Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Aftermath


I've spent a lot of time processing the results of the election. To be frank, I still haven't processed it--not really. On a purely intellectual level, I understand that Donald Trump won the most electoral votes in spite of losing the popular vote, much like Gore v Bush in 2000, and that he will be our next president barring virtually impossible circumstances.

My friends and I had an election party. We had red and blue jello, we all wore patriotic shirts. We had "campaign trail mix," and ate tacos because #tacotrucksoneverycorner. There was no possible way, after everything we've seen this election cycle, that our country would choose this man, who cavalierly describes sexually assaulting women, who's appeared in pornos, who describes Mexicans as rapists and black folks as thugs, who called for the execution of the Central Park Five even after they were proven innocent, who has called our sitting president a Muslim, Kenyan, Socialist, who pushed a campaign for Barack Obama to reveal is his birth certificate in an attempt to de-legitimize our first black president, who admires the authoritarian regimes of leaders like Vladimir Putin, who threatened to jail his political opponent, who had to be locked out of his Twitter account to keep from going off on even more hate-filled rants, who encouraged his supporters to assault protesters and offered to pay their legal fees, who used money from his charity to commission an oil painting of himself, who was actively endorsed by not only racists, not only anti-semites, but the actual KKK, who has proven himself to be a hateful, vengeful person in every opportunity.

Hillary Clinton's ad campaign against him wasn't even a smear campaign. It literally consisted of quotes and videos of things Trump said.

Surely, surely the American people could see the convergence of these two issues--electing the first woman president and voting against one of the worst presidential candidates in the history of the country, and choose appropriately.

And after half of the country decided not to vote, and white people showed up en masse to prove what PoC have been saying about white people all along, here we are.

I drove home in a state of shock. How could I have been this wrong about my country? I knew we had problems. I was #woke. I understood the role racism played in shaping our policies, our country, our implicit biases, our work force. And yet, I never thought that we would do this. I wasn't the only one, although that's not much of a comfort. Journalists that I respect a great deal, journalists of color, didn't think this would happen. We underestimated the amount of a barely contained rage bubbling below the surface of our country.

I only slept about 3 hours the night after. We didn't get home until 1 or 1:30 AM. I was awake and online when Clinton conceded.

The next day, I found myself alternating between numb shock, rage, and tears. I broke down crying in the shower at one point. I saw a man parading up and down the street wearing a Trump shirt and carrying an American flag, gloating. Every time I thought I had it processed, something new would hit me and I'd break down into tears again: the first time I thought "President Trump," seeing women planning to get IUDs and stockpiling birth control while it's still covered under the ACA before the Republicans eliminate it and health care coverage for millions of Americans, watching Muslim women debate whether it's safe to wear the hijab in public anymore.

That these conversations are even happening is an unspeakable horror, a disgusting reality. The world feels grimy, coated in a blanket of filth.

When people said that racism didn't end, it just went underground, this is exactly what they meant.

________________________

I was going to write a post before the election about how hard it was to empathize with the other side, and really try to dig down into how we can do that going forward to heal the divide. There are a lot of white people who do not consider themselves racists, but who absolutely hold bigoted views. I have literally had someone start a conversation with "I'm not racist but..." in the past 2 months. Literally. That happened. And then she went on to spout awful things about Mexicans. These people are also frequently very nice people, people we love, people that are important in our lives. White people accepted the Hollywood narrative that racists were villains in movies and books that needed to be defeated and cast out, and therefore they and their loved ones can't be racist because they're not bad people.

At my best moments, I find myself thinking that the best way to deal with those that oppose us, those that identify as Republican and are scared economically, that are afraid of the Other, of what this means for them and their place in the world, is with compassion, empathy, and patience. It means uncomfortable talks around the dinner table, being willing to have people you love be mad at you. It means that you have to unmute your racist aunt and uncle on Facebook and engage with them, but politely and with understanding and kindness. At my best moments, I believe that most of them aren't the type to go out and harass women and minorities and gay people, that a good portion are economically frustrated, and that while a lot of them are probably racist, it's driven by fear of class displacement and change. Those things can be fixed, or at least improved, through education, compassion, patience.

At my worst moments, I'm filled with rage and disbelief at my family, friends, and fellow citizens that chose to ignore the awful things and elect a man that has shown time and time again that he will abuse his power for petty vendettas and vengeance, and who has also shown that he has zero to no grasp of the fundamentals of anything that makes our country or the world function. At my worst moments, I want to scream at those that voted for hate. I want to cut all ties and move somewhere where I will not be embarrassed to call myself a citizen. Arkansas went overwhelmingly for Trump. At my worst moments, I believe that straight white people are too broken and that we deserve the destruction that we've brought on us and that the biggest shame is that we will drag marginalized people down with us through the sheer gravity of our numbers. At my worst moments, I fear that these people that claimed that it's about hating politicians and politics as usual and economic fears are as racist as they seem and that we will see this country descend into a darkness we haven't seen in a long time, that humanity is at its core evil, and not good like I've always believed, and that there's no saving these people.

________________________

I have a feeling that the cultural idea of "don't discuss politics or religion" is what got us into this mess. We stopped talking about this among each other because we knew we disagreed. And so opinions went unchanged, uninfluenced. White liberals with conservative families moved away to liberal cities, muted and/or unfriended their friends and relatives on social media, and surrounded themselves with people they agreed with.

If PoC and other marginalized people find themselves wanting to do the empathy approach, that's fine, but honestly not expected of them. If someone has a boot on their neck, you can't expect them to calmly and politely ask that you remove it. But for white liberals, this is what we have to do. We have to start talking to other white people. We have to try to fix things.

________________________

I worry about what's coming next.

I worry because one party has complete control of the house, and that party--Republicans--has proven what they stand for and what kinds of morals and beliefs they have when they backed and supported their presidential candidate.

I worry about freedom of speech--that dissenting speech will begin being targeted. That people who are marginalized or who protest and resist this administration's goals will be targeted much like they were in the years after the 9/11.

I worry that things will get even worse for PoC--I worry about "special police forces" for those "high crime areas." After all, Trump said he wanted to run on "law and order."

I worry about gay marriage rights being rolled back, gay marriages undone.

I worry for people like my wife, who are disabled and rely on medication in order to live and function with a bare minimum of comfort.

Even when I'm not worried about the very real threat of following Germany's path to a Nazi regime, I worry about the worst and most hateful Republican policies being enacted with little-to-no political resistance because of their overwhelming majority.

I worry about the damage this new Supreme Court will do to our nation in the coming decades as it's packed with justices from the Tea Party.

________________________

I think at my best, I become galvanized between the two emotions. My anger at the racists and misogynists crystallizes into something pure--an actionable anger. I will be watching for opportunities to do good in my community and show solidarity and support for those marginalized folks that will be disproportionately affected by this administration's policies.

I will no longer sit quietly and cringe when my friends/family/coworkers say something racist or misogynist or homophobic or otherwise hateful.

Now, more than ever, I will promote art and criticism by marginalized people. I will educate myself in their worldviews, and I will work to do better, to be better, to make the world do the same.

I will art harder than ever before. I will write diverse folks into my books, and I will strive to tell true, hard stories that make people feel things. Because art is perhaps most important when the world turns dark and the monsters come out.

Even if Trump doesn't follow through on his promises, the GOP has shifted so far to the right that they will do real damage to people. As much as I'd like it not to be true, things are going to get really, really bad. Knuckle down folks. We can come out of this on the other side, and we can make this world better.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why I'm Voting for Hillary Clinton

Gage Skidmore of Flickr  Some rights reserved
This election may be one of the most important ones I've ever seen. As Trump continues to blow through norm after norm, leaving our old traditions a fragmented, pathetic pile of matches on the road behind him, it is vital that we go out and vote. But I know that some people aren't happy with the choices we've been faced with. Sure, Trump is a swirling vortex of hatred, flop-sweat, and orange Tang, but they're really not excited about voting for Hillary Clinton. They think that she's truly the lesser of two evils, and because of that, they feel the only thing to do is vote for a third party candidate.

I'd like to explain to you why I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, and why I think you should, too.

I did this last time with Barack Obama, and I'd like to do it again.

1) Pros for Hillary

Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified candidates for president in our country's entire history. She's been working in government for forty years, starting in local and state government and working her way up to federal work. Unlike Barack Obama, who I feel has been a great president but I think went into the presidency underestimating the difficulty of the job a tad, Hillary Clinton knows exactly what's at stake. She was married to one of our presidents, so she's seen his own struggles. She was a senator, where she fought for funding for recovery efforts in New York after 9/11, has been a voice for 9/11 workers who have faced health issues since the attacks, fought against the Bush tax cuts that paved the way for the financial crisis of '08. She also co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

After being a senator, she became Secretary of State where she worked with foreign leaders to help build America's relationship with them. It's easy to naysay over one thing or another you don't like about our foreign policy and our relationship with one group or another, and every politician has their faults as they are human beings, as I've mentioned before. But think about this: the Secretary of State negotiates with foreign powers, advises the President about foreign policy, and works with foreign powers over the terms and conditions of treaties, among a host of other things. Consider all of that, and that Hillary Clinton did that AS A GODDAMNED WOMAN. That is so kick ass, I can barely form words to express my awe.

If you're a woman reading this, you already know, but dudes, women get condescended to all the time. The number of times Gail Simone has had someone explain to her how comics work on Twitter--Gail Goddamned Simone--is baffling. Those pictures of men saying, "you didn't read the article, it says blah blah blah blah," and a woman responding, "I wrote the article" aren't photoshops. That's men getting their "aww shucks little lady" on. And I'm sure that's no different when the men you're dealing with are frequently old men used to having people do things the way they want. The fact that we haven't seen her ambling on all fours from Washington with a sack of freshly cleaved scrotums testifies to her cool and calm.

Additionally, because she has been in the public eye for so long, Hillary Clinton has been as thoroughly vetted as someone can be. She has been scrutinized up, down, top bottom, inside out and sideways. Every possible scandal that can happen to her or those around her, has happened to her and those around her. Part of this is called "being in politics." You can't do a job like that without occasionally drawing attention. She's been found squeaky clean in any wrong doing. If there were any proof of anything, it would have come to light a long, long time ago. And when it looks like advisors to Trump's campaign might actually be getting leaked information from the FBI, and Russia might be leaking information to the supposedly hacktivists-for-the-people Wikileaks, we really would have seen something come up.

On top of all of this, I like Hillary Clinton. She's not as charismatic or personable as Bill, but who is? George W. Bush looked like a fun guy, but he was a shit stain on our nation's history and his policies resulted in some awful, awful things. Hillary Clinton has my respect because she approaches things like a policy nerd. She's not super cuddly, but when asked a question, you can practically see the light turn on. She clearly gets legit geeked over numbers and figures and facts. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT IN A PRESIDENT! Someone who enjoys those boring meetings over figures and facts and nuances. We want someone pragmatic that will make the best decision. She is someone who is willing to compromise--figuring it's better to do some good and compromise than to do get nothing she wants to stay ideologically pure. And that's a good characteristic in a leader.

And she's willing to change her mind if she's presented with persuasive information. She has expressed regret for using the dog-whistle term "superpredators," and she's since gone on to campaign about the dangers and evils associated with mass incarceration. She's one of the only presidents that's addressed issues of race outright in a positive and comprehensive manner. Obama, given his race, was actually a bit handcuffed in how much he could say without it blowing up in his face, but, ironically, because Hillary is white, she has more privilege to talk about these things without freaking the white folks out and hurting their feelings.

It's no surprise that when I took my isidewith.com quiz this year? Yeah, I side 99% with Hillary Clinton.

Also, and this is absolutely not the sole reason I'm voting for her, but: how cool will it be if you can tell your children/grandchildren that you voted for the first woman president?

2) Cons Against Trump

Everything. Absolutely positively everything. Please see my previous blog post about him.

Seriously, there is no secret about how bad Trump is. He is the worst presidential candidate in our history, most definitely in our modern era. He would be a disaster of uncalculated proportions if he won.

3) What about Third Parties?

Look, like I said at the top of this post, I understand that some might be less than thrilled by our major party choices this year. But when you vote, you know 100% that the third party candidate will not be president. So voting third party absolutely, 100% is taking a vote away from one of the major party candidates.

But I hear some of you say, "But that's okay. Something something South Park something something Shitsandwich and Turdburger."

No. No, okay? No. You have every right to dislike Hillary Clinton, even diametrically oppose everything she stands for. But there is no way to spin this as "both are the same." There's just not. Anyone that makes that argument is being willfully ignorant, intentionally obtuse, or is justifying their shittiness.

I hope most people know at this point what kind of disastrous black hole of despair and wet farts Trump is. Like...how can you not? Literally most of Hillary Clinton's campaign videos are just quoting Trump. It's not even taking his statements out of context. It's literally just, "here's a list of things Trump has said." So no. Not the same. Not different sides of the same coin. No.

At this point, and I know how disappointing it is to hear, a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump. If you're voting Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or Angewoman, the Angel of Light? You're voting for Trump, effectively. Because you know they won't win. It's a "protest vote." What you're saying is, "Well, I don't want Trump to win, so I'm not voting for him. But I'm really hoping enough people will 'dirty their hands' and vote for the person I find distasteful so we can avoid the apocalypse and I can still act morally superior."

Conclusion

Hillary Clinton isn't perfect. She is, however, pragmatic, data and policy driven, vetted to the teeth, and pretty much grown in a lab to be president. Someone willing to hear others' ideas and legitimately consider them is someone that should be celebrated in our increasingly polarized political environment.

Donald Trump is a tire fire that grew legs and a mouth and inundates us with his pestilence daily.

Third Party Candidates won't win, and this is not the election to fuck around with that nonsense.

______________________________
Links to places where I pulled a lot of my information for this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/14/is-hillary-clinton-the-most-experienced-presidential-candidate-in-history/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_career_of_Hillary_Clinton
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2007/oct/09/hillary-clinton/shes-been-active-on-issues-for-911-workers/
http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/55463/hillary-clinton#.WB1E9fkrKUk
http://www.state.gov/secretary/115194.htm
https://thinkprogress.org/hillary-clinton-says-she-agrees-her-role-in-mass-incarceration-was-a-mistake-eaa5b1b523c#.7jdaznx78

Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Goal for 2016

Fredrik Rubensson on Flickr  Some rights reserved
I went through a weird emotional spell that you can notice by checking my reading list page. I have pretty much only read comic books this year. Part of that is finally getting to place financially where I can spare a few bucks here and there to get some comics, but part of it was also just being emotionally exhausted this year, and comics provided a safe, comfortable place to retreat to.

That said, I'm working to get stuff read with the time I have left--including my friend Brooke Johnson's great new book The Guild Conspiracy, which you can order here, and nab the first one here. It's a bit embarrassing that I've only completed 4 books this year. I've started several, but I just haven't had the drive to finish them.

Moreover, I've been using most of my spare time to finally work on my novel. The last update that I had on here about it was almost exactly one year ago, but in that time I'd replotted the book again, restructured it, and reimagined the characters. But after I did that, finding the energy and time to put words down and get it done was almost impossible. That's roughly around the time I went comic crazy and dove head-first into that. The first I can really find on my blog of this was August, but it definitely started several months earlier than that--probably around February, if I had to guess.  Anyway, I was going through a lot of stuff, and I feel much better now.

So around September, I started circling my book again. I'd just finished the great The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle and was inspired by both a great book and the note at the end where LaValle talked about how he wrote his book 2 hours a day after work every day in a coffee shop. It was so "back to basics" to me. No mention of word counts, fancy word processors, writing spaces, rituals, carrot and stick methods. Just, "show up, do the work you can in the time allotted, and get the shit done." It was just what I needed to hear.

I read through my notes to refamiliarize myself with the world, the voice, and the themes. I also received a very nice and positive rejection in that time, and I wanted to channel that into my book. When drafting, I worry about choosing the right words. My zero drafts and first drafts feel clunky, amateurish, cliche-ridden, and just awful, and it stresses me right the hell out that the words don't come out perfectly. But looking at the story that got rejected, and reading the notes from the magazine, I felt validated probably for the first time ever as a writer. It made me feel like I can do this.

So it's time to buckle down. I'm giving myself until the end of 2016 to finish this draft. That's two and a half months. I want to have a draft finished for the start of 2017.

I don't know if I'll be able to do it. I'm not great, even now, with writing every day. But I'm going to try. Because for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do this. I've talked about writing for a long time, I've started and stopped and angsted over my writing for years now, but all of that bullshit will mean nothing if I don't have a finished book in my hands. So that's the goal.

Plus, what a great way to start the new year, right?

Bear with me on this because I have a feeling it's going to be hard, and I'm fantastic at quitting things that are hard. But if I can do it, or even come close, it will be a big deal to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump, Pence, and the GOP

Gage Skidmore of Flickr  Some rights reserved
The second presidential debate has come and gone, and the multi-season television horror event that is our election cycle continues to play out in soul-crushingly slow fashion in front of not just our nation's audience, but the audience of the world.

Our international reputation has already been stained. Even if Trump isn't elected, he will have been only a hair's breadth from it, and what does that say about the American people and the stability of their government that they could come so close to electing a militant, sociopath demagogue to one of the most powerful political positions in the country.

What started as a chuckle--ha, ha, Trump will NEVER get the nomination, but it'll be fun to watch him bumblefuck around playing politician like a drunk, Cheeto-coated toddler--has become a waking nightmare and left many moderate and left-leaning folks wringing their hands and wondering how on Earth this could happen.

I remember very early on saying to some of my friends, "I know Trump's fuckery is funny, but it's honestly a little scary, too. Like, if the nation was stupid enough to elect George W. Bush--twice--it's something to worry about." And I mean, the longer he talked, and the fouler the things dumping from his face hole seemed, the easier it was to sigh and say, "Oh, thank God. No way he rebounds from that." But he did. Again, and again, and again. He was like those old inflatable toys for toddlers--Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.

The tape of Donald Trump admitting to and supporting sexual assault may be the thing that finally ensures he doesn't win the presidency, but the vehement support he's gotten from certain factions of this country means that there will likely come another, possibly worse if simply because they'll be more polished and have more self-awareness to avoid some of Trump's more fatal fuck ups. After all, a lot of Republicans have mentioned wanting Trump to drop out and Mike Pence to take over as the head of the ticket. That would not be better.

For one thing: while Trump may be a venomous, aspiring tyrant, a white nationalist, and a deeply malignant tumor on the anus of this country, he's also a bloviating idiot who considers himself much more strategic and clever than he actually is. He's impulsive, thin-skinned, and prone to throwing tantrums--like he did in the second debate when he began attacking moderators for trying to keep him confined to his time. And while that's a terrible thing for a leader to be on it's own, Pence took all of the hateful, awful things that we have actual video and written proof of Trump saying and bald-faced lied to the American people about him ever having said it. He legitimately looked directly into the camera and said, "That's not true, he never said that," when everyone--EVERYONE--knows he has and there's widespread and obvious proof.

When Trump lies, it's a sweaty desperate, stammering thing. When Pence lies, it's as smooth and cool as an ice cube.

Pence's ability to flat out lie--not massage facts, not throw around faulty data, but LIE--is terrifying to consider. Pence has legitimately used his power as governor to kick a democratically elected official out of their office in favor of being replaced by someone that he and his subordinates got to choose*. Add that into the mix with his ability to unashamedly, flat out lie, and his support of the torture* of gay kids until they want to kill themselves or deny who they are--which is what conversion therapy* is--and you have a deeply unsettling picture of a Pence presidency.

We didn't arrive at this place by accident either. The fragility of the white male ego has been something people in power have used to keep black folks subjugated for centuries, but the Republican Party started using it with gusto in the 50's when Democrats started winning black folks and pushing for civil rights and desegregation.* Republicans saw unrest in the south that never fully got healed post-Civil War, and stoked that racism, government, and ignorance. Nixon intentionally stoked racism against black folks in the south to win the presidency,* and Reagan intentionally buried his racism in "conservative" sounding policies like "cutting taxes" and "states' rights."* The GOP acting like the horrible things Trump says are him being a loose canon and not the GOP's platform made into saggy flesh incarnate is hilarious and astoundingly disingenuous.

Even today, racism is an integral part of the GOP's platform. They pass laws like voter ID laws that far and away impact people of color.* They gerrymander districts to keep areas with heavy democratic populations and high amounts of people of color lumped together,* which in doing so ensures that Republicans have an all but indefeatable lead. It's no wonder that someone like Trump was able to grab the reigns of this shit chariot and ride that fucker until the wheels come flying off.

Trump has even been encouraging people to poll watch and try to run off people that they suspect of "committing voter fraud." To these scared and riled up white folks, that's more coded "dog whistle" talk for brown folks. In fact, voter fraud is essentially not a thing at all.*

As of this writing, Trump's shot at the presidency looks very bleak, but as I mentioned on Twitter earlier, I'm worried about the Jack that we can't put back in the box. There's a small, extremely vocal minority of repugnant white nationalists, men's rights activists, and ignorant, frightened white people that have led to some horrifying decisions in the past. And even they're a swiftly vanishing minority, the amplifying power of the internet makes them much more easily heard than would otherwise be the case. And I'm both worried what happens when they don't get their way, and what lessons the GOP will take away from this.

___________________________________________

Washington Post: "How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters" - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/07/15/how-mike-pence-tried-to-undermine-the-will-of-indianas-voters/

The Guardian: "'Praying the gay away': Trauma survivors crusade to ban conversion therapy" - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/11/survivors-crusade-conversion-therapy-ban-pray-gay-away

Politifact: "True: Mike Pence advocated for 'conversion therapy'" - http://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2016/jul/28/gavin-newsom/true-mike-pence-advocated-conversion-therapy/

New Republic: "How the Southern Strategy Made Donald Trump Possible" - https://newrepublic.com/article/130039/southern-strategy-made-donald-trump-possible

Salon: "The racism at the heart of the Reagan presidency" - http://www.salon.com/2014/01/11/the_racism_at_the_heart_of_the_reagan_presidency/

Washington Post: "New evidence that voter ID laws ‘skew democracy’ in favor of white Republicans" - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/04/new-evidence-that-voter-id-laws-skew-democracy-in-favor-of-white-republicans/

NBC News: "Study Finds No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud" - http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/study-finds-no-evidence-widespread-voter-fraud-n637776