The thing about tolerance is that even if you are a compassionate, empathetic individual, tolerance is not a blanket requirement. You do not, under any circumstances, have to tolerate those who are intolerant. Some people recommend ignoring them. Some people recommend forgiving them. Some people recommend turning the other cheek and giving them carte blanche to do what they will. Some people recommend making it known they are unacceptable. Any of those ideas can be effective dependent upon the situation. But I also like to do things my own way.
I wrote three versions of this essay. The first, the cynical and angry version began like this …
I don’t feel good about any of this. But I think the best thing about the recent past and the coming future is that I can tell it like it is and nobody is allowed to get upset or — gasp! — offended by it because it’s what they asked for. Your — our — feelings don’t matter. The new normal. Hoorah.
So it begins. January 20, 2017. Inauguration day. The first Dunning-Kruger Presidency. And for the second time in 16 years the losers win. But this time it was in the worst way. Outright lies. Propaganda. “Post-truths.” Dirty disinformation tactics. Or as the right is now required to call it: дезинформация.
Entitled precious snowflake demands-a-participation-trophy-for-every-thought-or-action Tweety McThinskin Donald Trump officially becomes my — our — President in a multi-million vote losing win. A whole lot of folks who think celebrities shouldn’t have a say in politics voted for a two-bit celebrity.
Because it’s not that they want celebrities to shut up. It’s that they want celebrities who have ideas counter to theirs to shut up. And that constitutes the majority of artists (actors, musicians, et al.). You won’t hear conservatives telling Chachi to be quiet. But I guess you could argue that he’s hardly a celebrity? Anyway …
I used to be one of those naïve folks who thought we could work together across party lines. We can be reasonable, right? Compromise is good, no? See the other side, shake hands, so on and so forth? But that thought changed early last year with the Supreme Court fiasco. (To be fair, I should have seen it sooner and that’s my fault.)
No, we can’t work together because most of them are not interested and they’re using your non-confrontational let’s-work-it-out ideals against you. You’re sitting ducks. It’s almost too easy. You were tricked. You were fooled. And you didn’t care or realize it until it was too late. (If you realized it at all.) My hope is that this makes you furious and spurs you to action.
And version one of this essay went on from there for another thousand words. But that’s enough. The second essay was less angry, but still heavy on cynicism. This third version is probably still fairly angry and cynical, but it’s more pragmatic. At least I did the best I could at this particular moment in time.
I do think those on the left, right, and center can work together, but the far left and the far right are so extremist I don’t see that happening. Interestingly, if you subscribe to Horseshoe Theory then the far left and far right are closer to each other than to the center. For example, both are anti-intellectual when it comes to basic science.
Although, interestingly, they’re wrong about different aspects of the sciences … except vaccines and GMOs. Common ground there. Ugh. Can we begin having a high school level science test as a requirement for holding public office, please? I’d probably even settle for middle school level. (Compromise!)
Another problem is that too many folks who are on the far right (or left) are so self unaware and delusional they think they’re being reasonable. I can’t even begin to propose a solution to that. Watch less TV? Read more? When a black family moves in across the street in your white neighborhood instead of shouting “where are these black people coming from?!” maybe invite them over for coffee and cake? Baby steps. I don’t know.
Is the moderate left, moderate right, and center big enough to make up for the fanatics on the far right and far left. I’m not optimistic, but it’s the only thread I’m hanging on.
But even if this group is big enough is it even possible to bring those of us who are not on the extremes together? Again, I don’t know. I’ll do what I can by supporting conservatives who are trying to be a bridge across the center. There aren’t many of them. One of the most vocal right now seems to be Evan McMullin. I don’t agree with him on most things, but at least he comes across as an ethical man of integrity. It’s possible to work together with people you disagree with if they’re people of integrity.
With that long preamble let’s get to the good, or depending on the type of person you are, the bad. Actually, this is a good test. You’ll likely only believe this is bad if you’re an authoritarian zealot who thinks racism doesn’t exist and/or women’s place is in the kitchen and/or poor people deserve it. You likely also believe liberals are communists because you’re intellectually stunted and don’t understand what words mean. Oops, anger is showing. No feelings …
Today begins the year(s) of Spiteful Altruism. That is, giving out of spite. (Is that cynical?)
I’ve generally been a giver as an adult and have given away in the vicinity of $100k — to charities and to individuals — over the past 15 years. From a wealth building perspective that was dumb and about two years ago I decided most big giving would stop — no more $5k or $10k checks, but maybe $100 here and there — until our net worth is more significant. But what’s the point of wealth if you live in a bubble and outside that bubble are people much like you who are hurting or struggling, most through no faults of their own?
No, life’s not fair and never will be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help people if we’re able to. My wife and I are able to. (Although I would like to point out that while this is with her full support she doesn’t necessarily endorse my methods and she is much more kind than I am here.) Many of the folks who are supposed to be role models — elected officials, baby boomer parents — are anything but so we have to put it upon ourselves.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs (oh hello foreclosure), but I’ve generally had more than enough. I mean, I’ve never had to wonder if I could afford 2,000+ calories per day or anything close to that. So I’ve always been happy to give. But this time?
This time it’s different. Usually giving came from a positive place and I didn’t talk about most of it in public or in private. Now I think maybe if I talk about it then fellow misanthropes will join me, get louder, and stand up for or support more causes they care about. If nothing else, maybe it will make me feel better. (Oops, I forgot the no feelings rule again. This isn’t easy.)
If we don’t do something now then we’ll have nothing worth having in the future anyway so I’m trying to remember the long game.
That’s not to say I think money alone is the answer here. Maybe you’re not into giving money or you actually have to worry about affording those 2,000+ calories per day. If, instead, you’re the type of person to engage in non-violent protest (the thin-skinned right hates protest if that’s at all motivating for you) or volunteer time or even take 15 minutes to call the folks in office who are supposed to represent you then high five to you. Thank you for being and doing good. There isn’t a single correct approach, but it helps if everybody does something. Another motivating factor: if you feel defeated and feel like you can’t do anything about anything that’s exactly what they want you to think and feel. Don’t let them beat you so easily.
Anyway, here is where the first $3,000+ is going.
- Planned Parenthood. Because fuck supporters of anti-woman (and anti-gay and anti-personal-freedom and anti-many-other-things) VP Mike Pence and the rest of the “keep government out of people’s lives except when it has anything to do with Christianity and women’s bodies” Republicans. It’s fine if you’re anti-abortion, but maybe you should also support those children and the families that didn’t want them after they’re forced to be born? (Also, please take a 9th grade biology class and learn about the reproductive process.) And maybe shut the fuck up and don’t force your flawed man-made ideology on the rest of us. In the words of Republican hero and Founding Father John Adams, taken from Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (1797): “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” In case it wasn’t clear, this is a fuck you to you holier-than-thou immoral dregs who think you’re morally superior. You are the problem. Planned Parenthood gets $2,400 ($200/month for at least the next 12 months). http://plannedparenthood.org
- Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). They protect the US Constitution, plain and simple. The same Constitution that Republicans pretend to love (only as long as we’re talking about the Second Amendment). FFRF fights to keep the separation of church and state real in this country and it’s going to be a greater struggle now with President Trump and Vice President Pence and their Christian extremist cabinet. FFRF gets $100. http://ffrf.org
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The first sign that they do good is that they’re strongly disliked by our new administration and those on the far right. The ACLU protects our constitutional rights and here is their plan to fight the Trump administration. They get $120 ($10/month for at least 12 months). https://www.aclu.org
- Against Malaria Foundation. They’re one of the most effective charities at what they do according to GiveWell. Against Malaria buys and distributes mosquito nets to people to help prevent malaria. In other words, they save lives. They get $250, which buys 100 mosquito nets. This link is to our fundraising page if you’d like to join us (and you can see our $250 donation there): https://www.againstmalaria.com/gajda
- Ex-Muslims of North America because people need to stop treating religion with kid’s gloves, read at least some of the Quran, and support the individuals who are persecuted or worse for leaving Islam. No religion — definitely not Islam, definitely not Christianity — is a religion of peace (well, maybe Jainism?) and the sooner you stop convincing yourself otherwise the sooner we can all progress passed using man-made fairy tales as a basis for living. They get $100. http://exmna.org
- RIP Medical Debt because they’re a sweet organization that abolishes medical debt for Americans who should never have to incur medical debt in the first place. Unfortunately, we have a large contingency of people who would rather watch folks suffer or die than help them. It’s also personal. As an American with pre-existing conditions I may need this organization at some point in the future after the people now in power get their way. That’s assuming we can’t fix their deadly mistakes by then. Over the long term — a generation, two generations? — I’m optimistic that we will, though. They get $100. https://www.ripmedicaldebt.org
More to come when we can. If you have an organization you think is worthy please share it in the comments or in a private message.
Sheesh. Telling it like it is sure is tiring and that didn’t end on the positive note I was hoping for. Maybe I should start tweeting again and keep it to 140 characters.
Welcome to the present.
“Democracy is messy. … But I believe in this country. I believe in the American people.” – 44th President of the United States Barack Obama at his final press conference as President (January 18, 2017)
I believe in us as well, President Obama. Thank you.
Peace, love, and don’t let them drag you down.
P.S. If this essay resonated with you it will probably resonate with your friends. Please share it on Facebook:
Good for you (and more to the point, good for those organizations!) I am traditionally a large but sporadic giver – might drop a thousand bucks at once but with no clear plan other than “looks like a good cause at the time” (though I do my research before donating). This is motivating me to sit down with my fiance and try to come up with a more well-thought-out, intentional plan for our upcoming giving.
Also: If anyone is feeling down about life in America these days and could use a smile, feel free to send them to penginsforeveryone.com. That’s the vehicle through which we give away stuffed penguins. Hardly a world-saving effort, but hey, it brings a smile. 150-some given at this point!
I was often the same. I used to have a small monthly donation or two setup, but it was mostly $1k+ in chunks at random times. To be honest, we would have done that here (large chunk instead of monthly) as well if not for cash flow management. :)
I live linked penginsforeveryone.com. Happy to see you’re doing something to bring smiles as well!
This is absolutely excellent; I love that you gave Planned Parenthood the biggest chunk of your wallet-voting. My view is that they and the preservation of Roe vs Wade and abortion rights deserve more support than ever. It is certainly important to fight Mike Pence’s brand of religion and keep it out of government in our secular nation.
Thank you, Bela. Unfortunately, the Trump administration doesn’t understand that what makes America great is that it’s founded on secular principles and a secular constitution. I just hope their destructive policies can be mitigated sooner than later.