Friday, July 14, 2017

Blue Bloods is My Blue Kryptonite

Netflix dropped me a line that the new season (last season) of Blue Bloods was available: Season 7, for those of you not keeping up. Seven seasons of this show, with the Season 8 waiting in line. For the few of you who don't know about this, here's the bullet description from TV Guide:

A New York crime drama focusing on a multigenerational family of cops that includes the city's police commissioner, his two sons and his retired father.

It's on CBS, and they are known for doing pretty good cop shows. And while I generally like police procedurals, I was initially interested because Tom Selleck is in the show, and I think he's an under-rated actor who gets judged by his mustache too often.

So I started watching it, and found it to be very problematic, for a number of reasons. As of the end of Season Seven, I find they have not solved nor addressed any of my concerns. They are as follows:

1. Donnie Wahlberg? I know he's found another career, Post-New Kids on the Block, as an actor, but I cannot...CAN NOT...let that go. I want to, desperately, but I look at him and it all comes rushing back, a technicolor MTV stream of consciousness nightmare. "The Right Stuff," indeed. Oh, and on the show? Donnie plays Danny. It's like they weren't even trying.

2. I can't get over how much Bridget Moynahan looks like the missing Judd sister, after Ashley. It's not fair, I know, but there it is.

3. The much-lauded "Dinner Table" scenes, where the show's weekly conflict is spelled out for anyone who hasn't managed to pick up on it yet, and all sides of the issue are discussed, but never really solved. Not unless that solution involves...(see next)

Steve Schirripa as Anthony Abetemarco
and Bridget Moynahan as Erin Reagan.
This is the "will they, won't they" couple
I'm rooting for. Make it happen, CBS!

4. The Cops are Always Right. I know, the show is called Blue Bloods, not Doing the Best They Can Bloods...but that's the eternal defense they play on the show, all the time. We're not perfect, but we're doing the best we can. Maybe the Reagan family, led by Patriarch Tom Selleck is, but we see in every episode people who aren't so good, or are introduced to a situation where someone cut a corner, or did it wrong, or didn't do anything at all.

5. Any grievance against the police is always framed from a position so extreme, it's by DEFAULT the "bad guy" or the antagonist scenario. For example, a woman was mad because her son got killed and the cops haven't caught the shooter. So, her solution is to ambush the police commissioner and scream at him for not knowing the details of the case. So much so, and with such vitriol, that we're programmed to not like her, because, HEY, LADY, he lost a son, too!

Oh, and sidebar: the first two seasons dealt with the aftermath of the eldest Reagan son dying at the hands of a crooked cop. After that, the series' harder edges were considerably blunted, and even though the show makes lip service toward dealing with Black Lives Matter and NYC protests (in stories "ripped from the headlines," presumably), the shows are so overwhelmingly PRO-COP that even the legitimate grievances seem extreme. It's almost a pity party, because "no one understands what they go through." On a cop show. Where they always get the bad guy. And have hot partners and great loving families. Methinks the lads doth protest too much.

6. For a show with built-in novelty of having a dad and grand dad who were around in "the good old days" when you could get free coffee and beat on suspects, to the upstanding youngest Reagan who has a law degree and passed the bar, but decided to be a beat cop instead so he could make a real difference (with the sister working in the D.A.'s office, and young kids for the "youth perspective") this show could do so much more with the format than have people simply yell at Tom Selleck, which happens nearly every episode. Oh, and no one likes the Reagans. As a family, in New York City, they get it from every direction.  I really want Selleck to shoot someone in season 8. Because they need killing. Quigly Down Under style.

It's a weak show, as cop shows, go, but there's something about it that makes me nearly compelled to watch every episode. It's a cringe-watch, to be sure, but I can't help myself. Maybe it's because they''ve managed to employ as many actors from The Sopranos and The Wire as possible; Maybe it's because for all it's faults, most of the characters are likable (yeah, even Danny/Donnie); maybe because I am hoping--to my own detriment--that the show will take a turn and come down on the side of Doing the Right Thing without making protesters look like screaming assholes that should be hosed down; maybe because I just like watching Tom Selleck drink bourbon and glower through a really tough decision; maybe because I'm hoping the Bridget Moynahan and Steve Schirripa (Erin and Anthony) are going to get together (forget "Jamko." It's not going to happen, and if it does, it'll ruin the show just like on Moonlighting).

Maybe it's just Summer, and I'm miserable in this heat. And as they say, Misery Loves Company.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Enough, Already

Last week, a lot of mediocre plot lines and sketchy character motivations were moved around so that The Flash and Supergirl could have a musical crossover. Like most of these CW things do nowadays, the last 30 seconds of Supergirl bled into the entire episode of The Flash, interrupting at least one fairly interesting storyline so that the very charming Grant Gustin and likewise charming Melissa Benoist could sing and dance and make the Internet explode.

It's not their fault the show was bad. They were great,
for what it's worth. It should never have been done
in the first place. That was the problem from the start.
It was a terrible episode, and not even the admittedly cute song about "Super Friends" in the middle could save it. Not Jesse L. Martin, a Broadway song and dance man, nor Victor Garber, on loan from the terrible Legends of Tomorrow show, could save it. It was a wasted hour of television. And I blame fandom for it.

Yes, you. Don't look at me like that. This is all your fault. Enough with the singing, already. We DO NOT need a musical episode of every single one of your favorite shows. You might think you do, but you don't, and I can prove it.

This whole thing started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another show I never really liked to begin with. I know it was popular, and I tried to like it, really I did. But it never grabbed me. I got why you liked it, though, and so I never, ever trashed it.

But then, "Once More, With Feeling," aired, and suddenly, it's all any of you could talk about. How cool it was; how the songs all were part of the story; you know, like a real musical. Personally, I avoided it for years, because, you see, I'm not fan of musicals to begin with. I do not care for the conceit, nor the artifice, that goes with accepting a musical as a storytelling medium I wish to participate in. There are some musicals that I like, despite the way the story is told. Usually it's the subject matter I like more than the singing, but not always. The point is, I'm very particular about what musicals I like and why. And, I figured, since I didn't like Buffy to begin with, I would not like the musical.

Xander. What a clod-hopper.  
I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, and I loved it. Mostly because it was a story that interested me. On the strength of that outing, I watched "Once More, With Feeling." And I got it.

It's a great episode, truly. It's completely rooted in the ongoing story, and in fact, uses the trope of singing inner feelings out loud to actually affect and change the ongoing subplots. That's good writing. That's inspired storytelling.

And you loved it (oh GOD, did you love it). Many of you loved it because you got to see these actors you admire singing and dancing. And they were good at it, too (well, most of them were). But that's not the real reason why you were so taken with it.

You liked it because it was a complete and total surprise. You didn't see it coming, and even after you got used to the format of the episode, it threw you a couple of curve balls. Remember, this was deep into the Buffy seasons, and you were already along for the ride. But this one episode caught you off guard. And it deserves all the praise it gets, because it got there first and squatted down. Not first in Television History, mind you; many other shows did a similar gag. It's just that it was the first time since, what? Moonlighting, in the late 1980's?  Plus, Buffy was Geeky/Sci-Fi TV, which normally is too busy taking itself seriously to bother with singing and dancing.

The problem with a musical episode of Buffy is that it's so brilliant, so good, you can't ever really use it again, not for a long time. It's too original, too wacky. Whedon did something so novel that he kind of owns that idea, at least for a little while. And trying to shoehorn it into every other show you love only cheapens the real work that Whedon did.

You loved the surprise, but you mis-identified the reason. The change-up, the unexpected, the curve ball: That's what you loved. That the curve ball was a musical episode has only led tens of thousands of you to start asking, no, begging, other shows to "have a musical episode," regardless of whether or not it wanted one, or even needed one.

And this is why we can't have nice things. If you want to be surprised more often, insist on better writing. Ask for what you really want.

I will now take questions from the audience:

Dream Sequences Get a Pass. Also, they are mercifully brief.
1. But Mark, you loved the Musical Sequence from Agent Carter, you big hypocrite, what gives?
I'm glad you brought that up. Let's clarify.  The musical sequence you speak of was actually a dream sequence. Specifically, it was the opener to a show after Carter had been knocked unconscious. It wasn't the whole show. It was, maybe, five minutes, at best. And it didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. It was literally an "Opening Suite" style recap of the previous 5 episodes. So, the producers were able to get a little residual mileage out of the "musical" idea without stepping on Buffy's toes.

2. You don't know what you're talking about. I actually LIKE musicals, okay? And I want to see more of them. 
Good. Go watch all you can find. Just please stop asking that they be inserted into shows that have no business doing them. Do you have all of the episodes of Glee? How about Galavant? Crazy Ex-Girfriend? No? Then get cracking, sister, and then hit YouTube up when you're done. There's stuff out there for you to consume, and I'll make you a promise here and now: I won't jump into every Crazy Ex-Girlfriend discussion and say, "You know what the show really needs? Overly-emotional DC Super heroes! That would be SO COOL!"

3. But I'm a fan of [Name of Actor With a Good Singing Voice Goes Here]. I used to watch them on [Name of show on Netflix Goes Here] all the time. Why can't I have have them singing in THESE shows, too? 
Don't be selfish. Also: ask for what you really want, what you really, really want. If you want to hear Jesse L. Martin singing American Standards with a piano accompanying him, then ask for that. If you want to hear all of the Broadway actors from these CW shows singing together, then encourage another writer's strike, so that everyone will have room in their schedule to do something original, that doesn't use these characters or situations. I'm confident that "Super Friends" is already on the Internet for .99 cents or less.

In closing, let me say this: we all watch a lot of this stuff. And we get really good at sniffing out the regular beats in the story, the formulas, the over-used plot points. You don't have to watch things that bore you, no matter how much you've already watched. Likewise, you can ask for things that will surprise and delight you. That's your right as a consumer. But when you keep asking for the same old thing, you run the risk of diluting the coolness of the very thing you love.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

10 Things You Probably Don't Know About the Vernon Plaza Theater (#3 Will Shock Your Face Off!)

A lot of people have heard about the Plaza Theater a Vernon Institution for sixty-four years, but just as many have heard the wrong information, or worse, no information at all! Here's the facts about the place that was voted Best Movie Theater in Vernon for 9 years in a row!

10.  The Vernon Plaza Theater is open seven days a week! That means you can see movies on Tuesday night, or Thursday night. As long as you have one day off a week, you’ll never miss a movie.

9. The Vernon Plaza weekly movie schedule is available in the following places: In the Vernon Daily Record, on Facebook, on Twitter, on the Vernon Plaza website, hanging on the Ticket Window, recorded on the Movie Line message, in email to group members, and hanging at select locations like Tyson’s Foods. If you don't know what movies are playing at your local movie theater, that's something only you can fix.

8. The Vernon Plaza Theater shows first-run movies, all the latest and greatest films, and over two-thirds of the first-run movies they get show up within the first two weeks. Big summer movies and holiday releases are our specialty! See the latest and greatest Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, and Pixar movies without having to become a Tourist in Wichita Falls, Texas.

7. You can rent the Vernon Plaza Theater for birthday parties and special events. It’s super easy! Simply come by during normal business hours (after 5 PM on weekdays) and pick up a Party Schedule form and talk to Mark or Cathy. The Vernon Plaza Theater is also available for schools and churches for field trips and other special screenings.

6. The Plaza Theater hosts several special events every year that are tied to movies, advance screenings, and community engagement. They give away posters, comics, door prizes, and donate proceeds to various charities throughout the year. Did you miss Dino-Week? The Speed Racer Hot Wheels Race? 13 Days of Halloween? Dinner and a Movie nights? Free movie nights sponsored by the Vernon Daily Record? They do things like this all year long.

5. The Vernon Plaza Theater recently upgraded to fully digital projection and 5.1 Dolby stereo surround sound. The picture is gorgeous! The sound is amazing! You won’t believe the difference.

4. Movies in 3D! The Vernon Plaza Theater was the first 3D movie theater in Texas. And now, thanks to the new digital projectors, 3D movies are back! And not the kind of 3D movies that give you a headache, either (thanks, Altus!). This is the best 3D system in the area. If you get a headache watching a 3D movie at the Vernon Plaza, we will give you a ticket for the same movie in 2D, no extra charge. It's our guarantee that you'll love our awesome 3D system once you try it for yourself!

3. The Vernon Plaza Theater costs half as much money to see the same movie in Wichita Falls or Altus. Tickets are cheaper, concessions are cheaper (and better), and there’s no extra gas, extra shopping or other side trips. You get the same digital movie going experience for half as much money.

2. And speaking of money, the Vernon Plaza Theater now takes credit cards. You can pay for tickets, concessions, gift certificates, and more with a single swipe.

1. The Vernon Plaza Theater has been operating under its current owners for TEN YEARS!  If that alone doesn’t earn them your trust, then I don’t know what will.

And this doesn't even cover the extras: Mark's ever-changing action figure display, Cathy's hot cocoa in the wintertime, the Plaza's Internationally-renowned Movie Popcorn with real butter, or any of the other little touches that make the Plaza a unique place to visit.

Forget what you've heard. Forget what you thought you knew. This is the New Vernon Plaza Theater. Going Strong and getting better for Ten Years and Counting.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Handicapping the President’s Inaugural Speech

President Trump delivers his inaugural address.
Not pictured: Mitch McConnell looking like a
Cheshire Cat, and Michelle Obama trying to
shoot laser beams out of her eyes. 
I didn’t want to watch it, but knew that if I didn’t, I would only see the cut-up pieces of the speech that didn’t sit well with whatever website or news organization chose to report on it, along with some form of sensationalistic headline to grab the eye. Because, you know, these days, it’s all about the clicks.

So I watched it, from start to finish. And I had a few thoughts along the way. If you’re interested, you can keep reading, and we’ll pretend like we’re sitting next to one another at a bar and I’m muttering this stuff out the side of my mouth as we stress-drink.

Fair warning: I didn’t vote for Trump. I’ve never liked him as a person, a personality, and especially as a Presidential candidate. He said some interesting things on the campaign trail—things I don’t disagree with—but I have zero confidence in his ability to affect the kind of changes he’s proposing.

Still, I’ve grown up with this horse-sense aphorism my entire life, that “what we need is a businessman in the White House. You know, someone that knows how to balance a budget.” These were, by the way, the exact same people who, prior to 2003, always said “What we need to do is just go over to the Middle East and take it over and install a Democracy. That’ll fix everything over there.” Well, hotshots, here we are. A businessmen (well, a real estate developer) in the White House. You got your wish. Can’t wait to see how that all plays out.

My comments in a different color below:

"Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.
And we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.
They have been magnificent.
Thank you.
Not much to say here. This is boilerplate inaugural platitude 101.
Today's ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.
For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
 Bernie? Is that you?
That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment.
It belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.
This is your day.
This is your celebration.
And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
I am sorry, but I just don’t buy it. This is the worst kind of rhetoric, and it’s rhetoric that no one, on either side of the party line, believes in. See also: Mitch McConnell.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
Well, THAT much is certainly true. But at what cost, I wonder?
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.
These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.
Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.
Whoa? Was that a simile? Okay, it’s official: I’m offering this sentence up as proof that Trump had help writing his speech. A lot of help.
An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.
Um...what? I don’t know how to parse that thought. But hey, he’s talking about the high cost of college tuition, so maybe...nah. Still, it sure feels like another plank from Bernie's platform. Carry on.
And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation, and their pain is our pain.
Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
More empty campaign rhetoric, I think.
For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.
The single biggest line-item in the budget is for defense. What we have seen is a shift in priorities away from buying planes and tanks to drone warfare and special ops teams. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. But it’s not a depletion. It’s a reduction of men and women on the front lines, something I happen to agree with.
We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own.
Sigh. Yeah, our nation's citrus crops are at risk from foreign fruit pickers. Pfft.
And we've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
Okay, now this I can get on board with.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.
This has needed to happen for two decades. It may be too little, too late, but I don’t disagree with this.
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
I don’t disagree with this, either. Our biggest asset as a world power is our strong economy. It was a costly mistake to move manufacturing out of the country.
Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.
Ever? Too late, he said, in a Tweet.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
What are we, Charlie Sheen? This isn’t Texas Hold ‘Em. What a nonsense statement.
We will bring back our jobs.
We will bring back our borders.
We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
Hey, that sounds a lot like the New Deal! Rebuild infrastructure? Whaaaat? You know, that thing President Obama tried to do...but didn’t...because he couldn’t...because of a massive influx of Obstructionists who are still in place, by the way? You remember that?
Ah, well, as long as it gets done. That’s what’s really important. We’ll see how this plays out.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
Cool beans.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.
We will shine for everyone to follow.
Provided that this includes not going into places we have no business being in, passing out Hershey bars and Cell phones, and handing the leaders a copy of the Constitution and saying, “It’s all in there. Just do that,” and then leaving. Because that hasn’t worked for the past seventy five years, and we need to stop that shit.
We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
I wish you well. You aren’t the first, and sadly, I suspect you won’t be the last. Not so long as we continue to depend on oil, and the boomtown mentality that comes with it.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
How much you want to bet that THAT statement gets totally glossed over by the guys on the far right end of the spectrum? Still, I guess it’s nice that he thought to include something along these lines.
There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
Greeeeeeeeeeat. Just great. So, when another hurricane slams into the Southern Coast, will it be because God has turned his back on us? If something happens to another military outpost in the Middle East, is that a punishment from God, who has taken His protection away?

This is the worst kind of dangerous thinking, this idea that it’s all out of our hands and we are at the mercy of a higher power. But l don’t think Trump really believes this for a second. I think it’s a bone he tossed to the far-right religious nutjobs, the ones who don’t believe in Science. It’s a dog-whistle to them, considering he just made it tacitly okay to be a minority in America in the previous statement.
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
Well, for at least two years, you’ve more or less got Congress and the Senate on your side. Let’s see how that works out for you.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
I love the sound of that. Provided it’s not more empty rhetoric.
A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.
Cool. Another bone thrown to the People of Color in America. But will the jackwagons in Trumpistan hear that? Time will tell.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
Weird. That’s the second time he’s talked about “The Other People” in America, and then followed it up with something about God. It’s almost as if he’s trying to have his cake and eat it, too.
So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
To quote Lisa Simpson: “I’d like to believe that. Really, I would.”
Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.
And, yes, together we will make America great again.
You knew that was coming, right?
Thank you.
God bless you.
And God bless America."

Well, it wasn’t the declaration of Martial Law that some folks were fearing. In truth, there were some things laid out in the speech that, if he can actually pull it off, might—MIGHT—be a good thing. The problem remains this: I don’t trust Trump as a solver of problems. I don’t trust him as a good leader. I don’t like the vast majority of his cabinet appointee picks. I don’t think he’s surrounded himself with the best people. And I don’t think the Republican Party learned anything from all of this. Mitch McConnell was grinning like a Piranha all throughout Trump’s speech. I think the Republican party is going to try doing business as usual. If Trump does what he says he’ll do—what he ran on—he’ll have to clean house, clash with Republican leaders, and in general be the Outsider Champion he ran on.

But I don’t believe him. I never did, not for one second.

If you believed him, that’s great. We’ll see how it all plays out in the next four years. But know this: If you decide that you were duped; if you feel that you were sold a bill of goods; if at the end of four years, you’re mad as hell because X,Y, and Z didn’t happen like he said it would; or even if you don’t like the way it all went down and nothing was as good as the President promised, I want you to know, it’s okay. I won’t say, I told you so. I won’t make fun of you. But I will expect you to make a change for yourself, and not be so easily fooled the next time around.

Politicians are not infallible. I know a few. They tend to be nice, genuine people who really want to help people out. I think that, the closer you get to your own home, the better the politicians tend to be, and the more stuff they can change. The farther away you move, the less stuff gets handled. Most presidents only get one or two really big things done in their term. If President Trump can beat that record by even one more big thing, he’ll have done the impossible.

The problem is, I just don’t believe him.

Cross your fingers. And strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy four years. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A 2016 Presidential Election Bestiary

As our great nation riots in the street and slaps digital high-fives on Facebook, there are a number of people who contributed to the popular vote in this country who are trying to figure out what the hell happened on Tuesday.  And as Americans, we have a natural tendency to want to simplify and boil down complex questions into succinct answers, because as a nation, we have the attention span of a goldfish and are desperate to find out who won Dancing With the Stars before we forget why we were watching it in the first place. We are our own worst terrible contradiction, I know.

The reality is that most complex systems that rely on the active participation of millions of people, filtered through fifty state bureaucracies and a host of exterior influences are way too complicated to ascribe a one word explanation that magically covers the letdown like a tiny little Band-Aid. This is not a toaster. We didn’t throw a rod. It’s our messy modern America we’re talking about. And there’s a lot of blame to go around.

To help focus or diffuse some of your rage, I’ve compiled a handy Bestiary of Assholes, Shitheads, and Generally Horrible Institutions for your consideration. I don’t know if I got everyone to blame on the list, but everyone that is on the list is surely to blame.

Some of you may not see it this way. Some of you may find yourselves on this list. Good. That was intentional. We all played a part in this year-long train wreak, and while I don’t wish harm or ill on anyone, I will say that you (the collective You, the inclusive You, the Royal You) gets to bear the your fair share. But we’ll get into that in a minute. Let me say for now that it’s possible—just possible—that President Trump will make good on his promises to bring jobs back, replace Obamacare with something better, make us safer around the world, lower taxes, and in short, Make America Great again. If he does that—I’ll admit that I’m wrong and apologize to you all.

But if that doesn’t happen; in short, if the jobs don’t come back (from vacation, presumably), and if I don’t end up with a better health insurance plan than my current Bronze Level Option, and we find ourselves re-engaged in the Middle East or North Korea, and they have to raise taxes to pay for that war, and American is Not So Great when it’s all over—if THAT happens, you’ll admit that you were wrong, and apologize to me, right?

Okay, let’s pick the scab and see what color the pus is.

A is for Americans
This would be the people that live in the giant swath of red that sits between the East and West coast. What Los Angeles and New York City call “flyover country.” This would include my little town, in North Texas. There’s a lot of people hurting out there, economically speaking. We don’t make stuff anymore. Not really. Not like we used to. That’s a problem, and it’s something that wasn’t really addressed in 2008 and 2012—with good reason.

However, it seems to me that the people in the middle of the East and West coast heard all of the good promises about jobs, and chose not to hear any of the horrible, awful, nasty things President-Elect Trump said about their fellow Americans. Or, maybe they did hear them, but since they weren’t People of Color, members of the LGBT community, immigrants, or some other form of hyphenated American, they figured it wasn’t so big a concern and voted only for their own self-interests. Just like anyone else would have done. Does this make them racist, too? Misogynist? Some people think so. I don’t. But the unfortunate truth of the matter is, for every church going, decent person who voted for Trump as (to their way of thinking) “the lesser of two evils,” there was a guy in a dirty bunker with a tiny bust of Hitler on their television saying, “Finally! Someone who gets us!” And the fact that he never addressed the ugly underbelly of America is a real and legitimate problem for a lot of people. Either way, it speaks volumes about the character of this country, and shines a revealing light on one of our most enduring myths that we tell ourselves.

B is for Bernie
The crushing irony of this is that Bernie Sanders was considered a political outsider (like Trump) for months, until, you know, he started to actually gain real support from real people. I remember all of the flapping-head sock-puppet pundits snickering loudly at Bernie Sanders’ chances in the primaries, because, well, tee hee, just look at him, I mean, really... Barbie and Ken dolls, all of them. Who’s snickering now?

Bernie came from a place of sincerity. Of genuine public service. Of principles and conscience. Of morals and ethics. If you were looking for someone to shake up the political machine as it currently exists, Bernie was your real Molotov cocktail. Maybe he still is. But this would have played out very differently.

C is for Conspiracy Theories
Holy shit, when did we as a nation become so gullible? You know what a conspiracy theory is, right? It’s an outlandish plot conceived to explain an unpopular occurrence that cannot be disproven. That’s how they work. When I was growing up in the 1980s, most conspiracy theories were in the closet of the fringe element, the whackadoos who believe that the Moon landing was faked. That Paul McCartney was killed and replaced with an actor and that’s why the Beatles broke up. Shape-changing lizards are running the government. Fringe nonsense. Here’s why people believe in conspiracy theories, and that’s something to consider when talking about our country in the 21st century.

Let me be very clear about this: every thing that Donald J. Trump accused Hillary Clinton of doing during the campaign (well, except for lying—see below) was actually a conspiracy theory. Here’s a list for you to mull over. And if your reaction to that is, “That’s just what they want you to think,” or if you’ve ever used the word “sheeple” in an online discussion, then you are actively dumbing down the country with your distracting nonsense.

D is for Democrats
When will you guys decide to stop bringing knives to the gunfight? How about now, for instance? Two things need to happen if you ever want to be viable as a political party again. 1. Stop worrying about making grandstanding gestures for posterity and instead focus on passing legislation, enacting forward-thinking public policy and getting stuff done in Congress. 2. Stop going “high.” You’re fighting Republicans. You know, the men who run on the family values platform and then get caught with fishing for dates in the men’s restrooms? Why are you being considerate? They need to be hobbled. Get a bat and start swinging for the kneecaps. We need twenty new seats in the Senate in two years. Start now. Or better yet, do what Michael Moore says. Here’s his prescription

E is for Election Reform
For the second time in my lifetime—since I’ve known my wife—I’ve watched the electoral college nullify the popular vote. This is especially egregious, since the popular vote was the bigger number. Something has to change, and I don’t care what. If you won’t abolish the Electoral College, how about removing the “Winner Take All” provision and divide the EC votes according to popular percentage? And don't get me started on the whole mechanism of voting,  either. 

And while we’re at it, how about changing the rules so that Third Party candidates aren’t left out of the process altogether. I think one of the fastest ways to stop this polarization of the country is to give us a few more nuanced choices. The reason why the Powers that Be are reluctant to do this is simple: Money. They lose too much money when their respective parties are gutted from people going to a group that better reflects their needs and interests. The only way to fix it is to even out the process entirely and cap spending on campaigns. Let the messages be about the quality of the ideas, not the frequency with which the candidates are seen bashing their opponents.

F is for Facts
Ah, Facts...those things that were routinely ignored by our President-Elect for over a year. Those things he never let get in the way of a good story. I can’t remember the last time so many people chose to simply stop thinking like a rational person and rely on “gut feelings” and “people are telling me” and “I’m hearing.” What are we, imbeciles? You know, Santa’s not real, either, even though you’ve seen his picture on Coke cans for years. Using a gut check to pick a presidential candidate is not the dumbest thing you can do on this list, but it’s pretty close.

It’s time to start valuing math and science and data again. It’s time to stop playing fast and loose with feelings and opinions spoken with an air of authority. Just because you, average American, didn’t go to college, doesn’t mean you’re not smart. Certainly, you should be smart enough to know a con man when you see one. It reminds me of an old joke: How can you tell when a Politician is lying? His lips are moving! And the moral of this story is: a Campaign Promise is not a Fact. See “L” below.

G is for Gender
There is no way you can convince me that some—some—of the people who cast their “protest vote” for Trump weren’t just doing it because she’s a woman. I just watched a cavalcade of racist vomit for eight years on social media, when so many people were convinced that we’d licked racism because of President Obama in the White House. To the lunatic right and the ultra-conservative Christians and the just plain ol’ misogynists who have been strident in their disapproval of Hillary Clinton this past year, let me say this up front: I will not listen to your bullshit on this. If you think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, you’d best keep it to yourself.

And don’t “Bible” me on this, either. We don't stone people to death for transgressions. There’s no Biblical argument that makes sense anymore. It’s ridiculous, outdated, outmoded, and if you think we won’t push back on this, think again. There will come a day, down the road, when Elizabeth Warren will be offered up as a presidential candidate (or vice-presidential candidate) and she comes without 30 years of conspiracy theories clinging to her. She’ll get in, if it hasn’t happened before then. You are on the wrong side of history on this. Change, or head to the tar pit.

H is for Hillary
You know, I get it. I really do. Hillary Clinton is a divisive figure. I mean, she’s got the taint of Clinton Scandal all over her. But let’s not forget who first sprayed that stink all over her in the first place, right? I know a lot of you were alive in 1992. You must remember when Rush Limbaugh led the charge against them, insisting that they had committed murder in Arkansas. They hadn’t, of course, and there was never any question about it in the eyes of the law, but it started a 30 year full court press that culminated in some of the most hate-filled rhetoric I’ve ever witnessed aimed at a public figure. 

And yet, despite all of the accusations, and the constant investigations—7 or 8 of them, all led by Republicans—they did not find any malfeasance or misconduct. Whatever you want to call it. The only thing that Hillary Clinton is guilty of is being a career politician, with all of the skills and attributes that come with that job. The same skills and attributes that, say, Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell have, by the way. If you don’t like the way she did things, and think that she didn’t play fair, or think that she got away with something, then congratulations, because you’ve put your finger on the pulse of modern politics and found the institution wanting. Yeah. They all do it. They all did it. Even your guy. Yes, him, too.

I is for Internet
Social Media is, without a doubt, one of our modern devils, responsible for so much evil, pain, and strife, when it’s not distracting us with pictures of kittens and baby otters and people getting hit in the junk with softballs.  Then you drop a petulant narcissist onto Twitter and let him run unfettered, and he gleefully sets himself to the task of trolling the 2016 Election, all while actively encouraging the Russians to Keep. Hacking. The. American. Election. Process. You do know that the Russians are the bad guys again, right? And by the way, since when exactly did a meme, banged out in thirty seconds (eyes closed, judging from the frequent misspellings) constitute a meaningful thought? Memes are the bumper stickers of the Internet. And I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean it as in, you should stop using memes to make your points.

Look, I know you’re reading this online, but want you to understand something: this is not an ideal form of communication. It’s advantages—speed, distance, flexibility, are outweighed by its disadvantages, chief among them—anonymity, security, and obfuscation. There’s a reason why we all seem to become mean, hateful and a little sociopathic, and that’s because it’s a consequence-free environment that we mistake for meaningful discourse. And if you’re a troll, it’s your preferred medium and mode of expression. So, why are we placing such emphasis on social media to help us with the most important political decision we make every four years?

J is for Justices
The Republican controlled Congress, led by the obstructionist Mitch McConnell, has held up the appointment of the ninth Supreme Court Justice for—what? Six, seven months now? Thanks to the Republican Majority in the Senate, and Tea Party dissidents like Theocrat Ted Cruz shutting down Congress because they didn’t get what they wanted, the Supreme Court was the only branch of our government that was still doing its job. And it was doing, more or less, a good job, until Scalia died earlier this year.

In the final gesture of disrespect, Congress has ignored its duty in vetting and approving President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination—a man that even the Republicans agree would be great for the job—so that the honor could go to the next president. Lovely. Once again, held hostage by Republicans so that they can roll back Progress in this country to 1952.

K is for Kangaroo Court
Listening to people chanting “Lock her Up!” was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Now, in this election, at this time, you’ve all suddenly grown the spine and moral fortitude to hold a politician’s feet to the fire? And for what? Stuff she’s already been cleared of, from multiple sources.

Oh, and all of you “nose holders,” don’t think you’re not part of this, either. “I don’t like Trump, but I really dislike Hillary.”  You’d rather have the Elite Oligarch, the super-rich real estate developer than the career politician who at least doesn’t want to burn it all to the ground, is that your stance? All because you think she did something wrong. You just can’t articulate what. Hmmm. We’re all right with war crimes and war profiteering, but the email server is your line in the sand? Hmmmm.

L is for Lying
Never before have I watched a political campaign spew half-truths and untruths like a firehose, hither and thither, with no real attempt by anyone in opposition to call the liar on their junk. And let me be very clear, here: I’m talking across the board, top to bottom, all along the spectrum, about Donald Trump. I thought initially that it was willful ignorance at work, where he’d just squint and omit the parts of the story he didn’t like. But then he started reshaping the narrative in the most brilliant way; he actually gaslighted the American public. He figured out that if you repeat something often enough to people, they take it as the truth.

Clinton doesn’t get to skate on this, either, but I want to make it clear that her “misspokes” and her “not well articulateds” and all of the other awkwardly-worded things she said only made her look like she was trying to get away with stuff, and it made her seem more untrustworthy. Pretty frustrating, especially when she kept getting investigated and they kept saying, “We didn’t find that she did anything wrong.” Of course she lied in the course of her job. So did every single politician who ever held the office. There was lies a-plenty to go around during the last Republican Presidency. But that never was part of the Democratic narrative, was it? “We want to run a clean campaign,” right? How’s that working out for you? And now it seems that all of the hate and the bile and the venom was nothing more than campaign rhetoric. In other words, more lying. But it’s okay if your candidate wins, right?

M is for Media
Some of the media are already taking their lumps for this, but to be fair, it’s the whole of corporate-owned and ratings-driven news that needs to be nut-punched repeatedly until they agree to start treating the American public like it’s a body politic and not bored Romans thirsting for Christian blood in the Coliseum. We don’t need political analysis from your lantern-headed mouth-flapping correspondents, whose only qualifications seems to be that you’ve had them on the show before. Pundits and bloggers? Are you kidding me?

How about stating facts, telling people what happened, and covering the things that actually matter? Be useful. Stop slanting, shading, and skewing your data. I hate that I see stuff on the BBC news that is never talked about from any of the cable news networks. We deserve better than this. You—the media—are considered part of the public trust. At least, you used to be. Either start helping us all make good choices or get out of our way entirely.

N is for Nationalists
This is where the shame lies. Shame on Donald Trump for not immediately and stridently denouncing the endorsements of the guys living in neo-Nazi encampments in the woods, making their own beef jerky and waiting patiently for the coming race war that’s going to happen...oh...any day now... Of course, these chuckleheads have been predicting something like this for thirty years, to no avail. But now there’s a guy running for president, and he hates brown-skinned people, too! Whoo-Hoo, boys, put on your clean overalls! We’re going to town!

There’s already a “Mexicans Go Home” attitude that’s floating around, and Trump’s not even in office, yet. I live in Texas. The “ex” part of the state is a reminder that our culture and way of life is inextricably tied to Mexico. This is a real problem for me, and it should be for the rest of you, too. Mexicans go home? They are home, Gringo. Aw, it’s just such utter bullshit, this idea that all of these mythical jobs are being appropriated by Hispanics, and our nation of white landscapers and white custodial service workers and white day laborers and white construction workers are starving because of it. Hogwash.

O is for Orange
Demented Cheeto. Walking and Talking Circus Peanut. Parboiled Yam. The color now and forever associated with President-Elect Trump will be orange, thanks to his spray-on bronzing solution. I am sure the glow is healthy in real life, but on naked video, it makes anyone wearing that stuff look foolish and stupid. But that ridiculous skin color is the very least of a whole catalog of problems that are self-evident when considering this man for the highest office in the land.

I never liked him. Not when he was a spoiled rich kid millionaire. Not when he was a reality TV star. Not when he was an agitator for the Republican party. And as much as I didn’t like him then, I hate the thought that this demagogue is the president-elect.  I thought he was a joke, a wastrel, who got lucky. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and somehow managed to keep the money instead of pissing it away. This is no “Man of the People.” He’s the very person most of us in the South claim to despise. I’m still baffled that a rich, spoiled Yankee who is too big for his britches would somehow win my people over.

P is for Pussy
Here is our National shame, laid bare, that such vulgarity would find its way into the political discourse. And that even this—this tacit admittance to, at the very least, sexual assault—wouldn’t dissuade you from voting for Trump—well, that’s some deep blues, right there. You don’t have to be from the Ivy League to know that’s no way to treat a lady, ever. “Locker Room talk,” my ass. I know bragging when I hear it. He was trying to impress Billy Bush. Billy Bush! Geez, Louise.

Already the children of the hateful people have been sent to school by their proud parents and started yelling at the Hispanic kids to “Go back to Mexico.” How long do you think it’ll be before one of those kids “just can’t help himself,” and decides to help himself, because, you know, this is apparently okay, now, right? I mean, if the president can do it, and get away with it, what kind of message does that send?

Q is for Qualifications
For decades now, I’ve listened to older Republicans lament that “what we really need is a business man in the office. He’d be the one to fix our budget.”  The thinking being, we need a guy who runs the government like he runs a business. Ruthlessly slashing waste, eliminating redundancies, streamlining operations, etc. Not necessarily running the busi—I mean, the government—with strong ethical conviction. That part is never mentioned.

Well, be careful for what you wish for. Here’s your businessman, kinda. Sorta. I guess. I mean, he’s a real estate developer, and he’s worth millions, and he’s got a brand, of sorts, and despite all of the failures along the way, he had enough money to run a protracted political campaign, and, on top of all that, it worked. I will tell you this, right now: he looks like a dog that just caught the car he was chasing. He looks worried. He’s not being presidential, now. He’s looking for the exits so he can ghost at the first chance. We’ll see just how far that business acumen takes him. If only there had been someone else running for office with a laundry list of credentials and actual experience in the White House…

R is for Republicans
You have a lot to answer for. I’m not sure when “the party of principles” decided that anyone could rent space on your platform, but you either need to eject the cranks and whack-jobs in your party or change your name to something else. It’s bad enough that you let the Tea Party radicals in—and I think you already know that your punishment was Ted Cruz, the most hated man in Congress—but you only backed that Orange Horse because you didn’t like any of your rank and file candidates. You even had a Bush in the mix, for crying out loud! But you were afraid he wouldn’t win, because that’s all that matters to you. You obstruct, you shut down, you drag your feet, you waste millions of dollars on needless political stunts, and you have the temerity to blame the Democrats because stuff doesn’t get done at the Congressional level. 

And while we’re on the chopping block here, you need to jettison the social and moral backwater stance, too. If you want to be the party of fiscal responsibility, that’s fine. Be that party. But don’t also lump “family values” into it. You’re always one disgraced Senator away from looking like idiots. And no one trusts you because you always end up looking like the very worst kind of hypocrites. That word is in the Bible a lot. You should look it up.

S is for Scandals
Hopefully this will be the only Presidential election ever where the manufactured scandals got all of the attention and the actual scandals were patently ignored by the voting public. Democrats? You had to know that every ounce of Republican-based dirt reserved for the Clintons over the years would be trucked out and used against Hillary Clinton, right? You had to know that. I knew it. We all knew it. Dogs knew it. Did you think that her record of public service would protect her from a manufactured murder-conspiracy? The opposition just fielded a Reality Television Candidate!

And yet, this guy was tangerine Teflon. Things he actually said and actually did—stuff that, in any other year, under any other circumstance, would have gotten him booted from his own reality show, fired from a corporation, turned him into a social pariah—none of that mattered, because the folks in Trump’s camp were “tired of Hillary (or Killary, or Shillary, or, you know, ‘that c*nt’) getting away with it,” whatever “it” was. Oh, yeah, all of those scandals over the years. The ones that Republicans investigated multiple times, using millions of dollars of the taxpayers money, only to find nothing. Unbelievable. People were more willing to believe that Hillary Clinton murdered people than to admit that Donald Trump was demonstrably guilty of sexual assault.

T is for Third Party
Dan Savage is right.  Before you start throwing wide-eyed, earnest-looking imbeciles at us every four years, how about fielding a few candidates at the local level, hmmm? Maybe work up to state senate? Congress? We don’t know anything about your party, because we’ve never seen it in action. Why keep swinging for the fences and missing? How about you assholes get some people on base, first? Because all you’re really doing, in the end, is jacking up the big game by insisting that you have a turn at bat.

It only really matters during times of extreme duress, like, you know, the past twenty years, now, when those people who voted for third party candidates actually made their point at the end of a barrel of an important gun. I say this as someone who voted for Ross Perot in the 1990s, to no avail, and who saw a lot of people try to defend their choice for Nader in 2000, when the election was too close to call, and now, sixteen years later, staring at the 1.7 percent of the vote that sure did tell a story, and that story ends with a Trump presidency. I’m not saying you Green Party and Libertarian Party people are wrong; we do need to break up the two-party system. But this was not the year to try that, obviously. Put the work in, first, and you’ll find a more receptive electorate in, say, 2020 or 2024.

U is for Undecided
Really, undecided? You have been on this Earth for how long, exactly? Oh, all of your life. Right. Gotcha. So, then, why is this something that happens every four years, as if you have emerged from a chrysalis state, newly-minted, full of wonder and gentle good humor at our funny Earthling ways? The thing about experience is that it’s supposed to stick with you. Moreover, you should ideally use that experience to make informed decisions.

I don’t buy that there wasn’t enough for you to hang an informed decision from July onward. There was plenty of substantial, concrete information to base your choice on, without even cracking the surface of the muckracking and filth that coated this election like fried chicken batter. I don’t know where you’re at, or what this says, that so many people who were registered to vote simply didn’t, and even more people stayed home because they didn’t think it would matter one way or another. Maybe this will go away in four years, or even two. But I think as long as nothing above changes, we’re going have to deal with the Undecideds for a while longer.

V is for Vocabulary Words
“Dog Whistle.” “Micro-Aggression.” Clinton pulled a good one out of her hat: “Basket of Deplorables.” Now, we all know what she really meant by that, and it’s willfully ignorant to pretend anything different. But the first thing Trump said that actually got the attention of his base was that he was tired of being “Politically Correct.” And while everyone looked shocked and horrified (or cheered because they could say vulgar things in public again), no one looked past what that really meant; namely, the notion that the Extreme Left loves to talk down its nose at people who are not in the same Pullman car on the Train of Progress as themselves. This usually manifests itself on places like Twitter, where they actively lock horns with the Internet trolls, but it spills over onto all over aspects of American life. People who simply aren’t up on the latest Mercurial changes in terminology get labeled “racist” or get admonished for “mansplaining.” No one catches flies with honey on the Extreme Left. Everyone has a flame thrower, and they burn bridges daily. Patton Oswalt has the right idea about this phenomenon.  

There is another culprit here, as well. The media just loves its jargon, doesn’t it? If it’s not phrase-making it’s phrase-borrowing. POTUS. SCOTUS. “Full-throated endorsement.” “Down ballot.” How about you stick to reporting facts and learned opinions and leave the wordsmithing to the professional poets and dreamer of the world, hmmm? Instead of trying to show you have insider knowledge, work on delivering the news in the format and with the simplicity of a sixth grade Spelling Bee. Especially now our president, who uses words like “bigly,” and can’t articulate complex thoughts and must rely on hyperbole and repeated phrases for emphasis, isn’t much of a “reader.”

W is for Wall
This was the whole of Trump’s political platform, writ large: “I’m gonna build a wall. And Mexico is going to pay for it.” This statement has been walked back, reworked, and massaged from every possible angle, and no matter what metric you use to examine it, it’s clear that the idea is ludicrous in the extreme. Anyone from Texas who thinks that such an idea is practical, and yet doesn’t read science fiction, or have collections of old issues of Popular Mechanics where those vastly impractical airships of the future are shown as concept drawings is just delusional, because we know what the border of Texas actually looks like. For the rest of the world, trust us on this; there’s no way a physical barrier could ever run the length of the Texas-Mexico border, never mind the rest of the United States. But that’s one of those “Big Concept” ideas that seems so easy to so many. Yeah. Just, you know, build a wall. With cheap labor, so it don’t cost as much. You know, like those undocumented… oh, wait…

Now people are insisting that this wall was actually a “metaphor” for some sort of combination of security systems and plans and programs that would be implemented. Pfft. Whatever, dude. You know what he meant. I know what he meant. Stop trying to make him smarter after the fact. It’s pretty obvious that immigration is a hot button topic, but there’s so many other ways to handle the volatile and uncertain situation that involve diplomacy, good policy, and thinking long-term. I realize these are not strengths of the incoming President. And I’m not a political junkie. But I have been watching this clown since the 1980s. I know an asshole when I see one.

X is for Xenophobia
Speaking of assholes, I’m shocked (and this is my own confirmation bias showing, here) that the various disenfranchised white people are clumping up around Nazi flags. Still. To this day. In 2016. I honestly thought that there wasn’t a member of the KKK under the age of 85. This is my naiveté, I know. However, I wasn’t blind to the number of people who don’t like all Muslim people because of what happened on 9-11. And it’s an extremely touchy subject.

In so many ways, I feel like we’ve come full circle by jumping back in time a hundred years, to when Immigrants were pouring into this country to work the factory jobs, and, well, you’ve seen this Schoolhouse Rock short, I know. We all have. Of course, what that lovely cartoon never mentioned was the “No Irish Need Apply” signs and the anti-Jew and anti-Italian and anti-immigrant sentiment that was a nasty backlash to what amounts to most of our ancestors moving to America so we can be having the same arguments 120 years after the fact.

Y is for Youth
Oh, you precocious little Special Snowflakes. We, the members of Generation X, were once like you. Our guy was Bill Clinton, in 1992. We used to be the Youth Vote. And with the help of MTV, we Rocked It.  And then our guy got caught…well, it doesn’t matter. We realized, because we grew up jaded, that all of these bastards had feet of clay. They were fallible. Imperfect. Human.

That’s why your principled stance really stuck in my craw. But I can’t make you do anything, really. No one can. No one ever did. But your insistence in voting for a third party candidate or worse, not voting at all, despite a cavalcade of credible information on both candidates, just baffled me. Maybe this is a good thing. You need to see for yourself what’s happening next. What’s coming up. Then, maybe you can put cause and effect together and make better choices next time. Provided we can beam that information to you in 140 characters or less.

Z is for Zeitgeist
The zeitgeist, for those you unfamiliar with the term is “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” What that means on this list is, we are all to blame for what happened. Our need to be entertained instead of informed and enlightened. Our muted anger and frustrated feelings of having no control. Media streams blasting at us from so many directions. Stress. Fear. Cynicism.

We have turned into really shitty people, you know that? It didn’t happen overnight. All of this innovation seemed like a good idea. From the late 1980s on, there’s been a slow, glacier-like creep towards becoming bored, entitled, ignorant, naval-gazing, self-important turds. We didn’t used to be this way. I’m not romanticizing the past, either. We’ve been our better selves, but usually only for a short time—during Christmas, or national tragedies. We profess to be a Christian country, but we are the most un-Christian-like people when it comes to the way we treat others. It’s no wonder that the current champion of the oppressed is a rich, bigoted, narcissistic, borderline fascist with no impulse control and a sense of entitlement to rival English royalty. He's us, write large. He is the Uber-American. 

Sorry if I got any of that on you, personally. But this has been building up for almost a year, now, and I needed to lance that boil, because it was killing me, literally. We all made ourselves sick, worrying about this stuff. And in the end, we missed the mark, but good. I don't blame any one thing on this list, so much as I see it for the Gordian Knot that it really is. 

So, what's the answer? I don't know. I have no earthly idea. Everyone is saying, "Get Organized! Rebel! Resist! Fight Back!" Yeah, great ideas. Pick a monster and have at it. There's a lot to throw your weight against. Me? I'm wearing my safety pin. I'm going to continue to comment on the things that matter to me. I'm not going to make assumptions about people, but I will not stand for open displays of bigotry, intolerance, or hatred. Your answer will undoubtedly be different, and your path is not my path, and, provided no one is hurt and no laws are broken, I wish you well. One thing is certain: this was only the first of what feels like a five act Shakespearean tragedy. Let's all hope that's not the case.