This week's post is rushed because I'm very sleep-deprived and busy. Tomorrow and Monday I'll be hanging out with friends in Salt Lake. We were going to go camping in Bryce Canyon, but literally today something came up with one of the friends' fiancée's visa process that's already been going for well over a year and would be delayed even further if he didn't do the thing on Monday. So he wanted us to go camping without him, but we voted to hang out at his place instead. Awww.
After Donald Trump's fourth set of indictments, which is four more sets of indictments than any other former U.S. president has ever gotten, we finally get a mugshot. He looks like a petulant toddler. He's probably thinking, "ASK ANYONE AND THEY'LL TELL YOU, WE'VE GOT ALL THE BEST PEOPLE AND THEY'LL ALL TELL YOU I'M MORE INNOCENT THAN JESUS. NOBODY INNOCENTS MORE BIGLY THAN ME. WHEN I WEAR MY ORANGE JUMPSUIT, I'LL LOOK NAKED. VOTE FOR ME IN 2024 AND THEN BUILD ME A TEMPLE, YOU IMBECILES. I WARNED YOU THAT BIDEN WOULD LISTEN TO THE SCIENTISTS. IF I DIE IN PRISON, TELL ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ THAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GRAB HER BY THE HEART. COVFEFE"
I'm looking forward to his convictions, but I'm not looking forward to how his sycophantic ass-kissing cultists will react to his convictions. Every Trump supporter who says they're going to start a civil war or "take this country back" should be taken at their word and put on a domestic terrorist watchlist immediately. I'm sure January 6, 2021 only scratched the surface of their delusional anger.
I've been to six movies in the theater this year. That's like thrice as many as I usually go to. This past week, I went to see The Last Voyage of the Demeter because my friend Katie wanted to see it before it left the theater due to its underperformance. I hesitated. I'd never seen an R-rated horror movie on the big screen in the dark before. Was I brave enough? But I realized pretty fast that it couldn't possibly be scarier than the real world that I have to live in every single day. This week I learned about Howard Schneider, a pediatric dentist in Jacksonville, Florida who got millions of dollars in Medicaid funds by needlessly drilling and pulling impoverished children's teeth, settled over a hundred lawsuits, then got all criminal charges against him dropped because he went senile or something, even though a society that valued justice would have executed him as slowly as possible with his own tools. When people like that exist in the real world, how the hell can I be scared of a CGI vampire? The more Dracula looks like a demonic bat creature instead of a human, as he does in this movie, the less he looks like the real monsters. On a more general level, it's difficult for me to be scared of exactly what I came to see. If a vampire had started stalking and murdering people during the Barbie Movie, that would have gotten my heartrate up.
Last night I watched Monsters University, which I had only seen once, when it came out ten years ago. At this time of year I felt nostalgic about both the movie and about college itself, and that ended up making me kind of depressed. I can't believe it's been twelve years since I started college. It seems like yesterday. There are so many things I wish I'd done differently, but it is and forever will be too late. I only got one life. I wish I could go back and talk to my freshman self and warn him about everything.
Even though I didn't like the Star Wars sequel trilogy very much, I don't have the raging hard-on for Disney to fail that a lot of people clearly have, and it makes me very sad that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is bombing at the box office. Harrison Ford acted his heart out and he deserves better. I suspect that most people just aren't giving it a chance because they think an action movie with an 80-year-old lead actor is ridiculous, but I thought it was handled very well. Indy's age is a major theme of the movie. Not just that he can't do all the things he used to do, but that the world around him has changed and no longer seems to have a place for him. It's an almost meta deconstruction of a character archetype that was never meant to last beyond the 1930s, and it gives Indy a satisfying character arc and his series a satisfying conclusion. Some people complain about the plot holes and silly parts, and I think they're overreacting. I'm not aware of any fictional movie plot that doesn't fall apart if you think about it too much, and the Indiana Jones movies were never meant to be very realistic or serious. I watch them to be entertained and I give them more grace than movies with loftier ambitions. This movie entertained me. It bored some people, and I guess that's just a matter of personal taste. But I hope we can all agree that it's nice to see Nazis get what they deserve instead of being allowed to march openly in the street.
I am not pleased with most of the Supreme Court's recent decisions. The whole thing seems like a farce to me, given that its interpretation of the constitution is mostly dependent on the political leanings of the presidents who appointed its members, and that there appears to be no check or balance on their power to force that interpretation on the entire country. Because of this, one of the worst presidents in American history has left an impact that will last long after he's gone to jail. I hate what Republicans are doing to this country. I hate their pathological revulsion to science and education and equality. I hate their vicious crusade against human rights and everything good and virtuous. Of course they're trying to raise the voting age now because they know young people aren't going to swallow their bullshit. They know their days are numbered. Their party is going to die, and it thoroughly deserves to die. But God knows how much irreversible damage it will do in its death throes.
I still spend too much time arguing with idiots on Twitter. Since yesterday I've gotten into several arguments over this tweet:
Tessa said she was told this by one leader in one ward. She didn't claim it was a widespread, consistent, or "official" Mormon belief. Yet at least a dozen Mormons asserted that she was lying. I have no problem believing her, not only because I was also taught weirder spiritual things than that in the church, but because I personally remember a small controversy in 2012 over the revelation that multiple temples barred menstruating girls from doing baptisms for the dead. The Salt Lake Tribune article and By Common Consent blog post about it can still be accessed via a two-second Google search. With a little more digging, I found the spreadsheet that Feminist Mormon Housewives readers compiled by contacting several temples and asking about their policies. But "spurious media" and feminists aren't acceptable sources when you have a persecution complex because ad hominem logical fallacy. Hence the arguments. Today I got so frustrated with one jerk who had the critical thinking skills of a clam that I gave up trying to reason with him and just pissed him off until he blocked me, which was very satisfying.
Also, the unhinged bigot who posted a different picture of herself with her family proclamation flag every single day of Pride Month (and still has the first one pinned to the top of her profile even though Pride Month is over) is now asking people to donate $50,000 to fight against a restraining order that someone filed against her. She thinks her constitutional rights are being violated. She has a very shaky grasp of how the Constitution works. She thinks the establishment clause prohibits public schools from teaching LGBT equality because that contradicts her religion, but not from teaching her version of God. (Of course, most of her right-wing Christian allies think her church is a heretical cult and won't be teaching her version of God or respecting her beliefs much at all if they get that kind of power, which, again thanks to young people, they won't for long.) Maybe I need to repent for being amused that other idiots are giving her money just so she can make an ass of herself in court.
But also, you know, people like April Wilde Despain are the backbone of the Republican party and the reason Trump got elected, so that's not very funny at all.
Assuming I pass the trial, which I know I will, I have a freelance writing job that won't likely support me but will allow me to rest easier while I keep looking for other stuff. I'll be writing things based on customers' ideas that they don't have the time or the skill to write themselves. I won't be allowed to discuss any of that writing here, or even get any credit for it when it's published, but I'll get a little money and hopefully have a little fun. The trial has been fun. I wrote 3000 words based on the criteria and in the next couple days I'll revise it and send it in.
Because I read about near-death experiences recently, of course the omniscient internet brought to my attention the most recent development in that field. Four people hooked up to life support were having their brains monitored for whatever reason, and after they were taken off life support, two of their brains registered a surge of activity in the part responsible for dreams. Scientists speculate that these people were having NDEs, although they had a history of epilepsy, and nobody's ever shown a correlation between epilepsy and NDEs. The headline I looked at claimed that scientists had observed the brain activity behind NDEs for the first time, as if that were an established fact, but of course it isn't. They don't know what they actually observed. In order to know that, or at least be fairly confident, they'd have to observe something similar in the brain of someone who subsequently came back to life and reported on it. Science may sooner or later explain NDEs away as a purely neurological phenomenon, but it hasn't yet and we mustn't be premature about it. Journalists often take the nuance out of science, either out of sincere ignorance or the need to produce clickbait.
My roommate has finally moved out. He moved upstairs, meaning that he wanted to stay in this complex but not with me. The feeling is mutual. I didn't like that he left lights on he wasn't using (though I trained him by example to not do it constantly), I didn't like that he walked around without a shirt on when the weather was warm, I didn't like that he spent two hours a day in the bathroom, and I especially didn't like that he spent at least an hour a day practicing what can only be called "singing" under the most generous interpretation at the top of his lungs. It sounds more like an air raid siren. I had a friend over once and he laughed in disbelief at how bad it was. I sent a recording to another friend whom my complaints had made curious, and she wrote back, "PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY. WTF." Early on, at a public gathering, my roommate put me on the spot and asked if his singing annoyed me. Trying to balance tact with honesty, I said, "Only when it's really loud" (which was always). So he continued to consistently do it at the top of his lungs. Now I feel bad that I've been festering in resentment instead of asking him to stop, though, because I warned my upstairs neighbor about it, and I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he hasn't been enjoying it either.
Recently the Temple City Sheriff's office invaded the wrong home without a warrant and illegally questioned and arrested two children who now, presumably, are traumatized for life but at least won't grow up to be bootlickers. I wrote some strong language in an online form somewhere and fully expected, based on previous interactions with law enforcement, that they would ignore me, but that the publicity would make them think twice (or at least once) about pulling such stunts in the future. I was quite surprised when someone got back to me earlier this week. Credit where it's due.
I've started wasting time on Twitter instead of reddit lately. I used to do essentially nothing on Twitter except share my blog posts, and I stayed at 38 followers for over six years. Now after a few weeks of interacting with people, I'm up to 53, so yay.
Twitter brings out the worst in people, including me, because it has almost no rules. Before Elon Musk took over, my account was suspended for wishing death on (checks notes) Vladimir Putin. And I still do and I'm not sorry. But now, I can say whatever the hell I want without fear of consequences. I've had some arguments. Even though I only follow ex-Mormons and liberal Mormons as far as Mormon stuff is concerned, I keep getting conservative Mormons in my feed, and they're pretty much the worst people in the world. Half their identity right now revolves around hating transgender people, and the other half is divided between hating apostates, hating liberals, hating scholars, hating gay people, and hating feminists. They're straight-up bullies more often than not, and because they think they're boldly standing up for truth and righteousness, they're quite incapable of attaining any self-awareness about how awful they are. Case in point:
I mean, wow. I used to have a hell of a persecution complex myself, but I don't think there was ever a point when I would have told someone "You are a demonic force and will be treated accordingly." It frightens me that people who think that way exist. Of course, guys like this think I'm a demonic force too. I try to be good. I don't set out to tear down Mormon beliefs every time I see them in my feed. I only get involved if they say something egregiously stupid and/or bigoted. And I try not to mock or insult them until they do it to me first, but that usually doesn't take very long. Personal attacks are usually their first and only response to critique of any kind. They really thought they were clever for pointing out that I had my pronouns in my bio and a Ukrainian flag next to my name. I had to block an account with the word "Christ" in its name that insisted Ukraine "isn't innocent" and basically deserves what it's getting, a claim that could be made with a little more accuracy (though it would still be victim-blaming) about the Mormons who moved into Missouri and boasted that the Lord would give them their neighbors' land. I added a Pride flag and a transgender flag to my Ukrainian flag just to bother these troglodytes, and then I added "If my flags and pronouns bother you, mission accomplished" to my bio to make sure they know that I'm bothering them on purpose, and now they don't bring that stuff up as much.
The leaders of the church don't appear to care that in a few years, people like this will be the only members they have left. Decent, intelligent, empathetic people are being alienated in droves. Of course, some of these jackasses also get alienated every time the church takes a position against bigotry or in favor of modern medicine - the other day one even confessed that he struggles with his faith and desire to attend church because a Primary teacher elsewhere on Twitter wore a rainbow pin - but overall, I think they're winning. Perhaps in fifty years, this church will make the Westboro Baptist Church look like a happy memory. Perhaps it will truly be The Church of Brigham Young, Ezra Taft Benson, and Donald J. Trump. (One of the guys I argued with had modeled his profile after Spencer W. Kimball, though. Kimball's a more nuanced figure in my book. If I meet him in the next life, I'll thank him for what he did to advance racial equality within the church, then kick him between the legs for the vile things he said about women and gay men.)
I have little to no interest in seeing most movies in the theater, but I really wanted to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie after waiting a few weeks for it to be less crowded, and not just because its financial success increases the likelihood of a The Legend of Zelda Movie down the line. And it has had a great deal of financial success even without my help. At the very beginning, far-right commentators accused it of being "woke" because Princess Peach is a strong female character and wears pants in one scene - never mind that she's been a playable character in many games and I always play as her in Super Mario 2 because I've found her jumping/hovering ability more useful than Toad's speed, Mario's well-roundedness, or Luigi's talent for running off the edges of platforms and dying - but as soon as it started to break box office records they decided that was because it's actually "anti-woke." I guess they didn't notice the scene where a character dresses in drag. Critics, who are often very out of touch with what normal people enjoy watching, have complained that the movie doesn't break new ground. I actually don't think most children's movies need to have life-altering plot twists. It's just a fun adventure with fun characters and a lot of shameless fanservice. That's all I wanted and all I thought it would be.
Now, yes, let's talk about a The Legend of Zelda movie. It needs to happen. It needs to be a little more mature, a little more complex, a little more critic-pleasing, but still retain some of the goofiness. And Link should't talk. And Zelda should be at least as woke as Peach. And those are my only requirements. So I guess I don't have much to talk about.
I saw The Super Mario Bros. Movie with a friend, and then I invited her to a free dinner put on by the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalists, and they talked about the stuff they do there and she expressed regret that she hasn't been involved with them during the past year when she had so much free time and now she's moving in a couple months. So without even trying, I had more missionary success that night than in all my years as a Mormon. The appeal of Unitarian Universalism is exactly what I didn't like about it when I was a Mormon. It's very secular in nature, doesn't tell people what to believe and doesn't talk about God or the supernatural or the afterlife much at all. This means that even an agnostic like my friend can be comfortable participating. It also means a bigger focus on environmentalism and social justice than many churches have. While many churches do a lot of good in the world, the belief that God will fix everything, in fact the belief that the world has to get worse so God can fix everything, often diverts their priorities elsewhere. I hope this life isn't all we get, but I think there's something to be said for living as if it is. That perspective makes me more eager to assuage others' suffering. It makes me a lot less patient with Republicans fighting against human rights and humanitarian aid in the name of their cruel and petty god.
In case anyone was wondering, I switched my website to Dark Mode because my friend Marie whined about straining her eyes while reading Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. It will take some getting used to but I think it's better for the environment or something so I'll probably keep it.
Addendum to my observation that young Latter-day Saints have become more chill about swearing: On Thursday I went to a game night where at least three people who weren't the same as the people at the fire said "Shit" and/or "Damn it" when the Exploding Kittens weren't in their favor. No one acted scandalized and no one apologized. Last night I attended the Logan YSA 7th Stake talent show. A woman did a humorous monologue and mentioned that she was "covered in shit all day" in her job as a nurse. She apologized to the stake president and bishops but argued that it was fine because it wasn't Sunday and we weren't in the chapel. Then she immediately described one of her patients as "a crazy-ass lady" and didn't apologize for that one. She was my second choice in the vote for the winners. None of my choices won anything, just like in a real election.
I finally made some small tangible impact on the world this week when I played a small part in taking down the Missouri Attorney General's Transgender Center Concerns online form. Honestly, he should have seen the deluge of fake spam complaints coming a mile away. A lot of people filed complaints about Republican politicians' wives or the Catholic priests who wear dresses and groom children. I made up a story about my little brother wearing a dress and then becoming a Marxist lesbian who wants to teach critical race theory. And it got pretty weird and crass after that so I'll leave it to your imagination. The person reading the entries probably didn't bother to read mine after he saw that my name was Ron DeSantis, though, so I should have thought that through a little better.
Yesterday I also went for a walk with my neighbor and his puppy Gizmo. I help take care of Gizmo while my neighbor is at work at least twice a week. He's a real hassle, gets on my nerves constantly, but of course I wuv him.
But anyway, I went for a walk with him and my neighbor, and as we neared the end my neighbor asked, "You're LDS, aren't you?" Not gonna lie, that was a pretty embarrassing thing to be asked by a Black person, because, you know, the entirety of the LDS Church's history with Black people. I said I used to be but I left the church last year. He was curious why. I didn't know how much he would even understand as an outsider. To summarize it I said, "A lot of stuff that built up over the years.... Stuff in the church's history that made me think it isn't what it claims to be, and its positions on social issues. It discriminated against Black people for a long time, it's been really sexist, and it's against gay rights." If I'd had more time to think I would have phrased my response a little differently because in fairness, within the second half of my short lifetime the LDS Church has started supporting most gay rights except marriage. It's come a long way since Dallin H. Oaks proposed that gay people should be barred from any form of employment where children could see them as role models.
He asked if I'd ever been baptized and when. I said when I was eight, which is standard for children born into the LDS Church. He was amazed at how young that was so I explained how the church teaches that eight is the age of accountability when children understand right and wrong enough to sin, and if they die before then, they automatically go to heaven. He thought that was nice. He said he wanted to get baptized soon, probably into the Baptists, "Because I, too, am a God-fearing man." I said I didn't know what to believe, and I'd stayed in the LDS Church longer than I should have, because I'd felt spiritual feelings and I was told that they were the Holy Ghost telling me that specific religion is true, and then I saw a video of people in all different religions apparently getting identical feelings and asserting with just as much confidence that their religions were true, so now I wonder if they're all just delusions. He said he thinks all religions are just people's best efforts to reach God and that they can all experience God in their own way. That's a nice thought. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
Afterward I realized he seems to know almost nothing about the LDS Church, so my answer probably didn't mean as much to him as to someone who does. He didn't seem to realize that the LDS Church isn't just another denomination, that it claims to be the one true church restored by Joseph Smith and led by prophets who speak for God. The Baptists have certainly had their own problems with racism, but those are easier to forgive because they don't make such lofty claims. And it's harder to falsify their entire religion by pinpointing a historical event that didn't happen the way they say it did. The LDS Church's historical problems are so damning that it's now teaching the youth this crap in seminary:
There's a sneaky conflation of terms here. Of course some, even most historical details are insignificant. But without others, the so-called Restoration completely falls apart. The term "Restoration" itself is a historical claim. Allegedly Joseph Smith restored Jesus Christ's original church. Either that happened or it didn't. Likewise, either he saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in the woods or he didn't, either he translated the Book of Mormon or he didn't, either he received the priesthood from heavenly messengers or he didn't, either he received the temple ceremonies by revelation or he didn't, and so on. Without these historical details, the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine are completely bogus. And the historical details of social issues play into this too. When prophets are on the wrong side of slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights, that's a pretty good indication that they're not nearly as in tune with the mind and will of the Lord as they claim to be, and that the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine that come through them should consequently be treated with greater skepticism. Especially since their views on slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights were doctrine until suddenly they weren't.
My neighbor is hardly alone in believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is less frightening that way. But even when I believed God was far more hands-on with his creations than I believe now, I didn't share that sentiment. How could I? In four separate incidents in the last week or so, a teenage boy, two college cheerleaders, a little girl and her parents, and a very young woman were shot by psychopaths for making simple and entirely harmless mistakes. All these shootings happened in the United States, but you already knew that. Miraculously, all of these people except for the very young woman survived. I say "miraculously" because it's a normal and appropriate figure of speech, but I don't believe any real miracles occurred at all. I think most of them got lucky and Kaylin Gillis didn't. I don't see how I could accept a God who intervened to save the others but got to Kaylin Gillis and said, "I'm sorry, I have a very important and immutable divine plan that desperately requires you to die at age twenty. This piece of shit was foreordained to shoot you and if he hadn't, I would have arranged an accident anyway. Fuck your parents, fuck your younger sisters, fuck your long-term boyfriend who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you and nobody else."
Which brings me to another issue that first occurred to me years ago when I read about an LDS woman whose boyfriend was killed in a mass shooting. It was in the United States, but you already knew that. Anyway, the LDS Church teaches that the Atonement of Jesus Christ will make everything right in the next life and fix every injustice. And that's a beautiful thing to believe. But I don't see how it could fix everything for Kaylin Gillis and her boyfriend. They wanted to be together. But Kevin Monahan took away their agency to make that choice. Agency is one of the most important things in the LDS paradigm, so why does God let people take other people's away? Why does Kevin Monahan's agency trump theirs? Now Kaylin Gillis' boyfriend could stay alone for the rest of his life and then be reunited with her in the afterlife and still be with her for eternity. But if at any point he does marry someone else, then she has to either find someone else too or join them as a polygamous wife. And actually, because of deaths and remarriages I don't see a way around the polygamy problem for eternal marriage in general, although the LDS Church could make it not sexist by letting women be sealed to multiple husbands too. In any case, their eternal destinies have been altered in a way that the Atonement may not be able to reverse.
The other most famous of these shootings, Andrew Lester vs. Ralph Yarl, is of course making waves for the racial component. Without knowing anything except that an elderly white man shot a Black teenager in the head for ringing his doorbell, I would have bet the lives of everyone I care about that the elderly white man voted for Donald Trump, but it's even better than that. According to his relatives, he's a full-blown Fox News junkie, anti-vaxxer, Stop the Steal, the whole shebang. So of course he's afraid of everything. Of course when he hears the doorbell ring his first thought is to grab his gun. Of course he's going to think that the Black person who just rang his fucking doorbell is trying to break in. Of course he's going to be scared of the size of the Black person who's shorter than me and weighs the same. This isn't me reading his mind, by the way, these are all things he told the police. Look, I've tried really really hard to be politically nuanced and avoid polarization, and I'm not saying progressives are perfect or anything, but the right-wing movement in this country is a fucking cancer. It just is. And either the movement or the country is going to die.
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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.