The Anger of Crowds

The Boyfriend asked me this evening if, were I in the US, I would join the protests that are going on. And it turned out to be a little tricky to answer.

For one thing, I don’t like crowds. Angry mobs even less so, but generally speaking, the idea of joining up with a giant group of people makes my skin itch. On the other hand, though, were I still in the US, I’d have a lot more to lose under a Trump presidency, so it might be enough to get me past my dislike of other people.

On the other other hand, though, I remember all of the horrified gasps and pearl-clutching we did when Trump refused to promise to abide by the results of the election. We denounced it as un-American and an attack on the basic tenets of our democracy – which it was. And it was horrifying to hear him say that he would only accept the results of the election if he won.

trump-protestThat’s why I can’t bring myself to join in with those groups chanting “Not my President!” and crying out that the election was rigged. When Trump was making such claims, we carefully but firmly pointed out how hard it would be to rig a Presidential election, and that was that. We can’t turn around now and take up his dishonest banner just because our candidate lost.

When he wouldn’t promise to accept the results of the election, we were – to use Hillary’s words – “Horrified.” We couldn’t believe he would be so willing to disregard a fundamental requirement of the peaceful transition of power in this country. We can’t turn around now and do the same just because we didn’t get our way.

Trump will be President in January. That’s it. Yes, Hillary got more votes. Yes, the Electoral College broke our hearts. But what’s done is done. He will be President, and not just for the people who voted for him. He will be the President of every United States citizen, like it or not.

It is incumbent on us, the outraged and incensed citizens who wanted him nowhere near the White House, to understand that. He will be our President. This means he will also be our responsibility. To walk through the streets chanting, “NOT MY PRESIDENT” is pretty close to saying, “NOT MY PROBLEM”, when he is very much your problem.

The facts are the facts. Don’t try and wish them away, because it won’t work. Instead, pledge yourself to vigilance and opposition. Watch that man and the writhing pile of plague rats that comes with him. Don’t let them gain an inch or take a breath without being there.

Trump will be our President. He will be our responsibility. And we will be damned if he gets away with anything on our watch.

How Do We Solve a Problem Like The Donald?

Damned if I know.

Right now, three days after the election, pretty much everyone who didn’t see this coming is scrambling for two things: an explanation and a plan. I suspect that an explanation will come in due time. A plan, however, is something we need right now.

sgtanckI’m angry. For lots of reasons, really. I’m angry that a racist, woman-hating con man got himself elected to the highest office in the land. I’m angry that he brought a horde of misshapen, venomous parasites with him. I’m angry that the racists and bigots and xenophobes seem to think that his election means it’s open season on everyone they’ve always hated. I’m angry that so many people I know and love are scared. I’m angry that other people I know and love aided and abetted this ignominious defiling of the Presidency.

I’m angry that lies and slander and outright cruelty can not only go unpunished, but can be rewarded. I’m angry that the institutions we trusted to keep this from happening just stood by and let it happen.

I’m angry that my country isn’t what I thought it was, on so many levels.

And I know I’m not the only person who’s angry. Lots of people are angry, and rightly so. The problem with anger is that it can very easily lead to doing great and irreparable harm to oneself and others, so what we need now is that plan.

Unfortunately, the plan we’re being offered from our leadership – Obama, Clinton, much of the press and punditry – is to let it go. Give the next President a clean slate and the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, they say, he’ll do the right thing.

To that I say: Bullshit. Here’s why:

When he rode down that gleaming escalator, we all laughed and said, “There’s no way he’s serious. He won’t go through with this.”

But he did.

When he was one of nearly two dozen Republicans vying for the nomination, we said, “There’s no way he’ll get through this without screwing up.”

But he did.

When he became the nominee, we said, “Well, now that he’s facing the general election, surely he’ll move to the center. He had to make use of his dogwhistles and his angry stump speeches for the GOP base, but now he has to deal with the rest of the electorate. He can’t keep spewing all this anger and mendacity.”

But he did.

And when he came up against Clinton, a woman with more qualifications and experience than he could ever hope to have, a woman who resoundingly trounced him in three debates, we all turned to each other and said, “There’s no way he can win.”

But. He. Did.

And now Obama and Clinton and the press and the punditry want us to believe that he’ll turn around. That the reserves of his awfulness have been expended, that running for President is one thing but being the President is another, and he’ll govern the country responsibly from January 20th onward.

Why on God’s green earth should we believe that? Why should we believe that he’ll change this time? What evidence do we have that this is even remotely possible? At what point have we seen him decide that there is something bigger than himself, something to which he must show even a sliver of compassion and humility?

And the theory that the GOP will somehow be a check on him? Like they were in the primaries? Like they were during the general? The closest they got to controlling him was taking away his Twitter access right before election day. That’s what you do to control a recalcitrant teenager, not the President. The Republican Party won’t be able to control this man any better when he’s in the White House than they did before.

And those of you hoping that he’ll just get bored and leave everything to his underlings? Look at those underlings and bury that hope in the deepest hole you can find.

So. The plan.

I don’t believe there can be any common ground. No clean slate. No buried hatchet. In order to do that, there must be trust, and I don’t trust him any further than I could spit a dead rat. I have no reason to believe that he will be a better person come January 20th. None whatsoever.

The new President and his party of preening, pustulent parasites must have no quarter and gain no ground. They must be fought tooth and nail for every inch until we can replace them with people who value nation over party and responsibility over power. They must be rejected, rebuked, and repudiated on all fronts. The President, his hangers-on, and the cowards who can’t bring themselves to stand up to him are owed nothing from us because nothing is all they stand for.

I feel like I should be waving a flag. Like La Marseillaise should be playing in the background. And yet…

And yet, who the hell am I to be saying this? I’m thousands of miles from the USA right now. Unless the plan to pull US forces out of Japan goes through, or that tangerine hobgoblin decides to nuke North Korea, I won’t see the kinds of effects that people are already seeing – the violence, the discrimination, the slurs and epithets and hate.

I’m well-insulated over here, typing away on a blog that has about as much influence over national affairs as not blogging at all. What I think and what I want, well… It really doesn’t count for much. Or at all.

But I can’t keep all this inside my head without going mad.

I am angry. I suspect that I will be for quite a while. I just hope that I can make it count for something.

Running to Stand Still

Today is Monday. Monday is a jogging day.

This morning, I got up, swung my feet out of bed, and sat there for a good long while before deciding, “Nope. I’m not doing this anymore.”

Katee Sackhoff looks like she's enjoying her jog through the ship. ACTING!

Katee Sackhoff enjoying her jog? ACTING!

In the interest of full disclosure, I think I knew I was going to do this before I even went to bed last night. I was having a lovely time, playing Skyrim in between watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica with The Boyfriend, when all of a sudden I realized: tomorrow is a jogging day. I stared into the middle distance for a while, and the first word out of my mouth was a long, drawn-out “Fuck,” and I’m pretty sure that was the point where I decided that this wasn’t going to happen.

I’ve tried to like it, I really have. I’ve tried to find that “I like jogging” switch in my brain. I’ve taken refuge in the oft-repeated factoid that if you do something for three weeks [1] then it becomes a habit that is part of your life now. I understand the health benefits. I know it helped me lose weight. I know that there are millions and millions of people around the world who wake up in the morning and think, “Thank god I get to go running today.”

I am not one of them, and I’m pretty sure I never will be. And I really can’t abide lying to myself about this any longer.

Go online and find jogging forums and jogging websites, and they are full of success stories. People who’ve been jogging for years and people who just started Couch-to-5K alike, they all seem to have become enraptured by this activity of putting one foot in front of the other at a moderate pace. They talk about how good it makes them feel, how it starts off the day right and how they miss it when they can’t go out. They have found something worthwhile to do with their time that brings them a sense of accomplishment and well-being. Even those who find it difficult seem to take solace in the faith that it will pay off someday. [2]

Where do I get some of that? Not from jogging, that’s for damn sure.

In all fairness, it's not like I'm beating puppies to death with kittens or anything. I still feel bad, though.

In all fairness, it’s not like I’m beating puppies to death with kittens or anything. I still hate it, though.

When I come back home, my thoughts aren’t, “Thank god I went jogging.” They’re, “Thank god that’s over.” It makes me feel tired and uncomfortable physically, and it inevitably leaves me in a worse emotional place than where I would have been if I had just gotten an extra half hour of sleep. I honestly come home feeling bad about myself – bad for having gone out, and bad for making myself doing something I so clearly hate to do and then bad for feeling bad about something I should feel good about.

Of course, with this failure, my dear Scumbag Brain has decided to daisy-chain all of my other failures together in a horrible slide show of ignominy and defeat.

So the facts are as follows:

  • I’m no longer young enough to not care about what my body does in its free time.
  • Therefore, I have to do some kind of maintenance.
  • Jogging makes me hate myself.
  • So do all other forms of exercise.
  • So does failure.
  • My capacity for self-loathing has its limits.
  • Nevertheless, I like being able to fit into all my clothes.
  • Dammit.

That leaves us with the real Question of the Day: How do you force yourself to do something you detest?

Or the other question: When is the right time to quit?

Or this question. This question is good too.

Or this question. This question is good too.

——

[1] Or nine weeks, or three months, or whatever duration is, by odd coincidence, longer than the time you’ve actually been doing it.
[2] I wonder if there’s a correlation between religious faith and engagement in fitness activities. In both cases, you’re performing arduous work now in the hopes of a payoff later – a payoff that isn’t guaranteed to ever happen.

On Finitude

I debated whether I should post this, to be honest. It seems like I’m letting more hang out than I really should, given the circumstances, but that’s the purpose of this blog. I may not update it as often as I should, but it’s the place to go when there’s an idea in my head that just won’t leave. And if I have to vent to someone, the ceaselessly hungry internet is as good a someone to vent to as any.

————————

Here’s the setup: the school I work at hires full-time teachers on a three year contract. Because it is a private school, run by a private university system, they are beholden to private sector labor laws, the effect of which is that they are allowed to let teachers go after three years with little more than a bunch of flowers and a sincere “Thank you.” The legal logistics of it are murky, of course, but the take-away is this: my time at Ritsumeikan Uji will end in April, and there doesn’t seem to be a damned thing I can do about it.

There is the matter of finding a new job and being able to remain in the country, but that’s not all that’s on my mind right now. With the sure and certain knowledge that I have a deadline, a thought popped into my head that seems vividly appropriate, but at the same time incredibly insulting: “This is how terminally ill people must feel.”

Oh, I should have been a chemistry teacher…

If you are terminally ill and you just read that and thought, “What an asshole,” I will grant that you’re probably right and I apologize. But the questions that flooded my mind seem to be the same that one might think when seeing the end of their life approaching.

Why didn’t I make better use of my time here? Don’t get me wrong – I did a lot and learned a lot and tried to stay involved with the school, but at the same time I know I could have done more. I could have gone against my nature and been more sociable. I could have spent more time with clubs. I could have taken more advantage of the school’s resources and connections to better myself as a teacher. I could have done more than I did. Why didn’t I? Because I was wrapped up in the day-to-day minutia of being a teacher. Because I valued my free time now over improvement for later. Because I was lazy and short-sighted, perhaps.

What do I do with the time I have left? If I really were an asshole, I’d just slack off. Take the attitude that since nothing I do matters anymore, then why do anything? But that is contrary to my nature – I can’t do that any more than I can stop eating for the next seven months. What I do may not amount to a hill of beans in the long term, but here and now it’s important, and it’s important that I continue to remain dedicated to it. And there is a part of me that wants to wax hyperbolic [1] and carry a bell around with me, ringing it through the halls while I cry out, “DEAD MAN WALKING!” But that would just be ridiculous.

Think of the CHILDREN!

What about the kids? I’ve taught a lot of good kids at this school, and they go beyond being good students to actually being interesting people. One of the biggest reasons I tried for the permanent position was that I wanted to have a chance to teach these kids again, and to see new interesting people emerge over the years. After three years, I was just starting to get the hang of this gig, and wanted the chance to really flex my creative muscles and find better ways to get the students both using English and interested in it.

On top of that, what do I tell them? At some point, they’re going to start asking about next year and whether I’ll be teaching their class. Do I hedge and dodge and make them wait until the end of the year, when the departing teachers are sent off to a farm upstate? Or do I tell them ahead of time? Or am I seriously overestimating their opinion of me that it would even matter to them?

What’s going to happen to all my stuff? This may sound kind of petty, and I suppose it is, but over the last few years, I’ve built up quite a body of work, lesson plans, and even full courses. I was the drama teacher, one of the few advanced reading teachers, and built the curriculum for the regular first year classes. I made an inordinate amount of lesson plans, many of which I’m quite proud of. What’s going to become of all that work? Who’s going to take over the drama class, and will they know what they’re doing? Who’s going to take over my reading classes, and will they be able to keep them interesting and fresh? Who will keep refining the first year curriculum so that the students get the tools they need to do better in their second and third years? Am I leaving all of what I built in the hands of people who will build upon it, or will it all be shoved into a cabinet somewhere to be forgotten?

Damn GPS. Every frackin’ time…

Where do I go from here? After this, what? The chattering monkey in my brain is convinced that nothing better can come along. This was a great place to work, with wonderful co-workers and facilities. And the pay was good, too. After this, what do I do? Do I go back to the eikaiwa purgatory from whence I came? Do I work part-time, teaching English to businessmen? Do I leave teaching and find something else? Will I stumble across something even better than this? Do I live with a bunch of cats in a van down by the river, eating government tofu and slowly going mad? I have no idea, and that kind of uncertainty doesn’t do me any good.

Keep in mind, though, this is just the way my Scumbag Brain works. If you’ve been following along, you may recall the freakout it had when I got this job – wondering whether I’d actually be good enough to do it, if I’d shame myself out of a career, all that. And that worked out just fine. Better than fine, really. It became a job that I deeply, deeply wish I could keep.

So perhaps this, too, will all work out for the best in the end, no matter how many doomsday scenarios I can spin out. Perhaps in a few years I can look back at this entry and marvel at how anxious I was about something that, ultimately, wasn’t that big a deal.

Let’s hope so.

—-
[1] As is evidenced by the fact that I’m sitting here comparing the loss of my job to dying.

NAMBLA? Really?

I found today that the Family Research Council – an advocacy group that advocates, among other things, against gay and lesbian civil rights – wanted people to say what they thought about the group. So I went over to their survey, loaded to bear, and basically threw in all the worst stuff I thought about them. That they were bigots and fearmongers, anti-civil rights, hypocrites hiding under the banner of Christianity and murderers of gay youth.

At one point, they asked if I had ever given them money, and if not then why not? I wrote that I would sooner give money to NAMBLA than the Family Research Council.

Then I thought, Really? NAMBLA? So I decided to see if my off-the-cuff choice of advocacy groups held up.

1) The Name
“Family Research Council.’ Kind of an unassuming name, doesn’t really tell much about what they do or what their goals are.
“North American Man/Boy Love Association.” Well. No question about what it is NAMBLA is promoting there. The who and what are pretty well spelled out. So, for clarity of name, NAMBLA is the winner here.

2) The Goals
On the page “Who We Are,” NAMBLA writes:

NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by:

  • building understanding and support for such relationships;
  • educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love;
  • cooperating with lesbian, gay, feminist, and other liberation movements;
  • supporting the liberation of persons of all ages from sexual prejudice and oppression.

Okay, some weasel wording going on in there, but it’s a pretty clear statement of what they want to see happen.

On the FRC’s “Mission Statement” page, they say:

Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.

Again, it’s pretty clear from their statement what they want, though they do couch it in more abstract terms. They don’t come out with specific goals, but rather promote ideals. I’m giving this one to NAMBLA, but only by a little. They’re much less nebulous in their goals, which allows them much less wiggle-room to try and fit the group’s actions to their statements.

3) Freedom

Okay, this one takes a little bit of rationalization, but stick with me. I asked myself which group was more inclined to promote freedom. The FRC is not – they openly advocate the denial of full civil rights to gays and lesbians, up to an including amending the constitution of the United States. They’re against the repeal of DA/DT as well, in favor of keeping gays and lesbians from serving in the military. They promote abstinence-only education, restricting the freedom of schools to promote proper sex education, want to restrict pornography, are against the rights of women to choose how and when they want to have children, and in general want to lock down on the freedom of people who do not share their values. On the other hand, they want to expand the role of religion (specifically Christianity) in politics and schools, encouraging Judeo-Christian values as the basis of American morality and law.

NAMBLA wants to be able to have “mutually consensual” relationships between men and boys. While I disagree with their stated goals, from a purely objective point of view, they are trying to expand liberty for themselves, without restricting it for anyone else. So while NAMBLA is an excellent example of where the limits of freedom should be drawn, they aren’t trying to take away my rights or force people by law or public policy to do something they don’t want to do. Winner: NAMBLA.

This may be the fever talking, or it may just be my own brilliant rationalization of the contempt in which I hold the Family Research Council, but I find that they are far less morally defensible than the North American Man/Boy Love Association. The former couches its goals in imprecise, vague language and seeks to restrict the freedoms and civil rights of those they dislike, while forcing their own moral and religious values on others. The latter is clear and unambiguous about its goals, and is advocating the expansion of freedoms for a (thankfully) small minority of men, without restricting the freedoms of any other group.

So. Family Research Council, congratulations. If I were in one of Jigsaw’s horrible murder-traps and told I had sixty seconds to choose between you and NAMBLA before spider monkeys are released to eat my eyeballs, I would choose NAMBLA with alacrity.