all the horrible things

I’m kinda down this morning. I had one of my bi-annual PTSD nightmares last night, and this morning it’s gloomy and rainy and cold, and Comrade Trump is…okay, wait. I should probably oughta take a short (honest, it’ll be short) tangent here.

Everything is horrible.

Kinda down is what I have instead of depression. I don’t really get depressed. I used to think I did, until I talked to folks who experience real depression — and you guys, that’s a whole nother thing. That shit sound really fucking grim. Kinda down is basically just a short-term grumbly dissatisfied unhappiness. I’ll be kinda down for…I don’t know, maybe a few hours, tops. Or until the cat does something weird. Or I see something interesting somewhere. I may have an entire day in which…no, that’s not true — maybe an entire morning or afternoon…that’s sporadically, episodically kinda down, but that’s about it. This is how lightly kinda down sits on me: when I get kinda down, I also feel kinda grateful that I don’t get actually depressed. The truth is kinda down is a pretty candy-ass negative emotional state.

So, I’m kinda down this morning because (see above)…and Comrade Trump is still horrible and still POTUS. His POTUSish days are probably numbered because of the coming election, but the bloated bastard is still lumbering around in the White House, and that casts an ungly (yeah, I misspelled ‘ugly’ there, but I sorta like the way ‘ungly’ looks and sounds as a word) shadow on the entire United States.

No, really, things are horrible.

I’m kinda down because yesterday in San Diego a man shot and killed his wife and his three sons, then killed himself. I’m not down because of the murders themselves (though I probably ought to be, because that’s just horrible); I’m kinda down because killing your whole family and yourself doesn’t count as a mass murder. Seriously. The most common definition of a mass murder (and c’mon, it’s fucking horrible that we have to have define it) states the murders have to take place in a public place in which four or more people are killed in a single episode, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence. This guy killed 1) his family 2) at home so hey, bingo, NOT a mass murder.

And I’m kinda down because Venice is underwater, and the air quality in Delhi is so bad some ‘entrepreneurs’ have opened an ‘oxygen bar’ where they SELL a few gulps of fresh air to folks who can afford to pay for it, while Trump continues to roll back EPA clean air and water regulations, and his mob of MAGAwits are still falling for the lie that climate change is a hoax.

No, horribler than that.

I’m kinda down about an article I read on some Irish news site (yeah, I periodically check Irish news sites because I’ve Irish roots, and Irish news is so much nicer that US news; the Irish are maybe the happiest miserable people in the world, with the possible exception of the Finns because, c’mon, those poor bastards have to live in Finland) about how difficult it is for trans folks to shop for clothes. Shopping for clothes ought to be really easy for everybody. You need a shirt, you go to a store, you find a shirt you like, you buy the damned shirt…that’s it. It never occurred to me how buying a shirt (or a blouse or pants or whatever) would be so massively difficult and traumatic for trans folks. But of course it is. Why doesn’t Target or Kohl’s just create a sort of trans-wear section, like they have for young men or sportswear or coffee pots, for fuck’s sake. You know, just some place where trans folks can buy a pair of pants without having to deal with other folks’ horribleness.

I’m also kinda down because yesterday I picked up my camera and didn’t remember how to use it. I’m talking about my actual camera camera (well, one of them) instead of using the camera in my phone, and when I say I didn’t remember how to use it, I mean I’ve forgotten how to do certain technical things (like use spot metering NOT in the middle of the frame, if that makes sense). Technical things that were second nature to me a year or two ago. And was the menu organization always that cumbersome? Am I going to have to be reduced to using program mode for a while? I mean, program mode? Did gremlins get hold of my camera as it sat idle on the shelf and re-arrange everything while I wasn’t looking?

Also? I’m kinda down because…well, no. It’s over now. I really wanted to get one more horrible thing here — and lawdy, there are SO MANY horrible things — but I got a Twitter notification so I looked away and lawdy, Stephen Fry has posted a photo of himself with something approximating a mustache. And now the cat wants my attention, and there are brownies for breakfast, and tonight I’ll watch the new episode of The Good Place and despite all the horrible things…sorry. I almost said something trite and ‘inspirational’ here, and there’s nothing more annoying than trite inspirational stuff.

So, that’s it then.

this is bullshit

I’ve been seeing this particular meme popping up in social media for a couple of weeks now. I generally find this stuff easy to ignore — especially the lightweight pseudo-Zen philosophical near-aphorisms that sound profound but aren’t. But for some mysterious reason I find this particular meme more annoying than most (although, now I think of it, the reason isn’t at all mysterious; the reason is because it’s almost officially winter and soon I’ll be dealing with the reality of snow).

This is bullshit. It stinks of Zen, which is to say it has the appearance of Zen philosophy without the substance. It co-opts the notion of mindfulness; mindful fitness may be a real thing, but it exists outside of a hashtag. It suggests I’m somehow at fault for NOT finding joy in snow. It suggests joy is something I can somehow force myself to experience rather than a spontaneous reaction to the moment. It suggests I’m unwilling to ‘find’ joy in snow, and that my unwillingness is a personal failing. It also suggests joy is quantifiable, that it’s something you can add to or subtract from and measure against some sort of baseline standard.

That’s all bullshit. That’s not how joy works. Joy isn’t an emotion you elect to feel; it’s a natural, unpremeditated experience. Being open to joy can be a conscious decision, but it’s not a response you can compel. You can choose not to be miserable about a given situation — or at least not to give in to misery — but you simply can’t strong-arm or manipulate yourself into experiencing joy.

The idea behind this meme is laudable. It’s saying snow will happen independent of your emotions, that it will fall regardless of how you feel about it, that snow is a natural event over which you have no control, so you may as well get some pleasure out of it. (Well, the real point of the meme is to get you to visit a website and buy snow-related sports products, which will bring joy to the business owners.) I actually like the idea behind the meme — the non-capitalist part, but the meme itself is misleading and it’s bullshit.

There are a LOT of natural events that will take place independent of your emotions and regardless of how you feel about them. Some of them are pleasant. A rainbow, for example, or the way leaves change in autumn. Other events aren’t pleasant. A flood, or a drought. An earthquake, or a mudslide, or a volcanic eruption. Or, if you live in California, a wildfire.

If you choose not to find joy in the wildfire, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of fire.

See how massively stupid that is? I’ve been through natural disasters — floods and tornadoes and hurricanes. None of them brought me joy. (That’s not entirely true; I felt a weird fierce joy at seeing a tornado, while still dreading what it could do.) I can honestly say that even while dealing with the ugly aftermath of those events, there hasn’t been a single day when I didn’t experience some sort of momentary joy. 

It’s going to snow here. It’s inevitable. When that happens, I absolutely WILL feel joy watching it fall. I’ll probably feel some degree of joy when I take a walk in the snow. But I can also guarantee you I’m NOT going to feel joy when I have to shovel it off the driveway and sidewalks. There IS a certain meditative contentment in the repetitive act of shoveling, and some emotional gratification in doing it well. But that ain’t joy.

hardboiled

A couple days ago an acquaintance asked me a question and recommended a television show. The show is called Stumptown, which according to my acquaintance, is sorta kinda about a woman private investigator. The question was this:

Are real private investigators actually hardboiled?

The question had to do with the show. I hadn’t watched the show, so I couldn’t say anything about the hardboiled character of the protagonist, other than in my experience television PIs are about a realistic as television doctors or television lawyers. Which is to say not realistic at all. In fact, television PIs are probably even less realistic. TV writers (and viewers) almost certainly have some limited first hand experience with doctors and lawyers, but relatively little experience with real life PIs. So they’re mostly making shit up based on what other writers have made up about PIs.

So, are real PIs actually hardboiled? Before the question can be answered, we have to decide just what the hell that term means. It generally refers to characters who are cynical, jaded, sarcastic, tough, world-weary, wisecracking, violence-prone, stubbornly persistent, but with an unspoken code of honor/conduct.

 

Most of that is nonsense. Most of it. But some of it absolutely applies to real private investigators. How much it applies depends partly on what type of PI you’re talking about. Just like lawyers and doctors, private investigators tend to specialize. The more technical your specialization, the less hardboiled you have to be. A PI who does mostly accident reconstruction or forensic financial investigations probably doesn’t have to be hardboiled at all.

The more your work involves human frailty, the more hardboiled you have to be. PIs who specialize in, say, domestic investigations — divorces, pre-marital investigations, cheating spouses, that sort of thing — tend to be a lot more hardboiled. Insurance investigators, folks who missing persons, even PIs who specialize in deep background investigations need to be somewhat hardboiled to be effective. The same is true of criminal defense investigation, which was my specialty.

Where the fictional hardboiled character diverges from reality the most is in being openly sarcastic and making wisecracks. At the heel of the hunt, most PI work is about getting reliable information. You won’t get that from folk you’ve pissed off. Worse, when people get pissed off, they sometimes get violent. That’s fine in fiction, where a PI can get beat up or shot and shrug it off the next day. In real life, getting beat up seriously fucks up your ability to work — and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Being a smart ass isn’t just stupid, it’s bad for business.

In real life, being hardboiled is most apparent in your attitude. It’s more about being emotionally tough than physically tough. It’s less about being cynical than it is about losing the ability to be shocked by the shit people do to each other. Some of the most hardboiled people I’ve ever met were emergency room nurses.

Believe it or not, the only television or movie PI I’ve seen who came close to getting the attitude right was Veronica Mars. Not the smart-ass Veronica, but the skeptical and persistent Veronica. She also showed the long-term debilitating effect of being skeptical and suspicious all the time. By the end of the third season, Veronica Mars was pretty fucked up. That was realistic.

The protagonist in Stumptown.

I decided to watch the first episode of Stumptown, the television show that sparked the question. I had low expectations (hardboiled, remember). And yeah, the show isn’t at all realistic. But the protagonist has the attitude down. She wasn’t actually a private investigator, but she was hardboiled. And she was a smart-ass, but not in the usual hardboiled television style. When she was sarcastic, it wasn’t like she was scoring points or showing off or trying to belittle somebody. It was more like she couldn’t be bothered any more…to be nice, to be cute, to be clever, to be friendly, to be anything other than being completely fucking weary of dealing with other people’s shit. The tone of her voice and her flat affect was more disinterested resignation than anything else. We’re becoming used to women characters who say, “I can’t believe I still have to deal with this shit.” We like characters like that. But this woman was more “Yeah, I’ve seen this shit before, I’ll probably see a lot more of it, but it’s your shit, so don’t expect me to care about it.” It made the character, in those moments, believable.

I said earlier that being hardboiled has a lot to do with losing the ability to be surprised. Stumptown surprised me. Not the action (which was over the top, but well done), not the plot (which was predictable), but the protagonist’s attitude. And, of course, she has the one thing that all true fictional hardboiled characters have — the sense that what she’s doing won’t change much, if anything, but might give one person a slim chance not to fuck up their life.

I enjoyed the show. I’ll watch at least one or two more episodes, even though I’m skeptical that any network television show can manage to avoid turning an interesting character into another dull, predictable clone. (Hardboiled, remember.)

it’s not a toomah

Okay, first — I don’t have a brain tumor. I’m just saying that right up front to shed any drama from the rest of the post. No tumor, no cyst, no alien symbiot, ain’t nothing growing in my head. Just wanted to get that out of the way. Now, the story about not having a brain tumor.

A few years ago I began to notice my left ear felt…okay, here’s a problem. How do you describe something wonky with your hearing? I’ve been going through this with doctors for about a year or so, and I still can’t get it right. The thing is, sounds in my left ear are muted a bit, but with an intermittent sort of hollow echo-ish thing. It’s sort of like having water in your ear, or that air pressure thing you experience when flying — only it’s not constant. It’s like a filter that instantly creates a weird doppler-like effect then just as suddenly stops.

Confusing, right? Anyway, I first noticed it when I was living alone in an old farmhouse in the hills of rural Pennsylvania, trying to be a writer. The thing about living alone in the hills trying to be a writer is that you can go days without seeing or talking to anybody. That isolation is great for writing, but it also means you don’t really notice that your hearing in one ear has become sporadically fucked up. When you do notice it, it’s just a minor annoyance, and since you have no health insurance, you just ignore it and assume it will clear itself up or just go away.

It didn’t. But I’d gotten used to it and by the time I came to my senses and moved back into the world of people, I was used to it. It meant occasionally asking folks sitting to my left to repeat stuff. Not a big deal. It’s especially not a big deal when those folks know you to be the sort of person who spends a lot of time just thinking about stuff. If I miss what other folks are saying, they tend find excuses for it. They assume I’m distracted (and I often am) or just not paying attention to them (usually, though not always, wrong) or that they’ve just said something I find particularly interesting and I want them to repeat it (sometimes true).

So that’s been the situation. I’m accustomed to not quite hearing or understanding what folks say, and they’re accustomed to me asking them to repeat themselves. You know, ‘That’s just Greg — he’s probably thinking about the Norman Conquest or turtles or the origin of the word ‘omelet’ or what he’s going to cook for supper.’ Like that.

Then about a year ago my ex said something to this effect: “Dude, you really need to get your hearing checked.” And I realized she was right. So I did. Not immediately, but when I had my next check-up I mentioned it.

The doctor poked and prodded, did some interesting stuff with a tuning fork, and said, “All them little bones in your ear? Ain’t nothing wrong with them. Probably your eustachian tubes might be fucked up. Try some Flonase for a month, probably clear it right up.” (Not a direct quote).

It didn’t clear up. So he scheduled an exam with an audiologist. This is where things started to get weird. I had the exam a couple of weeks ago. They gave me some hearing tests. The first was just a series of beeping sounds — some loud, some soft, some low-pitched, some high. I assumed I heard fine out if my right ear and missed some beeps in my left. The next test involved words. I’m my right ear I’d hear, “Say the word ‘hard.’ Say the word ‘bell’.” Nothing to it. But in my left ear I’d hear, “Say the word ‘blargh.’ Say the word ‘dog.’ Say the word ‘froon.’

Turns out I could hear equally well in both ears, but I couldn’t correctly identify a third of the words I heard in my left ear. The doctor said, “Dude, you need an MRI of your whole damn head. Something’s fucked up in there. Might be nerve damage, might be something growing in your head is pressing on a nerve. A cyst maybe, maybe a tumor, I dunno. Something.” (Not a direct quote.)

Leaving the doctor’s office after the Possible Alien Symbiot diagnosis.

Afterwards I sat in the car and had the following thoughts:

  • Well, that explains a lot.
  • I guess I’ll have to tell my ex and my brother I might have an alien symbiot growing inside my skull. They’ll be concerned.
  • I probably ought to be concerned too.

But I wasn’t. I mean, nothing had changed. If a symbiot was growing in my skull, it had been growing for a while. It was either there or it wasn’t. No point in fretting about it.

So I told them with as little fuss as possible. “Yeah, saw the doctor, might be something in my head, got an MRI scheduled next week, how about those Red Sox?” And they accepted it with minimal fuss, which I appreciated. Then (aside from occasional desire to exclaim “It’s NOT a toomah!“) I basically forgot about it.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I didn’t think about the symbiot or what it might mean for…well, my life, or how they’d eventually deal with it. But I did think about the MRI. I’ve never had one before, so I was curious about it. When I talked to the MRI Johnnies about scheduling I’d told them I was mildly claustrophobic. They said not to worry, they had a new shiny large imaging unit for folks who didn’t like tight enclosed spaces.

I showed up as scheduled only to find there was another patient — an absolutely enormous guy. I’m guessing close to three hundred pounds. I was told I could either wait, reschedule, or have the MRI in the older narrow unit. They showed me the older unit. It was pretty massive, but the patient-tube sleeve (probably not what it’s actually called) was…well, small. Teensy.

“How long will it take?” I asked. The tech said, “Thirty, thirty-five minutes.” I thought, Well, how bad could it be? All I have to do is lie still for half an hour. So I said okay. The tech said, “Then we’ll pull your ass out, inject some dye into your arm, and slam you back inside that sausage tube for another fifteen or twenty minutes.” (Not a direct quote.)

I almost said I’d wait. But I didn’t. I said, “Fuck it, let’s go.” (Not a direct quote.)

It was unpleasant. First, you insert expandable foam plugs in your ears to mute the noise. Then there are — I don’t know what you’d call them. Firm cushiony things placed around your head to keep you from moving it. Then they slide a sort of plastic ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ thing over your face. After that, a conveyor belt slides you inside the tube, which is so narrow your shoulders are pressed up against the sides. The tech speaks to you over some sort of intercom, which is absolutely useless since you’re in a tube and you’re wearing ear plugs and you’re there because your hearing is already fucked up. So you’ve no idea whether she’s saying “Okay, everything is fine, here we go” or “Oh my god you’ve got a fucking symbiot growing inside your head.”

Then the noise begins. Weird mechanical noises. Banging, whirring, grinding. I was lying there thinking that this wasn’t the least bit amusing or interesting, when I had a moment of…well, let’s call it a sort of enlightenment. Dye. They were going to inject dye into my arm to give them a better image of my brain. Because there might be a symbiot growing in there. And I had the following thoughts:

  • These folks are seriously testing my brain for symbiots.
  • They’re more concerned about these possible symbiotic motherfuckers than I am.
  • I should be more concerned about brain symbiots.

And for a moment, I was. Then I realized that nothing had changed. If a symbiot was growing in my skull, it had been growing for a while. It was either there or it wasn’t. And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it while I was packed inside a torpedo tube. Just focus on your breathing and let it all go.

So I did. All in all, I was packed in that tube for about 50 minutes. When it was over, I was given two scheduling options for an appointment to review the results. Wednesday the 11th at 8:00 AM or Friday the 13th at 1:00 PM. I figured if there was a symbiot growing in my skull, it had been growing there for a while — so there’s no point in getting up early to find out. It would still be there Friday afternoon.

Then I basically forgot about it again. Until yesterday morning, when I was showering and shaving to go to my appointment. And I had the following thoughts:

  • In a couple of hours I’m going to find out if there’s something alien growing inside my skull.
  • I should probably be more concerned about this; something alien growing inside your skull just ain’t right.
  • Maybe the alien symbiot that might be growing inside your skull is fucking up my thinking, which is why I’m not as concerned about it as I should be.
  • Oh well, I guess I’ll find out.

And I did. There’s no drama here, remember? I told you right at the beginning. No tumor, no cyst, no alien symbiot. I went to the doctor’s office, they put me in an exam room, and a few minutes later the doctor came in and said, “Dude, no tumor. Your entire brain is shiny as a peach. Probably you had some sort of virus thingy that fucked up a nerve. That’s what we tell folks when we don’t really know why their hearing in one ear is fucked up. Anyway, your hearing IS fucked up and almost certainly won’t get any better, but hey…no tumor, right? So go now and be happy.” (Not a direct quote.)

So I did. I left and I was happy. I told my ex and my brother that the MRI showed my brain was perfectly normal. My ex was happy; the brother suggested I get a second opinion.

I don’t normally spend much time thinking about how I feel about things. I mean, I’ve known myself my whole life — there aren’t many surprises there. But for a moment this morning I had this odd sense that I should have felt something more when I learned my brain was being slowly gnawed away. Something big, something dramatic. But I was basically happy before all this began, and I’m still happy now. So nothing changed.

However, there was a moment — that moment right after the doctor said there was no tumor — that I felt something. Not big, not dramatic. It wasn’t relief or a release of tension. Or if it was, I wasn’t really aware of the tension to begin with.

It was something more like apricity.

The appreciation of experiencing the warmth of the sun on a winter day.

Do you know that word? It’s an obscure word for a common feeling. It was first included in Henry Cockeram’s English Language Dictionary, published in 1623. This, by the way, was only the third known book to serve the function of an English dictionary, but it was the first to actually be called a dictionary. All of which is beside the point, although this tangent probably helps explain why folks often thought I was just distracted when I asked them to repeat stuff they’d said to me.

Anyway, apricity. That’s what I felt when the doctor said I was symbiot-free. It refers to an appreciation of experiencing the warmth of the sun in winter.

Apricity. Yesterday was a perfectly lovely end-of-summer day. Sunshine, 78 degrees, light breeze. But sitting on an exam table in a doctor’s office, I felt something like the warmth of the sun coming out from behind the clouds on a wintery day.

“No tumor,” he said. And I said, “Cool.” (That’s a direct quote.)

shrieking rage and frustration

Every morning it’s the same damned thing. Get up, check the perimeter, feed the cat, make coffee, read the news, try to decide if Comrade Trump is driven more by an undifferentiated infantile need to be the center of attention or by a massively corrupt desire to feed his own self interests. Or if he’s just completely fucking nuts.

It’s dark and cloudy out this morning. Looks like a storm is coming. I should leave soon and try to get a walk in before it hits.

The news this morning is largely about Comrade Trump being pissed off. He’s pissed off at U.S. Jews who didn’t/won’t vote for him, accusing them of being either stupid or traitorous (although it’s unclear whether he believe they’re betraying him, the U.S., or Israel). He’s also wildly pissed at Denmark, not just because they won’t/can’t sell him Greenland, but also because the Danish government mocked his desire to buy an autonomous state and its entire population.

On the other hand, Comrade Trump is pleased as punch (tangent — where the hell does that expression come from? Pleased as punch?) with a conspiracy theorist who said — and I swear I am NOT making this up — that he’s “the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love him….like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God.”

You guys, I actually don’t know how to respond to shit like this. I mean, sure, I’ll mock it and make fun of him, but Jesus suffering fuck, I just want to step out onto the deck and shriek my rage and frustration at…at I don’t know who or what. It’s almost enough to make me want to believe in god or gods so I’ve got something to shriek at.

I mean, how the FUCK did this guy ever get elected? (And yes, yes, yes, I know the answer to that, but how the FUCK did this guy ever get elected?) He’s an absolutely horrible human being. He’s corrupt, he’s cheap, he’s got no integrity, he lies about anything for no reason, he’s delusional, he’s gauche, he’d be amoral if he understood what morals are. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t listen to music, he knows nothing about art. He’s got no conscience, no respect for anything, no empathy, no patriotism, no compassion, no courage, no principles, no honor. He’s got no friends.

Let me say that again. HE’S GOT NO FRIENDS. Comrade Trump is arguably one of the most powerful people on the planet, but nobody cares enough about him as a person to tell him he’s got toilet paper stuck on his shoe.

Fuck. It’s raining now. It’s gone really dark outside. There’s thunder. I can see lightning in the distance. Fuck fuck fuck. I won’t be taking the walk I really need to take in order to calm the fuck down.

I don’t know…maybe this is the perfect time to step out onto the deck and shriek my rage and frustration. If you’ll just excuse me for a moment…

why i’m done with bernie

A friend recently asked me why I dislike Bernie Sanders now. I said I didn’t dislike him; I just wish he hadn’t decided to run for POTUS again. I supported Bernie for most of his 2016 campaign, so of course I like Bernie. I mean, the guy has devoted his entire life to social justice. Plus he’s managed to demystify democratic socialism to a LOT of Americans. Also plus, he doesn’t smile of laugh a lot — but when he does, it’s a very genuine smile or laugh. How can you NOT like him?

But then I thought about it…and I realized that yeah, I kinda do dislike him now. Which is sad and disappointing because I really like Bernie Sanders a lot.

The problem isn’t Bernie himself. The problem is there’s a small but very loud segment of his base — folks I think of as OBAs. Only Bernie Assholes. As in ‘Only Bernie can save us!’ As in ‘Only Bernie has the right ideas!’ As in ‘Only Bernie, and if Not Bernie then America deserves Trump!’ As in ‘Only Bernie or let the whole world burn!’

I respect their passion (no, I really do), but I have no tolerance for that sort of political purity. Political purity is just a nice way of saying ‘extremism’. OBAs are extremists who won’t accept a nuanced opinion about Bernie. They think you must either be totally and completely FOR him and everything he says or else you’re absolutely AGAINST him. If your support isn’t pure, undiluted, and unqualified, then you’re compromised in some fundamental way. They see the notion of ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ as a betrayal of All Things Bernie.

That’s annoying, but everybody has the right to vote the way thay want. The thing that really cements the ‘asshole’ in OBA is that so many OBAs are as conspiracy-minded as the Q-Anon folks. They seem to be truly convinced that if Bernie isn’t winning, it can only be because shadowy corporate forces (usually in the form of the DNC) are actively conspiring and working against him. Other Democratic candidates are frauds who are stealing Bernie’s ideas only in order to get elected, at which point they’ll revert back to corporate whores. They are totally convinced Bernie was cheated out of the nomination in 2016 by the Democratic National Committee, and are equally convinced the DNC is doing it again in 2020.

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

At the beginning of this campaign season I joined a pro-Bernie Facebook group (I also joined a pro-Cory Booker and a pro-Mayor Pete group because I wanted a better sense of who they were). The pro-Bernie group initially seemed pretty reasonable and I felt better about Bernie joining the race. Then it slowly became dominated by OBAs, who either drove less pure Bernie supporters out of the group or effectively silenced them. Here are some of the posts and comments that appeared in that group over the last day or so:

— Anyone who was in the trenches from the beginning knows this. It didn’t take Russians to talk us out of voting for Hillary. It took looking into her record. Her scandal. The theft of the 2016 primaries. her online army of trolls. Shutting down Bernie Sanders Web pages with child porn.

— If the dnc rigs the election against sanders and gave us Harris or Biden, then I’m going full Bernie or bust. If we don’t have standards, then the corporate dems are just going to shaft us.

— When the establishment prop up Warren, it’s only to try to hurt Bernie. They are focused on trying to take him out in any way they can because he is an existential threat to their excessive amounts of wealth and corporate bribes.

— If the democratic party really wanted to beat trump they would pick Sanders if that truly was their main concern. It is not. They would rather lose to trump then have a Bernie presidency and that is a fact not some outlandish conspiracy.

—  I used to like [Meryl Streep], and watched most of her movies. But she is a hypocrite, a big supporter of HRC among other Hollywood elites and out of touch. She has blindly supported HRC who is also as corrupt as Trump. Because of this reason, I do not watch the  Oscars any more.

— Biden sucks. Everyone knows it. Even the DNC. That’s why they are now artificially inflating Warren. Not cause they like/want her. But they’d rather have her, than Bernie. And it’s becoming clear to everyone.

— I voted for Bernie in the primary I voted for trump in the general reason I never trusted Clinton I am back behind Bernie now like him he is the original deal a true socialist the one that will enact everything he is saying BERNIE 2020

— I wonder why Obama is mute about Bernie but openly support HRC in 2016??

— Bernie or GTFO!

— [T]he 1% run the D.N.C. They want to run another “Hillary” candidate that no one likes to make it look like a real win for Trump again.

— Polls are same as gerrymandering, or even worse totally biased!

— Bernie in did win CA in 2016, his hundreds boxes of ballots were not counted. On the day of HRC declared her so-called landslide won in CA. The Staffs posted hundreds of unopened box of his ballots.

Okay, that doesn’t quite approach the lunacy of the Q-anon theory that 1) JFK Jr. is alive and 2) is actually Q, and 3) is working secretly with Trump and Mueller to build a case against Obama and Hillary. But still.

Let me just say that the OBA’s dislike of the Democratic National Committee has some basis in reality. Some members of the DNC openly disliked Bernie — although, to be fair, Bernie had spent years denouncing the DNC. But the DNC didn’t ‘steal’ the nomination from Bernie. He lost it. He lost it in part because his followers didn’t bother to learn how the primary and caucus systems worked. A lot of Bernie supporters who hadn’t registered as Democrats turned up at closed Democratic primary sites expecting to vote and were turned away. Instead of acknowledging their error, they claimed they’d been disenfranchised — that they were refused because they were Bernie supporters. Which is nonsense.

Bernie wasn’t cheated out of the nomination; he just lost. I say that as a person who caucused for him. He just flat out lost. There’s no shame in that. There’s no need to concoct conspiracy theories to explain his loss.

I really like Bernie Sanders. I won’t support him in the primaries, but I’d happily vote for him if he’s the eventual candidate. Because I believe ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ is a valid strategy to rid ourselves of the Trump administration. In my opinion, Bernie has always been more of an inspirational leader than a policy wonk, but that’s okay. One of the most important jobs of POTUS is to inspire the populace to be better citizens. Bernie would be good at that.

I like Bernie. I really do. But I don’t think he can win the nomination. And I cannot abide OBAs. And that’s why I’m done with him.

in which i buy a hat

I needed a new cap. Wait…first let me say this: I’m not a hat guy. Some folks can wear a hat; some folks just can’t. Some folks look like dorks whenever they wind up beneath a hat. I am one of those folks. Except baseball caps. Anybody can wear a ball cap. Even me.

Right. So I needed a new cap. And I decided…wait. Maybe need is an exaggeration. I actually had two ball caps. A nice one bought at the ball park, with the logo of the local minor league team (Iowa Cubs). It’s a good cap, moderately expensive, but when I bought it I had long hair. I’ve cut my hair since then; now the cap doesn’t fit. A stiff wind will swipe it right off my head.

The other cap is what I call my ‘Commie Coke hat’. It’s moderately cheap grey cap, adjustable, has a Co-cola logo with a red star on the front. I mostly wear it when I’m in the woods. Or doing some sort of manual labor. Which means it’s pretty beat-up and stained. Not something you’d want to wear in public.

Co-cola Commie cap.

As I was saying, I needed a new cap. The problem was finding one with a logo I could tolerate. I tend to logo-resistant. I wouldn’t wear that Co-cola cap if it didn’t have the red Commie star (which I assume wasn’t intentional, but still). I mentioned my logo problem to a friend, who gave me the following advice:

Go look on Etsy, you putz.

So I looked on Etsy (which, if you don’t already know, is an online marketplace). There are easily a gazillion ball caps on Etsy. A mind-numbing selection. An overwhelming number of choices and options which left me…well, overwhelmed. I was about to exit the site when I noticed a seller who’d let you put your own lettering on a cap. That had potential. Plus the cap looked fairly nice. Plus it only cost like US$15.

Then I saw it was a seller in South Korea. How could somebody in Korea customize a cap and mail it to the US for about twenty bucks (including shipping)? The answer, of course, is because the Korean seller doesn’t have to fuss about with inconvenient stuff like a livable minimum wage for their employees, a safe working environment, worker health care costs, reasonable working hours, or child labor laws.

So fuck that, right? There was absolutely no way I could ethically buy a cap made under those conditions. Here’s a confession: my ethics can get a tad elastic when my curiosity is engaged. And I was curious. If I ordered that cap, how long it would take for the order to be delivered? Would the product be what I actually ordered? Could a $15 cap made by oppressed workers in Korea be anything but shoddy?

So what the hell, I ordered one. I ordered a specific color, with ITMFA (Impeach the Motherfucker Already)  on the front in a specific font.

You guys, it arrived in ten days. It’s a better quality cap than my Co-cola commie cap. It’s the color I ordered. And while the lettering isn’t perfectly centered, it’s still pretty good and it’s in the font I ordered. In fact, the entire experience was so good that it’s discouraging.

I’m mostly a writer, which means I’m relatively poor. I come from a working class family, which means I feel solidarity with working folks. I can understand why poor folks would opt to buy a quality product from the Asian market for a bargain price instead of a quality product from a US source for a higher price. I think it’s still ethically wrong, but understandable. In the long run, this hurts the poor and working class — but let’s face it; the poor and working class can’t always afford to think about the long run. They’ve got bills to pay now.

So here I am, a relatively poor American wearing a cap made by significantly poorer and much more oppressed Korean workers. Here I am, wearing a hat calling for the impeachment of a man who not only endorses but enthusiastically utilizes the oppression of foreign workers for his own personal profit.

I like the hat. I like the message. I sort of regret buying it. I hate that I don’t regret it more. I deeply regret that global conditions exist that allow one group of workers to be exploited like this, and that allow other workers to justify exploiting less fortunate workers. We can say it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but it’s mainly that way because the rich are starving the dogs. I regret that I contributed to starving the dogs.

If YOU want an ITMFA cap, don’t do what I did. Instead, if you can afford it, kick out the extra coin and buy one made here in the US. In fact, I encourage you to kick out the extra coin and buy a ball cap from a source who’ll use the profits to support worthy causes. A source like, say, the ITMFA Store.