Sunday, November 13, 2016

a new march on washington

Short version:

I imagine a massive crowd gathers on inauguration day, no violence, no noise, maybe a few anti-Trump, anti-hate signs. They stand silently, their numbers the important part, and they turn their back on the proceedings.

Americans would hardly go for that, of course. We like to make noise, like to disrupt actively rather than (deliberately) passively. It is the American way. If the current method isn't working, you're just not putting enough effort into it.

Long version:

I was talking to my ex the other day about the protests this week, how it feels like they cannot possibly accomplish anything but to maybe satisfy something a little therapeutic in those participating, and to piss off those who are not. Not that there isn't a place for (deliberately) pissing people off. But, it feels to me--and for the record I am a white male so maybe I've just got the privilege of holding off until the protest is more convenient--like something more deliberate, more thought out, more... Really, I think it's numbers that that will matter. I mean, Trump's supporters don't care about women or those with darker skin--and yes, I generalize, but so the fuck what? They just de facto supported misogyny and bigotry, turning a blind eye to it if not outright promoting it. That there are women among them, that there are people of color among them--that is not as important as the institutionalization and normalization of offensive behavior that comes from all of those votes for Donald Trump.

It seems that what matters, in the face of an executive office and both branches of the legislative (and potentially the judicial) turning to the Right, is the numbers to really make a fucking point. That is, having enough of a mass movement that they have no choice but to listen. A protest in one city might help alleviate the bad feelings of some of those involved, but what does it really accomplish? Especially right now. The election is done, but Trump is not even president yet. These protests will not stop the process. Faithless electors are unlikely. The process will continue. January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of these United States. The only choice his opponents have is to make sure that they... we are heard.

Anyway, I was telling my ex that what we should do is all show up in DC on inauguration day, make it massive, make it impossible to ignore. That very same day, the Million Woman March event on Facebook was going around. But that's just part of what we need. We need not just one million but many millions of women. And, we need men. And we need people of color. (Ignore the intersectional bit of these arbitrary divisions for the moment.) We need natives. We need foreigners. We need gay people. We need straight people. We need everyone.

I brought up SNCC while talking to my ex about all this. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We need something like that, to bring together the women's groups, the Black Lives Matter groups, the LGBTQ groups, and to get all the straight white men who should be offended by the mistreatment of these and so many other marginalized groups. We do not need--though it may feel great in the short term--scattered protests in a handful of cities. We need a singular, coordinated, focused effort to gather together and be heard.

We cannot stop Trump from becoming president, but maybe.... No, no maybes. We WILL make him listen to us. There will be no banning of Muslims, no more disproportionate shootings of black men by the cops, no more conversion therapy or talk of marriage just being between one man and one woman, no more grabbing women by, well, any body part they do not want to be grabbed by.

Donald Trump may be president, and he may have both houses of congress on his side, but this is still a government of the people, by the people for the people.

That doesn't just mean the winners. That doesn't just mean white Christian males. It means everyone.

The winners want unity? They must be forced to include us. We must stand up and demand as much.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

can't we all just burn it down?

On the other hand, when geographic lines are not as clear as they may have been at the start of the American Civil War, why the hell should we try to get along at all?

Regardless of the end results of last night's election, fifty milllion (plus) people just voted against Syrian refugees, against women, against people of colour, against the LGBTQ community, against government-funded healthcare, against the rich paying their fair share. They voted for conversion therapy, for trade war, for literal war, for misogyny and racism and so much white privilege that, honestly, I might support so many of my friends who are not white, not straight, not male, in leaving. Go where your pain might lessen. Or stay and fight with those of us white males who love you.

I wrote in favor of coming together late last night because that was the voice I needed in order to relax and to sleep. I put on my "practice reckless optimism" shirt this morning because that is the message I want to put out into the world. But, as I wrote last night, and upon waking this morning, I knew I would write something quite the opposite when I got the chance. I deliberately put away my anger last night because, fortunately, I'm good at compartmentalizing when I need to. Those who are already marginalized, though--including many of my favorite people--I understand that putting away your pain may be impossible. I am sorry.

For those of you who just won:

"Basket of deplorables" is the kind way of describing far too many of you. When some of you still call Barack Obama a Muslim, still call Michelle Obama a man in drag, call liberals evil, assume foreigners dangerous, assume poor to be poor by their own fault, assume that women should shut up and get back in the kitchen where they were when America was great, that black people should get into their inner city hells or find some other country in which to live, you damage the very ideal of what this country should have been. I made a point last night of separating greatness and goodness. America has been for a long time, and still is, great. It has been on track to becoming good and last night you derailed it. Your fear of someone coming for your guns, of someone coming for your religion, of someone coming for your right to speak your bigotry has, at least for now, ruined us.

Now, of course, that system is no longer "rigged", right? Because your people have control of the executive, of both houses of the legislative, and soon probably the judicial. Rigged does not mean that someone you don't like has won. Rigged means the poorest of us lack voice, lack power. Rigged means those marginalized because of their race, their sexuality, their place of birth are sidelined because history is written by the winners and straight white Christian men conquered this land and have laid claim to it as if their very lives depend on it.

So, the rest of us--the marginalized and the white men who do not want power taken through force of hateful rhetoric (or overt violence)--have two options:

1. The dangerous option, because rhetorically and literally it edges into violence, is to make their lives actually depend on it. Now, I do not mean that we bring it to violence. You need not take a life to make a life difficult. Republicans spent the past eight years hindering Democrat's political efforts, and far too often it worked more than it failed. And, when folks pronounce the race card expired this morning, we have driven ourselves backward. That is what they wanted. That is what they achieved. So, we do everything we can destroy them.

2. And, because that is edging too far toward violence (against the people who have all the guns, too), there is the more mindful approach. Keep speaking. Keep protesting. Keep demanding the right to personal choice, the right to immigrate, the right to be gay or transgender without being hated, the right to be black and walk down the street at night without being suspect, the right to have a vagina and a voice. Donald Trump is a populist. Show him what the populace really is. Show him the power of varied opinions, of varied backgrounds, of more than just one and definitely more than two genders, of numerous races and cultures and nationalities and show him that embracing a dangerous extreme only pushes the knife into the wound in the heart of this country further.

Wound or heal. Metaphorically. And do it so very loudly.

can't we all just get along?

What to some feels like tacit approval of sexism, of racism, bigotry, sexual assault, religious discrimination, bullying, the politics of insults (as if that's new), and so many variations of the same--to others feels like a hopeful transformation of something inexplicably and surreptitiously corrupt. It feels like a chance for safety for those feeling fear... maybe as much as it feels like fear in so many others--muslims, mexicans, blacks, gays. And I am troubled.

It seems tonight--as Donald Trump has just been elected president for context if anyone is reading this later--that while the president elect ws remarkably sedate and self-controlled in his victory speech, even calling for unity, so many are drawing abrupt divides between the two sides. If any of my Facebook friends voted for Trump, you voted for hatred and you might as well delete me because I don't want you in my life--that sort of thing. Now, I find Donald Trump as a person to be fairly deplorable (and I choose that word deliberately) and the horribleness of what he stands for and what he expresses far too often and far too freely and far too publicly bothers me a great deal. Before even considering what he might do as President it disturbs me that this is now a person we've set forth as an exemplar of someone good, someone worth being... And that sounds more insulting than I wish it would... more insulting maybe than I think I mean it to sound.

Permit a change of gears.

The problem is that the fears that drove many to vote for Trump are not new. They do not originate from him and he may, and probably does, foment them out of a genuine belief in, for example, the danger of allowing too many Syrian refugees into the country. I am not even sure one could isolate a particular source for such fears beyond innate human tendencies. Certain news outlets and certain public figures definitely make such fears worse, tend to them like ugly plants in a nightmarish garden, but ultimately what matters is that too many people live in a world where it is far too easy to hate that and those which you do not know or understand. I saw a tweet tonight remarking on how we followed up our first black president with a president approved by the KKK as if the painful irony were poetry and this was not simply a more extreme version of the same partisan political reversal our nation regularly exhibits.

We should not be forcing out of our lives those who disagree with us. We should be embracing them. It is not an easy thing, and I know personally that I have little interest in it, but it seem like what we should be doing. It seems like what we need is for more people to know more people, different people, people from varied religious and cultural backgrounds, people who are queer (in regards to sexuality, if you will, and in regards to any other peculiar difference that sets them apart from anyone else)... What's that line from Bulworth? "All we need is a voluntary, free spirited, open ended program of procreative racial deconstruction." He's suggesting that we can rid ourselves of racial conflict by procreating our way out of racial divides, biologically. But, take that same notion and extend it to anything.

For example, I deliberately follow some very extreme groups on Facebook that absolutely would disagree with my political ideas and with whose political ideas I absolutely disagree. My impulse when I interact with them is antagonistic. But, that is because when I am there I am the minority, outnumbered and overwhelmed. But, imagine such an interaction one on one. Imagine actually sitting down to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you, someone who grew up differently from you, someone who looks different from you. Two human beings connecting. Too much of the modern world--social media and the internet in particular--disallows such an interaction. We are forced (or force ourselves) into a public space where anyone can join the conversation and there is little room for civility except among those who are already likeminded.

I do not know how to fix that, and I wish that I did.

Instead, I participate. I lash out. I lament. I weep for a world in which we have essentially endorsed the practice of lying and insulting your way to the top... or maybe that's just what politics is and Donald Trump is just particularly good at it. But, I digress. My point here is that my impulse is to be angry, to be sad, to be disappointed. And, I saw another tweet tonight about remembering how we feel losing tonight so we can take everything back next time and that sounded to me like exactly the same sentiment Trump and his supporters have been expressing for years. We've gotten to this point--or we were always at this point and I'm merely paying closer attention--where we have this rather unhealthy proprietary possessiveness about the country and then when someone else gets to be in charge for a while it is not something civil and... I don't know. It should be something to almost welcome--the market of ideas expanding to include others and making ideaspace and democracy stronger. Instead we have this constant battle, a Cold war of political parties when we should be treating it like taking turns in a board game. The (relatively) peaceful transition of power in this country is one of those things that makes it great--

And, there's a loaded term. Great=/=good. Greatness does not necessarily come from goodness. This country may have (past tense) been great, may (present tense) be great, but that does not mean it has not had and does not continue to have numerous flaws, some of them fundamental to its very soul (I'm looking at you, slavery). A Donald Trump presidency might make America great, but at what cost? And, at what greater cost when we continue to quite deliberately and systematically divide ourselves and hate one another to do it? I mean, nevermind the immigrants for a moment, nevermind the minorities. How about all of us first, embracing antagonism like it is our dearest friend and our need to be right is all that matters. Of course we will turn away homosexuals and people with darker skin; we turn away our brothers and sisters when they express viewpoints we don't like. If we can so easily turn from those similar to us, it should be no surprise that we would turn away from, and even fear, those who are different.

So, channeling my inner hippie right now, I have got to say, fuck that. Turn toward instead of away. Embrace difference rather than sameness. Talk to those who are not like you. Work to understand rather than back away in disgust and fear. Love one another and stop all of this partisan bullshit...

What we need, as well, is many political parties. Not this bipartisan, third-party-is-a-wasted-vote nonsense we have now. Two parties dividing too evenly means monolithic beasts battling it out forever. More options means the fight cannot be so clearly drawn or incessant.

But, I do not know how we get there from here.

I do not know how we love one another.

I do not even know how we talk to one another or listen to one another.

Part of me thinks we have gone too far down the partisan rabbithole and just burning the mother fucker down is the way to go. Then again, I have always embraced the ideas of scoundrels and revolutionaries. We need a revolution of ideas. What we have, though, is inherently (rhetorically) violent even when not literally violent. Sowing hatred and pain and fear when my bleeding heart liberal core just wants everyone to get along.



My cynical side, though--he figures we're just doomed.

Go figure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

on refugees and inner cities

More victims of terrorist attacks in Brussels today. Muslims again, so of course, some blame the religion. Just as we blame blacks for the violence in the inner city. Nevermind the obvious discomfort that results from moving one people into the space of another. But, do we try to take away that discomfort? No. Do we try to prevent violence? Of course not. That is not the American Way. We prefer our violence securely in the past so we can worry about blaming someone... Usually a whole lot of someones. Gang violence is committed mostly by black or brown youths so those black or brown youths must be inherently violent, right? It couldn't possibly be that the lawless situation created in spaces where cops don't put as much effort into solving such violence leads inevitably to more violence. Or, where police overreaction to those suspected of doing something wrong means the locals don't trust the police, they turn to one another, and more reliance on gangs and gangland justice comes. And the police back away more because who can deal with these animals. No attempt to fix the situation. No. Just let it be, let it slide further and further down into the darkness and blame its victims for its condition.

Similarly, we blame the Muslims, blame Islam. Blame refugees and immigrants because what other option is there? Fix the situation? Fix ourselves? No. Blame THEM. Then ban THEM. Then make war against THEM. And, when more of THEM become refugees, and they find themselves in conclaves among US, and turn to THEMselves for justice because THEY know WE don't care, WE blame THEM all over again. The cycle continues...

We strike. They strike. We strike. They strike.

Each attack furthers the growth of the enemie's numbers. On either side. Their children become the next generation of our enemy. Our children become the next generation of theirs.

Pull a group out of its home, for whatever reason--Africans brought to America because of slavery, African-Americans migrated into the cities to find work, Afircan-Americans migrating again to new cities after a hurricane (and bad planning) destroyed one of their cities, Syrian refugees migrating... Well, anywhere to escape a war zone... whatever example you like. Take THEM and move THEM and what? You expect them to integrate with you because you're white, you're dominant, it's your world and THEY are lucky they get to live in it!?

I am tired of this American Way of trying to solve problems only after they have arisen. Whether it's healthcare, inner city people of colour or foreign refugees, we'd rather let the spark become a fire than figure out how to put the spark to good use... To perhaps strain that metaphor.

I see two options. The side of banning and warring and judging races and religions and ethnic groups en masse gets to win but only through utter destruction or the wars and rumours of wars we've got going now. And, that's hardly pleasant for anyone but the rich folk who make money off weapons and armour and vehicles, off oil contracts and what have you.

Or, the side of integration, accepting people as people, wins. And, yes, I know the other side might not choose this route at the same time we do. But, at some point, an eye for an eye, as they say, leaves the whole world blind, ignorant, and crying in pain at the sight of the destruction and the death.

We're supposed to try to improve the world, not give it new scars to replace the old, faded ones.

Utter destruction. Utter acceptance. Maybe neither is possible. But, what is the more noble goal?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

[Trumbo - movie review] you can't do that. this is america

(Cross-posted between my daily Groundhog Day Project movie blog and my far-less-regularly updated Against the World political blog.)

The Naturalization, Alien Friends, Alien Enemies and Sedition Acts of 1798. Anti-German and anti-Irish sentiment in the mid-1800s (and beyond; is not the drunken Irishman still a staple of film?). More anti-German sentiment around the two World Wars. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Anti-Italian sentiment from the 1800s into the 1900s.

(For example, the largest mass lynching in US History was that of nine Italian-Americans who had been found not guilty of murder and let go in New Orleans, 1891. They and two other Italians held on unrelated charges were dragged from jail and lynched. Arrests followed, but not of those who did the lynching. Rather, more Italians. In a piece at, 10 July 2012, Ed Falco describes how President Roosevelt called the lynchings "a rather good thing.")

Anti-Catholic sentiment just made things worse for the Italians.

(24 December 1806, protestors surrounded St. Peter's Church in Manhattan because of the strange rituals going on inside, i.e. Christmas Eve celebrations. Just last month, armed protestors surrounded a Mosque in Irving, Texas.)

Anti-Japanese sentiment and internment during World War II. Anti-Communist sentiment running throughout the 20th century. (Which is where today's film--Trumbo--puts us. (I have also just watched an episode of HBO's John Adams and the film version of 1776 is on as I'm writing.) But, let us not stop there just yet.) Anti-black, anti-Mexican, anti-gay... Anti-Muslim of late--that's just keeping up with the usual practice.

The American tradition of Otherization.

Dalton Trumbo and many others in Hollywood were blacklisted because they were (or were rumoured to be) Communists. There was no crime committed by Trumbo and the rest of the Hollywood Ten until they were subpoenaed to Congress and would not answer the questions put to them.

The film plays that testimony scene with both Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and Arlen Hird (Louis C.K.) almost as comedy, despite the serious implications for these men's careers and also potential jailtime that may come from being in contempt of congress. 

In fact, there is a lot of comedy... or at least comedic moments in Trumbo. The film also, necessarily takes a dark turn as Trumbo deals with being blacklisted by working even more, under assumed names, taking amphetamines and drinking and smoking (perhaps) more than before. Trumbo is a deeply flawed character, the kind of character I love. There's a moment in the film in which he will not even take a break for his daughter's birthday celebration and cake and his daughter and (nearly) his wife turns on him. The film does not shy away from his horribleness, but rather presents him as a flawed man desperate to survive in the face of adversity that has put him in jail and cost him his career (officially, but not completely as long as he is willing to remain anonymous). My pet subject--identity--comes into play, but only incidentally. But the related idea of voice is key to the story. These Communists are the Other, distrusted just for meeting together. There's a line repeated a couple times (including in a theatrical newsreel) about the conspiracy of these Communists to undermine our American way of life, or something along those lines. a) I don't have the movie handy at home

b) the exact wording is not the point because the same damn argument just keeps happening in this country. (To be fair, I would never suggest that America is exclusive in this behaviour. But, America's part in it is the one that is immediate and personal to me.) Rex Reed (who I should really cite more often than I do) ends his review of Trumbo with the hope that the film "will broaden the knowledge of young audiences today that remain ignorant about Hollywood's darkest past." The real hope, I would say, is that any audience--let alone a young one--might even go see the film. It's made about $4 million so far, and I think there were about 3 other people in the theater where I saw it today. It opened at 37th in the box office about a month ago. #1 that weekend was Spectre, #2 The Peanuts Movie. The Martian was still doing pretty well, too. (I was actually excited to see this movie but took a month to get around to seeing it, so...) It's not going well.

But, we cannot expect a film that questions the joy we take at Otherizing anyone with differing political views to do well. We prefer out entertainment patriotic, jingoistic. We don't like a film that presents us someone different who remains unapologetically different. (Some of us do, but generally speaking, not so much.) Even Rex Reed, who seems to like the film, calls Trumbo's joining of the Communist Party "naïveté."

When Trumbo eventually won an award from the Writer's Guild in 1970--a moment dramatized at the end of the film--he said, "The blacklist was a time of evil. Caught in a situation that had passed beyond the control of mere individuals, each person reacted as his nature, his needs, his convictions, and his particular circumstances compelled him to." In the film (and possibly in the actual speech, though I cannot find a complete transcript), he adds, "[N]o one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil... none of us--left, right or center--emerged from that long nightmare without sin." I think of images from the civil rights movement and the violence put against it--the dogs, the hoses, the burning crosses and lynchings, and I can see the point of Trumbo's phrasing. I don't believe in "evil" but if there is such a thing, surely it is that which turns man against man to no real end.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

a brief thing about "feminism"

It bugs me when my kids think the term feminism is a negative. Wanting everyone to be equal is all well and good, but equalist just ain't gonna have the same ring. Nor is it descriptive. Nor is it the most appropriate term available.

Take the recent transition from gay marriage to marriage equality, for comparison. The point where the media starts referring to it as the latter instead of the former--

(Let us forget the limitation in the term gay marriage, because calling it (prior to Obergefell v. Hodges) gay trans bi all-inclusive marriage just doesn't roll off the tongue as readily.)

--is when, arguably... officially, equality exists. The problem before you get to that point is that one side of the debate thinks the other side is encroaching on its tradition, trying to tear down what it already has, rather than just attaining the same for itself. The same is true with gender equality, with feminism. Men are on top. Women are not. The patriarchy is held in place by tradition, by practice, by the sheer will of constantly reified heteronormative, paternalistic beliefs.

Equality can be attained two ways--if we simplify things. Tear down men to the level of women or raise women up. So equalist could mean that you want either one of those. Feminism, on the other hand, implies the raising up of women. However frightened some men may be, feminism does not imply the tearing down of men. It just doesn't.

We can call it equality when we've got it. As I told my son earlier today, it would be great if feminism and feminist were just words for a history class. Because we don't need them anymore. But, we just are not there yet.

Friday, June 19, 2015

don't. shoot. him.

In response to the shooter Dylann Roof--a white supremacist who murdered nine black people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston--being taken alive, a friend of mine posted on Facebook, "Great... now shoot him." Comments that followed included the usual notions about coming up with something better because shooting it too good for him. Because that is what a wounded nation needs--more violence and more death.

If anyone deserves to die, it is the likes of this man. But, that is a very big if. You know what we lose if this man dies, if we torture him to somehow pretend that that cures any ill or repairs any damage done? I mean, aside from a piece of the soul of who we should probably try to be instead of being the fucked up, mostly indifferent people we are. We lose any hope of understanding.

Why would we want to understand this man, you might ask. Or some question close to it. Because the racism at the heart of this man's murderous rage is the same racism that is at the heart of too many scenes of men in authority--white men and, unfortunately, men of color--taking the lives of men of color because it is all too easy to assume the worst and shoot first rather than risk... well, knowing that you are an overreactive, triggerhappy pawn of a system that needs us to struggle constantly against one another rather than ever fight against the system itself or the powers and forces and people at the top that keep this treadmill going.

The recent incidents in McKinney, Texas come to mind. Some deep-seeded expectation that we have that when a police officer tells you to do something, you do it, no questions asked. It's not even a matter of race, so much as it some cult of authority in which we have ceded away far too much of our freedom for an illusion of security. Just this week, outside of Cincinnati, white officers were recorded using pepper spray and one put his arm around a girl's throat in the process of removing a black family from a swimming pool over a boy not wearing the "proper swimming trunks."

And, that seems like a tangent, an insignificant matter when I should be listing off the dead people of color who died because it is okay for the police to use deadly force and darker skin makes for more of a hair trigger. It's easier to suspect people of color of wrongdoing because we've spent centuries now just in this country putting white over every other color. Of course a black boy would seem a little more dangerous because he's an outsider and outsiders can't be understood, can't be reasoned with, must be put down. It would just be sad if we didn't constantly defend such a system and such a nation and such authorities. Instead it's far beyond sad, far beyond tragic; it's disgusting and its despicable and its criminal and we need to stop asking why and start demanding change. Not just people of color. All of us. Stop defending the system just because you happen to be on top of it. Stop assuming that any system works if it results in death after death after death.

And, do not demand more death as a response when you bother to take the right side for a change. We do not need to take the life of a guilty white man to prove some sort of fucked up equality. We need to stop taking the lives of men of color, stop taking the lives of, well, anyone, and take a long, hard look at the world we've made for ourselves, at the people it creates. Dylann Roof is an anomaly, but he is not so far gone from the police officer who throws a teenage girl to the ground because she didn't follow orders to vacate a neighborhood she should have every right to be in, he is not so far from the neighborhood watch coordinator who saw a boy in a hoodie and assumed he was up to no good.

We click like and we share news stories and think that's enough... it's not enough.

But neither is an eye for an eye. More blood just perpetuates the idea that taking a life is ever something worth doing. If your reasons are good enough for murder, it's a nice ol' slippery slope to his reasons being good enough, anyone's reasons being good enough.

Lethal force is not somehow magically good because it is ours. Because we're the good guys. We're not the good guys. Nor are we the bad guys. But we seem to have a knack for doing bad things. And we need to stop.