Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I want us all to consider how gun rights supporters were coping after the Uvalde, Texas gun massacre.

I do this because those of us in anguish at those events knew we were going to face a horrible backlash in the days after. The gun rights crowd couldn’t share in the grief because they knew people were angry at them. So their despair had to turn into something else. Tantrums. Lies. Conspiracy theories.

You knew to watch for it. That you were going to hear a lot of lashing out. A lot of untruths. Gun fans would distract us by suggesting that immigrants were somehow the real problem behind an American gun tragedy. When that failed, they would blame mental health. When that didn’t work, I was fairly certain they would turn to another familiar ploy: and say the tragedy didn’t happen at all. That those smiling kids, now dead, never existed. After all, gun fans had denied the reality of worse massacres than this one. Why would they suddenly demonstrate empathy for the pain of others?

Here’s the deeper psychological message those gun enthusiasts are trying to get across to you: “It’s not me,” they want you to know. “I’m a good person, so it’s got to be somebody else. It’s got to be other people. It’s got to be you!” In other words, you were hearing the responses of children.

There’s a reason for that. Many rock-ribbed gun rights supporters likely developed their attitudes about firearms as kids. They couldn’t think to fight back against their social conditioning at the time, so they have been forced to rationalize the beliefs now as adults … and yet still with a kid’s defenses.

I grew up in Oklahoma. I was taught to shoot when I was around 12, maybe younger. (I can’t remember because I never liked guns, though I wasn’t a bad shot). There were three firearms in my house when I was growing up, including a handgun. These were sometimes left out when kids were around. My late father indeed taught me to shoot, and the understanding was that he was placing trust in me, fostering in me a feeling of independence and facility and acceptance that my fate was in my own hands, which seems like a gift when you’re a child. It also seemed to jibe with some vague notion we all have of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and our freedom in nature. You can’t help but form a bond over that, no matter how questionable.

I don’t want this to be terribly confessional, so I’ll just say that I never saw a gun in my house ever used in a safe way. I saw guns used in unsafe, thoughtless ways several times. I believe now that somebody could have easily died in my house because the gun owner in my life was irresponsible.

So in whatever ways I felt beholden to my father for the psychological bedrock, that was undone when I became a truly independent, thinking person.

I’ve rarely seen any of my most intransigent gun-toting friends make that leap. They aren’t strong enough.

This is likely why gun fans couldn’t hear your cries of grief about what happened in Texas. You are trying in many cases to shred a bond with their fathers and mothers. They can’t handle that. They’ve been told that the way they were raised is good, that it’s based in strength and values and virtues and competence. That the things they believe won’t harm them and won’t harm anybody else and that in the aggregate what they are doing is for the common good. If they are still alive as of right now, they win the argument. It’s the 100-year-old smoker fallacy.

We all rationalize bad behavior that helps us (I have plastic in my house), but it’s another thing to eat tainted meat and say it’s good for you even as it’s making you sicker. Who does? Gun fans. Why? The bad meat temporarily makes them feel good in the face of fear. They fear strangers. They fear sudden events. The gun is sold as an antidote, even though guns increase the risk of harm for their owners and everybody else.

They will pretend this value system was arrived at through rigorous analysis. They have a couple of pro-gun studies (debunked ones) that validate their feelings. Since those studies’ “facts” can’t be proved, gun fans will invent hypotheses of their own, even call gun massacres hoaxes before they confront the reality that their “analysis” was wrong, that it wasn’t even analysis but retread, or that the people they vote for are backward and evil, and in fact that they hand weapons to psychotics to kill a lot of children mainly because of a desperate faith in their own failed folk wisdom. They simply promise that the guns are going to finally work at self-defense at some point in the future in ways that haven’t happened yet.

I knew instinctively when I was young that firearms were bad news, that they were useless if somebody else’s gun was already drawn on you or if bullets were already flying. I understood later on that most of the ways people imagine that they are going to defend themselves with a gun is by conceiving situations they can control. Even Chief Justice John Roberts made that mistake when he asked questions in a recent Supreme Court case, one in which an important New York gun law was struck down. Roberts imagined all the ways New York City’s residents were going to be safer when they were armed and they could shoot at targets he imagined would be as stationary as trees. The fact is, the theater of violence is a fast-moving one, and in most of the scenarios you conceive of in which you win, you aren’t actually a defender. Actually what you’re doing is called homicidal ideation. “I’ve got it all down in my head. I’m going to be fast with my gun when the slow-moving mugger walks toward me with a weapon. I’ve practiced shooting at a paper target.” This is the basic fallacy I’ve heard from every gun owner friend I’ve ever had. Every one. Smart and dumb, credentialed and not, young and old, male and female. There’s something appealing about imagining you are lighter and faster than physics would normally allow you to be. It’s the reason we watch Superman. And Dirty Harry. Both movies are fantasies, but only one is acknowledged as such.

No, you are not faster than a bullet. Your gun is not a reactive instrument. It kills people far away who don’t know they are going to die. That is what it was built for. It doesn’t shoot other bullets out of the air like Israel’s Iron Dome. You’d think gun fans, who pride themselves on how well they know the mechanics of their weapons, would understand that. And yet every argument I hear them make ends up being something like this: “If he pulls out a gun, I’ll just pull out a gun.”

I can’t tell you how many seemingly intelligent people I’ve met in the south who seem to think this is how life works.

What they are really protecting is a script they’ve heard and repeated since youth, protecting logical mistakes, not reading the actual science, which has not changed since I was a child: It says having a gun is less safe than not having one. Full stop. Handing guns out to everybody isn’t a successful crime deterrent strategy. It should actually be called “vote for the worst.”

And yet, the myth that a gun is a good thing, a loving thing, signs of a strong value system, a sign of patriotism, etc., persists because of movies and debunked studies that collapse like tissue paper upon any standards of rigor and reproducibility. Gun enthusiasts still think they are defending themselves 6,000 times a day even though there is no paper trail for these defenses, no database of 6,000 defenses a day in newspaper microfiche. They believe it because Dad would want them to, and pleasing dad is hard.

Humor me here and let’s imagine the parent-child bond another way: That having a father you fear teach you blunt, cruel lessons with a loud object that can destroy your internal organs is actually something that could cause you post-traumatic stress disorder. And that grown men repeating their father’s dogma about the goodness of gun ownership is just one more facet of a hostage crisis that they have carried into “adulthood.” They see themselves as Dirty Harry. Perhaps the rest of us might look upon them as Theon Greyjoy.

I admit, it’s very dicey using psychological arguments to attack political stances. The Soviets did it, after all. And I wouldn’t want far lefties trying to assign any “sicknesses” to my belief that Marxism is a pseudo-scientific mass murder plan.

But keep this in mind: It is almost a certainty that the horror that went down in Texas is going to be called fake news sooner or later. Or that gun fans will write off the response of normal people to the horror this way: “Democrats murder babies, so I can live with 19 elementary school kids being torn apart by bullets.” (This is an exaggerated version of an argument one of my friends once used. He’ll never have enough self-awareness for shame, unfortunately.)

What are these if not a child’s responses? And why would these adults act like children were it not for the huge amount of denial involved? A child’s denial. And what deep, deep thing are they denying?

I’m sorry to drag people’s parents into this, but I grew up in this mindset. I know where it comes from and whom it is they think they are protecting.

It’s important that we go there. Because gun fans are going to keep getting our children killed unless they are brought to some reflection about their actions and their values, or forced to explain why it’s so important that people die just so they can hold onto their fragile identities.

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One of the memories of 9/11 I’ve never shaken: I took a subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan to write about the event (I had to lie about my intentions to the MTA staff to get on board). When I popped out in the West Village, I found a man with an easel and canvas planted right in the middle of empty Sixth Avenue. The sun hadn’t even set on that day, and he had already nearly completed a richly colorful painting of Lower Manhattan smeared in smoke and debris.

In a moment of crisis, I didn’t know what to make of this. The words “Who does he think he is?” came to mind. I was probably also jealous of his nerve and alternatively affronted by the fact that he was making sure to draw attention to his act by making a public stage out of an empty New York thoroughfare. At a spot near Houston Street where many people fleeing lower Manhattan were likely going to be marching past.

This happened before the age of cell phones. If somebody had taken a picture of him and it had gone viral, I always wondered what the Twitterverse would have done with him. Would they have hailed him as an example of superior coping skills or would they have called him a crass opportunist trying to draw attention to himself and his own cuteness while thousands of people lay dead a few miles south? I can’t help thinking now that, given people’s desire for bloodlust in the wake of the attacks, that this artist would have been canceled, stalked, doxxed and threatened.

But that’s why I’m using this little anecdote, hopefully to illuminate a bigger point. We all felt varying degrees of helplessness that day. Everybody. (If you’ve ever interviewed a 9/11 first responder, you know what I’m talking about.) Human beings aren’t good with helplessness. We must create ways to compensate and cope and feel some agency over world events that make us feel tiny.

For some of us, that meant getting in a car and driving away from town (perhaps with no explanation to anybody). For others, it was helping rescue workers. For those who couldn’t even help with that, it meant telling tasteless jokes (yes, they were being told in New York the day of. I heard them). Some created meaningless conspiracy theories. Others attacked innocent Muslims. Most Americans simply supported any military action put on the table.

And if we’d had Twitter, I would imagine it would mean going after the tragedy painter. “I’m going to cope by fighting with another person coping.”

My own coping mechanism after pulverized bits of the World Trade Center snowed down on my neighborhood in Brooklyn was to write a story or two about it. It wasn’t good enough. We all come face to face with our own limitations in a crisis, and that’s what makes the events of like 9/11—yes, it was a very beautiful day in New York—so personal to many. Trauma is a part of your body. It doesn’t forget.

So I’ve accepted that the painter was coping. It’s in human nature to act when we think we’ve got a picture of things. We also have to accept that the real picture of things is always going to change.

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[Editor’s Note: I wrote this essay a long time ago but never published it. While I am supportive generally of the changes brought about by the #MeToo movement, I never liked some of the conclusions people came to about due process, work relationships and the burden of proof for a single accuser. And I totally reject the conclusions people made about art created by troubled characters. But I did not want to seem like I was attacking a necessary improvement in the way we treat women. Nevertheless, I was forced into thinking about this again today as a horrible accusation surfaced against Bob Dylan. I wrote about Dylan in this essay not knowing anything about his private life but realizing that his lyrics could be interpreted in troubling ways … and now they probably will be. I’m not commenting on what his lyrics mean in regard to today’s news, but the new allegations did make me wish I’d published this article in the first place rather than sitting on it. My feelings have not changed, nor will they change if this story gets worse.–ER]

Imagine in the future that some scientist effectively invents a cure for cancer or some other debilitating disease ravaging the world, and that this scientist then is charged with some horrific crime–murder, rape or child molestation. Would we stop using the cure?

Of course we wouldn’t.

That invites another question: Is it possible to separate the misconduct of an artist from his or her artwork?

Of course it is.

This might seem like a callow way to introduce a story about pop songs, which many people consider to be disposable cultural items, not life-saving medicine. It hardly seems like a fair comparison, saying the artwork, music, film of someone who has committed a crime or some other serious moral trespass is in the same category. I ask in this article: Why is it not the same thing? If a piece of important artwork enlightens, instructs or shows people truth in a way they can’t get elsewhere, why is that piece of work suddenly to be shunned because the artist, who is human, was found to be guilty of common human moral failures or even a crime?

This brings us to the subject of Michael Jackson, a giant of pop music who for years was chased by rumors that he had inappropriate sexual relationships with children. Ten years after his death, we are forced to confront the testimony of two of his victims in the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. I admit to not having seen the movie, though for my purposes here, I’m assuming the accusers are telling the truth and that the King of Pop abused his power as a star to manipulate families and groom boys. It’s fairly clear he created a cult of silence to shroud his criminal sexual advances and these kids paid the price for our star worship. (For a long time, I doubted these rumors simply because I saw inconsistencies in the stories and I believe celebrities are probably more regularly subject to blackmail than most people realize. Innuendo is enough to harm a career, something most blackmailers know. But I can believe the accusations of two men with consistent stories.)

The journalistic chorus that rightly condemned Michael Jackson has also largely turned against his music. The refrain goes something like this: “How can we listen to songs like ‘Beat It’ and ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ without thinking now only of Michael Jackson’s sexual preying on children?”

Truth: I can ignore it easily, and I do. And I think it’s a stupid question. Why shouldn’t I keep going to a well that offers me inspiration? Why shouldn’t I enjoy the fruits of Michael Jackson’s best self while condemning his crimes?

I think the reasons people think otherwise have to do mainly with their misconceptions about art, what it does, what it should do, what the role of the artist is as communicator and what the audience’s subjective biases are. Also, there’s a useful psychological term called “parataxic distortion”—the tendency to create fantasies about people based on our own biases. We might assume falsely that a famous person is also a rich person or a moral person or a superhuman person. When these expectations fall short, we turn violently against the people we unfairly built up.

Because they often bring joy and delight, release and enlightenment, artists have since forever been forgiven for things they do in private, at least until recently with the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo movement. It’s been an open secret that many rock stars pursue underage fans. Artists of many stripes are almost expected to be substance abusers, many times because their image as renegades pushing the emotional and moral boundaries in their lifestyles allows us as audience members to use them in our fantasy lives. Most of us are not going to be able to live the way Mick Jagger does, but we use him to daydream. The music is both a purgative experience for us and an accessory to these fantasies.

Our need to believe the myths about the artists we love sometimes means we are not listening closely to the messages they are conveying to us or seeing the art for what it is, much to our detriment. It’s unjust to the artists, whose aims in creating are, in my mind, usually completely misunderstood. Human beings are compelled to create. Innovation is part of our biology. Stories are something we tell instinctually. Sometimes we are rewarded for these efforts, but there’s no guarantee, since art and music are both ruthless business and fad. The idea that art–with all its complications and labor-intensiveness and lack of rewards, with its failures and frustrations and idealisms crushed and realized–is simply an easy way for an artist to womanize or, at its worst, some sort of substitute for rape, is ridiculous. (It’s the power that comes with success that ought to be on trial, not the art itself.)

This question always brings me back to Woody Allen. In 1992, his girlfriend Mia Farrow caught him with nudes of her adult adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. He was later accused of molesting his daughter Dylan when she was 7. I don’t believe the latter accusation, but let’s put that aside. I have a big family and some members are adopted. Were I to pursue an erotic relationship with one of them, just because I didn’t really see them as my kin, I would likely find myself shunned by my family and society … and for good reason. In Woody Allen’s perception, he simply fell in love with his girlfriend’s adult adopted daughter. But he was considered a parental figure in that household and he caused pain among her confused siblings. It was a selfish, narcissistic, indefensible act.

So why do I keep watching Woody Allen movies? Because I think his work is better than he is.

The chorus says now that we know Woody Allen has committed transgressions, his work must be an advertisement for those transgressions, propaganda that’s slowly inuring us and lulling us into a state of acceptance of dirty old men, normalizing their perversions, and causing further harm to the victims.

This argument is nonsensical to me.

The fact is, many of the object lessons I got in life about Pygmalion relationships–the problems you encounter when old men try to mold and shape sexualized young women into good partners–are lessons I got watching the best Woody Allen dramas. His films in my mind are often warnings against the kind of behavior that Allen himself fell prey to. One of the most tragically overlooked films in his oeuvre is Husbands and Wives. Not that people didn’t see it–they simply looked at it the wrong way. That movie is about humans’ foibles and denial, and their ability to lie to themselves about the nobility of their actions. The movie explicitly warns the viewer about the disaster awaiting a character who runs off with a young girl. Allen did not follow his movie’s own advice (the Previn scandal happened the same year the film was released). The most superficial reviews took cheap pot shots at Woody Allen’s character hanging around the school waiting for his young student, not seemingly aware that Allen was satirizing the idea.

Louis C.K. is another artist whose work is now being dismissed because it seems in retrospect to rationalize his creepy behind-the-scenes behavior (he confessed to asking women if he could masturbate in front of them and was rightly drummed out of polite society). His film I Love You, Daddy never saw the light of day, as early reviews suggested it tried to excuse dirty old man behavior.

But in the work of C.K.’s that I’ve seen, I see him sending up and satirizing bad behavior more than defending it. His FX show Louis was a revelation to me in many ways, mostly in the way it deconstructed the comedy TV show format, often dispensing with plot lines in midstream to follow some new idea. I learned new artistic conventions watching his show, ones I might use in my own work. This is medicine to me. I will use it and build on it, the same way others used Michelangelo’s foreshortened human limbs in painting. Why are these conventions no longer available because their maker did something bad? Why am I not allowed to study and replicate a piece of portable culture? 

The reason seems to be hysteria: Somehow, say the pundits, we will all become communists if we drink the bad water and perverts if we watch Louis. There must be secret hidden sex offender messages in both Woody Allen’s and Louis C.K.’s work, right?

There was one particular cringeworthy scene in Louis, in which he attempted to force himself on his sometime girlfriend (played by Pamela Adlon) which garnered the reply from her “You don’t even rape well.” This scene was hard to watch before Louis C.K.’s sex scandal and I’m sure is now interminable. But if you walked away from it thinking “Date rape isn’t so bad,” there’s probably something wrong with you. Adlon’s character was clearly saying “no” and Louis C.K. wanted the audience to know her fear. You can complain that he tried to put it in a comedic context, but his work was experimental that way. He was not mocking a victim.

Alt rocker Ryan Adams has also been recently taken down for alleged abuse of females he dated and mentored (and for corresponding with sexually suggestive messages to a fan he likely knew was underage). The revelation had some critics going back and deconstructing his lyrics looking for heretofore undiscovered misogyny. Not surprisingly, they found some. If you want to find something like that, you probably will.

But if you really want to go down this road, you have a lot of work to do. Rock music, especially that of some of its brightest lights, is filled with unapologetic misogyny. A friend of mine once forced me to noticed that a Bob Dylan song was basically a put down of some woman. If you go through Dylan’s work and are predisposed to find it, you might be forced to go beyond this vernacular voice of backroads America and realize that in many, many instances he is speaking to a female, one he has a sexual relationship with or wants a sexual relationship with. He is very often down-dressing or patronizing this woman, poking holes in her fatuousness, a popular thing at a time when America was taking its ugly mask off. What critics won’t do is see it the other way: that the subjective point of view of Dylan the horndog is dismissing or deconstructing a woman he’s sexually attracted to and not being honest about how his desire is shaping his perceptions of her or how her “fakeness” might have something to do with the world of male desire she’s trapped in, forced to negotiate, because of people like Bob Dylan. We don’t ever look more closely at Bob “Countertransference” Dylan. Meanwhile, what is “Sister Christian” but a guy trying to seduce a virgin by mocking her religion? That song is played everywhere because to most people it’s about being a teenager and losing your innocence, not as the rapey song you might hear if you were so predisposed. Why is this song more acceptable and ubiquitous than “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” or “When the Stars Go Blue”?

If Ryan Adams’ music is suddenly a code for rampant sexual misconduct, we’re going to have to widen the net and be honest about lyrical content everywhere. It’s not going to be pretty. Sacred cows are going to be slaughtered and people are going to have to re-examine their favorite artists, likely even the ones whose music has brought them clarity, beauty, and mercy in a life full of sadness and disillusionment.

Should I ask people to stop listening to those artists? I’ve noticed that even feminists were loath to give up David Bowie when the unsavory notes about him and baby groupies followed his death. Is Space Oddity now a child molester song? (Let’s not even get started on Led Zeppelin.) Why don’t we leave rock music alone for a while as we address the hypocrisy of Anne Sexton fans? This Pulitzer Prize winning giant of poetry not only molested her daughter but indeed wrote fine poetry about it–using the art exactly in the way Michael Jackson is accused of doing but really didn’t. It has never been suggested that we stop reading her. She has things to teach us about mental illness and, again, to people who see culture as part of a discussion and a way of discussing morality freely, even broaching taboos, to a lot of people her work is, again, like medicine.

I’m not an Adams fan. I only know the song about blue stars. This is one of those inescapable songs you hear in grocery stores, a song whose sentimentality and simple charm seems to make it special to an awful lot of people–helps them get through the deaths of grandparents and that sort of thing (if you believe comments on YouTube). In other words, they think this song is important. I find the song affecting and I do not see why I must be forced to listen to it as an advertisement for woman hating or date rape. When I hear a compromised artist make something pretty, I don’t often ask myself if I’m being seduced into his criminal world. I instead think: This might be the good part of a person with flaws. This might be his ideal self. A representation of what he most wants to be, not what he is when he’s trying to fuck a fan or otherwise taking the most advantage of babying celebrity, in which bad behavior is often coddled and appreciated (it makes good copy).

The obvious question people might ask, then, is this: Are we enabling abusers if we keep buying their art, which keeps them powerful, keeps them in the black financially and helps them pursue their abuses, crimes or predation? This would be a better question if it were not so incomplete.

I told a horribly prescient joke on this blog a few years ago in the form of a fake headline: “Amy Winehouse’s Grammy Win Garners Her Millions of New Enablers.” How ethical was it, mon lecteur, mon frere, to keep buying Winehouse’s albums, as great as they were, knowing that she was getting enough money from them to destroy herself with drugs? This question is not a red herring. The thing that might have saved her life was to freeze her out of polite society, the same way we did Louis C.K. But we didn’t do that. Nor did we help out famous addicts Kurt Cobain or John Belushi by performing an intervention and shunning their work. That’s because we selfishly take what artists make and figure it belongs to us after that, no longer to them. We demand that it is ours to dance to, ours to get married to, ours to endure breakups with. Great art always becomes personal to audience members, whether it’s a song, movie, painting or poem. It’s OK. That’s what artists often hope for. It is likely what Ryan Adams hoped for. We don’t throw away the music thinking of who it is helping or hurting. It has become medicine to us. We won’t deny it to ourselves.

Which brings me back to Michael Jackson. Simply put, he’s dead and we cannot enable him anymore by buying his music. Are we enabling rapist Roman Polanski? Yes. And yet his film The Pianist was an important artwork despite that. (My personal wish for Polanski is that he be given the ability to keep making films … in prison.) Are we enabling Woody Allen? I don’t see how we are. He’s not been credibly accused of child molestation, just of being vile and emotionally abusive to his family. If he says something important, I’m going to consume his artwork. It makes me a better person having perspective and perhaps the ability to work makes him a better person.

Michael Jackson made enormous innovations in music, juxtaposing different genres, putting out ingenious arrangements that people will borrow from freely for years, breaking racial barriers in music and on the radio. The clarion call to reject his art now makes an insipid argument that he has invented some sort of coded “pedophilia music”–that we are all in thrall to a “child molester beat.” Again, this is the viewpoint of the hysteric, who likely doesn’t understand his own neuroses or the panicked way in which he synthesizes himself with his cultural landscape. Michael Jackson wanted to make good things that lasted. His tendency to create, his desire to create, was based in something good. We can see that for what it is without denying or lying about or covering up the bad thing he also was.

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–*Derek Chauvin is guilty

–*Check out Derek Chauvin in handcuffs.

–*Check out Derek Chauvin’s Wikipedia page calling him a convicted criminal.

–*Check this out to see what happened to Derek Chauvin’s bail! It was fucking revoked!

–*Here’s what you don’t do to somebody’s neck if you’re a cop.

–*This is what you don’t do with a bully if you run a police force: You don’t fucking hire him.

–*Click here to see what a neck is for if you’re a police officer.

–*Check out to see people erupt in joy as a tiny, itsy-bitsy sliver of justice is served for African-Americans.

–*Here are people still walking free after killing unarmed African-Americans. Prepare to click a lot.

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You used the word ‘problematic’
To describe something you didn’t like
On TV. You didn’t like
The idea
Couldn’t put
Your finger
On it

So you used a word
That sounds scientific
To English majors
But isn’t
Because every idea
And certainty
Is a piece of chum
Waiting to be eaten
By the shark

That is a deeper idea

And you can’t stop it
And you can’t help it
And “problematic”
Is your blanket
Your cage
Made of straw

But your big idea will be eaten
That’s what your big ideas
Were born for

Just like the straw
A word you can break
So easily
So fragile

It snaps

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–*You’ll never guess how this kitten lost all his money.

–*Everyone but you is wearing their phones on the sides of their heads.

–*What Marie Osmond’s teeth look like today is insane!

–*This woman put what in where?

–*You didn’t love possums, so look what they did to your house.

–*See what happened when this man tried to take a bath in bitcoins.

–*This guy had a drill and you know exactly what happened to his hand.

–*This guy had a gun and you know exactly what happened to everyone around him.

–*This man used an anti-pirate slur. Look what the pirates did to him.

–*Ewwww! A pile of greasy pennies!

–*This actress stepped away at the height of her career and that’s why her name is completely baffling to you.

–*We kept asking this 93-year-old woman if sex is really over for her.

–*Could this headline launch a “stuff the doorknob in your mouth” challenge?

–*This man tried to own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It backfired.

–*Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got into a car. It backfired.

–*This guy lives in a state with lots of gun owners. He hopes what he just heard was car backfire.

–*After this cleanse, your body will collapse into a heap of skin.

–*Travelectomy says your appendix will most likely explode in these cities.

–*I’m going to win the lottery, said this statistical illiterate.

–*You won’t get pregnant if I pull out on time said this statistical illiterate.

–*New York is a crime ridden sewer, say these statistical illiterates.

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Paradise Dropped

Remember, Republicans: Some lie you heard or repeated in church last week about Donald Trump’s fake victory in 2020 is almost certainly going to inspire the next Timothy McVeigh. I hope it doesn’t, but if it does, and people die, including children, ask if it had anything to do with your cowardice, ignorance and pride, or your inability to separate morals from identity (and your always amazing inability to know the difference).

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It’s a week of false equivalencies: When right-wing rioters infiltrated the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of the presidential election results, and Main Street conservatives at home said it was no big deal because Black Lives Matter protests last summer led to looting and rioting in American cities. We should remember that BLM was fighting against racism. Its doctrine was not violence. There are plenty of videos showing activists condemning the looting. The movement in essence asked that the Constitution to live up to its promise.

Right-wingers, on the other hand, were trying to destroy the Constitution by overturning a fair election. Very different.

But there are practical reasons for these false equivalencies: If you can brand your opponents as baby killers, looters and rioters, you no longer have accountability for anything you do. You’ve given yourself permission and broad template for any moral transgression that suits you, including death threats against public servants, violence against public health defenders, libeling of rape victims, … for your past support for illegal foreign invasions, torture, and now, evidently, even against treason against the U.S. and its form of government. Conservatives do not care about baby killing (see Sandy Hook) or civil disorder (see the Bundy standoff). They do, however, like the power those words give them to pursue their selfish interests. It’s a gateway drug to the sociopathy they refer to as freedom.

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Dear Conservatives

Could it be that you’ve started to build most of your belief systems around every utterance of a cult leader, a man who just tried to overthrow the U.S. government, a man accused by 26 women of sexual assault, because most of your other beliefs up until now turned out to be too fragile and poorly thought out to hold onto in the first place? You’re starting to fit the model of the people who joined the NXIVM group a little too closely.

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Thoughts on Ted Cruz’s attempt to protest the certification of electoral college votes that would put Joe Biden in the White House, using a specious argument that since Republicans don’t believe in the truth of the votes, there must be an alternate reality:

There is no third option when you’re pitting truth against non-truth, Ted Cruz. There is no compromise value between a fact and a lie. Those trying to fix reality to incorporate their lies are living in their own hell and asking us to burn with them.

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