Big Little Lies (2017) – A Surprising Honest Portrayal of Domestic Abuse

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Big Little Lies can easily be dismissed as a vehicle for former has been A-list movie stars who turned their attention to the small screen because they are past their sell-by date by Hollywood standards and are no longer profitable box office draws, but this turns out to be better than that. It is a HBO 7-episode miniseries about four wealthy women living in the seaside utopia of Marin County in Northern California. It is one of the richest counties in California and a favorite of tech millionaires. I was apprehensive about using rich women in extremely privileged backgrounds to depict the trauma of domestic abuse because with wealth and privilege, victims can be better sheltered by the aftermath.

It stars Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Mackenzie, who is basically a grown up version of Tracy Flick from her breakout role in Election. She is nosy, bossy, gossipy and shrill, an all around pint sized nightmare. Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, a former lawyer but is now a stay-at-home parent to her twin boys. Laura Dern as Renata Klein, a tech company executive, sits on the board of Google and a multimillionaire, the richest of the group – she is equally bossy and shrill, and then you have the odd girl out, Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman, a single mother to a son Ziggy, and she’s not any single mother, she’s a single mother who doesn’t know the identity of Ziggy’s father. He was conceived during a night of fun flirtation which turned into violent rape and the man who raped her disappeared. She never got his real name or phone number. She wants to find him and confront him about what he did to her.

The series start with a murder, a man was murdered, he seems like an important person who everyone knows, we only see shadows and far away images of him; he’s white man, wearing a nice suit and fancy shoes. The story is told in flashback and as the series progresses, we are to find out who the victim is and what led up to his death. This is juxtaposed with first day of orientation at Otter Bay Elementary School, which all the children of the four main characters attend. It is a public school but because of the rich tax base of Marin County, it functions like a free private school for the residents of Marin County. By the end of orientation, Renata Klein’s (Laura Dern) daughter Annabella has been choked by a classmate and a mark was left on her neck. Renata Klein of course was appalled and proceeded to make a big deal out of it in front of all the students and demanded her daughter to point out to her who choked her. Annabella pointed to Ziggy Chapman, son of Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), the newest student (and resident) to the school as the boy who did this to her. Jane didn’t overreact but asked her son calmly if he did this, he said ‘no’, but he looked scared, and Jane told her son that she believes him and to not worry, but Annabella is insistent that Ziggy was the person who choked her despite his denials. The teacher decided to end the discussion there and take it private. But the damage was done. The new boy, Ziggy Chapman, whose mother isn’t rich like all the other parents, has been marked out as the class bully with no proof except the words of a scared little girl. It was downhill from there for him at the new school.

The battle lines are now drawn and sides are forced to be chosen by all the other moms. When Annabella’s birthday party came around (and these aren’t just any normal birthday parties, they are whole dog and pony shows with a circus act flown in and custom designed cakes), Renata Klein declined to invite Ziggy Chapman for bullying her daughter. When Madeline Mackenzie found out she was indignant, as she and along with many other parents even the teacher didn’t believe Ziggy choked Annabella, he was just being blamed and scapegoated because he’s the new boy and his mother has no wealth or status. Madeline rallied all the other moms to boycott Annabella’s birthday party. She not only told everyone to boycott the party, she arranged for all the kids to attend a Disney on Ice show via private chauffeur and complimentary champaign all paid for by her. Even though she’s just met Jane Chapman, she has decided to take her under her wing. It can be easily dismissed that Madeline has some type of a savior syndrome and wants to make herself out to be a good person, but the truth is, Madeline was that single mother once. She has an older daughter Abigail from a former marriage. She married very young and her husband walked out on her to pursue his dreams and hobbies which were not compatible with family life. She struggled on her own as a single mother in a very affluent town, until she got remarried to her very rich second husband, who also works in tech. This is Madeline’s strange way of showing solidarity with another single mother, not for once considering how little Annabella might feel when half of her friends are missing from her birthday party.

The lynchpin of the series is the story line of Celeste and Perry Wright (Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård). On the outside they are admired and envied. Perry is handsome, charming and a ‘perfect’ father and Celeste is the ‘barbie doll’ of the group, though she is an ‘older’ mother, she looks ever youthful with a handsome and rich younger husband. Even after 7 years of marriage, they still pack on the PDA like teenagers, much to the envy of those with established marriages. But in the middle of all this ‘perfection’, there is chatter of about how it looks ‘too perfect’ and fake and no one is that ‘perfect’. The PDA is just weird and too much (envy aside). And they are right. Perry Wright is a vicious abuser. He beats his wife mercilessly. In fact he is such an expert at beating her that he knows exactly where to inflict the bruises so that no matter what she’s wearing they won’t show (upper arms, shoulders, upper back and breasts). This is one of the few shows where it delves into the nitty gritty details of domestic abuse, what happens before, during and after. What the battered wife does when her husband isn’t around, the far off stares into space, the jumpiness when someone suddenly walks up behind her and maintaining a facade of perfection when it is a nightmare at home. This is one of Nicole Kidman’s best performances of her career. I’ve seen many of her films, including the The Hours where she won an Oscar for best actress portraying the writer Virginia Woolf, it doesn’t come close to the depth of this role. Nicole Kidman fully captures the mannerisms, psyche and actions of an abused woman. The fact that she’s rich, lives in a seaside mansion, has two adorable sons, having the looks of a movie star never compensates for or distracts from the fact that she is a domestic abuse victim first and everything else second.

After one really horrific beating where she was choked to the point of almost passing out, she told Perry that if he lays his hands on her one more time, “I will fucking leave you.” and she meant it, he knew that she meant it. They decided to seek couples therapy to fix their ‘toxic relationship’. The actress playing therapist Dr. Amanda Reisman is Robin Weigert, who puts in a subtle and brilliant performance as a family therapist. In their first meeting, as Perry and Celeste dance around their ‘toxic’ issues, it very quickly it became obvious to Dr. Reisman that this is a dangerous and abusive situation and Celeste’s safety is in peril. Her face went from neutral to barely disguised disgust (one of the finest pieces of acting). Perry Wright has the classic symptoms of an abuser, emotionally manipulative, controlling, needy, insecure, doesn’t like his wife to go out with her friends, cut her off from her inner circle of family and friends, doesn’t want her to go out without him, and he blames his violent actions on everything except himself. Dr. Reisman doesn’t even think of trying to reform or counsel him, her goal is to get Celeste out of that situation as soon as possible.

Celeste begins to see Dr. Reisman regularly on her own without her husband (he travels a lot for work), as she begins to divulge the details his abuse (aided by flashbacks of the actual abuse – and this is very triggering to watch), Celeste realizes that Perry wasn’t just toxic he is deadly. After each beating he cries to her and apologizes to which they have passionate (or violent) make up sex after, sometimes Celeste preempts all that by just taking off her clothes first so he’d skip the beating part. It is a deadly and twisted game of abuse and sex; some would argue that to be marital rape, for a wife to perform sex to avoid abuse. When Celeste is insistent that her boys do not know about this abuse, Dr. Reisman dropped the polite therapist act and told Celeste to get real and rent an apartment immediately, furnish it, get the children’s rooms ready, stock the fridge, set up a secret bank account so that she can leave him the minute she needs to. Celeste dismisses this as going overboard, she’s not ready to let go of the life she gave up everything for and hope that it would all work out in the end.

The therapist also allowed Celeste the space to say good things about her husband, to reminisce on their good times. For example, when he dropped everything to attend to their premature twin boys in the hospital, taking care of her along and their twin boys. When the boys had repeated trips to hospital from lingering premature birth issues, he was awake every night with them and reassured her that they would be fine. Their joint suffering and sadness at the many miscarriages before finally delivering twin boys. Domestic abuse is very complex, the emotions involved are very complicated. Most abusers aren’t abusive every minute of everyday, they have their good moments and most victims hang on to those good moments for as long as they can, until they run out of emotional reserves. But it’s made clear no amount of ‘good’ in the marriage could compensate for the abuse.

The most disturbing scenes are not always the violent sex scenes or when her husband empties a bucket of legos over her head and pins her down and pummels her but the before and after. It’s the fight before or non-incident which he blows up to be a major travesty against him and he’s escalating verbally and you know what comes next; the punch, the shove the grab, choking or the aftermath when she’s inspecting her bruises while alone in her bedroom or applying makeup to her bruises in the car before she gets out of the car to pick her kids up from school. Or her holding back tears when she’s sitting quietly alone at home or in a coffee shop thinking how did her life come to this? In spite of all this she is in deep denial, she believes that with the ‘right’ help, their toxic marriage could be transformed into a healthy one. Her therapist told her that she can do whatever she likes but in the mean time, as her therapist she’s already begun a log of incidences of abuse and detailing her injuries.

I mentioned earlier I am unsure if I like the depiction of domestic abuse from the point of view of white, rich, high status, powerful people, even though domestic abuse spares no one, no social class, race, ethnicity or gender. On the other hand, the most common depiction of domestic abuse is usually the working class alcoholic or drug abusing husband beating up his even lower status wife; it rarely goes into the details, you just have scenes of huge blow up fights followed by physical beatings and then a trip the the ER, followed by apologies and the cycle repeats itself. So perhaps a portrayal of domestic violence involving rich people so that it’s not burdened by the crude stereotypes of the working class drunk beating his wife would serve better to showcase the horror of living with domestic violence. The devil is in the details.

There is often a conspiracy of silence when it comes to domestic abuse. No one wants to talk about it, even when it’s happening right in front of you, people are too afraid, too ashamed and the favorite excuse they don’t want to meddle in the domestic affairs of another family, so the victim often suffers in silence for far too long. But sometimes the conspiracy of silence starts with the victim herself, the shame and embarrassment at being labeled a domestic violence victim; while they have no trouble leaping to the defense of another battered woman, to reveal their own situation of domestic abuse is not something they do willingly, as is the case with Celeste Wright. It is a vicious cycle of abuse, silence and denial.

Back to who choked little Annabella on orientation day and then later during the school year she came home with bruises on her back too and who the murder victim was, I won’t spoil it. It wasn’t Ziggy who assaulted her, but the one who did, the apple didn’t fall that far from the tree and puts to rest the idea that children don’t know what’s going on inside the home. Even though Ziggy’s mother believes him when he said he didn’t choke Annabella, she was worried that he might have unknowingly done so because his biological father is a violent rapist and that Ziggy might have inherited that ugly trait. She projected her own fears for her child onto him.

I was pleasantly surprised at the honest portrayal of domestic abuse victims and how far the violence and dysfunction of one family can spread. Some of the abuse scenes are very hard to watch, I would go so far to offer a trigger warning, especially for those who suffered abuse at the hands of ‘handsome charming’ men. Alexander Skarsgård does a brilliant job of playing a handsome, winsome but brutally abusive man, it’s so believable that when he comes on the screen you just seethe with rage. For Nicole Kidman, this is one of her best performances and it’s all in the details, during her unspoken moments does she convey the pain of a domestic abuse victim.

The Gig Economy: Precarious and Anxious

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Gig Economy: Biggest scam to hit workers

I am part of the gig economy. When I am not stuck in the kitchen radicalizing myself, I take side contracting jobs (gigs) when I can from the list of contacts I’ve made in my years of working in the formal economy. I am not dependent on this for my income but anything I make will go towards the family budget or savings nest egg.

My week started out normal, if not slightly sunny and optimistic (which is rare), I had what seemed a fairly simple contracting job and it was going along smoothly. It hadn’t taken up an inordinate amount of my time and it appears to be moving towards completion. Many moons ago I was a mortgage loan processor before the market crash and all that really means is I am a glorified paper pusher. The listing and selling agents make the deal (and get all the big fat commissions) and I make the deal happen by completing the mortgage process for the buyer. It’s not a hard job but a tedious one, one that requires patience because nine times out of ten, you are dealing with a buyer who knows nothing about what they are signing, what they are doing and all they are thinking about is getting the shiny keys to their new house. I get a fee for doing all this work and I don’t get compensated unless the deal is ‘closed’ or until the buyers get their keys. I don’t really pursue these gigs, they sort of find me and I take them on if I can perform the contract in the time required. I emphasize this point because for many people, they don’t have this luxury, they need the ‘gig’ and more importantly they need the ‘gig’ to close so they can get paid.

The buyer in this case is purchasing a condo on a FHA (Federal Housing Administration) sponsored loan, which means they can get into a home with 3.5% down payment with very lenient income to debt ratio requirements. It’s the preferred method for most first time home buyers or buyers who don’t have a lot of savings but make a healthy income to afford a mortgage payment. However, one almost always non-negotiable requirement of purchasing a condo under a FHA loan (and conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans too) is that there can be no pending litigation against the HOA (Homeowners Association). Pending litigation means that the Homeowners Association (a motley crew of builders, investors and homeowners themselves) can become financially insolvent and the whole condominium complex needs to be liquidated to meet the lawsuit compensation; which means the mortgage holder could lose their investment in the condo.

So after I’ve done about 90% of the leg work and now it’s just a matter of the buyer signing her loan documents to finalize the closing, we hit a snag. What did we find out from the Homeowner’s Association? There is a pending lawsuit against them. Someone fell in the common area while trimming shrubs and injured himself. The HOA said the lawsuit was frivolous just to extort money from them and they in the process of resolving it, but it’s been filed since late 2015 and it’s still pending. This particular detail which can derail whole deals is the responsibility of the listing agent to find out BEFORE they list the property to sell. And it’s also the responsibility of the seller’s agent to make sure they are not advising their buyer to purchase a condo with a pending lawsuit against it. Clearly no one bothered to check. The finger pointing commences. From prior experience, I know in these situations the blame almost always gets placed on someone with the least power and least compensated (The listing and seller agent get 5% commission between them, the loan agent – person who gets them the loan gets anywhere from 2-3% of the loan amount for commission paid by the lender, I get $925 for processing the loan). I could smell the blame coming my way a mile away.

Between the listing and seller’s agent there is over 40 years of ‘experience’, as all real estate agents love to boast about their experience, I have an on and off 10 years experience with loan processing, the last time I did loan processing as a full time job was 2008. I was being asked if I had a ‘check list’ I referred to when I worked on my files, to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. On top of coordinating between 4 to 5 agencies and departments, sending hundreds of emails to make sure everyone has everything they needed, I will not do the jobs of people who out earn me by almost ten times because of their carelessness, which can cause the whole deal to tank and the buyer to lose their deposit. It’s not my problem. I told them point blank that I am not here to compensate for their mistakes. And the listing and seller’s agents each have their own assistants as well. What were they doing? Privately, I told my contact at the lender that I don’t compensate for the stupidity of others, I am sorry all of your big paychecks are at risk, but up until now, between this and all of my other responsibilities, I’ve been more than on top of everything. I’ve not only met every deadline but stayed ahead of it. No one will pin this major, idiotic, stupid blunder on me.

We are to find out what recourses we have on Monday, if we can switch the loan program, which then means the loan agent won’t be happy as his commission will be cut, or worse, no one gets paid because if I were the buyer in this case, I’d sack everyone. The days where I ran around solving everyone’s problems to prove my worth are over. I know my worth, I know my value, and it’s a lot more than $925 and I am sure as hell not going to take the blame for the incompetence of those who have much more experience than me.

This is one side of the precarious gig economy. The $925 I made would have gone towards utilities, food and part of the rent or even to our savings. I am lucky, I have other sources of income. I don’t depend on these $925 contracting fees to meet my monthly expenses but if I did and I just now found out that one-third of the monthly income I must earn to just meet my minimal expenses to live is in question or perhaps gone, I’d be going into a panic and meltdown right now. My week ended with me being in a foul mood, for wasting time on a deal that was basically dead to begin with and the listing agent or her assistant bothered to place a phone call to the HOA offices all of this could have been avoided. But at least I am not panicking or spiraling into the rabbit hole of anxiety which would then render me non-functional and thus unable to quickly find alternate ways to make up for my lost income. People who regularly suffer from anxiety know what I am talking about, when you are so anxious your heart races, brain freezes and you go on autopilot, instead of trying think quickly to resolve a crisis.

The gig economy is not cool. It’s not more relaxing or autonomous. It is fraught with anxiety especially if your compensation doesn’t come through for one reason or another. And then there is the issue of uncompensated labor. When a gig doesn’t pan out, you would have just wasted hours upon hours working for someone for free. This is more than surplus value, this is outright theft, theft of someone’s labor, time and resources (internet, wifi, office supplies, transportation expenses if they need to travel). This is the type of economy waiting for Millennials and those who have been laid off in the Great Recession and haven’t been able to find full time gainful employment since. Is it any wonder that mood disorders and addictions are on the rise?

Just yesterday a Texas representative by the name of Rodey Arrington (R-TX) justified cutting of SNAP benefits (food stamps) by using the Bible, saying that God said only those who work get to eat (‘If a man will not work he shall not eat.’ And he goes on to say ‘We heard that some of you are idle.’ ). People on SNAP don’t work so therefore they don’t deserve to eat. This piece of racist white trash thinks its fine to starve those who can’t get work, who can’t work, who are too ill to work by using the Bible as justification. He is the scum of this earth. It’s time to sharpen those guillotines.

Post Election Meditations

I haven’t written in a while. It’s been an unduly germ-ridden winter where bugs and viruses were passed around like candy. There’s also not much to say so quickly post-election. The ‘news’ and blogosphere is already over saturated with post-election analysis and post mortem. It was fun to sit back and watch the Clintonites go completely hysterical at the loss of their anointed queen; to see a group of people, so devoid of self reflection and their total inability to accept any form of constructive criticism. The concept of if you put forth a corrupt candidate, run a bad campaign, you have a good chance of losing to your even worse opponent is alien to Clintonites.

The election of Trump is a ‘mask coming off’ moment for me. It’s the moment where you get to see at once where people stood on not just on the political spectrum but where they stood on issues such as racism, immigration, militarization of police and overall bigotry of the other. The election of Obama shattered the notion of the ‘moderate Republican’, there were none, there were racist Republicans like Jeff Sessions (our new Attorney General) and there were the dog whistling Republicans. The loss of Hillary Clinton revealed liberals to be militant right-wing Democrats, where instead of self reflection they turned to state-run fascist institutions for answers. It was the Russians and the director of FBI who caused her downfall, not her bad campaign and total disregard for the left wing of the Democratic party. The CIA suddenly became a credible institution which establishment Democrats turned to for help. Because the CIA declared, after a short investigation, that Russia did indeed tamper with US elections (as if the CIA never lies), therefore they are to blame for Clinton’s loss, we are to accept it as fact. To question the veracity of the CIA report, is anti-Hillary, sexist, racist, anti-establishment (fill in all the words that Clintonites used to describe Sanders supporters) and we get all we deserve under the Trump regime.

Since Trump’s win, all Republicans who hold public office have jumped on board his administration, even those that gave the harshest criticism of him during the campaign, which proves my earlier point, there are no ‘moderate Republicans’. Anyone who ascribes to the right wing world view is elitist, racist, warmongering white supremacist. The Democrats on the other hand doubled down on what got their ass handed to them in the first place, capitalism, neoliberalism, interventionism and reinforcement of the mass surveillance state. The party that was suppose to (but never really have) serve the working people have finally given up that mask too and showed their true colors.

I am an armchair or observing socialist or leftist at best. My political inclinations always lean left, despite being surrounded by right wing people most of my life. I don’t believe that the United States will ever adopt socialism never mind communism, but with recent events unraveling, it’s not a matter of choice, left is the only place to go. The conservative right and moderate right have exhausted itself and has revealed itself to be as ugly as Donald Trump. No one should be shocked that Trump was able to swing it and win the election, the US is this ugly underneath. When Democrats and Republicans alike rips off their mask, what is revealed is Donald Trump; an  elitist, openly racist, bigoted, Islamaphobic ranting compulsive tweeter at 3 am. While Democrats and liberals may not be openly racist, sexist or misogynist but the ire and hatred towards the working poor of this country, a demographic they’ve long abandoned, for voting for Trump is just as ugly. The founder of Daily Kos wrote an article expressing glee at coal miners losing their health insurance because they voted for Trump is one example of liberals ripping off their masks and their distain for the working poor is exposed. Matthew Yglesias, another Clintonite and liberal defending the inadequate safety rules in Bangladeshi garment factories as “OK” because different places need to have different rules or in other words, lives of poor Bangladeshi garment workers working for American companies at slave wages don’t matter as much as a GM factory worker in Detroit because Bangladesh is a poor country and they are lucky to even have a job and the US is a rich country and therefore US workers deserve better. If there is a more disgusting defense of neoliberalism, capitalism, wage theft, labor theft and murder it is summed up here:

Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

On a more local level, the election of Trump has emboldened some closet racists to come out of the closet. People who I thought were ‘nice liberals’ have revealed themselves to be ugly and bigoted. The few police officers I know peripherally have rejoiced at the prospect of finally being able to do their jobs properly and not fearing suspension, termination or civil lawsuit every time they discharge their firearm. Corporate lawyers and those that work in finance finally admitted that the financial crash of 2008 wasn’t their fault but the fault of ‘irresponsible and stupid people’ who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford and feel personally aggrieved that they’ve had to take the blame and had to live modestly for fear of being scorned for their wealth while everyone else was struggling.

The conspiracy of  normalizing elitism, bigotry and racism was fomented by both liberals and conservatives. While the conservatives banged on about how black and brown people were taking advantage of government welfare; hence the relentless argument for small government (note: the largest group of welfare recipients are white people) and how the Mexicans were stealing our jobs, the liberals sat there and promoted neoliberalism even though it was causing massive poverty and killing people across the world. They reinforced the idea that rich people got their money and deserved every penny of it because they worked hard, which is indirectly saying those who are poor don’t work hard enough. There is nothing more violent than to be poor, to stay poor, to raise children in poverty. When you are poor you are invisible, no one cares what you think and you have to beg for scraps. When you are poor, member of a minority, undocumented, your existence becomes a danger as the recent ICE raids at school gates have shown. Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants isn’t about undocumented people, it’s about ethnic cleansing of the “bad hombres” he doesn’t like. Illegal immigrants are not only confined to Latinos, there are undocumented people of every race, including Europeans who have overstayed their visa which would categorize them under undocumented; but they are not the target of ICE raids, only brown people are. While the courts were successful in shutting down the Muslim Ban, it isn’t as successful with deportation cases are they are usually heard individually.

The thing more ugly than Trump is the faux outrage of liberals, deeming Trump’s actions ‘un-American’, calling him corrupt and a stooge of Russia. Where was the outrage at Hillary Clinton’s lies? Where was the outrage when the DNC denied Bernie Sanders a fair chance to win the nomination? And before this election, where was the liberal outrage when Obama deported almost 2 million undocumented persons or dropped 27,000 bombs in Muslim majority countries in Middle East and Africa, when Obama bailed out the banks and let American middle and working class suffer? Obama blamed Republican obstruction, but Trump was waving that executive order pen like a magic wand to get what he wants, did Obama forget how to compose an executive order and sign his name on it? What about when Obama expanded the mass surveillance state in the name of national security and terrorism threats and his relentless persecution of whistle blowers who challenged the big brother state? Now with the recent State of the Union address by Trump, fawning liberals and conservatives on CNN have declared Trump to be ‘presidential’ for the first time, all because he praised the heroism of a fallen Navy Seal during a botched raid in Yemen which killed scores of civilians that included women and children and the real ‘terrorist target’ they were after wasn’t there and the raid yielded no significant intelligence and a few days before Trump blamed the generals for its failure. A few words of platitude in front of the Navy Seal’s tearful widow makes him suddenly presidential? Perhaps the most nauseating is the normalization of the blood drenched war criminal George W. Bush. Michelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres have both been photographed hugging him in the most affectionate manner; as if he were nothing more than a loving grandpa enjoying his retirement. Iraq is still reeling from the illegal invasion initiated by George W. Bush. Presently, Iraq’s PMU forces (People’s Mobilization Unit) are in a ferocious and courageous battle to retake the Western part of Mosul from ISIS terrorists.

The two-party system has collapsed. There’s no where to go but left or self-destruct. The jig is up, the poor and downtrodden are no longer convinced that their poverty and their plight is a result of their laziness or lack of ambition, it’s the result of capitalism and neoliberalism. The ruling elites put them there and the Democrats failed to help them.

Those that rolled the dice and voted for Trump, either to piss off the establishment, their parents or to give their middle finger to liberals, hoping against hope that Trump might not be as atrocious as he appears, that he might actually care about working class whites (Trump made it clear that he advocates for white America), they’ve been scammed too. Trumped increased the military budget by $54 billion, that huge infrastructure project he talked about to put Americans back to work hasn’t materialized. He spent far more energy fighting the courts for his illegal executive order than drafting the infrastructure bill. While he can win an election with bombast and braggadocio, he’s unable to govern because has no loyalty from the executive branch of government who are leaking embarrassing details of his administration left and right. He’s begun an ‘investigation’ on the leaks, but good luck, the federal government is a behemoth and they are all united in their dislike of him.

The best thing for the United States is for the rot in government to be exposed, let the state collapse, let the unjust fascist institutions collapse, so that the left, the People, the working people, can pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

In this last election, Hillary Clinton supporters went out of its way to convince voters that rural poor white America doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s their own fault. They failed to capitalize on their ‘white privilege’ and make something of themselves. Instead they choose to regress to their sexist and racist past and voted for Donald Trump instead. And if the consequence of voting for Trump results in them losing their medical subsidies, food stamp subsidies, or whatever little welfare the government gives them, it’s their fault too. They deserve to die, because they chose the arrogant ferret who told them what they wanted to hear over the arrogant neoliberal warmonger who looks down on them.

Winter’s Bone was released five years before Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s study, Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, which talks about the exact demographic Winter’s Bone depicts.

It is set in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains (home state of President Bill Clinton), a rural, poor, decaying farming community where the main economy isn’t farming but meth cooking. They are the hill-billy version of Walter White from Breaking Bad. It stars a pre-Hunger Games fame Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly, a seventeen year old high school student who lives with her mother and younger brother and sister. Her mother is mentally ill and has been prescribed heavy doses of medications which don’t work. She is a zombie, rarely speaks and is incapable of fulfilling her parenting duties. Ree has become her caretaker, and the caretaker of her younger siblings. They are destitute, they’d be going hungry if their neighbor Sonya didn’t share her meat and vegetables with them. The small circle of kin and neighbors are aware of Ree’s plight and most try to help out in small ways by slipping her an odd $20 bill here and there. The only thing the Dolly family has of any value is their house and woods attached to it.

Ree Dolly gets a visit from the sheriff one morning asking if she’s seen her father Jessup Dolly recently. She says she hadn’t seen him in years. He is a well known meth cooker in the area and has been arrested and jailed multiple times. The sheriff proceeded to inform her that for his last arrest, he made bail by using their house as collateral and if he doesn’t show up for his court hearing in a few days, the bail bonds man will come and seize their home and they’ll will be homeless.

Ree begins a frantic search for her father, calling on all the people who might have seen him recently, starting with her father’s brother Uncle Teardrop. She was met with hostility from Teardrop Dolly and he grabbed her by the neck and told her to drop the whole thing and don’t go looking for her dad. She ignored that and then went on to all the other kin (it is implied in that small Ozark mountain community are all related to each other somehow). She even tracks down her dad’s former mistress, the mistress said she saw her dad a few weeks ago but he was with some shady people she’s never seen before and that was the last she heard of him. Every other person (other meth cookers she knows her dad associated with) all slammed the door in her face saying they can’t help, even when she is in this desperate situation. And she was warned repeatedly by very dangerous and powerful local people to ‘drop it’. Her uncle Teardrop finally told her that in his last arrest, Jessup Dolly was facing 10 years prison and he couldn’t face that, so he became a police informant, a snitch. And Teardrop was just trying to distance himself from his brother so that he doesn’t get killed. When Ree learned that her father became a police snitch she is almost certain he had been killed. And if she can provide proof to the police and the bail bond company that her father was dead and therefore cannot show up to court, she’d keep their house.

Despite repeated warnings to not go near the town’s main drug lord, Thump Milton to inquire about her father’s whereabouts, she didn’t heed that warning. Since he won’t open his door to her, she went and sought him out at a public place, at the cattle auction market to get his attention. This action forced the women (as per hilly-billy honor code, you don’t snitch and men don’t harm women) associated with Thump Milton to beat up Ree Dolly. A bunch of middle aged women dragged a 17 year old by her hair and beat her to a pulp. Then as they stood around to discuss what should happen to this wayward teen who can’t follow simple instructions (and the option of killing her was discussed). Ree, bloodied, swollen and bruised said, “you can help me, have you thought of that”? At this moment her uncle Teardrop showed up and ‘saved’ her by saying his niece will be his responsibility and she won’t talk.

The most heartbreaking scenes in the movie is not when she gets beaten to a pulp, or when her uncle gets violent with her, or when various members of the community instead of trying to help her stay in her home offer to take in one of her siblings and splitting up the family; or even the middle age men leering lecherously at her hoping to take advantage of her plight. The most heartbreaking scenes are when she begs her mother to help her to decide whether they should sell the valuable woods behind their property before the bail bond company take everything or should they try to fight the bail bond company? She tells her medicated catatonic mother “please help me, just this one time, please”. She is a child begging her mother to be a parent. The second heartbreaking scene is when the same women that beat Ree to a pulp decide to help and bring her to the body of her father. He is thrown in a shallow watery grave in the middle nowhere, in the middle of winter. The women brought a chainsaw with them with the purpose of cutting off the hands of Jessup Dolly to give to the police to run fingerprints, proving that he’s dead. They told Ree to do it, she couldn’t, so she held her father’s corpse so they can cut off his hands. After this gruesome task was done, Ree shed a tear. It was tears of loss of her father, who was a criminal and abandoned them but her father nonetheless (the audience was not informed what kind of father he was before he disappeared), the final reckoning that she is now truly alone, a young girl with her sick mother and two younger siblings, she has no more male protection. We are reminded in these two scenes that Ree is just a child herself. She desperately needs her parents but they are missing in action, and for whatever reasons are unable to step up to their responsibilities. The burden on her young shoulders is too much for a 17 year old to bear. She got their house back and even got back some much needed cash because an anonymous person used cash to put up a portion of her dad’s bond as the deed to their home was insufficient. So, for the time being, they will not be made homeless, and with their criminal father out of the way, life could go on. But the stark reality is, unless she puts her mother in an institution and moves out of the Ozarks with her younger siblings, in twenty years time, she will turn into the hardened middle aged women who beat her up. Her little brother could become a criminal like their father, her younger sister could be pregnant before she is out of her teens.

She, like them, will realize there are no real opportunities besides back breaking farm work and cooking meth. Eventually, out of survival, she will somehow get involved with meth cooking, even if she doesn’t become addicted herself. In a scene with her uncle Teardrop, he takes out a bag of white powdery substance and puts it up nose right in front of his young niece (drug use is a way of life, there’s no need to conceal it from young children), he asks her ‘have you developed a taste for this yet’? She said ‘no, not yet.’ He gave her a knowing look saying you will one day. It’s inevitable if you choose to stay in the Ozarks. The contrast of Jennifer Lawrence’s face with that of her co-stars couldn’t have been more different. Lawrence still had the cherubic youthful looks of a teenager, even if an overburdened one, there is still hope, sincerity and kindness in her eyes and heart. But one day, the deep lines of a life of hardship, bitterness, of being left behind by everyone else around them will show on her face, like all the others.

This small Ozark mountain community is not unique. There are hollowed out communities like this in America everywhere, known as sacrifice zones. These are the people that liberals and neoliberals wrote off en mass as a surplus of useless people, the sooner they disappear the better it is for everyone. These are white working folks, they had their chance to make it, but they blew it, so now they need to go away. They are unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary. This little movie staring the future A-list superstar Jennifer Lawrence drew almost no attention from the public, though she was nominated for an Oscar for the role and this movie paved her way to her Hunger Games stardom (another movie about a teenager sacrificing herself for her younger sibling).

The story, the script, the excellent cast of characters in this small, dreary film about rural poverty and crime in the Ozark Mountains is more contemporary of the times than any big budget movie from Hollywood can offer.

They will come for us.

I am no political theorist nor political scientist. I can’t definitively say if we are in a real, by the text book definition of a fascist regime. For that, I’d refer you to to Robert Paxton’s ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’ for better clarification. But by taking recent events at face value, it sure feels like it. The over-militarized police and border control officers have become even more bold and militant, answering only to Donald J. Trump. Some have ignored court orders, denied people illegally detained at customs their right to see their attorney and refused elected officials to see the people detained. I wish I could say I am surprised.

Donald Trump is a piece of shit. Most people I know believe the same, but that’s not the tragedy here. The real tragedy is the only other alternative to Donald Trump is the corrupt and warmongering Hillary Clinton. It’s a race to the bottom. When voters are presented with two bad choices of which level of hell you want to descend to, it’s not a choice.

Many people who agree that Donald Trump is a piece of shit also just want to keep their heads down for the next four or eight years until it blows over and hope that we still have have some semblance of our lives and sanity afterwards. Many people feel powerless against the behemoth that is Trump and his criminal cronies at the top. But instead of fighting back and resisting, their plan is to stay clear of the warpath and hopefully escape unscathed when all of ‘this’ is over.

I was one of those people sleepwalking through life. I had the privilege of doing so. Through the Clinton, Bush, Obama years, I could effectively keep my head down and pretend none of it was happening to me personally. I still have this privilege today, one of pretending nothing will happen to me or those immediate to me, if I so choose. But I can’t. Donald Trump is trying to ethnically cleanse this country of minorities. He’s starting with Mexicans and Muslims (even though Muslims aren’t a race or an ethnic group but is anyone who adheres to the religion of Islam, he doesn’t care), he’s going after Native Americans by polluting their land and water source. Trump is getting by the skin of his teeth with Jews only because he’s using his hapless son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump (a converted Jew) as a firewall against charges of anti-semitism and he promised Benjamin Netanyahu to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so at least on the surface, despite hiring Steve Bannon, a known white nationalist and anti-semite as his chief strategist, Trump is not labeled as an anti-semite yet.

The immigrant group he hasn’t yet gone after are the Asians. And being Asian and involved with Asian immigrants myself, many are taking the dodge the bullet path, and it’s unacceptable. Because Trump hasn’t named and shamed an Asian group yet, they think they are ‘safe’ from his wrath and anti-immigrant policies. Trump has made some remarks about China and how they cheat on trade and currency manipulation, but as far as targeting Chinese or Asian immigrants in America, he hasn’t said anything about them yet. Indonesia being the largest Muslim country in the world, who also have a significant amount of extremist activities was left off of his travel ban. Trump is an opportunist, the seven countries on the list of persons banned from entry are economic non-entities in terms of trade with the US, he can afford to incite their ire and wrath. But Asia is quickly becoming the economic center of the world, it would be stupid to incite their wrath.

One quick study of history one will see that fascists spare no one. They are bloodthirsty hunters who show no mercy. Trump’s white nationalist agenda is clear. Trump is preparing to ethnically cleanse this country of non-white people. And if he can’t get rid of them, he’ll deprive them of resources and shift it to white people. This is his ‘Make America Great Again’ promise. It’s make white America great again. The factory jobs he claims he’ll bring back, it’s for white people. Plum government posts and jobs, those are for white people, especially positions which requires them to enforce his illegal executive orders. The few benefits which he won’t slash, those are saved for white people. Everyone else can either accept the new world order or go back to where they came from. This is unacceptable. We will not be silent.

The minorities he hasn’t targeted yet, he will come for us. When he is done kicking out the Muslims and Mexicans and putting the fear of the state police in their hearts, he’ll come for the rest of us. My family is Asian. I am a child of a first generation immigrant and my children are third generation immigrants. We are seeing American born citizens being detained at airports with immigration officers questioning their loyalty to the United States and how they feel about Donald Trump all on the account that they are not white and have travelled to a Muslim country. Today it’s Muslim countries, tomorrow it could be countries who Trump perceives to be ‘cheating’ economically or manipulating their currencies.

I can no longer ‘mind my own business’, go about my daily life uninhibited by what’s going on. And for the minorities currently in the ‘privileged’ groups, those who still can board airplanes and deplane without hassle and harassment; those days may be numbered. We have an obligation to help and stand up for those who have no voice or are too scared to speak. Every small act of solidarity matters. Every small act of resistance counts towards the larger resistance. We can’t depend on any political party, least of all the Democratic Party to help those being targeted by Trump’s fascist policies. We only have each other.

Adolf Eichmann: The Banality of Evil

“The Banality of Evil” is as important as it is today than it was in 1960 or in 1940. Scores of ‘well meaning people’, people who normally wouldn’t hurt a fly are still executing and enforcing illegal, inhumane, unenforceable criminal orders handed down by the president of the United States. The words ‘by federal mandate’ scares everyone into submission. Some agencies such as state and federal police are created for the express purpose of executing unjust orders, but then you have mayors and state authorities following their federal counterparts blindly, for fear of losing their positions or getting into trouble themselves. Now is a time to take a stand against state sanctioned violence and criminality. If those in power, even if they are just an insignificant immigration officer or airport security officer, don’t exercise that power based on their conscience, based on what’s right or wrong, then what they good for? They are no better than Adolf Eichmann, the man charged with the logistics of executing The Final Solution, the man who swore up and down at his trial what he did was a horrible thing, that he “sinned against God” but because all of it was legal, he, therefore, cannot be charged with a crime carried out under the laws and mandates of a legitimate government (The Third Reich). It was bullshit to those who heard it then in that Jerusalem courtroom in 1960, and it’s bullshit now. Huge crowds of people have gathered at our nation’s biggest airports, showing outrage at our government and support to those detained. Lawyers are offering their time and expertise to prepare unlawful habeas corpus briefs, these are people without a badge or assigned power, what are those in power prepared to do?

 

Hannah Arendt volunteered to report on Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1960 for The New Yorker magazine, she wrote a series of articles for them, later compiled in a book called Eichma…

Source: Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

Homelessness, Death and the American Nightmare

neoliberalism
Photo Credit: Kiran Opal @kiranopal

I wrote about a relative visiting last summer who had addiction and mental health issues. We found out this morning the sad news that he has died. He was stabbed on the night of January 21, 2017 in Honolulu Hawaii, near a homeless tent city. The circumstances of his death are gruesome and tragic. We are shocked and saddened by his sudden and rather unexpected death. Though he has been homeless for a while, Honolulu is a safer place to be homeless than say Los Angeles. In fact, Hawaii is called a homeless person’s paradise, if there’s anything more sickening than that. There is mild weather all year round so they won’t freeze to death in the winter or overheat in the summer . There are many shelters and places to go for meals provided for by the state government or local charities, and they even have places to shower and clean up. Hawaii has the highest homeless persons per capita in the United States. Being homeless in Hawaii, sadly, especially post 2008 recession has become just another fact of life. Homeless encampments and ‘tent cities’ crop up in various abandoned industrial buildings in downtown Honolulu and other public parks. They aren’t subject to police harassment as long as they stay out of tourist areas such as Waikiki Beach and life goes on in parallel universes between the rich tourists who fly in for the weekend from Japan or the Philippines and go shopping and then fly home, the housed and the homeless.

This relative is my husband’s son from a previous marriage. He is my two children’s older half brother. Though his one and only visit in our home was a bit fraught due to his mental health issues, I am forever grateful my children got to meet him. My daughter being older at 4 years old has fond memories of her ‘big brother’. For all of his troubles, mental health issues (he’s a possible schizophrenic), drug addiction and homelessness, he was gentle and kind to his younger siblings. He was always a gentle, kind and sentimental person. He expresses deep love and affection for all of his family and friends. ‘Sweet’ would be an accurate description of his nature. His death, in such a violent and gruesome fashion is devastating for his parents, his siblings, cousins, extended family and friends. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He fell down the rabbit hole and there was no safety net to catch him.

He grew up in a solidly middle class family, he got good grades but somewhere in high school, like many adolescents he began experimenting with drugs and while he had periods of sobriety, full time sobriety eluded him.  It was a roller coaster of drug abuse and periods of sobriety where he had a job, a place to live and functioned normally. In the last couple of years, he began having hallucinations and violent outbursts as a result of those hallucinations. They mimicked symptoms of schizophrenia but it’s unclear if he’s really schizophrenic or the result of his many years of drug taking since the state of Hawaii pours its budget into beautifying tourist areas and not taking care of its people. Like many homeless people, getting in trouble with law enforcement comes hand in hand with being rootless and rudderless. He was under probation when he died. His probation officer was a kind lady who tried to help him, but how does law enforcement expect a homeless person without a car to get to classes, appointments and court hearings on time or at all. Every time he misses a hearing or appointment, it goes against his criminal record. He was in a cycle of getting trouble with the law and being homeless. And in this great nation of ours, having a criminal record basically renders you unemployable for life. He came from a middle class family, became a proletariat and died as a lumpenproletariat.

Over the holidays, when his family and friends in Hawaii couldn’t find him anywhere (he’s normally quite easy find and they bring him food and other necessities and he also goes to a relative’s house to get some of his other belongings and takes showers), I got a bad feeling. In recent months, he’s gone longer and longer before being seen and when he was spotted, he was seen talking to himself or inanimate objects. Even as recent as May of 2016, he had a full time job and rented a room, but as his violent outbursts became more frequent, he lost his job, couldn’t pay his rent and became homeless again. Being an adult who isn’t sectioned by the state, his parents nor his family could do much to commit him to treatment, even if Hawaii didn’t have a waiting list for any type of treatment facility a mile long. He’d have to go voluntarily but the need is so dire in Hawaii, it could be months perhaps a year before he’s admitted anywhere.

Neoliberalism, just like caption suggests, he would score points for being Asian and neoliberals don’t want anything bad to happen to him on the account of being Asian, but him dying a violent and horrific death as a result of being homeless due to mental health issues, having a criminal record and not finishing his college degree so that he can remain in the class in which he was born, well, that’s just too bad. To conservatives he is a ‘loser’, to liberals, he needs more ‘education and training’, to neoliberals it’s just tough luck, social darwinism. Over Christmas dinner, while discussing our concern for not being able to find him, I said that it’s not an accident that our relative and dear friend is in the situation he is in with next to no help besides sleeping in the county jail. He was put there by the 1% and the policies they helped our government influence. The state of Hawaii is flooded with homeless people but its a tourists paradise. Homelessness is at crisis levels. Our friends who live in Hawaii have observed this alarming trend for over one year, yet with all of the empty buildings downtown, all of the vacant boarded up houses, there is no government policy or action to quickly refurbish these places and give the homeless people a permanent bed to sleep on every night and three hot meals a day. How are the homeless supposed to ‘get back on their feet’ if they don’t even have a place to live and regular meals? If they’ve no permanent address or phone number how are they supposed to fill out job applications (assuming there are jobs of course, because according to Republicans and Democrats alike, there are jobs everywhere, you just have to look hard enough)?

And before anyone asks the million dollar question, ‘where are his parents and family in all of this?’ His father and siblings has offered all the help they can, I personally have spent hours on the phone finding a spot for him in rehab facilities and hospitals and trying to get him any type of assistance he can qualify for, people have taken turns going to Honolulu to see that he’s taken care of. He is unable to leave the state of Hawaii until he finishes his probation requirements, but that’s near impossible when you are living on the streets, mentally ill and broke. At the end of the day, he is a grown man, he has a lot of pride, and a lot of shame and embarrassment for his situation, especially when he sees his siblings graduate from college, moving on with their lives yet he’s stuck in a cycle of joblessness, poverty and homelessness, he doesn’t always want our help. Like many people in crisis, when asked how they are doing, the stock answer is “I am fine”.

We have no idea what happened which led him to being stabbed to death, he always had street smarts, he was the kid who could talk his way out of trouble, squirm his way out of tough spots, he doesn’t go looking for fights nor does he get in stupid confrontations over nothing. His father told him again and again, someone comes at you with a knife, run the opposite direction.

I have no answers on what to do, I only have anger and rage. Rest in Peace.

City of God (2002) – The Violence of Poverty

It was suggested that I watch City of God after watching Straight Outta Compton, City of God is Straight Outta Compton turbo charged. Straight Outta Compton deals with First World poverty and City of God deals with Third World poverty. While all poverty is ugly and violent, in the Third World there’s an extra layer of hopelessness and despair, a poverty so violent and oppressive that its turned inward and that aggression explodes into outward physical violence.

City of God is a real place, a favela in the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro. In 1960 the government decided to move all of the slum dwellers inside the city to a new housing project away from the city in an effort to ‘clean up’ the city. The residents were provided with housing and basic utilities (water electricity) and education but attendance is not enforced. Other than that they were cut off from government and social agencies, the economy and left to fend for themselves. All the government cared about was that ‘those people’ were out of sight from the Rio city center. Brazil is a racially and ethnically diverse place, but it’s worthy to note that the majority of the residents in the City of God are Afro-Brazilians (black). Brazil is held up as an example of a country where there exists a harmonious relationship between black people and white people (and every shade in between), but Brazil is also one of the countries where the gap between rich and poor is the largest and two-thirds of the poor are Afro-descent. So, yes the black Brazilian may not be randomly stopped and frisked by cops or treated with suspicion on the account of being black, but the black kid goes home to a favela at night and the white kid return to a nice house in the suburbs.

Favela dwellers are usually poor, black, under educated, unemployed and unemployable with no access to the formal economy. Any money or income they derive comes from robbery, stealing or drug dealing. A favela dweller’s chance of getting a proper job with a salary and benefits in the city center is near nil. Those jobs are reserved for the affluent and middle classes, with university degrees. The favela dwellers are the uneccessariat of Brazil. They are surplus army of workers spat out by capitalism. In Brazil’s version of turbo capitalism, they’ve no need for hoodlums. And for a hoodlum to transform into a worker, it’s a near impossible feat. The City of God will always draw you back into the life of an outlaw. One of the tagline of the movie is:

“If you run, the beast catches; if you stay, the beast eats”. 

In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

City of God is a violent film. It’s disturbingly violent, at times it’s overkill. It’s based on a semi autobiographical novel of the same name by Paulo Lins. It is lauded as one of the greatest movies about the world’s poor and what poverty does to people, but one must be able to look past the violence, withhold judgement for a minute  in order to process the message of the movie. The message is poverty is violence. Poverty causes not only misery, death, stress, anxiety but also violence. The grind of having to fend and scavenge for every meal, every life’s necessity will turn the most docile and gentle person into a beast. It is a life of extreme indignity which should not be borne by any human being. To know that your community, your country expects nothing of you but to breed more people like yourself and one day shooting each other to death will turn anyone into beasts. There is no expectation of you ever succeeding in your life besides a life of organized or petty crime.

The narrator of the movie is young man called “Rocket”, he is a photographer for a local newspaper. By luck he has avoided the pitfalls and didn’t become a hoodlum. He was able to finish his primary and secondary education and enter the formal workforce, even as an unpaid photographer. He makes friends and acquaintances who do not live in the favela and has had a taste at normal life. The movie begins as Rocket inadvertently walks into a gang war and he had his new camera on him (given by the newspaper editor) and as he’s photo-documenting the shoot out, he takes us back 20 years to tell us the story of the main characters. He grew up surrounded by crime, petty and organized. The organized crime in the favelas is normally drug dealing; petty crimes include holding up stores, motels, restaurants, gas delivery trucks, anything which involves cash transactions. This is their only economy, the only way for them to have access to any cash, which without, one can’t live.

The gang leader of City of God is a nasty fellow called Little Z, he is a childhood acquaintance of Rocket. Little Z committed his first mass murder before he hit puberty and did so with glee, to show up the older boys who were making fun of him. He took all the money stolen from that mass murder and ‘disappeared’ with his friend Benny. Many thought they died due to their young age but they didn’t, they kept their heads down until they came of age and Little Z came back into the favela with Benny and one by one bumped off his ‘business’ rivals and became the drug kingpin of the City of God. The streets of the favela are so violent that the police enter with caution, and there seems to be an endless stream of weapons. Children as young as 8 or 10 years old have a gun. This is where I find the narrative of the film goes overboard. There is a gang of young boys called The Runts who routinely rob and hit business establishments under Little Z’s control. Wrongly believing that their status as children will protect them from the wrath of Little Z, they couldn’t be more wrong, Little Z to teach those rascals a lesson (to not fuck with Little Z’s interests) forced one child to shoot another or else he’ll die to prove his loyalty to Little Z and to make sure they never try something so stupid again.

This is where I may get accused of having First World middle class privilege. It is my belief that as humans we have some control over our decisions, no matter how small or insignificant. The residents of favelas are controlled by a monster bigger than they. They didn’t choose a life of poverty, indignity and oppression, and should they act out accordingly to redress that, I find those actions justified and mandatory. But asking a child to shoot another child to teach them a lesson is a choice Little Z made out of the monstrosity of his soul. He’s a psychopath. On top of making one kid shoot another, he shot another young child in the foot all for fun, to teach The Runts a lesson. I don’t even expect him to have empathy and think “I was that Runt once”, that’d be asking too much, but he knows that his actions were beyond the pale. Just like when he raped Knockout Ned’s girlfriend because she spurned his advances saying she has a man already, Little Z, feeling insulted, raped her in front of Knockout Ned, and then proceeds to kill Ned’s brother and father and an uncle. This action forces Knockout Ned, who considers himself a ‘worker’ and not a hoodlum to retaliate and get revenge, he joins forces with Carrot, the only white gang leader in the favela and plans to take out Little Z, which results in a massive gang war that Rocket walked in on and documented.

Throughout the film, I kept wondering where on earth did they get their endless supply of weapons. After all, no one goes to the favela unless they live there or they go there to score drugs. We find out it’s none other than the fine policia of Rio De Janeiro. In a deal to get the cops to leave the favela alone an arms deal was struck. Rocket photographed Little Z handing cash over to the police for purchase of weapons. The photograph alone can bring down the local police department, not that it would be a huge shock, Brazil is known for its corruption. The newspaper Rocket interns for, their journalists have never been able to get inside of City of God, and upon finding out Rocket was born and raised there and still lives there, they saw it as an opportunity to get pictures of the gang leaders and gang activity inside the favela. It was a career advancement opportunity for Rocket, even for a lowly paid part time internship, his transformation to ‘worker’ would be complete. He would be legitimate, he’d be part of the formal economy, a contributing member of society – something that capitalism values above all else until they decide they don’t want you anymore.

At the last moment, upon deciding which photos to use for the newspaper front page, instead of choosing the photo of the cops exchanging money with Little Z, which is the real story, he chose to use a picture of Little Z’s dead body in an alleyway somewhere as front page news photo. Signifying the end of an era and beginning of another. Rocket chose his career over exposing the truth. He’s now a participant in the system that oppressed him and his family and friends.

This is a difficult movie to watch, the running time is over two hours, and the directors force you to confront the reality of Third World Poverty, the ugliness, the violence. Usually films about the poor, the director puts a human and loving face on the poor. They are poor but they are kind, they look out for each other, they take care of each other, they are kind to each other; the directors don’t do that here. The people of the favela are nasty and horrid, just like how they grew up. There is very little kindness shown anywhere in the movie. My first gut reaction when half way through the movie is these people wake up, eat, fuck, get high, go commit a crime and do it all over again, everyday. The young men and women try to seek meaningful romantic relationships with each other, but they are obstructed by the forces in City of God. The women want the men to become workers and leave the favela, but where would they go where they can get all their basic necessities met without resorting to violence. These men are unemployable, discarded and ejected from the formal economy. When Benny met a nice girl Angelica not from the favela and as they prepare to leave the favela for good and live a rural farm life, at the farewell party, Blackie’s (another gang leader) gun goes off by accident and kills Benny. But even before a bullet stopped Benny, Little Z tried to stop Benny from leaving, Little Z has no other friend besides Benny, but Benny’s mind was made up. Benny was Little Z’s gatekeeper, when Little Z got too out of hand, Benny would step in and pacify and diffuse the situation, now he was leaving. But sadly, that small desire of living on a farm somewhere with a girl you love was out of reach.

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Fuck the police coming straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
Fuck that shit, cause I ain’t the one
For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
To be beating on, and thrown in jail
We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
Fucking with me cause I’m a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searching my car, looking for the product
Thinking every nigga is selling narcotics
You’d rather see, me in the pen
Than me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benz-o

Fuck tha Police by NWA 

I avoided watching this film because it is too close to home. I grew up about less than one hour away from Compton California but it might as well be another planet. The children of the middle class suburbs of California know of a place called Compton but it’s to be avoided at all costs. Nice middle class children have no business going to Compton. Anyone who has ‘business’ or acquaintances in Compton is seen as suspect. You only go to Compton for nefarious reasons, you are asking to be mugged, carjacked, shot or killed.

The stereotype of Compton as a gang infested place where it’s an open battle field between the various gangs, when in truth the biggest gang out is the Los Angeles Police Department. As middle class and rich kids were getting high and getting up to no good in the suburbs and behind mansion gates, the LAPD chose to go after poor black families in Compton. Compton is an urban wasteland. Jobs are few, high school drop out rates are high, teenage pregnancy rates are high and premature death rate is also high. A great many people in Compton depend on some sort of public assistance to get by and high school students are often bussed to better school districts to attend high school. O’Shea Jackson (aka Ice Cube) , member of NWA was one of those students. It was a place where people went to rot or be killed, either by gangs or police. There are no hopes and dreams for the residents of Compton, except to get out of Compton and move on to greener pastures. It is no different with NWA.

NWA (Niggaz with Attitude) were born of this environment. They were all boys who were forced to grow up too fast and saw too much in their young lives. In order to survive they adopted the gang culture, the rules of their society. It’s not always pleasant or pretty but it was kill or be killed, there’s no middle ground. While rival gangs battle it out on the streets, they knew who their real enemy is, who the real gangster is. And that’s the brutal fascist force known as the LAPD. Their environment was not such if you stayed out of trouble cops will leave you alone, no, the cops went out of their way to look for trouble when there was none. But the boys of NWA are lucky, they lived to tell the tale. Michael Brown of Ferguson Missouri wasn’t so lucky, neither was Laquan McDonald of Chicago. The cops in Los Angeles during the late 80s weren’t so brazen to open fire and kill people in broad daylight, yet. They have no problem roughing them up, pushing them to the ground, smacking them around, maybe break a few bones; but to put bullets in the back of someone’s head as they are running away? Not yet. As a result, the members of NWA: O’Shea Jackson (Ice Cube) Andre Young (Dr. Dre), Eazy-E (Eric Wright), DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby), MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson) and Arabian Prince (Kim Renard Razel) lived to tell the tale and released their controversial and brilliant album Straight Outta Compton. We all recognize the jam of Fuck tha Police when we hear it, but few really took those words seriously.

Straight Outta Compton doesn’t glorify gang life or made it seem like one easy cake ride or even seen as anything cool or to aspire to. It showed the gritty heartbreaking side of living in gang infested neighborhoods, where no one cares if you lived or died. But it fell short in driving home the radical message of the convergence of capitalism and the necessity of the police state. Ice Cube being the most radical member of the group, had no problem giving it straight, telling it like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat his words or actions. He was accused of anti-Semitism when he mentioned the ethnicity of their former manager in a response to a ‘diss song’, when asked if he was “anti-Jew” he said no, he’s just anti the one Jew Jerry Heller. When a record executive failed pay Ice Cube his royalties at the promised time, after releasing a successful album and after informing the executive that he’s just purchased a home and has a child on the way, and after trying to reason with the record executive and only to get blown off with corporate bullshit (“I am sorry, I love to help but my hands are tied”), Ice Cube comes back with a baseball bat and smashed all of the glass office furniture in the record executive’s office. Ice Cube saw him for what he was, just another thug in a fancy suit inside a fancy office suite, so he reacted like a thug from the streets of Compton not to be messed with. He got his check.

Dr. Dre showed his entrepreneurial side early. He saw the potential for rap music going mainstream before the other group members did. The others originally wanted to make music for the ‘hood. Dr. Dre in Eazy-E saw raw lyrical talent, who could write and produce great rhymes. The members of NWA were a gang of brothers, childhood friends from a rough neighborhood, who were going to tell people outside of Compton what it was like growing up in Compton. But like every monkey wrench in a movement, someone always comes in to divide and conquer. Talent agent Jerry Heller spotted Eazy-E’s talent right away and decided to be his manager only. Through that arrangement Heller could take a bigger piece the pie and he convinced Eazy-E to stall the other guys for as long as he can so they can keep the early profits of the album Straight Outta Compton to themselves longer. Immediately Ice Cube and Dr. Dre knew something wasn’t right, but being a businessman Dr. Dre didn’t want to rock the boat at the wrong time, in the middle of the rise, Ice Cube got into a few verbal confrontations with Heller about a management contract where he would see a piece of the royalties as he’s also wrote a lot of lyrics to their most popular songs including Fuck tha Police; but he was blown off with “it’s being worked on”. But he also bid his time, taking Dr. Dre’s advice.

Heller sand bagged until the other members of NWA were so desperate for a paycheck and that was when he presented each member with a paltry check along with a ‘contract’ of their future earnings. To get the check, all they had to do was ‘sign the contract’. Every one of them signed except for Ice Cube. Dr. Dre knew better than to sign but he had a young child at the time he needed to support and saw no other option. Ice Cube left the group after the promotional tour for Straight Outta Compton and signed with another label and became a successful rapper, actor and producer in his own right. Dr. Dre enlisted the help of the notorious and infamous Suge Knight to look over his contract and realized that he’d been screwed. Suge Knight used his muscle to get Dr. Dre out of that contract and he and Dr. Dre started Death Row Records. While Eazy-E may have looked like he got the best deal, we later find out that wasn’t the case either, his funds were mismanaged by Jerry Heller and he was signing checks and documents without reading them. Eazy-E for a while lost touch with his best friends, which is hard for the sensitive Eazy-E to bear and he later finds out Jerry Heller had been misusing his earnings too, he fired Jerry Heller before his death. NWA, for all their street smarts and raw artistic talent and even natural business acumen, had no knowledge about how contracts were enforced and executed. Never mind not having a law degree, most of them didn’t even graduate high school. When they wanted to consult their own lawyer before signing, Jerry Heller talked them out of it.

Jerry Heller is the sleazy capitalist, dividing and conquering the solidarity of the workers for his own benefit and gain. One of the most compelling scenes in the movie is when they were recording the Straight Outta Compton album in Torrance (a middle class neighborhood of Los Angeles) and while on a smoke break someone called the cops on them, saying there were suspicious gang member looking men loitering outside. A black sergeant showed with with 2 other white cops. The black cop, perhaps he is showing off to his white colleagues and decided to ride the boys of NWA even harder than the white cop. He demanded that they face down on ground and be cuffed and patted down and verbally abused the boys. It was none other than Jerry Heller who came to their rescue. A white man rescuing young black men from the jackboot of a fascist black cop. But that same white man is scheming against young men he’s trying to rescue at the same time. The workers face oppression from both ends, the capitalist and the police force which enforces the capitalist system.

The first half of the movie carried the message of how capitalism doesn’t foster creativity and growth, it kills it via divide and conquer. The climax of the movie is when NWA was warned by Detroit PD that if they perform the song Fuck tha Police, they’d all be arrested and jailed for inciting a riot. The police were more concerned about their reputation and not about keeping the peace at the concert venue. Of course no one in the audience was going to incite a riot over that song, the police was going to incite a riot and make it look like NWA did it. No self-respecting artists would adhere to those demands, so not only did NWA perform Fuck tha Police, they performed with extra passion. In that sequence we see  police departments for what it is, just another cog in the capitalism machine. Soldier men carrying out orders for the capitalists to protect their interests and property. The authority of the police only work if the general public accepts and respects the authority, otherwise they are just a bunch of assholes with a gun and badge and someone else with a gun can overpower them retaliate. Police departments do not exist to protect and serve the general public, just the rich against the poor.

The second half of the 2 hour and 30 minute movie went against what the first half was trying to portray. The second half of the movie depicts how Dr. Dre started his own successful label after leaving NWA with Suge Knight, but when things went really wrong with Death Row Records (due to illegal activities of Knight) he was smart enough to walk away with nothing. He let Suge Knight keep all the artists, their contracts, masters and future earnings. The movie didn’t say so, but Suge Knight is long known to be a LAPD informant, a snitch; going against him can bring on serious trouble for yourself. Dr. Dre decided it was better to start over than to get dumped in a ditch somewhere. Fast forward to 2017, Dr. Dre is a superstar producer and multi-millionaire, Ice Cube is a well respected actor, rapper and producer and a millionaire. Eazy-E tragically died of AIDS in 1995 but before he died he reconnected and made up with his old friends from the hood, after he fired Jerry Heller and reformed NWA.

One note about the actor who played Ice Cube in the movie. He bore an uncanny resemblance to the real Ice Cube, even the timbre of his voice, the way he spoke, down to the minute mannerisms; it was as if Ice Cube himself went back 25 years in time to play a younger version of himself. When the movie was over and the credits rolled, it turns out it was O’Shea Jackson Jr aka Ice Cube Jr who played the role of his father. Jackson Jr didn’t just mimic his father in the movie, he transformed into his father.

The members of NWA didn’t set out to be radicals or even controversial, they just wanted to tell their truth to the world. They warned us about the abuses of police in 1988, many didn’t take them seriously, dismissing them as a bunch of thugs and that’s why the police targeted them. Fast forward to 2015 when the movie was released, after the deaths of Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and countless others; “Fuck tha Police”.

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt: By Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco

If we need proof that America was never great to begin with, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco is that proof. This book doesn’t go as far back as the 1800s to the days of slavery, not even the 1960s during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, this book is a current account of the abuses of the US government against the citizens and people of this country.

Hedges and Sacco visit Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota, Camden New Jersey, Welch West Virginia, Immokalee Florida, Liberty Square New York (Occupy Wall Street). Their reporting on these places took place in the last few decades, some as recent as the last five years. The people who gave testimony to their suffering are still alive and still suffering from the abuses of the American corporate class sanctioned by the government.

Those of us who are still lucky enough to be in the top 25% of the upper-middle class often wonder how we can impart to our children how the other 75% live, without going into long winded lectures about the starving children in Africa which would then solicit eye rolls, they can read this book. It is very easy to read, there are many illustrations, it’s written in a novel-like narrative style without jargon, what’s more, after reading this book, I can bring my children to visit these places. They still exist. The suffering of these places still exist (except Occupy Wall Street protests), the people who are suffering still exist.

The places Hedges and Sacco chose represent pockets of forgotten America. Pine Ridge Reservation represents all the Indigenous Americans suffering, languishing and forgotten on ill maintained and underfunded reservations, where poverty, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction have blighted whole families and whole communities. Family social services on Pine Ridge Reservation are overwhelmed and underfunded with scores of families needing assistance with alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and domestic abuse caused by the genocidal policies of the US government. Camden New Jersey represents urban decay, the urban poor in America’s major cities. Those hidden in plain sight who are forgotten, ignored and deliberately overlooked in favor of more attractive demographics and locales. And when it suits local politicians, the urban poor are trotted out like show ponies during election time as a pawn or tool to get votes and after the election they are put back in their urban prison forgotten and neglected again. Immokalee Florida represents the rural farm migrant workers from Mexico and Central America, who are literally working in slave like conditions, with sub-minimum wage, long brutal hours in the hot sun, in unsafe conditions handling hazardous materials, so that the rest of us can purchase groceries at reasonable prices. If American farm workers were paid the minimum wage with 8 hour work days and overtime pay, these huge industrialized farms would go out of business or the price of food would be unaffordable to even more people and government would have to subsidize part of the cost of food. Welch West Virginia represents the white rural poor, coal mining communities, people referred to as hicks and rednecks with missing teeth and can barely string a proper sentence together, derided by the liberals and exploited by conservatives. Mining by blowing off the mountain tops with dynamite and heavy machinery to strip coal instead of using human labor to dig for coal has devastated the region. It is devastating not just in economic terms, but environmentally as well. The water from most of Southern West Virginia are undrinkable, their air is polluted with soot, dust and noxious chemicals produced from blowing off the mountain tops. Where there used to be over 140,000 coal mining jobs are now reduced to under 15,000. Residents who fight back against the environmental warfare unleashed upon them are forced to choose between further economic ruin or health and environmental ruin. It has divided the residents of these communities, which is just what the big coal companies want, divide and conquer so they can take everything while everyone is fighting each other, dying from lung disease, cancer or drug and alcohol addiction. Also, the Appalachian mountains are some of the most beautiful parts of this country. West Virginia was one of the most picturesque and lush states but now with coal companies blowing off the mountain tops to extract coal, arial views of West Virginia Appalachia show vast craters of dirt where there used to be mountains. Big coal companies have raped the land, left it exposed, filled it with toxic waste and chemicals and people dying in big numbers. These are what Hedges and Sacco call Sacrifice Zones, sacrificed at the alter of capitalism.

These four pockets of America consist of people the government, now almost entirely controlled by corporate interests have forgotten, left behind and wish would disappear so that they don’t have to figure out what to do with them. Indigenous Americans, just let them drink to death. The residents of Camden, make their conditions so miserable, they’ll just kill each other. The undocumented aliens and migrant workers, work them to death or make their living and working conditions so unbearable that they’ve no energy left to protest and returning to their home countries isn’t possible either because then they’d all starve. Former coal mining communities of West Virginia either put up with poisoned air and water and meet a slow and painful death from lung disease or cancer or they can drink, drug themselves to death; either way, they get out of the way and won’t complain about how their pristine mountains are being blown off, how their water and air are being poisoned and those still with houses and property left are now virtually worthless because of the polluted surroundings.

The ruling class used to at least try and placate and patronize the working class, the unnecessariats and throw them a few crumbs here and there, now they don’t even bother, they provide ways for them to die and disappear; the faster the better. The Republicans don’t care what happens to brown migrant workers, Indigenous Americans and the suffering of black people, and they prey on the the social conservatism of Appalachian coal miners to get their votes and then abandon them to the big coal corporations when the election is over. The liberal elite on the surface care about women and minorities if only to further their neoliberal agenda, but they’ve totally written off the working class white people as a lot of ignorant, racist, bigoted, toothless folk who were born white but didn’t capitalize on their privilege and instead sat in their parents basement and moaned about how immigrants stole their jobs. The Democratic party, the party they used to look to for some releif is now turning against them too, deriding their ignorance and backwardness, blaming them for their own misfortune.

The Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, 2011 in New York City. The protesters attempted to physically Occupy Wall Street as a protest to the economic havoc it wreaked on Americans and the world, the chickens have come home to roost at the scene of the crime:

The devastation on Pine Ridge, in Camden, in southern West Virginia, and in the Florida produce fields has worked its way upward. The corporate leviathan has migrated with the steady and ominous thud of destruction from the outer sacrifice zones to devour what remains. The vaunted American dream, the idea that life will get better, that progress is inevitable if we obey the rules and work hard, that material prosperity is assured, has been replaced by a hard and bitter truth. The American dream, we now know, is a lie. We will all be sacrificed. The virus of corporate abuse— the perverted belief that only corporate profit matters— has spread to outsource our jobs, cut the budgets of our schools, close our libraries, and plague our communities with foreclosures and unemployment. This virus has brought with it a security and surveillance state that seeks to keep us all on a reservation. No one is immune. The suffering of the other, of the Native American, the African American in the inner city, the unemployed coal miner, or the Hispanic produce picker is universal. They went first. We are next. The indifference we showed to the plight of the underclass, in Biblical terms our neighbor, haunts us. We failed them, and in doing so we failed ourselves. We were accomplices in our own demise. Revolt is all we have left. It is the only hope.

Hedges, Chris; Sacco, Joe (2014-04-08). Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Kindle Locations 3100-3109). Nation Books. Kindle Edition.

The history books in the school curriculum are complete lies. They teach our children that slavery was a thing of the past and the human rights abuses towards minorities ended during The Civil Rights Movement and that this country has learned from its mistakes and are at a new dawn. This is patently untrue. On top of migrant produce workers working in appalling conditions, millions of Americans are enslaved to wages, the meagre wages of most American wage workers do not earn enough to eat, live and enjoy life. The ruling class has indoctrinated the masses to believe that only the 1% and the upper middle class deserve leisure because they have the disposable income to do so. The rest of us need to work to death because to demand a government that provide its people with enough to eat, live and enjoy life is a mark of entitlement and laziness. The crimes perpetrated against Indigenous Americans are far from over, they are still ongoing as evidenced by the North Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock. The US government has broken almost every treaty made with Indigenous Americans and even after they were given sovereignty over their reservations, that didn’t stop big corporations from trying to loot the resources on their lands through legal loopholes. The mayor of Camden New Jersey has no control over how tax dollars allocated for Camden is spent, that is determined by the state of New Jersey, whose politics is dictated by corrupt individuals like George Norcross and Chris Christie who’s aim as governor was to divest from poorer New Jersey neighborhoods and then transfer the wealth to middle and upper class towns. The poorer neighborhoods tend to predominately be black or brown neighborhoods too. In the produce fields of Florida and California, scores of migrants and their families slave away in deplorable conditions picking our fruits and vegetables so that the legal residents of America can have access to cheaper groceries. In the coal fields of West Virginia, the coal companies, in collusion with corrupt and bribed local judges will not stop until every last ounce of coal is stripped from the mountains, and they won’t quit until every inch of land and water is contaminated with toxic waste. They don’t care what happens to the people living their nor the environment. 

The truth is, a country founded on land theft and genocide and made itself prosperous on the backs of slaves, could never be great, could never have been great. The country was perhaps founded on some good ideals but those rights didn’t extend to everybody. It’s especially even more erroneous to think that this country is on a path to greatness.  

Amy (2015)

2016 has been an awful year for many, the election of Donald Trump, rise of white nationalism, and just before the year is over, the singer George Michael and writer and actress Carrie Fisher has been taken from us.

I’ve lost track of the In Memoriam a long time ago. I am still stuck on Amy Winehouse. I am aware she died on July 23, 2011 at the age of 27, which in this digital age is aeons ago. Amy Winehouse belongs to the ’27 club’, which to me is just when your body gives up after one has abused it for so long, it’s not some cosmic fate or mystical number to me. It’s biological. A human body can only take so much abuse before it expires.

Unlike many sensationalist documentaries where the filmmaker focuses on the most scandalous and salacious bits of the subject’s life, Amy’s director, Asif Kapadia attempted to show the world the whole Amy, warts and all. Amy Winehouse is not a difficult subject to document, she’s neither reclusive nor shy. She’s a very open and candid person and doesn’t tend to sugarcoat events to make herself look better. And for someone who had such a short life and an even shorter time in the spotlight, she only became globally famous after the release of her album Back to Black in 2006, there was a lot of unreleased unseen footage which the director could draw from.

In an era where singers often lip synch, or use auto tune, Amy Winehouse was a revelation. She was brought up on Jazz music on the influence of her father Mitch Winehouse who was a huge fan of Jazz. Her voice is so crisp, so clear, so emotional. Amy Winehouse didn’t just sing Jazz music, she studied it and lived and breathed it. One of her band members said she had a PhD in Jazz music and often gave out ‘homework’ to her band members by requiring them to listen to Jazz albums and provided reading materials for them. Her first album Frank was a Jazz album she wrote herself and was named after her favorite singer Frank Sinatra.

Amy the movie shed light onto Amy Winehouse the full person, or to be more frank, how she came to be so fucked up, and it had nothing to do with fame. Not even close. Fame may have contributed to her problems, but they were not the cause. Amy came from what’s best described as an upbringing of benign neglect. Her parents were absent. They were loving, physically present but emotionally absent. The best way to describe her mother Janis Winehouse is a dingbat. She is a loving but vague woman, who has medical issues of her own (multiple sclerosis) and an unfaithful husband who was already gone before he packed his bags and moved in with his mistress. Amy poignantly said in one of her voice recordings “my dad was never there even when he was here”, when Amy and her brother were misbehaving at home and giving their mother a run around, her father never stepped in to discipline them, “didn’t even tell us to not be little shits”. Amy was also a strong willed child and her mother often caved to her daughters demands, regardless of how unreasonable or inappropriate it was. Janis Winehouse admits as much, she was totally helpless against the strong will of her daughter. She even suggested that her daughter’s frequent outbursts seemed like a form of Tourettes. When Amy told her mother that she was eating and throwing up her food as way of controlling her weight, instead of seeing the early dangerous signs of bulimia and taking her to a doctor, her mother thought it was a “phase” and that it would pass. When Amy’s father finally moved out of their family home, Amy began to show signs of depression and begun self-harming, her mother let a psychiatrist put Amy, then 12 years old on antidepressants (very dangerous for children under 18), and this is on top of her untreated bulimia. Amy had a warm and loving relationship with both of her parents, but she also knew they were not reliable parents whom she can turn to for help.

Janis and Mitch Winehouse failed to see what everyone else could see was wrong their daughter, and that is she (along with her brother) needed parental guidance, of any kind. Some force in their lives to say a firm ‘no’ when they were out of hand. All of those outrageous behaviors are just a test of boundaries to see how far they could push, and as we now know, it’s pretty far. There were no boundaries. When Amy became famous and her substance abuse issues spiraled out of control to where she was losing contracts and gigs, she had one chance to go to rehab, her managers asked Mitch Winehouse to step in as that is the only person that can make Amy do anything. But in that critical moment, where he could have stepped up and be a proper father to her, he failed her again, he said she didn’t need rehab. She was just upset at her breakup with her boyfriend and she’ll be fine with some rest. Many that knew her saw that to be a fatal mistake. It was the one and only chance where Amy was amenable to rehab without conditions. In her song Rehab, she writes:

They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no
Yes, I been black
But when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
And if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go
Her life went from out of control to completely off the rails when she met her future husband Blake Civil. They were a tumultuous match, it was a ‘relationship’ (if one can call it that) marred by fights, infidelity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and violence. It was Blake Civil who introduced her to hard drugs, prior to meeting him she mostly drank and smoked weed. She became a full blown addict, slurring her words and wobbling down the streets of London with curious looking white substances at her nostrils, even losing a tooth at one point. She went from a girl with a quirky unique sense of style; heavy winged black eyeliner with that huge beehive wig and a big smile to a disheveled unkempt mess. Her father tried to get her into rehab then, to no avail. She first demanded to be in same rehab as her husband, Blake Civil, and then they both left rehab together within days.
Out of that tumultuous relationship with Blake Civil came one of the best albums ever made in recent times, Back to Black. It’s a 10 song track of a toxic relationship gone horribly wrong. She manages to convince you that getting involved with a bad boy is a really bad idea and not many people have successfully done that. The album is a documentary in song on a relationship which was wrong to begin with (Blake Civil had a long term girlfriend at the time) and went ahead with the relationship anyways but he decides to go back to his former girlfriend as he felt it was wrong to leave her like that, Amy Winehouse has a total breakdown for not being the one he chose, even if he is all wrong for her. After the release of the album, Blake Civil wormed his way back in to Amy’s life again, they got married and things went from bad to worse. Amy Winehouse did his ex-girlfriend a big favor.
Amy’s life was full of contradictions. She sees herself as a traditional Jewish mama, cooking in the kitchen for the family (and is quite a competent cook herself), she wants to settle down with a nice man one day and have children and be a “mum” yet all of the choices she makes run in direct contradiction to that fantasy life she has in her head. She also didn’t address how she would function as an alcoholic pot smoking mom. The gods intervened on Amy’s behalf when Blake Civil got arrested for causing grievous bodily harm to another person and got incarcerated, this physical separation led to their divorce, much to the relief of everyone. She spent the last year or so of her life out of the spotlight trying to clean up her act. She kicked her addiction to hard drugs but was never able to quit drinking alcohol. Her death was the result of alcohol poisoning aided by a weakened heart due to her years of bulimia (that thing which her mother called a “phase”).
Amy Winehouse was the one singer I wanted to go see perform live after she cleans up her act. She describes herself as a songwriter first then a singer, I disagree, she is every bit a singer as she is a songwriter. Around the time of her death, she already emotionally moved on from Blake Civil and the Back to Black album’s state of mind. She was ready for a new chapter, if not a more clean and sober one, at least a more peaceful one. But it wasn’t in the cards for her.

‘Tis the Season

It is The Season. The season to be merry, jolly, overeat, over drink, over indulge in ways we normally wouldn’t nor shouldn’t. It’s also a season of undue, self-inflicted, unnecessary stress.

The stress that the turkey or ham won’t cook in time for Christmas dinner, the stress of in-laws visiting, the crazy uncle, the cousin who doesn’t wash on a regular basis and you hope that for Christmas, they, out of some sense of decency for The Season, they’ll wash and show up in a presentable manner.

During The Season, we are pressured into having around or being around people we don’t like and normally would do anything to avoid, but because it’s The Season, we must, out of some arbitrary sense of goodwill and obligation, tolerate people we don’t like, even if it’s just for one or two days. I think this is the stress that irritates people the most. It’s also what ultimately gets to me.

People work themselves into a frenzy over food, wines, spirits, seating charts, whom to invite and being a diplomat to avoid blow ups. But why? Christmas holidays apart isn’t it hypocritical to be nice to someone you usually don’t have time of day for the other 364 days of the year? This mentality is not unique to Christmas. This mentality is prevalent in the Chinese New Year holiday every year too. Growing up, my grandmother banned us (yes, she physically and verbally banned us) from having a cross word or unkind feelings against another person, especially people in our family. Any whisper of complaint about someone we don’t like, she’d immediately hush us and say ‘It’s New Year, stop it.’ The reason for this are many. First, it’s considered bad luck or inauspicious to wish bad thoughts on others or oneself during this annual almost sacred holiday. Second, it’s also a holiday promoting togetherness and family harmony. Specifically in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and any other country where a dominant Chinese population is present, people get 7 to 10 days paid vacation during Chinese New Year for the sole purpose of allowing people to return to their families and celebrate the new season (Spring) and new Year. Thirdly, it’s a ‘new year’, it’s also a time of renewal. Out with the old and in with the new and this includes emotional baggage, grudges, unkind thoughts and feelings towards oneself and others; failure to do this can bring the bad baggage and the bad luck associated with it with us into the new year.

So Americans whipping themselves up into a holiday frenzy of trying to appease everyone and be the best host possible is understandable to me. But how much of it is driven by unrealistic expectations from society and commercial marketing of how a ‘good’ Christmas should look? We all sigh and moan about our in-laws or the creepy uncle who tells racist jokes when he’s drunk, but yet, we still bust our behind to make everyone happy, even at the expense of ourselves. As a hostess for several Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, I fell victim to this. On top of making sure my house is perfectly decorated, tidied, all the lights on, making sure the food and drinks are in order, by the time the guests arrive and we are ready to enjoy the food I prepared, I just want to call it a night with Netflix and a bottle of wine on my nightstand. I realize that everyone is having fun except me, which is what the aim of every good hostess is, making sure all of her guests are happy. As a young unmarried woman, I fancied myself a mini-Martha Stewart hosting fabulous dos and get togethers, when I became a married woman with a house to which I can host parties in, I realized I liked idea of being a Martha Stewart more than the reality of being a Martha Stewart. I was rubbish at hosting people I didn’t know well. I am not a natural conversation starter and I find myself refilling my wine glass too often hoping the evening would pass faster.

My idea of a good Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is a potluck style dinner with lots of wine with my closets friends, people I’ve known a long time, where I don’t need to stay on neutral topics and avoid discussion of politics and controversial subjects, where we can get rowdy and loud without judgment and do and say as we please. This is precisely what I did for this Thanksgiving, it was the best one I’ve had in years. For Christmas we’ve been invited to a relative’s home where other guests might include a corporate lawyer and police officer. I am deciding if I should do the polite thing and stay on neutral topics or go nuclear. I am trending towards the latter.

Happy Holidays!

Antifragile and White Nationalism

No sooner has the election results were formally announced on the night of November 8, the normalization of Trump has begun in full force. The days and weeks after the election, true to form, Trump has appointed a motley crew of neo-fascists, neoconservatives, anti-semites, the conventional hawkish military conservatives, with a few token conservative women and minorities thrown in the mix. Almost all of them subscribe to his world view of white superiority and within that, only a certain group of white men of exceptional intelligence are fit to run this country, him being one of them.

But this is not the worst of it. This was to be expected. What did people think when they voted Trump into White House? He’ll suddenly do an about face and appoint a bunch of socialists to occupy cabinet seats? No. The worst is mainstream media giving “alt-right” (which is a grossly misleading name, they should be referred to as what they are, neo-Nazis) Trump supporters a legitimate media platform to air their disgusting and abhorrent views. They include a self-hating “half-Jew” who is angry at his parents for daring to procreate a waste of space like him. A former Z-list reality TV star doing the Nazi salute, and this Z-lister is woman of color. An assortment of other white men and an occasional woman who subscribe to pseudo racial genetic theory who know not the difference between what’s someone of Arab origin or someone who follows the Islamic faith. These people do not need to be speaking to the press and mainstream media providing link backs to their deplorable racially coded blogs. These people should visit a therapist first. This level of self-hating surely cannot be healthy.

Along the theme of ‘fake news’; there has been a lot of ‘reported’ increase in racist abuse and hate crimes since election night. The media wants us to believe that since the night of November 8, the number of racists in this country multiplied many times over. But it doesn’t work like that. No one becomes a racist overnight. Becoming a racist is a conditioning over one’s lifetime. All of these racists and hateful people already existed before Trump was elected, and a non racist person will not suddenly become racist just because Trump got elected, the only difference is with Trump’s white nationalist hateful agenda, these people who expressed their disgusting views in their basements with their friends are out into the open. Trump gave these people a legitimate platform to air these racist views. It gave overt racists permission to perform their heil sieg in public. It gave latent racists cover to air their racists views using legitimate issues such as the economy, jobs and crime. It gave self-hating minorities, who really should be visiting their therapist a legitimate platform to identify with their oppressors or with who they perceive as the superior race or group.

The poison that is Trump is not just the orange ferret himself. It’s that he, using the political process, has fomented a fascist movement. He has found a way using the most base and ugliest factors to unite his political base. He outdid Richard Nixon and his ‘Southern Strategy’ (that was at least dog whistling and somewhat covert) and brought out the ugly to the national platform and every closet racist, white nationalist, white supremacists, KKK, former Klansmen went wild. Donald Trump said in public what they dare not say: Mexicans are criminals, they steal our jobs, they use public assistance, the Chinese manipulate currency and that’s why their factories are closing and going overseas etc. Trump used ‘political correctness’ as his ace card. He knew everyone on every political spectrum was sick of being ‘politically correct’, it’s what spineless liberals do, and so he used that to rail against women, minorities even people with disabilities.

So, what to do about fascists? There are really just two options, you take away their platform or you beat their asses with baseball bats. Fascism is also what Dr. Nassim Taleb calls antifragile:

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile.

Things which are antifragile thrive on disorder and shock. Every time when fascists rise to power is usually a time of economic distress and social disorder which arises from that. Dr. Taleb also describes terrorism as antifragile, and when negative things are antifragile, there are only 2 things one can do: totally ignore terrorists and soon they realize their terrorizing ways don’t scare people anymore or you obliterate them totally, leave no man standing. Doing anything in between those two extremes will only feed the beast (8 years of President Obama’s ‘surgical drone strikes’ on supposed terrorist cells have not weakened terrorism around the world). The same can be applied to fascism, and as Dr. Taleb pointed out, it’s near impossible to totally ignore fascists or terrorist due to presence of 24 hour news, only the second option is left.

When some neo-Nazi openly muses if Jews are really people or just a bunch soulless golems, instead of shutting down the debate, CNN convenes a panel and ‘debates’ whether if Jews are really people. Liberals, in the name of ‘being liberals’ have allowed any and all debate on national television on grotesque subjects, such as pussy grabbing, the qualifying metrics of anti-semitism, racism, sexism and misogyny. We all know instinctively when speech goes from offensive to hateful, there needs no debate on whether if pussy grabbing is is misogynistic, of if Trump ‘has a point’ in his abhorrent beliefs because he has so many supporters, therefore he must be a little bit right. No. Many will cite freedom of speech rights to allow these white nationalists and neo-Nazis to have a platform on television or print, or that some producer at CNN or MSNBC decided that they need better ratings and so they want to have neo-Nazis come on their show and ‘debate’ their point of view. Freedom of speech also goes the other way, actively removing a platform from people which don’t deserve to have one. National television and print media aside, neo-Nazis and white nationalists have plenty of places to spew their hate. They can get blogs for free, they can self-publish, they are free to hold gatherings in their smelly basements and they are also free to gather at public places per the constitution, but then it’s up to everyone else to make sure they don’t hold hateful public rallies; this is when you beat them back to that shitty basement whence they came. They are antifragile. They thrive on disorder, mayhem and attention; if society at large can’t withhold the attention, then there leaves only one other option; shut them down by all means necessary.

If the students of Rutgers University can protest and force the cancellation of Condoleezza Rice’s speech; then professional adults who are in charge of mainstream media can ban Nazis from coming onto their programs.

The election shitshow is over, now it’s time to unite.

The election is over. Hallelujah. The Hillbots can retreat back to their caves and to the days where no one has to read or hear their ‘analysis’ on their ill-chosen savior. The pro-Trump trolls, white nationalists and other assortment of supporters can rejoice and savor in their victory for a short while, until they realize exactly what they voted for. The Democrats and liberals, with all that time, resources and energy they wasted on writing and speaking on behalf of their chosen messiah has all been for nought. They will spend the next few months spewing even more vitriol at the demise of the Clinton Machine and they will blame it on the men, specifically working class white men (who the liberals consider just a tad more advanced than cavemen), women who didn’t support her, minorities who didn’t support her. In fact, they’ll blame it on everyone and their grandma except to acknowledge the fact that when you choose a shitty candidate, you get shitty results.

This election was a case of two shitty candidates and the electorate gets to choose from the pile they hate less or not choose at all, and from this, we have Donald J. Trump (aka Fuckface Von Clownstick) as our next president. It makes you rethink how America was ever ‘great’.

If there’s one thing I gained from this election is all new words in my lexicon. ‘White privilege’, ‘cishet privilege’, ‘male privilege’, ‘hetero-normative privilege’, ‘psycho-normative privilege’. The word ‘privilege’ has been bandied around and used so many times that it’s lost its real meaning. And then you realize, the word ‘privilege’ is just replacing the word ‘rights’. You can take away people’s privileges but you can’t take away people’s rights. So, if you convert rights into privileges, your rights can be then taken away. Now that the oppression olympics (a phrase I stole from someone else) and privilege scorekeeping is over, we can all get back to the real issues: how to stop the ruling class and their ilk from taking over our economic system and our lives. How can we mount a real worker’s movement where all workers of the world are included. It’s no longer enough to mount workers movements in one geographic location because corporations are multinational now. If they don’t like the rules and workers union of one country, they can up sticks and move to another country (NAFTA made this possible). But if workers of the world is united internationally, corporations have less places to run and hide their ill gotten profits.

The Clinton campaign, instead of addressing the very real issues of workers being scammed out of their labor and wages, they chose to instead to focus on ‘privilege’, with its own cascading scale and scorekeeping. White working class people are not the true victims of globalization and shady trade deals because they are white and with it comes inherent privileges which are not available to people of color. Their grievances are just complaints, they are treated like overgrown man babies who didn’t get what he wanted at the candy store. They are just angry that they have to share the economic pie which used to be exclusively theirs with other people and women. That the Rust Belt of the United States has literally rusted out of existence and with it their livelihood  which is largely in part because of NAFTA is not a valid grievance. They should have ‘gone back to school and retrained in another profession’ is one of the favorite refrains of the liberal elite. The ruling class, which includes the Democratic Establishment, assisted with the ruin of working class America is a fact we are supposed to ignore and not bring into public discourse because it doesn’t coalesce with the message of Hillary Clinton . As a result, the working class has been oppressed, suppressed, bitterly divided and they turned on each other and punched down instead of the ruling elite. There is a competition of a race to the bottom. They are competing to see who is worse off instead of unionizing to make everyone better off as they’ve been told the unionizing days are gone and they believe it. The elites are loving this. They are loving the fact that the working class and downwardly mobile middle class are blaming each other, minorities, women and immigrants for their plight instead of focusing on the real culprit; capitalism and those who rule it are the real cause of all of the suffering of not just Americans but workers all over the world. The ruling class wants us to fight over scraps. Is there really much difference between someone making $12 an hour and $15 an hour if the underlying reasons why they are making a pittance in wages isn’t solved? If all the profits still go to the top and the CEO of a corporation is making twenty-three times what his average employee makes, whatever income that employee makes is inadequate.

Bernie Sanders’s minimum living wage of $15 is a start but it’s by no means a solution to the larger problem. Why are wages so depressed when the corporations are earning millions and billions in profits? Why do those profits only go to the top? Why are people’s labor, which is really their time, blood, sweat and tears, treated like it’s disposable and replaceable. Workers spend over 8 hours a day at their jobs, which amounts to one-quarter of their day, most of their adult life is spent working, why is that not valued? One doesn’t need to be a student of Marxism to know that their life (in the form of labor, time and wages) are being stolen from them.

All of the ‘privilege’ mocking aside, I am fully aware the misogyny and sexism that women in power or women who seek power face. I don’t deny that Hillary Clinton has suffered misogynistic attacks and sexism, all of which I abhor and really distracts from the real issues. I know that racism, latent or overt is alive and well and they need to be part of public discourse and addressed (not just in relation to police shootings but in all areas). But when the whole discourse becomes about privilege checking in relation to sexism, racism and all the other -isms, we lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to fight for equality for all people. Real equality. Not the means tested neoliberal bullshit the Democrats love to shove down our throats and then tell us that it’s as good as it’s ever going to get. Free college tuition – yes, for those whose combined earnings are under x dollars, so it’s not really everyone. Universal health coverage – yes, but you can’t make more than 150% than federal poverty guidelines (which are ridiculously low to begin with), so again, you will have people who fall through the cracks. You need housing assistance, of course it’s available, the waiting list is 10 years long and due to the long wait, they aren’t taking any more names but there are thousands of vacant homes, buildings and apartments that Wall Street wants to sell and rent at market premium rather than subsidize the rent to ‘those people’. Those who are poor enough to qualify for government assistance are shamed and humiliated the whole way and are reminded at every turn that it’s the ‘taxpayer’s money’ and they better not waste it. People wax lyrical about just what kind of food should food stamp recipients purchase and eat, while the Republicans openly vilify purchases they don’t approve of (as in the grocery checkout line) and create outright lies of people on food stamps buying steaks and lobsters, liberals are more subtle with their insults, turning the topic to ‘healthy food choices’ (which is combination of poor shaming and fat shaming at the same time). And note to upper middle class clueless liberals – it is very expensive to eat ‘healthy’, i.e. the FDA recommended of  5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and cut out processed foods and carbonated drinks. Processed food loaded with unhealthy chemicals and ‘non-foods’ is much cheaper to buy than fresh fruits and vegetables. Questions like should a mother on food stamps be buying a cake from the grocery store to celebrate her child’s birthday or reward her child with cupcakes? And if you can use your supposedly paltry food stamp allotment on sweets, then how hungry are you really? Are all subtle ways the liberals shame and keep food stamp recipients in their place.

Lastly, when you hear anyone tell you that ‘we can’t afford it’ on whatever social programs the people need and demand; don’t believe them, they are lying. If the US can spend trillions destroying the Middle East, Afghanistan and Libya, arming ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria and elsewhere, indiscriminately violate the sovereignty of other nations and drone their civilians, they can damn well make sure that every American has plenty to eat, a roof over their heads, access to good health care and good education. The latter costs a fraction of what these overseas illegal wars cost.

The US is the richest nation in the world, supposedly the most innovative, it’s the proof of the triumph of capitalism. But homelessness has skyrocketed, good jobs are scarce, worker’s wages are depressed, families are going hungry, many see no way out. Neoliberalism is done. Capitalism is a failure. But it took an election of choosing between two shitty candidates for us to realize that. But there is a silver lining; with the bloviating liberals in retreat and temporarily out of the way (it’s like playing whack-a-mole with these liberals), the Left has a real chance at organizing and putting a stop to Trump just like the Republicans obstructed Obama at every turn for eight years.

Voting is a Right, not a Privilege.

Hillary Clinton supporters have taken a rather long leave of their senses. They’ve brooked no criticism against their candidate. They’ve rejected and dismissed all of the criticisms against their candidate as either sexism, misogyny or ‘privilege’ – as someone having such a privileged life to be able to choose a Third Party candidate and not suffer the consequences of such a choice. They’ve been intransigent to the point of hilarity and as Wikileaks and other sources revealed more and more unsavory details about the Democratic Party’s chosen messiah, her supporters have constructed more and more preposterous responses to each of the allegations.

And as if it were written in the stars, the FBI while investing Anthony Weiner to see if he tweeted his dick to an underage girl, they found over 650 thousand of Hillary Clinton’s emails backed up on the Abedin-Weiner hard drives. This is problematic because Huma Abedin swore under oath that she didn’t have backup copies of her boss’s emails anywhere. It is further complicated by the fact that the Weiners are about to divorce. Anthony Weiner probably feels no compunction about protecting his soon to be ex-wife and the Clintons. One of the world’s most powerful woman may be brought down by Anthony Weiner’s … well, weiner. A Hollywood writer couldn’t write this script, no one would believe it to be remotely possible.

The Democratic primary was not meant to be a contest at all. It was to serve as a coronation for the ascension of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the  highest office of the land: the presidency of the United States of America. Anyone standing in her way is considered a hateful sexist who is denying the most qualified woman her rightful place in history. She’s earned it by being First Lady to one of the sleaziest men to occupy the West Wing, she paid her dues by knowing her place as a junior senator from New York, then she served as Secretary of State under president Obama. Now it’s her Turn at the top job. No one will stand in her way.

There comes Bernie Sanders from left field, who connected with Millennials and young people in a way Hillary Clinton can only dream of (including younger women). He directly addressed the fears and anxieties of America’s middle and working classes and he offered what appeared to be direct and simple solutions. Institute a living wage of $15 an hour, re-examine all trade agreements to make sure it benefits all workers, free college for all public institutions, expand Medicare to cover everyone, not just those over 65 years old. His foreign policy is far less hawkish, though still very problematic, especially when he praised Saudi Arabia as being a good friend to the U.S., it’s far more palatable to the 40 and under crowd. When it looked like Bernie Sanders was about to surpass Hillary Clinton in popularity, Sanders supporters were immediately categorized as ‘privileged’, sexist and racist because many of them are white and male. From the imaginary ‘Berniebros’ (a privileged white male who doesn’t want to see a woman in the White House) to young people who’ve never had a real job and live in their parent’s basements, to grown adults but are far too idealistic to know how the real world works. Bernie Sanders didn’t have the support of Southern Democrats, he was never going to win the nomination, but he didn’t lose it “fair and square” as Sen. Harry Reid lamented. Sanders biggest mistake was not willing to get down and dirty and expose the corruption of the Clintons.

Fast forward to today, the eve before the election. Hillary Clinton’s Republican opponent is none other than the neo-fascist Donald Trump. The ferret haired, orange faced buffoon, who has proclaimed himself as one of the smartest men in the world, who will ‘Make America Great Again’; and they are neck and neck in the polls. The supposed most qualified person (man or woman) to run for the president of the United States is neck and neck with a charlatan. She is furiously getting the vote out. Her supporters are on social media scaring the anti-Clintons and the undecideds into voting for Hillary Clinton, because if we don’t, America will meet its apocalypse with Donald Trump as president; not realizing that we are already there. We’ve been there, since her husband Bill Clinton turned the Democratic Party right in the 1990s to save his own behind because he can’t keep his pants zipped up and so he caved to Newt Gingrich and his demands. Bill Clinton introduced all kinds of coded racist vocabulary that have been in popular circulation ever since. Words like ‘personal responsibility’, making good life choices, having ‘consequences’ for bad personal behavior (incarceration); all pointing to the supposed poor choices of black people and welfare claimants.

Hillary Clinton has come to accept the fact that she’s not popular and not well liked by younger people and especially younger women, so she’s marketing herself as the ‘lesser evil’. The poll numbers suggest that those who will be voting for Clinton will be with great reluctance. There will be no expectations of her and her presidency except to not fuck it up too much, to maintain the status quo of the Obama presidency.

The Clinton liberals have turned ‘rights’ into ‘privilege’. Voting is a privilege. No it’s not, it’s a right, which by definition, can’t be taken away or criticized for not voting a certain way. Voting is one the most private decisions anyone can make, cameras are not allowed in voting booths, no one is supposed to know who you vote for, yet there are millions of Hillary Clinton supporters on social media, scolding, insulting, admonishing those who won’t vote for her. When did an election turn a candidate’s supporters into such busy bodies?

If Hillary Clinton loses the the election tomorrow, there will be a whole new school of punditry as to why and who to blame. A new ‘Ralph Nader’ will be chosen and forever scapegoated for denying a woman the presidency of the United States. Clinton supporters and surrogates will blame everyone and everything except the candidate herself, who is one of the most unpopular and unsuitable to the mood of the times and voters. The mood of country is changing from neoliberal to more socialist – gross income inequality is no longer tolerated, from hawk to dove, from interventionism to non-interventionism, but Hillary Clinton embodies all of the former and none of the latter. She may become the first woman to be elected to the presidency of the United States, but it is not a step forward for progressivism or even feminism. She’s just another wealthy, corrupt, well-connected elite elected to the country’s highest office.

Reblogged: Marxism 101: Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value

Renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda explains surplus value in the most simple way possible. You can teach it to a second grader and they’ll understand.

This, my dear readers, is the source of all conflict, of all economic inequality, is responsible for all of the poverty in the world. This is human exploitation explained with math.

 

A Generation was Andrzej Wajda’s first major film, made in 1954 when he was 28-years-old, the year after Stalin’s death. Since the Polish government in 1954, still headed by the Stalini…

Source: Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value

About resentment.

Resentment is often characterized as one drinking poison but hoping the other person dies. It’s most foolish and an exercise in futility where the most harm is inflicted on the person holding the resentment. Any logical person will tell you to just say it out loud to the person you are resentful about and try to resolve it and if it can’t be resolved, then just move on.

But what if the resentment is legitimate? Or worse, what if the resentment is the kind you can’t say out loud, because if you do, it will upset the natural order of things.

When I was 16 years old and on summer vacation, I saw a documentary on PBS called ‘The Farmer’s Wife’ by acclaimed documentary filmmaker David Sutherland. I don’t know how at 16 I was able to sit through 6 hours of a documentary film about a rural Nebraskan couple who was trying to save their farm and their marriage. But I was gripped by that documentary, an unflinching look at a couple under financial strain, familial strain and choices made which cannot be unmade. To this day, twenty years after I first viewed it, I still recall the scenes, the conversations, spoken and unspoken and the body language of a young couple in distress. What David Sutherland was able to capture on film, no actor or actress  can replicate. Perhaps the reason why this long, drawn out documentary about a very average farmer’s wife and her family appealed to me at 16 is because I saw shades of my future self in her.

Juanita Buschkoetter was an unintentional farmer’s wife. By that I mean had she followed the blueprint her family laid out for her, she wouldn’t have gotten married at 18 (right out of high school) to a 24 year old farmer Darrel Buschkoetter. She came from a well-to-do family in the city, her brother went to Harvard University and her sister attended Wellesley. She went off and got married to a farmer at age 18, of her own volition, she wasn’t knocked up or anything like that. She met Darrel and fell in love and she loved farm life. It was tough, it’s an endless cycle of debt, planting, harvest, but it was exciting. Needless to say, this was not a marriage that had the blessings of their families. Even Darrel’s father (also a farmer) felt that Juanita would not be a good farmer’s wife because she was a ‘city girl’. She didn’t have the graft and ingenuity necessary to hack it as a farmer’s wife (he had never been more wrong). Juanita turned out to be an excellent farmer’s wife, even at the young age of 18. She didn’t mind hard work, she had a good attitude, she had a great sense of humor when things didn’t go quite right and she loved her man, she worshipped him. In time they had three daughters and she enjoyed being a mother to those three girls as well.

But in the early 1990s disaster struck. Early frost wiped out one-third of their crops and they weren’t able to pay their creditors (FHA and a series of other government loans), the government was on the verge of liquidating their farm and they stood to lose everything. To supplement their income Darrel had to take a job at a nearby steel factory for $7 an hour and farm at night using floodlights and at times he had to go work for another farmer to make ends meet. Juanita had to go clean rich people’s homes in the city (similar to the home she grew up in and the irony wasn’t lost on her either) to pay for their basic necessities. At one time she had to apply for food stamps to feed her family. She talked about budgeting just $20 a month for food and there were months where they consumed no meat because they couldn’t afford it. Darrel didn’t have the finesse or people skills to negotiate with their creditors to give them an extension on their debt. He was often angry, ill tempered and impatient when dealing with his creditors. So Juanita took over and quite literally, one letter at time, one phone call at a time, she renegotiated all of their loans and kept the creditors at bay. A year later, they had a bumper crop which enabled them to pay off most of their debt. The couple should be relieved and celebrating but they weren’t. Small cracks in their marriage became huge rifts.

At their most troubled time, Darrel began to notice a rising confidence in his wife. He was acutely aware (as was his father though no one gave her enough credit for it) it was Juanita who saved their farm. And he didn’t like it one bit because it wasn’t he who came to the rescue, yet there’s nothing he can do about it. He always felt (and knew her family felt the same) that she was too good for him and that she could have gone to college and done better for herself, but he took comfort in the knowledge that his wife adored him and his daughters depended on him and he was still the ‘man of the house’. Most importantly, he was still able to provide for them. But as the crisis on their farm progressed and as Darrel’s jealousy and insecurity increased (he didn’t want her to go to a friend’s baby shower because he was afraid she might not want to come back) combined with their strained finances, Juanita woke up to the fact that as much as she would love to, she cannot solely depend on her husband to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Those days are gone. So she went back to school and got an associate’s degree studying crop insurance and was able to get a good job in town. In effect, she’s no longer the traditional farmer’s wife. In fact, she sort of went back to the role that she was brought up to be, a middle-class professional woman and she slipped into that role very easily too, after a decade of being a farmer’s wife. She also casually remarked that she was no longer the child without a college degree in her family, so subconsciously, what her family thought of her still mattered.

When the financial crisis hit them, they dynamics of their marriage changed. Juanita rolled up her sleeves and figured out a way forward but she begrudgingly acknowledged:

“I know I deny it a lot of times, but the only thing I can think of is that I must, deep down, be holding it against Darrel, you know, the situation we’re in right now. And I know most of it’s not his fault, but I don’t know how to get over that,”

And Darrel says:

“I think, (that) with the financial problems we have, she blames me for a lot of them. She won’t say she does, but I think she does. And I don’t like that part about her, because I feel like a bomb’s gonna go off if something don’t get said.”

It’s interesting that they do not say this to each other, they each said this on separate occasions to the person behind the camera. In fact, not at any point in the documentary does Juanita unleash her anger and resentment about the dismal state of their finances at him because she already knows he feels “so low” about himself. Even in this difficult time, she’s desperately trying to not upset the flow of their  household, which is Darrel is the man of the house (even if he can’t bring home all of the bacon anymore) and she’s the traditional wife. It was a dynamic that’s worked for them for over 10 years and should she disrupt it, she doesn’t know what the fallout and emotional repercussions will be.

This film was released in 1995, the documentary had no ‘agenda’ it was trying to spin, it wasn’t pro or against traditional family or feminism, it was literal documentation of a farmer’s wife and her family. The cameras rolled in good times and in bad, happy times and sad times. The final penny dropped when after Juanita saved their farm along with their bumper crop the following year, Darrel blew up at rather minor debt of $100. Instead of being happy and grateful that they are out of the woods, he’s losing his shit over $100. Juanita had enough of his bad temper and packed up the girls and drove to her parents house for a week to reevaluate. Perhaps at sixteen I realized I was watching how my life could turn out should I take the path of marriage and starting a family. Though I won’t become a farmer’s wife, how do you deal with resentment and shifting dynamics in a marriage where no direct blame can be placed?

Many women willingly let their man take the lead in the marriage because it was the most logical choice at the time, or that it’s just easier, or the woman hasn’t developed her career or path in life yet. Especially when a woman takes time out of her career to start a family, she’s left with no choice but to let the man take the lead in finances and major decisions about the family. Sometimes that pays off but more often than not it doesn’t and when things go spectacularly wrong and you are faced with homelessness or a significant reduction in circumstances, what do you do with all the anger and resentment? Especially when there is nothing but events out of one’s control to blame? Especially if a woman gave up her career to be the family caregiver, where does she put her frustrations and resentments for lost opportunities? As women and especially as mothers, we are not supposed feel resentful for looking after our families and sacrificing our own dreams and goals, this is still a taboo, to think that your children got in your way (but the fact is they do). Is there a box where we can put all of our unrealized dreams and goals and hope it doesn’t unleash its fury at the wrong time?

When you break it down, the faultline reveals itself very clearly. Once a family has chosen to go down the traditional path (across all social classes), male breadwinner, female caretaker, it’s very hard to reverse that dynamic. The roles can artificially change with the female becoming breadwinner or co-breadwinner, but the emotional blueprint of the family is already set. The former breadwinner will feel emasculated, incompetent and helpless. The new breadwinner will feel a sense of independence, confidence and new self-worth that wasn’t there before, but the downside of that is you may be celebrating on your own, especially if you were a woman who took on the traditional role of the family. The initial relief of a crisis solved will soon give way to feelings of insecurity, jealousy and further resentment (proof that you really don’t need your man or anyone else as much as you thought you did).

After a big crisis and as a woman gains some hard earned self-confidence, what does she then do with it? Go back to being a ‘traditional wife’? Even if she did, the elephant in the room has already revealed itself, a woman doesn’t need a man to solve a crisis. Though we know anyone born after the 1960s are brought up to believe we don’t need a man, until you experience it for yourself, when you pull your family or yourself out of a crisis without the major participation of a man (or any person) you cannot appreciate how empowering it feels.

Of all the ills that can affect the dynamics of a marriage, I’d argue feelings of misplaced resentment, unmet or mismatched expectations and the inability to express those disappointments in a conducive manner can be poisonous for a marriage. Whether we admit it or not, we all have certain expectations (or some people call them ‘standards’) of our spouse; we dare not say it out loud because it can come across as unkind or paternalistic, but it’s there. To deny it would be foolish just as Juanita Buschkoetter realized for herself.

The goal of this rambling essay is for me to figure out a way to resolve my own feelings of resentment and unmet expectations by the ones I love. I don’t think I’ve been successful but one can’t wish it away. The most obvious way, which was told to me over and over again is to lower my expectations. But I feel my expectations are already very low, if I lowered them anymore, there would none left.

There was a lesser evil: His name is Bernie Sanders

I happened to watch MSNBC this past week. It was airing a live Trump rally somewhere in the Midwest where he reiterated his commitment that he’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, but he toned down the “rapists and murderers” narrative and reframed it as ‘preserving the quality of life and national security for Americans’ for the audience of mostly white people. After about ten minutes of his non sequitur ramblings, it cut to a commercial break. The commercial that aired was a video compilation of all of the prominent Republicans voicing their disapproval for Donald Trump (Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain etc) and it ended with Hillary Clinton’s voice over ‘this message is approved by Hillary Clinton’. It wasn’t an ad about her achievements, which according to her and her supporters are vast and varied, spanning across thirty years of public service. It wasn’t an ad about her record and achievement as a senator and later as Secretary of State; it was literally just campaign ad with assorted Republican lawmakers stating why Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency of the United States and she approves of that message. As if their criticisms of Trump is a ringing endorsement of her.

Since Donald Trump became the official candidate for the Republican party and Hillary Clinton officially became the candidate for the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders faded into the background, the general election officially became about choosing ‘the lesser evil’. And the lesser evil in this sorry contest for the presidency is clearly Hillary Clinton according to most pundits and talking heads even if you hate her. Even mainstream Republicans who loathe the Clintons with every bone in their body reluctantly conceded that Hillary Clinton is the only way to go. They’ll ‘support’ her now and deal with her four years later during the reelection. The few snippets of MSM news I’ve followed about the election have all been about how Hillary Clinton is the lesser evil. No matter what you think about her positions and record, compared to Trump, she is the far superior candidate, at the very least, she’s less of a national embarrassment than Trump. Occasionally it will be about some policy about equal pay for women, free college tuition for qualified families but mostly it’s just ‘I am not Trump so I am the only choice in this race.’ Hillary Clinton herself has lowered her standards and bought into the lesser evil narrative as well. If nothing else, what a demoralizing and degrading turn for the potential first woman president of the United States. Instead of campaigning on her achievements and how she shattered the glass ceiling, she’s campaigning on how at the very least, she’s far better than her orange faced, mop wigged opponent.

Everyone is talking about the lesser evil and how in the interest of preserving this nation, we must choose Hillary Clinton. It’s the only choice; it’s the responsible choice and anyone voting third party is helping Trump win a larger share of the vote. Many blame Millennials especially for not jumping on the Clinton wagon despite her overtures and pleas on social media late night television (Note to Clinton campaign: Lena Dunham isn’t a good spokesperson for the Clinton cause, Lena Dunham isn’t well liked amongst her peers either). Clara Jeffery, editor-in-chief of Mother Jones in a since deleted tweet said “i never hated millennials more” accompanying a retweet of a New York Times article where polls show Millennials still refuse to jump onboard the Clinton campaign. As an almost Millennial, I can safely say the feeling is mutual; we hate you too, there’s no love lost, now let’s move on.

The problem with the lesser evil argument is we already had one but he was roundly rejected, sabotaged and undercut by the Democratic establishment. His name is Bernie Sanders. Sanders has been branded by the Democratic establishment as this radical socialist who will never win over middle America but he isn’t. He’s not a socialist but a democratic socialist nor is he very radical. He’s just radical when compared to the neoliberal Clintons. It was Bill Clinton who betrayed the party base when he took the Democratic Party right to make himself electable after the George McGovern slump by incorporating neoliberal policies into his agenda. He cut welfare by telling people to take ‘personal responsibility’ in their lives. He signed into law criminal justice reform bill which saw the rise in mass incarcerations for Black and Latinos. By locking up large swathes of people of color, making them unemployable since employers are not required to hire anyone with a criminal background and people with criminal backgrounds are not eligible to public assistance as well; with a few strokes of the pen, he eliminated millions of people from welfare rolls and payrolls, which then allowed him to claim credit for the strong employment figures during his presidency and reducing welfare rolls at the same time.

Bernie Sanders is only seeking to redress some of that injustice by ending mass incarceration, free college tuition for state institutions, single payer health care and living wage with a minimum wage of $15 per hour so that all wage workers get a raise and alleviate some of the pressure of living in poverty, paycheck to paycheck. None of these ideas are particularly radical. They are practical and necessary in an era where jobs are only getting fewer due to globalization, capitalism and neoliberal policies, and in absence well paying jobs, the government has to step in and provide more basic services for people. Some countries in Europe are already contemplating a universal income legislation, which means the state guarantees a minimum income for each person. So that the repercussions of unemployment and poverty doesn’t disrupt civil society. Bernie Sanders did not call for the destruction of capitalism. He isn’t promoting an end to America’s militarism and imperialism overseas, he’s called for a drawdown of US military presence around the world and let NATO step into a larger role, but NATO is just the US military in another manifestation. NATO doesn’t make a move without the approval of the United States. On paper he still supports the apartheid state of Israel, though the support isn’t unconditional and he’s shown more support to the Palestinians than any major presidential candidate before him. He’s given Israel a serious dressing down on the blockade in Gaza, the theft of water resources and tax revenues in the West Bank but he’s not called for dismantlement of the Israeli apartheid police state nor has he promoted withholding of US monetary or diplomatic support of Israel. The Jewish State stands.

Bernie Sanders was the lesser evil, but he was rejected. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both evil, but evil in different ways. The voters are not choosing a lesser evil, they are choosing a different shade of evil. Do you want a racist and misogynist buffoon with ties to the KKK for president or do you want a faux-inclusive, warmongering, neoliberal, corporate feminist with ties to the Saudi regime (one of the most abusive towards women in the world) for president? All of this speculation about the actual state of Hillary Clinton’s health is not only overtly sexist (John McCain was not in perfect health when he ran for president but that was just a blip on the screen) but it obscures the real problem. The problem is not whether she had pneumonia and lied about the underlying causes of it (one doesn’t usually just get pneumonia out of the blue, there’s usually a preceding illness), or how she misused private email servers during her tenure at the State Department or that she knew what and when before, during and after the bombing at the US embassy in Benghazi. The problems with Clinton are the contents of her emails, her involvement in dismantling the Libyan state and shipping Libya’s weapons cache to Syria, her dealings with the corrupt Saudi regime and other questionable people through the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has been accused of lying, but even that’s a generic accusation, it’s the repercussion of the lies, half-truths and behind the scenes manipulations which have worldwide consequences.

What is the big deal about first day of school?

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First day of school drawing.
Today is my daughter’s first day of school. My friends who have had children before me always treat this day with reverence and nostalgia at your baby becoming a school age child. First day of school photos in their cleanest, unstained school clothes are obligatory, and usually a few tears at shed at the classroom door as your child is entering their classroom.

Me? I was happy. I shed no tears of sadness or nostalgia. I couldn’t wait for this day to come. It will be the first time in over four years where I have somewhere to send my child for three hours a day, two days a week (and if it all goes well, I may upgrade her to three days a week). I did take lots of photos, I met my daughter’s teachers, two lovely and experienced early education teachers who enjoy their job with every fiber of their being. It will be three hours ram packed with learning, playing, experiencing and socializing – with a small snack break in the middle. It will be everything I can’t offer her at home nor do I really want to. That’s why there’s a thing call pre-school, with professional and expert early education teachers to teach my child.

My daughter is exceptionally outgoing and gregarious, her little brother is more shy and retiring and doesn’t like to engage in the full body play that she enjoys. At the age of four, I often find her restless and bored at home even with all of the ‘educational toys’ we have for her (the only kind allowed around here). Her gregariousness has even chased away our cat who was her usual outdoor companion. So, at the ripe old age of four and a half, she’s ready for school. And me? I will get three hours a day where I just have one child to look after instead of two. I can’t wait for the other one to go to school.

We live in an area which is predominately upper middle class and white. And it’s not the laid back white middle class (if there is even such a thing), it’s the upwardly mobile, pushy, so scared that that any unforeseen economic event will shove them down the class ladder – therefore they are always on edge types of white people. To mask that insecurity, a sheen of false superiority and snobbery takes its place. A classic example of that is some parents talking amongst each other (and making sure everyone else can hear) where they went for summer vacation and even more importantly, where they are going skiing and snowboarding for winter vacation (yawn, eyeroll). These are not parents enjoying the first day of school activities with their children, these parents are there to see how their child compares with another and to throw away more money in after school ‘enrichment courses’ which is basically an accelerated class in writing, reading, science and math. It’s the parents of the few non-white children in my daughter’s class who are really present in mind, body and soul enjoying the first hour with their child’s first day of school. I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘scavenger hunt’ with my daughter in the classroom to show the kids where everything is in their classroom; the bathroom, washing up sinks, where certain toys are, where the art supplies are and where you hang your coat and put your backpack.

It was also nice to observe my daughter in an unfamiliar environment. I get to see how my ‘parenting’ panned out – no embarrassing meltdowns luckily but I was glad to see she was comfortable in unfamiliar places. She walks up to people and introduces herself, she says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, she responds when spoken to, I breathed a sigh of relief. She loves to draw, sing and dance. She expresses herself artistically and when I saw my girl make a beeline for the easel and drew a picture of her backyard of her cat (the same one that runs away from her) and flowers and grass; I knew she will be fine. When it was my time to leave the classroom, she nearly pushed me out of the classroom and said “I want to play with my new friends”. Her only upset was that she didn’t get any playground time today – it was a short day today to get the children acclimated to the new year and new school.

I did forget to teach her one thing – how to use a pair of scissors. It was an instrument, due to it being possibly dangerous for her and her little brother or worse she might cut his hair off if she gets mad at him, I neglected to show her how to use a pair of scissors, but I am sure the school can sort that out.

Resist the Distraction of ‘Sexism’ and ‘Misogyny’ Accusations

The Era of ‘The  Bitch’ is Coming screamed a headline by The Atlantic. The writer Michelle Cottle is warning everyone to be prepared for a fresh wave of “four-to-eight years of the kind of down-and-dirty public misogyny you might expect from a stag party at Roger Ailes’s house.” While open racism isn’t tolerated and often called out, sexism and misogyny, especially if cleverly delivered, is still tolerated, accepted and even considered funny. What’s more, while it’s fair that people on the receiving end of racist abuse make their grievances known and heard, women subjected to sexism and misogyny are expected to keep quiet and laugh it off, especially women in powerful positions. For a woman to call out sexism is seen as whining and complaining and not addressing a legitimate grievance.

Cottle goes on to explain which types of misogyny and sexism Hillary Clinton might encounter in the coming months and years. Inevitably, they relate to her age, her looks, her body, her allegedly ‘bitchy’ demeanor, her coldness and aloofness, the sound of her voice, how she laughs (the cackle), her bitchy-resting face when she’s not smiling and when she does smile the compliments she gets for ‘finally smiling’ as if she’s some miserable cow who refuses to crack a smile.

All of these ‘warnings’ of sexism and misogyny is just a distraction from the real criticisms. It’s using identity politics to distract from the real issues of a Hillary Clinton presidency. It’s a red herring. Sexism and misogyny is wrong. It’s nobody’s business when Hillary Clinton chooses to smile, she’s not a professional cheerleader, she’s not obligated to plaster a smile on her face to make everyone feel more comfortable. By the same token, she’s not required to be nice all the time either. She, like a man, is allowed temper flares, throwing things across the room and pounding the table when things don’t go her way. We don’t call a man derogatory names when he does those things, we say that he’s assertive and sets high standards. Shaming her age (especially when in connection with her appearance) is below the belt and appealing to the lowest common denominator and it really just says you don’t have any legitimate criticisms hence you make fun of her age and appearance. Hillary Clinton has never made herself out to be objectified or admired for her appearance, in fact, she self-deprecates when it comes to the style department (“remember my hairband days?”). She’s no Jackie Kennedy, and since that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the real issues.

Because Hillary Clinton’s opponent is Donald Trump, she’s not required to have a platform besides “I am not Trump”. She’s not required to present sound policies on the economy, preserving and expanding social security, raising the minimum wage, creating real universal healthcare, federally mandated paid parental leave, government subsidized childcare, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, prison reform, drug sentencing reform, real immigration reform and integrating the millions of undocumented immigrants into the political process by allowing an immediate pathway to citizenship for all (not cherry picking the young, educated and English speaking ones), providing free college in all state institutions and reversing the toxic and destructive neoliberal economic policies of her husband and Obama. These are the issues that are important to the voters, especially the Millennial voters that she supposedly cares so much about. But thanks to freakshow that is Donald Trump, she doesn’t have address any of these issues. All she has to do is insist she’s no Trump and Mexicans aren’t rapists and murderers, she won’t build a wall at the Southern border and Muslims aren’t banned in this country.

We already know she’s not Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, in some respects is far more dangerous than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a buffoon and a clown, he appeals to the other lowest common denominators of racism, xenophobia, anti-immigration and white nationalism (which also includes misogyny and sexism). Whether he acknowledges it or not, most of his boldest proposals can’t be implemented and are just white nationalist fantasies. For all of Trump’s boasting of his business acumen, his artistry at making business deals where he sends his opponents scurrying to the hills, the reality is far more different. He considers business bankruptcy as a legitimate business strategy (which translates to not paying your suppliers or investors by declaring you are bankrupt) and has filed for business bankruptcy many times. He has no political record to speak of and so he has a political clean slate. He can say whatever he wants to do if he becomes president without having to back it up with previous track records or explaining his political decisions.

Hillary Clinton has no such luxuries, she has a long record of votes and political decisions that she must explain and defend, starting with her days as this country’s First Lady. She supported her husband’s punitive welfare and criminal justice reform, which 20 years later show that the most affected are people of color. One out of every four Black man today can expect to be incarcerated during some time in his life. The welfare reforms gutted the most essential social services to the most vulnerable populations in this country many of them women and children. The Yes vote for the invasion of Iraq, which haunted her during her 2008 bid for the White House, is based on false, made up, concocted intelligence of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and the Saddam Hussein regime having ties to Al Qaeda. None of which were true. As Secretary of State, she sanctioned the destruction of Libya and the fueled proxy war in Syria. All of this is done in the name of destroying ISIS. ISIS is now the designated boogey man (after the death of Osama bin Laden) in which our national security is threatened so we must be very vigilant and militaristic with our enemies around the world.

Anybody who criticizes her foreign policies, her connections to Wall Street, or calls her a war criminal is disciplined and told that it’s an unfair sexist attack. Or short of that, they are patronized and told they don’t understand how dangerous the world is and how the world works. Her image as feminist who fights for human rights has been shattered. You cannot claim to fight for human rights when you bomb and destroy nations and those that suffer the most from the fallout are women and children. You cannot claim to be a feminist when one quarter of the donations for The Clinton Foundation is from Saudi Arabia, arguably one of the most abusive and repressive regimes against women in the world. You cannot claim to be a feminist or a human rights activist when you allow Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemeni civilians and starve Yemeni children for oil and money. Clinton’s interventions in the internal affairs of Honduras has caused a failed state where right wing military thugs rule the country. The fact that she would consider Henry Kissinger a friend and mentor should raise serious blood soaked red flags.

But right now, we are told by the elites that we must not be childish and hold on to these grudges because we have a more important danger in our midst, in the form of an orange clown with small hands who tends to talk out of his rear end. This is our real enemy right now. This is who we are supposed to be afraid of; not the trigger happy former Secretary of State responsible for destroying at least two sovereign states and destabilized several more. Those Sanders supporters who refuse to fall in line with Hillary Clinton are privileged, spoiled and willfully sabotaging the candidacy of the first woman president.

Electing a woman to the highest office in the land is a milestone, a shattering of a once thick and impenetrable glass ceiling, which given the patriarchal structure of our society, is a monumental effort; but it must not be confused with political revolution. Electing a woman as president of the United States will usher in the progressive change voters want only if the right woman is elected. Just like electing the first Black president Barack Obama didn’t usher in a time of post-racial harmony in America; one can argue the opposite happened.

Many countries have already reached this milestone: Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, the world’s largest democracy, Pakistan also previously elected woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Bangladesh is currently governed by a woman Sheikh Hasina right now, the United Kingdom has produced two female Prime Ministers with Theresa May’s recent ascension to the position after the ousting of David Cameron and the fact that she has no children and how that might affect her style governance was still brought up in the year 2016. In Brazil and Argentina, abortion is still illegal and punishable with jail sentence; women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to all intents and purposes are still second class citizens, especially women who reside in Tribal areas ruled by the Taliban. Electing a female head of state didn’t emancipate these women on a large scale. In traditional societies like Pakistan and Bangladesh; their fates are still determined by male members of their family with very little legal protection from the state.

For all of us who feel we have no stake in the discourse or outcome of this ghastly trainwreck of an election, all we have are our pens, our right to critique, debate, argue, to contradict, contrast, to speak out against the mass propaganda that is thrown at us. And on top of that, we have to wade through all the other dreck like The Atlantic article about the supposed flood of sexism and misogyny that’s about to come our way because of the possible elevation of Hillary Clinton as the President of the United States; which is really telling us that we should not criticize Hillary Clinton at all because women who don’t support other women deserve a special place in hell. In that case, I’ll tell Lucifer to save them a spot.