Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Gloaters, Gloating

It’s the gloating. 

Like President Biden, I accept a verdict rendered by twelve citizens, because that’s how it works, and that’s that. Perhaps the instructions they were given by the obviously partial and borderline-nuts judge were a fair rendering of Wisconsin law on self-defense, which, as I understand it, is the stuff of NRA dreams. Poor kid was scared for his life, wept convincingly, so… 

The gloating, though. It burns through what ought to be, on this day after Thanksgiving, a pleasant post-tryptophan fog. It’s a reminder of what we’ve become, and where it leads. Well, not “we,” really. They. “Rhymes-with-Tucker” Carlson already making a laudatory “documentary” about him, had a crew in the car that drove him from the courthouse. The Republican House’s most despicables (tough call) scrambling to be the first to offer him a job, fundraising off it. Madison Cawthorn, after the verdict, saying “Be armed, be dangerous, be moral.” (“Moral.” Nice touch.) Trump, Jr., wanting to gift the boy a real AR-15. Rightwing media, green-light orgasmic

Because, when you have only anger, not a single idea (in the case of the despicables, not a single piece of legislation) that might make life better for non-millionaire fellow Americans, sticking it to the libs and gloating about it is the best you can muster. Seeing them die? Even better.

Their hero may be legally innocent, but he was, and is, no human innocent. Filled with the juvenile version of white resentment and delusions of grandeur; after announcing, before crossing state lines to “protect businesses” that didn’t need it, that he planned to become famous, he had his mommy (!) drive him to Kenosha. Carrying an illegally-obtained assault-style weapon, he placed himself amongst demonstrators, possibly responding to a rightwing call to "take up arms." As people bravely tried to disarm him (fearing for the lives of others) after he’d already killed one, he was firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Squeezed off a few more rounds, killing one more and wounding another. Wish granted: a rightwing hero before the smoke cleared, nor the blood dried.

Did his trial-tested tears come from non-rehearsed remorse, or pre-trial coaching? After all, immediately following his “not guilty” plea he headed to a bar, where his underage drinking, paid for by the assembled crowd, was Wisconsin-legal because his mommy (!) accompanied him. There, he posed with Proud Boys, flashing the white-power hand-sign and wearing a T-shirt that said “Free as F--k.” That’s who he is, whom Trumpists adore.

And it’s who they are, these self-described patriots. By definition, that ought to make every true patriot sick. Feeling ill at where they’re taking America is now what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans. We feel sick; they gloat. The sicker we, the gloater they. Oh, but he isn’t a racist, he told Tucker. Loves him some BLM.

No matter the finer points of Wisconsin’s finest laws, imagine if the kid were black, had showed up, armed unlawfully, at a rally of unarmed white people; paraded through the crowd, then killed a few who tried to take his weapon. Even if he claimed he feared for his life, how likely is it he’d be exonerated?

There followed, of course, the predictable, counterproductive rioting from the usual crowd (whoever they really are) in Portland. Probably too soon after the verdict for Trumpism’s best to organize a lib-hunt. Next time, now that they’ve seen there being no consequences. If not Portland, somewhere. Count on it

And count on the kid being all over rightwing media. Lionized at Trump rallies. Probably running for office someday. Winning. Look out, Gaetz, Cawthorn, Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Boebert, Gohmert, McCarthy, Cruz, Hawley, McConnell, Blackburn, Paul, Graham... You have tough competition for the Deplorability Gold Medal. What a list. People offering nothing positive, voting against their constituents’ best interest at every opportunity. In a party that glorifies violence; rewards those who encourage or commit it. Make anime about it. And, always, receives praise from Trump.

Millions of them, gloating. Even as President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, whom they hate more than they care about their children’s future, are, unlike that thrombus of Congressional Rs, producing non-socialist legislation that will make life better for them and America.

It’s more proof of the effectiveness of a constant deluge of disinformation on people made irreversibly ignorant by their calculatingly dishonest, deliberately inciting media sources. Hero-worshipping a smirking white-supremacist-would-be for killing libs, convinced the ones getting things done on their behalf are their enemy. Not in the most dystopian novel, ever, would such a premise be considered believable. It’s that. All of it. 

And the gloating.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Party Gone Nuts

If the revelations of the past several days haven’t convinced the convincible that the Republican Party, as currently unconstituted, is a clear and present danger to America, cares only about party power, and gone completely over to embracing the worst among us, well, nothing will. It’s hard to know where to start.

When President Biden accomplished what Trump couldn’t, namely getting an infrastructure bill through Congress; and, worse, when thirteen members of their party voted for it, Republicans lost their minds. Called them traitors. Acted as if they’d let Trump’s pal Putin annex the country. Sent death threats like Harry and David fruit baskets.

Georgia’s Congress-defiler Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who, because of her full-time, unproductive nastiness, has become an object of Republican adoration, published the home addresses and phone numbers of the thirteen, deliberately endangering them. Hoping for it. Now they and their families are so vilely threatened that some feared being seen at the signing ceremony.

For what? For deciding that bringing jobs to their districts, along with needed improvements in too many necessities to mention here, was important enough to risk their jobs. For improving their constituents’ lives. As Congresspeople are supposed to do. Risky only in a party that’s gone insane.

But, thanks to Trump et ilk, that’s where we are: a country in which bipartisanship, even in something formerly as uncontroversial as bringing infrastructure toward levels seen in more advanced societies, is political suicide. Because half the country has been convinced, by media doing the work of our international rivals, that it’s socialism or communism, the definitions of which they could no more recite than Critical Race Theory or the Bill of Rights.

Because, metaphorically, they’d happily live in a moldy, cold house without power, under a leaking roof, stranded by a fallen bridge, in order to “stick it to the libs.” Most of the jobs created, of course, will be private-sector. It’s capitalism! Self-harm for political gain: the new definition of insanity.

And whereas they’re attacking their infrastructure-approving members, Republican leaders have been silent on one of their top candidates, in a crowded field, for most horrible member, Arizona’s Paul Gosar, after he posted an anime of himself killing AOC. Across the spectrum and well-received by their voters, Republican advocacy of violence has become a signature element. The more outrage they get from sane people, the better they like it. Tucker Carlson has become the pyrite standard of Foxotrumpian fomentation by falsehood

There’s more. Long overdue, deserved also by several of Trump’s other anti-democracy co-conspirators, Steve Bannon was finally indicted for refusing a Congressional subpoena. Because, you know, law. The Constitution. Bulwarks against autocracy. Things Republicans once valued. Allegedly. Their response? Promises to do the same when they regain control. Because holding lawbreakers to account is something deserving of retaliation. Res, as they say, ipsa loquitur.

Then there’s Trump’s first-choice, best-people, National Security Advisor, pardoned criminal, insurrection facilitator, Q-believer Michael Flynn, calling for Christianity to be the single and only religion in America. To the usual combination of cheers from Trumpists and silence from everyone else on that side. If Trump, our least godly “president,” ever, returns to office, don’t think it couldn’t happen. And don’t expect objections from his party.

Also, even as Trump tries desperately to conceal the truth, facts keep falling like Autumn leaves, as House committees investigate January’s attempted coup. Revelations of how close we came. The clandestine planning leading up to and during January 6. Convolutedly crazy but seriously-proposed justifications for overturning a legitimate, fraud-free election. The fact that Trump defended those chanting “Hang Mike Pence;” that at least one Republican senator, Doctor (to my shame) Barrasso of Wyoming, refused to speak ill of it. Amoral cowardice. 

We’ve also seen more clearly Trump’s malfeasance in addressing the pandemic. The suppression of facts, the silencing of CDC scientists, the outright lies about the seriousness facing the country. How many thousand deaths were due to dereliction even greater than previously understood? 400,000, evidently.

Finally, the revealed memo detailing that Trump fired SecDef Esper because he balked at turning our military into Trump’s personal hit squad against lawful protesters. Had he succeeded, can anyone doubt Trumpists, glued to their TVs, would have watched enraptured? 

This is the guy and these are the people that eighty-plus percent of Republicans want to return to power. A party of, by, for, and about criminality. How any decent person can retain membership is mystifying. Especially in our state, where some respectable conservatives remain. Elsewhere, the crazies have all the power. It bodes ill.

And we haven’t even mentioned covering up a war crime. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Parental Choice

In fifth grade, my teacher gave an example of disinformation. There was a competition, he said, between a Soviet-made car and an American one. The American won. Russia’s newspaper, Pravda, reported an international contest between cars, in which the Soviet car came in second, while the American finished next to last. In Russian, “Pravda” means “truth.” Which it was.

In a local school board race, a candidate’s campaign website featured pictures of a cute, blond, white girl-child and a kimono-wearing (because that’s what they wear) Japanese girl of similar age. “Blaming her for slavery,” it said, referring to the former, “Is like blaming her (the latter) for Pearl Harbor.” Also true. Even though no one is.

Presuming voter ignorance, “Take Critical Race Theory out of our public school system,” was the concluding tagline. It’s not in it, but that’s not the point, either. Republicans cooked up a vote-getting hot-button lie; one that fits snugly behind a forehead, the extraction of which requires too many words for Trumpic consumption. It worked

Riding the wishful whirlwind even further, they’re now campaigning on parents’ right to decide what their children learn in public schools. Likely, it won Virginia’s governorship for Glenn Youngkin. Brilliant. As not-brilliant as Terry McAuliffe’s summary dismissal of the idea. Yet again, a proper response requires more thought than Trumpists prefer. 

Nevertheless, it deserves credible conversation from both sides, not that such a thing exists anymore. Let’s consider it anyway.

Can we agree that societies have a stake in what’s taught in schools; maybe, even, that societies’ needs outweigh those of interest groups? We’ve already seen a sample of Soviet subterfuge. It should be obvious that having nothing but mis- or uninformed citizens opens the door to tyranny. Throughout history, nascent dictators have crossed that transom to little resistance. Others, home-grown, are still trying.

On the other hand, at least theoretically, in a democratic republic the people’s voice is controlling. Or was, pre-McConnell, pre-Foxotrumpism. We presume the people pushing parental power over pedagogy will predominate in political polling. They’re on it already – Republicans are as good at disingenuous messaging as Democrats are bad at it. So how do they propose it should work? They don’t. What’s important is that it inflames superficial thinkers and scores votes. 

Consider a state in which parents would have a say in public school curricula. How much of a say? In what subjects? All parents or chosen ones? Should it be the loudest shouters at school board meetings? Or would there be a parental committee? Selected how, and by whom? Will particular qualifications be required?

Would there be a list of books to be allowed, or banned, subject to popular vote? Who makes the list? What consideration is given to parents who disagree?

How about words? The aforementioned school board candidate said “equity” is a divisive one. Should every parent have the right to tell teachers what their individual children may and may not hear? Or should it be by majority vote of the classrooms’ parents? How, specifically, would this terrific idea work?

In some red states, where, ironically, so-called “liberal cancel culture” is bandied, banning words is under consideration. “Racist” has been suggested. Texas’ governor wants to remove from school libraries any books that any parent claims causes “discomfort.” (Remember “snowflakes?”)

So, if they don’t want their kids reading about slavery, no kids can? What about evolution? Or Jonas Salk, Susan B. Anthony, John Ross? Tulsa? Elvis? Is enforced ignorance good for our country, or, like wearing masks, doesn’t caring about community matter?

Teaching America’s history, unvarnished, is the primary source of rightwing outrage. Science, too. Will Trumpic states produce only kids who are clueless about how and by what means America’s ethics and laws have evolved? Or about science; unable, unwilling, uninterested in knowing what’s real? Other than Republican politician, for what occupation would they be equipped? And let’s not even think about sex education. 

Leave it to liberals, though, to go to their own ridiculous extremes. Consider a proposal in California, where woke is oke. Addressing the gap in math scores, which is real, serious, and a threat to us all, they’d stop identifying gifted children – even suggesting there’s no such thing. Rather than provide accelerated education, they’d have those kids spend time helping the strugglers. Make math “socially responsible.” The consequences for all students and for society are so obvious it’s amazing it was proposed. 

"Sister Sarah (she/her) has five organic, pesticide-free, socially-distanced apples in a hemp basket. How many…" 

That’s why Democrats, despite truly good intentions, lose elections. And why Republicans, despite truly bad ones, win. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Flight Of Fancy

As a Flight Surgeon in Vietnam, I was required to fly a certain number of hours per month, on what were, by military definition, combat missions. I chose to avoid bombing operations; rather, I mostly flew in a spy/electronic warfare plane (EC-47), which was, I admit, fun. Because, since they were boring flights for the pilots, who had to, for hours, fly vectors ordered by the spooks in the back of the plane, they let me do the flying (“Roger, left oh-two-oh. Rollout…”)

On my final flight before DEROS (vets know it), the squadron commander asked who landed the plane. Complimented it. “It was the Doc,” the guys said. Humbly, I accepted the accolade.

I flew some refueling flights, too, during which I got to operate the boom that delivered the gas. Lying on my belly, facing backwards, looking out a small window in the tail of a converted 737 (KC 135) as F-4s appeared, joined up behind the tanker, close enough to see the pilots’ faces. Using a joystick, I directed the hose into an opening on the fighter-bomber’s front. At which point one pilot held up a photo that could be taken as a metaphor. Is all I have to say about that.

One flight took me very close to Hanoi. When the pilot announced “bandits” coming onto our “six,” I reached for my parachute and survival vest. Stupid, really, since we were in a gas tank with wings. Not hard to imagine what would happen, were we hit.

My point, here, is that survival vest. It included several interesting items: a hacksaw blade enclosed in a rubber sleeve so it could be inserted in a less-than-sunny location, if you get the drift. Maps. Minimal rations. Flashlight. A beautiful silk cloth bearing an American flag and several Asian languages stating that my government would reward the finders if they kept me safe. Not super reassuring.

And a .38 pistol, containing six rounds of ammo, two of which were tracers. Fighter pilots found that number wholly inadequate, and added bandoliers with a couple hundred rounds. Me? I figured if I found myself on the ground, in a jungle full of hostiles, armed only with a six-shot pistol, in a situation demanding firing off hundreds, all I really needed was one. Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a Green Beret. 

Reading about the burgeoning market for war-training camps for civilians, brings us to my ultimate point. Militia types, learning urban warfare, are readying to take on libs in a battle to the death. And a Trumpopatriot who, at a recent conservative symposium, asked “When do we get to use the guns.” When, he demanded, can we start killing “those people” who stole the election. The audience cheered. 

The flames are fully fanned, by people lacking any positive ideas, who know they can only win by creating murderous outrage; fueled by which those propagandized patriots, already armed beyond measure, are now practicing for civil war. Our pal Tucker Carlson, for example, is using his latest abomination of a movie, “Patriot Purge,” for no other purpose than that. Creating the America he wants. With his millions, no doubt he’s sure he’ll be safely tuckered away from the rabble, sipping champagne and touching himself. 

In these horrifying times, knowing those people are everywhere now, thanks to believing Trump’s and Tucker’s and Sean’s and Alex’s and so many more’s lies (CRT!! In schools!!!), I think back to circling over Hanoi in that tanker. Reaching for a flimsy, survival-style flak vest, bearing a six-shooter. And today, seriously wondering if is this the time when I ought to arm myself, too. Go out there like a stupefied survivalist, load up with anti-personnel mines, booby traps, full-body armor, ARs and .50 cals, thousands of rounds of ammo, fill a shelter with freeze-dried food. Generators. Water filtration.

I have two deeply adorable grandchildren – I’m sure the only ones more adorable are yours – and, like any loving grandparent, I’d do anything to protect them. Die for them, if it came to that.

But then, would I want to live in a country where mind-controlled militias, itching to kill libs like me, roam the streets? Free to do it because their Congressional and judicial enablers, fearing them, provided the means, despite representing the minority of American citizens. Enraged, brainwashed, believing every lie they’re being told. They’re nearly in charge already, threatening poll workers and school officials, obliterating democracy. Making America exceptionally deplorable.

Fueling that F-4 over Hanoi, looking into its pilot’s eyes, a few seconds after reaching toward that vest, I drew my hand back, empty

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