“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?

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 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.

gettyimages-493755608

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”.