Got my brother down ’cause it’s nothing to me

14 03 2017

I, along with every single other Hillary Clinton voter, am tired of hearing how we, who did not vote for the racist poo-flinging toddler for president, must sympathize, must empathize, with those who did.

Especially when that means they will be hurt by those they voted for.

Fuck that. They’re adults and citizens who bear responsibility for their votes. If they couldn’t be bothered to learn that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same damned thing, if they voted for Republicans who’ve promised for years and years and years to cut back on the social safety net and cut taxes the most for those who need it the least, if they decided that it was more important to make sure Those Others got less than everyone getting more, then they should goddamned own that.

They are my fellow citizens, my equals before the law and holding the exact same rights as me. I’m not going to treat them as lesser by condescending to them, ‘poor things’.

That long rant-claimer out of the way: they are my fellow citizens, and if I believe, as I do, that we should have universal coverage and more generous welfare for all, that means for all.

I get the impulse behind such monumentally shitty ideas as blue-state secession, but, as Hamilton Nolan points out,

The impulse to bandy about the threat of secession is not rooted in concern for the vulnerable. It is a tantrum by rich people who are angry that their political power temporarily does not match their economic power. Think about how shallow a self-proclaimed liberal’s commitment to social justice has to be for them to say that the proper response to the ascent of a quasi-fascist amoral strongman is to cede him the majority of the nation’s territory and stop helping to support social programs for everyone not lucky enough to live in a coastal state.

More to the point,

It is fine to point out that Donald Trump is a charlatan and the ignorant are his prey. It is not fine to conclude that they should all then be sentenced to die due to the Republican health care “reform” plan.

Nolan goes a bit more noblesse oblige than I’m comfortable with—“The responsibility of the coastal elites is to help those people, not cast them into the wilderness”—but I do think I have a responsibility to the fellow members of my polity.

Thus, if I think a policy—say, universal health care—is a good one, then I’m not going to say “but not for you”, that is, I’m not going to abandon a better policy for a worse one just to punish people who didn’t vote the way I did. Spite’s a helluva drug, but rather too corrosive to indulge with any regularity.

That said, as someone who prefers parliamentary systems to the Madisonian one we’ve got precisely because I think it leads to more “responsible” government—because a party has few structural barriers to enacting its policies, it fully owns those policies—there is a part of me that says, Well, if this is what you want, this is what you get. In other words, if Republican government and policies is what the unemployed coal miners who rely upon the ACA voted for, then it makes sense that they should bear the consequences of their votes.

Except: our system isn’t parliamentary and I’m not a Republican. I think their policies are bad and given that our system does allow for obstruction, then Democrats should obstruct all proposals that would make life worse for Americans and fight for those which make life better.

I think Trump is terrible and his administration a disgrace and the Republicans in Congress mean sons-of-bitches, and entirely too many of their supporters applaud the terrible meanness. Still, I’ll be damned if I let my disdain for them lead me away from what I think is good.

h/t Scott Lemieux

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I’m not angry

6 03 2017

Oh my god, I am so fucking angry.

At least once a day, every day, I am hit anew with the incredible fact that Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, and that over 60 million of my fellow Americans voted for this. . . man, and that a good chunk of them approve of his job performance.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

Oh, yeah, I keep reading and thinking, but I’ve fallen off in every other way because it all feels too much like performing resistance and not enough actual resistance. I’m not a lawyer, can’t help with immigration; not rich, can’t afford to stuff money into empty pockets; and while I can do things, including writing (real writing, not just this blog), everything I can do someone else can do as well.

The anger is fine, anger is useful, but anger and helplessness enrages in precisely the way that will send me spinning into myself rather than out into the world, where the anger can be put to use and the helplessness dissipated. There actually are things to do, and I’m not doing them.

~~~

This is not just inward-anger: I am also angry at those fellow Americans who cannot be bothered to do the barest amount of work to educate themselves about politics and argumentation and reason and consequences. They’ll believe insane conspiracy theories and bat away any notion that logic or evidence have any role whatsoever in politics. They’ll burn the village to save it and if the village isn’t saved, well, then, at least it’s burned.

(Do I need the sidenote that political fevers cross boundaries, that bananapants may be worn by anyone who gets her march on? Fine, noted.)

I’ve said that Carl Schmitt gets something right in highlighting the friends/enemies distinction in politics, that theorists who forget this forget something essential about politics. But politics and, especially, governance, is about more than tribalism. Politics is not just war with words.

I have to remind myself of this, to not let my anger at Trump supporters transform me from citizen to soldier. If I’m angered that they can’t be bothered to perform some of the most basic duties of citizenship, I can’t forget that they are, in fact, my fellow citizens, and that I have obligations to something more than my tribe, regardless.

~~~

The anger manifested itself as moodiness this weekend as I watched the second and third seasons of The Fall.

I watched the first season around the time it came out, then just a bit of season two. This past weekend I watched the very last episode of season 3, then went back and filled in the rest. I don’t know if The Fall is any good—I admit to zipping through scenes that focused exclusively on the killer—but I did find it compelling.

Again, I was in a moody mood—had I been more upbeat I might have thought it all so boring—and there are some blind alleys, plot-wise, but I appreciated the sharper edge on sexual politics. Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson makes some shit decisions and is not a hero, but she is brave, and I wish I were as unflinching as she.

I think it was that sharper edge that pulled me in. As I said, I video-skimmed the killer’s story (yet another sexual-sadist-with-a-backstory who hates women) which likely had the effect of making more apparent the meanness of the culture in which he was able to kill. At one point the assistant chief constable—and one-time lover of Stella’s—attacks her; she fends him off, then, pityingly, tends to the wounds she inflicted. Later, he insists to her that he’s “not the same” as the killer; Stella agrees, then notes, “but you did cross a line.”

I don’t know why, but that exchange shivved me. I’ve never been a victim of sexual violence and haven’t had to deal with much harassment, but that notion, of having to tend to the feelings of a man who cares nothing for my own, well. Stella is tired of it, it’s clear, and all-too-practices in  maneuvering around it.

All of that maneuvering, all of those thickets and brambles, the constant need to pick burrs out of one’s hair and ignore the scratches and kick aside the rocks and duck the swaying branches and just get on with it. I’m not Stella, not by a long shot, but I felt a rather intense sympathy for her—a sympathy which morphed into empathy—that I didn’t when I first tuned in.

~~~

My reaction to The Fall made me think of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,  which was, apparently, initially titled Men Who Hate Women. (I didn’t love the book, thought the Swedish movie adaptation better, and didn’t read or see the second and third installments.) I once thought that first title a bit of a joke, a kind of over-the-top absurdism.

I don’t anymore.

No, no, #NotAllMen. But while I recognized almost immediately how shook I was by the acceptance of racism as manifested in Trump’s victory, only now are the quakes from the misogyny moving through me. I’m mostly over the shock of the racism; I’m just beginning to come to terms with how much women, as women, are despised.

Again, I thought I knew, thought long consideration—decades-long consideration—gave me clear sight. But, again, so much I didn’t see that was always right there.





Red rain is pouring down: FrankenStormMageddonLypse!!! (Mayan campaign mashup 2012/We might as well try combo edition)

29 10 2012

That headline may not be long enough.

Anyway, I was going to lead with snark—I snapped a coupla’ pics yesterday that showed precisely nothing happening, weather-wise—but since the air pressure has dropped so much I can feel the blood pulsing in my face, my snark has dissipated  right out the window.

The bite, however, the bite remains, so of course I’ll chew on Mitt Romney’s ass for suggesting that the federal government get out of the emergency management business:

First Romney says: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. [emph added] Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

“Including disaster relief, though?” debate moderator John King asked Romney.

His response:

We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Makes perfect sense to worry about the well-being of those in the future, because using the federal government to keep people safe now certainly is craaaazy.

Two further thoughts: One, such sentiments indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of business, which is to make money. How will business make money from people who have none? Who is going to hire these private actors to clear trees and debris and search for survivors and bodies and repair roads and bridges and homes? If the feds don’t step in to pay these folks, who is going to do it?

Which leads to the second thought. Romney and his ilk may want to send this responsibility back to the states, but how many states can afford to take on this responsibility?

(And a third, stray, thought: weather tends to stray across state boundaries, so some kind of supra-state entity—like, say, FEMA—to coordinate responses might just make sense.)

If a President Romney (may these two words never be joined) were to get his way, it probably wouldn’t affect me all that much. I live in a wealthy city in a reasonably wealthy state, so if any place could take care its own, it would be New York.

But Louisiana? Misssissippi? Alabama? Screwed.

That ain’t right. No, I like neither the weather nor the politics of these places, but they are a part of the United States and the people who live in those states deserve both security and dignity. And if their states can’t or won’t provide it for them—if those same people vote for politicians who don’t care about their security and dignity—well, then, goddammit, the rest of us, via the federal government, should.

Let me be as explicit as possible: Not only do I not mind that my tax dollars would go to states and localities which may want to have nothing to do with my kind, I think my tax dollars should go to those places, if that’s where the need is.

And no, I don’t expect them to be particularly grateful, if only because citizens of this nation should expect that their fellow citizens will take care of them.

Because that’s what it means to be a citizen: To take care of one another, to take care of where and how we all live with one another.





Shout, shout, let it all out

5 07 2011

So I erased a rant about the debt ceiling and Republicans and unreality and unicorns (don’t ask) and default, because, really, who needs another lecture in the obvious?

Then I was going to rant about the hatred evinced by our latter-day conservative public officials for the public, that their attacks on taxes, on public workers, public works, any notion that we are not merely a collection of taxpayers and consumers but compose a citizenry, is in fact an attack on the very notion of the public, and, by extension, politics itself.

Then then I thought, No, this deserves more than a rant. This hostility to even the possibility of solidarity is too goddamned serious to be spittled away in a curse-inflected screed.

So I’ll hold off, for now, and ruminate on how best to approach this.

And then I’ll bring the hammer down.

*Update* So I was looking through some old posts mining material for a job application when I realized that, duh, I’d already done this, in a variety of ways. So: nevermind.





Your Captain says: Put your head in your hands.

20 01 2010

There are days—many days, actually—when it sucks to be a student of politics.

This is one of them.

Not because Martha Coakley lost in Massachusetts to a nice head of hair (although that’s not really helping my mood), but because the crappiness of political analysis in this country has gone critical.

That’s called  a shitstorm, my friends, and we’ve been livin’ in it for too many years.

Given the constant effluvia, you’d think I’d be used to it by now, hunkered down in a cave of indifference and/or utterly uncaring of the stench of politics.

But no, if you care about politics, ain’t no way to plug oneself up against the raining—or shall I say reigning?—of nonsense.

Please note that this is not strictly or even mainly about partisan politics. I’m a pinko, so I know I’m always going to lose. Sometimes I get to vote for people who are within shouting (really loud!) distance of my agenda, and that’s nice, but, really, socialists don’t have much goin’ on in this country.

Nor is this (directly) about nasty language, gossip, hypocrisy, and the hypercompetitiveness of candidates.

Nooo, this is more about the structure of politics in the US, how we—left, right, and otherwise—do politics.

First: the nastiness. Well, duh. I may hold and Arendtian/Aristotelian understanding of politics as the sphere of the good life, but neither of them had much of a theory of actual governance. And actual governance is hard, performed by people with strong and conflicting opinions, people who had to scratch and spit and shed blood to get into the position to govern.

I don’t know that this is in every way the best way to find politicians, but if you want responsive government, then there’s election by lot, election through competition, and . . . what else?

Thus, given that competition is built into our system, you’d think that journalists and pundits and the politicians themselves would not be surprised when candidates compete! And that they would be similarly phlegmatic when those in the throes of competition get angry, trash talk, and otherwise behave as if they want and expect to win.

No. Instead of sobriety or stoicism, we get titillation, as seen most recently in Game Change, by the alleged journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Oo! Hillary said a bad word! Or famously temperamental Senator McCain yelled bad words at his wife! Or the other candidates really didn’t like Mitt Romney!

Over three hundred interviews with over two hundred witnesses/participants/soreheads on ‘deep background’ and we get Gossip Pols?

But the omnipresent irritation of the presence of pundits is not, however, the main target of this rant.

Nope, I’m just going to go ahead and smack all of us as lousy citizens.

Not because each of us individually is a lousy citizen, but because we have created a system in which it is very difficult to be a good citizen.

Politicians who know better say we can cut the deficit without raising taxes or reducing or eliminating popular programs or entitlements.

Pundits who know better ponder the re-election chances of a president three years ahead of the election.

Citizens who know better say we want lower taxes and less government and clean streets and good schools and safe cities.

We want one-hundred-percent protection against terrorism and cheap flights with easy check-in procedures.

We want excellent teachers and low property taxes.

We want cheap water and few regulations.

You see how this could continue; you could probably add your own 2 or 3 or twenty.

It’s not that Americans are more stupid than anyone else, or even more covetous. It’s that we’ve gotten so used to thinking of our wants as rights that we’ve neglected to do the hard work of accounting for our wants; instead, we demand, and castigate any negotiations over those demands.

(Oh, and when there’s any kind of inequality, we err in the other direction by confusing want and need, and punish those who are attempt to translate those needs into rights.)

Politicians respond to this, we respond to the politicians, and the pundits keep smug score.

The problem is systemic. Individual citizens may understand that if you wanna get, you gotta give, and adjust their expectations accordingly. I don’t like taxes, but am willing to pay them in order to create a more generous social-welfare net; libertarians might like some government services, but are willing to forgo them in order to lower their tax burden; social conservatives might be willing to trade liberty for authority. At that individual or local level, some of us, perhaps many or most of us, get it.

But since we are treated as a mass or series of masses by politicians and pundits, and are sometimes too eager to associate ourselves with some mass or another, we get a politics based on the ebbs and flows of the mass, and the reaction cycle between mass, politician, and pundit.

And that’s exactly what our system has become: reactionary. No thinking, no leading, no acting—only re-acting to the latest outrage du jour.

Irresponsibility, all around.

What does this mean? Not much, really. We can probably chug along in our politically-irresponsibly ways for years, if not decades, which means that it’s possible that something could happen in the meantime to break us out of this cycle.

But even a slo-mo degradation is still degradation.

Which helps to explain the occasional rants by those of us who do care about our politics.





Why I sing the blues

22 10 2008

No, not another disquisition on depression—although the real topic, presidential politics, is depressing enough.

Multiple posts on toleration, respect, religion, agnosticism, but only a few quick hits on politics.

What the hell? Aren’t I a political theorist, after all? Aren’t I the one who, in 2004, moved from a city I loved in another country back to the US in order to participate in politics? Who dragged her ass out of bed on Saturday mornings to ride a bus to another state for the privilege of knocking on doors and asking those granite folk who they were likely to vote for? Who had her dad drive her to NOW meetings (until she got her license)? Who remembers raising her first-grade fingers in a ‘peace’ sign every time the school bus driver/town mayor halted at the railroad tracks?

Jesus Christ, politics has been in my conscious life as long almost as long as I’ve been conscious of life. And yet my response to this campaign has been: Eh.

Yeah, yeah, I’ll vote, and I really am looking forward to an African-American family in the White House, but, honestly, I simply think Obama will do less damage (to this country, the rest of the world) than would McCain.

I’m not a moderate (I’m a ‘hard-core leftist: run for your lives!’), and my vote for Obama is not reluctant. I just doubt it’s going to matter all that much.

Sigh. It will matter, on some crucial issues: judges, executive power, Guantanamo, torture, access to contraception, the Lily Ledbetter pay act, diplomacy. These are not small things, so in saying I doubt how much the presidential race matters, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. It does. That’s why I’m voting.

And Iraq? I truly don’t know how much leeway the next president will have to do anything momentous. From what I’ve been reading, the Iraqis want the US out sooner rather than later (tho’, preferably, not right this instant), and while the surge has brought a kind of peace to many areas of the country, it’s pretty clear that the force levels required for the surge are unsustainable. I’m guessin’ that whoever the next president is, the next stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is ‘Iraqi-zation’.

Afghanistan? Unclear that either has a workable plan. That said, Obama seems far more practical (i.e., willing to adapt to exigencies) than does McCain.

So the vote matters: who do you want as captain of the ship?

And this is where I sigh and say, Eh, and sigh again, a bit more angrily, and say I don’t want a fucking captain and I’m not a goddamned ship’s passenger. I’m a citizen in a democratic republic who’d like there to be at least some connection between the peoples’ representatives and the people, who’d like to be addressed as something other than ‘constituent’ or ‘taxpayer’ or ‘prospective voter’. I don’t want to be wooed or massaged or have my pain felt up by some suck-up in a suit who’s going to tottle off to Washington or Albany (or City Hall) and do all that he or she can to cut the citizenry out of politics.

No, I’m not talking about enacting or blocking favored social programs (tho’ I would dearly love universal health care), but about legislators doing what they can to deepen democracy, to involve us further in our own governance. I’m thinkin’: New Deal. Or, more recently, efforts by people in the gulf region post-Katrina to rebuild their cities, physically and politically (and getting at best little help and at worst obstruction from govt officials). This isn’t just about self-help, but about acting in concert with one’s fellows and fully conscious of the political implications of such solidarity.

There’s so much more to say, and I think this really does matter, deeply and broadly, to us as citizens. To presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and city council members: we’re not you’re goddamned pets. Quit throwing us bones.

And to the rest of us: quit begging for those bones. Stand up already.

*Update*

Here’s the link to the lyrics to BB King’s ‘Why I sing the blues’

Or better yet, get Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’ cd and listen to her version. Fantastic.