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A strip of lights; criminality and more

Monday 11/22/21

I'm out of coffee so I went down to the breakfast joint just now, a little after five, to get a cup. It's warm out. I could see, for the first time this year, Christmas lights on outside the market down the street. Four middle aged guys were in the small restaurant where I get my coffee talking about the NFL games yesterday, with one guy saying, "It was the first time my two teams won on the same day," whatever the hell that means. Idiots like to hold court in these kinds of settings. I feel a little bad for a person like this, because such a moment is all they have in life. There's an audience, which they don't ordinarily have, and they can say whatever stupid thing they wish and think people are paying attention.

I went to bed and woke up thinking about the people at that Christmas parade in Wisconsin, into which a man drove his SUV in order to kill strangers. The little batch of Christmas lights in the warm air struck me a different way than it normally would. Just this early sign of Christmas. Rudolph is on tonight. I'm sure young people at that parade were looking forward to watching, as I would have been. You're out there having your cocoa and being a part of your community. I watched the video. This is some country we have and some world we live in. And the person who did it is exactly who'd you think would be the person to do it--a career criminal. There is a push in this country, via the media and so-called "celebrities"--who are the least educated people we have, and among the most entitled and delusional in that so many think they are this oracle-like voice of wisdom, like Reese Witherspoon, who I don't think is smart enough to outflank a wet rag in battle--to destigmatize criminality.

But in the worst cases like these, and so many others, frankly, it's usually people who have been this way their entire lives and will continue to be. It's rarely someone who made this one mistake back in their past, or had things get away from them, or got caught up in a system in a way that was beyond the scope of their infractions. Frequently it's someone recently let out on bail, too. Make less excuses for people, not more. Here's a crazy thought: maybe it's their fault. Maybe committing atrocities beyond the pale, no matter what you've been through--or haven't--in life are your fault. Maybe it's not white people or Black people or patriarchy or mom and dad or the left or the right or the police: it's you. If you need things to be a certain way--or to think they are--not to murder, maim, rape, molest, you are the problem and nothing else is.

I think the majority of people get this. But the country is not run by the majority. That's not a politics thing or a voting thing; it's a who-controls-narrative thing. Who has the platforms thing. Who are the mouthpieces. Who makes decisions on the way the news of the day is presented. Who talks down to you. And some people who never thought about race and who were never racists are thinking about race now in harmful ways. They're becoming increasingly clannish and in their minds they are doing a kind of fight fire with fire thing, because that is something they associate with looking after their families. By telling people again and again that they are racist, they are becoming this thing they never were. Because they are sick of it. They are sick of being told how awful they are. They are sick of being blamed for things that happened before they were born. They are becoming increasingly sick of people get rewarded for skin color. There are so many things that people are afraid to speak out about. They're not looking to be leaders, they lack the language skills. They just want some form of peace for their group, by which I mean their family unit, however far that unit goes. They fear attacks and the mob. So many people just sit, simmer, stew, boil. They live one way and know certain things, and they have to live like these obviously true things are not true at all.

Then the people of the pose hop on social media and talk about how far we've come, and what was acceptable at one point in history a few decades ago isn't the same now, because we've changed and we've grown, and you can't apply the thresholds of decency from the 1980s to now, but that's a lie. There is no change and growth. We are not better now. You have more people pretending now because they're scared. That's not decency or morality. It's people who don't want a shitload of insane people blowing up their lives. They don't want to deal with that. But you aren't scrubbing the ability to know what is obvious out of most people. They're not becoming more "tolerant" and this isn't even what tolerance means. Tolerance means respecting--or at least allowing for--contrasting viewpoints. Not intimidating someone into going along with you and your narrative.

You think people are tolerant of seeing pronouns in Twitter bios? Do you think that they believe those pronouns are in good faith, or do you think they believe they are a pose to get a kind of credit? That's the thing about tolerance--it works around an axis of good faith. Of true belief. Not artifice. What do you really think most people think when they see that? You think they think, "oh, good for them." They don't. They think that people have made up issues and causes for attention. And that does not make them monsters, it doesn't make them intolerant. I am not even commenting one way or the other, but I do know that the people who don't go along with this are themselves judged as mentally and morally inferior; beneath the people who "get it." Often, these things mean that most people, for as lost as they get, and broken as so many are, still have a grip on reality and they're not ceding their existences over to fantasy land. That's what they think. But they're not going to say what they think publicly. Where would they, even, if they wanted to? On the Facebook group for their town or their kid's high school? They're not going to do that. They want to be hired to fix your plumbing and they don't want to create problems for their kid.

But in this disconnect of which I am speaking is the real tension and anger that is currently ruling this country, which is also such an inarticulate nation where people stammer and repeat what others have stammered. To reduce everything to "Yea, I'm Woke!" and "Woke people suck!" is only a form of frustrated, childish stammering that creates more fragmentation, but it's what many are left with, and not being able to do or express more increases tensions, put them further on edge. It's not white supremacy or any other popular news cycle point/theme. It's lack of accountability. It's having to pretend that something that is one thing is always something else. It's exhausting, it's dehumanizing, and it's the kind of exhaustion that also fills people with resentment, which is different than anger. The former lasts longer and can be more perfidious because it fuels fragmentation. That doesn't matter in some arenas, and can be a boon--say, between opponents in hockey--but it does matter in an effort at having a working society.

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