James Baldwin and religion

James Baldwin is the fucking best. The following excerpts, taken from his Collected Essays, are either explicitly concerned with religion or merely religion adjacent.

By extracting bits & pieces of his writing and presenting them devoid of context, I’m not convinced I did justice to the searing totality of the individual essays themselves. Please consider reading them in full.

The Fire Next Time

[T]he blood of the Lamb had not cleansed me in any way whatever. I was just as black as I had been the day that I was born. Therefore, when I faced a congregation, it began to take all the strength I had not to stammer, not to curse, not to tell them to throw away their Bibles and get off their knees and go home and organize, for example, a rent strike. When I watched all the children, their copper, brown, and beige faces staring up at me as I taught Sunday school, I felt that I was committing a crime in talking about the gentle Jesus, in telling them to reconcile themselves to their misery on earth in order to gain the crown of eternal life. Were only Negroes to gain this crown? Was Heaven, then, to be merely another ghetto?

[…]

I have long had a very definite tendency to tune out the moment I come any where near either a pulpit or soapbox.

[…]

It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being (and let us not ask whether or not this is possible; I think we must believe that it is possible) must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

[…]

From my own point of view, the fact of the Third Reich alone makes obsolete forever any question of Christian superiority, except in technological terms. White people were, and are, astounded by the holocaust in Germany. They did not know that they could act that way. But I very much doubt whether black people were astounded—at least, in the same way.

[…]

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.

Preservation of Innocence

Instantly the Deity springs to mind, in much the same manner, I suspect, that He sprang into being on the cold, black day when we discovered that nature cared nothing for us. His advent, which alone had the power to save us from nature and ourselves, also created a self-awareness and, therefore, tensions and terrors and responsibilities with which we had not coped before. It marked the death of innocence; it set up the duality of good-and-evil; and now Sin and Redemption, those mighty bells, began that crying which will not cease until, by another act of creation, we transcend our old morality. Before we were banished from Eden and the curse was uttered, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” the homosexual did not exist; nor, properly speaking, did the heterosexual. We were all in a state of nature.

We are forced to consider this tension between God and nature and are thus confronted with the nature of God because He is man’s most intense creation and it is not in the sight of nature that the homosexual is condemned, but in the sight of God.

White Racism or World Community?

It’s got to be admitted that if you are born under the circumstances in which most black people in the West are born, that means really black people over the entire world, when you look around you, having attained soemething resembling adulthood, one can see that the destruction of the Christian Church as it is presently constituted may not only be desirable but may be necessary.

[…]

One of the things that happened, it seems to me, with the rise of the Christian Church, was precisely the denial of a certain kind of spontaneity, a certain kind of joy, a certain kind of freedom, which a man can only have with himself, his surroundings, his women and his children. It seems to me that this shows very crucially in the nature, the structure of our politics and in the personalities of our children, who would like to learn, if I may put it this way, how to sing the blues, because the blues are not a racial creation, the blues are an historical creation produced by the confrontation precisely between the pagan, the black pagan from Africa, and the alabaster cross. I am suggesting that the nature of the lies of the Christian Church has always helplessly told about me are only a reflection of the lies the Christian Church has always helplessly told itself, to itself, about itself.

Open Letter to the Born Again

It has always astounded me that no one appears to be able to make the connection between Franco’s Spain, for example, and the Spanish Inquisition; the role of the Christian church or—to be brutally precise, the Catholic Church—in the history of Europe, and the fate of the Jews; and the role of the Jews in Christendom and the discovery of America. For the discovery of America coincided with the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Does no one see the connection between The Merchant of Venice and The Pawnbroker? In both of these works, as though no time had passed, the Jew is portrayed as doing the Christian’s usurious dirty work. The first white man ever was the Jewish manager arrived to collect the rent, and he collected the rent because he did not own the building. I never, in fact, saw any of the people who owned any of the buildings in which we scrubbed and suffered for so long, until I was a grown man and famous. None of them were Jews.

And I was not stupid: the grocer and the druggist were Jews, for example, and they were very very nice to me, and to us. The cops were white. The city was white. The threat was white, and God was white, Not for even a single split second in my life did the despicable, utterly cowardly accusation that “the Jews killed Christ’’ reverberate. I knew a murderer when I saw one, and the people who were trying to kilI me were not Jews.

The Price of the Ticket

If I were still in the pulpit, which some people (and they may be right) claim I never left, I would counsel my countrymen to the self-confrontation of prayer, the cleansing breaking of the heart which precedes atonement. This is, of course, impossible. Multitudes are capable of many things, but atonement is not one of them.

[…]

In the church I come from—which is not at all the same church to which white Americans belong—we were counseled, from time to time, to do our first works over. Though the church I come from and the church to which most white Americans belong are both Christian churches, their relationship—due to those pragmatic decisions concerning Property made by a Christian state some time ago—cannot be said to involve, or suggest, the fellowship of Christians. We do not, therefore, share the same hope or speak the same language.

To do your first works over means to reexamine everything. Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came.

This is precisely what the generality of Americans cannot afford to do. They do not know how to do it—: as I must suppose. They come through Ellis Island, where Giorgio becomes Joe, Pappavasiliu becomes Palmer, Evangelos becomes Evans, Goldsmith becomes Smith or Gold, and Avakian becomes King. So with a painless change of name, and in the twinkling of an eye, one becomes a white American.

Later, in the midnight hour, the missing identity aches. One can neither assess nor overcome the storm of the middle passage. One is mysteriously shipwrecked forever, in the Great New World.

[…]

The price the white American paid for his ticket was to become white—: and, in the main, nothing more than that, or, as he was to insist, nothing less. This incredibly limited, not to say dim-witted, ambition has choked many a human being to death here: and this, I contend, is because the white American has never accepted the real reasons for his journey. I know very well that my ancestors had no desire to come to this place: but neither did the ancestors of the people who became white and who require of my captivity a song. They require of me a song less to celebrate my captivity than to justify their own.

 

I guess it’s gotta be Bernie

As an anarchist awaiting a revolution that isn’t visible on the horizon (yet), I’m enough of a pragmatist to not completely ignore electoral politics.

If I told young IHFJ that in 2020 an electable candidate would be openly skeptical of capitalism, irreligious, against US global hegemony, and not afraid of being labeled a socialist, I would’ve been stunned. Bernie Sanders is by far the only presidential candidate I’ve felt an affinity for. I never believed for a second he’d beat Hillary in 2016, but here we are in 2020 and there’s no firmly entrenched candidate standing in his way. Were he to win the nomination it would be my first time voting in a presidential election without feeling completely disgusted.

What follows is a meandering, hopefully not too disjointed assessment of the 2020 presidential election as I attempt to work through my thoughts.

***

Let’s dive right into one of the main critiques of Sanders: he’s a dreaded “class reductionist” in a party that largely ignores class. When used to describe Sanders it’s always an epithet. This is absurd, because class is massively important and ignores the fact that class disproportionately affects marginalized groups. How systemic bigotries can ever hope to be confronted without wrestling with capitalism’s positioning of historically oppressed peoples in the base of the societal pyramid is beyond my comprehension. Any leftist politics that fails to recognize this is toothless and needs to be chucked into the dustbin of history.

(I’m being honest when I say I’d love to hear whether or not Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib or Alexandria Ocacio Cortez think of him as nothing but a class reductionist. I briefly considered posting a collection of shocked centrist reactions to 3/4th’s of “The Squad” endorsing Sanders – they very obviously delight in their diverse identities, but hilariously ignored their politics; anyways, I thought it too troll-ish and Bernie bro adjacent)

On the other hand, politicians who champion identity politics while ignoring economic inequality will never meaningfully enact systemic changes that can help the masses. The best they have done – and I don’t think is always necessarily insignificant – is allow themselves, after years of resistance, to get swept up in waves of social change (i.e. gay marriage), and inevitably settle on advocating for visibility and representation as panaceas to society’s problems. In essence, give some a seat at the table and hope the rest shut the fuck up and vote for them (is this not good enough for you? What are you going to do, vote for the Bad Cheeto Man?)

Centrist politics within neoliberal capitalism cannot meaningfully address economic inequality – it never has, and if you believe it can or will, you have more in common with religious adherents than you’d care to admit. While it can and has incorporated individuals of marginalized groups into the upper levels of its superstructure, the bulk of these groups continue to find themselves within its bottommost strata.

All of this aside, I have little respect for those who reduce all the world’s evils to capitalism (for instance, the patriarchy antedates capitalism by millennia). It is undeniable that capitalism objectively developed within the context of chattel slavery (no link necessary); European colonialism (no link necessary); and the expropriation of female reproductive labor, witch-hunts, and the institutionalization of midwifery and prostitution. Whether or not capitalism necessarily needed racism and sexism to flourish and become the dominant economic paradigm is irrelevant, because that is precisely what occurred – even if, paradoxically, capitalism allowed for spaces in which equality amongst the sexes and races was able to develop in certain ways for certain populations in certain places at certain times.

Can capitalism exist and function without bigotry? Certainly capitalists will enthusiastically answer in the affirmative. The only answer I can come up with is who fucking cares. While it can be interesting to engage in historical counterfactuals, it’s essentially an exercise that, in the case of the rise of capitalism, has few if any useful applications to the real world. Capitalism always has and likely always will require an underclass and, from its perspective, the various identities of this underclass are irrelevant.

Capitalism, racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined and it is impossible to disentangle the chaotic assemblage of strands to determine which is the Most Important Evil. The bottom line: the ills of capitalism cannot be confronted without simultaneously confronting institutionalized racism and the patriarchy (the same goes for homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and speciesism – smash them all). I believe the reverse of that argument to also be true.

If one believes that Sanders isn’t knowledgeable about, or just plain ignorant of intersectionality (unfortunately for his acolytes, there’s evidence of this), it is undeniable that – if were he to succeed (a big if) – his economic programs/policies will help such people he does little more than allegedly pay lip service to. Sanders probably should do better, though I doubt any of his attempts will convince those who already hate him. But I don’t believe there is any other candidate that, contra Sanders, has a deep, nuanced understanding of the ubiquity, persistence and interrelations of the aforementioned bigotries – especially considered within the context of class (it’s interesting that Barbara Smith, who coined the term “identity politics,” has again endorsed him). Overall, anyone who thinks Bernie is uniquely terrible at intersectionality is naïve to think the other candidates are significantly better. Like Elizabeth Warren.

***

I generally dislike making statements about how things “feel” to me, due to its subjective nature. That said, I feel like the same types of people who think Sanders an irredeemable sexist/racist have given Warren a pass for pretending to be Cherokee most of her life. To quickly summarize the facts regarding Warren’s claims:

In 1836, Warren’s great-great-great-grandfather, a white man named William Marsh, enlisted himself in a Tennessee militia to fight in the “Cherokee War,” an occupation of Cherokee land in the lead-up to the Trail of Tears. Decades later, his grandson John Houston Crawford moved his family onto Indian Territory and squatted on Cherokee land in a move that, with no record of a permit, was almost certainly illegal.

The Crawfords were just some of the tens of thousands of white squatters who outnumber Cherokees on our own land. While Cherokee Nation beseeched Congress to enforce our treaty rights and kick them out, the squatters pushed Congress to divide up our treaty territory and create a path to white land ownership; the squatters won.

The Crawfords settled in the new state of Oklahoma. They lived among Indians, but it wasn’t always peaceful. In 1906, John Crawford shot a Creek man for hitting his son. According to The Boston Globe, his son, Rosco, would later tell stories about how “mean” the Indians were. But one of Crawford’s grandchildren, Pauline Reed, told a very different story. Not a story of living among Indians, a story of being Indian.

Pauline’s youngest child, Elizabeth, grew up with her mother’s version of the story. And though the family had no evidence or relationship to the tribe, Elizabeth Warren never questioned it, she wrote in her memoir. It was her family story, she would say.

That’s… it. That was enough for her to claim to be Cherokee for most of her life. Let’s assume that her comical attempt to use race science to “prove” her ancestry is true (in sports parlance, this was quite the unforced error). And let’s pretend that heritage, tradition and culture can be reduced to blood quanta. That would mean that, at best, 1 of her 32 great great great grandparents was Cherokee. It would also mean that 31 of those great great great grandparents were European. And yet, to her, that 1 great great great grandparent carried more weight than all the rest combined. If Warren family tradition hypothesized one great great grandparent that was Estonian, would she have frequently brought up her pride in being Estonian? If not, why is that?

She perpetuates the proud, white American tradition of wishing to procure a sheen of nobility from the savages they fetishize. Or: she (and her family) merely want to – consciously or subconsciously out of guilt – obscure, omit or deny their historical complicity in indigenous genocide. Either way – fuck that settler colonial bullshit.

If you’re white and belong to a family who, in their lore, claim descent from Native Americans, the very least you can do is keep that shit to yourself. At best, do some research; educate your family as to why this is racist and should not continue to be perpetuated – even if you locate one great great great grandparent that might “substantiate” your claim. Definitely don’t put it on work/college applications; talk in public about your family’s “high cheekbones”; submit recipes to a cookbook called, I shit you not, Pow Wow Chow (one recipe, by the way, contained mayonnaise and may have been plagiarized); or use fucking race science to clumsily “dunk” on your detractors (only for your detractors to laugh in your face at the simple fact that 1/32 – 1/512 is, by any account, not a whole hell of a lot).

I don’t care if she allegedly derived no material benefit from her claims. I don’t care if anyone truly thinks science “proved” the veracity of her claims. I don’t care if you think that “science” is necessary to confront political enemies who could not care less about what science does or doesn’t prove. Your arguments are racist trash.

If you think any of this isn’t at least as bad as anything problematic Sanders is alleged to have said, that says a lot about you. It says your concern with racism is situational and there are circumstances and groups of people you’re willing to ignore in the interest of acting as pathetic knights defending your chosen one. You are truly the liberal version of dipshit sports fans who believe the Cleveland Baseball team and Washington/Kansas City football teams are honoring Native Americans.

***

The preceding section, among other things, calls into questions Warren’s judgment and honesty (I should note here that you will not find within this blog a detailed analysis of policy – it’s already too long). Within the context of Warren’s lies about her heritage, I’m not sure why anyone would believe Warren’s claims of Sanders telling her a woman couldn’t beat Trump – especially when he was willing to defer to her candidacy in 2016, highlighted the absurdity of why he would think women can’t win when Hillary won the popular vote, and has long encouraged women to run for office. It would certainly be weird for someone whose beliefs are widely thought by both his partisans and opponents to have been fossilized for decades to make such a sudden and severe change.

Warren and her campaign were extremely prepared to capitalize on Sanders’s alleged remarks by creating a Sanders-shaped straw-man who can be told again and again that yes, a woman CAN win. It’s not even a point Sanders can argue against since he – at least publicly – believes the same thing. Bernie bros seem to think of this as the death spasms of her failing campaign, but I’m not so sure. Whether or not there’s any truth to her claims, it was obviously a calculated move to paint Sanders as a sexist, and it might pay off – especially when some of the most annoying Bernie bros wasted no time in embodying the worst stereotypes many believe all of them to have.

Speaking of Bernie bros, I’d like to point out that the scourge of the white, male “Bernie bro” is incorrect in its identifiers (this was hilariously underscored by Rashida Tlaib, not a white male, being accused of white male rage when she had the audacity to boo Hillary Clinton, someone who finds literal child sex traffickers and serial rapists more likeable than Sanders). Every candidate has a toxic section of their base that’s equally as insufferable – Warren with her wine-moms, Kamala and the K-Hive, Biden and his, uhhhh – I don’t even know if there’s a name for his obnoxious supporters and I’m not entirely convinced they exist (I mean, they really shouldn’t exist). But, anecdotally, it truly feels (there’s that word unfortunate word again) that the corporate media is more focused on one group than the others. I wonder why that is.

If you think your candidate doesn’t have annoying sycophants I’d suggest you’re being willfully ignorant. Moreover, a handful of online assholes distorts the volume of the whole – social media is not synonymous with actual life. 50 Chapo Trap House-loving Bernie bros being mean to a New York Times writer is a fucking drop in the bucket.

Outside of mainstream politics there are anti-indigenous anarchists, authoritarian (“tankie”) Marxist-Leninists, actual class reductionist Marxists who think LGBT people are bourgeois perversions, and green anarchists who veer dangerously close to antihuman eco-extremism – but these pieces of shit don’t necessarily delegitimize the decent people who have those beliefs. Moreover, they should be considered on their own merits and not their worst adherents – one doesn’t need to judge American conservatism by the actions of American conservatives to conclude that it’s a morally bankrupt, repulsive, ruinous ideology. Conceptually, this should be very clear to non-shitty atheists for obvious reasons.

All that said – in the interest of being pragmatic, annoying Bernie bros should absolutely find other ways to engage their critics than contempt and mockery. Contempt and mockery obviously aren’t going to convince one’s political adversaries, but, more importantly, it may turn off the undecideds. Just a thought.

***

Capitalism needs, if not smashing, then, at the very least, neutering. Any politician who is a self-described “capitalist to [their] bones” is not someone I support, but I concede that Warren is more palatable than the rest. The fact that I’m scrutinizing her more than the other candidates speaks to the contempt I have for them. Biden – a living manifestation of the Stephen Colbert black friend bit – and Buttigieg – appropriately dubbed Mayo Pete – would get crushed by Trump and there’s nothing to like about either.

I think Warren’s position as the candidate of compromise, with Bernie on her left and Biden/Buttigieg on her right, leaves her ill equipped to pull enough support from either side to win the nomination. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think she will beat Trump; though outside of Sanders I think she has the best chance. If you disagree with any of this, you might very well be right. However, it is inarguable that there is a diverse mass that is dedicated to the broad ethos of a Sanders presidency; were this not true, then how else – especially in the face of extreme media bias – is he still a wildly popular, viable candidate 4 years after his failure to win the nomination of a party whose elite are dedicated to sidelining him?

The best chance the Democratic Party has, to their horror, is probably Sanders, with his diverse base and ability to reach disaffected white voters that are inclined either toward Trump or complete political disengagement. These voters are categorically not sympathetic to Bernie because he’s racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic (because there’s little evidence he is); some of these voters might fall into such categories, but if the Democrats have any hope of winning they can’t afford to write them off as human trash unworthy of anything except scorn and mockery (which, admittedly, is my personal knee-jerk attitude towards them). How well did calling them “deplorables” work for Hillary? For real, what’s the fucking game-plan if it’s not Sanders – again, who’s not a bigot, and who doesn’t automatically become one if some of them vote for him – offering a platform they can embrace? If you think the proponents of your chosen candidate are so ethically pure, I echo again the sentiment that you’re being a tad gullible.

Maybe his victory will further the inexorable growth of his movement, which will force politicians to begrudgingly cater to them. Forced wealth transfers from the target of Sanders’s ire – the hated 1% – begin the protracted process of “making things better.” Perhaps a nascent dictatorship of the proletariat (an unfortunate phrase that is better understood as the government of the many against the numerically inferior bourgeoisie/corporate elite) will emerge, unite against their class enemies, and find they are strong. US citizens will become increasingly aware of and repulsed by the fact that their standard of living necessitates ecological destruction and mass human misery both domestically and globally. The Green New Deal reverses some of the depredations of climate change thanks to technological advances and dwindling consumerism, which is finally, definitively identified as a plague that is ruining the planet. Maybe a century from now the state begins to wither away as it becomes increasingly unnecessary; not, as Lenin foresaw, as the result of a violent revolution and seizure of state power, but of democratic electoralism and the peaceful eradication of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist world-destroyers.

Is this likely? Probably not. But again I’d like to stress a better world is far less likely with centrist neoliberal democracy. If you think that is more feasible, I fully believe you are more concerned with finding a safe, comfortable alcove within Leviathan from which to watch the world burn. The best that can be said of you is that you really dislike the Tweeter-in-Chief (despite foolishly thinking he is the alpha and omega of all that’s wrong in the world) and may, at times, shake your head sadly at the state of things while rejoicing in diverse representation in politics and entertainment.

***

There is an important caveat to a Sanders victory. If he wins, and if he fails to alleviate systemic problems, it very well might be the death blow for democratic socialism (not to mention further sullying the reputations of Communism, Socialism, and Marxism). He will be hated and it’s hard to see how the actual left can recover. This is bad, because the success of combinations of leftist ideas is needed for a future that is not a blasted hellscape (due to how disregarded these ideas are, I’d very much like to be wrong about this).

A failed Sanders presidency will see centrist liberalism – the friendlier face of the death cult that is capitalism – reemerging unscathed, no worse for wear, content to blame Sanders and his irrational disciples. The far right will continue howling for blood, becoming stronger as it incubates the next Trump-like figure within its fetid, rotting womb. All in all, Sanders’s failure may lead to re-enactments of Hillary vs. Trump with different stand-ins every 4 years, as the center moves ever rightward while environmental devastation and human immiseration continues apace. Gods help us all.

Or – scorning the failed/failing ideas positioned to their right – perhaps the revolutionary left will resolve their interminable, internecine squabbles, and build societies that don’t destroy the planet; that don’t exploit, kill and enslave each other. Their ranks will swell with those disillusioned with mainstream politics. This disillusionment will differ from that felt by prior generations because it will occur within the context of a planetary existential crisis that’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Though, as climate scientists constantly inform us, the hour is late, the seeds for the creation of a better world exist in ours (I do admit it’s hard not to feel like a pathetic fool typing shit like this).

This hope for a better world highlights the contradictions anarchists (this also goes for communists, socialists, and their uncountable ideological subdivisions) such as myself face – we are severely pessimistic about both democratic nation-states and capitalism; and yet we fervently believe that we as a species can do better, despite the glaring, and as of now intractable fact that most people aren’t anarchists (or communists or socialists). Depressingly, the general population, through little fault of their own, understand anarchism as violent chaos, and communism as grim dictatorship. No one has yet figured out how to effectively spread the good word to the masses (which is especially disheartening considering how long these ideologies have existed). The utilization of social media appeared, at first, as if it would be viable and effective, but it has only served to flatten the discourse and situate most within their own echo chamber, which occasionally fight other echo chambers. Were Leviathan a conscious being, he (and it would certainly be a he) wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing uncontrollably.

It’s ahistorical and illogical to think the current socio-politico-economic paradigm will persist forever. Every civilization, every society that’s ever existed has perished, merged with other societies, or transformed beyond all recognition. Within that context, this election feels existentially important, although this is a sentiment expressed every 4 years for many different reasons. My primary vote is for guillotine and revolution. As they’re not on the ballot, I’ll go with Sanders as my second choice.

Perhaps his victory or defeat will be one of the spatiotemporal fulcrums that alters the trajectory of our species. We’re edging toward a point where we may find ourselves at the edge of such an abyss where we need to choose a new way. With our backs to the wreckage, and as the void stares up at us, hopefully we’ll have the strength, foresight, and empathy to do what must be done to have a livable and just planet for all.

Aaron Rodgers kinda sorta maybe comes out as atheist

Football at the professional level is not an environment that encourages the questioning of any kind of authority – scumbag owners, tyrannical head coaches, the police, military, God. Aside from golf, NASCAR, and maybe baseball, it is America’s most conservative sport. Players are, openly or not, dissuaded from uttering anything not related to football, unless it’s in the most milquetoast, uncontroversial manner possible.

I always find it refreshing when players wade outside of their intellectually stifling confines (i.e. the Colin Kaepernick saga). Not many do, which is understandable. The vast majority of players exist in a fraught space where their contracts aren’t guaranteed, and the average career is about 3 years. Only the best players are offered any semblance of stability – and it just so happens that most of them are happy to toe the company line. Within the context of religion, I can only recall one player, Arian Foster, who’s spoken about it in a skeptical manner. But now I can add Aaron Rodgers to the list. I

On a recent YouTube video with Danica Patrick (his significant other) he spoke about his developing thoughts on religion:

Here are some quotes, courtesy of Jason Duaine Hahn at Yahoo:

“I just didn’t find any connection points with those things,” said Rodgers, who played football at the University of California, Berkeley. “I started questioning things, and had friends who had other beliefs — I enjoyed learning, that’s kind of a part of my life.”

[…]

I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet, you know, to a fiery hell. Like, what type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn most of his beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?

[…]

“Religion can be a crutch, it can be something that people have to have to make themselves feel better,” […]“Because it’s set up binary,  it’s us and themsaved and unsavedheaven and hell, it’s enlightened and heathen, it’s holy and righteous … that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves.”

Rodgers was raised Christian and openly identified as such early in his career. But if one was paying close attention (which wasn’t always easy as his spiritual thoughts have only been expressed irregularly), it’s clear he wasn’t like most of his God-loving colleagues. There was the time he hilariously trolled Russell Wilson:

For someone who has said that he doesn’t believe God cares much about football, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a comment after Sunday night’s game at Lambeau Field that could only be taken as a shot at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Answering a question about the Packers’ 27-17 victory over the Seahawks, Rodgers said: “And then getting help from God. I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us.”

And there was his appearance on Pete Holmes’s podcast in 2016. I can’t find a summary or transcript anywhere, but it was pretty clear he was moving in a deist direction, while still holding a belief in a benevolent, loving God and showing an interest in other religions. So his development shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone paying attention.

Unfortunately, his evolving thoughts on religion contributed to and maybe was the genesis of the rift with his still-religious family:

But Rodgers’ family was not impressed with his candid comments, a source tells PEOPLE.

“They were dismayed,” says the insider. “The family is very dedicated to their Christian faith.”

“To them, his comments are basically a slap in the face to the fundamentals of who they are. It’s basically him turning his back on everything they have taught him.”

[…]

“His comments are very hurtful to the family,” says the insider, who says that the family “still loves Aaron very much,” but disagrees with him about fundamental things. “They have these times where things start to thaw out, but then something like this happens, and then it’s back to square one. It’s sad.”

While Rodgers never actually said he was an atheist, that hasn’t stopped many from conflating his statements with actual atheism, including terrible jokes about his poor performance in this past Sunday’s NFC Championship game leading to his apparent nonbelief (never mind the fact the video came out weeks ago).

That concludes what I believe to be my 3rd or 4th religion-related post on this atheist blog network

 

 

Fuck everyone who whitewashes MLK

The good readers of FtB probably are aware of this, but MLK was skeptical of capitalism, against US imperialism, and would’ve disliked the pieces of shit who whitewash him every January 20th. Concurrently (and very obviously), those same pieces of shit would’ve hated him when he was alive.
————
“[T]here is a definite move away from capitalism, whether we conceive of it as conscious or unconscious. Capitalism finds herself like a losing football team in the last quarter trying all types of tactics to survive.”
————
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic”
————
“[C]apitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.”
————
“So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens […] as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”
————
“During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.”
[…]
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.”
[…]
“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low [Audience:] (Yes); the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.””
[…]
Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’
[…]
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/notes-american-capital…
https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/documen…/beyond-vietnam
https://theintercept.com/…/martin-luther-king-jr-celebrati…/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/…/martin-luther-king-vietnam-war…
https://wagingnonviolence.org/…/martin-luther-king-capital…/

Only trickster gods exist

And they must be propitiated. They are ubiquitous in human cultures across time and space because they actually exist. As a rootless, and heretofore godless, mixture of various European ethnicities living on occupied Potawatomi land, I can’t rightfully say what particular trickster god(s) decided to fuck with me. But fuck with me they did.

I will be 39 years old next month and have spent 99.9999% of my time on earth not doing drugs. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I actually only started drinking a few years back. On a recent visit to in-laws, I took half a weed gummy. I recall being unable to focus on anything, laughing uncontrollably, telling an embarrassing story in sentence-like fragments, eating a bunch of bad food, and slowly shuffling off to bed. All in all I didn’t really like it, and certainly didn’t plan on it becoming something I regular indulge in.

In the back of my mind I knew there might be a problem: my organization mandates random drug tests. Over 13 years I’ve been summoned a mere 3 times. While I knew I was taking a risk, I didn’t think it was very likely. I’ve halfheartedly declined trying THC using this as a reason, but I really just had little interest. However, over winter break, I decided fuck it, what the hell. The trickster gods, monitoring the situation, decided to have some fun.

9 days after the gummy I was called to do a random drug test. I quite literally was on the precipice of losing my job. The trickster gods, already dying with laughter, then thought it’d be funny for the lab to be on lunch, forcing me to sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes. How nice to have so much time to sit, sweat, hold my urine, and think about what the fuck I would do if it came back positive.

It was one of those tests that came back right away. The 2 minutes it took may as well have been another 45 minutes. Everything was negative.

Now, Western Science would have you believe the THC just happened to leave my system and there’s nothing mystical about it – that my metabolism, diet, liquid intake and weed-free past helped get rid of any trace of it. To that I say bullshit. Some years back, part of my job responsibilities included giving drug tests for people seeking food assistance. Cool system, right? More than a few times I passed people who came up positive for THC. I just couldn’t justify telling them they couldn’t get food because they smoked some weed. If you have a problem with this – I don’t care what you think and go fuck yourself. I believe what happened to me shows the trickster gods approved.

Anyways, weed should be legal everywhere already. And be wary and respectful of trickster gods. They are not to be fucked with.

(Also, fuck the American Gods showrunners for firing Orlando Jones, who was easily the best part of the show as Anansi. I was on the fence over watching Season 3 since Season 2 was dreadful – now it’s easy to just be done with it.)

The people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum

Much Like ICE, the people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum. From the child jailers, to logistics-preoccupied administrators, fuck you:

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant, was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.

A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.

None of that happened. Worried that Carlos might infect other migrants in the teeming McAllen facility, officials moved him to a cell for quarantine at a Border Patrol station in nearby Weslaco.

By the next morning, he was dead.

[…]

Carlos was the sixth migrant child to die after being detained while entering the U.S. in less than a year. Some died of preexisting illnesses, but at least two others died of the flu diagnosed while in Border Patrol custody. Carlos was the only one to die at a Border Patrol station; the others were taken to medical facilities after falling ill. In the previous decade, not a single migrant child had died in custody.

Unlike ICE, a recent creation, the Border Patrol has a much longer, bloodier, and irredeemably racist history. The most important book I read this year was Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (a summary by Jedediah Britton-Purdy can be found here). It is crucial for an understanding of the current crisis along the US’s southern borders, as well as serving to demolish the ignorant, self-aggrandizing narratives Americans tell themselves. It really should be required reading.

Among many other topics, Grandin elucidates how various strains of racist cowboys, the KKK, and violent goons coalesced into what became the U.S. Border Patrol. From its creation, it attracted the worst fucking people. In Grandin’s words, “fearing they were losing the larger struggle in defense of Anglo-Saxonism, white supremacists took control of the newly established U.S. Border Patrol and turned it into a vanguard of race vigilantism.”

I like to think I’m pretty well-informed about the historical violence perpetuated by the US, so much that I sometimes feel desensitized. But the wanton bloodshed and cruelty Grandon describes was astonishing and painful to read (though not surprising). Grandin references the Refusing to Forget project which documents racial violence along the US-Mexico border from 1910-1920:

The dead included women and men, the aged and the young, long-time residents and recent arrivals. They were killed by strangers, by neighbors, by vigilantes and at the hands of local law enforcement officers and the Texas Rangers. Some were summarily executed after being taken captive, or shot under the flimsy pretext of trying to escape. Some were left in the open to rot, others desecrated by being burnt, decapitated, or tortured by means such as having beer bottles rammed into their mouths. Extralegal executions became so common that a San Antonio reporter observed that “finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest. It is only when a raid is reported or an American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”

[…]

Far from being surreptitious, the violence was welcomed, celebrated, and even instigated at the highest levels of society and government. As thousands fled to Mexico and decapitated bodies floated down the Rio Grande, one Texas paper spoke of “a serious surplus population that needs eliminating.” Prominent politicians proposed putting all those of Mexican descent into “concentration camps” – and killing any who refused. For a decade, people would come across skeletons in the south Texas brush, marked with execution-style bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

There’s a fucking baseball team named after the Texas Rangers! I had no idea that that was what the name referred to. Suitably, they were created to fight Native Americans, and later officially incorporated into law enforcement in 1902. They literally carried out mass executions, the numbers of which will never be known. And still, they’re mindlessly romanticized and celebrated, though it’s hard to expect anything less from such an historically illiterate populace.

Their legacy continues in the modern-day Border Patrol, in that the latter still attracts the worst people. I titled this blog post to remind myself that there are actual humans that choose to do this. Maybe they’re nice people outside of work. They’re fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins. And they are all complicit to varying degrees in the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. From the ProPublica report, Carlos was

captain of the soccer team and excelled in playing instruments the school had bought by selling raffle tickets. “He played percussion and the bombo and the lyre and the trumpet,” said Jose Morales Pereira, who was Carlos’ teacher. “He always said, ‘Professor, let’s teach everyone else.’ He was my leader.”

I, too, am guilty. Not because I’m a functioning part of the entities that presided over Carlos’s death, but because I’m a beneficiary of neoliberal capitalism and its military caretakers. I’m one of millions who disproportionately consume the world’s resources. I play a role in human misery and ecological destruction, though this is mostly abstracted, obscured and exported to places like Guatemala. It was from there that Carlos left and ultimately returned. At his funeral,

[t]housands of mourners poured in from around the country to follow behind his casket, which was borne by soccer teammates down a long dirt road to the cemetery.

Pallbearers taped his royal blue No. 9 soccer jersey to the top of his casket as they laid it to rest. “Maybe in all of his life, the 16 years that he was in this life, maybe he didn’t do many things, but he did move us,” said a speaker at his funeral. “He touched hearts.”

I hope his death wasn’t in vain. But I’m too skeptical not to think otherwise.

Deadspin is dead. Long live Deadspin

I’ve been faithful to Deadspin for well over a decade with a religious devotion unbecoming of a blogger for an atheist network. Perhaps it’s best known around these parts for roasting the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Though nominally a sports blog, they covered many, many other things, something which their vulture capitalist overlords apparently didn’t like – not because of profits (by all accounts it was profitable), but because they disliked their politics.

Last week, the staff were told to “stick to sports,” which eventually led to most, if not all of the staff quitting. The saga largely began when Gawker, of whose blog network Deadspin was a part of, was destroyed by Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel. The remaining websites were purchased by Univison, who had no idea what to do with them, and promptly sold to private equity ghouls, Great Hill Media (which rebranded as G/O Media), who are in the process of actively ruining them. This fits into a larger pattern in which terrible people purchase media entities, terrorize and fire staff, make changes everyone hates, and, I guess, make a shit ton of money selling it off – basically catabolic capitalism applied to media

The bloodletting began a few weeks ago when G/O abruptly shuttered Splinter, which was the political descendant of Gawker proper. Splinter, while perhaps less entertaining, took the remnants of Gawker much further to the left – much to the consternation, hilariously, of a large portion of its centrist readers. It was one of the few mainstream-ish websites I trusted for national news. The final post on the website, ironically a non-sports blog from Deadspin, is titled Meatball President Criticizes NBA Coaches For Weak Statements On China, Instead Of Answering Direct Question About China (this amuses me).

For Deadspin, stormclouds have been gathering for some time, but the forcing out of editor Megan Greenwell truly signaled the beginning of the end. On her way out she righteously crucified those that made her tenure suck:

The richest men in digital media sometimes show they are not the adults in the room in the pettiest ways. The beginning of the end of my time here came when [Jim] Spanfeller, my boss’s boss, threw a tantrum in an email to the entire company over a story our staff was reporting on his hiring practices, management style, and threats to editorial independence. He accused us of biased journalism based on the fact that we had sent an early draft to our media lawyer, which is standard journalistic practice. He accused me and a 26-year-old reporter who works for me—a wildly talented reporter who has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever worked with—of trying to “shame and discredit others in our community” by reporting a story. When another colleague suggested in an all-staff meeting that his email was itself an attempt to publicly shame and discredit his employees, he doubled down, saying he is a transparent guy who says what he thinks. The story—which was damning only in that it was a true recitation of facts—was published anyway, not because our bosses “allowed” it to be, but because Gawker Media journalists are not and will never be intimidated by bullying.

Lauren Wagner, an utterly fearless badass, provided the insight into the inner workings of G/O, which precipitated Greenwell’s departure:

In conversations with Deadspin, more than 20 employees from across the business, tech, and editorial departments of G/O Media expressed frustration with [Jim] Spanfeller’s approach to hiring and his new executives’ lack of knowledge about the company combined with their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed. The employees, nearly all of whom requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation from company management, are angered by a lack of communication regarding company goals, seeming disregard for promoting diversity within the top ranks of the company, and by repeated and egregious interference with editorial procedures.

These conversations reveal that Spanfeller’s biggest effect on the company since taking over has been a deflation of morale. Several high-ranking employees have left the company over the past three months, departments have been stretched thin, and those who remain say that Spanfeller’s micromanaging and inappropriate interference has hamstrung their ability to effectively do their jobs.

This is an example of the sort of journalism they did so well. Unlike other sport media entities, they constantly delved deep into the intersections of economics, sports, and politics. And, as you can see from the quotes above, they never hesitated to place superiors in their cross-hairs. They remained inveterate shit-talkers to the very end.

Deadspin existed as a leftist counterweight to trash like Barstool, a sports-related haven for MAGA dipshits. They never “stuck to sports,” rightly realizing that sports are inextricably intertwined within the socioeconomic conditions in which they exist. They did their jobs with humor, courage, joy, irreverence, tenacity and humility (though, as they readily admit, they were certainly not without their faults over 14 years). They almost always pissed off the right people, and you will find the very worst of them gloating over their still-warm corpse.

Anyways, it’s dead now. Well, not technically dead; Deadspin will still exist in a weird, zombie-like form. The owners of the website are already crowing about how awesome their rebooted product will be. Given what they’ve done with a beloved, profitable, unique internet space, there is no reason to think it will be anything but putrid. What is possibly in store is summed up by Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:

Trustworthy brand-name publications are being hollowed out and refilled with unpaid “community” contributors or low-paid, less experienced professionals who don’t have the stature to challenge editorial imperatives or productivity quotas that generate useless, often-inaccurate content. This kind of zombification is happening right now to Sports Illustrated and has already happened to Newsweek; it’s even happened to parts of BuzzFeed, which didn’t even exist until this century.

I’m sad.

Long live Deadspin.

Escorting and other things

How are you? I hope you’re good. I’ve been kinda okay. I say kinda because almost a year ago I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It took a few days to settle down, but then the stomach aches started. To this day they haven’t really stopped. It is generally believed I have IBS. I’ve seen specialists; therapists; had various tests, including an ultrasound; changed diets; taken various over the counter meds, two different prescriptions, countless supplements and teas; meditated consistently and so far, nothing has led to, well, getting back to normal.

The last-ditch effort, which is still ongoing, is Zoloft, which I was terrified to start taking. I can’t tell if it’s helping or not. At first it seemed like it wasn’t. Then it got a little better. The last 2 weeks have been worse. Per my doctor, I’m continuing with it for 6 months to a year. Though if, by the 6-month mark, it hasn’t demonstrably helped, I’ll likely stop. And then it’s just sucking it up and dealing with it, which isn’t too different then what I’ve dealt with the past year.

It almost seems as if the panic attack led to something breaking inside of me that hasn’t been and may never be fixed. It’s just such a weird thing to have a stomach ache all day every day for a week straight. It sucks but it’s not the worst. It has made my life less good, but it’s not the worst that could happen to me. So many deal with so much worse.

***

As I am wont to do, I started this post weeks ago and left it unfinished – one of dozens of blogs in various states of disrepair. Over the past few months, I’ve primarily been scratching the itch to write on social media: pithy, caustic, poignant and hilarious posts that likely induce eye-rolling by friends and family. Behold:

Antifa: Fascism is bad and needs to be confronted, lest its genocidal philosophies again take root.

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: ANTIFA ARE LITERAL TERRORISTS!

Right wing extremists: [responsible for an overwhelming amount of domestic extremist-related murder, including the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting]

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: Something something thoughts and prayers and mental health and senseless tragedy and [trails off; resumes racist dog whistling, demonizes immigrants/refugees/Muslims, likely renews calls for labeling Antifa a terrorist organization]

(This was posted after the Garlic Fest shooting and before the El Paso shooting)

Anyways, the desire to write again in this blog occurred while listening to an episode of Science Friday, which made me want to put my fist through a wall. The relevant section was about deforestation in the Amazon. Very often I’ve noticed the host, Ira Flatow, seamlessly segueing from horrifying environmental news into something tech-related. And this is probably just me, but I always get annoyed with his tone, which alters between vaguely sad & subdued, and cloyingly optimistic. During the Amazon segment I noticed something that I hadn’t ever heard before: genuine dread in his voice as if he had actually confronted – conceivably for the first time – the ongoing horror of the destruction of the Amazon. Of course, perhaps I’m just projecting.

But that wasn’t what made me so irate. During an interview with Brazilian scientist Carlos Nobre, Flatow asked if he had hope. And this brilliant, intelligent, shrewd man of science said yes. Why? Because “the people” don’t want the Amazon cut down. The “people” need to and will get out and vote because Brazil remains a democracy (never mind the fact that “the people” voted for a borderline fascist).

Readers of my blog, given my past output, may justifiably regard me as something of a nihilist, but I can’t help but perceive this as absurdly hopeful in a way that is not at all warranted.  My rage has lessened, but hasn’t entirely subsided weeks later

This was the point I stopped writing. I just didn’t and still don’t have the will to deconstruct why I feel his optimism is both unjustified and dangerous. I’m tired. Sad. I feel hopeless – for the indigenous peoples, nonhuman animals, trees, rivers.

***

Switching gears – I’m going to talk a little further about what’s going on with me. For a few years I volunteered at a restorative justice program for youth that was recently discontinued. My city apparently decided that actually things are fine for our delinquent youth and the status quo is sufficient.

I felt I should be doing something else and decided on abortion clinic escorting. If you aren’t already aware, escorts guide patients into clinics and act as a shield against pro-life protesters. The clinic I’m at provides half of the state’s abortion services and has only one doctor on staff. Of course I was cognizant of the existence of the protesters, though it was mostly in the abstract sense, because I don’t see them in my day-to-day life. But when one escorts they’re just there, with their signs, loudspeakers, and punchable faces. And it’s their constitutional right to do so, apparently!

One of the horrifying things I learned was that kitty corner from the clinic is another clinic, which is basically a front for a Christian group that tries to dissuade women from abortions. So when women come to their appointments, the pro-lifers converge and, amongst other horseshit they yell, try to convince them to go to the other “free clinic” across the street. Devious fucks.

Another somewhat interesting thing I learned, that should have been intuitive had I considered it, was the segregation of the various Christian groups: evangelicals out in front, in-your-face and holding gory placards; quieter Catholics somewhat respectfully across the street; Children of the Corn-like Quiverfull adolescents; and unaffiliated damaged people with nothing better to do with their lives. And scattered throughout are the children, forced by their parents to waste their youth on religious zealotry.

The protesters especially scorn male escorts such as myself, who are emasculated degenerates who gleefully aid in fetus genocide. I experienced this firsthand upon leaving one day. I had taken off my rainbow-colored vest (a thus far fool-proof way to dissuade infiltration) and began walking to my car. I was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and, aside from comments about the shirt, I was called a “Mary.” To my back, of course. I’m still smarting from it.

Overall, I theorized I would be good for this because I couldn’t care less what people for whom I have no respect said to me. And that’s proven to be the case so far. I’ve literally never said a word to any of them. Sure, I’ve laughed and smirked and talked about them as they stood feet away. But I have no desire to engage in discussion. We are instructed not to do so, but most of the escorts at one time or another will, whether out of anger, amusement or exasperation, talk to them.

A lot of the regulars are damaged, and have experienced trauma: a man who was supposedly able to pray the gay away thanks to conversion therapy; someone who was abused as a child, did every “drug there is” and was a “whoremonger;” the Quiverfull kids indoctrinated into their grossly misogynist cult since birth. So I am able to maintain a tiny amount of empathy (or sympathy? I can’t decide which), though it evaporates the second they start screaming at women about how they’re murdering their child and don’t have to do it.

In the past, escorts at this location have experienced doxing, being followed to their cars, having car tire lug nuts loosened, and protesters showing up at their houses. They’ve had to get restraining orders. They’ve witnessed cars wedged into the clinic entryway. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing any of this, although I’m apparently on a protester’s livestream somewhere on the internet. Originally conceived as a 6 month program, escorting still exists at this location 25 years later because it needs to – these people are tenacious and need to be confronted.

***

Finally, I want to mention LINGUA IGNOTA putting out the album of the year. The first time I heard it I was reading and decided to put on some background music. But this is not background music. For the next 10 minutes I sat with my mouth agape. So so fucking good, raw and brutal. If just one of you listens to this I will be satisfied.

Not sure if this will lead to more blogs. Maybe, maybe not.

I, satanist

[Scene: Waiting area situated between two restaurants in Gatlinburg, TN (a tourist hellscape that is a necessary evil whilst visiting the Great Smoky Mountains). My wife went to the bathroom and I’m alone. A guy sitting across from me notices my hoodie.]

Guy: What’s that shirt you’re wearing?

Me: It’s a band called Choking Victim.

Guy: What kind of music is that?

Me: Kind of like a punk band.

Guy: I don’t like stuff like that with the [makes a weird muffled scream-like sound]

Me: Ok

Guy: [Pauses long enough that I think the conversation is over] So you’re a satanist

Me: What? No

Guy: Your shirt says otherwise

[To be fair, the shirt contains a pentagram and upside down cross]

Me: Ah. If you look at the rest of the shirt you can see it says “no gods no managers

Guy: [Pauses again, but I’m fairly certain he’s thinking of something to say] Satan’s not a god

Me: [not wanting to get into the nuances of Christian theology as it relates to atheism] Well, fine – anything biblical I don’t really believe in

Guy: [walks towards one of the restaurants; then he walks back to the waiting area and continues toward the other restaurant] So I guess Trump ain’t your president

Me: I mean, he is the president

Guy: [doesn’t respond; continues walking]

My wife liked my response but I thought of a few alternates to his devastating parting shot which heinously accused me of not liking America’s special big boy president:

#1: Actually, Malcolm Brogdon is the only president I recognize

#2: I don’t really get the question, if it was even a question rather than a statement. Using the word “my” has the connotation that he belongs to me or that I have some kind of claim on him. It’s kind of silly. So he’s not “my” president, same as Obama wasn’t “my” president. But I hope we can both agree that he’s a real pile of shit.

#3: You know, I’d like to say no but Trump is the perfect encapsulation of all that is revolting in American society congealed into one grotesque person. Just an utterly vile amalgamation of greed, sexism, racism, xenophobia, cruelty, hypersensitivity, unearned arrogance, short-sightedness, and an almost pathological amount of ignorance injected into a screaming, hate-filled, creamsicle-colored blob. Perhaps worst of all is his childlike understanding of science in a moment where it might be a good idea for the scientifically literate to take the wheel (did you hear about this utter clown talking about wind farms causing cancer?). And a bunch of people listened to the things he said, and read the things he attempted to write and, rather than thinking this person is deeply, deeply puerile, they thought “yes, he should be one of the most powerful people in the world – one who should definitely have control over nuclear weapons.” And whether I like it or not, I’m complicit, as most of us in America are to varying degrees; we participate and benefit by virtue of residing in the world’s most powerful nation-state that is hopelessly unwilling and unable to meaningfully confront its foundational mythologies and deep structural problems which continue to immiserate large portions of its own populace (not to mention the peoples it exploits and kills throughout the globe); all of this while situated as the Leviathanic head of an unholy beast driving all living beings toward ecological disaster. Let’s be real – our society’s vast problems both transcend and predate this oafish goon’s ascent. Anyways, I guess from that perspective he is very much my president as he is surely yours. But I hope we can both agree that he’s a real pile of shit.

.
.

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Pretty sure if I said any of that it wouldn’t have ended well for me.