SooperToosday

Suffrage_universel

But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. 

– Vizzini

The day is upon us.

Super Tuesday: the day on which we all get to decide whether it’s more important to win, or whether–perhaps–there is more to our voting choices than that.

At the end of the day, this election isn’t about ideology, it isn’t about conservative versus liberal. This one’s about basic human decency, about respect for one another and our political process. This one says something, profound and revelatory, about us as a nation and a people.

I’m not endorsing one party over another here. There are Republican candidates who have a lot to offer (well, candidate, anyway: Kasich–although I’ll take Rubio in a pinch). There are Democratic candidates who also promise at least some level of progress, and who have talked, not about the “evil Other,” but about the good we can do together as citizens of the United States.

And then there is the One.

The guy whose whole platform is built on putting down pretty much everyone, who has all but endorsed whatever form of torture serves him most conveniently, who has refused to distance himself from the KKK (with which historically inconspicuous organization he claims to be unfamiliar), and who has bullied his way through a series of debates without ever actually talking about anything, really, at all.

The guy whose plan is having one.

I’ve heard of several conservatives who, given a Trump nomination, are planning to abstain. Fine. But you could vote now, instead; vote, thoughtfully, for a more thoughtful option. Which is pretty much ANYBODY ELSE.

To my fellow Democrats, same goes for you: winning isn’t everything. In fact, in some cases, it isn’t anything. “Electability” is for the cynical and cowardly. Our problem, politically speaking, is that we’re not willing to swing for the fences. Everything is “strategery”: how do we get our guy (or gal) in, and then, how do we keep them there?

And we wonder why nothing ever changes.

We have one candidate who has told us what could be accomplished if we try, and we have another who has told us, consistently, that so little can be done that trying is a waste of time. Yoda is great, but I don’t really want him in the White House. Progressivism (real progressivism) is all about the “try.” Anything else is stagnation. And we’re all too familiar with that.

Let’s be clear: Hillary tells us that the root of “progressive” is “progress.” Fair enough. The root of “socialism” is “social.” And that has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, or Karl Marx, or bread lines and sovkhozy.

It’s not about the state at all, really. It’s about how we look at each other, about who our neighbors are, about what kind of neighbors we intend to be. The true socialist society is a reflection of its people. That the USSR got it backwards doesn’t mean it can never work. It just means that it hasn’t worked yet.

So, stop fearing the labels and catchphrases, and listen to what Bernie has to say about the things that are holding us back as a nation. Which is ourselves.

Every generation needs a “moonshot.” But that means embracing the big ideas, remembering that the moon is out there in the first place, waiting to be shot at.

So, two suggestions:

Democrats, let’s vote for the candidate who’s willing to shoot for the moon.

And Republicans…

For the love of Pete, don’t vote for the guy who might accidentally blow it up.

#FeelTheBern
#DumpTrump

TrumCruBio: A Drama in Three Hacks

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…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth

Rubio: (scratching head): But, sir, might I inquire as to what your plan entails? You say, ‘Smite the enemy,’ and yet you offer no strategy, no line of attack.

Rump: What, sir, is my plan? What is my plan, you ask? My plan. (Stares in defiant confusion)

Rubio: (nodding) Yes, good sir. Your plan.

Rump: My plan, sir, is simply this: good. It is the best plan. And it will succeed, sir, because it will. Doubt me not, sir: I cannot tell a lie, because I do not know the difference, sir! I challenge you, sir, to dispute with me!

Rubio: (pointing) But what are the details, sir, of your plan? How exactly do you propose we proceed?

Rump: The details of my plan, sir, are as follows: it will succeed, because it is good. Please, sir, desist from this odious repetition of words! My plan, sir, is good. It is good. My plan is good, sir! It is, I daresay, great. The greatest. My plan is the greatest plan in the history of talking about plans, sir!

Rubio: (still scratching head) Might I also inquire, sir, as to who the enemy is, sir?

Rump: It is simple, sir! The enemy is the bad people. Unless, at the time in question, they are the good people. In which case they’re our friends. Indubitably, some of the best friends I’ve had. Great advice, all of them; great advice! The best advice!

Cruz: (Looks up from the fire, where he is roasting a machine gun) Would anyone care for a morsel of bacon?

Rubio: But surely, sir, we cannot pretend the enemy knows not what he is doing? Away with this myth! Away! He seeks to change us, sir! And I will not be changed! My diaper is not yet dirty, sir! Son of a motherless goat! I will not be changed!

The light level increases abruptly. Two large shoes are observed entering stage left.

Cruz: (Proffers machine gun) Bacon?

Voiceover: Naughty children, how have you cluttered the nursery so? I dare not leave you to your own devices again! Naughty! Naughty children!

Rubio: Do not change me, Nanny! I will not be changed!

Rump: You are but a lobbyist, madam, with your boos and bahs! Leave this room! I will not be tidy, however loudly you crow! I am the best listener! I will not listen! I will not listen. I am the best. The best…

Rubio and Rump are hoisted from view. Their words turn to undefined wails, and slowly fade away. Cruz sits in the corner, chewing reflectively.

Fade lights.

Two Wrongs Make a Right Mess

U.S. Senator Cruz speaks to members of the Texas Federation of Republican Women in San Antonio, Texas

(Image: Reuters/Joe Mitchell)

It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture….I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe. 

– Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz believes torture is wrong. So it’s a good thing waterboarding doesn’t “meet the generally recognized definition” of torture. Otherwise, how could he excuse using it to torture people?

Incidentally, we don’t know who he means when he says “generally recognized.” More than likely, it’s anyone who agrees with him that waterboarding isn’t torture. Or, anyone who knows it is but wants a loophole that allows them to do it anyway.

We also don’t know, because he didn’t say (nor did anyone ask him), where he got his claim that the legal definition of torture specifies “excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems.” The UN definition references “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” and which is undertaken “at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

I dunno. Sounds like waterboarding to me…

Of course, Cruz at least tried to maintain a foothold on the moral high ground. Then there’s Trump, who in characteristic fashion hurtled the wall between good and evil and left it in the dust: “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” The Donald may be right: Ted Cruz may not have a heart. But it’s fairly obvious that Trump has no conscience. It’s not that he’s not aware of the difference between right and wrong. He just doesn’t really care.

So, we have one guy who’s at least inferentially open to whatever form of torture is most likely to yield results, and another guy who’s redefined the concept of torture into near meaninglessness, so that he can do whatever he wants. And, heading into New Hampshire’s primary, these are the two Republican front-runners.

See, hard as David Muir tried to shed light on a murky subject (murky, at least, to those who believe ends justify means), he only granted the candidates leeway to make it even murkier. Why? Because the question he asked wasn’t the question that needs asking.

Not “Is waterboarding torture?” Because if we can argue, however transparently, that it is not, then we can remove it from the larger conversation of right versus wrong. If torture is wrong, but waterboarding isn’t torture, then waterboarding may be conceived of as value-neutral, merely a tool of truth’s trade. And so “enhanced interrogation techniques” enters the American lexicon, by way of dodging moral obligation and our own national rhetoric.

The real question is this: “Whether or not it fits Webster’s definition of torture, is waterboarding right?”

We can say, with Marco Rubio, that there is a difference between law enforcement and anti-terrorist operations–which, while true, avoids the question instead of answering it. Does the presumed urgency of a situation alter its moral nature, or our obligations within that situation? Maybe yes, maybe no–either way, we have a much richer conversation here than with either Cruz or Trump.

But even Rubio’s dodging the question: this is as much about where we’ve been as it is about where we’re going. So much of our self-image as a nation seems to rest on a fictitious moral superiority that, when the least bit of scrutiny is applied, vanishes in a puff of smoke and mirrors. And we know it. And it scares us. So we jingo all the more.

You see, we never ask the same question Muir never asked the Republican candidates last Saturday night: Is what we’re doing right? We never ask; we just assume it is because of Who We Are. We are America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. And our shit smells of rose petals and lavender water.

If any other nation on earth treated American prisoners the way we have treated Middle Eastern prisoners, we would go to war. (Incidentally, perhaps we’ve solved the riddle of continued radicalization around the globe.) Just like if another nation tapped our president’s phone; or anytime another country shows signs of developing nuclear capability. We can do whatever we want, and it’s in the interests of Truth, Justice and the American Way. If anyone else does it, they’re chalked up as a Bond villain at best, the devil himself at worst.

As we gear up for November, and face the real possibility of having our own raving megalomaniac at the switch (pick your poison), it pays to think these things through. Newton taught us that every action produces a reaction; the Eastern sages taught us that karma’s a bitch; and anyone who ever ran up to a moving carousel knows that what goes around comes around, and tends to knock one on one’s ass.

We cannot just assume we are right, or change the definitions whenever it suits us. What we do as a country, who we are as a people, how we behave ourselves as global citizens–these things matter. And there is more than semantics at stake here. If a given action is deemed evil when enacted by our enemy, then it is equally evil when we do it ourselves, no matter how just we judge our goals to be.

Two wrongs do not make a right. No matter how hard we insist that they do.

 

Cognitive Dissonance, Republican-Style

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Equality is a reality, not a right.

This morning on Face the Nation, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio made two fairly significant assertions. Put these two statements together, and let the logic-ache begin! Like Ron Silver in Timecop, if they occupy the same space at the same time, nothing remains but a puddle of conceptual goo:

1) Homosexuality is not a choice; rather, sexual preference is from birth;

and

2) Same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right, not for the courts to decide; if gays or lesbians want to marry, they can petition their legislatures like “anybody else.”

In other words, LGBT Americans are born that way, but even so, it is up to the state to decide whether or not they are treated equally.

Does that remind anyone else of anything from our national past?

The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.

Ten points if you recognize that quote. Clue: It has nothing to do–directly–with the comments made by Marco Rubio, mentioned above. But, before I tell you what it is from, tell me this: that underlined section there–sounds a bit similar, right?

This is a quote from the majority decision of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s 1854 Supreme Court, in a case we like to call, simply, Dred Scott. You know, that time the Court ruled that certain blacks (namely, those whose ancestors were “imports” rather than immigrants; in other words, someone’s property, freighted here like a bunch of bananas) were not, and could not, be considered citizens equal under the law until such time as the law condescended to view them as such…which to that point it had not.

Now, you may protest that these two situations are not the same. But while the details may differ, the sentiment is suspiciously alike. A sector of our society which, according to Rubio himself, through no other circumstance than birth falls into a certain demographic, still must be granted equality by, as Taney phrased it, “those who held the power and the Government.” Because same-sex marriage isn’t, again in Rubio’s words, a constitutional right.

Newsflash: Heterosexual marriage is not a constitutionally-guaranteed right, either. But strangely enough, my wife and I did not have to petition our legislators for the “right” to get married. Hmmm…

The fact of the matter is that opposition to same-sex marriage has nothing to do with the Constitution, and everything to do with the fact that many of us just think it’s weird. We don’t get it, because to us, it’s different. Well, I think it’s weird that someone like Rubio, with his nineteenth-century thinking, could be in the high position he’s in and derive any support in the process. But that, too, is one of the hallmarks of this thing we call “democracy”: anyone is allowed to voice his or her opinion on (almost) any topic. Why?

Because, in this country, everyone is EQUAL.