Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Damn It, Al

He had a wickedly spot-on Johnny Carson impersonation, among others, and his acting skills might arguably be termed “towering”. One of my favorite YouTube videos has been the episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” in which he was charming and illuminating.

If you asked me, “do you admire Kevin Spacey?” I would say, “yeah, I guess I do.”

He has been accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Kevin.

He was probably the first actor whose skills I recognized as great acting, in the first non-animated movie that I ever saw end-to-end that didn’t have spaceships and zap guns in it – the movie “Tootsie”, which had a lot to say about how people are treated solely based on what they look like. A decade later, he had a large hand in making me interested in the Peter Pan story, as he tore into the role of Captain Hook. Far too late in my life, I got “All the President’s Men” out of the local library, watched it, and belatedly understood how much more important he was in that film than his acting partner, some guy named Redford or something.

If you asked me, “do you admire Dustin Hoffman?” I would say, “yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a 1985-TV-movie-set intern of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Dustin.

He became a United States Senator after having a respectable career as a comic performer and writer.  After having been seen exclusively as someone for whom the joke was the thing, he developed a reputation in the halls of government as someone who had a ferocious command of facts and knowledge as they applied to policy decisions and committee-hearing interrogation. For the first several years of his Senate career, he focused firmly on being a statesman and not an entertainer – on being serious and not making jokes.  Only recently has he begun to infuse his Senatorial activity with his remarkable sense of humor.

If you asked me, “do you admire Al Franken?” I would say, “yes, particularly in the last decade.”

He has been accused by a USO-tour entertainment colleague of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Al.

He played a groundbreaking role – for all of that role’s in-the-background, supporting-cast qualities – as an Asian starship helmsman in a 1960s television series heralded for its forward-thinking philosophy about who people are and how they should be seen and treated (in a time when that philosophy was not, um, on full display in this country). He subsequently became an outspoken and effective advocate for the LGBT community, and his Twitter feed was regularly full of wise and witty commentary on current events.

If you asked me, “do you admire George Takei?” I would say, “HELL yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a former actor and male model of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, George.

It’s easy for me to look over at people like Donald Trump, like former Judge Roy Moore, like Harvey Weinstein, who don’t represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate. It’s easy to hurl invective at people who seem to instead espouse a pattern, a history, of awful behavior.

That’s easy.

Especially when they claim in public that they are good, upright, morally and ethically sturdy people, and then allegations arise that challenge those claims.

Fish in a barrel.

It’s something else when people whom I have admired, or might even have liked had I known them personally (based upon nothing but their public persona and public statements, so who knows what you’re really getting, but they seemed like fine humans) … seem not to represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate.

That’s not as easy.

I freely admit: a portion of my otherwise evolved brain is desperate to give the benefit of the doubt to Kevin, and Dustin, and Al, and George … and John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner. Why? Because I had thought they were okay, and I would rather not know that they weren’t. Whether it was a pattern or just a singular moment of misbehavior in their lives.

I mean, nobody’s perfect.

But this whole sexual misconduct thing … especially when it occurs so obviously in the context of men exercising their power over others … even if it’s one single occurrence, that’s one occurrence too many to count as perfection. No – that’s one occurrence too many, period. They were young, they were foolish, they were this, that, the other, all the excuses in the world …

No. They did a horrible thing that any well-adjusted person – any PERSON – should understand is wrong.

My disappointment is not the most important result of all these allegations and revelations and such. At least not on a global scale. My disappointment will not make the front page of the New York Times. There will be no charities established for the support and treatment of my disappointment.

It is, however, an opportunity for me to check in with my ability to be fair.

Bill O’Reilly did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I don’t agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

See? Easy.

Al Franken did what? Can’t be. What a great Senator he’s been for Minnesota, and what an entertaining performer he was on Saturday Night Live, and…

No…:

Al Franken did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I do agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

Not easy.

Life is complicated.

I didn’t want to have to wrestle with yet another complication.

It’s probably good for me, in the long run, if I want to continue to claim I’m a fair-minded and principled person, to go ahead and wrestle with it.

Sexual misconduct is wrong. No matter who’s doing it.

Damn it, Al.

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November 18, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, news | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Isn’t Enough To Be the Guy Who Doesn’t Do That

This morning, my friend Daniel Katz wrote, eloquently:

“… ‘me too’ isn’t just about survivors speaking up. It is about the sheer universality of the experience for women. Every woman. Every woman you know. Every woman you care about. Every woman has experienced either sexual assault or sexual harassment at some time in her life. Possibly a lot more than that. We live in a world where this is a universal experience for women, and even if you already knew that in your mind, the gut punch of seeing it everywhere you look in the context of people you love is supposed to be the wake up call.”

That’s exactly, *exactly* what it was. A gut punch. And another and another. All day yesterday. Post after post.

I was not unaware of the problem … I thought. But I hadn’t taken time to consciously consider that it could be so many people that I knew personally.

Which means I was unaware of the problem. Which means I’m some part of the problem.

And me writing about how I felt like I’d been punched in the gut … is fine, but does it recognize that women who have experienced assault or harassment feel that gut punch, over and over?

I didn’t consciously consider that, yesterday. Which means I’m another part of the problem.

And then, this Tweet from the writer Alexis Benveniste, yesterday:

Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.”

Or, as my friend Daniel continued:

If any woman in your life does not say ‘me too’ it is not because her life has been free from assault or harassment — it is because she is choosing to not share or because our society taught her that her experiences ‘don’t count’ because other women have had it worse. … Our homes, our social spaces, our public spaces, and our workplaces are dumpster fires of men who think they can objectify, commodify, and own women’s bodies without fear of legal, social, or professional consequences. It isn’t enough to be the guy who doesn’t do that. We have to be the guys who see it and demand that other men change.”

Which I thought I was doing, with a blog post or two in the past … writing well-intentioned things that still made the issue about me, to some degree …

From 2014:

“In thinking about this topic, I first wondered if perhaps the people who are most prone to saying hideous things about (or to) and doing hideous things to women … just lacked any previous interactions with strong women that might have caused them to view women differently.”

As if being a “strong woman” (as assessed by someone else) (someone male, natch) means that one is more deserving of basic respect. As if there were a scale of deserving to not-deserving. Um, no. Care to backtrack, Rob?…

What I was thinking of, I believe … was the sheer number of women I have known, throughout my life, that shaped my understanding of how women were just as worthy of respect as men. To put it bluntly, I have indeed known women who either [1] were exceptionally good at whatever they did, [2] had personalities that included the almost cheerful disinclination to take crap from other people, [3] were wonderful, kind and decent people, or [4] all of the above.”

Fine to appreciate these features, but –really? As if, again, there were characteristics beyond Being A Human Female that qualified one for decent treatment. Not the most effective backtracking, there, Rob.

This list would include my mother [and sister, hello?!] … all of my elementary school teachers … friends from high school … people from that summer arts program I have occasionally referred to … people I met in college … numerous professional colleagues …”

Nice. Better still, would this list not include every woman I ever met, and every one I never met?

By 2016, when there was talk — a specific, out-in-the-open monologue in fact — about unsolicited grabbing and such … I hope I got closer to the target. You can be the judge:

“… I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!’.”

It was easy to speak of wonderful people whom I have known, who are deserving of basic human decency because they are themselves humans … in the abstract.

I created that list. (See? All about me, still.)

Yesterday’s torrent of #MeToo posts was very, very concrete.

Those posts made up that list.

And with every new addition to that list, throughout the day, my heart sank further.

Holy hell.

What’s worse than having no idea? Thinking you had enough of an idea, and then finding out that you didn’t, really.

I’m sorry.

There’s a lot of work left to do. I want to try to do it better.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | current events, social media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fear and Loathing, Not Just in Las Vegas

I could’ve been writing for the Blogge, all this time.

Lord knows there’s been plenty to write about, as regards current events and such.

That’s the problem: way too much to write about. Or, more accurately, almost unfathomable outrages coming at me, one after the other, sometimes several in a single day, and who can keep up with that? Exhausting, dispiriting …

As my friends in the software business say: it’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

That. Is. The. Point.

Hurl everything at the American public – from substantive policies that genuinely hurt the vulnerable and benefit the utterly comfortable, to spurious name-calling spasms (the Hamilton flap, “Rocket Man”, the NFL’s kneeling SOBs) that nonetheless shine lights on important issues that we shouldn’t ignore either – and see whether they can withstand such an onslaught.

Throw the crazy at them (us) (We the People) so fast, so high and tight, with such unrelenting tennis-ball-machine-of-doom ferocity that they (we) can’t keep up; so we give up trying, give up paying attention, … and then it’s REALLY a jailbreak. If there are enough of us they can’t catch us all.

I didn’t truly grasp this reality, I don’t think, until this weekend, when I read a Twitter thread–

[Ed. note: this is the 21st century’s newest innovation: long-form Tweeting. Almost as if 140 characters really aren’t enough to express what we have to express. What could we call it? … yes! yes! an ESSAY!]

Ahem. I spotted a thread made up of fifty consecutive Tweets, posted by a University of New Hampshire professor of English named Seth Abramson, which expressed this reality so much better than I think I could have.

So, I shall yield the rest of my time to my learned colleague from Live Free or Die. See what you think.

[Ed. note: I’ve tried to do some clever writerly things that will transform Mr. Abramson’s thoughts from fifty blasts to several essay-form paragraphs.]

 

We need to never again discuss this man with respect to policy – it’s become more than clear in 9 months that he holds no policy positions. So if you support Donald Trump because of any view you claim he holds, I don’t ever want to hear from you again. The man holds no views. There is no position Donald Trump has ever taken that he has not, at some point in the past or present, taken the opposite position to.

We mustn’t ever discuss this man as someone “challenging the system” or any similar bromide. His White House is the most corrupt ever. Not one story of honorable conduct has emerged from this White House. Instead, it’s been lies, deception, corruption, graft, propaganda.

But the most important thing is this: this is the first U.S. president to systematically and willfully terrorize his own populace daily. His changeability is intended to keep us anxious and on guard. In fact, he’s admitted publicly, many times, that this is a tactic of his.

His corruption is equally studied: his business model has always been “get away with what you can,” and that’s exactly how he’s governed. He saw that he had a GOP Congress – and knew that his worst-case scenario was not getting re-elected to a job that he never really wanted. That’s why he hasn’t eliminated his conflicts of interest, delivered on his promises, “drained the swamp,” acted as any kind of leader. His presidency is a criminal enterprise designed to enrich his family and give him the attention his father clearly denied him as a kid.

He has no beliefs, no ambitions, no morals, no principles, no guidelines, no plans, no expectations. He simply needs to sow chaos daily. What Trump knows better than most is that America is a chaos machine – you feed it and it spits out attention, headlines, sometimes money.

I want to be very clear here: Donald Trump is a toxic human with a toxic public presence and – worst of all – he wants to poison his people. His reign will go down not just in U.S. history but human history as a reign of uncommon cruelty in the democracies of this millennium. It’s more than [the idea] that he’ll go down in our history as the worst president we’ll ever have – he’ll go down as one of our greatest villains. Benedict Arnold tried to betray America for a prior sovereign – Trump is trying to torture a nation that was good to him his whole life.

Have you noticed a change in your mood since January? I mean a change you can’t seem to escape? Anxiety, anger, fear, confusion, doubt? The most ubiquitous man in your nation is trying to poison you daily – because it gives him power – and no one’s stopping him from doing it. If you’ve seen a dramatic change lately in your personality, home life, belief in the nation you love – please know that you’re not alone. I’m not using hyperbole: you’re under attack. A deliberate, unprovoked, systematic, and – yes – evil attack. And it’s working. We’re losing.

When humans are [1] endangered, [2] confused and [3] hopeless, there are certain things we turn to – all of which Trump is deliberately stealing away.

Our fight or flight instinct – which Trump activates – can be quelled if we’re given respite, which is why Trump ensures [that] we have no respite. That’s why his tweets – which are intended to terrorize, and do – come in a daily barrage of needless conflict, warmongering, and cruelty. He must never stop tweeting, because his tweets now activate our culture in a way so inescapable that we’re almost like his prisoners. You think he’s attacking North Korea in his tweets? No – he’s trying to terrorize you. The NFL? You. Segments of America? No – all of us.

When humans are confused, we seek the stability of truth, trusted institutions, neighbors. He’s destroying those anchors systematically. “Fake news” isn’t about getting re-elected – it’s about controlling your fight-or-flight instinct by giving you no safe harbor in “truth.” Every institution we like or trust, he’s undermined. The media. Government. Unions. Hell – even the NFL. Veterans (when he feels like it). He’s enabled by the GOP – but he’s no Republican. He wants to destroy any politics or politician whose world he’s not at the center of. He’s a malignant narcissist, and his only ambition is to spread his toxicity nationwide in whichever ways feed his perverse pathology.

FIf you’re a Trump voter, by all means laugh it up. You’ll be caught in wars, recessions, and international collapse like the rest of us. He has 35% support because Americans love to be right/see fools suffer – and Trump voters think they’re on the right side of the equation. Time will show that we were all the fools – and whatever temporary satisfaction the Right got from annoying the Left wasn’t worth America.

Because the last thing – of the three I mentioned – [which] humans look for in a crisis is hope, and he’s systematically taking that away as well.

We don’t have hope [that] future elections will be fair. We don’t have hope [that] our government is working in our interests. We don’t have hope [that] we can trust and love our neighbors and they’ll trust and love us back. And we don’t have hope [that] things will start to make sense again.

Trump has declared war on America – crafting his own brand of “American carnage” – and some groups have felt the pain quicker than others. But only a fool fails to see that the pain and suffering that comes from having a madman as a leader is soon coming for every one of us.

Things are going to get very bad. And many fools will say, “Well – that’s America.” And America is deeply flawed. But we weren’t this. One in every few generations in the West, a leader arises so vile that he can draw out the evil from his population and weaponize it. Trump is not Hitler. There was only one Hitler. But Trump is the sort of Hitler that America in 2017 – at its very worst – can breed.

Everything evil a man can do to a country like this, at a time like this, in a span of four or eight years, Donald Trump will try to do. He’ll try to make the vulnerable live in fear. He’ll position himself as unreviewable by the media and government. He’ll sow confusion. And when his crimes are uncovered – and he’s been a villain and criminal his whole adult life – he’ll try to stoke violence to save himself.

Trump is the most dangerous American of all our lifetimes – he’s so dangerous we can’t fully apprehend the danger or how to respond to it. He’s everything people say – a pathological liar; a corrupt politician; a serial sexual assailant; and, yes, a traitor – but he’s also more. He’s an actually evil presence that hangs over your life – and the life of a nation you love – every single day. And he may be unstoppable.

Is there any reason to trust future election results – now that we know Russia is hacking/interfering and Trump’s doing zero to stop it? And is there any reason to think the damage Trump has done to our political system can be solved in just a single American generation? And as he plunges us deeper into our Longest War and tries to start World War III in Asia, can we be certain lasting doom isn’t ahead?

My point: there is only one fight in America today that matters, because all other fights are ultimately a direct corollary to this one. If we want to save ourselves – and our country – Trump must be legally, peacefully and transparently removed from a position of power. ASAP.

P.S. It’s OK to finally indulge the idea that everything is as bad as you think it is if hitting rock-bottom gives you the courage to FIGHT.

 

#resist

#remove

September 25, 2017 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment