Archive for November, 2016

Ode on a Prospect of Botched Election

Posted in politics, race on November 12, 2016 by darryl zero

I haven’t been this entertained being wrong since Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be Marvel’s best film.
I probably seem mean or dismissive when I talk about the election. I know a lot of people are legitimately afraid of the aftermath of Drumpf’s ascent to the Oval Office. I am too, but, unlike a lot of you, I had reason to be afraid based on the strength of his candidacy alone, and just as much to be afraid of even if Clinton had been elected.

Violent racists and white supremacists are a threat to my very life in places where they feel emboldened. Now, thanks in large part to a Clinton campaign that helped lift Trump to the GOP nomination, those scumbags feel emboldened just about everywhere.

It’s a nice feeling, knowing my already-endangered life was further threatened as part of a campaign strategy, especially the campaign of a woman who had already placed a low value on my life in the first place. Some of my fellow people-of-color were able to overlook Clinton’s extremely callous disregard for our well-being, but a fair enough amount of us, myself included, were not.

The smugness of Hillary Clinton supporters, from the OGs relentlessly condescending to Sanders’ impressive group of followers to the shrugging line-followers who fell into place like good little mice to the reticent holdouts that claimed to be holding their nose in anticipation of a time more conducive to actually having the fucking balls to stand on unpopular-yet-right principles, did Clinton absolutely no favors. Sanders supporters were told, essentially, to shut up and do what they were told, that the “people” spoke (despite all the evidence of blatant election fraud), and their needs were simply not the will of the electorate, but that it was subsequently their duty to get behind the candidate who pretty clearly embodied the very institutions they were attempting, through Sanders, to topple. Third-party voters, progressives in particular, were greeted with outright derision if not blatant intimidation, constant invocations of the 2000 election–an election, like this one, tipped more by the outright rejection of a pro-business, center-right, career politician trying to ride the goodwill of the Clinton Administration with an overt conservative as a running mate than any other factor–were often paired with aggressive, superficial-if-not-outright-false takedowns of candidates the inescapably disaffected would inevitably turn to. This, paired with a lazy campaign whose sole defining stance was, at its core, equal parts condescension and threat–I’m not THAT guy. Do you really want him? Look at who’s voting for him. Come on; children are watching–essentially told millions of potential voters that their values, supposedly the lifeblood of American society, were less important than Clinton’s belief that she should be President.

Is it really any surprise, then, that more people elected to stay home than play a game that they’d lose regardless?

Apparently it was to Clinton followers, who frantically began to scramble to find anyone else to blame for what was arguably the most embarrassing defeat since John McCain’s inability to beat a Black guy with the middle name “Hussein” (something with which Clinton herself was intimately familiar). The Stein finger-pointing immediately fell flat as the Green Party barely mustered 1% of the popular vote; even more desperate was the screaming at Libertarians, who were spared all but cursory hit takes by Democrats in the campaign because they were more likely to steal votes from Trump. And they did; Johnson managed to pick up 3% of the popular vote, to no avail to the Dems, who suddenly decided they were even somehow entitled to votes cast for a man who considered himself too fiscally conservative for the Republican party.

The comedy wrote itself. The DNC spent inordinate amounts of time and money to orchestrate Bernie Sanders’ defeat and elevate a man as unqualified and unlikable as he was likely unwilling to be President as the opposition to their preferred candidate, used the awfulness of that opponent to keep progressives, young people and minority groups from voting for candidates that actually spoke to their interests, and propped up a candidate who could only spoil the opponent. With a pathway that clear, you can understand how someone like me would assume the fix was in; nobody as unpopular as Clinton could so obviously manipulate things in her favor unless she was merely guaranteeing no one would challenge her mandate, right? I mean, would she have so completely and utterly spat in the face of nearly half her base if the outcome hadn’t already been decided? Would one of the country’s most intelligent political minds actually try to take on racism, sexism, and anti-establishment sentiment in a straight-up fight?

[I’m on my phone and driving right now, so I can’t format it the way I’d prefer, but if I were at a keyboard, you’d see a collage of stuff like LeBron James or Chicago Cubs fans holding 3-1 signs or Casey At The Bat depictions. I’ll have you use your imaginations.]

As much as I want to be the better man, as incumbent as it is on me to be kind and gracious in a shared defeat, I…just fucking can’t. All of the self-righteous, haughty, moral-imperative-izing Hillary Clinton supporters, belly-up and vulnerable, legitimately destroyed by the one thing this cycle they couldn’t justify or rationalize or philosophocally assail, left to squirm and grasp at solutions like the Electoral College, and the ruthless zeal with which they belittled, attacked, and otherwise attempted to discredit anyone who dared believe in anyone other than their chosen candidate, self-righteousness spent in a broken heap on the floor…I gazed upon then in their agony and terror and I just fucking laughed. 

The Clinton voters had wasted their votes on someone who wouldn’t win.

The Clinton voters had stupidly chased a fruitless dream; if they’d only used their votes on a Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, they’d have been able to help get matching funds for both of the most prominent third parties.

The Clinton voters had backed a candidate whose agenda had been thoroughly repudiated.

The Clinton voters had shit-talked all of their opponents’ voters, relying upon a campaign of “America is better than that, “ only discover America didn’t think they were better than the alternative.

The schadenfreude warmed my soul enough to forget, albeit temporarily, the weight of what it all meant.

Astride the utter delight at watching white liberals fail miserably trying to capitalize on shaming people into act against their own self-interests for the greater glory of someone neither great nor glorious, however, was an exhausting dismay that makes me sag in the saddle like the old man I am. Being a dad does it; I am unafraid to explain to my sons what happened, but the knowledge of what they face five, ten, twenty years from now has me on that Thomas Gray ish:

Ambition this shall tempt to rise,

         Then whirl the wretch from high, 

To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,

         And grinning Infamy.

The stings of Falsehood those shall try,

And hard Unkindness’ alter’d eye,

         That mocks the tear it forc’d to flow;

And keen Remorse with blood defil’d,

And moody Madness laughing wild

         Amid severest woe.

The road ahead is, to be nigh-delusionally gracious, grim. The battles to be fought may, in fact, have to be fought by me and people like me. When the amusement fades, I remain, as ever, a target, and to be honest, while I have to be sure my sons will have a better world, I don’t have a ton of hope.

But a man without hope is a man without fear. So that’s a start.

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I hate all of you.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2016 by darryl zero

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Less than two days remain before, if my admittedly-cynical, bitter predictions are true, the United States of America will follow up the unlikely feat of electing its first Black President by electing its first female President, and I don’t know if I could be angrier than I am right now.

Two years of Citizens United-spawned election nonsense fired at me with a gatling gun’s relentlessness, which normally would have left me raw and exhausted, have instead made me sick and angry at the aggressive ignorance this country seems to breed faster than reality television shows.  I’ve tried as hard as I can to avoid being the elitist alarmist decrying the end of intellectualism or the beginning of the Idiocracy, but I can’t help but wonder if, at least, the beginning of the end is upon us.

My epiphany didn’t occur in 2000 when George Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court despite all signs pointing to obvious election fraud in Florida and other states; rather, it occurred to me sometime in 2003, in the streets of Portland, surrounded by riot police waiting for me or anyone of my comrades-in-protest to give them any reason to cave in our skulls for the unforgivable sin of knowing that invading Iraq based on obvious lies was the wrong thing to do. As I marched, chanted, and shouted, the futility of it all dulled the edge of my catharsis, as one thought expanded with every step, slogan, and scream: None of this will matter, so what am I really doing here? A year later, I watched a high school-aged girl get tackled by three men twice her size for daring to step on a sidewalk that had been declared an arbitrary barrier because she and a few hundred of us found the presence of one of the Iraq invasion’s principal architects in our city somewhat objectionable. As our resolve gave way to the practical reality of not wanting to run afoul of a particularly violent police force, I realized mid-sprint that marching in the streets was little more than children playing revolutionary so their comfortable parents and grandparents could watch the news and remember times when such demonstrations actually spoke to a sentiment that their government could eventually feel beholden to. But those days were gone, if they ever really existed.

I feel like Bush getting reelected in 2004 fully realized the death knell for logical political discourse. Bush had a mandate, the people pulling his strings had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, and the people of my generation–X–were somewhat insulated from the consequences, most of us being old enough to have established lives and careers (I, of course, was not so lucky) or at least had the benefit of having finished college before financial deregulation’s consequences got really dire. So, like any losing team who still kinda won, most people GenX and up resorted to impotently flogging an easy target: Bush himself.

Only something was different. I took my fair share of potshots at Bush early on in his tenure, but most of them were because of the things he represented: imperialism, corporate rule, bloodsucking neoconservativism, stuff like that. I hated Bush because of what he was, not who. His verbal gaffes (with the exception of “nucular,” which triggers irreversible ZeroRage regardless of who utters it) were pointless distractions; his diplomatic buffoonery paled in comparison to what Halliburton did with the consent of Congress. But the incessant picking of low-hanging fruit continued, and I began to realize why: it didn’t really matter to the mostly-white, nominally-liberal people belittling what was becoming increasingly obvious was merely the public representation of a man whose primary purpose was to serve as a lightning rod for attention. For most of them, the struggles of the Bush Administration were simply speedbumps on the way to the same kinds of lives they would have had otherwise; for that matter, that they were so content to hurl puerile superficial insults, yet ignore the substantially pernicious attitudes of the Democrats who played along with the Junta only reinforced how shallow their critique truly was.

So I stopped giving a damn. I was more-or-less apathetic to Barack Obama, speaking out more about the stupidity of most arguments against him–a man who even overtly admitted to being so far to the right he wasn’t even middle-of-the-road, a man who explicitly stated he was closer to a moderate Republican than he was a radical revolutionary–because that was the telling tale of the direction of the country.   I didn’t vote for him–I voted for McKinney in ’08 and Stein in ’12–but I didn’t insult him, either, short of expressing my disappointment that he took absolutely no concrete stance on the sudden rash of killings of young Black men by police and related entities save for pointless platitudes more geared toward making white liberals feel better about themselves for not being in the KKK than it did toward making any gesture of a desire for justice.  More importantly, I didn’t tell anyone not to vote for him; that would have been the equivalent of asking the sun not to shine, as white liberals brought themselves to orgasm over finally having a way to seem like they had any interest in social justice while also being on the winning team.

But, if all things end, the apparent exception that proves the rule would have to be the uptick in obvious violence against people who look like me.  President Obama inflamed the obvious racists that every person-of-color knows exist, the kind Green Books are written to help us avoid, the kind white America is convinced is simply the fringe element of their society, despite the fact that their society encourages their existence; the obvious racists seemed to spark Black Americans into taking the initiative and actively chronicling the less-obvious racists who plague us every day, regardless of where we are. The elevation of “one of us” (although I personally ceased to consider President Obama “one of us” when he delivered the most milquetoast speech imaginable following the acquittal of George Zimmerman) to the highest office in the land did successfully do one thing in that it brought the stark contrast of how us non-Presidential negroes navigate systems designed against us into glaring relief; furthermore, it revealed just how little white liberals actually care about the practical realities of actual Black people now that they all had the ultimate “one Black friend.”

Naturally, when Bernie Sanders, champion (along with Elizabeth Warren) of white liberals from Burlington to Bellingham, announced he was going to jump out of the (I) column and run for the Democratic presidential nomination, I looked at it with the usual degree of cynicism and “what have you done for me lately?” eye-rolling.  Sanders, for all his hipness with the young white folks, was the same Sanders who voted for the Senate Crime Bill–the piece of legislation, championed by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as the ultimate means by white America could “bring super-predators to heel,” by which they meant create a system of disproportionately unfair law enforcement that would, by 2011, result in a higher rate of incarcerated Black men than in 1850.  Sanders’ platform of “solve for economic disparity” was ambitious in a political sense, if not an economic one.  It was eminently practical, which meant it was middle-of-the-road, meant to help “all” Americans, which inevitably means ignoring systemic issues that target some Americans more than others.  Still, I watched Sanders from afar, and always as an outsider (I never intended to vote for him, mostly because of the Senate Crime Bill), but with interest.  The one thing I had to give Sanders–at the beginning of his campaign, he actually came across as sincere, his consistent demeanor and affable humility stoking a flame of populism that, while relatively unoriginal in its aims, was certainly unique in that it was new to mainstream American politics.  He couldn’t have been more different from his main opponent if he’d been Black.

My line in the sand had been drawn on Hillary Clinton from the jump.  In addition to her support of the Senate Crime Bill and Welfare reform that succeeded in removing people from Welfare (never mind actually providing them with anything to replace it), Clinton’s actions once she’d been granted any documentable power were equally heinous.  Support of the war in Iraq. Support of deportation of Central American women and children fleeing gang violence.  Helping to facilitate a coup in Honduras.   Clear, unequivocal support for Israel and its ongoing atrocities against Palestine.  For obvious reasons, my “super-predator” visage chiefly among them, I looked at her as yet another in a line of anti-Black figureheads whose racism was barely (and ineffectively) masked by an obvious classism; what’s worse, her virtual silence in the early days of the Democratic primary suggested an arrogance that she didn’t need to do anything to establish why she should be president other than she felt that she should be president.

The inevitable Sanders/Clinton showdown…didn’t promise much, actually.  I felt in my heart of hearts, and still do, that a Hillary Clinton presidency was/is inevitable.

That’s the thing looming over all of this, and really the whole point of Presidential elections in the first place.  When it gets down to it, really down to it, it doesn’t matter who you vote for in a Presidential election–like Mark Twain said: “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”  The outcome of this Presidential election is as relevant to me as the color of the sky–it will be what it is regardless of any action I take, and I will inevitably only notice it to curse its intrusion into my sanity.  What does matter, at least to me, is what this Presidential election says about the people voting in it.

I didn’t have to do much paying attention to the GOP primary; watching Donald Trump systematically dismantle his opponents by giving explicit voice to what the GOP has long tried to keep subtle and implicit was simultaneously a work of brilliant showmanship and a stage that always seemed a little too conveniently set.  Primary Trump was a godsend, a firebrand galvanizing all of the people the Republicans have spent generations subtly fomenting, the racists and Islamophobes and people who believe America to be a white man’s playground all others be damned, and the sheer volume of the support he received reassured me that the fears and paranoia that permeate my everyday existence, the knowledge that white people are just one impolite day from being just as inhumane and brutal as they were when this country first began–were justified.  The only things that surprised me about his securing the GOP nomination was how quickly the GOP establishment turned its focus toward Congress–thus revealing their priorities to be in the right place, as a White House with a hostile Congress will never accomplish anything–and the fact that so few people comfortably spoke about the reasons people wanted to vote for Trump.

The Democratic primary, however, was a veritable gold mine of liberals revealing their true selves in the absolute worst ways.  The Clinton supporters outed themselves as willing to place all considerations other than voting for a woman or voting against someone who wasn’t cravenly anti-gun as secondary pretty much right away.  The Sanders supporters, to their credit, demonstrated a level of nuance and sophistication to their awareness that did their candidate proud.  Even if their understanding of why people-of-color wouldn’t just implicitly trust an old white guy who claimed his agenda would solve for problems they face as well really could have used some work, like the candidate himself, they eventually figured out a way to create and sustain about as inclusive a campaign as someone vying for a major party Presidential bid in this country can truly have.

When the campaigns really started heating up, though, that’s when it all revealed itself to be a burning house of cards.

Trump revealed his hand by being pretty reliably terrible; as his numbers grew, so grew his increasing dedication to sticking his foot in his mouth.  Like Bush before him, he grew to be so ridiculously outlandish that he fairly obviously wasn’t trying to be President.  His cult of personality was matched only by a lack-of-substance so profound it had to have been intentional, given how not stupid the man is.  Given how rabidly monstrous the crowd he was courting was, I realized I’d seen the technique before:

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Transmetropolitan, issues 4-18.  In a primary to determine who would tangle with (and likely defeat) the incumbent president, Bob Heller–a not-so-subtle racist, misogynist pig whose over-the-top statements were good at galvanizing the hateful.  Trump’s statements–his nebulous promises of how things were going to be “Great” chiefly among them–were surprisingly similar to Heller’s completely, deliberately vague promises about an America for “the strong” that would purge “the weak.”

Heller’s opponent in that primary–Gary Callahan, “the Smiler,” a candidate who said very little, yet seemed more concerned with projecting an image of electability:

clll

As the Democratic primary wore on, as the plucky-yet-underdog Sanders slowly began to lose ground to Clinton in increasingly suspicious ways, my spider-sense began tingling.  When Sanders supporters mysteriously found themselves victims of tactics previously only used on Black voters in the south, my suspicions became grim realities.  When, before the California primary, the press called the race in favor of Clinton, my literary parallel became disappointingly, disgustingly on-point:

hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_crop-horz

Which, of course, sent me down the rabbit hole when Clinton took advantage of her victory over Bernie Sanders to talk about…

…absolutely nothing.

Which I expected, really–Clinton hadn’t bothered to take the time to do anything to separate herself from any other candidates in the primary save for being a woman, which he couldn’t help.  But what really sold it was when Clinton picked her running mate; in the Transmetropolitan comic, Callahan secures the nomination by cutting a backdoor deal with Heller the demagogue, who drops out and endorses Callahan, who then selects his running mate as Josh Freeh, a seemingly-innocuous senator who, it is later revealed, is actually a surrogate for Heller himself.  Clinton’s response to finishing a slugfest with a candidate whose popular appeal threatened to split the party and pull progressives away?

Pick the most bland,  inoffensive, middle-of-the-road running mate: Tim Kaine, a man whose past raises no significant red flags–but whose personal beliefs are enough to raise eyebrows among progressives (his being pro-life, for instance, and his belief in the importance of abstinence-only sex ed).

The true substance of the Clinton campaign revealed itself in that ugly moment: she picks her running mate to appeal to the conservatives.  She doesn’t need the progressive vote.  It got worse when, STILL, she refused to substantially say anything about being President other than the fact that she wasn’t Donald Trump.

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I didn’t get angry about this, of course, until, even when faced with overwhelming evidence that their nominee was little more than a self-serving bureaucrat whose sole purpose was to have power, Hillary supporters didn’t care one iota.  In fact, they rallied to defend her even more, as if her disputable, suspicious “win” in the primaries somehow gave her a mandate to do literally nothing other than be female and not Donald Trump and that somehow, through some fucked-up trick of neoliberal arrogance, this somehow made her the only moral choice.

I for the most part bit my tongue until the attacks started on Jill Stein, Green Party candidate and the likely recipient of my presidential vote even before she picked the angriest Black man in America as her running mate, and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.  The attacks were pretty low-pass and unsophisticated: “Jill Stein is anti-science/anti-vaccines!  Jill Stein invests in oil companies!” “Gary Johnson doesn’t know any world leaders!” and were about as shallow as saying that water is flammable because it contains Hydrogen.  But, since Americans are shallow–especially liberals, like most people who want to feel like they’re the good guys–a fair amount of them bought it.

That’s when the rage really started to build.  I could tolerate Clinton being adored by the corporate Democrats that tend to shape the outcome of most elections, but when liberals started lauding her as this great feminist champion of the downtrodden, to the point of disparaging anyone who actually did speak for an underrepresented point-of-view (even Gary Johnson, whom I hate, and whose political philosophy I find abhorrent, speaks for a group of people that deserve a voice, and does so with sincerity and a legitimate desire to actually serve the public), I lost my shit, and realized that political discourse in this country was irreparably fucked.

Fucked, I say, because the anti-Trump discourse, when it began to seem like his support actually had enough traction to make it a legitimate race, started to take on an edge of meanness not unlike that of Trump himself.  Suddenly, people who criticized Sanders voters for not falling in line to support Clinton, claiming they were holding their nose for the greater good, magically lost the ability to assume any nuance on the side of Trump supporters.  Trump, in essence, had become a boogeyman, the credible threat to decency and common sense; and that NO ONE, absolutely no one, could possibly be voting for him for sensible reasons, or even simply because they found Hillary Clinton to be just as threatening to them as Trump was to liberals; it had to be because they supported deporting all Muslims and Mexicans from the country (despite the fact that existing, so-called “liberal Democrat” was deporting more people from the country than any presidential administration ever) or that they were content with letting America go to war (despite the fact that Clinton’s actions as Secretary-of-State set us on a course to go to war).

With fellow liberals, the alarmism got even more hysterical–that it was UNACCEPTABLE for Donald Trump to be able to pick a Supreme Court justice, despite the fact that a conservative appointee would return the Court to the same Conservative majority it’d had for nearly fifty years.  This, of course, led to the predictable demonization of non-major party candidates, the usual tirade of post-Nader assumptions that one of the two parties is entitled to someone’s vote, along with the familiar “do you want to be responsible for a Trump presidency?” to anyone that dare suggest Johnson or Stein might actually speak for their interests more than Clinton/Trump and might actually earn their vote.

The last straw for me was when women, mostly white liberal women, started beating the drum that support for Donald Trump was tantamount to hate speech.  I began to see in my Facebook feed Trump signs being defaced and destroyed.  One white liberal woman in my feed even bragged about defacing the sign, only to become upset when, after the sign was destroyed (which she claimed not to have anything to do with), a new Trump sign appeared, this one naming her as the culprit for destroying the previous sign and specifically naming her place of employment.

The hypocrisy was overwhelming: supporting a candidate who called young Black men “super-predators” and asserted they needed to be aggressively and decisively policed into submission, yet calling the support of a candidate whose views of women are, admittedly, absolutely deplorable “hate speech” is an argument of privilege so pernicious, my head and heart hurt with the rage at it.

It still hurts, actually, because, unless I am completely mistaken, Clinton is going to be sworn in as President in January, but the threats they claim are paramount in their mind–the evil, racist supporters of Donald Trump–aren’t going to go away.  If anything, they’ve been emboldened, which doesn’t threaten the white liberals who are fighting so hard to make people like me feel like that’s the most immediate threat a Clinton presidency would solve–it threatens people like me, a Black man with a white wife and multi-ethnic children.

It proves I can’t trust white people–not that I ever could, really, nor did I–and that I especially can’t trust white Democrats, people who are more than willing to lift up a woman partially responsible for putting me in the crosshairs of the government, while they themselves leave me in the crosshairs of violent racist extremists in society.  I’m stressed, and concerned, and afraid–and that’s not any change from the norm.  But now I’m furious, because white people expect me to value their stress, concern, and fear over my own, all because they don’t give a shit about me.

Just a thought.