Let’s Put It This Way…Fuck 2016

For anyone who has been around a good length of time, there are years that are remembered more fondly than others. For myself, there’s 2006, when I met my lovely wife; 2008, when we were married, and 20xx when we had our son. Then there are those years that are better left unsaid (mine was 1988 and let’s not get into why except to say that I came out of it a better person). With all of this said, there’s only one way to put the latest ‘trip around the sun’ and that is…fuck 2016.

There were two main areas that were ravaged over the past 365 days (and we’ve yet to actually reach New Year’s Eve, for fuck’s sake). One was the entertainment industry and, in particular, the music industry. When the year kicked off with the death of David Bowie (January 10) from liver cancer, it caught everyone by surprise simply because the very private Bowie had not informed the world he was in failing health.

A little more than a week later, another stunning death occurred. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey would pass away on January 18 following intestinal surgery and, by the end of the month, a band’s history was decimated by the death of two former members. Oddly enough on the same day – January 28 – Signe Toly Anderson, the original vocalist for Jefferson Airplane, and the former lead guitarist for the band, Paul Kantner, both passed away at the age of 74.

Arguably the most surprising death of the calendar year was the passing of Prince in April. “The Purple One” was found unresponsive in the elevator of his Paisley Park home on April 21, ending a charade that had been going on apparently for years. Bedeviled by pain from his strenuous and acrobatic performances over the last 30-plus years, Prince was found to have been using the painkiller fentanyl and overdosed on the powerful drug.

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The sheer number of deaths of legendary figures of the music world continued to mount throughout the entire year. Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire (February 4); Merle Haggard (April 6); Leonard Cohen (November 7); Sharon Jones, a fiery soul singer often called the “female James Brown” (November 18); two members of one band in Keith Emerson (March 11) and Greg Lake (December 7)…the legends that left had many music aficionados stunned into silence. To administer the coup de grace for the year, former Wham! front man and solo sensation George Michael passed on Christmas Day.

Add these in with the deaths of such acting icons as Alan Rickman (January 14), Abe Vigoda (January 26), Garry Shandling (March 24), Patty Duke (March 29), Gene Wilder (August 28), Florence Henderson (November 24) and Alan Thicke (December 13), sports legends like Muhammad Ali (June 3), Gordie Howe (June 10), Arnold Palmer (September 25) and former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt (June 28) and political figures such as Nancy Reagan (March 6), Elie Wiesel (July 2), Fidel Castro (November 25) and John Glenn (December 8), and even the hardest of souls would have to say that this has been a pretty devastating year (and we’ve barely scratched the surface of those who passed in 2016 – the awards shows this spring are going to be pretty somber affairs when it comes to the “In Memoriam” segment).

It is often asked why people get emotional over the death of entertainment figures, sports heroes or even politicians. It is because it is usually a link to our youth that has been snatched away from us by the talons of the Grim Reaper. Along with that past link, there is also the wealth of work that we will never hear or see those people perform again. In some cases, yes, the person has lived a full life…it still doesn’t make it easier on those who consider themselves fans of the person or their achievements in life to recognize the passing of the body but not the soul.

The other area that was particularly screwed up in 2016 was the world of politics (sorry if you were looking for something else). At the start of the year, it seemed that there were legitimate candidates on both sides of the aisle that would provide for a good choice for the citizens of the States of America. Then a narcissistic, xenophobic racist fascist stepped to the fore.

The man who would eventually become the GOP nominee was not challenged by his own party, partly because they thought he was a joke (and he is) but also because they thought that he had no chance to win. They also didn’t want to offend the “base” that flocked to him like lemmings off a cliff because that “base” was something they had taken a long time to create through their actions of the past 16 years. By pushing them away too hard, they would threaten their own chances when the GOP nominee fell out of favor.

The only problem with that was he never did. Instead of falling from favor, more members of the Ignorati came along for the ride. And because they could not coalesce behind an alternative member – one wasn’t conservative enough, another was too conservative, another’s family had been there before, another was too young, etc. – they allowed a travesty to take over their party. In fact, many of those stayed on the sidelines EVEN WHEN THEY NOMINATED HIM and thought that the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, would be the one to take him down.

Through the mechanizations of many parts, Election Day instead resembled “The Purge” as the Ignorati worked such an unlikelihood that no one considered it possible. To win, the GOP nominee had to sweep at least four states – some combination of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida – to be able to win the presidency. The GOP nominee took six of the seven, with Virginia the only holdout. The margin of victory in those states amounted to around 100,000 votes and the GOP nominee would actually lose the popular vote to Clinton.

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Now we enter a world that, with Twitler in charge, is a much darker place. He continues to threaten different agencies, looking for the names of those scientists who have done research on climate change or women who have worked to advance women’s rights in foreign countries. He continues to harp on developing a registry for Muslims, threatening to enrage a religion that is the second largest in the world with 1.6 BILLION devotees. He also threatens to take us back to the era where a simple error – lost contact with command and control, a “broken arrow” of a stolen or misplaced nuke or a simple regime change in a country – could bring us to the brink of thermonuclear disaster.

The only way to stop such a despot is to fight on every corner, for every fiber and inch of earth that is possible. It will be more difficult in 2017 as the GOP has complete command of the government, but they now also have no fucking excuses when (and it will be when) things go FUBAR. There may be those who say wait for a couple of years to change the narrative, but the time is now to stop any forward momentum that the GOP nominee may think he has (which he is highly mistaken – there is no “mandate” as many members of the Ignorati have been claiming).

These were just the two jewels of the crappy crown that topped the Year 2016. With hope, we can put this year behind us and find better things going on in the New Year. Let’s blow the horns, rev up the noisemakers and tip the bottle of champagne…fuck 2016! It’s done! And let’s hope that 2017 brings us better circumstances than the previous 365 days has.

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Let’s Bring It Down a Notch…Actions and Rhetoric Getting Out of Control

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One thing that has been a constant in the United States is that we have a healthy appetite for conflict, differences of opinion and combative discourse. It’s been ingrained in the nation since its inception, since we first landed on Plymouth Rock, that there have been two (or more) sides to every story and that story has to be defended. Since the midpoint of the 20th century – hell, perhaps a bit earlier? – those actions have been spinning out of control and its time to bring it down a notch.

(Writer’s note:  If you say that “well, your rhetoric is causing it, too” I will probably respond by saying yes. At the same time, I’ve always had a philosophy…if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and shits like a duck…it’s probably a duck and I will call it as such. Hence, when I soon hereafter will refer to Trump as a Nazi officer, he has earned the title through his actions, his philosophies and his own rhetoric.)

The 2016 Presidential battle between former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton and wanton stain on the human condition Donald Trump is the latest example of how things have gotten a bit out of control. Back during the Republican National Convention, there were cries of “Kill her!” and “Lock her up!” implying that the rules of common decency, law and “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t apply to the Secretary. It’s only gotten worse since then, especially since it appears that Oberführer Trump will crash and burn spectacularly in about three weeks.

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First there have been the constant rantings from the candidate himself, basically saying that if he wins, all is good. If he loses, however, then there’s a massive conspiracy that is working against him that is trying to steal the election (and, quite honestly, trying to watch the simpletons who support Trump wrap their minds around this concept is utterly stunning). The very action of accusing the election of being unduly tilted is, at the minimum, an insult to the men and women acroEss the nation whose sole purpose is to ensure that the election is properly run. At the maximum, it is “banana republic” territory when you see something along the lines of what used to happen (and still does) in Cuba, with Fidel Castro winning a “vote” of the people by a 90% margin.

For well over 200 years, this country has been founded on the fact that, come a national election, the people make their choice and the Electoral College decides the outcome (that’s an argument for another time). NEVER in the history of the country has one candidate decried the system in saying that it is conspiring against them or that “unseen actors” are trying to sway the results. Even in the hotly contested 2000 election, then-Vice President Al Gore conceded the election to George Bush (for better or worse) rather than drag out the process and put a bigger strain on the democracy than the back-and-forth debate was doing at that point.

But no, now we have a narcissistic bastard who can’t believe that everyone doesn’t love him. And its having an effect on the general populace.

Having his own “John McCain moment” last week, Republican Vice Presidential nominee (and frequent Trump apologist) Mike Pence stood in front of a woman and ACTUALLY HAD TO SAY “Don’t say that,” when she went off on a rant about how the campaign was being stolen from Trump and that she, “personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I’m ready for a revolution.” Adding to this, longtime Trump surrogate and Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Tweeted a photo of a mob holding torches and actually had the audacity to say, “(It’s) Pitchforks and torches time.”

Thus, we can’t be surprised when it actually spills over into, you know, actual firebombing. A North Carolina office of the Orange County Republican Party was firebombed over the weekend, while a swastika was spray painted next door along with the quote “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” At this moment, there are no suspects in custody but, in a remarkable piece of laying personal politics aside, the DEMOCRATS in the state led by two academics raised over $13,000 to help the Republican Party rebuild or find other office space to conduct their business (yes, there was some backlash against the idea, but if you think the GOP would have done the same thing if it were reversed, you have more faith in Republicans than I do).

Finally, the mere act of endorsing a candidate has brought up one of the ugliest occurrences in the history of journalism. The Arizona Republic, which in its history has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for President (and we’re talking 125 years here), did just that last week in endorsing Clinton (and this isn’t the first conservative newspaper to endorse Clinton by any stretch). Their readership responded in a controlled, reasoned matter…and if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Reporters received threats along the lines of “You’re dead, watch your back,” “You should be put in front of a firing squad,” or “We will burn you down” as a reply from their readers. The threats even reached as far as going to the delivery people whose only connection to the paper is DROPPING IT ON A FUCKING DOORSTEP. As a finale, there were many who discussed Don Bolles, a former journalist with the Republic who, 40 years ago, was murdered through the usage of a car bomb in a case he was investigating (Bolles would die 11 days after suffering many painful injuries). Such a fate for the editorial board was repeatedly wished.

When did this bullshit reach this point?

Difference of opinion in politics is supposed to be resolved through logic, evidence and discussion. Unfortunately, when one side started either making up evidence or denying the existence of logic, the discussion went out the window quickly. Instead, now all we have are different factions who lock into a viewpoint, immovable in their ideas lest it shatter their little world. In fact, it has gotten so bad that CONSPIRACY THEORIES are now a part of political campaigns, as frequently used by Trump over the course of the 2016 elections (and not just against Clinton – he literally carpet-bombed the GOP with a plethora of conspiracy lulus).

Over the remaining three weeks of the election (and it will be three weeks as Clinton will decimate Trump in the general election), it is pertinent on the people of the United States to try to clean up this mess that has been created. That squalor has been around since – well, if we had to place a blame, it is when the public square became the internet and ideas could be shared in seconds rather than in the time it took to make a phone call or send a telegram or a letter. While public discourse is a good thing (in most cases), there’s sometimes it does step too far.

With the internet, we’ve become more fractured, more frayed. We find things that support our own theories rather than actually taking the time to examine things from another side. This has only made us more unhesitatingly ugly towards each other, with that ugliness now beginning to slide over into the potential for real violence (remember how one candidate said the other could be taken care of “by the Second Amendment people” or that said candidate would “jail” a political opponent…but I digress).

It’s time we reverse this trend and I’ll make an effort along these lines. I will try not to be combative with people I discuss issues with – no matter how moronic they become – and will try to maintain a semblance of logic, evidentiary process and clear discussion. Now I will couch this in the fact that, if someone steps outside those boundaries, then all bets are off and hellfire is coming. By doing this, perhaps it is a step in the right direction.

We still have time to change the discourse in the United States. Perhaps we can even affect the discourse in Washington, D. C., and other legislatures around the country. The alternative isn’t a pretty one as, for the past eight years at least, we’ve seen a precursor that could explode into all measures of incivility.

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