Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review, Part One

20 Questions About My Year

1. What did you do this year that you'd never done before?
Visited Scotland, got a doctor fired from our local hospital, marched with Cuddles in NC Pride, and pissed off my friend, Daniel.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
“Do a new comic book review each week [and] write a couple of adventures for a new game system my friend John is developing.”  Nope.
Resolution for 2017:  I’d love to try a do-over on those resolutions… But really, I want to try this project whereby, in 2016, I revisit some of my favorite/most influential books and documentaries more or less in order of how I encountered them from roughly 1993 to 2003.  So I’m going to re-read Dune, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jung’s Man and His Symbols, etc., and re-watch The Power of Myth and the Day the Universe Changed…etc.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Sir Alan.  We also lost a lot of celebrities this year, from Alan Rickman to Leonard Cohen.

5. Did anyone close to you get married?

6. What places did you visit?
Scotland!  And a fun weekend in DC with Hunter and Loki.

7. What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year?
Well, I didn’t lack a motorcycle this year, but I would love to have a newer one next year.

8. What day from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
All seven days in Scotland (good), and the night they kicked us out of the ER then rushed Kitten into emergency surgery the next morning (bad).

9. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I was a helpful puppy for my Owner and for Poet.  I got the asshole doctor who almost killed Kitten fired from that hospital.  I’ve helped Poet clean and fix up his house to sell.  I tried to be a good tour guide puppy in Scotland.  Helpful puppy was helpful.

10. What was your biggest failure?
Maybe not as helpful to one of my best friends whom I inadvertently pissed off and then there was an unfortunate period of months where he wasn’t really speaking to me.  That was sad

11. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I think I did okay – everyone else was in and out of the hospital!

12. What was the best thing you bought?
Ma’am’s awesome sweater-coat, “Shadow Roses.”

13. Whose behavior merited a celebration?
I’m very proud of my lovely Owner. She began this year after a brush w/ death feeling very afraid and unsure of herself… by the end of the year I had seen her really conquer her fear: refusing to hide in the closet, bite her tongue or “roll over and take it.”

14. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Max’s (now ex-)boyfriend who turned out to be a nasty piece of human garbage. …Oh, wait, that’s the same thing I wrote last year.  How about a certain asshole ER doctor who sent my Owner home to die?  Those are two men I wouldn’t mind seeing bad shit happen to.

15. Where did most of your money go?

16. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Scotland!  Also, we got to see Labyrinth on the big screen, and that was really cool; and I’m also going to add teaching pup classes and doing the mosh and Puppy Olympics at Frolicon.  And I'll add that the CAPEX Pig Pick'n was extra-cool this year: we had our own private island! 

17. What song will always remind you of this year?
I really liked the song “Lost Boy” by Ruth B, “Let’s Hear it for the Dogs” by the Proclaimers, “You Want it Darker” by Leonard Cohen, “Dairy Queen” by Power Bottom, and “Speak When You’re Spoken to” by Spook School.  I think the one that will remind me most of this year will be “You Want it Darker” because I feel like 2016 has been taunting us all with that question since January.

18. Compared to this time last year, you are:
More afraid for the world… and also more of a whisky drinker.

19. What do you wish you'd done more of?
More time in Scotland.  If we had one more day I would have loved to see Loch Lomund and Castle Dumbarton.

20. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Trying to keep the lives of my loved ones from either ending or just going off the rails.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Reality has a Liberal Bias

 This is the third post in, loosely, a series, as I try to process the election on Donald Trump and what I consider to be he most dangerous and fragile state America has been in in my lifetime.  I wrote first about the false equivalence of making Trump the conservative equivalent of Obama/Clinton – i.e. normalizing Trump.  In my second post, I expressed the irritation I have with the Right over its insistence on presenting opinions or faith (or outright falsehoods) as if they are the same as actual, provable facts.  (And I'm not anti-religious and don't de-value faith; but it's a choice and a personal belief and not the same as shared, objective reality.)

Earlier in the year I saw Newt Gangrich being interviewed and he kept talking about rising violent crime, and the reporter challenged him by pointing out that violent crime rates across the country have actually dropped during the Obama administration, and Newt countered with, “But people feel less safe.”  And he stuck by that, repeating it more than once in the interview.  Answering actual facts only with subjective feelings, but asserted as if they were of equal importance.

Much more recently, President-elect Trump claimed (with no evidence at all – i.e. incorrectly!) that there were millions of cases of voter fraud.  (There were 4 confirmed cases.)  Mike Pence went on TV and defended Trump’s baseless claim (i.e. lie!) by saying, “He’s entitled to his opinion.”  He said that three times in the interview, and I just wanted the reporter to scream at him, “OPINIONS ARE NOT FACTS!”  An opinion is like, “Mushrooms are gross,” not, “Millions of people committed voter fraud.”  But the mainstream media is so obsessed with “neutrality” (over factual accuracy) that they have created these nightmares of false equivalences where opinions, tastes, internet conspiracy theories (fucking Pizzagate!!), and baseless claims are put on the same level as actual, provable facts.  So still today 60% of Trump voters believe Obama is a Muslim even though there is literally no evidence supporting this ridiculous claim… at the same time, more than that number denies man-made climate change even though there is a fucking mountain of evidence.

You probably heard about the pro-Trump, white nationalists rally in DC at which the audience railed against the “Lügenpresse.”  That’s an old Nazi term meaning, “Lying press.”  The Nazis were (also) always railing against the “lying press” b/c fascism can’t tolerate reality.  Their whole system is built upon a heap of lies, distortions and nutty conspiracy theories, so part of the trick of fascism is to attack the press as liars and facts as “your opinion.”  This is why one of my favorite sayings of late has been, “Reality has a liberal bias.”

TYT Network posted an extended interview with a white supremacist organizer.  He was very articulate and had clearly thought long and hard about his answers… but at some point, of course, his views all break down for obvious reasons.  Watching it, the third false equivalence of the Trump-right became obvious: white Christians (mostly men) feeling victimized and oppressed by liberal “political correctness” – acting like us asking them not to be a bigot is the same as them taking away the rights of LGBTQs, blacks, Muslims, and other minorities.

Newsflash:  Canceling Duck Dynasty because the stars are homophobic bigots is not equivalent to denying same-sex couples the right to marriage.  Nobody has a special right to star in a TV show, but all consenting adults do have the right to get married… or rent an apartment, or be served in a restaurant, or use a public bathroom.  LGBTQ people aren’t asking for special, extra rights; we are only asking to have the same rights straight people have.

I think I first really noticed this trend with Kim Davis, that obnoxious bitch who, as a Court Clerk, refused to sign off on same-sex marriages because (she claimed) it was against her religion.  You had all these asshole Christens (and, no, I don’t think all Christians are assholes) rally around her claming that us asking the not to impose on our rights and pleas treat us as equal was somehow us oppressing them and us discriminating against them… you know, by removing their power to discriminate against others.  This was so insane – and yet this warped resentment, this sense that the white, Christian, patriarchal majority is somehow being oppressed and having their rights trampled on simply by us asking them not to trample on others and treat others as equals, this resentment became, it seems to me, the energy driving the engine of the Trump machine.
In “What Was the Nerd? The myth of the bullied white outcast loner is helping fuel a fascist resurgence,” Willie Osterweil lays out this argument:  “Today’s American fascist youth is neither the strapping Aryan jock-patriot nor the skinheaded, jackbooted punk: The fascist millennial is a pasty nerd watching shitty meme videos on YouTube, listening to EDM, and harassing black women on Twitter. Self-styled “nerds” are the core youth vanguard of crypto-populist fascist movements… The myth of nerd oppression let every slightly socially awkward white boy who likes sci-fi lay his ressentiment at the feet of the nearest women and people of color… The Gamergate movement… engaged in widespread coordinated harassment of women and queer people in the gaming world in a direct attempt to purge non-white-male and non-right-wing voices, all the while claiming they were the actual victims...”

So this is the third big false equivalence coming from the Trump-right.  You have these groups (whites, men, Christians) who have been on top for a long time and now they are pissed off at being asked to let others (blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ, Latino, women) be on equal footing with them… and they twist it around so that THEY feel victimized.  And I think this lies at the hart of the Right’s hatred for “political correctness” – which to them is some kind of oppressive infringement on their rights, and to us simply means, “Hey, don’t be a dick to people, okay?”  Someone points out to you that it’s not cool to make fun of disabled people or use the n-word, and you respond like you are the one being victimized!?

These two things are not equivalent!  If someone with more power and more privilege punches down on you or oppresses you or denies you the same rights and freedoms they enjoy then you are being victimized.  If someone with less power, privilege and clout than you demands that you stop victimizing them, that does not make you a victim!  You do not get to feel righteous anger at not being able to punch down on people; people getting punched down upon do get to feel righteous anger at you for bullying and oppressing them.  Because the oppression you (white, Christian, straight man) feel is in your head (“War on Christmas!?”  Seriously?)  While the oppression and bullying and double-standard experienced by African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and even the female half of the population) exists in actual reality.