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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Facebook Nazis

Update: As of 11/26/16, my Facebook account has been restored.

Addendum at the end of the post



I’ve been banned from Facebook.

My account has been suspended supposedly for violation of community standards.

My profile is still active, you can still access the page and comment on posts that haven’t been deleted by Facebook. But I myself am locked out.  I can’t post, comment, or access the Facebook messenger system.

 

The community standard I violated is apparently the one where you’re not allowed to criticize actual, no fooling, Nazis.

 

Yes, actual Nazis.

That’s right, I was banned for criticizing an actual Nazi.

This is the post that got me banned:

I don't envy Mike Godwin, his law is getting a hell of a workout

I've got hundreds of angry messages here telling me to stop calling Trump supporters fascists. And I would, except for the part where I keep running into ACTUAL FUCKING NAZIS.

This guy for example. He's upset at my "brand of profanity" (I used the term "ball-gargling" in reference to Sean Hannity. My apologies, but as a retired military officer and professional writer when I see somebody gargling balls I'm required by law to use the technical term. I digress), but sees nothing profane about naming himself after an infamous French collaborator and member of the Waffen SS. Not to mention his "heroes" are literally a list of fascists, fascist murderers who became the actual Nazi party, and white supremacists.

And then there's "Jewry." Just right there, in a sentence, like you know that's something people who aren't Nazis do.

So again, you don't want to be called a Nazi?

Then stop hanging out with actual Nazis. Just stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

Stop hanging out with Nazis. Don't be polite to Nazis. Don't think that the First Amendment means you have to be respectful of Nazis. Don't pretend Nazis have a valid point of view. They're Nazis.

Stop standing next to Nazis.

Stop acting like Nazis.

Stop cheering Nazis.

Stop voting for the people Nazis vote for.

They're fucking NAZIS. You don't have to be polite to them. It's okay to hate them. They're fucking NAZIS.

And for the love of Dread Cthulhu, stop using the word "Jewry."

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Now, nothing I posted violates Facebook’s community standards.

If you plug “Henri Fenet” into Facebook’s search function, you’ll find literally hundreds of neo-Nazis praising the ideology of Nazism on Facebook. Talking about Nazis is okay. Posting comments favorable to Nazis is okay.  Being an actual Nazi is okay with Facebook.

Nor is it use of profanity, in fact, if you type “fuck” into Facebook’s search function, you will literally find tens of thousands of results of that word posted to Facebook, including actual Facebook Communities and Groups that use the word in their titles. For example:

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In fact, those who complained to Facebook about the post, flagged it as “spam” because they couldn’t find an actual violation of Facebook’s community standards – despite the fact that my post is obviously not spam by any definition including Facebook’s.

So Facebook removed the post and then banned me from the platform for the next 24 hours.

The people who do this sort of thing, do so specifically in order to silence people they don’t like, not because they are actually offended. This is targeted harassment specifically designed to suppress people like me.

In my case, I’ve been targeted by certain rabidly obnoxious members of the Science Fiction community and more recently by actual neo-Nazis and Trump supporters. These people spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over my Facebook page and scheming to find ways to have me shut down.

As I noted the last time this happened, unfortunately this is the risk you take when you sign on to Facebook and other social media sites.  You don’t control the platform. Hell, you can’t even talk to the those who run the platform. And the size of it makes any attempt at real-time moderation by the platform managers a complete joke. Neither Facebook nor Twitter has made any real effort to prevent harassment, bullying, or any of the other more unfortunate aspects of social media. And Facebook has made no effort whatsoever to prevent abuse of their system and they’ve made it impossible for the victims to do anything about it. They are in fact complicit and they are very likely to become more so in the future. 

My ban from the platform is the result of Facebook’s lousy architecture, which lets bullies and harassers abuse Facebook’s automated system – a system that was supposedly put in place to make Facebook safer – and I have absolutely no recourse for protest or appeal.

Despite the fact that I personally bring more than 90,000 people to the table on Facebook every single day, the people who profit from the content I create simply don’t care.

If Facebook was serious about their supposed commitment to free speech and the safety of their users, they would take immediate steps to publicly remove those who abuse the system. But not only do they not remove those who abuse the system, they actively protect those abusers and keep them anonymous.

 

I’d like to say that this won’t silence me, or keep me from posting to the community I’ve created on Facebook.

 

But the truth of the matter is that it very well could no matter what my determination might be.

If Facebook allows fascists, Nazis, Sad Puppies, racists, bigots, haters, and other assorted mal-adapted bilge to continue to abuse their system, then it’s likely I’ll be permanently banned from the platform. And I have no control over that – less I choose to knuckle under, raise my arm, and shout Sieg Heil with the raging mob.

Those who know me, know that I am a veteran who fought under the flag of the United States of America for more than 20 years, who fought for what that flag used to represent, can probably guess which way I’ll go.

Given America’s new acceptance of fascism, I suspect platforms like Facebook and Twitter will either have to become more accommodating of actual fascist ideology and less tolerant of people like me, or risk going to the wall themselves – especially given that our new president has made it very clear that he intends to directly control how the media, including social media, reports on his administration.

I guess we’ll find out.


Addendum: Comments on this post are now well over 200. When that happens, if you want to see all of the comments, including those nested under other comments, then you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “load more.” You may have to do this several times. // Jim

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Quacks Like A Duck

 

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
  --Maya Angelou

 

 

I asked social media a question.

If you think Trump and Clinton are the same, ask yourself this: would you honestly be this afraid for the future if Clinton had won?

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Would you have been this afraid if Clinton had won?

Would you?

Really?

It’s a simple question. But hard to answer, because you have to be honest with yourself.

Now by implication that question was addressed to Third Party voters, specifically those who’ve been telling me for the last year how Republicans and Democrats are really no different despite radically divergent platforms and how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are essentially identical in evil.

And so I wondered.

Since the election of Trump, I wondered if those same people who I now see losing their shit in a spectacular fashion would be equally as fearful for the future if Clinton had won instead.

The response from the target audience was about what I expected.

Yes!

Yes we would!

Liberal Jill Stein supporters were certain Clinton would start World War III on her first day in office and Conservative Gary Johnson supporters were convinced Clinton was a corrupt lying dyke and possibly a serial murderer. So yes, went the general consensus, they would have been even more afraid for the future if Clinton had won instead of Trump.

I thought I could maybe get some mileage out of that. An essay. A couple of in-depth Facebook posts, perhaps. Maybe an article for a media column. But there’s really nothing interesting there. Lets see, frightened people who are always frightened for the future are still frightened for the future and would be no matter who was running things? Not exactly a captivating or surprising narrative.

No, instead it was the responses from conservative Trump supporters I found most interesting.

A day after Trump’s election I wrote:

The conservative extremists who will soon control those bodies will not hesitate to force their ideology upon the country. And they will do so without restraint. They’re already gleefully crowing about it and they can’t wait to get their revenge for all the wrongs they believe they have suffered.

It doesn’t take any great clairvoyance to see what’s coming. 

Today every white supremacist, every religious lunatic, every raging gun nut and beer-bellied militiaman, every flag-humping jingoist is cheering.

They have indeed, at last, taken their country back.

In that essay, Bug Hunt, I outlined the Left’s worst fears for a Trump presidency: loss of civil rights, persecution of LGBTQ people, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, isolationism, war, and fascism. 

Now, I admit I was purposely engaged in a bit of worst case hyperbole as a lede.

 

Or was I? 

 

The responses from Trump supporters and conservatives were about what I expected:

- Really? I mean come on. You all are some kind of crazy […] Not all conservatives are racist, homophobic, islamiphobic [sic] monsters. This is offensive people […] Get over yourselves and quit acting like conservatives are about to declare war on you all or something.

- As a conservative with a deep desire for unity, I wanted to share some thoughts […] the reason why I voted the way I did is because of our national security, healthcare turmoil, and sad economic plight. Terrorism is real. I don't know why liberals ignore this. I don't want my African-American, Hispanic, LGBT brother/sister/neighbor (you name it) get thrown off a building because of their sexual orientation or color of their skin. That's happening. I don't want that to happen here in the USA […] I really don't want anyone to die. I really have a true question - do liberals really not worry about this stuff?

- The first half of your post is fear-mongering bullshit, Hillary talking points, and voters know it. If Trump was really going to build a wall, then throw all the Mexicans over it, how did he manage to get nearly 30% of the Latino vote? Your precious lesbian Muslims can relax. He's not rolling back anything.

- Your fears are just blind speculation. Get a grip!

- You are reaping what you sowed. Nothing more. If you are afraid, its because you know you earned it.

- [Y]ou need to drop the ignorant attitude of the liberals that anyone who does not agree with you is 'gun loving, bible toting, pick up driving red neck'. Or in more plain speech: Racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-LGBT.

- Try and protect your Muslim, gay, black, etc friends, from whom?

Really? Come on, Jim! You’re all crazy. We’re not racists. We’re not homophobes. We’re not afraid of Muslims. We’re not going to herd people into camps. We’re not going to build a wall. We’re not gun-toting bible-thumping rednecks! There’s no need to be afraid. We love all Americans. Sure. Between the hundreds of comments here on Stonekettle Station and the associated thousands on social media and via email, conservatives informed me that the fears outlined in Bug Hunt were unwarranted and undeserved.

Trump, they said, will make a deal, he’ll find the middle ground, he’ll unite the country.

And I’d like to believe that.

I would. Honestly. I’d like to believe that Trump’s rhetoric to date was just the kind of things people say during a particularly nasty campaign and now that he’s won he’ll do as Republicans promised and pivot to a more presidential demeanor.

I really would like to believe that. 

I’d love to go the next four years without using or seeing the word “Nazi” or “fascist” associated with the US government even if I don’t agree with how they might be running the country. I honestly would.

But … we’re still waiting for that pivot.

The president elect has spent the last 24 hours raging on Twitter like a snotty 14-year-old who didn’t get picked for the cheerleading squad. Given the chance to go high, Trump has gone low every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

 

And nowhere is this more apparent than in the people Donald Trump is now selecting for his administration.

 

If you think the fears outlined in Bug Hunt were unwarranted, you have only to look at the future Trump administration.

Mike Pence. Rudy Giuliani. Mike Huckabee. Reince Priebus. Steven Bannon. Tom Cotton. Mike Flynn. Jeff Sessions. Mike Pompeo. And a host of conservative cronies dating all the way back to Reagan.

Around the edges are Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and White Nationalists.

Hell, Trump is openly listening to Alex Jones.

Conspiracy theorists, the wretched refuse of failed politics, religious nuts, cashiered generals, Washington insiders, and the oily gray foamy fringe of congress. You’d be hard pressed to assemble a more homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, jingoistic group of science denying fanatical nationalists if you tried. We’re on our way back to being a nation of torture, rendition, and warrantless wiretaps. Out in the streets the racists are enthusiastically chanting hate and intolerance. Swastikas and anti-Semitic  slogans are being painted on homes and businesses. Politicians and law enforcement are talking unabashedly about Internment camps and Muslim registries and rounding up immigrants.  A Washington State lawmaker is right now promoting legislation that would charge political and environmental protestors with “economic terrorism” – and if you don’t understand why designating US citizens as terrorists in post-911 America is goddamned chilling, then you haven’t been paying attention these last 15 years.

I mean, if you’re not a racist, if you’re not a homophobe, if you’re not an anti-Semite and an Islamophobe, if you’re not a misogynist, then what in the hell are you doing standing with these people?

And it’s not like the new administration is taking action to stop this trend.

Two days ago, Vice President Elect Mike Pence was booed at a Broadway presentation of Hamilton.

The cast of that show, many people of color, LGBT, admonished the crowd to stop. Then they politely and respectfully addressed their fears of the coming Trump Administration directly to Pence at the end of the show.

Mike Pence could have addressed the audience then.

Right then.

Sincere or not, the new Vice President of the United States of America could have assured the nation, those most afraid right now, that the new administration would be a government for all Americans. He could have assured us that this president would work to protect the rights of all citizens, all people, black and white, gay and straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist. All of us.

He could have turned that moment into a triumph of reconciliation.

Oh yes, he could have.

Pence is an accomplished politician. A man comfortable in front of crowds. A man used to speaking on matters of state and government. He could have taken that opportunity to reassure the nation – even if he didn’t mean it the same way you and I might.

But he didn’t.

He didn’t because he doesn’t believe it.

Because he knows those fears are justified, because he himself is an architect of that fear. 

The new president himself could have taken this opportunity to do the same, to demonstrate that he is a leader for all people and not just the racists and bigots and the haters right now cheering his name.

Instead Trump took to social media and attacked those who spoke up.

And that tells you everything you need to know.

 

The world has been here before.

 

The lessons of history are clear.

America, indeed the world, has every reason to fear and absolutely no reason not to.

If you’re not speaking up

If you’re not speaking out

If you’re not standing against this madness

Then you are a goddamned fool.

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.
-- Martin Niemöller

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day 2016

I just don’t have the time or the energy today to crank out another essay.  As such, I’m going to recycle last year’s post and go take a nap. Enjoy your day // JW


 

The […] novel sucked. Even when I liked [the author] I saw right through that Rah Rah Military is Awesome bullshit.
  - Facebook Comment

Yesterday, I met a man who despised me.

He called me fascist, murderer, and a dumb blunt tool.

I didn’t take it personally – though a younger me might have.

I didn’t meet him in the flesh, like most of my social interactions these days I encountered him online. He surfaced on a well known author’s Facebook page during a conversation regarding a certain well known classic science fiction novel.

Now, it doesn’t matter which author or which novel or exactly where the conversation took place – though I’m certain a number of folks reading this can figure it out in short order.  The conversation and the novel which inspired it aren’t relevant to this essay, other than as a starting point. Suffice it to say the novel and the reputation of its author is such that fully six decades after it was written it still has the unerring ability to generate violent conflict and powerful emotions. Mention it in any conversation about government and/or military service and the sparks will fly.

It’s one of those books you either love or hate.

Very few who are familiar with the work find middle ground between those poles – including those who haven’t actually read it and are familiar with the writer and the novel only by second-hand heresy (yes, heresy, the book is nearly an article of faith to many) and a terrible Hollywood adaption.

It’s one of those stories where your opinion depends very much on your age and experience, and as such your opinion with regards to the story tends to change and temper over time.

To me, well, that’s what makes it a truly great work.

Love it, hate it, it is a coming of age story and it endures as a lightning rod, as a jumping off point for exploration of the human condition, of government, of service, of duty, of war and conflict, of why we fight and why we should – or should not.

I have read this novel many, many times.

I read it as a teenaged boy before I joined the military. 

I read it again at various points throughout my military career, as an enlisted man and as an officer – and in fact it is required reading for students at a number of military academies. I read it the day the author himself died, and raised a glass in his name, while stationed at a far distant outpost.

I’ve read it a number of times since I hung up my sword. I may, in fact, read it again today.

I don’t know that it influenced my decision to join up. I don’t know that it didn’t. The author, in this work and many others, certainly had some impact on my worldview. I do know that this novel did influence what kind of military man I ultimately became and that there were times, very difficult times, black days, moments when I didn’t know what to do next and lives depended on my decision, when I heard the words of its author whispering in my head, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

The ideals of that book, and the veteran who wrote it, those ideals spoke to me in a very personal way.

And they still do.

As a writer of politics and military subjects, I encounter this book and discussions of its author often and I watch the resulting battles with some amusement. I’ve read hundreds of treatises on this book and its long dead author, detailed analyses from bloggers, columnists, best selling writers, noted scientists of various specialties, politicians, academics, and of course, military professionals.

All, every one, miss one fundamental thing.

And that is this: The reason six decades later this novel still generates love and hate and violent emotion is because the protagonist, a man very much like me, finds a home in the military.

War is his profession and he embraces it willingly and without regret.

And that, that right there, is the novel’s great sin.

That’s the criticism most often leveled at both the book and its author, they are pro war, pro military, and therefore somehow fascist and un-American.

To me this is like saying a fireman, one who runs towards the inferno, who is willing to brave the flames to save others, is somehow pro-arson.

There is no one who knows the terrible cost of war more than a veteran. There are few more anti-war than a combat veteran. Just as there is no one who knows the terrible toll of fire more than those who fight it. And yet, both still serve, because that is who they are.  

It’s okay in our society, at the moment, to love the soldier, to tell the story of war. But it must be done in a certain way. You see, it’s okay to write about war, to set novels among the conflagration and tell tales of glory and honor and sacrifice, so long as those who are caught up in its horror resent their own service. So long as they despise the conflict and the government and the utter ridiculous stupidity which sent them into the meat grinder. It’s okay to tell stories of war and conflict so long as the hero is serving only out of duty and will return to civilian life once the war ends – or die heroically, or tragically, or foolishly, depending on what kind of story you’re telling.

But to tell a story of those who serve when they don’t have to? To write of those who find a home in the military? That is a sin. Those people, you see, they’re the losers. Honor, courage, duty, ethics, the morality of war, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in trace to your country, well, these things are for suckers, wannabe fascists, murderers, dumb blunt tools with nothing better to do.

This is the difference between Full Metal Jacket and The Green Berets.

This, this right here, is the difference between The Forever War and Starship Troopers.

 

This is the difference between the man I met yesterday … and me.

 

Today we honor those who served in peace and in war.

We honor those who came of their own free will and those who came only because they were called.

We honor those who came of age in bloody conflict, those who like me, like the protagonist of that novel, found a life, who found ourselves, in the military. And we honor those who resented every goddamned miserable senseless minute of it.

Today wreaths will be laid. Flags will be raised to the truck and lowered to half-mast and there they’ll fly, cracking in the cold breeze, the symbol we fought and bled and died for, while below words of patriotism, duty, honor, courage, service, and sacrifice will be spoken.

The trumpets will sound their terrible call and the tears will flow – as they are down my face even as I write this.

Because, you see, I remember.

I remember those who trained and led me. I remember those I served alongside. I remember those I trained and led myself. I remember those men and women, every one of them, the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those who still live and serve and fight out there every day in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, those who have hung up their swords, and most of all I remember those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day. 

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.

Perhaps we are nothing more than blunt instruments. Perhaps we are fools. Today I am disinclined to argue the point.

Perhaps we are. Because after the wreaths are laid, and the flags are lowered, and the trumpets sound their final mournful call, then the politicians will return to the same old divisions, the bailout bill, the election, the latest pork barrel project, or how the other party is a bunch of unpatriotic un-American bastards. Tomorrow they’ll remember us not at all – or at best, only as a way to further their own selfish agendas.

The talk show hosts will cry their crocodile tears, and wax self-righteous and angrily demand that their listeners honor veterans. They'll take people to task for not wearing an American Flag pin, or for not having a yellow ribbon on their cars, or for not serving in uniform - all the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none. And tomorrow, as always, they’ll forget all about us and go back to telling Americans to hate each other.

The Great Patriots, those Americans who think love of country is a contest and who wave the flag as if it were the cheap symbol of their favorite football team, are going to drink a lot of cheap beer and discount liquor and pontificate drunkenly at great length about how the country is going to hell in a hand-basket because of that son of a bitch in [insert: Congress, the White House, Wall Street, et cetera here] and how we should be doing better by our “Heroes.” All the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none. And tomorrow, they’ll nurse their sullen hung-over resentment and go back to fearing the men and women they honor today will knock on their door to take away their freedoms and liberties and guns.

Meanwhile today a lot of folks who don't think much about patriotism are going to go to parades and wave little flags and quietly give thanks for those who bought their freedom at such terrible cost. Some will stand ramrod straight even though many can barely stand at all, like me they limp, or they roll, bent but unbroken, they’ll place their hands over their hearts as the American flag passes, and in their eyes you can see horrible memories of Saipan and Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Rhine, the black Ardennes forest, The Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Tet, Al Basrah, Anbar, and Bagram. They won't talk about honoring veterans, they areveterans.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives in the service will raise a flag in their front yard, just as they do every day - and pray that those same loved ones get home alive and whole, just as they do every day.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers who have fallen in the service will visit graveyards, they'll bring fresh flowers, and fresh flags, and fresh tears.

Today, some just won’t give a good goddamn. They'll get a day off from work. They'll picnic, or party, or go boating, or hiking, or to the track. They'll paint the house, or do chores around the yard, they’ll haul trash to the dump if it's open or take the dog for a walk. Or maybe they won't, maybe today will be just like any other day. Kids still go to school, here in Alaska. Teachers still teach. Stores, restaurants, the mills and mines and rigs are still running. And it may be that these people most honor veterans, by simply going on with their lives, by livingwithout having to remember the dead on some far distant battlefield, without having to worry about their security, without having to thank anybody.

And today, some will protest. Protest war, the military, the government. They'll use this day to burn the flag, they’ll take to Facebook and Twitter to call us fascists and murderers and dumb blunt tools. They’ll use this day to march and to demonstrate and it may be that these people are paying the highest compliment to veterans – even though that is the least of their intentions. Because, you see, it was veterans who bought them their right to despise us.

We are not heroes.

We are not heroes. Most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty, each for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction. 

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, but we should never worship him.

There is no glory in war. It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it. We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight, who would stand rough and ready to do violence in their name. It is a duty, a profession, a job, and a calling that must be done.

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can, and should, strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more. Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

 

I don’t know. I don’t particularly care.

 

You see, I didn’t do it for you.

I didn’t do it for you and you owe me nothing. Neither thanks nor pity.

I’ve said it before, I’ll likely say it again: If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens. Me? I joined the military for myself. To prove something to myself. To be a better citizen.  

I joined for myself, but I stayed for them. For my comrades in arms, for those I served beside, I did it for them. I did it for all the things I found in that novel, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

I did it because like the protagonist of that book, that is my sin, I found a life there among friends.

 

Yesterday I met a man who despised me.

 

But you know what? That, that right there, is what we were doing in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, defending his right to hold us in utter contempt.

Yesterday I met a man who despised me.

He called me and those like me fascist, murderer, dumb blunt tools.

I can live with that.

And I wear his contempt as a badge of honor.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bug Hunt

 Edit: Addendum at the end of the post /JW

 

Private Hudson: Oh dear Lord Jesus, this ain't happening, man! This can't be happening, man! This isn't happening!
-- Aliens, 1986

 

We are lost.

Far from home.

Cut off from help.

Wounded and alone.

Surrounded by terrors.

And it’s going to be a long time before rescue.

We’re going to lose people along the way. We will. There is no doubt. At this point, the best we can hope for is that they go down swinging.

Bleak?

Oh you bet. I don’t think we know just how bleak as yet.

But sugar coating it isn’t going to make the situation any better.

This is our worst nightmare, this is unknown darkness filled with monsters.

We are now facing an unhinged uncouth unrepentant proto-fascist in the White House not only enabled by a willing Congress and a vulnerable Supreme Court, but aided and abetted by a newly emboldened mob made up of bigots and haters of every foul stripe.

Nearly all the checks and balances on our government will shortly be disabled and we are soon to be the target of their vindictive madness.

The situation is so dire in fact that I actually used the word “emboldened” as if the Bush years were now a source of gentle nostalgia and benign inspiration.

But…

Panic will only make things worse.

And howling into the dark won’t frighten away the monsters.

Rage and fear won’t help. Running away won’t save you; there’s nowhere on the planet that won’t feel the effects of what is about to come.

As the man said, we’re in some real pretty shit now, aren’t we?

 

Private Hudson: Hey, maybe you haven't been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!

 

We did. We got our asses kicked.

We’re standing in the wreckage, the smell of charred meat and burning fuel in our nostrils, and night is coming.

The White House. The Senate. The House of Representatives. And very shortly, the Supreme Court.  All are lost.

The conservative extremists who will soon control those bodies will not hesitate to force their ideology upon the country. And they will do so without restraint. They’re already gleefully crowing about it and they can’t wait to get their revenge for all the wrongs they believe they have suffered.

It doesn’t take any great clairvoyance to see what’s coming. 

We are going to lose our healthcare. Who lives and who dies will once again be decided by faceless insurance adjusters and for-profit medicine and your employer. And the priests, of course. Always the priests.

LGBTQ people will likely lose everything, including their freedom and their very lives. The best they can hope for is a fearful return to the closet, the worst is written into every history of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Women should get used to the idea that they will shortly become property of the state. And the Priests, of course.  Their choice will soon be forfeit – or in the charming vernacular of our new president, their pussies are now up for grabs.

The rich will now get richer and not one penny of that will ever trickle down to you. The idea that handing out yet more tax breaks to the wealthy will somehow translate into good jobs and a restored middle class is nothing but delusion of the most ludicrous persuasion, but that’s what’s coming.

Our new leader has promised he’ll bring jobs back to America. What jobs? Slave wage labor in the long vanished textile industry? Maybe not every American wants to be a maid cleaning toilets 80 hours a week in a Trump resort for whatever pocket change the Wealthy tenants leave behind once the minimum wage has been eliminated along with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Out in the factories, will President Trump rip out the automation and advanced manufacturing processes and put the proletariat to work making iPhones and Volkswagens with their hands? Or will each of us be handed a shovel and marched to the southern border to build a wall for America, for Freedom, for the Fatherland?

Undesirables will be shortly rounded up. Conservatives have spent the last eight years pissing themselves over fever dreams of concentration camps and reeducation centers manufactured whole cloth by the likes of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. Now they cheer the idea of Trump rounding up Muslims and Mexicans and putting them into camps for “humane” disposal. Best have your papers in order, especially if your skin tends to the darker end of the human spectrum – especially since Trump has declared his intention to clear out the ghettos and inner cities.

And, of course, he has promised us a great war of conquest and riches, where our enemies will be vanquished or converted, and our soldiers can earn themselves glory under the Eagles of the Legion while the world trembles and bows down before our might. Remember to tell your children to come home with their shields or carried upon them as true patriots.

And that is just the start, the dark clouds on the horizon before the storm.

Today every white supremacist, every religious lunatic, every raging gun nut and beer-bellied militiaman, every flag-humping jingoist is cheering.

They have indeed, at last, taken their country back.

All their dreams are coming true.

 

Private Hudson: Well, that's great. That's just fuckin' great, man! Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We're in some real pretty shit now, man!
Corporal Hicks: Are you finished?
Newt: I guess we're not gonna be leaving now, right?
Ripley: I'm sorry, Newt.
Newt: You don't have to be sorry. It wasn't your fault.
Hudson: That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?!
Burke: Maybe we can build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?
Newt: We'd better get back 'cause it'll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly.

 

There are more than a thousand messages in my inbox this morning.

All of them ask the same question: How could this happen?

How could this happen?

How?

How could they have been so wrong?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

Historians, pundits, political scientists, citizens, all of us, we’re going to be debating this election for a very long time.

Somewhere in the future, there’ll be a pitched battle among Wikipedia editors regarding the precise wording of how we ended up here. Citation needed! Citation needed!

Experts and the ignorant alike will debate economic factors and the demographics of fear and hate fueled by the media, the worthiness of the respective candidates, the fundamental difference between urban and rural populations, the growing (or lessening) influence of religion, black turnout, the Latino vote, women who vote against their own interests, the perennial angry white male, energy, immigration, terrorism, and of course sex and email and the chicanery of the FBI.

At the moment and for the foreseeable future, a whole bunch of experts who expertly predicted in their expert opinions based on their expert polls why Hillary Clinton would most certainly win, are expertly telling you why they were expertly correct even though it turned out they were utterly and thoroughly wrong and why you should trust their expert expertise on this matter.

But the simple answer is that there is no simple answer.

No single cause.

Not exactly.

Except maybe there is.

Let me show you something:

image

 

That’s how the country voted this time around. Red for Trump, blue for Clinton, broken down by county.

What do you see?

Look carefully.

Look carefully and think it through. What do you see?

The population is not distributed evenly, of course, nor is is it uniform. The population density is higher at the coasts and in the cities. Urban areas tend be more liberal, rural more conservative. The South is more religious than the North and therefore more conservative. The Southwest and Pacific North West tend to higher concentrations of sovereign citizens and anti-government militias. Union manufacturing tends to the North East, non-Union to the South. Agriculture and ranching are the Midwest and the Great Plains. Immigrants settle around the edges or in specific urban areas. Florida has a high concentration of older white retired people dependent on Social Security and Medicare and small retirements. The West Coast tends more liberal than the East – but voting begins in the East and travels west in real-time and that matters in a world of instant broadband communications. And etc. Etc. Etc.

There is far more to that map than just red and blue.

So, what do you see?

Compare that map to this one:

 

image
That’s 2008 when Barack Obama beat John McCain.

A lot more blue, right?

Or is it?

A lot more blue in Michigan and Wisconsin, in New England … but not really anywhere else.  The breakdowns in California and the Pacific North West, the Southwest, Texas, Florida, the Old South, are all essentially the same.

Look at this:

image

 

That’s 2012, Obama and Mitt Romney.

What do you see?

Look at the aggregate, 2008 to 2016. Eight years, three presidential elections, two elections for Congress – the first of which turned the House red and the second which did the same for the Senate.

What do you see?

You see a lot of red, don’t you?

But what does that mean?

What does it mean, really?

Does it mean the majority of the country is overwhelmingly conservative?

No.

Because you’re only looking at two dimensions. You’re not seeing depth, you’re not seeing all those things I mentioned up above.

Any political scientist will tell you that right out of the gate.

 

And that, right there, is their mistake.

 

You see, while liberals and conservatives make up roughly equal percentages of the population, the majority of the map is conservative.

The majority of the map.

Look at it. You can see it for yourself. That’s a lot of red.

And it matters, because our system of selecting a president was designed to be, or eventually evolved into, a hybrid of both state (or political party) based processes and direct democracy. 

Thus, the Electoral College.

The states (and the District of Columbia) put forward Electors and those electors select the president and vice president based (more or less) on the popular vote. However the important note here is this: “popular vote” is at the state level, not the national level. Which is why this year Clinton won the popular vote but Trump won the Electoral College.

Now, nobody likes the Electoral College – especially if their team loses.

But it was put in place for very good reasons (reasons that should be required in testable detail in every high school and college in this country, but are often never even discussed. I digress). Chief among those concerns were because without such a system, a) large states (population wise) would always control every election, and b) because direct democracy becomes tyranny of the majority in short order.

Now, we can argue the merits of the Electoral College until Trump ships us all off to the camps, but as I have repeatedly said to you: pragmatically, this is the system we have right now.

This is the system we have right now.

I’m not telling you anything you shouldn’t know already and nobody knows this stuff more than professional political organizations. Every Republican and Democratic and Third Party political machine looks at that map in multiple dimensions. They crunch the numbers. They spend millions to build complex mathematical models based on demographics and ground sampling and polls and history and guesswork. Then they design strategies to woo both voters and electors though a complex organic network of evolving political organizations and information systems. And even then, it’s mostly just guesswork and general case tactics because it’s impossible to tailor such a massive and hideously complex undertaking below a certain level of granularity. Even in the most well funded campaign, there are only so many assets to go around, so attention is focused on swing/battleground states specifically because you need those electors to win.

It doesn’t take much, as those maps up above demonstrate. A little more blue, and little more red, not much, and the election swings.

It’s easy to get lost in the details, almost impossible not to – especially if this is your job.

We could spend another million words talking about this, and you can bet millions of words will be devoted to exactly that over the next few years.

 

The first thing you learn as an intelligence officer is this: statistics aren’t reality.

 

Systems, strategies, polls, those aren’t people.

And that’s what that map is, you know. People.

That’s what the map is showing you. People. Attitudes. Outlooks. Ways of life. History. Religion. People.

Much has been made of the difference in campaigns. Clinton was well organized. Well prepared. Focused. Strategized. Polished. Experienced. Trump was a mess. Crude. Disorganized. Vague. Off-topic half the time. Supported by Neo-Nazis and the KKK.

But the thing is, those little red squares are full of Americans who don’t see themselves as haters or bigots, racists or misogynists. Rather they see themselves as the heartland of America, because they are.  They see themselves as the ones who feed the world and keep the wheels turning, who love their God and their children and their country and their way of life. If you drive through those red areas on the map as I did last month and you listen to the radio, to the endless sermons of fire and divine wrath, to the Good Ol’ Country Boys singing about flags and trucks and guns, to the endless conspiracy theories of doom and betrayal from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, you start to get an idea of why they voted for Donald Trump. I mean, somebody is listening to those broadcasts or they wouldn’t be so damned popular or so many. 

It wasn’t the email. Or Benghazi. Or any of the myriad debunked conspiracy theories.

Or rather, it wasn’t just that.

Clinton’s professionalism, her ground game, her polish, her experience, even her pantsuits, all worked against her here.

 

clip_image001


It was most certainly the Democratic Party’s fault, but not because they didn’t select Bernie Sanders.

Because if you think for one minute some aging hippy intellectual, a declared socialist, from one of those liberal New England states would have fared any better in those red areas on the map with his talk of free college and windmills, you haven’t been paying attention.  And all those hardcore third party voters who wrote in Bernie or blackened the circle for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson simply gave the Electors that much more margin to throw in with Trump.

clip_image001[8]

Now before you get all pissed off, I’m not blaming Bernie supporters or third party voters for how things turned out and as I have said many times previously, you each have the inalienable right to vote your franchise as your conscience dictates.

And you, like the rest of us now, will now have to live with the consequences of it – though I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that those consequences don’t apply to all equally and some are going to pay horribly more than others. 

I digress.

My point here is this: Third party voters didn’t cost the democrats this election.

Neither did the media, though it certainly didn’t help matters much. And if the press is to remain worthy of the protections afforded it in the Constitution as the watchdog of liberty, sooner or later we’re going to have to demand it live up to its responsibilities in a more professional manner or we’re going to have to decide whether those protections are still deserved.

That said, third party candidates – including Bernie – would have fared no better against Trump and probably worse.

No, this race was lost by the political parties.

It was lost by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, both of which looked at that map and saw little squares full of numbers instead of people.

The Republicans ended up with Trump because after 30 years of increasingly strident religion-fueled lunacy, after a full eight years of conspiracy theories and obstructionism and childish histrionics, they were unable to produce anything better. They were hoisted on their own ridiculous petard.

More than anything, Republicans ended up with Trump because they could not compromise, they could not bend their sacred principles.

The Democrats ended up with Trump for the same reason.

Look at that map again.

What do you see? 

Walk it back for the last 30 years. The blobs of red and blue move a little bit, growing, shrinking, but the overall values change very little – particularly if you adjust for population growth and migration.

What’s that tell you?

Democrats – liberals and progressives – are just as inflexible and just as lousy at reaching out to the other side as Republicans are. 

You and I laugh when the GOP declares with all seriousness that they are reaching out to minorities of color. To women. To the LGBT community. To immigrants. We laugh, and rightly so, because it’s ridiculous.

But if you look at that map, you’ll see Democrats – or third parties – aren’t any better at reaching out to rednecks and evangelicals and all those people who listen to those radio stations I mentioned up above.

 

That’s why Hillary Clinton lost.

 

Abortion. Trade. Immigrants. Terrorism. Guns. Jobs. Same sex marriage.

All of these things are aspects of the same division: those who embrace change and those who fear it.

Clinton, as Bernie Sanders supporters are wont to point out, is an establishment candidate. Staid. Pantsuit. Wall Street. More of the same. She should have been able to bridge that divide, to cross over, far far better than some rich billionaire from New York. But for numerous reasons she couldn’t or didn’t – not even to the degree Obama did in 2008 and 2012 (which as it turned out, was just enough). And again, if you think Bernie Sanders, a guy much further left than Clinton, could have done better with the same demographic, you’re just fooling yourself.

Trump shouldn’t have appealed to any of those in the red zones of that map.

I mean, look at that guy. Billionaire. New Yorker real estate developer. Atlantic City and Las Vegas casino owner. Married to a string of super models. Obnoxious. Uncouth. Foulmouthed.

But it was Trump’s bombastic disorganized campaign – and the man himself – which tapped directly into that fear of change at a visceral level. 

Make America great again, and to the white people in the red zone, that means churches and deer season and homecoming and fences and Little League games, build a wall and keep America for Americans.

That’s why the pundits and political scientists and the pollsters got it all wrong.

Those people, if you call them up on the phone and ask if they are racists, they’ll say no. Because they don’t think they are. Because to them racism is burning crosses and lynching and they aren’t doing any of that. But they don’t want brown people moving into their neighborhoods, because on TV people with dark skin are thugs and rappers and terrorists and not like them. If you ask if they hate Muslims they’ll say no, but they love Jesus and they hate terrorists and the sons of bitches who blew up the World Trade Center, just like their grandparent hated the Japs and the Krauts. They don’t hate Mexicans, they hate people who take their jobs.  They go to a Trump rally and who do they meet? People just like them, people who look just like they do, who own farms and small businesses, who lost their jobs to Mexico and Bangladesh, who are angry that they have to pay taxes to support welfare cheats and moochers, who go to the same kind of church they do and worship the same God. They want America to be great again like it used to be for their grandparents, that golden magical time of the 1950s with jobs and traditional marriages and white picket fences and they don’t want to hear about how that time wasn’t a paradise for everybody.

They don’t want change.

They want it the way it was.

And that’s why Hillary Clinton lost.

 

But that’s also how we fix it.

 

You see, Trump is about to learn the Obama Lesson.

Trump is about to face Obama’s Gitmo.

He’s not going to be able to make good on his campaign promises.

Not all of them. Not the ones which matter most to his supporters. 

No, he’s not.

Trump is not going to build a wall.

It wouldn’t work. We can’t afford it. Mexico isn’t going to pay for it. And if you look at the practical aspects alone, it’ll take longer than Trump’s next four years in office just to do the site surveys and the engineering assessment and the various feasibility studies and decide on preliminary designs, let alone find the money for those things and bid the contracts. Trump is used to spending his investors’ money, but the government doesn’t work that way as he is about to learn.

He’s going to most certainly repeal Obamacare.

That’s inevitable at this point. If he doesn’t, his supporters will burn Trump Tower to the ground. But see, his promise was to replace it with something better. Think about what that’s going to take. Think about what it’s going to take to repeal the ACA and replace it with something better. Republicans have been threatening to repeal the ACA for seven years. You know why they haven’t? Because they know what happens should they succeed. The ACA is deeply ingrained into the fabric of the country now from top to bottom. It’ll be utter chaos. You can’t go back to the way things were. It’s impossible. They can’t just pull the plug. They’ll have to keep all the things people want, pre-existing coverage protections, covering your adult kids, expanded Medicare, they’ll actually have to make good, they’ll actually have to replace the ACA with something better. And that’s the real kicker, if they do, if they do replace the ACA with something better, affordable healthcare for all with all the things you want, how is that bad for you? And if they don’t, well, Trump won’t see a second term and neither will most of Congress.

He’s not going to ban Muslims from the United States. He can’t and he knows it and he’s not even going to try.

image

He’s not going to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

He can’t just wave his hand and eliminate NAFTA and the TPP. He’s thinks he’s going to personally renegotiate those treaties to penalize manufacturing in foreign countries and force business to build factories here? That’s hilarious, given that those jobs left the United States long before NAFTA. More importantly Wall Street and his wealthy friends will fight him every inch of the way because that’s how they made their fortunes. Trump says he’ll impose tariffs on Mexico and China. Except that only works if you can get the same products made in the United States when the foreign sources are cut off, which you can’t, at least not until the factories are built and the workforce trained and the supply and distribution lines put in place but you’ve got no reason to build those factories here if you can get products from overseas for less. It’s a classic chicken and egg dilemma. Worse, it will lead directly to a trade war and all those industries that depend on those foreign products, like the auto and electronics sectors (not to mention Walmart) will suffer almost immediately. You can expect a recession and the loss of tens of thousands of domestic jobs and sooner or later voters are going to wise up to the fact that every time Republicans are in charge that happens.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say he succeeds. Let’s say he brings back millions of manufacturing jobs without a trade war and he does it in the next few years. How is that bad for you?

Trump promised to cut taxes and fix the budget deficit. 

You can’t do both. It’s one or the other.

You cut taxes, you get a bigger deficit. Especially since he’s promised to increase the size of the military (and build a trillion dollar wall).

You’d think a guy who’s gone bankrupt four times would be better at the math, wouldn’t you?

And again, if he does succeed in eliminating the debt and lowering taxes via some heretofore unknown economic wizardry, again, how is that a bad thing? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

And, finally, perhaps the most impossible promise he made was to defeat “ISIS.”

How he’ll do that without committing to full-scale war or adding trillions to the debt I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.

 

But here’s the real kicker: Republicans will now have to govern.

 

Donald Trump will now have to govern.

It’s all on them. All of it.

If they fuck this up, they’ll never get elected again.

That disorganized bombastic campaign appealed to the people who put him into power, but that’s not going to work in office.

Not at all.

And all the people he’s so far produced or suggested to help him with the task of governance are terrible at it.

And the one thing Americans, especially those Americans in the little red squares, will not tolerate is incompetence.

Ripley: How long after we're declared overdue can we expect a rescue?
[pause]
Hicks:  Seventeen days.
Hudson: Seventeen days? Hey, I don't mean to rain on your parade but we're not gonna last seventeen hours! Those things are gonna come in here just like they did before! And they're, they're gonna come in here…!
Ripley: Hudson.
Hudson: …and they're gonna come in here and AND THEY'RE GONNA KILL US!
Ripley: HUDSON! This little girl survived longer than that with no weapons and no training.
Ripley: [looks at Newt] Right?
Newt: [salutes]
Hudson: Then why don't you put her in charge?!
Ripley: You'd better just start dealing with it. Hudson! Listen to me! Hudson! Just deal with it because we need you and I'm sick of your bullshit.

Yeah, but what now?

What now?

Sure, Trump will eventually implode and take what’s left of the Republican Party down with him.

But now what? What do we do right now?

Now? Now you set aside your goddamned idealism and your principled stand and you get practical.

Look at that map.

Look at it.

You figure out how to bridge the gap. Both the Republican Party and especially the Democrats (and all the Third Parties too), need to figure out how to reach the people in those little red squares. How to address their fears without inflaming them. We must find a way to manage both the traditional past and the unknown future and turn that map purple instead of red and blue.

It can be done.

We’re going to, all of us, have to compromise some of our principles for the sake of our nation.

That map tells you how to step back from the edge. If you have the wit to read it.

But in meantime what about all those terrible things I listed at the beginning of this article?

Healthcare. LGBT rights. Women’s rights. Reproductive rights. Education. Religion. Wealth distribution. War. All of it, what about that? We’re going to lose all the progress we’ve made.

Yes, very likely we are.  Or at least a lot of it. For a very long time.

And what?

You thought I was going to blow smoke up your ass? Make you feel better? You haven’t been paying attention.

You thought the future was going to be easy?

You thought there wouldn’t be setbacks?

You thought we’d won? You thought the battle was over? You thought the racists and the bigots and the misogynists and the goddamned haters were just going to go quietly into the night? You thought the priests and the privileged were just going to zip up their pants and give up their station, their power, and join us?

You thought we were just going to waltz into the space station and rescue all the juicy colonists’ daughters from their virginity?

Is that it?

Is that what you thought?

If that’s what you thought then you were wrong and it’s long past time you faced it.

This isn’t going to be a stand up fight, this is a bug hunt. And just like Private Hudson, you’re going to have to start dealing with it because we need you.

Help isn’t coming, Folks. We’re going to have to rescue ourselves.

So gear up, Marines.

And let’s get after it.

 


Addendum:

(1) Commenting 1: comments are now well over 200 on this post. When that happens, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click <load more…> to see all of the comments, including those nest under other comments. You may have to do this several times. If you want to read all of the comments, you should do this first.

(2) Commenting 2: comments are moderated. I don’t care if you don’t like it. Behave yourself and your comment will post. Act like an ass and it won’t. This isn’t Yahoo News or Facebook. The rules are clearly posted. Due to the nature of this post, I have relaxed my commenting rules a bit, however, those rules are still in force. If you’re engaged in bugfuckery, your comment will be deleted without posting. Be polite, do not engage in personal attacks, and try to keep the conspiracy theories to a minimum unless you want to be the subject of future posts. 

(3) Commenting 3: comments are moderated. By me. I get to them as soon as I can, however sometimes I have to eat, or sleep, or do other things that are none of your business. Be patient or go find somewhere else more to your liking. Sending me angry messages about your First Amendment rights will get your comment deleted without further consideration.

(4) Rhetorical Style: Some of you are new here and are apparently unfamiliar with the type of style I use. The first part of this particular post outlines the very real fears a significant portion of this country is feeling right now. You can laugh at that or be outraged as your various inclinations indicate, but the reason people feel that way is because your candidate or those supporting him have said that’s exactly what they intend. When conservative priests and politicians go around telling LGBT people they’ll be put to death as soon as Trump is power, you don’t get to say their fears are unfounded. If you don’t like that I outlined those fears in such bald terms, then you can join us in standing against that kind of hate coming from your own party exactly as you demand moderate Muslims denounce the radicals in their own midst. Otherwise you can shove off.

(5) Rhetorical Style: those conservatives commenting that they think the fears outlined at the start of this article are unfounded and unfair are missing that I’m engaged in deliberate hyperbole as a lede. That said, after eight years of listening to conservatives float every type of hysteria from Secret Muslims to Jade Helm, I find your feigned outrage amusing.

//JW

Monday, November 7, 2016

Against the Fall of Night

We’re one day out from the election.

One day from finding out what our future will look like.

Supposedly this is the most important election of our time – though I suspect that might be overly optimistic, but it’ll take the rest of our time, however long we have, to be certain.

You’re expecting some big, long winded, in depth, final push from me, aren’t you?

 

I don’t have one.

 

If you don’t know who the candidates are by now, if you’re unaware of current events or the challenges before us, then I can’t help you. It’s too damned late.

Stay home.

Don’t vote.

That way you can lay blame with a clear conscience and complain bitterly no matter how it shakes out, secure in your moral high ground and safe in your ambivalent disdain. 

But…

If you’ve been paying attention these last few month, these last eight years, these last four decades, then you know what’s at stake here. You know what you have to do and you know why. You don’t need me to tell you.

So do it.

Get to the polls, Citizen. Do your duty to yourself, to your nation, to the future.

And when you’ve done your duty as citizens of the Republic, do your duty as Americans.

Help those who need it, don’t allow them to be disenfranchised. Stand steadfast before the hateful mob and guarantee the rights of your fellows – no matter what political party they belong to or what candidate they’re voting for.

For without you, liberty dies.

 

Good luck, America

Friday, November 4, 2016

Shameless

That you accept an entangled career politician who stands for absolutely nothing as the pragmatic choice vs a corrupt psychopath says more about your standards than anything […] And you choosing sides in [the election] should make you ashamed.
Gary Johnson Supporter, via email

MR WRONG YOUR ATTACKS ON JILL STEIN ARE DISGUSTING! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF. YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE! UNFOLLOW!
Jill Stein Supporter, via Facebook Messenger

It seems I should be ashamed.

Ashamed for choosing a side.

Ashamed for supporting a candidate.

Ashamed for mocking certain third parties.

Ashamed for being part of the problem instead of the magical unicorn solution.

Ashamed for engaging in a political process composed of psychopaths and corruption.

There’s plenty more feedback where those comments came from. They’re all of similar bent. The common theme being I should be ashamed for throwing in with a mainstream candidate from one of the mainstream political parties.

I should be ashamed.

Ashamed.

Right.

As noted in the previous post, I should probably be a lot of things.

I’m a white straight male veteran and if you listen to people who purport to be experts on who I should be, I should be a Republican. I should be a Conservative. I should be a nationalist and a Jingoist and a gun-waving patriot and should probably belong to a militia. I should be a Christian.  I should despise my government. I should hate certain groups of people to be named later. And so long as we’re at it, let me throw in a few shouldas of my own: I should be a more disciplined writer. I should exercise more. I should be more patient. I should be more understanding. I should be better at remembering names. I should drink less expensive whiskey … okay, never mind that last one, I think I’ve made my point here.

I should be a lot of things.

So you might as well go right ahead and add ashamed to that list because I’m not gonna be that either.

I’m not ashamed to be voting for Hillary Clinton.

And why should I be?

Look here, it should have been readily apparent from the previous post that I’m not a Democrat. I’m also not a Republican. Or a member of any political party. I am, in point of fact, a registered Independent. And as I have noted many times, despite appearances I’m not a Liberal.  I’m also not a Conservative.  I suppose you could call me a Progressive, but even that isn’t particularly accurate.

 

What I am is a pragmatist.

 

Yeah, you said that before, Jim.

But what does that mean exactly?

Allow me an illustration: in the novel Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein postulated a world unified under a single global government. That civilization was born from the wreckage of war, created by veterans who were weary of death and ruin and politicians who started wars for other men to fight. This society enjoyed all of the freedoms we Americans do and many more and those rights were fully equal across the board no matter race, creed, color, sex, origin, or orientation. But there was a catch: the people were divided into two classes, citizens and taxpayers. In this world everybody was born a taxpayer without exception, no matter who their parents were. Taxpayers enjoyed all rights and all protections of citizens with two exceptions, they could not hold office and they could not vote. Only citizens could hold elected office and only citizens could vote. No exceptions. Now, there was no stigma associated with being a taxpayer versus a citizen and many people were just as happy to go about their lives without the franchise content to let others run the world. 

However the pivot the entire story turned on was this: Any taxpayer could at anytime become a citizen.

But again, there was a catch. To become a citizen in this world, you had to be a veteran.

Anybody could serve once they were of legal age no matter their physical condition and no one could stop them. If they wanted to sign up, the military would find them a job no matter what. The example Heinlein used was if you were blind and confined to a wheelchair, the military would find you a job counting the hairs on a caterpillar by touch. The only people who couldn’t serve were those who were mentally incapable of understanding the oath. Two years of service and an honorable discharge and you were a citizen.

Now Starship Troopers and the society it depicts had a huge impact on a lot of people, me included.

Robert Heinlein himself was branded a fascist by those who didn’t read the book carefully (or didn’t bother to read the book at all), because the society he described required military service in exchange for full citizenship and because his protagonist Johnny Rico grew to love the military and made it his life and home. This label of fascism is the height of irony given that Heinlein was a US Navy Officer who spent WWII doing everything he was physically capable of to fight fascism (Heinlein was invalided out of the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis on the eve of WWII and served as a reserve officer doing secret research during the war).  Doubly so given that story takes great pains not to glorify military service in any way whatsoever and the authorities in the story do everything in their power to discourage enlistment at every opportunity and offer a variety of honorable alternatives.

I digress.

The point being that for many people since its publication, the emotions stirred by Starship Troopers verge on those we see around us today. Accusations of fascism. Passionate defenses of liberty and freedom and the roles of government. The right to vote. Military service as a duty versus a means to an end – and as a fetish of patriotism.

But what many folks missed – and continue to miss – is the part where Heinlein himself never claimed such a society was desirable or even admirable.

And in point of fact, Heinlein took great pains in the text to do just the opposite.

Major Reid smiled. “Mr. Salomon, I handed you a trick question. The practical reason for continuing our system is the same as the practical reason for continuing anything: It works satisfactorily.

And there it is, pragmatism.

Heinlein spends a lot of the book engaged in a somewhat heavy handed exploration of the philosophy of government and the morality of war – but then he was a military officer writing for 14-year-old boys at the height of the Cold War (i.e. for kids like me)and many readers skimmed past his lectures on History and Moral Philosophy to get to the parts about The Bugs and the Mobile Infantry. 

And they shouldn’t have, because they missed the best part.

If they’d read more closely they would have realized none of the characters (channeling Heinlein himself) ever said their society was better, only that it was the one they had.

It works satisfactorily was the strongest endorsement Heinlein’s characters ever offered. 

And in that, Heinlein was, as he often did, deliberately paraphrasing our own Founding Fathers.

I  trust that I have now made clear to you the tremendous responsibilities. We must do the best we can with what we have.
John Paul Jones, September 14, 1775; Letter to the Continental Congress

Heinlein wasn’t exactly subtle about it. He was an Academy officer himself and intimately familiar with America’s first navy commander and he put that John Paul Jones quote at the start of the appropriate chapter.

And what he was talking about is this: Pragmatism.

This country was founded on it.

We must do the best we can with what we have.

That’s what compromise is, you know, pragmatism.

Getting what you can, while giving the other guy what you can in return. It doesn’t take any great perception to look at the Constitution and see it as a patchwork of compromise, some of which didn’t work out in practicality and had to be pragmatically amended via additional compromise – see the 12th Amendment, or the 13th.

That’s what democracy is, compromise. Ongoing, endless, compromise.

If you get everything you want, every time, then you’re not living in a democracy.

America may be exceptional but it’s rarely perfect. It clunks along pretty well for the majority of its citizens most of the time despite the loud and violent protestations of the angry mob and the radical fringe.

That doesn’t mean it works for everybody all of the time.

Nor does that mean we Americans shouldn’t be working hard towards a more perfect union and making our country work for more of its citizens more of the time.

 

Which takes us at long last to the point of this piece: Our de facto two-party system.

 

We were warned against political parties by the most prominent of our founders:

"[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."
--
President George Washington

No truer words, eh?

Unfortunately, by the time Washington spoke those words during his farewell address at Mount Vernon on September 17, 1796, and went on to say political parties served only to turn brother against brother, it was already too late.  The Federalists (strong central government) and the Democratic-Republican (anti-federalist, weak central government) parties were already fully formed and rising to power in the new nation.

Despite that, was the government and the political system they forged via compromise then (and perhaps still now) better than what came before?

Yes.

Most certainly.

But over time, while the names have changed and ideology has shifted back and forth, the basic division between strong and weak central government remains, cleaving the country into roughly equal halves with a halo of small special-interest third parties orbiting around the edge. And in retrospect, with the hindsight of 240 years of political evolution, could the Founders have left us a better system?

Maybe.

Many such supposedly better systems have been proposed.

And so now, here, today, is this the best system of government?

No.

No. Obviously not for many reasons, chief among them is that in the course of time and things our de facto two party system has grown into a potent engine by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men are able to daily subvert the power of the people and seize for themselves the reins of government and are even now destroying the very engines which lifted them to this unjust dominion.

 

But like it or not, for now, pragmatically, this is the system we have.

 

And to paraphrase John Paul Jones, we have tremendous responsibilities, to our country, to ourselves, to our children, to the present, to the future, to history, and we must do the best we can with what we have at hand now.

“…choosing sides should make you ashamed.”

Nonsense.

We all choose sides.

Failure to choose is still a choice.

Refusal to participate in the process because it’s not perfect isn’t a virtue. It’s at best foolishness and at worse cowardice.

When you stand on the battlefield between two great armies you either pick a side or find yourself trampled under the hooves of the warhorses and the boot heels of the infantry.  Certainly, you may retreat from the field if there’s time, find yourself a place of safety and watch the battle from a distant hill. You can then congratulate yourself for your morality and for standing pat on principle, but in the end you’re going to have to live with whoever wins that battle down below and by refusing to pick a side you’ve chosen just the same.

Whether you like it or not, whether or not there might be a better system, right now, today, between them the Republican and the Democratic parties represent the vast majority of American citizens. Their respective platforms describe the general divisions of our society.  Their candidates reflect us in majority, for good or for ill – and it’s important to remember both, good and ill, are often subjective. Q.E.D.

Understand something: I am not such a pragmatist that I cannot admire idealism.

And I do admire idealism – up to the point where it become inflexible dogmatism.

I believe Third Parties serve a useful function as reservoirs of idealism and wellsprings of new ideas and often encompass an enthusiasm sorely lacking in the two mainstream parties.

However, while idealism may spawn democracy, it is pragmatism that makes it work in the long run and you have only to compare the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to see that as fact.

Moreover, idealism when it becomes inflexible and uncompromising can kill democracy just as surely as internal apathy or an assault from the outside – see the Tea Party and resulting congressional gridlock et al.

What both the commenters quoted at the beginning of this article fail to realize is this: Should any Third Party replace and become a mainstream party, it will within short order become indistinguishable from that which has gone before. This is the nature of our society. For Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to become President, the nature of our political system is such that they would have to become Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in order to get elected.  This is the lesson of Bernie Sanders – or Ralph Nader.  The idealism of any Third Party is so far outside the main camps of Federalism/Anti-Federalism that such candidates simply cannot rally enough votes either popular or electoral to win – the closest any Third Party has ever come was George Wallace in 1968 and he wasn’t even close, which is why he went back to being a Democrat in 1972.

At present, the important function of Third Parties is to spur evolutionary change in the mainstream, not win the election.

Does this mean you shouldn’t throw in with a Third Party?

No. Of course not.

But you shouldn’t be ashamed if you don’t either.

Whether or not our political system is a reflection of us, of our society, of human nature itself, or an unintended side effect of the compromises made by our Founding Fathers, is utterly irrelevant to the task at hand.

It is what it is.

And it’s not going to change between now and next Tuesday.

In the final analysis we must do the best we can with what we have.

And there’s no shame in that at all.

 

They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday
-- Robert Anson Heinlein

Monday, October 31, 2016

Pragmatism

 

(Updates at the end of the post)


 

-- Trump Is The Revolution Against The Establishment

-- Still with her? LOL you should be fitted for an orange jumpsuit

-- […] can’t understand why a supposing military man would even vote for Hellary who murder 4 american heros and see them tortured by arab scums for hours and she says *who even cares??!” kind of makes you wnder if you really r a veteran hmmm?!

-- You think you are a good blogger and youre funny with insults arent you but libs just cant stop with the personal insults because you have no moral center without G*D Only a G*D hating fag lib would vote for Crooked Hillary Clinton. Libs should be thrown in prison oar a mental hospital! SICK!

-- Hillary is a loser. Trump is a billionare what does Killary have? That’s right nothing not even Bill! EVERY REAL POLL SHOWS TRUMP WINNING THE BLACKS! PS. and I’m not white so just sto pwith the racists ok?

-- MR WRONG YOUR ATTACKS ON JILL STEIN ARE DISGUSTING! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF. YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE! UNFOLLOW!

-- I simply can’t understand why somebody of your background would vote for Hillary Clinton.

-- Answer these questions if you can  […] don’t you WANT America to be great? If so why not? Why do liberals hate America and tear it down? Why do you hate Christians who built this great country and want to give it to the muslim cult? Are YOU a muslim paedophile? Think about it!

Welcome to my inbox.

Here Donald Trump is a revolutionary.

And Hillary Clinton is a Wall Street tool.

Trump is the candidate of law and order, secure borders, and small government.

Clinton is the candidate of bankers and foreign interests, Allah and atheists, and the New World Order.

Only a traitor would vote for Clinton.

Patriots, warriors, true Americans vote for Trump.

According to my email, if you vote for Clinton it’s because you hate America. Or you hate the Christian God. Or you’re sick in the head. Or you’re a criminal yourself. Or an illegal alien. Or a fake veteran. Or the real racists who keep “the blacks” from raising themselves up by their own bootstraps. Or maybe you just don’t like self-made billionaires.

Trump is rich and successful, brutally frank and honest, he says it like it is. He’s a man of God.

Clinton is a criminal and a lying bitch and a murderer who hates the military.

Also, for variety, there’s Jill Stein and that Johnson guy, Gary, Gerry, Larry, something like that.

Over the last several months, as this horrifically horrendous horrifying election season has careened wildly out of control towards November like a burning prison bus slathered in raw sewage and filled beyond capacity with gleefully capering clowns frantically squirting their little seltzer bottles and honking their little horns with mad abandon unconcerned as they hurtle willy-nilly ever closer to the cliff edge, my inbox has grown increasingly frantic with panic and accusations and naked greased insanity dressed up like Napoleon decked out in a Hitler moustache and wearing giant pink bunny slippers and a propeller beanie.

But, underneath all of that is a legitimate question.

 

Why would somebody like me vote for Hillary Clinton?

 

That’s not a rhetorical question.

You see, I’m a stereotypical conservative.

Or a least I should be.

I’m male.

I’m white.

I’m straight.

I’m a veteran.

I make a decent living.

I believe in the promise of the Declaration.

I swore my life in defense of the Constitution.

I believe that the only truly inalienable right is the right to define yourself.

I should be a conservative because everything in this society is tilted in my favor and I should want to keep it that way.

I should be a conservative because by inclination I tend towards the traditional conservative values of personal liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, personal enterprise and free markets, balanced budgets, strong military, and self-reliance. Hell, look at me. I couldn’t look any more the traditional conservative if I channeled the staid and buttoned-down ghost of William F. Buckley himself.

I should be a conservative because my childhood was the 1960s. I came of age at the end of the 70s. I was raised in a conservative Republican household in a predominately white Christian conservative Republican Midwestern town surrounded by the traditionally conservative Republican professions of factories and farming.  The soundtrack of my youth was Johnny Cash and the Grand Ole Opry and we never missed a John Denver or Donny and Marie Christmas special. I was a Boy Scout. My heroes wore white shirts and ties, they were serious frowning men with brush cuts who smoked Pall Malls, they were the scientists and the engineers and the astronauts who built and flew the rockets and got America to the moon and safely home again. My dad was a veteran of Korea and I respected the tall fit dangerous men who wore the uniform of America and went to fight in Southeast Asia and I had little use for the dirty unemployed hippies who smelled of burning rope and shouted from the street corners protesting The War and The Man and The Establishment and who sang silly songs about the Age of Aquarius.

After high school, when it became apparent I had neither the aptitude nor the money for college, nor the desire to shovel cow manure or work on a factory line, I joined the military. It wasn’t a popular choice at the time, earning you scorn from liberals and conservatives alike – albeit for different reasons. Vietnam was only four years behind us and you had to go to the worst parts of town to find a recruiting station. And in fact, the Military Entrance Processing Station in Detroit where I went for my induction physical via Greyhound bus from Grand Rapids was in the bottom two stories of an old burned out hotel surrounded by drug pushers and prostitutes and bombed out buildings. Inside, the walls were peeling yellow paint and the place stank of urine and mildew. The uniformed men who worked there had seen hard service in the jungles and rice paddies and they held new recruits in the kind of sneering contempt it takes years to master and even they thought we must be the dregs indeed to join up. You really had to want to enlist. Now, I’d like to say I joined up out of a sense of patriotism or to serve my country or for freedom and democracy or some other such lofty conservative ideal, or at least the pragmatism of an education and salable job skills, but mostly it was just a way to get the hell out of my suffocating hick town and see something of the world. Also I had the vague idea military men got a lot of girls. And it was that, but it also eventually became the first part too. My enlistment turned into a career, a college degree, a marriage, a son, the very best of friends, unusual and unique skills, incredible experiences, three wars, and finally an officer’s commission. And during the two and half decades I spent in uniform the military went from being hated and despised, the refuge of scoundrels and losers and alcoholics in the public perception, to a professional volunteer force of America’s very best. And there is no more a concentration of conservative ideals than the military. We are conservatives both by definition and by practice. Adherence to discipline, tradition, doctrine, order, accountability, conformity, authority, service, sacrifice, patriotism, and a powerful resistance to change, these are the very traits which define both military life and traditional conservatism. I spent nearly my entire adulthood living up to those ideals, I was damned good at it and I have the scars and decorations to prove it.

I retired from the military to a conservative red state and then moved to an even more conservative red state. My friends are conservatives. My family are conservatives. My acquaintances are conservatives.

I did consulting work for the military, but eventually I became a full time writer and an artist. These days I’m a self-employed small business owner who resents the hell out the hefty check I send to the IRS every three months. It’s true that as a disabled veteran and a military retiree I get a stipend from the government each month, but it’s not nearly enough to live on and it’s not nearly enough to pay for all the damage that was done to my body over decades of service. I can get lousy medical care at the VA if I’m willing to stand in line for a few months, or I can pay a large deductible for Tricare and hope to find a decent doctor who will take it. I pay more to cover my family and I pay out of pocket the full cost of dental insurance which military retirement doesn’t cover.  And even if I do everything just right, the government can (and does) change the rules arbitrarily to renege on the promises they made back when America was desperate for my service and I was foolish enough to believe. 

As a writer I have no idea if I’ll make enough to survive each month – let alone pay for my son’s college tuition and take care of my mother-in-law who lives with us due to medical issues.

I’ve fetched up for now in the Panhandle of Florida, unlikely ever to return to my beloved Alaska. I’m surrounded by the welfare state. Lack is what defines this place, lack of education, lack of decent jobs, lack of basic healthcare, lack of opportunity, and most of all lack of dreams. Nevertheless, they are a fiercely proud people and the Civil War still smolders just below the surface. Here in my adopted homeland they hold their religion and their guns and their families close. Passionate about their heritage and their history, they raise the banner of the Confederacy alongside the American flag and they honor both. Their anthem is Sweet Home Alabama and they play it loud and woe to the man who fails to render proper respect. Here they speak fervidly of state’s rights, self determination, and liberty. They hold on to their traditions hard, what traditions they have left anyway.  And it’s easy to see that government has long ago failed the citizens here in the Old South and while the American Dream might not be entirely dead, you’d have to be a fool to believe you have much of a shot at it.

And so that’s me. That’s who I am. That’s where I come from and where I live.

 

So why would a guy like me vote for Hillary Clinton?

 

Why indeed.

Well, you see, it’s not just about voting for a particular candidate.

No candidate, especially a candidate for President of the United States, comes free of political entanglements and political influence and political obligation and political money or a questionable past. Not today, not ever. Any politician who tells you they are free of such is either deluded or lying directly to your face and if you believe them, well, then you deserve everything you get.

Clinton is as much – or as little – a part of the machine as is any other candidate stretching all the way back to George Washington himself, who in addition to being part of the military was a wealthy businessman and consummate politician and just as obligated to those who put him into power as any elected public servant is today. This is why I have to suppress a laugh when Bernie Sanders supporters earnestly tell me Bernie isn’t a Washington insider. Sanders was first elected to Congress in 1991, he’s the longest serving Independent in US history. If he’s not an insider, if he’s not a career politician after nearly 30 years in Washington, then he’s doing something seriously wrong. Now, I don’t mean this as an insult, to either Sanders or his supporters, I’m simply saying any candidate for the highest office in the land comes with more than just his or her toothbrush and charming smile. This is why I laugh outright when Trump supporters tell me The Donald is an outsider, that he’s the “revolution against the establishment.” That’s hilarious. You don’t get to be a billionaire New York real-estate developer and an Atlantic City casino owner and an international golf-course resort mogul and the star of a TV-Reality show without being connected to power and money, seriously connected, without being an insider, without being a politician. Donald Trump isn’t a revolution against the establishment, he is the establishment and to suggest otherwise is either ironically hilarious or dangerously deluded – perhaps both. The belief that Donald Trump is somehow going to bring about a “revolution” against the very power and the very influence and the very wealth and the very privilege that literally defines every fiber of his being is quite literally the definition of insanity.

But none of that explains why I would vote for Hillary Clinton.

 

It’s not enough to vote against something or someone, you have to believe in something too.

 

I don’t like Clinton.

I never have.

It’s a personal distaste. It’s visceral. Perhaps it’s my small town Midwestern upbringing with its inherent suspicion of big city elitism. Perhaps it’s my military background; the Clintons were never popular with the military for some reasons they deserve and many they don’t. Unfair? Sure. But that’s just how it was … and still is. Perhaps it’s that she and I have little in common. Perhaps it’s that I often find her manner irritating, her voice grates on my nerves, and for me her jokes often fall flat. Perhaps it’s that I don’t find Hillary Clinton to be inspiring the way Barack Obama is, or charismatic in the manner of Ronald Reagan, or imbued with great vision like John F. Kennedy.  Perhaps it’s that I don’t much like her friends – particularly Henry Kissinger, a man I hold in utter contempt and would like to see die in prison for the 20,000 Americans who died in Vietnam for his vainglory.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t like her husband. Oh, settle down, I can admire Bill Clinton’s intelligence and compassion, his easy likability, his personable style, the fact that he left office with the country far better off than when he first swore the oath. But I wouldn’t want to have a beer with him. I don’t admire those who step out on their spouses, who are raging hard-ons, who can’t keep their pants zipped, and I’ve known plenty such in the military. It is my experience that no matter how gifted professionally they might be, their lack of integrity with those they supposedly hold most dear means I could never trust them at my back. What I’m saying is that I might admire Bill Clinton the President, but I don’t have much use for Bill Clinton the man – and that’s important, because we’re going to come back to it shortly.

So why would I vote for Hillary Clinton?

And I am voting for Hillary Clinton come November 8th and make no mistake about it.

Yes, I am. Enthusiastically and with gusto and I encourage you all to do the same.

And yes, November 8th. I’ve made a conscious decision to go to the physical polls on election day here in the land of black democrats and white republicans. I’m not voting early. I want to see for myself without filter. I want to experience it first hand. I want to face the armed Redshirts for myself – if they indeed show up. And if necessary, stand with those who would be intimidated and fight alongside them if it comes down to it. And that’s part of it right there, part of the reason. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Why am I voting for Hillary Clinton?

Why would I vote enthusiastically for a candidate I personally dislike?

Why would I vote for a person who appears counter to my background and experience?

Why indeed.

Because I’m not voting for just Hillary Clinton.

Because I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton the person.

Because, despite first appearances, she and I have far more in common than we don’t and I can prove it.

And most importantly because pragmatically I must acknowledge Hillary Clinton and the power structure she represents is far and away the best choice to defend the ideals I hold most dear – those ideals I mentioned up above at the start of this essay, the ones I swore my life to defend, chief among them personal liberty and the right to define yourself – that is: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans, each and every single one.

I’m not just voting for Hillary Clinton, I’m voting against Donald Trump and most especially the hateful ideology he has come to represent.

 

Because it’s not enough to just believe, you have to stand steadfast against the fall of night too.

 

I cannot vote for a Republican.

Not even one I respect should such appear.

It’s not just Donald Trump. Or Mitt Romney before him. Or John McCain before that. I cannot, will not, vote for the Republican Party platform.

Up above I said I tend towards the traditional conservative values of personal liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, personal enterprise and free markets, balanced budgets, strong military, and self-reliance.  All of that is true and as such there is no part of 2016 Republican Party Platform I can support without question, without violent protest.

Social issues? Tell me why a party who professes a profound belief in personal liberty and individual freedom and inalienable rights should contain within its ideology strictures regarding who you can marry, who you can love, what you can do with your own body, how you define your sexuality, how you define yourself. I will never vote for a Republican so long as they support the idea that government and political parties and religion have the right, nay the duty, to dictate these most personal of freedoms. I will never support a political party or a candidate who would deny full and unrestricted rights in any way whatsoever to my friends who happen to be gay, or transgendered, or of color, or female, or Muslim, or whatever ridiculous qualifications we use to deny others full citizenship. I will not. And so long as these things remain part of the Republican Party platform, no matter the bullshit justification, they are deal breakers so far as my vote is concerned. Even if they field a candidate I can enthusiastically admire.

Economics? Thirty years now the Republican Party has embraced the failed policies of Reaganomics. Thirty years we’ve been waiting for the promised largess to trickle down. Thirty years we’ve been fed the idea that the selfish ideology of Ayn Rand will somehow make us, the worthy, rich – even though Rand herself died in lonely poverty dependent on government and the kindness of strangers. Thirty years we’ve given tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy and watched them grow ever more obscenely rich while the Middle Class teeters ever closer to extinction. Thirty years now we’ve watched our jobs head overseas while serial CEOs rake in billions. Invest in America they say, and it’s our money and our homes and our jobs and our retirements and our kids’ college funds they vaporize while they themselves cash out to the tune of millions and then complain about tax dollars going to bail out citizens “who should have known better.” Known better than to trust another goddamned Republican I guess. And they’re not even ashamed to say it out loud, as Donald Trump himself said when he smugly blamed Hillary Clinton for the loopholes that have allowed him to get away with not paying taxes for the last two decades.  I will not support further tax breaks for the rich on the backs of the middle class and the poor.  I will not vote for another Republican so long as this provably unworkable economic policy is part of their platform. This alone is enough to lose my vote.

Military matters? Foreign policy? Immigration? I spent most of my life in the uniform of the United States. I’ve seen war and the consequences of war up close. I listened in awe with tears in my eyes when Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and demanded in righteous fury, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and I can not, will not, support a political party who intends to wall America off from the world behind mine fields and barbed wire. I can not, will not, support a party who declares its unqualified uncritical allegiance to a foreign power, even one such as Israel, especially for religious reasons.  I can not, will not, support an ideology that condemns peace and diplomacy out of hand and who salivates at the idea of yet another war. This alone would be enough to lose my vote.

There is no part, not one single part, of the Republican platform I can support.

This is not personal liberty or personal responsibility, not when government decides who you can marry, who you can love, or what you do with your own body. Their idea of limited government is limiting the very things government should exist for because if government does not protect the weak from the predatory then what damned good is it? A belief in personal enterprise and free markets does not mean I think capitalism should run amok, unchecked, unregulated, benefitting only the rich and repeatedly raping those without the power to protest. The republicans make a great show of balanced budgets but would find their frugality on the backs of the poor and I will not support a political ideology who thinks tanks and aircraft carriers and war are acceptable ways to spend our money while feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and healing the sick are not.

In the final analysis I can not, will not, support a party who hates government so much so that they attempt to break it at every turn.

And this is the party that is supposed to hold Donald Trump in check?

That would be laughable if it wasn’t so utterly horrifying.

Hillary Clinton is not my preferred candidate. She is not perfect. She is not without flaw.  Far from it in fact.

But I will vote for her and I will do so enthusiastically because while I might not like Hillary the Person, I think Hillary the President will be a politician I can respect. Because she is the face of a political party that while I might not agree with everything they stand for, defends the rights of my friends and is willing to put it in writing. Because they are a party who believes in diplomacy over war, science over religion, pragmatism over unchecked capitalism. Who ultimately believes in the values I grew up with and who I can trust to hold her to the fire.

Even if I didn’t believe in the candidate, I can support the party platform – even if its not everything I want.

Even if I didn’t support the party, I can believe in the candidate – even if she’s far from perfect.

 

In the end, you must be pragmatic enough to realize “liberal” and “conservative” are just words without any real meaning and true freedom is not allowing those empty words to dictate your choices.

In the end, you must hold fast to what you believe in and you must be honest enough with yourself to know what those things truly are.

You must look beyond the words and the ideology and stand steadfast against the fall of night, for if government does not, can not, will not, protect the helpless from the ruthless then what goddamned good is it?

You ask why someone like me would vote for Hillary Clinton?

You ask why someone like me would stand with the Democrats?

You ask why someone like me, a white man of privilege and traditional conservative values, someone this entire country is designed for, would go to the polls and stand against armed men in defense of those who owe me nothing and who very likely hold me in contempt?

Because in the end I am not a slave to my past.

Because in the end we must do whatever it is we cannot not do.

Because in the end we all must choose which side of history we’re on.

And if you don’t like my choice, then you should have given me better options.


Update:  Comments on this post are now well over 200.  In order to see all of the comments, including newly posted ones and ones that appear nested under other comments, you have to go to the bottom of the page and click on “Load More…”   You may have to do this several times to load all of the comments.  // Jim