I’m sure I’ve ranted about this already in the past, but it happened again last week.  I think it must’ve been the impeachment hearings.  A Republican dimwit said something like “The American people wanted Donald Trump to be President…the American people don’t want impeachment…”

No, you dolt, not the American people.  It was SOME American people that wanted Trump to be President.  SOME Americans don’t like the idea of impeachment…other Americans are fervently hoping and wishing for it.

To be fair, this happens on the left too.  I will frequently hear optimistic commentary claiming that the American working class supports progressive policies–and I so, so wish that were true.  But many in the working class are against ideas like single payer healthcare and increased taxation on the wealthy, even though this essentially means they’re going against their own interests.  Saying that the American people support Bernie is just as unrealistic as saying that the American people support Trump.

The point is, the phrase “The American people want x” is useless, because there is no such thing as a united American people at the moment.  No matter which side you’re coming from, about half the country will oppose you.  And not just oppose you in a reasonable, thoughtful kind of way–but more like oppose you in a hair-on-fire, I-want-you-to-die kind of way.  Right now, slightly more than half the country hates Trump. (I’m part of that half, and I do think there are good reasons to dislike him.) If a Dem gets elected President (which I really, really hope happens, and have already started working for), slightly less than half the country will be actively rooting against them, and hoping for them to fail.  I don’t know what kind of saint could perform the miracle of making that division go away.  Jesus would get crucified all over again for being a socialist, so it wouldn’t be Him.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why that phrasing gets used so much.  Politicians want to create the impression that all or the vast majority of Americans support whatever idea they’re trying to promote.  And since when do politicians care if what they’re saying is actually true?  There are also non-politician citizens who badly want to believe that it’s only a small crazy fringe which disagrees with them…after all, their views just make so much sense, right?  But it’s extra disingenuous to be saying this at such an extremely polarized time in our history.

I know it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive to say “Well, about half the people are behind me on this…and large sections of the country don’t like what I’m doing.”  And it could be deadly to one’s political career.  So, we will have to continue to put up with political leaders speaking for “the American people” in their entirety, even though all of us who are in touch with reality know this to be a lie.  We are not one American people, and will not be for a long time.

At least, not until the next time somebody attacks us.  Because nothing binds a people together and puts an end to internal strife like finding a common enemy.  So, on that fine day when we find someone we can hate more than we hate each other, we will be able to once again say “The American people are completely in favor of destroying…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the 2020 election season is starting to fire up, and here comes the predictable chorus saying the same thing we always hear.  When it comes to people who actually want to transform the system we live in–people who support things like a single payer health care system, a higher minimum wage, affordable college…

You want free stuff!

Lazy moochers.  You want a handout, don’t you?  You want to be given something for nothing.

Let me just stop this tired old song before it even gets started.  I’m not a moocher.  I’m certainly not lazy.  I drag myself out of bed and work my ass off every single day.  I don’t want a handout–I just want what I’m rightfully owed for my hard work.  A decent wage.  The ability to see the doctor if I’m sick.  A roof over my head.  Working people should be able to have access to these basics.

Conservatives twist this into the idea of class envy.  If you want these things, it must be because you’re envious of what other people have and want to take that away.  I don’t envy the rich their lifestyle.  I certainly don’t envy Donald his garish, gold-covered absurdity of an existence.  I’m not asking for what belongs to anybody else–I’m asking for what is already mine.  The fruit of my hard labor.

Most Americans I know are like that.  I’ve known a couple of people over the course of my life who I could genuinely describe as moochers, but they were a small minority.  The majority of people I know in this country work themselves to the point of burnout and exhaustion, and they get screwed over in return.  It amazes me that so many of these working class Americans still support Trump.  The man has done his best to weasel away even more from them–everything from overtime pay to the ability to file a workers compensation claim for an on-the-job injury, and he certainly hasn’t helped with the tax situation.  Yet they continue to love the guy who robs them of what little they have.

So no, I’m not interested in “free stuff.”  But hey, getting treated with some dignity by the country I’m investing my life and work into?  Now that actually sounds like a good deal….

I rarely ever post non-fictional political blogs anymore, mainly because everything is just too depressing.  And it’s not just the scandalous tweet of the day….it’s all the stupid little things.  Today I was once again reminded that we left the UN Human Rights Council a couple months ago, and felt another little pang of regret for another stupid decision.

Sure, the UN is mostly a rambling deliberative body and isn’t capable of stopping war and conflict in the world.  But it’s the symbolism of the thing.  The Human Rights Council continues speaking out on rights violations in Myanmar, Sudan, Syria.  The United States is not a part of that anymore, only confirming the suspicion that it didn’t care much about this stuff in the first place, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that we’re leaving the Human Rights Council just as our country is on a not-so-subtle slide down the road to fascism?  Legal residents are having their passports taken away.  Journalists are condemned as the “enemy of the people.”  Many refugee children torn away from their parents have still not been reunited with them.  What other human rights violations would the Trump administration love to be able to get away with?  What violations is it planning to get away with in the near future?

Anyway, there are my sad musings for the night.  For what it’s worth, another reason I have less time to blog is that I have been phone banking and canvassing like crazy for my local Democratic Party.  Will there actually be a Blue Wave coming in November?  I have no idea.  I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m naturally a pessimist…about everything.  But I will keep working for it, whatever the chances of it happening may be.  Lord knows we need someone different than the people in charge right now.

 

 

One fine day, I decided that I, too, would build a wall. It would be the most beautiful wall, the best wall. It would keep all the scary stuff out. I would put the wall in my front yard. I didn’t like how my driveway was open to everyone. Way too many random drivers were using it as a turnaround spot. And more and more people were moving into my neighborhood. God only knows who all was coming in these days.

My fantasy was to make the wall out of gold and pink marble, like one of President Trump’s bathrooms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t rich–in fact, I could barely afford my retirement. So I would work with what I had. I started stacking old cans and beer bottles up to form the foundation of my wall. A few of my neighbors gave me strange looks, but they just didn’t understand what going after the American dream is all about.

My next door neighbor came over to chat with me. She was one of those do-gooders who have to stick their nose into everything. She said she loved my art project about recycling. Annoying old witch. Soon, I would no longer have to see her. Once my wall was tall enough, I would no longer have to see anyone. I wouldn’t have to see the kids running down the sidewalk, screaming “Hi!” at me. If I made it soundproof, I wouldn’t have to hear the crazy dog across the street barking its head off. Or the cars driving by with their rap music turned up way too loud.

Over the next couple months, I kept building away. I brought whatever junk I could find to my construction site, and taped and glued it together. But it still wasn’t enough to make a truly intimidating barrier. I even tapped into the emergency food and water supplies I was saving for the inevitable war against the government, so that I could add the emptied packaging to my wall. I took the old newspapers piling up in the guest bedroom and ground them up, using the paste to plug holes in my structure. I hesitated for a moment when it came to my books–but, really, it was a no brainer. Defending my property was far more important than reading.

I stood back and surveyed my work with pride. It was beautiful. But something was missing. Something big.

How could I have not thought of it earlier? All the idiots on TV hated the President. Watching it was a waste of time.

It was just as I was pondering how exactly I would make the television a part of my masterpiece that the mailman drove up.

“Hello!” he called out with a smile. I could barely see him from behind several feet of wall material.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

“It’s…a new security system.” I tapped my fingers nervously on a rusting can. “Gotta be careful. All kinds of people out there. I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but I’m working on building more layers.”

“Oh. How are you going to pick up your mail?”

Good question. I hadn’t thought that through. It seemed that his voice was tinged with a little sadness. We always used to talk whenever I was out in my yard. He was a real friendly guy. But we were living in the end times, and I couldn’t let myself worry about that.

“I’ll leave a crack for you to slip the mail into,” I ventured.

Once I had nailed the TV down, hacking the rest of my furniture to bits was the next logical step. I didn’t have any sentimental feelings as I methodically destroyed my home. The dining table–I never had any guests over for dinner. The chest with my childhood toys. The shelves, the chairs, the bed. I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. It was best for me not to sleep too comfortably anyway.

My wall–my baby–kept growing. It was now far taller and thicker than I had ever envisioned, blocking out the neighboring houses and the late sunset skies. I even managed to make some DIY barbed wire to decorate the top.

One evening, as I sat in my gutted house sipping a glass of water which had been carefully filtered through my sock, I heard sirens approaching. I paused and listened. Yep, they had come to a stop in front of my place.

I went out to greet them. I liked cops, for the most part. It wasn’t their fault that they worked for a corrupt government. Of course, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t take a weapon out there with me.

I heard the cop’s voice coming through the makeshift mail slot.

“Good evening! We’re here because someone gave us a call about a structure which violates building and safety codes…”

That stupid woman again.

“You know how it is–we had to check it out. That’s quite a fence you got yourself there.”

“Did what I had to do. This neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. You understand what I mean, officer.”

“Hahahaha…sure do, but don’t say that too loud, or some of your neighbors will get even more offended. You armed?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. We need armed citizens like you. You keep an eye on things. Or an ear, I guess.” He chuckled. “Excuse me…there’s some punk in a hoodie walking around here. Gonna go take care of that.”

“Thank you for your service, officer.”

The sirens sped off again.

Even though the police had been so reasonable, the incident made me even more paranoid. All my suspicions were confirmed–I couldn’t trust my neighbors. They were out to get me.

Well, fuck them. I was a maker. Unlike them, I did not spend pathetic evenings staring at one screen or another. They might think I was ridiculous, and everything about me might get wiped away, but my wall would remain. A tribute to my ingenuity and hard work. A tribute to America.

*****

From the Gentry Village Times website, dated August 20, 2018:

Fire sadly claimed a fatality today, reminding us of the dangers of our unusually dry weather. The Gentry Fire Department responded to a call about a blaze consuming a local home, and found the body of a Mr. Alexander Jones at the site. The way his charred corpse was positioned indicated that he died while making a futile attempt to climb a giant wall of trash stacked up around his house. It is unclear why the wall was there, but neighbors say Mr. Jones was a hoarder and in need of a mental health intervention. Numerous complaints had been lodged with the community homeowner’s association.

One anonymous neighbor was quoted as saying: “Somebody should’ve probably told him that he was acting completely bleeping insane. Before the wall got out of control.”

“But we never expected the fire.”

The Professor winced when he got out of his flight capsule.  He had to keep reminding himself of how crucial his assignment was, that every little bit counted.  No matter how hopeless it seemed.

“Remember, you’re doing sacred work, Henrik,” he muttered under his breath.

A rag-tag crowd of natives was already beginning to gather, gawking at his ship. A few of them cheered and applauded, but most just stared, stone-faced.

Naomi bounded out to meet him.  She looked energetic as ever, no matter how much human misery she witnessed on a daily basis.

“Thank you for agreeing to come here, sir,” she said after hugging him. “This is a rough area.”

“Rough areas are my job,”  he replied, his Swedish accent making the word “job” softer. Not all of his colleagues at World United agreed that the charity missions to Merka were worthwhile. He couldn’t blame them.  Visiting a place like New York wasn’t too bad–it was quaint with all the red brick, and the traffic-clogged streets and old-fashioned subways, but one still felt connected to civilization.  Out here, though….

“What part of Virginia are we in again?”  he whispered to Naomi.

“Western Virginia, sir,”  she whispered back.

The Merkans continued to eye him with suspicion, but they also started quietly lining up, knowing that a World United flight meant food and aid packages for them.  It was a heart-wrenching sight: a long line of silent, ragged figures, pretending to be too proud to care about the hand-out they were waiting for.

But Naomi was beaming at him. “We’ve got something very special lined up for you today, sir.”

He gave her a weary smile.  She led him carefully down the steps from the landing pad, and then down a narrow, uneven sidewalk, manoeuvering him past a large pothole.  On the other side of the street was a row of the typical small shacks Merkans lived in, holes covered with blue tarp, walls stained by the smoke from the town factory.  He could sense the residents peering at him from their doorways, but they were blocked from approaching him by a mix of local police and World United security.

They stopped underneath a flashing blue sign which read Debbie’s Cafe.

“We wanted to treat you to the best Virginia has to offer,”  Naomi said, showing him to a table on the side patio of the cafe. A server immediately jogged up with a styrofoam tray of greasy fries.

He would never admit it to anyone back in Europe, but Henrik enjoyed some of these exotic Merkan foods quite a bit. They never did switch to the health service diet over here. Of course, they never did get a decent health service, either.

Naomi interrupted his fascination with the fries when she tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to a red-headed boy who had climbed a small podium and positioned himself behind a cheap portable keyboard.

After an announcement by a community center music teacher which Henrik didn’t pay attention to, the boy began to play.

It was a halting but graceful version of the old Cohen classic, Hallelujah. As the sounds melted away into the humid Merkan afternoon, Henrik was once again overcome with wonder. It was here, among these simple people in their slums, that he could find something akin to spiritual enlightenment.  He breathed it in.

The kid was talented.  He listened for a while with his eyes closed.  After the song stopped, the teacher and Naomi clapped with great enthusiasm.  Henrik walked up to congratulate the young musician, and the gaunt and nervous mother hovering behind him.

Henrik shook the boy’s hand. “Excellent job!  That was amazing!”  he said.  “Would you please give me your contact info?  I could get you a visa for anywhere in the Northern World Region.  You could study music at a real university.  What do you think, huh?”

The boy blushed and gazed at the ground.

His mother looked even more nervous. “I don’t know about that, mister,”  she said.  “I listen to the radio news and they’ve explained all about World United.  It might not be so good for him.”

He should’ve known. He had heard this so many times before. “Surely he won’t be able to get any real music training here, is he?”

“If we work hard and we save our money up, we might be able to get there,”  the woman said.  “At least here in Merka, we have the freedom to try.  My child isn’t going to be oppressed by a one world socialist government.”

“He wouldn’t have to live there forever,”  Henrik explained.  “And he would be free to make his own choices…”

“Yeah, if he chooses to be a gay snowflake,”  the woman shot back. “Look, his teacher wanted him to perform for you today, so I let him perform.  But I’m not letting you take him anywhere. We’re still the best country in the world.  I don’t care what anybody else says.”

The professor suspected that he was getting at least some of this hostility courtesy of his dark skin. The white Merkan natives always seemed to have an issue with that.

“That’s right.”  An older man standing nearby nodded vigorously.  Henrik couldn’t tell if he was a father or a grandfather. Most of his teeth were missing, his body bent from a lifetime of grueling labor.  “That’s right.  I thank God every day that I was lucky enough to be born in Merka.”

“Living in the rest of the world is not quite the nightmare you imagine it to be,”  Henrik said.  “We lead very normal lives.”

“Nope.  Nice try, but you can’t fool us,”  the woman said. “I listen to the Han Stannity show every day.  Good man.  He gives us all the information about what really goes on over there–how they tax you to death, how the only way you can get medical care is through the government…”

Her son stared at her, wide-eyed.

“We know the truth!”  the woman finished triumphantly.

Henrik bowed to her and her son.  “I suppose if you’ve found out the truth about us, there’s not much I can do to persuade you otherwise.  I wish you all the best for your future, young man.”  For a moment, his mask of politeness slipped.  “With all due respect, though, Han Stannity is a complete moron.”

He turned and slowly walked away.

“You can go fuck yourself!  You and your country!”  He could hear the woman screaming after him. “We will bomb the shit out of you!”

That would have been a scary threat, Henrik thought. A scary threat…about fifty years or so ago.

Naomi was waiting for him, her face drawn, her hands folded together.  “That was so disappointing, Henrik. I’ll have one of the event organizers speak to them.”

The professor waved his arms. “No, no, don’t.  It’s not necessary.”

He sat down and went back to sipping his beer. Now that the woman was done screaming, she and her family began making their way to the World United food and medicine distribution point.  There would also be doctors available there to give them free medical and dental exams.

He didn’t feel any anger as he watched these fiery warriors for liberty rushing to claim assistance from the institution they so hated.  He realized their fist shaking fury was a symptom of their total powerlessness.

He smiled at Naomi across the table.  “Please, don’t look so anxious, my dear.  I have never lost faith in the value of our mission.”

“It just breaks my heart that a man like you, who only wants to help others, gets treated like this.”

This would be the perfect time to hop on his return flight back to Stockholm.  In fact, it was way overdue.  He was done with this place.

“Naomi, this isn’t all about me helping them.  The truth is, these people help me.  They help me find gratitude–gratitude for what we’ve got in the rest of the world.”

And as she waved a tearful goodbye to him and he climbed back up to his flying ship, he added to himself:

“Where else could I go to feel this superior?”

 

It was true what they said–snooping doesn’t pay off.  You get more pain than satisfaction out of it.  But I just couldn’t help myself, could I?

I sit at the breakfast table, picking at my plate of eggs and sausage.   He shuffles towards the coffee-maker, rumpled and yawning.  The man I love.  The man I know.  The man I thought I knew.

But then I remember that I’ve seen his browsing history.  The websites he went to late at night.  Those pictures of strange men.  I have to ask, even though I realize it will wreck everything.

“Honey, did…did you vote for Trump?”

He turns around and stares.  “What?”

“Don’t lie.  You’ve been reading Breitbart.”

“And you’ve been checking up on me.”  With a sudden burst of energy, he strides out of the kitchen.  “That’s an invasion of my privacy.”

“This is for your own good,”  I plead, getting up and following him.  “You’re only hurting yourself.  The first step is to admit you have a problem.”

“I don’t have a problem.  Conservatives have a right to their opinions, too, you know.”

Conservatives?  But he’s a progressive!  Or…I assumed he was a progressive, because, because…this is the twenty-first century!  Everybody’s a progressive…right?

“What about the horrible things Trump said?  About Mexicans, about…”

“Oh, come on.  The things he said weren’t racist.  He’s only getting bashed for saying them because he’s a white man.”

Oh, dear God.  Not this shit.

“You don’t really think you’re oppressed, do you?”

“I’m not sure.  I do know that everyone gets offended if I speak up about something.  Does that qualify as oppression?”

Somehow, I should have seen this coming, and yet I’m so confused.  “Okay, I promise I won’t get offended if you’re honest with me.  Why did you vote for someone like Trump?”

“Well, all you hear about him on the fake media is the bad stuff.  There are a lot of good things he’s doing.”

“Like what?”

“He drove the media insane, didn’t he?  And the mainstream politicians.  I loved the way he gave it to that one annoying guy on Twitter, what’s his name…”

“Those are not achievements!  Attacking people is not an achievement.”  I look down at the napkin I’m tearing into little pieces.  “Would you ever attack someone like that? Call them names?  I can’t imagine it.”

He shrugs and turns to the window.

I take a deep breath.  I have to hear the very worst of it.  “What about his comments about grabbing women by the pussy?  Are you okay with that?”

Exasperated sigh.  “Stupid boys talk…”

“He was talking about sexual assault!”

“Women are so sensitive.  Everything is sexual assault these days.”  He turns to face me for a moment.  “Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now.  And I’m not going to let you tell me what to think.  I’m not a fucking cuck.”  Then the bedroom door slams shut behind him.

We live in the same house.  We sleep in the same bed.  We’re a family.  How did I miss this?  What didn’t I notice?

Maybe we’re no longer really talking to each other, each of us focused on our own personal screen, posting our own version of the world.  Too busy telling our story to listen.

I want to scream at him to go fuck himself.  I want to walk away, but I can’t.  Neither one of us can make it alone.  We’ll have to find our way back to each other somehow.

Sooner or later, I’m gonna have to knock on that door.

I, too, am an immigrant.

I may not be brown-skinned, but I’m still here to take your job.  My parents took your jobs, too.  I’m not sure if these are jobs Americans just won’t do.  All I know is that we’ve worked our butts off to build the life we’ve got in this country.  And I know undocumented immigrants who work even harder.

I may not wear a hijab, but I know what it’s like to be a refugee.  I know what it’s like to fear the government of my old homeland, and to hope and pray that I will be accepted in my new one.  And yet what my family experienced is nothing compared to those fleeing their bombed out houses and lives in Syria.

I’m lucky to have white skin, so I don’t stand out too much.  Unless I speak and you hear my accent, you may think I’m one of you.  Even if you do hear my accent, you won’t mind, because a European accent is sexy/cute.  I’m just another fortunate person enjoying the fruits of this country’s success.  “God bless you!  Welcome to America!”

But I can never allow myself to feel too comfortable.  Because in a society which needs scapegoats, nobody is ever really safe.  And you need scapegoats.  You’re angry and frustrated.  Things haven’t turned out the way you hoped they would, so you’re looking for someone to blame.  This will not end well.  Today the scapegoats are the people coming across the southern border.  Tomorrow they might be anyone who speaks a foreign language in public, or anyone who doesn’t salute the flag quickly enough.  Someday, the scapegoat might be you–the person who’s pointing the finger right now.

I can also never allow myself to point the finger, because that would make me an ugly hypocrite.  I am grateful to be able to live here, and I can’t close the door on others who want to come in, only because their culture is different or their religion makes me uncomfortable. After all, we immigrated from a country which, at the time we left it, had a Communist political system.  What if my family was automatically suspected of wanting to spread Communism?  Everyone from that part of the world could have been a radical Communist, right?  What if we were considered too high-risk to be allowed into the States?  Doesn’t matter that my family actually opposed Communism.  Many refugees today are running away from ISIS-style fundamentalism because they hate and fear it, but we are suspicious of them anyway.

So when you talk about how we should keep “them” out and how “they” make us unsafe, I can’t help but feel a little anxious.

I was once one of “them”.  I still remember what that’s like.  And no matter how Americanized I become, I will never be exactly like you–I will always be an immigrant.