Teachers’ ‘Snap Judgment’ and the Unpierceable Argument Against Female Leaders

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SHAME? SHAME?

Imagine you’re reading this last Saturday, when this specific discussion of local LA weather was relevant.

It’s a gloomy day, here. Los Angeles is in the throes of a late-winter storm, and the wind is howling. Gusts are whipping dead palm fronds into the streets and windows are rattling in their jambs. The local news says it’ll be the worst of the season, and perhaps the year. According to the weather report, we should be expecting sunny skies in three or four days, but in the meantime, there’s not much to do but hunker down, take a breather, and watch the weather dredge up all the debris. This may be a long-winded metaphor — so to speak — but what can we learn from the brunt of a sudden storm, on a global level, if not a local one? Our maiden ship of western democracy is riding a rough wave suddenly, and its bow is facing a steep tilt. A a lot of us find ourselves sliding pretty far backwards on the deck, but many others have spent eight years girding themselves for this moment, grasping the railing with every ounce of strength they’ve got. Okay, last over-the-top analogy, I promise, but you know what I mean.

A year-or-so ago it seemed like “the right side of history” was drawn pretty far to the left, embracing a new-ish age sloping towards a feminist agenda (equality, I guess), and the promise of the first-ever female American president. As far as the “coastal elites” knew, the lot of Americans were perfectly okay with this. And with one blow to the head of liberal America, we now find ourselves disoriented, bewildered, and trying to shake out a very loud ringing in our ears. But barring the loss of Hillary Clinton, what have we learned from her campaign?

TV Land’s Teachers, an often laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly shrewd sophomore-season sitcom, took aim at just that very topic. One of its principal characters, the bawdy, sexually voracious Chelsea Snap (Katy Colloton), decides — in small-if-not-large-part for attention — to run against the stalwart Brent (Ryan Hansen) for School Council. Inspired by Brent’s previous lack of leadership, Chelsea’s rag-tag group of female colleagues buck up her confidence, poising her with a proper stance on the ‘issues,’ and rendering her as a new face for change. But when Chelsea falls into a one-off tryst with her competitor, at his incitement, all of a sudden her colorful house of cards gets demolished with a stiff, rebuking wind. Once a salacious d**k-pic surfaces on her phone during a bake sale, all the mothers in the school system gasp, shriek and hitch their wagons elsewhere. The conductor of this steam train of judgement is Mrs. Chan, the buttoned-up conservative mommy blogger and “president of the parent group, ‘2,000 Moms’.” Under her word, it becomes a pandemonium for Chelsea, with her colleagues leveraging their student base to make construction paper-rockets to cover up all the d**k drawings defacing her campaign posters, etc.

But with all the indignant leers and hatred suddenly being heaved at Chelsea, Brent’s reputation — though he explicitly takes credit for the d**k-pic and outs their sexual relationship — remains utterly unsullied. Mrs. Chan goes so far as to chastise Chelsea for “distracting Brent from doing his job,” while his tan, exposed-tooth smile goes on winning the heart of any parent in sight. But as Chelsea’s colleague and goof-around gal pal AJ (Cate Freedman) starts a grassroots campaign in the ladies’ bathroom, spouting unfounded rumors about Brent having herpes, etc., an interesting premise comes to the fore. From speaking with “the janitors, the crossing guards, the lunch ladies,” etc., AJ gleans that, amidst all the loud slut-shaming going on at the school, there’s a whole silent wave of people nesting in the woodwork that support Chelsea, but are reticent to voice it for fear of being shamed themselves.

There is, in the context of this TV episode and, I’d argue, the real world, a difference between the popular narrative and the majority opinion. Though Donald Trump — to ground the notion in real life — misses absolutely zero opportunities to unzip his fly and wave his electoral win to the masses, the louder fact might distract Americans from the more valuable fact, that more people supported Hillary than not. And when Chelsea sticks to her guns, honing her positions on the ‘issues,’ she wins. However, the discrimination towards Chelsea, by nature of what discrimination is — emotionally-driven presupposition and projection — has no real rooting in any code of ethics, and so, most importantly, is utterly unreceptive to counterargument. What Chelsea learns is that any self-declaration of good character that runs contrary to her opponents’ criticisms of her only fuels and validates their hateful feelings. So, what’s the point? The basis of the double-standard is ultimately irrelevant, if it’s an opinion that still holds such popular ground, even if it’s not necessarily the majority.

If there’s one thing that’s become clear from Donald Trump’s presidential win, it’s that conservatives are sick and tired of being told what to do, and what’s permissible to say. Liberal political correctness, at the suggestion of Bill Maher, among others, is a bit off the rails. Speaking from rather recent personal experience, people form other parts of the world, that aren’t held to quite so rigorous a standard of political correctness, think Americans are overly touchy, overly offended, and overly apologetic. I reserve any judgment on this one way or the other, but with Republicans essentially holding a right-only block party in both houses of Congress, however unfounded their hatred of the liberal agenda may be, it’s absolutely necessary to take stock of the popular narrative, if for no other reason than assess what hurdles are teed up to be jumped over. A pervasive message, even if it’s a minority view, can have some legs to it as long as enough people hear it.

Operating on a plane of thinking angled so diametrically opposite to reality, the cupboard of  alt-right, Twitter-obsessed, ‘Magic R‘-waving, conservative extremists and “patriotic” nutbags have carved out such a deep crater of partisanship, that there’s simply no shout from sea level that’s loud enough to reach them. So, the first step in combatting this level of delusion is to NOT TAKE THEIR FUCKING BAIT. Think about it like this: when you’re in a spat with a friend or a spouse, the name-calling and stone-throwing, while sometimes illuminating, won’t quell the fight. It’s when one side makes one conciliatory gesture that the other’s side feels respite from attacks to their ego. And when an ego is waxed, the space is cleared for provocative thought to settle. Our politics are so trussed by our egos, and the nature of partisanship so closely aligned with our pride, that sometimes a level of decorum can prove more effective in making voices heard. Unless of course the fight is on a policy-level, in which case squabbling shouldn’t even be an issue, but here we are.

“…I know it’s not really important, like which department stores are selling Ivanka’s panty liners, but…”

-Bill Maher

So what is there to learn here? In the final scene of ‘Snap Judgment,’ Chelsea basks in the pride of her victory, and just after her declaration of joy “to have defeated sexism,” a (male) passerby on the street gives her the parting words of, “Hey, you won…smile.” This is a marathon, not a sprint, honey. But remember this, Chelsea (and the rest of us alike): Just because you hear the voice of opposition constantly, doesn’t mean you’re in the minority. And just because your character is under attack, doesn’t meant you have to feed the trolls. Hold your head up, work closely with the people you trust, and focus on  the issues. And focus on the issues. And for god’s sake, focus on the issues, would ya?

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The 2017 Women’s Marches: A Visual Argument From a Party Losing its Voice

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So, where are we? I’d imagine a lot of you — me, we, us — are a little bewildered watching the orange-colored sediment and detritus settle after November’s veritable shitstorm of an election. But in October, say, we were lumbering towards the horizon under the false notion that on November 9th, regardless of the outcome, the nightmare that was the campaign trail would be over. And that would be the relief that we were questing for. But here we are in the dawn of a new Presidential Administration, and a new year, peering towards — what appears to be — a dim, ashy future ahead, realizing that the slog is only just beginning. And to that end, again, where are we? The United States has officially been demoted to a ‘Flawed Democracy,’ from the erstwhile pedigree of ‘FULL Democracy.’ And with the fracas and strife that now score our daily lives, it’s a ripe opportunity to stop, breathe, take a look around and reassess what you thought you knew about your countrymen. It may not quite be the America you thought you knew out there. And to wade against a stormy tide of the opposition while holding your convictions — crudely scrawled in pencil on a sheet of soggy fax paper — above water is not an easy thing to sustain without patience and grit.

But let’s all remember that, like the ebb and flow of the tide, political progress works in a system of moves and countermoves. In 2017, after 8 years under Barack Obama, we’re very naturally poised to pivot and overhaul Washington. This would be the time to redden things up. But there’s a new force at play in all this. Our President, Donald J. Trump, who has built his political image at an angle that slices right through the very grain that our country’s government has been embedded in for years, inflated by his “movement” of white, blue-collar supporters, misprizes the most tried countermoves that we have readied in our pockets: Logic and facts.

In the early days of his Presidency, Mr. Tr*mp has actually held surprisingly fast his campaign bullet points in signing his first round of executive orders. As clumsy as the execution may be — not to suggest that invoicing Mexico for a $15 billion border wall is clumsy — the action items that jettisoned him off his Trojan Horse campaign float and into the Oval Office weren’t as hollow as some of us had thought. Trump has laid a fast-drying mortar for a brick wall facing Muslim immigrants, he’s motioned to repeal Obamacare, but above all else, the campaign policy he’s been absolutely unwavering on is his complete and utter disregard for the truth. Luckily, President Trump and his illustrious staff have been quite judicious about airing their light and lumpy versions of the truth that stack against that of the mainstream (accredited) media. But as Trump’s brand of unrelenting, hawkish lying is becoming almost normalized by, well, the utter lack-of-anything-else, the spirit of his administration becomes a bit more familiar.

In an effort to connect a few dots: Aggressive nationalism, a thin-skinned, ego-driven leader, a culture of distrust around fact-tested media, and a blind dedication to squashing opposition…this isn’t an unprecedented formula. We are being inducted into the reign of a dictator. The facts certainly don’t point otherwise. And while the contradictions of Trump’s presidency are bordering on trite at this point, as he re-fills, overflows and farts into the “swamp” in Washington, perhaps the biggest concern we should all be mindful of going forward is his apparent instinct to gaslight the American people. Trust and honor are the crux of a democratic state, and what Mr. Trump is doing, perniciously, is indoctrinating his subjects with such a steady, confident stream of falsehoods that their entire ethical code is re-molded and re-aligned to abide the-person-who’s-always-standing-in-front-of-you-telling-you-what’s-happening. Even Trump’s morally-bankrupt, mascara-dripping spokes-Hydra, Kellyanne Conway, has told the people that Trump’s words are basically incidental, and shouldn’t be treated as gospel. So as the thoughtful, diplomatic voice of our Commander in Chief becomes obsolete to his violent, unchecked whims, the conscientious wing of the American public (Democrats) have to adopt a somewhat new tack in combating an American autocrat.

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As they’ve recently been branded by Steve Bannon, the silver-haired troll that waddled up to the White House and left a snail-trail from the Pit of Despair or wherever he came from, the media are now the “Opposition Party” to the Trump administration. And if that’s the line in the sand that he and his cabinet-members are going to draw, then the left (and their apolitical ilk) will have to lean into a part in “the resistance.” And with the staggering turnout of the women’s marches, if for no other reason than to embolden the downtrodden swaths of liberals and remind them that they (we) are in the majority, it’s now the time, if ever there was one, that the “tolerant” left to be as visible as humanly possible in their opposition to autocracy. Because the “tolerance” of the Democratic party, contrary to what every GOP representative, pundit, and commentator seems to envision, does not — NOT — entail sitting idle, knitting hats (well, not JUST that) and letting a wave of conservative extremism wash over the American ideals of religious freedom. The tolerant left is operating under the silly little notion that all Americans — black, brown, gay, transgender, muslim, etc. — deserve the same basic civil rights as any other American.

The tacit notion those on the right hold that “coastal elites” have become, by virtue of their agenda, out of touch with “real America,” is not an entirely untrue one, though it’s a huge misdirect. Liberal voters had become out of touch–not with core American ideals, but with their compatriots, the sheer volume or voters in small towns, and the dormant force of their opposition.  The popular view in coastal, urban cities (“liberal enclaves”) over the past few years was that the GOP was, from the introduction of the tea party, among other things, fractured, and eroding from the inside. But as conservative Americans were, more or less, waiting in the wings during the ‘horror’ of Obama’s presidency, a perfect storm of Americans who were fed up with the direction of their country formed, mobilized, and cast a sizable stone in retaliation. And here we are, with a fiercely Republican administration in the White House, a supermajority of Republicans in Congress, and a soon-to-be top-heavy Republican-majority Supreme Court. And political language is becoming louder and louder about overturning Roe v. Wade, and repealing [any measure instated by Liberals]. It’s a warpath of not only cultural reinvention (regression), but of ethical and constitutional obstruction. Democrats are in the throes of a veritable red menace swimming to the surface of the water to tip their left-leaning boat.

We’ve built an absolutely incredible nation under a two-party system, and the volleying flow of majority/minority opinion is part of what keeps our nation great. We live in a place designed to synthesize the radially different ideas of radically different individuals that all have the same equal right to their opinions. The sweet spot in the middle of the two parties will always be the eye of democracy, so long as the core American ideals, laid out in the Constitution, is upheld. But the Trump administration is a wrench in the gears of American democracy.

As Trump scrawls hatch marks over each word of the Constitutional Amendments, one by one, and holes are systematically poked in the fabric of our democracy with every rebuked voice of opposition, and with Senate Republicans keeping maddeningly quiet through the whole thing, the burden befalls the Democrats to unify. After an enduring era of political-correctness and a didactic culture of mandated equality — Mark Ruffalo telling rural Wyoming about proper gender pronouns, etc. — liberals have become complacent in blue hegemony as an nationally-accepted form. Which is fine, up until recently they were on the right side of history. But there were voices that, for some time, had not been heard, and not had representation in high office. So when a New York-born “billionaire,” who’d built a career by pulling himself up by his daddy’s silver bootstraps, swaggers onto the scene giving unfiltered, unfettered voice to the Americans that simply didn’t want to share a bathroom with a transgendered person, or didn’t enjoy applying for a loan with an African-American bank clerk, a “New America” was born.

It could be argued — by me, for one — that the conceits of Trump’s campaign were horribly misguided and short-sighted. He can make a splashy headline with every domestic company brought back to US production, but circa 150 new factory jobs is completely insignificant in the scheme of a national economy that naturally produces hundreds of thousands of new jobs each year. And scapegoating undocumented immigrants for stealing (white) American jobs is simply unrealistic. Meanwhile, of course, the Mexican border wall is both preposterous and unnecessary. But, again, when Trump, the ultimate salesman and conman, is at the helm of a ship whose cargo holds a den of sycophantic yes-men, the White House can spin the living hell out of any national global crisis with the delicate turn of his self-promoting rhetoric. And his support base, who are un-fucking-capable of wavering on their allegiance, will corroborate any incendiary attack on the media that besmirches his oh-so presidential image. Again, this is the most dangerous face of his presidential game dice, which he rolls far too often, and far too carelessly. His not only wielding but brandishing of “alternative facts” is a heavy breath blowing up the bubble of false national security. And one day — ‘when’ and ‘at whose expense’ still TBD — it’s going to pop. Sowing the level of distrust that he has around the mainstream media, simply because it’s unflattering, does not a trustworthy president make.

And so, what tools are left for us, the native villagers, against a bloated, straw-haired Gulliver, when our voices are apparently too strident to be heard? What the women’s marches taught us is not just that there are a LOT of Americans who are not going to let Trump’s bigoted nationalism stand, but also that while woes of dissent are rebuffed, they are strong enough to form a crack in his foundation. If the voice of reason can’t echo loud enough to reach him, then the American majority needs to show President Trump, and his supporters, that what he’s doing is not normal. It’s not acceptable. It’s unlawful. It’s unconstitutional. And, mostly, it’s just un-American. It seems quite clear that the vulnerable reactor core in this loosely-suited Death Star is that delicate little ego he hides under all that bronzer.

While many take to social media to indiscriminately share phony Pizzagate articles and Daily Wire fake-news pieces to their choir of nitwits, whose minds are so befogged by paranoia and seeds of institutional distrust, the rest need to defend not just what they believe in, which I think should go without saying, but defend the integrity of American democracy. If the power we’re accustomed to wielding with tested facts is dwindling, favoring instead what’s “in our hearts,” which of course is impossible to codify, then the sheer power of people-en-masse need to be more visible, and more regularly so. Our President can claim that the New York Times is “failing,” which of course it isn’t, but he needs to see, not just hear, that his support base is not the majority of America. And that chunk of the population are not okay with being lied to as a matter of course. And for, above all else, a businessman, a visual reminder that the citizens and cities tipping the majority away from him are **cough cough** the ones that most notably stimulate the national economy, may also remind him that the Fed has an economic bottom line to protect too.

On the other hand, though, as well-and-good great as it is that liberally-minded folks are showing up to the Democratic-party-party in droves, the messaging of their countermovement, not unlike liberals’ voice in Congress for the past some-odd years, begs for refinement. While the nuance of people’s beliefs and characters are wonderful, these are desperate, dire times. We’re beyond a point of squabbling. Democrats need to confer, unify, and mobilize like their lives depend on it (because for many, they do). A united-colors-of-Benetton-rainbow-colored-technicolor-acceptance-blanket is cute, don’t get me wrong, but pragmatism is paramount going forward. God bless Democratic Senators for having a strategy in blocking Trump’s dreadful nominations, but again, the reign of sovereign equality is at risk of being totally dismantled. And Trump’s America is only fueling Brexit-supporting Nationalists across the pond that harken a movement of mass-secession. An armchair-approach to liberal unity is not going to cut the mustard.

As next-to-impossible as it is to go about daily life while King Joffrey unravels the very rug that our country is embroidered in, ultimately, Donald Trump is not a supreme overlord. He’s just not. There are checks and balances in place for this very reason; to keep an unfit man-child from waging WWIII because Mariska Hargitay’s Facebook fan page has more likes. But the task force to tug on the opposite end of his rope is that firm-but-tolerant left. It’s not an issue of partisanship, however, it’s an issue of civil rights. Ursula can steal Ariel’s voice in that glowing conch shell, but Ariel still has lots of fish friends and lots of mermaid sisters to show up for her cause. Okay, that’s a terrible analogy, but do let this tyrannic wave empower you and to remind you what you believe in, and why it’s important, and remember that it’s your civic duty to show up — figuratively and physically — to remind this that we are a living, breathing presence that is not going away. We’re just getting started.