Monday, July 2, 2018

The Alternative "Arc" and the Avalanche

Let's start here: there is no arc of justice bending towards justice, there is no promise or guarantee that rights will not be oppressed, ignored, or reversed. You can _believe_ in that arc bending or you can ask for a more honest, likely less "faithful" view.  We're at a turning point.  The oligarchs and authoritarians have the power in ways that will reshape the future.  Those rights you thought you had?  Do you really think that can't be taken away?  They don't.  So how about a different metaphor?

It's snowing, always, and there's an avalanche every moment: how much of that do you notice? When is it important enough to cause catastrophe in your life?  Do you care about the catastrophe in another's life?  What exactly do you think you can do about that, any of that?  The crisis is on-going and it's not going to let up, much less "get better."  What it's going to do is create situations that keep challenging hope, promise, or stability.  When it affects you, you might act, but it might be too late.  Things don't get better, we create better.  It's gonna cost you and it's not going to let up.  Remember.  It's snowing.  (This is almost always true where I live...)

There are some who will weather it all better and have the means, and even if that's you of good conscience, you will not relinquish or even share without some kinda' fight.  It's only natural to want to survive and, dare I say, want to flourish?  What more does the evidence show?

Let's go back to the arc.  (No one likes my avalanche, do they?) What could we learn?  That that arc does not bend, that it is forced, that justice must be made to happen and kept that way or even pushed forward because people insist, when they are willing to live and die for their rights. Even then, there is no arc, there is just effort.  If this sounds like Marx it's because you've read this before.  Does that disturb you?   One person's justice is another's idea of oppression.   If we don't want to be crushed by the avalanche of oppositions we're going to have to do something about it all before it's too late.  Someone is going to have to win or dare to compromise.  Who likes compromise?  Since no one does that means living with things you don't really like just to live.  How willing are we to do that?  What about all that money and the ways it can be used to manipulate people?  If you think that love is a more powerful motivator than fear or anger try the idea that this difference may not matter as much as what people really do.  Ask Susan Collins.  She'll tell you anything.  You can feel better for a minute about those you regard to be the "reasonable opposition."  Then watch her vote for the next Gorsuch and the next tax bill.

Not one iota of social justice has ever happened without struggle and vigilance, to say nothing of frustration and loss and some very sad violence. Those who would oppose progress to keep their power will say and do _anything_ and anything to stop change.  They are more honest than Susan Collins and no less dangerous for it.  They have no compunction about violence. So, how much will you take? They want the status quo, reversal, spite, or nihilism at least as much you want progress. Rules? Civility? Play to conscience or compromise? What are your honest alternatives?

Gandhi relied on the fact that his opponents could be bent, that they had at least as much conscience as they had vindictive hate. Gandhi forced as did King by appealing to human feelings, to empathy. So what happens when that doesn't work? When 89% of Republicans support Trump and the border policy too? They are willing to make their deal with that? What then? I think we are at that bottom. Reason is long gone. We thought that incarcerating babies would be the emotional charge but you know what, all that had to change was the news cycle. Short attention span plus our opponents don't really care. Ask Melania. She told us exactly what she thinks.  It was a fashion statement too.

So what's with all the faith in the arc of justice? Why it is so important to so many? It could be that the pain, the oppression, the terror, the arc of history has made it necessary to believe that there is such a thing---because you know all too well that there isn't.  The need to believe is a survival strategy; it's an important part of religion's sham or its consolations, depending on how much you need it not to be sham.  However you believe to get through, that's your religion.  Mine rejects certainty with a big dollop of irony on top of things that look all too certain.

Everyone wants someone else to give them an answer because no one likes that the questions we face don't have certainty, finality, or often any answer but the strife to stay in the question. What the powerful and the charlatans know is that this is an easy shakedown, that people will be manipulated with promises, with faith, with hate, with anything that gives them what they want or tells them that there is an answer. No one wants to live in a reality where the crisis is perpetual ---because that's real---and living that way is _hard_, it will exhaust you sometimes, you'll wish it were easier.  But life is a few meals or one long night without sleep from crisis and only two days from much worse. We act as if it isn't because we do, because we must? Because life is hard and we just wish it weren't. Justice is harder than any one life because power never prefers to give up what it can keep. So what do you keep?

Faith is what you keep when you wish for a world that isn't the one you're really living in. Maybe you need some just to survive. Maybe we all do or we just have to look away for a moment to keep going. There's almost an alternative. That would be to embrace the strife, refuse to lose, not let them win, reject certainty, and rage on, calmly as you can.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Morning Note to Self

Six Faces of Muruga
A Look in the Mirror, at Least for this Morning

1. Trump isn't changing America, he's showing us who we have always been. Rejecting that with "but not me" is also true. Now, look around you. Really look. See?
2. Justice is a shakedown, as we used to say in the neighborhood. That means that the man, the money, and the power will do anything to win and usually does. Know that, get used to it even if you want it to change.
3. When I'm no longer angry, I'll even stop riding my bike. Never. Break my bones. So what. Death will have to stop me. It will. Not today, with any luck.
4. Continue to do the things you love and care about, no matter what other people think or say or do. I plan on playing a lot more piano and writing some books. I've never been particularly good at either. Don't stop.
5. Never underestimate the con you tell yourself either. You'll find out who cares by who shows up when it matters. Be prepared to understand that not everyone who really cares _can_ show up. We never really know another's pain. The Buddha was dead-on right about that one.
6. There's no nirvana.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Religion, Not Merely the "Misuse" of Religion

Who are these people who can incarcerate and traumatize children, debase our society, and claim it the proper interpretation of the law? That it is God's law that gives them authority?

It's important to note that Trump and his sociopaths are deliberately and self-consciously using religion to justify their behaviors. Sessions and Sanders cite the Bible, Kelly Anne Conway declares herself a Catholic in defense of this shameless evil, and they _mean_ it. They are not merely "using" religion, they are _being religious_. This is not (NOT) some "misuse" of religion, as if there were such a thing as "good" or "real" religion. This is their religion. And this one of the most important things religion does for people: it allows them not only to justify their behavior but to claim that it is divine, incontrovertibly authorized, beyond any criticism.

That these people are evil is a real facet of their use of their religion. They are not hypocrites, these are _pious religious people_ for whom religion is their preferred instrument of mendacity, cruelty, and self-superiority. Religion isn't about goodness: it's to whatever purpose people decide and so authorize and claim their power. We should detest their religion, not make excuses for those who claim they are poor representatives. If there are those who claim Christianity as their religion and find _this_ Christianity repulsive I am happy to listen. But let us not fool ourselves: religion can be just as much an instrument of evil as it can be an invitation to goodness.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Light of Liberty and The Shadow America Refuses to See

At the core of America's history, in the armature of the collective social structure, are the issues of race and class. If the light is justice, liberty and opportunity, the shadow is race and class. Built as we were on slavery, a civil war, and failed reconstruction, the civil rights movement brought the conversation forward: Obama's presidency suggested how far we have come and Trump's how we have utterly failed.

White working class people took the racist bait as the majority always has (and since the Nixon shift of the political parties) and rather than align their economic interests with others suffering similarly went with race over class. In effect, the plantation owners, especially in the form of Wall Street, convinced under informed whites to side with them economically and appealed to their basest racist instincts to seal the deal. You gotta hand it to Republicans, I mean the way they made their case without being so _explicitly_ racist as to make their exurban voters feel uncomfortable and then con them with "class warfare", tax cuts, fear of the socialists, and the rest. You gotta hand it to Democrats for being so astonishingly inept, tone deaf to their own messages, and so incapable of making their own case, both on social justice grounds and pocketbook classism.

With Trump doing rallies for 2018, Republicans are invited to take the shameless road to racism, no dog-whistling required: we are the party of white people, those other people are for "them." The argument among Democrats is whether to expose this racist Republican narrative plainly for its moral depravity or to pivot on class issues. To wit, do they appeal to white working class people by telling them this is not who they are or who they want to be as human beings or do they try to tell them they are getting conned, ripped off, and not helped by incompetent Republican government that does not share their economic interests. It's not quite this simple since so many are driven by their particular peeve that determines their pet: guns, Jesus, the flag, you pick, but it is a not insignificant fact now that Trump, Rosanne, and the rest are out doing their job.

You would think that shame and decency would have a pull on white Protestant society, especially on those who share a non-mainline church heritage given their religious claims as "Christians." But I think we underestimate how religion has been used to foster racism and particularly the ways in which Christianity has been used in America to bolster and justify the very core of Trumpism in all its various forms of unabashed and debased immorality. Evangelical Christians are not being hypocrites, they are doing what _they have always done_. They are using religion to advance white supremacy both explicitly and nowadays more implicitly because that's what's required.

During the Civil War the Confederacy and northern Democrats (then the party of explicit racism) both argued that liberating the slaves would bring the moral ruin of the nation and used "miscegenation," a term in fact _invented_ for the purposes of creating racist fear, as their _policy_. To wit, _those_ people will come, they will steal your children, marry into your families, take your culture--- this Trumpist argument, now the Republican Party, is _not new_. Democrats today are not by any measure free of racism but +may+ represent at least an effort to acknowledge and address it.

I might also remind you that the Abolitionist arguments and the calmly reasoned decency of Frederick Douglass and others were like voices in the wilderness. They were so very correct in understanding the issues and pointing out the moral depravity that suffuses the public's views and actions, but they did not win a majority. They fought for justice _knowing_ that they could not win the majority on social justice grounds: that the religion of their opponents would justify their racism. This is an important fact as we approach 2018 where the _only_ argument is whether Trumpism will be given the same license it now enjoys.

How to win?
In certain places Democrats must run towards the arguments of conscience _and_ economics, reminding women in the suburbs and their own constituencies that they are the party of moral decency _and_ economic opportunity. But elsewhere, like what we saw in western PA, they must understand that racism is _structural_ and that the moral argument against Trump will be understood as a personal affront to their choice to vote for him. Democrats _might_ win on class economics and while whites may warrant being called racists by any serious analysis, they can still be won over by greed, personal interest, money first, what we like to call "pocketbook issues" because calling it more honestly doesn't feel good.

None of these strategies for victory addresses America's sins and the conversations we need to have. But America refuses to be serious about...most everything, especially things that require thought, education, and reflection. I am not sanguine this will ever happen. I am sure I don't want anymore Trumpism than we must endure. Vote them to the margins. To do that requires winning some votes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Vote Blankenship or Why No Persuasion Matters

Living in the wild with Trump voters I can assure you that _none_ of the Giuliani mayhem makes any difference to them. In fact, it serves a principal purpose: to put everything in terms of a partisan "witch hunt" that is nothing more than Clinton-like scandal contrived to defeat Trump. The key is there: to defeat Trump is to defeat their Lost Cause. It cuts that deeply, whether his supporters are aware of the connection or not. (And they largely are not.)

A few obvious facts--- most Trump voters not of the monied class pay no attention or watch only Fox. That 40%-ish is impenetrable, cast in stone, and so malignantly ignorant that they would volunteer for Trump's Fifth Avenue Shooting. What's more interesting to ask is why. The reasons are not new and what Trump/Giuliani are doing is as old as Jim Crow. It's plain as day, let's make it plainer.

Obama was right: they cling to guns and religion, which is a euphemism too for their grievance culture that has lost obsolete jobs, blames anyone but themselves, and knows quite well that their time has passed. The roots are far deeper than the Reaganomics that caused their financial decline and exacerbated their misery by redistributing wealth upward. The genius of Reagan was to convince white working class people that redistributing wealth via tax cuts to the rich was good for them. They have never been dissuaded, never understood "trickle down," and every time it fails, Republicans blame Democrats for taxes and spending on "those people." That brings us back to the Those People problem, which is an easy sell to white rural Americans.

Trump and Giuliani will create the distraction and disinformation (worthy of Goebbels) that is certainly important. it allows them to turn a legal set of facts into a political circus. But there is a far more serious cultural connection to post-Civil War southern policies that carried forward into resentment of the Great Society and ultimately Obama's Hope.

We are a nation that is half MLK and half KKK--- and the KKK half is in power and will burn down the republic to see to it that the MLK dream fails. I think we are just about evenly split between the MLK Party and the KKK Party. The uber-wealthy side with this Klannists because they can fleece them and everyone else, driven by pure greed and indifference.

Sting sold his duplex last weekend for 50 million bucks. One of the old Rockefellers landed 40 million more--- because there's nothing a Rockefeller needs more than 40 million more. But this is just a consequence, not the cause. The rich have already got theirs and will do what it takes to keep it that way---nothing new here. That is Old Republicanism.

The New Trumpism is the New KKK. Dedicated to local mob rule as the plantation owners tell their poor white neighbors who's _really_ to blame for their plight. Blankenship in WVa is that poster boy. The way to defeat them is to make sure that Trumpists do not use robes and masks to conceal their true intentions. Of course, that victory may yet be a tough road in WVa, even when they understand that the Klan needs instead to conceal itself more deftly in it's own grievance religion culture that allows the hate to look like a Fox show.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Pride of Ouachita Baptist University

Trump lies, Guiliani rants, Hannity squirms, and poor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the pride of Ouachita Baptist University Ouachita Baptist University (2004), suffers
the little children and the press because she finds out watching TV that everything she has been told is a lie. It's a shame she didn't come to that conclusion in the pews about twenty years back. But, alas, Sarah is the Believer, the Trump voter. Not the only sort, because there are even more venal and ignorant sorts, but the kind that has proven the most loyal, the Evangelical.

Trump was right yesterday when he declared America "a country of believers." What he knows is that a significant percentage of people, and all of his 89%, will believe anything that soothes their need to believe. People have a need to believe that far exceeds their abilities to assess the facts or address them rationally.

What we have always known may cause Sarah to shake and even stumble a bit, but it won't matter. It won't matter anymore than it does to, say, Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell who know it's fraud but are merely determined to fulfill their commitments to wealth redistribution. Nothing will move this Congress to act: no lie, no breach of decency, no report from Mueller. Nothing. They don't need Sarah's faith because they can add: the Kochs will provide their future. But what about the believers? Count on them to believe.

Of course, Trump has no plan. There never was any credibility. This is all simple fraud. But it's a lot harder to see when you have been raised to believe the machinations of Bronze Age goat herders telling tales of rising from the dead. You're well-primed in the will to believe whatever you are told when you have never questioned faith itself. For those with even a marginal grip on the implications of science, faith can be part of a complex art of the possible, a component in the making of a future by using predictive values to create change. What has happened allows you to believe in what might happen. But for the truly faithful, faith itself supplies the delusion; faith nurtures hope not in what is possible but rather in the assurance and consolation of what is not.

An incompetent narcissist is making it up as he goes along. And just like his entire bid for the presidency, the whole matter is the continuation of a publicity stunt gone awry. It's a circus act, a carnival tent with barker and charlatan preacher. It must have been quite the usual scene at Ouachita Baptist University.

Sarah Sanders wants more daddy, a savior who can't be wrong, who has her interests at heart, who will take on those intent on undermining her faith in faith itself. She wants to believe and nothing like the facts, deceptions or lies, nothing at all will change her faithful heart. Like so many Americans, reality is just too hard and faith is the necessary delusion to make it through until the next lie, the next huckster preacher tells her to rejoice because her reward will be great in heaven. It would be merely pathetic if it weren't bringing the country to ruin.

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.