Just to be fair

-if I am going to present one side, I really should present the other. In that vein, please check out this great blog: https://regiehammblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/this-hitler-nonsense/

THIS HITLER NONSENSE …

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I am not an expert on Hitler. But my father is.

He toured post-war Germany extensively in 1957 and ’58 as a child performer. And he often recounts the stories. He befriended  teenage Lebensborn children (if you don’t know what Lebensborn children are …well …before you post anymore about Hitler you should read about them). He visited an SS widow and got a peek at her husband’s uniform and Luger (that he’d committed suicide with), she had stored in an old trunk, in the attic.

These and other intense experiences in Germany sent my father on a life-long quest to understand this sociopath (Hitler) and the country that allowed itself to be dragged into one of the darkest chapters in world history. My dad is a Hitler/Nazi buff the way Indiana Jones’ dad was a Holy Grail buff.

As the son of a man with this hobby (one might call obsession) I learned a lot about Hitler and the Third Reich just by osmosis, growing up. My father would weave WWII stories into his sermons. He would talk about new books he was reading on the subject. When I was nine-years-old I bought him a book on the battle of Stalingrad for Christmas. Not a tie or a pair of socks. A book …on the battle …of Stalingrad. Yeah …it was kinda like that.

The thing my father and I have often discussed, through the years, is the eye-rolling art of comparing American presidents to Hitler. It is such an absurdity we find it amusing …and frustrating. It’s often just a punch line. Like the Soup Nazi wasn’t really a Nazi. He was just mean. The Nazi part made it funny. You know …over-the-top. Like “grammar Nazi” or “spelling Nazi.” Nobody is really a “Nazi.” It’s our representation of something we consider jarring, strident, intractable and inhumane.

But the truth about Nazis isn’t funny at all. It’s bloody and horrible and gut churning. And it involves machine guns and butchery and inhumanity on a scale that takes your breath away. Nobody is really a “soup Nazi” …unless they served it in a concentration camp.

The idea of comparing an American president to Hitler is just as absurd …from any angle, in any context. The American system ITSELF pretty much prevents “Hitlers” from showing up. And America ITSELF is anathema to what Hitler was trying to create. An American ANYTHING or ANYONE is hard to fit into the Hitler model. It’s just not apples to apples.

There are some fundamental things to understand about Hitler:

1. He took over a small, failing state that didn’t have separated government, enumerated powers or checks and balances. It’s difficult for a guy like that to show up here, in this system.

2. His entire political career was violent from the beginning. There was always death in his wake. He didn’t just suddenly “turn” violent. It was a pattern …as it always is with sociopaths. This is THE most important thing to watch; the violence. I always keep an eye on who is rioting …breaking things …throwing rocks and bombs. It doesn’t make them Nazis. But it signals how far they’re willing to go.

3. He entered office with his own personal military construct (the SS) with allegiance to him ONLY. They would carry out things the regular military would never carry out: i.e. the murder of private citizens and political opponents. Nothing like that exists or COULD exist in America. We simply wouldn’t allow it.

4. He didn’t start out just killing Jews. He started out euthanizing people with special needs …for the betterment of the care-givers’ lives. (You can decide which side of the aisle favors the extermination of “inconvenient” people).

5. He disarmed the population, then nationalized healthcare and education. (Two-out-of-three of those are Bernie Sanders moves …But, guess what? Bernie isn’t Hitler either …not by a long shot)

The list goes on and on. But the deal is this:

Hitler was a real life murdering sociopath. He wasn’t just a charismatic speaker who incrementally fell into bad behavior. He wasn’t just a racist corrupted by unfettered power. In other words, you or I probably couldn’t end up being Hitler. A garden variety KKK leader probably couldn’t end up being Hitler either …or a community organizer …or a New York real-estate tycoon. It’s not that easy or simple.

NONE of our American presidents have ever been Hitler. But the people of Germany certainly thought FDR was a murdering dictator when B-17s started dropping bombs on them. This is why you have to KNOW what you believe and why you believe it. Good guys and bad guys are often in the eyes of the beholder. And they often look similar in the fog of conflict. I would imagine Japanese Americans in internment camps wondered if their president was Hitler-like. Nope. Horrible act …but not close to Hitler.

To that point, ironically, the American president who could’ve actually been likened to Hitler (before Hitler) in some of his methods was …wait for it …Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln broke more constitutional law than any other president in U.S history. He imprisoned political opponents without due process. He suspended habeas corpus. He was personally responsible for the deaths of six hundred thousand people.

He invaded countries that had declared their own sovereignty and forced them back into a union they didn’t want to be a part of. He unilaterally annexed Nevada, without 60 thousand residents, (a pre-requisite for becoming a state) in order to carry it and win the 1864 election. In other words, he pretty much rigged it.

And when he was killed by the highest paid and most famous actor of his day (ironic …don’t you think?), the actor screamed “death to tyrants!” (in latin) because the man thought he was being a patriot for ridding the world of a dictator. But he wasn’t …and he didn’t.

Lincoln did all of those things to end and win the Civil War. And today we love him for it …as we should. Because in the end, his vision was right …even though his methods were suspect in the heat of the moment.

When people think they’re seeing a Hitler, they might actually – sometimes – be seeing something closer to a Churchill. Before WWII everyone thought Churchill was the big bad wolf. His own people hated him and thought he was a Hitler type character (again …pre-Hilter). But he just kept saying, “guys …I’m telling you. This Hitler guy is the real problem. Not me.” And he turned out to be right. There’s a difference between an abrasive leader who makes you uncomfortable …and a despot.

Now, people are comparing Donald Trump to Hitler. And the countdown has officially begun, to …well …I don’t know …but something really bad. I get that someone who is combative with the press and who wants to vet refugees and shut down open immigration fits the bill some are always looking for when it comes to finally getting their “Hitler” villain.

But if you study enough about it, you realize the guy vetting and banning refugees is probably not Hitler …the guy CREATING refugees probably is.

If we keep looking for Hitler in every United States president we disagree with, we’re not going to recognize the real one when he actually shows up …in a different country.

R

A synopsis of a fortnight…

I’m sure I am going to piss a lot of people off with this “reblog,” but I have to say it is a great read. There is a portion that particularly appealed to me since I have seen so much lamenting, bashing, general disgust, encouragement (yes, encouragement) at what is going on in our country. “I’m encouraged that nearly every creative person I know, liberal or conservative or otherwise, has decided that Trump’s nonsense is not for them. I’m encouraged that a large number of the conservative people I know and/or respect have decided to stand for the rule of law rather than a rule of Trump.” – John Scalzi, I so agree with you!  For those who are willing to take the time to read, it is very much worth doing:

A Fortnight of Trump

(http://whatever.scalzi.com/2017/01/31/a-fortnight-of-trump/)

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written about Trump here! And what a two weeks it’s been! Herewith, not-especially-well-organized thoughts on a fortnight of a not-especially-well-organized administration:

1. I mean, these are remarkable times, aren’t they? There are moments in life when you are very truly aware that you are living in history — things that will prominently be in history books fifty or a hundred years down the line — and there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind we’re right smack dab in a middle of some bona fide history, people. It’s kind of exhilarating! Mind you, I’m hoping it’s the exhilaration of a nation reawakening to a commitment of democratic principles, rather than the exhilaration of a consumptive’s moment of clarity before they finally hork out the useful portion of their lungs. But either way, it certainly is a time.

2. I’m feeling many things about the Trump administration, but I have to admit one of the primary emotions I am feeling is a deep and abiding embarrassment. I’m embarrassed that my president and his administration are clearly malign, but I’m also embarrassed that they are so clearly incompetent. These people are both ignorant and stupid, and while on one hand that’s a silver lining — it blunts the effectiveness of the previously-mentioned malignancy — on the other hand the fact that a great nation installed these bumptious yahoos in the first place says very little good about us.

3. This is also why I am mildly exasperated at the idea floating about, that the fumbling bullshit nonsense these numpties are up to represents 11-dimensional super-chess political moves. Folks, no. Really, just, no. If they were 11-dimensional super-chess masters, they wouldn’t have had a negative polling rating eight days into their administration; they’d instead have made us delighted to waltz down the path to a comfortable and complacent fascism. But they didn’t, because they can’t, because they’re not that smart. A White House that spends four days litigating the size of an inauguration crowd is not a clutch of masterminds. Masterminds wouldn’t have given a shit about how many people showed up on the goddamn National Mall.

But don’t you see, Scalzi? All of this is distraction from their true mastermind evil plans! Folks, you realize that needing these jackasses to be masterminds is a form of vanity, yes? We couldn’t have possibly chosen to be ruled by custard-headed bigots who can’t find their asses with GPS and an Eagle Scout! They must be smarter than that! Well, no, they’re really not, and yes, we really did. There are lots of ways to explain that — I favor the whole “the GOP’s decades-long plan to undermine its voters’ dedication to truth and public institutions really paid off” angle of things personally — without having to haul out the 11-dimensional chess board.

4. But don’t worry, folks! Blundering numpties are dangerous enough! And to be clear our blundering numpties have a plan — white authoritarianism is a thing, y’all — and fundamentally what they have on their side is that they don’t really respect law, or tradition, or you. You’re either useful, or fuck you. Incompetent or not, they’ll keep going until they can’t, and they expect you to follow the rules they have no intention of following. The thing is, the rules can stop them — from the Constitution on down — but only to the extent that people hold them to those rules, and plant their feet.

Our problem as I see it is that the House and Senate are currently controlled by the GOP, i.e., the folks who spent the last few decades undermining inconvenient truths and political comity, and whose current leaders, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, apparently are working on the motto of “Whatever, man, so long we get to kill Social Security and Medicare, too.” So, yeah. It does help that Trump is busily antagonizing Republican senators who offer even the mildest of complaint regarding his policies and incompetence, but let’s face the fact that spines are in short supply on the right side of the aisle at the moment. Will that change? We’ll find out!

And the Democrats? They spent the first week apparently under the impression things were normal, and it took two solid weeks of protests and phone calls to suggest to them that maybe just going along might not be the thing for them to do. As I’m typing this they’re putting sticks into the spokes of several cabinet confirmation processes of especially problematic candidates, so that’s good! But then Rick Perry just passed his Senate panel vote with Democratic votes, so maybe not every Democrat got the memo (I actually personally think Perry is likely to be one of the least problematic of the cabinet picks — he’s ignorant as hell about his position, but I think he’s more likely to listen to people who aren’t ignorant with regards to his duties, and isn’t that just a perfect encapsulation of the Trump years, when “ignorant but maybe trainable” is a positive). I’m mildly optimistic that the Democrats will generally get the memo that giving a pass to the incompetent and malign will not age well, especially when the incompetent and malign have no intention of ever returning any political favor. Again: We’ll find out!

5. What about Bannon? He’s smart, right? Well, he appears to be the smartest person in the White House right now, which is not the same as actually smart. But inasmuch as his personal philosophy appears to be “I’m a bigot and I have a box of matches” and he’s found a useful idiot in Trump, he’s definitely a problem. Is he the actual president, a la Cheney? He’s certainly got his hand up Trump’s ass, and he and Putin seem to be having a thumb war around the vicinity of Trump’s epiglottis in order to see whose turn it is to work the puppet. I think it’s self-evident that Bannon’s a racist piece of shit who shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House, but I also thought it was a self-evident Donald Trump was a racist piece of shit who shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House, too, and look where that got us.

Bannon’s reflexive racism and anti-semitism makes the Trump administration do stupid things, a fine example being it offering up a release on Holocaust Remembrance Day that somehow didn’t manage to mention the Jews, i.e., the principal targets of the Holocaust and the reason the Nazis built out the entire apparatus of the Holocaust. When called on it, the White House offered the same rhetorical line — “well, others suffered in the Holocaust, too” — that Holocaust deniers use to minimize the extent of the atrocity done to the Jews. Bannon’s fingerprints are all over this, and it’s appalling both that the White House put out a release like this, and that it either didn’t realize that everyone would see the dog whistle to America’s home-grown Nazis… or it didn’t care whether everyone saw it or not. Either, to me, is all Bannon; neither is especially smart.

6. What’s really remarkable about the Trump administration is that we are literally in week two, and its managed to have enough scandal and constitutional crisis for an entire year of a normal administration. Hell, even Dubya, the former modern low benchmark for incompetence, stretched out his nonsense. Now, you might recall that I predicted this the last time I wrote about Trump — I said we’d see a hundred-day “Gish Gallop” of nonsense from them (to the extent the Trump folks had any plan at all) — but it’s one thing to say “yup, this is going to happen” and another to see it in full effect in just two dizzying weeks.

I don’t think this is sustainable, and I don’t mean in terms of people’s ability to protest, which I think is capacious. I mean that, while it is prudent to plan for four years of Trump, I’m going to be surprised if he lasts that long. I mean, this is the goddamn honeymoon for his administration. It is protests and chaos and possibly even Democrats in Congress locating (or at least borrowing) spines, and a subterranean approval rating. Even worse, Trump just isn’t enjoying himself. He’s been fucking miserable for two straight weeks and it’s not getting better from here. I suspect that not too long in the future he’ll find a way to declare victory and bug out.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking (scratch that, it is wishful thinking). But here’s the thing: The Trump administration has already set the tone: It’s racist, it’s nationalistic in the worst way, it’s authoritarian, it is petulant and thin-skinned, and it’s not actually competent. It’s been jammed up from day one and the resistance to it is just going to get stronger from here. Whatever Trump thought he was going to achieve, in his fever dream of the office of the President being some combination of a king and his “Apprentice” shtick, he’s now unlikely to get it. He’s not used to being told “no” and he hates being unpopular, and by all indications he doesn’t actually like working much. I think he’s gonna say “fuck this” after a while and leave the whole mess to Pence (I almost said “poor Pence,” but that fellow signed up for this, so). I also think it’s more likely for him to leave of his own accord then to be impeached or removed via the 25th Amendment.

Is there any way for Trump to save his presidency? Sure, there are lots of ways! But most of them would require Trump getting a personality transplant and/or ditching the core of his brain trust, and I don’t see that happening. Bear in mind “save” is a loaded term; the man is president and he’s entirely capable of weathering four years of this out of sheer cussedness. It’s entirely possible I’m wrong, Trump doesn’t care to “save” his tenure, and he’ll just do what he’s going to do because screw you, that’s why. I’ve been wrong before! Sadly, in this particular case.

7. Leaving aside the ethical dimensions of Trump’s actions to date, from a purely economic and political point of view he’s pretty much been a nightmare. Businesses have to be watching his incipient trade war with Mexico, his immigration ban and the domestic protests and thinking to themselves “well, this is no good.” Trump’s nationalism is going to end up being bad for business, and in particular it’s likely to be bad for businesses in the very states where Trump had his strongest support. This more than anything else may be what turns a sufficient segment of the GOP against Trump — in the end, you don’t screw with the GOP’s money. There’s a racist, nationalist core of Trump supporters who value that more than business, mind you — they’d rather be pure than rich — so now I guess we get to see whether the GOP would rather be racist or rich. Should be interesting!

8. I’ve noted before that Trump is the end result of decades of the GOP working to undermine its voters’ faith in the system and in truth — but that Trump arrived about a cycle too early for the GOP’s plan to really pay off like it wanted. It was hoping for a bland, unobjectionable tool (think: Rubio) to be the front man while it dug itself in like a tick into the processes of government, and instead got a loud, racist incompetent with a pack of racist reactionary pals, who see the GOP as just another tool to use or to thump on when it doesn’t do what it’s told.

This is no good for the GOP, because now that Trump has alienated women and immigrants and the Latinx/Hispanics and LGBTetc and Jews and everyone who knows and cares for anyone in those groups, and the GOP is likewise putting the fear of god into people who want health insurance, who is left for them? Old white people (especially the ones who haven’t twigged to the fact that Ryan wants to take away their Medicare and Social Security), evangelicals who want cover for their racism, homophobia and worldly greed, and the sort of white dude who still thinks Pepe the Frog is the height of wit. Annnd that’s pretty much it! Not a lot to grow on, unfortunately for the GOP, and the longer Trump’s in office, the worse it’s going to get.

I’m not saying that everyone who is appalled by Trump is going to go to the Democrats, who have their own stew of issues, which I will leave to others to essay. But unless Trump actually does manage to destroy American democracy and replace it with a white authoritarian government in the next six months, I think all he’s really going to do is destroy the GOP. Which, you know. Sow the wind, etc. This is what the GOP has been working toward. That they didn’t expect that Trump was the form they’d get is neither here nor there to that.

9. What have I been encouraged about? I’ve been encouraged to see slightly more spine in some elected officials. I’ve been encouraged that blue states, particularly Massachusetts and California, seem to be ready to take the fight to Trump. I’ve been encouraged that news organizations have decided to call lies lies and decide there is more to news than filling up a 24-hour cycle with crap (they still have the 24-hour news cycle, and it is, alas, still largely filled with crap. But the ratio of useful-to-crap seems to be getting better). I’m encouraged that organizations like the ACLU have gotten right into the fight from day one. I’m encouraged that people like Sally Yates put their careers on the line to point out the injustice of Trump’s orders. I’m encouraged that nearly every creative person I know, liberal or conservative or otherwise, has decided that Trump’s nonsense is not for them. I’m encouraged that a large number of the conservative people I know and/or respect have decided to stand for the rule of law rather than a rule of Trump.

And most of all, I’m encouraged by the millions of people from everywhere and all walks of life who went out into the streets in the last couple of weeks, and who called their elected representatives, and who donated money and time and expertise to protest against Trump and his people, and their plans, and their morality, or lack thereof. As many people have noted, the alt-right have called them “snowflakes” but you get enough snowflakes in one place and you get an avalanche. It’s heartening to see millions standing for a diverse and vibrant America, and not for a mean and racist one. I noted before that Trump is president and as such he and his crew got to make all the first moves, nor are they done making those moves. There’s more to come from them. But it’s clear they weren’t prepared for the pushback. Good.

10. I hate that we are where we are now, but it’s also not wrong to say that I feel weirdly optimistic. Trump is terrible, his administration incompetent, and we’re confronted with the fact that our nation’s bigotry and awfulness has its head right now. But what’s happening because of it is the exact opposite of a shrug and quiet acceptance. I didn’t want us to have to have this political moment — I would have been happy with a Clinton administration, honest! — but if we have to have this political moment, and we do, I am heartened by the response to it. Our country is going to suffer damage because of Trump. We won’t be the same nation we were before. But we get to find out whether at the end of it we become a better nation. I think we might! If we keep at it.

And that’s an encouraging thought. I plan to keep at it. I hope you will, too.

Perhaps… The Haunting of Dana?

Back in December, my son, Anthony, was killing time at a job fair, waiting to interview perspective employees for his company and asked for some prompts for a creative writing project he was doing. In response to his request I sent him this prompt:  “It was dark and raining when I suddenly hear a loud boom. I know it’s not thunder…”

Within an hour, he came up with part one and finally finished it recently. It needs a title. Any suggestions??  Now, sit back and enjoy this read from an extremely talented imagination!

“Another day, another deluge here in Tampa folks! Tomorrow looks to bring more of the same. Better start building that ark and counting anim..” *click* Dana switched off the television with bitter disappointment and an air of annoyance. The weatherman’s cheery attitude matched his cheap, bright suit, but not her mood.

“It’s cats and dogs outside for days, and this asshole is smiling about it.” She muttered as she peaked out of the curtains into the storming night. The rain seemed to be mad at the earth that it struck, each drop landing more ferociously than the first. She longed to see the headlights of Paul’s truck, slicing through the rain, but he wouldn’t be back for a few days, at the earliest. While the rain violently crashed down, the tears on her face fell slowly. “It’s only a few more days, Dana. Pull yourself together.”

Dana was upset that she was not able to go with Paul and their daughter, Faith, to help her relocate for her freshman year in college. No, not upset, she was fucking pissed. Sometimes work got in the way of life, but this time it was too much. Luckily, for what she lacked in family company, she made up for in bottles of wine. If she was going to be lonely, she might as well be buzzed doing it. She downed the remainder of her glass while wiping away a rogue tear and marched towards the wine cabinet to find her next companion.

As she debated the finer points of an Oregon Pinot or a bottle of five dollar Cabernet, everything went dark. “Well, fuck. This is just fucking perfect!” She directed her shout directly at the light fixture that she couldn’t see, but knew was there. She was not surprised the power went out, the thunder and lightning had been worsening for days. But damn it, she was still angry about it. Fumbling blindly in the dark for her phone, she heard a very loud and distinct “boom”. She froze, it was not thunder. The sound of thunder does not come from inside her house. The boom had a familiar ring to it; like someone hammering on a door.

Boom.

She found her phone.

Boom.

She turned on the phone’s flashlight.

Boom.

She caught a glimpse of a wave of moisture, as if seeing a breath in cold weather. Fear trickled in slowly as she realized that it was a breath. Her own. The temperature had dropped fiercer than the rain outside. Each breath expanded in front of her, faster and faster. Tiny knocks rattled against the window behind her. She turned quickly shining the light on the window, it was almost completely frosted over and was holding steady against the hail that was now steadily bouncing against it. Goose bumps rose on the back of her neck. “What the fuck is going on?!” Her brain fought frantically to interpret what it knew was impossible. A shriek left her lips as she felt an icy breath on the back of her neck. She snared a bottle of wine to use as a weapon and ran towards the bedroom. The shot gun was in the closet. She just had to make it to the closet. The breath hit her neck with force. She attempted to turn around, to confront the source of the breath, but she was paralyzed. Her legs were frozen, and the frost was creeping up further.

Boom.

The door to their bedroom splintered open and he was able to remove the chair blocking the handle. “Damn it! Dana, Dana answer me! Are you here?! Are you okay?!” Paul frantically searched their room for signs of life. He was only gone for a few days, but she had stopped answering the phone the last night of his trip. She always answered. “Dana, you in here?!” He called as he tore through the room. He hardly noticed that the house was freezing, quite literally. But he took stark attention to the temperate of the closet door. The air radiated frigidity towards him as he began to shiver. The door handle burned his hand as if he gripped dry ice without a glove. He blocked out the pain and pulled the door from its frozen frame.

The light to the closet blinked on and gave off a dull, blue light. The light twinkled brilliantly off the large block of ice in the middle of the closet. It playfully reflected off the phone and the broken bottle of Oregon Pinot frozen in side.

Part Two as written a few days after:

“Daaaaaaaaana. Daaaaaaana.”

A chilly, singsong voice snaked slowly across the room. Worming it’s way, muffled at first, then with rising strength. Whispering through layers of space like sunlight kissing the bottom of a neglected swimming pool. Warbled, disconnected, and distant, the voice playfully pushed aside the muck and penetrates deeper.

“Dana. Daaaaana. It’s time to wake up now.”

The voice tickled the inside of Dana’s ears ever so slightly, teasing her. She stirred slightly in resistance, but the voice brought forth the warmth of the Florida sun. Welcoming her to continue her peaceful rest.

“Dana. WAKE UP!!”

The singsong voice morphed into shrillness. Words, once slow wanderers, catapulted harshly into her brain causing her to wince with pain. Dana’s eyes shot open with a bloodshot haze distorting the darkness. A blue light briefly washed the room with energy and in that moment, instant dread broke through the haze. This was not her house, and she was not alone.

Her mind struggled to process through her groggy state of affairs. Slowly, she attempted to assemble her memory of the evening. The haziness, she knew, was not from the wine. Judging by the way her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth like sandpaper, it had been hours without a drink. Of anything. She took a deep cool breath of damp, musty air and felt it soothe the cracks that crept down the back of her throat. That will have to do. To her frustration, her memory would not cooperate. Trying to remember what had transpired was as trying to complete a Jackson Pollock puzzle without all the pieces, or worse…too many.

Her head pounded incessantly with a dehydrated ache. If only she could rub her temple, she could make it go away. Breaking through the haze even further provided another piece to the puzzle. Her wrists and ankles were warm and sticky. In the flash of blue she saw that her hands and ankles were bound to a chair. The ropes sliced their way through her pale, almost luminescent, skin. Blood escaped from its cage turning the ropes red, not from fighting the restraints, but from the ferocity of which they were tied.

“Dana, I said to wake up….”

The voice frolicked playfully on the pools of blood that grew ever larger below her feet. It climbed tentatively up her leg, carefully avoiding the streams of sticky red that made their way downward to join the pools. Each of its eight legs touched her skin one at a time, then all together. Its eight eyes blinked in unison as it crested her knees, its stare locked directly onto hers. The piece eluded her, she could hear the voice but she could also see it as well. The voice’s breath was cold on her skin as it marched slowly up her thigh, each step coming faster and more hellish than the last. Eight legs marching in unison up her stomach. Eight legs savagely storming onto her breasts while eight eyes held her gaze. By the time the voice reached her shoulder, its cool breath raised bumps on her neck. And as it creeped into her ear, the legs knocked rapidly like tiny pellets on metal. No, like hail on glass. Another piece of the puzzle. The shrillness of the voice as it settled inside her ear caused her insides to jump violently.

“Dana. I said wake up. So fucking. Wake. The. Fuck. Up.”

The blue flashed again, and in front of her sat a Victorian mirror. The ornate iron circle cuddled a finely polished glass that seemed to hold the blue captive, giving off an other worldly glow. Still reeling internally, her world tilted externally in kind. Her chair reached forward as the room titled while the wall opposite of where she sat slowly started becoming the floor. The chair teetered precariously as her floor became the wall. She barely had time to wonder how this was possible when the legs of the chair slipped in the pools of blood. Gravity disappeared momentarily as she hovered over the mirror in her chair by her restraints. Blood dripped onto the mirror, and then tendrils dripped into it. Red streams burrowing their way deeper into the mirror, mixing with the blue light that encompassed its soul. The ropes that kept her in the chair started to slowly untie, releasing her a half inch at a time from the floating prison.

As she fell into the mirror, she expected to feel the sensation of glass breaking and meeting her skin, but instead she was surrounded by red and blue. The brilliant, deep violet it created was blinding. As she fell further into the mirror, she could hear the singsong voice once more.

“Dana, I did tell you to wake up.”

—————

“Anthony, you’re fine baby, don’t worry.” Dana was barely able to mutter the words as her son suffered from another asthma attack. She had to stay calm and show resolve, her worrying would only make things worse for him. She stroked his hair and rocked gently as he struggled to breath, fearing that each gasp would be his last. His chest heaved as if drowning, but there was no water to be seen. Just the red and blue faced child in her arms, hoping for another breath.

Finally, the breathing machine kicked on and the lifeline of medicine vaporized, making its way through the tubes to his breathing mask. “Boo Bear, you’re fine. Pretend you’re a fighter pilot, or Superman, flying through the clouds on their way to save somebody. The asthma, that’s you’re super power.”

Her son, all of six or seven years old, looked at her with full belief. She could see in his eyes that he was flying through the clouds, saving the world, one breathing treatment at a time. As his breathing began to even out, she said a small prayer of thanks and wiped her tears away before he noticed.

—————————–

She fell.

Streams of purple fell silently around her as she plummeted slowly through the mirror. As she proceeded through her descent the thought to scream never entered her mind, not for one second. Her eyes scanned the area as she fell, slowly, she began to wonder if she was even falling at all. Her surroundings, while dark, reflected the purple light off of unseen resistance. A tendril of purple shot past her far into the distance, and she could swear that the exact same tendril of purple rocketed back the opposite direction just moments later.

Boom.

She met the cool glass with a resounding thud. Darkness gave way to a faint purple glow that reflected off her luminescent skin and back off into the inky blackness beyond the purple’s reflection. Luckily, her wounds had stopped bleeding and started to heal quicker than she imagined possible. As each separation of skin patched over, she noticed the purple light faded subtlety. As each of the flowing tendrils disappeared into the glass below her, another puzzle piece connected perfectly. The previous night’s events, well,…what she assumed was the previous night, started to fall into place morbidly. The rain, longing for Paul, mad at work, mad at the power, loving the wine…the breath.

A shiver went down Dana’s spine as she recalled the breath that caressed her as she was staring at the frozen window that should not have been frozen. Goose bumps popped up on her shoulders, unprompted, and crept their way up to the base of her skull. Shotgun. Closet. Oregon Pinot. Her mind flooded with a mass of incapacitating thoughts. Tears spouted out of her eyes and froze in place, slowly sinking into the base of the mirror, being absorbed.

————————————–

“Son, if you need to talk, I am here.” Normally stoic, her tears flowed freely for her son. She had seen his heart broken before, but not like this. No…not like this. She cursed the world for her not being able to be there to hold him, to offer the comfort that only she could offer. She listened to his sobs; she noted that they came uncontrollably. Consoling was not an option, but repairing a heart that was being torn apart was. It was her job – she could do it. “Son, talk to me.”

He didn’t. He just cried, unrelentingly, made an excuse and disconnected the conversation.

—————————————-

“Mom, wake up…please, just wake up.”

The voice returning was not a surprise; the floor turning into a reflective quicksand was another story. She sank as she heard the voice, which had somehow managed to sound very much like her son, tell her to wake up. From soft tones, to dangerous cursing overtures, the voice mocked her. She was a wake, and sinking further into the mirror.

“Stop telling me to fucking wake up and toss me a fucking rope!” She shouted as the mirror sand had reached her waist. If the voice was going to mock her, she would demand that it gave her assistance as well. “Well?! Where the fuck is my rope?!”

Silence thundered off of the mirror sand, which had enveloped her chest. She began to wonder if the voice had abandoned her. She thought of the last conversation she had had with her son. She could sense that he was still not himself. It had been years and he was still fraught with pain, quite possibly sinking himself. She worried that each phone call or text would be the last between the two. She sank further; mirror sand topped her shoulders as she continued her downward descent. She just managed to work an arm out of the downward spiral she was in and sucked in one last breath.

“GIVE ME MY ROPE!” She screamed just before her head was completely enveloped in the sand of red, blue, and tears, disappearing into a shimmering purple reflection.

The voice, still her son’s, seemed to slightly crack. It seemed to be a fight between disappointment and hope in a battle for supremacy.

“She is waking up…” trailed the voice, echoing slowly out of existence.

The mirror sand barely rippled as it swallowed her, with only her hand remaining in the air.

It rippled even less when an object plopped directly to the left the hopeful hand.

The hand grasped what it knew was a rope, and pulled.

—————————————-

Paul had never believed in the supernatural, not once in his life. His experiences in catholic school and the Army lead him to believe one thing; you can only trust what you see because there is no such thing as faith. His instincts had lead him a long way in life, and they had kept him alive through many fires with the Irving Fire Department and through many a firefight in Afghanistan. He found most problems could be solved through dousing something with a lot of water, or lead. Logic and reason is what makes sense in his world. Not ghosts, Holy or otherwise.

“It still doesn’t make any sense to me. Why the ice, how…is she…s-she okay?” Paul stared in disbelief into the closet, shivering. The house was well below freezing despite the temperature outside being an ideal 80 degrees. He felt like he was inside of a snow globe, frozen in time while he was shaken about unmercifully. “Anthony, why is she in the ice?”

“Paul, man, I’ve told you. She is fine. She is fighting for her life, but she is fine in the ice. From what I’ve researched, it is supposed to keep her safe.”

Paul tried to focus on Anthony’s voice as he explained what happened, but the whole situation just did not make sense. Anthony went on about how he had heard that their house was haunted; the malevolent spirit that resided in the house preyed on distraught women. The spirit broke them down from the inside, torturing them mentally while feeding off their life force. Paul believed Anthony, but this shit just did not make sense to him.

“Anthony, how are you here?” he stared at the floor as he asked the question. He noticed that Dana’s footsteps towards the closet were frozen in the carpet. Her short legs had made long strides to escape the evil spirit. She obviously had no idea what was coming for her, or she would have ran out of the house and not towards the shotgun. Paul was proud of her for making it that far. “Why…how did you know to come here?”

“She’s my mom, Paul. I came as soon as I found out what was happening.” The disappointment in Anthony’s voice hung thickly on the air. Paul knew that Anthony was too slow in coming to his mother’s aid, just as he was himself. Neither of them vocalized that fact, but they both knew the truth of it. “I did what I could to help her, to give her a chance, Paul. You have to believe me. I just…I’m sorry, man. I’m so, so sorry.”

“I don’t know how any of this is possible Anthony, but I trust you. God dammit, just help me bring her home.”

Anthony nodded in silence, but Paul did not notice…let alone see him. All he could focus on was the block of ice containing his wife, and how the hell she was supposed to get out of it.

………………….

Dana continued her assent, one hand grasping further into the air after another. Sand cascaded off her glowing body, hurtling back towards the depths. Shouting echoed around her as she climbed, the voice arguing with itself. The shrillness of the voice intertwined with that of her son’s, as if fighting a battle against itself.

“How did you come here, why now?!” the shrillness shrieked violently. Dana could hear boom after boom ahead of her as if two titans battled for souls in the room she was steadily rising towards. “You are NOT supposed to be here, when she wakes up SHE IS MINE!”

“Do not concern yourself with how I am here,” her son’s voice echoed out once again. The familiarity of it made it sound almost as if it were, in fact, him. She shook her head, it was not possible. “The why, is what should be concerning. She is not yours, and you will not have her.”

A chill ran through out Dana as the shrillness shrieked, as it was a shriek of hatred and pain. Most of all, it was a shriek of fear. She could not understand why the voice argued against itself, but she was happy that it was distracted as she made her escape from the mirror.

“I will kill you!”

BOOM!!!

Dana strained her ears to try to grasp what was happening above, but all she was greeted with was silence.

She climbed.

Dana reached the oval opening from which the rope hung and gripped the iron edges of the mirror. To her surprise, the room that she climbed into was not the one that she had fallen.

Carefully, she pealed herself from the cool, smooth glass and settled onto the floor. The mirror was the same ornate iron mirror that she fell through, but the chair and the ropes had vanished. Darkness no longer enveloped the room, which was now a blinding white and blue. Light glittered off two items floating in the room, suspended in place…her cell phone, and a broken bottle of Oregon Pinot.

“What the fuck…” she whispered, her breath quite visible in front of her. “What the fuck…ANTHONY! Son, where are you?!” She was convinced now that it was in fact her son’s voice she was hearing, and he had to be close.

She noticed the walls were frozen, and not quite opaque. She stared intently at the wall, willing herself to see through it. Clothes, shoes…shotgun…Paul. She saw Paul sitting on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands, crying.

“Paul..PAUL!!! Paul, I’m here!” she screamed wile banging on the wall. She saw him raise his head and look in her direction as if he had heard her plea, but he shook it while whispering something to himself returning his head to his hands. “DAMN IT, IT PAUL. I AM HERE!!!”

“Yes, Dana, you are here. Finally.” The shrillness had transformed back to the singsong voice that had first teased her. “I am happy that you’re finally awake.”

She was able to see the voice once more. It had abandoned its spider form, thankfully. Mist had taken the form of a towering figure. The figure glided towards her, staring holes into her soul with two black, dead eyes that seemed to seep smoke.

“PAUL, PLEASE!!!” she screamed, as the figure loomed closer. Beating on the wall with all her might, she thought she felt it crack, just a millimeter. She continued to beat. The figure continued its slow move towards her. “Paul…Paul….”

She felt a breath on the back of her neck. An icy, heavy breath. Her neck froze with each of the excited, haggard breaths. Turning, she confronted the figure head on. A ghastly face had formed around the eyes, which she could not look directly into, and a smile formed on its long, thin lips.

“I thought I had lost you. He tried to steal you from me and wake you up himself. No, that would just not do.” the shrillness singsonged to her. His mouth did not move, but words escaped it nevertheless. Just the grin, slowly widening, impossibly so. “I enjoy this much more when they are awake.”

The figure’s mouth opened slowly, revealing row after row of glowing, razor sharp teeth. The mouth soon had opened wide enough to encompass the entirety of the figure’s face. Admitting a low, pleasurable growl, it leaned closer to Dana.

She was frozen, this time with fear. She searched the room for an escape, desperately searching for a door or window to flee through. There were none. Just the mirror, her phone, and a broken bottle of wine.

“I love you, Paul.” She said towards the transparent wall. She longed to feel his embrace one last time. She did not know what the monster that was upon her was, but she knew it would be the end of her.

BOOM!

The monster stopped, looking confused and slightly concerned.

BOOM!

The concern turned into fear as the smile faded back into a thin-lipped grimace.

BOOM!

The glass in the mirror shattered in a violent explosion of blue, white, and violet sending shards of frozen sand flying across the room.

Dana shielded her face from the blast and felt her skin scratched in the sand storm. The shrillness had returned, shrieking…matching the sound of her own scream. Once again, she thought that she had heard the faintest “crack” from the wall.

“Mom, run!” Anthony shouted as he hovered over the mirror. “RUN NOW!”

Dana did not question how Anthony had arrived, she did not question where she was supposed to run in this small room with no doors, she just ran. The room seemed to expand around her as she ran; unable to reach the opposite wall, but still putting distance between her son and the figure.

“H-how did you escape?!” cried the shrillness towards her son. The figure grew greatly in stature, its arms formed into medieval weapons of destruction. As the shrillness grew, so did its confidence. “It matters not, boy. I will destroy you.”

“No.” Anthony whispered as he rose higher over the mirror, the ceiling raising with him. With a bolt, he flew directly at the figure, brandishing a flaming sword that appeared out of the frost that surrounded him.

The figure anticipated this move, raising his arm and twisting it dangerously causing a morning star to appear swinging towards Anthony. At the last moment Anthony diverted his path sharply, barely dodging the morning star as, slashing the figure’s leg with flame.

Mist sizzled as the flame swept through the figure, causing it to cry out in pain. It quickly flung a spear of ice in Anthony’s direction in a fit of rage. Unable to dodge, the spear caught Anthony just above the shoulder, causing him to crash heavily against the wall.

Dana noticed another, distant cracking sound. She also noticed the figure stalked closer to Anthony, who was struggling to remove the ice spear from his shoulder. He frantically pulled at the spear with both hands, slipping on the ice, the spear not budging. She ran. No, she flew towards the figure that was standing over her son.

The shrillness leaned in closely to Anthony as it hovered over him. “Now, boy, you WILL die.”

The growling whisper reverberated through the room, brushing Dana backward as she flew closer. Anthony looked at his mother and gave her a silent nod of love and acknowledgement. She could see that he felt that he had accomplished the mission that he had come to do.

The figure raised its morning star and brought it down with a crushing blow. At the same moment, Anthony pulled the figure tightly to him, running the figure through with its own ice spear. Dana wisped closer, leaning to pick up her son’s sword. The shrillness raised its head, howling out in pain. Anthony did not make a sound, nor did he move.

With a sudden and violent swing, Dana took the figure’s head off with nothing but sizzling mist left in its place.

“Anthony, son, are you okay?! I love you, son, so much!” As she landed next to him she could tell that he was not.

Dana’s scream reverberated throughout space and time, cracking both completely.

…….

Paul was blown backwards by the explosion. Ice and clothes flew throughout the room, and he swore he saw a phone fly past him as well. He quickly composed himself and started towards the closet. Dana, his bride, knelt in the closet crying. He scrambled across the debris towards his wife and pulled her into his chest. She was crying, and freezing.

“Dana, baby, you’re here now, you’re safe.” Paul was barely able to say the words through his sobs of joy. “I’m never leaving you again.”

“Paul, where is Anthony? He was injured saving me … we need to go back and help him.” She said quickly, with determination and fear. She had to save her son, as he had just done for her.

Paul held her closely, attempting to warm her frozen soul. He wished that he could go and help her son. To save him, to thank him for helping her come back. But he couldn’t.

“Dana, baby…” Paul whispered, unable to control his emotions. The truth of his words seared through him, knowing the pain they would bring. “Anthony has been dead for years.”

© Anthony Martinez, 2016

Justice Democrats: Platform

PLATFORM

It’s time to face the facts: the Democratic Party is broken and the corporate, establishment wing of the party is responsible. Republicans now hold most state legislatures, most governorships, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. So in 2018, hundreds of Justice Democrats will run a unified campaign to replace every corporate-backed member of Congress and rebuild the party from scratch. This is our plan.

Pass a constitutional amendment to put an end to Washington corruption and bring about election reform. Super PACs should be banned, private donations to politicians and campaigns should be banned, and a clean public financing system should be implemented to end the takeover of our government by corporations and billionaires. Americans deserve free and fair elections – free from the corruption of big money donors. The Supreme Court has effectively legalized bribery. It’s time for an Article 5 convention to take our democracy back from the brink of oligarchy. Prior to passing this amendment, all members of the Justice Party should reject billionaire and corporate donations when running for office to show the American people we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Ranked choice voting should also be implemented to make smaller parties a viable option. All provisions of the voting rights act should be reinstated, and gerrymandering for partisan gain should be banned.

Re-regulate Wall Street and hold white-collar criminals accountable. Despite engaging in systemic fraud and causing a subprime mortgage meltdown and the great recession, you can count the people from Wall Street who are in prison for their crimes on one hand. It’s time to prosecute the criminals, bring back Glass-Steagall, and re-regulate Wall Street to prevent another crash. Prison is not just for the poor and the middle class anymore. We will have cops on Wall Street, not just Main Street.

It’s time for an Article 5 convention to take our Democracy back from the brink of Oligarchy.

End billionaire and corporate tax dodging, fix the system to benefit middle-class and poor people. Corporations dodge $450 billion a year in taxes by using offshore tax havens. We should end this injustice, as well as chain the capital gains tax to the income tax, increase the estate tax, and implement the Buffet rule so that no millionaire CEO pays less in taxes than his or her secretary. It’s time for a tax system that benefits the middle-class and the poor, and makes the top 1% and multinational corporations pay their fair share.

Defend free speech and expression. We support the right to express unpopular opinions without fear of censorship. We support free speech on college campuses. The marketplace of ideas should be embraced. A vibrant debate is healthy for democracy, and we should cherish our first amendment. We also support net neutrality for a free and open internet.

Oppose bigotry. We must speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all forms of bigotry. Non-discrimination protections that currently apply to race, religion, and gender should be expanded to include the LGBTQ community and the atheist community. Making all Americans equal is not asking for special privileges, it’s asking for the rule of law – justice and equality for all as outlined in the United States Constitution.

Make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation. This is about justice and basic human decency. If you work hard and you work full time you shouldn’t live in poverty.

Ensure universal healthcare as a right. The United States should catch up to every other modern nation and implement a single-payer, medicare-for-all system. There’s no reason we can’t be #1 in the world instead of #37. It’s time to end the destruction of American healthcare by rapacious, price gouging, for-profit, private health insurance middlemen.

Ensure universal education as a right. Educating the citizenry of a nation pays dividends in the long run, with the economy getting back much more than is initially put in. Crushing student debt for higher education would no longer burden young men and women trying to improve their lives through hard work. We should strive to have the best education system in the world.

In 2018, hundreds of Justice Democrats are going to run a unified campaign to replace every corporate-backed member of Congress

End unnecessary wars and nation building. The United States maintains 800 military bases worldwide at a cost of $100 billion a year, this is money that can be spent at home creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, and investing in the future of the people. The disastrous war in Iraq cost trillions, the war in Afghanistan is 15 years in with no end in sight, and we’re currently bombing 7 different countries. We spend more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. Despite countless lives lost and destroyed, terrorism has only gotten worse. It’s time to end the wars and the perverse monetary-incentive structure that makes politicians flippant about sending young men and women to die. Unilateral U.S. military force should only be used as a last resort to defend the nation. The current budget could be cut drastically if we used our department of defense for what it was intended – defending us, instead of waging interventionist wars.

End the failed war on drugs. The goal is legalization, taxation, and regulation. Prohibition only makes drug cartels more powerful, increases crime, and makes drugs more dangerous due to lack of enforced safety standards. What you put in your body is your own business, and your right. A free society should allow individuals to make their own choices about their bodies. While most users are recreational and moderate, rehabilitation and treatment should be available for people struggling with addiction. Additionally, those serving time for non-violent drug offenses should be pardoned.

Create the new new deal. Our infrastructure gets a grade of D from the Society of Civil Engineers. The government should invest billions in rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, schools, levees, airports etc. There’s no reason why we can’t have the world’s #1 infrastructure.

Create the renewable energy revolution. Scientists are sounding the alarm on climate change. In order to avoid the worst case scenario and a dystopian future we need a massive green revolution. It’s time to drastically and immediately move away from fossil fuels and develop the technologies of the future. This will be a giant boon to both the private and public sector, as well as a necessary response to a global crisis. We can and we must be #1 in sustainable energy production in the world.

Block the TPP and all outsourcing deals that will further damage the middle-class. As a result of NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China and the WTO, Americans have lost millions of decent paying jobs. It’s time to end the race to the bottom and renegotiate these rigged deals that only benefit elites. We should not sacrifice our sovereignty, the only people who are allowed to make laws for the United States should be the American people, not multinational corporations.

End Constitutional overreaches. Ban the NSA from bulk data-collection and warrantless spying. Shut down Guantanamo Bay and all extrajudicial prisons. Prosecute torturers and those who violated the Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg Tribunal, International law and US law. Return habeas corpus and due process. Pardon whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. We shouldn’t be leading from behind on human rights, we must be the home of liberty. We should practice the values we preach.

It’s time to end the destruction of American healthcare by rapacious, price gouging, for-profit, private health insurance middlemen.

Ban arming human rights violators. We recently gave Saudi Arabia billions in weapons and watched the civilian death toll in their vicious bombing campaign in Yemen tick up. We continue sending Egypt arms as they violently crack down on peaceful protesters. Israel received $38 billion in aid and promptly announced new settlements. The first step to peace is not enabling nations who regularly violate international law. We must be bold enough to stand up to human rights violators who aren’t just our enemies, but our allies. We don’t weaken our allies by holding them accountable, we strengthen them.

Enact common-sense gun regulation. 92% of Americans want expanded background checks, 54% want a ban on assault weapons, and 54% want a ban on high capacity magazines. This should be implemented along with a federal gun buyback program to cut down on the 300+ million firearms in circulation. Over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence, including over 10,000 homicides. The time to act is now to address this public health crisis.

Ensure paid vacation time, sick time, maternity leave, childcare. The United States is one of just three countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer paid vacation time. This should be changed immediately.

Abolish the death penalty. Humans are fallible, we’ll never get the right answer 100% of the time. 4% of the people on death row are not guilty of a crime and have been wrongly convicted. A system that puts innocent people to death is indefensible and should be reformed. We want justice for the American people but killing innocent people on death row is the exact opposite.

Defend and protect women’s rights. We support the Paycheck Fairness Act. We oppose Republican cuts to Planned Parenthood and women’s health clinics all across the country. In 2016 alone, 60 TRAP laws targeting abortion were passed in 19 states. We will vigorously oppose all efforts to dismantle reproductive rights.

Enact police reform. We believe in the core idea of policing – to serve and protect the community. Police are a vital part of American society and that is why it’s so important to reform the system to make it serve all Americans. For-profit policing should be abolished, police training should be retooled to emphasize deescalation tactics, and body cameras should be mandatory on all officers. Furthermore, community oversight boards should be created and broken windows policing should be eliminated. Stop & frisk – which disproportionately targets blacks and latinos 87% of the time – has a 97% failure rate. On top of being discriminatory and ineffective, it’s also unconstitutional and should be ended. Special prosecutors must also be appointed to hold police accountable.


These ideas represent what the Democratic Party was supposed to represent all along. Opinion polls in the United States demonstrate that these policy positions are overwhelmingly popular. Indeed, throughout the industrialized world these ideas are considered moderate.

This is a movement about freedom and justice. And it’s a movement by and for working people. If the Democrats refuse to embrace this platform, they’ll continue to lose, either to Republicans or to us. The future of the Democratic party is the Justice wing, not the establishment wing.

Some Chicken Soup

Hear, hear!!

Professor Taboo

It might be a tiny consolation to intelligent college-degreed Americans that tRump did not win decisively the U.S. popular vote Nov. 8th. As of 12:45pm CST today it was 48% to 48%. But that will not change what has begun happening for the next 4-years.

Let me first preface my initial thoughts. I am a political Independent who thoroughly evaluates ALL candidates and their background, experience, and track-record. I pay no attention to public campaigns and even less attention to the media-TV propaganda circus. Using websites like ProCon.org and other non-profit 501(c)(3) nonprofit nonpartisan public charities that provide well-sourced pro, con, and related research enabling what I think are very well-informed decisions. That said…

If you thought Hillary Clinton’s blunders in Washington D.C. were indications of serious character flaws for the Oval Office or how well or poorly to handle affairs in our nation’s capitol, on Capitol Hill, and out…

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