Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pity the Brexiteers?

June 23rd. What a day. What a bloody day. I awoke with a knot of fear and excitement over the coming night's Brexit vote -- fear that they might vote Leave; excitement over the anticipated flood of relief I would experience once they almost certainly decided to vote Remain. And at some point in the shower, the thought crossed my mind again  -- as it had for much of the last month -- that we still didn't know the result of the Supreme Court's DAPA/DACA+ case, U.S. v. Texas, that would decide whether or not to grant some form of relief from deportation (however temporary and insecure) to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Oh well, I thought, they probably won't release the decision today. It occurred to me that the SCOTUS most likely released its opinions with an eye toward the news-cycle, and that they'd let us get Brexit over with before making any headlines of their own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cross-Posting V

Below is my latest column for the church newsletter, served up for your loving consumption. I have been meaning to write something along these lines ever since news of Brexit, the SCOTUS decision, etc. broke -- except that it would be about fifteen times as long while containing precisely the same number of ideas -- and I still intend to do so next time I have a spare day (ha!), but in the meantime, here is the essence of the thing, as hacked down to the size of its Procrustean newsletter bed, and rest assured that I will later reassemble the severed limbs and appendages -- diatribes, lists, run-ons, tangents, extraneous quotations and all -- and stitch them back together again, Frankenstein-like, to be exhibited on this page.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gun Control: Beware the Low-Hanging Fruit

Democrats! Liberals! Friends! You're so close to being right on this, don't screw it up now! I know as well as you do that a person has no more of a "constitutional right" to an AK-47 than he does to a tactical missile or a chemical weapon; I know that America's ghastly pattern of mass shootings cannot be accounted for by the N.R.A.'s division of the world into black hats and white hats (the so-called "bad guy with a gun," in Wayne LaPierre's world-picture, against whom must be matched, presumably, the man who shot Liberty Valence), but rather by our society's total failure to adopt any affordable mental health system, coupled with the ubiquitous access to guns and other deadly weapons that our society allows. And I too know what has to be done about it -- a ban on military-grade hardware, and further restrictions on the sale and possession of other kinds of guns as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Crocodile Tears

We have learned that there is something even more to be feared than Trump's hatred, and that is his sympathy. Read the speech in full if you do not yet believe me. It is a masterful work of manipulation; an artisan's performance of creeping insinuation. If you spent last Saturday night in a gay club, or had friends who did, and awoke the next morning with the thought: "that could have been me"; or, "that could have been them" -- see at first if Trump's speech doesn't actually move you in places, with its simulacrum of concern, its crocodile tears of compassion:
"Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community. They have been through something that nobody could ever experience. This is a very dark moment in America’s history. [...] It’s an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity."
Are these words you'd ever expect to hear from the GOP candidate for office? Could you have imagined such admirable words ten years ago? Then observe what inevitably follows:
"We have to address these issues head-on. I called for a ban after San Bernardino […] They’re pouring in and we don’t know what we’re doing. The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons. Now, any class — it really is determined and to be determined by the president for the interests of the United States."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Urban Legends, and Out-Groups

Browsing through Jan Brunvand's eminently salacious and digestible compendia of "urban legends" -- a series of books by a respected folklorist that progressively (or regressively?) shed their academic trappings with each volume and announce themselves ever more unapologetically as the guilty pleasures they are -- one is likely to encounter at least a few stories that are half-remembered from one's own childhood, if one grew up in this society. You've almost certainly heard the "call coming from inside the house" one, to pick the most obvious; or the one about the axe murderer in the backseat of the car (maybe you got it from Otto on The Simpsons, if you didn't hear it first from sadistic babysitters or older cousins or siblings, or from the big kids at school). And surely, at least, you encountered "the hook man" at some epoch of your youth. (Although I have to say, that last one never worked on me as a kid. The "punchline" (Brunvand's apt term), in which the bloodied hook is found clasping the door-handle of the car, always elicited from me a totally blank stare. "How did it get there?" Don't you get it? The guy was trying to open the car door when they pulled away and his hook-hand was ripped off. "... So?" Perhaps when I first heard it, I was too young to intuit the underlying sexual warning of the story. I didn't have the slightest idea what the couple was doing in the car -- or about to do -- before it peeled away.)

Monday, June 6, 2016

While Rome Berns

When I made my transition from Bernie supporter to Hillary grassroots donor, sending my first 11 dollars via online portal, the thank-you email I received in reply was not particularly auspicious. "Thanks for supporting Hillary," it said, or something to that effect -- and then, "The first few primaries are coming up. We hope we can count on you to have her back." ... The first few primaries? I made this donation about a month ago -- in other words, very well after the first few primaries had long since taken place. With all her campaign staff, and all her power, she was not able to update a simple auto-response email!

And in this is to be found a parable of Bernie and Hillary more generally. Hillary is not, and will never be, the cool candidate. She is not the exciting candidate. She is not the young person's candidate. She is, rather, the business as usual candidate. The living embodiment of the status quo. She is the muddling-through-as-we-usually-do candidate. And that is precisely why she has my support. As bad as the status quo may be, my friends, there is always room to get worse from here. Yes, ours is a cadaverous and bloated imperial democracy, with all its hypocrisy, and its cant, and its terrible callousness abroad. And by God, I would defend this rotten hulk of defeated aspirations against those who would try to burn it down and rear something incomparably uglier in its place.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Five Poems

Anno Trumpus

Dear God, you know how you have this way of not granting prayers
That are delivered by fervent words
And imploring cries,
With tearful eyes
And fretful fire?—
But you do have a way
Of making true
Those thoughts that speak
To shameful, meek and
Hastily withdrawn desires?—
Well, I must request I be permitted to formally retract
Any lark, thought, wish, fantasy, or act
That may, however fleetingly,
However lyingly, have implied
That the country should go to hell just
To enjoy the ride
Please this one time don’t make
That one come true
Make that job offer or marriage proposal instead
Fall through