Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke

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America, you just got grabbed by the pu**y.

I’m rarely at a loss for words, especially written ones. Even in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, I had clarity into my own thoughts. But as much of a shock and tragedy as Boston was, it was a firecracker compared to the atomic bomb of this year’s presidential election, a bomb that left me (and so many others) speechless.

On the bright side, being speechless gave me time to process the 7 stages of grief—once, twice, maybe three times. Actually, my grief was limited to the first 6 stages since I have yet to—and may never—reach the “hopeful acceptance” stage. And it’s tough to turn the page and write about the race I just ran when there’s a body lying in the middle of the room.

So despite everything that’s been written already, I felt compelled to share my own post-election autopsy on President Obama’s America—how we got here and, more importantly, how we get out. There’s been a lot of angry finger-pointing the past two weeks as the nation comes to grips with its Trumpster fire. But if we honestly want the answers we all feel we deserve, there’s really only one place each and every one of us should look…

* If you couldn’t be bothered to vote, look in the mirror. And if someone can explain to me why Americans can be fined or imprisoned for evading jury duty but not for failing to vote for the leader of the free world, I’m all ears.

* If you did vote, but fancying yourself a rebel opted for one of the deer-in-headlights third-party candidates, look in the mirror. Because wow, you sure did stick it to the establishment! In elections as in life, perfect is the enemy of the good, and your pipe dreams of a political revolution that promises every American free tuition, universal health care and paid family leave to binge-watch Netflix just set this country back 50 years—if we’re lucky. There’s a reason our president-elect chose The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as his campaign theme music.

I’m in 100% agreement with the common-sense viewpoint that government should work for the people who empower it. But understanding time & place is essential—when you look up from your deck chair on the Titanic and see choppy waters to one side and an enormous iceberg dead ahead, seasickness is the least of your worries. That iceberg doesn’t give a damn about you, and closing your eyes doesn’t change the fact you’re going down with the ship.

* If you’re embracing a smug mindset of “I live in California (or Oregon, or Washington…), we got it right and this is all of y’all’s fault”, look in the mirror. Right now you may be earning $150,000 a year coding an app to deliver vegan meals to other Silicon Valley shut-ins—but thanks to the Electoral College (see below) and your living in the land of the like-minded liberal, you and your vote are of less consequence than the fellow working the 5:00am shift in an auto parts factory in small-town Ohio, or the lady juggling two manual labor jobs and two kids in rural Iowa, whose livelihood & future are both on the line. So don’t be that smugly American nobody likes.

* If your activism consists of hashtagging your Facebook posts and tweets with #NotMyPresident, look in the mirror. Because he is, he will be for the next four years, and it’s time to own that fact. As our current President said during his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America… there is not a black America and a white America and latino America and asian America—there’s the United States of America.” And unless my current home state of California or my former home state of Texas secede from the Union, Donald Trump will be the President of that America. Now it’s up to us to hold him to his oath of office for every minute of the next +/– 1,400 days. Because a hashtag never solved anything.

* On that note, if you find yourself—consciously or not—subscribing to an “us vs. them” mentality, look in the mirror. As much as I understand and respect the level-headed assurances from POTUS and FLOTUS that “we’re on the same team”, rose-colored glasses aren’t going to fix our national myopia. One of the greatest threats to our country right now is its own divisive rhetoric, and simply living on the same floating land mass doesn’t qualify us as “United” States. Granted, painting others with a broad brush is much simpler than trying to grok their perspective, and easily done in 140 characters. But it’s also lazy, dangerous and disqualifying, not to mention a yuge reason we’re in this mess.

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(c) 2016 Paul Noth

* If you’re willing to sit back and let extremism become the new normal—to empower a man who will enter office as the least popular president in recent history, who has more pending lawsuits against him than years on this planet, who has repeatedly espoused racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and Islamophobic views to anyone who will listen and whose presidential appointees reflect that same worldview, whose outsized arrogance & ignorance threaten not just the country but the planet, who pathologically treats the truth as though it were a Zika-infected mosquito, and who has exactly zero experience to prepare him for the most important job on the planet, a job to which we as a nation just promoted him—look in the mirror.

* If you’re trying to play the good patriot by assuring your friends, colleagues and children that “This is how democracy works,” look in the mirror. America is not and never has been a democracy, so can we stop using the word unless we’re discussing ancient Greece? If we were a democracy then Hillary Clinton—whose historic lead in the popular vote is approaching two million votes as of this writing—would be our next President. Instead, we owe our current situation to the Electoral College, an antiquated relic of a government institution that even our president-elect himself in 2012 called (in a tweet, of course) “a disaster for democracy.”

So if you agree with me or our president-elect, I urge you to actively support outgoing California Senator Barbara Boxer, who has introduced long-overdue legislation to repeal the Electoral College. Because until we can assure every American that their vote counts, voter apathy will persist and presidential elections like this one will leave even those who do vote feeling disenfranchised. Not exactly the American dream we’re all promised.

* And to the 44% of Americans who admit to getting their news from Facebook: if you blame Mark Zuckerberg for our nation’s current predicament because you’re addicted to his echo chamber, or because the Facebook “news” stories you liked, shared or angry emoji’ed turned out to be as reliable as a Nessie sighting, look in the mirror. Expecting the same website that makes money hand over fist feeding you mindless kitten videos, tone-deaf vacation photos and—yes—fake news stories to double as your trusted news source, is like expecting your dentist to take a little off the back while you’re already in the chair. Facebook may let us share the life we want others to think we lead, but let’s not fool ourselves—it’s not making us any smarter. And right now, a lot more smarter and a lot fewer kitten videos wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

* If you’re comfortable ascribing Hillary Clinton’s defeat to America’s deep-seated racism and xenophobia, look in the mirror. And take a closer look at blue-collar towns like Kenosha, Wisconsin or Warren, Ohio or even Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Clinton’s grandfather worked in a textile mill. Towns like these and dozens more voted for Barack Hussein Obama not once but twice, and yet this year they switched teams and voted for Donald Trump. Are we to believe that large swaths of the nation suddenly turned into overt nationalists motivated by bigotry, like zombies transformed by a virus into mindless cannibals? Or that all the racists came out to vote while the good folks stayed home?

Inarguably there’s a dark and {ahem} deplorable streak of racism in this country begging to be heard, one we all need to reject out of hand every chance we get. And leaders who recklessly spew inflammatory rhetoric empower this hate speech, giving it a voice it otherwise wouldn’t have. The mere notion of a Muslim registry or “deportation force”—a reprehensible rumor the president-elect has done nothing to disavow—casts two middle fingers toward the Constitution. And thanks to a doctorate in Cancer Biology not earned at Trump University, I can assure incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn that Islam is not a “cancer”. We the People cannot and should not tolerate an all-White House in the year 2016.

But to attribute the results of this election to racism is to miss the point: for millions of Americans of all creeds and colors, the government simply isn’t working. This single talking point was the central focus of Bernie Sanders’ campaign—he recognized that desperate times call for desperate measures. Even progressive poster boy Michael Moore recognized the desperation seeping from the country’s pores, so much so that he correctly predicted a victory for Donald Trump. And those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

* And if you did vote Trump for legitimate non-racist reasons, look in the mirror. It’s time to move beyond a binary “We won, you lost” mindset—the country needs you to be just as vigilant as the rest of us. Who better than the president-elect’s supporters to hold him accountable for his willful ignorance and his racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic statements and appointments? Do your patriotic duty and hold his feet to the fire—just don’t be surprised when he breaks out the kerosene and your own arm bursts into flames.

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(c) 2016 Paul Noth

* If you’re white (like me) and have at any point caught yourself self-congratulating for having gay friends or lesbian friends or black friends or Mexican friends or Muslim friends, look in the mirror. And be ready to come out swinging for them over the next four years.

* If despite every racist red flag and early warning siren coming out of Trump HQ in the past two weeks, you’ve already risen above it all to resume posting mindless kitten videos, tone-deaf vacation photos and self-absorbed personal updates on social media, look in the mirror. And be afraid, be very afraid—because you have much deeper concerns that what is and isn’t a fake news story. In fact, our outgoing President may want to seize this opportunity to publish a self-help sequel to his 2006 bestseller—let’s call it “The Audacity of Fear”.

* If you’re perfectly happy to accept what friends, Facebook and your own misinformed opinions tell you, look in the mirror. And while you’re looking, notice that shiny round skull conveniently positioned above your eyes? Beneath that dome lies the reason we spend our days building electric cars and studying the human genome, not napping in a sunbeam on the floor or cleaning ourselves with our tongue. There’s no more important three pounds anywhere on your body than inside your skull—so use it or lose it.

* And speaking of using your brain—I’m the first to admit Hillary Clinton was a highly flawed candidate. But if you think a thin-skinned 70-year-old businessman who just paid out $25 million to avoid trial on fraud charges, who filed for bankruptcy six times, who has never expressed any interest in public service and who has in fact spent his adult life fighting only for himself at the expense of everyone else, suddenly develops the temperament to care about the white working class that propelled him to the Presidency, look in the mirror—because you may find some lobotomy scars. And when you’re done I have a wall to sell you (since someone will need to pay for it).

* If you brushed aside the president-elect and his angry band of “deplorables”, while assuming that witty, well-spoken liberals like John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah would protect you from the dawn of Nazi America, look in the mirror. I loved the “Drumpf” skit and “Donald Trump wants to bang his daughter” segments as much as the next guy, but it’s disconcerting when sources that clearly advertise themselves as fake news provide much sharper insight and analysis than legitimate news outlets—and when a satirical cartoon from the turn of the century turns out to be our nation’s Nostradamus.

* And if, after the past two weeks you can honestly still say, “I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump,” look in the mirror. Then look again. And start asking that question of people around you—respectfully. Spend less time on social media and more time on {shudder} conservative sites such as Fox News. Hear what the other side is hearing, and listen to what the other side is saying. The president-elect won over 60 million votes, and our responsibility as an informed electorate is to understand why. As sanity spokewoman Elizabeth Warren noted, “We have a right to be heard, but we also have an obligation to listen.” Until liberals take a long hard look in our cracked mirrors, we won’t be shattering that highest of glass ceilings.

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(c) 2016 Paul Noth

One final note: the most frightening thing to me about a very frightening year isn’t even Donald Trump’s elevation to the Presidency. It’s the fact that the Oxford Dictionaries already selected post-truth—”relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”—as its word of the year. (Granted, this is better than the “face with tears of joy” emoji it selected in 2015.) Call me naïve, but as a scientist with three pounds of fully functioning neurons resting on my shoulders, I refuse to accept the idea we live in a post-truth world. Truth still makes a difference.

Because as Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. We can deny the reality of climate change until the sea cows come home, but climate change don’t give a shit, and hiding our head under the couch like the family dog doesn’t change the fact that our backside is clearly visible to the rest of the world.

So do the country a favor and think for yourself. Just don’t let Mark Zuckerberg catch you in the act.

Happy Thanksgiving!

TL;DR version:TL;DR emojis for post-election recap
I won’t barrage you with links to sites like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, since you can easily find them yourselves if you truly want to act on your anger and despair and DO SOMETHING. But I will leave you with the contact information for all 50 U.S. senators and for your U.S. Representative(s), in case you’d like to call them up and (politely, respectfully) share your opinion on the state of the union.

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