Encore

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a show by David Byrne. I have seen him perform many times before, and he always put on a great show. He didn’t let us down this time either. After the last number, they bowed and walked off-stage to a standing ovation. The applause continued for a few minutes, and was then rewarded by an encore.

Did I worry that my applause wouldn’t be the decisive amount of noise to ensure that there was an encore? Of course not. When you are a member of the audience of a performance, it’s not about you, it’s about everyone. Of course if I didn’t clap they would have done the encore anyway, and if I had clapped twice as hard it wouldn’t have changed anything. The problem is expecting individual effects in a group context.

Voting is the same thing. It isn’t about you, the voter. It’s about everyone, the voters. When an election is held, vote your preference. Odds are, sure, it won’t make a difference. Your vote won’t be the single event that changes history. But it’s not supposed to be. Assuming that unless it is, it doesn’t matter is completely missing the point. Just as applauding (or not) for an encore, it is the response of the group that matters, not any single member of the group.

If you have the privilege to vote, and haven’t done so yet, make the effort to do so tomorrow. The collective action of those who might feel that they are powerless wields a hell of a lot of power.

My Electoral Dread

With the mid-term elections coming up in a few weeks here in the US, many of us are hoping for the “blue wave” that will help to counteract the extreme direction that the Trump regime has pulled this country. But having observed how things have been operating for the past two years, I can’t help but feel a sense of dread about what will happen.

One thing that has plagued politicians is being involved in a scandal. But in the Trump era, there are new scandals every day, sometimes so many at once that it’s hard to keep up. And I think that’s the plan: overwhelm people so that no single scandal gets any attention.

So this dread I feel is that on Election Day, there won’t be a few irregularities about the vote; there will be thousands and thousands. There will be so many that it won’t be possible to investigate them all. We will have no certainty about the results. There will be cries of fraud, but instead of taking them seriously, they will be met with the standard “you lost; get over it”. And as a result, the political arena will become more extreme than ever before.

I have never hoped that I am wrong as strongly as I do now.

Close to Home

OK, it’s not the best angle, but here is a picture of me being baptized:

baptism
My aunt Joan holding me as I was baptized

This is by itself unremarkable (except maybe for those who didn’t know that I was born into a Catholic family), but yesterday I learned something about the priest: Augustine Giella. It turns out that he was one of the priests named in the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. According to this article:

New Jersey court records indicate Giella confessed to fondling one of the girls and taking photos of her unclothed. Giella was facing sexual assault, child endangerment and child pornography charges in Ocean County, New Jersey, when he died in 1993 at about age 72.

giella in court
Augustine Giella in court

I was raised Catholic, until about age 13 when I realized that all that supernatural stuff was so much nonsense. But until then, I was a good Catholic boy, and was actually an altar boy for several years. I remember Giella and a few of the other priests who had been at that church since I was little. This was years before the reality of child abuse and the coverup by the church, but back then we all thought that anyone who wanted to be a priest had to be weird. So no, I don’t have a personal sordid tale of abuse. I’m lucky in that regard. They never did anything to me worse than feeding me the bullshit they fed every other kid. It’s just a very odd feeling to realize that that the monsters I have been reading about now that the cover-up by the Catholic Church is being unraveled are no longer abstract “others”, but that one of them was part of my life, and that perhaps some of my classmates at the time could have also been among his victims.

Handling White Supremacists

This is a thought experiment, not an actual proposal, so hear me out. Let’s take one state (Alabama and Mississippi come to mind as front-runners), and make it white-only. There will be a national relocation service, and within a period of say, two years, all non-white, non-Christian (can’t have Muslims or Jews here!) people will have to relocate to anywhere else in the country they want. Similarly, all white supremacists, including KKK, Nazis, “alt-right”, etc., will have to relocate to this newly-whitened state. For convenience, let’s assume that Alabama is selected, and renamed Alabaster.

Once that is done, it will be illegal to espouse those views outside of the state of Alabaster, but it will be completely legal within. We can follow the Chinese example and create a Great Firewall around Alabaster, so that all social media posts made in this state cannot be seen outside, and posts from non-whites cannot be seen within. Inside Alabaster they will be free to fly Confederate and Nazi flags and erect all the statues to Confederate figures they want. Anyone caught promoting white supremecist messages in the rest of the country will be forced to relocate to Alabaster. And, of course, Fox News will only be able to be seen by residents of Alabaster (and it will be the only news station).

We could also make it more comfortable for these racists by eliminating some of the other things that bug them. Obamacare will not apply to residents of Alabaster, so they can enjoy being excluded for pre-existing conditions and the like. There will also be no federal taxes: income tax, social security, medicare – none. Of course, no federal funds will be given to Alabaster, so they’ll have to maintain their own roads, feed their own poor, care for their own elderly, all out of their own pockets. In other words, Tea Party heaven!

Having set the stage for this thought experiment, I’m wondering what the population of Alabaster would eventually be. In other words, how many people in the current USA would volunteer to move to such a white-only state? And for those who did, I wonder how happy they’d be, now that all of the things that they are currently so angry about have been removed from their lives. I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Bag Claim Etiquette

This seems so simple that it should be obvious, but it apparently it’s not, so I guess I have to spell it out. When waiting at a baggage claim carousel, you should stand back a few feet until you see your bag. Not only does it make it easier for everyone to get a view of the bags, but it leaves room for unloading the bags. Don’t crowd the carousel like these people:

One guy has the right idea, but he can’t see the bags that are coming because the others are blocking his view.

On a recent flight I saw my bag coming around , and had to squeeze my way through the people crowding the carousel. When it came, I grabbed it and lifted it off in order to put it on the ground. In the process it struck one of the people crowding the area, and he gave me a dirty look. I gave him one right back. It’s simply rude not to give a fellow traveler enough room to retrieve their luggage, and when you see someone grabbing their bag, it’s up to you to get out of their way.