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The Fault in Our Stars

Self-flagellation is never sexy — not even when sexy people do it.

I’m talking about individuals like Latina actress Zoe Saldana, who said that Hollywood liberals like her “got cocky and became arrogant and… became bullies.” She implied that this behavior led people to vote for Trump.

 

Of course, Hollywood celebrities have recently been wailing and gnashing their teeth over Trump’s victory. Because so many of them are liberal, this is perfectly understandable. What is mystifying, however, is the object of their scorn: their fellow progressives.

In addition to Saldana, there is celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who said, “the utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible” for Trump.

Wow, that is quite the self-indictment. And then there is our old friend Bill Maher, who believes “liberal culture’s preoccupation with language helped put Trump in the White House.”

Indeed, many people believe that endorsements from liberal celebrities “don’t matter anymore [and] more likely and long-term: They hurt.”

Yes, there is no shortage of celebrities who are admitting their culpability in Trump’s rise, even if they themselves are ardent touchy-feely progressives. Hell, it’s apparently because they’re touchy-feely progressives in the first place that we are in this mess.

But there is one little flaw with this apology tour: All of it is bullshit.

In a way, it is just more celebrity self-aggrandizement. Celebrities are saying that their opinions have the power to convince everyone how to vote — especially those knuckleheaded Neanderthals in the Rust Belt.

However, celebrities who humble brag about their cultural power are only the most visible manifestation of an insidious development in our society.

I’m talking about progressives who are so busy blaming themselves for Trump that they are not focused on fighting right-wing demagoguery.

And yes, that forms the perfect segue to my next post. So stay tuned.


All an Act

Yes, it’s a unique issue for ethnic minorities. Questions about authenticity hound, pester, poke, and prod us.

You see, many of us constantly face accusations of whether we are Latino enough, or black enough, or truly Asian, or a real Native American. I’m pretty sure nobody ever asks if someone is white enough… unless of course, there is an Aryan Nations initiation rite going on.

For nerdy ethnic minorities, the problem can be even more pressing. After all, we know full well that African American students who academically excel are ostracized for “acting white” — right?

Well, it turns out that we don’t know that.

A recent study has debunked this myth, showing “there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about ‘acting white,’ social stigma, and academic outcomes.”

In fact, “studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones” and that “black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students.”

Well, that’s a plot twist.

Now, the study didn’t examine whether Latino students are mocked for “acting white” if they get good grades. However, from my personal experience, I can answer this question.

And the answer is…

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Choose Your Dystopia

Within the landslide of inanity, insanity, and alternative facts that has gushed from the Trump administration thus far, one true statement has miraculously emerged.

This was when the Minister of Misinformation said that Trump would renege on his campaign promise to release his tax returns because “people don’t care.”

And she is correct. Most Americans don’t give a damn about Trump’s taxes, nor do they care that he is breaking his word. Hey, most Trumpkins don’t even see it as the tiniest bit problematic that the president has myriad conflicts of interest and doesn’t give a damn about the Constitution and that pesky Emoluments Clause.

So it’s clear that Americans are just fine with the executive brand functioning as a get-rich-quick scheme for a select few. Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if shilling for the Trump brand becomes an overt job duty for administration officials… wait, what? Oh, that has already happened.

This is plutocracy, where the ruling class derives its power from its wealth, with no regard for what’s best for the nation.

But wait a second. I thought we were heading into neo-fascism. That’s where a horde of grotesque political movements — ultranationalism, populism, anti-immigration sentiments, nativism, xenophobia, and so on — coalesce into a situation where an unpredictable strong man runs roughshod over liberal democracy. Good thing, then, that Trump has nothing but respect for our system of checks and balances, such as his adoration for our judicial system… yup. So maybe this is a more accurate indicator of our national predicament.

Now, you might ask, “But what about all this Orwellian nightmare stuff I keep hearing about? Isn’t that what’s going on now?”

 

Well, it’s true that Trump and his flunkies have mastered doublespeak. For example, they can claim massive voter fraud (despite a complete lack of evidence), while simultaneously insisting Russian hacking is a myth (despite an overwhelming amount of evidence). Hell, they can insist the sun was shining when we know it was raining.

By the way, the president insists that “he has ‘solved’ Latinos’ fears of being under attack by his administration.” That, my friends, is impressive 1984 jamming.

Of course, it’s also possible that we are also living in an autocracy, which is a system of government where one person rules with absolute power.

As some commentators have pointed out, “Trump will try hard during his presidency to create an atmosphere of personal munificence, in which graft does not matter, because rules and institutions do not matter.” And this approach “will create personal constituencies, and implicate other people in his corruption. That, over time, is what truly subverts the institutions of democracy and the rule of law.”

More bluntly, America has handed “power to a man who has spent his whole adult life trying to build a cult of personality around himself,” and that “everything we know suggests that we’re entering an era of epic corruption and contempt for the rule of law, with no restraint whatsoever.”

OK, that’s pretty grim. So let’s try another direction. Maybe all this is just America’s flirtation with kakocracy. You know, that’s rule by the absolute worst.

If so, it will not end well. Many commentators believe that with this group of reckless clowns, impeachment or removal of the president under the 25th Amendment are real possibilities. But even if that happens, Trump “will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books.”

And even some conservatives are saying that Trump’s presidency “will probably end in calamity — substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars.”

At that point, we will enter a whole new dystopia — maybe one that doesn’t even have a name yet.


So Far, So Horrific

We are now approximately 1% of the way through the Trump presidency. That means, mathematically, it will only get 100 times worse.

To be fair, things are actually going great… for white nationalists and people who think immigrants are plotting to kill them in their sleep.

For the rest of us, not so much.

You see, the start of the Trump era is, by many accounts, “the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.”

 

The rate of Trump’s grotesque actions outpaces our ability to react to them. Are we really supposed to call our congressional representatives and organize protest marches and boycott companies and sign petitions every single day?

Hell, we barely have time to unboggle our eyes and force our slackened jaws shut before another monstrous executive order comes washing over the American landscape. The best we can manage most days is to force down our vomit.

But here’s one thought that will keep us focused. One inescapable truism that we should keep in mind at all times.

And it is simply this: Trump means everything he says.

All the talk about whether we should take him literally but not seriously, or vice versa, was overcomplicated nonsense from the start. It should have been apparent long ago that when a wannabe dictator says he’s going to do something, he fully intends to do it.

Trump is not capable of metaphor. I doubt the man even knows that word means. I’m serious — the guy boasts about never reading books.

You see, our tiny-fingered, small-minded president does not engage in subtlety, and the only time that he backs off on some of his more egregious pronouncements is when he no longer has any interest in them and/or because they no longer serve a purpose (e.g., prosecuting Hillary Clinton).

Otherwise, he is remarkably consistent.

This does not mean that he will succeed in his endeavors. For example, that fabled wall with Mexico is never going to be built. But this is only because reality will intrude. This barrier might take the form of logistical issues or— it’s possible — political resistance.

But he will not stop of his own free will. He will not moderate his views. He will not listen to reason or decency.

I have never understood why any sane person would think otherwise.

For example, some conservative Latinos voted for Trump under the bizarre assumption that he would be more respectful to Hispanics or even compromise on immigration. That idea doesn’t look so bright now.

Of course, that’s not as bizarre as Middle Eastern immigrants who just assumed his talk of banning them was, I don’t know, some oddball banter from a kooky billionaire.

Heed their regret. And please remember this for the next four years. He means everything that he says.

That makes it even scarier, doesn’t it?

 


Mic Check

Let’s face it. I long ago conquered the internet.

So as phase 2 of my unending quest to expand my media empire, I’m now appearing on the radio.

 

 

Specifically, I was on a panel discussion this week on NPR’s Colin McEnroe Show. We talked about race, privilege, and the whole idea that white people are disenfranchised (yes, that last part lent itself to high comedy).

If you missed the live show, you can catch the podcast version here.

So stay tuned, because it won’t be long before you once again hear my smooth baritone emanating from your speakers as I wax rhapsodically about ethnic rights and Orwellian threats and political oppression and other nightmarish concepts.

Of course, at that point, I’ll be pulled off the airwaves by the Trump Secret Police (Media Division) and hauled down to the Ministry of Information’s top-secret liar… and you won’t want to miss that.


I Can’t Even…

 

Rather than dwell on this week’s inauguration (i.e., the monstrous legitimization of humanity’s most base and vile impulses), I will focus on the future — even though that future may be poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Perhaps the biggest quandary facing our country — in a cavalcade of complex and stomach-churning quandaries — is what our healthcare system will look like.

You see, the GOP has made it clear that Obamacare is the gravest threat facing America (well, other than the constant dread that grizzly bears will burst into our nation’s schools and eat all the students, but I digress).

So the Republican Congress is working feverishly to replace the Affordable Care Act with something more free market-like, with less big government and more choice and more freedom and blah blah blah. Yes, they have had years to come up with an alternative, and have failed miserably to do so. But to be fair, all their energy was taken up with hating on Obama. So you can see how some minor details — like a coherent proposal on a life-or-death issue — might have slipped through the cracks.

In any case, I have a question, one that I am frankly shocked that our highly paid media pundits are not asking.

Here it is: Why do we have to replace Obamacare with anything?

After all, when the ACA was first being debated, one argument we heard from the GOP and everybody at Fox News was that the America — and this is a direct quote from multiple conservative sources — had “the greatest healthcare system in the world.”

Again, we are not talking about the distant past. This was just a few years ago.

 

Now, at the time, many liberals pointed out that this was nonsense. A five-minute Google search would reveal undeniable statistics that showed the USA spent way more than other industrialized countries, got far worst results, had unhealthier citizens, and ranked shockingly low in terms of nationwide health.

But Republicans insisted that “the greatest healthcare system in the world” cliché was the pure truth, and not just bald-faced bullshit designed to rile up the ignorant and the racially insecure.

So now, years later, the Republican Party should be forced to answer a fair question.

If that was so very true, why not just repeal Obamacare and go back to “the greatest healthcare system in the world”? Surely we can just revert to a system that every American loved and never caused any problems and that got such amazing results.

Can’t you just hear every citizen clamoring for that?

Hmm, that is indeed strange. Because it seems that, even as it faces certain death, Obamacare has never been more popular.

Even many Trump voters don’t want it repealed. Of course, one has to wonder why they would vote for someone who said that he would cut off their healthcare. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t take him seriously and brushed it off as campaign rhetoric, which oddly enough, is not what they thought when they heard him babbling about building a wall or deporting every Latino and Muslim in the country.

Apparently, only the threats that applied to other people were to be taken seriously.

But speaking of Latinos, it’s clear that Hispanics have greatly benefitted from the ACA and will be punished severely if it is repealed. In fact, about 4 million Hispanics have obtained health insurance through Obamacare, and the percentage of uninsured Latinos has gone down.

That hasn’t stopped the GOP from attempting its own form of Latino outreach, which I would say is breathtaking in its cynicism and contempt for Hispanics, but come on, look who we are talking about here. The bar is pretty damn low. Hell, the bar is wedged underground at this point.

In any case, the good news is that if Obamacare is repealed, 18 million people will lose coverage the first year, and health insurance premiums would spike up to 25 percent.

You might ask, how is that good news? Well, if the ACA dies and is not replaced, “within 10 years, 32 million more people would be without health insurance [and] healthcare costs would continue to rise every year.”

That’s the bad news.

So again, I have to ask, were Republicans lying when they said America had super-duper healthcare that was the envy of the world? And if so, why the hell should we trust them now?

Clearly, they expect the American people not to remember their mendacity and horrible judgment.

Sadly… that’s a pretty good bet.

 


Are You Being Nice Enough to Racists?

So mere days away from Armageddon — I mean, Trump’s inauguration, excuse me — we’re all wondering how Democrats are going to rebound in 2020.

Will they seek to rebrand themselves with the white working class by appealing to its concerns? Or will they double down on their base, and nominate a truly progressive candidate?

Ha, we’re just kidding.

We all know Democrats will run like hell from the “liberal” label. They will strain to convince Pennsylvania factory workers and Wisconsin farmers that the Democratic Party has learned its lesson and is abandoning “identity politics.” And then Democrats will ask white rural voters to grab a beer with them and talk about the Packers before heading out to the deer stand.

There are, of course, numerous issues with this approach. Let’s skip the obvious one for now, which is that Democrats will once again take the Latino vote for granted while dismissing progressives as silly elitists.

 

Instead, let’s analyze a very real problem, which is that many people who voted for Trump weren’t just being loyal Republicans, or looking to drain the swamp, or getting bamboozled by a con man.

No, many of them are damn racists who knew exactly what they were voting for. In fact, the link between racism and Trump mania is disturbingly clear.

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s morally ok to court such voters. So how does one persuade them to abandon the Republican Party and its blatant xenophobia? How can we convince a person feeling white resentment or white anxiety (or whatever term euphemizes prejudice) that his attitude is not cool?

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A Grim Start

Well, here we are in 2017, and a new era of hope and peace and love and…

What’s that?

The cycle of hatred that crescendo in 2016 continues to careen onward, claiming new victims in ghastly ways?

Yes, scratch that opening line.

We are not even a week into the new year, and we have a fresh horrific example of humankind’s malevolence, courtesy of Chicago.

That’s where some Trump-hating teenagers assaulted a man, live on Facebook, while yelling slurs about white people.

I’m not going to show the video because, frankly, there’s too much violence porn out there already.

But I will point out that conservatives have responded with a certain sort of glee, thrilled to finally have some evidence that ethnic minorities are beating up on white people. And liberals have responded with outrage tinged with defensiveness.

I’m not going to get into all that, primarily because it should be perfectly clear that everyone — regardless of political affiliation or ethnicity — is repulsed by these acts. So there is no need to state the obvious about how grotesque these morons are. It’s like denouncing the Ebola virus.

Instead, I just want to point out that hatred feeds upon itself, and it is a base universality of human nature that many people will use the fact that they are being oppressed as perverse justification for their sick abuse of others.

It is Orwell’s vision of the future: Imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Happy New Year…


No Need for a Retrospective

Look, no one disputes that 2016 was an abysmal, horrific monstrosity of a year. It was the hottest year on record, we elected a sociopathic narcissist to the White House, and 1,893 of our favorite celebrities died. That’s bad.

But perhaps 2017 will be better.

Ha-ha, we’re just kidding. Because as everyone knows, the first year of the Trump presidency means, at best, pain and agony. At worst, it foretells the end of all civilization, and we will not debate whether 2018 will be any better, because none of us will exist, and all of America will look like this:

Still, let’s gather together to kick 2016 to the curb. I wish I could say that my hopes are high for 2017, but I would have to be on heavy narcotics to issue such an absurd declaration.

All I can say is thanks for reading, keep fighting the good fight, and see you next year.


One Christmas Wish

More people seem to be praying this year.

Oh, I know that Americans pray year-round, and this odd habit intensifies around Christmas. That’s because you have the standard prayers for peace and love on Earth, plus prayers for a prosperous new year, and prayers to survive your uncle’s drunken ramblings at holiday gatherings, and so on.

But even more people than usual seem to be falling on their knees and clasping their hands and fervently mumbling their hopes and dreams and fears — or just flat-out wailing their distress.

 

And I’m pretty sure this is because we have elected a scatter-brained neo-fascist to the White House.

Yes, that’s a good reason to pray.

But the problem with all this praying and yearning is that it accomplishes nothing. And even worse, it just revitalizes that most pernicious of ills: false hope.

You see, the day after the election, many of my fellow progressives started wishing for some kind of divine intervention to save us from four years of insanity and xenophobia.

First, it was supposed to be the state voting recounts that rescued us. But aside from keeping Jill Stein in the spotlight for an extra week, that achieved nada.

Then the Electoral College voters were supposed to do their duty and keep the presidency away from a demagogue. I remain incredulous that any thinking American truly believed emailing the delegates and signing petitions would convince 38 of them to vote against Trump. In the end, exactly two of them swapped their votes, which means that 304 Republican delegates (99.3% of them) didn’t give a fuck about your pleas.

And the latest liberal hail-Mary pass is predicting that Trump will be impeached — possibly even on his first day in office.

Hey, that’s more likely than the other scenarios, considering the guy is awash in corruption and conflicts. However, I have yet to hear of a realistic scenario where Congress — made up of Republican majorities in both houses — suddenly declares, “We’ve never actually removed a president from office in history. But Trump is out.”

And even if Trump gets impeached or quits in a huff (which I think is actually more probable), we’re stuck with Mike Pence as president and the same band of sociopaths that we started with.

So what again are we praying for?

You know what? Here’s my holiday wish.

Let’s stop believing that Trump isn’t going to be the next president. Let’s stop denying reality, and quit the idea that some magical happenstance will spare the nation the pain of Republican leadership. Let’s just stop with all the childish hoping and praying.

We can’t fight bigotry if we spend all our time just wishing.

 

 


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