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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Clemency

 

As a final act of his presidency, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning.

I don’t suppose you’d find it surprising, given my background and previous comments on this matter, that my inbox is overflowing today with messages asking what I think about Obama’s decision.

My opinion?


My opinion is complicated and I don’t pretend to be entirely impartial.


First, the elephant:  I don’t give a tinker’s damn about Manning’s gender. 

I strongly believe it is every human being’s inalienable right to define themselves. I believe this right applies to everybody, even criminals.  Manning’s personal identity is none of my business in any fashion. If Chelsea Manning says she identifies as female, then so far as I’m concerned, she’s female and I’ll address her as such.  This isn’t out of respect for her – because I have none – but out of respect for my own beliefs and the rights I fought for when I swore the same oath she betrayed.

A number of people have suggested to me Manning’s gender identity issues may have influenced her decision to betray her oath. 

So?

Well, see her identity issues might be seen as, if not an excuse, then an explanation.

And you know what, that’s bullshit – unless you are suggesting to me being trans makes you inherently unreliable.

There are uncounted numbers of service people who struggle with their identity in one fashion or another, with personal problems, with mental health issues, with personal pressures that sometimes stagger the imagination (as a former Chief and Officer, trust me, I dealt with personal issues from my troops most of you wouldn’t believe). The vast, vast, vast majority of those people don’t betray their oath and pass controlled material to a foreign agency.

I respect Manning’s self-declared identity, and I might even sympathize with the severe distress that identity may have caused her in a military environment, but that’s as far as it goes. Right there.

Allowing Manning to use her identity as an excuse is a slap in the face of every LGBT person who served with honor and distinction – particularly those who served before they could do so openly.

So, that said, if you wish to comment on this post I’ll expect you to show that same respect. If you address Manning by name, then use the name and gender pronouns she identifies with. Comments that attempt to make an issue, an insult, or an excuse of Manning’s gender will not post. This is non-negotiable.

Manning’s gender identity is irrelevant to her crime. 

So, let’s put it aside.

 

And, yes, crime.

 

Manning is a convicted criminal. 

Manning is a convicted criminal and her guilt is not in question. She admitted it herself. The evidence is indisputable.

Manning is a criminal under both civilian and military law.

She was charged with twenty-two offenses.

She pled guilty to ten of those charges. 

She faced court martial and was convicted under military law of eleven out of the twelve remaining charges.

She was acquitted of the most serious charge: aiding and abetting the enemy in time of war – a charge that could have resulted in a death sentence.

She was sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison.

None of that is in dispute. Her guilt is not in question.

Should she have been charged in the first place?

Many of the messages in my inbox are from people who don’t think so. Few of those people served in the military. Fewer still served in military intelligence. And fewer still served in military intelligence in time of war.

If they had, they might have a different perspective.

Should she have been charged in the first place. You goddamned right she should have.

I wrote the following back in 2010, when the story first broke and while Manning was still being held in an Army stockade in Baghdad (Note, there was no discussion of Manning’s gender back then, thus she is referred to by the male pronoun and her birth name in the text):


[Over] the last month a number of folks have asked my opinion regarding the US Soldier who passed classified information to the WikiLeaks site.

Including this now infamous video clip.

The general consensus seems to be that I might regard this soldier as a hero – and a number of folks pointed me at this idiotic site.

Seriously, what the hell is the matter with you people?

Hero?

Wrong.

Utterly wrong.

This guy is a turd who doesn’t know the first thing about either patriotism or keeping his word.

If you think that I would regard Army Specialist Bradley Manning as anything other than an traitorous asshole who betrayed his oath, his service, and his country and who jeopardized the lives of his fellow Soldiers, then you really don’t know anything about me at all.

There’s a huge difference between a whistleblower and a disgruntled turncoat.

Manning is the latter.

He’s a coward, a criminal, a shitbag loser who was demoted for striking a fellow soldier, and from where I sit, a dishonorable traitor who deserves to be in prison for a good long time – right next Robert Hanson and John Walker and the fact that Manning gave his information to WikiLeaks instead of the Russians is irrelevant.

For those of you not familiar with the story of Spec Manning here’s the thumbnail version: Manning was a 22 year-old US Army specialist serving in Iraq who passed classified gun camera video to the WikiLeaks website. He then tried to pass 260,000 classified documents to a former hacker at WikiLeaks while bragging about his exploits. That hacker, Adrian Lamo, turned Manning into federal authorities. Manning is currently sitting in military detention in Baghdad.

Couple of things:

First, it’s a damned sad day indeed when a lowlife convicted hacker like Lamo has more honor and integrity and sense of duty than a US Army soldier trusted with a security clearance and the defense of secure information and the nation.

Second, the media widely reported Manning as an “Intelligence Analyst,” but the truth of the matter is that as a Specialist he was a low-ranking gofer, who obviously had way too much time on his hands and not nearly enough supervision. This guy was an “analyst” in only the broadest, most entry level, sense of the word.

I spent over twenty years in military intelligence with one of the highest security clearances in the military and I recognize Manning right away, he’s an E-4 headquarters discipline problem who spent most of his time in the war zone skylarking in a cushy non-combat assignment and sifting through classified networks instead of doing his fucking job. While his fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Guardsmen were out risking their asses every single day, Manning was sitting fat, dumb, and happy, safe in a secure compound surfing military networks and spying on his own people looking for juicy gossip, instead of performing the work that he was supposed to be doing and that would help protect the lives of his fellows. All of us in the military know shitbags like this, the slackers who sit around drinking sodas and slurping cup-O-noodles all day while everybody else not only does their own job but his too. The fucker is probably the same guy who always takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t make more.

Third, about that video – those pilots didn’t do anything wrong. That’s right. They. Did. Not. Do. Anything. Wrong. Unless you’ve been there, you do not have context to hang this event on and you do not have the experience to understand what you’re looking at. Period. If you think otherwise, you’re wrong.

I’ve avoided discussing this despite a number of requests – because you’re not going to like what I have to say – but I’ll do it now anyhow.

The video is disturbing, it shows the true horror of war, of conflict, and killing – and that horror is not the death of innocents, it is what happens to those who do the killing and who are submerged in blood and death and destruction for months and years at a time.

You should be horrified by that video – just like you should be horrified by videos of those flag-draped steel boxes coming home to Dover Air Force Base (and that is, of course, why the previous administration tried to hide them, don’t want the population revolted and shamed by dead soldiers, no sirree). That’s war, and it’s pretty fucking horrifying. There is not one damned thing glorious about it. No matter how you slice it, what it ultimately comes down to is that you’re killing people and they are killing you. Your government is killing people. Whether or not it is justified is a matter for history and irrelevant to those who actually wage it. On the ground you’re killing people. Killing. Them. By fire and flame and blast, by gun and bombardment and by missile. Sometimes it’s quick and painless – and sometimes it’s slow and lingering and terrible. Sometimes it’s a quick shot to the head and all neat and tidy – and sometimes it leaves human beings splattered like burned chunky spaghetti sauce across the landscape. Sometimes you kill the people you intend to, those sons of bitches on the other side who are trying to kill you – and sometimes you kill children and old people and reporters and friendlies and some poor hapless bastard whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the minigun cuts loose. That’s war, it’s brutal and it’s ugly and it’s inhuman and it is immoral (yes, immoral, war is inherently immoral no matter which side you are on. I’m not saying that war isn’t oft times justified or that the actions of individual soldiers aren’t moral and righteous, but war itself is a dirty immoral business and make no mistake about it). That is the vicious nature of war, perhaps if Americans actually understood that they’d be less eager to have one every ten years or so. And we’ve been at this one now longer than any other in our history (with the exception of the so-called “Indian Wars”) and it is taking a measurable toll.

Americans want to believe that war is somehow glorious and moral and a grand adventure. That might makes right and that real American soldiers sleep the sleep of the righteous and the just untroubled by bad dreams. That patriotism is slapping a $2 magnet on the back of their cars while waving a flag and calling those who don’t believe as they do un-American. They live in some make believe fantasy land where it’s possible to bomb a country into democracy while making a profit and the enemy is easy to identify because he looks just like a Jap or a Nazi or a Slope or ragheaded terrorist. Americans want to believe that the enemy doesn’t love his country as much as they love theirs. Americans want to believe that war is just like TV or a video game, all clean and safe and without consequence. Americans want to believe that God stands with us and that he has forsaken the enemy. Americans want to believe that war isn’t horrifying and inhuman and immoral.

Americans want to believe that Johnny can march off to war and come home unaffected.

Reality is somewhat different – and after WWII and Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War and Bosnia and Beirut and Somalia and now more than ten years of this goddamned endless conflict you’d think Americans would understand that fact.

But they don’t.

So, let me clue you in. If you are to survive the battlefield with your mind intact, then you’d damned well better have mental defenses that are as bullet resistant as your ballistic vest. Some folks can’t deal with it, can’t deal with the stress and horror and inhumanity of it all. They just can’t. The DoD and VA mental health clinics are full to bursting with these broken veterans – and truthfully, they may be the most human of us all. All are affected in some way. And those who engage in the business of war develop coping mechanisms or they simply won’t survive on the battlefield. And those coping mechanisms are well understand by those who train us – and those who have to fix us after we’re broken. Killing human beings in our society is immoral, and since we generally don’t recruit sociopaths into the military, we have to find a way to overcome that prohibition in the people we send off to war. The oldest and best method is to vilify the enemy, to make him less than human. Japs, Krauts, Gooks, Slopes, Towelheads, whatever, soldiers have done this since the time of the Roman Legions. It’s a natural human primary response to the situation and it works. So does gallows humor. The business we are engaged in is ghastly and horrible, we know that, but it is our sworn duty, it is the nature of our profession. And so we deal with it the way humans in similar circumstance deal with blood and gore and horror and stress – they make jokes, just as cops do, just as paramedics do, just as firemen and doctors and pilots do (I’ve known more than a few air traffic controllers in my life, all have lost aircraft under their control. When that happens, they crack wise and keep doing their jobs – because the alternative is to come unglued at the thought of an airliner you were responsible for full of people splashed all over some cornfield, and if that happens, if they freeze or become hysterical or lose focus, thousands more could die. So they crack wise and make graveyard jokes and they carry on as long as they have to. Ever wonder why the ATC profession has such a high rate of alcoholism and suicide? The only profession with a higher suicide rate is … us. The military).

Those Apache pilots were doing what they were supposed to be doing. They were directed onto target. They were literally miles away, watching those men on the ground through powerful night-vision cameras. They had seconds to analyze what they were seeing. It’s not like the movies. It’s not like a video game. It’s sweltering and the bird is shaking and vibrating and howling. It’s nerve wracking and the levels of stress and paranoia and adrenalin are so far beyond anything a normal human being ever deals with that it can’t be described – and it’s a damned sight more harrowing than anything some cowardly skylarking E-4 REMF back there in an air conditioned trailer ever had to deal with. Now, those pilots had to kill people, in a way far more personal than the average Soldier or pilot, and they had to do it over and over again, for months, years. That was the nature of their job. Could you do that? Unlikely. Just as the average person couldn’t do what a paramedic does, or a surgeon, or an executioner. It’s not the physical aspect, it’s the mental. They deal with it by joking, by gallows humor. Those pilots had no reason to believe other than what they did at the time, that they were looking at a legitimate military target, and they did what they were supposed to do. They eliminated the threat. They pulled the trigger on human beings in a very personal way – and they joked about it while they were doing so because that’s how you deal with it.

And that’s what so many people found offensive. That’s what Manning found so offensive.

They were wrong, of course, those pilots – not for joking while killing people, but for killing the wrong people. It’s easy for the armchair generals to condemn them for it, but if you think you would have made a better judgment call in that situation, well, then by all means sign up. Put your abilities, honed by hours of Gears of War, to use. The Army is always looking for good people with the magic ability to see through the fog of war and separate friend from foe. Go on, put your money were your mouth is.

I know, no matter what I say, you’ll still think me wrong.

You think the real question is this: with all our vaunted technology why couldn’t we tell that those men on the ground were TV reporters and children and non-combatants? Why?

Well because as I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph, war is not at all like a video game or a movie or a book written by somebody who has never been there. And because computers aren’t very good at determining the intentions of human beings in a grainy green-lit shaking night-vision video feeds taken from miles away.

That’s the job of Intelligence.

That’s the job of Intelligence analysts.

See, while those Apache pilots, and countless thousands of other forces, were out there on the line – intelligence analysts were sitting in an air conditioned trailer in a secure compound in Bagdad. Their job was to analyze video and images and data and patterns and messages and the countless other bits and pieces and fragments of information in order to give the trigger pullers a better picture of the battle space. It was their job to determine intent.

In this case, the events in the video happened two years before Manning showed up in the war zone, but somebody just like him was supposed to be looking at the data and providing information to the warfighters.

Now, it’s true that you never have enough information, and you never have a clear picture, and you can never truly know the enemy’s intention. And that too is the nature of war. You simply do the best you can in a dynamic and ever changing environment. And even if you do everything right as an analyst, everything you know may be rendered outdated in seconds by changes in the battlespace. Intelligence work never ends. In the war zone there is never an idle moment. You learn from your mistakes and failures – and you will make mistakes and you will have failures and that too is the nature of war. But what you don’t do is sit around, fucking off and surfing through the networks looking for ways to screw your superiors when what you’re supposed to be doing is supporting the guys out there on the line. What Manning should have been doing was his job, analyzing data, doing his part to help build a coherent picture of the threat in order to reduce the likelihood of killing the wrong people.

He should have been doing his part to support his brothers in arms.

Instead he betrayed his oath, his duty, and his country, those soldiers out on the line, and those self same innocent Iraqis he claimed to be so concerned about. Manning’s actions directly put his fellow soldiers in harm’s way and may have put Iraqi lives at risk as well. If Manning was so concerned for the lives of those innocent Iraqis, then he damned well should have done his job.

(Note: I speak from personal experience here.  Somewhere in the back of a closet, in a box of paper records I keep from my military service, is a Navy Commendation Medal that I was awarded for, in part, saving the lives of 43 Iraqis. That situation isn’t one I’m going to discuss in detail, but the short version is a target had been incorrectly identified in the fog of war. I was the intelligence officer who had personally led a team to inspect that target the day before and knew from direct observation the strike package had been ordered in error. I could have kept my mouth shut. That would have been the easy thing to do. Admirals don’t like changing strike packages – especially ones that are queued for launch on the carrier’s flight deck – or being told they are wrong. I could have looked the other way. I could have ignored it. They were just towelheads, right? Enemy non-combatants, but enemies nonetheless. It was two days into the war and we were killing them by the tens of thousands. I mean, what was another 40 or so, right? But they don’t pay Chief Warrant Officers to keep their mouth shut or to do the easy thing. So, instead, I did my duty and pissed off my chain of command in the process. And 43 innocent Iraqis lived. Later, instead of a court martial, I got a commendation. So don’t tell me about Manning’s concern for Iraqi civilians because I don’t want to hear it).

Now, if Manning truly felt that he had evidence of a war crime – then there are very specific methods to bring that to the attention of the chain of command, all the way up to the Commander In Chief. He could have forwarded that information to his superiors. If he was unsatisfied with their response he could have reported it to the Inspector General’s Office – and he could have done so anonymously if he was afraid of repercussions. Every single one of us in uniform knows how to contact the IG – and if you could find Adrian Lamo’s email address, you damned well could find the number for the IG which is posted on the bulletin board in every space in the military. Failing that, he could have contacted his Representative or Senator – and again, if you can find a hacker’s email address or a two year old classified video buried in SIPRNET, you sure as hell shouldn’t have any trouble finding your congressman’s webpage.

No, Manning, with malice aforethought, deliberately betrayed his country. He stole classified information that he was neither authorized to access or equipped to understand and passed it to unauthorized persons. Nothing whatsoever justifies his actions. Period. But, then he bragged about it to Adrian Lamo and offered to pass on 260,000 additional classified documents. Two hundred and sixty thousand. He didn’t do this out of some outraged sense of morality, he was doing it for the same reason every other traitor does it – because he thought he was smarter than his chain of command, because he thought himself above his brothers in arms, because he appointed himself moral guardian of America, and because he wanted to improve his situation at the expense of duty and honor. What Manning did was a violation of not only his oath of enlistment, but the oath he swore to protect classified information when he was granted a security clearance. This man’s word is shit. He is a disgrace to the uniform he wears and an insult to all of us who have ever served with honor and distinction and who hold our oath dear.

Specialist Bradley Manning is a cowardly dishonorable scumbag and his actions may have led directly to the deaths of Allied men and women and have directly affected national security both in the war zone and at home.

More than that, because he was busy betraying his country instead of doing the job he was trained and paid and sworn to do, other pilots may find themselves living with the fact that they killed innocent men and women and children because they didn’t have the information they needed to make different choices in the battlespace.

This man is no hero.

And to call him one is to spit in the face of every man and women who has ever served and sacrificed for this country.

This man deserves nothing less than life in prison.


Looking back seven years on that essay and I wouldn’t change a word – well, other than the gender pronouns.

If I wrote that today, I might be a bit more judicious in my use of the word “traitor,” but I’m pretty confident that I’d end up in the same place.

Manning is a criminal. By her own admission. By military law. She betrayed her duty, her service, and her oath. She did it deliberately and with malice aforethought.

Nothing she disclosed was evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the military or the government – yes, I know you’re reaching for your keyboard right now in fury. But before you type the words “war crime” go back and review all of the material Manning stole and gave to Wikileaks.  Show me the war crime. Show me what was worth seven years in prison. Show me what was so terrible that it couldn’t be brought to the attention of US authorities without betraying your oath.

Show me what was so terrible that not only it couldn’t be brought to the attention of the proper authorities but instead should be given to an international criminal who deals in stolen property for his own profit and to further his own political agenda.

Go on. Read all of the material – don’t forget there are 260,000 diplomatic messages to go through and 500,000 pages of other material. Show me the crime. I’ll wait.

 

So, where does that leave us?

 

I waited to answer my email until after President Obama’s final press conference.

I figured he’d talk about his reasoning, and he did.

And there were no surprises.

First, the president commuted Manning’s sentence. Manning wasn’t pardoned.

That’s an important distinction.

I can perhaps live with a commutation.

But I would be adamantly opposed to a pardon.

Manning doesn’t deserve a pardon in any fashion.  She betrayed her country. She betrayed her oath. That is not in question. And Obama didn’t say otherwise and made no excuses for her. Nor did he in any way criticize the military or the military legal process that convicted Manning of her crimes.

But…

But, as much as it galls me – and it does gall me – President Obama was right. Manning’s sentence was out of proportion with other similar cases.

Thirty-five years in Maximum Security was far beyond what others who acted similar to Manning got. Manning wasn’t a spy like John Walker or Robert Hanssen. She was an idiot. She betrayed her country because she was stupid and selfish. She wanted us to think she did it for some higher cause but the truth is she just thought she knew better than all the rest of us. She was a lousy soldier and she shouldn’t have been there in the first place and maybe some of that is on the Army, or maybe not. But in the end perhaps 35 years was too long.

Thirty-five years is too long when a General who gave classified material to his mistress got nothing but a slap on the wrist and is hailed as a hero. And yes, thirty-five years is too long when the Secretary of State can run a private email server in her house with classified information on it. Granted, neither Petraeus nor Clinton’s actions were anywhere near what Manning did, but it’s damned hard to hold the troops to account when their commanders set such examples. 

I want you to understand something here: I have no sympathy for Chelsea Elizabeth Manning and I’ll be honest, if she was right now looking at another 28 years in Leavenworth, I would shed not a single tear.

 

But I’m not particular put out by clemency either.

 

I wouldn’t have done it, but I’m not the president either, perhaps if I was looking at it from his viewpoint I would see it differently.

Emotionally, Manning could have rotted in prison for all I care.

Dispassionately, I understand clemency and respect the president’s decision.

Perhaps my perspective is not yours.

Perhaps my experience is not yours.

Tens of thousands of us went into that lousy war, me included.

We, all of us including Manning, went of our own volition. 

Four thousand, five hundred and fourteen of us died in Iraq.

Two thousand, three hundred and ninety-two of us died in Afghanistan.

Those men and women, they don’t get a choice about living with the consequences of their decisions.

Those of us who lived, who held fast to our oath, we have to live with our choices. Every single day.

Manning should have to live with hers.

She betrayed her country. She betrayed her oath. She betrayed us. She did it on purpose.

Whether it be in prison or out, Manning should have to wear that betrayal around her neck for the rest of her goddamned life. Commutation of her sentence won’t change that.

In the end, we all have to live with what we’ve done.

President Obama included.

Perhaps that’s why he made the decision he did.

I guess, I’ll just have to live with that.  

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Donation Drive

As previously noted, every once in a while I have to ask for money.

Having given up military consulting work and having shut down my woodworking business and art studio (hopefully temporarily) when I left Alaska, I subsist for the moment solely on income derived from my social media sites and this blog.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering complaints of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a reasonably decent living this way.

Yes, writer.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some modest amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job. 

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

If you’re a Stephen King or a John Scalzi, you might make millions and live in a golden mansion high on a landscaped hill in the middle of a private island waited on hand and foot by an army of nubile olive-pitters (this is totally true and I heard it directly from one of George R.R. Martin’s gardeners). But more likely you’re a stringer for the local paper, and you might make enough to buy a cheese sandwich or two providing you’re not particular about the definition of “cheese” or those weird green spots on the bread.

Various degrees of success exist between those poles.

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught ‘em to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

But by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

It’s amazing to me how fast this has gone.

Ten years ago, hell five years ago, I would never have guessed that Facebook would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  Facebook is a horrible platform for the kinds of things I write. It’s a bastard cross between a blog and public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. Facebook’s interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization – limitless to everybody but Facebook users that is. It’s impossible to get any kind of help from the operators and it’s subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault.

And yet – and yet -- it does one thing very, very well.

It does one thing that other technology cannot do, that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Facebook connects writers to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else. 

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it.

In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social bastards who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajama pants and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. “Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the hermit. 

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then Facebook (and to a lesser extent other social media platforms) makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. For example: Two years ago, when I started doing this full time, Stonekettle Station averaged maybe 20,000 visitors per month – and that was after 8 years of writing every single day.  Maybe 3,000 people followed me on Facebook.

Two years later, with some considerable effort, my daily Facebook audience exceeds 100,000 people and a single long form essay on Stonekettle Station can exceed 60,000 unique pageviews in a few hours.

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days, research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

And it is … writing.

I’ve had a number of critics scream at me, you’re not a real writer! Well, okay. Fair enough. I’m not particularly put out by that and I’m willing to go with whatever description you want to call it.  Sincerely.

But what do you call it?

I sometimes crank out a quarter million words in a month for a dedicated audience larger than that of many successful novelists. Hell, news sites steal my work on nearly a daily basis, and publish my stuff as their own for profit – that’s got to mean something, right? Now, I’m willing to accept any label you want to slap on that, but before you do, I’d like to suggest you try it. Start a blog, social media sites, assemble words every day, build an audience without gimmicks or tricks solely on the basis of what you write, and then tell me what you call that effort.

As a cautionary note: no matter what you call yourself, no matter how much adoring admiration you manage to inspire in your audience, no matter how many people send you fan mail and messages of respect, no matter how successful you eventually manage to be and how full of yourself you become as a result, your family and friends still think you’re a putz and remind you of it as often as possible.  Ideally this keeps you grounded and from turning into a complete ass. Ideally.

And everyday, every single day, no matter how well you’ve done, everyday, you’re sure that’ll be the day it all falls apart and you’ll have to go get a real job again.

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers – or those who want to become writers under this new paradigm. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers – or whatever you call ‘em – in this new arena. More on that as plans firm up.

But, here’s the downside – or at least the part I like least.

Every once in a while I need to ask for money. 

I don’t like this. I really don’t like this. I don’t like asking for money.

I’m getting more used it, especially since it doesn’t seem to bother readers at all – well except for that one guy who shows up periodically to call me names and generally make an ass of himself. But ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive on that part. Mostly, but not quite. 

So when I began this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any subscriber who donates any amount via the donation button or as a Patreon during the period of January 1st to February 8th will be put in the running for a giveaway, one of my high-end handmade art pieces worth several hundred dollars.

Winners will be announced February 15th, 2017.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions or click on the Patreon link for additional options.


Edit: Readers viewing Stonekettle Station on mobile devices sometimes can’t see the side-bar. As such, I’m attempting to embed the donate function code here in the text.
It appears to be working.

End edit.


You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique subscription.

If you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already on the subscription list.

Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the giveaway. 

I’ve discovered that winners sometimes, often it seems, do not want their names made public. I’d like to tell readers who got the various art pieces, but if you want your name kept private I will certainly do so. Last time I did this, the first person I selected to receive a prize refused because they lived on a boat and had no room for addition items. The alternate also refused for personal reasons and requested that the artwork go instead to a charity for auction to raise money for a cause important to them. They wanted it kept anonymous. So, that I did. I will honor any reasonable request when it comes to such things.


Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal requirements.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom made pens to my fellow writers.  The giveaway list is generated from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, and Tweets.

As always, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

No Middle Ground

Note: Comments are now well over 200. That means if you want to see all the comments, including those nested under others, you have to go to the bottom of the page and click on “load more.” You may have to do this several times. // Jim


 

 

Oh nonsense, show Drumpf no quarter! He is president in name and legality only. If by whatever means an abomination seizes power it is our civic duty to never stop screaming it from the highest mountain. His path should be made as difficult to traverse as legally possible!
-- CrisP, Comment on Resolutions, Stonekettle Station

 

Traitor.

Fraud.

Self-righteous.

Coward.

Sell out.

Those are some of the more … polite things I’ve been called over the last 24 hours.

That last one is my favorite. Sell out. I’ve apparently given up my unbeholden indie ways and caved into the man, gone mainstream for a paycheck.  In my defense, I’m paying two mortgages and the fourth year of my son’s college tuition and I moved across the continent to take care of my ailing mother-in-law. Baby’s gotta eat, man.

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Moral Cowardice, he said.

Moral cowardice.

And then he compared me to Neville Chamberlain and boy howdy, that stings.

Moral cowardice from my gated white privilege community (that’s actually how they advertised it on the brochure: weekly Knee Bending Appeasement seminars at the community center. Also, Wednesdays are Bingo Night).

I assume he’s responding to Resolutions, the essay I posted here to kick off the new year and the abbreviated version I posted on my Facebook page. I assume this, but can’t be certain. I would have kept Mr. Holden’s message private and asked him to clarify his comment, but he blocked any further communications immediately after sending the message.

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It seems he called me a coward and then ran away – the equivalent of driving past my house and throwing a bag of flaming dog shit out the window without slowing down.

Like you do when you’re man of … moral courage.

 

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I suggested that we resolve to be the people we say we are.

That’s it.

Be the people we say we are.

That’s my new year’s resolution: try to be the people we say we are.

This is apparently called “normalization.”

Normalization.

Oh my God! Not normalization! Anything but normalization! It’s normalization, everybody! Normalization.

And we can’t play nice with that.

Normalization: the latest entry in buzzword bingo.

Normalization is the – literal – Trump Card. Toss out “normalization” in any group of lefties discussing how to face the coming years and, bam! your liberal opponents are shamed into silence, shut down. You win. Shout it in righteous fury: This is not normal, damn it! Just keep shouting that. It’s not an actual strategy. It’s not any kind of actual plan. It provides no guidance toward any effective action whatsoever. But goddamn it feels good. It sounds decisive, doesn’t it? This will not stand! This is not normal! We will resist!

Right.

I hate to bust your bubble, but if you look around, if you’re paying attention, well, you’re going to discover an unpleasant truth. To wit: this is normal.

This. Is. Normal.

If it wasn’t, if this wasn’t normal, then we wouldn’t have to fight so hard every single day for reproductive rights, for LGBT rights, for Black Lives, for freedom from oppressive religion, for peace, for justice, for equality, for education, for healthcare, for adequate food and clean water and breathable air.

Ignoring it, ignoring that sea of red in the middle of the country, the KKK and neo-Nazis unashamed front and center at national political rallies, social media full of hate and invective, open racism and misogyny and xenophobia, pretending that’s not the normal state for much of America, refusing to acknowledge it and face it head on instead of with ineffectual bluster and catch phrases, well, that’s why you’re looking at President elect Donald Trump right now.

This is normal.

That’s the whole goddamned problem.

In point of fact, from the context, my responders think this should be normal. It should be their normality, that’s what they are saying, that hate and false news and conspiracy theories and dirty politics and pandering to fear should be normalized as our tactics. 

Fight fire with fire.

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Either we are the people we say we are, or we are not.

That’s what I said in Resolutions. That’s the pull quote I used on Twitter.

But the “problem” with that line of thinking, as epitomized by the response above, is morality, integrity, principle – all of those ideals that were of such supposed vital importance to the left for the last eight years – suddenly those things don’t seem to matter.  What matters is expediency. The ends justify the means.

“We’re dealing with a criminal entity that doesn’t deserve ANY respect.”

Ah.

Boy, where have I heard that before?

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Leaving aside the part where I never used the word respect in reference to the man or the office, I’m not really sure how the above commenter determined the message of my article was forelock touching deference to Donald Trump when the pivot-point of the essay was this line

I stand foursquare against this guy and nearly everything he represents and I will continue to do so until I no longer have the means to resist.

You know, it’s funny.

My various inboxes are full of outrage from hardcore Lefties, Bernie Sanders supporters, who tell me they couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because they will never ever compromise their sacred principles – even if Bernie himself did. And yet – and yet – in the same email, in the very same email, they are willing to throw away their uncompromising principles and adopt the same tactics as the people they profess to despise.

 

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In Resolutions I never said anything about Donald Trump’s fitness to hold office. I said it was irrelevant. While you are arguing about his fitness, Donald Trump is taking office.

I never said anything about Trump winning honestly. I said he won. While you argue over honesty and fairness and Russian interference and DNC chicanery, Donald Trump is taking office.

While you petulantly pretend that he is not your president, Donald Trump is taking leadership of your country.

You can unfollow me until the goons come to haul us all away if it makes you feel better, but Donald Trump is taking office.

 

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Let me ask you something: if, when the war is over, you look around and discover that you have become your enemy – that is to say you have adopted everything about him that you once despised – then what was the point of the war in the first place?

Because no matter how pure your motives, if you adopt the morals, tactics, and rhetoric of your enemies, then in the bitter end you're no different whatsoever. If you adopt the tactics and morals of those you profess to despise, then the difference between you is only one of semantics.

You could have avoided the conflict altogether by just throwing in with him from the start.

The simple truth of the matter is this: if you’re willing to become what you despise solely in order to win, then winning is what is important to you.

Not principle.

Not morality.

Winning.

And you’re lying to yourself by pretending otherwise.

 

So let’s get down to it.

 

In the essay, Resolutions, I asked commenters on my social media pages to:

1) Face the fact that Donald Trump will be President of the United States

I didn’t say he was prepared to be president.

I didn’t say he deserved to be president.

I didn’t say I wanted him to be president.

I didn’t say you wanted him to be president.

I said it’s time to stop fantasizing about alternate endings.

I said Trump is going to be president

That’s a statement of probability with a high degree of certainty. You’ve had plenty of time to come to grips with it. You can’t formulate an effective counter if you refuse to face reality.  So start facing reality.

2) Face the fact that Trump will not abdicate the position or refuse to accept it.

I didn't say you had to like it.

I didn't say you had to "bend a knee."

I didn't say you had to take his orders.

I didn't say you had to respect either him or the office.

I said Trump is going to be president.

3) I asked you to please not wish for his death in my presence.

I didn’t say I want this guy to be president, because I do not. Adamantly do not. 

But that doesn’t mean I wish him dead either.

If you do, then that's on you.

Donald Trump may be a deplorable excuse for a human being, but nothing he’s done warrants death. Certainly that may change in the future – or it may not – but in America we don’t execute people for what they might do. If you think that sounds sanctimonious, take it up with the men who wrote the Constitution.

4) I asked you to refer to him by his name, "Trump," instead of using childish playground epithets on my social media pages.

5) I asked you not to engage in slut-shaming, body-shaming, or personal attacks on the future First Lady or Trump's minor children on my page.

I’ll be honest, neither of those requests seem like any great burden to me.

It doesn’t seem that I’ve demanded any great sacrifice from you.

I didn’t come up with either of these standards. This is what reasonable adults, both liberal and conservative, are supposed to act like, isn’t it? I realize we all, me included, fall short of these ideals from time to time, that’s just human nature. But isn’t this the foundation of liberalism? isn’t this the Golden Rule? Isn’t this the cornerstone of Christianity, do unto others? Isn’t this how we want our children to behave? Isn’t this the world we want to live in?

You’ll also note that in the original text, I said “on my social media pages” and said that what you did on your own time was your business.

6) I pointed out that whether you like it or not, Donald Trump will be your president (so long as you are an American).

If you're an American his decisions are going to affect you directly. 

Whether you like it or not, he’s going to be our president.

Now, look, you can hashtag every comment with #notmypresident until Russian tanks roll across the border, but Trump is going to be the president of the United States nevertheless.

You can say you don't acknowledge gravity, but it'll kill you whether you believe in it or not.

Twenty years of war taught me it's better to face reality than deny it – you tend to live longer that way.

Now, I concluded the article by asking you to check your facts, your sources, your memes, and your reasoning and to avoid deliberately engaging in conspiracy theory and rumor and hate for hate’s sake. I said what Donald Trump is doing right now, what he will likely do once in office, those things are bad enough already without resorting to the unhinged conspiracy nonsense that conservatives have exhibited in spades for the last eight years.

I did not tell you to respect Donald Trump.

I didn’t even suggest you respect the office.

I did not tell you to play nice.

I did not tell you to bend a knee.

I did not tell you to go along or to refrain from criticism.

I did not tell you to compromise your principles – you did that on your own.

I did not suggest appeasement in any fashion whatsoever, expressed or implied.

So, please, tell me which part of “act like a rational adult” is moral cowardice?

Please tell me which part of “resolve to be the people we say we are” is selling out?

Don’t be shy. Step right up. And tell me in detail, point by point and line by line, why I have set an impossibly high standard. Tell me why liberals can’t compromise their sacred principles when it comes to abortion or gay rights or the goddamned endangered snail darter or some pipeline in North Dakota, but you just can’t bear the thought of not being able to call Melania Trump an orange cum-guzzling whore on my Facebook page.

 

Please, by all means, step right up to the mic and explain it to me. The comment section is open.

 

What?

What’s that?

Oh, I sound a little pissed off do I?

Well, you know, being compared to the guy who sold Europe to the Nazis for cheap tends to do that.

Listening to liberals crying into their beer, bellyaching because they just discovered politics are dirty and mean and unfair, resorting to the same silly childish bullshit as the people they claim to despise, tends to get on my nerves in short order.

I am pissed.

Frankly I look at how the opposition acts when they think nobody is watching, when they don’t realize the mic is live, and I tell myself I’m better than that.

I tell myself you’re better than that.

Maybe it’s my background. What distinguishes a Navy Warrant from other officers is the ever present awareness that the mic is never off.  You must lead by example at all times and that the true test of integrity is not how you act when others are watching, but how you act when no one is.

Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, and that’s your business.

 

But it matters to me.

 

It matters because I have to look myself in the eye.

It matters because I have to look my son in the eye.

It matters because I have to look the men and women I once led into harm’s way in the eye.

It matters to me because I have look you people in the eye and either you lead by example all of the time, or you don’t.

It matters because if you want a better nation, then you have to be better citizens.

It matters because either we are the people we say we are, or we are not. There is no middle ground.

It matters because even though I never used the word in the text, Resolutions nevertheless was about respect.

Not respect for some politician. Because I’m an American and I don’t owe any politician a goddamned thing and neither should you.

Resolutions wasn’t even about respecting an office, not even the office of President of the United States.

No.

It was about integrity.

It was about respect for ourselves.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Resolutions


Author’s preface:  This began as a post on Facebook. But the ideals outlined below apply to all of my social interactions, online and off. And because, a) not everybody who reads Stonekettle Station or follows me on Twitter subscribes to my Facebook page, and b) my Facebook page is subject to continuous attack by those who violently disagree with my viewpoint and my right to express such and therefor commenting is perforce limited to less than 5% of the people who follow me there, and because c) there is no such limitation here, I’m reposting this here on Stonekettle Station, expanded from the original Facebook post. // Jim

 

Let us make a resolution.

Let us resolve, in the coming year, to be the people we believe ourselves to be.

It won’t be easy, but then nothing worth doing ever is.

Let us resolve:

1. Trump will be president.

All alternate options are now exhausted. Short of his abnegation or unexpected demise, Donald Trump will be president of the United States.

Whether or not Trump should be the president is irrelevant.

Whether or not the opposition could have run a better candidate is irrelevant.

Whether or not Trump lost the popular election is irrelevant.

The wisdom and merits of the Electoral College (or not) are irrelevant.

This is our Vietnam, we won all the battles, but we lost the war. Trump will be the president.

As such, I ask that you stop sending me scenarios describing far-fetched, impossible ideas for [insert alternate of your choice here] to become president in his stead. That's not going to happen and I'm sick of being polite while people waste my time with it. Stop it. Please.

The simply truth of the matter is this: We need to face reality. And that reality is Donald Trump will be president.

 

2. Trump is not going to abdicate.

Whether or not Donald Trump "really wants to be president" is irrelevant.

Donald Trump is many things. And there are many things he unfortunately is not. But one thing is certain, Donald Trump is pathologically incapable of not accepting the office as his due.

Donald Trump if left to his own devices, will be president. He will not reject the office.

As such, stop entertaining fantasies suggesting that he might. He won’t. Face it.

2a. Tell you what, if he does resign the office, you may crow about it then and I will eat that crow, raw and kicking. And I will do it publicly and I will tell everybody that you told me so.

 

3. Do not wish for Trump's untimely demise in my presence.

I shouldn't have to explain why.

 

4. It's Trump. And it's going to be PRESIDENT Trump.

Yes, I know that pains you.

Yes, I know you hate the idea.

But after eight years of Oblamo, Obummer, Oh No Mo, Nobama, Obama bin Lyin, Obie, Barry, and whatever idiotic childish diminutive Conservatives managed to slap on President Obama in an attempt to delegitimize him, I refuse to resort to similar juvenile behavior.

And I think you should too.

Somebody has to be the grownup in the room and it's obviously not going to be Republicans.

So that leaves us.

I'm not telling you what to do on your own social media pages or in your own life, but I would appreciate it if you'd stick to "Trump" here.

4a. Please stop using "Drumpf."

Folks, I know some of you are really attached to that supposed insult. But it just sounds stupid. More, it is an unconscious repudiation of what we – those of us who believe in the right to define yourself – are supposed to stand for.

We tell ourselves every American has a right to define themselves, to define their own identity, and we will accept it, gay, straight, trans, queer, undecided, conservative, liberal, religion, that’s our right. We decide who we are. That’s what we tell ourselves. Some of you would come at me with both barrels if I insisted on using “Bradley” instead of “Chelsea” to describe former Army Private Manning, because in your mind even a disgraced soldier and convicted criminal who betrayed her country has the right to define who she is. And I agree with you.

My own Dutch and Irish ancestors anglicized their own (unpronounceable) surnames when they arrived here during the Potato Famine. A lot of immigrants did.

It's time to let this go.

4b. Guessing here, but I estimate that I've been called a "libtard" at least a dozen times today. That's probably the politest thing I've been called since a bunch of openly admitted racists have apparently gotten my number. Yay. So, Libtard.

Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?

Libtard. It sounds stupid even if you don’t say it out loud and it sounds even more booger-eating gap-toothed shirtless overall-wearing ignorant when you do.

Folks, that's what you sound like when you use "rethuglicans" and "conservatards" and ...

Just, stop. Please.

 

5. It's Melania. It's going to be First Lady Melania Trump.

I can't say I admire her taste in men or her choice of careers, but it's not up to me.

She's never done anything wrong to me. I have absolutely no reason to attack this woman personally. Likely neither do you.

Whether or not you find her attractive matters not one iota in any way whatsoever. Whether or not Donald and Melania find each other attractive or whether they are simply engaged in a business relationship is as irrelevant as speculation by conservatives regarding the Clintons’ marriage. I don’t know. I don’t care. I doubt you could make me see how it matters in any way important to me.

Look here, either we are the people we say we are, or we're not.

Either we are, or we aren’t. There's no gray area.

After eight years of watching Conservatives level every vile form of attack at Michelle Obama, every racist insult, every misogynist sneer, every attempt at body and identity shaming, I refuse to resort to similar behavior.

I refuse.

Again, I'm not telling you what to do on your own social media pages or in your own lives, but here I would appreciate it if you'd dispense with any tendency to slut-shaming and body/gender/identity based insults with regard to Melania Trump or the Trump children.

5a. NOTE: If Donald Trump's adult children become part of his government, or otherwise affect us as a nation, they are obviously then legitimate targets of public criticism.

Those of Trump’s adult children who are part of his transition team have made themselves legitimate targets of public criticism. Certainly. Just as adult Chelsea Clinton or Bristol Palin made themselves when they stepped into the public spotlight. I’m not arguing that at all. But that criticism is for their actions, not because they are somebody’s kids – with the caveat that nepotism is a legitimate criticism in certain cases – the Trump administration for example.

Trump’s underage kid is not a legitimate target.

I shouldn't have to explain why. Again either we are the people we say we are or we're not.

 

6. If you're an American, Donald Trump is going to be your president.

Yes, he is going to be your president.

Yes, I know a number of you pedantic bastards are going to argue the semantics of it. I would be disappointed if you didn’t.

But, just as Barack Obama was your president and the president of conservatives whether they liked it or not, Trump is going to be your president. If you're an American, if you believe in law and the Constitution and America, then you accept the results of the election (and if you don't believe in those things, then why does it matter to you who is president?).

Trump will be your president.

Our president.

It galls me as much as it likely does you, but refusing to face that unpleasant truth doesn't change the truth. It was childish when conservatives did it, it's childish when liberals do it. And as I noted up above, somebody has to be the adult, either it’s you or it’s not. Make your choice.

Trump is going to be be our president, we’re responsible for him and for what he does to our country whether you voted for him or not.  Take ownership and demand he be held to account.

That’s a responsibility of citizenship in this Republic.

That's how America works.

So what am I saying here?

Am I saying I'm throwing in with Donald Trump? That he’s my president? That I stand behind him no matter what? Is that it?

No.

Hell no.

I stand foursquare against this guy and nearly everything he represents and I will continue to do so until I no longer have the means to resist.

 

Because that too is a responsibility of citizenship.

 

What I'm saying is this:

Either we are the people we say we are, or we are not

And if we are to be the people we say we are, that we want to be, then that requires we not resort to the behavior we despise.

We must hold fast to fact-based and fact-checked reality.

After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama's wife is a man, Obama's kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama's wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they've figured out from "clues" they "deciphered" by reading John Podesta's emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is  wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let's not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.

 

Let's focus on the things that matter.

 

Let's try not to repeat every unsupported bit of wild rumor and unhinged conspiracy theory that comes along.

Trump is grossly unprepared for the job, Trump is a big enough problem, he's creating big enough problems, without us inventing stuff on top of it. So don't.

Check your facts.

Check your memes.

Check you sources.

Check your reasoning.

Logical speculation and extrapolation based on history is one thing, wild conspiracy theory is another.

We have to be the people we want to be – otherwise there is no point. And it's hard, being that person. No doubt. But the things in life most worthwhile usually are.

 

If you lay claim to the moral high ground, then you have to hold the moral high ground.

 

So, in 2017, let us resolve to be the people we want to be.

Let us stand together against the fall of night.

And let us always remember history is on our side if only we have the fortitude to see it through.