fifty ways

— I’m confused. I don’t understand. I just don’t get it.
— What’s the matter, pookie?
— I really really don’t understand why people are reacting to a pandemic this way.
— Oh. It’s because they’re assholes.
— They assert their right to protest a legal order from their governor, but they were outraged when a black football player took a knee to protest racial police brutality. Don’t they see how illogical that is?
— No, because they’re assholes.

These people are assholes.

— They insist they’re pro-life, that every potential life is sacred, but at the same time they say it’s permissible for some folks to die in order to strengthen the economy. Not just permissible, but necessary. I don’t understand that reasoning.
— It’s asshole reasoning. The reasoning of assholes.
— They argue that they have the absolute right over the integrity of their bodies, that if they don’t want to wear a mask, they shouldn’t have to. But they also want to deny women the right over the integrity of their bodies, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I mean, they feel imposed upon if they have to wear a mask, but it’s not an imposition for a woman to carry an unwanted fetus for nine months? Explain that to me.
— The explanation is that they’re assholes.

A few more assholes.

— And armed protests? What’s with that? Not just protests against stay-at-home orders, but armed protests. Why do they need to bring guns?
— It’s because they’re assholes.
— They call themselves patriots, but they keep waving Confederate or Nazi flags. I mean, flags of peoples who fought against the United States. How is that patriotic?
— They’re assholes.
— They say President Obama was corrupt, even though nobody in his administration was ever charged with a crime. Eight years and constant ongoing Congressional investigations, not one person charged with a crime. But they insist Trump is the best president ever, despite the fact that at least seven members of his administration or transition team have pleaded guilty or been convicted of felonies. And who knows how many were fired or resigned in disgrace. How does that compute?
— Dude, they’re assholes. I don’t know what else to say.

Assholes with guns.

— They claim to respect law enforcement, but they also say the FBI tried to derail the Trump presidential campaign. They say they believe in the rule of law, but they don’t want the rule of law to apply to themselves. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it.
— Yes, you do. They’re assholes.
— I just can’t wrap my head around all of this. It’s like…it’s like…I don’t even know.
— Sit back, pookie, and allow me to quote the poet Simon.

“The problem is all inside your head”, she said to me
“The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to say they’re assholes.”

— So you’re saying…it’s because they’re assholes?
— Ah, day dawns in the rock garden.
— What?
— You have seen the light.

 

now what?

Well, here we are. The Democratic Party presidential race is down to two septuagenarian white guys. It’s a sad day when we have to admit the most capable candidate was largely erased from the contest through media bias and because of the cowardice of voters who were afraid other people wouldn’t vote for a woman.

It wasn’t just her energy, it wasn’t just her willingness to stand for four hours so everybody could get a selfie with her, it wasn’t just her intelligence and clear thinking, it wasn’t just her goofy but charming and sincere pinkie-promises with young girls, and it wasn’t just her ability to articulate complex issues in ways that made sense to ordinary folks; it was her essential honesty and decency that made Elizabeth Warren such a compelling candidate. But now she’s out.

Now what are we supposed to do? I’m talking to those of us who supported — and still support — Elizabeth Warren. Now who do we support? The old cranky white guy whose policies are closest to our own? Or the old cheerful white guy whose policies are more modest but more likely to be implemented? Do we support the guy who promises major structural change? Or the guy who just wants a return to normality? The guy whose followers include a vocal group of misogynistic assholes? Or the guy whose supporters include the usual big money donors? Which old white guy do we choose?

I like Bernie. I also like Joe. I like them in different ways. I like Bernie because he’s consistent and stubborn. He’s an old school structuralist, and he’s never going to change because of popular opinion. He plants his flag and stands by it. I like Joe because he’s flexible. He gets along with people and is a genuine deal-maker. He understands the need to accommodate other perspectives, to compromise when necessary, to bend to some degree to get what he thinks is important. I like Bernie because he doesn’t budge when he believes he’s right. I like Joe because he’ll budge a little to get a little.

At this point, I’m trying to balance pragmatism with emotion. Here’s my pragmatic view at the moment. I think Bernie’s positions are right. I also think being right isn’t enough. Being right isn’t as important as improving things. Bernie’s been right for his entire career in Congress, but he hasn’t been able or willing to work with others to get things changed. Joe hasn’t always been right. In fact, he’s been pretty godawfully wrong about some stuff, like the war in Iraq. But he’s also worked with others to accomplish a lot, like pushing President Obama to support marriage equality.

Here’s my emotional view at this moment. I don’t have any clear view of Bernie’s interior life. I can’t imagine what he does when he’s at home with his wife. I can’t see him watching a television show, or playing with a dog, or reading fiction, or going to a baseball game, or having a glass of wine while cooking supper. I’m sure he has an interior life, but I can’t picture it. I can picture Joe doing all of that, and having a good time of it. I fully recognize that’s a shit reason for preferring one candidate over another — and it won’t be my deciding factor — but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter.

It may sound like I’m leaning toward Joe. I’m not. At this moment, I really don’t know which candidate I’m going to support. There are valid arguments for each of them. There are valid reasons to oppose each of them. I’ve spent the day walking and thinking and all I know for sure is that at this momrnt I can’t support either of them with any enthusiasm. Not with any passion. Not with the deep sincerity and clarity I felt in supporting Warren. So I don’t know who I’m going to support. Maybe neither of them.

 

But I DO KNOW THIS. I know we need to burn the patriarchy to the fucking ground. Because this shit HAS to end. We need to burn it to the ground because we had several women candidates equal to — and in most cases very much better — than these two old white guys. We need to burn the patriarchy to the ground, then burn it again. Then drive a stake directly through the ashes where its heart used to be, and then burn the fucker one more time. And keep burning it, over and over.

Then nuke the entire sit from orbit. You know the reason why.

a bold but stupid prediction

So far, only about 4% of the delegates that will eventually determine the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of These United States have been decided. It’s not nothing, but it’s not much more than nothing. If there was a pie and somebody gave you 4% of that pie, you’d be saying, “Dude, look at all that pie that you left in the pie tin, what the fuck, dude?”

Most of the Democratic candidates didn’t even get a sliver of that 4%. The original cast of thousands has basically been reduced to three viable candidates. That’s it…just three. Or five. Maybe seven. Eight viable candidates on the outside. But on the basis of that 4% the political punditry, who have earned a reputation of being wildly wrong on a broad range of topics, have made a bold but stupid prediction: Bernie Sanders will be the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2020 election.

I’m inclined to think their bold but stupid prediction is…well, not that bold, but also not that stupid. They may even be right. But I don’t think so. Not entirely right. Sorta kinda right. I DO think that Bernie will probably arrive at the convention with the most pledged delegates, because there’s a certain tidal momentum that comes with the ‘frontrunner’ title.

Does not have a dog. These things have to be considered.

But I’m not here to snark on the bold but stupid predictions of political pundits. I’m here to make a bold but stupid prediction of my own. Here it is:

Bernie Sanders will have the most pledged delegates, but he won’t have a majority; he won’t have enough to win on the first ballot. That will lead to a brokered convention, which will result in Elizabeth Warren getting the nomination.

I suppose that’s really three bold but stupid predictions. Prediction One: Bernie will have the most pledged delegates. I’m basing that on the same thing everybody else is basing it on — his early lead combined with the devotion of his followers.

Prediction Two: It won’t be enough for Bernie to win on the first ballot. I say that because there are other candidates who will NOT drop out and who WILL continue to rack up pledged delegates. Not enough to win, but enough to prevent anybody from earning a majority. I’m not saying they’re staying in the race to deny Bernie the nomination; I suspect they sincerely believe they’re a better choice. Not that it matters; the result is the same.

Prediction Three: In a brokered convention, Elizabeth Warren will get the nomination. I don’t say that because I support Warren (SPOILER: I do support her). I say it because it seems a probably outcome. Why Warren rather than another candidate? Three reasons.

First Reason: I believe the Democratic Party can finally see that a progressive agenda is popular with voters. The differences between Warren’s policy positions and Bernie’s are relatively small. They’re both progressives, but with different ideas and plans on how to get their policies enacted. Warren’s plans are detailed and comprehensive.

Second Reason: Warren has more allies in the Democratic Party than Bernie does. Bernie is a Democrat of Convenience. That’s not an insult. He acknowledges that he needs the framework of the Democratic Party in order to be a viable candidate. But he’s spent most of his political career in open conflict with the party and the Democratic National Committee. That’s a good thing in terms of moving the Democratic toward a more progressive position, but it’s a bad thing for Bernie as a candidate.

Third Reason: If there’s no first ballot winner, we have a brokered convention. That means the dreaded superdelegates would be able to vote on the second ballot. And let’s face it, the superdelegates…wait. It occurs to me that some folks may not know what supeerdelegats are or how they work. So, a quick and dirty tangent.

Superdelegate is the ridiculous name for folks who have a vested interest in the Democratic party. We’re talking about four groups of folks: 1) elected officials of the Democratic National Committee, 2) Democratic governors, 3) Democratic members of Congress, and 4) “distinguished party leaders” like former presidents or former speakers of the House. They make up just under 15% of the delegates. They’re unpledged delegates, which means they’re free to vote for whoever the fuck they want to. As the rules stand now (and those rules, by the way, were written in large part by Bernie and his people), they’re NOT allowed to vote in the first ballot. In other words, they have to sit on their thumbs unless there’s a brokered convention. They’re basically the brokers in the title.

So, back to the third reason. Why would the superdelegates NOT support Bernie? See Reason Two. Bernie just ain’t popular with the Democratic establishment.

Totally has a dog. This cannot be discounted.

Fourth Reason: I know I said ‘three reasons’ but I changed my mind. The fourth reason Elizabeth Warren would probably be the nominee in a brokered convention is that she’s a woman. That’s not, in itself, a reason to support her. But for fuck’s sake, it’s way past time for a woman to get elected. And I think, in a brokered convention, if the nomination went to a white male moderate after being denied to Bernie, a LOT of people would be disappointed and pissed off. If it went to a progressive woman — and this isn’t fair and I hate saying it — there would be fewer complaints. Because NOBODY would want to say out loud that a woman shouldn’t be the nominee. People might THINK that (okay, some men would absolutely think that), but I can’t imagine anybody (aside from a few crazed Berniecrats) who’d make that argument.

So IF there’s a brokered convention, I predict the nomination will got to Elizabeth Warren. And I think she’d win the presidency.

That said, I hope we DON’T have a brokered convention. I hope, if Bernie Sanders continues to do well, that he does well enough to have a majority of pledged delegates and win on the first ballot. A brokered convention might put my preferred candidate at the head of the ticket, but it’s more important that we have a unified Democratic Party.

Okay, there it is. My bold but stupid prediction. You’ve probably got one of your own. Maybe more than one. Bold but stupid predictions usually come wrapped in packages of three or more.

EDITORIAL NOTE: You cannot discount the critical importance of a dog.

vote blue no matter…what?

A couple of things bother me. Well, a million things bother me, but right now I’m going to focus on just a couple that have to do with the Democratic primary. First thing that bothers me is…hold on, let me turn it over to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. He wrote: “For Democrats, electability is the whole ballgame.”

Robinson is usually reliable. And he’s right about this. Sorta kinda right. Not entirely right, mind you. But more right than wrong. But he’s not right right now.

It’s February, for fuck’s sake. We’ve only had two contests — the Iowa clusterfuck and the slightly less absurd primary in New Hampshire (which, c’mon, is basically Iowa but with mountains instead of cornfields). So in effect, we’ve really had one stretched-out contest in which predominantly rural white people had their say.

It’s WAY too soon to be focused on ‘electability’. Whatever that is. At this point in the election season, folks should stop listening to pundits talk about the most ‘electable’ candidate and start listening to the candidates themselves. Right now, folks should vote for the candidate they think will give them the government they want.

Do that, and guess what. The person who gets the most votes in all the various primaries and caucuses will become…that’s right…electable. It’s like magic.

The problem with trying to figure out who is most ‘electable’ is that it’s fear-based. It’s not about finding the candidate we want the most, or the candidate who inspires us to become the sort of nation we want to be. It’s about finding the candidate who is safest. The most popular of the least offensive candidates. The most ‘electable’ candidate is basically the candidate who’ll appeal to a broad spectrum of…well, white folks.

And that brings me to the other thing that bothers me. Vote blue no matter who. Let me first say this — I believe in that idea. I will absolutely vote for the Democratic candidate even if that person is my least favorite. And then let me say this — vote blue no matter who carries the stink of racism.

Here’s the thing: white voters can afford to be picky. We can say stuff like, “I won’t vote for the lesser of two evils” because we’re largely immune from most of the evils. Not entirely immune, of course, but no matter who gets elected, it’s exceedingly improbable there’ll be an increase in random violence against white folks. There won’t be a rash of white folks being harassed by police, or denied medical care, or blocked from voting, or followed by security at the mall, or being accosted by random citizens and asked to prove we have the right to barbecue in the park or eat a sandwich in the subway or enter an apartment building or hang out on the sidewalk. White folks can be genuinely angry and alarmed at the degradation of democracy under Comrade Trump, but we don’t have to fret as much about our kids being shot by police officers during a routine traffic stop.

Black folks understand that the lesser of two evils is the LESSER EVIL, and Jesus suffering fuck do we really need to do the math here? When we say ‘Vote blue no matter who’ we’re basically saying it to white folks who can afford NOT to vote blue. We’re not saying it to black folks because we take it for granted that black folks will vote Democratic (or not vote at all). What’s really sad is we actually CAN take it for granted, because the quality of their lives is more directly and dramatically affected by the results of an election. 

At this point in the process, focusing on the most ‘electable’ candidate and telling folks to vote blue no matter who is a recipe for picking the least offensive white guy. The process has weeded out all the candidates of color because it was decided (through polling and fund-raising) that they weren’t ‘electable’. Now we’re weeding out the women. Amy Klobuchar is as moderate as Buttigieg and Biden, has a better record of accomplishments, has more experience than Pete and is younger than Joe — but she’s not ‘electable’. Elizabeth Warren is as progressive as Bernie, has a better record of accomplishments, has a broader life experience, and a massive list of detailed plans of action, but she’s not ‘electable’.

Stop that ‘electability’ shit. Just stop it. When we get to the general election we can shout “Vote blue no matter who” but at this point in the process just vote your passion. Don’t be a coward. Vote with your heart.

Editorial Note: Personally, I’d ask you to vote for a woman. It’s way past time we had a woman president. I’d ask you to vote for the most progressive woman. I’d ask you to vote for Elizabeth Warren. But when it’s your turn to vote in your state primary or caucus, don’t listen to anybody or anything but your heart.

like a girl

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, isn’t there. We’re only twenty days into the new year and we’ve already had our 16th mass shooting. Australia isn’t as much on fire as it was last week, but it’s still burning and giving the world a preview of the coming climate apocalypse. In Richmond, VA, the home of the traitorous Confederate States of America, a lot of ‘gun enthusiasts’ (seriously, I read a news thing in which all these white, overfed, camo-clad, body-armored, armed-to-the-teeth, MAGA fuckwits who are threatening a new American Civil War if they’re limited to buying only one handgun a month were called ‘enthusiasts’ instead of ‘terrorists’) are gathering in order to express their opposition to terrorize any legislator who might even consider a law to limit their access to firearms. And tomorrow we’ll be starting the Senate hearing in the impeachment of Comrade Trump, the sitting President of the United States, for abusing his power and obstructing the Congress trying to investigate his abuses of power.

That’s a full day, right there. But today is also the birthday — well, okay, not the actual birthday since she’s a fictional character who therefore was never really born, but it’s the fictional birthday of the fictional character — of Buffy Summers. You know, the Vampire Slayer? She’d be 39 years old today.

“Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”

BtVS was the reason I bought a VCR. Not just to tape the show if I wasn’t around to watch it, but so that I could watch the episodes again. This was the first television show in my experience that I wanted to watch more than once, that rewarded the viewer for re-watching. It was that good, that clever, that charming, and that meaningful.

I mean, sure, at it’s heart it was just a story about high school as Hell. Literally. And yeah, it was also the first show that turned an entire genre on its head. The silly blonde cheerleader — the traditional victim of choice of demons and monsters — is actually the being that demons and monsters need to fear. It was the first show (in my experience) that was layered and textured with meaning that went beyond slaying the monster. It wasn’t just a show that entertained (although it sure as hell did); it was a show that encouraged you to think. About politics, about sexuality, about religion, about gender, about the uses/misuses of science, about hypocrisy, about the roles of women, about power relationships, about the ways myth and legend shape culture, about music, about alienation, about love, about loss, about death, about suicide, about narrative structure, about…no, really, narrative structure. I’m not just bullshitting here. This show actually encouraged you to think about narrative structure.

Look, BtVS wasn’t the first show to mix comedy and drama. But it was, I believe, the first show to refuse to separate comedy and drama. In most shows, you’d have a dramatic scenes and you’d have comedic scenes; they were always separate and distinct. BtVS destroyed that notion. They’d toss a funny line into a dramatic scene without damaging the drama. They’d drop a dramatic line into a comedic scene, and it would hang there for a bit, then the dialog would return to the comedy because it was the only way NOT to scream. Because actual life is full of comedy and drama and it’s usually all mixed together. Actual life is so often about finding the strength to do what you need to do — what you’re supposed to do — when you would really rather not do anything at all, and still being able to have a laugh now and then.

That was the thing about BtVS — it never shied away from the ugliness of the world. It never promised that everything would turn out just fine. It was always about finding ways — usually through friends and family — of dealing with a world that didn’t turn out just fine. It was about doing what you can do to make things better, even if it was almost certain you’d lose. It was, in the end, a show about taking responsibility for your place in the world, it was about showing up and doing your damned job, it was about being strong when strength was required, it was about getting over yourself and doing what needed to be done, it was about claiming your space and fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

“I’m beyond tired. I’m beyond scared. I’m standing on the mouth of Hell and it is going to swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me. I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Well, we’ll give ’em one. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them, and cut out their hearts, one by one.”

It was a show about refusing to accept things being the way they are just because that’s the way they’ve always been. In the final episode, Buffy even casts off her role as ‘The Chosen One’. She says”

“In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who might have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. There are a lot of metaphoric vampires, demons, and forces of darkness that need metaphoric slaying. Buffy is a singularly apt role model for this world. We’re all living in Sunnydale now. We can all…well, I’ll let Buffy and Angel explain it.

Buffy: My mom said some things to me about being the Slayer. That it’s fruitless. No fruit for Buffy.
Angel: She’s wrong.
Buffy: Is she? Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here? Okay, so I battle evil. But I don’t really win. The bad just keeps coming back…and getting stronger. Like the kid in the story, the boy that stuck his finger in the duck.
Angel: Dike.
Buffy looks at him.
Angel: It’s another word for dam.
Buffy: Oh. Okay, that story makes a lot more sense now.
Angel: Buffy, you know there’s still things I’m trying to figure out. There’s a lot I don’t understand. But I do know it’s important to keep fighting. I learned that from you.
Buffy: But we never…
Angel: We never win.
Buffy: Not completely.
Angel: Never will. That’s not why we fight. We do it because there’s things worth fighting for.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. We all need to show up, stand up, speak up, and fight like a girl. So happy birthday Buffy Anne Summers. You saved the world, a lot.

so far

Over the last few days, three bits of seemingly unrelated news caught my attention and sort of took up residence in my brain.

News Bit the First: After two years of investigation, a Trump Justice Department inquiry launched by vindictive Republicans into allegations of 1) financial corruption by the Clinton Foundation, 2) criminal activity by Hillary Clinton in the Uranium One deal, and 3) still another probe into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was quietly ended. No report was issued, no announcement was made, no comment was given — the investigation just ended with the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing.

News Bit the Second: There’s been an ongoing social media discussion about the reluctance of men — particularly men who would be casting votes for Academy Award nominations — to see Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women. Why? Apparently because it’s about women. Apparently because these men feel the male characters in the film are ‘two-dimensional, largely ornamental and relegated to the background.’

News Bit the Third: It appears Senator Bernie Sanders may have said — or somehow suggested — that a woman couldn’t win a presidential election in 2020. It seems highly unlikely to me that Bernie would have said that — or that he would believe that to be the case — but the guy tends be blunt and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he said something that could easily be interpreted that way. In a way, it doesn’t matter if Bernie actually said it or not. The sad fact is, the electability of women shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. But it is.

Obviously, these three seemingly unrelated bits of news aren’t unrelated at all. I don’t need to point out what they have in common. I don’t need to say it’s incredibly stupid that it’s 2020 and women are still dealing with this shit.

But I DO want to say that it’s impressive as hell that they ARE dealing with it. That Hillary Clinton could get three million more votes than Trump, still lose the election, and yet still have the strength of character to continue to speak out. That Greta Gerwig can make an absolutely amazing film, get denied a Best Director nomination, and yet still have the strength of character to celebrate the actors in her film and their nominations. That Elizabeth Warren could create the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, be denied the Director’s position by Republicans, run for a Senate seat against the incumbent Republican, win the seat, was warned by Mitch McConnell NOT to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, read it anyway, got formally rebuked (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted”) and still had the strength of character to run for president.

I am astonished that so many women have continued to stand firm, speak out, and fight for fundamental fairness despite living in a culture that is punishing, denigrating, often hateful, shaming, and for some reason even denies them pockets in their clothes.

Pockets, for fuck’s sake. How women find the patience to resist burning it all down is beyond me. And they could do it. If every woman — every low paid office clerk, every admin assistant, every receptionist, every woman executive, every housekeeper and baker and welder and doctor and truck driver and police officer — if every woman decided to not go to work for one day, the entire world would come to an abrupt halt. If they decided not to go to work for two days, whole economies would collapse.

But nevertheless, they persist. They do go to work. Every goddamn day.

So far.