“Both Sides Do It” Is Racist Claptrap, Not Journalism

Both sides “doing it”…

There are two sides to every political situation: power and resistance. One either HAS the power or one is resisting the guy who does. By definition, by purpose, both sides are not doing “it”. They’re not doing the same thing. They’re doing the opposite for very specific purposes. “Ah, yes!” says the “Both Sides Do It” practitioner, “But if the resistance were to GET power, THEN they’d ‘do the same thing’!” Which means… exercise power? Abuse power? Is that the accusation? WHEN both sides get power they DO the exact same thing? Sorry, American Journalism, but you’re going to have to back that up with receipts — which you absolutely do not have. In America, Black people have NEVER had power. They’ve ALWAYS been the resistance. We don’t know how they’d behave if or when they ever became “THE” power because it’s never happened before. There’s not precedent to use as a basis for “both sides do it”.

To say Republicans and Democrats behave the same is cynicism on steroids. It’s not intellectually lazy, it’s intellectually inert. It ascribes motives to human behaviors that don’t add up, that don’t describe reality. Republicans are far better at marching in lock step than Democrats. The press is always jumping on how “divided the Democrats are” as if that’s never been the case before. No, that’s how Democrats are (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1800’s which became the Dixiecrats which became the modern Republican Party – per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party“). Modern Democrats began in the 1920’s. Will Rogers nailed our spirit: “I’m not the member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. That spirit endures. It’s kinda what happens when your tent really is open to anyone and everyone. Diversity is messy. It demands constant compromise as the group accommodates new immigrants. But the deal is, new immigrants into our system rejuvenates it with new energy, new aspirations and new ideas. It always, always, ALWAYS pays for itself.

Both sides do not use voter suppression of the other side’s voters as a campaign tactic. Democrats aren’t afraid of the marketplace of ideas because they have new ideas to solve old problems that the old ideas didn’t. A lot of those old problems were CAUSED by those old ideas. Both sides, for instance, do not and did not approve of slavery. Slavery isn’t a dead issue here in America. It’s still painfully alive. There are two parts to this monster. We see the racist part — of course we do! But there’s an economic part to the monster. It’s the economic part that birthed the monster in the first place — stolen labor. Slaves work for free.

Colonial America relied heavily on cotton, sugar cane and rice to cash flow its economy. All three crops are labor intensive. If one had to pay all the labor required a fair wage, one might not make any money growing and selling those crops. Or one might not make enough (whatever that is). But, if one could get all the labor required for free? Suddenly slavery’s on the table. The expenses of housing, clothing and feeding the slaves needs to be figured into the accounting, but you have to figure it penciled out positively for slavery. The free labor made all the expenses of slavery worthwhile.

Now, ask yourself — how do we feel about people who work for free? Who have no choice in the matter? If we’re the power, we like them. We’d like more of them. If we’re the resistance…

Though we made literal slavery illegal, we’ve done nothing to make theoretical slavery a part of our architecture. Even when Black people have been paid for their work — and allowed to accumulate earned wealth — white people found ways to take it from them. Jim Crow laws, for instance. Poll taxes that made voting extremely difficult. Sometimes, as with Black Wall Street, the Black section of Tulsa, teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs that a white mob burned to the ground in a race riot that started on May 31, 1921, the “taking” was as literal as literal can be.

Both sides do not do that. Both sides don’t even think that way. Only one side does — and they’ve left behind copious receipts that any journalist can eyeball.

Of course, the trick is, you have to WANT to eyeball those racist receipts. You have to WANT to find them if they’re there. But, first, you have acknowledge that they could be there! And once you open your mind to that fact? Suddenly, that racism appears everywhere. It’s not the racism that suddenly appeared, it’s your capacity to SEE the racism — that it indeed IS there. And once your mind opens to that fact, you can’t help asking “how’d it get there?” And the answer to that is — it didn’t have to “get there” because it always WAS THERE.

“Both sides do it” is the grossest kind of generalization. It assumes that the slave and the slave master are equally culpable for the slave’s situation. It asserts that because the slave master HAS a point of view that therefore that point of view (just because it exists) must be valid — equally valid, in fact, to the slave’s point of view. Ummmmmmm, no. The slave master may have a point of view but they most definitely do not have a “point” — justification for their vile point of view.

Oh, right — I forgot — they have “economics” to back them up. If they don’t pay their labor nothing (or a ludicrous “minimum wage”), they won’t make enough money for their stockholders. And if the stockholders don’t get the return on their investment they want, they’ll take their investment dollars elsewhere — so, whatever we do, let’s not raise the minimum wage! No one can live on the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour!) and no one will be able to live on the $12 an hour Republicans and dishonest Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insist is “all we can afford”. Horse shit. We can’t afford NOT to pay people a fair, sustainable wage.

One side in this debate wants as many Americans as possible to have the best lives they possibly can, to be as healthy as they can be, to educate their children without bankrupting their futures, to have every opportunity every other American has, to vote because it’s their right. The other side — plenty of receipts to pick through — DOES NOT!

Dear Christians: Why Do You Make It So Hard To Live Side-By-Side With You?

Some of my best friends are Christian. For real. Correction — some of my best friends are Followers Of Jesus (FOJ). In my experience — as a total outsider — those two things (being Christian and being FOJ) are not the same. While all FOJ are Christian, not all Christians are FOJ. Maybe that’s the problem! If every Christian was FOJ, America would be a very different country from the one it is now, dominated as it is by people who call themselves “Christians”. FOJ would make America a country where people actually “did unto others”. It definitely wouldn’t be a country where some people believe their racism and bigotry are “sanctified” — giving them all the justification they need (inside their heads) to regard all the other citizens (who aren’t like them) as if they were cockroaches. In my experience, Christians do do that. FOJ do not. There is a difference.

These Christians might thank Jesus for Donald Trump, but I’d bet the ranch Jesus would not feel as “passionate” about Trump as they do. I bet Jesus would look at the people who believe they’re his biggest fans with palpable horror — mostly because they’re coming for him. Because of who he is…

Let’s be quite real and quite clear here — and, growing up Jewish in America (and in the world), I can attest to this fact because I have lived it: when most Christians learn that you’re Jewish (or “identify you” thus), a little light goes on in their eyes. It’s subtle, but clear. “So, you’re Jewish, are you…?” It means “You’re different. Not like us”. If the next thought isn’t “You killed Jesus” or some variation on that theme, you’re talking to an alien. Regardless of how any Christian might presently feel about Jews and their Jewish friends (if they have any), they grow up being fed a steady diet of mythology whose core message is “the Jews killed Jesus”.

Yeah, that’s Christianity’s core message. It’s the ace that’s always in their pocket. When you really want to get folks together, you don’t shout “Let’s all go do unto those Jews the way we’d have them do unto us!”, you shout “Pogrom!” or “Jews poisoned the well!” or “Jews own all the banks and newspapers!” or “Jews will not replace us!”.

Jew-hating is part of some peoples’ Christian experience. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Crickets.

In theory, Christianity’s big selling point is “believe in Jesus the way we say you should and you, too, can live forever!”. That, my opinion, is genius. Judaism imagined a deity intensely focused on humanity (in a world where all the other deities didn’t). Paul improved upon that idea by giving Jesus super powers. This deity (deities, really) wanted to fix humans for once and for all, granting them eternal life even — totally defeating death, the scariest thing in any human being’s life. But first, Jesus has to die in order to initiate the whole process. In order for anyone to be “born again”, Jesus has to die.

But that’s not how the story’s messaging works. Whereas the logic says Jesus dying is essential, the messaging insists it’s the worst thing that could possibly have happened. Make up your minds! Or am I thinking of this the wrong way? I suppose “the Jews killed Jesus” will get a crowd going a lot quicker than “Pull up a chair — at some point, you’ll beat death!”

Judging by history, putting your faith in eternal life pales in comparison to feeding your bloodlust. I bet that’s why The Crusades were invented! You get the promise of eternal life and bloodlust for one fabulous, low price. For the record: Jesus didn’t militarize Christianity (he never even knew Christianity existed and would probably be shocked by what it’s done in his name — especially to Jews). Paul though did introduce this military metaphor. In his letters, he describes a “Christian soldier” (miles Christianus) “spreading the good news”. One’s Christian faith is a weapon to be used on infidels. And Jews.

As I’ve written here before — I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, really, was a millennium of Jew hatred all rolled up into one mechanized death machine. Think about what the Nazis called it — their “Final Solution”. Solution to what?

Do ya suppose when all those Nazi soldiers — Christians to a man! — looked at the Jews they were guarding, did they ever think to themselves “Boy, these poor Jews!” Of course they didn’t. The first step in genocide is you stop thinking of the people you want to commit genocide on as “people”. You see them as something less — cockroaches is good. Killing cockroaches is easy. They’re cockroaches. It makes killing people easier if you don’t see them as people.

The same dynamic applies to giving people rights or allowing them to live in peace. Why, the racist thinks, would we ever give cockroaches rights — or allow cockroaches to live in peace? Here’s the problem, my Christian friends (and, I do aspire to make you my friends — that’s my threat): are you even capable of NOT thinking of us as cockroaches? If you can’t stop yourself from thinking of us that way, you definitely won’t be able to hide it. And if we can see it in you, that that hatred IS you.

Here’s something everyone needs to understand: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The racist does not get to say if he’s racist or not. His perspective sucks. Unless he’s proudly racist (quite possible!), he won’t want anyone knowing or even thinking he’s racist. More and more, it’s bad for business. But, keeping hate in your heart is hard when what you really want to do is share it with the world — and other haters. American racists were getting bored apparently with keeping all their hate on the down low.

In this country, Christians have done some terrible things in the name of their faith. They treated the Native Americans as inferiors (not very Jesus-like). Held up their Bibles as justification for slavery. With their Christian faith fully displayed — and sometimes blended right into the horror — Christians lynched innocent Black people.

Their hateful, racist organizations were deeply connected TO their religious institutions.

That same religious fervor stormed the Congress on January 6…

And those with religious fervor burning in their heads, weren’t just doing it for country, they were doing it for God, too. Aside from them? I don’t know anyone else whose God behaves, lives and thinks like their God does. I think their God needs therapy and medication.

Look, I know what it’s like to be so screwed up you think neither therapy nor medication can help. You’re wrong. And the religion you’ve turned to will not bring salvation. It has no idea how to.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to suggest here — how to help you overcome this. And you absolutely do need to overcome this.

Maybe — it’s just a thought coming from an infidel — start with “Doing unto others”. Look, I’ve seen what following Jesus has done for my friends’ lives. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” — most do, in fact. The first thing you must do though — it’s imperative: nothing can proceed without it. Try to freeze how you look at other people in your mind’s eyes. Take it away from your face and analyze it.

See how your eyes look out at the world? Do you see now how others see you seeing them? Like a cockroach? Put yourself in OUR shoes now — as the object of your disrespect and worse. As the “cockroach”.

If empathizing won’t do it for you, maybe this will. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth”. He also said that what anyone does to the least of us, they do to Jesus himself. Jesus stands with us — with the cockroaches. Because in Jesus’s eyes, no one’s a cockroach. And we won’t seem anywhere near as “meek” when we finally DO “inherit the earth”.

Trust me, you won’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT bit of history.

Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Speak English; He Speaks “White Bamboozlement”

Let’s not mince words: Mitch McConnell is a traitor. His name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use when they want to call someone a “traitor”. Every mealy-mouthed word that Mitch mumbles is literally soaked in cynicism. He is the banality of evil writ large. But, make no mistake, Mitch IS evil. And the banal way he expresses that evil demands our attention. First, one has to realize that the words droning from Mitch may sound like English, but they’re not. They’re a language spoken by Mitch and a coterie of wealthy, white, Christian Republicans: “white bamboozlement”.

Example — re reparations to Black people for what slavery did to their families, to their rights, to their wealth, to their lives, to their history, to their status in America today, to justice, to fairness, to ever doing the right thing for the right thing’s sake, Mitch said THIS in 2019:Republican C

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. We’ve, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African-American president. I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that. And I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. We’ve had waves of immigrants, as well, who have come to the country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another. So, no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.

Betcha if the roles were reversed, Mitch wouldn’t feel that way. But then, Mitch’s attitude is based on the fact that Mitch and people like him have ALWAYS had the advantage, ALWAYS abused the advantage and ALWAYS will resist giving up that advantage. They believe advantage is their birth right.

A shame they’re wrong. White Bamboozlement is white people thinking everyone they’ve abused should just forgive and forget the abuse.

Another example: Mitch said in 2016, when Obama was POTUS and Antonin Scalia’s conservative seat (point of fact — SCOTUS seats don’t have political labels!) came open with 9 months to go till the 2016 election: Mitch said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” True to his despicable word, Mitch did not grant Merrick Garland (soon to be our Attorney General) so much as a hearing. However, in 2020, Mitch crammed Amy Barrett down America’s unwilling throat in record time, soup to nuts in two weeks. Ruth Bader Ginsberg wasn’t even in the ground before Mitch dug his treason turtle claws into her seat.

White Bamboozlement.

Today, Mitch asserts all kinds of bullshit, phrased in that special way he has. But, when Mitch says he speaks for America or “the American people”, he most certainly is not. Registered Republicans account for just 29% of Americans vs Democrats who account for 33% of us. Independents make up the largest part — 34%. Of those Independents, 49% either identify as Democrats or lean to the party, while 44% identify as Republicans. Contrary to decades of Republican mythmaking, America is not now (nor has it been for a long, long time) a “middle-conservative” country. Now, more than ever, America is a centrist-Progressive country with so much yet to learn but also so much to teach.

One thing we’ve learned — People like Mitch who speak “White Bamboozlement”, aren’t interested in making America the best it can be even when it sounds like it. That’s the genius of “white bamboozlement” as a language. Those who speak it, understand intrinsically that none of the words actually mean anything.

Repeat after me, please: WHITE BAMBOOZLEMENT.

Necessary Trouble

Courage is a mysterious thing. You can’t buy it. If you have it, you can’t save it till you need it. You have to rely on the fact that your courage will be there — and that there will be enough of it — at the moment you really, really need it.

Maybe, as with John Lewis, you’re born with it. Or, maybe as John Lewis taught, it’s something can cultivate in yourself.

John Lewis died last night. He taught us so much — and had so much more still to impart. Even when he spurred us to action, he did it in a way that understood both what he was really asking of us and how we might best understand what we were really doing.

“My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right. Not fair. Not just. Say something. Do something. Get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.” –

Representative John Lewis

Say something. Do something. Get in trouble.

Good trouble.

Necessary trouble.

Good trouble is the moral imperative to fight what’s wrong. Necessary trouble is the act of engagement — of putting your ass (or your head — as John Lewis did) on the line. If a thing is necessary, it takes away any moral equivocating. You have to do it. It’s necessary (not just “good”).

The day John Lewis’ skull got fractured by Alabama State Police, he knew from previous experience that things could get violent. Deadly even. But the necessity of changing America overrode everything. It demanded Necessary Trouble.

It’s our obligation to carry John Lewis’ hopes for America forward. The Black Lives Matter protests aren’t the culmination of necessary trouble, they’re the process of necessary trouble producing its desired outcome. In a way, it’s like a glacier carving out a mountain as it flows downward. It’s a long, long grind.

America’s latent racism has become blatant. That cannot stand. We owe it to ourselves to make America live up to its ideals — if only for the first time.

That’s white people I’m talking about. Black people, brown people, native people, Asian people — any people not strictly White – they’ve always lived up to America’s ideals because they actually believe in them. They actually believe that all people are created equal before the law.

White people need to own a hard, painful truth about ourselves: we tolerated racism because we benefited from racism.

That can’t be.

We must confront it head on — in an act of necessary trouble.

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”.

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.

America’s Gun Laws Are Racist

That’s not a revelation. No one should read that headline and think “You know, I never thought of that.” They should think: “Damn right they are!”

That’s how obvious it is.

This is not virgin territory. Not even remotely. Plenty of ink — electronic or otherwise — has been spent on the subject.

Consider that policing in America began as “slave patrols”. Armed men rounding up runaways. Slaves — even ex-slaves — were prohibited from owning guns. “Slave Codes” they were called — then “Black Codes” after Emancipation. Only the name changed.

Gun control existed — in the sense that the gun laws controlled black people getting them. Brown people too. In fact, anyone who wasn’t white was the law’s target.

We just need to remind ourselves of the fact now — as we watch armed white militias enter statehouses — intent on intimidating lawmakers not with their ideas or passion but with their WEAPONS.

May 14, 2020 — White supremacist militias — unable to use their words — wave their dicks & guns around instead.

We need to remind ourselves how racist our gun laws are as we watch white supremacists confront peaceful protesters.

Charlottesville August 12, 2017 — White supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr drives his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing Heather Heyer. How clever to use a car instead this time.

We need to remind ourselves as white looters attempt to co-opt legitimate rage.

Black Lives do not Matter to white looters there solely to cause chaos & get stuff for free.

We need to remind ourselves as white cops — and white guys in general — use their guns to hunt people of color.

Rednecks Travis McMichael & his father Gregory hunt black jogger Ahmaud Arbery while co-conspirator William “Roddie” Bryan videos.
Rayshard Brooks (r) is shot in the back by Atlanta PD Officer Garrett Rolfe – June 17, 2020

It’s not a coincidence that the same people who are most vociferous about clutching their guns to the bitter end are the same people who harass black and brown people in public spaces. Their lizard brains are on fire. They adore Donald Trump because his racism is their racism.

Where Jim Jones used kool-aid, Donald Trump uses violence. Each drop of bitter drink is replaced by a bullet.