Better is Good. Worse is Fucking Horrific.

We live in a world of worse.

Our President is the worst human being in America, and he has populated his cabinet with a motley collection of two-bit con artists with delusions of competence. On almost every single policy—taxes, the environment, immigration, health care, random obscure legal shit—our government is making things worse.

It sucks, but it’s reality. Continue Reading “Better is Good. Worse is Fucking Horrific.”

I Don’t Know How to Tell You that You’re an Asshole

A little more than a year ago, HuffPo published a piece by Kayla Chadwick titled I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People.

As I read it, that piece comes from a place of compassion and empathy.

This one comes from a place of rage.

The Kavanaugh Thing

As I write this, the United States Senate has recently confirmed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court. They have done this not because he is the most qualified and in spite of the fact that as a deliberative body, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee was not given access to the bulk of the paper trail that would have enabled them to make an informed decision. Continue Reading “I Don’t Know How to Tell You that You’re an Asshole”

The Rancid Privilege of a Life Destroyed

A friend of mine in a private forum recently reminded me of a point I really wanted to make about this Brett Kavanaugh nonsense.

It takes an enormous level of privilege to think Brett Kavanaugh’s life is being destroyed.

Let’s imagine for a moment something that we know to be untrue—that Brett Kavanaugh is the virginal angel he pretends to be. Let’s pretend that he didn’t assault anyone. Let’s pretend that he’s not a rabid partisan. Let’s pretend that he’s the perfect jurist for someone on the Republican side of the aisle.

That’s a lot of pretending, I know.

That makes all the accusations lies. It means his reputation has been damaged—probably permanently—by something entirely untrue. It means he might be denied a position he really wants due to the political machinations of people from his distant past.

In the worst case scenario, he not only loses out on the Supreme Court seat, but faces impeachment and removal from his current seat as well as permanent persona-non-grata status at the nation’s law schools. He won’t be able to be a judge anywhere or teach in any law schools anywhere.

I’d be pissed if that happened to me.

My life would not be destroyed.

Even if all that were true—and, reminder, we know it’s not—Brett Kavanaugh has a wife who presumably still loves him. He has children who presumably still love him. If his nomination crashes and burns in the most dramatic way possible, he will still be able to find lucrative employment at a right-wing law firm or think tank, and he’ll have a promising future on the martyr circuit.

Meanwhile, there are parents who will be unable to feed their children today. There are women who are going to be beaten by the people they love. There are parents who will sit at the bedsides of their dying children. There are parents who will be selecting caskets. There are spouses who will have to make the decision to take the person they love most in the world off of life support.

There are people whose lives are destroyed—by illness, accident, and addiction—on a daily basis. I know. It happened to me recently. My wife passed away in July. I had to make the decision to take her off life support. If I could get her back by having a Senate committee destroy my reputation, become a political pawn, and have the President of the United States mock me in front of thousands of sycophantic douchebros, I couldn’t sign up for that quickly enough.

The degree of privilege it takes to think that losing out on one of the best jobs in the country, perhaps even losing the great job you already have—jobs with high salaries, a real impact on the world, and that come with respect by the bushel—is having your life destroyed is absurd and everyone making that point should be embarrassed.

If you can go home at night to a nice house with a healthy family, your life has not been destroyed. You’ve just experienced the same kind of hardship everyday Americans experience on a daily basis. That you feel your life has been destroyed shows you feel you’re above it all, that you’re entitled not just to a chance at a good life, but to an actual good life.

Guttenberg, Kavanaugh, and the Handshake that Wasn’t

Guttenberg, Kavanaugh, and the Handshake that Wasn’t

At a break on the first day of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee was approached by Fred Guttenberg who had his hand out to shake that of Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh refused, turning his back on the father of one of the kids killed in the Parkland shooting.

Those on the political right would have us believe this was a scripted moment that means nothing. They’re at least partially right because it was partially scripted, but it’s the unscripted part that means everything.

Almost Everything in Politics is Scripted

They would have us believe that this handshake that wasn’t is irrelevant because it was scripted, but if that were the case, almost everything in politics would be irrelevant and that’s obviously not true.

Campaign speeches are scripted. Convention speeches are scripted. Commercials are scripted. Speeches from the floors of the House and Senate are scripted. Almost every public statement made by almost every politician in America is scripted. Even supposedly off-the-cuff statements are—if not actually scripted—discussed ad nauseam by candidate and staff before they’re made.

But the prevalence of scripted discourse in politics is irrelevant here because while Fred Guttenberg was almost certainly staging a stunt, Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t obliged to follow the script.

The Important Part Wasn’t Scripted

Offering to shake the hand of a political opponent is rarely newsworthy. Accepting a handshake from a political opponent is almost never newsworthy. Had Brett Kavanaugh shaken Guttenberg’s hand, and offered a trite platitude about the Parkland tragedy, we wouldn’t be talking about it today because we wouldn’t have known it happened.

It became newsworthy because Brett Kavanaugh refused to engage in the simplest, most basic of our cultural norms. A handshake is the baseline greeting for people who aren’t necessarily the best of friends, but who accept the other as part of their world.

The Shriveled Turnip at the Heart of the American Political Right

That’s why Kavanaugh’s refusal to shake hands is so revealing. It’s emblematic of a political movement that makes a lack of empathy and the denial of humanity a core tenet of everything they espouse.

If you are not a rich, able-bodied, cis-gendered white Christian man, the current Republican Party doesn’t think you’re human enough to count. To borrow from one of the worst decisions our Supreme Court has ever handed down, the Republican Party thinks that if you’re not a rich, able-bodied, cis-gendered white Christian male, you have no rights which the rich, able-bodied, cis-gendered, white Christian male is bound to respect.

They think people are poor because they’re lazy. They think people are disabled because they deserve to be. They think women are just there to help men be more manly. They think immigrants are diseased moochers. They think brown people are lazy and unintelligent. They not only think they’re better than us, they think they’re so much better than us that they’re the only ones who deserve a seat at the table.

The Price of Access to the Public Arena is Acceptance

There’s an argument we see every time someone from the political right is publicly disinvited from an event. It’s censorship. If you really believed in an open exchange of ideas, you’d let everyone in. You’re being hypocrites, blah blah blah blah, it’s all bullshit.

Access to public debate has a price. That price is accepting the humanity of everyone else who argues in the public debate. If you do not accept that women, disabled people, gay people, brown people, trans people, and people that just don’t agree with you on anything at all have the same right to access public spaces, the same right to have their votes counted, the same right to work, to worship (or not), and to just be themselves, then you have no right to demand a place in the discussion.

Conclusion

And that is why the handshake-that-wasn’t is newsworthy. It’s not simply a matter of one person being dismissive of another, it’s a matter of the fundamental flaw of an entire political movement. They think that they’re the only ones who are smart enough, dedicated enough, honest enough, and correct enough to make public policy and every single one of those qualifications is shorthand for being white enough.

They think they count and we don’t.