(D)Electable

First: let me be clear.

Elizabeth Warren is the best candidate.

Image result for elizabeth warren

She’s the smartest, the most practical, the best prepared, and the strongest speaker and debater. It’s true: Pete Buttigieg is a Rhodes scholar who speaks seven languages, but Warren is a former law professor who taught at nearly as many universities as Buttigieg speaks languages, including Rutgers, Michigan, Penn and Harvard (And if you count that she taught Sunday School… no, kidding.), and was one of the most-cited experts in bankruptcy and commercial law, who created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when she wasn’t even in politics. Senator Klobuchar is a fighter from a Midwest state who grew up in difficult circumstances, became a county attorney and has been successful in the Senate; Warren has much the same resume, and I think Warren’s policy proposals are more extensive, detailed, and considered. Sanders, Warren, and Biden have the best campaign infrastructure and the broadest support, and I would argue that Warren is the best prepared of those three to get to work after the election. And if you’ve watched the debates, you’ve seen the same things I’ve seen: Biden wavering between foggy and yelling at kids to get off his lawn, Sanders giving a lot of pat answers (No shame; he’s been campaigning on the same arguments for five years now, and fighting for them in Washington for thirty), Buttigieg sounding good but not saying a whole lot, Klobuchar saying a whole lot but not sounding good — and Warren answering every question immediately, directly, Yes or No, and then going into a specific and detailed explanation of her clear answer.

I realize this is my perception only, and that others have vastly differing impressions of these candidates. Senator Warren is struggling right now, having placed third in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire. This is a good article about her current situation, which also looks to her future — which is what her campaign is doing.

But my perceptions of Elizabeth Warren, and your perceptions of other candidates, are not what I am here to talk about. I want to talk about the curse that seems to have descended on every genuinely good candidate, and which has pushed far too much credibility into two candidacies that are complete nonsense: Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg. That curse is — ELECTABILITY.

I’ve heard that Sanders isn’t electable because he’s a socialist, that Buttigieg isn’t electable because he’s gay, that Klobuchar isn’t electable because she’s a woman — and of course that Elizabeth Warren isn’t electable because she’s a socialist, and a woman, and she fails various purity tests for progressives because she used to be a Republican and she has this weird pseudo-scandal regarding Native American heritage. (Let me be clear: claiming a heritage you haven’t lived in order to claim privilege, taking opportunities away from those who genuinely need them, is wrong and appalling. Claiming a heritage you haven’t lived just for the sake of, I don’t know, cocktail conversation, is weird and offputting. Holding someone’s past against them in clear defiance of their current character is all four: wrong, appalling, weird and offputting. All of it. The left needs to get over this shit. Trump’s past is disqualifying, because he’s not any different now. Know the difference.) I would prefer to hear that Biden isn’t electable because he’s a doofy former sidekick who has far too much history in Washington, far too much of it questionable; and that Bloomberg isn’t electable because he’s a billionaire trying to buy an election from another billionaire, not to mention his own history of racist politics with the Stop-and-Frisk policy from his tenure as mayor of New York City. But even that isn’t what I really want to hear.

What I really want to hear is that Donald Trump is not electable because he’s an absolute mound of shit. Dung mountain. Poop’s Peak. I want to hear that every single other candidate is more electable than Donald Trump: because they are. Even the ones I dislike. Even Marianne goddamn Williams– no, that’s too far. But everybody else is more electable. What I really want to hear is that the voters of this country have woken up to the danger of having this man in office, and are determined to find the very best replacement: not that we’re so goddamned worried about the opinions of sexist, homophobic dipshits in half a dozen states that we’re going to throw away the best candidates for Trump’s replacement in favor of some rich fucking old white guy.

That’s not to say that the next president shouldn’t be a rich old white fucking guy. Personally I think the next 45 presidents should be women, just as the next 109 Supreme Court Justices should be women (Can you believe there have only been 113 justices on the Court total? TOTAL?! In 211 years?!? Also: can you believe that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s own website actually doesn’t list Brett Kavanaugh as one of them? HA! Suck it, Fratboy!) and ditto for not-white people, but I’m open to literally anyone, so long as they will do the job. My problem with Donald Trump is not that he is a rich old fucking white guy, it’s that’s he’s a colossus of crap, an edifice of excrement, who is destroying the country because he doesn’t care about doing the job. I would happily vote for Mike Bloomberg or Joe Biden if I believed they could do the job. (I don’t think they can. Yes, I will still vote for them if they are the nominee.)

But it’s clear to me, and it should be clear to all of us, that of the best candidates currently running (And I think that Cory Booker and Andrew Yang, and maybe Julian Castro and Kamala Harris, and probably some older whiter guys like Michael Bennet or Jay Inslee or et cetera, should still be in this race over Biden and Bloomberg and Steyer, and that all of them would far surpass Trump), only one good one is an old white guy, and he ain’t rich. So the argument about electability, a euphemism for “pleasing to the swing voters in the battleground states,” a circumlocution for “fucking rich old white  guy,” should be dropped in the face of the facts: our best candidates for president, with one exception, are not old white men. (If we make it old Christian white men, then I can make the statement without exception; I’m not ignoring the fact that there is a young white man in the group, but the fact of his sexual orientation puts him into the Unelectable column as well. It is telling, however, that he is doing better than both the  viable women candidates despite his youth and inexperience and gayosity; apparently “white” and “male” have more to do with it than age and sexuality. And I thought of such a good dick joke to make here, but I’m not making it. Out of respect. For America. You’re welcome.)

The electable argument is nonsense. Not only that, but it is damaging nonsense. So not only should we ignore it, we should actively cast it aside. “But Dusty, what about 2016??” Right, when Clinton, who was by far the better candidate, won the popular vote by 3,000,000 but still lost the election because of a few swing voters in battleground states? Thereby proving that only fucking rich old white guys can win the Presidency?

What about 2012, when the quintessential rich old fucking white guy lost? To a comparatively young, comparatively not-rich, clearly not white guy? Who won Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida? Won the popular vote by 5,000,000?

But Obama was the incumbent. Surely that doesn’t count.

Okay: 2008, then, when Obama defeated a rich old white FUCKING WAR HERO guy (Who is still the epitome of an honorable Republican, who is still mourned  and memorialized and held essentially sacred — except they didn’t fucking vote for him, did they?) by 10,000,000 votes, carrying 28 states to McCain’s 22?

I’ll tell you who’s electable. The person who wins, that’s who’s electable.

We who oppose the Turd-Berg’s re-election need to understand that the difference is not going to be made by wooing the swing voters in the battleground states. The difference is going to be made by new voters. Here: look at this. And realize that

He [Data  scientist Hamdan Azhar concluded, with help from The Cook Political Report, that the election hinged not on Clinton’s large 2.8 million overall vote margin over Trump, but rather on about 78,000 votes from only three counties in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.[387][388]

[From Wikipedia]

And then realize that the —

Hold up.

I was going to point out that the electorate in all three of those battleground states has grown by more than the number of critical swing voters.

But all three states have fewer registered voters now than they did in 2016. Wisconsin breaks it down by age group, and every age group is smaller — except for 65+. (Notice that this shit is still going on)

I don’t — I don’t know what to say about this now.

No. I know.  And you know, too.

It’s this: it doesn’t matter who the Democratic candidate is in the general election. Donald Trump will call every single one of them a socialist. He will have stupid nicknames for every single one of them. Every single one of them will make him look like an ass in any debate — Hillary Clinton certainly did.

But unless we get to work, Trump will win the same way he did last time: by squeezing every last old white vote out of the battleground states, by making everyone feel hopeless and despondent, as if their vote doesn’t matter, so why bother, and by suppressing every single vote he possibly can, particularly votes from young people and people of color. Which is also how the Republicans plan to keep hold of the Senate and keep Mitch McConnell in control.

So I hope that every single candidate will do their utmost to appeal to every voter they can. (I still hope it’s Elizabeth Warren, and so long as it is primary season, I’m still going to support her, and I’m going to vote for her next month when my state’s primary comes along. And if she drops out  — which she probably won’t — then I’m voting for Bernie.). But my job, and your job, is to support the organizations that are going to be working to register voters and then get them to the polls. Join phone banks, knock on doors, give every dollar you can to every group trying to do those things. Take Election Day off of work and drive people to the polls. Go stand outside sensitive polling places and call the cops on every MAGA-hat wearing asshole who tries to intimidate voters. Bring water and food to people in line to vote.

The voice of the American people will, I absolutely believe, shout down Donald Trump. We have to make sure that voice actually gets heard.

The electable candidate is every candidate: so long as we do the work to elect them.

Wanted:

 


(Couldn’t resist)

I want to say that I want everything back that I’ve wasted. All the money, all the time, all the opportunities.

The money I spent on things that would have been cheaper if I had waited, or if I had gone to another store. The money I wasted on things that I thought would be better than they were. The money I threw away  on things that broke as soon as I bought them: things that I threw away almost before the money for them left my hand. I want back the money I spent on the ten bikes I lost between the ages of 8 and 18. One a year. I want back the money for all the food I have bought and dropped, all the expensive coffee I have spilled, everything I’ve bought that went bad before I got a chance to eat it.  My God, I want back all the money I spent on cigarettes.

I want back the time I’ve lost being bored. Being depressed. Thinking that I just didn’t feel like doing anything useful or important, or even anything fun. Just doing something I enjoyed would have made me feel better; why couldn’t I just do that? Just start? All the time I have spent changing channels instead of turning off the TV, and turning pages of bad books rather than putting them down and picking up better ones, and all the mindless video game levels I have played, and replayed, and played again. I can’t even remember the video games I’ve finished: but I remember  how anticlimactic it has always been to reach that final screen. I have never had a less satisfying “win.”

I want back the time I gave to people who didn’t deserve it, and I want to spend that time with people who deserved more than I gave them. I want to tell Rocco that I made it. I want to talk to my uncle Rob and my cousin Chelsea more. I want my Nonna to read my book.

I want another chance at all the opportunities I’ve missed: because I was too slow, because I was too lazy, because I was too afraid. I should have written twice as many books, and I should have sent ten times as many query letters; maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be writing this: because I wouldn’t be teaching any more. I want the opportunity not to do this any more, and if I’ve had it and missed it, I want it back again.

I want it all back again. That’s what I want to say.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized: those things I wasted were only wasted for me — and not always that. Every opportunity that I missed, gave someone else their chance, or gave me something that I wanted even more. Every dollar that I wasted taught me something, or gave me a laugh, or a story to tell: and those laughs and lessons and stories were worth more than the dollars they cost.

Well. Maybe not the cigarettes. That really was a lot of money. A pack a day for almost 17 years, and the average price of those packs was at least $4.00. It’s about $25,000. I don’t have any stories worth that.

But maybe I do: and maybe I have missed opportunities to write them, or to publish them; but every time an agent said no to me, that agent looked at the next query, and liked it more: and someone else got their dreams to come true. If the agent picked my book, then they would have had one less space to take on someone else; the opportunity only missed me. And my turn will come. In the meantime, I’ve become someone I am proud of. I don’t know if that would have happened if I had gone straight into professional writing; a lot of literary people are not people I want to be. Or if I had stayed a janitor, a job I could do in my sleep; maybe that would have been easier, but I was never proud of how well I scraped gum off the bottom of the seats.

Okay. I was a little proud of that.

Time is never wasted, because no matter what, you keep moving forward: and sometimes the path, even when it’s rocky and difficult, leads places you don’t expect. When I was a teenager, I hated high school. Partly because my father moved to California when I was in 8th grade, and without him around, I lacked structure and discipline,  and my native laziness and idiocy took over. But mainly, I felt like high school wasn’t for me, wasn’t good for me; it didn’t teach me anything I wanted or needed to know. So I never put any effort into it, and I got back pretty much the same nothing. A few teachers mattered, a few classes; a few friends. Not a whole lot. For the most part I was a failure at high school.

But because my father moved to California, that’s where I went to go to college. And because I was a failure, I went to a community college, because I couldn’t get into the university I wanted to attend, with my nothing grades.

And that’s where I met my wife.

If I had been a success in high school, I never would have met her. And that would be the biggest loss of them all. She also helped me become and stay a teacher, where I got the second advantage of my failure: being a teenaged idiot made me a better teacher, because I understand my teenaged idiots better than most of their teachers do, because their other teachers were not idiots.

If I hadn’t wasted time reading bad books, watching bad TV, and playing bad video games, I wouldn’t have the sense of humor I have now, nor the ability to draw something useful from almost any pile of crud you put in front of me. I can do things that matter to me more efficiently now because I’ve wasted so much time in the past. (I wrote this in about 45 minutes.)

The money I’ve wasted, which has gone to make good stories and funny experiences, for the most part, has paid for other people to do things that might have been great. Not many, because I’ve never had much money to waste; but every little bit helps, and it hasn’t hurt me very much. Except for the cigarettes. That one still hurts.

So you know what I want? I don’t want that money back: I spent it, and even if I didn’t get my money’s worth, somebody else did. I don’t want that time back: regretting the choices I’ve made would mean regretting all the wonderful things that I have now because I’ve taken the particular path that led me here. I don’t want those opportunities back: I want to make new ones, better ones, and while I still want to be better about seizing those opportunities, I know that every one I let slip by makes me stronger and faster and better at grabbing the next one: and there’s always another opportunity.

No, what I want is this: I want to take back all the terrible things I have thought and said about myself, all the times I called myself lazy, or a coward, or a failure. I want to see myself as positively and as optimistically and as admiringly as I see almost everyone else: because humans amaze me, yet somehow, I’ve always thought that I came up short of the mark. I don’t. I surpass all expectations. At least some of the time.

I want to be proud of myself for who I am, and never regret the things that made me, me.

Even the cigarettes.

Off course.

So Lamar Alexander is going to vote with the GOP. Which means that despite Mitt Romney and Susan Collins (And ten’ll get you five that she would have changed her vote to the party line at the last minute) saying we should have witnesses in the Senate trial, Mitch McConnell still has enough votes to block witnesses and acquit Trump of wrongdoing. Which he will do in the next 24 hours.

Of course.

Alexander made a statement critical of the President’s actions, of course. Because he wants to be seen as moral, even as he abdicates all responsibility, all semblance  of actually doing his job and adhering to the oath he took. Nobody likes admitting that they’re doing the wrong thing. Even when they are doing the wrong thing.

Oh — President Obama did the wrong thing when he used drone strikes to kill Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, especially because there were civilian casualties, and especially because he targeted American citizens. He did the wrong thing when he refused to close Guantanamo and either try or release the accused terrorists imprisoned there. He did the wrong thing when he —  okay, I can’t think of a third thing. I think he probably did the wrong thing when he pulled troops out of Iraq and allowed ISIS room to grow; and he probably did the wrong thing when he refused to send troops into Syria to stop Assad from using chemical weapons, and he did the wrong thing when he allowed the CIA to help overthrow Gaddafi in Libya. But I think any intervention in foreign wars is probably wrong. You can make a case for intervening to end brutal dictatorships, but it’s tough to maintain that case when we’ve not intervened in either North Korea nor Rwanda, so. It’s easiest to say that American foreign policy smacks of jingoistic imperialism, capitalist exploitation, and colonialist arrogance, and therefore  is troubling even when the goals are good.

Of course.

Alan Dershowitz is wrong: the idea that abuse of power is not impeachable because anything done in the public interest, according to the president’s understanding of that, can at worst be seen as misgovernance, which the Founding Fathers clearly refused to allow as grounds for impeachment and removal — that as long as President Trump thinks he’s doing what’s best for the country, and not committing any officially illegal acts like witness tampering, he commits no impeachable offenses — is ridiculous. It’s almost cute, because the President’s defense team is arguing that the House impeachment rests on reading the President’s mind, and knowing what he intended to do and why, because his actions by themselves are not impeachable (Mostly because no official crime, but also because according to them Trump did nothing wrong in that perfect phone call — it’s wild to watch smart people shift their stance daily, almost hourly, and still refuse to admit their case is weak); but: Dershowitz et al. knowing that the President thought what he was doing was in the public interest is also somehow reading his mind. Unless they have evidence as to the President’s specific, provable intention with his perfect phone call, in which case, that evidence should be brought forward and examined. Maybe call John Bolton, or something.

But they won’t. Because this is not a real trial. It’s not a real adherence to the Constitution and the law. Of course not. You can tell because they’re arguing that bullying an ally into mudslinging to win an election is somehow not abuse of power. Or that it is abuse of power, but that it isn’t impeachable — which is amazing, because that means there is some level, and in this instance it’s a pretty high bar, of acceptable abuse of power.

Abuse of power has to be impeachable. You can argue that it’s a vague category of offense, but so is the “specific” wording in the Constitution: “Treason, bribery, or other High crimes and misdemeanors.” Treason is betrayal of the United States, but what does that mean? If you do something like, I don’t know, start a trade war that ruins American manufacturing and farming just as those industries are pulling out of a recession, is that a betrayal of this country? Or how about betraying a longtime ally in a critical military operation, by pulling out troops so that their longtime enemy can move across an international border and bomb the shit out of innocent civilians? Is that a betrayal of the country? Is that treason? Is it bribery if you accept money from foreign heads of state who rent rooms at your hotel? How about if you put in place as ambassador to the EU some random schmoe who gave you a million dollars? Is that bribery? (Of course it is.)

Would it be a high crime and misdemeanor if the President shot someone on 5th Avenue?

What if he had sex with a 21-year-old intern and then denied it under oath? Would that be a betrayal of the country? Is that treason?

And the point is, it’s a judgment call. There is no clear and well-defined standard of what is and is not corrupt because corruption comes in as many potential forms as there are people. I have changed grades because it was funny. Seriously: I had a student make some snarky comment about how grammar didn’t matter, except he spelled it “grammer,” and I gave him +1 for irony. That’s corrupt. It’s a betrayal of the trust put in me to grade my students to the best of my ability and with perfect honesty and integrity. I think it’s a minor infraction, but — that’s subjective, isn’t it?

Of course it is.

Abuse of power is the whole point of impeachment and removal from office. It has to be impeachable, and it has to be left vague so that it can be interpreted to fit the context of the present situation. Abuse of power is the definition of “high crimes and Misdemeanors,” a phrase taken from English common law and used to describe someone who betrayed an oath of office and the public trust placed in him, but who did not necessarily break any legal statute. I recommend you read the Wikipedia article on this, actually; very illuminating.  My favorite part is this:

Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive “rendered himself obnoxious,” and the Constitution should provide for the “regular punishment of the Executive when his conduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.” James Madison said that “impeachment… was indispensable” to defend the community against “the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” With a single executive, Madison argued, unlike a legislature whose collective nature provided security, “loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the Republic.”[9]

I mean, Trump “rendered himself obnoxious” before he even took office, so. The Democrats who have sought to impeach him from day one have always been correct. I think the case for negligence and corruption, both potentially fatal to the Republic, is even easier to prove in this case. The goal is not to find the perfect set of rules and restrictions, definitions and elaborations, that will stop only those specific crimes that constitute an impeachable offense; it is to put our trust, the public trust, into our elected officials to hear the evidence, weigh the facts, and make a decision.

Of course.

Let me just boil all of this down, rather than getting too deep into the arguments. This is really, really easy stuff.

Trump did the thing. It was a violation of the public trust because we expect that the President not do anything in office expressly to benefit himself personally; and especially not fuck with an ally in danger: we expect that he not fuck with military aid intended to protect several allies from one of the world’s more dangerous countries. That’s an abuse of power, and it’s impeachable, and he should be impeached and removed.

He won’t be, of course. Because the GOP is becoming more and more obedient to a single, specific goal, which is “Fuck the liberals.” That’s what really got Trump elected — because I know there were a hundred reasons why the moderates and independents and disillusioned Democrats voted for Trump, and plenty of reasons why people voted against Clinton, and the Electoral College is the only reason Trump’s lost popular vote put him in office, but when you get down to it, if 30 million or so angry fucking Republicans hadn’t voted for him from the outset, those other things wouldn’t have mattered — and the harder Republicans work to keep him in office and get him reelected, the more they are showing their loyalty to exactly that base, and exactly that credo. Republican congressmen and Senators are toeing the line because they’re afraid of being primaried, afraid that someone will show up in their districts who is more credible when they say “Fuck the liberals,” and will take their job away. And they’re right, that’s exactly what would happen; because Trump’s base votes to fuck the liberals. That’s it.

You can tell that this is their fundamental idea because every single argument about Trump and what he has done comes back to liberals (mostly Obama) doing worse. You say that Trump is abusing his power, and they say that Obama abused his with executive orders. You say that Trump is hurting our national reputation, they say that Obama did worse when he bowed, or went on his “apology tour.” You say that Trump is a rapist, they say so was Clinton.

All of those are terrible arguments. If you accuse me of murder and I say “Well Ted Bundy killed WAY more people than me!” it doesn’t mean anything other than “Fuck you.” And that’s all I’ve been hearing this entire time, ever since the whistleblower tried to do the right thing: Trump isn’t as corrupt as Biden, he didn’t hurt Ukraine as much as Obama did by not providing actual weapons to fight Russia, the GOP bullshit tactics aren’t as bad as Adam Schiff. All they’re saying is that your side is just as bad as your side; and if they then don’t go on to say “Wow, that’s  fucked up and  we should fix both sides,” their real belief is that your side (the liberal side) is worse simply because we’re liberals. So even if what Obama did isn’t comparable to what Trump did in an absolute sense (And it’s not: comparing clear criminal acts and abuse of power to actual policy decisions, even policy decisions you hate, is just bullshit.), it’s worse because Obama did it. Because he’s a liberal. Of course.

I did realize the other day that there’s a fundamental difference in opinion that changes how people see this impeachment. I don’t think anyone really believes Trump when he says he did nothing wrong; I am positive that no one believes President Zelenskiy of Ukraine when he says there was no pressure; when the teacher comes across the bully in the middle of applying an atomic wedgie, and the victim says, “No, sir, nothing wrong here; we’re just playing around,” you don’t believe that kid. You know better. Zelenskiy still needs the military aid and the goodwill of the US, and as Trump has made abundantly clear to him since last July, that means doing whatever makes President Trump happy, and fuck everyone else in America. So Zelenskiy is lying to suck up to the bully. Of course.

Tell me that’s not an abuse of his power. Tell me he’s working in the public interest. Go on.

But that’s what I realized: the people who think Trump is the best president we’ve ever had — and the vast majority of those are, I am confident, the Fuck the Liberals wing of the Republican party — really don’t think he did anything wrong because they think getting Trump reelected is the best thing for the country, and so whatever Trump does to achieve that is actually a good thing. Even if it’s shady. Even if it causes some conflict with Ukraine — the Ukrainians (anyone, really) don’t matter as much as America does, and America is better off with Trump in office, these folks say. So that’s why there was no crime, no impeachable offense: he was doing the right thing. 

Of course.

(A couple of quick things while we’re on the subject: the accusations keep getting thrown around that this is a partisan impeachment. Of course it is: all impeachments are partisan. But in the Democrats’ case, while they may be biased against conservatives, it’s not because they belong to the Democratic party, it’s because they disagree with the ideas. So even if the parties were reversed — like, say, the Republicans being the party if Lincoln and the Democrats being the party of the segregationist South — the ideas would still clash and they’d still disagree, and the process of impeachment would be partisan no matter what parties there were, or how many. The parties reflect our divides, they don’t create them. Though I wonder if that is still true of the GOP under Trump. And also, it keeps being said, in various ways by both sides, that this process will ruin impeachment, ruin Congress, ruin the country. Of course it won’t. If people with integrity and good intentions get into office, things will improve; if corrupt cowards get into office, everything will go badly. The question is if this process will lead to more corrupt cowards being elected, and at the moment, I’d say: of course.)

So, now we won’t have witnesses or evidence, and Trump will be acquitted and will go back on tour leading up to his reelection bid. And about 50 million people will vote for him because A) he’s not a socialist; B) he put in place those nice white Jesus-lovin’ Justices who will end abortion for us all, and C) fuck the liberals. And I truly hope, and I mostly believe (as cynical as I am, I still believe) that a large number of key voters, moderates and swing voters and those who really hated Hillary Clinton so much they voted for Trump instead of her, will vote for someone who didn’t abuse their power and who isn’t a spurting fountain of corruption. I think a lot of smart people voted for Trump in 2016, and a lot of them realize it didn’t work out the way they wanted it to. I believe that a lot of them will vote him out of office, at least partly because he abused his power and the Congress failed to act on it, failed to do their jobs as Trump has failed to do his job. I hope that they will also vote out the Republican majority in the Senate, because they abdicated their responsibility and betrayed the country.

I don’t know if it will happen that way. I hope so.

But I know this: if he does get reelected, I’m going to look into emigrating to some other country, somewhere that doesn’t reelect a corrupt narcissist because the other political party makes them mad. It’s bad enough that the politicians choose party over country, but they’re cowards who want to keep their jobs more than they want to do their jobs (And yes, that goes for both sides; Dianne Feinstein fucked up the Kavanaugh hearings because she played it for maximum political damage to Trump, and so we got that shitstick on the court for the next thirty years.), but when my countrymen do that? Fuck them. I’m out. And yes, that means they win, and they will gleefully cheer as I leave. And I sincerely hope that my fellow liberals will all come with me, and leave this broken, failing country in their hands, so they can turn it into Gilead and start picking out their Handmaids. I wish them as much joy of what’s left of America as they wished me when they voted Trump into office expressly to fuck with me.

That is: none. Of course. Choke on the ashes of what you’ve wrought, you GOP bastards. Follow your Perfect Leader into hell. I’m done with all of this.

To be perfectly clear: I will fight with everything I’ve got for the next nine months. But if they win again, presidency and congress, that’s my last straw. This is my Waterloo.

Of course.

Brave New World Aftermath: Does Everybody Really Want to Rule the World?

It struck me as I was reading Brave New World, both in the beginning when Huxley takes us on a tour of his nightmare baby factory, and at the end when the World Controller, Mustapha Mond, explains that the people of the Brave New World have chosen stability and happiness over independence and change and growth: why would anyone want to create this?

Why would anyone want to rule this?

I admit freely that I don’t really understand the thirst for power. Myself, I’d really rather just be left alone. Sure, I can see the draw of commanding everyone to obey me, both for selfish pleasures (Like ordering people I don’t like to go get me a donut. No! TWO donuts. And then I won’t share the donuts with them. Ha! How you like that, Doug from third grade?!) and because I think that my vision of the world is the correct one and I would like to solve every problem that exists through my genius becoming law according to my whim.

Because surely that could never go wrong.

I have a certain amount of power, because I’m a public school teacher. And while I have no control over the larger context of my profession or the specifics of my particular job — I don’t get to pick my clients or my work hours or my work space — I do have quite a bit of control over my classroom and the other humans in it. I can boss them around. I can generally make them obey me, at least in small things. I have, no joke, gotten them to get me a donut. And you know what I think every single time I am required to take control over them? I think, “Jesus, do I have to do this shit again? Why me? Why can’t they just, I dunno, control themselves?”

Nothing makes you a libertarian anarchist like trying to control a room full of teenagers.

I genuinely don’t understand why people want power. The obvious reason is personal enrichment and glory, and I understand both of  those things; they’re not worth it to me, but I understand them. I want to be rich enough to have all the donuts I want, and I would love to have a donut named after me so I could be remembered after my death. But if it means I have to be in control of the donut shop, and get up at 2am to make the donuts, then the attractions of power become a whole lot less, for me.

(By the way: remember this guy? I do. Fred the Baker. Icon.)

I still don’t fully understand why Donald Trump became president. He was already rich and famous. I suppose a narcissist like our First Stooge can never have enough money and glory, and I guarantee his little troll-ego gets a big happy jolt out of bossing people around — since that was his whole shtick on his TV show — but unless one gets to be a third-world dictator, then being in charge is, believe me, a whole hell of a lot of work. Even being a third-world dictator is a lot of work: because dictators don’t just get power, they have to keep power. And the way you do that is by keeping the other wielders of power happy with you in charge. If your power base is the bankers and corporations, then they have to be given a free hand with the business world to make all the money they want; if the people get upset about the bankers and you want to squeeze those bankers to please the people, you can’t, because then you lose power. If your power base is the military, then you pretty much have to treat the generals as even more important than you, and make sure they get all the wealth and prestige they want. The person in charge has to work, continuously, to remain in charge. Even in my tiny world of one classroom with a couple of dozen students, being in charge is a constant pain in the ass. I can’t imagine what a pain it is to be President.

He must have known that, having been a dictator in the past, with his company. So why did he do it? I maintain that he enjoyed the race: he liked the debates (Which people still talk about him winning through his oratorical skills. No: you act like a shitpitcher, you’re going to score more points than someone trying to be polite. But in any real debate you’d be stopped by the moderators; that didn’t happen because the TV moderators were not really in charge, because they work for TV stations who love shitpitchers, so Trump was allowed to continue being an ass, and then pundits pretend it was a clever strategy.), he loved giving his rallies, he loved being on the nightly news; he’s been powerful and wealthy all his life, but he’s never had crowds cheering for him, and that must have been a hoot. I think he didn’t ever expect to win, and as surprised as we all were that Wednesday morning, he was the most surprised at all. I think he’s only running now because he can’t back down and maintain his ego.

But that doesn’t explain why he does all the stuff he does. I mean, if I’m right and he never wanted the job, then he’d spend all of his time on social media or the golf course — oh wait. My theory gains ground. But still: he also does stuff. He gives speeches that are not about himself. He holds a couple of press conferences. He works to pass laws and whatnot. He’s doing a terrible job, but he’s still doing the job; and now he’s fighting very hard to keep that job. So maybe it’s not as simple as I am arguing; maybe there is another reason for him to want power.

This is where  his supporters get the idea that he is beneficent and patriotic. We all know being president is a shit job, and only someone who really wanted to help Americans would take on that pile of shit. (Though here’s another theory: shitpitchers would be attracted to piles of shit, right? Maybe the biggest pile of shit job drew in the biggest shitpitcher in the country. It’s the law of fecal gravitation.) I don’t believe that because he’s not really helping anyone very much. Other rich assholes, sure, but I don’t think his loyalty to them is strong.

In the Brave New World, the people in charge have an even shittier job, honestly. Because they get prestige, but they don’t really get to be in charge: their job is simply to maintain the machinery of the society, which is exactly what I think makes being President so shitty: there’s an unending mound of duties just to keep things going. In Huxley’s book, the people they control are under perfect and total control, which, I would argue, would take all the fun out of being in control: there aren’t any rebellions to be crushed (And if you want to know how much fun crushing rebellions is, watch Star Wars and think about the fact that Darth Vader controls a GALACTIC EMPIRE and yet spends all his time chasing down a ragtag band of rebel scum.) and even the sucking up you get from your underlings is only because you programmed them to obey. I can see the ego boost from bending another will to your own; but when the will is already broken, what’s the point? In the book the controllers don’t get to put their ideas in place, don”t get to be glorified; the society has erased (and continues to erase) the past, and their social structure was set centuries before the book.

So why would they want the job?

Are they selfless lovers of humanity? Like Trump?

But then why would they crush the humanity out of the people they “serve?”

Like Trump?

I don’t have an answer here. I realized, when I went to get that video clip at the beginning of this, that the song might be satirical; that Tears for Fears meant the song to make the same point I’m making, that ruling the world would be hellish.

But I guess Satan chose to rule in Hell, didn’t he? Maybe that’s enough.

All I know is, it’s time to go make some donuts. Play us out, Fred.

Brave New World Aftermath: Can’t we all just get along?

Image result for brave new world

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World  is a classic dystopian novel.

In which everyone is happy.

It’s quite wonderfully insidious; usually a dystopian novel shows us a world where no one is happy, and challenges us to find a way to imagine happiness in it: in 1984, everyone suffers all the time, until Winston Smith tries to find a way to, well, live, laugh, and love; the jackboots of Big Brother and the Thought Police stomp that dream out of him. In Fahrenheit 451, the people are committing suicide and killing each other, while screaming at their television sets and cringing away from their devilish firemen; but when Clarisse McClellan tries to think for herself, she is vanished (and probably killed), and when Guy Montag wants to read books instead of burning them, he is arrested and forced to murder his former friend and then run for his life. In The Handmaid’s Tale, happiness is not the thing; purity is. Nobody gives a shit about happiness, and so that’s exactly what they get: shit happiness.

But in Brave New World, when John the Savage wants to be different from the people of the Brave New World, he demands the right to be sad and miserable and angry. And then he is chased out of society, because everyone there is happy, and no one has the freedom to frown, so to speak. Really, no one has the freedom to be alone, which is probably the more disturbing part; that is a common thread in all four books, and I think in all dystopias; everyone is watched, all the time, and it’s horrifying.

I should point out here that we are also watched all the time, and it’s no less horrifying for being real; but there is still some difference for us: the government has the ability to watch us all the time, but they don’t actually care about what 99% of us do.  And while our friends and neighbors are in our business every day, it’s usually because we put our business on social media, or on the grapevine. We still, generally speaking, have the option of privacy. Corporations building data profiles of us are involved in every second of our day that they can be, and that’s probably the most ominous; but really, they just want to sell us shit, so while it’s creepy that the Facebook ads reflect what we were just thinking or talking about, it’s nothing more than something to scroll past. At some point the corporations will realize that they can create markets for their products by screwing with us; that’s when it will get bad. It’s also incredibly dangerous that the data collected on each of us could very easily be turned over to the government (I was going to write “seized by,” but really, what corporation would ever say no to Uncle Sam come looking for intel? They can still sell things to people under NSA surveillance, after all. Maybe rotate some ads for firearms or “Don’t Tread On Me” flags into their feeds.), because the government is certainly willing to screw with us; but as of this moment, to quote the Doors, “They got the guns, but we got the numbers,” and so these tools are not yet  effective. Certainly something to watch out for.

But in the Brave New World, the people don’t have to watch out, they don’t have to suspect their government: they are happy. All of them. All the time. The Big Speech — another common thread through all these books, and perhaps in some form in all dystopian novels, as every dystopian novel has a message to give, and an important one, so the authors don’t want to take a chance on us missing it — given by World Controller Mustapha Mond (Huxley was a brilliant writer, but really, his names are lame. The use of Communist/Socialist names — Marx, “Lenina,” Trotsky — is annoyingly on the nose, and while it’s kinda clever that Mustapha in Arabic means “chosen” or “selected,” the fact that “Mond” means “world” and Mond controls the world… well.) at the end of the novel explains why the society of Brave New World chose happiness and stability over freedom and progress: because there was a terrible war, and afterwards, people wanted to be safe. So they chose to create a stable, safe society, and the only way to do that was to make everyone happy, all the time — or rather, maybe the goal was to achieve happiness for everyone, and the only way to do that was to make sure society was stable, was safe, was static. Every aspect controlled, nothing left to chance.

The result? A society where everyone is designed to be happy. Where the people are cloned, genetically and chemically modified, conditioned and trained from birth to have specific needs and specific wants and specific fears and specific aversions, all of that intended simply to make them happy with their life exactly as it is. They are built to do specific tasks in society, to enjoy simple things like sex, sports, and soma, the wonder euphoria drug that eliminates all chance negative emotions, and never to want to do or be anything other than exactly what they are.

And I read this, and I think: are they right?

Isn’t a happy, stable society better than one that has misery and suffering? Even if, as John the Savage (The one person in the society born to be a part of society, but not raised in it, so not controlled by it) argues — rightly, I think — that sorrow is necessary for tragedy, which is necessary for great art and great genius? Do we really need art and genius? It seems like a reasonable argument to say that most people would prefer to be happy, rather than great, and that happiness — contentment — seems much more likely to make us productive and useful members of society, and to ensure the continuation of the species. Aren’t those the goals?

Even if they aren’t, isn’t the loss of freedom worth the great benefit that the society actively seeks in the novel: the elimination of war? There is not a doubt in my mind that war is the greatest evil, the most abhorrent atrocity, that humanity has ever created or faced; what price should we be willing to pay to free us of it?

After reading this book — though it did genuinely give me pause and make me think twice, and then a couple more times after that — I think the answer is No. No, the price of safety and stability is not worth it. No, the goal is not simply happiness and contentment for all people at all times. Even, I think at least half of the time, if we achieved the end of war.

Because what makes war such an abomination is that it degrades our humanity. In addition to creating or multiplying every other horror we face — death, famine, pestilence, cruelty, greed, deception, hysteria, you name it and war is where you will find it more often and to a greater degree than anywhere else — war takes away everything that ennobles us. In the midst of famine, we can find unmatched ingenuity, and inconceivable endurance, and breathtaking altruism and generosity and self-sacrifice; in the midst of plague, we find kindness and grace and dignity in the midst of and because of the suffering; and so on, through all of it.

But war does quite the opposite. War makes kind people cruel, and healthy people sick, and civilized people into savages. War is the triumph of inhumanity over humanity.

But so is the Brave New World. Because whatever those people are, they are not human. Humans are not designed, and humans are not crafted and shaped like pottery on a wheel, and humans are not set into a groove out of which they will never skip. Humans cannot be perfectly ordered: we are chaos, we create chaos. It’s one of the reasons we are so good at war, because we are so very, very good at destroying things. Especially ourselves. We’re good at building — or else there wouldn’t be any targets for war to aim at — but we’re even better at burning it all down.

And that’s necessary. Because without destroying what is there now, you would never be able to build anything new. Creation implies destruction, but it is valuable  when destruction is for the purpose of creation, when it is part of a continuing cycle: whereas if we end destruction, and end creation too (The people in the book are not created as humans are, through the act of love and the processes of nature; they are built like machines, which is origination, but not, I would argue, creation — and I’m not even touching on the religious argument, which would be a much more poetic way to say the same thing), what we achieve is — stasis. The end of movement.

Death. And not a death that continues the circle of life, giving rise to something new to replace what is lost; here nothing is lost, and so nothing can replace it. Everything is just — still. Stopped. Perfectly motionless, without growth, without progress, without change. Which is no less dead than death itself. And while I will often argue that progress for the sake of progress is cancerous and absurd and deadly, I certainly wouldn’t prefer the final end of all progress.

Not even if it made me happy.

 

I do not think that this means we need to accept war. I still believe it is the extreme end, the Ultima Thule, of human malignancy; which means we can draw back from it, lessen it, even essentially eliminate it; though it is probably also true that some shadow, some residue, will always remain to harm and torment us. It is in our nature: not that we are made to war, but that we are made to try and reach and explore and find new ways to do things, and one of the ways to do things is to go to war; so even if we forgot it, we would rediscover it again, and again. Curiosity killed the cat, and we are forever curious. But just as more freedom and individuality is better than less, even if it is an imperfect freedom and individuality (which is what we have now), less war and more peace is better than the reverse. So I think there is a goal, and a way to achieve it, without also losing everything that we are.

I also recognize that there are events and actions that might be labeled war, but are not the horrors I’ve been describing; there are times when people have taken up arms to put an end to the horrors, when military intervention is the only way to save people. I don’t want to use the phrase “police action,” because Vietnam was a lie and the police as saviors is a fraught idea anyway; but there are times when force is both necessary and humanely applied. Someone who uses force to defend themselves or another from an attacking force has done nothing wrong. I don’t mean to either denigrate that, nor argue that even that should be (or could be) eliminated; that is the shadow and the residue of war that probably should remain — though ideally, since that sort of violence is triggered by the inhumane violence of dictatorship and oppression and vast chaotic upheavals, if we could end those, we wouldn’t need to send the Marines to intervene. But I’m not sure we could end those, either, because I think having the good and valuable tool of a defensive force can very quickly be turned to evil purposes (Which is why the Founding Fathers of this country pushed for a militia and abhorred the idea of a standing army — COUGH COUGH LOOKING AT YOU, MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX), and then the solution becomes the problem. So it goes. We can’t close Pandora’s box.

So no. I don’t think we can live like the Brave New World. (And let me point out that, we discover, neither can they, not entirely, because there are people who don’t fit their molds, and who cause problems, and who are eventually exiled; Mustapha Mond is grateful that there are so many islands in the world to send misfit toys to — but that’s not a  solution, it’s just pretense.) I don’t think we can all just get along.

But I think we can get by. And get to be ourselves. And that’s probably better. Because that way we get to have art and beauty and truth — and that, I think, is really the point.

Shakespeare, as usual, (and as Huxley himself recognized) probably said it best:

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

The Brave New World, for us, is wondrous because of the people in it; it is brave because it faces turmoil and tribulation and suffering; it is new because it moves through the cycle of destruction and creation. It lives, and it changes, and it grows. Like us.

In the book, the quote is used ironically. We have to make it true.

Mind the Gap

Last one. The student who suggested this was definitely on the side of “The wage gap is only because men work harder and have better jobs!” That is, not because of discrimination, but because men go into STEM fields more often, and are more aggressive in seeking promotion and wage increases. But then the question becomes, “Why do men go into STEM fields more often? Why are men more aggressive in seeking promotion and wage increases?”

Here’s my answer.

 

QUESTION:  Is there a gender wage gap? What explains the gender wage gap, if there is one?

There are simple answers to these questions, but there’s a problem: these questions come at the topic from the wrong side. 

Oh – the simple answers are, respectively: “Yes;” and, “Sexism.” 

But when we focus on questioning the existence of the gap, when we try to examine the truth value of a simple truth, the only way to have the argument is to keep breaking the wage gap down into smaller and smaller pieces, because that response values the position that the truth is not true: there must be a reason why my opponent questions the existence of the wage gap. Let’s consider his argument. Is there maybe a flaw in how we describe the wage gap? How we measure it? Is it only a rumor, or propaganda? 

So then we look for explanations that could cast doubt on the existence and extent of the wage gap: is the wage gap because women work fewer hours than men? Because women are less likely to go into high-paying careers? Because men have more education? Because women leave work to have children? Because women are less assertive in demanding more money or greater pay increases? Because men are smarter than women? 

Other than the last one (which, again, has a simple answer: #NOPE), each of these can be adjusted for when examining the data; if you look only at hourly wages, it removes the difference in hours worked and resulting total salary; if you look side-by-side at only specific careers, it removes the question about men going into more highly paid careers than women, and so on. 

Two things result from this: one, with each adjustment, the wage gap goes down; but two, the wage gap never disappears. Since it goes down, however, someone with a specific bias in this argument could extrapolate from the adjusted data and say there is no real gap, or it doesn’t matter; or someone could intentionally skew the data or make unfounded claims to support a different argument.

Here’s an example, from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington thinktank which has a left-center bias, but is highly rated for its truthiness, according to mediabiasfactcheck.com (Source: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/economic-policy-institute/). The EPI did a meta-study of several wage gap studies, and then adjusted for different factors, and reported this:

 

Models that control for a much larger set of variables—such as occupation, industry, or work hours—are sometimes used to isolate the role of discrimination in setting wages for specific jobs and workers. The notion is that if we can control for these factors, the wage gap will shrink, and what is left can be attributed to discrimination. Think of a man and woman with identical education and years of experience working side-by-side in cubicles but who are paid different wages because of discriminatory pay-setting practices. We also run a model with more of these controls, and find that the wage gap shrinks slightly from the unadjusted measure, from 17.9 percent to 13.5 percent.9 Researchers have used more extensive datasets to examine these differences. For instance, Blau and Kahn (2016) find an unadjusted penalty of 20.7 percent, a partially adjusted penalty of 17.9 percent, and a fully adjusted penalty of 8.4 percent.

Source: https://www.epi.org/publication/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap-and-is-it-real/

 

What matters is that second fact. The wage gap doesn’t disappear. It is always there. And just as an overall analysis of all workers will have some extraneous data and some uncontrolled influences and therefore exaggerate the problem (Regionalisms, for instance. Is it likely true that in some areas women are less educated than men because a strong religious influence makes it taboo to teach women, or because the teachers are traditionally men who do a better job of teaching young men than they do teaching young women, and therefore women have fewer high-paying jobs or are paid less because they have less education? Of course it is. So these factors may make the wage gap seem larger than it might be in some other locale, while not reflecting a “true” national wage gap. This is why statisticians have margins of error and confidence indices. But I don’t even understand the sentence I just wrote, so I just use lots of words and examples.), so too will generic adjustments remove some important data (Such as a part-time worker, who was told straight up by a supervisor, “I’m paying you less because you’re a woman, and for no other reason,” but the data vanishes because we only look at full-time workers. And so on.), so the adjusted rates aren’t any more objectively true than the unadjusted rates. All of it is skewed, all of it is complicated.

But what matters is that second fact. The wage gap doesn’t disappear. It would take some genuine statistical skullduggery to actually make it disappear. Which tells us that we shouldn’t be questioning the existence of the wage gap, we should be using it as evidence. The question that matters isn’t: Does the gender wage gap exist? The question that matters is: Is our society still sexist?

And the answer is yes. As proven by countless individual anecdotal experiences, and by a hundred objective facts. Among them: the wage gap. 

There is a thing my students do when I assign them difficult essays; in fact, it is such a common thing that it shows up on rubrics as a possible reason to lower a grade: they “substitute an easier task.” Rather than analyzing the plot, they summarize the plot. Rather than evaluate the characters, they describe first one character, and then another. This is what we have done in our society: we see that sexism still exists, we see that there is a gender wage gap; and rather than deal with sexism, we substitute the easier task, and pass laws that say women can’t be paid less than men for performing the same job. The first one was passed in this country in 1963: President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, which attempted to “prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers.” (Wikipedia.org) 

And that’s when the problem was solved. 

Yeah. Right. Because laws like that are the perfect way to eliminate sexism. 

It’s not that it’s a bad idea to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex; there are those people who openly do it, and they shouldn’t be allowed to. But the real problem is sexism. Because even if the wage gap did disappear, even if we did find the perfect legal remedy for it, our society would still be sexist: and people would suffer in other ways. 

It’s time we dealt with the real problem, instead of substitute an easier task – and then fail to solve that one, too.

This Is Inappropriate

(Okay, the title’s a little clickbait-y. This is entirely appropriate. Promise.) This was a sample I wrote from a student’s suggestion of topic.

 

Why should the school care about what students wear? 

I’ve heard students argue about dress codes for as long as I’ve been a teacher. Honestly, they have terrible arguments: but not because they’re wrong. They have terrible arguments because they’re young and inexperienced with argument, and because their emotions often tend to overwhelm their reason – they get busted for wearing clothes they like, told the clothes they like and feel comfortable in are bad or inappropriate or in poor taste (And all too often, the arguments leveled against them by adults are direct insults – “Why would you wear that? Why would you think it was a good idea to wear that to school?”); of course they get upset, and of course that makes it hard to think clearly of logical reasons why the dress code is bad. That’s without even talking about the deeply troubling message of the dress code, especially when it is enforced against young women: your clothing is incorrect because it shows your body, and your body is inappropriate. Is unacceptable. Is wrong.

Enough is enough. I have been asked to take up this argument, and though I don’t necessarily have personal insight into the dress code – I myself was never busted for a dress code violation in school, even when I wore clothes with offensive messages on them, which I did for years; I have never been told as an adult that my clothing is inappropriate (other than when my friend laughed at me for wearing a white suit, saying I looked like Colonel Sanders. She wasn’t wrong, though.) – I do have logical reasons why the dress code is wrong. The first and most important is: because it upsets the students so much that they can’t think straight. 

Because it does that. That is not to say that students being upset is reason to let them break the rules, which I know is the immediate thought of those who believe in dress codes – probably including the words “snowflake” and “safe space” and maybe some aggressively angry references to people in the past being tougher and stronger and whatnot than kids today, and maybe even a muttered “Avocado toast!” – but it is something that should be considered: because this is a school, and these children are our students. The first (ostensible) reason for a dress code is to ensure that students can focus on their education; but if students are so upset by the dress code and the methods of its enforcement that they can’t, as I’ve said, think logically enough to argue against that dress code, can those students be expected to think clearly enough to learn? And if not, what exactly is the dress code supposed to accomplish? Are those reasons enough to ruin a child’s education, even for one day? Enough to harm that child’s self-image, to teach that child that she herself is inappropriate? 

First, let’s examine the idea that a dress code reduces distraction based on sexuality. That is, when girls wear revealing clothing to school, the boys are incapable of thinking about schoolwork, because all they will be capable of doing is ogling the girls in their revealing clothing. (To a far lesser extent the argument goes both ways: but dress codes are overwhelmingly focused, both in the specific restrictions and the enforcement, on female students post-puberty, because of the distraction of male students post-puberty. LGBTQ students are twice as likely to be the victims of sexual assault or harassment, but I don’t hear that in the arguments for the dress code.) I’ve heard the argument made that revealing clothing invites harassment from teenaged boys, as well, from which girls need to be protected. By disallowing the girls from wearing revealing clothing, thus keeping them safe from boys. (Which is why, currently, 58% of high school girls experience some form of sexual harassment [That number varies by study. A Harvard school of education study found that 87% of teenage girls suffer sexual harassment. Check the link.], and over 10% say they have been forced to have sex: because the dress code is working!)

The obvious answer to this problem – and it is so obvious that it has become a meme, an online trope – is to teach the boys not to harass the girls (Again, this goes both ways, as well, but people rarely focus on sexual harassment of male students. Assume I’m including that issue, as well. I am.), and to redirect the boys to their schoolwork, to train them to overcome their urges and focus on the task at hand. If school can’t even do that, what are we even doing? And if we can’t do that because it can’t be done, if teenaged boys are so inevitably focused on sexual thoughts that no power on this Earth could stop them from staring at girls and fantasizing, why would you ever think that a loose polo shirt and ill-fitting dress pants would do the trick? I’m not going to pretend that this argument is reasonable, because I refuse to accept the underlying claim that males cannot possibly overcome our urges, that we are all rapists at heart, barely held in check by terror of punishment; but the same clichés that give this argument its power contradict the idea of a dress code: if teenaged boys are so horny, thinking about sex every seven seconds, willing to do literally anything for the chance at sexual release, if, as movies describe it, “linoleum” or “a stiff breeze” are sufficient to put teenaged boys in the mood – what clothing choice could possibly stop that?

Is it possible that, instead, we should deal with the actual issue head on? Teach students, especially male students, about consent? About rape? About sexual harassment? Teach our students the truth about their pubescent hormones and their bodies?  Stop pretending that sexual urges are bad, but teach them that unwelcome sexual advances are bad, and are not excused by clothing choices? Is it possible that we should teach young people to control themselves, and to redirect their thoughts when they become problematic? Talk about it all honestly, so that we can address actual concerns, answer their questions, rather than try to shamefully cover up? As awkward as those conversations might be, I would have that conversation a thousand times before I would tell a female student to cover up because I can see her breasts.

Once we get past the question of sex-based distraction, the second most common argument for a dress code is even sillier: not because those who create and enforce dress codes have terrible goals, but entirely because the benefits are not worth the costs. The argument is that the dress code reflects a professional work environment; students will not be allowed to wear tank tops and miniskirts (or sagged jeans and wifebeaters) to work. Which I suppose is true (Except for my former student who wore a bikini to work, because she was Miss Teen California; and let’s not pretend that none of our students become models, or strippers, or dancers, or Hooters waitresses – or simply work at home, a trend that has grown enormously as telecommuting and gig work have become more popular; and working at home means you can wear literally nothing to work, every single day. Even if you have to teleconference, nobody sees if you’re not wearing any pants.) but here’s the thing: students aren’t at work. School is not work. You can tell because we don’t pay them. I am a firm believer in the idea that students work as hard at school as most people do at their jobs, and their compensation is the education and the opportunities they gain; but nonetheless, they are not professionals, and should not be held to professional standards. Simply because any professional can quit: and students cannot. Since we compel them to attend, they should be allowed more freedom than a professional would be – and letting them wear what they want seems a reasonable concession.

In terms of preparing them for their future: how much preparation does this habit actually require? Is it hard to figure out how to dress for a professional office? If it is, then kids are in trouble: because it’s not actually how they are required to dress for school. I’ve never been required to wear a uniform polo shirt – and I work in a high school. One with a uniform code: for students. But on the other hand, I never thought it would be okay to wear booty shorts and a mesh crop-top to work, so practice not wearing booty shorts and a mesh crop-top to school doesn’t seem necessary. If someone is confused about the appropriateness of their attire, then what is required is a conversation: not years and years at a school with a dress code. If we’re going to all this effort, and causing all of this discomfort to our students, in order to spare their future supervisors from having one potentially awkward conversation, we need to straighten out our priorities. Because school staff have years of awkward conversations, which can have serious effects on the students’ self-image, in order to spare one adult conversation. It’s simply not worth it. Thinking that it is, is silly.

We can ratchet the silliness up another notch with this next one: uniforms make the student body look and feel like they belong, like they are part of a unified team. It’s difficult to believe that actually works; I’ve worn the same outfit as another person before and somehow never thought of the close bond that was thus created. I’ve never hugged the other people wearing Doc Martens just because what they have on their feet resembles what I have on my feet. (If that worked, wouldn’t we all be bonding over the simple existence of socks? WOO! SOCKS! HUG IT OUT FOR SOCKS!) Maybe it’s because I never played a lot of sports, and it’s the sports uniform that makes a team come together; but I did play some sports, and I did have a team uniform: it didn’t make me feel like I belonged. Probably because the other kids on the team made fun of me. Even though we were all wearing the same uniform. Because I was bad at sports.

Which brings us to another potential reason for a dress code, or more specifically for a uniform code: if students wear uniforms, then none of them can make fun of other students for what they are wearing. There is, I admit, some truth to that; because students do mock each other for their dress, particularly along socioeconomic class lines. But I cannot imagine that identical uniforms will overcome those class distinctions: the rich kids will still have, and will notice and comment on, their better hair and skin and makeup and accessories; even if every kid had a bag over their head, kids would still know who was rich and who was poor, and there would still be conflict.

This is what is wrong with all of the arguments for a dress code, or for a uniform code: they all treat the symptoms, and not the actual problem. If students are being distracted by sexy thoughts about their peers, the issue is the distraction and the sexy thoughts; not what the peers are wearing. If students mock each other for their clothes, the answer is not to change their clothes; it is to change their attitudes and their behavior. If we want students to feel like they are part of a team, that they are in a place where they belong, then by God let us make them feel like they are a part of the school community: let us treat them as equals, not as underlings. If we want them to feel like they belong, then please, let us treat them as if they have a right to be on the school campus, as if this is a place that they can feel comfortable: let them wear whatever they want to wear. 

Then if one of them shows up in a Speedo, we can have that one awkward conversation.