On Differences of Opinion

Flash mobs of stupid conservative bigots are monopolizing our headspace



OCCASIONALLY, DEAR READER, I AM FORCED to come up with a statement of principles. This usually happens when I’ve been online, getting exasperated by and attempting to respond to the comments of conservatives who are all in a panic about some class of people they disapprove of, like gay people or liberals or women, being happy and exercising their rights.

If there’s something a modern-day conservative hates, it’s people they disapprove of being happy and free and shoving their equality down everyone’s throats. Man oh man—!

My incessant life’s work is grappling with, untangling and decoding conservative “logic.” Conservative logic is an act of contortion that the Cirque de soleil would have rejected for its latest Vegas show as being too demanding, for conservative logic is always trying to prove that some minority’s insistence on the right to live their life with the same rights, benefits and protections as anyone else constitutes a denial of the rights of conservatives.

The assumptions underlying this logic are never clearly articulated, either because conservatives are too entitled to bother thinking through the implications of what they’re saying, or because they understand the implications perfectly and sense how outrageous they are.

These assumptions are that only a select class of people, the best people—the aristoi—have rights; and that these best people are by definition WASP, heterosexual and male. To allow other, non-best people—the demos—to have rights devalues those rights.

It’s like a conservative’s wife seeing her immigrant housemaid dressed in a replica of her Christian Lacroix ballgown, a cheap imitation that the maid constructed herself during her coffee break using plastic tablecloths from Dollarama. And here’s the galling bit: it looks better than his wife’s, because she’s happy wearing it.

Relentlessly co-opting street culture and sucking it dry of meaning, the conservative’s wife runs out and buys a plaid Vivienne Westwood number bristling with sterling silver safety pins and randomly-placed zippers that have no function and calls herself a punk, even though if the conservative saw an actual punk approaching their front door he’d grab his assault weapon and shoot them.

This is the analogy. Anything the grimy hands of a non-conservative touches is tainted forever. So, if I, a gay male, get to marry my partner, I’ve spoiled conservatives’ exclusive right to and definition of marriage: “One man, one woman.” (Unbelievably, no one consulted me about this definition.)

For women to get equal pay is to destroy the idea that men’s work is inherently more valuable, usually expressed as “all of the businesses in the universe will tank from the expense of paying women equally, so, like, we can’t.”

Included in this argument is the lie that “there isn’t enough money,” because there’s always room in the savings account for a nuclear warhead or a gerrymandering project, to name two.

Missing from this argument is the concept that people’s rights aren’t subject to budgetary constraints. They’re not expendable if they are expensive. They need to be recognized, and now.

Conservatives are depressingly similar: a tight-assed gang of spoiled brats and shrieking bullies in Lacoste polo shirts who can’t bear to think about women having abortions, me getting married to a dude, gender identity, anthropogenic climate change, up-to-date sex education in schools or national anthem kneelers; anything that reminds them that they’re in the twenty-first century.

We do try. We want to be good parents to these maladapted children. We strap them into the high chair, we feed them the nourishing creamed spinach of inclusiveness, “this is the airplane coming into the hangar!” but they spit it right back in our faces.

My doomed attempts at educating the insistently ignorant and the perpetual onslaught of their thin-lipped rage has caused me the type of frustration that can only be relieved by bending forward and smacking my face repeatedly on the surface of my desk.

The more I do this, the more I resemble a fourth Trump son, sibling to the two Frankenstein Foreheads. Frankenforehead the Fourth, who you don’t know about because they keep him hidden in the White House attic, is the Washington, D.C. version of the first, mad Mrs. Rochester, except instead of emulating her and setting fire to the place, he stomps around with a lighted candelabra at the stroke of midnight and whispers tweets and other assorted sound-bytes in Donald’s ear.

“Psst! Don’t forget to call the Swedish Prime Minister and guarantee bail for A$AP Rocky! Even though Sweden doesn’t have bail and their leaders are forbidden to interfere with the legal system, but they’re SURE to make an exception for you!”

“Psst! Homeboy! When you make your Fourth of July speech, don’t forget to include how George Washington closed all the airports during the American Revolution! Yep, just throw that in any old where! Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be even bigger than your inauguration! Biggest audience in, like. The history! of Time?!”

So that’s how the process goes that leads up to my statement of principles. I beat my forehead on the desk. I push back, I untangle. I decode. I attempt an answer. I beat the forehead again.

Also I cry. Let’s not forget the crying. And I’m not talking polite, “excuse me for a moment while my lips quiver and I sincerely hope my suicidal ideation and free-floating misery wasn’t too much of a downer, eh?” apologetic, Canadian-style crying, either.

I’m talking Man-Sobs: great, honking, moist, gasping, choking, snot-flying asthmatic gulps and mucus-y snorffles that would make you back away in alarm, fearing that this heralds my projectile vomiting onto your Yves St. Laurent smoking jacket, whilst literally an entire St. Lawrence Seaway of tears and saliva and invasive species pours down my face.

When I Man-Sob, my face looks like an open lock on the Welland Canal, if the locks on the Welland Canal were made of aging human flesh and covered with patchy, unkempt hair.

If only I could figure out how to make all of this aerobic. Or, failing that, just monetize the shit out of it.


PUBLIC DISCOURSE HAS BECOME POLARIZED to the degree that it’s scary and stressful to broach certain subjects with people, even worse when someone you thought you knew, your mom, for example, or your co-worker, initiates an exchange clearly assuming you hold the same bigoted views.

And I’m pushing back with less and less energy. I’ve lost some of the, how can I put this, spunk. I have less piss and vinegar. My responses are weary.

Instead of just slipping into my nuclear-grade conservative-proof overalls and flailing my hands at the keyboard, or in the face of the bigot, I first pause and consider what I might be getting myself into.

Do I want to be rolling on the ground at the bus stop, mud wrestling with a supporter of Andrew Scheer as we each attempt to bite off our opponent’s nose and pull out handfuls of each other’s hair?

Was it really on my agenda to have my face shoved into my plateful of gazpacho and my ears lobbed off with a vegetable peeler?

Did I willingly wake up this morning to the delighted realization that “I promised myself that today I will deliver a sharp, corrective thrust of my Doc Martens to the groin area of a Christian who’s decided gay men are Satan’s secret sauce! Yippee!”?

There is very little consensus remaining about our fundamental rights. When Lyndon Johnson kicked off a War on Poverty, or Pierre Trudeau affirmed Canadian multiculturalism, people supported them, or if they didn’t, at least they didn’t let on. These were not controversial ideas, they were mainstream.

I know that everyone says it’s Trump’s fault that there’s more polarization now, less agreement, more hatred and bigotry and stupidity, but that’s not entirely correct.

Don’t blame Trump for bringing bigotry into the world. The bigotry was there. The stupidity was there. He just took out his Stupidity Wand and went dowsing for Kellyanne Conway; he put on his hard hat with the lamp on it and went down the historical mineshaft to extract humungus ante-bellum boulders of bigotry.

Trump did not add to the sum total of bigotry and stupidity. He validated the bigots and the stupid people who’d been there waiting for him. He role-modeled, he set the gold standard for bigotry and made it super awesomely cool to be stupid.

For stupid, bigoted people he was aspirational. Now stupid bigoted parents could look at their stupid, bigoted kids and say, “Look, Thelma! Maybe one day you could be stupid, bigoted President! Isn’t that nifty? Oh, except that will never happen because, you know. Girl.”

Previously all the stupid people and bigoted people were in the closet, figuring out ways to “pass.” They had a suitable sense of shame about their condition.

They cocooned, developing economic theories that proved the market would effortlessly provide all of our needs in just the right quantities and at just the right price points if we stopped regulating it. This was the Stupid Theory of Economics, now taught worldwide, cooked up by Milton Friedman, a Stupid Economist.

This theory, incidentally, is the reason you and your extended family are now migrant workers sleeping in an abandoned railway car underneath the Bloor Street Viaduct.

Because stupid people get bored easily they need to fill every last minute of their waking lives, and then some. In the old days, traveling incognito, they would dress up like “Libertarians” and “Neo-Liberals” and convene in small groups to study the Second Amendment. These became the members of the Stupid NRA, who were astonished to discover that, although this Amendment is on the surface clearly referring to an 18th-century volunteer militia using muskets as a last-ditch effort against an oppressive, warring government, it is also effective at subtly conveying the Founders’ unmistakable intent that everyone in America should be issued a recreational automatic weapon at birth.

For geekier, computer-type fun they’d log on to ICQ chat rooms and make thought-provoking statements like, “I don’t think the earth can be round because we would just, like, fall off, I know, right? Pass it on.”

Now? The stupid bigoted people, swarming on Twitter in a new Day of the Locusts, have taken their cue from The Big Man, The Great Mouth Breather. They’re empowered, they’re vocal as hell, they’re no longer ashamed, and they’re gradually drowning out all but the most persistent liberal voices. They’re not going to take it anymore, whatever they’ve decided “it” is.

This is the kind of transformation that can happen when the leader of the most powerful nation on earth endorses something, like steaks or hooker sex or capital punishment.

Or stupidity and bigotry. Shares are through the roof!


ONE OF THE MANY WEIRD CONCEPTS going around is that freedom of expression is under attack and that people are being censored and silenced by the intolerant left (a concept usually expressed by someone speaking to their audience of millions on YouTube). The idea is that expressing an opposing viewpoint to a progressive is like thrusting a head of garlic and a cross into the face of a vampire, that we’ll explode, or whatever it is that vampires do in those circumstances.

Hence our “safe spaces,” our “political correctness” our “snowflakiness.” YOU are the fascists, the right says to us.

I don’t have time to personally address every single stupid and/or bigoted person, though I know some of you walked miles through a tornado then grabbed an Uber to get here today. Please try to understand, though I’m not holding my breath. I need to make this shit scalable.

I want to provide a public service at this point and define for you what is, and what is not, a difference of opinion.

Here’s Example One:

“I think we should provide healthcare by allowing people to keep their private insurance if they want.” / “I think we should provide healthcare using a single-payer model, like Canada and Britain.” / “I think government should stay out of the business of providing healthcare. The market will provide the best price and options if we just leave it alone.”

Those are differences of opinion. Although I strongly disagree with the last one, (because the evidence doesn’t support it) vive le difference, it makes the democratic world go ‘round. We’re smart enough — I think — to weigh the evidence and vote accordingly.

Another example:

“First-past-the-post voting is a disaster, because the party that gets into power doesn’t always have a majority of the votes.” / “Proportional representation is a disaster, because you end up with coalitions that give the third-level party undue influence on policies.”

Those are differences of opinion. They’re both concerned with a fair outcome to elections, an outcome that would best represent voters’ wishes.

With me so far?

Now let’s look at the following examples:

“ Women who have abortions should receive the death penalty. They should be hanged.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If people want to criticize the government, they’re traitors.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If you don’t like it here, you should go back to your shithole countries.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“Homosexuality is a sin and the gays [sic] shouldn’t be able to marry or adopt. They’re bringing about the downfall of society.”

is not a difference of opinion.

I feel almost embarrassed to have to spell this out, but:

If we want to live in a democratic society, if we want to work together to expand the scope of rights, equality, dignity as our understanding evolves, we have to agree on certain fundamental, inalienable human rights, and to do this, we codify these rights in an authoritative document from which flows the entire rule of law: a Constitution, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Bill of Rights, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We have differences of opinion when we discuss how to implement these fundamental human rights we have agreed on, these rights that may evolve, but which by common agreement can never be rescinded.

Rights may be expressed in the broadest terms, but their implementation is always specific, their meaning clarified within a matrix of situation, context and community. Always the question is: does this law, does this judgment, finally include whoever has been excluded, relieve the oppressed from their oppression, provide justice where justice has been denied?

If you don’t believe that women should control their own bodies;

if you don’t believe in the free expression of non-violent protest;

if you believe that some people are less than human or less than equal because they are different in their sexuality, gender expression, skin color, religious beliefs or any other trait and you counsel others to oppress and discount and exclude them;

if you advocate violence against a class of persons,

you are not expressing a difference of opinion.

You might actually be engaging in hate speech. This follows from the concept, noted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in their literature about balancing conflicting rights, that “the private expression of the right is more protected than the public expression.”

Yes, there is freedom of expression. You are free to express in private whatever you care to express, no matter how reprehensible, but when you express the same idea publicly you may be causing a whole lot of mischief. Your right, exercised in public, to call for death to women who’ve had abortions may not be judged to be in the best interests of society.

More bluntly, if you publicly advocate violence against a class of persons, the restriction of that right may be justifiable. The harm of restricting your freedom of expression may be negligible compared to the harm that is caused to the target of your bigotry by its public expression.

My rights, your rights.

So please, conservatives, Christians, conservative Christians, the whole lot of you: Enough with the cant about freedom of expression and the misguided (to take a charitable view) or disingenuous (my actual view) attempt to rehabilitate statements such as those listed above, statements that indicate that you, the speaker, do not hold with the fundamental values of a democratic society. There is no dialog possible with people such as you and nothing to engage with in these statements.

When you engage in your convoluted conservative logic it makes you look incredibly foolish, and it makes the rest of us wonder about your — to appropriate one of the right’s favorite loaded words — agenda.

If you can’t come on board about the fundamental principle of democracy—namely, the equality in dignity and worth of all persons—I have a suggestion. Maybe you could find your own island somewhere, hopefully free of shithole-ness, and populate it with yourselves until your island is positively busting a gut with great-again-ness.

Then you can relax, secure in your fundamental beliefs, and the rest of us, relieved of your hateful rhetoric and privileged whining, can get on with the business of creating a more fair and more just society for everyone.


Afterword

Conservatives have a repertoire of sneering insults which they direct at liberals whenever they can get away with it. This usually means that no bona fide news organization is watching, in loco parentis, so think Twitter or Facebook.

Gay men used to be called “queers” and there is something about the sound of the “q-u” followed by the fluting double “e” that still makes me catch my breath in fear and shame. But we took the word “queer” and we owned it, using it as a badge of pride that we were odd, eccentric, creative or just plain ornery. This idea of “queer” as rejecting stereotypes and gender norms switched the focus to society instead of sex. Hearing “queer” used as a positive or at least neutral descriptor was surprisingly liberating.

Queer has lost its edge of sexual deviance and now begins to sound spirited, and happy-go-lucky, like a charming iconoclastic leprechaun who could cast a spell on your first-born but who is too busy dyeing the shamrocks pink to bother.

Conservatives call Liberals “snowflakes,” and we could start our rehabilitation of the word, rescuing it from the cycle of abuse and maybe sending it on a little vacation to Antarctica where it can tell itself, “Goldarnit—I’m snowflake and I’m OK!”

I think snowflakes are beautiful, unique crystals which can be fragile by themselves, but can make a pretty effective blizzard when they agitate with the other snowflakes.

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Toronto housing is unaffordable…

but who cares, because… Booth!


Utilize your Booth. Or it’s Church Basement for you, loser.

Drawing on an entrepreneurial offering that I keep bumping into online, I think stand-alone phone booths costing $3,495.00 USD — yes, this is an actual thing—would make a simply spiffing way of adding some affordable housing to the Toronto real estate scene.

I’m hoping to blatantly steal this idea and convince Mayor John Tory and/or Premier of Ontario Doug Ford that it’s the only way, once I have their attention. And I’m positive that I will have their attention after next Tuesday, which is when I plan to streak through Nathan Phillips Square and nail my scrotum to “The Archer”. (I did a course.)

I’m The Guy with Ideas About the Homeless and Affordable Housing Problem. Ideas that don’t involve simply waiting until after Christmas then putting homeless people and the other losers who can’t afford over two thousand a month, not including utilities, in a church basement, feeding them macaroni dinner and canned ambrosia pudding, then bringing out some Anabaptists to scream at them about how they’re all losers who’ll never amount to much.

(Are Anabaptists the ones with the tambourines? Or the ones who baptize the faithful by holding them under water, just not, and this is only my personal opinion, for a long enough period of time?)

Having ideas about housing people is not difficult. Even I can do it. I, Murgatroyd McGraw, whose last idea about paying my rent involved having a roommate, which hasn’t been successful in six years, but somehow I have ideas about housing people, so the complexity level is, as they say, low.

John Tory—I wish all politicians had to change their name to John Tory, or Justin Liberal or Jagmeet Endeepee, in the manner that people used to be called “John Norfolk Cowherd” or “Betsy Poxstrumpet Back-Alley”, so you could make an informed choice—John Tory, Toronto’s OK-ish, “if you have to have one it might as well be him” Mayor, promises more affordable housing but does nothing.

OK, this is positive! At least doing nothing means he doesn’t actively destroy anything, and this reassures me that he’s merely a lackluster, underachieving old-school conservative, and not secretly cooking up something involving virgins, junior hockey coaches and the Book of Revelation.

A “cuck,” in today’s parlance.

I shudder with revulsion as I type that word, like I shudder when examining plasticized fast-food menus offering “sliders,” or catching sight of a mall-goer wearing a sweatshirt that says, “wine me dine me sixty-nine me,” or learning that there is a porn category called “creampies.”

But for taxonomic purposes, comb Roget’s from dawn to dusk though I may, “cuck” gets right into the nooks and crannies of John Tory and his oh-so-Canadian brand of bland. Are you still awake?

You can’t not like John Tory. That would be almost abusive. It would be like not liking the runty, annoying kid in class, the kid with bad breath and whose kitten just died, who puts up his hand once per year, and his answer’s wrong. You give him a pity-hug, but you wince.

It would be like admitting to Carrie that you took her to the Prom on a dare while preparing a bucket of pig’s blood. Except John would just go, “Oh, OK. Thanks for letting me know,” look a bit crestfallen and go home to re-read “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

I’m gonna come through this! There’s always next prom, and I’m a Good Person!

A “cuck,” if you didn’t know, is a man who is so clueless, he is literally the only person in town who doesn’t know how clueless he is.

John Tory is so clueless he waits until it’s cold in January, expresses shock about how cold it is, then tells us how determined he is to get on top of this homeless shelter thing, because cold in January in Canada? Who knew? Goldarn weather in January, sneakin’ up on us!

Mad Magazine, where males first imbibed smart-ass satire at the ages of twelve to fourteen, may be shutting down, but we have Maclean’s to pick up the slack. Maclean’s magazine tells us that Trudeau’s housing plan, and I must have nodded off during that one, is a bad idea and that we should—now, I hope you’re sitting down, in case you fall over laughing and crash into that Lalique figurine you just finished paying for—we should let the market provide affordable housing.

Right? Talk about obvious, staring-us-in-the-face solutions!

This is the much-celebrated “trickle-down” effect, and for visuals I invite you to imagine the moment in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy’s farmhouse trickles down right out of the tornado and lands right smack on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, if the tornado represents The Market and the Witch is, well, us.

Just to think of all the time we’ve wasted, annoying politicians with our suggestion that the market, released of pesky rent controls and awash with subsidies for first-time buyers’ mortgages, having spiraled so out of control that an average one-bedroom apartment in Toronto now costs $2,200 per month, does not seem to be getting with the program and providing affordable housing.

I can’t imagine what happened, the market having been so amazing at providing all the other things that the middle class, now reduced to a bunch of hobos sleeping in a dumpster, so desperately needs.

I think, on a balance of probabilities, that someone probably forgot to tell the market it was supposed to provide affordable housing. A simple oversight, and thanks, Maclean’s, for a well-needed reminder of that market-based approach that has never, ever, even once, achieved what it’s supposed to achieve without someone in government legislating in order to provide affordable housing and stop the market doing what it actually, in reality, does.

How off track is the market? Let’s see. Minimum wage, now rolled back by Doug Ford to $14.00 per hour because every small business in Ontario will founder if employees get one dollar more per hour, works out to $28,000 per year, assuming a forty-hour week (non-existent for the minimum wage crowd, but let’s play extra fair) and two weeks’ vacation.

Twenty-two hundred dollars per month for a one-bedroom apartment on the market is $26,400 a year, leaving that single mom a nifty $1,600 per year in disposable income, or a jaw-dropping $134 per month.

For everything.

But it’s me, as always, to the rescue, this time with my stand-alone phone booth idea. It’s win-win, just with both wins for me.

All mod cons:

Beautiful particle board finishes, which you won’t see because there’s no electricity. You can just maybe run a big-ass extension cord from the Don Valley to, say, the reference library if you’re not content with the sun in the morning and the moon at night. Also, the holes in the back of the booth for those self-replicating cords that come with your technology and get updated once a week by Apple are perfect for peeing out of, bit more challenging for the ladies, but when did we promise that your choice to be homeless would bear any resemblance to a bowl of cherries? Exactly!

And someone just said “glory hole,” but that’s possibly an extra level of market segmentation too far, at least before I’ve pitched John. We’ll reserve judgment on the glory hole thing, pending Tanya Granic Allen and any resolutions she might get on the agenda regarding gay people being a “liberal holocaust of heterosexuals and what about the children.”

Also the phone booth has just enough space that you can bring your own phone as long as its the Samsung foldable.

There’s no kitchen. Kitchen, already! So you can cook that filet mignon stuffed with foie gras from the Food Access Program, no doubt! Unbelievable!

Cutting-edge Iconic Design bit:

The Philip-Johnson inspired glass door with its twelve square feet of glass and awesome, jaw-dropping hinges will make you think your portable ghetto, or single-dwelling slum if you haven’t taken your meds in a while, is sitting in its very own National Trust landscape of rolling hills and, at first glance, galleries. Which is an easy mistake to make when you catch your first glimpse of artists jumping from the Overlea Bridge with burlap sacks of their best work because they can’t get a grant any more.

If an artist lands on your booth, they should just bounce off, due to its flexible yet durable construction.

Kiss our Boothy asses, Frank Gehry or do we mean Stella!

Minimalism+Modernism= Minimodmumism: We Bore Down and Birthed a Movement

You want to live the Toronto lifestyle, but you don’t have the cash. We understand.

You’re still fucked, though, because you can never stop working for the rest of your natural life, or save any money, or move, and every time you move out the landlord gets to jack up the rent as much as she likes.

Fast food workers can’t get a raise of one dollar after years and years, but landlords absolutely have to get a raise every year. Every year for a guaranteed amount. Otherwise, they’d be so resentful they’d come around to your place at night, sneak in and turn down the thermostat and close your windows, so extravagant are you with the utilities.

And at four times eight equals thirty-two people per booth, so the monthly rent of $3,495.00 plus any charges for spontaneous drug raids and to make sure everyone’s buying the cheap, zero-percent-fat yogurt, divided by thirty-two works out to—a helluva lot fairer, assuming the breadwinners for the booth can extract themselves enough times in a month to buy enough fifty-percent-off “enjoy this tonight!” pork chops to cook over the flame of someone’s torch lighter.

It’s all about density, guys.

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Conservatives finally broke the world…

… with help from my mom’s new sofa



SO I’M SITTING ON MY BALCONY WITH A friend of my friend. The friend of my friend is black, and as we small-talk each other he tells me that he’s Canadian, having been born here of parents who emigrated here from Jamaica. This seems totally right and logical, hardly worth even articulating, despite the new Trumpian standard of “we’ll be the judge of who’s a citizen or not, bright eyes, so better not get too uppity.”

Nope, born here is all you need. In fact, I’ll make a stab at it and say his parents are Canadian, too. Mr. All-Embracing PC Snowflake, that’s me!

It’s an uncomfortably muggy July evening and we’re eating chickpea stew over couscous from white Dollarama bowls. (I made the stew and steamed the couscous myself. I needed you to know that.) Our thoughts turn, don’t ask me how or why, to immigration, and this guy, Joe, which is absolutely not his name, says to me:

“The refugees get all these beautiful town houses, for free. They get more than you get on benefits.”

He says to me:

“I think Air Canada should stop hiring all these foreigners, because of security. They should hire only Canadians.”

He says to me:

“It’s black people who are always rude to me. White people are fine. It’s the black people I always have a problem with.”

And after I mentally rehearse the vomiting up of a full bowl of couscous and chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce then the post-puke dabbing of my lips accompanied by a final, raucous belch, my heart seizes up and falls out of my shirt like a lump of concrete.

I’m thinking, I’m a sixty-three-year-old—no I don’t, do I?— white guy and I have to explain to a gay black guy that refugees do not get all these beautiful town houses for free.

I have to explain to a gay black guy that many people would look at him and automatically assume that he’s “a foreigner,” and “not Canadian” just because of the color of his skin.

I have to explain to a gay black guy that it’s not about individuals of any race, it’s about how racism is systemic, built into the mechanisms of everyday life.

It’s not whether another individual black guy or white guy is rude to you about a parking spot. It’s about what happens when you go for a job, what happens when you apply for an apartment, what happens when you’re minding your business in Starbucks or getting into your car that someone has decided a black person would not own or walking down the street and a cop sees you?

It’s about what happens when you’re arrested and go to court and what kind of sentence, if any, do you get? And what happens to a white person in that same situation?

I have to explain to a gay black guy that he’s repeating fake news stories and urban myths and being racist.

And I can’t cope. I spend most of my online, and increasingly, offline, interactions pushing back at other white people when they make similar comments; when they say white people aren’t the only ones who had slaves, you know even though the discussion is about America, in which context white people are the only people who had slaves; when they say I’m color blind or claim that any grievance voiced by people of color is white racism.

I can barely cope with the onslaught of racism burbling out of white people now that Trump and his autocratic buddies worldwide have made racism a popular choice once again, I can barely deal with that. I am at a loss for dealing with a gay black guy who says this shit.

So that’s why I jumped off my eighth-floor balcony and landed on my feet, scrunching my legs right up into my pelvis, which has meant having all my trousers re-hemmed, an extra expense that I could ill afford.

You have to weigh the pro’s and the con’s. Tying my shoes is easier, but my knuckles drag along the sidewalk. People admire my integrity, but they preface their admiration with, “Hey down there—little guy!” Maybe I could have made the same statement in a more constructive, less dramatic fashion.

Oh, well. Too late now!


I grew up, like any mid-range Boomer, inside a normal, white racist household, with a normal, white racist mom and dad. My mother, who did the talking for both of them, cleaned up nice and, when meeting a new department store charge card, would skip the introductions and press it tearfully to her bosom like Dorothy hugging Toto after his escape from Elvira Gulch’s basket.

Anyone who wasn’t WASP, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant—this is not something you could aspire to, you either are or you aren’t—was obviously just not trying hard enough, even though, as I just said, trying is irrelevant. With me so far?

Skin color barely entered into it. Just strike off one of those attributes, say, “Protestant,” and it’s game over. Disparaging remarks about non-WASPs were acceptable WASP conversation. For some reason, probably because I’m gay, the one I remember most clearly is: “Barbra Streisand just opens her big Jewish mouth and screams”, an example of antisemitic WASP musical criticism that would have made Richard Wagner’s nasty little eyes bug out with pride, or is it envy.

My mother probably made that remark after a rousing game of bridge, while passing around wobbling platefuls of “Charlotte Russe” (which contained lime Jell-O, as did everything my mother cooked, probably even the pot roast contained lime Jell-O), and cups of Red Rose tea, served in hand-painted china cups. This was a genteel remark, if a bit obvious, yet god forbid there should be a lull in the conversation.

I mean, what could you say in response? “Fascinating, and exactly how big is her big Jewish mouth and how loudly does she scream?” Of course Barbra did that! Why not start the conversation with, “I noticed the sun rose in the East this morning,” for heaven’s sake! Lame!

This remark dates from Barbra’s early appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, a variety show. Variety shows were an extension of vaudeville, stage entertainments for all the family, so on a variety show you’d see singers (or “screamers”, if Barbra) and an act with a dog, and maybe a puppeteer and a comedian and some acrobats. So Barbra wasn’t yet a mega-star, at which point she could graduate from “big-mouthed screamer” and join the ranks of, take your pick, “bitch” (a woman with power), or “anti-Christ,” which is all the Jews who were controlling the media and just in it for the money.

Money! Power! Talent! The holy Trinity, unless you’re not WASP, heterosexual and male, when they become the Golden Calf. Anti-Christ Bitch Barbra, she’s got it all!

Moving along.

Jews, and Italians (who were also Catholics, which was kind of like when you get the letters for “syzygy” in Scrabble, a satisfying double-whammy of prejudice), got lumped together. These people, not being WASPs, were not strictly “white” because, you know.

Ethnic.

Ethnic meant colorful, so Gary and Adelina, the only Italians in Whitby, served as, you might say, the honorary town throw cushions who lived three blocks down the street, throw cushions in black velvet and gold braiding and “Souvenir of Niagara Falls” stitched on the front. Their house had figurines of the Virgin Mary, and what looked like actual photographs of Jesus, and Gary, a tailor by trade, smelled like sweat and warm bread and red wine, wine which he made at home in his basement. They used olive oil instead of butter.

WASPs do not smell. Dirty ethnics! WASPs do not use oil. Greasy ethnics!

But that was OK. Ethnics were not expected to have or to represent good taste, which for WASPs means how many shades of beige and cream can you deploy in one room and under how much plastic. Good taste means everything matching, because that’s what you saw in a magazine.

You’ll never go wrong with beige, my dear!

So we toddled along, making do with Italians and Jews, maybe the odd Polish Catholic if you were really desperate, as the targets on which to discharge our Anglo-Saxon bile and make them be the cause of things, rather than the cause being our obnoxious self-regard and personal manifest destiny.

And then of course came—the sixties! No sooner had my two sisters frosted their lips, raised their hemlines and learned to Twist when it was dead Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson and civil rights; race riots, Detroit and Chicago and Berkeley on fire; MLK Jr, Rosa Parks, and marches on Selma, summers of love, hippies and yippies.

Suddenly my mother and all the other white people were up till all hours processing the dusky Europeans into “white,” and bringing their focus to bear on figuring out what to do about these really non-white, unmistakably non-white, black people who’d suddenly found a voice.

Or was it that we hadn’t listened before?

No one listens to the voices of the oppressed (not hearing is the point of the oppression, after all) until the house is burning down; and what we finally heard was: “So we’ll burn the friggin house down, have it your way!”

This succeeded, finally, in getting someone’s attention.

Black people rioted in American cities, where the racism was more overt, the attitudes harder, the privilege somehow more entrenched. Canada, after all, had begun a gradual process of abolition in 1793, and in 1834 a British Act of Parliament abolished slavery throughout the Empire. Upper Canada became a destination for an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 refugee slaves via the Underground Railroad.

Forty thousand! Where were they? We’d literally, in Whitby, Ontario, never seen a black person live. This cannot be true, I rifle through my brain’s Rolodex for any memories, yet as far as I can tell I grew up in a small town in which I swear no black people lived. I remember no black shopkeepers, or teachers, or playmates.

They existed only on American TV and in American cities; in the pages of my Rand-McNally Children’s Encyclopedia, god help me, where they were called “Negroes,” (the new N-word) and where it was suggested that they were “good at sports and as entertainers, even scientists!”

Well, pick that cotton to a chorus of “Mammy” and stick a jockey on the front lawn, who knew!

In fact, my parents, who were your average, decent, nominally Christian, basically educated but unsophisticated small-town white people, didn’t really say anything I can remember that was bad about black people. I expect the whole concept was so fantastically alien it eclipsed any concept of ethnic, leaving them at a loss for words.

Still, there was that seventy-year head start with abolition; and that more liberal attitude, taking pride in its ornery non-American-ness. (It’s that unmistakable Canadian air of quiet, bemused Loyalist superiority, drawing on the enlightened authority of the Crown, that still drives some Americans bonkers.)

And so we went back to our living rooms to watch Judy Garland singing “Swanee,” her face loaded with more boot-polish than the entire U.S. infantry, breathing a sigh of relief.

We’d deal with black people when we had to. The possibility of black neighbors was not something we worried about, mainly because it seemed so unlikely.

Unless, of course, some black sportsmen, or entertainers, or even scientists, found the charms of Whitby, Ontario—with its leafy park, the annual itinerant carnival, the Carnegie Library, year-round Christmas lights and the orange-cellophaned windows of Whitby Mall—irresistible.


Thinking more about my mom, which reassures me that she’s still dead, I am reminded yet again about Trump’s comments that “the Squad” should “go back to their own countries.”

My mom did the same thing with sofas. This is a direct analogy. She would invite a sofa into our home — say, in coral silk or blue brocade—cover it in heavy plastic and, for a while, the two would co-exist happily.

This was “the honeymoon.”

Then, of course, as in any relationship, the sofa would begin to get ideas. One morning we’d discover that the sofa had thrown off its plastic cover in the night, or popped a button, or it would deliberately heat up when you sat on it, so you’d be sitting in an embarrassing puddle of sweat. The valance on the bottom of the sofa would begin to fray. The interloper was restless.

My mother would not stand for any show of sofa independence. Sofas had to know their function: to please her, to be a source of comfort, and above all to fit on her charge card and exact the high interest rates that would keep her relationship with the Robert Simpson Company well-oiled and meaningful and my father permanently on the road earning too little money (but not too little to get hammered).

The day came that she would no longer be speaking to the sofa. This was the contempt period, following, like a case of crab lice follows hooker sex, the last gasp of the honeymoon and the nano-second period of contentment; for my mother was a consuming soul as restless as the westward wind, that wayward wind that’s sure to wander.

I don’t know if my mother ever told a sofa, “Go back where you came from.” But soon after the contempt came the delivery men, rolling their eyes, for this ritual was repeated once, twice, three times per year. My mother would get an apology, a full refund and a new sofa, this one more compliant, less uppity, than the one before.

You just have to be absolutely clear who’s boss.


Conservatives, most current among them Donald Trump, the Great Mouth Breather, have finally done it. They’ve finished the work that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and the two Bushes started, not to mention de facto conservatives like Bill Clinton.

They’ve ruined the world, broken the social contract, turned everyone against the people who should be their allies, namely all the other people, and made division, fueled by racism, an agenda.

Democracy is gone, busted, kaput. In its place partisanship, entrenchment of power, as those we elect refuse all compromise and game the system through gerrymandering and judicial appointments, to ensure their ideology gets woven so tightly into the fabric that plucking our own eyes out would be easier than unweaving it.

For democracy to exist, we all have to agree on some basic principles: we have to realize that democracy is never simply about what the majority wants but how we treat minorities. Democracy is primarily about human rights, increasing our understanding of and extending the reach of equality, justice and dignity, and we have to agree what this means.

Liberalism is incremental, contextual, progressing slowly as we learn. It’s not black and white, revolutionary or impatient. It’s not about throwing out everything we have, it’s improving what works and evolving what doesn’t.

This is why the French Revolution ended in a bloodbath; and why Britain, watching the events in France to remind themselves how not to do things, continued with its plodding, slow increments of common law and of equity, a gradual, extremely imperfect, organic growth. Boring old liberalism may drag its feet but it leaves more heads attached to necks.

We need to agree that government is not a business, that leaders of our countries should not be accountants, but visionaries who respond to our beliefs and who work not for themselves but for the public good.

We have to agree that health care and hospitals, housing, a single system of public schools and secondary schools and universities from which emerge educated citizens whose eventual contributions enrich society; water, power, food; day care for our children whom we claim to cherish, that these things must be universally available, not delivered privately for the wealthy and publicly for everyone else. We have to agree that there can be no first-class and second-class citizens.

We have to agree that there is a level below which we will not let people sink. This is not pure altruism but an investment in a robust, stable society over the long term.

Extremes of wealth inequality stop democracy from functioning: If your life consists of a struggle to house, clothe and feed yourself and your family, there is no time or energy or will to participate as a functioning member of the body politic. In this sense, democracy is a luxury item.

If you can’t afford access to professional journalism and get your “news” from Facebook and other dubious websites pushing their agendas rather than seeking truth, you are a sitting duck for disinformation and will soon end up in a bubble of lies, half-lies, fake “experts” and conspiracy theories. Soon you are denying reality and clinging to your alternative facts in order to “belong ;” soon you trust no information source except those that espouse the same crazy beliefs; and what you believe is what your fellow bubble-dwellers believe.

But for democracy to function we have to agree on the truth and know where we have a reasonable chance of finding it.

Do we have this agreement? We used to. Somehow the project of turning informed, educated, rational adults into disinformed, confused, panic-stricken children has created a giant playground full of whimpering, reactive, entitled liberals whose balloons have been popped by the snarky, emboldened bully conservatives as they scream “Snowflakes!” “Libtards!” “SJW’s!”

And we liberals, believe it or not, actually mind these epithets. Which more or less tells me that conservatives have a point, at least about the snowflake thing, which I would have twisted myself into a pretzel to avoid admitting.


No sooner had we started cooking pad Thai and buying hand-woven rugs at Pier One to show how cosmopolitan we were about the ethnics when Reagan and Thatcher and Bush started to cast their evil spell. They convinced us that prosperity was scarce and only available to those rat-like and ruthless enough to win the race.

They didn’t have to remind us that where there are winners there are losers; we figured that out for ourselves. We saw what it meant to be a loser: to live on the street, go hungry in the midst of plenty, to be nothing.

They proved their point by de-funding social programs until they didn’t work, then telling us that incompetent government and “the nanny state” was the enemy; by preying on Protestant guilt and telling us the poor were poor by choice, that they were lazy.

Meanwhile the one percent lounged in their country clubs wearing Prada sneakers and drinking rum that someone once traded for slaves, while their nannies looked after the kids.

They made the effort to lift everyone up, the effort to reconnect the human family, into an evil. By hammering us with the words communism and socialism they planted in our poor heuristically-vulnerable brains the false idea that to offer universal government-delivered health care was akin to denouncing your family to Stalin and sending them to the gulag.

By hammering us with the words rapists and terrorists and invasion and illegals they reanimated the slimy residue of racism that we still contained so that our lizard brains quivered with atavistic fears. In that state we had no hope of processing the truth that we were being manipulated, that there were rapists and terrorists and invaders, for sure, but they were the people we elected, and quite a number of corporate CEO’s whom we didn’t.

There is no scarcity of money or of prosperity. There are funds for healthcare. There are funds for housing and feeding and guaranteeing an income to every person in North America. The world is awash with money.

What’s scarce is truth.

There are Facebook groups dedicated to debunking the myth that the world is round. This is how lost we’ve become. This is our level of panic. This is our successful reduction to partisan, truth-free zombies. Our brains are wiped clean of fact, there is no information source we trust, we’re ready, empty and malleable.

If you can believe the world is flat, that the moon landing was faked, and that there are extra-terrestrials wandering among us but the government’s not letting on, it’s a piece of cake to believe your unsafe streets or unemployment are caused by liberals, homos, feminists—or a few thousand refugees seeking asylum.

A day will come when the drones fly overhead, the levees collapse, the oceans engulf the coasts; when deserts crack open like desiccated skin and the fires ignite. We’ll experience these together. This, finally, will be the truth we can all agree upon, as together we all become refugees with no safe haven.

Hear that blast? Look up.

That’s fifty old white guys in a space ship built by Elon Musk, smoking Havana cigars, watching our blue planet glimmer and recede as they voyage to another world conceived and built to their specifications.

And they’re laughing.


My mother, like most people, softened and changed once we’d moved to the city and met black people, homosexuals, including me, Asian people and other exotic types. Because you learn tolerance, then acceptance, then truth, by being forced by life to rub elbows with, work with, live with the full spectrum of humanity.

This is what makes cities the roiling, bustling, all-in-this-together final liberal hope for human survival, and leafy rural enclaves, those hard, intractable, conservative kernels of smug self-satisfaction and hatred, its certain extinction.

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How to Read my Blog:

an instructional interlude



Dear valued visitors and followers: This is the content of a new page, accessible from the main menu (above) and let’s everyone wish it a very warm welcome. I wanted regular and new readers to know it exists, to draw your attention to it (me), to be encouraged to read it, and to take the hint. — DR


MY, HOW STANDARDS HAVE FALLEN! I can hear you rolling your eyes from here to Des Moines, and I know you’ll say to yourselves, “Of course, he’s doing the old-guy thing, the back in my day speech.” You may be right. I may simply be following tradition and experiencing inevitable change as a worsening, a dumbing down, when I should be grateful for progress.

That’s the narrative, isn’t it? That humans are following this trajectory of progress, albeit so slowly at first that nothing happens for millenia. Everyone just sits and stares at each other. And trust me, after a lifetime spent examining the fossil record so you don’t have to, I can confidently tell you that these millenia of staring are sheer tedium.

Sitting and staring. That’s it, dude. You could kill for a decent conversation, but because there’s no other activity—except for finding food, eating food, getting sick from the food, dying from the food or surviving the food, at which point the survivor carves the name of the food onto the Great Big Rock of Food That Won’t Kill You, with five stars and the “best before” date, which at this point is straightforward, “best before you starve to death”—because the only rainy-, or cloudy- or unseasonally cold- or even sunny-day activity is sitting around staring at everyone else who survived the food, good luck with that having a conversation thing.

I mean, there’s only so much feigned interest you can project in a lifetime.

While the proto-men and proto-women stare at each other it’s so quiet they can hear individual leaves falling onto the savannah, which they experience like bowling balls thudding onto parquet, notwithstanding they would likely not use that exact terminology just yet. Bowling, and therefore similes involving bowling  balls, have not been invented. We’ve got a long ways to go before they invent bowling, let me tell you! So they just shriek and run for cover.

Then once in a hundred years somebody pipes up, “Hey I was just thinking that maybe—” and everyone gasps and turns around in astonishment with a big whooshing sound to look at her.

Unfortunately, this is so intimidating she immediately forgets what she was going to say.

“Oh… nothing. Never mind. No, really, it’s OK, it was just—an idea…” (This, by the way, is the birth of passive-aggressive behavior, and not a moment too soon.)

Everyone sighs, maybe a couple of grumblers go I wish she’d stop DOING that! and then—silence again for another century or two.

Meanwhile everyone’s thinking, What are those pin pricks of light in the night sky, and how did they get up there and why don’t they fall down? If someone asks, I’ll say it’s Wilbur, The Great Caribou! We could use a little light humor! And anyway, what the heck are pin pricks, or for that matter, pins?

Gradually the silences get shorter and shorter, and you hear distinct noises as civilization develops. The chattering of villagers, the whoosh of the scythes, then, at exponentially increasing speeds, the rattling of looms, the hum of conveyor belts, the blasts of jet engines, ending in the present with the whine of one-sided conversations hitting the back of your neck, announced by smartphones generating what was probably supposed to sound like music but only if you’d never heard music.

Do you see how the standards fall? Nowadays you hear the one-sided conversation.

Growing up, I was taught: Ssh, not so loud! People will hear you! Use your indoor voice! Be seen and not heard! Conversations were restricted to the participants. Likewise telephone calls. You went into a little booth and slid the door shut because you didn’t want people to overhear you. Think what this means: a telephone call was as private as going to the bathroom.

Privacy has always been mankind’s greatest luxury, and no, I don’t mean data. We didn’t use words like data in the fifties, sixties, even seventies. You didn’t get data on your Princess phone. You got your mom’s voice asking why you hadn’t called, or your boyfriend saying he had a headache when you know very well he’s screwing the football coach. Data was a word you used, maybe, if you were Robert Oppenheimer. Probably even Einstein didn’t say data.

Yeah, right. I’ll show you “headache”! That’s rich!

We worry about data now, but back then we were worried about our conversations being overheard or disturbing other people.

Remember other people?

And we’d be mortified if someone had been listening to our conversation or found out our secrets. Secrets were still in their early phase of something you didn’t tell. My great aunts, Victorian women all, never told anyone that my eldest sister got pregnant before she married the guy, nor did they tell anyone about my parents’ divorce. This was private business, and if you talked about someone’s private business who wasn’t there, that was gossip.

Gossip was tacky, except for the rare occasion when it was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy afternoon.

How many months? She didn’t! Oh, I know! And you mustn’t say you heard this from me, but—apparently he’s that way!

We kept to ourselves out of fear of making the other person uncomfortable. No one knew your financial woes, the minutiae of office politics, the state of your marriage; we did not make our friends into our psychiatrists or social workers.

Now we live in public, holy prostitutes assuming the face-down spread-eagle to receive validation from anyone who might pass by. We are nothing on our own, because we are empty, and we are empty because we know nothing but the fascinating contents of our own heads and because we haven’t left the house since MySpace.

We have no allure, because we are so easily accessible. We are brands, personas, stories we tell that might as well be true.

We have no need for privacy, for we are at once the incentive and the prize, the scoop and the investigative journalist. Our mere bodies, those archaic chunks of pre-industrial too, too solid analog flesh, may melt, like so much ground beef past its sell-by date, into compost; but our personalities, fizzing with fake pizzazz like artificially sweetened soda and echoing third-hand opinions down broken phone lines crackling with static, have been uploaded to the cloud for all-device synchronization and easy universal obfuscation.

Standards have fallen. Where there was once charisma we now have persuasion; for glamour, brand loyalty; for thought, sponsored content. We long to read web copy that doesn’t suck instead of literature that, guaranteed, did not contain the word “suck” unless someone was talking about bees.

We no longer keep to ourselves in dark studies lined with ancient texts teaching ourselves eternal truths, while disciples as yet unknown to us spent a lifetime beating a path to our door; now we are everywhere, and depressingly unavoidable.

To award yourself Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame you at least had to throw on a metal mini-dress by Paco Rabanne, gloss your lips white and learn to frug before hailing a cab to The Factory. Compared to Instagram, this is like getting your Baccalaureate in semiotics at the Sorbonne.

We document the mysterious trail of our morning glory muffin from its perfect plating at Jet Fuel to its passage through our perfectly moisturized lips; we would, given our druthers, eagerly await and document its return to the primordial light and the roiling waters at the other end had we the time, the followers and the influence that really matters.


Not wishing to be thought an old piece of dried-up ear wax, a wizened pair of donkey testes, not au courant, I take a deep breath and, both melding with and standing out from the crowd, I vow to proffer my creative process for public, that’s you, consumption. Why wait, all high-and-mighty and flaunting my good taste, until my work is polished and ready?

That’s why, like a fledgling terrorist holding in front of me a terrified kindergarten child as hostage, I thrust into the limelight my crude first drafts and confused initial thoughts.

These are never totally crude and unworthy of your attention, though. I mean, this is me, dudes. I consider a pressed shirt and a bow-tie from Harry Rosen to be casual wear. Or at least, I considered that way during the three years I actually got paid by an employer and could afford to be abused by the Harry Rosen sales staff, and how, I ask you, how will they keep me down on the farm, once I have seen Harr-ee?

Exactly.

Oh my god will he ever get to the point, and meanwhile could someone drive right through that red light while I dart onto the crosswalk without looking? comes your exasperated cry.

I interpret this as a metaphor for wanting me to get to the point, the promised point being: how to read my blog. Very well, then.

Read each piece more than once. Again for emphasis: Read each piece more than once.

(Including this one.)

That’s it! Really. That’s how to read my posts. As a series of drafts that I polish into their final form, for I have turned the light and breezy blog post about making waffles or how to monetize your hate group into a soul-searching, overly-literate polysyllabic Proustian nightmare clocking in at anywhere from two to three thousand words.

Yep, that was me.

Thus, to get the full effect, and only if you’re interested in these things, read my unpolished initial thoughts, but return, once, twice or even three or more times, after a few days, weeks, or months, for my posts are not mere words on a screen, but living entities that materialize, mature and mutate at hectic, time-lapsing speeds.

And you’ll never know what living entity to expect. Sometimes you’ll see a peony fluttering its petals like runway model’s Oscar de la Renta ballgown; sometimes a gecko opening its lipless lizard maw to gulp down a—whatever it is geckos gulp down. I’m no one to judge.

This means that you can follow the progress of each piece as though I were on live cam, but without the cam.

Why no live cam? Because I write naked.

That’s correct. Tits to the breeze and always wary of my hot cup of coffee. And now that I’m certain you’ll never, ever be able to get that image out of your mind—

My work here is done.

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The mark of the beast …

… and, in Ontario, zombie revenge for “The People”


image of Trump yelling "she's not my type" superimposed over pic of E. Jean Carroll, his accuser.
E. Jean Carroll. (Not his type.)

LADIES AND GENTS, MEET E. Jean Carroll. Ms. Carroll, a distinguished author, enjoys the dubious honor of being the twenty-second — TWENTY-SECOND — woman to allege she was sexually abused by Donald Trump (raped, in fact). Being sexually molested by the Prez is now so common, we just gloss over it.

“Well, of course he did, it’s Trump, dude! How about those Raptors, eh?”

That must be why Ms. Carroll’s story, which I’m fairly sure would have made life just a little, what’s the word, awkward for any other President — in fact, back in the day, for any male at all, even a sanitation worker, even a CEO or vacuum cleaner salesman, or even a recently fired Beer Store employee — her story didn’t make a single front page.

That’s how much we care about women.

And you know what Trump said?

“She’s not my type.” Like sexual abuse would be understandable if she were. Lucky ol’ Ms. E. Jean Carroll!

Ms Carroll’s snapshot by the New York Times captures more than you might think, if you care to read it, and I do, especially because I know nothing about her background, personality or history. This is my newest party trick, which makes this all about me, and I don’t care how accurate I am, though I’m at an age where you’ll have to smile indulgently if I get even the least detail correct, like you do when a new acquaintance tries to nail your astrological sign.

“Oh, VIRGO! That was my second guess!”

And if I don’t get anything right you still have to indulge me because I’m old and you’re a millennial, which I define as anyone at least a week younger than me.

Anyway.

In the photo by the New York Times, Ms. Carroll wears a turtleneck sweater (I imagine her deciding what to wear for the interview, and doing the middle-aged woman “I’m going to hide my crepe-y neck” thing), and that detail, along with her short hairstyle gives her a sporty, casual look that’s still pulled together. She’s breezy. She’s the kind of woman who wears what she fancies, rather than what fashion dictates; who power walks, watches what she eats, but not fanatically, and possibly enjoys a friendly game of tennis. She’s not a “girly-girl” as female friends of mine might classify these things.

She’s up on environmental issues, she knows who killed the ERA, she’s political, and gives you her forthright opinions, even if you haven’t quite got around to asking her for them.

You’d hire her for the job.

Her tentative smile is a challenge more than an invitation. It’s like she wants to smile more naturally, let her smile bloom at little, but then constrains it. There may have been a day when she offered the smile without cost, but now there is a cost. You have to earn the smile.

But it’s her eyes that most fascinate me. They are forward, direct, but vulnerable, they are the eyes of someone who has been wounded and survived and wants you to know this; not for pity, but as a gift of her hard-won wisdom. And yet she’s not cynical.

Her eyes kill me. And her eyes arouse in me a kind of atavistic cave-man energy, so that, gay as a goose be damned, I sense that I would break a chair or five over the head of anyone who tried to harm her.

Donald Trump harmed her. Or, put in the over-heated rhetoric of the religious right, which for once seems appropriate:

The mark of the beast is upon her.

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Think about how far we’ve sunk. No, really, I want you to think about this. TWENTY-TWO women have accused Donald Trump of sexual abuse / rape and NOTHING HAPPENS.

NOTHING HAPPENS. Trump declares, to an online audience presumably of millions: “If there was intel from a foreign country about my political rivals, of course I’d take it!” But then he adds: “I’d do it again.”

This is, in fact, a confession: “I’d do it again.” To do something again, you must have done it once already. He’s telling us that he did accept foreign interference in the election.

He’s not just corrupt. He flaunts his corruption the way a flasher opens his dirty raincoat to flaunt his flaccid dick. Then he laughs and runs off. And NOTHING HAPPENS.

NOTHING HAPPENS.

Why doesn’t the justified public outrage sparked by #MeToo translate to impeachment or even arrest in Trump’s case? What is wrong with people and the system here?

Corrupt. A criminal. Through his “charity”, the “Trump Foundation,” he broke the law, willfully, with intent, mens rea, time after time, and that’s taking into account just this one organization, which was basically used to funnel charitable donations to his political campaign or into his own pocket.

The Board of Directors (his family), who were supposed to ensure that funds were used in compliance with statutory law, did not meet once after 1999 and rubber-stamped every cheque. And HE IS STILL PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

NOTHING HAPPENS.

And he dares to say, “Crooked Hillary”?

But that’s the marketing savvy at work. In marketing, it’s not “location, location, location,” but “repetition, repetition, repetition.” He never mentions Clinton without the adjective “crooked.” Just like he never says “New York Times” without “failing,” or responds to a criticism without “fake news.”

He knows, instinctively, that we remember best what we last heard, true or not. It’s the availability heuristic, and it’s the essence of the “genius” of the used-car salesman, or the purveyor of snake oil at nineteenth-century carnivals.

It’s like having a super-powerful Mafia don for POTUS, the kind who knows exactly how far he can go without technically breaking the law; or a five-year-old child who’s testing how far he can go before our patience is utterly exhausted (apparently much, much further than we could have possibly imagined).

Trump will tank the world’s economy with his tariffs, close down the press, start World War III with North Korea and China, and implement The Handmaid’s Tale on behalf of Mike Pence. NOTHING STOPS HIM.

Then, once it’s too late and the damage is done, he’s taken down and removed from office when he parallel parks in the wrong direction on a one-way street.

Assuming there are still streets.

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Dug-Up Ford, For The People.

Meanwhile, in Canada — just think, “up there” if you need to get your bearings — aware that our political drama is but a twinkling tea-light to the interplanetary flamethrower of the U.S., we plod dutifully onward in our horn-rimmed glasses and Chairman Mao suits, pushing in front of us like human shields our bargain-basement, brown-nosing tributes to the United States of Fuckery, our discount Donalds. We have our Andrew Scheer’s, our Jason Kenney’s, our Maxime Bernier’s, our Tanya Granic Allen’s and our Faith Goldy’s. These are, inevitably, members of the — does anyone remember what they’re called?

Anyone?

Are they the Wild Rose Party or the Reform Party or the Conservatives or the Progressive Conservatives, or…? They’ve changed names and interbred and put on the Hallowe’en masks so many times hoping we’ll forget and I’ve kinda lost track. No sooner does Andrew stand up and say, “the abortion debate will not be re-opened!” and we sigh with relief, when someone in Alberta says that the Rainbow Flag of Pride is comparable to the Nazi swastika, and boom! Tense again! Toes are clenched!

Let’s just say they are conservatives, and they are cannons loaded to the brim with loose shot. Pow-pow! Gay people are against liberty! What, are you tense? Time for a name-change! How about — Progressive Reform Roses!

Our conservatives are a herd of unruly cats in heat. No sooner does the “Gays against liberty” thing die down but that Andrew poses with Faith Goldy, our dime-store Sally Bowles and pin-up girl for White Supremacists, the thinking Nazi’s wank.

"... The Canada we long for is so white, mein Herr, 
And if you're not, you'd best stay out of sight, mein Herr,
Your niqab'd women give us such a fright, mein Herr!
So I preach
Racial hate
And the whites
take the bait
..."

or it’s Tanya “vomiting” on cue at the thought of gay marriage and —

— why is it that the bigots who go crazy at the idea of gay people spend so much time obsessing about gay people? You’d think their therapist would tell them to think of something else, wouldn’t you? Maybe some deep breathing? Take up stamp collecting? —

— wringing her hands because, in her twisted world, up-to-date sex education means that grade school kids are spending their class-time dreaming up perverse, new ways to use their properly-named genitals when they should be learning their times tables.

This is what conservatives are worried about. What you’re doing with your genitals, how better to punish the poor for being poor, how to keep people arguing with each other and not asking awkward questions, and how to keep government small, but not quite small enough to let women determine what to do with their own wombs.

Meanwhile our real problems — homelessness and a nationwide crisis of affordable housing, a dying planet exacerbated by deniers in the pockets of the oil industry, a war against women, an underfunded healthcare system, underfunded transit, reparations for our First Nations genocide, stagnant wages and weary cynicism, nepotism and corruption — get the same old treatment, which is nothing except the slow torture of death by a thousand cuts that makes privatization “logical” and “inevitable.”

Lower taxes, tough on crime: The little-black-dress-with-pearls of conservative policy. You look good in it, it goes everywhere and makes itself the perfect solution for every problem. Dress it up or dress it down, it’s safely non-committal, yet chic. Wear it to work cutting Arts Council grants, then off you go to a cocktail reception at the World Economic Summit with just a quick refresh of your lipstick!

Canada’s current signature knock-off, the Premier (think Governor) of Ontario, who has launched the Titanic of Ontario’s deficit onto the icy seas of austerity, the vessel on its maiden voyage of doom is, of course, that bloated barge, Premier Doug “Is-it-real-or-is-it-undead?” Ford.

With his maniac, mirthless muppet-grin frozen at the limits of plasticity, but betrayed by the deadness in his eyes as fakery, ol’ Dug-Up has set about being the fox of the people in the hen house of Liberal corruption and overspending.

He is the People’s Premier. He is For The People. He is going to drain the swamp, stand up for the little guy, make Canada great again, and —

Hold on, hold on…. this is weird but — I’m having this déjà-vu moment. Is it possible that….? This all sounds strangely familiar and… Do you get that, too?

Nah. Just being paranoid. It can happen! Probably a bad sweet potato fry from dinner last night. I made the fries from scratch, and they were delicious, but I did notice a couple of little round holes in the flesh of the potato, holes that looked like little worm holes.

So I bet I ate a sweet-potato worm and that’s what’s causing this headache and nausea and inability to stop sobbing with despair.

Now, the first thing Ford did after winning the prize — although the entire City of Toronto voted against him, literally the entire city, fearful of what was to come, the 1998 amalgamation of Toronto with its conservative suburbs did its intended work once again — was to make it perfectly clear that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary Premiership.

With an overwhelming mandate to ignore his platform and do whatever he wanted, Ford redrew Toronto wards to favour his “base” — a noun that serves perfectly as its own adjective — in the middle of the Toronto council election campaign, thereby cutting City Council in half and knocking out anyone at City Hall who might have elitist ideas and/or who gave his late bro, Rob, disrespect.

You see, this isn’t just politics. This is personal.

Ford pushed through his gerrymandering by threatening to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause (this is the weasel clause in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowing inalienable rights to be taken away for five years at a time — but we made everyone cross their hearts and hope to die that they wouldn’t use it frivolously, so that’s OK!) then, dashing over to the Ontario Legislature, proceeded to install his cronies and relatives to various key positions, all while while cutting Ontario’s essential services to the tune of billions of dollars, to solve the crisis of the deficit, which was not a crisis.

Up to speed?

The list of the Doug Ford government’s cuts in its first year is exhausting and dispiriting to read. Here it is. (Click on the image to view the full-size, readable version.)

a list of cuts made by the Conservative government in Ontario in the first year after their election.
CLICK TO VIEW.
From: National Observer (http://bit.ly/2KGbKYd),
June 7, 2019, Byline: Fatima Sayed.

The thing about Doug Ford and his conservatives being For the People is — what people, exactly? They don’t seem to be for students getting up-to-date education, or even breakfast; or artists, or scientists and researchers, or workers, injured or whole; or people of the First Nations, or women who’ve been abused, or who have not been abused, or at-risk youth; or people with low incomes, or non-binary and trans persons (who endured the humiliation of Tanya Granic Allen’s motion, adopted by the members, that gender identity was “liberal ideology,”), or people needing medications, or tourists, or prisoners, or people with addictions, or people with HIV or cancer.

Who, exactly, are they for? Or is this just a great big ideological cluster-fuck of “All government is bad, all money in my pocket is good and I’m gonna show those Toronto elites what happens when you kill my bro!” ?

Some day, I believe, we’ll all come to our senses again. The scales will fall from our eyes. We’ll stop in-fighting and start protesting. We’ll see through the manipulations, the cant, the idiotic conspiracy theories — all the attempts to steer us away from seeing the truth: That the system that grinds us into dust, a system rigged for the benefit of a few fat, rich, old white men, is not broken. It’s doing what it was designed to do.

That reality is bad enough by itself, and has no need of the hot fudge sauce and the chopped nuts on top.

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