Politics

The Forgotten Part of Dirty Dancing

I love the movie Dirty Dancing. Yes, even though I’m a straight male. And I love it unironically too (I don’t do irony): the music, the setting, the cars, the coming-of-age story, and yes, the dancing. And like everyone who loves this movie, I break out in a huge grin at the climatic moment when Johnny announces that “nobody puts Baby in a corner.” It’s one of the all-time great cinematic “feelgood” moments, isn’t it?

But people tend forget a very significant subplot of Dirty Dancing, the whole reason Johnny and Baby are thrown together in the first place. The fact is, this “cute” little movie has a rough edge just below the romance… a rough, dirty, damn-near-fatal edge…

Here’s a post I encountered on Facebook the other day, written by a woman named Elissa Gonzales, that I think bears repeating:

When we think about Dirty Dancing, we often picture the bottom image. We forget that the whole reason Baby has to fill in for Penny is because Robby gets Penny pregnant and refuses to take responsibility.

We forget that the abortion is so expensive Penny cannot afford it, even from a questionable practitioner, and when Robby refuses to pay for it, Baby has to get the money for her.

We forget that Penny nearly dies because abortions are illegal. We forget the horrible conditions she is forced to endure in order to get the abortion and the incredible pain she was in afterwards.

We forget her tears.

We forget her shame.

We forget the judgment and condemnation towards her.

We forget Robby’s endorsement for college and smug attitude as his life remained unchanged.

While this is a movie, there have been real life Pennys. We must not return to the time where this is the norm. Abortions have never been an issue for the wealthy. Money affords opportunity and secrecy.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate amongst industrialized countries. Banning abortions is not going to help that number.

#DirtyDancing #WarOnWomen #abortion #maternalmortality #womensrights

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Banning abortion will not stop abortions. It will only stop safe abortions. Everybody who has been celebrating this nakedly regressive Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade is celebrating a return to the circumstances we see in that “cute” little movie from the 1980s, a period when a woman’s right to choose was so taken for granted that we never thought twice about a subplot in a period-piece summertime crowdpleaser… it was only a movie, after all, and that sort of thing was all long past. But now it’s not just a movie any longer. And soon desperate women will face that same horrific decision that Penny does: whether to risk her literal life to end a pregnancy that will end her quality of life. And a lot of women will be desperate enough to go through with it, and a lot of those women won’t have Baby’s father, a compassionate and skilled doctor, nearby to save the day. They will die.
I’ll say it again: Banning abortions will not stop abortions. It will only stop safe abortions. Think of that the next time you hear “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.”
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We Need an Amendment

I know I’m about to grab the third rail here, but in light of recent and ongoing events, I can’t hold my tongue any longer. May the Force be with me.

It’s been clear for a number of years that certain freedoms my generation grew up taking more-or-less for granted are not as inalienable as we had assumed. That judicial decisions alone simply aren’t strong enough to protect these freedoms. Not when institutions that were formerly… well, maybe not objective but at least not lopsidedly and blatantly partisan… are now dominated by activist judges (yes, I went there) who are quite obviously determined to overturn “settled law” now that they have the raw power to do it.

I’m speaking, obviously, about a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy.

Abortion.

Such an innocuous word that’s been rendered into an ugly epithet by decades of heated arguments.

Now, before anyone flies off half-cocked, I am not interested in having one of those arguments here. The way I see it, the two sides of the abortion argument — and it is an argument, not a true debate — aren’t even shouting about the same issue. Pro-lifers are concerned with the morality of ending a potential life, while pro-choicers are defending the individual autonomy of people who are already here. That is, the pro-choice concern is whether or not it’s moral to compel someone to undergo a life-altering event if they don’t want to, for whatever reason. These two concerns are adjacent, obviously, but they are not the same issue.

For the record, my own position on abortion is much the same as it is on any number of “morality issues,” including drugs, prostitution, and teenage sex: pragmatism. It frankly doesn’t matter what I personally think about abortion, or what you think either. The fact is, there are some activities that have always been part of the human experience and always will be, and that it’s a waste of energy to try and prohibit them altogether — the War on Drugs being a prime example. It’s been raging for decades, we’ve spent fortunes on it, militarized our police, incarcerated thousands of people, killed people, turned our borders and cities into warzones, and guess what? Our country is more awash in drugs now that it was when Richard Nixon declared this war. People like their drugs, and as long as there is demand, there will be a supply. The same applies with all these “moral problems.” Our goal shouldn’t be to try to do away with these things but rather to reduce the overall level of harm associated with them, for both individuals and for our society in general. To wit, women have always found ways to do away with unwanted pregnancies. Always. All throughout history. It’s not something that was invented in the 1970s. But prior to the ’70s, a lot of women died or maimed themselves while doing it. So what’s the greater harm? To allow something that a lot of people (but not all people) think is a sin but isn’t ever going to go away, or to try and prohibit it and drive it back into a dangerous underground?

I know, of course, what the hardcore pro-lifers would say. They unequivocally equate abortion with murder, and who thinks it’s a good idea to allow legal murder in our society? The thing is, though… not everyone agrees that abortion is murder. We all know what murder is and (hopefully) we all agree that’s something that is truly harmful to individuals and society. We don’t have that kind of collective clarity around abortion. Which is probably why 72% of Americans still believe it should remain legal, according to recent polling. Nevertheless, it’s very likely that a partisan Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, ending a 50-year-old paradigm. I fear we’re about to find out exactly which is the more harmful route.

The thing that really concerns me, though, is the likelihood that the crusaders who see victory within their grasp won’t be content to stop with abortion. There are other “morals issues” that were decided by SCOTUS decisions, and there are already rumblings that those decisions could also face being overturned by this current Court. Gay marriage is definitely in danger, but so is legal contraception and possibly even interracial marriage — things that are now so much part of the fabric of American life that many people today find impossible to imagine them ever not being legal. In short, the entire sexual revolution could be undone in the next couple of years. The freedom Americans have enjoyed (nudge nudge wink wink) for over half a century — the freedom to marry the person they love, the freedom for consenting adults to enjoy sex without fear — could very well be taken away. A minority of religious conservatives want this. They see it as a reestablishment of a natural order, a  return to their definition of responsibility (i.e., no sex outside of marriage for straight couples, no sex without the possibility of pregnancy, and no legal homosexual activity at all). I — and I imagine a lot of other Americans — see this scenario as a huge step backwards, a regression into a less-civilized time defined by fear and a tyrannical pulpit. I say it’s nobody’s business what other people do with respect to love, sex and reproduction, and that trying to push the genie back into the bottle is going to result in utter chaos… and a lot of pain.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Supreme Court is not as agenda-driven as I fear they are and will rule on the side of true conservatism, i.e., not rocking a long-established boat. I hope that’s the case. But either way, I think it’s time to stop depending on judicial decisions for our sexual and marital rights. I see now that this has been a historic mistake. It’s long past time to codify these rights. The House of Representatives passed a bill to codify abortion rights back in September, but as far as I know, it’s gone nowhere in the Senate, and even if it does somehow pass — and I know that’s incredibly unlikely — I don’t think that’s enough. For an issue so utterly fundamental to true human liberty, we need to pull out the big guns. We need a Constitutional amendment to guarantee freedom of marriage, freedom of reproductive choice (abortion and contraception), and while we’re at it, freedom of privacy as well, which has always been the foundation of those other freedoms in the relevant judicial decisions but is not, as so many have pointed out, specifically articulated in the Constitution. Let’s call it… the “Pursuit of Happiness” Amendment. It needn’t be a long or complicated thing, and in fact, it would probably be better if it’s not. Here’s my back-of-an-envelope draft:

  1. The right of an individual to make their own reproductive choices shall not be infringed.
  2. The right of consenting adults to marry whomever they wish shall not be infringed.
  3. An individual’s right to a reasonable amount of privacy around their personal information and affairs shall not be infringed.

Now, I’m not a legal scholar, obviously. I don’t know if that language would be sufficient to do the trick or if there are loopholes or other problems there. I’m also not naive. I know that getting any amendment passed, on any subject, is a Herculean effort, and that the odds for something like this succeeding would be incredibly slim. Hell, we couldn’t even manage to ratify the ERA, which seems to me like a total no-brainer. But I do know that the way to make change is to start talking about ideas. And I am convinced that we’ve got to start talking about something like this amendment, and very soon. So… how do we get this ball rolling?

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Republicans vs Democrats

“Republicans largely feel like they’re an insurrectionary force fighting an unscrupulous liberal establishment. Democrats, by contrast, feel like they’re a fundamentally admirable establishment being pecked to death by an insurrection of reactionary zealots—and they don’t know what to do about it.”

— Kevin Drum, “Why are Democrats so downbeat these days?

I have no real point to make here, I just thought this was an interesting (and largely accurate) way of framing the current mood in the country.

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This Land of Hope and Dreams

It’s been slightly over 96 hours since Joe Biden took the oath of office and became the 46th president of the United States.

Four days.

And while it may be unrealistic and even unfair to expect much of a change in only four days… the world today feels very different to me than it did last Sunday. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say… I feel very different. I have literally felt my body unclenching little by little over these past four day. Relaxing. It’s been rather like what I experienced after I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes; as the medications took effect and I returned to something resembling how a normal human body is supposed to function, I was surprised by how different I suddenly felt. You know how people describe getting angry as “seeing red?” Well, before my blood pressure was regulated, before I knew it needed to be regulated, I literally did that. It was as if a red lens dropped over my eyes whenever I got irritated about something. And I never questioned it because I thought it was just something that happened to everyone. But now it doesn’t happen anymore and I understand that it was a warning sign. In short, I never realized how bad I used to feel all the time until I started to feel well. And the same type of thing is happening now that Trump is gone.

I’ve spent the last four years feeling angry, constantly angry, every single day. Every day, there was a new outrage, a fresh source of irritation and loathing, as the wanna-be mafia don in the Oval Office and his team of deplorables — yes, I said it; Hillary was right on with that description when it comes to the likes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani and all the other scumbags that comprised Trump’s inner circle — kicked the supports out from under everything that progressives value and have fought so hard to build over the last 90 years. Those feelings ramped up in the two months following the election as the hardheaded narcissist refused to concede and his sycophants in Congress and on the TV talking-head shows spread the Big Lie that the election was somehow rigged. (If that was true, if the Democrats had really pulled off some kind of massive conspiracy to swing the election in their favor, does it make any sense at all that we wouldn’t have arranged for an overwhelming majority in the Senate as well? Come on… ). And then on January 6, as the barbarians raged through the halls of the Capitol building — our Capitol, We the People’s Capitol — with their Confederate treason flags and their ridiculous cosplay outfits, my anger became white-hot fury, and then as inauguration day approached, I had a sick certainty that something was going to happen…

And then it didn’t. No assassination attempt, no car bomb, no riots. Biden and Harris just took their oaths and before the fireworks flew that evening were already busy at work trying to undo the damage the previous administration has wrought. The whole tone of business changed almost instantly. We have press conferences again and a press secretary who wants to work with the media instead of antagonizing them. We have scientists back in charge of the pandemic. Trump toadies within the civil service are being invited to leave. It’s all so… I hate to use the word “normal,” because I hesitate to believe anything will ever be normal again, but the news has become so… quiet. And competent. It feels like the grown-ups are back after an unruly school class has trashed their room.

Now, I’m not a fool. It has been, after all, only four days. Biden has an ambitious agenda and is confronted with a hell of a lot of fires to put out, and logic and cold experience dictates that he’s not going to be able to do all of it, or even most of it. The Republicans are already pushing their usual disingenuous bullshit around the concept of “unity” (i.e., that “unity” means “do it all our way or we’ll scream that you’re not serious about healing the nation”); Mitch McConnell remains intransigent about blocking the Democratic agenda any way he can (“promise not to nuke the filibuster or I’ll filibuster!”); the MAGA nation is still out there screaming about election fraud and socialism; and the media is already doing their part to undermine a Democratic president by publishing stupid shit like that article about Biden’s Rolex (am I supposed to feel a burst of class-based outrage that he has a nice watch and a classic Corvette when the previous occupant of the White House craps in a gold-plated toilet?). So while rolling back the most egregious of Trump’s activities with executive orders of our own feels mighty damn satisfying, any genuine, long-lasting progress is going to be an uphill battle to achieve. I know all of this. And I know that Trump himself is still out there, too, lurking somewhere in the shadows, along with all of his shallow-gene’d, cokehead, would-be dynastic offspring, waiting for their chance to lurch back into the light and stir the shit up again, if not incite another coup attempt.

But you know… we’ve had four glorious days of not having to hear about him or hear him, of not having to see his ugly little sphincter-mouth all over my social media newsfeeds, and that has really been enough for now. His absence has been blissful luxury.

(Incidentally, I know this entry is considerably less… measured… than my usual political posts. I usually try hard to not deliberately provoke my conservative friends. But I can’t hold it back anymore. The last four years have tested me, and tested this country, almost to the very limits of our endurance. And I’m tired of playing nice just to avoid an argument. So, while I don’t wish to hurt, anger, or fight with anyone who might be reading this, I’m also not going to muzzle myself. Not anymore, not on my blog. You don’t like the tone? Take it up with Donald Fucking Trump, the worst president this nation has ever endured, may he rot down there at his ticky-tacky Florida compound.)

In closing, I want to share Bruce Springsteen’s performance from the Celebrating America special that aired on various networks and platforms on inauguration night. As with so many Springsteen songs, it aches with a world-weary melancholy, but there’s a hard, warm little kernel of optimism at the center of it. That’s where I am right now, where I have been since the morning of January 20. It’s not going to be easy for Joe Biden… but I do believe he’s going to move heaven and earth to try to make things better. And after the last four years of selfish exploitation and creeping authoritarianism, he’s going to look like goddamn hero for it.

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder’s rolling down the tracks
You don’t know where you’re goin’ now
But you know you won’t be back
Darlin’ if you’re weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry
And we’ll leave the rest
Big wheels rolling through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

 

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A Moment’s Respite

Joseph R. Biden is now the president of the United States.

I feel like an anvil has been lifted from my head.

And yet… you know what I keep thinking about today? There’s this one particular moment in the old Empire Strikes Back radio drama made for NPR back in the ’80s… what’s that? You don’t know about that? Well, if you’re a Star Wars fan who hasn’t heard the radio dramas, you really owe it to yourself to seek them out. You wouldn’t think that movies with such a strong visual identity and relatively little dialogue could be successfully adapted to a strictly audio format, but these work extremely well, thanks to strong scripting by the late Brian Daley (who wrote the early tie-in novels about Han Solo and Chewie), original music and sound effects from the films, and some very talented voice actors, including Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams. The radio dramas actually deepen the familiar stories in a number of interesting ways; I personally prefer the radio version of how Leia came into possession of the Death Star plans to what we see in Rogue One.

Anyhow, in the Empire adaptation, the Battle of Hoth takes up an entire half-hour episode, ending on a terrific cliffhanger as the Rebel base falls and our heroes are forced to run for their lives. The action builds and builds, with Leia in the command center barking orders, artillery fire rattling the base, the music swelling, and then a distorted voice comes over the comm system: “Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops — ” There’s the sound of a blaster shot and a burst of static. Han Solo tells the princess this is it, they’re out of time. Leia gives the evacuation order, and there’s even more commotion, a klaxon ringing, controllers shouting, the music rising…. and then a sudden moment of silence. The only sound effect is of dust falling. It’s like the story is pausing to catch its breath… and then the music returns, insistent, more frantic than ever… the sound effects come back with a roar of blasterfire and explosions as Vader’s theme pounds out… and then the narrator gives us the closing blurb about the Rebels struggling to keep the light of freedom from going out forever… cue the closing credits for that week.

Well, friends, today feels to me very much like that moment of silence during the radio version of the Battle of Hoth. The story has paused, the dust is settling, and we’re all letting out a collective exhale. But the pandemic is still raging; the QAnon cultists and white supremacists and anti-government militias are still out there, and I don’t expect they’re going to just melt back into the shadows; the Supreme Court is now solidly conservative, and Mitch McConnell is no doubt already scheming a way to gum up Biden’s agenda; and there is so, so, so much damage to repair. And I expect the battle against all of that to fade back in as soon as tomorrow morning.

But that’s tomorrow. For now, let’s just… exhale. And enjoy the quiet sound of dust settling…

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24 Hours

Tomorrow at 12 noon EST (10 AM where I am), the Trump presidency will be formally over. (Actually, I think you can argue pretty convincingly that it’s been over since election day; certainly, Trump hasn’t made any pretense of actual governance since then, preferring instead to sulk on the golf course, pursue quixotic lawsuits, and of course incite a failed coup attempt.)  The miserable trainwreck of the past four years, which have felt more like 400, will finally, at long last, be over. In my head, the countdown clock is now running.

However, given the ominous threat of more MAGA shenanigans, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitating a socially distanced inaugural ceremony unlike any in living memory, I find myself imagining a very specific countdown clock, with a very specific sound effect…

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“I Understand”

I had thought to do a little compare-and-contrast between the Thanksgiving address delivered by President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday and the comments made by the outgoing president yesterday, but I’ve reconsidered. Trump’s petulant outbursts already get more than their fair share of media attention, and I personally can’t wait to never have to hear from him again, so I’m going to focus on someone who knows how to be presidential.

As I’ve said before, Biden isn’t always the greatest of speakers. There were times in his Thanksgiving speech when it sounded like he needed a drink of water; his voice had a thick, dry-mouthed hesitation. And there were times when the words were even a bit slurred. (Before anyone starts, I do not believe this is a symptom of any mental impairment; I think he’s just an old man whose voice isn’t what it used to be, and who has to focus hard on suppressing his stutter. I see no sign that he’s any less competent than anyone else, certainly no less so than the current occupant of the White House and, in my opinion, a damn sight better.) But there were also moments when he seemed to catch fire and say exactly what needs to be said in exactly the way it needs to be said.

I know the Republican-held Senate is going to be a huge impediment for him, but I also believe he’s going to try his damnedest to make this country a better place for everyone. Even those who already despise him.

Here are what I consider to be the highlights:

Looking back over our history, you’ll see that it’s been in the most difficult of circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged.

Now, we find ourselves again facing a long, hard winter. We have fought a nearly year-long battle with a virus in this nation. It’s brought us pain and loss and frustration, and it has cost so many lives. 260,000 Americans — and counting.

It has divided us. Angered us. And set us against one another. I know the country has grown weary of the fight. But we need to remember we’re at a war with a virus — not with each other.

This is the moment where we need to steel our spines, redouble our efforts, and recommit ourselves to the fight. Let’s remember — we are all in this together.

For so many of us, it’s hard to hear that this fight isn’t over, that we still have months of this battle ahead of us. And for those who have lost loved ones, I know this time of year is especially difficult. Believe me, I know. I remember that first Thanksgiving. The empty chair, the silence. It takes your breath away. It’s hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to look forward. And it’s so hard to hope.

I understand.

Our country is in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We’re now averaging over 160,000 new cases a day. And no one will be surprised if we hit 200,000 cases in a single day. Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That is the plain and simple truth, and I believe you deserve to always hear the truth from your president.

We have to try to slow the growth of the virus. We owe that to the doctors, the nurses, and the other front-line health care workers who have risked so much and heroically battled this virus for so long. We owe that to our fellow citizens who will need access to hospital beds and the care to fight this disease. And we owe it to one another — it’s our patriotic duty as Americans.

That means wearing masks, keeping social distancing, and limiting the size of any groups we’re in. Until we have a vaccine, these are our most effective tools to combat the virus. Starting on Day One of my presidency, we will take steps that will change the course of the disease.

The federal government has vast powers to combat this virus. And I commit to you I will use all those powers to lead a national coordinated response. But the federal government can’t do it alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save a life.

None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based in science.

The good news is that there has been significant, record-breaking progress made recently in developing a vaccine. Several of these vaccines look to be extraordinarily effective. And it appears that we are on track for the first immunizations to begin by late December or early January. Then, we will need to put in place a distribution plan to get the entire country immunized as soon as possible, which we will do.

But it’s going to take time.

I’m hoping the news of a vaccine will serve as an incentive to every American to take these simple steps to get control of this virus. There is real hope, tangible hope. So hang on. Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue. I know we can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. You will get your lives back. Life is going to return to normal. That will happen.

This will not last forever.

I’ve said it many times: This is a great country and we are a good people. This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we haven’t been able to do when we’ve done it together.

Think of what we’ve come through: centuries of human enslavement; a cataclysmic Civil War; the exclusion of women from the ballot box; World Wars; Jim Crow; a long twilight struggle against Soviet tyranny that could have ended not with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in nuclear Armageddon.

I’m not naïve. I know that history is just that: history. But to know what’s come before can help arm us against despair. Knowing the previous generations got through the same universal human challenges that we face: the tension between selfishness and generosity, between fear and hope, between division and unity.

Americans dream big.

And, as hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we are going to dream big again. Our future is bright. In fact, I have never been more optimistic about the future of America than I am right now. I believe the 21st Century is going to be an American Century.

We are going to build an economy that leads the world. We are going to lead the world by the power of our example — not the example of our power. We are going to lead the world on climate and save the planet. We are going to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s and diabetes. And we are going to finally root out systemic racism in our country.

On this Thanksgiving, and in anticipation of all the Thanksgivings to come, let us dream again. Let us commit ourselves to thinking not only of ourselves but of others. For if we care for one another — if we open our arms rather than brandish our fists — we can, with God’s help, heal.

[Bolded emphasis mine.]

That’s how a president should speak. Not spitting out nuggets of sarcasm that drip with contempt for one’s political opponents. And definitely not displaying tone-deaf indifference for the suffering of American citizens. “I understand” are the two most powerful words in this seven-minute speech. And I believe that he does understand, I believe his empathy for ordinary people is real. And I believe that that matters, and that it’s what we need right now. Not only because of the virus, but because of the corrosive partisanship that has been consuming our society for decades.

I’ll confess that I’m dubious about Biden’s ability to do much about that. I know the Republicans aren’t interested in playing nice, and I think one of Obama’s biggest failings was continuing to believe that they would someday come around and be willing to work with him. And I’ll further confess that I am angry right now, every damn day, and that I want to see some real consequences for the havoc and chaos of the last four years. I want the Trump administration, the Trump organization, the Trump family, and every single Republican congressperson and bureaucrat who enabled them investigated to within an inch of their lives, and then I want them indicted and punished for any and every transgression that can be made to stick. I want the Republicans punished. I want payback for how they treated Obama and Merrick Garland, and for all their gloating and smug triumphalism and the constant mewling that they’re somehow being persecuted when they’ve effectively held the reins of power for years, regardless of who was sitting in the Oval Office. I know that what I’m saying here isn’t very high-minded or intellectual, and I know it’s not conducive to healing anything. But I’m not the president-elect, now, am I? We’ll see what actually happens once his administration gets going; I have a hunch that Biden is smart enough to be the diplomat while letting others be the bulldogs.

Of course, I’m always a sucker for the stuff about how people are essentially good and all the problems we’re going to fix, even though it’s pretty hard to still believe in my Star Trek-ian ideals after the last 12 years of tribal rancor. But I still like to hear it, even if it’s just a nice fantasy.

The moment in this speech that really grabbed me, though, was his exhortation to not lose hope about the damn virus. To hang on just a little longer, because we will win the war against the coronavirus. That his administration will win the battle. This struck me as very good politics, selling his goals and reminding people that the current guy has utterly failed, while also doing what the best presidents, from Obama to JFK to FDR to Abraham Lincoln, have always done in times of turmoil and fear: to give the tired and anxious people of the nation a life raft to cling to. His words made me feel better. They provided me at least with badly needed comfort.

He’s already a better leader than the thin-skinned, belligerent fool he’s replacing.

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“It’s Easier to Be a Parent This Morning”

It’s done. Thanks to the Great State of Pennsylvania, Joseph R Biden is the president-elect of the United States of America, and Kamala Harris will be the first woman and the first person of color to become vice president. (And, I predict, the 47th president after Biden! That’s right, folks, you read it here first, right here on Simple Tricks and Nonsense!)

Donald J Trump is finished. He hasn’t accepted it, of course. He’s raging petulantly on Twitter that no, in fact, he won. He did, he did, he did! He won! Bad things happened… illegal votes (whatever the hell those are!), stolen election! He WON! Classy to the end, Don. But it doesn’t matter. Whether he can pull it together enough to walk out of the White House on January 20 with a modicum of dignity or will need to be carried out by men with butterfly nets, his time is done. I’m seeing videos of cheering throngs in New York and San Francisco. The mayor of Paris has tweeted “Welcome back, America,” and I’ve seen reports that church bells are ringing in Munich. I remember a lot of jubilation when Obama won, and Bill Clinton before him, but this… this feels different, doesn’t it? It feels something like I imagine V-E day must have. Maybe because we know, on some level, that we dodged the same authoritarian horror that was put to rest that day.

I’m not going to gloat, though, or let the celebrating get too far out of hand. For one thing, like I wrote the other day, I know that the next few years are going to be an uphill battle for President Biden to get anything of substance done. And Trump is still going to be around for two more months and who knows what kind of rat-fuckery he might get up to in that time? He will, without a doubt, call for recounts or attempt some kind of lawsuit. I don’t believe either of those efforts will change anything… but at the very least, the rhetoric is going to be brutal for the next couple months. I hope he doesn’t try anything crazier than those last-ditch gambits. Maybe someone should consider taking the Nuclear Football away from him?

But that’s something to think about later, perhaps. For now, I’m going to leave with this clip of CNN correspondent Van Jones. I think he says everything that needs to be said on this historic morning. This morning isn’t a victory so much as a relief for a hell of a lot of people. As bad as the last four years have been for me, they’ve been a genuine nightmare for people of color, immigrants, homosexuals… basically anyone not-white and male. I raise my glass to you people. You’re still here. You made it. We all made it.

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The View from the Other Side

As of this moment — 7:30 PM on Thursday night, November Fifth in the accursed Year of the Plague Two Thousand and Twenty — I am reasonably confident that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States of America. Votes are still being counted in a handful of states and everyone in the nation — hell, everyone in the world — is chewing their fingernails to the quick waiting for the final tallies, but the numbers are all trending solidly in that direction. My candidate appears to have won. The long, exhausting reign of Donald J Trump will soon be over.

But I have to be honest, I’m not feeling very triumphant right now. This is probably going to seem a bit silly, but… do you remember the scene in Return of the Jedi when the Super Star Destroyer, aka Vader’s command ship, the Executor, is destroyed? It’s a turning point in the big space battle at the film’s climax; a Rebel fighter plows through the Executor‘s bridge and the out-of-control juggernaut heels over and pierces into the Death Star below, exploding in a gargantuan fireball. On the bridge of the opposing Rebel cruiser, a cheer goes up from the officers in the backgrounds… but Admiral Ackbar doesn’t join in. Instead, he looks downward and then slowly leans back in his seat. His expression — as much as you can read the expression of a latex space-salmon — is curiously somber. Even a bit sad. I’ve always interpreted this as Ackbar mourning the waste of the hundreds of thousands of lives that were surely aboard that destroyer, sailors not unlike his own crew, just doing their jobs for their service and their government. They may have been enemies, but Ackbar is an empathetic creature in my view and takes no pleasure in the things the war demands of him. And of course, the battle isn’t over yet.

Do you understand where I’m going with this? I am Admiral Ackbar in this scenario. I’m watching the Executor go down but there’s no pleasure in it for me because I know the cost of this victory, all the wasted lives lost to COVID and god knows what else, and the war is going to rage on. Perhaps literally, if Trump manages to entice the Proud Boys or other, shall we say, low-information types to violence. At the very least, he’s not going to concede and extracting him from the White House will be… frustrating. As will be a Biden presidency with Mitch McConnell still in charge of the Senate. My liberal dreams of quick action on healthcare, climate change, voting reform, and a thousand other things all slammed into a brick wall when the Democrats failed to crack the Republican majority. And even with Trump himself gone, Trumpism isn’t going anywhere. His base will make him a martyr, and I don’t expect their awful behavior is going to be shamed back into the shadows anytime soon. These hardheaded loudmouths will be spewing their conspiracy theory garbage and making life difficult for anyone they perceive as different from them for a long time to come.

So yeah, my guy won, but it’s something of a Pyrrhic victory.

Still… Trump will soon be gone, or at least out of the spotlight. And what a relief that will be, just to have a respite from the daily outrage and the constant, constant nattering…


The Destruction of the Executor on Disney Video

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Election Day

It’s here at last. The Day of Reckoning. We’ll either save democracy today, wrest the levers of power away from the rapscallions and scoundrels and, yes, the fascists… or we won’t.

I find myself thinking of Bill Murray’s character at the climax of Ghostbusters, when the Stay-Puft marshmallow man is marauding through New York and the boys decide the only chance of defeating him is to cross the streams of their proton blasts — the one thing they’d been warned never to do because of the danger that entails. Facing near-certain doom, Venkman gets an almost beatific look on his face as he says to his friend and colleague, “See you on the other side, Ray,” before pulling his trigger.

Yeah. That’s where I am right now. Come what may, see you on the other side…

 

 

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