Saturday, April 14, 2018

Priapos, Ryan, and Trump, Elevated Humor or Exhausted by the Salacious Details?

Every once in a while the NYTimes allows a columnist to use an unfamiliar word. Allow me. Today's word is "priapic." It was used today by the loathsome, not to be rehabilitated or forgiven Bret Stephens who supported the Iraq war, the Bush tax cuts, and every Ryan-esque effort to hurt ordinary people. He deserves no uplifting or resurrection for his past sins. Not yet. But he can write and so, like Buckley and Will, is the sort of conservative you are forced to read. He is now a NeverTrumper, which is only one degree of worth warmer than an absolute zero. He writes: "...conservatism opportunistically played the sycophant to the congenitally mendacious and previously priapic nativist bigot who, through a bad fluke, captured the White House."

The adjective "priapic" refers to Priapus or Priapos, in Greek, who manages to be the son of both Aphrodite and Dionysus. (He has other parentages but this one will, ummm, satisfy.) We would call him in Sanskrit "Lingotbhava" but for the...downside. "Linga" for phallus, "utbhava" for..."arising" or "emergent." So Priapos was renown for having what we might call an "ever-hard-on."

Much like conservatives, he's got one for immigrants, otherness, oil kleptocrats and environmental regulations, you get the idea: anything worth hating, serving to fuck anyone they feel deserves it, particularly the innocent, the environment, and decency itself. Our conservative Trumpist, like Trump, stars today in virility commercials but _only_ in the disclaimer or danger-phrase, "In the event of an erection that lasts more than four hours..." and other comparable forms of priapism. None of this is ever a good thing, but it does warrant further explaining. And so ends any comparison to Shiva or any reference to...well, anything but frustration, pain, toxicity, and failure, all of which describe the relationship between conservatives and Trump, and Trump himself.

So what do conservatives, Trump ,and Trumpism share with Priapos? Priapos was cursed by Hera while in the womb when Aphrodite's favorite Paris dared to pronounce Aphrodite more beautiful than herself. The curse, of course, was that the well-endowed and ever-erect Priopos would fail to maintain himself at just the proper moment, and so be always impotent, embarrassed, and a failure. He would be characterized by bluster, neediness, and self-inflation but never quite rise to the real occasion.

Now you could say that it's not poor Priapos' fault since, after all, his curse--- which also includes being ugly and particularly repulsive--- is a result of one of those strange matters of vindictiveness that follow around the Greek divines. (Sanskrit lore has strange sexuality matters but nothing that involves the gods cursing one another or taking it out on humans.) But we have to leave that unfortunate circumstance within mythic realms to make our point. Are conservatives just aberrant failures congenitally? We know that Trump is a congenital liar and that Republicanism is Trumpism: you can't get more "with the gentials" than that congenital aberrance.

Let me tinder, umm, tender another take on the matter at hand.

Conservatism is priapic because it was _always_ going to fail, it's curse is that it is based on enfeebled vanity, every kind of false and toxic masculine misconception known to man. It is all excuses, no explanations, no apologies, and no care for anything but its own self-pleasing fantasies. It is more than just factually incoherent (think: ummm, trickle-down economics), it wallows in the incapacity to know facts from fantasy, it is a pornography in which the porn star is the more honest business. No hush money required here, we know conservatism, like Trump, is cursed from the outset because the fix is not in the fixer. The fixer is going to jail and the country will be left unsatisfied.

Next, conservatives are priapic because, like Trump and Trumpism, they love to the wave the flag, dodge the draft, and employ their fake militarist patriotism (Let's have a parade!) all without ever serving up the truth. All of this tedious self-inflation displays their toxic, impotent, insecure, and false virility--- all in their effort to assert their superiority. Think: flag lapel pins, the insipid, self-righteous looks of seriousness on Mike Pence's face, and the Calvin pissing bumper stickers on the backs of jacked up pickup trucks. Think of the trucks themselves. Some need to be Chevys, "like a rock." Others are just gas guzzling Ford F-150s or, even worse, Ram Tough Mopar. (Apologies to rams.) Something about all of these things says to you, in the quiet of your own thoughts, "small dick, small mind, wearisome, enfeebled, idiotic masculinity." Now you can just say "failing priapism."

They then further use these priapic forms to erect and attempt to keep up their nativist biogtries. Think: tiki lamps, Confederate flags on those same pick up trucks, and Klan costumes, all of which are meant to scare and intimidate, when in truth they symbolize failure, the banality of hatred, and their own limp, sapless insecurities.

Enter Trump, Priapos himself, along with the toadyism of the current Republican Party Klan, all of whom are in full demonstration of their impotent, "priapic" character. It's plain as day, now isn't it?

So when the time comes ---think about that one--- Trump and conservatives like the...umm, "retiring" Paul Ryan are cowards, desiccated phony moralists, unproductive, incompetent, etiolated failures. They wan and pale when the moment of truth arrives and will leave the country stiffed, holding their deficits, and all of us by the balls when we are charged to fix the mess they leave behind.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Just 20 Miles but a World Away, Creating Chaos or Making Peace

It appears that I grew up a mere 22.7 miles from Donald Trump. Just two bridges and a stone's throw. Apparently that made a difference. I'm sure there's more: economics, upbringing, religion, all the rest.  But let's here take up that difference of circumstance and community.

Here's a formative fact to my upbringing: "In 1965, after a struggle to address de facto segregation in housing and education, Teaneck became the first community in the nation where a white majority voluntarily voted for school integration, without a court order requiring the district to implement the change."

Today the NYTimes makes this observation: "The Jamaica Estates of Mr. Trump’s boyhood was an exclusive and nearly all-white place, resistant to outsiders and largely impenetrable to minorities,” The Times reported in 2015. In fact, the 1950 census found that at that time, 96.5 percent of the 1.55 million Queens residents were white." The article by Thomas Edsall, does a fine job making the case, and it's simple enough. Trump wants 1950 back again, because that's when America was great in his understanding: before desegregation, before diversity, before "those" people showed up in the neighborhood.

What breaks my heart is that 63 million Americans, many of whom have had _no_ personal experience of diversity _at all_, harbor the same kinds of feelings about things outside their experience. We can call those feelings racist and bigoted because it is a fact.

But most Trump voters ---like the majority of my current neighbors--- have _never_ lived or worked or _gone to school as kids_ with anyone even slightly different from themselves. It is as much a kind of parochial xenophobia as it is racism. I have been literally called "you people" to my face and told I should "go back to where you came from."

What we have before us each day in Trump's growing isolation, in the pathology of his narcissism is a personal microcosm of the larger American problem. As he hunkers down into his own personal bunker of neurosis, fear, frustration, and rage, he will relive his childhood lessons. Everything that is not him is to blame; everything that is wrong comes from "those" people.

Donald Trump is ten years older than I am and grew up in Queens those 20 miles away. That ten years makes a difference but, in a certain way, we grew up in the same crises: civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the challenges of the 60s and 70s. But our differences are even more profound because it comes back to values and choices.

My integrated schools childhood didn't teach me not to fear difference or diversity. But it did expose me, challenge me, and invite me to it. I was not taught that everything was going to be okay. Instead it taught me that I had a choice: I could stand with change and justice or I could run away and into my bunker. We could have just fought each other or we could reach into what was around us. There was going to be real peril sometimes, we weren't going to understand each other or get along all the time. But we tried, we really tried.

We were also being _taught_ by our parents, by example, by our teachers, and from each other about our shared humanity. We weren't homogenized into sameness ---because that would have been running away. We were being invited into a richer, more complex way of being human. We could have sown enmity and planted the seeds of more chaos or we could try the more challenging path of peace and real diversity. We were lucky enough to have that chance because there were leaders and parents and however much strife, the effort to try.

I only wish that Trump had had more of my experience and less what it was like those 20 odd miles away. But what got Trump elected was another version of his own experience. Our challenge is to reach into that isolated and naturally xenophobic America and do the work of 1965 all over again. Perhaps that's another way hope can turn into change.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Conflicted Conscience

Today we learn of yet another chemical attack in Syria. There is no doubt that human beings are capable of incalculable evil. Such a fact drives those among us driven by conscience further into our inner conflicts. So a few words about America's unresolved crimes and history, to give us pause as we think more seriously about who we are and who we want to be. What are we prepared to do?

Let me begin by making it clear that I offer no excuses and no rationalizations for what we know to be true about President Lincoln. I am not party to any apologetics here. Every time I read his speeches I am disappointed and pained--- and yet there is something to learn about ourselves as we witness his inner struggles.  There is much to consider as we take to heart Lincoln's deep conflicts of heart and mind.

It took Lincoln a long time to reconcile his own racism with the inexcusable crime of slavery: to deny the former is to fail to understand his comprehension of the latter. Lincoln's moral flaws are today apparent and yet what he eventually came to understand required that he listen more deeply to his own heart, and to his own inner voice of reason.  I believe it was his capacity to think with his feelings that brought him to a place of moral transformation to oppose his own feelings and to oppose slavery unequivocally.

What Lincoln understood is that we human beings are, at once, creatures of immeasurable selfishness _and_ altruism, decency, and morality. It took him far too long to be on the right side of this paradox and to disavow our country's criminal original sin. But it is the measure of his failure that I take to heart as a lesson for today.

Had he not been conflicted, had he taken the purist view of the right-hearted abolitionists, he could not have won the Presidency, changed his own heart, and slavery would have continued in America for who knows how long. There would have been more "compromises" and so an endless continuation of white America's complete failure to represent its claims to the promises of liberty and decency.

I think about Lincoln, perhaps more than is relevant to the day, but I think about his moral conflicts, his deeply flawed and often painful arguments to himself, his inexcusable bigoted _feelings_. But who among is is not guilty of our own failures and cultural compromises with evil? What are you prepared to do to stop Assad in Syria from using chemical death on innocent people? We are all limited, one way or another, to meet our own ethical measures of goodness.

In 1854 in response to Stephan Douglas he said, "Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature,—opposition to it in his love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism, and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise; repeal all compromises; repeal the Declaration of Independence; repeal all past history,—you still cannot repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart that slavery extension is wrong, and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth will continue to speak...."

What are we going to do about such wrongs in the world? We cannot change human nature but we can demand from ourselves a deeper consideration of our actions.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How Ya' Feelin'? (Because Thinking is Apparently Optional.)

I have argued before that we live in a post-factual society where only feelings really count. Until you need to get your computer or your cell phone to operate--- but that too evokes plenty of feelings. What we are following of late is government by feeling alone, by puerile impulse, by emotions largely made of frustration, anger, vindictiveness--- all fostered by a President who is clearly mentally ill and incapable of executing the duties of the office. And his poll numbers have gone up.

At the heart of the matter may be that Trump is more mentally incompetent than any kind of literacy or critical thinking could solve. It matters not that he doesn't read if he can't. "Critical" thinking for Trump means only disloyalty to the latest impulse. But we the citizenry reflect our government and the ethos of our history: Americans are doings, not thinkers, and now we are feelers abandoning reason. The republic, now more than ever, demands that we can reason, all of us, at least a little bit. It's no small matter in the 21st century.

Jefferson argued that the ordinary person ---and by that he meant only white men without an education--- were capable by their inner wisdom to tell right from wrong, to elect capable leaders (such as himself). But the tasks of right and wrong, still as much matters of character as they are of judgment, are no longer addressing the 18th century world. America is not an agrarian state of hard working farmer peasants. But it will be nothing more than if we don't take the tasks an educated citizenry more seriously.

Before we get too uppity about how we think about all this, let's be reminded that serious efforts to think require _learning_ to think. The "critical" in "critical thinking" is a word to take seriously: it involves method, process, and rules of engagement. Smart people need to _learn_ the critical method; it's not enough to be smart, one has to be _educated_. And, I tell you as a college professor of mostly STEM students, they are _not_ learning critical thinking in STEM, much less the power of words. Words too are no small matter because people are afraid, suspect, or intimidated by what they don't know. How many adults stray from the 2500 or so words that constitute basic fluency in English? How many look up a word with which they are unfamiliar? I do this _all_ the time. Reading takes time, it's often tedious, and who in this busy world of capitalist pressures has time?

In short, literacy appears in our culture as a privilege when it may well be a near-necessity. And critical thinking will not fall out of the sky merely because you went to college or tried to learn by your lonesome. We may not need advanced skills to "prosper", that is, to make a living and most of us don't need them at all for our work! But I'm of the opinion that we are likely doomed as a civic society, as a citizenry without them.

Some degree of literacy and the essentials of critical thinking are 21st century requisites of democratic citizenry if we are to address the difficult, messy business of democracy. It is authoritarianism that needs nothing more propaganda. Fox knows this is all they need. And so we are largely without them and we are failing. It's no wonder we have elected a President entirely bereft of these basic skills of political competence: he reflects the citizenry that is equally unqualified. Feel on, and we will get exactly what we have now.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Living in the Post-Belief World, A Report from the Twitter Trenches

Earlier today I noted how my new Twitter Troll-Friends have twice (at least) made clear that the KKK was founded by Democrats. Are they ignoring every bit of history since Eisenhower, do they not know it, are they just in denial? Sigh. But as I think a bit more about it, the issue is not policies but, like Trump, a reaction, drawn from impulses and fears, rooted in white nostalgia for past dominance and some deeply felt need to prevent change that has already arrived. I also told the story last week of meeting the old Wyoming cowboy reveling in his weathered isolation from liberals, savoring the last fresh air of freedom from change and distance from 'those people.'  Some of my neighbors refer to me as "you people." I try to imagine how hard it is not to be white and hear this.

These folks want things they way they were, dammit. When white men were uncontested to do as they pleased, when women defended men, when everyone else knew their place so that they could get along with being supreme. There's a little room for successful minorities, like Ben Carson and Clarence Thomas, because they _earned_ their way and don't advocate for government help. (It matters not that both of these men received such aid. Remember: facts do not matter, keep your eye on _feelings_ about facts.) The facts are no longer with them --- America is changing at last, but not so fast that cops can't kill black men with impunity or elections can't be gerrymandered and courts stacked. There are ways to keep things "conservative" and they aren't fools about political power, using money, and, above all, making sure the liberals and minorities don't take over too soon.

As the midterms approach, Democrats have plenty of ways to ignite their base: every day brings a new outrage of incompetence, corruption, and dangerous, regressive policies. Republicans will continue to ignore the facts, however plainly these are made to even the meanest intellect. Why? We'll get to that. But first...

Republicans continue to run against Hillary, obsess over Leader Pelosi and BLM. They are having a harder time using the Parkland students but they'll figure it out because their voters don't like kids "talking back." We mustn't make light of the sexism and racism, those are matters too important, however transparen, to dismiss. It is the emotional conjurations that we must try to fathom. Trump figured out that these white people don't care about facts or promises about policy or even Anne Coulter's Former Trumper kvetchings. They care about how what is said makes them feel.

Fox gets this, especially when it's another meme about Christians victimized, persecuted, and how liberals loathe them for their beliefs and think they are stupid. (They aren't wrong about this.) Like this one I culled from today's Times:

“Google snubbed Easter with no doodle for 18th year in a row, Christians say,” from Fox News: “For the 18th year in a row, Google has no doodle to celebrate Easter, and Christians are angry on this holy day. Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars editor-at-large, tweeted Sunday about Christianity’s most joyful day: ‏’So Google has a doodle for every obscure “woke” person/event imaginable, but nothing for Easter?... James Woods retweeted it, saying: ‘They loathe Christians. Plain and simple.’ The search giant did find room to celebrate April Fool’s Day — by inserting a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ game into Google Maps.”

Once the bullies of the playground uncontested, superior, and able to get away with murder--- they can still do that so long as the victim is a minority--- the Old White Christians don't even need to be professed Evangelicals or even Christian at all. They _feel_ Christian or at least "Judeo-Christian" even if they haven't been to church in ever. They only need to share the views of Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. when they express their devotion to the notion that we _achieving_ white people are the true America and don't want "handouts." Further, it has be clearly implied that America must not be allowed to fall into the hands of 'those people.' It's not these beliefs they cherish as much as it's feelings about beliefs. These "Christians" are post-belief but not post-feelings. However they chose to cite their sources to justify their claims, beliefs serve feelings, not the other way around.

Daily claims are driven by something far more visceral and tribal, something that comes closer to entitlements of whiteness. These are not understood to be entitlements that have a structural history with roots in oppression and complex immigration movements. Rather, those matters are long past, as Justice Thomas and Gorsuch maintain: we have laws since the Cause was Lost that have made us all "equal" before the law. We can preserve our history in Confederate statues because heritage is a feeling that needs no further facts to consider. 

All this furthers the claim that everyone should earn their way, rely on no one but family, and hold in contempt anyone who needs, takes, or asks to serve the public good. Those are socialist and liberal ideas that ruin freedom. There is church but government is nothing but failure, intrusion, and oppression: and it will soon come to take your guns, another symbol of how their freedoms are being "taken away" and must be saved. Feeling aggrieved is not the same as being a whining snowflake. Yes, snowflakes can apparently whine.

Those of us who try our best to love facts, advance the values of progressive education, and still cherish family and even certain religious traditions, we too are post-belief. We know that facts are provisional, unfinished, and subject to revision because that's how human learn. We know that facts are important even though we also know we could be wrong. That is far, far too much to ask for from our feeling friends over on Twitter. Most of us (is this wishful thinking?) have traded in the religious superstitions of our familial traditions (some merely substituting with others) for a more social-based care-in-kind values. Nothing gets the dyspeptic Evangelicals going quite like their fellow liberal Christians talking about social gospels and helping the poor when they should be saying "He is Risen!" Catholics, well, they are all over this map, sometimes mapping with Evangelicals about women's rights and sometimes just following the money. (N.B., _always_ follow the money.) 

Our liberal post-belief world eschews literalism, which is why these Old White Christians believe everything we say is "fake news." The "facts," as they see them, are matters not to contest, much less doubt: they are _feelings about beliefs_ that have little (or nothing) to do with what we call facts. Our facts are merely "theories," like evolution and that's not faith.

For our part, our feelings are actually less tender than they are expressions of frustration and the endless futility that comes with dealing with feelings that cannot be penetrated by facts. To win over any of them, to get a few votes or get them to just stay home ---since many would rather die than vote for a Democrat--- we need to appeal to their feelings and only to their feelings. We can't win on policy. We don't share values or beliefs about values.

The way in is simple but we must find that sliver of an opening. The issue is "fairness." I've used quotation marks here because OWC notions of "fairness" have little to do with what any liberals think or even with any fact at all. But the Old White Christian grievance _feels_ it has a soft spot for "fairness," albeit only the sort that would favors them and keep 'those people' at bay. Regarding Trump the complaint must be, as Jonathan Chait has described, corruption, the kind that is just unfair, not him but his poor choices. HE means well, because we OWCs voted for him and we feel deeply and know we can't be wrong.

OWCs wish they were all rich like Trump, could act with the impunity and disregard for anything but themselves ---this is why no number of Stormys matter and why Mueller must go. They love authority, they want things simple again and they never resent the rich. But if the rich are playing them and not paying for their golf, jets, and glamor, then that's just not fair.

In fact, even Trump has fired those he senses are "corrupt," impervious to any of his own obvious corruptions ---but let us not devolve and confuse any of this with the facts. I remind you, facts are not important, it is feelings. OWCs need to _feel_ like the privileged are paying for their stuff just enough--- they can cheat on taxes, because that's okay, that's the guv'mint stealing your hard earned cash--- and they can put up with Russians and anything else because that's just deal making, and deals are good when you are a "winner." Tariffs are good because those people, the ones stealing from us, are unfair.

However, if we press the matter to a kind of corruption that touches the fairness-button and press gently, this will not win any hearts or minds, but it may keep 77,000 of them home on election day. And that's what we need. As for our plans, well, Democrats and progressives will form their own circular firing squads over ideas, purity principles, and agendas that divide and make villains of allies, because no one knows how to lose an election better than a room full of liberals. And that's a fact.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Big Buckled Freedom and Home on the Range, Why We Can Be Alone or Together But Not Both

This past week I met an amiable enough older man--- one can't get that much older than I am and still be ambulatory, so the impression of him being "older" was more than chronologically determined--- smartly dressed, white haired, bolo tied, big bucket belt, and cowboy boots, all he was missing was the hat, but we were inside, meeting under sad and tragic circumstances. I discovered he was from a small town in Wyoming and liked the "harsh weather" and the "independence." He went on to explain that "liberals had ruined" Colorado and that Wyoming "still had that Old West" feeling and values. He was glad that he could still live "without those people" and drive his truck, have breakfast with his friends. I took it in, one sentence at a time, using all of my restraint and composure to stare vacantly in reply.

This was not the situation for me to lace into him with sardonic criticism of his not so concealed racism or his privilege but whether or not he needed his Social Security check and Medicare I was certain without asking that he was collecting on both. Living the life, being alone and happily apart from we the rabble. I thought to myself too how much in common this man has with the yogi that the texts describe as "lonely like a rhinoceros," urging upon themselves the introversion and disengagement from the tedious and tawdry business of being citizens dependent upon other citizens in democratic experiment. After all, who doesn't just want to be left to their own devices? I count myself no exception to that privileged aspiration though it seems to me nothing more than a prescription for 21st century failure.

We are beings dependent upon matters beyond any individual control, woven into the fabric of social, economic, and political worlds that shape and provide, that determine us and even occasionally succeed. When we unravel ourselves ---often because the supporting structures and fact patterns fail to serve us--- our lives can quickly devolve, our immediate worlds can become near-dire. When the net that we hoped would grab us or the roof meant to shelter us simply isn't there, we become starkly aware of the consequences of individuation. 

Actions that address our most immediate needs--- healthcare, education, concomitant violence, inequity, and isolation--- addressing these situations demands seriousness, competence, and collective intentionality. Without the institutional structures and formats for collective response, however flawed, messy, and conflicted they may be, we will as a society collapse into mayhem. To subscribe to a governance of "personal freedom" above all other considerations risks the kind of isolation that throws us "into the wild" surrounded by everyone else doing as much. So we "need guns" to "protect our home and family" or we work ourselves into health crises because the alternative would prove even more desperate. Our problem is not wealth, not in America, it is how we have chosen wealthy and power over equity and more humanist values.

What prompts this morning's tirade is more than a chance encounter with an old cowboy living out his years.  It is growing fact that Trump does indeed intend to run America not only like the criminal enterprise of his businesses but as a reality TV-show in which the principals required to manage and steer the ship of government are so fundamentally incompetent, unqualified, and corrupt that it becomes all too real. The elevation of Ronny Jackson to the VA ---after 17 years of on-going war and immeasurable need--- is particularly heartbreaking. Structural needs cannot be met by impulse or by "draining the swamp" because it is deemed a "deep state" conspiracy. How do we penetrate the hearts and minds of those who cannot seem to grasp the gravity of the situation we all face under this kind of impulse of governance?

One last point. I think there is a far deeper connection between Trumpism ---the impulsive, inept reality TV survivalist game show that is him--- and Ryan, McConnell, and their patrons. American "conservatism" believes that there should be as little government and governance as possible, no matter the cost to human lives. This is a guiding principle that not only serves their kleptocratic fetishes but one whose appeal takes us deeply into American individualism, the wild west, the idea that freedom is just being left alone. There should be no VA, or at best no government VA; there should be no public schools, or at least none that aren't privately funded. In fact, there should be no money or resources spent that are "government" other than the military.

What else explains the cynical stupidity of their latest balanced budget amendment introduced this week, after their tax cut meant to redistribute wealth to their patrons? Their aim is to eliminate everything that is public ---but their means of authoritarian control. Because "freedom." From behind the dashboard, I see an America lost in a fog that can't find home, even if it's just a few hundred yards down the driveway. I hope those young people grow up to vote sooner than later. We need their voices and their commitment _now_.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On Love of Country, God, and Our Fellow Americans, A Reply to Rick Saccone, Donald Trump, and MAGA America

This is about Rick Saccone's election night observation about we on "the left," why he's not wrong about me, and why we can't compromise.  Are you up for it?

Let's start with the idea that America is built on the constructive fiction of its Dream. I say "constructive" because the ideal expressed, well, it wouldn't be half bad if even half of it were true. And just for reminder's sake, let's define that Dream according to conventional fictions. To wit, "In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, 'life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement; regardless of social class or circumstances of birth." Freedom and equality, or perhaps equity, fairness guarantees the opportunity for prosperity, success, and upward mobility--- all without regard to barriers of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Would Dr. King or Paul Ryan or Barack Obama or Rick Saccone disagree? See what I mean?


Fiction, like mythology, is a way of hinting at the truth beneath and betwixt facts and perceptions. We need stories that suggest what actually traverses on the bridge connecting the way things are with the way we say they are. We work with this disparity between what people say is true and what is true to sustain an appearance of sanity and even a modicum of decency.

However fashionable it has become to "say it like it is," this locates reality in desires that write over inconvenient truths. We shape our conversations to meet the terms we think will sustain us, no matter their tone or content. But few have the patience to enter that dangerous intellectual demilitarized zone in which we take seriously what we are doing to get along or have our say. We more often retreat into safe zones of identification with preferences. We prefer to tell stories that soothe, console, or by pass because these too serve important purposes: we want to make it through today and tomorrow. "He's in a better place..." "Do you like the picture of my smoothie?"

In this age of Trump in which _overt_ bigotries are emboldened by leadership and are in ascendency, we notice that they are still masked and encoded, more and less explicitly, in a ubiquitous media and political discourse. What is absent is a commentariat committed to unmasking and decoding, one that the majority of Americans finds entertaining enough that they will pay attention. We would need to presume efforts that challenge both intellectually and personally.  But of course the vast majority of humans prefer entertainment to education. Americans hate going to "school," or at least we hate that it's hard, tedious, or unpleasant. When we can't be entertained but need something a bit more, well, we're happy to reduce the serious and tendencious tasks of learning to religious explanations and spiritual "retreats," preferably somewhere warm in the winter of our discontent. "That's my belief..." "God will decide." "Go within."

(Don't mistake me, I'm not being personal yet. As we are want to disclaim, "The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products. No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture.")

Movies are supposed to be better than we are. And nowadays they are: those animals aren't _supposed_ to get hurt. We're not nearly as concerned with people, you know, the kind that are in the real world, being hurt. We see plenty of that, so we find ways to cope. A favorite strategy is assign blame or responsibility, which might even be real. Everyone has an interest and not everyone has a kind thing to say about people not just like themselves.

On the eve of this "special" election in Pennsylvania the Republican Rick Saccone said this:
“I’ve talked to so many of these on the left. And they have a hatred for our president. And I tell you, many of them have a hatred for our country. ... I’ll tell you some more — my wife and I saw it again today: They have a hatred for God. It’s amazing. You see it when I’m talking to them. It’s disturbing to me.”

I don't take offense at this comment. It might be fair to say that I do indeed "hate" President Trump ---and that I believe I have very good reasons to despise his politics (such as they are), his choices and values, his utterly despicable personal character. I would admit I am motivated to comment and to oppose Trump with every fiber of my being. That's a part of any well-reasoned "hate." I would also pity his mental illness and his family's situation were it not at the price of the republic. Clear enough? I'm admitting to Saccone's first observation. So let's move on to "hatred" of country before we get to God.

There's a great deal about America worth "hating" much the way we need to lament our history of "compromise." Everyday some well-meaning person proposes compromise or meeting in the middle. Governor Kasich claims this as both personal conviction and politics. But when we look at his choices and policies, well, we see again what "compromise" means to him. We are not a nation built on our ideals but on the compromise of ideals meant to suit the interests of dominant political interests: white men, business and capitalism, people who have had all the power since the founding.

Not every outcome of this domination has failed if by that we mean a measure of prosperity in comparison to the rest of a very sorry world of exploitation and oppression. I don't hate being white or male but a deliberated measure of "self-hate" (n.b., hate quotes) strikes me as another serious way to ask very difficult questions about one's self. You may not like the word "hate" here, so if "criticism" feels more comforting, go for it. America's history of opportunities have as much to do with privilege and exploitation as they do with any constructive fiction of our "Dream." So let's pause there for a moment and talk about more about why compromise needs to fail.

A brief history of compromise required, if you can stand the tedium.

White Supremacy is the principal feature of America's "compromise" identity: slavery is legal in the Constitution, then the important "Compromises" that "preserved" the Union (Missouri, Nebraska, 1850, etc.), then the great Failure of 1877 that once again guaranteed white domination and stood fast until the brief shining moments of 1965. We need not deny some progress from the emergence of an America after wars that have "brought us together." War seems to make America deal with being America, though its costs can never justify any of its outcomes. Not one.

But let's remind ourselves _who_ we are before we celebrate our unions. How are post-Nixon Republicans not the explicit legacy of Dixiecrats and pre-Civil War Democrats? How many Americans can even follow that course of history with the slightest familiarity of the facts? Current day Democrats have, at best, a mixed record of "compromising" with these bigotries and interests of privilege. We are so woefully ignorant of the basics of our history and so intractably inured to the racist false narratives of the American Dream, nothing can really change until we decide upon an honest national conversation. Chances of that? Zero. Here's why.

Rick Saccone says that we on the "left" hate America but I ask you, what is there to love about that history of abuse, exploitation, and dissimulation? If trying to be aware, critical, and involved in telling the truth about our history is "hate," then count me in. Trying to understand our history, make amends, and move forward requires confronting the facts. Those who want to "Make America Great Again" have time and again rejected facts of history, created their alternative narrative, and decided that we hate them because we take seriously our collective factual history. Just as Trump, Kelly, et.al. admit no mistakes, offer no apologies, or seek to take these greivences of history seirously, there is little to "compromise" about. That's because there really is no conversation, just our differing values, attitudes, and objectives.

We will have a "new" America once the white majority becomes the minority that inevitably demographics promise. White Americans should pray ---this being their typical fantasy solution to real problems--- that the new majority treats them better than they have treated everyone but themselves. America is a failure wrapped in war, capitalist exploitation, and now a dying planet. But the few--- white and male--- they've done pretty well in comparison to the rest.

That America is a better place to live than others depends on what we mean by "better" but we can say that rural white Americans are indeed suffering. And so are many, many others. And the rest of nearly all of us? (n.b., not the Mnuchins and their friends.)  Most of us are working with little hope of retirement, in fear of catastrophic health needs, unaffordable education, the lists go on. But if you haven't seen my neighborhood, I recommend a tour of MAGA World. Much of America looks like Greene, Westmoreland, and Washington counties in Pennsylvania's current 18th District. It's not a pretty sight. Why and how we got there involves matters that must address our history's successes and failures. Doesn't every American deserve the narrative of the Dream? Is there the slightest chance that the current Trumpist Party that governs MAGA America will take that conversation seriously? Watch the Trump rally for Saccone. I dare you.

Do I hate God? Can we be more specific? I'm positive I hate any God that uses God to project hate on other people and causes people to hate others. So, for sure, I hate Rick Saccone's God.  I would agree with the late Stephen Hawking that "God" is a sometimes useful metaphor and otherwise fiction that can work within a humanist framework.  This likely does nothing to endear me to any faction of MAGA crowd, or even the current Pope who strikes me rather unlike the MAGAmericans who can't seem to find room in their Christian hearts for we, the well-wishing less aggressive atheists.

I rather like how religion provides the fictions that allow people to cope and explain their lives and whether they empower awareness or enable delusion, I hold in contempt only the kind of religion that gets too involved in other people's business, particularly my own. But religion, and God for that matter, is always a political matter. A more honest effort to insist the First Amendment keeps the law wholly secular would help us all. That too is something that belies compromise when we take seriously the kinds of religion that inform our fellow MAGA citizens. So if Saccone thinks I "hate" his "God" he's probably right.

I'm not prepared to compromise with Saccone or Trump or the Republican Party that has decided to cast its lots with MAGAism. That would be tantamount to 1850 and 1877 and all the rest all over again. I am prepared to do everything I can to make the MAGA-hood a better place to live and work, no matter what they think about how I hate them, their President, their country, and their God. In my country there is room for them. But they may not govern (or pretend to) if I can help it because the way things have been must not be where we are going together. If they continue to govern as the majority after November 2018, well, America will only continue suffer no matter our irreconcilable differences.