Watching the decline...

Tag Archives: 2016

The Dream

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King I’d like to say a few things.

We are, despite our division, in a much better place then we were in 1968.

Despite that we still have a long way to go.

For anyone who wonders if the words and actions of the civil rights movement still have relevance, remember that within most living people’s lifetime there were laws that restricted citizen’s rights to marry, travel and raise children.

That… economic strength, passed on through the generations, was not as strong for women and communities of color, if you were a woman of color things were at least twice as hard.

That… the modern middle class was built on the strength of a massive war effort and the financial benefits that came with it, and that African-Americans were largely exempted from those benefits. These foundations were even further distant when considering that discriminatory hiring, firing and salaries were common and when African-Americans tried to band together to demand better conditions violence always ensued.

The current conditions, economic disparities supported by racist assumptions that are now being used to prove those very assumptions, have been with us a very long time. If the country is over 200 years old and Civil Rights have been in place by law for 50 of those years, even assuming everyone instantly got the rights they deserved, which they didn’t, we have been a bigoted country supported by racist institutions for 3/4 of our existence.

Making it personal, If you have made any “mistakes” in your 20’s are 50 and are still paying for them you are, those mistakes put you about where we are as a country now, older and not really all that much wiser.

Post-racialism is a myth concocted by people who hope we get too lazy to do the math or too distracted to not look at the calendar. If we do nothing else lets not forget that we are only a short few steps into this new paradigm and it isn’t too early to lose it all.

RIP MLK 4/4/1968

 

The Case for “All Lives Matter”

Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!

Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”

Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.

Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?

Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?

If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.

When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.

There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.

For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.

I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.

One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.

Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.

It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”

My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:

but is was certainly better than this:

Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.

It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.

So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.

Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?

Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.

Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.

Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.

Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.

In the world of spin, anything is possible.

 

 

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The Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning

So I was on a semi-self-imposed news blackout until very recently due in no small part to my own personal upheavals, but also just because….Trump.

So now I’ve begun paying more attention, watching and reading more news and following more closely, the national goings on. Thankfully I’m in a much better headspace for all of this because if I’d decided to forgo reason and dive head first as my personal life was unraveling, I’m honestly not sure I’d still be writing today.

Watching our president move with the sound off is frustrating enough, but with the sound on, it’s utterly terrifying.

How could we have been so stupid? How in the hell could we have elected this orange-thin-skinned pussy grabber, the leader of the free world? How do we not see this as the horrible national embarrassment it truly is? That a uniquely unqualified buffoon who clearly has no aptitude for the truth because he hasn’t a clue as to what that word even means, could possibly win a plurality of electoral college votes, with not a single dissenting maverick to stand in the way of this thoroughly embarrassing national disgrace?

Where are our Paines, our  Parks our Kings and Peltiers?  Why don’t we see how obviously our dissenting voices are absent from the debate, and how obviously we’ve become twisted up in what it means to dissent in the first place? How did the Alt-right, an animal crafted as a propaganda arm of Nazis and internet trolls who finally feel like they have a place at a table that is owned by the Jewish Cabal, actually become a legitimate voice in national politics?

I’m not of the mindset that this country is over, that with this one election we have sealed our fate. I do believe this is the last death spasm of an old skin being shaken off, but what of what’s underneath?

When will we, as a country, as a people, realize that we’ve entirely fucked up.

When we have people like Alex Jones and Mike Chernovich actually participating in the public dialog as legitimate players, how do we not see how truly fucked we are?

At the same time though, it easy to become un-fucked, just pay attention.

Stream of Conciousness

I don’t do Facebook much. Every time I’m lured back by some innocuous post and I get sucked back into the insanity for a bit, I pull a little further away. On several occasions I’ve been worked into such a frenzy that I feel like my heart just might quit. Frankly, aside from a few friends and relatives, it really isn’t worth using anymore.

The ridiculousness of this past election cycle had me closer than ever to hitting “delete.”

When you hear friends you thought were reasonable, say completely unreasonable things, or friends you knew were unreasonable already, say things so outrageous you can’t believe they felt emboldened to say them “in public” it feels like time to pull away.

This whole planet has me concerned at the moment. Where the US is heading is very well a dangerous and potentially violent place. Some of us believed that having access, making information and opinion more democratic, would create a learned republic. One akin to the one the founding fathers envisioned, except more varied economically with women and Black folks included, effectively democratizing learning and making us all better voters and better citizens. HA!

It seems there is that little missing element that also exemplifies an egalitarian democratic republic, ignorance.

When you have no compelling reason to cooperate in the democratic process there is no incentive to educate yourself and its so very easy to just hit the nearest button that has written on it how you feel at that very moment. Not how you think, or have reasoned through, but simply how you feel.

Now feelings are great, they are great for creating art, for manipulating and coercing your kid to do their homework, great for schmoozing and wooing, but alone, they are terrible for democracy. Feelings betray biases, and generally biases are not reasonable, they may come from a vague place of reason, but they are not reasonable in and of themselves. Feelings should not be the sole reason you vote for a particular candidate, using feelings as a sole measure will always lead to buyers remorse.

So does this mean that democracy may not be the best way to go?

I really don’t know but as the days go by, I’m doubting American democracy more and more and that scares the shit out of me.

solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short – welcome to the Hobbesian nightmare 2016 edition

No, the above way-more-educated-than-I-am, quote is not intended to describe this year’s election cycle. But it is, in my view, what many want out of it in the end.

Let me explain.

I’ve been reading excerpts and reviews of a lot of books about men lately. Many of these “books” are written by bloggers and other assorted malcontents and sold on Amazon (Amazon, who will, in fact, publish damn near anything if some of these “works” are any indication).

Some are well written and through the murk of chest-beating manliness, and to an extent even within that milieu, they offer interesting and accurate commentary on the state of manhood in these changing times. I don’t touch this subject matter directly as so many others do it so much better, but manhood is in crisis. Womanhood is as well, the changing roles and responsibilities that have defined our genders for years are upending. I charge that this is for the better, but just as with any large scale change there are bound to be those who see the bad looming greater than the good.

Occasionally, I am one of those people.

As a wannabe writer of fiction, I push myself to imagine futures. Futures in far-flung societies and in this one advanced a few hundred days or a few thousand years. I write about the future, at least in part, due to my inability to research and my personal bias against meddling with history. I also write about the future because it’s easy to see myself there and it’s also easier to reflect a mirrored image of what we are now back at us by looking at what we will be.

I often imagine futures where the norms are different. Frontier societies that have developed strict social codes that rely on violence to keep those who would stray, in check. Societies that were founded on Hobbesian principles of centralized power (a throwback to the subject of this post)  and developed accordingly are a favorite topic of mine lately. Of course, this requires some of the dreaded “research” I despise, but only in a broad sense. I look at things like culture, the size of the society, its early development and its key figure’s personalities, location, climate, and the temperament of its neighbors.

Doing all this imagining often takes me down dual roads, one leading to a mostly civilized and safe society and another leading to industrial serfdom for most and great luxury and wealth for a few. The trick is that these futures are not necessarily aligned with what you might think their respective paths are. The road to serfdom does not necessarily come directly from the path of kings and enlightened despots, nor is the egalitarian future born solely of democracy and participation. When you look at civilizations on this planet, you come up with many paths to sometimes the same conclusion.

So back to manhood. Yes it all ties in together, just a few paragraphs more of patience I ask.

I make no apologies for being a man; no one should have to apologize for what they are by birth. No White man needs to apologize for being what he is no Black woman should be implored to beg her case for being born into herself. We are not the sole determination of our race, class, or origin; they do not FULLY define us. But we are impacted and affected by them all, we bear the burdens and the responsibilities we were born into, we inherit, however unfairly, the cultural baggage of our predecessors. We are partially the sum of our ancestors, with a dash of our present culture and a heaping helping of our perceptions of it, and finally rubbed with a coating of our environment.

There is a rub here, though. We all need to take responsibility for not only what we have personally done, but for what our culture, collectively and associatively, has fostered upon us. It isn’t a choice, it isn’t something to run away from nor run into, it just is.

I am very much an imperfect man, for all my virtues I have at least as many faults. And men in general, have much to atone for. When women reach the same pinnacle men have in this society, they too will have sins of their own. Some will be determined by their “gendered” view of the world (every woman as every man has a unique view which is determined by living as what they include, gender identity, race, cultural identity, income, the number of parents…, etc.) others are simply a consequence of increased power.

Men, right now, are the ones who should be doing the soul-searching FROM that place of power. We are forced to do it because the sands beneath us have shifted.

For some in the alt-right, this shift has taken an apocalyptic tone. As when bankers, now bereft of what defined then, defenestrated during the great depression (greatly exaggerated I know, but a great narrative device nonetheless), a largely white male population is feeling the push-back of the new world order of diminishing power by virtue of belonging to that group.

So this new narrative arises among its ranks, one of doom, gloom, and violence. Ideas that were, when their numbers and their power was greater, casually cast off as un-American, are now common in its language. Where the coded has become explicit. When Bigots, Racists, and Traditionalists have been re-branded as White Nationalists, and people like David Duke have an out-sized voice in the conversation (again).

The above headline feels like a goal.

The alt-right, the new Vikings, the explosion of men with more muscle mass than 10 Charles atlases, PUA, MGTOW, GamerGate (if there are any of these things you aren’t familiar with you should be) the harassment of feminists and their supporters, doxing in general, whether it be of the proponents or opponents of these “movements” all lead us to the above conclusion.

Hobbes uses the above to justify control of a kingly presence over everyone else; he defines civilization as the reaction to the fear of that life. That the fear of the return of a short, nasty, brutish life is what keeps people in line, but when your life was by virtue of your “race” already the above, or that it now could be, I guess part of our natural tendency is to embrace what we feel is inevitable.

Well in these guys eyes a nasty, brutish life is inevitable.

It is inevitable that the patriarchy will be toppled by hypergamy. It is inevitable that white men of every income will be “cucked” and castrated and thrown from the horse they were born atop only to be thrown into the mud with all the “sharks.”

It is inevitable, in this world, that instead of recognizing how badly fascism ends for most people, including many of those raising their fists for it, they will call for it loudly and without irony. This is where the consequences of not understanding history are dooming us to rewarm the meal and take it, salmonella and all.

Men are in a crisis state, and because we are so greatly tethered to the mythology of a country that shows 1/2 of 1% of what we are and have ever been and probably gets that at least 1/2 wrong, our country is flirting with a very dark path.

Fear, anger, hatred, yeah George, you called it, you so called it.

Stream of Consciousness

Edited 9:47 EDT on 3/17/16 because I hit the “publish” button way too soon.

I don’t do Facebook much. Every time I’m lured back by some innocuous post, I get sucked back into the insanity for a bit, I pull a little further away. On several occasions, I’ve been worked into such a frenzy that I feel like my heart just might quit. Frankly, aside from a few friends and relatives, it isn’t worth using anymore, but I probably still will.

The ridiculousness of this election cycle has me closer than ever to hitting “delete.”

When you hear friends you thought were reasonable, say entirely foolish things or friends you knew were unreasonable already, say things so outrageous you can’t believe they felt emboldened to say them “in public” it feels like time to pull away.

This whole planet has me depressed at the moment. Where the US is heading is very well a dangerous and potentially violent place. Some of us believed that having access, making information and opinion more democratic; would create a learned republic. One akin to the one the founding fathers envisioned, except more varied economically (with women and Black folks included), effectively democratizing learning and making us all better voters and better citizens. HA!

It seems there is that little missing piece of every utopian fantasy gone awry that we all appear to have forgotten about, human nature.

The culture has become even more intellectually lazy, shiftless, boorish and crude. Not the good crude that ties us together with our individual baseness. Not potty humor crude, more like making a doody and smearing it in someone’s face crude. In this great experiment, we are in a very tenuous place.

I don’t consider myself intellectually lazy, nor do I feel that I am lazy in any other way, but I do feel very drained. To persist in a world that doesn’t read, doesn’t process information with a mix of emotion and logic, doesn’t care if they hurt others for what they feel they need, that fears, that hates, takes energy that on some days I feel I’m lacking.

Is this what it feels like to give in? Is settling for a country or a life that is 1/10th of 1% of what it could be, worth it? Is getting up every morning as the sun comes up just to face another day of shit worth the effort?

If I feel that way, I can only imagine what others who have much less than I do, or much less processing power than I do, or much less of a future than I do, feel.

I’m not only talking about the grim realities of living in a country so rich that a small number of people can own enough land, have enough capital to house, feed and clothe everyone else, and still have plenty left for themselves. For the most part, I’m talking about good hardworking people with no education or not enough ability, or who are too old to be part of the agile workforce. I feel on the edge of that last one myself.

The poor kid in South Philly and the old rancher in New Mexico both share these feelings of ennui. They share them for very different reasons, but the sense of helplessness and fear are the same. They have different things, at different levels, to lose, but they both feel a strong fear that they will lose it all.

At this very moment, it isn’t my task to try and separate the feelings or the reasons, the manipulators and those manipulated. I’m not setting out to, right now, tell the rancher that his fear is unfounded. Or to tell the kid that he should “work harder.” Right now I just want to accept that we are all on some level afraid.

And just let that sink in.

Interesting Times, A Refrain

It’s always a surreal experience watching Donald Trump say almost anything. Not that much of what comes out makes any sense beyond braggadocio and bluster, but watching him talk, watching him move creates a particular sense of unease in me. Any political candidate has to pare down their message to digestible talking points, whether this is the fault of the media or of an ADD riddled public I won’t go into now, but at least there are some bellwether guiding principles beneath the clips.  Trump defies this tradition in the absolute vapidity of his rhetoric.

Simply put Trump is terrifying to watch, his legion of angry followers even more so.  Even at the level of Sanders, whom I support, there is a certain amount of pandering in his soaring rhetoric and unrealistic promises. This is unfortunately necessary as we have to some extent always valued condensed ideas over screeds. We are fascinated over manifestos but barely take the time to read them, we know the names but haven’t read the works.

We are so easily misled, often by people who have been misled themselves or worse who know that they are intentionally bending Scripture, Marx, Hitler, Smith, to suit their own purposes. The problem is that we have become too intellectually lazy to even think about fact-checking anyone, too dim-witted to go where we are uncomfortable, to stupid to really care about anoyone but ourselves and our own unchecked assumptions.

Unfortunately, this is what we deserve. Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, playing the children around a schoolyard picnic table hurling insults at each other and the American people while Kasich and Sanders try to rise above the fray. Neither is perfect, but they are the adults in a room of increasingly agitated and angry children. Kasich is still too far right for my tastes and Sanders is to old and studious to stand against the poop flinging zoo that is congress, but either is far better than the assortment of alternatives above.

Trump continues to exemplify pretty much everything wrong with America currently. Trump proves the founders original eligible voter criteria right as his minions may be white, but far too few are truly educated. Jefferson was fluent in several languages, intellectually curious and doubtfully would have been as dismayed by having to press “1” for English as many of the people who revere him are. The same can be said for Adams, Franklin and Madison. What a shame, what a terrible travesty that the people so often quoted and revered by scholars and statesmen alike are so cruelly excised from the pantheon of those we try to emulate.

We are more than willing to blindly quote the 1st, 2nd or 5th amendments to the constitution for our political purposes, but reject the responsibility to live up to the exemplary lives of the people who wrote them. We rattle off defenses against people attacking us based on the constitution but even those of us who know what the text says can barely place ourselves in the minds of those who conjured the words. We champion “rights” with no thought to “responsibilities.”

We have become exactly what the founders feared. We have become the uneducated rabble that their restrictive voting protocols tried to stave off. Yes there was inherent in them racism, classism and sexism, but at their root was the very real and now fulfilled fear that we would be led by a consortium of self-interested ignorant idiots. When we expanded voting rights to all we neglected to expand education of all, and that, in the guise of a Donald Trump (or if not him, the inevitable NEXT him) will be our downfall.

Great empires always seem to collapse inward. Ours is no different, and in all likelihood, next to go.

Dear Michael Bloomberg….

Does President Sanders really sound worse than President Trump?

Really???

Dear GOP, Stop Crying, Its Your Own Damn Fault

According the Washington Post, the GOP leadership is all in a tizzy over a potential Trump or Carson primary win. They know what the rest of us who don’t live in neverland do, that although stranger things have happened, neither screams “electable” in 2016.

They quote a Romney aide (terrifying in the fact that he represents the rational side of the GOP considering what he and his running mate in 2012 stood for) and the venerable “source that will not be named” as basically saying, “if we can’t conjure Republican Jesus up out of the tears of illegal immigrants and dead babies, we are so fucked!”

With all the introspection of a rural townie hooked on smack, they fail to see how the Frankenstein’s monsters they see before them were created by none other than their own angry white hands. They forget the Michelle Bachman’s, Sarah Pailn’s, Kurt Sharon Angle’s or Dan Patrick‘s they presented as viable mainstream candidates and wonder why the fuck they keep sliding deeper and deeper into the wackadoo, racist, conspiracy addled, puncline-less joke of an insane asylum, dragging half the country with them in the process.

Its your own fucking fault you clueless assholes.

Remember the southern strategy? How about Lee Atwater, Ollie North and Willie Horton? What about more recent Republican poster boys like Cliven Bundy, you know , that all-American patriot, who just off the cuff exposed himself as a brazen idiot racist.  Batting a thousand so far.

All while you marginalize the more reasonable wack-jobs in the party, you know, those who actually have convictions beyond “fuck the brown people.” All while you let ideologues shills  base their governing on not letting the black guy in the White House have nice things. Because, Obamacare.

Yes, YOU, all you mainstream, fiscally conservative plutocrats, this shit is all your fault for not taking this divisive, lowest-common-denominator shit seriously when it was serving you well, and doing so only now, as your stranglehold on the narrative got away like a greased pig at a Klan roast.

Fuck you, you deserve to lose, you deserve every genuflecting, cowfucking vote you’ll get. Unfortunately the rest of us don’t deserve the 4-8 years of resentment, violence and anger that will surely follow. Even in the event of your party’s victory.

See, it’s actually the American people who’ll pay.

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