Bro, Do You Even Socia-Lift?

I’ve been seeing these memes and similarly-themed posts on social media:

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I also saw (but cannot now find) a response meme that was exactly right: This isn’t a test run of a Sanders presidency, it is an ACTUAL situation under the TRUMP administration.

It is the TRUMP administration that was so lax, so apathetic, so inefficient and corrupt and broken that they could not prepare properly for a crisis even with MONTHS of lead time. It was January when we all knew about this outbreak, because that was when the Chinese New Year was canceled; and then we all knew that it was something serious. January. And what did the Trump administration do to get ready for the inevitable, when the disease came to the United States? As all diseases do, because there is no realistic way to quarantine any nation in this globally-connected world? As SARS did, as MERS did, as swine flu and avian flu did, as even goddamn Ebola did?

Nothing. They did nothing.

Okay, not nothing. They restricted travel by limiting visas, and quarantined people returning from China where the outbreak started in December; and these tactics have some positive effect, because they slow the spread of infection and give the medical community time to react and plan and prepare. Except the Trump administration did not allocate additional resources: did not stockpile test kits or obvious useful supplies like masks and gloves and sanitation materials; did not rapidly begin increasing capacity in intensive care units or even start planning for a possible rapid increase. No: the president tweeted, and his cronies repeated, that the border was locked “airtight” and everything was fine.

And then, when the shit started to hit the fan, and people responded entirely predictably, with panic-buying things they thought they would need, the administration did — absolutely nothing. This is also entirely predictable, because it is a tenet of free market capitalism: let the markets determine supply and demand, price and availability. The market determined that, at the current price, the supply of toilet paper and sanitation supplies was insufficient to meet the demand.

So be it. Sometimes things go sideways, and while there are some fucked up people who do fucked up things, and who should be stopped from pulling that crap  — like these guys, who were stopped, and who now just get to sit on their hoard while they are investigated for criminal price-gouging; or these women who fought each other over toilet paper (I will note this happened in Australia) — for the most part, it’s manageable. I mean, some people may run out of toilet paper, but they can still poop.

In the end, as long as we are alive, we can all still poop.

That’s clearly the larger point, here. As maddening as it is that people are panicking, and while it’s certainly true that some people will suffer because they cannot get supplies they need, those things will almost certainly not be life-threatening. (I have not heard that medicines are being hoarded to the point of shortages; if that is happening, then it is life-threatening. I hope not. The novel coronavirus is bad enough without us killing each other.) I don’t believe that life is always the only thing that matters; but certainly it always matters more than toilet paper.

As important as that point is (And as much fun as it is to say it), it was not the point I wanted to make here. The point I wanted to make here comes back to that meme about Bernie Sanders: it has to do with the biggest issue that voters seem to have with Bernie Sanders, and is apparently the reason why Joe Biden is currently winning the race for the Democratic nomination despite being the worst available candidate: it’s because Bernie Sanders is associated with…

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Look at it! LOOK AT ALL THAT SOCIALISM!

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(That last one is my wife’s favorite. Because skulls. Though she also likes the hammer and chain image. By the way, my wife is the amazing artist found here.)

That’s right, socialism. Scary, spooky socialism. You know: the

 politicalsocial and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership[1][2][3] of the means of production[4][5][6][7] and workers’ self-management of enterprises.[8][9] It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems.[10] Social ownership can be publiccollectivecooperative or of equity.[11] While no single definition encapsulates many types of socialism,[12] social ownership is the one common element.[1][13][14] It aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system in capitalism.[15][16][17][18]

Come on, guys. Come on. Even Wikipedia knows that there are different kinds and layers of socialism. Democratic socialism, which is what Bernie Sanders espouses, is not Marxist state-controlled socialism. The argument that Sanders’s socialism will lead to Castro’s socialism is an absurdly precipitous slippery slope argument — and anyone who has ever got caught drinking or smoking pot, and who then had to listen to their parents tell them that they were going to be shooting heroin within a matter of hours, knows the problem with the slippery slope argument.

Pot is not a gateway to heroin. Neither is alcohol. There is no logical reason to assume that one thing will inevitably lead to another related thing, particularly not when the guy you are accusing of pushing us down that slope has a very clear record of fighting the centralized authoritarianism that is the actual threat in full-blown Marxist socialism; even his opposition to gun control is evidence of his desire to spread power among the people, to reduce the ability of the central government to control its citzens.

Sanders is not a gateway to Mao Zedong.

I know this has been pounded on again and again; I’m sure that people are tired of hearing it, and me saying this is probably not going to change any minds, or any votes. But this current situation seemed like too good of an opportunity for me to let it go by without making this point.

The things that people are doing right now that are driving all of us up the wall? Perfect nutshell depiction of capitalism. Resources are allocated not according to what is most practical or necessary, but according to demand, which is influenced by, among other things, perception and emotion. There are booms and busts, surplus and scarcity; and we just have to roll with the punches in every case. Which is made harder by the assholes doing asshole things, driven by greed, by the profit motive.

The things that people are doing right now that are showing us that we can still have faith in humanity? That’s socialism. People are sharing. Helping one another. Trying to intentionally ration so that other people can get what they need — particularly those who are less independent, who are in greater need. People are sacrificing for the greater good — you know, acting against their own economic self-interest. We are still, to some extent, acting out of self-interest; but the profit we seek is not money: it is perhaps reputation in our community, but most likely, it is simple altruism. Kindness. Our profit is in feeling good about ourselves and our world, because we were able to help someone in need.

I don’t think that this kind of community spirit should become the organizing principle of the country. It wouldn’t work on a national scale, because we can’t always give, but people in need can always take. I don’t think the country should become a classic Marxist state: central planning is deeply inefficient, as has been amply shown by every nation that has tried to pursue it, all of which have turned back to some kind of market economy — which is dangerous in its own right, because individual people can manipulate the market in a hundred terrible ways, and do harm to everyone else in order to profit themselves. And the centralization of power does create opportunities for the rise of authoritarian autocrats like Stalin and Castro. Where capitalism creates opportunities for Jeffrey Epstein, for El Chapo, who could buy the ability to cause enormous suffering with impunity, simply because they were very good at collecting money  and then spreading it around.

Clearly, clearly, the answer lies in between: in moderation. In some blend of a market economy, with shared resources managed by some collective body, particularly to create a social safety net for when the market goes ker-blooey. Like now.

There’s no way the free market could handle the coronavirus. Quarantine would never be organized enough to limit the spread; the best a capitalist could do in a pandemic would be to Red Death it: lock themselves away in a castellated abbey and die when the clock strikes midnight on their revels. Any company that could create and charge for the various necessities, particularly tests and vaccines, would charge so much that the rest of the economy would be devastated. Without some kind of central government organization looking after things, there would be so much rampant fraud and exploitation, because  everyone is desperate and panicky, that again, the economy would be devastated, and the death toll would be astronomical as people relied on whatever snake oil was offered to them in a compelling way — like the crap being pulled by this shithead, who hasn’t committed a crime (Not this time, at least), but who is at least getting sued by Missouri.

This isn’t even an argument: nobody seriously thinks we should do away with the CDC, with the FDA, with the national guard, with the entire government. So since we are all willing to accept that there are some things that can only be done reasonably by a nationwide government, can we please, please stop pretending that socialism will be the downfall of America? When right now, capitalism and capitalists are clearly the bigger threat?

AS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely.

“Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.

“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.”

Source

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, my school has been closed temporarily, even though most of my students aren’t in any real danger, so that Covid-19 won’t spread to vulnerable populations. And though I could therefore take a nice, long, paid vacation, I’m going to try to figure out how I can deliver the best possible education I can through remote distance learning to my students. Even though it will take extra work, for which I won’t earn any more money. I’m not in it for the profits — though I am in it for the paycheck. Isn’t that remarkable: a mix of profit motive, and altruism. Sounds pretty American, to me.

Oh– and I’m also going to vote, on Tuesday.  For a Democratic Socialist who I know would have handled this crisis better in every way than the billionaire currently sweating on the toilet in the White House.

Do the right thing, everybody. Both with the coronavirus, and your ballot.

Just because it’s the right thing.

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(D)Electable

First: let me be clear.

Elizabeth Warren is the best candidate.

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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.

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.

All Together Now: Split Up!

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World War III might be coming soon. (I mean, probably not, but who can say? Who’s to say what CheetoFace the Kleptocrat will do next?)

But the meme war has already begun.

I had a class ask about the war yesterday, and about the draft, and about everything they worry about or are confused by regarding the whole mess. I helped them as much as I could, which wasn’t enough — because I can’t stop the war. One of my students made a nice point, though: someone said that memes would be turned to propaganda for one side or the other, and another student said, “All propaganda is memes.”

That’s the truth. And the corollary is probably also true: all memes are propaganda.

I have a troubled relationship with memes. I think they’re funny a lot of the time, and I’m impressed by the creativity behind them; but I loathe when they are used as arguments. Memes are inherently reductive, and more often than not, flat out wrong. I used to make it a thing to argue with anyone who used a meme to establish a position, especially a political position, especially on a genuine controversial issue.

Like this bullshit:

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Nothing on this meme is true. The U.S. isn’t third in murder rate; we are 77th. Washington isn’t even in the “top” 30 cities in the US with the highest murder rates, and the other three are not the cities with the highest murder rates; in 2018 the total number of homicides in the U.S. was 16,214, and if we take away the 765 murders in Chicago, the 174 in New Orleans, the 304 in Detroit, and the 160 in Washington D.C., (Admittedly, this is a hell of a lot of murders) the number drops to 14,811. My math gives us a murder rate of 4.49 per 100,000 residents; lower than the U.S. rate of 5.0 murders per 100,000 population, according to the FBI, but according to this chart, that would move us down — exactly nine spaces. To between Niger and Lithuania. I’m not even going to talk about whether those four cities do in fact have the “toughest” gun laws in the United States, though I will note that the states  with the most restrictive gun laws according to this article are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, California, Illinois, and New York. Soooo…. I guess Chicago might be in there. Right?

And is that woman really the Second Amendment? She seems too young.

Anyway, I’ve argued against a lot of memes over the years. It’s slowed down a bit: I stopped trying to argue with everyone and everything I disagree with, and the memes have increased exponentially in number, and increased (though not exponentially) in amusement.

But now we get to the current meme war.

Currently, the memes are showing up (from what I have seen, though my experience is certainly not comprehensive)  in two main forms: World War III is coming, and that’s fucked up and I’m scared, and therefore I’m going to use black humor to deflect from my fear. That looks like this:

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I don’t have anything to say about those memes other than: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my generation and the ones before mine sunk this country, and this world, into this nightmare of eternal war, and now the current generations have to pay for it. I’m sorry for all that my country has done to harm other countries. I do recognize that there have been some good outcomes of American military intervention; but those outcomes do not come anywhere close to making up for the damage we have done. Not even close.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about here. I’m a pacifist, I’m anti-war; my position on American wars is not surprising.

No: what I wanted to talk about is the other class of memes. Memes like this:

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Pay attention to who gets upset when a terrorist leader is killed. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.'

And this:

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And this lil beauty:

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So look. People can be in favor of war with Iran. I don’t agree, but they have the right to believe that it is the right thing; there’s at least some kind of argument in support of that, so it’s not insane to think it. Iran certainly does and has done terrible things, and maybe war would stop that.

But first, we here in this country need to not act as though we have the moral high ground: we do not.

The truth is that Soleimani was not all that different from any of about five dozen current and former American politicians and bureaucrats — if anything, he was considerably more restrained about the use of force. Yes, he was involved in a lot of bloody wars — but so was every American president since 2000, and besides half the wars he fought in were started or fueled by the United States. It’s just another instance of America’s gigantic hypocrisy when it comes to war.

America is guilty of everything we accuse Iran of doing

Second, whether you are for war with Iran (or war in general) or not, your position does not in any way have any implications about your citizenship, your rights, or how you feel about this country. You can love America and hate the war; you can hate America and love the war; and everything else in between — and the one does not at all imply the other.

I’m not sure how to explain or argue for that idea other than just to state it. To state clearly that one of the foundations of this country is freedom of thought and opinion, and the freedom of speech that allows us to express those opinions in a public forum. There is not any requirement to support the government, the war effort, or even the troops; there are reasons not to support all of those institutions, and therefore someone could reasonably have that opinion, and still think the U.S. is a good country and want to be a part of it. And of course, an American can think that the U.S. is a terrible country, and hate every little thing about it — and still be an American citizen. No less of an American citizen than the most flag-kissin’, woo-hootin’, ‘Murrican-chaps-wearin’ yahoo out there. And if you don’t understand that, the problem is you, not the person who disagrees with the rising tensions in the Middle East. Not someone who sympathizes with Soleimani: because you can think a man is a bad man, and still not want him dead, or be sad that he died — and again, even if you think Iran is a fine country and Soleimani was an Iranian patriot hero, you will still be an American citizen. Because citizenship, moral or legal, is not predicated on one’s opinions. Ever. Actions can change one’s legal or moral right to citizenship; if you try to harm America, one can argue that you lose some right to call yourself an American (Though personally I would say you need to actively alter your legal status, intentionally [And thus President Obama’s killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki was murder and not an act of war] ; and to me, morality has nothing whatsoever to do with citizenship: good Americans and bad Americans are Americans alike.), but saying you want to harm America is only words, only an opinion. It would be far more harmful to America to try to strip someone’s citizenship for an opinion or a statement thereof, because that is a violation of that foundational freedom of opinion and of speech.

And refusing to support a war, a war that will most certainly harm America — and thus should be opposed by those who want to do what is right for this country — is in no way something that changes one’s right to be an American. Doesn’t even make you a bad American. Though I guess someone could have the right to flip me off for that opinion, so I shouldn’t put that last meme into my display of objectionable memes. (Though also, isn’t that desecration of the flag? Just sayin’.)

It’s bad enough that we have to deal with jingoist nationalists trying to murder people around the world. Please don’t also make me have to defend my right to inclusion in my own native country. Please understand the country you claim to love, at least as well as it’s understood by those you say don’t love it enough.

Try to understand the war as well as this guy: (The first Tweet makes the point, but go read the whole thread.)

I do love my country. I do. I hate war. And so I refuse to allow those two things to be seen as the same thing. Even by my countrymen: whose right to be wrong I will defend to my last breath. So please do the same for me.

Understand that we can disagree, but when we fight each other over our disagreements, when our different opinions make you consider me inhuman, or undeserving of inclusion in your group, then we become divided in a way that is incredibly difficult to put back together. And that division hurts us. Not the difference in our opinions: if I think stopping the war is best for America, and you think fighting the war is best for America, then we disagree, but we are not divided: we want the same thing. We stand on common ground. We can discuss it, because we can both start our arguments with, “I want what’s best for our country, just like you do, but…”

But if you think I am not deserving of the title “American” because I don’t share your opinion, then we can’t even talk: I say, “I want what’s best for America,” and you say, “No you don’t, you’re not even a real American.” Now we are arguing about me, not about our country and how to help it.

That is what benefits the enemies of this country, and what harms this country: if we cannot see each other as equals, who happen to disagree.

There’s been far too much of that lately. We should stop doing it. All of us. Right now. Especially as we consider going to war, again. Because if we have to fight each other, we can’t also fight our enemies — and please understand that, although I do not want war, and I do not want violence, I do want to fight my country’s enemies. Enemies like ignorance, and bigotry, and dehumanizing hatred. That is what I will fight. That is what I do my utmost to protect my country, and my countrymen, from.

Because I love my country, and I want what’s best for us all. All of us. That’s what matters to me.

Remember what matters most to you.

Remember: united we stand.

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The Year Of Women (Which Should Be Every Year)

I was having an argument on Twitter the other night.

Okay. It was New Year’s Eve. Okay? That’s right. I spent part of my Greatest Party Night of the Year arguing with trollbots on the biggest dumpster fire in all of social media.

Maybe your New Year’s resolution should be to STOP JUDGING ME!

(I’m probably being a little sensitive. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.)

The argument was mainly about how there should be more women in politics; it started with this Tweet:

I went through this thread, started by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand saying that 2020 should see more women elected into office, and I replied to every shmuck I saw who felt the need to say, “Voting for women just because they’re women? That’s sexist! You should support the best candidate whoever it is.”

Like this dude:

And this one:

And, of course, from the Trump Camp:

Each of these replies led to a mini-argument, because both I and my interlocutors are men: we feel the need to always get the last word. (See, that was sexist. Trying to offer helpful illustrations here.) Several of these little tiffs followed the same course. I replied:

Let me be clear about this, so that if anyone reading this blog finds themselves in a similar pit full of vipers, you have something handy to throw at them (Sorry it’s not a brick.). The argument that every single attempt to focus on sex is by definition sexism — like this, which I got several times:

— is a false equivalency. Sexism is not “by definition” any attempt to consider sex as a fact, and as an important fact; sexism is an attempt to oppress or denigrate someone on the basis of sex. When you’re using sex as an important consideration in how you relate to or deal with a person, that is only sexist if your consideration does harm and if your consideration is based on stereotyping or prejudice. If I were considering whether I wanted to date a person, I would consider their sex as an important factor in their dateability as I am a heterosexual male and thus would prefer to date women (A much more important factor is that I am ecstatically and joyfully married to the greatest woman alive, but this is just a f’rinstance); this is not a sexist consideration. If I were an OBGYN, I would certainly consider sex as an important factor in determining which patient I would take on, and how to treat them; this also is not a sexist consideration, even if it means I refuse to treat a man solely on the basis of his sex.

It’s not sexist because it isn’t doing harm: my refusing to date a man doesn’t hurt him (Believe me: he’s better off. I am not a catch. Look at how I spent New Year’s.), and an OBGYN refusing to take on a male patient is a recognition of specialized knowledge on the part of the doctor, and a lack of need of that knowledge on the part of the patient; that would be saving harm, or at least inefficiency as the OBGYN wastes their valuable time trying to help a patient who could just as easily be treated by a general practitioner, thus taking time away from someone who could only be treated by that OBGYN. Now, if it was a medical emergency and the OBGYN was the only doctor available, then it would be more questionable if the doctor refused to treat the man, but it would depend on what the reason was. If it was prejudice or stereotyping– that is, that doctor has already made a determination of the worth or character of this man because he is a man (pre-judging him), or if the doctor refuses because this man is like all other men and all men are scum because of their mannishness (stereotyping) —  and the refusal to treat did harm, then that would be sexist.

Let me also note here that transgendered people negate this example I’m giving here: because there are trans men who do, in fact, need the specialized services of an OBGYN since they are men with uteruses; and of course there are many women who have no particular need for an OBGYN because they are women without uteruses (There are other reasons to see an OBGYN. Forgive my reductionism; I think it necessary.). I do not mean to ignore trans people, who should not be simply considered an addendum, an asterisk, a qualification to the usual or norm or standard; but on the other hand, it is impossible to have a discussion of sexism in this society without talking about men and women, and since I’m advocating for building equity, I can’t talk about moving away from gender entirely, which would also solve this problem. I’m going to write a full post about trans people tomorrow, but I want to finish the point I’m making now, today.

I realize I’m overexplaining; it’s not because I think my readers — who, I have no doubt, are people of taste and discrimination and brilliant erudition — need to be taught the meaning of prejudice or stereotyping, or even sexism; it’s because these words are being misused, usually intentionally, and I think the best way to combat that is with absolute pedantic clarity: i.e., overexplaining. Mansplaining. Which, when you do it to fellow men, is just kinda funny.

Which is what I did with my fellow Twits.

All right, I was also sarcastic there with the “more than one thought at a time” comment. But at this point I was realizing that I was arguing with at least a couple of bots or trolls, and ideally those shouldn’t be engaged with — certainly not in an incendiary way, as that will only piss off the people who agree with the bot’s statements, and I believe quite strongly that, while we should stand up for what is right and argue our points clearly, we also should not try to anger our opponents; good argument leads more often to compromise, but angry diatriabes lead to division and more conflict. So I shouldn’t have said this, but hey, I’m on Twitter too: so I’m either trash or fire. Or both.

The main point is my last sentence there. Seeking equity is not sexist. I typed that half a dozen times in response to half a dozen accusations of sexism. (I would have typed out this entire blog, instead, but there’s a 280 character limit. Sometimes I find Twitter very frustrating. But I consider it my penance: mortification of the verbosity.) That’s the real point I want to make here.

Here’s the deal: when men have created a situation where we inherently, by nature of our sex, have an easier time running for and winning elected office — and we have done that, starting most clearly in this country with a Constitution which did not recognize a woman’s right to vote or hold office but only white men’s — then the best way to combat that is to write laws that specifically include women as equal to men, and eliminate laws that make women unequal to men. In both cases, women will benefit more than men, because in the first case women will gain more than men will, and in the second, men will lose a perquisite they have had up until now. But this is not harming men: it is taking away something we have no right to, unequal privileges, in order to create equity, and justice. It is returning what was stolen. It is balancing the scales.

And while it is entirely true that male elected officials are capable of doing that, and historically some have done so, this is also true:

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

That means the best way to address the institutional inequalities and injustices in our society is not to beg those in power to do the right thing; it is to empower those who have something to gain from doing the right thing. That way we all gain justice and equality, and, quite simply, a better society.

And that means electing more women.

Let’s make it happen in 2020.

 

This Morning

This morning I’m thinking about the Constitution. About the Second Amendment.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I have thought about this particular sentence quite a lot over the years. I’ve shifted my position on this several times, generally in the same direction; not because the side I’ve shifted towards is entirely right (Though it is the right-wing position, the conservative position, that doesn’t make it the right-minded position), but because I came into this debate with a pretty extreme view.

See, I was raised to hate firearms. Violence of all types, certainly, but firearms in particular. My mother, a nurse and a pacifist and the kindest person I have ever known, never even let me have a BB gun, no matter how many times I watched “A Christmas Story.” There was one occasion when I was about 8 or so when our family went over to visit friends for dinner; my mom and dad liked this couple quite a lot: he was a computer guy who worked with my dad, and she was a ceramic artist. They all got along great — until Ben, the husband, showed my brother Marvin and I his pistol. I have a clear recollection of the gun — a revolver — being entirely unloaded, the cylinder open with no shells in it; I remember him letting us hold it. And I remember my mother coming in the room and finding us there holding a gun.

We never saw them again. Not only didn’t go over to their house, but we never saw the Kirchners again. I think my mom saw Mrs. Kirchner at some point, because we had a number of mugs that she made; but we never saw Ben after that.

So I’ve never been in a fight, and I’ve never gone hunting, and I’ve never killed an animal larger than a mouse, and I’ve never fired nor even held a gun past that one time when I was eight. I remember being in an online debate when I started taking this topic on, and my opponent accused me (as online debaters — read “assholes,” including myself when I debated online — are wont to do) of being a hoplophobe, someone who is irrationally afraid of firearms (Please note that this is just a politically charged insult recently coined, like “snowflake” or “soyboy” or that kind of bullshit.). And my response, which stunned the asshole who threw the word at me, was, “Yes. Yes, I am.” I did add the clarifications that I was afraid of people wielding firearms, not of the weapons themselves, and that this fear was not in fact irrational.

The response was basically that I should get a gun and learn to defend myself like a man.

This is a bullshit argument.

But it’s not actually the argument behind the Second Amendment.

Let’s be clear: the Second Amendment has been misinterpreted (in my opinion) by the courts, and even more by the general populace. It does not define the right to self-defense: there is no need to define and protect the natural right to self-defense, because self-defense is never a crime. But I don’t believe there is a guarantee in the Second Amendment that an individual has a right to, needs to, or even should, have a gun for self-defense.

The Second Amendment is also not in any way a defense of hunting or target shooting or collecting firearms to display in your home. None of those are rights. They’re amusements, hobbies; you have no right to a hobby. “But Dusty, what about people who hunt for food?” Well actually, you don’t have a right to food, either. People should have food, and it makes sense for us as a country to ensure that people have food and the ability to get food; but we do it because it makes sense, not because it’s a right. If it stops being sensible to provide food — let’s say we all voluntarily go into the Matrix, and survive on pink goo pumped directly into our gastrointestinal systems — then the provision of food will stop, without any violation of rights.

Let me explain a bit before I go too far into the weeds. The Second Amendment states that the people — not a person — have the right to keep and bear arms, in order to defend the security of a free State. The implication is that the main threats to a free State are external: I think that’s the “security” line. If it was primarily about the defense of a free people from the state, then it would say something more like “to ensure the integrity and continuation of a free State.” But I don’t mean to be one of those people who parse every word of the law in order to determine what the point is: I don’t actually idolize the Founding Fathers, and don’t think that their intentions should be the deciding consideration when trying to interpret the Constitution. I think we should look at what the document is really supposed to do, not necessarily what the men who wrote it wanted it to do.

The Constitution is intended to create and preserve a nation based on the rule of law, and not the whims of men. Laws need to be interpreted and executed by people, so our opinions have some importance; but the defining, essential purpose of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers was to escape and prevent the tyranny of powerful men.

You know how you escape the tyranny of powerful men? You spread power out as much as humanly possible. You create separate but equal branches of government, with checks and balances. You ensure that, as much as possible, the people who run that government are beholden to the masses, through the power of the ballot. (It’s probably a good idea to ensure that the people who are in charge of the actual laws are not quite so beholden to the people, but rather to the law itself — but that’s a different topic.) And because physical force is a source of power, you spread out the physical force as widely as possible: you don’t allow it to concentrate in the hand of a few, or even, if you can manage it, in the hands of many: you put it in the hands of all. That’s what the Second Amendment does, and what it does is right to do: the wider the dispersal of power, the less likely power is to be abused.

I do think the Second Amendment is intended partly to ensure that the people stay free and are able to defend that freedom against a rising tyranny in their own government. But it’s not that specific: it’s intended to create resistance to any gathering of power. The Ku Klux Klan have less power when the Black Panthers have rifles: it’s really as simple as that.

That means that we need to have the right to own firearms, as firearms are the most powerful individual force-multiplier we people can own. Tanks would be better, and an entire air force or navy owned by each individual WAY better; but that’s not feasible.  Anyone can own a gun, and a person with a gun is more deadly than one without. That’s why the Amendment defends the right to keep and bear arms. That does also imply that we should have the right to defend ourselves from personal harm using firearms. It makes sense: the point of maintaining a free State is so we free individuals can have a place to live; therefore the purpose of defending a free state also encompasses defending a free individual. Also, not to get too silly, but you can’t defend the state if you get killed by an intruder in your home.

But here’s the thing: there’s nothing in the Amendment, neither the wording nor the logic, that implies that we should not require background checks on every single purchase of a firearm. And a national gun registry of every owned or manufactured firearm. And red flag laws that allow the removal of firearms from dangerous individuals. And mandatory firearms training and testing, just like we have for motor vehicles. And limits on types of firearms (To some extent — there should be a limit on the limits so that the limits do not become a de facto ban), and on magazine capacity, and on everything else that we see fit to regulate. See, the goal here is to ensure that power is spread out: not that power has to be granted and defended for every halfwit who can pull a damn trigger. Not that the power has to allow one sovereign citizen to take on the military, or even the police, and win. The arguments against regulation are all predicated on the (rather paranoid) idea that the main purpose of the Amendment is to limit the ability of the federal government to control people, and that’s just not the case. Anyone who is a threat to us needs to be controlled, primarily by the limiting of power in the hands of those who are a threat. Note that: if we fear the rising power of the Federal government, then clearly the answer given by the Constitution is to limit that power, not to rise up against it. The worst case scenario is that the people will need to overthrow their own government, but the Amendment isn’t the plan for that; the Amendment is part of the plan for preventing that.

Our ability to own firearms is one thing that helps keep the government from the most simple and brutal sort of tyranny (And it really does do that, and I think I’ll have to talk about that at greater length on another day; the topic is too complex for a single post); but to keep us from turning our power on each other (And to keep the citizens from turning their power on the government for corrupt reasons, too; let’s not forget that. Let’s not imagine that most revolutions are idealistic and freedom-loving.), well — that’s why it says “Well-regulated.” Right there in the front of the Amendment. Even before the “keep and bear arms” part.

 

I think this will have to be continued.