2nd Amendment Rhetoric

When dealing with the second amendment, which guarantees the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, there’s a lot of emotion involved, and a lot of rhetoric. There are some awesome videos circulating which debunk a lot of commonly held beliefs about the second amendment. However, some of them can be a little condescending or otherwise just a lot of information and change for someone who doesn’t have experience with firearms. I want to keep this post tight and succinct, so we’re going to talk about one of the most common arguments we see circulating around social media: the argument that the second amendment was written several hundred years ago and therefore doesn’t apply to firearms invented after 1789 (88-91 depending on where you draw the line). Some of you might correctly identify this as a subset of the argument against an originalist reading of the constitution. The argument, at its core, is that when the second amendment was written, common “Arms” were muskets and swords. Since technology has advanced and created new and more lethal firearms, it’s necessary to write legislation to fill this gap. You can see this argument shared almost verbatim from a common progressive facebook page below.Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 11.58.13 AM

Although we know that “views” on a facebook video are a bit inflated, 60million is still a pretty high number. This isn’t some fringe viewpoint or argument, the page has over 4.5 million likes.

We’ll ignore  the fact that a short argument such as this doesn’t specify what kinds of new gun laws we need because of the limitations of making a quick, simplified, statement over the internet. However, if we accept this way of looking at the bill of rights and the constitution at large, a few comical (in a terrifying way) observations can be made.

Let’s start with the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Parallel argument: This is what press looked like when the first amendment was written *image of printing press*. This is why we need new freedom of press laws. Since the internet and computers were not invented in 1789, the founding fathers had no way of knowing how vast and powerful our sharing tools would become. We need new laws on the book to regulate what people can publish online. When the founding fathers wrote the constitution, how could they have possibly anticipated that televisions, blogs, radio or microphones would be invented? These tools give you the capability to speak freely to 1000 people per second! We need to regulate what citizens can say on these media. When they said free speech they meant in the town square, to as many people as you could yell.

Other things not protected under the first amendment: google hangouts, youtube videos, video chatting, text messaging, phone calls, megaphones, email.

The third amendment is kind of a boring one for this parallelism. I guess one could say that houses now are way bigger and have features the founding fathers couldn’t have imagined so if your house uses any post 1789 features like a two car garage? That’s not protected bro, congress can make a law saying you have to quarter 4 army dudes in your garage forever.

The fourth amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Parallel argument: The founding fathers say “houses and papers”, but they didn’t say anything about your smart phone! You are not protected from seizure of your phone records, internet history, photos, documents, spreadsheets, usage data, text messages, emails, online shopping record or any form of digital communication or storage of information at all. Really anything that was invented after 1789 which can be searched, they don’t need a warrant for.

What about the fifth and sixth amendments? Sure it was reasonable to have a fair trial in front of a jury when the population of the newly-minted country was ~2.5 million people. There’s no way they could have anticipated that the population was going to grow to 320 million. Besides there are way more laws now, laws they didn’t know about. It makes it SUCH a burden to give everyone a fair trial in front of a jury of their peers.

As we can see, making an argument based on the limited foresight of the founding fathers leads to a whole lot of relativism. The bill of rights is written as a document which expressly prohibits the government from infringing on basic rights of American citizens. You can argue that you don’t want the right to bare Arms to be a basic right guaranteed to Americans, but you should be clear that that is what you are arguing for, the removal of rights currently guaranteed by the bill of rights. Just because the founding fathers didn’t know about new technology isn’t a sufficient argument for our basic rights as Americans not applying to those things. Just because the framers didn’t know that someone was going to invent an AR15 or your standard semi-automatic handgun doesn’t mean that those aren’t protected by the constitution.

 

 

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There is Goodness in the World

It is a common axiom that intelligent people are often less happy. Many historical geniuses or great inventors were notoriously depressed, loners, or removed from normal healthy interactions in some way or another. Oppenheimer spent the rest of his life following the Manhattan Project deeply upset with the idea that something as terrible and destructive as the atomic bomb existed, and that he had created it. For Oppenheimer, the root of his unhappiness resulted directly from the fruits of his impressive intellect and likely the tangible destruction it had wrought. When asked about the first time the Manhattan Project team saw the A-bomb tested, Oppenheimer famously said

“A few people laughed, a few people cried, most were silent…I remembered a line from the Hindu scripture…bhagavad gita…Vishnu takes on his multi-armed form and says ‘now I am become death, destroyer of worlds’ I think we all felt that. One way or another.”

This is one of his most famous quotes, and for good reason. Although the recording adds a certain humanity and emotion to the words, even the text alone belies a deep, existential and metaphysical dread. Some might say that it wasn’t necessarily his genius that was intertwined with his unhappiness, but rather the child of his intellect, the bomb. To that I might ask you if there is a difference between the two. Nonetheless, a perhaps less intellectually flippant answer would be to refer to a lesser-known quote from Oppenheimer. In a 1929 letter to his brother, Oppenheimer wrote:

“I can’t think that it would be terrible of me to say — and it is occasionally true — that I need physics more than friends”

Robert Oppenheimer was not unique in his woes. Vincent Van Gogh was reportedly unhappy all his life, with frequent depressive spells and other mental illness plaguing one of the most influential geniuses in western art history. This eventually lead to him taking his own life before age 40. He is credited as having created his own unique style, and is arguably the most prolific and ingenious Belgian artist of all time. However, he died poor and alone, having painted most of his 2100+ pieces in the two years prior to shooting himself in the chest.

Yet another example, the great Ernest Hemingway, who suffered a deep depression, once said:

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

A few years and several failed electroshock therapy treatments later, Hemingway himself ate a bullet from his favorite gun.

These geniuses represent peaks in human brilliance and talent, but the trend also holds in a general sense. People who have gone through a long period of schooling relative to the general population are some of the least happy people I know. Some of you might be thinking that level of schooling isn’t a very good proxy for intellect. I agree.  You might say that the reason that unhappiness and schooling don’t anecdotally correlate better than they already do is because there are lots of people who are well educated but otherwise rather unintelligent. 

Having acknowledged the limitations of using schooling as representative of intellect, I have noticed a peculiar something about the ivory-tower social justice which of late innervates more and more aspects of university life and learning, especially in the United States. As the now infamous clip of the pop-culture feminist icon, Anita Sarkeesian, proclaims 

“When you start learning about systems, everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time”

I often hear the argument that treating everything as prejudiced is either hyperbolic, or is an extremist view. But  the millions of people making up the general readership of several common news outlets seem pretty okay with this “extremism”. According to Salon, voting for Donald Trump is a sexist reaction to women’s rights. According to Slate, craft brewing has a sexism problem. Here, the New York Post reminds us that calling a pantsuit a pantsuit is extremely problematic. University of Wisconsin recently offered a post-doctoral position in feminist biology because science is sexist too!

Thank god we have some pop culture icons to guide us in the right direction as well, I hope they make a condescending video telling me who to vote for and what to think! Who wouldn’t want to get their political viewpoints secondhand from Barbara Streisand who told the Hollywood Reporter that sexism extends to lab animals? Babs unironically spouts off the fact that only male mice are used in labs because the female mice’s hormones are more complex. She goes on to explain that this is true about human females too. Only one problem: as someone who works in a mouse lab, she’s utterly incorrect. Where do you think we get new mice of the same genetic lineage you dense motherfucker? Indeed standard scientific protocol dictates that mice be gender balanced and age matched within an experiment.

The Telegraph reports, admittedly a bit tongue-in-cheek, that air conditioning is now sexist because the work clothes women wear are lighter and often don’t cover as much of their body so they end up cold in the office. To this I would suggest that they switch over to a pantsuit but it’s sexist to say that word. My bad.

I could go on for hours like this, but at risk of losing the spirit of this piece, I digress satisfied that I’ve challenged the “vocal minority” talking point.

“Hold on, did he just compare Anita Sarkeesian to Van Gogh?”

In the sense that underscoring contrast is a comparison, yes.

Perhaps in order for my meaning to be understood, I need to explain what got me thinking about this topic in the first place. A few days ago I was watching a video compiled by a friend with whom I studied abroad. We were involved in an ecology and wildlife management program in east Africa. Studying in Tanzania was one of the best, most memorable, and formative experiences of my life. However, as I was watching the video, which featured short clips of wildlife, everyday life in the village, classes, and safaris we had been on, the smile that was plastered over my face began to taste sour. I was watching a clip of myself and a few students sitting around with one of the organizers of the base camp. Yohanna, an Tanzanian man, was full of such ebullient life and happiness that it was impossible not to feel a little happier around him. He was just that kind of guy. He had a very characteristic greeting that would often announce his presence before you even saw who was speaking. “Allllooo” (ah-low) he would say in a sing-song kind of voice. In this particular clip we were trying to get him to give his signature greeting so that we could document it. As I was watching it I cringed a little “Were we teasing him for having an accent when he already speaks 4 times as many languages as most of us? Was he just putting up with us because of our class and skin color? Was the pleasantness of our interaction merely a function of privilege?” It was an insidious thought, something terrible that I couldn’t shake at first. Something deep down told me this wasn’t the case. Yohanna is a good man. The experiences that we shared, the cultural exchanges, were good and real. Talking to people around the village, making food with the Maasai mamas, building thorny enclosures with poor farmers, experiencing another culture and world. So long as these actions don’t come from a “white savior” position, so long as you recognize the fortune which put you in that position, why should I let the ideology of my freshman seminar class govern the way I experienced the world? Indeed, this mentality which purports to be respectful of cultural differences was very clearly getting in the way of a real cultural exchange!

And therein was the answer to the dilemma I was grappling with. The ideology that was being proclaimed by academia, which I was a part of, told me that everything was problematic. Due to the systems in place there was nothing good about interactions between any people except those who fill the same gender, racial, sexual, ability, and class roles. But this isn’t just true of ivory tower social justice. How many times have you seen a buzzfeed or HuffPo article or your friend’s status (okay this might just be because I have a lot of social justice warrior friends…) about how hard it is to be “woke” because you see sexism and inequality in every movie or TV show, in all media, everywhere in the world? 

When the great geniuses and intellectuals of history are faced with beauty and truth, those truths may not be good ones. They may not be happy. Indeed, perhaps Van Gogh couldn’t have been a true artistic genius without access to the dread and darkness that came with his depression. My point is they didn’t seek it out. On the other hand, seeing every interaction as potentially problematic based on skin color or gender identity does not represent intellectualism or truth. Expecting prejudice of all media and interpersonal interactions we see is an ideology, and ideologies are where truth develops Stockholm syndrome. Seeing everything through one lens is not intellectualism, it is laziness. It ignores the countless beautiful and difficult and complex dimensions of humanity. Sometimes the more we “learn” the less we think about things. There is a famous Zen saying from the great teacher Shunryu Suzuki…

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the master’s mind there are few”

While he was likely referring to the notion that someone who is naive about a topic might think about problems in a unique way, that a master would not consider based on his experience, I think it applies here as well. Indeed, in the mind of someone embedded deep in the ideology of academia, there is only the truth that interactions between humans almost always involve some power differential. Are there interactions which are problematic? Yes. Of course. However, it would seem to this writer, that seeing problems in the place of goodness and truth is the greater threat to understanding this beautiful and terrible world. 

The experiences I shared with Yohanna and all my other east African friends were real and good. Looking back on something as simple as sharing a cold ginger beer on a hot night or working together to set up a tent or monitor a group of animals reminds me of how, despite how my education might have postured me to be unhappy , there is goodness in this world.

Acknowledge that which is wrong in the world, and fight it tirelessly, but do not inject poisonous hate and negativity into memories or falsely apply them to experiences. We are complex systems interacting with complex systems within complex systems. It is not Socratic sadness that leaves us questioning a simple conversation, a hug, a gesture, but the blindness of an ideologue. While the nature of truth and genius and intellect may dictate that they often carry with them sadness, we must not confuse the perception of negativity with truth and genius and intellect.

A year ago I learned that Yohanna had died in a motor-bike accident near the Kenya-Tanzania border. It was deeply upsetting. I knew that people died in accidents with motor bikes fairly often in that region of Africa, but Yohanna was young, it didn’t feel like his time. The world had lost someone so full of life and whose presence was a blessing to others. The true sadness was not that my experiences with Yohanna had been tainted by privilege or systems of oppression. The true sadness was knowing how much good had left the world with that cheerful, 5’4″ Tanzanian man.

Heil PewDiePie

For those of you who don’t have your pulse on the drama of youtube personalities (and really, what decent person does?), there has recently been a scandal involving perhaps the most prominent Youtuber ever, PewDiePie. With over 3K videos and over 50 Million subscribers, it’s impossible to deny that PewDiePie is a powerful cultural force. Of late, the wall street journal, an otherwise reputable newspaper, reported that PewDiePie had ties to nazism. For most people, accusing someone of being a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer is an extremely serious accusation. However, for the mainstream media, it seems like this is just another day.

Around the vlogosphere, youtubers and commentators alike have been launching videos and blogs almost unanimously in support of PewDiePie. The basics of the situation are, PewDiePie makes regular jokes about the Nazis and Hitler in his videos. Are these jokes in good taste? That’s up to the listener. Are they neo-nazi propaganda? Fucking no. Jesus. Fucking no. For decades, Hitler has been the edgelord off-limits joke subject that many comedians fall back on for the guaranteed shock value. However, based on some particularly racy videos released by PewDiePie and also based on his endorsements and YoutubeRed series (both of which he has lost in the wake of this scandal), PewDiePie apparently need edit his jokes otherwise it is apparently fair to decry him as a Nazi.

I don’t want to get into a whole rant about this because to be honest, I don’t know a ton about the heart of the issue. I am not intimately knowledgable about what happened. From what I understand, some dude who jokes about Nazis sometimes was targeted and called out as a Nazi, which he clearly isn’t. My stake in this issue is that issues like this are unbelievably deleterious to the credibility of the MSM. When we watch news outlets continue to point the finger at people and call them racist, nazis, sexist, etc., especially when that person has literally almost as many subscribers as President Trump had voters, people are going to realize they are full of shit. Buzzwords and click bait titles involving racism or Nazism are surefire short-term ways to gain clicks or views, but in the end I can’t help but think this is incredibly damaging to mainstream journalism. Writers for the numerous outlets (not just WSJ) who picked up this story and ran with it should honestly be ashamed of themselves. It would take an unbelievably short amount of time to do the investigative journalism required to clearly debunk the claim the PewDiePie is a Nazi sympathizer. The fact that the story has gained any traction is a damning look at the mainstream media and journalistic standards.

Indeed, it is stories just like this one which drive more and more people away from cable news or establishment journalism and more towards alternative media and more uncensored, unfiltered sources for their political news. Naturally I encourage my readership to diversify the types of alternative media they consume. However, it seems with this latest scandal and countless other “fake news” stories circulated by outlets of both/all political slants, it becomes truly difficult to continue to trust anything reported by the MSM without independent verifications.

I have long railed against the entertainment news paradigm, and with this latest election and what I believe to be America and the world’s departure from the values of truth and data, it becomes almost necessary to expand one’s reading and watching to get the whole picture. Unfortunately, for most people, it isn’t plausible to gain this broad insight. In the wake of PewDiePie-Gate, are we seeing a shift in the overall attitude toward the MSM? What would happen if this smear campaign had been orchestrated against someone with a smaller viewership, who didn’t have the voice to speak out? These types of accusations are serious and can ruin lives. Will this scandal be doomed to echo around the halls of the broader youtube viewership, or is that viewership a large enough percentage of the population that this leaks into our collective psyche?

Nishio 2 – Lemaitre feat. Giraffage

About a year ago, the Norwegian indie electronic duo Lemaitre (from french: the master) released a collaboration with one of my favorite glitch/dream pop artists of this past year, Giraffage. Giraffage (nee Charlie Yin), called Nishio 2. Throughout 2016 this song wormed its way into my consciousness in several, week-long intervals, eventually becoming one of my most listened to tracks of the year. The recent turn of the year has given me a chance to look back on this eventful year. The past year has been at once a successful, joyful, deeply upsetting, and depressing one. Perhaps then, it is fitting that this track featured so heavily. (Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?)

The track starts off with a light scale resembling chimes or bells, and is quickly supported by a low synth drum which lends it a beaty vibe popular in several genres of electronic music in the past few years. The overall vibe of the song is very reminiscent of Giraffage’s recent collaborations with artists like Slow Magic, ethereal, dreamy, and ambient in a way that refuses to be ambiance. We soon hear a female vocalist sing some of the only lyrics to the song “I’m so happy”. In a standard glitch style, samples of these vocals repeat as though skipping or glitching. 

Lots of electronic music uses the device of repetition, and while it can be indicative of a lack of creativity or simply used to force something to be catchy for radio play, it does have its place as an artistic tool. I encounter this issue often when discussing or reviewing gospel music. Despite being near the opposite end of the musical spectrum, gospel too has from early on understood the importance and the grandeur in simplicity that comes with repeating a line over and over. If the artist and the performers are talented enough, each time the line is repeated, new emotions and thoughts can be brought forward in an attentive audience (us, the listeners!).

However, while the overall lyrics of Nishio 2 do repeat, the first half “I’m so happy” repeats only once before the second half of the lyrics are added “I’m so happy I never met you. Our time together would be too short and sad.” After this second half of the lyrics comes in, the female vocals are slowly distorted, and it sounds almost like a children’s chorus is singing behind her. Then, at the 2:14 mark the lyrics are repeated again, but the woman’s voice is bent into a higher tone, which sounds to me like a younger girl’s voice before the track goes quiet for a second. The music comes back in suddenly with a burst of the joyful melody, which throughout the track juxtaposes with the rather sad lyrics in a melancholy song which can be at times emotionally unsettling.

My favorite part about the bare-bones lyrics is how open it leaves the song for interpretation and for reliability or at least sympathy. Is the woman dying too young and singing to the soul mate she never had? Is she singing to a star-crossed lover and using “met” as a proxy for getting to know someone deeply? When I first heard the song it broke my heart. Although I have never lost a child, it immediately made me think of a couple who have lost a complicated pregnancy to miscarriage. The woman is happy that her child didn’t have to live a life of suffering from perhaps some serious birth defect, but she is also selfishly joyful because the pain of knowing her child before he/she inevitably died would have been even greater. Further evidence for this interpretation comes in near the end of the song. I spoke earlier about the bending of the woman’s voice to make it sound higher, like a little girl’s. Later in the song, the lyrics are distorted several times throughout the same phrase. The “so happy” sounds like the voice of a young boy, the “never met” and “time together” sounds like a young girl, and the “you” drops down into a deeper sounding male voice (perhaps the father). The rest of the lyrics in the phrase seem to return to the normal female voice. This may, in a devastating sense, represent the couple’s dreams of a family they could have had. To this listener, Nishio 2 is a beautiful and emotional song about losing a child, but taken at face value, I think it represents the beauty in losing something, which is a difficult concept to grapple with.

Listen to the track below.

 

tw: cannibalism

In the time since god-emperor tangerine has assumed the mantle of president-elect I have (much to my displeasure) been trying to keep as close a pulse on the way that my radical leftist (and even some more adult) Facebook friends have reacted. At first I knew there would be issues, grief, irrational behavior. Of course, people invested a lot in this election because some of them (although they were the minority) believed one candidate was much better a choice than the other. Then, after several days passed, it was time to see what form the true reaction to this loss would be on the side of the left. Would they learn from their mistakes (condescension, boy-who-cried-wolf, liberal bubble, etc) or would the left eat itself alive? As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it was the latter.

The first thing I want to talk about is the reactions or overall behavior of leftist celebrities. Being that the two are almost part and parcel, it follows logically that celebrities would largely support Clinton during the election. Let me just say thank God we had ultra-wealthy Hills-dwellers who travel the globe and spend an entire family’s annual income on a handbag to tell us about what’s best for poor working class families. I am eternally grateful to hear the political acumen of professional line readers hired for their genetic good fortune. If you can’t tell I’m being a bit sarcastic about this. If you decide who to vote for based on a 1min 30second video of people who don’t give a shit about you wearing unmarked expensive clothing and reading cue-cards under a black-and-white filter then you should stay home on Election Day because you are not an educated voter and indeed you may never be an educated anything. That being said, the way that celebrities react is a good indicator and often a causative agent in the general public’s reaction.

Celebrities have had mixed reactions following the initial aftershocks. Unfortunately for the state of comedy in America, Amy Schumer is not actually going to be moving to Canada despite vowing that she would. Apparently this vow joins the barren wasteland of other utterly bland and unfunny Amy Schumer jokes. Jon Stewart had a fairly balanced reaction to both sides which he delivered in an interview recently (forgive me if I can’t remember which news show was speaking to him). Of course Jon Stewart is a different type of celebrity to the morally superior Hills-dwellers, and his commentary reflects an intelligent if not left-leaning insight into politics in America. Then of course you have my main man Bill Burr. He went on Conan (a late night host willing to bring someone not entirely amicable to their political viewpoint on the show) because they are both soul-deficient gingers. Bill was pretty much against both candidates from day one but his perspective is as crass and unfiltered as usual, one aspect of Bill I find ultimately refreshing. In the end it’s difficult to pin down one clear direction for the celebrity reaction, although many of the more leftist-friendly celebs have followed the swan song of the radical left in general.

In contrast to the diverse reactions throughout the world of the rich and famous, my feed (rich, just not famous) has been rampant with the funeral dirge of the social justice movement. In a comedic lack of self-awareness, the left has continued to double-down on its identity politics. It is my personal belief that a big reason that the left lost this election is because they cried wolf (racist/sexist/misogynist/supremacist) way too many times. A few nights ago Ben Shapiro was on CNN (or Fox, one of the big networks) and touched on this issue as well. As many of you will have seen in the news, VP Mike Pence went to see Hamilton a few days ago. As he was leaving the theater the cast asked him to wait and that people record them as they delivered a short message. I honestly think their actions were a little childish but certainly not inappropriate for the discourse we’ve been having in this country over the past several months. Naturally, because nobody has taken Donald’s phone away from him yet, the Don had to take to twitter to make some dumb comments and indicate that the cast of Hamilton should apologize. When the left saw this they literally all had synchronized aneurysms and dialed the criticisms and rhetoric up to 11. Am I saying what Donald did was right, or appropriate? Of course not, the man is an out-of-control child. However, if you react with the same vitriol and fervor to Trump’s domestic policy as you do to a tweet about a play, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. People already recognize that the left calls everyone who disagrees some sort of bigot, so this type of reaction just makes people tired. Nobody wants to listen to their rich white friend who took three sociology courses and now understands the world way better than you tell them about how Donald Trump’s tweeting is somehow indicative of deep-seated vices and hatred all of which naturally make them scared for their literal physical safety. Once again, the people who didn’t have the privilege to stand in righteous judgment of people who didn’t hold their political views just don’t respect that kind of drama. If you make a big deal of everything, nobody is going to listen when an actual big deal comes along. Literally every single person who has been rumored or confirmed as part of Donald’s administration has been smeared as white supremacist, sexist, hateful, etc., which is a shame because some of those people really are bad, and many of them aren’t. If your message is that every one of them is a literal nazi then you’ll probably get a few likes or more than a few likes in your liberal bubble on facebook. Meanwhile anyone else reading your comments is thinking about how insane you sound. I’m being hyperbolic here, or at least using some extreme examples, but this problem exists in more subtle interactions too. I’ve seen people post articles decrying with anger how some Trump advisor believes that Islam is responsible for issues in the middle east. They just state this, and then assume everyone else is as outraged as them. As the election should have taught them, they don’t speak for very many people! I’m not going to argue here about the complex underlying causes of America’s current policy situations in the middle east. Suffice it to say, these leftist are totally ignorant to the fact that tons and tons of Americans, none of whom hate Muslims as a rule, would generally agree with the statement they are so outraged by. Now, there’s nothing wrong with them being outraged over something many people find normal and agree with. There is something wrong with assuming there are no rational people who disagree, or that they can disregard anyone who disagrees with the statement. Articles circulate calling out Trump voters “Are you regretting it yet!”  “Look what came of your vote.”. These are hilarious as well. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Trump voters are actually really happy with the way things have turned out. The leftist freakout is indescribably satisfying to a large subset of Trump voters.

If one good thing has come of the leftist meltdown which has its hot, goey core in the middle of the social justice movement, it is a breath of fresh air in comedy. It’s as if, simply by winning the election, Donald J. Trump has broken a spell cast by the politically correct left. Where issues like the leftist echo chamber, political correctness, and even liberal hypocrisy, are finally stepping into the sunlight. Comics and commentators are much more freely discussing issues that otherwise they would have tiptoed around. Jimmy Kimmel is making fun of the unduly politically correct, SNL is mocking young white liberals, Dave Chappelle is calling out crybabies. And they aren’t being crucified for it. And that is a very good change.

 

 

 

Post-Election Reflection

Ever since the tide started to turn toward a Trump presidency last night my mind has been buzzing with so many different angles and thoughts that could become entire articles on their own. Right now I think the most salient and certainly the most emotionally present topic to talk about is the reaction of many of my white, liberal friends who attended a four year college and have successful parents who support them. This entire election, Bernie Sanders was the closest I had ever come to supporting a candidate for president. Period. As many of you know I’m a “little l” libertarian, so this might seem a little insane, given Bernie’s policies. That’s a topic for another post. When Clinton rigged the primary election against him and publicly stole an election, I watched people on my facebook, twitter and in my own life start to just accept it. I really lost hope in this entire race. To those who are calling anyone out who didn’t vote for Clinton: After you showed your support for the fundamental removal of your fellow citizens voice in who governs them, you don’t get to sling epithets, not without looking foolish.

I was upset and depressed to watch as all of these pro-Hillary messages came through. My friends did not care about democracy, as long as their team “won”. In truth I don’t really know many Trump supporters, but the ones I did see on my social media were slightly racist old white ladies. I am none of those things. At the point when it became a Trump V Clinton race, I knew that the nation was split into camps of people, none of whom had my interests in mind or shared my political philosophies. I was a man without a camp, and don’t you dare say “what about Gary Johnson”. What about Mr. I don’t know where Aleppo is? What about Mr. I can’t name another world leader? What about Mr. Don’t worry about climate change because eventually the Sun will explode?

In any case, I know it’s kind of spiteful, but watching the wreckage on social media has had a tinge of schadenfreude associated with it for me. Through the past few months Clinton supporters have been so smug, so condescending, so utterly hateful toward anyone who didn’t immediately fall in line and vote Clinton. As one of my favorite news show hosts, Dave Rubin, put it:

“It’s almost as if you endlessly call people bigots and racists they’ll eventually get fed up and turn on you”

The Clinton campaign (and I was sad to see, my otherwise kind and reasonable friends) has been incredibly derisive toward anyone who supported Trump, and before that, to anyone who supported Bernie. In other words “anyone who doesn’t vote for me is a bigot and racist”. And that shame tactic has worked for social justice in the past, but I think this election was an inflection point. I think people started to realize and think for themselves I know I’m not a racist. If you call everything racist and everything misogynistic and everything sexist, then honestly people get desensitized. People don’t care if you call them these things anymore. Or they do, but you’re driving them to secretly vote for the candidate that doesn’t think they are literally all deplorable. How could anyone think Hillary Clinton would be a president for everyone? Best case scenario she is a president for half the nation, leaving hundreds of millions of people disenfranchise. Worst case scenario, she’s a president for Hillary Clinton and the donating elites. (Of course, you might ask how could Trump be a president for everyone when he has openly expressed anti-muslim and anti-immigrant attitudes, and overall behaved like an ass for a year straight in the national spotlight? The answer: he won’t be. He is going to be terrible, a terrible awful president. My hopes are higher that he will at least be a president for more than one person, unlike his opponent.)

It was honestly refreshing to see people who have been so smug and unfair and hateful to their fellow Americans have their candidate defeated. I didn’t vote for Trump because my position has been, for a long time, that both options are horrible people to their core, people who I could not ethically and in good conscience state my support for.

I sometimes genuinely believe that my Facebook feed is full of people who just don’t know that the world around them exists. I saw a status today from one of my fellow grad students that actually described this exact illusion. Directly, she said

“I’ve never felt so confused or disconnected from my country. My news feed tells me nearly everyone feels like I do, but if this were true, the election would not have turned out this way.”

These people have become so buried in their safe spaces, spirited away from the (now evident) wave of dissent that vehemently disagreed with their political opinions. Facebook and media outlets show us what we like to hear because we are more likely to continue to engage for longer. A HUGE portion of the country has forced white liberals to come to terms with the idea that they actually don’t have the mandate of the country. They are not representing as many people as they think. When it comes down to it I think the scariest part for these privileged Hillary voters is this: When it’s just a dozen people on a CNN video of a Trump rally, it’s easy to say “those are just some bigoted hillbillies”. When you see over 60 million people vote for Trump, this becomes a more difficult moral calculus. You can, technically, choose to say “wow, I had no idea there were 60 million racists and bigots in America. Or, once you become less emotional, you can say “I had no idea this many people were frustrated, fed up, and not feeling represented by our current status quo.” If we are being honest, nobody chose not to vote for Hillary solely because she has a vagina. Let it go. Trump is the one doing the pussy grabbing. People chose not to vote for Hillary because she is corrupt, because she represents in every way the status quo, because they don’t feel that she cares about their struggles at all. These are poor people, some extremely poor. My father is a working-class immigrant, and while he is a lifetime democrat, his struggle brings into context the struggles of many other working-class people. These are heroes who are working sometimes 7-days a week to support a family and to make a good life for them and their loved ones. To expect them to prioritize your feelings, or even your safety and livelihood over theirs is idiotic. Yet I have still heard people sitting in the same classroom as me, at a private university, who are white, who wear nice clothes and drive nice cars and have little trouble making rent each month, come out and shame these poor working class people for being “privileged enough not to have to worry about the social issues”. Seriously. Listen to yourself. I’ve seen stories describing this as a “white lash” of White people lashing out against…what? a Black president? A woman…? Diversity? Why is it that when poor white working class people voice their political opinions, and vote with what they believe is their best interest in mind, they are different than anyone else in their same socioeconomic class? Are they not struggling to put food on the table as much as anyone else? Are they not worrying what to tell their kids at night? Are they not having trouble making rent?

It is ultimately difficult to re-humanize a group of people who you have made into racist animals, but this is 100% vital to our progress as a nation.

We must be gracious in victory and dignified in defeat.

That being said, dehumanize Trump as much as you like. He’s a shitty person. But don’t assume that anyone who didn’t share your doomsday prophecy about a Trump presidency is some awful monster. They are people, and you are a person.

It’s that simple

Hey all. Coming back from a hiatus and hopefully creating a little more content and making more regular posts. The title of this post is a reference to one of my favorite clichés from people on…the internet. Usually it follows a meme or a statement like “if you don’t support X you are literally killing all women, it’s that simple.” You see it used by both the left and the right and usually it’s on facebook or tumblr, coming from people who have carefully curated a social echo chamber for themselves. In instances like that you’re really faced with the challenging decision of being petty and arguing on facebook (people don’t realize a lot of the time your argument is out in public for everyone to read and form their opinions about you based on) or just letting it go and agreeing that it is okay for misinformation, unreasonable arguments, and the disparaging attitude toward people who disagree with your opinion to be perpetuated. (By saying it’s “simple” you imply that anyone should be able to get it or understand it, so you’re already coming from a place of “I know the truth, you obviously don’t, I need to educate you.” rather than a place of “Here’s the facts I know, here’s my argument and why I’m convinced that this is the right stance.” The latter yields much more fruitful results.

But what to do? What to do about posts like this? If I’m being honest, about 50% of the time if a post is pretty egregious, I’ll engage the poster with a simple question that highlights something they might not have thought about if they really think that any big political issue can be reduced safely to something “that simple”. This also helps because it can expose me to any facts they might know which I didn’t about this topic. If you come out with guns blazing you’re going to make an ass of yourself a lot. Questions can often take the form of “how do they know that X caused that problem?” or “Great post, X. I’ve heard others say _______, where do you stand on that?”. At the same time, sometimes there are people who will just get very aggressive or unfriend you or whatever if you bring up counterpoints to their post or comment and as I mentioned before, the argument is out in the open for future employers or really anyone to see. Of course, you should make a strong and well-reasoned argument and not be ashamed of it being displayed, but things can easily be taken out of context. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics at dinner or in the workplace. Tensions can run high and people can get emotional about these two things especially, and when the goal is sometimes just to maintain a pleasant friendship or working relationship it is probably better not to be out there constantly butting heads on every issue. The same is true on facebook. Sometimes I just want to see your vacation pictures or check up on where you’re working now, or see your pictures of your new dog (this is the biggest draw tbh), and I can just scroll past if you’ve made a brazen, irrational, bigoted post. One person can’t engage everyone he disagrees with and honestly if you do this you’re a troll or a dick. Or a troll dick.

Instead, I have been toying with the idea of taking political cartoons or posts from my social sphere and removing all identifying information from who posted it, then discussing it here. I know I have a problem of being rather long-winded so these “it’s that simple” segments would aim to be themselves rather succinct and offer a few counter-points to the post in question. Often I’ll end up doing this with posts I agree with the sentiment of. When someone who holds an opinion I disagree with makes a stupid argument I can usually just scroll past because, whatever, the more people who are, for example: anti-GMO, who are out there sounding like raving lunatics, the better for me. This gives their argument more of a reputation for being conspiratorial and not really founded in reality. The worst, though, is when someone makes a pro-gun post (I am pretty pro-gun myself) like “we need all them ak-47s to kill the tarrorists muslamss ya’ll”. Now my position is the one being painted by some idiot on facebook.

To begin I just chose something that came up while I was scrolling facebook a day or two ago. It’s not special in that it’s the most awful argument I’ve heard or I feel really strongly about it, etc. It’s just what’s first.

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This post features what the artist believes is hypocrisy in a common political stance. For those of ya’ll who haven’t heard about this topic, a common manufacturer of epinephrine injectables (EpiPens, used to treat severe allergic reactions in an emergency) recently increased the price of their product astronomically. Issues with the image?

  1. You’re essentially arguing that because someone believes the law should prevent a company from selling a drug at whatever price they want, it’s crazy for them also to not want the government to entirely take over the healthcare system. That is ridiculous.
  2. Most people who are making a “no socialized healthcare” argument but who also want something to be done about the EpiPen aren’t usually saying “there should be laws” they are usually saying “there should be something done about this”. Clearly the author agrees with that opinion. So do I. We’re all in agreement here woooo. What some people might disagree with is the idea that the solution is to regulate the industry more, rather than making it possible for more competition to enter the market, thereby driving down the price of the EpiPen naturally. By circumventing the nuance of the argument, the author deliberately misrepresents two sides of an argument. I’m assuming here that the author is an intelligent person who is capable of doing a little research on a topic they are going to make a bold political statement on. Therefore, they could easily have made the argument that deregulation of the industry might not work any better than increased regulation. But who knows, maybe there really is someone out there making this specific argument that the author portrays. It just isn’t the most common opposing stance.
  3. It’s lazy. This is more of a stylistic point and opinion-based. It doesn’t portray a witty or intelligent commentary, it literally just has some fat angry white dude (that’s what everyone against socialized health care looks like! That’s a group we’re allowed to ignore the arguments of based on their skin color, sex, and appearance! Hurahhh!) wearing a shirt with one argument which he apparently supports so much he got it on a shirt and then a speech bubble with a different argument, and then the giant billboard with the EpiPen on it. I get it, I know political cartoons have to simplify things and usually don’t make a huge nuanced argument, but usually there’s some imagery in there or symbolism or wit.

My opinion on all this was initially “well, yes it sucks that they can do this but I don’t know if I’m ready to say yes the government should hold companies at gunpoint and dictate what price they can offer their product for. That’s a bit of a leap. One voice in the media who I tend to trust is Jim Cramer. Cramer graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a B.A. in government, and received his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law. He is a talented journalist who was chief editor of Harvard’s newspaper The Crimson, is widely published, and hosts several shows on CNBC. If being a brilliant student of government and law as well as a talented journalist isn’t enough, he is also a successful investor. At one point he worked for Goldman Sachs’ Private Wealth Management division. He now runs a charitable trust which benefits charities with the money its portfolio makes. (Okay, now getting off Jim Cramer’s dick). He has said that something needs to be done and offered the two basic directions which we’ve already mentioned in this post “regulate it” or “let more competition come in”. I tend to trust Jim on issues related to the economy and law, and his perspective was pretty important in helping me form my opinion about the topic. He mentions how he has to take a medication which costs him thousands of dollars a month because his insurance won’t cover it and how he’s lucky that he can afford it, but there are others who can’t. This is where the “amoral” comment comes in. If you’re curious, this was the 8-25-16 or the 8-26-16 episode of Mad Money. Obviously I can’t link to it, but try to hear some other perspectives ya’ll. Peace.