An Open Letter to Elected Democrats

Well, we’re two weeks in, and it’s as clear as it ought to have been all along that what we’re dealing with the Trump Administration and the Republican-dominated Congress is as far past normal as Alpha Centauri is past the corner convenience store. A blitzkrieg of bad policy and worse nominees is overrunning the nation’s institutional defenses, as between them the Administration and Congress try and push through every bad idea the right’s ever had. I’m sure you don’t need me to read you the laundry list.

 

So here’s what I and my fellow liberals, progressives, and sane Americans with functioning empathy, conscience, and reason want you to know:

You. Must. Resist.

At every turn, in every way you can. Throw up roadblocks. Boycott hearings. Present amendment after amendment until the docket is filled til 2018. Whatever you can do to fight them or gum up the works, we expect you to do it.

It’s time to stop bringing a strongly-worded letter to a knife fight. The America we love and put our faith in is on the line. History is watching.

And you know what? We’re watching, too. And we’re going to remember.

Here’s something that I think is worth thinking about, if the case on the merits isn’t enough motivation for you. In October 2002, then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. At the time, it looked like the politically-smart play, even though the Bush Administration’s case for war in Iraq had more holes in it than a paper bin Laden target at a West Texas shooting range. But the Bush Administration had a strong hand, politically, and made a disciplined push. In the wake of 9/11 there were few Democrats with the foresight and backbone to vote no.

That vote’s been an albatross around Hillary Clinton’s neck ever since. It cost her the nomination in 2008, and the Presidency in 2016. Because a lot of people never forgave her for that. Never forgot the calculation she made, for short-term political gain, and the tragedy, horror, and damage to our national soul that resulted from the war, and the bipartisan cover she and her fellow Congressional Democrats provided its justification.

Left unchecked, the present Administration and Congress are going to unwind a century’s progress. A lot of people are going to suffer and die unnecessarily. It’s up in the air whether we’ll have a trade or shooting war first. Up in the air whether we’ll still have a democracy.

The only option open to a person of conscience is vigorous, unflinching, disciplined opposition. At every turn. On every front. That’s what we want from you. That’s what history demands at this moment.

So show us what you’re made of. Give us a reason to believe in you, a reason to keep backing you. Do this thing, and we’ll do everything we can to get you re-elected and expand your caucus til we can do some good or at least unwind some of the bad.

If you don’t? Well, you’re already hearing from us, and seeing us everytime you go out in public. We’ll keep that up, month in and year out. And the next time you run for re-election? You can expect a primary challenge from the left.

And by then? We’re going to be really good at this organizing thing.

What Do We Accomplish By Marching?

Donald Trump is still President. His cabinet of incompetents, grifters, and deplorables is as likely as ever to be confirmed. The conservative agenda of small-government austerity and the rollback of hard-won rights and protections is still on the table in a House and Senate likely to ram them through and — to borrow a phrase from the folks doing the ramming — down the throats of the citizens of these United States, whether we like it or not.

But yesterday, the day after the least popular incoming President in history held his poorly-attended inauguration, four million Americans took to the streets of cities and towns across the country to march for women’s equality and women’s rights.

A cynical person might ask what it is we think we accomplished. All of the above is still true, after all, and it’s unlikely to change as a direct result of the largest political demonstration in our nation’s history.

It’s a fair question.

The simplest answer is that we came out and showed our sheer numbers. It makes a splash, makes the media pay attention. It changes the conversation. It puts our elected representatives on notice that the ideals and policies we marched for has a constituency they ignore at their political peril.

Those answers are meaningful. Important. But they aren’t the whole story.

A cloud has hung over vast swathes of the American people these last two and a half months. A feeling like we lost something important. Like something critical to our happiness, our well-being, our safety both personal and economic died. We have been grieving that loss. Mourning it. Fighting hopelessness and despair.

But not today.

Today my social media feed is full of fired-up, hopeful, and energized people. People ready to organize and fight for what they believe in. People whose faith is re-energized. People whose hope is restored. Whose resolve is galvanized, and whose hearts know joy again after a long, gray season of despair.

And that, to me, is the real answer to the question. What do we accomplish by marching?

We march to turn grief into power.

And with our faith re-energized, our hope restored, our resolve galvanized and our hearts filled with joy, we will overcome. We will bend the moral arc of history towards justice. We will make an America whose greatness isn’t grounded in power or wealth, but in fidelity to our highest ideals: to life, liberty, equality, opportunity, and security for every American regardless of who they are, what they want, or what they believe.

Yes we will.

On This Idea That Things Have to Get Worse Before We Can Make Them Better

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.

Confession

[Trigger Warning for Survivors of Sexual Assault]

 

I am twelve or thirteen. There are five of us and one of her. She hasn’t lived in the neighborhood long. The others hold her down, laughing. One pries her legs open. I know what’s happening is wrong, but I don’t say anything. I grope her breast, the first one I have ever touched. I stand up and back away. Thankfully, it’s enough, and we let her up. I never tell anyone.

I am eighteen. I’ve gone out on a couple of dates with a girl whose friend just broke up with me. We’ve made out once or twice. One night in the middle of the night I go over to her house. The door is unlocked, and I sneak into her room. We have sex. After, I ask if we can do it again, and she says no. I leave. It’s not until a few years later I realize I probably raped her. I don’t tell anyone til I’m in my forties.

I am twenty-one. I’m having consensual sex. She freezes up, asks me to stop. I finish. I never tell anyone.

This list of my transgressions is hardly exhaustive. I can only hope it’s the worst I have done. In two of three cases, I’ve never told anyone until now. I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.

But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.

I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.

Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.

I am sorry for the things I did. I apologize to the people I did them to. But I don’t presume to ask forgiveness. Some stains can’t be washed out. Just like some wounds never heal.

The idea of hitting publish scares the absolute shit out of me. People I don’t know are going to judge me. Worse, people I do know will, too.

But after reading as much of this as I could stomach, my conscience compels me to come clean and own up to the things I have done. Somebody has to go first.

I may not be a good person. But I can at least try and do the right thing. If we, as men, are going to do something about rape culture, we’ve got to look inside as well as out. You can’t fight something you’re not willing to face.

 

Let’s Call Donald Trump What He Really Is: The Candidate – and Literal Embodiment – of Straight White Male Privilege

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“I have never been wrong about anything.”

You know, for a guy as demonstrably and reliably dishonest as Donald Trump is, he’s been pretty open about what kind of man he is, and what we’ll get if he wins the Presidency.

What kind of man is he? Well, yes, he’s straight (the straightest!), white (okay, he’s actually orange), and male (“There’s no problems. I guarantee it.”). But above all, before anything else, he is privileged.

It’s been said of both George Bushes, ‘He was born on third and thought he hit a triple.’ Trump was born on third and he’s mad because he’s sure he hit a home run. He must have, because everything he does, says, or thinks is awesome, and the only reason he can’t have literally everything he wants whenever he wants it is because the world is conspiring against him. Probably because everything he does, says, or thinks is awesome, and they’re jealous, or fat, or ugly, or sad!

It’s almost hard to fault him for it, because the notion he is entitled to do whatever the fuck he wants, whenever the fuck he wants, to whomever the fuck he wants has been drummed into him his whole life. It’s the air he breathes, the fabric of his space-time continuum, of which he is the absolute center around which all else revolves.

Okay, it’s not that hard to fault him.

But just as it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it, it’s damn near impossible to get a man to understand something when his privilege depends on his not understanding it. Continue reading “Let’s Call Donald Trump What He Really Is: The Candidate – and Literal Embodiment – of Straight White Male Privilege”