Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Tiny Conundrum

Regular readers of this blog … are to be commended.

Recently, you’ve had to pay serious attention in order not to miss the very rare flashes of activity.

This calendar year so far, I’ve posted, on average, once a month.

This is far less than the previous rates of writing.

On top of that, while lately it’s been just about once a month, there’s a gap of exactly four months between posts, back in the spring.

So, the average doesn’t quite tell the story.

I’ve been away, seemingly.

 

Well, no. I haven’t. I’ve been right here. And very very often, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, I’ve been ready to write.

And I’ve taken my hands off the keyboard.

If you’ve read the Editorial License blog in the last three years at least, but especially since June 2015, you know that I marinate in politics. I keep up with the news. There are plenty of people in this country who, for various sometimes legitimate reasons, don’t follow the workings of the government well enough to know who the Secretary of Commerce is, or how the 25th Amendment works. They’re working multiple jobs, they’ve got kids, they’re keeping their heads above water.

But I follow, and I know. I make it a point to follow, and know.

Which sounds pretty arrogant, or at least very very confident. But here, “I make the effort” doesn’t automatically lead to “…and you don’t”. My goal is not to be self-inflating. Current events happen to be an interest of mine — and has been since it was part of sixth-grade social studies class.

There have been good reasons to keep up with the news, and to know who’s who and what they stand for and what policies they support, and even how they behave.

Through all the waves of legitimate news stories about legitimately awful or corrupt or mean behavior perpetrated by the federal government in the last couple of years or so, there has of course been one guy … That Guy … who is known by everybody, who is commented upon or joked about or railed against by everybody.

That Guy, the person currently occupying the Oval Office, is of course that guy.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, I worked hard to make sure people knew who That Guy was, why I didn’t care for him in the slightest, and why you shouldn’t either. In the first few months of his occupation of the Oval Office, I kept after him. It wasn’t just your average case of executive branch mischief; I felt like it was important to highlight his behaviors, actions, and beliefs which directly contradicted the patterns of proper and decent and humane behavior, action, and belief that my parents and teachers taught me, and which I (and my friends who became teachers) have turned around and tried to instill in the students we were lucky enough to have in our classrooms.

 

I didn’t want to suffer news fatigue.

For all this time, I’ve suggested to people that one single individual can’t possibly keep track of all the news; can’t possibly be the point person for activism against all the wrongs. There are lots of people in the world; there’s a history of division of labor in our civilization; so let’s take advantage of that. Pass the baton; catch your breath; get ready to take the baton back when it comes around again.

Equally, it’s important to step away from anything, occasionally. It’s a great reason for the existence of vacations. It’s the purpose of sleep — because none of us can go full-tilt, 24/7, all the time.

Actually I don’t think I’ve suffered news fatigue: yes, the news is fatiguing.  But I continue to keep up with current events, and grind my teeth firmly about every new piece of stupid, arrogant, cruel behavior that emerges from our current version of the Executive Branch. I download my political podcasts and listen to them all the way through. I engage in conversation with anyone who also seems interested in discussing the news of the day.

So why haven’t I written about it all here at the rate that I used to? I may have fallen victim to the “frog in boiling water” effect. There is SO much going on, so many things to keep track of, so many examples of terrible corruption and awful behavior and inhumane policies … that it’s only the really seriously over-the-top egregious ones that cause me to leap to the blog and write. Children in cages, as an example. #Metoo, for another.

So with regard to all the important issues of the day, I suppose I’ve not got much of an excuse. Just at the moment, as a straight middle-class Christian white guy, I live every day in an environment of the kind of privilege that allows me to check out. Not many of my rights are in immediate jeopardy. The various demographics of whom I am a member allow me the privilege of stepping back, exhaling heavily, and contemplating my toes for an afternoon, or a day, or longer … before gathering myself and hurling myself back into the fray.

But specifically as regards That Guy, the fellow currently occupying the West Wing? For the last year or so, I certainly could have leapt to the keyboard and blogged, vociferously, about each of the four or five latest outrages perpetrated by That Guy. I detest just about every single thing about him. Hate is a strong word, and I’m going to work really hard to reserve it for things that really rate it. But it’s been a rare thing for me to come upon a human being about whom I can find nothing to admire, and everything to loathe. So congratulations, Toddler-in-Chief, Orange Muppet Hitler, Vulgar Talking Yam, Cadet Bone Spurs … I guess you’re the best in one category, after all.

But — and I didn’t say this to myself consciously, but looking back, it was definitely the case — I haven’t felt like constantly, weekly, even daily, railing against That Guy in this space.  And I could have.  There’s lots of raw material; lots of fodder for this particular cannon.  After a year of the campaign and a year of this hideous Administration, it’s not so much a case of “what more is there to say?” because there’s ALWAYS something more to point to and say, kids, don’t be like that.  It’s more a case of “do I want to flog my readers with yet another rant about Cheeto Mussolini?”

The solution might have been, “well, write about happy things instead. Make the blog into a respite from the stupid.” Again, subconsciously, I was recognizing that this would’ve come off as either willfully turning away from the flood of awful, when enough of our institutions and our mores had been under assault and really deserved propping up, and why would I not write about THAT instead of about unicorns and rainbows?

So. A tiny conundrum.

 

A blog doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or, ideally, it shouldn’t. There are readers — there are subscribers who actually aren’t Russian bots! — to consider, and to respect.

At least they’re not paying readers and subscribers. Dodged that bullet.

But … do I flood my readers with unPresidential rants and tire them out and drive them away? Do I write about subjects that, in the current climate, seem trivial and unimportant? Or do I restrain myself, write far less, and cause my readers to drift away?

I appear to have chosen Option 3. If you’re reading this now, you are, again, to be commended.

Let me see if I can get back to honoring your commitment to this.

September 25, 2018 Posted by | blogging, current events, government, news, politics, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gloves Comin’ Off

[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.]

June 21, 2016 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s a Battle Outside And It’s Ragin’

So, for most of two weeks now, the government of the most powerful nation on earth has had a sign hanging from its figurative door, reading “Closed We Are”.

Except for a few crucial slivers of the operation, of course. Tiny things like the Amber Alert system, the National Weather Service’s local forecast page (whew!), … and the entire military. Otherwise, we’re locked down tight. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Oh yes, and one other tiny component of the federal government is still safely up and running: the blowhards.

Citizens have posted online about how they are troubled to hear that Congresspeople are still getting paid, when less heralded federal employees are not. It’s a symbol that rings hollow. (And I am deeply sorry that I wrote that last.)

Similar online expressions of anxiety have noted that people like FDA regulators, transportation safety boards, and people who monitor flu season (which starts right about now, by the way) are off the job for reasons totally not of their making. In fact, for reasons they might have trouble even conceiving of.

And then there are the national parks!…

Which might not seem a monumental thing (again, my humble apologies; I don’t know what’s wrong with this keyboard today), compared to some of these other examples. If tourists are inconvenienced when they arrive at national parks from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty, well, it’s an inconvenience. Disappointing to set up a vacation months previously and then have plain ol’ bad luck prevent proper enjoyment of these wonders – but the earth will continue to rotate, probably.

Except for one small matter. As a New York Times article reminded me yesterday, there are livelihoods that depend on the operation of these tourist attractions, beyond those of the actual Park Rangers. There are legions of people in national park “gateway communities” who own, or work at, or supply nearby restaurants and hotels and shops. These people depend upon the success of the national park attractions at peak tourist times – and in the case of several businesses referenced by the Times article, that peak tourism time is right now! – to help them weather the slower winter months, until spring returns with more tourists.

I can draw a parallel, I think, betwixt the federal government and my local professional sports teams. Big ol’ overpaid athletes gonna make their money whether they make the playoffs or not – but the deeper into the playoffs the Bruins or Red Sox go, the more fans will pass near and potentially through the gates of establishments on Causeway Street and in Kenmore Square. And on those occasions when professional sports leagues experience strikes or lockouts – the pro sports equivalent of a government shutdown – who suffers? Not usually the bigshots. Many or most of the players make enough money that they can weather a strike or a lockout, even an extended one. Owners? Dear heaven, no problem there. Many members of Congress already are economically set for life (or are much closer to that condition than I am) before they even take their oaths.

As usual … it’s the little guy who takes it on the chin, who may not be able to make that rent payment, whose business may end up in real trouble – for reasons beyond their control, and often beyond their comprehension. In the case of our current federal freeze, the Times article calls them victims of “political brinksmanship”.

As for the politicos who are living, nay, thriving on that brink: during this government shutdown, the media has relayed a remarkable number of quotes from a remarkable number of politicians, revelatory of a remarkable number of tin ears. Many members of Congress have seemed unaware that they were revealing truths that would inevitably label them as “out of touch with average Americans”. They have exhibited an unawareness of the plight of the little guy – as exemplified by this shutdown, but I think also in a more general sense.

We have sent to Washington, generally speaking (with a few precious exceptions), a pack of people who can’t truly represent us adequately, in part because they manage to betray no concept of what non-millionaires truly have to do to make ends meet. Economically, most of our elected representatives are far removed from the need to worry about making ends meet. For some of them, those ends have never been measurably far apart. If there’s pain in the world, they don’t feel it. In terms of economics – and increasingly, in terms of empathy – we don’t have much of a representative government anymore.

Is it worse if those representatives don’t know what they need to know about their constituents … or is it worse if it turns out that they don’t even care? Or that they care more about pleasing the people who fill their campaign coffers than they care about the people they campaigned to represent? Or … that they care more about an ideology than they care about humans that ain’t them?

I got mine … good luck to you.

More than one embittered columnist has written things along the lines of, “well, we elected these clowns – so we got the government we deserve.” But I’m not convinced that this is exactly accurate. I don’t think we do “deserve” the clowns, no matter how much or how little spare time we may have available to get ourselves educated about political issues. I sure don’t think I do, if I may be so bold as to flex a little self-esteem. And I don’t think my family or friends or neighbors deserve them either. We deserve better, we deserve more responsive, we deserve less self-serving. If you’re gonna be a public servant – and a lot of elected representatives probably think that’s a name for the guy who shambles into their offices and brings them their morning cuppa joe – then Serve The Public.

Because right about now – even without this ridiculous government shutdown – your public needs some improved serving.

As if on cue, this afternoon I received this eMail from the publicity engine of the United States Marine Band:

The following concerts have been canceled due to the government shutdown: Oct. 17 at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Va.; Oct. 19 at Mount Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Del.; and Oct. 20 at the Marine Barracks Annex in Washington, D.C.”

So there’s that, too. Perhaps not as pressing a situation as the people who depend on social security payments or food stamps or other government assistance programs. Only some opportunities for our young people to experience a little culture.

Come, Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call…

 

P.S. Trivia about the “Closed We Are” reference: that was on a handwritten sign, posted on the office door of the Soviet press corps at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, the day after the “Miracle on Ice” American upset of the Soviet national hockey team – the “do you believe in miracles? Yes!!” game. This, according to then-United Press International radio reporter Keith Olbermann.

October 11, 2013 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments