General

Is This Where the Brownshirts Show Up?

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I’m worried we are now entering the Sturmabteilung (brownshirt) phase of the Trump presidency.  There were t shirts worn and sold at Trump rallies that said — Rope, Tree, Journalist, Some Assembly Required.    And now we have what occurred in Montana.  A candidate for congress assaulted a journalist for merely asking a question.  That was appalling but even more appalling and worrisome  is the fact that some on the right are trying to excuse this assault.  Worse the republican controlled House of Representatives will seat this man thus giving tacit approval to an act of violence.
In Putin’s Russia they just kill journalists who investigate the massive corruption of Putin’s oligarchy.  When the president of the United States calls our free press the enemy of the people we mustn’t delude ourselves that it couldn’t happen here.  At least we still have in place legal and judicial norms that would result in the arrest and prosecution of that person, but we are on a dangerous path.
 
And this isn’t limited to just the rightwing. When a professor was sent to the hospital with a concussion after she and Charles Murray, author of the  Bell Curve were attacked at Middlebury College (and trust me, I’m not advocating for the very dubious conclusions drawn in the gentleman’s book)  Bell Curve Author Attacked  everybody — democrat, republican, independent, libertarian, socialist need to step back and say — no.  Not in America.  Not in the country that enshrined only one profession in its founding document — the press.
 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Without a free press to inform a citizenry we are all operating in the dark.  And democracy dies in the dark.
#Resist

I’m for Debating Anything

Stephen Hopkins: “Well, in all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yeah! I’m for debating anything. Rhode Island says yea!”  1776 Musical.

This line from the musical 1776 came back to me as I’ve been reading about the uproar over the appearance of Ann Coulter at Berkley and the subsequent cancellation of her speech over outrage from some parties and security concerns on the part of the university.

Look, I despise Ann Coulter.  I think she’s a grifter making money off outraging liberals and delighting conservatives.  Yes, much of what she says is hateful, but I’m with Hopkins on this one.  Hell yeah, let her speak, let her be condemned by her own vile words.  Debate her passionately.  Offer a better alternative.  Bring in a speaker to counter her.  Try to educate people and change their minds.  Demonstrate that her positions are wrong and dangerous in a civil society.  All this has accomplished is to make her a martyr and make liberals seem intolerant instead of the woman who is truly intolerant as evidenced by her statements about immigrants, liberals, environmentalists, feminists, etc.

The general public thinks that the First Amendment applies to all speech.  It doesn’t.  It’s designed to prevent the government from curtailing speech. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Emphasis added.)

And of course the right is not absolute even if the government isn’t involved.  Everyone has heard the old “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater”, and this is probably the rational for worries over Coulter’s talk — that her appearance would lead to violence.  And those are real and valid concerns, but it’s a hard line to draw.  When does unpleasant speech tip over into hate speech? Is this another instance as with pornography where Justice Stewart wrote in Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it,” The problem is that people’s sensitivities vary based on their life experiences.  What might merely anger me might be devastating to another individual and vice versa, but law is about setting societal standards not guaranteeing that no one is ever offended or made to feel uncomfortable.

We also have the added dilemma of fake news or alternative facts with which to contend.  It’s hard for truth to be heard when the air is filled with the dust and chaff of untruths.   A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.  But I guess I’m an eternal optimist and I want to think that Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes was right when he wrote in his dissent in Abrams v. United States —

“But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

Are the Ann Coulters and Milo Yiannopouloses and Alex Joneses an imminent threat to country?  That’s what we have to decide.  Overall I think it’s better that we allow them to show their faces, rip away the mask, turn over the rocks to reveal the neo-Nazis and racists that inhabit our country.  I’d rather have them out in the open where I can keep an eye on them, and counter their dangerous beliefs then have them plotting in secret and manipulating behind the scenes.

So let’s bring the gentleman from Rhodes Island another rum (you’ll understand if you’ve seen the play), get one for ourselves and be ready to defend our beliefs and values.

The Whore Syndrome

Or to put it another way — Women-are-just-so-alluring-that-men-can’t-control-themselves-so-the-women-have-to-be-denied-opportunites-so-men-don’t-lose-control.  Which is insulting as hell to men and puts women in a symbolic burqa.

Why am I writing this?  Because I just read an article about how Mike Pence will not dine alone with a woman.  Nor go to an event where there will be alcohol unless his wife is along.  Seems quaint, right?  It’s also deeply pernicious in terms of a woman’s ability to advance in her career.  Here’s why.  If your male boss takes that stance you as a woman can’t be mentored by him.  You can’t travel with him to meetings, conferences, etc.  If you are an executive it’s tough to make that big sale or merger if you can’t meet alone with a potential client because sometimes you need to have that one-0n-one conversation.

I have a young woman friend whose boss is a powerful Hollywood producer.  He made her his personal assistant and she was at his side for every meeting, at the Cannes and Toronto Film festivals, sat with him as he pondered which projects to green light.  In other words she learned the business from the ground up from a man at the top of his game.  She she holds a senior position in the industry.  In Mike Pence world she would never have had that opportunity.

The boys club is pernicious in other ways.  In Hollywood a lot of business is conducted on the golf course.  A friend suggested I take up golf, and how I could “play with the wives.”  I pointed out to him that playing with the wives does fuck all for me.  I need to be playing with the men, but of course I’d never be asked to join a round of golf with the boys.

Another venue for networking was a weekly poker game frequented by studio and network execs, writer/producers, writer/directors.  No women.  Once again the levers of power are out of reach.

When it comes to business we’ve got to stop seeing color and we’ve got to stop seeing gender.  We’ve got to start seeing humans.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds

“A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”  Basil Caesarea. 

Why am I quoting a Saint?  (I was going to use Galatians  6: 7-9 but that particular quote seemed more ominous than encouraging so I went with Basil.)  But back to the question — why a quote about good deeds?  Because they really do come back and reward you and I have a living, breathing example.  Tuesday afternoon I attended George’s announcement of his latest undertaking that only came to be because of all the good George has done for our city and the state.  But first a little backstory. 

There was a brilliant, philanthropic resident of Santa Fe named David Weininger.  Weininger was a scientist, entrepreneur, inventor.    He was a science fiction fan, and in fact he bought the Santa Fe home formerly owned by Roger Zelazny.  He was a musician and a test pilot, a star gazer.   Mr. Weininger had watched George’s efforts on behalf of Santa Fe — Meow Wolf,  Cocteau Theater, screenwriting prizes, etc., and when he learned he was dying he gifted to George the office building that had housed Weininger’s company, Daylight Chemical Information Systems.  All Weininger asked was that George “do something good with it.”

And George has done just that.  On Tuesday with Santa Fe’s charismatic mayor Javier Gonzales and people from the various film festivals, managers of studios, rag tag writers hanging around 😉 , etc. gathered George announced the formation of The Stagecoach Foundation.  The building will be used to house film and television productions at a very nominal fee to encourage those productions to come to Santa Fe in particular and New Mexico in general.  The first production to utilize the offices will be the Coen Brothers for a new film they will be filming in the area.

In addition to providing office space for production staffs the foundation will provide help to the young people of Santa Fe who might want to pursue a career in film.  It’s going to be a resource that will bring investment to the area and provide young people with an opportunity to work here rather than scattering to Los Angeles or New York.

Here is the logo for the new foundation created by the very talented Raya Golden.

If It Quacks Like an Anti-Semite….

I hate to even link to this Tweet.  The man is vile on every level, but you have to see the genesis of what came out of Trump’s mouth today.  So a few days ago David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and all around racist, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi tweeted the following.

President Trump, do you think it might be the Jews themselves making these calls to get sympathy to push their ethnic agenda?

 (I removed the link.  I refuse to link to this dumpster fire of a human being.)  Point being that today the President of the United States made the same comment to an assemblage of State Attorneys General that the rise in bomb threats to Jewish community centers and the attacks on Jewish cemeteries was a “false flag” operation.  Trump, False Flag.  It has already been established that while he was a candidate the now president retweeted vile and racist Tweets from known white supremacist sites so it’s not surprising that he might have imbibed this heady evil brew directly from the fetid swamp that is the mind and soul of David Duke.  We know that Bannon who is Trump’s closest advisor is an avowed white nationalist.  We know that the Holocaust remembrance day message provided by the State Department referenced the Jewish people and that the White House removed that mention.  White House scrapped State Dept. Statement.  I don’t care that his son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted.   That is a fig leaf on a dangerous and potentially deadly trend.
The feeble excuse that “lots of people suffered in the Holocaust” is not sufficient.  The Nuremberg Laws directly targeted the Jewish citizens of Germany.  At the Wansee Conference the sole purpose was to discuss the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”.  I toured the house which is now a museum when I was shooting a TV pilot in Germany.  It is chilling and leaves you sickened.
We have children and infants being rushed out of Jewish community centers in response to bomb threats.  We have Hispanic families being torn apart by an emboldened ICE.  We have had four mosques burned in the past seven weeks.  Mosques Burned.  Don’t kid yourself that it can’t happen here.  Right now the courts and the press are working to protect vulnerable minorities in our country.  Let’s help them by donating to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, subscribing to actual news outlets.
And let us Never Forget.

The Marketplace of Ideas

Last night the campus of Berkley was roiled with protests that turned violent, led to objects being thrown, fires being set, and ultimately the cancellation of a speech by noted alt-right gadfly and baby Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos.  This is not a productive way to resist, people.  Let us not fall into the trap of the anti-war protestors during Vietnam who turned a complacent middle class against them, led their, perhaps, persuadable parents to vote for and support Richard Nixon in a backlash against the violence.  I wrote a story for an upcoming Wild Cards book dealing with the chaos at the Democratic convention in 1968.  I did a lot of research and what became horribly clear was that the violent clashes between police and protestors help put Nixon in the White House.

Now before everybody starts yelling at me —  I’m not saying don’t protest.  By all means protest, but protest smart.  Follow the example set by the gigantic marches the day after the inauguration — not a single arrest while millions took to the streets around the world.  (I was at the giant Women’s March in L.A.  It was a joyous, uplifting and empowering experience.)  Be pro-active.  Schedule a speaker opposite Yiannopoulos who will counter the loathsome bile being spewed by Yiannopoulos and his ilk.  Since the illegitimate president has made crowds such an issue see who draws the bigger one and make sure the press covers it.  Make that the story.  By causing chaos we take attention away from a dark and divisive message that will shock most decent people.  Instead of isolating Yiannopoulos and revealing to the world what he and the alt-right stand for the protests have become the story and the white supremacist gets to play the victim.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are bedrock foundations for this country, and while, as a nation, we sometimes stumble and take a few steps back we have so far managed to move forward because we allow for vigorous debate and the hateful, violent, evil ideas lose when measured against truth and justice and American ideals.

Let them talk.  Let them reveal their crabbed and shriveled souls.  If they call out an individual by name then be prepared to help that person with the cost of hiring a lawyer and going after them.  That’s how the Southern Poverty Law Center brought down a number of branches of the Ku Klux Klan.  Not by throwing things and setting fires, but by taking them into court and destroying them with the rule of law.

Justice Holmes in his brilliant dissent in Abrams v.United States wrote:  “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”  

This standard was based on the writings of English poet John Milton “And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

What’s An American?

A friend of mine just posted a long and very moving post about his father who managed to get to America out of the ashes of the Holocaust.  It got me thinking about these white nationalists and the angry Trump voters who want America for the Americans and would shout out the Nazi tainted slogan “America First”.  You want to measure who gets to be here.  How about this?

My father’s ancestors came to New York (what was then called New Amsterdam) around 1690. Dad thought that distant Snodgrass was probably fleeing a charge of horse stealing. I found a reference in a book in Edinburgh to a Snodgrass in that period being prosecuted for the crime of dueling so maybe it was more interesting than being a horse thief. Clearly he was one of those “bad dudes” the President was Tweeting about today.
 
Whatever the circumstance my family has been here a long time. I had a relative who fought with the Swamp Fox in the Revolutionary War and my Great-grandfather was a Yankee cavalry officer who fought in the Civil War. You can’t get much more DAR then this.  On my mother’s side my grandfather was half Cherokee.  I would point out the irony, but many on the Right seem to be irony impaired.  Perhaps this will help them grasp the concept.
                                                                                                        
 
So to these people who think they are more American then everybody else and are slamming the door on desperate refugees — bite me! I’m pretty sure my American credentials are just as good if not better then yours, and more to the point I trying to live up to our American ideals starting with the Constitution you all profess to love that explicitly rejected religious tests, and the laws of this country that banned the pernicious use of national origin to block immigrants.  If you don’t recall who we profess to be —  let me remind you.
                                                                                                                 

You Want to Take Action?

So January 20th looms and for many people it’s a terrifying prospect.  People don’t know how to stand for the things we support and cherish in this republic.  So here’s a suggestion.  Join the ACLU. Here is but a sample of the litigation and advocacy they have undertaken:
The Scopes trial – the right to teach evolution in public science classrooms
Supreme Court Cases:
Korematsu — challenging Japanese American internment
Miranda — the right to remain silent
Griswold — the right to contraception
Loving — the right of interracial couples to marry
Gideon — the right to a court-appointed attorney if you can’t afford one
Windsor — striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act
Obergefell — the right of same sex couples to marry.
 
This is but a small sample and with thanks to the organization for the full page ad they ran in the New York Times on November 11, 2016 detailing these cases.
 
To quote President Andrew Shepard from The American President — “For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is: ‘Why aren’t you, Bob?’ Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, ‘Why would a Senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?”…
‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.”
And for the record I am also a card carrying member of the ACLU.  Because our Constitution as brilliant and wonderful as it might be is in the final analysis only paper.  What we do as citizens is the only way to see its promises made manifest and move us toward that more perfect union.

Reflections on H.L. Mencken in the Age of Trump

Last night I finished reading a terrific short story by my friend Connie Willis.  She is a wonderful writer, and also a terrific human being.  I’m not generally a reader of short fiction.  I love novels where I can wallow and spend a lot of time with the characters, but Connie is one of the masters of the short form.  Right now I’m reading a collection called The Best of Connie Willis, and I hit the story “Inside Job”.  It’s about a skeptic writer dealing with a “channeler”  and H.L. Mencken figures large in the story.

Which made me realize that we really need Mencken now.  Yes, there are clever people sounding the alarm and pointing out the absurd on numerous platforms, but in this age of scattered news it’s hard to have that one defining voice shouting at us not to be imbeciles and listen to “infernal gabble”.  But here we are where a president elect can stand on a stage uttering falsehood after falsehood.  Where idiotic conspiracy theories take hold — Jade Helm, where the governor of a state actually took seriously the idea that a military exercise was an attempt to conquer Texas, as if Texas wasn’t already part of the United States.  And Pizzagate that led to a moron ending up in a pizza parlor in Washington D.C. brandishing a gun because “think of the children”.  Or birtherism that pernicious, racist theory that the president of the United States was born in Kenya.

Mencken had a quick wit and a vicious tongue that could flay an opponent.  Not like the exchange of profane laced insults that one sees thrown about on social media.  He pointed up the absurd with laser-like precision that left his opponents bloodied and humiliated.  He is quoted frequently.  Here’s one that is especially relevant today:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

And this, which I think is going to become the new signature tag on my emails.  I had been quoting Craig Ferguson musing about Dr. Who, but I think this works better for the indefinite future.

“In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for.  As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”

 

A Not So Gentle Reminder

If you visit my website and come to my blog and post a comment, and it attacks my friends — one in particular — you know who I am talking about so pay attention trolls.  I will file your comment in a round file called trash.  You do again and I’ll block you.  I moderate all comments so you aren’t going to have an opportunity to spread your nastiness on my site.  Because it’s my site.  My rules.  My friend.  My best friend.

So take your entitled little self off someplace else to bitch and moan and pretend you’re clever, and you can brag to your troll friends “how you really told him”, but deep down inside you’ll know you’re just pathetic and nobody ever saw your post.

Small Things That Might Help

I have been living in fear for months and last night my fears were realized.  Here’s what I fear is coming:

The climate change accord rejected.

Planned Parenthood defunded so no more cancer screenings and birth control for low income women.

The ACA repealed.  Millions without health care once again.

The nuclear agreement with Iran revoked.

A new Supreme Court that may well overturn Obergefell granting gay people the right to marry.  What happens to those couples and their children?  And will they finally get their wish to criminalize abortion?  There was a girl in my high school who died from a botched back street abortion.  Is that again in our future?

An abandonment of NATO, an organization that has kept relative peace in Europe for seventy years.  Putin has been massing troops and supplies on the borders of eastern European countries.  Will he move on them?  And what will we do it he does?

Families torn apart if this deportation force is actually created and sent into the streets.

Stop and frisk being used against minorities.

All morning people keep asking me what can we do? I don’t have a lot suggestions, but here are a few. Make donations to Planned Parenthood so they can keep the doors open. Think seriously about the candidates for House and Senate for 2018 and give them early support. If we can retake at least one branch of government perhaps we can mitigate some of what will come. And in a very small, personal way we can protect vulnerable people in public places– religious minorities, LBGTQ individuals, Hispanics and African-Americans.

And here’s a guide on how we can do that.  Protecting Against an Aggressor  While it was created to primarily deal with Islamophobia it can be used in any situation where a person is being threatened and abused.

What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says

This is long so I apologize for that.  It’s also a post that I hesitated to write because I’m very private person, and I’m telling you a lot about myself.  But I think this election is just that important that I’m willing to open up.  So here goes —

I’m younger than Secretary Clinton, but I want to give you a look at how the world appeared and still often appears to a woman.  Especially a woman who is driven, ambitious, smart and educated.  I’ve talked about being a child and my frustration over adults constantly telling me what I couldn’t be because I was a girl — astronaut, jockey, President of the United States.

Let’s move forward a few years.  I’m 17 and I’ve just started college.  I enrolled in a geology class.  There weren’t a lot of women in that introductory course, but I found it fascinating.  Seated behind me was a very cute boy.  We began chatting and he proposed a contest.  Which one of us would get the best grade.  The loser buys coffee or lunch.  After all these years I don’t remember the exact terms of the bet.  I’m sure he thought he had a sucker’s bet.  I was a girl how could I possibly do well in a science class?  Clearly I was in college to earn my MRS. 

I might not remember the stakes, but I clearly remember what happened next.  First exam I had the highest test score in the very large class — A+ 100%.  I show my grade to the cute boy, and begin teasing him — I think he pulled a “C”.  I remember his eyes narrowing into slits and the words.  “Shut up you fucking cunt!” spewing from his mouth.  I was shattered and shaken.  I moved to a distant part of the lecture hall after that.

I loved geology so much that I talked to my advisor about making it my major.  The man dismissed the idea out of hand.  I didn’t want to do that, he said with a head shake.  That’s not the right thing for a woman to study.  Maybe English or get a teaching degree until I got married.  The sad thing is — I listened to him.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

In that office working on a brief in the library late one night the son-in-law of the owner of the firm tells me to get him a cup of coffee.  I told him I liked mine with a lot of milk.  We never got along very well after that.

I quit practicing law and become a science fiction writer.  Overall I found the community to be welcoming and encouraging.  I only had one editor indicate that a visit to his hotel room at world con might land me a book contract.  I declined his offer.

Then I hit Hollywood.  It was here that I discovered that apparently for creepers and gropers grabbing a woman by the pussy is a thing with them.  I had already endured “notes” meetings with a particular boss that started at nine at night after all of the staff had gone home and the notes were frequently interspersed with sexually explicit comments.  I tried to avoid him, but at one meeting he made me sit beside him.  There were over 20 people in this meeting, and I had this man’s hand reaching under my skirt to grab…. well you know the rest.  I sat there schooling my face to impassivity and weighing my job against the pleasure of hitting him.  I also knew if I reacted the humiliation I was already feeling would only be amplified by making a scene in front of so many other people.

Thankfully I haven’t faced anything that overt in the years since.  Getting older and meaner — or being a nasty woman as Mr. Trump would phrase it has some benefits.  If you’re wondering why I made this walk down memory lane it’s to say that, yeah, I think that sexism is at the base of a lot of the crap that gets thrown at Secretary Clinton.  How dare a woman be ambitious, driven, intelligent, well educated, older and no longer meeting the standards of beauty that society forces on women?  Here’s a link to an article about the correlation between supporting Mr. Trump and hostility toward woman. The Correlation between Trump Support & Sexism.

Which brings me to the campaign.  I’ve seen all the ads that show us Donald Trump in his own words.  Particularly the words he has directed at women.  The usual summation is that Donald Trump doesn’t “respect” women. Paul Ryan even said that “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”  Which is itself a demeaning of women implying that we are fragile, weak and must be protected by men instead of accepting us as equals and fully realized human beings.

But I think that analysis is too simplistic.  All the experiences I described and the attitudes displayed by Mr. Trump aren’t about sex, or sexual harassment, or respecting women.  This is about power and the exercise of power over others.  Remember, rape isn’t a sexual act — it’s a violent assault.  And the same goes for sexual harassment — it is also about power, putting women in their place.  When you realized that what drives Mr. Trump is his almost pathological need to dominate other then the dangers of a Trump presidency become horribly clear.

There are many things that frighten me about the Trump candidacy — the racism, the lies, the threats to jail a political opponent, the lack of understanding of the most basic fundamentals of our democratic republic — but it is his glib discussion of sexual assault, the fact that many woman have come forward to attest to this behavior on the part of Mr. Trump that show me who who he is.  To touch a person without their consent is less about an out of control libido than it is  about raw power, an attempt to dominate and exert control.  How Mr. Trump behaves toward women gives me a chilling picture of how he might behave should he have the powers of the Executive Branch of government under his control. 

Just think of the power and dominance he could exert over anyone who has slighted or challenged him.  The I.R.S. could be used against businessmen who mocked him or even declined to support him.  The freedom of the press could be curtailed by the loosening of libel laws.  Investigation could be launched against citizens using the F.B.I.  People will be profiled based on their ethnic backgrounds or their religious beliefs.  We’re already seeing glimmers of this future in the behavior of the F.B.I. in these final days of the election.  And once an investigation, justified or not, is begun a President Trump could have his hand picked Attorney General bring charges through the Department of Justice.

I understand it’s probably easier to make the ads about respect for women, but again, I think that is too simple.  Because it isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

If You Can Keep It”

I recently posted on Facebook a link to a story out of Texas about students walking out of an anthropology class over the discussion that modern humans evolved in Africa.  I got push back that this was unfair to Texas, on overblown story because only a small number of students walked out of a class of 390, etc.  Then I realized that what disturbed me about the story is that there is a percentage of our American citizenry who is truculent, ill informed, proud of that lack, and suspicious of “elites”.  Elites which include not only the people who work in our institutions of government, and those institutions, but scientists and the facts that science discovers and explains.  To quote Neil DeGrasse Tyson

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Which brought me to the discussions I shared with George R.R. Martin over dinner last night.  We enjoyed one of our wide ranging talks — everything from Wild Cards, writing — what it means to us, TV shows we are watching, and of course the election which has both of us obsessed. We talked about the fall of the Roman republic and what was really behind the collapse.  (We were in a role playing game run by Walter Jon Williams for a number of years and ended up reading a lot of history about the period.)

Point being —  it wasn’t the orgies. It was the concentration of vast wealth in the hands of an elite few which sent citizen farmers to Rome once they lost their land, and the most profound gridlock created by an insane political structure. Two consuls serving on alternate days, often with incompatible ideas, and ten tribunes any one of whom could veto any legislation passed by the senate.

That brought me back to a fascinating interview with former Supreme Court Justice David Souter about the dangers of an uninformed electorate. Here’s a link to what was said and clips from the Maddow show where she highlighted this interview.  Souter Warning.  Here is a portion of what the retired Justice said:

“I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some of other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’

It’s this that makes me worry for the country, and why my linking to the story about students objecting to anthropological facts is relevant.   In 2014 a Gallup poll found that 42% of Americans believe in creationism rather than evolution.  In these complex times we need a well educated populace.  We have to understand the dangers of climate change, how monetary policy really works, how tariffs help fuel the financial collapse in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the concept of herd immunity and the efficacy of vaccines, etc. etc. etc.

Let us contemplate the words of Benjamin Franklin at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention when asked by a lady… “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

 

 

Too Little and Way Too Late

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

I first heard this quote while watching a performance of the musical 1776.  The representative from Georgia, Dr. Lyman Hall, was sent to the Continental Congress with the instruction not to vote for independence.  After listening to John Adams passionate cry of “Is Anybody There?” he quotes the line from Burke and changes his vote to aye.  That quote has been much on my mind over the past 48 hours since the revelations of Donal Trump’s sexual predation.  As a result over the ensuing two days large numbers of Republican senators, representatives, former office holders, etc. have begun running for the exits.

Really?  Now?  This is the thing that made you abandon a man so clearly unqualified for the office he seeks?  What about his mainstreaming the racist “Birther” conspiracy?  You all winked at that.  What about his false claim that “thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11”?  What about his mocking of a reporter with disabilities?  The unconstitutional statement that he would use a religious test to ban people from this country?  The accusation that undocumented Mexican immigrants were rapist and murders?  The degrading of respect for the judiciary with claims that a judge of Mexican/American heritage could not fairly judge him?  The demeaning of a veteran and war hero?  The attacks on the grieving parents of a fallen soldier?  The incitements to violence at his rallies?

This is but a small sample of the grotesque statements and stances taken by the Republican candidate for president.  So forgive me Republican leaders if I’m unimpressed with your road to Damascus moment and your sudden conversion.   Frankly your cries of shocked outrage carry as much weight as Captain Renault’s in Casablanca — “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Donald Trump never hid what he was.  You all knew.  You’ve known for five years when he began the racist Birther movement but you stayed silent.  Sadly the Republican party began its dance on the edge of the abyss long before the rise of Donald Trump.  It began with Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, with Ronald Reagan giving a speech about states rights in Philadelphia Mississippi the site of the brutal murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, with Willie Horton; please listen to the statement by Lee Atwater on how to use racism to win elections and be warned there is offensive language in this audio recording.  Lee Atwater Southern Strategy.

Everyone is shocked with Donald Trump’s calm discussion of using his status, wealth and power to grope and fondle women without their consent (and yes, that is sexual assault.  I say this as a women who has endured exactly what he described doing — and I don’t mean the kissing.)  Yet this is a party that has been unrelenting in its efforts to control women’s bodies and choices.  All of these men un-endorsing Mr. Trump talk about how they have daughters.  Well you could start to protect and honor your daughters by not treating women like children or chattel.

So how does this all relate back to Mr. Burke?  If establishment Republicans had heeded the advice of the man often credited with being the founder of modern conservatism they would have stopped Mr. Trump at the Republican convention.  Yes, millions of people voted for him, but that was a terrible choice and these elected figures in the Republican party knew that.  But instead of using their judgment they acquiesced to the opinion of angry, low information voters who are unwilling to accept that this is becoming a minority-majority country.  The brave thing would have been to set aside Mr. Trump and select a normal candidate.  I probably wouldn’t have agreed with the policy positions of a John Kasich or Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, but I wouldn’t have been embarrassed to be an American in the eyes of the world.  Yes it would have angered those primary voters and the Republicans probably would have lost the election, but they would have maintained their dignity and honor while they lost.  Now it appears they are going to lose anyway, and they are left without even a shred of dignity and decency.  They bear the stain of Donald Trump — his racism, his misogyny, his authoritarian attitudes.

Did I say that Republicans were running for the exits?  That’s too kind.  This is rats abandoning a sinking ship; a ship they should never have boarded in the first place.  I hope they can tread water for a long time.

My Small Salon

So I hosted a cream tea on Friday.  George R.R. had urged me to do something to welcome Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer to Santa Fe and to give them a chance to meet some of the cool people who live here.  George also wanted to show off my house which is very beautiful with an 80 mile view out the glass wall of the living room.  It sounded like a fun idea so I invited a group of novelists and screenwriters.  Including Ed Khamara — he wrote Lady Hawk and Enemy Mine, Bruce McKenna — he wrote The Pacific, Ty Frank and Daniel Abraham who are James S.A. Corey of The Expanse, David Morrell who wrote First Blood (that became Rambo), George, of course, Sage Walker, Laura Mixon.

I made scones and Those Little Sandwiches — salmon with cream cheese and dill and cucumber with butter.  I sat out a cheese plate and grapes and to keep it New Mexico I had chile con queso from El Pinto (the best in the state).  Neil and Amanda’s new son, Ash attended his first formal tea dressed in a very elegant kimono.

Neil snapped this picture out in the casita.  This baby has his mother’s amazing eyes, they are a shade of blue I have never before seen.  And he’s so happy.  He literally sings back to you.

It was supposed to last from 3:00 until 6:00, but a number of us lingered chatting until past 7:00 about politics and art and movies.  All and all it was the kind of day that reminded why I so desperately wanted to be a writer and stop being a lawyer.  These are the most fascinating people in the world and I wanted to get to hang out with them.  And now I get too.  Sometimes I have to give myself a pinch so I can be sure this isn’t just a dream.

Appearances

  • Helsinki Worldcon August 9th – 13th
  • GoH at Tuscon November 10-12, Tucson AZ
  • Boskone February 16-18, 2018
  • GoH at Convergence July 5-8, 2018

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