Virginia

Well, time to write again.

Charlottesville has come and gone, but the ramifications are here to stay. We’re officially a country in turmoil, to the point that even the most stiff-lipped arbiters of civility politics and both-sidesism have all but crumbled under the crushing, objective evidence that right wing extremism has had a death grip on the United States for decades if not centuries, and that milquetoast centrism is no longer a viable defense.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped some presumably well-intentioned media wonks from blubbering in the public sphere about the breakdown of institutional values, as though such things have any worth in the present, brought to you as it is by middle-of-the-road handwringing and right-wing appeasement.

Full-throated and strident opposition to right-wing conservatism is the only thing that will save this country, and that’s never been more apparent than now. That means supporting a $15 minimum wage, for starters. That means safe, legal, affordable access to abortion, in all 50 states. That means absolute, unwavering rejection of any sort of bigotry, and those that associate with it.

And yet, in these troubled times, centrists and right-wingers alike love to cluck their tongues and wag their fingers at the so-called alt-left, also known as anti-fascists, also known as the only people who are literally bleeding and dying to insure that nazis do not walk care-free down the streets of America.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what the term “anti-fascist” means, as it’s a blanket term for–drum roll–somebody opposed to fascism. This term could be applied to literally anybody who thinks any rhetoric or action that supports oppression needs to be met head-on with direct action.

And this is where we tend to lose the centrists, the progressives, the establishment democrats, and everybody else who has been told since kindergarten that “violence never solves everything.” There is an understandable squeamishness surrounding force and violence, or direct action of any kind, outside the purview of the law.

But once again, how can we place 100% of our faith in our institutions when they have failed to protect us from Donald Trump, from a resurgence of nazism, from right-wing murder squads that employ tactics similar to those used by ISIS in their own terrorist attacks? When it is blind faith in institutional authority that landed us in this predicament in the first place, why should we be surprised that people are acting outside the purview of institutional authority?

And more to the point, why should we be surprised that folks are turning to direct action when the results are plain to see?

The organizer of the hate rally in Charlottesville was driven from the podium of his own press conference, not by politely worded questions from members of the press, but by rightfully enraged citizens who rushed the stage, screamed “indict for murder now” into his microphone, and chased him through the surrounding gardens until the police rushed him to safety, a luxury that was not afforded to the victims of right-wing vehicular homicide, or anybody else standing up against fascism in Virginia that weekend, depending on which accounts you believe (I tend to believe the accounts told by people who were there and aren’t nazis, but that’s just me.)

Numerous other bad actors in the travesty in Virginia have expressed fear, blubbering on the Internet about the just repercussions their vile and murderous rhetoric was met with. Whining on YouTube that they got maced, punched, or even just that people have been mean to them on Twitter.

What else should they–or anybody else–fairly expect? That open espousal of ideologies routed in genocide would be greeted as a concept worth engaging with on any terms other than swift and immediate opposition, by any means necessary? Are we so addicted to the lie, rooted in hundreds of years of propaganda, that our institutions will save us, that we actually think violence perpetrated against nazis isa anything but justice? Has the whole world gone mad?

The pearl-clutching moralists of civility politics seem to actually have taken the “violence never solved anything” platitude with them well into adulthood, swallowing whole the myth of a fairytale civilization that does not shore up all of its institutional values with the direct or implicit threat of violence. To hew dangerously close to the kind of “classical” thinking that the Alt-Right loves to get itself moist over, the very concept of a nation of laws, or the concept of law itself rests upon the collective knowledge that an inability to follow rules and regulations will be met with swift and violent action by the state, in the form of police, judges, prisons, etc. If you steal or murder, you will be seized by the state, confined in a cell, and possibly executed. For some reason, these ideas do not scandalize the champions of civility politics nearly as much as somebody pulling down a statue of Jefferson Davis or punching a nazi in the face.

Great strides have been made in this country and around the world through non-violent action, it’s true. However, those who would invoke the name of Martin Luther King should do well to remember how integration actually played out. The racists–institutional authority worshippers all until it turned against them–did not simply say “well, the law’s the law” and turn heel and go home. Bussing was marred by riots so severe that the national guard had to be deployed so teenagers could go to school. What is this if not violence accomplishing something?

There’s plenty of room for debate as to how politically useful direct, anti-facist violent confrontations are, but everybody quaking in their boots because they can’t accept reality–a bunch of kids with some rope got more done in a few hours than our entire democratic system got done since the civil war–needs to face the facts. To paraphrase John Steinbeck, when the majority of the people are ignored by the powerful, they will take by force what they need.

 

 

MOONLIGHT, the Oscars, and the Same Old Conversation

That ending, though. What a rollercoaster.

Before I comment on the most memorable of all memorable fuck-ups, I need to contextualize a few things, and clarify my standing on the “Moonlight vs La La Land” spectrum.

I thought La La Land was a very enjoyable, very well-done film. It’s a certain kind of film that speaks to a certain kind of audience, namely, conventional romantics who love to bask in the afterglow of big, bold, and brassy production values, and love a good paean to the wonders of showbiz, movie musicals, and beautiful people. A less delicate but still accurate assessment: it’s a white movie full of mostly white people dealing with mostly white problems (the absolute lack of conflict for most of the film’s running time is both baffling and strangely appropriate, somehow).

By contrast, Moonlight is a beautifully raw, vulnerable, and achingly compassionate film about the marginalized, their place within the world, and how they interact with and are shaped by it. Whatever your personal take on the film is (I myself slightly preferred Manchester by the Sea and Hell or High Water from the nominees pool), Moonlight is an important, powerful, and unique piece of cinema that stands out amongst its peers in a way that is truly deserving of special recognition, especially in these times when bigotry seems (emphasis on “seems”) more pronounced, visible, and mainstream than ever.

So, that’s where I fall on those two films. In the run-up to awards season, the narrative coalescing from certain critical corners was that La La Land was the milquetoast, lily-white, tone-deaf, and banal safe choice, and thus the favorite, and Moonlight was the polar opposite. While I do think the accolades heaped upon La La Land are mostly overblown, much of the criticism also seems eye-roll-worthy. One could argue that Hollywood and the Academy deserve scrutiny for constantly elevating glossy, saccharine white-people fare at the expense of more challenging and artful work, but that fury seemed to boil over into some fairly ridiculous assertions about many films this awards season (“Ryan Gosling saves jazz” and “Manchester by the Sea is about white supremacy” to name two). Disregarding the problematic nature of monochromatic Hollywood for a moment, I don’t think there’s any reason to claim that a perfectly fine solid “B” is worth downgrading to an “F” just because a bunch of boring showbiz geriatrics were (supposedly) ignoring the “A” black/queer film.

So we all know what happened with the envelope mix-up (for the most part). When Faye Dunaway blurted out “La La Land,” I wasn’t too surprised, even though director Chazelle had previously walked away with the customary “Best Director” consolation prize. I booed the screen half-heartedly, mildly annoyed. Then the truth started to dribble out, with producer Jordan Horowitz telling the audience that there had been a mix-up, and that Moonlight was the actual winner. For a few minutes, I was dumbfounded, convinced that this had all been some woefully ill-advised stunt: a pre-planned bit to show off just how woke and sensitive white Hollywood is, delivered in the same well-intentioned but ultimately tone-deaf spirit as those videos of cops pulling over black motorists to give them ice cream cones.

That turned out to not be the case, which led to a lot of sympathy for the previously vilified La La Land entourage, as they had to hand over the statuettes, envelopes, and stage to the Moonlight team. Much has been made of how well Horowitz handled what must have been a crushing situation, but the aftermath of the fiasco wound up being nearly identical to the “let’s show how sensitive we are” stunt I had imagined.

In the wake of “Envelopegate”, the post-show coverage and social media chatter essentially ignores Barry Jenkin’s brave and bold achievement altogether, along with the awards it took home, in favor of focusing on how badly the Academy screwed up and the grace of Horowitz. A Washington Post article trumpets that he’s “the truth-teller we need right now,” bending over backwards to pat the producer on the back for…what, exactly? It was a nice and even-handed gesture, for sure, but (and this is not a knock against Horowitz in the slightest) do we need to ooh and aah quite so much over somebody doing what should be minimally expected of them, especially in lieu of focusing on the movie that actually won, to say nothing of the invisible people it made visible? It’s pretty lamentable that the story being told is not that Moonlight upset the best picture race, but that La Land lost so graciously.

So my suggestion is: go and see Moonlight, get to know Barry Jenkins, focus on what he earned and achieved, and think about what this film and its acknowledgment might mean for the marginalized people of our present and our future. And maybe ask why this isn’t the conversation most of us are having.

The New Right’s “Gated Community” Vision of America

It seems old hat to moan about how ridiculous the right has become, and yet, here we are.

Each day under the Trump administration is a series of nested petty outrages: absolutely bonkers nonsense rhetoric and action that dribbles into the zeitgeist before being weaponized by dipshits of all stripes.

The latest hysterical but also terrifying (there has to be a German adjective for this) development was the President of the United States’ unhinged ramblings about Sweden, and the violence-torn hellscape he imagines it to be (courtesy of that country’s leading role in accepting refugees and immigrants).

Proving once again (like I said, old hat) that all the rules have gone out the window, it’s not only easy to find people who back up and defend his categorical lie (Sweden is one of the least violent places in the world). The entire thing was predicated on a dubious report from Fox News, which featured the baseless allegation that the Swedish government was covering up violent crime in an effort to hide what the hordes of bloodthirsty brown people have wrought.

Prominent wing-nut whackjob and all-around laughable shitstain @PrisonPlanet–the same guy who still clings to the PizzaGate conspiracy theory, never leaves his apartment, and self-identifies as an Alpha Male hardass even though he’s a sickly dork–boldly issued a “gotcha” to everybody chuckling at the latest foibles of the Mad Diaper King by “challenging” reporters to accept a paid-trip to a Swedish suburb that is supposedly overrun with jihadists. When the entire Internet eagerly accepted the offer, he angrily told them they were being stupid for wanting to go there, and proved his point by posting pictures of police cars parked near buildings, and sullen hot topic teens standing around on a sidewalk. When this prompted yet another round of laughter, he angrily tweeted his coup de grace: a video of some fireworks going off in the street, as evidence that Sweden was indeed a multiculturalist hellhole.

I made the worst/best decision of the weekend by choosing to comment on this gut-busting stupidity and I’m still getting twitter notifications bout it 24 hours later. What I’ve learned is this: the reason boorish toads like Trump are actually able to drum up popular support is that they engage with the world in exactly the same way as lots of America’s shittiest people, and contrary to popular liberal belief, that’s not necessarily somebody who is rent apart by bigotry, but somebody whose greatest aspiration is a kind of dark, white trash-elitism that Donald Trump perfectly embodies.

A popular deflated “gotcha” attempt amongst progressive critics of Trump is to point out how stupid MAGA-dopes are for idolizing Trump and treating him as though he is their buddy and pal when it’s clear to anybody with half a brain that he wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. The crux of the argument is wrong-headed even if the conclusion is apt (and even if most liberals don’t want to admit that the same is true of Clinton or Obama or indeed any politician or rich-dope-turned-politician). Trump IS just like them, with the sole exception of being in a much higher tax bracket. He’s a whiny, privileged oaf who has never worked for anything in his life, has had everything handed to him, and yet still feels eternally beleaguered at even the most insignificant obstacles or hardships. Being President Trump is not all that different from being a Pepe-avatar moron living in mom’s basement in suburban Ohio. If any of the RedHats did ever strike it rich, they would live exactly how Trump does: watching endless amounts of daytime television, eating too much shitty fast food, and flying around on solid gold planes to golf appointments in Florida, aka, the Jamaica for boring tourists who are afraid to look at black people.

The even more hilarious/maddening part is that all of these NIMBY assholes claim to be brave, oh-so-Alpha independent manly men, even though they spiral into a descent of pants-wetting delirium at the suggestion that someone setting off firecrackers on concrete is not, in fact, tantamount to living in war-torn Syria. The same people who shriek that “dur GOVernment” needs to stop fucking up their lives barely stop to take a breath before bellowing “THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW” when forced to confront anything that might flout the bylaws of their McMansion Gated Community. Nothing brought out the frothing venom like being told that I grew up in red-state Texas with a multiple shotgun-owning father who took me on annual trips out to the country to stock up on high-powered explosives that we–wait for it–set off in the alley and street near our house that was within city limits. Hell, as I got older I regularly stocked up myself, spending hundreds of dollars on shit that went boom so that I could exercise my god-given right as an American to get drunk and cause a ruckus on July 4th. None of that for these people. Reading my mentions, they seem to believe, to a one, that it is literally impossible to handle fireworks without self-immolating, and that anybody caught setting one off within 200 yards of another person should be shipped off to a blacksite prison.

That’s the appeal for the self-appointed hardasses of the right’s base: they’re shitty and bland people who desire nothing less than for the whole of America to be transformed into a series of all-white, suburban planned communities with attached multi-function churches/Cheesecake factories. God forbid any of these sobbing infants had to spend a day in my liberal snowflake stronghold, where a clinically insane person yells me at weekly, and I brush it off like I would a morning traffic jam. That’s the MO for Trump and his goons: they’ve blundered into everything they could possibly need, and are being stared down by an existential crisis that they respond to by trying to destroy every alternative path to fulfillment. For people bereft of any creativity or thoughtfulness, realizing that your reality TV aspirations read as trashy and pathetic to anybody with an interesting bone in their body is a frightening proposition.

An OK Day

Is this what it felt like to be an adult in the cold war?

I remember once reading an article about “nuclear dread” or “cold war dread” that discussed how those who grew up in the Atomic Age–basically anybody who went to middle school in the 1950s until roughly the 1980s–had this low-level, simmering anxiety, that nuclear annihilation could come at any moment.

Right now, it feels like somebody turned the dimmer switch on the present down just a tad. There are few conversations happening amongst my friends in New York that don’t–at some point–dip into the latest outrage to roll out of the White House. The repulsiveness of the current political climate has become a meme. To crack a joke about waking up in the morning and checking your newsfeed for developments about the end of the world is about as fresh as making a “What’s the deal with lampshades” Jerry Seinfeld send-up.

I alternate between dread and hope. It’s encouraging to watch people finally get in the faces of politicians, and there’s something weirdly comforting about seeing a country so unanimously repulsed by a group of politicians. Sometimes I feel that if we make it to 2020–or even 2018–without any major catastrophes, that the tide is going to turn in a big bad way.

But then there are little things that make me wonder about the future, and how we’re all going to engage with each other ten, twenty, thirty years from now. We have duly elected officials openly and baldly lying and spitting on the electorate, and nobody really seems to care. Some folks keep cautioning against “normalization”, but at this point it’s hard to imagine ever not dropping my jaw open when I see Sean Spicer spewing stuttered misinformation, or Kellyanne Conway behaving like the ugly power broker at the bitchiest sorority. Reading the news is a constant reminder that the country is being run by the white trash version of The Kardashians, only less successful and with terrible taste.

I digress. What does it mean for the future when politicians feel OK reiterating the absolutely out of touch with reality assertion that most protesters are “paid”? The question will be whether voters react to this as they should (the civics equivalent of storming the castle and beheading the nobles), or if there really are enough out of touch shitheads in the world that believe this crap, who will keep the needle from moving too far in one direction or another.

In the past, it’s been achingly unhip to align passion, politics, and art. I went to a Raymond Pettibon exhibit at the New Museum yesterday (with Dana, James, Emily) and loved it. Achingly personal, unique, political, vulnerable, passionate, and beautiful work. One of my favorite takeaways was that Pettibon entitled one of his shows that came immediately after the outbreak of the Iraq War: “Here’s Your Irony Back.” Maybe we’re finally getting there.

Why It’s OK To Punch Dicky Spencer, Neo-Nazi

 

Everyone seems to be clutching their pearls over whether or not it was OK that a worthless piece of shit got punched in the face. Some of the reactions extolling the violent consequences of Richard Spencer’s stomach-churning, ignorant hatred tap into the same ugly side of humanity that parasites like Spencer prosper in. At the same time, the liberal hand-wringing over whether or not that is an acceptable form of engagement with a man who openly emulates Nazis and advocates white supremacy taps into the same well of milquetoast ideology that is partially responsible for the current American hostage crisis.

Let’s agree on one thing: Richard Spencer is a white supremacist, and is therefore a person whose very existence is rooted in a philosophy of irredeemable (for now) hate, bigotry, and ignorance. Spencer and his followers believe in one thing, when you strip away all the half-baked, ersatz intellectualism: might make right. This is the basis for the whole of White Nationalism; Caucasians have, in recent history, dominated the civilized world, and therefore the world is theirs to rule by divine right. Exactly how these morons manage to reconcile this plank of their ideology with the other primary ethic–that whites are gradually losing their grip on global society–is one of many head-scratching inconsistencies, but that’s a rabbit hole we won’t go down for now.

The point is, Spencer and others like him rule their dirty little corner of society by postulating that strength the overriding moral imperative of humankind, and that anybody who suffers underneath the boot heel of Eurocentric fascism essentially deserves it. If their lives were worth anything, after all, they wouldn’t be so easily conquered.

The figureheads of fascism have always been strong-men for a reason. They appeal to the powerless and the weak, who deep down feel that every one of their problems is due to some uneven tipping of the scales. While the spoken ethos of these losers is rooted in an advocacy of unfairly maligned and persecuted white men, they really just want an authority figure to punish those who outperform them every step of the way. They want a Donald Trump or a Richard Spencer to heap scorn and ridicule on their betters so they can all have one big pity party together.

Thus, it’s not only appropriate that Richard Spencer got sucker-punched while bloviating on live television about the awesome power and glory of white men, it’s the right way to deal with his ilk.

One of many problems that progressives deal with is an inability to remove themselves from the idea of a rational mindset. They think winning the argument is tantamount to success in a representative democracy, when the last few months have shown us time and again that this isn’t true. The trolls who elected Donald Trump, and more narrowly, the mouth-breathers who give even a lick of credence to anything uber-failures like Richard Spencer fart out of their wordholes, don’t care about who is right, they care about who seems strongest. Their personal ideology, inasmuch as they’re capable of forming one for themselves, is rooted in social Darwinism: anybody who needs help is weak.

Everybody braying about the cold-cocking of corporal butt-cutt, wailing that “we’re playing right into their hands!” is wrong. Sure, there will be tons of stormtroopers who take it as an opportunity to galvanize, who will rant and rave about the Jewish state refusing to punish the “thug” who clearly would have had his ass kicked if he hadn’t run away, but that’s a smokescreen. The truth is, for the great multitude of neo-nazis out there following Richard Spencer’s every move, the lip-quivering mask of cowardice the cameras caught as his people spirited him away from the scene are signs of weakness.

This is one thing we can actually agree on.

 

An Open Letter to Everyone I Went to High School With:

It’s easy for you to tell people they should “stop complaining,” and be “productive” when you see news of protesters. You, like me, were born into security, and most likely you continue to enjoy that privilege and will for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you don’t have problems, that you don’t feel pain, or that you’re not allowed to complain.

It does mean that you should probably consider how this day feels to people who have not, and probably never will, have what you have.

For a lot of people protesting, this isn’t about “complaining” or “whining” or whatever else you’ve decided to recast the constitutionally protected right to dissent as. A lot of people today, myself included, are very nervous, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.

A lot of us will weather the next four years, however they go, without much change in our lives. Some of us won’t. Some of the former feel the latter are being screwed over the hardest, and they think it’s up to those who have everything to help prop up those who have nothing.

I don’t expect everyone to devote their time, money, and even emotional or mental resources to resisting Trump. If you just can’t bring yourself to do anything else but dig in and try to weather the storm, I understand, and I don’t judge you for it.

But if you’re actually taking time and effort out of your day to talk shit about the people who are expressing themselves, in whatever way the can and whatever way they think is appropriate, who aren’t hurting anybody, who aren’t breaking any laws, there is something black eating away at your soul.

My uncle was a Vietnam vet. He was a soldier. He also was recruited by the NSA, and then was asked to leave because he thought it was his duty as an American to protest the war he had fought in, and watched people die needlessly for.

So when you scoff and spew bile at people who think protests are important, you’re insulting me, you’re insulting everyone who has less than you, and you’re insulting the memory of my family members.

So if you tell me “don’t take it personally,” you can go fuck yourself.

On Bullies

I was perusing my twitter feed (I took an extended break post-election and it felt GREAT) and came across a story about the leader of CKI (Conservative Kleptocrat Insurrection) leader Donald Trump’s tweet regarding LL Bean.

Apparently, Linda Bean was/is a big Trump supporter. That’s a bit of a bummer, but whatever. I find it kind of curious how some people can’t seem to make educated guesses about certain public figures. I mean, the CEO of a corporation that sells high-quality camping gear/apparel that is based out of Maine is really conservative? COLOR ME SURPRISED.

That said, the article was about Trump publicly thanking her on his twitter feed, and urging his followers to buy her stuff. The bulk of the article dissected why this is unusual and inappropriate behavior for a President–public officials, let alone the President of the United States, shouldn’t be endorsing privately owned corporations. A small aside: I weirdly can immediately identify Trump’s train of thought. He’s such a greedbag, that in his mind telling anybody to give money to anyone other than him is about as warm a gesture he can offer.

But the thing that struck me was a quoted comment from Linda Bean, one in which she referred to critics of the whole fiasco as “bullies.”

That word’s being thrown around a lot these days. It’s a big social issue, and thus, it’s becoming a political one. School bullying, bigoted bullying, political bullying. There’s lots of talk of punching down, and the like. Can comedians be bullies? Some people seem to think so.

Weirdly, now that the balance of power in this country seems to have swung back to rampant conservatism, the Trump-bots absolutely love to claim that they are the ones being bullied. Those mean liberals and progressives are demanding that they change how they talk, think, and act. They’re BULLIES! Anybody who offers criticism these days, even when the criticism is something as simple as “maybe you shouldn’t donate money to a guy who is proud of sexual assault,” is referred to as a bully.

I don’t doubt that a lot of the rank-and-file GOP voters do, in fact, feel bullied. I’m pretty dismayed to see a lot of pushback from the left against accusations of living in a bubble (everyone lives in a bubble, the problem is that nobody wants to try empathy, and politicians manipulate these culture wars to their advantage), because it’s easy for me to understand why solid red-staters of a certain socioeconomic station feel as though they are under attack. To be clear, they’re confused about who it is that’s attacking them, and who it is that’s acting in their best interests, but that’s for another article. My point is, I think some conservatives do feel as though they’re being ganged up on, right or wrong.

What’s more concerning are the bullies that are hiding in plain sight. These are the folks that know how to manipulate public perception and an electorate that thrives on emotional appeals. People like Paul Ryan, Linda Bean, Steve Bannon, and any other millionaire conservative who wants to pretend that they’re being unfairly treated by progressives making minimum wage who think their health is more important than a CEO having slightly lower taxes.

I hit puberty somewhat early, in the 5th grade. I remember a kid in gym class innocently commenting that my legs were hairier than his dad’s. I was one of the first kids to shave. I was always a tall kid, but I towered over my classmates until high school, when people finally started catching up.

There was a kid in my class–let’s call him Jimmy–who picked on me. He was an obnoxious little shit, and a runt, to boot. One of the smaller kids in physical stature, but someone who knew how to corral friendships, who knew how to make or break a fellow student’s popularity, who could seize upon anybody’s weakness and lead them around by the nose with it. I wasn’t the only person he picked on, but I was an especially easy target because I was so easy to spot.

Jimmy never physically picked on me. At least, not in any way that was remotely serious. Again, I was much bigger than him (though I was a beanpole at the time) and my school community was tight-knit and conservative enough that people didn’t really get into fights. Jimmy used psychological warfare. He loved to spread rumors as a way of exposing just how lame somebody was. He had the guts to needle people publicly, which had the vampiric effect of making him appear larger as he made others look smaller. And here’s the kicker: Jimmy knew that he was relatively safe from repercussions because he was small.

I know a lot of people who got picked on in high school by the big, hulking jocks don’t want to hear this, but there is a certain breed of kid who knows full well that he can play the victim card the minute anybody who’s bigger than him starts to fight back. Jimmy did this all the time. He blatantly lied to teachers, coaches, parents. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to “pick on somebody my own size” because I had dared to shove Jimmy back, or hit him with a verbal retort, or basically do anything besides sit there and take it.

This is how conservatives operate these days. Because the social tide has begun to turn against greed and might-make-right, a weird parallel universe has sprung up: one in which wealthy white people are somehow being victimized by people who don’t want to die, or have their rights trampled, or be harassed alone. The same people who send anonymous jpegs of Jewish caricatures being executed to reporters and activists screech that their rights are being trampled when somebody suggests that they should be banned from Twitter, a privately owned company (see also: Duck Dynasty guy, Donald Sterling, et al). Anyone who opines that American have a right to be outraged by a reality star turned politician screaming at reporters who dare to question him is, in one breath, referred to as a “special snowflake” and also a “bully”. Someone I went to high school with, whose company I enjoy, and whom I like to talk football with, has twice flagged me down on social media to complain that people like my friends and I are “shoving our liberalism down his throat,” yet then declined to have a discussion about any issues being raised because it “would be pointless.” In this fairy-tale conservative wet-dream, progressives are at fascists for merely existing, yet also whiny cowards capable of achieving nothing.

Americans love a victim, and the more cynical among us, on both the right and the left, know how to manipulate this into political gain. Rhetoric has become jiu-jitsu. The person on the offensive always has the potential to be thrown on their back, even if the “attack” is coming from something that used to be shared value, eg: The President-elect shouldn’t mock disabled people publicly and then lie about it. Donald Trump and his cronies are small, small people, just like Jimmy was, and probably still is. But just because you’re smaller than your opponent doesn’t mean that you aren’t the bully.

The Jimmy story has a happy ending, though. Once, while changing for PE class, Jimmy was up to his usual mean-spirited pageantry of calling me names, trying to shove me, etc. I was mostly ignoring him, but at one point he pushed me into the locker, and I pushed him back, hard. He fell down on the floor, and a few people laughed. There was enough of a row at this point that one of the coaches came out from his office to see what was going on. PE was one of the few places that pricks like Jimmy didn’t have the full run of the school, and this particular coach clearly didn’t like Jimmy and didn’t buy his “I didn’t even do anything” shtick. He looked at both of us, and then calmly said: “Y’know Jimmy, I’m not going to stop John when he decides he’s had enough of your shit and kicks your ass.”

Jimmy didn’t bother me much after that. There’s no real “coach” to step in and lend a voice of authority to the Americans who are fighting back against a bunch of bigots and cowards who are claiming that they’re being victimized anytime someone calls a spade a spade, but sooner or later, small people like Jimmy and Donald get theirs.