The Age of Hyperbole

George W. Bush is the worst president ever. He’s going to destroy America.

If W is reelected, America is finished.

Obama is going to destroy America.

If Obama is reelected, America will be destroyed.

Do you see the pattern? Politically, we’re living in the age of hyperbole. Every politician we don’t agree with is the “worst ever.” Every policy that’s not the ideal policy of our team is going to destroy our country with it fascism or communism (depending on the sponsors of said policy). The partisans have neither memory nor self-awareness, and their endless sanctimonious shrieking at every new outrage is pathetic. If anything, these people are going to destroy America, and once America’s destroyed, it won’t really matter who was responsible, will it?

Partisans are going to be partisans, I guess, but just think about the sheer idiocy that partisanship inspires:

  • Recently, I witnessed many people, with no sense of irony, say, “I’m tired of these stupid celebrities getting political” when Meryl Streep criticized Trump. That’s Trump, the D list celebrity who came to political power by backing the ridiculous birther conspiracy theory.
  • And people who were sure that their dissent was patriotic during the Bush presidency, demanded loyalty for Obama. And now that Trump’s president, Team Loyal and Team Dissent have switched. Again. And the people who approve and disapprove of executive orders have changed their minds. Again.
  • In the days before the last presidential election a dude on Facebook said, “racial relations are the worst ever.” He proceeded to act incredibly indignant when I told him that what he said was colossally stupid. Apparently, chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, and lynching weren’t as bad as calling out white people for racism, or whatever triggered his claim about the poor state of race relations in America. Only an appallingly clueless white dude could say something so completely foolish.
  • The same people who wailed throughout Obama’s presidency gleefully posted about crying liberals when Trump was elected. They said, “you lost; get over it” while flying confederate flags. They have absolutely no self-awareness, and the democrats celebrating their next win, when it comes, will be just like them.
  • Obama’s education policies were terrible. I work in education. Few of my colleagues would openly criticize Obama’s policies, and if they did, they would do so in a low mumble, before shifting the discussion.

I could go on and on and on and on with examples from liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans.

Politics has become trolling. I remember a Palin apologist agreeing with me that Palin was an idiot but saying, “She pisses off liberals.” Cue facepalm. Look Skippy, any number of horrible candidates could piss liberals off; it doesn’t mean you should be electing them. Why not choose a competent, capable candidate who pisses liberals off? Such candidates exist.

Instead, we elected Trump. We have a troll (in the internet sense) as our president. Many of his voters like the horrible thing he says; however, many just didn’t want Hilary. Many democrats were shocked because they could not imagine why people thought Hilary was a poor choice. And many automatically assumed the worst: it was because she was a woman, and not because she’s a horrible person (who happens to be a woman). Me? I was really hoping for a Cthulhu win. Both candidates were vile, though I do think Trump is worse.

I really wish political partisans, the hard core democrats and republicans, would just grow the fuck up already.

Why?

Because now we have people who can’t even denounce Nazis without engaging in rabid whataboutism. Denouncing Nazis and the KKK ought to be an activity for conservatives and liberals to enjoy together. In fact, we ought to be able to agree on what to do when Nazis come to our towns:

  1. Kill them all and mount their heads on pikes as a warning to others. Okay, that satisfies my lizard brain, but I do believe in freedom of speech so let’s say this isn’t an option.
  2. When the nazis have a parade and/or demonstration, every community resident will be standing along the route with weapons. The city, county, and state police will be there as well. If the event is at night, generators and floodlight will illuminate the area. Fuck their torches. Before they begin, they will be greeted by the mayor, city council, or whatever the local government calls itself. A representative of the local government will read a message that goes something like “We recognize your freedom to assemble and your freedom to speak your vile ideas. However, you are not welcome. Notice the large wooden stakes in the trailer. If you engage in any violence, we will kill you all, and mount your heads on those stakes as a warning to others of your ilk. Say what you have to say and leave.” I like this response; it warms my heart. But still, maybe I’m just trying to set up scenario one.
  3. Ideally we could just ignore them, turn our backs to them and not give them any attention. Ideally, if conservatives are holding some kind of demonstration that attracts Nazis and the KKK, they should say, “Whoa! You don’t represent us. We find you and your philosophy loathsome. Go somewhere else.” Ideally, the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance day could mention Jews. Ideally, Sean Spicer could say “death camps” instead of “Holocaust centers.” Ideally, when a President of the United States is elected fringe groups wouldn’t be celebrating with Nazi salutes. I guess we don’t live in an ideal world.

With regards to Nazis, I share the opinion of Lt. Aldo Raine:

Nazi ain’t got no humanity. They’re the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass murderin’ maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. 

You know, I can imagine the conservative nut jobs saying, “another violent, cuck, libtard, sjw, durr, durr, durr” and the righteous liberals saying, “don’t normalize violence, tsk, tsk, tsk.” I would respond to both by saying, “THEY’RE FUCKING NAZIS.”

Let’s talk about the massacre of the Hungarian Jews. The Hungarian Jews had largely avoided the early massacres of the Holocaust. In the spring of 1944, the Nazis took over Hungary and started catching up. In approximately twelve weeks, about 430,000 Hungarian Jews were shipped to Auschwitz. The Nazis killed about 390,000 of them right away. Most of them died in several small concrete gas chambers. To put that into perspective, my home town of Pueblo, Colorado has a population of about 110,000. Imagine every single person in Pueblo being killed every four weeks. And at the end of the twelve weeks, we’d be about 60,000 people short of the total.

The death camp of Chelmno offers a more horrifying record. Estimates vary between and 178,000 and 300,000 for the Jews murdered by the camp. They were killed in gas vans by engine exhaust; there weren’t even selections in Chelmno. In his documentary Shoah, Claude Lanzmann claims that only two people survived this camp. A brief google search suggests maybe as many as seven or eight survived. Eight out of several hundred thousand is a hellish fraction.

And in America today, people who call themselves Americans hoist swastika flags. They look at the Holocaust and say, “I’m okay with that.” Sure, they’re a tiny minority. But I’m deeply disturbed that we can’t come together and say, “Fuck those guys.” We’re too worried about scoring points against the other side. We’re too worried about making liberals/conservatives angry and punishing them. We’re so busy labeling the polices and people we oppose as “the worst ever” that we can’t even criticize people who really are “the worst ever.”

Can we please stop?

 

 

Goodbye, Will

Recently, I’ve been thinking about death a bit. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis; at least I’m not wearing gold chains and chasing younger women. I read many Facebook posts lamenting the strain of “adulting” (apparently, mutilating the language comes easy for those struggling with adulting–should we call them adulterers? ). For me, the most difficult aspect of adulthood is confronting mortality. All of my grandparents are dead, and most have been gone for a long time. Too soon, I’ll have to deal with the death of my and my wife’s parents. And in a not-far-enough-away time lurks my own death.

Today, I woke to the news that my first academic mentor, Will Hochman, is dead.

On the first day of my first creative writing class Will entered the room wearing a corduroy sport coat with leather patched elbows.  With his receding hairline and ponytail, he looked every bit the creative writing professor. His first words to the class:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably 

saving 

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet 

and so cold

were William Carlos Williams’ words.

We were sitting in a computerized classroom that he created: the MacLab. His syllabus included a packet about using the computers and formatting the required 3.5″ disk for class, which we would use to submit our final portfolio. He introduced me to computers and writing. One of the course’s texts You’ve Got to Read This introduced me to great works of fiction. How can I thank him for that?

The best complement I can give Will is that he was a great teacher. He taught comp and creative writing, the classes where instructors will sometimes see the worst kinds of student writing. Will could (and did) tell us that some part of our writing was horrible without hurting us. He offered blistering honest critiques with a smile on his face, and you would smile back, even as you acknowledged the bitter truth. I’ve taught all manner of courses for sixteen years, and I appreciate his skill now in a way I couldn’t then.

As I’ve thought about him, I’ve realized that his brutal critiques worked because they were born of kindness. He cared about what we wrote and wanted us to write the best essays, stories, and poems that we could. He didn’t enjoy criticizing us; he enjoyed talking about writing and how to make it better. We sensed his respect for the discipline and that he applied that same respect to our work. He honored class time in a way that few professors did and we loved him for it.

I’ve been fortunate to have many great professors; Will Hochman was one of the first. I wish I could offer eloquent words, but all I want to say is “Damn.”

Damn.

Damn.

Damn.

Goodbye, Will.