This Morning

This morning I am formulating a plan.

I know it’s early to be thinking of contingencies, and I don’t mean to be negative or imply that I won’t do my damnedest to see that this doesn’t happen, but: in case everything does go wrong, and Trump wins a second term in 2020, I know what I’m going to do.

I’m going full pirate.

Image result for skull and crossbones

I like this one because the skull has an eyepatch. Perfect. Though I wish the skull and crossbones on his hat was also wearing a hat with a skull and crossbones, which was also wearing a hat, so we could have an infinite regression. But this will do. Image taken from here.

 

I’m going to take my family and head to the high seas. I have several friends who are both enamored of the pirate life and also as disgusted as I am by Donald Trump’s presidency; I hope they will be willing to join my crew. Some of them are boat lovers, sailors, mechanically inclined, which is good as I am none of those things — I love tall ships and like boats of all kinds, but I know nothing about them, nor about sailing. I’m also uncomfortable with the ocean, as I have a morbid fear of drowning. But that’s okay! Because I know a lot about pirates: such as the fact that most pirates were terrible seamen, as they were often drunk and sailed the ships they could steal, which were never the fastest nor the most seaworthy; also, the pirates of the Caribbean, particularly, couldn’t keep a ship in the water more than about two years before it was eaten by teredo worms (Actually, they weren’t worms, they were long clams: their shells were tiny, attached only at one end, and were what the clam-worms — clorms? — used to burrow into the wood of the ship. And if that doesn’t fucking terrify you, you’re not allowed in my crew.). The pirates didn’t win their prizes with fast or clever sailing; they used knowledge of the local waters to set traps, floating like giant inebriated jellyfish in the shipping lanes and attacking ships that came too close, or else they would fill a ship with so many men that when they managed to get close to a merchant vessel, the mere sight of so many drunken violent filthy scalawags was enough to make the ship surrender. Point is, you don’t  need to sail well to be a good pirate. So I’m in. Also, there is a long tradition of sailors being unable to swim, since the ocean is a bad place to have to walk home from if your ship sinks; most people would rather just go down quickly. I’m not one of them: but I also don’t plan to run that risk.

Now we  get to the good part. Ready? I’m going to create a pirate nation. Because I can’t swim well and I can’t sail at all — and I have no ability nor instinct nor interest in anything violent — but by gum, I can think up insane ideas as well as anyone else here, and better than most of y’all.

Here’s my plan. We will get some of the large booms that have been proposed to help clean the ocean of floating plastic debris and use them to collect as much plastic as we can. We will then sail to one of the five “garbage islands” — preferably the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — and push all the additional plastic we can into the 100,000 metric tons already there. We’ll surround the GPGP with booms, and shove everything together, until it is dense enough to walk on.

That’s where we’ll live.

We’ll establish ourselves as environmentalists (though we’ll let the actual environmentalists in on our plan, so they’ll help us gather the plastic and won’t oppose us) and we’ll also tell Trump that we’re going to help him. It shouldn’t be hard; the man only understands sycophancy and animosity, so if we suck up to him, that means we aren’t enemies, we’re “very fine people.” And we’ll keep working to bring in all of the plastic we can, to extend the size of our garbage island, piling it higher and higher until we can actually have a stable land base — hopefully with a volcano and a lagoon, like a proper pirate island — and hopefully getting some assistance from Trump. We’ll name the island after him. It’ll be perfect.

Not piratey enough? I see you’ve never heard of the privateers. They were pirates who were granted a letter of marque from the government of a European country, which gave them permission to attack the ships of that country’s enemies. A license to pirate, as it were. Captain Henry Morgan himself was as much a loyal soldier of England as he was a pirate; he was made the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica after he retired from pillaging the Spanish colonies in the New World.

So once we’re got the sanction to build up our island, and we’ve cleared the oceans of all of the plastic we can find, then the time comes to put Part II of the plan into motion.

But I think Part II will have to wait for tomorrow’s post.

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Winning and Losing and Fighting

I wrote this last night.

I just want to say that I have nothing to say.

My fiction has not had the appeal that I always hoped it would; I’m not sure if it’s more because my writing is boring and overly wordy, or because people have largely given up reading, or some combination of the two. But the point is that the ideas I come up with, which I think will get people to buy and read and talk about my books, don’t make any of those things happen.

I’ve also come to realize that, in almost all areas of life that I wish to write about, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I understand teaching well, and to some extent I understand writing and literature, but even there, I realize that I have only one of many perspectives on what I do, and I don’t think I have any real proof that my opinions are correct. I have suspicions that the same urge we all have to confirm and conform and support one another is the real reason why people tell me I teach well and write well.

This means  that I think there  is little reason for me to share my ideas. Those ideas are probably wrong, after all, and not well-written enough to be worth contributing just for the sake of  the eloquent prose and powerful rhetoric. I mostly just babble online, and the books show it. My essays show it. My audience shows it. My continued — shall we be generous and call it a “lack of success” rather than an abject failure? — lack of success shows it. I don’t know that I’ve ever convinced anyone of anything. I suppose I’ve been entertaining, though not on any scale that makes it worth doing.

So since I don’t know facts, and I don’t write lyrical prose, why would I say anything at all? Any time I think about picking a position and going for it, I think that doing so for the sake of fulfilling my urge to write creates an atmosphere of contentious disagreement, and if it’s not a strongly held conviction, then it feels like disagreement for an audience. Back to entertainment, and doing nothing good for my country — which I do love, by the way. But that’s not interesting. I don’t do that because nothing’s going to change my audience’s mind, so nothing I say is going to have any impact on the world. Et voila.

I have felt the urge to write. I don’t do well with not writing. I wanted to write tonight, about an argument that would be worth having. I thought about writing about Trump, but what I’ve seen for the past two years has shown  me that people, whether they agree or disagree  with Trump, will bend over backwards to show how they will never, ever, EVER, change their loyalty, no matter how many reasons they find to do exactly that. On both sides, too: if I were to write an essay praising Trump for what he has done well — engaging with North Korea and Kim Jong Un, maintaining the strong economy, even things like renegotiating NAFTA and getting NATO members to pay their fair share of the defense spending for the alliance — I’d get lectured on what he’s done that’s terrible (Too long a list to include). If I focused on the Naughty list, I’d get these things put forward as reasons why he’s done all the right things, and a dozen other angry disagreements about why I’m wrong and an unAmerican libtard. I don’t know that anyone would consider the points I’d raise, not least because I don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about.

If I stay away from politics, which would be fine with me, then what do I write about? Teaching? Ugh; talk about beating a dead horse. I don’t think I’ll ever again have an interesting or informative story about teaching that I haven’t already told. So what, then? My dogs? They’re lovely, but I don’t know anything about them other than what I observe, all of which has already been observed by anyone with dogs.  Talking about my family is taboo, especially if I were to try to air the dirty laundry that would make those stories interesting. I could try to write fiction — I am trying, still — but then we come right back to that whole “Your writing sucks and is boring” theory I’m operating with.

Again: I’m not trying to garner sympathy or affirmations. I’m trying to explain why I haven’t been writing, so that other people who are feeling like they don’t have anything to say that’s worth hearing can understand how I got to feel this way. I don’t know if it started with the failures of my fiction career (which are not shocking, as fiction writing is a damn hard business to break into) or if it came with my recent understanding that I am often wrong in my political views, that many of them come from my party loyalty rather than my own rational thought, and that plenty of my ideas are based on prejudice rather than reason. (That also is not a knock against myself: that is a description of how 99.9999% of us act about our own political views, which are generally wrong if not simply irrational. Though this is my own opinion, and as such is highly suspect, as it is based on little or no evidence, like all of my political opinions.)

I’m not sure what my point is. I was trying to write something more in line with my absurd argumentative holiday, but I couldn’t settle on a topic, and then I couldn’t get it going; I suspected that it was because this idea, that I am not fit to write and that my opinions are not worth being written, has permeated my thoughts more and more lately. It is possible I’m being too hard on myself. If so, I’m not sure how to fix it. Maybe if I can share my honest feelings and thoughts — and that, too, is difficult, as my honest opinions and thoughts are exactly what got me into trouble some years ago — then it will help me move past them.

Though I don’t know if there’s anything worth saying on the other side of these doubts, either.

I really don’t know much of anything.

I posted it, and then twenty minutes later, I took it down. I decided people didn’t really need to see my despondency, and while I said in there that I was trying to be honest so people could understand how I felt and how I got to be that way, that wasn’t really my intent; I was sad, and I was frustrated, and I was trying to write something. Anything.

It had already had some effect, though, because I know there are people who get email alerts from this blog which contain the posts, so it went out to those people, at least, and some of them might have read it. And it had some effect on me: by the end of writing this, I was thoroughly depressed, and by the time I went to bed, I was worse. I woke up at 2am thinking about this post, and about my life and my writing; it took me two hours to get back to sleep, and now here I am, first thing in the morning, writing this, rather than doing my usual check of Twitter and Facebook while I eat breakfast.

Here’s the thing: this is not true. I am not a bad writer. I am not a failure. I am not a fool. It’s true that I’m not an expert in the things that I write about, but I am damn good at research, at critical thinking, at deciding what facts to include and what to discard, and how to show a logical path of reasoning to a conclusion. That means I can write a good essay, which is pretty much all I write on this blog, apart from the book reviews (which are also good, I think). There’s nothing wrong and a lot right with my attempts to speak to truth in writing. I don’t have to already know the incontrovertible truth before I do that. In fact, there’s a reason for me not to know everything when I start writing: part of my intent is, as I claimed to be doing here, to show my thought process; I can’t do that as well if the thoughts are already done and set. Besides, even when I really am struggling to find an answer, that still doesn’t mean I can’t write an essay, and a good essay: because the word “essay” comes from the French for “attempt.” That’s what it is, and that’s what I do, and I do it well. Most of the time, I know that. As much as I know anything.

So what happened last night, that left me oozing melancholy onto this blog (My poor blog: you’ve taken so much from me, with never a word of complaint. Thank you for that.), is simply that I set myself an impossible goal. I picked a battle that I could not win, because I didn’t think it through before I started fighting. (There’s a reason I’m using war metaphors, instead of, say, “I set out on a journey I couldn’t complete because I didn’t know the destination, or the path.” That would work too, and if that makes more sense for you to describe a creative endeavor, then think of that, instead.) I decided that I had to write something last night. Had to be done on November 5th. No other option. I decided it in the late evening, around 7:00 or so, and by 8:00, I had — no ideas at all. I did an eminently stupid thing, which was to look on Twitter for possible inspiration; I honestly can’t think of a less inspiring place for genuine thoughts — unless  it’s  Facebook, where I also looked for ideas.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. I started writing something political, but I’ve had a lot of trouble determining my political stance lately — or maybe it’s my perspective — and so I question every potentially political statement I try to make. Happened last night, and I swiftly gave up on writing about politics. (Though that’s why it has a prominent place in the deluge above. That and I do think writing has the potential to make change, and politics is the thing in our society that needs the most changing, I think. Actually, maybe I’m wrong. You know, I’ve never really written about prejudice or hate. Hmm.)

That’s when I gave up. Surrendered. Decided I had nothing to write last night, and therefore, I had failed. And thus, in a stubborn attempt to write something, I wrote about my failure. But I didn’t do it well, which is why I took it down, and why I’m writing this now.

I did fail last night. But only because I was impatient. I created an artificial deadline for myself, and then collapsed when I couldn’t meet it. I think now (this is what I thought about between 2am and 4am) that this tendency to make up imaginary deadlines is a common practice, and not only for creatives; I think a lot of us do it a lot of the time. I have to be married with kids by 30 or 35. I have to have my dream job by 25. I have to be a millionaire by 40, or retired by 55. We pick essentially random points in the future, and we center our sights on it — and charge.

And miss.

On some level there’s nothing wrong with artificial deadlines like this, because it does keep us moving. It keeps us from putting today off for tomorrow, especially when today is the deadline. That’s a good thing, because despite what my students say, there is actually nothing at all good about procrastination. It’s understandable, but it’s never good. My students say they work better under pressure, but honestly, the pressure always comes from within: either you make the thing a priority, or you don’t, and if you do, there’s pressure to do it, and if you don’t, there’s not. Invented deadlines can be a way to convince your underbrain, that lazy lizardy bastard, that this thing is a priority NOW. There are plenty of times when I’ve sat down to write, telling myself I needed to find something to write about — and I have found something, and I’ve written, and it’s been fine, and I’ve won. Most of Damnation Kane was written that way, to be frank, especially the first book. I decided it was going to be a serial, I decided it was going to have a chapter published every Saturday by noon, and so every Saturday morning, I sat down and wrote a chapter.

The problem is what I did wrong last night: sometimes you pick a bad deadline, or a bad goal, and then when you miss it, you feel like a failure. Last night I shouldn’t have been writing. It was Monday: Monday’s a bad day to write. I should have been listening to music and grading vocabulary sentences. It was my own fault that I felt like a failure, because I didn’t create a way for me to succeed. I lost the battle with myself, with my writing, because I didn’t think enough about my strategy, about my plan of attack or my objectives, and so I didn’t win.

Why am I talking about writing like it’s a war? Because today is Election Day. And just as we set imaginary deadlines for ourselves in creative endeavors, so we do in politics, as well.

We’re going to be hearing a lot today about how this is the moment, this is the chance, this is the make or break, do or die, last hope for everything we believe in. I heard on the radio yesterday that today’s election will determine if this is Trump’s America, or not. I had the same reaction to that that I’m currently having to my own bullshit (That was what I was trying to write about last night before I gave up on politics), which is: that’s fucking nonsense.

So let me be clear. Today is a battle. Last night was a battle for me. Neither last night for me, nor today for this country, is the end of the war. I didn’t write something useful last night; here I am, less than twelve hours later, writing something I am much more pleased with (Though it still may not be a victory. It probably never is, which is where the military metaphor fails. I used it to make the analogy to politics, is all.). If this election goes badly — and I mean that, in all sincerity, for people of any and all political positions, because this election, like all of our politics right now, is so supercharged and combative that any result is going to be heartbreaking for one side or the other, if not both — the most important thing in the world to realize and remember is: there is another election in two years. (We should also remember that politics is not all of life, but that’s a different subject.)

The truth is this: the struggle never ends. Never. We win small battles, we lose small battles — usually only when we surrender, especially when the battle’s with ourselves — but we always keep fighting. The victories that progressives have had in the last fifty years have built up the fighting spirit on the conservative side, and that gave us the current situation; that situation is now building up the fighting spirit on the progressive side. That’s maybe even the way it has to be. It’s almost physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so the pendulum swings, and then swings back, and the farther it goes in one direction, the harder and faster the return swing is going to be. There’s nothing — nothing — that can happen that will end the swinging of the pendulum, other than the death of all humanity. (Which is a fair possibility, of course, and the one that should probably have the most urgency to it, because those deadlines aren’t so artificial.) If Trump was actually Hitler (He’s not) and he took over the country in a fascist dictatorship, then there would be a rebellion, there would be a war, there would be an overthrow. The struggle would continue, and eventually, it would move the other way. There would be untold suffering in the meantime, and I don’t mean to say the struggle doesn’t matter, therefore: what doesn’t matter is the deadlines.

In a creative endeavor like my writing, there is no end. I’ll never be such a great writer that I don’t feel the need to get better. I’ll never write a work so fantastic that I’ll never want to write something even more fantastic. I will at some point write something that I can’t beat, but I’ll always want to. I will want to keep writing until I die, whether I am successful or not, whether I achieve what I want to achieve when I want to achieve it, or not. The struggle — the journey — will always go on.

Last night I decided there was an end to the fight, at least in the immediate sense. And I picked the wrong end, and I failed. I am going to try not to make that mistake again; when it’s a bad night for writing, I just won’t write, even if I told myself that I would. My ambitions have to bend to reality, not the other way around.

Let’s all try to remember that today, okay? Today may be a chance to achieve what we want to achieve. And it may not be the right time yet. Maybe things have to get a little worse before they get better — whatever you think “worse” or “better” means for this country. But today is not the end. Tomorrow we will still have to fight, even if we win today.

Tomorrow I’ll still want to write. Today, I won.

Now I’m going to go vote, and hope. And stay ready.

This is NSFW. And Trump is a POS.

So I wrote a blog, 2000 words, about how I’m unhappy with the way things are going because some things are going well, and I don’t want Trump to get credit for that because he isn’t the reason things are going well, but if we give him credit, we may end up with more people like him doing the things he’s done, because they’ll point at Trump as a success story. And I do think that’s a problem.

But you know what? That’s not what I want to say right now. That’s not the blog I want to post.

What I want to say right now is

Fuck Trump.

 

Fuck him all the way out the door and down the steps, fuck him rolling down the street and around the corner, fuck him all the way to the sewage treatment plant: then fuck Trump into the collection tanks, and fuck him step by step through the process, with the rest of the chunky liquified shit until he has been treated, emulsified, centrifuged, disinfected, milled, filtered, diluted, and sprayed onto his own fucking golf course to make the greens grow. And then let a blind man tee off over and over until he has turned the entire green, watered with Liquid Trump, into broken divots. Then mulch those, feed them to free-range farm pigs, let them turn the grass into chunky liquid pig-shit: and then run him through the process all over again. Keep doing that until there aren’t any more Trump golf courses. If at any point we feel there isn’t enough Trump-taint in the gray water, then throw in his fucking kids. (The grown ones; I got no problem with Barron. Or Tiffany.)

I’ve tried so hard. I’ve realized in the past couple of years that my loyalty to liberal, progressive politics, and especially to the Democratic Party, has been unthinking and in some cases counter to my actual desires and values. Not a lot; I still agree with most liberal progressive ideas. But I think political correctness is a blight on the language and the culture; and honestly, while I love animals, passing laws and regulations to limit human progress or achievement in order to save a rare form of tadpole that lives in one stream in Wyoming is stupid – the world will not be a lesser place if the Greater Wyoming red-speckled spiral-tailed hovering-footed tadpole goes extinct. Mainly, though, there’s one thing – and only one thing – that Trump was right about: Washington is a swamp. Both parties are corrupt, incompetent, filled with narcissistic sociopaths who serve themselves and their cronies and not the American people. I’m not too far away from saying that all of our government should go into the sewage with the President.

I am still trying to decide where I should land politically. I want to remain an idealist, which would throw me all the way to the left; but I also want to be practical and realistic, and that pushes me towards the center. Choosing either one seems like a betrayal of the other: and that’s a result of our political morass, as well, that there are purity tests, that people on the same side turn on each other in a heartbeat if they can find a tender place to sink their claws. We saw it with Sanders supporters versus the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and we’ve seen it for years with the Tea Party and how it has destroyed what used to be the Republican party, resulting in – President Shit-spray. Part of me wants everyone to agree, so we can all move in one direction; but I realize – and this is my big epiphany of the last couple of years of learning how to think more about my politics – that when everyone agrees, it doesn’t lead to good results. We get the best ideas, the best policies, the best country out of a constant and honest debate. The worst thing that our two political parties have done is surrender that ideal in favor of winning. That’s why we have legal partisan gerrymandering, inculcated for decades by both sides; that’s why we haven’t gotten rid of Citizens United, or passed campaign finance reform or term limits or strict controls on lobbyists and corporate influence of politicians. They all stopped trying to do a good job, and focused on just keeping the job. I know that’s always been a factor, but it seems to have become the only factor. One of my biggest surprises of the last two years of the Feces Administration was the sudden onrush of respect for Jeff freaking Flake, a cardboard cutout of a Republican who nonetheless resigned rather than suck up to Trump. (I suspect that he is going to continue on in politics, using his resignation from the Senate as a stepping stone for his next ambition; but he hasn’t done so yet, so as of now, I still respect the man for his decision. Integrity over politics. When was the last time that happened?)

So how do I reconcile that? Practically speaking, the way forward is with a party; because I am not a piece of shit, that means I have to support the Democratic party.

I’m sorry for those that offends. I have actually gained quite a lot of respect for the GOP and the conservative ideals they have historically espoused; the attraction of the moderate political position for me is it allows for that honest debate I mentioned which leads to the best possible outcome, that pull between two poles, both with merit, but both improved by being pulled towards the other – liberal ideas are better with a strong inner structure of conservative reality, and conservative ideas are better with a leavening of liberal idealism. The Republican party has served that role, and for a long time, and in a lot of ways, it has done so honorably, and therefore made our country better. But right now, and for the immediately foreseeable future, the Republican party is the party of Trump. Which means it’s the party of shit. You can’t hold up a 300-pound piece of shit and not get your hands dirty, you just can’t. And I don’t even care if he’s having a positive effect, if the economy grows and North Korea disarms and all that jazz: shit makes flowers grow, which is lovely: but it’s still shit. The best thing I can say about the current state of the union is that I hope it makes the land fertile again. Actually, the metaphor might hold true, because confronting the truth of Trump has made us all look much more closely at our political situation, and it is possible that we will get some genuinely good results after this shit-storm has passed. But now is not the future, and now, Trump is shit, and that means the Republicans are shit, because they back Trump. Period.

Where was I? Oh, right. So, if I want to get results, I have to support Democrats. I mean, sure, I could try to become an anarchist, or a pure Socialist, or something along those lines; there’s an attraction in that, in the purity of the ideas. But in reality, there’s no chance of changing the political situation in any way without one of the two major parties. Ignoring reality means people get hurt. I don’t want to hurt people: it’s kind of my main thing. (Note: I recognize the seeming irony of my rant about grinding our President into gray water while saying I don’t want people to get hurt, but you see, shit isn’t people. I don’t mind if shit gets hurt. [Second note: I’m kidding. I don’t want any harm to come to Mr. Trump. I want him out of office and living in the disgrace that he deserves. I’d like him to live like that for a long, long time.]) I want practical solutions to our immediate problems, all of them chosen and thought out with a positive ideal in constant sight; for that, I need to be involved in actual practical politics with real people in this country. A perfect example of this is Bernie Sanders: who was a Socialist, and then an Independent (Which he only got away with because he represented Vermont, even though he’s from New York), and then ran for the Democratic party nomination for President. That’s an idealist working with practical reality, and that’s why he would have had my vote if I could have voted for him. Another perfect example of someone who creates practical solutions while keeping an ideal firmly in mind is Elizabeth Warren, who I would vote for over any other potential candidate in 2020 with the possible exception of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. On the other hand, the Democratic party is also the party of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and they, from what I have seen, either  stick to the ideals, but give very little in the way of practical solutions – this is how Schumer has handled Trump, and it’s honorable, but it’s not slowing down the spray of shit – or else they surrender the ideals for the sake of practicality, as happened with the ACA when they removed the public option, which was the whole freaking point of the thing, the loss of which has made it useless, and, eventually, a political liability.

Sorry if that got muddy: it’s hard to stay clear when talking about politics. My point is that the idealism is necessary: purely practical compromise ends up losing its way and accomplishing nothing of lasting value; at the same time, practicality is necessary, because pure idealism doesn’t accomplish anything in the first place. Everyone already has their own ideals, and they’re mostly not mine. It’s too hard to get everyone to agree with the same ideals – impossible, in truth, unless you go full Big Brother and set up the Thought Police. This is what upsets me about the struggles within the Democratic/progressive wing, that we are all fighting each other over our ideas, refusing to accept or support people who don’t have all – and I mean ALL – of the right ideas. The fact that the big criticism of Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign was that he didn’t have a lot of support from minorities shows two things: the important one is that the Democratic party has given up its ideals, which means it has ceased to do good work for minorities in this country, which has left them smothered under the shit this country has piled atop them for centuries (Though fortunately, they seem to have found their own power and are clawing their own way out of the shit of history) and therefore Sanders could not simply pull in minority support by virtue of running as a Democrat; the entirely unimportant one is that Bernie Sanders is a white guy from a white state, and therefore has not had a lot of connection with, or influence on, the situation facing minority Americans. And if that made anyone refuse to vote for Sanders, then it helped give rise to the Shitpile-in-Chief; and that is a travesty. (I’m not saying that Democratic infighting led to Trump’s election, just that any vote that was lost because of the infighting is a specific, individual travesty. People that don’t support the Democrats at all, who are Greens or Libertarians or Socialists and so voted according to their conscience, that isn’t a travesty. But it may not have been practical.) A travesty that happened because people hung too much on the power of their ideals, and ignored practicality; ideally, a President should have a strong connection with all of their constituents; practically speaking, Bernie Sanders was the best candidate in 2016.

So here I am. I can support my ideals, and allow the shit to continue polluting this wonderful country; or I can support a party that keeps electing poor leaders: and I do think, in retrospect, that Clinton would have been one of those bad leaders. She’s not a piece of shit, and so would have been a VAST improvement; but I think she has very little personal connection to the ideals of progressivism. She’s too practical to be really great. I still wish she had won. Man, wouldn’t it be nice if all we were dealing with was a president who wasn’t progressive enough?

But all right, here we are with the shit. And no matter who you are or what your ideals, accept this as gospel truth: Trump is shit. The way he attacks everyone he disagrees with, the way he lies about everything, the way every single issue becomes a reflection only and always of him personally – the man is a piece of shit vaguely in the shape of a human. The most recent outrage is the separation of families at the border – intentional and callous and unforgivably cruel, and we all know it – and his attempt to defend it by holding an Exploit-a-thon, where he paraded out the family members of people murdered by immigrants, like that changes the statistics (which clearly show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes despite some terrible exceptions), like that has anything to do with the family separation policy, like that’s anything other than cheap, heartless sensationalism intended to stir up racist fears in Middle America.

He signed the pictures. Did you see that? He signed the blown-up photos of the goddamn murder victims. Look.

And look, another Trump signature.

Clear as day: Trump's signature.

[Source]

Think what your brain has to be like to let you make that conscious decision to do that. Repeatedly, because he seems to have signed all of them, and at no point did he think, “Jesus, what am I doing? Who the fuck would want my autograph on the picture of their dead loved one? Is this really a memento they want? Will they want to remember this hoopla at all?” No, I’ll tell you what he thought: he thought, “These people want to use their grief to win political points, just like I do; I should thank them for letting me use them. Then they can frame this picture and tell their friends how they volunteered to become ghouls for the sake of bolstering up a racist piece of shit.”

So that’s where we are, and the cold, hard truth is this: it isn’t over. Trump is still President. And he’s just going to get worse. And I think the Republicans are going to keep supporting him, because too many of the heartless conservative bastards in charge, the ones who have no connection to the ideals they claim to serve but think only of practicality – the counterparts to Pelosi and Schumer and Clinton and Reid, namely McConnell and Ryan and Lindsey Graham, and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, and the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and the rest of them – are willing to use Trump as their dancing monkey to distract us all while they pull the country all the way over to their side, strap us all to their pole, and whip us with a leather crop made from the tanned hide of Ayn Rand. (That is to say: break the federal government, give all of the money to the rich and let the poor die – unless they’re in the military. No, wait; they still die, then.) And the closer we get to that pole, to that extreme end of the spectrum where there is nothing but a red so deep it looks black, the faster Trump will have to dance and the louder he’ll have to scream and the more shit he’ll have to fling to draw our attention away from the straps being tied around us and the crack of the Rand-whip. I think that his final act will be a terribly protracted fight over his impeachment, which will probably finish breaking the political system – it will be a miracle, by the way, if the last pieces of the filibuster rule make it through this administration; and it is truly worth noting that the first attacks on the filibuster rule came from the Democrats – and which may end in Trump’s removal from office, but will also end with the final slate of conservative goals being checked off, one by one.

Not only do I want to get rid of the piece of shit, but I also want to stop the heartless money-zombies from fucking everything up that Trump doesn’t shit on. And therefore, I will be supporting the Democratic party, and voting for Democratic candidates, even if they choose the wrong ones. I hope they choose the right ones – but whoever they are, they won’t be pieces of shit, and therefore they get my vote.

Join me in voting against shit this November, and in every election until the final collapse of Trump.

And then after we finally manage that, we’ll have a lot of work to do. And a lot of thinking, as well. We have work to do now, but it doesn’t take any thought. Shit is bad. Let’s flush it away, and wash our hands.

Please.

On the Sixth Day of Blogging, Just Dusty Blogged for Me . . .

A political post; his specialtyyyyy!

Here’s the truth: we all know what’s coming.

The Republicans are coming.

It’s like watching a storm coming in: the clouds roll out across the sky like a cloth unfurling; first they are white, then grey, then black. The color leaches out of the world. The wind turns cold and biting, and then the first drops arrive: if it is a summer storm, then the big, fat splashes are refreshing, though the tang of ozone in the air is alarming.

But I don’t think this is a summer storm. It feels like winter. Those drops are cold. We are shivering.

When the storm hits in winter, it brings quiet. The wind may howl, but after it goes, everything is still. Frozen. Asleep, or dead.

That’s what I think this feels like. Like the storm is coming, and we need to get into shelter, and cover everything. Anything left out will freeze solid, will turn black, will die. We have to cover ourselves, we have to batten down the hatches. And ride it out.

But hang on: winter storms don’t kill everything. Yes, there will be some death: the EPA seems doomed, and Obamacare will be lobotomized, dissected, cut down into pieces too small to sustain itself any longer. Maybe the Department of Education, too, since the nominee for Education Secretary is against public education. Irrevocable harm will be done to the environment as new oil leases are sold, new mining contracts offered, coal dug and burned at will. Internationally, the day of the strong man is on the rise: the new administration will be a friend to Putin, and Netanyahu, and probably Assad and a dozen others who hold an iron grip with their right hand. America will no longer be the defender of freedom around the world. But then, we haven’t actually been that for a long time: we have defended our interests, and little else. That will continue, to the joy of the exceptionalists. Surely we will no longer fight against genocide or oppression: pity is the most delicate flower, and will be the first to freeze.

But not everything will freeze. It will get deathly cold, but our shelters run deep, and are well-protected. And though the storm will be bad, it will not last long. That’s the truth: it will not last long. At some point, perhaps in four years, perhaps in only two when the new Congress is elected, the storm will break, and the skies will clear.

Then we will have to see if there is another storm behind this one. It is possible, you know. This storm may last eight years. If it does, we’re going to have a lot of frostbite.

But think of this. No party has won three elections in a row since Bush followed Reagan. Before that, not since Truman followed Roosevelt. Twice in almost a century have we had a Democratic president after a Democrat, or a Republican after a Republican – Johnson following Kennedy and Ford following Nixon notwithstanding, for obvious reasons. Which means that things will change. The storm will end. Believe it.

Here’s what we hope for, between now and then.

Hope that the storm does some good. Storms do, you know. They wash things clean, they break away dead branches and scour away debris. I am a progressive, and I believe in the power of government to do good things; but the truth is that our government has a lot of debris stuck in its branches. And some dead branches, I think. It is entirely possible that, even while it harms and breaks good things, the storm will also clear away some of the bad. We have to hope so. Maybe there will be some positive effects.

The key for us – for all of us – is going to be objectivity. We must be dispassionate, and we must be rational. Reasonable people can agree, can compromise, and what was most noticeably absent from this last election was reason — and therefore agreement, and therefore compromise. To keep the weather metaphor: some people like cold weather, like storms, like the rain; other people prefer warm sunshine. But only unreasonable people claim that there is nothing good about cold, that only warm sunshine can ever be acceptable; only unreasonable people claim to hate it when the sky clears and the sun comes out, at least once in a while. Reasonable people realize that Arizona summers are too freaking hot, that New England winters are too freaking cold, that the Pacific Northwest is too overcast and rainy, and the Southeast is too muggy.

We have to be reasonable. If the Republican control of the government leads to some good things, leads to some reductions in unnecessary regulations (and there are such), leads to some reversal of government overreach and invasion into private lives (and there is such), then we must be happy that good things are happening. We must not make the same mistake that unreasonable people have made when they have claimed that, for instance, President Obama has been bad for the economy. Or that the First Family has been an embarrassment to the country. Hate Obamacare all you want, but the economy has turned around since the recession. (And I say Fie to anyone who claims that the economy would have grown faster had the president for the last eight years been Republican. Fie. Prove it. Show me where economic predictions have ever been reliable. If a simple cause and effect were provably true, the argument would be over. It ain’t. So fie.) The Obama family are a model of dignity and grace.

So let’s not make the same mistake. Let us be reasonable. Let us take the long view and see: if a thing is broken or taken away, was that thing actually necessary? Perhaps not. Perhaps when Obamacare is destroyed by the storm, we will come out of our shelters when the sky clears and build something even better.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, when Miss Maudie’s house burns down during the winter freeze, she simply says this:

Miss Maudie looked around, and the shadow of her old grin crossed her face. ‘Always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch. Gives me more yard. Just think, I’ll have more room for my azaleas now!’ 

You ain’t grievin’, Miss Maudie?’ I asked, surprised. Atticus said her house was nearly all she had. 

Grieving, child? Why, I hated that old cow barn. Thought of settin’ fire to it a hundred times myself, except they’d lock me up.’

But—’ 

Don’t you worry about me, Jean Louise Finch. There are ways of doing things you don’t know about. Why, I’ll build me a little house and take me a couple of roomers and – gracious, I’ll have the finest yard in Alabama. Those Bellingrathsll look plain puny when I get started!’

There are ways of doing things. That’s how we have to see this. Like the burning down of an old house. It’s dangerous and damaging – and we have to try to fight the fire, and we have to try to save what we can from its flames – but we have to remember that after the storm, after the fire, life goes on. And maybe the new day will dawn even brighter. Anything that is destroyed that shouldn’t be, we can rebuild. Maybe we can even make it better.

Now: that is me being reasonable, because we should be, about Republican control of government. Republicans are not fools, and are not evil; though I think political parties are harmful to this country, it is certainly true that two parties are necessary, that one party alone, even my party, would be doomed. I think of when Frodo offers the One Ring to Galadriel, and she refuses it because she would become a queen, awesome and terrible — “All will worship me and despair,” she says, as she’s imagining it. Gandalf turns it down, too, for the same reason: nobody can use it safely, even if they mean to do good. The federal government is, in some ways, the Ring. The key to using it safely is in numbers: no one person can hold it for too long; no person can go it alone. Frodo never makes it to Mt. Doom without Samwise. Realize that, while we seem to have handed the Ring to Denethor, the madman on the throne of Gondor, it wouldn’t be any better if we hung on to it ourselves: we’d go mad like Frodo does, and decide to keep the Ring for ourselves. That is a fate to be feared no less because progressives have, I think, the right idea. I may write more about this another time.

For now, let’s talk about the other part of the winter storm scene from To Kill a Mockingbird: let’s talk about the Morphodite.

You remember the Morphodite, right? The snowman that Jem and Scout build, that is actually only a coating of clean snow over a big ball of mud? Right. Jem turns him into a caricature of their loud, obnoxious neighbor Mr. Avery, but at Atticus’s request, he changes it into a more innocent imitation of Miss Maudie, dressing it with her sun hat and hedge clippers. She, of course, takes it as an insult (though she doesn’t mind too much) and names it a morphodite, meaning a thing that changes its shape. The Morphodite melts in the heat of the burning house, and Scout and Jem have to clean up the muddy, filthy, sticky mess.

I think we all know what I’m talking about. I don’t, in theory, have a problem with the Republican party taking control of the government — though I am extremely nervous that, after they push through a conservative Justice for the Supreme Court, they will control all three branches of the Federal government — but we’re not just talking about conservatives or Republicans, are we? We’re talking about this guy:

You know — the Morphodite. See? Clean and white on the outside, nothing but sticky brown nastiness underneath. (And I’m not making a racial reference here, just using the symbolism of white snow=purity, and mud=shit=corruption.)

So here’s the thing with the Morphodite. He was picked largely as an alternative to a lot of bad choices, mostly (but not solely) on the Republican side. I still believe, absolutely, that he entered the race solely to increase his name recognition and give himself a veneer of patriotism; maybe to make some political connections he could use to his advantage for his business. I think nobody was more shocked than he when he started winning, and that state of shock continued all the way through the final victory. I mean, he’s been unprepared the whole way; it’s no less true now. And he’s filling his cabinet with people who are likely to support him and his ideas personally, with their own selfish interests in mind, rather than people who are civic-minded, or who will likely consider what is best for the American people before considering what is best for themselves. Just like him.

The man’s a narcissist, that much is clear. He acts like a spoiled child: and he seems happiest when he breaks things and gets attention, which he then turns into more attention as he mocks the people who chastise him for breaking things. He thrives on attention. It is why he entered the race, why he ran so hard and why he has acted the way he has since his election.

So what do you do with a spoiled child who acts out for attention?

You ignore him. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Don’t give him what he wants, because it is the only thing he wants, and he doesn’t care in the least if it is good attention or bad attention. All he wants is for people to talk about him.

So stop. Stop using his name. Fortunately there are a thousand alternatives, from John Oliver’s call to make Donald Drumpf again, to the various versions of orange-themed insults that plaster the internet. Any of those are fine; he wants to see his name, his actual name. I think he prefers The D_____, actually, though clearly the last name, associated with the business, is the #1 priority. But there are so many others, too: Rump. Dump. Chump. Chimp! Lump, Slump, Gump, Hump (Wait — not that one. Too close to home.), Bump, Thump, Clump. So many possibilities, and not a one of them will give him what he wants.

If you feel a call to protest, please do. But address your concerns to the part of the government that is actually still a government. And when the reality TV guy comes on stage — change the channel. Or better yet, just turn him off.

Let him melt back into a puddle of goo. Then we can have a couple of kids rake him up and throw him away.

Never Stop! Never Stop Fighting Until the Fight Is Done!

Hey. HEY!

Stop being sad. Stop it.

I know: I feel the same way. This was not the result I was expecting. I was growing more and more stunned all last night as I watched  the results come in, and in, and in. I watched the commentators on CNN and then on BBC being just as stunned.

We didn’t think this was possible. We didn’t think this was our country.

It was possible. It happened.

And this is still our country.

It is not The Donald’s country. He did not win us. I know he thinks he did, and at some point today I’m going to have to watch a victory speech from that smug  asshole that is likely to make me vomit. He is going to have to start lying —

Wait. I honestly can’t believe I actually wrote that.

His lies, ongoing and ever more egregious, will now focus on trying to convince people he hates that he doesn’t hate them, right before he begins working to enact policy to prove that he hates them. The hypocrisy, and the assurance of our gullibility, will be infuriating. I’m already annoyed that my Republican friends are crowing over the victory. And I know I’m going to be mad a lot over the next four years, at least.

But this is still my country. And like it or not, that rotten son of a bastard is going to be my president.

My wife says he’ll never be her President. She said she may not be able to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for the next four years.

Good.

We all know exactly what happened: millions of people looked at their options, and chose what was, to them, the lesser of two evils. Millions more of us think they chose wrong. And millions of us are racists, and sexists, and xenophobic bigots who want walls built, refugees interned, and immigrants deported.

Not everyone who voted for him. Not everyone. Millions, yes. But not everyone.

The thing that makes this worse is that we didn’t expect it. We didn’t realize this was coming. Neither did the media. This should tell us something: the discussions I have  seen of late that say that our world is turning into an echo chamber, where we only hear what we want to hear, where we only communicate with people who agree with us  and share our views, are correct. If you settled the election based on my  own Facebook feed, then Bernie Sanders would be president. If not Cthulhu.

This,  then, is our task. Tasks. There are several.

First, we have to start listening to each other. Even to people we disagree with. We have to be better than the hypocrite that just got elected, who will ignore the needs of millions of people who were not in the demographics who supported him, whom he campaigned against. We have to understand that there are millions of people who thought Donald Trump was the lesser of two (or four) evils. Millions. Those people must be heard, because the biggest reason that they voted for Trump was, I think, that they believe they have not been heard.

So listen. Take them seriously. They are people, and they are important. Not the racists and sexists and xenophobes: fuck them. But listen to the millions of rational, genuine people who believed Trump was the best choice, or at least the least-bad.

Second, we have to fix this government. Millions who voted for Trump, and millions who voted for third party candidates, and many, many millions who did not vote, believe our government is broken. It is. We have to fix it, because Trump won’t. He will take advantage of the breaks to break it more — for one thing, he’s going to nominate a hard-right pro-life conservative to the Supreme Court, and then perhaps another, since the liberal justices are aged and unwell. That means all three branches of government will be Republican, behind Donald Trump. So we must work. We must be vigilant. We must read the news — unbiased sources, if we can find them, because if the surprise on the newsmen’s faces last night says anything, it says that the liberal media bias has some validity, that the news channels, too, are become something of an echo chamber — and we must speak out, and we must organize, and we must march, and we. Must. Vote. 59,000,000 some odd votes  for Clinton, 58,000,000 some odd votes for Trump. 330 million people in the country. 219 million eligible voters.

This is broken. We must fix it. We can fix it.

Last,we have to deal with the worst part of this. Millions of Americans are sexist and racist and bigoted xenophobes. We have, it seems, spent too long considering them anachronisms and harmless cranks, and sweeping them under the rug. We pushed them out of the echo chamber. And then they found a  candidate who was just racist enough, but not too racist — “He was talking about illegal immigrants, not Latinos! He meant Syrian refugees that might be terrorists, not all Muslims!” — and sexist enough, but not too sexist — “He was just talking. He wouldn’t actually sexually assault anyone! He’s got a beautiful wife! He hires women!” — that millions of other people could stand to vote for him.

Remember that. Not everyone who voted for Trump is racist or sexist.

But there are millions who are. And we must deal with them. Not simply demonize and push them away: deal with them. Educate them. Argue with them. Fight them, if necessary: but we cannot continue to ignore them.

 

We can do this. We can. I mean it. We were hoping that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party could save us, and they failed. They failed. Not us. Not those of us who voted for her, and not those of us who were too disillusioned to vote for her. We did not fail.

The only way to fail is to give up trying.

So don’t give up. Fight. Fight for the country you want, and you believe we can have. Be active: learn, and speak, and act, donate, protest, canvass, join a third party and run for political office. Always oppose Trump’s plans, if he ever actually makes any real ones. Listen to the people who voted for him, who aren’t terrible people. Fix our government. Fight the evil that has reared its head all the way into the White House: the evil of racism and sexism and bigotry.

Do something. Don’t be sad: be determined.

We  can do this.

It’s Time for The Talk.

All right: so let’s be clear. Donald Trump is not the problem.

I didn’t want to write about this, you know. I’m trying to keep this blog focused on lighter subjects, funny things, and on books and reading and teaching. And  the Trump campaign is not funny. It hasn’t been since Iowa. Since we found out that people actually wanted to vote for him. People actually want Donald Trump to be the President of the United States.

That’s the problem.

Look — he denies that he’s a divisive incendiary racist demogogue. Who wouldn’t? I deny that I’m an subversive lazy egotist, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And one of the more disturbing things about Donald Trump (May I call him Drumpf? If you haven’t watched John Oliver’s splendid takedown of Mr. Drumpf, do so now. Though for the sake of clarity, I’ll use his actual name.) is that it seems impossible to tell if he is aware of the part he is playing, or if he is being as genuine as he can be. Because it could be that he’s playing a part, having learned how to act in this role of reality-TV-star-and-capitalist-mogul that has brought him fame and fortune; but it also could be that he is one of those lucky souls who has fit perfectly into his specific niche, and this is just who he is. The famed book of Hitler speeches by his bedside could go either way on this.

But it doesn’t actually matter if he really believes everything he says, and if he’s aware of the effect he is having on his followers and on this country, and if that effect is really his intent or if he is, as I have been arguing since the start of his campaign, just trying to increase his name recognition because that is the foundation of his wealth, himself as brand. It doesn’t matter because Donald Trump is not the problem.

The problem is that millions of Americans want to vote for Donald Trump.

And the larger problem is that the rest of us didn’t know this, and we are not doing what we should be doing to fix this.

I’ve argued with a number of Trump fans. And there are three things going on here. The first is the economy. This is the biggest reason why people want to vote for Trump: they believe that the problem with the economy is the government spending too much money, which piles up too much debt, which will bring our country crashing to its knees, just like an individual who owes too much money to credit card companies. They believe that Trump knows how to handle that, that he will stop the government from spending so much money, and he will reduce the debt, because he’s a businessman, and businessmen understand money and how to make a profit. The second thing is that Trump is a bully, and bullies are funny. People like things that make them laugh, and Trump makes people laugh. He also has a reputation for honesty, and honesty is something that Americans can’t make up their minds about.

Seriously. Let me just pause to talk about this for a moment. I ask my students every year, in one context or another, how they feel about honesty and lying. And every year, they say they prefer honesty, but think that lying is just fine in two circumstances: when the truth would hurt someone’s feelings, and when telling the truth would get you in trouble. What does that mean? That means they prefer lies, but don’t want to admit it (So they’re lying when they say they like honesty.). Because what other reasons, apart from those two, does anyone ever have for lying? People lie to spare someone else’s feelings, and they lie to cover their own butts. That’s the vast majority of lies, and if those are okay with you, then lying is okay with you. Sure, there are people who lie for profit, and people who lie for malice; I can accept those as categories of lies that even Americans don’t like. But for the most part: we prefer to be lied to. We like it. We like having our feelings spared.

And then Trump comes along and says things that most of us would never say, and would prefer never be said about us — and somehow he is admirable for doing it. He is “honest,” and we love him for it. My best understanding of this is that people believe that politicians are so dishonest and so corrupt that they lie with every word they say; and we are tired of it. So even though Americans personally would prefer some little white lies, we want a President who would never, ever lie to us. And I get that: I would prefer an honest politician, too.

There is also an impression of courage in the willingness to stand up and say ugly things. Makes the man seem tough. Comes back to the bully thing: we admire bullies. Always have. We like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and we like mafia dons like Al Capone and John Gotti, and we love fictional characters that follow the same pattern. We like, as another Scarface would put it, a man with balls. And the willingness to offend, particularly in an arena — politics — where offending anyone in any way is shunned, and where people work very hard to twist themselves into knots  trying to please everyone all at once, saying offensive things seems like courage.

These two issues — Trump’s business acumen as a cure for the economy, and his crass rudeness as A) a source of humor, B) a sign of honesty, and C) a sign of courage — are reasonable enough, are understandable enough. Trump isn’t the first guy to earn our admiration for his crass rudeness: pretty much every famous radio DJ and half of the talk show hosts and stand-up comedians we love are exactly the same way. Why do we like Roseanne Barr? Howard Stern? Rush Limbaugh? Simon Cowell? All the same reasons we like Trump. As for the business thing, that has roots that go back probably as far as the United States: we have always believed that there is something special, some secret knowledge, that comes with wealth; we always think that someone who knows how to make money one way knows how to make money all ways. As if that first million — or billion — dollars is a key that unlocks the Midas touch. Carly Fiorina ran on exactly the same platform, as did Herman Cain in 2012, and Mitt Romney in every campaign he ran.

But then there’s the third reason why Trump is winning. And it’s the most disturbing. The third reason is that Trump is a bigot. He denigrates and objectifies women, an attitude that you can see reflected in the malice and bile that Americans direct at Clinton. He treats Muslims and Latinos, and women, like Untouchables: fine as long as they stay in their place and know who’s boss, but needing a lesson as soon as they get uppity and start breaking the rules that are meant to keep them in their place, separate from the nice white Christian American folks (Or, in the case of women, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.). And that message resonates. It resonates strongly. There are millions of Americans who feel exactly the same way, particularly about those two racial/ethnic groups. Never mind that illegal immigrants (the epithet Trump uses for Latinos, because that wording divides the “bad Latinos” from the “not so bad ones” — you know, the ones that stay in other countries instead of coming to this one) and legal immigrants, which comprise all racial groups and nationalities — but when Trump is talking about building a wall on the southern border, he isn’t talking about Asians coming to California on cargo ships or Europeans overstaying their visas — are actually good for the country, bringing a necessary labor force and a positive addition to the cultural mix. Never mind that Islam is no more violent or dangerous a religion than every other: that is to say, when fanatics use it to convince others to commit violence, it is a staggeringly effective tool; but if guns don’t kill people, neither does Islam. Never mind that women are better than men (That’s right. I said “better.” My wife is smarter and more talented than me. More organized, harder working, more reasonable and level-headed. Better.), and even though I personally support Sanders, I would dearly love to see Hillary Clinton debate Donald Trump. Because she’ll grind his bones to make her bread, and all he’ll be able to do is make a comment about menstruation.

The truth is, millions of Americans believe women should submit to men. The truth is, millions of Americans hate and fear Muslims and Latinos. They fear that Latinos will take over this country and make it different; and they fear that Muslims are terrorists. And they want a leader who thinks like they do.

The problem isn’t Donald Trump. It’s that despite all of the progress we have made since the Civil Rights era, despite all the political correctness and the affirmative action and everything else we have tried to do to achieve racial equality and a just society, we haven’t really done anything. We haven’t really changed anything. But we’ve convinced ourselves that we have: we elected a black President, after all. And the Ku Klux Klan is no longer hanging people by the side of the road in broad daylight. So surely we have improved; surely the problem is less now.

But it’s not. And the problem is still here because even those of us who want to try to fix the problem are not going about it the right way.

I said it above: I’ve been arguing with people who support Donald Trump. I’ve been doing it frequently, on Facebook; my students would never try to challenge a teacher on a political issue: they know how angry people get about politics, and while they don’t mind arguing with their teachers, they don’t want to make us mad for fear of grade-related consequences. And though I argue as reasonably and courteously as I can, people get angry about politics. I get angry about politics. No, that’s not true: I don’t get angry about the topics. But when someone I’m disagreeing with says, “Lol, your a retard. You need to grow the fuck up.” then I tend to get angry.

My wife can always tell. The volume and speed of my typing always goes up when I’m mad, as I start hitting the keys harder and faster. “Are you arguing again?” she asks. “Yup!” I say, pounding away. Telling someone that I don’t need to grow up, they need to learn how to think.

And that’s what we’ve been doing. Those of us who don’t support Donald Trump, who can’t believe that other people support Donald Trump, have begun every discussion with his supporters with “What the hell is wrong with you? Trump? Really? What are you thinking?!?” But they’re thinking what I listed above. They are thinking reasonable things.

You cannot convince people who are thinking reasonable things to change their minds by telling them they are unreasonable. Just like I get mad when someone says “Lol, your a retard.” That is no different from saying, “How can you support Trump? What is wrong with you!” You cannot win an argument by insulting your opponent.

To deal with Trump as a candidate, people need to treat him as a candidate: the people who support him for rational reasons need to be talked to like rational people. They need to be questioned fairly, and their answers listened to, and then, perhaps, argued with if we can do that without losing our tempers. I hope that the two people running against him (whichever wins the nomination) will behave like the long-time politicians they are, and focus on his ideas and qualifications, and refuse to go down to his level and have a bully-fight. If they can stay rational and courteous, I don’t doubt that Trump will lose the general election. The fact that gets lost in the uproar and hoopla is that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to running a country. Because he is not a politician, he is not a government worker, he is not an elected official: he has no experience. He does not know what he is doing. Businessmen can run businesses, but the country is not a business. But that is not our argument: that is either Bernie Sanders’s or Hillary Clinton’s argument.

What the rest of us need to focus on is going back to square one. There are bigots in this country. Millions of them. Our current system of affirmative action and token representatives (“The Oscars/Hollywood aren’t racist! Halle Berry won Best Actress in 2002!”), paying lip service to real understanding through nonsense like politically correct speech, have done nothing. If anything, we have pushed the problem underground, where it can fester and swell. And now it’s bursting out. Which means, as hard and uncomfortable and ugly as it is, now is our chance to clean out the infection.

We have to deal with racism. We have to fix this problem at the root: and the root is not Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not the problem.

We are.