Category Archives: Current Affairs

Marmalade Jars

Show me the lie:

And, like, I don’t UNDERSTAND the stupid culture war shit over stuff like this. Even the pronoun nonsense makes more sense than this, and it makes no sense. At least then you might be talking about something you might actually do, or say, or have to change. You can still buy the damn rice. If you didn’t think about racism before this when buying Uncle Ben’s, you don’t need to think about it when buying Ben’s.

(Call me, Ben, we need a discussion about your “roasted chicken” flavor which does not taste at all like a roasted chicken, THAT is worth getting het up about.)

This is the kind of thing that, when someone acts like it outweighs damage to someone else’s actual life, makes me bonkers. I’m sorry you have to buy a new brand of strawberry preserves or whatever, but my friends are being deported and some of them are worried about being killed in the streets. How are those things analogous? How did you become so easily provoked? What is your idea of a proportional response here?

You were momentarily asked to consider an experience other than your own, possibly more than once, and the cumulative weight of that mental labor made you want to SEND A MESSAGE and VOTE FOR THE FLAG and KNEELING AT FOOTBALL GAMES and SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS and MY HALLMARK COMMERCIALS and what the SHIT, even. You feel like you’re under siege as a comfortable white person in America, because of THIS?

I know, by the way, the difference between this and genuine disgust and frustration with a society that helps all of us too little. That you’re in massive debt for a middling college education and that you have no way of seeing a doctor that isn’t like reaching the North Pole on roller skates. That the factories closed and the unions are powerless and the streets aren’t clean anymore are absolutely reasons for anger. You want to say you’re mad nobody is helping you, I agree. (Stop voting for people who kneecap state and municipal governments, but.)

But if your issues are … this? If your issues are that everything is not precisely the same as it was when you last formed a cultural thought? If your issues are that people just aren’t nice enough to you by giving you literally everything you want, and you can’t for a second think about anyone else, you don’t get to claim persecution to a degree that equals John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Not in the middle of a deadly global pandemic caused by the person you thought would fight back against the food packaging changes.

Calm the fuck down. It’s just marmalade.

A.

Things We Learned in the Fire

HEY

C’MON
COME OUT

WHEREVER YOU ARE

WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING
AT THIS TREE

AIN’ EVEN BEEN
PLANTED
YET

— June Jordan, Calling On All Silent Minorities

I’ve written before about how Mr. A has been nesting. He’s mostly done now. The yard is enclosed by a 6-foot fence with a double-lock gate; Kick can leave her toys absolutely everywhere and I don’t have to yell at her to bring her scooter or her ponies or anything else inside every night. I forget to lock doors, still, so we bought a family “calendar” to assign chores and one of Mr. A’s is to check all the locks because I can’t seem to keep track.

He’s built a storage system in the basement, in what was a massive junk room and is now, thanks to his hard work, a massively organized junk room with the “valuables” (extra food, medicine, paper goods, books) off the floor. In case the basement floods, which it has already done once this year.

We have room for the 22-pound bags of flour now. We have room for the 4 blocks of yeast. If I pickled or canned (“can you?” he asks, hearing about pickled carrots, and I’ve promised to try) we would store jars and jars; it’s a root cellar, like the one my grandparents had.

There is safety in there, of a sort. Grocery delivery has been less spotty than it was in the beginning. My parents offer to bring us meat; they have a meat guy now.

Kick is in a day camp; they stay in tiny groups and wear masks; she comes home exhausted but happier. I read, all day, angry Facebook posts from parents about school opening, about school not opening, and we try to make plans knowing we can’t make any plans. “In two weeks some other unhinged bullshit is going to be happening,” I keep saying, so we plan about four days out.

Our weekends, in summer, are usually a rat-a-tat-tat of activity: farmer’s market, skating lessons, this friend’s house, that friend’s coming over, park, zoo, hike, bike ride, road trip, houseguests. Instead I buy craft supplies and we sit on the porch waiting for fireflies. I feel lazy. This feels unreal.

And every day it seems to get just a little bit worse:

What do you do first, after everything burns down? I heard this so often in the days leading up to the 2016 election, I hear it all the time from conservative commentators and editorial boards: Maybe we need to just sweep our arm across the table, clear the field, bomb it all and start over. It’s not always cheerful nihilism; sometimes it’s hard to see where to even begin.

When there’s so much junk around, left over from the last disaster or six, where do you put the shelves to hold it?

But here’s the thing: There is no fresh starting point. There is no clean slate. There is no place you can go where you won’t feel the aftershocks and all of our great crimes as humans have come from our resistance to either the past or the future. We are going to have to get out of this from the middle of it and that’s impossibly hard, but it’s the only way things go.

What do you do first? Is there such a thing as, like, a consent agenda to just rescind the last four years? We need so much right now: health care, fair wages, justice for the wrongs done in our names over and over and over for years. We need hospitals and schools built for everyone, not just the rich. We need universities free and open to the public, we need as many libraries as we have jails. We need as few jails as we have oceans.

We need to defund the police as they are and rethink what they need to be. We need to undo the Muslim ban. We need to pack the courts. We need to protect trans people. We need honest to god laws against gerrymandering, laws providing universal vote-by-mail, universal basic income for crises like this, so that people can afford to stay home if they have to, and they have to.

We need science and art and we need a culture that doesn’t venerate racial belligerence and aggrieved thwarted fascism. We need support for the things that make us alive: Parks and gardens, free exchanges, beehives, birdhouses.

We need all of it and we needed it yesterday, and we act like we have to WAIT for some moment of perfect cleanliness to begin.

I’ve been saying, when this is over. When this is over, I’m buying the most expensive scotch on the shelf. When this is over, I’m taking my parents on the international trip they’d planned and had to scuttle back in April. When this is over, my kid and I are going to the zoo and we’re staying as long as we want and making as many plastic animals in the Mold-A-Rama as she can carry. We are camping by the snow leopard enclosure until they kick us out.

We are going to work harder for right than we do for simple justice. We are going to fight harder this time. We say it every time, because it’s true every time: You have to keep pushing yourself farther, faster, more.

Kick and I have found a local organization we are growing plants for, and raising money for, and donating food and books and games and art supplies to, and that’s our start. Now that we have space in the storage room we’re setting up a table, sorting out what can go, what needs to stay, and what we can sell.

Mr. A is concentrating hard on several friends, making sure they are okay, staying in regular contact. He’s also handling political donations right now because I am like THROW ALL THE GROCERY MONEY AT WHOEVER and we need to be practical.

We aren’t doing enough but we’re doing what we can. We are well supplied. Our home base is not a place to hide in, as I thought when this all started. I misunderstood it; we were never building a bunker. We were building a launch pad. If I think of it this way, maybe I will be less tired and scared.

When this is over. As if it’s ever over enough to feel over. The next world always starts while the ashes are still hot. While you can still smell the smoke.

And where do you even begin? You begin. Tell me where you are starting from. Maybe we can meet somewhere.

A.

Seminole Bingo

I had my first major masked foray outside Adrastos World HQ yesterday. I believe in masking during the pandemic but have a hard time finding one that fits me. I have a huge head, y’all. My noggin is purt near melon-sized as our rural brethren might say.

I’m in desperate need of new glasses so I masked up and went to Costco Optical. Our former local optical outlet was sold to a big corporation, so I decided to go to a big box operator I’m familiar with. It went okay other than my glasses repeatedly fogging up due to the mask. Holy heavy breathing, Batman. I took a cataract test that reminded me of Space Invaders. Yes. I’m that old.

Not all our potpourri segments involve Florida, but they all involve risky, opportunistic behavior. Hence this weekday theme song:

Carl Hiaasen co-wrote that song. It doesn’t get more Florida than that, y’all.

Classified Pizza? Remember when House GOPers stormed the SCIF during the House impeachment hearings? The ringleader was pinhead Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, who was there describes their fratty-n-bratty revelry in a new book, which was excerpted at Vanity Fair:

At one point after coming back out from a meeting with Schiff, I returned to the smell of pizza, lots of pizza. The Republicans had brought dozens of boxes of pizza into the SCIF to feed themselves. I hadn’t eaten all day because I’d been dealing with the Republicans’ nonsense. I walked over to one of the boxes, reached across Jim Jordan, and grabbed a slice. I was not going to be physically confrontational. Maybe ten years before I would have been a little more in-your-face and tried to throw those guys out myself, just a goalkeeper clearing out the penalty box. But what would that have accomplished? I would like to think I’ve matured. But I certainly was going to eat their pizza.

There’s one flaw in Swallwell’s account. What kind of pizza? Specialty? Pepperoni? Cheese? Enquiring minds wanna know.

We stay in Florida with our next segment.

Saw It Off? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is Trumpier than thou. He’s played wingnut ostrich during the pandemic allowing the state to remain as open as an open sore. His administration even fired its COVID-19 numbers person so they could cook the books.

Florida’s loosey-goosey approach to the pandemic has bitten them in the ass. One night in one Florida bar infected 16 patrons and 7 employees. And these are the sort of people flocking to New Orleans right now.

I think Bugs Bunny had the right idea:

I am, of course, joking. It would, however, have the salutary effect of sending Mar-a-Lago out to sea. Hey Bugs. could you please do it when the Kaiser of Chaos is in residence?

Before leaving Florida, an Elvis song:

Let’s move our twisted bingo game North, not to Alaska, but to Columbus, Ohio home of THE Ohio State University

Jugglers, Not Juggalos: There was mass confusion recently in Columbus.  The local constabulary were flummoxed when this bus arrived in town:

Instead of the unicorns of the left, the Antifa, the bus was populated by hippies who are into juggling and other circus-type tricks. The “weapons” were knives for cooking and axes to chop wood for a stove. It’s a good thing Ronald Reagan and Abe Lincoln aren’t around. They were both into using axes as well:

Make sure you read TPM’s Kate Riga’s hilarious account of this incident. Oh yeah, the jugglers got their bus and tools back and beat it out of town.

I wonder if they used to follow the Dead around in that bus. The local cops were often perturbed by Deadhead encampments. Speaking of the Dead and beating it:

Back to the punny segment title: Jugglers, Not Juggalos. I seem to have to confused Insane Clown Posse fans with the Boogaloo Boys who are the wingnuts who wear Hawaiian shirts to protests. As you can see from this tweet, an apology is in order:

Another word that sounds like Juggalo is Gigolo. That’s why the last word goes to my homey Louis Prima:

The Riot Control Bees

From Paul Ryan’s old stomping grounds comes today’s example of someone who has, and I do not say this lightly, COMPLETELY LOST THE PLOT: 

Greg Hoeft of Janesville brought 12 boxes of bees to the event.

The bees were on a trailer that he towed into the post office parking lot, just behind the protestors.

Hoeft, whose name was on the side of the bee boxes, posted his plans on Facebook: “The riot control bees are in their holding yard waiting to clear the streets of Janesville and keep peace to this county. I’m willing to bring them in and kick them over if things get out of control.”

A photo shows Hoeft loading the boxes of bees on a trailer.

Police learned that he planned to release the bees if the protest became unruly.

What the CHRIST, the riot control bees. What went wrong in the raising of you, that this is what you think is a good idea? Forget if there were actually bees in there — now the dude’s friends on Facebook are all pretending it was a huge hilarious joke — the hell is the matter with you that you think like that?

It’s all just bullying, that’s all it is. The alliance of cops and Trump supporters worried about government “tyranny” — I’ve been seeing posts all week about how hypocritical it is and dear Lord above, people, it’s not hypocritical or nonsensical at all. They like bullies. They like beating up on people. Black people especially — the GOP has been screaming for 50 years that the city’s brown hordes would soon overrun the borders of the white-flight suburbs and “ruin” them the way black families “ruined” the places they fled.

Activist Ja’Mal Green organized a rally on Sunday in the 11000 block of South Kedzie Avenue, where protests emerged the night before. The group was met with a large crowd of counter-protesters, which numbered in the hundreds and at points shouted racial slurs, according to DNAinfo. “The other group, which was mostly white, chanted “Blue Lives Matter” and “Trump, Trump, Trump,” reported WBEZ. “They held signs that read “Go home animals” and “You ruined your own communities, Don’t ruin ours.”

This was in 2016, in a neighborhood that is 90 percent white, surrounded by communities that are far more diverse, and where the city’s cops cluster.

This Red State article made the rounds of white complacent Facebook this week, see how it echoes: 

You’re far more likely to die in the suburbs than in the city in this situation. You may think moving the riots into neighborhoods is going to play out the same way. It’s not. You’re at a massive tactical disadvantage. The residents know these streets, the layout of their homes, and the defense capabilities of their residence and themselves.

You don’t. Each home will be different, each resident will have different approaches, and each home may have more than one or two gun wielders inside. The goal isn’t non-violent control of the situation now. It’s not about tear gas and high-pressure hoses now. Now it’s deadly force. You can’t just wash a bullet wound out and keep going. Even if they don’t have guns, they’re not going to stop hitting you with a heavy object or stop stabbing and slashing at you with cutlery until you’ve either been chased out or you stop moving. Understand. The chances of you dying are incredibly high.

Suburbanites have a lot more to lose and are going to be a lot more apt to go to extremes to make sure no harm befalls what they’re protecting. Too much rides on it. In the city, you were the pack of lions seeking whom you may devour. In the burbs, you’re the gazelle.

If government tyranny is an excuse to wave guns and threaten people, they’ll oppose government tyranny. If looters and riots are an excuse to wave guns and threaten people, they’ll cheer as the National Guard rolls in. It doesn’t matter as long as they get to yell really loud that they’re strong and you’re not. Stop looking for consistency and coherent political thought. Start looking for the guns and threats.

This is the stronghold: bullying. Not law and order, not even support of police or the military. The military said Eddie Gallagher shouldn’t be a SEAL anymore and ought to be in prison — we saw what Trump did with that finding. The minute a cop or member of any of the armed or civil services says hey, this isn’t cool, they become a liberal abortionist peacefreak instead of one of the Thin Blue Line.

Research what happened to Cindy Sheehan before you profess shock at what happened to the Khan family, please. Max Cleland left three of his limbs on the ground in Vietnam and he was compared to Bin Laden in an ad by that hero of the resistance, Rick Wilson.

And what frustrates me is there are still cops who think that if they keep the faith, the faith will be kept with them, as if our ‘roided up cop-culture isn’t littered with stories about corrupt cops getting each other killed to keep secrets. There’s no right way to be here if you aren’t a bully.

They don’t give a SHIT about you, and the way you know that is that they are deliberately creating situations that put cops in danger so they can yell things like LAW AND ORDER and LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT. That’s all they care about. If this was about supporting cops somebody would have said a long ass time ago that the easiest way to keep cops safe is to deal with the cops that keep provoking these situations by KILLING UNARMED BLACK PEOPLE.

But they don’t want to keep cops safe, the Trump administration and its allies in the FOP and other police-adjacent lobbying groups. They want to bully. They want to yell. They want to knock over a box full of bees, let it loose into the crowd.

They don’t care how many of their own get stung.

A.

A Product of Their Times

Apropos of being reminded of the existence of an acquaintance I’d memory-holed but apparently forgotten to unfriend, nothing makes me crazier than the idea that someone was just A PRODUCT OF THEIR TIME. Oh, he’s an old man, let him be racist and sexist and garbage and shitty to you and in front of you, he’s a product of his time.

You know who else was a product of their time?

Sophie Scholl.

Sojourner Truth.

Fred Hampton.

Every single goddamn Freedom Rider.

Ida B. Wells was a product of her time.

Nellie Bly, too.

Every last one of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Dick Winters was a product of his time.

Crispus Attucks was a product of his time.

My friend Bob is 100 years old. The last time I saw him and we talked about current events, he stood up and said, “I was antifa before Hitler came to power.” Also, a product of his time.

The problem with the story that we are helpless in the face of the events that shape us is that there have always been people who can see through that crap and who have said that’s enough. That’s why we get better, Jesus, because people decide they’ve had it and want change.

When I was researching one of my books (more on that later today) I came across people who protested for open housing and what we now call marriage equality — in 1910. There have always been people who realize there’s only one rule and it’s if you have power you can use it to crush or you can use it to care for.

We just don’t usually idolize those people until they’re dead. Until WE need them, to make ourselves feel better or justify our complacency because they already won the fight we’re still in the middle of.

Everyone is a product of their time. That’s not a validation of us, it’s an indictment of the times, and it’s never, ever, ever an excuse to hurt anyone else, in word or deed. Because if people could stand up for one another when it was necessary, not just when there was a critical mass of people to protect them, then what is our excuse?

A.

Wake Me Up On Judgment Day

I wrote this post yesterday morning. Since it’s about the big picture, I’ve let it be. The details will remain in dispute for quite some time. Besides, I can’t top A’s Sunday eloquence:

I appropriated the phrase The Fog of History in 2014 during the Ferguson police riot. That’s why it fits our current situation so well even if the image from The Lady From Shanghai isn’t precisely on point; it’s still cool. There *are* echoes of 1967 and 1968 but the context is not the same. A lot of pent-up anger and frustration has been vented on the streets of many of our cities; both short-term and long-term.

The short-term frustrations involve the pandemic and economic calamity brought on us by the Trump regime’s grotesque incompetence. People have been cooped-up for two months, so part of the unrest is down to stir craziness as well as the Kaiser of Chaos’ need to constantly stir the pot. Chaos is all he knows. He has neither the foggiest notion of how to unite the country nor the slightest inclination to do so. He just stirs the pot: consequences be damned. Fuck you. Donald.

The long-term frustrations involve the original reason for the protests, police brutality and racist violence against people of color. The encounter between George Floyd and MPD Officer Derek Chauvin was brief and brutish. It cost Floyd his life and Chauvin his job, which is not a fair trade off for such a cold-blooded act.

Charges have been filed against Chauvin. Allow me to put my lawyer hat on for a minute. The reason he’s been charged with 3rd degree homicide and manslaughter is a pragmatic one. Prosecutors will not have to prove INTENT, which is one reason police prosecutions often fall short. Defense lawyers invariably use a combination of self-defense and resisting arrest arguments to defeat murder charges. Removing intent from the equation strikes me as wise. I think there *was* intent, but convicting Chauvin is the most important thing. The recent case of Philando Castile is a bitter reminder that juries almost always defer to the cop’s judgment.

I nearly leapt into the murky waters of this story on Friday. But I wanted to have a better idea of who was responsible for the arson and looting and why it happened. The fog has lifted somewhat, and it appears that the worst of the non-police violence was instigated by far right and far left extremists. Shorter Adrastos: I see white people.

For all we know, it’s an unholy combination of the extremes. The right-wing extremists want to provoke a race war and the left-wing extremists want to provoke “the revolution” whatever the hell that means in the American context. Thus far, they’re making the streets of some cities look like Berlin in 1930.

The far right and far left have often converged in our history. I’ve closely studied the post-World War II Red Scare and it’s replete with stories of committed communists becoming McCarthyite witch hunters. Whitaker Chambers is the best example. He went from being a Soviet spy to an editor at Time Magazine, which was a festering pit of anti-communist fervor back then. That concludes this brief history lesson.

Back to the current unrest. I’m relieved that much of the violence is down to white extremist agent provocateurs as I think looting and arson are stupid. As Minnesota native Bob Dylan put it in a 1966 song, Absolutely Sweet Marie: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.”

I expect the Kaiser of Chaos and his supporters will overplay their hand and the pot stirring will blow up in their faces. People want their president to lead, not tweet and incite violence from the White House bunker. Any other president would have urged calm and asked both sides to stand down. President* Pennywise is incapable of such leadership. As our Scout Prime said the other day on Twitter, “I wish we had a president.”

I’m not making any other political or legal predictions about recent events. I’m keeping my head down and rationing my news and social media intake. Shit was already hard enough before this shit went down. Repeat after me: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I realize Wake Me Up On Judgment Day is an odd title for an agnostic to use. It’s the title of a song on an album that’s been my “happy place” this weekend, Steve Winwood’s Back In The High Life Again. That’s why Winwood gets the last word with a song that reflects my unrealistic desire to hibernate until the shit is scraped off the proverbial fan.

The Sound of Kids on the Streets Outside

I know people who were there in ’68, and not just there as in lived through it, but THERE there. A friend who spoke at my wedding was in the National Guard during Kent State, left soon after. Colleagues were in the streets, getting beaten and gassed.

I know people who fought in Europe in World War II. I knew, many years ago, a man who went to Spain to fight the fascists there after writing about it for years.

Their eyes go somewhere else when they talk about it. When they gather, and someone takes a photograph, it’s not of the wrinkles and bones and bent backs. It’s of the children they were, the years falling away from their faces.

People who fought through something together are, in some sense, always together, and always the age they were when they were fighting.

What if the night just keeps coming down? How do you stay who you are when the fight never ends?

There is a great deal of necessary writing about what has happened to George Floyd and why, but two stories pulled me out of the whirlwind this week. The first was from a friend, who lived next door to us for years. She’s beautiful, accomplished, by any measure of America wildly successful, and her son grew up before our eyes: kind, funny, unfailingly generous, brilliantly smart. She’s afraid for him. He gets stopped in the street and the alley and the neighborhood we used to live in, and I cannot fathom, most days, the restraint we ask black people to practice.

The second, speaking to the first, was R. Eric Thomas: 

You learn, at some point, how to perform being non-threatening and you learn that often it matters less how well you perform and more whether the audience for said performance believes it. Or wants to believe it. Or is in the mood to believe it. Or woke up that morning and made a conscious decision not to believe it. And you think: “If it’s futile anyway, if I am powerless over the reception that I get, what does it matter how I approach the world?”

And there’s a freedom in that, for it allows you to prioritize your own voice over the scolding one that speaks nothing but fear. It affirms that the voice asking to see your papers, or calling those in Minneapolis “thugs,” or shouting out a warning “Move along now!” does not belong to you. It belongs to individuals who have been made minuscule and sharp by their addictions to white supremacy and systems of oppressions that are ambivalent about your goodness.

A memory from the video of the shooting of Philando Castile: His girlfriend, sitting next to his bullet-ridden body, called the white police officer who just shot him “sir.” He was screaming at her and her young daughter, she was covered in blood, and she called the officer “sir.” That’s how deep it had to go, the training to be polite. That’s how little it mattered.

The human body isn’t meant to live in fear forever. The response, the coiling of muscles, the pounding of the heart — that isn’t supposed to be a permanent state. Hypervigilance destroys your mind. There’s supposed to come a time when you’re not afraid anymore.

You already know all the things to be said about what Trump has said and is saying, that he knows what he’s doing, and it’s obvious and awful, and I have no more patience for the shock of anyone who’d call themselves a journalist, who still thinks there’s any way out of this but through.

I just … What do you think they say? How do you think this ends? B. Barry Bamz and Dubya come out here and say, “lads, that’s enough now” and all the protesters go home, their heads hung down and chastened? Do you think that’s what it’s about? Like people are marching in the streets because they just haven’t heard the right words from the right men? Men who, let’s be honest, were president when a lot of what’s being protested was happening day in and day out?

Since the pandemic started, and Trump’s administration did what it’s done with every crisis, which is to say some stuff and then fall on its keys, we keep hearing that if only someone would SAY or DO something, this would all just … stop. Joe Biden, who’s another statesmanlike man with a past on these issues, has been out here every day acting like the president we don’t have, saying the things we say we wish someone would SAY.

That’s not what this is remotely about anymore.

This ends when the people in the street say it ends. They’re in charge. That’s what makes all these MAGA jackasses so crazy, that’s what’s got the cops all roided up in every town in the land, and it’s what the president knows and can’t let go of. There has never been a bully on this earth who was able to take it when the punch comes flying back.

You cannot subjugate people forever, and you cannot plan for what happens when they decide they’ve had enough.

Michelle Goldberg, who has been following the right-wing thread of our undoing for so long I can’t believe she’s okay: 

Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s progressive attorney general, told me that lately, when he goes out walking or running in Minneapolis, he feels a “coiled sort of anxiousness ready to spring.” Many people, he said, “have been cooped up for two months, and so now they’re in a different space and a different place. They’re restless. Some of them have been unemployed, some of them don’t have rent money, and they’re angry, they’re frustrated.”

That frustration is likely to build, because the economic ruin from the pandemic is just beginning. In some states, moratoriums on evictions have ended or will soon. The expanded unemployment benefits passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act run out at the end of July. State budgets have been ravaged, and Republicans in Washington have so far refused to come to states’ aid, meaning we’ll likely soon see painful cutbacks in public jobs and services.

People keep saying, oh, you’re mad now, well hold onto that anger and vote in November. Hold onto that anger, as if there’s anywhere to put it down. I do not want to ask anyone to hold this anger for another second. It’s been a sickness inside us for longer than we can name.

The pandemic and the protests, the stay-at-home orders and the state-sanctioned murders, they’re the result of our actions. This isn’t the weather. All week long I’ve been reading stories that back into this, our weakened and passive journalism describing a man’s deliberate killing as a death having occurred following an officer’s knee being placed on his neck, and other such nonsense. I’ve been reading about protesters “clashing” with police, as if they are two equal and opposing forces meeting on neutral ground. A “wave of protests swept over American cities” and “a firestorm was ignited.”

I scream about it on Twitter every time I see it, every time I see “a man is dead after an alleged officer-involved shooting” because: No. A cop fired a gun and killed someone. You’re making value judgments by the words you use and you are placing responsibility, every single day … nowhere.

We did this. That’s the shame of it and always, always, it’s the hope. We look at the hell around us — the sickness, the shutdowns, the deaths in a custody that never needed to be exercised — and don’t see that it presumes the existence of a heaven. That if we made this, we can unmake it.

That’s what people in the streets right now are saying, with as many different voices as they can. We don’t have to live like this, any of us, so let us make the world we want to see.

My old-hand protester friends, the people I knew who were antifa before Hitler came to power, they all had stories about coming home or leaving, about the moment when the struggle seemed to stop or fade away. They got to lay their burdens down when the war was over, and some of them come back to it when they’re needed, and some of them never have.

Not everyone could do that. Everyone’s war doesn’t end. And I don’t think white America has ever thought of what it does to you, to make every cell in your body the record of brutality, a daily reckoning that goes on out of sight. Where does this end, we ask, and the selfishness of it, to ask that.

This is just beginning.

A.

 

You Already Know Where It Goes

So here’s what’s gonna happen.

A lot of people are going to get sick. They won’t know for sure if they’re sick, because there aren’t enough tests, and nobody can afford the ones that we do have.

Because nobody will know anything for sure, and a lot of people will be sick, most businesses will stay closed. Most will be unable to pay their employees, so a lot of people are going to be sick and broke.

Sick broke people make decisions aimed at not being sick or broke no more. Not all of those decisions will be harmless to themselves or others.

The prospect of sick broke people making bad decisions will freak a lot of upper class people out.

Those people will call their suburban police departments, which in case you haven’t noticed are strapped for war every second of the day even though their biggest call in a month is barely a moving violation. Those police departments will respond to every shoplifter like they’re John Dillinger and things will start getting out of hand.

A crime that would barely make a blip in a weekly newspaper’s police blotter will get blown up by the Rush/Fox/morning news industrial complex until I start getting texts from out-of-town relatives who already think living anywhere with two stoplights is asking to be robbed and murdered. Like six guys will knock over a liquor store and ordinarily that’s Thursday, but before the week is out your dad will have sixteen emails from the NRA all saying some variation on “DO YOU WANT YOUR WHITE WOMEN RAPED? CLICK HERE TO ANSWER NO AND GET A FREE T-SHIRT AND A GRENADE LAUNCHER.”

The same types of guys who were dragging their guns around the Virginia statehouse a month ago will be spray-painting LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT on their garages and then the politicians will start in with JUST ASKING QUESTIONS or some such. Those questions will not be about why people are sick and broke, by the way. The questions will be about how violent white people should get right now, and how few consequences they can possibly face for said violence.

I don’t know where we go after that.

A.

Killing the Conversation

It’s quoting myself which is lazy but:

This gets to the heart of what annoys me about centrism, civility fetishism, and the deploring of partisanship. It’s a way to shut someone up without having to own that you want them to shut up.

I want lots of people to shut up. I want just for one goddamn day for Donald Fucking Trump to shut his festering assmouth so we can have, like, Christmas or Thanksgiving or something without him being like “Merry Holocaust Remembrance Day! I love The Jews!” and then spell something wrong so there are three days of terrible jokes.

I would like anyone sincerely arguing that the spiritual descendants of Nixon bagmen need to be given large auditoriums on major college  campuses in the name of free speech but trans people shouldn’t be allowed to have driver’s licenses with their identities on them, I would like anyone like that to shut up, too.

If you’re out on the street corner screaming at and spitting on teachers on strike, add yourself to the shut-up list.

I want those people to shut up and I have no problem telling them that.

So if you want me to stop saying things like, “we should not cage immigrant children” or “it’s really not that big of a deal to say Happy Holidays” or “possibly after you commit war crimes you should not appear in public,” then you should tell me that.

But don’t say “be civil.” Don’t say “listen to the other side.” Don’t say “let’s not make this political.”

Just say shut up. That’s what you mean.

A.

Our Politicians and Pundits Know Nothing About Politics

This was dumb:

This was dumber:

This has got to be some kind of peak dumbass but what fresh hell will today bring?

I mean, honest to Cheeto Christ, it is astonishing how many of these people are listened to on politics when they don’t understand politics very well.

Take Pete up there, for whom I will enthusiastically vote should he be our nominee, and who has unquestionably the best spouse in the entire race. He’s just saying what he thinks he needs to say, which is that he likes a moderate, because moderation is good, and middle of the road is good, and nothing too extreme is good, and the things Everybody Knows are true. He’s doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do, because he’s supposed to do it, and he’s not thinking about Kennedy’s actual decisions or what they mean, he’s thinking about how he sounds, which is Reasonable.

The goal of all our politics, and the past 36 hours of civility garbage inspired by the World Series crowd booing the orange motherfucker, is to make us all feel Reasonable and Good. And that involves Two Sides Respecting Each Other, and Listening, and blah blah fucking blah de fuckity blah.

What a fucking stupid puppet show. What a goddamn embarrassment, a parade of supposed adults on TV and at podiums talking about how it’s beneath us all to upset anyone. What a fucking load. We’re adults and if we can’t disagree without getting heated oh, the fucking earth will just cave right in, won’t it? God forbid anyone raises their voice, or our fragile bodies might just utterly collapse.

I mean do we hear ourselves, middle class white people of mine, with our book clubs and our tote bags and our declarations of friendship for war criminals? Do we hear our selfish screaming need for comfort not only in life, not in where or how we live, but in our goddamn CONVERSATIONS? Do we hear how absolutely chickenshit we sound? “Oooh, I don’t want to, like, ARGUE with you.” Well guess fucking what, we live in a democracy, so if you’re gonna open your cakehole and yell “blue lives matter” at me I’m gonna give you the hiding you so richly deserve.

We don’t get to create this society and then get out of defending and justifying it because doing so is really hard. Land hard and roll, motherfuckers, because if you want to live like this you’d better be ready to own it in the face of the strenuous objections of the people you’re stomping on to do so. You don’t like to watch the president get booed at a baseball game, well, there’s a really easy way to get out of that happening and it’s don’t elect a fucking cheeto-faced fascist who everyone hates.

It’s really not hard. Give up civility as a goal. We’re almost to the holidays, hell, make it a resolution. Civility is not the meaning of things. If people are nice to each other and keep dying, how does that help anyone? We have a limited time on this planet and your comfort isn’t our priority, shit is on fire.

And if you’re not loaded for bear, don’t show up for the hunt, because once upon a time you might have been able to get away with this stuff because nobody wanted to argue. We want to argue now, and we should.

A.

Giving Us a Monster to Hunt

This essay’s going around and while I haven’t read the book it talks about I found this passage about our current national hellscape very interesting: 

Like McIntosh, I observe little that suggests America has learned anything about race over the past 30 years besides how better to conceal its racism. Trump’s election may have made some anti-racism work easier—getting butts in seats and books in hands—but it also gave well-meaning white people a monster next to which their casual racism now seems tame. It is enough to admit racism exists, that whiteness might be a problem. Any lower and the bar will be in Hades.

Because it will all be over someday, and then we will have to reckon or the beneficiary of all of this will be Nice Polite Republicans  who deplore openly calling a black person the N-word while closing low-income women’s health clinics.

I don’t for a second think the GOP wanted Trump in charge right now, but once they got him, boy did they ever see his uses and maybe this is the biggest one: He gives us a monster to hunt, a grotesque creature locked up in a tower to shake our pitchforks and torches at. He is real, and he is dangerous, and the gargoyles and serpents surrounding him do genuine evil in his name.

But let’s not pretend the countryside stops burning once we rid the castle of the beast. The work of reckoning with the systems we have created and enforced along racial lines since this country’s beginnings is the work of years, and it’s not just in the capital. It’s on every street, in every school, around every corner. I can’t wait until Trump is out of office and we don’t have to pay attention to his stupid tweets anymore but if the kids stay in the cages we haven’t won shit.

Slay the dragon, sure. But then tear down the castle and use the stones to pave a market road. Melt down the candelabras and sell off the art and give the riches of the kingdom to the poorest of the serfs. Let the princes till the soil a while.

A.

It’s Always 1989

Krugman: 

What I haven’t seen pointed out much, however, is that Trump’s racism rests on a vision of America that is decades out of date. In his mind it’s always 1989. And that’s not an accident: The ways America has changed over the past three decades, both good and bad, are utterly inconsistent with Trump-style racism.

It’s not just Trump. It’s his supporters. THIS IS HOW THEY ALL ARE. Blithering about Al Sharpton, bitching about TV shows and singers they don’t know, posting Facebook memes about how “if you know what this butter knife is, you’re my age” and all this other elderly, embarrassing shit. And no, it isn’t ageism. I know 90-year-olds culturally younger than most of these people and some of the worst offenders are younger than me.

You don’t have to have your tits way up high to know how to just Google Ariana Grande instead of making Taco Bell jokes and comparing the number of writers on a Beatles song to the number of people who produce for Beyoncé.

It’s why Hillary was the perfect foil for Trump, because most of his voters are still quietly pissed about Bill — young, high, horny, dodging the draft — beating H.W. Bush. It’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there but trust me, his election upended SO MUCH CULTURAL SHIT, not the least of which that he was friends with many African-Americans and was seen to move with an ease in a world lots of white people hated and feared.

(When Democrats followed him up with an ACTUAL BLACK PRESIDENT oh boy, were we off to the races.)

Due to persistent and vicious segregation they have no experience of black people that isn’t either entertainment — sports — or poverty. They have no conception of a black middle class, of a black upper class. Their last cultural reference to a black person was Michael Jackson, for shit’s sake. Maybe Bill Cosby, and that worked out GREAT.

They’re still muttering angrily about Rodney King asking for it or telling stories about how their kids had to come home from school early because the “black kids” were going to beat them up in the riots.

The world they’re living in is changing all the time and they’re out here proudly shouting that they’ve shut their eyes. The cultural stuff matters because it’s a harbinger; the books you read and the music you listen to is the sound of the world around you.

They stopped listening to America 30 years ago and they have no intention of taking out their earplugs anytime soon.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

There’s an all-woman detective agency.

The agency is an intentional anomaly in a heavily male-dominated industry. Trade publication PI Magazine estimates that of the roughly 60,000 private investigators in the United States, only 15 percent are women.

Women of color are even less represented in the field. Joseph says about 3 percent of private investigators are black women like herself — numbers which inspired her to launch her own detective agency in an attempt to change the face of private investigation in Louisiana.

There had better be a movie or I’m going to fight someone.

A.

Just FIX IT

I will stipulate to being a babykiller, okay?

When I tweeted about David Brooks being a tool and the GOP regime running concentration camps at the border, I got a flood of the usual critters accusing me of caring about children at the border but not children in the womb, so fine. I’m a huge huge huge huge hypocrite who feels very bad about my hypocrisy.

Can we close the camps now?

I got a flood of trolls pointing out that Obama opened holding facilities for migrants seeking asylum and that therefore these were Obama’s concentration camps. Fine. They’re Obama’s camps. Obamacamps, if you will. They’re the camps belonging to the last Democratic president who bears sole blame for everything that happens there.

Can we close them? Now that I’ve admitted it?

I mean it. If what is important to you, person on God’s internet yelling about hypocrisy, is that I, a liberal libby libtard, feels bad about my libtardedness, I will grant you that without reservation. I and my fellow Democrats are terrible people who bear all and sole responsibility for any immigration crisis you think exists.

NOW can we close the camps?

Because that’s the whole goddamn point here. That is the point of clowning on poor D-Brooks, who after all is really just a relic of the last world wandering sunblasted and dazed in this one. That is the point of yelling at the GOP about this; they’re the ones in power in the Senate and the White House.

It’s not to be right. It’s to get this shut down, today, right now, this very hour, so that no child, no family, no one has to suffer for even a second longer.

And make no mistake, we could fix this RIGHT THE HELL NOW.

We airlifted food into Berlin and rebuilt a bombed-out Europe after bombing it. We put a guy on the moon with basically a protractor and some duct tape and Katherine Johnson’s big gorgeous brain, we can do this. We can send our might rolling to the border not with guns and fences but with clean water and shelters and comfort and yes, god damn it, free health care and yes, god damn it, handouts of every kind.

We have the means, we have the people, we have the money. I felt this way about Afghanistan after 9/11, about the Gulf Coast after Katrina, about Puerto Rico, I feel this way about every pocket of unsolved poverty every time it’s held up to the light: We have armies. We have supplies. We have people who can think and work problems and we have the will.

We are held back by cowardice and pettiness so here we go: I am the worst and you can call me the worst online every day if you want.

If that’s what is holding you back. If that’s what’s stopping you. You can march on the camps in Trump’s name and liberate these people from Obama’s murderous baby cages. But march on them. And liberate them. House them, feed them, free them, welcome them.

Fix this. If that’s what this is about, this being right.

Because it can’t just be that you’re deflecting, right? It can’t just be that you’re looking to find way not to give a shit about this, not to join the vigils, not to read the stories, not to look at the faces of the children and see your own. Right? You couldn’t be that cruel, that small, that mean.

So it must just be about making me admit that you’re right. It must just be using these migrant children, these poor and desperate people who want a better life, to force me to admit that you’re right.

Okay. You’re right.

Now can we close the camps?

A.

What Can You Do?

Children are dying in our camps: 

The purpose of the quote, from the commissioner’s point of view, was to establish that the Border Patrol has no choice about this. There are too many migrants for the existing system, at existing funding levels, to detain the children in safe, uncrowded conditions.

What Sanders was describing, however, was a choice. If the law requires the Border Patrol to detain migrants in safe and clean conditions, and if it is impossible to provide safe and clean conditions with current funding and current facilities, then the Border Patrol can let the migrants go.

The law that says the migrants must be detained is no more binding than the law that says people must be kept in humane conditions. The question is which part of the law the Border Patrol will ignore: the part of the law that is killing children, or the part of the law that would allow the children to live.

Before we begin: No, Democrats are NOT complicit in this for not stopping it, they are NOT just as bad as Trump for not stopping it. That’s some hysterical victim-blaming bullshit designed to stoke “no difference between the parties” nonsense in advance of the election and I’m seeing way too many smart people falling for it and repeating it online. Knock it off. If you think for one hot second President Hillary would be building kiddie concentration camps at the border you need all kitchen implements removed from your vicinity immediately. For your own safety. Butter knives included.

HOWEVER.

Not enough is being done to stop this.

I don’t mean impeachment. I mean STOPPING THIS.

I mean, what can honestly be done? Can you barricade the doors? This is state-sponsored murder and you are the state, can you walk up to the guards who are holding rifles and stand there until they stand down? Can you pull a Tiananmen Square? How does any of this work? We know where most of these facilities are, where the children are. What would it take to free them?

We muster the might of nations for a baby fallen down a well, for miners trapped in a cave, we have round-the-clock coverage and infographics and analyses and everyone thinks, what can I do to help? And we can’t get these children out of their child prison camp and settle them with their families? What would it take? A march? A barricade? Another thousand thousand lawsuits? How do you get the children out before more of them die? Before all of them die?

Maybe there is no way, but I refuse. I refuse to believe there’s no way. “There’s no way” is something you say when you don’t want to do anything and we can’t not want to do anything.

I don’t know if any of that would work. I don’t know how much of that is even legal. And I don’t fucking much care either way because holding hearings and passing bills and talking to people about health care is not ending the goddamn child concentration camps where baby prisoners live in filth.

The Republican obstruction of the past 15 years has had the effect of conditioning us to expect that nothing will be done about anything. The GOP domination of the news has made us used to the idea that government is bad and dumb and broken and can’t address problems it is specifically designed to address. We’ve come to expect paralysis from one another and so we’ve come to excuse it in ourselves: There’s nothing we could do.

Except that’s almost never really true.

There’s nothing we could do without inconveniencing ourselves. There’s nothing we could do without upsetting someone. There’s nothing we could do without potentially doing the wrong thing, or getting in over our heads, or etc etc etc. But there’s always something. As long as we’re alive there’s something.

So what is it? What’s the thing that will stop this not in 8 months when the number of dead children doubles but right now today? And then can we yell at Democrats until they do that thing? I’ve got stacks of blank postcards, let’s go.

A.

Everything Pretty Much Does Suck, Actually

Serwer:

Black Americans did not abandon liberal democracy because of slavery, Jim Crow, and the systematic destruction of whatever wealth they managed to accumulate; instead they took up arms in two world wars to defend it. Japanese Americans did not reject liberal democracy because of internment or the racist humiliation of Asian exclusion; they risked life and limb to preserve it. Latinos did not abandon liberal democracy because of “Operation Wetback,” or Proposition 187, or because of a man who won a presidential election on the strength of his hostility toward Latino immigrants. Gay, lesbian, and trans Americans did not abandon liberal democracy over decades of discrimination and abandonment in the face of an epidemic. This is, in part, because doing so would be tantamount to giving the state permission to destroy them, a thought so foreign to these defenders of the supposedly endangered religious right that the possibility has not even occurred to them. But it is also because of a peculiar irony of American history: The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair-weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.

The camps, and that’s what they are, camps:

I don’t have any answers anymore. I don’t have any more words. Maybe telling you all that will help me come up with some.

Not that that’s like at the top of the list of anybody’s problems, but if you’re coming here for me to tell you what to do, I can’t do it. Maybe I never should have. Because we fought and fought and fought and I sympathize profoundly with those who are asking what the fucking bloody hell for, right now.

Jesus Christ, if I have to listen to one more internet bro yell at liberals for not fighting, yell at the American people for not fighting … 3 million more of us than there are of those assholes tried to fight, and between voter suppression and gerrymandering and plain old slavery-curious electoral abuses it wasn’t enough. How insane is that, it wasn’t enough. Don’t tell me people didn’t fight.

Women told you and people of color told you and you’re out here all WHY DON’T WE STAND UP motherfucker … we did stand up. And we’re still standing up, and we’re still fucking losing, and we’re not gonna stop losing until Mitch and all his fellow GOP senators are unemployed so unless we’re talking about that I’m about done hearing that we’re losing the wrong way.

I’m sick of hearing comparisons to Hong Kong and exhortations for mass protest. We did that, too. I spent last summer every night and weekend in the goddamn streets, don’t tell me people didn’t protest and fight. People are outside the White House every night if you’re looking for a protest or a focal point for your rage. Should there be a national march on Washington? Probably, but then cometh a thousand of the same fucking bros telling us that protests are silly and pussy hats are embarrassing and all that money should go to progressive candidates, there’s no way to win here, no way to satisfy our own poisonous version of the 101st Chairborne, the people who always have a plan. I don’t have a plan.

And no, I don’t know if Nancy Pelosi does or not, but nihilistic bullshit doesn’t help us there. Every hearing house Dems have held, every fiery speech given on the campaign trail, every MR. PRESIDENT HAVE YOU NO DIGNITY SIR moment that has happened and they happen DAILY are covered by jack and his brother network dick because Democrats doing something right isn’t a narrative anyone’s willing to work with. Not even our allies; Jesus, that Jon Stewart thing that went around, calling on “Congress” as though it’s Democrats who are holding up help for 9/11 first responders.

A pox on all our houses, is the best we can hope for, never mind one house is a little run down while the other one is infested with bedbugs and also on fire.

The only people I’ve seen doing anything right are working through the states, on a scale small enough to make a difference. Moms Demand is getting gun laws signed even by Republican governors. Local abortion funds, local incarceration reform efforts … I know it feels like nothing’s happening but nothing breaking through doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. The same people who always fought are fighting. I don’t know how we get them to critical mass. I don’t think anyone who wants that even knows what it looks like. The Parkland students came closest.

I’m rambling, I know, but a friend texted me yesterday morning asking what do we do, and … we raised money for food pantries and libraries and gutted a house and saved some pelicans and filled a classroom in Alaska with LEGOs and wrote to our reps and senators and protested and voted and … what would make the most difference right now? I don’t want to tell you to throw bricks through windows if I’m not willing to pick one up myself so I’m asking. I don’t know.

A.

Suffering Isn’t Noble if It’s Not Your Suffering

This is a lot to unpack, so let’s begin early: 

Pointing to recent failed bills in several Republican-led states that equated abortions with murder, they wrote, “Pro-life legislation that creates the right to DIY abortion and fails to categorize abortion as murder does not deserve our support.” In a hearing for the Texas bill, which would have equated an abortion with homicide, a crime that can lead to the death penalty in the state, Jim Baxa of West Texans for Life bluntly stated his support: “A woman who has committed murder should be charged with murder.”

Also on Tuesday, Charlotte Pence, the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, penned an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times celebrating Alabaman’s draconian abortion ban, writing, “Personally, I would not encourage a friend to get an abortion if she suffered the horrendous evil of rape or incest, because I care about her child—and her. I do not believe abortion provides healing.”

And here: 

I had a second trimester abortion. Our son never formed an airway. Had he survived birth he would have been brain dead. That wasn’t the life I wanted for him. It was the first true parenting decision I ever made. I am not a monster or a criminal.

Here as well:

“We’ve got people all over the United States that can’t have children. They want to adopt children. There are great opportunities there.”

Consider the arguments being made, and the gods they’re being made in service to.

Consider whose suffering is being offered up.

I’ve been a practicing — not skilled, mind — Catholic my whole life, I’m not gonna tell anybody here not to kiss the Cross. Pucker up if that’s what turns your crank. You imagine you would gladly struggle through a non-viable pregnancy, deliver that stillborn child and risk all — future infertility, lethal infection, possible death — that that entails?

You see yourself suffering nobly in order to fulfill God’s plan, which is of course unknowable, because we all play a small part in someone else’s story and maybe your child’s horrific painful death or your own will be a catalyst that leads someone else to the Lord or sets something else in motion? You’re ready to do that?

Fine. Go do it, but do it you, yourself, alone.

You cannot choose martyrdom for another. Imagining that my stillbirth is your butterfly wings flapping the world into a hurricane of God’s glory is not a basis for legislation, it is cosmic chaos theory, the sort of coping mechanism employed by a child praying for good weather on circus day. It’s embarrassingly solipsistic, and it’s not a good reason to be against abortion, or for anything else, either.

I’ve written before about how so much of anti-abortion activism is a pose, a way of BEING instead of a set of solutions. If you seek a great battle in which to distinguish yourself, again, okay, but it’s a lot of pressure to put on the world, to give you a proper stage.

And as far as infertile couples yearning for your unwanted baby are concerned, if you genuinely think that your desire for a child means some other woman should bear one for you, then you can pony up the 40 grand for a volunteer surrogate, instead of asking a stranger about whom you know nothing to endure misery so that you can have joy.

What a horrifyingly selfish argument. What a sociopathic thing to say.

Before we had Kick Mr. A and I heard a LOT of anti-abortion rhetoric from fellow childless couples. One adoption agency we visited lamented the lack of available infants because “abortion exists now,” the implication being that back in the good old days we’d just send the whores to a pregnant girls’ home and then coerce them into giving up their babies which was SO MUCH MORE MORAL. The whole supply-demand argument is extremely gross.

My rights as a lady who wants a baby do not supersede the rights of a person who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be. This shit isn’t hard.

Is there nobility in suffering so that someone else can benefit? There can be. Is there meaning in bearing a child you know will die? Again, perhaps. But I don’t get to write a pretty story about how your pain is valuable because it sends me a message. That’s not for me to decide.

A.

Don’t Tell Me We Weren’t Vigilant

I got mad and wrote a pitch e-mail to an editor this week that was basically THERE IS A SWARM OF HORNETS COMING OUT OF MY FACE and this is the result: 

Women did not cause the current clusterfuck by “taking our rights for granted,” and we don’t get any further along in a fight we are already expected to fight alone by implying that if we’d simply been more vigilant, Republican men wouldn’t have been so evil.

I want to reinforce that point again and again and again. Women, especially poor women, women of color, young women, were never unaware that these were the stakes. If you’re mad at middle agedwomen, white women, then say that, because OH BOY IS THERE STUFF TO BE MAD AT US ABOUT, but stop lumping the people who tried to stop this in with the people who did it.

A.

A Reckoning with Age

I spent the past few days at a gathering at which the shortcomings of young people was a frequent topic of conversation.

Or if not a topic of conversation, an aside. An easy joke.

A tour guide pointed out a painting of a figure from classical mythology holding a book. “Kids think she’s got an iPad.” Everyone laughed.

A librarian displays a beautifully handwritten letter and everyone laments the way kids today can’t read cursive script anymore because they aren’t taught it, nor are they able to write letters.

Young people also often stare at their phones at the dinner table. They seek out confirmation of what they already know instead of new information. They don’t read newspapers. And they don’t value the past.

Of course one could refute such nonsense point-by-point. I tended to change the subject, as this was an Official Outing at which I could not ask people outright to stop being the way they are. I could go chapter and verse on why people read and write more now than they have in a century, or ask if Gilgamesh bitched this much when kids abandoned cuneiform. But that’s beside the point.

The point is: Young people aren’t the problem.

It’s not “young people” voting for divisive, uncivil, crass politicians.

It’s not “young people” crowding onto Facebook to share poorly sourced screeds about Michelle Obama putting crack pipes on the White House Holiday Tree.

It’s not “young people” scolding activists and hating on protesters and resurrecting the least fashion-forward of the Nazi trappings with “America First” and concentration camps for migrant refugee kids.

Young people aren’t watching Fox. Young people aren’t watching cable news 24-7 nor demanding their podiatrist and gastroenterologist put it on in the waiting room for everyone to suffer through.

Young people aren’t segregating schools or closing mental health clinics or demanding tax cuts for the uber-wealthy at the expense of public parks. Yes, they’re taking selfies in superblooms and trampling on plants but twas ever thus.

The complaints of totebaggers about the world being difficult and contentious and loud and rude are just that. They aren’t the failings of America’s youth. They’re not the result of smartphones or a lack of media literacy or Common Core Math or not reading cursive or “divisive politics” or anything else we’ve convinced ourselves is the problem.

They’re the faults and failings of nice stable middle class people who are absolutely refusing to admit that they are old and not cool anymore and maybe never were. Not long after Trump’s election someone described this era as the Going Out of Business sale for the Baby Boom and while I don’t disagree, it’s more than that.

This country’s midcentury honkies never fully reckoned with their whiteness and they never fully reckoned with their aging and they’re being forced to do both now and it’s just as ugly and violent as any other reckoning through which America has had to go.

They’re reckoning with gender, too, or rather throwing temper tantrums about pronouns as if it’s some kind of new onerous burden to call people that which they’d like to be called.

All these things — whiteness, age, gender — are things they didn’t think about for five or six decades. They did what everyone does: They lived their lives and expected that to be important someday and it isn’t. They did everything right, and things still suck.

They — we, I am past 40 now and I see shit like this from people my own age as well as my “elders” — are just old, and white, and cisgender, and straight, and not all that smart, and some of us having made money through sheer dumb luck doesn’t make us better or geniuses, and the only thing wrong with any of that is defending it like it’s under attack by the existence of people who are not any of those things.

The only thing wrong with the reckoning is the horrible things we’re doing to avoid having it happen. Being old doesn’t make you old. I have friends from the Greatest Generation who get up every day absolutely fucking stoked to have outlived all the great bastards of their time, and they seem eons younger to me than people I went to school with crabbing about not knowing the names of artists on the VMAs. Being uninterested in the world makes you old, that’s all that makes you old. Google some shit, stop talking about how you don’t watch TV, and quit acting like liking bacon is a personality.

Being unwilling to ask questions makes you old. Not just questions about “what’s Zendaya all about” but questions about your own stuff. What if my music sucks? What if my books suck? What if my clothes were stupid? What if the things I fought for don’t in fact live forever? What if the fight I told myself for years is won isn’t over?

What if I don’t get a parade the way I thought I would? What if nobody’s grateful? What if nobody even remembers? These are terrifying things to think about so for years people just, like, didn’t. Believe me, I know how scary these thoughts are. I have them every day. Writing a book or two about how Bush sucked shit was something I used to think was a powerful statement, dear God.

What if I am just, after all, a person who did some stuff and maybe I wasn’t all that great at it? Maybe I didn’t try as hard as I could have. Maybe I failed. Maybe I convinced myself it’s too late to try again. People will do ANYTHING to avoid that question. To avoid that feeling you occasionally get where you realize you’re looking out of your own head, you know?

But we’ve got to stop making this all somebody else’s problem. Language is fluid and the world is ever-ending and people are inventing new ways to read and write CONSTANTLY and maybe Miley Cyrus isn’t our thing but luckily we’re not contractually obligated to bring her up. We are as much citizens as we’ve ever been, and the only thing that ages us is hating the young.

A.

Axis Of Assholes

In his 2002 State of the Union speech George W. Bush denounced Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” an inflammatory turn of phrase authored by David Frum. That’s right, the Frum who can be seen on your teevee as an anti-Trump conservative. He writes for the Atlantic Weekly now and still hasn’t topped the line that began life as “axis of hatred.”

In 2019, we face a corrupt, malevolent, and egomaniacal axis of assholes. They’re scattered across the globe, but the bull goose assholes are Bibi Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and Crown Prince MBS aka Mister Bone Saw seen above holding hands. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The United States may be the most powerful country in the terrible troika, but Netanyahu is the powerhouse; both mentoring and setting a bad example for the Insult Comedian who aspires to Bibi’s level of malevolent malakatude. That makes Bibi  the Mr. Bad Example of the axis of assholes:

Netanyahu just won a scorched earth re-election campaign in which he demonized his opponents, the media, and the Israeli Arab minority. As depressing as it is for those of us who remember the Israel of Ben-Gurion, Meir, Rabin, and Peres: it’s Bibi’s country now. The Israeli left is dead as is the two-state solution. Netanyahu continues to transform Israeli democracy into a system akin to apartheid era South Africa or Jim Crow era America.

The Kaiser of Chaos aspires to Bibi’s level of strongman dominance. What’s not to love about a guy who was re-elected while under threat of indictment? Mercifully, Israel’s multi-party system makes that feat difficult to replicate elsewhere but the Trumpers are hoping to follow in Bibi’s sleazy footsteps.

New Yorker honcho David Remnick wrote a perceptive and must read post-election piece, The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance. These excerpts capture the zeitgeist of the axis of assholes. The he in question is Netanyahu but it could just as easily be Trump:

Practicing a politics of division, he targets enemies in the press, the academy, and the courts. Increasingly, he finds his global allies in the ever-growing club of the Illiberal International, from the Sunni Arab leaders in his own region to Viktor Orbán, in Hungary; Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil; and Vladimir Putin, in Russia. He has determined that the world no longer cares very much about the Palestinians or about democratic niceties. He has marginalized the left––even the center-left. The “peace camp” that [Bibi’s father] Benzion loathed now barely exists.

<SNIP>

Just as Netanyahu provided Trump instruction on the political possibilities of right-wing populism, Trump has provided Netanyahu with instruction on the possibilities of outrageous invective, voter suppression, and disdain for the law. Netanyahu now delights in the use of such phrases as “fake news.” Investigations into his financial adventures are “witch hunts.” To suppress the Arab vote in last week’s election, his supporters mounted more than a thousand cameras at polling places where Arab citizens ordinarily vote, the better to intimidate them. And, of course, both men like a wall. As Trump put it, “Walls work. Just ask Israel.” To which his proud mentor tweeted, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

The axis of assholes sticks together. Neither Trump nor Netanyahu found the murder of Jamal Khashoggi objectionable and took MBS at his word that his regal hands were clean, not blood-stained. Liars tend to believe other liars.

There’s a lot of saber rattling in the direction of Iran right now. Since distraction is the only thing Trump is good at, there are well-founded fears of a “wag the dog” attack on Iran. I think the Trump regime is likely to sub-contract any such attack to the Israelis and Saudis because bombs are expensive and the president* is a cheapskate. Iran is why the leadership of those once bitter foes have converged. The Bibi-MBS nexus of the axis of assholes almost makes one nostalgic for bad old/good old days in the Middle East. The Palestinians must be.

It’s beyond ironic that the leader of the Jewish state has formed such close bonds with two anti-Semitic leaders but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the rule in that region. It should matter that Saudi Arabia was rhetorically pro-Nazi, but it doesn’t. It should matter that Donald Trump’s Archie Bunker-style philo-semitism is fundamentally anti-Semitic but it doesn’t. All that matters is power.

The only good thing about the axis of assholes is that it’s likely to be ephemeral. People like Bibi, the Kaiser of Chaos, and Mister Bone Saw invariably turn on one another. Cannibalism is part of assholery at this level of malakatude.

Speaking of cannibalism, the last word goes to Paul Kantner and Grace Slick: