Powerless Panic

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So, yeah, I've neglected the poor blog. No posts here since Discovery was on and I had to nerd out on that. What can I say, there's been a lot going on.

I bought a condo. I moved (still unpacking). Went to California for a bit. Got sick for a bit.

And I've been running the baseball site GrandSalami.net as a way of keeping up the brand and maintaining some tenuous connection to what had been my favorite client gig until Grand Salami magazine stopped publishing last fall; I guess most of my writing has been dedicated to that online outlet for a while. (Aside: It would be really great if I had some help over there. It isn't making any money so far, but in order for it to ever make any it needs more traffic, which means more content, which means either I devote even more time to a one-man show over there or some other writers help me out. It's baseball! The Mariners are having their best year in ages, surely people have opinions to share. Doesn't have to be the Mariners, necessarily, any baseball-related writing would be welcome. I can't pay yet, but contributions will be greatly appreciated nonetheless.)

But that doesn't mean there hasn't been lots I've wanted to say. Because the country is going to shit.

I mean, it's been headed there for a while now. Depending on your calculus, it started November 8th, 2016, or when Cheeto Hitler first announced his candidacy, or in 1980 when Ronald Reagan conned Republicans into believing in trickle-down economics and got elected. Whichever period you point to, the descent into madness has accelerated to superluminal speeds this year.

The elections of Barack Obama gave me hope, and not just as a campaign slogan. After two presidential elections that I remain convinced were "won" by cheating (see: Florida 2000, Ohio 2004), the country actually showed up to vote and surpassed whatever GOP shenanigans were in place and did it handily. Twice. But I hadn't counted on the backlash being quite so forceful.

That backlash gave us the Tea Party and a rise of attitudes espousing (overtly or covertly) racism and jingoism and fear of equity. And a degree of that was to be expected; having an African-American president was bound to rile up the bigot brigade. What I and apparently a lot of other people underestimated was the size of that brigade and the degree to which that entrenched, ingrained hatred and fear would overwhelm reason and principle.

Even when we witnessed this abhorrent behavior all through the Obama years, both at street level and where it hurt society writ large (talking to you, Mitch McConnell, you criminal sleazebucket), it didn't register how truly threatening and pernicious the cancer of small minds was. The carcinogen had already taken root and metastasized all through the Republican party. That was evident all the way back to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and seen daily with McConnell, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachman, et.al. Yet the significance still didn't penetrate through our illusion of safety, because we believed—not even with conscious thought, we simply took for granted—that the laws and egalitarian principles of the United States, however lacking in certain areas, were strong and there to protect us.

But the cancer of small minds ultimately gave us President von Clownstick. And he and his Russian masters will—if not stopped very, very soon—literally destroy those laws and principles and then all bets are off. It is really and truly time, if not to panic, then to scream loudly and often.

There's a problem with that, though, and it's a problem the cancer-ridden Republican party has deliberately created and nurtured with either long-term calculated planning or dumb luck. They've peppered the media and culture for years with enough whacko conspiracy theories and tin-foil-hat level nutjobbery—Alex Jones, birtherism, Whitewater murder stories, "pizzagate," etc., etc.—that we have two major problems: One, society is numb to the absurdity of prominent figures and public officials saying ridiculously false things, from the more abstract tax-cuts-will-pay-for-themselves to the visceral everyone-seeking-asylum-is-from-MS13, and thus presenting such poses no consequence to the liar; and two, the crazy from the political right was delivered in ways designed to stir fear, to panic the listener, and was always, of course, too stupid to take seriously and deserved to be mocked. Because of that, when the political left, now, is correctly saying what I'm saying here, that we're in severe danger of descending into fascism because of what the Trump Administration is doing, it presents in a similar fashion—not because we want to instill fear and cause panic with what we say, but because we are afraid and panicked because of what the right-wingers have done. But that's not a distinction that penetrates to many. Thanks to Republican manipulation and deliberate spread of the cancer, we live in a society in which false equivalences are accepted.

And I don't know what to do about it.

I was watching Bill Maher's show tonight. He had Michael Moore on at the tail end of the show and Ben Shapiro on at the beginning. Shapiro demonstrated how the small-mind cancer had already ravaged his brain as he did ethical contortions to justify support for Trump, even while claiming to object to some of the things Trump has done. He has lost his ability to reason because the fear cancer has overwhelmed the logic center of his brain and thus he could be fine with the Hail Hydra horror show of Trump because he got a tax cut and an oligarch on the Supreme Court with another on the way. Moore, on the other hand, was justifiably panicked about our slide into dictatorship but was presenting like a crazy person, in much the same way Republican crazies went on about their baseless fever dreams that Barack Obama was going to proclaim Sharia law and melt down everyone's guns.

The thing is, Moore is essentially right. But he isn't going to reach anyone not already there with him that way. Shapiro is utterly wrong, but can claim "civility" and look more "reasonable" to many with his calmly stated support for an unabashedly offensive criminal bigot who is at this moment building internment camps for brown people. Because the cancer of small minds is everywhere now.

A point made repeatedly on the show was that Democrats must "play hardball" and push back as hard as Republicans have historically done. I get that. I agree with it in many circumstances. But how it's done is important. Yelling just as loudly isn't going to do the trick. And it doesn't address the basis of that particular complaint. Democrats have not pushed as hard or been as stubbornly assholish as Republicans because of a fundamental difference in makeup: Democrats respect the opinions of other people enough to allow for compromise, and respect rules, laws, and traditions enough to work within them. Republicans have no empathy or respect for anyone else and are happy to subvert rules, laws, and traditions if they become inconvenient. (And I'm talking about modern Republicans here, the 21st century models. Go back to even the end of the '90s and there were still plenty of human beings in the party that hadn't been overtaken by the cancer yet, along with the true scumbags like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani that have always been there.)

For all the whining last week about "civility" after Sarah Huckabee Sanders Thurmond Gohmert was asked to leave a restaurant, what's lost in the story is that she was asked to leave, politely and with great civility, because she is a vile individual doing the bidding of a much more vile and much more powerful threat to democracy. What's the response been from these alleged defenders of civilized behavior? Death threats to the restaurateur. Vandalism at establishments with similar names. Hypocrisy is a prerequisite for the modern Republican party and a necessity in Trump support, so none of that is surprising, but it illustrates the problem. One side is basically respectful, the other side isn't.

I've always held to the belief that one cannot succumb to the level of one's enemy. My ethical standards reflect Mr. Spock and Spider-Man: the bad guys kill people, we don't. In this case, the bad guys get their way with intimidation and manipulation and violence. The good guys are better than that and are above such tactics.

But this is a "desperate times" situation. Do we need desperate measures? Do they need to be as vicious as the Trumpers'? Are there still enough people in this country with the ability and means to stop this fall of American civilization before it's too late without resorting to dubious tactics?

Without such desperate measures, all we have left to work with is political pressure. And if the Trumpers have their way, that won't matter much longer. As much pressure as we can muster has to be applied to Senators who need convincing to prevent this criminal president from stacking a Supreme Court that will surely be asked to rule on his own conduct. To congresspeople and other officials to oppose and act against the incarceration of legal asylum-seekers. To media publishers who regurgitate propaganda and fail to communicate the severity of the current government's un-American behavior and the blatancy of its seemingly boundless dishonesty.

It just doesn't seem to be enough. And I don't know what else to do.

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