A Few Thoughts on My Son’s First *Real* Christmas

This will be my son’s second Christmas.   Last year he had no clue what was going on and realistically any partaking in the holiday he did was just us projecting Christmas on to him.  I mean, I’m sure he had a great time but he had no idea what we were all doing.    This year is a little different as he can tell there’s something unique about the this period of time.   He’s really into Santa and the Christmas tree all lit up.   He likes the reindeer and he likes snowmen.   I think he’s at a point cognitively where he’ll make associations between this kind of imagery and the holiday and also that Santa brought him presents.

I’ve never really been a grinch – I’ve always appreciated Christmas as an adult.  If anything, it’s a day I take the time to reflect on many things and I suppose I’ve even developed a few personal rituals with the holiday over time.   But realistically it’s hard to get into the “Christmas spirit” when you’re in your late 20’s or 30’s and childless.    This year things are a little more exciting just because there’s a little guy here to share it with and to see his reactions to the “magical” aspect of Christmas.

So last Sunday we took him to Bass Pro Shops out on the edge of town for him to see Santa, because apparently that’s one of the best ones and they give you a free picture.    He was into it, but not at the same level he apparently was a week earlier at an event downtown.   They had a large section of the place all done up with reindeers, fake snow, snowmen, Christmas trees and all the other accoutrements of Christmas.   Nice display, I suppose.   Activities for the kids and all of that too.

We were there for about a half an hour browsing around and then left.   Admittedly it’s kind of a fun store with all the fish and dead animals.   But it had me thinking – there’s not really many places to experience Christmas in the public sphere anymore.

I’m not necessarily talking about a “war on Christmas” or anything like that.    It’s just that there aren’t many day-to-day places that people go to day-to-day that feel Christmasy.

When my parents and grandparents (and probably their parents) were kids, they would traditionally do Main Street or the town square up with wreaths, trees, lights, etc.

When I was a kid we had the shopping mall.   Yeah, people always shit on the mall as the most uncouth/kitschy thing in the world, but at the very least it was a public space that people regularly went to and experienced Christmas time.   You would have the decorations and such and Santa occupying a corner of the mall, but moreover you would have individual stores displaying whatever the hottest gift ideas of the year were.

My mom might be able to tell me about going to the big department store downtown – a vibrant place with a lot of diverse activity and that being a fond Christmas memory of her youth.    Me?   Well, I guess I would probably talk about Radio Shack and Kaybee Toys in the mall.

Honestly, my experience of experiencing Christmastime mostly through a shopping mall as a kid probably pales in comparison to a lit up town square with goods in display windows or the pageantry of the downtown department store…but it’s going to beat the fuck out of the kinds of things that will be there for my son.  He (and others in/around his generation) will get a speciality department store that merits a one-time visit and then a not-so-speciality department store that pretty much looks the same as it does all year with a few superficial decorations thrown up.   Nothing that really gives a strong Christmas aura.

Hell, since were awash in entertainment options as a society we don’t even have a commonality in that anymore.   Christmas movies come out every year making last years’ irrelevant (do any of the new ones stand the course of time like Christmas Vacation?) and we don’t even have the Christmas TV specials that *everybody* watches.

While watching Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special and then going to Spencer’s Gifts in the mall may have seemed like a superficial and soulless way to mark the holiday season, at least we can say we had something that resembled a communal expression and celebration of Christmas and rituals that we all partook in.   I just don’t think the same opportunities even exist at the same level as they did a generation ago.

It’s something I’ll have to keep in mind going forward.   If we want him to have holidays with meaning beyond a day of presents and gluttony, we will have to do the work of building ritual into it ourselves.   Target and Bass Pro Shops* won’t do it for us.

* I did really enjoy my visit there.

Sanctuary Cities and States’ Rights

Well, this will be an interesting conundrum…

President Elect (ha!) Donald Trump throughout the campaign trail has promised to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities across the US in order to get them into compliance with federal immigration laws.   In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, mayors of the cities of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York (as well as the governor of New York) have openly stated refusal to cooperate with the Trump administration on immigration.

So typically in America it’s the folks on the right/conservatives who are the biggest proponents of local over federal…and people on the left/liberals tend to view federal oversight as a way to put a check on local governments violating rights.   Admittedly both sides can make valid cases for these mile-high world views.   Although I tend to lean towards local knows better than federal, I’ll readily admit that sometimes local governments can overstep their power and it’s good to have the federal check on potential abuses.   So I’m not going to make a value judgment on which way of thought is inherently correct on this one.

Either way, it looks like the roles are about to be reversed on this one with the liberals standing up to the federal government while the conservatives scream about how “you lost, get over it”.   I just think it will be funny when this happens and might put some people in some ideologically uncomfortable positions.

In fact, it puts me in an ideological uncomfortable position.   I’m opposed to illegal immigration.   I even think there’s too much legal immigration.  In fact, I’ll even say that I don’t believe that filling out paperwork and following procedures really changes much.   So I’m not one of those guys who say “Well, god damn it, if they come here legally and get a job…” and I’ll even say that the more immigration happens, the less I feel I really identify with *America* as my parents and grandparents knew it, even though I’m supposed to be squarely in the “real America” camp as a white midwestern blue collar war veteran.   But just because I’m not ok with the current levels of immigration, does that mean that people in New York City or Los Angeles should shut their doors?

If the people of Los Angeles or whatever have decided that they don’t mind illegal immigrants living amongst them and are ok with using municipal funds for their benefit and it doesn’t directly affect people living outside the city, then what can I really say about it?   It’s just like someone in Oklahoma bitching about people being able to legally smoke dope in Denver.

And I’ll add this too – although I’m generally opposed to immigration, I’ll readily acknowledge that there’s some places in the United States where the situation and dynamics are different.   Los Angeles and Miami should be Hispanic cities.   There’s places in this country where that’s the culture and it cannot and shouldn’t be separated by people in places like Iowa making policy.  I’ll also say that one thing that is cool about the US is even though we’re seen as an anglo country, places like Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are very, very important Latin American cities.   It is a national strength that sometimes we don’t think about.

Here’s where it gets a little stickier – the places I’ve mentioned as coming out opposing Trump’s call to deport the illegals and shut of federal funding are in deep shit financially.   It’s pretty much a matter of “when” rather than “if” the turnip stops bleeding from these places and they’re going to have to look to their respective states and/or the federal government to get bailed out.   There’s a good chance that something like that could happen on Trump’s watch.

What happens when the federal government (or maybe the state) dangles the carrot in front of their face and says “if you want our help, it’s time to start cooperating with us on immigration…”?   For one, the federal government would be better able to sell it to the rest of the country if they get something (compliance with federal law) out of it.   Realistically there would be a lot of screaming and dragging of feet over this – why should these crackers in flyover country tell us that we need to deport our employees, neighbors, family, etc?

As if we needed something else, this could lead to another huge rift between the two Americas that exist.

“How Your Vote For Trump Affects My Family…”

Anyone with anything resembling access to social media has probably noticed that for the past year their feed has been clogged with articles and memes about peoples’ feelings on the election.   Perhaps you, dear reader, have even shared an article or meme that express your feelings on the election.

At this point I think everyone is kind of numb to these things.  I know I am, even though I’ll admit I’ve been very into the Trump campaign.   Usually I’ll just kind of chuckle and keep scrolling when I see someone post a “Donald Trump is a bad guy and really mean!” article, but today I decided to click on one…and got about three sentences into it before I saw all I needed to see from it.

The gist of it was that the author was a gay hispanic that had a black friend or something or other – a guy that checked off a lot of ‘victim’ boxes in his self identity.   This guy knew some people who said they were going to vote for Trump and although these people weren’t explicitly stating that they had it out for this guy’s identity groups, it was implied that by voting for him they were basically slapping him (or whatever pronoun the author identifies with) in the face.

To be honest, I really don’t get cross by someone simply disagreeing with me.  I’m a big enough person to be able to tolerate the fact that other people see the world differently.   That’s not what’s the issue here.

Here’s what gets me though – the fact that there are more than a few people with the mentality that other people should take into consideration their group/identity interests over my own.

So let’s say I’ve decided that I feel my bread is better buttered in a Trump administration over a Hillary Clinton administration…and I came to that conclusion by taking into consideration my experiences, world view, etc….  Why in the fuck would someone expect me to abandon this decision because THEY *feel* like it will be bad for THEM

I completely understand making your case as to why you don’t like a certain candidate.   I also understand that if you feel I’m inconsistent/incorrect in my thinking and want to point that out.   I just don’t how someone can come up with “my feelings should be more important to you than whatever internal process went in to you coming up with that conclusion geared towards your own interests”.

To be fair I think a lot of these kind of virtue signaling articles are little more than masturbation for the author and like-minded readers.   No one had their mind changed by that kind of thing.

Most media today, especially of this caliber seems to exist in an echo chamber.  No one takes it seriously outside of like-minded readers.  Deep down the authors probably know they’re writing for people who will agree with them and deep down the people sharing it on Facebook know that the only people who will acknowledge it are like-minded people and thus they’ll do so in order to boost their own social status within their peer group.

And again, even if people on the other side of the fence were reading with an open mind, no one would be convinced that they should drop their interests and adopt this other groups…unless they believe that their interests are furthered by adopting others in the way of the social credit that comes with it.   For example, you’re going to go further socially by saying “black lives matter!” as a white guy than you would saying “end white genocide” or whatever.

Even though I think a lot of these people know they’re spitting into the wind, I think there is an element of self-belief that these people have in their “work”.   I really think that if Trump wins a lot of these people will be flabbergasted on how this could happen when they’ve been “sounding the alarm” for so long.

I really think that sometime shortly before midnight on November 8, this particular segment of the country is going to be in for a very rude awakening… and I will be right here to laugh at their tears.

 

…And Another Thing About Liberals and Terrorism

 

When there’s some kind of act of terror, one very common response from the left is something along the lines of “well, it’s not as big of a deal as …” and then pick almost any other mode of death.   Maybe more people were killed by a white mass shooter in the same period, maybe more people were even killed by lightening.  You get the idea.

 

Here’s the problem with that – again, the have a hard time seeing this as an existential issue.   We don’t HAVE to have the conditions to make terrorism viable.    We don’t HAVE to have the foreign policy that pits us against these people and we don’t HAVE to allow the people we just pissed off to live amongst us.   These are choices that as a society we should be making instead of having them made for us and assuming it’s the way it has to be.

We’re probably all in more danger of being harmed by an American citizen, born and raised here than an Islamic terrorist.   I don’t doubt that at all.    We certainly have some, uh, domestic issues we need to work out…but they don’t exclude each other.   I’m not sure why this is so hard to get for some people.   Just because I’m more likely to be killed by some common criminal here doesn’t mean that terrorism isn’t a problem and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t a preventable problem.   Our internal dysfunction is our poison to swallow/cross to bear and has nothing to do at all with terrorism from outside our society.

I just don’t get the mentality that this is something we absolutely have to live with and accept, so whenever something happens we just tell ourselves “well, white people kill people too!” and/or “more people were killed by bear attacks over the past five years!” and that everything will be ok.

On that note, I understand it’s a bigger issue in Europe than the US.   To be honest, I hardly ever see a Muslim out in the wild here, let alone one that seems like he/she has an axe to grind.   Still, I don’t understand why the western world in general has to accept a parallel and often antagonistic society living amongst us.

Pence for Vice President. Yawn.

 

Last Friday Donald Trump announced Mike Pence of Indiana as his vice president.    Honestly, I’m a little disappointed.   I hoped it would be someone that made the ticket feel a little more like an “insurgency” within the GOP.   I understand that a guy like him is probably comforting to the kinds of Republicans that are “wary” about voting for Trump….and comforting to the donor class so I get it.

The other thing is that with Pence he takes on some GOP baggage that he didn’t have before this.   Pence has been pretty outspoken about the gay thing, which doesn’t play well with a lot of people and Trump so far has been outside of that discussion for the most part.

I recently drove through Indiana and noticed a “Welcome to Indiana.   Our bond rate is AAA” immediately after crossing from Illinois.   Ha ha.   So maybe the guy is good on spending and economic issues, or at least has a sense of humor enough to dig at Illinois.

 

 

Trump Doesn’t Carry GOP Baggage

The other day I saw a meme with a picture of George W Bush that mentioned something about one of his administration’s email scandals that didn’t get him a lot of negative press.   The point of it was to suggest what’s been the liberal mating call for the past seven years or so – “Bush did bad things too!”.   No discussion of any bumps along the road during Obama’s administration is complete without some kind of reference to the failures of the Bush years and to be honest, that strategy usually works out pretty well.

In the 2012 election Bush was slow to give Mitt Romney any vocal support because they knew it could hurt him with some likely voters.  Ultimately Romney was seen as the heir to Republican failures in recent times and he embraced it.   It gave a sitting president material to go after his challenger and it worked, as the election results show.

It just dawned on me that Trump doesn’t have any of that baggage going into the debates.   Sure, there may be other baggage but they can’t really tie him in with the Bush years or any “establishment” Republicans because, well, they’ve all spoken out against him.   Some of them have even flat out stated that they refuse to vote for him.   He’s had both George W Bush and Mitt Romney publicly disavow him, which probably had the opposite effect on Trump’s numbers than Bush and Romney intended.

Hillary, on the other hand, is the heir to many of the failures of the Obama years.   Whether or not she’s the heir to her husband’s dirty laundry (NAFTA, weak defense, “hillarycare”, etc) might be up to debate, but she did always present herself as being a very involved First Lady and undoubtedly she had some influence in decision making.

I’m sure that if Hillary goes down the route of criticizing Republican decisions in the recent past, Trump might own some of them in order to put up something of a unified front from the conservatives.   Or he may not and say something like “I was busy running a multibillion dollar industry when this happened” and completely deflect it.   Or he might just find a way to throw it back at Hillary by tying her in with the same political establishment that created it.   Either way, this should be a debate cycle worth tuning in for.

 

Reporting Hate Speech Hijinks

The other day while I was at work I was scrolling through the comments section of a Facebook post from NPR about Donald Trump, which has become a favorite pastime of mine.  I love watching, well, NPR people (mostly privileged upper middle class liberal white people) freak out over the prospect of a ‘Drumpf’ presidency or even just the fact that people outside their ivory towers like the guy.    I have a feeling that on election night in November I’m going to stay up all night reading people’s meltdowns and laughing hysterically.

Every now and then I’ll post something to poke the bear.  I never really try “arguing” with these people because it’s a waste of time – no one’s mind is going to be changed.  I just like to do things like turn what they say against them, take it out of context, etc.

Some lady posted a very typical paragraph or so about how bad Trump is, and when she spelled his name somehow replaced the “R” with a swastika, making the ever-omnipresent “Trump is like Hitler!” comparison.

Being the good citizen I am, I thought that even if this girl’s heart was in the right place, that swastika could be triggering to some people.   So I reported her and filled out the short questionnaire that Facebook has in these situations, all while guffawing to myself.

About half an hour later (after I forgot I did this) I get a message from Facebook saying that they reviewed this post and deleted it.  Plus she would get a scripted message saying that what she posted violated Facebook’s hate speech guidelines. I laughed.

I picture this woman going apeshit when she gets a “nastygram” from Facebook basically accusing her of being racist.   I just looked up her profile and it’s basically nothing but constant “Republicans are bad!” article reposts (with very few “likes” or interaction, meaning everyone is sick of hearing from her), rainbow profile pic changes and pictures of her cats.   Looks like a pretty sad existence, really.

Although it’s just a fun, simple way to push someone’s buttons who needed to be pushed, what I wonder is that if it will make *someone* somewhere talk about free speech and the whole “trigger” culture thing going on, if a lady posting something that clearly was not meant to be threatening, racist or anything of that nature gets an e-slap on the wrist for just having a swastika in the context of associating a presidential candidate with those ideals.  Will she say to herself (or her cats??? Ha ha) that the political correctness culture has gotten way out of hand after this experience?  Who knows.

So I’m a Businessman Now…

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….Well, only part time, but still it counts.

I’ve always wanted a business of my own.   Sure, I’ll get ideas from time to time about how I should do this or that but I finally nailed something down and started to go after it.   Red Dragon Herbs.  We sell loose leaf tea and make herbal tea blends.   Oh, and we’re going to crack the sprouting seeds market here shortly too.

I suppose necessity kind of dictated it, or at least gave me a strong nudge here.  Immediately after the New Year, my work schedule changed to an eight hour a day, Monday through Friday gig just like everyone else.   Before that it was basically work a couple twelve hour shifts, get a couple days off, work a few more 12 hour shifts, get some more days off, so I had a lot of days (or nights, rather since I worked the night shift) off during the week.

My nights off were the nights that Mary was able to work, so someone would be home watching Henry.   Since I landed a shift from 2pm-10pm every weekday, it made it so Mary wouldn’t be able to keep her job without putting Henry in day care, which we would rather not – for financial and other reasons.   She quit her job in January, except for filling in occasionally as a dental assistant here and there.

So we decided that we should find *something* to bring in some money and decided on this.  We’ve started kind of slow, but once we found out we were accepted into the Des Moines Farmers’ Market, we kicked it into gear and were able to show up on our first market day last Saturday with over two dozen types of tea for sale, with quite a few of them being ones we came up with ourselves.

I had a lot of fun Saturday at the market, despite the unseasonably cold and windy weather.   Although I’m more on the introverted side, I thought I did a pretty good job schmoozing with the customers.   I’ve never worked retail and worked a little bit in sales (which I was terrible at), but I always liked the idea of being in a sales position where you were coming from a position of competency and authority on the material and providing people with thoughtful and honest solutions to their problems.   I think this might be the closest I’ll come to that position.

Anyways, I think our first market day was a success.  Mary did a great job laying out the table and making things look nice – we even had a gay couple tell us that our table looked really nice, which is a feather we’ll put in our cap.   Hopefully as the weather gets nicer we’ll see more customers there and we’ll also learn some ways to get more business coming our way from the 10 or 15 thousand people who come out every Saturday.

General Mattis For President???

Wow, it’s as if someone in a high place actually saw all the “Mattis For President” memes circulating and said “fuck it, why not?”

So the rumor is that some big Republican donors are trying to draft General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to run for president, allegedly because Trump is unacceptable and Cruz, well, it’s not so much that he’s not an “establishment” guy, he’s just kind of a slime ball.   There’s been some rumors that the GOP was seriously considering putting up Mitt Romney and/or Paul Ryan as an alternative to the current two front runners, which wasn’t as well received as they probably thought it would’ve been.

I’m kind of torn on this and a little baffled….

On one hand, I respect the hell out of Mattis.  I served underneath him in Iraq in 2004/5.   He’s someone who will probably go down as a Marine Corps legend of our era and really is an inspiring figure in the way of keeping the warrior spirit of the Marine Corps alive – that’s something that’s really hard to do at the upper levels.   He’s almost like a real-life Chuck Norris joke.

On the other hand, I know it’s a ploy to water down support from Trump…. and it’s a really good ploy too.   I’ve seen/heard a lot of people say something along the lines of “well, this would be a game changer” if Mattis did run.  A Mattis presidency is something that’s been joked about on various military channels of social media, but I think he’s a person I’d go vote for on strength of personality alone.

To be honest, I don’t know anything about his political views but I’m sure they’re almost exactly as you would imagine.  I think he would pull a lot of support from Trump and the thing that baffles me about this is that i think he would even out-Trump Trump.  He’ll make (and has made) off-color statements and hasn’t backed down, intimidate reporters (his knife hand is legendary!) and probably make some, um, pretty bold statements in the way of foreign policy.

Could he win?   Would they expect him to win?  I doubt it.   It would be a way to basically punt until 2020 and not have to deal with Trump or have an ugly loss with Cruz when this guy’s dirty laundry sees the light.   Although we typically revere the war hero turned politician in the US, I think the situation surrounding this one wouldn’t play very well with the other side.   It does kind of have the aura of a South American military coup and Mattis’ blood-and-guts demeanor would probably be a turnoff, compared to say, Colin Powell’s calm and thoughtful demeanor.

With that said, Mattis IS a hell of a leader and an extremely capable guy.   As I excited as I should be about this prospect, I know the only reason they would bring a guy like him into the fray is because they’re afraid of something about Trump.  I guess we’ll wait and see what comes of it.

My prediction:   There will be talk of Mattis for another week or two with no real commitment, but it does enough chipping away at Trump’s support to show *some* fractures.   It’s probably really frustrating that out of all of his “gaffes”, nothing has really stuck.   No one has said “Oh, well, he crossed the line there.   I’m switching to Cruz!”.   The Mattis scare will just show the other side that Trump’s support isn’t 100% solid.

Trump Rally in Chicago Canceled

“Only Donald Trump could turn a placid city like Chicago into a war zone” – someone on Twitter

So as everyone knows, Donald Trump had to cancel his event in Chicago due to protesters.  Apparently he had some trouble in St. Louis as well, an attempted attack in Ohio and some resistance in Kansas City.

From what I’ve been gathering, this has actually been a boost to the Trump campaign.   Although Trump haters got a good chuckle out of it, the majority of Americans saw this and said “Holy shit…” and saw the images of well, America’s potential future worked up into a frenzy.    Although a lot of people said Trump had it coming (which is really racist to assume that minorities can’t respond to things they don’t like in a civilized manner, btw), I think a lot of people were turned off by what they saw and the fact that regular people were attacked for associating with Trump’s views.

It’s also created something of a siege mentality with Trump’s supporters and has kind of fired them up.   To be a Trump supporter has pretty much been groan-worthy socially in most circles from the start, but now that there’s been actual physical assaults it’s just emboldened a block of voters that have been fairly quiet in real life despite the numbers just because of frequent “trump shaming”.    I shit you not, about 1/3 of my facebook feed seems like articles and memes about how terrible Trump is.   He’s always had more support than you hear about just because people usually keep it to themselves…unless they want to step on toes.

There’s also been a jump to get in “the siege” as well, I think.   Rubio and Cruz both said something along the lines of “this doesn’t happen at my rallies” and that’s true – there’s not really anything worth getting worked up over about either one.    The strength and danger of the Trump campaign has probably lured a few people over – do you want to be defiant or kind of flaccid and unassuming?

Speaking of Cruz and Rubio, they probably should have put out some kind of statement condemning the protesters and such because they both actually did lose some supporters over blaming Trump for this.   Although most of their people probably aren’t fond of Trump, they certainly didn’t like what they saw from the other side.    Cruz retracted a bit already and Rubio is already done for anyways.

As far as the protesters, Bernie Sanders is getting some blame.   I have a feeling there’s a bit of a miscommunication here.    I’m sure there were Bernie folks there.   They were probably the ones holding signs and screaming about how mean Trump was.    No big deal, that’s their right.   The ones that were groping women, attacking people, breaking shit, etc. were probably from groups a little further on the left, BLM and/or just thugs.   I wouldn’t blame him for things getting “out of hand”.

And as for Black Lives Matter, it probably just further alienated them from the people who they, well, want to make their lives matter to.    I will give them a bit of a nod because one thing I’ve always thought about them is that they picked soft targets.   Yeah, it’s funny when they disrupt a bunch of hipsters having Sunday brunch but at the same time they know they’ll get absolutely no resistance beyond of a few quivers of “but, but I’m not racist”.    This was actually something where they could get some push-back.

Anyways, it’ll be interesting to see how Tuesday plays out with Illinois, Florida, Missouri and Ohio up for grabs.   I have a feeling that at the very least no one who was planning on voting for Trump when they woke up Friday morning has decided to not vote for him over this.    We’ll see how many people woke up Saturday morning and decided to vote for him though….

Oh, on another note, the idea of making a few disruptive protesters getting shoved around at Trump rallies as a big deal on par with this is a fucking joke.

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