Hey, GOP, Now What?

–I found this draft in my folder from August on 2016.  Twenty nine months later, it feels even more tragic than it did then.  During the campaign, I remember thinking that policial *rhetoric* had died.  Now, it seems the great art of statesmanship itself has been discarded in favor of strongman autocracy. I do not know where we go from here, and I genuinely hate that it seems our constitutional government requires what will be very aggressive accountability.  Can a system so corrupt be restored? what sacrifices will that require? Where do we start? — 

I remember reading the articles in 2004.  John Kerry was not a popular presidential candidate and upon his nomination and subsequent loss, the pundits called the Democratic party unfocused, a shamble, and generally were ready to write the whole thing off.  The progressive movement had stalled and it seemed as if we were entering a time of renewed “family values” a re-normalizing of racism, sexism and militarism as the foundations of our country.

However, Kerry was simply uninspiring. He didn’t motivate the “fringe left” and was considered too centrist for many.  Apathy was the biggest threat.  A lack of passion and turn out.  That year, George Lakoff wrote a book “Don’t Think of an Elephant”  and challenged progressives to “reframe” the conversation. This wasn’t new, and Lakoff wasn’t the first.  But his simple book equipped community organizers, pastors, thinkers, and a great rising president all to begin to ask what could unify the diverse coalitions that compose the American left.

So in 2016, we watched two conventions, and the second was not reactionary. In fact, it was Trump’s reaction to the DNC convention that probably created the most enduring story of either convention.  One eloquent Muslim American, Harvard-trained lawyer, father spoke of his son, a solider who died while serving in the U.S. Army.   He looked at screen and offered Trump a pocket copy of the Constitution.

(Draft ended, conclusion from 2018) 

Later we learned that Khizr Khan often carries these in his pocket.  Khan so loves the established rule of law that he carries a copy of our by-laws in his pocket. Khan, whose trust is not in ONE person but the many: our collective agreement to live together and create a common good which is overall greater than what any one could achieve alone. 

In 2016, the contrast was too easily obscured.  The strong man candidate claimed to care about factory jobs in the rust belt.  The Republican campaign claimed to be obsessed with holding someone accountable for what turns out to have been an inconsequential violation of federal email security policy.  Appealing to claims of order and security, blatant racism and sexism were dismissed a personal foibles which would not become policy. 

But one of the first acts of this administration was to attempt to ban immigration from six middle eastern and Mediterranean countries with predominantly Muslim populations. There was nothing trivial, inconsequential, or personal about the racism enthroned in 2016. 

And in hindsight, we realize that using the tactic of creating stronger bonds by establishing a common enemy is not only fundamentally lazy but also fundamentally evil. Progressives cannot both be progressive and choose a common enemy – if the enemy is a group of people. 

So, let’s start here: by reaffirming what we stand for. 

BUT we can define things we are for, and against, clearly.  We are against racism. Progressives are against corruption: in it’s many forms, including the status quo of the current federal budgeting system. We oppose the military industrial complex and the resulting government funded corporations – and that is what it has become, a lot of supposedly private, profit making corporations whose profits are tax dollar spending on expensive weapons of war.   I support a budget which prioritizes bridges and roads over bombers and submarines. 

We oppose hunger, ignorance, homelessness, and failing infrastructure.  I support farm bills and international trade policy which ensures sufficient food for every human.

We oppose ignorance, racism, and homelessness; therefore, progressives support well funded, expensive, radically staffed schools.  Schools with free lunches for all, buses, social workers, sports, music, libraries, and tutoring after school at no cost. 

Finally, progressives stand for democracy.  I mean at it’s fundamental level, progressives believe that together, we make better decisions than an individual or small group ever could.  Therefore, we stand for fair elections, transparent government processes, simple representative districts, and access to elections for all.  We support campaign finance regulations, because limiting the power of money makes running for election more accessible to people with fewer dollars.  (Because we do NOT believe that our current economy is fair; therefore, having lots of dollars is not necessarily a reflection of someone’s capacity to solve problems). 

They are telling stories

I have noticed that they are willing to tell stories about the people they hurt. Falsehoods are much easier than facing the truth.  The truth would require them to face the harm they did. Hurt people hurt people and sometimes grow into a furious adder hissing and biting anyone who comes near. But pain is no excuse for a consistent pattern of calculated, craven, cruel abuse which is exquisitely designed to lessen and silence people.

After all I experienced, this dishonesty is easy to spot. Weapon words jump off the page, their sharp edges blunted by one’s ability to name them for what they are. In this clarity is freedom and power; I can dodge the assaults and avoid the worst pain.  So, I want to share with you some of the forms of emotional abuse which have become so common.  Like any pathological behavior, in small doses and forms these may merely be abrasive, or simply annoying, but they can also be abusive, even in small doses.1

But when these are the daily, repeatedly behaviors of a person or group who seeks their own self worth at the cost of others. Who actively chose to act in disrespectful, abusive ways:

  • Demanding respect because they are powerful, not because they are worthy
  • Refusing to accept responsibility for their behavior
  • Ignoring or actively denying power differentials
  • Weaponizing race, class, gender, ability, and age
  • Sharing regularly about personal things but never asking about others’ lives
  • Nuclear-weaponizing race or gender using post-racial liberal ideas
  • Failing to acknowledge assistants/underlings2 who put in marathon levels of work
  • Telling others they are trustworthy in the same breath as easily disprovable lies
  • Withholding tools and then punishing people for failing to achieve already unreasonable goals
  • Indiscriminately expressing emotions while demanding calm
  • Repeatedly interrupting and never listening
  • Never volunteering or following up on implementation
  • Complaining that nothing has been accomplished
  • Giving nothing but uninformed opinions
  • Expecting thanks for anything they want to give, regardless of actual utility or value
  • Demanding extensive gratitude from people who put in tremendous effort to make good out of those gifts, ever though what they give was not what they needed
  • Taking for granted any extensive efforts of other people
  • Thinking they can leverage your position into personal acclaim or a job
  • Stating they are not motivated by personal acclaim or benefit
  • Controlling other people in order to manage their own anxieties
  • Attacking other people for ignorance of their field while refusing to acknowledge others’ areas of expertise
  • Expecting everyone in the room to know their intentions in whatever way they like to talk, listen, or communicate
  • Expecting those same people in the same room to tailor communication to make them comfortable
  • Valorizing, devaluing, and discarding*

You are not the problem.  You do not have to take this behavior, and with help, you can find alternative responses when people abuse you.   It will not be easy, not at  first. But over time, you can walk away, stop taking the bait, and chose not to feel the way they want you to feel – small, stupid, and helpless.

But if you are still trapped, let me say it again.

You are strong.

You do not deserve this.

You did nothing wrong to elicit this abuse.

Soon – my thoughts about alternative responses, resistance, and maintaining your sense of self in the face of an abusive snake.


1 Many of the books and articles I found on these topics begin (in the titles even) with pathology or diagnosis of the abuser as a narcissist or psychopath.  I chose an alternative strategy by intentionally avoiding putting labels on people.  Many of these behaviors are narcissistic and psychopathic (structured, organized, lacking empathy and egocentric).  However, I find that lumping all the abusers into this category runs the risk of unintentionally implying to a victim that their experience must match a certain level of intensity or terribleness in order to matter.  This is not true.  In fact, even mild iterations of these behaviors can be damaging, and your experience counts.   

2 In this context “assistants/underlings” stands in as code for for anyone whose position is defined as less prestigious or less important in an organizational or cultural way. E.G. a VP who dismisses the associates, a general dismissing soldiers…

Self Indulgent Dreams

Did you ever wonder if maybe this
Is the dystopia of which we are afraid?
This land of physical comfort and spiritual

A time when the greedy run amok
Treating those who accomplish tasks as less than
Those who sit around and think them up.

Where hard work gets you almost enough to afford the many things which stand between me and a days worth of bread.
When shelter means an energy bill, and phone, and water, and something called insurance
Which they tell us will cover our losses
If they happen to be caused by this
But not that
Or that
Or that.

I’m tired of pretending
That the color or fabric
of my shirt indicates something
That avoiding rips or stains makes me, what?
A person whose clothes conform to some bizarre
Cultural definition of

Fuck that.
Your system sucks.
It turns children into
Contractual obligations.

Let’s try this.
We work together.
I give up something. Maybe my precious sense of being right.
Maybe my privacy.
Or the lie that I’ll be happier if you’re sadder.
Or the illusion of control.
You give up that upgrade. The illusion of better.
The need to compare yourself.
In exchange, we get something new.
Something old.
A social contract.
Less stifling ozone
More life
Less stuff.

But not in a silly way.
No aesthetic minimalism
No moralizing asceticism

more buses
fewer cars
less meat
canned tomatoes, not fresh
seasonal produce, what an anachronism

more sea turtles

beluga whales
types of flies