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

some-of-the-most-memorable-and-outspoken-people-we-met-on-the-trail-with-trump

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:

angry_elf

“…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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Dear Progressives, It’s Time To Stand Up!

bernon

Dear progressives,

Time to put your money where your mouth is. Bernie can’t rely on Wall Street and Walmart; he needs us.

When he entered the race, only political junkies knew who he was. Even in the fall, nearly half of Democrats polled didn’t really know who he was. Now he’s tied one primary so tightly you’d need a quantum microscope to see the actual result, lost one by a handful of points, and won one by the largest numbers in history, all against a candidate who started the race as one of the most recognized politicians on the planet, a candidate with the full force of not only her own family’s political machine behind her but the Democratic establishment as well.

Nevada was a speedbump. The actual delegate numbers are what counts, and in that the race continues to be a dead heat with Clinton only a single delegate ahead. Nationally, Bernie polls either within single percentage points of her or (in the latest national polls) actually ahead of her by as much as 6% (a milestone he reached earlier than Obama did).

While the media and the establishment tell you that Bernie Sanders is “slipping” in the delegate race (as the NYT put it a few days ago) and his campaign is floundering, this is the actual situation.

They will show you delegate totals which put Hillary Clinton hundreds of delegates ahead of Sanders, and which don’t even give you the actual numbers for the pledged delegates gained through each primary in which they are almost tied with 52 and 51 respectively. Those extra delegates are superdelegates who have said that they will vote a certain way, but who will not vote until the end of July and can change their minds at any time. Those votes DO NOT COUNT until they are cast, and by that time they will amount to a very small segment of the total. Unless the race is still a tight one at that time, their impact won’t even matter.

Also, again: they can change their minds, and that is what usually happens as the race shifts. Most superdelegates will honor the popular vote out of some sense of decorum and honor and utter democracy. So if Bernie Sanders manages to outpace Hillary Clinton in the long fight — which he stands a very good chance of doing, if the voters don’t allow themselves to be disheartened and disillusioned by a media that is actively providing them inaccurate information on behalf of the establishment candidate — many of those superdelegates will actually vote for him.

At this point in 2008, Hillary Clinton also allegedly had more superdelegate votes than Barack Obama. How’d that work out for her?

As people learn more about Bernie Sanders, they start to support him. His likeability and trustworthiness scores in the polls are in the 80-90% range, while Hillary Clinton’s hover down around 10%.

Ten. Percent.

People don’t trust her, even many people who are voting for her because “I love Bernie, but she has a better chance of winning.” And do you really think a candidate who 90% of the population doesn’t think they can trust is going to do well in the general? The polls indicate no: according to the latest polls, Bernie Sanders beats all possible GOP opponents by a much safer margin than Hillary Clinton does, and she actually loses to some of them.

And you know what? Clinton won Iowa and Nevada in a couple of disastrously sloppy caucuses, and the caucus system provided her her narrow victories. But the actual popular vote in all three states so far, the actual number of voters voting one way or the other, broke 55% for Bernie to 45% for Hillary. The caucus system, anti-democratic by nature, hides the fact that more people actually voted for Sanders so far in this race.

Simply put, Bernie is our best chance to win in November by every current objective metric. Our best chance against the theocracy and rampant greed and fascism offered up by the entire Republican party.

So stay in the fight. Spread the word. Feel the freakin’ Bern. VOTE, for fuck’s sake. And contribute. I just donated again, for the fifth time.

David is facing the Wall Street Goliath, and stones for his sling are damned expensive.

Bernieguthrie

Captain America And The Real Myths Told By Superheroes (A Discussion)

A few years ago, when the first Captain America film came out, I was visiting my friend Phil Rockstroh. Phil is “a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City,” so leftist he makes me look like Ronald Reagan, and he watched the film with me. To him, of course, Steve Rogers was the very major model of a modern jingoistic character designed to arouse fascistic and nationalistic feelings in the weak-minded.

I tried pointing out that Cap had been created by a couple of Jewish kids trying to encourage Americans to stand against the Nazi threat in Europe before America was even in the war. I tried to delineate the progressive values Captain America has shown over the decades, and how at every point in the film, the creators subverted the potential jingoism that can, indeed, be a part of such a character. I predicted that in future films we would see a very strong anti-authoritarian theme at work in not just the Captain America films but in Marvel films in general. And I’m happy to say I was right.

Recently, while discussing the Joss Whedon/Black Widow foofaraw, we revisited the topic and the discussion got interesting, so I’m sharing it here. Making an occasional contribution is my friend Ed Hall,  a writer and the co-editor of Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond. Continue reading