7.345 million teachable moments

clocks flying through spaceI just counted the amount of time between this past election day (9th November, 2016) and when the Electoral College votes in 2020.

All told, there are 1501 days separating them, and as each one has 24 hours, with 60 minutes in each hour, that gives us 7,345,440 minutes to pass till the next president (after this next one) is installed.

That’s all assuming, of course, that we have the right to vote in another 4 years. There are some who justifiably believe it’s a long-shot.

If nothing else, the next 1,462 days should be interesting (perhaps in the sense of the Chinese curse?). And the last thing we should do, is let them go to waste. If it all goes to hell in a handbag, and we only stand around wringing our hands and/or looking ahead to the distant future when we’ll be saved from the machinations of… those people… we are losing out on a critical opportunity to learn. And possibly even grow.

Surely, we have to start doing that sometime. For the level of discourse has been so degraded over the past year, and so many decent lessons have gone unlearned, due to partisan blinders and the partitioning of Uh’Murica into competing camps, replete with all the glorious rhetoric, propaganda, ‘n’ whatnot, that each side has effectively rendered itself incapable of learning a damn’ thing.

Parties have been so caught up in defending their RightNess… so entrenched in defending their sacred rights to believe whatever they believe from the attacks of those who believe just as fervently in their own RightNess… so invested in marking their territory… that the sort of self-critical eye required to truly and genuinely learn, has been blinded by the ongoing frenzy of attack-parry-attack-parry politicking that’s held our queasy attention for far too long.

Case in point: An article The Tainted Election by Paul Krugman, which was forwarded to me by a friend. It was apparently the most emailed piece at the New York Times on the day it came out. And what I found within was every bit as unsettling to me, as much of the stuff coming out of the other camps.

All in all, it was a pretty familiar lamentation about the impending Trump presidency. A big ole glaring “internal bullhorn” issue with this excellent article, however, was triggered by this partisan admission:

Another course of action, which you’ll see many in the news media taking, is to normalize the incoming administration, basically to pretend that everything is O.K. This might — might — be justified if there were any prospect of responsible, restrained behavior on the part of the next president.

So, as long as the results favor you, it’s justified? As long as things work in your favor, you can accept them?

Uh, no. The ends do not justify the means. It is NOT okay to normalize an administration that’s taken power with a coup and pretend all is well, on the chance that it might just work in your favor. That’s cynicism, wrapped in sackcloth and ashes.

Where has any semblance of principle gone? Normalizing this sequence of events and its expected outcome cannot be justified, under any condition — even if people agree to play nice afterwards. Like that’s going to happen, anyway. That kind of obliging capitulation would be even worse than how it is now — softening the blow of a hostile takeover… rendering us essentially a wholly owned subsidiary of Putin’s empire, without so much as a whimper. Because… maybe it won’t be so bad after all.


This president will have a lot of legal authority, which must be respected.

Spare me. How can we respect an abuser of legal authority? That smacks of cultural residue from an outmoded belief system, where God tells you you’re supposed to be on really good terms with people in power, because they’re “closer to Him”. Huh. Maybe in 1683, but not today. I don’t buy it.

And this I have a hard time believing:

Politics being what it is, moral backbones on Capitol Hill will be stiffened if there are clear signs that the public is outraged by what is happening.

I think the right word is “may”, rather than “will” (be stiffened). Politics being what it is, backbones on Capitol Hill will stiffen only for what is most beneficial to whatever spine they’re using, that day… and whatever will further their ends. Public outrage…? Dunno. I’m not convinced it’s a prime motivator in and of itself.

The piece is till a good read. And it’s good to know so many people have emailed it. At the same time, these traces of a really strange blend of optimistic naivete and partisan cynicism, are really the things that set off the toxic fumes alarm with me. It’s like pulling up the birdcage from the mine and seeing the canary dead as a doornob, as your friends and family descend the shaft in the elevator.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that none of the sides (Democrat / Republican / Bernite / Trumpist) is actually capable of learning diddly about much of anything at all. To do that, you’d have to be willing — and able — to examine yourself, your ways, your thoughts, your actions, and ferret out the faults so you can address them. Change your path. Alter your course. Make amends. And so forth. But everybody’s in damage control and/or attack mode, which lends itself Not At All to the act of receptive self-examination.

Meh. I can’t help but think, So what? Who cares? I mean, that’s what the parties do. That’s what party operatives do. But as an un-enrolled independent, I have other choices. I’m actually allowed to think for myself.

The next 1462 days (or so) will offer us countless opportunities to examine the situation before us… and hopefully do some honest soul-searching. We’ve been super-keen on the magically insulating divine dispensation of American “exceptionalism” for far too long, and this is our chance to come to grips with the realities of our situation, our natures, our tendencies, our susceptibilities. If we sit back and just hope for 2020, as well as expecting the mid-term elections to save us, heaven help us.

We need to use this time for what it’s good for — a much-needed dose of medicine that forces us to take a closer, more realistic look at ourselves, get out of that incredibly tired partisan mindset, and come up with some new ideas for where we’re going as a country… and why.

This challenge is a gift. We should make use of it.

And so I shall.

I encourage you to do the same.

What if we’re all not as bad… as that?

tattered american flagAn 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.

Okay, people, here’s the weird thing: We’ve known that the Russians were “meddling” in our election politics for many months. President Obama warned about a Cold War-style ‘cyber arms race’ with Russia back in September – and even before that, there were ongoing concerns about Russian influence in the election (including hacks on the DNC in June). Nobody paid much mind, really, even when Donald Trump publicly asked Russia to produce emails of his opponent. Yeah, we’ve known about it. But for some reason, nobody paid much mind.

Now, we come to find out that there’s been a veritable firehose of disinformation / fake news – okay, let’s call it what it is: propaganda consistent with Russian patterns that’s flooded the social media scene and effectively eclipsed actual, real-world news. To quote the Washington Post:

On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Okay, so what? you may ask. Big deal. But consider:

The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

That means Russian-backed propaganda has been seen — in just one instance — over 266 times for every one view of the real article.

Here’s a link to the list of “fake news” — ahem — propaganda sites from PropOrNot.com. You will probably recognize at least some of them, as a one-time “trusted source” for yourself. I actually do. And that’s disconcerting, to say the least.

Which means that our brains have been hacked.

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.

That puts things in a whole new light.

I, myself, have thought, if Hillary can’t beat a self-proclaimed serial sexual assaulter who’s said he’s more attracted to his daughter than his wife (the paper removed that quote, btw, maybe ’cause it wasn’t nice), who brags about not paying any taxes, incites racial violence at his rallies, is a poster-child for ISIS recruitment, promotes nuclear proliferation, talked about “walking” (out) on our NATO allies, whose idea of good policy is imprisoning his opponent (whom he stalks on-stage during a debate)


and deporting the very people he employs to the other side of a wall he thinks he’s going to build, and was endorsed by a North Korean dictator who shoots, poisons, and burns alive his foes as punishment, who the hell CAN she beat?

But maybe the answer is, in fact, “Trump.”

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.

If only we knew that as well as the KGB.

Why so quick to sink the ship of “identity politics”?

Pirates approaching a sinking ship
It’s pretty clear, what’s happening

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”.

PLUS, if there’s Any discussion of HRC’s campaign “weaknesses” can only be taken seriously in light of a 100% trustworthy result, free of voter suppression hacking influence, voter intimidation, absence of threats of violence, etc. We all know there were issues. Hell, Trump himself encouraged the creation of those issues – veiled references to armed intimidation, veiled threats against his opponent. And members of his campaign actually came out and announced proudly that they had three different types of voter suppression in play. And when the NSA says the Russians had an influence over the election, and talk of hacking had been making the rounds for months prior. So, no, nobody who’s been paying attention would say any of the above was possible.

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 accurate good 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 for celebration. 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.

Sharing: Vengeance Is Mine | from Jacobin

Fantastic writing…

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.

Trump didn’t think he was going to win — not him, not his cracked, wincing campaign manager, not the sozzled Nazi werewolf chairing his presidential bid, not the jackal pack advising him, not the rival camp, not the media. Trump, that demented circus peanut, knew that he had lost every debate, that he had failed to appeal to the mystical moderate voters who determine elections, that he had trailed in most every poll.

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.

Read the rest here: Vengeance Is Mine | Jacobin

When the irrefutable evidence gets splattered all over your favorite shoes

mud splashing onto the shoes and legs of two people
It gets messy

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.

two white men and an Asian woman doing a Sieg Heil salute
Stranger than fiction: A Vietnamese-American saluting to white supremacy. Woo hoo…? What she didn’t get the “Mein Kampf” memo?

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.

Sharing from Sarah Kendzior: We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump

My fellow Americans, I have a favor to ask you.

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.

More on the surge in hate crime can be found here.

Read this non-partisan plea to save our democratic institutions.

Read more in this piece on international law in the Age of Trump.

You can read Joshua Foust’s article “This Is Not Normal” here.

Please read the rest of this piece at: We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump

You say you want a revolution? Think about your long game

Excerpt from War At Home
Image content: Limited by their upbringing, social position, and isolation from older radical traditions, 1960s activists were unable to make the connections and changes required to build movements strong enough to survive and eventually win structural change in the United States. Middle-class students did not sufficiently ally with working and poor people. Too few white activists accepted third world leadership of multi-racial alliances. Too many men refused to practice genuine gender equality. Originally motivated by goals of quick reforms, 1960s activists were ill-prepared for the long-term struggles in which they found themselves. Overly dependent on media-oriented superstars and one-shot dramatic actions, they failed to develop stable organizations, accountable leader ship, and strategic perspective. Creatures of the culture they so despised, they often lacked the patience to sustain tedious grassroots work and painstaking analysis of actual social conditions. They found it hard to accept the slow, uneven pace of personal and political change.

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?”

I’m about as dismayed by anyone, along with not-suprised-at-all. The side of this country that’s come out in the months leading up to the election, and then in the immediate aftermath (hate crimes surged 6%, especially attacks on Muslims, with 300 incidents of harassment or intimidation reported in the seven days following Donald Trump’s election – source Southern Poverty Law Center). Seven days, people. That’s a week.

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.

What are you going to do about it?

Congratulations, America — this week you got exactly what you asked for

United States PresidentialMap of Election Results 1968-2012
United States Presidential Election Results 1968-2012

I guess it’s time for me to talk about the election. Because… well… it’s the thing to do, this week. I actually got a full 8 hours of sleep last night. The insomnia seems to have abated. For now.

Who’s not thinking/talking about this election at length… perserverating… wondering what-if… and trying to figure out next steps? A minority segment of the population is taking another route, providing a much-needed public service of posting baby animal videos and  fart jokes to social media, compassionately playing the clowns to ease the angst of the majority of voters whose candidate conceded the morning after the election. And I thank them for that.

It’s been a little over three days, since the results came in, and it’s been the longest year ever, packed into less than a week.

Probably the most distressing and taxing thing for me, personally, is believing that the results of this election didn’t just magically appear, but are part of the logical progression we as citizens/residents of the United States have collectively been involved in, over the past years… decades… centuries. The alt-right didn’t suddenly drop their cover (as encouraged on Reddit and other online enclaves) and surge forward to elect “their man”. Violence against vulnerable / different people didn’t just start happening since Tuesday night. Swastikas haven’t been spray-painted in public places only since November 9th (that’s been happening increasingly over the past couple of decades). This sort of acting out has been going on for a long, long time, building to a head this week like a boil under the surface of the American skin.

And we’ve participated. All of us. On both sides of the proverbial aisle. We’ve all been complicit, to some extent or another. We’ve been complacent. We’ve wrapped ourselves in the banner of American Exceptionalism and decided for ourselves that “we’re better than that”, all the while ignoring the in-your-face facts of our historical genocide, slavery, the land grabs, the destruction of the earth, and the systematic oppression and violence against anyone and anything who does not Dominate. We’ve cheered on the dominators… when they’ve been on our team. And we haven’t done much to curb our lust for retribution when we’ve been dominated by those “others”. We’ve collectively contributed as an entire nation to this progression, whether directly or indirectly. And all the people reacting to this election’s results with shock and dismay, just shows me how few people have really been paying attention for the past 30 years.

No, wait – the past 300 years.

No, make that 1300 years.

And beyond.

Too many of us have been living in an echo chamber consisting of highly personalized experiences of one sort or another: overwork, over-worry, a steady diet of nervous-system-tweaking television (you know that commercials are specially designed and produced to put you into a persistent, heightened state of alert, right?), networks of social media friends and contacts who not only agree with us but shore up our biases with links to blatantly propagandist pseudo-news and their own personal manifestos, and our flat-out refusal to consider any points of view different from our own. All that customization both increases and reduces the friction in our lives, and in so doing, it saps our resilience. Pinballing reactively between comfort and crisis is no way to build core strength. We’re so caught up in “Don’t think – react!” mode, that we’ve slowly been deconditioned away from complex thought… the ability to connect with others different from ourselves… the ability to be more than blue-pill-popping Matrix power supplies.

And so, it’s extremely difficult for me to take issue with one side over the other. Yes, violence has accompanied the rhetoric and rallies of the leading Republican contender. Yes, his followers have kicked the crap out of a lot of folks, threatened them overtly, plotted large-scale destruction against them. But the violence has been coming from both sides. No one side has been any less or more culpable than the other. And those of us who stood by and made excuses for it or justified it when it was coming from people who agreed with us, were complicit in that sort of behavior. We legitimized it. Because we took sides, and we refused to look further.

Don’t get me wrong. I am categorically opposed to just about everything the current incarnation of the Republican Party stands for and promotes. At the same time — woe is me — I can completely and totally understand where all the right-of-center adherents are coming from. It’s a terrible place to find myself, because I can’t comfortably inhabit just one side of the issue and pretend the other doesn’t matter. It does matter. It has an impact. And I cannot even begin to discount the validity and legitimacy of the very real pain, suffering, and sense of hopelessness that permeates that part of the culture I observe from what I think is a safe distance.

There is no safe distance. Not anymore.

I may be one of the very, very few people around, these days, who feels this way. I’m sure there are others. I’ve read some very good pieces by them. But we’re precious few. The partisan nature of our lives, the “team sports” mentality, the our-tribe-against-their-tribe orientation… it has suffused our public and private lives for so long, it feels normal. Natural. How Things Are Supposed To Be. And now this election happens… and what do we have but a president-elect who embodies the most extreme form of partisanship ever. He’s built his platform on resentment, hate, pain, fear, and the openly expressed desire to tear down the system that so many feel oppresses them — and so many rely on for their survival. It’s now US against THEM in a whole new way — not the ritualized political schism-making we seem to have down to a science, but a cultural rift that we perpetuate gleefully, even as we bemoan the fruits of our actions.

I’ve written about how we’ve gotten in the habit of pretending other people’s pain doesn’t matter before, and it’s time for me to think about it again. A lot. It’s ridiculous, really, how we got ourselves into this situation, but we’re carrying on as though we don’t understand why. The signs were there. They’ve always been there. We just chose to ignore them, because — for the time being — they didn’t work against us. So long as “our guy” won and was in office, and our interests were covered, we were good. We thought it was all good. And a whole new generation of Americans has grown up in a fantasmagorical bubble of thinking that the kinds of behaviors and policies we’re now seeing are anomalous, un-American, and the behavior of deranged individuals who are unhinged from reality.

I’ve got news for you, in case you hadn’t heard — the kinds of behaviors we’ve been seeing leading up to the election and coming immediately afterwards, are exactly the kinds of things you can expect from Americans who have been living under the conditions and with the mindsets that the opposing echo-chamber folks blissfully ignore or discredit. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard”, which means we haven’t been listening. And we devalue other people at our own risk. The idea that we can pay no attention (la-la-la-la) to the sufferings of select others — whether they’re white or black or brown or red, whether they’re “entitled” to suffer or not — and expect it to never blow back in our faces… it’s just plain delusional. Clearly, our logic and our ability to pay attention and connect the dots has failed us.

Welcome, America. Welcome to the world we have created.

Change for Good – Beyond the four-year altar-call

churchEvery four years, we’re treated to talk about change during the presidential elections. Everybody makes the case about why change is either needed, or not. And everybody has plenty to say about the new policies everyone else is proposing.

Who doesn’t want change? I certainly do. Good Lord, yes. I think you’d have to be either asleep or on very good drugs, to not desire at least some change in the world. If you’re just mildly paying attention, you’re aware of at least one or two (or two million) things that could use some improvement.

And all the political candidates have some pretty persuasive points. I’m in the unfortunate situation, where I can see the reason for every candidate’s platform. I can’t just discount them and call them “crazy” — because at a basic, human level, I understand them.  Of course, understanding where they’re coming from doesn’t mean I agree with them — not in the least. But I do understand their perspectives, and I completely understand exactly why they and their supporters feel the way they do.

There’s one thing that eludes me, however — and that’s why anyone thinks that the change that’s most needed is going to come from on high, via a presidential candidate, when the “boots on the ground” are still hewing to the same-old-same-old. Seriously, we seem to collectively think that having a new butt in the seat of the Oval Office is going to steer the ship of state in some magically transformative direction… and meanwhile, all the folks down on the benches in the galley are rowing in the same old direction. Or not rowing at all — chances are, they’re on their smartphones.

What part of this makes sense? None of it, from where I’m sitting.

For the last four years — and all the four-year periods prior to the last election — the American public has done a fantastic job of avoiding making pretty much any personal investment in systemic change. We’ve enthusiastically pointed fingers and called names (we’ve got that down to a science), but what have we really — truly — done to actually bring about the changes we believe will save us all? Hell, we haven’t even bothered to more fully understand the issues we all face, collectively. We’re so busy snarking away on Facebook and tweeting our discontent, that any chance of in-depth discussion is, well, non-existent.

And no, watching a late-night current events discussion show does not count. Nor does having the political landscape explained to you by the pundit of your choice, as you nod in agreement.

None of that counts. Emoting is not effecting change. Reacting is not acting. Tweeting and posting is not social activism. And, sorry, flashmobs don’t count. Even if they are posted to YouTube and go viral.

What actually counts, is action. Doing something about your beliefs and values in a substantive, consistent way. You need to do the small, boring, unimpressive, personally costly, utterly transformative things each and every day, whether or not somebody is watching, whether or not it gets attention in social media and tons of likes. And guess what — it doesn’t count in an election year. Anybody can do or believe in sh*t in an election year. Just about everybody does. Anybody can gravitate to a political line and jump on board the party boat, every four years. Who doesn’t?

Watching all the political/ideological hullabaloo, this time of year, is like watching an altar call, when you see intransigent repeat offenders making their way to the front of the revival tent to have all their transgressions wiped clean… just like they’ve done regularly, as long as you’ve known them. And based on past experience and observation, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going right back to their evil ways, as soon as the glow of the revival wears off.

Same thing happens each election year. People get all up in arms and holier-than-thou and righteous and what-not… so-so-so sure that their candidate is The Cure for All That Ails Us. They’re true believers, and they support their candidates in word and deed. Then the election comes. Maybe they win, maybe they lose. But whatever the outcome, once the dust has settled and the new POTUS has their butt in the Oval Office seat, we all go back to business as usual.

And we spend another four years of habitual oblivion, racking up yet more reasons to be outraged and desperate, the next time around.

Considering how much more dire each subsequent election becomes, with “more than ever riding on the outcome”, it’s hard for me to take anyone’s burning political convictions seriously. Where’s all that social traction or that same devoted fervor when it’s NOT an election year.  It’s nowhere to be found. Who writes to Congress? Who even calls their representative? (Signing an online petition doesn’t count, by the way, because the recipients often completely disregard them, because they’re so easy to fudge.) It’s all hands-off in the general population, and then we bitch and complain about how lobbyists have taken over our government. Lobbyists and special interests didn’t “take over” anything — they stepped into a gaping void that we’ve all created… and invited them into by turning a blind eye.

We rarely bother to really understand the full spectrum of the issues we face — we just hew to proposals floated by our candidates. Who among the believers that “big banks must be dismantled” understands the impact that would have on the pensions of countless retired schoolteachers? Or union members? Or other folks who have worked long and hard, and who rely on that pension to make ends meet? Who among the proponents of deporting all the “illegals” understands what impact that would have on the economy — or how their own constant craving for low prices drives the underground economy of undocumented labor? Who among the backers of a strong military understands how our long-standing foreign policies and global economic interdependencies contribute to ongoing strife that locks us in a perpetual state of policing and military intervention on behalf of more countries than just our own? And who among those who long for a return to Christian values, realize how vulnerable they are making themselves — because there are so many different flavors of Christian values, and many of those values have been used for centuries by Christians to disenfranchise and kill other Christians, with full religious justification?

We have no collective grasp of the full scope of the issues and challenges that we face as a nation, together. But to us, that’s not the problem — the real problem, apparently, is that other people just don’t agree with us.

All the ballyhoo, all the drama.  It’s both entertaining and annoying. Because seriously, people, who is actually willing to put their money where their mouth is and take action by themselves, instead of looking to some national leader to point them in the right direction? Where’s the action, outside of election years, that backs up your commitment to change? People want energy independence, but they can’t do without their electronic devices and creature comforts. People want clean water for Flint, but they’d rather have cheap cars from Detroit. People want to protect the earth, but they can’t be bothered to separate out their recycling, or cut back on their driving. People want their kids to grow up in a safer world, but they won’t weigh in with their elected representatives on how to make that happen. People want gun rights, but they don’t want to learn how to responsibly and effectively use a firearm, so they don’t kill innocent bystanders.

We want our lives customized and personalized. Screw what that does to the environment. Never mind the expensively toxic bricks that Prius batteries are. We get save gas and look all the more eco-friendly. Never mind the haz-mat incidents waiting to happen when we throw away those new fluorescent light bulbs. They’re easy to come by and they save us money. New iPhone! Woo hoo! Never mind the massive buildings in China housing thousands upon thousands of workers, some of whom leap to their deaths out of desperation. That has nothing to do with us. It’s just sad. Here, let me share that on Facebook or Tweet a 😦 about it.

All this election year talk is just that — talk. For all the outrage and insults, within weeks after the election results are in, the vast majority of people will drop championing the issues and retreat to their social media corners, snarking about oversimplifications from the safety of the interwebs. They’ll say plenty — especially if they’ve “lost” the election — but will they actually do anything? For all the talk about values and the need for change, where’s the action to back it up… especially on an ordinary everyday basis? Where’s the direct contact with our dreaded Congress, to tell them what we actually want and need? Where’s the choice to forego creature comforts for the sake of preserving what we really care about?

Where indeed?

If you really want change, you need to act like it. And if I don’t see it outside of election years, then nothing you can say is going to convince me that you are serious about your political platform. Or that your candidate is a serious contender to actually lead.

Much of my thinking about change was influenced by a dream I had over 20 years ago. It’s now published as Strange Bedfellows –  a story about how we change … and don’t. Get the book here.