No, what happened in Iran is not a Good Thing

The number of Americans mourning the death of Qasem Soleimani might be in the dozens. I’m related to some Iranian-Americans, and they’ve never been apologists for the post-1979 regime. (Let’s not get into the 1953-1979 regime that we installed in yet another failed act of nation-building.)

But the condescending crew on Twitter trying to explain to people that Iranian ex-pats are happy to see this guy meet a violent end is missing the point.

Will Soleimani’s assassination make things better or worse?

The answer is easy. No.

Consider North Korea for a minute. If Kim Jong-un was suddenly removed, would anyone in the USA other than Dennis Rodman (and perhaps Donald Trump, depending on his current mood) be upset? Of course not. Would his death, presuming it wasn’t natural causes, bring stability to the world? Absolutely not.

In North Korea, another Kim would immediately pop up. And in Iran, we’ll soon see a new general emboldened by nationalist passion that we helped reinvigorate by violating their sovereignty and, you know, killing people.

So what has changed in this post-Soleimani world?

And for what?

Being "triggered" is an act of courage, not cowardice

Dear Donald Trump Jr. (and Boris Johnson … for that matter, and Vladimir Putin),

On behalf of “liberals,” “progressives” and former Republicans, I would like to say the following …

You’re damn right we’re “triggered.”

We’re triggered because we’ve seen a rise in violent racist hate crimes and other signs of emboldened racism, including a fatal rally in Charlottesville that its own organizer said “wouldn’t have occurred without Trump.” (No, the recent action that’s supposed to help fight the rise in anti-Semitism won’t help.

We’re triggered because we know separating kids from their parents and keeping people in inhumane conditions because they’re seeking the same opportunities our grandfathers sought is incompatible with any sort of morality, secular or religious. And it’s even taking a toll on the economy.

We’re triggered because we know the bill will come due for the corporate debt and federal debt we’re using to prop up the economy while people like you are afraid to steer us toward *long-term* prosperity. (Yes, Obama ran up deficits, but only to bail out the last Republican president, and it worked. When the economy recovered, so did the budget.)

We’re triggered because we know we’re also passing the bill for climate change to our kids and grandkids. We don’t all buy into the worst-case scenario of impending extinction, but we know we’re going to be spending a lot of money to relocate and renovate farms, put up seawalls (got $46 billion?) or simply move cities inland, and repair all the damage from stronger storms and fires.

We’re triggered because we’re the developed world’s biggest hotbed of gun violence, and yet a minority of people who insist it’s somehow not about guns has managed to intimidate people like you.

We’re triggered because Puerto Rico is part of the United States and shouldn’t have to jump jump through hoops to get aid after a hurricane.

We’re triggered because we think 25-year-olds who are diagnosed with cancer while they’re working entry-level jobs without insurance shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy to get the care they need. (They’re just part of the hundreds of thousands of people who do so each year.)

We’re triggered because younger generations are racking up massive debt just to go to college, something other countries have managed to make accessible to all.

We’re triggered because we’re the world’s laughingstock. (OK, that’s not really directed at Putin.)

We’re triggered because we believe women shouldn’t be sexually assaulted. (No, we haven’t forgotten. Nor have we forgotten that he said it was OK.)

We’re triggered because we believe our gay and transgender friends and family should have the same rights we have.

We’re triggered because our president is utterly corrupt, abusing his office for personal gain and attempting to obstruct all investigations. Too bad he couldn’t do that with his “charities” — he might have avoided a large fine and all sorts of restrictions on ever being involved with “charity” work for the rest of his life.

We’re triggered because we don’t think 42% of the electorate should be able to dictate what we do, especially when it results in everything listed above.

We’re triggered because people like you have managed to convince just enough people (far from a majority, and very far from a majority of people with the education to see what’s going on and very far from a majority of people who are young enough to pay the bills I’ve mentioned above) to follow you with false promises.

You’ve convinced farmers you’re on their side, even as your tariffs ruin them.

You’ve convinced hard-working people that they can keep their coal and manufacturing jobs rather than working to train them for the future, and they’re already losing out in industry and agriculture — thanks in part to Trump’s tariffs.

You’ve convinced evangelicals to support you despite your obvious lack of morality because they think you’ll get abortion banned. Let’s not even debate the thorny biological and theological questions there. Let’s tell the truth. If you or one of your buddies knocks up your mistress, you have the means to push her onto a plane to fly somewhere abortion will still be legal, and you can pay for the procedure while slipping her a bit of hush money. You know abortion will only be banned for poor people.

You’ve convinced people on Wall Street that it’s OK to buy into your short-term thinking and keep their party rolling.

You haven’t convinced us.

And it’s telling that you’re not even trying. Your book isn’t called “Persuaded.” You don’t even care.

We do.

We care about other people, and we will never be ashamed of it.

We will never stop fighting for them.

You will be defeated.

Maybe not in your father’s lifetime, but certainly in yours. The only question is how much damage our children (including yours) will have to repair because you needed to be a bully.

The good news is that a lot of us still believe in repentance. Your path back is clear.

Convince your father to resign. You can even make a plea deal. We’d rather see him renounce the hatred he has spawned and pay back the people he has defrauded than see him in jail, though if the latter is necessary, so be it.

Donate your royalties to causes that will help undo everything you’ve done.

Then come back and work with us instead of treating us as the enemy. We’re good people. You’ll feel good about it.

No, I don’t expect you to do it if your name is Trump, though this offer still stands.

I’m really writing this for you.

The person who has read this far.

You can stop this. You can stop buying into the propaganda. You can join us in fighting for others.

You can vote with a conscience.

“Triggering” is easy. It’s not an accomplishment.

You can have the courage to care. To fight back.

To be positive. (Yes, it’s OK to live a happy life. We’re not just negative nannies. We want to encourage people to share the joy we get from pursuing the good life without stomping on those in need and future generations.)

Besides, we have all the good bands. All the people who make good TV shows and movies. All the good writers. We even have all the good preachers.

So come join us. We’ll have fun. ALL of us. Not just those who were born with all the advantages the world can offer and chose not to use them for anything but self-gratification.

On negativity and reaching out to snowflakes

Let’s first be clear about who’s a “snowflake” and who isn’t.

Much of the country cares about immigrant families. Even if they want to keep everyone out and have even stronger border security than we currently have, they don’t want families separated, and they don’t want to absurdity of 3-year-olds, wondering if they’ll ever see their mothers again, standing in front of a judge.

Much of the country cares about sexual-abuse survivors, and they care more about Christine Blasey Ford being harassed out of her home than they do serial liar Brett Kavanaugh being questioned on said lies. (Funny how many — not all, mind you — of the same people who are outraged about Kavanaugh’s “harassment” didn’t feel the same way about Bill Clinton, whose affair with Monica Lewinsky was far less relevant to his fitness to be in office than Kavanaugh’s offenses and whose alleged perjury was far less convincing than Kavanaugh’s.)

Much of the country cares about our standing in the world being undermined by a bully with a Twitter account in the White House.

Much of the country cares about the poor, the uninsured and a wage gap that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The Democrats, to be sure, never did much about the wage gap, but they’re being held accountable for it by a new wave of younger candidates. Republican candidates are not.

Much of the country cares about the truth.

Much of the country cares about the rights of journalists to do their jobs without being assaulted or murdered.

Now a lot of this “much of the country” crowd actually benefits personally from GOP policy. Low taxes help out your “liberal elites” as much as they help your local hedge-fund managers (some of whom are actually “liberal elites” themselves, or at least concerned about the direction of the country and its short-term bets on deficit spending and dying industries).

But they care.

And for that, they’re labeled “snowflakes.”

Meanwhile, you have people who are backing Trump and his GOP lackeys because … um … let’s see … ah, here we go …

Because liberal elites are mean to them. 

Liberal (and progressive) people tell them their beliefs are wrong … and they freak out.

Senators do their jobs to try to hold Brett Kavanaugh accountable … and they say they’re more motivated to vote Republican because of it.

Bottom line: They’re afraid to face the facts. Instead of facing the reality that crime is a complex matter, they find scapegoats. Instead of facing the reality of climate change, they strain to find any scientist who tells them it’ll be OK — or maybe they convince themselves God will fix it all. Some of them know Trump has taken lying to new levels, lying about things that aren’t even in the slightest dispute (remember Sweden?), but they don’t care because it’s comforting to be in that alternative reality.

And yes, some of them are shying away from a complex world by craving the “simpler time” of their childhoods — maybe convincing themselves they’re not being racist or sexist or homophobic even though the world of the past was “simpler” because people of other gender identities or colors knew their place. (And because manufacturing jobs were plentiful, an unrealistic long-term view today because of automation.)

So tell me: Who’s the snowflake? 

Let’s be sure we understand here: A majority of people in this country — by popular vote, by any poll you can find — are worried about other people, and yes, that stresses them out. A minority of people in this country fret about feeling invalidated because their views don’t hold up under any scrutiny by the media, academia or the overwhelming majority of educated people.

And the handful of educated people supporting this minority are doing so out of naked self-interest. Tax cuts for the very rich. Cozy corporate jobs for those who ignore the evidence and come up with screeds denying humanity’s role in climate change. Easy cable pundit gigs by networks desperate for anyone who can defend this nonsense with a straight face.

So what do the rest of us do?

As I’ve said before, we can’t deal with the hard-core cultists. We simply have to limit their damage. Maybe when they lose their enablers within the Republican Party, they’ll start to question their beliefs privately. Maybe.

But we need to win over everyone else, which is a challenge because it forces you to be humble and to be somewhat nice to people who have abhorrent or unsubstantiated views.

So we the majority (which, I should point out, isn’t limited to either wing of the Democratic Party and includes a great number of people with justified skepticism of the Democratic establishment) need to strike a balance between these two notions:

First: Fighting back against the movement of the Overton window. We don’t need to let white supremacists into polite society. Journalists need to drop the notion of “both sides.”

(Profanity alert here …)

Second: Patiently associating with people who aren’t deep into the weeds. As hard as it is to believe, there are people who have been voting for Trump, McConnell and other reprehensible politicians who are good people who’ve simply been hoodwinked. We’re all hoodwinked at some point. I grew up a creationist homophobe. I got over it. If I had been left to rot in an echo chamber, maybe I wouldn’t have done so.

Consider the effects of travel and meeting people outside your circle. It’s easy to hate Muslims when you don’t know any. It’s more difficult when you work alongside Muslims and see that they’re humans just like you are. I grew up with negative stereotypes of Northeast “elites” until I went to school with them and started working alongside them — now I realize they’re hard-working, empathetic people.

Along those lines, here’s a warning …

Hey, Millennials — drop the judgmental bullshit on Twitter. 

If someone’s using the wrong word, quit treating them like they need to be thrown through the Overton window. Quit turning life into a contest to be the most woke.

If you are the most woke, congratulations. You will have judged everyone else out of your life. And there’s no way in hell they’re going to vote with you.

So we have a tough line to walk. We have to engage with a lot of people while refusing to validate the extremes of the “other side” on race, climate change, inequitable economics, etc.

But we can do it. Because we aren’t snowflakes.

For more writing on this election, see “Why we should reject the liberal label” and the catch-all “Why you have to vote.” Then vote.

What SHOULD be the lead Trump story today …

The stories about Trump and Spicer embellishing the inauguration crowd are important because they show how brazen these folks are willing to be about lying. Sure, plenty of politicians have lied — it’s the big black mark on the Clinton legacy — but they’ve paid a price for it. These people think they can lie about things in plain sight, and it’s OK.

The stories about Trump’s spat with Australia are important because they raise questions about his fitness to handle diplomacy.

The stories about the GOP feeling emboldened to push anti-union legislation are important because that’ll be a test of Trump’s promises to protect Rust Belt workers who tipped the electoral scales in his favor.

I had the misfortune of glancing at a TV with Fox News running today, and I’d like to see how reaction changes if they started calling “Obamacare” by its actual name — the Affordable Care Act. Some people still don’t realize they’re the same damn thing. And many people haven’t seen any analysis of what happens if the GOP strikes it down like Darth Vader swinging through Obi Wan’s empty robe.

But there’s one story that needs to be the lead today. And more importantly, we need to follow up on it:

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

The raid led to the death of one U.S. Navy SEAL, along with several civilians. Granted, the line between “civilian” and “combatant” in cases like these is difficult to draw.

So today’s stories from Reuters and The New York Times are not the last word. Nor do they pretend to be. They’re calm, reasoned snapshots of what we know now and what we don’t.

But if Congress can spend years investigating and re-investigating Benghazi, shouldn’t they at least ask a few questions about this?

And if they won’t, the media sure as hell should.