Culture

Stats for the Holidays

Just a quick post this week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and give thanks that we all live in the greatest country in the world.

Well, actually, there is no “greatest country in the world,” at least in the sense of some objective standard or measurement. We just all say “greatest country in the world” and assume we’re talking about the USA because, I mean, come on, who are we kidding?

Of course, if we did use objective stats to analyze how well America is doing, how absolutely A#1 amazing we are, we might pull out this one:

“The US has the second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries,” and for black and Hispanic American children, “the poverty rate is even higher.”

Hmmm… that statistic isn’t so great, is it? Well, how about this one:

“The US has the highest income inequality of all rich countries.” And of course, that just got worse with today’s massive GOP tax cut for the wealthy.

OK, this isn’t going so well. Let’s try again.

Although “Americans spend enormously” on healthcare, we remain “in relatively poor health.” For example, America “has fewer physicians, hospital beds, and psychiatric care beds than most other economically advanced countries, ranking towards the bottom in each of these parameters.” And as if we all didn’t already know, the United States “remains the only advanced economy in the world not to have full health coverage of its population.”

But look on the bright side, we’re also the most obese industrialized nation in the world.

About now, you’re probably wondering where I’m getting all those disturbing statistics.

Well, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put together a report that found “the US performs dismally in most areas — such as healthcare, education, and violence.” In fact, the analysis “proves that, while Americans may be doing relatively fine, ‘best country to live in’ is a serious stretch.”

Yes, according to the OECD, “child mortality is higher in the US than any other advanced economy, and adult Americans also live shorter lives.”

Hey, if you want to live longer, move to Japan or one of those fancy, effeminate European countries where they simply don’t understand that dying young just proves how tough you are and is clearly the patriotic thing to do.

The OECD gets a little personal when it claims that America “stands out as one of the only countries in the world where maternal mortality has increased, rather than decreasing, over the past 15 years.”

But of course, that’s just one of the ways in which it sucks to be an American woman. Because according to the report, the “share of US women who experience violence in their lifetime is much higher than the OECD average,” and “the gender wage gap is also bigger in the US.” But don’t worry, because another thing we have going for us is the fact that America is “one of only two countries in the world that do not mandate paid maternity leave.”

How’s that for American exceptionalism?

Now, my intention is not to bring you down this holiday season.

It is simply to point out that much work needs to be done, and shouting how we’re the “greatest” isn’t going to accomplish anything.

We cannot address our problems if we refuse to acknowledge them, or if we dismiss disturbing facts as fake news, or if we insist that we have nothing to learn from any other nation because we’re just the damn best.

We’re only 200+ years old. Maybe we have some growing up to do.

 


Who’s Next?

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is from El Salvador. I’ve never been there, but I hear that it’s nice.

Actually, I don’t hear that at all. In fact, I hear the direct opposite.

My mom and aunt came to America decades ago, and they have surprisingly little positive to say about their childhoods in El Salvador. One of my cousins came to the United States when he was a kid. He has vowed never to set foot in El Salvador the rest of his life, because the place holds such dark memories for him. And my brother has lived in that country for years now, and he has told me about the struggles of raising a family there.

So no, this isn’t going to be an up-with-the-motherland kind of article.

Because in addition to my family’s subjective experiences, there is also the fact that El Salvador is arguably “the murder capital of world.”

And that is definitely not a phrase to put on the travel brochure.

You see, the legacy of U.S. intervention, a horrific civil war, and a stagnant economy are all major reasons for the country’s problems. And of course, “violence by so-called maras – gangs that originated in the United States and spread to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – is thought to be the major push factor” in propelling the tiny nation into “a lethal cycle that the government’s current rhetoric and strategy will not be able to break.”

In short, it’s a messed-up place.

What’s interesting is that, as bad as El Salvador would be under most circumstances, a couple of stray variables have turned a horrific situation into a pure cataclysm.

Back in 1999, the government thought the best way to fight the skyrocketing crime rate was to arm its citizens. It was that whole fantastical scenario of a good guy with a gun coming in to save the day. Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

The laws “permitted the private possession of heavy weapons. Instead of reducing violence,” however, these laws “fuelled its escalation.”

Another factor in El Salvador’s demise is its hyper-religious culture. The Catholic Church has such sway over the inhabitants that abortion is “illegal in all circumstances, without exception, punishable by up to eight years in prison. Sentences of up to 30 years have been handed down when a judge determined that ‘homicide’ rather than abortion had occurred.”

When women are denied basic rights over their own bodies, the culture notices. And today, “El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women,” with “the highest rate of femicide in the entire world.”

Now, you might say that this is all very depressing, but that’s life in the third world — right?

Well, look at some of those factors again: a country where citizens are heavily armed, religion is all-powerful, abortion is illegal, and strongmen run the place.

This is the dream of everyone who voted for Roy Moore yesterday. Fortunately for America, they were outnumbered… this time.

For all the fear and paranoia that white right-wingers have about Latinos, they seem absolutely hell-bent to adopt the very worst ideas of Hispanic culture.

Perhaps El Salvador has bottomed out, and can only improve.

But the United States, if handed over to zealots, can get a lot, lot worse.


Wait Until Next Year

As entertaining as it was to see Trump’s flunkies flail and/or plead guilty, there was another cultural asteroid hurtling across the American stratosphere this week.

I’m talking, of course, about the World Series.

Unfortunately, my hometown Milwaukee Brewers have yet to win the championship trophy. In fact, their sole appearance in the Fall Classic was over 30 years ago, and the wait is beyond frustrating.

So I understand how happy and relieved Houston Astros fans are now that their team has finally won the big game. I’m just bummed that it came at the expense of my adopted hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.

And although it was a wild series (what was with all those homeruns?), the incident I want to analyze took place not on the field but in the dugout.

If you recall, Yuli Gurriel, the Houston Astros first baseman, made a racist gesture and spat out a slur at Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish in Game 3. That ugliness is hard to hide, and Major League Baseball responded quickly by suspending Gurriel for five games… starting next year.

Gurriel, who fled Cuba last year, expressed remorse and apologized to Darvish. The pitcher graciously accepted this.

But before we move on from this tacky situation, it’s worth asking what we have learned from this incident.

Well, for starters, we’ve learned that Latinos can be just as bigoted and hate-filled as anybody else, which is not exactly a heartwarming insight.

We’ve also found out that some people still use the term “chinito,” which I haven’t heard since my childhood. I guess that word doesn’t make it into national discourse too often.

We’ve also learned that life doesn’t follow a movie script. Because if it did, Darvish would have been brilliant in his return to the mound, snagging the win in pivotal Game 7. Instead, the guy got hammered again, didn’t make it out of the second inning, and finished the World Series with an ERA of 21.60… ouch.

We’ve also discovered that Darvish, who was born in Japan, has really adapted to the California lifestyle. I mean, read the guy’s response to Gurriel. Darvish talks about “living in such a wonderful world” and says we need to “stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger.” He wraps up his hippie manifesto by saying, “I’m counting on everyone’s big love.” Yeah, the guy’s a Californian all right.

We’ve also realized that Major League Baseball is truly serious about punishing racist or bigoted behavior. Ha, I’m just kidding about that one. Gurriel got suspended, but if MLB really wanted to send a message, they would have expelled him from the World Series. That shit would have resonated.

Finally, we’ve also learned that you can win 104 games, tops in your league, and still fall one game short.

Baseball is funny that way.

 


Pick a Side

Good news — there is a 35 percent chance that the country will descend into open civil war within the next decade.

Now, you may ask, why is that good news?

Well, personally, I thought the odds of a second Battle of Antietam erupting within the year were around 50/50. So a risk of just 35 percent is positively optimistic.

Hey, nearly four out of five Americans “believe the nation is divided on the most important values.” And some experts claim that the nation is really a mash-up of almost a dozen different cultures where people “increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.” And, of yeah, in recent years, residents of both Texas and California have sincerely endeavored to secede from the union.

Naturally, we’re all wondering about the root causes of this internecine madness. Well, as is usual when nations start rotting from the inside, the main problem is the age-old malady of bigotry.

Yes, many social scientists have concluded that America is “vulnerable to racism, tribalism, and conflicting visions of the way forward for our nation.” And it certainly doesn’t help that our deranged president “modeled violence as a way to advance politically,” which feeds right into the narrative of the hardcore right wing and fuels talk of armed conflict.

Indeed, ever since the protests at Charlottesville, it should be perfectly clear to even the most idealistic person that “white fear of demographic change is a powerful force” and that “there are several lines of evidence converging on the idea that America is becoming a more hostile place for immigrants and outsiders.”

If you need further proof, “research does find that in the age of Trump — the age that started with an assertion that Mexicans were sending rapists to the US — it’s becoming more acceptable to be outwardly prejudiced.”

It’s all very depressing, of course, and we are correct to wonder how America has so quickly devolved into a nation where racists feel pretty good about themselves, and hatred toward Muslims is shrugged off a conservative value.

Hell, there was a time (not so very long ago) when “psychologists feared that ‘social desirability bias’ — people unwilling to admit they’re prejudiced, for fear of being shamed — would prevent people from answering questions about prejudice truthfully.” But in this terrible new America, “people will readily admit to believing all sorts of vile things. And researchers don’t need to use implicit or subliminal measures to suss it all out.”

This willingness to be horrible only verifies what progressives and ethnic minorities have been saying for years about a large subsection of America.

And yet, many media outlets still indulge in delusional thinking about Trump and his supporters. Despite mountains of anecdotal evidence — and in some cases, actual data-driven research — many commentators still dance around the issues of racism and xenophobia that characterizes Trump’s most ardent fans.

I mean, how many more studies do we need that show fictional “discrimination against whites was a core concern of Trump’s base”? No, it wasn’t a weak correlation or a side issue. It was a “core concern” of Trump’s support.

How often do we have to hear that “changing racial demographics of America contributed to Trump’s success as a presidential candidate among white Americans whose race/ethnicity is central to their identity”?

The truth is that there are millions of Americans who dream of an all-white country, one that is presumably 100 percent straight and Christian as well.

These are people who have never faced governmental or cultural oppression, and “who sat through the unit on the Second World War in their history class and looked at images of concentration camps and gas chambers and burning books and Anne Frank’s attic and still thought, well, hang on, maybe those Nazis had some interesting ideas.”

And they are all for Trump — to the point that he can no wrong and will never lose their support.

Now, in contrast to the bizarre enthusiasm that Trump supporters have of their man’s performance so far, more than half of all Americans and more than two-thirds of Latinos disapprove of the guy.

These are fundamental differences. One might even say that they are irreconcilable.

And since we’re using that kind of language, let’s admit a basic fact — one that may help us avoid open warfare.

We’re 240 years into this marriage, and maybe it’s time to admit that we’re no longer happy in the relationship. We have clearly grown apart. In fact, it’s worth asking if we ever really got along, because after all, there have been more than a few rocky times and bumps in the road over the decades.

Perhaps everyone would be happier if we called it quits and promised to stay in touch — you know, to negotiate intercontinental trade deals and stuff like that. But this whole idea that we are a unified nation and a cohesive culture… well, come on.

Who are we kidding?

 


Breakdown in the Break Room

Just about everybody is disavowing the alt-right… with one notable exception, of course.

But among the people who are telling neo-fascists to leave us all alone, there is James Damore, who recently got fired from Google for making the tiny faux pas of insisting that all his female colleagues were genetically inferior bags of neurosis who must bow down to his mighty intellect and sheer manliness.

My favorite part of Damore’s lengthy screed was when he said women couldn’t handle stress. Yes, for tips on how to handle stress, look to men, who never (and I mean, never) just snap under pressure and go on shooting sprees, or physically attack people who disagree with them, or drive their cars into crowds of people.

Yeah, men never do any of those things.

Ahem.

In any case, there are several bewildering aspects to this infamous memo (such as, “When did misogyny become a conservative value?”). But I’m also interested in something that Damore brought up only in passing.

You see, in between dismissing the abilities of women, he also protested the concept of diversity — while insisting that he was all for diversity. This sad sleight of hand has the feel of the uncle who begins a conversation with the phrase “I’m not racist, but…”

Apparently, many white men in the tech industry are pissed off that diversity programs even exist.

I know what you’re thinking. The tech industry has a well-documented shortage of ethnic minorities. For example, Latinos make up only about 3% of the techies at major companies, even though they constitute about 8% of computer science graduates (and about 17% of the nation).

And tech leaders point out that diversity is not just an issue of fairness, but of economic viability. An industry cannot sustain itself if there are few different perspectives, and insularity kills innovation.

So doesn’t everybody want more blacks and Latinos in tech?

Well, to be honest, not everybody does.

But even many non-bigots are likely to balk when it comes to, you know, actually doing something about tech’s abysmal level of ethnic diversity.

One reason for this problem is simple. Diversity programs, or initiatives to increase the presence of ethnic minorities, can make white men feel threatened.

Now, it’s fair to ask why this would be the case.

Apparently, messages about the importance of diversity may provoke some white men to believe “that they might be undervalued and discriminated against.” Studies have found “widespread negative responses to diversity … among white men” and shown that these negative responses “exist even among those who endorse the tenets of diversity and inclusion.” Additional research has revealed that “white men are more likely to feel threatened when their employers trumpet gender-equity and racial-diversity policies.”

Yikes — that’s not exactly what the creators of diversity programs were shooting for.

To combat this backlash, “a wave of companies is trying to soften the process by removing the emphasis on rules and penalties and having other white men lead the sessions.”

Yes, that’s correct. White guys aren’t in charge of enough things, so now they’re even leading seminars about diversity.

Also, if you’re keeping track, diversity programs are yet another example of how American culture has to bend over backward to appease white men, many of whom seem to have an infinite number of things that infuriate, threaten, or disenfranchise them.

Maybe we need to create a program to look into that.

 


Where Do We Even Begin? 

Nazis are bad.

There, was that so damn difficult to say?

Well, yes, if one is a black-hearted egotist whose only concern is keeping a clammy, slippery grasp on power. In that case, it can be quite difficult.

As we all know, our straight-talkin’, tell-it-like-it-is president was unusually quiet last weekend, when fascists, racists, and violent thugs descended upon Charlottesville. The man who tweets every umbrage or perceived slight had nothing to say when the KKK started throwing punches, and white supremacists chanted Hitler-era slogans.

He then came out with a baffling, condescending condemnation of “both sides” of the violence. I suppose he was trying to be fair to both homicidal bigots driving their cars into people, and the demonstrators who should be blamed for… well, I don’t know what — perhaps for violently putting dents in the car or cracking its windshield when the vehicle plowed into them. Yeah, both sides are clearly to blame.

Of course, Trump did eventually come out against white supremacy, which proves that he will indeed take a moral position — provided that both sides of the political spectrum, millions of Americans, and every half-respectable media outlet scream at him for days to denounce fucking Nazis, which let’s face it, is the absolute minimum qualification for being considered a decent human being. But hey, he did it, right?

No, because he changed his mind the next day and went back to equating sign-carrying liberals with deranged Nazis who murder people, setting off a shitstorm of outrage and disbelief. So there was that.

Now, there are only three possible motivations for Trump’s false-equivalency nonsense:

  1. He is an impulsive man-child who lashes out at others even if it is detrimental to his own cause.
  2. Some dark part of his soul — perhaps a bigger part than his followers would like to admit — agrees with the white supremacists.
  3. He is a chickenshit politician who is scared of offending his base, which is ironic when one considers that he is supposedly the anti-politician who is not afraid to speak his mind.

All three of these options are terrifying. In all three scenarios, the guy who is the face of America, and its political and even moral leader, has abdicated his responsibility (and possibly his humanity) so that hate-filled men shouting anti-Semitic slurs can feel good about themselves.

Of course, it’s perfectly obvious to me that someone should have told the president that the fascists in Virginia had mocked his tiny hands, or pointed out his dismal approval ratings, or brought up his disastrous leadership skills. If that had happened, he would have lacerated those bastards in a furious speech before they could finish saying, “Seig Heil.” But that didn’t happen, and now we have to wonder about the following:

Is this a turning point?

I don’t mean that in the political sense. We all know the gutless GOP will not turn on Trump unless and until he has outlived his usefulness to them. Otherwise, they will just keep apologizing for his maniacal outbursts and ugly tirades, or looking the other way, or somehow coming up with a twisted rationale for it (like, “liberals made this happen”). Hey, I guess it helps them sleep at night.

No, I’m talking about a cultural turning point.

After all, there can no longer be any doubt — if there ever was — about the kind of man Trump is (i.e., the kind who coddles Nazis). There could not be a clearer contrast between his delayed scripted words of false comfort and his spontaneous, appalling endorsement of racism.

Similarly, those who have excused his abhorrent behavior to this point have finally run into a non-negotiable, unambiguous, swastika-shaped look into his loathsome mind. Any defense of his stance goes beyond the usual pathetic, infuriating, illogical, baffling excuses that Trump supporters have offered for other transgressions (and there have been a lot of them).

This is so sickening, so reprehensible, so concrete in its evil that it threatens to permanently brand anyone who defends it as either a spineless coward or a sociopathic villain.

Witness that prominent conservatives, corporate CEOs, and military leaders are all blasting Trump. These are hardly liberal snowflakes getting riled up by fake news.

So it’s fair to ask if this is Trump’s Katrina moment. Could this be the final outrage that pushes his casual supporters over the edge and solidifies his calamitous reputation?

Already, a majority of Americans — not just progressives, but most of the country — is aghast at their president’s unhinged craziness. A full 40 percent want his impeachment.

Those numbers will only increase. The sense of disgust will only snowball. And because Trump burned up so much good will mere months into his presidency, it is difficult to imagine the trend ever reversing.

For Trump supporters, after this point, there is no turning back. Which of them wants to be the last deplorable standing, waving his Make America Great Again hat around as the rest of the nation looks away in shame and horror?

 


Who Could Have Guessed?

There are few advantages to being Gen X.

We’re a much smaller generation and therefore less culturally powerful than the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We’re too old to be hip and cool, but too young to collect Social Security (which will be long gone by the time we’re senior citizens). Also, we were born too late to see Led Zeppelin in concert, but born too early to have our own cell phones as teenagers.

Also, our rock icons keep dying on us.

But there is one advantage we have, and it is this: We are cynical as fuck.

I’m not making this up. Studies have verified that Gen X is the most skeptical group of Americans in history.

Now, you might not think being cynical is an advantage. For the most part, it’s not. But when it comes to existing in the world in which we live, it is a damn lifesaver.

Take, for example, the recent poll numbers for our illustrious president.

In November, when Trump won — due to that archaic relic known as the Electoral College — about 60% of Americans “said they were mostly optimistic about his presidency.” But that number is down to 43% today, and furthermore, “core groups that carried Trump to victory are not immune to the deteriorating optimism around the president.”

I’m not a political scientist, but I’m pretty sure the phrase “deteriorating optimism” is not one that presidents like to hear.

Keep in mind that all these numbers came before the president threatened to start a nuclear war.

In any case, “optimism has slipped more than 20 points — from 74% in November to 51% now — among whites without a college degree.” Keep in mind that this demographic is the most hardcore of Trump’s hardcore support.

Apparently, for some inexplicable reason, back in November, many Americans somehow thought that electing a narcissist with no governmental or military experience, who had a history of racist statements, misogynistic behavior, and unethical actions, and who had the temperament of a spoiled toddler was somehow cause for optimism.

Why any rational adult would think this is completely beyond me.

Even people who knew firsthand about Trump’s insanity seemed to think a 70-year-old bully would somehow become more humble by winning the election. Witness the New York Times columnist who was personally insulted by Trump, but only recently addressed his boorish behavior by stating, “I have to admit that it did not occur to me he’d keep doing that kind of stuff as president of the United States.”

How did this not occur to you? How could this be a damn surprise?

Maybe it’s just not Gen X cynicism, however. Maybe it’s also because I’m Latino, and as my fellow Hispanics — and no doubt most African Americans and Muslims and gays as well — can attest, we never thought the guy would be anything other than a disaster. We never thought he would mellow out, or suddenly become presidential, or really be anything other than what he appeared to be, which is a corrupt, conniving liar who cares about nothing but himself.

It seems that many other Americans are now snapping out of their collective naivety to admit reality. Although I remain baffled why it’s taken people so long to acknowledge the perfectly obvious.

However, if you still think I’m being too harsh, just remember this fact: In spite of everything that has gone wrong with the Trump presidency, 84% of Republicans still support him.

So would you like to ask again why I’m cynical?

 


This Is Your Ad Campaign on Drugs

If you live in the fine state of Washington, you might have been driving along recently, minding your own business, when you were suddenly and rudely accosted by the following billboard.

Yes, Washington state’s Department of Health thought it was a good idea to spend $100,000 on the billboards, which aim to dissuade marijuana use among Latino teens by… well, I’m not sure what mechanism they’re going for here. Apparently, Hispanic kids won’t try the evil weed because they’re so very inherently cool (by default, no less).

Now, I suppose I should be offended at this.

But to be honest, I find the ad so bizarre, so baffling, so hilariously misguided that all I can do is laugh.

It reminds me of the infamous “Users Are Losers” campaign back when I was a kid. That simplistic jingle — a pathetic attempt at telling teens to stay off drugs — did indeed provoke a powerful reaction in its viewers: Fits of giggles, especially if you had just taken a massive hit from the bong.

In any case, the Washington state campaign aims for the same kind of hip-adults-talking-the-hip-lingo approach as those misbegotten ads of the past. But this time with a racial element thrown in.

As you can imagine, the billboard is not a hit.

Many people complained that the billboard implied Latinos are more likely to abuse drug, or conversely, that non-Latinos are more likely to abuse drugs (I told you the campaign was baffling). Others said the ad implied that people who take drugs are cool, which is exactly the opposite of the intended message. And of course, many people just thought the ad was some combination of tasteless, inflammatory, and lame.

To be honest, we haven’t seen such an immediate, overwhelmingly negative reaction since… well, whatever the last thing it was that Trump did.

With no small degree of embarrassment, Washington state has apologized for the fiasco and removed the billboards.

However, this botched campaign could serve as a ham-fisted metaphor for the whole War on Drugs. As we know, that cataclysmic attempt to end drug use in America only served to destroy countless lives — mostly those of ethnic minorities — and didn’t keep one person from getting high for a single day.

Then as now, we have government officials who are too busy demonizing pot to address the root causes of drug abuse, and we have a phalanx of government resources aimed directly at ethnic minority communities that, we are told, are cesspools of moral degeneracy and helpless pathology.

By the way, that’s not how those same governmental officials view, say, the opioid crisis that afflicts white working class communities. Locking up meth-addicted white people and throwing away the key isn’t a popular option, even though it remains the go-to tactic when it comes to blacks and Latinos smoking reefer.

Yes, it all makes me glad that I don’t smoke pot.

But of course, I don’t have to take drugs. I’m Hispanic, so I’m cool by default.


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 Ultimate Scam

One thing that you may not know about me — among many dark secrets — is that I love documentaries. I’ll check out films about forgotten rock bands or miscarriages of justice or thematically intertwining stories or just about anything that sounds remotely interesting, as long it’s truthful.

One of my favorite documentarians is, of course, the legendary Werner Herzog, who narrates each of his movies in a weary, existentialist tone that sounds even more nihilistic in his German accent. The guy is a genius.

Two of his films are sort of bookends — one dealing with Antarctica and the other with volcanoes, the obvious interplay of fire and ice.

What the two films have in common — aside from Herzog’s causal observation that humanity is doomed and that Mother Nature will most likely kill us all someday — is that scientists are the heroes of the story.

And this got me thinking. In my last post, I talked about the conservative obsession with the deep state, and the mental hoops that one must jump through in order to excuse Trump’s obviously incompetent behavior.

Nowhere is the conservative mind more tested than when it comes to climate change. Yes, we know the statistic that 97% of climate scientists believe that humans have a negative impact on the environment, and that every year brings another heat record, and that many of the predicted consequences of climate change are already happening.

 

And yet, “majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists,” and some Americans literally do not believe their own eyes when it comes to changing weather patterns.

Conservatives dismiss climate scientists as elitist phonies who make up data, exaggerate their conclusions, and bury the evidence that there is no such thing as global warming. The scientists’ motivation, apparently, is to justify their existences and/or get more funding. Well, either that, or they are working for some leftist global cabal (is there any other kind?) with an insidious plot to enslave us all.

But of course, to believe that, you also have to believe that the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are unethical bastards (a view we don’t even hold for politicians). You also have to believe that their vile manipulation of the data is so ingenious that no one has been able to pinpoint exactly how they have pulled off — and yet it is simultaneously so obvious that even high school dropouts can tell that they faked it.

You also have to believe that thousands of extremely smart people have decided, en masse, that telling a lie and fighting over a limited amount of grant money makes more sense than simply telling the truth (“global warming is a lie!”) and rolling in the cash that Exxon would no doubt throw their way.

Speaking of which, you also have to believe that so few climate scientists have come forward to reveal this deception, even though scientific reputations are made on overthrowing convention and standing apart from your peers.

Finally, you have to believe that some of the brightest, best-educated people in the world have devoted their lives to one subject, and as we see in Herzog’s documentary, often endure brutal and dangerous conditions, for months at a time, all in service of some elaborate hoax.

Damn, there must be an easier way to make a buck.

 


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