In Awe of Motherhood

“In a few hours, I am going to voluntarily walk into a room where chemicals are going to be given to me to start a process that will result in my body being torn in half” she said, as we laid in the dark.  Unable to conjure a profound reassuring word, I mumbled  string of cliches claiming- everything is going to be alright, each word a kind of banana peel for me, the now useless father, to slip on, with successive utterances propelling my tumble into absurdity.

Eventually, I shut my mouth and held her hand.  There she was, at the very end of pregnancy, with swollen feet and constant discomfort, trying to fit into her mind what had to happen in a few short hours, her body humming with an unfamiliar tension, a kind of primal fear no words could soothe.  I imagined the unimaginable; a football sized object moving from my abdomen, splaying open my hips, then somehow exiting completely from my body.  I have never been happier to be male.  At the same time, the hard reality of what motherhood requires left me in a cold sweat.  We’d read and discussed, strategized and contemplated the adventure we were about to embark on.  Now it was upon us.

Parents.  We are going to be parents.

I have never felt more inconsequential.  There I was, taking up oxygen, without the power to reassure or protect, devoid of purpose, dead weight next to her body, a body that somehow could grow and give life.  I imagined our son curled up in her belly and tried not to visualize the birthing gore and horror I’d randomly seen over the years in brief, nauseating clips on television.  I touched her belly’s taut crown.  There was a quiver, like the thrashing of a fish.

Everybody does this, right?  Maybe she’ll be one of the lucky ones that have an easy birthing experience.  Unlikely.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman say, “It really wasn’t that bad, no big deal really.”

There is no way out.  She is going to suffer unimaginable pain.  The tearing in half she mentioned…is only three hours away.

Then, a thought came, something I’d been thinking about and suppressing for weeks.  She could die.  My best friend, my soulmate, could bleed to death, could have a stroke, blood clot, heart attack, aneurysm.  My heart was bounding around in my chest.  What have we done?  I’d read that approximately 20 women per 100,000 births perish during or as a result of the process.  That seems like good odds, right?  There are roughly 87,000 flights per day in the U.S.  If only one plane per day fell out of the sky, flights would be grounded until the cause or causes were discovered and fixed.

I remember a kind of fatalistic relief wave hitting us as we drove to the hospital for inducement…at least I pretended…then lapsed back into paranoid odds crunching.  We decided the numbers were on our side because no sane person would drive willingly to their doom, and we had to go, like, there was no choice, she could burst, or the baby could get mashed or tangled in something!

I thought- We are heading to a very expensive Russian roulette session where the revolver of fate has 100,000 chambers, 20 of which produce death.  What about the baby?  Will he make it through alive, intact, with all his fingers and toes?

Luckily, the birthing nurse (who does 99.99% of the work) was a real pro, rather snappy, ordering us around.  Her tough love routine helped clear my head as we entered the birthing room.  Put your bag here, stand over there etc.  My wife was silent and pale as they rigged up the bag of pitosin.  The IV line had barely filled with the magic substance when the contractions began.

12 hours later, our son was born.  My wife lost consciousness briefly.  I almost passed out when her eyes rolled back in her head and her chin dropped to her chest.  As she fell away, the invisible membrane between waking and sleep, or life and death thinned such that it seemed we might slip away together.  As she came back, my legs held me upright, and she continued her battle.  The nurse ordered me to perform a variety of lifts, turn and leg suspension moves.  Otherwise, I don’t remember much besides our son’s annoyed look as he was placed on his mother’s chest for the first time.

You don’t see the same person after a woman births your child.  She becomes the absolute center of the most profound connection you will ever know, she links you to your child and the linage requires blood and pain and terror.

The immense gratitude we owe women for their bravery, resilience, toughness and determination hit me later as I held my swaddled son.  I realized my brain had been overwhelmed in the rarified air standing next to her as she struggled to complete the most important process we are ever part of, a process to which I contributed so very little.  I thought of the changes she had endured all those months (standing on her feet at work until the very end), and the fact that I almost collapsed JUST WATCHING.

Recently, I had the honor of attending the latter part of a Mother’s Blessing ceremony held in our home for four expectant mothers we are friends with.  The compassion and sisterhood that bound them was palpable.  The room swelled with love and strength.  I loomed on the fringes, honoring their sacred space.  This grim business of birthing is their realm, a realm beyond male comprehension.

 

SHADOW PRESIDENT

The great purging of collective American shadow self continues.  This week’s installment comes, as usual, from President Shadow, aka The Donald, who scoffed at immigrants from “shit hole” countries, preferring, it is said, Asians to Haitians and Africans.  The mindless aside was uttered during an immigration meetup with a gaggle of senators, not during a press conference or speech, a point lost on everyone- those quaking in frenzied horror, and those viewing the comment as an obvious and clear eyed statement of fact.

The now familiar voices of outrage bumped all other stories from the cable news to indict Trump of blatant racism.   The Right/Left divide got a little wider.  Those on either side became a bit less rational.

Meanwhile-

MASS SURVEILLANCE

YEMEN

 

The Rabble Roars, the Left Implodes- 2017

“Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is…” -Bob Dylan

Picture a dead Neil Young flopping around in his grave like a just caught fish as his song, “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” blasts from Trump Tower’s sound system while Donald and his wife Melania, looking like a sexualized calla lily, descend a glass sided escalator to a flag lined stage.  Just as Trump makes the short, tentative first few steps toward the podium and into history, old Neil tears into his signature spasmodic raunch and swerve guitar solo- which is quick faded to silence like the smothering of a screaming bird as the future president unleashes a rambling list of beefs and half wit observations he would repeat throughout the most ridiculous and humiliating political campaign in American history.  To our collective shame, here is what was required to become the leader of the free world in 2016-

We don’t win anymore.

America has terrible problems.

I beat China all the time!

When did we beat Japan at anything?

Mexico is laughing at us, killing us economically.

The U.S. is a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

Mexico is sending people with lots of problems.

We have no protection, no competence.

Islamic terrorism is eating up the Middle East

They built a hotel!

They took the oil, when we left Iraq, we should have taken it.

I love the military.

I said not to hit Iraq because you will let Iran take over…bigly.

The wounded soldiers I love.

2,300 Humvees were left behind for the enemy!

Real unemployment is between 18-20%.

China and Mexico have our jobs.

Our enemies are getting stronger by the day as we get weaker.

Our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.

People are saying, stop the rhetoric, I want a job.

Obamacare will really kick in in 2016.

Really Bigly.

Doctors are quitting.  It’s a disaster.

We have to repeal Obamacare.

Politicians will never make America great again.

They are controlled by lobbyists, donors.

Our country needs a truly great leader.

We need a leader who can bring back our jobs.

Can bring back our vets, our vets have been abandoned.

We need a great cheerleader.

Obama is the opposite of a cheerleader.

We need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again.

I will be the greatest jobs president GOD ever created.

I love China, but their leaders are smarter than ours.

They have bridges that make the George Washington bridge look like small potatoes.

We would never build an ocean.

You have a problem with ISIS, but you have a bigger problem with China.

People are tired of getting ripped off, of spending more money on education than any other nation.

We are becoming a third world country.

24 trillion is the point of no return.

I would do various things very quickly.

I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and Mexico will pay for it.

Nobody will be tougher on Isis.

Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.

I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

I will never be in a bicycle race, that I can tell you.

I will terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.

I will fully support and back up the second amendment

Education has to be local.

Rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

Save social security by making us rich again.

Renegotiate our foreign trade deals.

We will make America great again.

On June 6th, 2015 Donald John Trump, self described teetotaler, really good deal maker and incredible business man, appeared sauced as he announced his candidacy for President of the United States.  Those unfamiliar with his act were left dumbfounded.  Is this real?  His now infamous speech appeared improvised, sloppy and was most notable as a racist diatribe against Mexicans the future president described as rapists, murderers and drug dealers- with “a few good people” lurking across our southern border- he assumed.  The speech came off like a very bad attempt at self parody.  The assembled press were detached, playing with their phones, Melania and Ivanka were dutifully present, as if attending a ribbon cutting ceremony nobody would remember past lunch.   

A few days later, on second hearing, ostensibly for laughs, I listened more closely to what seemed like babbling and detected a whiff of what was to come.  Trump the orange-ish clown, continued his babbling at another event, sprinkling nuggets of simple minded anger at illegal immigrants, China, ISIS, Iran, the press, and Wall Street.  His depth of knowledge on each subject expressed in the form of sentence fragments…”we’ve got to get ISIS, have to!”  

What couldn’t be called political speech making morphed into a new absurdist art form, something like stream of consciousness sloganeering, or improvised hot button babbling delivered with twisted, sardonic menace, somehow producing long awaited manna from heaven for the incurably frustrated.  Think of every troubling issue confronting Americans answered in the form of a bubble gum comic.  It was impossible to know it at the time, but the world changed on 6-6-15.  

Trump’s communication style is similar to that of drunk person wobbling towards unconsciousness after a long bull session on a variety of loosely related subjects.  Near the end, the drunk will offer slivers of what was said or what he or she may have heard somewhere.  With coherence, forthrightness and sincerity implied absurdities, the listener is free to participate in a rollicking free association game without the need to think or know anything about whatever it is Trump is pretending to discuss.  A participatory loop is established not unlike the connection between jazz music and dedicated listeners; with the Trump loop appealing to our lower instincts, as opposed to the transcendental aspirations of the jazz form.  The stream of one liners, non sequiturs, gaffs, bald faced lies, hate speech, and extremely low hanging fruit (I love the soldiers)  create a kind of crackpot witch doctor’s poultice designed to soothe the wounded American soul.  At the time, I couldn’t be sure, couldn’t believe the faint notion implanted after the second listen- but I thought I detected something different and possibly dangerous.  After a decades long bloviating buffoon apprenticeship, could Trump have pulled off the awkward beginnings of an accidental foray into political uniqueness…one that might appeal to throngs of disaffected voters?  No way.  This is a joke, right?

While keeping the joke rolling with 24-7 Trump coverage, the media scoffed and sneered as his “message” took hold and never wavered.  Trump then proceeded to destroy the RNC, the MSM and the Clinton political machine on his way to becoming the 45th President of the United States.  In some ways his approach was numbingly simple- take the top four or five issues people are angry about and describe that anger like an unhinged drunk uncle, and NEVER falter, conform or even recognize accepted norms, traditions, or rules of the campaign road.  Trump’s basic approach was simple- a drunk uncle with a silly hat goes on a grueling never ending tour of every airport hanger or shed who will have him, babbling incoherently, taunting the political establishment, making fun of disabled people, announcing he could shoot somebody and become more popular, and gaining momentum along the way, buttressed by 24 hour a day free advertising in the form of cable news blanket outrage porn, punctuated with constant Tweet attacks, Trump the billionaire became the one man David against the Clinton machine’s Goliath.  The improbable had more than a chance because it gave the illusion of recognition to The Rabble, to people who felt ignored, shamed, talked down to, whose rage, born of decades of frustration and a growing sense of helplessness in an America supposedly on the rebound from the Great Recession of 2008, was ignored by the media and professional politicians.

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”  -Edward L. Bernays

Barack Obama inherited multiple disasters from the George Bush era.  The global economy was on the brink of implosion, collapse, quick death- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on with no end in sight, no way to define victory and very little coherent messaging being related to the public.  The Bush administration viewed any criticism and or questioning of the seemingly permanent WAR ON TERROR as an act of terrorism itself.

The Obama administration wanted to differentiate itself in tone and focus. Obama began a PR tour of Muslim countries to clarify ad nauseam how the West is not at war with Islam, there is no clash of civilizations, even speaking in Arabic.  This tour, an attempt at measured reasonableness designed to diffuse the hysterical rhetoric of the Bush era, was an incredibly destructive miscalculation by the Obama team.  At the very beginning of his administration Obama handed his opposition at home, easily verifiable “proof” of his loathing of REAL AMERICANS and preference for Muslims.  The veracity of the claim was irrelevant.  The match had been struck.  The Rabble groaned when Obama said, “The Muslim call to prayer is one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.”  How could a man of Obama’s intelligence not realize the effect his reconciliation tour would have at home?  When 83% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, how could a sitting president not understand the optics of cozying up to, as far as many Americans are concerned, the people who carried out 9-11?  It’s as if Obama did not realize the level of mindless war propaganda the Bush administration produced to sell descent free, permanent warfare to a traumatized population.  This attempt revealed Obama’s inexperience as a leader and was an understandable, well intentioned mistake; it also gave oxygen to the Trump movement that was to come.

Secondly, Obama was strapped with the unenviable task of selling a shit sandwich economy to working class people that have been left behind for thirty years for a variety of unalterable reasons.  2008 was the unnecessary economic head shot to millions of people already on the ground and bleeding out financially.  Enter smiling Obama, the supposed secret Muslim (I wonder where that rumor started) and his amnesiac period.  Forgotten were the vengeful promises related to Wall Street crooks and their deplorable lack of accountability.  Were you looking forward to months of courtroom drama as the YES WE CAN President’s team of crack attorneys made somebody finally serve time for the biggest financial crime in human history?  Crickets.  Nothing.  Move along please…Were you excited at the notion of Big Pharma and Insurance executives going pale as the United States entered the modern era and enacted some form of socialized medicine, single payer perhaps, as promised by BHO?  You idiot, it turns out the single payer option was never on the table, and for the vast majority of you who work and don’t have a catastrophic health issue Obamacare means higher premiums, higher deductibles and less care, aka welfare for the insurance industry.

The third pillar in the erection of Donald Trump’s unlikely bid for president is a complicated horror show born of good intentions, perverted into a pervasive form of (mostly) soft fascism.  Within the modern Left resides two conflicting factions, the Progressives and the Neoliberal Corporate Fascists.  The DNC is owned and operated by corporate globalists who use identity politics as the high octane fuel that runs their political engine.  Identity politics is comprised of centuries old classic divide and conquer techniques.  Perhaps the most brilliant use of this strategy was employed during Obama’s reelection campaign during which the President, out of nowhere, floated the idea that employers are responsible for women’s birth control being included in company offered healthcare plans.  The Republicans couldn’t help themselves and began screeching about abortion and the general whore-ishness of liberal women, handing the election to Obama.  This success spawned a variety of ugly offshoots including a bizarre fixation on where the transgendered are supposed to go to the bathroom, an inability to say “Radical Islamic Terrorism”, and an obsession with police shootings, as long as the victims are black.  I will attempt to unpack each of these topics, but notice how uncomfortable it feels?  That’s by design.

Tragically, Americans cannot talk honestly about any subject whose import runs deeper than sports or pop culture.  The trivial and inane are acceptable as long as frivolous topics cannot serve as a conduit to heavier issues.  How can we survive when Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem!  Why is he upset?  Kaepernick can stand on his head, do push ups or hold any yoga position he wants during the national anthem.  I am baffled by supposedly patriotic Americans so vehemently obsessed with conformity.  Nothing is less American than conformity, at least in theory.  Young Colin was kneeling to draw attention to the seemingly constant stream of televised videos showing young black men being gunned down by police.  In 2016, 1,154 people were killed by law enforcement, 258 were African Americans.  At 14.4% of the population, African Americans are being killed at a disproportionately higher rate than any other demographic.  

The question is why?  

According to the prevailing wisdom espoused by the media, the lingering race problem in America has devalued the lives of black young men such that police are far more likely to shoot first and ask questions later.  Nuance is anathema to our media culture.  To point out obvious contributing factors is not allowed.  Could the elevated numbers have something to do with urban population density and crime rates?  Are our law enforcement personnel being trained to use lethal force too quickly?  If so, why?  How can we work to lower these numbers?  None of this thinky stuff matters to the adept, high paid political operative hell bent on stoking the flames of identity politics, one like John Podesta, who declared upon receiving an MSNBC news report on the massacre in San Bernardino, declared-  

“Damn. Better if a guy named Sayeed Farouk [sic] was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter.”  

Why would one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, the head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign email such a statement?  

If a white sounding name were linked to the crime it would fit the “we’ve got to do something about these gun nuts” narrative, whereas a Muslim sounding name fits the opposition narrative of a terrorist lurking behind every shrub.  In the rough and tumble world of pre Trump politics, message ownership and narrative control were the keys to victory.  

Where is the outrage over 896 Americans being killed by police?  Where are the videos of these killings?  Do African Americans videotape police interactions at a higher rate?  It seems they should, but is it true that whites, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans don’t possess such videos?  Here we begin to sound nuts, loony, tin foil hatted, conspiratorial.  But the question is legitimate.  

In Washington state, Turkish born Orcan Cetin murdered five random people in a Burlington mall.  The story received minimal coverage and was then disappeared.  Imagine five Mike Brown incidents receiving little or no media attention a year ago.  Obviously there have been thousands of horrific incidents in which young black men have been abused, tortured, lynched and shot to death in the past, with no coverage, justice, or human concern by the culture at large, but I believe that contemporary political strategists are using African Americans’ deaths as useful tragedies, seeking to splinter further an already divided, and conquered nation.

Whitey, aka The Rabble, is also responsible for the terror and discomfort experienced by the trans-gendered among us.  One wonders how people choosing to present themselves as a gender they were not born with have survived and prospered as long as they have, going potty without the aid of legislated accommodations.  Perhaps by using common sense.  When nature calls, whatever gender you seem to be to most people, pick that one and enter accordingly.  To be safe, when possible, use a stall for maximum privacy.  Oh, wait.  If you present as a woman but possess a penis, you would always be using a stall, so unless someone is hiding in the stall with you, your penis would remain as it should, your own concern.  If you are presenting as a man and are sporting a vagina, you likely would skip past the stand up urinals and head for the first open stall, thus keeping your personals personal.  I imagine it that way; a world in which people brave enough to walk around as the opposite gender are savvy enough to survive public restroom etiquette.  

The trans bathroom gambit backfired on the DNC.  Like the birth control issue, the right wingers took the bait with the usual ferocity, and came off sounding like lunatic assholes.  How does one enforce a bathroom law,  genital inspections and birth certificate checks?  

What the Left did not anticipate was that unlike marriage equality, supported by a majority of Americans, the transgender world is still a bridge too far for most people.  Despite being portrayed as bigots, most people do not believe you get to choose your gender.  You can play dress up, chop off your cock, grow breasts, put on a whig, look sexy as hell, and most of us will call you Brenda or whatever, but most of us do not believe you have magically transformed into a woman.  This effort fell flat with the vast majority of Americans and pulled away moderates angry at being asked to get emotional about bathrooms.  

It was a series of narrative gambles by the Left that opened up our hearts and what was left of our minds to an arrogant prick like Donald Trump.  The simple fact is, the programming became too predictable, the outcome rigged.  Early on, the DNC smelled a rat.  Here’s Bill Ivy to John Podesta.

“And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.”         

“Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.”

-Lena Horne

Finally, thank President Obama’s 2011 public roasting of The Donald for setting the course, for determining at that precise moment, that Trump would do anything to win the White House.  Imagine the words burning into Donald’s touchy brain- and the iron will it took for him to remain seated as the barrage of insults continued for several minutes.  Obama poked and jabbed at the carrot hued, thin skinned billionaire, and relished every moment- payback for Trump’s constant parroting of half baked questions about Obama’s birth certificate authenticity.  

“Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? All kidding aside, we all know about your credentials, and your breadth of experience. For example, on a recent episode of Celebrity Apprentice, at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the men from Omaha Steaks. There was lots of blame to go around, but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. Ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that keep me up at night. Well handled, sir! Well handled.”   

Trump had time to stew in the salty, vindictive broth Obama served, and the post working class economy worked on the hearts and minds of the hard working folks toiling in what the jet set refer to as “flyover country.”  America felt played, done, gone for a very large percentage of its citizens.  Our glory days were behind us.  Add to this mass knot of anxiety and depression, an insurgent and mentally deranged cadre of social justice warriors screeching about safe spaces, trans-gendered potty rights, and hate speech to a compliant, gas pouring media happy to set cities ablaze for ratings, and middle of the road working people with a modicum of sanity were left wondering what had happened to the America they grew up in…hell, the America of ten years ago seemed unrecognizably different.  Enter Trump and his seemingly asinine red hat.  Make America Great Again.  It was perfect, it was the year of the rabble.

rab·ble
ˈrabəl/
noun
a disorderly crowd; a mob.
“he was met by a rabble of noisy, angry youths”
synonyms: mob, crowd, throng, gang, swarm, horde, pack, mass, group
“a rabble of noisy youths”
derogatory: ordinary people, especially when regarded as socially inferior or uncouth.
noun: the rabble
synonyms: common people, masses, populace, multitude, rank and file, commonality, plebeians, proletariat, peasantry, lower classes.

In the American Colonies people lived their lives knowing exactly which class they belonged to.  Upwardness, in regards to class or status, was largely unheard of.  A gentleman wore his hat just so, passing his name and associated title on to his sons without regard to their personal habits or talents.  A craftsman’s son learned the trade of his family and toiled as his fathers did.  Of the laboring class, George Washington referred to commoners as “the grazing multitude” (Wood, 27).  John Adams claimed, “Common Persons have no idea of Learning, Eloquence, and Genius” possessing “vulgar and rustic Imaginations” they were easily excited (Wood, 27).  Jefferson described ordinary people as “the hackneyed rascals of every country” who “must never be considered when we calculate the national character” (Wood, 28).  Alexander Hamilton noted that common people “knew how to fawn and cringe before a person of more than ordinary rank, staring like sheep at a gentleman’s laced hat and sword” Wood, 29).  These are your founding fathers- men of their time expressing widely held beliefs about the order of things- but nonetheless, strange sentiments from those who supposedly birthed the free world.  

The class distinctions have nearly vanished, but it took decades for working people, those “rank and file” to achieve wealth and the power of numbers.  After WWII, with unprecedented economic growth and millions of returning veterans using the GI Bill to buy a house, go to college, or start a small business, a new burgeoning Middle Class emerged.  They worked, spent and procreated like never before, creating (until recently) the largest generation in our history.  Since the 1950’s, we have seen a slow dissolving, a hobbling of the great Middle Class.

2016 was the dying gasp of a forgotten people (working people of every race), people treading water financially, looking for anything that might upset the system that had successfully marginalized them for years.

2017 was a reactionary mess- a twelve month tantrum on the left, and a scattershot improvisation on the right, as Republicans scrambled to work with, and shine the Trump turd.  Populist screeching gave way to Goldman Sachs appointees populating the MAGA candidate’s cabinet, greatly increased drone strikes, the bending over for Saudi Arabia and Israel, demolishing of environmental policy…or, right wing business as usual- but with a fresh scandal every week, usually involving Trump’s Tweeting habit, or mean spirited buffoonery.  So far, Trump has managed to partially institute a ridiculous ban on travelers from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries (sparing the Saudis, of course), pass tax reform between Tweet storms, help annihilate ISIS (our allies in Syria), while managing not to get assassinated by the CIA for fucking up the script.

Perhaps the most illustrative and out of touch moment of 2017 came when the President played paper towel basketball, jump shooting rolls into dehydrated throngs in Puerto Rico, like someone playing with a pack of dogs in a tailored suit.  Trump was upbeat, beaming with pride, convinced he was doing his part.  When called out, he said it was just a bit of fun, enjoyed by all.  

The pretend news networks enjoyed record viewership thanks to Trump’s unwillingness to pretend he isn’t a spoiled child masquerading as the most powerful man on the planet.  Paradoxically, Trump supporters fed off the rest of the world’s incredulous loathing of their improbable leader.  Many argued, Hillary was right in describing Trumpians as a “basket of deplorables,” and it’s easy to understand why.  Unflinching support for Trump, The Clown President, says more about those who preceded him, than it does about 45.  Visiting a devastated Puerto Rico, any sane President would have rolled up his or her sleeves, handed out a few cases of water, kissed a little kid on the head in a makeshift hospital, met with local officials, making that stern, I care so much I’m about to have an aneurism face, before giving the same canned bullshit speech about pulling together and the resilience of the American people in the face of disaster we’ve heard a thousand times. Not Trump.  His inane, tone deaf jabbering is refreshing for many because hearing a normal politician speak ABOUT ANYTHING should make an awake person throw up a little in their mouth.  Trump is a signal light flashing- the game is over– after The Clown, we can never, ever go back to the old system, the system controlled by tv news gatekeepers, lobbyists, and pundits, the system whose punch bowl he gleefully shit in.

With a clown as President, the DNC, unable to unshackle themselves from the corporate interests they serve, did absolutely nothing to improve their chances of victory in 2020.  They spent 2017 pretending Vladimir Putin’s army of hackers and social media ad buyers were to blame for Trump’s impossible victory, instead of developing a platform that might appeal to working people.

Expect more of the same in 2018.

Happy New Year!   

    

 

The Beginning of the End of Football

This post is from 2016 and was copied from The Way Back Machine internet archive.  I destroyed my database and thought all the old posts were lost.  Since this was written 99% of NFL player’s brains examined have CTE.

A few years ago, football crazed friends living on a boat, started appearing at our home just before kick off time with beer and snacks.  This is Seahawks country, so it was a fun year to watch.  We won the Super Bowl, hooray.

I hadn’t followed football since I stopped playing, in 1987.  Sucked into the drama, the savagery, the last-minute heroics of Russel “God talks to me during games” Wilson, I got the fever.

I began listening to sports talk radio on my way to work, something I had chided friends about in the past.  I always wondered how anyone, even hardcore sports fans, could listen to the endless, cliche’ ridden yammering.  I discovered that filling 24 hours of airtime with clever sports banter is a mildly interesting art form in which a hyper focused, bordering on hysterical passion for all things sports, can infect. The combination of uninvited guests choosing for me how I would spend my Sundays, and a dramatic, entertaining team full of characters, pulled me into the vortex.  After a few weeks, I was a willing participant, wondering when our guests were going to arrive, fussing over beer inventory, getting ready.

Soon, I was in the dummy bubble, wondering how the pass Wilson threw in the fourth quarter, the one that would have turned the tide, was ruled an incompletion!  Before long, I became a daily sports talk radio listener-a fan, a grown man swept up in meaningless drama, and having fun with it.

On they droned, day after day.  Does Russel Wilson get the respect he deserves?  Is there really an East Coast sports media bias against our Hawks? Where does coach Pete Carroll rank among active coaches?  Who are the leaders in that locker room?  What happened to our offensive line last week? When are these guys going to wake up and realize they need each other? Slowly, the game soaked into my consciousness, until it seemed normal to foam and blather about nick knack details upon details upon conjecture, wrapped in testosterone soaked lust for victory at all costs.  Go Hawks!

The last second blunder (an ill-advised play call that resulted in a turnover a few yards away from the winning score) that cost Seattle the Super Bowl last season, caused an amount of suffering for fans akin to a mass casualty incident involving children.  Callers wept, the sports talk guys, lost in shock, careened between subdued resignation and howling rage at the call, the coach who made the call, the head coach who could have stopped the call, the players who failed to execute…on and on.

A year later, they are still talking about The Play.  Having recovered from my Fever, I now listen from a dispassionate perspective.  I admit to enjoying a Seahawks loss for two reason, I don’t care, and secondly, the Monday morning whining is usually entertaining.  And often fascinating.

Football Fans, Men (mostly), who are generally seen as lunk-headed cretins, obsessed with plastic breasted cheerleaders, cheese dip, beer, and the perceived brutal simplicity of football, are more than capable of intricate analysis, of parsing the strategic and logistical aspects of the game, but also the on and off-field psycho-drama between teammates, coaches, fans and opposing players. Factors in play during preparation for next weeks game are fluid, complex, and discussed with a combination of cold analytic precision and nuanced, emotional tea-leaf reading that would impress Oprah.  You can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if millions of football fans felt the same vicarious tribalism, hyper focus, and emotional commitment towards ANYTHING of consequence.

Imagine teams of renowned physicists wearing brightly colored uniforms, taunting each other in pre-debate interviews, making millions a year after becoming top tier free-agents, battling it out week after week in front of 50-80 thousand screaming fans, with millions watching at home, as they discuss quantum mechanics, and the possibility that we are living in a multiverse, instead of a universe.

The beauty of gaming lies in clearly defined rules and procedures, and the human body’s ability to perfect feats of strength, grace and poetic finesse toward some end, either individually or as part of a team.  Add controlled violence, territorial conquest and complex strategy, and you’ve got an addictive, passion stirring, goldmine of a sport.

People, over-worked and rattled by life’s ocean of gray have-to’s, want clarity, drama, excitement and gore.  This seems universal in the human experience, think jousting, the Olympics, or Roman gladiatorial arts.  We have always the craved vicarious slaughtering of opponents, or out groups.  Games of restrained savagery have been useful outlets for our innate blood lust, our collective Champion fetish.

Over time, the levels of brutality we find acceptable change.  The arch doesn’t move steadily away from outright killing of opponents to gloved pummeling, but rather, ebbs and flows back and forth on a continuum of violence, depending on era driven norms and cultural idiosyncrasies. Yanomamo young men, to prove their stamina and toughness, engage in ritualized beating contests that leave participants coughing up blood from repeated blows to their purposely exposed abdomens.  Ritualized war is an acceptable substitute for the real thing. Which, despite a general softening, or evolution away from our brutish past, remains hardwired.  We seem to get this unseemly trait naturally.  Research indicates that chimpanzees are partial to assassinations, and murder for greater access to territory, mates, food and status.  We are well-groomed savages, smart enough to have decided that for the most part, it’s better to play at slaughter, than to do what comes natural.

Football, in its earliest form, was little more than drunken mob riots.  In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt met with college officials to design rules, attempting to limit deaths and injuries.  The November 27th, 1905 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle reads “Nineteen Killed On Gridiron.”

Two players died on the last game of the college season.  It continues:

“Among the injuries that have not resulted fatally are: nineteen broken collar bones, and shoulders, thirty-one broken legs, nine broken arms, nineteen fractures to some portion of the head, three broken ribs, three spinal injuries, and three concussions of the brain.  Reforms Suggested.”

With rules in place, state of the art safety equipment in use, and EMS on the sidelines, Ninety two young men died playing high school football between 2005-2004.  Seven young men died in 2015.  Long odds, given the number of players, but still, your odds of dying playing American football rank between scuba diving and Grand Prix racing, 1 in 50,000.

Living your life based on statistical probabilities is not living your life.  How many great experiences are at least partially dangerous, foolhardy, risky, or otherwise not recommended?

There is a tipping point though, a point at which common sense, scientific research, statistics and eventually public opinion, can catch up with almost any favored pastime, no matter how beloved…besides NFL football, which is almost bigger than Jesus.  But, if the pipeline of new players vanishes, even the mighty NFL could go the way of the Roman Games.

New research into chronic brain injuries sustained playing football makes it hard to imagine the game surviving for long, certainly not at the youth level. When I started playing organized football at the age of nine, my aunt, a nurse, went ballistic on my parents for allowing me to do something so dangerous. She had seen the injuries.  We thought she was nuts.

As of September 2015, 131 of 165 “football brains” had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  87 of 91 NFL football brains had CTE. CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease found in individuals who have sustained repetitive brain trauma.  There are numerous stories of football players descending into depression, cognitive difficulties, irritability and suicide.  It was believed only players with long careers, players taking several thousand blows to the head for many years, could be affected.  Several cases have come up recently where the brains of dead young football players are, unexpectedly rife with the disease.  Michael Keck was 25 when he died.  16 years of football left his brain deformed and full of the signature protein of CTE.

Turns out, my aunt was right.  Research shows those who played tackle football before the age of 12 face a higher risk of altered brain development.  I cannot comprehend how this intuitive and obvious point could have been completely overlooked for a hundred years.  If a grade school gym teacher invented a game where third graders smacked each other over the head with padded bats, two or three hours a day, for three or four months, he or she would be arrested.  There is a painfully obvious reason why we don’t have grade school boxing or mixed martial arts teams.  Basic parenting instincts tell us that growing brains are fragile.  Go figure.

If you never played football, (or other contact sports), it’s hard to grasp how deeply ingrained the culture of denial is, related to injuries.  You are always getting hurt when you play football.  There are endless small injuries, abrasions, bruises, muscle soreness, strained knees, shoulders, mangled fingers, smashed feet etc.  These aren’t even considered injuries, because if they were, most games would be forfeited before they started for lack of “healthy” players.  If you make it to varsity high school football, you are willing and able to play through a certain amount of pain.  I suppose stoicism is character building, but it also makes it difficult for coaches, or even players themselves, to know which form of pain is actually dangerous, and which is just part of the price you pay to legally beat the shit out of people. The most dangerous aspect of the game is this lack of distinction.  I missed exactly one practice with a sprained back, and was treated like a traitor.  I was told,  “You are a linebacker, you’re not Allowed to be hurt.”  So, I played hurt.  If I took enough aspirin, or whatever it was, and applied this molten lava strength chemical, sort of a nuclear version of Icy Hot, my back went numb for several hours, allowing me to get through practice and games.  I wasn’t the champ, everyone was always hurt to some degree, but the only guys on the sidelines had sustained compound fractures.  One particularly tough bastard, was playing a week after dislocating his elbow on my head!

I played before the water era.  This bit of absurdity might give perspective. Until my senior year, water was for sissies.  A state law, put in place after a few heat stroke deaths, required coaches to grudgingly give us water every 45 minutes.  Before the law, you had to earn water.  So, if practice (in 95 degree, August heat) wasn’t brisk enough, you didn’t get to take a sip.  Water is for tennis players!  I don’t know where this deranged attitude started, but it was more or less universal for many years.

The game is changing, no doubt.  Hits that were commonplace when I played in the 80’s, warrant suspensions now, even in the NFL.  The problem for the future of football is two-fold, and in my opinion, insurmountable.  The culture of “toughness” inherent in the game, which leaves coaches and players unable or unwilling to call an injury an injury, coupled with increased knowledge of the risks involved, especially at the youth level, probably means we are not going to have a game that resembles football in twenty years.  Increased awareness often creates cognitive dissonance, a painful psychological state in which new information collides so completely with old paradigms, it is ignored for as long as possible.  Football is, by far, our most popular sport, and is so captivating, until recently, it wasn’t news that every year 12 kids, on average, die playing. CTE, and the growing wake of broken middle-aged men tossed aside by the NFL like old milk cows, and the formerly ignored, but now, painfully obvious idiocy of youth football, have made it impossible to look the other way.

World Gone Wrong ?

Did you know the devastation in Huston is a byproduct of climate change and therefore, is our fault?  North Korea wants to start WWIII for no discernible reason, besides the apparent insanity of KJU.  Vladimir Putin is responsible for everything bad that happens.  America is being consumed by Nazism. Resistance must include the elimination of free speech and street brawling. Attempting to enforce immigration laws is a hate crime. Black Lives Matter when they are taken in a narrative friendly manner (at the hands of white police officers), but do not matter when taken in off narrative scenarios like inner city combat between rival gangs, or as part of ongoing ethnic cleansing operations in Libya, carried out by US trained and funded terror groups.

It is happening.  The American collective mind is unraveling.  The slide into mass psychosis is accelerating. and nothing can stop the derangement.

Right?  Well, maybe.

Stepping back, removing one’s nose from the hungry wood chipper of social media and cable news, is like flip switching between two universes.  Outside it’s mostly sunny.  There is a party tonight for a relocating coworker.  The Mariners could somehow stumble into the playoffs, despite absorbing the most injuries to a pitching staff in the history of baseball.  People are suffering horribly in Huston.  There are reports of both heroism and looting.  Life is churning along; the beauty, hard to fathom, the tragic, seeping in…and we do our best.  But, in the dark chute of the wood chipper, all human civility was terminated when B. Obama left office and Donald “The Cretin” Trump poisoned our collective soul with his toxic cocktail of hucksterism, proud ignorance, hate speech and hubris.

How does a nation that twice elected a half black man as President, explode with latent Nazism, ten months after he leaves office?

It doesn’t.

The American, or perhaps universal human tendency to go soft in the head when drowned in ginned up hysteria, leaves us susceptible to a kind of demarcated blindness in which ONLY the current media hype is relevant.  The hype exists outside of time and is therefore context free.  The hysterics explode in every direction and people are reminded, yet again, that they are essentially powerless.  This powerlessness increases the need for JUSTICE, leading to the consumption of more hysterical media, hoping against hope to score a terminal blow against INJUSTICE.  Every few weeks a knew locus of outrage adds another log to keep the fire blazing and lining the pockets of media moguls, teleprompter readers, bloggers, YouTube screamers and crazed radio hosts.

Here’s some context.  READ THIS.

To state the obvious- there will always be hate groups because there will always be disaffected people of one sort or another, in any society.  The dominant group becomes more dangerous, more susceptible to hateful ideologies when stressed enough, economically or otherwise.  If history is any gauge, their numbers will rise and fall according to perceived external stressors, or lack thereof.

Trump must be viewed with this in mind.  He is a symptom of multifaceted, mostly white rage- at its core- rage at a hopelessly corrupt political system, wage stagnation, skyrocketing costs of almost everything and a burgeoning cult of political correctness whose fuel is hatred of all things “white.”  White self loathing is all the rage now and whites are overdosing and killing themselves in record numbers.  It follows that the dregs of the dominate culture (whitey), will seek out like minded idiots to revel in asinine master race narrative in order to stave off the perceived destruction of the white race. They are delusional, dangerous and should be seen as a stark warning that something, or many things are going wrong.

Worse, Antifa’s proud usage of goonery and calls for the end of free speech, are unwittingly playing into the would be Nazi moron’s half baked narrative in which whites must crush lesser races who seek to destroy them.  I submit that the Antifa folks and the KKK/Nazis are both victims of twisted logic. One lives in a fantasy world where a supreme race exists to dominate all others, the other believes social justice can be achieved through violence and speech policing.  Both are subject to the same general economic stagnation and political disenfranchisement (real and perceived), and both serve the existing power structure they claim to be at war with,  by growing the level of divisiveness that serves keep us exactly where we are.

More worse, media as it exists today, is perfectly designed to fracture and derange groups of people more efficiently than ever before.  The scary question we have to ask ourselves is, is it too late?  Can we speak hard truths and be heard over the groaning masses on each side convinced the only answer now, is violence?

The vast majority are either completely tuned out or mildly traumatized, but not sufficiently enraged to do anything about…whatever locus of rage and terror is in service of the system this week.  This also serves to keep the power structure exactly as it is.  See how this works?

 

 

 

Clarity of the Social Media Rabble

Idiot harvesting is big business today.  Some claim it’s the only game in town. Social media platforms surround us with like minded rubes united by a pathological need to be unaware of nuance, context or reality.  Clicks equal dollars and there is no going back.  What to do as the great American spirit is packaged into tiny capsules of addictive rage?  A smart person would simply turn away from the infestation and run to higher ground.  But we are getting dumber by the hour.  The sad joke is that each of us believes our eyes and thumbs have a unique perspective, a more real conception of the world than anyone else does, that our bubble is the virtuous bubble.  Pause to consider some event in your life that was either highly exhilarating, or horrifyingly disturbing, some moment that could be taken out of context and be polarizing when considered in a thoughtless manner.  Consider how you came to be in that specific place at that specific time to witness or experience the event, then ponder all that had to fall in line like a well crafted script to make the event possible, consider the complexity involved, the happenstance, intent, unconscious desires etc… Now Imagine a singular photo of the event being transmitted around the idiot harvesting universe.  How could anyone but you really understand all that went on?  The idiots would divide into prescribed camps and celebrate or demonize you and your event, not as a way of seeing, or of understanding, but rather, as a way of mentally masturbating themselves to achieve righteousness orgasm. Social media’s usefulness is quickly being overshadowed by dangerous levels of mindless polarization…that feed clicks…and clicks equal dollars.  Things can only get worse.

Sunny the Bigot?

In her Guardian article Why the lack of Indian and African faces in Dunkirk matters, Sunny Singh does an amazing job describing the horrors of identity politics, especially considering the amount of concrete she carries around between her ears.

BBC reports-

Historian John Broich says the Indian soldiers in Dunkirk were “particularly cool under fire and well organised during the retreat.”

“They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war,” he told Slate.

Singh suggests director Christopher Nolan is a racist bigot for only showing people of color in one shot.  Given that, according to an actual historian, there were perhaps a few hundred Indian soldiers out of hundreds of thousands at Dunkirk, the one fleeting shot would seem to be historically accurate.  Instead of comprehending how film narrative is built and tension and pacing is maintained, Singh’s racist radar detects sinister motives behind the film’s WHITEWASH.

Does this removal of those deemed “foreign” and “other” from narratives of the past express a discomfort with the same people in the present? More chillingly, does it also contain a wish to excise the same people from a utopian, national future? 

In the fractured reality Sonny Singh lives in, white filmmakers not illustrating the deeds of non whites obviously are trying to create an all white England. She continues in the same manner for most of the article.  Perhaps a film making class would be instructive.  Could it be that Nolan chose to limit the characters to white British men because the vast majority of those at Dunkirk happened to be white British men?  Was it a sinister racist plot to erase people of color from the past and the future, or was it a choice made to simplify a chaotic situation into a comprehensible narrative.  What is more likely, Nolan and his racist minions are part of a not so secret cabal to annihilate and expunge the presence of non white participants in WWII in order to begin the process of racial purification in Europe, or that Nolan produced a stylized piece of entertainment with the hopes of kicking ass at the box office?

“Dunkirk is not a war movie, it’s a survival story, and foremost a suspense film,” claims Nolan.  Is his claim a smokescreen for racist, white nationalist tendencies?  A quick look into his bio seems to suggest he is a very successful director of commercial movies…most of which are suspense films.

To follow Singh’s logic, it is an act of racist aggression every time a film is made that does not represent exactly the racial component of any given place at any given time.  To protect Singh’s sensibilities production companies will need to hire historians and demographics experts to meet her lofty demands of perfect racial historical representation, narrative be damned.  Artistic expression should be limited to dressed up demographic studies to insure the inclusion of everyone and defeat the forces of the great WHITEWASH.

Singh could have written an article describing the heroism and sacrifices made by people of color in the British empire during WWII and called for the next up and coming young filmmaker to tell their story.  What a fascinating film that could be.  Instead, she chose to see racism.  She chose to suggest that Nolan and his ilk are really making films to purify England of undesirables.

Could it be that Sunny Singh is a racist bigot?