“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.” ― Mel Brooks
Samantha Bee used the C word to describe Ivanka Trump this week on her show and, like unto Roseanne Barr, it caused something of a kerfuffle. More in the links post tomorrow.
But in the meantime, and while I have this on the brain, do you know what? I HATE the C word. Hate it. It’s slung around in the UK like loose change in a way I never experienced in the States, and I haven’t gotten used to it in five years. I still feel a full body cringe at its ugliness whenever someone uses it. If TBS chose to reprimand or punish Samantha Bee like ABC chose to do with Roseanne, I wouldn’t like it, but I’d grudgingly admit it’s the network’s prerogative to make that kind of call.
I similarly think it’s the NFL’s right to try and set certain boundaries the speech of its players. I further think that deliberately defying rules is literally the point of a protest so we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. Nevertheless, the Twitter wars rage.
The difference between a comedian and a president is that one of those people is expected, even encouraged to be vulgar. The other, historically, is expected to set an example to the nation state. One is expected to set standards, the other to push boundaries.vWhich brings me to the broad point I can’t shake.
Anyone who tries to defend the current political administration (the target of the comment in the first place) with the claim that vulgarity (as opposed to racism, for instance) should cost someone their job needs to have an intellectually honest conversation about the dude in the White House and how he got there. He weaponized vulgarity and rode it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.
You do not get to cheer a man who kicked off his political life by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, has a history of sexual assault allegations, and been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their “pussy,” and then cry foul when an entertainer uses foul language towards one of his administration officals. One side does not get to say that Roseanne Barr’s statements on her twitter feed, filled with antisemitism and conspiracy theories, are jokes and then turn around and say that an unfriendly comedian’s jokes are beyond the pale.
Pick a lane. Either offensive jokes are acceptable more broadly or they are not. If you insist on your side’s right to be offensive, you should in turn be prepared to buckle up and be offended right back.
Here’s the thing. I believe wholeheartedly that the overall coarsening of our culture and public discourse is not a good thing. We’re all worse off for it. But spare me the moral hand wringing if your whole ethos and political strategy is built around “triggering” other people. These are your rules, it’s your game, and you’re in charge. Either toughen up and take what you sling out, or do your best to claw back the moral high ground if you can.
But to say that systemic and historically racist speech and vulgar speech are on par is a false equivalence. Both are bad. Both may incur consequences on the speaker. But one traditionally operates from the vantage point of power which could be interpreted as punching down, while the other is “punching up.” Ugly language may be frowned on but as a society we agree that there are places where it’s appropriate or at least acceptable. Antisemitism on the other hand, is not welcome. Unless you agree that there are “fine people” who believe in it.
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ― James Baldwin
Kittens, what a week. This could be written about any week for the past calendar year and a half but once again, it was a doozy and I’m not even going to attempt a recap. Who would have thought we’d get Oprah trending and yet more vulgarities from our vulgarian in chief? As I put the finishing touches on this post I glimpsed something from the Washington Post about an adult film star and Trump hush money? Whatever, I’m not clicking.
God, this man is humiliating. NPR had to send out a briefing memo to its news team today instructing them on the proper usage of the word “shithole” throughout the day. What a world.
Many women wore black gowns for the Golden Globes as a statement of solidarity, protest, and attention direction this year. And to anyone who naysays fashion as frivolous, I say it has always been used as social and political statement, especially by women. As Tom and Lorenzo point out, far more articulately than I could, fashion and style choices are some of the most potent weapons some of these women can use in an industry that traffics in their images. I loved that several women also brought activists as guests. More of this in 2018, please.
Bad feminist confession, I adore the film The Women and love but have always questioned the technicolor fashion montage that appears halfway through it. Well, color me educated (see what I did there?).
David Frum cautions that the real threat to our democracy is not in, “…corrosion, not crisis. In a crisis, of course we’ll all be heroes—or so we assure ourselves. But in the muddy complexity of the slow misappropriation of the state for self-interested purposes, occasions for heroism do not present themselves.”
In Mormon news, the president of the LDS church passed away last week, and this write up from Harvard Divinity School is an excellent explanation as to why his ministry was important to the faith, what happens next in the organization, and what happened during his stewardship of the church.
Senator Feinstein released transcripts of the interview of the man whose research firm was behind the infamous Steele Dossier, it’s a long read but political junkies should read it. Here’s ongoing NPR analysis for the pressed-for-time.
This take on the whole Fire and Fury situation and what the book reveals (he argues, whatever errors or faults in contains) by Ezra Klein of Vox *feels* fundamentally correct to me. It’s also weirdly sad, or it would be were not the stakes so damn high.
I like this list of things to declutter from your life in 2018.
A while back, as the sexual assault conversation was ramping up, a list made headlines. Created by an anonymous founder it was called the “Shitty Media Men” list and documented anonymous woman-to-woman heads up about potential bosses or work situations they might want to avoid. It broke into wider consciousness when it was discovered and shared on reddit. The thinkpieces, attacks, and defenses flowed. This past week on Twitter reports surfaced that the magazine Harper’s intended to publish a piece that revealed or “doxxed” the identity of the original creator. Feminist Twitter flew into a frenzy with writers pulling their pieces from the magazine and calls to protect the identity of this woman since backlashes against women have been so historically vicious and awful (see: Gamergate). But then…the creator of the list unveiled herself instead in The Cut. I have no idea what the backlash is going to be but I choose to read something into this decision and attribute it to the moment where women are collectively deciding that past terror cannot dictate future action.
All I can say is that I’m thrilled Mr. Trump cancelled his visit to London, as I was fully intending to protest and now I don’t need to request time off for that. I’m also endlessly bemused at how he lacks even the most basic grasp of history and facts (in this case regarding the plans and timeline of the new US embassy). I didn’t expect much from him, but does no one on his staff brief him on anything? At least one ambassador has resigned and several more have been summoned to their various host governments to explain the inexplicable.
Reporters asked [Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)] why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.
“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.” – Talking Points Memo
The thing about the ACA news that’s pissing me off more than anything right now, are the handful of stories or mentions I’m seeing that the GOP are going to “move on” from health care now. Really. After nearly a decade of single minded antagonism. You voted on this issue over 60 times under President Obama (and grand total of 0 under President Trump). Now you’re ready to move on.
Almost as if…for the majority of the party at least…the actual bill itself was never the point…?
On the other hand, one good thing I’m seeing seems to be some level of introspection of some members of the Republican party.
“As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. “I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening,” Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. “We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.” – from The Atlantic
For nearly a decade, the GOP has defined itself by its perceived enemies and what they were against. They’ve been a protest party, but they are now in charge and a litany of complaints is not a plan, as yesterday and its attendant organizational mess proved. I am desperately hoping that liberals don’t fall into the all too easy trap of doing the same thing in response! Because if ever there was a moment for both sides to lay down rhetorical arms, retreat to their own camps to actually think on and firm up what it is the stand for and not just whom against, and return to the table armed for an intelligent debate about which ideologies our country should espouse and why, instead of scorched earth politics…this is it.
Let’s set aside the ridiculous man in the White House and his sensational, possibly scandal ridden cronies for a moment. Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Trump doesn’t owe Republicans much when it comes to policy making, especially given that most didn’t support him (at least enthusiastically) in the election. I’d suggest that the reverse is also more true than is given credit for. Mr. Trump ran as a Republican but far from sharing a majority of conservative principles, his statement record is all over the map. He doesn’t seem to operate from ideology so much as self-interest. He might have overrun the GOP but he doesn’t lead it. And, more importantly, within the US system it is congress not the executive branch is supposed to take the lead in practical governing anyway. A number of leading conservative and libertarian thinkers have been complaining for years that the executive branch has grown too powerful in the post WWII era. In fact, that was one of their primary complaints about the previous administration!
So, conservative leadership, get to it. Lead. Get your act together. Take the reins. Govern. Remember that you govern all of us, not just the guys who voted for you, and act accordingly. Govern well, else be voted out of office, that’s how this game works. Someone, anyone, step up to claim some sense of ownership and offer, in good faith, to work with liberals on constructive legislation moving forward that actually addresses the current needs of citizens, regardless of what the orange overlord tweets or the blowhards of talk radio spew. Say you want to draw a line under recent vitriol and start anew, and mean it.
I, Jane Taxpayer, solemnly swear to hold my own party accountable if they fail to take you up on your offer.
But at the moment, GOP, this president and the current state of political are largely your mess and, as you like to keep point out, you’re now in charge. Fix it. I’m genuinely rooting for you.
“The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.” – Henry Cate
This latest news story requires its own post, otherwise the Weekend Links update will be unreadably long. The still-breaking story about Gen. Flynn’s leaving the administration after an unprecedented 24 days is ongoing but at the moment…it’s a mess. It’s a bonkers, ridiculous, upsetting mess.
Getting the timeline right still isn’t easy. By my count thus far…Kellyanne Conway has said Gen. Flynn resigned, but Press Secretary Spicer then said President Trump asked for his resignation. Spicer said Gen. Flynn was an internal issue for weeks, but President Trump last week told reporters he knew nothing of the DOJ’s or any report to the White House that the general was a potentially serious liability. Conway speaking yesterday for the WH says that the problem is that Gen. Flynn lied to VP Pence, but just two days ago said that the President had complete trust in the general, and Spicer again is now claiming that the WH knew about this issue (with the exception of the VP, apparently, who found out he was either deceived or misinformed following the story breaking). At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning.
But in summary, as far as I can make out, the fundamental options seem to be that either the then-President-elect directed Gen. Flynn to have a conversation with the Russian ambassador discussing the possibility of easing sanctions when the new administration came to power, or Gen. Flynn did this on his own volition. Either option is against the law. We’re only talking orders of magnitude at this point.
At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning. CNN is now reporting that aides for the first candidate then President-elect have been in routine communication with Russian officials for months. While not wholly unprecedented during a transition period between governments, the frequency of communications seems to have raised enough red flags to have the intelligence community alert both the sitting and in-coming presidents to the fact.
In summary again, either candidate/President-elect Trump knew both that these communications were happening–and that it was illegal or at the very least wildly inappropriate–and allowed them to continue, or he knew that it was happening but didn’t understand that it was illegal/inappropriate. Our options here are malice or incompetence.
Elected officials in general and Republicans in particular, if you think you can wait this latest scandal out, you are wrong. If after eight years of obstructing and scrutinizing an administration’s actions out of “principle,” you are suddenly unwilling to do the same now in the face of blatant incompetence and dangerous allegations of foreign collusion, you are lost as a political group. If you believe it’s more important to maintain party and partisan power than have a functioning, trustworthy, and respected government, you are unfit for office.
Congressional leadership seems to be (finally, cautiously) starting to critique the White House, but overall the response thus far from the president’s own party has been craven. Some of my own representatives have been among the worst offenders–looking at you, Rep. Chaffetz–and no one seems to be willing to be the first to stand up and say, “In the face of this many allegations, this many procedural missteps in executive action, and this level of dysfunction, I demand investigations.”
I have said it before, I will say it again. I am not cheering for President Trump to fail; I did not and do not want the stability of my government undermined. But I did not vote for him because I believed that he was a fundamentally unsafe character with unsound plans and unformed opinions/goals, based on unconstitutional principles, who would put unqualified or unvetted people into power alongside him, to chaotic effect. It’s taken less than a month for him to prove me right.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m a self-described news junkie who has followed several platforms and branches of the news media closely for my entire adult life. And as a current American expat, a former military brat with both current active duty and retired military family members, a staunch feminist, and someone who works in a field intimately influenced by the finance industry (to say nothing of international policy in dozens of countries on multiple continents)…there’s a lot to follow! I consume a lot of news and these days, as is well documented, a lot of it makes my angry, nervous, and downright pissed. As Solange put it, there’s “a lot to be mad about.”
That being said, one of the things that I’m really concerned about in the current American and British political moments is outrage fatigue. I’ve mentioned this in some comment conversations before, so I know I’m not alone in this worry. Anger is amazing fuel, it’s carried me through more than one challenge in my life. But I don’t believe it’s a perpetually sustaining source of power; it burns out. And it can occasional burn people out as well, when the burden of rising to every piece of bad news with rage simply becomes emotionally unsustainable and politically un-organize-able. I’m genuinely concerned that there are vested interests in the US who are betting that if they keep up a constant stream of conflict and splashy actions, people like me will eventually burn out–i.e., cease the opposition, allowing those vested interests to get away with much worse.
On the flip side, I also don’t believe that outraged reaction as a policy position is terribly effective–at least not in a permanent way, though I think it can be marvelously effective in the short term on the part of the citizenry! It may surprise some readers, but I am not in favor of single minded obstructionist strategies on the part of the left right now. By which I mean that if the president proposed policy broadly aligned with liberal principles, I’d expect leaders to support it (the trouble is that at the moment, the president has yet to put forward a policy I support, but I remain theoretically open to the notion). I railed against obstructionist behavior when conservative stoned walled President Obama, it would be hypocritical of me to support such behavior now. Being consistently against something is not the same thing as having a proactive platform of your own, something that I believe played out to Democratic disadvantage in the recent election. Anger fuels revolutions, but it’s usually taken cooler heads to turn revolt into civic progress rather than a short dive into tyranny or chaos. It’s not enough to emote in response to government actions we find immoral or unlawful, you have to mobilize. That takes organization, articulation of proactive positions and not just reactive ones, effort, and long term commitment…all of which can be difficult to sustain if you are operating from a place of near or actual burnout.
I know for a fact that I’m susceptible to outrage fatigue. And I also know that I plan on being more political involved and engaged than I have been heretofore. Meaning that I’m going to need a thicker skin, a longer battery life, and several recharging stations along the way. To that end, I’m more committed than ever to emotional self care practices and keeping my emotional energy well tended and focused. I’m still learning, but if like me you’ve stared responding to “BREAKING NEWS” signs with cringes and expletives, here are a few things that I’ve found that keep me even keeled when I want to panic or smash things.
Top Tips Thus Far From Someone Still Figuring it Out:
Don’t pick fights for the sake of fighting. Plenty of people are doing that already. If you feel so inclined to join the fray, have at it, but know that you’re expending emotional energy that may be better served elsewhere and that you may need later. Personally, at the moment I’ve given up trying to change a lot of people’s minds through arguing. Where I can find respectful conversations, I engage. Where I find flame wars, I avoid.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy frivolous things that bring your pleasure–and don’t let anyone shame you for it. Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening all over the globe at the moment. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to enjoy and share small things that make you happy. I remember a criticism leveled at me waaaaaay back in the earlier days of my blogging where someone informed me that I couldn’t be a “real” feminist because I mostly wrote humor posts at the time. A couple of years later, I was called a “stupid/shallow” woman for talking about my love of fashion and beauty. At the time, these (fairly minor) critiques caused me a lot of self-doubt…which was precisely their intent. Today my response is a bellowing, “Nonsense!” As if it’s impossible to have a sense of humor, and like lipstick, and have thoughts about the wage gap, parental leave, and social constructs all at the same time. Everyday pleasures are important and people interested in shaming you do not have your best interests at heart.
Avoid toxicity. Sometimes we need to engage in hard conversations and go to tough places, usually because there is a reward to earn or a morally good fight to be undertaken. Sometimes, there is no discernible good in exposing yourself to certain platforms or people–sometimes being in those places can cause you damage. In those cases, do not give those people or platforms your time, attention, or money.
Maintain your internal bullshit barometer. We live in a consumer media world largely based on provocation and reaction, it takes effort to maintain a critical eye and perspective. Do not get worked up over, much less share information without vetting it first. If and when you find your control over your own perspective shifting to all-to-easily agree with the last article you read or pundit you listened to, it’s time for a break.
Actively seek out things that make you feel happy. Legal and innocuous, I stress! Whether that’s time with your partner or friends, reading a book, exercise, stand up comedy, podcasts, puppy videos…no matter. It’s ridiculously easy to feel like the world is a terrible place and the only logical course of action is to ball up in a corner by ourselves somewhere. Just remember, that’s the argument that got us into our current political predicament! Go find things that spark joy and make them a part of your daily routine.
Unplug from time to time. Barring nuclear disaster (which, depending on your point of view at the moment may in fact be a credible threat), there will be more bad news coming down the pike shortly and, if you are committed to your cause, you will be required to act in some way in response. Allocate your attention accordingly.
Conserve your energy where you can. Not every tweet, pronouncement, or even action is a Defcon 1 level threat. In fact, some of the news right is laugh out loud ridiculous. Find the humor where possible, and allocate your energy where it’s needed.
What about you? What emotional habits have you had to cultivate in the 21st century news and political climate? What works for you and what doesn’t?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Constitution of the United States of America
Two posts in one day, you lucky darlings. But the news of the Executive Order issued by President Trump banning access to the country from several (Islamic) countries has broken and rather consumed our day here at SDS headquarters. He’s not calling it a #MuslimBan (though General Flynn’s son is, for what that’s worth)…but it’s a ban on Muslims. You know how we can tell? Because President Trump also directed that priority for immigration should be given to people from the Middle East…who are Christian. But let’s set that aside for a moment.
I’m not going to speculate on how much ammunition this will give to terrorist groups, some of whom have already apparently used the EO in recruiting efforts. Or how this might affect my brother and countless others currently serving in the armed forces.
I’m not going to touch the fact that this EO, steeped in racial tensions and fearmongering, was issued on Holocaust Memorial day.
Instead, I want to talk about some personal background, some legal realities, and the question of motive.
On my father’s side, his mother was the daughter of immigrants from Slovakia. They were Roman Catholic at a time when Catholics and immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were viewed as suspect and fundamentally Un-American. My grandmother married a WASP from New York and bore three children, one of whom is my father who served most of my life in the US Air Force. One of my brothers has followed him into service.
On my mother’s side, I am descended from religious converts who came from Scotland and elsewhere to the deserts of the American West to join in a small and somewhat persecuted religious movement–Mormonism. This movement had an extermination order issued against them as a group at one point and were eventually driven out of what then constituted the boundaries of the country. My mother descends from this religious minority, now considered one of the most conservative and patriotic subsections of the country. My dad later converted to this faith and this heritage. I’ve left the former, but carry the latter with me always.
That’s my immigrant and religious minority legacy. Why do I repeat this? Because I’m not special. Most Americans have some kind of story like this in their background, this intertwining of minority and immigrant stories goes right back to our founding myths and has been our day-to-day lived reality for the better part of three centuries. Cracking down on immigrants, especially when you are using religion as part of your reasoning is fundamentally counter intuitive to our national history and story.
Years later, I’m now an immigrant in a Western nation at this very moment. I followed all the laws to legally enter this country and work here, and I have the paperwork to prove it. That is how international immigration and laws work. I’m lucky. I’m white, educated, English speaking, but I’m still an immigrant. My life is here and it is dependent on the goodwill of two governments. If I boarded a plane in the US and arrived in London only to be detained at the border because the Prime Minister had decided that in defiance of laws and regulations in two countries, my right to entry (again, documented in two countries) was suddenly invalidated, I have no idea where I’d be. Catatonic in a corner perhaps. Propublica estimates that up to half a million people are potentially in this situation now. The Washington Post is reporting that the language of the recent executive order that has brought this mess about also applies to people with dual nationalities…aka…citizens of the US. Huffinton Post reports ditto for Green Card holders. Representatives of the government under which I currently live are also reporting that they could not access the US under this EO, which doesn’t make me overly optimistic for continued operational goodwill across borders.
Why do I bring all this up? Because, like me, we are talking about people who have already passed multitudes of tests and requirements to gain access to the country.
There a lot of genuinely necessary conversation and work to do to create a safe, viable immigration network in the 21st century world. But do you know what really is pissing me off? It’s that the basis for this EO is due to fears and anxieties concerning illegal immigration and religious backgrounds. People who have the paperwork to get into this country have, in many cases, already passed a vetting process far more grueling than anyone currently being considered for a position in Mr. Trump’s cabinet! And freedom of worship was one of the first things the Founding Fathers enshrined.
And so, people who voted for this–including some of you who told me that these kinds of actions or bans would never come to fruition: do not tell me that the problem is illegal immigration, and then turn around and start detaining or denying entry first to those who already legally live and work in the US, including citizens. Do not tell me you consider the constitution sacrosanct but then impose a religious litmus test on entry in violation of the Bill of Rights. Do not cite the 9/11 attacks or recent lone wolf actors as a basis for this ban and then apply it to countries who citizens didn’t participate in those atrocities.
You’re either delusional about your motives, or you’re lying.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
In case you missed it, the Womens March on Washington (and sister marches around the world, including the one I participated in in London) might have made some records. The coverage is still coming in and it’s amazing to see — more amazing to have participated in. You can see some my images here, but this is a story worth following and watching. To say nothing of joining in. Welcome to the Grab Back.
Oh yeah, and the US has a new president who doesn’t seem to be “pivoting” from his campaign persona in any way. Shock, surprise. I watched his inauguration because I’m a citizen and think it’s important to support the process of free government. The new First Lady looked absolutely lovely, and I thought it was gracious and correct for Secretary Clinton to show up in spite of how awful I expect it felt. The speech was Orwellian, but bang on from the tone of his campaign. The next day I laced up my shoes and hit the streets to make it clear that he was not elected with a mandate and I will be supporting the issues that I care about with my time, my money, and my voice. Because again, I think it’s important to support the process of free government. This is how it works.
Here are your links, kittens. Tell me what you got up to this weekend.
I found this piece at Politico a very timely read. It opines that President Trump’s hostility towards the press may be a blessing in disguise. If the traditional lines of communication between the administration and the media are clipped, the press can and should (this writer argues) fan out to the myriad unofficial lines instead and take up the opportunity to do more and more extensive investigative reporting.
STOP. I swear every time I read an article like this, my heart breaks a little. I know there are more important immediate issues, such as the civilian lives in the crosshairs right now, but this hateful and deliberate dismantling of human history is also hideous