Anti-Trump Rantings, Part 1

15 Nov

Two days ago, while smoking in the alley behind my apartment, I collapsed onto the broken remains of an old bench, broke down, and wept into my hands. I had gone out to cool my nerves after getting into an ill-advised and heated Facebook argument. I had made the assertion that there was no middle, no political moderates left in a post-Trump world. For this, I was labeled a “smug liberal” and proceeded to lose my shit.

As I paced back and forth it dawned on me just how easy it was for evil to prevail over good. Hillary Clinton was by no means a paragon of virtue, but in the broadest sense, she represented the moral high ground and she was handily defeated, in part because of the hubris of her party and its supporters, but also due to her opponent’s masterful manipulation of the political Game. It was just so easy for him to do it, so easy to get the uneducated and the angry and the hateful to join him in his narcissistic quest. It wasn’t that he won that made me cry like a baby, it was how he barely had to try to do it.

Since November 8th there is no telling how I will feel when I wake up on any given day. Sometimes I will go throughout my business feeling almost normal only to have the rage bubble up inside me without provocation. I am an of an opinion that seems in opposition to that of most of peers, that by voting for Trump, those 58 million Americans have rendered their opinions inert. I see others who share this view—women, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community—but very few white men. I find this troubling.

I feel like I have been fighting my whole life to define my identity. I am perhaps not the best public speaker, and like my father, have a tendency to “stir the pot” as my wife calls it, to say or write something incendiary, something that holds a kernel of my true beliefs, but is sensational enough to get people talking. Some might call that trolling but I don’t do it to enrage, I do it out of an aching desire to engage in discourse with people I love and respect. This sensationalism, along with my pride, is one of my greatest faults, and it colors people’s opinions of me. It undercuts my true convictions, which are resolute.

I didn’t really care about politics until college. I didn’t like George W. Bush anymore than the next New Yorker, but I was a teenager, and I was apathetic. I marched on Washington in 2003 with now-Jill Stein supporter Susan Sarandon, but I didn’t do it wholly out of opposition to the Iraq War, but because it was cool. In college I developed a set of beliefs that generally seemed more progressive and left-leaning than those around me, who were of a more traditional Democratic variety.

I was no doubt naïve, but I believed what I said, even if those around me did not. I never felt like I was being taken seriously. I was called a bleeding heart, my opinions were scoffed at, and it made me feel like I didn’t have as firm a grip on the world as the friends I loved and respected. I think this is why the “smug liberal” accusation hit me so hard. It was so dismissive, to simply assume that I am a New Yorker trapped in his bubble, unaware of the rest of the country, of the people outside my own social circles.

This is why I have chosen to blog instead of repost memes and blurt thoughts out on social media. I used to roll my eyes at people who said they were quitting Facebook but now I think the choice is valid. As John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight earlier this week, social media is part of the problem. Mark Zuckerberg may be in denial, but he has helped Trump win. Social media creates the echo chambers that have led to this divide, and as a platform, it’s almost as if the site was designed to spread misinformation. This means that for most of the nation, there is no such thing as a fact anymore. Fact is opinion, and no one wants to take a stand anymore. If I dismiss the shitty opinions of the American right, I am called “smug” by fellow liberals, people who are supposed to be my allies, because there exists this nonsensical notion that all opinions are equal, that there is no true morality, that being racist is just as valid as being empathetic.

I don’t think people realize just how much of the world and our nation I have seen and experienced. I acknowledge that my privilege as a rich white man is what has enabled me to do that, but I do not think lacking that privilege is an excuse for ignorance. Every time I hear something Islamaphobic, I recall a vivid memory from my trip to Morocco. My parents and I were exploring a Medieval garden, full of beautiful columns and fountains and the geometric patterns Muslim culture is known for. The gardener was taking a break and was basking in the sun, reading the Qoran. My father took an interest, and while neither shared a language, the man still took joy in showing my father the beautiful calligraphy in his copy of the holy text.

I don’t like religion, I think it is the root of many of the world’s problems, but at the tail end of college I came to the realization that I had to tolerate religious people even if their belief in God was utterly preposterous. They may be misguided, but they are still people, and despite everything, I still believe that most people in this world are good at heart.

But I refuse to tolerate hatred, and this brings me back to my original point. Despite my worldly travels, despite having befriended people of all races, religions and sexual orientations over the years, the fact of the matter is that my social group is insulated and throughout the years has been primarily comprised of white men. Which is why I find it so frustrating how easily my fellow white male liberals have jumped to the conclusion that we must work with the other side, that we must tolerate their hatred and find common ground.

The opinions of my friends vary, and I respect them all, and many have almost convinced me to change this view. But every day that rage strikes me again and I realize that I cannot. I cannot forgive those 58 million people for doing what they did, for ruining the country my father came to because he hated Apartheid and wanted to live in, a land whose values he shared, the land I was born in, that my son was born in. I do not think a white male liberal’s race discounts his opinion, but I do find it very telling that the only people I hear this line of thought coming from is white men.

I think there are a variety of factors. For one, the country is sitting on a powder keg and I think a lot of white male liberals see themselves as mediators. They want to heal the divide before it becomes a chasm and as most Trump supporters are white men, they feel they are the ones who can reach them. I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I do think many white men are simply not afraid enough as they don’t stand to lose anything in the next four years. Their lives are not likely to be affected by a Trump presidency, and thus they feel they can “wait and see” or “give Trump a chance” because they aren’t the targets of the hate crimes happening all over the nation.

A lot of white male liberals I know are also transplants living in liberal havens like Los Angeles and New York, hailing from places like Michigan, central Pennsylvania and other areas that are less diverse ethnically than where I grew up, but perhaps more diverse politically. They know people who voted for Trump, high school friends, family members. They don’t want to look at those people in an unfavorable light, even though deep down they know what they did was wrong.

I can relate. I spent all of high school hearing “your dad is racist,” “how many slaves did your dad own,” “did your dad like to beat your slaves?” It was infuriating because despite his faults, I loved my dad and knew he rejected hate, that that was why he came to America. But there was some truth to the jibes—I no doubt had family members who supported Apartheid, or at the very least, were okay living with it. My father couldn’t, anymore than I can stand to live under Trump. It’s a hard thing to accept—that some of your ancestors might have been terrible—but it’s something almost all white men have to accept if we are to move forward.

It is easier to make the argument that Trump supporters are “not all bad” and that we can still work together. And there is truth in that; as angry as I am, I am not so naïve as to think every single person who voted for Trump is some kind of monster. But what they did is monstrous, and that’s where I draw the line. We cannot normalize that vote. We cannot normalize Trump’s behavior, and if those 58 million believe, even for a second, that there is some validity in their choice, then progressivism has lost. If the Left decides to shake hands with the people who made racism culturally acceptable again, then we have forsaken the very core of our beliefs.

Because people think I am blinded by my bubble, they think I have never met a Republican in my life, let alone a Trump supporter, but I have. I am dreading Thanksgiving with my in-laws because many are Trump supporters. My wife’s uncle was a particularly fervent follower, and I have this vision of walking into the dining room, seeing him wearing that abominable red cap, and once again, losing my shit.

Every day I go to work I have to be reminded that Trump supporters are people and not animals because one of my favorite coworkers voted for him. We have an unspoken agreement not to bring it up because we both like each other and enjoy playing board games in our free time. But it hurts to look at him now, it hurts to know that someone I like and respect could still vote for such a hateful movement.

I know my language has been incendiary because I am angry but I want to set the record straight. I do not want to fight fascism with fascism. I do not want anyone’s rights stripped from them just because they voted for evil incarnate. When I say “they deserve to be ignored” I don’t mean they should be thrown in jail or something authoritarian like that. What I’m saying is when they cast their ballots, they threw their lot in with white supremacy. We cannot let them think this is acceptable, and if we cater to their beliefs, it will only help to solidify them further. I hope someday we can heal the divide, that we can convince those people that what they did was wrong and get them on our side, but today is not that day. Today is a day for anger and horror, and it saddens me to see so many white men growing complacent. They want to “move on” when there is no turning back now.

I think a lot of my passion comes from having a child. He’s only three months old now, but I think about his future, when he’s a boy and is beginning to understand the world. I cannot stomach the thought of looking him in the eyes and saying, “I forgave the people who voted for the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, anti-American fascist.” As I said in a Facebook post, others may be able to see their better angels, but I cannot. I cannot forgive. I cannot forget.

I don’t want sectarian violence and global cataclysm anymore than the next person. I have a son. I don’t want him to live in a world like that. I know it is scary, but I truly believe we are living in 1936 all over again. And in the years to come, I think you will all see that today was the day to draw a line in the sand.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Blog- Part 1

3 Jun

HBO was totally trolling us with this promo image.

As anyone who’s Googled me in the past year has probably noticed, I don’t really blog anymore. I’m too busy, what with a baby on the way, plus multiple jobs and far too many hobbies. But if there’s one thing I’m always down to discuss ad infinitum it’s Game of Thrones, and at the request of some family and friends, here I am.

Thoughts on Episodes 1-2

For the most part, season 6 has been great. It’s definitely better than season 5, probably better than season 4, and maybe up there with seasons 1 and 2 (at least so far). As a book reader it has been especially exciting witnessing so many big reveals sure to come in The Winds of Winter, assuming it’s ever actually released (fingers crossed). Yes, there are book fans who nitpick the show and are disappointed to see it surpass the plot of the books, and even some who swear to not watch it so that the purity of the book-reading experience is preserved, but most of us can’t wait that long to see how the story unfolds.

The first two episodes started off slow, as is par for the course with GoT. I do sometimes wish they had more exciting premieres and I have always thought the Ds should use the pre-credits teaser more often than they do (only featured in the premieres for seasons 1 and 3), but there are just too many characters and plot threads to hit the ground running after a ten month break. The season picks up momentum once Jon Snow is unsurprisingly, but thankfully resurrected, and doesn’t really slow down until last Sunday’s installment. (more...)

Final Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 5

17 Jun

Pretty much the only scene in this ep that didn't make me want to jump off a bridge.

It is a strange world we live in, where grimdark is now the norm for Hollywood cheesiness. You wouldn’t think a show where a little girl is burned alive and another serially raped could be cheesier than its source material, but somehow David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have managed just that.  Despite its fantasy setting, A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t an escape from reality and the show has never been afraid to tackle the ugliness featured in George R.R. Martin’s books. Grimdark is defined by an absence of any emotion other than misery, but ASOIAF has never been like that. What I love about the series is despite its character deaths and dark subject matter, it shows the totality of the human experience: joy, love, despair, hope and sorrow, it’s all in there. On season 5? Unending misery.

My biggest criticism is of course the character assassination of Stannis Baratheon. From very early on Stannis was painted as a villain and for one simple reason: the Ds think you’re all idiots. The Ds are right that ASOIAF is a hard story to get into, but they think that gen audiences are so dumb that if they don’t make it as cheesy and simplistic as possible, everyone will get lost “We need a hero in a post-Ned Stark world!” the Ds cried. Thus Tyrion, a multi-faceted and not always likable character in the books (he turns a singer into stew and feeds him to commoners) is elevated to Hero of the Story. His opponent? Stannis. “Well Stannis kills his brother, so let’s make him really, really evil,” the Ds say. “Gen audiences are too dumb to appreciate a story where good and evil aren’t black and white!” So Stannis kills Renly and this is over and over brought up as The Reason Stannis is a Bad Guy. In the fifth season finale we’re meant to root for Brienne as she unsheathes Oathkeeper and declares “in the name of Renly Baratheon, the one true king, I sentence you to death.” (more...)

Game of Thrones- “Kill the Boy” Recap

11 May

The most akward family dinner of all time.


Though the pacing is still a bit too slow for my liking, Game of Thrones kicked things up a notch with “Kill the Boy,” the season’s best episode by far. I should note that one of the reasons I probably liked this episode more than others was it neglected the series’ worst and most troubling plotline: the Jaime/Bronn Dorne Extravaganza Hour. The description for next week’s episode promises “the Sand Snakes attack,” so maybe Dorne will finally become interesting (the episode title is also the Martells’ mantra, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”), but considering where the other stories have been going it feels like they almost could have cut the Dorne story out entirely.

But back to the topic at hand: “Kill the Boy,” an episode that I am already seeing is contentious among show watchers and book readers (as has been the case with most of this season so far). The AV Club actually writes two sets of reviews for each Thrones episode, one for “experts” and one for “newbies,” and the newbies scores have been consistently lower throughout. As I’ve said before, this is most likely due to book readers knowing the basic gist of where a lot of this is going, so the slow pace isn’t as bothersome, whereas show watchers crave for the action-packed days of Season 4, where every week someone was either getting poisoned or stabbed through the mouth. (more...)

Game of Thrones Season 5- Thoughts on Episodes 3 & 4

4 May

I want to start off by saying that despite any quibbles I may express, I have the utmost respect for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. I don’t think fans quite realize the immense amount of pressure put upon them or the sheer volume of work they put in every year. They have basically been living and breathing Game of Thrones for the past five years, spending half the year writing ten episodes and then the other half shooting, editing and promoting it. It must be exhausting.

As an aspiring writer, I often think about the difficulty of adapting A Song of Ice and Fire to a visual medium, and so I can forgive missteps because the Ds have such an enormous task set before them. But as an aspiring writer, I can’t help but think of ways I would do things differently. After four episodes, I can finally see past the veil of my fandom and agree with show watchers that this season is moving too slowly. At first I didn’t notice—the first three episodes were a lot of set-up, and knowing what’s coming next made that exciting.

But “The Sons of the Harpy,” despite some great action scenes, moved the plot forward at a snail’s pace, and added unnecessary and boring filler while cutting subplots from the books. I am reminded of the third season, which despite the Red Wedding, still remains the weakest year in my opinion (others say it’s season two). In that season, certain subplots, namely the Brotherhood Without Banners, were cut or trimmed, in service of simplifying the often overly-complex story and moving it along faster. But it actually did the opposite because while those subplots were just that—sub—they were also plots. When you cut them what you get instead is scene after scene of Lady Olenna arguing with Tywin over how much money to spend on the Royal Wedding. No one wants to see that. (more...)

Game of Thrones- The House of Black & White Recap

21 Apr

As we enter week two of Game of Thrones’ fifth season, events start to ramp up despite a noticeably slower pace. The pacing here feels deliberate, and with some exceptions, each storyline is moving forward inch by inch. This is the nature of the show at this point, so I’m not so much criticizing as observing. Time still flies when you’re watching GoT; there is no show on TV more entertaining or engaging.

“The House of Black and White” also saw the show begin to veer even further away from the books, with mixed results. Before I jump into my location-by-location notes, I wanted to point out that in rare fashion, this episode had no boobs in it, not even a single one. I wonder if now that the story has grown so complex we’ll see fewer tits-for-tits-sake on the show, though last week certainly gave us a huge helping of man ass.

Also of note: no new location added to the world map despite a scene that took place in Dorne. My guess is that since said scene occurred at the Water Gardens and not Sunspear, the Dornish capital, that they are holding off on adding anything to the map for the time being. (more...)

Game of Thrones- Season 5 Premiere Mega Recap

14 Apr

I was so excited in the hours leading up to last night’s Game of Thrones premiere I could barely think straight. It’s rare for me to get so excited about a piece of pop culture these days; I’m older, I’m more cynical, and I can more easily see through Hollywood’s deceptive veil. But man, Game of Thrones makes me feel like a giddy teenager again.

Overall, this was a pretty standard Thrones opener. With so many characters and so many complex plotlines, GoT premieres have basically become “check in with all the people” installments, and often it feels as if the show has two premieres. They can’t fit all the characters into one episode, so they spread them out between the first two (like in season 3).

I’ll admit season 4 had a better opener. “Two Swords” is one of the show’s best eps and got the audience up to speed much more elegantly than “The Wars to Come” does, though the latter is still a good episode. Last season’s second episode had a Holy Shit moment in the Purple Wedding; season 5 seems to be moving at a more deliberate pace, which I think is appropriate considering that with the death of Tywin Lannister, the board has been swept clean.

I am going to separate my recap into a NON-SPOILERS section for show watchers and a SPOILERS section for book readers, and will be separating the discussion by location. But let’s start with the opening. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 3

12 Apr

Tonight's the night!

3. The Rains of Castamere

Season 3, Episode 9
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter

The Red Wedding. It’s the most masterful sequence in Game of Thrones history, and its most horrifying. It’s hard to watch, but it all happens so fast you don’t have time to look away. It’s as gut-punching as it is in the books, even more so, and it has the same impact even if you’ve read it before and know it’s coming.

Like with “Baelor,” the episode in which Ned Stark loses his head, the Ds pepper the episode with triumphant moments so as to deflect any suspicion of impending doom. Daario, Jorah and Grey Worm single-handedly capture the slave city of Yunkai, which while a little unbelievable, is still cool to watch. I’ve mentioned fight choreography before, and what I love about Game of Thrones is how every character has a unique fighting style, and how they are informed by their personality. Jon also finally turns on Ygritte and the Wildlings and is saved by Bran and Rickon’s direwolves.

But of course the majority of the episode is spent at the Twins, where Robb, Catelyn and the Northmen have to suffer Walder Frey’s insults even before he betrays them. As with the death of Ned, everything seems to be building towards a positive outcome. Walder Frey, while dickish, appears amicable to the new marriage pact, and mostly seems to just be fucking with Robb as penance. Edmure’s bride Roslin even turns out to be the One Hot Frey, another jab at Robb. In the previous episode, Robb revealed a new battle plan to his mother: take Casterly Rock while Tywin is caught up in King’s Landing (in the books it’s a plan to retake Moat Cailin from the Ironborn and subsequently the North). Robb’s wife Talisa is also pregnant, and decides to name their unborn son Eddard after Robb’s deceased dad. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 2

10 Apr

6. The Children

Season 4, Episode 10
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alex Graves

When I first watched Game of Thrones’ most recent season finale, I decided it was not only the season’s best episode, but quite possibly the entire series’. It was after all, the only ep HBO submitted for the Primetime Emmys (it didn’t win). Having now watched it four more times, I don’t think it’s quite as superb as I initially believed. A lot happens and it’s very exciting and it’s a great closer to a season, so at the time I think I was just all hyped up on its awesomeness. But in the end, “The Children” is an episode that simultaneously illustrates Thrones’ greatest strengths and weaknesses. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 1

8 Apr

With Game of Thrones’ fifth season premiering this Sunday, it’s time for me to do what I do best: arbitrary rankings in list form! Here are, in my humble opinion, the best episodes of Thrones thus far:

10. The Lion and the Rose

ILLUSIONS, Michael. Tricks are what a whore does for money.

Season 4, Episode 2
Written by George R.R. Martin
Directed by Alex Graves

A.K.A. “The Purple Wedding” episode, the second installment in GoT’s most recent season saw the villain everyone loved to hate, Joffrey Baratheon, finally kick the bucket. The wedding is the best sequence in the episode, but there is a lot of other great stuff to. This was the ep that finally turned the Boltons into real characters and true villains. Ramsay hunting a girl with dogs was a bit excessive (though canonical), but the scene in which Roose rebukes his bastard for castrating Theon, forcing Ramsay to prove Reek’s loyalty with a close shave, really personified who these guys are and how awful they are. The ep also gave some much-needed humanization to Stannis, who stands up for his daughter Shireen when his crazy wife demands she be spanked. (more...)