The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Who Puts the Gun Down First?

spider-man standoff

So in the wake of the election, there is this zeitgeist happening. Now that (hopefully) politics are returning to usual, how do we mend the divide that’s cleaved the country the past four years?

The election wasn’t close, but it wasn’t a landslide either. Trump and the GOP still gained a resounding collection of votes. They gained a few seats in the house and didn’t lose the Senate majority. Nearly half the world looked at the past four years, the pandemic, the white supremacism, the economy, the crimes, the fascism, the impeachment, the children in cages, and said “yes, I’d like more of that“.

It should be an easy moral litmus test. But in the privacy of the polls, 57% of white America proved they don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves. “I’m gonna get mine,” they said, because none of the past four years’ strife involved them. It involved women, Mexicans, Muslims, LGBTQ, Blacks, and so on. Anyone who was a straight white male got what they wanted (or at least didn’t get theirs taken away).

We are still in the war of rural vs. urban. Country mouse vs. city mouse. The pendulum is swinging, but it isn’t swinging far. We’re reaching equilibrium. Which means no consensus on issues. Which means nobody’s happy. Which means people keep fighting for their causes with vigor because the margin is small enough that they believe they can win.

So in the aftermath of the election, there have been calls to reach across the aisle. Understand the red voter. Work with your GOP senators and congressman and compromise with them. Because there isn’t going to be any progress without their votes.

On the other hand, there have also been calls to, as the young people say, “fuck that shit.”

For the past four years a vocal number of Americans have been projecting “fuck your feelings” and “own the libtards” and “fake news” and all that shit. Behaviors that deal with “no compromise”, “no kindness”, and racism and criminals acts and vaguely supporting white supremacists. Stop anything “they” do just because it’s “them” doing it. Republicans keep calling it Obamacare so they can tie it to the “evil Democrats”. Meanwhile, Democrats consider that a compliment. Obama was able to do something no one else was able to do–pass government-mandated healthcare.

I once heard a guy on the conservative talk radio talking about “the Democratic Party… or as I call it, the Anti-American Party…” and I was like “Really? You really think the Democrats motivation is their hate for America? That their primary goal is to dismantle the country? You don’t think they just have different priorities or different ideas on how to execute solutions? No, we’re just going to call the group that makes up half the government ‘anti-American’ and leave it there?”

The Republicans and Democrats have their power split evenly. One side wants revenge for Obamacare and Bernie Sanders. The other wants revenge for Trump and Mitch McConnell. So here’s the question: who puts the gun down first?

Personally, I’ve always felt the DFL needs to be more aggressive. They’ve never had a strong leader (see my last political post). They let the opposition get away with things without reprisal. They gave up easily when Gore won the popular vote, and again when Hillary won the popular vote. Not even a proposal to say “hey, let’s fix this so a candidate who wasn’t elected doesn’t get elected again.” We need to make it so “control of the Senate” doesn’t mean total domination.

But they don’t want to fight a war. Maybe that’s part of their philosophy. Nonetheless, a war has been thrust upon them.

Democrats tried to be kind. When Anton Scalia died, Obama nominated Merrick Garland and the Republicans said “no” for a year. A year! Because they wanted to bide their time until they could install their candidate. And they gave bullshit excuses like “oh, you shouldn’t nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year.” And what did that compromise get us? They shoved in three of their justices within four years. THREE! The last providing clear damning evidence of the hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham, and by extension, his party.

And what will the Democrats do about that lie? How will they punish the Republicans for their actions? They won’t. What did they get back from that compromise? Nothing. Democrats give and give and give. Republicans take and give nothing back. They’ve proven they only want power and integrity is no obstacle to get it. Why should Democrats keep letting bullies get what they want simply because they’re the most aggressive and griping about it? The squeaky wheel keeps getting the grease, when it should be replaced.

So what is the solution? Strike back? Stack the courts? Revoke all the policies Trump made? Push the policies that keep getting stonewalled (e.g. gun control, healthcare)? Is that what politics is now? A revenge game? If you’re going to pass this law, then I’m going to pass this law. Well, if you’re going to do that, I’m going to do this. Just a cycle of revenge. It displaces order, but it does set a precedent that actions have consequences. They were breaking the postal service, for God’s sake. They were telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”. That doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

The best part of the post-election celebration was the reporter turning to an Trump junkie redneck (yet still wearing a mask) who interrupted him and telling him to fuck off.

trump supporter reporter fuck off

After years of mainstream journalism being called “fake news”, being attacked anytime anything negative about the president or the GOP was said, this was satisfying. I took it as a sign that no more would Fox News and OAN get attention pellets for their biased reporting, scare-mongering, and audience-pandering.

It makes me wonder why we tolerate these fuckers, like QAnon and the Proud Boys and Milo Yiannopoulos and Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan. Why are these idiots allowed to preach their ridiculous conspiracy theories and rhetoric of violence & hate. Because we believe in free speech? That only applies to the government. Everything else has the ban hammer.

White supremacy isn’t just tiki torches or viral Alex Jones rants. It’s greed for your own race–your own life–and not thinking about how others live. If you don’t notice things like how few PoC the book you’re reading has or where are all the women in your office are, you’re part of the problem.

But if you take out your pound of flesh, what’s the end game? What’s the result? The country is so split down the middle that if no one yields, nothing will ever get done. If you want to pass a “Green New Deal” or “Planned Parenthood” laws, you’re going to need Republican votes. Remember the north-going Zax and the south-going Zax? Or the Bitter Butter Battle? Whoever wins doesn’t matter, because whoever yields first is considered the loser.

Conclusion

Here are the two arguments. One says “we have to work together/love thy neighbor/kill them with kindness”. The other says “you can’t just pretend the last four years didn’t happen. The last four years of entitled hillbillies and rich white button-downs waving guns around and Karens demanding to see the manager. Killing innocents is fine if they’re not on your side. Compromise and kindness is weakness.

So who does put the gun first? I certainly don’t feel like it. Even though books and movies keep telling me it’s the right thing to do. In Tangled, Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel for eighteen years, kept her identity hidden, exploited her magic power, chained her up, stabbed her lover. And still Rapunzel reaches for her as she’s falling out of the tower. It’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” shot, but Disney put that in so Rapunzel didn’t seem like she was turning a blind eye to her death (or to show the effect of long-term abuse).

The choices are to respond to the past in kind or forget it & move on. If the former, we sink to their level. But if the latter, their bad behavior has no weight. Can you imagine if we did that to Japan and Germany after the World War II? Just said “Okay, fighting’s over, everyone go back to your homes.” No, we held the German and Japanese leaders accountable for their crimes. But only because we won. The victor gets to define history.

I can’t pretend the last four years didn’t happen. Not after so many deaths, so much fear, so much crime. Why are there no good ways to deal with bullies? Why do they always get their way? Why is it when you strike back, you get punished just as bad?

“Meet me in the middle,” they say. You take one step forward. They take one step back. “Meet me in the middle,” they say.

Moral of the story: Punch a Nazi. That’s what they’re there for.

Thoughts for the Day

vote icon ballot box

Look, this is real simple.

Ask yourself.

  1. Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
  2. Are you less afraid than you were four years ago?
  3. Are your friends better off today than they were four years ago?
  4. Are you happier now than you were four years ago?

The past is prologue. You predict the future by examining past trends. Republican or Democrat, it comes down to these simple questions.

Look at where you’ve been. And use that to decide to keep on the same path or get off of it.

Follow the Leader

peter pan john following the leader disney

I think I’ve figured out a universal truth.

A lot of days I look at the polls and see, yay, Joe Biden’s ahead, but only by five or seven points. Never more than ten in any state. It’s always close. That means 45% of America is voting for Trump. 148 million Americans saw the past four years and want more.

And it boggles my mind. What do they see in him? What do they like about him? Have they not been paying attention? Tax cuts for the rich, quid pro quo in Ukraine, impeachment, children in cages. Children in frickin’ cages. It should have stopped there.

Cleanser

Twitter wars, name-calling, petty insults. Illegal activity after illegal activity (or at least ambiguously legal — but just because he can do it doesn’t mean he should). More vacation days than any president. More advisors indicted than any president. More scandals than any president. Has he accomplished anything good? Anything positive? Isn’t there one thing history can point to and admit “well, that was good for the country”? I can’t think of any.

Yet 45% say “Yep, he’s our man. I like him. He’s a good leader.” Who are these people? How are they thinking this? Are they lacking empathy? Are they just on a train and too scared/lazy/embarrassed to get off? How can any intelligent person be for him?

But I don’t think it’s about intelligence. Not for these people. Look at these two maps. Is it a coincidence that the least educated states tend towards Republican and the most tend towards DFL?

But I’m not saying Trump voters are dummies. I’m saying they’re using different criteria to evaluate their decision. And that criteria is emotionally-based. It’s a gut check. Does Trump care about me? Does he have my interests in mind? Will he bring to change to a stuck-in-the-mud system? It’s far less rooted in logic and rationality. And that’s okay. To a point.

Let me explain. I saw a clip of Sarah Silverman telling a story about a friend of hers recruited by a neo-nazi party. He wasn’t a neo-nazi to begin with–he had no strong feelings about Jews or the white race or anything. He lived a normal boring life with two parents who didn’t pay him much attention and didn’t care what he did. So he was at a party smoking a cigarette and a man knocked it out of his mouth and said “don’t put that shit in your lungs”. That was his path to joining his neo-nazi group. Not because he believed the philosophy. It was because someone gave him what he wasn’t getting from his own family–love and attention–so he joined another.

Now combine that with this. On Reddit, I was reading a post titled “Trump voters – what made you vote for him?” The first comment was “I live in a small blue-collar town in the south and he was the only one who came and talked to us. Hillary Clinton didn’t do that. No presidential candidate had done that.” So this guy didn’t size up Trump from his past policies or expertise. Just the emotional experience of meeting him. That he spoke like a normal person, not a dry “offend nobody” politician. That someone came up to him, personally, and said “I’m going to look out for you.” Something no one had done.

That 45% isn’t voting for Trump because they agree with his policies. They’re voting because Trump makes them feel good. And if someone accepts you and gives you love, you feel obligated to return that love. That means doing what they ask you to. That means putting up signs, fighting against a mask, shouting “lock her up”, and watching the same news station he does, and believing the conspiracy theories about “the enemy”.

If you’re into Trump, it must feel good to be the little guy in locked arms with others fighting against the progressive Democrats who pushing policies that have nothing to do with you. LGBTQ rights, civil rights, money for the poor, immigration, abortion, healthcare-for-all. Have they forgotten about the regular middle-class Christian white man? The person who makes up the majority of voting America?

The answer to that question is “your house isn’t on fire.”

The regular middle-class Christian white man is doing fine. He’s not getting killed by cops. He’s not living hand-to-mouth. He’s not barred from seeing his spouse at the hospital because they’re not “family”. True, he’s not living in a mansion, but he’s already able to see the baseball game. The goal is to give everyone boxes so they can all see the game, until we can take down the fence.

Of course, then comes the question of “how do you persuade someone to turn away from the person providing them the love and attention they need.” You can’t use levelheaded analysis because they don’t subscribe to that magazine. Can you convince them their fearless leader is a bad guy? Well, if they didn’t leave him at “Grab ’em by the pussy” there’s not much hope for that. When you reach that level of loyalty, the only cure is time and membership dying off.

I read something that said “The key value for Democrats is experience. The key value for Republicans is loyalty.” Not sure where, and I might be misphrasing that. But there’s something about loyalty that I just can’t grok. Loyalty is… worthless. How can you live with serving someone who’s hurting so many others? Does it feel that good to win the “us vs. them” fight? Don’t you realize the “them” is on the same side as “us”?

That was Darth Vader’s whole problem. Palpatine asked for his loyalty and he pledged it, because it was the only way to save Padme (and because the Jedis screwed him over). Even when Padme died regardless, Anakin kept by his side. Not until Darth Vader switched sides were the good guys able to win and fascism able to fall. America’s greatest story teaches the vice of loyalty and fault of blind dedication.

For me, I base judgment on a person’s actions. Not charisma, not strength. Because we’ve been down that road before. We’ve seen what happens when the most liked person in the room takes the wheel–they do what’s on their agenda and ignore your needs. It happens in high school, it happens in real life.

The problem with the Democratic party, and why they can’t mass a strong showing against Republicans, because they don’t have a strong leader. Despite their policies being more popular (e.g. most Americans favor keeping abortion legal), they don’t have a unifying force to follow. There are beliefs, but beliefs are intangible, morphable, and every person’s belief is slightly different than another’s.

Democrats have dyed-in-the-wool, inaccessible politicians like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi. They need someone like Trump–someone angry and charismatic and personable. Someone who shouts “I’m mad as heck, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

A political tirade from 1976 should not still have relevance in 2020

I see a little of that from AOC. She’s willing to point a finger at allies and say “that’s wrong” (like her Campaign Finance Reform examination). But goddamn, you have to put in a lot of work to get to that point. She wore out her shoes campaigning for her position. We’re not going to get by on just one of her. And I’m afraid she’s going to burn out before she gets to where she can become a party leader.

But I’m digressing. The point is, last election, everyone was complacent. We thought “the oddball votes won’t matter–the Bernie bros’ protest ballots, the ones who don’t think women belong in politics, the anti-Hillary, the anti-Obama. The winner will be the one most qualified for the job, who’s been in the game since we were kids. This trust fund billionaire with all his reality shows and failed businesses and sex scandals can’t possibly win.” We were wrong.

I guess the best thing you can do is say that voting for Trump will hurt others, including yourself. I’m imagining old folks in their old conservative ways having to be convinced by their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters, that Trump will worsen the world being left to them. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. No one wants to die forgotten. (I know I certainly don’t. That’s why I write.)

Another cleanser

Ultimately, all you have to go on is promises. Promises have as much substance and value as a fart in the wind. A resume can tell you what they say they’ve delivered in the past, but it’s no guarantee of what they can do in the future. If a candidate promises to prioritize climate change or build a wall across Mexico, there’s no guarantee that will be done. And not just of their own fault–they could be stymied by a low budget or an obstructive Congress. All you can do is match your views to theirs and hope for the best.

P.S. I think we get far too much of our perception about politicians from media, which can pick and choose what to show. SNL plays Trump as a borderline dementia victim, but still likable in his bumblingness (too much for my taste). Biden is an out-of-touch skeleton out of a Western, akin to Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II. You never get to hear the stories like this:

How Do You Convince Someone Not to Vote for Trump

political protest silhouette

Allow me to get political for a second. I haven’t done so in over 900 posts, so I think I’m permitted one. And believe me, I don’t like to do this.

I’m not politically minded. I don’t care much about politics or governmental elections. I care about policy, but the system to create that policy has succumbed to corruption – lobbying, partisanship, etc. When it comes to presidents, there are candidates I like and candidates I don’t.

When George W. Bush was first elected, I was disappointed – the election was controversial to begin with, but also he was not very intelligent and didn’t understand consequences for his actions. He passed the “No Child Left Behind” act that punished schools with good students and encouraged teaching the test. He vetoed stem cell research, got unnecessarily involved with the Terry Schiavo case, and didn’t make many friends overseas. When he was re-elected, I was angry — he based his platform on fear and paranoia and exploiting the emotions of 9/11. And let’s not forget the 2008 recession/bailout. But I thought, let’s just get through the next four years, and then we’ll have to have someone new.

When Obama ran, I supported him. But I knew, despite the slogan, not much would change. He’s just one man amid 12 Supreme Court Justices, 435 representatives, 100 senators, and however many people work under them all (see “How Much Does the President Really Matter?” ). It would be a presidency much the same as the last. Maybe with a little more optimism and edging towards progress. But otherwise, same-old same-old.

But right now, I am terrified of Donald Trump becoming president.

I can’t find anything in either his campaign or personality that’s redeemable. He is a narcissistic sociopath, like many Type A businessmen. Someone who always believes he’s right and won’t listen to countering opinions. If you are not a white male, Trump is not going to defend you. He won’t support you. He’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, anti-Mexican, anti-LGBT. He’s more interested in building walls than bridges, stopping things instead of starting them.

Even other Republicans are trying to find ways not to vote for him. Prominent officials are refusing to endorse him, which NEVER happens. You never break party loyalty, especially if you’re a GOP. Trump is not a leader, he is a brand. He’s spent his life building his brand. And it’s not a reliable one. I grew up while Trump was forming his empire (on his small loan of one million dollars). I was a kid when he was the mascot for eighties yuppies and “New York business”. I saw him make headlines with casinos and beauty pageants and multiple ex-wives.

But he’s strong in the polls. A man with no political experience, who’s spent more time with TV shows and failed businesses than on the congress floor, is tied with someone who has the political history of a Kennedy. Granted, it’s also as spotty as a Kennedy, but she plays the game. She knows the players, knows the rules, and has the experience. She can hit the ground running. The American people as a collective believe she’s on the same level as someone who marketed his name on a board game and steaks.

And now there’s this shitstorm of the RNC. In a single day, the potential first lady plagiarized her speech, a congressman said that “whites have done more for civilization than non-whites”, a soap opera star called Barack Obama a “Muslim”, a lieutenant-general led a chant of “lock her up” (referring to Hillary Clinton), and the opening prayer referred to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party as “the enemy” as if this were a war. Not people who, although they have different ideologies, need to work together. I’ve seen what happens when people elect a showman instead of a politician. I live in the state that elected Jesse Ventura.

After all that, there are still people who believe he is the best figurehead for the country. For American ideals. To “make America great again” (was it so bad in the first place?). If they are still supporting him after the plagiarism, the Mexican wall, the birther controversy, the violence at the rallies, the anti-immigration (and I’m just listing his political snafus), then nothing’s going to change their minds.

They’re zealots, following a charismatic leader. One who makes promises he can’t keep. Someone who appeals to emotions rather than reason. I don’t see how you can convince someone like that to change their mind. My technical writing teacher said there are only two ways to get someone to do something. Either hold a gun to their head or persuade them. But persuasion doesn’t work if you don’t think rationally. Because they’re not thinking with reason in the first place. And if you use emotion, you’re entering the same dangerous game.

I feel like a large part of the world is on some kind of glacial retreat. We’re rejecting globalization. International sports result in corrupt officials and Olympic ghost towns. England removes itself from the European Union because they don’t want to harbor Syrian refugees. It’s an ideal that encourages fear and ignorance.

My only hope is that, if Trump is elected, the same pattern applies — that he’s only one man and not much will change.

But my bigger wish is that there was a presidential candidate whom I could say “I really want THIS person to be president!” instead of “oh God, please don’t let THIS person be president.”