With time I’ve been developing a complex relationship with my own outrage. Those who have followed me over years might have noticed that three years ago, I had to struggle to rant at all, and then in late 2016 I started posting continuously about political issues out of [what I felt was] necessity. I got better at expressing myself, mid-outrage, but over the course of the year it drove me to depression and fatigue. (Intelligence and awareness of current events and sociopolitical affairs are — no joke — both acknowledged risk factors for major depression).
Now we’re in the middle of 2018, I’ve been trying to rally myself just to write about something, anything, but the onslaught of frightful current events hasn’t slowed, and everything still points towards a national crisis (after which an international one will follow, once we’ve finished determining everyone else is an enemy and the US goes to war.)
At this point I struggle with a resistance to blogging at all. One of the factors is the lengthy and tedious editing process (which got even worse as I started favoring longer pieces). But the other — something related to rants — is the need to post context.
That’s what happened this last week.
Last week was very eventful. The biggest news was the immigration family separation policy. Trump decided to jail undocumented immigrants and those at our borders seeking asylum, and in doing so separated children from their parents. Parents and adults went to prisons (actual cells in actual prisons) while the children and adolescents went to ad hoc child-care detention centers. Even setting aside the trauma of separating families apart, it was all awful. Eventually Trump signed an executive order that didn’t really stop the practice so much as allow the CBP to seek alternatives first.*
Then there is the matter with the United States Supreme Court, which deployed its ideologist majority like a rail gun**
Here in California, there was a bit with the net neutrality bill (SB 822, text of bill) which was recently amended in committee by Miguel Santiago, unraveling all the end-user protections intended by the bill. Santiago has been entirely unapologetic, and Senator Scott Weiner (the author of the bill) is looking to either undo the damage or withdraw it and introduce a fresh bill. Meanwhile AT&T, emboldened by its merger with Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) is now implementing the very policy it promised it wouldn’t when net neutrality was being debated in the FCC.
There’s a few other things I haven’t yet mentioned. Districts in Florida (including Miami) are ankle-deep below sea level thanks to the rising tides. Shit’s just crazy.
And that’s the problem. Shit’s just crazy, and it’s hard enough to cope. But then I have to think about it enough to articulate it as I did above (with the footnotes). It breaks my brain.
But then, I want to be able to talk about all these things, intelligibly and soberly: After the barrage of 5/4 rulings from the US Supreme Court for instance, I wanted to know what do we do now? Friends, colleagues and Robert Reich have been suggesting the usual things: get out the vote, contact congresspersons (especially our Senators about Justice Kennedy’s imminent replacement), get involved with district-flipping efforts, and so on. These are, more or less, same things pro-Democrats (more accurately anti-Republicans) have been doing for the last twenty years while the GOP has continued to sweep and entrench and dominate. I want to be able to talk about how it’s not enough to stay our course and simply work harder. I want to be able to talk about why that hasn’t been enough. I want to be able to suggest what more we need to do. And, because our outlook is really pessimistic right now, I want to observe why we’re not going to get that more we need, not without a miraculous grassroots focused effort to reform elections and the justice system to restore rule-of-law, dismantle the two-party system (and turn it into a multi-party system or — better yet — a sortition.) Because this paradigm — the recent status quo — continues to serve the people who have power, even when it is corrosive to the public good.
But in order to do talk about any of this, I need to be able to put it in context, that is to lay out what I’m talking about. And when I do that, it rekindles my outrage (and my frustration with being helpless to affect it in any significant way). And then I lose my ability to articulate, sometimes for days at a time.
I don’t have a solution for this yet. Maybe I have to start writing my pieces out of order, and set aside time to recover from my overwhelming fury and frustration.
Because the only thing scarier than my friends disbelieving (or underestimating) the monster coming to get us, is being unable to intelligibly communicate to my friends that there’s a monster coming to get us.☢
* That situation regarding mass migrant detention and deportation is developing in horrifying ways:
• The CBP didn’t do the Chuck E Cheese thing of stamp-coding kids to parents, (yes, kids leaving with the wrong adults is a common problem) and they have no way to connect families back together. They’re now genetic-testing kids and parents to see who matches whom.
• President Trump, outraged, is now extending this policy to those who seek asylum in the United States. Current Trump / Sessions policy also limits asylum provisions only to those directly in danger from agents of state (rather than gangs, unrecognized warlords, domestic abuse or family persecution). Trump is currently also seeking to detain and deport green card holders and naturalized citizens.
• ICE has been rigging their own rules to allow them to lock up pretty much anyone, not only migrants who are provisionally documented but also natural-born citizens who look foreign enough. In order to secure their deportation, detainees are locked in a room without and then asked to prove their citizenship without resources.
• ICE has been performing warrantless raids on private property as well as intercepting targets for detention at courthouses (making it difficult for prosecutors to get them to testify in other cases). ICE has also been looking to Constitutionally illegal (or at least questionable) resources such as [unrestricted access to] the NSA mass surveillance programs and cell phone tracker devices to hunt down targets for detainment.
** The five conservative justices in the Supreme Court of the United States have gained their confidence (what appears to be after the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling) and have started their reign as ideologues. Recently, they:
• Struck down the Reproductive FACT Act (text of the bill here) which required Crisis Pregnancy Centers (that is religion-backed anti-abortion fronts that pretend to be abortion providers only to try to harrass or otherwise coerce pregnant women into continuing their pregnancy to term) to make a PSA statement (by post or verbally) stating that this facility does not provide abortions and is not a licensed medical center (if they are not one) and that cheap or no-cost abortions are available and information about them can be had through given numbers and websites. Crisis pregnancy centers (aka Pregnancy Resource Centers) pose as healthcare and abortion providers to encourage women with unwanted pregnancies to carry to term, typically using deception, harassment and coercion to do so. (John Oliver’s deep dive on the subject via Last Week Tonight can be found here.)
• Labor Unions cannot force contribution from fellow employees of unionized companies, even when they receive union benefits according to a new ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. To be fair, I’m not savvy on the details of collective bargaining by labor unions, but this ruling along with Masterpiece Cakeshop (above), the Hobby Lobby ruling and the Citizens United ruling (all ruled 5-4 split along party lines) are demonstrating a trend toward denying rights of the public in favor of the rights of corporate entities.
All of these were ruled 5-4, split along party lines with the conservatives making the majority opinion. Minority opinions point out the questionable assumptions and spurious logic that lead to these conclusions, in some case saying we’re changing things because the court wants to do it.. Emotionally, the situation is further exasperated by the Senate’s refusal to confirm (or even review) Merrick Garland, which is how Neil Gorsuch got on the bench, and we’re seeing the railgun that is the originalist majority on the Supreme Court now in action. Kennedy is retiring, allowing for Trump to fill another ideologue, unchallenged, given that the GOP controls the senate. The religious right are cheering the imminent overturn of Roe v. Wade at which point abortion will be criminal in about half the United States.