Archive for the ‘ politics ’ Category

Pebbles and Ban-Ban

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It’s a ban.  It’s a friggin’ ban.  Stop saying it isn’t, it’s insulting.  You can’t close down McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and White Castle and then claim, “But I didn’t even mention hamburgers.”  We know what you meant, and it’s not even a little bit subtle. Maybe your prevarications work with the average Breitbart clicker, but when you try it on us you sound like a defense attorney trying to get his murdering client off on a technicality.

And stop with the “extreme vetting” nonsense while you’re at it.  We already have a rigid vetting system that takes 18-24 months before an immigrant or refugee is allowed into our country.  There’s no possibility of making the process harder than it already is, so when you say “extreme vetting” what you’re really saying is, “You’re never getting in whatever you say or do, never, never, ever.”  And that’s what you want, so stop pretending otherwise.

This is what you said, in effect:  “We don’t want Muslims coming into our country.  We are afraid of you. You might be terrorists.  We’ll all feel a whole lot safer if we don’t have to deal with you.  So good luck and all that–you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”  So just say that.  I’d disagree vehemently with your decision, but at least I wouldn’t feel like you’re trying to sell me a bridge.  You’re not that good at salesmanship, or lying, so what you end up doing is wasting any tiny little trust I might have had.  And what gets lost is any REAL, SOBER, MODERATE discussion about issues of immigration and the safety of our citizens.  You took out a bazooka and fired it into the face of restraint.

And maybe that’s what you want.  Screw political correctness!   You’re going to push this, along with your cabinet of CEOs and billionaires, down America’s throat.  If they don’t like it, too bad.  They’ll get used to it.  Leaders lead, and followers follow or get left behind.  And part of the country is loving this.  They are absolutely adoring being able to say all the things they have been holding their tongues about for years.  You have loosed that particular strain of contagion.  And not everyone who voted for your crusade is a racist, or a xenophobe, or a white nationalist.  But let me tell you, those are the ones with the loudest voices.  You own that lunatic fringe, and every crappy, horrible, un-‘Merican thing they may do.

Still OK with you?  Fine.  I get it.  You’re the guy who makes a racist joke around a bunch of other white folks to see who “your people” are.  You’re reveling in the disorder.  You’re sadistically enjoying the pain you’re causing.   Burn it all down.  It’s what gets you up in the morning.  In your own mind, you’re a hero.

Here’s why you will never be a hero.

Call it kumbaya bullshit, call it libtard ranting, call it East Coast elite nonsense.  Downplay the protests and the calls to the Senators and the petitions all you want.  Dare us to challenge you.  This country has survived worse than you, and it will again.  Every time hatred and ignorance have been used to prod the willing into unspeakable cruelty and violence, this country has fought back and won.  Our forefathers saw you coming and made sure you and your kind would never prosper.  There is a Constitution, and a Bill of Rights, and a Judicial system, and nearly 250 years of trial and error in your way.  And there’s us. The battles you win will be temporary.  The damage you inflict will be reversed.  You are a pretender to the throne, and in two years your Congress will be gone and in four years (if you last that long) you will be gone as well.  A sad footnote in an important novel.  And what they will say about you is that you tried to rule by hate and division and fear and you failed.  You will be an unfunny joke.  They will count up the deaths you caused and lay them at your feet.  History will hold you up to ridicule and disdain.

You’ll never be bigger than this country, Steve.  And we’ve got our eye right on your ass.

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In Defense of Snowflakes

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If you have spent five seconds online recently–and I would wholeheartedly recommend less–you have heard a relatively new insult being bandied about like an emotional hand-grenade: “special snowflake.”
Isn’t that just a wonderful term?  It should slide right into the fifth grade bully’s lexicon, right between “give me your lunch money” and “are you gonna cry now?”
If you don’t understand the nature of the insult…well, aren’t you a special snowflake?  Your life has been so easy, the insulated bubble you inhabit so perfectly filled with your own self-delusion, that you haven’t even had the wherewithal to keep track of real insults out here in the real world.  See how it works?  A “snowflake,” apparently, is someone who thinks they are special.  That the normal rules of the big, bad world (might makes right, an eye for an eye, do it to them before they do it to you, etc.) shouldn’t apply to them.  Snowflakes are fragile, weepy, spoiled, child-like, ignorant, navel-gazing, sniveling, sore losers who are overdue for real life to kick them one in the teeth.  Snowflakes are the kids who got a participation trophy, the dreamers, the losers, the “save the whales,” “make love, not war” weirdos, the slackers, the ones who lacked the courage to take what was theirs.
Like most broad generalizations hurled at people who don’t agree with you, it’s full of crap.
Don’t worry, I am not going to lay out my point by point defense of snowflakes.  If you are someone out there in the cyber cesspool throwing this term around, none of my pontifications are liable to shake your unshakable belief in your own almighty rightness.  That’s fine.  Well, no it’s not fine, in fact it’s fairly horrifying, but my point is I’m not going to try to change your made-up mind.  What I would like to do is look a little more closely at what is lurking behind the snowflake rhetoric.
My first question is this: if you had kids (as many people do), what did you tell them when they were growing up?  That they weren’t special?  Did you tell them they could become whatever they wanted if they worked hard enough, or did you tell them to have realistic expectations about the limits of their talents?  Did you encourage them to dream, or did you tell them dreaming was for the weak?  Honestly, I’m asking.  Because when you call someone a “special snowflake” for believing that a better world than the one we live in is at least possible, you are espousing an incredibly nihilistic, pessimistic point of view.  Of course no one likes to have smoke blown up their ass–I mean, if your kid is 5′ 3″ and can’t jump maybe he or she shouldn’t be encouraged to follow their dreams of NBA stardom–but are hopes for the future really that delusional?  I’m assuming (though maybe I shouldn’t) that notions like equality, justice, fairness, freedom–you know, the notions this country were founded upon–are equally important across political and demographic lines.  If that is so, isn’t calling someone a “special snowflake” while actually intimating that they are NOT special, NOT unique, NOT deserving a voice, about as un-American a thing as you can possibly say?
More to the point: is your motivation just to get people to shut up?  If it is, you can just be honest about it.  Because the actual, realistic outcome of calling someone a snowflake is to immediately end all further rational discussion.  You’ve swung your arms and drawn a big black “X” over the recipient’s mouth.  You’ve made them a cliche.  And I know it makes it easier for you to believe what you believe when you are able to pigeonhole anyone who doesn’t agree with you as weaker, more precious, more fragile, more out-of-touch with reality.  It feels good, I guess, to lash out and release your pent up anger.  OK, mission accomplished, you shut up your “opponent” and ended the debate.  But you didn’t win the argument.  What you did was bully someone.  And let’s not mince words–that was your intention.  Silencing.

It won’t work.  As the venerable Dr. King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Pessimism is easy.  It’s easy to say the world is hard and cold and always will be.  That progress is impossible.  Optimism is harder, because optimism means seeing possibilities even in the middle of the darkness.  And being an optimist also leaves you open to all sorts of second-guessing from the sidelines.  You might even be called a snowflake.   But as my friend Lisa recently said, “Go ahead and call me a snowflake.  Enough of those snowflakes get together, that shit becomes a blizzard!”

Tarnished City on a Hill

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What the f*** just happened?

Whatever way you lean politically, I think we can safely agree that no one—no one—expected this. Even the most staunch Trump supporter didn’t expect him to actually win. They hoped for it, but they couldn’t have known.

So what the f***?

I will attempt to explain to the best of my limited knowledge. My aim is to wrap my arms around this gorilla, not pass judgment. I want to point out the divide in the hope that folks standing on either side of it might hesitantly wave at each other instead of throwing rocks back and forth. The anger is real, I get that, and throwing rocks can feel damn good. But let us take a peek at who we are aiming at.

There are many, many reasons behind why a person casts a vote. Were there true blue bigots who gleefully filled in the bubble next to Trump’s name? Sure. Were there smug liberal elitists voting for Hillary’s inevitable coronation from the safety of their ivory towers? A few. Those voters are not my subject. There are voters who vote primarily for cultural reasons and those whose concern is mostly economical, and those are the ones I’d like to look at.

Back in “the day,” cultural concerns—what a candidate felt personally about social issues, reproductive rights, religious values, civil rights, etc.–were considered secondary. Candidates always had to prove their “integrity,” but it was rarely what got them elected. “What will you do for me?” was the main criteria, not “Do your values match my own?” Enter the old-school, disenfranchised, mostly white, working class voter from the heartland and the rust belt. They have seen their jobs sent overseas. They have seen their worry for their future and security ignored. Many voted for Obama at least once, with the hope that his promised buoy would lift all ships. It didn’t. Their anger is real. Their fear is real. As I heard brilliantly posed on a radio show recently, their fear is not new—many groups in this country have spent generations being marginalized—but it is new to them.

So here comes Bernie talking directly to their concerns. And there he goes, ushered out the door by the media, the DNC, and ultimately tone-deaf Democratic voters. Who will look out for my best interests now? Where do I vent my anger? Which candidate will allow me to keep my job and put food on my table? We know the answer to that now. Not the status-quo candidate who lumped me in with the rest of the “deplorables.” I’m going for the guy who wants to restrict global trade, keep American jobs in America, stop the flood of immigrants I need to compete with, and give me back some damn pride for a change.

Are these voters racist, xenophobic, and reactionary? No. They are mostly white people voting in their own economic self-interests. Cultural concerns about Trump’s hateful rhetoric may have been considered, but in the end what he said on a talk show eleven years ago or his batshit crazy wall-building talk were not the deciding factor. My job, my family, my vote. Self-preservation. A tale as old as time. If you want to know why conservative Christians, some African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and above all female voters could possibly vote for a candidate like Donald Trump, here it is: the rhetoric didn’t matter. Their jobs did.

And was there also a giant middle finger to the celebrities and the millennials and the smug “liberals” who underestimated their anger? Sure, why not. If you couldn’t be bothered to listen to me screaming for eight years, here ya go, suck on this. He probably won’t win no matter what I do anyway. These are the voters now telling Hillary supporters, “Get over it! I had to live through Obama for eight years.” They see the palpable fear of minorities as a gross overreaction. In their hearts they did what any sane person in their situation would do, the simple, pragmatic thing—they used the vote they had to ensure their livelihoods.

So let’s look across the divide at the Hillary supporters. For a voter who values cultural issues—economic justice, civil rights, marriage equality, Black Lives Matter, gun control, et al.—Hillary was never a perfect fit. She was a little too invested in big business and its unending fountain of political funding to be believed as a progressive crusader. The way Bernie was treated by the Democratic establishment left a bad taste. But most of these voters relented when Bernie pushed his chips in with hers, and began to get excited by her shiny, new progressive agenda. Then they looked at her opponent and saw every idealistic dream they had for their country turned utterly on its head. They saw intolerance, misogyny, xenophobia, hatred—the worst, basest underbelly this country has to offer. They saw minorities being punched in the face, the end of religious freedom, women being grabbed and assaulted, spewing, venomous anger toward themselves and their underrepresented friends. And Hillary–uninspiring, hard-working, smart-as-a-whip policy wonk Hillary—didn’t seem like a bad choice after all. In fact, she seemed to be the only sane choice. How could anyone support that man and all he stood for?

And here’s where it gets a little poetic. Culturally, the past decade or so felt like a series of wins. Our first African-American president. Gay marriage. Outrage at the deaths of unarmed Black men. The acknowledgment of violence against women. Online movements for equality and solidarity. It felt like being on the precipice of a new country where inclusion and fairness were valued. And then—the first female President of the United States seemed to be a looming reality. Don’t underestimate the importance of the narrative of improvement and evolution to these folks. It is the reason their hearts are authentically broken today. They are the people who see in this country the possibility of the shining city on a hill. There is no American dream without these people dreaming it into existence.

To them, the election of Donald Trump feels like a repudiation. The back of the hand given to uppity women, minorities, gays, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans. A punishment. A death. They feel unsafe, now that the thin veneer of acceptable behavior seems to have eroded like the ozone layer, and they worry for the safety of others. They look around them and see Germany in the 1930s. And some will roll their eyes at that. But just like with the unheard, disenfranchised heartlander, the anger and fear are real. And for the non-white, the violence seems frighteningly imminent.

And then there’s the dream deferred. The specter of a demagogue, backed by a Republican Congress and Supreme Court, hurling us back into the cultural dark ages, rolling back all the progress we’ve made, killing the dream of equality and reproductive rights for women, equal educational opportunity, affordable health care, racial healing, LGBTQ rights. To understand the depth of disappointment these voters are experiencing right now, you have to understand the dream they feel slipping away.

So here we are. No claims of “racist voters” are going to change this. No amount of “get over its” are going to make the grieving process easier. There is endless invective on each side, endless reasons to revel in your rightness or curse your oppressor. The rabbit hole has opened up and swallowed us. And we can take the long view, say that this open wound between us will eventually close over and heal. And that is very true. But it doesn’t help us here and now. All that can help us now is empathy. If we can maybe, maybe take a step back and see each other as human beings instead of profile pictures. If we can make simple commitments to try to understand those who disagree with us, even when that disagreement runs far and deep. If we can come to the common conclusion that whatever our political bent, we need to be vigilant in the support of the powerless and unheard among us. It will be hard, maybe the hardest thing the country has done since WWII. Families will turn against each other, fights will erupt, opportunists will use this as an chance to turn us hateful and resentful and violent. I won’t be able to hold my tongue myself, especially in the face of prejudice. Nor should we. If we are who we say we are, Trump and Hillary voters alike, Americans, people with anger and fear and dreams and pragmatism, we will not stand for it. Let that be our common ground: protection. If…

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom–FREE 6/10-14

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My ebook Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom will be offered for FREE on Amazon from 6/10 to 6/14!  Here is the description:

“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from playwright and author Brian C. Petti. From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

Funny, inspirational and moving. ”Edward Hayes  |  6 reviewers made a similar statement

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom–free ebook until April 6th!

Hi There!

To celebrate the publishing of my new ebook Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom,  I would like to send all my readers a free digital copy!   The book is based on posts here at Pettiplays blog.
Between now and April 6th, I will send you an email with a PDF copy that can be sent to your e-reader or read on your computer.  This offer is good for anyone you forward the email to as well.  If you don’t know me personally, I promise to cyber-burn your email as soon as I send the book. Please feel free to distribute it to anyone else who likes to read, likes to laugh, likes free stuff, or all three!  Send your email to me at bcpkid AT gmail DOT com.
Here’s all I ask.  Please post an honest review on Amazon, and ask the same of anyone you forward it to.  That’s it!  The book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Sister-Mercedes-Temple-Doom-ebook/dp/B00C479TN6/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1364731335&sr=8-7&keywords=brian+petti.
If you feel guilty about not paying (for all my Catholic readers out there), I am including a link to my friend Ron’s charity event, “Hope Swings Eternal: A Swing Night Benefit for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital”.  A Neonatal Unit helped save his little girl Tegan’s life.  It is a more than worthy cause and I would be immensely happy if you could help.  Their website is: http://fundly.com/crownproductions?
Best,
Brian

Let’s NOT Have a Conversation

Freedom is a slippery thing.

In recent memory we, as a country, were asked to give some of it up in order to secure a greater good. Our rights to privacy were lessened so that government agencies, we were told, could more quickly and accurately detect terrorist activities. This was in the aftermath of 9/11. I have no way of knowing if the sacrifice was worth it, besides the obvious fact that we haven’t had another attack. Many of us weren’t happy about it—I know I wasn’t.

But my happiness was immaterial. A decision was made that a sacrifice was needed, because the situation called for some sort of action. Things couldn’t go on the way they were any more, after such a dreadful tragedy. It was the price of doing the business of protecting the country. I was there in New York on 9/11. I walked out of 5 World Trade fifteen minutes before hell broke loose. I’m a pacifist, but I wanted an eye for an eye. Our anger was real, as was our resolve that what happened that day should never happen again. How that anger and resolve was misused in the following years is a topic for another day.

There is only one topic today. It’s those children and the brave adults who protected them. It’s beyond words I have the ability to provide. I do not wish to diminish the grief we all feel by talking about guns. But guns need to be part of the discussion.

In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shootings, gun advocates and gun control advocates jumped to their positions. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “People kill people WITH guns.” Plenty of well-meaning folks suggested that this wasn’t the time to talk about the issue. Others suggested we needed to “have a conversation” as a nation at some unnamed time in the future. Still others said we should be talking about mental health, not guns.

I respectfully disagree. Now is the time to talk about it. We don’t need a future “conversation”. The issue is complex, and mental health is a part of it, but not the only part.

Here’s what I need to know from my American brothers and sisters who resist gun control: what price freedom? Is your right to own an assault weapon worth a life? Would you be willing to sacrifice it for a greater good? If your answer is “no” I’m guessing that you believe there is no connection between the availability of these weapons and the rash of mass killings we have been experiencing in this country. Our mental health system isn’t working. If someone really wants to kill, they will find a way. If you take away the guns, only the criminals will end up with them.

Nearly none of the perpetrators of these mass killings came out of our mental health system. There were signs of trouble, yes, but few of them were medicated or institutionalized. The idea that these were obviously crazy people who could have been stopped if only a psychiatrist had signed them in for treatment is a myth. These are sad, desperate young men who live on the outskirts of inclusion. We need to be able to identify them before they snap, and mental health professionals can help improve that in the future. But blaming the mental health system for their actions is a smokescreen.

If I really want to get to the Stewart’s in my town, there are various ways to do so. I could walk. I could ride a bike. I could call a taxi. But I’m not going to do any of those. I’m going to drive my car, because it’s the EASIEST way for me to get where I need to go. If someone really wants to kill, they will find a way. Agreed. And if someone wants to kill the most amount of people in the least amount of time, they are going to use an automatic weapon. That’s why our troops use assault rifles and not bows and arrows. In the recent shooting, 26 lives were ended in about two and a half minutes.

But if we make laws banning automatic weapons, next you’ll come after my other guns.

Ah. There’s the rub. You want your gun. You feel safer with it. Maybe you hunt. Maybe you just think it’s incredibly cool. Either way it’s your constitutional right and you’re not gonna give it up until they pry that gun from your cold, dead hand. You want to protect that right, so you adopt certain beliefs: that this is a fundamentally dangerous country, that there are gun toting criminals we need to protect ourselves against. That if they have the guns, we need to as well. That a few renegade lunatics are no reason to start banning guns. That it’s not the guns’ fault. And maybe you believe every one of those things are true.

But so is this. The price of the right to own a gun is in lives. That’s the cost of doing business. The price of “freedom”. Lives. Access to firearms makes it easier to kill. I find it hard to understand arguments against this statement as anything more than simple denial. Automatic weapons are made to kill quickly and efficiently. So are rifles and handguns. And they do. It is their raison d’être.

Are we willing to continue to pay that cost? Or will we change?  What price freedom?

Was Stalin a Cockmonster?

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Earlier this week, an NFL player named Chris Kluwe wrote an open letter to a Maryland politician who had attacked his stance in favor of gay marriage. In the letter he said that I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.”

I’m not gay, but I think I love this guy. No homo.

My feelings on this issue have been expressed to the twelve people who follow my blog. If gay folks want to throw away their lives and ruin all their good furniture by getting married and having kids like us breeders, they have every right to destroy themselves. Just say goodbye to white rugs, y’all.

Seriously, I know many couples who took advantage of the newly tolerant laws in New York to get “officially” married, and I applaud both their right to do it and the choice they made. It’s a simple human rights issue to me. Women couldn’t vote, blacks had to drink from different fountains and gays couldn’t get married, but slowly things changed and the same rights were extended to all. In fifty years, this is how the history books will write it.

Ah, but we’re not there yet. Just like there are still hard-line communists in Russia who cling to the idea that Stalin will rise from the grave to oppress them once more, there are people in this country in positions of real power who are standing firm in the face of progression. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Women aren’t equipped to handle the responsibility of electing leaders—they’ll vote for the guy with the nicest hair. Blacks would not know what to do with access to greater educational opportunities. This all sound familiar?

What it gets down to, as Mr. Kluwe expressed so eloquently, is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of relinquishing power. Fear of losing your God-given advantage if you happen to be a white man with money. Fear of losing control. Fear of having to confront that the world is changeable, and changing. It was so much easier when we could diminish gay people, push them into lockers at school, send the police into gay bars to rough them up. Punish them for their difference. Now here they are, on my TV, in my kids’ school, where I work, no longer content to live in the shadows, around the dark corners of town. Here they are, bold as brass, flaunting themselves for all to see, waving their banner all over the place, not even having the common decency to be ashamed of themselves like they were before. They want to be scoutmasters, with our children! They want to fight for their country alongside red-blooded, straight Americans! They want to destroy the sanctity of marriage! If they get all this, what more will they want? If we let them, what will happen to us?

Fear isn’t rational. You can explain until you’re blue in the face that homosexuality and pedophilia are not even remotely related. You can calmly explain the gross inequity of allowing some people who love each other the legal benefits of marriage, while denying them to others based solely on discrimination. You can lay out in excruciating detail the difference between marrying your dog and marrying another human being. It won’t change a thing. Fear doesn’t respond to facts.

So maybe it will respond to this: you won’t turn into a “lustful cockmonster”! If you like women, you still will! If you like men, you still will! Gays aren’t looking to “turn” you! What you are is what you are! Unless you’re leading a secret double life and pretending to be straight when you’re really…

Uh oh.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that every person who is against gay marriage is a closet queen. But when you look at the vitriol involved, the fire and brimstone moral superiority, the thinly veiled disgust displayed by these folks…it’s got to make you wonder a little. Are they just self-hating cockmonsters? Can’t they just get a boyfriend like the rest of the politicians in DC and back the hell off? Or are they really, truly afraid that if they are exposed to mainstream gays they will be tempted themselves? They’ll be like that guy in the Little Caesar’s commercial who, when he realizes he can get his pizza any way he wants, rips off his shirt and yells “There’s NO RULES!”

My message to these politicians and their constituencies is this: get over yourselves. This ain’t Sodom and Gomorrah. Put your fear aside and deal with these people as you would like to be dealt with. That’s in the Bible too. And by the way, Jesus went after the money lenders and I don’t see you denying human rights to bankers. Although maybe that wouldn’t be so bad an idea.

There is one rule. Fairness.