the morning after

Don’t even know what to say, but my words don’t matter much right now.

I was super wrong about this election though. Just yesterday, my brother and I were joking about how bad Trump was going to lose. We kind of laughed it off, mentioned how we both weren’t excited about a Clinton presidency, but didn’t see a possibility where she would lose.

Around 8pm last night, I still thought the world was overreacting. I kind of laughed it off again, thought it would be closer than expected, but there’s no way Trump could win.

Around 11pm, it wasn’t really a joke anymore. Trump was going to be our president.

And now he is.

My feelings on the matter don’t count for much right now, but I’m disturbed by the blame game Democrats are playing. None of it is productive and none of it shows an understanding of why they lost. It may just be the lament over what was lost, but very soon they need to really look at their party and why they lost. It’s easy to say racist idiots stole the election, but it ignores a lot of what’s happened this election cycle.

And then there’s the hilarious one about how third party voters gave this election to Trump.

Gary Johnson was the only third party candidate who won enough votes to make a difference in any state. So let’s assume that third party candidates can only be spoilers.

If that’s the case, Johnson voters are what kept those close races close. If you think Gary Johnson voters had Clinton as their alternative, you probably don’t know any Johnson voters. If you think the far left lined up behind a guy who thinks the solution to climate change is colonizing Mars, you’ve probably never spent much time listening to the far left talk about which issues are most important to them. So if anyone should be upset by third party candidates, it should be Trump supporters, who would’ve blown Clinton out of the water in certain battleground states.

But Trump won, and the GOP now has control of all three branches of the government. I don’t think a party has ever had such a dominant position over the other in decades. Maybe ever. Someone who knows history better will probably be able to fact check that, but it’s a pretty strange place to be in.

We thought Trump was going to blow up the GOP. Well, it turns out he blew up the Democratic party in a very real and substantial way.

But if you think Trump is a disaster, today is when the fight starts. If you think Trump is a magnificent thing that happened, well, the fight begins for you too.

Because nothing will happen without an active populace. Even with his very strong position, with the other two branches of government behind him, he can still face great opposition.

Most importantly, listen to the communities most effected by the election result. Talk to people. Go out and organize. Listen and pay attention.

The next two years will decide much of what’s to come. I hope we’re ready.

I know I wasn’t, but I only slept a few hours, and I think I may be ready on this cold November morning.

Maybe.

politics as performance art

Every time I see someone post a picture of their ballot, I’m reminded of how shallow politics have become, how they’re as much a performance as they are a representation of our personal values. No one benefits from seeing your ballot, that you voted for Trump or Clinton, but you get to feel a part of something. Whether it’s a group that you want to be included in or one you’re choosing to be excluded from.

There’s a powerful draw to performing and receiving affirmation–which everyone does through likes and emoticons and dope memes–or even receiving antagonism. We get high on it. Or at least those of us who enjoy arguing on the internet. Or, if not enjoy, can’t help themselves from arguing on the internet.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. It makes sense that a nonstop news cycle of nonsense combined with the nonstop sharing narcissism of social media would collaborate in making politics annoying, shallow, pointless, and callous. We’ve turned the presidential election into a sideshow. Despite what everyone’s saying, this is not something new that Trump brought. We’ve been racing towards this celebritization of politicians for decades, but we’ve been turning it into a reality show since Bush ran against Clinton, and then especially when a different Bush ran against Gore, and then it reached peak–or so we thought–nonsense when Haircut Romney ran against Obama.

But now we’re taking that national sideshow and making it personal, putting it on display like baboons in heat, so that everyone can see how we’re taking part in the freakshow that is american politics.

Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, we’ll only see more of this. I honestly think this is the most annoying, toxic, and debilitating election I’ve ever witnessed, and every single one going forward is going to be worse, more annoying, more toxic, and more philosophically crushing than this one.

That’s not even to mention the existential threat both candidates represent. One is a walking disaster flailing in all directions and the other is a highly targeted typhoon. Regardless of who wins, a lot of people will suffer both in the US and abroad, but especially in impoverished nations across the world.

That being said, I honestly don’t care who you vote for. I do find it astounding that people would vote for Trump, but I also think the only reason Clinton seems preferable is because Trump is a paralyzing nightmare that becomes more ridiculous with every day that goes by.

We’ve all made politics stupid and worthless. We can’t even have meaningful conversations about politics at this point.

But maybe the funniest thing about all this is that people are finally paying attention to wikileaks and caring about what they publish. No one cared about the previous six years of publications that reveal modern imperialism and all its catastrophic consequences. What will be funnier is when they stop paying attention come November 9th.

Or maybe the funniest thing is that Democrats are universally onboard with going to war with Russia due to the absence of evidence. I’d make comparisons to Rumsfeld and Bush, but that would be too on the nose. I’d even mention how Obama has done more for peace between our two nations than maybe any previous president, but that would contradict the new party platform–which Obama ridiculed Haircut Romney for in 2012–of MyCarthyism. Especially because the US has no interest in actually fighting a nation that could conceivably fight back, but it’s useful to have a boogeyman, and Putin’s an easy target. At least after you’ve knocked out guys like Gaddafi and Husein and Bin Laden. But especially when you have the lack of critical thinking that comes when you treat political parties the same way you treat professional sport teams.

Anyrate, we’ve been ruining the planet for a long time, ruining other nations for even longer, but for a few decades we’ve been really trying to ruin our own nation, and we are seeing it play out in front of our screens in the most obscene ways imaginable. “A racist rapist pedophile billionaire and a war criminal walk into a bar” would be the beginning of an awful joke, but it’s a terrifyingly accurate way to frame our national discourse.

But this is publicly funded performance art. It’s the last breath of our dying empire, but first it flails its crippled limbs through the middle east, displacing and destroying millions of lives for generations to come.

I suppose we’ve done a swell job.

Anyrate.

on pardoning american heroes

This Op-Ed in the LA Times got me thinking a lot about something. I encourage you to read that first before reading on.

I think the author there covers the main reasons. Chief among them: Edward Snowden is a heterosexual man.

I fully support what both Snowden and Manning did, so it’s not really an issue of one being better than the other or more worthy of praise or pardon. I think they both should be pardoned. They both need to be pardoned.

The fact that Chelsea Manning is a transgender woman is definitely at the heart of this. While she was locked away for a few years pre-trial (something that is literally unconstitutional), the government worked very hard to smear her. They described her as having serious mental disorders.

As it turns out, her mental disorder can best be described as being transgender.

This matters a great deal for a few reasons.

First, the government outed her as transgender.

Second, they used this as a framework to explain that her motives were petty defiance stemming from her mental instability.

Third, and perhaps worst of all, this became the public narrative surrounding Chelsea Manning.

Fourth, Chelsea was not allowed to speak on any of this. She was often held in solitary confinement (torture) or was denied access to journalists.

She had to watch from prison (where she was being held without charge for well over the allotted 120 days, which is unconstitutional) as pundits picked apart her life. From her sexuality to her alleged motives.

It was, for these reasons, that she faced the trial as Bradley Manning. She and her lawyers decided they did not want the government to use her gender identity against her.

The fact that it’s even possible to smear someone based on their gender is astounding. The public’s discomfort with transgenders is well known. We’ve seen actual laws come into place regarding where they are allowed to use the public restroom.

So maybe it isn’t surprising that the US government used this as a tactic to attack her character. Maybe it’s unsurprising that it worked. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

But let’s talk about the mechanics of a Hollywood biopic. Because, really, that’s what’s shining a light on Edward Snowden at the moment. But even before that, there was the documentary CitizenFour, which is an amazing film that I highly recommend.

Why was Chelsea Manning treated differently?

There are a few obvious reasons. For one thing, she made no grand escape. Chelsea Manning leaked information to Wikileaks, who then worked with several news organizations to release the information. It should be noted that Manning first reached out to news organizations. She wanted to disclose the information right to journalists.

She was ignored.

So she went to Wikileaks.

This isn’t exactly riveting screentime. Sure, they could make it that way, but Manning didn’t hack through government databases. She took readily available information and secretly sent it to Wikileaks, who then, in conjunction with places like the New York Times, released it to the public.

Once she was imprisoned, Chelsea Manning faced extensive cruel and unusual punishment for years before her trial. That’s not even an exaggeration.

Solitary confinement for months at a time. Sometimes she was stripped naked and left naked in her cell.

Human Rights organizations, world leaders, activists, and academics have written letters, pleaded, and demanded that she receive better treatment, but this was largely ignored.

Compare that to Snowden’s story.

Snowden learned an important lesson from previous US whistleblowers. From Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, he learned that he couldn’t just go to his superiors to let them know that what the NSA was doing was unconstitutional and illegal. From Chelsea Manning he learned that he had to be out of reach before he disclosed the information or he would sit in prison for years. Potentially the rest of his life.

So he made his escape.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I understand it has the feel of a spy thriller. And it kind of sounds that way!

Maverick government employee steals secrets, escapes abroad, then releases secrets to journalists, and finally puts his own name on those documents, in order to take control of the narrative before the US government could smear him, the way it smeared Manning.

I think it’s true that we wouldn’t have Snowden without Manning. That Manning’s actions seem daring and thrilling makes it all the more appealing to a mass audience. Add to that a love interest, in Snowden’s long time girlfriend, and the fact that Snowden has had the freedom to speak extensively about what he did, why he did it, how he did it, and has been able to be a regular commentator about privacy, national security, and human rights for years since his disclosure.

To put it simply, Snowden became a household name. Even people who don’t follow politics are aware of him. Some think he’s a traitor while others a hero, and still others are wholly indifferent to him as a person. But there was a built in audience for him. An audience that he is allowed to cultivate by virtue of not being in prison.

Add to that the documentary, which is thrilling and amazing and informative, and you have an easy road to make him a movie with a certain level of mass appeal, or at least mass interest.

But when I say Chelsea Manning, most people need to wikipedia her name to even know who I’m talking about. Even people who have followed Snowden’s disclosures may be unaware of who Chelsea Manning is and what she did.

Being imprisoned took the narrative out of her hands and into the hands of her captors. More than that, the collaboration of the pundit class with our military’s agenda makes this kind of story easy to ignore and hide from the general public.

So Chelsea Manning was ignored and continues to largely be ignored.

How do you film the last six years of her life?

One prison cell after another. Solitary confinement. Her trial, which was a military tribunal so no reporters were allowed to even take notes, seriously hampering any kind of transparency. In fact, many have described it as a kangaroo court. To many, including Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, it appeared that Assange was being tried in absentia along with Manning.

Without evidence–or rather, refusing to allow evidence to the contrary–they described Manning’s disclosures as aiding the enemy and seriously endangering the lives of US soldiers and intelligence officers.

None of which was proved because none of that was true. In fact, just the opposite. She made it safer for everyone by exposing US war crimes.

After her trial, she came out as transgender, was imprisoned in an all male prison. She had to petition and fight to receive gender transition medication, which they outright refused at first. For the last three years, Manning has been refused to be moved to a female prison. Refused to grow her hair out. Refused, at times, access to her medication and to be able to undergo gender affirming surgery. This led to her attempting to commit suicide, which she’s facing even more charges for.

This isn’t exactly a sexy narrative to play out on screens across america. A nation still actively at war in the Middle East. Now in even more countries than when Manning disclosed our war crimes. A public that believes we should continue these wars. A government that plans on expanding them still further.

To me, these are the reasons there has been no huge movement to grant Chelsea Manning a pardon.

  1. She’s a transgender female.
  2. Lack of visibility
  3. Her disclosures are even more damning to the US

My hope is that Snowden receives his pardon. But my greatest hope would be that Chelsea Manning also receives a pardon. Her plight is far greater than Snowden’s and she faces far more barriers to freedom.

If President Obama pardoned both, it would do a lot to lessen the great damage he has done to freedom of the press.

Sign the petition to free Edward Snowden.

Sign the petition to free Chelsea Manning.

chelsea manning approved for gender transition surgery

It’s just been announced that the US government is allowing Chelsea Manning to undergo her gender transition surgery!

“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing,” Manning said in a statement released by Chase Strangio, her ACLU attorney. “I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me.”

This ends her hunger strike that she began on September 9th. It turns out my previous post about their refusal to give her medical treatment came just as change was happening.

So that’s great news.

Even if you think Chelsea Manning is a traitor–an absurd position to take–you should be celebrating this.

 

chelsea manning on hunger strike

Chelsea Manning has gone on hunger strike as protest against the dehumanising treatment she has received from the US government.

Those who have kept up with journey from whistleblower to indefinitely detained prisoner to actual prisoner are not surprised by this. Since being detained, she has faced inhuman conditions on numerous occasions, including excessive solitary confinement, where she was often left naked as well.

Our government recently pushed her to attempting suicide, which may result in solitary confinement and extending her sentence.

Why is she facing such terrible treatment?

For the crime of transitioning. She was born Bradley Manning and lived as a male until she was tried and found guilty of being a whistleblower by the US government. Since then she has attempted to transition, which was first blocked and refused by the US.

I won’t recap everything here. If you’ve been coming to this blog, you’ve probably seen me talking about her. I’ve been following her since 2011, when I discovered who she was and what was being done to her by the US government.

She awakened me politically. She made me take an active and critical look at my country and what we do around the world.

It should maybe be noted that I’ve donated hundreds of dollars to her defense fund. It’s not enough, but it’s all I can do.

She’s a hero. Her actions saved countless lives, while endangering no one, despite how she’s been smeared. She is a hero and she is facing extremely punitive treatment for showing that the US government was engaging in war crimes in the middle east.

I am not alone in my support of her. Countless organisations have pressured and criticised the US in their treatment of her and handling of her case.

She released this statement, which outlines why she is going on hunger strike, and what she hopes to achieve.

Quote from the statement:

I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.

She continues:

Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect—that I once actually believed would be provided for—afforded to any living human being.

I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.

I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall—refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.

This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vindictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a “do not resuscitate” letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudo-medical means.

And this from the ACLU:

I learned late last night that Chelsea has begun a hunger strike today in protest of the ongoing denial of her medically necessary health care and the relentless scrutiny and abuses she has experienced in the years since her arrest. I am deeply saddened and very concerned for Chelsea’s well-being. The government has long been aware of her medical needs and continues to ignore them. When we filed our initial case against the Department of Defense in September of 2014 over Chelsea’s treatment related to her gender dysphoria, we made very clear that the lack of treatment put her at very serious risk of harm. They have known this for years. We are still in litigation over her treatment and are optimistic that justice will ultimately prevail but the government need not wait to be ordered to do the right thing and we hope they act promptly to treat Chelsea consistent with their constitutional obligations.
Whether you think she deserves to be in prison or not is not the issue. It happens to be much simpler.
If you believe Chelsea Manning should be allowed to peacefully transition and express her true self, please consider donating to the Chelsea Manning Defense Fund.
She needs our help. Not just monetarily, but emotionally. So if money seems out of the question, consider writing her.

on blaming the idiots

Subtitle: The Inevitable Collapse of the US and Americanism

Alternative subtitle: The Inevitable Conclusion of the Imperial United States

Preamble

Trigger Warning: I’ll be talking about Donald Trump and probably other such unpleasant things.

Length Warning: Yeah. Over 6,000 words.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for weeks and especially while I was driving all over Michigan. And then I read this great essay by Chris Hedges, who’s always worth reading. I don’t agree with everything he says there and I think he’s overstating certain elements, but it’s still worth reading and considering. But I want to talk about something related, though different.

There’s also this tremendously funny and informative article by Matt Taibbi about Donald Trump. Also this one.

There’s also an interesting essay at The Nation about why Trump has become so popular with so many people and how the Democratic Party is refusing to engage with voters.

But these essays have more to do with the current brand of american fascism sweeping the nation under the Luminous Grand Vizier Trump.

In some ways, Taibbi’s humorous disgust with the idiotic public is part of the problem I’ll be discussing here. Be that as it may, they’re still worth reading.

Before I really get into the point of all this, I want to reiterate that the US is a very conservative country. This isn’t new. We’ve always been very conservative. Now, even our progressives would be considered conservative in most other developed nations.

To put it another way, if Clinton and Sanders are the most progressive candidates we have to offer, then we’re proving just how conservative our country is. Clinton would be a conservative in most Western nations and Sanders would be a centrist leaning towards conservative values. I think this is important to understand as you read this very long post.

Anyrate, the matter at hand.

Introduction

This is an old argument that seems to be sprouting up all over again. I mean, it’s an argument that happens everywhere in every era, but I see it all over social media, especially with regard to the rise of Donald Trump.

The Argument:

Idiots are ruining the US.

It really is that simple. That’s the whole of the argument.

Some people even point to a movie called Idiocracy and talk about it as being prophetic or at least meaningful satire/critique.

So let’s unpack this and talk about why it’s recklessly and absolutely false.

What We Mean When We Say Idiot

Oddly, I think this is one of the more complex elements of this whole thing, because people mean various things to varying degrees when they talk about dumb/stupid/idiotic americans (from now on I’ll just use dumb/idiot/stupid interchangeably, so pretend they mean the same thing, even as I pick apart how their umbrella meaning is inconsistent). Language is fluid and everchanging and we’re in a time of incomprehensible imprecision, when it comes to language, which is a problem of the press–something at the heart of this whole essay.

But, for the most part, what people mean when they call someone or a group of people idiots is that those people hold opposing ideals.

This is not unique to liberals or conservatives, to Republicans or Democrats.

We call George W Bush an idiot because it’s easier to handle.

We call Barack Obama an idiot for the same reason.

It’s much more difficult for us as a nation and as individuals if we believe that these men have intentionally done what they’ve done.

But, to quote Marco Rubio–something I’m loathe to do–They know exactly what they’re doing.

But I’ll return to that point later.

Calling people we disagree with idiots is the simplest and most basic use of the term. Those Duck Dynasty guys? Idiots. Those Black Lives Matter activists? Idiots. North Koreans? Idiots. The Dalai Lama? Idiot.

It rolls effortlessly off our tongues and it’s a mix of “I disagree with you” and “Only an idiot could believe that what you’re saying is true.”

Again, this is not an issue of conservative or progressive. It’s just how humans are and what we’ve done to our language.

(Which, since we’re on the topic–people blame the imprecision of the way language is used on idiots as well, and this may as well be a metaphor for the entire essay. We blame idiots for dumbing down the language because it’s easy to blame this amorphous and abstract Other that is too stupid to understand why they’re evil–or whatever. Really, the blame should be placed on media and the press. They’ve dramatically changed the language more than anyone or anything else. And it would be easy to say the media is full of idiots and that’s why this has happened, but that would be–well–an idiotic stance to take. Very smart people can choose to do very bad things on purpose, even knowing how bad those actions are, and it does not make them an idiot. So, if we want to decry the imprecision and reduction of our language, put blame on those who frame public thought. Because those people are smart and they’ve done what they’ve done on purpose. [Quick aside: the changing of language isn’t bad and you all need to get over yourselves and your dictionaries. The world changes. Language changes. People change. The way we talk about the world is different because the world has not remained fixed since the first dictionary was printed. So get over yourself.])

We also call people idiots for making poor choices.

This is an acceptable use of the term. I don’t have a lot to add here.

The most troubling usage has to do with education level.

A poll went all over social media relatively recently that showed a high percentage of Trump supporters were not college educated. The implication you were meant to make is that idiots are voting for Donald Trump.

Ignoring the scam that is the price of college and the crushing nature of student loans, let’s just look at what people are really saying.

It’s worth remembering that university in the US costs money. Often times it costs a lot of money. Sometimes it costs so much money that people remain in debt for decades or never even manage to get out of debt.

So the price of admission isn’t necessarily even tied to intelligence. It’s tied to your bank account.

What we say when we internalise the idea that not going to college makes you an idiot is that poor people are dumb. They’re idiots.

And these idiots are ruining the country.

So the blame for the US goes to the poor. They ruined it all!

We’re also saying that People of Color are ruining the nation, since they generally go to university in lower numbers than white people. They’re also less likely to graduate.

So your blame for the country goes onto the least privileged: the poor, the dispossessed, who are often people of color.

Let’s look at how we judge intelligence as well.

The IQ Test that people think of when you say IQ Test is an archaic test rooted in racism, classism, and eugenics. So the next time you use that as an indicator of a person’s worth, be aware of what you’re really saying.

You’re buying into the idea that people of non-European descent are inferior. That the cobbler’s son deserves to work in the mine because he doesn’t have the intelligence to find his way out of it.

This is not what we want to say when we call people idiots.

At least I hope not.

See, words change and they become politicized. This is just part of life, unfortunately. And when you blame the idiots, you are, in general, telling people of color and poor people of all ethnic groups that they are inferior to the aristocratic and merchant class.

This is an ancient idea and it’s shocking and repulsive to see how accepted it still is.

And, okay, let’s just accept that all these people actually are inferior and pretend like that makes sense and isn’t the most heinous kind of classic, racist nonsense.

If they are inferior, too stupid to even know what’s good for them, how are they to blame for their misfortune?

If this is genetic or predetermined by culture/context/class/whathaveyou, how can we reasonably say that it’s their fault?

If Not the Idiots, then Who?

I touched on this briefly, but I’ll unpack it.

Media consensus is that George W Bush is an idiot. He bumbled his way through 8 years in office, while changing the entire shape of political discourse and US foreign policy by beginning our first endless war, putting us in a constant state of militarism.

Does that sound accidental?

Well, of course not. At least not the way I phrased it.

But I find it incredibly unlikely that George W Bush was an idiot who just happened to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.

And, fine, let’s say that Cheney was the real mastermind here. I mean, even that shows a level of intelligence.

The people you surround yourself with says a lot about you. If you put a strong, capable, and intelligent person in a position of power, you’re probably not doing it on accident. To put this clearer: George W Bush may have been unfit to lead the country and incapable of making all the changes he wanted to make by himself, so he placed people he knew were capable and fit to enact change into positions where they would be most effective.

That’s not something an idiot does.

But I don’t buy the idiot Bush narrative. I think it excuses him of his war crimes and crimes against humanity and disastrous economic policies.

No, more likely, George W Bush is a highly intelligent man who knew what he was doing.

Sure, he may not be intelligent in the ways we tend to value them (as dictated by racist, classist IQ Tests), but there are many other forms of intelligence. And social intelligence (something we don’t measure or explicitly value) is probably the one most relevant to being a politician.

George W Bush knew what he was doing and he did it on purpose.

Ruper Murdoch and the Koch brothers know what they’re doing and are doing it on purpose. They’re effective because they’re brilliant dudes with essentially unlimited resources.

And, okay, I’m showing my own political bias here, which I was hoping to avoid, but whatever–if you read this blog at all you know where I stand.

See, these people who are, in my opinion, actively making the world and our country a worse place–the worst place–are highly intelligent.

They’re only idiots when you use it to mean “I disagree with you.” Which you might, but it’s not a precise way to speak, and so it muddles how we think about these things.

The Koch brothers have pushed through a conservative attack plan that has given them control of most of the country’s state legislatures, which effectively grants them control over a large portion of the country.

This was not accidental and the damage they’re doing is enormous. I don’t even mean simply that I disagree with conservative policies. I mean they’re undermining what our democracy is and can be (limited as it already was).

So the country is not in peril because idiots have ruined everything.

No, we’re where we are because very intelligent people have pushed the country in a very specific direction and undermined what it means to have a democracy.

And alleged progressives aren’t off the hook either. Barack Obama has done a great deal of damage as well. So have the Clintons. I mean, you can throw out a well known politician’s name and they’re probably partly to blame, regardless of their party or ideological leanings.

Even Bernie Sanders, current Patron Saint of US Progressives, is not clean of such things, though he looks pristine when compared to the gaggle of monsters he rubs shoulders with.

But we’re only talking about politicals right now. And that’s not where the blame ends.

The Failure of Expertise

Progressive discourse has alienated huge portions of the country. Not simply because those people are idiots, but because progressive intellectuals have failed to engage people, failed to communicate what their ideas really mean. But most of all, they’ve failed the people who needed them the most.

They’ve also simply failed to not be imperialists, as I discussed a few days ago.

I’m going to use an example that will have to include a lot of caveats, so bear with me.

Among progressive circles, it’s generally agreed that straight white cis men have done a lot of damage to just about every possible group of people you can think of, including straight white cis women.

It’s not uncommon to see this group of people treated as a cohesive whole, especially in discussion of privilege.

There are very valid reasons for this. I don’t want to dispute this. I think that this is absolutely true. People who look like me have done tremendous damage to the earth throughout history and we are, currently, the dominant culture and hold status above all else. That’s just true.

But ideology is one thing and people are quite another.

Imagine you live in Appalachia, one of–if not the–poorest areas in the US. This probably means you’re white. This probably also means that you’re undereducated and underemployed.

Imagine going on twitter or tumblr or facebook and seeing thinkpiece after thinkpiece about the privilege of white men. Imagine you post a comment disagreeing with this assumption in a public forum and then you get berated by other people.

Someone will probably say that this is an extreme example, but it is worth remembering that the internet is where the monsters come out to feed on pain and misery and groupthink. While thousands upon thousands of these people responding to the white kid from Appalachia may be civil and kind and even informative, there will be a handful who will act like people on the internet act: monstrously.

Unfortunately, this Appalachian kid isn’t going to remember all the kind and thoughtful responses, because those didn’t get a visceral reaction out of her. She’ll remember the bile spewing anonymous person who filled them with rage and hate and pain.

So we have a white girl from the poorest part of the country who is told that she has insane amounts of privilege, but when she looks around she sees nothing. No jobs. No infrastructure. No universities. No schools. No opportunities.

This builds resentment. This is when people dig trenches.

They probably won’t consider themselves especially privileged, largely because they’re not.

I mean, yes–if a person of color were in that same position, it would be even worse. That’s true.

But that’s not what she’s thinking when she reads these thinkpieces and the arguments in the comment section. She doesn’t take a step back from her own hopelessness, her own impoverished, small world. She sees people telling her she has every opportunity because she’s white, and she laughs with rage, because she sees how this is absurd. She lives without opportunity every day.

End of example.

I know I used an extreme case, but it was to make an extreme point.

Which is: How do we reach these people?

How has progressive ideology so failed these people?

And it’s not just poor white people. That’s incorrect to believe. It’s just an easy example to pick up.

On reddit there’s a discussion of why Bernie Sanders is failing to get the black vote (I find it troubling that we treat any ethnic group as a bulk whole, but I guess that’s what we do in america). Many progressives believe that black voters are voting against their interests.

The top comment is instructive on why black voters aren’t convinced by Sanders.

What this shows is that progressives are failing to communicate and educate the public that we so readily describe as stupid.

One thing that’s happened is that the progressives have cloistered themselves, I think. They tend to paint poor white people who rage against affirmative action or rally round Trump as racists, for example.

This is the simple and ill-fitting response to a complex question.

Why are people voting for Trump?

Racism may certainly be an aspect of this. For some it may even be the primary one, but that’s not true for everyone. It’s not true for all conservatives either. Being conservative does not make you a bible thumping racist. It simply doesn’t. The same goes for independents.

It’s easy to just say they’re racist idiots and move on, but this causes them to dig trenches and alienates people even further.

Because what does racism come from?

It’s not a natural state.

We learn it. We learn it from other people or from our own experiences.

This is a simplification:

There are people who are afraid of dogs because they were attacked by one when they were a child.

This same logic can apply to racism, especially if a person almost never encounters people outside of their own ethnicity.

Like I said: a simplification.

But so what’s the answer?

If racism is learned, it can be unlearned. You can teach and show people that this is a harmful and simply incorrect way to think about other humans.

It’s not to attack them for being stupid. That’s the worst thing you can do.

You need to engage them, educate them. And education isn’t only academic.

That’s actually one of the least effective ways to teach someone.

It takes kindness and trust for education to occur.

This is, I think, partly why people of color from poor neighborhoods are often undereducated: they don’t trust their authority figures. And why should they? They’re more harshly disciplined than their white counterparts. They’re more likely to be harassed by authority figures.

How can you teach someone meaningfully when you also abuse them as a person and as an ethnic group and as an inheritor of a specific culture?

This is, I think, one of the biggest failures of progressives.

They don’t try to teach the idiots. They try to blame them.

You know why facts and figures don’t convince people?

Because they don’t trust you. They may not even like you.

Part of that is because you represent a class of people who treat them as inferiors.

This is the problem I see most often online. There’s no attempt to engage or find a middle ground or even find a common place to begin discussion.

The Strange Case of Failed Expertise

Let’s talk briefly about Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

Probably the two most recognized–or at least loudest–atheists you’ll find still living. They’re the perfect example for how expertise fails most people and why so many people don’t trust it.

Dawkins and Harris are both scientists, and they’re good ones. They have serious expertise there. Of course, their current careers have very little to do with science or even their own fields.

Largely, they’re in the business of atheism, which absolutely is an industry. An industry with a small but devoted following.

They’re also part of the anti-muslim industry, which absolutely is a thing in the west. If you write about Islam, especially critically, you’re sure to reach millions of readers and be invited on television to talk about why Islam is dangerous and Muslims should be fundamentally treated different.

This is something both Harris and Dawkins advocate. Harris goes as far as defending torture.

These guys have huge followings and their followers are loud and obnoxious and begging for fights, especially online. There are, of course, more civil ones who take on these views.

I even know a number of them.

I’m really not interested in the defense of these men and their racist ideology of Manifest Destiny, so you can save it. I’ve heard it all and I’ve listened to enough by both men to be thoroughly unconvinced by the various defenses for them.

Oddly, these guys are advocating for the same thing as Trump.

While most atheists would fall on the progressive side of things, Islam becomes a sticking point. Both Dawkins and Harris are for the annihilation of the Middle East. They’d use different vocabulary than that, of course, but they really really really hate Muslims.

They hate christians too, but there’s more money and attention in hating Muslims. And maybe they really just do hate Muslims this much. That’s all very possible. I mean, I don’t think they’re faking racism–I think they’re just racists.

These scientists have leveraged one expertise into another field where they’re kind of hopelessly helpless, but they’ve probably never been more popular.

But even setting aside their hatred of Muslims around the world, they would define themselves, at times, as anti-theists, which is about the most uselessly silly thing to be.

You don’t believe in god? Fine, good for you. Carry on and live well.

But that’s not what these guys do.

Dawkins advocates militant atheism, which sounds a lot like fundamentalism, except good progressive thinkers are more often atheists than they are religious zealots.

But they use the same tactics and the same language.

All those arguments and tactics that drove them away from the religions of their youth, all that language has been repackaged to form this secular extremism, which is generally racist, and always aggressive.

You know how you hate having religion shoved in your face?

Turns out most people hate that.

They hate it, not because it’s religion, but because it’s obnoxious.

You know who hates having atheism shoved in their face?

Everyone, but especially theists of various denominations.

When you go on the attack and tell people that they’re wrong and/or evil for believing something, people don’t like it. And they don’t react positively to it.

When you go on the attack, people go on the defensive and stop listening to you.

No matter how brilliant your argument might be, when you scream it at someone, they don’t hear the words. They feel the attack, and they dig a trench to keep you at bay. When you threaten someone, they’re disinclined to roll over and let you have your way.

Or, many will let you have your way, but only to avoid confrontation. You haven’t changed their mind, you’ve just made them stop talking. But while you’re shouting your ideology and blaming them for the world’s problems, they’re building a wall inside. They’re thinking of ways to stop you from spreading this diseased message.

When you go into an argument to prove that you’re correct, you’ve already failed.

Really. If that’s your goal, just stop.

It’s better if you say nothing.

Dawkins and Harris are the worst examples of the failure of expertise. Mostly because they’re third rate political thinkers. But also because they are convinced that anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot and they needn’t waste time sharing air with a bunch of intellectual peasants.

They’re extreme examples, sure, but this is why many people don’t trust scientists.

Propaganda is a huge issue, of course. And we can blame the aristocratic class for that. They push an anti-science agenda and disseminate it through the million tentacles of the media.

But then the scientific community is failing to read people, because, for better or worse, people like Harris and Dawkins are the ones on the frontlines, giving atheists and scientists a bad name.

The reason Neil DeGrasse Tyson is so effective is because he’s a compassionate speaker. He strives to inspire you. It’s the same thing Carl Sagan did. When he remains inspirational and compassionate, he thrives.

This is effective because science really defends itself. If you introduce an inquisitive person to scientific inquiry, their whole life is transformed.

But if you take that same inquisitive person and tell her that first she needs to stop believing in her god–you may have just stopped a potential scientist from ever picking up her chemistry textbook.

When Tyson fails, it’s when he goes on the attack.

No one needs their religion attacked.

I mean, you may think that’s necessary. You may even think that it’s the most important thing in the world to do. But when you do that, you alienate people. Even other atheists and agnostics.

They look at your anger and think to themselves, I don’t want to be part of that.

But this is something that’s happening. We have geniuses get in shouting matches with creationists, which is the least effective thing in the world to do.

A debate like that doesn’t change anyone’s mind, because the audience is already split.

No one watches Dawkins debate a MegaChurch Preacher without their decision already made.

If you are on the fence at this moment, I encourage you to avoid watching or reading such debates.

They’re incredibly fruitless.

Rather, investigate both sides. Look at what science has to offer and what religion has to offer. And know that this does not have to be a choice.

It’s not religion on one side and science on the other.

You can believe in god and be a physicist. You can be a priest and an evolutionary biologists.

Such things are rare but not impossible or even incompatible.

Here’s even a link to an essay I wrote years ago about this very topic.

So we have the intellectual class failing people. Failing to build trust. Failing to engage with them in meaningful ways. Let’s look at another way the progressives have failed the so called idiots ruining the nation.

To bring this back to politics, there are a lot of good reasons people don’t trust the government. This goes across ethnic lines and even economic classes.

Let’s look at labor.

The Abuse of Labor by the Democratic Party

Labor was a 200 year fight in the US. Progressives and conservatives in government were against it. This goes all the way back to the founding fathers. They squashed labor riots quite violently, in fact.

The moment labor passed, we had a party trying to dismantle it. This was unfortunately effective, but the reason labor is essentially nonexistent is because of the failure of the progressives, who were meant to be advocates for labor.

The Democratic Party, which is the labor party, has undermined and sold out unions over and over and over again.

But, because we have a two party system, they’re the only pony to bet on in the race, so unions keep funding candidates who chop off their legs while smiling and telling them that this will make everything better.

Even labor stopped trusting progressives. Sure, the unions will still vote blue this election, but a surprising number of individual union workers won’t.

And that has more to do with trust than anything else.

NAFTA and the TPP are serious threats to unioned and non-unioned workers, and this can help explain why Trump is so appealing to so many voters.

Yes, it’s easy to say they’re all dumb racists, but that’s not what brings these people together most. It’s labor. And that’s worth thinking about.

I mean, yeah, Trump is rallying up racists, of which there are a lot, and, as Hedges says in his essay, he’s cruising on a course every fascist has rode to power.

So why is Trump so successful?

Because, like Taibbi says in his article, Trump knows how to con this game. He’s a genius at it.

He basically spent his whole life preparing for this campaign and didn’t even know it.

So while it’s easy to just wave your hands and waive all of this away by calling them idiots, by calling them racists, but when you do that, you make it worse. And Trump picks them up, tells them they’re beautiful, that they’re the true americans, and they find value in themselves and in this man who tells them the truth they want to hear.

You fail to educate and engage.

You make them dig their trenches deeper.

Every time you get into an argument with them, they dig a little deeper and resist you even more.

Because you’re part of the lying class. The class of people who promise but don’t really care. The intellectual aristocracy.

You can use phrases like cognitive dissonance and call them hypocrites, but those things are only convincing if the person hearing them cares what you have to say, and because they have no reason to trust you and because you’re not trying to understand their position, they simply won’t listen.

Would you listen if someone started shouting at you about why whites are the superior race?

I certainly hope not.

And I’m not really trying to be prescriptive here.

But this is the problem I see.

Progressives are not engaging conservative people. They’re not even trying to. Instead, they’re cloistering themselves within groups of agreement and labelling the Other in disparaging ways so they don’t have to take responsibility.

You know what’s brave?

Being a Mormon.

They have to go out into the world knowing that most people don’t agree with them and they have to try to convince you of two things:

  1. They’re not crazy
  2. That being Mormon is better than what you’re doing now

You know how they do that?

Kindness. Graciousness. Openness.

They literally knock on your door and politely ask you if they can discuss their faith with you.

You know how uncomfortable that must be?

Can you imagine how many people say no?

Can you imagine how many people are really rude when they say no?

To give a quick example, my dad saw some Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses walking to our house while he was pulling out of our garage, and he shouted out his window at them, demanding they leave.

Those kids didn’t get upset. They didn’t fight back.

They just moved on.

Some battles aren’t worth fighting.

Which like, yeah, if you see a dude with a swastika tattoo, that’s probably someone you don’t need to try to engage. I mean, you could certainly try.

But their decision is already seven layers deep on their skin and they may not be receptive to some stranger telling them they’re wrong.

Blame is not Useful

What this really comes down to is that we’re all to blame.

All of us.

Every US citizen.

We made Donald Trump happen.

We’ve fractured out nation so deeply that it may never heal.

I was talking to my wife the other day about how I’ve been convinced since I was fourteen that I would see the end of the US Empire in my lifetime. And while I did believe that then (I even said it would be within fifty years, which was maybe a conservative estimation, rather than the aggressive one I meant it to be) I never thought it would turn out like this.

I believe we’re at the brink of a potential civil war. We are a nation divided, with such little faith or trust in our own government. And this divide is much more even then people think.

It’s worth remembering what happened in the 2012 election.

Sure, Barack Obama decimated Mitt Romney electorally. But he only lost the popular vote by 5 million votes.

Sadly, less than half the nation voted (which is perhaps a deeper sign of how significant this divide is) but Romney only lost by 4%.

At the time, that was the most divided our nation had felt in decades upon decades. But things are even worse now.

We’re seeing the results of ideology spilling everywhere and it makes it easy to understand why people don’t trust the government.

Our government spies on us.

Our government wages illegal wars across the globe.

Our government tortures and indefinitely detains humans.

Our government commits war crimes at an alarming rate.

Our government attacks whistleblowers.

Our government is run by lobbyists and corporations.

Our government actively murders civilians, especially when they’re people of color.

Our government is doing nothing meaningful about climate change, a truly existential threat to the species.

Our government is failing us.

Many people, across the political spectrum, believe our government has failed us.

They believe we need a revolution.

Unfortunately, to most people, revolution seems to mean loudly voicing your opinion about you’re going to peacefully vote for.

But for other people this means armed occupation, murdering other civilians, and setting off bombs.

I think we’re on the brink of a civil war. It may be a violent one but it may just be a silent and gradual dissolution of our nation.

I think the dissolution of the United States would be positive in the long term, not only for us as a people, but for the world.

Unfortunately, if this does occur, it will make for a long arduous road.

It’s a scary time to be alive in this nation. I keep thinking of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and other Eastern Block works of art. We live in the most sophisticated surveillance state to ever exist. Our nation is a fascist nation and has been for decades.

But now we have a man who may launch us into something like the Third Reich.

Donald Trump may win this election and it won’t be because idiots have ruined the country.

It’ll be because very intelligent people have worked very hard to make the nation a certain way, and Trump has managed to exploit it in order to take control.

At the same time, very intelligent people who oppose these changes have failed to connect with the bulk of the population. They’ve watched as the undereducated, the poor, and the dispossessed have been manipulated by those other intelligent folks.

Which brings me to the media.

The Death of US Journalism

I wasn’t alive when it began but I’m here at its conclusion.

Because of the aggressive stance the government has towards journalists, real journalism has become increasingly dangerous, and, therefore, rare.

Whistleblowers are imprisoned or harassed and silenced. The government harasses journalists to discover the names of their sources. Legislation has been put forward that could seriously threaten a journalist’s ability to do her work in the US.

At the same time, we have people like Wolf Blitzer on television.

That’s who people associate journalism with now.

The pundit class.

I wish I had the patience and stamina to talk about the ways they’ve failed and betrayed the public, but I simply don’t.

But journalism has become so devalued, so meaningless, that most people don’t even bother watching.

See, we traded journalism for views.

When news on television became about ratings, we began to lose meaningful journalism

When the internet became about clicks and page views, we lost what it meant for the internet to have meaningful journalism.

You know how depressing it’s been following Mother Jones for the last six years?

They used to do real journalism, but now everything is opinion, and most of it’s simply clickbait.

This is what our national discussion has come to: clickbait and ratings.

Which is to say, US journalism is dying and we’re watching its collapse. And with it goes the whole of the empire.

In Conclusion

This is a long post, yeah? My stamina’s running out.

There was more I wanted to say but I just feel depressed.

But what I meant to say here, with all of this, is that we are all failing. We have all been failing for decades.

Whether you’re a conservative or progressive, you’ve failed to meaningfully engage with the other side.

Instead you’ve labelled the other side an enemy and ended all contact, built an ideological wall, and are back there, sharpening your spears and your knives, waiting for the real war to begin.

We’re in a sort of ideological Cold War, which is leaning into a civil war.

We’ve failed the world, our nation, and each other.

We’ve given into hate and propaganda and separation and alienation and indifference.

Half the country doesn’t vote. The half that does is divided so equally and so powerfully that nothing even happens. Neither side is getting what they say they want.

But the war drum keeps beating and people abroad keep dying. Our own young men and women are dying or coming back so physically and emotionally crippled that they soon take their own lives.

This all used to be just disagreement. Conservatives and progressives found things to work together on, but now there’s only hate and separation.

Real hate. The kind that burns and erupts and incites violence.

Interestingly, the only thing our government officials unanimously agree on is war and the disintegration of the Bill of Rights.

I’ve talked a lot about my disdain for war in the past so I won’t repeat myself here, but I find the whole thing so heavy.

But I want to try to leave you with some hope, such as it is.

What Should We Do?

The only thing to do is vote locally. Vote for your state representatives and senators. Give up on the 24 hour news cycle. Stop watching the presidential debacle and find out who’s running in your state, in your district, in your town. Find out what they believe in and understand what those things mean for you as a person and for us as a nation.

Because all politics is local.

And the only way to fix this mess we’ve made is to educate yourself. The media won’t do it. The government doesn’t seem to care if you know what’s going on, which is why you can see politicians lie wildly on television without consequence.

So please, just vote. Vote for who you believe in locally, because those people will change the shape of your town, your county, your city, and your state. In doing so, they’ll change the nation.

on religion and science

During the last election, I wrote this essay. It was published at a website that no longer exists, but I thought I’d post it again here:

 

For the sake of discussion, we are going to begin with a rather large assumption:

*          The god of the books[1] is factual.

What this means is that god is God, an all powerful, all knowing, all present deity. God is everywhere, in everything. God is perfection. And we were made by God.

In this making, God chose to make us imperfect and rather intellectually stunted, when compared to the Creator. What this means is that humans, no matter how intelligent or faithful or great, can never actually know God. More than that, they can never even know if the existence of any god is factual. But they believe because God told some of us that It is real and here and everywhere else.

God spoke to a few different men throughout the millennia and had them record the history of the universe. God spoke to them in the language they knew, using words they knew, using concepts and metaphors they knew.

Even though God told humans that God is God, God further explained to them that God will always remain somewhat incomprehensible to them because of the vast and astronomical differences in knowledge and existence. God, for example, is incorporeal, which leads to some rather obvious difficulties in the created’s interactions with the Creator.

And then time went by and God shared less words with humans. God’s son came and went, some other men were whispered words by God and they wrote them down. Some two thousand years later, we land at the writing of this very sentence.

So let’s talk about science within this context. God came and explained, in broad strokes, the way existence worked and how it came to be. God gave us the intellectual tools and the vast playground of earth to discover all the secret treasures God did not divinely inspire into printed words. But God did command humans to cover and populate the earth, to take care of it and its creatures, to be benevolent rulers over all creation left to us by our divine Father. Humans walked about and played in the world, and in their playing, they discovered certain things that seemed to always be true. They discovered that humans come in different shapes and sizes, that there are an unbelievable amount of animals, that seasons change, that stars shine when the one closest to us rolls over the horizon, and millions of other discoveries that led to inventions, such as a ruler or compass or mobile phone.

Science is humanity’s response to the things we can see but do not yet understand. And there are many of these things that God simply did not bother to tell us. However, clearly God wanted us to know them or God would not have instilled us with curiosity, would not have encouraged our curiosity, would not have made the world so fascinating, would not have given us even the intellect to understand the behaviors of the planet or peoples or animals.

Science further led us to things that we could not see without tools but, when viewed, were demonstrably very real, such as atoms or quasars or electrons or blackholes.

So God left us the physical world to discover and understand. The rest, the incorporeal, the spiritual world, was left to God and nine choirs of angels and all those fallen angels and all the dead. God told us to trust in the words left by It and the men who wrote it down when it came to Its existence and all existence beyond this physicality.

___

Newt Gingrich said, while still running for president, that christian values were under attack in america. It is easy to waive him off and not bother with such nonsense. But he was completely correct. Christianity is losing its relevance. As a nation and as a world, the christian values that have defined western civilisation for two millennia are no longer the fulcrum that society is tethered round. It is no longer the moral compass by which every person bases their actions. There are many reasons for that, but we will not talk about them today.

Much is made of science’s attacks on religion. Religion, specifically religions of the book–and maybe even more specifically, christian religions–feel under attack with each new scientific discovery and with the generally held belief–which is not really a belief but is a fact–that science is based on facts. This becomes especially clear the more fundamental the religious sect is because these newly discovered facts tend to disagree with things written in the bible. I could say that they are all just overreacting about the whole thing, but people who think this way, who believe in the bible as the absolute and definitive word of God take this very seriously.

So what is belief? Belief is the confidence in the truth or existence of something that is not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. It tends to come with faith, which is belief that is not based on proof. So while facts may be self evident, we do not choose what is factual and not factual. However, we do choose what we do and do not believe in. These people choose to believe that God as revealed to us in the bible is True. To discount that is to discount maybe the most defining aspect of their life. Faith is not a whimsical thing for many people. It defines every choice they make. It might be easy to mock people who wear What Would Jesus Do? bracelets, but there are many people who use that very question to guide their life, just as others ask themselves what the Talmud and/or Torah asks of them, or what the prophet Muhammad would do, or what does Buddha teach, or what is my dharma, or where does the Tao lead.

That is rather significant, no matter how stupid you may think it is.

But let us return to science. Science is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. Science is the tool by which humans come to understand the world they live in. Writing this sentence on my laptop is the result of generations upon countless generations of scientists. Science is an essentially playful thing because it is the way we come to understand the world, naturally. Every human begins as a primitive scientist, discovering the world and learning more about it every day of its life. We begin to understand by very simple experiments. If we move this arm and this leg in such a way and at such a rate, we can crawl. If we move our lips and tongue and jaw in just the right kind of ways, we can speak. All of this is a trial and error approach to learning. Hypothesis, predictions, tests, observations and so on until we have an understanding of how the process of speaking or walking or eating or throwing a ball works. As we grow and learn, our experimentation becomes more sophisticated and reliable, as we have all of the scientific tradition to learn from.

Science is the gateway to understanding the physical world. What science does not do and does not even actually care about is the metaphysical or incorporeal or spiritual or ethereal world. This is the area for philosophers and theologians, the plane where only ideas exist.

Why do scientists ignore this area of existence? This is actually quite simple: we cannot know it. There is nothing to observe and no one to observe it. Do we have souls? Maybe. It is pretty hard to say, using scientific tools, whether or not something that is weightless, odorless, colorless, and, ultimately, incorporeal is real or unreal. Science is not equipped to even begin to attempt to solve such a question. If souls had some aspect that was physical or observable, then, yes, science could try to answer the question.

And this is much the same as the existence of god. Many scientists believe in god or even God. Many do not. Really, their personal opinions about that do not matter to their professional lives because science has no interest in god. God, by definition, is metaphysical and, therefore, unknowable to humans, who happen to be bound by the laws of the physical reality they inhabit. If something is beyond physics, then it no longer becomes science’s problem. If god were, in some way, physical or measurable, then science would have something to say about it. Perhaps even very kind things.

Science is not trying to attack different ways of life. It is trying to understand life and, hopefully, improve it. For everyone.

But back to the bible, which science seems to constantly accidentally attack. Is it not possible, perhaps, that God, this perfect entity so beyond human comprehension, distilled the truths of the universe to humans the same way a human adult explains the world to an infant? Think of how simplified your explanations are to a child. Would you even bother to use the words physics or biology or chemistry? When is the last time you even discussed calculus with another adult or tried to explain to them where all the atoms in the universe come from? A human child happens to be the same species as a human adult, so it may be more appropriate to compare a human adult to a larval fly when comparing God to a human adult. Assuming you could make yourself understood to a fly, how would you explain the complexities of existence to it using its language?

Is it not possible that your reading of the bible is fundamentally flawed? Maybe it is all there, perfectly and succinctly. The entire cosmos wrapped up in those beginning chapter of genesis, yet, regrettably, owing to our astronomically deficient human intellect, we are so hopelessly incapable of even beginning to understand what God meant when It whispered those words to Moses [for the sake of argument] some three thousand years ago.

But the main point here is that religion and science are not at odds because they are not even the same language or in the same plane of existence. Discovering new words and metaphors in French does not make Cantonese less legitimate, nor does the understanding of one mean the attack of the other. Being a very good pelican may make you a terrible whale, but it is not really useful to compare the two, is it?

Rather than assume that every person who disagrees with you is also trying to destroy your way of life and ruin the future of humanity, maybe we should calm down a bit, sit down, and remember that apples are not oranges, and metaphysical apples are also not apples.

[1]    Books here meaning the Qur’an and different versions of the Bible

on the shrugging indifference of imperial war crimes

Image taken from Getty Images.

Originally this was going to just be a portion of a longer essay about how we blame idiots for the ills of the world and especially for america’s problems, but this is already reasonably long, so I’m making it its own post.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to that essay.

 

Anyrate, this is something I came across on twitter. I thought about just screengrabbing them so they would have to potentially answer for their insane garbage logic, but I’ve decided to leave their names and faces out of it.

I mean, no one reads this site anyway, so who cares.

An exchange by two writers I know through the internet. They’re white, reasonably young, and would consider themselves progressives. Or at least Democrats.

Anyrate, the exchange, with commentary:

Imperialist 1: Clinton will kill too many people, just as Obama has. She will allow exploitation of far, far too many, just as Obama has. This is true.

Imperialist 2: Any president of the US is going to be at least indirectly responsible for a lot of deaths.

Imperialist 1: I don’t like drones but I think Obama sees them as a necessity to avoid massive bloodshed given our collective awfulness.

We’ll stop here for a moment.

We begin with what I assume is sort of a shrugging sorrow, if I’m being generous, or shrugging indifference, if I’m just reading the words.

Let’s assume it’s shrugging sorrow.

These two are people who would consider themselves the intelligent minority in the country. The people who wish the best for the country and know better than all those dumb poor idiots ruining it. They’re young white liberal writers, so they’d also consider themselves part of the good guys.

And what we get here is a shrug.

About the deaths of people of color across the globe.

They would probably paint this as being realistic. I mean, it is. This is reality. At least the first statement by the first imperialist. Obama is responsible for countless deaths. So is Clinton.

We come to an interesting point, that any US president is going to kill lots of people.

Why is this?

I mean, certainly this has been generally true. It’s part of the tradition of being US president.

But does it have to be?

Imperialist two seems to think it does have to be this way. They also make the interesting distinction that they would be indirectly responsible.

I assume this is because their policies kill people. They didn’t physically pull any triggers or drop any bombs.

This is, of course, absurd.

The president is the head of the US military, which means they can directly tell soldiers, generals, and anyone in the military to stand down. To stop fighting. They can pull out armies. They can send them abroad.

This also means that when the president sends troops to war, he or she takes on the burden of those lives. He or she sent the bombs, sent the guns, sent the soldiers, so they must answer for the dead, the broken bodies, the broken psychologies, the decimated infrastructure, the dispossessed, the refugees that get kicked up by our imperial boots.

Hardly blameless. This is not an indirect effect of policy.

Those dead, those mutilated, those psychologically broken, those refugees, those homeless, those starving–that is the purpose of militaristic policy. It’s not a tangential outcome. It’s the whole reason the policy exists.

I mean, technically it’s illegal for the president to send troops to war without congressional approval, but we’re well past this. But so if this is true, if the president can send troops wherever they want, whenever they want (which they do), then the opposite should also be true.

It might crush their public opinion, but that’s a small price to pay for saving millions.

Now we come to the third peculiar point. The idea that Obama is using drones in order to keep us from engaging in more actual wars.

A few things.

This completely ignores the (seemingly irrelevant) fact that the president cannot wage wars without congressional approval. So the easiest way for him to avoid larger wars would be for him to just stop bombing people abroad, yes?

It also ignores how Obama has used these drones.

Imperialist one almost makes it sound like altruism or benevolence.

He’s only illegally bombing civilians (a war crime) of foreign countries to keep us from engaging in an all out war (something he needs to declare and get approval for).

Which, even if we stop there, this is an enormous feat of mental gymnastics to give shrugging approval of what amount to war crimes.

So, in killing people illegally with unmanned drones, he’s saving lives.

Sure.

But let’s look at how Obama’s administration has used drones.

Well, they’ve done it secretly. For eight years. Against civilians. It’s proven to be ineffective, horrifying, and indescriminate.

You can read about it in The Drone Papers, which is really the tip of the iceberg. Jeremy Scahill‘s been reporting on the drone war for about a decade.

If Obama were really trying to save lives, if he were really doing this for a reason that we can argue is positive, why keep it hidden? Why not use this as an example of why traditional warfare is no longer necessary? Why not proclaim that the US has changed war! We’ve saved millions of lives by waging humane warfare (an extremely old argument that is always heinous nonsense)!

So we have this discussion of why Obama may feel like he needs to use drones in order to save lives which is so absurd I can barely even see straight when I read it.

But let’s move on.

Imperialist 2: Being a world power means you’re choosing which mass deaths you can live with.

Imperialist 1: Yeah. Not an exciting pitch! And certainly something I’d like to work on. But, yeah.

I put the most relevant part in bold but I’ll write it again.

BEING A WORLD POWER MEANS YOU’RE CHOOSING WHICH MASS DEATHS YOU CAN LIVE WITH.

This is the kind of heinous nonsense that passes for thought among those who believe themselves to be intelligent progressives. Again, they’d call this realism, but I call it the most odious form of imperialism and it follows a logic as ancient as imperial genocide, with the same shrugging indifference to all the war crimes and murder.

To use an old cultural catchphrase, This is why we can’t have nice things.

We have people basically accepting the logic that we, as a people and a country, need to kill other people on a massive scale. There’s no argument about whether we should or shouldn’t do this. Not even an explanation as to why this is necessary. Just an assumption that we can live with mass deaths. Just an acceptance that we will kill millions.

And then the next sentence is shrugging acceptance of that logic.

We’re going to murder a lot of people.

Well, it’s not ideal, but maybe it’ll work out all right!

This drives me insane.

Especially because this is probably intended as a kind of gallows humor.

I could go on but it’s really making me sick.

But this is the essence of imperialism. We internalise so deeply the morality of the empire that we no longer even care that what it’s doing is domestically illegal, internationally illegal, breaks treaties, and is widely condemned by nearly every single nation on the planet.

You can call it realism, but this is actively making the world a worse place. A more dangerous and diseased place.

Not just the policies, which are obviously devastating. But this kind of acceptance of the empire’s narrative, the empire’s morality.

You can blame it on “our collective awfulness,” but there are people who are fighting to stop this. They fight every day to expose war crimes and to spread peace. But, no–that’s irrelevant to the discussion at hand! We’re being realists about america and all the idiots who made it into this atrocity!

I find this to be one of the biggest issues with american thought.

We pass blame and care little for solutions. We accept the imperial morality and call any hope of overturning it idealism or unrealistic.

This is, by the way, the same reason why the Founding Fathers didn’t free the slaves.

It was unrealistic! Too difficult! Who could expect them to go that far?

It’s essentially the argument for every system of power.

You need to break some eggs to make an omelette, and if you want a big omelette, you better shatter a lot of eggs.

The failure of american thought and discourse is really exemplified, I think, by this short exchange on twitter.

And if we look at the recent debate, we have a war criminal who proudly proclaims her friendship with other war criminals and dictatorships around the world telling someone that they have questionable motives for being an anti-imperialist thirty years ago.

Red baiting like McCarthy.

That’s the new face of the Democratic Party.

Anyrate, I’m too angry and frustrated and disgusted to continue.

 

the last thing i have to say about this election until the next time i have something to say

Starting things out light with one of my favorite commercials, which happens to be for one of my favorite games.

Let’s talk about ‘party lines.’

No one is calling it that, but that’s what everyone means. All those posts you see on facebook and twitter, all those comment sections saying you need to make sure the Democrats win, regardless of the candidate, that you need to ensure the Republicans win, regardless of the candidate.

What people are telling you is to fall in line or shut up.

You better fall in line or you’re given the country to the enemies.

You better fall in line or you’re taking away the rights from ______________.

You better fall in line.

You better fall in line.

I think this is worth thinking about. Worth it for you to think about.

We’ve created sides, built barriers, built vocabularies of hate and separation, carved holes to fill with mines, drawn maps to define enemy and ally territories, and now both sides have come down to this. And they are using the same vocabulary in the same way.

The Republicans, who advocate for what they believe are conservative or traditional values.

The Democrats, who advocate for what they believe are progressive or liberal values.

We’ve created an arbitrary aisle and split the world between left and right. We’ve decided that to disagree is to become the enemy.

To vote for a third party is to assist the enemy, regardless of where you stand in relation to that aisle.

We’re digging ourselves deeper and deeper into an ideological civil war.

The difference is that there are guns in the hands of millions and they’re already acting on these ideologies. The state and citizens are acting ideologically, without regard for humanity.

We have the state murdering citizens and citizens murdering citizens in the name of ideology. We have political officials calling for the annihilation of entire peoples and countries. We have political officials who have called for the execution of US citizens. We throw around words like traitor, patriot, terrorist, and on and on. We imprison journalists, equate the act of journalism with an act of terrorism. We fill our prisons with anyone brown, the foreign, the whistleblowers, the journalists, the poor.

Our presidential candidates are all imperialists who advocate for the destruction of foreign lives. Some more viciously. One who is already a war criminal, who is lauded by other war criminals. Some who promise to be war criminals and commit other crimes against humanity.

When people tell me to fall in line and vote with the party, I hear them asking me to vote for crimes against humanity, for war, for american terrorism, imperialism.

People have made their positions vigorously clear.

In every sentence. Every post. We discuss politics like the Super Bowl.

Anything goes as long as my team wins.

We talk about it like war.

The Other is the enemy and we need to win at any costs.

This destroys my hope in america, already difficult enough to muster.

I want to have hope and I want to believe, but all of this–it’s so utterly depressing.

I used to say that I believe in Americans but not in america, but I don’t know. The distinction is becoming more and more irrelevant.

We lost. All of us. Probably a long time ago. Civil war is everywhere and it’s now. The world is at war everywhere and most of them have the sticky fingers of american imperialism in them. By many estimations, it’s even too late to turn back the effects of the anthropocene, which will only create more conflict and destabilisation. More power vacuums that our imperial nations will fill.

We’re fighting over a future of ash and our response is to make it burn faster so long as we reign over it.

I’d feel pity if I weren’t so depressed and disgusted by the whole affair.

Fall in line.

Do what the party says.

Because this is how we win.

This is how we Make America Great Again.

This is Change You Can Believe In.

This is how Everyday Americans Get A Champion.

This is how we Reignite The Promise Of America.

This is how we get A New American Century.

This is how we Unleash The American Dream.

I absolutely believe you should vote for whoever you believe will improve the world, but all I see is hate. Your belief that you are right is making you an agent of divisiveness, of hate. Your belief that there is nothing in common between you and a liberal or you and a conservative is actively making the world and our country worse.

You are part of the problem.

I’m not especially interested in arguing these points. You can believe whatever you like. You can continue to attack instead of discuss. You can continue to fight instead of find a way to wade through ideology.

Do whatever you like.

But don’t pretend that by ‘winning’ you’re doing anything but increasing tension and aggression. Eventually, this will spill out. It already is. In Ferguson. At Planned Parenthoods across the country. In an Oregon Wildlife Refuge, which, by the way, you actively damaged by mailing them dildos and confetti and whatever else–it’s a wildlife refuge that you flooded with garbage, much of it nonbiodegradeable, so, sure, pat yourself on the back for your great joke and sticking it to those people you hate, but you actively damaged the refuge possibly more than they did–and I hope you feel terrible about that because you absolutely should.

You did a stupid, vile thing to a place you pretended to care about and you managed to sow more hate and separation in the process.

Yes, words do matter, and it’s very appropriate that you’re all using the vocabulary of war. Because you’re fighting a war of your own creation.

But I’m just going to ignore you from now on. Play some videogames. Read good books and try to share those things with others. Give money and support to the causes I believe in. And just try to improve the lives of those around me to the best of my ability for the decades we may have left.

Even if all I can do is make someone smile every once and a while.

Here’s a picture of my dead dog. I miss her very much.

america to korea 008

 

why bernie sanders matters

Wouldn’t it be funny if all I wrote here was, “He doesn’t”?

In all seriousness, I will be writing about Bernie Sanders but before I do I want to qualify some things.

If you want to just read why I think he’s important, I recommend skipping down about halfway.

Why I’m not voting for Sanders

It is very unlikely that I will vote for Bernie Sanders. Or Hillary Clinton. Or anyone in the GOP.

My issues with the GOP are myriad. They actually mostly match my issues with Clinton.

Before I get to Sanders, I think it is worth looking at Clinton with some scrutiny.

I’ve actually been under the impression that she’ll be our next president since about 2013, when I started seeing polls about how much people like her and just random posts around the internet trying to show us how awesome she is. I mean, how often does media focus on former politicians who make millions from speaking fees? Especially media like Buzzfeed.

But I saw these things and thought she would definitely be the next president. Her likeability has always been one of her biggest issues [mostly for gendered reasons], and it seemed like she somehow overcame that, at least with young people.

But I also see her then growing appeal as a sort of historical blindness, or amnesia,maybe. Sure, for the general public, she always seemed unlikeable. And, sure, those are mostly for gendered reasons. But if we set all that aside, there are still so many reasons to be afraid of a Clinton presidency.

Unfortunately, many Sanders supporters are coming out really strong in mostly hysterical ways, and their attacks on Clinton are too often not related to policy. To say that another way, they’re misogynistic attacks.

This is unfortunate for a lot of reasons.

The first, and most obvious, is that Clinton is a human. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like garbage because of her gender or her status as a person with a great deal of fame.

The second is that gendering your attack really says more about you than anyone else. So even if you have an actual and useful critique of Clinton, no one will hear it over the garbage spilling from your mouth.

UPDATE: With regard to this, check out Glenn Greenwald’s recent Intercept article.

The third is that there are serious and worthwhile critiques to throw her way. An easy one is that she considered a brutal dictator a family friend (though at the time, that was a normal thing for politicians to do to Mubarak–Barack Obama also gave a speech a few months before his ousting where he detailed all the many ways Mubarak was a great leader and friend of the US). I mean, you can tell a lot about someone by who they call their friends, yes? For example, she was, until relatively recently, on pretty friendly terms with Donald Trump, who is a longtime supporter of the Clintons. You can take that however you want it, but it is worth noting that Trump has been supporting the Clinton’s organisation for over a decade and Trump funded Clinton’s campaign efforts in the past. And maybe Hillary Clinton and Trump aren’t very close and she’s merely brought along because Bill Clinton and Trump are friends. That’s pretty believable to me too. And really, their connection isn’t important, or at least not as important as her being buddies with a dictator or her more serious crimes against humanity.

Then there are more serious accusations, like her stance against gay marriage, her consistently pro-war record, her support of trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPT, her accusations against Edward Snowden, her belief that the government should be able to spy on its citizens and indefinitely detain them, her continued support of the Patriot Act, and her belief that a single payer health system is bad for america. Another one is her support of Wall St and their more obvious support of her.

And a lot of people will blame her for her husband’s policies and a lot of other people will defend her or absolve her, since she wasn’t the president. But, at the time, she was very much meant to be viewed as a partner in the White House. Which is great! A woman sharing responsibility with her husband at the highest level of government! I mean, that truly is awesome and there’s never been anything like it in america before or since. Unfortunately, much of Bill Clinton’s presidency was pretty repugnant (people have crazy historical amnesia here, especially–if Bill could run for president again, he’d win in a landslide, despite his attack on worker’s rights, welfare, his support of the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, and so many other things).

It also should be mentioned more often that she ran an insidiously racist campaign in 2008 against Barack Obama, playing into the Islamophobia of the nation, the Birther arguments, and just general race baiting. These are things that happened, things that Clinton did not even very long ago.

But the thing about all of those things is that many Democrats don’t actually see any of those things as being problematic.

Many Democrats are pro-military, pro trade agreements, anti-Snowden, anti-whistleblower. They likely wouldn’t refer to themselves in such blanketed terms, but that’s kind of whatever.

The Democratic Party is not a progressive party. The Democratic Party has been a Wall St Party for about as long as I’ve been alive. The Democratic Party has been for the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. In fact, there are very few politicians in the US who have consistently voted against war or military aggression or intervention. Fewer who have voted against the prison industrial complex. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Democrats like Clinton. They voted for Obama twice (and maybe should only be blamed for the second one, since most thought he was going to be a peaceful president) and they’ll likely vote for Clinton.

She’s kind of banking (no pun intended) on it.

I will never vote for Clinton. There are a lot of reasons for that, and many of them are outlined above. There are many more examples, especially as we get more specific, but I don’t feel like spending the rest of the day grabbing proof.

I’m not a journalist. If I were, I’d be less lazy about something like that.

But I think Clinton supporters should be honest with themselves. They’re not voting for a progressive. She’s shown herself to be pretty conservative over the many years she’s been in the public. So if you think she’s a progressive, you’re either lying to yourself or being naive.

Of course, there are those who are pointing to her work in the Senate, where she proved to be one of the most progressive Senators. Though, as I said above, our progressive party is pretty conservative. Which is to say, being the most progressive person in a Reagonomics thinktank doesn’t make you a liberal. Voting for war, voting against civil liberties–these things should speak for themselves.

Of course, there are people who are voting for her because she’s a woman.

I don’t mean that to be dismissive either. I understand the impulse. It’s not a bad impulse to have, given how shockingly patriarchal heads of state are and have been throughout history, especially in america. It’s really time for us to accept that women have a real and central role in government. We need more women with high levels of power. Not simply to gender balance, but to balance perspectives. We need people from more diverse backgrounds in the government as well. People of various ethnicities, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people who are not trained lawyers.

We need scientists, engineers, economists, teachers, union workers, hourly workers, tradespeople, nurses–the list goes on. When we have a government full of one type of person, it means most voices are left out. And our government is primarily made up of straight white male lawyers. And even if we remove sexuality, gender, and race, we’re still left with a government almost completely made up of lawyers.

There are real reasons for that. Wouldn’t you want people who studied law to be in charge of your laws? On the surface that makes perfect sense. In practice it seems to get you the US Congress. A place where a lot of arguments take place and nothing gets done.

Anyrate, back to Clinton: I think her gender is less important than other people (and, yes, this very well could be because of my own gender, my own privilege–I accept that). Not because it wouldn’t be huge for a woman to become president, but because I don’t see her as a women positive candidate, just like I didn’t see Sarah Palin as a women positive candidate.

Many will probably disagree with me on that point as well. Which is, you know, fine. She has done positive things for women. I mean, simply being at the level of government she’s been at is positive for women. Having her in the Oval Office would be positive for women. Just by virtue of her showing up, she’s showing young women that they can be president. And that is important.

That matters a lot.

But she’s not the person I would put in the White House, if I could choose. She’s not who I would want young women to emulate. And this may be my own bias. Because when I look at her, I see violence and murder. I see the miles of dead she’s made through her policies.

So let’s talk about why I’m not voting for Sanders.

The biggest reason I’m not voting for him for president is the same reason I wouldn’t vote for Clinton or the GOP.

I’m a pacifist. I believe this very strongly, and I believe it very deeply.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as a just war.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as a positive outcome to violence.

Being a US citizen and a pacifist basically sets me up for a lifelong nightmare. Because every day, I am complicit in the wars of my country. Every day, money I pay to the government is used to fund weapons and violence and destruction. Or sanctions which cripple economies and starve millions. Millions of children. These are our crimes. These are my crimes. And our government has thrust them upon us all.

I don’t get a choice in the matter. You, as a US citizen, don’t get a choice in the matter.

Or, we do, but those choices are to stay below the poverty line so we don’t have to pay taxes, or to leave the country and refuse to pay taxes here.

I live in a country that is the biggest terrorist state in the world. The nation that purposefully and with malice of forethought commits crimes against humanity with little to no repercussions, no accountability. I would label every president who has served during the 28 years of my life as war criminals. I would name many more presidents of the past. And even beyond presidents, I would consider Hillary Clinton to be a war criminal along with her husband. She’s not alone in holding that distinction, mind. Henry Kissinger is perhaps the most obvious war criminal in US history who was never president, along with General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Likely I’ve already lost a lot of you reading this, which is fine. I’m what a lot of people would probably describe as a fringe idealist, or something like that. Especially when it comes to my pacifism, which I believe in above all else.

Most will disagree there. They see war as an unfortunate but sometimes necessary tool.

And that’s fine.

I’ve long known my political stances are, to put it one way, idiosyncratic. Or at least unpopular in this home of mine.

And this brings me to Sanders.

Only in america is a man who supports war reluctantly considered a man of peace. No, Sanders is not the anti-war candidate. Weirdly, he’s had to assert openly his willingness to go to war, if it became necessary.

This is a fundamentally strange aspect to US politics. Because Sanders voted against one war, he’s painted as a pacifist, and this is used against him, even as it’s used to praise him. Because he didn’t support the Iraq invasion, he needs to stand up and say loudly that he would support war if it became necessary. He also had to stand up and tick off the wars he voted for!

Sanders, far from being an anti-war candidate, is simply a less aggressive candidate than the rest of the field. Maybe even the least aggressive candidate running for a major US political party in the last thirty years.

This is a deal breaker for me.

If you feel similarly, I recommend you start supporting Jill Stein.

It’s also peculiar that Sanders is considered a radical, because he’s really not the progressive rockstar people are making him out to be.

He intends to fully support Clinton if she beats him in the nomination, which, I think, says something about him. To many, this may just show he’s a good sport or a great loser. To me, and most people who consider themselves socialists, it demonstrates–how to put this?–a lack of commitment to his ideals.

He was also very vocal about his opposition to Ralph Nader back in 2004 (going so far as to vowing to go around the country and campaign against him–not in favor of himself as a candidate, but simply to go around the country and telling people not to vote for Nader), who is maybe the most effective progressive leader to ever run for office. Despite never holding political office, his activism has done more for consumer protection, the environment, and human rights than just about any major US politician of the last 50 years. Maybe ever.

To put it another way, Ralph Nader was the most progressive candidate to run for office in the last century. We may never see a man like him again.

All right, so that was a big preamble.

Why Sanders matters

I am excited. Despite my misgivings about him, he excites me in ways just about no other candidate of my lifetime has excited me.

Even more than Jill Stein, the only presidential candidate who holds my same positions on nearly every topic.

Not so much because of what he says, but because of how he resonates with people.

I’m finding people who have always been apolitical or politically ambivalent really getting excited about Sanders. They’re becoming engaged, getting involved. They’re finding their own political voice, their political consciousness. They’re taking part in demonstrations, in conversations. They’re opening their eyes to progressive causes and opening their ears to progressive voices.

This is a very good thing and a very significant one.

Noam Chomsky is perhaps the most celebrated US thinker living, and I have never seen him get the attention he gets now. He’s been active in politics since the Korean War. Almost seventy years ago. And it’s now, in his late years of life, that he’s getting interviewed by major news outlets. His words and his ideas and his voice are being consumed and taken in by a generation so far removed from the one he was born to that it’s kind of incredible. People who are younger than his grandkids are finding him more relevant than the several generations between him and them.

Part of this is, I think, because people like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made people excited about the possibility of a government that works for them. Occupy Wall St and the Arab Spring are probably more significant reasons, but they’re all related, I think. And the swell of support for Sanders is certainly a carryover from the Occupy Movement.

You can see it on facebook and twitter. It’s all over the place!

Last week, 16,000 people went to see him speak in St Paul. Another 6,000 went to see him speak in Duluth.

A huge and diverse crowd is what I saw, despite how often his supporters are characterised as straight white bros, “Bernie Bros.” I saw more people of color there than I have at any other event I’ve been to in Minnesota. Many of them women. Granted, we’re not a very diverse state. I think we’re like 85% white. But that’s not the crowd I saw that night.

I went because my wife is a huge Sanders fan. She’s actually one of the people I’m talking about. Someone who has always felt so pushed away by the game of politics who is finding her political voice because of Sanders and people like him. Basically for the first time.

This is exciting!

She keeps me up to date on what he’s doing, how his campaign’s doing. She even gave money to support his campaign, which is something I know she’s never done before with any other candidate.

And, if nothing else, I think that’s worth harnessing.

Which brings me to something that really bums me out.

And that is the willingness for people who have been politically aware and active for years to just dump all over this. They tell people who are excited about a candidate, about politics–maybe for the first time in their life!–that they’re wrong and that voting for him and even supporting him will actually ruin the progressive cause.

And, sure, most people aren’t saying it so forcefully, but they’re being just as dickish about it. They’re acting like teenage hipsters who make fun of you for not loving TV on the Radio for the last decade.

But, seriously, it’s okay to show up late to a cause. Just because it seems late to you doesn’t mean it’s late to them. You, as an individual, don’t get to set the political timeframe. If you’re so jaded by politics, then just shutup and step back. Let people who still care be excited and try to do what you so clearly failed to do.

Sure, they might fail. Maybe this current bunch of young voters are just as naive as you were when you were their age. Maybe they’ll fail like your generation did.

They’re allowed to fail. Let them fail, if that’s what you really want. But don’t rain on their parade just because you’ve been burned in the past.

If anything, you should quietly support their burgeoning political awareness. You don’t have to agree with them or support their causes, of course, but it matters that people are paying attention, especially given how much those who are politically aware tend to complain about the political illiteracy of the US public.

Because right now, you’re part of the reason people stay away from politics. You’re part of the problem.

It’s not a badge of honor to be politically jaded. It’s something you should hide in your closet, along with your U2 albums and posters.

And, yes, there’s a real possibility that this new group of people will fail.

But maybe they won’t. And their success doesn’t negate your efforts. Their success is your success. It’s built out of the work you did, out of the awareness you spread.

So let them have this.

But more than just a beacon of hope in a dismal landscape, Sanders is actually turning out big numbers.

Hopefully his huge numbers in Iowa will put to rest the argument that he can’t win so there’s no reason to vote for him. This is clearly not true. In fact, this is a huge success for him. At the beginning of the year, he was 40 points back. He lost the state by six coin tosses. Which, I mean, that’s insane.

And the real story of Iowa should be that Clinton is a coin toss wizard, because that’s bonkers to win six in a row. If I were her, I’d start gambling till my luck ran out.

The reason Sanders is getting so much support is that he’s actually engaging people across age groups. He’s engaging and attracting more young voters than anyone else, but he’s also attracting and engaging voters who are 25-65+. it’s actually an almost even spread of support.

But Sanders is important for more reasons than that. He’s important because he’s changed the conversation. He’s pulled the entire campaign into the realm of actual policy and ideas. This is something that I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime. Candidates talking openly about ideas and how they hope to achieve them.

Of course there’s still all the bluster and handwaving, but there are also real ideas being discussed and real plans being set into motion.

He’s pulled the Democratic Party–a party that has leaned into conservative values consistently over my lifetime–towards progressive ideas and values. We’re talking about expanding healthcare, increasing taxes on the wealthy (not even increasing them very much, [interestingly, the Democratic Party has officially balked at this, which tells you all you need to know about their progressive values, I think] I might add), the criminal activity of Wall St, the insanity of our criminal justice system, the failed war on drugs, and we’re getting someone who’s willing to say Black Lives Matter.

For the first time in my life, I heard a politician engage with the Somali-American population of Minnesota. This is something I care deeply about and something I’ve never even heard a Minnesota politician talk about, despite this being a sizeable population for the last twenty years. That’s not to say no Minnesota politician has engaged with that community. It just means, if they have, I’m unaware of it.

We have a politician who at least seems to care about race.

I think he doesn’t go far enough, but he’s the only one who seems willing to even have that conversation.

We have a candidate who seems to profoundly care and who has shown himself to care for decades.

That resonates with people, obviously.

And maybe he can’t win the nomination–is that reason enough to not vote for him?

Isn’t that the point of the primaries? To try to get the person with the most support up there to represent the party?

With his showing in Iowa, he’s about to gain a bunch of attention and new donors and return donors. He’s starting to get major news coverage for the first time during this campaign. So let’s say he beats Clinton. Are we expecting the broader Democratic base to just go away because Clinton lost? Imagine the kind of money and support he’ll gain as the nominee.

It seems silly to think he can’t stand up against the GOP’s field. The frontrunning candidates, it’s worth noting, are not at all who the GOP want as their nominee.

We have such a defeatist mindset in america when it comes to politics. This is by design, caused by decades of propaganda, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try to vote by our ideals.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is what turned america into the terrorist fascist state it is today, so don’t believe people who tell you they’re being pragmatic–they’re not. They’re either lying to themselves or being naive. If you only give yourself poisons to choose from, you’re going to get sick. Probably die.

I see a lot of people who consider themselves progressives. People who gladly define themselves as Democrats. They seem to believe they’re playing some kind of long con. That by voting for Clinton–who they generally don’t like–they’ll be putting up the most electable candidate.

But how electable is she if she’s struggling to beat the crazy grandpa from Vermont?

Iowa was basically her worst nightmare. She came in with big money, huge name recognition, all the attention of the media, and was so far ahead a month ago that it seemed silly for Sanders to even bother campaigning. And she won by six coin tosses. She had to rely on astronomical chance.

And, sure, I said a lot of things about Clinton above, but you have to feel for her here. This campaign was meant to be mostly a victory lap before she sauntered into the White House. Instead she’s barely scraping by.

I may not like her, but I actually don’t take pleasure in her seeming failure in Iowa.

But it does excite me at the same time. To see how much a big grass roots movement has been able to do in such a short amount of time, with negligible media coverage and millions of small donations.

And electability? Clinton?

It’s really ignoring how generally hated Clinton is. She may have a lot of support from Democrats, but she has no support across the aisle.

If you think the language surrounding her has been misogynistic so far, wait till she’s running against Cruz or Trump or Rubio.

Which isn’t a reason not to vote for her, mind, but just be aware that this supposedly electable candidate is one of the most hated people in the country for most conservatives. They might even hate her more than they hate Obama. And yes, most of the attacks on Obama were racial and most of the attacks on Clinton are gendered, but it really is worth understanding that the GOP wants absolutely nothing to do with Clinton.

If she wins, the obstructions will be everywhere. Just as they will be with a Democrat as president and a conservative congress.

This is another argument I see for why you shouldn’t vote for Sanders–he won’t be able to get anything done in a conservative congress.

A few things here.

Congress doesn’t have to stay conservative. It’s not a fixed situation. It’s unlikely that it’ll become progressive, mostly because it never has been, but that doesn’t mean that we just give up on voting for senators and house representatives because of how the last election turned out and the gradual way america’s plunged into conservativism.

And let’s say congress remains exactly the same as it is right now.

Would Clinton–a person so reviled by conservatives that they will defame her in just about any way imaginable–be able to pass progressive legislation, even if she wanted to?

What makes people so sure she would get done what Sanders can’t?

People are kind of acting like Sanders popped out of the woodwork last week. And, for many of us, he may as well have. I mean, I didn’t really know who he was till he started running for president! But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a relatively successful career as a politician.

If anything, I think Clinton is actually more divisive than Sanders.

And, sure, a big part is her gender, but I think the biggest part has to do with her name and with her history in government.

And, okay, Sanders won’t be able to get universal healthcare, free tuition, break up the banks, create new jobs, and overturn Citizens United. Probably that’s true.

But, if you’re a progressive, wouldn’t you want someone as president who’s at least going to try?

If you don’t try, those things absolutely won’t happen in the next four years.

If you do try, some of them might just actually happen sooner.

But I guess I detoured into why Sanders is a better candidate than Clinton, and that’s not really what this is about.

Sanders makes people excited and he’s getting people involved. He’s getting more donations to his campaign than any other US politician in history, which is not insignificant.

If you think people are more willing to write a cheque than wait in line, then you’ve never been to a free concert.

The idea that all these people donating money are just going to disappear come time to vote is so absurd I can barely waste time thinking about it.

In Conclusion

I firmly believe that you should vote for whoever you want.

If you want to vote for Clinton, go for it!

If you want to vote for Trump, go for it!

If you want to vote for Sanders, go for it!

But be aware of who and what you’re voting for. Let’s even just take these three and use the nomenclature of US politics. Which means I’m going to put them on a very useless spectrum, from right to left.

Trump and the GOP are on the far right.

Sanders is about middle of the road left of center, which is actually maybe too generously to the left, but whatever.

Clinton is between these two, but closer to Sanders than she is to Trump. Which is to say, she’s right of center by a significant margin, but not far enough to be considered a real GOP candidate.

To put it another way, if she were in the GOP and her name wasn’t Clinton, she’d be doing about as well as Jeb Bush, who she’s not super dissimilar from, ideologically.

Diagram:

_____________Sanders______________Clinton_______________________Trump

And all of that is fine.

But while you vote for who you believe in, allow people to disagree. Allow people who find hope in Sanders to just have that hope. Even if it will eventually shipwreck. Even if we’ll have some notion of the heartache the Greek have had over the last couple years.

And Sanders supporters, be okay with people voting for Clinton. Quit gendering your attacks. Quit attacking at all.

That’s not what this is meant to be about.

Just because you all consider yourselves Democrats or leftists or progressives doesn’t mean you’re even close to each other on the spectrum of american ideology. Someone who supports Clinton just doesn’t agree with you. They may simply believe that you’re too far to the left. They may be a great deal more comfortable with her affiliation to Wall St and the military industrial complex.

But people, regardless of where you are, don’t lie to yourself and say that this is all about pragmatism. Because–and here’s the rub–the president doesn’t matter.

Really.

Your senators and representatives–local and federal–are the ones who matter. They make the small incremental changes that influence the country from the bottom up.

But you know where all that really starts–and this is where Sanders is really reaching people–it starts with you. With you pushing your politicians to serve you and your desires.

They’re public servants.

They’re not meant to be the aristocracy–though that’s what they’ve become, much to our national shame.

So make them serve you.

You do that by getting out there and fighting. Call their office. Picket for and against. Write letters. Canvas the neighborhood.

Civil Rights didn’t happen because a president signed a law. The Vietnam War didn’t end because Nixon decided we’d gone too far. Women didn’t get the right to vote because a president said, Let’s let the ladies have their day.

Decades of activism made these things happen.

And that, unfortunately, is the only way to make change happen in america. Or anywhere.

And that’s what Sanders is making people believe in. Right now, he’s the figurehead of a huge grass roots national movement. He’s mobilised millions. If he can keep this momentum going, keep making these people believe, then he may be able to get them to push their senators and representatives to work for them.

I think that matters.