Archive for June, 2017

Karma, Baby, Karma

So as I have mentioned before, my mom is my personal hero.

This is not just because she’s my mom, or even because she’s triumphed over serious adversity multiple times. While those are major factors, there are many other reasons why I admire her.

Among them it is this: The woman doesn’t take anybody’s shit.

You see, in the city where I grew up, my mom is (as the kids say) kind of a big deal. Until her recent retirement, she helped run the town.

During her closing days of wrestling with municipal politics, she interviewed candidates for key city positions. And she was commuting to City Hall one morning when she encountered that most American of moments: road rage.

 

A young white man took offense at her driving and — as young white men often do — decided he had every right to let everybody know exactly what he thought. So the guy pulled up next to my mom’s car and made several obscene gestures, punctuated with the shouted comment, “You fucking Mexican!” Then he drove off at an unsafe speed.

By the way, my mom is from El Salvador, not Mexico. But I digress.

In any case, my mom brushed off the guy’s idiocy (she’s very Zen about such things), and drove on to work. Later that morning, she joined the rest of her team in a conference room for a group interview with a finalist for a job.

You probably saw this coming, but yes, the person being interviewed was the asshole who cut her off in traffic and yelled racial slurs at her.

Now, he didn’t recognize her. Guys like him never notice any details about the people they harangue. They just move on to the next person to castigate.

But of course, my mom recognized him. She was perfectly polite during the interview. She’s a professional, after all. However, when it was time for final questions, she asked the following of the young man:

“Would you say you are respectful of other people’s cultures?”

The man smiled at such an HR softball of a question. He gave a practiced, interview-safe answer that just about anyone in a corporate setting would offer. It was all very, “Yes, I have the utmost respect for every creed, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, vegetarian or carnivore, smoking or non-smoking, tall, short, fat, and skinny example of god’s creatures, blah blah blah.”

That was all fine and good. But my mom had a follow-up question:

“If that’s true, then why did you call me a fucking Mexican this morning?”

I think we can all agree, this is not your standard interview question.

The man blanched and gasped. My mom’s co-workers were intrigued. But my mom just waited for his answer.

The guy denied it was him, said it was mistaken identity, then doubled back and gave conflicting, incriminating statements that proved it was indeed him after all. Then he tried to justify his road-rage outburst, backpedal on his previous comments, and wound up floundering so hard it’s amazing the mayor himself didn’t walk into the room to just shoot the guy and put him out of his misery.

But of course, it was all useless. Because let’s face it, there is no good answer to the question, “Why did you call me a fucking Mexican?”

The interview was over.

The guy didn’t get the job.

And my mom got back to work.

 


We’re All in This Together… Aren’t We?

Well, this is depressing as hell.

You see, with all the debates over authenticity and intersectionality and mutual struggle, one idea is largely unstated but heavily implied. And that is the concept that all ethnic minorities share a bond. After all, we are united against the bigotry and xenophobia of Trump’s America.

But like myriad other political and cultural assumptions, this one may not be true.

One only has to point at George Zimmerman to see that some Latinos are just as terrified of black males as your most racist white person. And even if we dismiss Zimmerman as an anomaly —to the point of insisting that he’s not really Hispanic — what do we make of Jeronimo Yanez?

You know him. He’s the cop who shot Philando Castile, an African American motorist, for the crime of… well, for basically doing nothing wrong. Yanez just opened fire because (and this is the cop excuse for just about everything) “he feared for his life.”

Yanez — who is positively, one hundred percent Latino — had the same reaction that so many white cops have when they encounter a black man: fear. And this fear has provoked many cops to do some very bad things to African Americans.

Clearly, this reaction of pure terror — based on racist assumptions — afflicts many Latinos as well. It’s obvious, then, that we are not always there for our African American compatriots.

Another societal ill, Islamophobia, has also leaked into the consciousness of some Hispanics. We all know about Nabra Hassanen, a Muslim teenage girl, whose alleged killer is a Latino man. The crime is being portrayed as extreme road rage.

But come on.

Does anybody think the girl’s headscarf had nothing to do with provoking this guy’s fury? Furthermore, does anyone believe that all the hatred aimed at Muslims hasn’t infiltrated the minds of at least a few Latinos?

We cannot assume that the simple fact we are often the targets of bigotry somehow means that we ourselves cannot be bigoted.

It just doesn’t work that way.

 


Bang and Blame

So I just got back from a conference in amazing New Orleans (always one of my favorite cities). The conference featured lots of breakout sessions where the presenters encouraged us to seize the day and live our passions and grab the bull by both horns while seizing your passion every day and so on and so on.

In any case, I noticed something odd about the breakout sessions. For the most part, during the short Q&A portion at the end of each presentation, the women would raise their hands and ask questions. In contrast, the men pretended that they were asking questions, but most of them just made statements.

During session after session, the women seemed more interested in having an expert answer their inquiries and/or engage in a conversation. The men seemed more interested in asserting their expertise, contradicting the moderator, and in general just declaring how super fucking awesome they were to a room full of captive strangers.

 

On the penultimate day of the conference, some lunatic shot at several congressmen in Washington D.C. Much has been made of the fact that the shooter wasn’t a right-wing nut job. He was ardently anti-Trump.

Sadly, I wasn’t too surprised at this. You see, a pro-Trump man with anger issues has less reason to open up on Congress, because his guy is in charge right now. Oh, he might consider taking a shot at a leading Democrat or a pesky journalist, but ultimately, he will likely decide that it’s not worth it. After all, Trump will have all those traitors thrown in jail soon enough, right?

Now, if Hilary Clinton had won… well, let’s just say that one of the few pluses of Trump’s appalling victory is that we may have been spared from even more violence than we see now, most prevalent in the form of surging hate crimes. Yes, it could have been even worse if Trump’s fans felt robbed and ignored, rather than smug and empowered.

This brings us back to the loser who opened fire on people playing softball. You see, he was a guy who felt victimized, and like many men, he decided that violence was the obvious solution.

The only difference between him and many of his peers is that he correctly identified the people who were fucking with him. He knew it wasn’t immigrants or gays. It was the rich guys who rigged the game.

But other than this insight, he had the exact same reaction as do so many other old guys with access to firearms. He didn’t believe in looking at his own life decisions, or working to improve the system, or helping out his community. No, he believed in punishment and fear and hatred and searing rage. He insisted that, as a white man in America, people were going to listen to him, damn it. He was going to make people pay, and everyone would know how great he was.

That’s what he was thinking. That’s what many men are thinking.

And the objects of their scorn may vary, but their solution is consistent. And that is fucking terrifying.

 


The End Is Near… Supposedly

 

Is there anything more gauche than quoting yourself? Well, maybe starting an article with a rhetorical question is worse, but…

In any case, here is an excerpt from something I wrote last summer: “If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.”

I was writing about the latest polls at that time, which showed that Donald Trump had as much chance of winning the election as Noam Chomsky did of landing a triple salchow to clinch the gold.

I mean, it was absurd to think Trump might capture the Electoral College — just ludicrous. Ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha.

Ha…

Yes, we’re all still laughing five months into this monstrosity of a presidency. Our laughter is not joyous, of course, nor is it resigned or world-weary. It’s more like the collective lunatic howling of the damned, which I guess still counts as laughter nonetheless.

 

Regardless, my point in that article was to be skeptical of all the experts who assured us that Trump would flame out in spectacular fashion and that America would never hand over the car keys to a man who isn’t even qualified to be the assistant undersecretary in the Federal Bureau of Weights and Measures, much less the fucking chief executive of the nation.

No, we were all a little too relaxed about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And I’ve written before about the liberal tendency to insist that this time — really, really, really this time — it’s all over for Trump.

As you recall, he wasn’t going to win the nomination, he wasn’t going to win the election, rogue electors were going to deny him the presidency, he would get impeached on his first day, he would resign in disgust immediately, and so on and so on. He would this, that, and the other thing.

All of this would prevent us from living in a world where the president of the United States repeatedly insults an ally just hours after that ally has suffered a terrorist attack, or makes America the undisputed bad guy in the history of climate change, or just in general resembles an evil, sputtering old man planning to slip razor blades into apples next Halloween.

And just today, we have confirmation of what we all knew, which is that this president is even more corrupt than Nixon and thinks “obstruction of justice” is some kind of fancy French dessert.

Well, here’s the truth: None of this really matters, because Trump’s base doesn’t care about any of this.

Hell, white supremacists and conspiracy nuts and right-wing hatemongers are all for the man, more than ever. And until just about everyone else in America says, “Enough of this shit,” his supporters are numerous enough to keep Trump’s wobbly, haphazard administration upright. The alt-right and the bigoted will not be dissuaded. They are a multitude of furious fire ants keeping the anthill from toppling over, even after repeated sprayings from the flummoxed homeowner.

And so, none of these scandals are nearly enough to end our nightmare.

Of course, the impeachment-o-meter is hovering around 40%, so what do I know?

 


A Question of Motivation

Once again, I have unintentionally created a trilogy of posts. You see, my last two articles were about the conservative mindset regarding the deep state and climate change, respectively.

So in this post, we get right to the heart of the conservative struggle — the whole basis of the right-wing worldview.

And that basis is this: Liberals are evil bastards who want to destroy America and instill a globalist empire that enslaves humanity.

At least, that’s the gist of it, as far as I can tell.

Oh, I know plenty of conservatives are all about tax cuts or small government or traditional values (whatever those are), or some combination of Republican talking points. I’m not talking about the moderates or the dabblers.

I’m referring to the increasingly powerful right wing of the Republican Party. You know, the guys (and a few women) who spout crazy shit that would have gotten them kicked out of Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 but that today leads to leadership positions in the GOP.

We don’t need to go into the details of blatant xenophobia and misogynistic displays and neo-fascist overtures and actual physical violence.

Yes, let’s please skip the details.

Instead, we can look at science, which is not terribly popular with Republicans, but we’re going to embrace it anyway.

First, there is a wealth of data that implies “conservatives are more sensitive to threat,” making them more prone to a “bias that can distort reality, fuel irrational fears, and make one more vulnerable to fear-mongering politicians.”

So if a fear-mongering politician who distorts reality just happens to come along, well, he will find a highly receptive audience within the conservative base… ahem.

But you know what seals the deal with such individuals? That’s right — a common enemy.

Because according to science, conservatives also “emphasize patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority and moral purity.”

So a right-winger sees a liberal mouthing off about Norway’s healthcare system or daring to question whether American is truly the greatest country in the world. The conservative views this as unpatriotic, disloyal, and disrespectful. And if the liberal happens to be gay too, well that’s just plain morally impure.

As such, the progressive doesn’t just have a different opinion. He or she stands against everything that the conservative believes in, and is therefore an irredeemable enemy.

Of course, this works the other way too, in that plenty of liberals believe every conservative is a racist who kicks puppies just for fun (and it is indeed bizarre that so many Republicans seem happy to live up to this stereotype).

But keep in mind that “conservatives tend to be more structured, rigid, and to prefer clear answers.” In addition, “Conservatives approach the situation from the start with greater reactivity to threat, a greater prior belief to the level of danger in the world.”

This combo makes them more prone to conspiracy theories, where one tidy explanation, rooted in fear, ties up everything. In fact, “conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe conspiracy theories that align with their beliefs.”

And that’s how we get to today’s America, where many conservatives sincerely believe that progressives have a secret plot to destroy the country, and only Trump can preserve the nation.

Of course, there is no answer as to why exactly liberals want to destroy America. After all, liberals are supposedly a bunch of rich elitists, so one would think they would want to preserve the system, not upend it. Also, studies imply that “liberals tend to value equality, fairness and protecting the vulnerable,” which indeed sound like the priorities of a progressive. But they don’t sound like the traits of a power-hungry cabal.

Along those lines, I can state that as a progressive, I have always been mystified why conservatives believe that liberals are hell-bent on one-world government. This is not even remotely on my list of utopian goals, but according to many right-wingers, I’m willing to assassinate people to make it come true.

Clearly, it is soothing to the conservative mind to demonize progressives and attribute vile motives to them. Granted, I don’t see how liberals can be both shadowy evil geniuses and idiotic libetards, but conservatives find a way to make it work.

Now, it may seem like a new development that conservatives are insisting progressives want to wreck the country just because… well, just because. However, this attribution of nefarious, ill-defined motives is more blatant than ever before. But it is not new.

For example, a dozen years ago, we liberals were asked, in all earnestness, why we wanted the terrorists to win. Many conservatives truly believed that progressives were rooting for Al Qaeda. Much of this was because we didn’t think invading Iraq was such a great idea.

Today, just about everybody agrees that going into Baghdad was a bit of a booboo. Yet, I’ve never heard a conservative apologize for the smear job on progressives, or even state, “I guess liberals weren’t trying to sabotage America after all.”

Years from now, when everyone agrees that Trump was a horrific mistake, I imagine liberals will receive a similar non-acknowledgement of their concerns in the present-day.

But it won’t matter, because we’ll be too busy, you know, plotting to rule the world.

 


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