Connecting Thots: Linking Carolyn Bryant to Kellyanne Conway on that Goddamn Couch to the Need for Black People to Be More Woke in Three Arduous Steps

I’m going to cast my web wide and then pull it in slowly, so bear with me, please.

I want to touch on a lot of things in this post, like Donald Trump in a dressing room full of beauty pageant contestants.

I’ll wend my way to Kellyanne Conway and what my sister would refer to as her “dry-faced ass” eventually.

(Excuse that anti-feminist lapse right there. And the use of the term “thot” in the title. Racist capers make me even more angry when they come from women.)

I.

I grew up with a mother that taught literature. So we had a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology on our bookcase. I never understood why we had it, though, until I went to college and declared my English major. Then, I learned: the classical Greek and Roman mythologies are western literary cornucopias (a symbol derived from Greek and Roman mythology, in fact).

So many of the plotlines and motifs (the hero’s journey, the concept of redemptive suffering, the inescapability of fate, the ideas that human goodness is rewarded and human evil is punished by divine forces) in Western literature derive from classical European mythology that if you played a drinking game in which you took a shot for every modern book you know with a mythological allusion, your ass would go into an alcohol-induced coma inside of fifteen minutes.

So, as a student of Western literature, I am understandably fascinated by the tenacity of classical mythology.

From what I have been taught, ancient Greeks and Romans regarded these stories that read like children’s fiction to most modern people like they were religious doctrine. They believed these stories told the truth about the supernatural beings that created and ruled the Earth and humanity, certain natural phenomena (like comets), the differences in the ancient cultures, and the roots of the alliances and anima between those ancient cultures. In fact, until the rise of philosophy (which encompassed empirical science until the 1800s), historiography, and rationalism in the 5th century, mythology was regarded as fact.

That mythology played this role in ancient Greek or Roman culture isn’t what fascinates me, though (it makes sense that these civilizations would’ve clung to mythology until another way of understanding the universe evolved to a point where they felt they could trust it).

It’s the human attachment to ancient mythology I find so interesting, stretching as it has from antiquity to post-postmodernity.

I tend to think those individuals that continue to study and creatively mine the mythologies of ancient cultures today do so because they recognize and appreciate the way myths reflect certain truths about human nature and interactions in relatively simple stories and not overly technical science and microsociology.

On the other hand, there is a certain type of attachment to a certain type of mythology – a sociological “twin” to this literary tradition – that has the opposite effect on me. It doesn’t fascinate – it infuriates me.

You see it in white supremacists and black-white supremacists that remain invested in certain antebellum myths about black people.

The problem, as I see it, with racists clinging to these myths is that these myths do not contain or signify any actual truth. In fact, these myths displace factual narratives that would reveal, if we looked back at them, the falsity of American racial formations – the fact that they are instruments of social, economic, and political advantageousness, not products of science or authentic American history.

Take the myth that the black man is a born rapist, for example.

The myth that the black man is a born rapist was envisaged by the racist quarter of the white male ruling class during slavery to expunge – at least ideologically – black men’s sexual attractiveness and white women’s sexual attraction to black men.

It is one of a collection of pseudo-scientific fabrications the members of that class mobilized to disguise their own racist phobias and violent behaviors.

The myth allowed antebellum white men to subvert their own proclivities to rape white and black women, pretend all sexual relations between white women and black men were rape, and “punish” any black man that had sex with a white woman by torturing and/or killing him, if they wanted.

To this day, racists continue to propagate this myth to justify certain acts of violence they perpetrate against black men, and adherents of these racists – black and white – excuse away this violence in what is essentially a Pavlovian response – even though the hypotheses that all black men are born with a violent sexual psychopathology – or they all have an uncontrollable uniform sexual response to white women – or they will all enact their vengeful feelings against the white power structure by raping a white women any time they are given the opportunity – are patently untrue.

That’s right. The “math” of this myth has never added up, not back then, and not now. Despite what David Duke has claimed in the media.

The infamous Table 42 from the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, compiled and published by the Bureau of Justice Statistic,  and said to “prove” the myth is true, doesn’t validate the claims of white supremacists about black rapists.

Philip Cohen explains in his post, “Here’s How Bad Government Math Spawned a Racist Lie About Sexual Assault,” that

Like many surveys, the NCVS is weighted to produce estimates that are supposed to reflect the general population. In a nutshell, that means, for example, that they treat each of the 158,000 people (over age 12) covered in 2014 as about 1,700 people. So if one person said, “I was raped,” they would say, “1700 people in the US say they were raped.” This is how sampling works. In fact, they tweak it much more than that, to make the numbers add up according to population distributions of variables like age, sex, race, and region – and non-response, so that if a certain group (say Black women) has a low response rate, their responses get goosed even more . . .

According to Cohen

[The] BJS extrapolates an estimate of 117,640 White women who say they were sexually assaulted, or threatened with sexual assault, in 2008 . . . Of those, 16.4% described their assailant as Black . . . That works out to 19,293 White women sexually assaulted or threatened by Black men in one year . . . [however] . . . [i]f each respondent in the survey counts for about 1,700 people, then . . . [the statisticians that compiled the results] . . . in 2008 [actually counted]  . . . 69 White women who were sexually assaulted or threatened, 11 of whom said their assailant was Black [emphasis added].

He even illustrates for his readers how to do the math on the survey’s faulty numbers: (19293/1,700 = 11.34).

Despite the fact that it is a lie, the myth that the black man is a born rapist still exercises a powerful influence over the American imagination (versus its intellect and morality) and thus our social interactions, political discourse, and patterns of interracial violence.

It not only freezes the black man in the deplorable image of the uncontrollable sex offender; it also freezes the white woman in the image of his needful victim.

II.

A few years back, there were this novel and movie adaptation titled No Country for Old Men. This referred, of course, to America.

That title made me think of a line from the Tony Kushner play about the American identity, “Angels in America.”

In the play, the character Roy Kohn, based on the real life Roy Kohn, is dying of AIDS, and reflects that “Americans have no use for sick.”

Kushner/Kohn is right. Americans do have a certain affinity for the useful. Because Americans have an affinity for getting shit done, and you need tools to do the things you want to do more efficiently.

Technological systems are currently our favorite types of tools. We have an affinity for them, too. Computer systems, global positioning systems, telecommunications systems – you name it.

Correlatively, Guardian writer Steven W. Thrasher explains that race “[is] a technology, “utilized for specific reasons.”

That’s probably why we love it so much, too.

Thrash filters down – from the upper reaches of the black artistic community – the concept from writer Ytasha Womack that “[t]he deployment of this technology has created [emphasis added] racism.”

He says that since “[biological] race is a fiction . . . [that] has only existed as we presently conceive it over the past few hundred years,” the technology of race is used to  “peddle” race itself to the masses.

That is – to keep us believing not only that race is real, but that people of different races pose a real threat to us simply because they are a different race.

Womack’s concept of race as technology helps to explain why Americans continue to exploit racist myths even though they have been scientifically debunked.

If we think about racial mythology as a form of technology, we can understand how racists use it – to create a reality in which the “fiction” of biological race has actual effects.

II.

Back in January, upon the release of Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till, the media had the dubious honor of running one of the most tragic if anticlimactic news stories in American history, at least in this black woman’s opinion.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman that testified in court that 14-year-old Emmett Till grabbed her by her waist and told her, “You needn’t be afraid of me, baby I’ve (done something) with white women before,” confessed that she perjured herself on the stand. She lied outright about her encounter with Till, who she said never spoke directly to her at all.

In fact, Donham reportedly told Tyson that all these years later she can’t remember whether Till even whistled at her that fateful August evening back in Mississippi.

An article in Vanity Fair about Tyson and his dealings with Donham paints a distastefully sympathetic portrait of the elderly woman, even seeming to suggest that her testimony did not play as vital a role in gaining acquittals for Till’s killers as has been historically assumed since their trial in 1955.

(I’m calling subtextual bullshit on that, though, because even though the jury was not present in the courtroom for Donham’s testimony, I have no doubt her allegations crept into the defense of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, feeding the rabidity of those 12 white men to deliver an exoneration. This was Mississippi in fucking 1955.)

The reason I say this story about Donham’s “confession” is anticlimactic is simple, and I also think it should be obvious.

Dahleen Glanton of The Chicago Tribune spells it out in one elegant sentence, for those that may not get it on their own: “We [Black America] already knew her story was a lie.”

“So did the judge who presided over the murder trial of her husband and another man in 1955,” Glanton insists, “and so did most of the people who lived in the tiny town of Money in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.”

So, too, I say, do most of the white people that live in America today.

Yet, I have never read or heard a recount of Till’s murder – from what one would term a “white” source – whether it was in the news, academic, or entertainment genre – that did not include some intimation that Till “either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand” of Carolyn Bryant.

And innocuous as that detail may seem, we know that it’s not. It is a lie spread to diminish the horror of Emmett Till’s murder. To blur the line between his innocence and his murderers’ culpability.

It’s also a signifier that the rapist myth is still alive and seething in the American imagination.

If not in its original form, then in a transposed form – a form that elides the old concept of the black men as an automatic sexual deviant – and carries on with its correlative – the lie that cishetero white women epitomize cishetero feminity and so are sexually irresistible to black men.

Under this guise, which the myth gained post Civil Rights, the myth has regained a modicum of acceptability because it’s less objectionable to believe the widely accepted “truth” that white women are the “most beautiful” than the (also widely accepted) lie that black men are animals.

So, this is what post-Civil Rights white supremacists and eugenicists of the highest order – the Steve Bannons of the world – pretend to do – believe that white women are sexually irresistible to black men – so they aren’t written-off as crackpots or backward, hillbilly “trash” – the common caricature of the American white racist.

In pedestalizing the Tomi Lahrens, Sarah Palins, and Kellyann Conways of this country, they’re not just legitimizing these women’s gimmick(kk)y politics; they’re also valorizing “conservative” white womanhood.

They’re emphasizing to white America that there are still “respectable” (cishetero, non-feminist) women within their ranks that need and deserve “protecting” from predators like Trump’s fictitious Mexican rapists and Dylann Roof’s fictitious black rapists.

These new age supremacists capitalize on the mobility of the “face-lifted” rapist myth to tap into the multifarious race-based fears that motivate whites to uphold structural racism, as they do by executing or going along with things like gerrymandering, gentrification, school choice, standardized testing, mandatory sentencing, opposition to policies like Affirmative Action, opposition to institutions like HBCUs, the propagation of symbolic racism, and the election of a failed real estate mogul and reality game show host to the Oval Office.

(Symbolic racism is an anti-black post-Civil Rights belief system based on the four themes that racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle for black people; black people’s failure to progress is due to their own unwillingness to work hard; black people’s insistence that the government should take further measures to equalize our social status has no legitimate basis; and the measures that the government has already taken to equalize our social status, such as Affirmative Action, are unjustified).

Too, like the old slave owners, the Steve Bannons, David Dukes, and Richard Spencers of today – they use the rapist myth to galvanize poor whites into terrorizing blacks (see again: Dylann Roof) so they can keep their proverbial hands “clean,” so that journalists and politicians can still appear to be reliable while deigning to deal with them, and so their “alt-right” rhetoric can gain even more acceptability outside of their insular cultural sphere.

And their female counterparts? The Kellyann Conways? They do what Carolyn Bryant did back in 1955.

They buy willingly into the lie that they are sexually irresistible – and they do not want black male attention but cannot help but garner it – to enhance their self- esteem, which still takes seasonal, politically expedient beatings from the white hetero patriarchy.

This entire dynamic is just what Thrasher described in his article. It is how the use of race technology in America has morphed with the times so it can continue to do its work.

III.

Finally, I have arrived at my thoughts about Kellyanne Conway’s posture on that couch in the Oval Office – and the semiotics of that image are the crux of this text (even though I will not post it here – yuck) – because I believe they convey a really pivotal point about the continued use of racism in this country.

Kellyanne Conway is a 50-year-old, married mother of four and Counselor to Donald Trump, but you know why she propped herself up on the couch in the Oval Office like a college co-ed “studying” in the dorm room of a classmate on which she’s been secretly harboring a crush since Orientation back in August?

Because she has internalized the myth.

Because she is a laissez-faire racist. She believed that those black men – automatically and universally – found her sexually attractive. They were not evolved enough to have any other response to her. They were wolves in men’s clothing.

Look at the photo again. Look at her tossed-back hair. Look at her uncrossed legs and arched back. Shoulders back and breasts lifted. All of these are nonverbal cues that she is keying into the situation sexually. She is offering herself up to be objectified.

Think about her choice to perch on a couch – on her knees – rather than stand up – a much more logical choice of positioning to take a photo of a group that size – her willingness to pose for the room despite the nature of the event and her participation in it – both ostensibly professional. Its illogic tells on her.

I don’t care what she claimed in the press after the pictures were released. I don’t care about any journalists’ attempts to make the controversy about her disrespect of the Oval Office in order to trivialize it. The Office wasn’t the issue. Her posture was.

By climbing her ass up on that couch in that room full of black men – and posing like a buttered-up biscuit on the side of a three piece chicken dinner – Kellyanne Conway created some good old-fashioned phobic imagery for Trump’s America.

She gave all the kinds of racists in our current landscape – overt, ambivalent, aversive – a “reminder” of why they “need” to stick to their “unpopular” beliefs.

She invoked the myth, though I will concede that she might have done it unconsciously.

Still, she invoked the myth.

She came off as a mythical white vixen/victim – an echo of Carolyn Bryant – a “could” whose possibility fit right into the cookie cutter shape of Bigger Thomas that I swear every American has in their mind, even if they’ve never read a page of Native Son.

And that’s what made me so mad about that picture, personally.

Her lack of culpability in the face of dire consequences for Outgroup America.

The way I see it, the white male racists in power are triggered enough.

They don’t need any more encouragement to think of blacks as a danger that needs to be extinguished, infestation that needs to be exterminated, or disease that needs to be cured.

I mean . . . damn.

We don’t need shit like Kellyanne Conway whipping her boss and his boys up into a righteous frenzy by pulling a – I don’t know – it might even have been a “Basic Instinct” power move – to boost her embattled confidence – on some unwitting college presidents just trying to secure their federal funding.

Because that’s how easy it appears to be to get Trump all upset. He has the emotional temperament of a toddler.

Luckily, he didn’t go off about that incident. But what about next time, if there is a next time?

We can’t have Kellyanne out here willy-nilly, blinded by the wealth of her ridiculous white privileges, tapping heedlessly into the deep-seated fears that dwell in the chambers of the heart of the rapist myth.

None of which is the fear of the actual psychopathology of men of color, ironically enough.

No – white male racists in power don’t fear black men or Latinx men’s insatiability or animalism because they know the lengths to which they have historically gone to psychologically neuter men of color in this country.

No – what really has them shook is the very real ability of men of color to culturally overtake them, as demonstrated at least partly by black men’s preeminence in professional athletics. Footnote Latinx men in professional baseball.

Jon Entine in his book, Taboo: Why Black Athlete Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, writes

To the degree that it is a purely scientific debate, the evidence of black superiority in athletics is persuasive and decisively confirmed on the playing field. Elite athletes who trace most or all of their ancestry to Africa are by and large better than the competition. The performance gap is widest when little expensive equipment or facilities are required, such as running, the only true intentional sport, and in widely played team sports such as basketball and football. Blacks not only outnumber their nonwhite competitors but, by and large, are the superstars.

Entine’s quote does read a bit reductively, so let me say: Black men are extraordinarily capable beyond their physicality. Yet, I don’t believe the critical mass of white male racists in power are able to conceive that black men can outthink them. Even in 2017.

What they can imagine, though, and have imagined, since the explosion of the plantation system in the late 1600s, is black men rising up in arms, banding together, and overturning the white power structure in our society.

Concurrently, white male racists in power fear getting pushed from their place at the top of the sexual attractiveness totem pole by an overgrowing white female demand for seemingly superior, “exotic” black and brown male bodies.

And they fear that black-white and Latinx-white sexual relationships – as they exponentially increase – will swallow up whites’ recessive trait genotypes.

At the very beginning of this post, I wrote that myths reflect certain truths about human nature, but then I wrote that racial myths are lies. And they are lies, but their persistence exposes some really important truths about the microsociology of this current version of America.

Blackness still functions largely as the electrical current powering the social machinery of this country, not whiteness. The technology of race has this horrifying way of staying on the cutting edge.

Still, this “newest” iteration of whiteness is a response to blackness. As American whiteness is. By its needful nature.

It wouldn’t exist if blackness didn’t. That symbiosis hasn’t changed since slavery.

So, since black and white are symbiotic, black people can steer the direction in which the white male racists in power take this country, if that is, in fact, what we want to do.

We have money and votes they need to remain in power. And we can use them as the leverage they are. We can be strategic in the way we use them. We can demand political ransom for them.

We can perch our asses on the proverbial couch of the US Capitol and let Trump ‘nem know – a lot of what they think about us is bullshit, but our political power is not mythical. It’s real.

We can deploy the technology of race to achieve our own ends. It is at least half our intellectual property, according to our history. The white male racists in power don’t have exclusive design rights.

We can change the configuration any time and way we want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Almost Got Kicked Out of Macedonia Cinemark Taking Notes on This Movie, so, However Many Weeks Later, This is What I Thought About While Watching ‘Hidden Figures’

I live in a house located at the intersection of American Citizenship Avenue right before it turns into Black Woman Boulevard, where it crosses Motherhood Mount, right before it turns into Writers Way. It’s an exhausting place to live sometimes.

American is a ridiculously busy street where the traffic moves at an excruciatingly slow pace, and the drivers hop out of their cars frequently to argue out of frustration. Black Woman is less busy, but the cars move at lightning speed, so when they cross Motherhood and Writers, back onto American, they nudge the standing traffic, and everybody in those cars get all discombobulated. They start gesturing in their mirrors and talking shit out of their windows, and the occasional psychotic fool has been known to get out of his car with a gun in murderous overreaction. Motherhood is not as busy as Black Woman, but the drivers tend to get distracted by all the bright billboards with their didactic messages about how the road ought to be navigated. They make it so hard for the drivers to just trust themselves and fucking drive. Then, there’s Writers, which is lined on both sides by these massive lots where people can park for as long as they want to park; it’s hard to navigate because people are constantly pulling in and out of the lots and off and onto the street.

In other words, intersectionality is a fucking ass-kicker, and this is especially true, for me at least, with Trump in office, worrying the fuck out of me on every vector of my identity.

I feel obligated to write about him on this blog because I am an American and a mother – because I am black and a writer – but I also want – badly – to have times when I’m not thinking about what he is doing to this country.

I’ve figured out over the last couple of days that I have to make those times if I want them, then, because Trump’s governance is nothing but an abuser’s assault on America’s consciousness.

It’s deliberately relentless – designed to make it impossible for us to keep track of everything he is doing but at the same time caught in a reactionary cycle that keeps us too busy to plan a viable way to wrest his power back from him.

A few weeks ago, I did that. I made some time to enjoy my black mother writer self. I went to see “Hidden Figures” with my father, mother, and younger sister. I was moved, of course, by the story and the acting – they were excellent – and I saw in the themes of the film some things I thought that I would much rather put into a post than the next crazy thing Trump is doing.

I wasn’t lying in the title of the post; I did get so carried away with taking notes on the movie that I forgot about the rule against using cell phones in the theatre, and an usher came to my seat and told me that I would have to leave if I didn’t put my phone away.

I didn’t put it away, though; I turned down the backlight on the screen and finished doing what I needed to do. So here they are – my ruminations on “Hidden Figures” – minus this one I’m going to put right here at the head of the list, which is –

If white people would be the benevolent leaders of all these institutions they fight so hard to dominate, rather than acting from fear of losing their often undeserved or unearned leadership roles – fear of having their mediocrity exposed and/or their positions ascribed by it and not their privilege – they wouldn’t have to create fictional characters like “Al Harrison” or fictionalize the parts white people played in iconic situations like the one depicted in the film.

Moving on . . .

The movie is about tolerance and progress – the not-so-inexorable march of history – its actual capriciousness – its dependency on us to make it happen – but mostly it’s about sisterhood, and that was my first observation. This reflection here –

The absolute vitality of sisterhood among women cannot be overstated or exaggerated, especially if we are serious about overcoming gender oppression, which we fucking should be. Women are the only ones that truly understand how hard women have it in our society, so they are the only ones that know what aid to give women that are trying to be and do their best despite the entrenched sexism and misogyny in our culture.

Women have to commit to being sisters to other women, between and across secondary demographic lines, and they have to open up to the love and support that other women are able to offer them. This is mandatory, especially with that fucking pussy-grabbing . . . no . . . no . . . I said I wouldn’t write about him anymore in this post. I meant that.

Women – we can’t mistake “compassion” for projection. Remember the scene in which Janelle Monae’s character, Mary, is talking about becoming an engineer, and her husband is telling her not to pursue that goal because it’s impossible? It may have sounded like he was concerned and trying to steer her away from being hurt, but he was projecting his own limitedness onto her. Sad to say.

Our loved ones do this sometimes. They give advice that is based on their fears and aversion to struggle or disappointment. Or they pretend to be afraid for us when they are really afraid of us and what will happen if we grow or change while they remain the same.

No is your choice, not theirs. When Taraji P. Henson’s character, Katherine, needs, in order to do her assigned calculations, to see the redacted information that her white colleague keeps officiously blacking out in order to assert his “superiority,” she lifts the blacked-out (with Sharpie) sheets of paper up to the lights in her office ceiling so she can see the information he is trying to hide from her. She refuses to be blocked.

She could’ve taken his refusal to share the information as final, but she didn’t. He said no, but she said yes, and she figured out a way to get done what she needed to get done. She chose yes. We all either choose yes, or we choose no, in so many changeable life situations.

Numbers don’t lie in real life, either. Katherine says this time and again when her white male colleagues question her theories and calculations, and I’m saying that black people need to talk in terms of numbers with white people that seek to oppress or discriminate against us in the real world as well.

Black people in America have $1.1 trillion in collective buying power. We are 13% of the registered voting pool. That means that Big Business needs us. Politicians in danger of losing certain elections by narrow margins need us. We only receive 26% of the food stamps doled out in the US (whites receive 40%), and 62% of Obamacare enrollees are white while just 17% are black. That means that altering or ending these programs will hurt them more than it will hurt us. We are a force – a vital, productive part of this country and not some horrible drain. 

Complaining ain’t fighting. There’s a scene in the movie during which the three main characters, played by Janelle, Taraji, and Octavia Spencer, are hanging out, playing cards, and Janelle – Mary – is complaining that she can’t attend the engineering courses she needs to move up at NASA because they’re offered at a segregated white school. After a few minutes, Octavia – Dorothy – tells her to do something about the situation – sue the state for the right to attend the classes – anything – just stop complaining because she wasn’t accomplishing anything by complaining.

Complaining can feel revolutionary to people that have been historically silenced, or have silenced themselves, and I believe it is the first important step in personal politicization. But it’s only the first step – articulating your grievances. If you want to fix or change anything, you have to brainstorm, plan, mobilize, and do some strategic thing to fight the fucking power.

You have to either sacrifice or settle. Each of the secondary storylines illustrates this for us viewers. Katherine leaves the comfort of the segregated black female computer pool to work in a more highly powered, but hostile, white male pool so she is able to reach her full professional potential. Dorothy steals a book from the Whites Only section of the public library so she can teach herself computer programming and remain relevant after NASA transitions from using human computers to an IBM. Mary risks alienating her husband to take those engineering classes to which she finally gains entrance and become the first black woman engineer to work for NASA, and her decision connects directly with the next idea on this “list,” which is –

Take whatever chance you are able to get, especially if it will ultimately lead to the accomplishment of your goal. Don’t be so nitpicky that you select yourself out of an opportunity.

When Mary does go to court to gain entrance into those engineering classes, the judge only grants her entrance into the night classes, but Mary rejoices like she got full run of the entire school. She has fought as hard as she can and gotten her case the highest level of adjudication she can obtain, and she has been given a judgment that – while not earth-shattering – will allow her to become an engineer in the end. So she accepts the judgment. She doesn’t bitch or brood because it doesn’t provide the ideal circumstance.

At the start of the next scene, she’s right there, in the corridor of that segregated school, at the doorway to that unblocked classroom, ready to get it in.

Dorothy’s decision – to learn to program the IBM so she can stay on at NASA once human computers are phased out – teaches another cluster of lessons, too. Learn some shit if you want to come up on some shit. Know your shit if you want to be allowed to do some shit. And if you’re useful, you’re welcome.

Nothing beats being ambitious, knowledgeable, skillful, and effective when it comes to securing employment. Even the most discriminatory bastard – if he or she gives the slightest fuck about productivity or profit – will concede to someone that is black or a woman but excellent at getting shit done.

Because to hold someone back, you have to stay back with them. Next point. Really important one.

It sounds basic, but people forget this. They somehow think they can work full-time on sabotaging other people and still get their own shit done with adequate attention and effort.

But fear is a bitch and generally makes a bitch of those that practice it as an ethic. The movie illustrates this wonderfully, with the working relationships between the main characters and the white men with which they work.

The white man that supervises Mary encourages her to become an engineer so she can better help their team perfect the capsule in which John Glenn will eventually return to Earth after the first orbital launch, and that’s exactly what she does. The team figures out how to keep it bolted together despite the extreme temperatures to which it will be subjected upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Together.

In contrast, the white scientist that works with Katherine is so insulted that he is being forced to work with a black woman, and her job is to double-check his math, that he blacks out classified information on the printouts that he gives her. He argues with her every time she puts forth a suggestion about how they can successfully calculate the coordinates to launch and land the orbital ship, and he tries his hardest to bar her from informational briefings that would keep her equally as informed as the rest of the team working on the coordinates.

Now, never mind that Katherine knows analytic geometry – is the only person on the NASA complex that knows analytic geometry – and he doesn’t know analytic geometry, but the team desperately needs someone that knows analytic geometry. This fool, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), blocks Katherine at every available turn from being as efficient at her job as she could be if he would just leave her the-fuck alone. He is so afraid that she will formulate the coordinates before he can formulate them that he not only loses sight of the bigger picture, but he loses his own mathematical mojo. And the whole project takes longer than it needs to take, which undermines the credibility of the entire team in the eyes of the White House and military and puts the project in danger of being shut down.

Stafford plays so many stupid games that Kevin Costner – whose character Al Harrison is both their supervisor and the film’s requisite white savior – in order to save the project and get those coordinates – has to step in and singlehandedly desegregate the bathrooms, bump up Katherine’s security clearance, get her into the informational briefings with the military brass, and put Stafford in his place – behind the person with the chops to do the fucking math – and rightfully so.

Stafford’s behavior illustrates another truth, too. Greed very often trumps (Trumps) honor. Once Harrison stops Stafford from blacking out information on the calculation printouts, and Katherine is able to start checking the math and coming up with math of her own, she has to type up her math and put it into reports for Stafford to present in the informational briefings (this is before she can attend them). Each time she types up a report, she puts his name on and then hers since she is the one that has done the math. Each time he sees her name, Stafford insists that she take it off because “computers don’t write reports; engineers write reports.” This is a blatant theft of her knowledge. It’s an act of despicable fraud. But that doesn’t stop him. As I said – greed very often trumps honor.

Stafford wants the shine that he gets from entering into those briefings, seeming to have come up with “the answers.” He doesn’t care how debased the desire is or how indecent the method is by which he fulfills it. And, sadly, his character is not atypical.

And that brings me to my last little reflection. Dreamers need lovers. We need people that believe in and support us but also want us even after we have failed, which we will, over and over again.

Mary’s husband finally comes around after she gets into those night classes; he comes to her and tells her that he is proud and certain that she will make an amazing engineer. It is only then, in that moment, that we get to see how badly Mary wanted and perhaps even needed that sort of assurance from him. It is only then that she voices her own doubts about her ability, which is something that even the most ardent dreamer needs to be able to do sometimes, but in a safe space.

Dreamers need lovers, and I venture to say that lovers need dreamers, too. To inspire them to keep on opening and pouring out themselves, which is just as hard to do as building some imaginary thing out of thin air. Or harder.

I liked “Hidden Figures.” It was formulaic, sure, but it was well-done, wise, and wonderfully acted. I saw it twice, and I enjoyed it twice.

I took my Girlie, and she loved it. She left with stars in her eyes and hope for her future self beating in her chest. She told me that she really believes now that she can become a video game designer. So there you go.

Mission accomplished.

Daily Prompt: Seriousness

via Daily Prompt: Seriousness

I am beginning to doubt the seriousness of Americans that say they want to stop Trump.

There – I said it.

I don’t believe the Democrats. I don’t believe the so-called moderate members of the GOP. I don’t believe the women. I don’t believe the black people. I don’t believe the undocumented immigrants, their documented family members, or their family members that are citizens.

I don’t believe the families of those affected by the “Muslim Ban.” I don’t believe the Democratic or neoliberal pundits or talk show hosts like Bill Maher or Trevor Noah.

Because everybody is talking about stopping Trump – feeding his martyr complex and narcissistic paranoia – his Twitter feed and whatever personnel machine is rolling out his executive orders like copies of Those Damn Nazis – but nobody is doing anything that will actually stop him.

I chose Those Damn Nazis as my example strategically. I’m pretty certain that very few of you – my regular readers – if any of you – have ever read it. However, it begins with this sentiment that could just as easily undergird Trump’s brand of republicanism as it did Hitler’s “National Socialism.”

“We are nationalists because we see the nation as the only way to bring all the forces of the nation together to preserve and improve our existence and the conditions under which we live,” it reads.

The nation is the organic union of a people to protect its life. To be national is to affirm this union in word and deed. To be national has nothing to do with a form of government or a symbol [emphasis added]. It is an affirmation of things, not forms. Forms can change, their content remains. If form and content agree, then the nationalist affirms both. If they conflict, the nationalist fights for the content and against the form [emphasis added]. One may not put the symbol above the content. If that happens, the battle is on the wrong field and one’s strength is lost in formalism [emphasis added]. The real aim of nationalism, the nation, is lost.

The Constitution established three branches of federal government in Articles I-II and prescribed their respective duties in such a way that each branch would check and balance the powers of the other. That is the form of our republic, to use Joseph Goebbels’s terminology. There is an intentional separation of powers, thanks to James Madison, John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, James Wilson, and the other members of the Committee on Postponed Parts of the Constitutional Convention. This separation of powers is intended to prevent any one branch of government from taking over the government of the nation.

Luckily, every President from 1-44 has been a Constitutional formalist, more or less. But not 45. No – 45 apparently believes what Goebbels believed, if we take these first weeks of his presidency as indicators of where he stands on the question of whether nationalism should outweigh constitutionalism.

We see this is the way that Trump has consistently circumnavigated the reach of Congress by issuing executive order after executive order.

According to the National Constitution Center, “For almost a century after the founding of the United States, the amount of ‘executive orders’ was relatively limited. That may be because there is no actual provision in the Constitution that speaks to executive orders [emphasis added]. The power has developed over time, with presidents using Article II, Section 3—the “Executive” should “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”—as a basis for creating law without Congress as long as it holds true to the Constitution [emphasis added].”

To contextualize Trump’s issuances, Maggie Baldridge, an intern at the Center, explains:

Perhaps the most famous executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, marked a shift in the power of the executive branch to essentially circumnavigate Congress when deemed necessary . . . However, the deteriorating state of the nation and the urgency of action on both practical and moral levels could justify what many believe was an increase to the power of the executive branch [emphasis added] . . . While the average number of orders increased in the latter part of the 19th century, three men in the 20th century truly expanded the power of the executive via the executive order: Theodore Roosevelt with a total of 1,081 orders, Woodrow Wilson with 1,803[,] and Franklin D, Roosevelt with a lofty 3,522 total executive orders . . . The federal government [and] executive branch . . . as we know them today are results of these presidents and the actions they took. [However,] [s]ince Eisenhower took office in 1953, no modern president has come close to the number of orders of even Theodore Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan had 381 over his 8 years, George W. Bush had 291 and Barack Obama had a total of 276.

Baldridge notes that Obama issued 10 of his total 276 executive orders in the first nine days of his first term, but she still questions whether Trump should be issuing so many executive orders so early in his administration.

She asks, “Should executive orders be considered constitutional in the first place? Do they give too much power to one branch of government and therefore obscure the system of checks and balances intended by the Framers of the Constitution?”

I think the more relevant question is whether Trump’s executive orders are justified or they constitute an attempt on his part to outmaneuver the separation of power in the Fed and run the country like some sort of dictatorship.

Trump inherited an America in which President Obama, over his two terms in office, maintained a low inflation rate, cut the federal deficit by two-thirds, reduced the unemployment rate (which had skyrocketed during the recession in 2009), and fostered the expansion of US exports, the improvement of stock prices, positive if minimal growth in the GDP, job growth (also minimal), and global growth (yes – also minimal – but positive). Despite the lies Trump propagates about the state of the union after Obama, the US is not in a “deteriorating state” or crisis, as would necessitate his need to push through all of this self-written (or ghostwritten) policy. So, Trump is doing something other than “saving” us with all of these directives, which I think we all knew, but, you know, in the interest of fairness . . .

On the surface – and especially for those with sparse knowledge of the legislative process – it probably just looks like Trump is pandering to his electorate, churning out all these orders to “make good” on his campaign promises. I want to point out, though, what may not be obvious about this approach of Trump’s, but should certainly be troubling to all Americans and galvanizing to the Democrats if they really do care anything about, oh, you know, preserving our governmental structure, honoring the philosophy of democracy, and doing their fucking jobs.

By issuing directives rather than drafting bills, Trump is crafting a style of leadership that is going – at least partially – unchecked and unbalanced by Congress.

Executive orders and presidential memoranda – as – again – I explained in an earlier post – go directly from the Oval into effect and carry the weight of law.

This is problematic, to say the last, for a dubious instrument of executive power, particularly when its use is virtually unlimited.

It’s problematic, but it’s still workable because executive orders can be nullified at the state level, according to Amendment 10 of the Constitution. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Since the Constitution does not explicitly or formally grant the President of the US the power to issue executive orders, the states can legally refuse to comply with Trump’s orders, if they want to. They would probably just have to do some form of battle in the Supreme Court with Trump if they refused to comply. But I say, so fucking what?

It should be worth it to the Democrats in Congress – and Republicans, for that matter – because it’s the right thing to do. Trump didn’t win the popular vote. That means the majority of Americans didn’t want him to be our President. So, if our representatives are in fact our representatives, and they are serious about fulfilling that duty, they shouldn’t be going along to get along with this guy and the authoritarian bullshit he keeps pulling out from under his disastrous toupee.

Representatives and Senators from both parties should have by now confronted the fact that heedless power-hunger on the Right and neoliberal arrogance on the Left walled us all into this preposterous Trump presidency. And they should be doing everything in their power to get us out it, and we – the people – should be demanding that they take definitive action lest we refuse to vote them back into office come 2018. Especially the Democrats.

They, in particular, have an opportunity right now to stand up. Literally right now. They can show their seriousness and possibly get Trump impeached. If they’re daring, and they’re dogged.

Because several reputable news sources are reporting that Michael Flynn – Trump’s former security advisor – “former” after less than a month in the position, mind you – lied consistently over that fragment of a month about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and may have played a peripheral role in the Kremlin’s interference in our election.

Flynn told Mike Pence, other unnamed White House officials, and investigators for the FBI that when he spoke to Kislyak back in December he did his appointed duty – he set up a phone call to take place between Kislyak and Trump after the inauguration.

He insisted that he did not discuss sanctions being imposed by President Obama at the time. Sanctions imposed in answer to Russian interference in the election. Interference that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in its declassified report on the incident, described as

 . . . an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [with the] goals . . . to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency [as well as]  help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.

The intelligence report on this “influence campaign” states that “[a]ll three agencies agree . . . [the] CIA and FBI [with] high confidence [and] NSA [with] moderate confidence . . . [that] [Moscow]. . . followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.'”

The report reiterates: “Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties . . . [and] obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.”

The only thing of which Russia is not guilty, according to the report, is tampering with vote tallying.

This is why Pence and Sean Spicer took Flynn’s first stage lies about his conversation with Kislyak and passed them swiftly on to the media and public in mid-January, on the heels of the release of the intelligence on Russia.

Pence and Spicer knew that anyone with a mustard seed of logic was putting two and two together and reasoning that Flynn was passing covert messages from Trump to Putin through Kislyak.

Yes. It’s not only plausible but likely that Flynn’s “interactions” were assurances that Putin would be rewarded in some form for helping to cement Trump’s victory, the most obvious and simple being that Trump would drop the sanctions against Russia as soon as he got into office.

But even if Flynn wasn’t assuring Putin of his grand prize – or – worse – instructing him on how to hide the fact that he colluded with Trump to tamper with the election – might Flynn still have been legally wrong for talking policy with Kislyak before the inauguration? The American people need to know.

Trump was not President until January 20, 2017, so, if he was ordering Flynn to say anything to Putin about sanctions or any other governmental policy matter in December of 2016, was that treason? The American people need to know.

Did Trump – through Flynn – ask Putin to interfere in the election or grant him permission to interfere? Did Flynn pass along tips on how to most effectively weaponize their espionage or take notes to report to Trump?

I don’t know, but the answer seems to me like a solid-ass “maybe so.”

Disinformation is a legitimate form of electoral fraud. It is defined as the distribution of false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election.

The UC can’t indict Putin for electoral fraud, but, if Trump worked with Putin, then he may be an accessory to disinformation, and the Trump administration might have its first legitimate scandal on its hands – a plot to “fix” the election that could include Trump, Pence, Spicer, Flynn, Comey, and maybe even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The story unfolds with typical political intrigue and tells of typical political subterfuge – and it leaves the same old unsavory taste in my mouth, at least, as establishment politicians’ deception, even though Trump promised he would be “different.”

Flynn’s phone conversation with Kislyak was “intercepted” by the “American intelligence apparatus that typically monitors Russian diplomats.” The Justice Department received and reviewed a transcript of the conversation, and it showed that Flynn did talk about sanctions with Kislyak after all.

What else could he have logically been saying other than Trump would drop the sanctions, so Russia didn’t need to react to them?  I mean – Trump himself said, days before the election, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?

Trump also downplayed the vitality of Russian interference in the election by insisting that because there was “no tampering whatsoever with voting machines” – prevarication like an MF – “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” – and I find this suspicious since electoral fraud is such a serious crime in our country.

Too, Trump’s staff sat on the revelation that Flynn had lied about his conversation with Kislyak for days before Flynn resigned yesterday – at Trump’s behest. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported, within hours of his resignation: Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by Trump on January 31, told White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, on January 26 that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during their phone conversation, and Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Moscow because he had lied on the record.

He was a serious – speaking of – threat to national security, but Trump did nothing about him. Not until the story broke in the news that Flynn lied to Pence. Then, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. This makes it seem as if Trump had no problem with what Flynn told Kislyak until Trump stood to get raked over the coals in the press for it.

However it went, Flynn is out of the White House now, and the FBI is investigating him. Prominent Democrats and Republicans in Congress are calling for a Senate committee investigation of his correspondences with Russia (there was more than the one), and I heard a few journalists on the cable evening news shows saying there should be an independent, impartial investigation with a high degree of transparency.

I say the Democrats should do something more drastic than “call for” a potentially abortive investigation by the Senate if they want a snowball’s chance in our overheating climate of gaining back some Congressional seats in 2018.

I’ve been watching all of this Trump drama closely, and what I’ve seen so far, as Trump et al. have stupidly ravaged the ACA, the Dodd-Frank Bill, the fiduciary rule, National Security Council’s Principals Committee, federal funding for sanctuary cities, reproductive health advocacy, the TPP, sacred lands belonging to the First Nation people, and perfectly viable immigration policies, among so many other things, is the Democrats in Congress putting up a very weak, ineffectual fight against their autocratic sweep into power.

That’s why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve been depressed. I’ve begun to think the neocameralist society for which the alt-right seems to be pushing is a mere one or two executive orders away.

A fellow WordPress blogger, a couple weeks ago, wrote an anniversary tribute to the publication of James Baldwin’s canonical text, The Fire Next Time, and began the post with this quote: ” . . . [A] civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”

When I read this, I can’t lie; I thought immediately about the Democratic Party and what is happening politically in America right now.

As I said, though, this Flynn situation is an opportunity. Democrats can use it to do a few things they have desperately needed to do to clean up their share of the mess left after the collision of Hillary and Trump.

First, the Democratic Representatives and Senators should unite with any Republicans they can to formalize a civil resistance campaign against Trump whose main tactic is refusing to follow any of his executive orders that elicit “notable” opposition from their constituents (hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions, phone calls, postcards, and so on).

As I pointed out before, Amendment 10 says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This can be the legal grounds for their action.

They cannot be charged with treason. The Constitution defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or . . . adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Even Trump – with his gift for deliberate misconstruance – can’t frame the sort of civil resistance I’m proposing as that. And, anyway, if the campaign is bipartisan, Trump would be hard-pressed to discredit the motives of his own party members. He can’t accuse Republicans of trying to wrest power for their party because they are his party, and they have a super majority right now.

Second, the Democrats should launch a speech campaign. They should have the best-liked members of the party – Warren, Sanders, Pelosi, Booker, Waters – go to the states where they are in the most danger of losing seats in 2018 or where they could finagle seats if they strike the proper chord with fringe voters and hold major televised “meetings” designed to rebrand the party.

During these events, they should talk about the boycott against Trump, couching it in a rhetoric of patriotism and service. They should tell America their reluctance to support Trump is rooted in a deep concern for the future well-being of all Americans – and especially those that held their noses and voted for Trump – who will likely have hardest time swallowing the bitter consequences that are already coming to pass.

Because that’s the Democrats’ biggest problem right now, as far as I can see. Nobody wants to buy their brand. In the aftermath of the election, they look like pussies (no macho). During the election, they looked like snobs.

They made Hillary their proxy, and, even though she is an up-by-her-bootstraps or “self-made” American, she put on airs. She discussed Americans that refused to parse or acknowledge the trickery of the GOP’s antics like they were stupid when she should’ve cast them as “suffering” or “afraid.”

At the LGBT for Hillary fundraiser back in September, we all know what she said:

And if you have read about the ones he says he’s likely to support, he’s not kidding. In fact, if you look at his running mate, his running-mate signed a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up.

She made Trump supporters feel small when she should’ve been offering them “empathy.”

I don’t care what anybody says. Americans can be like spoiled children about our so-called “comfort levels.” We live in one of the most prosperous countries – still – in the world, and we do not deal well with having to forego things we want or feeling like our needs are being overlooked. Even our poverty is less punishing than other countries’ poverty.

So politicians that want to win our favor have to coddle us. It’s true. We buy wholeheartedly into the concept that they are beholden to our votes, and we expect them to be actual public servants. That is why successful politicians like President Obama and, yes, Trump very scrupulously filter out even the slightest undertone of disapproval when they talk to us about ourselves.

These politicians assure us that our fears and petty feelings of rivalry and neglect are understandable and forgivable. They reassure us. I may not be able to give you this, they say, but what about this other thing? See, they say, I’m not asking you to do without everything or accept just anything. I want what you want; I just want these other things, too. Let’s just see if we can’t compromise. I give; you give.

The Democrats should see this more clearly now than they ever did before. They should not go on the offensive, attacking Trump voters or blaming them for getting American into this morass. They shouldn’t attack Trump, either, who is their proxy – the septuagenarian trust fund baby with narcissistic personality disorder that wants to be a hillbilly and holy icon at the same damn time.

Rather than cataloging all of the outrages Trump has committed, the Democrats should explain: ensuring America doesn’t lose its ideals and advantages in the age of globalization is a more complicated matter than attempting to turn back the hands of time, and, even if the government could turn the tide of globalization, which it can’t, the answers to America’s real problems – a relatively sluggish economy, gun violence, pollution, terrorism, dependence on foreign oil, and, yes, partisan polarity in politics, do not lie in the past.

Then, one by one, they should address each problem triangularly: W. did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Obama did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Trump is proposing that we do this, and it won’t work, either, in these ways. They should be honest, and they should speak in clear, accessible terms. Fifth grade, sixth grade level of vocabulary. Like Trump.

Establishmentarianism isn’t going to fix our problems – the Democrats should acknowledge – but pulling the rug from out under the establishment won’t work either – they should argue – because it will violently disrupt everything that the US has in place that is working.

Then, they should explain what is working or at least what was working before Trump got into office.

They should tell us that their primary goal now is actual productive bipartisanship. We want to be a party whose different demographics are united – they should say – and we want to unite the different demographics that populate the nation, no matter each person’s individual political affiliation.

They should point out that there are nearly 50 ongoing armed conflicts occurring in the world today in a total of 44 countries – the oldest one dating back to 1922 in Iran – and the majority are not between countries fighting each other; they are between countrymen and countrywomen fighting each other.

They should remind us that just like the boom eras of the 1920s and 1950s are in our history – the one to which Trump appears to want to return – so too is the Civil War era – during which Americans split up regionally and along lines of economic interest and threatened to destroy the entire nation’s solvency with their refusal to work through out their differences peaceably.

They should be serious, but they should not be snobbish.

Bravado has its appeal, but so does vulnerability. So does humility. Americans have shown through their embrace of Trump that they appreciate an unvarnished approach to politicking, but, through their embrace of Obama, they have also shown that they can appreciate a subtle approach just as much.

Obama never called anyone names – well – except Kanye West that one time. He kept the Tea Party at bay and got two terms in office by being subtle. Something Trump will never be. An art the rest of the Democratic Party better master.

Obama legalized gay marriage, but did not make a highly publicized deal out of the fact that he appointed more openly gay officials to government than Clinton and Bush combined (including the first openly gay US Army Secretary). He withdrew troops from Iraq, but kept them in Afghanistan. He dealt diplomatically with Iran, but continued to fight W. Bush’s drone war in Pakistan.

Obama admitted Syrian refugees, but deported millions of undocumented, mostly Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Obama gave highly performative, emotional speeches about the several mass shootings and instances of fatal, racist police brutality that occurred while he was in office, but he didn’t make major changes to gun laws or push in a concrete way for reforms in law enforcement even though he had the leverage to do so (police departments do receive federal funding to which he could’ve attempted to add stipulations).

Obama never directly addressed disaffected lower middle class, working class, and poor white Americans the way Trump did during his campaign, but he demonstrated, in the way he handled certain issues, that he “cared” about the issues that upset and economically affected them. He made sure the ACA was universally effective, created 15 million jobs (800,000 in manufacturing), and spent $80 billion bailing out the auto industry.

Obama had the same neoliberal “high road” patter as Hillary, but without the superiority complex. When he was campaigning for Hillary, he didn’t deride the offensive things that Trump did on the campaign trail. He was savvy enough to realize that Americans are more adept at seeming evolved than they are at evolving.

And that is what the Democrats in Congress have to accept as well. The party ran Hillary because they thought the electorate couldn’t resist the opportunity to put the first woman President in the Oval Office; they mistakenly projected their own smugness about their ability to “transcend” the entrenched racism and patriarchy of our culture onto the American masses.

They thought the rest of America was as high on self-righteousness and self-adulation as they were in the aftermath of Obama. They thought we wanted more – we wanted another eight years of being able to pat ourselves on the back for voting as what that indubitable guru of personal growth Oprah Winfrey calls our “best selves.”

They thought every single woman in the country that wasn’t a Republican would dive at the chance to cast a vote for a woman, despite the fact she is a member of the white ruling class, and her tone-deaf promises that the “future is female” do not placate people of color – some of which happen to be women too – that still need seats at the table of power.

The Democrats also thought they could exploit the public’s mental association of Hillary with Obama – substitute his likability for her lack – and win over his – yes – fans – by making her platform a lazy extension of his slightly over-intellectual – at least by American standards – agenda.

They assumed that smart Americans could see straight through the trumped-up accusations related to what Politico calls the “scandal of [the] ‘home brew’ email server,” and they would delight throwing the GOP’s corruption and Trump’s ridiculousness back in his face.

They ignored the implications of the catalyzation and legitimization of the Tea Party and opted to believe that between 2008-2016 the US realized – pretty much wholesale – the “worthlessness” of institutional racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.

They stuck stubbornly to the idea that people want their government to lead them down the supposed “high road” to safety and comfort when in truth most Americans don’t care how they get “there” just as long as they do.

They also ignored the animal nature of human beings and the way large groups – with their anonymity and companionship and safety – make people feel they can safely misbehave.

They made what amounted to a huge mistake, and, now, they can fix it, but they have make a concerted effort to do something – fuck – if it can’t be new then – else. They have do something other than what they’ve been doing. Obviously.

So, during their speech campaign – I’m back to my plan now – they should admit that Hillary was an imprudent choice for the party’s Presidential candidate. They should acknowledge the need for “fresh” faces and voices in the fore of the party and set the stage to push a carefully selected crop from the back of the proverbial bus.

They should name the names and flash the faces of the new Democratic vanguard that will work “tirelessly” to make up to us – the people – the inadvertent way the forgivable misunderstandings and misconceptions of the old guard pushed so many Americans to put their faith in a shyster like Trump.

To seem like they are on “our” side, and not Trump’s, they should encourage dissatisfied demographics to strike, and they should aim that encouragement very deliberately and sympathetically at fringe Trump supporters that stand to lose their health insurance when the ACA is repealed or Trump supporters that failed to anticipate the stringency of his immigration policies. Their anger is usable.

Politics are a game, but they are a deathly serious one. They are a game, and people don’t like that, but the saving grace is games have rules. People that want to keep playing know that they need to follow them.

If the Democrats in Congress play fair (enough) – if they do right – they can get back into the good graces of the American people – and either depose Trump or vote him out of office in 2020 – God willing.

They just need to get serious about their oath, which says, “I . . . do solemnly swear . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

And the rest of us – women, blacks, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, First Nation – that swear we cannot live under Trump need to get serious, too, and start acting like it. Or shut the hell up, bend over, and take these four years of oppressive political ass-whipping like some Gs.

I’m not saying that we’re not doing anything, but we’re not doing enough.

We can create our own campaigns of civil resistance like a large-scale tax resistance or demonstrations. We can boycott. We can strike. And, when the midterm elections come, we must vote. We must also vote in 2020, especially if Trump is running for re-election. We have to defend ourselves from his manipulation and dangerous misrule.

Because that guy is a domestic enemy of the United States or at least any United States in which would like to live or raise my daughter.

The threat he poses to us is beyond serious, and, if we don’t do something to curb his craziness, we will either live to regret it, or there is the terrifying possibility that some of us – a lot of us – won’t.

(China. Iran. Iraq. North Korea. Russia. Syria. Yemen.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer

Anyone that has been following me for longer than one post knows I am a stickler when it comes to using words. Or maybe you don’t. So let me tell you. It can take me five or six hours to write a post sometimes because I keep trying to capture my ideas perfectly.

I never write unless I can compose on a computer, so I can open up Edge if I’m using Word, or a second tab in Edge if I’m blogging, and have up the Merriam-Webster website in case I need to look up a word.

I even have a whole collection of axioms I use when I’m teaching to stress the importance of being exacting when it comes to using words. I tell my students there is an entire lexicon of words to capture their ideas, so stop using the same 20 or 30. Do not rely on context clues to define a new word – I tell them – look it up. Do not use a word whose meaning you do not know, no matter how “sophisticated” you think it sounds.

I tell them there are no two less descriptive adjectives in the English language than “good” and “bad” – these words can mean anything to anyone. Adverbs are often just crutches for writers that don’t know a wide enough variety of action verbs. Very few words are truly interchangeable, and that is particularly true of the two words I’m going to break down in this post.

One of the defining characteristics of American political conservatives – who are mostly Republicans – is that they are “pro-life.” This term, as it is customarily used, refers to people purported to believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

John Hawkins, in an article differentiating conservatives and liberals, writes, “Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion.” To me – a liberal black Democrat feminist – this explanation captures perfectly the inaccuracy of the term “pro-life.” Conservatives are not really pro-life; they’re just anti-abortion.

They propagate the idea that human life begins at conception, and supposedly root their beliefs about abortion in that idea, but, when it comes to their other political beliefs, they expose an undeniable callousness about the preciousness of human life that ultimately undermines them.

Their “pro-life” language and optics can be pretty compelling, but I still say they are not convincing, and the majority of conservatives that oppose abortion politically and publically are not actually concerned with the immorality of the act of killing but rather the ramifications of a paradigm shift in America’s racial demography.

They don’t care about the poor lost babies; they care about the fact that white women obtained 39% of abortions in America in 2014 while black women obtained 28%, Latinx women obtained 25%, and other races and ethnicities only obtained 9%.

They care about the fact that 75% of women that obtained abortions in America in 2014 were low income or poor, and these abortions placed them in better positions to attend school, work, build, and retain some wealth.

According to Gallup, the majority of Republicans in America are white (89%),  and we know the majority of political conservatives are Republican.

The majority of conservatives in government are also Republican, white, and supposedly “pro-life,” and this now includes Trump – He Who I Shall Not Call President.

I think Trump’s pro-life views are just another guise for his all-consuming opportunism. I won’t say the thing I want to say about how likely it is that as a philandering billionaire, Trump has paid for more than a few hasty secret abortions in his time, but I will say that up until his Presidential campaign last year, he appeared to be – and he was quoted in 1999 referring to himself as – “very pro-choice.”

I think he flip-flopped to help win over the conservative electorate, and that would be fine with me if it didn’t translate into him making efforts at the federal level to strip American women of their abortion rights.

In regards to staunch “pro-lifers” like Vice President Michael Pence, I won’t say that they are lying about being Christians or believing abortion is wrong because there’s no way I can know that.

But I can and do conjecture that their religious beliefs are not the true basis of their official stance against abortion. They oppose abortion for political reasons and lie about it so they don’t seem like ruthless monsters or machines.

I say this because the prevailing sentiment throughout the New Testament is that disciples of Jesus should go out and try to win and save souls, but disciples are characterized as trained teachers and preachers in the Bible, and not laymen, and no Christian’s salvation is hinged by the Word on his or her ability to keep another Christian or another person from committing sins.

In other words, Christianity doesn’t mandate that believers actively block the sinful decisions and actions of others. It doesn’t encourage believers to interfere with other people’s lives that aggressively. The Bible says tell people about the Trinity, pray for people, model Christian behavior for them, but do not judge or seek to punish them because that is God’s job alone.

And anyway, even if these highly vocal conservatives in government do care about the souls of their constituents, their myopic focus on abortion as the main political conduit for conveying morality to the American people – if such a thing can even be done – says that isn’t the only thing they are trying to accomplish with their anti-abortion antics.

Because drug use, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are all still booming in America today, but you don’t see conservatives pushing for any legislation to more efficiently block Americans’ access to any of them.

And rape, divorce, defrauding people, gambling, persecuting others, and acting against the poor are all sins, according to the Bible, but American laws actually enable all of these things, and conservatives do very little, if anything, to change, improve, or strengthen these laws.

Unborn babies aren’t the only ones dying because of the wide berth our current laws give Americans to exercise their free will. Conservatives could take political umbrage with the way a dozen different issues are legislated at the moment, or make a dozen different strategic moves in this session of Congress, if saving lives is really what they wanted to do, but, as we should all see from the endless fucking stream of government articles on the Internet, they don’t.

Conservatives don’t want increased gun control in a country where there were 372 mass shootings that killed 475 people in 2015; there were 13,286 people killed by firearms (excluding suicides); and 60% of murders were committed with guns.

Conservatives want to repeal Obamacare before creating and implementing a workable replacement when research shows that 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance before Obamacare.

Conservatives want to end government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a/k/a food stamps), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, yet, again, research shows that 162,000 Americans die annually due to low social support; 133,000 die due to individual-level poverty; and 119,000 die due to income inequality.

Conservatives give blanket support to law enforcement though American police killed an estimated 928 people every year for the last eight years, and there is no way of knowing – because of inefficient tracking procedures – which of these killings were justified and which were avoidable.

And while we’re at it – conservatives believe in a strong military, yet “approximately 165,000 [Iraqi] civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the [US] invasion through April 2015 . . . through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.”

According to their propaganda, human life begins at the moment of conception, but it also seems to end at the instant of birth – the point at which they stop trying to pantomime concern and exploit their preciousness for the sake of political expediency.

Conservatives want to outlaw the 1.2 million abortions that American women have each year, regardless of their reasons, but seem to have no problem with directly or indirectly facilitating the deaths of roughly half that number of full people through the exercise of a malignant passel their other political beliefs.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Where does their supposed Christian concern for life and will to save innocent souls go when they are tussling back-and-forth with Democrats that want to save Obamacare or toughen up gun control or stop the use of military torture on our so-called enemies? I mean, hey, Christians are supposed to love their enemies.

And if anti-abortion laws are really only about getting women to have their babies, then why don’t conservatives focus on getting women to have their babies willingly?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life [emphasis added]. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

So where are the conservatives pushing for the laws that increase and equalize women’s wages, mandate paid maternity leave and maternal job retention, subsidize childcare costs, or grant free family health insurance or childcare to enrolled college students?

You don’t see or hear from these conservatives because conservatives’ issue with abortion isn’t really moral, and their campaign against it isn’t borne out of compassion; it’s borne out of their bottomless cunning.

I think when conservatives insist that infant lives matter, they are prevaricating. They are couching shrewd political strategy in seeming ethicality. They’re not talking about saving souls. They’re trying to shore up political and economic power to comfortably sustain them into the country’s uncertain future.

Conservatives are, again, mostly Republican, and Republicans are mostly white. Whites have hegemonic power over America as a result of being the framers of the republic and authors and economic beneficiaries of slavery and the Industrial Revolution in North America.

A primary factor in their hegemony is their numbers; they are the majority, so, when they vote together, as witnessed in the last Presidential race, they can dictate the leadership of the country and choose such that the leadership acts primarily in their favor.

When conservatives fight to take away women’s right to abortion, they are not fighting the wages of sin. They are fighting to stave off the arrival of the mythological majority-minority tipping point date, on which they will no longer be the majority and so easily able to secure their hegemony. They are fighting, behind that, to saddle poor minorities with children they can’t afford, so they have a harder time educating themselves, working, and building wealth or rather encroaching on the money white people want to horde for themselves, and, behind that, they are fighting to keep a perennial underclass in American society that is made of mostly of minorities – a segment of the population that is persistently poor and mired in pathologies of poverty that keep its members from rising to the working or middle classes, where they could become competition for less affluent whites.

Conservatives understand that unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies are often “part of the vicious cycle of poverty,” in which “kids born into poverty are likely to remain there for their whole lives, despite the promise of the American Dream.”

They also know that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” and “[p]sychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged.” Women that are denied abortions do not end up “happier” than women that are allowed to have them.

I think this is important for women to realize because we are – across communities – conditioned to care deeply about how we appear under the male gaze – to be “good” girls (see – that projective-ass word)  and – when the men with the loudest voices and weightiest opinions censure our options for our lives – it is difficult for many of us to bear up under that and fight for the resources and choices we need to be autonomous.

Conservatives make a lot of moralistic and misogynistic arguments against abortion (not the least is the sub-textual argument that women’s overall wellbeing in politically expendable), but the truth is the majority of women don’t use abortions as a means of birth control, and they don’t relish having to make the decision or go through with having an abortion. They do it because it’s what they feel they have to do.

The majority of women have abortions out of financial, psychological, and/or physical necessity, and they do not choose adoption because to do so they would still have to take on the financial, psychological, and physical of pregnancy, and those are not incidental in the least – no matter what conservative white male members of Congress that know everything they know about pregnancy and childbirth from watching their affluent wives and side chicks go through it might say.

And, despite the misleading way conservatives talk about cutting funding for institutions like Planned Parenthood, federal money does not pay for abortions in any institutional setting, even if abortions are given in that setting.

Sadly, anti-abortion laws don’t ensure either – in conjunction with blocking abortions – that every American child that is allowed to be born is adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated, or loved.

According to Children’s Rights, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the US right now. Nearly six percent of children in foster care stay in for five or more years. More than half of the children entering foster care are racial minorities. Fourteen percent of children in foster care are not in family settings; they are in institutions or group homes.

In 2015, over 62,000 American children whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated were waiting to be adopted, and more than 20,000 young adults aged out of foster care without permanent families.

Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.”

Too, 686,000 US children in foster care in 2012 were victims of abuse – 78.3% of these babies were neglected, 18.3% were battered, 9.3% were physically abused, 8.5% were “psychologically maltreated,” and 1,640 died from abuse and neglect.

If conservative Republicans were really ’bout that life – as they say in the streets – where so many unwanted American children end up after everything is said and done on Capitol Hill – they’d be brainstorming ways to keep these young ones out of foster care, not shove more of them in.

If they were about life at all, and not just money and power, they’d focus on making America livable for everyone and stop using poor women’s wombs as metaphoric or spiritual suicide bombs.

 

Trump is Our Bad Boyfriend, and We the People Are Getting Gaslighted

I don’t hate anyone in my real life (versus my political life) except the asshole to which I lost my virginity.

He taught me about gaslighting, and he is probably one of the only people in this world around which I would consistently lose my shit–if I ever allowed his ass around me.

I even skipped my cousin’s last birthday party because I saw on Facebook, in a comment, he planned to come, and I refuse to be closed up in the same room with him. I will do any- and everything I can so I don’t have to speak to him.

He didn’t assault me when we hooked up, but he was a significantly older boy with much more confidence, aggression, emotional dexterity, and sexual experience. He was able to perceive and assess the power differential between us much more quickly and intelligently than I was and exploit it easily and slickly because I was so inexperienced and intimidated by him.

And I hate him for being willing to do that. To ignore all the signs that I wasn’t ready for what was happening or sure I wanted it to happen. To look at my confusion as an advantage of the situation. To be so deeply lacking in empathy or decency.

But I also take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t use my own agency to get out of what I perceived pretty early on as a bad situation.

When I say that this asshole has gaslighted me, I’m not talking about what he did that one afternoon; I’m talking about what he’s done to me ever since that afternoon, every time I have the misfortune of talking to him.

He pretends like I cared for him. Like I invited him into the room and initiated intercourse with him. Like the fact that I didn’t want to be around him in the aftermath is because I am so terribly attracted to him, it makes me afraid and/or embarrassed of myself.

He pretends like we had a relationship. Like I told him that I wanted to be with him. Like I “refuse” to be with him because I am intimidated by his virility and all this other imaginary “good” shit he doesn’t have going for himself.

When he contacts me on Facebook, which he’s done more than a few times, he talks like he knows my desires and understands my preferences and habits. He tells me what I want and what I feel and what I would like to happen between us.

When I tell him to fuck off, he tells me I don’t really mean it. I’m being coy. I need to stop pretending. The reality is, though, of all the wrongheaded shit I’ve done in my entire life–and, mind you, I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 39 years–having sex with him is what I regret most deeply.

I really do consider him to be the most reprehensible human being I know, namely because he is willing to play such sick games with people’s minds.

In my political or civic life, there is, unfortunately, an equivalent to this asshole, and he is Donald Trump.

(And you might as well resign yourselves–those of you hung up on formality or custom or whatever–because I am not going to call him “President.” Ever.

I’m not going to dignify him because he refuses, much like The Asshole, to acknowledge what he did to the American electorate and deal from a place of accountability.)

Trump is the nation’s bad boyfriend, and he’s gaslighting the shit out of us.

Gaslighting is the deliberate attempt to make a person believe that his or her perceptions of an occurrence are not only incorrect, but that the perceptions are the result of that person’s own mental or emotional instability.

When I say Trump is gaslighting us, I’m not talking about the way he is enacting his electoral agenda. In that area, he’s actually demonstrating some integrity, even though his actions are still damaging as hell.

He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he signed an executive order yesterday that most experts view as the first significant step in rolling it back– have mercy.

The order makes it possible for the Secretary of Health and other officials to interpret ACA regulations as loosely as possible–to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay implementation of any provision or requirement . . . to the maximum extent permitted by law” and ostensibly interfere with the administration of healthcare to 20 million needful Americans.

This is horrible, but it may actually be the only transparent thing he’s done since winning the election last November.

It begs the question why so many people that are dependent on the provisions of the ACA voted for Trump, but that’s a question for those people to ponder. I voted for HRC, and my conscience, in that respect, is clear.

When I say Trump is gaslighting the American people–and he is–don’t doubt it–I’m talking about his responses to two situations in particular–Russia’s interference in his election and yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington.

If we look really closely at the things Trump has said and done to control the way we–the American public–perceive and process both of these occurrences–we will see that he is employing numerous toxic diversion tactics to persuade us there is nothing wrong with the way he conducted his campaign, or has proceeded, since his win, to ignore the rising concerns of the electorate–and, if there is any “problem,” it is us.

An article on Thought Catalog lists 20 different diversion tactics that sociopaths and psychopaths use to–and I think it’s particularly germane to this post that the writer uses this term–“silence” the rest of us.

“Toxic people . . .” Shahida Arabi writes, “engage in maladaptive behaviors [and] use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility.”

Apropos of Trump, Arabi writes, “[A]busive narcissists use these [diversionary tactics] to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.”

And in the last few weeks, Trump has not only used gaslighting, but projection, blanket statements, nitpicking, moving the goalpost, changing the subject, threats, name-calling, smear campaigning, shaming, and controlling (so a total of 11 out of 20 tactics) to prevent the American public at large from critiquing his words, condemning his actions, and/or opposing his inauguration.

This is not an exaggeration.

The U.S. intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a declassified assessment of the Russian “hacking” of the Presidential election on January 6 that stated “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign” with the goals of “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process, denigrat[ing] Secretary Clinton, and harm[ing] her electability . . .

The media by and large used the vague term “cyberattack” to reference Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton, but the intelligence report is much more detailed in its explanation of what Russia did:

We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency. 

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.  

In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.

Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.

Too, Putin wants–note the shift to the present tense here–to “befriend” America for economic reasons. Of course. Is there anything any of these leaders do that isn’t motivated first and foremost by money? (It’s called imperialism.)

According to a CNBC article on Putin, Russia is a “petrostate”–it makes the bulk of its money from oil and gas exports, so, when oil prices drop, or other countries place sanctions on Russia, its economy suffers terribly.

After taking over part of Ukraine in 2014, and being sanctioned by the US and a number of our Western European allies, Russia’s gross domestic product has dropped over 40 percent, but its massive population hasn’t.

So Putin is seeking to lessen the economic pressure the US is putting on Russia. He wants Trump to lift the old and new sanctions against Russia that were ordered by Obama.

According to former Russian ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, he is also seeking “some sort of get-out-jail free card” that will keep the US and Europe from interfering in Russia’s affairs if and when it makes more aggressive moves against other countries.

The Economist says:

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters.

And Russia will keep making moves like this because the country’s economic problems have created unrest between the government and the middle classes in Russia’s largest cities.

Economist staff writes, “Mr Putin has sought [also] to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad.”

They claim:

With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.

This explains why Putin worked to sabotage the Presidential election on two fronts; he wanted to win favor with Trump so Trump will lift the sanctions, and he wanted to make democracy look less attractive to his own dissatisfied citizens.

Yet another reason Putin sabotaged the election, according to experts, is he hopes that by helping Trump win, he has convinced Trump to do business in Russia.

Trump has a history of doing business with Russians. When Trump’s professional failures lost him credibility among US investors back in the 1980s, he traveled to Moscow to gain new investors for his real estate ventures.

Consequently, many of his high-end condo buyers in New York and Florida over the past few decades have been Russians; many Russians have developed their own American properties and paid royalties to put the Trump name on these buildings.

In 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., reportedly told investors in Moscow that Trump had trademarked his name in Russia and planned to build real estate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, as well as sell more licenses to other Russian developers.

“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr. apparently said at the time.

It’s not implausible that Putin wants to work with Trump to somehow make good on those old, abandoned promises, and perhaps placate the middle class with new opportunities, since Russia’s current economic landscape is so bleak, and they are so angry about it.

It’s even more plausible that Trump knows this, right? It’s likely that he knows all of this.

He knows about Russia’s failing economy; he knows about Putin’s fascist military tactics; he knows that Putin wants to do business with him; and he knows the “cyberattacks” on the election helped him to win.

Yet, what has he said and done in response to these “cyberattacks”?

He called the government effort to get to the bottom of the hacking a “witch hunt.”

He asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?” But the White House announced in October that it believed Russia had hacked the DNC and leaked its emails.

He conjectured that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

He tweeted, about the CIA, “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction[,] so why trust them?”

He goaded the intelligence community at large: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

And when he was called to task for saying these things, he accused the media of being “dishonest” and spreading “lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

He blamed the proliferation of computer technology in our everyday lives for the hacking and not Putin and his government: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

Then, after he attended an intelligence briefing on the hacking, in the last week of December, and his inauguration was sparsely attended and deliberately skipped by many members of Congress, he went to the CIA yesterday–during the Women’s March no less–and told the same people he’d spent weeks attacking: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

See what I’m saying?

He acted as if he didn’t attack the intelligence community, just like he acted as if the intelligence community had wrongly or unfairly attacked Russia and him.

Gaslighting.

And there’s all the rest of it, too.

Projection: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

Blanket statements: “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

Nitpicking: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Changing the subject: “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction so why trust them?”

Shaming: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”

Love-bombing: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

Controlling.

Trump is trying his hardest to control the way that we perceive him. He is setting up to abuse his office and its power but at the same time conditioning us to think negatively about institutions that could help us to stay truthfully informed of his actions.

He is also conditioning us to question our impulse to question him.

You can see this attempt to exert malignant control in his inaugural address, too.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he said, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth . . . The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

“That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” he vowed, “because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

In his conclusion, he reiterated that “[we] will never be ignored again.”

“Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams,” he said,  “will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”
Yet, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000. There is, again, evidence that the election was fixed, even if to a minimal extent, by the Russian government. Even his so-called fellow Republicans acknowledge the veracity of the intelligence community investigation.
Since Trump’s election, hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed misgivings about his promise to repeal and replace the ACA, yet he hasn’t addressed our concerns in any real way.
Trump’s inauguration had the smallest attendance of a Presidential inauguration in 12 years, according to estimates. Dozens of entertainers reportedly refused to perform as part of the celebration, and many members of Congress refused to attend.
And, almost immediately after it, the Women’s March organized in opposition to Trump brought over a million protesters to the main march in DC and “sister” marches all around the US and rest of the world.
To be sure, Reuters confirms that “[t]he demonstrations . . . highlighted strong discontent over Trump’s comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.”
Trump should’ve had a direct response to this, but, instead, he hid somewhere in the White House and sent his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to deal with the issue of the protesters before the media cameras.
This was a very deliberate and clear devaluation of their opposition and yet another of those diversionary tactics that malignant narcissists regularly employ.
Spicer held a televised media briefing yesterday evening, but, instead of addressing the protesters’ grievances, he spent his time and energy lashing out at the media for its coverage of the inauguration on Friday.
He acted as if the march wasn’t still happening, and it hadn’t received staunch support from people in France, England, Australia, and South Africa.

“[Friday’s] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” he also said. “The American people deserve better.”

There it is again. Gaslighting. Lying. Threatening.

Spicer bitched about a reporter that tweeted on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office even though the reporter had already said he was wrong and apologized.

Changing the subject. Nitpicking.

And Spicer talked about Trump’s meeting with the CIA rather, which really came off then like a diversion from the march. He criticized the Democrats in the Senate for “playing politics” and refusing to let Mike Pompeo lead the CIA.

“It’s a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with [Trump} today when he visited,” Spicer said.

 

Blanket statement. Moving the goal post. Sarcasm.

All of this–destructive conditioning.

I didn’t write anything about the inauguration on the blog on Friday because I needed to get my thoughts together before I wrote something long from. However, I posted quite a few things on my Facebook, and I read dozens of posts throughout the day.

Most of my friends on Facebook were upset and just as adamant as I was about letting everyone else know they were upset, but a lot of them were urging the rest of us to just “accept” that Trump won the election and get back to living our lives.

My response to that was “If you put your head in the sand, all they have to do then is bury the rest of you.”

If my research about the Cabinet taught me nothing else, it’s that government affects just about every aspect of your life, right down to how much you pay for your tampons (it’s called the Pink Tax).

If you ignore what the government is doing, it doesn’t stop the government from affecting you. You are still subject to every decision made under its auspices, whether you know the decision has been made or understand the ramifications of the decision.

I think it’s better to know, and I think it’s better to fight whatever inequities get passed down.

Despite himself, Trump is now in control of our government. Many people–myself included–believe he is a sociopath. But, even if he isn’t, he is clannish, delusional, opportunistic, indulgent, unstable, dishonest, and greedy.

He is a danger to the American people and system of government, and I don’t care what the fuck he says.

His verbal behaviors speak much louder than his actual words.

And, sadly, we Americans that do not want him or trust him to lead us cannot shut him out of our lives like I have shut The Asshole out of mine.

We are forced to reckon with him for at least the next four years, or until he gets impeached, whichever one comes first (I’m praying for the impeachment).

But, in the meantime, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent–to be lulled into some “honeymoon” with him that will blow up in our faces.

Anyone that has ever had an Asshole like mine, or a bad boyfriend, knows the routine. You know how hard these men try to get you to surrender to them.

They keep hammering at you, and, even though you know it’s craziness, you weaken. You start believing the things they say and do to you. You do it to reconcile the dissonance between your rose-colored ideas of human decency and compassion and the black-hearted truth of human nature and intentions.

He must be telling the truth–you say to yourself–because it’s easier to believe that you are wrong than to believe someone could target you for victimization at the most intimate level without you deserving it.

That’s our problem, as I see it: We act like kids when it comes to causal reasoning. We want the things that happen to be neat, clean, and accountable, but they’re more than often not.

Yet, no matter how many times life teaches us this lesson, we never assimilate it because it makes life seem harder and uglier when it’s really the same old life, teaching us the same old lesson.

There are reasons Trump got elected–some we know and some we don’t–and even though it’s scary–the thought that invisible powers put him in office–the reality that he is in office–we can’t cave to the impulse to normalize it. It won’t make his time in office any easier on us.

Trump is gaslighting us into believing it will, but we need to stay vigilant against his efforts.

He is not the benevolent or capable leader he is pretending to be; he is the same cloddish fuck he’s always been.

We cannot let him destroy our country, if we can help it, and we cannot allow him to be re-elected in 2020. Nor can we gift him another super majority in 2018.

My husband said, rather flippantly, as we watched the Women’s March on MSNBC earlier, “Marching is more fun than voting.”

Yet, I believe voting is ultimately more meaningful because it allows for policy changes.

So we have to vote Trump out when it’s time. Simple as that. We have to stay motivated to do what’s right, even if that means bumping up against all of Trump’s convoluted bullshit on the long way back to the Presidential polls.

We can’t let his destructive conditioning stick. We can’t let him convince us that we are in the wrong for refusing to accept his so-called presidency. We can’t get accustomed to him, fuck around, and forget how bad he is.

In all the years since The Asshole, I am proud to say I have never let him pressure me. I have never changed my story about what happened to make it “prettier” or “sexier” and my decision seem less toxic than it was.

Holding to the truth of that experience has helped me to never replicate it. It has made me smarter, stronger, and more strategic about what I do with my body and with whom I share it.

I think the same principle can hold with Trump’s election.

We can learn the lessons of this experience, and let them make us–Americans, Democrats, liberals, women, whoever, whatever–more strategic when it comes to picking our President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers, Fairy Tales, and Lies: Why We Can & Should Hold Black Male Celebrities Accountable for Their Crimes

I wrote this back in May of last year, but all the Bishop Eddie Long apologists I’m reading on Facebook brought it back to my mind and renewed its relevancy, at least to my thinking.

I will say the same thing here that I said on Facebook about some people’s refusal to be silent about the sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Long in the event of his death:

You recount the mistakes to distill the lesson.

The black community should’ve held Eddie Long accountable for the wrongs he committed while he was still alive if so many of its members find it distasteful to indict a dead man.

But what the black community shouldn’t do–through its parochial responses to Long’s accusers–is continue to make the black community unlivable for sexual abuse victims or make it a safe space for sexual predators.

That–if you ask me–is a sin.

MRS

Even though I grew up in a household that was an approximation of the black middle class ideal, I still wanted to be a Huxtable.

I wanted more siblings than my one baby sister, who, at eight years younger, could do nothing but annoy the hell out of me; I wanted to live in a brownstone in the biggest and busiest city in the world; I wanted to have all four of my grandparents within walking distance and visit with them regularly; I wanted a mother who allowed my friends to come and visit our home every day after school; and I wanted a father just like Heathcliff.

When I was young, my father was a workaholic with ambitions of becoming the next Johnny Cochrane; he was gone most of the time, and, when he was home, he was still busy with work. He had his own father’s heirloom sarcasm. He wanted his daughters to be ladies even though our mother was raising us to be women. His expectations could loom higher than a Detroit skyscraper at times, but his temper could be as ugly as the Detroit River. He never spanked me once in my life, but he did smack me up a time or two with doctrine—the proxy hand of God—when he thought I was getting too out-of-control with my damned independent thinking and insistence on eking out my own identity.

He was a lot more complicated than Heathcliff Huxtable–less fun and way more demanding–and, since I had that TV image with which to compare him, I often found myself wishing my dad was less himself and more like a sitcom character.

I would fantasize about him reacting to me in the warm, goofy way that Heathcliff reacted to his kids, and I would feel a bit cheated because it was work being his daughter, and no one applauded for me as I did it.

Now, at 39, I realize that work was some of the most valuable that I’ve ever don–that he–my father–and I were building me into a decent, hard-working, and responsible person (with a wicked sense of humor, enviable taste in music, an elegant sense of style, and a deeply-rooted notion of fairness).

I understand now that navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up, and I wouldn’t be anyone close to the thinker, writer, teacher, mother, sister, or friend I am if I hadn’t been my father’s daughter–and mother’s daughter–first.

I also see–in thinking through why Heathcliff Huxtable was such an appealing character to me–what a juvenile concept of the “father” most of black people retain throughout our lives.

This is important to point out because I think it has a lot to do with why so many us, who love(d) Heathcliff Huxtable, are having such a difficult time accepting that Bill Cosby is a rapist that deserves to be punished for his crimes.

Rather than an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, whispering to black people about what fathers are and are not, we have a fairy tale weighing on one shoulder and a pack of racist lies weighing on the other.

These two false images make it difficult for us to be realistic or real about our fathers and father figures.

The fairy tale is of the white father–a romanticized figure that is an amalgam of the Judeo-Christian God and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. This man–because of his social privilege and inherent moral superiority and intelligence–conferred by his whiteness–is the perfect father. He is always there for his kids; he always has to proper solution for their problems; he can provide for his children’s every need; and he never fails them. He is the polar opposite, conceptually, of the paradigmatic black father.

The lies on the other end of the binary are that black men are inherently bad fathers. That slavery stole the ability to parent permanently from them. That institutional racism bars them–across the board–financially, emotionally, and spiritually–from adequately supporting their children. That being the victims of oppression, suppression, deprivation, and violence makes them ineffective and even damaging.

Charles Blow of The New York Times does an excellent job of describing this manifold misconception: “[We believe],” he writes, ” . . . there is something fundamental, and intrinsic about black men that is flawed, that black fathers are pathologically prone to desertion of their offspring and therefore largely responsible for black community ‘dysfunction.’”

Both of these mythoi–of the good white father and bad black father–conveniently–or inconveniently for black men–ignore the facts–which must be considered in order for black people to gain a more realistic–and serviceable–concept of the “father.”

The first is that, historically, many white men have failed spectacularly at parenting. See Joseph Kennedy, who had his daughter Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 without his wife’s knowledge or agreement, or Woody Allen, who had an affair with the adopted daughter—Soon-Yi Previn—of his long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow. They have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that white men in general are not automatically “better equipped” for parenting.

On the other hand, black men are more than just the “serial impregnators” portrayed in the racist mainstream media.

Though 72% of black women having babies are single mothers, this doesn’t mean that they don’t live with the fathers of their children. It actually means they aren’t married to them. Many still live with the fathers of their children. Only 55% of black children live in single mother households.

And even though a lot of black fathers don’t live with their children, about 2.5 million black fathers do live with at least one of their children.

Too, according to the CDC, black fathers–in and out of the home–provide more actual child care than white or Hispanic fathers. Yes–black men regularly feed their children their meals (78.2% black>73.9% white>63.9% Hispanic), dress their children (70.4% black>60% white>45% Hispanic), and read to their children every day (34.9% black>30.2% white>21.9% Hispanic). They are not all flailing or failing to fulfill their parental duties, despite what even a large segment of the black community maintains.

It is fair to acknowledge, too, that many of the black fathers that are missing from their children’s lives are missing because of factors related to institutionalization.

As reported in The Washington Post, “Incarceration [is an]  overwhelming [driver] of the gap [in the number of black women and men in the free population].

“Of the 1.5 million missing black men [out of 8 million] from 25 to 54 [the prime age span for fatherhood]–higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost one in 12 black men . . . is behind bars, compared with one in 60 nonblack men . . .”

These numbers prove that black men are not pathologically neglectful of their children.

Black fathers are still more absent from black homes than white fathers, but their patterns of abandonment can be linked to the historical legacy of slavery–how it has shaped today’s law enforcement and justice system, created genetic pitfalls for black people in terms of their health (which result in earlier deaths), and facilitated the demonization of black men in order to justify its reprehensibility.

Often, it is their internalized self-hatred–their own belief in their badness–that impels black men to leave their children alone–in the wrongheaded attempt to protect them.

Because black men struggle on a lot of levels to be present for their children at the same rates as nonblack men, and black people as a whole have a lot of misconceptions about how structural racism impedes parenting, the absences of black fathers lead many black people to cling to idealized father figures like Heathcliff Huxtable.

They set these father figures, usually found in entertainment, on pedestals because these men seem to have overcome whatever obstacles they needed to overcome in order to “get it right” for their children and co-parents (which are more often than not their wives).

Those that actually are or that just feel fatherless worship these figures in a sense, and this may be because one of the predominant figures in this improvised pantheon of imaginary surrogates is, in fact, the Judeo-Christian God.

Just listen to the way that many black religious leaders speak about God. They very liberally and munificently humanize Him. They do this because they know that so many black people suffer from an acute psychological sense of fatherlessness. They want to fix it, so they offer their congregants a God that is an eternal, omnipotent father.

They take that Biblical address, that ancient, enduring metaphor—“Our Father”—and literalize it–to effect some sort of spiritual healing from parental abandonment. They create a model of fatherhood that–while it may not shape the way that real black fathers do their jobs–shapes the way that the fatherless envision the role of the father. Then, celebrities, cultural icons, and imaginary characters like Heathcliff Huxtable do the same thing, but on a lesser level.

These famous “fathers” provide the fatherless with an unrealistic ideal that they attach to as “theirs” to fill the absence of an actual father. These “fathers” give the fatherless ridiculously high standards for what a father is, but, since they appear to meet these standards, they also inspire immense amounts of love and loyalty. It is this love and loyalty–and the painful prospect of losing yet another “parent”–that make it so difficult for people to accept it when father (or maybe it’s more apt to say “fatherly”) figures like Bill Cosby commit terrible acts.

Since so many black people do suffer from fatherlessness–or even from the idea that their “regular” black fathers are inferior–they do not want to give up their adoptive fatherly figures.

They do not want to face the fact that a character like Heathcliff Huxtable is a personage and not a person.

They want their fatherly figure to be innocent, or, if he cannot be innocent, they want him to be exempt.

So when their fatherly figure is put on public trial, these “children” argue that his positive contributions to society or culture or the black community must outweigh his crimes. They vilify his victims in order to lessen his culpability and depravity. They deny that his behavior is actually harmful, or, worse, they say that his victims are the ones doing the harm, by ruining the fatherly figure’s so-called legacy.

They make that same tired argument every time–that if Guilty Black Fatherly Figure were white, he wouldn’t be held nearly as accountable for his transgressions, as if that somehow justifies his transgressions. But the truth remains.

Despite how prevalent fatherlessness is in the black community, or how painful it is, we—the collective—cannot use it as an excuse to dismiss the crimes of our famous black men. Our imaginary “fathers” are no less responsible for their actions than our actual fathers. Fame, wealth, and talent–while they are rare–impressive–enchanting–still do not cancel out brutality, cruelty, perversity, or decidedly unchecked psychopathy.

The ugly truth is, then, that Bill Cosby is somnophiliac that–because he prefers to secretly drug women rather than gain their consent to have unconscious sex–has allowed the pursuit of his paraphilia to make him a rapist.

He has admitted on the record to drugging women and raping them. He has paid these women–by order of the court and on his own—as his atonement for raping them.

He has exploited his image as a fatherly figure, his power, and sexist stereotypes like that of the female groupie or gold digger to ruthlessly cover for his crimes.

He has been allowed and–yes–encouraged–by his wife, entourage, the Hollywood establishment, the legal system, the patriarchy, and, yes, the black community–that deifies him–to violate a group of 50 women–that we know of–between 1965 and 2008–without suffering any losses to his fame, wealth, reputation, or freedom.

And before any of you reading can make the reflexive argument that erroneously links the veracity of their accusations to how long it took certain of his victims to come forward on the record, let me let you know–

American culture and the nation’s justice system are criminally inhospitable to female rape victims, and this has a profound effect on their willingness to report their attacks.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to police.

This is because when women are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance (neighbor, classmate, coworker, boss), they fear they will not be believed.

They fear retaliation from the accused, other people finding out they’ve been assaulted, being branded as a rape victim, and/or being disrespected and/or mistreated during the trial process.

They believe that the police will not do anything to help them.

They believe that they have a lack of adequate proof or evidence.

They have their own misconceptions about what actually constitutes rape and do not actually know or believe that they have been raped.

Men may not be able to relate to these reasons–or they might refute them in order to abstain from inverting and being implicated by them–but women–if we’re being honest–know that they are very real.

Too many of us have either been raped or molested and experienced these paralyzing fears or doubts firsthand, or we have imagined being raped or molested and projected these fears and doubts onto our imaginary selves and into our possible futures.

Another reason not listed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that women don’t report sexual assaults is the terrible lack of credibility attributed to them by certain principles of rape culture.

Patriarchal notions that men hold–about how desperately women want to please them, how deserving “promiscuous” women are of punishment, and how important maintaining a “good girl” image is to women–make it easy for men to believe that women are lying when women say they’ve been raped.

Men like this think women are so universally “afraid” of being typed as sluts that any and all of them would lie about having consensual sex–call it rape–to avoid retribution or requital for exercising their sexual freedom.

And these men hold to the unfortunate truth that some women have lied about being assaulted—they have falsely accused men to avoid shame, exact revenge, or hide infidelity.

In the case of Cosby’s accusers, we must also concede they were up against the unlikelihood that a woman that is a “nobody” would be believed over a cultural icon.

Look baldly at how his accusers have been treated, and it’s easy to see why so many of Cosby’s victims felt for so long that reporting him to the authorities would be pointless.

People conflate Cosby with Heathcliff Huxtable. They think Bill Cosby is Heathcliff Huxtable. And, as devotees of the character, it is impossible for them to imagine Heathcliff raping a woman. So they struggle with believing that Cosby is a rapist. Still, the numbers of victims—as well as Cosby’s own accounts of his encounters with them and court settlements to which he has agreed—make it impossible to ignore that Cosby is guilty of a pattern of illegal behavior for which he deserves to be punished.

It looks as if the same thing, unfortunately, can be said about legendary hip hop culturalist Afrika Bambaataa, who has been accused in the last couple of months by four men of sexually abusing them during the 1980s.

Allegedly, he showed them—as boys—pornographic materials then performed oral sex on them.

Along with assaulting them, he gave them shelter, food, and money when they needed it, and he maintained a “father-son” relationship with at least one of them into adulthood. That is—in fact—what the boys called him: “Poppy.”

It’s reasonable to assume that fatherlessness, shame, machismo, and a distorted sense of loyalty are what kept them from reporting their abuse until now.

Again, before those of you that are inclined start doing that victim-blaming “thing” we so often do when we hear that victims of sexual assault have waited to name their accusers, I want to go back to one really significant concept I brought up previously, and that’s loyalty.

I honestly believe that malformed and misdirected loyalty are what keep a lot of black people silent about the terrible things that other black people do to them or in their presence.

We have such a profound mistrust of law enforcement and the courts that we do not want to turn a supposed “brother” or “sister” over to them if we can help it.

So many of we black people refuse to report crimes committed against us by other black people—and we uphold our own abusers in a lot of instances—in order to show our racial awareness and solidarity.

We romanticize our victimization as a sacrifice of sorts, and we shame those that don’t adhere to this dysfunctional “code” of honor and silence. But this behavior is a throwback to the plantation and the inhumane treatment our ancestors often suffered when they didn’t cover and/or lie for each other.

As a people, we have to start moving past our past, in this sense. We either have to abandon this anti-“snitching” ethic and turn the offenders in our community over to the law, or we have to figure out our own ways to hold them accountable for their choices to damage others and refuse to seek help for their sicknesses.

I said it before—navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up. James Baldwin even said that loving someone—that act in itself—is a growing up.

It’s a process of shedding the pretty, pretend ideas we get from fairy tales, and the hyperbolic or fantastical ideas we get from lies, and embracing new ideas about ourselves—bolder concepts of ourselves—that protect and empower us, female and male.

And here are a few—

We can love Heathcliff Huxtable—what he represents—the will to father black children lovingly and joyfully—without reifying him.

We can admire Bill Cosby as an entertainer, philanthropist, actor, and producer without deifying him.

We can condemn Bill Cosby for raping those women without killing the image of Healthcliff Huxtable.

We can support a conviction of Bill Cosby’s guilt and maintain a sense of our highest and not our basest form of integrity.

We can condemn Afrika Bambaataa without indicting hip hop culture or erasing his contributions to the culture from its history.

We can support a conviction of his guilt.

We must.

Nothing can justifiably counterbalance wrongs like the ones Cosby or Eddie Long committed except confession, contrition, reparation, and rehabilitation.

So we cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood—this concept that black men cannot answer for their actions—if we want black men that ultimately inspire more than pity, mistrust, resentment, or fear in us. Or that can only truly be great when they are standing framed in our blind spots.

We cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood if we want to evolve into a culture that is characterized by more than its pathologies.

In order to grow out of the desperation of fatherlessness and demand what is actually attainable from our famous men–decency–we have to leave the childish notion that fathers are faultless behind us, once and for all.

We have to process the ugly truths about our fatherly figures. Topple them from their pedestals. Let them shatter and clean up the messes they’ve made.

This will help us to not only heal from their abuses, but it will help us to better appreciate our real fathers.

It will open us up to accepting that many of them are bending over backward, being their best for us.

 

America 101: The Cabinet

All the big-name news sources are talking back-and-forth this week about Trump’s cabinet picks as he prepares to take office in a little more than ten days.

In what has become typical Trump fashion, he has done completely away with the customary practices of all his Presidential predecessors and waited until the absolute last minute to get his nominees for the top posts confirmed by the Senate.

Yet, even as writers and reporters from the majorly credible publications and broadcasts across the country acknowledge that Trump’s cabinet nominees themselves and the timetable for their confirmations are “controversial,” they are starting to take on this tone in their observations that is resigned to the chaos of the President-elect’s nascent leadership.

It’s a big deal, though, that he has chosen the people he has chosen to do the jobs that they will ostensibly do. A President’s cabinet plats a crucial role in his administration.

This is what I learned from my research over the last couple of days.

The cabinet is a Constitutionally established body of officials that advise the President about any subject that relates to the duties of their specific office.

They are the heads of 15 different executive departments–the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs–plus the Attorney General and Vice President.

According to the Brookington Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, DC, “Presidents fill their cabinets with experienced leaders from around the country. These leaders must have some combination of executive experience, policy expertise, partisan credentials, or personal loyalty to the president. They symbolize presidential priorities, represent demographic groups and marshal the support of the clientele of the department they will be leading.”

In 2009, Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu described the importance of the Cabinet on the White House blog, saying, “Every day, the President calls on the Cabinet . . . He . . . values their work in running the federal departments and agencies, ensuring that the government always works on behalf of the American people.”

This is why Cabinet secretaries–along with the Attorney General, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador to the UN, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration–must be confirmed by the Senate.

Nominees for these Cabinet-level positions must be fully vetted, which means they must disclose all financial documents to whichever Senate committee conducts their confirmation hearing so the members of that committee can determine whether they have conflicts of interest that could unduly influence the way they advise the President.

According to ABC News, the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries goes like this: Nominations, generally made by the President and/or his transition staff, are given to the relevant Senate committee; that committee opts to either hold a confirmation hearing, move the nomination straight to the Senate for a vote, or not do anything with the nomination, which “kills” it; if the committee holds a hearing, they may either vote whether to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably, or without any recommendation or “sit” on the nomination, which seems like another way to “kill” it; nominations that clear a committee–one way or the other–are moved to the Senate floor where a simple majority vote is held; if the nominees winds the majority vote, he or she becomes a member of the Cabinet.

Since the nominees must get voted in by the Senate, this process of getting his first-round nominees confirmed may not go as smoothly for Trump as he may want because the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate.

Take the Attorney General confirmation. There are 100 seats (two senators for each state); the Republicans have 51 seats; but Jeff Sessions–the Republican Senator from Alabama–is the nominee for Attorney General and may not vote for himself as a show of good faith.

Too, Republicans that take issue with Trump’s nominees can and may “defect” and vote against them, and it would only take one or two of these kinds of votes to block a nominee. In 228 years, according to The Business Insider, nine Cabinet nominations have been outright rejected by the Senate, and eleven have either been withdrawn or the Senate has refused to act on them.

The other potentially “sticky” issue surrounding the confirmation of Trump’s nominees, according to a really interesting and informative article by NPR, is the fact they may not all have the same political philosophies or ideas for their leadership that he does.

In fact, Jessica Taylor for NPR, says, ” . . . [S]ome of the president-elect’s top would-be advisers revealed [during their hearings] . . . major policy breaks with the future president on issues Trump championed and views he expressed on the campaign trail — from Russian hacking, torture, a Muslim ban and registry, mosque surveillance, NATO, the Iran nuclear deal [to] infrastructure, deportations and that border wall.”

If these nominees are confirmed, it could mean that Trump will experience a lot of friction as he attempts to move forward on those more grandiose promises he made to his electorate.

The potential, though, for conflict between Trump and the members of his Cabinet can be construed as a positive for those of us that distrust Trump and are worried that he will be wielding his Presidential power essentially unchecked for the next four years (based on how readily he has broken with dozens of behavioral standards, customs, and norms throughout his campaign and transition into the White House and how willingly and easily the media, his supporters, and Congress have let him off the seeming hook), as long as that conflict stems from the members of his Cabinet pushing Trump to make smarter, more beneficial decisions.

Taylor says basically the same thing: “[The breaks in thinking between Trump and his cabinet nominees demonstrate] the potential constraints the president-elect could run into if he seeks to implement some of the more provocative aspects of what he campaigned on.” But she also acknowledges, “[A] lack of cohesion [at the Presidential level of government] could lead to . . . potential difficulty . . .”

Again, the Brookings Institute gives some insight into how differences in philosophy, belief, and opinion between the President and his Cabinet can be not just prophylactic but problematic.

In writing the institute, James Pfiffner locates the potential for “difficulty,” as Taylor terms it, very specifically in the relationship between Cabinet members and the White House Staff:

[B]y the late 20th century, major policy functions that used to be performed outside the White House were now integrated into the White House [it reads] . . . Additionally, political functions that had previously been performed by the political parties and in Congress were now located in the White House . . . [Yet] cabinet secretaries understandably resent “interference” from White House staffers . . . Once in office, cabinet secretaries are seen as advocates for their policy domain, champions for the workers in their departments, and aggressive seekers of budget resources . . . [Their] duties and inclinations often put them on a collision course with White House staffers, who are trying to rein them in and harness them to presidential priorities. 

In “Cabinet secretaries versus the White House staff,” Pfiffner illustates this principle using an example from the Obama administration:

[W]hen President Obama came to office, he initially intended to delegate legal policy on detainees at Guantanamo to his attorney general and friend, Eric Holder. Holder accepted the position with the understanding that he would make legal decisions independently of the White House, though of course the president would have the final say. In delegating some of the key legal decisions regarding detainee policy to Attorney General Holder, President Obama wanted to be seen as not letting politics interfere with legal principles. Obama told Holder to make legal decisions on the merits of the law rather than on political grounds.

Exercising his delegated authority, Holder decided to try some 9/11 terrorist suspects in criminal court rather than by military tribunals, and he chose New York City as the venue. The decision caused a political uproar, with congressional leaders threatening legislation to mandate military commissions at Guantanamo and not in the continental United States. Holder’s decisions reinforced White House staffers’ suspicion that he was not sufficiently sensitive to the president’s political interests. Ultimately, the White House staff, particularly chief of staff [Rahm] Emanuel, convinced Obama that the political repercussions of Holder’s decisions were more important than Holder’s legal judgments and his independence from the White House.

Because of the White House’s desire to maintain a certain image of political expediency, with the thought it would help get Obama re-elected in 2012, it urged Obama to undermine Holder’s authority during his first term, making it “difficult”–again–for Holder to keep the promises he made when he became Attorney General.

Holder promised the American people he would “end the policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo by prosecuting some of its most notorious detainees; to investigate torture by the CIA; and to revitalize the department’s most neglected offices, like the long-suffering Civil Rights Division.” Although his agenda fell under the auspices of President Obama’s own agenda–to make the Department of Justice more of an independent agent, exercising first and foremost by the “rule of law”–when Holder’s actions conflicted with Obama’s efforts to make popular (read: right-leaning) decisions about unpopular issues like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Holder found himself struggling back and forth with the White House to do what he deemed as Constitutional.

The Obama-Holder situation illustrates what Pfiffner identifies as the “challenge” a President faces, when working with his Cabinet, “to maintain a healthy balance between too much centralization (executive decisions being made primarily by the White House) and the opposite problem of lack of coordination of policy making and implementation in [outside] departments and agencies.”

Trump is a very different man than Barack Obama. He comes from the world of business, but he has the sensibilities of an entertainer, and he is odd combination of a One Percent insider and Washington outsider. Still, he doesn’t seem any more willing to be led by his Cabinet than Obama was.

In fact, it will be fascinating–and very probably disturbing–to see how Trump–who has been labeled everything from “sociopathic” to “remarkably narcissistic” to superlatively “opportunistic“–and the members of his Cabinet will operate–jointly and separately.

Trump–for all his delusional Twitter claims–has an extensively documented track record of “playing” poorly with others, even just from his last few weeks in Washington.

But so, too, do many of his Cabinet nominees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Cling

via Daily Prompt: Cling

So my favorite Internet provocateur, Jill Is Black, has this really smart video about “the revolution” in which she skewers those black people that imagine themselves in be in the cultural vanguard for using respectability politics–which are really just a set of behavioral expectations black people have compiled based on how they want white people to see us–to determine who can and cannot “fight” alongside the “true” race warriors when the shit goes down

For those of you that may have gotten lost in that last paragraph, let me clarify a few terms and key concepts for you. So we’re all on the same page. (Unlike the critical mass of “woke” black people and all the rest of us, as Jill suggests).

The revolution is the mythical unified effort that black people will exert against the white majority in some perennially futuristic time that will somehow–despite the fact that white people make up over 70% of the population, run the Fed, run the military, run law enforcement, run the infrastructure, and run the gun trade–ultimately free us from institutional racism and historic oppression in America.

Respectability politics are, as I said, the narrow-minded, self-abnegating, largely sexist, and extraordinarily divisive set of concepts of what is “proper” for black people to do in order to be considered a “credit” to the race.

Examples include having married parents; speaking Standard English and having impeccable written grammar; finishing high school with a diploma, not a GED; obtaining a degree, but in something prestigious and lucrative like engineering or medicine; being a Christian or Muslim; never needing an abortion; never needing a psychologist; wearing your pants up on your ass, if you’re a man, with a belt; only wearing silky weaves in “naturally occurring” colors, if you’re a woman, or wearing your natural hair or braids or dreadlocks that are meticulously groomed, preferably by a professional at a salon; refraining from shit like twerking, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, using profanity, and having unmarried sex–all sins–while dismissing, vilifying, hating, ostracizing, harassing, and even abusing “flamboyant” members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, “ratchet” members of the black working and middle class, black feminists, black members of the mentally ill community, and black weirdos (the mass of black people whose habits cannot be easily or comfortably classified) in repeated supposed efforts to “help” or “save” them–somehow not wrong.

(Take it from one of those black feminist mentally ill weirdos. I’m painting in broad strokes, but there is truth in what I’m putting up. Black people know it, even if they don’t want to admit it.)

The subset of “respectable” black people most frequently associated with the idea of the revolution–the “ones” expected to galvanize black people when it somehow finally pops off–are the “woke.”

Their version of respectability politics revolves around this absurd concept of effecting a sort of “purity” or total freedom from European (not really a thing) or white indoctrination and becoming a sort of African (also not really a thing) anew through Afrocentrism (natch), veganism, nationalism, militantism, historicism, anachronism, sexism . . .

Just think of a millennial version of, say, Speech from Arrested Development at the height of that group’s fame or Erykah Badu without the radical sexual freedom, slight thuggish air, gift for self-reflection and disclosure, or complete and utter lack of fucks about what society has to say about her–the Badu we all thought she was back in the day, with the three-foot gele and mudcloth wrap-dress–as frames of aesthetic reference.

The “woke” claim to love all black people and want all of us to unify and fight together as one against white supremacy and hegemony, but only after the “rest of us” get our lives together, whatever the-hell that means in a race like ours and a place like America.

I say that to say this: colorism did not get left back on the proverbial plantation after Emancipation; misogyny is no less destructive to black women when it comes from black men; fear is a hell of a drug; rage is even more powerful than that; poverty is the supreme form of disempowerment in a capitalist society; self-hatred is even more endemic in the black community than poverty; and “crabs in a barrel” is not the name of some cute children’s board game nor is it a mere or meaningless cliche when you use the phrase to describe the black community.

Homophobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; transphobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; complacency is a cultural stumbling block for black people; nihilism ain’t a river in Egypt but it does flow through the veins of a lot of black youth; Africa doesn’t have any more answers to our problems than Sway did to Kanye’s (Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, and South Africa are all plagued by violent conflicts and/or widespread racial tension); and strength comes from more than ideology and rhetoric; people need clean water and adequate food in order to do anything, but especially to grow.

Individual togetherness for black people might be even more elusive than collective togetherness for black people, and collective togetherness for black people is elusive as fuck because we only seem to be able to trust each other when our levels of hope are excessively high (see: 2008).

It’s 2017, and America has just had eight years of a black President. Yet, black people haven’t made much progress in economic or political terms. Integration and assimilation may get us a figurative seat at the table, but we only get to drink water or eat appetizers while we’re sitting there.

The One Percent are still hogging all the main courses and ordering more on our dime. And, if we don’t want to watch them while they feast, too bad, because, even if we take out of cell phones to peruse our social media, every platform is full of distressing news story about their doggish demagogue, both true and false.

The KKK isn’t closeted anymore; Jeff Sessions is drawing comparisons to George Wallace; Meryl Streep sounds more Presidential speaking at the Golden Globes than our President-elect; the inauguration is only eight days away; and the only actual politician that seems excited about it is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, the “woke” contingency of the black community maintains that they are good (and “good”), and all the rest of us need to do is get like them, then we’ll be ready when the revolution comes.

(The battlefield for them is apparently a “Field of Dreams”–“if you build it (the army of pseudo African warriors)–he–or rather it (the revolution)–will come.”)

And while waiting for us to catch up in the spectrum of authentic/transcendent blackness, they bide their time by policing us, despite all of the very real issues and obstacles we all face in eking out our various black existences.

In her video, Jill is speaking to these “woke” black people. “Why do you get off on your revolution being exclusive?” she asks them.

“How am I the right kind of black to be invited to your revolution?” she wants to know.

This is an excellent question whose exploration will get me to my discussion of the daily prompt (I hope): clinging.

If Trump’s election should have taught black people anything it’s this: white people don’t need to be the same kind of white to come together and get done the things they need to get done to secure their position in American society.

Trump won because rich and poor whites, educated and uneducated whites, urban and rural whites, white men and women, conservative and moderate whites, LGBTQIA+ and cis-hetero whites,”elite” and “trashy” whites united with each other on the basis of their whiteness and voted for him–in record numbers.

Blackness is not a monolith; we are not all the same, but we don’t need to be. In times of crisis, all we need to be to and for each other is black and certain of the best course of action for us.

In the same way we banded together to elect Obama twice, we should’ve banded together to keep Trump out of office.

No, Hillary Clinton wasn’t an ideal candidate, but I still think we understood–we could safely say–that she would make a better President for Black America.

As it stands, one of the only major pieces of legislation that President Obama passed that improved black people’s lives on a large scale–the Affordable Care Act–is the first piece of legislation Trump has promised to attack.

If, last November, we had paused in our squabbling back and forth with each other all over the Internet about who is a king and who is a queen and who is a thug and who is a thot, gotten off our collective black ass, and voted for Hillary, we wouldn’t be biting our nails right now, waiting to see whether this asshole Trump will somehow figure out a way to repeal the 13th-15th Amendments as well.

But we didn’t mobilize ourselves because we cling to this childish, clannish notion that we should only vote for other black people. We cling to the notion that putting black people in formal leadership positions is the only way we can gain or harness any real power in this country.

Too, we thought we could make it all right if or when Trump won. We thought we’d survive just fine because we’ve survived ostensible worse. We also thought, secretly, like many poor whites that cast votes for Trump against their own best interests, that we could get him to view us more favorably somehow if we needed to.

Because we cling to this idea that by being the “right” kind of black, in large enough numbers, we can gain white people’s respect and acceptance and secure equality without having to fight for it.

Yes, we do.

We cling to the idea that our freedom from oppression can be “earned” by our compliance with punitive, racist “mainstream” cultural standards.

As the renowned black poet Yusef Komunyakaa says, “Second-class citizens can be awfully puritanical, and this is especially true when they’re striving for acceptance by the dominant culture.”

So we cling to the idea that if we can be morally or ethically superior to each other, and white people, we can “deserve” fair and equal treatment.

We cling to the idea that if we jettison the so-called worst of us, the so-called best of us can do better; we secretly buy into the white binary of the “good” and “bad” sorts of blackness.

Too, we cling to the fear–subconsciously–that we are the inferior beings that white racist stereotypes portray us to be–the constancy and conviction with which we are oppressed impels us to bridge the dissonance between what we see in ourselves and what Others pretend to see in us with the false, compensatory belief that we, not they, are wrong or delusional since we have such a profound distrust of ourselves–seeing as we are descended from the captured and not the captors–and this necessitates that we prove, continually, that we are not the niggers that would perhaps deserve to the sort of oppression we suffer at the hands of White America if they actually existed.

We cling to the idea that Africa was a utopia before slavery, and  we cling to the idea that antiquated, ahistorical traditions and practices from its various clans (tribes)–which many of us adopt really rather haphazardly–that we did not retain in an organic fashion and that have not been allowed to evolve organically along the same timelines as our culture and collective identity–can “fix” us.

We cling to the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with being the descendants of slaves, even though slaves are largely responsible for making America into a global superpower, and the descendants of slaves have participated in the building and betterment of this country, from its inception, in some of the most innovative and important ways that any one people can be said to have participated.

And because we cling to the idea that we are deficient because of our slave past, we cling to the idea that we need to look outside of ourselves to determine how we should “be.”

We debase, degrade, refute, and exploit black culture, even though it is comprised of a perfectly decent and hugely impressive body of knowledge, beliefs, customs, and habits that are rightfully ours and have sustained us here–in America–for centuries.

We cling to the idea that because we have been victimized by white supremacy, we should pay more attention to stopping and healing that trauma than to stopping and healing the trauma we inflict on each other, which is much more urgent and plausible because we live in families, homes, and neighborhoods with each other, and we are infinitely more invested in each other. Not to mention that if we were more whole individuals, we would be less codependent on white approval, acceptance, and affection and more able and willing to take up for ourselves.

We’re not doing such a good job of that right through here, though. Regardless of the claims we use to admonish each other across intraracial lines. We could be standing shoulder to shoulder, facing down this incoming administration, but we’re not. We’re clinging to select groups of each other and continuing to miss the bigger picture.

We’re clinging to the belief that we need one true heroic male leader to get us up and over the mountain of our history and into our destiny.

It seems to be the only thing we can do in consistently large numbers–cling.

Black men cling to the idea that if they can dominate black women, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from white men.

Black women–even some feminists, even some lesbians–cling to the idea that if they can placate black men, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from black men and white people as a whole.

Black people as a whole cling to the idea that the revolution will “come”; it will arrive, like a day on a calendar, and strike an instinct in us like we are human lemmings, and we will suddenly, magically know how and be able to fight off our oppression.

But I think the revolution–if we remain in America–as long as we are a 12% minority–can realistically be nothing more than the collective realization and acceptance that black people will need to remain in a state of perpetual readiness to respond to crises like the Trump election and a state of functional togetherness so our responses are impactful.

The revolution cannot be exclusive. It cannot play out in a militaristic fashion; we’ll be exterminated.

The revolution will issue from us. It will have to be strategic. It will have to be encompassing–take the kings and queens and thugs and thots.

Jill says it in the caption beneath her video:

Too weird. Not weird enough [she writes]. Too intersectional, but[,] look, we really just need to focus on one thing right now, okay? Too capitalist, but we’re looking for donations. I don’t fuck with the government [,] but I just applied for a grant. Hey, how about this: just let me know right from the start that when you say you love blackness, you love YOUR blackness. You love people who agree with you. You love people who meet your requirements for blackness. But know that your exclusivity isn’t a revolution. It’s a club.

Blackness is not a monolith; whiteness is not a monolith. But white people have learned to–on a wide scale–come together to function as a needful unit. Black people need to learn to do that, too.

A club can’t go up against three-quarters of an entire country. We are going to need all hands on deck if we’re going to, say, regain the Democratic majority in Congress in 2018 or elect a more qualified and dignified President in 2020.

“The change that we need is the change that we create,” Jill writes in another post on her Instagram page. “But you knew that already.”

Black people–we have to let go of this stubborn, counterproductive notion that there is a “right kind of black.”

We need to stop clinging to the fairy tale of a revolution that will somehow happen in spite of our backward battling with each other.

You can say what you want in response with as much righteousnesss as you can muster, but you cannot deny; the proof is in the poll tallies.

And they show that the people that vote together, when it’s all said and done, get to gloat together.