Staring Contests

Content Notice: Self harm.

Semi-open thread here. Comments changed for now not to require manual approval, so as long as you’ve got at least one comment somewhere on my blag you can get through.

Again, list of help lines here. Please, please call if you have to. There’s no shame in it. I had to, too. Although mine was Canadian.


There will be plenty of postmortems in the coming weeks that will hopefully provide valuable insight for those of us who are not garbage human beings.

I’m not sure I care.

Black lives don’t matter.

Trans lives don’t matter.

Gay lives don’t matter.

Women’s lives don’t matter.

Only disaffected white voters. That’s it. That’s who matters, to the expense of everyone else.

So few people seemed to actually read the policy manuals in this election. Will it make a difference to those Americans who are about to become explicit (rather than implicit) second class citizens whether someone voted Republican despite their policy or because of it?

Are we going to give a shit about your “economic anxieties” when our employment is imperiled by the Religious Freedom bills that make it legal to fire us for being who we are, as long as our former employer remembers to mumble something about Jesus?

Are we going to give a shit about your “economic anxieties” when our marriages are rendered null, when our spouses die alone in hospitals because we don’t “count” for visitation rights? Are we going to give a shit about your “economic anxieties” when the ensuing medical bill thereof renders us bankrupt?

Are we going to give a shit about your “economic anxieties” when we’re being murdered in bathrooms and in the streets because of all the paranoia surrounding our bodily functions?

That’s the lesson cemented today. Our lives don’t matter. We’re acceptable collateral in service to the perceived grievances of white voters. The USA was topping the charts of its own performance in nearly every civil sector, but nope, the motherfucking feelings of America’s beckys won the day.


Most people answering the question “what does it all mean?” didn’t arrive to my conclusion. Certainly my staring contest with the edge of a razor gives it context. I don’t think it’s mere depression telling me this. The Republican platform is an absolute human rights disaster. No legal apparatus is available to us to challenge it. The Supreme Court, the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. No checks and balances before. It’s all united this time, unless enough Republicans find their back bone and break party ranks. Riots is pretty much all we have left, and all that will do is get us sequestered in prison.

No wonder the razor stared back.


John Green‘s postmortem suggests something profound, something I will likely fixate on as I regroup and reorient my political activism here in Alberta and Canada. My transcript:

Good morning Hank, it’s Wednesday. We were going to have a video from the [don’t forget to be awesome] warehouse today but I thought I’d make one instead.

So it appears that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump in the US Presidential race but the Presidential race is decided by Electoral College votes and Donald Trump won most of them so he is the President-elect. Most–though certainly not all–of the people watching this video wanted Hillary Clinton to become President. I know I did, and for many of us the results of the election are devastating.

I think part of what makes so hard for some people is that Donald Trump has often attacked not what his opponents believe but who they are: Their race, their gender, their religion and more. And it is painful and scary to be called dangerous or less-than by a man who becomes President-elect of the United States and I don’t want to minimize that fear or trauma because I believe that it is real and important.

I also want to say that I’m sorry. I am sorry that we have let our political discourse become so hateful. And I’m sorry we let our echo-chambers become so sealed off that it is as unfathomable to me why someone would support Donald Trump for president as it to many Trump supporters why I would support Hillary Clinton.

I spoke with hundreds of undecided voters in the days before the election and what struck me most was how different our information was. In many cases we had the same concerns–the environment or healthcare or tax policy–but we were working with completely different data sets.

Our community, by the way, is also an echo-chamber–just 4% of the Nerdfighters who filled out the census this year said they would vote for Donald Trump. But I don’t know how to make our community more inclusive without opening it up to cruelty and hatred. We have to get better at listening to each other and challenging each other constructively and generously but I worry that the very architecture of the social internet might make that impossible.

Honestly I feel lost and I’m looking to you for guidance and clarity as I have for almost a decade now.

But the world doesn’t end today as Saladin Ahmed wrote last night: “It’s our job to fight those in power and stick up for the powerless. That stays the same no matter who’s president.” As Lin-Manual Miranda wrote: “I love this country and there’s more work to do than ever.” And as Kamala Harris said: “This is a time to fight for who we are.”

I think this will be a tough time in US history–I hope it won’t be but I think it will be. But I also think our nation is and always must be bigger than any of its leaders and that our leaders are and always must be answerable to the people.

So it’s always our job to stand together and make sure the government does its job, that it affords equal protection under the law to all citizens, that the rights of all are protected, and that our government’s policies are fiscally sound and carefully considered.

Change doesn’t only happen on election night and it doesn’t only happen in the Oval Office and it is up to us to find the places where our skills and talents meet the needs of our community and the world and to do the hard work to make life better for all. And on that front, I am hopeful.

So ten days ago my nephew Oran was born and bringing that baby into the world was an act of hope on the part of his parents. I am glad for their hope and I am heartened by it and I do not believe it was misguided. That child was born into an America that is better than the one his grandparents were born in. And it was made better by people whose hope, from restaurant counters in Alabama to the beaches of Normandy, helped them to stand together and hold the line in circumstances vastly darker than anything I pray most of us will ever see.

I don’t think hope is idealistic or silly, I think it’s the founding emotion of our species. And it’s not naive to hope we can bend the arc of American history towards justice because we’ve seen our ancestors do that in the face of unimaginable difficulty. As the great American poet of the human heart wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Take care of yourself, and take care of each other.

This observation resonates:

I spoke with hundreds of undecided voters in the days before the election and what struck me most was how different our information was. In many cases we had the same concerns–the environment or healthcare or tax policy–but we were working with completely different data sets.

Here’s my takeaway. Something we can do that doesn’t require a movement or any kind of organized plan is to up the ante on the need for evidence. Where did you hear that? What makes you think it is accurate? How do you know that to be true? Have you considered the other opinion and if so why is that opinion inadequate? These need to become the bread and butter of every single statement of fact asserted by every single person in our lives. We need to challenge people to truly examine not just what they believe but why they believe it. Then when they’ve given us their canned answer for why they believe it, we need to challenge them to relate that to what the evidence says.

Do this to me. Put me over the motherfucking coals. If you are not convinced, get the specifics. Interrogate. Investigate. Do it to your parents, your peers, your coworkers, your community leaders and most of all, do it in public with your political candidates. Do it when the camera’s rolling. Put cracks in the echo chambers. This needs to be second nature.

There will be a need to agitate and organize and educate in the coming years. Those of you who have the privilege to escape the worst of a Trump presidency: This is on you. QUILTBAG people are going to be preoccupied navigating a legal and social culture of naked hostility planting landmines under our right to exist openly. Moderate and progressive Muslims are going to be busy dodging Christofascists. Black people have their hands full with the KKK (and, you know, the police). Indigenous people are on a permanent back foot with the oil industry. Disabled people are already scrounging just to feed and house themselves. The poor will be battered by their union-less jobs and “choosing” to die of preventable disease. The homeless will have no services to turn to. The youth more than ever will be at the mercy of their parents with no legal recourse under conditions of severe abuse. Women will flood the black market in desperate bids to plan their families. Journalists will twist around a President who threatened open violence against them for quoting his own words.

We’re going to be busy. Us minorities have a full agenda, and all it says every day is “Survive. Somehow.” Those of you who still have room in your agenda, it’s on you to work over time.


Semi-open thread here. I’ll return proper after some time.




  1. Jake Harban says

    We’re acceptable collateral in service to the perceived grievances of white voters. The USA was topping the charts of its own performance in nearly every civil sector, but nope, the motherfucking feelings of America’s beckys won the day.

    It’s not a matter of “feelings.” The grievances are real, not perceived. The Rust Belt region which swung the election was economically devastated thanks to corporatist “free trade” agreements that the Clintons were major supporters of (and which Trump vowed to undo). The voters of that region have lost their jobs and livelihoods and watched their communities decay. The more dire one’s own situation, the harder it is to be concerned for the distant and different, so when Trump promised an end to the corporate “trade” deals and the return of their jobs while Clinton denied their suffering and vowed to expand the policies responsible for it, they bit the bullet and picked the lesser evil.

    They probably regard your life the way you regard the lives of civilians in Syria or Libya— and they’d probably defend their decision to vote for Trump the same way Clinton’s supporters defend theirs.

    What they want is not actually at odds with what you want. A liberal Democrat who promised an end to the corporatist “trade” agreements and minority rights would have won in a landslide. That their economic concerns were at odds with your human rights was entirely an artifact of an election that pitted two conservatives against each other and asked people to pick the one they found less odious. Dismissing their economic concerns entirely as “perceptions” and “feelings” is not productive.

    And pointing to broad economic performance is even less so. The United States is wealthier than ever on average, but most people are poorer— all the wealth goes to the ruling aristocracy. Pointing to the average to dismiss the concerns of the many is a preferred tactic of conservadems like Clinton.

    It’s two years until the next election. We have until then to kick the DNC in the ass and convince them to run a slate of liberal candidates who can actually win. In the meantime, the Republicans have an incredibly tenuous hold on the Senate; they can only pass what the Democrats let them pass and we need to hold their feet to the fire on this.

  2. says

    Jake Harban:

    The grievances are real, not perceived.

    No, Jake, you’re wrong. Shiv’s life, and the lives of other transgender persons is a perceived grievance on the part of many Americans. White, straight Christians have a boatload of perceived grievances, such as their perception of being persecuted because some people can obtain an abortion; the perception that all us others are coming to take their bible away. A lot of white, straight people perceive persons of colour as having unfair advantages in American society, taking jobs away from the mighty whities. I could go on, it’s a long fuckin’ list.

  3. Jake Harban says

    @3, Caine:

    My post was quite clearly referring to economic concerns, which are quite real and which we and the Democrats ignore at our peril. The issues you mention, though omnipresent, have not been sufficient to swing an election (see: Obama).

    Yes, there are racists. Yes, there are sexists. Yes, there are bigots of all types. There are also white people who have lost their livelihoods, and if you force them to choose between getting their livelihoods back and opposing bigotry, they will pick the former. That swings elections, and calling them bigots for it is simply not productive.

  4. AlexanderZ says

    I know I promised Caine to stop commenting for a while, but this is beyond stupid:

    Jake Harban
    Have you read the post you’re commenting on? Here, let me remind you of a part of it:

    Where did you here that? What makes you think it is accurate? How do you know that to be true? Have you considered the other opinion and if so why is that opinion inadequate?

    So. What makes you think this has anything to do with the economic situation in the Rust Belt? How much did free trade agreements by themselves hurt the people there? How high the import taxes have to be to restore those jobs? Granted that tax level, how would that affect any other imported good that the people there rely on? How high is the unemployment there?
    Here, let me give you a head start by answering that last question (all data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, linking to images because I can’t link to the formatted data lists for some reason):
    1. In the swing state of Michigan the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2001 and is roughly at the US average of 4.9%.
    2. In the swing state of Pennsylvania the unemployment is at the 2002-2004 levels and in jan.2016 it was as low as in 2001 and below the US average.

    So don’t give me that bullshit about “economic concerns”. Both of those states, with their 36 electors, are examples of the success of Obama’s economic policy combating the Great Recession. They didn’t vote for Trump because they have genuine concerns – they votes because they wanted White (straight, cis) Power. That’s why after Trump’s victory you didn’t see any signs about those lost jobs at the cog factory, but we did see a whole lot of swastikas and attacks on black people.

    It was all about white people insecure about their White Power, voting for White Power.