Reflecting on a broken election and presidency

I am not happy right now. I’m tired. You grow up thinking that the process of vetting candidates and voting, though riddled with smarmy, lecherous assholes, still pushes forth people with at least a facsimile of humanity or dignity in them. You think, “I’m not sure what kind of person willingly signs up for that kind of bullshit” and vote for them anyway because, well, who else is gonna do it?

I was living in Platteville, Wisconsin during the 2016 election. I remember being on the phone with my wife as we watched the results, the slow dread creeping through us across several state lines as we realized what was happening in real time. “What are we gonna do,” my wife kept asking and the only answer rolling through my brain was, “I’ve got fucking NOTHING for us right now.” As I cracked open my fifth beer of the night, I thought back to when I was on my campus visit driving into town and seeing a large cherry picker with a huge fucking Trump-Pence flag flying from it. Grant County, where I was living, went over 50 percent Trump during that election. It felt like a nightmare. [Side note: the next afternoon, I ran into one of my department colleagues who said, “wow, I’m surprised you even showed up today.”]

President McNuggets at his finest

Four years. Four years of this repulsive, lecherous asshole packing his cabinet with the most unctuous, disgusting, slithering, contemptuous blowhards and spineless cowards. For four years this fucking asshole refused to do the bare fucking minimum and say, “hey, maybe racists shouldn’t be racist”; opting instead to say that both literal fucking nazis and protestors wanting not to get murdered by police were basically two sides of the same coin. I…we (my wife and I) could not stomach the idea of four more years of president dipshit sauce, so she mailed her ballot in while I registered and voted day of (because that’s the bare minimum of what our voting process should be like in a supposedly “free” country). And still, we had to wait four more days in order for the election to be called.

I got a text from my dad letting me know that the AP and Fox News called it. I told my wife, who immediately turned on the tv, as if she (and me, to be honest) couldn’t believe it without seeing it firsthand. Sipping on our coffee as we did some light cleaning, my wife sighed and said, “I’m not happy right now.”

And she’s right. This isn’t happiness; this is fatigue from four years of living with racists showing their asses at every opportunity. Four years of seeing a red MAGA hat and walking the other way. Four years of chucklefucks completely bumbling through executive decisions, not to mention completely fucking up a pandemic that has claimed almost 300,000 American lives. My wife was a Warren supporter, while I was and always will be a staunch Bernie-crat. We both want progressive politics and, despite not getting either candidate (and me losing my shit at all of the DNCC fuckery that happened), the alternative to Biden-Harris was too fucking much to bear. I can’t protest vote when there are people literally plotting to kill a US governor. I can’t protest vote when people who look like my family are getting shipped off to Mexico, even if they served in our military, because fuck them. I can’t protest vote when Black people are getting gunned down by police officers for selling cigarettes, sitting in their grandmother’s back yard, or even sleeping in their own god damned apartment.

This is, and always will be, the bare minimum. I want prosperity for people, but I also want more investment in public education, student loan forgiveness, restoring voting rights for felons, medicare for all, a green new deal. All of this shit is possible if we actually hold these motherfuckers accountable for the things we voted for them to do. Get the fuck involved, people. As much as possible. Keep an eye out for progressive candidates. Make donations. Phone bank and send letters: a good time to start is now, seeing as how there’s going to be a fucking SUPER IMPORTANT RUNOFF in Georgia. As Killer Mike said in a speech for Bernie-the time is now.

P.S. Fuck Aaron Sorkin

My self importance is saving me

Everything feels fucked right now, in very thorough ways. This election and all of the personal and professional strife surrounding it makes it feel like I’m living in the end of days, some weird postapocalyptic scenario where the wrath of God is just around the corner.

After my last blog, I took a step back in order to reorient myself and try to make sense of it all. I was recently a respondent on a virtual panel on race and social justice for a conference that was originally supposed to take place in my home state. I’ve been to many academic conferences-it comes with the territory when you do what I do. As with any other conference they are meant to be a site for networking and learning new developments in my field, but I generally use it as a chance to drink heavily and hang out with friends I haven’t seen in ages. The last few conferences I’ve been to have drained me for a variety of reasons and conference life in general is sitting in panels and hoping they’re engaging. I go, meet up with peeps, learn some shit, then head home tired. And that’s usually it. But for whatever reason, I felt…inspired after this conference. Maybe it was that I wasn’t the only brown person speaking. Maybe it was the fact that people liked what I had to say. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was receiving validation from my peers. Hell, it could’ve been the fact that I gained a bunch of followers on Twitter (like maybe 10, but that’s a lot to me). Either way, that was the point where I started to feel inspired. Around that same time, my wife was talking about how I should go back to the more theory-driven work I’d been talking about for years.

I’m the kind of person who has lived a life of quiet desperation in that I don’t like to project my wants or desires out into the universe. I don’t do the whole “secret” thing because I’ve always felt that I would be setting myself up for failure; there’s a certain power to announcing and saying aloud what you intend to do. If you think back to those ancient Athenian auditoriums where philosophers, sophists and rhetoricians would speak to students and government officials, they were always designed in ways to center the speaker and project the voice. They (the Athenian Greeks) believed in kairos: simply put, it’s the idea that the right time and circumstance (place, setting, company) are just as important as the words or choices you make. Traditional rhetoricians lazily mutated that concept to mean that a good speaker/orator takes advantage of the moment to be a good speaker, but newer theorists argue that kairos actually compels you. It’s the other way around: the circumstance reveals itself and gently nudges you towards an action or a statement. This is not to say that you don’t have agency; rather, it’s the good rhetor that will attune themselves to kairos and actually listen rather than ignore it.

Right now kairos is compelling me to keep going with my writing. I’m at that moment where my brain is moving from a stop to a slow churn. I’ve been feeling a restlessness that I’ve not felt in…who knows when. It’s a good kind of unease where, when I get into a rhythm of writing I rock back and forth in my chair every time I pause to think about what I’ve written. When I’m not writing, I’m anxious to get back to work writing and just offloading ideas onto OneNote or GoogleDocs or this god damn WordPress site. And I want to give reverence to this kairotic moment and treat it with the respect it deserves; I’ve been journaling more and even ordered a mechanical keyboard in the hopes that the tactile sensation will further encourage me to write. I figure that it’s a tool of my trade so why not invest in it?

Baby’s first mechanical keyboard. Already have my eye on another…

All of that to say, I’m ready to admit that I’ve started working on a book proposal. I’m returning to some of the work I’ve already done and connecting it to things I’ve been reading recently. I don’t want to say too much about it quite yet, only that it’s prescient and involves the movement of people and capital. I’ll be ready to say more once the proposal is finished, but right now I have to finish a couple of other things first – namely, an article I’m 90 percent done with and awaiting feedback on and another article I’m co-authoring with a friend and colleague of mine that is likely 75 percent finished.

I want to be better at what I do. I’ve never had a problem believing in my own capabilities, but have lived a life of either a) coasting through, or b) actively fucking myself so that I don’t need to actually try. But as the end of times rapidly approaches I want to be blatant and intentional and, frankly, cavalier about this. I want to see my name on a cover of a book. I want to know that I went through editors and publishers and manuscript edits and at an actual artifact that I can hold in my hand and say, “that was me. I did that.” In all other aspects of my life I am a certified self deprecating motherfucker, so please allow me this one space where I can actually lean into my own self belief. I know

This book will get done.