“are you political?”
“one thing i like about you, john, is that you’re not political.”
i don’t think i have entirely realized how much those words have gained in prominence in the last ten years. i remember, when i started reading about politics, thinking that my family was apolitical. what i meant wasn’t that my parents didn’t have any opinions on pressing issues. i meant they weren’t politically active and that we didn’t often discuss in-depth many of the things i saw debated in what i was reading.
what’s changed about those inquiries is that now when peers ask me if i am ‘political’ all that they are asking is if i spend any time talking about issues, if i have formulated opinions about them. i undoubtedly have. however, i don’t really look at an issue as ‘political’ until it’s considered under the larger frame of how it affects my daily activity and vote. before that — as with most topics — it’s just an opinion i have about a THING.
what i see as two different ideas has become convoluted. more and more people associate any single position with how a person who has taken that position feels about any variety of issues. we extrapolate a lot. so finding out where someone stands, we think, can tell us a lot about that person. and there’s some data to back this up. compared to decades past, knowing where someone politically identifies — or chooses not to identify — gives us a stronger indication of where they’ll stand on a host of issues. we intuit that it is easy to identify people on these grounds because it has become easier to identify people on these grounds.
on its own merit, this is not particularly troubling. what it does do is serve as an indicator that it is becoming increasingly more important for people to identify whether or not you play for one of the teams, or if you don’t play at all. it’s a shift in focus. and your answer will determine a lot about what they think of you. playing on teams is helpful for beach volleyball. there’s a score we need to keep because the loser has to buy the beers. there, teams matter. in the day-to-day trenches of humanity, playing for teams is less important. quite stupid, actually. real life is much more nuanced than wins and losses.
ideally we wouldn’t spend so much time being bothered by what constitutes a team — i.e. getting lost in identity politics and gerrymandering — we would spend more time on the ideas themselves. this is where our attention should lie. what really ought to bother us is the attack on hard science, historical facts and reason, in both private sectors and universities. while much of this attack is waged with more consequence from parts of the right — ‘climate change is a hoax’ — both the left and the right are responsible for a shift toward denial — ‘there are no psychological differences between men and women aside from those prompted culturally’.
there is no shortage of fact-denial. the root of this cognitive dissonance lies in the belief that if a fact is inconvenient then it should be ignored.
some recent, pretty disturbing events in portland highlight another branch of this ignorance — and a tendency to inaccurately use historical phrases. apparently, some of these crazy fucks don’t know their asses from their elbows, because in case they weren’t aware, if your platform is to counter fascism then showing up in face masks with bricks and brass knuckles and trying to silence journalists you disagree with is not exactly the way to make your point. no amount of whataboutism should shift this logic. rational citizens know that the militant right are a bunch of loser, uneducated, unfuckable pricks. if you’re truly against fascism then you have the moral high ground. don’t cede it.
these violent young people angry about social rights and the patriarchy that think antifa violence is justified should chose to take lessons from the great and brave people that preceded their social movements by half a century — who were great and brave in large part because of their insistence on peaceful protest, on keeping the moral high ground and being smarter than their opponents. you are playing your opponents fucking game, and they love it. alt-right websites are littered with content of crazy leftists and fire up the idiots that look for it. small and sick as they may be, some love it because it gives them a justifiable reason to come armed to the next confrontation. they want a reason to go tit for your tat. and when they come armed they won’t be bringing milkshakes. those fuckers are nra members for a reason.
“They have no allegiance to liberal democracy, which they believe has failed the marginalized communities they’re defending. They’re anarchists and communists who are way outside the traditional conservative-liberal spectrum.” — Mark Bray
these dumb twats need to be stopped by police. that’s why we pay for police as a society. to prevent fucking chaos. but at the same time a sliver of me goes fatalist libertarian and thinks “if this is what we reap then this is what we sow. we deserve it. if our species can’t have rational anti-violent arguments then we deserve anarchy and chaos…how about all you crazy fucks stay home? why should we need what you so ironically call ‘big brother’ to step in. start behaving like an educated adult in a prosperous society.”
“i’ve went to three bar/restaurants and asked for a negroni to no avail. ironically the first time in my life i have craved a negroni i’m in a part of the country that doesn’t have any interest in that type of thing. the trump people don’t believe in campari but they sure as shit believe in straws and under armor.”
“if an alien landed and saw the jim acosta interaction, after quickly mastering the language said alien would obviously first ask “why is this nation ruled by an oversized, bloated, orange toddler?”
we are actively participating in our own collective distortion. we, as a culture, choose to be swayed and amused by these extreme poles in our population — all the dumb motherfuckers on the extremes that want you to ignore reason. like the climate change deniers on the far right and the violent anti-fascist protestor on the far left. they want you to be as pissed off and confused as they are and we play right into it. we tolerate the fringes of behavior. we crave conflict and actively contribute to what makes headlines by being suckers for clickbait. if it bleeds it leads and WE choose to make that true.
however, none of this criticism of the collective consciousness should stop us from laying some blame for all the frenzy at the doorstep of the white house. in a big burning paper bag of doo doo.
when asked by trump supporters to tangibly name something he’s done that’s terrible — something they are quick to do — there’s a flurry of both blatant and nuanced answers that come to mind. the one that’s easiest to describe is an increase in the overall fervor and distortion that come as a result of the deterioration of norms. more noise. more confusion. a disconnect between the out there and the in here. a general confusion about how to figure out what is reality and what is not. regardless your position on trump it is clear to see he’s caused people to entrench harder and bolstered extremists on either side to feel more validated in their craziness.
we as citizens, should be adult enough not to model our behavior after that of our government. we should insist that it operate the other way. but that’s not what’s happening. the behavior of our institutions is having a trickle-down effect that manifests itself in a general disrespect for order. not at all unrelated is the fact that our current administration alienates allies by backing out of international agreements without giving any necessary notice to the allies who helped us cement said agreements:
“It’s what happens when a populist leader takes command in a liberal democracy. These people don’t recognize or accept the idea that an ambassador or a bureaucrat could be of any use. They only want to deal with other leaders.” — former French ambassador Gerard Araud.
“you thought god was an architect / now you know / he’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow.” — isbell
“we go clinton, bush. then we go bush, obama. obama, trump. we just got out of a long-term relationship with a very boring but sensible person, and now we’re dating a whore.” — rogan
in these loosely and poorly articulated tangents lies a feeling that the trump era is essentially a bad cultural acid trip. we are as frantic and unorganized and lacking in legitimate contemplation internally as all of the tangents externally.
you run into crackpots all over. the trump people hijacked the republican party and the swath of evangelicals he rode in on are political cunts. if they have a left counterpart it’s those sjw’s that are much more tolerable but somehow insist on alienating the public psyche.
so maybe you try a foot in the sane parts of each camp. in the spirit, but not necessarily the direct action, of one of those people that says they’re socially liberal but fiscally conservative — there are a fair amount of people who actually fit that bill down to their core tenets, but most of the people who say that are just trying to achieve chic by not being labeled as a party hack. and well hell, the ideologues that lead to the “fiscally conservative” camp are the same bozos happily responsible for wasting money on the dumbest shit: wars, prisons and drugs. so who in their sane fucking mind would line up with them on that paradox?
it’s all fucking madness.
within the last year, bolton’s mustache used rhetoric reminiscent of the axis of evil pitch — his branded “troika of tyranny”. as if that stood a real test of time. it’s striking that type of speech wasn’t more alarming to a bigger portion of the masses. i was YOUNG when bush dropped “axis” in 2002. how could someone who’s in, say, their 40’s, shake off that “troika” thing and not be terrified by the repetitive prospect?
it’s enough to make you wanna comatose. which is what most of the population is doing. either by blind attachment or blind detachment or junk food or tv or prozac. all involved looking for a fix. just a nation of junkies scrounging for the quench and the light switch. turn it all off.
it’s enough to make us all flip. to make us go truly collectively crazy.
“if you touch me, well i just think i’ll scream
‘cuz it’s been so long since someone challenged me
and made me think about the way things are
made me think, about the way they could be” — my morning jacket
the biggest lie told in the age of trump might not actually even be told by trump or his supporters. it might be told by his opponents. the ones acting like this is a new turn in americanism. a whole new brand of thinking. a whole new america. this is not the creation of a psychosis but the revealing of one previously laying dormant — like one triggered by the ‘bad trip’.
guts and grits and pie and baseball. none of those are the most common shared characteristic of the american people. that title goes to sheer paranoia. paranoia of the other. paranoia of the danger. paranoia of the unknown. oh no, wear a helmet! it leads to a tighter grip holding onto anything that can help a person keep it all straight. religion. or a denial of science. anything to convince the collective self that the dangers aren’t actually unknown and we are all just fine. it’s why we have a striking number of holdouts on the whole climate science thing compared to other developed nations and also a high percentage of college educated people still gripping to the god thing to save them compared to our european counterparts.
some people in the 60’s probably thought they were living through a bad cultural acid trip. it’s hard to imagine a horror more extreme than the illegal vietnam war or a chaos more aptly described as the destruction of liberal democracy than the 1968 democratic convention in chicago. and some of the more conservatively minded people of the time probably thought it was a bad trip because of the loss of morality by way of premarital sex and a drug use that they misunderstood and were terrified by.
but the 60’s also gave us great rock’n’roll and the equal pay act and the civil rights act and the anti-war movement that mobilized at least enough people to play a part in convincing congress to end the vietnam conflict — the degree to which the antiwar movement was “successful” is definitely not to be too highly celebrated, but it could have been worse. what are the redeeming qualities now? what answer will our culture have for this round of shit storm?
it doesn’t seem promising. we’re lost in our own trip. we can’t even see through the fog. the fringe is making death threats. to make it even worse we’re petulant and cowardly. a bunch of people too lazy to resist being misled and too caught up in frantic activity to even realize we’re lost. being rattled into anarchy and an affinity for flashy lights and anything to divert attention. a nation that has forever teetered on the edge of psychosis since its inception now goes over the edge and forgets where home base is. maybe for good.
“This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves, finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used-car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. . . Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be president?” — HST 1972