America Is Realizing: It’s Been Living A Lie; The Good News? It Wants To Stop Living That Lie

How can all men be created equal when some are considered slaves? Those two ideas cannot exist together.

The trick to living “bullshit-free” is you start with yourself. Forget anyone else’s bullshit till you’ve dealt with your own. Trust me — once you’ve started an honest, deep dive into every one of the truths, half-truths and total lies you tell yourself every day? You won’t have time to even think about anyone else’s crap.

America has lived a lie since its founding. “All men are created equal” and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. They can’t live in the same hemisphere never mind the same zip code.

Europe took Christianity and turned it from “doing unto others” into a Holy Roman Weapon that was going to “save you” even as it murdered you — a very neat trick. As Jared Diamond points out in his excellent book “Guns, Germs & Steel”, Europeans are bullies who dominated everyone they touched not because of any genomic superiority but because where they lived provided them certain important advantages when they encountered other people. For one, their continent and its access to trade routes to Asia gave them both raw native materials (like iron) and access to foreign raw materials (like silk).

Europeans and their active trading gave them something else — collective immunity to diseases like smallpox.

When the Europeans arrived in North America, their microbes decimated the native American peoples with horrifying efficiency. Ninety percent. And the Europeans didn’t even know they’d done it. The Europeans arrived with bad intentions and an angry god in their baggage. They used their angry god to justify their bad intentions. They used their angry god to justify their bullying.

European culture has contributed lots of nice things to world culture — some lovely architecture, sculpture and painting. Terrific music. Great food. A fair amount of noteworthy literature and philosophical thinking. They also contributed more bullying than anyone else.

European bullying, in fact, outweighs everything else Europe contributed to the world by a factor of a million. Europeans needed slaves to do the back-breaking work of planting and harvesting cotton and sugar cane (which is especially labor-intensive). The whole basis for slavery, don’t forget, was relatively free labor. You don’t have to pay a slave a salary but you do have to house and feed him — albeit just enough to do the work you need him to do so you can steal it from him.

Remember — America did not begin its life as any sort of level playing field though it aspired to be one. The problem — its idea of a level playing field (“all men are created equal”) was contradicted by the devil’s bargain it made by allowing slavery to continue. America’s current Independence Day makes a mockery of the very ideals it insists it’s celebrating. We are only as free as the least free among us.

America wasn’t free until every slave stopped being a slave — especially those who didn’t know they’d been freed and were no longer in bondage. But, even the end of slavery didn’t end slavery. Though it stopped existing as a legitimate business or “institution” with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1862), the last slave didn’t learn they were free until June 1865. Juneteenth should be America’s Independence Day — that’s the first day we even pretended that “all men” were “created equal”.

Even when we gave blacks legal standing, we couldn’t help thieving from them. How many of those 40 acres plus mule ended up in white hands instead of black? How much of “Black Wall Street” was returned to the successful black businesspeople and entrepreneurs who were murdered, burnt out or sent fleeing during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921?

White people have a shitload to answer for — not that they’ll ever get around to it. They’re so busy, ya know…

The good news is the African American women have had our backs the whole time. If there was a way to award a group of people for constancy, integrity, loyalty and grit in the face of relentless cruelty, African American women would be perennial first place finishers. Despite hundreds of years of unspeakable abuse, they remain by and large America’s most fiercely loyal subscribers. They believe in our ideals more than we do.

But that, apparently, has started to change. What even black leaders acknowledge is a sign that something very real has changed — the majority of protesters there demanding institutional change in the face of systemic racism are white people. The white majority has finally realized that they can’t possibly be as free as they want to be until black and brown people have exactly the same opportunities, benefits and privileges.

Black women especially have always known about the responsibilities that come with freedom. They’ve been reliably civic-minded from the first instant they were emancipated. Because they knew what it was to be slaves and did not want to live like that ever again.

And they did not want their children or any of their children to taste slavery again.

Racism isn’t an add-on to slavery, it’s slavery’s justification. Ask just about any Trumpanista if they’d be down with bringing slavery back, you KNOW they’d say “yeah — bring it back!”

Trump’s shrinking poll numbers reflect the last few quasi-racist rats abandoning the SS GOP Racist. All that’s left now are the hard core racists. We’re roughly down to the 29% of Americans who still approved of Richard Nixon on the day he resigned because of Watergate. Let’s stop trying to redeem these people. They don’t want redemption, they want to hate.

Though the press has stopped covering them, Americans STILL are taking to the streets every day to protest. The “silent majority” that Spiro Agnew invented (actually the term went back a ways and originally referred to the dead as the “silent majority”) were as much a legitimate “majority” as Jerry Falwell, Sr’s “moral” majority were legitimately moral. They weren’t.

A majority of voters chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. We know it was at least 3 million voters more but, if we extrapolate the number of possible suppressed votes and voters — HRC’s victory (in terms of who wanted her vs who wanted Trump — regardless of their ability to realize their vote) would likely have been far, far bigger if every voter got to vote and every vote got counted.

There’s a reason Donald Trump & the GOP fear vote-by-mail like a black person moving into their neighborhood. In their mind, “there it goes”. Trump has said the “keep it silent” out loud: when more Americans vote, they vote Democratic which means if all Americans voted, Republicans would likely lose every election going forward.

The reason is that Americans are now woke. Only someone who wants to live in the past would vote for Republicans. People who now demand that America FINALLY live up to its own damned ideals have taken over the conversation and it’s about damned time.

If only the news media would get woke along with us. They, too, are living a lie — that “both sides do it” (whatever the hell “it” is).

America already feels the cleansing power of the light. We need to shine it on Republican corruption like it was an ultraviolet light destroying virus particles.

We The People do not fear the truth. We know now what it will free us from.

How To Tell If You’re A Racist

Racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But with a difference. Beauty is subjective. Racism isn’t.

I may walk around being the only person who thinks I’m “beautiful”. So long as no one’s bullying me though — and so long as I’m not being destructively delusional because I think I’m an Adonis — what difference does it make? No one’s getting hurt by me thinking I’m better looking than I am.

But, if I walk around thinking I’m no racist — while doing incredibly racist things — first of all, I’m hurting people and second of all my “opinion” about whether I’m racist or not is irrelevant. If you do harmful things to other people — if you think harmful thoughts about them — because of the color of their skin, how they dress, the way they pray or who they love — it’s not a matter opinion whether you’re a racist or not.

If someone calls you, calls something you’ve done or something you’ve said “racist”, it’s a sign you might be a racist. If your immediate response is to deny your racism — that’s another sign you’re a racist. Racists don’t listen. They whitesplain or mansplain over their victim instead. Another sign.

After a while, all the signs kinda add up — if you’d stop to count them. In the “I’m a racist” pile — plenty of chits. In the “I’m no racist” pile — just one: you and your insistence that you couldn’t possibly be a racist.

It’s soooooooooooo simple. No one gets to decide if they are racist. No one gets to decide if they’re bigoted — or misogynist — or even generically cruel. Our victims get to say.

That is, they should. We need to stop giving racists street cred over the people they’ve bullied. We need to make being racist impossibly expensive — both financially and personally.

We need to make being thought a racist as bad as being one. We need to fear being called “racist” the way we’d fear being called a “child molester”. It’s that offensive and unacceptable. It’s that counter-productive.

So — if someone calls you “racist” (and I don’t mean some Trumpian shithead who’s projecting their racism onto you as part of a meaningless argument) — take it seriously.

By the same token? If someone calls you beautiful? Accept it.

Every White Person Has To Own Their White Privilege If They’re Ever Going To NOT Be Racist

A recent production of James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” in Washington, DC.

First things first: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not up to the racist or the person who might be racist to decide whether or not they’re racist. They’re a little too close to the subject to judge.

So — no white person can say “I’m not a racist”. It’s not up to you. I know — that makes it tricky. “How do I know I’m not being racist at any given moment then?”

You don’t.

The fact is, we’re all “racist” in that we differentiate between ourselves and our immediate tribe with everyone else. It’s hardwired into our DNA. Other social animals do it too. Survival instinct, ya know?

But, being intelligent animals (or, at least, fancying ourselves intelligent), we have the ability to check our impulses and native instincts. It’s a little like not shitting the moment the urge hits you like, say, a horse might. Humans have learned — go elsewhere to do that — may we suggest the bathroom? Just like with moving our bowels, sometimes it’s just not convenient to do it. So we hold it in for as long as we need to.

Because we can.

It’s not a matter of denying our racism, it’s a matter of keeping it in check at all times. The goal is, in time (with personal experience), eliminate those feelings altogether. It’s a little like changing one’s bowel habits — to extend the metaphor. A bad diet produces bad bowel habits with plenty of bloating and discomfort and difficulty that only gets worse over time. If you change your diet though — voila!

I was having prostate issues. I cut back on caffeine. Now I don’t have prostate issues.

And we all know how important it is having adequate roughage in your diet to help clean everything out. Maintaining a diet instead of eating whatever you like is hard work.

So’s not being a racist — and you have to do it every single day.

I know the moment I realized I was an “institutional racist”. Now, I grew up an “other”. I’m Jewish. I was told by my culture that I was a “Chosen People”. Considering the cruelty visited upon my tribe, perhaps it would have been better for us if this god creature had chosen someone else. I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust where institutional racism became industrial racism.

I am old enough, sadly, to remember knowing there were quotas — unspoken but understood: a certain number of Jews or Blacks or Latinos or Chinese or Japanese or Indian (if any) to be invited into “the club” — a private school, a country club, a college.

I do know the sting of not having privilege.

But I don’t know it — personally — on the scale my black and brown brothers and sisters have been forced to endure. Having white skin, there was always the chance for me to “pass” for a bit — until the real white people heard my last name or stopped to reconsider the shape and cut of my nose. White Europeans are bullies — cultural and otherwise. But certain tribes were always excluded from Christian privilege. Romani people were one. Armenians were another. And, of course, there was always the Jews.

Still — white European culture and bullying are pervasive enough — and, by the time I was born American Jews had begun assimilating enough — so that I was afforded a significant amount of white privilege even though lots of that privilege was denied me. I still had some white privilege where others had none.

It’s just a fact.

I grew up outside of Baltimore, Maryland in the 70’s. My parents were ardent theater-goers. There was a big theater downtown called “The Mechanic” (after one of it’s big donors — last name Mechanic) where big touring productions of Broadway shows played. A few blocks away was Center Stage, an Equity LORT theater that staged original productions using Equity actors. Real quality stuff. Great plays with lots of great actors — known, unknown, about to be known.

It was 1982. The year after I graduated from college. I was visiting from New York. My parents had subscriptions to both the Mechanic and Center Stage but couldn’t make that night’s Center Stage performance and didn’t want to waste the tickets. They gave them to me. I was able to use one of them.

The show was James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner”.

Right off the bat — though I loved theater, though I’d just graduated from Vassar College as a DRAMA major — I hemmed and hawed. “That,” I told myself, “Is going to be a boring couple of hours.” That was my fear. How could a show about black people possibly be interesting to me?

Assuming that other peoples’ cultures are uninteresting is… if not exactly racist, it’s stupid. Let’s call it racist adjacent. In my defense, I went. I was lost but not a lost cause.

The Amen Corner‘ is about Margaret Alexander, the pastor of a storefront church in Harlem. Margaret is fiercely protective of her teenage son David — especially when her estranged husband (David’s father) Luke (a jazz musician) returns to them because he’s dying. Margaret has always painted Luke as a weak man who left his family because he loved playing music more than supporting them. To Margaret’s growing unease, her son David is showing a similar passion for music over a passion for, say, God.

But Margaret, it turns out, hasn’t been entirely honest or faithful to the truth. Luke didn’t leave her — causing her to find God for salvation — she found God first. Her single-minded devotion to God — to her own religious impulses — caused her marriage to break up. Luke didn’t leave her, she left Luke — who still loves her.

The play asks a lot of hard questions about faith and culture and religion and community and love, and, of course, racism. Racism sits beneath everything.

Whether or not “The Amen Corner” is a great play from a literary standpoint — I don’t know frankly. I’m amazed it hasn’t gotten more attention. If theater is meant to not only entertain but inform, “The Amen Corner” checked off every box there was and then some.

I walked in the door, figuring I’d get a little sleep and ended up so emotionally drained that I was literally the last person to leave the theater when the evening’s performance was finished.

The leads — Frances Foster and Bill Cobbs — as Margaret and Luke — were exceptional. The story grabbed me early and would not let go of me. But that wasn’t what left me drained and touched so deeply that — as I write this, I can feel the same awe I felt then. I was racist to think Black culture would bore me.

That night, James Baldwin, Frances Foster, Bill Cobbs, director Walter Dallas and the rest of the magnificent cast opened my eyes. Of course it’s not boring! It’s human! And all human drama is interesting. All human drama teaches us something. Only an idiot or a racist would turn up their nose at learning more about the other people with whom we share the planet and the present.

That Black culture was as rich as my culture wasn’t the point. That Black culture touched me as deeply as my own — that I understood its values and its struggles and could see myself in their place and care as deeply about their pain as about my own.

That’s what happens when you realize how much we all have in common.

Important point to make here: I do not deserve a medal for this. I don’t deserve a cookie or praise even.

I’m just meeting an obligation — the same obligation everyone has — to come clean. As the name of my blog says — I aspire to live Bullshit Free. It would be bullshit, for instance, for me to say I’ve never benefited from white privilege.

Now jump forward 39 years to 2001.

I’m in my second year as a Co-Executive Producer on Showtime’s sci-fi anthology “The Outer Limits“. I adapt in interesting idea that was pitched to the (all white) Outer Limits writers room about an invention that can “mine” the talents and skill sets from seniors so they can be “passed on” after they die. But those talents and skill sets can also be stolen — “mined” from these seniors before they’re fully ready to “surrender them”. It was, at heart, about warehousing old people.

We shot “The Outer Limits” up in Vancouver but the main production office was based in Los Angeles. While we cast most of the show in Vancouver, LA always cast the lead or leads. I never had any real say over who my main actors would be but I can’t think of a time when the actors cast for me let me down.

The episode — “Fathers & Sons” was about a black family. The dad (played by Anthony Sherwood) was a middle-of-the road guy with a middle-of-the-road job and approach to life. His very ordinary life was a kind of rebuke to his dad — an itinerant jazz musician — who lived with the family (because he was pretty much broke). The dad was especially fearful of the impact his father was having on his son — who aspired to be a jazz musician just like his grandpa.

Gee, it even sounds like “The Amen Corner“. The two leads LA cast were the grandson Ronnie Dell — they got Eugene Byrd — and the grandfather Joe Dell. For Joe, LA cast Bill Cobbs. I didn’t write the episode (borrowing heavily from “The Amen Corner“) expecting to get Bill Cobbs. I just got Bill Cobbs.

Sometimes you have to think the Universe is speaking to you. Or trying to.

I didn’t even make the Joe Cobbs — “Amen Corner” connection immediately. To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with Joe’s work. Or, I didn’t think I was. Joe’s like a lot of great character actors: they work a lot but you don’t necessarily know their names (even when you cast a lot of actors).

When I looked up Joe’s credits out of curiosity, there it was: “Luke in ‘The Amen Corner’ at Center Stage”.

Ho-ly shit!

I won’t bore you with the long conversation Bill and I had about “The Amen Corner”. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with some huge actors (well, their names were “huge”) — Kirk Douglass, Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Brad Pitt, Whoopi Goldberg (just after she won her Oscar too), Steve Coogan, Joel Grey, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeve, Tim Curry, Ewan McGregor & Timothy Dalton to name but a few. Working with Bill Cobbs was right up there with those guys.

I hope like hell I didn’t creep poor Bill out, I became so reverential. It’s nice to be able to tell performers you like how much they mean to you. It’s even better when you can tell them that while you’re working with them.

Having an open mind means having an open mind — not a semi-open mind. Being legitimately too tired to go to a show is one thing. To not go because you’re a systemic, institutional racist?

You NEED an evening of theater to sort you out.

Why Did We Ever Criminalize Drug Use To Begin With? Because Judging People Is Easier Than Helping Them…

The “war on drugs” was never a war on “drugs”. Like the drug laws it was meant to epitomize, the drug war was always entirely focused on drug users. And not just the users because they were using, but on their race.

First Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger spells it out: our drug laws are all about racism, racism & more racism.

The first drug law in America was written in 1875 in San Francisco — aimed at stopping the spread of opium dens. A noble idea. No one wants to live near an opium den. And, it’s a fact, opium is highly addictive. It needs to be approached with care; even doctor’s get prescribing it horribly wrong. But the law itself — as written — wasn’t concerned with anyone’s neighborhood getting ruined. It wasn’t concerned with anyone getting addicted. In fact, it had no data on hand to justify any concerns it might have about opium’s impact on its users’ health — if it had had any such concerns which it didn’t.

This is from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy via Wikipedia

The reason cited was “many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”

This law and virtually every opium law that followed drew an important distinction that would ripple through history.

“Though the laws affected the use and distribution of opium by Chinese immigrants, no action was taken against the producers of such products as laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, commonly taken as a panacea by white Americans. The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.

Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Sound familiar? Depending on whether you snorted cocaine as most white people did or smoked it as crack as lots of black people did, the drug laws treated you differently. The laws punished smoking coke far more harshly than snorting it. Same drug, same basic impact on the user — but different law and (especially) different, harsher penalty. And still not a single concern for the user him or herself and the drug’s impact on their well-being.

The very illegalization of drugs has always been about judging the drugs’ users. Let’s face it — white Europeans are the biggest bullies on the planet. They’re professional hegemonists — spreading their culture and “true faith” like an STD. But, even when the Europeans weren’t judging others because they were “others”, they were judging other Europeans for being “weak” and punishing them for their weakness.

In America, prior to enactment of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, there were no federal laws regulating drugs of any kind. The very real health concerns about opioids aside, the drug laws simply didn’t consider them or even refer to them in its legislation. It wasn’t the point. Here’s the key to the Harrison act: “The courts interpreted [it] to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction.”

What that means for this highly addictive drug — doctors could prescribe it to relieve pain but once the cause of the pain stopped (and who is to say whether another person is feeling pain or not?), so did the opioid — regardless of what cutting it off did to the user. The law willfully condemned people to suffer. It denied their physical pain — and then wanted to punish them for ever experiencing pain to begin with.

Where does that come from?

Look to your bible. America has always had a strange love for religion — especially a twisted form of Christianity that perverts “Do unto others” to “Do what we say”. The Puritans may have been seeking religious freedom in the Massachusetts Colony, but that was only for themselves. There were reasons no one back in England liked them (and so made them feel despised): they were judgmental. And, while the Salem witch trials were an anomaly, they did reflect Puritanism’s witchcraft-fearing id running wild.

The witchcraft trials were to women what drug laws would later be to black and brown people.

Jesus taught simply “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t say “judge them” or “force your way on them”. The meek, Jesus said, shall inherit the earth. He didn’t say they’d have to do it drug-free. Just as well, as drugs go, there are few as terrible as religion.

Marx got it wrong. Religion isn’t the opiate of the people. If all it did was sedate them, that would be bad enough. It incites them — like angel dust or meth — to mean, dangerous, soulless behavior. Religion (vs spirituality — a very different thing) doesn’t care about what’s hurting them, what’s causing them pain. It’s got its own rules and regs to push. It’s followers are there to do what they’re told not be attended to. They’re a flock of sheep after all. And no one wants an “uppity” sheep.

The painful irony is that alcohol prohibition sprang from a very progressive ideal. It was Europeans judging how Europeans behaved when effected by a European-approved intoxicant: alcohol. And alcohol was a very real problem for a lot of Americans in the latter part of the 19th century when support for prohibition began to grow. But, as we know, in the whole history of human beings, prohibition has never worked — not as intended.

In America, alcohol prohibition criminalized virtually the entire adult population and turned organized crime from a local problem to a national one. Criminal syndicates suddenly had a product to sell — alcohol — that everyone wanted but only they had. We’re still dealing with the mess.

Prohibition may stop people from using a substance because getting it is hard — but it won’t stop them from wanting it. It won’t stop them from gerryrigging ways to either get it or craft a replacement of dubious safety. In general, prohibition wants a grey world to be black & white regardless of how grey it’s always been and always will be.

In America, there was a twist: prohibition wanted the world to be white only. The opium laws (first written in San Francisco) were meant to punish Chinese people brought to America to work — who dared relax in the way they liked. Using the same racist playbook, the first marijuana laws were written to first punish “Hindoos” who “…started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast; the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit.”

“Initiating our whites into this habit”. There you have it. No one cared about the Hindoos as people — just as later laws wouldn’t care about individual Mexicans or blacks using marijuana. The laws cared about the white people — about white people doing something “black” or “brown” or “yellow” did. And that was entirely unacceptable.

America’s drug laws have never, ever, EVER been about anyone’s health and always about racism with a side of hatred for “the weak”. Our drug laws mirror something demented in our religious fervor. They speak for it.

Racism is fear. Drug laws are that fear’s manifestation in the law. They’re legalized forms of institutional racism. Period.

In America, Christianity was used more as a cudgel than as a sanctuary. Slavers pointed to the bible to justify their cruelty. Bible thumpers continued pointing at their “good book” to justify miscegenation laws that prevented black people from marrying white people. They used their book to justify all sorts of racist claptrap.

Imagine the audacity of judging love. It’s as stupid and heartless as judging another person’s pain.

No wonder everyone fleeing religion needs a drink.

“Me” v “We”

That, in a nutshell, is the argument we’re having in America today: the rights of “ME” v the rights of “WE”.

I hesitate to call anything “Republican thinking” anymore. That’s an oxymoron. Republicans don’t think, they perpetrate. They’re criminals engaged in a criminal enterprise — the overthrow of the legitimate American government by a devil’s brew of RW money (the Kochs & Mercers), corrupt Republican politicians (Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham) and Russian intelligence carrying out a literal plan of operation hatched by Putin himself.

Ask yourself — why are the Republicans doing this? They’re a minority — and getting “minority-ier”. They’re tossing the Constitution and rule of law overboard to hold onto power. What could be more “ME” than that?

What could be more “ME” than a dwindling white minority staring a diverse and diversifying majority in the eye and insisting “ME” while they insist “No, WE”?

Racism is an implied right to hate. No such right exists except in the racist’s mind. Racist thinking and contemporary conservative thinking are a horrifying conjoined twin. They both aspire either to keep America right where it is — a place still simmering in multi-faceted institutional racism or (better yet, to them) a place where nobody talks about racism because it’s that baked in. You, like in the good ol’ 50’s — the 1850’s.

Conservative thinking values property (theirs) over life (yours). Proudly Christian, it’s taken “Do unto others” and turned it into “Do what we say”.

The most glaring example of conservative thinking in our everyday life occurs any time someone walks into a hospital or doctor’s office needing health CARE. The first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”

Before you can get well, we need to know that someone’s gonna make a buck.

That’s slavery thinking where everyone below “Boss Man” is expendable.

Conservatives will tell you all about how the “rugged individual” has any and every right he needs to do what he wants — even if that right tramples other peoples’ rights. When conservatives & libertarians picture that “rugged individual” in their minds? He’s as white as they are. Not only don’t conservatives believe “all men are created equal”, they don’t believe “all rights are created equal” either.

Their rights will always be able to “beat up” our rights (same way their imaginary friend can beat the snot out of yours).

Gun laws aren’t about “rights” per se, they’re about fear — that shrinking white-male-Christian minority legitimizing their bunker mentality. When they think of “people owning all the guns they want”, they aren’t including people of color in that. If they thought for two seconds that the black guy living cross town was arming himself with the same intensity? They’d shit-can that law in a heartbeat.

Donald Trump isn’t the only delusional male telling himself “I alone can fix it”. That disease afflicts plenty of Republicans. You know how pretty much every Republican takes every opportunity to tell us how “God-fearing” they are? Well, that’s bullshit. They don’t “fear” God, they think they “ARE” God. That’s why they alone can “fix it”.

How much more “ME” can ya get?

Progressives view the world through a more “socialized” lens. Having sampled crony capitalism now — and found it wanting — it’s long past time that we try a more legitimate form of capitalism. While we intuitively assume that the people with the most money are “the best capitalists” who know better than the rest of us how capitalism works, if that capitalist is corrupt (they are), they’re actually undermining capitalism, not nurturing it.

Capitalism relies on innovation to focus capital where it needs to go to 1) do the most good and 2) return the most on its investment while doing the most good. Smart capital knows that things that do the most good spread wealth around — which then puts that capital back into the system so it can continue to inspire new innovation. Progressive capitalism self-perpetuates the flow of capital.

Corrupt capital directs all available wealth to its own pocket. The only thing that trickles down is misery. Nothing gets innovated. Everything slowly grinds to a halt as the rich get richer and no one else can afford to buy anything.

“ME”, again.

It’s hard to have a consumer driven economy that depends on consumer confidence when the consumers have no confidence in the economy. But then, crony capitalists — like conservatives — never think that far into the future. That’s because the future is what they’re trying to avoid.

Progressives make better capitalists. Progressives also govern better — because they’re automatically more concerned with “WE” than “ME”. Progressives aren’t perfect. There’s no such thing. But progressives — because it’s how we think — naturally look for solutions that work for the greatest number of people over solutions that work for fewer people.

Progressives understand that “fair” needs to apply to everyone equally. It’s tricky. That’s why the rule of law is so important. Progressives stand by, behind and with the rule of law because it’s the very best way to assure “WE” are treated equally.

Progressives understand that as important as the rights of the individual are, they cannot supersede the rights of the group. A gun owner’s right to stand at his front door, beer in hand, blasting away at his neighbors just for fun cannot supersede his neighbors’ rights to not get shot at by a drunken yahoo.

Progressives really and truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.

That’s “all boats” as in “WE”.

When Is A Fact Not A Fact?

Let’s start with basic math. We can all agree that one plus one equals two, right? We can all agree that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun. Keep in mind — we can’t actually “see” the moon revolve around the earth — or the earth revolve around the sun. We have to extrapolate these things based on the available evidence.

We’re connecting dots in order to “see” the bigger picture and draw reasonable conclusions. We’re using a bunch of smaller facts to understand a larger fact.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Funny thing? We don’t have to connect any dots to see it. He happily commits plenty of his crimes in plain view. Hell, reliable, informed people keep telling us that Trump’s a criminal — likely a traitor, too. Plenty of dots that a scientist would connect.

Yet, our journalists do not.

In storytelling, if you’re doing it right, each scene adds new information to what the audience knows. Scenes don’t have to add a ton of info to justify being in a story, but they have to at least add a nuance or shading to a character or how the story might break. The point is, the scene that follows? It can’t go back to the story as it was BEFORE the previous scene. The audience knows too much now.

When fictional storytellers do that — keep going back to story points the audience already knows? They lose their audience. Why, unless it’s Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” which deliberately and brilliantly tells its story backwards, would a storyteller do that? Most wouldn’t. It’s horrible storytelling.

So why do our journalists — storytellers albeit of true stories — do it?

Our accumulated picture of Donald Trump — from “Mexicans are rapists” & “pussy-grabbing” all the way through to Trump’s continuing embrace of Confederate flags tells one completely consistent story. Even outside of his presidency, Trump is a study in multi-generational racism. Fred Trump, don’t forget, was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Father and son were nailed for refusing to rent to black people. Everyone with ears on the set of “The Apprentice” has a story of “Donald Trump: Big League Racist”.

If we were telling any other story, the audience would understand (because the storytellers made it explicit) that the subject — in addition to all his other hard, fast biographical data — IS A RACIST. Each story would begin along the lines of “Oh, and here’s what that racist Donald Trump just said on the subject of race…”.

The news audience would begin their understanding of the story from a “Oh, what did the racist-in-chief say now about race?” platform.

Instead, our news media begins their reporting every day as if Trump was a “normal” POTUS saying normal POTUS things. Except he’s saying abnormal things for a POTUS to say so therefore THAT must be the “new normal”. Um, no. There is no “new normal”. That’s the press normalizing what should never be normalized. It’s the storyteller doggedly dragging the story backward, while it kicks and screams all the way.

We’ve seen and heard (the press has reported) ample evidence that Trump is a security risk. That he says things to the Russians in particular that — let’s not tiptoe — are flat out treasonous. Oh, sorry — there I go again, connecting the dots sitting there that clearly connect. Instead, our news media continues to report Trump as a man with an “odd fixation” with Russia or a “different kind of relationship” with Putin.

Oy.

When is a rapist not a rapist?

When is a racist not a racist?

When is a traitor not a traitor?

Apparently when our news media “reports” it.

A scientist looking at the evidence would probably say “Ya know, though a jury’s never said it — they’ve never been asked — the evidence all says clearly, without viable contradiction, that Donald Trump is a rapist/racist/traitor.

In a civil trial, the obligation is 51% — the preponderance of the evidence. I once sat on a jury that decided an ageism case. We had to decide if the preponderance of the evidence said LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired an older employee because he was older. There was no direct evidence — someone saying “Let’s fire the old guy cos he’s old”. We had to deduct it to reach our verdict. Anyone, we felt, would have reached the same conclusion looking at the same evidence.

A journalist, for instance. Nothing we saw at trial was unavailable to the press pre-trial (it wasn’t that big a case; what I mean is — had the victim gone to the media first, they would have had access to most of the same information). The preponderance of the evidence spoke loudly.

“Both Sides Do It” journalism has put the ludicrous notion in our news media’s head that it must be strictly neutral. Yes, one must report the news from as even-handed a point of view as one can — even-handed in that it represents the facts up to that moment. It’s no good being “even-handed” based on old information. If we’re reporting on a child molester, it would be malpractice to ignore that fact to report on what a fabulous Halloween display he put on.

Both Side Do It journalism ignores facts in favor of the cynical insistence that everyone behaves with the same motives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we were all the same, we’d all be Republicans or Democrats. There’s not much common ground between real conservatives and real progressives. They don’t “do” things the same because they don’t think the same. Socialists who believe in the greater good and that the group’s freedoms always supersede the individual’s do not act the same way as “rugged individual” conservatives who think “you’re not the boss of me” is what freedom’s all about.

And they don’t do things for the same reason.

But, every time an American journalist asks “Are they just being political?” they’re ignoring facts. Odds are the question’s NOT being asked about Mitch McConnell blocking every bit of legislation cos he’s the Grim Reaper but it IS being asked about every Democrat calling him out for it.

Indeed — when are facts not facts? I repeat — OY!

Unfortunately, There’s Really No Such Thing As “Fair”

“Fair” is kind of like the Buddhist notion of “Bodhisattva”. A Bodhisattva is someone on the road to enlightenment. But they’re not there yet. If they think they’re there? They’re definitely not “there”. Enlightenment is as hard a goal to achieve as “fair” is. It’s more surreal than real, more abstract than plastic.

And it’s so personal. What’s fair to me might not be fair to you. Even when we compromise (the goal, really), if the compromise is “fair”? Neither of us will like it much; it’s not “fair”.

“Fair” gets harder when there are multiple competing interests whose concept of “fair” contradicts one another. Maybe the problem is we value “fair” to the individual over “fair” to the group. Assuming everyone’s rights are being respected (a big assumption), it’s hard to justify being fair to one person at the expense of a large chunk of everyone else.

When we say “All men are created equal”, we better mean “everyone” is created equal — before the law (which is what it means). If the Law treats everyone fairly — that is, “equally”, there’s a better chance we’ll feel that we’ve been treated fairly. That’s all we can ask. It’s the consistency that creates a basis for “fairness” in our minds. That’s why the Rule Of Law — as a concept — gives us the best possible chance to experience the most “fairness” for the most people.

Racism is inherently unfair. Ditto bigotry, misogyny and every other form of irrational, ignorant hatred.

But, just like “fair” is a human construct, so’s the Rule Of Law. We invented it. And though we want to think it’s “automatic” or autonomous, it isn’t. It does not self-perpetuate. It’s not some perpetual motion machine. We have to care for these ideas and nurture them. We have to renew both the ideas and our passion for them.

As the Trump years have taught us, if you start taking “fairness” for granted, you’re doomed to a life of perpetual unfairness. Minority rule — as an example? Not fair. Mitch McConnell hijacking the judiciary — to give hard core conservative judges power over an increasingly progressive majority? Not even remotely fair. Committing treason to win the presidency in 2016? Don’t get me started…

“Fair” is a muscle we have to exercise every single day. We have make sure we’re being fair — despite the unfairness around us. If we don’t exercise our own sense of fair — that is, fair for the group — our “fairness” muscle will atrophy, wither and die. Before long, we’ll become like every Trump supporter. Their idea of “fair” begins and ends with them.

You want fair? Be fair. Have receipts ready to demonstrate what real fairness looks like. Be prepared to persist. “Unfair” is the bully’s preference and there are plenty of bullies around.

The Majority Of Us Did Not Vote For Trump Or What He’s Doing. So, How Come He’s Doing It Anyway?

It’s strange to live in a democracy (well, a democratic republic) where the majority does not get its way. Apparently by design.

It’s kind of hard for a democracy to continue being a democracy when too few of its citizens take part in the very process that makes a democracy work: voting. The whole point is “self-government”. We do the work.

As I’ve argued here before, too many Americans (on the right) have a 5 year old’s notion of freedom. They think freedom means “You’re not the boss of me”. Everyone can do what they like. Since freedom comes with zero responsibilities or obligations, it doesn’t matter if your “freedom” infringes or obliterates somebody else’s. So long as your freedom “wins”? Who cares?

For starters, those whose freedoms are being infringed upon or ignored. They care.

But then, right-wing people only ever think of their own freedom when they think of that word. Everyone else’s freedom is secondary at best.

That includes their freedom to vote.

At its core, this election, this fight — it is about freedom: the group’s freedom over the individual’s freedom (to undermine the group’s freedom).

That’s what racism is — it’s the racist asserting that their rights supersede their victims’ rights. If their victims’ rights were automatically respected, the racist would lose instantly — because we’d “baked in” our intolerance of racism. But we’ve done the opposite — and baked in our tolerance of racism.

Racism exists because we let it exist — no other reason.

That changed. Americans are taking to the streets every single day to protest racism and all the terrible thing it’s done to specific people. But, also we’re protesting the fact that We The People tolerated it for so long. We allowed statues of racists and traitors to go up. We allowed them to remain in place. We accepted their “messaging” — that some peoples rights are better than other peoples’.

The times in my life when I’ve been proud to be an American had everything to do with accomplishments (the moon landing) and nothing to do with our “system”. I’ve been taught that our system is superior — with the words “freedom” and “liberty” being liberally tossed in — but never specifically “why” we were better.

I don’t know when Americans lost interest in our process or if we ever had any interest in it. Maybe the problem is democracy’s damned hard to pull off. You can’t ever take it for granted. You can’t just throw money at it.

Hmmmmm… maybe that’s another of our problems. We’ve confused money with democracy. The more money you have, the more “democracy” you have. That is, the more your vote counts.

The RW money — the Kochs, the Mercers — had a huge advantage going in to this. They had money of course. But they also had “passion”. They cared enough about what they wanted to do something. The Kochs have been behind gerrymandering and the hijacking of the judiciary. When people vote repeatedly but never get their way — or feel the ominous pressure of judges who disapprove of who they are (so, it doesn’t really matter what they’ve done) — they get cynical. They stop taking part in the process because what’s the point?

They stop voting.

They begin to act like victims expecting their victimization to go on forever.

Rapists rape because they don’t care about the word “no”. It means nothing to them. It’s not a coincidence that every sexual deviant in office (that we know of — to be fair) has an “R” next to their name. That’s why child molesters like Roy Moore can run as Republicans. They’re the “Rights Of The Rapist Over The Rights Of The Rapist’s Victim” party.

That’s the answer to “how come Trump’s doing it anyway?” He’s a rapist. Rapists do what they want. He’s gotten away with it because his party is complicit. And they are — for the moment — getting away with it because WE were complicit for so long — tolerating more and more of our rights being trampled (with the caveat that they were always being trampled).

Progressives want as many people as possible to thrive and flourish. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. The more there are in the “many”, the better the “one” will be. That is American Exceptionalism — our diversity. That is the majority that voted against Trump in 2016 and 2018 and who will again vote against Trump this year.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by around 3,000,000 votes. That were counted. I bet someone could do some research and come up with a more accurate number that included all those votes that DIDN’T get counted. Or got flipped by electronic voting machines. Or were denied at their polling place. Or were dissuaded from even showing up by propaganda that filled their Facebook pages (propaganda send specifically to them from Russia via Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort). Or were “taught” from early on that there was no point in their voting to begin with.

I bet a more accurate assessment of 2016 would have Hillary Clinton and We The People decimating Donald Trump. Take Russia out of the picture and Trump certainly does not win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin — and therefore the Electoral College (a whole “institution” meant to limit the freedom of the voters to have their say and way).

What scares Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Mikes Pompeo, Flynn & Pence more than anything? Aside from how guilty they are, it’s how small a minority of Americans they represent. Seeing the majority suddenly rise up — taking to the streets every day — terrifies them.

I wonder if Donald Trump realized last night — as he gazed at all those empty blue seats in Tulsa — if the end was near. He’s gotten away with murder. Literally.

And that’s about to stop.

The majority has had enough.

If You Arm People As Part Of Their Job, You’re Inviting Them To Shoot People

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in show biz. I’ve run TV shows. Written & produced feature films. I’ve cast thousands of actors.

After hiring them, I wardrobed those actors.

It’s amazing what happens when an actor goes into their trailer, takes off their street clothes and dons the outer layer of a person sorta like them but not them. They change. If the wardrobe is unlike their street clothes? They change even more.

When you outfit a person for their work in a uniform, something changes inside that person when that uniform goes on. You belong to something bigger than yourself. Even if you’re working at McDonald’s and you hate it — the uniform changes you. At the very least, it tames your rebellious streak. You’re still there working, wearing the uniform.

Now add a gun to the uniform. Yeah, sure, we’ve “trained” this uniform-wearer into “best practices” for using that gun but let’s be real: a gun is a death machine. It’s been designed from the ground up to send a piece of hot metal flying very fast into a live target, killing it. It’s not designed to sit in a holster (or gun safe). The holster (and gun safe) were designed around them. To put them somewhere when not being used.

A gun’s safety vs unsafety has to be measured against zero gun while the gun is in someone’s hand. No gun = zero chance anyone will get killed, maimed, wounded or disabled by the gun. Gun = yeah, all those things could happen. It’s a roll of the dice whether they do or not. And let’s be really, really real: “responsible gun ownership” is a myth gun owners (who want to be responsible) tell themselves.

Nancy Lanza — mother of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza — thought she was a “responsible gun owner” right up to the very moment her son blew her brains out with one of her guns. We know what he did afterwards. With those “responsibly owned guns”.

I’m not arguing second amendment yes or no. If we’d just abide by the amendment — the words AS WRITTEN say “gun control” (the militia gets to decide who gets to “keep and bear” — not own — those arms). I’m just saying guns are damned dangerous. I have receipts.

And if you put a dangerous object at the hip of even a very well-trained person (a “responsible gun owner” type), the dangerous object remains dangerous and unpredictable. Putting literal Live & Death into anyone’s hands invites them to play with Life & Death. Throw emotions into it and it’s hyper volatile. Consider how racist a lot of those emotions are — of course there’s a killing spree. We set everyone up for that exact failure.

But then, policing began as a racist endeavor in America. The first police forces evolved from slave patrols formed in the 1820’s. They’ve always been armed — and those arms were meant to kill, maim or cower.

Nothing has changed.

If, inside your head, you’re a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Rayshard Brooks died because two Atlanta cops woke him (he was asleep, drunk, in his car outside a Wendy’s) then, when he ran, shot him. They shot him because he’d grabbed one of their tasers. He fired it — over his shoulder — as he ran at them. Tasers, even police have routinely argued in court, are not deadly weapons.

The Atlanta police returned a non-deadly (and wildly fired) taser shot with deadly fire. Into Rayshard’s BACK.

If you hand a racist a gun, the gun will find its way into the racist’s hand at the worst possible moment. And the racist — justified by his wardrobe — will use that gun to splatter another sidewalk with his racism’s result: more death, most of it black or brown.

Why on earth would the people being subjected to such horrific violence want to keep PAYING for it through their tax dollars? Why on earthy would anyone disgusted by such behavior be forced to pay for it — when it’s not the “policing” we want.

We need to (metaphorically) defund how we think about policing. That will cause us to de-fund the myriad ways we’ve militarized policing. That, in turn, will finally turn policing away from its racist roots in America and toward something genuinely fair, community-based and entirely productive. There are civilized countries where police walk among the people they’re policing without guns at their hips.

It’s do-able. It’s being done.

That needs to be us now.

Blunt Truth — Marijuana Prohibition Was ALWAYS About RACISM And Nothing But

From the get-go, every impulse to regulate cannabis has been based on racism.

When the California Pharmacy Board amended the state’s Poison Act in 1913 to include marijuana in the “poisons” under its control, they were simply piling onto the racist legislation that began in 1875 when California passed America’s first anti-narcotics laws to “combat” opium dens. Translation: to legalize anti-Chinese racism and bigotry. Up until 1910, no one had an issue with marijuana because no one in America knew what it was.

But, a keen-eyed California racist named Henry J. Finger — a prominent member of the Pharmacy Board — saw something that needed to be stamped out quickly.

I wrote a series — Blunt Truths — for Weedmaps News (back when they were a going concern) about this very subject. I’m biased but I recommend it. At the time, Weedmaps News was being run by journalists including the former LA Times journalist who hired me to write for them — so long as I adhered to journalistic standards. In other words — I couldn’t rely on bullshit to tell the story I wanted to tell. Among the sources I relied on because of their reliability was Dale Gieringer, PhD., a NORML board member. I highly recommend his The Forgotten Origins Of Cannabis Prohibition In California. It’s loaded with fascinating information that will change the way you think about cannabis.

Considering the radical shift in how we see race relations in America that’s happening right this second — Gieringer’s insights take on greater resonance.

For a taste. Here’s Gieringer citing a correspondence between Henry Finger and Hamilton Wright (in 1911 when Wright is the chief architect of US narcotics policy) —

“Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast…the fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit…”

Gieringer notes: “The “Hindoos,” actually East Indian immigrant of Sikh religion and Punjabi origin, had become a popular target of anti-immigrant sentiment after several boatloads arrived in San Francisco in 1910. Their arrival sparked an uproar of protest from Asian exclusionists, who pronounced them to be even more unfit for American civilization than the Chinese.” Immigration authorities quickly cut off the flow. The roughly 2000 “Hindoos” apparently became a threat. They were “widely denounced for their outlandish customs, dirty clothes, strange food, suspect morals, and especially their propensity to work for low wages… no one complained about their use of cannabis. To the contrary, their defenders portrayed them as hard-working and sober. “The taking of drugs as a habit scarcely exists among them,” wrote one observer.”

Henry Finger persisted. “By this time, another menace had appeared on the horizon: “marihuana” had begun to penetrate north of the border from Mexico, carried by immigrants and soldiers during the revolutionary disorders of 1910 – 1920 [aka The Mexican Revolution]. Though hardly known to the American public, marihuana or “loco-weed” was noticed by the pharmacy journals.”

And there you have it. The Pharmacy Board — a supposedly scientific body — was crafting legislation without an ounce of science in it. But there sure was plenty of racism.

Thus marijuana prohibition began. The legislation that followed — most of it with actual “Reefer Madness” in its heart — was driven by America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Narcotics Bureau Harry J. Anslinger — our first “drug czar”. And Anslinger behaved like a drug CZAR. Anslinger — once he came around to the “marihuana is a scourge” point of view (he started out insisting it was harmless) — invented most of what we still think about cannabis. He literally pulled it out of his ass.

His very RACIST ass.

Let’s be clear. Harry Anslinger is a villain not just because he was a racist. He’s a villain because he was also an excellent bureaucrat who knew how to manipulate the system to get what he wanted. Anslinger knew how to go to the press — as the respected, trustworthy Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — with lies (Mexicans and blacks are selling marihuana to our children) that the press would then print — which Anslinger would then hold up as proof that Mexicans and blacks were selling marihuana to our children.

Neat trick, huh?

It’s important to understand what turned Anslinger. What convinced him that cannabis was more dangerous than opium? It was the exact same thing that bothered Henry Finger — not the what, the WHO. WHO was using marijuana. So long as Mexicans and black jazz musicians kept marijuana to themselves, racists like Anslinger might have been able to tolerate it to a degree.

The trouble was white people started taking up the habit — and that was totally unacceptable to Anslinger. Cannabis was illegalized in America to keep white people from using it and to punish black and brown people for “poisoning Americans” with it.

In the 1950’s, after 20 years of selling marijuana prohibition with racism, Anslinger expanded the franchise. World War Two caused profound physical pain to a staggering number of people. In response, opioids exploded in availability. So did opioid addiction. With fear of “Reefer Madness” waning, Anslinger invented “the gateway theory” to reinvigorate the public’s passion for prohibition.

The “gateway theory” — that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin — is based on zero research. It’s an abuse of statistics and nothing more. But, when the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics says it, so the public thinks, it must be so! The gateway theory gained traction and acceptance. And, racist bully that he was, Anslinger used the occasion to increase the punishments for drug-related crimes — knowing full well on whose backs these new, even more cruel punishments would fall most: black people and brown people.

Anslinger retired in 1962 — on his 70th birthday. But the racism Anslinger had instilled remained. In the late 1960’s, with American soldiers returning from Vietnam with cannabis in their duffel bags, Richard Nixon declared a “War On Drugs”. Nixon — a drinker — didn’t declare a war on alcohol (though he abused it). He declared a war on everyone else’s medication — marijuana especially.

The War on Drugs was (and remains) a war on People Of Color. When Anslinger went to legislate marijuana prohibition, he bumped into a problem: there’s no constitutional basis for making marijuana illegal. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 does not, in fact, make marijuana illegal (because it couldn’t). Instead, the act imposes a very steep (in fact onerous) tax every time one bought or sold marijuana or hemp. In order to prove you’d paid the tax, you needed a stamp.

Problem was — the stamp was not available. By design. Everyone who bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) would therefore break the rule 1) by not paying the tax (who were you supposed to pay it to anyway?) and 2) by not getting the stamp. The first two arrests for “tax evasion” — occurred within 24 hours of the act’s signing — two men from Denver (Sam Caldwell and Moses Baca) were caught, one for selling, the other for buying. They both went to prison.

Our drug laws are morally wrong because they’ve got nothing to do with drugs — and never ever have.