Stay in your lane

“This day and age for all and not for one
All lies and secrets, put on, put on and on.” — Roland Orzabal

We have seen the first major legislative suggestion by president elect Joe Biden. He is proposing a 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief bill that would pay everyone 1400 dollars, extend unemployment benefits, provide schools with money to help them reopen, and provide for a raise in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. There are numerous other benefits in there including aid to states, families, and potentially paid leave.

Now, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? In short, it’s about political capital. Every president has political capital and depending on the results of the election that voted them in, some have more than others. Biden has a mandate of sorts, but the mandate is really about not being a mad man. Beyond that, he saw his advantage in the House shrink and he barely got the Senate by the skin of his chinny chin chin.

So, the question is what you choose to spend your political capital on. Donald Trump didn’t have a ton of political capital. He lost the popular vote the first time around, so he had to create it out of good will. He was incapable of doing that, so he spent his capital on a tax cut. Obama spent his on the Affordable Care Act and the bail outs to revitalize the economy.

In economics, we talk about the concept of opportunity costs. The whole idea is that the possibilities are limitless until you actually make a decision. What do you want to spend your political capital on? The plan above would spend a lot of it. It would give people the 2000 dollars (600 + 1400) that Congress couldn’t seem to pass, and would provide for key measures to roll out the vaccine and help stop the spread of the virus. The minimum wage hike will likely be the battle that spends a majority of that capital.

These are routine discussions we used to have back in the good ole’ days. Is the 15 dollar an hour minimum wage a hill worth dying on? How does that compare with the idea of expanding health care coverage, planks from the Green New Deal, and other things he talked about in his campaign? How does it compare to the desire to hold people in the current administration accountable for all of the bad acts that have occurred over the past four years?

The first smart thing that Biden has done is separate himself from all of that. He has already named Merrick Garland as his attorney general nominee and with a 50/50 Senate he should get approved. All of that becomes Garland’s problem. Biden established that the Justice Department would be independent and would represent the will of the people. Of course, they have political capital as well.

The Justice Department has the resources and wherewithal to prioritize a few things in each administration. The tentacles of Trump’s illegal activities runs pretty deep. Are you only going after him? Are you going after him and his family? Are you going after close associates and aides? Are you waging a full-scale war against everyone that had anything to do with Wednesday’s insurrection? These are all important questions and ones that are not easily answered.

James Comey (the former FBI Director) suggested that Biden pardon Donald Trump. The suggestion is interesting even though it is not particularly persuasive. It goes back to political capital. Such an act might not only preserve some that the Justice Department has, but it might even give Biden’s some boost with Trump’s voters. It would almost certainly take some away from the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Biden would have to decide whether he would stand to gain more than he would lose. Like I said, it’s interesting but not particularly persuasive.

The best use of political capital is simply understanding why you are where you are. What exactly is your mandate? In the case of Biden, his mandate is probably one that would be similar to Pope Benedict’s mandate when he was elected to replace Pope John Paul II. The church had gone through major upheaval during JPII’s run as pope and the cardinals didn’t want another reformer. They wanted everything to stabilize.

Some of the American people want Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage, the Green New Deal, and other progressive planks. I suspect the voters that threw Biden over the top (keep in mind that he defeated Trump soundly in spite of the GOP gaining seats in the House) were the ones that just wanted a return to normalcy. So, he might be better off leaving some of those fights for the next president.

That might mean spending considerable political capital changing election laws to safeguard our democracy. Gerrymandering is a huge concern as the makeup of Congress doesn’t reflect the will of the people. Voter suppression is a huge concern as the makeup of Congress doesn’t reflect current demographics. Obviously, there could be a huge fight over absentee voting and other new measures. Congress could go in and put some of these new measures in stone before another would be despot tries to further erode the mechanisms of our democracy.

It’s a daunting list of priorities. People will be wise to temper their expectations of a Biden presidency before it begins. Some are more effective than others at getting what they want. Yet, a careful study of the last few presidents shows that you aren’t going to get everything. You might not even get most of it. We judge him on what he chooses to go after. Will it be worth it?

Blame the victim

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” — George Orwell

I had one of those conversations with a coworker yesterday that kind of crystallized everything that has been going on over the past few weeks. It also happened to tie what I have been talking about into a neat bow. The last week at least has been dominated by the desire to hold at least the president accountable, make people understand how penance works, and the desire from some to unplug from online life because they don’t like how political things have gotten.

Mind you, I didn’t ask for this conversation. We started talking baseball innocently enough. Then it came out. The Democrats were causing all of this unrest by ignoring the feelings of the 74 million people that voted for Donald Trump. It was their hateful rhetoric that started this. It was the fact that they were now impeaching him twice for essentially no reason. It was only going to cause more strife.

Before I rip into that nonsense specifically, let me tie together the other items I have been talking about in recent weeks. Of course, that line of thinking aligns perfectly with the notion that we just need to move on and unite as a country. It falls right into the notions that “you said some things and I said some things, so let’s just agree to move forward holding hands and singing kumbaya.”

I can’t help but notice that all of the people that I have seen say they are dropping Facebook lately are all conservative. All of them. So, I thought to myself: what do these people all have in common? The answers are all pretty stark. They say that things have become too political. They don’t want to be bombarded with hate and vitriol. They want to stay connected to their friends and family, but they don’t want to stay connected with what is going on in society.

I think we all get that on some level. Yet, what these folks all have in common is that they all come from positions of privilege. That by itself isn’t a judgment. I do too. The trouble is that when we choose connect on a platform we choose to connect with people that may or may not share that privilege. We choose to connect to their joy. We choose to connect to their pain. We choose to connect to their triumphs and we choose to connect to their anguish.

The standby response for those a little more understanding of the capital siege is to whatabout the demonstrations from this past summer. Sure, they will admit this past Wednesday was wrong in some abstract kind of way, but they honestly don’t see the difference. It’s all very connected. The desire to disconnect from social media, get to a place of unity, and whatabout an attempted insurrection all comes from the same place. It is a place of denial.

It is a place of entitlement. We are entitled to be in charge. It is our birthright. The idea that we are being taken over by socialists is not real in that sense. What they see are not really socialists. What they see are people that want to wrestle the reigns of society away from the privileged and give it to more people. Government assistance has always existed. It’s just about who the government chooses to assist.

Millions saw Donald Trump as the last line of that defense. They saw him hate the same people they hated. He unlocked something in them that had been smoldering for over a generation. Others saw him and didn’t like what he said. They didn’t really hate anyone, but they wanted to keep their position in society. So, they defended him even though they saw what he was doing. So, when he got in trouble they blamed the Democrats.

Just consider a few things. People have very short memories. The current president is always treated unfairly and no other president has ever been treated this way. I have vivid memories of people calling Bill Clinton a communist. I have vivid memories of people calling George W. Bush a war criminal. I have vivid memories of people calling Barack Obama every racist name in the book and flat out refusing to cooperate with him from day one. So, the fact that people have opposed Trump is not new.

Two things are new. First, more people in his administration have been indicted and convicted than any administration in the history of this country. Secondly, his supporters attempted insurrection. Did the Clinton supporters do this when Republicans were being mean to him? Did Bush supporters do this when Democrats were being mean to him? Did Obama supporters demonstrate and kill the racists among us in the name of Obama? Let’s see if we can figure out how these situations are different.

Our collective response says a lot about us as people. There is a mountain of shame we have to collectively overcome. It is a shame that comes from installing a man into power that is openly hostile to women, people of color, and anyone else that is disenfranchised for any reason. The shame comes from a man that neglected his duties and is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The shame comes from a man that treated the rule of law like a disposable menu at the Seafood Shack. The shame comes from knowing that event a small part of us was on board for any of it.

We must choose how we need to deal with that shame. Some of us have chosen to run away from it by unplugging from social media. In the past, that might have meant retreating to the wilderness. Now, we just have to click a few buttons. Others have chosen to blame the victims. It’s their fault we are in this mess. If they would have been silent and compliant while they were being abused then none of this would have ever happened. Some are bargaining by calling for unity and trying to distance themselves as carefully as possible. A few are meeting it head on. They are being vilified now, but history will remember them well.

Free speech isn’t free

“You talk too much, you talk too much,
I can’t believe the things that you say everyday
If you keep on talking baby,
You know you’re bound to drive me away.” — George Thorogood

We have seen two reactions to the past week’s events from most conservatives. Both reactions prove yet again that the party of responsibility has taken a break from that mantra and taken on the mantle of the party of whining. Essentially, they are taking no responsibility for the events of the past week and have just proven to be tone deaf.

The main takeback seems to be that we collectively should ignore what has happened in the last week. We should let bygones be bygones and move on in favor of unity. Unity. That’s been the big buzzword. I’m not exactly sure how that is supposed to work.

A few years ago we caught our daughter stealing. We have made a habit out of withdrawing a certain amount of cash per week so that we can make routine purchases with cash. We might use it when going out to eat or going to the grocery store. It keeps us from using our credit card too often which keeps our identity from being stolen and keeps the balances on those cards low. She was stealing that cash from us.

The first part of the reckoning was determining exactly how much was stolen. Then, we moved on to the whole idea behind what the cash was for and why she felt she was entitled. At that point, she understood where she was wrong. However, she wasn’t off the hook. She had to repay every penny back. Part of that was through labor around the house and part of that was in taking her allowance, Christmas, and birthday money. It took her awhile, but eventually she paid the money back. Now, she is forgiven.

The Catholic sacrament of reconciliation is a fascinating one (as all of the sacraments are). It’s one which is not shared with Protestants. Protestants teach us that we can go directly to God for forgiveness. I’m not here to argue which is better, but the Catholic version has a key step that can’t be overlooked. A part of the process of forgiveness is going through something called penance. You can look at it as a penalty for committing the sin, but it’s really a way to make amends for what has been done. The notion comes from the idea that one cannot be truly sorry for what they have done until they at least attempt to make restitution for their bad acts.

Obviously, that’s easier in some cases than others. If you have committed murder (say killing a member of the Capitol police) it is next to impossible to truly make restitution. However, the attempt to make restitution goes a long way. The hurt feelings don’t ever fully go away, but the act of saying you are sorry AND the act of making restitution certainly helps.

Conservative complaints in the past week seem to be fought on two different fronts, but they stem from the same issue. They want to be forgiven for their role in an event without saying they are sorry and without making any attempts to mitigate the fallout. They have complained incessantly about the president being banned on social media and many of them are complaining about losing their own Twitter followers. A number of them have even called it all censorship.

I can’t believe I have to do this, but let me breakdown the first amendment for everyone so there is no confusion. It starts off by saying, “Congress shall make no law…” If a private company chooses to ban you from its service or chooses to reduce your influence by banning people that followed you that is not censorship. You do not have a right to tweet.

Furthermore, the first amendment goes on to say to we have the right to freedom of speech, expression, religion, and to peaceably assemble. Supreme Court cases have long maintained that these rights are not absolute. If I am meeting to plot or execute insurrection then I am not peaceably assembling. If my speech incites violence it is certainly not free. I bear some weight for those subsequent events.

Conservatives bear a great deal of weight for the events of the past week. Their rhetoric has stoked the flames and enraged the unhinged members of their herd. As much as they might claim they didn’t mean for any of this to happen, it is hard to not see the connection between their words and the mob’s deeds. So, if they truly want unity they cannot get there merely by calling for unity. They need to do so much more.

First, they need to acknowledge that they have been unnecessarily stoking people’s anger and mistrust by incorrectly claiming their was fraud in this election. They must tell people that Joe Biden was elected in a fair and legitimate election. They must admit they were lying and ask for forgiveness for shamelessly lying to the American people. Some of them may even have to accept some legal punishment for stoking the rage that caused last week’s events.

In parlance, they have to pay it back. They have to go through their penance. You cannot unify without accountability. You cannot move forward until you fully acknowledge what has happened in the past. We have tried to do that before and it felt right in the moment, but we not know that it is not possible to really unite. Impeaching the president is a good first step, but it is only the first step. Now begins the hard work.

Looking for a home

“Walked out this morning, I don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home.”– Sting

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “may you live in interesting times.” I’m not exactly sure whether that’s supposed to be a fortune, prophecy, or a curse. I guess it could be said that we are always living in interesting times. Some times are just more interesting than others.

I’ve seen a number of people lately that have chosen to leave Facebook. I suppose Facebook is the addiction for people in my age group. The younger crowd prefers Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat. Either way, they provide us with a way to stay connected to friends, stay connected to the world, and stay connected to family. Occasionally, those three intersect in a way that makes us increasingly uncomfortable.

I get it. I have been posting these to my public wall recently and have been sharing them with a few select friends. The ones that say they are leaving say they are fed up with the politics and the fighting. I get that too. Part of me realizes that I’m playing a role in that. A part of the cost of that connection is being forced to choose how to deal with how that connection makes us feel.

It wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t get bombarded with news and constant updates on the news every minute of every day. You might have the nightly news cover a major news story for ten minutes and then everything would go dark until the next day. It wasn’t until our childhood before we had cable and then we didn’t have 24 hour news until we were out of high school.

The emotional toll of getting constant updates, alerts, and commentary can seem overwhelming. Then, add to that the slings and arrows of people we may have known somewhat well back in school and it can seem like all too much. If I simply counted the number of people I am friends with on Facebook from high school it would easily outnumber the people I was actually close to in high school. It’s similar to the number of people that shared a class with that one now famous member of your graduating class. I didn’t know they could fit 80 people in a Chemistry class.

So, some of us surf the internet looking for a social network that allows us to see family photos and shots of the last vacation without diving into a political diatribe. I’m keenly aware of this. It’s the main reason why I’ve refocused my energies to write one of these a day. I can say what I need to say, post it for those that want to read it, and then go about my day. I can go to my private groups where we can all collectively complain about the same things and no one is the wiser.

As tempting as it is to unplug from the world, the world will always be waiting for us when we get back. We certainly don’t have the energy to fight every battle and no one expects us to. Yet, we need to stand up and be counted for some of them. None of us want to be bombarded with politics and I have certainly snoozed more than a few people lately. Still, these times make it unavoidable. So, for those wanting to leave I wish them the best of luck and hopefully we won’t be total strangers. Being a part of the madness is somehow preferable to having to put my message in a bottle.

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.” — Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was a Nobel Laureate and a Holocaust survivor. His entire family ended up perishing between two different concentration/death camps including Auschwitz. When you mix his story with the subject of the headline you can’t help but draw the immediate comparison with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Often, the best writers and activists end up mirroring each other even if by accident.

King spoke of this in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. On the subject of peace he said, “the white moderate (who) is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” If we look at what is going on now in Washington and throughout America we see examples of this run amok.

After awhile, you begin to filter out the noise from those just don’t see. Either they are too ignorant to see or they actively see and agree. The people that try your patience are those that see and prefer to allow things to die down rather than meet the issue head on. There are those that now understand the dangers that Trump presents and yet want Congress to do nothing so that everything dies down. They don’t like the tension.

I get it on a certain level. There are only ten days left. Once he is out of office he is out of power. Ex-presidents don’t carry a ton of influence. Only one ex-president has ever successfully run again after leaving office. Teddy Roosevelt is the last one to try and he did as a member of a third party and ultimately failed. Essentially, these folks want to have their cake and eat it too. They acknowledge that the current president isn’t normal and yet they want to treat the situation as if it is normal.

The meek middle need to consider lessons from history. Specifically, they need to broaden their historical horizons and look at situations from outside this country. What we witnessed was a failed coup. The trap we lull ourselves into is that we saw both strong institutions that withstood the attempt and the abject failure of the attempt. Attempted murder is still a crime no matter how haphazard the attempt. The person willing to go to those lengths is still dangerous no matter how stupid they may seem.

History is marred with numerous despots that failed in their first attempts at claiming power. Usually, they were caught, but somehow escaped harsh punishment. Maybe those countries wanted to practice forgiveness and leniency. Maybe they thought (as some here are currently thinking) that harshly punishing those involved would somehow cause an uprising. I think we all get it on a certain level. Yet, in each and every instance those despots used that kindness to their advantage.

This is not an American problem. At least it’s not one that is peculiarly American. It is the same problem that countries have faced for centuries. Appeasement has been tried before and it has failed every time. Donald Trump has been allowed to continue because either those in his inner circle have stopped him or his attempts at illegally obtaining power have failed so miserably that it inspires laughter more than focused fear.

Yet, each time he has gone a little further. He is the six year old testing out our limits. So far, he hasn’t seen any. He tried strong arming a foreign leader into giving him what he wanted. He tried strong arming a state level official into overturning the election for him. Now, he tried turning his ardent supporters loose to go take the capital and maybe even kidnap or kill several officials including his vice president. Each attempt failed. That failure might seem comforting, but it is downright scary to those that take the intent seriously.

The vast majority of dictators from history didn’t begin that way. They didn’t roll out of bed one day ready to command millions to do their bidding. It was a gradual process and for most it involved plenty of failure. That failure afforded the forces of law the opportunity to rid themselves of that threat. They failed partially because they couldn’t predict the future. They failed because they couldn’t perceive the threat. Let’s not make that mistake ever again.

We begin by throwing the book at Donald Trump. He needs to be impeached, barred from holding federal office ever again, and then thrown in jail for sedition and possibly even treason. From there, you throw every single person that played a role in the planning of Wednesday’s events or were a part of carrying it out in jail. If they prevented the capital police from doing their job they belong in jail. If they are members of the capital police and they allowed the protesters in on purpose they belong in jail. If they serve in the administration and they were involved in coordination of the plot or were responsible for inhibiting the national guard from arriving in time then they belong in jail. If they were one of those inciting violence they belong in jail. If they were one of those perpetuating the lie about fraud they belong in jail. That means administration officials. That means former mayors and U.S. attorneys. It means sitting senators and representatives. It might even mean the wife of a Supreme Court justice. They all go to jail and they don’t see the light of day.

You never give an inch to a would be dictator. We have given several feet to Donald Trump because he seems so pathetic and normally he would be exiting stage right. Nothing about this is normal. Nothing. We have seen this too many times in history. You don’t exile Trump to his own island. You let him rot for the rest of his days inside a jail cell.

The Case for Impeachment

“Oh, Then as of this moment, they’re on double secret probation!” — Dean Wormer

It seems futile. There are only 11 more days of the Trump presidency. Half of his cabinet is either gone or led by an acting secretary. So, a 25th amendment remedy is a longshot at best. We’ve already done the impeachment thing and we saw how that worked out. So, why in the world would the House of Representatives do it again?

I can think of three valid reasons to go through the process again. I will build to the best reason in a kind of creshendo. So, we start with the symbolic reason for doing it. Obviously, only three presidents have been impeached. No one has ever been impeached twice. That would put Trump clearly in the history books for all eternity.

Why does that matter? A famous person once said that all it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing. Yes, you can sit back and stew for a week and a half. You can accept the fact that the clock will run out on the Trump presidency. You can accept the fact that almost all of his political allies have abandoned him. What does that say to future generations?

Susan Collins infamously said that she did not vote for conviction during the last impeachment preceedings because she felt “he had learned his lesson.” He sure did. He learned that no one was ever going to hold responsible for anything. At least, the Republicans weren’t going to hold him responsible.

That dovetails us into our second point. The Democrats can accomplish two things just by passing the articles of impeachment. They get to stand up and be counted as saying that what Trump did was unforgiveable. It’s far past time to soft-pedal what we have witnessed over the past four years. Trump committed sedition. Trump committed treason. We can’t use euphemisms anymore. We can’t excuse it and say it will go away. It isn’t an abberration. He isn’t misundertood. He isn’t going to pivot. There’s nowhere to pivot to.

Impeachment says we saw what you did and we want to hold you to account. Naturally, it will take Republicans to finally hold him to account. That’s the second point. This would force them once and for all to go on the record. Are you for America or are you for Trump? There is no third way. There is no middle ground. There is no yeah…but. You have to choose and you have to choose now.

It would produce a watershed moment for each Republican individually and the Republican party as a whole as a national party. If you vote for Trump you are dead politically. Sure, there will always be individual districts that go conservative. Maybe a new conservative party can emerge to take control of those districts. As a national party they will be dead if they fail to do the right thing in this moment. There are no more excuses.

Finally, we get to the real ramifications of voting to convict. Trump can’t be removed from an office that he no longer inhabits and it is likely that Senate proceedings would last beyond January 20th. However, a part of that impeachment and removal would bar him from ever holding public office ever again.

A large part of Trump’s power and his graft has been the threat of running again in 2024. That allows him to continue fund raising. That allows him to act as the de facto head of the Republican party. He isn’t likely to run again no matter what, but he can continue to bilk the masses out of their hard earned money by making them think he will.

It would be more likely that Donald Jr. or Ivanka would think they could take up the mantle. A Senate vote to convict would almost certainly be the precursor to more legal problems for the whole family. They might all be wearing orange before those elections come about.

The hard part is what to do with the rest of us. Senator Hawley saw a Simon-Schuster book deal go up in smoke because of his support for the president. He complained about cancel culture. His first amendment rights were violated. Bullshit. The first amendment doesn’t protect you from personal blowback of your speech.

It is time to freeze out those that still support the president. They need to have whatever power and influence effectively neutered. I’m looking at Hawley. I’m looking at Ted Cruz. I’m looking at Lindsay Graham. I’m looking at Ken Paxton. I’m looking at Dan Patrick. They all need to suffer horrible political deaths. It will be the best thing that can possibly happen. Let it be said from this point forth that if you supported this president after he got the ball rolling on this attempted insurrection that you will have your political balls cut off in front of God and everyone.

What that means for us in our daily lives is obviously more challenging and more tricky. This isn’t about liberal vs. conservative. My conservative friends were wholeheartedly against all of this. This is America vs. Trump. If you stand with Trump I don’t want to know you anymore.

The Party of Denial

“What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself; who gives your arguments a fair hearing and simply persists in his lunacy?”George Orwell

We watched in horror as domestic terrorists stormed the capital. They went at the behest of their dear leader, who urged them on just minutes before. One of his goons talked of a trial by battle. Of course, none of them said to storm the capital outright. They are much too smart for that. Yet, anyone paying attention knew exactly what he wanted them to do.

As overwhelmingly angry as most us are at the events themselves and the president’s behavior surrounding it, it is the behavior by conservatives after the fact that is the most exasperating. Conservatives have gone from the party of personal responsibility to the party of denial.

It was impossible to deny that the event occurred. We saw it on national television with our very eyes. Again, we couldn’t deny how bad it was or how bad it looked. We saw it. So, a number of people (including conservative media) went to the only place they felt they could. They blamed it on Antifa. Yup, you heard me correctly. Antifa.

They were apparently bused in in order to cause disruptions and make you think it was conservative jackasses that did what they did. Earlier on in his presidency, Trump told us we could not believe what we see and we could not believe what we hear. It was a statement ripped almost directly out of George Orwell’s 1984.

Those are mere facts and facts and reality have a liberal bias. So, we didn’t see the rally just hours before. We didn’t hear the president urge them to action. We didn’t see all of the people we knew to be MAGA nuts and Q enthusiasts. None of that really happened. Got it.

On a certain level I get it. Shame is a dreadful feeling. It is particularly dreadful when you feel it for things you did not directly do. No one I know stormed the capital. No one I know has hit a cop in protest. No one I know has cheered at watching a cop go to the hospital or die. No one would brazenly declare that blue lives matter and then act in a way to prove that they don’t. No one I know did any of those things.

Yet, people I know have somehow found a way to say it was Antifa. People I know somehow found a way to talk about violence in protests in the summer as a way to change the subject. People I know tried to distance themselves from this as a way to detach. This is your shame. It is right here and it isn’t going away. You’ll have to deal with it just like the rest of us.

Webster’s dictionary defines conserve as “protect (something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction.” We know the environment is not important to most conservatives. So, obviously they are preserving something cultural. They feel it slipping away. What is it exactly that they feel slipping away? What is it that Donald Trump was able to tap into so effectively?

Eventually, all of us have to come to grips with what that is precisely. We all know what it is, but we dare not speak its name. The party of personal responsibility is really the party of denial. They denied science first. Then, they denied facts. Now, they are denying the very shame we all feel. Most importantly, they are denying what is at the heart of it all.

The irony is overwhelming. A party that says they are for personal responsibility has told people that others are responsible for their lot in life. Immigrants in caravans are coming to take away the lifestyle that is rightfully there’s. Socialists in government want to give racial minorities free stuff to buy their vote. Your life is going to hell in a handbasket and you aren’t responsible for one damn bit of it.

So, when a majority of people rejected that narrative they denied that too. Trump couldn’t possibly have lost. Nearly 400,000 people have not died. If they did die they died from something else. He isn’t just lining his own pockets. He really cares about us. Dear Leader loves us. Dear Leader is fighting for us. Dear Leader is preserving the way of life some of us are clinging to in not so quiet desperation.

This is your shame. This is your life. It is all right here and there is no one you can blame for it. There is no one else responsible for it. There is no mysterious group we can pin it on. Whether you want to call them Antifa, the Deep State, Socialists, or any other bogeyman the right wing media talking heads want to call it. They aren’t responsible. We are. Real Americans stormed the capital on Wednesday.

The good news is that unless you were physically there you are not literally responsible. We are only responsible for how we choose to react. Do we hold those that pushed for this ultimately responsible? Do we shun the ideas that begat something like this? That’s the only way we wash away the shame. We can’t just waive a magic wand and pretend it didn’t happen or blame it on a mysterious group like Antifa. That crap won’t fly anymore.

The Hate you take

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” — Paul McCartney

I make my living in English classes. Sure, I’ve taught every social studies class on the books, but I’ve actually spent as many years teaching English as I did social studies. In English classes we analyze speech, books, poems, and short stories. A large part of the course is the ability to read and understand fiction and nonfiction work.

So, we are going to do that today. I am going to take the president’s video remarks to “protesters” in their entirety. They won’t be edited. They won’t be truncated. They won’t be paraphrased. You will see them exactly as they were delivered. Often seeing the spoken word in written form is enlightening.

“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.

But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time.

There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election.

But we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated — that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.”

Of course, to completely appreciate these comments we have to backtrack and go over the events of the day and the events leading up to that day. Trump hosted a rally in Washington that morning. He played all the usual hits. The election was stolen. There was obvious fraud. You know the stuff. He then told them that we will take them out together. I’ll be with you.

What makes the first stanza so infuriating is that we all know these claims are false. He knows it. Those carrying his water in Congress know it. His lawyers know it. Most of the media pundits on the right know it. He is willing to play on the fears and emotions of a bunch of idiots and didn’t particularly care what they did. Some of them even know its false and don’t care. They just want to burn it all down. Even if the statements were true or possibly true you still don’t tell an angry mob that has already caused tons of damage that they are justified in their anger.

The second stanza seems fine on its own and wouldn’t be so horrible if we didn’t know that he sent out the crowd in a rage earlier that day. Imagine shaking up a bottle of coke and then expressing shock and dismay when it spews coke everywhere. Given his comments earlier in the day this whole stanza rings hollow.

In the third stanza we double down on the lie that the election was stolen. Of course, now that Congress has certified the results the president has no leg to stand on. He’s assured us there will be a smooth transition of power. He hasn’t conceded of course. He stills says he won in a landslide and that everything was stolen. Repeating the same lie twice in the same statement is just beyond comprehension.

The last stanza requires a whole new level of Zen to get through. Some folks call it gaslighting. Psychologists call it projection. Essentially you just take everything you’ve done and accuse the other side of doing it. It is whataboutism. The Antifa and black lives matter protesters are the evil ones. You know the ones protesting racial injustice and budding authoritarianism. You know the ones that didn’t bring guns and didn’t destroy government buildings. Those are the evil ones. You, the folks that threatened government officials, destroyed government property, and did it all at gunpoint. You are the good people in all of this.

The only word I can use to describe the way I feel after hearing that is rage. Imagine having a speech that is supposed to calm people down inducing rage. Of course, my rage is directed at him. For anyone inclined to agree with him it would ratchet up the rage towards those in Congress, the capital police, and anyone else trying to keep order. It’s hard to imagine him not knowing that. It is hard to imagine him thinking this speech was really going to calm anything down.

Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media weren’t buying it either. They shut him down for at least twelve hours. In light of yesterday’s events, that seems extremely light. Supposedly, the cabinet was considering invoking the 25th amendment and removing him from office. Some of his staff were considering resignation. Wow, with 13 days left. We will have to be satisfied with hearing that some people are considering the minimum level of moral courage just for a fleeting moment.

In terms of the Beatles chronology, the line referenced above was actually the last line McCartney wrote as a Beatle. The album “Let it Be” was actually recorded before “Abbey Road” even though it was released later, and they jumbled the order of the songs in “Abbey Road”. “In the end” was supposed to be the last song. The line is short, sweet, and to the point. It is the most brilliant thing McCartney has ever written lyrically. It has the added bonus of being true even in reverse. The hate you take is equal to the hate you make. McCartney would go on to have a long and distinguished solo career, but he would never equal the power of that one lyric. Nothing Trump says or does will top this or erase this. This will be his lasting legacy. May God have mercy on his soul because I’m not sure anyone else should.

Exhaustion

“Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” — Steve Winwood

Years ago, my wife and I went to the Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood concert at Toyata Center. It was ridiculously expensive, but well worth it. Clapton is a personal favorite of ours. We ran into my uncle. He is a big Steve Winwood fan and this song is his personal favorite. Admittedly, most of the time, the lyrics I post are carefully selected to weave a theme throughout the entire piece.

I’m not sure we can say that today, but they do reveal a more general theme or feeling. Most of us are exhausted. It has been an ongoing battle over the virus, over the presidential election, over the Georgia Senate races, and all of the shenanigans related to all of that.

Our campus and district is inviting back 200 students from virtual learning today. Inviting back is a euphemism for being compelled to return. We have a total of between 1400 and 1500 students. Approximately half were learning from home. So, you can do the math in terms of percentage increase.

Meanwhile, the city of Houston and Harris county prepare to scale back openings. So, you have one government entity doing one thing and another doing the opposite. It used to be that we generally agreed to put politics aside on issues of public health. For years, Democrats and Republicans successfully worked together locally during and following storms. Now, what you do and who you listen to depends on whether you are a donkey or an elephant.

Of course, today sees the intersection of final battle over whether Biden will be inaugurated and they continue to count the ballots in Georgia from last night’s runoff election. Biden’s inauguration is a foregone conclusion and in any other year his ascendance to the presidency would have been decided and done with two months ago.

As of this moment, the networks have called the election for Rapheal Warnock and Jon Ossoff has a slim lead with 98 percent of the precincts reporting. Experts say that the stereotypically Democratic areas are the last to report. So, their slim leads (around or less than a percentage point) could grow slightly to a whopping two points.

Both stories will collide with the same undertones in both. Opponents of the president elect will debate on the floors of Congress and allege fraud and illegal activity that doesn’t exist. Once the Georgia races are decided they will do the same. They are already making calls of losing to the “Socialists.” Apparently, a 50/50 Senate will somehow descend into the pits of the Bolshevik revolution.

Meanwhile, in the last week we saw four states eclipse 1000 deaths alone. One of those is Texas where I live. We have a national and state government that seems to just hope that people will magically be vaccinated. They don’t seem to understand that they have to actually do something to ramp up production, set up distribution networks, and make hard decisions in prioritizing who gets it and who doesn’t.

The exhaustion comes not from dealing with these issues. These issues are a part of everyday life. The exhaustion comes in watching an administration fail so miserably that it lost an election by the widest margin of any incumbent since Herbert Hoover in 1932. It’s watching the Democrats take control of the Senate even after overwhelming voter suppression. It’s seeing all of this only to watch them fight the results themselves.

Sports fans know defeat probably more than they know victory. Only one team can win the title every year, so by sheer definition most teams go away disappointed. Many fans leave the stadium or the arena feeling like they were cheated from victory. A referee or umpire blew a call. A manager/coach made a tactical mistake. A player choked. This is normal.

What isn’t normal is to be making these same pleas two months later. Eventually you have to accept the fact that your team wasn’t good enough to win. You go back to the locker room or clubhouse, regroup, and start planning for the next season or next game.

There will always be disagreements over how to move forward. There will be strategy changes and personnel changes along the way. Yet, there have to be changes and people have to move forward. Claiming victory when the scoreboard clearly says you lost is just pathetic and exasperating. The referees didn’t conspire against you. There was no fraud. You are wasted and it’s time to find your way home.

The light at the end of the tunnel

“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.” — Don McLean

One of those life moments happened yesterday and it has the feeling of being anti-climatic now. I was able to get one of the first runs of the vaccine. In this case, I got the Moderna version, but it really doesn’t make a difference because they have the same protocols. You have to take two rounds before they become fully effective.

My second dose is scheduled for the beginning of February, so I’m obviously not really protected until at least then. Still, we have heard reports of health care workers testing positive even after getting the vaccine. Most experts assert that it will take at least several weeks for the antibodies to build up enough to protect you.

So, this is a dangerous time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel finally after a seemingly unending winter that has lasted nearly a year. The question is whether that light is the sun or an oncoming train. I suspect that will largely depend on how we collectively handle the next few months as we wait for most people to get vaccinated.

This is where the story of how I got vaccinated becomes relevant. Our district sent out a questionnaire to all of its employees. If you work as a health care provider (school nurses), are over 65, or have an underlying health condition then you get to move to the front of the line. I have Diabetes Type 2, so I got added to the list.

They (it will remain vague since I’m not exactly sure which agency is running it) set up a station at our district fieldhouse and I waited in a line of cars at my prescribed time. They verified my appointment, took my temperature and then vaccinated me without me having to leave my car. I waited for 15 minutes afterwards just to make sure there were no side effects and then went home.

I tell this story for two reasons. First, it highlights an important lesson. Government can work. One of the myths of the last 40 years is that government is just a collection of incompetent boobs that couldn’t organize a two car funeral procession. Yet, we have examples every day of this not being the case. If they are allowed to and given the resources to, government can run an efficient and effective organization.

Conservatives have run a four decade con game they call “starving the beast.” Essentially, they have defunded (remember that term?) so many government programs that it has achieved the appearance that government cannot work. If you give someone 20 dollars to do a 100 dollar job you will come away underwhelmed. Some details will be missed and some expertise will be missing. It’s tempting to focus on the failure and not on why the failure occurred.

The second reason for the story is simple. Even though some of us are getting the vaccine, that does not mean we are out of the woods. Health experts have said these next couple of months will be the most dangerous yet. Part of that is the fact that we are still in the winter when flu season is at its worst. The other part is that as people get vaccinated, more and more people will think we have finally returned to normal. They’ll stop wearing masks, stop socially distancing, and start having mass gatherings again. The death toll will skyrocket and somehow it will be blamed on the new administration.

Sure enough, local conditions (Houston and Harris county) are already dire enough for the mayor and county judge to consider shutdowns again. At the same time, our school is not only going back, but we are set to add 200 new students that used to be learning online. I’ve talked about that before and educationally the reasoning is sound, but when you consider just the idea of putting more people in close proximity to each other it just doesn’t make much sense.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have shut down before. At least we squandered the time we gained to get something done that would make us substantially safer. It seems the outgoing administration never really quite understood the fact that you actually have to do something. Now, people don’t want to hear calls of another shut down. I get it. However, now seems like a perfect opportunity. We can see the end. If vaccine production could be ramped up, we could get most people vaccinated by this Spring. Then, it would be mostly over. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is up to us as to whether it is sunlight or an oncoming train.