Repentant-Not-Repentant Republicans, and The Atlantic

Not typically the kind of thing I’d be inclined to share, but I will do so, with my comment from earlier, in reference to this piece in The Atlantic, by Eliot Cohen:
 
“I wonder if this is partly why I keep seeing people like David Frum circulating in what I will call the resistive discourse: someone who himself bears some responsibility for getting us here, now trying to salvage his place in history. I suppose I should consider reluctantly giving him a seat at the table of common sense, but I just can’t stop being angry at him–and people like Cohen frankly–who helped pave the way for this situation today, and it’s partly why I just can’t get on board with all these Frum pieces and appearances.”
 
As an aside, can we agree that The Atlantic has become the official home for repentant-non-repetentant Republicans who are beginning to see the light?
 
I’m not sure they should be given an out. The Train of Justice left the station a long time ago, and they’re scrambling after the caboose. But those of a more measured temperament will surely admonish me for not accommodating our new fellow travelers, however faux-repentant they may be.
 
Full disclosure vis-a-vis The Atlantic: my war refugee mother, who came to this country by herself at the age of 17, alone, via Ellis Island, speaking or writing no English (it became her third language), with no friends or family to welcome her, and who was quarantined as well for having had Measles at one time, eventually came to publish one of her first short stories of fiction in The Atlantic in the early 60s. It was about a young girl growing up in a Czech village, having to take one of her family’s pigs to market, an animal to which she had grown attached.
 
The story was a modest success, and was translated in to a few different languages, and published in a few anthologies, and eventually led to her receiving an advance offer from Knopf for her first novel.

Political overlap, leverage, changing minds

In light of the swift death of HR 621, due in large part to the activism of a diverse cross-section of people that includes hunters, conservationists, backpackers, and most every other demographic concerned with land access and environmental conservation, let me offer something that’s been on my mind for a long time.
 
It’s about the possibility of building bridges between otherwise antagonistic communities; about messaging, and, dare I say it, about changing minds.
 
Land access and environmental protection is an area where there is a lot more potential for common cause between traditionally opposed demographics than is understood, and I think it’s a connection that’s worth working on.
 
My baseline position starts as a conservationist and defender of California’s ecology and native flora and fauna. I do that, I climb mountains, smell flowers, camp in the backcountry, all that stereotypically “left” stuff.
 
I also defend ethical hunting and fishing, even though I don’t really participate much in either. By extension, I support responsible, reasonably regulated gun ownership for purposes of recreation, hunting, target shooting, and home protection. Stereotypically “right” stuff.
 
While I do not support opening up more protected lands to ORV use, I do support the idea of maintaining ORV legal areas that exist, and I–and many of us naturalists–have to recognize that our vehicles are themselves having an impact, and that we often drive long, long miles producing emissions in pursuit of our passions. We are not angels either.
 
I also happen to have friends who are hardcore Democrats who also own guns. I have friends who are professional climbing and mountain guides who also hunt big game. I have friends who practice rigorous LNT principles and also like to take modified 4WD vehicles rock crawling.
 
In these overlaps there is opportunity.
 
What can we do with that?
 
How do each of us–coming from our baseline positions–adjust our messaging to actually reach other people who are starting from different positions?
 
Can I use my respect for rational gun ownership as a de-wedge issue to begin a conversation with someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula to demonstrate that
 
A) Many people on “the left” do not want to “take their guns away,” thereby earning some measure of good will, establishig common ground and thus
 
B) Maybe a pro-Democratic notion of strengthening Organized Labor and advanced, social job-training programs might indeed be desirable in their communities which have been decimated by closing factories, closing mines, and closing economic opportunity.
 
Which, once established, may actually begin to demonstrate to people who otherwise demonize “the Left” that actually, having someone work to protect your welfare, develop and strengthen your community isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Paul Ryan, Catholic

Yesterday, I was thinking about Paul Ryan, and his positioning as a thoughtful man of conscience, integrity, and, as a Catholic.
 
Reza Aslan effectively, succinctly points to the brazen hypocrisy of Ryan’s stance over the last year. We all know about that.
 
What I can’t fathom is how a man of such apparently sincere Catholic faith can be so anti-human in his actual deeds as third most powerful man in America.
 
It is especially heart-rending given the explicit dictates of Pope Francis himself, and many other members of the Catholic clergy. This video may help understand that:
 
https://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin/videos/10154132008256496/
 
I wonder how Paul Ryan faces his priest every Sunday. How does he reconcile himself with his church and God every week?
 
His soul must retch every waking moment of his life.
 
I have good friends who are devout Catholics. For reasons I won’t bore you with here, I have a bit-more-than-average understanding of the Church and its many related institutions for a layperson.
 
I do not understand how someone like Mr. Ryan can function as a professed Catholic.
 
So what I began to wonder about yesterday was this:
 
Is there some sort of possibility within the church, across all the countless parishes across this country, to appeal to your priests, laity, staff, and anyone else with a working position in the church to organize a movement to pressure and/or censure Mr. Ryan for his fundamentally anti-Catholic position?
 
Is this possible?
 
Is it possible to focus such efforts sufficiently such that his own priest might take him aside, and admonish him, guide him, re-direct him somewhat closer to the will of the church itself?
 
Because right now, Paul Ryan is not acting as a Catholic.
 
He is, in so many ways, an apostate. An infidel.
 
And the church should gather him up and save him, and thus, perhaps, create a man at the helm of his party who may actually begin to return to living his stated positions when this president was a candidate.
 
 
Or is Paul Ryan simply the demon I always believed him to be?
 
History, and his god, will ultimately be the judge. But right now, there are people who need help, and the Church is about help, not hindrance.
 
Catholics: I’m calling on you to talk to your leadership and clergy. Fix your brother Ryan.

News Analysis ®

Post Women’s March.

You know what I especially appreciate about yesterday? That within less than 24 hours of the inauguration, in a span of time in which the Unnameable should have enjoyed the uninfringed glow of victory, he and his mission were stripped of that; displaced from the top of every page and from the head of every news story; displaced and replaced by a picture of a maximally plural and inclusive vision of this country and the world.

Put it another way: he and the GOP were denied their golden optic. Their balls were barely done and all of a sudden, millions of ordinary Americans wrested the spotlight away from them and amplified that spotlight a hundred times.

Put it another way: their first morning waking up in power, and they’re already playing defense.

Desperate, angry, dissembling defense.

That’s a powerful message.

And it burned their ass.

Bigly.

Artists: time to work.

This a call out to the artists. The writers, the performers, the musicians, the observers, the chroniclers, the dancers, the choreographers, the singers, the voices, those who must create: I want to have a serious, sustained conversation about our calling.
 
Let me re-post Toni Morrison’s famous paragraph:
 
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
 
We need to go to work.
 
So we’re doing the first order stuff: calling, donating, showing up, writing, calling again, faxing, engaging, resisting however we can, provoking advertisers to blacklist Breitbart, boycotting, marching, etc.
 
The next round is organizing in a more substantial way. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, and it’s not my strong suite.
 
What is my strong suite is creative work.
 
And a whole bunch of you have the same or even better strengths.
 
We have resources. We have skills. We have a LOT of skills. Rare, important, difficult-to-master skills, and we have the confidence to deploy them at will.
 
How can we begin to link our skills and ideas and creative fervor with those who possess other gifts and insights and skills, and work together to create a movement? How can we enlist our skills in the service of producing change, provoking thought, provoking reflection, reconsideration; provoking empathy where empathy is lacking, caring for others where caring is lacking? Changing the conversation. Reframing the discourse. Destroying existing perceptual frames; help to begin chipping away at existing power structures, and building new, more fair, more just, more civil structures which respect and hold as equally human those of us who have the least as those of us who have the most? 
We have studios. We have media apparatus of every conceivable, technical variety. We write well. We type fast. We compose with grace. We edit with precision. We know how to do lots of basic, technical resource management. We organize information well. We understand modes of perception, aesthetics, style, form, content, formats, clear communication, and complication and difficulty where necessary. We understand signs, symbols, metaphors, interpretation, meaning. We have discipline, can work very long, tedious hours. We know how to deliver. We know how to meet deadlines. We are not intimidated by massive projects. We understand vision and how to translate that in to work.

What can we do on our own? What can we do in small groups? How do we enlarge a creative culture which recognizes common cause even without coordination?

What can we do to work with other agents of change from completely different backgrounds, with completely different skills? How can we work together?

I’m not talking about abstract ideas. I’m talking about concrete work.

What the products of that work will be is up to us.

But I have to do something more than what I’m doing, and art is what I’m good at.

If you’re reading this, and you feel this, then let’s start with this question: how can we help?

Thus begins the work.

Shut it all down

What to do?

I know y’all are sick of me and everyone else raging against the bullshit, but seriously, how do we let this pass?  How do we accept that the senate can sit there–with exceptions Cory Booker and John Lewis being honest heroes–and go through this farcical process like it’s all okay and normal and part of the plan?

How loud can we all be?

WHERE do we raise those voices?

How do we shut this down?

No more business as usual. That’s what I want. This shouldn’t be happening.
But who and/or what agency and/or group of people have the power to actually bring this ride to a halt, for the safety of the passengers?
Maybe that execrable, weak excuse for a human being will still be president, even after every single path and inquiry has been exhausted, but I don’t see how anyone with a conscience can let this be okay right now.

Everyone is failing.

Pretty much every news outlet is failing. They’re all aghast–you can hear it in their voices, in the diction; they are stunned, confused–but they keep doing their dutiful best to maintain The Process.

The Process is destroying us.

The Process needs to be stopped.

How?