Friday, October 1, 2021

The Best of Apartments The Worst of Apartments

In February of 2020, I moved out of my old place where I was living in Lafayette with a roommate. I moved into a (very) small one-bedroom apartment in Richmond, and it turned out to be one of the best and worst developments of my life.

While it turned out that a lot of the friction between my roommate and I was being exacerbated by their teenage daughter (who took credit for chores I was doing and blamed their messes on me among other things), I was also just ready to live alone. I couldn't really afford living alone in the Bay Area, though. The rental prices around here (until you get an hour or more from San Francisco) are often around $2000, even for a small one bedroom or a studio.

But then a miracle happened. 

A friend of a friend had a place they could rent out. A tiny two-bedroom, but they could go as low as $1000. Two daughters were taking care of the property that their father in assisted living wasn't ready to give up on, and they needed a long-term subletter. 

To get the space for THAT cheap, I would have to give up some closet space and one of the bedrooms for their storage (and they would need to stop by to add or go through the storage from time to time—with notice of course), and neither bedroom was going to be big enough to hold much more than JUST my bed. But it would be my space. I would live alone. 

Everything seemed perfect. I even went to Ikea and bought some furniture because I'd never really had more than a bedroom in someone else's house before. I didn't need much. The entire apartment wasn't a lot bigger than the bedroom in my last place, but I remember feeling like a genuine adult as I purchased an actual couch for my actual living room.

On the last day of my move, I was so goddamned sick and tired of putting together Ikea furniture that I just hired someone from Taskrabbit to assemble my final piece (that same couch) for me. I remember asking them if it was okay if I stayed in the other room while they worked, and they gave me a relieved "Yes." 

When they were done, I held out their tip as far as my arm would reach. They stretched out and took it from me with a gratified nod at the care I was taking to keep my distance.

You see…..that day and the day before we had been getting lots of scary news about a new disease that had started overseas and was showing up all over the United States. No one really understood how exactly it transmitted, but smart money was on washing your hands and staying well out of anyone's way who you weren't sure about. I didn't know it at the time, but the very next day after my Ikea couch got built by a worker from Taskrabbit and I became "officially" settled into my new place, California would begin to have executive mandates trying to flatten the curve. 

And that's how I moved into a new place, all alone, at ALMOST exactly the same time that shelter in place started.

It was a great apartment. I loved it. I loved being independent. I loved cooking at two in the morning. I loved going out at 4a.m. for a run. I loved how I could watch TV in the living room until my eyes bled and no one would say boo to me. I loved having company without having to check in with anyone. I loved the alone time. 

The place was tiny, and my writing desk/office was squished over in the living room within touching distance of the TV/entertainment center, but it was MY space.I barely got all my clothes in the closet upstairs, and my bed was so big in that tiny bedroom that it left little more than a food-wide ribbon of floor around its edge to maneuver, but I walked upstairs every night to go to bed enjoying the feel of having a bedroom separate from where I was always hanging out. I would turn off the TV and go over to the writing desk and do some work. And some days I would wrap up writing and scoot over to the OTHER side of the desk, open my gaming laptop, and play video games for hours. There was no garbage disposal or dishwasher, but the messes were always mine.

It was a little out of the way for the Bay Area, and I couldn't really get ANYWHERE I wanted to go without a twenty- to thirty-minute drive, and technically it was one of the worst neighborhoods in the entire area, although it was tucked into a village that was an oasis of low crime and great neighbors and was blessed with being close enough to the water (albeit on the other side of a train yard one way and an industrial district in another) that gave me marine layer beach weather all year round. 

It was perfect for me, my eclectic lifestyle, my ADHD, and my impulsive nature.

Due to the timing, though, it also became my prison. I couldn't really go anywhere. I couldn't really see anyone. I couldn't really do anything. For eighteen months, I was either taking care of a couple of kids I was in a pod with, or I was in my very perfect apartment, staring at those four walls, quietly and inexorably losing my grip on my mental health. I got a day's visit once every couple of months from a partner when I had a dental or doctor's appointment and had to quarantine anyway, and I clung to online D&D games, and facetime calls of loved ones. I couldn't leave to get a change of scene to write. My clients were so worried that they demanded stringent restrictions from me if I was to keep working—during that surge in late 2020, I even had to forgo going to the store for a couple of months.

Despite my begging for a more spread-out schedule of a few hours a day, my clients really wanted a night off each week and a morning to sleep in (plus a night of good sleep where I could sleep with the baby); therefore, my default schedule became this like 26-hour block that started on Wednesday and didn't end until the next Thursday. Many weeks, that was my only childcare schedule. 

And then I went home…with nothing to do until the next week… Five and a half days of just hanging out in those three rooms. I would cook. I would watch TV. I would play video games. I would read. But…eventually it wasn't enough. I keep pretty good company with myself, and I can introvert for weeks before I start to notice that I'm missing people, but as the months rolled on, I began to get desperately lonely. 

It didn't take too long before I stopped wanting to cook. It didn't bring me joy or pleasure anymore. I stopped being interested in video games. I stopped reading. It would take me hours and later all day just to do thirty minutes worth of writing. I would put the TV on some show I'd seen before (for background noise more than anything) and I would just…be there. I tried to get things done but they wouldn't get done. The TV was on. I was there. But the hours just slid by as I tried to summon the will to do something…to do anything.

For hours. 

For days.


So fucking alone.

I would have loved that space to come home to. I would have loved it to bring people to. I would have loved it to host a small gathering or watch Netflix with a friend on my couch. Or bring a date home to enjoy that king-size bed with me. As part of a normal human social life, it would have been less than a few hundred yards from absolutely sublime. But instead I just grew to hate going home, where the quiet would seep into my soul no matter how loudly I turned up the TV.

March 2021, I met someone. We clicked HARD. Our compatibility was impossible not to notice, and our ability to be around each other for prolonged periods without straining our rapport was solid. We both had similar long-term financial goals. We both wanted the same things out of a relationship. We really really REALLY liked each other.

Things moved fast. 

And within only about five months, we were solid on moving in together. The logistics would work. The finances would REALLY work. And we got along SO goddamned well. And while there have been some adjustments going from living alone to living with three people (including two children—one four and one ten), putting that aching, desperate loneliness in the rearview has been a "no regrets" decision. 

I'm back into a little room. I don't cook at two in the morning. The living room TV, with two smols about, is no place to watch Supernatural. I tend to wake up to the pounding feet of the four year old at six in the morning, which means I'm tired as soon as ten these days and my regular schedule of writing deep into the night and sleeping from 3-11 has been replaced with careful time management. My king-size bed had to go, and while I'm planning some kind of alternative, I'm currently sleeping on a twin with a rollaway made for kids.

But I'm cooking again. And reading and playing video games again. And these days it's taking me about an hour to do an hour's worth of writing again. 

And I'm HAPPY again.

On September 13th I packed up the last box of random shit (that didn't fit in any labeled boxes of anything else), filled the last bag of trash, swiped the mop over the floor once more, and turned out the lights for the last time. 

Good-bye Richmond apartment. You were a perfect little place at the absolutely, perfectly wrong time. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Debate for Its Own Sake

There's this…thing you see on social media.

Your (often) white dude friend who will endlessly discuss things. No matter how anathema they are because they value being open minded.

Folks (usually cishet white dudes since they are the ones unaffected by bigotry) who pride themselves on being surrounded with lots of diametrically opposed opinions. They don't grudgingly say "Yeah, that's Mike—he's lower key in person." Or "My dad can see my posts. Sorry about that. I'll talk to him."

Nope. They're proud of it. This is the space they curate. Battle royales over every topic from culture war issues to the body autonomy or humanity of certain groups of people.

Because they are always oh so willing to ENGAGE in the marketplace of ideas over and over and over and over. Each day the same topics, the same boiler plate arguments. No matter how much the underlying premise of some of these conversations hurts someone watching said conversation, they ENGAGE on. Like, say, their OTHER friends on social media watching their humanity be the subject of an intellectual debate) should really make an effort to understand how the SQiD (Status Quo Defender™) works. 

See your average SQiD never changes. They begin every "debate" with "Prove to me that is even a problem." They attack expertise. They propose ludicrous narratives in an attempt to explain otherwise clear-as-day statistics. They hit reply with the endurance of Samwise Gamgee when Frodo is in trouble and shout down everyone. They argue from bad faith. They refuse any and all points that would require them to consider that their current world view is anything but utterly unimpeachable. Any counter-argument must be countered with a gush of ceaseless emotional labor. 

And if you should ever incontrovertibly "win" such a debate, you will find they often have to depart suddenly. ("Well I have to go…") If they're NOT losing, they'll just come back later. It's only when they can no longer cling to their views without seeming foolish that their obligations must take them away for good.

And whether they quit or stay and let themselves get trounced in public (rare), in the end they announce that it has been very "stimulating" (or "educational")* and thank you as if you just had a vigorous martial arts sparring match with them. They appreciate the discussion, but must depart. 

Then it happens.

The next time you run into them to discuss that issue again, they have returned to initial positions like it's a new chess match with the pieces reset instead of a growth process.

Which, of course, it is.  It is a GAME to them. It is about winning. They do this because this is exactly what they see "debate" as—an intellectual exercise not to establish truth but to establish who is the better debater (always them).  So they do their favorite opening move: "Prove to me that is even a problem." 


And since they never move their "square one," those willing to have that conversation with them ad nauseam are engaged in an endless tango. The debate is not a means to an end (finding the truth or the best idea) . The debate is the end itself. The marketplace of ideas cannot reject any idea. All must begin each day on equal footing, for the marketplace of ideas has no value as a crucible to find the best ideas; it is simply valued for its own sake. It is as if each person's individual social media account becomes an example of The Paradox of Tolerance.

(*This of course is only as long as you never got "emotional." If you did anything they took as not absolutely of perfect decorum, they will refuse your point on the principles of civility politics. Because, of course, they are not interested in figuring something out—the debate itself is what they wanted and you sullied that for them like someone who got mad when they were losing at chess.) 

I think some spaces for debate are wonderful, but not every space must reflect the constitutional right one has to espouse harm (in the same way one might decide not to platform someone praising the September 11th attacks); however, in social contexts if you don't learn that actually there are SOME conversations that are absolutely NOT worth having, you will be quagmired there forever as the Status Quo marches on. And those folks who pride themselves having exactly every stripe of friend may quickly find certain of their most marginalized friends unwilling to have the same debates over and over in their spaces. It is uncomfortable and often painful to watch as those one considers a friend happily—PROUDLY— allow one's humanity to casually be questioned over and over like it is a fresh and exciting topic for a rousing intellectual debate (that will never go anywhere). And then, as they leave because there are safer places in the world where they don't have to struggle just to exist, one more place gets overrepresentation by those at the top of social hierarchies. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Sometimes The Only Way Out……SUCKS!

[CN: Self-harm—although a socially acceptable form of it]

One of the things I worked on in my many years of therapy was the fact that I was using workaholism as a socially acceptable form of self-harm. It's practically a badge of honor in our culture to be so busy that you can't think, can't slow down, can't breathe, can't….process, can't…….deal with your emotions. ("You worked 50 hours?" "Well I worked 60!" "Well I worked 70-80?") Some careers even haze interns based on this sort of thing. 

You are always a step behind. You're always adrenaline rushing from crashing deadlines and external obligations.It hurts in just the right way. (It also leads to heart disease and a host of other health problems so it can be just as destructive in the long-term as the kinds that will alarm people.)

And when I walked into therapy one day and said, "I want to stop being ever more adept at understanding, explaining.…DESCRIBING my issues. I get that my childhood was formative, and others' narcissism has shaped me in maladaptive ways. Now I want to get better".... When I did that, the fact that I was working myself to a pulp was one of the things we worked on. 

And I got better. (Ironically, one of my last sessions involved a commitment that I would fully drop the side hustle that was PAYING for the therapy, and I would not turn around and pick up another.) 

I learned to watch my behavior. I learned to pay attention when I was taking on work in a destructive way. I learned to say no, even though I hated it, to clients when I was stretched thin. I committed to down time. I would force myself to go to movies. There was a time of the day I would stop working (even if I didn't feel done). I did budgets to show myself I had enough income to stop pet sitting and taking on every freelance writing gig that came along. I sent emails to all but a tiny handful of my clients (the ones with the coolest houses or the best tippers) saying that I was hanging up my leash and catnip. I would enjoy HOURS to myself. I could never turn off completely, but I learned to turn DOWN that little voice that said I was never doing “enough." Down enough that I started to enjoy a whole new life.

And then the pandemic came. And the Faustian deal became clear. 

For the sake of chosen family (particularly my favorite smol human), I would have to unspool my progress. I would have to self-harm again….a little. I would have to set aside progress and put myself on the rack. (Temporarily, but who knew how long.) Sixty- and seventy-hour weeks (instead of 80--See? Progress!). Nannying as much as I could for as long as I could stand and then coming straight home and writing as much as I could in every spare moment between. Minimal weekends. Almost no time off. Balls to the fucking walls.

And if you know something of the psychology there, you know I didn't just see this as a busy time. The "Oholic" part kicked in. The fear that everything I'd learned to walk away from could never be "controlled" in the way I was hoping to control it, and I would fall back into self-destructive habits. And maybe this time I wouldn't be able to crawl back out. It would feel too good to chase that rush again. 

But for 13 months, that's what I did. 

Writing professionally is a needle-thread. And when people ask me how I do it, I am brutally honest about the long hours and short weekends. I do not think I would be a working writer if I took off every time I had a bad day, was overwhelmed, or "didn't feel it." If I worked some never-more-than-40-hour week during the pandemic, once I factored in the nannying, I'd have even less to show for the last year than I do now. When people tell me to "screw productivity as a capitalist concept,” I have to take it with a grain of salt because I'M my own boss—or more accurately about 350+ patrons are my bosses—and just not working can also mean "screw your income, Chris" really really quickly. And I hate to tell them this, but I don't think many of the folks campaigning so hard for permission to write LESS have the dedication they're going to need to achieve the dreams they nurture.

But, of course, writers are human, and humans actually become LESS productive as they overwork. And walking that line between persistence, tenacity, and purpose vs. obsession, stubbornness, and addiction is basically THE artist's cliché because it's so common. Can you be one of the very best at anything (ever), without being just a little bit consumed?

And so for me, the last 13 months have felt like trying to balance leaning back in a chair on two legs. Too far one way and I was barely writing. Too far the other....and I would fall back into that maelstrom of self-destruction. 

For thirteen months.

Our story has a happy ending. The intrepid hero walks the knife's edge of seductive self-destruction but never falls in. They go the distance but do not lose themselves. There are weeks off (sometimes a dental or medical appointment is scheduled more for the quarantine afterward). Sundays are for Dungeons and Dragons no matter how badly writing is going. And as the vaccine promises an end to the untenable hours, the hero finds they have not lost themselves to the struggle but are "oh-so-holy-shit-yes" ready to lay down their burdens. 

Hopefully, this is the last time I have to go Shane on a situation and whip out the ol' horrifying ability to kick ass, but in some ways, it's sort of nice to know it's there. If I can step up for 13 months, I know I have a month under tough book deadline or ONE 80-hour week in me. 

But's really nice to look forward to twenty-four days from now….when I won't have to. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Be Glad Your Housespouse Isn't Union

Note: This article is a "refurbished rescue" from the Grounded Parents blog I used to write for. They had to abandon their old site (and many of their old articles) when they moved forward after a "you used my image" scam, but I found it in the wayback machine, and considering that I just tried to figure out how to charge my clients for a 21 hour shift in which I was asleep next to a two-year-old for eight of them, I thought that with a little dusting, a rewrite, and a fresh coat of paint, it was just as relevant today.

[At the time this was written, I was one side-point of a "V" relationship with a married couple, and I was the domestic of the family. These days I still watch the same kid (plus one more) in the nanny situation I'm always talking about, but I don't live in the house. All names have been changed.]

I’ve taken on 20 hours a week of being the stay-at-home caregiver to Tom on top of most of my housekeeping duties, and let me tell you, it has completely changed everything.

I really like my mornings with Tom. Even when he’s being completely inconsolable, filling diapers so quickly I’m not sure how he doesn’t look like a squeezed toothpaste tube, or when he's just sleeping the whole time like a limp rag. It's just us. He's cute and sweet and I have been mind-controlled by his eye-to-face ratio, large head, and tiny chin. 

However, I also know part of the reason I love our time so much is that it ends after five hours. When the timer dings, I get to hand him back, trundle upstairs to do some writing, take a nap, or just save a galaxy far, far away from those Sith jerkfaces.

I’m the househusband in this arrangement. The parents of Tom have jobs outside the home, and we keep track of the hours I'm putting in because until a three-way marriage is legal, I lack some of the benefits like health insurance or a retirement plan that I would be co-building even if I were the stereotype-shattering househusband in a TWO-person marriage. From the moment Renee discovered she was pregnant, we knew that the kid was going to have some pretty profound effects on the delicate equilibrium we’d established where I do a few hours a day of housework and they brought home the bacon. 

Long before we'd grown comfortable with this equilibrium—for years—we tracked hours, totaled up grocery shopping receipts, watched the incoming and the outgoing carefully. And it just kept coming up pretty even. We would pass the same $20 bill back and forth week after week and month after month, and finally just decided to call ourselves "family," and stop worrying about it.

But then along came 20 hours of babysitting into the mix.

That balance….that equilibrium where my contributions to the household basically equalled my room and board (and some incidentals)…was about to be completely fucked. And because my family is not the sorts to take reckless advantage of me, we all kind of knew we should at least have a rough sense of how many hours I was going over the tipping point. In particular, Renee wanted to keep a watchful eye on the "forty-hour" Rubicon. 

“A full-time job is enough,” she said. “Beyond that, we’re taking advantage of you.”

I’d been the househusband (2021 edit: housespouse) for my family for nine years. I’d felt all the clichés of under appreciation for the work I do. William and Renee wondered why it took me so long to clean up, and I’d been in their face that fairies don’t flit into the living room to tidy up their abandoned dishes and discarded socks.

There’s a reason the unappreciated housewife is a solid cliché of TV and movies.

And yet.


And yet….

I still had no fucking CLUE how fast 40 hours would blow past with a Doppler effect sound once kids were in the mix. Some weeks we hit it by early evening on Wednesday. Almost every week, I would stop doing housekeeping by Thursday or sooner, just so I'd have a couple of “banked” hours left over in case Renee and William needed some emergency kid watch. Dishes have sat in the sink for days because I hit my limit. Week after week.

The kicker is, I don’t "officially" watch Tom all that much. Five hours a day for four days a week while Renee works outside the home is all that’s certain. I get tapped to help out in the case of a social engagement or just an “hour of solitude,” but I get to give him back. I don’t have midnight feedings or dawn changing or colicky nights. I don’t put the baby down for a nap and then rush to try to clean all the things before he wakes up. I'm not constantly trying to balance his need for attention with how badly the dishes need doing, tossing him into a bouncer and praying that he'll stay distracted for long enough to put on a load of laundry and pick up the living room enough to run the vacuum. 

But there have been a couple of weird weeks. Something went wrong. Their jobs outside the house were particularly hard. I had to tag in a little harder. And I did some math and figured out that a full-time stay-at-home parent who also cooked and cleaned would be cruising up around 100+ hours a week. Easily more. Fourteen or fifteen hours a day. Seven days a week. And that's not even counting that nights are more "on call" than they really are "off."

The claims that “motherhood is a noble (even 'sacred') calling" are oft repeated despite all evidence to the contrary. Devaluing jobs traditionally held by women isn’t anything new in our society, but even among folks who would clutch their pearls and whip out their smelling salts at the accusation of sexism, there is still a sense that a family’s breadwinner is doing the “real” work. It is a sobering experience to realize just how much devaluing has gone on when it comes to child rearing and domestic work. While most families find a way to divide the labor without ever feeling the need to track hours, because of my family’s quirky circumstance, I happened to sit down and crunch some numbers.

And those numbers are shocking.

What I discovered is so starkly imbalanced that the absurdity of “traditional” roles is breathtaking. A traditional father putting his feet up and refusing to pitch in with childcare or cleaning because he “worked all day” should probably be aware, according to US labor laws, his wife should be getting about 60 hours of overtime. 

Per week.

At least.

That means that even making the federal minimum wage for this "sacred" calling, a housespouse (working a mere 100 hours) would be earning about $1050. (That's overtime for hours over 40 and "golden time" for seventh-day pay.) And if they made the actual going rate for a housekeeper/nanny, got paid for the hours they were on call, and were paid more accurately for the hours in which they were expected to perform duties, they would be making closer to $2000 or more.

Per. Week.

That's a six-figure salary even at a devalued wage. Think about what would happen if there was a domestic labor union instead of just this cultural sense that housespousing is the easy job. Which is why it's just a METRIC CARGO CARRIER of bullshit to be saying, "I do the 'real' work" just because we live in a society that refuses to acknowledge unpaid labor as actual work. 

Take home?  While a modern family is more likely to flip gender roles, share responsibilities, and approach equity, it might still be worth looking at the clock…just to check. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Actually, It IS Who You Are

On January 6th there was a coup attempt in the United States.

Technically it was the culmination of a “slow burn” coup that had been going for two months, one that started the night the sitting President of the United States declared victory before all the legitimately cast votes had been counted. 

The coup was doomed to fail. It was carried off in a disorganized, half-ass way like everything else this administration has touched, whether it be building a wall or a vaccine roll out. It was primarily executed by an online mob of leaderless Nazis, neonazis, and white supremacists whose sheer sense of white, male entitlement led them to do things like take selfies at Nancy Pelosi’s desk and steal her mail instead of confront the true gravitas of what they were perpetrating. And they were incited by Trump who promised to lead them down Pennsylvania Ave., but instead cowardly ducked away into his bunker and let stochastic agents he had whipped up behave like a leaderless mob. And so, it might be possible to dismiss the day’s events as some sort of mob psychology gone horribly wrong––a lot of angry people who got carried away.

But in the final analysis, what really happened was that an armed insurrection, with malice aforethought, having discussed their violence previously online in forums like Parler, showed up to the seat of government intent on subverting the results of an election* and were allowed in by the police (who thought they were on the same side) in a national security catastrophe. [ETA: That we now know happened because Trump deliberately held back the national guard.]

That’s a coup.

Just because it went off like keystone capers doesn't make it NOT a coup. 

The rest of this is smoke-filled, coffee-house crap, and after-the-fact armchair quarterbacking. The results of the day may have been anarchy, but these terrorists were anything but anarchists. In fact, they had extremely explicit designs about who would govern and how––and in most cases, extremely outspoken ideologies about what sorts of "slow genocide" policies the government would use its power to execute. That's not anarchy.

That the “revolution,” with its decentralized authority, was as incompetent as the very President it sought to entitle, and unfolded in the same epic fail manner as everything else Trump touches, was a stroke of undeserved luck. Had an organized cell with an agenda and a competent leader entered the building in tandem with (and under cover of) the more chaotic insurrectionists, the story could have easily been about Democrats (and Mike Pence) being pulled out of their offices and executed one by one. And in fact, we saw some people clearly had that very intention if they had gotten their hands on anyone they didn't like.

(*I can’t in good conscience say that it was a free and fair election, but the right isn’t interested in the actual problems––like voter ID laws, voter scrubbing, gerrymandering, and the electoral college itself––that make the U.S. a “flawed” democracy in the eyes of the world. Mostly because those things have all been instituted by the right and help them maintain power.)

And now Lindsey Graham, who has never found a Trumpian cause unworthy of providing a few more stock “angry white guy” photo ops, has said “enough is enough,” resignations are happening left and right (including cabinet members), and even Republicans are talking about the 25th amendment.

But of course, what I heard over and over from Republican lips was this phrase that reached near “thoughts and prayers” in its meaninglessness: “This is not who we are.”

"This is not who we are."

It was like a broken record. “This is not who we are.” “This is not who we are.” “This is not who we are.” Some Democrats also said this, and those Democrats may need to confront their willingness to be civil over all other values and/or ruminate on what they allowed, by inaction, to happen and what they're willing to forgive without accountability, but today I speak to and about the Republicans––at least the 90% of them who consistently supported Trump, those in the leadership who enabled him, and those who could muster little more than a piecemeal "deep concern" for his behavior each time he did something breathtakingly horrific, but generally told us we were being "hysterical" and were simply experiencing nothing but the same sort of "hate" for Trump that they'd had for Obama.

To all of you, I want to make this crystal clear. I want to make it unswervingly direct. I want no room for ambiguity. I don’t want to be misconstrued in any possible way. 

This IS who you are.

Let me say that again: this IS who you are.

Maybe you’re looking at yourself in the mirror or at the consequences writ large of the actions an egomaniac who would rather invoke stochastic terrorism than admit defeat in a democratic election, and the fact that yoking the fascists to win some SCOTUS seats is looking a little too Faustian for your tastes when the bill comes due….  

And maybe you’ve decided that it isn’t who you WANT to be, but it IS who you are. 

This IS who you are.

  • It is who you were when, out of a field of 17, you chose the guy who took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty on innocent black men, had a jacket of racist complaints going back decades, and spearheaded the claim that Obama was not a U.S. citizen. 
  • It was who you were when you picked the guy who bragged about the size of his dick and called people names in a national debate, requiring the birth of a new vocabulary word that means “anti-presidential.”
  • It was who you were when he told you exactly who he was and you didn't recoil in horror.
  • It was who you were when he bragged about tax fraud and stiffing contractors and you didn’t consider that maybe he was going to be a grifter and a fraud. 
  • It is who you were when his blatantly bigoted statements earned your admiration for speaking his mind.
  • It was who you were when his documented history of racism didn’t give you pause and maybe, in places you don’t talk about in mixed company, you kind of liked it.
  • It was who you were when he began to mantra, “We’re going to build a wall. (He didn’t) And we’re going to make Mexico pay for it. (Also no.)” and your cheers only became louder. 
  • It was who you were when he promised he could get soldiers to violate the Geneva Conventions, and that didn’t give you pause.
  • It was who you were when you elected a bully––not sitting out the election in a sort of dull horror, but showing up for him in droves.
  • It was who you were when we told you that someone endorsed by Nazis, neonazis, and white supremacists would embolden those ideologies and you told us we were snowflakes who needed to get over it.
  • It was who you were when you wanted him to hurt the right people.
  • It was who you were when actual email security breaches garnered your limp shrugs after an entire election cycle of “but her emails.”
  • It was who you were while you ignored a candidate who was chummy with a known child sex trafficker, who bragged about sexual assault, who had dozens of credible assault allegations, while the idea that Clinton was running a sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor basement sounded plausible enough to demand answers.
  • It was who you were when you valued a reality show star, who bankrupted everything he touched and with zero political acumen, over anyone who had the slightest expertise in the art of the D.C. compromise because he assured you he was a billionaire and did well in “deals” (usually the kind of deals where he’s the boss and has all the leverage).
  • It was who you were when you spent six years with a pull string on your back that said. “Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi. We need another investigation. I just want the TRUTH.” And it was who you were when you mocked and belittled the Russia probe after it (relatively quickly) found actual credible overwhelming evidence of election interference, some level collusion (and probably more), and led to dozens of convictions.
  • It was who you were when you ignored the evidence that actual statesmen (statespeople?) would have the diplomatic savvy to run rings around him and he kind of bent to whoever was the last person in the room with him.
  • It was who you were when you shrugged at how chummy he was with dictators and how he just couldn’t get along with allies. It was who you were when you giggled along instead of giving him that "" look every time he made his haha jokes about authoritarian regimes really knowing how to do things, even when he was standing in places known for genociding their marginalized communities. 
  • It was who you were when he insisted he had, in fact, won the popular vote against Clinton and that––despite ALL evidence to the contrary––all four million votes he lost by were fraudulent. And that didn’t raise alarm bells in your mind that he wasn’t going to be able to handle losing.
  • It was who you were when you blew off his comments about extra terms or about liking the convenience of being a leader under authoritarianism.
  • It was who you were when he couldn’t handle his anything being smaller than Obama’s, literally looked at a picture of a fractionally-sized inauguration attendance, and lied his ass off that it was bigger. And instead of becoming concerned that apparently the President of the United States was apparently SO self-absorbed and delicate that he couldn't handle the truth, you laughed and went along with the "joke" and didn't notice that you were arguing that 2+2=5 on day one. 
  • It was who you were when high-ranking members of his administration proffered the idea of "alternative facts" and you laughed because that "triggered the libs."
  • It was who you were when he reversed every campaign promise he made to disclose his financials, his health, his sexual misconduct allegations, and you shrugged.
  • It was who you were when you dismissed our concerns about his disrespect for precedent, and the fact that every week was a new constitutional crisis because, if he knew the constitutional limits of his power (doubtful), he didn’t CARE. And it was who you were when the ardent warnings of historians, people from authoritarian countries, even the fricken ADL (and you know it’s not just Godwin’s law when the ADL is jumping up and down and screaming) made you roll your eyes even harder and double down on the cult mentality of we vs. they thinking.
  • It was who you were when one by one, every member of his inner circle got caught in a bald-face lie about their involvement with Russia and you blamed liberals and Democrats for having the audacity to bring it up.
  • It was who you were when you pretended you couldn’t even wrap your brains around what Trump might have POSSIBLY done that wasn’t above reproach when the full Muller report came out. You who spent entire news cycles apoplectic about hot sauce and tan suits and half-hearted salutes.
  • It was who you were when you told us to fuck our feelings. It was who you were when you called us snowflakes for providing so much as a speed bump in the road to hurting “the right people." It was who you were when you told us we’d lost and to get over it. It was who you were when you didn't bat an eyelash as the GOP abandoned all pretense at governing a pluralistic society.
  • It was who you were when you didn’t stop obscene power grabs at the state level (like in Michigan), and instead practically dared Democrats to stop you.
  • It was who you were when one by one, you kissed the ring and the party became Donald Trump and Donald Trump became the party.
  • It was who you were when you let him peel off conscientious objectors (who had an iota of integrity) one by one and send his followers like jackals to rip them apart.
  • It was who you were when he retweeted white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and open bigots with no consequence.
  • It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the media unrelentingly if they said anything he didn’t like. It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the courts unrelentingly if they made a ruling he didn’t like. It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the legislature when they did anything he didn't like. It was who you were when you shrugged as he battered away at the very pillars of democracy.
  • It was who you were when Trump cheered the police violence (and ordered more) during demonstrations of groups that had the temerity to say, “Please stop killing us.”
  • It was who you were when he called white nationalists, whose ideology had led someone to commit vehicular manslaughter, “very fine people” and you voiced nothing but “troubling concern” in concert with some deeply furrowed brows.
  • It was who you were when he wouldn’t denounce white supremacy and instead told the Proud Boys to “stand by” and that got swept under the rug as a misspeak. 
  • It was who you were when he wouldn’t denounce white supremacy the time before that and you didn’t care.
  • And the time before that.
  • It was who you were when he didn't soundly condemn a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, and you weren't horrified at such partisan behavior.
  • It was who you were when Trump was impeached for subverting U.S. democracy and literally the only defense the best legal minds in the fucking world could come up with was, “Yes, he clearly lied and subverted the investigation and did all the high crimes and misdemeanors of which he stands accused, but it’s late in his term, so let’s just wait for the election, kay?”
  • It was who you were when you wouldn't allow witnesses at said impeachment trial. 
  • It was who you were when he said “animals,” “shithole countries” “China virus" (and JFC “Kung flu”) and you fell over yourselves to excuse, rationalize, and justify his crystal clear meaning with misplaced modifiers and grammar sleights of hand.
  • It was who you were when you looked the other way at kids in cages.
  • It was who you were when travel bans earned your praise.
  • It was who you were when you ignored how Trump started repeating QAnon––how you giggled and exchanged knowing glances when he said "The valiant truth-seeker, fighting-the-good-fight-against-child-trafficking patriots who like me very much? Never heard of him."
  • It was who you were when Trump ignored and criminally mismanaged a global pandemic for months, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands who did not have to die, and you took up the rallying cry of “economy” and threw the most vulnerable into the meat grinder of our immediate financial recovery (which didn’t even work).
  • It was who you were when you poo-pooed the danger of the virus to such a degree that you followed him in aggressively refusing to take even the simplest precautions to protect others, like wearing a mask or not throwing parties.
  • It was who you were when you cheered Mitch McConnell for not even bringing bills (with the support to pass) to the floor of the Senate, enacting his personal, one-man veto on anything he didn’t like and then, standing in front of stack of legislation taller than him that he refused to vote on, accusing the House, with a straight face, of not getting anything done.
  • It was who you were when voice after voice after voice warned you that Trump was the kind of dangerous authoritarian who could end a democracy––that there wasn’t going to be an adult in the room; that the constitution would not come to life and form a giant Mecha with energy cannons if it was ever violated TOO much––but instead of listening, you tossed them into an ever-growing conspiracy of “haters.”
  • It was who you were when you enjoyed the delicious bounty of your “Faustian deal,” as you rushed through a tax code “reform” in the dead of night without debate (that ended up being worse for everyone but the super rich when it was finally unpacked) and when you rammed through one SCOTUS nominee (while silencing the investigation into his credible sexual assault threat that even the FBI said they didn’t have enough time to finish), and when you blasted another through with weeks to go before an election (in breathtaking, spectacular hypocrisy of your “totally not partisan” position four years prior). It was who you were, by the way, when this rushed confirmation left stimulus by the wayside while millions of Americans fell into poverty from your continued inaction.
  • It was who you were when Trump started to contest the election results as fraudulent and you found that was really good for fundraising, so you didn’t shut him down.
  • It was who you were when literally you could tell which GOP members were making a bid for 2024 by who was still saying the election was rigged.
  • It was who you were when his calls for stochastic terrorism grew louder and you watched (or joined) as he fed his people a diet of distrust for any court, journalism medium, expert, or scientist who disagreed with him, so that the whole lot believed with growing fervor in debunked and outrageous conspiracy theories.
  • It was who you were when your response to a president refusing to peacefully transfer power was to form a caucus with "sedition" in the name.
  • It was who you were when you all but ignored an exodus from Facebook (which is not like…..super mean to right-wing groups) so the alt-right could say what they REALLY wanted on Parler, and what they wanted to say turned out to be explicit calls for violence and increasing organization. 

And it was still who you were when the violent consequences of your decisions manifested in the form of a group of domestic terrorists and in a way you seem to think wasn’t telegraphed for years. You can’t retroactively uncouple yourself from the ramifications of your long history of behavior in the last few seconds before the culmination like a professional criminal who really only laments the mistake they made that got them caught.

You cannot be complicit in every step leading up to a (predictable) result and then magically exculpate yourself from the consequences.

It is who you are when your colleagues STILL get up, even the next day, and repeat the most outrageous claims (“it was all ANTIFA!”) with little or no consequences. When they have supported a slow coup and ducked any real or serious consequence by saying "That's not who we are" when the direct consequence of their behavior was violence. It is still who you are when you deliver slaps on the wrist instead of offering serious consequences and removing from power all those who have technically committed treason. It is who you are when nearly half of Republicans still support the storming of the capitol. 

So when you say “this is not who we are” you are in error. At least in the moment you spoke it. This is the just the inevitable conclusion to who you have been for years––for what you have been courting for political gain. This result stood atop the scaffolding you’ve been methodically assembling most of your lives and/or political careers. This is the repercussion that we have been trying to tell you has been inexorably approaching for decades––because, really, Trump was no more than the avatar of all the things festering within the GOP and exploited for political expediency. 

This IS who you are!

But it doesn’t have to be.

Now you have to decide, having looked at the naked, inevitable conclusion of what you have wrought, if this is who you want to continue to be. You cannot be John Hammond standing amongst those killed by the dinosaurs and give a glib, "This is not who we are." You chose all the steps that led to this moment. You encouraged it, organized it, and facilitated it. You can't clutch your pearls that some took the next step. And you can't act as if not repudiating these steps won't continue to lead to escalation. If this isn’t who you want to be, then everything leading up to it has to go as well.

If it doesn’t…this IS who you are.