Author Archives: Allison Hantschel

They’re Always Gonna Hate You. That’s Not Gonna Change.

Stop thinking these people are persuadable, interested in your process, or possessed of any good will of any kind at all:

You can do that. Sure. It’s pointless, but so is everything else. God almighty.

I know in the minds of the tote-bag audience there is a massive vast unwashed group of people out there who are “on the fence” about whether the president and his sycophantic cult members are correct that journalists should die quickly, and these types of transparency audits would really persuade those persuadable people and get them to become informed and vote in their own interests and value democracy and American values. I think that is the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever seen and you can dig in it if you want but I’m done looking for the pony here.

Just stop wasting time. We can have a thousand ethics panels. We can have daily seminars on How Journalism Really Works. We can be Totally Transparent and Completely Honest and Prostrate Ourselves Before the People, and you know what’s going to happen?

A bunch of Pepe-wearing Nazi sympathizers are going to show up at our doors in “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” t-shirts and demand our swift demise in the ovens of Auschwitz because THAT’S WHAT THEY FUCKING DO. It is all they do. It is all they want to do. It’s not based on a lack of transparency and it’s not based on a lack of understanding and it’s not based on anything we do anymore than the actions of a schoolyard bully are on the attributes of his victims.

That’s been the Republican Party since at least 2004. Since 2001, really, when the party wasn’t openly yelling about “dune coons” but found ways to get right with the votes of those who did. Since the rise of CPAC as the anointing ground of True Conservatives, they’ve been hating on “the media.” Since Fox News reared its rabid head and started telling everybody that Fox and only Fox was “far and balanced” they’ve been wondering out loud if maybe they really ARE liberally biased and very, very, very bad boys and girls.

Since then, a thousand ethics conferences. A thousand sincere attempts at outreach. A thousand thousand mea culpas and conservative hires and columns about how maybe it’s all really our own fault they’re hitting us. Fifteen embarrassing fucking years of knuckling under to the viewpoints of dishonest chucklenuts screaming about secret liberal agendas. The triumphs of Bernie Goldberg and Ann Coulter, of James O’Keefe and Bill O’Reilly, and where are we now?

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ATTACKED A REPORTER BY NAME ON TWITTER YESTERDAY.

During the campaign, he did it from the podium. He put reporters in a cage and encouraged his followers to shout obscenities, and he got elected, and those reporters gave him the benefit of the doubt, and yesterday he sent his millions of followers after Dave Weigel, for making a simple mistake.

That’s where we are, after all that lying down and staying still and being quiet. After all that acquiescence. After all that being good. They’re still hitting us, and you think the lesson we should learn is to be NICER? In 2017, with Donald Fucking Trump as president, with friends of mine who can’t Google their own names because of what he and his people have done, you think the lesson here is that we need to act right?

I will keep saying this until I am dead: Do not give an inch to people who hate you. Do not give a single inch. Do not take a single step back. Do not let them in. Do not let them pass. Do not change a single thing you are doing to mollify the bully. The bully doesn’t want you to change. The bully doesn’t care what you do. Give him your lunch money Monday through Friday and he’ll kneecap you Saturday for your carnival tickets.

Those of us who back in the day tried to warn media bosses that nothing good would come of paying people to opine in the editorial section that the entire paper should be set on fire so Real Americans can dance around the flames? Lots of us are unemployed now and a few of us are dead and it’s a matter of time until somebody’s murdered and I’m not scared of anyone telling me I’m being hysterical because that’s what you said in 2005, and Donald Trump is president. The balls on all of you, to be astonished now, to be shocked. To still equivocate after all you’ve seen. Fuck you.

It’s sickening, the weakness that people behind the press continue to display. It’s reprehensible. It’s irresponsible. And worse than that, it’s ineffective.

The people who most need to be educated and would benefit from that transparency will instead be listening to some blow-dried Fox-lite anchor asking if the news today is fake, really fake or totally fake and by the way here’s the FUCKING TWITTER HANDLE OF SOMEONE FOR ALL TEN MILLION OF YOU TO GO YELL AT.

A.

Has Your Mom’s Book Club Read JD Vance’s Fishwrap?

If so, make them hork this down: 

I’m not sure about you, but I’m fairly certain that I’ve already witnessed the social transformation wrought by titans like the Waltons, Jeff Bezos, and the Koch Brothers. I already live in the world of their making. It’s inhabited by 70-year-old grandmothers stocking shelves for $8.00 an hour, spending what could be their last holiday ringing up Wal-Mart doorbusters while investors suck up resources from struggling communities. My world is filled with back braces and wrist wraps and time is measured out in double shifts and mandatory unpaid overtime. It’s a world where workers nurse life-long injuries after their supervisors force them to lift heavy boxes while pregnant. It’s a world where elderly adjunct instructors sleep in their cars in the shadow of Google’s corporate headquarters. It’s a world where people who have already burned down the barn think they should be trusted to poke around in the hay.

I know it’s not as bitchin’ as DISRUPTING all the DINOSAUR INDUSTRIES THAT NEED DISRUPTION but maybe just maybe people should just do their jobs and pay their taxes and provide their workers pensions and it will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?

I mean, if you buy the nonsense that there really WAS some kind of utopia in the 1950s (for white people, but still) in which the system worked, then you have to grant that it was happening at a time when corporate profits weren’t completely king, when people could retire at 60 and keep their homes for the next 20 years, when they could spend their money at the grocery store down the street and mow their lawns and live their lives because government DID do things like pave the roads and inspect the buildings.

I’d never knock charity, but I would knock the idea that a few bucks at this level makes any difference when the problems are at this level. The only thing big enough to fix this is what we all pay into, and somewhere along the line we gave ourselves the idea that we didn’t have to do that anymore. It’s well past time for that idea to die.

A.

Safe Zones

For all their blather about no-go zones because of Muslims in France, and feeling attacked at home because people look sideways at their bigotry, the modern GOP has profited handsomely by dividing this country and it’s worth remembering that in the wake of the SCOTUS decision upholding the Muslim Ban and the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop call, which I hope but do not expect to be unfavorable to the stupid bigots defending those cretins.

You want to talk about a no-go zone? Let’s talk about the country the GOP is creating in the name of their laughably euphemistic states’ rights and religious freedom.

There are states where the Obamacare hole between Medicaid and insurance is wider, because those Republican governors made it wider, and the people there are punished. If you’re poor and sick, those states are unsafe for you. If you need public education, if you need social services, if you need a job that pays a living wage, there are states that are unsafe for you.

If a company wants to poison your water, there are towns that are unsafe for you. If you want to get married to someone of the same sex there are courthouses where you’ll be turned away. If you need birth control you never know if your doctor or pharmacist can legally refuse you. You can be made to feel unsafe anywhere.

 

And not for nothing but literally no one has made it unsafe to be a Christian. There is a Christmas tree on my very secular desk right now blinking red and green, my very blue city in a very blue state looks like Santa threw up on it from 35,000 feet, and if you namecheck Jesus on occasion nobody says boo. I have never been kicked out of anything for the saint’s medal I wear around my neck.

I can’t say the same for the ladies who hold one another’s hands and still look over their shoulders, or the men who wouldn’t dare give a kiss on the cheek in a grocery store.

And the reason this country is one country and not 50 different small ones is that we are all of us safe or none of us are. Dividing us up makes it easier to violate that inalienable right.

A.

The Economics of Matt Lauer and Others Like Him

Matt Lauer was everything that was fucked up and bullshit about journalism, and that was before we knew he was a criminal and a disgusting sex pervert.

He was fucked up and bullshit because for what he made, you could run a newspaper in a decent-sized city for ten years. For what he made interviewing the same six celebrities everybody else was interviewing so that America’s mom-bies knew what to talk about at playdates, you could have paid for any number of journalistic enterprises. And by that I mean papers. Magazines. Metro desks. You could have paid for them all.

Read this entire thread:

Matt Lauer was everything that was fucked up and bullshit about journalism because he did that thing that really only famous men are allowed to do, which is to float back and forth between being a talk-show-host celebrity bullshitter and being a serious journalist. I don’t love Katie Couric, okay, but when she wanted to hold down an anchor desk everybody laughed themselves sick. Yet Matt Lauer, who did her same job except worse, got to ask presidential candidates questions like he was some kind of authority and everybody had to bow down.

Like a guy who gets owned by Anne Hathaway should be given the keys to that particular vehicle. Like that’s a thing we should do.

Matt Lauer was everything that was fucked up and bullshit about journalism because he got owned by a 90-pound actress but NBC paid him like he was somehow essential to society. Like, democracy dies in darkness but here, this anthropomorphized circumcision of a human is our highest offering to the gods of the presses.

He got good ratings. People liked him, so NBC did what they had to do to keep him around, and somewhere along the way he started acting like he deserved to be liked instead of lucking into it. People like what they’re used to, so I guess you’d want to shell out to keep people comfortable with a show they’ve come to like.

But what I also know is that people can get comfortable with anything if it’s around long enough, and the way I know that is that we replaced Regis & Kathie Lee some time ago with a couple of other people and the Republic did not fall. It stands to reason, thereby, that at any point when Matt Lauer’s money or his antics became unsustainable he could be jettisoned for the next guy.

That he wasn’t, proves Matt Lauer was everything that was fucked up and bullshit about journalism. And as glad as I am that we are rid of him, there are a dozen others just like him, making his money, whose salaries should all be given to weekend photogs and whoever’s working night cops at the smallest paper in the market, because those people on their laziest days are working harder than Lauer ever did exposing himself to his interns.

A.

You Voted For This

Congrats, everybody who’ll be bitching in diners to NYT reporters in six months or eight months or a year about how everything sucks for you.

Congrats, because you voted for it.

You voted to gut your public school’s budget, because teachers have too many benefits and only work nine months out of the year anyway. Okay.

You voted to increase taxes on student loans, because if people can’t afford college they shouldn’t go, or should get jobs, or should study something useful like engineering and not dumb philosophy and basketweaving. Okay.

You voted to help kill Obamacare, because it was too expensive or bad or dumb, and you think being on your own, uninsurable and uninsured, is better. Okay.

You voted to repeal state and local property tax deductions. You voted to grant personhood rights beginning at conception. You voted to let churches openly politick. Okay.

Congratulations.

In six months or eight months or a year, here’s what your world will look like.

Your public school will still be a shithole, your teachers will be on strike, your town’s test scores will be cratering.

Your property taxes — the taxes you bitch about like it’s your job — will skyrocket, and you can’t deduct them unless you’re living in a half-million-dollar crib in a prime community.

You won’t be able to sell your house, though, because the schools will suck, and school scores and property tax rates are all that matter in real estate.

Your pastor or priest will be telling you who he or she likes in the next election. If you want to remain a member in good standing, here’s who you’ll like, too.

The last insurance company serving your community will pull out because there aren’t enough customers. That’s okay, you can go on Medicare! Except you can’t, because that program had to be gutted to make up for the shortfalls caused by the tax cuts. 

Congratulations.

That’s what you voted for.

You voted against the very benefits that made your life possible, that kept your family in their homes and jobs and lives, that sent you to school each day and put food on your table. You voted against the social contract that says we all need help sometime, and we all deserve second chances, and we all should take care of one another.

You did it out of ignorance or spite, out of selfishness or fear, out of racism or stupidity or greed or just plain meanness, but you did it to yourselves.

You know why we don’t rebuild our cities with our steel and our fuel and our workers? You know why our schools aren’t the best in the nation, shining beacons of education? You know why we don’t go to the moon anymore, why we don’t take care of each other, why we don’t succeed? You know why America isn’t fucking great anymore?

Because the Republican congressmen and senators you voted for, over and over, out of ignorance and spite and selfishness and fear and racism and stupidity and greed and just plain meanness don’t want to make it great. They want to profit. And they know you either don’t know that, or don’t care.

So when you look around the wreckage, as you try to figure out what happened to the society you once lived in, make sure one of your lingering glances is toward a mirror.

A.

On #GivingTuesday, Consider The Media

I mean us, of course.

Remember this? Yeah, it’s real.

Today I’m gonna write about our fundraiser because we’ve been doing this Internet thing for 17 years now and sometimes it feels like no time but sometimes I feel like Internet Grandma talking about the good old days when if you knew what HTML was you were like some kind of magic genius and people threw money at you.

Well, not really, but it did seem back in 2004 when we merrily threw ourselves into fighting the Bush administration’s bullshit that there was gonna be some kind of knocking down of barriers. I should have been smart enough to know the world always gets rebuilt as closely as it can be to the way it was before, but it was my first time through the meat grinder and I thought better of us all back then.

A lot of the smaller blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of the bigger blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of writers wound up at other publications, bigger publications. A lot of writers wound up with day jobs that became day careers. A lot of people gave up, moved to Twitter, moved offline entirely.

A lot of writers flounced out of the Internet entirely because it’s mean. But a lot of us stayed, even though it’s mean.

It’s understandable. This was never any kind of new media world, and going it alone means the work’s never done. (If anyone wants to buy us, please, give me a call!) I’m the daughter of a small business owner who always said it’s great to own your own business because you can pick your day off. You get one day. Per year. Off.

Ads were plentiful for a while. Then they weren’t, or they got intrusive, or they depended on some kind of #sponcon non-disclosed dodge that felt like lying to you, or they demanded traffic numbers we couldn’t sustain. Our backbone has always been our annual reader contributions and I’ve never wanted to change that.

We don’t do this every quarter. Everybody’s a volunteer. This fundraiser covers basic costs like paying our hosting fees and, you know, the electricity. And if it feels more critical this year it’s only because it’s been 17 years and we’re all exhausted from staying alive and it gets harder every day and we lean into it and tell you to do the same.

Everybody’s a volunteer. Everybody’s got a day job or two. My side hustles have side hustles. That’s my choice, I get that, but this is important. I hope it’s important to you if you’ve been reading all this time. We’re about a third of the way to our goal. Our goal, by the way, is $1,500. That’s it.

Can you help us get there?

Click here to donate.

A.

Tuesday Foodblogging: Sugar Cookie Edition

Sugar cookies make the best presents. I bake up batches of these and these, give them to people and everyone is happy.

A.

Facebook & Twitter Did Not Elect Trump. Fox News Did.

I’ve written before about the decline of local news and how it led to Trump. I’m always yelling on the Twitter machine about how if social media disappeared tomorrow we’d still have Republicans all over the TV so if we can have some hearings about that, it would be great.

A couple of links for further reading. First, this:

That year, Sinclair created a national news desk to produce segments for stations’ local newscasts, and in 2003 it followed up with a Washington bureau. Sinclair’s political leanings gained more widespread attention in 2004 when Ted Koppel planned to spend an episode of Nightline reading the names of soldiers killed in Iraq. Sinclair ordered its ABC affiliates not to run the show, saying it was “motivated by a political agenda.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Sinclair’s move “unpatriotic.” During that year’s presidential campaign, Sinclair sparked a national uproar when it planned to air Stolen Honor, a controversial documentary widely seen as a hit piece on then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Democratic nominee. Amid the backlash, Mark Hyman compared news networks that refused to report Stolen Honor‘s allegations about Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War activism to Holocaust deniers. After Sinclair’s DC bureau chief described the documentary to a Baltimore Sun reporter as “biased political propaganda with clear intentions to sway this election,” the company fired him and sued him for breach of contract.

And this:

I’m not discounting the fact of Russian meddling in Facebook and Twitter and the influence Reddit played in boosting the signals of inbred MAGA dipshits who wanted an excuse for why women wouldn’t service them. But Fox is omnipresent in ways the Internet still is not for the demographics that reliably vote Republican. Walk into any car dealership, any podiatrist’s office, hell any airport, and there’s a better than average chance Fox is what’s on. I had to yell at my doctor’s office to turn that shit off and I live in the People’s Republic.

Local news, which takes its cues from Fox and the like, tends to trivialize any “politics” in favor of stories about the conveniences of the upper middle class. You want an example? Last Friday, my local Fox affiliate ran a story about protests on Black Friday that focused on drawing attention to police brutality against black people. The protests focused on that, I mean. The story focused on shit like this:

At Boycott Black Friday demo in Chicago, two from Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party told me Russia lost “true communism” after death of Joseph Stalin. He’s their hero, not a brutal mass murderer of millions. They called Nikita Krushchev’s famous 1956 speech about Stalin’s monstrous crimes “lies.” GULAG? Berlin Wall? Fuggetaboudit!

The entire tone of the piece (which isn’t online, natch, because why would you make your news site useful) was that these protests for black lives are dumb and over compared to suburban mommies buying overpriced dolls, and I mean tone in everything from the reporter’s voice to the word choice. “Yeah, there were protests, but whatevs, they’re not gonna change anything, they didn’t draw any huge crowds so they’re wrong, they just got in the way of shopping and were loud. Hee hee, commies.”

I seriously doubt these idiot kids were involved in Stalin’s purges. These dumb poseur-communists and the protesters marching right next to them have killed exactly nobody in the past year, in stark contrast to the Chicago Police Department, but sure, let’s spend some of our limited time on this planet making fun of them.

This, by the way, is the station’s “political editor.” A bazillion more people saw this broadcast than follow Trump’s tweets and what they saw was that black people protesting are worthy of ridicule and aren’t as important as the Disney Store.

Do you see where I’m going here? You don’t have to log on to Facebook to find this shit. Forget TV, even, since we’re talking about people who aren’t online: Talk radio, which has spent 30 YEARS calling all Democrats baby-killers who want to let black men rape all the white women, is omnipresent in the Midwest. Right now this shitbird is on a redemption tour but he was the main reason Republicans like Scott Walker — Trump with slightly better table manners — and his legislative cronies got elected in Wisconsin. His entire schtick was basically LOLOLOL LIBERALS R FAGS, sucking up to the right wing of the Roman Catholic church, and hating on food stamps.

Radio listeners across the Republican base of white-flight suburbia heard him. Tens of thousands of them. Far beyond the reach of any bot-driven MAGA shut-in re-tweeting Trump’s rage.

This is leaving out so many other things that reinforce the status-quo narrative, including broadcasts of religious leaders who are neither, profiles of FUCKING NAZIS because we have learned nothing since Charlottesville, celebrity coverage that lionizes inoffensive white girls who don’t speak up about being groped by man-pigs, and on and on and on.

We have to solve the media disparity before anything changes, and that doesn’t just mean hauling Snapchat in front of HUAC to find out if they have any rubles in their pockets. It is worse than pointless to bitch out Zuckerberg and leave out Rupert Murdoch and creatures like Limbaugh and his lesser acolytes. It is counter-productive.

A.

ps. Want to help sustain liberal voices? Donate to First Draft’s fundraising drive here.

THANK YOU EVERYONE!

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I always worry we’re not gonna make it and you always, always, always all come through. This means a lot, guys, especially in this rough stretch of a year. Thank you for supporting this place and what we’ve been doing here since ye olden days of 2004.

And, since I promised a photo, here’s my own little Reason for Resistance, the smallest critter in our house at the moment, our apple-picking, hot-chocolate-guzzling, no-nonsense-taking, argumentative, fierce brave I-can-do-it-MYSELF Kick.

She would says thanks too, but the only thing she knows about the Internet is that it’s where you find kitten videos.

So on her behalf, thank you all.

A.

Poison in the Water

When I was in college I became friends with a much older man who was in a position of authority where he could snap his fingers and give me a job. I’d gone to him with a project in which he saw value and promised to see through. We had meetings in his office. He took me to lunch a bunch of times. Talked to me like I was people, told me jokes, laughed at mine.

Because I’m an arrogant asshole it never occurred to me that I wasn’t on his level. I thought I had every right to be his peer. And a lifetime of not being considered pretty led me to think that men couldn’t be interested in my body anyway.

He never tried anything. Never moved too close or talked too soft, never touched me but to shake my hand. Never so much as opened a door for me.

But as he promised over and over to find me a job in his department, his assistant, who he kept asking me to talk to, kept steering me away. That job’s been filled. I don’t think that will work out. Let me talk to him about what’s really suitable for you. We don’t have anything there. I’m not sure this is going to pan out. 

I thought she was just being a jerk. I needed a job, after all, and I believed people kept their promises. He wants me hired, so get over yourself and do what your boss wants.

Now I wonder. I wonder if she was protecting me.

Like I said, he never treated me as anything less than an equal. I thought he liked me. Like as a person.

I wonder how he would have treated me if I worked for him.

If I owed him something.

Thinking like this might be deeply unfair to a good person trying to help out a broke college student in whom he saw something promising. Thinking like this might be maligning, in retrospect, a friend.

Thinking like this might save the next young woman who sincerely believes a septuagenarian authority figure respects her mind.

I hate that this is the calculus. I hate that this is the math we all do in our heads. It’s not fair to us, in our working weeks, and it’s not fair to the relationships we try to nurture and the networking we try to do and the things we’re taught from day one are essential to our professional lives. It’s not fair to women. It’s not fair to men. It makes me angry and it makes me sad.

Grow the fuck up, everyone.

A.

Who Teaches

A while back I asked some family members and white childhood friends who they remember as the first person of authority — a person whose opinions they were expected to respect even if they didn’t agree — who wasn’t white, in their lives.

Very few remembered anyone at all.

I grew up in a fairly segregated town and went to Catholic schools. All my elementary school teachers were white. In high school I had one black teacher and one Hispanic teacher. In college (state school) I had two professors of color, though there were more professors of color teaching, mostly in ethnic studies courses, who I didn’t encounter. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that I had non-white, non-male bosses. Mr. A started working for a woman of color for the first time two years ago.

An under-covered aspect of the Obama freakout (and then the Clinton freakout afterward) was the idea that a lot of white people living segregated lives — the only black people they ever saw were on TV, probably playing football — had to confront the idea of a black person having authority over them. Blah blah, I know, the president works for us, but there was a huge swell of rage at “having” to listen to a black man. They’d never “had” to do that before, and damn if it didn’t piss them off.

Segregation of AUTHORITY matters as much as segregation of housing, jobs, amenities and everything else. It matters tremendously to children of color: 

Gershenson, Hart, Lindsay, and Papageorge demonstrate that if a black male student has at least one black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grade, he is significantly less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to aspire to attend a four-year college (as proxied by taking a college entrance exam). They find that these effects are especially pronounced for economically disadvantaged black male students. For instance, they find that a disadvantaged black male’s exposure to at least one black teacher in elementary school reduces his probability of dropping out of high school by nearly 40 percent. This estimated effect is not just statistically significant, but also highly educationally relevant.

We are long overdue for so many corrections in this country, and this is the last one coming for myself and my fellow white folk: That people who don’t look like us have something to teach us, and that we should shut up and learn.

A.

Bulbs

Kick and I read books about gardening. We lived in a condo the first three and a half years of her life, but we read books about planting seeds, about training vines to twist and grow upwards, about roots reaching deep for water and branches arching overhead. When we moved to a house last August, I ordered bulbs from a catalog.

Blue hyacinths, because my grandmother loved them. Purple tulips for my mother. Crocuses, so we would know when winter was over by their green shoots pushing upward. Kick and I talked about them over breakfast, how we’d pick the flowers and put them in vases all over the house so it would smell like springtime.

When the package came in the mail, I looked at the label and discovered that what was delivered wasn’t what I’d ordered.

No blue hyacinths. No purple tulips. No crocuses.

Instead I had been sent a box of red, white and blue flowers called a “patriotic garden.” All sales are final, said the customer service rep. It was only $12, and the nights were getting colder.

I could send them back, but then I might not have anything to put in the ground.

The brilliant Brit Bennett wrote this recently, about the world we live in now: 

Last November on election night, I boarded a cross-country plane from my hometown, Los Angeles, to Boston. Up in the air, I disappeared inside two novels on my iPad, happy to be free of all distractions. That is my favorite thing about air travel: For a few hours, at least, you can exist outside of time.

When I landed, I turned on my phone and discovered that while I was floating through the sky, the country had entered a new reality. I rode to my hotel, stepped into my room, and called my mother. It was late in Massachusetts, maybe one in the morning. I felt childish for making the call, as if my mother could fix anything. But I was lonely and distraught, and besides, hadn’t she lived through worse times than this new presidency could possibly bring?

“I thought it would be better for you,” she said softly. I felt foolish for having thought the same. The street outside was dark and quiet. I stared out the window, realizing I had no idea where I was.

The house we moved into in August was built in 1934, renovated extensively last year — a new second floor, a total gut job on the inside. In the front and back yards, the flower beds are filled with stones and chunks of brick, pockets of sand and blobs of discarded cement. The builders took out the fireplace and left large limestone slabs where I imagined tomato plants and herb plots. We moved in too late for a summer garden or an early harvest, so bulbs would have to do.

The spade clinked against the rocks as I dug.

The frost was thick that morning and it had dissolved into a miserable cold rain. It was my only free day for the next five weeks, with daylight precious, so now or never. When the rain abated for half an hour, I dashed outside.

I put my hands into the soil. I pushed the bulbs down.

I am not good at hope, nor built for optimism, and the last year has not helped. The last two, really; a minor downward spiral started in 2015 with a friend breakup that was entirely my fault and continued with the unavoidable separations from a job I once loved and an organization to which I’d devoted more than 15 years of my life. One person I loved was dying, and a hero was dead. By the time Trump’s election came around I was deeply numb.

People keep asking me about things for next year, or even the year after, and I could not think: How to look that far ahead, when every day things seem to be getting worse? What fresh hell, we joke, but every single one of us knows that each fresh hell is one of our lives. Health care, media, war, violence, and overlaying it all the sense that none of our problems are solvable anymore.

I roll my eyes at my own despair: I am going to be fine. I am white, a citizen, living in a city, with a job and a spouse and a healthy child. The roof over my head is brand new and in no danger of caving in, whatever may be buried in the ground beneath my feet.

Still, planting seems like a reckless act. Waving a flag to the world: Look at this hole in the ground, look who thinks we’ll all be here in April.

I covered the bulbs with the soil, with the brick, with the rocks and sand, and patted down the earth. Not hyacinths, but red and white and purple-blue tulips. That’s what the package promised, anyway. I once ordered some flowers for my mother for her birthday, or maybe it was Mother’s Day. Purple ranunculus, beautiful in the photograph, but when the flowers came up they were reedy, orange and red, not what she expected at all.

Who knows what will come up in the spring?

A.

Starbuck Speak

You listen: 

 “In this business as a woman I was trained to always keep my mouth shut. I was trained that a woman speaks up she’s a bitch and she’s difficult, if a guy does it he’s strong.”

Sackhoff shared her insider’s experience of having been told numerous times to never open her mouth or have an opinion. “I have fought back against it, but I’ve done it terrified,” she said bluntly, “I can’t tell you how many times I was told by my team, ‘Katee don’t be difficult.’ I think we have to face the reality of what the world and business we’re in looks like.”

 

A.

The Myth of a Reckoning

I don’t think I find anything as exhausting as I find the constant expectation that Republican voters will realize who and what they are, who and what they vote for, and awake in horror from what is presumed to be a fever-fog to come back to reality.

Trump’s election was gonna do it, hold a mirror up to these decaying segregationists and show them what they are now. They’d recoil, and correct, and behave themselves forthwith, swinging back to the center like the grown-ups we know they secretly are.

Yeah.

That’s happened.

And now Roy Moore is going to be the thing that does it.

If they elect a pedophile, and they seat a pedophile, then oh then we’ll be able to show the world what they’re really like. Never mind that nominating a pedophile should have been the last straw. Never mind that nominating and then electing and then seating an accused rapist as president should have been enough. Roy Moore is gonna be the final nail in the GOP coffin!

Tell it to the zombies smashing coffee makers on YouTube because Sean Hannity told them to. Tell it to the zombies booing football teams they’ve loved since childhood because Pence flounced out of a stadium. Tell it to the zombies gleefully chittering lies all day about Malia Obama being questioned by the FBI.

We all thought BUSH was so bad the GOP couldn’t nominate someone lower and then Sarah Palin came strutting across the stage.

What if the reckoning doesn’t come? What if there is no tipping point? What if they elect Roy Moore and seat Roy Moore and he votes for tax cuts and confirms Trump’s judiciary picks like all the other unsuitable motherfuckers currently fucking mothers up and down the aisles of the U.S. Senate every single day? What then? What’s the next thing that’ll cause this great imaginary self-reflection? What’s the next rung down on this bottomless ladder?

Don’t say they can’t get worse than this. Don’t cheer each act of destruction as getting us closer to some kind of apotheosis. You have no idea how far down this goes.

A.

Art Isn’t Worth It

This drives me into the same kind of rage I feel when people talk about how writers write because they’re depressed, because dark and twisty equals talented, because misery is so so so productive. Maybe YOURS is. My mental illness generally takes the form of either lying in bed catatonic or hyperventilating in my car on the way to wherever I need to be while my brain screams that I am worthless and no one will miss me if I just go away. Not the best environment for creative work.

It gives me the same tweak as did the “but we’ll get some really bitchin’ music out of this” sentiment after Trump’s election, as if the lives of mostly poor people of color are acceptable sacrifices for already wealthy musicians to write a banger protest song or a powerful poem. Is it … like … not possible to put your shoulder into your work without people dying as material?

Is it remotely within the realm of possibility that people create in the darkness not because the darkness is so awesome but because they’re creators and they work no matter their conditions and we don’t KNOW what they would have created in the light?

Stop romanticizing untreated mental illness. Stop rationalizing shitty behavior. Stop justifying terribleness by pointing to the very meagre coping mechanisms people have developed as some kind of … just fucking stop it. No song is worth this. No book is worth this. No poem is worth this. No art is worth perpetuating misery you can stop.

A.

If She Was Your Daughter

Do you know how many women I know, who told their fathers? Who told their mothers, their friends, a “trusted adult” that they were being hurt or had been hurt? Do you know how many of these people, who have daughters, did nothing?

Homeless shelters are full of girls and boys whose parents chose their abusers over them. It happens every day.

Let me tell you what they’d do, these upstanding Republican congressmen, if it was their daughters.

They’d say to their girls, their beloved girls who they taught to throw a ball just like a boy and who they said could do anything a man could do and whose report cards they pinned to the fridge, they’d say:

You’re making that up.

They’d say:

He didn’t really mean it.

They’d say:

You led him on.

 

They’d say:

You should forgive him.

You know why they’d say those things to the girls they read bedtime stories to every night? You know why they’d back down in the face of someone who bullied their own flesh and blood?

Because nothing matters more than the status quo.

Do you know how many of these men have already faced the fact that it was their daughters?

Do you know how many of them did nothing?

I can even understand it, you know. It’s a human instinct to protect your relationships, and so you gamble: You call out a man for hurting your child, he might leave. He might cause trouble for you. He might get you fired or fight you or find a way to make you less, turn all your friends against you, refuse to work with you, tell others and embarrass you.

Your daughter? She will probably stay. She will probably quiet down. She will probably stop talking about it.

She will probably minimize what happened in her own mind and minimize it for you, so that her relationship with you can stay intact. Nothing’s worth destroying your relationship with your family, after all. She’s been socialized since birth to provide for men’s comfort and that means comfort of mind as well as body.

You can hear her telling herself: She survived it. It wasn’t that bad.

It’s a much safer bet, to discount her version of events, so that’s your solution. It keeps everything the same. It keeps everybody comfortable. And she stays. And she feels just a little less important to you, and a little less real, because whether you think about it in these terms or not, you’ve demoted her. She was your daughter.

Now she’s just another woman, another wicked female, who you don’t believe.

So when someone who looks just like her goes on the news and tells everyone that a member of a political party you admire and identify with, or a celebrity you like, tried to assault her, hurt her, rape her, you don’t see your daughter.

You see someone who’s trying to do what your daughter tried to do. Upset everybody. Get attention. Get something out of this.

And if you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to this stranger, this girl you don’t know on TV who’s accusing a man who looks and acts just like you, is in politics just like you, if you say out loud that someone should have stood up for her, should have done something?

Then you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to your daughter, and you should have stood up for her. You should have done something.

And oh, then doesn’t the whole nice polite reasonable world come crashing down?

I said back when Trump and Billy Bush were cackling about grabbing women by the pussy that the most insidious person on that bus wasn’t Trump but Billy, because lots of of guys wouldn’t be the bully but they would be the coward who laughed at his jokes.

They wouldn’t react differently if Roy Moore had hurt their daughter. Chances are someone like him already did, and they didn’t believe her.

A.

Nazi Nazi Nazi, Out Out Out!

Well, I was pretty prepared to be angry and disappointed but wouldja look at that tonight? 

Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam will be Virginia’s next governor, fending off a challenge from Republican Ed Gillespie that embraced the tactics of President Donald Trump in the final weeks of the campaign.

The crowd at the Democratic Party watch party at George Mason University’s student center roared as CNN announced he had won the race based on unofficial results of Tuesday’s voting. The call happened so early in the night that many supporters were still making their way through security at the time.

Virginia had the only competitive statewide race in the country, and drew national interest as both parties looked to the commonwealth as a potential early referendum on Trump’s presidency and for momentum going into the 2018 congressional midterm elections.

Don’t stop. Every statehouse. Every single one. Trump can’t do shit if we hand him his ass in every city and every neighborhood and every goddamn rural township from sea to shining sea. The federal government has a lot of power and should with utmost power be opposed but we don’t have to wait three more years to do that, we can do it tomorrow.

Make ’em fight for every seat. Make ’em fight for every inch. Make them pay for everything they take and then when you get the chance, you take it back.

We should never have let this party back up after Watergate. We should never have let this party back up after Iran-Contra, after Clinton’s impeachment, after W. We shouldn’t let this party back up after Trump. Let the word ring forth: You wanna put an R after your name now, you answer for Trump. You answer for all his works.

Answer for the Muslim ban and the gay-bashing, answer for the health care debacle and the budget impasses, answer for the endless wars and the “very fine people” and “our heritage” and “our monuments.” Answer for it, you wanna stand election in this country. Stand up for your beliefs, your sacred sincerely held goddamn beliefs in the superiority of your white skin and the way you think everyone who isn’t you is gaming the system somehow. Answer for it, cowards, or stand aside.

And by the way, screw everyone on social media bitching people out for celebrating because “all” we did was take back a few statehouse seats, a couple governorships. Celebrate this to the rooftops, sing it to the heavens, because you opposed the great on behalf of the powerless and every inch you win in that fight, you deserve to dance on. I’ll never tell you the work is done but you can dance tonight.

A.