Are Republicans Hard Wired To Be Mediocre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When it comes to being a human being?

He ain’t even mediocre.

First & Foremost, Slavery Was Stolen Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, What If — In This Transformational Moment — We “Could” Get It Right? What Would “Getting It Right” Look Like?

America’s dirtiest secret is out: we have never lived up to the ideals on which our country was founded. In part, that’s because the European men who founded America couldn’t themselves live up to the ideals. Some compromises should never be made. After all, how can you compromise with evil? What’s the outcome — semi-evil?

We “compromised” with slavery. But slavery never compromised with us. Evil never does.

Another compromise at the start — women were not granted equal rights. I guess the founders were being literal by “All MEN are created equal”.

Getting great ideas to the finish line in one piece is tough. And, democracy, as we’ve learned, has a lot of “sausage-making” to it. That’s compromise for you. And that’s making compromises with ideas that deserve to be compromised with. They’re not evil like, say, slavery.

We’ve now come face to face with our most original sin — the racism that compromises all men being created equal. Equal people cannot own each other.

But it’s not just racism that’s bedeviled us. Greed has had a go at us too. Greed and racism rut like demonic weasels. Here in America it’s produced a value system that’s completely ass backwards. We pay social influencers a ton while paying teachers so little that some have to take second jobs to pay their bills.

We think a high school “education” is so essential that we automatically pay for it. But try to add four more years — where we begin to refine those minds so as to make them genuinely useful? Suddenly it’s “socialism”. I guess it’s just a coincidence that — to pay for that part of our childrens’ educations — we’ve set up a whole for-profit business of lending kids money to pay for those educations. Corporate socialism is okey-dokey, as always. That’s greed talking.

Blue sky here. We don’t need to sledgehammer our system, we need to re-focus it — away from “me” and toward “we”.

That means we need to completely and forever disabuse ourselves of the notion that any one person can fix anything by themselves. To fix anything — or raise a child — it DOES take a village. And that village needs to be well-funded and well-organized. We want everyone to be the best and most individual “they” that they can be. But never, ever at the expense of the “we”. No “me” can ever have more weight before the law than any other “me” or the whole collection of “me’s” that produce “we”.

We need to win every argument with me. If we start from there, it’s almost assured that we’ll get it right because our focus and framing will be correct. Part of my blue sky here takes into consideration the fact that more and more women (and women of color) are pouring into American politics. If there’s any salvation to be had — that’s where it will come from. It would not be a terrible thing if just about every white male got out of politics for an election cycle or two.

We would do the following things: we would value education and educators over just about anyone and anything.

We would value health CARE over health INSURANCE (they are not the same thing).

We would teach our young people not how to memorize (so as to pass tests) but how to think analytically. We’d teach them how to write and express themselves articulately. We would teach them how to communicate — both directly and honestly. We would teach them to be respectful of everyone.

We would teach them how America works and that freedom is not “free” — it comes with huge responsibilities and obligations. Voting, for example.

We would give every single child the same benefits and advantages, the same access to health care and opportunity. We need to be almost maniacal about this — getting every kid the same chances. America has a remarkable brain trust that no other nation has because no other country is the product of every other country on earth creating it, in essence.

America isn’t a perfect melting pot. Parts of the pot never get the same heat as other parts do. And the different elements don’t melt together into a homogenized end product of indeterminate origin. America and Americans are a hybrid. Nothing like us has ever existed before.

That really should be our goal — to recognize 1) that America IS exceptional though 2) not for the reasons we’ve told ourselves but 3) now that we understand what makes us exceptional, we intend to do everything we can to nurture every last drop of our exceptionalism.

If we can pull that off, the sky’s the limit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In A Way, The Rule Of Law Is “Do Unto Others” With Teeth

The genius of our Constitution for all its failings — and it’s got some serious failings (it gave all the political power to white men and we’re still dealing with slavery ffs) — is its establishment of the Rule Of Law as its organizing principle. The bottom line for law-making isn’t the whim of some Donald-Trump-like king, it’s a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that go to great lengths to spell out what we can — and cannot — do to each other.

Put another way, the Rule Of Law describes what we can and cannot “do unto each other”.

Do something unto your neighbor that you legally shouldn’t (like, say, murder her?) — the Law will do unto you. The Law — striving for fairness (and wanting to give each of us the chance to do the right thing) — doesn’t look to see what’s in our hearts unless we violate the Rule Of Law. And then it wants to know “why?”

In asking “why” we broke the Rule Of Law, the Law wants to prescribe a cure — not just for the crime itself but for the motivation. Did you kill someone deliberately or accidentally? That’s an important distinction. And if you killed someone deliberately, was violating their rights part of your goal — because violating someone else’s rights is as bad as stealing from their house. You took something of theirs that was theirs. In other words — killing someone is one crime and killing them because of who they are — a thing they have the right to be — is another crime.

You didn’t just kill them, you killed their right to be them.

The overwhelming majority of us want the Rule Of Law standing between us. Our problem isn’t with the Rule Of Law after all, it’s with its unequal application. Like integrity, the Rule Of Law is an all or nothing proposition. You can walk around with 99% of your integrity intact, but eventually that 1% will catch up to you. It won’t say 1%. Corruption grows with coronavirus ferocity. Just like a virus, corruption reproduces inside of us; it needs to infect our cells so completely that we spew its darkness, infecting others.

And a lot of that infection goes on undetected. It’s the most dangerous part of the iceberg, lurking under the surface.

The majority of us want others to do unto us as we do unto them. We want to be treated fairly because we want everyone to be treated fairly and we want everyone to be treated fairly because we want to be treated fairly.

As I often say here, devout atheist though I am, I consider myself a big Fan Of Jesus. He is not the church that Paul built out of the idea of Jesus — the idea of Jesus as Messiah as opposed to Jesus as Teacher with a simple but profound message (Do Unto Others). Even a simple atheist like myself can manage to Do Unto Others without hurting ourselves — or compromising ourselves.

The moral outrage we all feel now like our skin was on fire is our “Do Unto Other” way of thinking colliding with hypocrisy. The people clutching onto power have always preached “Do Unto Others” without every practicing it themselves. Actually, they practice their own perverse offshoot — “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

One place where the Rule Of Law differs slightly with Jesus is in its approach to “turning the other cheek”. The Rule Of Law says that if someone violated the Rule Of Law at your expense, you don’t have to turn the other cheek. You don’t get to seek revenge on them but you do get to instruct them — by pointing out in great detail what they did wrong — what that will cost them in time and heartache and financial loss — and how they might get better (so as not to do it again). Being human, we haven’t gotten everything about the Rule Of Law right.

As we know — we still haven’t gotten anywehre close to applying it equally.

But, as Jesus would have us do — we strive to be better. No one — Jesus included — ever said doing unto others was easy.

It Won’t Be Enough Just To Impeach & Remove Trump From Office; We Must EXPUNGE Every Bit Of Him

America’s original sin — not outlawing slavery in our Constitution — still haunts us to this day. We fought a Civil War over that fact — before Andrew Johnson’s small-minded, racist actions prevented the Reconstruction that might have salved slavery’s wounds just enough to let us move forward productively. Wrongs that go unrighted will not fix themselves.

By the same token (there’s a reason the country’s founders made their foundational document (the Constitution) updateable — they recognized the likelihood of flaws in their work and the need for We The People to remedy their flaws. Not giving women equal rights to men was another tragic mistake. Think of all the brain power, the governing talent, the skills, insights and sheer competency we kept not just on the sidelines but in the stands, watching the men follow a game plan down the shitter.

We need to get this right — impeaching Donald Trump. We’re poised to double down on our slavery mistake. If we don’t expunge every bit of Donald Trump from our Democratic and electoral systems, those bits of Trump will linger. Eventually they’ll coalesce into something vaguely Trump-like that will try again to betray everything we’re based on. Trumpism is evil. Leave even a trace and that trace will metastasize into a facsimile of the evil itself.

The legal logic to expunging Trump is sound. The law says you cannot cheat in order to “win the job” of being President of the United States. Therefore, if you DO cheat, you did not, in fact, win the job. Take Russia out of the equation and Trump never gets past the Republican primaries. Take Russia out of the equation and Trump doesn’t get the bump weaponized proprietary polling data gave him in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump has indicated like a pointer dog standing over a downed duck at his own illegitimacy.

It’s time we took him at his word. It’s the one way he’s ever truthful. In spite of himself.

We need to flat out void Donald Trump’s presidency. We can’t pretend it never happened, but we can reverse every bit of Trumpian legislation. Keep in mind — as much as Trump has betrayed us, so, too, has the entire Republican Party. They let this happen. They KNEW it was happening as far back as the 2016 convention when now GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy worried to a group of the Republican muckety-mucks that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

Moscow Mitch McConnell knew what was happening when he stood up on his treason turtle legs at the Gang Of Eight meeting President Obama hastily convened at the White House in September 2016 and insisted that if Obama tried to hip the nation to what Russia was actively doing (attacking the election to make Trump POTUS), he would accuse Obama of “politicizing the intelligence to win the election for Hillary Clinton”. Of course, that’s NOT what Obama was doing. He was trying to warn us of a very real, very imminent threat to our Democracy and our Republic.

Mitch McConnell opposed that happening. You have to ask “WHY?”

McConnell — like all the Republicans — want Donald Trump to be permanent potus. They want minority rule to be fixed and unremovable. They want to destroy our Democratic foundations and literally dismantle the Republic — the greatest experiment in human self government ever. Why would we want to “work with” these people? Why would we want to “hold onto” any impact or influence they’ve had when all their impact and influence was meant to destroy the very thing we hold dear?

We don’t want to. We can’t. If slavery is any guidepost, we need to blow up Republican corruption before it dooms us to pay for NOT blowing it up some time in the future. Everything Trump touched needs to be gone. Every law. Every judge. Every SCOTUS judge.

Republicans made a concerted effort to steal political power from the American People. They stole the outcome of an election in order to bend the Republic’s future toward them and their desires. From the Constitution’s point of view — ditto the Rule Of Law — the Republican Party is a criminal enterprise. They’re car thieves.

And the way the Rule Of Law works, there’s no middle ground. You cannot claim ownership of a stolen car just because you (the thief) are sitting in it. That’s not how it works.

If we allow the Republicans to keep the loot they stole — the will of the majority — we will be setting ourselves up for failure exactly the way we did with slavery. It’ll be “Slavery, Part Two: History Repeats Itself”.

Dear Conservatives — Your Problem Is: No One (Except YOU) Wants To Conserve What YOU Want To Conserve

Want to know what a conservative wants? Look no further than their name: “CONSERVATIVE”. Conservatives want to “conserve“.

Now — ask the next logical question — “WHAT do conservatives want to CONSERVE?”

Do conservatives want to conserve the future? Of course not — you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist. Do conservatives want to conserve the present? That’s a little closer to the mark.

Yes — conservatives want to conserve what “is” — because what “is” still reflects a large measure of what “was” — and “what was” is exactly what conservatives want to conserve: WHAT WAS.

Now — ask the NEXT logical question: “What was it in the past that conservatives want to conserve?”

In America, it’s the quaint notion that America was ever a white person’s country. Yes, white people may have been the country’s political founders — but even as they crafted the country’s foundational documents, the truth about the country they were founding sat in a cultural blind spot. White men saw only their contributions, ignoring the considerable contributions coming from every other part of America’s already diverse and diversifying population.

Remember — aside from America’s native peoples — who were wiped out more by the Europeans pathogens than anything else — the real estate on which America sits belonged to no other “tribe”. By contrast, the real estate that became France or Spain or England had gone through a millennium at least of tribes slowly evolving from, say, Gauls or Visagoths or Celts into French people, Germans & British.

Just because you control the history doesn’t mean you control the Truth.

Conservative (Christian) thinking insisted that since slavery was “in the bible” it must be morally okay. What they really meant was paying fair wages to the people picking their cotton or cutting down their sugar cane would make profitability really hard. What those conservatives wanted to conserve in this case was as much money as possible.

In this instance, what conservatives wanted to “conserve” was their greedy hold on their part of America’s economy. And we made that deal. We gave slavery and slavers outsized political control over people who hated the idea of slavery.

That’s conservatism’s real problem. They’re a minority proposition in America. When more Americans vote, they vote Democratic. They vote for more progressive candidates & policies. They vote for progress & NOT conservatism.

That’s why Republicans work so hard to minimize Democracy. That’s why they suppress votes and demand voter ID laws. If Republicans thought the great mass of Americans would vote FOR them, they’d make walk-up voting as normal as breathing. But that’s not the case — so they don’t.

Moscow Mitch McConnell — whose whole mandate was to install permanent minority rule — has raised conservative corruption to a high art. Refusing to even give Merrick Garland a hearing wasn’t just another example of Mitch being a clever, cynical politician (which he absolutely is), it was Mitch asserting that only conservative goals matter — the harm done to who and what we are being utterly irrelevant.

The more “sane” conservatives will insist that conservatives don’t want to stop progress, they just want to “slow it down”.

The technical term for that is “bullshit”. Conservatives don’t want to slow America’s future down — they want to stop it dead in its tracks and reverse it. Conservatives want to live in a “golden past” that only ever existed in their own racist, misogynist, bigoted, ignorant minds.

So — the next time a conservative sits a little straighter while insisting they want what’s best for America? Be sure to laugh long and loudly at them. The America THEY think is best looks a hell of a lot like your average Antebellum cotton plantation.

Slavery epitomizes conservative values. That is what conservatives REALLY want to conserve.

What The Hell Do Ya Do When Ya Realize — Half The Entertainment Ya Love Was Made By Racists Or Pervs?

So I’m flipping around the satellite television last night — something I rarely get to do in my house. But, having the house to myself, the only person there to argue with me was me. I agreed to behave.

When “Gone With The Wind” popped up on the channel guide — over on Turner Classic Movies — I went for it. I’m a movie buff to the core. Hell, I write screenplays (occasionally for a living even). I can remember when I was in high school and MGM rereleased Gone With The Wind to theaters. My friend Andrea Zipper and I went equally apeshit over it.

I still have visual memories on file of Andrea’s remarkable ability to morph her face into Clark Gable’s. They looked nothing alike, I assure you.

I arrived just as Atlanta was burning to the ground. The back half of the movie (including intermission) comprises losing the war and suffering through reconstruction. That’s SLAVE HOLDERS (who never apologize to their former slaves for stealing their labor but whose former slaves never stop behaving like slaves) suffering deprivations. After losing a war. Over slavery.

We acknowledge — as a culture — that D. W. Griffith’s technically brilliant “Birth Of A Nation” is deplorably racist from its first frame to its last. But, have we stopped to consider that lots of other “technically brilliant” books and movies are equally racist (just not so blatant)? “Gone With The Wind” isn’t technically brilliant (though it’s an example of great craftsmanship and artistry) but it contains a character that makes the piece brilliant: Scarlett O’Hara.

In a lot of ways, Scarlett is a very modern character trapped in antebellum times. She’s a resilent, goal-oriented pragmatist. She does everything she can to pursue the thing she wants most — Ashley Wilkes — even after she knows he’s not the man she needs him to be. That’s the antebellum part of her character. A modern author writing Scarlett today wouldn’t dream of Scarlett continuing to want a weak partner like Ashley. Aside from that though (and her inherent racism), Scarlett’s a dynamo. She’s a survivor: smart, determined and pragmatic. She’ll do what she has to do. And if it all comes a crapper? Tomorrow is another day.

But there’s the racism in her heart. And she’s our hero. Our other hero in the piece — Rhett Butler — is just as racist (even if it seems kinder and gentler). Captain Butler has risked his life for the Confederacy. That makes him a traitor. And a slavery enabler.

In the end, I had to turn off “Gone With The Wind“. All that normalized racism just isn’t as entertaining as it used to be.

It brought to mind what happened the night before while I was flipping channels and found Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” playing. Allen made “Sleeper” back before “Annie Hall” turned him into a filmmaker. Even though “Sleeper” is one of Allen’s “funny movies”, I couldn’t watch it without thinking of the whole Soon-Yi story… and all the other stories about Woody Allen.

“Manhattan” horrifies me now. A grown man dating an inappropriately under-aged HIGH SCHOOL GIRL should have been the movie’s deal-breaker — why no studio would put up the money to make it. Let’s compare it to to Lolita for a moment — its most obvious relative. Lolita is a satire whose whole point is Humbert Humbert’s perversion. Humbert comes to a terrible end as does his nemesis Quilty. They both end badly because they lusted after Lolita.

While the age difference between Allen’s character and Mariel Hemingway’s character does get talked about — it’s never really seen as grossly inappropriate; in fact, it’s understood to be okay ultimately. At the end of the movie — where Allen casts himself as Charlie Chaplin at the end of “City Lights” — the sad lover whose love will go unrequited — the under-aged girl character overlooks every bit of her inappropriately older lovers’ terrible behavior and attitude toward her. What’s worst: the thing Allen’s character craves — and fears losing — is the thing he destroyed at the start: Tracy’s innocence.

I can’t watch “Manhattan” now. Can’t watch any of Woody Allen’s work. That kills me because an awful lot of it IS brilliant. Hannah And Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanors and Brodway Danny Rose are all great filmmaking. Great comedy but also great art.

But I cannot separate an artist from his or her product. An artist is defined by the prism inside their head — that thing through which Life refracts and translates into art. In Woody Allen, that same prism that refracts life experience into great movies also refracts some very unhealthy, misogynistic attitudes about women. In the absence of the Soon-Yi story in his bio, jokes about one’s ex-wife play one way. But, knowing that Allen was attracted to, secretly courted and married a girl he should NEVER have looked at “that way” — it colors those formerly funny one-liners.

There was chatter about Kevin Spacey going back eons here in the showbiz trenches. Sexual predation has been part of Hollywood’s business model going back to when the first guy showed up in LA with a movie camera and a dream. He’s got great taste in material, does Kevin. He’s a good actor with lots of range. But he’s a predator — and his love for boy’s bottoms is the bottomest line there is.

Can’t watch “The Usual Suspects” anymore… Can’t watch “American Beauty“…

While we’re at it — and we should be at it because this is all racist bullshit that we have to stop excusing as being “of its time and place” — “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” (the movie, not the book) has to stop playing because Irish to his core Mickey Rooney playing a Japanese character is offensive even on paper — never mind seeing it brought to horrible, embarrassingly racist life…

The same goes for every Charlie Chan movie in TMC’s vault. Charlie Chan was played by white guys like SWEDISH Warner Oland, mostly SCOTTISH Sidney Toler and POLISH-JEWISH Ross Martin.

And, though it pains me deeply to write this, the same should probably go for classic movies like “Lawrence Of Arabia” and “A Passage To India” wherein one of my favorite actors ever — Alec Guinness played an Arab and then an Indian. Sir Alec’s saving grace — he wasn’t mocking his characters like, say, an American actor in blackface or Mickey Rooney. Seriously, if you’ve never seen it – this tiny slice of the movie’s opening is all you need to know…

I’d complain about losing all the great movies of my youth to racists, racism and racist memes but that just seems to “First World Problem”, know what I mean?

On This Perverse Independence Day, A Reminder — American Exceptionalism Is REAL: It’s Our DIVERSITY…

Today may be July 4, but it doesn’t feel like a normal Independence Day. More like… Trumpendance Day. Not a national celebration, a national tragedy.

If our problem were only Donald Trump — his corruption, his crime family and their spider web of self-serving criminal enterprises — his treason — this “problem” would have been solved already. Not hyperbole: the entire Republican Party is evidently complicit in every last bit what Donald Trump is doing, has done — intends to do to what was the United States of America. Not to get too far into the weeds (there are so damned many) — The demographics clearly against them (remember those “demographics” — we’ll return to them shortly) — the Republican “brain trust” saw that the days of White, Christian hegemony over America were sunsetting — and fast. Popular vote numbers (and the more Americans who vote, the more Democratic we tilt) put the presidency (the Executive Branch) permanently out of reach. The Legislative branch also looked dicey. The one shot the Republican brain trust saw as a means to hold onto power: capture the judiciary. Fill the benches from SCOTUS on down with permanent appointees, every last one a cultural/legal troglodyte, wedded like a Bride of Christ to the idea that America needs to live in its Antebellum past.

Those people have hijacked the country. Before that, they hijacked the language (twisting “A well regulated militia” into “have all the guns ya want!”) and even history (going into the Civil War, not a single seceding Confederate state said a word about “state’s rights”. Every single secession document sites slavery as its reason for leaving the Union. The South proved the maxim — never mind who wins the war, what matters is who wins the peace that follows. The South managed to revise history to make us think we weren’t still arguing about slavery.

Those people — Conservative, white Christians — also have tried to hijack the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. They want everyone to believe what makes us different — special, damn it! — is white, Christian men and their money. That is prime, grade A bullshit.

American Exceptionalism is its diversity.

With the caveat that step one involved wiping out most of America’s native population (guns, steel and especially germs) — and with the added caveat that European populations were living in abject squalor while great civilizations thrived across North America — America was a kind of blank slate culturally and historically. Whereas the Gauls, the Celts, the Bretons, Aquitanians, Ligurians, and Germanic people arriving at the beginning of the Frankish Empire (481–843) would, in time, evolve into “French People” just as the Hun tribes in Germany became Germans, the Swiss became Swiss, the Spanish became Spanish and the Italians became a collection of disorganized city-states masquerading as a country, there were no tribes present on North America to eventually evolve into those “people”.

As I said, aside from the ones the arriving Europeans wiped out, THEY were the foundation for what became “Americans”. But not just Europeans. They weren’t the only ones here. There were still native Americans. And lots of Africans. There were, in fact, people from all over the world — here at the founding of the country and immediately thereafter. The white men who drew up the documents over-represented themselves and their interests — as wealthy white men always do. But the ideals transcended their narrow-mindedness.

Look at America’s history, who contributed to it, who BUILT the country, not just with their labor but with their passion, their idealism, their love of the idea of building something of your own creation — that you participate in governing. What a remarkable notion to spring from the minds of people who’d always been ruled over by kings and inheritors of power. No more inheritance — power would spring from the Will of The People.

And the people, as we know — as any Republican can tell you, their pearls clutched tightly — are, have been and are getting even more DIVERSE.

Happy Birthday, America. Happy Exceptionalism!

Americans Need To Get It Out Of Our Heads: We DO NOT Do Everything Right

My gut is, this very American attitude — “How WE Do It Is How It Should Be Done” — flows from, the MALE of the American species. It’s definitely got a “I alone can fix it” pong to it.

You know how men are kind of “famous” for refusing to ever ask for directions when lost? Yeah — same chromosomal character flaw. We don’t HAVE to know how to do something, we assume we can figure it out. Then, when we stare at the wreckage our ignorance produced, we can blame the manufacturer or inadequate customer service for the mess. Men — dirty little secret here that I just KNOW I’m gonna pay for — are a lot like Ikea product instructions. You’re never going to “read them” through first; instead you’ll plunge in and get two-thirds of the way through before you realize you put the key piece on BACKWARDS at the very beginning and now the whole goddamned thing has to be taken apart so you can start over.

That’s men. That’s us. No kidding.

Men were mostly responsible not so much for founding the country as taking credit for it and making up all the rules. Women’s role in the founding has gone — shocking, right? — under-reported. I guess, in the men’s minds, someone had to “put the kettle on”. Being men, in whose same minds they were always right, they applied that fallacy to the document (and the country) they created.

If we — White Christian Men — say a thing is so, it MUST be so. Now go and Manifest Destiny already.

White Christian Men decided that slavery was okay. They thought it passed muster that black people were 3/5 of a white person. These things are embedded in our character. They’re part of our swagger (along with the things for which we’re justifiably celebrated as a culture). It’s a package deal. Like everything. Good is a fellow traveler with bad.

But, in our case, that “bad” has caught up with us. I blame the high bullshit content of our swagger.

America does not do healthcare right. We don’t do public education right. We don’t do secondary education — college, university, trade school — right. We don’t do taxes right. We don’t do humanitarianism right any more (we’re hellbent on the exact opposite). On healthcare — we’re the only country that ties healthcare to employment. There’s a REASON we’re the only country stupid enough to do that.

During WWII, employers weren’t allowed to give raises to employees (the money was redirected toward the war effort). To keep good employees from leaving — and to entice new hires — companies offered up healthcare instead. Lots of companies did that. Then the war ended. But that job benefit didn’t. The companies found it hard and expensive to keep providing healthcare. Insurance companies took over the workload — and sank their hooks in deep. They put themselves at the core of American healthcare.

The first question you get asked when you seek medical attention in America isn’t “How can we help you?”, it’s “And how are you going to PAY for this?”

Money, sadly, sits at the heart of what ails America. Greed has undermined the Greatest Experiment in Human Self Government Ever. Let’s be honest, if greed’s involved, the fix is always in. Nothing “trumps” greed. Ever.

America’s greatness flows from its largesse — which, in turn, flows from its diversity. Nothing but cold, Christian calculus (as opposed to Jesus-like, Do-Unto-Others thinking) flows from the White People who believe THEY and they alone are the keepers of the American Flame. They’re the remnant of the Boys Club that — thinking it was always right — sat down to make up the rules some of us still follow that others (Republicans all) blatantly piss on.

I guess “doing it right” is a matter of perspective. If you’re the majority of Americans — we feel in our gut that children dying on our southern border is us DOING IT WRONG. If you’re a republican however… if you’re Donald Trump — you’re a guy waving his dick around, thinking how awesome you are — and how “right” everything is in the world.