Don’t you dare break my heart, Al

It’s hot out there, and today I had to run some errands, only not “run”, more of a sweaty amble, and I ended up over-extending myself a bit. You see, I noticed while my wife was away last week that we had no family memorabilia on display, and as I get older, I’m gradually forgetting what they look like, and what their names are, and all that sort of thing, and as I looked up from my laptop one evening to this wide blank wall on the other side of the room, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t a normal human being have pictures of their kids right there?” And then I thought, “Am I a normal human being?” and then “Do I want to be a normal human being?” and pretty soon I was having one of those philosophical arguments with myself in an empty house, which was a bit embarrassing.

So I decided I would put up some family photos, just to shut myself up.

I ordered some frames, and went through our digital photo collection, and picked out an assortment, and today I ran (“sweaty ambled”) out to the Thrifty White Pharmacy, where they have one of those fancy Kodak photo machines. Load in your digital images, punch a few buttons, and out pops your enlargements to the size you want. They’re nice. Also popular. It seems their is always a line backed up waiting to print out their photos, and do you know who always has lots of photos they want to print? People with families. And they bring their kids with them, which always seems beside the point — you have your little hellions jumping up and down and crawling all over you all the time, why do you need photos of them? Unlike me, who has been abandoned by his children, and is in peril of forgetting their names (I’m joking. I’d never forget Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva Muffin. It was entirely to end that stupid argument with myself.)

Knowing the likelihood of delays, however, I wisely brought a book along with me. That book was Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

In case you’re ever traveling through Minnesota (I don’t know if it works elsewhere), I have to tell you that this book is a magnificent ice-breaker. So many women walked up to me and asked, “What do you think of that book?” or declared their love of Al Franken, which meant, of course, that they approved of me and my excellent taste in humor and/or politics. These were all women who had offspring pogoing by their side or dismantling the greeting card rack or just moaning in boredom, but that was fine, since all I was doing was killing time with conversation. Alas, though, I had to lie to them. I told them I was enjoying the book.

Which was only half a lie! Really, I’m thoroughly enjoying the wit and humor, the dedication to progressive politics, the jabs at the many cretinous personalities in the Senate, the decent humanity of the man. It is a delightful read.

As I read it, though, I noticed that I was…admiring Al Franken. There was respect. I had this feeling like finally, someone was saying and doing the right things. Most places in this country, you’re looking at your local politicians and wondering how that thing crawled out of cesspit and got itself elected, but here in Minnesota we at least got ourselves some decent senators to give us a tiny glimpse of hope.

I knew what that means, though.

Al Franken is going to break my heart someday. He’s going to get caught with his hand in the pocket of some slimy corporate assweasel — like Jared Kushner. He’s going to be tempted into a dalliance with some flirty 19 year old Hitler Jugend. He’s going to die in a flaming jet crash. He’ll bury the hatchet and become good buddies with Ted Cruz. It’s inevitable. All of my heroes disappoint me needlessly. It’s one piece of evidence that there is a god, and that god’s primary joy in its immortality is to notice when I’m feeling a faint flicker of hope in someone, so that they can strike them down with a thunderbolt of ignominy.

So I feel like I’m betraying the guy when I say I’m finding his work admirable and his goals laudible. It’s like painting a big bullseye on his back, and then waiting for the ineluctable betrayal.

Don’t you do it, Al. I bought your book. Stick to your principles. Live a long life and do good.

The cynic in me is still bracing himself for doom, though.


  1. Ares Akritas says

    I hear you. I have exactly the same fear. When she was 8 my daughter wrote an essay on a living African-American personality she admired; it was a contest sponsored by a local company to promote civil rights. You know where this is going, right? She had listened to some old Bill Cosby comedy LPs, liked his gently mischievous musings on his brother Russell and so wrote the essay on Cosby. She won first prize, got a certificate, read her essay to a crowd, went to a ceremony, we took photos, etc. How in hell could we have ever known that Cosby was a horrible monster?

  2. cartomancer says

    Yes, I’m rather wondering when Jerry Cornelius… sorry, Jeremy Corbyn, is going to do something awful. Or that sweaty old PZ Myers chap who lives in the internet. Or Noam Chomsky. Or Mary Beard.

    It’s exhausting, all this suspicion of the world. Still, at least I can be certain that Sir David Attenborough will never do anything awful, what with him being pure unalloyed grandfatherly affection in human form. It’s pretty much just him and the trees now, and I’m not too sure about the trees.

  3. multitool says

    Ares Akritas: Very similar here. I used to listen to Cosby as a kid, and as a grownup repeated his jokes to my 6 year old stepdaughter. She thought they were so funny I bought her one of his CDs. Bonding moment. Ughhh.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    PZ, you have this theme “no heroes”. What that means, at least to me, is that nobody can be expected to be perfect in all facets of their lives. Too many on the left set up agendas that simply can’t be met in this day and age, and complain when politicians are “pure” enough. I consider progressives like Elizabeth Warren, All Franken, Adam Schiff, Dick Durban, Tammy Duckworth, et al., to good enough to support, unless they run against the offspring of the Flying Spaghetti Monster…*snicker*
    We progressives need to lose the “absolute purity” bullshit. It will help us at the ballot box in 2018.

  5. Siobhan says

    @Nerd of Redhead

    We progressives need to lose the “absolute purity” bullshit.

    I know what you’re saying and I want to agree. The problem is that this exact line was brought up by Bernie bros who objected to protests by pro-choicers (mostly women) regarding his support of an anti-choice candidate. It’s turned into a code phrase for “your rights are expendable.” I certainly don’t think anyone’s rights are bullshit, nor do I want to think our world is in such a state that basic human decency cannot be reasonably expected of our representatives. :(

  6. Ares Akritas says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: We progressives need to lose the “absolute purity” bullshit. It will help us at the ballot box in 2018.

    I really could not agree more. Absolutely spot on. I’d go even further: One thing I appreciate about the dickish Bill Maher (yes, despite his BS on vaccines, Muslims, political correctness, etc.) is his ongoing argument that we actually need asshole Democrats to run against Republicans. As a liberal I invariably vote for Democrats, who have to go against ruthless, sociopathic Republicans and eventually lose. I’d like to see Democrats who are certifiable assholes run for office. They’ll be better able to hold their own against Republicans — and they’re unlikely to disappoint liberals like me since we already know they’re assholes.

  7. Zeppelin says

    Agreed. There’s a time for ideological rectitude, and there’s a time for taking whatever allies you can get. I appreciate the commitment among many on the Left to resist throwing the usual marginalised groups under the bus (which has been the traditional compromise solution). But there will have to be some sort of compromise somewhere, because that’s the nature of an alliance. You don’t need to be friends with your allies.

  8. says

    @#4, 5, and 6:

    If I thought for even a moment that you actually meant the words you were saying, I would jump for joy and — metaphorically — embrace you all.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t my first rodeo. When Democrats say “the Left is too ideologically purist”, what they always always always mean is emphatically not “since minorities are more likely to be hurt by corporate malfeasance and military adventurism, we should support radical progressive economics and anti-war candidates, even if they aren’t letter-perfect in buzzword bingo on minority rights” but rather “all you people who are anti-war and anti-corporation need to shut up so we can elect more right-of-center technocrats who are Democrats in name only and will say pleasant-sounding nothings on the subject of inclusivity and then throw the whole country under the bus economically and militarily”. In the mouth of someone like Nerd of Redhead, “compromise” is always “do as I (and my right-of-center candidates) want you to do, and don’t you dare protest when they shove a knife in your back, because you are obviously not worth listening to”. Therefore, I know exactly how far to trust you guys when you start to talk like this: no more than I trust Trump, which is not at all.

    The party has tried that whole approach before. Corporate-friendly pro-war pro-fossil-fuel candidates are a huge mistake. This continued demand to support them anyway is as empty-headed as the insistence on the part of the Republicans that Trickle-Down Economics should be taken seriously even though it has never worked at all, even once, in any case where it has been tried. As a result of spending the last 30 years cozying up to these corporatist fools, the Democrats are at a historic low in every way: a record low of governorships, statehouses, representation in congress, and of course the presidency. Before the corporate rightward shift began, Democrats held Congress for forty years; now they can’t hold it for four years. This approach is wrong. It is a losing proposition. Ditch the damned fools and start looking for candidates who are more than pretty words and half-hearted support for, say, gay marriage (and boy, were the Democrats dismayed when Biden popped up and made that an issue!) and start insisting on serious policy in realms which actually involve money or boots on the ground.

    Someone who fights seriously for economic justice can be talked into supporting other kinds of justice as well; the one follows from the other — that’s why the New Deal Democrats were also the party of the Civil Rights Act. Someone who wants to screw the voters over on behalf of Wal-Mart or Exxon probably doesn’t really care about minorities, no matter how much they sweet-talk you on those issues, they’re just using your preferences to get you to support their corporate masters. Stop letting them do it!

  9. djudge says

    Typo: It seems their is always a line backed up ….
    This comment can be deleted.

  10. Zeppelin says

    @The Vicar: I’m not a “Democrat”. I have no love whatsoever for the Democratic party or its candidates. I’m not American, and would be considered some sort of insane Communist extremist by the standards of the US political spectrum.
    I still consider politics a sordid, dirty business, and have no illusions about what needs to be done if you actually want political power. I can’t bring myself to do it, which is why I’m not in politics.

  11. Zeppelin says

    Again, you don’t have to be friends with your allies.

    Make an alliance with the corporatists who are prepared to pay lip service to progressive ideas (you need them, because they hold all the power and wealth and the system prevents you from having your own party), then stab them in the back and implement your own agenda. Entrap them by taking their progressive rhetoric more seriously than they do, so they can’t effectively go against you when you work to actually implement it without looking like hypocrites. Stage an internal coup when they’re weak or divided, and push through your own candidate. This all worked for the insane wing of the Republican party, which is how you got Trump. Why can’t it work for the left wing of the Democrats?

  12. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Trust nobody, they’ll all let you down.

    I don’t even trust myself.

  13. Ares Akritas says

    Just to avoid confusion, I must explain what I mean when I say that I support Bill Maher’s quest to recruit more Democrat assholes.

    In “Die Hard 2,” two philosophers discuss: Philosopher #1 says, “Guess I was wrong about you. You’re not such an asshole after all.” Philosopher #2 responds, “Oh, you were right. I’m just your kind of asshole.”

    I want our kind of assholes running as Democrats. I want more Lyndon Johnsons — but (this is very important!) only the domestic Johnson, who pushed through Congress Civil Rights legislation and Medicare, not the Vietnam War Johnson. Both Johnsons were assholes in terms of tactics, but the domestic is my kind of an asshole. I want my asshole Democrat to be absolutely uncompromising when it comes to being against racism, sexism, extremism, fundamentalism, etc. I want him to be unfailingly boisterous in favor of improving the lives of the poor, providing health care to all and supporting science. I could go on and on. The point is, where it matters my Democrat asshole is an unapologetic, in your face, muscular, profane liberal. She’s an asshole in the sense that she/he realizes that we have a ruthless enemy in the Republicans and she/he has to fight them on their own turf.

    Here’s what my asshole Democrat would never do: Senator Richard Durbin seems like a nice guy, a smart, competent liberal, with whom I agree on most positions. In 2005 he compared American soldiers who tortured and abused prisoners to using techniques used by the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge. He was right! Totally. The only problem was actually that he didn’t go far enough; his criticism was worded very carefully, almost indirectly. When the Republicans and our stupid media ganged up on him (he’s unpatriotic, criticizing our sacrosanct troops!), he offered a tearful apology on the Senate floor. He fucking wept apologizing for telling the truth. If he were my kind of an asshole Democrat, he would have told everybody to fuck off with a rusty nail and he would have slapped a couple of fascist Republican torture apologists upside the head for good measure.

  14. Ichthyic says

    If I thought for even a moment that you actually meant the words you were saying,

    and that hubris of yours is exactly why I fucking hate you soooo much.

  15. Ichthyic says

    … tell me, do you think I meant the word I just said, Vic?


    go fuck yourself.

  16. says

    Entrap them by taking their progressive rhetoric more seriously than they do, so they can’t effectively go against you when you work to actually implement it without looking like hypocrites. Stage an internal coup when they’re weak or divided, and push through your own candidate. This all worked for the insane wing of the Republican party, which is how you got Trump. Why can’t it work for the left wing of the Democrats?