Category Archives: Terrorism

Save One

We are arguing about how much of the house is on fire, with the refugee/immigrant ban. We are arguing closet versus attic versus living room, instead of picking up a damn bucket and putting the fire out:

President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries.

But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math.

Let’s not, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t care if this executive order affected one person.  I don’t care if this hadn’t affected ANYONE yet. In no possible world are any of our laws tested constitutionally based on how many people they affect. That’s not the measurement. That’s not the qualifier. You don’t get to say well, we only screwed over a dozen immigrant kids, so until we get to triple digits we’re cool. That’s not how any of this works.

Our laws were not designed to save as many as possible. Our laws were designed to save us all, and that means saving one. One person. One child. One family. One mother or father or brother or sister. Our laws were designed to weigh us all, one against the other, and say no one of us is worth more than any of the others.

It’s why our presidents, our congressmen, are subject to our laws. It’s why you can bring suit against those holding the highest offices in the land. It’s why you and I can — or should be able to — avail ourselves of the same legal system as someone who got here last week.

And that includes potential terrorists, for all the wingnuts in the cheap seats. I know you all think life is a nonstop episode of 24 and if President Trump doesn’t personally electrode a Syrian dude’s balls in the Roosevelt Room then we’ll all die in a nuclear attack, but a) that is not how anything is going to happen and b) at no point would such a scenario be endangered by said Syrian dude invoking a right to counsel. If Trump is hooking jumper cables to his nethers he’s already figured out that nobody can hear him scream.

Meanwhile, the non-terrorist families that just want to come here, get jobs, spend money at the local Wal-Mart and watch American TV are going to get handcuffed and deported back to the places we explicitly encouraged them to flee, and you’ll pardon me if I don’t want to wait until they’re a certain percentage of travelers or if they’re especially promising at geometry or any of the other bullshit narratives that have sprung up in the past 72 (holy shit, only 72) hours.

They’re human beings, and we are America. Let’s not go through the math.

A.

It Hurts to Take the Story Apart. Do It Anyway.

There’s a story we’ve been telling ourselves for a long time now, about how democracy works, about how it has to work in order for us all to get up in the morning. It involves how campaigns operate, how elections take place, how power is handed from one person to another and what is done with that power and to whom.

The story’s called America. It’s a few years old now. Maybe you’ve heard it: We are free, and we choose who leads us, and we have chance after chance to make things better. We’re in charge, you and me, for good and ill and sometimes both together.

It’s always been partly fiction. In our finest hours it’s always been a little frayed. But we’ve been able to tell ourselves the story while it’s still more knit than mend.

Can we do that right now?

The Russian state took an interest in our elections and tried to influence them. To what extent, with what effect, and for what purpose, those in power know and aren’t saying.

And over the past couple of days during discussion of that, and discussion of the popular vote imbalance, and discussion of voter suppression in formerly swing states, I’ve been hearing lots of variations on IT’S TOO HARD AND OMG MEEN. That political blowback would be intense for anyone who said hey, hold on, let’s figure this shit out. That we don’t have time between now and the inauguration (I guess there are too many Christmas parties?) and can’t we just put our heads down and power through this?

The vast majority of the GOP, of course, is hedging its bets as they have been since the primaries ended. Maybe this will all die down and they can get back to gutting the social safety net which is what they’re really here for. Maybe Donald Trump will just fuck up normally, like Dan Quayle or something, accidentally hit on a few prime ministers’ wives, do some blow in the Oval, and leave the hard work to them. That was their overarching rationale for endorsing his skeezy ass and they are desperately clinging to it.

It’s gross, of course, like a 15-year-old who still wants to bring his blankie to school, but we always underestimate how attached people are to their security objects.

But Obama and the Democrats? The purported grownups in the GOP in Congress and statehouses who either actively avoided mentioning Trump or flat-out said he was garbage? Those people? I don’t want to hear from THEM how difficult it is to take the story of America apart and put it back together again.

I don’t want to hear about concerns that they’d be perceived as helping Hillary, or that TV commentators would say things in that deep concerned voice they affect, or that frogs would yell shit online. THOSE AREN’T REAL CONSEQUENCES for people who are elected to do a job.

They aren’t elected to serve just to rename official state animals and pass continuing resolutions to hold up how much everything sucks right now. They are elected to fix what is broken even if that something is EVERYTHING.

Things have been breaking down for a while now. Redistricting to weight state legislatures overwhelmingly against Democrats and third parties, ballot initiatives designed to turn out opponents of one candidate or another, tax caps and institutional neglect and voting restrictions, and all of it leading to a campaign in which one candidate won the popular vote by 2.6 million and the other candidate — a racist sex predator — is president.

Things have been breaking down and politicians have been desperately pretending they are okay because, frankly, taking all this apart is hard. It takes time. It takes study and most of all it takes attention we don’t have because the decent public servants are trying to keep their constituents out of hock to the mob.

Which is a deliberate thing also, in case we didn’t have enough to deal with. I get ragey when modern American voters are described as being distracted by TV and video games; the club of the most of us is distracted by the trivial need to EAT, and I can’t imagine the calls district offices get asking for help with the few social programs we have left.

Still. Still and all. There have to be things big enough that we make room for them. The question of foreign interference in an election has got to be one of those things.

Winter breaks can be cancelled. Everybody can work late. We can stop talking about Twitter and we can take out a yellow legal pad and a box of black pens and a box of red pens and we can figure out how to investigate this and, if necessary, prosecute it. It’s not false and it’s not trivial and it’s certainly not too much for us.

We’ve built bigger than this. We can tear this down. We can take this story apart and figure out which parts are true and which are false.

Sack up, hos. Get to work.

A.

You Aren’t Safe

I read so many of those stories after 9/11 and they all made me insane, the stories about some asshole in a mall in Oklahoma saying that what had happened to New York had made him go back to church, or made her call her mother, or inspired them to go back to church or change into a complete pile of garbage and paint their chests red white and blue and beat up Sikh cab drivers.

If you needed 9/11 to teach you that you were not safe, the proper response was not to freak the fuck out, it was to thank God that you hadn’t had that lesson beat into you years ago, by your neighborhood or your country or your family or yourself.

The people who have the most cause to worry are not the ones who use that worry as an excuse to be gigantic babies: 

“The rest of the country is more paralyzed by the fear of terrorism,” said Mr. Grim, an attorney from Brooklyn. “People in New York understand there is risk.”

And anyway it’s useless, cats and kittens. The most important thing you can figure out is that it’s useless. The most important truth is we’re not safe, and we never were, and we never will be: 

Twenty refugee terrorists have attacked or attempted attacks, but they only managed to kill three people—all in the late 1970s before the creation of the modern refugee screening system. The annual chance of being killed in a terrorist attacked committed by refugees is one in 3.6 billion a year. Ten illegal immigrants were terrorists, but they only managed to kill one person—meaning your chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by an illegal immigrant is one in 10.9 billion a year.

By comparison, your chance of being murdered by anyone is 1 in 14,000. In other words, your chance of being murdered is 253 times as great as dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner on U.S. soil.

And it shouldn’t take a terrorist attack to remember that. It shouldn’t take a Sandy Hook to make you hug your kids. It shouldn’t take a guy getting pasted on the freeway to make you make sure the last thing you say to your spouse every single day is “I love you.” This isn’t me saying “live every day like it’s your last” or some cheap bullshit. This is me saying every day is somebody’s last and that person’s purpose is not to make you more or less scared.

It’s to do what we all are supposed to do, which is to be a fucking human being, and try to stay alive, and try to grow and change and push and love one another, and to rise up as high as we can. That’s the point of what we’re doing here. That’s all there is.

A.

Things That Began to Make Sense Again

It’s hard to remember, I wrote in the intro to the First Draft book, just how many people lost their entire minds right after 9/11. I was at work, and so was almost everyone I knew, and by the end of week 3 I was so exhausted of hearing stupid shit that I could barely speak to anyone. There were a couple of things that made immediate sense in a way that the sheltered columnists screaming about torture and the unemployed dimwits beating up shopkeepers couldn’t.

The first was this, which I try to post every year around this time: 

More people come to stand with us on the corner. People walk out into the street to look. The building on a hundred million postcards, panned past in establishing shots in a thousand movies, visible from my bedroom window growing up, has an angry jagged yell full of twisted steel and fire punched into its side. I don’t know what else to do, so I stand there, mouth agape, and stare at it. It seems like a particularly realistic CGI rendering in a movie trailer. I try to get my brain to deal with what my eyes are telling it, but it’s just not sinking in, and just then a hot fragment of something or other lands on my head, and I duck my head to shake it free, and as I do, I see a shirt cuff land gently on the sidewalk a few feet away. I stare at that, too. “Dude, look at that, this is seriously seriously bad,” I start to say to Bob, who’s digging in his bag for his tape recorder, but I don’t have time, because I’ve turned my attention back to the building again, and the building has chosen that moment to die.

The second was this, literally the only fictional treatment of that time I can remotely stand, that doesn’t feel treacly or false or too little or too loud:

(The later seasons, and honestly, the later episodes of the first season, went really fucking far off the rails but that first one was like oh, thank God, something makes sense again. When he asks the therapist where the grief counseling was for every time he lost someone on the job because that happens all the time … yeah.)

For the life of me I can’t remember his name, and linkrot has ensured I can’t find the story, but I was interviewing a standup comic maybe a month later and asked him about all those columns declaring triviality and humor basically over. I’ll never forget what he said. “Every day is somebody’s 9/11.”

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wish You Were Here

Kirchner-strasse-in-der-daemmerung

Street In The Twilight by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

First, a prologue. There’s been another horrendous terrorist attack in a beautiful place in a country that’s our oldest friend: Nice, France. The French Counsel General, Grégor Trumel, made the following remarks at a Bastille Day event at the New Orleans Museum of Art:

“I think more than ever we should stick to our values together — French people, American people,” he said, citing the national motto of France to hearty applause. “The words ‘liberté, égalité and fraternité’ are stronger than ever.”

Trumel led the crowd in a moment of silence and later, a rendition of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” But before that, Trumel thanked supporters for attending the reception and reminded gatherers that France is not just a country, but an ideal.

“Perhaps for 5 seconds, 3 seconds, we thought that we could cancel the reception, but no — never,” he said. “Never. Never. It would be a victory for our enemies, and we should not compromise with violence, terror and horror.”

In the spirit advocated by Monsieur Trumel, let’s resume our regularly scheduled programming:

It’s been a less stressful week here in New Orleans. The weather remains blisteringly hot but we’ve had the odd bit of rain to cool things down and the tropics are quiet for the moment. Plus, the news from Red Stick may not be good but it’s not as bad as last week at this time. It will simply have to do.

I watched Hillary-Berniepalooza this week. It went fairly well. Bernie was scowling at the beginning but, eventually, warmed to his task. It had the hardcore Dudebros squealing like stuck pigs, which warmed the cockles of my heart whatever the hell those are. Watching it, I realized that if I were casting an actor to play Bernie it wouldn’t be Larry David (who can only play himself) but Walter Matthau circa Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys:

Walter Meme

You’ll have to see the movie or play to get the running “enter” gag. Y’all should see it anyway. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Neil Simon? The man knew his way around a joke. His work has become somewhat overlooked. It’s a crime, I tell ya.

Let’s move on to this week’s theme song. I’ve picked two repeat artists, Nick Lowe and Pink Floyd, with different songs with the same title. Nick’s song features the great Paul Carrack on second lead vocal and is pretty darn chipper. The more famous Pink Floyd tune is wistful but awesome nonetheless.

Now that I’ve alternatively pepped you up and gloomed you out, it’s time for the abominable showman to take a bow and go to the break.

Continue reading

Speaking Of Dictators

It’s no secret that Donald Trump loves dictators. He’s a Putin praisin’ motherfucker and yesterday he batted his beady, rat-like eyes at a dead dictator. You know, the guy that tried to have Poppy Bush whacked:

“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy,” Trump offered as a disclaimer. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights—they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.”

It’s a classic Insult Comedian formulation: a disclaimer followed by the crazy. I realize that he’s not a fan of due process under the law but the only possible good thing to say about Saddam Hussein is that, in between going to war with Iran and Kuwait, he was kinda sorta a force for regional stability. So sad to say that. So sad.

I’m not sure what audience Trump is trying to appeal to here. The neo-cons like torture but hate Saddam Hussein and the so-called Republican neo-doves aren’t crazy about either. It’s just the sort of dick waving that appeals to GOP primary voters but bombs in the general election. Repeat after me: so much for the Trump pivot.

In other Trump loves dictators news, there’s a fine piece by Franklin Foer at Slate about the Donald’s interactions with the Russians over the years. The title, Putin’s Puppet, is a bit hysterical but the content and analysis are rock solid. The Russians have been flattering Trump for years and Putin, as a good KGB man, has been doing likewise. It turns out that he’s supporting a bunch of right-wing nationalists throughout Europe. His goal is to undermine the EU and NATO as well as the US in order to increase Russian influence. During the Cold War, the KGB subsidized left-wingers but as we all know the line between far left and far right can be a thin and frayed one.

The most interesting section concerns the ties between Team Trump and Russian oligarchs:

While Putin hasn’t dirtied his hands in American elections, the Russians have cultivated Washington—hiring fancy firms to craft strategy, donating money to think tanks, building a small coterie of wonks sympathetic to their leader’s view of the world. The Trump campaign is the unlikely culmination of this effort. It has been a magnet for like-minded fans of Putin. Fans might not be quite the right term, since so many of these advisers have profited from proxies of the Russian state.

Let’s begin at the top. Trump’s campaign manager is a wizened operative named Paul Manafort. It’s true that Manafort is a mercenary by trade. His old Washington consulting firm pioneered the practice of representing the dictators of the world, no matter their grim record. (I profiled his authoritarian ambit earlier this year.) Late in his career, however, Manafort dedicated himself to working on behalf of clients close to the Kremlin. His grand achievement was reviving the doomed career of the anti-charismatic politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s image-crafting and shrewd strategy culminated in Yanukovych’s election to Ukraine’s presidency in 2010. Thanks to Manafort’s handiwork, Ukraine pulled into Putin’s sphere of influence. Unlike other American consultants who flitted in and out of Kiev, Manafort set up camp there. He became an essential adviser to the president—his tennis partner even.

If Manafort were the only Kremlin connection in the Trump campaign, his presence might signify nothing. But he’s hardly isolated. Many pundits have scoffed at the idea that Trump has a circle of foreign policy advisers given that his initial list of gurus emerged abruptly in March and included names unknown to most experts. Yet the list suggests certain tendencies. One of the supposed Trump whisperers was an investment banker named Carter Page. During a stint in Moscow in the 2000s, he advised the state-controlled natural gas giant, Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.  (In March, Page told Bloomberg that he continues to own shares in the company.) Page has defended Russia with relish. He wrote a column explicitly comparing the Obama administration’s Russia policy to chattel slavery in the American South. His reasoning: “Numerous quotes from the February 2015 National Security Strategy closely parallel an 1850 publication that offered guidance to slaveholders on how to produce the ‘ideal slave.’ ”

That’s some nice company the Insult Comedian keeps. Foer’s article rises above its click-baity headline to pose some serious questions. Check it out.

Speaking of people who moved from the far left to the far right, I watched a thing about Mussolini at Amazon the other day. It’s a British series called History’s Verdict that takes a historiological look at various participants in World War II. The episode about Il Duce featured some pictures that may have inspired Putin’s shirtless exploits. I give you the Vlad and Benito show:

Putin comp.preview

Putin-Mussolini

I hope Trump has no plans for any beefcake shots. The mere thought could gag a maggot.

That is all.

 

All the Times Nothing Happens

I started a new job in April, one that necessitates my taking the L downtown each day. I’ve been riding the train off and on since we moved here, and never had a problem except when with out-of-town friends or family members who already think I am about to be raped and murdered every day here in the urban hellhole.

Like I bring my mom on the very touristy Red Line, and of course that day there’s a guy peeing off the end of the platform and singing.

Yesterday the train was crowded, rush hour bodies crammed next to one another as we all tried not to notice the closeness and the coffee breath and the summer sweat. I could see, over a young woman’s shoulder, that she was reading Game of Thrones. Beside her a little girl was reading Harry Potter.

At every platform, we crushed in closer.

If you thought about what holds the world up, you’d go stark raving mad inside a second.

Passengers on the train called 911 to report the stabbing, and an officer was already near the 47th Street Red Line stop as the train pulled up, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

The suspect stepped off the train, saw the officer and surrendered, Guglielmi said.

Police still are conferring with prosecutors on charges. The weapon was recovered at the scene.

It’s not how often something happens here, I tell out of town friends and family. It’s how often something doesn’t. We gather in ways that would make us targets all the time here. Every morning commute is the next packed nightclub floor. Anyone with a gun could … anyone with a bomb could … anyone with a knife.

This many people, this close together, this often, and nine times out of ten the worst thing that happens is someone’s wallet gets lifted.

I’ve seen musicians jam on the train, total strangers dancing along. I’ve seen a whole car, Mr. A included, get involved in an argument about the precise ethnicity of Jesus, and collectively ignore a ranting panhandler into calming down, and help a woman whose stroller got stuck in the gap between the car and the steps. People have offered me water when I was hot and when it’s below zero everyone huddles under the warming lights and makes the why the hell do we live here face.

This isn’t me saying it isn’t that bad. It’s me saying that we exist in a state of fragile truce, at all times. If you thought about it too much, if you saw it moving past you, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.

We exist, in this country, in every country, in inescapable interdependence. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. I make accommodations, every day, for others. So do you. We do it without knowing it, looking past things, moving over, bending down.

What happens if that just stops?

This happens:

The first time I watched that video I looked at the two assholes yelling abuse at a dark-skinned man, in front of a woman wearing a hijab.

The second time I watched it, I looked at everyone else.

Yelling back. Saying stop. Saying this a disgrace. Saying that’s not fair. Saying that’s not right. Saying we’re not like this.

And it’s easy to say we are, because we are. I know the same Trump supporters you know. I’m a middle-class white chick and I don’t know all of the America you know, but three days after 9/11 I saw unemployed shitheads paint their chests red, white and blue and yell about “dune coons” up and down the street, and threaten good people, and do more than threaten.

It’s not that we’re not like this. It’s that we’re like this. And we’re like the people who yell back, too.

A.

Still Comfortably Numb Revisited

It’s happened again; another atrocity. This time it’s a hate crime with a terrorist gloss. The depressing mass shooting ritual continues. That means it’s time to revisit a post I wrote after the San Bernardino shootings last December because we’re Still Comfortably Numb: 

In my first month at First Draft in 2009, I revisited a post I wrote for my eponymous blog on July 13, 2006. It was one of my rare lucid moments as a blogger as I compared post-K New Orleans to the grand finale of Great Expectations. I borrowed the title from Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb. It struck me this morning that this theme was eerily applicable to the seemingly endless string of mass shootings we’ve had this year. Here’s a sample of the 2006 post:

Syd Barrett’s death got me thinking in Pink Floyd song titles. A scary concept, I know. Careful With That Axe, Eugene didn’t fit the situation here in NOLA but one title nailed it: Comfortably Numb from The Wall. Comfortably numb describes the state of our political, judicial and socio-economic systems here pre-K. We were muddling through at all levels but as long as we were comfortable, we were numb.

Then came Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood, which, by analogy, was to New Orleans what the last part of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was to Pip the hero of the novel. Pip had always thought that the bitter recluse Miss Havisham had been his financial benefactor. He was wrong. His real patron was Magwich, an escaped convict turned magnate whom Pip had helped while a child.

<snip>

How does this apply to NOLA? Miss Havisham is a perfect symbol of the city. For years, we allowed our city to rot and decay and instead of trying to do something about it, we turned to drama, drugs, booze, food and apathy. If I had a hundred dollar bill for every time I’ve heard “you can’t change fill in the blank it’s New Orleans,” I’d be as rich as Pip’s portly solicitor, Mr. Jaggers. I’ve heard that line applied to government, litter, crime, you name it; it’s the catchall excuse. The city and its people were all comfortably numb.

That’s where we find ourselves in regard to mass shootings in our country: we’re comfortably numb. They happen so often that they’ve become routine. President Obama urges us to not treat them as such, and he’s right as a matter of policy, but it’s human nature to seek a safe haven.  Being comfortably numb helps ease the horror of events like the San Bernardino massacre.

One worrisome thing that happens after each of these dreadful event is the ritualistic response of various segments of society. As Athenae so eloquently pointed out last night, Republican politicians make a ritual of calling for prayers for the victims. The NRA, and the people who value the abstraction that is the Second Amendment, talk about mental illness and how much safer the world would be if all the good guys were armed to the teeth. Right thinking people who *want* to do something to stop the carnage advocate new gun control measures, which are automatically rejected by the Second Amendment purists and nothing happens. This post-massacre ritual/routine is the clearest indication that we’re still comfortably numb.

Another worrisome thing is how easy it is to divide mass shootings into genres as if they were movies. The slaughter in Southern California *could* be slotted into the workplace massacre genre also known as “going postal.” Since the perpetrators were Muslims with Arab names, the flying banshees of the Right *assume* that it’s Daesh/ISIL/Al-Qaeda related terrorism. We simply do not know the motives of the shooters at this point. We *do* know that it doesn’t fit into the following mass shooting genres: schools, health care clinics, shopping malls, fast food eateries; the variations seem to be horrifically endless. It’s no wonder that people want to crawl in bed and hide under the covers. It’s why we remain either comfortably or uncomfortably numb after each of these attacks.

I’m like everybody else: I just want the slaughter to stop. It’s clearly ridiculous for civilians to have military-style assault weapons, but in a country where a police union has advocated armed football fans such a reasonable goal seems unobtainable. One thing that would help the national discourse on this subject is for us to stop reacting ritualistically and stop slotting the shootings into genres. No wonder we’re comfortably numb: we can pigeonhole the latest atrocity and move on.

David Chase used a Roger Waters-Van Morrison version of Comfortably Numb as the soundtrack for the worst thing Tony ever did on The Sopranos: using a car wreck as an excuse to murder Christopher Moltisanti. Christopher popped the soundtrack of Scorsese’s The Departed into the CD player, which triggered the accident and Tony’s actions. After killing Christopher, Tony resorted to a string of rationalizations as to why it was the right gangster thing to do. He was never quite the same thereafter: becoming an even darker and more ruthless character as well as-you guessed it-comfortably numb. Let’s hope that life doesn’t imitate The Sopranos in this instance and we can move past our numbness in a constructive manner. I am, however, not optimistic. We’re all still comfortably numb.

Can We Stop Speaking for The Terrorists?

Shut up, Tom Friedman: 

Appearing on Imus in the Morning Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told host Don Imus that he believes that Islamic State wants Donald Trump to win the presidency.

“The bad guys know just what they’re doing,” Friedman said. “They wanted [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] because that would radicalize the situation even more. And I fear that ISIS will believe that Trump would radicalize the situation even more.”

I don’t actually think it’s okay to speculate about who ISIS wants to be president. Because first of all, ISIS wants to be president, itself, and second, if ISIS is not happy with our present Seekrit Muslim Kenyan I doubt they will be happy with a racist ear of corn like Trump.

Third, it’s just dumb and gross and lazy. It was dumb and gross and lazy when people were yelling that Bin Laden and Kerry had secret handshakes and it was dumb and gross and lazy when people were yelling that McCain and al Qaeda had secret handshakes and the only proper response to the idea that terrorists favor one candidate over another is WHO THE FUCK CARES WHAT THEY WANT THEY ARE NOT THE BOSSES OF US.

We can argue all day long whose policies would benefit terrorists who prey on the weak and the poor, but quite honestly more people are dying here every day of preventable diseases and poverty and violence so when we are done with which presidential candidate the American terrorists are excited about, we can then rule out the candidate overseas terrorists want, too.

A.

What’s On the Table for This Fight

SHUT UP, PACK YOUR THINGS, AND GET OUT, RON JOHNSON: 

Johnson praised the passengers of United Flight 93 while addressing the Wisconsin Republican Party on Saturday, saying that it was “American” of them to hold a vote before confronting hijackers and taking down the plane on 9/11, The Associated Press reported.

“November 2016 we’ll be taking a vote. We’ll be encouraging our fellow citizens to take a vote,” Johnson said, as quoted by the AP. “Now, it may not be life and death, like the vote passengers on United Flight 93 took, but boy is it consequential.”

Johnson said Monday in an interview with local radio station WTMJ that he’s told the story “dozens of times” because it inspires him to “keep moving forward, to never give up on this country.”

“I used my unique contact with the finest among us and visiting them in Walter Reed and the inspiration they provide, and the inspiration provided by these heroes of 9/11 who — who — knew that their plane had been turned into a weapon, OK, but still took the vote,” he said.

Doc and I were talking this weekend about stuff that idiot political pundits do, like comparing elections to wars or declaring everything to be “a Katrina” or talking about welfare policy as if it was a hypothetical scenario being run on a computer instead of the actual way people need to feed their babies.

And there’s a lot that goes into that, the isolation and the echo chamber and the idea that if you are a moderately well off political person you mostly deal with other moderately well off political people and not with, say, poor people who are actually affected by your snide shit. But what I kept coming back to was the idea that some things are not fair game for the fight you are having.

The fight you are having, about whether you can Appear To Be Serious, is not about real things. 9/11 involved lots of real dead people and it didn’t happen primarily to give meaning to the life of Ron Johnson, the creature. 9/11 and the people who died are not yours, to pull out so as to make clear your “unique contact” (so much going to fuck yourself, pal) and impress us all with your depth of feeling.

(I remember being in an idiot newsmeeting after 9/11 where we all pitched stories about the ongoing collapse of the entire world, and this very earnest girl stood up and said that we should be writing about people going back to church because she had gone back to church, because the pile of ash in lower Manhattan had given her life so much more meaning.

Which was a lot of pressure to put on New York, just at that moment. To give meaning to this girl’s life. Like, they had enough to do just then, so get in line.)

I fully believe Ron Johnson is genuinely too dumb to understand what fight he’s having, much less parse out what you get to slap on the table during it. His moronic comments are symptomatic of a political class that has lost touch not just with “real America” or whatever we’re calling this country’s vanishing middle class, but with the idea that politics is more than social experiment theater. There is a human cost to the examples you cite, so if you’re going to say what you’re doing is like storming the beaches at Normandy you’d better be under some serious artillery fire.

If all you’re doing is running a craptastic, inept campaign for re-election, maybe don’t make out like you’re Shackleton at the Pole.

A.

On Fighting For Those Who Fight Against You

Charlie: 

Before beginning, and in fairness to the good people of Menomonie, Wisconsin, whose voting record we examined earlier Tuesday afternoon, let us remember that Texas is the home office for climate denialists among our elected representatives.

It begins at the top with Tailgunner Ted Cruz, who’s been spouting the stupid on this subject heavily for the last few weeks. It runs down through Governor Greg Abbott and indicted attorney general Ken Paxton. And it runs deeply through the Texas congressional delegation, which includes some leading intellectual giants like Lamar Smith and Louie Gohmert, although, to be fair to those other worthies, Gohmert doesn’t know much about anything, so it’s almost unfair to include him here.

I mention this only because Houston is about to turn into a really bad Kevin Costner film and the climate crisis is one of the main reasons why.

And so fucking what? Look, this Vox piece was a load of false-equivalence crap, so stop acting it out by yelling I Told You So before people are even dried off. The people who already believe you don’t need the reminder and the people who don’t aren’t reading you anyway.

These are pretty typical comments when it comes to federal aid for Houston and its environs: 

Can we please ask the Federal Government – in the form of one specific person, teh Communist Muslim Overlord – to say yes to Texas …. as long as they ask on the White House lawn in front of the full array of tv cameras and it must run as the head story on a certain ‘news’ program?

Just for once can we rub their noses in it?


Wait, can’t you just shoot the flood with your concealed handgun?


Karma. It’s a bitch.


Ideally, authorizations for these monies should be at the periodic discretion of the President, as chief executive, as to whether it is needed.

The next election will be held Tuesday 8 Nov 2016. Said authorisations should be arranged so they ALL go up to the President Nov 9 or 10. And those places plumping for Republicans (the Party of Small Government) should get all aid cut until 20 Jan 2017, when the new President can do as he or she wants.

I get it.

America is hard to love right now.

Three out of every ten of us who vote are going to vote for Donald Trump. Four of every ten of us haven’t quite cottoned to the idea of women or gay people being citizens under the law, and people are spending lots of time figuring out how to assure themselves that they are in charge of where men and women go to the bathroom. Like, lots of time. The space race took up fewer mental meters than this bathroom crap does.

Thanks to the Internet, we now see that our racist uncle is everybody’s racist uncle, and thanks to news organizations thinking they are just Internets and have to tell us what our racist uncle thinks, too, we hear so much hate all day long. That Vox trash fire wasn’t wrong about the ease of seeing loathing. We see every dumbass meme about Obama killing jobs by forcing people to buy different light bulbs and we see the comments applauding those dumbass memes. What of the news we’re forced to watch in doctors’ offices or wherever is pretty stupid. It’s like the point in your family Christmas party where everybody’s drunk is always going on.

Hard to love that. So, so hard.

GRIT YOUR DAMN TEETH, AND DO IT ANYWAY.

Because: What is the alternative?

I guess we could stop voting. I guess we could stop calling and writing and working and campaigning. I guess we could pretend we know who everybody in Houston voted for, or maybe check their records, before we tow their cars out of the floodwaters. I guess we could repeal Obamacare for the red states, because to hell with those people anyway, right? I guess we could withdraw all federal services from states whose governors seem to hate the federal government, and teach those people a lesson.

I guess at a certain point we could give up even thinking about this crap, and watch TV. It’s been a rough, punishing 6 months and all I do is work. I would like to watch TV.

It’s Sunday morning. Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.

Moreover: Do good to those who persecute themselves, for no damn good reason other than screw some imagined minority somewhere, or they can’t be bothered to find out that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, or they don’t see a point to voting because THE SYSTEM MAN, or they are just stone-ass dumb and mad. Do good to those who persecute you unless they tell you to go away was not part of the deal.

You want to tell me that a sick baby born in Alabama tomorrow to a couple of poor 15-year-olds bears any responsibility for the state’s shitbag governor? I want that baby to live and be fed and be happy and that baby dying sick and poor does absolutely nothing to change who holds the House of Representatives.

You know what would? Some actual goddamn Democratic money being put into every single legislative district race where Republicans run unopposed year after year after year. Yeah, probably futile and why bother. Because the sick baby, that’s why.

Does America deserve America’s help right now? Probably not. We are a shithead country at the moment. We are full of jerks. But that doesn’t get better if two thirds of us shake our heads and go home because we’re tired. I have news for us all: Not working doesn’t make us any less tired. It just makes us tired, and powerless.

What’s in front of us? A presidential election in which our choices are almost certainly a fairly conservative mainstream politician and ONE OF TWO COMPLETE LUNATICS. In the meantime there will be fires and floods and disasters natural and unnatural, and sick babies and poor kids who need food, and we are not asking how anybody voted before we address any of that. America is hard to love right now.

What’s the alternative?

A.

 

It Can’t Be Said Often Enough: Trump Was Not a Surprise

Not if you’d been paying attention in any way: 

A 2006 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that, in 2005, CEOs of the largest U.S. private defense contractors continued to profit from the ongoing wars.

Defense CEO pay was 44 times that of a military general with 20 years of experience and 308 times that of an Army private in 2005. Generals made $174,452 and Army privates made $25,085, while average defense CEO pay was $7.7 million.

In contrast to wealthy individuals who became even wealthier, those who were sent to do the actual fighting comprised disproportionately high numbers of working class Americans. In the combined efforts of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, almost 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died. More than 970,000 veteran disability claims have been registered with the Veterans Administration.

Returning soldiers face higher unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts, particularly among male veterans age 21 to 24. Between 2009 and 2012, the youngest veterans had an unemployment rate of 21.6 percent, compared to 13.5 percent for civilians.

Veterans struggle to find proper healthcare in a system ill-prepared for the number of wounded, particularly those with catastrophic injuries and mental health issues that require long-term care. Private nonprofit organizations have been picking up the slack left by inadequate funding in the federal budget.

Like their ancestors who fought in and survived the Civil War, today’s soldiers return to find their situations either the same, or much worse, than when they left. Who would blame them for being angry? As soldiers go off to war we say, “God bless our troops.” Maybe we should add, “God help them when they come home.”

It reminds me of when 9/11 happened and there was a sea of stories about “why they hate us” and other stuff, like, how dare those illogical people blame America for the fact that their kids are killed by bombs we sold to their enemies, what crazy talk. To profess surprise at Donald Trump’s message taking hold is to admit you were asleep the entire last half of the last century and the entirety so far of this one.

And the veteran piece is a critical one because for a lot of people, including a lot of people I know, service was the fastest and most reliable way out of a dead-end situation. So they join up to escape poverty, and then get plunged right back into poverty when they get home, only now they’re minus a leg and need medication the VA can’t give them for three months. You’ve taken what is already a monstrous situation — go to war so your family can eat, kids! — and made the best case scenario end of it (that you come home alive) a horror show.

I don’t blame anybody at a Trump rally one bit for being pissed the government doesn’t listen to them. Because you know what? It doesn’t.

A.

Oh Yeah, Why Aren’t You Praying for THIS?!!!

An explosion in a Pakistani park today, and instantly: WHY AREN’T YOU TWEETING ABOUT THIS OH YEAH THEY AREN’T WHITE: 

A suicide bomber killed at least 52 people, including many women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, according to government officials and police.

The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few feet away from children’s swings. Around 150 people were injured in the explosion, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Pakistan has been plagued by a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs, and sectarian violence. Punjab, where Lahore is located, is its biggest and wealthiest province.

This is probably a more concise and focused takedown of the “tragedy hipster” mentality than I’m about to deliver. In case you’re pressed for time.

Is there racism at work in the disproportionate amount of attention given to tragedies involving white people?

Absolutely.

Is there laziness, bias, stupidity, myopia?

Definitely.

Should we be thinking, always, about the weight of every life, and putting ourselves in others’ shoes?

Shit yeah.

Is any of that solved by yelling at your cousin on Facebook (or posting passive-aggressive shaming articles about how “we” don’t give enough of a shit about X part of the world) after he changes his profile picture to the color of the Belgian flag for a day or something?

Not really. It’s just changing the flavor of the narcissism to “Look at me, with my bigger understanding of the world than yours! How dare you be so small, when I am capable of being bigger!”

Here’s the thing. Of course people tend to focus on things they have personally experienced. Places they’ve been. Lives in which they can see themselves. That’s not a sign of anything but being human, and I’m not all that interested in tallying up the instances of “prayers up!” on Facebook and Twitter as the ultimate measure of whether we have a racist society.

Of course we do. We always have.

And it’s not letting us one iota off the hook for that, to say that using a tragedy to shame people for caring about another tragedy is the worst kind of jerking off and advances us not one bit. It ignores where we are, and how we react, as goddamn ordinary people. If you don’t start from where you are, if you don’t start from how the world works right now, you’ll never be able to move.

We all break the world apart in little bits and care about it that way, because it’s too much to try to swallow, the whole thing at once. It would choke you, if you loved it all. The only thing we call that capacity for compassion, ever, is God, because we cannot imagine anything else big enough for it. That’s where we are: with us and ours.

Growing from there, drawing the circle wider and wider, doesn’t come from stamping out the first impulse toward kindness and generosity because it’s not big enough. I don’t think anyone, caring about anything bigger than themselves in a way that’s unselfish enough to make even a tiny gesture, deserves to be slapped down. So long as they’re not making out like they’re one of the oppressed because they switched their blog’s font color, their status change hurts no one.

This has been a miserable, cold, dark, punishing year for a lot a lot a lot of people, and especially here in America, kindness is in pretty damn short supply. We have had two entire presidential campaigns and are about to have a third concentrating entirely on how mean we should be to poor people and immigrants. We DO have a profoundly racist society, and we ARE entirely too ignorant of things outside our own experience. For a lot of people I know Europe might as well be the moon, for all the chance they’ll have to get there, so while we’re raising people’s consciousnesses miles up, let’s try not to scream at them every inch.

Now, if you want to do something to help the victims of today’s attack, here’s an idea.

A.

Brussels Attacks and American Journalism Right Now

It is a miracle we have any allies left at all. Like, fuck us right now.

I mean, it is not that we don’t know what these people are, and we are putting them on our air anyway, to say their garbage, and then we are all shocked and outraged and whatnot, as if we didn’t ask them to be exactly this. When people ask why our politics is the way it is, we can point to the way we normalize and legitimize crazy fucking people by making editorial decisions that we then pretend aren’t decisions at all.

“But he’s the second in line for the GOP nomination!” Yes, and you still control the goddamn doors to your studio. This isn’t the weather.

There is no reason to cut to people like Cruz, Trump, Sarah Palin and whatever else despicable critter slithers out from under a rock today to Tweet shit. You don’t have to do a roundup of ridiculous nonsense said by everything with an R after its name (or a D, for that matter). You are not powerless. Stop pretending.

A.

On Standing Up

I have new neighbors.

All I knew about them until a few weeks ago was that they had tiny children, wore hijabs and said hello as we passed one another in the alley. That’s my relationship with most of my neighbors, to be honest, especially in the winter months when we all just want to get inside as quickly as possible.

A few weeks ago, however, we had dinner. They only moved here a few years ago, for work and school. We talked about our kids, about schools, about learning other languages and our first encounters with other cultures. Kick and their daughter chased each other down the hall.

We didn’t talk about Trump directly. I can’t imagine what right now looks like to them. If this was the first thing you saw, was this man on TV saying you were dangerous, should be deported, should be detained, how would you feel about your new home?

I have a work colleague from overseas who was doing some shopping in the far-flung Chicago suburbs. As she was leaving a strip mall (is there anything more American to do in the world?) a man yelled at her to “go back to your fucking country.”

This is a tremendously talented and confident woman, who navigates the world with grace, kindness and unshakeable good humor, but that shook her, and it hurt to see.

I am the whitest white girl in the history of whiteness, and I could probably walk right into a Trump rally, speak with my thickest Wisconsin accent, and fit right in. Nobody would say boo to me if I didn’t say anything to them. I can cover up the tattoos.

I do not have one tenth the courage of these people.

 

The day after the Trump rally there was the usual bellyaching on the Internet about whether protesting was really a good thing, and lots of butchering of “free speech” and “how would you feel if this was Trump protesters taking over a Hillary rally” and blah blah blah de blah. There was lots of motive-checking of the protesters, lots of “both sides” and “shouldn’t they have worn nicer outfits and not yelled so rudely,” the usual Monday morning quarterbacking from people who won’t miss a meal if Trump is elected. And you know what? Fuck all that shit.

Ignoring ugliness is how we got here. Ignoring those who stood up to ugliness is how we got here. Disavowing those who stood up to ugliness is how we got here. Publicly worrying about how it would look to be such filthy hippies as to be on the side of human dignity is how we got here, after two decades of war and tax cuts and pretending racism was dead. Being nice and being quiet and hoping not to be hit is how we got here.

For years and years Democrats and other liberals played along and compromised and voted for Republican proposals in hopes they wouldn’t call us flag-burning faggot peace-freaks. We kept our powder dry and didn’t fight the tough fights and worried about elections and mouthed pleasantries at war criminals at parties, and voted enthusiastically for endless wars. We did everything they wanted us to do.

Guess what? They called us flag-burning faggot peace-freaks (who hate babies and Christmas and police officers) ANYWAY. We have a nice moderate Republican president at the moment, and the GOP calls him a Kenyan-born gay prostitute who has “destroyed” America’s military and smokes crack in the White House. That it’s now coming from the podium instead of the cheap seats doesn’t really concern me as much as that it’s still coming. We sat down and shut up and minded the optics and how’d it work out?

Shitty, thanks for asking.

So in the face of that, the sight of thousands of people packing an auditorium to say no to hate (even if they said it loudly, even if they hit back when they got hit, even if their signs and T-shirts were rude) was goddamn necessary. It was necessary for the people who were there and it was necessary for the people who couldn’t be there, and I will get to worrying about what was in the heads of every single protester when the election is over and this small, angry, miserable nucleus of what used to be a party is buried at the crossroads where the devil can find it with ease.

There are two reasons you stand up, okay?

The first is a selfish one. At some point in your future life, you are going to have to reckon with your actions. You are going to have to get up each day and either live the life you are able to live, speaking when you had something to say, or you are going to have to construct a cage made of stories and excuses for all the things you didn’t say. You die in pieces that way. You know it. You’ve watched it happen to far too many people you love. So for the sake of unraveling the knot that forms under your breastbone when you stay silent about something that matters, you are going to have to stand up.

The second, though? The second reason you stand up?

Is for anybody who isn’t standing up.

For anybody scared, anybody hurt, anybody who couldn’t leave his or her house.

For anybody who has less power than you. For anybody who can’t take off work, or doesn’t have documents, or has no childcare, or wouldn’t survive a rough night.

For anybody watching at home wondering if anybody out there is on his side at all.

You stand up to say to them, this isn’t everybody. You stand up to say to them, you are safe, or as safe as me and mine can make you. You stand up to say to them, you’re heard, you’re loved, you’re valued. The ugliness is just one set of voices. There is another, and it is loud and clear.

You stand up so they see you standing up, and know they are a little less alone.

A.

Where Do Trump Supporters Go From Here?

The scary thing about Trump is not what if he wins, but what if he loses?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll put everything I have including my body on the wheels to make sure that happens, but I’m starting to think we need some kind of plan for these people:

They’re riled and they’re pissed, and it’s not that they’re wrong to be. Their jobs have gone away, their houses are full of lead and asbestos, their neighborhoods aren’t good enough for grocery stores or restaurants, their schools have holes in the roofs and water in the basements, and nobody has talked to them about any of this for years.

Except to tell them who to hate for it.

I get so enraged when I see these dumbass thinkpieces talking about poor white people voting against their own interests. What would voting FOR their interests get them? These are people who didn’t even notice the recession because things sucked so much anyway. Their factories didn’t close in 2008 or 2009. Their factories closed in 1985, 1995, and Democratic presidents, congressmen, senators did exactly nothing about it. Even if Republicans made it worse, it was already lousy.

The people voting “against their interests” don’t HAVE any interests beyond anger at this point. Give me the choice between crippling fear and directionless rage and I’m choosing rage every time, so where do they go from here?

Trump loses, and then what?

https://vine.co/v/ighEzHdIhmQ/embed/simplehttps://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

They go quietly, just one more time?

#ucf #cfearena #trumpprotesters #idiot #whysoserious

A video posted by Matt (@theangrypianist) on Mar 6, 2016 at 4:36am PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Do we really think that’s a possibility?

What is our plan if he wins? Lalalala, we’re all gonna emigrate to Canada! What’s our plan if he loses? In 2008 America elected a black president and these people went so completely apeshit that not even TED CRUZ is extreme enough to satisfy their impulse to burninate everything in sight. America elects a woman, and I mean, I don’t even know, but we’d better be thinking a lot harder about the weeks and months after the election than we are now.

I don’t give a fuck one way or the other about Donald Trump in defeat. I don’t think he’d do a fraction of the damage to the country that Dick Cheney and W. did in victory. Trump’s supporters, though? Win or lose? They’re an inch from starting a body count right now, and they’ve got every camera in the country on them. When they feel they’ve been silenced again?

We’d better be ready for what comes after that.

A.

Donald Trump’s Fascism is So Much Ruder Than Yours!

A few things to note this morning before we begin:

 

From Tommy’s Monday post:

In impolite company I call them “Sand N****rs”.

 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence: 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he’s asking a Roman Catholic archdiocese to not bring a Syrian refugee family to the state.

Pence met for about an hour Wednesday at his Statehouse office with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin amid a dispute over the Republican governor’s order blocking state agencies from assisting Syrian refugees bound for the state.

How dare Donald Trump, right?

How dare his angry rabid mouthbreathing ign’ant supporters!

How dare they espouse such anti-American views! By all means, let’s describe THEM as beyond the pale, and let Mike Pence slide.

Let’s let ourselves slide, too, for two decades of drone-striking wedding parties and saying tomato, tomahto. Let’s let ourselves slide for equating Iraqi citizens with Saudi fanatics and bulldozing their country. Let’s just forget unloading entire pallets of cash into Afghanistan.

Let’s keep comparing Donald Trump to Hitler! Let’s forget that John Kasich’s administration was only slightly kinder to organized labor than Donald Trump’s fascist inspiration.

Let’s act like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are now voices of reason! I mean, they didn’t OPENLY say they agreed with anti-Muslim sentiment. They just kind of implied it from time to time — Islamofascism, anyone? — and hey, if lots of Muslims wound up dead because of their actions, at least their WORDS were nice!

I get so annoyed with this shit not because I think Donald Trump’s “honesty” is somehow refreshing or bold or whatever people who can’t say WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU BOLOGNA PONY on TV will have to say about it. I get so annoyed with this shit because if by some miracle Donald Trump is NOT the Republican nominee, we will be able to shove him back into the guest bedroom of American politics where we put David Duke and Pat Buchanan and George Wallace and everybody else who just couldn’t hide it well enough.

And then we’ll nominate someone like Marco Rubio, who is so intelligent he thinks the state should have the power to force a woman to bear a child against her will. Then we’ll nominate someone like John Kasich, who is funny and charming while he tries to bust unions. Then we’ll nominate someone like Jeb Bush, who thinks Syrian refugees should have to pass a Christianity test to get let in the door.

We’ll congratulate ourselves on our superior American-ness and generous spirit, and go back to talking about just how many Muslims we need to kill to make ourselves feel safe. We’ll feel like the problem is solved, and it won’t be solved, and in four years or eight years or sixteen years or one year we’ll do this whole goddamn shebang all over again, and we’ll say, again, that the person on whom we’ve focused our rage comes from out of nowhere, and we can’t imagine how he or she got so awful.

We’ll wash our hands of this particular fascist, and go right back to the task of making the next one.

A.

 

Still Comfortably Numb

In my first month at First Draft in 2009, I revisited a post I wrote for my eponymous blog on July 13, 2006. It was one of my rare lucid moments as a blogger as I compared post-K New Orleans to the grand finale of Great Expectations. I borrowed the title from Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb. It struck me this morning that this theme was eerily applicable to the seemingly endless string of mass shootings we’ve had this year. Here’s a sample of the 2006 post:

Syd Barrett’s death got me thinking in Pink Floyd song titles. A scary concept, I know. Careful With That Axe, Eugene didn’t fit the situation here in NOLA but one title nailed it: Comfortably Numb from The Wall. Comfortably numb describes the state of our political, judicial and socio-economic systems here pre-K. We were muddling through at all levels but as long as we were comfortable, we were numb.

Then came Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood, which, by analogy, was to New Orleans what the last part of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was to Pip the hero of the novel. Pip had always thought that the bitter recluse Miss Havisham had been his financial benefactor. He was wrong. His real patron was Magwich, an escaped convict turned magnate whom Pip had helped while a child.

<snip>

How does this apply to NOLA? Miss Havisham is a perfect symbol of the city. For years, we allowed our city to rot and decay and instead of trying to do something about it, we turned to drama, drugs, booze, food and apathy. If I had a hundred dollar bill for every time I’ve heard “you can’t change fill in the blank it’s New Orleans,” I’d be as rich as Pip’s portly solicitor, Mr. Jaggers. I’ve heard that line applied to government, litter, crime, you name it; it’s the catchall excuse. The city and its people were all comfortably numb.

That’s where we find ourselves in regard to mass shootings in our country: we’re comfortably numb. They happen so often that they’ve become routine. President Obama urges us to not treat them as such, and he’s right as a matter of policy, but it’s human nature to seek a safe haven.  Being comfortably numb helps ease the horror of events like the San Bernardino massacre.

One worrisome thing that happens after each of these dreadful event is the ritualistic response of various segments of society. As Athenae so eloquently pointed out last night, Republican politicians make a ritual of calling for prayers for the victims. The NRA, and the people who value the abstraction that is the Second Amendment, talk about mental illness and how much safer the world would be if all the good guys were armed to the teeth. Right thinking people who *want* to do something to stop the carnage advocate new gun control measures, which are automatically rejected by the Second Amendment purists and nothing happens. This post-massacre ritual/routine is the clearest indication that we’re still comfortably numb.

Another worrisome thing is how easy it is to divide mass shootings into genres as if they were movies. The slaughter in Southern California *could* be slotted into the workplace massacre genre also known as “going postal.” Since the perpetrators were Muslims with Arab names, the flying banshees of the Right *assume* that it’s Daesh/ISIL/Al-Qaeda related terrorism. We simply do not know the motives of the shooters at this point. We *do* know that it doesn’t fit into the following mass shooting genres: schools, health care clinics, shopping malls, fast food eateries; the variations seem to be horrifically endless. It’s no wonder that people want to crawl in bed and hide under the covers. It’s why we remain either comfortably or uncomfortably numb after each of these attacks.

I’m like everybody else: I just want the slaughter to stop. It’s clearly ridiculous for civilians to have military-style assault weapons, but in a country where a police union has advocated armed football fans such a reasonable goal seems unobtainable. One thing that would help the national discourse on this subject is for us to stop reacting ritualistically and stop slotting the shootings into genres. No wonder we’re comfortably numb: we can pigeonhole the latest atrocity and move on.

David Chase used a Roger Waters-Van Morrison version of Comfortably Numb as the soundtrack for the worst thing Tony ever did on The Sopranos: using a car wreck as an excuse to murder Christopher Moltisanti. Christopher popped the soundtrack of Scorsese’s The Departed into the CD player, which triggered the accident and Tony’s actions. After killing Christopher, Tony resorted to a string of rationalizations as to why it was the right gangster thing to do. He was never quite the same thereafter: becoming an even darker and more ruthless character as well as-you guessed it-comfortably numb. Let’s hope that life doesn’t imitate The Sopranos in this instance and we can move past our numbness in a constructive manner. I am, however, not optimistic. We’re all still comfortably numb.

 

Democrats Who Voted for SAFE Act are Cowards & Traitors

Once upon a time: 

What I want to know, what I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President’s unilateral intervention in Iraq?

What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?

What I want to know, is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient’s Bill of Rights?  If the Patient’s Bill of Rights passes, is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it’s not five cents cheaper.

What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren’t standing up for us joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in having health insurance for every man, woman and child in America?

What I want to know, what I want to know, is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President’s education bill — “The No School Board Left Standing Bill” — the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system?

[snip]

I want to end on a personal note.  Three years ago next month I signed a bill into law called the civil unions bill [cheers], which gives gay and lesbian Vermonters the same rights I have: visitations of your significant other in the hospital, inheritance rights, insurance rights.  Vermont truly is a place where every American is equal in the eyes of the law.

I want the President of the United States to explain to all Americans why he doesn’t believe all Americans should be equal under the law.  [cheers].  I signed, I signed that bill six months before an election when it was at 35 percent in the polls.  I never had a conversation with myself about whether I ought to sign the bill or not because I knew that if I was willing to sell out the hopes and dreams of a significant portion of our people, that I had wasted my life in public service.

Come back, Dr. Dean. Your country needs you now.

Come back, because way too many Democrats are cowards.

In several meetings, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) presented fellow Democrats with polling data showing that lawmakers who didn’t support tighter restrictions would be in the sharp minority. As former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Israel is often called on to give advice on electoral matters. And while he didn’t explicitly encourage members to vote for the SAFE Act, the implication was clear: you will be vulnerable if you don’t support the only piece of refugee-related legislation that has gotten a vote after the Paris attacks.

Come back, because they’re looking at the man in the White House and saying hey, he’s on two weeks’ notice and we still have elections to win.

The top House Democratic aide said that members were encouraged to support the bill in part because they believed it would ultimately fall short of becoming law. That, combined with a sense that the underlying reforms weren’t severe, led many to conclude a “nay” vote wasn’t worth the political blowback.

Come back, because way too many Democrats are traitors.

Come back, because they’re looking to their own pockets, instead of to the values of their country.

Come back, because way too many Democrats are whiny babies who would rather complain that they weren’t wined and dined enough than do the right thing for the sake of their immortal goddamn souls.

One House Democrat, who requested anonymity, said he went into the meeting with administration officials opposed to the bill but left in support of it.

“If the White House hadn’t royally fucked this up they’d have lost maybe 20 Democrats,” said the lawmaker. (He ultimately voted against the bill.)

Come back and rip them another one, and remind them, as you reminded them once, that they can’t give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican. Come  back because if they do that, it doesn’t matter who they vote for. We’ll get Republicans every time.

Come back because they’re doing it AGAIN. Come back and remind them what happened last time they tried this. What happened last time they let a crisis scare them, let a bunch of bullies cow them, let the anonymous poll answers speak for them. Remind them what our country looked like when that was done.

Remind them what another country looked like, too. Remind them how many people died because they either turned a blind eye, or couldn’t be bothered.

Remind them it may take a lifetime but they will answer for that. One of the great solaces of belief is considering what weight the unjust will have to carry, even if it is in some kind of afterlife.

Remind a lot of them they lost elections anyway. Remind them it’s not a deal with the devil if the devil doesn’t even pretend to promise them something.

Not that they care. Not that they’ll listen. They didn’t listen before.

Remind them anyway. It’s our job to remind them. It’s our job to stand up even if it’s useless, even if it’s never worked, even if the club of the most of them are dirtbag losers who run screaming when they see a Rassmussen poll. Remind them so that WE don’t have to feel, as they may someday, that not every single thing was done to make it stop. Remind them so that you can look in the mirror.

Remind them so that they know that somebody fought back, when they couldn’t be bothered.

Light. Them. Up. 

A.