Soul? Oh!

This is something I’ve been kicking around for close to a year now. I’ve got a draft from last December called Un-Civil War that I just can’t quite get right.

So there it sits. This draft. But the notion keeps coming back to me more like a ghost haunting me than the orphan attempting to find a home or get the attention it needs.

Last week, though, it settled into my consciousness and caused me to be aware of the same old things differently. I noticed things that had been sticking out, but felt understanding beginning to crystallize.

I think it was watching Biden’s acceptance speech for the nomination as the party’s candidate for president that did it. In it, he talked about how this election is a battle for the soul of our democracy.

Since then, I’ve been seeing Trump supporters differently.

  • The random oversized pickup truck driving around downtown with Proud Boy flags flying off its bed.
  • The lady in Vantucky driving along in the car by herself with the WWG1WGA bumper sticker. That stands for the QAnon tag line “Where We Go One, We Go All”.
  • The people on social media decrying the destruction of “their city” from the protests, without realizing all that’s wrong with that mindset – even though many of them still count themselves as democrats.
  • The old bastard on the hill in Oregon City crazily waving his Trump flag and holding a small sign that asked who Jesus would vote for.
  • The pickup with the “88” window sticker. H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. That’s a White Supremacist symbol, seen also in tattoo form on too many prisoners. 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.
  • The guy in Clackatraz driving around with his convertible top down, holding a pole with the “Trump 2020” campaign flag flying – by far the most representative example of Trump supporters’ IQ. Cumulatively, I doubt they could post an IQ high enough to get MENSA’s attention.
  • Or the family of three – a man, his wife and their not-old-enough-to-vote daughter holding Trump signs and the Blue Line American flag supporting the police.
  • Usually, I give these demonstrators a “thumbs down” gesture and just go about my business, feeling low-grade intimidated nonetheless. Since seeing Biden’s speech and having his question percolate, I’ve realized something different may very well be at play here.
  • These Trump supporters are sad and lonely people. Orphans from modern American ideals who are screaming for any attention they can get themselves. Not realizing that any group that needs coded language like WWG1WGA or 88 to signal others like them probably aren’t worth belonging to. They certainly don’t have a message they can be proud of if they have to hide it.
  • These sad individuals – driving around alone in their cars or standing alone or only with their family-slash-hostages – stand in stark contrast to the other groups I see around town. The groups that make me proud of my town and my race. Whose actions signal redemption for the values of our country versus coded subversion of those values and subjugation of other races and genders than their own.
  • Not the hundreds to thousands of protesters downtown demanding police reform and an end to systemic racism in America – and after last night’s police shooting, I’m guessing it will once again be 1000s, not 100s.
  • No, the people making me hopeful are the neighborhood and school and professional groups that have organized to remind passers by that Black Lives Matter. Seeing neighbors coming together in numbers large enough to crowd all four corners of a city intersection, or line both sides of a suburban highway for a hundred feet is, I hope telling of the results we’ll see in November. Watching someone deliver and start to set up a tent for shade on our recent 100 degree days while someone else hands out water reminds me of the compassion liberals are able to demonstrate for others. And, yeah, watching the Riot Ribs guys cooking in the park across from the Justice Center during the day, when the only people I see them feeding appear to be homeless also makes me feel that same thing…but the randomness of the former example reinforces the best notions of what conservatives condemn as bleeding heart liberals.
  • I’ll take those small reminders, because stacked up next to what the opposition can muster, they’re far more impactful by comparison.
  • As a matter of fact, the largest group of Trump supporters that I’ve seen doing similar messaging isn’t half the size of the smallest BLM group I’ve seen, reinforcing the realization that these fringe groups and Trump supporters are indeed lonely.
  • Which is why they brought guns and mace to Saturday’s counter protests in Portland while the people there calling for reform and justice brought umbrellas and signs. Just like a message that needs to be coded, a message that needs guns to be valid is probably – or at least obviously should be – self-indicting.
  • I’ll still feel intimidated when I see these Trump supporters out and about, but I’m happy to feel something else stirring now: pity. Because while the people with the right idea have lots of company in this battle for democracy’s soul, the opposition is usually fighting solo in their pursuit to spread its soulless message.
  • Soul? Oh!

    What A Long, Strange Week It’s Been…

    Seriously, last week was quite a year.

    I inadvertently offended my sister on social media.

    Black Sheep Bro persisted in his attempts to have a conversation at me about why I should gratefully accept his return to the family dynamic. Reinforcing why I’d rather he leave me out of his notion of family.

    Coronavirus.

    Politics.

    Social Justice.

    Perhaps you’ve read something about Trunt treating Portland like his personal Operation Urgent Fury resulting more in Pinochet-esque kidnappings than anything resembling quelling the city’s outcry for justice.

    The hits just kept on coming.

    It was a tough week – I actually put myself in FaceBook Jail for a couple days just to slow the swirl.

    On top of that, multiple folks reached out to me – either checking in or chiding – because I hadn’t been posting entries on my blog.

    But instead of rehashing the long, I thought I’d recap the strange of the last week. Something lighthearted – just what Doctor Galby ordered.

    Also, “Cocktail, please!”

    After another round of self isolating, I went back to my Lyft driving last week. Probably another reason recent days had begun to feel so long and unending – not much company compared to when I drive folks around, chatting their ears off.

    The result?

    For my efforts, I was rewarded with both mask acne on the bridge of my nose and something like a pimple or a cyst or simply ridiculously painful in my ear pit where the upper strap of my mask looped over the top of my ear. Luckily, that second petty trauma is now just a bunch of dry skin working its way off my body. That mask acne, though…the outbreak on the bridge of my nose may be gone, but my swampy complexion lingers on.

    I’m not kidding – that mask has been like a sauna for my face. And it just wicks from under my mask, too, crawling up my face until even my forehead is a thick, greasy mess.

    “Hello, Puberty? Yes, I’d like to return this skin, please.”

    For whatever reason, there were two consecutive days during my isolation that I woke up at around 4 AM and struggled to get back to sleep. Even though I proactively fed Myrtle breakfast so she wouldn’t go unattended to, she’d still come into the bedroom with some sad little “meows” around 9. Since she didn’t need anything, I chose to interpret her vocalizations as concern.

    On the second day, unsure whether I’d fallen back to sleep or not and not wanting to look at my phone and risk waking my eyes up, I rolled the other way, toward the window. I pushed an eye out from under my pillow – me sleeping is quite a graceful picture – and squinted one eye open to see if there was daylight coming through the edges of my blinds.

    No sun, just one of Myrtle’s big, green eyeballs. I screamed. I think I involuntarily jerked so hard (not like that, Diezel) that I pulled a muscle (also, not that one, Diezel!).

    For her part, Myrt didn’t run and scurry for the underside of the bed or the living room, like she usually does when she gets startled. She just looked at me with those soulless cat eyes like she was willing me to get out of bed so she could have my warm spot.

    I need to get her a heating pad…

    But I got her back a few days later.

    Well, almost.

    I may have friendly-fired myself with a Dutch Oven a couple times the other night.

    A. Couple. Times.

    I didn’t even eat anything weird, so no idea where my bedtime Chernobyl came from. All I do know is that when I looked around, thinking something along the lines of, “That’s for scaring the shit out of me the other day”…no Myrtle.

    Damn it.

    But after a week-ish that was like an emotional finger trap, I’m glad I could at least still find joy in my own weird awkwardness. I decided to take it easy today. Well, I was hoping to get in a bike ride or urban hike before my Virtual Happy Hour with mom and dad – shit I gotta go get something to drink, the company may be virtual, but the liquor will not be! – at 4. Strangely, I woke up famished. After pulling myself together, I set off for my new favorite food cart for an early lunch.

    Closed.

    Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

    What followed ended up being a nice workaround to not exercising because I was hungry.

    Not bad, considering my day was turning into one of these…

    It’s only a quarter mile to the cart, but the other mile and a half was me mincing around from pod to pod searching for inspiration. I ended up at Charlie’s Deli getting what I think is the best sandwich in Portland: their pastrami on rye, extra mustard.

    And, more bright side – I didn’t even get disappeared while out walking by myself.

    Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and don’t forget…Fuck Trump!

    What A Long, Strange Week It’s Been…

    Circles

    No, this isn’t about the song that has people calling Post Malone the relationship whisperer of the ’20s. Nor about why Of Monsters And Men would feel that it was incumbent upon them to remake this with an adult contemporary vibe…while Post Malone’s version was still getting airplay.

    Indeed, this is about the phenomenon I experience while driving occasionally – a strangely frequent occurrence, actually – where I experience strange geographical orbits or find recurring conversational themes with my passengers or whatnot.

    For example, the other day a passenger got into my car and I could feel something. It was in an area of town I don’t get to often. As a matter of fact, I’ve only ever picked up one person there before prior to this. The pick up is just a block past The Cajun and The Canadian’s house, so I was wondering if maybe I’d passed them driving down the street and not noticed them because I was looking at house addresses.

    Nah, it was that I’d picked up the same guy and failed to realize it. He reminded me about halfway through our ride. And moments later, while we were still “catching up” another ride piled on and it was a passenger I recognized by name – how many non-Grace & Frankie characters do you know named Coyote? But he had a good 15 minute wait for me to drop off my current passenger and eventually dropped off.

    It’s just as well, though. I call my repeat riders the 1% Club because it’s only about every hundredth ride I get a familiar face.

    Two back-to-back would have been weird.

    So I drop off this passenger and as I’m pulling out of the drive, get a ride to replace Coyote. The Lyft Life always seem to keep me busy, even when I miss out on rides because another driver frees up to get one that’s stacked on my queue.

    It was another 1% Clubber.

    Two would have been weird…three was nuts. Not that my rider was as amazed as I was – and I kept my awe pretty well checked, but she showed me how to really play it cool.

    Hey, I never said the 1% Club was exclusively cool.

    Anyway…any guesses what topic might have come up repeatedly throughout this past weekend?

    Anyone?

    Yeah. Take your pick.

    George Floyd.

    Defunding Police.

    Protests – attending, traffic – stuck in, complaining about, managing, just…discussing.

    And I’ll be honest, I learned so much!

    Just by asking a question and then shutting my mouth.

    It was a powerful weekend. I took today off of driving just to decompress and true to my ovalesque form, I’m gonna work it through here. Feel free to expand upon, agree, disagree, tell me I’m up in the night, tell me you learned something or whatever in the comments.

    Let’s start off with the smartest man I’ve witnessed in quite a while. Sadly, this was not one of my passengers.

    Brilliant, no?

    Assuming cops read better than Trump…

    First – or second, depending on how you define the phrase “Let’s start off with” in the hierarchical nature of lists – let’s go back to one of my posts from last week, ACAB. You can bet as I’m giving protesters a lift here or there or just debriefing the events of the past week with riders that this came up. And there’s me

    You know what no one has really been able to make me understand?

    …like I’m some kind of Seinfeld knockoff.

    Not that it made me feel any better, but I found that I wasn’t the only person who felt disease at the radical catchphrase-cum-urban-art gaining steam as mainstream messaging. That made me feel a little less like a liberal Benedict Arnold, but my goal – my hope – was really to still come away from these conversations with greater understanding.

    Hell, I have to admit, though, that it was gratifying to meet people who I could tell were taking time to think about my concerns over the hyperbole of “All Cops Are Bastards”. My assumption, I told people was that there was a story behind it, but I just didn’t know it. If I didn’t know it, as an average Joe, what if others simply took it at face value and suddenly good cops became collateral damage?

    I’m glad that I could see people turning my concerns over.

    Best answer?

    A rider told me to think of it this way: ACAB is to cops what Original Sin is to Christianity. It comes with the badge, not the person.

    Me: Why? Tell me more.

    Basically, good people become complicit – regardless of other motivations for joining the force – once they put on the badge. Probably, it wouldn’t have resonated with me as much had another rider not told me something about police history that I did not know.

    From Original Sin to Origin Story, if you will.

    Not that other countries before us didn’t have a police force, but where policing really kicked into high gear in this country was with slavery. We needed people to patrol as a deterrent to escape and whatnot. These folks were called paddyrollers. When slavery ended, that shifted to ensuring safety for white people from freed slaves.

    I’d never thought of it through that particular lens. Naturally, I came home looking for information and was amazed at the little nuggets I picked up – although I’m certainly not ready for any sort of Jeopardy by any means.

    At this point, I was attenuated to this origin story. Things kept jumping out at me, including a quote about how necessary police were to protect Whites from freed slaves. I swear I screen shotted that quote, but fuck if I can find it now. So take this little gem as a break from heavy subject matters instead.

    Sometimes I love the interwebs and the dweebs that inhabit the joint.

    One final question I felt compelled to ask of a few people was about minority cops.

    If all cops ARE bastards, are Black cops not just modern day Uncle Toms?

    A good chunk of the people admitted they didn’t know or had never even considered that in the context of police brutality.

    One Black passenger shared a story about someone she knew whose grandmother basically disowned him after their becoming a cop. But another – while not answering the question directly – flipped the question to something equally enlightening: double minorities.

    This rider asked me to consider that once you’re a cop, your other identities are beside the point. That can actually result in Black cops being the object of fear and even hatred in their own community because the community doesn’t know where the loyalties lie or shake out.

    Is it Black, Badge or Badge then Black when it comes down to it? Or is there even an answer?

    “Think of gay Black men”, he said, clearly pegging me. Because of the stigma of homosexuality in the Black community, a lot of gay Black men are actually afraid of other Black men.

    And I had to admit that this clearly stoned Black man in my back seat was a genius for making that complex point.

    If I’d come out of the weekend with only that understanding of ACAB, I’d still call that a solid understanding win. As a matter of fact, I wish I could travel back to last Thursday and share just that with my passengers who engaged on this topic.

    Tangential to that topic was just plain old protest messaging. In the post I linked to above, I discuss briefly how integrity – or its lack – is a trigger for me. That’s where my initial ACAB resistance started…All.

    But there were other stories shared, individual awareness raised and even behavioral modification commitments made.

    A couple of my favorite shared stories:

    A person told me about being at a protest and finally understanding the difference between a peaceful protest and a nonviolent protest. We both agreed that violence was not an end goal either would appreciate, but then they went on to point out that protests are generally disruptive.

    One of the reasons permits are required

    I offered, trying to demonstrate understanding.

    Peaceful protests are what you’ll see on a street corner with a few people waving signs or hanging banners from freeway overpasses. Non-violent protests are more raucous by nature because while the intent isn’t to hurt anyone, they aren’t above breaking a window or starting a fire to drive a point home. But property destruction isn’t violent, per se. It’s in your face, but for reform to happen, sometimes the impetus is financial versus moral.

    I can still hear my question echoing in my head as the conversation leaps riders and morphs slightly in the process. This rider had been at a protest and seen plastic water bottles being thrown at cops by a couple of hooligans in their midst. Their fear was tear gas – again – or rubber bullets. Or worse yet, the sonic sound weapon (I think it’s called an LSAD) that the police had used after the mayor shut down tear gas. They’d have preferred tear gas. They came prepared with water bottles that were a baking soda and water mix, effective in taking the sting out of tear gas.

    They had been happy to see the crowd shout down the water bottle chuckers, crying out “non-violent protest!” until they slinked away.

    Indeed, I saw an example of this myself. Protesters at the fence around our Justice Center reacting when someone at the front climbed up on the fence to flick his cardboard sign at the police standing inside. They went after him. The cops, to their credit, did not react. But the fear was rubber bullets.

    In that regard, I think Portland’s police force has responded in a more measured manner than elsewhere in the country. Obviously, not perfectly, but better.

    Still, that gas and the (possibly called) LSAD came up more than once over the weekend. Mainly as examples of the police being militarized. Defensive statements in the argument to defund the police.

    One rider passionately made the connection to militarizing the police being akin to the precise reason police needed to be defunded in the first place.

    If the police have the military grade weapons, they’re going to use them – even if it’s to break up a peaceful group protesting between the White House and a church so the President can walk across the park for a photo op.

    Great example of an argument against.

    But another great example of the circles I experience in my car. Because there we are, right back where we started. Defund the Police doesn’t mean disband the police.

    It’s hyperbole, once again.

    It’s not that all cops are bastards and let’s turn the country into one big Florida gated community patrolled by polo wearing mall cops in golf carts by defunding the actual police.

    The hyperbole obscured the point: reduce funding for things like police in schools and transit police. Hell, one rider posited even meter maids could go or be severely reduced – “Their budget is already paid by our taxes, excessive parking tickets just creates double taxation!”

    But those branches of the force that would be eliminated would have their funding redirected toward better response alternatives. Mental health responders or substance abuse counselors being deployed with a goal of getting people in crisis the help they need connecting to resources that will help them – also funded through defunding ineffective police programs – versus getting them into contact with police officers without quality training to really protect and serve their communities.

    And on that note – before I leave you to digest – I’ll pat Portland on the back again. In my nine months of driving with Lyft, I’ve had exactly one bad experience.

    Riders ask me this all the time. Ok, hyperbole aside…often.

    I picked up a young lady who was going to her boyfriend’s. She needed to stop on the way, it turned out, at a RiteAid to get a bandage.

    No problem, I told her – as I do anyone who asks to stop or reroute during a ride. “It’s your ride, I’ll go where you tell me!” Then she thrusts her arm into my field of vision and says her dog bit her as she was leaving.

    In retrospect, my best guess is that she’d been drinking at home and messing around with the canine equivalent of Myrtle, who stopped her shenanigans by sending a “Game Over” message in the only way that this rider would understand.

    So I stop off at the RiteAid, not yet having connected the drinky dots.

    She comes out and starts tending to her wound as I continue on.

    Then she slips into Kitty Dukakis mode.

    By the time I get to her destination – a shopping mall versus her boyfriend’s – she’s zonked out in the back, still sitting up. I can’t wake her up.

    After several minutes of no-to-groggy responses, I use the emergency toggle in the app. I’m having a conversation about her as she settles deeper into unconsciousness in the back. The agent I’m talking to dispatches police while I’m on the line.

    Here’s the great thing.

    Sure, the police come. But en route, based on what they know, they call a secondary unit to meet them. One that is designed to get drunks to a safe, non-jail place to sober up instead of placing them under arrest or citing them for public intoxication.

    This isn’t even a traditional drunk tank.

    This woman won’t even have a blip on her record for this…I think that’s a perfect example of defunding to de-escalate potential scenarios where police contact could devolve into police violence. Sure, Portland double-dipped on the response since there was a police team and the – I dunno what they’re called – Intervention Squad? But the police team knew to facilitate the hand off versus being directly involved. They were trained enough to have an attempted assessment type conversation with my passenger and then let her be until their backup arrived to take over.

    A great experience.

    The best part?

    What am I not telling you?

    The mall – Lloyd Center – serves a traditionally Black demographic.

    How might this scenario had played out in Minneapolis? Or Ferguson, MO? Or Brunswick, GA?

    For as much reform work as we have ahead of us as a country and as imperfect as Portland Police Bureau is simply for being the police…at least we have a liberal community that has made some imperfect efforts that have yielded enough imperfect results to make me confident that regardless of national legislative police reform, we’ll be able to make local impacts that will at least let our minuscule minority community get a head start. Gimp legged as it may be…

    Circles

    ACAB

    Howdy y’all! It’s Grumpy, Old Xtopher – here for another episode of The Voice of Treason.

    I don’t want to shock anyone, but I’m not going after my favorite barrel fish, The Gays, in this episode.

    Well, not completely, anyway.

    First, ACAB…what is it?

    It stands for All Cops Are Bastards. Sometimes it’s represented by 1312, which is its first letter numerical equivalent…because when you have a message, you’d hate to just put it out there where anyone could understand you without a secret handshake or decoder ring being involved.

    Gawd, I love sarcasm.

    I’ve been taking pics around town over the last year of scenes where people have casually graffitied “Fuck the Police” or “ACAB” on walls or sidewalks. I say casually since there was no newsworthy catalyst. I’m just walking down the street and <bloop> graffiti. It’s actually something of a blog post I started last year called Un-Civil War, but I’m not sure it’ll ever make it out of draft mode at this point.

    We’re heading into night four of protests in Portland and our third night of 8 PM curfew in the city. I also just heard from the Silver Fox that Governor Brown has activated the Guard to assist Portland. I’m extrapolating here based off an earlier story about this prior to the Guv committing Guard troops – in order to assist Portland in protecting its governmental buildings so the police are freer to patrol the city.

    But what’s bothered me about the emboldening ACAB messaging has really come to a point for me over the last four nights.

    I think it really crystallized for me when I was driving yesterday afternoon.

    It was around 4 and I was taking a couple and their pup, Buffy – how sweet is that? – from Southeast to their home a few blocks from mine in Northwest. We were still on the Eastside, a few blocks from the Burnside Bridge and were suddenly passed by two troop movers, large trucks modified so cops could ride standing on the running boards. These were followed by two dually style pickups with grill lights flashing.

    Ridiculously, I ended up sitting side-by-side with them at a stop light, waiting to cross – if you can believe this – MLK Boulevard before crossing the bridge.

    Just let the surreality of that whole scene wash over you.

    I wasn’t sure what the protocol was in this situation, was I supposed to pull over or turn off and find another route? Just drive like it was no big deal?

    I held my palms up in question when one of the cops riding the side boards looked my way.

    His response was to nod once and then give me a makeshift non-contact “five” by dropping his open hand toward my upraised palm.

    Well, he’s certainly not a bastard.

    My passengers chuckled and we decided together to proceed across the bridge with the cops. I gave them a generous head start, though. And in a truly miraculous occurrence, no non-native Portland drivers honked at me.

    From the turn they took onto 2nd once we crossed the bridge, it seemed they were heading for the Tom McCall Waterfront Park or possibly down to Naito Parkway to head into the government core of the city, which is in Southwest between 2nd and 5th Streets. That would actually track, since I’d been re-routed around protests in Southwest when I’d crossed the Hawthorne Bridge earlier.

    I’d heard later from a rider that Tri-Met had stopped bus service downtown at 3:30 that afternoon, and at 6 PM, the city had closed down several bridges into downtown as well as the exits into downtown from the 405, which loops around the central core of the city – see also: my way home.

    Basically, the city was trying to control access to downtown. If you were coming in from the outer neighborhoods, you were walking.

    Which is exactly what the protesters did.

    Several groups held rallies in areas of town. Some with early end times to respect the 8 PM curfew, others intending – it seemed – to end up downtown right around the start of the curfew. A couple of the groups that ended earlier had stragglers join the later march. That resulted in a group of several thousand people marching down Burnside toward the bridge I had followed combat geared cops across earlier.

    I actually picked up a nice young woman a few block past this march – after weaving around its tail five blocks eastward – who had just broken off to head home. She’d just moved here in December for work and asked if “we” did this type of thing often.

    I told her our unofficial nickname and weather forecast (Little Beirut and cloudy with a chance of protests) and she seemed to get the point. Still, I added,

    Not enough bike lanes, bogus travel bans, police brutality…we generally seem pretty DTM here.

    DTM?”

    Down to March?

    “I think I’ll like it here.”

    Plus, great food.

    “Not a bad fallback!”

    But cool cops in tactical gear and fun stranger-on-a-plane type convos aside…this morning I watched an hour and 16 minute video that one of my friends from yesterday’s post…er, posted of himself in last night’s march. From the timing of it and where he was on Burnside when his video started, it’s likely he walked in front of me while I was blocked by the protestors in the pic above.

    Ironically, in a fit of things that could only happen to me, this guy falls into the “If you drive Lyft long enough, you’re bound to give a ride to someone you boned” category as not only the inaugural but thankfully only member.

    I watched the video because of the attached post

    His post hashtags the now debunked DC Blackout that supposedly highlighted the difference between the start of Pride month at the White House in 2015 versus last night.

    Only that pic wasn’t from last night. It was from 2011 or something…

    His post also uses ultimatums and hyperbole that suggest if you stay inside or silent, that you’re complicit in the violence against minorities.

    It also predicted the activation of the National Guard by a good 6 hours and assured his followers that the government was trying to exterminate protestors.

    Okay

    Still, I watched the video.

    I’m proud to report that not any part of me was anxious to see this younger man tear gassed. Or exterminated.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing him tone down his hyperbole a bit, though.

    In the video I watched – which I know covers only one of three nights of his activism – he wasn’t chased.

    Or tear gassed.

    Nor shot at.

    He yelled a lot of chants.

    “Get out of your house and on the streets” to people watching from their balconies.

    The call and return of “Say his/her name!” to give voice to George and Breonna and Aubry now that theirs have been silenced.

    But the one that really bugged me was the “All Cops Are Bastards”.

    And it bugged me for the same reason that his post bugged me: it’s dishonest.

    The injustice these protests are addressing don’t need anything extra. Especially in today’s climate of malleable integrity.

    If you use that as part of your platform in the battle against racism and unnecessary force by the police and they show – for example – this picture

    …from another Portland protest, no less – then your argument and credibility are shot. C’mon, a cop hugging a black kid?

    Definitely not a bastard.

    Not to mention you’re no better than our current POSOTUS – that’s Piece of Shit of the United States, by the way.

    And that’s a slippery slope.

    If your response to a picture of a cop taking a knee with protesters mimicking Colin Kaepernick’s protest kneel is that he was just putting on battle gear…well, now you’re twisting reality. Because – go with me here – a cop is heading off to a protest so he takes his gear with him so that if shit starts to get tense, he can take a knee and put his gear on.

    Sure.

    Yet, that’s the excuse I’ve seen from the left when confronted with photos like that.

    And now we’ve got this guy saying the National Guard has been activated to exterminate protestors.

    So, yeah, things like ACAB bother me. Mainly because they are gateway lies. Propaganda that sounds flashy and gets hearts racing and righteous blood pumping fervently.

    But do you need that when you’re right?

    I think not, and now we’ve abdicated the moral high ground by lying.

    For my part, after watching the video I reiterated my point about having permits to protest legally, that I was glad no one was injured in the video – and most proud to see a protester shout a fellow protestors down after he climbed up on a fence around our Justice Center and threw his sign at the cops inside the perimeter.

    “This is a peaceful protest!” he yelled.

    I applaud that.

    I just dare the left and Black community allies to keep it an honest protest, too.

    Leave ACAB where it belongs…in Genesis lyrics.

    ACAB

    Grounded.

    As much as I like saying that Portland’s unofficial forecast is “cloudy, with a chance of protests”, I have to admit that the last 36 hours have caught me off guard.

    The city was effectively sent to its room last night beginning at 8 PM via a curfew order from the Mayor. This was in response to rioters coat-tailing on a vigil for George Floyd in one of North Portland’s parks on Friday afternoon. I was actually driving that day and ended up taking three groups over and taking two home on return trips.

    The traffic was a nightmare.

    In retrospect, I should have seen the riots coming since I actually said the words “What kind of vigil breaks up before the candles come out at dusk?” as I dropped of my last riders. People were leaving, yet others were still en route to gather.

    Maybe I was distracted at the welcome home I got when I pulled up to my building around 9:30. Once again, two of the five park blocks I live on were cordoned off and surrounded by police cruisers with their lights flashing.

    Just so you know the proximity here, the park blocks run as follows:

    Burnside – Couch (pronounce it right in your mind, we’ve talked about this…Cooch)

    Couch – Davis

    Davis – Everett

    Everett – Flanders

    Flanders – Glisan

    I live in the Everett to Flanders block and the police had cordoned off half of my front yard as well as the entirety of the Flanders to Glisan block. They had also closed off Flanders from Park Ave (my street) up to Broadway, two blocks ahead.

    I asked a dog walking neighbor what was up and he said there had been a shooting.

    Weird. Remember when Portland was Stabby and not shooty?

    Maybe that was inappropriate, so I followed it up with asking about the victim. Apparently, hit in the chest, but expected to survive.

    Nonetheless, my mental abacus was not adding things up.

    Until.

    Later that night, around 10 PM when I tuned into the Instagram and saw march videos on my friends’ stories. It looked like they were downtown, which is in the Southwest quadrant of town.

    For context, I live in the Northwest quadrant and the vigil was in the North quadrant.

    Sidebar: We just added a sixth quadrant, South Portland. Because Portland is weird and when the root of the word is Latin-ish for “four”, we’re gonna have six, dammit.

    I’m not sure why I was surprised by this. Not only are we a town of liberal activism, but we are also a town of traveling and escalating protests. What starts as a vigil in one quadrant traveled through town and escalated into a protest and eventually a riot – and its not atypical for a freeway to be blocked by protesters marching across or down it, either. And the further they march, the more destructive the protest gets.

    It’s like I forgot Portland’s other nickname: Little Beirut.

    Sure enough, the rioters in Southwest broke into and burned the Justice Center. Well, started a fire at, at any rate. It was a big building on Friday morning and when I walked by it Saturday morning…still a big building. It’s not like it burned to the ground.

    Here’s what caught me off guard, though: usually I witness the escalation. Living where I do, well…I’m centrally located. Even to the occasional chaos.

    Maybe it’s because my county – Multnomah – is the only one in the state that is not yet in phase one of the reopening plan (which I’m happy about). In non-lockdown situations, this is the time of year is normally be sitting at a sidewalk cafe enjoying an adult beverage with one of the Foxes Silver or Filipina. Such as it is, no restaurants or bars are presently open for sidewalk socializing.

    I woke up Saturday morning to scattered stories – both news and Insta – of the destruction in Southwest Portland. Not only had the Justice Center been burned. Several jewelry stores and store fronts (Louis Vuitton and Apple among them) had had their windows broken out and been looted.

    There were pictures of smashed iPads and empty velvet bracelet displays on the streets and sidewalks of downtown.

    And social media was melting down.

    All while protests continued throughout the morning and afternoon in Southwest.

    I watched the shameful debacle from my couch – taking a break for a little juxtaposed National Pride moment to watch the SpaceX launch. But the thing that kept popping into my head (and the reason I called these protests a debacle) was, “This isn’t working”.

    This. Isn’t. Working.

    One young e-quaintance posted this to his story, he’d been downtown at the protests and took some video, surprised that cops were firing tear gas and – what he thought – bullets into the crowd. In his video, I could hear him shrieking “They started this. The cops started this!”

    His last story was from his car, filming cops walk by in his drivers side rear view mirror, saying he wasn’t close enough to see if the shots he heard were bullets or not. Mind you, he was close enough to see the cops allegedly smiling and laughing through their riot gear.

    I asked him…well, I’ll just show you

    See how I have to apologize at the end for pointing out logic? Peaceful protests are our right, guaranteed by the Constitution. But in order to protect citizens from being victimized by one another exercising their First Amendment rights, cities across the country have enacted laws requiring protests to have permits in order to be deemed legal.

    In other words, no one person or group’s right supersedes or negates any one else’s.

    An interesting point to overlook, given this protest was being conducted under the auspices of one individual being deprived his right to life and an entire race being denied their right to equality and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

    He – dammit, they…they are trans – didn’t respond. You can see that they read the message.

    Crickets.

    It’s telling to see someone, especially a trans person – one of the presently most vocal groups on the subject – protesting privilege and lowering themselves into the melee of “Fuck the Police” and then going silent when pushed for details.

    Oh, you don’t know if the protest you participated in was legal or not? But you still jumped on the bandwagon of bashing the authorities when they did their job and broke your protest up? <bloop> Privilege.

    I should note, ACAB is shorthand for “All Cops Are Bastards”. You will also see it coded into 1312, which was not only the unit number of my condo in Seattle, but also the alphabetically numeric equivalent of ACAB. Sometimes people actually have the balks to post (spray paint) their message to a broad audience instead of just speaking their coded lingo to rile up their own little subversive slice of the population by saying “Fuck the Police”. It’s not a blanket statement I endorse. Which isn’t unusual for me. I typically resist generalizations.

    Elsewhere on social media, another guy I know posted an nifty little blurb about the history of riots.

    The Boston Tea Party.

    The Stamp Riots.

    Stonewall.

    One that I didn’t know about that led to the creation of the District of Columbia. I thought that was interesting.

    “Riots work” was his point.

    It was impressively put together to illustrate his point. Yay, facts.

    Yet I couldn’t help but notice that none of the examples he posted were race riots.

    Selma, Alabama? Not a part of his argument.

    Nothing on the Watts riots from the 60s.

    OJ’s LA riots in the 90s? Nope.

    More recently, St Louis or Charleston? Absent.

    This. Isn’t. Working.

    Me, being me, I jumped into the comment thread. I actually said that I agree with the right to protest and demonstrate. However, in a time where the 24-hour news cycle is a thing and our population is dense enough – not to mention our seat of government being conveniently located on the same continent and not weeks away by boat – that maybe such extreme methods such as massive scale property destruction are no longer effective at communicating one’s message.

    Perhaps, I posited, destructive riots no longer effect change as they once did, so much as they empower disenfranchised fringe populations with the opportunity to therapeutically retaliate for their impotence. Wasn’t one of these disenfranchised populations responsible for the results of the 2016 elections? Trump whipped the uneducated and (latent and overt) racist elements of our country up – enabling them by giving voice to their shamefully harbored secrets – to protest vote versus sitting the vote out in their collective powerlessness while progressives and liberals sat the vote out in protest because their candidate didn’t get the nomination.

    So we protested.

    Again.

    Then, we rioted.

    Again.

    Then…nothing changed.

    Again.

    Maybe, my point is, if the most effective examples of riots leading to change are from a century or almost three ago, that should tell us something.

    Maybe if the most current example you have of an effective riot is 50 years ago and still not 100% resolved, “effective” isn’t an accurate description.

    Maybe if you have to disregard the most pertinent examples of recent riots because change has not been affected then you need to ask if riots are, indeed, actually effective.

    Maybe, in a population as dense as ours – both definitions of the word being applicable – a vigil or peaceful protest is just a clarion call to those same disenfranchised folk Trump whipped up during his campaign to come out and play.

    So my point to my friend was, maybe we need to find a way to change how our message is communicated. For the effort of asking a question, I was rewarded with this response from a stranger – no context, just this

    Yes, thank you for posting the point I said I understood – in meme form. Fucking Android users.

    My point had been whether these lather, rinse, repeat protests were actually meeting our demand to be recognized.

    I think not so much anymore.

    Why?

    Well, because capitalism will just make more of whatever is destroyed. All rioting and looting seems to be doing any more is heightening demand to produce more.

    How is that effective?

    Job creation?

    We can quote him, name streets after him all over the country and observe his birthday as a national holiday; but if we don’t understand the meaning behind his words have we actually heard Doctor King’s words? Let alone…learned from them.

    I took a public speaking course a while back – sometime between present day and MLK’s assassination – and I learned something interesting.

    It stuck with me.

    Basically, the point of the lesson was that it’s a speaker’s responsibility to present their message in a manner in which it will be received. That served me well as a manager of people. Whether it was a group setting or one-on-one communication, if I wanted people to listen, I had to talk to them. If I only wanted them to hear me, then it didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, because hearing and listening are two different things.

    I can hear the news and police helicopters buzzing around outside my home. They were there at 11 PM last night, they are there now.

    I hear them.

    But I’m not listening to them. I don’t like what they are telling me. As much a fact, I’m actively trying to tune them out.

    That’s what I think protesters need to ask themselves.

    Who is listening to your message? Right now, it seems the people in power are at worst actively trying to tune you out and at best, trying to undo the collateral damage you are doing from the rioters who heard and were enabled by your words.

    This is not working.

    Grounded.

    Take A Seat, Karen

    We all know a Karen.

    Or Susan…or whomever.

    She’s the gal who says about herself,

    I’m 100% that bitch

    And everyone who knows her suffers silently while thinking, “We know, we know!”

    She can be anyone from this nightmare type

    To this angry racist

    All the way to this vacuous type

    Really, Buzzfeed, should I be following someone whose life goal seems to be getting shirtless selfies in as many different countries – undoubtedly on someone else’s dime – as possible? That will somehow enhance my life in ways I simply cannot comprehend?

    As you can see, there’s a rather wide range, like the head that holds her hairstyle or the pew that supports her rear or the wallet that supports his heels.

    The common denominator?

    They know everything that’s hot in pop culture, fashionable, the best exercise classes, the best restaurants or other micro-minutae. Nothing real substantive coming out of their iced or pumpkin spiced coffee holes, unfortunately.

    Essentially, they’re nothing more than poseurs, following in the too prevalent basic lemming-slash-bitch mentality of today: elevating teenaged performers to icon status based on a lyric from a pop song.

    What the hell is wrong with our country?!?

    I mean, Taylor Swift was praised last year – or possibly the year before – for finally speaking out against gun violence. She was heralded as a savior for “using her social media for good”.

    She’s 29.

    Now, long time readers will know my thoughts on Social Media Influencers. But I’ll give Swifty a pass for speaking out. She does have the following to reach a large audience, so good for her.

    But when it comes to the vapid followers who got behind the message?

    It was the same thing left leaning politicians have been saying since the history of mass shootings began in this country. Thanks for finally getting the memo.

    A friend of mine, @Britebarb on the Twitter, once said,

    You aren’t entitled to your opinion, but you are entitled to your informed opinion.

    I probably butchered the exact quote, but you get the point. When our opinions are informed by pop culture instead of actual news, facts and self-education…well, you’re not a Karen or a Susan.

    You’re a Molly.

    Lets don’t be Molly, shall we?

    This actually brings me to my larger point.

    Those Susan and Karen types? What do you think they do to our culture?

    It used to be cute that Karen would have a hostess fired for seating her by the kitchen. Today, Karen is having hostesses fired for not seating her party of 14 fast enough while parties of two and four that came in after her were seated first.

    It was tolerable for one person to have a racist anachronistic opinion. They were your aged grandparent who was written off as “being from another time”. Then some charismatic someone pooled that grandparent’s money together with a bunch of other racist grandparents and build a megachurch.

    Put our glamorous and hunky gay Instagram traveler at a drive-thru window – not the one he sits on, an actual drive-thru – and see how he does. We used to take basic service industry jobs and make the fabulous most of our minimum wages. Now, we complain about a free trip to Coachella instead of questioning the politics of the promoters…ignoring politics we could never support because the line up is lit.

    Molly, you should be calling out the performers for working for that promoter, not instagramming your free trip.

    It’s not all bad. This past week, Stephen Ross hosted a lunch for Trump.

    There was glitter fallout.

    Ross is the CEO for the parent company of Equinox Gym and Soul Cycle. These are $100/month plus gyms heavily trafficked by the gays and the Karens of the country. Sorry, Susan…you’re praying away the body issues.

    But we’ve been here before.

    Chick-fil-a.

    Barilla pasta.

    I’ll come up with some others later.

    Maybe.

    But those two kind of make my point: we don’t remember.

    It kind of relegates our ire to the level of the so-called Million Moms. I think they struggled to sustain a roster of thousands of moms.

    Why?

    Thumping bibles is hard, for one, ok?

    But also, do you think a million moms want to piss off the gay that cuts their hair and end up with a Karen haircut? Or worse, piss off their personal trainer and end up with a Susan ass?

    We people…not so consistent. Setting aside the extremes on either end of the blue or red political spectrum, I think the grey area in between needs to take over. Regardless of which way you lean – left or right – the middle has the numbers to do what’s right.

    Stephen Ross and Trump and the Chick-fil-a folks – ironically, the family surname is Cathy – don’t care about our boycotts.

    Hear that?

    It’s them laughing all the way to the bank, either way.

    Making money? Great! Put it in the bank!

    Losing money? Great! Write it off on our taxes or short our own stock!

    Our protests hurt the people in the front lines. The mother of three working two part time jobs and asking if we want Waffle Fries with our chicken sandwich.

    Of course we do! But we want the Secret Waffle Fries that our Equinox trainer won’t find out about!

    And those trainers who lose income because their spin classes are empty? Another of the real victims of our righteous ire.

    Why?

    Because we don’t hold our politicians accountable to holding our best interests and not their own.

    Why don’t we have gun control or reform in this country? Because Tay-Tay isn’t in Congress.

    Conversely, why do we have Trump as president? Because he had the best soundbites.

    Tax cuts!

    Crooked Hillary!

    But her emails!

    And because we’re largely entitled when it comes to our opinions, we ran right off the cliff at the ballot box without ever informing ourselves about our opinion.

    A couple years back, I wrote about what one of my employees told me after proudly stating that he and his wife voted on behalf of their family of five for Trump.

    After my eyes rolled 360 degrees in their respective sockets, that is.

    The shorthand is the tax cuts and that they didn’t trust Hillary.

    We think we’ll be better off with Trump in office.

    “Financially?”

    Well, yeah…

    That last part was delivered like he worried that I didn’t understand that nothing more mattered than their bottom line.

    For my part, I think I showed a lot of restraint.

    You know you work in Portland, right?

    “Yeah…”

    And your job pays more than minimum wage – which in Oregon is 50% higher than the federal minimum wage, right?

    “Well, I mean, I know I make more than minimum wage, but it’s not enough.”

    Setting aside my recollection of the conversation we had where he volunteered that he had preemptively had his four upper front teeth removed because it was somehow easier, I went on,

    You do know that republicans opposed the minimum wage bill in Oregon, right?

    “Not really, I don’t pay much attention to politics.”

    Well, then you frankly shouldn’t vote.

    “But every vote counts and it’s my right!”

    Stupid Americans.

    Being ignorant

    I didn’t say “retarded” because people get mad at me.

    isn’t a right, it’s a handicap. Liberals provided the higher than average minimum wage that you’re making $1 more than per hour. If you’re going to vote, maybe support the people that support you. Have a little friggin’ loyalty! If you want to support the people who stand on your backs to get what they have, is like my $5 an hour back.

    That last part went whizzing right over his head. Basically, he’s in a place where he’s making $200 more per week than people doing the same work outside of Oregon. And this basic Karen votes against the people who gave it to him.

    As his employer, forced to pay for it – but happily doing so – if he doesn’t appreciate it, I want it back.

    Idiots.

    Plus, he wasn’t that great of an employee. More a “Needs Improvement” versus a “Meets Expectations” because his opportunities weren’t a matter of not knowing the job expectations or not having the tools to succeed.

    He delivered the minimum effort he could get away with. Absent was the mentality to do a good job. His goal was a factor of doing only as much as he had to do to be considered “good enough”.

    And he got away with it…because the management – my boss – was kind of the same. But much better paid.

    This…this is the fallout from our Karen and Susan attitude. People who act in their own interest versus in the interest of the greater good. Doing what’s right for the sake of the fact that it’s right!

    We seem to take more of a WIIFM approach to doing what’s right. Failing a personal net positive in the What’s In It For Me test, we do what’s easier versus what’s right.

    As far as what’s in it for me goes? I try to come out on right versus easier as often as possible. Of course, when that means leaving a job that paid alright versus tacitly condoning the poor management ethics, it’s downright hard to do.

    On the flip side, I hold others to the same standard. On that front, let me explain the title of this post:

    Take A Seat, Karen

    You wanna talk to the manager and get a waiter fired for a perceived slight?

    Hold. My. Beer.

    I had an entire company fired.

    I don’t mess around. For me, right and wrong isn’t about getting what I want – in life, at the ballot box or what-have-you.

    Saying that my issues with my property management company started last year while I was on vacation is only partially true.

    Sure, my building unexpectedly pulled the key core from the building’s front door.

    Yeah, this meant my pet sitter – aka: the Silver Fox – couldn’t get in to feed Myrtle since I only had one fob and he used a door key to get into the building.

    My relationship with the management company warped into a wormhole when I reached out for help in the situation.

    Expectation: something along the lines of “Oh no! Have your pet sitter swing by the office and he can use our fob until you get back!” Y’know…something to help proactively resolve the immediate issue with maybe a little appropriate empathy.

    Reality: they (mis)quoted my lease to me. “As per your lease, you were given one key to your unit and one door fob. If you want additional fobs, you’ll need to buy them.”

    Meanwhile, my cat isn’t being fed.

    In reality, while I was trying to tone down the shriek-level in my response, it occurred to me that this wasn’t where my problem began with them, this was where their poor performance became intolerable.

    My problem with their performance began a month before I moved in. I had failed to negotiate a lower rent in my old unit by speaking logic to my unit’s owner. The unit next door was the same size and renting for $300 less a month, she offered a $50 rent reduction.

    I moved.

    But for the three weeks while that conversation was happening, the smoke detector was giving off a replace battery beep in the empty unit. I actually arranged a tour of the unit initially only to tell them to replace the battery.

    The agent apologetically agreed to get it taken care of.

    Then…nothing happened.

    This was when my problem with their performance began. But weighing the issues – a bad battery or $250/month – I moved anyway.

    That’s the grey area I mentioned earlier. Both unit’s owner/management failed, casting the larger issue in grey. I chose the least wrong, which also happened to financially benefit me. A grey lose-win-win.

    I can solve the battery issue by putting in a new battery and disconnecting the unit when that doesn’t fix it.

    The starving cat issue was harder to solve and just a much larger issue overall. But I – and The Fox and the HOA prez, Joe – solves it outside of the property management company’s ineffective performance.

    And the lease they quoted? It actually said a key to the unit and a mailbox key. Nothing about fobs. Thank god I had a front door key for the building, a copy I made of the key my old landlady gave me. Additionally, I’d never gotten the mailbox key because the owner had accidentally taken it home to Seattle with him. Just like the battery, I didn’t make a big deal of it because I use a PO Box.

    But three months later, when they tried to raise my rent $100/month, I asked the question,

    What have you done to support the rent increase?

    Sure, it was the owner’s idea but they were his agent. It was their service that I was weighing against the rent increase ask that the market would simply not support.

    Their performance came up short and I refused the increase, offering to move instead and pointing out that my old unit next door had been vacant for the entire time I lived here. They acquiesced, with a “We recommended no increase to the owner, but he insisted” reply.

    Oh, okay…

    Not sure how I’m a saner voice to the owner than the management company he employs…but, suuuuure.

    All this came to a head in July when I paid rent through their portal.

    Just like normal.

    I paid on the 29th of June with a checking account draft. I learned the hard way that using my debit card versus a draft resulted in a $45 “convenience fee“…because it’s 1990 in their IT department.

    BTW, their response to that complaint was

    Perfectly acceptable and professional response, right?

    A few days later I paid the rest of my bills via bill pay and debit card, noticing that the rent draft still hadn’t cleared.

    The next business day, my usual monthly bills all cleared, but still not my rent.

    Unpleasantly, the next business day a charge from Kelly’s for a couple of beers also cleared, leaving me $6 short on my rent. Damn their credit card processing company!

    In a fit of “this could only happen to me” ness, my bank rejected to rent draft when it finally poked its head out of its technology shell.

    This began a two week cascade of “I’ve had it with you people” ness for me as I tried to resolve the unfathomable “why would you not cover me for 6-fucking-dollars” issue with my bank and the head-scratchingly larger issue with my management company.

    For whatever reason, this prompted them to audit my ledger and add in a $75 late fee for April’s rent – when I paid on the 5th of the month because I was waiting in checks to clear.

    This was on top of the $75 late fee and $50 NSF fee my returned check was costing me for the current month.

    I didn’t have an extra $225.

    Just. Didn’t.

    That’s not my lifestyle these days – and may never be again. I’m kind of ok with that compared to working for a company with a double standard. I don’t love it, but by god…it’s ethically right.

    One of the other handicaps this so-called-management company’s online portal suffered from was an ability to make partial payments. Given my newer more meager financial situation, I wanted to make biweekly payments of half my rent.

    Can’t.

    Fine, I lived a year being super-financially-disciplined (for me) and was only late once.

    I rallied.

    But in July, I hit a wall. After talking to my bank, getting their overdraft fee refunded, cleaning out my – and The Fox’s – recycling closet and cashing in my coffee can of change, I had the extra $150 fees my July rent required.

    I didn’t have the April “Oops, we suck at our jobs” $75. And…no partial payments, so I couldn’t pay rent.

    Could I have asked The Fox or my family or just about anyone I’ve ever me to front me $75?

    Fuck yeah.

    But I didn’t because it was wrong – in my opinion – for them to randomly choose this moment to audit my ledger. It seemed to me that they were unnecessarily piling on in a bad situation.

    It.

    Made.

    Me.

    Angry.

    Y’know, one of those pesky righteous angers that causes you to quit good jobs versus the kind that makes you fight traffic tickets when you were, in fact, speeding.

    I emailed the owner.

    He’d asked me in an email – after a five week process to get my AC repaired during the first heatwave of the Summer – how everything was going.

    Well, my best friend let in the AC repair guy – since having to schedule ten days out resulted in them being able to do the work on a day I had to work – in for me, went home and decided to get his own AC checked out. Called a different company and was offered an appointment the next damn day, got his unit checked out and the part ordered for some preventative repairs and delivered and installed before my five week ordeal was resolved through your management company…

    Seemed like an out of line response, so I let it lie and said nothing.

    Like I was raised to do!

    But after two weeks trying to give this company money, it was time.

    And I fucking went to the mattresses.

    Maybe it was a little personal. Dealing with my shelter and my money, after all. Seems kind of personal.

    To the management company, it was “just business”, but because they all appear to employ the same ethics as my Trump supporting former employee…they were happy to do as little as possible to earn their money.

    So I asked to speak to the manager. You want to know how I started my email to the owner?

    You need to fire this management company.

    Flat out. No preamble, right to the mattresses.

    Then I made my case.

    He got involved, told them to waive everything, I paid my rent and seethed on…dreading my next encounter with these people.

    On August 2nd – two weeks later – the owner sent me an email telling me he’d put them on notice that he was taking over on September 1st. True to form, three days later, the management company sent me a letter saying as much.

    I thought about replying to them. Especially given that they’d provided zero context for the change in their message.

    Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving and less competent group of bastards!

    That seemed like gloating. Plus, as vocal as I was about their shortcomings in each of my encounters with them, I would imagine they expected that from me.

    So I withheld. My internal grumpy old man just sat back, breathes a stress-free sigh of relief and thought

    How bout dat, indeed, Karen?

    Take A Seat, Karen

    The Simple Solution

    Homelessness.

    Global Warming.

    Opioid Crisis.

    Politicians & Lobbyists.

    Medicare For All.

    Potholes.

    The simple solution?

    Taxes.

    AOC proposed – and I think I have this right – an 80% tax on the super rich. The tax would kick in on income earned annually over, let me say that again in bold print, over $10 million.

    Pilloried.

    That’s what her plan was. Actually, I’m sure the outcry was worse because it was a woman who suggested such outrageousness.

    People were incensed that there would be a special income tax for people earning over $10 million a year. Personally, I was surprised at how not surprised I was. In my mind, I bet that there were more people making less – far less – than that threshold that panned the plan because, y’know…the American Dream.

    One day, that might be me!

    Stupid Americans.

    For some context for what “we’re” against.

    Robert Downey Jr made $75 million last year, 2018.

    He made one movie. Maybe you heard of it? I dunno. Seemed like a big deal at the time.

    But, since his payout included backend pay – calm down, Diezel – what he got paid up front for the $2 billion-worldwide-grossing movie was only the beginning. And the small part.

    I mention this for two reasons:

    First, it seems safe to assume that RDJ didn’t suit up for the sequel to Infinity Wars for a smaller up front or potential total payday. This is important because Endgame made $1.2 billion worldwide in its opening weekend. That’s 60% of what it’s predecessor made altogether in five days!

    Second, RDJ also only made one film in 2017. Spider-Man: Homecoming. He was paid $15 million for three days of work!

    And people are upset that he’d be taxed unfairly on his earnings over $10 mil.

    Hey, everyone…it’s time for a breakdown!

    Let’s see how AOC’s progressive tax may have put poor RDJ on the streets.

    2017: Let’s assume RDJ would have been taxed at the basic 28% tax rate on his first $10 mil. He’s keeping $7.2 of that. Now, for the $5 mil over the threshold, he’s gonna have to cough up $4 mil at that 80% tax rate, keeping a paltry one mil for himself.

    Oh, a paltry one mil on top of the $7.2 that was taxed at a normal rate.

    Ok, A) I don’t even have the friggin’ one mil!

    <cough, cough> buy my book <cough>

    But, then…B) His total after tax annual income was still $8.2 friggin’ mil.

    I know, I know…agents and staff.

    Whatever.

    Those are write offs that could reduce his taxable income so that his 2017 income never even breached the $10 mil threshold.

    Again…for three days of work. Out of 365.

    Now, 2018: What havoc would a socialist tax plan wreak for poor old RDJ?

    On his first $10 mil, we know he’s keeping $7.2, right? That doesn’t change. But on that $65 mil over the threshold? He’s taking home $13 million and coughing up $52 mil to the Pothole Fixing People.

    That’s a lot of potholes. Hell, it’s maybe even a small bridge. Anyone need a bridge?

    So, overall, he’s gonna be pretty ok with a little over $20 million to get through the year – just the year! He can make more money this year!

    I would imagine that’s do-able.

    And that’s just one example. There’s a lot of CEOs and people we’ve never even heard of that make $10 million plus a year. I say “a lot” thinking hundreds of our 325 million Americans. Maybe thousands. I’m for sure not even thinking this affects tens of thousands of Americans.

    Assuming that’s true, and this affects 9000 Americans – this would only be a factor in the lives of .000028% of Americans.

    Benefitting the other 99.999972% of Americans by, y’know…curing cancer.

    And if I’m wrong?

    I could be wrong by a factor of 36+ and still not be out of the infamous 1%.

    And yet, 290-million-ish aren’t demanding this be the status quo. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

    Did I say Stupid Americans?

    Ok, fine. Maybe it’s hard to stick it to one of our beloveds like RDJ, or Ellen or Oprah.

    I get that. American bravery is more of an anonymous thing these days. Looking at you, Internet Trolls.

    How about the CEO of Google. Anyone know him?

    I mean, if you do…I could use $20 mil (before the tax plan kicks in, plz) or some search engine optimization, so hook a homo up!

    His name is Sundar Pichai. And let’s be honest, is there anything that would get Trump supporters to back AOC’s progressive tax faster than that name?

    No. Because there’s an overwhelming number of racists amongst his supporters. That number – I imagine – is dwarfed only by the number of closet racists amongst his supporters.

    Personally, I’d like to watch them wrestle with their love of Trump versus their realization that a progressive tax would make coughing up $5.2 billion in federal money for a border wall laughably easy.

    Hell, tell Trump he’d have enough to build it in gold with a progressive tax and he might forget about how it would affect him personally long enough to sign the tax plan!

    Ready for this breakdown?

    We know there’s a $7.2 million guarantee on his first $10 mil, so this is really about the remaining $460 million.

    $368,000,000

    That’s how much tax money one person could contribute annually to our country and its various crisis. Let’s face it, even at the $10 million threshold, these Richie Riches potentially pay more in taxes in one year than I will in my lifetime.

    And still this nice Sundar guy would have $99,200,000 to live on personally.

    For a year.

    For my $.02 – which is becoming starkly literal in contrast – I’m thinking that more wealthy Americans would start to invest more of their super-wealth to organizations committed to solving these problems on a national or international level.

    I’m ok with that. I think this country needs a few hundred million citizens with a Robin Hood mentality instead of the current Sheriff of Nottingham dream.

    For whatever reason, Americans hate paying taxes.

    Case in point:

    If people think the government can’t be trusted with that kind of money – they could be right – then Benioff might be their role model. And, hey…it’s another guy we’ve never heard of!

    Score!

    The Simple Solution

    #HeSaidSheSaidToo

    Sometimes I think that I know exactly what to think.

    Other times, I find myself reminding said self that there are two sides to every story and somewhere in between there is probably a truth or two lying around.

    Still, I rely heavily on my confidence that as a critical thinker and proud owner of a well-honed bullshit detector, I will be guided to the truth.

    Recently, though…

    Jussie Smollet

    Covington Catholic

    Boy, howdy. What to think about those topics? Even if my assertion that somewhere under or beside each side’s screams is the truth of the matter…I feel like the old He said/She said idiom is getting more than a fair share of abuse.

    Hence, the hashtag.

    Yesterday, I was reading a blog entry by a Christian Blogger where he was confronted by a homeless person on his morning bus ride into work. He didn’t engage, and was so caught off guard by the outburst that he couldn’t find any words. He just sat quietly across from the man and held his gaze.

    Ultimately, the person moved seats and oriented himself facing away from the blogger. His take on that – even though he acknowledge the obvious mental illness – was that the man was possessed by a demon and that in silently confronting him, the devil had seen his inner god-spirit and run away from him, just like the Bible teaches.

    What? You’re still back on “He follows a Christian blogger?” aren’t you?

    Full disclosure, I follow a couple of Christian bloggers.

    Also several POC bloggers, even though I am just an old whitey.

    I should probably say that I also follow a couple a Mothers that blog, too, even though the last time I checked – which probably wasn’t recently enough – I do not personally have a vagina. Or kids.

    There’s a blogger I follow who is a teenage girl.

    Another that is an old man.

    And several that are some combination of all of those things and several other that I didn’t even mention.

    Oh, and a couple of blogs about cats.

    I don’t want to become trapped in an echo chamber in the blogosphere and more than I do in reality. To that end, I read a lot of blogs that are created from different life experiences than my own.

    I follow bloggers who say interesting things. The frame of reference that this provides me helps me remain open.

    Even though I don’t personally believe this homeless man was possessed by a demon spirit or frightened of my blog buddy’s god spirit, the story was intriguing. The point was still somewhere in there between his beliefs in god and my belief in science.

    The homeless guy was – in my layperson observation – nuts.

    And I live in Portland, so I was also just relieved that my writer friend didn’t end up stabbed.

    What people believe is their own business, I’m not here to tell anyone that there is or isn’t a god. As long as spiritual-minded people also believe in things that are provable, they have all the balance they need in my book.

    But back to Jussie and CovCath.

    Those two issues that have captured our nation’s attention recently have me worried that too much emphasis is put on what people want to believe before the full weight of facts is considered. My observation is usually that somewhere in there is a bible of another sort.

    The Bible-bible is generally accepted to have around 40 contributing authors. Sorry, it was not literally written by this god person everyone is talking about, nor his son. And that fact is freely admitted by believers and non-believers alike.

    That that’s sometimes the last thing those groups agree on is another thing altogether, but I digress

    This good book, it’s a recounting of events that may or may not have been directly witnessed by the writer or told to the writer in a second hand-ish account. Or it’s all crap, which is where one has to bring faith to the equation.

    Having been raised Catholic, I take the book as a collections of lessons versus instructions. Nothing in my life is predicated on the argument, “Because the Bible says”.

    To paraphrase the prophet Jerry Maguire, “Show Me The Science” if you want me to think of what you’re saying as fact versus your opinion. I’m usually pretty ok acknowledging someone’s opinion. I may remind them of the old adage, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they usually stink” with a not too subtle meaningful stare if their opinion is too far out in the field. But otherwise, everyone can think what they want. If they present opinion as fact, I have a problem with that.

    This is where I think recent events have us boondoggled, though. The facts of the Jussie and CovCath dramas are still unfolding and/or may never be fully known. In the interim, people are filling that factual void with opinions that are settling in quickly as facts. That’s our bible of a different sort, right there. By the time facts are known, opinion will have already been written down by far more than just 40 random people and 2000 years from now…well, I’m not going to finish that extrapolation. Unfortunately for many of us, Jussie Smollet, CovCath, anyone writing their opinions down on either side of either case…in 2000 years, no one is likely going to give a damn.

    Hell, the way things are going, in 2000 years, the Kardashians will all be worshipped as gods, if you want my perfectly snarky opinion on today’s state of literal and figurative affairs.

    But, as it stands in the here and now, we’ve got people on both sides filling us all in on what to think. Yes, folks, we’ve reverted to a “Whoever yells loudest is right” mentality, courtesy of our Cheeto in Chief – Benedict Donald himself – telling people that news that doesn’t jive with his agenda is Fake News and tweet-shouting at the masses what he needs them to believe in lieu of allowing them to hear the truth and face its consequences. And it seems to be working for him, this abuse of truth.

    And in that case, why isn’t it working for Jussie Smollet and that little jerk from Covington Catholic?

    In a vacuum of facts, I’m going with what I saw with my own eyes and I’m not taking the gaslighting that anyone cares to add. Remember, everyone, if you saw it, it happened. We aren’t talking about UFOs and ghosts, we are talking about protesters and B-list celebrities – to be clear, I’m calling Jussie B-list, not Trump (he wishes) – in situations where we have camera phone and video tape footage that should help to inform our opinion.

    Believe What You Saw With Your Own Eyes.

    Starting anywhere else or with any other premise is a betrayal of not only the knowable facts, but also of our own intelligence and integrity. Whatever else happens in this world, those two things are uniquely ours to defend. Do not give them away freely just because someone yells loudest.

    #HeSaidSheSaidToo

    Our National Moral Compass

    I was gonna write about Kevin Costner being the proto-dad in movies these days, but decided to take a break from movie material.

    Seems like most people anymore have a Moral Spinner, making right and wrong less of a literal constant and more like some sort of MadLibs or design your own disaster – er – adventure scenario.

    Welcome to the United States of America. Our new national color is every shade of grey.

    Case in point: The MAGA Teens

    You tired of hearing about this yet?

    I am, yet it won’t leave my mind. Or my homepage on Apple News.

    The kids that survived the Valentines Day shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida took their trauma and created a national movement.

    The Covington Christian kids said, “Hold my holier than thou water!” and took their white privilege and created national drama.

    That.

    Won’t.

    Go.

    Away.

    My overwhelming question, every story I read about this, is

    Where the hell were the adults?!?

    High School class trips used to have parent or teacher chaperones.

    I know, back when I was a kid

    Hell, parents used to teach kids to walk away from a fight. Nowadays, I can’t tell if it’s “stand your ground” or “don’t take off your blindfold” on any given day.

    Something tells me the kids have heard “stand your ground” loud and clear and the adults are perfectly happy to put a blindfold on and abdicate their parental responsibilities.

    For instance, we all saw the video of the teen in “the hat” – those friggin’ hats – facing down a Native American easily four times his age. Collectively, most of us lost our shit.

    Sure…there were a few

    <looking at you, Savannah Guthrie>

    But I think seeing the video, the majority of us recognized shitty teenage testosterone fueled cockiness when we saw it. Personally, I saw a tight pic of a teen with a shit eating smirk, a Native American elder playing a drum and a few extras surrounding him.

    I saw what I saw.

    I wanted to end that punk.

    Gosh, lemme see if I can recall what happened next…

    Oh, yeah…his parents hired a connected DC PR firm.

    I’ll tell ya, I was a pretty good kid. My parents sent me to a private catholic high school, too. But still, kids are kids. Puberty is a horrible time for parents.

    If they happen to be present enough to notice their kids and, y’know…parent them.

    For the record, jerk kid or not, the number of times my parents had to hire me a PR firm to undo my jerkiness is 0.

    Zero.

    I think if your kid does something that makes that number anything higher than zero, he doesn’t get the luxury of deflecting the blame.

    Shockingly, the PR firm managed to paint the kid as a victim. We haven’t seen the whole thing, they say. A three minute video isn’t the whole story, they say.

    There were black people!

    Quick!

    Phew.

    It worked.

    Mainstream media – print and network – were walking back their criticism of the situation. Celebrities that jumped into the conversation were suddenly tweeting their mea culpas.

    A lot of them admit to not having watched the entire video, just the three minute one.

    New information has come to light…

    So I watched one of these new videos.

    I was horrified.

    Oh, those black guys.

    Sure, they were adults yelling at passers by in the area. They were members of an extremist black religious group. Probably about the same to the rest of the black community as what the KKK is to white people.

    There was maybe a half dozen of them.

    In contrast, these Native Americans had maybe a half dozen peaceful protesters in roughly the same area.

    Black extremists.

    Native American peaceful protesters.

    And then, the MAGA Teens.

    In watching one of the “entire videos” I came away absolutely baffled.

    There must have been 150 of them.

    At least.

    And they were little dicks.

    Take away the blacks and Native Americans – that they far outnumbered, did I mention that? – and these white kids were still little shits.

    Why?

    Because when you look at the entire video, you get a bigger picture of their other offense: harassing women.

    It’s not rape if you enjoy it!

    Really?

    Who decides that the rape was enjoyed?

    I’m guessing it was the rapist, in their opinion. Certainly not the victim. That’s just a guess on my part since the school field trip they were on was to attend the Right to Life March…y’know, the anti-choice march?

    Yeah. A catholic school bused its all-white-boy student body to DC to march against women’s rights and then allowed them to harass women and Native Americans while maybe mildly annoying some militant blacks by yelling louder than them.

    And the white kids are the victims.

    Yeah…those poor kids and their moral spinners.

    Personally, I still think it would have been nice to see an adult or two in the crowd.

    Parent.

    Teacher.

    The US Park Police. Oh, wait…they’re shut down.

    Hey, speaking of shut downs…you know what we should probably shut down? The tax exempt status of Covington Christian High School and any church they are affiliated with. I couldn’t check to see if they were listed as a 501(c)(3) organization or not since the school shut down all of its social media and websites and advised its student body to do the same.

    Hiding much?

    I don’t know why I’m so annoyed by this, but I sure am. At least after Charlottesville, we got a “There’s bad people on both sides” from the White House. Now, these snot nosed brats might get – I heard they did, but haven’t verified that – an invitation to the WH. Maybe il Cheeto will send out for more hamberders.

    Meanwhile, mainstream media and public figures are gaslighting themselves and apologizing to the next generation of Stupid Americans for making them feel temporarily at fault for their bad behaviors.

    This is a new low for a country that already hit an embarrassing low by accepting that “literal” was an antonym and a synonym for “figurative”. I guess it’s safe to leave you with

    I literally cannot even.

    Wrong is wrong, folks. Take off your blindfolds.

    I can’t believe I delayed writing about Kevin Costner as a proto-dad and ended up writing about kids that need a parent. Go figure.

    Our National Moral Compass

    Diversity: Redux

    Also, Diversity: Dux, because I’m a lame ass, Forgetful Freddy and thought that I posted my thoughts on diversity in Hollywood specifically, but entertainment as a whole two years ago!

    This was back in September of 2016, after Rami Malek won his Emmy for Mr Robot. Look at all that’s happened for our endearing Egyptian heritaged actor in the two years that my OP gathered cobwebs in my drafts.

    PS: he has a twin…named Sami – c’mon, twins named Rami and Sami? I’m dying. But as a striking teacher in LA, now someone else in the family is making headlines!

    But before you begin thinking that my idea of diversity only extends as far as attraction, here’s a few other bullet points from my 2016 draft:

    Laverne Cox and Candyce Cane had both become quite visibly cast trans-actors. Cox for several seasons on Orange is the New Black and Cane on Lucifer.

    Empire and Atlanta were emerging phenomenons that showcased largely black ensemble casts. And on the other hand, Jane the Virgin was a soapy sitcom featuring a nearly all Hispanic lead cast and Sofia Vergara was pulling off a major role as a second wife in a mixed marriage on Modern Family.

    Modern Family also featured a gay married couple that was presented as basic, mainstream America…y’know, like gay marriage was normal.

    All this had me thinking that in 2016, basic white people had just become so passé.

    2017 saw an extension of that as the #MeToo movement gave voice to sexual predators in Hollywood, but also empowered everyday Americans to start talking about their own sexual abuse in ways and voices on a scale we had never been exposed to before.

    It’s almost like – if one looked at it, just so – squinty eyed and head tilted – we could forget that we had a raging dumpster fire of a human sitting in the Oval.

    While he raged about immigrants from “shithole countries” sending us “Bad Hombres” and rapists, murderers and drug dealer, America held Hollywood’s middle aged, white power players to task for their past abuses of their power and their peers.

    While he engaged in a do nothing drum circle about a vanity wall – squandering his congressional majority by not forcing the issue when democracy was held hostage by a GOP stranglehold – the entertainment industry continued to publicly call him out on his lack of statesmanship and basic, human decency.

    Twitter.

    Mainstream Media.

    Awards Shows.

    Saturday-friggin’-Night Live.

    The entertainment industry used its pulpit not to bully, as the President continued to do daily, but to reflect his behaviors back onto him and keep his egregious flaws in the light of day. That’s a fine and responsible use of a pulpit, right there.

    I should mention that all the while, Hamilton is still either on Broadway or touring to sold out crowds across the country. For Broadway to send such a cultural juggernaut out into the world…that’s really not something that happens too often. Maybe once a decade you encounter that type of reception for a play in America.

    Yet, here was Hilary Clinton, getting a standing ovation from the crowd when she entered the theater to see Hamilton. Conversely, the actors stopped to call our reprehensible vile VP Mike Pence out when he saw the show.

    Heartening.

    While 2018 started off with a bang – with Black Panther knocking the February box office off the charts – the year was certainly not a lock as far as the trajectory of diversity in our country was concerned. While Black Panther was a strong start, the separation of migrant families at our southern border began shortly after. Children taken from their parents and put in cages without even giving the parents a coat check claim on their offspring.

    How abysmal.

    Black Klansman came to the box office and kinda drowned in its own quirkily presented message. But then, like a beacon, Crazy Rich Asians closed out the summer box office season and laid way for Bohemian Rhapsody to carry us into the holidays.

    But even with all of this headline making diversity in our popular culture, the White House was still ramping up for a budget battle for wall funding. The President couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to replace the Statue of Liberty’s New Colossus passage with a simple “Keep Out” or something equally literary sounding like “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here”.

    And then we got The 2018 Golden Globes, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Rami picks up a much expected win for his lead as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Even more exciting, I suppose, is the upset win for the movie as Best Picture – Drama.

    I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was good, don’t get me wrong! Not outstanding, but I enjoyed it. Malek was surprising in his ability to capture how Mercury’s social insecurities and discomfort manifested in behaviors that ranged from awkward to offensive bravado. I found myself checking my initial response – which was “this is bad acting” – several times and remembering, “oh, yeah…he did act pretty strange in interviews”. I’m glad that people got it.

    Soooo, I’m also glad he won a Golden Globe for his work! I’m quite surprised, though, that the film picked up a best drama award. Most of the world seems shocked that the Foreign Press overlooked the sexual misconduct allegations by the director. I just thought there were better dramas in the category.

    It *is* the HFPA, though. I can see where a film about a mixed heritage Brit that fronted a worldwide phenomenon of a rock band would score points with them. The Oscars might be a different story!

    But diversity at this year’s Golden Globes wasn’t just about Rami and Freddie.

    Crazy Rich Asians and If Beale Street Could Talk we’re both nominated for multiple awards, the latter bringing home several. Beale Street featured a another nearly exclusive cast of black actors, bookending the year that began with Black Panther’s release ten months earlier with almost exclusively black ensembles.

    Sandra Oh was the first Asian American woman to (co)host the show – or any major entertainment awards ceremony in this country. Managing to go from a frequent nominee and audience member with only one major win under her belt for her 15 years on series TV

    …to host of the show while also doubling her recognition with her lead actor work on Killing Eve.

    The snarky observationalist in me wants to say that white actors were so rare in this ceremony that we only managed to sweep the achievement awards. We even had to make up a new one to pad our numbers!

    Jeff Bridges was awarded the Cecil B DeMille award for his lifetime body of work in film. His family certainly has the pedigree to back that up. Father, mother, brother and wife of 45 years were or are all in the industry. Watching him receive his award made me a little nostalgic, though. I miss the days when old, white actors won awards and did one armed push ups on stage to remind us they mattered.

    That new award I mentioned? The HFPA decided that their awards – presented to equal categories in Film and TV – lacked an achievement award for television to balance out the Cecil B DeMille award for film. They created the Carol Burnett award to balance those scales. Naming an award like this that will become a legacy that recognizes a seven plus decade career after a woman was another heartening sign from Hollywood that diversity was welcome in their industry, even if the country was still schizophrenic about the subject.

    Miraculously, they managed to not fuck that action up by awarding it to a man on its inaugural presentation. It was kind of cute to see Steve Carrel spoof the slam dunk nature of the award – since recipients are told ahead of time – by reading off several male nominees along with Burnett. Even cuter was the camera cutting to her backstage with both hands giving crossed fingers as she waited for the winner to be announced.

    Hell, maybe someday we’ll even have a Jamie Lee Curti…never mind.

    Let’s just give Hollywood and the entertainment industry a deserved pat on the back for both inclusion and self-policing. The GOP could learn a lot from their example over the last few years.

    And Rami – or Sami, or both…I could make an exception to my Puritan ways – if we ever cross paths on the street…I’m running you to a corner store for some beer and then we’re gonna get to work proving that old adage about the difference between a gay man and a straight man…

    Now, onward to the Oscars!

    Diversity: Redux