[Ed. Note: this was originally posted on my Facebook page.]
I try not to get forcefully political on the ol’ FB machine. I tend more toward Star Wars references and band jokes.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. And, from here to November, I think I shall prepare to suffer whatever slings and arrows come my way. Fine. Political it shall be. S**t’s gettin’ real.
We talk about every single Presidential election as the most important election of our lifetimes. Bush vs. Kerry … Obama vs. McCain and the desperately unqualified Palin … Obama vs. Willard “47%” Romney … and the meme has threatened to become “boy who cried wolf” territory.
But … the next five months represent a stretch of time during which it will be required to convince as many people as possible that we stand at an absolutely pivotal moment in American history. Will it be oligarchy with a side order of authoritarian fascism? Or will it be an agonizingly slow but perceptible aircraft-carrier-speed turn back toward government representing the people and not the corporations?
With today’s Senate votes regarding gun legislation, let’s make sure that one thing is abundantly clear:
Permanently laid to rest is the idea that “both sides do it”. That “both sides are just as awful”. That “both sides are to blame”. Dead, buried, shovelfuls of dirt hitting its face, pax vobiscum.
From ThinkProgress.org: “On Monday, Republicans in the Senate proved, yet again, how strong the National Rifle Association’s grip is on the nation’s highest lawmaking body. Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms and to expand background checks to all gun sales both failed in the Senate. Just 47 senators voted in favor of the first measure and 44 for the second.”
It may be over-the-top to write a headline like “Republicans Vote In Favor Of Continued Mayhem”. Or not, I don’t know. But at the very least, the headline should be “Republicans Vote To Keep The Gun Manufacturers Lobby From Primary-ing Their Backsides; ‘Follow the Money’ Meme Again Invoked”.
“Meet the Press” and David Brooks and the whole DC pundit class won’t do it. Nor will they give up their farcical “both sides are equally bad” fetish, because the major mass-media news operations are overseen by their networks’ entertainment divisions now, which ought to tell you everything you need to know about modern journalism: it serves profit, not public service.
Howevah! … The Democratic senators’ filibuster last week accomplished this: it forced an actual vote on something — and the result of that vote is concrete proof toward which to point, as the general election approaches. If they play their cards right … AND IF WE VOTER TYPES GO AND VOTE IN NOVEMBER (that’s crucial) … and if the Short-Fingered Vulgarian continues his Presidential campaign all the way to Election Day and manages to drag down all the down-ticket candidates from the party of Lincoln … Democrats have a chance to take the Senate, close the gap in the House, take the White House, and ensure that the next Supreme Court nominee (or possibly the next two, with the rumored retirement plans of Clarence Thomas coming to light in the last day or so) be someone who might support the overturning of the Citizens United decision. Which would be merely a small beginning of an effort to get money (dark or otherwise) the hell out of politics; but it beats the alternative we’re living with right now.
Let’s not throw all the bastards out.
Just the right bastards.
Let’s make the pitched effort to identify, tag, and continually and repeatedly remind people of the identity of, every one of the bastards who value their political careers and the largesse that goes with them MORE than they value the lives of their constituents — be they LGBT, minority groups, or members of faith communities they can’t be bothered to understand.
Let’s be obnoxious in our desperate effort to keep reminding people who the honorable people are, and who the craven bastards are who love themselves and their money and their station in life far more than they love the health of their own nation.
So we know which ones deserve to be kicked out of DC for good.
Today’s roll calls represent opposition research — tailor-made and gift-wrapped for Democrats, and frankly any voter who can see past knee-jerk ideology and embrace the need to re-make our government into a group of people who want to take care of people instead of taking advantage of them.
I know. Mark Twain famously said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” As steep climbs go, this has potential to be very steep. We (yeah, I’m a registered Dem) are famous for screwing things up, usually thanks to apathy or really bad planning.
But today’s votes ought to reverberate — ought to echo all the way to the election in November — in the form of a question that ought to be on the minds of voters everywhere (even in my intensely-blue Massachusetts):
Are you willing to let this go on any longer?
I’m not, damn it.
Because as has been demonstrated this week in Orlando … and this year in Flint … and three and a half years ago in Sandy Hook … and for the last (pick your time period — decade? Two decades? More?) in cities and towns all over these United States:
We’re talking about people’s lives here.
[Ed. Note: commenters will please note that this blog’s management has the sole right to approve comments for publication here. Which is to say, if you choose to violate standards of good taste or choose to try and pull an Internet-troll maneuver, the management cannot guarantee that you’ll be able to Scotch-tape clips of your work to your refrigerator. If you’re thinking of going that route, you may wish to save your valuable time and go elsewhere.]
Normally I’m reticent to point to an event as A Turning Point. It’s rare that you can look at an occurrence as it’s happening and know that, well, this could be the moment. We might well remember this moment a long time from now.
I thought I did, this week. I hope I did. My Future Self will read this post, several weeks or months from now, and either shake his Future Head sadly or jump up and down and wave his Future Arms and cry out, “Told you so!!”
But I think this could be The Moment.
One of my relatively few moments of Appointment TV is the half hour of media critique that Boston’s public television station, WGBH, puts up every Friday night. “Beat the Press” consists of the least compelling visual picture on television: five people ranged around a table, not moving much, and conversing.
While it’s not “great TV” in the same way that your average reality show is … thankfully! … it’s good and often great programming. Civil conversation and really smart analysis and commentary about current issues related directly to mass media and the press. On an episode a few weeks ago, there occurred about thirty seconds of crosstalk, and it was stunning for two reasons: first, the panelists are almost always courtly in their “oh, no, after you!” polite-chipmunk style of conversation … and second, the crosstalk was only because everybody was so excited to contribute to the discussion and everybody had a constructive point to contribute. I still wept for whoever was tasked with preparing the transcript of the episode … but there’s so much crosstalk on cable news television that is strictly people yelling at each other that this was refreshing, and worth a grin.
Anyway, last night was a rare moment: during one “Beat the Press” segment, I thought that all five panelists missed the point entirely. And I still like them anyway; but here’s the setup:
They were talking about the Short-Fingered Vulgarian [forevermore to be referred to here as SFV] who is now the presumptive Republican Party nominee (so the press is now obligated to cover him as a legitimate current event) – particularly his mid-week press conference, at which he went after the press in a way that got lots of attention.
The presser had been set up as a way for SFV to answer questions about his financial contributions to military veterans’ organizations. It became a rather stark preview of what life in an SFV presidential administration could be like for reporters: SFV rather freely insulted, belittled, and leveled veiled threats at, the assembled press – and a couple of reporters in particular.
Nearly in unison, last night, the “Beat the Press” panelists took their own shots at the media outlets which had covered the press conference. Their basic point was: shame on news operations for spending so much panicky air time on the mistreatment of their colleagues, when they should have been focusing on the issue that was the point of the press conference – whether SFV was telling the truth about when, how much, and in how timely a fashion he had contributed money to veterans’ organizations, as he had promised several months ago.
I love them dearly; but again, I think the “Beat the Press” folks – in their understandable zeal to applaud the actual investigative reporting, and in their reticence to endorse mass-media navel-gazing (“oh, how horribly the media is being treated!” the media themselves often say, accurately or not) – missed the point.
They were right to applaud the investigative journalism. But they were short-sighted when they consigned news outlets’ hand-wringing about the SFV’s calling one ABC reporter “a sleaze” and telling the political press to their faces that he considered them the “among the most dishonest people [he’d] ever met.”
If you take into account the tone of that press conference – surely the shape of things to come if reporters dare to do their jobs, during a dystopian SFV presidency, by investigating SFV and asking him anything other than softball questions about how great he is …
And if you take into account the marked increase in SFV’s testiness and willingness to almost gleefully mistreat the press, when they failed to roll over at his initial blasts, but instead kept after him and poked and prodded and actually, finally, FINALLY stood up to the guy …
And taking into account the openly hostile reactions that SFV has consistently elicits from his campaign-rally supporters, when he returns to his “look at the press over there, aren’t they awful?” refrain – as well as reporters’ wondering aloud if they’re placing themselves in harm’s way just by covering SFV’s rallies …
Well, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a world in which “Beat the Press” was not a clever TV program title but instead a directive from the Oval Office.
The Washington Post reported that during Tuesday’s press conference,
“A reporter asked if Mr. Trump’s demeanor was an indication of what White House news conferences would be like if he were elected.
“‘Yes, it is,’ he said. ‘It is going to be like this.’”
This week, the New York Times wrote,
“With five months to go before Election Day, Mr. Trump has already said he would ‘loosen’ libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. He has threatened to sic federal regulators on his critics. …
“‘I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,’ Mr. Trump said in February. …
“‘We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.’”
One article by a columnist in the aforementioned Washington Post this week, which would fall under SFV’s description “purposely negative and horrible and false” in that it did not praise him to the high heavens, said:
“…I suspect that many journalists are deciding that the way to cover Trump is just to do it as honestly and assiduously as possible, which would itself be something almost revolutionary. If the tone of his coverage up until now has been ‘Wow, is this election crazy or what!’ it could become much more serious — as it completely appropriate given that we’re choosing someone to hold the most powerful position on earth. …
“[W]e’re beginning to see those corrections appear right in the body of stories: the reporter relays what Trump said, and notes immediately that it’s false.
“Trump himself probably finds such treatment grossly unfair, since to him ‘unfair’ coverage is anything that doesn’t portray him in the most glowing terms. But it is perhaps ironic that after all this time of wondering how to cover this most unusual candidate, Trump has shown the press that the best way to do it is to cover him like every candidate should be covered.
“That means not just planting a camera at his rallies and marveling at how nuts it all is, but doing to work to fully vet his background, correcting his lies as swiftly and surely as they can, exploring what a Trump presidency would actually mean, and generally doing their jobs without letting him intimidate them.”
May it be so.
For the sake of a free press … for the sake of a free Republic … dear Lord, may it be so.
Today’s writing prompt:
31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 31: “weird quirk of mine”.
Now what kind of a Big Finish is that, for thirty-one days of introspection and navel-gazing and self-absorption and all those things that make life worth living?
Having known for some time that I’m plenty weird to begin with (hello Star Trek, hello marching band) … aaaaaand loving it … I though that to identify an extra-special-weird quirk was going to take some time.
Having also set out in print here the conditions under which I managed to become an outright crier, the last two times, namely the sudden passing of a very important person in one’s life … I find that one particular truth about me kinda turns that on its head.
Yes, I get teary. But not during most of the memorial services I’ve gone to; not in many of the situations during which one might expect this. I didn’t even choke up when Han Solo, well, when he had a tough conversation with his son. (Spoiler alert.)
Instead … I tear up at the good stuff.
 A couple of Christmastimes ago, the manipulative sons of guns who create ads for Apple’s iPhone released one that choked me up good. You may remember the 90-second-long ad wherein a great rollicking wintertime family reunion is going on, and everyone seems to be having a blast, except for the teenager who seemingly only wants to look at his iPhone, and not any of his family members. He’s never shown interacting with anyone else at all. The assumption is: he’s sulking. He’s shy. He’s a teenager. He’s the one island of “harumph” in an ocean of revelry. And then the family gathers around the living room TV and they end up watching a video montage of footage from the family reunion, set to a stereotypical example of heartwarmingly-sentimental music, and it turns out that the kid has been assembling this creation all along. And his grandmother gets all teary. And that’s it for me too. Pass the Kleenex.
 The last scene of the movie “Notting Hill.” Or of the movie “About Time”. Or of the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, or “You’ve Got Mail”, or any of the other eighteen-thousand romantic comedies that have been released in the last quarter-century. Awww! They got together in a quirky way. Pass the Kleenex. Dang it.
 Toward the end of the 2013 Carolina Crown drum corps show, at Finals … you know … the one where the narration about halfway through includes things like, “Two lovers sat on a park bench…” … “There was silence between them … so profound was their love for each other, they needed no words to express it…” … Oh, just go watch the thing, particularly the last five minutes. … “’How much do you love me, John?’ she asked. He answered, ‘My love for you has no limits, no bounds. Everything must have an ending – except my love for you.’ Impossible, you say?” And that doesn’t even get me. It’s the entire last two minutes of the show, when the hornline was playing impossibly loudly and impossibly in-tune and impossibly together, fast rhythms and sustained chords, like no other drum corps brass group I’ve ever heard, before or since. Every single time I watch that show, that sound (set up well by the music that comes before it) gets me.
Pass … the … Kleenex.
Yeah. I tear up at the happy stuff.
P.S. And for those who know what I’m talking about, there are always the “Five for Fighting” and “Feels Like Home” moments that make me glad I’m sitting in the back of a darkened auditorium.