It’s time, America. It’s either a two-state divorce, or “Heil, Trump” will be coming to your neighborhood as it has already come to mine.
We are in a civil war. Not very hot — yet — but in which tension is building daily. Neo-Nazis party in my neighborhood of Chevy Chase, unnoticed by the Leader, while he attacks the cast of Hamilton instead. Clinton keeps racking up votes, now with a 2,000,000+ vote lead, while no one is yet auditing the states that swung the Electoral College (itself a vestige of slavery). Liberals are turning in on themselves, while conservatives stand stunned, buried at the foot of the wreckage of the Republican party while the kakistocracy takes shape.
All this because a few hundred thousand Rust Belt citizens, repeatedly fed misinformation and disinformation in our era of Big Data, decided to first destroy the Republican Party, which had betrayed then for forty years (fool me once…), and then take down the entire country in a fit of pique for an encore. Now they will learn what pain really feels like, as they’ve given unlimited power to a demagogue (“Hamilton’s besetting fear was that American democracy would be spoiled by demagogues who would mouth populist shibboleths to conceal their despotism.”) while emasculating themselves. Their new Karl Rove fancies himself as Darth Vader, Dick Cheney and Satan, though on a good day he elevates his narcissistic neo-Nazi self-image into Thomas Cromwell (who ended up executed by the Crown, but no matter).
An interesting thing happened to my perspective, over the past couple of weeks. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, wreathing myself in the virtual equivalent of sackcloth (Facebook posts) and ashes (Tweets), I’ve slowed down and started paying attention to recurrent themes after the election.
One theme, in particular, stood out — The Russian influence over the election.
Our minds, our hearts, our election, our country have been compromised by a hostile entity that within my lifetime was seen as a mortal foe.
And they may have been up to no good during the primaries, as well. Which made the GOP into one of the biggest b*tches patsies of the Kremlin, of all time. I mean, seriously. If that’s true (and I don’t doubt it could be), they really got taken for a ride.
And meanwhile, the “discussions” we’ve been having with each other in ever camp — intra-party, inter-party, and across the full political spectrum, have been a relentless shit-show. Many, many conversations have not been productive, tons of them have been anything but civil, and countless exchanges have been downright abusive… and everything in between. We’ve come apart at the seams as a formerly civil society, in no small part because people who are a whole lot smarter than a lot of us, and who know our weaknesses even better than we know our strengths, made a hell of a lot more effort to trick and mislead fuck with us, than we made the effort to stay responsibly informed.
“So, what part of this is good?” you may be asking…
Well, consider this: The only way that Trump and his illk (double “L” is intentional”) could get into their position, is by cheating — by teaming up with a bunch of crafty Russians with the firepower to pull this off. He couldn’t do it himself. And he couldn’t do it honestly. He couldn’t possibly win by playing by the rules, so he broke them. No, he didn’t even break them. He moved the whole dynamic into a parallel universe where the rules supposedly didn’t even exist. And we fell for it. Many of us, anyway.
Now, lest you get your libbral knickers all self-righteously a-twist and start feeling smug about how Trump’s camp never would have prevailed on a level playing field, don’t forget that plenty of prior elections have been fraught with questionable results, themselves. I can’t recall there ever being an election, where allegations of fraud weren’t leveled. And the results in 2008, when it seemed to so many of us that Hillary was commanded by the DNC to step down, so Obama could take the lead, just made her presumptimve “in the bag” victory that much more satisfying in 2016.
Not having that happen… well, that stings. Again.
This time around, it’s different, though. Because an outside nation has gotten involved, from all the evidence. A slew of bogus websites have strewn clickbait “news” across Facebook (a company which couldn’t even see fit to block the ones which were known to be fake — not a difficult thing for them to do, by the way). And an All-American army of naive millions have gleefully passed along the propaganda, an eager extension of Putin’s reach into the hearts and minds of conspiracy-theory-loving “information consumers” who couldn’t be bothered to fact-check. On Twitter, Russian trolls (who are easy to spot because their foul-mouthed accounts are full of nothing but Trump promotions), unleashed campaigns for and against, whipping unsuspecting tweeps into a frenzy. All the while, the different sides have escalated their vitriol against one another.
And I can’t help but wonder how much Russia had to do with the Hillary hatred that boiled in the depths of the hearts — and on the tips of the tongues — of all those Bernie supporters.
So, again, how is this good? Because — contrary to the common belief that Hillary is a total loser and couldn’t win, if she tried — it shows that she’s actually such a formidable opponent (and a shoe-in for the job of CEO of America), that Trump was helpless to do it alone. And the only way he could do it, was with a little lying-cheating-stealing help from his friends over yonder.
Maybe the answer would have been “Anybody and everybody”. Absent the influence of a highly sophisticated program of hacking and psychological meddling, maybe, just maybe she could have beaten anybody else who stepped up to challenge her. We’ll never know, because the playing field, this time around, was about as even as the golf course in the movie “Caddy Shack” after Bill Murray’s character went after the gopher with all the explosives.
So, for all those who are #StillWithHer, that’s actually something. And it should give the whole country pause. Likewise, it should give us pause, that Trump was so distrusting of the American people, that he HAD to make sure we were lied to, deceived, misled, misdirected, and whipped into a frenzy of fight-flight haze that pumped us full of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and damages (and kills) the brain cells responsible for remembering what just happened. The only way he could prevail over the American people, was to literally make us sick… waging a clandestine campaign of psychological and physiological warfare on us, lie to us, cheat us of the truth, and bully us into his brand of submission.
Whether it actually works or not, is anybody’s guess. I’m sure we’ll find out.
We’ll find out a lot of things. Yes, MI, WI, and PA all seemed destined for Trump, but people are actually doing something about following up to make sure. Forget about Florida in 2000 (if you can). We’re actually getting a recount in Wisconsin, thanks at least in part to Jill Stein, a third-party candidate who may or may not being doing this for the noble cause of election legitimacy. And we might just get recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well. People have contributed over $5 million (of the requested $7 million) to make it happen, and the number keeps rising.
So, there is hope.
Most of all, the hope I take away from this — no matter what happens — is that even though we’re a fickle bunch who will oh-so-eagerly turn against each other in times of distress and disappointment… even though we turn into a rude and vicious mob at the drop of a hat, “liking” lies and passing them along with chortling glee… even though the candidate who could have requested recounts in WI, MI, and PA at no additional charge to us (but left us, her constituents, to foot the multi-million dollar bill and push the initiative forward)… even though we apparently can’t tell truth from lies, anymore, and prize our democracy so little that we run around calling for capitulation unity before the Electoral College has even voted, never once realizing that when we surrender to this sort of evil, we’re complicit in it… this hardly would have happened, if a world-class psychological warfare program weren’t unleashed upon us over the course of months, maybe even years.
And the people who did this know that the only way they can actually beat us is by cutting out our hearts and turning our prodigious energy and influence against each other.
When we’re united against a common foe, we Americans have a habit of winning (for better or for worse). But when we turn against ourselves… God help us. And heaven help the rest of the world.
This stream of thought occurred to me this morning, after I read a few pieces heralding the imminent demise of “identity politics” — you know, the political orientation that acknowledges the diversity of our society and addresses the individual needs of disparate portions of the population?
I tweeted a series of thoughts about it. And I’ll elaborate on that more below. Original tweets are bold. My thoughts here are not
Maybe I’m not paying attention enough, but it seems to me everyone calling for an end to “identity politics” is straight, white, and male. Granted, I haven’t dived deep into all the pieces coming out about it now. I’ve been sick with a nasty sinus infection & flu-like symptoms, so my capabilities are somewhat limited. But from what I gather, it’s time to “get beyond identity politics” and start gathering the Democratic party around our shared values, etc.
I dunno… abandoning the recognition of our inherent diversity seems… fraught to me. In my experience, whenever we’re pushed towards “unity”, the conversations and priorities very quickly center on the priorities of straight, white, abled, privileged (you know you are, let’s face it) males, who feel entitled to push their agendas. That’s for a bunch of reasons, not least of which is that the guys who start calling the shots have the time, energy, and resources to push their agendas over the rest of us — who have been at a disadvantage for a long time, due to the lack of recognition of our individual situations and needs which exist in parallel universe to the guys who say our concerns are “irrelevant” or “distracting”.
To this queer, intermittently disabled gal, it seems like getting rid of “identity politics” is another form of erasure. I mean, seriously, it’s just pathetic, to hear a straight, white guy whose wife has been making it possible for him to do his thing for all these years (Bernie Sanders, in the case I’m thinking of), and whose roster of accomplishments just pales compared to his onetime political opponent, it’s the ultimate kick in the face. The thing that actually drew me to HRC over Bernie, was that she got the deal with disability, and she’d actually done something about it — rather than suggest yoga and deep breathing for chronic pain, as Bernie had done. Never once, was I convinced that anyone other than Hillary even a glimmer of recognition about the true nature of disability, let alone had plans for how to address our issues. I’ve been in and out of chronic pain for 30 years, and it’s no fucking fun. Likewise, to be constantly told that being queer is “no big deal” and that I can be every bit as mainstream as the next person, is a slap in the face, all too often handed out by well-meaning straight folks who prize uniformity as the greatest accomplishment of all. To have individual situations like mine – and worse – glossed over during the campaign by every single candidate as Hillary… and then have those who failed to acknowledge the importance of our differences summarily dismiss them as “irrelevant”, is a double-whammy of indictment against this idea of pitching identity politics out the window. Maybe, just maybe, the reason that Hillary got so many more votes than Trump was exactly because she embraced “identity politics”.
And all the facts indicate those were NOT the conditions we had. You don’t have to say it out loud, but you do have to acknowledge the facts.
So, no – it’s NOT accurategood form to loot the shipwreck of the HRC campaign b/c they steered their ship onto the shoals. Everyone is carrying on now as though it was the HRC campaign that screwed up. They did this wrong… they did that wrong… the DNC was a love-fest of American Exceptionalism that ignored the plight of suffering Americans, a sign of things to come. Hillary’s message didn’t resonate. She didn’t do well enough. She was totally off-base about everything. So, hey, let’s all climb onto the foundering frigate and start dismantling the ship for its hardware and booty. We can take the pieces we need… like, all her disappointed followers looking for a plausible ideological reason she “failed” so miserably. And we can kick her even more when she’s down, because if you can’t win against a raving, bigoted, Nazi-quoting, misogynistic, serial sexual assaulter who can’t even let his wife vote without looking over her shoulder, what good are you? Maybe all her internal Democractic opponents, the ones who recognized her relevancy and power, who wanted a piece of the action, but could never fully commit to her for whatever purist rationale, think it’s good form to board the foundering ship and start dismantling it, but guess what – you’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg. And you don’t even care.
They were torpedoed. They were. And worse yet, WE were. People don’t seem to get it. Team-sport politics has blinded us to the realities that the hacks, as well as the voter intimidation and suppression were an attack on us ALL, a direct hit to the heart and soul of this nation. Regardless of your political leanings, if you do NOT demand an audit of the vote and an investigation into fraud and outside influences, you are contributing to the problem. And you’re attacking your own country at its most fundamental level.
And anyone who gorges themselves on the “lessons of history” (tsk-tsk-tsk) about how to NOT run a campaign & steers political discussion in a direction away from the HRC focus on acknowledgement of ALL and inclusion of those not white, not straight, not male, not 100% abled is taking advantage of a situation created by outside influences – anti-American influences – and that makes them complicit in it as well. Ultimately, do any of the Ones Who Think They Should Run Things really give a damn about principle, as long as the principles don’t favor them? I’m quite tired, actually, of people getting all high ‘n’ mighty about principles when they’re losing… and then suddenly think they’re irrelevant when they’re winning. For some reason, those who feel they’re entitled to tell everyone else what to do, are ever so quick to disenfranchise those of us who were actually served by the discourse of identity politics, falsely drawing conclusions about its “failure”, when what really failed was our democractic process, as well as our vaunted Office of Homeland Security. Where the fuck where they, anyway, when all the hacking evidence was rolling in? It wasn’t like they didn’t know. For months ahead of the election.
Which is NO cause forcelebration. There’s a taint of Schadenfreude to this whole sordid aftermath, something out of a post-apocalyptic movie, where the losers along the way are taking advantage of this for their own needs. That’s why Bernie Sanders will never, ever have my full support. And I’m cooling to Elizabeth Warren. Where have they been, in defense of our most fundamental right? Where have they been, in defense of the Constitution? Everybody’s “girding for the good fight”, and never once lifting a finger to prevent that unwarranted, illegitimate fight, to begin with.
Sign of the times: sell out your very own democratic process for a “win”. Because a Trump victory gives you the chance to showcase your own brand of Democratic progressivism, and it will stand in sharp contrast to your own platform. And now you’ll have four years to perfect your message and build your base, build your mailing list, build your political connections. It’s all about strategy, now. Screw the American people.
Note: You’re *not* winning. And at least some of us will remember this, in the years to come.
Watching the results on Election Night was like what I’d imagine living in an eighties teen horror movie would be like — the summer camp air curdling into one of vague suspicion, as a strange dawning sensation of doom takes hold. Slaughter: Ohio, Florida, Michigan — all bloody and prone. Who will be picked off next? Pennsylvania? Wisconsin? Minnesota? Your state? The vote is coming from inside the house.
And yet when the ballot boxes were locked and the results came filtering back, Clinton was in trouble. A few hours later, she was dead meat. DOA.
There was no grand strategy here. Trump was obviously petrified and unsure of himself, woozily winding his way onto the Hilton dais to claim victory at 3:00 in the morning. This plainly wasn’t supposed to happen. Trump, pea-brained gurnard that he is, only swims downstream; he’s never supposed to reach the spawning ground.
But one day, things changed. Their maid, Maria, arrived in the morning at her regular time to clean their condo. After waxing the black-and-white tile dining room floor, dusting the glass shelves and tabletops, rearranging cushions on the couch, love seat, and side chairs, vacuuming their brilliant white pile carpets, polishing their heavy, ornate silverware, and washing windows, she headed into the bedroom. She collected stray piles of dirty clothes to launder or dry-clean, rearranged scattered items on the dressers, and turned to the bed to straighten it.
But when she pulled down the covers, between the black satin sheets, she found the rotting corpse of an old, shriveled woman. Skin stretched tight across bones, cheeks sharp, teeth bared, pelvis and ribs angular beneath copper-colored, paper-thin hide, the body’s sparse silvery hair fell from the scalp, and the stink of decay filled the room.
Maria stumbled back in shock. With a shriek, she turned and fled the apartment, barely able to close the door behind her.
When Paul and Christina arrived home later that night, they noticed nothing unusual. Engrossed in the last twelve hours of their own experiences―politics at Paul’s work, and the new show Christina was opening in less than a week―they mixed their customary drinks and compared notes on their demanding workdays.
Looking up from her glass, Christina noticed the vacuum cleaner was still out, leaning in a corner of the living room. With a sniff and a resolution to give Maria a good talking-to, she replaced it in the utility closet, and went back to her husband. As she passed through the dining area, she saw the silverware had been polished, but not put away; forks, knives, and spoons lay scattered across the glass dining room table, gleaming dully under the dimmed chandelier. Christina replaced the tableware in its case, her lips pursed, adding this infraction to her mental list of reprimands for Maria. This maid had been with them for years, but lately she’d lost some of her attention to detail. Leaving lights on when she left the apartment, forgetting to unload clean clothes from the dryer, leaving the television volume turned up when she shut it off… This laxness was starting to wear on Christina’s patience.
Returning to the living room, she took the second drink her husband held out to her, and sipped. As the martini burned in her throat, she scented something―rank, bitter, sickly sweet, almost unnoticeable, but not entirely.
“This is the last straw,” Christina said indignantly, swallowing hard and shaking her head as Paul noticed the smell, too. “We simply have to find some more reliable domestic help.”
Cocktails in hand, husband and wife sniffed their way through their home, checking under cupboards and behind furniture for the source of the smell. Both agreed that Maria had probably brought some dead animal with her from her run-down neighborhood… perhaps she’d left it for them out of spite. They hadn’t raised her hourly wage in some time, and lately she’d been more sullen than usual. It was only out of charity, they’d kept her this long. She needed them more than they needed her. But still, her attitude had deteriorated in the past months. With mounting indignation, they made their way slowly around the apartment, until they stood in front of their bedroom.
With measured pace, Paul walked the perimeter of the room, checking under the chest of drawers and behind the dressing screen for the source of the smell. He set his drink on Christina’s vanity table and poked his head underneath; perhaps some food had fallen behind there and had taken weeks, even months, to go bad.
Hands on hips, Christina surveyed the room, nostrils flared. Everything appeared to be in place―except the laundry, which lay in a heap in the middle of the floor. The smell couldn’t be coming from there, she thought. Their dirty clothes usually smelled better than Maria’s clean ones. She could see nothing. But this room was the obvious source of the odor. Scanning the room, sipping her martini, her gaze eventually rested on the bed―a tangled mess of sheets and blankets. Incensed, she strode towards it and pulled hard at the covers.
Christina screamed. In his haste to get up, Paul smashed his head against the underside of the vanity, and stumbled woozily to his wife’s side. She stood ashen and shaking beside the bed, her quivering hand clutching the edge of the sheet. When he reached her side, Paul recoiled, his stomach churning.
It was a horrible sight―the corpse of an old, old woman, hair white and sparse, falling from a bony skull, skin pulled tight back from a skeletal face, grey teeth grimacing between shriveled lips in the light from the city outside. Flat remnants of breasts lay on a sharply bony ribcage, and the abdomen was sunken between pelvic bones stabbing upwards through the parchment-like flesh. An unholy stench rose from the body, leathery and emaciated, rotting and covered with a fine, grey dust.
“Oh, God―” Paul choked back a wave of nausea. Christina stood motionless, frozen with terror. “When we get hold of that maid―” he muttered, prying the covers from his wife’s hand, gingerly pulling the blankets over the body.
Beside him, his wife swooned, her hand clamped over her mouth. She reached for his arm and steadied herself, then staggered to the bathroom. She barely made it to the toilet in time. The martinis and late lunch she’d gobbled in a rush that afternoon spewed into the toilet bowl, as she heaved and heaved till there was nothing left in her stomach.
What horrible thing had they done to Maria? Christina wondered, her gut churning and her head pounding. What could they possibly have done to deserve this?
Paul’s stomach heaved suddenly, and he staggered to the kitchen where he vomited violently into the sink.
If this was Maria’s idea of a joke, he thought angrily, she could find work elsewhere. Was this some kind of snake-handler’s vendetta? A voodoo trick, maybe? He thought back over the past months. What had possessed Maria to do this to them? Was it the pay? Had one of his competitors at work paid her to do this? He knew he had enemies―they both did―but what monster could have put her up to such a thing?
“Honestly,” Christina snorted. She threw open the door, stalked through the dressing area, and burst into the master suite. Paul followed, muttering about the “unwashed masses.”
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my initial reaction after the election — the morning after that too-late Tuesday night, when I’d gone to bed exhausted, my nerves worn to a thin fray. I woke up thinking, “Oh, even if it didn’t go her way last night, Hillary has the good sense to not concede until all the votes are in…”
And then I heard that she’d conceded.
… the wailing and gnashing of teeth on social media …
… the wailing and gnashing of teeth in my own home …
Everywhere. Shock. Dismay. Distress. Despair. I live in a cornflower-blue state, now, and the vast majority of folks I heard from (most of whom I’ve worked with or hung around with in the general New England area), were pretty churned up about that mess.
And what sprang to mind for me, who grew up in blazing “red” surroundings… who came of age during the Reagan years… and who has friends who were preyed upon by the FBI, “Ratso Rizzo’s” Philadelphia regime, as well as undercover government goons who killed their friend and carved “n****r-lover” on the dumped body?
I thought, “Fine. Now it’s back to business as usual, after this extended liberal interruption.”
It’s not so much that I downplayed the risks. I’ve known he was trouble for quite some time, and I’ve been following the writings of people who have issued dire warnings about what a Trump presidency could mean for this country. I’ve known what a horrible, wretched person he is, since I lived in northern New Jersey in the late 1980s and saw his dealings splashed across the tabloids. I used to watch “The Apprentice”, which left a bad taste in my mouth with all the posturing and facade barely concealed its seedy underbelly. The racism, bigotry, white supremacy, misogyny, ridicule of disabled people, and steady stream of vitriol put me on alert, months and months ago. It’s not like I had no idea his fascist coup could get as odious as it has, in just the past few days.
I already knew. And frankly, I was already ready.
‘Cause folks, this is not my first rodeo with people like this. You may say, “Oh, you can’t possibly be accustomed to this!” But here’s the thing — I grew up under very different circumstances than the majority of people I know. And in almost unrecognizably different circumstances than the new generation of Millennials coming up on the public scene. I started elementary school during the first years of busing, and rocks were thrown at my school bus when we went through certain neighborhoods. One rock cracked a window not far from my seat.
I attended a high school where a Jewish English teacher had swastikas drawn on her car, along with other slurs I won’t write, and where German language students (for fun) sang the German national anthem and did a Nazi impression/”comedy routine” on the PA system one morning, to work up enthusiasm for their soccer team when they played against the Spanish language class.
In the world where I grew up, you never said the word “gay”. You didn’t even hint at it. Even if you were gay, you never said it out loud — you referred to yourself as “that way”, or “one of the tribe”, or “a friend of Dorothy”. A women’s bookstore (which of course carried some lesbian feminist titles) was firebombed in a small city 10 miles from my home — twice — so it went out of business. And if you had the audacity to visit the one known gay bar and park your car within two blocks of the place, there was always the chance you’d get your tires slashed.
The KKK was active in two small cities within a 50 mile radius of my home. It still is.
So, when I see all this drama around Trump’s people, his circle, his followers (including an unlikely Vietnamese-American) saluting “Seig Heil!” (sic. – yeah, she really spelled it that way), it just brings up a whole bunch of old shit with me that feels so, so familiar.
And it feels cold. Bitter. Stupid. For all the wrong reasons.
There are no right reasons, but the fact that nobody saw this coming feels like the wrongest reason of all. The fact that nobody thought it would get this bad, this quickly — with people so blatantly eager to rape and pillage and just send everyone around them straight to living hell, while next-to-nobody in positions of power steps up to stop them, or even question them… the news media treating this like it’s just another story, talking about the fashion choices of the new Nazified leaders — how spiffy they look in that coordinated ensemble — as if that’s The Thing Worth Reporting.
It feels completely convoluted, on top of it all, because here we are with a tender generation of Millennials who are perhaps the most sheltered and entitled creatures ever to issue from the loins of their parents, fond of their safe spaces and easily whipped into a frenzy about “microaggressions”, a larger generation than the Baby Boomers, who have even less political acuity and familiarity with the horrible world beyond their schools than those wild-ass Hippies… and they are no match – I repeat – No Match At All – for the machinery they are about to charge against. They haven’t a clue.
And meanwhile, people still say they voted for Trump for economic reasons.
Cue the dissidence.
I haven’t got time for despair.
See, I know what it’s like to live on the cultural margins in shitty times like these. I know what it’s like to be illegal — when my choice of intimate / life partners was punishable by law. I know what it’s like to live like you’re constantly on the lam, never drawing attention to yourself, never speaking up, learning how to keep yourself from becoming a target, because No One would ever come your assistance. I grew up queer in a world where queer got you killed. I grew up female in a world where women were good for one thing only — breeding. Oh, and obedience. Let’s not forget that. I’ve lived for quite some time in a world where there really is no equality, no justice, and there’s no point in getting my hopes up for it. Because no sooner does it show up, than it gets slapped away by someone with an agenda who claims they’re just protecting themselves from the “threat” of my existence.
Everybody seems to have forgotten just how awful it was to be anything other than straight, white, and right-wing in many parts of this country, for so, so many years. Everybody’s forgotten how oppressive it was, how soul-crushingly oppressive. They just think that all magically dissolved away when Bill Clinton was in office… and then they sealed the deal with Obama. But while people’s backs were turned, the elements that truly, genuinely want to crush and kill people who are Not Like Them, have been busy stoking their fires of resentment and vengeance.
They don’t go away. Not really. We just conveniently forget the ugly truth of them. We congratulate ourselves on how open and accepting and loving we’ve become… how much we’ve evolved. We forget about everything except our own little fanciful echo chamber, full of peeps just like us. Sharing photos and memes and our favorite songs.
And then Those Other People come back.
And we’re shocked.
Stop being shocked. You pretended not to see that puddle of mud in front of you, and you ran towards it in your favorite shoes, anyway.
Today is November 18, 2016. I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.
Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.
Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.
Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.
A president-elect who wants to strip our country down for parts
It is increasingly clear, as Donald Trump appoints his cabinet of white supremacists and war-mongers, as hate crimes rise, as the institutions that are supposed to protect us cower, as international norms are shattered, that his ascendency to power is not normal.
They lacked for nothing, and they indulged every whim with matter-of-fact entitlement. If Christina saw a piece of jewelry she liked, she bought it. If Paul found a designer suit that struck his fancy, he purchased it. If either of them discovered an expensive trinket that piqued their interest, they acquired it. When they were hungry, they ate as much as they pleased of whatever cuisine they desired. When their car ceased to be fashionable, they traded it in for another. When they spilled wine on a piece of furniture, they had the whole suite replaced. If anyone got in Paul’s way at work, he used his professional influence to have them removed from his path. When Christina decided she needed more money, she adjusted her prices and secretly kept the extra profit for herself. Their lives overflowed with an uninhibited, entitled abundance which they increasingly took for granted, and all their friends affirmed their right to take as much as they chose from the world around them.
Yet for all they had, it was never enough. They were intent on acquiring even more.
Each day, they sallied forth from their high-rise condo into the world of commercial enterprise which compliantly awaited their bidding. Each day, both Paul and Christina spent long hours at their jobs―he, behind a desk or in board rooms, she, walking clients through her gallery, showing what style and magic could be had from indigenous imagination and traditions, or meeting with artists anxiously seeking a venue for their work. Late in the evening, they headed home for drinks and dinner. Some nights, they dined on takeout in front of the television, work papers spread about them on the floor. Other nights, they donned their finest evening wear and attended posh, paparazzi-spangled social affairs with politically connected business associates and the pillars of the community they called friends. The only sign of limitation in their lives was that they had no driver, yet, and their car was a mid-sized (albeit, luxury) sedan. But soon enough, they had every confidence, their Mercedes would be replaced by a town car―like those of the silver-haired lords and ladies of the city―and a hired man, not Paul, would chauffeur them to the fêtes.
In return for the intense ardor of their daily lives and their devotion to keeping up appearances, they were richly rewarded with social and professional advancement. Mastery of their universe was well worth every 18-hour workday, followed by long evenings of paperwork or parties. Like others in their social milieu, they paid little attention to politics, unless it directly affected their social or professional positions, and they paid even less attention to the implications (moral or social) of their work. They were eagerly and intentionally devoid of any ethically responsible impulse, and they considered social consciousness the bastard child of the morally invasive Church. Their only profession of faith was that those who had less than they, had been somehow remiss in their socio-economic or karmic obligations, to live such meager lives. Those who had less, they believed, were either lazy or stupid and had earned their low station in life. Everyone, they believed, got exactly what they deserved.
Paul and Christina had it all, and they assumed they deserved no less.
I’m working my way through posting excerpts of Strange Bedfellows on this site. The book seems even more apropos now, than ever before, so I’m working my way through it. I hope people will come to understand the underlying message that transcends the story itself. There’s a lot in there. I’ve had 25+ years to think about it, and trust me, I don’t waste time thinking about stuff that has no purpose.
Since the election, there’s been a tremendous amount of dismay, cries for justice, and demands to know “How Can This Happen?”
There’s been a palpable change in the atmosphere. I’m not one to be alarmist, or call out people who stereotypically seem inclined to mis-behave towards others not like themselves (that would be straight, white, middle-class men). But on my conference calls at work, I notice a different tone in the discussions. Men who used to take their turn in the conversations are now dominating. And the way they dominate has changed, as well. Their tone is more imperious, while the things they have to offer are somehow less sophisticated than before.
Then again, maybe they’re just having bad days. Maybe they’re nervous, along with all of us, and that’s how they work it out. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m more sensitive these days, than usual. (Aren’t we all?)
But something feels different.
It feels like we’ve regressed.
Now, mind you, I’m not one of these pie-in-the-sky Obama’s-presidency-made-it-all-better kind of libbral. I’ve never believed we live in a post-racial America. Impossible, is what comes to mind, when I hear people suggest that. It’s hard for me to trust the professed open-mindedness of privileged and entitled individuals, no matter how well-meaning they may be, no matter how closely they may hew to the more genuine side of that fine line that separates “PC” behavior from true consideration and respect for others different from themselves. It takes a lot to earn my queer trust, my intermittently disabled confidence, my inherently marginalized regard.
Maybe I’m just too cynical. I’ve been battin’ around on this planet for 50-odd years, and maybe my experiences have hardened me. I’ve seen a lot of positive change in the past decades, but I must admit, I don’t expect much. Not from the mainstream, no matter how its members may cast themselves in ally roles in the grand screenplay of my life. People become strangely aloof, when they risk losing something they prize, just because they’re seen with you. Most of all, I’ve been suspect of the supposed normalization of same-sex marriage, nationwide. It’s one thing for my current home state of Massachusetts to legalize and recognize my 26-year committed, monogamous relationship (i.e., allow me to visit my partner in the hospital and help make critical healthcare decisions for her, as well as let me transfer along to her the finances she’s helped me build). But expecting the law of the land to win over the rest of the bright-red country, and warm the cockles of the hearts of the heartland… Yeah, not so much.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to believe. I want to know to the marrow of my bones that people can and will choose dignity over disgrace, and that they truly are capable of change. And I was starting to believe — just a little bit more — when all the polls showed Hillary Clinton well in the lead, and everyone was pretty much taking for granted that she was going to win over her opponent.
But now this. Now the results of the election — which, if you’re paying attention, are so suspect that they bar even the faintest appearance of legitimacy. We were hacked. Repeatedly. And not just during the November election time. For months, it’s been going on. Our national security authorities have said so. Cybersecurity experts say so. And the results from the digital voting machines in counties that had no paper backups don’t even resemble the results of counties next door which had paper ballots as well.
Why are we surprised that the results came out so different than 96.875% of the official pollsters predicted? Why are we surprised at the suggestion we might have been hacked? Why would we doubt it? It just seems so obvious to me. And yet, the disbelief and denial have flowed like rancid milk from a carton dropped on the kitchen floor after it was left in the fridge during a 2-week power cut. Following that disbelief and denial about the kind of world we live in has come a steady stream of calls for normalization from all sides.
People who still believe that “love trumps hate” — and who don’t seem to get that giving your opponent airtime by using his name in your #1 slogan is not a great way to diminish his impact.
People who just want to accept things as they are and move on.
People who can’t fathom just how bad things can get for this country, thanks to the events of this month, and who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that America’s democracy – of all places – could fall to a fascist coup.
People who want to make the best of things, build bridges, find the good in whatever situation comes.
People who don’t want to rock the boat — and end up on somebody’s list that gets them “disappeared”.
In moments like this, I despair. Because this is really nothing other than realpolitik, plain and simple — the cold, hard facts of political practicalities, and what happens when you ignore them. And so many reactions after that obvious travesty of an election result have treated it like it was a final sentence. A done deal.
People, this is not over. The Electoral College still has to vote. Heck, our popular election was really just an indicator of which way the Electors should vote. There’s no guarantee they’re going to give it to Trump, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they caved and did just that. On top of it all, there are untold numbers of existing and potential legal suits to raise against the prematurely-declared “President-Elect”, despite the insipid sycophanty of people who only a few weeks ago were questioning the mental health of that individual.
My point is, we’re way too quick to just cave. We’ve come a long way from the original settlers (who were no saints, themselves), to the political hothouse flowers we are today. I would imagine the earth above our founding fathers’ (and mothers’) graves is mighty churned up, right about now.
What’s happened to us? Are we really that weak, really that brittle, really that passive, that all it takes is a surprising show of strength (about things which we had every reason to expect)? Why so timid? Why so quick to roll over? It’s like in the quote above, from the online book WAR AT HOME: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It, our progressives simply doesn’t seem to have what it takes to stand up and fight for themselves — or the rest of us — or to even realize that it takes more than eight years of an African-American president to prove America is over its backwards ways.
Thing is, we just can’t seem to figure out how to instill lasting change in our world. Especially from the left. We have some wins, and we shout “Hooray! All better now!” and urge everyone who’s still smarting from the burn of institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and bigotry of all kinds, to just move on. Deal with it. See? We’re so much more evolved now.
Except we’re not. Not even close. We’ve managed to plaster over the cracks in the structurally unsound lath and whitewash the walls, but the cracks are still there, and the house is still shaky. We’ve managed to make some symbolic gestures that show how much cooler we are with people of color, disabled folks, queers, women, and so forth, and we know how to talk in terms that don’t instantly offend. But the underlying foundation of all this… bullshit… well, that hasn’t actually changed.
And so we find ourselves back in the same goddamned situation as before — only each time, it seems worse. And it is worse. Because while you were celebrating our post-racial world and congratulating yourself for reading writers of color, the KKK was still demonstrating in Lancaster, PA. Disabled folks (especially non-whites) were still getting shot and killed by police officers. Shooters were still stalking law-enforcement and executing them. And no, the Recession is not over. Not by a long shot.
You want a revolution? Then quit talking. Look to the long game. See the ways in which you can extend the significant changes throughout your life. And for God’s sake, don’t just do it because all of a sudden, you got scared or intimidated or had a wake-up call… and then forget all about it, when you start to feel better about yourself and your choices.
Change isn’t something you can instigate, and then leave to flourish on its own. It takes work, it takes commitment, it’s a fucking boring slog much of the time, and thankless most of the time… and unless we keep after it, it cannot last.
So, enough of the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Whatever caused this shit-show, it didn’t just happen overnight. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
Christina was dark, as well, with long, luxurious tresses that fell over her strong shoulders, almost to her full hips. Her sense of style was less conservative than her husband’s, favoring bright colors and prints, but it was no less expensive. Her gaze was as shrewd as his, and she made no attempt to mask her wits. She ran her own chic “primitive art” gallery and made a handsome living from inflating prices to tap her wealthy clientèle. She passed along little, if any, of the profits to “her” artists.
Together, the couple earned a lot, and their status reflected it. They were well-established amongst the “haves,” and untroubled by the existence and experiences of the “have-nots.” Their social circle consisted of some of the wealthiest and most powerful citizenry, whose favor earned them entrance to all the right parties, all the best clubs.
Their home was in a high-rise in the center of a teeming metropolis, towering above urban squalor that stretched out for miles in all directions. By day, the gray city streets seethed with life that became progressively poorer, the farther they led from the city center, till they terminated in the abject human misery of cardboard-box slums crowded up around steaming, smoking garbage dumps. By night, the brilliant glow of peacock-proud neon bathed the streets in a surreal, electrified mix of optimism, oblivion, and desperation.
With one of the most exclusive addresses in the city, nestled in the safety of privilege’s embrace, their condominium was filled with only the finest furnishings, appliances, and artwork. With its deep pile carpet, immaculate white divan, matching side chairs and Ottoman, and glistening glass-and-metal bookcases and tables holding all their finest collectibles, they were surrounded with spotless, serene luxury high above the throbbing city below. At night, the wide windows of their living room showed no filth in the streets, no beggars or cripples or whores… only miles of light stretching out in every direction far below, masking pain and misery with light and action, thrilling them with the promise of easy conquest.