Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

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

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

That Guy

[Ed. Note: This week, I’m not the first one to post something like this, and I suspect I won’t be the last. That’s how incendiary current events have been. So, you’ve probably read tons of these already … and in spite of my policy about giving a certain public figure any more attention, I’m subverting my own directive.

[I just had to get this off my chest.]

 

Regular consumers of the Blogge will note that, well … I’ve been away.

My last post was a week before Thanksgiving, and here it is, moving into the second week of December. C’mon fella, get with it!

This pause has happened before – usually due to schedule craziness or a lack of writing prompts that I think think warrant a thousand words (or two). (I haven’t got that “short form” thing down, exactly.)

This time, yes, the holiday season has kicked in and life has accelerated predictably. But this time, no, no lack of topics – certainly for this news hound. Things are blowing up, and people are getting shot, and politicians are saying THE DUMBEST things imaginable, and you’d think that would provide some pretty good blog-cannon fodder.

I’ve been figuring that this month-long spasm of news events simply had to die down; then I’d collect a few quotes together, link up a few seemingly unrelated current events details, and voila! Blog post full of incisive commentary and large-arc storytelling.

But this spasm just hasn’t died down.

Most of the last month has featured a steady crescendo of bullets and bombs and boorishness.

I could have written about terror plots and terrified people. I could have written about gun-manufacturer lobbyists’ stranglehold on politicians – politicians who otherwise, freer of campaign money’s grip, might access a little common sense, try to deal with our uniquely American problem with lack of gun control, and become statesmen (and -women). I could have written about the struggles of a particular pro football team I follow. Heck, I could have written about the breathless countdown to the release of, oh, some little movie whose name escapes me at the moment.

Instead?

I have to write about THAT GUY.

And I’m sorry if I lose you, after you read this essay. It’s possible I may say a thing or two that causes some folks to decide not to come back and read here again. I’m truly sorry if that happens. I don’t want to drive people away. I’m a blogger, for heaven’s sake! It’s not in my best interests to drive readership down.

But I gotta get this off my chest. It’s not the newest thought, but in the last 48 hours it has risen, like food that disagrees with me.

One reason I haven’t written in this space in a while is that every damn day, there’s another burst of stupidity, vulgarity, mean-ness, tin-ear-ness, or outright egomania from THAT GUY. The guy who has caused the Republican party establishment to fall on its fainting couch, wondering how ever their Presidential candidate nomination process could have been hijacked by this, this, this horrible man full of awful ideas and awful ways of expressing them.

[Never mind that this political party has advanced other candidates who say their own awful things in their own awful ways … and has been working up to this state of affairs slowly over the course of several decades. But that’s a topic for another time. In any case, I have friends who are conservatives who would want very little to do with the people who attend Republican debates and cheer boorishly and reflexively for some of the awful sentiments that the current crop of candidates advance. A few of those friends attend my very church, and I routinely have wonderful conversations with them, and lots of laughs besides. There’s a difference between “people with a conservative bent” and the current Republican party loyalist types. I’ve met that difference head-on … and I prefer the former, in a landslide.]

But I’m not writing about the other stupid, vulgar, mean, tin-ear-laden, egomaniacal people running for President from that party. Today, at least.

I’m writing about THAT GUY, who is all of those adjectives in one horrible package.

When I was a kid, any Presidential candidate who, while announcing their candidacy, had labeled a large segment of some other country’s population as rapists … would set a world indoor record for shortest political campaign.

Also, if they had labeled a sitting United States senator as being weak or “a loser” because during that Senator’s military career he’d been captured by the enemy, held for years and tortured outright … they would have been booed out of the room, and also asked serious hard questions by any journalists who had mouths. Not that they’d still be a candidate, but, well, supposing they were.

In addition, if they had whined about being asked “unfair” questions by a debate moderator, and then gone on to suggest that the moderator had treated them unfairly because it was that time of the month, there would have been hell to pay from the Cronkites and Rathers and Chancellors and Brinkleys of the media world.

As well, if while questioning the credibility of one of the reporters covering their campaign, they had physically and verbally mimicked the neurological disease that the reporter suffered from, they would have been disqualified from running for any office ever again. Their last name might have become the code word, the euphemistic verb for “said or did something toxically stupid.”

Throughout the Presidential campaign of THAT GUY, I have done my best to avoid giving THAT GUY any more attention or air time than I think he deserves. I’ve largely succeeded. So often I’ve kept from commenting because I thought he was merely a joke, a circus act … a sideshow that muscled his way out front. I thought he was a blowhard of a carnival barker whose inflated self-image rivaled the MetLife blimp and would, no doubt, at some point cause him to go up in flames not unlike a certain other blimp whose name ended in “-burg” and which came down in a New Jersey town not far from THAT GUY’s home.

But in spite of his frankly unbelievable string of frankly awful utterances, these past few months … he hasn’t gone up in flames. He’s gone up in the polls.

A couple of months ago, I wondered if there really was anything THAT GUY could say that would torpedo his campaign – as every time he said something that was more off-the-wall than the previous thing he’d said, it seemed not to end his political career (as it should have).

In even a semi-rational world, this, from the November 21, 2015 New York Times, would have been it:

Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others.

The daylong furor capped a week of one-upmanship among Republican presidential candidates as to who could sound toughest about preventing terrorism after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. Polls show the national mood has soured on accepting refugees from Syria amid concerns about potential terrorist attacks within the United States.

Mr. Trump’s talk of a national database of Muslims, first in an interview published on Thursday by Yahoo News and later in an exchange with an NBC News reporter, seemed the culmination of months of heated debate about illegal immigration as an urgent danger to Americans’ personal safety.

It came as Mr. Trump has regained some momentum in the Republican presidential race, with polls showing his support on the rise nationally since the Paris attacks, and Ben Carson’s on the decline.

By Friday, though, he appeared to pull back slightly from the idea. … Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims. …

In the Yahoo interview on Thursday, which came on the heels of his calls to close some mosques and carefully monitor others, Mr. Trump suggested, with few specifics, that he would impose new measures to deal with terrorism.

‘We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,’ he said. ‘And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.’

Asked by the Yahoo reporter about the possibility of a database for Muslims or ‘a form of special identification that noted their religion,’ Mr. Trump did not reject either idea. Later that day, as Mr. Trump left a campaign event in Iowa, an NBC reporter followed up. Asked if he would set up a database to track Muslims, Mr. Trump replied, ‘I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.’ …

And when the NBC reporter approached Mr. Trump a second time and asked about the difference between registering Muslims and what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump grew impatient: ‘You tell me,’ he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks took hours to circulate widely over social media. But his seemingly serious consideration for the idea of treating an entire religious group with suspicion created the risk of a new set of problems for a Republican Party already struggling to appeal beyond its largely white political base.”

THAT GUY is proposing government-sponsored discrimination.

(How he got there, in the time since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month: asked about counter-terrorism policies, first he proposed “shutting down the mosques”. Then … tracking (and registering) Muslims in the United States. Later … banning Muslims from entering the US. And most recently … banning Muslims – even those who are American citizens and live here – from re-entering the US if they should leave. I wonder … does that include Americans who happen to be Muslims and who are loyal members of our own military?)

Driving to work yesterday morning, I listened to the audio podcast of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC news show. She interviewed veteran NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel on the subject. Engel is a gentleman who knows a little something about the world. He’s done more on-air reports with background sounds of gunfire than I care to count.

He was nothing short of aghast.

RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Joining us now is NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, it’s great to have you here.

RICHARD ENGEL (NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT): What has happened since I last spoke to you? I was in Paris.

MADDOW: You left the country. We broke everything.

ENGEL: I came back and things have gone totally mad. The country is in a panic. There is demagoguery. This is really not the country that I know.

MADDOW: You are somebody who I know because we’re friends, I know that you do not care very much about partisan politics. You’re not a like horse race kind of guy. And I know that you can, you box a lot of that stuff out when you think it’s kinda small ball. But this, this concerns you. This matters.

ENGEL: This is not small ball, actually. It would be interesting to say “oh, this is just fun. This is just more, you know, he’s trying to score a few points.” But the world watches this. The world sees the leading political candidate from one party making these kind of statements and still doing well and having these rallies. And those vox pops you showed where people are saying, “yes, we need to do them. Send them back home” … those are going around the world right now, and people realize: “this person is leading in the polls. That must be what Americans think.” I was today with an ambassador from the Middle East. Today! And we were talking exactly about this subject. And he said, “well, people in our country watch what is going on, and it makes us very concerned.” So from the world perspective, it is absolutely an image, an impression, a black spot on our collective foreign policy and our conscience. And it also just feeds into the ISIS narrative.

Engel was aghast … and I was faintly sick to my stomach. Happily, by the time I got to his interview, I was sitting in my parked car.

Never mind that Engel is right: the mere mention of THAT GUY’s proposed policies – without him even being elected to any office – would inflame the Middle East, would increase the likelihood of ISIS gaining more recruits, would honestly make the United States an embarrassment in the eyes of the rest of the world. There are fast sweeping plains of wrong on display here.

But here are the main reasons why I can’t possibly support THAT GUY … I can’t possibly even watch THAT GUY … during his bid for the Presidency:

THAT GUY is a walking, talking violation of just about every single Starred Thought I’ve ever heard.

[And this isn’t name-calling. This is journalism … the kind that the toothless Washington media will not carry out.]

Donald J. Trump is boorish.

Donald J. Trump is vulgar.

Donald J. Trump is petty.

Donald J. Trump is mean-spirited.

Donald J. Trump is self-absorbed.

Donald J. Trump is misogynistic.

Donald J. Trump is gleefully nasty.

Donald J. Trump is cruel.

Donald J. Trump is dangerous.

 

THAT GUY is obscene.

December 9, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

You’ve heard the news by now.

Another shooting. This time, in a church. This time, in Charleston, SC.

I will admit … I thought we’d “have that conversation” AND maybe even effect some common-sensical change, after Virginia Tech. Or after Tucson. Or after Aurora. Or after Sandy Hook. Dear heaven, particularly after Sandy Hook.

We haven’t.

The optimist in me is nonetheless starting to actively doubt that we’ll do any better following this, which will henceforth be referred to as “Charleston”. When the President talked about this crime, from the Rose Garden the other day, he looked as if he felt much less like the guy in the “HOPE” poster.

What this is, friends, is terrorism.

There are corners of the media world that don’t want to imagine that clean-cut young white men’s awful acts, no matter how awful, are terrorism. Terrorism is what scary brown people do. Not us.

But what else can you call this?

 

Every so often, I am reminded of what kind of brilliant friends I have. Articulate, thoughtful, smart, wise. I am honored to count them among my pack of Lifelongs.

A friend of my youth is now a professor of education at a major Eastern university. I’ve referred to his work before, which is usually in the service of the teaching profession he serves. And, in a real way, what he wrote this morning serves that profession, as well as the wider world that in various ways we’re trying to help achieve perfection.

Long road ahead.

His piece is what I was going to write … only much, much better.

It was posted on Facebook, and my friend’s circle of friends is at least somewhat different from mine, and the visibility of “shared” FB posts are sometimes limited by privacy settings. While we love privacy settings … in this case, Public is better.

And yes, I asked if I could re-post his work. (I’ll talk about intellectual property issues in a day or so.) He agreed. And away we go.

 

He wrote:

A white man who likes to pose with pictures of himself wearing symbols of apartheid era South Africa and colonial Rhodesia, walks into the oldest African American Church in the South and sits down with the weekly Bible study group. He then stands up, pulls out a gun, and slaughters 9 people, including the pastor who is also a South Carolina State Senator. Survivors report that the shooter says “You rape our women. You are taking over our country. You must be stopped.” The attack is clearly an act of racist terrorism as profound as the 1963 Alabama church bombing.

Fox news’ morning show opens its coverage with a running text that calls it “An Attack on Faith” and actually has Elizabeth Hasselback lamenting how “WE” aren’t safe in “OUR” churches. They deny that there is a clear racist component to the attack, and cover themselves by having a black pastor who calls for clergymen to arm themselves.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley issues a statement that “we will never know” what motivates someone to kill people in church – as if the terrorist who did this had not made his motivations abundantly clear. As if the surviving witnesses cannot be taken at their word.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a candidate for the Presidency, downplays the racial factor and talks about how people are out there looking for Christians to kill.

We can’t let them get away with this. The Black Church as an institution has always been a centerpiece of both black lives and the struggle for emancipation. It has been attacked decade after decade politically and violently. What happened in Charleston may be something we thought was left behind with America’s apartheid era, but we cannot allow these filthy apologists to get away with diminishing the vicious racism that is absolutely at the center of Dylann Roof’s monstrous act of terrorism. It is infuriating and obscene.

June 19, 2015 Posted by | current events, news | , , , , , , | Leave a comment