David Harbour and Stranger Things

Stranger Things was one of my favourite shows of 2016 and I was happy to hear that it received a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for “Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble Cast”. Of course, the award was overshadowed online by memes targeting Winona Ryder’s facial expressions.

It appears that Ryder actually stole attention away from David Harbour’s speech, which is also one of the most discussed events from the SAG Awards. Firstly, the speech is generally about fighting injustice and accepting “outcasts and freaks”. The speech can refer to the events of Stranger Things but is of course a parallel to Trump and his presidency.

Like any political comment, it has attracted a wave of support and plenty of criticism. I previously discussed how people forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword in my Patton Oswalt article.

“I also find that people often forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. For example, President Trump said the Hamilton cast was out of line for criticizing Vice President Pence, but he also supported the unfounded allegations that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim. Trump had no problem using his freedom of speech to assert that a President’s birth certificate isn’t valid, but he was also insulted that the Hamilton cast would have go off-script to address his VP. People invoke freedom of speech as an excuse when people express views they do not agree with.”

I’m not bringing this up again as shameless self-promotion. I bring it up again because I believe that it captures an issue that is central to the criticism directed towards Harbour and Stranger Things as a whole. I first came across the criticism of Harbour’s speech due to an announcement about season 2. While I was just excited to see some new pictures, a few of the users (who use Facebook to comment) were quick to comment on how much Harbour’s speech turned them off the show.

Bill Michael writes: “I love the first season but after the SAG award political rant/meltdown on stage by the cast I doubt my family or I will watch season 2 now”

And Jim Culver follows up with: “I was right in the middle of binge-watching season one when they did that, and it totally soured the experience for me. All I could think about was what a pretentious jerk the guy who played Hopper is, and what a ditz Winona Ryder is.”

So maybe Culver has a point about Ryder, but what bothered me was the animosity generated about Harbour daring to express an opinion.

I have come across some people who believe that celebrities shouldn’t make political statements of any kind, since they have so much influence and can sway people negatively. However, we have to remember that celebrities are human beings. They have a stake in the world just as much as we do.

If an actor or actress I respect makes political statements I disagree with, I don’t chastise them for having an opinion, I criticize them for the views themselves. I like my bigots out in the open, and I want to know what is going on in the minds of people who I am indirectly giving money to. The people criticizing Harbour, for criticizing Trump, come across as Trump supporters who don’t want to hear their hero denigrated by what they view as “libtards,” or “commies” judging by the comments on the Youtube video. I have to wonder if they would be as upset if Harbour made a speech talking about the need to support Trump.

As expected, plenty of the comments criticize the left for being intolerant. After all, Harbour does advise that people should be punched in the face. When Trump said he wanted to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and establish a Muslim ban, people said it was only a metaphor. I’ll use the same excuse here, Harbour was just referring to what his character would do, not what he is seriously condoning others to do.

So, the same right-wing that is convinced most Muslims are terrorists, that Obama is a foreign born Muslim etc. are now upset that the left dares to make a speech about accepting outsiders. Does anyone else see the problem with this mindset? While one side continues to defend whatever they say as the politically incorrect truth, or  “telling it like is”, any comment that does not support Trump is viewed as proof that liberals aren’t tolerant. Liberals don’t tolerate bigots, it’s as simple as that.

 

 

Trump-1984 Is Upon Us

We have officially entered the era of President Trump.  There were many people who thought this would never happen. They discounted all of the apparent support for Trump as a the work of a loud minority and had faith that the American people would let reason prevail. I wanted to believe this too but I couldn’t ignore all of the support that Trump received for one prejudiced comment after one another, and the climate of hate that he happily nourished. No one is racist anymore. They all have black friends or they are not racist, but… No one is sexist, they’re just not a white knight and they don’t like feminazis. They also don’t like political correctness, liberal agendas or social justice warriors. All this talk of the need to fight inequality is just the work of people who get offended by “everything”. Then along comes Trump, who isn’t afraid to “tell it like it is”.

Trump didn’t lay out many specific policy plans, because he didn’t need to. His comments on Hispanics, Muslims and women got him all the support he needed. Trump did lay out two bold plans, which some people disregarded as words that were only meant to get votes and media coverage. Trump repeatedly stated the need to ban Muslims from entering the US until “we can figure out what the heck is going on” and the need to build a wall along the U.S Mexico border. I have heard family, co-workers and friends say that there was no way Trump would even try to enact these policies.

Yet here we are. To be fair to Trump, his executive order is not a definitive one.

It prevents the citizens of seven Muslim-Majority countries from entering the US and also suspends the US refugee program for 120 days. However, there is the possibility of a reinstatement or an extension on the order if Trump deems it necessary.

Some of the defense for the act stems from the idea that all Muslims are a threat. I won’t give those arguments much time since radical Islamic terrorists statistically make up a small portion of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.

Many people are also defending the ban since they have the idea that America already had lax security protocols for refugees and immigrants coming from Muslim majority countries, which isn’t true.

Some are arguing Trump will be impeached, but the point is that he genuinely tried to enact the policies he discussed.

Trump wasn’t just treating the race like a marketing opportunity and appealing to hate because it would get him airtime. At this point, it seems as if he genuinely believes all of the bigoted comments he made during his campaign. It wasn’t all a publicity stunt.

We now have a man who’s senior White House Advisor refers to easily debunked lies as alternative facts. It isn’t a coincidence that sales of 1984 spiked after these comments were made. Trump’s campaign and his presidency is fueled by bigotry, and hate is the enemy of fact. Anyone who was willing to vote for Trump after he said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” will obviously continue to support him. They will embrace alternative facts and use any of the right wing buzzwords, “social justice warrior, political correctness etc.” to shut down any reasoned discussion they don’t want to hear.

 

Voter turnout was relatively low for this past election, at 60% of the eligible voters. However, that means that over 30% of the eligible voting population still voted for Trump. We are talking about 66 million people who wholeheartedly embrace bigotry and represent a regression in the ideals of racial and religious equality. Maybe we only have to deal with Trump a few more months. Or maybe we have to deal with a whole term, and maybe another.

Hopefully this election motivates people to vote in the next one, and pick the lesser of two evils if need be.

 

The Dying Engine

“I used to think that maybe I’d let my anger serve as an engine. But I’ve since discovered that my anger over each new racist incident is now rivaled and augmented by the anger I feel when asked to explain, once more, why black people shouldn’t be brutalized, insulted, and killed. If you’re a person of color, the racism beat is also a professional commitment to defending your right and the right of people like you to be treated with consideration to an audience filled with readers champing at the bit to call you nothing but a nigger playing the race card.” Cord Jefferson- The Racism Beat

I originally read this article about a year ago, at a time when I was starting to publicly share my thoughts on race more frequently, whether through YouTube or this blog. Many of my videos concerned the overlap between film and race, two of my greatest interests. However, many discussed issues such as racial profiling. I remember hearing about the verdict for the Trayvon Martin case back in 2013. Although I knew about notorious incidents of police brutality against blacks, such as Rodney King, I was shielded from this particular manifestation of racism for some reason. I experienced racial profiling numerous times growing up, such as always being asked “do you live here” when I walked around the courtyard of my apartment building in London, England. Or when a flight attendant insisted I use the bathroom in coach, instead of the first class one that I had the right to use since I was sitting in first class.  I’ve also experienced the more subtle forms of racism e.g. “you’re smart for a black guy”, “you speak so well” etc.

Hearing that a neighbourhood watchmen took it upon himself to kill a teenager, because he “looked suspicious” infuriated me since I knew that teenager could have been me.  I have had people cross the street or pull their loved ones closer seeing a 6’4, threatening black man come their way. I always wear hoodies, especially when it is cold or raining (like it was on the night Martin died).

Back in 2013, it was a shock to see Zimmerman acquitted. I thought he would be charged for murder, or maybe manslaughter as a worst case scenario. There were numerous comments defending him online: Martin was a thug, all these people talking about racial profiling are “race-baiters”. Like the Trump election, I wanted to believe that these people must be a loud minority.

They weren’t a loud minority. They were the voices of resentful, racist whites who would say anything to justify the death of a black person. They would say that the liberal media shouldn’t vilify the cops. They would say we need to wait for the facts of the case. Then these people would donate $500,000 to officer Darren Wilson before the trail began. There is no desire to let the trial speak for itself. People’s minds were made up once they saw who got shot, and who shot them.

The shooting of unarmed black men doesn’t faze me as much as it used to. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’m used to it now. I’m used to the police testimonies, the online comments saying that black people would be better off if they “just obeyed the law” and the host of other excuses that rely on racist assumptions.

A part of me worries I could be on the list someday. Maybe I am walking down the street in an area that is deemed too nice for me, and someone reports me for my presence. Maybe I am driving a car that is too expensive to be mine. Maybe I threaten a cop’s ego by showing him too much attitude, maybe I reach for my wallet and end up dead. What then? I become a thug, another black guy that just couldn’t follow orders.

The fact that I am educated would probably be ignored by a lot of people. They would point to pictures on Facebook where I am dressed in hoodies, drinking, throwing up “gang signs”. Maybe they would bring up conflicts I had with previous landlords, one of them a divorced bylaw officer who was on a power trip (Abdulkadar Mohamed “Mo” Dualeh): He would say I was a troublemaker, aggressive, confrontational. I can be whatever they need me to be. People will lose track of the fact that the trial isn’t to determine if I was a saint; it is to determine if the cop had the right to shoot me at a specific moment and time. The gofundme money would start pouring in for my killer, giving him more money than he could ever hope to make as a cop. My death would be unfortunate, but not a crime.  Some will be outraged. They will be called “race-baiters,” “social justice warriors”, or whatever new terms people come up with by then.

I will leave my family behind. They will be confused and angry, but that won’t matter. They’ll be powerless. The cop might lose his job but he’ll have enough money to buy a new house and start a new life, just like Darren Wilson did.

The New Dirty Words

I have found myself spending more time on Facebook since Trump’s election. Not to peruse selfies, but to see what all my “friends” are saying about the election.  These “friends” could be someone I met just once, a former classmate or coworker, or someone I considered a close friend. With each status I come across I get more insight into how some of them really think. I have seen plenty that I like, and have also been disappointed from some of the truths these friends bring to the surface. Everyone has the right to free speech, so I am not judging them for making their voice heard. As a matter of fact, I like to have people’s thoughts on such a topic out in the open. I can now exercise my free speech to challenge some of the views presented.

There are certain words that appear repeatedly from Trump supporters; “political correctness”, “race baiters”, “identity politics”, “social justice warriors (sjws)”. I collectively like to refer to these as the right-wing buzzwords. People love to say that they don’t like pigeonholing themselves as right or left wing, or that they don’t identify with the spectrum at all. They are a unique snowflake who isn’t like the rest of the sheep they look down on. This argument parallels the infamous “race is a social construct” argument. The fact that something is socially constructed does not mean its impact can be ignored or simply dismissed. Our use of hours and minutes to plan our day is a social construct that has developed over centuries, and the political spectrum is the same. Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you against social security or not? Are you a gun-control advocate or not? The answers to these questions will place you somewhere on the spectrum. The totality of your views about different political issues will see you land somewhere; left, right, center-right, center-left etc.

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Think that’s deterministic, rigid, stupid? Ok, then let me throw off another social construct. I no longer recognize myself as a black man. So a girl who only dates white guys will still be interested right? Cops who are more suspicious of black people will no longer feel the need to pull me over or frisk me, right?

The funny thing about people who reject labels such as “right-wing” is that they often do not hesitate to criticize “liberals”. In their own minds, they are just following common sense. It is the other side that is stuck in their ways and is blind to reason. I feel the same way sometimes. Trump was able to capitalize on a climate where people felt like their free speech was stifled. They wanted to say racist things without being labelled as racist. They wanted to say sexist things without “feminazis” labeling them as sexist or misogynist. These oppressed people then see a man who unapologetically calls Hispanics rapists, blacks lazy and calls to ban Muslims from the US. Their hero was born. No more of this “political correctness” or “race-baiting” that held them back.

The term political correctness originated in the 1980s, and was a term developed by conservatives to criticize policies that they viewed as being too accommodating for minorities. These policies included avoiding the use of certain words to describe minority groups and policies such as affirmative action are often lumped into this category too. Realize that the term was developed by conservatives. Now there are times that there may be genuine cases of people being too sensitive about a issue. However, I find that brandishing the term “political correctness” often allows people to defend bigotry. I have heard people rant about their empathy for minorities, but complain about sjws or race-baiters saying “everything” is racist. “Everything” is obviously a blanket term. It could include Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or it could refer to Trump saying Mexico “doesn’t send its best“. Maybe prying would reveal the Trump example, or maybe someone would throw out something more harmless in order to avoid a debate.

donald-trump

The right-wing buzzwords have become scarlet letters that no one wants to wear. Even people who may genuinely hold some enlightened views about minorities reject the terms and go out of their way not to be misconstrued as “politically correct”. Sometimes it isn’t about being pc or not, it is about being racist or not, about having empathy or not.

Tucker Max, an author and businessman who I follow, started a new project called The Mating Grounds. It was a podcast that helped to promote an upcoming book, and was designed to give men actionable dating advice that was devoid of the sociopathy offered by pick-up artists. One podcast in particular caught my attention and served as a great example of someone showing empathy, but also being wary of being labelled a sjw.

One caller asked for advice on dealing with a racist area (Arizona), where he was repeatedly rebuffed due to his race. Max was quick to advise that Arizona is one of America’s most racist states, demonstrating that he doesn’t embrace the right-wing narrative of a “post-racial” society. He acknowledges the historical and present racism in Arizona. Max was also quick to say that he wasn’t a “sjw” by any means.This fear of the right-wing buzzwords sends us all back to high school; we want to be one of the cool kids. We don’t want to be caught socializing with the losers, the pc horde and those sjws.

This brings up another feature of the right-wing buzzwords, and many political terms. They are all relative. Your own position dictates what you view as being liberal or conservative. There are many people that would condemn Max as a sjw or race-baiter for his comments about Arizona. Additionally, the podcast criticizes rape culture, and stresses the importance of empathy and female choice in dating. There are plenty of people who would consider that “feminazi propaganda” or the work of a “white knight”.

You can call me politically-correct, a sjw or as white knight. I am not ashamed of my views. My views mean more to me now more than ever, especially since people with clashing ones decided to elect Donald Trump as president.

The Rebirth of a Nation

FILE - This undated file photo provided by Christie's auction house shows Jasper Johns' "Flag," a pop art rendition of the American flag created in the 1960s that author Michael Crichton bought from the artist in 1973. The painting is one of many in Crichton's collection that will go on the auction block during Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on May 11-12, 2010. "Flag" has a pre-sale estimate of $10 million to $15 million, but art dealer Richard Feigen said he believed "it'll go through the roof," fetching upwards of $30 million.  (AP Photo/Christie's, File)

I didn’t watch the entire electoral race last night. Like many people, I woke up to some pretty shocking news. I think this was an outcome that many people didn’t think was truly possible. Author and marketer Ryan Holiday, believed that Trump had no chance of winning. Holiday believed that Trump simply received far too much media attention, and that his supporters were a very loud minority.

The thing about a very supportive minority is that they are very likely to vote. Early results show that voter turnout is only about 50%. Out of approximately 241 million eligible voters, 124 million votes have been counted so far. The number is expected to fluctuate, but the final result is expected to be around 52% voter turnout.

I know that many people feel like this election has not presented two ideal candidates. As a very brief summary, Clinton detractors believed she will not fight for the working class and the email issue continued to hound her throughout her campaign. Trump detractors (like myself) believe Trump is a narcissistic, racist and misogynist grunt who doesn’t have the faintest grasp of politics. However, many Trump supporters liked that. They wanted someone different. Someone who wasn’t an entrenched participant in the political arena. Many of the working class people voting for him believed he would fight for their issues.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

With this divide comes the issue of voter turnout. After all the comments Trump made, whether it is about hispanics being rapists and murders, building a wall on the border, banning Muslims from entering the US, grabbing pussy etc, voting for the man requires a high level of conviction. Eligible voters who supported Trump weren’t likely to abstain from voting or vote for a third party. They were going to make sure their voice was heard.

It is clear that many people did not believe in either candidate, but I hope those people realize that they contributed to Trump’s win as well. I have heard some people say the votes spent on third party candidates are pretty much a waste; a vote spent for a candidate that was never going to win, and a vote that is stolen from a democrat or republican. However, I can empathize with the people who voted for the third party candidates. They didn’t like the two most popular choices, but they still made their voice heard. They actually did something about it, instead of sitting around and letting the world pass them by. I have heard the sentiment that the two party system is not real democracy, and that the people don’t truly have choice. They only have more of the same. Well, if that is how you feel, what are you going to do about it? Yes, you might hate the system but you need to combat it, or learn how to live with it. Historically blue states were taken by Trump and key states, such as Pennsylvania were lost by only 1000 votes. You have no right to complain about Trump being president if you did not vote at all.

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I wrote a Facebook post on this earlier, when I was still trying to gather my thoughts. I was watching CP24 and heard one of the people being interviewed refer to Trump as “the epitome of the working man”. Let me use my earlier response as a launchpad for my next point:

Most working people can’t get a small loan of 1 million from their parents. As I’ve mentioned before, people want to say this election wasn’t about hate, it was about the working class wanting someone who represented them. Pretty much the same as saying the confederate flag isn’t about slavery, it’s about state rights. Yeah, state rights…to continue slavery. Trump followed a long line of leaders by scapegoating minorities for economic woes, and his biggest “policies” are building a wall on the border and banning Muslims from entering the US. Yeah he’s not racist, he just “tells it like it is”. He’s not “politically correct”. He’s a pied piper for all the disgruntled bigots in America who feel like racial equality and other social issues are just liberal propaganda that hampers their free speech and is an attack against white people.

All the people who complain about ‘social justice warriors (SJWS)’, ‘feminazis’, ‘race-baiters’ etc. all feel vindicated when a presidential candidate unflinchingly expresses all the bigotry that they try to hide. Some may be quick to argue that minorities voted for Trump. Plenty of white people voted for Obama, that doesn’t mean racism is dead. Even Obama has acknowledged that his presidency is not a sign of post-racialism in America.  There are still Americans who think Obama is a foreign Muslim, such as some of Trump’s supporters. Don’t tell me that any black person could have said half the things Trump has and gone on to become President. 

obama-flag

Obama’s speech today emphasized that we are all on the same team. Even Trump’s speech had a conciliatory tone as well, but I like to judge someone by how gracious they can be in defeat, not just victory. Trump has now changed his tune, he wants to fight for all Americans. Does one manufactured speech make up for a campaign that was built on singling out one minority after another? Does the speech make up for refusing to condemn an endorsement from the KKK? Trump argued he doesn’t know who David Duke is, a former Klansmen. Fair enough. When the interviewer clarifies that he is talking about “David Duke and the Klu Klux Klan” Trump just repeats that he doesn’t know who David Duke is (Fast forward to 1:00 in the video). You don’t need to be a “social justice warrior” to know who the KKK is. Trump knows, and he consciously accepted the endorsement. He knew he needed the votes.

Although I am severely disappointed by this outcome, I hope it can serve as a cautionary tale when we look back on this moment in American history. Bigots and the people who support them aren’t always just a loud minority. Maybe if more people voted Clinton would have won, maybe not. Maybe hate would prevail: All the hate that has built since the Civil Rights Act, the hate building since a black man became president.  Maybe Saturday Night Live will be less likely to have people like Trump guest star if they thought such a corrosive candidate could actually become President. Maybe we can stop pretending like America has cured its racism problem and that race-baiters are the real enemy now. We can’t dismiss crowds of racists as a lunatic fringe anymore. They are now more emboldened than ever. How does this fare for America’s minorities; The muslims, hispanics, blacks and gays who may be surrounded by bigots in their respective communities. Maybe this is the wake-up call we needed. As political commentator, Van Jones says, this election is a “whitelash against a changing country”.

 

The Right Wing Buzzwords

Politically Correct,

White Knight,

Social Justice Warrior.

 

We’ve probably all heard these terms, and many of us have probably used them,

People are always quick to say it’s (insert year) anytime a conversation about discrimination comes up,

As if the year itself changes the way people think,

There is the idea that time always means progress,

Yet the state of the world makes it clear that the flow of time can lead to more entropy,

Time can lead to a regression, instead of a progression,

 

It’s 2016, racial, religious and sexual minorities have more rights than ever and are more respected than ever,

In theory,

Many laws tell us that we fixed the problem of discrimination,

Yet why is rape culture increasingly embraced among men?

“Women shouldn’t dress like that if they don’t want to get cat-called or raped. Anyone who disagrees is just a white knight.”

Why is racism so accepted in our progressive population?

“I’m not racist but I’d never date a black guy.”

“A black guy got hired; no way he deserved the job. It’s affirmative action, reverse-racism. Why can’t these social justice warriors see that?”

 

Why is discrimination against other religions so widely accepted?

“We should ban all Muslims from entering the country. We can’t be politically correct about this.”

 

Maybe that last sentence is the issue, The use of terms like “politically correct”, “white knight” and “social justice warrior” to criticize anyone whose beliefs fall farther left of the political spectrum,

I can see why it is so seductive to rely on these words,

You don’t have to try to understand what your opponent is saying,

You don’t need research, facts or figures of any kind,

The words speak for themselves and you become a pied piper, attracting all the bitter and angry people who share your view of the world,

Your words entice them, seducing them and encouraging them to embrace their prejudices,

You can just throw out one of these words and wait for like-minded people to commend you for your argument,

The real beauty is that these words help to disguise prejudice,

No one who uses them sees themselves as possibly being prejudiced,

To them, it is only common sense,

It is the liberals and the minorities that need to smarten up and get their act together,

These same people who preach about their tolerance, how It’s 2016 and they don’t even see colour or care about religion, often hold the most discriminatory views,

Cognitive dissonance is a permanent part of their lives,

These right-wingers complain about how minorities focus on race too much,

Meanwhile, they also make decisions about who to date and what areas to live in based on the racial preferences whose existence they deny,

They will complain that Muslims get too much recognition in their secular country,

Meanwhile, they also protest against “Under God” being removed from the constitution,

They will deny that sexism and objectification is a problem for women anymore, arguing that men are the real victims,

Meanwhile, they will assume that a successful woman got her position due to her gender, not due to her skills or intelligence

 

It’s the start of a new year, and instead of making another failed resolution to eat better and get in shape, maybe we can make some real progress and try to change the way we see the world,

Instead of shutting down facts and common sense we can try to listen to reason,

Maybe we can have conversations about diversity, tolerance, equality, without going to our knee-jerk reaction to blurt out the right wing buzzwords