Monday, January 23, 2017

Welcome! We've Been Waiting For You.

The Women's March on Washington, and affiliated marches throughout the nation, that took place this past Saturday were huge. Demonstrations took place on every continent on Earth and have been argued to be the biggest collection of protests in world history. I even saw on the social media this morning that a pair of political scientists had used crowd-size estimates to argue that roughly 1-2% of the entire US population was at a protest of some sort that day.

So needless to say, it was a pretty popular demonstration, the kind we haven't seen since the dawn of the Iraq war (and those demonstrators, it bears constant repetition, were pretty much right about everything).

The incredible popularity of this past weekend's actions put those of us regular demonstrators in an odd position, as we're not used to nearly this much attention nor support. And I have to admit, it's easy to feel like a demonstration hipster (indeed, in creating a back patch to wear to Saturday's rally, I cut up an old demonstration shirt I had made that read "I was against the war before it was cool").

To be fair, this isn't an entirely glib point about something niche suddenly becoming mainstream. As many have pointed out, none of the problems folks were discussing during Saturday's many speeches are new in any way, and while Trump is a terrifying specter indeed, it's not as if the election of Clinton would have made these problems go away. I'll admit that as much joy as I felt witnessing the thousands who were marching along side me and the many millions more marching elsewhere, more than once my mind returned to the speaker at an emergency post-election meeting I mentioned here before who pointed out that had Clinton won, these problems would still be here, but it's pretty unlikely everyone would be organizing emergency meetings and mass demonstrations to address them.

So yeah, there's definitely a sense that many of the people who showed up to the protests this past weekend were only doing so because they felt like all of the problems in the world might now start applying to them. I think the feeling is captured quite eloquently by this sign, which I've seen multiple versions of popping up in various photo collections from Saturday:

It raises a good point about participation, and less directly, about how these demonstrations were policed compared to many others; as more than a few people have pointed out, if there were Black Lives Matter rallies this big all over the nation, it's hard to believe police would be so polite and helpful, or that we would see so few pre-emptive riot police and tanks on the street.

These issues are real and important, and definitely should not be dismissed, but instead form a central part of the discussion on where to go from here.

But as important as these issues are, and as fun as it is to be holier than thou about such things (and it's very fun!), in my ongoing quest to learn some form of humility, I'm going to try my best to remember that everyone starts somewhere. And while people should be held to task for not caring about an issue until it effects them personally, I think it's also important to ask which is more important during these times -- excoriating those who didn't get to the movement soon enough, or building as massive a movement as possible to push back against the Trump agenda and toward social justice?

So in that vein, I'm going to do my best to try and welcome people to the resistance. Even if they didn't get here on time or in the right way, they got here, and it's a lot more important where they go from here than where they've been before. Because simply put, we need them. As ol' Leon Trotsky put it, "Without a guiding organization the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam."

Or for a bit more contemporary spin on that same though, I'll let Dr. Angela Davis have the final word:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Today is a Shitty and Depressing Day

I've already written at length about my reaction to the election, and I don't have anything particularly erudite to add to that right now. Today is appropriately grey and foreboding, fitting the mood of much of the nation. It's shitty and depressing and feels like little can be done right now (but actually, much can be done. I'm going to go march and shit tomorrow and probably feel a lot better).

In the meantime, while I can't offer inspiring words, I can offer a cute picture of an adorable dog happily sleeping at my feet. It's worth something:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Your Credulity Regarding Trump Rumors Is Concerning

Alternate Title: 2008-2016 -- Unverified and Error-Filled Accusations the President is an Operative of a Foreign Government is an Affront to the Very Concept of Democracy; 2017 -- All Unverified and Error-Filled Accusations the President is an Operative of a Foreign Government are Obviously True

Alternate Alternate Title: Partisanship is a Helluva Drug

First, something I shouldn't have to spell out but will for the sake of this argument: Trump is a shitty human being whose presidency will likely be a disaster at best. He is a bad man and I don't like him.

Ok, that being covered, I need to ask a semi-rhetorical question: has the entire Democratic left lost its collective mind?

The steady stream of "Trump is a Russian Puppet!!1!!1!!1!!!1!" reports coming out every day and being breathlessly shared on social media and throughout the center-left sphere are nearing the point of anti-Obama hysteria in 2008 (and yup, to address your criticism, Trump is certainly a worse person than Obama. That is quite irrelevant). And yet, as Glenn Greenwald has done a yeoman's job documenting, not a single one of these accusation have a shred of evidence connected to them. The closest any of them get to anything resembling evidence are the anonymous and unverified accusations of CIA operatives. And if you're willing to believe what the CIA tells you without any shred of evidence, then well...I've got a Latin American regime to sell you.

Take, for instance, the latest report making the rounds with its incredibly salacious stories of Trump apparently having Russian hooker parties which the Kremlin is using to blackmail him. This would be quite the explosive set of allegations. Would be if there were any evidence. Any evidence at all. Except in place of evidence, we have a report written by an anonymous man paid by the Democratic party to dig up dirt on Trump that relies exclusively on unverified reports from anonymous sources. Hell, not only did it not have sources or even details to corroborate its fantastical claims, it's full of spelling errors and basic geographical mistakes. Seriously, go read the actual report. Hell, even official Hillary Clinton public relations firm Jezebel had to admit the report "contains some clear errors and mistakes." Even Buzzfeed, the outlet that broke these allegations, had to admit that there is "serious reason to doubt the allegations.”

But the allegations make the other side look bad, so people whose identities are wrapped up in the Democratic party and its success will apparently continue to latch on to any rumor, no matter how fact free and obviously implausible it is. But hey, maybe someone will find an old picture of Trump in "muslim garb" and then we can demand he prove he wasn't born in Kenya!

To me, what this sad on-going spectacle really displays is the inherent problem with a two-party system and the odd loyalties it engenders, especially when it leads otherwise rational people to support really, really odd positions only on the basis of being on the other side of the bad people (a/k/a the other major political party).

Much of this hysteria around Comrade Trump's Secret Russia Directives reminds me a lot of a conversation I always think of when prompted to remember the idiocy fostered by a two-party system. Several elections ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who I must point out is a very intelligent, highly-credentialed, and all-around thoughtful human being. This was the first election in which the possible legalization of recreational marijuana had a real chance of passing, and I was really surprised to learn this friend of mine opposed such measures. This was very strange, as he's an intelligent man and ending prohibition is an intelligent thing to do, not to mention that I know this particular fella likes to indulge in the devil's lettuce from time to time himself.

So when I asked him why he was taking such an out of character position, his explanation was that when medical marijuana was first proposed, Republicans opposed it because they saw it as a backdoor to legalizing recreational marijuana, to which Democrats argued of course it wasn't, it was just for people who needed it medically and there were no plans for its legalization for recreation. So my friend went on to explain that by now advocating for its full legalization, we would be proving the Republicans correct, and we can't have that.

This is, of course, a terrible argument. As I pointed out to him, if your political opponents claim that taking one measured, logical action which benefits many will only lead to us taking further measured, logical actions that benefit many, that's not really an argument against taking that action. That is, actually, how politics is theoretically supposed to work.

To my good friend's credit, he came around on this point eventually, but I keep coming back to this conversation as so perfectly laying bare what's happening with so much of the left right now. The very same people who spent 8 years mocking conservatives who questioned Obama's loyalty to America and his right to the office he was elected to, the very same people who wondered how anyone could be so stupid as to question the outcome of free and fair American elections, the very same people who spent months before this election saying anyone who challenged its outcome would be a traitor and threat to the very concept of Democracy...these are now the people who will gladly parrot any unsubstantiated and almost impossible to believe report that makes Trump look bad and call for the CIA to depose him. I feel like this shoots straight past simple irony to some form of super, dodecahedron irony indescribable in words.

Again, Trump is a terrible human being and I legitimately fear the damages his presidency will inflict upon the world. But we're reaching 9/11 truther levels of derangement here, people. But then what do I know? I'm probably just a Kremlin operative so brainwashed I don't even realize it. Makes about as much sense as most of these other rumors.