Category Archives: Trump

Years And Years (TV Show)

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For anyone interested, I recommend the HBO import show “Years and Years.” It’s dystopian from necessity, yet feels like a time traveler may have gone forward and returned to camouflage a possible timeline waiting for all of us.

Without flinching, the show throws you into a tailspin as Trump detonates a nuclear bomb near China as his second term expires. Technology, medicine, immigration, politics, money, and other issues swirl and coalesce as time frenziedly hurls forward, whether we’re ready or not.

Although it’s based in England, the storylines overlap with world events we’re already witnessing. The story focuses on a particular family as it spins in and out of control. The family could be any of us. Forces we’ve set in motion conspire against us.

Anne Reid, who plays the matriarch Muriel in the show (and who was phenomenal in “Last Tango in Halifax”), gets credit for the best line of the show: “It’s a terrible, terrible world, but I want to see every second of it.” She gets credit for the second-best lines in the show – and perhaps one of the best lines in a TV show, ever, when she points that each and every one of us is to blame for almost all the problems we see externally in the world. It’s impossible to watch it without wincing in recognition.

It’s easy to compare “Years and Years” to “Handmaid’s Tale.” This show, however, connects in a more recognizable way. You’ll feel some strange emotions as you watch the show unfold. Among them are dread, fascination, wonder, loss, a bit of terror, and hope. All of them fight for dominance, often simultaneously. Like the Hulu show, I find myself thinking about the implications of some of the ideas days afterward.

For anyone wishing to find something that is limited in length but infinite in the ideas it will provoke, I give this show a huge recommendation.

When time shifts forward in the show, the eerie melody that accompanies the shift might make your hair stand on end. You’ll be thinking, though.

And you might be thinking, “Is it REALLY us?”

Yes, it could be.

“Years and Years” is one of the best shows I’ve watched in quite a while.

A Polite Lesson: Losing in 2020

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Donald Trump is likely to be elected again in 2020.

I’m not going to vote for him. Because I live in Arkansas, my vote is irrelevant.

I voted against him twice in 2016: once in the Republican primary and again in the general election. I’m not a Democrat, but I am a liberal. I did more than most liberals to try to stop Trump, as many Democrats took a detour to argue over Bernie and Hillary. I’ll be surprised if they avoid the same mistake this time. The best is indeed the enemy of the good and some voters can’t stop fixating on irrelevant differences.

“Any functioning adult” was already my candidate against Trump.

Most people don’t like Trump but many will vote for him again despite his critical flaws. They believe he’ll advance an economy or agenda that’s favorable to them. Liberals watch in awe as Evangelicals defend and embrace Trump. It’s obvious that most people know that Trump is no man of faith and probably doesn’t care about most of the issues. As a politician, however, he has outmaneuvered almost everyone at every step. Trump’s polling numbers aren’t great, to be sure, but the economy is in his corner. He’s like the crappy job we endure because it pays the bills. We talk about leaving, but everyone knows we’re full of it. The Evangelicals will eventually face the consequences of endorsing a candidate and person like Trump – but it won’t be anytime soon. Movements which start at the extreme implode. (Take note, Democrats.)

A great number of Americans can’t watch the news, can’t talk to their friends and neighbors, and cringe at the idea that Trump has any position of authority. Worse, a trend that I’ve called the Polite Politics Pandemic has infected the minds of most of his detractors. People avoid any mention of politics or life issues on their social media, their conversations, and in general. They mistakenly believe that doing so makes their lives more manageable.

They’re wrong.

Just as it has done in other democracies, silence creates a false impression among your circle that you are either afraid of your opinion and the consequences of expressing it, don’t care, or secretly endorse the things that cause your silence. Over time, we find ourselves watching the boulder tumble faster and faster downhill.

Silence, even politeness with a goal of civility, works in favor of Trump.

Whatever your opinion, it is equally obvious that most Americans will overlook Trump’s onerous flaws and endorse him again. Like the last election, many of those voters will be Democrats.

Trump changed the nature of the Republican party and politics in general. Such a person comes along once a generation. Those who are politely silent are counting on their fellow Americans to push him out. The 2016 election taught us that it’s a fool’s wish to expect others to do the expected thing. If you don’t stand up and stand out now, you’re part of the problem. If you can’t find it in yourself to opine now, during a once-in-a-generation aberration, you never will.

Liberals should note that many of their friends and neighbors who once proudly shouted their enthusiasm for Trump have grown silent. Trump’s continued onslaught of profane and outlandish antics has cooled their support. The moderate in most of us eventually finds us again. Expecting most of them to violate their interests and not vote for him again, however, is lunacy. They’ll turn out in the next election whether you do or not.

I’m guilty of confusing a vote for Trump as an endorsement for some of his cruel policies. I can’t separate his policies and his endorsement. Many voters can, though, and we’re going to need a better way to frame it.

Incumbency and a strong economy invariably favor the candidate for re-election. Arguing about whether he’s qualified or a good person misses the point; it’s irrelevant. Politics has lost its facade. Qualifications will now invariably yield to tribalism and charisma.

Trump does not hold the blame for exploiting the election system or for our system of governance which assumed that rationality and normalcy would be prevailing standards. Some have shouted and barked so often that it’s impossible to alarm the bystanders sufficiently to believe that there is a real problem. I’m not asking anyone to snarl and fight; rather, I’m asking that you start by reminding everyone, even those who only passively see your influence, that the Trump America isn’t one you like.

We can do it without screaming. Screaming won’t work, anyway. If a few people get angry at you for simply enumerating your objections to a Trump America, it’s likely that those people don’t align with you or your life, anyway. Good people don’t banish other good people from their lives for honest expression; they banish them in fear of having to confront their own insecurities.

So many put their hope in the Mueller Repor. The biggest problem was its lack of transparency and immediacy. Simply put, such things must be developed quickly and openly. Whether it’s supposed to work that way sidesteps the fact that our democracy no longer finds value in the laborious process of law. Democrats lost the fight and bystanders mostly think it’s because there wasn’t enough meat on the bone. The average voter dislikes corruption, but most expect politics and politicians to be a little dirty. We’re not going to find a smoking gun in the last election unless someone releases footage of Trump killing someone with his bare hands. Anything less is a distraction.

Policy is not going to sway the middle in the 2020 election. Immigration is not an issue that will work for Democrats. Forget decorum, forget the small annoyances of a particular candidate, and stop shouting. Unless a charismatic third-party candidate enters the race late, the only Democrat who could possibly beat Trump will be the one who is standing in the middle with just enough charisma and intellect to know better than to offend voters who are mostly otherwise detached from politics. Stop focusing on how it ought to be and instead focus on the system that we’re left with.

Trump won’t win by much. Thanks to the electoral college and the tribal nature of national races, he won’t have to. If your family and friends don’t know that you dislike Trump and won’t vote for him, let them know. Don’t try to aggressively change their minds. If your life isn’t a shining example, you’re not going to change anyone’s minds. People will only stop to think about you or your opinion if something about your opinion and life speaks to them in a way that Trump’s charisma cannot.

On a personal note, I learned a hard lesson from FiveThirtyEight in 2016. As the interference of the last election became apparent, I learned more lessons from Facebook and the power of social media, watching in wonder as we discovered that they had been used effectively to sway opinion. I worked hard to embrace the lessons. My vote is almost irrelevant compared to the reach of anonymous and effective opinion. I’ve used it, especially in the last year.

Even if we miraculously get a new president in the next election, we now know that chaos and entropy are the wolves which will always be at the door. Trump or his surrogate is inevitably planning his next move.

Stay silent if you will.

Barring a major disruption, Trump will be elected again in 2020.

Silence will cost you more than your reputation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting Is Like Boots For Cows

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Warning: this madness may trigger you, either on the grounds of satire or foolishness. Were it my choice, partisanship would go the way of the Blue Squirrel, full of pellets and eaten with roasted potatoes. Part of the joy living in a d̵i̵c̵t̵a̵t̵o̵r̵s̵h̵i̵p̵  free country is that each of gets to voice our own ridiculous opinions. Unless you work in the NFL, home of the buy-one-get-one-free concussion special.

I voted on election day because the rodeo grounds in Springdale is the best voting station in Northwest Arkansas – and not just because they have free coffee and tanning beds available. The voting stations are no longer drive-through, though, as I discovered the hard way. Note: vehicle insurance covers these types of mishaps. My apologies to Janet, John, and Frida, who thankfully escaped injury as I drove through. It is fitting that the same odor which sometimes graces the hallowed acres of the rodeo grounds also captures the essence of the political process. It is an olfactory reminder that we shouldn’t take our own vote for granted, much in the same way that those already in office tend to take us for granted.

It serves as an early voting location, too, for the county. I tend to early-vote twice and then just once on election day unless my social media friends have been especially tedious and annoying about voting – in that case, I vote 3 or 4 times. The throngs of ineligible voters the Democrats bus to my voting location usually give me adequate cover to not get caught. (Note: part of that was a joke, obviously, much like the current presidency.) As a fairly nondescript middle-aged white guy who is often favorably compared to Danny Devito, I tend to blend in well with people, until I open my big mouth. They assume I’m a Republican mostly because I sound ridiculous and doubly so if you can understand what I’m saying. Once I get my hand inside their wallets, though, they know I tend to vote as a progressive. Any chance I get to vote to raise taxes, I do so gleefully and if I can raise yours too, I consider it a bonus.

I opted to vote in the Republican primary again, mainly to disrupt the process. Not that the GOP needs my help. Putting Trump in office has given everyone the idea that they should run for office, even if they are currently leaking brain fluid. I gladly did the same in 2016 so that I could vote against Trump in the GOP Presidential primary. In November, I had the honor of voting against him again. Because I live in Arkansas, though, the hordes overwhelmed me, as they were armed with the antiquated “Electoral College,” which is just about as bad as weighted voting on “The Voice.” I wish that the Native Americans would get together and deport all these white Europeans who are ruining the country. Somewhere, there’s a “Fox and Friends” viewer who is reading these words who is getting really pissed off. “That’s racism!” he or she will undoubtedly repeat two or three times before dragging out his or her old typewriter to write the editor an angry letter. That last part is supposed to be funny, too, because we all know that no self-respecting Fox & Friends viewer is going to read anything past the first paragraph unless it says “Applebee’s” across the top of the menu.

I voted against Steve Womack in the 3rd District race and I’ll vote against him again in November, probably twice just to be safe. There’s a rumor that he might have to drop out of the race in order to have the stick up his rear end removed. Those who revere his rigid posture often overlook the fact that it’s due to that same stick. (Also, he looks like Mike Pense’s 2nd cousin after a hard weekend of drinking.) I voted against Asa, even though Jan Morgan is nuttier than a closet full of fruitcakes. She wouldn’t win the primary, of course, so I’ll vote against Asa again this fall. She might be the next VP candidate, though, if Tom Cotton ever figures out that literally, anyone can become president. Additionally, it irritates me that Asa’s actual first name is “William.” For the supreme court, I voted for David Sterling, because more dark money was spent in his favor than the other candidates. In the Age of Trump, that’s the kind of idiotic logic that I find myself agreeing with. A massive influx of dark money and influence is very important to me, unless you ask me, in which case I’ll say the opposite and do so while waving my arms nonsensically. I’m not too fond of the supreme court, anyway, since black olives and onions are generally terrible on pizza.

Because I’m adept at reading upside down, I scanned down the clipboards the poll workers left in plain sight on the registration table. First, the text I was reading upside down was inverted- not me. I think the poll workers would not have been amused had I been upside down, either like a slumbering vampire or a gymnast walking on my hands. The R columns vastly outnumbered the D columns; simply put, the Republicans turned out in much greater numbers to vote today. I understand that there are variables which affect this observation, not the least of which is that a progressive voter is more likely to early-vote and traditional voters also tend to be retired and can, therefore, follow the tradition of voting on the day of the election. I like to think that by voting in the GOP primaries that marketers foolishly assume that I am anywhere in a Venn Diagram with their targeted constituency. Obviously, if I were to suffer a major head trauma it is possible that I would suddenly start seeing both logic and appeal in the platform of the GOP but until then, please continue to send me ridiculous flyers to warn me of the dangers of foreigners and the need to personally own no fewer than 17 guns, each of which I’ve given cute names.

I enjoy the moment immediately after I give the poll worker my I.D. Given that the average poll worker is older, he or she invariably reads my name at least ten times. Most of them usually give up and assume that my license, like every other person in this state, lists my last name first and vice versa. When requested to do so, I try to find the strangest way to recite my name, address, and date of birth. Today was no exception. My wife hates the way I recite my date of birth even though logically it’s the only way to be precise while simultaneously getting on everyone’s nerves. That last part is very important to me. One of my favorite quips is to quickly ask, “Date of conception, you asked?” and then pretend to start counting backward with the months of the year.

I sometimes ask if they have ballots with pictures of the candidates on them. One day, the answer will be “Yes.” It seems only fair if they can ask me to repeat the information that is plainly visible on the I.D. they are holding, I have the reciprocal right to amuse myself with a barrage of my own questions to yield the confused and nervous looks they often give me.

All of y’all pushing to get everyone out to vote should sometimes stop and remember that people like me listen and go vote, much to the detriment of the political process.

I was a little disappointed to find out that it was a rumor that Springdale was voting on whether to get rid of that horrible criss-cross pattern it chose as it’s mascot. Logo. I mean to say, “Logo.” The poll workers did tell me, however, that I was welcome to get some colored permanent markers and change all the logos in the city myself. Heads up, Chamber of Commerce and local constabulary.

Once done voting, I boarded the bus with the throngs of ineligible voters. As we drove away from the rodeo grounds, we saluted our framed picture of Robert Mueller.

 

Of Protests, Kneeling, and Democracy

A large group of several hundred protesters gathered near the intersection of Edinger and Bristol, at approximately 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night. Protesters gathered to voice their dissent over the election of Donald Trump in Santa Ana early tonight. The protest took a violent turn when protesters began lobbing mortars at officers later in the night. Police used non lethal weapons to control the crowd, who were throwing bottles, mortars, and other objects at officers. Santa Ana PD was assisted by multiple agencies from around Orange County.

You’re one of two people: the man shouting or the man covering his ears.

Everything we’ve achieved in this country resulted from those shouting and seldom from those who seek silence or conformity.

The status quo favors those in the majority, those holding the reins of power, and those with the gold.

Shouts and powerful whispers threaten all three. The shouts aren’t simply demanding more. They demand equality in every respect – and not simply in the material realm, but in the spiritual, and in the minds of men as all of us conduct our daily affairs.

That such an action would threaten democratic ideals instead of reinforcing them is one of the most quixotic and incomprehensible lines of reasoning I’ve ever encountered.

That the majority grumbles in response is one of the most viable signals that words or actions of protest committed peacefully are striking at the heart of their discomfort.

It is only through discomfort that we might collectively agree that we have stepped off the path that should guide us. Democracy is always an uneasy alliance of interests. We should beware of anyone who falsely claims that those who seek change are lesser citizens. These allegations tarnish those making them.

This country belongs to all of us, not just those displaying a glib grasp of patriotism. Those who are shouting are doing us and democracy a great service, even if we find ourselves in a position of discomfort.

We are a nation of better ideas. Let’s hear them and those who aren’t satisfied with where we are.

Despite my fair skin and privileged life, I tend to find myself leaning to hear the words of those who are kneeling, shouting, or trying to tell us something. It’s the least I can do, literally. Learning and growth only occur through challenging all our supposed truths.

Charlottesville Is Us

I take exception to the idea that the racists in Virginia were an anomaly. They are not unusual examples of ignorance – they are typical. These are our fellow citizens. They listen and watch, waiting for the moment which allows them to vent their anger on others. They often are garbage workers, but they are equally likely to be police, teachers, nurses, lawyers, or writers. People don’t answer the call to racism through logic. Likewise, condemnation of their beliefs often serves to galvanize their legitimacy.

We can look to Virginia and shake our heads, wondering what stupidity brought them to that place. While we are doing that, though, there are people around us secretly wishing they could be there in solidarity, shouting out their agreement. Even if it seems odd to some, there are people who think that being white somehow is a matter of pride, as if skin color is a determinate of anything substantive as a human being.

You don’t want to believe that people you know harbor such hatred in their hearts. They do, though, even as they continue to beguile you into complacency after you see a symptom of their ignorance and raise a red flag. Those who subversively conceal their true feelings of superiority toward minorities, other religions and races surround you, waiting. They’re disgusted that they can’t be true to their anger. The internal monologue in their heads has played so long that they can’t distinguish their prejudice from reality. If they live in a place where there is a cluster of like-minded small-minded people, they learn to push the boundaries of acceptability more often. If you are playing the banjo in a room full of banjos, you don’t look so unusual, but if you are playing the only banjo in a room full of cellos, you are the only person getting attention.

Sometimes racists gather in groups and act out. Mostly, they lash out in a million small ways, often indirectly observed. They gaslight you, innocently insisting, “I’m not a racist.” After repeated protests, they get angrier, turning the accusations against you. What they really want is to say, “So what? I am better than those people.” They know they can’t, though. Many use their intelligence to change the nature of truth, often at risk of your sanity. They have lengthy and complicated arguments they repeat endlessly. The signs are there; they grumble about foreigners, language, or convolute the nature of the Civil War, drop small comments about the real story of the Jews, or simply defend their ignorance as tradition or heritage. They point to Chicago as proof of inferiority or refuse to see the difference between Black Lives Matter and hate groups. They say they don’t have a problem with interracial marriage, but… Many have blacks or minorities in their social and business circles which camouflage them. If you are tuned in, your instincts invariably give you pause with most of them.

I grew up around a lot of racists. The dangerous ones aren’t the ones who distract you by gathering in noisy groups in other states. This isn’t a “there” problem. The dangerous ones are the ones you see at the supermarket, at your kid’s Friday night football game, or posting vaguely disconcerting insinuations on social media. They excuse away their particular racism by implying that everyone is a racist or that their version is indeed rooted in truth. They smile, year after year, falsely believing that much of the world reflects how they think. They know that hissing the “N” word will immediately identify their ignorance, so they artfully step around it, learning the nuances of language and presentation which will continue to allow them to live among us without being outed.

So, as time passes, you drop your guard, never imagining that the racism you’ve incrementally witnessed belies a deep vein of actual hatred in your friend or family member’s heart. Most of the time, you give them the benefit of the doubt simply because they haven’t overtly acted out.

People proudly look in the mirror, admiring the skin color they didn’t choose. They go to religious services their parents chose and tend to live in the same places. Their success or failure in life is based on privilege that’s invisible to them. Most get truly angry even at the mention of the word “privilege.” Many focus on what they feel is being “taken” from them as if their claim to anything is greater than anyone else in this country.

Only racists will read my words and get angry.

Only people who know that my words apply to them will recoil in protest. I’m simply inexpertly pointing out that racists aren’t solely a problem outside of our orbit. It’s possible for someone to trigger your instincts toward identifying them as prejudiced and yet be in complete disagreement with racist attitudes. It’s possible to be a Trump voter and not condone racism or violence. You can have issues with Black Lives Matter and not be a racist, too. Or want immigration control and seek to have English be a required language in public commerce. I’m not saying otherwise, though racists will focus on small perceived discrepancies and exaggerate what I’ve said. It’s what they do, instead of honestly admitting their prejudices.

Racists despise the people among them who recognize the signs of what truly echoes in their minds and hearts.

Those people in Virginia aren’t an isolated example: they are us.

It gives you comfort to believe in the best in people – and it should. But never doubt that for every racist holding a sign and grimacing in anger at a protest, there are several sitting at home, nodding their head in agreement. The ones shouting are doing us a favor by identifying their prejudice. The quiet ones, though, they are an almost insurmountable battle. They are the breeding ground for racism’s ongoing prominence.

 

 

Dinosaurians and Trump

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Many of us share moments, some sublime, some perplexing.

Recently, a respected member of the community invited me to his house for lunch and a bit of jawing. (I know what you’re thinking – he couldn’t be illustrious if he were having me over at his house unless a lost bet was involved.)

One of the great stories he told me was about one of his neighbors. My friend told me that this neighbor knew how to build a car from scratch, plumb a house, wire an entire building, and seemed to know a little about every subject on the planet. My friend had always thought of him as a very smart, capable person.

…Until one fateful day when his neighbor extemporaneously deviated off the normal course of conversation and insisted that the world was only a few thousand years old. My friend is an elder statesman with a wide education, has traveled all over the world, served in the military and worked in a career helping people his entire life – so he’s been around the widest assortment of humans you can imagine. To say that he was flummoxed insufficiently describes the shock of the revelation that his neighbor is a “Dinosaurian,” one of the people who ascribe to the variety of nonsense that humans roamed the earth with Dinosaurs or that the planet is actually very young. Most of the people who believe such things are religious fundamentalists, but some are simply like the Flat-Earthers, cherry-picking whatever conspiracy theory fits their ideas.

Afterward, it seemed as if everything were about his neighbor’s insistence that the planet wasn’t ancient. No matter what the subject might be, my friend either couldn’t get the nonsense of his neighbor’s belief out of his head or his neighbor, previously silent on the issue, seemed to harp on and on about nothing else, as if mentioning it just once opened an invisible floodgate to his nonsensical ideas.

My friend told me that story to underscore the continuing amazement he has toward those who chose Trump as their president- or who continue to defend his actions now that he’s assaulted facts, news organizations, religions, and rational public discourse. Keep in mind, my friend is decades older than me. He also voted Republican all his life, even though he was more progressive than the party itself. He, of course, didn’t vote for Trump in the last election. He couldn’t have imagined voting for Clinton, but he knew a vote for anyone but the major candidates was a vote for Trump, having lived through several election cycles which were disrupted by left-field contenders.

Until this election, he could imagine that the choice wasn’t so grotesque as to be an apocalyptic choice either way. When he thinks of intelligent people voting for Trump, he imagines an army comprised of people like his neighbor, snidely ignoring the mountain of evidence at their disposal. He knows that reason didn’t bring most of them to their decision, even though they’ll insist otherwise. He watches as those who should know better fan the flame of prejudice toward other religions, something he’s observed go terribly wrong in other places all over the world. He’s seen how effective such fear mongering can be in a population. Watching people lose their insurance in the midst of so much concentrated wealth also should be sending a red flag to those in power, in his opinion.

For my friend, he holds out hope that the younger generation will continue to advance the progress we’ve made as a society, one dedicated to helping one another; being smarter, more compassionate and better human beings. He knows that people who voted Trump are either a bump in the road and soon to be passed over by time – or the warning bell for civilized, rational society. He’s not at all confident that we won’t descend into authoritarianism or some hybrid religious state.