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

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

A Brief Word About False Equivalence

We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides. On many sides.”

 

He said, “on many sides”.

At first, I thought, “great: so in addition to everything else, he’s a both-sider-ist.”

But that’s just what political TV pundits do, to make sure that they still have jobs when next week’s “Meet the Press” air time rolls around. Standard Beltway media-industrial-complex stuff.

Then I focused on the fact that he repeated the phrase “on many sides”.

And yes, often he’ll take a phrase from a prepared statement and repeat it, often incorporating an adverbial modifier to amplify the concept. Gracelessly, but he often does so. Sometimes I chuckle at how obvious it is when he goes off-book like that. He thinks he’s throwing out a riff like some kind of neon jazz improviser.

But this time, he repeated “on many sides. On many sides,” and it wasn’t just graceless faux-oratorial skill.

It was as if to emphasize a belief … or the belief of one of his ghoulish advisors … that it was important to seem to spread the blame around. So that the people who actually egregiously displayed hatred, bigotry, and violence, were let off the hook.

Also so that people who weren’t listening closely thought he was just laying out standard public-figure concern-pablum and wouldn’t pay much attention. But so that people who support this kind of egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, would interpret his remarks to mean tacit support for them.

The man at the top of the United States government is now no longer merely providing cover (via his unstable behavior) for his Cabinet Secretaries and for the current Congressional leadership to advance their increasingly awful initiatives and agendas.

He is now providing cover (in actual prepared statements) for actual, rioting-in-the-streets neo-Nazis.

In 2017.

August 14, 2017 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment