I Didn’t Mean To Rant

Remember when I talked about the new civil war I feel coming?

Yeah, my “by 2030” timeframe may actually have been optimistic.  Who would’ve thought I would be the optimistic one?!

It’s only 2020 and already we have folks arming up on both sides.  Folks walking around looking for someone to “own.”  Folks — from both extremes — deeply immersed in the view that their opponents are evil, malfeasant, and out to destroy the Constitution and US way of life.  Folks whose politics are firmly in the all-or-nothing vein.  You know the ones I’m talking about, the “If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em”, “Give me Trump/Biden, or give me death” variety.

*sigh*

Please tell me that I’m not the only person who has looked at all this crap over the past month or so and thought, “We’re so fucked.”

The worst part is that you (well, I, to be precise) can’t even run away to a different part of the world to hide for a few months.  Good luck getting any nation to admit you when you’re from the country topping the charts for the Worst Virus Handling in the Entire Stinking Universe award…

0A641B52-A8C7-4321-903A-D93CAA94D76FOh, good lord do we suck.

Yes, our current government has taken corrupt incompetence to a new low, but let’s be honest here…four years ago, we pretty much got the government we “deserve.”  We’ve let the inmates run the asylum for far too long, and now the band is packing up to go while the piper gives us the bill for several decades of ignoring our own very real socio-political problems.

I didn’t sit down to write a rant, by the way.  I sat down to write a “list post”, of all things.

I was going to…but after the first few lines, I knew that was out the damned window.  Part of the problem, I should explain, is that Montana is something of a battleground state.  The Senate race here is neck-and-neck between the red and blue teams, and the ads are freaking everywhere.  You can’t watch TV or visit a website without some ad popping up with overly dramatic music and a serious-voiced announcer warning that the other guy is out to rape and eat your children.

C’mon, Italy, I don’t have COVID…let me in!!

803B7BCF-BA35-4AA7-B243-39973746A30AOr France…or Oz…or even freaking Canada, for pete’s sake!  I feel like Randle McMurphy trapped in the asylum; where the hell is Chief when you need him?!*

*One of the very, very few instances where the movie and book were equally great…

Hell, I started sailing again…maybe now is the time to try that circumnavigation!

C’mon, admit it, a few months alone in the middle of the ocean doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  Hell, even if I were to sink, how could spending a year or two facing starvation and disease marooned on a deserted island be any worse than the US right about now?!

The one prescription I will give you is this: don’t vote against.  We’ve been voting against various people and things for decades, and look where that got us…

Vote FOR something….for something, or someone, you can believe in.  Vote to make things better, not because you’re afraid the other side are violent psychopaths out to ruin all you hold dear.

And if there’s nothing in the current election that you can be for?  If there is nothing but hate and fear, darkness and threat?

If there is nothing to be for, maybe it’s time to create that.  A new party…a new nonprofit…hell, maybe just a new mug club at your local brewery…find something, and some folks, that you can be for, then build from there.

I am, by the way, struggling with this very thing.  I loathe in the strongest way the current US administration.  I would crawl over broken glass and piss on an electric fence to get them out.  But…

But…

But now I’m talking about just voting against something.  I still have yet to find something (on the national level) to vote for.

Hmm…maybe Croatia will let me in…2783744E-2430-44A3-BAC6-2035151A9330

Random (not really) musical accompaniment:

 

The Splintering

We don’t have common spaces anymore.

No, really…if you think about it, what kind of shared space or activity do we have that crosses all of the boundaries of politics and economics and society?

None.

We in the US don’t really do central squares or plazas.  We gave those up decades ago, in the name of “development.”  Even when there is a place with “public” patios/terraces/squares, the tables and spaces are situated and designed to isolate each person or group in their own little private world rather than create a shared, social space.

How about the news?  Yeah, right.  It goes way beyond having different channels and papers and sites for different opinions, by the way.  We’ve reached the point where folks believe completely different truths based on their own biases and wants.  Two people can see the same incident, assimilate the same facts, and still tell a completely different story.  Neither story is objectively true, mind you, but we are way past the time when objective truth meant anything to us as a society.  No, instead all we seemingly care for are the subjective truths that reinforce our particulate flavor of politics and worldview.

Sports, too, has been — pardon the intentional pun! — pulled from the field as a shared space.  Oh, the divide over teams and players has always been there, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Nowadays the fight between Raiders and Broncos fans…between Yankees and Red Sox…between golf and the rest of the universe…is a minor sideshow compared to the fight between those who need the “validation” of players and teams and fans echoing every detail of their preferred — semi-deified, even — socio-political prejudice.  A game, then, is no longer a space where fans of those involved can share the experience of their favorite team or player beating “the enemy.”  Instead, the games have become nothing more than background spectacles for the fans to pour vast amounts of hate and vitriol on players, teams and each other over any deviation from their preferred views.

Music…

Literature…

Art…

Movies…

Not a one of those crosses the boundaries anymore.  Oh, no, not a freakin’ chance of that!

On the production side, the things that once unified societies are now sliced and diced and targeted to the tiniest fragment of like-minded thinkers in order to “maximize audience.”  On the consumption side, no work or piece can be viewed outside the boundaries.  Nothing, to most folks, can be allowed to threaten the fragile bubble of assumption and belief that defines their world.

Everyone gets the blame for this one, by the way.  Yeah, most producers and studios, just like most publishers and editors, are far too often echo-chamber-driven zampolits out to destroy any opinion other than their own, but they don’t own the problem.  Not the whole of it, anyway.  In the end, the studios and publishers just want to make money.  We writers — like actors and singers and other artists — are just as guilty for allowing the echo-chambers to influence and control what we create.  It is harder than ever to find those that even try to speak to the larger truths that still hold true for all of us.  No, instead far too many of us have chosen, either through fear or preference, to avoid the (mostly) metaphorical killzones that divide our political and social “teams.”

Most of the blame, however…

Most of the blame lies with you.

You, the consumer…and me the consumer.  My family, and yours…  My friends, and yours…  The people we elect…  The people we follow…  The people we choose to read and watch and listen to…

When we choose to live inside our own bubbles, we add our little mite of intolerance and prejudice to the vast pool of such that is killing the common spaces of thought and emotion that once helped to bridge and fill in the gaps between.

If the only words you have read in the last few months are those that reinforce your own worldview, you are part of the problem.  If you have watched no movie or show that challenged your preconceptions, you have widened that gap between.  If you go out of your way to avoid a song, or an athlete, or anyone else, who disagrees with you, you are contributing.

In the end, if you are one of those who thinks someone — anyone — who has a different opinion should have to “shut up,” you are the problem.

Wait, Didn’t I Once Promise to Ignore Politics?

So I’m sitting here, having coffee while I wait for a friend…

“Hey, I’m early, let’s kill some time with the news!”

Of all the good ideas I’ve had, that one is right up there with “…of course I’ll take you to an occupied bear den!  The cubs are super-cute when they’re at home…”

Ahem.

link_CRUqKZKKFRGAlAFTlfPdN5TEw3cvwdL4,w1200h627Anyway…the news…

I think I prefer the angry momma grizzly, thank you very much.

A few random thoughts and notes based on what I read, then, in no particular order:

  1. “Editing” the Constitution — *sigh* look, I know the language in there can be a problem.  I know the concepts and compromises from 200+ years ago can bring pain and outrage now, but “editing” our past isn’t going to solve anything.  It would be much better to use the language and concepts and compromises as the basis for teaching.  For teaching how things have changed…and how they haven’t.  Both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are more aspirational than concrete, anyway, so they make wonderful tools for teaching middle and high school kids about reality — both the reality of now, and the reality of two hundred+ years ago.
  2. Whites Need to Speak Up…or Shut Up (which one kinda depends on who you are reading) — One of the things I’m not going to do is try to divine peoples’ emotions and motivations, and to advocate who should or should not be able to speak.  Skin color does not change the validity or honesty of what a person has to say, and that is flat out the only way to look at it.  To argue otherwise is to simply flip the script of racism, which leads to nothing but the tit-for-tat bullshit we are starting to see every day.  That being said, I’ve chosen to keep my own mouth shut and listen.  I listen because I don’t know.  Oh, I know the history and sociology and intellectual side of race and the US…but I don’t know.  I’ve never been pulled over because of what I look like.  I’ve never been followed by store employees because of my skin or hair.  I’ve never felt the sting of violence and hate and fear because I was other.  I’ve kept my mouth shut because I don’t think I can add to the discussion at this point.  Instead, I would rather let the eloquence of others speak with the power and authority of experience and authenticity.  But that is my choice, valid for me alone.  It in no way means that “no white person should ever discuss race” as I’ve read some suggest.
  3. Apathy vs Delusion — this election promises to keep poli-sci programs, not to mention generations of “political strategists,” busy with examples and lessons for generations to come.  Leave aside the names involved, and all of the emotion and judgments contained therein, and just look at the dynamics of the race itself: you have one candidate, running on a broad range of supporters that numerically should be able to dominate the opponent.  That range, however, has very little enthusiasm or energy.  They support, but they don’t do so with any real intent or drive.  On the other side, you have a candidate with a small base of supporters who in no way represent the nation at large, but have all the energy and dedication in the world.  They will believe anything — do anything — their candidate says, and they will do so in the most aggressive and offensive ways.  So, politically, which wins?  4 years ago it was passion and rage, running against a shrugging nonchalance, but will that hold true today?  If I weren’t living in the midst of this, it would make for an interesting modern lesson on the historical examples and dynamics I have studied for so long.  If I weren’t living it.
  4. The Company You Keep — As a child I was taught that your character is defined by what you do, and by the company you keep.  Now, that outlook has been put to the test more than a few times in some of the, uhh, “shenanigans” that have made up my life, but it is something I long ago took to heart and have tried to live by.  Enter Donald Trump.  If he is defined by what he does, and by the company he keeps… *sigh*.  Sorry, folks, but I’m lost with this one.  Since I don’t want to get into a 5,000 word diatribe — one that George Will did much, much better here — I’m going to focus on just one thing: Trump’s choice to keep company with traitors.  He has chosen to laud and irretrievably pin himself to the “heroes” of the Confederacy in the Civil War.  That is the company he has chosen to keep: those who chose to pick up a weapon and fight for slavery.  Sorry Donny, but that there is ‘nuff said…you are thoroughly defined.
  5. Recrudescence — yep, COVID is coming back, and it’s coming back hard.  Nope, conspiracy theorists and denialists, this is NOT just “another flu.”  Nor is it “fake news” made up just so the left can go after Trump and the hard right fringe that is today’s GOP.  Coronavirus and COVID-19 are very much real, and still very much a threat.  If you are getting your news on COVID solely from Fox News, Powerline, OANN and Townhall…well, I can’t help you.  You may have chosen to put yourself in an echo chamber — as is most definitely your right and privilege — but please do the rest of us a favor and stop assuming those echoes mean a damned thing to anyone else.

Okay, so this bit isn’t really a part of the “list,” it is just…

It is just a thought, and a (sorta) plea: people change.

Yes, this post went a little “rant-y,” but I couldn’t stop myself.  I have friends and family who still expect me to be the good conservative Republican I once was.  Sorry, folks, but I ain’t that person anymore.  I’ve changed.  I’d like to think for the better, but there is no question that I very much have changed.  One of the biggest of those changes is that I have no more patience for the willful ignorance and demented worldview that characterize both extremes.

Quite simply, I want nothing to do with either.

Live and let live, that’s it.  That’s what matters to me.  That’s also how I judge any and all politicians and others who claim to “lead.”

Every day I become more libertarian.  Every day I become more convinced that this overwhelming drive both sides have to dominate and rule the lives of everyday folks is what is driving us to a second civil war.  I wish I could say we could stop this slide, but I’m pretty sure we passed the tipping point years ago…if not decades ago.

But, hey, when that war comes, well…

No one does memory, and monuments, better than the Central Europeans — a reminder of the costs:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

History For The Win

As much as I loathe the current state of US politics — and the civil war I think is currently slouching its way towards Bethlehem as a result of those politics — the political/history nerd in me gets just all sweaty and excited by the bullshit accompanying the UK’s weak, vacillating, and laughably inept “departure” from the EU…

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to get me sweaty and excited…erm…umm…

Okay, moving on now: it also does not take much to get me to gleefully go back and re-visit various events and eras in history.  The fact that for the past three years the UK has managed to make a race for 7th-grade-class-president look competent, professional and — dare I say it? — enviably grown-up has just added to the sweaty excitement of that urge.

For a nation that prides itself on never really having been torn apart by a civil war, Britain has had a remarkable number of — ahem — civil wars.  As much as I want to turn to the War of the Roses for thoughts and examples, however — or even to the “Shipwreck” between Matilda and Stephen — there just is no way I can bypass Cromwell.  C’mon, the guy overthrew the freaking King, made Parliament supreme…then overthrew the very Parliament he had put in place!

There is a reason, by the way, why folks say there is no such thing as a “new” story.  It’s all been written before.  Well, hell, today’s corollary to that introduces the fact that there is no such thing as a fictional story, either.  No matter how bad the screw up, humanity has found a way to do EVERY stupid thing you can possibly imagine!

I’m sorry, Britain…but, God, do I love this shit…

Anyway, here is Cromwell’s lesson, his last speech to Parliament before shutting it down.  This is, I should add, appropriate for Britain and Brexit, yes, but also incredibly apt for the United States of today (it is also simply one of the most wonderfully vituperative pieces of spite you will ever read):

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”