But this isn't really about politics, you see. It's not about right vs. left, but right vs. wrong.
A couple months ago, John Oliver summed up my feelings about giving Drumpf's presidency a chance: "In the broadest sense, I get that impulse. Hope for the best in the face of very long odds. It's like we're on a plane and we just found out our pilot is a wombat. I don't like this, I don’t understand how it happened, and I'm pretty sure we're headed for disaster, but what the hell? Come on, Batty, prove me wrong! And the thing is optimism is nice if you can swing it, but you've got to be careful because it can feed into the normalization of Donald Trump - and he is not normal. He is abnormal. He's a human 'What is wrong with this picture?' He sticks out like a sore thumb, and frankly, he even looks like a sore thumb. So giving him a chance in the sense of not speaking out immediately against policies he’s proposed is dangerous. Because some of them are alarming... [I]t sounds like you're reading the to-do list on Satan’s refrigerator, which of course Satan no longer needs now that hell has frozen over."
Because Drumpf was allegedly the "lesser of two evils" (which might as well be the Republican Party's slogan), many Hillary supporters who are accustomed to me being on their side probably expect me to shut up and not criticize him anymore, kind of like how a bunch of them went to town chewing up Mitt Romney during the primaries but suddenly had only good things to say about him when he became the nominee. Sorry not sorry, but no can do. I not only have no respect for Drumpf, but no longer even have respect for the office of the presidency because if someone like him can come within eight hundred miles of it, then it's clearly a joke. Of course I wanted him to pleasantly surprise me. I didn't hate everything he did this week. A lot of people are angry about him following the lead of Ronald Reagan and George Bush and signing the Mexico City Policy back into law, but personally I'm not at all bothered that my tax dollars will no longer be used to fund abortions in foreign countries. There were other things he did that I decided weren't worth the effort of being upset about, or else it would be a long four years.
Other things are less forgivable. I'm done giving him a chance.
I was so angry last night that I had significantly more trouble sleeping than usual. I was so angry that in the attempt at an initial draft of this post, which was lost due to Weebly being stupid, I referred to Drumpf as a "living excrement stain". Although that assessment stands, I've decided not to use it anymore now that a cooler head has prevailed and I'm trying to be a good Christian and stuff. Anyway, I'm sure you've heard by now about him making good on his promise to stick it to Muslims, but not those from countries where he has business ties, and specifically those who have already been forced from their homes, jobs, and possessions. Not judging anyone, but can I just say as an aside how grateful I am now that I didn't throw away my principles and vote for him as "the lesser of two evils"? That would have haunted me for the rest of my life.
Anyway, Drumpf has confirmed that his idea of making America "great" again includes discarding the values that made it great already. He apparently intends on rewinding our social progress back seventy years. Hey, wouldn't it be ironic in a really sick way if Jewish refugees during World War II, such as Anne Frank and her family, had also been denied entry into the U.S.? But I mean, surely if that had happened we would have learned our lesson and never allowed such a thing to happen again... oh wait. Crap. This country has been far from perfect, and it's had its share of human rights abuses, but I thought it was a learning process. I thought we were getting better and coming closer to the ideal that it was founded on. And maybe we were until 2017. If this is allowed to stand, the terrorists have won. Daesh (the name I call ISIS because for some reason they've threatened to mutilate anyone who does) are probably laughing themselves sick at us right now. They will have scared us to the point of rejecting the values of our country that they hate so much. They will have tricked us into damaging our own country more than any suicide bomber could dream of.
Maybe there's nothing I can do about this, but I'm not going to let it go. I'm not going to shrug it off and be like "The sun will still rise tomorrow, herpa derp derp." That would be easy enough to do because, as another so-called Christian helpfully pointed out, it doesn't affect me at all. It probably never will. Maybe it will. Maybe this will be a slippery slope and someday the Republican government will be targeting Mormons (again). But whether that ever happens or ever has the potential of happening is completely irrelevant. If "First they came for the Muslims" remains "They only ever came for the Muslims", that's enough. It's not acceptable. And I'm going to fight it in whatever meager insignificant little ways I can. John Oliver also had this other brilliant thing to say: "If we don't get actively involved to at least mitigate Trump's damage, things will not be OK. And yes, the sun will rise each day, but the continuing rotation of the earth should not be your baseline expectation of American society."
I guess that's all I need to say about that for now.
For Christmas, one of my sisters made me an adorable little stuffed felt Chewbacca doll. I carried him with pride in my jacket pocket at the home evening activity two days after coming home. Ashley asked to see him, so I took him out and showed her. A little while later I noticed with some alarm that he was no longer in my jacket pocket. Had she held onto him and I hadn't noticed? Had someone pickpocketed him? I hadn't left that room, so I retraced it in its entirety. It was an open room devoid of much furniture or nooks and/or crannies where something could get lost. I looked over the whole room about five times and he simply unequivocally was not there. I was forced to conclude that whether he had been pickpocketed or fallen out, he was in someone else's possession now. I was rather miffed because it was only the second time that a Star Wars craft I got from my sister for Christmas was stolen at church (the first was a knitted R2-D2 hat). By whom, I would probably never know. Possibly Ashley. I would hate to suspect her of such a thing, but... I announced his loss and asked people to keep a lookout, but I resigned myself to never seeing him again.
Two weeks later we again held home evening in the same room of the same building. When I showed up, Claire waved to me from across the room. I waved back. She motioned me over. Strange, I thought, she's not usually that friendly... And then I saw the little Chewbacca doll in her other hand. And then I knew what had happened. She had taken him, and now she was satisfied so she was giving him back. I wasn't even mad. I was just overjoyed to see him again. I ran over to her, and she explained that against all odds he had been folded up in one of the tables. She must be richly rewarded, but I don't know how yet.
State senator Lyle Hillyard came to speak and receive questions about the previously mentioned Republican initiative to destroy Utah's wetlands and worsen its air quality. The guy who organized the activism presentation the week before wanted everyone to come back for this, and he had a list of thoughtful and non-confrontational questions for us to ask, to show the senator that people really care about this. I had no intention of speaking but I still wanted to do my part by taking up space. It was in the same venue as the earlier meeting, and I thought I remembered its location better than I actually did, so I spent half an hour wandering around and through every block in that general vicinity except for the one it's actually in. When I found it, of course the presentation was well underway but more to the point, the place was packed wall-to-wall and I decided my presence wasn't needed after all. It's a pleasant surprise to see a substantial grassroots movement of people in this community who care about the environment.
I've often heard from Americans that the Canadian healthcare system sucks, but never thought to wonder what an actual Canadian might think of it.
Healthcare in the United States before Obamacare was a nightmare. Healthcare in the United States after Obamacare is a nightmare. For years I hoped and hoped for its repeal, but now I have mixed feelings. It's a bureaucratic train wreck, no doubt about it, but it has several steps in the right direction. I know several people who have benefited immensely from it and are terrified of the suffering they'll be in without it. I know people whose insurance rates have skyrocketed despite Obama's promises, and they're pissed. I know someone who was once a staunchly conservative opponent of Obama but now supports universal healthcare after some absurdly expensive health problems beyond her control nearly ruined her life. I know that I don't want to be forced to buy healthcare because I'm young and relatively healthy and would rather gamble that nothing super bad will happen to me. Why can't we repeal the bad parts and keep the good ones? Or why can't we at least have a superior replacement in mind after getting rid of everything? Because compromise and bipartisanship are not the American way.
In my previous job when I made survey calls on behalf of the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals - a glorious light in a very dark tunnel - I learned firsthand about how health insurance companies habitually screw people because they can. They will refuse to provide a service that they are blatantly required to provide, counting on the fact that most of their victims don't have the knowledge and/or patience to bring the issue to court. The minority who do soon discover that although these cases are required by law to be resolved within three months, the reality is usually closer to three years, thanks in large part to the judges having a huge backlog of these cases that never should have existed in the first place. Many of these people are elderly, don't have a lot of years left to begin with and are in severe discomfort, so three years is kind of a big deal. All I can say is that if I don't go to heaven I expect to have a lot of insurance people keeping me company. I can picture myself doing a lot of unethical things for the right price (hint hint), but that's just unconscionable.
The free market encourages innovation and improvement but brings out the worst in people. Government can force them to stop being ----s, but is generally incompetent and stifles those other things. Therefore I currently believe that elements of both belong in healthcare, but the wrong elements of both result in an unholy life-ruining abomination. I will not presume to map this out in detail because then my lack of expertise on these topics I'm spouting off on anyway would become too obvious. One way or another, the future of healthcare in this nation doesn't look bright to me. If it brings you a world of suffering, I guess just remember that someday you'll be dead and it won't matter anymore.
William Onyeabor - Good Name
William Onyeabor died this week. He was seventy going on seventy-one, which is almost two decades longer than the life expectancy in his native Nigeria, so yay for that. This is the song I discovered him through. The catchy tempo and simple, repetitive lyrics that despite their perfect grammar are obviously foreign in nature, with their simple yet beautiful and true message, make it a much-admired earworm in my book. I won't talk about the music in any more detail because then my lack of expertise on these topics that I'm spouting off on anyway would become too obvious.
One night I was intercepted outside the grocery store by a sort of scruffy-looking guy. "Hey, man," he said, gesturing across the street, "I wanna head over there for a bottle, but I'm fifty cents short. Can you help a guy out? I don't wanna lie and be like 'I'm hungry!' cause I already ate." I don't drink and I knew that enabling someone else to potentially be an alcoholic is not a good thing, but I was pleased with his honesty and took pity on his financial plight and figured if it was that bad then I couldn't blame him for wanting to evade his problems that way for a little while. I didn't have fifty cents, so I gave him a dollar. And then I debated whether I had done a good deed or a terrible one.
One night as I was about to go to bed Brooke posted an open request for someone to come to her house and catch and kill a mouse for her, offering cookies in return. I would do almost anything for her, but I'm not comfortable killing anything defenseless and harmless (here I use a broad definition of "harm" that includes being really annoying; there was a bird living outside my window that I would have loved to break in half, though I had to settle for throwing rocks) if it's more intelligent than an insect. Once I was helping remove flowers from the temple grounds and a mouse ran out and the gardener chased it down and crushed its throat with his rake and I became so uncomfortable that I had to leave shortly. If she could have demonstrated that it had rabies, I would have come and killed it. If someone else wanted to go and kill it, then so be it. But I couldn't. So I ignored her post. I felt bad as I imagined her and her sister and their other roommate cowering, trembling, too afraid to go to sleep. I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing.
One day at work scanning used books, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam" came into my hands and got accepted. I had read it years ago and found it very convincing, but that was before I understood how people can manufacture convincing bullspit and still cite all their sources. I have of course accepted many books that promote opinions or agendas contrary to mine without a second thought, including a couple that attacked my own religion. To do otherwise would make a mockery of free speech even if it weren't violating the rules and depriving the company of money. But this one, written to spread fear and hate of the already most feared and hated religion in the United States, crosses a moral line. I hesitated and seriously considered tossing it to be recycled - but I didn't because that would be violating the rules depriving the company of money. I regretted that and stewed over it. My only consolation was that most people buy political books to reaffirm the opinions they already hold, rather than risk being exposed to new ones, so whoever purchases it would probably fear and hate Islam with or without the support of its "facts".
In this situation, at least, I now know what I should have done. I should have set the book aside and later gone to discuss it with the owner of the company, whom I know to be a very good and generous man. He surely would have understood.
If you had told me three years ago that I would someday be in a meeting with a roomful of progressives that I was united with in a common cause, I would have scoffed. But there I was last week. Of course, if I had announced that I do not stand with Planned Parenthood, I probably wouldn't have made it out alive. But we were primarily there because of the GOP's astonishing contempt for the environment, and in full agreement about that. We dissent from the mindset that the health of our planet doesn't justify any infringement on "personal liberty" or that it's trumped (no pun intended) in importance by the economy - you know, that man-made illusion that the survival of life as we know it doesn't depend on. Now lawmakers are gearing up to destroy tens of thousands of acres of wetlands that millions of birds from over 230 species use as habitat while migrating, so that Utah can continue to waste more water than any other state in the nation. Because that's the Christian thing to do, I guess?
Anyway, that was the primary reason for the event, but the principles discussed had much broader applications. It was led by psychologist Dr. Dave Christian who talked about how to do more successful activism with "motivational interviewing" tactics. The gist of it was that humans are not rational creatures and will only cling to their opinions more forcefully when presented with evidence against them, and that persuading them to help you is much easier if you understand their values and can demonstrate how what you're advocating for will serve their values as well as yours. You need to understand their point of view and not see them as the enemy or they'll sense that and put their defenses up. Done properly, this is sincere and not manipulating people. So basically the gist of it is stuff that should be obvious but isn't. People would rather argue and insult each other because they didn't evolve by having nuanced and respectful discussions.
Caveman: All right, let's get to the root of this. What are you hoping to achieve?
Sabre-Toothed Tiger: I just want to survive and reproduce.
Caveman: Hey, me too! Who would have guessed we have so much in common? It's a wonder we don't get along better.
Sabre-Toothed Tiger: Indeed. Let's cut this meeting short and go out for lunch to celebrate.
To make the world a better place, we should all put our natural instincts aside and strive to understand each other and work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect to accomplish goals that serve all of us. And we all know that isn't going to happen ever.
Saint Etienne - Nothing Can Stop Us
Sometimes I use this song if I want to feel happy for no reason. I hope it works for someone else too. Just don't sing it out loud unless you want to tempt fate.
Resolutions and Politics
New Year's resolutions would make more sense if we did them on our birthdays, would they not? Because that's when the real "new years" of our lives begin. Of course, feeling a need to wait until the beginning of a year to make changes in one's life is completely irrational, but I get it, I'm a human too and my mind isn't ruled by rationality either. I've never deliberately set out to make New Year's resolutions but this time around the hype has gotten to me and I've become more resolute about one that I started pondering some time ago. I want to become like Debbie, the sweetest, kindest person I've ever met. Ultimately I should aspire to be like Jesus, but this is a more manageable-sized interim goal and a major step in that direction. I'd like to think that I have a good heart and I just want to be kind and loving to everyone, but sometimes my contempt for much of humanity gets in the way. Debbie has an advantage over me in that she loves all of God's children and I don't. There are a great number of people that I wish would do the world a favor by holding their breath for about ten minutes. Looking down on them makes me feel better about myself, so it's hard to give up.
I've therefore started somewhere easier by developing an unconditional love for my co-workers who, with very rare teensy little exceptions, give me no reasons to dislike them. One lady was rude to me when I got paired up with her and she was also rude to me when I was consciously nice to her, but now she just stares blankly at me, so I see that I've already had a positive impact on her life. Debbie has another advantage over me in that she's female, so she can be as nice as she wants without the opposite sex labeling her as a "nice girl" as a thinly veiled code for "unattractive and uninteresting person who is obviously just being nice because she wants us to like her". Since I'm not female I feel a constant nagging pressure in my mind to hold back and not be too nice. I'm striving to ignore it and let the chips fall where they may. I asked myself just the other day, "What would Debbie do if she were here?" And then I said back to myself, "You make it sound like she's dead." And then I replied to myself, "She may as well be." Long story.
And it's a pure coincidence that this is happening near the beginning of the year, but I've decided to resign my Republican Party affiliation. Let me be clear: I have felt for years that the Republican Party was more or less equally corrupt and responsible for everything that's wrong with this country as the Democrat one, and never considered myself a Republican. However, Utah's stupid law required me to join one of those two parties in order to vote in the primaries, and since I leaned more conservative I chose that one. It did me no good because, thanks to the absurdly undemocratic way that the primaries work, their 2012 nominee was already chosen by the time Utah got a turn to weigh in. Granted, it would have chosen him anyway. This time around Utah had more of a say in it, but since the Republican Party chose a man as abhorrent as Drumpf and forfeited every ounce of its moral high ground, I no longer want anything to do with it.
Utah has already been growing less Republican without a corresponding increase in Democrats. That trend makes me very happy and I plan on contributing to it. Most Utah Mormon Republicans think they're Republicans because that party's platforms are more in harmony with the gospel, but the truth is that most Utah Mormon Republicans are Republicans because, after decades of resisting the Republican Party's attempts to crush the LDS Church for practicing polygamy, their Mormon ancestors became Republicans so that the Republican U.S. government would let Utah become a state. It worked. Now, thanks to confirmation bias, many descendants of long lines of Utah Mormon Republicans perceive their party as being more in harmony with the gospel and find it baffling that any Mormon could be a Democrat. President Uchtdorf denounced this kind of thinking a couple of General Conferences ago and the people who needed to hear that the most are of course the ones who decided it didn't apply to them.
Also, is the MoTab performing at Drumpf's inauguration still causing a stir all over the place, or just here in Utah? I'm pretty dang tired of hearing about it.
I imagine most people who want to see "Rogue One" have seen it by now, but if not, it shouldn't be too much of a spoiler to mention that Grand Moff Tarkin is in it as a CG character. Or, to be precise, as an actor with a similar build and voice to the late Peter Cushing, digitally altered to look like the late Peter Cushing. The result looks quite fake, but this kind of a stunt would have been unthinkable a few years ago and will probably be perfected a few years from now. Exciting stuff. Some people think it's unethical to recreate a dead person like that. I don't, but then I couldn't care less if someone urinates on my corpse and feeds it to wolves after I die, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask. According to the New York Times, ILM's chief creative officer John Knoll has dismissed the notion that this will open the door to a lot more dead-person-resurrecting:
“I don’t imagine that happening,” Mr. Knoll said. “This was done for very solid and defendable story reasons. This is a character that is very important to telling this kind of story.” He added: “It is extremely labor-intensive and expensive to do. I don’t imagine anybody engaging in this kind of thing in a casual manner.” If “Star Wars” films are still made in 50 or 100 years, Mr. Knoll said audiences would probably not see likenesses of Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford playing Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.
Erm... you realize that in 50 or 100 years, a seven-year-old will be able to do that with her phone, right? And Disney will keep making Star Wars movies until they start to suck so bad that no one will pay to watch them anymore. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, this is a whole galaxy with a multi-thousand-year history we're dealing with here, offering infinite story possibilities without retreading the same ground over and over. On the other hand, I feel like the "light side vs. dark side with lightsabers and space battles" concept will nonetheless start to get pretty stale after a while. But in a worst-case scenario, no matter how redundant or terrible future movies may become, they won't negate or detract from existence of the good ones. I've seen/heard at least a couple people mentioning that there are now eight Star Wars movies. This is incorrect. As much as some may wish it to be otherwise, there are at least twelve and possibly as many as eighteen Star Wars movies, depending on the strictness of your criteria. The four indisputible pre-Rogue-One non-main-saga movies are:
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) - I can see why people want to forget this one.
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) - I can see why people want to forget this one, though it's much better than "The Star Wars Holiday Special".
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985) - I can see why people want to forget this one, though it's much better than "Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure".
The Clone Wars (2008) - I can see why people want to forget this one.
In addition, some episodes of the 1985 animated "Droids" series, the 1985-86 animated "Ewoks" series, and the 2003-5 animated "Clone Wars" series (not to be confused with the more recent CG animated "Clone Wars" series) were edited together into movie-ish formats for DVD release, adding six more to the total if you choose to include them. Of all these things, however, only "The Clone Wars" movie had a theatrical release and is still considered canon since Disney took over. But even if you only count that one and pretend none of the others exist, there are nine total, not eight. I'm not even embarrassed about knowing this stuff.
Shout-out to a good friend who has been very supportive of this blog and also has one of his own. In his latest post he writes about the women in his life (kinda). You should go read it.
Gigi D'Agostino - La Danza del Sole
I'm just sharing this remix of "Bla Bla Bla" because I've been listening to it lately and I like it. I have nothing profound to say about it. I have no idea what he's saying.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.