America’s Social Disease

Friday afternoon, in Portland, Oregon, two women riding the city’s light-rail service were accosted by a fellow passenger.

“Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here,” he said by one witness account. The man also said he “doesn’t like Muslims, they’re criminals,” according to the witness.

One of the women was wearing a hijab. Both were young.

Three other passengers came to the women’s defense. The man pulled out a knife and slit the throats of two of them.

Both are dead.

America is a violent country. We celebrate it, glorify it, enable it. We also condemn it, particularly when it involves non-majority populations, and occasionally when it involves videogames or filmed entertainment.

Time was, condemning violence was a standard expectation of our political leaders. And while the condemnations may have been utterly cynical — offering thoughts and prayers after someone shoots dozens of schoolchildren but doing nothing about it — at least the expectation was met, the least they could do.

Earlier this week, a reporter attempted to ask a Montana congressional candidate about the just-released Congressional Budget Office evaluation of the House-passed American Health Care Act. The question was pertinent, since the candidate — a Republican — had been avoiding similar questions during his campaign, claiming he was waiting for the CBO score.

The candidate responded by what the reporter called “bodyslamming” him to the ground. Witnesses in the room said the candidate had actually grabbed the reporter by the neck.

The incident was reported immediately and spread widely, but no condemnations were forthcoming from Republican leaders. The next day, Montana voters and talk-show callers were applauding the candidate and saying the reporter had it coming.

The candidate was also elected.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, protests frequently broke out at Donald Trump rallies. This was a familiar occurrence, even before the Iowa caucuses, and in Cedar Rapids he came prepared:

“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience,” Trump said. “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—  I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”

Other Republicans were still in the habit of condemning Trump at the time, but when he won the nomination, and then the election, they fell silent. The power they gained was worth far more than the small price they paid.

And yet, Trump didn’t usher in the era he now commands. Six years ago, Sarah Palin issued this rallying cry to her supporters:

“Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!'”

Palin had recently also posted a map of vulnerable congressional districts in the 2010 election. Each district was indicated with a gun target.

One of those districts was represented by Gabby Giffords.

Palin, as was still customary at the time, condemned the shooting. She also denied any indirect responsibility. The poster was the political equivalent of locker-room talk.

Palin’s excuse — Not my fault! — is easy to make, and easy to justify. In any given act of violence, the person responsible is the perpetrator, not the leaders goading him on.

But what leaders say is not without effect.

We noticed a comment on Facebook Friday, not from someone we know, but likely a friend-of-friend: “While there is NO justification for body slamming anybody,” the comment began, “the media has brought much of this negativity upon themselves.”

Condemning the act and blaming the victim? We were impressed. Not just by the novel logic, but by the commenter, who we’re sure considers herself a Nice Person and probably otherwise posts photos of children and pets.

We were impressed because while anyone can condemn a shooting or stabbing, even Nice People are now allowing that bodyslammers have a point.

And you’ll forgive the ugly contrast, but we find that far more chilling than a random murder.

We find it chilling because it shows how deep the new permissiveness has seeped into the population. People who would never see themselves as murderers are now agreeing with the point of lesser violence, if not yet the actions.

They may not be causing the violence, but they’re allowing it to happen, even applauding it. And why not? No less a figure than the President of the United States of America has told them it’s okay to applaud. We’re not even bothering with a pretense of shame.

In such conditions — today’s conditions — a Strong Leader could easily capture the imagination of such a willing public, announcing emergency measures that, while technically illegal or even unconstitutional, would concentrate power in his hands and subjugate opponents.

Especially a leader whose own party already controls all levers of government, and has shown itself unwilling to stand up to him, because of their own lust for power and his very popularity among their constituents.

The common acceptance of political violence chills us because it is a necessary condition of fascism. And America is right on the brink.

55 comments:

10:55 am • Saturday • May 27, 2017

Between this horrific incident in PDX (perpetrator is a Trump terrorist white supremacist troll, news stories show) & Kristof’s column on GOP state legislators refusing to change child marriage laws, I just want to be with cats and dogs and goats. No more humans.

4:57 pm • Saturday • May 27, 2017

@SanFranLefty: Perpetrator is a right-wing terrorist. Fixed.

7:09 pm • Saturday • May 27, 2017

@Mistress Cynica: Yes, done.

12:03 pm • Tuesday • May 30, 2017

@SanFranLefty: I have a friend that keeps BOTH goats and cows on his property. I think he is bi-sexual.

1:36 am • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

WE ARE ALL #COVFEFE

@DElurker: Lots of cheese and milk, yum.

3:29 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

Spicer: “The President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”

That’s hilari— oh. He’s not joking.

5:23 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

@nojo: I woke up thinking Kathy Griffin had saved us all; unfortunately, she was joking.

6:53 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: CNN fired her, because they’re okay with habitual liars, but they draw the line at occasional beheadings.

7:20 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

@nojo: I was hoping it was his code word for Putin to extricate him, but apparently he’s still here.

7:35 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

@Mistress Cynica: Just more hardcore addict behavior: inability to focus or speak coherently; paranoia; emotional volatility with frequent rage outbursts; depraved indifference to the well-being of others; self-defeating actions; passing out with his thumb on the phone.

It occurred to me during the campaign that anyone who’s grown up around an abuser can see all the signs clear as day.

9:23 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

HEY!

Who remembers “My xon you will dire”?

covfefe

10:54 pm • Wednesday • May 31, 2017

Corel Draw is still a thing?

12:04 am • Thursday • June 1, 2017

I AM FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. This is a terrible, horrible, ugly, disgusting, nasty country, and I don’t like it here anymore.

11:38 am • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: It looks really bad now–like we’re hitting a new low as a nation every day–but it helps to remember the long view. Consider the tortured path to marriage equality:

1. 2004 – CaliguBush rode a wave of anti-gay hatred and state-level bans to win reelection in spite of the fact that he’d lied our country into two disastrous wars.

2. 2006 – Washington state supreme court (in)justice Barbara Madsen–a supposed ally (!)–delivered one of the most sickening anti-gay legal rulings in our nation’s history by justifying the state’s marriage ban on the grounds of procreation, nevermind that huge numbers of gay people are raising children and childless straight couples are on the rise.

3. 2008 – California voters in our most progressive state approve the notorious Proposition 8 (H8).

Dark days, indeed. Each election produced a seemingly insurmountable setback. Our rights —our lives–were put on trial in the most humiliating way possible. However, we persisted and within a few short years, states began legalizing marriage equality like dominoes. Washington state affirmed marriage equality at the ballot box in 2012, followed by the US supreme court in 2015.

In about a decade, the nation had completed a total 180. That’s a massive cultural and legal transformation.

11:51 am • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: Twitler has ripped the Scooby Doo villain mask off the RepubliKKKan party, and openly revealed its toxic, destructive extemism and incompetence. He is a black hole of insanity that will suck in and destroy the evil GOP. Within nine years, the Silent Generation and over half the Boomers will be gone, and there goes the Republinazis hate-crazed, sadistic, white power base.

President Twitter Troll has enraged and engaged a generation of Millennials that will be America’s largest, most liberal, most diverse, most progressive, and most economically screwed generation. Call me a latent optimist, but the pendulum is about to swing hard to the Left, with results that we can’t even imagine yet.

Don’t get me wrong, there are gonna be some ugly losses along the way, but we will survive and thrive and dismantle this despicable system of institutionalized racism and white trash supremacy. Viva la resistancia!

12:02 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Ronnie and Shrub weren’t exactly kind to the younguns, but they didn’t do lasting damage to the brand.

I’d like to think the Great Demographic Shift will bear fruit in ten years, but part of that involves getting folks in the habit of voting. Those who remain allowed, anyway.

12:24 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: Twitler is a game-changer in that we’ve never had a president so openly hateful, stupid, corrupt, destructive, and incompetent. He was only able to seize power by once again exploiting our anti-democratic (S)Electoral College after losing by 3 million votes. We’ve also never had a “leader” that refused to even make symbolic overtures towards the majority of the country that didn’t vote for him, and in fact continues to provoke and antagonize us.

“At least Reagan could fake a pleasant personality on occasion.”

— My mom

He still has around 40% support as the crowned King of the racists, morons, liars, bullies, and all-around assholes, but that’s only because the face-eating apocalyptic chaos that’s engulfed DC hasn’t reached Ma and Pa Cul de Sac yet. It soon will though as the blast radius is expanding outwards. My guess is that with the total psychopaths in the Ku Klux KONgress in charge, we’ll be in a 2008-style financial and fiscal crisis within a year.

1:05 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@¡Andrew!: <3

Thanks for trying, but I'm not there. The Anti-Muslim marches have me depressed as hell and thinking about my own family's issues dealing with racism. It's a lot. My kid, brothers, father, mother, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, I mean, I can go back to slavery to list the times we feared for our lives. Please know that I am not comparing being brown to being LBGTQ. It's not a contest to me.

So, this march in Portland, and the one in Seattle – does my sign go high or low? "Go Back to Europe Racist Scum," doesn't seem to do it, and fuck all that love shit. I hate these people.

1:06 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

Um, and I suck at sign making, so I need to order one from Kinkos ASAP. They love me there.

1:15 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Your mom is correct.

And I’m sure Nancy could fake a few herself.

But to take your example: Shrub tanked the world economy in 2008, Republicans swept statehouses and Congress in 2010.

Many reasons for that, of course. Well, one reason, really. The Sheriff was near. But that die-hard 40 percent remain among us, and they control far more than their share of political power, given how lines are drawn, including state lines.

The odds are stacked against the majority of citizens, and it will require an extraordinary effort to overcome that.

1:18 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: “European immigrants are a threat to America”?

Not my best work. Needs more pith.

1:27 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: “YOU ARE A THREAT TO AMERICA”

1:30 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

RACISTS ARE A THREAT TO AMERICA ?

1:31 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

HATE IS A THREAT TO AMERICA

FEAR IS A THREAT TO AMERICA

1:43 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: Signs aside, fear definitely has my vote.

Or, as I used to say back in Reagantimes: We have nothing to fear but the fear of others.

1:49 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: I am fed up. There’s a really shit song called “Break Stuff.” That’s how I feel. Luckily I’m too old and have always been too slow to avoid arrest.

1:54 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: Don’t worry, plenty of Northwest Loony Lefties eager to break stuff for you.

1:56 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: Leave the ski mask at home, then?

2:27 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: Not sure how to politely say this, but your opponents wouldn’t know the difference.

3:07 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: Ha!

Change of subject. The Punching Nazis thing has not been settled to my satisfaction, BUT…

Is it okay to punch Rand Paul?

3:27 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

I just bought Sketch, and now I feel better.

3:40 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

Whoa. Mary Kay Letourneau is from here. Amanda Knox is from here. More serial killers have been through or from here than any other state.

In the immortal words of David Byrne, “My God! What have I done?”

4:02 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: I’ve thought hard about how to respond to the fascist march potentially moving to Seattle next week.

Growing up in the South in the 80s, we had actual KKK marches that would pop up like herpes sores every few years. Kind-hearted, good, and decent people chose to ignore them, and eventually that white trash slithered back under the rock they came from. I’m thinking that’s the best response now. They’re looking for a fight–don’t give it to them. Don’t even dignify their presence.

The Pride March is the next day, Sunday, June 11th. Let our hope and pride be our defiant response to their sleazy lunacy and hate.

4:06 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: I suspect Rand Paul has been punched by many people, especially during earlier years.

And Sketch? Love it. As does Silent Creative Partner. Much easier than creating or coding Photoshop designs.

7:15 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Yeah. I hear you, but they are so emboldened. It’s more like Skokie, and thanks to the internet, these aren’t your Shiners social clubs in sheets.

These are very dangerous people.

Eventually the good ideas win. I have to believe that. And my part is to support good ideas through my presence, speech, witness, and $ if possible.

I will be at the Pride parade!

7:16 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

Shiners are those guys in fezzes, right? The ones who shove their large bodies into tiny fire trucks for parades? Those guys?

7:17 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@JNOV: Shriners.

7:19 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: Yah – pretty stoked. GIMP was making me so sad, and GIMP with a track pad? ACK! I have a Wacom on the way – the price has come down muchly on those things. I’m a hook-handed lefty, so I expect a learning curve. Calligraphy and screen printing were India ink disasters.

7:20 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

@nojo: Ohhhhhhh. I’ll leave it, because I find it amusing.

7:21 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

HOW CAN I BE EXPECTED TO WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS?

7:22 pm • Thursday • June 1, 2017

Every single time I hear the clip of Sessions saying, “I did not have communications with the Russians,” I hear, “I didn’t not have sexual relations with that woman.”

10:39 am • Friday • June 2, 2017

@JNOV: Can someone file a bar complaint over Granny Clampett perjuring his ass to the Ku Klux KONgress?

I don’t know how the legals work, but it seems like he couldn’t serve as AG if his lawyer license bounces.

5:49 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Interesting question, and I don’t know the answer, but I’ll take a stab at it.

B. Clinton’s Arkansas license was suspended, but he perjured himself in a civil lawsuit to which he was a party. He also paid a fine, and I think he might have lost his license to argue in Federal court. It still boggles the mind how an independent prosecutor/special counsel/special prosecutor could go from Whitewater to sexual harassment, but they have all the time and money in the world.

So, what happens to Sessions lying to Congress w/r/t his Alabama license? Likely nothing, because in order to be convicted of commiting a crime, you must have criminal intent (mens rea) and commit a criminal act (actus reus). The criminal intent part is usually (always?) the hardest to prove.

Let’s say that Mueller can’t prove that Sessions intentionally mislead Congress. Then he can’t be charged with perjury, but these things have a way of going sideways, so, who knows? Another cause of action stemming from the initial investigation might get him in some other sort of trouble.

Now, Alabama. What usually gets lawyers disbarred is stealing their clients’ money. Commingling funds is a BIG NO NO. The other stuff? Well, it depends on the state bar peeps who can be very forgiving at times. Based on what the state bar decides, they make a recommendation to the state supreme court (or in weirdass NY state, the Supreme Court is their trial court and the Court of Appeals is their highest court – I do not know why I remember that, and I might be wrong), who usually does what the state bar asks. Sessions was the Alabama AG, so he’ll die before Alabaman Millennials are old enough to disbar his ass assuming these kids aren’t good ole boys.

All of the above might be completely wrong. ;-)

Seriously, when things go sideways, and they will, it’s going to be a matter of the political will of Congress to bring charges against The Sessions Soviet Social Club. I believe that grievances can be filed with the state bar, but the person has to have a stake (standing) to be heard.

I don’t know how it works with Federal courts. It’s confusing as hell based on where you live and what federal court you want to appear before (bankruptcy, district vs appeals courts, or the Supreme Court and so on). I’m not helpful there, assuming I was helpful at all. :-)

5:54 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@nojo: The blurb makes me think of Eartha Kitt, and that’s not fair to her. But that’s just my mind doing its thing.

6:01 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@JNOV: And that reminds me of a philosophy prof doing “I Want to Be Evil” one day in class, and now I need a shower.

6:04 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@JNOV: And, since I’m not bothering to Google: Does an AG — a political appointee — need a law license, or is that just custom?

6:13 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@nojo: Great question. I assumed so, but “does the attorney general have to be a lawyer” is the automatic Google fill in.

Annnnd, I don’t think so. Lemme look more.

6:19 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@nojo: It appears the you do not have to be a lawyer to be US AG. It seems to be more administrative. Like, when Sally Yates said she wouldn’t send her lawyers out to defend the Muslim ban because it’s unconstitutional, it’s not like she’s the one who would be in court although she is the one who made the call after deliberating with her team.

BUT

Even if she were to appear in court representing the US, we have a long-standing pro se / pro per tradition where everyday people can argue in court, so, yeah. I don’t think you need to be a lawyer.

I’ll tell you what, though. So many lawyers are so fucking shitty that some lay people would probably do a better job than licensed attys.

6:23 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@nojo: Oh. Ick. Like, at lot. Shudder. Ack. Not. Good.

6:26 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

I’m envisioning a unwashed guy with food in his beard singing that.

6:32 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

Maaannnnnnne, I called out today because I stayed up until 6 am watching “13 Reasons Why.”

8:04 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@JNOV: Pretty close. Add glasses.

8:09 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@JNOV: That’s what I thought — the AG has plenty of puppy lawyers to do the heavy lifting, and the SG actually shows up at SCOTUS to represent the guvmint.

Not that I wouldn’t mind disbarring Sessions, but it wouldn’t knock him off his pedestal.

8:19 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

@nojo: Yeah, I mean, there’s a distinction some draw between being a lawyer (having a J.D.) and being an Attorney at Law (being a member of a bar). You can’t call yourself an Attorney at Law if you’re not a member of the bar, but many people holding J.D.s don’t practice but call themselves lawyers.

8:25 pm • Friday • June 2, 2017

baked and I don’t practice. SFL, DB, RML, and PNDB do, but I think Prom might have stopped? I’m not sure. Probably half of my class don’t practice. I was the first one to quit BigLaw after nine months, and the gossip mill went nuts. I’m still in over $100K of student loan debt, and if DeVos gets rid of the public interest loan forgiveness program, I’m screwed. I had to go with a new lender (fuck you, PHEAA), to join the FedLoan program, and my IBR payments skyrocketed. That’s my mortgage right there. My only consolation is that student loan debt dies with me.

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