Category Archives: politics

Chaotic Evil


I don’t do it all the time, but occasionally when working with characters, I think about their alignment.

You know. Dungeons & Dragons. Two sliding scales. Chaotic/Lawful, Good/Evil. It’s a more nuanced way of thinking about characters: rather than just saying “this is a bad guy,” you get “this is a character who is going to do everything he can to further his own ends without breaking the rules of society.” Or “this is a girl who will do everything she can to help somebody in need, even if it means hurting herself in the process.”

This approach was particularly instructive when drafting Villainous (working title!), a central theme of which was the blurred line between good and evil. I didn’t want cookie-cutter good- and bad-guys, so I tried to make sure that each character had strong motivations and believable reasons for the things they were doing and their worldview in general.

Why am I thinking about the alignments of my heroes and villains when I really should be focusing on the edit that’s in front of me?

Because of our goldfingered president.

I thought I was crafting a pretty cohesive psychopathic chaotic evil villain in my novel, but it turns out I had no idea what I was doing. Trump is chaotic evil to his orangey, fatty core:

A chaotic evil character tends to have no respect for rules, other people’s lives, or anything but their own desires, which are typically selfish and cruel. They set a high value on personal freedom, but do not have much regard for the lives or freedom of other people. Chaotic evil characters do not work well in groups because they resent being given orders and do not usually behave themselves unless there is no alternative. (Wikipedia)

And of course, just yesterday, Trump literally put his own short-sighted interests (namely: money and continuing to appeal to those in this country who have already voted for him instead of, you know, anybody else) above the interests of the ENTIRE FRIGGIN’ PLANET with his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreements.

Let’s say nothing of the fact that he can just do this when 70% of the country he represents is against the decision. That’s a political power seminar I’m not qualified to even wonder about. Let’s not even say anything of the fact that the rest of that blurb fits big Orange to a “T”. (Resents being given orders? Check! Do not behave themselves? Grab them by the check!) I’m just concerned with the morality of it, which is entirely bankrupt.

He’s literally willing to watch the world burn if it benefits him for an election cycle. (Oh, and it’s yet another not-so-subtly-symbolic middle finger to his predecessor.)

I mean, in a way, it’s inspiring, because I can take a page from that for the characters in my own work.

But it seems a bit hopeless to be thinking about works of fiction at a time like this, when the villains we face are all too real.


Hoop-Snakes and Hand Grenades (I lied, there are no hand grenades, it’s just a post about Trump)


As the noose seems to be tightening around Trump’s neck, consider:

Trump rode his mastery of media to celebrity status to improve his brand. He was a master at giving people what they wanted on TV (namely, controversy and unpredictability), and he parlayed that into gold-star status for himself, notwithstanding what his actual bank assets may or may not have been (because he still hasn’t — and likely never will — release his tax returns, whee!).

Donald Trump used the media to become a household name.

Not content with that, he launched a presidential bid, because if some black man can do it, well, surely the Donald can stamp his name on the history books in tacky gold lamé. And the media had a field day. Ridiculous! Scandalous! Look at this deluded orange guy, thinking he can swoop in wearing a funny red hat and take over our democracy! They gobbled it up — it was ratings gold, this unpredictable, trollish, angry man who would do anything, say anything, grab anybody by the whatever, and still garner support on the way. They ate it up because we ate it up.

The media used Donald Trump to bolster their ratings.

But they went a step too far, didn’t they? All that coverage was really publicity, because even bad publicity is good publicity, innit? When all that matters in our world of likes and follows and shares and retweets is your name in somebody else’s mouth, the man everybody’s talking about is king. And Trump was, for better or — no, scratch that, decidedly for worse — the name on everybody’s tongue. (BRB scrubbing my tongue.) Everybody was talking about him, and love him or hate him, at least he was different, and since everybody hates the current governmental situation — I mean, congress, amirite?? — a hot handful of Americans were willing to bet the house on “shake things up.”

And now, things are decidedly shook.

Donald Trump used the media to become president.

Then the media panicked. Holy hell, it actually happened. This is terrible for the country — but good for the media. Now, they could legitimately cover the orange one ’round the clock. The man who made his name on being unpredictable and shameless and greedy certainly wasn’t going to stop doing those things just because he became the most powerful man in the world. (Power corrupts, but what happens when you’re already corrupt and then come to power? We are slowly finding out.) The media, therefore, has an endless supply of Trump’s twitter-turds to feast upon, ill-tempered sackings to pore over, thinly-veiled (in wisps of just-visible steam) threats to pontificate upon.

And again, the media is using Trump to bolster its ratings.

Now, Trump loves attention — it’s attention that made him the man he is, for better or — nope, there I go again, it’s DEFINITELY for worse. But what he doesn’t love is attention on every sneaky little thing he does. Dealings between his campaign and Russia? Don’t want you peeking into that. Using his old tweets and campaign promises to shoot down his executive orders? No, thank you. So what does he do? He turns on the media. Tries to discredit them. Fake news, fake news, fake news. Believe me, not them. He’s trying to convince us that he is more trustworthy, more honest, more believable than the institutions that he abused to get where he is.

He bit the hand that fed him.

It was a vicious cycle. The media hated Trump, but it also loved him, because he helped them in his bizarre orange way. They created their nemesis.

But now, as it becomes increasingly apparent that we’ve literally handed the keys to the nation’s supply of fighter jets and nuclear weapons to a man who is, you know, orange, and about as even-tempered as my two-year-old, we seem closer than ever to actually righting this wrong (and by “we” I mean literally any Republican in Washington who might spontaneously grow a spine). Because the more Trump flails around — don’t look into that, won’t be making a statement there, by the way, this guy is fired, also that guy is fired, and if he talks he’ll be super-fired — the guiltier he looks. Nobody bothers thinking you’re hiding something until you act like you have something to hide, and nobody acts like he’s hiding something like Trump. (Again — tax returns. I’m still stuck on that, which would have been relevant WAY before all this Russia stuff.)

If the media is good at anything, it’s good at hounding an issue to death. The media, properly motivated, is an old, droopy-eared bloodhound with jaws like a gator — it won’t stop chasing you and when it gets its teeth into you, you’ll never get them out again.

Donald Trump pissed off the media, and created his nemesis.

The media created Donald Trump, the president we all love to hate. And Trump created the crusading media, which won’t rest until they drag him down from the office they put him in.

It’s a symbiotic relationship forged in hell’s depths. An ouroboros that devours its own tail to reconstruct itself.

I’m beginning to think it’s possible — maybe just possible, the flicker of a candle fighting to stay alight in the heart of a tornado — that he may get impeached even while Republicans still control the house and the Senate. If for no other reason than because he’s only one man, and even with his army of toadies around him, he won’t escape the bloodhound. The media has decided (rightly so) that he has to go, and if this Russia / Comey thing doesn’t bury him, well, they’ll find something else.

But when it’s all said and done, what happens to the media? Like a dog that’s finally caught the mailman, what will they do with their time, when that time comes? Is it a good thing that the media is powerful enough to set its sights on and (hopefully) bring down a president?

Seriously, it’s hard to remember what news was like before this whole Trump debacle. Can we get back to that?

Please?

*Scurries off to watch reruns of The Newsroom*


Throw the Bloody Ball


The Donald will not be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the Nationals’ baseball season this year.

Big deal. There are more important things to worry about, like his systematic destruction of the EPA, the selling of your internet privacy, the fact that his campaign almost certainly colluded with Russia and Republicans in Washington seem perfectly happy to look the other way.

But for an image-conscious president (and the DT is nothing if not image-conscious), this bloody well is a big deal.

Throwing out the first pitch is just another in a long line of Things Presidents Do that Donny has given the middle finger to. His staff says he’s busy, which is weak tea. When you ask somebody out and they say,  “sorry, I’m washing my hair that night,” you know there will be no hair-washing that night. Of course he’s busy. The president — and put aside the tepid list of his accomplishments thus far — is always busy. But you make time for things that matter, things that remind the country you’re a person, things which are symbolic. Which is why presidents have been doing This Thing for a century.

Baseball? The national pastime? As American as baseball? Nah. He’s busy.

I’ll put aside petty personal jabs about whether or not he could even get the ball across the plate (though for the record, my assessment there is: doubtful — tiny hands and all). The real reason?

He’d get booed.

Mercilessly. For an extended period. By a stadium full of people. On national TV.

Not by everybody, to be sure. There would be Trump fans in attendance. But a baseball game isn’t a Trump rally; he wouldn’t be insulated from the people who can’t stand him if he stepped out into the unfiltered masses of a ball game. He’d be stepping out of the warm, pillowy bubble of support that he lives in and going out into the harsh reality of the world.

He knows what his approval ratings are, even if he calls them fake news.

For Trump, it’d be stepping out into the desert.

He knows that if he steps onto that field and takes that mound, he’d be met with a chorus of boos unlike anything he’s ever heard in his life. And he can’t have it. His massive ego would blow out like the Snoopy balloon at the Macy’s parade. The narrative that “real Americans” support DT would unravel like a Christmas sweater the moment he met some real real Americans at a baseball game. Because unlike a Trump rally, a baseball game actually represents a pretty decent cross-section of a community.

And getting booed on a massive scale like that would shatter him, and shatter the cocoon he’s spun around himself.

Supporters can make all the excuses they want — this doesn’t matter, he has bigger fish to fry, etc — and they’re right, in writing. In the scheme of things, what this thing literally is doesn’t matter. But we also have to face reality.

Things always mean things, and it’s a “ceremonial” first pitch for a reason. This could be a humanizing moment for him. Symbols have that kind of power. Just being there would do wonders for his image, and who cares how the actual pitch goes? Obama’s was terrible, and he got booed, but he took it like a man. It’s not about the pitch, it’s about the moment, the optics. DT could do the same thing. Show some humility, some appreciation, some willingness to actually connect with people. Do a Thing Presidents Do instead of just letting Bannon take a dump in a blender and then turning the blender on in the middle of our democracy.

But no thanks. He’s busy.

And, come on. Odds are he couldn’t do worse than some of the worst first pitches in history.

Image result for baseball pitch fail gif


Revising Reality


I’ve seen some pieces flying around the internet lately about “The Mandela Effect.” In short, this refers to the sensation that you’re living in some kind of parallel universe where reality has rearranged itself and changed, leaving only your memories of a past that no longer exists; or, to quote Wikipedia: “…a situation where a number of people claim to share memories of events which differ from the available evidence of those events.” (I like my definition better.)

Maybe you’ve seen the memes. The Berenstain Bears was actally The BerenstEin Bears, but it changed somehow, somewhere, somewhen. Sinbad starred in Shazaam, a movie that clearly doesn’t exist.

This is all pretty harmless, a few troubling webpages aside. Sure, there are some people out there who actually believe that visiting aliens, or shadow corps, or time-travelling emissaries from the future have mucked about with timelines and memories to make us forget about Sinbad’s breakout role, but they reside where they belong: on the fringes, where they can comfortably be laughed at, ridiculed, and finally, ignored.

But then I turn on CNN this morning — we’ve got a snow day* here in the suburbs of Atlanta — and I see that yet again, the man who will be our next president has lashed out with his favorite weapon, the mighty Tweet Scepter, against his perceived injustices. This time, against Meryl Streep, who pretty thoroughly lambasted him in her lifetime achievement award acceptance at last night’s Golden Globes. (One could make the argument that such an event isn’t the forum for such a criticism, but one would clearly never have seen any award shows.) The kernel at the center of her argument against him? This little gem:

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.”

It’s a trope in comedy, satire, and such: you’re allowed to punch up, but not down. Trump punches every which way. And in this instance, he swung his tiny  oratorial fists in the direction of this reporter. It upset a lot of people, not least of which is Meryl Streep, who brought it boiling back to the surface during her speech.

So now he’s on Twitter calling her overrated and a Hillary shill — whatever, that’s par for the course — but then he’s also claiming he wasn’t mocking the reporter.

Hmm.

And then, there on CNN, is his mouthpiece speaking for him and insisting that he never mocked the reporter.

Here’s the problem: they can’t revise reality.

It happened. It was caught on film. In other words, it’s a fact. It’s a part of reality. We’ve all seen the clip, but here it is just to be sure:

That happened.

Trump and his people are trying to convince us that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t mean what it obviously meant. They’re trying to convince us that the way they remember the event trumps (sorry) the objectively obvious reality that exists. But here’s the simpler truth: we all recognize that spastic arm-motion that all the middle-schoolers used to make fun of the “retarded” kids. The orange one executed it perfectly, at age 70, to make fun of somebody he didn’t care for.

So, big kerfuffle over this reporter thing again, but it’s only a microcosm of the bigger problem. Fake news has run amok. Hillary Clinton probably ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor; I read it on the internet. Aliens totally live on Mars; you can see their faces in our low-def cameras. 9/11 was an inside job; buildings don’t fall down like that.

This is the Mandela effect on a frightening scale. People — otherwise intelligent, fair-minded people — are convincing themselves on the daily that reality is not what it obviously is. They want to pretend that their own memory, their own perception of a thing, is correct when the objective, concrete evidence of the thing contradicts it.

And it’s bloody crazy.

The human memory? Yeah, it’s a squishy, sloppy mass of grey matter stitched together with duct tape and galvanized staples. Our memories are notoriously awful — this is demonstrably true. We screw things up all the time when we rely on our memory (which is why eyewitness testimony is basically the most unreliable evidence on the courtroom totem pole). You can even be tricked into “remembering” details of an encounter that you never even had. And yet, people — enormous swathes of registered voters — are trusting their memories, “trusting their gut”, and imposing an alternate reality on the actual one.

Thing is, though? “Mandela Effect” thinking? It’s really conspiracy theory with a less shamed-into-the-closet coat of paint. For reality to change requires a network of very capable entities working in concert, notwithstanding some damage to the fabric of space-time. But those things don’t actually happen.

Reality is what it is. It is up to us to accept that reality for what it is, rather than hammering it into a shape we’d rather it be.

I get it. Accepting reality is hard. (It’s why religion has had such a good run.) But what’s the alternative? We knowingly let people get away with lies? We allow ourselves to believe things, or forget things, because they make us feel better?

Let me drift away from the political to wrap this up (thank goodness).

For a long time (almost a decade, if not most of my life!), I sheltered in the belief that I could be a writer; that the only thing holding me back was a lack of inspiration, a lack of time. But that’s not an accurate representation of reality. What was holding me back was a lack of commitment and a lack of work ethic.

Owning up to that sucked. I had to accept that I had been a lazy jerk about my writing. It was a lot easier to pretend that I was capable, but I was just waiting to get motivated or inspired to do something about it. Out there, I’m lazy and unmotivated and maybe not even able to do this thing. In here, I can do it whenever I feel like it — I just don’t feel like it today.

But if I hadn’t owned up to reality? I wouldn’t have written even one percent — maybe even not one percent of one percent — of what I’ve written in the past three years. I would have sheltered in my alternate reality; the one where I was unproductive on my own terms. Where I believe whatever bullsharknado is on offer — especially the bullsharknado that bubbles up from my own gut.

And maybe some people would rather live that way, I dunno.

Me, I’ll take the jagged edges and freezing winds of the real world over the fluffy clouds and artificial heat-lamps of the fantasy world any day.

*Atlanta snow days do not actually feature snow.

 


Faithless


We’ve got a few hours left to wake up from this nightmare.

It’s a long shot, to be sure, but it’s the last shot for folks like me who still can’t quite believe that the Orange One is about to be our president. But is it such a long shot? All we need is for thirty or so people to come to their senses and realize that the American experiment is more important than the system that makes Trump the president.

The faithless elector. I didn’t realize quite how perfect that term was. Because it would take something like faith for the electors to vote for Trump given the circumstances.

He lost the popular vote by over three million.

He’s shown that he will endeavor to keep his family as close to his politics as possible.

He’s already pissing in the punch bowl of international affairs, before he’s even taken the office.

He’s naming a laundry list of offensive, unbelievable idiots to his cabinet (a racist, sexist idiot for chief of staff? a woman who’s never taught for secy of education? a man who “lived in the projects” for HUD?).

To say nothing of all the horrible, wickedly either negligent or downright evil things that somehow didn’t bring him down before the election (Trump U? Grab them by the pussy? “I like soldiers that don’t get caught?”).

I know, I know. Democrats have done nothing but moan and complain since the election, but consider for a moment if the shoe were on the other foot. Consider that Trump had amassed three million more votes than Clinton, but we were preparing for a Hillary presidency instead of a Trump one. There would be riots, both ideological and literal. There would be nothing but shut down the government talk, and rigged system talk, and burn the electoral college talk.

Notice that (most) democrats aren’t calling for that. Most of us have shut up, taken our medicine, and accepted that Trump won the election by the rules in place.

But he has also shown that he is uniquely undeserving of the office, and undeserving of the people who have awarded it to him. So we need faithless electors.

Consider:

Faith is believing something in spite of a lack of evidence, and this may come as a shock, but I don’t have that kind of faith.

It would take something like faith to believe that he will somehow turn all this around and become the president that we deserve.

It would take something like faith to believe that the people he’s surrounding himself with (the best people, believe me) can somehow control him.

It would take something like faith to believe that he’s actually going to deliver on any of his campaign promises that were the cornerstone of his rabid support (the Wall? Locking her up? Draining the swamp? Nope, nope, and nope — and again, this is all dead in the water before he’s even taken office).

Like I said, I don’t have that kind of faith. And I find it hard to believe that anybody looking at the world as it is, simply, truly, and honestly, does either.

I don’t even expect them to vote for Clinton. (I’m using up all my living-in-a-fantasy-world currency in even entertaining the possibility that the electors won’t go for him.)

I just want them to do the right thing, speak for the people, and send the message that this man is not what America stands for. He doesn’t deserve to speak for us.

Now, back to non-Trump, non-wallowing-in-denial programming.

 


%d bloggers like this: