God Goes On A Job Interview: A Sketch

SETTING: A long, featureless, fluorescent lit hallway that seems to go on forever. Approaching footsteps and heavy breathing. Whoever’s approaching must be late — and worried about it. God steps into frame, a slip of paper clutched in his powerful (to hear him talk about it) hand. He peers at the number scribbled on it. It matches the room number above the doorway. This MUST be the place.

God straightens his tie. Gives his mighty (him again) head a shake as he clears his throat in a long roll of thunder. The timbre seems right. Reminding himself that he’s the one who created all this in six days damn it, he reaches for the door knob and steps into the next room like the monotheistic deity he is.

God comes up short on the other side of the door though. He wasn’t sure what to expect here. A respected bible scholar trying to make sense of unfathomable times or a world leader struggling with a terrible choice. Or a pope maybe. He definitely wasn’t expecting the attractive but business-like young woman seated across the very plain desk, a clutch of papers in her hands. From the look of the papers — the extensive wear on them, the young woman has gone over them relentlessly.

Like she was looking for answers on them. “Sheila,” she says, extending her hand toward God like he wasn’t the deity who created literally everything.

“Erm,” says God, uncomfortable but trying not to show it, desperate to do anything but shake her hand. The Young Woman has seen his discomfort. She withdraws her hand, never taking her eyes from his face. Finally his eyes meet hers.

“Sheila,” she repeats. “I’m Sheila.” She points to the folding chair on his side of the desk. Sits in the much more comfortable rolling desk chair on her side. The one with lower lumbar support.

God looks again to the folding chair, not quite sure how to fit his enormous, glowing magnificence into it. But, he’ll try. He reminds himself again, he’s the deity here. “Nice to meet you, Sheila,” he says, smooth as the Red Sea before it parted, “I’m God”. He sits, knowing it’s just a matter of time before he wins over Sheila–

“I know what job you’re here for,” she’s halfway through saying as God snaps to, “But god’s just your job description. It’s not actually your name.”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, over time, I’ve gotten used to it. We all have–“

Sheila’s looking at her smart phone. She’s found a source. “Says here your name’s Yahweh.” Sheila focuses on the fine print. “Yeah,” she says confidently, “Yahweh’s your name, not ‘God’.” She points her phone’s screen (with the “receipts” on it) toward God. “God’s” just your job description,” she says. “Is that true?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, I did create everything,” he says, a little less ironically than he’d hoped to. “And that,” he says, leaning forward, “Is why I think you’d be crazy to believe in anything else but me.”

Sheila stares back, hard to read. Finally — “You probably know that members of my family believe in you”.

God leans forward even further, seizing the opening. “Of course I do. They’re great people. That’s why I love them–” He knows immediately: too much.

“Do you think my family believing in you speaks well of you?”

God hesitates. He’s sure of it: that was a trick question. “Perhaps,” he says, hedging, “We could agree that being a deity is hard and sometimes you have to move in mysterious ways?”

“Uh huh,” says Sheila, unimpressed. “Did you tell my Tanta Louise that she got cancer because she fooled around so much when she was younger?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Erm,” he says (looking as uncomfortable as he feels), “Was I supposed to get some sort of notes about this?”

“You’re God, aren’t you?” says Sheila, making God feel much more like he was on a witness stand instead of a job interviewee’s chair.

“Is that a question?” asks God.

“Then you’re all-knowing, right?”

God knows exactly where this is going. He rolls his eyes. “There’s ‘all-knowing‘ and there’s “ALL-KNOWING“, know what I mean?” He hopes like hell the extra boom in his voice took a little of the wind from Sheila’s sails.

“So you don’t know my Tanta Louise or, at least, you don’t remember her, is that right?”

God studies his hands. They don’t feel very mighty right this second. His cuticles are looking rough. “What was that again your…”

“Tanta. Tanta Louise. She was my favorite aunt. She taught me how to live. But, smart as she is in some ways, she makes no sense in others. Like believing you gave her the cancer that nearly killed her.”

God squirms despite himself (flashes of lightning shoot this way and that). “Can we… talk about… you?”

She stares back, a little incredulous.

God presses on. “Things were different back when your beloved auntie was trying to figure things out. It’s true. People weren’t as broad-minded as they are now.”

“By ‘broad-minded’, you mean they don’t believe in you?”

God looks down. Stepped in it. “Now that door’s open,” he starts to tell himself–

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” says Sheila. God raises a hand to object. “Don’t,” says Sheila crisply. Down goes God’s hand. “Do you honestly think if no one mentions atheism that no one will think it?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” God looks down. Clears his throat — this time holding back on the rumble. “Know what special dispensation is, right?” He knows she does. She’s Catholic. “I’m taking it,” says God. “Different time and place.” He catches Sheila’s eyes. Holds them. “I, uh — I think I might remember this aunt of yours and, yeah — I might have said something along those lines — but there was context!”

Sheila and those damned eyes.

“She needed an explanation.”

Did you give her the cancer?”

“What? No!” Suddenly God’s all knowing: “The office building she worked in was on a super fund site. Honestly, it wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry I said anything–“

“You couldn’t tell her the truth?”

“Nobody knew it then — Google it!” God sits back a little. Feels the first hint of breathing room. “Google it”, he chuckles to himself, “Man, that was genius.”

Again with those damned eyes.

“Are you all knowing or aren’t you?”

God’s been in this minefield. Doesn’t make it any easier. “Depends”.

“When my Tanta Louise asked you why she got cancer, did you tell her it was because of the building she worked in? No. You told her a lie — even though you knew the truth.”

God sits back in his metal folding chair. He tries to. Finally, he fixes Sheila with a stare of his own. “You’re very good, know that?”

“I’ve thought about it, yeah,” says Sheila. “I’m thinking about it now. What should I believe? What seems most true to me?”

“And that is why — if you’re looking for Truth, you can’t not go the monotheism route — sticking a pin in your Tanta Whatever — not literally of course!” Her eyes say “continue”. “Go with me here,” he says, kicking into full salesman mode, “Take it from a deity — all those other deities? They’re not deities. The don’t think they’re better than you, for one thing!”

He turns up his palms. Slowly realizes his faux pas. “What I meant was polytheism’s small because all its gods are small. You don’t want to believe in a small god, do you?”

“Why should I believe in any god?”

“First cause,” says God, throwing down the words like it ended the argument.

“Bull-shit”, says Sheila. “Where’d YOU come from then? Who created you?”

“Nothing did, don’t you get it?” says God. “I’m the first cause. The alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the peanut butter and the jelly.”

“I’m allergic to peanuts”

“Figures,” God starts to say, catching himself immediately. “What I meant was I know you’re allergic to peanuts because I know everything.”

“What’s on the other side of a black hole?”

God hesitates. “What’s–“

“On the other side of a black hole. You know what a black hole is, right?”

Pride a little wounded: “Yes, I know what a black hole is, I invented them, right?”

“If you invented them then you know what’s on the other side of one, right?”

“Well…” God stammers, “Some of these inventions of mine — they’re works in progress, know what I mean?”

“They ‘evolve’, you mean?”

“Exactly,” says God, not catching himself in time, “They evolve.”

To God’s surprise, Sheila smiles. “I’ve come to a decision,” she says, standing. God, feeling like he’s being led here, stands as well. “I’m not hiring you,” says Sheila.

Not the first time this has happened (especially not recently). God lets it roll off his shoulders. “You don’t have to decide anything today,” he says — having answered this objection a few kajillion times before.

“I don’t have to decide anything ever,” says Sheila. She sits back. Studies God. Starts to laugh — not at God, not at anything in particular. Finally, the laugh peters out. “Even if, some day, I decide to look you up,” says Sheila, “It wouldn’t be you that I’d be looking up. It’d be someone better. Something better — a better God, know what I mean? But that’s only if I felt like I needed to believe in a God to begin with.”

“Can I tell you how sorry I am that I lied to your auntie?”

“If I was going to invent a god,” Sheila says, indicating the door behind God, “I’d hope like hell I could invent a better god than you.” Sheila extends a hand. “Good luck in the future.”

God looks at her hand. He knows that she knows he isn’t going to take it. And just like that, he knows: he made her point again.

“Thanks for coming in.”

“U” For “Unvaccinated” Is About To Become The New “Scarlet Letter”

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful , it was virtually unforgivable. Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with what we used to call “sin”. In fact, we’ve gotten damned good at “sinning”. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s (he’s the town preacher who’s knocked up Hester) have openly thrown in their lot with greed and lust and gluttony. What is a proud cocksman like Jerry Falwell, Jr if not a prideful version of Arthur Dimmesdale? Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. Though it would still be raging in most of the rest of the world, we would have achieved the herd immunity needed to get our lives and our economy headed back to a new kind of normal. There would have been bumps along that road too. Witness Israel and New Zealand and Australia — places that have fought the coronavirus as intelligently as people can.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vax sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus though, ironically, the madness behind such close-minded religious thinking did spread with viral intensity Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do — even if they weren’t clear that the harm in question was being caused by such a thing as a “pathogen”. But, we, on the other hand, DO know that pathogens exist. We DO know what pathogens do and how and why. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. “U” for “Unvaccinated” must become our new Scarlet Letter.

The good news? It’s already happening. France and Italy have already begun culling the unvaccinated from the rest of us. Can’t prove YOU were vaccinated? You can’t eat in restaurants or attend any group entertainments like soccer matches or concerts. In a way, an unvaccinated person’s LACK of a “V” (for “vaccinated”) is the new scarlet letter. But, hey — like I said — the unvaxxed don’t see their unvaccinated status the way Hester saw her adulteress status. I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s.

What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Both France and Italy are, currently, facing pushback from the unvaxxed. Riots erupted in Paris yesterday. As the unvaccinated get sick and become a smaller and smaller minority, their ignorant way of thinking will achieve true pariah-hood. They will deserve it.

Pathogens really don’t care what magical thinking motivates any human to NOT protect themselves from the pathogen. Their existence is simple: they need us. Their entire purpose is to get inside us and reproduce. That it kills us is beside the point. Before we expire, the pathogen will have used us to infect countless other humans — replacing their silent scarlet “U” (for “unvaxxed”) with a whole other kind of marker: a headstone.

Who In Their Right Mind Would Vote Republican When Voting Republican Gets You Killed?

Politics in America make little sense because too much of our “common wisdom” thinks everyone does everything for entirely political reasons completely divorced from any desire to actually govern. That “common wisdom” is deeply cynical and deeply conservative — as all “common wisdom” is, coming, as it does, from either long held knowledge or just long held traditions pretending to be knowledge. I don’t know if American politics have always been this cynical (I suspect it has been) but the presence of cynicism also marks the presence of a very real divide. The much LARGER group — on the other side of that divide? They aren’t cynical. They don’t think the worst of everyone. They absolutely experience the same intense gravity from the same tribal pull but, having lived in a diverse culture, they recognize that E Pluribus Unum is the cure for all that. Out of many, one.

Please, let’s be straight up here (like it was a question): only one side in this “conversation” we’re having about America’s future sees diversity as a threat to their hegemony. White people have held political power (and, hence, da money) from the get-go. That’s not because the great idea they spun said that’s how it was supposed to be (the great idea says, literally “all men are created equal” and not “all men who look exactly like us”), that’s because the MEN who crafted these founding documents were flawed (of course they were flawed — they were the male of the human species!). They came from a Northern European culture that mistook the advantages their pathogens gave them as cultural superiority. It wasn’t Christian virtue that laid low the heathens of North America, it was small pox. Thus is cynicism born.

The very idea of “E Pluribus Unum” makes “originalism” bullshit. Originalism is itself a pathogen. It’s the racist mis-step at America’s founding given a deceptive branding. Think about what originalism is really insisting — that how America IS should reflect only what its white, Christian, male founding FATHERS were thinking when they drafted our founding documents. We must accept their world and their world view warts as our world view regardless of any or all changes to our knowledge or thinking caused by our subsequent history. We must accept that this country’s founders understood the “Pluribus” of E Pluribus Unum to be exclusively white people. Originalism is an attempt to excuse and justify racism. It is pure cynicism (as racism is).

But, our news media — lacking perspective — doesn’t see originalism as racism. They see originalism (as they see racism) as a legitimate opinion even if (in the case of racism), it’s an opinion the racist insists isn’t his. It may be an opinion journalists pooh-pooh as offensive — but, considering that their measure of a racist is whether or not a racist owns his racism — that’s really all the current journalistic culture thinks racism is — an unfortunate opinion about other people that good people shouldn’t have. “Common wisdom” therefore says you can ask someone “Hey, are YOU a racist?” and whatever their answer is — that’s the truth we should all accept about them. They would know if they’re a racist, right? And they’d be honest about it!

This is how cynicism “thinks”. From the inside. It’s a rabbit hole constructed entirely of bullshit. And all bullshit is ultimately toxic.

Outside that cynical rabbit hole filled with “common wisdom” and bullshit, that’s where the rest of us live. We watch our news media report on that rabbit hole like IT was reality. We watch them constantly get our story wrong because they’re not reporting our reality.

As with most cynicism, a nugget of truth gets colored all one way. Americans do not vote en masse in mid-term elections the way they do in presidential elections. Except when they DO vote en masse in mid-terms as Americans did in 2018. They also vote en masse — contrary to “common wisdom” — in special elections like the one in Georgia that put two Democrats in the Senate. Our news media really didn’t see that coming because they — being cynical — thought the worst of Georgia’s electorate. When our news media tells us what terrible voters we are, we tend to behave like terrible voters. When they tell us we’re good voters, well — they’re usually behind that curve.

Why did Americans lose their civic pride? Why did Americans stop educating themselves about their own government when their form of government DEMANDS their participation — and therefore their education in HOW to self-govern? Self governing still doesn’t come naturally to human beings. It’s something we have to work at — hard. But you have to keep reminding yourself of all the steps it takes. It’s not unlike playing tennis. Want to have a good ground stroke? It’s all about the fundamentals regardless of the ball coming at you. If all you do is react to the ball — rather than attack it fundamentally, the will will own you. Your ground stroke will be late and it will suck.

Democracy is a contact sport that demands our involvement if we want it to work. And the overwhelming majority of Americans WANT democracy to work. We don’t understand the question, in fact. In fact, we don’t want — and did not vote for — the authoritarian alternative the Republicans and their Russian pals imposed upon us in 2016. Here again, it’s the originalists who are dancing with Russia because even though Russia is a hostile foreign government, all-white originalism lines up with all white Russia and Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a renewed Crusades to take back the Holy Land. Think that’s nuts? It’s for real. Ask Steve Bannon. It’s why Bannon had no issue with Donald Trump hitching America’s wagon to Russia’s: because Steve’s bizarre, Jesus-was-a-white-guy version of Christianity says this must be.

Ah, but the “common wisdom” — even though it heard Bannon and reported on Bannon and even talked about Bannon in their talking head discussions — says this is “just how it is!” Of course certain Republicans think like this and, when in power, of course they do everything they can to manifest their craziness in our reality. Can you feel the cynicism?

Through nearly a year of Trump’s candidacy, four years of his presidency and, now, nearly nine months of his post-presidency, our news media has treated this abomination as if it was normal. As perverse and outlandish as Trumpian pronouncements could be, our news media — rather than saying “Hey, that’s really perverse and outlandish — I’m digging in my heels right here!”, shrugged their shoulders and willingly moved on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “Pussy grabbing” – and then to “But, her emails!” because THAT, suddenly, became the story. As we know, there was zero “there” there. And it’s not as if our news media rushed back to their previous outrage to defend either Mexicans or women or any American.

A lot of “common wisdom” stays that way not because it’s wise but because people keep repeating it. “Common wisdom” doesn’t know what to do with people being woke because “common wisdom” — being conservative — cannot tolerate wokeness; all new information threatens the old information’s validity. If some of that “old information” is “white guys are superior to everyone else and therefore deserve to govern and have all the money”, well, you can see how those believing it would be mightily threatened by those who don’t. That, in a nutshell, is America’s dilemma. The rich white, Christian men are unwilling to share power or money. Like Charlton Heston’s gun, it will have to be plucked from their cold, dead fingers. Metaphorically speaking, of course

From the moment our news media finally agreed that Joe Biden fairly and squarely beat Trump — while taking back the Senate — they’ve pointed to the “common wisdom” that off year elections are always catastrophic for the newly elected president. Yes, that’s based on plenty of history. But none of that history is remotely like now.

That’s another of “common wisdom’s” blind spots — the assumption that nothing ever changes. That we live in a constant whose circumstances repeat endlessly. That is the world conservatives dream of. It’s the world they want to bamboozle us all into thinking “is”. It isn’t. Human beings evolve and change and adapt. And they get woke, too.

The moment Trump became potus, America changed. Rather, change was forced upon America and either we were going to accept that change — a right wing power grab aided by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in a cyber war against us — or we were going to reject it. This is the stone cold realpolitik reality. A fearful white minority is trying to hold onto power forever via permanent minority rule. Elements of this fearful mindset have been actively suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering elections for a generation at least, the point being to deny the diverse majority its rightful vote and voice.

Only white people could possibly look at the current political landscape and think “do nothing”. Literally every other group is more keenly aware than ever of the threat white people pose to them and to the very notion of America. But, alas, that sentiment, true as it is, flies in the face of the “common wisdom” that says 2022 is an off year election so therefore give it to the Republicans because that’s how it always is.

Yo, America’s news media — trust me on this: nothing about the Trump candidacy, presidency or post presidency is or was normal. That’s not “just because”. It’s because Trump entered the political stage already an international criminal compromised by other international criminals. The Republican Party itself KNEW before they formally nominated Trump that this was true. They said so out loud amongst themselves. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016 at a leadership meeting held a month before the party nominated Trump: “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” That, American News Media, is not NORMAL. Doing nothing in the face of such an accusation by one’s own party? NOT NORMAL!

In fact, cynical. To report such a story — as the Washington Post did a year later, its reporter having heard the RECORDING of the meeting — and not follow up until the question gets answered: why did everyone in that room of GOP leaders agree to keep this terrible information “in the family” rather than call the FBI to report it? Want to know how every Republican in the room could persist and how our news media could report it and not become laser focused on getting to the bottom of it? Cynicism.

If our news media were doing the job imagined for them in the Constitution, they’d be We The People’s final line of defense against unbridled political power. They wouldn’t be political power’s propagandist of choice. That’s what access journalism (the brand practiced too often during the Trump years) creates: news compromised by the access required to get that “news”. It becomes “sales” instead.

I dare the news media to point at one positive benefit voting Republican could do for anyone except for indulging their hatefulness and ignorance. Would voting Republican in Florida or Texas or South Dakota alleviate the pandemic’s onslaught on those mask and vaccination mandate-free states? No, in fact, continuing to vote Republican will exacerbate this tragedy. Yet, cynically, our news media insists that — because 2022 is a mid-term election, Americans will “naturally” pull the lever for Republicans because “we need something different!” or “the other party is more motivated”. True, Trumpanistas may feel motivated — but that’s only if they’re not dying from COVID-19 as more and more now are. To assert — because “common wisdom” — that stupid, sick Americans will show up en masse while healthy, woke Americans won’t is to mis-read the landscape even worse than the news media did in 2018. If you go back and look at the “video tape” of 2018, our news media were determined that Donald Trump was going to win that night big.

He did not. In fact, the exact opposite happened, “common wisdom” notwithstanding.

In the “common wisdom’s” defense, it’s easy to keep in your pocket, even easier to pull out and put down on the table. No one ever was called out because they went with the common wisdom. Until now. There’s a terrible “come to Jesus” moment in our news media’s future. We The People will absolutely prevent the Republican Party from destroying American democracy because doing that is in our best interest while succumbing to the GOP’s authoritarian power grab isn’t. Life’s really that simple. While, sure, fascism overcame even the “good Germans” as it took over Germany, Germany was almost entirely homogenous. Everyone succumbing to Hitler’s totalitarianism was German going back a thousand years. Going along to get along with the tribe was hard-wired. Fascism didn’t work as successfully in France because the French — after a thousand years of becoming French — don’t act the same way.

America presents an entirely different set of circumstances especially since the majority of Americans are NOT part of the same tribe, or even the same culture. Our culture is still very much in its formative stages in large part because something like America — where all these cultures come together, some blending, others not — has never happened before in human history. E Pluribus Unum never happened before. And E Pluribus Unum is what’s now woke and waking up more and more.

Our news media doesn’t see it because they still don’t see us. They’re corporate, most of them, don’t forget. They step on set having been educated in a corporate way of thinking (“both sides do it”) and relying on playing the corporate game to keep the money flowing. They’re invested in the “common wisdom” without even knowing it. And, so, they report what (maybe) was as if it was what “is”.

Cynicism cannot tolerate perspective just like perspective cannot tolerate cynicism. Americans cannot tolerate Republicanism the way our bodies cannot tolerate the coronavirus. Like that deadly virus, Republicanism’s goal is to invade a citizen’s soul like a virus invades their cells, turning them into it. The cure is simple: vaccination. Up here in the political sphere, that manifests as information. Perspective. Why would anyone vote for Republicans when voting for them produces nothing good (not even for them)?

They wouldn’t. A news media with perspective would report it that way.

The Reason All Republican Arguments Sound Like Bullsh*t Is Because That’s What They Are

No one ever does anything “just because”. Trust me on this. It’s something storytellers know about human nature because we have to draw on human nature to create believable characters that ring true both inside and out. What’s worse than a character you’ve come to love who suddenly acts “out of character” — not because their author has crafted some ingenious (if convoluted) storyline for them, but because their author has flat out betrayed them. Or, more accurately, the author has betrayed how the rest of us understand human nature. Someone behaving badly may not be able to articulate their motivation, but, even if it’s because their brain chemistry’s funky, they’re doing it for a reason. Our news media quickly made the decision that Donald Trump did what he did and said what he said because “that’s how he is”. In other words, Trump behaved/behaves like he does “just because”.

That was the news media’s explanation for Trump having his head so firmly stuck up Vladimir Putin’s ass: “it’s just how Trump ‘is’.” That was why Trump said “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing is okay!” — because that’s how he is. Ummmm, no, actually. Trump said “Mexicans are rapists” because he’s a racist and he bragged about “pussy grabbing” because he’s a misogynist pig and (like his imaginary Mexicans) a rapist. But, our news media didn’t really care about that because “but — her emails” apparently was more “newsworthy” to them.

To this day, our news media won’t call Donald Trump a racist. Well, a few of them will but most wouldn’t dare. They think it’s logical to ask a racist if they’re a racist — as if the racist had the least bit of perspective with which to answer such a question. Racism — like beauty — is in the eye of the beholder, not the object itself. Want to know if someone’s racist or not? Ask their victims. As the people who could have been subjected to the racist’s racism. They’ll know. They’ll happily tell you who is and who isn’t racist.

But, if you’re willing to let a racist tell you he’s not racist, you’re already willing to give bullshit credence. And every Republican knows it. All they have to ever do to make the American news media compliant is to draw them into that vast Republican Rabbit Hole where truth and patriotism and human decency all go to die. And our news media happily leaps right in. Suddenly, rabbit hole logic takes over. Up is down and down is up and both are sideways. It really doesn’t matter what the rule of law actually says since the Republican imperative is to violate its spirit regardless. And news events — even damning ones! — they lose all context. Acts of stone cold treason become minor details in forgotten stories.

For example — in June 2016 (the Washington Post reported in 2017 when their reporter heard a recording of the meeting), current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of GOP leaders — their nominating convention a month away — and said: “There are two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” It was the nervous laughter in the room that made McCarthy add “Swear to God!” Why was there nervous laughter and not outrage — that such a thing was even remotely possible? Because everyone in the room knew 1) it WAS possible and 2) it was a fact. In fact, it was such a fact that then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made everyone in the room promise to keep this piece of information (not speculation apparently) a secret.

As Paul Ryan himself put it: “That’s how we know we’re family”.

When, a year later, one intrepid reporter — having read the story in the Washington Post — asked McCarthy about his comment, McCarthy replied that he’d been “joking”. Quick side note: people with no sense of humor (people who can’t laugh at themselves) cannot make jokes. That is, they can’t make jokes that aren’t at someone else’s expense. Kevin McCarthy was not joking when he said he thought Putin pays Trump. That response was flat out bullshit. It was a lie — but, per usual, the “journalist” let it go — because that’s how bullshit and lies get normalized into the kind of toxic propaganda our news media can’t discern from news stories.

But, telling truth from bullshit isn’t really that hard. It’s no harder than separating feelings from facts.

When someone who’s based their point of view on facts gets challenged, they lay their facts on the table. Emotions may validate but they don’t elucidate. If anything, emotions cloud our thinking. That’s why our news media can only see the tragedy unfolding in front of us in Afghanistan. It IS a tragedy. But if you want to report it truthfully, you have to report the whole story — how we got to the tragedy part and not just the tragedy part. Joe Biden didn’t enter his presidency in a normal fashion because his predecessor 1) is still trying to hold onto power, 2) pre-surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban before Biden even was sworn in, 3) denied Team Biden any sort of transition so that they could see this fiasco coming at them, and 4) are all stone cold traitors to begin with. To report this story as “And then Joe Biden screwed it all up!” is insulting not just to Joe Biden but to America and Afghanistan, too.

The truth is, we set Afghanistan up for failure when we walked in the door. We set the hook firmly when we changed our mission from “Get bin Laden” to “Turn Afghanistan into the democratic picture book American could never be”. Joe Biden did not suddenly change his mind about nation building in Afghanistan, he’s ALWAYS opposed the idea. It sucks being the only adult in a room filled with juveniles and their enablers but that’s Biden’s situation vis a vis both Republicans and the news media. From our news media’s point of view however, all those juveniles and their enablers have integrity equal to Joe Biden’s. Their feeling, in other words, have the same weight as Joe Biden’s facts.

No good can come of this.

Want to know why every Republican explanation for even the simplest things sounds like utter bullshit being invented right on the spot? That’s because it’s utter bullshit — being invented right on the spot.

A great day of reckoning awaits the entire Republican Party — at least it better. If America, Americans, the rule of law and the Constitution don’t punish every single Republican who in any way co-conspired to end the greatest experiment in human self government ever then that experiment will absolutely end. Bullshit will win the day.

When that happens, we can prepare for the worst because the worst will happen. Bullshit will finally have superseded truth as our baseline common experience. Betcha Republicans are already drooling at the thought.

Of Republicans And Rabbit Holes

How does one answer the question “And when did you stop beating your wife?”? There is no good way,. That’s the point. Same goes for “When did you stop loving me?” or “Why don’t you respect the flag?” These aren’t legitimate questions. They’re a passive-aggressive set up meant to put the person being asked the question at the event horizon of a rabbit hole. On one side of that horizon — wide open space in the form of logic and reason. On the other — a chaotic, blazingly bonkers, Wonderland-style black hole that sucks every bit of reason from any argument (before you can even argue it) and compresses this concentrated nonsense down into a singularity of such incredibly dense illogic that no kind of enlightenment or rationale can penetrate it whatsoever. This is true darkness. Logic as a null set. And every Republican’s intention is to suck, draw or push the rest of us into and down that very rabbit hole.

When Mitch McConnell — the long time chief engineer of all Republican rabbit hole construction — told Barack Obama (the democratically elected president) that, despite the fact that the MAJORITY of Americans voted for him and therefore for the his judicial nominees that he couldn’t fill Scalia’s vacant SCOTUS seat, he not only put Obama at the precipice of a rabbit hole, he put America at the precipice of one. What McConnell was doing — denying American voters the benefits of winning elections.– is an enormous rabbit hole. Mind you, if the Democrats attempted such a thing (which they wouldn’t; Democrats simply do not think this way), every single Republican’s head would explode. No part of the Republican argument makes the least bit of sense. But then, no one really expects it to — that’s a whole other rabbit hole that the first rabbit hole (voting rights) lives inside of. No one expects Republicans to EVER make sense.

For all their insistence that “both sides do it”, our news media do not hold “both sides equally culpable”. For some reason, the guilt always gets hangs around Democratic necks. That’s probably because the Republicans, not wanting EVER to take an ounce of responsibility for their actions (cos why would “the party of personal responsibility” do that?”), have split the scene before responsibility could be accurately assessed. Joe Biden did not put us into Afghanistan on an endless mission. His administration didn’t pre-negotiate this surrender with the Taliban, Donald Trump’s administration did that. Biden didn’t lock his team out of the transition process — where they might have learned how Team Trump was setting them up for failure. Team Trump did that.

Afghanistan itself is the rabbit hole where empires go to plunge helplessly to their demise. To report the story without all its context is to mis-report it. And yet, mis-report it our news media does — even knowing what they know because, one of the constants about Republican rabbit holes is that facts never get aggregated or integrated into the general knowledge base. Think about it — how long, how many lies, did it take for our news media to finally admit and accept that Trump was more likely to lie to them than tell them the truth?

The first official lie Trump told them was “Mexicans are rapists” and, to this day, the news media has more or less accepted that candidates for the office of president can say — and get away with saying — such things. That, right there, is another rabbit hole. Right beside it is one marked “pussy grabbing”. And beside it, another marked “But her emails”.

That Republicans keep shoving us down their rabbit holes is understandable. It’s the only way they can win election any more since no one but them wants to live in the racist, misogynist, ignorance-embracing shithole that they dream of turning America back into. That the news media insists that Republicans are honest actors seeking to undermine our democratic principles as a matter of “political choice” is flat out offensive. The GOP’s moves to undermine and alter the results of elections 2016 and 2020 were not and are not political acts at all. They’re entirely CRIMINAL — though being done for political reasons.

When Democrats respond to these criminal actions, they are not acting politically either. They are citizens responding to criminal acts being perpetrated against them (albeit criminal acts being carried out for political purposes). When the news media insists regardless that it’s political (since politic are what’s motivating the Republicans), we get this wonky, stilted, wholly inaccurate view of the playing field.

Every last one of our problems — the climate, voting, treason, the pandemic — has been exacerbated by whatever the Republicans’ response to it has been. That’s not a coincidence. There is a method to the GOP’s madness — a point to this terrible exercise: permanent minority rule. That is what sits on the other side of the singularity all this Republican greed and corruption are drawing us toward.

The Horror… The Horror…

At the climax of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Francis Coppola’s take on it “Apocalypse Now”, the character Kurtz (an ivory trader in the book, a renegade military officer in the movie) knows he’s about to die. Kurtz says “…in a whisper at some image, at some vision… a cry that was no more than a breath: ‘The horror! The horror!’.” It’s both Kurtz’s understanding of what’s about to happen to him but also his clear, sudden understanding of everything that brought him to this horrible moment. In the book, Kurtz is dying from natural causes, witnessed by the book’s narrator, the obsessed Charles Marlowe. In the movie, its protagonist Captain Willard, who’s been sent up the Mekong River to assassinate the renegade Colonel Kurtz is about to complete his mission. “The horror… the horror”.

It’s hard not to watch what’s happening in Kabul right now without feeling those words.

The echoes with the end of the Vietnam War are inescapable. The reason it all feels so familiar — terrible images of desperate people scrambling onto or clinging to aircraft aside — is that the reason we were there was, at its core, indefensible. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, our fear of communism caused us to make a veritable ton of bad decisions. Yes, yes, the Soviet Union was a real and dangerous nemesis. But, our black and white view of the world missed all the colorful detail that might have helped us be a little truer to our ideals and savvier on the ground. Alas, we brought a sledgehammer to a brain surgery. We’re good at capturing hearts and minds with our sales pitch, utterly awful at fulfilling the promises made.

There is a reason for that. It’s not “just because”. Nothing is ever “just because”.

The Republican Party has become in pretty much every way America’s Colonel Kurtz — a formerly respected member of the firmament gone completely renegade. If we set aside Afghanistan for the second, the GOP has disappeared upriver on virtually every other topic as well. Voting rights? The Republicans are against them. Getting vaxxed? The GOP would rather die. Literally. Racism? That’s one of the few things this “Party Of Lincoln” is good at — being racists. Then, of course, there’s the issue of Russia. Talk about “The horror… the horror”. But for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS. Russia literally made Trump president with the Republican Party’s approval and active participation.

The horror… the horror.

Even as he raced to take Regeneron because, though vaxxed he came up Covid-positive, Texas governor Greg Abbott was suing school boards in Texas for insisting on mask mandates. The horror. The horror.

From the get-go, a Republican led America got Afghanistan and the Taliban all wrong. The Taliban, first and foremost are Pashtun, the largest ethnic group (at 48%) in Afghanistan. Afghanistan itself is only a country because the English drew borders around it while thinking they could fuse this intensely tribal place into their empire. Afghanistan got the better of them as it did the Russians and now us. The Taliban are Pashtuns who follow an especially stringent version of Sharia Law (the name “Taliban” means “student”). Western sensibilities dislike the Taliban’s dogmatic approach to women especially. That’s all well and good but waging culture war against other countries is tricky, dangerous and almost always doomed. Especially when you try to do it as an invader.

The Taliban are not natural allies of terrorists or terrorism. In the aftermath of 9-11, when America was saber-rattling at the Taliban’s door because the Taliban were protecting bin Laden, the Taliban were simply following a basic rule of their culture: you do not betray your guests. That’s not say you don’t deliver them to the justice they deserve if their guilt can be proven. That’s really what the Taliban were doing when we demanded the Taliban turn over bin Laden. They were doing a delicate dance, balancing their cultural against justice a thing their faith demands. The Taliban were, in fact, willing to give us bin Laden. All they wanted in exchange was satisfying proof that 1) bin Laden was guilty as charged and 2) they could therefore hand over bin Laden without damning themselves for all time.

We refused to let meet them halfway. That was because neocon chicken hawks like John Bolton wanted to invade Iraq and take its oil. Afghanistan was only ever a means to an end for the GOP. A justification to maintain America on a war-footing and in a war head space. Those things benefit defense contractors and anything that benefits a defense contractor benefits corruption.

We wasted a trillion dollars pretending we could turn the Afghani army into something it could never be: a viable democratic country with a modern economy. Hell, we haven’t yet mastered how to be a viable democratic country ourselves. Worse, we wasted that money as if were oblivious to the fact that our “enemy” was of the same nationality as our allies. Our original mission ended After we chased bin Laden from Afghani territory. Again, please remember — while we were insisting to the world that the Taliban was harboring a terrorist, in point of fact, they were doing something else entirely. They were trying to be both true to their culture and true to justice. We refused to give them any space in which to work.

Let’s also not forget that Donald Trump — working on Russia’s behalf — screwed every relationship we had in Afghanistan’s part of the world. We did not betray the Kurds, Donald Trump betrayed them — because Putin told him to. When Trump held his meetings with the Taliban, he was doing it again, this time betraying all the Afghanis who aided us. Trump set the pull out in motion. Trump set a deadline on our being there. And Trump oversaw the Afghani military’s cutting deals with the Taliban to surrender their superior forces to the Taliban. Make no mistake, the Biden Administration had virtually zero say in what’s happening. They had almost zero say in “when”. This freight train was coming at us fast. This was light at the other end of this tunnel.

The Democrats in this scenario are every bit Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard — repeatedly bumping into corruption as he heads up river to take out (what he sees as) ultimate corruption — Colonel Kurtz. Donald Trump both manifests and embodies every bit of Republican corruption. He’s greedy, cynical, power-mad and over-brimming with hate. He’s racist and bigoted and misogynistic and utterly ignorant on top of it all. He’s like a black hole sucking all the light toward his singularity — a point of such concentrated corruption that, if you were to be dragged over its event horizon, you’d vanish forever into its corrupt maw.

Our version of “taking out Kurtz” must be via criminal justice. We can’t wait for any more elections when we know the Republicans are already well down the road to tainting every election. The point of the exercise isn’t to strengthen democracy or assure any American’s right to vote. It’s to undermine our democracy’s integrity entirely. Can ya blame the Republicans? It’s hard to win elections legitimately if no one wants to vote for you or your ideas. That’s what made the GOP go renegade in the first place. For all their other flaws, their eyesight’s not bad. They could clearly see the handwriting on the wall — demographic extinction.

Virtually everything the GOP has done the past five years has been aimed squarely at ending the greatest experiment ever in human self-government. They do that as an extreme minority (and as an extremely small one) working in direct contravention of what the majority 1) want and 2) VOTED FOR.

Captain Willard understands: there’s no taking Kurtz hostage and marching him home for prosecution. We won’t have that luxury. We’ll have to keep Kurtz alive and talking until the prosecution is fully up on its feet.

It will not be easy. Or satisfying. Or even necessarily democratic.

But, damn, how we already need it.

How We Think Of “Work” Doesn’t Work Anymore

Back when I was a pup, way, way back in the ancient 1960’s, the “work” paradigm went something like this (assuming you made it to high school): “High School – College – Job At IBM Or Xerox Or Ford Motors For Life – Retirement At 65 – Death Not Too Long After If You’re Male, Not Too, Too Long After If You’re Female”. The work you did was more or less generic. Your whole career, such as it was, was all about taking one for the team because you expected the team would be there for you when you needed it. Your employer (for life) would take care of your salary (of course) and your health insurance. They’d also take care of your retirement — tying their future fate together with your later years. Of course, they’d be there come the day — it’s America, FFS! But, something else was happening meanwhile — something below the surface of it all. While America was working, corporate America — monied America — was working against us all.

Though profits and productivity increased, wages did not. That wasn’t an accident or a coincidence. Back in the 1950’s, when America’s economy boomed, the retail-retail top tax rate for people earning mega-bucks was 91%. No one paid that; when all was done and said, the effective tax rate for the more-money-than-God set was 42%. That’s not too far from today. In other words — the wealthy (having gotten far wealthier since then) could easily pay that difference without even missing it.

Now, let’s be real where the super wealthy are concerned. Nothing any one person does, will do or has ever done could possibly justify anyone having the kind of wealth the super wealthy now possess. Even a great idea born of one person’s verifiable genius demands that countless others get involved in order to shuttle that great idea from the abstract into reality. Contrary to Donald Trump’s thinking, NO ONE alone can fix ANYthing. It’s not just child-rearing that takes a village. Here in the real world, it takes a village to do literally ANYTHING.

The problem is, rich people immediately assume they deserve their wealth (regardless of whether they do or don’t). Whether a trust fund or good fortune have smiled upon them, the rich tend to think their being rich is part of some divine plan. That’s how we ended up with kings and queens insisting (all evidence to the contrary) that their blood was superior to everyone else’s. It’s how we ended up with the idea that an ordinary (fallible) priest takes on the papal robes and immediately becomes INfallible. Um, no, actually — the infallible thing does not in fact happen. The robes only add layers of clothing. Nothing else.

I have spent my entire adult life in the gig economy. It’s not a new thing. What’s new is that more and more people realize they’re living in it, too, now. They realize they’ve been living in it for a while. And they won’t be getting out of it. The gig economy is now THE economy.

America is not prepared for it.

That’s because we keep thinking of “work” in the old fashioned way. We need to stop doing that right bloody now.

Is All Work Created Equal?

Hell, no. But it’s kind of the wrong answer to the wrong question. It should really be framed as “Is all work equal to the worker doing it?” We’d normally ask it in the reverse: “Is the worker equal to the work?” That’s why we insist on resumes and job interviews and character references. We want to make sure we’re hiring someone up to the task. Even better — someone who’ll excel at the task and make us look like geniuses for hiring them. An unemployed rocket scientist or brain surgeon would find their skill sets wasted doing shifts at McDonald’s. But, by the logic of unemployment compensation, you better have a good excuse for not taking the first job offered you.

The brain surgeon doing a shift at the takeout window will walk away with $120 worth of bounce in her step — not much bounce when her monthly nut costs thousands. Yes, she’ll no longer be “unemployed” but her job will both take up her time and fail to pay for her existence. Not exactly the point of the exercise. Let’s say that by hook or by crook the clever Brain Surgeon finds a way to make ends meet on $2400/month (that’s $600/week X four). That wouldn’t be the case, of course — taxes, unemployment, Social Security and Medicare have to be taken out BEFORE any money got to the Brain Surgeon. Take away 25% — what it will likely cost the Brain Surgeon. Working full time, she’s got to make everything in her life fit inside $1800/month.

The simple fact is that no one living in most urban environments in America can thrive on $1800/month. A couple making $3,600/month has a fraction more wriggle room but bigger expenses. Throw in a kid and it would have to be a miracle that this family isn’t living on the street somewhere. Yet, this happens all the time in America. People work their asses off like hamsters in a wheel — getting nowhere, having zero to show for it.

We got here because we love money more than work. We love money more than any work product especially when t’s not ours. We assume the higher one gets paid, the more valuable the work. Spoiler Alert: that’s bullshit. The most valuable work is that which builds, nurtures and sustains us AS a culture. Teachers are incredibly valuable as are any people who chose to work in day care and early childhood development. If we paid people what they were worth in the broadest possible sense to the culture they call home, the distribution of money would be very different from how our society hands out its financial rewards.

The biggest cost in most businesses is labor. The people who “do it all”. That’s also where most businesses try to keep their expenses down. Of course, one must have a budget in order to successfully run a business. But, we’ve loaded businesses up with obligations that maybe they shouldn’t be obligated to — like their employees health insurance. For the record, this anomaly began in America during World War Two. To keep as much money as possible directed toward the war effort, big companies were prohibited by law from giving anyone raises or by luring new hires with promises of more money. The workaround a number of big companies found was offering new hires and valued employees “Hospital Insurance” policies that would help in the event that they or their family encountered a health emergency that put them in the hospital.

After the war ended, these workarounds should have ceased. But a lot of very big companies were now doing it — and, as America had no real health care infrastructure at the time — no system that valued health CARE (not the insurance that covers part of the cost of the care) — health insurance offered by one’s employer became a “thing” in America that Americans expected as part of their employment. That may sound good on the surface, but it’s been nothing short of a disaster for the bulk of Americans and American families who either can’t afford the insurance or aren’t capable of navigating a system that — profit driven as it is — wants to make money, not pay for benefits.

The big companies quickly realized that running a health insurance business for your employees is expensive and unrewarding. The health insurance business was invented to “solve” that problem. It’s utter rubbish that “Americans love their health insurance”. No, they don’t. No one loves their insurance. Insurance companies are GATE KEEPERS standing between an American and the health care of health care provider they want or need. They add nothing except cost. And, while government can indeed be terribly inefficient and subject to graft, so can the corporate world. At least with a government, we can (eventually) vote the bastards out. When a corporation has control of you, of your life, there’s little recourse — except governmental intervention.

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed America’s many flaws in terrible ways. The first question our health INSURANCE (versus CARE) system asks when anyone walks in its door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s a problem if people can’t pay. They won’t go to get fixed. If they’re sick, they’ll continue to BE sick. They could easily make more people sick. As the delta variant has made clear, viruses untamed begin to mutate making the problem of solving them that much harder. When even the vaccinated can still get sick, we’re in a bad, bad place.

The reason Universal Basic Income has worked everywhere it’s ever been tried — the reason it’s working for us now (despite so many states already reasserting their more Dickensian way of doing things) — is because the money we pay people almost always goes directly into the economy. People use the UBI to pay their bills and buy things. Rather than taking the first job offered them, people receiving UBI (without having to worry about justifying it) tend to wait for jobs best suited to their skill sets and financial needs. When they do accept work, it’s invariably at a higher salary which means they’ll pay more taxes back into the system — helping to keep the whole thing going.

It works. it’s working. And it understands that we can make work and workers and working far more productive by giving work and worker more time to find each other. As more factory and retail work gets robotized, more people will have to find different jobs — maybe even whole different careers. The nature of a gig economy makes that more easily do-able. But that gets both do-able and productive when we stop thinking of work as punishment for not being rich and, rather, as a means to an end.

The rest of the world works to live while most Americans still live to work. That’s another unexpected benefit of the gig economy — it will force Americans to re-think why they work, what they do when they work and how to reap the most possible rewards from their work.

Maybe More Americans Would Behave Like Responsible Adults If We Taught Them “How To”

On paper, it seemed so easy. After a year and change of locked down lives and a locked down economy because a pandemic was ravaging the human world, humans created a viable solution in record time: a vaccine. All any of the humans had to do to begin the process of arresting the pandemic was get the shot. Considering the carnage, this should have been a no-brainer. Alas, that did not account for the multitudes of brainless humans. The pandemic struck America at the exact same time a right wing coup d’etat was in flagrante. That coup d’etat is the right wing’s Hail Mary shot at establishing permanent minority rule. That has always been the point of this exercise. The hard core right — the fomenters and backers of this tragedy — have always viewed democracy and the structures needed to maintain it with disdain. On the left, we have a tendency to be pedantic and abstract about democracy; that’s why we always seem to bring knives to gunfights. It’s the middle where all the action is. Or, in America’s case — where the inaction is.

The difference between America achieving herd immunity and not achieving it just now is a few percentage points of the American public going along with the majority of us and getting vaccinated. Some of those people are rushing to get vaccinated now in the face of the Delta’s terrifying surge. Three previous viral surges didn’t convince them? A viral surge with a cure in hand? THAT’S what it took? One more just to drive the point home? How does a person become so immune to good information that they don’t know how to process it so as to act in their own best interests?

There’s plenty of data that’s easily accessible to back up the bromide “a rising tide lifts all boats”. We live in a world broken by crony capitalist corruption. What does it take to infiltrate minds so that those minds can 1) connect those obvious dots and 2) do something about it that would be both in their best interest and in everyone else’s best interest, too? My simple suggestion — education. We make it a national policy — as part of every American’s education (whether public or private) — they must experience a thorough (but not uncritical) education in American democracy: how it’s supposed to work, how it’s worked in the past, how it’s working now — and what we need to do to continue improving it. We need to introduce early (and often) that Americans have something billions of other humans would die for and have died trying to get.

We need to bake a love of democracy into the very architecture of our education system. Anything that threatens our democracy should be understood in that context. These are complex ideas but they can be synthesized down to bite-sized, actionable directives like “vote”. Or “register to vote”. Or “run for office”.

If more Americans embraced the foundational concepts of democracy — the US that makes democracy a democracy — they’d have a clearer sense of where individual liberty and the commonweal’s needs interplay. There must be a point where the commonweal’s interests supersedes any individual’s. Otherwise the group could always be taken hostage — an unacceptable option. But then, why would anyone think that freedom comes totally free? That’s how a six year old — or a libertarian — sees freedom: “you’re not the boss of me”. It simply isn’t true — it can’t be — that freedom comes with all benefits and zero obligations. If that were the case, why wouldn’t every human society do that? Because it simply isn’t how freedom works.

Freedom takes work to MAKE it work. And the work involved requires training because it’s so challenging. If we don’t teach our children how to do it, they’ll never learn as adults and, in time, the very ideas will get lost — which is exactly where we are. America did indeed stop teaching civics a while back. Somehow (hmmmmmm… I wonder how….) we decided that Americans knowing how their country worked (or what it even looked like on a map) was unimportant. Civics became like sex education — something best taught at home in the minds of some Americans.

And you know which Americans I’m talking about — the ones threatened by information (especially new information with science behind it).

Like I said — the hard right were never reachable. We need to stop chasing them down their rabbit holes. It’s the middle who need to be addressed here — those who (perhaps understandably) have long taken democracy for granted. It was here and so were they. That’s the extent of their investment in it.

So, let’s give them a reason to invest more by instilling a few “economic” principles into their thinking.

Like every good investment, you have to pony up first in order to collect your payoff later. The ponying up part is where most of the heavy lifting comes in; we all agree, the “learning” and “re-learning” and “learning it again” part is absolutely no fun. But that’s where you bake in the sense of responsibility. And — much more importantly — the sense of how obligation and benefit balance each other when democracy is working properly.

The only problem with what I’m proposing is that it’s never happened in America. It’s an ideal but — in my defense — it’s the ideal promised by “All men are created equal” if we understand it to mean “In America, all people are created as equals”. We could say that they’re equals before the law (that’s really all any government can really assert). Though the American ideal has always remained an ideal and not our actual reality, that it’s flame was maintained till now is a good sign — especially considering who’s maintained that flame: Black Americans especially. Though the benefits of American democracy have forever been denied them, Black Americans have maintained their faith in it because, having been denied those benefits, they appreciate how essential they are.

How ironic that America, while enslaving a significant part of its population was also super-educating them how to be the best possible Americans. If it didn’t hurt so damned much, it’d be hilarious.

The Relentless Demand For “Bi-Partisanship” Comes From The Same Cynical Place As “Both Sides Do It”

When we get to a safe enough place in this horror story we’re living through — where we don’t have to sweat it every day whether or not American democracy itself will survive — we owe it to ourselves to take a good, long, very hard look at American journalism and the multiple ways it both hastened and abetted the rise and rule of Donald Trump. Trump himself has always made it part of his mantra that everybody does what he does — he just admits it and profits from it. Except, of course, as with all things Trump, it’s flat out untrue. Trump’s peculiar genius — such as it is — is his ability to liberate so many other peoples’ worst instincts. Trump does what he does and (so far) gets away with it. When the GOP finally stopped resisting Trump — having been compromised by Trump and Russia — they settled comfortably into the same expectation: that whatever truly awful thing they did (treason, say), just by refusing to acknowledge any sort of truth whatsoever, they’d get away with having done the truly awful thing. In this case, treason.

We need to know where “both sides do it” came from. What right wing think tank farted out that bit of rubbish then set about promulgating it? How insulting and wrong can four otherwise innocuous words be? “Both sides do it” asserts right off the bat that both sides are the same since whatever “it” is, both sides DO it and they do it the exact same amount representing the exact same amount of people. Is it charity? Are both sides equally charitable? Or is it corruption? Are both sides equally corrupt? Not by a long shot, they’re not. That’s because each side (in America’s binary system) comes from an entirely different place. One side will always favor profits over people (which makes them more corruptible) while the other will always favor people over profits. One will always ache to live in the past — where their group dominated all the others and they held virtually every last bit of real political power. The other — filled with those the first group dominated against their will — approaches governing itself from a completely different place.

They approach governing to begin with. They see governing as an essential function in a free society — a dirty job that someone has to do. But, when you have a vision of the future — an idealized version of how Life could be and should be — you’re far harder to corrupt. You’re pursuing a “dream” that requires a number of like-minded people for whom money will always come in a distant second to what actual human beings need. Every time we allow any industry to oversee itself, we get a fresh lesson in why greed kills. Take Boeing who, over time, exerted enough political muscle via years and years of lobbying and donating (mostly) to Republican political campaigns, that they were allowed to oversee the safety protocols of their 737-MAXX jets all by themselves. And lo-and-behold! Boeing cut safety corners. They broke the law repeatedly. They destroyed their own integrity; they did that — to themselves!

It’s ludicrous to say that a progressive and a conservative do things for the same reason. Yes, sure — both want to see their way become “our” way. That’s not the question — but “both sides do it” ends its insights into human behavior right there. Want to “win” the political argument? So does the other side which means “you’re just like them!” Oy!

That is where all similarities end. Oh, right — are Democrats 100% accurate and honest ALL the time? Hell, no! Thank goodness we got THAT out of the way! But, in the current environment (let’s worry about the past later) Democrats are being far, FAR more accurate and honest in what they’re saying (about pretty much everything) than virtually any Republican you care to talk about. Only two Republicans are taking part in the January 6 Commission. That’s awesome. And sad. That means pretty much every other Republican is willing to keep The Big Lie afloat. They were willing to let their constituents die — maskless and unvaccinated — until the public relations became too hard to maintain. Both sides do not do that. One side would not EVER do that.

Democrats could never march in lock step the way Republicans do. It’s just not in our nature. We see a bunch of brown-shirts marching in goose-step together and we run the other way — mostly because the brown shirts are hunting us. But also because we just don’t have that “brown shirt” gene in our makeup. Democrats are still every bit how Will Rogers described us when he said of himself “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” That’s because Democrats come from such different places. Our pasts are all different but, ironically, the future we aspire to is remarkably similar — one where our children can thrive and prosper along with their community and the nation and the world as a whole. E Pluribus Unum describes the Democratic Party.

It does NOT describe the Republican Party. Not anymore.

The GOP has become the Trump Party and the Trump Party is simply the Republican Party given its bucket list and allowed to go hog wild, being hogs. The biggest thing in that bucket is permanent minority rule. Democracy has always been a long term problem for Republicans — especially if America continued to invite new people to join the experiment. The more new people from new places there are in positions of power, the conservative thinking goes, the fewer white people there will be occupying those same positions. Hegemony doesn’t make itself happen, ya know.

Republicans, being conservatives, are entirely about CONSERVING what was. If they could magically stop the world from progressing, or blockade the future, they’d do it. After all, what does any conservative want to “conserve” if not the past? To conservative thinking, the present is the past’s final line of defensive. Surrender to the future and the past becomes a museum piece. Conservatives know — once they’re beaten, they’re beaten for good. The past will never grow back like a crab’s claw. They, conservatives, will have to soldier on claw-less.

Only one side aspires to the brightest future possible for the most people. Only one side wants every eligible American to vote. Only one side wants every child to have guaranteed pre-k education — and a good public education all the way up through community college or a public university or a trade school. Only one side sees health CARE as a right for all rather than seeing health insurance as a privilege for the few.

By the same token, only one side has sided with Russia in their cyber war against us. Only one side has made it part of their brand to obstruct justice every which way they can. Only one side has made it their mission to restrict voting to only themselves.

When they adopted “both sides do it” as their mantra, America’s news media closed its eyes to perspective. Skepticism (which belongs in every journalist’s utility belt) demands that a journalist question everything until they’re satisfied with the answers given. Not satisfied? Keep asking. Skepticism is naturally neutral. It doesn’t assert that “both sides do it” because, a good skeptic should be skeptical of something so sweeping and broad. A skeptic assumes that everyone has their reasons for doing what they do; the trick is finding those reasons.

A cynic on the other hand isn’t searching for anything other than affirmation that their shallow view of things is valid (or valid enough for their liking). In a cynic’s view, proportionality is irrelevant. Bernie Madoff stole billions. Jean Valjean stole bread. A skeptic would point to their differences as to why this is a stupid comparison. A cynic (the Republican Party and most of our news media) would say “they’re both thieves so therefore ‘both sides do it’.” If you’re capable of thinking Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are thieving birds of a feather, you’re also capable of equating a Republican gerrymandering a Congressional district because he can’t win any other way with a Democrat running IN a gerrymandered district having to get three times the voter turnout to overcome the Republican’s entirely artificial advantage. Our news media regularly looks at these two very DIFFERENT things as “the same thing”.

It’s slowly dawning on our news media how completely the Republican Party’s been playing them. Why, even the dean of “both sides do it” brand journalism — Chuck Todd — has admitted that the Fourth Estate was regularly played by the Republican Party. Good on Chuck for doing the “Mea Culpa”. But it’s way, waaaaaaaaaay too late now. The harm’s been done; the democracy-hating horses are out of the barn and galloping toward the horizon.

I stopped watching Chuck eons ago but I bet Chuck still turns from a segment about how Republicans are behaving like pirates to one where he’s asking “why won’t Democrats negotiate with Republicans?” (meaning “why won’t the Democrats give Republicans every single thing they want?”) That, to Chuck — to our news media in general — is what “bi-partisan” means: giving the Republican pirates whatever they want.

That, ultimately, is what Republicans want our democracy to do for them: give them whatever they want. Enrich them. Enrich their friends. And keep them in power forever.

Progressives and democrats want no such thing. Never have and never will.

Only a cynical journalist would dare suggest otherwise.

Teams v Mobs

Successful teams do historic things. So do mobs. While both rely on the “groupiness” of their effort, the team needs clear organization and a process; everyone needs to know and do their part. Teamwork rewards everyone who puts in the work to help the team succeed. Even the greatest of great ideas require teamwork in order to move from the abstract to the real. And, ask any athlete — even the ones who play individual sports — if they really accomplished greatness entirely on their own. No, they’ll tell you, they didn’t. Others had to sacrifice in order for them to realize their greatness. That’s not a bad thing. It’s how greatness happens — even spontaneously.

Mobs also can happen spontaneously except their energy doesn’t go in the same direction that a team’s does. Whoever’s calling out the mob — or directing their efforts once the mob has formed — THAT’S the mob’s “organizing principle”. The mob isn’t working as a team, it’s working as a cynical chaos machine at someone’s behest. Sometimes however, mobs can be organized so that they behave like mobs while not exactly looking like mobs. The January 6 insurrectionists looked like a mob but they weren’t the mob’s organizing principle. As we’re learning, the January 6 insurrection wasn’t spontaneous. Not even remotely. People (some inside the White House) planned it and planned for it. Then they directed the mob where they wanted it to spend its rage.

What Joe Biden pulled off — becoming the POTUS — required a lot of teamwork. Overcoming Trumpism required (and still requires) teamwork. Everyone had to put their personal comforts aside and make the group their priority even if it meant standing in nine for hours to vote — in the midst of a pandemic — and despite the weather. I don’t recall seeing Republicans standing in line for hours. That’s because most Republicans didn’t have to. Their precincts had enough voting machines and enough volunteers to handle any situation. Hmmmmm… Sounds like teamwork of a kind, doesn’t it? But this was a “team” working at the behest of corruption at the top. People working for a crime boss can be remarkably efficient. Their efforts don’t benefit the larger “we” however. They only benefit a handful of people — a “me”.

Getting vaccinated demands that every one of us think of ourselves as part of a team. Getting vaxxed makes us better teammates because we won’t get sick (or anywhere near as sick as if we didn’t get vaxxed). We won’t transmit the virus, should we get it, to others. Not getting sick, we won’t tax the health care system. We’ll give the economy a chance to get better faster. The team that is We The People will get back to something like “normal” sooner. NOT getting vaxxed has all the opposite effects. Unless your immune system is compromised, there is no excuse not to do what the team demands. There are only crap excuses for selfish behavior.

The Delta Variant is now raging through all the unvaccinated parts of America — except for Nevada, all red states. This time, young people are landing in over-taxed hospitals. Some are dying. It’s tragedy heaped upon tragedy and it’s all preventable. I just saw a clip on MSNBC. A reporter asks a high school students in Arkansas — one of the few getting vaccinated at the vaccination event set up at their high school — why THEY are getting the stick while most of their classmates aren’t.

Turns out, most of those kids getting vaxxed in this now anti-vax red state are athletes. And the reason they’re all getting it? TEAMWORK. If anyone on their team gets sick, the whole team will have to sit down. One member’s fate is everyone’s fate.

Ironically, even when they rely on teamwork, Republicans view teamwork as something for suckers. Criminals, of necessity, need to be able to turn on their co-conspirators at the drop of an indictment. In several recent interviews, Donald Trump’s niece Mary Trump has stated that her cousin Ivanka will probably flip before Allen Weisselberg, Trumpco’s money man, does. That either would “flip” shouts volumes. That Ivanka would flip — that bellows at the top of its lungs. These people don’t even see a “team” where it should be most firmly entrenched — in their own family.

Oh, the irony… as “team-like” as organized criminals can be, we call them “the mob”. And as every good cop can tell you, it takes significant teamwork to bring down a mob.