Trump People (And The Terrible Moment I Was One Of Them)

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Cliff Caldwell was a splintered twig of a kid, short and gangly, a twitchy scarecrow without enough stuffing. His hair was blond and dirty, but always combed down with a troubling precision. He stared at the world through glasses with big thick frames, and his clothes were ratty and didn’t fit right.

Cliff wasn’t very smart, and he moved from grade to grade largely out of an embarrassing agreement by teachers to pass him rather than actually help him in any meaningful way. Teachers even allowed him to grade his own tests because his handwriting was incomprehensible.

Outside of school, you’d sometimes see Cliff walking along the roadside, stomping swiftly along, his gaze fixed straight ahead as if he were racing obsessively toward some definite goal. He was going where he was going, and he seemed oblivious to everything around him.

I don’t know how old we were when I met Cliff, I just remember him always being around when I was a teenager. He was one of those unfortunate kids who was born broken, who can’t function properly, and who thereby becomes the target of derision and abuse from most of his peers.

The last I heard about Cliff was in 2009, when this happened:

“The holidays can cause stress for all of us. This must particularly apply to those slaving in Santa’s workshop. One case in point: 45 year old William C. Caldwell, III, surely the frontrunner for 2009 Angry Elf of the Year.

“It may come as no surprise to anyone that your local mall Santa receives excellent security training these days. And a good thing, too. On Wednesday evening, the mall Santa on duty at Southlake Mall in Morrow, Georgia came face to face with a potentially explosive situation. The 45 year old Mr. Caldwell, in full elfin attire, wanted his picture taken with Santa. When his turn came, he informed Santa that he had in fact brought some of his own tools from the workshop… specifically, a bag of dynamite.

“It probably should have raised a few eyebrows that a 45 year-old man, dressed as an elf, was standing in line with a bunch of kids waiting to speak with Santa… particularly when he’s got this look in his eyes:

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“…The quick thinking Santa immediately informed the Southlake Mall security team of the potentially dangerous elf. Authorities contacted local police who evacuated the mall, blocked off streets and cordoned off the area. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers arrived along with the Morrow Police. They completed an exhaustive search of the mall. Three suspicious bags were discovered near Santa, but no explosives. Fear that Caldwell would actually drop an elf bomb subsided after the ‘all clear’ was given at 10 p.m., local time…”

Fortunately, this was at worst a crazy whim of Cliff’s tormented mind, at best an actual cry for help. No one was hurt. I have no idea what happened with Cliff after he was arrested, but I hope he found some badly needed help and some happiness and peace.

The reason I’m telling you about Cliff is that he was instrumental in my learning a lesson about myself that has stuck with me for years, a lesson that makes me all too able to understand some of the dark impulses that drive many of the people who support Donald Trump (and, frankly, the Republicans in general).

I’m already quite familiar with the basic unenlightened and racist mindset we see flying its Confederate flag at Trump rallies. I’m from Georgia and was raised by those people. But the lesson I learned through Cliff Caldwell is about something deeper and more intimate than that, about the very nature of self and how it can turn rotten.

As I said, Cliff was often a target of abuse from our peers, from cruel insults and mockery to outright violence. I remember sitting nearby in one class as a group of popular kids (the oft stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, acting according to stereotype) clustered around Cliff’s desk alternately teasing him and acting like they were his friends. Everyone would laugh. Why not? It was just Cliff Caldwell.

One day, in tenth or eleventh grade, a group of bullies started pushing Cliff around in the locker room, shouting in his face, yanking at his clothes, shoving him into the wall. Laughing at him. To my lifelong shame, I joined them.

Why did I do that? I was a kindhearted kid, a gentle kid, a smart kid who had somehow never absorbed the racism or bigotry I’d been raised in. I had not only always treated Cliff with kindness, I’d stood up for him at times. And here I was,  clawing at his arm, laughing in his face.

It was because, as strong as my sense of self was, as deep my compassion, I was broken too. I was horribly abused at home, so depressed I came close to suicide several times, and of uncertain social value among my peers. I felt small. I felt threatened. And on another day, it might have been me under attack instead of Cliff, though I was at least able to fight. Cliff wasn’t.

I joined that hateful little mob because I desperately wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to be one of the popular kids. And I wanted them to know I was one of them, not a pitiful wimpy target like Cliff, so they would leave me alone.

I thought I was showing strength. But I was really showing the depths of my own despair and weakness.

Then, I really lost it and did something that degraded me far more than it degraded Cliff.

I spat on him.

I actually fucking spat on him.

And this other kid, I can’t remember his name, looked me right in the face with such a look of disgust that it burned me to the quick. “You spit on him?” he shouted, and pulled me back.

And that, my friends, was the moment of epiphany. Through that guy’s eyes, I saw what a craven piece of shit I had allowed myself to become in my desire to belong and to be on top.

I lashed out because I was weak and afraid, and I went too far. I’m pretty sure I’d have walked away ashamed of myself anyway because, as I said, I was a good kid. This was an aberration. But good kid or not, it was me attacking and spitting on a kid whose only sin was that he couldn’t function in the world, a kid fighting his own battles who didn’t need me adding to them.

That other kid, that hero, didn’t become a part of the mob, didn’t give in to those dark petty drives. And he jerked me back into the right, painfully and swiftly, and I am forever in his debt. His disgust with me taught me this necessary lesson much more powerfully than I’d have learned it on my own. I had allowed myself to be drawn into terrible dark waters, and he helped me back to shore.

Trump people swim in those dark waters. They ignore the shore. They thrive out there, making themselves feel strong by tearing others down. The poor, the lost, the weak, the Others…all targets of chthonic rage that can’t find a healthy outlet because the members of the mob don’t bother looking for one. They scream at the light because, like that hero kid’s eyes on me, it makes them see themselves. But they never learn the lesson I learned in that horrible moment.

They are more comfortable in the dark, with their own kind.

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See The Cover Art For DOC WILDE AND THE MAD SKULL!

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I am thrilled, at long last, to reveal to you oh so patient readers the cover design for Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, the long-delayed second Wilde adventure novel. The art is, naturally, by the great Gary Chaloner. This is in grayscale, of course. The final version will be in glorious color.

In this book, my long-awaited follow-up to Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures…”) the Wildes face a sinister mystery and a truly bizarre villain in a battle that rages from New York City to a scorching wasteland and maybe into the realms of death itself…

The book is suitable for all ages. Publication planned for the Christmas season.

Also, those snakes? Fire snakes. As in snakes made of fire.

Get ready to Go Wilde again!

As Above, So Below (aka Art & Science & The Stars Like Dust…)

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                                                                                                  Image by Kim D. French

I’ve always liked Jackson Pollock’s work, but it wasn’t until I saw one of his pieces in person at MOMA a few years ago that I realized how electrically alive his paintings really are. It was, I thought, like looking into a human brain and seeing the crazy branched lightning of synapses firing.

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The image below, created by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), is a flattened representation of a 3D map showing 650 cubic billion light years, just a quarter of the known universe. Each speck isn’t a single star but an entire galaxy. Peering into it, I now realize that Pollock was painting more than just the mind. He was painting reality itself, the myriad blaze of infinite suns, as well as the swirling quantum dance deep within.

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Lifestyles of the Witch and Not Famous

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Since my Carioca witch Nydia and her son Lucas joined me here in the Byrdcave, we’ve been making the place nicer in multifarious ways ranging from adopting an insane new kitten, Castiel, to buying new sheets that actually fit my king-sized bed (and thereby don’t constantly come undone every damn night) to actually vacuuming sometimes. Life with a functional non-depressive is revelatory, let me tell you.

The latest addition are a couple of limited edition art prints I’d been drooling to buy for months. I missed my chance while they were for sale because they sold out quickly, but I did manage to ultimately find them for a reasonable price on eBay. The two are my favorite pieces in a gorgeous set of seven Universal monster pieces by artist Nicolas Delort,  Frankenstein and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

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We framed them and hung them together in the living room, but they demanded special treatment so we added the decals around the edges you can see in the image up top. The effect is beautiful.

Cue the Addams Family theme.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Nyd has taken over…

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What Bernie Sanders Gave to America Today

This is brilliant, and I aspire to be this optimistic, all things considered…

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Today, my hero, Bernie Sanders, endorsed Hillary Clinton, a woman that I truly believe is sociopathic, for the office of the President of the United States and then immediately the sun hid behind a cloud and it began to rain.

I was grateful for the rain.

It’s been pretty humid here for the last several days and I was in need of the empathy.

I fought back tears as I left the gym.

I am not afraid to cry.

I just prefer to do it while I am writing.

I went home and grabbed my laptop.

I knew all this fire stinging my eyes was way too complex to be worked out with a box of tissues or a ton of free weights.

I made a point to stay off social media.

I had no time for haters, turncoats or conspiracy theorists.

I drove to the coffee shop and put in…

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Target Gives Us Kid Avengers In Wonderful Conflict

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Art by Jon Sommariva

For a wonderful break from the political, just check out this Target commercial featuring a bunch of kid Avengers playing out their own spirited civil war…

I love everything about this commercial, but I really love the gender politics of it. This is how you do it.

Is Hillary Clinton REALLY Raising Millions of Dollars For Other Democrats? Not So Much…

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You know how Hillary and her supporters keep talking about how she’s raising money for other Democrats to run? Like that $15 million she raised with George Clooney?

Well, about that.

First, watch this video from The Young Turks which gives a solid rundown on the huge money laundering scheme Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have been running for the entire campaign:

This involves using loopholes in the campaign finance system to funnel much larger donations to Hillary’s campaign than is allowed for by law. It’s also an enormously unethical breach in party ethics because the DNC is not supposed to play favorites during a primary (which was why Tulsi Gabbard resigned from her second-in-command DNC position to be able to campaign for Bernie Sanders, unlike Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has carried water for Hillary Clinton every step of the way). And there may be actual violations of campaign finance law, as the Sanders campaign said yesterday.

Okay, so they have this YUGE scheme that funnels cash through the state parties and the DNC into Hillary’s Victory Fund. And Hillary’s Victory Fund is where all that money she’s supposedly raising for other Democrats is supposed to go. Well, about that.

According to the Washington Post:

“’It’s time to rebuild our party from the ground up,’ the former secretary of state pledged. ‘When our state parties are strong, we win.’

“The joint committee that was formed, called the Hillary Victory Fund, ended up raising nearly $27 million by the end of 2015, thanks to six-figure donations from longtime Clinton allies and a New York fundraiser headlined by the singer Sting.

“So far, the state parties have served only as a pass-through for their share of the funds. Campaign finance records show that nearly $2 million in donations to the fund initially routed last year to individual state party accounts was immediately transferred to the DNC, which is laboring to pay off millions of dollars in debt…

“’I’ve never seen anything like this,’ said Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who is now with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. ‘Joint victory funds are not intended to be separate operating committees that just support a single candidate. But they appear to be turning the traditional notion of a joint committee into a Hillary fundraising committee.’”

So out of $27 million, only two million was sent to the state parties for their candidates, and that money was then returned to the DNC to pay its bills. That was last year.

According to Politico, in the first quarter of this year, the Hillary Victory Fund raised $33 million:

“The idea is that the committee will help the state parties raise money for their general election efforts, an area where Clinton’s allies argue that her insurgent rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders has done little…

“Yet, during the first three months of the year, the $2 million transferred by the Hillary Victory Fund to various state party committees paled in comparison to the $9.5 million it transferred to Clinton’s campaign committee or the $3.5 million it transferred to the DNC.

“And the Hillary Victory Fund also spent $6.7 million on online ads that mostly looked like Clinton campaign ads, as well as $5.5 million on direct marketing. Both expenses seem intended at least in part to help Clinton build a small donor base, an area in which Sanders has far outpaced her.”

So, in short, the Hillary Victory Fund raised $60 million. Of that, most of it went either directly to Hillary’s campaign or toward promoting her campaign. Only $4 million went to state parties, and at least half of that boomeranged back to the DNC to pay its bills.

All those Democrats lower on the ballot aren’t getting much help when you get right down to it. You know what would really help them? A YUGE excited voter turnout in November.

And if the Democrats want that, Hillary isn’t the candidate they should be supporting.

UPDATE: A recent piece in Politico reports that even less of the money is remaining with the state parties, only 1% of the $61 million raised to date.

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