I don’t want to see your Trainwreck

I used to like this girl called Amy Schumer.  She was funny.  She made me laugh and I felt a kinship to her as a fellow unconventionally attractive funny chick.  But she has totally flipped her shit.  Fer realz. It’s like she’s become this mythical creature made of 2 parts drama queen and 1 part ironic cluelessness.   I think I’d like to call it a Schumera.

But that’s not really the point.   The point is what happened in the dentist’s office a couple of years back.  My kids had gone back to get their teeth cleaned and I was wallowing in the decadence of several months’ worth of People Magazines.  There was a big screen tv on the wall of the waiting room, playing the Today Show with the sound off.  I looked up, and to my surprise, I saw Matt Lauer on TV, clad in bondage gear, interviewing the cast of Fifty Shades of Gray.    The funny thing was, I was…surprised, but not THAT surprised. The reason I wasn’t surprised was because every media outlet had been humping (so to speak) that stupid book and probably even stupider movie for months and it only figured that this was the next logical evolution of their marketing campaign.

Now, let the weirdness of that sink in.  I saw what I believed to be a respected journalist dressed in bondage gear to promote a movie about S and M or whatever and it didn’t shock me.  I didn’t get up and demand that the receptionist change the channel, or look around to see if anyone else had noticed, or do anything other than file that away to tell my husband later.   It felt totally like something that modern media in 2015 would do.  Of course, within a few moments I realized it was a prank done by the Ellen Show, actually highlighting what I had already subconsciously noticed – that DAMN, the Today Show is sure giving 50 Shades a hell of a lot of press coverage here.

As a libertarian I have no problem with coordinated ad campaigns (even if rather silly) but there was something about it, the context of it, that kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  I felt like it may indicate something larger about the culture in which we live. Surely we wouldn’t have expected Ernie Pyle or Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite to promote terrible sex movies and in fact it would have probably destroyed their careers had they tried.   And what does it even mean that I’m so used to the idea that journalists are at least part of the time, if not most, shilling for somebody or the other that on some level, I wasn’t even particularly surprised that poor Lauer would have to be forced into leather studs and trotted out on morning tv that way.   But, what are you gonna do, change the world or something?  Nah.  So my family and friends and I had a good laugh and I promptly forgot about it.

A couple months ago I noticed a very similar phenomenon happening – just like the weeks before 50 Shades of Gray came out, only it was Goldie Hawn.  All of a sudden, Goldie Hawn was EVERYWHERE.   There were articles and news stories falling out of the sky left and right. (Google News her the week of May 10, 2017, through May 18, 2017 if you don’t believe it)  She was talking about how being a woman in Hollywood had changed over the years.  She was talking about how she prayed for her sick son 35 years ago (aww).  She was talking about her sex life (eww).  She and Kurt Russell got stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (wow, they didn’t have those already?). Finally, when she appeared for the 500th time that week on Sunday Morning, my husband looked at me and said “She’s gotta have a new movie coming out or something.”  I whipped out my laptop and sure enough, she was in a movie with…

AMY SCHUMER

See, I was coming back around to that the whole time.  Yep.  She was in a movie with Amy Freaking Schumer.  Now, let me pause my narrative again here to explain my deal with Amy Schumer, who I actually did once like.  As most know, she is the cousin of Chuck Schumer and has used her fame to promote her political views, going so far as to call out Trump voters personally – people actually sitting IN HER AUDIENCE in her comedy shows (which I find rather creepy in a thought police-y way that seems fundamentally at odds with the spirit of standup) and when people booed because you know, they came to hear some jokes, she had security remove them.

Amy Schumer most recently really, really ticked me off on a personal level by completely screwing up my Netflix ratings system.  Oh, you noticed that too??  Yeah, she’s singlehandedly responsible for that new and horrible change on Netflix where the ratings stars have been removed and replaced with percentages that indicate how similar movies are to other things you’ve watched in the past.  So now you get 10,000 suggestions for lame versions of genre movies you’ve already watched a lot of (so if you watch horror movies fairly regularly, all horror movies, including terrible ones, will come up at 98%).  And if you want to watch something out of a genre, it is much harder to find them (so a Civil War movie will come up at 47% simply because you haven’t watched as many of them as you have horror, but of course that would always happen since there are only like 3 Civil War movies anyway).  If you like horror movies, I suppose this is ok, but if you like good movies and just happen to have watched a lot of horror movies along the way, good luck finding an engaging period drama when you’re in the mood for one.

The reason why this happened was because people, allegedly “alt-right” people, gave Schumer’s recent comedy special, the one where she apparently talked about what her girly bits smell like for a super long time and then the punchline wasn’t even funny, one star.   Since even reputable critics said it was terrible, whether this alt-right thing even happened is open for debate, but it’s irrelevant.  Imagine having the kind of power on this earth that when something doesn’t go quite your way, you have the ability to simply whoop! change the rules!  Hey, 50 million American Netflix subscribers, FU, Amy has spoken.  She is our anointed princess and has special needs. She cannot be criticized, her lovely skin is too thin for that (and this is not an exaggeration, the woman cannot take criticism and has proven as much on several occasions).  Again, I just find all this to be incredibly strange and creepy.

When I did a Google search of Amy Schumer for the same time period as Goldie Hawn, the time when Goldie was reaching peak saturation, there was only a fraction of the articles, most of which had to do with her recent breakup with her boyfriend.   It is very evident to me that Hollywood licked their finger, stuck it into the wind, realized “whoops, Amy’s not so popular right now, let’s go with Goldie instead!”  And that’s what they did.  Now maybe it was all about making money – most things are – but in light of the fact that Netflix, lovely, independent Netflix, has redone their ratings system essentially FOR Amy, something about the context of it all bothers me.   Just like the Today Show forcing Matt Lauer, a man who interviews presidents, to spend his days interviewing soft-core porn actors, I think this means more than just a studio trying to make back some dough on a movie that may flop.  I think they’re trying to redeem her, trying to trick people into seeing a Goldie Hawn movie without really realizing oh — it’s an Amy Schumer movie.

Hey, whatever, that’s cool.  Free market, and all that.  But Hollywood has about as much in common with a free market as Venezuela.  Come on, we all know that liberalism reigns supreme in Hollywood and thus when they anoint a princess, they intend for it to stick.  They do it again and again – continue pushing someone who it’s pretty obvious that most people dislike (cough cough, Lena Dunham, cough cough) because they have the right politics, and drop people who are popular, because they don’t.   I think that is scary.  I see zero, nada, nil difference between that and between a mean, small-minded, 50’s town that insists upon cultural conformity, only it’s even worse, because these people are churning out what is, in essence, political propaganda for not only our nation, but for our planet.  At least in the 50’s you could move to a different town or to the country or city or close the door and pull down the shades and do what you wanted to then.

If you’re a Chuck Schumer superliberal, I suppose that’s ok, but for the rest of us – even those of us with just a mildly liberal bent instead of liberal extremists – it takes our voice away.  The opinions and life experience of millions are not reflected in the entertainment we consume.  It kills debate and dialogue and curiosity and diversity of opinion.  It kills art.  The people we have hired to produce art for us are making crappy art because they are so busy making propaganda and arranging the system to support those who they’ve deemed will make the right sort of propaganda for them.  And when we start to notice it and decide, eh, maybe Amy Schumer just isn’t for me, they try to pull a switcheroo on us and substitute in Goldie Hawn instead.

Maybe this doesn’t bother you that much.  It bothers me, though.  I see through the smoke and mirrors now, it isn’t just business.  If it was, they’d have been promoting Amy Schumer, since it’s an Amy Schumer movie – at least as much if not more than Goldie Hawn.  They’d be promoting Kurt Russell, who also has a big movie coming out this week, as much or more than Goldie (yes, I Googled him too, and he had way, way less coverage for a much, much bigger movie).  They aren’t doing these things and that indicates to me that this is more important to them than just the average flop movie that Hollywood craps out every other day.   They want this particular movie to succeed just like they wanted Fifty Shades of Gray to succeed for some reason, and so they promote Goldie, because who doesn’t love Goldie?

I just wish they’d put her in a movie that I wanted to see instead of using her to sell a movie that I have negative-a-million interest in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservatism is failing the Kobayashi Maru exercise.  Badly.

It’s a Star Trek thing.  You know, the unwinnable game, the unbeatable scenario?  The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a Starfleet final exam in which every possible outcome leads the failure of a mission and the loss of some or all of the people involved.  The purpose of the test is to force potential captains to recognize that sometimes in life there is no solution that involves you getting what you want.

To be a captain, a leader, it means you will have to face bitter defeat, make heartbreaking choices, and accept compromise instead of playing only to win regardless of the cost.   The Kobayashi Maru is a damn good test, because anyone who is arrogant enough to imagine that they could be leaders of men, must be wise enough to acknowledge that you can’t always get what you want.   To try only ensures that you will fail.  And when leaders fail, those they lead pay the ultimate price.   Leadership is a heavy burden to bear and before assuming the mantle, it’s important to understand just how heavy it is.

James Kirk cheated on the Kobayashi Maru exercise.  He reprogrammed the computer to give him the option to win and received a commendation for original thinking.  That’s the kind of awesome that we as exceptional Americans love to see in our heroes.   We admire the unrepentant bulldog who never gives up, never gives an inch, takes no prisoners, who defends every blade of grass on the football field and takes on all comers with bare fists and beats em all down.   But real life is not lived by Hollywood action heroes or fictional spaceship captains.

Real life involves constant compromise and biting your tongue and picking your battles.  It involves innumerable wars that are not worth waging because the costs are too high and you have to conserve your resources.  Some chances aren’t worth taking, some arguments aren’t worth making, some opportunities are best walked away from.  Sometimes you settle for the second and third and fourth best options even when you hate them because you just can’t do better.

You can’t cheat your way through real life.  It isn’t a simulation that you can easily trick.  It’s full of real people who ALSO want to win everything all the time and to always have their way and are working just as hard as you are to attain those goals.  A world where everyone went to the mat over everything all the time accepting only unconditional victory in every case would be horrible.

There is a large and vocal set of small government conservatives and libertarians who think it is crazy terrible to try and work with Trump and his supporters.  On anything.  They would prefer to maintain a doctrine of purity and construct thickwalled towers of dogma and ideology in which we can all huddle together and argue about the gold standard and how many illegal immigrants can dance on the head of a pin until such a time as Rand Paul achieves the next level of human evolution and ascends to the heavens to usher in the glorious new conservo-libertarian dawn.

The problem is, nobody else wants that.    We can’t win.  I hate it that we can’t win, but we cannot win.  Most Americans do not want smaller government.  It’s just a fact.  We can hold our breath until we turn blue and fall down and roll around on the floor for a while slobbering all over the place but they’ll just step over us on the way to the freebie trough. And the more freaked out and dogmatic and ideological we are, the more people are going to ignore what we have to say.  If you don’t believe it, take a look at the joke that once was the far left.  Nobody cares about anything they have to say any more, they’ve made themselves utterly irrelevant.  Even people who mostly agree with them have turned away.

Conservatives, libertarians, we won’t accomplish anything – not politically nor culturally  – with a purity doctrine.  We’ll only hasten our own demise and everyone else’s that much faster.  In order to maintain what little influence we have over the course of human events, we MUST stay realistic.  We have to set attainable goals and work towards them rather than holding out for an ideal scenario which will never come to pass.  We have to embrace pragmatism.

Political pragmatism is an algebra equation.  With any president short of the fabled Electable-Libertarian-Unicorn-Who-Exists-Only-In-Ur-Dreams, there will be gains to civil liberty/smaller government, and losses to civil liberties/smaller government.  One has to balance both sides of that equation to really know what you’re getting.

One of our (viable) options was Hillary Clinton, who I believe would have been a substantial net loss on just about every front – not only would she have done nothing to advance the cause of liberty or shrink government, she’s a warmonger, she supports the crooked and racist criminal justice system, she doesn’t mind if people are being forced to bake cakes and pay for other people’s birth control and buy health insurance they don’t want, she salivates at the idea of people forced to give up their guns and their homeschools, she wants to pour gobs more money into the failing education system and empower colleges to declare people guilty of thought crimes and sexual assault without due process.

Clinton was being supported by a thoroughly corrupt and deceitful media.  Her supporters are Puritanical bullies and busybodies that intend to police every aspect of your life and mine.  They would have not only continued the culture war being waged against conservative values, but they would have advanced it.  We KNOW these things and many others are true because we have her history and her record and that of her party and followers to prove it.   President Hillary Clinton would have been a huge loss for the cause of liberty with no offsetting gains.  And nothing I, or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or Evan McMullin could have said or done would have had ANY influence on her presidency or the beliefs of her supporters.  As a personally conservative, politically libertarian person, I was utterly powerless in the face of a Clinton presidency.

Our other option was Donald Trump, the dark horse.  He may be terrible for civil liberties and small government in some ways, but at the same time, possibly better in others.  At the least, the Supreme Court is safe.  On cultural issues, a politically incorrect Trump presidency, despite its cringe-inducing crassness, is almost certainly better than 4-8 more years of direct liberal assault against traditional values.  Additionally he’s a huge thumb in the eye of the media and Hollywood-types who are, of course, the main traditional-values-assaulters.  Even in the worst case (realistic) scenario, Trump is a break-even in my mind.  Maybe worse on some things, but countered by the things he’s better on.  And the issues on which he is – hypothetically, since we truly don’t know his intent – the most objectionable, he is largely powerless to act, thanks to the checks and balances of our political system.

On balance, if you can hold back the bile long enough do the math, Trump is better.   And perhaps it’s naive of me, but I do believe that conservatives and libertarians have some sway over the beliefs of his supporters and upon his presidency.  If we play our cards right, our voices could be heard and listened to.  Certainly by our Senators and Congressmen and our state lawmakers if no one else.  Even if Donald Trump is operating out of sheer self-interest, he knows that he needs our support and that of our legislators, and thus we have some influence over policy.  It’s going to be a hard road, to be sure, but we aren’t powerless and wandering in the wilderness like we would have been in a Clinton administration.

Of course, this all goes away if we decide to throw a purity politics temper tantrum and refuse to work with the guy because he isn’t perfectly perfect.  He’s objectionable.  We all know that he’s objectionable, what is the point of dredging it up over and over again?  He’s rude, and terrible, and has no experience.  He’ll make mistakes, a lot of them.  Some of his supporters are hooligans.  But does it make the them go away if we isolate and demonize them?  Does it make Trump go away and John Kasich president?  What does a rigid adherence to dogmatic purity accomplish other than alienating an awful lot of people, who unlike the majority of Hillary supporters, are people we could possibly influence with our message?

I personally did not vote for Donald Trump, I have no love for the man at all, but Trump is what we have to work with.  If you’re poor and hungry, you don’t go to your cupboard and see a packet of ramen and refuse to eat because it’s salty and gross.  You choke it down because it will sustain you for a little longer and then you get to work to better your position in life so that hopefully, in a few months or years or decades, you’ll have something other than ramen in your belly.

In the here and now, this minute, we have to WIN.  We have to stop the march of progressivism.  Period.  It’s not an option.  We win now or we lose forever – at least for the duration of our lifetimes, and probably our children’s and grandchildren’s as well.  They’re taking over and they will settle for nothing less than the complete annihilation of the American way of life.  Strong words, I know, but I’m not sure we have the luxury of pretending any longer that their agenda is anything short of that.  They’ve showed their hand.  They want classical philosophers out of the colleges and dudes in women’s bathrooms and pedophilia to be recognized as a valid lifestyle choice.  They want gun control and population control.  They want control, period.  They aren’t going to stop because we play fair and are nice to them.

We have to stop them.  And we also have to prevent Donald Trump from crazying us into oblivion.  To do that we have to build bridges to demographic islands that we’d probably never go on vacation.  Building these bridges is job one, before we get caught up in if-onlys and daydreams of better candidates and squabbles between barely different factions about what the cherry on top of the conservative sundae ought to taste like.  We don’t have a conservative sundae!!  We’re subsisting on ramen here!

Look over at the left, friends, see that infighting and squabbling going on?  How they can’t seem to quit scratching and clawing at each other long enough to get their sh– together?  That’s us.  We’re more polite about it (slightly) but it’s still us.  It’s not time for wonkish debates about tariffs and crony capitalism.  No one agrees with us.  Focus on the change we can affect instead of arguing over pipedreams.  Stop wasting energy trying to pin down the fine details of goals that are utterly unattainable.

Reprogramming is not an option.   There is no way to beat unbeatable scenario.   The rules are what they are.  We can #NeverTrump from now till oblivion but the reality is, the dude won when we could not win.  We gotta win before we can start dictating the terms of our victory.   If I had a magic wand, of course I’d prefer things to be my way.  But I don’t, and we lost.  Until we win, we have to compromise.  Compromise is what America is all about.

Rejoice, because we could not have compromised with Hillary.  We can with Trump, but we have to be willing to bend a little.  Or a lot.  Maybe as much as we can without snapping in two.  But that is what the job is requiring of us.  Flexibility.  Now what can we do within the confines of reality, to get as much as we can of what we want?

Personally, I don’t intend to go down with the ship – at least not without saving as many of my people as I can.   The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and they sure as hell outweigh my feelings of butthurt over my late, lamented, bastardized principles.

Sympathy for the Devil

Keeping with my theme of the week which is apparently coming to the defense of politicians I don’t like, let’s talk about crowd sizes and the National Park Service.

Hey, I always root for the underdog, it’s a character flaw, I can’t even help myself.  The Patriots are going down hard, BTW.

Have you ever dealt with someone who lied about you for their own nefarious purposes?  Oftentimes, even after the offender has been caught in a bunch of lies, people still keep believing them.  It’s very odd.  You find yourself forced to go to the mat over every little thing to prove your innocence.  Eventually, if they’re a practiced liar, they’ll figure this out and start lying about things that you can’t prove, or taking things out of context that actually did happen kind of, and twisting them around.  You honestly can’t even defend against it.  Everything you do to try and clear your name, they take and use against you.  And people just keep believing them.

I have dealt with this type of person once upon a nightmare, and it’s crazymaking.  It puts you into this weird foxhole mindset where you start feeling pressured to show everyone how deceitful the liar truly is.  You experience an almost irresistible urge to challenge every lie they tell, to debunk them all with facts and figures and screenshots.  This quickly devolves into a situation where you actually look MORE crazy than the person who is telling the lies to begin with.  The liar clucks their tongue and steps back with an arched brow and remains detached from your meltdown.  Nobody looks at your screenshots even when you demand that they do. Your enemy smirks slightly as you spin your wheels, and in the meantime they carry right on murmuring lies to egg you on.

I don’t know if Donald Trump’s crowd was bigger or smaller than Obama’s.  I DO know that the media has lied constantly about the guy right up to a magical disappearing and reappearing MLK bust on that very same day.  I know that a lot of Trump supporters live in places that are far away from Washington DC.  I know that it was pouring rain and it was cold and there were a lot of aggressive protesters.  I know that there were areas that were roped off for security that weren’t roped off during Obama’s inauguration.  I personally would have been scared to go to the protest in case something terrible happened.  In short, what I know is that no matter what the size of the crowd, the spin that was put onto it by the media was highly, highly uncharitable.  It was deceitful reporting under the BEST of interpretations (that the weather and protesters kept people away), and under the worst of interpretations, the media was out and out lying about the size of the crowd, using misleading pictures to imply that turnout was low when it wasn’t.

So let’s say you’re Donald Trump.  You look out as you’re giving your speech and see a crowd of people that looks pretty darn big from where you’re standing, and then later you find out that the media, which has lied about you quite frequently, is talking lot of smack about how many people were there.   What would you do?   Say nothing?  Take the high road?  Reminder – the media keeps LYING.  They had already flagrantly lied once that day.  Wouldn’t you want to prove them wrong?  Because I would.  It would piss me off, no doubt about it.  Even if I could have bit my tongue at first, if people kept spreading the lie again and again, and reporters kept pushing me, I’m not sure I could have kept silent about it in the long term.   That’s why I am not a politician, I guess.

Let’s never forget that about Donald Trump.  The dude is not a politician.  Frankly, if I like anything about him, it’s that.  He’s not polished and practiced and careful, he’s not running everything past a control group and a press secretary before he speaks.  This means he may look stupid or rash sometimes and mentions 400 pound hackers during a political debate, but you know, maybe at least he’s relatively honest about what he’s blurting out in the heat of the moment.  I have NO doubt that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John McCain and any of the lot of them are all just as narcissistic and megalomaniacal as Trump.  They’re just better at hiding it.

If the press was lying about the size of the crowd, that’s evil.  Even if they were just manipulating the info because rain, protesters, etc may have kept people away and that resulted in a smaller crowd, that’s STILL pretty darn evil.  In the meantime, how many lies have they reported and retracted just since the election?  I question the purity of their motives.  I canNOT believe they are still running this lie/retract game and that they are not being held accountable by anyone over it.

Speaking of accountability, now let’s talk about the National Park Service.  This is an organization I happen to know quite a bit about because a very close relative of mine used to work there.  As most people know, some employees at the Park Service reposted the “small crowd size” post on Twitter and as a result, all Park Service employees had their Tweeting privileges revoked.   Temporarily.  Pending further training.

Let me tell you something about the way the bureaucracy of the Park Service works.  When one person had an accident on a riding lawn mower, NO ONE was able to use riding lawn mowers until there had been an investigation into why and any necessary retraining had taken place.  Everyone lost their lawn mover privileges because of one person’s mistake.  Temporarily.  Pending further training.  Sound familiar?

Employees of the Park Service are not allowed to just act however they want in public when wearing their uniform.  They have to be polite to customers, for example. They have to be clean cut.  They can’t walk around smoking or chewing tobacco and spitting everywhere.  They can’t hand out religious tracts or Amway brochures or say mean things to people or jabber on their cellphones.  They can’t make out with their girlfriends or boyfriends on the job or hit on their clientele.  They are not even allowed to go to bars or purchase beer in a store while wearing their uniform.  The Park Service holds their employees to a certain standard of behavior.  Park Service employees are representatives of the Federal Government, led by the President, who was elected by at least some of the people, and as such, they are supposed to behave in a certain way.

Any business does that.  I’m sorry, but indiscriminate tweeting is not a human right.   The account was a PARK SERVICE account.  I don’t follow the Park Service for political commentary, I follow them to know if the boat ramp is open and if it’s ok to have a campfire this week or not.  It was completely inappropriate for whoever-it-was to post derogatory pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration.  At what place of work could ANYONE tweet embarrassing stuff to humiliate their boss?  Even if it was true, could you post “Hehe Ed the Boss has dandruff and halitosis and his girlfriend cheated on him” on a company-owned Twitter account and not expect to have some blowback from that??

The fact is, most government agencies did not even have Twitter accounts at the beginning of the Obama administration.  So it’s a new frontier in terms of courtesy and procedure and what’s right and wrong.   Whoever posted the offending tweet was wrong to do it.  Period, end of story.  Now ya know, gang.  Don’t do what Donnie Don’t does.  It wasn’t wrong for the bosses to correct that mistake any more than it was wrong for them to want to prevent unnecessary lawn mower accidents.  People get fired for things they post on their own PERSONAL Twitter accounts, not only their job ones, just ask Justine Sacco.

Yet again, the media reported on this in a completely misleading and inflammatory fashion.  But you know what, try as they might, it doesn’t make me hate Trump.  IF anything it makes me feel more kindly disposed towards him.  Even after he made an ass out of himself worrying about the crowd size.  Because I get where he’s coming from.  If he feels he’s being wronged, it only speaks to the dude’s humanity that he reacts to it.  Politics haven’t dehumanized him yet.  While his reactions are unpredictable and not always as presidential as I would personally like, this may yet turn out to be entirely better than an automaton who robotically gives the “correct” answer in public and then continues politics as usual behind closed doors.

Beyond all that, call me crazy but I think he’s probably telling the truth.  I’m not saying he’s right, but I think that HE thinks he’s right.  Most likely scenario in my mind is that the media is lying and that the pics shared far and wide were indeed misleading.  Not only because they’ve lied so many times recently, not only because they’ve lied about crowd sizes in the past, but because of Trump’s reaction to them.  If he was actually trying to lie about the size of the crowd, he’dve let it go after firing the first salvo.  Because any practiced liar knows the less you talk about the lie, the sooner it goes away.  You let the other guy bluster and pull out their screenshots while you’re cool as a cucumber.   You know, like the media was doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Define creepy as f—.

Or, once again I must waste my day defending Mike Pence even though I don’t even like him.

It’s been recently reported by the ever-so-honest-and-ethical Rolling Stone magazine that Vice President Mike Pence has possibly, publicly, affectionately called his wife “Mother”.  Like a nickname or term of endearment, I guess.  This has been deemed by the guardians of the gates of culture to be “creepy as f—“.  Implication being, this in some way disqualifies the man for the presidency.  Perpetual bottom feeder Slate has issued a call for anyone who has this hideous offense on tape to come forward.

Is it, though?  Is it creepy?  Is it frightening, or sinister, or is it just…different?

A quick Google search (the kind that journos never seem to bother doing) reveals that it used to be very common for spouses to call each other Mother and Father or Mommy and Daddy.   It was considered a term of respect and endearment.  But whatever, it’s not like 1885 any more, losers!

I know of at least 3 other couples where the husband occasionally called the wife “Mother” or “Mommy”.  2 of them were my grandparents.  Like Mike Pence, my grandparents were also from Indiana.  I don’t mean to say this is an Indiana thing, or that everyone from Indiana does this, but just that that was my experience.   In my lifetime, I have witnessed firsthand two actual couples from Indiana doing the “mother” thing.  It wasn’t sinister, just something they said now and then.  They also used to say “that scared the liver out of me” and “shit fire to save matches” too.  I found it colloquial and quaint.

The other couple was Ronald and Nancy Reagan.  I recall this being somewhat of a joke during his administration.  “Reagan calls his wife MOMMYsnortchortleguffaw!!!”  Another quick Google (try it, reporters, it’s easy and fun!) search brought up a rather charming little tale told by Nancy, where she described the origin and evolution of the term.  They had had their first child and called her “Patti Poo” as a nickname, and this turned into “Mommy Poo” and “Daddy Poo” and over the course of a long time marriage, cutesy pootsy nicknames just sort of stick around and make themselves at home.   And Reagan, most would concede, was a decent enough president, even those who disagree with his politics.  His calling his wife “mommy” did not render him unfit for office.

Fact: The Pences have 3 children.  They’ve been married for over 30 years.  Nicknames have a way of hanging around over the course of time.  Other people have used the same nickname in the past, even presidents.  People who have children often refer to each other in “mom” and “dad” terms in front of the kids to this very day (I think it would be quite a challenge to find ANY parents who have not done this occasionally).

Opinion: This is creepy as f—.

My husband and I call each other “Dear”.  It started off completely sarcastically on both of our parts, snarky, an inside joke whereby we demonstrated our extreme Gen-Xer coolness by using an outdated form of interpersonal address.  Over time, it became part of the way we talked to each other.  I sometimes hear it come out of my mouth and I’m surprised.  I’m not a “dear” person, not at all; honeys and sweeties generally do not emanate from my vocal chords.   Dear is not an intentional tender expression I carefully and lovingly selected that carries a massive amount of meaning for me.  It’s an accident of habit.  If the meaning of the word dear changed, if it took on some sort of sinister and taboo implication in the minds of everyone, I’m not totally sure I’d be able to break the habit.  I don’t even think about it.  Dear happens.

I once knew a couple where the wife called the husband “Homer.”  They got together before the Simpsons was on the air, and called each other “Homeboy” and “Homegirl” before they were married.  Awww.  Over time he dropped the nickname, she didn’t, and it turned into “Homer”.  The habit was hard to break and even though years later everyone would laugh and joke around about the nickname and say ‘D’Oh” when she said it, it stuck anyway.   The meaning of Homer changed.  But she couldn’t help it.  Homer happens.

To anyone with an ounce of charity in their body, Mike Pence calling his wife “Mother” is a harmless endearment.   Quirky, old-fashioned, unusual maybe, but not creepy as f—. Unfortunately, charity seems in short supply these days.

Something that I find creepy as f— is how people have sexualized EVERYTHING.  There is nothing that is off limits.  Bert and Ernie are gay for each other.  Piglet and Pooh are gay for each other.  Frodo and Sam are gay for each other.  Woody and Buzz are gay for each other.  Sherlock and Watson are gay for each other.  Putin and Trump are gay for each other.  Santa is a child molester.  Snow White is doing the Seven Dwarfs.  Mike Pence likes to wear diapers and suck a binky and call his wife “Mother”. Everything is sex, everything is a kink.  We’re all perverts, isn’t it fabulous?  The idea that a person can have any type of existence that isn’t completely governed by the mercurial whims of their insatiable nethers is apparently a foreign concept.  Everything is reduced to bumping genitals.

But not everything is about that.  Not even most things are about that.  Just because a gutterminded Rolling Stone reporter can envision a dirty roleplay with a stern mother and a naughty naughty boy doesn’t mean that is really what Mike Pence had in mind when he called his wife “Mother” in front of a room full of people.  In fact, I’d say that’s kind of proof that it ISN’T a sexual thing for him.   After all, Reagan’s “mommy” usage certainly did not devolve into a situation where he was so ruled by his animal instincts that he started having sex in the Oval Office or anything crazy like that.

There are a lot of things that I find super creepy.  I find people sending their political opponents used tampons in the mail creepy.   I find singing songs of tribute to presidents on comedy shows creepy.  I find referring to pedophilia as a “viable lifestyle choice” creepy.   I find overseas assassinations using drones creepy.  I find burquas creepy.  I find Vajazzling creepy.  I find using the IRS to target political foes creepy.  I find the Podestas’ art collection creepy.   I find “shouting ur abortion” creepy.  I find Joe Biden’s touchyfeeliness creepy.  I find furries creepy.  I find presidential campaigns run by omniscient computer programs creepy.  I find wearing giant vaginas and splattering oneself with fake menstrual blood creepy.  I find taking ones’ children to a parade where people are wearing giant vaginas and are splattered with fake menstrual blood creepy.  I find the NSA spying on American citizens creepy.  I find the media colluding with presidential candidates creepy.  I find spirit dinners creepy.  I find sexualizing cartoon characters creepy.  But NO ONE CARES what I find creepy, and no one should care what Mike Pence calls his wife.

Not everything is about sex, guys.    I know some of you respectable journalism types are trying to dress this “ew icky” story in a purty costume and say it’s about women’s rights or respect or some such but c’mon. You like this story, it attracts you like flies to horse apples, solely because you think it makes your political opponent sound like a perv.  Otherwise you and your readers wouldn’t be saying it’s “creepy as f—” FIRST and then bringing up your more noble reasoning second.  In fact I suspect you love the noble reasoning angle because it lets ya sneak in a wink, wink, nudge, nudge over the juicy implications.  I’m sorry your lives are that empty.  I’m sorry that all you have to define yourselves by, is sexuality.  I think that sounds like a pretty sad way to live.

Some of us can see through the smoke and mirrors and understand that a guy saying something nice to his wife is not a bad thing.  Even if it’s something we don’t personally say, even if it’s a guy whose politics we abhor, it’s not a big deal and certainly not news.

Now quit making me defend Mike Pence, would ya?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I…den-tity…poli-tics?

The only thing the media has been able to do for the last five years is shout “IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS!!” at everything and then when the right wing finally says “Um, i…den-tity…poli-tics?” you freak out and figure that the only way they could have possibly learned that phrase is from the KKK. – Scott Alexander

The above quote is from a blog post on Slate Star Codex that I read about a week after the election.  I’ve been turning it around and around in my mind ever since.  Good post, well worth a read.  http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/16/you-are-still-crying-wolf/

A mystery that has long plagued me about identity politics is how come Republicans have been so, so very complacent about being called racists and sexists and white supremacists and anti-education and haters of the poor lo these past few decades??  Why didn’t they ever fight back?  At times it’s almost as if they INVITE the charges, saying absolutely idiotic things and framing arguments as if catering to the lowest common denominator.

After I realized that I was no longer a liberal any more because it made no sense and was unworkable in the real world, I took a brief look at the Republican Party and was like “nah.”  I didn’t know much about history back then, I was just a kid, but what I saw, I didn’t like.  There didn’t seem to be anything to the Republicans other than hating on other people.   Their arguments seemed based around meanspiritedness and warmongery.  They seemed to take perverse glee from being hated.  One time I saw Lynne Cheney on The Daily Show and she was laughing at how people called her husband Darth Vader.   She had a doll that was Dick Cheney dressed in a Darth Vader costume.  Ha ha, what a joke.  She was laughing at the idea that entire nation thought her husband was a villain.

But people kept voting for them anyway.  I could not wrap my brain around it.  They seemed so stupid and evil compared to Democrats.  I don’t agree with the Democrats, but at least they mean well, I remember thinking.  The Republicans may be correct, but they’re awful.

Now, with a couple more decades and a lot more life under my belt, I realize that there is actually a very well reasoned philosophy underlying conservatism.  It’s by far a more consistent and rational belief system than that of the Left (especially the far-left social justice warriors.)  Republican politicians rarely make the arguments, but they are valid, and most people who vote Republican instinctively understand them.  But WHY was that not sold to me 25 years ago when I first started looking??  Why are Republicans so darn bad at making their own case?  And why have they been so complacently playing the “we are a wretched hive of scum and villainy” part in some bizarre cosplay with the Democrats?

Not so long ago there used to be a very vibrant intellectual conservative movement.   People like Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley among many others.  Look up old interviews with Ronald Reagan and it’s mindblowing how smart that guy is.  Growing up I had been brainwashed into thinking that Reagan was an ignoramus, a figurehead for a pack of reactionary Christian fundamentalists who thought ketchup was a vegetable.  But Reagan was sharp as a tack, quick-witted and funny, and very able to make the case for conservatism.  What the HELL happened between Ronald Reagan and the idiot brigade that was the Republican field of presidential candidates?

It appears that somewhere along the way, Republicans decided, as a unit, to abandon any kind of rational, reasoned argument and start appealing to the Stoopidz instead.   I don’t know why they would do that.  I’ve heard the idea of “the Southern Strategy” where maybe they realized that a right passel o’ racist troglodyte Democrat voters of the South were up for grabs and so the Repubs embraced racism to woo them.

But here’s the thing.  I don’t find Republicans to be particularly racist.   The media calls them that and spins the narrative to play it up, but just like with Reagan-so-dumb, the facts don’t support it.   Furthermore, I don’t get how alienating millions of voters by snuggling with the KKK could ever be seen as a viable way to garner support for your party. The Southern Strategy idea makes no sense. Racism as a way to get votes in parts of the country that are NOT the South (for the record, I completely reject the stereotype that Southerners are racist, I am just trying to apply common sense to this interpretation to show how ridiculous the idea is), OR in places where a good percentage of voters are minorities (aka – the South) REALLY makes no sense.  Surely it would cost them way more votes than it would earn.  So even if the Southern Strategy was a thing, why would all Republicans from Bobby Jindal to Mitt Romney still be clinging to racism to this very day?  Why would racism be a Republican thing NOW even if it was a temporary strategy?

It’s nonsensical.  Thus, I have a new theory: both the Democrats and Republicans – the mainstreamers in charge of the parties, I mean – liked the status quo.  Because the status quo kept them in power and made them a lot of money.  And what worked to maintain the status quo, was this strange little dynamic where the part of the good guys, the rebels, the underdogs was played by the Democrats, and the part of the sinister bad guys plotting in smoke-filled back rooms was played by the Republicans, and everybody was ok with that.   The tit-for-tat back and forth was just for show. Sometimes the donkeys won, sometimes the elephants won, and everyone had job security and a nice healthy bank account.

What happened?

Gradually over the course of the last decade or so, I think the Democrats stopped playing by the rules.  Maybe they got taken over by the wackadoos.  Maybe they fell in love with their own heroic narrative.  Or maybe since they controlled the schools, the media, and the Hollywood elite, their bubble walls grew so thick they could no longer see through them any more.  For whatever reason, too many of them, leaders and voters alike, started to actually mean the stuff they said.   A majority of Democrats really started believing that conservatism was about nothing other than greed and oppression and wanting to turn back time to 1955 and that they themselves were the arbiters of everything good and just and holy in the universe.   The Republicans didn’t get the memo.  They kept dutifully playing the part of the bad guy, accepting the charges of racism and sexism and homophobia and whatever other isms and phobias that the Left cared to throw at them with a cockeyed grin and a spirit of good grace since they thought was all just for show.

I truly believe that the Republican leadership thought that right up until the start of this election cycle, it was bizness as usual.  It would be Bush vs Clinton 2016 and then whoever won, it would be happy happy joy joy after that and let’s all make some MONEYYYY!!!

But a good many Democrats did NOT think that, hence the rise of Bernie.  The Democrats are not yer grandad’s Democrats.   A goodly percentage of Democrat voters mean what they say.  And what they are saying, what a lot of us dumb ol’ redneck yokels have been screaming at Republicans for the past 10 years if not a bit longer, is that there is a culture war, dudes and dude-ettes, fer realz, and if you do not wake your complacent asses up and start leading here, they’re gonna “love and tolerate” us right into a civil war.

That’s what the Ron Paul thing was about, that’s what the Tea Party thing was about, that’s what the Ted Cruz thing was about.   But the Republican leadership was so scared of actual conservatism, so scared of Rand Paul and Tea Partiers and libertarian tendencies (because they might shake up that status quo, yikes, we may start making less money than we were) that tons of prominent Republicans, including Bob FREAKING Dole, came out against Ted Cruz in favor of Trump!  What the actual eff, Republicans!?!

Conservatives, we are betrayed.  The Republicans never meant to represent us.  That’s never been their deal.  They been playing footsie with the Democrats while they gave us hardworking inhabitants of Flyover Country just enough lip service to keep getting our votes.  They don’t have any interest in putting forth coherent, convincing arguments for smaller government, or offering conservative solutions for the problems of our country.  That’s why they never did it.  They were only playacting.  But the Democrats ain’t playing any more.  They’re serious now.  The game is over, we are playing for keeps.

By gutting every attempt at creating a coherent right-wing/libertarian philosophy for the last 2 decades, all the Republicans have to offer us now is identity politics, us vs. them,  Red vs. Blue, rural vs. urban, me vs. you.  But that approach allows the Democrats to define who we are, to force us into accepting an ugly identity that really is a bunch of made up bullshit.  Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, Jews, “liberated” women, and those damn cray-cray racist white Christian folks.  It’s a nation of caricatures and not individuals.

I reject that identity.   It’s based on the lie that Democrats made up, the lie that they profit from the most.   The idea that conservatism is meaningless, it’s racismsexismhomophobia wrapped in a flag and being humped by an eagle.  But conservatism is legit, it’s the Republican mainstream that stands for nothing.  They were performing some kind of interpretive dance with the Democrats to maintain the status quo.   It was a trick, a scam, a scheme, a sham.  They want us to buy in to the identity politics ploy now because it’s all they have left.  Because they think it will keep them in power that much longer and maybe this will all blow over eventually.

That’s all they want.  If they wanted more than power, more than control, they’d have managed to make a single coherent argument for the cause of liberty.  They’d have rallied around Rand Paul or Ted Cruz earlier, when it still mattered, instead of trying to shove various bland unlikeable status quo milquetoasts at us until it was way way way too late.

Unlike Sith Lord Dick Cheney, I am a libertarian conservative because I care about poor people.  Because I care about the environment.  Because I care about education.  Because I care about civil rights and tolerance.   And because I want peace on earth and goodwill towards all.  Not because of the color of my skin or anyone else’s.  Not because of religion or xenophobia.  Because I want a better world for my children and everyone’s children and the Democrats can’t deliver.  They got nuthin but identity politics and so now they’re enticing the Republicans to start a new game, the identity politics game.  “We’ll be the good guys, the heroes, the savers-of-the-day, and Republicans, you can be the fascist Nazi puppykillers, because you’re sooo good at being the bad guy.”

Conservatives, let’s take our ball and go home.

It ain’t easy, when it seems that everyone is pushing you into adopting a certain identity, to reject it.  It’s even harder when things are scary and unpredictable and it feels like it may be self-preservation to embrace that identity.  But we have to.  We have to do the hard work now of making our case without resorting to identity politics.  Those arguments are there, they are real, and they are better than the case that the left makes, because they are RIGHT.  They make sense, they are powerful.  We just stopped making them.

Identity politics is the refuge of those who have no tangible solutions.  That’s why the far left adores it.  Because their ideas are ridiculous and extreme and will never work in the real world.  That’s why they focus on divisions and offenses and groupthink and demonizing their opponents instead, because they have no valid ideas.   Let’s not do that.  We don’t have to, because we have the answers.  It may be easier in the short term, and it may feel good for a while, but in the long run it will not get us what we want.

The cure for toxic masculinity is Father Mulcahy

At the end of last year, 2016, a decent man died.  William Christopher, a character actor best known for playing another decent man, Father Mulcahy on MASH.  William Christopher’s death was overshadowed by the bigger names who shuffled off this mortal coil last year, but I think that he is very much worthy of a mention.

Father Mulcahy, as you probably know, was a gentle and kindly priest in a bad situation who earnestly tried help people, many of whom had very little use for him, even though it was pretty clear he had no idea how best to do that.    He was a character we don’t see a lot of any more – a decent religious person.  He wasn’t corrupted or sinister or preachy, he was just…good, in a very human way.  Not perfect, just good.

Around the time that William Christopher passed, there were several articles written about dearly departed celebrities and toxic masculinity.  Toxic masculinity is a concept that claims our culture is being slowly poisoned by an idealized Marlboro-esque version of manhood that is unattainable for any actual human males.  “Being a real man” in this pervasive, venomous climate is an unachievable goal – always strong, successful in every milieu, never needing help, never showing emotion (other than anger), highly and constantly sexual, immediately and excessively violent.   Sexual partners are disposable objects, meant to be used, discarded, and quickly replaced by a new conquest.  Any expressed interest in things that are traditionally viewed as “feminine” (childcare, fashion, romance, etc) is emasculating and to be avoided at all costs.

Prince and George Michael were held up as standard-bearers for a redefinition of masculinity that allowed for a more inclusive expression of maleness.  Here’s one.  https://thinkprogress.org/george-michael-pop-star-and-lgbt-icon-dies-on-christmas-day-958ece709a61#.y2m3fwy7b

And that’s great.   I like those guys too.  But in terms of conversations about masculinity, perhaps we are in need of some archetypes between the two extremes of genderfluid dudes with eyeliner and hairy chested p–sy grabbers.  Because if you look beyond the eyeliner, I’m not totally convinced that Prince and George Michael are anything to write home about in the non-toxic males department, either.

The concept of toxic masculinity involves a not-small element of sexual aggression.  You can make a pretty good case that sexual conquest at all costs is the core element, that all the rest of the toxicity grows out of that seed like an apple tree grows from a pip.  Thus, I’m not totally convinced that guys like Prince and George Michael, who glorify sex kind of a lot, are necessarily fixing the problem just because they’re wearing a flowing rayon shirt.

Real men are supposed to be always ready, willing and able to have sex at any time, preferably with a long line of disposable, forgettable, meaningless partners.  Real men should be willing to cross any line to achieve this goal; regardless of one’s personal beliefs, standards, or values, seizing any and every opportunity for sexual activity outweighs all other concerns.  A real man can never really be blamed for sexual peccadilloes, no matter who they hurt, because they really just can’t even help it and real men never say no anyway.  Real men are so highly sexual by their very natures that they should be willing to bend the rules of consent to get some – lying, cheating, psychological manipulation, even getting a little physical.  Sex is the most important thing in the world to a man.  It’s really all they care about.  In fact, they need it.  They DESERVE it.  A man who’s not getting laid is a joke, he’s less than a man.  Regardless of your sexual orientation, you can’t be a real man without sex.

George Michael and Prince both were all about sex.  95% of their songs were about sex.   Their songs read like a series of letters to a men’s magazine.  “Dear Penthouse, I met a girl named Nikki, and I guess you could say she was a sex fiend.”  Songs about nymphomaniacal strangers who were then forgotten written by Prince, songs where partners had to be psychologically manipulated into giving it up and then also forgotten written by George Michael, but sex, sex, sex.  If an overinflated emphasis on getting freaky is at least partially what toxic masculinity is all about, these guys are not above that, not at all.  A change of wardrobe really doesn’t matter much in the final analysis.  Toxic is toxic, even when it’s purple.

That’s where Father Mulcahy is different.   Because he was a priest, he was celibate.  Unlike Hawkeye, in his off hours he focused on other things than getting into the nurses’ uniforms.  He attempted to help others and worked at making himself a better person.  He usually failed at most of what he tried, but he regrouped and tried harder the next time.  Father Mulcahy was a nurturer.  He cared for orphans and the dying.  He was close with his family and supportive of his friends.  He was willing to give up sex forever in order to better care for his fellow human.  It’s a concept that feels almost foreign to us now, the idea that guys could ever do that?  That men could ever have a higher calling in this world than screwing anything that moved, it feels like an idea that the world has left behind.

Father Mulcahy was actually played by two different actors.  In the film version, he was played by Rene Auberjonois (probably best known as Odo on Deep Space 9) before William Christopher took over for the television show.  Neither of these guys, while both family men married for an impressive number of decades – since 1963 and 1957, respectively – are what I would call hypermasculine.  Or even regularmasculine.  They may not wear eyeliner and heels (that I am aware of) but at the same time, neither are brutish Neanderthals communicating in guttural grunts, belches, and the occasional “I’d tap that.”

We have an iconic character in Father Mulcahy that exists totally outside of sexuality, played by two actors who are also not exactly poster boys for stereotypical fart-burp-scratch-spit macho masculinity either.   I really like that.  It feels…refreshing.

I like believing that people like Father Mulcahy and the actors that portrayed him could possibly exist in the world, that there are some men for whom a long line of sexual conquests is not the defining factor of their masculinity. I want to believe in the existence of decent priests and slightly effeminate men with funny voices who have been married for 50 years.  I’m tired of Tinderswiping dudebros being the standard-bearers for all mankind.   I’m tired of the cynicism we all feel when any male person does anything seemingly benevolent or self-sacrificing – that they’re just doing it to get laid.  I’m tired of half the planet being reduced to a fleet of walking penises that require servicing as often as possible.  Because I think real men are so much more and better than animalistic man-children strutting through life on a mission to check items off their sexual bucket lists.

Prince and George Michael are not the non-toxic heroes that I need right now.

Now, you may be in a place where the hero you need is a guy who plays the part of a huge horndog with a perpetually raging hard on so long as he has gender fluidity.  That’s cool. But I’ll take Father Mulcahy instead.  Because real men are so much more than what toxic masculinity claims that they are.

 

He fought the law, and luckily escaped unscathed.

So apparently my son was detained by the police last week.

My son is 21 years old.  He lives with my oldest son in a small farm town of 300 people where he’s lived in his entire life.  Everyone knows everyone there.  My oldest son goes to college in a nearby city, and my younger son, the 21 year old, is working and saving money to go to school.  They split the rent on a small house.  Both very decent, well behaved kids.  Neither one of them ever gave me a moment of real trouble.  Sometimes they didn’t wanna do the dishes or mow the lawn, that kind of thing.  Minor.  I’m a lucky mom.

One of the things my son loves to do is go for walks.  He’s done it ever since he was a little kid.  He puts in some earbuds and walks around town for a while pretty much every night, or he rides his unicycle.  (yes, he rides a unicycle.  thug life.)  It’s just his thing.  Goes out for a while, gets some air, and then comes home.   It’s good exercise.

So a couple days before Christmas, he was going for a walk, and it was dark, because, winter.  He’s a big kid, 6 feet tall, 200 lbs, and he’s in one of those phases that kids go through, where he decided to grow his hair out long.   He was wearing a hoodie because it was winter.  He felt that although the weather was cold, he didn’t need a heavier coat.  He walks fast and he gets too hot in a heavy coat.  Basically, he was doing the exact same thing he does every night after work or school.  Same as any other day.

Out of nowhere, barely out of shouting distance of the house, he’s stopped by the police.  At first he didn’t hear them since he had his earbuds in and so they were a bit worked up right from the start.  But finally they get his attention.  They’re looking for somebody, they say. Somebody that looks kinda like him.   Where’s his ID?   Well, he didn’t bring his ID because he was just going for a walk.   Oh.  Hmm.  A walk.  Well.  That’s kind of odd.  You’re really not dressed for this cold weather, are you?   I think we’re going to have to keep you here until we can find out who you are.

I am going to pause here to thank Zeus, Buddha, and little Baby Jesus that my son is a relatively mellow and polite guy.  When my husband heard this story, he had the reaction that I think about 70% of all males would (rightfully) have, which is “they wouldn’t have been keeping me there!”  I think many, many guys, particularly 21 year olds engaged in a totally innocent pursuit that they’ve done daily since they were small children, peacefully walking a half-block away from their house listening to some tunes, would have become argumentative, even belligerent in this situation.  And sadly, we know the way that story ends far, far too often.

But thankfully, my son was chill about it and even more thankfully, my older son was home when the police knocked on the door.  (even more thankfully because I suspect that had the detainment stretched on much longer, Son#2’s patience would have dried up).  They asked, “Do you know someone named XYZ?” at which point Son #1 proceeded to have 7 heart attacks thinking his little brother had been run over or arrested. “Does he live here?”  Son 1 answered in the affirmative and then the cop, without any explanation whatsoever, barked “He’s legit!” into his shoulder radio and turned and walked off into the night leaving my older son wondering if he had just stepped into a very odd episode of 24 or something.

I am of two minds about this chain of events.

On the one hand, clearly, if there is a criminal running around a small town, the police should be able to investigate that.  That is what we want them to do, right?   No one wants a creep lurking in the neighborhood.  I certainly wouldn’t want my son going out for his nightly stroll and encountering said creep.  Furthermore, I admit that my son’s size and appearance were threatening/suspicious and worthy of a closer look.   I admit it was dark and cold and my son was lightly dressed.  It was probably just sensible that the cops should ask him a couple of questions in that scenario.  I do not fault the individual officers in any way for doing their jobs to protect our community.

It’s the greater context that is so concerning.  It’s the demand for “papers please” and their immediate suspicion and hostility and the condescending tone that the police seem to take whenever they interact with people.  It’s that feeling that we’re being policed not by a friendly neighborhood cop on the beat who knows his community, who is supposed to be there and who is not, but by paramilitary strangers who seem willing to shoot first and ask questions later.  Men, and even sometimes women and children, cannot peacefully walk around their own neighborhoods without risking a confrontation with cops.  But I know it’s a small risk, a slim chance, and I also know that police have millions of peaceful interactions with civilians every day.  I know that rationally, logically – but my heart and gut still feels like we just dodged a bullet, and I don’t mean a figurative one.

Ten years ago, in the city where my oldest son goes to college, a developmentally disabled man named Otto Zehm walked to the bank near his house, got some money from the ATM machine, and went to the nearest convenience store to buy a pop and a Snickers bar.  Somebody thought he’d been trying to steal money from the ATM and called it in.   An officer came at him from behind in the convenience store, without giving him any time to react, and knocked him to the ground with a baton roughly 15 seconds after entering the building.  Zehm was tasered about 30 seconds after the police officer entered the store.   He was hit a total of 7 times with a baton, then he was hogtied, put onto his stomach, and left that way for more than 16 minutes.  A non-rebreather mask not hooked up to oxygen was put over his face, and within 3 minutes, he stopped breathing.  By the time he got to the hospital he was brain dead.  He died two days later.   The officer in question was found fully in the wrong and sentenced to 4 years in prison.  (I mention that solely to demonstrate that this was not one of those gray-zone cases.)

Otto Zehm’s last words were “All I wanted was a Snickers bar.”   Just a guy out walking around, minding his beeswax.  For the last time.

We all have close calls every day.  Our car slips on the ice but we recover.  Our bodies are able to fight off a nasty germ.  We take an aspirin and dissolve a blood clot we didn’t even know was forming.  A bad guy passes by in the streets without noticing us.  Risking death is an inevitable, unavoidable part of life.  But as a mom you like to think that you can let your responsible, clean and sober, grown-ass adult kid walk a block from your house without inadvertently stumbling his way into a potentially fatal police confrontation.  If it happened to Otto Zehm, it could have happened to my son.

Being a police officer has got to be very far from easy.  I cannot imagine putting on a gun every day and knowing that I am going out into a world full of people who very well may try and kill me.  I can’t imagine the psychic toll that takes on a person.  But it is obvious we are putting our officers into situations that are too much for them, asking them to carry too heavy a burden, requiring them to enforce too many laws with inadequate training.  Some of the laws we expect them to enforce fairly and justly, are quite frankly unenforceable without a police state.  They operate under a bureaucratic structure that almost seems tailor-made to encourage corruption and abuse of power.  And yet so many of them are good, and want to do good.

I fully stand with police officers, but something has got to change here.   We’re putting our finest men and women, brave officers who want nothing more than to help our country and their communities, into situations where it’s too easy for them to make mistakes.   The system is setting our police officers up to fail, and then blaming it on them when it happens.   I think it does something to them.  I think it makes them see a potential enemy in every citizen.  And I think it makes the citizens immediately take a position of hostility, of distrust.   I think it makes the police too quick to use threat and force when a friendly tone and a polite question might do, and it makes the people too quick to argue and be disrespectful.   Everything escalates too easily.  On both sides.

Can we please just fix the system instead of waiting until things go wrong and holding individual officers accountable?

Defenders of the Gold Bikini II – The Fempire (doesn’t) Strike Back

In which Padme swoons, and dies.

Conveniently, just after I published my previous Gold Bikini essay (read it here https://atomicfeminist.com/2016/12/31/defenders-of-the-gold-bikini/) I stumbled on this article from a woman who apparently likes Star Wars even more than I do.   Read it, it’s kinda entertaining, if medically bullshitty (postpartum depression doesn’t kill people and it doesn’t normally start until days to weeks after you give birth; thus, Padme could not have died from postpartum depression.)  http://motherboard.vice.com/read/womens-healthcare-star-wars

It reminded me of something that has always felt way more anti-woman than the gold bikini.  Padme swooning and dying ostensibly over a man – under any circumstances, but particularly when she had two beautiful babies to care for.

No one does that.

Up until reading this article, I had always assumed that the Emporer had somehow murdered Padme from afar by draining her life energy, but the author makes a good case for this being an impossibility – after all, if the Emporer was strong enough to locate Padme and suck her dry, surely he’d have been able to sense and destroy Luke and Leia in their cradles as well.  He could have easily found Yoda on Dagobah and Obi-Wan on Tatooine.  He wouldn’tve needed Anakin or a clone army or the assassins he sent after Padme, he could have picked off the Senators and the Jedi one by one with the Force.  Using the rules of the universe itself, it simply cannot be true that the Emporer has this ability.  So apparently, as much as it pains me to admit it,  it seems that Padme really did die from a broken heart.  “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!”  I guess she meant it.

Obviously, another example of poor writing that detracts from the magic that is Star Wars.  But beyond that, it’s reeking of inherent sexism on a level that puts the gold bikini to shame.  A woman (not just any woman, but a Senator who had faced galactic war, evil robots, and horrible monsters with panache) is so invested in her man that she keels over dead because she is disappointed in him.   She would rather die, because, feelz, than live to raise her children, or to use her considerable influence over Anakin to try and stop him.  And the means of her demise?  Childbirth, naturally.  Not even a REAL childbirth-related death, like eclampsia or postpartum hemorrhage or puerperal fever (which like postpartum depression, takes days to weeks to kill).  830 women die every DAY from childbirth around the world, it’s a thing that does happen far too often, but Padme dies a made up, gimmicky death caused by scary uteruses going awry as they so often do.   Those things have a hair trigger.  Imploding uteruses kill!

If you wanna be pissed about something, my feminist friends, let’s be pissed about that.

There is absolutely NO purpose to Padme’s death.  NONE.  It’s all female weakness, female fragility.  The gold bikini had a purpose.  It had subtext and substance.  An enslaved woman rises up and using the chains of her oppressor and some impressive upper body strength, sets herself free.  Appropriate to the plot, situation, and genre.  Advances the story.  Conveys a deeper meaning without words.  Padme’s death was pointless and it wasn’t even canon, since Leia claims to remember her real mother – unless this is some kinda pre-birth midichlorien stuff, pfft, who even knows any more.    If the Emporer really didn’t kill off Padme, her death “in childbirth” makes no damn sense at all.

You know what would have been better?  If Anakin had actually created what he feared.  He strangled Padme and that thing alone very well could have been enough to kill her.  She bravely hung on long enough to push those babies out and then succumbed to her Anakin-induced injuries.  We could have dispensed with the prophetic dreams and given him a legit reason to feel jealous over Obi-Wan instead of that notion suddenly coming out of left field the way it does.   If his own jealousy and his own fear of losing Padme – because after all, a person can have that fear without having midichlorien-fueled nightmares, especially if that person had a terrible childhood and had already lost his mother – actually caused him to snap and Force-choke Padme in a fit of rage.  JMO, but accidental murder is a hell of a lot more compelling a reason to turn to the Dark Side then “I’m scared my baby-momma may die at the hands of her vicious uterus; corrupt me O Emporer”.

Yeah, it makes Anakin unlikeable.  But so does killing Jedi younglings.   So does his constant brooding and whining and indiscriminate genocide of Sand People.  He’s not supposed to be likeable anyway, he’s supposed to be Darth-fricking-Vader.  Nothing about Anakin is likeable.  Why draw the line at spousal abuse?

The unfortunate thing about being a woman – one of them – is that at least 1/3 of the time, if you die at the hands of someone else, it’s your male partner.  At least 1/3.  This is actually an improvement from historic levels of violence against women (which, we probably don’t even want to know).   Domestic abuse is endemic to humanity, unfortunately, and probably always will be, even if we someday live in a galaxy far, far away.  It’s not gratuitous to have Anakin kill Padme.  It’s honest.  If she had to go, at her partner’s hands is a far more realistic way to go than by an errant blaster shot or a runaway droid, and far, far more realistic than fatal swooning.

Padme dying either for legitimate medical reasons, or killed at the hands of her partner would have been vastly superior to a terminal case of female fragility and uterine implosion.  Padme’s death is sexist and gross and offensive and wrong.   It reduces Padme – brave, heroic Padme, the Senator who was once a Queen – into a quivering disaster and frankly a terrible mother.

My question is, given all that, why is everybody so hung up on the gold bikini?  Is it because it’s low hanging fruit (yes, that’s a joke.  Carrie and I got it.)

I’m not sure.

Being a woman is, at times, kind of a poopy gig.  Women have suffered a lot, and a lot of women still suffer fates far worse than a Sarlacc pit.  There are women who would give their eyeteeth to have the ridiculous privilege of coming to the year 1982 and being paid to wearing a silly, sexy costume in a movie.

We have our priorities so far screwed up as feminists, it’s like we don’t even know which way is up any more.  Too many people want to wear the mantle of feminism, without doing any of the work.   So they single out cultural details that are petty and trivial and inconsequential and shriek about them online while OTHER WOMEN ARE DYING.  For reals, dying.  They get kidnapped by Boko Haram and gang-raped on buses and have acid thrown in their faces and are killed by their fathers and brothers for going online or refusing to marry someone.  They die in childbirth or from disease or starvation or from domestic abuse.  In real life, those women don’t get to swoon and die from a broken heart because they’re sad over a cute boy.   They have to endure what they can endure, things that you and I would consider unendurable, and then they die, after a life so unbelievably difficult that we all should have broken hearts.

I don’t claim to know how to solve those things.  But I know how NOT to solve them, and berating a middle aged actress over a sexy outfit she was paid to wear 35 years ago is not the way.  Worse, it’s annoying good people who would otherwise be our allies to such an extent that they no longer want to hear about feminism and tune out.   Feminism has become a dirty word and it’s largely because of outrage porners who’d rather bitch about the slightly imperfect execution of the enormous privileges that we are so very, very fortunate to enjoy, rather than address real, actual issues facing real, actual women.

Men will always and forever like looking at women in skimpy clothing.  And people are good at making money off of these proclivities.  Those things are not going to change and they are not patriarchy or repression so long as it’s consensual and the women involved are adequately compensated.

I get it, fighting the hard fight is…hard.   I don’t do it, either.   But for the love of gold bikinis, don’t con yourself into thinking you’re doing something of substance, when you’re engaged in a convo over a goddamn movie costume.

 

 

 

 

 

Defenders of the Gold Bikini

I planned to write this essay before Carrie passed away.   She’d been in the media quite a lot recently and the topic was on my mind.

Even though I have some reservations about writing it now, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.  I don’t know if it’s a tribute, exactly, or if it’s just because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately.  Rest in peace, Carrie.

I am a child of the Star Wars generation.  Old enough to have seen every movie in the theater, but young enough so that I don’t really remember a world before Star Wars.   A New Hope came out when I was 7 and I fuzzily remember waiting for an hour in a long long line to watch it in a theater so packed I had to sit on the floor at my parents’ feet.

Let me pause here to tell a story about why Princess Leia is important to women my age most of all.   In the 70’s (and probably still), if you were a “certain type” of girl, the other girls didn’t really like you.  I wasn’t good at jumprope, my hair was always a mess, I knew the capital of Iceland, and I had a limited sticker collection, so I was perpetually on the outs.  While never a tomboy, I felt like I understood boys better and was desperate to play with them, but the boys wouldn’t play with girls.  Dilemma.  When Star Wars came along, all of a sudden they needed a girl to play with them because they needed someone to play Leia.   Unfortunately for me, I was not deemed pretty enough to play Leia, so I was usually relegated to the part of C3PO – but it didn’t matter.  I was always Leia at heart.

The magical thing about Leia is that she was in the truest sense of the word, a princess.  People use the word “princess” nowadays to mean a lot of negative things, but the real definition of a princess is simply a female person who cares about other people and works tirelessly to help them.   She does this because she is born into a leadership position and she recognizes that her position carries with it both privileges and responsibilities.  So she tries her best to live up to those expectations, even when it is hard, even when she would have chosen a different path, even when it comes at a great personal cost to herself.

The privileges of princesshood are earned by a life of personal sacrifice.   A true princess isn’t a spoiled, pampered brat.  Nor is she a superfeminine creampuff.  Princesses are tough.  They have to be in order to do the job.   But they’re still women, still female human beings.  Carrie Fisher rocked the part both ways.  She was a strong smart chick who actually seemed like she could fire a blaster, leap into a garbage pit, and yet didn’t look out of place in an awards ceremony handing out medals, either.

Any girl could be a princess like Princess Leia.  Even if you weren’t born a princess and even if everyone thought you made a much better C3PO. Because being a princess is the things that you do, and the things that you are, deep down inside where nobody else ever sees.  Girls love princesses not because they have sparkly satin dresses and long flowing hair, but because they embody positive, traditionally female values – kindness, bravery, cleverness, generosity, self-sacrifice.  While great beauty is not a prerequisite, being nicely dressed and well groomed definitely is, because it’s part of the job.  But it’s not the most important part, not at all, and being a true princess means that you understand a costume does not a princess make.   It’s the brain in your head and the heart in your chest and the will in your soul and the fire in your belly.

One can look at the gold bikini a couple of different ways.  If you take it simply at face value, a young woman was kidnapped by a space slug and forced to wear an outfit to humiliate not only her, but the people who care about her.   Princess Leia had to know before going into Jabba’s palace that if things went wrong, they would go wrong in a big way.  But she was willing to take the chance of capture, of humiliation, even death, to help someone she cared about.   She endured and triumphed.  Princess behavior.

On another level, a young woman was hired by Hollywood slugs to play a part in a movie, dressed in skimpy clothes for a few scenes because boys like young women in skimpy clothes and boys buy a lot of movie tickets.  Carrie Fisher was willing to wear this costume because she was a professional actress and it was her job to do so.  She made some money that then allowed her, in the future, to live comfortably, excel in intellectual pursuits, and raise a beautiful daughter.  It also helped the people she worked with to live happy and comfortable lives.   Princess behavior.  In life, even if you are a princess, you sometimes have to do things that are less than thrilling to you personally, because you’ve made a commitment to do them.   This is a sign not of a poor, helpless victim, but of a strong, brave person who is in charge of their own destiny.

Personally, I love the bikini.  I find it entirely appropriate to the situation, the movie and the genre.  What would have been exploitative is if the filmmakers had Leia wearing that getup when she was fighting on the forest moon of Endor, but she wasn’t.  She dressed like a princess and a warrior at all other times.  The bikini was a simple way to demonstrate the unfortunate situation that Leia was in and the stakes involved if Luke’s rescue attempt failed.   It may have even been a part of the plan, I’ve never been quite clear on that.  You can make an argument that she set herself up to be captured as part of Han’s rescue.  She may have been in the situation entirely by choice.

Regardless, Jabba was not a nice slug.  He was not granting Leia diplomatic immunity.  He hadn’t invited her over for tea and conversation.  And Tatooine was not a civilized place – they owned slaves there, they kidnapped droids there, they allowed small children to fly pod racers and Sand People were running amok.   Leia was in legitimate danger.  Yet at the end of it all – she saves herself USING HER OWN CHAIN.   No one saves her.  She saves herself.  Her boyfriend is blind and useless and her brother is desperately trying to avoid the Sarlacc pit.

It’s symbolism, people!  There is plenty of shoddy moviemaking to hate in Star Wars movies, but seriously, the gold bikini  + chain are not the things to focus on.  When Leia dispatches Jabba, it is the original girl power moment, it’s totally empowering.    She went into Jabba’s compound on her own terms and she left on her own terms.  Anybody could fire a blaster, but she strangled a giant space slug with her bare freaking hands.  How could you pull off that lovely bit of subtext unless Leia was put into that position to begin with – captured and chained???

Neither Princess Leia nor Carrie Fisher were, ever, for a single solitary moment, diminished by a gold bikini.  A costume is just a costume.  Women wear costumes for all sorts of reasons.   Because we have to or because we want to please other people or because we’re playing a role.  Sometimes we even wear costumes because we like to.  A costume doesn’t make a princess, because being a princess is what you do, and who you are, and not an outfit that you temporarily donned 35+ years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An atheist on Christmas

Society is: people together making culture – Karl Hess

Ah, Christmas.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  The time of year when atheists make a-holes out of themselves bitching about harmless displays of holiday cheer.

Hey, I get it.  We have a separation of church and state, and that’s a good thing.  It’s something to celebrate, not just at Christmas, but all year round.  The separation of church and state means that we can never have a theocracy in this country, it means that the government cannot tell us how, or if, to practice faith.  It means that the government cannot inflict religion upon you, or prevent you from practicing it.

Countries that have, or have had theocracies are many.   Many times they’re relatively benign and mostly unintrusive.  At other times they have been horrifically oppressive.  (then again, so have some atheist governments, but I digress)   It’s a worthy goal to oppose theocracy, in theory.  But.  At the same time, picking one’s battles is important, and as an agnostic/atheist – I go round and round on this and I’m in an atheist cycle now – I do not see any sense whatsoever in going after a Christmas tree.  Even if it’s in a courthouse, even if it’s in a school, or City Hall, or the police station, it’s just a tree, dudes.

The problem with theocracy – and I mean the REAL problem with it – is that it leads to people inflicting their will upon you and upon me.  Making us do stuff, or not do stuff, that we may or may not personally believe in, because religion runs the government.  Making us go to church on Sunday or prohibiting us from going to church on Sunday or making us go only to a certain church on Sunday.   Making our kids say prayers in school or making women wear burqas or sending homosexuals to reeducation camps.  A tree in a building is NOT theocracy.  Laws forcing people to do things or prohibiting them from doing things, is.  See the difference?

A tree in a building is not theocracy.  It is a decoration, like a statue in a park or a painting in City Hall.  A tree in a building is emblematic of something America really, really needs right now – a shared culture.

Humans need culture.  It’s something that we cannot help but create.  Culture is innate to humanity.  Humans leave a trail of culture wherever they go.  Every society that’s ever existed has had a unique culture.   Most societies have a predominant culture that virtually everyone in that society, follows.  What we are trying to do in America, this strange experiment we are running, is to have several cultures coexisting side by side.

Coexisting has a co- element to it.  It’s something that we become blind to, when we start overly focusing on the things that divide us from each other.   A tree is just a tree.  In the grand scheme, it’s minor.  If most people like the tree, if most people find some value in it, maybe the rest of us just STFU and carry on for the good of everyone else.

If you’ve ever gone out to dinner with a large group, you know how this works.  Maybe you end up going somewhere you’d rather not because it’s what everyone could agree upon.   I am an adventurous eater and I love great food, but I’ve eaten a lot of subpar dinners in restaurants that I’d never voluntarily go to.   Because, my grandma wanted to go there, or whatever.  You know what?  It didn’t kill me.  I survived the experience.  A few times I was even surprised by enjoying the meal.  It’s a hell of a lot better to temporarily endure a minor annoyance than it is to be that person who a) holds everyone hostage to your own whims while making everyone else unhappy or b) the person who agrees to it but then complains the whole time and ruins everyone else’s good time.

People like the tree.   I like them.  I think they’re beautiful.  They make me happy inside. Beyond my personal feelings, the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and if they like the trees, I see no problem with them.  They’re decorative, they’re symbolic of peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, of charity and loving your neighbor as yourself.  The majority of people like a lot of other decorative/symbolic things that don’t particularly thrill me – for example, million-dollar modern art (using the term “art”very loosely) in public buildings, bought and paid for by tax dollars.  Some of this “art” is ugly and symbolizes things that I think are kinda gross.  But I don’t feel the need to get all ban-happy over them.  I just walk on by and mutter about government waste under my breath. I endure the assault because I know that most people don’t agree with me and it’s not something that is worth fighting over.

This is what is called “practicing tolerance”.

The long term benefits outweigh the short term costs.  Just like how a terrible chicken fried steak eaten in the company of your grandma, even though you’d much prefer sushi, outweighs the terribleness of the chicken fried steak.  It’s something that you do for other people sometimes.  Walk past the tree because so many other people like it and at the end of the day it isn’t hurting anything.  We cannot have peaceful coexistence while everyone is constantly clamoring to tear down each other’s cultural icons.   It ruins coexistence for everyone.  It’s so much better to tolerate something you don’t super-love for a few minutes in the name of peace and cooperation and shared American culture.

We need something that brings us all together, even if it’s only for a few days.  The things that we’ve come up with to replace time-honored traditions are shallow and lame.  Star Wars, for example, may be a great big part of our shared American culture, but is not a substitute for Christmas – no matter how much you love Star Wars, at the end of it, it’s just a movie made to sell a bunch of shitty toys and everyone knows it.  The “philosophy” of Star Wars is a jumbled mishmash of movie platitudes strung together by a third-rate writer based on an invented religion that makes no real sense.  You can’t base your life on Star Wars.  You can’t base your culture on Star Wars.   Star Wars is not enough.

Christmas is the culmination of thousands of years of shared human culture.   Traditions from lots of cultures have coalesced into our modern day Christmas holiday.   You don’t have to be a fundamental Christian extremist to celebrate Christmas (in fact, many of them don’t). Even non-Christian countries like Turkey and Japan do Christmas stuff. It’s not theocracy, it’s because Christmas is cool.  It’s cool like Star Wars is cool – it’s cool because most people LIKE IT.  For a few weeks out of the year, we put up a tree and take some time to think about some things that are by and large, pretty nice.   Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men.  Giving gifts to people we love and care about.  The idea that there’s still a little bit of hope in the world.  All these things are positive human values.

Enduring a tree or even a Nativity scene for a few weeks out of the year isn’t going to kill you.  It may even end up making your world a little better by making some other people happier for a few minutes.  At least you’re not ruining someone else’s holiday.

For some reason, temporarily ignoring things you don’t personally like for the benefit of keeping the peace has fallen out of fashion.  Everyone is perpetually outraged over the smallest slights all the time.  It’s so toxic and destructive.  And it started with the atheists-bitching-about-Christmas-thing.  So let’s come full circle and start practicing tolerance – tolerating our shared culture.  Tolerating trees, Santas, even Nativity scenes, for the good of everyone.  For peace on Earth, goodwill towards men.