Tag: Donald Trump

Notes on “The Day Molly Got Into the Room”

Of the three published stories about the making of Dope Dealers From Outer Space, this was the one written earliest. It’s sets the conflict between the right-wing movie director Howard Zeleznick–or, as he likes to be called, Howard Zez–and his stepdaughter, Molly, which is touched on in “Stanny Couldn’t Make It”.

Molly is a smart young woman, nearing the end of her undergraduate studies in film at the (at the time quite new) USC film school. Like her mother, she’s much smarter than her stepfather, but unlike her mother, she’s happy to let him know that. Molly loves her mother but doesn’t understand why she married Howard, who seems to have little to recommend him besides comparative financial stability–Howard inherited a share of his family’s heavy harvester business, which he uses to finance his terrible films–and a disinclination to physical abuse, which does put Howard one up on Molly’s biological father, Duke. Still, a stable income and a lack of abuse strikes Molly as a depressing reason to marry someone as retrograde and foolish as Howard.

In “The Day Molly Got Into The Room”, Molly’s supposed to learn a bit about the movie business from sitting in on a meeting with Howard and his screenwriter, David Freem. Instead, she learns something about her mother, which shocks her but leaves her with a better understanding of some of the choices she’s made.

“The Day Molly Got Into The Room” is based to some degree on some people I know, and I won’t name them because I’m sure at least one of them would find it insulting. If that person does figure out which character is close to him, he should know that the character also has a lot of Donald Trump in him, so he should think very hard about where he ends and the Orange Menace begins.

You can’t find “The Day Molly Got Into The Room” online. It appears in Constellations, a Boston-based literary journal. You can buy it from Amazon.

41hzzpOQRLL

If you buy it and read it, feel free to leave a comment or question below.

Sticky Images: Notes on “Two Ways To Say Goodbye To Milford”

“Two Ways”, which the good people at Elsewhere Lit decided to put in their 7th issue (out today) has its origins in two images, one from a real event, the other from a sitcom, that stuck with me long enough for me to combine them into something new. This isn’t unusual. Fiction writers do this a lot, but often times it’s hard to remember precisely where the images that inspire us come from. Here, it’s easy.

The first image comes from the fourth season of the TV sitcom Wings. In the episode “Goodbye, Old Friend” airplane mechanic Lowell Mather’s friend and mentor Weeb Gilroy passes away, and Lowell is asked to deliver the eulogy. But Lowell is not a words man, so he has no end of trouble penning something appropriate. In the end, he decides that in lieu of words, he’ll finish the project he and Weeb had been working on together for years: the restoration of an old biplane. He finishes the plane, and he gets Joe, his pilot friend, to fly it for him during Weeb’s funeral as a tribute. The show, presumably hampered by budget considerations, never shows the plane in the air, but the image I pictured of it buzzing the funeral stuck with me for decades afterward.

I’m a soft touch sometimes. Sue me.

The other image is more recent, and I remember it with less pleasure than I thought I would when I first saw it. When last year’s third presidential debate ended, Hillary Clinton had once again taken Donald Trump apart on stage, and you could tell that he knew it. Hillary had left her podium to shake hands with the moderator, meet her family, and wave to well-wishers in the audience–typical stuff politicians do, win or lose, at the ends of debates. Trump, by stark contrast, stayed behind the podium, seething. None of his family went near him. He’d been bested, by a woman, again, in front of the whole country, and he had no way of dealing with it. He just stood there, ripping pages from his notebook.

ap_16294096697709

In the end, combining these two images was quite simple. Howard Zez is already established as my Trump stand-in, and putting him in a situation where he feels like he’s going to shine, as the one who delivers his brother Milford’s eulogy, puts him in a lovely situation for a comic face plant. And letting Howard’s sister deliver the coup de grace to his eulogy by flying the WWI plane she and Milford had been building over the funeral home let me to preserve the dynamic of the third presidential debate by having a woman show Howard up.

It was fun to write.

One more note. This is the first story I’ve written in this series told from Howard’s point of view. In other stories I’ve done, Howard comes of as a bluff, right-wing, vain, incompetent heel, which he certainly is. He’s Archie Bunker with more money and a camera. But when I wrote a story from his point of view, I had to find a way to connect with him, some aspect of me that I could see in him to humanize him. What I found was Howard-as-frustrated-artist. Howard decided to stay away from the family business to devote himself to making movies–a thing his has tremendous passion and no talent for. However much he tries to puff himself up, on some level he suspects that his relatives and friends think of his work as a joke, which contrasts sharply with the rest of the world’s utter indifference to it. Howard is desperate for acclaim and respect, and underneath his bluster he wonders if he’ll ever get it. I know I’ve felt like this from time to time, like I’m the only one who gives a damn whether I keep writing or not. And when I see social media posts from friends and relatives and strangers who seem to be doing so much better than I am, it makes me feel lousy about what I do and I wonder when or if it’ll get better, or if I am, in the end, any better at my art than Howard Zez is at his. It’s that insecurity, which I confront daily, that helped me connect with Howard Zez in “Two Ways To Say Goodbye To Milford”. To the extent that he isn’t just the two-dimensional butt of one of my jokes, that’s why.

We’ll most likely return to this next when my next story in the Zezverse, “The Day Molly Got Into Room”, appears in Constellations sometime in the spring of 2018.

 

With All Due Respect, Fuck Civility

With All Due Respect, Fuck Civility

Occasionally, I make a dreadful life mistake and I read a pundit. I know, disgusting habit. I’m trying to quit, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. (Maybe pundits are lacing their columns with extra nicotine, like Brown and Williamson. Someone should look into that.) And so it was that I read Marc Theissen’s Washington Post column, “America Is On Its Way to Divorce Court“, calling for greater civility toward Republicans who are, at this moment, trying to shred my health insurance so rich people can have more money.

So if you can, disable your gag reflex, and we’ll dive right in.

There is a place for contempt in our public discourse. We should have contempt for a regime in North Korea that brutalized a young American student named Otto Warmbier. We should have contempt for a regime in Syria that uses poison gas to massacre innocent men, women and children. We should have contempt for Islamic State terrorists who behead Americans, burn people alive in cages and systematically rape Yazidi girls.

But we should not have contempt for each other.

Really, Marc? We shouldn’t have contempt for each other? Why not? Do all the others who do nasty things live outside our borders or follow religions that aren’t dominant here? Our current President, just for one, is a serial rapist and con man who ignores crimes committed by our local Nazis. And since those local Nazis are presumably also part of our geographically determined “each other”, we’re not allowed to have contempt for them either?

Yet, we do. Our politics today is descending into a bitter spiral of contempt. And we saw the consequences in the attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress on a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., last week. Back when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in 2011, many on the left were quick to blame conservative political rhetoric — falsely it turned out. But the attack on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his colleagues was politically motivated. The assassin volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called President Trump a “traitor” on social media and, according to witnesses, asked if the players were Republicans before opening fire.

Well, I suppose it would be unfair to bring up the murder of George Tiller (egged on by the now disgraced and ever disgraceful Bill O’Reilly) or the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building, both of which involved plenty of right-wing political motivation. But both-sideism is a boring game, so fine, if it makes you feel better, I don’t like politically motivated violence any more than you do, Marc. Not only is it ethically dubious at best, but on a purely practical level, it usually creates more problems than it solves. (See Marcus Brutus–including the version of him in the play that has the Trump people so pissed off.) Barack Obama expressed it well, “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

See, Marc, the last President covered the only halfway useful message of your column in 138 characters. The Post could have saved column inches by just printing that instead.

Onward.

No one is responsible except the would-be assassin. But his actions should serve as a wake-up call that the demonization of our fellow Americans who disagree with us has gone too far. The culture of contempt permeating our politics has now had near-fatal consequences. We need to put on the brakes and learn how to distinguish once again between our opponents and our enemies.

Oh, Marc, you’ve only just now noticed that politics in this country can be a lethal business. Oh, diddums. You know who’s known this for a long time? Women and pretty much every ethnic, racial, and sexual minority in this country going back to those whom white people enslaved and those whose land white people stole. To take just one example, here’s how Americans expressed their politics just a grandfather ago.

strangefruit

Notice the guy near bottom left corner grinning. This picture of a lynching was taken in 1930. If you hurry and catch someone in a nursing home before the Senate kills their funding, you might find someone who remembers what this was like. My Dad, a black man in New Orleans during this period, lived with the threat every day, which was why he always made it a point to tell me to be careful every time I went outside.

Many of us have been aware of the difference between opponents and enemies for some time, long enough to know that the difference between them is often so fine as to become invisible.

Case in point: A few weeks before the Alexandria shooting, Hillary Clinton gave a commencement speech at Wellesley College where she declared that Trump’s budget is “an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest” (emphasis added). No, it is not. Using nerve agent on the innocent is “an attack of unimaginable cruelty.” Putting a hapless college student into a coma is an “attack of unimaginable cruelty.” Reducing the growth of government spending is not.

I have a pretty dark imagination, so I consider both of these deeds attacks of perfectly imaginable cruelty. But whether you’re killed through government action or through deliberate government neglect (“Reducing the growth of government spending” is French for neglecting the vulnerable), you’re equally dead.

Think for a moment what Clinton was saying: It’s not simply that Democrats and Republicans have an honest disagreement about how best to help the most vulnerable among us. In Clinton’s telling, Republicans are waging war on the vulnerable. That is toxic.

No. We’re not having an honest disagreement at the moment. If we were, Republicans would own up to not really wanting to help the most vulnerable. That would be contemptible on its own, but would have virtue of honesty. Instead, Republicans pretend that $800 billion in Medicaid cuts aren’t cuts, and that health care access and affordable and worthwhile health insurance are the same things. Republicans have been lying about this issue, among others, for years, to promulgate plans that do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. That’s what’s toxic, Marc. It’s exhausting to be lied to, especially when the lies are meant to cover deliberate harm.

No doubt, Trump has contributed mightily to our descent into the culture of contempt. (For example, the media is not the “enemy of the American people,” Mr. President). But since Trump’s election, the scope and scale of political contempt on the left have reached unprecedented heights. Just a few months ago, when President Barack Obama was in office, it would have been unimaginable for a comedian to proudly pose for a photo holding up the president’s bloody, severed head.

You keep using that word “unimaginable”, Marc. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

That aside, you don’t seem to get that these two things are not equivalent. Kathy Griffin did something in bad taste. (Not that we need taste lectures from the people who elected Donald Trump.) She got her share of shit for it. Done. Trump, by quite stark contrast, isn’t just in bad taste. He was a year ago, but he’s President now. When he declares the press an “enemy of the people”, he’s actually threatening freedom of the press. When he bombards the nation with daily and often hourly doses of lies, it corrodes the trust that citizens and allies have in every pronouncement of our government. The damage Trump can do with a single idiotic tweet is now catastrophic, and it’s hard to live in this country day by day knowing that. That you can live with it so easily says things about you that are less than flattering, Marc.

Worst of all, we are in the process of cementing these attitudes in the next generation. On college campuses, students are being taught that it is acceptable to treat with contempt those with different ideas. We saw this phenomenon on display when Charles Murray — a distinguished conservative scholar — was shouted down and assaulted at Middlebury College in a riot that sent a professor to the hospital. Not a single student suffered any real consequences. Similar incidents are taking place on campuses across the country. Young Americans are learning that people they disagree with are not to be listened to respectfully and debated; they are to be silenced and driven out of the public square.

Again, fine, it’s awful Charles Murray and the professor interviewing him were assaulted. Violence isn’t the answer to Murray. The answer to Murray is to note that his views have already been debunked, repeat the reasons why they’ve been debunked, point out that his “different ideas” function merely to give apparent verbal and statistical solidity to what is purely racist wind, and treat him henceforth the way we’d treat a creationist or a 9/11 truther.

That said, sadly, Charles Murray remains firmly in the public square, receiving far more respect than he deserves. The same is true of Ann Coulter and even Milo Y. As long as there are right-wing audiences who either enjoy what these figures say or love how they piss off liberals, they’ll never lack for a platform or a dinner invitation.

This is not to suggest that there is no role for righteous anger in political discourse. Conservatives felt anger about many of Obama’s policies, and liberals have every right to be angry about Trump’s policies they find objectionable. And they have every right to fight like hell to stop them.

But it wasn’t so long ago that, despite bitter differences over policies, Republicans and Democrats still found ways to work together. President Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress worked together to pass NAFTA and welfare reform. George W. Bush and congressional Democrats cooperated to pass tax cuts and education reform. Today, that kind of cooperation is unimaginable.

Marc, I’m beginning to suspect you have no imagination at all. Russia sanctions recently passed the U.S. Senate 97-2, so I gather working together across the aisle on the Hill does occasionally happen.

As for the rest, oh, thank you. You’ll allow me to be angry then? That’s right neighborly of you. Are there any other emotions I’m allowed to have, Marc? I’ll be sure to wait until I get word from you before I feel any of them.

And the reason is simple: When anger transforms into contempt, permanent damage takes place. As American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks points out, a marriage can recover from anger. But when couples become contemptuous of each other, they will almost certainly end up in divorce court. That is where our country is headed today.

At least we reach the absurd heart of Theissen’s column. Citizenship is not analogous to a marriage. Marriage requires a level of trust and intimacy far beyond that of any other social relationship. All I require of my fellow citizens is that they follow the same laws I do, signal before they change lanes, and refrain from farting in elevators (you fuckers know who you are). I don’t have to trust them beyond that–and don’t, or there’d be no need for laws. If they do shitty, stupid things, I can think they’re shitty, stupid people. If they do shitty things that hurt me, I can be intensely pissed at them. In this, citizenship of a nation less like marriage and more like having a college roommate in the days when colleges didn’t care much who they stuck you in a dorm room with. You try to get along, but in the end, you may be stuck with someone who teaches you, by puking all over your lab notes, the pleasures of solitude. Your goal is to make it through the year without killing each other, and you might make it, but contempt is definitely going to be felt.

Liberals need to understand: When they show contempt for Trump, they are expressing contempt for the millions of Americans who voted for him — including millions who twice voted for Obama. These Americans felt that the establishments of both parties were ignoring them and wanted to send Washington a message. The response they are receiving could not be clearer: We have contempt for the man you elected, and we have contempt for all of you who put him into office. They will never forget it.

We need to pull back from this spiral of contempt before it is too late. North Korea is our enemy. Our fellow Americans who disagree with us are not. It’s time we learn the difference — before someone gets killed.

know I feel contempt for the millions of Americans who voted for Trump, including those who voted twice for Obama. You’ve got to be a special kind of dipshit to have been an Obama/Trump voter. “I know who I want next: someone who’ll crap on everything the guy I voted for twice did.”

And I won’t forget it either. There are things I consider unforgivable. Voting for Trump is one of them. If you did that, may your hair get cowlicks right before a big job interview. May every peach you eat from this day on be mealy. May you get run over by a Bentley purchased with money that could have gone to your health insurance, you shitty, racist fuck.

Oh, and Marc, not to belabor this, but people have been killed, just not the people you care enough to write columns about. By an extraordinary coincidence, they’re the people Trump, for whom I’m not allowed to feel contempt, declared open season on.

Well, fuck you, Marc. I feel contempt for Trump and for the perpetrators. I consider them my enemy, a deadlier enemy than North Korea is likely to be for me. You don’t, because you’re confident they’re not coming after you and yours. I get that. I have contempt for that too, but I don’t consider it unimaginable. I get it.

 

Mugs and Suckers

Last year, much to my surprise, Donald Trump, in all his appalling ignorance, taught me what may be the most important lesson I could’ve learned in 2016. You see, throughout that campaign, I took it as read that Trump could never be elected President because he was such an obvious con artist. No way, I thought, could a guy who’s basically a gold plated Angel Martin from The Rockford Files ever get to 50%+1. There just aren’t enough stupid people in the United States to make that happen. After the November 8th horror, I had to rethink this, and I remembered something crucial.

The success of a scam depends not on the skill of the grifter but on the greed and fear of the marks.

This is what con artists will tell you about their victims, that there’s no way they could have stung them if they weren’t consumed with some combination of avarice and paranoia. Greed and fear are extraordinary motivators, and the person who can manipulate them, however crudely, can take power others. He can get them to invest in fake companies. He can get them to buy worthless information. He can get them to vote for him for President.

Now I and 65 million others weren’t taken in by Trump’s con, and I while I think that’s to our credit, I don’t think it’s because we’re significantly smarter than Trump voters. Instead, I think it’s because our fears and desires don’t match up with Trump’s pitch at all. I don’t fear or hate immigrants, refugees, liberals, or racial minorities. I’m not afraid of women. I’m not worried about someone shipping my job overseas. I’m not aching for an upper-class tax cut or the deregulation of my business. I don’t worry that my health insurance premiums are too high. I don’t worry about someone taking my guns. I don’t see myself as a temporarily embarrassed rich person who’d get my villa and Maserati if only Washington bureaucrats would get out of my way. I’m not a fundamentalist Christian who can’t handle gays getting married or women getting their contraception paid for by their health insurance. Trump could pitch at me all day and get nothing back but my hostility.

But Trump’s voters are afflicted by at least some, if not all, of those fears and desires. They feel them in different combinations and different levels of intensity, but as long as Trump hit on each of these in turn, any given Trump voters could rationalize supporting him. Hey, I may not like the racism, but he sounds like he’s really going to stick it to those Washington bureaucrats and get me my Maserati. Or You know, the whole immigrant thing bothers me, but I don’t think he’ll really hurt them, and I really want a Supreme Court justice who’ll make women carry babies to term. Or Maybe I don’t need that upper class tax cut, but I love how he puts blacks in their place and drives the liberals crazy.

Sadly, the people with the most reasonable fears, those afraid of losing their jobs to automation or overseas competition and those sweating their health insurance premiums, are the ones Trump’ll sting the hardest. Even if he cared about helping them–and since he was hoping to sign a bill that would strip them of their health care entirely, it’s obvious he doesn’t–he has no clue what to do for them. Trump’s a thief, not an economist or public policy expert. They’d have better odds of getting their share of a Nigerian Prince’s fortune. The people driven by pure greed or fear, greed for upper class tax cuts, fear of women or minorities, will probably get something to make them happy. Trump’s a con man, but he’s a genuine bigot and misogynist, and he’ll endorse any scheme that inflicts pain on those that he hates or that makes them pay his taxes for him.

The depressing part of this is that it’ll be nigh impossible to argue Trump supporters out of their choice. Since most people find nothing more embarrassing than admitting they’ve been had, they’ll instead concoct elaborate rationalizations to explain away Trump’s behavior. They’ll try to shift responsibility by saying they wouldn’t have voted for Trump if coastal elites weren’t always calling them bigots. (So you voted for a bigot just to prove you’re not a bigot? I guess you showed me.) The more time they’ve put in to supporting Trump, the harder they’ll be to talk out of it. And the smarter Trump supporters will be hardest of all because smart people build better rationalizations. However much he hurts them, most of them will stick with him. This doesn’t owe to any special talent on Trump’s part, but rather his supporters terrible willingness to suspend their disbelief.

For a bit more context on this, here’s Laurence Rees on Hitler, describing a similar dynamic between Hitler and his followers.

Can’t You Trump Voters Just Own It, Already?

Trump voters are sad that people are mad at their support for the Orange Menace. From the New York Times:

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”

Others claim that they’ve been denied dates or that the sight of protests upsets them. It’s enough to make you weep, I know. If I weren’t in a cold sweat about families being broken up by deportation squads or my own health insurance going into the shredder, I might spare a thought for their woes.

But you know what really frosts my shorts, Trump voters? This “I didn’t choose a side” garbage.

You fucking well did, and you know it.

For irony’s sake, I’m going to drag out a shopworn phrase from your side of the political divide: “personal responsibility”. You have agency in life, my orange-president-cult worshipping friends. You voted for a racist, sexist criminal fraud because you wanted to vote for a racist, sexist criminal fraud. You looked at Trump in all his cartoonish awfulness, assessed him, and concluded he was preferable to a dedicated center-left public servant. Your choice. You weren’t duped by him. You sure as hell weren’t forced by us.

But it is interesting that the reaction of others to your vote distresses you so. If, a few years ago, I said on Twitter that I voted for Obama and some troll said something nasty about it, I blocked the motherfucker and went on with my life. It didn’t bother me that I’d annoyed him. It didn’t make me happy either. My vote wasn’t about him. I was comfortable with my choice and didn’t give a damn what he or anyone else thought of it. I’m tempted to think of your comparative angst and shame as a sign of consciousness of guilt. You know who feels consciousness of guilt? The guilty.

So, Trump voters who feel shitty right now, own up. You voted for Trump not because of the media, or your annoying liberal Facebook friend, or that person on Tinder who sees you in your Make America Great Again hat and swipes left. You voted for him because you wanted to. And maybe you now feel some guilt about it because you know he’s going to hurt a lot of people and that suffering is partly your doing. But if you keep supporting him, you’re reaffirming that you’re fine with families being torn apart and people dying sooner or going broke because they lack health insurance. If that’s the case, don’t blame Meryl Streep, or CNN, or me because your friends and neighbors look at your choices and decide they mean you’re an asshole.

I Understand You

lizza-trump-theories-1200Hey, you. White dude with the red cap. You with the gun rack in your pickup’s rear window. You who live in a white rural town where people are real and eat real food and have real values and go to real churches.

I understand you.

You think I don’t, but I do.

What? Did you think I was born in a city? Well, actually you’re right. I was. I was born in Santa Monica, CA. But I didn’t stay there long. I’ve lived in Ohio. I’ve lived in Texas. I spent six years of my life in rural Utah, and there’s a good chance my town was smaller and whiter than yours.

I understand you.

It’s not hard. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that deep.

I know that people of color in your towns have to be careful how they act, lest they eat your shit. The only reason I got a pass was that I was passing. My skin is light enough that people didn’t know, right away, that I was “a n—–.” (They’d have felt no embarrassment at spelling out the slur.) I know that gays and lesbians have to hide who they are to avoid your violence. I know how religion binds your communities, because I saw, from the outside looking in, how it bound mine.

I know the stories you use to explain your lives to yourselves. I know you see yourselves as standing in a line. It’s a long line. At the front are the rich people, and you think that if you stay in the line, don’t ask for too much, and behave yourselves, the rich people at the front will one day shower you with riches and all will be happy. You don’t question why there has to be a line, or why you’re the one standing in it. As long as the rich people at the front pass down an occasional treat, it’s a sign of their goodwill. And as long as the darker people are behind you, which they deserve because they’re more unruly and impatient than you, and don’t talk English as good as you talk it, all is right and just.

This is the story your ancestors used to explain slavery to themselves. Most of the more southerly of them didn’t own slaves, but they hoped if they stood in line, one day they could. Later, under our nation’s 100 post-civil-war years of legal apartheid, your grandparents could still tell themselves that no matter how bad off they were, they were better than the “n——“. They could vote, get the front seat on the bus, and ogle a white girl’s ass without dying for it. And if any “n—–” tried to get in line in front of them, there were hoods to wear, crosses to burn, and branches suitable for nooses.

When this system of apartheid was dismantled, suddenly people wouldn’t let your parents, or you, use the word “n—–” anymore. You got yelled at for it, and that hurt, partly because feeling guilty hurts, but partly because that meant that the darker people had moved up in line a little. Soon, black people were on TV and in movies and ads. They played sports. They were cops and lawyers and business executives. Black bodies were closing in on your position in line. Some were ahead. And what’s more, it looked like some of your fellow pale people, ones who lived in cities and always made fun of you, were helping them cut in front!

Yeah, I think I understand you.

Then along came a black President, with a foreign, black name. He never could have been in line. Now he’s at the front of it! How can that be fair? The treats were supposed to come to you first! And when he sends something down the line to you, bails out your auto industry, stabilizes the banks, gets you health care, you’re bewildered. Where does that–you won’t say the word because you’re not racist–get off trying to help you? And why isn’t he doing more? And why is he also helping those other people you don’t like: the gays and lesbians and Mexicans and Asians who don’t live in your town because…well…any one of them who tries gets the message? Now you’re pissed off. And now those fancy types are telling you you’re racist and sexist because you’re angry about all the non-white, non-male people ahead of you. You’re not mad because you hate them. You don’t hate. You’re mad because people of color and women don’t deserve those spots. The rich people promised your grandpappy.

I understand you.

You never got mad at the rich guys or their promises, even though they’re made of lies. You’ll never get that they told your grandpappy to stand in line because they feared he might revolt and then died laughing when the poor sap fell for it. You’ll never ask why your grandpappy, or your pappy, or you, never made common cause with the people of color to take what the rich man was denying all of you. Instead, you’ll let the rich guys pollute your land, air, and water if it means a job. And you’ll elect the smiling toady the rich man asks you to vote for so he can go to Washington and make sure that no uppity people ever try to give you health care, education programs, housing assistance, or the right to form a union. Why would you want those things? The rich guys at the front of the line will be passing down a treat for you anytime now. Anytime.

I understand you.

At last, one day, the rich guys stopped passing their treats down to you. They took your factories away and left you. And that confused you. Where’d the line go? Where’s your shower of riches? They couldn’t have been fibbing all along, could they? No. It must be the fault of those liberals in Washington. They regulated them too much. They drove them away. They’ll pay for that, them and the city slickers in Hollywood who make jokes at your expense and sip lattes and drive nice cars and know Jews. (Not that you’re antisemitic. Why would we think that?)

Idiots. You think voting for Trump upset the elites in Washington? They’ll adapt. They have money, influence, and time. They’ll be here long after Trump’s gone to Orange, Rapist, Con-Man Heaven. You may think by electing Trump you threw a brick at Washington Elites, but you hit poor people, the elderly, the vulnerable, and yourselves. After four years of Trump, your pockets will be emptier, and his fuller. Your towns will still be sucky and poor, and you’ll still be sad, paranoid, and angry. But maybe, if you’re good, Trump’ll send you some of those Trump Steaks. That should tide you over, because now that he’s at the front of the line,  the wait for the shower of goodies can’t be much longer. You’re so close. Right?

Yeah, I understand you.

 

Requiem

“There are times when I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.” –Colonel Dax Paths of Glory

I am in a state of utter desolation. My country has done something I didn’t believe it had it in itself to do. Something broke tonight, and broken things are hard to mend, if we’ll even still have the will to mend them. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.

I can’t excuse it by saying the country was desperate. It had no cause to feel desperate. Its pathologies, now embodied in its likely President-Elect, are ancient, yes, but they have no relationship to understandable, common, rational reality. They’ve just festered here, an ugly undergrowth of what we’ve hoped was a worthwhile civilization, and we’ve allowed them to become very dangerous.

I don’t know where we go from here. Many will suffer real and great harm, and it saddens me to think that the winners of this election will take joy in its infliction, all to sate a rage that comes from…what? A President who tried to get them health care?

I don’t know who or what we are anymore, or if enough of us care enough to even bother to try to make sense again. I fear the damage we’ll do to ourselves and to the world in this state. Countries that give themselves over this this kind of raging, paranoid, sexist, racist nationalism seldom come to happy ends. I know. I wrote a book about one.

Comfort? I have none to offer. I’d like some if anyone has some. The best I can offer are a couple of poems to take you into the dark night.