Politics

Things I Wrote About Trump and Fundamentalism a Few Weeks Ago

Trump is a xenophobic, misogynistic, lying, venom-spewing representation of cruelty run wild. Hillary Clinton is a little stiff on camera.

Yep, those are definitely the same kind of problems, kudos to the baby boomers who wail about two equally bad choices, you are right, you are so right, I pray that you live long lives that we may have your insight in our lives for just that much longer, you shining beacons of the best of us.

///

Fathers of daughters, shed upon me the light of your wisdom that so praises a man who would grab your daughter's groin by force.

Mothers of sons, impart to me the worldview that turns rape into equivocation and bigotry into differences of opinion.

You sad angry creatures, crawling in the dirt in fear of a God you've turned into a bully, you find yourselves cowering before a tyrant because separatism and destruction are what you believe we all deserve.

You fearful insecure wretches, crawling toward the dark heat of someone else's anger, thrusting your hands into the black flames for warmth, praying to a God you're scared of to make things OK.

You hypocrites, you who boast about not wanting to vote, you who wear your ignorance with pride, you who forfeit your chance to change the world and then bitch, bitch, bitch when the world does not conform to your dreams, what did you expect.

You scariest and most unknowable of all, you people who welcome hatred and separatism and discord, who conflate conflict with oppression, who want to burn the house down in order to save the field, you who wish destruction upon us all simply because you want a change of scenery—I do not know what to do; I am weighed down, struck dumb, by what's roiling inside you.

///

I grew up in a denomination of fear and shame and self-loathing, of dogma fetishized at the expense of real people, of grace shouted down by subordination, so it's not like I don't understand the bone-deep appeal of listening to a hateful man tell you that you are right and The World is wrong and out to persecute you—swap in some top 10 verses for assertions about the sexual crimes of immigrants, and you've basically got every church camp I ever attended.

But in the paraphrased words of Dr. King, fuck that hateful shit right to the curb and back.

This is not a difference of opinion, or an instance where educated people of different political or spiritual worldviews might reasonably find themselves supporting different candidates for office.

This is a bayonet fight in the trenches of no man's land, and there can be no quarter given to those who preach hate and intolerance and division.

You want the universe's moral arc to bend toward justice, you better start pulling on that bar and bending it with every bone in your hands.

///

I am Eustace scraping these scales from my arms to bleed, and I feel blessedly farther every day from the shame and self-destruction I was taught, and I am nauseated by the silence of men and women who idolize exclusivity and control and imagine paradise's doors to be very small.

When you tell yourself that only certain people will be saved, that only certain ones can ever deserve it, then of course you will find yourself taking succor in the words of a man who tells you you were right, that you are special and no one else is.

///

I feel lakes of pity for people who hold to him, as if he offers the certainty of salvation or freedom, who believe all manner of conspiracy theories about Clinton but ignore the factually documented sins of their own favorite son simply because they would rather be rigid than flexible, fundamentalist than nuanced.

///

The really sick fucking part of it is how much Trump reminds me of my youth: the certainty, the exclusion, the absolute surety that we had it right and everyone else had it wrong. The homophobia, the xenophobia, the misogyny. The way women got to work in the kitchen but never speak in front of a congregation. The way they could hold and pass a communion tray but not be trusted to walk around and help pass it from row to row, as if this was too much, an affront, a violation of God's own rules. This background and history of fear and self-hatred, when the only way out seemed to be to hate the enemy more than you hated yourself. The loud declamations, the visceral language, the proclamations. Everything born of anger, which is born of fear. The fear of not being able to do enough. The feeling that mercy was weak and grace nonexistent, something you'd heard about but could never touch or feel. That you could never sit still and feel calm, so the only answer must be to go faster and stay distracted. To never ask the big questions, or any questions. To be cowed, to cower. He is the return of those evil things and divisions I have spent my life running from. And to see people clinging to him makes me wonder if anyone ever gets out alive.

Plus ça Change

Nixon%281%29.jpgEmphasis mine in all excerpts:

MPs used to arrest soldiers who attended off-base protest rallies. But if MPs did that now, they would do little else. In Vietnam soldiers wrote semi-seditious slogans on their helmet headliners ("The unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful"; "Eat the apple, fuck the Corps") and, caught in infractions, responded, "What are you going to do about it, send me to 'Nam?"

-- Nixonland, Rick Perlstein, p. 551

The absurdities of the military amuse Fick. A few weeks after 9/11, he led an infantry platoon on a clandestine helicopter mission into Pakistan to retrieve a Black Hawk downed by the Afghan border. After that, Fick and his men were among the first Marines to seize the ground in southern Afghanistan at Camp Rhino. When he returned home after weeks of living in frozen fighting holes, the Marines sent him a bill for five hundred dollars, charging him for the food rations he'd consumed during his combat deployment. He says, "We had a saying about the military in Afghanistan: 'The incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary.'"

-- Generation Kill, Evan Wright, p. 18

Also:

Segretti had been recruited by the man in closest physical contact proximity to the president, Dwight L. Chapin — his personal aide, or "body man." A former junior executive at Haldeman's old advertising firm, he got together with another Haldeman protégé, Gordon Strachan, to effectuate the demands Nixon was always grunting to sabotage Democrats. ("Now, get a massive mailing in Florida that he's against J. Edgar Hoover, a massive mailing that he's for busing"; "Put this down: I would say, a postcard mailing to all Democrats in New Hampshire.... Write in Ted Kennedy.") They called such false-flag black operations "ratfucks" — the term of art of right-wing student politics at USC, of which both Strachan and Chapin were alumni — and they hit on Don Segretti, whose campaign for student senate they had worked on, as the man for the job. Chapin arranged for Segretti to meet with Herbert Kalmbach, who finalized a $16,000 salary for him from one of his slush funds.

Nixonland, Rick Perlstein, p. 629-630

In flush times like these, at the start of an invasion, when every Marine is rationed three MREs a day, most push aside the main meals and eat the extras. In addition to entrees, MREs are loaded with junk food -- pound cakes, brownies, "Toaster Oven Pastries" (identical to Pop-Tarts), cookies, Skittles, M&M's, Tootsie Rolls, Charms hard candies, Combos cheese-filled pretzels, and powdered grape-drink mix and cocoa powder, which Marines eat straight out of the packages, like the instant coffee.

The process of tearing through an MRE and picking out the goodies is called "ratfucking." Colbert's team maintains a ratfuck bag in their Humvee for all the discarded MRE entrees, saving them for a rainy day.

-- Generation Kill, Evan Wright, p. 60-61

Parallels between the incompetent bureaucracy of modern war are too self-evident to need further comment. As for the use of the same word to apply to willful sabotage of an opponent's political campaign and the hunt for junk at the expense of real sustenance, I'll leave that for you to ponder.

I Was Sick And You Looked After Me

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice - James Martin
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care reform
The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mary Matalin
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care reform

The thing that confuses me the most about some conservative pundits' recent attacks on the concept of social justice is the way they're framing it as a dangerous offshoot of a perverted faith. I was born and raised in the church and still believe in the primacy of the teachings of Christ, which is why it's bizarre to see talk show hosts like Glenn Beck now attacking the most basic underpinnings of those teachings. Political debates over religious topics like abortion are nothing new, but I had no idea so many people could get so upset over something as simple as the concept of charity. It's a terrible thing to do, both politically and morally. The political problems are easy to see. One of the reasons there's so much fuel for the fire when it comes to the abortion debate is the lack of canonical or scriptural writing on the subject. The word isn't mentioned in the Bible, and that gives partisans on both sides free reign to interpret that silence to their own needs. But Jesus talks about the poor more than anything else, and uses countless parables and teaching moments to drive home the fact that he has come to save the destitute, to feed the hungry, to treat the sick, and to illustrate the truth of what it means to be fully human. For modern news hosts to act as if these passages don't exist, or as if they mean different things — in the second clip above, Mary Matalin says Jesus' instructions were along the lines of, "If you don't work, you don't eat," which Stephen Colbert interjected were actually, "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" — is just blindingly stupid. These words are written, and they've been a guiding force for people for centuries. That's why it's also morally dangerous for commentators to advocate an isolationist position when it comes to helping the poor, or to act as if the phrase "social justice" is a coded phrase for something other than helping out those who were born less fortunate. That's not what faith — and humanity — is about. Those railing against charity seem to be committing the mistake made by the disciples in the gospel of John, who, encountering a blind man, asked Jesus whether the condition was caused by the blind man's sin or that of his parents. He replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Poor people aren't poor because they've made a mistake; they don't exist as a reminder of some curse brought down on their heads by a vengeful creator. Rather, their presence is a chance for those more blessed to extend help, to allow the grace and comfort shown to them to be spread to those in need. In the words of Deuteronomy, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." What possible excuse could there be for withholding help from those in need?

A Few Quick Points, And The Lesson Is Yours

"America's always had her problems, big and small, but do you remember how that felt? Do you remember what life was like? ... America has never been a perfect place, but we used to be united. We used to be united on some basic things. If a politician told you right now that he could make that happen, go back to those simpler times, when people were together, you'd do it in a heartbeat, wouldn't you? ... But the truth is, no politician can take you there, they can only take you farther from there. Only common sense and hard work, and only the honest truth, or better yet, the hard reality. [sic]" — Glenn Beck, 10/15/09

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character." — The American President

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." — Ecclesiastes 7:10 "Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these." — Ovid

Certain Of What We Do Not See

fakecert.jpgThe fake birth certificate pictured above is at the heart of what's come to be called the "birther" movement, peopled by a loose collection of extremists who dispute President Obama's citizenship and, thus, the credence of his presidency. It doesn't matter how many times the idea is proven to be a pointless controversy; adherents of the movement refuse to budge on their claims that Obama is not a natural-born citizen. From a political standpoint, it's bewildering; from a human standpoint, it's inane; but viewed as an outgrowth of fundamentalist Christianity, it makes perfect sense. Fundamentalists have a strong respect for standing your ground and for placing your hope and reasoning in a higher and often unseen calling; that's the essence of faith, and left unsullied by the world, it can be a very good thing. This is why so many evangelicals flocked to George W. Bush and stood by him through the sub-Nixonian end; political orientation aside, when a guy says the most influential figure in his life has been Jesus Christ and speaks loftily of a return to forgotten family values, these people will stick by him out of respect for his faith and out of the belief that he's a good man regardless of demonstrable successes. More than that: Faith calls followers to trust in the unseen, meaning Bush could be a public failure but still be considered a spiritual success because of the immeasurable and unmeasurable ways in which he has adhered to the cause. It doesn't matter that a man who campaigned on his submission to Christ's teachings would eventually organize and sanction the torture and execution of other souls that messiah died to save, or even that Bush's followers never called him on the dichotomy. In a sick twist on the writings of James, these people demanded only faith, not its attendant works. That's why the existence of the birthers, especially among more extreme-right groups that tend to be more fundamentalist or evangelical, makes perfect sense. They don't want evidence of Obama's citizenship, which is why they've ignored it every time it's given to them. They are committed to a cause not out of politics — at least, that's what they'll tell themselves — but out of a slavish devotion to a cause whose persecution by the unwashed and reliance on things not seen becomes a dark parallel of their Christian faith. They have created what they believe to be the truth, and nothing will dissuade them from it. That makes them deluded, yes, but also the worst kind of dangerous. They cannot be talked down, and they will not be reasoned out of their position. They wouldn't even see it as reason, but misleading propaganda. For a more pointed political perspective on the birthers, here's Bill Maher. He's usually way too smug for his own good — he seems to have forgotten that reason and intellect are better suited to a balanced tone than condescending scorn — but he blasts the birthers in this clip and discusses the dangers of letting such groups get away with too much. I agree with him:

We Come To Proclaim An End To The Petty Grievances And False Promises, The Recriminations And Worn-Out Dogmas

obamainaug1.png"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." — President Barack Hussein Obama

Plus He Probably Smells Good: An Online Transcript

obamasurf.jpgSis: welp me: yep i like obama so much i wanna name my kid barack Sis: :) i bet there will be kids named barack starting soon me: i bet if you say the name barack 3 times a pony appears and takes you on a ride in the sky Sis: ooh ooh ooh try it! me: i can't type right now, MY PONY JUST ARRIVED Sis: OH WOW I'M SO JEALOUS me: i bet if you whisper barack's name to a tree it sprouts fruit Sis: haha if you sing barack's name facing the sky, will it rain? me: it'll rain gumdrops! Sis: wow! me: if you say barack's name in the shower it gets rid of any lime or mildew stains Sis: if you write barack's name on a slip of paper and leave it under your pillow at night, you'll wake up 5 years younger me: i have to try that! if you get a puppy and name it barack, it will never die Sis: [changes bama's name to barack] if you chant barack's name while taking 10 steps backward, then jump in the air and yell "change!," a genie will appear to grant you three wishes. me: if you think barack's name underwater, you can hold your breath for up to an hour Sis: if you stare at your reflection in the mirror, without blinking, and repeat barack's name five times, your eyesight will correct itself me: if you say barack's name while doing laundry, all your stains come right out ... basically, barack's name is possessed of many talismanic qualities Sis: it appears that way [The Sis and I have also spoken about related matters.]

In Which My Sister And I Invoke Aaron Sorkin While Unconscious (Or Anyway She Does, And Brings Me Along)

My sister emailed me to relate her dream last night:

Last night, I had a dream that you and I were at some sort of small gathering somewhere, a lecture-type setting, and the guest speaker was John McCain. We were total assholes, muttering things under our breath and eventually outright heckling him. Eventually, I stood up and started demanding answers from him on a variety of topics. And then the showstopper: I ended with "This is a time for American heroes, and we reach for the stars. THE STARS." Yep. Then Bama woke me up, so who knows if Secret Service tackled me or not.

It's possible her dream was caused by our reading and discussing this opinion piece via email and Facebook messages, though she and I are also big fans of the speech in question.

Uniformity

I look forward to the day when all the veterans from World War II and Vietnam are finally dead and gone.That probably sounds unimaginably harsh, but I can't help it. I don't hate the men, but what's become of their duty in pop culture. Those were the last two major wars that used a draft, and the last ones to become a kind of milestone or clearinghouse for large sections of American youth. Men of a certain age who are running for office are now expected to have participated in those actions, and those who haven't are painted as being somehow less committed. No one thinks war is a good thing, but a vet running for office is still happy to have the experience under his belt. But the wars of my generation are scattered, mismanaged affairs, and in 30 years a candidate for office will — I hope, I pray, I plead — be able to say, "No, I didn't fight in either of the Iraq wars. I thought they were bad ideas, so I went to college and got a job instead." I'm just sick and exhausted of having to assume someone is better or stronger or more courageous simply because they went to war. They're not, and that's a dangerous way to elect someone.

Things That Would Make Me Vote For John McCain

john-mccain.jpg• At every speaking engagement and debate until the general election, John McCain and Sarah Palin must perform a duet of "A Whole New World." Bonus points given for attempts at choreography/set design/dialogue intros, but the song is key. • McCain must promise to make my dad Secretary of Discussing Where to Get a Good Burger in South Texas. • At the vice presidential debate, Palin must, whenever not speaking, remove her glasses and chew thoughtfully and (just barely) playfully on one of the stems. Bonus points for complimenting Joe Biden's posture. • McCain must promise to put congressional funds into a task force designed to discover a solid financial model to help newspapers adjust to the digital age. • Four-day work week. Seven hours a day. • He must make Schlitterbahn a national landmark. • McCain must spend one debate with Barack Obama discussing the differences in cultural impact between, the psychological profiles of, and the general interpersonal combat readiness of Batman and Superman. It doesn't matter specifically which side he takes; what I mean is, though I would side with the Caped Crusader, McCain can totally come out swinging for the Son of Krypton. What matters is his knowledge, oratory strength, and critical reasoning. • He must work the text of Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" into every speech and radio address. Example: "When I was in Hanoi, all I could dream about was getting back to my family and friends. I could still remember what life was like before that war: we were young and restless. In a way, we needed to unwind. But I knew nothing could last forever." Or whatever, you know? Have fun with it. • Buy my mom a new car.

Just Because We're Trying To Nominally Change Politics For The Better Doesn't Mean We Can't, You Know, Cruise For Trim

dnchall.pngThis week is the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and I'll be following the action on all the same old sites and stations, as well as Facebook updates from my friend, former classmate, and inevitable award-recipient Paul. But I think we should all take a minute to reflect on the profound absurdity, sadness, and predictability that the casual encounters section of Denver's Craigslist page is already blowing up with horny conventioneers looking to go all Carcetti with whoever's in town. A lot of the ads are m4w, and quite a few are the extreme postings that will either be deleted by site admins or wind up leading some poor girl into a world of terror in a shady Days Inn. (Easily the most disturbing of these so far is the post titled "RE: DNC GANG BANG SLUT," which reads: "Hey guys. I am a straight guy here. If you actually have a Hotel room and are planning to use the 'DNC GANG BANG SLUT' that has already posted, I would appreciate if you let me know where you plan on using her. What's one more gonna hurt? Thanks." I'm too terrified to do anything but gape at the screen.) So, there you go. Another important election at the crossroads of generational and cultural conflict, and the beginning of the end of a season that could finally see a referendum on the attitude of divisive pigheadedness that's been running rampant, but hey, let's get laid and maybe kidnap some ladies, too. I'm still a little too weirded out to draw conclusions, but I don't think I want to.

The Truth About John McCain

• He made his money in dirigibles.• He wants to win by stirring up still-potent Southern anger over losing the Civil War. • He has his suits hand-made by "the last trustworthy Indian." • He won his wife in a poker game with Doc Holliday. • He plans to publish his autobiography in serialized installments in the Saturday Evening Post. • He will make purchases with gold bars, but would prefer to use bags of salt or livestock. • He keeps trying to help Barack Obama escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Barack Of Ages, Cleft For Me

obvote2.pngJust a friendly reminder to my readers in the Lone Star State that you need to vote twice, and I encourage you all to support Barack Obama. My reasons are myriad, but John and Beckylooo have said them all better anyway. Also, for a news story about the whole voting twice thing, here's a story from the Abilene Reporter-News. I'm linking to the ARN because many of the people who comment on that site are somewhere between YouTube lurkers and IMDb/Netflix "reviewers," meaning they're just as absolutely stupid as you can be without requiring in-home care. It's like a fun little gift after the news story.