Friday, July 24, 2020

Ephemeral Affections

So I'm trying something a little different here. 

I'm writing two posts about the same thing. Not a two-part post (I do those all the time), but rather a two facet analysis of the same event. One is this one here: a personal, "navel gazing" post about a difficult situation and how I'm dealing with it. The other part I will put on
Writing About Writing: a breakdown of the same event but from a different perspective having to do with my proximity to my writing career and a place at the outer edge of fame that is beginning to become more and more familiar.

[In case you're just tuning in, I'm not monogamous. That's going to help contextualize some things that might otherwise be confusing about this story.]

A few years back, I had a terrible break up. And while I've had deep and incredibly meaningful relationships since then, I spent quite a long time carefully avoiding anything too serious. Honestly, I spent some time in therapy wondering if I was broken because all my relationships involved folks who were married, were half a continent away, or both. But after a while I processed through enough of my shit and got over the hurt and learned to be with myself. And I was ready to date again.

Let me rephrase that. I was ready to have a relationship again, and I really didn't want to date. I love going on dates with people I care about, but the interview process is phenomenally uncomfortable and I get awkward. Plus....there's that horrible initial phase you have to go through where it's like you're the clay pigeon in skeet shooting. With a lot of people, they say "Pull," you put yourself out there, and as soon as they get a good look at you, they shoot you down. It's not super great for the self-esteem. And when you're coded guy in our society, you're a lot more likely to be the clay pigeon.

Buuuuuuut that's life, right? It takes a special type to be able to announce their availability to the world and passively be inundated with a stack of resumes. So I signed up for OKCupid and took my lumps. I went on a couple of disastrous dates, chatted with several high matches who stopped replying without a word. I went through the motions. 

Then Shelter-In-Place started. Technically, that account is still active. And technically, I'm still open to the possibility of something falling in my lap (so to speak), but one thing kind of tangential to this story is that I decided to put all this effort and rejection and emotional energy on the shelf for a year. If no one has shown up at my door and said, "I am for you, Chris Brecheen" by next May, I'll get back out there, but for now I've decided to funnel my energy into other parts of my life. The timing sucks, since I really WAS starting to get lonely on Friday nights and feeling ready for something more serious. And now I'm alone when I much would have preferred to be stuck in here with someone wonderful and kissable, but they don't let me schedule the pandemics so.....

Anyway, for various reasons (mostly having to do with maintaining a high-profile public persona), I still get a lot of attention online even though I'm not trying to make a connection. And while I try to get to KNOW people first so that I'm not exploiting a power differential, I can still be kind of a "How YOU doin?'" target when people are feeling a certain way. (I also don't discourage people from flirting shamelessly with me because who knows what might happen.)

The problem is, this sort of attention is often kind of ephemeral. And my heart has been getting its ass kicked. I get soft-ghosted a lot––that's when the person doesn't block or unfriend you or anything and might even reply if you say hi, but they are clearly NO LONGER INTO YOU. The daily chats and steamy selfies are over. I don't like to assign motive, but people flirt shamelessly with a kinda, sorta semi-famous writer for a lot of reasons. I've had folks who slid into my inbox when they were lonely and then "soft-ghosted" when they got asked out by someone in their area code. I've had people tell me they were non-monogamous and then hubby found the chat open one day and maybe not so much. ("Oops.") One time I was the "symptom" of a broken marriage. I'm glad she and her husband fixed their shit and have a better relationship now, but the fact that it was the trip we were scheduling to see each other, after MONTHS of chatting, that led him to realize there was a problem.....that she was lying (to BOTH of us) and planning on cheating....well it sort of sucked on my end. I've had people establish long-distance relationships with me when they were lonely and needed a self-esteem boost who just stopped replying when they found someone local...who happened to be kind of the jealous type. I've had people come at me at WARP NINE with "I want YOU!" energy, and everything was going absolutely great, then stop one day without the slightest warning or explanation. 

Sometimes I find out later what happened. Usually though, I'm just left to wonder and feel a little bit like the clay pigeon. This has been my reality for a few years now. 

Everyone gets their heart Riverdanced on, especially during that initial bullshit period of dating. That's just the way the cliché crumbles. But sometimes having an online life and a high-profile public persona can put the ol' blood pumper out there for a little extra stomping. Add in the OKCupid stuff, and....yikes, it sure is tough. I didn't want to get jaded and start treating genuine people in shitty ways. Particularly if the only thing they could really be accused of is a well intended dabble really only flawed by emotions that hadn't been fully unpacked. (I mean I'm actually the weird one for doing hours of introspection and writing out my feelings to process.) fucking HURTS, and I didn't want to keep opening myself up to be hurt over and over.

But I recently WAS able to use my fabulous set of hard-earned therapy tools to craft a solution. It was kind of cool because that's the goal, right? You don't just want to work out solutions to the problems you have. You want to be able to solve new ones as they come up with the same set of guidelines. (Like taking care of your heart.) I mean it's not exactly free and accessible here in the US, so it's nice to have something to show for the four years and twenty grand. 

So I thought about ways to engage people who were doing the WARP NINE approach in ways that took my own feelings into account but didn't shut down those feelings either. To enjoy the attention RIGHT NOW without expectation or presumption. To enjoy the exchange without putting up walls and hiding myself away, but also without exposing myself to the hurt of yet another ephemeral pass. To just be fully present in that moment without cynicism or naivety. Well....maybe a LITTLE bit of cynicism because you kind of can't take folks completely at their word––not that they're lying, per se, but you have to sort of keep a heavy dose of "they meant it at the time," on standby.

And it worked! Someone slid into my PMs, dropped all number of salacious ideas (and pictures), and broke the just-flirting barrier at Mach 3. We even started talking tentative scheduling for some possible future rendezvous. I had fun. I enjoyed the moment. I told myself not to get carried away. I took it for what it was and not a particle more. I enjoyed the shit out of it and never considered for a moment that it was going anywhere. Three days later a nurse hit on her in meatspace and within a week I was getting the call: "It just felt so right. I have to see where this is going."

Fortunately, I was okay. It didn't feel great. I wouldn't want to do it three times a week. But it didn't hurt the way it did when I put all my weight down on the soon-to-be-pulled-out rug. I didn't wonder what was wrong with me or fling myself into a pillow regretting that I ever opened my heart to love. It just became a nice moment––a beat that was as over as soon as it began.

There's a metaphor for life here somewhere.

[I think writers in the public eye, or really any artist or entertainer who has a public profile, has a particular dimension of this to navigate. I'll write about that in my other blog.]

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Fascism: You're Soaking In It

If you've missed the headlines over the last week, Trump is sending his federal enforcers, who answer only to him, to cities run by––in his own words––"liberal Democrats." (Which is any Democrat, in case you've been on vacation for the last four years.) He's so locked into his narcissistic "everyone's against me" thinking that he isn't even attempting to stick to the ostensible bullshit about "law and order" (which, just so I'm mountain-lake clear would be laughable if it weren't so terrifying, given that the best "defense" the lock-armed GOP was capable of mounting during his impeachment was, "Sure he broke the law, but that doesn't mean we should remove him from office.") I mean he tries, but he keeps screwing up and blurting out the quiet part too.  

He can dress this shit up like a dog in a little tuxedo, but when you burn away the euphemism and rationalization in an anti-bullshit crucible, what you get is that the President of the United States is mobilizing his military forces, answerable only to him, and invading cities of his political opponents, kidnapping their citizens without charging them or reading them Miranda rights or even identifying themselves. This to attempt to intimidate the shit out of them essentially because they were part of (or somewhat near) a protest IN WHICH PROPERTY DAMAGE OCCURRED, and using an ever more violent and deadly tier of crowd suppression weaponry in an attempt to curtail the constitutionally mandated right of free assembly. 

That's pretty much what you see on your TV from some other country when you shake your head and say "Damn shame about [XXXXXXX]. Poor bastards. Shoulda gotten themselves some sweet, sweet democracy."

You know how in some RPG video games you get a prompt before you do something massively unwise? 

"Are you sure you want to doom the galaxy to destruction?"

"You will not be able to return to The Capital Wasteland for some time. Are you sure you wish to proceed?"

"Killing this person will end your quest and destroy the threads of destiny. Are you sure?"

You're not going to get that when it comes to fascism. (And just in case it doesn't go without saying, we can't restart from an old save point either.) No prompt will come up saying. "This is your last free and (kind of) fair election. Are you sure you want to play purity politics?" or "If Trump remains unopposed, you will lose abortion, free assembly (except for neo-Nazis), BLM protesters will be rounded up, southern border camps will become a final solution, and there will be a seven-figure death toll due to Covid-19. Are you sure you want to ignore this latest symptom of encroaching fascism?"

You'll never get that. You just won't.

Everyone thinks they are going to know when they see that clear and unambiguous moment when the nuanced politician's eye twitches and they announce the concentration camps (**checks notes** Oh wait, we already have concentration camps). Everyone thinks THEN they will stand up and do something genuinely patriotic about it. Like it's an action movie. ("Time to get my strangely NOT-anachronistic bow and arrow, and end this.") Actually, it's usually historians looking a decade or more in the rear view who come to some absolutely un-unanimous consensus about the tipping point moment. 

Do they LOOK like they're here to DEescalate the fighting?

But fascism isn’t a toggle switch. It’s more like a slider. The US has had "more fascist" moments in its history––like imprisoning protestors of WWI for years without commuting their sentences after the war. And arguably, unless one dismisses the lived experiences of marginalized communities (which most do), the U.S. has always had one foot in the clinical definition of fascism (beyond just the "bad guys" in a WWII movie). Certainly it's been on the rise since September 11th, 2001, and has had a marked upswing since the the current leader of the Republican Party took the highest office. 

But we won't ever get a prompt that we've hit the point of no return. For us, in real time, it'll just get worse and worse and there will ALWAYS be some justification for it and some scapegoat group like "liberal Democrats" who make one more and one more and one more step acceptable in the mind of those desperate to rationalize their own apathy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Year Without Love ("What Would it Feel Like.....?")

Many of my personality traits come through in their own distinctive voices. The voice of caution is my mother's. Patrick Warburton encourages me to go for it. Chris Hemsworth's voice tells me I'm still worthy. Mr. Rogers reminds me to be kind. 

I also often hear therapy things in therapy language in my therapist's voice. She used to hip check my bullshit with "What would it feel like if...."

What would it feel like if you let yourself have a day off?
What would it feel like if you didn't accept that behavior?
What would it feel like if you just let them walk away?

It was....a theme. So even though I wrapped up my last session nearly a year ago with her looking at me and telling me that she thought I was going to be okay and I had her number if I ever wasn't, I still think of things like my boundaries or asking for what I need in a very "What would it feel like...." kind of way. In fact, I think she might have said, "What would it feel like if this were our last session unless you have a specific need in the future?"

Anyway, I was driving home the other day, thinking about how hard any semblance of dating is during Covid-19, how lonely I’ve been living alone with only really my nanny clients for company, and how long it seems Shelter in Place will remain a factor in our lives. And then, I heard her voice...clear as if she was sitting shotgun.

"What would it feel like if you just planned for a year without a primary partner?"

Now...I should pause here. I have a very active imagination, and I can **practically** hear a lot of things. Voices. Sound effects. Morgan Freeman narrating my life with just a twinge of disappointment at my every choice. But except for a few phantom strains of music when it's very VERY quiet, I don't often break out the full-fledged auditory hallucinations. And I've been having just a weird enough couple of months because of isolation to worry about this. So I spent a few minutes on the phone getting grilled about mania and blood clots by my doctor so I could be extra peace of mindy. (Probably no big if I don’t hear it three times a day, I have a full conversation with it, or it doesn’t suggest violence––if you were wondering.)

But in the moment, I just started answering. Like, literally talking to myself in the car. THAT part is pretty normal for me…when I’m not acting out entire scenes from my stories in the car. 

With Oscar performances.

But anyway, I answered: ”Well, I'd probably get more writing done. I would be free of some distractions with figuring out what the hell is going on in my spiritual life. I'd have a little more bandwidth for job two. Gaming. Working out."

"But mostly," I told 'her,' "I think it would just kind of be this emotional expectation lifted. Like, I could just fucking concentrate on other stuff. Like it would actually bother me less to be alone if I were more actively engaging an idea that that's just not a thing. I'd have this year where I'm just like, that's not what I'm doing with my life right now. Wouldn't hiss at it if it showed up, but just put that energy somewhere else. It would be nice just not to feel so…disappointed all the time.” 

And suddenly that felt SO comfortable. That was...IT. That was the answer. In a flash and a moment, I was excited about my next year (“Oh the places I will go!”), and just taking the time to put energy somewhere else. Just letting all the pressure and expectation float away. Put all that crap on pause. Maybe next year I'll worry about noodling my OK Cupid profile, if I’m putting enough effort into flirting, or spending time  facing a mirror and thinking about my desirability quotient. For now I just have other shit to do, and I'm going to do it, and unless someone shows up at the front door saying, "I am for you, Chris Brecheen" (hopefully holding a pizza), I'm just not going to worry about it.

So thanks, my therapist. You're still helping me out. Even if it’s a little spooky.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tens of Thousands of Teachers are Going to Die

Usually I point here with my Facebook, but today I did my writing on Facebook, and I'm going to point there from HERE. 

Full link:

It's a public post, so you should be able to see it even if you don't have a FB account. Like I say there, blogging just feels a little more "official" and even though I think that writing is important, I was gazing at my navel even more than usual. 

Honestly, I hope I'm way off. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

At Least a Million? (Covid predictions.)

CN: Sort of frank Covid death toll talk. Not trying to be your doom-scroll itch-scratch of the day; I just think we have hard truths to face in this country.  

I've predicted that, when all is said and done, we'll be near a million US deaths from Covid-19 a couple of times, and people think I've lost the plot. They think a quarter mil is on the high end. And to be honest, they're probably right. I don't have a very high opinion of mainstream US culture or its ability to handle this crisis. 

But frankly, I also don't have a model or a forecast I'm using. I don't believe this thing is far more dangerous than the CDC claims or some conspiracy theory or think it is secretly airborne or anything. I just watch our CURRENT fundamentally horrible reaction, and I think we are a perfect storm of incompetence and cultural vulnerability. When cases jack up, deaths jack up (there's no stopping that statistical reality yet), and cases are about to jack WAY, WAY up.

There are 330 million people in the United States. Even Covid's low, beat-the-curve, not-overwhelming-the-ICU's (and the low end of the current guestimate) numbers mean that the cold mathematics are that only about 1/5 of the country falling ill would come out to about a million dead.

1- We haven't even begun to see case spikes from all the reopenings. And by the time anyone says, "Holy shit, reclose it! RECLOSE IT!!!" they will be dealing with two weeks of exponential growth before their curves flatten. Those kind of numbers will grow with dizzying speed.

2- We have the numbers we do BECAUSE of the social distancing and the Shelter in Place that we've managed. And those numbers are.......(wait for it).......the worst in the industrialized world. 4.4% of the population and about 30% of the deaths. That's us on our BEST behavior. And we're about to relax. And conservatives have taken to actively "misbehaving."

3- The federal government's response to insufficient PPE has been criminally derelict. Most places STILL don't have the PPE, beds, ventilators to handle a spike in cases (like the one we're likely to see from reopening), which means you'll see the outcomes of an overwhelmed healthcare system––when that mortality rate jumps.

4a- We have a significant number of people who refuse to take even basic precautions because "fuck the libs" (and fuck academia and science and the media), and no one's going to tell them what to do. When they get it, they will spread it a lot. Not because the info wasn't out there, but because the right-wing leadership found it politically expedient (in the light of facts having such a liberal bias) to undermine any institution that would propagate good data.

4b- It is super hard to watch HALF of a society NOT make a sacrifice you're making for the good of.....them. (Like we can do that shit for our kids, and maybe close family.) Not that there won't be some people who keep social distancing for various reasons, but you're going to see a lot of people (especially if they're in places that aren't doing it at all) wondering what the point is if no one else is doing it.

5- Our governing administration has said openly and on the record that testing just makes the numbers look worse so let's not do that. This is absolute anathema to every medical institution's insistence that one of the highest priorities needs to be testing so we know who has it, who they've been exposed to, and who needs to go into quarantine. Donald Trump has done everything from dismiss the numbers to peddle untested cures. They are completely, absolutely, grotesquely inept. Literally doing nothing would have been better because then at least the states would have the PPE they had to smuggle in from other countries.

6- Even on my friends list, where you would think the people who follow medical and science advice are pretty well represented, and the vast majority would care about public health risks and have the compassion not to expose vulnerable folks….   EVEN THESE FOLKS are getting Isolation Fatigue. They're starting to post pictures of small social gatherings and "just a couple of friends" and trips with their BFFs. And if they're maintaining cell integrity (and trust implicitly that their friends aren't having another "just a couple of friends" with another group), they can make that work, but done casually, it's just the sort of thing that basically make most social distancing and shelter-in-place rules statistically meaningless.

7a- The most scientifically and medically minded states are still opening back up. We are handling CV-19 the absolute WORST IN THE INDUSTRIAL WORLD, and we're opening back up like we've pretty well got this thing licked. And whether you think they've done enough or not (I happen to think Gavin Newsom has done pretty dang well), reopening can't NOT raise exposure rates, thus cases, and thus––statistically––deaths.

7b- The states that flung their doors open (not soft openings) represent a pretty large contingent whose basic outlook is, "let them die (just a bunch of old fogies anyway*). “ The leader of the Republican party and most of its leadership have said that the economy is more important than the death toll, and have basically doubled down on it already.

[*It’s not.]

8- A shocking number of people, irrespective of "side of the aisle," think they know better than the experts. Not "fuck the libs" no-protection types, but people who think that the exposure rate is probably low enough that they can have dinner parties, or who think that it's not really worse than the flu so it doesn't really matter if they get it, or that masks are useless or whatever. Or my personal fave: that they probably had it last spring when "...remember that bad cough," and really don't need to worry because they're immune. They just....know better. And no epidemiological expert is going to convince them otherwise. And every American exceptionalism cultural narrative plays STRAIGHT into disdain for expertise.

1-8: So I don't really think we're going to get a first and second wave. I think we're going to get just one long mushy wave with lots of hotspots, resurgences, and a highly HIGHLY politicized reaction. While I think it's easy to imagine that in two weeks, all the open states will see the error of their ways and close back up, you also have to realize that these are the same people who have basically called Covid deaths the price of doing business, so it's going to take more than a few days of numbers going up, "that's not a moon" trepidation for them to hear the branch crack under their feet.

And it doesn't end in the fall, no matter how badly politicians want it to.

9- Our healthcare system is about the worst equipped in the industrialized world to handle distribution of a vaccine. I don't have the slightest trouble imagining that it won’t be AFFORDABLE to many people for months or even years.

10- We know for a fact that there will be people and forces actively discouraging using the vaccine that will leave wide gaps in herd immunity––probably for years.

11- An administration that has lowballed, underestimated, and mismanaged everything since they got rid of the pandemic response team..... The same administration that has padded numbers, has openly admitted to not testing to keep numbers low, and is run by a guy so out of touch with numbers that make him look bad that he INSISTS he won the popular vote and his inauguration was bigger.... THOSE GUYS....are predicting 3000 deaths every. single. day. Do you think there's any chance in the world, if that's what they're OPENLY ADMITTING TO RIGHT NOW, that it's going to actually be that low?

12- I don't really put it past our current administration not to descend even further into the depths of depravity to try and get the economy going. I wouldn't put it past them to coerce or even force people back to work. I wouldn't put it past them to mount a propaganda blitz that everything is awesome (when you're part of a team). I wouldn't put it past them to engage in TRULY massive cover-ups. Basically, they're doing all that stuff already, so all we have to do is imagine that *more* of it is happening than we know about, and that they will up their game as they grow more desperate....not exactly a stretch of the ol' imagination.

13- When other countries want and try to send in medical teams to help us, we will refuse because that's the way we treat countries we look down upon.

We have a political party that has, three months in and with clear evidence available of how bad this is, turned doing nothing into a loyalty test for their deepening cult mentality. I think there's very little chance the US is going to suddenly step up and magically govern its way well through a crisis (not until maybe next year--vote!). And I just think we are still thinking we can turn the ship the instant we see an iceberg. But exponential growth is a cruel master; by the time the party who is currently governing might actually admit they were wrong about anything, those numbers will be SOARING out of control. There are ways to get this under control (and other countries have), but we seem to have everything going against us.

Hope I'm way off on this one. Bunch of gut feelings. Not a lick of evidence.

Surely a huge overestimate. Yes.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

If You Don't Believe THIS, I'll Unfriend You

CN (and TW): Abuse dynamics; S.A.; Coercive r*pe

I have spent several days thinking about how to write this. And as with most things, I have decided that the best thing to do is simply to be open, honest, and authentic. For my part, the only “polemics” I will engage in here will be to tell the story slightly out of order, so please bear with me if you don’t immediately see where I am going.


Within abuse, there is a concept called DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.) Basically one of the first things an abuser is likely to do if their victim ever escapes their control or might go name and expose what is going on is to claim that THEY WERE THE ONE who was abused.  (One of the reasons I point at the current GOP leadership as a macrocosm of abuse is because they do this on the social level, but that’s a rant for another time.) Abusers often engage in DARVO when they can no longer control their victims. They launch smear campaigns. They bring up the culmination of “Baiting and Bashing” out of context. (That’s when they are awful for a sustained period in order to provoke a reaction so that they can claim their victim is “mentally unstable” or always angry or something. (For example, they might ignore someone’s wish to walk away, follow them into a room with a locked door, physically corner them, and try to hug them and then when the person pushes them aside with the strength necessary to move a human that is refusing to move, they would say the person was “violent and shoved them.") But sometimes DARVO isn’t even a twisting of truth. Sometimes it is invented whole cloth. And it means that if someone comes up to you and tells you a TERRIBLE story about their partner’s abuse, it might be true. And it might be them trying to get to you first and control the spin on the story.

If you’ve paid attention, you know I’ve been emotionally and mentally abused in the past (probably by malignant narcissists, but I’m not qualified or in a position to diagnose). I have done YEARS of therapy to have better boundaries and less codependency.

Except for my step-father, my abusers have all been women. I try not to derail discussions of gendered abuse for it is a particular phenomenon that requires its own space and own discussions and its own examination of entitlement and social power differentials, but it can be painful to have my story erased when I see certain absolutist “slogans” go beyond the simplicity of their slogan context and into full praxis with some folks, all while ignoring the nuance of my lived experience.

This isn’t actually a post about DARVO, but it is a post about my incredible relief that when (some) people who loved me heard certain stories from my abusers, they trusted the person in question was a human capable of relaying their own lived experience, then went to verify the information, and found it to lack credibility or at least context. (In some cases, absolutely made up whole cloth in a way that wasn’t even plausible.) Of course, not everyone believed, and that bothered me. And not everyone everyone verified, and that bothered me too. Some people just trusted my abusers. Perhaps because I’m a guy. Perhaps because my abusers got to them first. I lost friends. 

And when I was trying hard to encourage everyone to hear both sides, that was particularly painful.

I am also a victim of sexual assault. While in one case, my “No,” and even “Please stop,” was ignored, and in another a smirking sheriff’s deputy told me the next morning that maybe I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, most of my experience was mental and emotional coercion. I knew if I said “no,” there was going to be a fight. A tearful, painful fight about whether or not I found her attractive anymore. It would go on for hours. It would involve wailing cries and hitching sobs. And sometimes I let sexual things happen because the fight was worse. It felt awful, but it would be a decade and a half before I learned exactly why I felt so violated and how to name what had happened. One time, as Die Form chanted “synthetic flesh” and I let my body be used, she stopped suddenly, and matter-of-factly told me all about how “passionate” a person she was, and that she fed off my own “passion” so it was important to her that I got involved and encouraged her with my reactions. (And if that sounds like “Could you pretend to be enjoying it,” it should.) 

I still can’t listen to “Doctor X” without feeling deeply anxious and without reliving that moment.

And so, while many of my friends have maintained integrity, it has been an incredibly difficult experience, these last several weeks, watching several of them react to Tara Reade accusing Joe Biden of sexual assault with either “Trust implicitly” or “Apply outlandish levels of skepticism" based, from what I could tell, primarily on their preexisting feelings about Senator Bernie Sanders and/or Blue No Matter Who. A stark mirror of two of of the worst and most hurtful experiences of my life have been, for their political expediency, either ignored or shouted-out respectively.

(To be clear, I don't think Reade is an abuser, certainly not of Biden, which is not why I brought up DARVO. DARVO was just front and center during the times in my life when I can think of that people were undertaking smear campaigns involving outright lies against me. It is what I think of when people insist on "trust," but are hostile to any attempt to "and verify.") 

I know better than to point fingers. People would be incensed and (righteously) indignant at the accusation that their interpretation was anything but meticulously considered. Personally, I don’t think the court of public opinion has the tools necessary to condemn OR exonerate anyone over a decades-old story, and most people just run it right through their biases. But mainstream journalists investigating old claims are not immune to social narratives that silence victims, and the legal system practically shelters sexual assaulters. It gets so messy. And there’s a tendency to feel that only the court of public opinion holds any power.

Still, it’s hard not to notice that two of my greatest traumas have become a “great taste/less filling” shouting contest in the #neverBiden struggle. My own feelings on the matter are filled with rough edges and complications, and I’m still not ready to share them with the world. (Trust that I will overcome my personal revulsion as I vote for the health care without which I would be dead and kids NOT in cages.) And I can RESPECT either edge positions as easily as something more middling and messy like I have. I don’t expect survivors to vote for people they think might be assaulters if they can’t. I don’t expect folks who’ve seen political smear campaigns stoop to any level not be dubious.

However, some people have taken to saying that if they so much as SEE the opposing viewpoint on another person’s wall, they will begin unfriending. “If I see anyone stanning for Biden, I will just block them.”  Or, “If you believe Reade, just unfriend me now.” 

I get it. People want to feel safe in their own spaces. I know how social media gets, and there are issues (Swerfs, Terfs, homophobia, sharing that fucking Plandemic video) where I can’t really say that I don’t empathize with the impetus to just unfriend someone if you see sharing something someone is REALLY worked up about and opposed to. Especially right now—who wants to have a blow-up fight when you can’t even go have poke bowls afterward? And if their accounts are anything like mine, they have friends, good friends, and would-die-for-them friends on their Facebook, but also people they met one time at a craft circle or who share a single interest. And that’s not a relationship worth trying to salvage through a fundamental disagreement about something like dismissing sexual assault. 

Which is all to say that I empathize, but as someone who has been abused, walked away, been smeared, and then felt like Luke Skywalker getting saved by Han Solo who just showed up and took out Vader when at least SOME of my friends said, “I tried to verify her story, and I think she’s lying”….

BUT ALSO as someone who has been sexually assaulted and can completely see how it would make casting a vote for a rapist untenable, I read these statuses on both sides as silencing and erasing.

“If you speak your truth and it contains nuance I am not interested in, we shall no longer be friends.” 

And I guess I have to be okay with that. People have to do their own self-care and make themselves safe in their spaces. And maybe someday I’ll even come to accept that anyone who wouldn’t let me speak my truth on my OWN wall and in my OWN way wasn’t much of a friend. But it hurts to see that from those I’ve peeled off some of my armor around.

I have a feeling that many of the people I’ve seen doing it were caught up in a moment of hyperbole and frustration, and probably didn’t realize the implications.

I’ve tried to write this as gently as I could and from purely my own point of view, and everyone’s mileage may vary, but I guess I’ll find out if I’m summarily unfriended. And I guess I'm going to have to find a way to be okay with that.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Kids Are Alright

I have sort of a pair of stories, loosely related.

Yesterday, I was trying to explain the basics of the differences between economic classes to my clients' medium smol kid. He heard me talking about some low four-figure amount (enormous to a small kid) and when I told him it wasn't that much when you have bills, he asked if I was rich.

*pause for big laffs*

So I started explaining some of the ways those terms get broken up (and broken down) and given superlatives (like "UPPER- or LOWER-middle class"), and how it kind of depends where you live, so there's no SET cut off, blah blah blah.

Well, I used myself as an example of upper poor. I'm fine. My needs are met. I even have those liminal not-exactly-LUXURY-but-people-could-live-without items like computers and cars. But ALSO I technically live below the Housing and Urban Development Bay Area poverty line for an individual (even with my jazz hands and shenanigans).

His face grew somber when he heard that I was poor. He looked down at the ground as if weighing a big decision, although it didn't take him long. "I have money, Chris. You can have it."

*cue barely-keeping-it-together Chris* 

Of course, I had to explain again that I was really okay. (Really.) I live in a tiny place (that, while tucked into a really cute and nice village, is in a depressed area). I don't spend much outside of my needs. And his parents can teach him about the myriad ways and places they donate money, but he can keep his tooth fairy savings.

He offered me his TOOTH FAIRY money after a moment's thought.

That kid's all right.

His compassion made me think of something from my own childhood that I'd aaaaaalmost forgotten about.

I used to walk everywhere in Santa Clarita (long before its current density––back when it was the very definition of urban sprawl). An up-and-coming suburb was where my parents could afford to buy a house. The streets crisscrossed through lots of undeveloped areas that made the best shortcuts. So I was constantly hiking through some construction site or dry riverbed or something trying to shave a half an hour off my walk time to the local anything. (This is five years before even the first  mall dropped in Valencia). These shortcuts were often through the kinds of places you can get in trouble for trespassing if you're an adult, but that most kids (white kids in particular) get away with going through. I used to steal laundry quarters from my parents and then walk three miles to a bowling alley to play video games––it was about the closest thing we had to a good time unless you wanted to bike eight miles to the movie theater.

It was there where I first noticed homelessness. Calabasas, where I'd lived before––at least the part I haunted––was a combination of extreme wealth––multi-million dollar homes on the hills–– and the bedroom community of condos and apartments that those homes literally looked down on. (That's where we lived.) The area I lived had anti-loitering laws, overnight parking laws, and even a sign in every park or recreational area that said plainly that it was for local residents and anyone else would be fined and removed. So homelessness wasn't something I was ever really exposed to there. I was probably too young to realize what I was looking at when we lived in Canoga Park. And Santa Clarita certainly must have had it, but most of the development of the bedroom community from farmland was only a decade or two old.  I just hadn't really dealt with it.

Then one day, on one of my adventures, I met a guy living in a copse of trees in the riverbed. He had a ratty old sun-bleached tent behind the trailer park by the bowling alley and I still remember his dog was named Kerouac. (One of those things you realize the significance of later. Although I could not tell you if the guy realized it or had just watched that 80s Nick Nolte movie.) I said hi as I walked past. He nodded at me, but didn't look away.

I couldn't stand it though. Why did I have a house and he lived in tent in a riverbed? It just wasn't right. I made it INTO the bowling alley but as that blast of cold air hit my face and I saw the electronic glow of the games, I just couldn't. I turned around and went back.

Kerouac's human wouldn't take my quarters though. I remember saying please, my voice shaking, and he said "four dollars is not the real problem here." That day I ended up playing video games after all. They felt miserably unsatisfying, and I took the long way home. I didn't want him to see me after.

Later, I tried to make him a care package of everything I could think of he might need. A jacket no one really wore anymore. An old blanket. Some TP. Canned food. I maI waffled for hours on the idea of putting our camping tent in there. I finally thought better of it. We only had one and I was an only child––my parents (almost always correctly) knew it was my fault if something went missing. Too risky.

My plan was to put the box nearby so he couldn't possibly miss it, but then run away so he couldn't refuse either. But it was too heavy. It was just too heavy. I could lift it but I couldn't carry it very far, much less walk it three miles through unpaved riverbed.

I cried instead.

My mom found the box and confronted me (thinking I had plans to run away or something), and when I broke down and admitted my scheme, she hugged me for a long, long time in a way that I didn't get then. The way I wanted to hug the medium smol. To hold out a world that would blast the edges of so much goodness.

Of course after the bowling alley guy, I imagined folks of such circumstance were few and far between. It would be more than a decade after that moment before such a presumption was shattered, when a trip to Compton cracked open a childhood of sheltered privilege and a young white Chris, being hugged and rocked by a homeless Muslim, openly wept on the streets of Los Angeles's worst inner city when that cloistered version of me learned unambiguously that a world I knew to be imbalanced and unfair hadn't even shown me the half of it.

We get such a fleeting glimpse of what injustice means and how truly, deeply, profoundly unfair the world is before we begin to look past it or even to rationalize it as actually kind of fair. Even those of us who don't ever want to lose that perspective often require some filter as a survival mechanism. And the twin drums of victim blaming and meritocracy pound ceaselessly through our culture's mantras.

But a lot of kids––and I can't say it's all of them because a sense of entitlement gets its hooks in us early––but a LOT of kids see right through that bullshit to the heart of it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

My Covid-19 Story

Though I still don't "know" if I had Covid-19 because I would have had to drive 3 hours round trip to get the only test in the area that they will give you if you have zero symptoms (and at no point during was I up for that), what I had tracked with CV-19 symptom stories that I'd read (the onset, the fever, the cough, the remission and recurrence). I probably would test negative at this point regardless as it has been something like two weeks since I had a full-blown symptom. Now I have to wait for an antibodies test and maybe I will be shocked or maybe I will say “Yep. Thought so.”

My experience was "mild" compared to the things I've read and some of the horror stories. But as the continuum seems to go from "asymptomatic" to “fatal,” that's not really saying much. I want to stress that even though it was milder than most of the stories I'd read about, and I was better by day seven instead of having to go the full two weeks, it was not MILD mild. It was not objectively mild. I wouldn't call it "mild" compared to other times I've been sick.

And it was nothing like the flu.

And if it WERE, I would characterize it as the second WORST flu I've ever had. (I got influenza about four years ago that went on for like five days of really bad symptoms, and I couldn't keep down water and was starting to get dehydrated, and that was the closest I've ever come to calling an ambulance.) I was bedridden most of the time

I started taking antipyretics (Tylenol mostly) when my fever reached 103.5. I run about 98 on average (not 98.7) so that's FIVE AND A HALF DEGREES. That was the length of time it took me to drive home from the first moment I realized I was sick in Oakland to Richmond 15 minutes away. Or to break it down for you, my temperature was going up by a degree every three or four minutes.
Even with Tylenol, I only got it down to 100 on the first day.

After that, any time I woke up (from spiking fever) after my meds had lapsed, it would already be at LEAST 101. I would immediately take something, but in the 20 minutes before it kicked in, it could go up as much as two degrees.

Everything ached those first couple of days––deep and painful. I tried not to move much.

At first, the cough came with the fever, and I thought I might have had something else. As long as I kept the fever down, my cough was okay. But on the third day the fever broke and the cough made its own visit. It was not like a chest cold. It was not like the flu. It was like something was living in me and it had to get out. Coughing jags would be so long and terrible that I would lose my balance or throw up. I used something like two or three huge packages of cough drops.

When I would breathe deep, it HURT. It felt like burning. And an uncontrollable cough would ALWAYS be proceeded by a deep hitching breath. So all my coughing included a deep, spike of pain.

Around day five the cough faded. I was left with a lingering hack to get the crap out. I'd read enough to know the worst was coming, so I didn’t relax or let my guard up. Fortunately, for me, I never did get the day 6-9 "boss fight." From what I understand, most people have their fever return and a much worse relapse.

I was lucky.

By the end of the sixth day, even the persistent little hack to get the gunk out had begun to fade. (My cough actually faded faster than most chest colds I ever have.) I waited for a couple of days, sure I was not yet out of the woods, but nothing more happened.

This thing moved. It was fast. It came back after going away. (And all sickness does this a little but this was more like "I'm better! Maybe I never ever had–– OH MY GOD NO I'M NOT!") And the symptoms kept changing.

It was NOTHING like the flu. Please take care of yourselves and take the steps you need to make sure that people who are vulnerable don't get this.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Killing Millions to Own the Libs

Original source:
They really DON'T get it. 

To us, it seems outrageous to listen to an entire body of scientific experts, but then still turn around and privilege economy over what will probably be six or seven figures worth of lives. We can't even image allowing millions of needless deaths so our economy will get back up and running (which it won’t do anyway if there are millions of needless deaths).

But the NORTH star––the main guiding principle––of conservative ideology in this country is "Fuck Liberals." If science has some questions about creationism and grave concerns about global warming that might require some regulations, "fuck science." If the truth keeps being inconvenient, and the media insists on reporting it, "fuck the media."

And Republican leadership, to their eternal shame, have chosen to exploit this instead of build a cohesive ideology that can incorporate facts. They encouraged Fox news to be basically the propaganda arm of the Republican party instead of a news network, and enjoyed the political expediency of assuming science was wrong.

And it worked!

It worked SO well that it became their most distinguishing feature. Out of a field of twenty, they picked as their avatar and leader the pathological liar who doesn't so much make any cogent or salient point as talk about how smart and great he is and slavishly attack everyone around him who hurts his fee-fees. The guy who literally bragged about his LACK of integrity on the campaign trail when he wasn't putting his bigotry front and center.

Because "fuck liberals."

And sure enough, his huge-yet-diaphanous ego and contempt for the media and science became the holy trinity on display as he wasted precious times. Because sadly this is like driving an old car without power steering and power brakes and power everything––the result is delayed from the action. Where we are RIGHT NOW is a result of what we were doing about three weeks ago.

Which, of course, every epidemiologist already knew. And told us. And jumped up and down. And screamed. And were kind enough to explain exactly what we needed (like widespread testing and numbers beginning to dip) to lift the restrictions.

Cheerfully ignored because "fuck liberals." And like every person or institution who says something Trump doesn't want to hear (regardless of its demonstrable veracity), he attacked the WHO for pointing out that we aren't anywhere CLOSE to ready.

So Republicans lasted pretty much almost exactly the three weeks it would take to see progress from the efforts we made in March.

And proceeded to ignore the body of medical experts who said exactly that and that we were not out of the woods. (Because fuck liberals.)

ALREADY they want to reopen everything––it's all better, right?

They think the scientists and media are overblowing the threat (to attack Trump). They think shelter in place is just some overcautious bullshit that only liberals and liberal scientists and liberal media want (because we all enjoy wondering how we're going to pay rent, I guess). So now the progress we have eked out in flattening the curve BECAUSE we were social distancing and Sh.I.P.-ing is about to be lost––because like everything else in the environment Republicans created, Covid-19 (and particularly its response) was insta-politicized.

Sadly Republicans have the power in a lot of situations. And where Trump lacks the “absolute authority” of two days ago, he is now writing tweets of stochastic terrorism that the people in swing states with Democratic governors should be “liberated”— liberated from their democratically elected governments I guess. Republicans have the authority in MANY places to lift restrictions, and even folks who are aware of the danger and who think that sacrificing millions on the altar of the Dow Jones Industrial Average can get bent are going to have to decide if they're going to go back to work or get fired.

Perhaps the worst part is that we won't be able to see the "hotspot" consequences of what they are doing until about three weeks from now. Long after it will be too late for the measures that can still work early (like Sh.I.P.) to be effective.

Because instead of a paradigm that could handle facts and work within the margins of what is demonstrably true, Republican leadership found it politically expedient to make the defining characteristic of conservatism "fuck liberals."

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Social Distancing (Trying to Control WHEN....Not If)

This was originally a Facebook post on my public page but I've reproduced it here. It's gone past a number of healthcare workers with thumbs up. A few folks had things they wanted to add (in the comments if you're interested) but all of them said the post itself checked out.

When I post on FB, I try to keep my Covid-19 posts to jokes and (reliable) news links, and stay well away from trying to speak to things I know little about, but I've seen a misconception more than a couple of times floating around on social media that seems worth speaking to.

As much as I don't want you to get CV-19, I really don't want your nana to get it, and even as much as I (someone with a childhood illness that has already led me to a slightly reduced lung capacity) do not want to get it myself, we are not social distancing so that we stay healthy forever. We are distancing so we do not all end up in the hospital AT THE SAME TIME.

The sobering statistics that I've seen by epidemiologists working for the WHO (like Marc Lipsitch) are that 40%-70% of all of humanity (everyone on EARTH) will have this before we have a good vaccine up and running. And a vaccine may be a year from now, there are likely to be issues, it won’t come out all at once, some people won't vaccinate......

But when hospitals get overwhelmed and start running out of masks and drugs and are full of doctors and nurses who are themselves infected and don't have beds and are out of ventilators..... That's when the death rate spikes and goes WAY higher than that number some folks are still out there charmingly saying "it's ONLY X percent...." What we are trying to do isn't NOT get it. We're trying to flatten the curve of how many of us have it at once.

This is why the administration's criminal dereliction of duty early on will have such massive repercussions very soon.

Because if you are one of those edge cases who can't just tough it out at home (and none of us knows now if we are or not--a lot of hospitalizations are young people), social distancing now might be the difference between getting a bed in the ICU with a respirator and an attentive nurse in August or September or dying in a triage tent that's been set up in the hospital parking lot in mid-April.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Covid-19 Adjacent Personal Story

I'm really trying hard not to write about CV-19 for the simple reason that almost anything I write could be WRONG. And usually is by the time the ink is dry (er….the pixels are formed?). Besides which, I swim in the waters of people who do deep nuance, assume the very best faith, and have contrarian streaks, so seeing one bemused post after another about the lack of something the CDC hasn’t recommended we stock up on usually leads to a testy push-back about how they can easily see a scenario in which WE’RE really being the assholes to remark that it doesn’t make a lot of sense that we haven’t seen a paper towel on the shelves in a month. Honestly, it is a testament to their kindness of spirit and generosity that they do not assume that it is mostly selfish prepares hoarding, but it isn't a debate I much care to stroll into because neither point is wrong, per se.

But what I can do is tell my story. So let me do that instead......

I saw a guy at the store yesterday grab the last three sixteen-packs of TP like he had seen three $100 bills on the ground. But also like everyone around him was just noticing them too and he had to get to them first. He lunged at them. His eyes were on fire. He hunched over them once they were in his cart like he was protecting them. The person next to him, who watched this, had been reaching for one before it was snatched, and instead contented themselves with five of the six-packs.

Once that fierce moment faded, the first guy almost sauntered away, his spoils now safely HIS within his cart. He glared back at a woman, who was giving him a disgusted look, with his intense eyes that told a different story than his nonchalant shrug.

Because it's me, my mind immediately made up a story. One where his stricken neighbor (with CV-19) was going from door to door begging for a roll or two of toilet paper because when they'd tried to stock up (before they got sick), there was none left. And of course TP guy ended up sick from this encounter.

I also bought another four-pack myself. Yep. I can't really judge anyone because I fell right in to that mental space. Not because I needed any. (It's just ME in this place and last I checked I could probably go a few months.) I bought it because I didn't know if, by the time I ran out, these devastated shelves would still be the norm.

I don't know this guy. I refuse to judge one person without much more information. Maybe he absolutely needs 48 rolls of toilet paper. Maybe he has a family of eight. Maybe he’s on a mission to make sure his neighbors have enough too. I just worry that collectively we're not threading some important needles between the kind of stockpiling that leaves others without and the justified act of taking reasonable precautions.

Still, yesterday frightened me.

About half the people I saw were ordering fast food, getting handsy, and tra-la-la-ing like nothing was amiss. They would run their fingers up and down the counters while they waited for a worker––one who can't afford to take time off if they’re not simply bedridden––to slide their burger and fries across to them, trying desperately to avoid the contact that the customer clearly didn’t care about. Most of these people looked like exactly the types that would be fine if they got it themselves.

The other half (well maybe not HALF, but the other contingent I noticed) were panic-buying everything in a way I felt myself instinctively WANT to recoil from. A deep primordial urge to back away from these people (more than the three feet I already was) and I actually had to struggle to be in their presence. One guy shoveled twelve or fifteen premade salads into his cart with a wild-eyed look, began to move on to the next thing, stopped, slumped his shoulders and took a deep breath, and then carefully returned all but two.

While I've seen these extremes mirrored online, it was intense to see them playing out in live-body form around me. I think somewhere between our disdain for medical professionals who tell us anything we don't particularly want to hear and many folks’ convictions that a well-informed Internet researcher can be on par with a professional expert, even in a situation where new information is coming out almost hourly, this is going to be very hard on us. Not just because we thought we knew better about our own personal risk assessments, but because some of us are forgetting that we could be out there making things a LOT worse for everyone else.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election (Part 2 The Very Reasonable Debaters)

We're jumping in straight from Part 1, so if you need an introduction, head over there. As a reminder, this is the last thing I'm writing TO Sanders supporters before I BECOME a Sanders supporter, and I hope it is taken as the loving advice it is:
  • You cannot dismiss the existence of people who are so mean (particularly online) that they have been mentioned ALL. THE. everyone.....all over the Internet. Everyone has a story about them. Some people are afraid to post articles or their opinions because of them. I've blocked six people in the last week––all of them supporters of Sanders who have cheerfully River-Danced with their clompiest shoes on a few of these bullet points. THEY EXIST.   
  • My friend is done.
    No, my friend is not a centrist.
    My friend is a pro-revolutionary socialist.
    You are just not being QUITE as reasonable as you think.
  • You cannot dismiss the experience of encountering the people above as merely the bad luck of meeting "the worst of you." That's just a complete dismissal of a genuine problem. It's straight up #notALLSandersSupporters. I don't know what percentage are out there being shitheads and making people feel miserable about saying anything other than "Hail Bernie," but it is either enough in numbers or vociferousness that even Internet veterans (who KNOW goddamn well what the difference between the occasional taintwaffle and a non-trivial chunk of a movement looks like) have noticed, have several stories, have complained about it and mentioned it as literally the reason they are soured on Sanders, and are not fooled by being Jedi Mind Tricked with "You don't think this is actually a big deal!" It's more than a few. It's enough.
  • If it's not you, great! Wonderful.'s not so few you get to ignore it or dismiss it. 
  • Understand what the consequences are if you blow off criticism.... If you don't acknowledge it.... If you refuse to listen..... You can do ALL those things, but don't stand there like the surprised Pikachu meme when you lose.
    "But we told them how wrong they were so hard, and so many times, and on every single post we could find!!!!"
  • If you want to convince more folks to vote for your guy (and better yet, donate their time, money, and energy), deal with this instead of getting mad at people who bring it up. Getting mad at people who bring up their mistreatment falls into an ugly pattern of abusive behavior, and I really don't think that's the look you are going for.
  • You cannot erase people who complain about these encounters by making it all about you and how you've had some rough experiences too....especially (and hear me on this) if you try to say that it was THEIR first choice and THOSE followers who were actually out there being mean to YOU. This is just desperately close to something called DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse victim and offender). I'm not saying you're lying that you took it on the chin from the followers of that person's first choice––maybe even from one of their friends or something––and you can't exactly really DARVO in a situation with thousands of people and groups, but it's a really bad time to make it about you. Read the room. It is a time to commiserate or offer condolences. It's a time for sympathy. It's a time to make them feel heard. It's a time to say, "I hate those Bros out there giving us a bad name. I'm so sorry that happened." It's a time for "I feel your pain." and "Yes, we can." Not a time for you to tell them "Actually you're the problem, bucko." Also, these situations often have a lot of mitigating factors (who's in whose space, who is using "I statements" and who isn't, who is being a jerk, who is taking criticism as "persecution"). They can't be broken down so easily into "Yeah, well, your people did it to me too, so I guess you should just shut up." This is enormously derailing energy. 
  • Try some empathy or sympathy. Or even better, try not standing for that shit any time you see it and making sure that people you want to woo have a real sense that you understand how frustrating it can be to have their political calculus and difficult decision reduced to "corporate shill as bad as Trump" or to be told that if Sanders doesn't win, violence is the next step. (Again....think about who else [and his followers] says that sort of thing.) Make them feel like you're on their side. Like, you know, maybe you actually care about them and their life and don't just want to suck up their vote to feed the "revolution machine" and move on with a barbaric yawp. 
  • If (notice I've said "if") these bellicose Sanders supporters are running around on your social media comments without pushback or getting conspicuous silence (or maybe even love reacts?) to their most incendiary rhetoric, or if you are kind of letting them dogpile someone who wanders into your space to share an alternative perspective, then you don't get to turn around and say that they don't speak for you and who are we to judge you by the worst of you, "for SHAME, you hasty generalizers!" Those aren't rogue bad actors who you can't possibly be responsible for. That's a trend you are allowing. That's an atmosphere you've fostered. That's like saying that we can't consider white supremacy posting boards and 4chan culture when someone shoots up a church. We absolutely can and should, and lone wolves who haven't noticed they are soaking their paw in the Palmolive of incendiary rhetoric aren't as lone um....the other.....uh.....wolf packs.....of one. If you've allowed this, possibly fostered it, then you have to deal with the fact that it's not just a couple of bad actors. You can either tackle that inconvenient truth, or you can see how well your primary goes with....what looks to be, pretty consistently, about 30% of the Democrats' electorate behind you. But what you can't do is tell everyone who brings it up that they're full of shit and their lived experience is not real or that it's just a couple of you (when it's a LOT more than that and when it happens all the time). While hasty generalizations are definitely a problem when stereotyping demographics, a group that refuses to denounce and SPANK its worst members isn't actually fooling anyone: maybe they're sort of okay with what's going on. Maybe in places they don't talk about at parties, they sort of like those threads and agree with those comments. And then it becomes really tough to say "They don't represent me." Cause actually they kinda do. Folks do have bullshit detectors for this sort of thing.
  • Be ready to police your own. (Or get someone of comparable privilege to do it if you feel like the power differential means you can't.) Call them in if they need it gentle and private. Be ready to denounce people who go too far. Be ready to make your movement the change you want to see in the world. If you don't, all these people you want to bring over to your side (and who you absolutely NEED) are just going to go find nicer people to talk politics with. They will exchange ideas with moderates and still think socialist revolution is a radical idea on voting day. Remember, even if you chase them off and "win," (RAWR!) and even they avoid you online because you made them regret every conversation, they still get a vote.
  • You really need to stop unfriending/unfollowing/blocking people who have some criticism of Sanders (or his supporters). I mean, that's a good way to no longer feel bad. (And I pause here only to tell you that self-care is important and you should make your boundaries reflect that.) And in a social movement the marginalized community has no obligation to lean in. But again, this is a political movement. And again, what this doesn't do is court their votes. Actually it kind of makes you look cult-like in your inability to handle criticism the way most political movements are at least a little better at. The more insular and self-referential and all or nothing your world becomes, the bigger the surprise is going to be when you can't get your numbers up over low to mid 30%. It feels good when you're in it, but when you realize you're out of touch, you're going to have to face the facts that your cloistered discourse is the reason why.
  • You cannot completely exculpate a leader from the behavior of their followers, especially if that leader talks about others in the party he means to lead as if they are the enemy and embraces a we/they narrative around the folks whose support he desperately needs. That fosters an atmosphere in which moral imperative causes any means to justify the end. If it was one or two yahoos out there being epic shitheels, maybe, but Sanders hasn't done enough to tell his followers to knock it the fuck off. I don't know if he doesn't see the problem, thinks it's overblown, or just kind of likes it when people go feral on his behalf. But he has offered little more than the "Stop that" we have seen from someone ELSE when "very fine people" were out doing their white supremacy thing. As one of his supporters, you have to own that. And the reason why is because it's going to cause people to question either how much Sanders really wants them to actually stop, OR how well Sanders can lead if he can't even get control of the people who apparently think he is infallible. Saying that he has NO control over his zealot followers is actually.....a little scary. (Edit: Sanders has gone on record as being opposed to this behavior even as recently as a few hours after I first wrote this. Unfortunately, I noticed that the reaction to this was that things have gotten worse in the last 24 hours or so. Maybe the memo is still being distributed?) 
  • You know that way you feel? Like you KNOW how to make things better? You just KNOW and if people would just....fucking.....LISTEN to you, so much would be better? Well almost everyone else actively in politics feels that same way too. So you need to get out there and have some conversations with a little humility and see what happens. You can't court someone's vote by letting your allies treat them like shit and then getting MAD at them if they dare to mention it.
  • As I said before, congratulations. It's basically a two-person race now between Biden and Sanders and I'm even hearing rumors as of this writing that Warren will drop out. [Edit: This morning, to my renewed sadness even though I saw it coming.] Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, you're up against a VERY savvy politician. Time to be ambassadors. And time to deal with the people who are out there being ANTI-ambassadors. You want your cause to sweep the nation, not leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Time to start acting like diplomats. Time to sell this revolution.

This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election. Pick One.

[EDIT: Boy it sure is going to be ironic when the reactions to this post (being exactly what I'm talking about) make me toss my support behind Biden.]


The worst part of democracy is the losing part.

And Warren lost pretty hard last night. (Edit: And has suspended her presidential bid as of this morning.)

However.....while I know that everyone who wants Sanders to go all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. so badly that they're wetting themselves is going to get a real itchy head from this, I would ask you to consider it loving advice from someone who wants us progressives to do a lot better against Biden than I think we're going to. And just let me say this ONE last thing to the Sanders supporters out there before I pop backstage for a costume change and become one of them:
  • You are not gonna win if you don't win more people to your side. Probably regardless (because the vast majority have not been convinced of the merits of a "socialist revolution," and are super nervous about taking anything they perceive as a chance on such a high-stakes election), but if you're filled with hope and bluster, you better change your tack from chasing down people who are "wrong on the Internet" and arguing with them until one of you unfriends/unfollows/blocks the other and switch to a much more compelling timbre. It's time to CONVINCE people. You do NOT have the numbers to win right now, so acting like Thanos ("I am inevitable.") is just going to go about the same way for you––no time travel needed. 
  • You have to realize you're trying to win PEOPLE over, not just win ARGUMENTS. Treat people like they're stupid. Treat people like they're ignorant. Treat people like they're insufficiently revolutionary if they haven't come to the same conclusions about the same things as you have. Call them bootlicking class traitors if it makes you feel better. But then you lose. Because that's not how to get votes.
  • "My way or the highway" is not how to govern a pluralistic society. It is how to govern a dictatorship. If you're going to play purity politics and drag anyone who disagrees, but you still want to be in charge, you need to win a coup. Bring guns. Don't lose.
  • You have to understand that messaging and message are different things. It's possible to tell people that everyone is getting a peggycorn pony and a rainbow gun that will make them orgasm with every trigger-pull (and not only will there be no need for taxes to pay for it but taxes will be abolished completely for everyone), but then to be SUCH an asshole that you turn people off completely from wanting that because it's you trying to give it to them. You can be selling free health care and college and jobs for everyone, but if the way you're doing it is to tell them that they are the evil establishment that is as bad as Trump, you might as well be trying to sell a box with a corn-laden turd in it. 
  • You're going to have to deal with electability arguments now. (Ironic, right?) Trust me when I tell you that people will ABSOLUTELY NOTICE if you are a flaming hypocrite about dismissing the same arguments you were MAKING about others, like....three days ago. You're going to want a more cogent, salient point in defense of not taking the safer road to defeat the worst president liberal values have ever seen.
  • You cannot just get mad at everyone you don't persuade. That's called intimidation, and it doesn't work in free and fair elections (which we kind of still have....sort of....I hope). There is another politician out there (and his followers) who gets mad at everyone he fails to persuade. Don't be like him (and them).
  • You might want to learn your candidate's platform and give him support beyond the stuff that––I gotta be honest––looks a little cult-of-personality-ish. People are going to ask questions like how how Sanders plans to pay for things. It would be really great for you to care enough about the candidate you want to govern you and everyone else that maybe you know the answers beyond "He just WILL." 
  • While you're at it, you should learn your candidate's voting record before you attack others for things Sanders has also done. It makes you look focused on him as a person instead of politics, platforms, and policy. Bernie voted for that crime bill you're trying to hang as a millstone over Biden's neck. He voted for Fosta/Sesta. You need to stop giving ONLY him the benefit of the doubt for having some complex calculus when it comes to complicated nuance or even just outright shitty votes.
  • You cannot speak matter-of-factly about how wrong someone is on a matter of political opinion without them having a negative reaction to that. You have to use "I" statements. You have to say things like "I feel" or "I hope" or "I think."  If you use statements like "Full stop," "Period," or "That's just how it is," every psychologist on Earth is going to tell you that (statistically speaking) the person you are talking to will walk away with a MORE ENTRENCHED opinion. This is not a social movement where you need to ostracize people for as long as it takes for the social repudiation to sink in and them (or more likely their children) to realize that they're the asshole. This is a partisan political movement in which you need to build a coalition who has your back (effectively, in about the next eight weeks).
  • You cannot confuse no one wanting to talk to you (because you're so unpleasant) with no one disagreeing with you. The fact that no one is on your wall picking a fight with all your pro-Sanders posts doesn't mean everyone agrees with you. It might just mean that everyone who would have done so has unfollowed you until 2021 when they hope you'll have calmed down.
  • You cannot discuss the outcome of the general election like you have anointed yourself the arbiter of What Will Be™. Talk about polls. Talk about your feelings. Talk about past elections that were similar. But every time you say "Only Bernie Can Beat Trump" without A) Evidence or B) The Slightest Acknowledgement That You Aren't Actually A Prophet, someone on the fence says something like "Sanders is a lot like Jesus. I like him more than his followers," and then goes and spends their $18.50 on a nice meal at Olive Garden.
  • Ditch the sexist double standards right. fucking. NOW. And while you're at it, stop dismissing the effect they have on the outcomes. Yes, I know that you didn't personally say "I could never vote for a WOMAN!" as you cast your ballot. You personally believed NONE of your reasons for hating her had anything to do with misogyny. I get that! But, see, that's not how double standards work. And that's not how modern-day scripts of supremacy and marginalization work. They're more subtle, more insidious, harder to recognize. Do you really believe a man of such competence would have done so poorly? (And if you think you would, perhaps ask yourself why you thought Sanders was being so REASONABLE when he suggested that a woman would have a harder time winning.) A huge number of polled folks said they would have her if they could have waved a magic wand. So what happened? Stick to policies and platforms if you didn't like Warren (or Klobuchar or Harris...), but be careful how you speak of her (them) and do the same due diligence you would for Sanders if he did something (like, say, signal that he was willing to negotiate on the abortion hard line) that the left considers "bad." Those same progressives you want to court and even fire up to donate and canvass are DEFINITELY going to notice if you are out there swinging around your huge throbbing D.....ouble standard.
  • Don't blame Warren for the loss of votes you feel you were entitled to. I realize the field is now mostly down to dudes duking it out (if Biden has his way, perhaps literally), but you know as well as I do that if there's a way to blame Warren for Sanders' performance going forward, a subset of supporters are going to cling to that like a lamprey on steroids. 
You have to realize you're trying to win people over, not just win arguments.
  • You must be open to the idea that, even if you feel your own personal motivations are pure and free from some sort of systematic double standard (like sexism), it is possible that a very sizeable number of your fellow supporters are adding enough bigotry to their attacks to change the perception of your entire group. That perhaps your meme pages, your friends, your media, your chat groups, the arguments you're hearing and repeating, or a thousand other sources up the "food chain" from you may be affected by motivations not so unsullied as you know your own thought process to be, including––we absolutely KNOW FOR A FACT––Russian psyops intended to divide the left so that Trump wins again. If someone calls something out that they think is harmful, you can roll your eyes and tell them they're simply wrong if you want, but it's probably not going to win you their vote. 
  • You have to stop nursing that persecution complex. Have people been unfair to Bernie? You bet. Politics is hell. Have they been unfair to The Left? That's the side that it's always okay to bash. Have they been unfair to YOU? All evidence suggests that if you give a shit about something on the internet, you've probably gotten unfair pain for it more than once. Has the MEDIA been unfair to Bernie? More than he deserves, for certain. But crawl down off that goddamn cross or walk away from mainstream politics. If you dismiss it all because "'they' hate us", you also dismiss people with thoughtful criticism. People with suggestions that, if implemented, would IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES. People who are literally telling you what the obstacle is to earning their vote. (Which you WANT.) You can't just ARGUE with them and try to Jedi Mind Trick them all into the fact that their concerns don't matter because sometimes people are mean to Sanders too. You know who else (along with his supporters) just complains and complains and complains about how everyone is persecuting him all the time and they are terribly unfair and fake-news witch-hunting him? (Okay, that last clue made it too easy.)
  • Watch out for that cult drift. Watch it, and be ready to hip check others going down this road. Because anyone who is not already stanning hard for Team Bernie is going to get super fucking nervous with every person they see acting like this.
Text version at the end of the article.
You're looking at #3 and #9 right? Super hard?
  • You cannot gloat, and you cannot shit on people's first choices. Just don't. You know that feeling you had when you realized (I mean really realized) that Secretary Clinton was going to be the nominee in 2016? Well, they're (we're) going through that now. Try to muster some fucking compassion unless you want them Bidening out of spite. But then, Sanders supporters wouldn't know ANYTHING about doing stuff out of spite or....oh wait....
  • And you triple dog dare don't want to turn around and retroactively blame their already-lost-candidate for how badly Sanders is doing now. You pretty much won't get me to go NeverSanders because I've seen what Trump can, and will do, to the people I love, but every time I hear some baseless we vs. them attack on Warren out of the mouth of a Sanders supporter, like "corporate whore" (particularly if it includes a misogynistic gendered slur), or I see someone saying that she should have dropped out sooner because Sanders was entitled to the votes she took (because of course every SINGLE Warren voter would have gone Bernie otherwise), I will get that much closer to leaning back, doing nothing until July 14th, and just watching Biden cinch it without a peep. I won't like him (Biden) any more than I already don't, but the giveashit will just drain right out of me. My five dollars a month and occasional blog post might not matter for much, but I'll donate to flipping the senate and write about voter re-enfranchisement. Hell, I'll buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies and eat them while I write an editorial about the beauty of non-comma appositive phrases before I'll stand for that bullshit. And I am not alone. So curb the worst devils of your nature. (And help the person next to you curb theirs.)
  • Except Bloomberg. You can probably do Bloomberg. Anyone who thought he was awesome isn't coming around to your side of the "soul of the Democrat party" anyway. What a landfill inferno that was. (Way too big to just be a trash can fire.)  **changes the words to Disco Inferno** "♫Burning burning....♪"
  • According to polling, Sanders pulled in fewer "Bernicrat" voters (those who won't vote in the general if it's not Sanders on the ticket) than in 2016, so you are not the infusion of young blood that's going to save the Democratic party. You might want to consider this when you attempt to persuade (instead of badger, remember?) the bigger, better-funded, more civically engaged, has-been-here-the-whole-time-not-just-every-four-years wing of the party you mean to lead.
  • That's right! You are attempting to elect the leader of the Democratic party and you're doing so by turning to DEMOCRATS and asking them to join you in a movement that is to the left of most of them. And risky. And particularly scary when the stakes are so high that they want to play it safe. You might want to think about not treating them like they're the enemy. 
  • This is a political movement with social dynamics, not a social movement with political dynamics. The platform you want may have a lot to do with financial equality and inequality, but this isn't a situation in which civility politics are a derailment. This is a situation in which you actually very much can "do yourself no favors." A non-trivial number of people have left Sanders or been turned off by him because of the way they have been treated by his supporters. You DO have to think about your tone. 
  • You are not the one who gets to decide if you are being friendly, reasonable, "just debating," "just asking questions," "just bringing up some concerns." If someone tells you that you're being insufferable, you can't just insist that no, you're not. In an eight-week race to persuade others to your cause, other people's perceptions of your jackholery is all that matters. (Yes, I know the primary may not really be over until July 13th. I'm thinking about when things get pretty gosh dang locked in.) You have to listen to people who tell you that you're coming off as combative, being vitriolic, jumping in with knee-jerk defense so aggressively that it feels truculent. Remember, you can't just BEAT these people in some online contest of who-gets-in-the-last-word. You want them to go into a voting booth and AGREE WITH YOU, so "winning" your debate doesn't just mean getting someone to quit the field only to betray you later. ("The Warrenisters send their regards!")
  • You absolutely, positively, unequivocally CANNOT brazenly hold the fate of the country hostage by saying that the Dems better come around to Sanders because, by God, you will not vote for Biden. You may think that. You may even plan on doing that. And I'm not here to tell you anyone is entitled to your vote or malign a political calculus that causes deeply marginalized folks to abstain from voting altogether (though I would hope the last election has been evidence that even though things can't get better at non-glacial speeds, they can always get WORSE). But if you want to entice anyone to your cause, you better shut the fuck up with the "Do this, or else!" narrative. As a threat, it will absolutely have the opposite effect you intend. 
  • You HAVE to stop with the conspiracy stuff. The DNC bylaws absolutely suck, Superdelegates are anti-democratic. (We can talk about how they do provide a block against populist tyranny, but maybe another time.) Democrats are to the right of center and would be the conservative party in most other developed nations. The establishment will work to protect their own power. And watching the D triple C try to keep their centrist dinosaurs from being primaried was breathtakingly out of touch. But even STILL....there's a difference between the DNC outright rigging an election and some other politician outmaneuvering Sanders. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and making political alliances. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and Sanders not getting the votes he needs in a fair democratic process. This is a contest where coalitions matter. Where bringing people to your way of thinking matters. Where you want to earn and call in favors. And frankly, where not being a member of the party probably has some downsides. It's a contest in which you can't just repeat the word "revolution" and "corruption" so many times that you come to believe anyone who moves against you is obviously playing dirty pool. Sometimes they're just playing pool, but they know how to make the trick bank shot. And sometimes you lose in democracy because you didn't convince enough folks. It's not actually a conspiracy. 
  • You better shut up with the "both sides are just as bad" shit comparing moderates to Republicans. You need those moderates, and egregiously insulting them is a pretty good way to get them to go online and buy some Biden signs for their front lawn. You may have a point of view from which both parties share certain harmful ideologies like capitalism or imperialism, and there is room to talk about that in the wide umbrella the Democrats cast in what is unfortunately a two-party system.... Certainly the moderate wing of the democratic party is at odds with the progressive wing on a number of issues....  But the kids in cages, the people in danger of losing health care, the women who stand to lose control of their own bodies, the folks who are terrified about their physical safety should Trump win again, they are simply ERASED completely by such a reductive, facile political bit of bumper sticker* wisdom. (*It's not even nuanced enough to be a sound bite.)
  • You cannot preemptively say that the only result you will consider valid is if you win. That if you lose, the game was clearly rigged all along. (I mean if you're polling at 75 points maybe, but....that's not what's going on here.)  That is the tactic shared by.....well, by now I hope you know. 
  • You have to stop treating Democrats to the right of you like they're worse than Trump. Look, I get it: the DNC is a shart in a hot tub and the moderates among them are fighting your every progressive policy. But here's the pisser of it, and there's no getting around it: If Bernie becomes the President of the United States but Dems lose so many down-ticket races because he acts like they're the bad guys, then none of this sweet revolution will ever actually happen. You won't have the votes! Presidents have different powers than Congress and doing what they want requires a Congress that won't stop them. You have to be ready to grudgingly deal with legislators in purple states who've made some decisions you aren't happy with. If Congress goes red, it won't matter who the President is. If you become uncompromising purity politickers, you lose it ALL. 
  • Congratulations. It's basically a two person race now between Biden and Sanders and I'm even hearing rumors as of this writing that Warren will drop out. [Edit: This morning, to my renewed sadness even though I saw it coming.] Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, you're up against a VERY savvy politician. Time to be ambassadors. Time to deal with the people who are out there basically being anti-ambassadors for the cause you mean to have sweep the nation. Time to start acting like like the diplomats you are going to have to be to your cause. Time to sell this revolution.
This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

This got a little long, so I'm going to make a separate post about a certain subset of Sanders supporters who are particularly difficult online. You know the ones.


  • Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

    1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
    2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
    3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
    4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
    5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
    6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
    7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
    8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
    9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
    10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.