Why Do I Call This Blog What I Call It? Because Bullsh*t Nearly Killed Me, That’s Why!

Devout atheist that I am, I consider myself “born again’. I have seen with my own eyes the havoc bullshit can cause in both my daily life and over the whole length of it. I bear witness to bullshit’s remarkable power to convince us that it is truth and truth is bullshit. Actually, bullshit’s much more clever than that. Bullshit convinces us that our feelings are more valid than facts. That empirical truth does not exist outside our own heads, making it as fluid as our thoughts. If we think something’s so, it is so, no receipts required. . Bullshit tells us that Life is how it is and people are how they are and there’s nothing we can do to change it — that the cynicism tugging at us is correct. Paired with an angry, confused, judgmental deity, that cynicism can turn deadly. Happiness, we become convinced (by bullshit) is a matter of how we navigate our way around our bullshit and everyone else’s. In bullshit’s defense, bullshit has that half-right. The trick to living life with even a modicum of success or happiness is to focus on your own bullshit FIRST before worrying about anyone else’s. If your experience is anything like mine, dealing with your own bullshit will be a full-time job; you will literally NEVER have time to even think of anyone else’s.

My own personal bullshit had me convinced I could disappear from Life without causing my family excessive harm — that money would eventually assuage the “bad feelings”. Talk about bullshit. But, bullshit won the argument. Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. A decade-long depression got triggered by Trump’s seizing the presidency (he did not “win” it legitimately) into full-on self-destruction. The thing about depression is, it robs you of perspective. The deeper the depression, the less perspective you have; I had come to believe that the world was the narrow, future-less tunnel I saw it as. It wasn’t, of course. It never was. And, as my personal darkness drove me toward increasingly irrational action, I did it having denied for 45 years that at age fourteen, I was sexually molested twice by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged.

I had gotten it into my head that me getting sexually molested was MY FAULT. It wasn’t, of course. That was bullshit!

Long story short, being molested put me on an island because only my molester and I knew that secret about us. Anyone else? Nope! That meant (in the irrational reasoning of my young mind) that if you didn’t know this about me, you didn’t know “me”. Since I wasn’t sharing my secret (and my molester definitely wasn’t), no one was ever going to really know me. No one. And, as you sit there, on that island, you slowly begin to blame yourself for being there. And every terrible thing that happens to you? Well, hell — that’s YOUR fault, stupid! I can only speak for and from my own experience. Once you’ve opened the door to self-loathing, it’s a hard, HARD door to shut. What makes it so hard? It’s bullshit that’s fighting you every time you try to close it.

When I first realized how close I had come to hurting myself because bullshit told me to, I literally laughed out loud. “Ya dumb sonofabitch,” I said to myself, “You came within inches of bullshitting yourself to death!” Could anything possibly be stupider?

Yeah — bullshit can kill. It kills. I still think a lot about Anthony Bourdain. The guy was at the top of his game but his darkness got him anyway. Anthony Bourdain’s bullshit won out over Anthony Bourdain. That’s no knock on Anthony Bourdain. That, in essence, is a respectful tribute to the strength of Mr. Bourdain’s bullshit — it convinced him he didn’t need to be here anymore while literally everyone else on the planet saw it differently.

We just lived through four years where bullshit ran amok. Hell, bullshit convinced us that a president who bullshitted us every damned day was “how it was”. Talk about bullshit!

I knew my darkness had me in its thrall but I feared medication. My dad was a surgeon; I grew up in the medical culture; I don’t see doctors demagogically. My dad saw what he did as equal parts science and guess work. He saw the insurance companies as greedy gate keepers with hospitals as their equally greedy collaborators. The Hypocritic Oath doesn’t mention profit incentive anywhere. While I had a GP I liked and trusted, I knew however that they had little to no background in mood stabilizers and how to prescribe them correctly. Probably the only mood stabilizer they even knew about was the one a pharmaceutical rep left behind on her last customer service visit to the office. “Hey,” the Pharmaceutical Rep said as she set the samples down on the counter, “If you have any patients complaining of depression, try these!”

The problem with this class of drug is it takes time to reveal whether or not it’s working. Since everyone’s brain chemistry is different, it’s hard to accurately predict what any one mood stabilizer will do to or for any one person contemplating it. Normally, it takes six to eight weeks to get an inkling of whether it’s working or not. It’s entirely possible that the mood stabilizer could take a bad situation and make it worse. As Screenwriting God William Goldman said of the film business, “No one knows anything”. FFS, we do not even know how we’re all doing this — writing blogs, reading blogs, having conversations — having thoughts themselves. We don’t know where our memories come from — yeah, sure — we know what part of the brain they seem to emanate from. But we don’t know how they convert from lived experience to remembered experience.

And we have to consider THAT in the context of teenage boys who seem to walk around with zero remembered experience. But, I digress…

After seeing quite clearly that in a moment of sheer irrationality I now had it in me to commit to that irrationality completely, I drove straight to my GP’s office and told them what had just happened. I immediately got great service. Just like that, I was sitting with not just my GP but the head honcho doctor too! I told them everything. Told them my fear of medication — and why I felt as I did. But, I also told them of the research I’d been doing on my own. I’d looked into every mood stabilizer there was, looking for the one that might hold my depression at bay while leaving my hypomanic side mostly alone. I’m bipolar, ya see. I worried that if the mood stabilizer I chose dealt with the depression but made writing impossible, I’d be right back in the darkness’ thrall. I’d read anecdotal evidence (the only evidence there is) suggesting lamotrigine could be my answer.

Immediately, my GP and his boss whipped out their smart phones and looked up lamotrigine. Yes, they agreed, that could definitely work for me; they agreed to write the prescription. I took it, picked up the meds from my local pharmacy, went home and told my family what I was going to do. Swallowing that first .25 milligram little white pill, I expected a long period of wondering to begin. Instead, I got lucky. Within thirty-six hours, I leveled. I felt it. I experienced my first evidence not only that the lamotrigine would definitely work for me but HOW it would work.

My anger back then was volcanic. Once triggered, it was usually a matter of seconds before the rage in my gut exploded out my mouth in a profanity-laced screed. Anything could set me off: a stupid political argument I heard on the radio, other drivers, me if I dropped something (and bigger still if it broke). I don’t remember specifically what sparked the rage in my gut, only that it sparked — and, once sparked, it flowed back on itself like a blocked toilet. I felt the rage rising in me like it always did, picking up speed as it blew past my stomach, racing upward toward my mouth. And just as I fully expected that metastasizing anger to metamorphose into a lava spew — “Paf!” — the rage dissipated like a soap bubble popping.

I knew I had just felt the rage — felt its hold on me — and just like that — I knew I had felt the rage in the abstract but I did not feel it in any practical way that I could point at. It really was kind of like the anger “never was”.

Realizing that my darkness could no longer dominate me liberated me. In time — a few months — it even gave me the confidence (that’s the biggest, best benefit of perspective — it builds your confidence) to go at it head on. Now, able to confront my demon without that demon destroying me, I confessed my own truth to myself. Yeah, the night I spent weeping quietly on the bathroom floor (because I didn’t want to wake my wife and have to explain) was long, lonely and hard. But it destroyed the bullshit chains forever.

That’s the night I was “born again” — as a person. That was the day I started living my life unencumbered by the giant piece of bullshit that, unbeknownst to me, had dominated my life.

And it felt AWESOME!

Seeing everything in context also was awesome. “Hey,” I said to myself, suddenly feeling good about things, “bullshit nearly killed you. Are there any other ways bullshit’s making your life harder than it should be?”

I bet you can guess the answer to that question. Bullshit, it turned out, was dominating virtually every aspect of my life. For starters, I hadn’t slept well in years. Financial difficulties and sleep aren’t pals. I had been using (abusing really) OTC products like Simply Sleep. They’re anti-histamines. They don’t so much produce “sleep” as “unconsciousness for a while”. You wake up in the morning — if you sleep — feeling groggy and unprepared for the day. I wanted no part of anything stronger. I was terrified of what my brain would do with Ambien in it. Bullshit had convinced me that this problem was forever. It wasn’t. I live in California. I got myself a medical marijuana prescription and from the first day I started using cannabis as a sleep aid, I’ve slept wonderfully.

With bullshit negating my sleep, I’d start each day by putting on my bullshit colored lenses while breathing deeply from bullshit scented air. Lie in for another ten minutes, I’d bullshit myself, it won’t matter (bullshit — it did!). Never mind missing this deadline — they’ll be cool with it (they weren’t!). Ignore the warning signs that your marriage is struggling; those problems can wait till later (no, they can’t). Everything bad happening to me is my fault. No, it isn’t — but, then, it isn’t everyone else’s fault either. The world is more complicated than that: take off the bullshit-colored lenses and SEE IT.

That’s why I started this blog. I’m learning as I go and sharing my notes. Is living bullshit free for everyone? I have no idea — that’s someone else’s bullshit to worry about. That’s not to say that if another person’s bullshit gets them in trouble that I have zero obligation to them. That’s bullshit too. If I have to put my own bullshit aside to help them because of their bullshit — that’s what I must do. In the aftermath, I can only hope that, with this newfound perspective, that person, too, will have discovered bullshit’s hold on them and, like me, will want to break that hold.

We live in a new cycle where the Biggest Story There Is (after the worldwide Covid pandemic) is “The Big Lie”. To call it what it really is, it’s bullshit. One of our two political parties (and its mob boss leader) is trying to shove bullshit down our collective throats.

I guess if I wanted to be a hundred percent accurate I’d call this blog “Learning How To Live Bullshit Free” since that’s what I’m really doing everyday — and writing about it here. I gotta keep reminding myself: the second I get it into my head that I “know” how to live bullshit free? The bullshit will be winning again.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust And I Feel That Shadow Growing

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road. Throughout most of Europe’s history, Jews were kept apart. In Venice, Italy, they put them on their own little islands and called that area — where the Jews lived — “ghetto”. That’s where the word comes from.

Historically, when people see Jews as a “nationality”, it doesn’t end well for us.

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated then grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days since 90% of the students would be gone.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have horrified my community into a stone cold refusal to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. The end of WWII — the end of the Holocaust — didn’t end anti-Semitism the same way the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually end slavery.

As my community tends to do, we turned what happened to us into a teachable moment. There were some essential lessons still to be learned. There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. Turns out, the Nazis were admirers of how racists in America codified and amplified their racism. The Nazi’s method of industrialized murder found significant inspiration in America’s brand of Christo-fascism: slavery

You can’t cram peoples’ heads with tons of bullshit and not expect the bullshit to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram nonsensical, logic-free, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads, it screws them up. It’s worse when the logic-free, hateful mythology also runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger).

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it. But that’s what’s coming to America: death & destruction because bullshit.

In fact, “death & destruction because bullshit” is Trump’s entire re-election strategy.

I Have A Feeling THESE 20’s Are About To “Really” Roar

The Roaring 1920’s brought economic prosperity to the Western world — until a lot of that prosperity turned out to be phony, crony capitalism — and the world plunged into the Great Depression. These 20’s — the 2020’s — are about to roar as well — but for a whole different reason. The underlying cause is about the same — greed and power lust — but this time with the added weight of racism, bigotry and sexism. All those things have worked in concert with greed and power lust up until now.

The Roaring 2020’s are about to shut that down.

The problem with conservative thinking is that it stifles innovation. Innovation scares conservatives because innovation always takes us forward while conservatives (as their name says) want to conserve — what is and what was. Conservative thinking also stands behind racism, bigotry and sexism. You may disapprove of Trump’s racism — while enjoying your billionaire’s tax cut — but the fact is: if you stand with racists for any reason, it makes YOU a racist. Or a bigot. Or a misogynist.

Or a Republican.

A Great Moral Reckoning is coming. Corruption has had its way with us and we’re both disgusted by it and over it. This toothpaste is not going back into its tube.

The roaring can be heard in our streets, at Black Lives Matter protest marches. It can be seen blazing indignantly in the eyes of Democratic legislators unable to get any sort of realistic, meaningful financial assistance legislation past Moscow Mitch McConnell. We The People are the ones roaring now. We couldn’t wrap our minds around the openly criminal way Trump stole election 2016. At least now a few more people are appropriately woke. They see Trump cheating and call it out.

The only problem — they (and we) have got to stop equating cheating with winning — as if one could cheat to win and get away with it because why not?

Part of our roar needs to be “if you cheated to ‘win” then you did not win”.

Republicans fear our roar more than we know. That’s why they’re so determined to hush it. They know that significant power that still resides in the will of the people.

Until they can finally kill that dead, Republicans will have to play a dangerous game of cat & mouse. In this case though, the mouse has a secret weapon — the Truth — on its side.

Will The “Real Christians” Please Identify Themselves? The “Fake Christians” Are Confusing The Rest Of Us

Will the “real Christians” please stand up? Okay… will you sit down? Will you at least shut up?

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I like to call atheism “the true faith”: the faith that faith is pointless.

Point of reference: one thing you never see atheists do is call atheists with whom they disagree “heretics” or “traitors to the faith”. That’s one of the luxuries of having no faith. One’s life (where faith is concerned) remains dogma-free.

That’s always the yardstick by which people of faith measure each other — adherence to dogma — to the rules and regulations that spell out how one “practices” a faith. Churches, by their nature, codify spirituality. They articulate a “how to do it” — how to “be spiritual” their way. They lay out a very particular path and insist that the only way to practice their faith is to travel that path.

Atheism has no path per se. Atheism is liberation from a path. It’s liberation from the dogma one must adhere to in order to stay on the path.

Another point of reference: mainstream Jews are dogma-free too. I don’t count Chassids as mainstream; they’re a whole other “tribe” within the tribe — and they are dogmatic and they do call out heresy. I was raised in the conservative school of Judaism — a middle ground between the ritual-attentiveness of orthodox Jews and the freedom-from-ritual of reform Jews. Though my branch of Judaism saw the orthodox as crazy and the reformed as wannabe Christians, we got along with them. We didn’t go to war with them the way Protestants did against Catholics in Europe. Or the way Protestants and Catholics did against Mormons in this country. Plenty of Mormon blood was spilled during Mormonism’s formative years because of what they believed. Point of reference — the people killing them because of their faith were ALL other Christians.

When I turn on my TV, I see sincere, earnest Christians insist that soulless evangelicals who support Donald Trump aren’t real Christians. Those Trump-supporting Evangelicals tell everyone that THEY are the real Christians and all those saying otherwise are apostates.

Oy.

What’s a non-Christian to think? It’s not for us to judge, of course. We have no skin in this game. I have no idea who the real Christians are and, frankly, I don’t care — except when your sectarian violence consumes the rest of us which it has historically.

Point of reference: no non-Christian has ever declared America “a Christian nation”.

In part, that’s because no non-Christian has any idea what you’re talking about. Correction — we know exactly what you’re talking about and it terrifies us. If Christians meant America is a nation that follows Jesus’s teaching to “Do unto others”, that would be one thing except it’s never that thing. By “America is a Christian nation”, those Christians mean “America is THEIR kind of Christian nation subject to THEIR brand of dogma”.

And anyone not playing along is a heretic who deserves everything terrible that heretics get.

Point of reference: many of the Christians who founded this nation were not Christian in the way contemporary American Christians understand Christianity. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, was a Deist who wrote his own bible. Is it Jefferson’s version of Christianity that makes America a “Christian nation” or is Jerry Falwell, Jr’s version of Christianity which — just saying as an outsider making an outsider’s observation — seems to contradict itself every which way?

Maybe, non-Christian that I am, I’ve got this wrong. I always thought “Christians” were followers of Jesus. Isn’t it Jesus who’s hanging on that cross? Isn’t the whole point of being Christian to follow Jesus’s teaching?

See, I think that’s part of the problem. There’s a huge difference between the simple (very Jewish) message that Jesus pitched — “Do unto others” — and the far more complicated, dogma-heavy, here’s-how-to-practice-the-faith message Paul ended up pitching to all the burgeoning, far-flung Christian communities he was writing to via his letters and epistles — you know, most of the text that makes up the New Testament.

The NT, don’t forget, was (by design) an updating & improvement upon the “Old Testament”. The NT insists that an OT prophecy about a messiah is true. But then, the NT goes on to say a lot of things that the OT did not say. It goes on — Paul does — to say a lot of things that JESUS never said. That’s just according to The Jesus Seminar — a group of biblical scholars (real, respectable, academic ones not bargain basement bible college ones).

Point of reference — and this is from the Westar Institute’s website (Westar created the Jesus Seminar which was dedicated to communicating cutting-edge scholarship on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition to the public, raising the level of public discourse about questions that matter in society and culture.) ” —

Jesus of Nazareth did not refer to himself as the Messiah, nor did he claim to be a divine being who descended to earth from heaven in order to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. These are claims that some people in the early church made about Jesus, not claims he made about himself.

At the heart of Jesus’ teaching and actions was a vision of a life under the reign of God (or, in the empire of God) in which God’s generosity and goodness is regarded as the model and measure of human life; everyone is accepted as a child of God and thus liberated both from the ethnocentric confines of traditional Judaism and from the secularizing servitude and meagerness of their lives under the rule of the empire of Rome.

Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic view of the reign (or kingdom) of God—that by direct intervention God was about to bring history to an end and bring a new, perfect order of life into being. Rather, in Jesus’ teaching the reign of God is a vision of what life in this world could be, not a vision of life in a future world that would soon be brought into being by a miraculous act of god.

Hmmmmm… Maybe I need to tweak my headline. Jesus clearly said one thing while the church Paul invented (very, very, VERY loosely based on Jesus it seems) said something else entirely.

We shouldn’t be asking “Who’s the real Christian?” We know how cruel you can be to each other. We know how cruel you can be to the rest of us.

All us non-Christians should be asking who “the followers of Jesus” are.

The rest of you are crazy.

If You Think Living During A Pandemic Is A Bitch, Try Storytelling In It

And we thought things for storytellers were bad because Donald Trump’s awfulness supersedes anything any writer could ever think up.

And then the coronavirus walked in our door. Of all the gin joints in all the world…

We know how ya feel, Bogie, we know how ya feel…

Trump’s story is so hard to tell that our news media hasn’t gotten within miles of even figuring out how to tell it — never mind actually telling it. In their defense, what can you do about a candidate or president who lurches quite happily from calamity to calamity? I don’t know… maybe stop lurching after him? Maybe stop following him down every damned rabbit hole? But, I digress.

If you make your living by making up stories, it sucks when reality keeps belching out content far more inventive than anything you could imagine. Donald Trump isn’t even the worst villain riding this supersonic shitwagon. There are plenty of others: Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Mikes Pompeo, Pence & Flynn. Every one of these characters would fill one story all by themselves as villain. What did we ever do to deserve a whole Justice League Of Villains?

Oh, right — slavery.

I digress again.

Fictional storytelling before the coronavirus landed was already a fool’s errand. The coronavirus pandemic just made it hopeless.

Never mind what anyone says. Dialogue’s gonna be rewritten ten thousand times before it even gets to the actors — and then it’ll get rewritten ten thousand more times. First thing visual storytelling demands is being clear on what the audience sees. If you’re working in a visual media — as a screenwriter or TV writer — this is job one.

Think of it this way: before the pandemic you were a show taking place in real time — and half of your episodes were in the can when the lockdown came. Your show took place in a time when people didn’t social distance or wear masks. Bars were open and packed. Restaurants, too. People could go on a date — to a movie.

Then the pandemic hit. Production stopped for months. And months. But, let’s say circumstances ease enough so that — if your company can successfully follow 20 pages of protocols and requirements without anyone getting sick — you can go back to work, finishing your season. One problem. While your show was in hiatus, reality changed.

The literal reality in which the show had been taking place is not the literal reality we live in anymore. People can’t go to movies on dates. There are no movie theaters. And dating — it’s more complicated now (though no less essential). Coronavirus is like an STD on steroids. A show about a person with an active sex life has a problem now it didn’t have before.

And did I mention everyone wears masks now? Yeah, they wear masks — and they’re likely to be wearing masks for the foreseeable future because of the wretched hash Donald Trump and his band of pirates made of our response to the virus. That means that if your show takes place in real time — in our collective real time where we all live? Everyone better be wearing masks.

If our show said “I don’t care!” and shot the rest of the season the same way they shot the first part of their season — with no one social distancing or wearing masks, acting as if the virus never existed — they would be making a period piece.

People NOT wearing masks would be as costumed, in a sense. The same way good wardrobe is meant to draw our eye toward it (and reflect elements of character and environment), someone maskless will get our attention. We no longer live in a world where people walk around maskless. But we used to. That’s what the audience knows. Stories rely on immediacy — especially stories that take place in our contemporary world. Put that story in the past and — even if we love the characters deeply — we’ve still surrendered a big piece of the story’s drive — it’s immediacy.

I just finished a Zoom story meeting with another writer. It’s a TV project about a fish out of water who lands in LA. It’s based on a real person. She’s genuinely fascinating — and Russian. The work we’d done all had to be re-evaluated; a draft was written before the pandemic and the lockdown.

Now we had to try to imagine what our character — who’s single and sexually active — would do in a world where being single and sexually active just got harder? Keep in mind — if we got super, SUPER lucky, we could be in front of the cameras with our TV show in… super, SUPER lucky — 6 months. It’s never going to happen but let’s say. The soonest we could possibly be on air so people could binge us? A year. If we’re super, SUPER lucky.

What will THAT world look like? We’ll probably still be wearing masks. Will bars be open? Will restaurants? Or will most of them be gone — victims of the economy that started to come back far too late to save them. Will movie theaters still be off limits? Will spectating at live sports events? It’s hard to write scenes that take place in a setting that might not realistically be open anymore. That might not even exist as we knew it.

No one’s going to go with a story that says “He walked into a bar. Or maybe he didn’t because they’re all closed so he stood outside where the bar used to be.” Chrissakes — shoot the table read instead. On Zoom. It’ll be easier.

Are Republicans Hard Wired To Be Mediocre?

There’s a moment at the end of the movie “Amadeus” where the character Salieri — the court composer to the Hapsburg Empire — looks to the priest weeping in front of him. The priest had come to hear Salieri’s confession but got way more than that.

Salieri has just confessed to, more or less, murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — a thing Salieri claims he did because God had implanted such incredible talent inside Mozart instead of him. Mozart’s remarkable abilities have made it clear to Salieri just how mediocre he is.

Salieri looks to the speechless priest, tears running down his cheeks. “I will speak for you, Father,” says Salieri, “I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.”

Salieri is the institutionalist. The inside-the-box guy whose imagination ends where the box does. Mozart, on the other hand, lives outside the box — where genius can take flight and flourish.

Republicans are a lot like Salieri. They’re rich and privileged. They’re connected to power. They haven’t an original idea in their heads — because original ideas, they know, are dangerous. To them.

Look at the lineup of Congresspeople working either to investigate or defend Trump. On the Democratic side you have Adam Schiff and Kamala Harris and Katie Porter and Val Demmings and Stacy Abrams — outside-the-box problem solvers and thinkers.

On the Republican side? Matt Gaetz… Jim Jordan… Devin Nunes…

Is there a more mediocre person on the planet than sexual-assault enabler Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan? Piss ants laugh at Jim for being so useless.

It shouldn’t be a mystery why Republican excel at not excelling. At being mediocre. It’s a function of being conservative. Conservatives — as their name implies — want to conserve. Since you can’t conserve the future (it doesn’t exist), you focus on conserving the present because it contains the past — and the past, really, is every conservative’s goal: conservatives want to conserve the past. They want to regress the country back to how it was when everyone understood that white, male Christians were the alpha dogs of American politics.

Those mediocrities will tell you that those alpha dogs made America. Hog wash. Manifest Destiny was thievery. Slavery should have been criminalized, not institutionalized. America has been way better at preaching democracy than practicing it. How mediocre of us.

The one thing we can definitely say about Donald Trump is that, for everything he is, he ain’t mediocre. When it comes to being corrupt or treasonous or racist or misogynist or bigoted or greedy or ignorant or just plain awful, Donald Trump is exceptional.

When it comes to being a human being?

He ain’t even mediocre.

The Truth Is, America’s Never Actually Been Very Good At “Democracy”

As shocking as it is that we’ve come to this, it’s even more shocking that, to a third of the country, “this” makes them happy. They’re glad America has come to this.

Racists are never going to like Democracy because every election is a gamble — that is, if you let everybody vote. The whole point of voter suppression and gerrymandering is make the gamble almost negligible as a gamble. If less Democratic voters turn out because they 1) couldn’t register or 2) registered but couldn’t spend ten hours in line to vote, that’s as good as a vote against whatever the Democrats wanted. This is not a new game. And though it’s wrong to shame the victim — and the Democrats have always been the Republicans’ victim — the Democrats have known since Nixon (and before) how Republicans ticked. After a while, one has to stand up for oneself because no one else is going to.

On the day he resigned from office because of Watergate, Nixon’s approval rating sat around 29%. His guilt was so undeniable that a delegation of Republicans (including Barry Goldwater — the conservative’s conservative) went to Nixon to tell him he had to resign. That’s how bad it was then. The 30% is still there. They’ve filled out a bit but they’re still very much there.

So, a third of the country couldn’t care less if America sinks into authoritarianism. In fact, they’d celebrate if it happened. With a (theoretical) 70% majority, you’d think the rest of us would have long ago figured out how to keep the crazies in check. But half that 70% doesn’t care about politics (or didn’t). In America, we think 50% – 60% of the voters showing up at election time is success. Hopefully the days of disengagement are over. But, for now, all we can point at is our history.

Come election time, too many of us stay home. In 2016, 138 million of us voted. Unfortunately that was only 56% of eligible voters. That’s over 40% of American voters never showing up to meet their most basic, most important, most innately democratic responsibility as American citizens.

Source: Pew Research Center

Ben Franklin saw us coming. As he observed 240 years ago — Republic’s are wonderful things — if you can keep them. They don’t get kept by accident.

Keeping a republic alive and well is damned hard work. Of all Americans, the people who’ve worked hardest to keep our republic alive are African Americans. They should have bailed on us eons ago. But they understood how important liberty was because they didn’t have it. It wasn’t just a word to them or an abstraction. It was something they wanted above all else. Nothing fancy — just the equal treatment before the law that the Constitution theoretically guarantees.

We kinda screwed the pooch right at the beginning. “All men are created equal” and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. You can’t hold those two ideas in your head and not lose your mind. And look how hard we made it for women to vote. Where’s the “democratic” in that?

The truth is, we’ve always talked a better game about democracy than we’ve ever delivered. Good thing that’s fixable. First thing we need to do is shut up. That is, white men need to shut up. We need to step back from the controls and let others have a go at it. After they finish fixing the mess we made of it, who knows? America might finally live up to its own ideals.

If we followed the lead of African American women especially — they will have been the true saviors of American democracy — we might even get good at democracy eventually. That’s not guaranteed. But, if white men listen — if we let the genius of E Pluribus Unum (that’s what makes America exceptional — diversity, not white guys and their money) wash over us — we might could learn how to be better.

Republicans Love Their Kool-Aid The Way Other Americans Love A Good Glass Of Wine

Nobody with an “R” next to their names has any delusions about who or what Donald Trump is. When they surrendered their party to him, they did it knowing exactly what the outcome would be — because they wanted what he wanted: permanent power.

Republicans are playing for keeps because they have to. It’s all or nothing now because they’ve crossed a literal line. They need to stop America from ever enforcing the Rule Of Law ever again (it’s still around, we’ve stopped demanding that everyone follow it) because when we do? Every Republican will have to lawyer up.

From the moment current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told a roomful of Republican muckety-mucks at the 2016 Republican convention that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”, it’s been an inarguable fact: Republicans knew Trump was more than just “corrupt”. They knew he was a traitor.

They didn’t accidentally drink the Trump Kool-Aid, they poured themselves a big, tall glass and downed it in one big, thirsty gulp.

And now they’re pouring themselves another glass.

You could smell the Kool Aid on Steve Scalise’s breath this morning right through the TV as he gave his opening statement to the House Covid Panel’s investigation into the Trump Administration’s criminally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. Never mind that more than 150,000 Americans are already dead with 4,500,000+ already infected — and the pandemic raging across parts of America, Scalise insisted that Trump’s “plan” was doing great things — and we should follow him — even if his “plan” takes us over the cliff.

Conservatives like Scalise and Trump (he’s the epitome of conservatism — that’s why they backed him in the end — that’s why they tolerated all the nonsense because tax cuts!) rely on people accepting what they say without questioning it.

They want us to believe that all those artificial flavors are real. That the bitter aftertaste is a good thing — so what if it never goes away!

The Jonestown Kool Aid

But, here’s the thing: it ain’t drinking the Kool Aid that makes conservatives — and Republicans — so dangerous. It’s taking the cup into their hands that brands them. The moment they accepted the cup — they bought in. Jim Jones passed out the cups first. And everybody took one. Everyone needed to have a cup first before they could drink the poison.

Yes, there’s pressure to take the cup. And being the first to say “NO!” would take guts. But then, consider the consequences. You’d have to know — just from looking around into other peoples’ eyes: you’re not alone. Plenty of you are thinking: “Don’t drink it — hell, don’t take the cup!” That’s the moment of Truth.

You’ve already considered the possibility of taking it instead of rejecting it right out of hand because it’s poison and you know it!

When Steve Scalise gave his opening statement this morning, he wasn’t offering up the Kool-Aid so much as he was the cup into which he wanted to pour the poison. And you better believe that Scalise and Trump want to overfill our cup. They want to watch us drink and then be ready to offer us more.

The painful irony is, Scalise & Trump expect this to be how their political opponents end up —

They don’t realize — this both literally and metaphorically — is how America will end up.

Sorry, Steve. Sorry, Don-Don. The rest of America has other plans. We’ll drink something healthier, thanks!

And we’ll bring our own cups.

The Rule Of Law Never Stopped Being “A Thing”; We Just Stopped Enforcing It

When somebody breaks the law, the law itself did not break. Same goes for when a bunch of people — Republicans — break the rule of law all at the same time. It may look like the rule of law has ceased to be, but that’s an illusion. The rule of law still is. The onus is entirely on us for not enforcing it.

For not insisting that the rule of law “is”.

If circumstances don’t remove Donald Trump from his stolen presidency by November 3, then We The People will show him — and the entire Republican Party — the door. The Republicans know for a fact that a massive repudiation is coming their way. Ironically, they have hastened via their greed and power lust the very ending they feared: a socialized America. Progressive — socialist type — policies are now the only way out of the trench conservative thinking has dug for us.

The conservative way out? More of the same that got us here. It’s exactly like Trump insisting that the coronavirus will magically “go away”. That’s a lot of what passes for conservative “thinking”: insisting a thing is so (because that’s what they need to hold onto power) regardless of every bit of reality that says otherwise.

The very first thing that will happen when Democrats take the reins of power will be the return of the rule of law. Not the law itself — but its enforcement. When we begin enforcing the rule of law again, the first thing we’ll have to do is housekeeping. A lot of housekeeping.

The rule of law doesn’t say “But, since you were ignoring it, you can also ignore all the times it was violated”. If we did that, we’d immediately undermine the rule of law’s credibility. That would mean that every time the rule of law was “inconvenient”, someone could insist we weren’t following it anymore — so they can do whatever they want. The way to “fix” that is to turn it over to the rule of law.

It will insist — in no uncertain terms — that they’re wrong.

Everything Donald Trump & the Republican Party did to “win” election 2016 must now go under the rule of law’s microscope. Every single time they violated it must be prosecuted — or we’re back to picking & choosing among which parts of the rule of law we want to enforce and which parts we don’t. Therefore — every single violation must be acknowledged and addressed. If Trump & the GOP violated the rule of law in any way in order to “win” in 2016, then — according to the rule of law — they did not ‘win’.

If Trump — and every Republican who violated the rule of law in order to “win” — did not, in fact, “win” then everything they’ve accomplished because of that “win” no longer counts. It can’t. Their “win” belonged to the Democrats. It should have been Democrats nominating lifetime appointments to the federal bench and the SCOTUS. It should have been Democrats running the federal government and dealing with Russia and China and Saudi Arabia. That would not have been perfect — not by a long shot.

But it would not have been illegal. It would have stuck to the rule of law — if Obama’s administration is to be our guide.

Trump has always projected his illegitimacy. He’s always known his presidency was ill-gotten. He’s always known that the instant he stops being POTUS, his legal troubles begin.

Donald Trump himself is the proof that the rule of law still is and always was. If Trump really believed he had gotten away with it — with destroying the rule of law — he wouldn’t be working so hard even now to circumvent it. Trump & the Republicans know: the rule of law still is — and it stands in their way.

The rule of law never let us down. We did that to it. But the good news? We can fix that.

First & Foremost, Slavery Was Stolen Labor

If I steal your car, I’ve stolen something you bought using money you made from the sweat of your brow. If I enslave you, I cut out the middle man as it were. I don’t have to steal your car to get what was yours, I steal your labor directly. It’s more efficient. More ruthless.

In America, slavery belonged to the south where it worked the fields mostly. Picking cotton and cutting sugar cane were labor intensive work back before machinery showed up. If a plantation owner had to pay for labor (never mind a fair wage for that labor), their profits would have been wafer thin if they’d had any at all. The whole point of slavery is you get the work done — and you make your money — without having to worry about the cost of labor. Sure, sure — you still have to feed and house that labor but, since they’re slaves anyway, it’s not like you have to make their food or housing decent.

Since slaves aren’t technically human to the slaver (even calling slaves three-fifths of a regular white person was an over-statement to them made solely to cut the Electoral College deal), he can not only steal their labor but every other facet of their lives too. The slaver can see the slave’s children like calves or lambs to be separated from their parents and sold off individually.

If I steal your labor, I steal a big part of you — of who you are and why you’re here. You may think your purpose in life is to live happily. I think your purpose is to pick my cotton and keep the mint juleps flowing — for free. If I win that fight and force you to work for me, for nothing, you will have no way even to earn your way to freedom. I will know that you will be my slave forever.

The fact is, slavery was very good for the Confederacy’s agrarian economy. “If the Confederacy had been a separate nation, it would have ranked as the fourth richest in the world at the start of the Civil War.” Without slavery, the south couldn’t produce cotton cheaply. That is no justification for slavery. But it was to the south.

Ironically, when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1794, they thought the gin’s ability to comb cotton seeds from cotton bolls would reduce the need for slavery. The opposite happened. While a slave “could pick the seeds out of 10 pounds of cotton in a day. The cotton gin could process 100 pounds in the same time.” The white guys running things planted more cotton. Rather, they had their slaves plant more cotton.

America has always lived with an impossibility at its core — the idea that “all men are created equal” except the ones who are slaves. Not only did we not actually believe that all men were created equal, we did not believe their work was equal either. We’ve always believed that white peoples’ work was worth more than black peoples’ work — even if it was the same damned work.

Once I steal your productivity, your happiness is easy to pick off and destroy. It’s stolen labor that makes slavery “slavery”.