Pissed.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s Montresor used a cask of Amontillado to exact revenge. But I, devoid of anything so exotic, had to settle on unfriending a guy on Facebook. I’d never done that before. I just hide someone I find disagreeable, or even ignore them. Who cares?

But when it gets out of hand, it gets out of hand.

It started a few years ago with his emails of Far Right memes–Obama birtherism, Clintons and hidden crimes, Muslims secretly instituting Sharia law–that sort of thing. He found them (a) amusing, (b) profound, or (c) both. Then the pro-Donald Trump crap started coming, which fell into the same categories.

As a rule, I try not to give a shit. Sure, these memes were based on falsehoods or lies. Yeah, they were meant to inflame. On the whole, I just thought, Really? “Based on this bizarre meme replete with misspellings and poor grammar, I will totally change my mind,” said no one, ever. The email headings and openers were in two or more smarmy fonts in colors such as magenta or aqua blue and often in all caps, so they were easy to delete without reading them and getting upset.

I made sure he knew my convictions were far different than his and called him out a couple of times, politely, when I found something over the top. I probably should have cut him off, but I didn’t. What the hell. An old man with a hard-wired point of view, he’d never change anyway. Besides, unlikely as it was, you never know when you might learn something, right? And aren’t we supposed to transcend mere conviction and look for common ground?

At some point, Fate intervened and crashed his computer. He lost much of his contact information, including mine. Yay! A few weeks ago, though, he asked me for my email address–“I have some really interesting things I want to show you–” and I gave it to him. Okay, I knew what was coming, but why not tolerate the old SOB?

He is an old man, a World War II veteran. He can be really funny. And he’s smart, a holder of several patents, a long career in both engineering and marketing, and so on. In person, he is a pleasant and engaging fellow with interesting life experiences and observations.

Then came a series of anti-Muslim screeds, all containing rank falsehoods roundly debunked by Snopes, Politifact, and other such sites, which, of course, I pointed out. I asked him to stop, that I found these personally offensive, that I had Muslim friends and family in Istanbul. Some of the stuff he was sending, I told him, was as hurtful as his calling my nephews and niece, who have an African-American father, by a racial slur. No matter.

Then, this one came: “Im not a bible thumpin’ Christian, but I do believe in God, heaven, hell, the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandments. Were supposed to be a Nation that has complete freedom of religion…….we certainly condone Muslims even tho they preach death to non-belivers, lying to their enemy’s and treat women like pond scum………but taking away our right to pray in school is unconscionable! Remember this when you go to vote!” A bizarre “poem” entitled “The New Lord’s Prayer,” purportedly written by a 15-year-old high school student in Minnesota, accompanied the rant. A three-minute Google search proved the letter to be a fake.

But the part about Muslims preaching death to non-believers and treating women like pond scum really irritated me, and I let him know it, along with every other recipient in the chain. That said, I also took it as an opportunity to engage, to pass along some informative tracts on Islam, the context behind the medieval Koran writings, its similarity to the Old Testament in that regard, and so on.

One result was a back-and-forth with on of the recipients, who claimed to be a business person with years of experience in the Islamic world. Okay, so our politics were different, but it was a polite and the exchange useful. However, he ended one of his letters with, “When they try to force those beliefs on others, particularly me, I will exercise my 2nd amendment rights!”

So much for reasoned discourse.

Okay, screw it, I said to myself. This is going nowhere. I’m gone.

Then, this email:

With our somewhat stupid view of political correctness these days, some will probably find this offensive.  But I believe in laughing at everything………..it will keep you alive longer.  And I find this funny.  I also thought Amos and Andy, Step n’ fetchit’ and a host of others were funny…….but I guess that’s another life.  You can’t ignor (sic) something and it will go away! 

Subject: FW: Breaking News 

Al Sharpton reported today that Walt Disney’s new film called “Jet Black,” the African-American version of “Snow White” has been canceled. All of the 7 dwarfs: Dealer, Stealer, Mugger, Forger, Drive By, Homeboy, and Shank have refused to sing “Hi Ho” because they say it offends black prostitutes. 
They also say they damn sure have no intention of singing, ‘It’s off to work we go
‘.” 

A real screamer, no?

Does tolerance and open-mindedness require you to bend when someone throws something at you that’s so offensive, so horrible that you can’t think of anything else the next few hours? Days later, I can’t get it out of my mind that someone could be so vile, so depraved as to send such trash out into the email-o-sphere and think it was funny, let alone just okay.

Constantly plagued with self-doubt, as I tend to be, I waited overnight before responding. Good thing, maybe, because I tempered the profanity-laced invective I’d readied for the guy and let him know how offended I was and that I wanted nothing further to do with him. Ever. I blocked him on social media and blocked his emails. Not as good as walling him up, ala the Poe story, but this is 2019, when Amontillado is rare and hidden niches in wine cellars rather hard to find.

He also has an email chain who probably thought the meme was ha-ha-ha hysterical-funny, and everyone in the chain has their own chain who has their own chain and so on.

I’m not over it.

This is the country we live in.

The Decency Project

Day 283 or so of The Apocalypse, and T-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still the American president. Every day since he began his evil journey from the bowels of Trumpistan, people, pundits, politicians, you name it, have proclaimed, “He can’t last–he’s finished this time.”

Well.

Refuting him with facts doesn’t seem to work. In fact, as George Lakoff has pointed out,  logical refutation is not only useless, it instead reinforces the outrages Trump utters. Snark and satire amuse, but haven’t slowed him a whit. Those speaking principled opposition create their own echo chamber and seem to feed the beast more than wound it. It’s very frustrating.

It’s time to try something different, and I’m proposing the Decency Project, whereby we offer up ideas and notions that replace Trumpisms rather than simply oppose them. Even the name itself–Decency–suggests replacement, since nothing decent exists in Trumpistan. The idea comes from something one of my neighborhood groups, the Family Co-op, did recently with its Kindness Project, whereby members painted rocks with kind or inspirational sayings and hid them like Easter eggs throughout the neighborhood.

The Decency Project will post pictures or videos or whatever of decent events, people,  or actions that happen in the U.S. every day that Trump and his ilk can only look at with envy. Without further explication, I post the following, of fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara swearing in 30 immigrants as new American citizens and leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s an ironic and sublime moment Trump will never, ever be a part of.

If you like this project and feel compelled to join me, please do so!

Day 281 of the Apocalypse

My father used to tell the story of the guy who rounded the cliff too fast in his new car and tumbled over the edge. He was lucky enough to grab a branch as he fell down the mountain, but after hanging onto the branch for a few hours, he became quite tired. “Can anyone hear me?” he shouted. No response.  “God? Hello, God? Can you hear me?” he yelled.

A voice boomed down from the heavens. “I can hear you,” the voice said.

“Can you help me?” the man said.

“Do you believe in God?” the voice replied.

“Oh, yes! Yes!” the man said.

“If you believe in God, let go of the branch,” said the voice.

The man thought about it for several seconds. “Can anyone else hear me?” he said.

Each of us has experienced those moments in which we feel ignored by an impersonal, even unjust universe. We shout our frustrations to someone who may or may not be in charge, because it’s the best we’ve got and it’s all we can do.  But nothing happens. Nothing changes.

Today is the 281st of the Apocalypse known as the election of one Donald Trump, whereby the hordes from Trumpistan rode in shouting their racist, sexist, nationalistic cant and stole the reins of our country. The outraged among us have marched, attended town halls, contacted our elected representatives, and otherwise done whatever we could think of to resist, only to be answered with silence as the outrages continue unabated.

On Friday, August 12, a white Nazi sympathizer plowed into a crowd of anti-white nationalist protesters. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed. A handful of elected leaders offered statements of outrage, though most politicians were either silent or uttered a few hackneyed, anodyne syllables of CYA.

Of note, though, was pharmaceutical giant Merck’s CEO, Kenneth Frazier, who resigned from Trump’s Manufacturing Advisory Council as a matter of conscience. Trump, if you’ll recall refused to call out white supremacists or white nationalists.

More noteworthy, though, are the other members of the council who said nothing. Ms. Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup, issued an Orwellian newspeak response, saying, “…Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts. We believe it is important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth.  Therefore, Ms. Morrison will remain on the President’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”

Below is a list of the others on the council with hyperlinks to contact them. It was the best I could pull together, but let them know what you think in a respectful way.

UPDATE: Under Armour’s Kevin Plank has stepped down and made a forceful statement!

UPDATE: Brian Krzanich Intel CEO, has exited the council and made a statement!

UPDATE: Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing has resigned, citing conscience.

UPDATE (8/16/17): Inge Thulin, CEO of IBM, has resigned from the council. So did Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup. A few minutes ago, Trump tweeted that he was disbanding the council.

Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company,  anliveris@dow.com

Michael Dell, Dell Technologiesmichael@dell.com

Bill Brown, Harris Corporationhttps://www.harris.com/about/contact-us

John Ferriola, Nucor Corporation info@nucor.com

Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation  https://www.whirlpool.com/services/contact-us.html

Jim Hackett, Ford Motor Company, media@ford.com

Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson  https://www.ccc-consumercarecenter.com/UCUConfiguration?id=a0758000004NIaL

Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.  makethingsbetter@utc.com

Marilynn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corporation  http://m.lockheedmartin.com/m/us/contact.html

Jeff Immelt, General Electric  https://www.ge.com/contact/general

Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc. , jeff.cole@dana.com

Klaus Kleinfeld, Arconicmediainquiries@arconic.com.

Brian Krzanich, Intel Corporation  https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/forms/corporate-responsibility-contact-us.html

Rich Kyle, The Timken Company  http://www.timken.com/contact-general/

Thea Lee, AFL-CIO  pressclips@aflcio.org

Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel  https://www.ussteel.com/newsroom

Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company, https://www.campbellsoupcompany.com/connect-with-campbell/email/

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing  http://www.boeing.com/contact-us.page. Scroll down a bit.

Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar. New CEO is Dave Calhoun.  http://www.caterpillar.com/en/contact.html

Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing  http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/pages/contact

Kevin Plank, Under Armour  mediarelations@underarmour.com

Michael Polk, Newell Brands  Corporate Communications

Mark Sutton, International Paper  http://www.internationalpaper.com/contact-us

Inge Thulin, 3M, https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/help-center/

Richard Tumka, AFL-CIO  pressclips@aflcio.org

Wendell Weeks, Corning  https://www.corning.com/worldwide/en/contact-us.html