Last Week

One of the goals I had for this year was to spend 10 minutes each day writing about whatever came into my head. I missed last Wednesday, but here I’d like to share what I wrote on Thursday evening.

…….

January 7th, 2021, 11:50pm.

Well, less than a week in and I already missed a day. I thought I’d have plenty of time. We had a perfectly nice of evening on a nice, quiet public holiday. Ate a small dinner, made a magnificent batch of popcorn, watched the season premiere of the first Black Bachelor… all lovely. Then we stopped. BV headed for the office, I looked at my phone and… oh shit.

Crazed Trump protestors* storming the Capitol. A meager police force overwhelmed, or maybe allowing them to push through. Some yes, more concerned with getting the Senators, House Reps, and other staff to safety, which they did, but so many questions remain.

Watching it all unfold live was surreal. They went where they wanted, posed gleefully for pictures, defaced property, stole. And then, slowly, slowly, back up forces arrived, pushed them out, and for most of them, off they went. Video footage today showed a full luxury hotel lobby packed with them last night. Drinking, laughing, considering themselves the winners. And why wouldn’t they? The President, in a pre-taped video told them to go home but barely. The emphasis on his stolen election was stronger. His sentiment that he loved them, and that they are very special people, was stronger. Of course they feel victorious. The number of arrests is pathetic, and it seems from the mixed reporting today, that most of those came after curfew at 6pm. By then many of all were already out of the building and bragging about their exploits. Four people have now died; one woman having been shot inside.

They found pipe bombs, and a truck loaded with weaponry. The authorities are asking for tips and the internet is on top of ID-ing many, but why, why is it necessary? Once they were inside, how were they allowed to walk out? It’s unfathomable.

The news cycle today was a mess of who’s responsible, what now, and speculation. This is exactly what so many thought would happen and yet again it seems that the people who have the power to do something, will not. He’s got 13 days left and could certainly do a lot more damage in that time. But do the people who matter have the conviction to do anything? They haven’t so far. I’ve often felt over the last four years, and 2020 was by far the worst bit, that I was watching my home country burn in real time. Yesterday topped it all.

*what they were called at the beginning of the day

…….

It’s now Monday night/Tuesday morning. In the days since, the pictures, videos, and first-hand accounts have continued to horrify. As of now, there have been five deaths, two of them Capitol Police. Many of the insurrectionists involved have been identified by friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, you know name it. Mug shots of many have been released as they’ve been arrested. Others found themselves suddenly on the no-fly list, trapped in D.C., loudly protesting all of the injustices against them as they stormed around airport gates maskless. The injustices against them. Unreal.

The variety of people who showed up for this event is vast. Yes, they were little old ladies and suburban couples, and others that did not appear to be an immediate threat. But there were also a huge number of them who were armed, maybe not with firearms on their person, but with anything else they could find that would do harm. Tactical gear, bear spray, zip ties ready for what? Taking lawmakers hostage until they could march them out to the gallows, A GALLOWS, that was erected outside the building? News crews had their equipment smashed and destroyed, but their cables were stolen and twisted into nooses.

Rioters flying the Thin Blue Line flag were right there as a policeman was beaten with a flagpole attached to an American flag. So the police are on your side? Not today? When exactly?

All of it was unreal to see. It’s unreal to think that it happened, so predictably and seemingly so easily.

And the question of what happens now is still up in the air. Articles of impeachment seem to be ready to go, but do they have the votes? Pence isn’t ruling out the 25th Amendment, but he is? Many lawmakers, mostly on the right, calling for unity, that moving ahead with any of this won’t repair the country.

The man should have been removed during the first impeachment. After last week, let’s not fool ourselves that throwing him out of office even a week ahead of schedule couldn’t stop him from doing more irreparable damage.

Four years ago I could not believe that Donald Trump, the slimy host of The Apprentice, the man with the golden tower, possibly got elected to the highest office in the land. I thought Americans were smarter. I did not understand how the Republican party, the party of fiscal conservatism could get behind such a incredibly bad businessman, who ran nearly every business he was in into the ground. What about the Republican party, the party of family values? So they elect someone thrice-divorced (okay, hey, not everyone gets it right the first time. Or the second.), but then the Access Hollywood tape hit. Beyond that, there was an endless parade of women saying he’d done this, said that, touched them. But that was okay too. I wondered how many Trump-supporting parents of young daughters on my FB feed would react if their girls came home from school saying a boy had done something to them. How could they defend his representing those family values?

When he put out a call to march on the Capitol, thousands showed up. Armed, willing to beat police officers to death with the same flags that represent them. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, people who have been screaming that their guns were being taken away for years and yet they still have guns. Are those the ones anyone wants to align themselves with? Trump enabled and emboldened all of these types to crawl out from the dark underbelly of the internet and feel comfortable and confident enough to step into the light. You might think your lawyer is slightly right-wing but seeing him in camo banging on the doors of the Capitol building should be a wake-up call. If you are marching at a protest and see that the guy next to you has a Nazi tattoo, wouldn’t you think… hmm… maybe this is not a place I should be? These are not the people I should be marching alongside?

It makes no sense. It’s a cult of personality at this point. They are now the party of Trump and it is a train run wild that could destroy the entire country. They spent the last four-plus years putting him forward as the face of something that the party is not, though a lot of Republicans hold their nose and pretend. The myth of the party, if you will.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that anyone saying that the Republican party is still whatever ideal of the Republican party existed in the past, small government, fiscal conservatism, all those things we talked about in A.P. History a thousand years ago, is dead and gone. Now it’s propping up business and failing the worker, stomping for one religion over all others, quashing the hard-won rights of people who look different, love differently, or worship differently than you do. Asking for unity after a Confederate flag walked through the Capitol building.

No. You look and see what you’ve done. You reap what you’ve sown, since the Bible is so important.

Now I’m no expert, but this is what I know. Over the years it has twisted into propping up huge business and that whole trickle-down effect that Reagan promised… never happened. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with working hard and building a successful business. I am, however, saying that the wealth gap is bigger than ever. Jeff Bezos has more money than he could literally ever spend, but his warehouse workers break their backs for peanuts. Drivers are often contracted out, with little to no oversight, they have no security, no insurance, they pee in bottles during their shifts just to make their routes. And the same things happens at countless companies, Amazon is just one example. The days of getting a job at the local factory that had benefits and paid well enough for a small house and a family are long gone but the myth of their existence still lingers. The cost of living has only gone up with the minimum wage far behind in the dust.

Extreme religious conservatives have taken further and further hold, putting every gain women have made over the years into more and more danger, along with other minority groups. And somehow, Donald Trump came along and conned the vast majority of them into going along with him. Donald Trump, a man so religious that he tear-gassed peaceful protestors in order to wave a Bible (a book he’s most assuredly never read as the man DOES NOT READ BOOKS) awkwardly in front of a church. Even those conservatives that may have disagreed were, and are mostly even now, too afraid of his rabid fan base to go against him. And those that agree? I don’t know how they could agree after literally fleeing an angry mob last week, but some still hold out. Good thing so many of their staffers grew up doing active shooter drills in school and knew how to hide effectively.

It’s nauseating. It’s infuriating. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again. Trump is not the entire problem, but he’s a symptom. He’s the face of the problem, he’s incredibly dangerous, and should never have gotten within 100 feet of the Oval Office to begin with. He needs to go, and he needs to never happen again. Nor should any member of his family get within any close number of votes or hope of winning another election.

Normally this is not the sort of post I want to write here. I’ve had a lot of these thoughts over the last four years. I had a lot of thoughts over the summer, what with the global pandemic and the BLM protests sweeping across the country. But no one needs to hear a middle-class white millenial’s take on that. I focused on supporting where I could afford to, educating myself as best I could with various media, and spent a lot of time thinking back on how I was raised. Comments, asides, things that I now wonder about, things that I might now question if they came up again.

When I was 7, we moved from Milwaukee out to the rural suburbs of what is now one of the most strongly Republican counties of the state. Google tells me the distance is 45.3 miles on the route we usually took, so let’s say 45-60 minutes depending on traffic. In the city, I had attended a private, Lutheran school. When we moved, I switched to public. I distinctly remember being asked by my new classmates if I knew Black people. I also remember being 1) incredibly confused by the question… don’t you know Black people? No, some of them had never seen one (at least that they could remember at 7 years old) and 2) where were all of them? My previous school had been a mix of kids from different backgrounds. Here, everyone was White. There wouldn’t be a single minority until we hit middle school, when there was one in my class. Again, the difference is 45 miles. Milwaukee was not the moon, but it may as well have been to some of those kids. To say that the new environment was insular is an understatement. And despite going to the same school, with mostly those same kids, from grades 2-12, I never felt like I fit in.

I got my first job when I was 15, as most of those kids did. Living out in the boonies, learning to drive was a necessity and if you ever wanted a prayer of getting a car, you’d better get to work. I remember my indignation at seeing how much came out in taxes from my first paycheck. I’d covered myself in milkshake for two weeks, wearing horrible white pants that were immediately filthy and sliding on grease on the floor for minimum wage ($5.15/hour at that time) and this was all that was left? Pretty sure my dad laughed at me and told me to thank the Democratic administration that was in power. I was incredibly annoyed at the loss of that money, but I was also 15 years old and working my very first, very sticky, part-time job.

Since then I’ve had lots of different jobs, and some of those in different countries even. And you know what? I grew up a bit, too. Now I understand that taxes… can pay for things! Roads! Infrastructure! Schools! All sorts of fun stuff! And when people pay more into that, the entire society benefits. Fun fact: of all the visitors I’ve had over the years, both here and during my time in Prague, nearly all of them have commented on the same three things.

  1. Wow, there are a lot less crappy cars here!
  2. Wow, the cities are so clean!
  3. Wow, the roads are in such smooth and nice condition! (They’re visitors, they don’t get annoyed at getting stuck at the same construction site constantly for years on end)

Numbers two and three are pretty clear benefits of higher taxes, and number one is down to higher regulation of the cars you are allowed to drive and their environmental impact, as well as their potential for harm to yourself/others. Considering I was once in an old Dodge Dart going downhill with a train track and a stop sign at the bottom of it when the brakes decided not to work, I’m on board with them checking on the cars here every few years.

I don’t look too often anymore to see how much I paid in taxes. It is what it is, and I’m okay with that. I choose to live here, and I choose to pay that price. But there are a lot of people, many of those who were running burgers beside me, or operating presses around me, or slinging laundry, who may never have had that realization. Maybe never will. May never put together that more money in their pocket, or that the tax return they look forward to every year means that Domino’s Pizza stepped in to fix the roads in the community. Yes, that happened. Great publicity for Domino’s, but shouldn’t it be a sign that there’s something wrong? Just like those “heartwarming” stories of teachers pooling their sick days to donate to a co-worker undergoing cancer treatment who has run out of her own. That’s not heartwarming, that’s dystopian. But healthcare is another long rambling post for another day.

Like many, I had former military members in my family and it was something to be proud of. We wore red, white and blue on the 4th, we were rich in ‘Americana’ decor. We were taught that the U.S. was the greatest country on Earth and I never questioned that for a long time. Is it great? Yes. Is it the greatest? No, but I don’t think any country is. They all have problems. Every country, like every person, is fallible. The U.S., like Germany, like every other country on Earth, has things that they do well, and they they do poorly.

It will always be my birth country, whether or not I ever live there again. But I do not recognize it today as we were taught it was. I don’t know if it was ever that way, or if that was all part of the myth… the one that people still try to keep alive. White picket fences (where my parents live, you can’t even build a fence unless you get a special permit and know someone on city council), those steady factory jobs (already covered that), mom in an apron getting dinner on the table by the time dad comes in at 5 (how many of those moms had drinking problems or addictions to questionable ’50s-era drugs for the nerves and how many of those dads stopped at the bar on the way home and maybe whacked her around once in a while, or the kids for that matter). And at some point, the Black family moved in and everyone else moved out.

I can’t say I see the appeal. Maybe it looked good in magazines, we’ve all seen Mad Men, but the underbelly was there. The rose-colored glasses, the nostalgia, the myth, they forget that part.

There is potential to come back from all of this. There is potential for people to learn, to grow, to accept the reality of the country as it is, vibrant, inventive, ingenious as ever, but that myth has to die. There can be a better country, but it has to be better for everyone. Partisan entrenchment can only hurt, can only drive the divisions deeper. I just hope enough people can grow, can learn, can think outside of what they know now, to see what could be.

…..

So that got really long and kind of weird but as I said, I’ve had a lot of these thoughts over the last four years and I just really needed to get them out.

If anyone read all of that, I salute you. I’m sorry it might not make a lot of sense. It’s 5:30am and it had to get out of my head if I have any chance of sleep.

6 thoughts on “Last Week

  1. My dad’s cousin (who lives in the U.S. but thankfully can’t vote as far as I know) is a Trump supporter. She keeps saying we need to look at the policies, not the man. That she doesn’t like what he says either but he’s done soooo many great things for America. Biden on the other hand is apparently a bad man as well but he also has bad policies and will destroy everything. Since both are bad it’s better to go with the one who greats women badly but at least (according to her) has the country’s best interests at heart. I guess that’s one way of reconciling the party of family values with everything Trump has done. Oh, and according to her the people in the Capitol weren’t Trump supporters – the peaceful protest was infiltrated by professional protesters (???) and people *clearly* displaying communist symbols. Umm, okay. And yes I am ashamed to be related to her. (She’s also a Mormon but I’m 100% sure that has nothing to do with anything – none of my other Mormon relatives are Trump supporters or conspiracy theorists).

    • People always say to look at the policies or say “well what about the economy” but when you ask for specifics, or how they have specifically benefited from his work, they come up empty. I do not understand how anyone can have really listened to him for the last 5 years and say he has anyone’s best interest at heart besides his own.

      No need for shame. Every family has them… and it’s not like we get to pick our family.

  2. > it’s not like we get to pick our family.

    True. But we can choose to cut them out of our lives. I have aunts and uncles with whom I *will* *not* *discuss* *politics* for reasons you can guess. I only see them every few years at most and I ~~think~~ hope they’ve learned to give it a rest when we are visiting.

    In some ways, Facebook saved me from them. I used to get hateful, xenophobic, racist emails forwarded by them — but then they took that trash to Facebook in the late 2000s, where I am not.

    Of course we also know where that led.

    • You can’t, but you’re absolutely right and sometimes it’s just not possible or practical to cut them out completely. Or you might not want to because they aren’t you know, terrible people. A detente is one option, and limiting exposure as well. But it’s frustrating when the call is coming from inside the house and ESPECIALLY when they’re the type of people that you were really close to and now you feel like you can’t even have a rational conversation about these things because they are so. dug. in. to what they think is reality. Hard to deal with.

      Thankfully our family is small and none of them are particularly toxic on FB. And I cleaned house prior to the election of most of my HS classmates so that got rid of the worst of it. Not worth fighting about, especially with chuckleheads I haven’t seen in 20 years.

  3. Well put. You mentioned a lot of the things that were spinning through my mind immediately after the insurrection.

    You know, I never felt bad about the higher taxes while I was living in Germany because so many other things were better because of that. I also enjoyed not having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for my medical care after the fact.

    • Thanks, Steven.

      Same and same. Being on public insurance now is also a nice change after spending a few years on private. I never needed much done, so it wasn’t a big deal paying things upfront, but it’s nice not to even think about it now.

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