Nothing silly about Trump, Nugent, Palin

“Silly rural Americans” are the last socially acceptable target for liberal mockery, a guy named Matt Bai tweeted today.

I’m not sure that’s true. I have liberal friends and family who openly stereotype Walmart shoppers, as just one example.

To state the obvious, those rural Americans and Walmart shoppers are all people. Humans, we all have much in common.

Still, Mr. Bai makes a good point, that taunting Trump supporters with a Beverly Hillbillies theme song parody (as @TrumpToons did so lamely) hardly persuades anyone to change their tune, or their views, or their votes for that matter.

Changing minds isn’t actually the objective of such stereotyping. It makes the would-be parodist feel good, I suppose, and gets a few laughs and likes, but it reflects badly on the perpetrator and on the “liberals” that Bai accuses. Conservatives routinely stereotype liberals, of course.

This is not to say that the people photographed with the president* aren’t themselves fair targets of criticism or parody. They are.

There’s nothing “silly” about Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. I don’t know much about Kid Rock and nothing about the other women in the photo.

Just lay off the generalizations about large groups of people. Not helpful.

https://twitter.com/TrumpToons/status/855058861119610880

We can always get another truck driver

Talked to an old friend of mine today, a corporation who has been worried sick that McConnell and company would chicken out of nuking the filibuster thing.

“As a person with feelings,” my friend said, “I was so relieved to see them clear the way for Judge Gorsuch to join the Supremes where he can protect my rights as a person.”

What about the trucker decision, I asked, where the guy was fired for trying to avoid freezing to death?

“Beej,” he said, placing a cold, metallic hand on my shoulder, “Beej. We can always get another truck driver.”

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Throwing journalists out of the White House is throwing the people out

The Esquire story about ending the decades-old presence of reporters in the White House will warm the hearts of those who enjoy denigrating “the press.”

the-white-house-1623005_1280It certainly isn’t a surprise that the new administration would consider taking the matter so far. They know that it pays to pander to the minority of voting citizens who helped them win the Electoral College vote. News organizations are an easy target.

The story quotes someone identified as a senior official as calling the press “the opposition party” and saying, “We are taking back the press room.” The new press secretary maintains that the move is about logistics, that having press conferences and briefings elsewhere will enable more “press” to attend. (Coincidentally or not, it would also enable the positioning of more paid staff to cheer and applaud.)

The words and the symbolism are important, so I think we need to clarify some terms.

Journalists (news reporters and editors) play an important role in our society. Unfortunately in some cases, so do the analysts, columnists, commentators, propagandists, and bloviators that some citizens mistake for journalists.

Journalists report on what is going on in the world and help readers and viewers understand what’s going on by providing valuable context. The others may or may not do that.

The former keep an eye on those in power on behalf of the citizens to whom the powerful are accountable. Some of the latter have the best interests of the public in mind; others have their own political or financial interests in mind. Some will lie if necessary or profitable.

Powerful people and others who see it to their advantage throw all of these purveyors of information and or lies* into the nebulous category of “the press,” or the more all-encompassing “the media.”

If moving the “press room” out of the White House makes it more difficult for journalists to do their work, that is cause for concern.

When the incoming administration labels journalists an “opposition party,” it puts itself in direct opposition to the American people and the U.S. Constitution.

It slaps all citizens in the face, whether they feel the sting yet or not.


* Lie: Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation are among the popular euphemisms for this straightforward and easily understood term. See the Merriam-Webster definition of the verb form that means making an untrue statement with intent to deceive.

Furious and done being polite

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Midwestern sunset, via Pixabay

Most of you who are reading this don’t know me, but I want you to know I am furious that my daughter-in-law should be unwelcome or even feel unwelcome anywhere in this country.

I’ll extend that to her wonderful sisters and parents, and to my new granddaughter, who is too young to know about any of this, and to the rest of my diverse, extended family.

The discomfort, the fear described on her Brown Noise blog have heightened significantly since the victory of our new president-elect.

They are not entirely new feelings. I know this for a fact, because I heard about them long before the election, long before the latest campaign for president. They go back decades.

They don’t come out only in the rural Midwest, where the young family encountered the MAGA-themed McDonald’s ad described in that blog post. They can and do turn up anywhere.

The difference now is obvious and stark. Things are worse since the Republicans won. Bigots are out in the open, unashamed, and unafraid of the light.

I’m done being polite.

Damn the people who elected our soon to be pseudo-president, thereby emboldening his bigoted followers, and directly or indirectly contributing to this extra-toxic culture we now live in.

That is some harsh talk, coming from me. The people who elected him include some of my friends, acquaintances, and even family members.

They have disappointed me, and they need to know it.


First published on Medium, December 20, 2016

The next sunrise

The sun once rose in the east every day.

Summer mornings broke
warm and early
and afternoons were baseball
and tag and hiding and seeking
and sweaty until the bell and dinner
and more play and sweat until
dark and beyond.

The sun hides now and we seek it
amid clouds and fog.

Play and smiles are memories
that fade with time and heil salutes
and hard, grim resolve.

The next sunrise is a hope,
a wish, a dream.

Good morning is a prayer,
that all we love will survive
and rise again
when the clouds and fog
burn away.

So you think you’re a patriot?

You say you love your country, that you are devoted to it. My dictionary says that’s patriotism, so maybe you are a patriot.
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How do you demonstrate your love and devotion?

You fly the flag, at least on certain holidays?

You celebrate Independence Day, maybe with some sparklers for the kids?

You stand for the national anthem? Take off your hat? Place your hand over your heart? That’s cool if you really mean it. I do those things myself.

What else?

Maybe you’ve served in the military, or as an honest elected official, or you’re active somehow in bettering your local community. Those can be authentic ways to show your true colors, that you care about this big place.

How about this? Do you savagely criticize anyone who sits or kneels in protest at anthem time? Do you question their motives? Wish them harm?

That doesn’t make you a patriot. It doesn’t do anything for your country, but it’s your right. I readily acknowledge that it is your right even though I disapprove of how you choose to exercise it.

As much as I disapprove, I won’t suggest that you leave the country, or call for you to lose your job, or hope that you suffer some terrible misfortune. What I will do is suggest that you take stock of what it is that makes you think you are a patriot.

What have you really done for your country?

What are you are willing to do to prove your love and devotion?

The United States needs more from you than a willingness to stand with the crowd during the national anthem and a knee-jerk condemnation of those who protest.

What else will you do, my fellow American?

 

Dropping “America” before Election Day

Changing my name seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago.

Following Budweiser’s lead when it rebranded as America, I tried to have a little fun emulating one of the dumber marketing gimmicks ever. I changed my Twitter name to B.J. America and my blog to “The America (formerly Smith) Compound.”

My wife never really embraced the notion of being Mrs. America, or Ms. America, but I thought it was worth a try.

My intent was to change back to Smith after Election Day 2016. That’s when America beer will go back to being Budweiser, after what the foreign-owned company’s spokesman predicted would be “the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen.”

How a summer can be patriotic was never really explained.

The thing is, I couldn’t wait until November. I’m not exactly proud of the way America is acting lately.

The name has become too much of an embarrassment. Our discourse, if we can even call it that, has gotten too ugly.

Some elements have gone well beyond ugly. The words toxic and unhinged come to mind.

Candidate Trump is a dangerous GOP mistake who spreads lies and bigotry and plays on the fears and prejudices of millions of Americans to further his incoherent political agenda. Congress continues to do nothing to confront our national addiction to gun violence. We are complicit by accepting their inaction.

That’s not my America.

Back to The Smith Compound.