VOTES FOR WOMEN!

Vintage newspaper photo of suffragettes holding
I wonder what goes on inside Trump’s head. I wonder about this with the same befuddlement with which I wonder how snakes can move without any legs, how that guy I once saw on I-95 managed to get this far without the state police pulling him over for operating a vehicle with three tires and one bare rim, and vector calculus in general.

Trump’s brain is an alien thing to me. I’ve made so many mistakes over the past couple of years due to the fact that I’ve been trying to interpret the man’s statements and strategy with the same software I’ve used every day since I received the “Comprehend The Humans Instead Of Just Being Alarmed By Them All The TIme” system update. But Trump is an edge case, for sure. Continue reading “VOTES FOR WOMEN!”

The #LibertyDonut

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It’s no coincidence that “freelancer” and “freeloader” share the same root word. If we freelance journalists, novelists, artists, accountants, et al were to unionize, our union hall would be a coffeeshop with free refills, Google WiFi, and plenty of outlets.

That said, I hold up my end of the social contract. Wherever I go, my work sessions begins with a trip to the counter and the purchase of a Parking Pass. Even at Starbucks, which sells nothing I want to consume (though I’ll happily throw a caramel hot chocolate down my throat during the deep choke of winter). A deal is a deal, so I’ll buy a $2 bottle of water.

It’s much easier here at Dunkin Donuts. A 20 ounce bottle of soda and, if I’m hungry, a donut.

As usual, I took a photo of it and posted it to Twitter under the hashtag “#LibertyDonut” even before I unpacked my iPad.

A random idea starts as something kind of funny, then becomes a habit, and then, rarely, you attach a kind of Importance to some of these things. Such is the tale of the #LiberyDonut hashtag.

It started out a while ago, when a friend of mine (the wonderful writer G. Willow Wilson) spoke of a tradition in her house. Her husband is an immigration attorney. Whenever he wins a particularly tough or grueling case, he comes home with a box of donuts.

I joked back that they were Liberty Donuts: carb-packed monuments to the greatness of America. During a year in which ignorant, ego-driven boobs are spreading lies and fears about immigrants and inspiring hate and violence in exchange for cheers and votes from a handful of idiots, this pleased me. It made me proud, genuinely, of being an American.

How much do you love this country?

Do you love it so much that you’d go through the whole immigration process for the right to stay here as long as you like?

Would you subject yourself to years of uncertainty? To a bureaucratic process that — without a trace of malice — forces you to jump through hoops that keep moving, and possibly perform these tricks all over again because papers got misfiled, or because they were seen by the wrong person on the wrong day? Would you have the courage to have your whole life and the lives of everyone you’re related to and have ever known scrutinized? Would you spend tens of thousands of dollars, knowing that the drug conviction of a cousin you haven’t seen for twenty years could kill your chances or, at best, delay the process even further?

All the while, building a life for yourself and your children, without any assurance that you could keep anything you’ve built here?

It’s a sobering question. How tough are you?

Many immigrants have unusually powerful motivation, of course: their lives in their countries of birth were horrible. Or were about to become horrible. And here we can define “horrible” across a broad spectrum that reasonably includes “I was supposed to be killed with the rest of my family but I was spending the night at a friend’s house.”

They’ve come to America by choice, and through great struggle. This isn’t a dalliance. They’ve decided that of all of the countries in the world, the best possible future — not for themselves, but for their children — lies in the United States.

They believe in this place. I, as a citizen, have never been moved by the sight of an enormous American flag being pulled across an end zone or an infield during the minutes before a sporting event. The tiny, cheap plastic flag in the hand of a beaming, newly-sworn American citizen leaves me muttering things about dust mites and pollen.

I think about my immigrant grandparents. One set had left behind a scene that was so powerfully terrible that (according to my Dad) they never wanted to discuss it, and had left Dad with zero desire to learn anything about the Homeland. Not even when I was flying to Europe on business, and floated the idea of adding in a detour to look around the old place and maybe even spend a day searching local records.

I am so proud of every immigrant. I am so grateful to my grandparents for creating this life for me.

And so, when I enjoy a donut, I think about immigrants, the contributions they make to the American soul, the amount of important crap the government must make them go through before they can become citizens, and I think about the amount of irrational, ignorant, despicable, and entirely uncalled-for crap that some of us heap upon them.

The people who attack immigrants (and not always just with rhetoric, remember) are “big flag” Americans. To them, “America” is a tool of aggression to wield against people deemed “less American” than they. America should be a celebration of the fine eternal principles upon which our country was formed. We’re a nation of mutts, here to receive the full dignities and opportunities that were denied to us by others.

I have eaten the #LibertyDonut that I set down next to the keyboard a little while ago.

I don’t usually spend thirty minutes examining my feelings about patriotism and immigration. But thanks to Willow and Her husband the immigration attorney, donuts come with a new kind of pleasure (that I won’t need to burn off with another half hour on the bike).

Each time I set a donut down on the table, I meditate on this subject. Even if only for a moment. And it makes me a happier, prouder, and better American.

Also a fatter one.

So, yes, even more American than I was before.

#LibertyDonut

 

Refugees

We are commanded to accept refugees.

That’s the entire argument. When people are fleeing a war zone, and escaping from a force that quite simply wishes to eradicate them as if scrubbing out a stain, it doesn’t even matter that the situation is so dire that these people must be referred to as “…surviving members of a family.”

The scale of the crisis is immaterial. People are fleeing the homeland that their families have known for several generations, carrying only what they were able to gather up in the two minutes they had before they fled. We are commanded to accept them. The order comes from the highest possible authority: our humanity.

The US has often refused safe haven to entire populations escaping — let’s be clear and efficient here — “near-certain death.” Have historians ever examined those decisions decades later, with the benefit of perspective and data that were unavailable to people at the time, and declared “Yup. That was totally the right call”?

I bet the answer’s “No.”

This is easy and obvious. I’m certain that you agree with me.

And if you encounter someone who thinks otherwise…help them out. Ask them if they’re religious. If they are, tell them to open up the drawer in the nightstand next to their bed and take out whatever leatherbound book they find in there. They should keep flipping through it until they find the page where it says “You are commanded to help innocent people who are fleeing near-certain death. Not despite the fact that they’re strangers to you, and there’s no benefit to doing so, and doing so might be very hard. You must do it because of those things.”

If they get frustrated after the first few minutes and begin to protest, calm them down and encourage them to keep right on looking because it’s definitely in there somewhere.

How To Retire From Politics

You’re a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives and for whatever reason, you’ve decided it’s time to go.

Great ways to leave Congress:


1) Some sort of disease

This one’s hard to top, particularly if you’ve managed to stay in office for ten, twenty, or thirty years and in that time, have developed a reputation as an effective servant of the people and a reliable advocate for the disenfranchised. Because although it’s inevitable that you will have made some bad decisions and some enemies during your time in office, anybody who chooses to bring that up before your first posthumous biography is published will look like a total dick.

Dying from something that’s inoperable sucks, no question. But there’s definitely a silver lining.


2) Cash out and burn the bridge behind you

You spend your penultimate year in office researching and writing up a master list of every source of grift, graft, and grease that a member of Congress can legally pursue. It’s a long list. Let’s just say you keep your attorneys researching what you can absolutely get away with, and then you cut the list off after a year. You then spend your final year sticking your hands as deep into the till as you can get them. As a member of Congress, your sources of legal graft are similarly endless, but again, if you don’t set a firm deadline for the project you’ll never finish it.

When the year’s up and you’re fifty times wealthier than Scrooge McDuck, you call a press conference. Have a staffer leak that you intend to spend more time with your family. Better, but riskier: leak that you’ve contracted something inoperable. At the press conference, curtains part to reveal you sitting naked in a huge claw-footed bathtub filled with money, on a thick platform. You are wearing a tall, bejeweled crown and an enormous gold medallion. “Not only is it impossible to prosecute me for any of this,” you laugh, after explaining where the money came from, “but now I’m so goddamn rich that I’ve placed myself far beyond the reach of any earthly justice. So long, losers!!!”

You and the tub and the platform roll away. During your stately loop of the press room before rumbling out into the street, cameras note that the steam engine propelling the tub is being fed by a formally-attired butler, who shovels stack after stack of hundred dollar bills into it.

You’ll leave office with a huge pile of money. And a jaded populace will say “At least that one was completely honest about why he got into politics.” You will be able to parlay this grudging but sincere respect into a successful local chain of Rich Bastard Congressman Steak And Ribs restaurants.


3) The Bucket List

Freedom’s just another word for “I’m not running for reelection.” Spend the remaining few years of your term making fun of the Distinguished Senator’s obvious comb-over. When you’re on one of the Sunday morning news programs, amiably inform someone that they’re completely full of crap when they are, in fact, completely full of crap. Introduce one-page bills that say “All sick children should receive medical treatment,” almost solely to make other Senators and Congresspeople squirm when they explain why they aren’t supporting it.

“No, I voted against federal bailout funds for our 73-year-old roller skate factory,” you could tell your constituents, during a Town Hall meeting. “When was the last time you even saw a kid wearing one of these metal skates clamped onto their street shoes? It’s a mercy killing. Secondly, the owners have run this damn thing so deep into the ground that I wonder if the plan was to have it re-emerge in China. But that couldn’t be the case, because that would mean they were sharp enough businesspeople to realize how much cheaper these products would be to manufacture over there.

“Oh, and before I take your next question: let me tell you all how much extra the average American is willing to pay for a product just because it has a ‘Made In The USA’ sticker on the box…” And here you hold the microphone against your butt and punctuate your point in a dramatic and unequivocal fashion.

Say ridiculous things like “Sorry: we can’t guarantee you that the chance of being killed by terrorists will ever be zero. You’ll have to be satisfied with jillion-to-one odds.” And “Christ almighty! I’m your Congressperson, not your Dad. So long as I’m doing my job well, why should you even care that I cheated on my wife two years ago?” Or “All of these big flags in such a small space makes me uncomfortable. Doesn’t this room remind you a little of the opening ceremonies of the Berlin Olympics?”

(After a few weeks of this, you might be tempted to hire Aaron Sorkin to write some of your speeches and most of your off-the-cuff remarks. Resist that urge. Nobody will believe that an actual person would ever say any of those things under any circumstances. If you absolutely must pursue this idea, make sure that you budget and staff the project accordingly. Your regular Starbucks guy will definitely not provide you with the perfect casual setup for a two-minute monologue linking America’s lack of involvement in the Syrian crisis with Reagan-era deficit spending. You’re definitely going to need to put your own guy behind the counter.)

In the end, you’ll be the first lawmaker to read the opening three pages of “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” into the Congressional Record while wearing full scuba gear. Which is definitely worth something. As is pointing out that everybody involved in every level of the political process is somehow culpable for its problems.


4) The Yoda Exit

Hard to pull off, but worth the effort. Step One: get elected to the House or Senate. Step Two: Repeat Step One seven to twelve times without losing an election or dying. Step Three: be one of those members of Congress who can pretty much do whatever they want because they’re 90 years old and kind of adorable and yes, you rarely say anything that makes any sense but everyone figures that Death has been circling your building for the past three years looking for a place to park, so why be the person who works hard to get an adorable tiny old guy out of a job?

Three days after a Congressional page notices the change in the smell from your office, lots of people will line up to say nice things about you. They won’t even bother mentioning the fact that the last time you actually appeared on the Senate floor was four years ago, and even then all you did was complain about how “the TV clickers are much more complicated than they used to be.”


5) Ex-Congressperson With Benefits

Remember, you can’t collect unemployment insurance if you voluntarily quit. You need to do something to get yourself fired. And that’s no easy feat when you’re working as a Congressman. Almost anything that would get you fired from Walmart is perfectly aboveboard (see Suggestion One).

Furthermore, the populace has such low expectations from our elected officials these days that we just can’t whack up the motivation to put together the tar, feathers, and a rail necessary to run a Senator out of town. If you were to drop your pants at a state fair and violate a butter sculpture of a goat, we’d still patiently wait for you to play the “My lovely daughter Joycelyn needs some dental work and I’ve chosen to resign my seat so that I can properly focus on my family during this difficult medical crisis” card.

No, you really have to throw your shoulder into it. Don’t go halfway. Claim that if a so-called “rape” victim is impregnated by her “attacker,” then it almost certainly wasn’t really rape because women’s bodies don’t work that way. And that even in those freakishly-rare cases when the “victim” isn’t lying, she should carry the fertilized egg to term anyway.

That’ll do it for sure. Have your driver take you right from your Congressional offices to the Unemployment Office and then begin your cozy new lifestyle of sitting on your sofa, rockin’ the Playstation and waiting for that next sweet check to come in. Ka-CHING!


So I can only offer my congratulations to Congressman Akin, and my sympathies to anybody who encounters “JerkJiggler696969” in “Call Of Duty: Black Ops.” The man is about to finally secure the free time he needs to become one seriously dangerous mofo.

For the rest of us, let’s take a step back and recap what’s happened. A deeply stupid man in a position of great power and influence over the lives of all Americans demonstrates his codswalloping ignorance and idiocy. “This man should be run out of office,” you think. “He should never, ever be allowed anywhere near the dashboard of democracy. He’s such a complete moron that he shouldn’t even be allowed to stand behind a commercial deep-fryer while wearing a paper ‘Trainee’ hat.”

And then it turns out that the entire world agrees with you. Nobody, but nobody, is supporting him or giving him cover. Even his own political party is damn-near demanding that he drop out of politics. The lone voice of GOP support of any kind comes from a Republican congressman who has offered the use of his Dad’s Chevy van on the day he needs to clear out his Congressional office.

More than that: it’s not even sufficient for lawmakers to respectfully decline comment. Politicians of all sides are lining up in front of cameras and microphones to publicly underscore the fact that as deeply divisive and ideological modern politics has become, as desperate as both parties are to appeal to every last dark, crusty corner of their respective voting base, there is in fact a line that no politician dares to cross, and a calibre of stupidity that mustn’t be tolerated.

You know what? I worry that any minute now, Woody Allen is going to look into the camera and say “Boy, if only real life were like this!

You know who ELSE hated apostrophes?

Back on the subject of political ads and the attempt to influence my vote.

It’s really tough to assimilate every last nuance of every candidate and party’s platform and make a fully-informed choice on Election Day. Over time, though, you come up with some shortcuts that seem to work out well for you.

One of my most valuable little rules:

Political parties and movements that discourage the use of contractions are usually bad news.

Allow me to illustrate.

“Congress hasn’t been listening. We’ve been ignored and dismissed. Our voices will be heard on November 2nd.”

OK, if that’s the opening line in a blog post, I’m definitely bored by this timeless bit of campaign rhetoric but I’ll soldier on and keep reading to see what your actual point is. But if the same line is written as

“Congress has not been listening. We have been ignored and dismissed. Our voices will be heard on November 2nd.”

…Then I’m pretty sure you’re just into this elections for the costumes and the free balloons.

Contractions. They’re your friends. It’s how normal people talk when they’re saying something very sensible. You can omit them for a certain effect but do it sparingly.

And why not pull the eagle-topped flagpole out of your butt completely? How about:

“I feel as though the incumbent has let me down. I’m going to vote for a candidate who seems more aware of my difficulties.”

See what I mean? You get nowhere by assuming a d-baggey posture. Some sites amp up their No Contractions politics even further:

“We shall raise our voices high, strong and fearlessly, for we know that…”

They go full-out, replacing “will” with “shall,” “for” instead of “because,” and forgetting that they’re just one of tens of millions of people who are stopping off on the way to or from work on Tuesday to fill out a form in a high school gymnasium. This isn’t exactly the first twelve minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.” The worst thing they’ll face is a folding table with kids selling cupcakes to help fund a class trip.

When you use that of language, I start to worry that you’re just one beer hall away from having your own special armbands.

No political party has an immunity against this particular disease. It’s universal and it’s a common Human failing. Some people will go out there and get the job done. Others hope to do it from the top of a marble plinth in the middle of the town square…ideally, while on top of a horse.

I shall not allow these people to influence my vote. For, come election day, I cannot aver my duty; nor as I pass by that American flag shall I be unmoved from my responsibility, irregardless of those arrayed against the Cause: I shall hold my head high, raise my Scantronic pencil high as unto a god calling forth the full fury of lightning…and then I’ll probably vote for the candidates with the funniest names.

Blessings God has, upon America, Him given.