Short on time, so I’m going to keep this quick and dirty.
The notion that if things only get bad enough that suddenly the progressive agenda will become more widely appealing (and thus easy to implement) is a fucking canard. Ain’t gonna happen, no way no how.
If you have to destroy the village to save it, you didn’t save it.
First off, we tried it back in 2000. Maybe you forgot, or weren’t alive, or weren’t old enough to be paying attention, but things were going pretty fucking well at the end of the ’90s. The economy was chugging along pretty well, and there was plenty to go around. Yeah, not everyone was doing great, but there was a lot of cause for optimism. We hadn’t been in a shooting war in decades. Hell, our worst threat was a bunch of goat-fuckers in camps in Afghanistan who wanted to hurt us but mostly weren’t pulling if off.
Was it the best of all possible worlds? No. But things were good and getting better. There was a solid foundation to build further progress on. Hell, it seemed eminently reasonable to vote for Ralph Nader, if only to elevate the Green Party to minor party status and get it some federal funding to build a roots-up political organization that could do some good in the world. I, myself, voted, donated to, and volunteered for Ralph.
Then Bush won, and shit went south pretty much right away.
Not one but two massive tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. 9/11, which happened at least in part because Bush et al took their eyes off the aforementioned goat-fuckers. Then the Iraq War. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. CIA black sites. Katrina. Two Supreme Court Justices — including a new Chief Justice — who have contributed to decisions like Citizens United, and Shelby County. Oh, and let’s not forget the US Attorney scandal, in which they tried to fire ostensibly independent LEOs for not prosecuting enough Democrats or, God forbid, prosecuting Republicans. And, of course, the financial deregulation that gave us the Great Recession, which continues to fuck the economy to this day despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration.
We lost a *lot* of ground towards the progressive utopia we all want to see brought about, thanks at least in part to a solid chunk of the population that thought “If it gets bad enough, people will see the foolishness of conservative/Republican governance, and turn, as they must, to the other side.”
I mean, seriously, if you’re worried about, say climate change — and if you aren’t, you’re a fool or at least fooling yourself — just think for a moment what eight or even four years with the guy who made An Inconvenient Truth in the White House might have done to make progress on fighting or at least managing it.
Then we got Obama, who’s done a pretty good job turning things around, but could have done so much more if liberals, progressives, and generally sane people hadn’t sat out the 2010 Census Year Mid-term elections in such big numbers, allowing the Republicans and their Tea Party bomb-throwers to gerrymander a damn near unsinkable House Majority for a whole fucking decade.
So here we are now. Things are turning around. Yes, it could be faster. Yes, the system’s corrupt. But again, we’ve made some real progress. Laid a foundation for more. We’ve got a Democratic candidate in Hillary Clinton who ought to be a progressive dream candidate. Not only a woman — and holla for breaking that glass ceiling — but one running on the most progressive platform in the history of ever. Even if her opponent wasn’t a racist, sexist, xenophobic, fascist idiot narcissist in the pocket of the Russians who genuinely doesn’t understand why we don’t use the nuclear weapons we have or any other goddamn thing, anyone who even remotely identifies as liberal or progressive ought to be jumping for joy at the prospect of the most qualified and capable candidate for the highest office in the land in the history of the goddamned Republic.
But, again, we’ve got a bunch of people who just can’t bring themselves to pull the lever for her, and who think, once again, that if we let the racist, sexist, xenophobic, fascist idiot narcissist in the pocket of the Russians win that things will finally get so bad the Glorious Progressive Revolution will come of its own accord.
The problem, aside from the damage done and the many, many steps backward that will entail, is that human nature doesn’t work that way. A progressive society is contingent on prosperity. When people ain’t got shit, they start looking out for them and theirs, and fuck everybody else. They cling to their guns and their religion and their tribe harder than ever, because if there ain’t enough to go around then they’ll make damn sure they and theirs get what they need first, and the rest can go hang.
Look. I get it. There’s a lot to object to in the way our country is run. But if the choice is between an imperfect status quo and the goddamned apocalypse, then that shouldn’t be a fucking choice at all. If you have enough privilege to ride out the serial disaster that would be a Trump administration, bully for you. But there’s a whole fuckload of people who don’t, and way way way too many of them stand to get hurt while you wait for the revolution you haven’t really thought through to ripen.
You want progress? You want change? Then not only do you have to vote for Hillary Clinton (hold your nose or no, I don’t really give a fuck). You have to vote Democrat all the way down the ballot. You know why shit’s so dysfunctional? Because the goddamned Republicans put party before country, and have sabotaged and vandalized and obstructed every fucking thing that might make things better. They have to, because their whole thing is that government can’t work and is never the solution and if you elect them they’ll prove it to you, as they fucking have for decades now. The Democrats may be imperfect and their tent’s big enough that they’re as centrist as they are liberal, but at least they want to keep the fucking lights on.
It’s not sexy, I know. But if you care about making the world a better place by enacting a progressive agenda, then you have to build on the progress we’ve already made.
I read a lot of great books, is the short answer.
So, a few days ago writer K Tempest Bradford published this article, in which she challenged readers to stop reading white, straight, cisgendered male authors for one year. Sadly (and predictably), certain corners of the internet exploded in rage at the notion (she has assembled a lovely collection of rage-tweets here, if you enjoy that sort of thing). I won’t reprise their objections, which savvy interneteers will likely be able to intuit themselves, nor pass judgement on any validity those objections may or may not have. But it so happens that I recently spent the better part of a year doing something very similar to Ms Bradford’s challenge. From roughly November 2013 until late last year, I read only books by women(*), many of them women of color, others not cisgendered (two of the new favorite writers whose work I discovered are married).
I did so for my own reasons, both personal and (for lack of a better term) professional. On a personal level it was simply the realization that the vast majority of the books on my overstuffed shelves were by men. I fought it for a long time, that realization. I mean, these were great books, each easily defensible on the merits. I have, if I may say, damned fine taste in literature, and reading material in general. Ask any of my friends. I’ve been an obsessive reader since kindergarten, the kind of person who never goes anywhere without a book and hasn’t since he could carry one. But looked at en masse, the unconscious bias in my collection was (and is) painfully clear (in my defense, I actually am a cisgendered white male).
When I was younger, the notion of placing any kind of limitation on my reading material for a whole year would have seemed preposterous. Now comfortably ensconced in middle age, it didn’t seem like that big a deal. It wasn’t like I was going to run out of good books to read, and while it might mean holding off on some things in my to-be-read stack, it’s hardly without precedent for a book to be in that stack for years before I get around to reading it. Really all I had to do was rearrange the order, though of course I used it as an excuse to go book-shopping, which is one of my favorite things to do.
The timing that November seemed propitious. I’d started writing Continue reading