Wednesday
Mar142018

A Left-Handed Compliment

Perhaps you are sinister.

No, I don’t mean you’re a vile person who is out to destroy the world. After all, you’re probably not a Republican.

Woops — just kidding, my GOP friends!

Ahem… yeah… anyway.

I’m talking about the original meaning of the word “sinister,” which was a Latin phrase (“sinistra”) that originally meant “left” or “left-handed” but took on the meaning of “evil.”

This trend is seen in many languages. For example,

 

“Left” in German (“linkisch”) also means “awkward”

“Left” in Russian (“levja”) is associated with being untrustworthy

Synonyms for “left” in Mandarin are things like “weird,” “incorrect,” and “wrong”

The truly French word “gauche” originally meant “left”

And the very word “left” comes from “lyft,” which meant “broken.”

 

You get the picture. Being a leftie has often been associated with myriad unfavorable traits. And in the olden days, left-handers were often coerced to use their right hand, in some cases even having the offending limb tied down to immobilize it.

Hell, never mind the olden days. Even here in 2018, about “two-thirds of the world still hates lefties.” You see, “in many Muslim parts of the world, in parts of Africa as well as in India, the left hand is considered the dirty hand, and it’s considered offensive to offer that hand to anyone, even to help.”

And of course, it’s tough for you southpaws to pick up a guitar, baseball glove, or pair of scissors without getting frustrated.

All of this comes despite the complete lack of scientific evidence that there is anything wrong with being left-handed, and with plenty of anecdotal evidence that we’ve had our fair share of high-achieving lefties.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it means that, on some level, humans actively look for reasons to hate one another. Yes, life is hard enough with natural obstacles and unforeseen bad breaks and outbreaks of cultural stupidity. We apparently have to make it even more difficult by honing in on the slightest deviance — like being left-handed — and piling on the fear and loathing for absolutely no good goddamn justification.

Which leads us back to the prevalence of racism. 

Will it even be eradicated?

That is, of course, highly unlikely. And even if we did somehow achieve ethnic and racial nirvana, where differences were celebrated and never a cause for distrust or violence, we would find some way to fuck it up.

I don't know — probably the small-nostriled people would oppress the large-nostriled people. Or people who like spicy food would get into fistfights with people who don’t. Or some other infinitesimal difference would become grounds for superiority and anger.

Hating on left-handers just proves that people will discriminate against any minority — for the smallest, oddest rationale, and for the tiniest infraction or deviance from the majority. 

But then again, let’s just remember this:

According to the Bible, the angel who sat at God's left-hand side was Lucifer. 

Well, that settles it.

 

Wednesday
Mar072018

Soothsayers

It’s easy to predict the 2018 midterms (i.e., the Democrats will win big… or they might not).

It’s a little tougher to predict the 2020 presidential election (i.e., Trump will lose in a landslide… or he might not).

But if we really want to get crazy, let’s look at the 2024 presidential election. Because regardless of whether or not Trump gets reelected in 2020, he will not run in the election after that. Either because he’s a disgraced loser who is way to old to run for office, or because he is constitutionally prohibited from a third term (unless, of course, he declares himself president for life… ahem). 

In any case, we can say, with a high degree of certainty, that Trump will not be the GOP nominee in 2024.

So who will it be?

Well, let’s face it — naming a specific person at this point is idiotic, arrogant, or a sad attempt to fill time on a 24-hour news channel having a slow day.

No, I don’t have any names to throw around. However, I can predict what type of person the Republican nominee will be. First, we can be fairly certain that he will be a guy, probably a white guy, and probably an older white guy. After all, the GOP is overwhelmingly the party of older white guys. So don’t expect their future nominee to be an Asian woman in her forties. 

Of course, the limited gender and racial makeup of the current and future Republican Party is well-known. The bigger question is what characteristics the 2024 nominee will have.

And this is where it gets truly interesting. Conventional wisdom holds that Trump has so severely damaged the GOP brand that it will not recover, at least not any time soon. Trump’s incompetence, corruption, and immorality have repulsed most Americans from voting Republican. Combined with undeniable demographic trends, the GOP will be sent reeling in the coming years.

Under such adverse conditions, the GOP will try to make amends. They will nominate a moderate in 2024, and his campaign will basically consist of begging for forgiveness. But this tactic will fail miserably, and the Republican Party will essentially be confined to pockets of the Deep South and rural America, with nothing but decay and slow death in its future.

But wait. There is a different version of this story.

You see, there is a school of thought that Trump has permanently altered not just the GOP, but American politics itself. His brand of fire-breathing madness and racist demagoguery has revealed the GOP for what it is. And the conservative base loves it. Far from punishing Trump and his allies for, say, insulting anyone who isn't a white man, the GOP true believers are more enthralled than ever.

As a result, Republicans are now perfectly comfortable embracing xenophobia and tolerating tacky pronouncements on race and ethnicity. In fact, they are loath to disclaim it, for fear of pissing off their army of bigots.

In this scenario, the next GOP nominee will be just as prejudicial, neo-fascistic, and hate-filled as Trump. The probable difference is that he will not be as overtly crude as Trump. He will be more polished, and more open to playing nice when it suits him. At the very least, he will have just enough self-control to avoid attacking people in 5:00 tweetstorms.

This smoother, more charming Trump could indeed win a general election, especially if the Democrats find a way to screw up things up like they always do.

And then what happens? Well, Trump 2.0 would have little trouble pushing America into authoritarianism for the foreseeable future. He will succeed where Trump’s belligerence and obvious mental instability have failed.

He will create a new nation. And it will all be over for the rest of us.

How’s that for a prediction?

 

Wednesday
Feb282018

This Is Why I Don’t Watch TV

At this point, my television exists to play DVDs, stream Netflix documentaries, and blare Foo Fighters videos for my five-year-old son (hey, the kid has good taste).

I rarely turn on the TV just to channel surf. As such, I almost never see commercials, which has improved my quality of life substantially.

For this reason, I have missed one of the key advertising trends of recent years. I’m talking about the steady flow of heavy-handed, crass, xenophobic, ignorant race-baiting political ads that demonize Latinos for the sole purpose of terrifying old people into voting for Republicans.

I consider myself lucky on this count.

Yes, these ads convince people that unless they pull the lever for the GOP, hordes of deranged Hispanics will knife them in the street and violate their dead bodies, before executing their families just for kicks.

Now, you might think these ads appeal primarily to those bigots who already harbor anti-Latino sentiment, functioning as a wake-up call to drive them to the polls. That’s true, of course.

But what’s even more disturbing is that these ads are not just tapping into anti-Hispanic hatred. They are creating it.

Yes, a recent study has found that “ads and inflammatory language are actually ‘activating’ voters’ latent stereotypes about Latinos and immigrants, and those sentiments in turn are influencing how voters feel about immigration policies.”

Yikes — it’s not enough that Latinos have to fight the president, his legions of like-minded lunatics, institutionalized racism, Hollywood stereotyping, and the cultural baggage of centuries of anti-Hispanic hysteria. Now, we have Madison Avenue converting people into fear-based, irrational, racist voters.

It’s almost as if advertising agencies have some experience convincing Americans to buy something that’s horrible for them.

But I digress.

In any case, the researchers found that “misleading messaging tying immigrants to criminal gangs, such as MS-13, triggers fears among people, which in turns drives strong sentiments against immigrants and sanctuary city policies.” Furthermore, these fearful attitudes “are not in response to crime, but about stereotypes regarding Latinos and immigration.”

It gets worse.

The study also shows that “Republican ads using negative imagery about Latino immigrants and crime activates latent bias and contributes to support of anti-immigrant policies.”

Just how “activated” are these biases? Well, the researchers found, for example, that there is no correlation between crime rates and support for banning sanctuary city laws. As we know, sanctuary cities tend to have lower crime rates than other cities. But the perception that they are nests of rapist immigrants is strong, and this perception gets jacked up with every ad that depicts these areas as dangerous.

So we end up with a situation where people are not “evaluating their support for ending sanctuary cities on the basis of crime in the area. Instead … support for ending sanctuary cities correlated with a higher rate of Latino population growth.”

In fact, the researchers found that “residing in a high-Latino-growth area is predictive of support for Trump,” but this has only been the case since Trump arrived on the scene with “his utterance of inflammatory and bellicose comments about Mexican immigrants.”

Basically, Trump not only whipped up hatred against Latinos and made it ok to be overt about it. He actually helped create more racism. Yes, it’s yet another thing we can thank the current occupant of the White House for.

The bottom line is that, for the GOP, it’s “an effective strategy to first paint immigrants as dangerous, and then base your campaign on addressing that as a problem,” creating an issue where there wasn’t one before, and thereby conjuring up a whole new batch of hate-filled racists in its wake, all for the sake of scoring a few more votes.

The study concludes that, unfortunately, the GOP continues to “double down on this message,” meaning that “anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment will continue to grow, and it is on Republican elites for driving this.”

Of that, there can be no doubt. It is indeed on all on them.

 

Wednesday
Feb212018

Maybe This Time?

I’ve written before about gun control and our nation’s status as the shoot-em’-up capital of the industrialized world. 

Seventeen people in Florida are dead because one angry man believed the AR-15 was the solution to all this problems. This uniquely American mindset apparently never manifests itself in the youth of, say, Belgium or Australia or Japan. 

It’s a mystery — right?

Now, I’m certainly not going to get into all the defenses of the Second Amendment that we hear from conservatives every time there’s a mass shooting. These arguments range from the semi-principled to the clearly illogical to the completely bat-shit insane. So why put ourselves through it again? 

I also don’t want to discuss the shooter. There are conflicting reports about whether he is a Latino, or a white supremacist, or some oddball combination of both. But ultimately, let’s skip it, because the less said about this pathetic loser, the better.

Instead, I want to dwell on the tiniest shred, the thinnest shard, of hope that this latest mass shooting might be a catalyst toward sanity.

Many of us feel that way, primarily because of the activism of teens and young people who are fed up with being viewed as target practice and/or acceptable losses in the fight for “freedom” or battle against “tyranny” or whatever vague, paranoid rationale gets tossed around as justification for allowing bloodbaths to occur with regularity on American soil.

Yes, there is already rumbling that “Hey, these kids aren’t as anti-gun as you think.” And even if every millennial demanded more gun control tomorrow, the political and cultural barriers to real, lasting change are daunting.

But we do know that one of the leaders of this youth drive is Emma Gonzalez, whose powerful speech has become both viral sensation and rallying cry.

This once again proves that if you want something done, turn to a Latina.

So maybe, possibly, we have turned a corner on this madness? Do we dare hope?

 

Wednesday
Feb142018

Big Guns

No doubt, you’ve heard about Trump’s proposed budget, which includes things like billions for a border wall that will never be constructed and, presumably, a million or two for hush money to porn stars and/or Russian operatives.

But setting aside the minor facts that this budget would completely fuck over poor people and, maybe, destroy the planet, there is something else that caught my attention.

Defense spending would rise by 10 percent.

This is not a huge surprise, of course, as Republicans have a bizarre fascination with warfare, and members of the GOP are constantly threatening to invade one country or another, even while distancing themselves from the last disastrous war (a campaign that was, of course, all their idea in the first place). Hell, Republicans are happy to spend $30 million on a damn parade just to show off our super-awesome military hardware.

But a fair question is whether all this military spending is making us any safer. 

After all, we already spend more cash on the military than any other nation on Earth — by far, actually. In fact, we spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.

So when we will it be enough? Should we spend more than the next ten nations combined, or the next twenty? Should we spend more than the rest of the planet put together?

Because if it’s true — as Republicans have often said — that our military is in disrepair and needs to be rebuilt, I would ask, “Why can’t we get something decent for the 16 percent of our budget that we spend on defense?”

I mean, if the US military still sucks after all the hundreds of billions that have been thrown at it, maybe we should call off this whole defense idea and go the way of Costa Rica, a country that has no army. Incidentally, Costa Rica is never the target of terrorist cells and doesn’t get threatened by nutjobs with nuclear weapons.

Of course, that’s a bit of apples to oranges. But stay with me on this point.

You see, it appears that the more we spend on defense, the more likely we are to go to war. All those tanks and bombers and missiles apparently will themselves to be used.

Perhaps it is the same principle behind the fact that the states with the most firearms have the highest gun-death rates.

Just as having a gun in your house makes you more likely to get shot, maybe having more soldiers makes it more likely for a country to get into a war.

I don’t know whether than is true or not. But I do know this: We are the most fearful and paranoid nation in the industrialized world. No matter how much we spend on bombs and bullets, it will never make us feel safer.

 

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