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.

Freedom Has NEVER Been “Free”; It ALWAYS Comes With Responsibilities

“Freedom”, like “liberty”, is one of those words everyone thinks they understand. If I’m free, I get to do whatever I want. Anyone who tries to restrict my “liberties” is restricting my civil rights!

Horse shit. Horse shit on steroids.

Most Republicans have a 5 year old’s understanding of freedom. They think freedom means “you’re not the boss of me”. But then, plenty of Republicans believe THEY are rugged individuals, conquering heroes of the free market there to make themselves rich at everyone else’s expense. They believe they should be free to pollute to their heart’s content, own every weapon imaginable — which they can carry in public so as to intimidate everyone else. They believe their freedom is more important than your freedom — whatever you think your freedom is.

That — right there — is the problem.

“Freedom” on a personal level is more “self indulgence” than “freedom”. A person who thinks their freedom includes infecting me with their coronavirus conflicts with my freedom. My freedom, you see, doesn’t work that way. Which of our two freedoms gets to dominate here? They can’t co-exist.

That’s where the group’s freedom comes in. The group — American society — also is “free”. But our collective individual freedoms have to live together. If two freedoms can’t exist together then both have to compromise or cease to be considered “freedoms”. How can freedom benefit one person while harming another? Thinking that THAT is “freedom” is exactly what got us into this mess.

America pays lots of lip service to “freedom”. But we don’t know what it is. Perhaps if we educated our young people in exactly how our government works, we could fix that. The most basic freedom we need to teach future citizens is the importance of voting itself as the foundation for freedom. Voting — and the politics that result — are how we negotiate our freedoms — balancing my needs against your needs and our needs against the larger public’s needs.

The simple fact is, there’s no such thing as “complete freedom”. Want that? Go live by yourself on an island. You’ll soon begin to experience freedom’s practical imitations. You by yourself aren’t free. It’s like keeping a gun in a gun locker. Sure, it’s “safe” there — but the gun wasn’t designed to sit in a gun locker — it was designed (from the ground up) to send a hot piece of metal flying at great speed into a live target, killing it. “Responsible gun ownership” isn’t what happens when the gun’s not being used. A bad idea is just a bad idea until somebody tries to “do it”. Then it becomes something else entirely. Freedom isn’t what you do on your own, it’s how you interact with others: what are we free to do as individuals in a society and as that society?

If you don’t show up to vote even, you haven’t exercised your most basic freedom. If you’ve “chosen” not to vote, you’ve in essence voted to shrug off your freedom. What other people choose to do with their freedom is how you’ll deal with yours. That’s their freedom in play, not yours which means they’re free and you’re not. You’re just pretending to be free.

Like a child.

Freedom and democracy are way harder than they look. But — if we can manage the responsibilities and obligations, the self-government is superior to any other form of government. People, in general, are far happier living in democracies. They’re way more productive. Imagine how much happier more Americans would be — how much more productive we’d all be — if only we’d get better at being “free”.

How About “Tiered Policing” As A Concept?

The people behind #DefundThePolice are guilty — of shitty sloganeering. The idea they’re trying to express isn’t bad. Hell even the people they’re fighting with right now agree with them: we need America’s police to stop beating and beating up the people who 1) they’re supposed to protect and serve and 2) who pay their salaries through their tax dollars.

Since reasoning with police departments has gotten the black community exactly nowhere, the only tool left to them is money. If they can find a way to cut off the money flowing to police departments who refuse to police themselves, maybe they’ll get the attention of those police departments.

Apparently, it works. Threatening to cut off peoples pay makes even cynical cops sit up and take notice.

It was never fair anyway to ask cops to fill so many different pairs of shoes — schoolyard intermediary, couples counselor, crime fighter, drug warrior, psychotherapist, bully-for-hire. Officially Sanctioned Racist.

Racism and policing have always had too tidy a relationship here in America. In “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing”, Victor Kappeler, PhD writes “Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.” In the case of “slave patrols”, I bet we can guess which minority they were thinking of.

The American approach to policing — “Get The Other!” — just crashed to earth. Reacting to protests over a blatant “murder-by-cop” with violence toward peaceful protesters and the press was stupidity on steroids. It makes it imperative that we find different ways to do this.

I don’t know what percentage of policing is conflict resolution — a lot, I bet. If we took drug crimes off the table — and treated drug use & abuse as a public health issue rather than a police issue, right off the bat, we’d cut policing by a third. If we insisted that people policing a community live in that community, we would go a long way to losing the zookeeper mentality too many cops have adopted — unless their neighbors are all animals.

What if we saw policing like a three-tiered pyramid with the largest, bottom tier given over to “community policing”. Our current crop of cops would go nowhere near this tier. Disputes between neighbors, nuisance calls and everything below a certain level of marginal criminality would fall to this tier. Not only would a a group of people trained in psychotherapy and conflict resolution get hired, so would all the other social welfare folks.

Same token — we’d create a whole new justice system for this tier so that it never has anything to do with the tiers that deal with actual crime. Think of it as small claims court for the masses.

The next tier up would involve lower level criminality. Property crime, let’s say. Above that tier, atop our pyramid would be the “serious crimes” tier — homicide, violent crime and up. Each tier would have its own police, trained to do their specific area of policing, their own courts.

Punishments would be reserved mostly for crime tiers with local communities handling citizens unable to behave themselves. So long as the rules were enforced equally, citizens unable to behave could be considered for next-tier policing attention. One wouldn’t want that.

It’s disgusting to force people to pay the salaries of their abusers. Damn right, the police need to be unfunded. Those police. “Unfunding” police departments doesn’t mean we do without policing.

It means we police fairly. We police equally. We actually protect and (especially) serve as part of “policing”.

Imagine that.

I’m Pretty Sure Republicans Don’t Grasp Yet How Incredibly Angry America Is At Them, But They Will…

Donald Trump trailing toilet paper as he boards Air Force One. Could the symbolism be any clearer?

Trump’s the poster boy for people incapable of self-reflection. “I alone can fix it” is his own personal testament to the depths of his narcissism. Silly us — we misunderstood what Trump meant by “fix it”.

The Democratic Party is guilty of helping to maintain institutional racism. The GOP on the other hand is guilty of the full spectrum of racism.

Let’s not forget how we got here. Fearing demographic extinction (a shrinking pool of Christian, white male voters vs a growing pool of everyone else), the RW money (the Kochs & Mercers among others) initiated a deliberate attempt to seize political power from the majority and invest it PERMANENTLY in the minority. Though Donald Trump was not the RW Money’s vehicle of choice, the simple fact was Russia had compromised so much of the Republican Party that the money simply threw in with Trump — figuring they’d deal with him later.

Except later never came — and was never going to. The RW Money had learned to hold its nose and ignore all the things they hated about Trump because tax cuts and gutted regulations and crony capitalism run amok. Literally everything Trump has done has benefited himself or his criminal circle and made life harder for every other American including those who support Trump.

We will learn — take this to the bank — that Election 2016 was neither free nor fair. We will learn that the proprietary polling data that Paul Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik did, in fact, impact the outcomes of the elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan & Wisconsin. We will learn that cyber attacks did occur on machines in those states. We will learn that if not for cheating in myriad ways (both with Russia and without), Donald Trump would not be president today.

We sorta kinda knew this election night 2016. That feeling in our gut wasn’t just the agony of defeat. It was something “animal”. Something that knew we’d just been buried neck deep in bullshit. Trump has consistently worried about his legitimacy. He’s not a complicated man that way. When he worries about shit — out loud? It’s because he’s “legitimately” worried — as he is about his legitimacy.

He’s not worried “about” his legitimacy, remember, he’s worried about us finding out he’s not legitimate. It’s a subtle difference but important.

I’m the survivor of a sexual assault when I was 14. The survivor of two assaults actually — by the same man. My sense of “feeling violated” is cranked a little higher consequently. My sense of feeling violated is screaming at me. It’s screamed at me since Trump “won”. The man who assaulted me did it while we were doing something else. He continued to assault me WHILE WE DID SOMETHING ELSE — and we carried on doing that other thing as if the assault wasn’t happening.

14 year old me didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t wrap my 14 year old mind around the juxtaposition of religions education with sexual assault. So I pretended the sexual assault wasn’t happening — and then continued to pretend it didn’t happen for 45 years. But it did happen — and it did kick the shit out of me psychologically regardless of whether or not I admitted it. The assault quietly drove me to the brink of suicide. For real.

I had turned the anger I should have felt toward the man who assaulted me on myself. And then I got healthy. Well, healthier…

I see America going through the exact same process. Our anger goes way, way back. We deserve to be angry at ourselves for allowing slavery to remain acceptable after we became a country where “All men are created equal”. Injustice never goes away. It festers and metastasizes. The anger exploding across America now is the anger we deserve.

But, lets remind ourselves. Both sides don’t do it. Democrats are already making legislative moves to structurally change America in ways that will address those injustices directly. Republicans meanwhile (we haven’t seen their plan as of this moment but we can pretty well guess) will do everything to appear concerned while clearly maintaining the status quo.

What the Republican Party has done and is doing to America is abominable. Their naked racism has blown past the point where everyday Americans can tolerate the institutional racism that feeds the naked racism. But it isn’t just racism at play. Underneath it all is a foundation of greed. The Republicans grabbed for power because they’re greedy.

Having attended more than a few protests where no more than a handful of people showed up, we really did wonder if there even was a point where things got bad enough that everyone else would join us. I’m glad to see there was a point. It sucks that George Floyd had to pay for our reluctance with his life. It sucks that every victim of racist police violence had to pay because we were too comfortable in our privilege to take to the streets and demand that it stop right now.

But America has taken to the streets. Young Americans especially. If they show up at the polls on election day with the same zeal, we might get out of this okay. But, in the meantime, their anger at the world being handed them will suffice. Their anger is our anger. Perhaps it was time we got this angry and this committed to doing something about it beyond just flapping our jaws.

The Republican Party seized America by soft force in 2016. They got away with a coup d’etat that denied the Will of The People. They’ve done things since then that are the diametric opposite of what we voted for. They’ve stripped away rules and norms and ways of doing things that we had no problems with. They’ve put in place conservative lifetime judges that don’t even pass the law business’s smell test (never mind ours). They’ve put their money on using our volunteer military to suppress us into silence.

Good thing the military told them “No!”

Former prosecutor Glenn Kirshner advocates for holding every Republican accountable and i absolutely agree. He advocates also that we look at every single judge that Mitch McConnell fast tracked down our throats. Plenty of them were unqualified. Plenty perjured themselves too during their hearings. That means they’re impeachable. If the Rule Of Law really becomes a thing again? It will insist that we impeach these criminals.

It will insist that we investigate, prosecute, convict & punish them too. Not for any sort of political reason — but because they egregiously violated the Rule Of Law.

Americans are, by and large, fair. We like fairness. Our favorite movies are all about it. And yet, we tolerate unfairness with shocking regularity. Good thing we’re adaptable.

Republicans simply do not grasp just how intensely angry Americans are at them. We’re so forgiving that we forgave Richard Nixon FFS. But you have to “come to Jesus” first. You can’t restore to grace someone who thinks they never fell from it.

But you can get angry as hell at them.