Audience Participation

The Prison Guard in the Cell with a Rope

First off: Yay.

We have no interest in capital punishment. No faith in it, really. As administered, there’s no justice in it — statistically, guess who’s executed disproportionately — and much cruelty, especially with states freestyling their lethal cocktails in recent years. There’s also no certainty to it — innocents die — and then, if you’d like to get into some geeky theoretical chatter about The State, we’re there for it.

But we’re no gentle pacifist. Sometimes you just wanna fry the bastard. But state executions are problematic in theory and application, so you settle for the justice that’s otherwise available and appropriate under law.

Unless some asshole wants to spend long, painful minutes asphyxiating himself while dangling from the ceiling, in which case, y’know, sometimes shit takes care of itself.

Yay.

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Sheeeeit

It always arrives with the force of a hurricane.

Trump provokes. America reacts.

Every time.

Without fail.

It’s happening right now. Trump provoked. Something about Baltimore. But it wasn’t really about Baltimore. It was about the black congressman representing Baltimore. It was about the black people living in Baltimore.

But it wasn’t even about that.

It was about black people.

That was the provocation.

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Springtime for Hitlers

We thought we understood fascism.

The American kind, anyway. The kind that almost consumed the country in the 1930s, as it had consumed others. The kind rooted in economic depression, in desperation, in opportunistic leadership. The kind rooted in fantasy, a quick fix to an unsolvable, unendurable crisis.

We thought we understood that.

We thought we understood that all problems are economic, when you cut through the bullshit. Healthy countries — economically healthy countries — don’t have these problems. We all get by, we all get along. We all have a roof over our heads.

We wuz wrong.

And thing is, we knew this. After all, we had lived through it. Still are.

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The 2019 State of the Union Drinking Game

  • Trump shows up: Drink
  • Trump opens his mouth: Drink
  • A stream of bats issue from Trump’s open mouth: Drink

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Saint John

The facts of John McCain’s life are not hidden. From his return from Vietnam to his death last Saturday, John McCain was a public man. Nor are those facts inconsistent. McCain’s life had a trajectory, as all ours do, but there are no sudden turns, no Great Awakenings. The man who died was the man who had lived. We knew him. He was familiar.

Yet the moment of his death has, at least for the moment, defined his life. Had he died two years ago, before the current President was chosen by the Electoral College, or had he died three years hence, after the current President was run out of the country by an angry mob, his life would have been evaluated much differently. John McCain’s life would have been evaluated for what it was, not what people wanted it to be.

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On Legitimacy

In the Declaration, right after the familiar bit about unalienable rights, there’s a passage with more than a little relevance to our travails some 240 years later:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

This provides a simple, enduring definition of what qualifies as a legitimate government: Lacking the consent of its citizens, no government can claim to rule. Anything less leads to despotism.

The United States is, by the definition of its founders, an illegitimate, despotic government. This was blindingly true at its founding: one race was enslaved, one sex denied the franchise. The high ideals of our founding were not fulfilled by their implementation.

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Careful What You Wish For

Facts, as we know them, haven’t been around very long. It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that science, literacy, communications, and availability of written material started kicking in, providing the distribution of knowledge beyond previously limited enclaves.

It was exciting at first, knowing the world as it is, instead of what we thought it was. New discoveries! New understanding! New breakthroughs! All with the promise of more amazing things to come, soon as we got more facts under our belts. Finally, humanity was being liberated from millennia of superstition!

Yeah, funny thing about that: Folks stopped caring.

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