The Boiling Point

I will admit that, during 2016, I tuned out most of Beloved Leader’s speeches. As it turns out, this was a tactical error on my part. In my defense, there are only so many ways you can say, “I’m terrified of modernity and all these new crazy young people with their piercings and gender-neutral pronouns!” before you get tired and change the channel. Also, like the vast majority of America, I thought H. Clinton would cinch the general election and we’d get a lousy rerun of 1994.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life — the hard way — it’s that the minute you feel certain about something, it’s time to reconsider your position, because things are about to shift.

Of course, because most of America thought the same thing, and stayed home, and the five dozen registered lobbyists working for industrial interests and Russian shell companies did turn out en-masse and swept Beloved Leader in with a sweeping — no, that’s wrong, too. The Donald did lose the popular vote, as several Republican presidents before him did, and he went in with a Republican Congress… which was promptly voted out in 2018, and then we started getting an avalanche of scandals, and I never really did go back and study up on Beloved Leader’s rhetoric, because, by that point, I’d been diagnosed with brain cancer and had a lot of my majority member privileges revoked (not all of them, but we’ll come back to that). Like America, I missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, and spent a large portion of it confused.

I’m bringing all of this up because I recently saw Ava DuVernay’s incomparable “13th,” which examines race, crime, slavery, and how all three of those concepts are inextricably interwoven in American politics (also, in light of what Spike Lee did with $20 million; I think Netflix needs to call DuVernay up and say, “Ava, we got $25 million, and we’re looking for a project; give us a pitch”)(but I digress). If you are white, you need to see this film immediately to understand how we wound up where we are (DuVernay’s thesis is that racial prejudice — and de facto slavery — never really ended, they just get more covert and complex)(my generation’s thesis is that W.T. Sherman statues should be erected in public places in the South for the next 100 years and see how they like it, but I also digress).

In America, you can’t really legislate that it’s illegal to be a minority (I mean, you can, but it’d be really hard to enforce)(and, in many states, that would result in a greater number of incarcerated people than non-felons). BUT, what you can do is make certain actions, substances, or behaviors illegal, and then incarcerate the crap out of everyone who violates them (that’s what anti-sodomy laws effectively did — made it illegal to be gay). For everyone who thinks that only the guilty have something to fear; I have medical marijuana products on my premises (unlike what DARE taught; no one’s getting free samples, it’s expensive). Not just me, but literally every single long-term cancer survivor I know. Sweet, little old, white ladies who help with the church bake sales have asked me which Rick Simpson Oil brands I prefer. Because we’re white, the odds of us being arrested and randomly searched are fairly low. Because we’re not stupid, no one takes their stuff with them out of the house. We’re all knowingly violating federal laws, because we prefer living to dying, and this is one substance that really helps with that when you’re undergoing chemo. But if, gods forbid, there was some random sweep, I’d be arrested.

Likewise, one could make photography or painting in public spaces illegal, and you would scoop up a fair amount of majority folks, but such laws would unfairly target artists. Because they’re usually a minority, protests would be minimal.

In 13th, DuVernay describes how Nixon started the rhetoric about how crime was a scourge upon America (which was absolutely true; he just left out the part about how he was a criminal, so he had the inside track on that information), starting one of the first modern law and order campaigns, which then got ramped up by Reagan in the 80’s, and Reagan’s popularity lead to moderate Democrats thinking it was a good idea, so Clinton signed a major police funding bill that really got police militarization going… And most of the laws enforced were usually associated with being a minority member. If you’re a woman reading this, remember that you could not vote even 100 years ago, this time (it wasn’t until August).

“Law and order” has always coded to mean, “Keeping the disenfranchised, poor, and minorities down.” It has always meant, “Maintaining the status quo.” Just as DuVernay argues that slavery never really ended, it’s just gotten more complex and covert; I’d argue that feudalism never ended, it has simply gotten more complex and gained legal legitimacy (if you think you’re free to live and do as you want, let me ask you about your insurance, housing, and employment options — you can’t really just pack up and start a new life at will).

All of which is circling back to Beloved Leader’s 2016 election that I successfully tuned out. In a few clips, I was reminded that he really did run on a law-and-order platform (everyone here, I’m certain, will remember those lawless years of the 2010s). Which is only important because he’s reenacting that campaign, today. Unfortunately, the issues we face are a little more complex and nuanced than “Lock them up” (unless we’re talking billionaires, in which case I’m absolutely in favor of that). COVID can’t be legislated away (although, ironically, if we pumped up the NIH budget, I bet we’d see some interesting results). Economic policies and attitudes can be legislated, but I doubt the market’s going to recover immediately just because Beloved Leader Twits so.

This whole column was inspired by Beloved Leader’s decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was the site of some mind-bending racial genocide (Google “Tulsa Race Massacre” if your day is a little too sunny). Like everything else he does, it’s either deliberately malevolent — designed to rub salt in historical wounds that our country is still hurting from — or jaw-droppingly incompetent. Or, of course, there’s always the option of greed — the Trump campaign has been banned from numerous cities because they inevitably flee before the bill for extra civic services rendered is delivered — and Tulsa was just the first city desperate enough to say, “Sure” first (North Carolina turned him down). I could, obviously, spend an entire essay analyzing the decision-making behind that one; but Beloved Leader just had to dig the hole deeper and stick to his 2016 platform. He Twitted earlier,

Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!

Instead of getting into the weird semantics and vocabulary choices in that (and the fact that, if no one gets shot and maimed by rubber bullets, it will, in fact, be a very different story — it’s the easiest promise in the world to keep); I would like to take moment and urge everyone, everywhere, in the middle of a pandemic, do the sane, sensible thing. Don’t go to Tulsa. It’s not a big deal; I seriously doubt anyone out there was planning a vacation to the area in the middle of an international crisis (and, if you are traveling during an international crisis that depends upon people traveling to keep it going; you are an asshole). Nobody shows up; nobody protests; only a few dozen people show up, as usual, and, as usual, Beloved Leader speaks to capacity crowd of 72 who inevitably develop COVID symptoms. And that’s it. I’m not going to argue that systemic racism and Beloved Leader’s callous disregard for the life of his supporters should not be addressed, but, for this one particular event; I think that this is a self-solving issue.

Of course, given my previous ability to predict these things; it’s now more-likely that Beloved Leader will antagonize every single person on the planet, and somehow accidentally summon Cthulhu at his rally, and we’re all dead by Independence Day.



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Patrick Koske-McBride

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”