Geez, Facebook–can’t take a funny little joke? I posted this obviously edited photo of a very famous professional athlete, made to look like he was wearing a t-shirt mocking anti-vax morons, on my personal Facebook page and was sternly chastised by the lackeys toe-licker-of facists Mark Cuckerburg. I mean, Zuckerberg. As if anyone who reads my page is so utterly moronic to not recognize photoshop when they see it.
Or maybe it is? I say “maybe,” but at this point it seems pretty obviously that Zuckerberg and Stormy Daniels have at least one thing in common, and it’s not a bodacious caboose.
It’s precious to see my little, admittedly purloined joke treated like as if it contains information that, if allowed to spread, might undermine our deeply moral and otherwise stable representative democracy. As if I’m teetering on the brink of sedition–while Facebook promotes posts whose writers warn that masks are pinko plot to steal our free-dumbs, and highlights Q-burping babble; it is okay to allow all those freaking data-stealing trap posts, like “Do you like kittens of puppies better?” But my post is dangerous and misleading. Sigh.
I spent some time reading about DC Police Officer Michael Fanone, who is currently being feted and fried by the hype machine, most recently with an article in Newsweek Magazine which, I have to admit, I was surprised to find still doddering along, continuing to enrich the lives of those trapped in the waiting rooms of doctors, dentists, and tire stores across America.
More notable, at least to me, than the predictable hero-making redemption story are the reactions I’ve seen to this article on social media–a lot of well-earned sympathy and respect for Fanone’s obvious bravery and sacrifice spiced with resentment for the hook of the story: Fanone voted for Trump, is deeply conservative, and yet, this happened to him! Oh, dear. I’m sorry, of course, but I can’t really navigate my way to the point where we’re surprised that a howling, baying, hopped-up-on-hate mob of violent traitors, gleeful seditionists, and other assorted enemies of the state–many of them literally waving the flag of a defeated, foreign enemy (The Confederacy stopped being American the moment they seceded)–decided to attack the very heart of our (not their) nation, was not scrupulously selective in venting their pent up anger. Of course Fanone was set upon. He was in the way of the mob, and whatever catharsis they sought for their imaginary grievances.
What surprises me more is the vitriolic counter-hate directed at Fanone and other victims, simply because they voted “the wrong way.” A substantial minority embrace the “he voted for Trump, he deserved everything he got. I contend that he did not deserve any of it. It is both churlish and petty to break what happened down to a matter of good versus evil.
Nobody has more contempt for Trump and all things Trump related than I do, but a lot of the soft-minded yahoos who supported him did so after decades of targeted Republican conditioning–they’re dupes, rubes, and ignorant vessels saturated with programmed hate and lies. In a way, (and here’s where I get myself in trouble) they are just as much victims as anyone else–their obtuse fears and resentments twisted into a tapestry of, well, fear and resentment by the cynical right.
Of course, I respect them like I respect the average German citizens of the Nazi era, which is to say not at all. Ignorance is not an excuse. In a democracy, it is incumbent upon us all to remain informed and to question authority. As much as it irks me, we need to draw a line of distinction between the slow-witted and deeply misguided souls who, for whatever reasons–fear, mostly; fear of loss, fear of insignificance, fear of the other and the unknown– chose to vote for a vile candidate, and those who used Trumps sociopathic, self-serving, and utterly reprehensible rhetoric as an excuse to indulge in their own bitter, destructive, and base impulses.
I’ll be the first to admit that I like to see idiots pay the price for their bad behavior, but it happens far too infrequently. Watching the pillow guy fall apart, strand by strand, is satisfying theater. So, too Rudolph Giuliani diddling his little stubby in a hotel room with an actress he thought was jail-bait. It is natural for those of us who commit to following the mores of a functional society to see those who do not pay for it. I’ll admit this shameful thing: it disappoints me that more Covid deniers haven’t become deathly ill, but that’s my own petty failing, and not something a healthy person should live in, if that person wishes to remain sane. I’m not saying that we need to treat MAGA Terrorists like prodigal children, but we’ll keep getting them if we don’t recognize that it is something more ominous than their feeble-minded gullibility at work here
Ultimately, less time needs to be spent condemning the foolish voters and more dedicated to pushing the Justice Department and Courts for the most severe penalties, the very highest fines, possible. This Fanone fellow voted poorly, but he didn’t wage war against America. Let’s focus of those who did, and those who put them up to it.
(As always, this is a one-off draft. Typos and other confusions reflect a hurried soul and a harried mind. Figure it out.)
One of the great sacrifices that comes from living way up here in the USA, miles away from Texas and the heart of the confederacy, is that we don’t enjoy timely access to the broad range of news pertaining to Ted “Tough as Texas” Cruz. Indeed, we barely hear tales of fabled adventures at all, unless he’s smiling sheepishly, like a proper milksop, while a certain fat old man calls Mrs. Cruz a “dog.” Or scampering away to “Old Mexico” because his tootsies got chilly when the nation’s only proudly unregulated power grid collapsed, leaving millions of his constituents literally out in the cold, literally powerless, and (again, literally) thirsty and hungry for leadership–not to mention clean water and warm food. Most of his moon-eyed shenanigans pass unnoticed up here in abolitionist country–not unlike his past campaigns for President. From a purely entertainment perspective, this is a shame–but I aim to remedy that.
Following the Mexico fiasco, which Cruz nobly blamed on his young children, Cruz has taken time from blocking economic relief during the Covid-19 Pandemic to work himself up over the custodians of the estate of Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel to halt production and sales of a half dozen books they’ve found to be “problematic” in one way or another. I’ve only read one of them, and that was about 20 years ago, so I’m not qualified to judge. For the record I’ll admit to leaning towards not removing elements of culture retroactively. Scorn them, excoriate them, leverage what we don’t like about them into a learning experience that might prevent us–humans in general, not just you and me–from backsliding. On the other hand, my intellectual preference is very far removed from the moral culpability one might feel from generating profit from material that many find offensive.
Ted Cruz has no such compunctions. So strongly does the man–the Senator!–who believes that the existence of married gay couples is an act of tyranny–feel that he’s retail marketing copies of one of Seuss’s other, less controversial, works at a significant mark-up, because Mr. Cruz is autographing these books as a fundraiser for his next crusade, er, pogrom, um, campaign. In the words of “Amish Elmer,” my former pot dealer: fucking genius, man. And for the record, Amish Elmer was shunned long before we ever met him, but stuck with the chin beard and blue on black ensemble to move stealthily below the radar of law enforcement. That’s another story for another day, but suffice it to say Elmer knows a slick entrepreneurial hack when he sees one.
It is thinking like this–creatively soulless, blindly exploitative, and objectively tone-death–that raises Cruz to the level of “potential adversary.” He does everything but twirl the edges of his mustache and kick kittens, although he’s been known to freeze a dog or two. He’s unapologetically evil, distinguishing himself in this regard at a time when his political allies are literally (there’s that word again–I use it again and again to emphasis that this isn’t a joke I’m making up, its real!) crawling all over themselves in a particularly venal game of King of The Hill to not just rhetorically, but physically, tear down the guiding institutions of our representative democracy–not to mention the very essence of democracy itself. He, like his cuck-buddy Mitch McConnell, has no qualms with embracing villainy for personal gain. Hell, he cherishes the opportunity, and at some level we are compelled to acknowledge his commitment to the role. Yes, he’ll stomp on immigrants! Yes, he’ll assert his masculine entitlement to regulate the reproductive organs of every woman out there–even it it means rolling up his shirtsleeves and getting his hands dirty in the process! Will he lead the struggle to suppress and disenfranchise poor and minority voters, even if it means making voting more difficult for everyone? You KNOW he will! His children, his wife–whomever he has to hurt, whatever it takes, he’s up to the task.
And that’s why I want to fight him. I think it would be a pretty good match. I’m bigger than him, but older too, and he’s butting on a pretty good push of late to catch up in the size department. My hair and beard are better–a nice woman trims me up monthly, so I’m not rocking that indigent, truck-stop predator look that Cruz has made so popular.
The question, of course, is why would he take time out of his busy day, putting aside his quest of personal power at the expense of every non-white, non-straight, non-male, non-christian just to sock it to a fading old smart-ass centrist “living constitutionalist?” But do villains need a reason to lash out at their adversaries? Do the powerful blanch at the opportunity to crush those who dare to speak against them? It is his duty. His calling. His noblesse oblige to knock my ass up between my eye balls while humming “Old Folks at Home” through a mouthful deep friend King Ranch chicken washed down with a tankard of warm Dr. Pepper.
And why am I so animated? Besides wanting to know whether he’s really as “tough as texas?” Me? I’m just pissed that Cruz’s immigrant father killed JFK.
I’ve been acting like a jerk on the internet. Again. Reflexively chastising friends on Facebook for breezily referring to 2020’s viral villain by its trendy sobriquet, “the ‘Rona.” Because I hate that crap like Indiana Jones hates Nazis. Don’t get me wrong; I hate Nazis too. I have a big enough heart to hold more than enough seething rage and disgust for both–with plenty left over for the current political administration. But I digress.
After taking one of my pals to task for her dismissive ‘Rona-quote yesterday she replied, “why do you hate that name so much? And what could be the alternative Nick-name?“
Fair enough. I spewed out a quick and bile-tinted response along the lines of this:
You’ll be sorry you asked, but: just Covid-19. No nickname. No pseudonym. No alias. No tag. No hashtag. No handle. Just Covid-19 or, if you must, “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”–the scientific equivalent of a mom who has had it up to here bellowing her child’s name off the back porch, brandishing full name like a k-bar with which she intends to eviscerate the guilty. “Elizabeth! Cora! Habersham!Get your sorry ass home RIGHT NOW.”
You know the tone. And we all know that Covid-19 has been a very bad girl. Not bad in the garters and bustier sense of the word, but bad like the Burgermeister Meisterburger or Dick Cheney. Joy-killing, breath-stealing, vomit-inducing bad.
There is nothing funny or cute about it. The virus posesses no sentience to pique with mockery, and no lighthearted irreverence will make anything better. It is serious as a blow to the back of the head with a lead pipe. When I hear that term, “Rona” used I think of mask-less, cheese-eating high school boys chortling around a keg of Coors Lite, shrugging non-nonchalantly over 1,712,818 (and counting) deaths and, even worse, the very real chance of becoming viral carriers. I think of thoughtless ass-hats who don’t give a damn.
We’re roiling in a dark shit-pit of death and despair mostly because a significant portion of our neighbors are either too ignorant or too selfish (I’m talking to you, you backwards freedom monkeys whining about your “consteetootshanal rights” to kill the rest of us) to take the virus seriously. You got us here. The very least you can do is not joke about it, no matter how much it shades that deeply felt and forcefully denied sense of utter fear and helplessness that haunts your every breathing moment. Call it by its name.
How does this happen? 14 Months Ago White Supremacists Marched Through Charlottesville, Virginia chanting “Jews will not replace us” and President of The United States Donald Trump chastised those who called the vile bastards out, saying “THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES,” encouraging and validating far right extremists of every ilk. Today, in the wake of yet another tragic instance of hate and violence, he reads words of shock and indignation from a teleprompter and wonders how this could happen. This is Trump’s America, and if you support him, his race-baiting dog whistles, and his brand of vitriolic hate-mongering, THIS IS YOUR AMERICA. You made this.
Not every selection for the Dumb Ass Hall Of Fame is an idiot, dotard, or buffoon. Some, like this week’s honoree, are just brain-numbed by hate and ignorance.
The morality of the nation crumbles around us, hurtling toward a precipice of as-yet-unimaginable depth, spurred by the pubescent leadership of our President, the jibbering sycophants who surround him, and the spineless cowards of the Senate and Congress, most of whom are more than intelligent enough to see what this man is, but refuse to act for reasons both partisan and personal. I awake each morning, take my pills, and empty my bladder beneath a cloud of dread: what terrible things have transpired since the day before. What has the skulking boy king said, what has he done or, most often, what excremental feats of churlish impertinence have the lunks and sneering bounders emboldened by his example been up to?
Another cop killing an unarmed black man? Running him down with a patrol car? Shooting him seven or eight times in the back? Gunning him down for closing a door–a fragile blue ego more important than a warrant and the Fourth Amendment? Or maybe another ally insulted? Another adversary provoked? Another treaty broken? Another bold faced lie maintained in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Another denial of that lie, despite video?
Given all of this and so much more, I am barely surprised to hear that South Dakota state Representative Michael Clark tried to press the argument, that businesses should be allowed to turn down people based on the color of their skin. As my dad used to say, “I shit you not.”
In a heady stupor of exclusionist victory dancing following the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a homophobic Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs, Clark boasted on Facebook that the decision was a “win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” Other FB users called him on his gleeful embrace of bigotry, and the intrepid lawmaker doubled down.
“It is his business,” Clark wrote in a comment. “He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then [that’s] his choice.”
We’ve seen this mindset before. On buses in Tennessee. In schools in Arkansas. At lunch counters in Alabama.
It is modestly affirming that a furor quickly built, on Facebook and among the general public and first regional, then national news organizations began covering the incident. At first he tried to frame his bigotry as standard anti-government rhetoric, asserting that business owners only need serve certain segments of society and that the market would ultimately determine if the business succeeded or failed. The negative comments and press coverage built up, as some of reminded this attorney and elected lawmaker of a not-so-irrelevant document called The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Predictably, the heat was too much for tough cowboy Clark, who ultimately deleted the post on Tuesday. He said he had “jumped in on it a little bit too fast,” the Argus-Leader reported.
Not long after, he apologized via email to a reporter for the Leader, followed by a glib, insincere retraction on Facebook. “I am apologizing for some of my Facebook comments. “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race.”
But in an interview with the Argus-Leader, Clark said he believed that business owners should be able to turn away certain customers if they would otherwise violate their religious beliefs. “If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away,” Clark told the Leader. “People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business. The vote of the dollar is very strong,” he said.
I’m still parsing which is more disgusting, the unapologetic awfulness of the President and his Trumpkins, or these slimy, cynical clones who imitate his success playing to the lowest common denominators, shouting whatever vile and hateful bile they happen to be regurgitating at any particular moment? It is a tough contest indeed. Trump is culpable for setting the tone, but they’re all playing the same game: vomit out sinful rhetoric to the bleating masses and keep pressing–then either deny it completely and blame the press for making it up, or mutter a dishonest, heartless apology rife with crocodile tears and move on. “I didn’t say that. But if you have tape that shows I did, then I certainly didn’t mean it.”
Well, Mr. Clark, we’re not buying what you’re selling. You don’t get to worm and squirm out of it with a cynical “I’m sorry,” so take ownership for the man you’ve become. Burn a cross, beat a gay man–be your honest self. Your soul is already exposed before your neighbors, your friends, and especially your God.
It is easy to say, “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race” but the simple fact is that yes, you would, because yes, you did. It’s not like we haven’t seen your kind before.
It is a compelling argument and quite worthy of the 3 minutes it takes to read, but by no means but by no means should we regard the seeming disconnect between values and conduct as purely related to racial and religious identity and all their attendant fears and bigotries.
There’s a good deal of self-identification at work, as well. It is difficult to find a place so rife with illicit and immoral conduct than a protestant church. Don’t take that on my word. Statistically, despite decreasing numbers, American Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate (and highest rate of domestic violence) among all religious groupings, including non-believers (Atheists have the lowest rates).
And who can blame them? All that energy and intensity has to go somewhere, and it often goes into each other’s spouses. And why not? Forgiveness is at close at hand. They get Trump. They understand how difficult it is to keep things zipped up. God has his plan, after all. It wouldn’t happen if HE didn’t want it to (so slip out of that girdle, Mildred). Pots don’t call kettles black. Stones and glass houses. etc. etc.
“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
The president doubled down on Twitter Saturday afternoon.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect. … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
No, what gets me is the cheap rhetorical trick of equating the flag with veterans, and common protest with disrespect for veterans–a false equivalency that trivializes both the symbol of our nation and the men and women who have stood up to defend it or, too often, project its ideological will.
If one insists on waxing symbolic over the stars and stripes, it is compulsory to understand that the flag stands for so much more than military service, representing the core values–the unrealized ideals–upon which this nation was founded. Not just what we are, but what we purport to be, what we must aspire to be. Chief among these is free speech, particularly free speech in dissent.
The glory of the flag is that even the most disrespectful act against it as a symbol and, by extension, the institutions it represents, is turned into a sign of the strength. A protester burning a flag is at once showing her anger and disappointment while simultaneously demonstrating the freedoms the flag represents. In burning the flag, one proves its inviolability. You can’t really destroy the flag–burning its fibers only proves what it is supposed to stand for.
The flag does not need defense against committed young men who kneel before it to express their legitimate frustration and discontent in an inherently gentle act. Indeed, the flag protects them like a shield. In the same way, our veterans do not need to be protected from peaceful citizens who clasp hands, take a knee, and bow their heads quietly. Those veterans fought to preserve the right for these men to do so and, what’s more, both flag and fighting men and women are stronger than an imagined insult.
I love to tell stories with words and images, often with a darkly magical twist. While speculative fiction & dissecting pop culture are my primary passions, I also work with clients & brands by assisting with content creation, editing, marketing & design.