“Colorblind” White People and MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

January 16, 2023

I’m not old enough to remember how badly white people hated Martin Luther King, Jr. during his lifetime. How they protested, en masse, his calls for racial integration and an end to Jim Crow. How they called him a communist and a terrorists. How they jailed him and threatened the life of he and his family on a daily basis. I was four years old that day in April when a white person put a bullet in his face on a Memphis hotel balcony. I only learned about that later in my white-authored schoolbooks.

But I am old enough to remember how white people fought tooth and nail to stop Dr. King’s a birthday being made a federal holiday. I was 19 when Ronald Reagan, who spent much of his presidency undoing the civil rights legislation that King fought for, bit his tongue and signed the holiday into law (after 90 white congressmen and 22 white senators voted against it). In my Georgia town, white people began calling the holiday, “Martin Luther Coon Day.”

So I’m leery of how so many white people now embrace Dr. King while ignoring his core messages. As a kid from a southern Klan town, I’m the last person to say that white people’s hearts cannot be changed. I’ve seen the most vicious racists transform into the most dedicated anti-racist activists. And I’ve seen that more than once. But if feels like every MLK Day we get the sanitized version of the black radical who white America despised.

The perfect example is the focus on one passage in King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech that you will hear repeated on Fox News every January.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Taken out of context this sentence to gets white people off the hook. “Hey, I’ll just judge black people by the content of their character and we can be done with this whole race thing.” This lame assertion denies some very important facts.

  1. Doctor King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as well as pretty much everything he said, makes the exact opposite case. He was saying we will never get to the colorblind world UNTIL we deal with the engrained problems of structural and cultural racism. “White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society,” King later wrote. He had a dream of how things could be but we weren’t there in 1963 and we’re still not there in 2023. We have to do the work first. And the work is hard and the push back against the work is mighty. It’s just not from powerful white nationalists like Donald Trump. The pushback is felt in every white person that has ever said, “I’m not a racist, but…”
  2. “I was raised not to see color” is a lie. We live in a white supremacist society that sees white as “good” and “normal” and sees black as “bad” and “other.” We internalize these message throughout our entire lives. All of us internalize white supremacy. Numerous studies have shown that black kindergartners have already learned to value whiteness over blackness. Even if you are not a rabid Klansman, we know these messages about race are baked into your subconscious as implicit bias. Even the most woke-ass liberal notices the black guy standing by their car. Research shows again and again that implicit bias is a factor in why black and brown kids are disciplined more by teachers and why people of color are more likely to be shot by police. So when a white person says they are “colorblind,” they might think they are but they most definitely are not. We are trained to see color from the get-go.
  3. Black and brown people do not have the privilege of being colorblind. Seeing color is a matter of survival. If I’m an African-American man and I walk into a bank full of white people, I may have to adjust my behavior, appearance, and demeanor so the white people a) don’t think I’m there to rob the place, and b) maybe give me the same service that white people get. I had a black student who always wore a suit and tie to class everyday and when I commented on his dapper style he said, “I just got tired of everyone assuming I was here on an athletic scholarship.”
  4. The content of one’s character is most certainly shaped one’s environment and upbringing. If I’m facing the daily sledgehammer of racism and oppression, that’s gonna play a role in my character. Dr. Joy DeGruy, author of the seminal text, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, refers to the “ever present anger” black people experience because of the constant othering. If you are going to judge someone by their character, you better understand the forces that helped create it.

In Martin King’s famous “I Have Dream” speech, in a section rarely quoted by contemporary white people, he says:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

Last year there were over a thousand people killed by the police. African-Americans, who make up roughly 12 percent of the population represented 27 percent of those who were killed. George Floyd and every black police victim that has followed speak to the unspeakable horrors that persist. So why should those clamoring for basic human rights be satisfied?

Simplified history-telling has often portrayed white people as facing a perilous question sixty years ago; Either go with the kinder assimilationist rhetoric of Reverend King or face the revolutionary rage of Minister Malcolm X. King or X was a false choice. Underlying MLK’s rainbow vision was a fairly radical call for a power shift in America. The “I Have a Dream” line, “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” was as much about the tables in the backrooms of congress and corporations as it was the tables in diners. Toward the end of his life, King’s message was much more explicitly class-based and anti-war (which must’ve made J.Edgar Hoover’s blood boil).

The white cherry-picking of MLK sentences from long, complex speeches and essays and the casting him as a “good negro” (in contrast to all the “bad” ones) erases the core message of King’s life. Yeah, there as been a little progress, but we ain’t there yet. We still have to explain to white people why black lives matter, because the facts on the table show they still don’t. Until there is fundamental structural change and black people, and other marginalized folks, have the EXACT same access to economic, political, and cultural power, we can dream about it, but we ain’t there yet.

So share the dream. It’s a good one. But action is required. That’s what Martin asked of us.

Can Cat Videos Prevent Power Grid Attacks?

January 8, 2023

On Christmas Day, four utility substations were knocked out in Pierce County, Washington, shutting off electricity to more than 14,000 homes on the holiday. The previous month, on Thanksgiving, there were similar attacks on utility substations in both Washington and Oregon. Officials and customers are concerned that these attacks, following a similar but larger attack in North Carolina, are part of a new trend of domestic terrorism.

The extreme right has long had the soft-targets of America’s infrastructure in its sights. For decades, their guidebook has been The Turner Diaries, a novel about a future fictional race war in America. It was a crucial part of Timothy McVeigh’s planning of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. The book, and subsequent right-wing manifestos, call for “patriots” to attack infrastructure to destabilize society and “accelerate” the chaos that will lead to a civil war. In the late 1990s, there were numerous militia plots to attack power stations and dams leading up to Y2K and the gang of extremists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer in 2020 also plotted to blow up a bridge.

With the advent of social media, shifts in demographics and the economy, and the influence of right-wing celebrities like Donald Trump and Alex Jones, more and more Americans have fallen into the conspiracy theory-driven counterculture of violent extremism. But each of those individuals is a person acting on the information and influence that surrounds them. Those forces can be countered and the subsequent violence can be prevented. According to the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, at the University of Chicago, 87% of the individuals arrested for attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 were not members of any identifiable group, like the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. Most were just swept up in the moment.

This gives us a vector for intervention. If those ramping towards violence, either because they read The Turner Diaries or watched one too many episodes of Info Wars, as well as those MAGA followers who are angry the midterm elections didn’t go their way, can be reached, deescalation is possible. Nearly every future domestic terrorist has a person in their orbit that can talk them off the ledge of violence. These “credible messengers” might be friends, family members, co-workers, or neighbors, who just take the extra time to appeal to the individual who is inching toward violence. This intervention could be a heartfelt conversation about the real damage of violent actions, or it could just be grabbing a coffee and having a chat about the value on non-violence. According to research, even watching cat videos can reduce violent impulses.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a bulletin in late 2022 stating that infrastructure locations will be likely targets by extremists in the coming years. Attacks on the relatively accessible targets can have a massive impact on civilian populations. At least 2.5 million Americans rely on durable medical devices that can create life-threatening situations during power outages. Many millions more rely on the power grid for work, communication, and keeping the lights on in our homes. Extremists’ desire to create chaos to force their insurgent revolution make this issue, quite literally, one of life or death.

It’s time to activate the credible messengers in our communities. Instead of shying away from uncomfortable conversations with folks that seem to be “crazy radicals,” we can train people on how to better engage with those who are ramping up to violent action. The approach might not prevent every instance of domestic terrorism, but it can surely lower the body count. So if you’ve got a family member who loves guns and hates the government, invite them over to watch some cat videos. You might be saving lives.

2022 in Review: No Thanks

December 31, 2022

I knew this year was going to be hard, but it was a real test on all of us. From mass shootings in Buffalo, Ulavde, and over 600 others, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, there was death all around us. Throw in the carnage from the accelerating climate crisis and it felt like we were in last days of humanity. If it weren’t for the sizable wins by Democrats and the World Cup performance of Lionel Messi, the year might have been a complete write off.

The lowlight of 2022 was American women losing their right to choose but the highlight of the year was the hearings of January 6th Committee that deftly presented the case to the American people that Donald Trump employed multiple tactics to overthrow American democracy. It was must-see TV and we can only hope 2023 gives us indictments for the orange traitor and his inner circle of enablers. Watching him flail after his November 16 campaign announcement has bordered on high comedy. (Do you know anyone who has bought his “collectable” NFTs? I don’t.) Maybe he and Elon Musk can compete over who has the lamest social media platform.

All that informed my own year, which included heading to Ukraine to help resettle refugees, spending a day at Auschwitz, working on a federal DHS grant to find ways to interrupt extremist violence, and talking to the media about the rising threat of Kanye West. It was a great distraction from my personal life which I struggled to make sense of my domestic circumstance. I started the year in the depths of despair and I’m ending it with a healthy dose of “I don’t care.” A great somatic therapist allowed me to connect the dots from my childhood abuse to the problematic patterns in my history and finally take agency in my life. I know I’ll be fine.

The thread through this all has been the complete joy of watching my daughter move from being a silly second grader to a chess playing third grader (still pretty silly). Her growth as a person has been both challenging and inspiring. Particularly interesting has been watching her negotiate the encroaching gender norms and fairly successfully smashing them. Gen Z will have its own relationship with patriarchy, but it’s not your mother’s Riot Grrrl feminism.

I didn’t blog much in 2022. I got 26 posts out, mostly about my trip to Ukraine, which I am still processing. The posts about my separation reflect how hard I was working to fix things, but it takes two to tango and I’m starting to think I should find a better person to dance with. When I hosted poetry readings in Atlanta, I used to make fun of middle-agers who read poems about their divorces. I’m not going to be that guy. Besides, 2023 has much to offer. There will be baseball and birthdays (Disney turns 100). Russia getting the hell out of Ukraine and maybe the last Daylights Savings ever. Great music I don’t even know about yet. I have tickets to Springsteen’s February 25th show in Portland. (But who will I take?) And maybe I will blog about the Trump family in custody. Who knows?

I’m ending the year on a melancholy note but there has been immense joy in 2022 between the crushing moments of sadness. We can use the year push us to keep our children safer and our democracy stronger.

2022 WTW Posts

I Became a Teacher Because of Sydney Poitier (January 15, 2022)

Represent! Why We Need a Black Woman on the Supreme Court (January 30, 2022)

La Historia de Cómo Encontré mi Corazón (para el Día de San Valentín) (February 13, 2022)

My last hours of 57, when I grew up. (February 19, 2022)

In the Toilet Paper Tube of History: Watching the Battle for Ukraine in Real Time (February 27, 2022)

Psychoanalyzing the Attraction to Chaos, or Why I Want to Go to Ukraine (March 13, 2022)

On the Polish Border with Ukraine: Watching the World Change from Up Close (March 25, 2022)

The First Two Days on the Polish-Ukraine Border, as Bombs Fall on Lviv (March 26, 2022)

One Night in Lviv (Makes a Hard Man Humble) (March 28, 2022)

Panic in Auschwitz: Putting the Present Moment in Context (April 2, 2022)

Where I’ve Been, What I’ve Seen, Who I Am: A Brief Reflection of My Time in Ukraine/Poland (April 6, 2022)

The Rescue of the Girl in the Red Coat: Gratitude for One Ukrainian Dad (April 17, 2022)

Seriously, What’s Wrong with Men? Lighting Fires in Post-Roe America (May 12, 2022)

It’s All Too Much: You Don’t Want to Arm This Teacher at the Moment (June 6, 2022)

Talking to My 7-year-old Daughter About Abortion (June 25, 2022)

My Jim Crow Marriage: MAGA Co-dependency (July 21, 2022)

Gender – Nature vs Nurture 8: The Looking Glass Self (August 7, 2022)

To Escalate or De-escalate, That is the Question (August 23, 2022)

“Where did my friends go?” Wives as Unpaid Therapists (September 14, 2022)

The Catch-22 of Trump 2024, or, How Donald Trump’s Comical Death is Democracy’s Great Hope  (September 19, 2022)

Sept. 26, 2012: My 10-year Reconstruction Begins (September 26, 2022)

Ukraine Days: Reflections During a DakhaBrakha concert (October 1, 2022)

The Complexity of the Game: Making Sense of the World Series (October 28, 2022)

I Was a Third Grader (November 15, 2022)

Foreshadowing Fascism: The Spike in Anti-Semitism is Bigger than Trump and Kanye (December 7, 2022)

Dad’s Top Discs of 2022 (December 14, 2022)

A Room for Andi: Creating Space in the House of Patriarchy (December 25, 2022)

2022 in Review: No Thanks (December 31, 2022)

Foreshadowing Fascism: The Spike in Anti-Semitism is Bigger than Trump and Kanye

December 7, 2022

Every December 7th, we remember the 1941 attack on Japan by imperialist Japan. December 7th, 1941 is also the date that Hitler made his “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) decree, the order that instructed the Gestapo to round up all the enemies of Nazism in the lands controlled by Berlin, and send them to concentration camps. Sadly, many of those who supported Hitler’s anti-Semitic vision were political activists in the United States. That included aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, spokesperson of the America First Committee, founded in 1940. Four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States, declaring that Franklin Roosevelt was a spawn of the “eternal Jew.”

It’s important to remember that the Holocaust didn’t begin with gas chambers. It began with anti-Semitic hate speech. The fact that former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump gleefully dines with anti-Semites like Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, tells Proud Boys to stand by, refers to the neo-Nazis of Charlottesville as “fine people,” and has routinely retweeted disinformation from white supremacist accounts should exclude him from any political credibility whatsoever. Instead, it places him in the center of right-wing politics that has always had its right foot in the mud of anti-Semitism. Blaming the Jews isn’t back. It never went away. It’s now just got a media platform so expansive it would make Father Coughlin drool on his frock.

First, let’s dispense with a crucial piece of bullcrap. Saying, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I support Israel!” is like saying, “I can’t be racist, I support the Lakers!” Support for Israel is not the same as support for Jewish people (including Jews who are critical of the state of Israel). Evangelicals see Jews as “unsaved people,” who are just getting the Holy Land ready for the return of Jesus. MAGA support for Israel is inherently anti-Semitic. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the MAGA subculture has plenty of neo-Nazis, like Nick Fuentes, it its ranks.

This isn’t about Trump and “Ye.” There has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents over the last few years. The ADL reported that 2021 was the highest year on record for anti-Semitic incidents and 2022 looks like it could end up worse. Oregon has already logged 257 bias crimes and incidents with Jewish victims this year. Just last month, New York City saw a 125% increase in hate attacks targeting Jews over the previous November. Trump and Kanye just make it more acceptable for those people to come out of the shadows.

While the Jewish people have a long history of oppression, the Adolph Hitler/Kanye West version of anti-Semitism has a fairly recent starting point. The 1789 French Revolution not only brought the promise of democracy to Europe, and the end of the divine right of kings, it emancipated French Jews, making them full French citizens. So when the defenders of church and monarchy needed a convenient scapegoat to blame the revolutionary chaos on, the “anti-Christian” Jews were an easy target. Aside from the fact that European Jews had a fairly good reason to not be fans of the Catholic Church, Jewish participation in the French Revolution was fairly minimal. And yet a new myth was born; the pro-democracy/anti-church rule movements around the globe were the work of secret cabal of Jewish rabbis. The puppet masters; controllers of banks, media outlet, competing political parties, and all things liberal.

This new belief that Jews “control the world” spread like wildfire as the old empires began to crumble. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the bizarre conspiracy theory was codified in a supposedly real (but fully fabricated) document, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was used to blame the Russian Revolution on Jews and used by Henry Ford to blame unionization efforts on the “international Jew” (the title of a series of booklets Ford wrote in the 1920s). The conspiracy theory became equally popular among jihadists and Neo-Nazis into the twenty-first century. We are almost a quarter of the way through the century and Trump acolyte Kanye West’s proclamation that “I like Hitler” on disgraced conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show barely sparks a response from the Learned Elders of the Republican Party. That should make the world say, collectively, we’ve seen this movie before.

Volumes have been written on how the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump map on to other nations’ slide into fascist rule. American democracy is not guaranteed and Trump’s recent claim that the U.S. Constitution should be “terminated” is straight-up Germany 1933. All we need is an economic collapse to send the “stable middle” into a panicked blame-game and a charismatic figure to convince them that all their problems are because of George Soros/drag queens/woke bankers/deep state agents and we’ve got pogroms in the streets of America; the Proud Boys and their ilk, who have been on “standby,” leading the charge to “make America great again.”

This might seem like a lot of hysteria but let me conclude with two thoughts. Every single Jewish person has a deep personal connection to the violence of anti-Semitism. Every news story about a synagogue covered in swastika graffiti, or about Jewish people attacked just walking down the street, or another “crazy” claim about Jews by an popstar who has 16 million followers on Instagram is a reminder of the long history in the belief that the complete annihilation of the Jewish people is a good thing that is both dreamed about and acted upon. The trauma of living in that world must be immense and yet the Jewish people continue to contribute to a world that imagines destroying them.

Finally, as I’ve written, earlier this year, I spent a snowy April day at the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in Poland. After walking though the gates that still read, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work sets you free), I suffered my first panic attack, realizing that it was all very real. A population, motivated by fear, was willing to commit mass genocide. Children, like my daughter, were ripped from their parents arms and thrown into the fire pits of Birkenau. Why? Because they were “dirty Jews.” I stood on that spot and wept. Because, unlike what certain guests at Mar-a-Lago believe, the Holocaust happened. And, like certain guests at Mar-a-Lago hope, it could happen again.

We must stand together against this insanity or it will be our children who will be thrown into the fire pits.

The Catch-22 of Trump 2024, or, How Donald Trump’s Comical Death is Democracy’s Great Hope

September 19, 2022

The good news is most Americans don’t want Donald Trump to run for president again. In a  recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 61 percent of Americans said they want the orange oaf off the ballot. Of course, another poll, from Harvard, found 67 percent of Americans don’t want Biden to run for re-election (citing his age, not his attempt to overthrow the government). But Trump has become the drunk uncle who won’t leave after the holidays. Based on the spotty attendance of Ultra MAGA weirdos at his recent rallies (“Huge!” pfft!), Trump’s cult of personality seems to be shrinking like his legal team.

But it only takes one Timothy McVeigh to ruin your whole day.

Just take one look at the people showing up at these MAGA rallies. On one hand, if you ever wondered were old white people go to die, it’s to a mostly empty arena dressed in red, white, and blue “Let’s Go Brandon” golf shirts. But on the other hand, these people are batshit crazy. That fascistic devotion to Trump is reflected in numerous polls that report the majority of Republicans still believe the Big Lie, that the Con Man from Queens won the 2020 election. As Joseph Goebbels is alleged to have said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Behind the wack-a-doo attendees at Trump rallies are numerous “patriot” militia members who are heavily armed and waiting for the go from their dear leader to kick off their “boogaloo” with the promise that the rednecks will win this civil war. A recent ADL report found scores of Oath Keepers in the ranks of the military, police, first responders, and among elected officials. Like a page out of the racist playbook, The Turner Diaries, these Timothy McVeigh-wannabees hope to make January 6 look like a Beach Boys concert on the DC Mall.

Which brings up to the conundrum of 2024 and Trump’s concerning attempt to force his way back into the White House. There are three possible scenarios, and none of them end well for this great nation.

Scenario 1: Trump runs in 2024 and a crushing recession, endless memes about “black crime,” the harassment of poll workers, and a well-timed news story about an undocumented immigrant from Latin America savaging a white woman (whether true or not), and 45 becomes 47. Trump takes it as a mandate to further deconstruct American democracy. Can you imagine what the federal courts will be capable of doing after another four years of Trump appointments? Suddenly The Handmaid’s Tale will look like a utopia instead of a dystopia. As forces loyal to the Constitution try to prevent America from sliding into an authoritarian state, civll war becomes eminent.

Scenario 2: Trump runs in ’24 and loses to Biden (or Kamala Harris because Joe fell off his bike). It will be seen as evidence of another “stolen election.” Nearly every MAGA candidate that lost a primary this year claimed to be a victim of “voter fraud.” As funny as it’s been they are sitting up the expectation that if Trump loses in ’24, it will be because the unseen evil forces. (Spend some time on Trump’s Truth Social or Gab and you know it’s the “Jews.”) Since peaceful means will be seen as no longer effective, violence will be called for – Civil War 2: The MAGA Boogaloo.

Scenario 3: Merrick Garland indicts Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection or handing over classified documents to Putin, or throwing ketchup at the wall. Whatever. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits ANY politician who has taken the oath of office from holding future public office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Engaged in, not caused. You better believe the DOJ is mulling this one over with sweating brows. While this is probably the best option that demonstrates that our Constitution and the rule of law actually fucking mean something in this country, the “defund the FBI” crowd is still going to be triggered and urged to drag themselves out of their troll holes and shoot SOMEBODY.

This really sucks. It sucks for America and for those of us that just want to live in peace and not have to have to defend ourselves from roving gangs of MAGA militias looking for liberals, Black Live Matter activists, and drag queens to hang. I have weapons training but I’d rather spend my gun budget on some shrubbery and taking my kid to Disney World (if the DeSantis Army hasn’t nuked it). Plus, I suck at that Big Buck Hunter game. I don’t know how good I would be at mowing down marauding Proud Boys on my street.

So America’s hope seems to lie in Scenario 4: The death of Donald J. Trump. And it can’t be from the most likely cause, a massive heart attack. The QAnon loons will see conspiracy all over that outcome. You thought bunker dwellers had a field day with JFK’s (and JFK Jr.’s) death. They will see the hand of Fauci and/or Antifa in Trump’s “natural causes” bucket kicking. And then we’re back to the armed rebellion of the sub-moronic legions. No, it has to be in public and as mundane as possible.  He’s gotta trip over his feet and break his neck at a golf course, or fall off a stage at rally while doing that embarrassing white man dance. He could choke on an Egg McMuffin or maybe he could step out of a speeding limo after an argument with Eric. It’s gotta be Darwin Award-level stupid.

We know from research that cult-like movements tend to fade when the charismatic personality at the center expires. (Except for the Dead Head thing. That shit refuses to go away.) The MAGA faithful might rally around Junior, or the more frightening Ron DeSantis. But they can’t give them what Don gave them, the ability to be stupid but feel smart. And the Trump chapter closes, not with a bang, but with a briefly lingering oder.

This is where we are America. The threat of armed political violence is very real and the clock to 2024 is ticking. The great hope of America may just be Donald Trump driving his golf cart into a pool at Mar-a-Lago and getting his khakis caught in the pool drain or being hugged to death by Diamond and Silk and the My Pillow guy. But it’s gotta be spectacularly stupid, like the man himself.

PS. Scenario 5: Ukrainian victory drives Putin from power and the kompromat that Vladimir has on Trump falls into pro-democracy hands. Trump is told it will be released if he doesn’t permanently retire. Trump moves to Moscow where he spends his remaining days paying prostitutes to pee on pictures of Barack Obama.

To Escalate or De-escalate, That is the Question

August 23, 2022

Fifty-four years ago this week, the dramatic violence outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago (August 23 to 28, 1968) defined an era of protest. It is now generally viewed as a “police riot.” The Chicago Police violently assaulted peaceful demonstrators, leading to numerous arrests and injuries, escalating the bloody street clashes. The mayhem was mostly broadcast on live TV, with the young protestors chanting, “The whole world is watching!”

In 2011, 43 years later those who studied the carnage from Chicago ’68 put those lessons to work. As the Occupy Wallstreet protests spread across the country, especially here in Portland, police utilized a new tactic – de-escalation. The old method of police knocking hippie heads tended to backfire and bring more civilians into the battle (and spurred increasingly costly lawsuits against police departments). In 2011, I spent many long nights in the three downtown squares claimed by Occupy protestors. The police kept their distance and let the people air their grievances. Eventually the protest ran its course and everyone went home. No teargas. No violence. The opposite was the case in 2020 when federal law enforcement arrived to quash the Black Lives Matter protests and turned downtown Portland into a war zone. I will never forget hiding behind concrete columns as feds, in heavily militarized gear, shot their weapons randomly down 5th Avenue.

Following the January 6th riot, we’ve re-entered the debate about de-escalating the violence. A 2022 University of California, Davis survey found that 1 in 4 Americans think violence against the government is sometimes OK and 1 in 10 feel political violence is justified right now. (Not surprisingly, these numbers are much higher among Republicans.) This call to violence has only escalated in the wake of the FBI’s warranted search (it wasn’t a “raid”) of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound to retrieve stolen classified documents. America suddenly seems close to falling into the tarpit of another civil war. Maybe the country needs to take a massive chill pill.

I’m privileged to be a part of a federally funded project to look at ways to interrupt extremist violence in America called Cure-PDX. The basic idea is that if there are individuals at risk of committing acts of political violence, whether they’re coming from the right or left or somewhere off the charts, there should be a way to get them to “de-escalate” and find a non-violent way to express their, perhaps legitimate, grievances. It’s not about de-radicalization. (As a sociology professor, I like to joke that I’m the radicalization field.) It’s about moving individuals back from the ledge of violence, before they go on a shooting spree, blow something up, or commit a hate crime.

The logic of de-escalation makes sense. Fewer victims of extremist violence seems like an easy sell. But our team ran to some push-back from some activists on both the right and left who argued, given the current state of affairs, this is the exact time TO escalate violence, before things tip over. Political scientists will tell you that extremists movements tend to have an apocalyptic element. The sky is always falling. But these days it’s hard not to share that sentiment. The left thinks democracy is one election away from disappearing and the right thinks the “Biden FBI” is coming to throw patriots into concentration camps. I will admit one thing, a part of me has considered arming up to protect my family from Proud Boys and the unorganized militias of the right.

I reflected on my time this spring in Ukraine. I was not involved in de-escalation. I was helping the Ukrainian army escalate the you-know-what out of things. The stuff I brought in from Poland in the back of a van ended up in the hands of soldiers in Irpin and very likely helped them kill many Russian conscripts as they valiantly reclaimed the city. I may have Russian blood on my hands. How do I sleep at night? Like a baby. I wish there was a non-violent solution but if you had seen what I had, you wouldn’t want de-escalation in that moment either. While there, I kept remembering a Bruce Cockburn song that went, “If I had a rocket launcher…Some son of a bitch would die.”

So who am I to tell other people to de-escalate?

Well, we’re not Ukraine, occupied by a civilian-slaughtering invader. We still have a Constitution and free elections. Despite Trump’s attempt to dismantle our democracy, the house still stands. Everything the left and right want can be addressed without violence. There are political strategies that can build the middle while giving voice to those who feel marginalized, including 70-something straight white cis men who are scared shitless by “woke politics” (whatever that is).

I just watched Netflix’s three-part documentary on Woodstock ’99. (I was briefly a Limp Bizkit fan, shhh.) The violent destruction at the 3-day festival, including the numerous sexual assaults, is a perfect example of the contagious nature of violence. Kids were suddenly burning down buildings. The madness of the moment consumed them. If I had been there (as I had planned to), I could have been one of them. America is at risk of “Woodstock ’22” becoming our descent into political violence as the mob mentality of us versus them sweeps the nation. Libtards versus Nazis. But, there is no us versus them, just us. And we have a brief window in history to de-escalate. If we miss it, it’s gonna make Woodstock ’99 look like Woodstock ’69. 

Recent data shows that 80 percent of domestic terrorist plots that have been prevented were stopped because someone known to the potential offender came forward. We all can play the role of “credible messenger” to those at risk of escalating to violence. “Hey Frank, I now you want to storm the capitol, but can we just hang out and watch some cat videos?” Frank just got saved from a world of regret. It is worth pursuing this approach first and save the insanity (and body count) of escalation for another day. Non-violence is still the preferred path.

My Jim Crow Marriage: MAGA Co-dependency

July 21, 2022

There’s so much going on in the world. The Earth is literally on fire. It’s a nice distraction from my personal problems. I can doom-scroll through some GoPro footage from the battlefields of Ukraine or watch endless hours of commentary on the January 6th hearings. I used to drink through the rough patches. Now I just mainline the outside world.

As a Pisces, I tend to be overdramatic. Things aren’t that bad. Just the summer doldrums of separation. I’ve been trying to learn more about co-dependent relationships and, man, did I have one. I’m not 100% sure that learning about it makes you any less co-dependent, or will help Andi end up back under the same roof, but it sure shines a light and why we were stuck and not making any progress. She was the fixer and I was he who perpetually needed be fixed.

I’ve been having some pretty good conversations about the topic with my therapist. Knowing I’m a Pisces, she’s liberal with the diagrams. She drew two overlapping equal sized circles on a piece of paper and explained that in a healthy relationship two people take up equal space and they overlap in the space of their relationship but they have a larger part of themselves that’s not defined by the relationship. And they can both bring in things to share in the overlap or keep them as part of themselves.

In a co-dependent relationship, one person is a bigger circle that completely envelopes the other circle. That enveloped person has a) a smaller space, b) has no self outside the relationship and c) is always struggling against the confines of the bigger circle. That was us. Even though I encouraged her life outside of our relationship (she got a master’s degree and was an elected officer in her union without my help), when we were together, I did a pretty good job of swallowing her back into what I was jokingly referred to as “Randyland” (a term she understandably loathed). Just like how a person of color is forced to define themselves in relation to “whiteland,” her existence was shaped by our relationship instead of the other way around.

My therapist asked me to conjure up a romantic image of us and I remembered our first trip to Andi’s home town of Morelia, Mexico in 2013. Instead of me being the tour guide in Portland, she led me through her beautiful city, holding my hand. I imagined myself as a balloon safely in her grasp, seeing the world through her eyes. But it was just a flip of our co-dependent dynamic. Now I was the small circle, encompassed by her. As wonderful as it felt, it still wasn’t balanced.

Then she asked me to remember another romantic moment that seemed more balanced and I immediately flashed to our trip to Oslo, Norway in 2018, a city that was new to both us. I was returning from a day at a conference and Andi was coming to find me because she had discovered the most amazing record store on earth and when we ran into each other on the sidewalk, we were those perfectly equal interlocking circles.

The reality is that we had those moments (our first week in a youth hostel on Isla Mujeres with sand in the bed and Macklemore playing every night), but there was a lot more suffocation in Randyland. I get why she needed to break free.

OK, this is the part where I link it to Trump. Hang with me.

You know the MAGA thing? That “Make America Great Again” implies that America’s not great but it was sometime in the mythical past. Trump picked 1950 when America was last great. 1950, the peak of Jim Crow segregation. 1950, before the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, and the disability rights movement. If you were a black transperson in a wheelchair, America was not great in 1950. Or a woman. And TVs sucked. Give me my 2022 Samsung flatscreen TV and my pronouns and leave 1950 to your back & white fantasy. Father knew best, or so we were told. The MAGA crowd wants that bullshit past back. They dream of the by-gone days of Jim Crow. Colin Kaepernick “knew his place” in 1950.

But that’s the thing. We over-nostalgize the past. It was always better back then. Music was better. Fashion was better. It was a “simpler” time, blah, blah, blah. In fact, the past was both great and shitty, just like the present. And it was plenty complex, but we were familiar with the complexity. The future is uncertain and the past is a cozy blanket. No wonder people want to go back to it. And that tendency just gets worse the older you get. The 2010s, ah those were the days. The past is a safe haven for the timid. The future is scary as hell. You saw what happened with Bitcoin. But you’ve really gotta embrace the unknown, as frightening as it is. It might kick you in the crotch, but it’s better than spending your life reminiscing about your baseball card collection.

We do the same damn thing when a relationship is ending. “But it was so great! Look at how happy we are in these pictures.” The reality, like America in 1950, is more complex. It was great and shitty. There were plenty of hard times. But I remember it more fondly because I was the planet she revolved around. I was white Father Knows Best guy. For her it was Jim Crow. She was the “colored girl” who needed to get the hell out of Mississippi.

Coming to terms with co-dependency means acknowledging the imbalance. I don’t know if Andi and I will have any more “Oslo moments.” I hope so. But I understand why she had to escape Randyland. I’m escaping it, too.

Talking to My 7-year-old Daughter About Abortion

June 25, 2022

I got a text yesterday morning to turn on the TV. I was worried that someone famous I loved had died or there was another 9/11 unfolding. It was much worse than that. The health and safety of girls and women of child-bearing age was being thrown under the bus by five people, Clarence Thomas, Samual Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kananaugh, and Amy Coney Barratt. Remember their names. They pulled the lever to turn the United States into Afghanistan.

Going against the will of a vast majority of Americans and 50 years of precedent, Roe v. Wade was overturned on a Friday morning in June. The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t end abortion (despite the spontaneous celebrations of tools like Marjorie Taylor Green), it just returns the practice to the back alleys of Mississippi and Missouri. And girls and women will die. But, apparently, America cares more about guns than girls and women.

The Friday morning news woke up my seven-year-old daughter, Cozy, who now, as a female, had fewer rights than she did the day before. She wondered what all the yelling on TV was about. Seven-year-olds should not know about abortion. That information should be reserved for 11-year-olds who are raped by a family member. I didn’t know how to answer her. How do I explain this to a child? Of course, she’s heard the word “abortion” and she’s gonna hear it a lot now thanks to the conservative super-majority on the Supreme Court.

Knowing that that word was going to be everywhere and that I would be dragging her along to a reproductive rights rally in downtown Portland later in the day, I decided to have “the talk” with her. Sort of like how black parents have to talk to their kids about how to the police might kill them if they don’t understand how racism works, millions of parents now have to talk to their daughters about how the state might kill them because of how patriarchy works.

So yesterday afternoon, after she came in from playing in a neighbor’s new tree fort, I sat her down on the couch for America’s new family tradition. The word is now everywhere. She’s an inquisitive child, so I knew she had questions.

Me: Hey, Cozy can we talk a minute? (She gets a worried face, like she was in trouble.) No, it’s not a bad thing. Well, it is a bad thing for society, not for you at the moment. I just want to talk about something that’s been in the news. Have you heard the word, “abortion.”

Cozy: Yes (She got uncomfortable, feeling like we were going to talk about sex.)

Me: Do you know what it means?

Cozy: No

Me: I know you’re hearing that word a lot right now and I just want to explain it to you. So when Mommy and I first got together, we really wanted to have a baby one day. And the day Mom found out she was pregnant with you was one of the happiest days of our lives. We were so excited. But sometimes women get pregnant and they are not happy about it. Maybe they’re too young, or they already have a lot of kids, or having a baby might be really bad for their health. So there this little operation called an abortion that lets women decide if they want a baby or not. Women have had the right to make that decision for 50 years. But this morning some judges picked by Donald Trump decided women no longer have that right.

Most Americans believe that women should have this right but some people think abortion is bad because it stops a baby from being born, so there is a lot of fighting about it and people get really angry on both sides. You really don’t have to worry about it now but let’s say 20 years from now you want to be able to decide whether or not you want to have a baby, you will want to have the right to make that choice.

Cozy: How long until the law changes back?

Me: I don’t know, sweetheart. That’s why we have to vote, and march, and fight for you and Mom’s rights. So we’re going to a demonstration downtown later today to protest the decision these judges made. Just imagine if judges said we can have slavery again, how much that would hurt some of your friends.

Cozy: Yeah, that would be really bad.

Me: We have to protest so we can get your rights back. Hopefully it won’t take long. You’ll see a lot of angry people today. I’m angry. Your mother is angry. You might even hear some bad words because everyone is so angry. But you can ask me anything you want about it. You know how much I love your questions. Do you have any questions?

Cozy: Yeah, can I go back outside and play?

And she did. I know it was a lot to lay on a kid, but the Supreme Court and the Trump cult has foisted this upon our families. I shouldn’t have to talk to her about these things.

Later, we headed downtown to the rally. I told her if it got crazy we would leave. Black clad anarchists have a tendency to hijack demonstrations for their own narcissistic reasons and start fires in the middle of the street. (Haven’t they heard about the CO2 problem?) She was a little uneasy walking into the large crowd, but she’s a veteran of marches, rallies, and protests. So she settled in to the cacophony. She only had one question.

Cozy: Daddy, what’s the deal with the coat hangers?

Me: Can I answer that one later?

We were joined about about 1500 other Portlanders in a panic over the rollback of rights. At the moment, women and girls in Oregon are safe, but we could easily have a Republican governor (a horrid anti-choice woman named Christine Drazen) elected in November and be as bad off as Mississippi. Democratic Socialists at the rally told the crowd to vote for them and not Democrats, which is exactly what the anti-abortion Republicans are hoping for. I just let all the chants and speeches wash over my daughter and I. I wanted her to be able to say she was there.

After about an hour, Cozy asked if we could leave. It seemed like a good time as I saw the teenage anarchists in their black uniforms start to circle the diverse crowd like hungry sharks. Often, I’m right there with them, sharing in the rage against the backward slide. But today I wanted my daughter to still believe in non-violence and the democratic process. I wanted her to believe in Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Margaret Sanger. It’s too soon for me to teach her about the politics of desperation or how enemies send agent provocateurs into demonstrations to start fires in the street to make demonstrators look bad on Fox News.

But, apparently. It’s not too soon to talk to a seven-year-old about abortion.

Note: They (anarchists, agent provocateurs, Fox News producers, whoever) did start a fire in the middle of the street last night. But don’t be surprised if the next fire is women burning down the Supreme Court building.

It’s All Too Much: You Don’t Want to Arm This Teacher at the Moment

June 1-6, 2022

Note: This piece was written in different sessions, usually while listening to The Monkees, or Death Angel’s “The Ultra-Violence,” and not the usual one-session stream of consciousness that is my usual blog brilliance.

Ms. McSwilly has been teaching 5th Grade math for over 40 years. She is just a few weeks away from retirement. On this day, she is discussing square roots with her students who are more focused on the AR-15 that’s slung over her shoulder. The gun and ammo were given to her to her by the government, who told her it was the best weapon to stop a school shooter. The government also paid for her training. That’s where she learned to keep her rifle on her shoulder at all times, to keep it out of the hands of students. Also, if a shooter burst into the classroom, she might not have time to retrieve it. Ms. McSwilly needed to be ready to shoot and kill in seconds. But on this day her headaches were back and she was losing focus. The classroom door opened as the school janitor entered to empty the trashcan. Ms. McSwilly spun around at the sound and unloaded three rounds into the man, killing him in front of her students.

Somewhere I wrote, “Life is a bedspring.” It was some metaphor for something. Now it feels like it was a bedspring in a mattress that needs to be replaced. Too many heavy dudes have been jumping on it. Too many bad headlines. The Russians are advancing in Ukraine. The Supreme Court wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. A white supremacist goes on a killing spree in New York. Another sociopathic teenager kills scores of grade school kids in Texas. Elon Musk wants to re-platform every hate monger on earth, including Donald Trump. My wife is choosing her boyfriend instead of her husband. And a tank of gas just drained America’s bank account. That bedspring just don’t bounce back like it used to.

When the mass shooting happened to Buffalo, I had to go into my “hate crime expert” mode, giving numerous interviews, including on CNN and Turkish News. Sadly, it was a fairly textbook case but I tried to keep the focus on the black community and the endless trauma people of color endure just being not white in America. When the shooting at Robb Elementary School unfolded, I just wanted to crawl in a hole with my second grader. Watching Ted Cruz suggest arming teachers made me want to throw up. The school drop-off the following morning was just about the hardest thing ever. Parents were in tears, extra hugging their kids, hugging the teacher, hoping that she would be able to protect them from a man-child with AR-15. The weight of the world falling on kids who shouldn’t know they are somebody’s target.

Andi had a great idea the day after the Uvalde shooting because we were both trying to figure out what to do in a nation where there are more guns than people and little will to stand up to the gun lobby. Her idea was to have “a day without children,” and let the country’s classrooms be empty for a day of protest. It was brilliant, but the school calendar was running out. Wanting desperately to please her, I tried the make the day happen two days later but the plan didn’t have time to catch fire and fizzled quickly. I felt impotent in the face of the entrenched status of bad news headlines.

I wondered allowed with my students what it would be like to have a year where nothing happened. You know, like the Obama years. Do we have the resilience to withstand what’s to come this summer? They say the personal is the political and both have been pretty traumatizing over the last few years. And, as we know, trauma can be debilitating, turning us inward into a state of learned helplessness. Getting up to fight seem pointless. Slide into bed and scroll through posts about Johnny and Amber instead.

It seems increasingly overwhelming and carbs (or whatever is your drug of choice) tastes so good. Bitcoin is down but suicide is up, way up. Is there a secret to resilience? A lifeline until happy days are here again? A reason to hunker down between mass shootings and GOP landslides?

Turns out there is; optimism. Not every solider that comes back from the battlefield is plagued by PTSD and not every kid with who is the victim of bullying shoots up his school. Research has shown a key factor in trauma recovery is simple optimism. A positive outlook is your hedge against the plunge into the black hole of despair. You might not know it, but reflecting on how (and that) you got through past shit will help you get through future shit. And there will be future shit. 

Worried that you might implode this summer and be Googling “Can I hold my breath until I die?” by Election Day? Here’s three things that will help keep you from losing it.

1. Get some friends. One thing all these shooters have in common is that they are loners. Most guys who go through job loss and divorce go out with their friends and get shit-faced until they’ve come though it. The guy with no friends (and easy access to guns) is the one shooting up his former office place. Get friends. Church, the bowling alley, adult kickball, even those LARP weirdos. Plug into your tribe. We all need each other right now. And not faceless Zoom or 4chan. Go have a beer, you wuss. We’ll get through this with karaoke.

2. Volunteer. Mr. Rogers famously said, “Life is for service.” Stop whining and do something to help. Not only is your aid desperately needed, it makes you feel damn good. The work I do on hate crime and Ukraine issues is unpaid but if feeds my soul. I just went to a Moms Demand Action gun violence event and those mothers were motivated to be the change they want to see. It was intoxicating. These narcissists who just want to “live their best lives,” taking and never giving, are draining energy and missing out on the magical spring of optimism, service to others.

3. Make a list. Setting simple goals is such an easy thing to do. After a session with my therapist, where I was feeling overwhelmed by my financial situation, I acted instead of wallowed. I bought a whiteboard and started organizing my bills and made lists of things to do to improve my situation and then began erasing said things as I did them. A few days ago I called both my senators to ask them to close the loopholes on gun background checks. It took five minutes and it made me feel like I was moving the ball forward. Just get shit done.

There’s so much happening right now. When we’re all super old, we can read about the history of the 2020s and be like, “How the fuck did we survive that?” But now is the time to be like sharks. Keep moving forward. Forest fires? Timmothy McVeigh wannabes? Custody battles? Trump tweets? It will all be in the rearview mirror at some point and me and all my rowdy friends will have a laugh and say, “Look how bad-ass we are. You kids today suck.”

This was going to be a piece about how if you arm teachers, we might pull a January 6 on all the assholes that have defunded education, like Ted Cruz, but, halfway through, I decided to write about resilience. There’s no flowchart for this moment we are in.

Seriously, What’s Wrong with Men? Lighting Fires in Post-Roe America

May 12, 2022

In the 1990s, I assigned a book entitled Men Are Not Cost Effective to my criminology students. June Stephen’s 1991 book makes the case that men commit the overwhelming majority of crimes and each of those crimes carries a financial burden represented in the costs of policing, courts, incarceration, parole, probation, rehabilitation, and crime prevention programs. Since half of the tax bill for funding all this falls on women who are not committing these crimes, Stephenson argues men should pay a “man tax” to pay for their bad behavior.

How little things have changed in 30 years. From shootings on New York subway trains to the genocidal violence being levied by Russians against the people of Ukraine, men’s bad behavior seems completely unrestrained and even facilitated by some women. After I returned from Ukraine, a story broke about a Russian soldier whose wife gave him permission to rape Ukrainian women. This was reported before and after numerous stories of Russian soldiers raping the victims of their invasion. What is wrong with men?

It should be of no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is doing exactly what he said it would in snuffing out women’s bodily autonomy by reversing Roe v. Wade. In Trump’s misogynistic world, women’s and girl’s bodies belong to men. Their “pussies” are there to be grabbed by MAGA men and raped by Russian soldiers. Their duty is to look good to male eyes and not challenge male authority. And they will be rewarded for maintaining that status quo whether it’s the small college scholarships from Trump’s uber-creepy Miss Teen USA contest, or being handed “careers” while towing the big lies of the Trump administration (I’m looking at you, Kayleigh McEnany). When women play their “be a good girl” role, the rewards follow. Women and girls are to be looked at, not to offer opinions about their ownership of their bodies. A similar case was made a hundred years ago against “giving” women the right to vote. Why did they need to vote when they had husbands to do that for them? Seriously, what’s wrong with men?

The traditional way of defending the radical idea that female human beings are human beings ain’t working. The ballot box has failed us. Post-reproductive women in the Senate,  like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowksi (64) and Maine’s Susan Collins (69) just voted against codifying women’s reproductive rights into federal laws. And batshit crazy Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert are chomping at the bit to force American women and teenage rape victims to give birth. They are only one or two degrees away from the Russian wives encouraging their husbands to rape Ukrainian women. So if putting our faith in Election Day and singing, “We shall overcome, someday” is playing out as moving us backwards in women’s rights, what’s the better strategy?

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 woke up a lot of white people. Folks of all races took to the streets. Shit got fucked up. There were fires this time. And even though 93 percent of Black Lives Matter protests were completely peaceful, the riots captured the news cycle. We now know that President Trump wanted federal troops to shoot BLM protestors in front of the White House. But like how the riots following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, the turmoil of 2020 worked. Research shows that cities that had BLM protests saw a reduction in police killings. There were countless policy reforms and, while some were merely cosmetic, they reflected the shift in America’s opinions on institutional racism in the justice process. Deep conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) became normalized in private and the public sectors. (I can’t count how many workshops on implicit bias I conducted after the tear gas cleared.)

There are a lot more women and girls in America than black people. The summer of 2022 could make the summer of 2020 look like the summer of 1020. (I’m assuming the summer of 1020 was pretty chill, but Wikipedia just told be that Italy was on fire.) The patriarchal line is that women are more relational and less action oriented than men, but those people weren’t here in Portland to see women (and many teenage girls) on the front lines. The Wall of Moms, anarchists, high schoolers, and the founders of Black Lives Matters; everywhere in 2020 women were up in The Man’s face demanding change.

According to every Republican running for governor in Oregon, “violent protestors” were burning down cities in 2020. I live in Portland and was at the protests numerous nights. There were a couple of brief bonfires set in the middle of the street and a handful of trashcans set on fire. Portland was not “burned to the ground” or even burned. But those images sure got a lot attention because the fire next time was potentially real. In 2022, there may be a value in a few well placed dumpster fires, particularly from Alabama to Texas (what we can call the Gilead Belt), but there’s a larger question that needs to be addressed first, what’s wrong with men?

What is it in men’s psyche that keeps them thinking the oppression of others is in their long term interest? Whether it’s old white men, like Mitch McConnell and his boss Vladimir Putin, or younger sex-traffickers like Matt Gaetz, or just the average Joe Blow on the street, it seems like men as a whole are hell bent on doing jack shit to end their oppression of women and girls. From unequal pay to sexual assault to endless public commentary on Hilary Duff’s (airbrushed) body after birthing three kids (gasp!), patriarchy remains firmly in place, and no amount of elderly white ladies in Congress, or their younger white counterparts who are backed by the fanatics of MAGA (Make America Guys Again), will change that.

We need spies inside the halls of patriarchy to find answers. In 1963, feminist writer Gloria Steinem went undercover as a “bunny” at the Playboy Club in New York City. Her exposé, “A Bunny’s Tale,” revealed how adult women were treated and harassed in Hefner’s clubs that were the symbol of modern masculinity 60 years ago. Maybe a new generation of women can attach themselves to the arms of the captains of industry, hang out at gun shows, or get jobs at whatever strip club Samual Alito sneaks into, and find out why these men are so fragile. Why does the oppression of women, immigrants, the poor, and minorities make them feel powerful? Why does using young men to be rapist soldiers in their wars of choice make them feel like their penises still work?

Speaking of penises, we might get a little help from Freud here. Psychoanalytic feminists look to Freud’s idea that early childhood experiences subconsciously shape our adult personality. Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), argues that children are all initially intimately connected to their mothers as the primary sources of sustenance and nurturing. But then boy children are pulled away from their mothers and expected to attach to their fathers. This separation anxiety becomes a psychosis in which the mother is framed as the source of rejection and that anger is levied at all women. In addition, since the separation was not boys’ choice, the desire to control others choice becomes a subconscious mandate.

It’s not a stretch to guess that Trump has serious issues with regard to his Scottish mother, Mary Anne, as Putin likely does with his factory worker mom, Maria. On the other side, Joe Biden seems to have a long and loving relationship with his mother until her death in 2010 at 92. Is understanding why so many men are invested in patriarchal control (and why others seem less so) as simple as understanding the separation anxieties they feel toward their mothers? It would explain why the so many men take a dim view of therapy. If therapy can repair early childhood trauma, what’s left for the misogynist? Being a god is much more affirming than just being a human being.

Pyscho-babble aside, the old strategy of politely asking men not to oppress women and girls in every single aspect of society and phase of life, from the devaluing of female babies to the invisibility of older women, is not working. Until we can fix men’s fragile minds, there might have to be some shit that gets set on fire. It’s worked in the past.