the tunnel at the end of the light

“The Democrats don’t have a prayer until they can make the GOP pay for every wingnut they have. Every last racist, absurd lunatic, religious bigot – they have to be front and center, and not just on the Daily Show at 11 PM. The GOP is living off the assertion that ANSWER is the Democrats’ base. That has to change.”


Spoiler alert: it didn’t change. The GOP managed to run against Obama for eight years as the bastard son of Malcom X and George McGovern, and then got the most openly racist candidate for President in forty-plus years into the White House. And at no point was the GOP ever made to answer for being a cesspool of white supremacists and wackadoo conspiracy theorists, and unless there’s a tsunami election in 2018 it doesn’t look like they ever will be. 

You could pin it on an American media in love with the golden mean fallacy, but the uncomfortable fact of the matter is that much of America isn’t what we wanted to think it was. Every time someone tries to say “we’re better than this,” the appropriate reply, like a slap on the face, is “apparently not.” Because we’re not. 

Because the GOP tolerated the crazy. Hell, the GOP embraced the crazy, took it around behind the middle school and tried to get pregnant by it. GOP members of Congress shot watermelons in their yard. GOP Senators pledged their troth to talk radio lunatics. Republicans mounted a six year fishing expedition that started with allegations around a shady land deal and eventually impeached a President based on perjury in testimony about a civil suit completely unrelated to the land deal which somehow got bound up in the same investigation. (At least Robert Mueller’s investigation is wholly focused around the matter of Russian interference, until he gets fired anyway.) There were eight years of screeching about whether a Democratic President was actually born in the United States or secretly in thrall to some foreign power. Then he was replaced by his loudest antagonist, in thrall to a foreign power.

And nobody ever made the Republicans pay. Not for Glenn Beck, not for Alex Jones, not for Dan Burton or Louie Gohmert or Steve King or Donald Trump. The Democrats were made to answer for everyone from a fringe rapper to a former preacher to fictional characters (I hear Murphy Brown is coming back, though) and the GOP had to apologize for none of its nut jobs. Which is how one ended up in the White House. And now gets to add a second member to the Supreme Court. 

So: there is no price for crazy, the side with the most votes loses repeatedly, and the institutions lock these results in. That’s a broken system. There are consequences. I may not be glad I lived to see them. I’ll tell you this free of charge, though: the decision not to have kids was the right one.

flashback, part 97 of n

I grew up in a subdivision about two miles outside of “downtown” (caveat: there were and are approximately 3000 stories in the naked city of MyHometownVille). Needless to say, this being America in the 1970s and 80s, that meant we drove everywhere. I never rode my bike outside of the subdivision, not even once, and trips to church or the grocery store or anything else local meant a car. (That, coupled with the fact that I only ever had one friend in the neighborhood and that only until about 3rd grade, meant that I never snuck out as a kid. Not even once.)

And then, in 1995, one summer off from grad school, I got a wild hair to take a walk. I’d never driven point-to-point anywhere on campus in undergrad or at Vanderbilt, except occasionally for softball when I wanted to go eat first. So for whatever reason, I thought “it’s only a couple of miles, that’s less than an hour walk, I got nothing going on, let’s go see what’s up” and set out on foot to see what I could see.

It was strange, seeing everything at foot speed instead of whizzing by in a car. There were no sidewalks, obviously, but there was precious little traffic anyway. I took a circuitous route that added almost an entire mile to the walk, so it was nearly an hour from my driveway to “downtown”, going first through the subdivision and then through a backroad or two that called to mind a stretch of pavement laid down and forgotten entirely. I saw moss on the rocks under the interstate overpass, I saw weeds growing through the blacktop behind a National Guard armory, I walked all the way to the library which I hadn’t patronized for a decade at least. (A year later, I would repeat the walk and steal a coupon for a free Arch Deluxe out of their copy of Time magazine. You can take the boy out of grad school…)

But the thing that stuck out to me as I walked all that way was…I was committed to walking it out on foot. There was no question of catching transit at any point, because it didn’t exist (not that I’d ever used transit in my life at that point anyway). I had no cell phone, and wouldn’t have for another six months or so. It was me, floating in space untethered in a place that I thought I knew perfectly well but looked far different on foot at 2 miles an hour.

I hadn’t thought about that in a while, until I found myself walking in Cupertino last week at certification training. Cupertino is not a pedestrian town. There’s VTA bus service crossing in a couple of places, but by and large it’s pure suburb. There’s no such thing as “downtown” and never had been, although there’s a flashy new strip-mall “town center” development trying to be that. And for some reason, crossing Stevens Creek Boulevard on foot where there was no crosswalk and walking toward a Target that’s really more of a CVS with notions, I flashed back to twenty-some-odd years ago and thought about what it means to be on foot in a strange place, even if it wasn’t that strange when you were just driving through. About stepping out into an unknown that you thought was a known.

And it made me think some more about those days in the 90s, and about the course of your own life relative to the wider world, and how sometimes, the depression comes not from how shit the world around you is turning, but how good the rest of the world is going…and leaving you behind. But that’s an analysis for another time.

No Future 2018

“Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed. That word is Nazi. Nobody cares about their motives anymore.”

– Julius Goat


“Why can’t we be nicer? Well, here’s the thing. We’ve tried being nicer, and it didn’t work….Fuck it. They were warned.”

– Laurie Penny


There’s so much insidious shit flying around that it’s tough to keep it straight – the FCC as a subsidiary of Comcast and Verizon, the Sinclair shit trying to build a new Fox out of local stations, the ongoing shenanigans around the Mueller investigation, the continued horseshit of gun worship, the constant postmodern meat grinder, the appointment of Fascist Captain Kangaroo to the NSA and the mutilation of a half-century of North Korea policy to no good end, the NFL’s performative jingoism, Elon Musk’s entire life, the ongoing madness of Silly Con Valley, the continuing impact of the GOP’s quarter-century of abject surrender to racism and conspiracy theory, and now actual concentration camps for children

There’s no cleaning this up. Things are going to slip through the cracks, and there’s so much to remediate that it’s going to take half of forever to do it even if you don’t get active pushback forever from the GOP like Obama got. We already know the Trumpshakers will never acknowledge a Democrat as a valid President – Clinton and Obama are proof of that – and we already know the GOP is willing to break every norm of American politics to hold the line on behalf of racists and fascists, whether it’s the Clinton investigations and impeachment or the scorched earth for 8 years under Obama or the filibuster record and appointments held open forever.

The reason I keep thinking about emigrating is because I’m not going to live long enough to see the Confederate virus purged from the American bloodstream. Every move they make is further to the right – from the Bushes to anti-Obama-ism to Trump, from Limbaugh to Beck to White Power Barbie and Heart Attack Jones, the insanity only gets worse. And yet, the right continues to ride it out for—what? The prospect they can make time run backward? The possibility of locking everyone born after Jim Crow out of the political process somehow? The notion that if they just stall long enough, they can live forever?

I mean, an abbreviated list of things that would have to pass – and not be overturned as soon as the Democrats lose 60 seats in the Senate or the White House – in order to remediate just some of what’s gone wrong:

* Actual oversight of the police, federal and otherwise, and probably just dissolve ICE outright and return DHS agencies to their original 2001 departments

* Statutory net neutrality with meaningful enforcement so you get a choice of broadband providers

* A doctrine of antitrust and “monopoly” that isn’t just based around “it’ll be cheaper for consumers” (spoiler: it almost certainly won’t)

* Restoration of the Voting Rights Act with actual federal standards and enforcement of same

* An end to mandatory arbitration and signing away your rights just to be able to do business with a corporation

* An end to “carried interest” and the other things that let the 0.1% get away with a pittance in taxes while you can get caught on AMT just by owning a house in California and filing jointly

* Some kind of superficial minimal effort to prevent every limp dick redneck owning more firepower than a Marine platoon

* Something that will put a cork in Facebook and its peers to make it harder for them to be used as tools of electoral manipulation


Basically, a return to the state of the law six months into the Bush 43 administration. This isn’t some kind of wild liberal fever dream, this is how life was for most of the 1990s under a Democrat who was to the right of any of his own-party predecessors going back to — Wilson? Maybe? Never forget that Obama’s health care plan – what finally passed – was the Republican plan fourteen years earlier and had already been implemented by a Republican in Massachusetts.

And yet, we have a political system that provides one actionable moment to affect the incumbent government every two years. There’s no vote of confidence, there’s no snap election, there’s no get-out-of-botch-free card. Frustrating as it is, you have to pace your outrage, because we haven’t yet had a way of effecting meaningful change and won’t until November. The crazy party has the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court. All you get in that minority is the filibuster, for as long as the majority remains willing not to blow it up. And even if any of that does change in November, remember that no President has ever actually been voted out via the impeachment process, and even if this one is, all you get is a holy roller freak in his place along with a party and a media that will proclaim the job is done and normal service is restored and why you bringing up old shit.

All you have is containment, and waiting for them all to die. So if you’re never going to get rid of Trumpism in my lifetime – and you aren’t –  I’d love to be somewhere that has less cultural poison, less of a wealth gap, while I still have health enough to enjoy it. If I look up ten years from now and we’re living in Galway somewhere, that’s a far better scenario than where I expect to be in America in 2028. Even in California. Assuming some rich asshole hasn’t bought his way into splitting up the state by then. Of which.

June 12

First there’s the sick sensation that creeps out of your stomach and crawls through your entire body as you realize they’re leading you into the room with the dim lighting and the soft chairs, the one unlike every other waiting room in the hospital, the only one that has a box of Kleenex on every table. This is the room where they bring you when they’re going to sentence your loved one to death, when they’ve run out of options, when you’ve reached the end of the line. The Grim Reaper is undefeated, and the game clock is about to hit 00:00 for the last time.

Then you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Because there’s no getting over it. There’s no getting around it. Death has come for your loved one, and that’s all there is to it. Maybe you’re in a position to say your good-byes, maybe you aren’t, maybe you’ll never know if they even heard you. Maybe all you have to go on for the rest of your life is what looks like a tear forming in the corner of one eye after they pull out his breathing apparatus. And then they bring in some chaplain you’ve never seen to say a prayer over someone he never met in words you don’t even hear, and you grasp for something, anything to anchor you, and you have somebody call work for you so you can tell your boss that you won’t be in for a week or so, because you have to feel like you have some agency over something, anything at all.

And then it begins, the great numb conveyor belt. Funeral home. Cemetery director. Casseroles. Funeral home again. More casseroles. The church, the service, the graveside, shake hands with the pallbearers, leave so the gravediggers can bring in the backhoe to cover the hole. And then go home to stare into a different hole. You don’t know it now – and if you do, you don’t get it yet, how could you – but that hole will be there for the rest of your life, and you’re just going to have to figure out how to build a walkway around it and put up the plywood and the guardrails to keep from falling in. You can’t fill it, you can’t cover it, you wouldn’t even necessarily want to – you just need a way to safely navigate by.

The dreams start a couple weeks later. Always the same – you realize too late that he’s actually gone, and that this is a dream, and you wake up before you can say anything or ask anything or remember anything that would give you even the illusion of a few more moments. They grow fewer and further between. You find yourself an uncontrollable puddle at the strangest things, like the cellphone bill a month later that shows where you called them for their anniversary for twenty minutes. You spend the whole summer walking on a wire, barely able to push yourself through your routine. What you don’t grasp at the time is that this was a pivot point for your whole life. That having been plunged into a deep dark place, the person that eventually surfaces with your name and face won’t be the same person who went down. Won’t relate to other people the same way. Won’t want the same things out of life. Won’t be on the same path as before. This will potentially damage your relationships with other people, in ways that will not be repairable and which will linger for decades.

You’ll change your signature. You’ll change your facial hair. You’ll keep both pretty much the same from then on.

The years will go by. The first anniversary will be a scheduled day off so you don’t go to pieces in front of everyone, and you’ll find yourself in the office anyway to do a favor for one person and spend your planned mental health vacation day making sure a non-standard laptop can call into an AOL number in Budapest. Eventually you’ll think you’ve stopped dreading the approach of the day, consciously at least, but it’ll be bound up in a parade of other dates – with Mothers Day and college graduations and your parents’ anniversary and Father’s Day, always fucking Father’s Day, Dads and Grads, in what amounts to an annual six week orgy of everything in your life you’re most conflicted about being paraded right through your subconscious, every single year.

You wonder things. Would you have felt differently about having kids yourself if he’d been around? What shtick would he have come up with for your wedding? How much worse would his health issues be given another twenty years to deteriorate? Could he somehow have staved off Fox Geezer Syndrome, or would a long retirement of slow days with cable TV have eventually driven out the time spent on fishing shows and Andy Griffith reruns and made him as unpalatable as so many others? What would he have made of Nick Saban, of Barack Obama, of Donald Trump, of Roy Moore? Of hybrid cars and iPhones and Facebook and Railroad Park, of a world unrecognizable from 1998?

Would he have been proud, and would that still even matter to me?

It says something about the world we live in now, in 2018, that so many of those instances of “I’ll never know” have been replaced with “at least I’ll never have to know”. It also says something that back in November of 2016, I felt exactly the same shock and pain all over again, right through the grieving process and disorientation and surfacing as a different person with different priorities and different goals. In both cases, it was the same thing: your world has changed and you can never go back to how it was before, and now you just have to learn how to walk forward again.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll dread every “new normal” that ever comes along. Forever.