Tire Fires and Clouds of Smoke

Donald Trump is a tire fire, the slow endless version; incredibly dangerous, toxic, polluting the world around him, difficult to deal with, and slowly, perpetually burning. Every day we have new details of the fire but people begin to feel after such a long time that there is no point in reporting on any of it…after years and years, in the end, no matter what new details there are: it’s just the same old thing. So people shrug and ignore it.
Hillary Clinton is not a tire fire. She’s not any kind of fire, and yet people insist they have no idea who she really is because, they insist, she is difficult to see for all the smoke that clouds their vision of her. They nod sagely, where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Tire fires can burn slowly and so long that visually, other than the horrific smell and the slow release of chemicals into the air, all we see is the smoke. But even the most inexperienced person can follow that plume of smoke and point and say, “The fire is there.” With Clinton, everyone explains that they haven’t found the source yet. It’s there; they know it’s there. After all:  smoke. Where does the smoke trace back to? Well, there’s too much smoke for anyone to see clearly.
For decades, the GOP spent millions upon millions of dollars to find the cause of the smoke they smelled around Clinton. They never find the source of the fire or even that there ever was a fire, but they smell smoke…so they look again.

Perfectly intelligent left-wing people post about Clinton and say, “Where there’s smoke there must be fire…” They don’t know what the fire is either. “There’s just something about her,” they muse. “I just know that she’s corrupt,” they justify to all.

A tire fire is a real actual known thing. The details of all the things that are questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful about Donald Trump are all actual real facts. They are things that are known, that can be proved. Over and over again, those facts are ignored in favour of questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful debate about imagined, posited, speculated opinions about Hillary Clinton.

This US election pits a failed incompetent businessman/reality show star against a qualified competent career politician. And every single day people who loathe and fear the former try desperately to suggest that the latter has a deep dark secret hiding somewhere that will disqualify her. Because they would rather live with a tire fire than that hint of smoke.


There’s a very simple truth here. You do smell smoke:  it surrounds you. As you point out, where there’s smoke there is fire:  the fire of the slow burn of sexism so deep-seated, so ingrained that you don’t see it. Or you pretend you don’t see it. Or you’re not willing to acknowledge it because you know that sexism is wrong. You are a person who has supported equal rights all their life. But the truth is you are standing in the middle of that smoke and that is why you cannot clearly see Clinton.


And that is why Clinton is so confused by the hatred and distrust of her. She sees clearly because there is no smoke in her eyes. Wave your hands…wave the smoke away. And take another look. Stop insisting that your opinion of imagined possibilities is as valid as actual facts.

Appealing to a basket of deplorables…

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.” –Hillary Clinton, Sept 9 2016
An interesting and bizarre rhetoric of the US election: Clinton is not completely crushing Trump in the polls because SHE is doing something wrong or blah blah blah. Somehow, magically, it is not that people are actually really truly CHOOSING to express support for him. Sure, we all see the polls that show us how racist people are, we understand how misogynist the country is (the GOP didn’t start trying to crush Planned Parenthood just as a fun hobby), sure we see all the Islamophobia, the homophobia, the transphobia (Bathroom Bills, anyone?). But nope, it’s because Clinton is failing.
Please explain to me how you feel she could better appeal to the bigots? Because Trump’s supporters are bigots. Some are loud and avowed and proud bigots. Some are silent bigots pretending that they’re not because they do understand that there are those who think that bigotry is bad; they don’t want to be labelled as bigots, but by gods, they do NOT want to stop being bigots and have to live in a country overrun by thems heathen Muslims and with some woman pushing the button by accident when she has a hot flash.
But yes, do continue with the rhetoric of how ‘badly’ Clinton is doing by not appealing to those who have intentionally willfully chosen Trump.
If you take a look at one of the biggest sweeps in US history, it was when those on the left fell for the alleged folksy appeal of movie star Ronald Reagan and voted for him in incredible numbers. THAT is when you see huge changes in numbers: when those who lean left think that maybe, just maybe, this guy on the right won’t be completely dangerous. Those on the right ALWAYS think that those on the left will be dangerous; you see a sea-change when they become terrified that the guy on the right is actually too dangerous to let loose on the government. Hence, for all the argument that Clinton is not appealing to the voter base…everyday we see Republicans announcing that they are supporting her over Trump.

If the media tried reporting facts rather than feelings and faux ‘both-side-erisms’ y’all might have a very different take on this election. You might see that Clinton isn’t failing by not appealing to ‘the other side’: it’s that a basket of deplorables isn’t actually ashamed of being deplorable. They’re right where they want to be; champing at the bit, desperate for a shot to be in charge and to wreak damage over those they hate and despite. They’re happy to stand behind the man who says out loud what they are shamed for thinking; he validates their every belief. For Clinton to appeal to them, she too would have to express those beliefs… Clinton isn’t failing by not appealing to them. Clinton is staying the course.

And, for the record, this is how Clinton continued the ‘basket of deplorables’ speech:

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

Necessary medicines and unnecessary trolls

Imagine you have a job where you must have use of a car. Imagine that gas prices suddenly increase to five times the cost. Imagine joining in online conversations complaining about this and wondering aloud if the government can do something to regulate the industry, if anything can be done about it.
Now imagine that those conversations fill with people pointing out that a bicycle is a perfectly valid form of low-cost transport. And that once they have made that statement they will hear no counter. They will not listen to your explanations of how you need substantial space to transport goods, or that you need to travel hundreds of kilometres in a day. No matter what you say they will sneer, “bicycles.”
And that is the conversation about Epi-pens with all the people blithely announcing how cheap syringes and adrenaline are. Ta dah! They have solved the problem. Anyone still complaining about the cost of Epi-pens just wants to whine and complain.
And that is how we know those people don’t actually have need of an Epi-pen or its like…that is how we know that they probably don’t have anyone in their immediate circle who has need of one. Or that they don’t use insulin so they’re unaware of the other story about unexpected increases in the price of medicine. Or that they have no need of any other medicines with incredibly high prices compared to other countries.

This chart reveals the inhumanity of US drug prices compared to other countriesWhen Martin Shrkeli raised the price of his company’s unique AIDS medicine by 5000% the protest was immediate and loud. Although the patient base for the medicine was small (intended for ttreating oxoplasmosis in patients with cancer or HIV ) people understood that there was no other suitable substitute. And the medicine had gone off patent protection which is when you generally have generic versions at much cheaper prices. All in all, people were able to easily see that this was a terrible difficult thing for patients to deal with.

Yet, oddly, now we see a similar situation with Epi-pens and there is a very strong counterreaction already in place. Epi-pens are an efficient substitutes for syringes and adrenalin, which are much lower cost. But there is a reason why Epi-pens were developed and why they (and a few alternate versions) have become so ubiquitous:  they are designed to be used by non-medical personnel, and by people with no training whatsoever. Although people can obviously be trained to use syringes (insulin users, for example), that has been in cases where a person will be using the syringe on a regular basis. Most people with an an extreme anaphylactic allergy reaction can go their entire lives without ever needing the adrenaline. The Epi-pen is an preventative for an extreme emergency. Many other patients may only need to use adrenaline once or twice in their lives. Any training that a person received can be quickly forgot over the years, particularly in the stress of an emergency life-threatening situation. Rather than risk a patient unable to administer their own, or that there is no one around able to deal with it quickly and efficiently, Epi-pens were designed to be opened and jabbed into a thigh with next to no thought or need to read labels, checking of amounts, checking that there is no air in the syringe, thought for where to jab, etc.
It is a not uncommon reaction on the internet for some to offer their advice on a solution to whatever discussion is in place. However, it is not helpful when it is by someone who does not understand the issue. And their insistence that they have found the solution so the conversation is over is not at all useful. If you do not wish to join the conversation about the problem of the incredible increase in the cost of US drugs (and some in Canada, if not to the same level), then walk away…  We promise not to treat you with the same contempt when you are someday personally affected by this problem and suddenly understand its importance.

White hats and black hats

As simply as possible: we are so used to the media and entertainment world portrayals of the bad guys vs the good guys. Even without the instant visual identification of black cowboy hats or white ones, we know that racists are stupid, foaming at the mouth, barely literate hysterical people and that anti-feminists are macho, arrogant, pompous windbags.
And yet, we all understand that we have family members who appear completely utterly normal who look and sound just like us…but are utterly racist. If you tell them so, if you treat them as so, they become belligerent and angry because they’re NOT racists: they just know certain things to be truths. As you argue why “Black Lives Matter” is utterly the right slogan and yes, “All Lives Matter” is inherently wrong to say, you will find yourself marveling at how some can be so oblivious to this truth. Because:  they will not accept a label of “racist”. They’re not racist, they don’t want to be racist, they would never choose to be racist. What they do not realize, what they do not accept is that racism is not always an active choice:  it can simply be a matter of absorbing, however unaware, the racism of the world around you and living within that reality.

And so it is with sexism and misogyny. Even some who would jump to the front of the line to call themselves feminists spout anti-feminist points of view, utterly oblivious to the irony.

From the beginning of the current US primary election campaign, we have seen and read much discussion of sexism and misogyny against Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Anyone who opposes her, anyone who disagrees with her, anyone who supports Bernie Sanders sneers at the suggestion. They know as an utter fact that they are not sexist:  they couldn’t possibly be, so they won’t consider it for a single second. They will not dignify the accusation with a moment’s thought.

And off they go to discuss the oblivious racism of many of the perfectly good people they know…

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream…


Enter a caption

(from Jesse Zimmerman’s Facebook page)

I say this again and again and again…. whenever the majority identity group (ie, whites, sometimes white men) feel the need to silence a minority identity group they find one member of that group who has expressed ideas that the majority group feel best represents their own views. They then trumpet this anywhere and everywhere: we found ONE person who has spoken and now no one else gets to speak. I have written endlessly about the idea that white people, particularly white men, have no one person who speaks for them. When a white man shoots police officers, no one runs to other white men asking if they will denounce that person and their views as another white person. White men are individuals; black men – black people – are but a single entity and they stand and fall as one dependent upon the word of white people.

When I have posted about feminism, MRAs have come back with quotes from Camilla Paglia or Christina Hoff Sommers; both self-declared “dissident feminists”. Both of whom have written long essays and articles and books which can be easily summed up as, “I’m not like the other feminists: I actually like you men, so listen to ME.” And those men eagerly posting those quotes are convinced that I have been silenced because they found a woman who disagrees with my words. Apparently two women cannot have opposing views about feminism: we cancel each other out.
As I often note, the women of the world don’t actually get together and have a secret vote for Queen of All The Women, the one woman who gets to speak for all of us. (There must be something to the idea that men interpret women in a group as speaking 3x as much as they actually do, and that their numbers are 2-3x as great as they actually are.)
And so it is with any minority group… with queer and trans rights, off the majority goes on a hunt for a Log Cabin Republican. So now that there is an active and public debate about “Black Lives Matter” white people have hunted around for the perfect rebuttal, convinced they have found the ONE voice that black people will not be able to ignore: Martin Luther King Jr.

Ijeomo Olumo has written about the co-opting of Dr. King’s words to prove the point of those trumpeting AllLivesMatter. She writes of this so much better than I. I will simply say this:  do consider that you, a white person, are telling black people that they are not entitled to stand behind a slogan and a movement that is for them, by them, and which explicitly names them in it’s title. You are justifying that by telling them that you, a white person, have found the words of another black person and that those words mean they have to do what you, a white person, tells them to do.

All Lives Matter is a useless pointless trite slogan. Yes, I understand that your point is that you are trying to say “All lives should matter, not just the white lives! Black lives matter too!” But if you are a genuinely good person who believes that…then there is no reason to tell people of colour that they are not entitled to use the slogan THEY chose to represent the movement THEY had to start to raise awareness of how little their lives have been valued. No matter what argument you make there is no getting past the doubt you instill by your very insistence on that slogan:  that you are uncomfortable declaring Black Lives Matter. That you are insisting on some level of qualifier so you, a white person, are not left out of the equation.

I can say it no more simply than that. Much as anti-feminists try to modify the language and tell feminists that maybe, just maybe they would consider possibly thinking about equality for women but only if women come up with another name that isn’t quite so…about women, white people do not get to say, “Come up with another name and then we’ll support you having rights equal to ours.”

By insisting on a name change, by insisting on imposing a slogan of your choice upon them you are not-so-subtly trying to say that you are the one with the power:  the only power or equality they get will be by your choice. You want an acknowledgement of your superiority. The line I read too many times is some version of “blacks are trying to be superior to us!” (much as I am continually told that feminism is about women trying to be superior to men). It has been much said “When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” And that is what you keep saying any and every time you say “All Lives Matter.”

It ain’t the name that is the problem. The name is pointing at the problem:  and the problem is that semantics matter more to you than the desperate fear and unhappiness felt by too many POCs and indigenous people in America.  And the real problem is that you have intrinsically accepted that any shift in power is solely yours to bestow, as a white person:  so first you start with their slogan.


I cannot take the white humans at Toronto Pride who are upset that their party was interrupted by BLM protesters. They were invited. They were invited specifically because they ARE protesters and activists. They were invited because of their successful protests earlier this year outside Toronto Police Headquarters. They were invited as guests of honour, of importance.
Various news sites are reporting solely that the BLM demands were to ban the police in future Pride Marches. Almost all do not mention that this was the third March in which they protested that weekend. Most of those sites don’t mention that the protest was for a list of demands that included more funding and staging for events featuring POCs and indigenous people, a return of the South Asian stage, and for the event to hire more POCs and indigenous people. That the organizer himself said that BLM was invited because Toronto Pride has had significant criticism that it has become an event for (white) tourists and not for the very people it claims to represent. That even then, the event has not worked to include POCs and indigenous people.
Many have complained that Toronto Pride is a party with no room for the political. Those are the people who do not know that the event was started as a protest against the police who had raided local bath houses, arresting three hundred people unnecessarily. Just recently the Chief of the Toronto Police apologized for those raids to acknowledge the grievous harm done to the gay community by the force.
Just last month, 43 queer and trans people of colour, members of different ethnic minority groups were murdered in Orlando, Florida at a gay club. This year’s Toronto Pride was to honour them and acknowledge how much more work has to be done for queer and trans people of colour to feel safe and accepted. And yet there were those who find it acceptable to complain that THEIR party was interrupted by a political protest, completely oblivious.
Pay attention. PAY ATTENTION. Any white woman expressing these selfish myopic views has FAILED as an intersectional feminist. Any white man who has decided that his queer and/or trans identity trumps that of POCs and indigenous people has not owned his white privilege. Anyone who is cis het and is complaining about how they were inconvenienced: stop talking. PAY ATTENTION.
You are arguing that your ‘right’ to party at an event allegedly for all is more important than inclusion and consideration for a group that does not feel welcome, safe or included. Instead of welcoming them, instead of finding out how to make them feel welcome, you have told them that your attendance is more important than theirs.

We’re angry

We’re angry, we’re scared, we’re miserable, but most of all, just angry. So angry at the loss of life, so angry at all the useless handwringing and moralizing, the prayers, the whitewashing, the erasure, the politicking, all of it. Angry. Angry that it happened; angry that it happened again. Angry that it will happen again. Be it an attack against the queer and trans community, be it an attack against the Latinx community, be it an attack against anyone by someone with an assault weapon, it happened. It will happen again.
We’re angry.
And out of that anger, people speak. I’ve seen people railing against those who will not speak of the Orlando victims as being queer and trans. I’ve seen people angry that they’re only talked about as being gay “as if they’re not real people like anyone else.” I’ve seen people angry that people are not speaking about them as Latinx. I’ve read those angry that they’re talked about in terms of their backgrounds and not as if they’re “real” Americans, that they have to be disowned. I’ve seen native activists angry that people are calling this the worst mass shooting when they know that was Wounded Knee. Equally I’ve seen queer native activists angry that anyone is derailing the conversation about this tragedy.
We’re angry.
And, consistently, I’ve seen people angry at who is speaking and who is not speaking and…the subjects of that anger are the same. As much as I’ve seen many raging against white allies for speaking out, I’ve seen those furious that white allies are not speaking up. The suggestions are that speaking is trying to pull focus, not speaking demonstrates a lack of support.
We ask people to honour victims and be precise about who they are and how they identify, and to not force other labels on them…but there are times when we do not know which identity was targeted. We do not want to erase the identities of any. We do not want to assign identities they did not assume. However well-aimed or however misdirected the hate that killed them, we do not want them to be erased by the actions of the man with the guns.
We’re angry.
And I’ve seen the same fury at the cis het community: both for speaking and for not speaking. I’ve seen many furious that people are not contacting them asking them if they, personally, are okay with the news, as they are a member of one of the identity groups targeted in this massacre. I’ve seen some of those same people rage against others trying to make the tragedy about them and not about the people actually involved.
We ask allies to speak up all the time…and then we tell them to be silent when they do. We tell them that we are people just like they are and that they should stop separating us out, then we castigate them when they include us in the group.
We’re angry.
Anger and grief are powerful emotions. They are not born from cool calculation and rationalization; they are visceral responses which often cannot be controlled. If this is the first time you and yours have dealt with such grief, then why would anyone know what is the ‘right’ way to deal with it, the ‘appropriate’ way? No one does. There is no right way. There is no appropriate way. There should never be an appropriate way to deal with such a horrific tragedy: it should never be something for which we have rules of proper behaviour.

It would be nice to live in a world where others know what we need and are there to provide it…but if that has never been your relationship with others then why would they know now what they have not known in the past? Be angry, but be aware that your anger is so great, so immense, so overwhelming and tinged with so much fear and sadness that you are looking for other places to spread it. Be aware that our anger is from a sense of helplessness, a knowledge that we are constrained from taking steps to stop such a tragedy again in a world where too many argue as to the actual reasons and cause. And be aware that our anger is as much from feeling bereft, needing comfort from others as much as it is understanding that some of the people we seek comfort from belong to the very identity groups we fear.

We are angry. Do not let it go. Let it burn. Let it fill you. Let it flow through you so you know the pain and the anger and the grief. Remember it so that you will continue to fight so that you will not need to feel it again.