I’ve voted third party every election since 2000 when I was 18. I don’t believe the Democratic Party will even veer left unless there’s a vocal and active progressive movement pushing them that way. It’s not idealism, it’s pragmatism.
That said, I’ve spent the last 8 days viscerally regretting not voting for Clinton and spending the last 18 months petitioning others. I regret avoiding the conversations with my family for 18 months and allowing myself to assume enough people would recognize the danger in Trump. I don’t think voting for Clinton would have changed the election (she won the popular vote handily), but it would have mitigated this nausea in my gut, steaming up into my throat. I would know that I did every conceivable thing to try and prevent—this.
This is not a republican presidency.
This is not a republican revolution.
This is not a Tea Party insurgency.
This isn’t an efficient business-like approach.
This is high stupidity and old-fashioned fascism. New millennium white supremacy courtesy of American entitlement. And no one knows how or why it happened. Least of all the people who are telling us how and why it happened.
Because America is racist.
Because of lost jobs and the forgotten rust belt.
Because of the free market and globalism.
Third party spoilers.
The craven media’s disproportionate coverage.
I am already sick of hearing everyone’s explanation of why the Democrats couldn’t pull it off. We did this. All of us. And we don’t have time to waste hunting for scapegoats. That’s Bannon’s job; to provide us with the “long sought after” evidence of political corruption so that we’ll rationalize negotiating with white supremacists who want to throw out the establishment so that they can have the privilege of fleecing us. They know Americans are easily placated.
We’re going to hear it all and they’ll make it sound sophisticated and inevitable but there is nothing sophisticated or inevitable about fascism.
I’ll never advocate violence. I’ll never advocate secession. But I understand people who do. We should all be afraid. And we should not normalize this. People are already talking about the next four years. I’m worried about the first hundred days. I’ll work with Democrats to resist this, but I have no faith they’ll do that unless they’re forced. It’s down to citizens taking the time and the risk to push back every day.
We are not dealing with someone who cares about changing the government, but eviscerating it. That may only take months considering the numbers in the senate and congress. It only takes a second to make a mess the rest of us will be cleaning up for decades. Trump has fed the hate, harassment, racism, and violence of his followers with a wink and a nod since day one.
That is how he was elected. On abject sex appeal. By being a human trainwreck. His win shocked the people who voted for him were more than those who didn’t. They probably don’t regret it, but they weren’t thinking about what would happen if he was president. Now we all get to find out and pass the charge on to the black, brown, and poor. To the kids with no future.
After, whoever’s left will have the privilege of regret.
As a white man who’s easily mistaken for Native American, Latino, and Arab, to name a few, I’ve had a curious experience with my whiteness. Due to being raised by an unambiguously white family in a mostly middle-class environment, I’ve benefited as much as most Caucasians from white privilege. The instances of racism I’ve encountered have been few and haven’t seemed impactful, an experience I think of as sharply distinct from that of most non-white people .
I grew up in the early 90s. Blue-collar republican politics and small town Catholicism laid the foundations of my world view. I grew up with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Magic Johnson on the Wheaties box. A white culture that espoused a post-racial society decades before the term was coined.
Even as I developed a leftist, “counterculture” identity, I developed it within the yolk of whiteness. American television was my country. That was my language. As a socially awkward introvert in a small town, most of the racial insults spit at me from other white kids went over my head. Moving to suburban Virginia Beach when I was 11, it may as well have been Miami. For the first time I was interacting with Blacks, Asians, Latinos, all with their own narratives of race and history that conflicted with or disregarded my own. Hearing many of them extol racist and homophobic views was a shock. Eventually, it dawned on me how much I had seen other races as less than people, as victims or objects.
I developed the kind of racism a lot of white men do. Looking back, it seems obvious how much of it was the burgeoning aggression that accrues among any group of adolescents. We create irrational beliefs and convictions based on events governed by hormones. Why do so many of us carry them into adulthood? Certainly more white guys messed with me than black guys, but internally, I use those memories of confrontation with Blacks as a pretext to profile. To this day, a black person my age or younger will put me on edge sooner than a white person in the same clothes. It doesn’t matter that I know this is a prejudice, there’s a gut reaction I still live with that leaves my perception flawed. Of course I do this with all races. But this perception is constantly reinforced by the American propaganda of black inferiority.
White people often ask: “what can we do to fight racism?”
Black people have always said, “talk to your people,”
to which we’ve replied, “is there anything else?.”
No one wants to call up the folks and start a conversation about race. No one wants to roll over in bed and say, “honey, let’s talk about you saying ‘nigger’ all the time.” But conversations about race will inevitably come up. What is required of us is a greater will to take those opportunities instead of letting it pass because we don’t want to appear confrontational or naive, or we don’t want to lose our cool and sound off. And of course, we don’t want to deal with the typical reaction that merely asking why a white friend said something related to race will illicit. “I’m no racist!” As if the only reason to talk about race could be to shame someone. But that’s one of the main things race relations in America actually need, more honest conversations.
The activism in Ferguson and across the country since Michael Brown’s death have put police brutality, and the institutional racism that enables it, front and center in the mainstream media. And kept it there, forcing us to examine how power and abuse is perpetuated every day, often by white people simply “not being racist.” Emily Pothast expounds on this theme in her article, True Confessions of a White Supremacist.
What is especially insidious about racism is that it’s so easy to argue that it’s natural, a necessary evil. That it can’t be remedied, only ignored or apologized for. To be sure, we all develop persistent prejudices and reflexes, but to pretend that they are unchangeable or innate is fatalistic and lazy. In Race Matters, Professor Cornel West artfully challenged much of the prevailing notions about blackness and progress in America.
“Hence, any claim to black authenticity- beyond that of being a potential object of racial abuse and an heir to a grand tradition of black struggle- is contingent on one’s political definition of black interest and one’s ethical understanding of how this interest relates to individuals and communities in and outside black America. In short, blackness is a political and ethical construct. Appeals to black authenticity ignore this fact; such appeals hide and conceal the political and ethical dimension of blackness.”
In 2016 it remains an open question if we as white people will show the same rigor in examining the political and ethical dimensions of whiteness.
Thursday, I attended a reading by Juan Thompson, son of journalist Hunter S. Thompson, at Powell’s City of Books. His memoir, Stories I Tell Myself, spans his life growing up in Aspen, Colorado, up to his father’s suicide in 2005. While not a biography, it is very much the story of the elder Thompson told through the life of his son, a proposition the author admits is wildly subjective, steeped in the fog of memory.
He read a series of letters between him and his father, who he has always called Hunter, from
1982, when he traveled to Boston for college. Juan was soft spoken and reserved. He looked like a well dressed professor (he works in IT in Denver). He began writing the book soon after the death of his father. Why? To complexify the myth of the renegade drug addict journalist chasing the wildest true stories, adrenaline, and his own weird sense of justice. To tell the story of a man of extremes beyond the cartoonish specter that delights and horrifies our American psyche. A major theme, of course, is relationships between fathers and sons, how they move and change from childhood, through adolescence, into the Fall of middle age. He writes about attempts to relate closely in adulthood, the brief successes, the resignation to gaps unbridged.
It is also the story of a man suffering the results of a lifetime of excess, a story he believes his father would want him to tell as honestly as possible, but only now that he’s gone. Deterioration into immobility, dependence, and most painful of all, the loss of the ability to write.
Afterward, he took questions from the small audience.
“From the letter, it sounded like he really believed in your ability to write. You said you resisted that. Did you feel like you bonded with him in some way by writing this book?”
He described gaining new insight into his father’s life by writing. How he could finally understand the way he would procrastinate for days, weeks, before finally setting down to write, and how seriously he would take it. This was Hunter’s purpose, Juan maintains. More than being a father or a journalist, or a an object of fame, he wanted to be a great writer.
“Did you use an editor?”
“I was surprised to discover what editors have become. A combination of recruiter and project manager. The just don’t have the time anymore, to edit. I hired someone myself to do that because at a certain point, I couldn’t quite see it clearly.”
“Did he ever meet Garry Trudeau?”
“No. Not to my knowledge. It would not have been good. Hunter hated him, he tried to sue him, and sent many very threatening letters.”
Those familiar with HST’s letters, collected in The Gonzo Papers and other books, will recall the venomous invective he was prone to hurl at enemies who’d never spoken his name, much less caricatured him. Along these lines, Juan recommended his father’s obituary of Richard Nixon, He Was a Crook. Nixon features heavily in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, along with Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and George Wallace. A stark and readable book if you’ve got election fever.
I have been a fan of HST’s writing since I was 17 in the late 90s, and remember where I was when I heard that he had shot himself. I remember thinking “what will things be like now?”
His last book, Hey Rube, a collection of columns by the same name for ESPN, excoriated the Bush Administration and the rabid public that voted for him twice in between literary reverie and old school sports writing . It will hopefully gain more mainstream credibility with age as time catches up with his reportage.
“Have you forgiven your father for killing himself?”
“So many people have written to me and in the press that they felt angry. I can understand, but I didn’t and haven’t felt that way. I would have liked for him to have been around for a few more years for my son’s sake, so that they could have had that time.” He again mentioned the gloom of Hunter’s final days as he lost more and more control of his body.
“It just made sense if you knew him.” 3:19:16