Watching The Pawnbroker and Blade Runner back to back

I’ve been trying my best not to obsess about the news lately, which is why I’ve been spending less time here. (Blogging and obsessing about the news have always gone hand in hand with me.) On the plus side, this reallocation of bandwidth has given me more time to spend time with my family, take long walks around Ypsilanti, and work on the new startup. On the down side, though, I miss having a platform through which to engage with people. So, these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the future of this site, and wondering if there might be a way for me to keep it active and relevant, while also not sacrificing the things I noted above, which are making my life better. The question is, how to create a system that is both personally rewarding and sustainable.

One of the best ideas that I’ve considered thus far has been from Linette, who suggested that I stop trying to be so thorough in my dissection of current events, and instead just start posting smaller, less complete ideas, preferably in a different format. So, for the past few days, while I’ve been shut off from the family and everyone else as I await the results of my Covid test, I’ve started drawing on an iPad. Above is one of my first drawings — something I did after watching Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1964) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) back to back.

I don’t think I ever would have made the connection, had I not, purely by coincidence, chosen to watch one right after the other, but now I’m off on a tangent, thinking about the ways in which the two films overlap. Both, as you may know, end with central figures forcing pieces of metal through their hands, but I’m starting to think that the connection goes deeper than just the obvious reference to stigmata. I won’t go too deeply into it here, but it’s the kind of thing that, had I gone on to get my PhD in American Studies, I think I might have really done something interesting with.

Both films are very much about the search for the self, and what it means to be human. Rod Steiger as Sol Nazerman in The Pawnbroker, withdraws into himself after his family is murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, shutting himself off emotionally from the desperate and broken people who come into the universe of his small pawn shop of New York’s Spanish Harlem. “I have escaped from the emotions,” he says at one point. “I am safe within myself.” Ultimately, though, when he’s confronted by circumstances resulting from his own actions, he has to face his grief, the guilt he feels as a survivor, and the role he’s played in perpetuating despair in the community where he does business. And he reconnects to the physical world around him by forcing a metal spike through the palm of his hand. In Blade Runner, we have Rutger Hauer as rogue replicant Roy Batty, who, likewise, is struggling with finding humanity within himself after a short, violent life as a fighter of “off-world” wars on behalf of his human creators. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” he says during his final monologue, after pushing a nail through his own hand. Like I said, I still haven’t completely thought it all out, but I know there’s a thesis in there somewhere about the struggle to find the self and reconnect with the essence of what it means to be a connected human being. Anyway, if you ever watch the two films back to back, and want to exchange thoughts, leave a comment and I’ll respond. Until then, I’ll be working on my Venn diagram.

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Mark’s Covid Diary… February 22, 2021

A friend of ours was diagnosed with Covid not too long ago. About three or four days before her diagnosis, she and Linette had taken a long walk together. They’d been wearing their masks the whole time, and had stayed a good distance apart from one anther, but we were still concerned. Linette not only went and got tested, and told everyone that she’d been in contact with since about her possible exposure, but I also stayed away from the restaurant, just in case I might have gotten it from her. We were lucky this time. Linette’s test eventually came back negative. And our friend’s case, as it turned out, was relatively mild. Still, though, it made for a strange few days this winter, with me and the kids going on about our lives, as Linette stayed sequestered in a room downstairs, just off the kitchen, living a quieter parallel existence to that of me and the kids.

It was like the kids and I were sharing the house with a ghost. Linette, of course, had been away before. But this was different. She was here, but, at the same time, she wasn’t. The kids and I would be playing games at the kitchen table, and we’d hear her in the distance, making small movements. We’d hear a drawer close, or a muffled cough. Occasionally we’d see a glimpse of her, in her mask, as she floated quickly from the room where she was staying to the bathroom just feet away. There was no talking, really, except through the closed door, as we wanted to keep our distance. It was kind of eerie. We’d leave food on a tray outside a door, and we’d here it slowly being pulled in, across the floor of this almost 200 year old house, in as we walked away.

For what it’s worth, we were really good to her. We treated her well for the days she spent in isolation. We left her clean clothes and food. We could hear her though the walls, saying that she felt loved. But, for the most part, we just left her alone, to the point that we’d start to forget about her in little ways. We’d make decisions about meals without consulting with her. We’d talk about our days over dinner. And, meanwhile, Linette was somewhere else, in a kind of in-between place. Maybe it was that she and I had had just watched the the film A Ghost Story, which is about a man who refuses to leave his young wife after he passes away in a car accident, but it made me think about death, and what it must be like to lose a loved one. It also brought to mind a really early lyric by my one-day-a-year band, the Monkey Power Trio. The song is called You Say You’re Leaving, and here’s the lyric.

“You say you’re leaving / but you aren’t leaving / you say you’re leavin’ / but you’re not / you say you’re goin’ / that you are goin’ / but my mind won’t let you go away / everywhere and every day / everything I see or say / I see traces of you around / a lock of hair / a shirt you used to wear / a piece of tooth / a bottle of jam / an old box of cereal…”

I suspect, when I wrote that, I was thinking about all of the stuff we leave behind when we move on, and the meaning that others assign to even the smallest of objects that are left. For instance, somewhere here in the house, I have a recipe for banana bread that I copied down from a former girlfriend. It’s the last tangible thing that I have that ties me to her, as everything else has slowly disappeared over the past quarter century. I don’t even have a photograph. That one little, torn, hopelessly stained recipe for vegan banana bread is all that I have left. And, as I haven’t seen it in years, I suspect it may be gone now two. Everything fades away with the passage of time.

I should mention that, according to Linette, the days she spent alone the small room off the kitchen were among the nicest she’s ever had. She enjoyed the break from us after being locked up together these past nine months or so without reprieve. She slept, watched movies, and caught up on her work. And, now, I’m seeing it from her perspective. As of last night, it’s me that’s in isolation, as I await the results of my Covid test, having come in contact with a person who would later test positive.

It’s interesting being the ghost. They leave food outside my door, and I listen to them living their lives while sitting here on the couch alone. They know I’m here, of course, and they occasionally come over to ask me how I’m doing, but there are moments when we’re just existing on parallel planes, where I’m in here, missing them, and just listening to them get older. This, I know, is what it must be like to be a ghost… except without the food.

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The end of one era, and the beginning of another

I wouldn’t allow myself to believe that we’d actually get here. I thought for sure that something terrible would happen. My OCD makes it really easy for me to imagine worst case scenarios, and I had dozens of them racing through my mind. Thankfully, none of them came to pass, and we had a peaceful transfer of power. I am relieved. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Donald Trump, or those in the Republican Party who aided him in his attempt to subvert the election, but, at least for now, it feels like we might have a fighting chance. And, with that, I’m going to sleep… Tomorrow the work of rebuilding begins.

We have to do everything in our power to ensure that the lessons of the last four years aren’t forgotten, and people need to be held to account for the roles that they played. Democracies are fragile things, and we came way too close to losing ours. It’s not enough that we banished Donald Trump, we need to ensure that, going forward, things are different. We need to teach media literacy in schools, as well as civics. We need to confront the underlying racism that fed the Tea Party’s birtherism, and laid the groundwork for Trumpism. We need to expose the cult of Qanon for what it is, and find help for those who succumbed to it. We need to prosecute those media entities that knowingly spread lies in order to advance their political agendas. We need to drive every Republican who voted against the certification of our free and fair election from civil society, and criminally prosecuting those who had a hand in planning the insurrection at the Capitol. We need to get money out of politics. We need a new Voting Rights Act that, among other things, addresses gerrymandering. And we all need to get more involved. If we don’t, the next time something like this happens, we may not be so lucky. We were fortunate to have been given this chance to set things right. We cannot squander it.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | 170 Comments

Hell yes, Donald Trump should be impeached

The more that comes out about what happened on January 6 in Washington, DC, the more clear it is to me that Donald Trump needs to be immediately removed from office, and I’m thankful for those 200-some elected Democrats, like our own Debbie Dingell, Debbie Stabenow, and Gary Peters, who have already come forward in support of that position. If we’re ever to put this dark chapter of American history behind us, there needs to be a reckoning, and that cannot happen if Donald Trump is allowed to continue in office, and avoid responsibility for his actions. No, we need to send a strong message that ours is a country of laws, and that begins with holding Donald Trump accountable for his role in the January 6 attack at the Capitol. We have to ensure that he’s never able to run for public office again, or benefit in any way from his office, and the best way to do that is through impeachment. Not only would it keep him from running in 2024, but it would allow us to know, on the record, where each of our elected officials stand on the Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Speaking of getting people on the record as to where they stand, I just saw that Lindsay Graham has interceded on Trump’s behalf, asking Joe Biden not to push for a second impeachment. This is the same Lindsay Graham, by the way, who voted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about having a consensual affair while president. Apparently, in his mind, oral sex is worse that inciting a riot that left five American citizens dead.

If you don’t think it was serious… just a few whack jobs adorned in animal horns and homemade fur capes posing for selfies, I’d encourage you to watch these two videos. The first shows the violent mob pushing their way into the Capitol from the perspective of the officers attempting to hold them back, and the second shows these same individuals chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they finally break through. And, for what it’s worth, it does look as though some in the group of rioters were looking to harm those elected officials who were certifying the election for Biden. As political consultant Arieh Kovler told GQ, “They had a map of the tunnels [in the basement of the Capitol], and they were talking about how they’re going to be able to stop Congress from leaving. They imagined that this was the day there were going to be mass executions of Congressmen.” While we don’t yet know the extent of what was planned, we do know that pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and several weapons were found in the possession of those in DC for the purposes of stopping the election certification. We also know that several people who broke into the Capitol, including a retired Air Force combat veteran, were carrying zip-tie handcuffs and tasers, seemingly indicating the possibility that they had intended to take hostages.

This was nothing less than a coordinated attempt to stop the certification of Biden’s win. And here’s the President of the United States of America, right before the attack, winding them up for battle, and encouraging them to go to the Capitol.

[According to Republican Senator Ben Sasse, senior White House officials told him that the President was “excited” and “delighted” as his supporters tried to storm the Capitol after he sent them off. And there’s video which seems to confirm the fact that Trump and members of his family were watching the attack, hopeful that the mob would stop the certification.]

I don’t have too much time right now, but I just wanted to encourage everyone who might be here on this site today to contact your elected officials, and let hem know that we demand people be held to account for what happened. Five American citizens, including a police officer, are dead today because the President of the United States, unable to accept defeat, called his supporters to Washing to stop the certification of a free and fair election. This is sedition, and a price must be paid. Trump must be removed from office. And all of those, like Ted Cruz, Mo Brooks, and Josh Hawley, who, in hopes of advancing their own political careers, played along, lying to American people about the election having been “stolen” from Donald Trump, and encouraged people to fight back, need to be driven from public office. As presidential historian Michael Beschloss reminded us today, the United States Constitution is clear on the matter. “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress” who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the Constitution, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof”, it says.

And we’re never going to be able to get beyond this as a society if we don’t face it right now, and deal with it decisively. If we don’t, you can be sure that more people will die… Speaking of which, I’d like to share one last piece of video. This comes from the family member of a Trump support who died during the attack on the Capitol.

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The attempted coup that we all knew was coming

This afternoon in Washington, D.C., as members of Congress counted the electoral college ballots inside the Capitol, Donald Trump’s supporters gathered outside for a “stop the steal” rally, where speaker after speaker told them that, at that very moment, our elected officials were conspiring on behalf of Joe Biden to rob their beloved president of a second term that he’d rightfully won. At one point, the President’s persona, attorney Rudy Giuliani took the stage to urge a “trial by combat” to overturn the 2020 election results. At another, the President himself addressed those gathered. “We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” And, with that, the mob turned upon the Capitol, scaling walls, smashing windows, and eventually forcing their way in, causing elected officials to flee, and temporarily stopping the federal certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Here’s some of the footage.

There are a lot of different ways we could go with this conversation. We could talk about the way these pro-Trump terrorists were treated compared to the peaceful protestors at Lafayette Square Park a few months ago, who were disbursed with tear gas and bullets when the President wanted to have his photo taken holding a bible in front of a church. Or how different the scene today might have played out, had those people forcing their way into the Capitol been black supporters of Barack Obama, for instance, as opposed to the white supporters of Donald Trump. Or we could talk about whether what we saw today was technically an insurrection, a coup attempt, or an act of sedition. Or we could talk, as many are today, about the fact that Colin Kaepernick was labeled anti-American by the President and others for having the audacity to “take knee” before a football game to protest police brutality, when these self-professed “patriots” were literally smashing windows to get at our elected officials, and occupying the floor of the U.S. Senate. Here, by the way, are just a few of the photos documenting what had happened.

My inclination is to focus on those in Congress who helped lay the groundwork for what we saw play out today — those who could have taken action earlier, but instead chose to play along — those who now seem genuinely horrified by what’s come to pass, but still lack the self-awareness to see that they actually helped create this situation. Specifically, I’m thinking of Lindsey Graham, Liz Cheney, Mitch McConnell and Will Hurd, but there are others. All of them knew how how this would end, and yet they went along. (Graham, according to Georgia election officials, even interceded on Trump’s behalf to push for legal ballots to be thrown out.) They could have spoken up and done the courageous thing when it would have made a difference. They could have joined the likes of Justin Amash and Mitt Romney, but they put their own careers ahead of the county, and chose to do nothing. And, now, they want us to believe that they’re absolutely horrified at what’s taking place, like we never could have conceived such an outcome.

But at least they’re accepting the reality of the situation, unlike Matt Gaetz, who just had the audacity to say on the floor of the House that, “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.” There’s a special place in hell for him and the six Senators (“the seditious six”) today who voted against the certification of the electoral college vote (Cruz, Hawley, Hyde-Smith, Kennedy, Marshall, Tuberville).

As I mentioned Romney and Amash earlier, here are quotes today from both. While I don’t agree with either on much, I respect them both immensely for standing up to Trump, knowing that it would put them at odds with their party.

As for Trump, he was given an opportunity to talk to the terrorists who had stormed the Capitol, and urge them to leave. And, while he did suggest that they leave, he also talked about how the election had been stolen from him, and how much he loved those who have taken over the Capitol. “We love you. You’re very special,” he said. He also posted the following online. Eventually, however, all of the major social media platforms pulled his posts.

And, now, as a result of all of this, one woman is dead. A Qanon believer by the name of Ashli Babbit was shot and killed today during the siege at the Capitol. According to the Daily Beast, she was in D.C. because she wanted to be there for “The Storm”, the day when it was predicted that Trump would arrest and execute his demonic, child-eating political rivals. Here’s a clip.

On Jan. 5, a day before her death, Babbitt tweeted references to another QAnon slogan, “dark to light,” and said the United States would soon see “The Storm”—a moment much awaited by QAnon followers, in which Trump would execute his opponents in the Democratic Party.

Babbit, like other QAnon followers gathered outside Congress on Wednesday, appeared to believe that the apocalyptic moment was at hand.

“They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!” Babbit wrote…

I could go on. I need to sleep, though. It’s all too surreal. I never would have thought that I’d see the day that the Capitol would be overrun, and I’d be reading tweets from elected officials hiding in their offices. It’s all so fucking insane. And I can’t imagine what still lies ahead of us, as Donald Trump still has two more weeks in office. There’s word tonight that high level Republicans are finally organizing to see him removed from office, whether by invoking the 25th amendment, or by way of impeachment. One hopes that happens, and happens quickly, before things escalate even further. Word is that he’s beginning to lose his grip. Three White House staffers have already walked out today, and one gets the sense that a long-awaited shift against Trump is finally starting to take hold.

update: Trump, while still not conceding, finally said that there would be a peaceful transition of power. How insane is it that it took this long?

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