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Month: June 2020

The Bear Comes Home

The Bear Comes Home

The culmination of years of events has finally come to pass – I am now officially moved in with my BFF in Morgantown, PA. Depending on how much you have followed my blog and whether or not you know me IRL, you may have been watching the story unfold.

First, she came to visit me from Pennsylvania while I was living in North Carolina. Then we started visiting each other frequently and travelling together, and a new phase of our lives began. I went up and met her kids for the first time; they were boys age 10 and 13. She came down and met my tabletop gaming buddies. She even brought the kids with her sometimes, and they all joined me at gaming conventions.

Sometimes I would go up to see her, and sometimes she would come down to see me. And we went on a lot of fun trips together. She took me on my first trip to New York City, and to my first Broadway show. We’ve seen so many shows since then; I’ve basically become her theater buddy. And since she’s a director, I got to see a lot of her shows. I became her number one fan.

We travelled to Chicago every summer for G-Fest along with the boys’ Dad, who is also my friend. This was a tradition with them since the boys were even younger, and my joining them was part of the process of being enfolded into their family. But I wasn’t completely enfolded yet, since I was still living in North Carolina. The distance between us was kind of fun at first, since it was exciting to see each other again after an absence of a couple of weeks. But the travelling got tedious. It was a seven hour drive between our houses. Flying was an option, too, since we could get cheap tickets on Frontier Airlines, but even that has its inconveniences.

Then, a few years ago, some Water Spirits came and trashed my house, teaching me a lesson about the relative importance of material things, but also helping me to realize what a spoiled bear I am. Some months later my job in North Carolina came to an end. It was starting to look like the Universe was sending me a message. I went up into the mountains to watch a solar eclipse and ponder my next course in life.

I started looking for work in Pennsylvania, so that I could move closer to my BFF and her family. I enjoyed my last months in North Carolina boardgaming with my buddies and performing with my choir. Then I landed a position in Wilmington, DE and in a whirlwind five weeks got an apartment in West Chester, PA and moved on up. My recently renovated house quickly sold, and I’m pretty sure the buyer re-did all the work that the insurance company paid for.

The apartment was expensive and the commute to Wilmington was a pain. It made sense for me to eventually move in with her family, though I would have to find a new job first that would put me closer to her house. I have to admit I was dragging my feet. I have a lot of stuff and I like to control my personal space. It would be a big change for me to move in with someone for good, after more than a decade of living alone.

I did get a new job, which took care of the commuting problem. And then along came a little thing called the novel coronavirus. Suddenly I was working from home, and it only made sense for me to be doing this from my BFF’s house. I brought my essential things over and hunkered down with her. The apartment languished, unused.

As we got used to the routine of living together and sharing her house, it was obvious that I should just complete the move. There was a little wrangling over how we would use the space and where my stuff would end up. I mostly fought to have a place to shelve all my books and boardgames – that carefully curated collection I’ve built up over my many years. Figuring out how to share space is just part of the hard work of building a lasting relationship.

The big move happened last week, and all that’s left now is to clean up the apartment and collect a few final possessions. The lease expires soon. As for my new commute – well, I’m not sure when that will start up. Pennsylvania is loosening coronavirus restrictions, but I haven’t heard anything about going back to the office. So I’ll be here in Morgantown for the foreseeable future.

It’s been a long trip to get to this stage of my life. Along the way I’ve done a lot with my BFF, and our relationship has bloomed. I’ve joined her family and I’ve watched her boys grow up – her eldest is in college now, and has a car, a job, and a girlfriend! And it’s good that I’m living with her now, considering that she needs support at a time when her industry – theater – is so troubled.

It’s also good that we got so much travelling done during the past six years, considering that we’re likely to be homebound for a long while to come. I’m just glad that home is here now, with my girl.

Books and games waiting to be unpacked in the office.
Silent of the Week: Lesley Stahl

Silent of the Week: Lesley Stahl

Last night we watched 60 Minutes, on regular broadcast television. Yes, I mean through an antenna. We don’t have cable or satellite so it’s either that or streaming (which is my preference).

We’ve started making a habit of watching this show every Sunday evening, in part because we have a family member who likes doing things the old-fashioned way. It’s like a throwback to another era – you actually have to watch the show at the scheduled time, instead of whenever you feel like it! I’ve been getting my news off the Internet for years, and it’s refreshing to go back to this old format.

One of the segments was an interview with the Minneapolis Chief of Police, about the George Floyd killing, protests and police reform. The interviewer was Lesley Stahl (b. 1941), who has been a 60 Minutes correspondent since 1991. You could say she is the last of the old guard, certainly one of the last of her generation still prominent in journalism.

Stahl’s career took off when she covered the Watergate scandal as a young reporter. She’s been at CBS most of her life, and for most of that time with 60 minutes – the sort of career longevity that characterizes the Silent Generation, in contrast to younger ones. And she’s certainly in her element, lending gravitas to a profession that in many ways has been hollowed out in an age of sensationalism and misinformation.

You can watch the interview here:

The Peaceful Protest Movement and the Last Days of White Nationalism

The Peaceful Protest Movement and the Last Days of White Nationalism

The consensus is growing that police reform is needed in the United States. The conservative media is joining in, or at least the intellectual branch of it is. As this article from National Review points out, “The present round of protest is different. The participants are people of every race, ethnicity, sex, age, and religion.” Even the President is recognizing that he can’t ignore the issue.

Protests aren’t just happening in major cities with diverse populations, but in small towns where all or almost all of the participants are white. I can confirm this from my own participation in small protests in Twin Valley, Pennsylvania, where, for the most part, passing motorists honk in solidarity with the protestors.

Unfortunately, there has also been hostility from Trump supporters here, including counterprotestors showing up with firearms. What is it with this need that Red Staters have to sport their weapons in public? There is nothing that threatens them except an opposing political view that favors diversity. Are they ready to go to war over this?

It’s worrisome. It’s like they need to find a use for the expensive arsenals that they’ve gone to so much trouble to acquire. I think about the scene from His Girl Friday, where Hildy Johnson convinces a prisoner that he must have been inpired to shoot someone by hearing about the doctrine of production for use.

I can even see how the preponderance of military equipment owned by police forces accounts for the militaristic response to the recent BLM protests. Were they supposed to not use all those grenades and bullets they were given? I’m sure the tension was insanely high, with police lined up facing large crowds of protesters, and everyone full of pent-up energy from weeks of COVID lockdown.

I wrote about the protests in my last blog post and linked to some of the many viral videos of violent encounters that occurred. But as disturbing as those incidents captured on video are, the overall level of violence has actually been less than what was experienced during the infamously riotous late 1960s, or even the 1992 Los Angeles riots. This is all the more remarkable considering the size and nationwide extent of the movement.

I do believe this peaceful protest movement marks a critical turning point in the evolution of our current Crisis Era. The divisiveness of the Culture Wars that has persisted and been called a ‘cold civil war’ seems intractable. But we have actually gradually come to a consensus on many Culture Wars issues, such as gay rights and cannabis legalization. And now it is happening with reform of the justice system.

Back in May 2016 I attempted to identify an emerging new values consensus, and marked the recognition of the need for criminal justice reform as part of that consensus. But then I amended my list after the election, indicating that it was less clear that this was so, given Trump’s victory. But Trump’s hold on power is weakening, and his poisonous white nationalist ideology losing credibility in the face of massive public outrage at the evils it perpetrates on racial minorities. A fair and equal justice system will come as part of a new civic regeneracy, and the days of white nationalism are numbered.

Black Lives Matter protest in Twin Valley, Berks County, PA
The Red State’s Toxic Form of Law and Order

The Red State’s Toxic Form of Law and Order

It is not surprising that protests against police brutality are being met by more police brutality. After all, the protesting is specifically against the police themselves. The police are not at the protests to maintain order but to counterprotest. They are there as a show of muscle by the currently empowered Red State.

The infamous event at Lafayette Square, where law enforcement assaulted protesters with tear gas to clear a path for a Presidential photo op, underscores this fact. Tear gas is supposed to be a last resort for riot control, not something to use unprovoked on a peaceful assembly. It is the same with rubber bullets. They are for riot control, but there have been no riots. Instead, law enforcement has been using these weapons everywhere across the United States to attack peaceful gatherings of people, the same people they ostensibly exist to serve and protect. Attacking them as if they were an enemy.

I apologize for linking to all this violent content, though by now you’ve probably seen it because it has become a staple of social media feeds. I just want to make the point of how dangerous the militarization of police forces has become to the citizens of the United States. The Red State has even gone as far as to call in the National Guard to attack people in their homes.

Why do I use the term Red State? Because it is clear that the current conflict across the United States is the Culture Wars of the previous era coming to a head in city streets. I’ve written before about these two partisan sides; the Red v. Blue narrative goes way back. And in the current conflict between protesters and police, it is likely that where you fall along this partisan divide determines what facts you believe, and how you perceive the conduct of either side.

When I first delineated the differences between the Red Zone and the Blue Zone, following the 2000 election, I identified “worst examples” on each side, meaning the most dangerous extremists.

It’s unfortunate that the worst example of the Red Zone remains a persistent problem. Police forces have been infiltrated by white supremacists, and police have actively supported white vigilantes. These elements are emboldened by the support of their “law and order” President. Even I got a tiny taste of it when, in a small Black Lives Matter vigil in my podunk Pennsylvania town, young white men speeding by in their pickup trucks yelled “Fuck you!” and “Go fuck yourselves!” out of their windows.

I’m not going to go deeply into the issue of systemic racism and how we should implement judicial reform – the heart of why the BLM movement exists – because that’s not the point of this post. The point I am making is that we are now past the era of ideological argument. We are in a struggle for power. A struggle to determine who gets to decide how law and order are implemented in this country. And we cannot let the Red State’s racist authoritarianism prevail.

That is why those of us opposed to it must continue to resist. We must show solidarity, and use what is left of our democratic institutions as best as we can to fight the Red State’s toxic form of law and order. Don’t worry about the ideological labelling, or being accused of virtue signalling or performative activism. Don’t worry about whether you are too far to the left or not far enough. It doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is that you are against the white nationalism that Trump and his minions are trying to institute.

The truth is that violence and crime have declined in the United States in the past generation, though Red State propaganda would have you believe otherwise. The young people out protesting are correct to demand better treatment at the hands of law enforcement. The massively built up police forces that protesters are facing are a legacy of a past “tough-on-crime” regime that has become obsolete. It is time to reform the police and the judicial system, for the sake of the peaceful and diverse Millennial generation. And that requires a Blue Wave to sweep away the Red State’s vile apparatus of control. So persist.

Signs posted on the White House fence that was constructed to keep protesters away

The Long Road to Freedom

The Long Road to Freedom

I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about the events of this past week. It’s been such a difficult time, and my heart is troubled and my mind scattered. So while I’m trying to get that together, I’m just going to share my goodreads review of a book I just finished reading. It’s Howard Fast’s Freedom Road, set in the Reconstruction South. I picked it up off my shelf of unread books mainly because it’s a small paperback suitable for carrying around at the office, so I could read it at lunch or on breaks. But of course I haven’t been at the office in months so I finished it at home.

Here is the review:

Howard Fast dedicates this novel to all those, of every race, who have died in the fight against fascism. It was written during the Second World War, when America was fighting fascism abroad. At once hopeful and harrowing, it tells a story of progress and setbacks for African-Americans living on a former plantation in South Carolina during Reconstruction. The fascism they fight is that of the white supremacist terrorists who erased the progress made in the immediate years after the Civil War, after the Union pulled their forces out of the South as part of the Tilden Compromise.

The writing is crisp and vibrant, the characters vivid and believable, and the plot dramatic, including action, romance, and political intrigue. As a good novel should, this one makes you feel like you are there in that place and time, living the characters’ lives along with them. The author does use dated language, including stereotypes and prolific use of a word forbidden to white people. This would probably get him canceled by today’s social justice warriors, which is ironic since he was blacklisted as a Communist in the McCarthy Era. I would hope that modern readers could look past that, since this story has so much say about the struggle for racial justice, and what the true stakes are in that ongoing conflict. It couldn’t be more relevant than it is right now.