is, what you believe.  Don’t rely on that guy behind the podium to tell you what’s wrong, go see for yourself.  If you know how to google at all, do some research.  Or go to some community center meetings.  Or, for the love of the future, read something other than the usual feel-good screed.  Stop watching Fox news.

And get some perspective.  History, oft-neglected and painfully necessary, goes a long way to bleeding off the panic of current-affair myopia.

But I suspect the people really supporting Trump will not do that.  If it was in them to do so, they would not be supporting him.  They would recognize the jingoism, the empty emotionalism, the patriotic deceptiveness.  But it also means they have no idea what he’s actually saying that is getting them so pumped.

Replace one word in his tagline and it makes perfect sense.  He’s not challenging his base to Make America Great Again, he’s challenging them to Make America White Again.

Several years ago I wrote an essay about the blowback on the part of the extreme Right against social change.  I asked what it is these people are so frightened of and I suggested that what really bothers them is that they don’t like the way their country looks anymore.  It’s pretty much that simple.  They don’t like gay people living right out in the open, they don’t like women holding certain jobs and having their own lives, they don’t like the fashions, the food, and they certainly don’t like the banners raised protesting what they never thought were such bad things—like big banks, segregation, and constant war.

They certainly don’t like the complexion of the country these last few decades.  It’s why they often can’t tell the difference between a citizen and a terrorist when their skin color or choice of attire is at odds with what they think America ought to look like.

I’m simplifying, of course, but only in the details.  As individuals, everyone has their own trigger for intolerance.  But when you look at Trump’s rhetoric and the things he gets cheered about and the reactions of his fans, it’s fairly clear that, however one might dress that pig up in pseudo-intellectual drag, it comes down to white people scared of colored people, be they Mexicans, Syrians, Asians, Africans, or Native Americans.

So Making America Great Again seems to be code for making things so we don’t have to pay any attention to Other People—their rights, their cultures, their privileges, their needs, or how they might have reasonable grievances against Business-As-Usual Americanism.  It’s code for trying to make the country resemble what we think it was like just after World War II, with Frederick March coming home to the wife and the picket fence.

You may think I’m being facetious, but I’m not.  As Tom Brokaw showed us, there is a Greatest Generation aspect to that entire period.  It was one time in our whole history when we seemed to be all on the same page and everyone pulled together and things were simple and when the War was over we were “blessed” with an explosive economy and just gushing oodles of righteous purpose.  WWII and the Fifties are this monumental epoch that we worship, idolize, and compare ourselves to constantly.  If only we could return to those days, when everything was so simple and we knew who we were.

That is the image, I believe, intended by all the politicians who use that line and accepted by all the people who swallow it and follow along.

There was something special about that era.

But we can’t have it anymore.  We aren’t those people, the world is not that place anymore, and things aren’t like they used to be.

In short, we have to find a new standard for Great.  That one was used and belongs to another time.  And forcing the country into some kind of mold so it kinda sorta resembles that just because the future frightens you is, well, infantile.

Besides, it wasn’t all that great then, either.  It was just that certain issues were so big as to dwarf the other things that needed fixing.  We were segregated, civil rights were not equally distributed or accepted, many women lacked the opportunity to be their own selves, and poverty still clung to vast areas,mainly in the South.  We had problems, some of them the same ones we have now.

Things aren’t like they were in the “good ol’ days”—and they never were.

But myth has momentum (and creates inertia) and we take from the past what we need to dream a new future.  That future, no matter what, will be different and many people will be afraid of it, no matter how shiny it looks.

You can’t maintain a civilization based on fear of change.  Change happens whether we want it to or not.  We have one choice—be part of it or try to stop it.  If we’re part of it, we can help shape it.  If we try to stop it, we will be run over and forgotten.

As far as I’m concerned, what’s great about this country is that we can, if we want, make a wonderful and wonder-filled future.  We’re not bereft of talent and imagination or resources.  We have everything we need to build a really cool tomorrow.  What makes America Great is what has always made it great—the potential of its people.  I get up in the morning and I can live and work with great people.  I can find and enjoy great art, music, I can eat well, I can think crazy thoughts and sometimes do something amazing because that’s the heritage I choose to recognize.  In that sense, we don’t need to be made Great Again—we are, have been, and will be.

But some people seem to believe that greatness is measured by military strength, social conformism, high-minded bigotry, and constant paeons to nationalistic bombast.  They believe it’s us bullying the rest of the world and telling poor people to just get a job.  It’s size and influence and the ability to order other countries around.  It’s a willingness to reach for a gun at the first hiccup in diplomacy.  And it’s inculcated in nurturing a wealthy class that has no regard for anyone else anywhere else as long as the GDP keeps going up, in spite of the consequences to the environment and working people.

That’s not greatness.  That’s just size.  And arrogance.

So I’m not inclined to accept Mr. Trump’s challenge, because on the one hand it’s without meaning to me.  On the other, I’m not sure we could survive being that great.

 

Power Hypocrisy

My father worked with a man once who made a big deal out his religious conviction regarding abortion and birth control, roundly condemning both. He based this on his self-professed Catholicism.  It evidently got to the point where weekly there would be a virtual sermon at lunch time on the evils of promiscuity and the horror of contraception.  Finally, my father had had enough.

“How long have you been married, Bill?” my dad asked.

“Fourteen years,” the man responded proudly.

“How many kids do you have?”

“Three.”

“Three? Where are the other eleven?”

The point was made—publicly, in front of several co-workers—and the sermons ended.

Had anyone suggested to this man that the state should have a right to knock on his door, request records of his sexual activity, and then, warrant in hand, search his house for condoms, and upon finding them indict him for wanton disregard for life, he would have been horrified.  More than that, he would not have taken it seriously.  And yet when pronouncing on the should-haves and oughts of other peoples’ private lives, it never occurred to him that what he prescribed would necessarily include him along with some unintended consequences.

It’s never about the person doing the condemning, it’s always about Other People.  There is evidence showing that a goodly percentage of the women dutifully picketing abortion providers end up in those clinics, availing themselves of the very option they then resume trying to deny every other woman.  The mirror fails to show them the nature of their hypocrisy.  They prefer to be seen railing against something they feel is evil rather than sit down and do the hard work of looking inside and understanding that this thing has nothing to do with them—and everything to do with them.

Among people who often stridently take the position that None Of Your Damn Business is the unwritten law of personal liberty in this country, it is amazing how many of them assume this—and this alone, really—is very much their damn business, when of all the things that might be this one surely isn’t.

We’re seeing a spate of anti-choice legislation in states across the country right now.  Judging by the reaction to large numbers of Americans, these are not as popular as the legislators apparently assume they are, and will cost them.  It makes no sense really…

Unless they are actually thinking longterm and assume that it will be harder for their replacements to repeal these laws because they won’t want to appear unchristian or immoral or, gawd forbid, Progressive.  The same with the so-called religious liberty bills passing in the South.  These are traps, perhaps, cudgels in waiting to beat up on any politician with the temerity to suggest they be repealed.  If so, I think the legislators passing these monstrosities are even dumber than they seem to be.

But it’s all about appearances, isn’t it?  Things don’t get done because people are afraid to look a certain way.  In the film Kinsey about the sex taxonomist Alfred Kinsey there is a scene where Kinsey, desperate for funding, is appealing to a millionaire for support.  The millionaire is clearly in his sixties, maybe seventies, and has at his side a young wife, at most in her early thirties.  This aged and privileged sybarite refuses Kinsey’s plea because “If I do that, people will think I support sex.”

A beat. Look at the young bride. Another beat. Look at the ridiculous man afraid of what people might think. Wait another beat. Realize that “people” really would react that way, even while pursuing sex with all the ardor nature has given them, and denying that they approve the act for anyone else.

But really, it’s None Of Anyone Else’s Damn Business and it’s about time we stopped all the posing and posturing about this.  Before those ominous men with warrants start showing up at your house looking for those other eleven kids.

 

 

And Finally

A short bit here.  Donald Trump came out—finally—and said what must be in the back of the minds of most of the hard-core religious fundie contingent of the GOP, that women who get abortions ought to be punished.

It doesn’t matter that he backpedaled not four hours later and shifted it to doctors, it matters that someone at this level of politics finally said it.  Out loud.  For everyone to hear.  If you criminalize abortion, it just naturally follows that some form of punishment should be involved.  That’s logical, right?

But very quickly, two of the largest anti-abortion organizations came out in opposition to this, saying “No no no, we don’t wish to entertain any ideas about punishing women who opt for abortions.”  I listened to one on NPR this morning going through ethical contortions about victimhood, which I gather means they perceive unwanted pregnancy itself as the result of women being victims and it would not be right to further victimize them for, basically, breaking the law should they, under a criminalized regime, opt to abort their pregnancies.  Which in some ways is correct, but in so many other ways just misses the point.  She also went on about the thousands of willing volunteers standing by to help these women once they have the baby.  Which is great, I suppose, but again it misses a very large point and borders on the disingenuous.  It’s like saying, “We’ll be there for you when you see your appendicitis through, don’t worry.”

Because for many women that’s roughly the equivalence.  We’re talking about a condition they do not wish to be in.

Even more, the whole victim thing smells of a particular kind of slut shaming.  “Oh you poor thing, you gave in and had sex, didn’t you?  Well, it’s all right, you didn’t know any better, we’ll help you be a decent person now.”

But back to Trump.  He said it.  It’s been hovering out there all along.  If it’s illegal, then what are the penalties.

A few years back some people did spot interviews with picketers at clinics, asking them the same question—what kind of penalty should there be—and the question was consistently dodged.  They didn’t want to talk about that.  I wrote about it.  At the time I said it was quite obvious why.  What they want more than anything is for abortion to simply go away.  If you attach penalties, it never will.  It will be in the courts then, constantly, until one day the pendulum swings the other way and suddenly abortion will not only be legal again but we’ll have laws clearly protecting the individual right to one’s own body and full say in its uses.  Penalties will put it back in play in the courts.

And frankly they will lose.

They will lose because, to state it again, this issue is not about fetuses but about sex.  If the concern were to reduce abortions, then the concomitant campaign against contraception and comprehensive sex education makes no sense. We know how this works, we have evidence.  Abstinence only sex ed does not work.  It is a dismal failure.  We know this, it is not up to debate.  Comprehensive sex education combined with clinics and contraceptive availability shows dramatic reductions in unwanted pregnancy and, thus, abortions.  We know this, it is not rocket science.

So why won’t the so-called pro-life movement support such things?

They have excuses of course, but basically they are waging war against sex.  They can’t seem to abide the idea that women have a right to their own sexuality.  They can’t quite get past the conviction that sex is solely for procreation, even though obviously, possibly even for them, it is not.

But back to Trump again.  He said it. Put it out there.  The genie, as it were, is out of the bottle.

And it will have to be discussed.  And in so discussing it, the underlying realities of the GOP platform will be laid bare.  No hiding.

Trump may or may not be serious about these positions, who can say, but one thing is certain:  he is a berserker.  He is tearing the curtains down in the Great Hall of Oz so we can all see the man working the levers.  He has said nothing which is inconsistent with any Republican position for the last umpteen years.  They’re afraid of him because they all know they have to soft sell this stuff, because stated bluntly like this it sounds crazy.  But they can’t just dismiss him without repudiating the very policies and beliefs he has based his own rhetoric on.  In other words, now that the beast is all naked, slathering and snarling, before us, in order to get away from it they have to stop being Republicans.  At least, as the party is currently formulated.

And he backpedals just like any of them have done in the past.  Run on a hot-button issue and once in office try to do nothing about it, even reformulate the position in order to look reasonable.

We are right to be afraid of this man, not for what he is but for the slack-brained, adrenalized, shambling, violence-hungry bigots who follow him.  He has brought them out onto the streets for all to see.  They are angry and misinformed and intolerant and frightened and he has given them a stage.  We have, some of us, been trying to reason with this side of our culture for a long time, convinced that surely they cannot be as bereft of the capacity to deal with reality as they seem to be.  Now we know.

And the GOP knows it, too.  Why do you think they don’t want open carry allowed at the national convention?

 

Common Sense vs Common Crap

This will be brief.  I just saw another of those worthless “memes” comparing capitalism to socialism, this time with regards to military chest-pounding.  Why do “socialist” countries feel it necessary to “parade” their missiles down major avenues* if socialism is such a warm, cuddly, wonderful thing, while capitalism is supposed to be such a brutal, anti-human thing?

And of course, once the comments fly, the “socialist” country held up as example of this is…The Soviet Union.  Which for one thing doesn’t exist anymore, but for another is an example of how labels seem to hold sway over reason too much of the time.

The problem here is that with an avowed socialist in the presidential race, people who oppose him are reaching for any comparison that will make his proposals look horrific.  It’s a failure on the part of those who believe such memes to stop acting like rabbits and use their brains.  So we keep getting treated to these absurd talking points that suggest that under socialism we would come to be just like the former Soviet Union.

How stupid are we?

You find yourself, however, in order to refute the comparison, having to go back and reinvent fire, do the job that ought to have been done in grade school and high school in history and civics classes (oh, wait, we don’t teach civics anymore, do we?) to bring the purveyor of such nonsense up to speed with reality.

I’m not going to do that.  What I’m going to say here is that labels, for either side, explain nothing, but because they are so easy to apply and seem to explain things by association, a lot of people feel they don’t actually have to know anything about the subjects being poorly covered by them.

The former Soviet Union was first and foremost a dictatorship, or, to be a bit more precise, a totalitarian regime.  It used certain socialist ideas as tools internally, but any real analysis shows that it could not be described as a socialist state.  It was not, for one thing, a democracy, and a major aspect of socialism is based on democratic institutions, of which they had none.  Citizens were ruled, they were accountable to a small cadre of functionaries who were not conversely accountable to them.  Law was by decree and the security state held all the power.

This is not socialism.  Just as what Hitler wrought was not—functionally—socialism.  Fascism and Socialism are very different.  But of course, even back then, they understood the power of labels, so they called themselves something they were not and pushed that image and suppressed anyone who said “Wait, that’s not right.”

But even more than that, these things are systems.  They are constructs.  Capitalism is a construct.  It was a made thing, it is an artifice now.  Which means that it is a tool and ought to do as we wish.  So is socialism.  Tools.  We can set limits on both, use them, even combine them into forms that serve our purpose.

That we fail repeatedly to understand that is the largest single problem in our political reality.  And we are kept from understanding that by a crippled educational system and the repeated and deceptive use of labels that even as they purport to inform us and give us some power merely make us less likely to look past them and figure out what the reality is.

Here is the conundrum of our current age.

The benefactor of the current system, known euphemistically as The 1%, are invested in keeping that system in  place.  They do this by distorting government.  The distortion is that they have made it so the government sees them as their primary constituency.

Government therefore fails to serve the rest of us.  We consequently blame it.  Some of us correctly identify the problem and accuse government of being a tool of the 1%.

The solution is shown to be to strip government of its powers to facilitate the desires of the 1%.+

The 1% see this and by other avenues feed us the idea that government alone is the problem and in order to set things right we must take away its ability to function.

In reality, the only tool we the people have to correct the distortion is through government.  Instead of stripping of power, we should be using it in order to correct the systemic distortion.

Government is caught in the middle.  It’s a tool and can only do what it is tasked to do.  If we 99% believe it is at fault and tear it down, the 1% will have no barrier to their continued misuse of capitalist systems.  But we’ve been fed the canard that the government is entirely on their side and is the sole reason for the dysfunction.

Certain corrections to the distortion are based on socialist concepts.  But we’ve been told for decades how awful that would be.  Meanwhile, the situation continues to worsen because there is no viable solution offered, and the only avenue that appears to be viable is to weaken the one thing that might do us good. Our voice, clearly expressed through our government.

So enough with the idiotic comparison and the bullshit that we can’t use systems rather than be victim to them.

All it requires is a little common sense, less common crap, and participation.  Once again, vote. But for the sake of the country, learn something useful about things as they are and how they work.  Right now, we are very much like Thelma and Louise.  “We have to get to Mexico, but I ain’t going through Texas!”

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  • I can’t recall the last time such a parade took place in Stockholm.  Hmm…
  • + One of the ways they do this is by funding candidates and buying elections, sending people to congress who tell us they’ll work for us then turn around and work for them.

Blue Collar Trump

Intellectuals on both sides of the political aisle are scratching their heads at the Trump phenomenon. They wonder how this guy, with all his crudity and his bluster and his fascistic diatribes, can possibly be slapping the pants off the favored sons of the GOP. Liberal, conservative, it doesn’t matter, they don’t get it.

Really?  Or do they just not want to admit they understand perfectly well?

Trump’s appeal is very simple.  He’s putting a kind of blue collar, working class rage right out in front, unadorned, just the way you might get it at any dinner table conversation in a stressed working class household where the most serious piece of reading done is either World News or Car and Driver.  Where the talking heads on Meet The Press are met with derision and complete incomprehension.  He has pitched his language, according to one recent analysis, to a sixth grade or lower level because he knows that is the functional intelligence of the people he’s channeling.

Yes, I said channeling.  He is the embodiment of a feedback machine.  He’s taking in the inarticulate anger of people who feel helpless but who intuit that they’re being shafted and projecting it right back out at them at the same intellectual level.

The thing that sets him apart from Cruz and even Rubio is not that he gets this and they don’t, but that he knows he can make more bank by expressing it without trying to couch it in pseudo-politic, semi-intellectual, quasi-philosophical terms.  He has not said one thing that the others haven’t also said over the last several years, but they do it in terms that hide the scrapyard origins of the sentiment and try to make it appeal to people who wish to believe of themselves that they have a higher grasp of these matters.  The reason so much of their tactic is now failing is that they’ve been trying to play bar band music as though it were a sonata in three parts, and it doesn’t ring true enough in comparison with a guy who knows to stick to three chords and one beat.

Trump is also feeding on a kind of mythic American tough guy attitude that sees the solution to every problem to be corporal—a smack in the jaw, a kick in the groin, a death threat.  When the mind has been taxed to its limit by arguments about refugees, globalization, currency exchange manipulations, multilateral negotiations, regressive tax structures, and ethnic diversity, the impulse is to just throw them all out, slam the door shut, and kick the shit out of anyone with more than a high school education.

And because we as a people rarely look past the surface of things, when confronted with problems that really are complex, we feel used, insulted, talked down to, and effectively sidelined by language and concepts we were never introduced to at home or in school.  We are ignorant but have been told for decades that we have some kind of national character and virtue which doesn’t require us to learn anything in order to know what to do.

But we don’t.  So we get angry and frustrated.  Then someone like Trump comes along and validates our anger and plays on our ignorance and tell us he knows what to do to make us feel better.

He’s a walking, talking symbol of the anti-intellectualism we’ve been suffering and enduring since…well, in this cycle since McCarthy showed politicians how to gain support by putting down smart people.

It should surprise no one that he is popular with that kind of crowd.  The question is, how large is that crowd?

We’d better hope they aren’t even close to a majority.

But if they are, then that says everything we need to know about how our educational system has failed this country.  And with that failure, how our economic systems are failing us.  And with that failure, how our value systems are next to worthless.

One last thing which puzzles some folks.  The question rises how evangelical christians find nothing to criticize in the man, how he can get endorsements from the likes of Billy Graham Jr. and Jerry Falwell’s son.  How, with a centerfold model for a wife, he isn’t everything repugnant to them with all their moralistic blatherings about family values.  How they can get so exercised about Michelle Obama’s elegant bare arms and say virtually nothing about the yards of skin Melania Trump has shown in a wide variety of sexual poses.

What’s hard to understand?  Trump’s wife appears to be everything these so-called fundamentalists desire in a wife.  Young, sexy, and, above all, silent.  For them “modesty” only means nobody else gets to play with the goodies or look at the yummies. Michelle Obama offends by quite clearly owning her arms as well as the rest of her person and being a vocal, thinking, independent woman.  It ain’t, in other words, the bareness of her arms that bothers them but the fact that they are hers and she does what she wants with them.  Trump’s wife looks like an Old Testament Prophet’s wet dream.

Trump is not hard to understand, nor is his apparent popularity.  We just have to see, finally, what has been wrought in this country by people who have sold us a bill of goods for decades, all in the name of Amurica.

…and now a word from the stupid

President Obama has announced his supreme court nominee.

A couple of things.  Merrick Garland is not, as claimed by the current spiel from Mitch McConnell and company, an ideologue.  There is a track record of bi-partisan endorsements dating back to the 90s to so testify.  No one who has ever worked with the man has ever called him an ideologue.  This is not open for dispute.  He is a jurist and from all the evidence a man of integrity.

Two, while they keep bringing up the Biden Rule, bear in mind the Biden Rule was a statement on what the Senate is constitutionally required to do and, further, an opinion, one which the Democratic Party has never adhered to even when it sounded like they might.  There was no vacancy to be debated at the time when then-Senator Joseph Biden made his statements.  But even if one wishes to use that as some kind of defense,  it is nevertheless a fact that the Biden Rule was never adopted as A Rule.  Republicans certainly opted to disregard it and history shows that it has never proven a hindrance or an error for a president to nominate for a vacancy during his last year in office.  Now that it appears likely Obama will choose someone who could as easily rule against the GOP agenda as for it, they bring it up and try to make it sound like there is precedent.  There is no precedent.

McConnell’s assertion that the president should allow the People a voice in such a selection is disingenuous.  The People did.  They re-elected Obama by a considerable margin.  This is simply an opportunity for him to fulfill that confidence and do the job for which he was elected.

So they have no precedent.  They have no moral ground for blocking this.  They are risking committing political suicide, in fact, which suggests that they are not listening to their constituents but to their paymasters.  There are several matters before the court this year which, had Scalia survived, might have gone in favor of the Right Wing agenda.  With Scalia gone, that certainty is no more.  They hope a Republican will be elected.

On that, though, all of them have come out against their Party frontrunner, Donald Trump.  If he becomes president, according to their recent comments, it will be a disaster.  So they won’t get what they want even if the GOP takes the White House.  They must secretly hope Hillary or Bernie wins.  But if that happens, then their nominee, certainly in the case of  Sanders, will be even farther from their ideological hopes.  Unless they intend, if Hillary wins, to mire her presidency in endless specious “hearings” about presumed “crimes.”

All of which tells anyone with half a brain that all they want is to block government from functioning at all.

Of course, if a Democrat wins in November and they retain control of the Senate and agree to advise and consent, then the problem must have been an unwillingness to work with a black man.  Ideology we can assume will not change, at least not sufficiently to matter.

On a personal note, I suspect this will get them drummed out of office.  The Robertson-Scalia court has handed down some of the most regressive decisions in the past two decades.  Just to name one, Citizens United.  I will not exercise here the problems—the moral problems—with that decision.  It is bad jurisprudence.  It is a mockery of even the thing the Right purports to defend, namely the importance of the individual.  It negated that importance by allowing a functional redefinition of what constitutes an individual.  They claim not to like Socialism, but that ruling allowed a form of aggregate personhood which elevated private aggregates to a virtually autonomous condition operationally akin to a kind of collectivism.  That it exists as a privately-held corporate entity does not change that fact that now we actually have some “persons” more equal than everybody else.

Whatever one may feel about the past seven years, in this President Obama has history, logic, and morality on his side.  It’s his job, his duty, and frankly his privilege, and it is the Senate’s job and duty to advise and consent.  History and tradition and even logic are against them, because likely they will have a harder choice of nominees this time next year.  What they are doing makes no sense at all.  It is posturing.

Which is growing very old.  They’re making the Democrats look better than perhaps they really are.