Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
As founder and spokesmodel of the Socialist Leisure Party, I am under constant attack from every side. My detractors are legion. From the right, they want to shut us up because we're spreading the dirty secret threatening to undermine capitalism's extortionist hold over the masses: there's enough wealth in the world today for everyone to lead an easy, pleasant and fulfilling life. From the vanguardist left, they want us to quit advocating recalcitrance and the romance of shirking work, because it undermines their image of the noble laborer as a deployable soldier in the battle against the current regime they wish to replace with themselves.
My first task every morning is to fight the urge to get up and fight. It's not easy being aggressively inert. But somebody has to take it upon himself to do this thing that doesn't need doing.
Our stupid national ethos fetishizes certain types of risk. There was even a popular song about risk assessment: "You got to know when to hold em; know when to fold em," the singing Gambler cryptically advised. If you risk your last dime and, through a combination of obsessive devotion and luck, make millions, you are applauded, lionized, celebrated. If you risk your last dime and fail, you are stigmatized and shunned and swept under the rug of oblivion. If you take the risk of devoting your time to teaching or nursing or firefighting or farming or otherwise doing the grassroots labor society requires in order to function on a day-to-day basis, whether you succeed or fail you are pretty much treated like scum.
For the sake of a handful of winners, we are held hostage in a nightmarish casino where most of us sweep the floors or refill the shrimp buffet in a thankless bargain with the management.
One tenet of the Socialist Leisure Party is that we in the USA are pressured to accept risk in order to enter into any social contract, and succumbing to such pressure must be avoided at all costs. We will not invest our time into mastering a trade. We will not devote our lives to contributing labor to a company or a municipality or, god forbid, a government, against the empty promise that it will support us with a pension in our old age. Simply put: we will not devote. Governments, companies and municipalities have earned nothing but our distrust, and we owe them nothing more.
So, yes, the basic motivation for the Socialist Leisure Party is risk avoidance. And isn't the basic motivation for civilization the same? We store up food to obviate the risk of famine. We enact traffic laws to decrease the risk of accidents. Obviously, total avoidance of risk is impossible. But it is indeed the goal of the collective human project since we first cohered socially. Which is why the USA must practice its peculiar form of brainwashing in order to coerce us into risking our all for the great benefit of the few. It goes against the logic by which our species has become successful.
Sorry, but the answer of the entire membership of the Socialist Leisure Party is a resounding "no thanks."
We recline on the hill of humanity's birthright: the avoidance of risk. You want me to throw in with your idiotic plan to sell overpriced hand-crafted baseballs in downtown Detroit? For what? What good does it do my spirit? What good does it do my body? In what way will it protect the people and ideals I believe are good, right and beautiful?
At least in bed I can appreciate whatever sunlight creeps into the room without exerting myself on behalf of someone else's money-making scheme, an idea misbethunk because its very conception has been mutilated at the root by the extortionist logic of capitalism. At least while gazing at clouds I'm not working against those I love for the sake of paying my rent. At least while wading in the waves and skipping stones I'm not actively making the world worse on behalf of Monsanto or Amazon or The Consolidated Sex and Fishing Slavery Corporation.
It has been suggested that the current Congress of the United States has secretly adopted a Socialist Leisure stance. The confusion is understandable. They do seem to be quite accomplished at accomplishing nothing. The entire membership of the Socialist Leisure Party has been mightily impressed by their constant failure to contribute to society, or even to leave any noticeable evidence of their intrusion upon the monotonous flow of time. They would be like Japanese ghosts, the yurei, who travel through the world without feet, leaving no prints. They would be like Jesus, who explained the absence of a second set of footprints during trying times for his devotee by saying, "That's when I was carrying you, my son," although this Congress makes no claim to have carried anyone or anything, not even a little old lady's groceries.
They would be as low-impact as a Japanese ghost or Jesus, but for one thing: they are trying to look as though they're getting something done. They aren't proud of their inaction. And despite leaving in place that great communist mechanism, the Affordable Care Act, to exert its devious Maoist influence on the populous, this Congress is definitely not socialist, except in the sense that they share the wealth of the masses among themselves.
No, do not be fooled by these frauds. Yes, they are lazy. Yes, they are ineffective. Yes, they cower and hide from their constituents, pretending they're invisible.
And this should be their time. Ineffective government, founded under Ronald Reagan and nurtured by Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich, has finally come of age. This is the Donald Dump era, where anything can be true, any failure can be called a success, where a blank stare can be Secretary of Education, and a toxic waste spill can run the EPA.
Nevertheless, this Congress tries too hard. No true Socialist Leisure partisan is taken in by these charlatans. They take no pride in their lack of productivity. The only reason they haven't done anything is because they're afraid if they take responsibility for any kind of policy they might lose their jobs. No true Socialist Leisurist is afraid of losing a job. Unemployment is our middle name!
In these dark yet psychedelic days of Donald Dump, this is the great risk we of the Socialist Leisure Party take. Yes, we also risk. We, the most risk averse of all, and therefore the highest form of civilized human beings, we also risk. We who invest nothing, plan nothing, think null thoughts, make no effort, and offer nothing to our fellow human beings, we risk suffering a fate worst than sweet death. We risk being mistaken for the current GOP Congress.
And what have you risked, you finance cowboys, you pharmaceutical corporations, you venture capitalists? Your savings? Ha. We of the Socialist Leisure Party laugh. We laugh very quietly because we don't want to spill the cocktail balanced on our belly.
For us, being mistaken for a member of the GOP Government is as devestating as it would be for a kindergarten teacher to be saddled with the reputation of Jack the Ripper.
Maybe when it comes to risk, we in the Socialist Leisure Party have been co-opted into the risk-fetishism of postmodern capitalism. No one can claim to be pure. Purity doesn't exist. We live in a risky universe. Even lying about in a hammock has its risks.
Salvador Dali once said, "The difference between me and a madman is, I am not mad." The main difference between us and the GOP pretenders is: we are not them. And, though we aren't proud of much, we are proud of that.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Ever get in one of those moods where your understanding of what the world is seems stuck on "basic alienation?" Reality parades and throngs around you like an immersive performance, human activity repeats ritualistically, as mechanical behavior in response to stimulus or programmed biologically, chemically even. A sophisticated organization of humans going about its sophisticated business is doing nothing more meaningful, nor does it evince any more free will, than salt does when it dissolves in water. People fight, love, build, invent, trade and sing because there is nothing else for them to do. We're all just chemistry trundling along through our processes of transformation. There is not a single activity you can discern to be a product of choice.
Here's a tidbit I picked up somewhere as I was going through the motions of living my life: King Solomon had a lot of contact with demons. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but it never hurts to go over old ground. In Solomon's world, demons were as observant as any Jew. They had temples in their demon world and studied Torah. Not some demon Torah, the Torah. And being immortal, they accumulated a great deal of wisdom from their studies. Ashmodai, the big cheese of the demons, was famous for his knowledge of Torah and mastery of its mysteries.
It's no surprise, then, that Solomon kept Ashmodai prisoner in his palace in order to study at the demon's feet. Solomon had a compulsive desire to learn. For a king, untangling the secrets of the universe woven in the letters and sounds of Torah provided material advantages, but Solomon was no less a student for the pure sake of learning. He learned the languages of the animals from the demons, and some say Ashmodai provided Solomon with the architectural specifications for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.
During their studies they came upon a particular mystery, I'm not sure what, but it was a deeply puzzling, mystically divine question, and Ashmodai had the answer to it. The demon said he could only explain if given full range of movement, because apparently there was some sort of gymnastic aspect to this point of doctrine. Solomon would have to remove whatever chains prevented Ashmodai from freely moving. Also, Ashmodai wanted to wear Solomon's royal signet ring, solely for the time it took to impart the secret midrash.
Solomon was a total sucker for arcane obscurities. He agreed to Ashmodai's requirements without hesitation. Ashmodai stretched his wings to their full expanse, dipping the tip of one down into the depths of the underworld and stretching the other up to the roof of the heavens. Then he clapped his wings closed with a thunderous impact, the shockwave from which threw Solomon out of his palace. The king tumbled through the sky, out of Jerusalem, out of Judea, beyond the horizon of the sea.
You see what you get when you're too curious, children? Solomon flew so far so fast that his royal clothes burned off from friction with the air. He landed in some far-off land, naked and alone. As one twitter bot once said, "Life have been like sandwich, now I am living dead." It was not cool to have been the king and now to have nothing, in a strange country.
What could Solomon do but pick himself up, dress himself in whatever he could find, and begin the long walk back to his kingdom? Whatever happened during those years of wandering, the effect they had on Solomon's outlook on life can be read in the words of Koheleth, which the goyim call the book of Ecclesiastes. As Solomon, or Koheleth, walked back to Jerusalem, he became a wandering preacher, and someone took it upon himself to jot down his somewhat nihilistic musings.
Koheleth orated to whoever would gather around him. "Life is meaningless," he said. "All we seek in glory or simplicity is like trying to hold onto the wind. All human endeavor is vanity. Whether wise or foolish, decent or crooked, all people come to the same end. A human life is a brief flame. Everything you work for in your life will belong to someone else. Nothing matters. There is no way to figure out the right way to live, because at bottom there is no absolute truth. We're all just guessing. It's probably best to enjoy what simple pleasures you can without striving too much, and maybe be decent to others if only to avoid the inconveniences that come from social retribution."
Had Solomon witnessed some series of brutal or moving scenes during in his exile? Or was it just the sudden shock of no longer having every need provided, and the dwelling on how he'd come to be a penniless vagabond, that brought him to his existential crisis? Was he just a spoiled brat of a man suddenly confronted with the harshness of the real world from which he'd previously been protected by his royal condition? Or had his bleak but perhaps freeing worldview been earned in some way?
Does it matter? Because he's right. All our business on this planet amounts to nothing more than does the fevered scurrying of ants building nests. Creation is nonsensical and hyperactive. We wake up every day, dress ourselves in costumes and wiggle our way back into life's manic processes. We might as well be cutouts in a shadow play.
Koheleth eventually got back to Jerusalem, continued his preaching, and eventually ended up in conversation with a eunuch from the royal harem, who told him King Solomon was still a fine king, but he had been for the last few years maybe too active among his many wives. He would even have sex with them during their menstrual periods. Somehow Koheleth got close enough to the king to reveal that he had the feet of a bird. Ashmodai was unmasked as an imposter, and Koheleth got back his throne. And the wives reported a sudden, welcome abatement in the king's deviance.
All of this is by way of explaining my mood. And if you're in a similar mood, it would be hard to blame you. When a bloated doofus holds the highest office in the world and spends his time spazzing around like a monkey beset by bees, and the laws governing society don't make sense to the people living in it, don't serve their needs, don't address the problems of the day, it makes perfect sense for us to dismiss authority, at least, as a meaningless masked parade, and by extension all our social duties. What a clown show. What a dumb show. What a shit show.
So, sadly but stoically, we pry what sustenance we can from a world owned by misguided fools. Maybe this is part of the journey toward becoming free. Because we really don't need this, and we're beginning to realize it. Once we arrange things so that the current ruling herd of malignant dunces have to battle each other to the death in gladiatorial combat for our entertainment, then the healing can begin. Such games could be our version of truth and reconciliation. Manafort and Sessions, chained wrist to wrist, bashing each other with kitchen cleavers and meat tenderizers. I'm here to suggest it makes more sense than the system we have now. And you wouldn't have to pay attention to the games, you really came to the arena to hang out with friends and have some snacks and drinks. Because such simple pleasures really are the best.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Complaining about cultural appropriation, or misappropriation as it should be called, is fun. I can tell it's fun, because people do it even when it's not necessary. They even do it when it makes no sense. Sometimes it's just to make fun of how presumptuous white people poorly execute ethnic cuisine. "Szechuan pizza? Gross! And offensive!" Sometimes it's a form of virtue signaling, as when white people commiserate with black people about Euro-misappropriation of dreadlocks. "Look," signals the white person, "I get it! They're stealing your hair! It's insulting and offensive! They just don't get it, but I do."
I don't want to pick on political comic Hari Kondabolu, especially since he recently entertained our socialist troops in Chicago, like a kind of woke Bob Hope, but he has this one routine someone brought to my attention that fits the description of what I'm going to call "virtue-signaling through ignorance." He was complaining about vegan soul food.
First off, let me admit that I understand hostility toward vegan food. I myself have complained on this very show about a particular vegan barbecue I endured. In that case, though, the barbecue was thrown by people who didn't even understand how to host a party in which people expected to eat, let alone have their hosts provide a source of heat over which to cook food. They failed the heat test, which is, if you don't have charcoal or propane either already hot or at least ready to ignite, it's not a barbecue. And if you don't have anything else for your guests to eat other than a few grapes and some leftover croissants, along with your uncooked tofu dogs still in the wrapper awaiting absolutely nothing because there is no flame over which to make them resemble edible food, you are a bad person.
There's an idea I myself have helped spread that a vegan is someone who doesn't like food. That's wrong. But it is accurate often enough to be mildly funny to some people.
And what with new dietary restrictions cropping up every day for any number of reasons, it's tempting to mock the gluten-intolerant, the diverticular, and the celiac sufferer. Suffering is funny! Comedy is tragedy happening to people you don't care about.
But Hari wasn't mocking vegan soul food because it's bland or oily or a travesty of culinary artistry, he was mocking it because it's not black. I want to quote him directly but that would mean I'd have to watch the performance again, and I don't feel like it. He compared vegan soul food to metal – the genre of rock music partially founded by Jimi Hendrix but, admittedly, dominated by white musicians. Metal takes something with roots in black culture and presents it in a form that shows no evidence of its African- American origin.
As accurate as this may be about metal, I don't know what makes Hari Kondabolu an expert on soul food. Maybe he studied it in grad school. And he may know the proper amount of back bacon to season a pot of greens with, or whether a St. Louis pig snoot should be crispy, chewy, or tender, or how to properly decline the Latin adjective form of "chitterlings." But whoever his dissertation advisor was did him no favors if she led him to believe that vegan soul food was cooked up by Rachel Dolezal and Vanilla Ice to sell at the Brentwood Farmers Market.
In Chicago, at least, as far as I know, vegan soul food was invented, or maybe just perfected, by the proprietors of Soul Vegetarian East on 75th Street. I used to eat there back in the 90s. I assume vegan soul food was made even before the restaurant was founded, because the people who run the place are African Hebrew Israelites, or something, a Torah-influenced religious sect founded in Chicago in the 1960s. The African Hebrews wear plant-based clothing and eat no animal products, except honey, I think. Near the end of the 60s they all followed their leader to Liberia, but then moved to Israel, where a few thousand of them now live in the Negev.
Here I must digress a little. Not to be a whiner, but these African Hebrews? They're misappropriating my culture. A lot of black people have done so down through the ages, from the US slaves through the Rastafari until now. They're not Jews. What gives? What's with the pretend Judaism? Who said they could use our Moses? "Let my people go—" that's our lyric, man. First the slaves steal our riffs, then the Rastfari with their Lion of Judah and their remembering Zion – that's our memory! We sat down by the rivers of Babylon and there we wept, not you, you cultural misappropriators.
The noive, I tells ya.
And now the African Hebrews are sitting there in the Negev, on land that was stolen from the Bedouin. That's the Zionists' game, playuh. I don't know if I can eat vegan soul food anymore. It's too imperialist. I mean, black vegans are basically white supremacists. I guess Hari Kondabolu was right.
Yet Hari himself, his whole schtick is practically lifted whole-cloth from Woody Allen, the glasses, the neuroses, the simplistic stereotypes presented in a progressive intellectual frame. I am feeling very triggered, very misappropriated, very colonized. I've been violated. My foreskin is spinning in its grave.
And why is Hari annoyed on behalf of black people, anyway? Isn't he misappropriating black people's cultural resentment? Or is every non-white person's resentment interchangeable with that of every other simply by virtue of them all not being white? Is Hari also bitter about Korean tacos? And if so, is it from the Korean angle or the Mexican one? How does he feel when, say, an Arab plays the didgeridoo? Does he have hard stories about having to eat fry-bread on the res because the white man stole his naan?
Where are the boundaries of cultural misappropriation? Cuz if I was an African Hebrew I'd be a little pissed off at some comic of South Asian descent telling people my food wasn't black enough. I might even object that there's nothing inherently non-black about trying to eat a healthier diet. But I'm not an African Hebrew, so this is all pure speculation. Educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless.
I suppose it's a bit much to expect Hari to be observant about every little thing he's going to tell a joke about. Being an observational comic focusing on politics and race in these times when the inequality of black people before the law is too obvious for even the popular media to ignore, I'm sure Hari has a lot on his plate.
He's just never had decent vegan soul food on his plate. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
After an incident at the Chicago Dyke March in which pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis ruffled each other's feathers, I weighed in by Jewsplaining, or perhaps "circumsplaining," to the benighted lesbians on both sides of the controversy. Though I tried to be evenhanded in my criticism of the pathetic display of juvenile behavior, I definitely went at non-Jews more aggressively. Non-Jews on the left seem complacent about their ill- repressed anti-Semitism, even willfully ignorant of it, so I felt it would require a lot more work to get it through their thick skulls exactly how hypocritical they are. I was right. I don't know if it's a thing with doctrinaire lesbians, or doctrinaire lefties in general, but they do appear to be more intransigently stupid than, say, your average first-grader.
Possessing, as I do, a penis, albeit a reasonably queer penis, I'm an outsider in this case. I don't apologize for having a penis, which is one of the most beautiful things in the world. Not mine, but the archetypal organ in general. As a penis-appended outsider, I should, according to some, abstain from commenting on this dyke-versus-kike buffoonery. And I considered that. I often abstain from commenting on the stupidity of women and people of color. It's much more fun to criticize white people, especially white men, and they do offer so much material. When women and people of color provide material for mockery, it's often even more satisfying not to comment. What could be more patronizing than deeming someone too oppressed and delicate to make fun of?
I didn't want to engage in that type of condescension this time. First, it would've been too easy. Second, the offenses to civil discourse were too blatant. And, third, the potential for snark was too tempting.
For example, as pointed out by my friend, the great shamanistic poet and mystic Rachel Kann, some of the march organizers, or "survivors of the trauma," have set up an online crowd-funding page to send themselves and their allies against Zionism on a retreat to recover from the argument. So pitiful is their plaint that even some of those who support the other side have given money. I'll quote two of them. Anonymous says, "You should be ashamed of the way you treated your fellow (Jewish) dykes!" Anonymous gave an undisclosed amount. Perhaps it was too insulting to disclose, in which case it can only add to the severity of the emotional scars from which these poor frail damsels are suffering. A Polly Rosenbloom Weisberger, also hiding the amount of her gift, comments: "Here's a contribution for all the trolling I've done." Now that's thoughtful. I'm trolling, and I'm not going to give a god damn cent.
I am no stranger to the vitriol rabid, racist Zionists can inflict over the interwebs. They can be horrid people. I know it takes more strength than many in the touchy-feely realm of resentment politics can muster. I suppose it's admirable of the anti-Zionist dykes to admit their lack of fortitude and spine. Some people's weaknesses are such that their resilience takes a bit longer to show itself. I'm often one of those people. I get it.
I don't, however, believe I've had to go on a self-massaging retreat to recover from having a handful of people alter a chant or wave a flag. I certainly have never tried to tax my constituency to give myself such a palliative vacation. Perhaps that's what strength means in this brave new world. Perhaps altering chants and waving rainbow Israeli flags are crimes on the order of violence, rape, and molestation.
But if your chant could be drowned out by so few people, maybe your point of view isn't as popular as you think? Were these Jews operatic singers? Were they really that disruptive? In a parade of hundreds? Is that it? Pushy Jews? Over-representing once again, just as they do in the arts and academics?
Anti-Zionists in general, and these particular ones since the march, have stated that they can separate their internalization of centuries of European anti-Semitism from their moral stance on the Israeli Occupation. One proof of it they tout is that they have many Jewish allies. Some of their best friends are Jewish. It's how many friends you have of a particular race or ethnicity that proves whether or not you're racist against them, right?
In an article in Mondoweiss, in support of the march organizers, Palestinian activist Nada Elia characterizes Zionism as sneaking itself into social justice spaces, "in all its colorful disguises." Yikes, dykes! Kikes! They're everywhere! And in colorful disguises, all the better to seduce you with.
This is language poorly digested and regurgitated from the European mythology of the conniving Jew. This is the language of internalized anti-Semitism. Elia's language is obviously informed by the same European Jew-hatred indulged in by Heinrich Himmler, Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. If that isn't worth Elia's time to examine, because she represents the oppressed and therefore is allowed to be as horrid a person as she feels like being, I don't see the solidarity, nor the strength.
Because, as Elia notes, we don't ask the oppressed to explain or examine themselves. We don't ask them what we would ask a full human being, an equal, in other words. How patronizing. And yet I have often seen oppressed people explain and examine themselves quite beautifully and powerfully. I have seen victims of oppression rise above the pettiness of those who claim to speak for them. And I've seen those who claim to speak for them feel shame in the face of their courage, and examine themselves, and learn. That's strength and solidarity.
Compared to such grace, the Dyke March seems, at least for some, to be a kind of nursery school for learning to behave in a truly pluralistic future. So it's natural they're going to make childish mistakes and dig their heels in to keep their childish convictions. Asking a Manichean leftist to consider that Zionism might not always be racism, or that it derives from a complex of sources only one of which is European imperialism – that's like asking a child to examine whether Santa Claus is real or not. There will be crying. There will be retreating and self-salving. There will be ice cream, or agave-sweetened sorbet for the vegans.
It's unfair to single out women of any sexual orientation, or course. Nothing comes easier to all people in the West, except maybe to dehumanize a darker person or a woman, than to demonize a Jew. Even Jews do it. After literally centuries of indoctrination in the orientalism articulated by Said, codified in the language of Shakespeare and Dickens, and the religious and legalistic liturgies of Europe, tropes about pushiness, colorful disguises, and sinister ubiquity flow freely off the tongue, the tongues of those who refuse to examine their own bigotry more easily than most.
To exacerbate matters, Jews tap into leftist Manichean anger because of how they screw up the simplistic diagram of revolt. Since the advent of the Zionist migration into Palestine, the Jew is both oppressor and oppressed in the same body. Rather than confront that complexity, the childish self-styled revolutionary throws tantrums. The simplistic Zionist does the same thing. Rather than give full life to the oppressive Occupier in themselves, and do the difficult job of navigating the confrontational terrain rippled with interference patterns from the colliding signals of oppressor and oppressed within the single moral self, they opt to demand consideration only as victims. For Zionists and anti- Zionists alike the true complexity must remain hidden, suppressed, erased, resulting in the infantilization of themselves and everyone around them.
Think what it could profit moral discourse, let alone the prospects for peace and justice, if that complexity were part of the discussion instead of denied. Maybe it's the fate of the Jewish body to be the battleground from which complex yet revolutionary morality will emerge either victorious or fatally defeated. There are Palestinians, Israelis, Europeans, Africans – people of every description willing to wrestle with moral complexity like mature human beings. When you're ready, please join us.
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Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
If you don't know about the kerfuffle at the Chicago Dyke March between organizers, pro-Palestinians, and three members of the pro-Israel group A Wider Bridge, please Google it. But be warned, very few details are clear. I've read statements and accounts from people at the march and from representative groups, and none of them agree. Even the Chicago Dyke March's own official statement conflicts on several points with that of core Dyke March Collective member and organizer Alexis Martinez in a Windy City Times interview. Were the Wider Bridge women asked not to display their flags, which resembled the flag of Israel? Were the Wider Bridge women abusive and disruptive? Were they asked to leave? Did they leave? Were pro-Palestinian marchers abusive to the A Wider Bridge women? Was anti-Semitism involved? Who started it?
These questions have no easy answers... except for the one about anti-Semitism, but we'll get to that later.
There had already been friction between A Wider Bridge and the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Palestinian faction. Laurel Grauer, one of the A Wider Bridge marchers who may or may not have been asked to leave the march for flag-waving and/or harassing speech or chanting or behavior, had had a text conversation with a Dyke March organizer before the march asking if they would be protested there. The organizer said no, but made clear the position of the organizers in support of the Palestinian struggle.
In addition to its LGBTQ advocacy on the part of queer Israeli Jews, Arabs and others, A Wider Bridge is an emphatically Zionist organization, if uncritical enthusiasm for Israel is Zionism. A perusal of its website makes this clear. If an anti-Israel stance were part of a stated position of my march, one I didn't want challenged, I would ask an organization that announces, "We see the independent state of Israel as the most important project of Jewish people," not to represent that view at my march. Not that one can't be pro-Israel and anti-Zionist at the same time, or pro-Israel but anti-Occupation, but those positions rarely divide or interweave in any simple way, either on the Palestinian or the Jewish side, and representing ideas of such complexity in a march would require real, concentrated effort on the part of all parties.
Does the complexity of the subject mean it should have been avoided? No, I guess not. I suppose that's why the CDM organizer told Laurel her organization would be welcome. Rather than exclude A Wider Bridge, the Chicago Dyke March organizer simply implied that Grauer and her companions were expected to behave in a manner that did not conflict with the march's position of support for the Palestinian struggle. But the Palestinian struggle is not a one-dimensional endeavor. How not to conflict with a layered, many-faceted point of view is something clearly open to interpretation on a practical level, beyond the intellectually narrow confines of a march.
Or maybe it's simpler than that. In January of last year, A Wider Bridge hosted a reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, also in Chicago. Although that event featured Jewish groups more obviously progressive and critical of Israel than A Wider Bridge, the reception was disrupted by anti-Israel protests so hostile that it had to be canceled.
So it's not as if those involved in this year's march had no inkling there might be some friction if A Wider Bridge had a presence at there. And it's not as if pro-Palestinian queers in Chicago don't have a recent history of overt, disruptive hostility toward A Wider Bridge.
All parties say the A Wider Bridge women were "approached" by pro-Palestinian marchers. Considering the fiasco at the reception in 2016, it's easy to see how those particular Jewish women might have perceived elements of that "approach" as hostile. Conversely, even anti-Occupation Jews have a tendency to push back with rhetorical anger when they sense symptoms of global anti-Semitism. So it's entirely believable that the A Wider Bridge women were actively antagonistic in their own right, pushing the "we're just being pro-Jewish, not anti-Palestinian" trope as far as it could go, which could easily have been too far for people with certain pro-Palestinian sensitivities.
A Wider Bridge's immediate response after the march, denouncing the organizers and demanding an apology, betrays a lack of good faith. A dialogue with the organizers should have been sought, even after the fact. Simply slamming the march as anti-Semitic is infantile and unconstructive. What does that accomplish?
If A Wider Bridge wants to shed its reputation for pinkwashing the human rights violations of the Occupation so it can march without being scolded, it should consider incorporating some critique of the excesses of the Occupation into its mission statement. Its entire focus is on making Israel itself welcoming to non-heteronormative identities, but if it truly wants to represent the best Israeli efforts at equality to the rest of the progressive community, it has to cease eliding the elephant in the room. Equality has a meaning that is not restricted to the LGBTQ community, nor to the area inside the current boundaries of the Israeli state.
Then again, does every LGBTQ organization in the US have to include statements about US imperialist crimes against humanity? If not, why not? Too many to mention them all?
If A Wider Bridge is unwilling to criticize the Israeli Occupation when talking about equality in Israel, then it is indeed pinkwashing by omission. But if Palestinian activists, particularly queer ones, are unwilling to acknowledge the oppression doled out by their own communities in Gaza and the West Bank, they're doing a wash job of their own, using victimization by the IDF to excuse or ignore homophobia among their own authorities. At best it's the soft bigotry of low expectations applied to your own people.
Some allies of the march organizers suggest, rather insipidly, that A Wider Bridge planned all along to set off an incident with the specific intent to later make an accusation of anti-Semitism. And some Jewish allies of Palestine have said, "We were openly Jewish at the march, but we behaved ourselves, and no one bothered us." Is that what you really suggest for women in a Dyke March: be well-behaved? Is that what you recommend for Jews on the left? Behave?
In lieu of waiting for any of the agonists to mature and mellow, let me suggest that, in time, you'll realize the same skills which serve artists well in collaborative situations also work when applied to conflict resolution in the regular world, even in the horrid, pathetic world of political marches. Listening, offering constructive criticism, working together to move toward changes in practice, being respectful and calm even in the face of disrespect and vituperation, being upfront and fair – these are the strategies adults have found, time and time again, lead to good outcomes when those with whom they are working toward a common goal in good faith disagree with them. That assumes, of course, that what you seek is conflict resolution, and not just conflict.
Posturing, staking out territory, simplistic accusations, simplistic diagrams of oppression, jargon, buzzwords, holier-than-thou smugness: this is what progressive solidarity has come to mean to me when it comes to collective action. The more oppression you have to complain about, the more obnoxious behavior you can consider yourself to have license for. And you, of course, are the final judge of how much oppression you have suffered, so you, and no one else, can arrogate how shitty you can justifiably be to another person.
Nothing is as obnoxious, short of a violent mob or an oppressive regime, as a self- righteous politico surrounded by likeminded loudmouthed douchebags, going at it like a self-felating dog with jock-itch.
I'm not saying, "A Pox On Both Your Houses." I'm saying there's just one house represented here: the house of politically self-righteous, self-justifying, rationalizing, posturing, punk-ass bullshit.
Sure, I'll admit I'm not above a little self-righteous posturing myself. A critical view of the history, goals and tactics of the Israeli Occupation is an important duty of a moral person seriously examining the situation in the Middle East. But for a non-Jew to assert that any action or speech on their part touching on Israel is totally free from anti- Semitism is like a white person claiming not to be racist. Anti-Semitism is rooted so deeply in European history and thought that no one raised in a nation founded by Europeans can claim to be free of it without inviting ridicule. Ridicule from me.
For those of you with shallow knowledge, the oppression of Jews in Europe didn't begin with Hitler, or with the pogroms at the end of the 18th Century, or even the forced conversions and expulsion from Spain in 1492. The racist othering of Jews has been a project over a millennium long, an intricate, deliberate process of fact-manipulation, profiling, diagnosing and pathologizing Jews to create in the non-Jewish European imagination a creature of perverse sexuality, unwholesome appetites, deranged but powerful intellect, arcane Satanic rituals, genetic dishonesty, cosmopolitan disloyalty, hypnotic persuasiveness, syrupy voice and repellent odor.
There isn't a land west of the Urals and north of the Mediterranean where manufacturing an alien pathology of The Jew wasn't indulged in over many centuries. The expulsion of the entire Jewish population of England took place two centuries before Spain's purge of the Jews. England is where the founders of the United States hailed from, you remember that, right? You know that language you speak? That's the language of people who massacred Jews and ran them off of their island nation in 1290. Fast forward to the 1930s, when our own glorious capitalist hero, Henry Ford, published a multi-volume screed entitled "The International Jew, the world's foremost problem." We've got Holocaust deniers in our government right now. Talk about a persistent congenital illness, that's anti-Semitism in the West.
Given its history, who could argue but that othering of the Jew resides deep in the DNA of the white Christian capitalist hetero-normative patriarchy from which none of us is entirely free? How can lefties admit to unconscious, internalized racism while refusing to admit to unconscious, internalized anti-Semitism? Examine your critiques of the Israeli Occupation. How much of your rage is due to unconscious anti-Semitism rather than legitimate argument? You say all your indignation derives from coldly observing the injustices the State of Israel has visited and continues to visit upon the Palestinians? You have no irrational anti-Jewish feeling? Or if you do, you have absolutely no problem keeping the two separate? Wow, you must be a regular über-mensch!
To be fair, it's understood that any group effort is going to suffer internecine friction. It just happens that a movement advocating peace, equality, and inclusivity, and questioning pernicious orthodoxies, is naturally going to appear hypocritical and mentally defective when friction arises, especially friction over doctrine. Especially friction over stupid, intelligence-insulting doctrine. The blithe dismissal by the left of their own internalized anti-Semitism is hypocritical, all the more so because of the lip-service they pay to tiptoeing around micro-aggressions, and their acceptance of deterministic theories of privilege and psychology.
But worse than all the mealy-mouthed psycho-social mumbo-jumbo and petty antagonism is the collective diminishment of the person. Each fallible human being's personal shortcomings are amplified into a blunt and stupid instrument through herd behavior. Human beings are bad enough in workaday situations. When they come together with a great aspiration, only to fail comically and miserably, the embarrassment destroys hope.
Over the past 400 days, from right to left, beginning with neo-Nazis, through the deplorables and the Alex Jones contingent, via the GOP congress, Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters, Green Partiers, all the way through to the farthest fringes of the doctrinaire left, everyone has made me so ashamed to be human, I'm ready to volunteer for a solo mission to Mars. Human beings in a swarm, a throng, a march, a phalanx, a welter or a swelter have proven utterly disappointing.
For those of you who can thrive in the herd, though, my best wishes to you. Waving flags and banging drums is not for me. I long ago gave up chanting slogans in unison with a crowd, slogans I would always have to amend under my breath with small quibbles and interpolations. I prefer to do my berating and hating and baiting from the comfort of my desk, which I intend to make the most of before it's thrown out into the alley by my landlady, along with my pathetic pressed particles of furniture and my sorry ass.
Hey, how about getting together to fight the predatory capitalism that is devouring us all? Easier and more ego-validating to argue and torment each other in the streets of Chicago. No wonder we're being crushed. Pathetic. Pathetic insects, cockroaches, vermin, all of us.
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Starting about three thousand years ago, in old, old China, there was a tradition called the Tiger Tallies. Every general in charge of an army had a jade tiger figurine. It was pretty cute. The emperor had duplicate figurines, one for each general. When the emperor wanted to go to war, he had to meet with his generals and match up their figurines.
For 800 years this ritual went on. Then, in the mid-Second Century BCE, during the reign of the fifth Han Emperor, something changed. Han Wu Di wanted to go to war, but his paternal grandmother, The Grand Dowager Empress Dou, had the Tiger Tallies. And she didn't want Han to go to war. She was a Taoist and something of an isolationist and anti-imperialist, at least as much an anti- imperialist as someone calling herself Grand Dowager Empress could be.
Han Wu Di woke up one day and said, "Screw this. What's with this Tiger Tallies crap? I'm the Emperor, for Confucius' sakes. I'm going to order my generals to go to war, and no controlling old dowager with an egg-carton full of jade tiger figurines is going to stop me."
Thus ended the 800-year tradition of the Tiger Tallies. Not through trickery, not by coup, not by reasoned argument, not by ethical appeal, not by plebiscite. The guy in charge just decided not to honor it anymore, because it obstructed his desires.
And that's also how our democracy ended. One day the Republican party decided that the quaint tradition of pretending to consider the public good wasn't worth the hassle. It involved too much deception, and they realized the people they needed to deceive weren't such sharp tacks. The Constitutional rituals for the formation, consideration and passing of laws could remain in place, since it was a very useful way to coerce the aristocracy to share its money with the lawmakers. And the Democrats themselves weren't that enthusiastic about forcing the GOP to honor the quaint tradition. The legislative branch became like a repurposed shuffleboard court, one no longer used by people to play shuffleboard, but rather now completely monopolized by two gluttons sliding cheesecakes to each other, bargaining with the various aristocratic cheesecake bakeries for more and better cheesecake.
The GOP had witnessed what a pain in the ass it had been for Obama and the Democratic Congress of 2009/2010 to appease the people while also appeasing the insurance companies. They said to Obama, after the fact, "Why did you pretend? If you weren't going to fix the problem, which was definitely the insurance companies, why poke and prod and chip away at them? You only made them and some rich taxpayers sad. You didn't want a public option, and you didn't want single-payer, so you didn't really want to fix the problem. You clearly liked the problem. You wanted to preserve the problem, just as we do. Why not just redefine the problem? The real problem is the people, not the insurance companies. Flip the script. If we just take the people out of the health care equation, it's all good. Silly Democrats."
And the Democrats said, "You're right. For all our troubles, we got voted out of office. The people aren't worth it. And anyway, they're not the ones with the big, delicious cheesecakes."
And then a president got elected, sort of, who was not just a worthless piece of crap, but an amoral, greedy, petty, corrupt, treasonous louse. And the Republican Congress decided to extend the principle of not even pretending to consider the public good by ignoring the louse's lousiness. And the Democrats decided to see if maybe getting the louse into trouble would get more of them elected in the midterms. Not because they actually cared that the louse was damaging the people or the country, but because it might be good for their own election prospects. Because deep down they too wished they could stop pretending, stop kowtowing to the grand dowager and her piddly little jade tiger figurines.
That's us. We the people are an old woman, who once thought she was powerful because she held some stone tigers in her hand. And we're left abandoned and powerless, because no one gives a hummingbird's fart about our stupid tigers. You can't even play chess with them, they're all the same color, and they're all tigers!
There's just no payoff for doing the people's work. Supposedly the founders of our nation put together a system of checks and balances. Supposedly, we were once told, they were worried about elected and non-elected public office-holders receiving gifts from people and foreign governments, gifts which, whether given as part of a quid pro quo or not, had the potential to woo an official's loyalty away from the people and nation they were sworn to represent.
But when the entire government decides that all that is just so much passé BS, what good are those safeguards? The founders might as well have written, "Oh, and please play fair. We'll be using the honor system." All those rules and checks and balances are good for nothing but preventing those in government from doing what they really want to do. Press freedom is just a big headache. Keeping corporate control from perverting the electoral system isn't what they want. Respecting the national sovereignty of people browner than John Wayne is just going to make them miss out on extra cash. Fighting to dislodge the fossil fuel industry from its spot on top of the food chain isn't going to help buy a lawmaker another house.
Bumping up against rules and checks and balances is over. That quaint tradition is over. The Tiger Tallies are just a pile of worthless green stones. Not through trickery, not by coup, not by reasoned argument, not by ethical appeal, not by plebiscite. The people in charge just decided not to honor them anymore, because they obstructed their desires.
And what do you suppose the Han people did when their Emperor made the war powers tradition obsolete? The same thing we did when our leaders made our war powers tradition obsolete. They went to war. Han Wu Di went to war often. And he really did unify a lot of land under one flag. But afterward the country's finances were in ruins, not to mention the homes and bodies of many a human being. There was hell to pay.
It's probably too late to call the story of the Tiger Tallies a cautionary tale. It might also be too optimistic to believe we're a wiser people than the Han under Emperor Wu. Are we perhaps in a better position to influence our so-called leaders than they were? And if we are, again, the question arises, are we wise enough to make good use of our influence? There's one quaint tradition that says yes, and a slightly less quaint one that says no.
There's the quaint tradition of the people respecting authority, but the people have been known to dismiss that one. The people tore down the Berlin Wall. They decided the tradition of allowing the wall to contain them was irrelevant. In the late 18th Century, the French decided that the quaint tradition of a king having a head wasn't worth honoring anymore. We could arbitrarily decide one day to cease respecting any number of arrangements that long ago settled into tradition but have become irrelevant to our needs and desires.
Quaint traditions come and go. They have to start somewhere. They don't suddenly emerge on the scene already hundreds of years old. Times are certainly growing ripe for some new ones.
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A lot people I know have been looking at me the last couple days as if to say, "You lucky so-and-so. We've got all these hot takes and jokes in our heads about shooting Republicans, but you actually have a public forum where you can speak yours out loud. We have to keep ours bottled up like an explosive turd pounding insistently at our sphincter. Oh what sweet relief you must feel to let it all out. You must be the only healthy person in the USA right now."
But, look, I do have a sense of the boundaries of good taste. I don't respect them, but I know where they are. I don't respect them because, deep down, I don't understand their purpose. But I know where they are.
And I would never advocate violence. When I say, "Looks like it might be time to roll out the tumbrels and guillotine," I always make sure to put in that conditional "might." Because I'm never sure about the use of violence, unless you're protecting yourself or your family. And yes, one could say violence against the GOP-majority congress is justifiable as a defense of one's family, particularly if one's family likes to drink water or breathe air or eat food or receive medical care, or if perhaps one's family member is a refugee, maybe a Christian refugee at risk of getting sent back to, say, Iraq. One could say violence in that case was defense of one's family, but not me. I could only say that it might be.
I could say, thank goodness the only one killed in the attack on the GOP baseball practice was the shooter. Everyone else escaped with injuries. I understand that, right now, Scalise is in critical condition with internal bleeding and injuries to several organs, but otherwise, no harm, no foul. The shooter made his point and suffered the fatal consequences. And, come on, they're just bullets. Fifty-cent's taken nine of them, and he went on to become a very successful businessman, so lift yourselves up by your bootstraps, whiners!
I could say that, but I won't, because it's insensitive. Like I won't say, "It's too bad Scalise wasn't swinging an automatic rifle in the on-deck circle instead of a bat, because then maybe this wouldn't have happened." You know, the way NRA-supporting Republicans always suggest teachers carry firearms after a psychopath massacres a roomful of schoolchildren. I mean, when you're on deck, you're not going to hit a ball or anything, so you really could swing a powerful firearm just to limber up. If we as Americans were really serious about protecting our national pastime and the cruel rightwing legislators who pass their time playing it, we might think about it.
But regardless of its logistical pragmatism, I wouldn't suggest such a thing. Because I know where the foul lines are. I certainly hope Scalise can recover, the way Gabby Giffords has from the gunshot to the head she received after, but not because, Sarah Palin published a map putting rifle-sight crosshairs over photos of certain politicians, including Giffords, while often saying in public it was time to "lock and load." Nevertheless she did not inspire the shooter of Gabby Giffords, a crazy man who had no clear political viewpoint, according to a fact-checker at the Washington Post. And indeed, what clear political viewpoint would inspire a person to shoot and kill six people who were merely lined up to meet the Congresswoman, including a 9-year-old girl? Who needs to defend their family from a nine-year-old girl, even if one knew for sure she's grow up to be the next Adolf Hitler? There's no evidence the shooter knew any such thing, nor that he came here from the future to prevent World War Three, although the Washington Post fact- checker is suspiciously silent in this regard.
But I would never say any of that. In fact, to get a good idea of the kind of person I am, you should just pretend you haven't heard anything up to this point.
All the worst people in the USA are pointing to this shooting as evidence of the violent nature of the left. People like Alex Jones and his colleague at Infowars, Paul Joseph Watson, who tweets: "Trump-hating leftist Bernie voter attempts to massacre Republicans." This is the same outlet that calls the Sandy Hook massacre a false-flag hoax. So they can clearly tell a true-flag non-hoax when it suits their political purposes. And since their rhetoric could be seen as inciting violence against the left by rightwing Trump voters, who are clearly more of a threat to civic peace than any Bernie supporter, perhaps we on the left should look to our own pre-emptive self-defense, which I would never, ever advocate without a conditional "perhaps."
By tweeting "Trump-hating leftist Bernie voter attempts to massacre Republicans," Mr. Watson is implying that we on the left couldn't massacre Republican fish in a barrel if we felt like it. Oh yeah? Just a month and a half ago last year, Dionisio Garza III went on a shooting spree during which he fired 212 rounds, injuring two cops and igniting a gas station before a SWAT team killed him. Garza was a far-rightwing Trump supporter who hated Jews, gays, and Muslims. But do you see me comparing his shooting ability unfavorably to our leftwing maniac, saying, "I mean, come, on, 212 rounds and all he does is wing a couple of cops? What kind of second-rate losers are these rightwing maniacs? I'll tell you what, if I'm going to defend my family from legislation I disagree with, I'm going to get myself a crazy white guy obsessed with Gabby Giffords but with no clear political viewpoint, cuz at least they have a proven track record of being able to kill people."
You wouldn't see me tweet that because I wouldn't. First of all, it's more than 140 characters. And it makes no sense. If I were going to defend my family against legislation by hiring a hit man, it would be a real sniper like the Jackal in Day of the Jackal, not some flailing immature lunatic with a Gabby Giffords obsession, of all things. Also, I just don't tweet stuff like that. I keep that kind of thing to myself. Because I know where the boundaries of good taste are. And though I don't respect them, I sure don't like being scolded for crossing them, so I make sure never to get caught.
So, no, I won't defend this mentally ill Bernie supporter's attempted massacre of Republicans, and not just because he failed so miserably. I'm sure we've all had a good laugh at the GOP Congressmen who have canceled their town halls or held secret ones or snuck around and hid in fear from their constituents. Well, they don't look so foolish now, do they? Granted, they weren't hiding because they were afraid of getting shot at. They were just afraid of being asked difficult questions about taking away people's health insurance, afraid of being lectured by angry husbands and wives and mothers and fathers, and then looking like the speechless yet unrepentant villains they are when someone at the town hall would post a video of the incident on YouTube.
But now they can be afraid of something besides public humiliation at being called out for greed and mendacity. This is very good for GOP Representatives. Their cowardice is not comical anymore. If the horribly violent left is responsible, then the GOP should be thanking us for turning them from objects of mockery to figures of possible martyrdom. And what is as noble as to be a martyr for the cause of keeping big insurance companies rich by denying health services to sick people?
And, you know, it might be a good thing for the members of the Worst Congress in US history to fear the people, even if they only fear the craziest of people. They are in fact supposed to be answerable to the people. And so far the only people they've been answerable to are Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers. Obviously, some legislators are willing to sell their shame and honor for money. But are they willing to sell their safety? So, yes, it might be a good thing for our elected representatives to fear us. Might. It might. If I didn't say "might," that would be wrong. "Might" makes right. Makes it all right.
I don't advocate violence. Period. Please don't go out and shoot people. Wait for them to come to you – just kidding! I'm with Bernie. He said he denounces this despicable act in the strongest possible terms. I wish he'd actually used the strongest possible terms to denounce it, instead of just saying he denounces it in the strongest possible terms. But maybe he couldn't come up with the strongest possible terms, and figured we could fill in the blank with our own. He's letting us think for ourselves. I like that.
Obviously we all knew it was only a matter of time before a crazy person from the left did something like the crazy people from the right have been doing. Mental illness doesn't respect ideological boundaries. It might know where they are, but it doesn't respect them. It might favor one side slightly over the other. But mental illness cannot be harnessed for progressive purposes, nor can violence caused by mental illness. So even if we all kind of sympathize with the idea of massacring those whose corruption and immorality lead them to disdain the wellbeing of the people, sell out the republic, and seek only to enrich the already wealthy, we know that fantasizing about something doesn't mean you would ever actually do it. It might, but it probably doesn't.
The desirability and efficacy of violent resistance is an issue we on the left consider very seriously, as we always have and will continue to do. And each act of violent resistance will have to be judged on its merits. The baseball practice shooting doesn't rise to the level of violent resistance. It's a tragedy. This is why we will be discussing it as a mental health failure and a gun-availability failure and a white entitlement and toxic masculinity issue. Because we know where the boundaries of serious discussion are, and we also know who's positioned themselves outside those boundaries.
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The reason I can't have nice things is that I will waste all my time watching TV on one of those nice things. This was proven to me once again while I was house/cat-sitting for some friends. Through exertion of will-power, expected neither by me nor anyone else, I actually did accomplish a great many things besides consuming motion picture entertainment. I did it by mostly watching particular movies one at a time, movies that I had a reason to watch, more specific than merely to have colors and sounds dancing for me in the room. I was selective, for the most part. And I avoided binging any series. I almost binged one, but an accident of fate spared me.
Trying to find something worth watching, I remembered someone mentioning they enjoyed an aspect of "Big Little Lies," the HBO limited series about a half-dozen women living in luxury but having all kinds of problems. And there was a murder, but the police couldn't seem to get to the bottom of it. It was a seven-episode series. I watched what I thought were the first three episodes and found it well-acted and somewhat intriguing. These women, though they were living in Malibu or Santa Monica or Santa Barbara or the Palisades, had problems just like the rest of us, serious and sad problems, problems that drove wedges between them or created bonds of confidence. Friendships, even.
The third episode was a relief because we found out which little boy had been assaulting Laura Dern's little girl, and it thankfully it wasn't the little boy we liked, whose mother was really too poor to live in the school district but wanted her kid to have the same chance as these over-privileged but really beautiful and winning Stepford children. Also, the sick wife-beating thread came to a head. The wife left her spouse, a separation it seemed was going to be a difficult thing to accomplish, and I was looking forward to all the tactics she would have to employ to keep her needy, violent husband at bay.
At least, until very near the ending. Then I realized I had watched the seventh episode instead of the third. But to be honest, it hardly mattered, except that it saved me four hours. Of what? Character and plot development? Those actresses were so good, I didn't really need anymore character work, and whatever fleshing-out the plot could've received was clearly unnecessary. The writers could have put the seventh episode third and gone on from there, and had a very interesting show.
I want to say that, if you can put the final episode of a seven-episode series right after the second episode without the viewer being at all confused, maybe you've done something wrong. But I can't say that. Perhaps the actions of Nicole Kidman and Zoe Kravitz would have carried more emotional power with all that rich, creamy filling piled up behind them. Or maybe the misdirects would have been amusing. Or the emotional ups and downs and the unlikelihood of alliances made and broken. I honestly don't think I could have handled four additional hours of Reese Witherspoon's husband being insecure, though.
If only we could skip episodes of the Donald Dump drama the way I skipped the Big Little Lies filler. Now that we're used to the constant barrage of buffoonery and outrages, now that it's become the accepted narrative style of the day, we all know where this is heading. His wife is going to murder him and their youngest child, then put her own head in the oven. After that comes a King Lear-style battle over what remains. Ivanka and Jared are the strongest contenders, an Edmund and Goneril or Edmund and Regan power couple, but more like two Ladies Macbeth joined in a bloodthirsty union.
The children and other apparatchiks are minor players, though, and they will eventually winnow their numbers away. They'll exhaust their money and energy and political capital fighting each other, and that's when Bannon will step in.
Bannon's a wild card. He clearly doesn't belong among the others, he's an outsider.
Bannon was living in his mother, Sycorax's, basement, or what he called his "control center," a dozen TVs linked together, old Dell CPUS, everything stacked up and duct- taped on those tin shelves people give away at the end of garage sales. His dead mother still sits taxidermied in an easy chair in front of the TV upstairs.
Bannon was so excited when he got the call, he didn't even take time to do laundry or bathe or shave and he still hasn't. The helicopter landed in the middle of the street and he shoved whatever wrinkled clothing was nearest to him into a gunnysack and ran out to it. He was a collector of gunnysacks and barrel staves and dog skeletons. He still gets off by watching his boa constrictor eat live Guinea pigs. Other than that he lurks in his office adjoining the Oval one.
He used to get his news from Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh, then put his own rightwing spin on it and peddle it as his own. Now he lies on an army cot looking at the ceiling, drinking bourbon and branch water, eating Dominos Pizza and small amounts of arsenic to build up a tolerance, listening to recordings of G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary from their debate tour.
Bannon, like the rest of us, wishes to skip to the last episode, when Dump has been dead for over a year and the children have openly turned on each other, each with a private army and bumbling assassins always getting thwarted by their own clumsiness. Bannon pictures himself picking through the rubble of the executive branch, finding the orb and scepter, sitting himself on Dump's solid gold toilet, draped in a terry cloth bathrobe blotched with orange pepperoni-grease stains, issuing edicts. He sometimes sees himself standing over Melania's corpse, laughing at it. He's always resented her conditions that he never speak to her or exhale anywhere near her. He's bitter about all of it. He's bitter over having been treated like the trash he is. He's as bitter as Richard Nixon but without even the reasons to feel good about himself.
Of course, after the Dump offspring have exhausted themselves, after all the minor Dump loyalists have been taken out by Russian hit men, after Pence's grandiose and convoluted plan to have himself crowned King of the Jews in Jerusalem has backfired hideously, after Jeff Sessions has been brutally stomped to death by a cabal of black Secret Service agents, Bannon's final foe will be Reince Priebus.
It is Priebus's dream to one day look in the mirror and see someone else there. Anyone. But failing that, he'd like to be the power behind the throne, he's that kind of snake in the grass. Who will be his pawn, his puppet president? Bannon is his own man, for better or worse, and like the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client, the Igor who attempts to be his own Doctor Frankenstein will end up a medical atrocity at his own hand. But, also like Frankenstein's creature, even with a leaky liver and other internal putrescence, some malformations of stitched-together death and corruption can persist out of sheer spite.
Priebus has enough spite to meet that challenge, though. He's not spiteful about anything in particular, he's just got a resentful personality. Most of all, he resents other people not having to walk around with the name Reinhold Richard "Reince" Preibus. He resents bearing a sickly resemblance to Howard Cosell. His lip curls in a snotty vindictive sneer, simply out of habit. The great unknown for us is, whom will he chose as his champion? Who will be the Shabbetia Zvi to Priebus's Nathan of Gaza, the face and fist of power, while Priebus himself lurks behind the scenes, slandering and shanking and poisoning all who oppose him?
Perhaps it will be a character we haven't met yet. That would be the smart play. That way you couldn't just skip to the end, you'd at least have to find the episode where that character was introduced. This is why reality is more interesting, if slower moving, than entertainment. And remember, there's always a chance that a charismatic socialist will show up and flip the majority in Congress, appearing out of nowhere like Zoe Kravitz. We simply don't know.
It's exhausting, waiting for things to happen. We must remain vigilant, however, and force ourselves at least to bear witness to the nation's self-destruction. The story arc is long, I know. The advantage to that is, there's plenty of time to make yourself dinner and a strong drink or many and not worry that you'll miss something meaningful. It'll all transpire in the fullness of time.
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Fox News Channel chattering skull Charles Krauthammer is off the chain and skating on the slippery slope toward socialism.
Back when we were hunting and gathering in small tribes, we didn't have much, but what we had we shared. We never let anyone go hungry or homeless who was in the tribe. And you had to do something pretty severe to get kicked out. It wasn't until we had a large surplus that we began starving people. Now, it could be said that these people we've been starving since we developed the ability not to starve anyone aren't members of our tribe. However, ethically, we've come to the conclusion that all people are human beings and worthy of every chance to live. Of course there's a sizeable minority of racist, nationalist, and religious fanatics who think anyone not like them should die. But for the most part, humanity is leaning toward including all of humanity and even some other beings in the "in" group.
And yet somehow, we're starving people. We're allowing people to go without medical treatment for permanently damaging or even fatal ailments. We're shortchanging them on education. We're shortchanging them on opportunity.
Just to review: when we barely had enough, we shared. Now that we have way more than enough, we allow a few a-holes to hoard a ridiculous surplus that could save lives.
We are slaves. If that offends anyone because it trivializes actual slavery, I'm sorry, but I don't mean this metaphorically. In the future, should we be fortunate enough to have one, people will wonder how we could stand it, having the basic necessities of survival denied us, held hostage, only provided to us on condition of our servitude. Obviously there are other ways to look at our condition, but when a small handful of idiotically privileged people skate merrily about in solid gold ice rinks or sip heroin tea in which they've poached the last embryonic platypus while toxically polluting more land than all the farmers in the world could farm, land that could be filtering pollution and hosting herds of cool megafauna, while the vast majority of people are either forced to work at unfulfilling, monotonous, spirit-killing, or even dangerous jobs, or to beg, or to pick weeds out of the desert gravel in order not to starve – what do you call that? You call that freedom?
There's this idea that if you create the basis for a money-making organization, you deserve all the millions you can legally milk from it if you should be so lucky that it makes millions. That's a sucker's idea. It only works for a few people, and those few people are just lucky, not better than the rest of us. And there's not so little to go around that we have to let the lucky few have so much and not force them to share it, if they won't do so on their own.
There's an obnoxious belief that in order to keep humanity progressing, creating, inventing, and devising ways to get more value out of the environment for less human input of energy, we have to incentivize activities by offering astronomical rewards. A corollary to that is that in order to keep people contributing to the upkeep of the public sphere we have to incentivize healing, teaching, cleaning, food preparation, and various infrastructure maintenance by threatening people with hunger, homelessness, and pain and death through medical neglect. This is barbaric.
But the majority of people believe these lies. We are slaves to these false propositions.
Here's an example of mental slavery: in the California legislature, they're trying to ban drug companies giving gifts to doctors. Studies have shown that doctors prescribe name- brand drugs over generics more often when bribed, or excuse me, given gifts, by drug company reps. Now, there's actually a faction in the legislature arguing that bribery is a necessary part of the pharmaceutical/medical relationship. How else are drug companies going to coax doctors to over-prescribe their expensive drugs? By sending them information about how good the drugs are? Don't be ridiculous.
What if the overriding socio-economic proposition were that, yes, there are things that need doing, and the vast majority of people would gladly take a few hours out of each day to do what needs doing if the rest of their time were their own to enjoy the richness of the world and the ways humanity can enhance it?
Not eight hours. That's too many. That's too many to be cleaning someone else's home. That's too many to be flipping someone's burgers, if burger-flipping is even something that needs to be done.
I'm not saying all rewards for all work need to be equal. I'm saying all rewards need to be rewarding and reasonable. What Bill Gates has is way out of line with what he's provided, and judiciously copying and buying up other people's software should not entitle him to push his and Eli Broad's charter school agenda. I don't even know what Eli Broad does. I like his museum. But I could live without it if it meant that we put a higher priority on public education. I can't really afford to take advantage of his wing of the Disney music center, so I wouldn't miss that. I don't even know what goes on there.
What a nurse does is superhuman. She should have some say in how education is funded and organized, but she's too busy sleeping off her 16-hour shift and the constant stress of repressing her desire for a few hours to play mediocre violin for her own damn enjoyment. Yet we find nothing easier than to justify this tragic arrangement and all its ramifications.
Resentment over things that can't be helped is the problem of the person with the resentment. But to resent a man stealing food from poor kids because he wants another house in the Swiss Alps is reasonable. Yet we contrive to see all resentment as the same, because we're slaves.
Charles Krauthammer says we're going to have single-payer health care within the next seven years. Charles Krauthammer is not a socialist. He's actually a bit of a fascist. He's a Fox News Channel talking head. Krauthammer is also his stripper name. He looks just like you'd imagine a Charles Krauthammer would look, except he dyes his hair and eyebrows black. I'm not convinced his hair is real, either. Imagine a vampire whose decomposition due to exposure to sunlight has been arrested just at the point where his jowls and eyelids are melting.
Why does such a capitalist tool predict we're going to have single-payer? He says it's because, although Obamacare has failed on every level (his words), the discussion has become about denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and other unfair insurance practices, and now the public will never go back to a free-market system. So, I'll answer for him, because I don't think he really knows why he made his prediction. It's because the illogic of trying to keep rewarding capitalists for holding health care hostage is becoming unwieldy even for his mind, a mind otherwise synched up precisely to the slave-masters' minds. Even Charles Krauthammer understands on some level that to discriminate against poor people by denying them medical treatment is unreasonable. It doesn't look good. It's become too difficult to justify. It's not a good look for a nation calling itself a democracy. And maintaining a system where capitalists make tons of money from medical skill and problems has become too expensive and inefficient, not to mention its toll on the image of the USA. It's an embarrassment and it's unsustainable.
We're slaves because we work. I know a lot of people who love their jobs. But we work whether we love our jobs or not. So we're slaves. We are physically enslaved.
We're also slaves because we are mentally incapable of breaking out of the mindset that we need the jobs the über-capitalist provides. We're slaves to the mindset that we can incentivize altruistic behavior with selfish rewards. We're slaves to the mindset that there's a capitalist answer to non-capitalist questions, like how do we provide healthcare for everyone in the nation? We're slaves to the idea that nobody will do anything unless there's a ghastly threat or an obscene reward at the end of it. And we're slaves to the idea that, once someone has secured the legal right to control a resource, to wrest that control away from that person is somehow immoral.
We at one time freed ourselves from the delusion that kings were given their position by God's decree. We've replaced the divine right of kings with the divine right of the motivated, clever, industrious individual. I don't care how smart, beautiful, clever, focused, brilliant, athletically adept or energetic you are. If people are starving and you have billions, you are nothing but a pharaoh. And if we can provide a decent standard of living for all people, and opportunity for all people to contribute with their true gifts, you're being a dick.
If Charles Krauthammer can break the bonds that imprisoned his soul, so can we. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!