11/8/20

Post Election Malaise

It took less than a day for my happiness at Trump losing the election to fade. Perhaps Alex Trebek’s death darkened my mood. Maybe I’m just in the habit of feeling gloomy after everything else that’s happened this year. My garage is getting colder and I’m getting grumpier.

I still don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re as divided as we ever were and Mitch McConnell is still in power. At least two of the nine Supreme Court justices are supremely unqualified for the position they hold. The pandemic is surging, with disturbing news about a mutation through minks bad enough that Denmark is killing all of the little creatures they can find.

We still have systemic racial injustice. We still have greedy corporations acting without accountability. We still have more problems than solutions, and people are dying.

I think Biden is probably a good and decent man. But what can he do?

Let’s face it… the run-off elections for the senate seats in Georgia are a long shot. This is Georgia we’re talking about. The same place where Stacey Abrams had her election stolen from her.

Biden is going into power with his hands tied. The GOP that produced Donald Trump is still in power and they will not allow Biden to do the things necessary to right the ship. The GOP will continue their hypocrisy, their blind war against progressive idealism, and the mess will continue to pile up.

The problem, at least for me, is a matter of hope. I just can’t bring myself to hope anymore. Yesterday, DoomScrolling was replaced with HopeSurfing, and I could only ride the wave for so long. In my experience, to hope is to set yourself up for pain in the form of disappointment or worse.

Hope and hurt are both 4 letter words.

It’s a bleak, secret truth, but it’s not the end. Whether there is hope of success or not, we keep trying. We write the next chapter. We clock in and do the work. We keep going in spite of hopelessness.

We have to continue paying attention and calling out racial injustices. We have to hold the people we elect accountable. We have to remember that black lives matter as matter as much as white lives, and that “all lives matter” is a lie as long as anyone is put in danger based on the color of their skin.

We have to remember that trans rights are human rights.

Different is not the same as lesser. Different is just different.

We have to keep doing the work, even if there is no hope of changing the world. Even if the work is just pouring your heart into a blog that hardly anyone reads. It’s not about hope. It’s about doing what’s Right.

10/23/20

The Deep Calm

I keep putting off writing.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s not that I don’t want to write. There’s just no wind in my sales. All the old tricks I used to use aren’t granting me forward motion. The waters of my mind are still and deep. And I haven’t wanted to talk about it because we’re all depressed enough.

There is a lot going on. I don’t want to talk about any of that, either. You all have access to the news the same as I do. A pivotal election, perhaps the last free election we’ll ever have in the US, is almost upon us. It is a lot.

At this moment, I should be attending a panel at the online Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I attended one earlier today, but I kept thinking, “Yes, I know” and “I will” and “Yup, got it.”

The panel wasn’t bad! The conference is good. I’m just in a terrible headspace for it. I feel like a soccer player sitting in the stands, watching the rest of my team run through practices while I’m trying to recover from a serious leg injury.

I’m not in the game right now. I’m not sure when or if I’ll be in the game again.

It actually isn’t that complicated, now that I’m thinking about it. Writing makes me happy. I normally want a career as a writer because I’d be adding stories to a world that always needs stories, and that type of activity makes me feel fulfilled and happy.

I write because it makes me happy. Maybe I’m not writing right now because I don’t want to be happy right now. Not with everything else going on.

Maybe taking vacation time to attend an online conference was a mistake. Maybe I should have just taken vacation time in order to take vacation time.

Going back to the analogy I used to start this post, the wind will blow again. The calm can’t last forever. I will try to be patient with myself and get through this difficult time.

Quitting isn’t an option. Maybe I can wait it out.

08/2/20

Death, Actually

Since my last posted essay on Money, I’ve written a couple of other posts that I did not publish because they were just too depressing. I want to chronicle my journey as a writer and include all the highs and lows, but if what I’ve written is simply too dark, I try to spare you all from it.

So let’s talk about death.

Before I dive in, let me say that if you have lost someone recently, I am very sorry for your loss. I’m not writing this because I failed to read the room during a global pandemic. I’m writing this because death is common, painful, inevitable, and writing about painful topics is one of my coping mechanisms. If you’re grieving, what I have to say here may not provide much comfort, but I will happily listen to you and offer sympathy in whatever medium best serves you.

In this essay, I’m going to talk about what it means to die, and I’m going to give my real and non-religious thoughts about the afterlife.

The Human Soul

If humans are endowed with a spark of the divine, then the part of us that remains after our bodies have stopped serving us must be our immortal soul.

I want to believe we are spiritual beings, and that there is more to us than just the meat we are made from. Objectively speaking, we have nothing to support the existence of the soul. We cannot detect it with any of our senses. It cannot be measured. If we are to believe that we have a soul, we can only do so by faith.

If you have such faith, I will not try to dissuade you. I often share in that faith. In order to maintain such belief, it is important not to ask too many questions.

For example, what part does the soul play in a person’s life? Identity? Conscience? Personality? All of those aspects about you change over time. For most of us, the changes are slow, a natural part of aging. But some people are subjected to severe brain trauma that can drastically change aspects of who they are in such a way that they become unrecognizable from who they were before.

There are people surviving COVID-19 that have had their personalities reshaped as a result of severe illness. Some of these changes may be permanent.

If our memories and personality can be so altered by the modification of our brain meat, what must happen to us when that gray matter stops functioning altogether?

I want to believe I have a soul, but I cannot help but doubt. Did my soul exist before I was born? If so, what was I like? What purpose did that soul serve? What good is my soul doing me now? Why should we believe the soul will have greater utility once we no longer have a body and cannot affect the world?

The parts of me that I think are beautiful, unique, and rare are the parts crafted and balanced within my brain. My identity, my perspective, my rational processing of the sum of my experiences. If all those aspects of self disappear when the brain stops functioning, I don’t think it matters if I have a soul or not. I will be gone, and there won’t even be enough of me left to know the loss.

The Act of Dying

Let’s put aside the philosophical for a moment and get practical. What is it like to be dead?

What was it like before you were born?

It was nothing. Neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Not some endless, cold void like being lost in space. You did not experience temperature or light. You experienced nothing. You were nothing. You did not exist.

When our brains stop processing signals, we will experience nothing. No pain. No joy. No worries or delight. Just as before we were born, so shall we become.

Nothing. That’s what it is to die. That last trip isn’t into some great unknown, because we have a taste of it every time we fall into the deepest, dreamless sleep. Our consciousness and our thoughts disappear, and we cease to be.

A Pause to Reflect

These do not have to be depressing thoughts.

It is sad when someone we love dies because the world that remains is not as bright. The laughter and love they brought to the world is no longer with us, and it is right to mourn that loss. Not for them, but for us that remain with the capacity to feel.

For them, there is no more pain. There is no more loss. If they suffered illness or pain up to the end of their life, then death itself is a relief. The suffering is done and gone. Their legacy remains with those that knew and loved them.

It is tragic when the young die because the potential of their life is cut short. It is sad when an old person dies because their wisdom and experiences are lost, and all we have from them is what we managed to record and incorporate in our own lives.

Those that are dead do not experience happiness or sadness. The tragedy and loss cannot touch them any longer.

Life is precious and fleeting because it is only during life that we are able to experience anything. It’s during this time that we matter. What we do matters. We cannot affect the world after we are dead anymore than we were able to affect it before we were born. It’s the time in the middle that’s important, so we should do as much with it as we can, while we still have such agency.

Heaven and Hell

We have no evidence that our consciousness will transport to some other place after death. If you have faith in a heaven or hell, I will not try to dissuade you from that faith. I have shared in it in the past.

The ideas of heaven and hell are meant to persuade people into certain behavior while they are alive. If you are only doing something because you think it will get you into heaven, are you really a good person? What kind of person are you if the only way to keep you from doing something truly evil is to threaten you with fire and damnation?

When I was younger, I asked a pastor what heaven was supposed to be like. The first answer was a cop-out. “Beyond anything we can imagine.” I asked another time, and the answer wasn’t very satisfying. “You’ll be with God, endlessly singing His praises.”

If I am no longer myself, does it matter if I go to heaven or hell? In either place, the bit of me that is unique and special is gone, either in endless supplication to a higher power, or in mind-blasting torment at the hands of the greatest evil.

When I think about my Christian faith, it comes down to this: the message of Jesus was love and forgiveness, and I will continue to live by that message to my dying day. This means empathy, compassion, and kindness while I’m alive. Whatever comes after does not matter, and what I know about heaven and hell is insufficient to change my mind.

Ghosts

Of all the afterlife options, I find ghosts to be the least appealing.

I don’t believe in ghosts. I wrote an entire novel that included ghosts and the afterlife, and that’s where I think ghosts belong: in fiction.

If somehow some bit of our consciousness manages to survive the destruction of our brain, how dreadful would it be to linger, unable to affect the world?

I won’t challenge your other beliefs, but I will tell you that ghosts aren’t real. If a ghost can pass through doors and walls, why don’t they fall through the floor? If they are unaffected by gravity or matter, what is keeping them from simply passing through the world and drifting off into space while the Earth continues to spin around the sun on its cosmic journey?

Aesthetically, ghosts are not pleasing, and it would be horribly boring to be a ghost. I don’t know why people are into them. They are fun to write about, though.

Final Thoughts

Life is precious and short. Too short to worry about the things we cannot change, and too important to waste on petty squabbles.

We should not worry ourselves over death unnecessarily, nor should we shy away from it when it is time to face it. We were not taught how to be born, and no one needs to teach us how to die. All of us will experience both.

It’s what happens in between those events that matters.

07/3/20

Money

Before I jump into this alluring subject, let me tempt you with this: read all the way to the end to find out how to make money by wearing a mask.

Now let’s talk about money.

Time is money. Money is power. Money is the root of all evil. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems. Money. Money. Money. Can’t get enough of that god damned money.

Living in a capitalist society, one that values money over actual human lives by way of for-profit medicine, I have a lot of thoughts on money.

Let’s begin with a hypothetical.

I built a space ship and loaded it with 20,000 people with diverse backgrounds and skills. Me and my 20,000 closest friends leave the Earth, bound for a distant star. We sleep for a thousand years and wake up on a brand new world that is rich in natural resources.

We brought with us incredible technology and in short order, we want for nothing. We have adequate shelter, sustainable food sources, and all the non-sentient robots we could ever need. The needs of humanity on this brand new world are completely met.

That sounds nice, right? An entire population of equals, free to pursue whatever it is that drives them. Art. Science. Exploration. Whatever activity an individual wishes to pursue, they are not constrained by the “day job” or money. The moment we got off the ship, any currency we had from Earth became worthless. We have no money, and we are all equal.

Eventually, Sam the Scientist realizes that he needs help with an experiment. There is a geological phenomena Sam is trying to study, and in order for them to collect the data, they need volunteers to spread out at a particular time of day, observe, and push a button at the right time. The non-sentient automatons won’t work because this task requires intuition and judgment beyond the capabilities of these simple robots. Sam needs 1,000 people, or this experiment will not work.

Sam puts out the call for volunteers, but only 50 people respond. That’s only 5% of what Sam needs. What is Sam to do?

How do you get a large number of people to sacrifice their time and energy for a single cause? How do you compel individuals to work as a team, to accomplish something none of us can do on our own?

How do you make this?

NYC's supertall skyscraper boom, mapped - Curbed NY

Before we build skyscrapers, we built wonders.

The Great Pyramid of Giza Is Actually Lopsided

It took a lot of human hands to build the pyramids, but those hands weren’t free or equal. Humanity has a long and unfortunate history of turning people into property, putting them in chains and forcing them to do the bidding of others.

On the backs of slaves, great and terrible structures have been built. The American economy was built on top of Black lives, and Black lives are still paying the cost to this day.

But this scenario isn’t (directly) about racial inequality. We were talking about a scientist on a distant world trying to get 1,000 people to work with them. Not to build a pyramid or a skyscraper, but just to stand, observe, and push a button at the right time.

How will Sam get the help they require? If this took place on Earth, Sam would use money. They would raise funds and pay people to do the work.

Why? What makes money so compelling that people will sacrifice their time and attention in exchange for it? It doesn’t even have to be a lot. If I told you I would give you $1 and all you had to do was wear a mask every time you went outside, you would do it. A buck isn’t worth that much these days, but it’s an easy dollar, and it’s an activity you should be doing anyway.

Money works because we believe it has value. We have faith that when we have enough money, we can use it to buy all that we need and desire. We believe we can exchange currency for goods and services that are real and tangible. American dollars, by the way, are not real. They are not backed by gold or silver.

Money only has value because the society we live in says it has value, and that value is based entirely on faith.

I don’t know how Sam gets their volunteers. Perhaps some of the 50 that originally responded are charismatic enough to sway more people to the common cause. Perhaps Sam finds something of value to offer the volunteers, like a big party afterwards to celebrate the completion of the experiment.

Or, Sam could lie. Sam could send another announcement to the community, telling them that the stability of their home depends on the successful execution of the experiment. It’s unethical and wrong, but it’s an option on the table.

Money itself is a lie, and its what we trade in every day. It’s what we use to compel people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do on their own. It’s how we get people to continue to show up and perform jobs.

And, of course, I lied to you. I said at the beginning that I would tell you how to make money just by wearing a mask.

Here’s the truth: COVID-19 is out of control in the US, and if you have to be paid in order to wear a mask, you’re a special kind of idiot. The truth is, a simple cloth or paper mask is probably not going to protect you from catching the virus. It will, however, keep you from spreading the virus to the people around you.

There are a lot of people infected and they don’t know it. You may be one of them.

The truth is, the virus doesn’t care about money. It doesn’t care about politics or the economy. It’s invisible, it’s real, and it’s spreading.

We need to remember that lives are real, money is a lie, and we need to prioritize accordingly.

Do your part by wearing a mask, staying home, and staying away from people for their sake as much as yours.

05/31/20

Return to Reality

Originally I called this “Return to Truth,” but then Obiwan whispered in my ear, “Many of truths we cling to depend on our point of view.”

This isn’t about truth. This is reality. Facts. Information that is sometimes difficult to witness, because it can’t be changed.

I’m about to talk about Trump, COVID19, and #BlackLivesMatter. I’m an old white dude living in California. I am privileged, but the only power I have is my voice. I’m going to use it to try and say something meaningful and right.

Part 1

George Floyd, a black man, was murdered on camera by a group of white police officers in Minneapolis. They had him handcuffed, on the ground, pleading for his life. They kept a knee on his neck for 9 minutes as he cried “I can’t breathe.”

What was your reaction when you first heard about the murder of George Floyd?

Now be honest. Would your reaction have been different if George Floyd had been a white man?

Look at the reactions around you. Look at the protests and the rioting. Look at the people clogging the streets. Most protests are peaceful, but many are flipping or setting police cars on fire. Look at the police holding the line, most doing their job appropriately. Some are even acting heroically.

But there are too many abusing their power. In Salt Lake City, police in riot gear knocked down an old man with a cane.

In Chicago, John Cusack tried to use his phone to film a police car on fire. The police chased him away and attacked him with their baton.

Way, way too many examples of police attacking reporters and journalists, in violation of the First Ammendment.

How we react is important. What we do with the power we have is important.

It is true that all lives matter. Only racists and scumbags would disagree with that notion. All lives matter, regardless of the color of their skin or their profession.

That is not what #BlackLivesMatter is about. It is not about black lives being more important than other lives, or putting one race above any other. It is about seeking justice in a system that is not serving all of its people equally.

According to Mapping Police Violence, there were about 1100 people killed by police in 2019. A quarter of those people were black, even though black people make up less than 15% of the population.

If you don’t like that site, how about PBS? This article talks about how statistically, black people are still more likely to die when dealing with the police than white people.

Black Lives Matter, but black lives are more at risk.

Black Lives Matter, but black men and women are not getting equal treatment in our system.

You can say “All Lives Matter” all you want, but you can not factually say that all lives matter and are given equal treatment in our United States. If that is your response to #BlackLivesMatter, you are demonstrating your ignorance, your lack of empathy, or your racism.

Part 2

I could stop there. Maybe I should stop there. However, there are riots and protests all across my country, and I cannot stop thinking about them.

What is my reaction? Should the riots be celebrated or condoned?

It’s not that simple.

I do not condone the violence or destruction of property. There are innocent people getting hurt. Bystanders. People that had nothing to do with the system that killed George Floyd are losing their livelihood. I am sympathetic.

However, all other choices have been exhausted. The peaceful protests were either met with scorn or ignored. So what’s left?

Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in order to protest police brutality against black men in America. It was a peaceful protest where an athlete used his power and his voice to expose a serious injustice in this country.

Trump responded by calling him a sonofabitch. Pence staged a walkout of a game when the players knelt during the national anthem. Kaepernick ultimately lost his position and hasn’t been allowed to play in the NFL.

What did the peaceful protest accomplish? It’s been three years since Kaepernick first took a knee, and black men are still dying at a disproportionate rate.

What’s left when the peaceful protests fail? Exactly what we have today.

George Floyd was not the only black person killed at the hands of the police. There have been many, many others. Too many others. It is a systemic problem that cannot be fixed until it is acknowledged. Not enough people are recognizing it as a problem, so we will have violence and chaos until the ignorance is cured.

Only then can we build a new system which is just and equal to all.

Part 3

While these protests are going on, we are still dealing with a pandemic. Across the United States there are 1.8 million total cases of COVID19, with 400,000 people recovered and 105,000 people dead.

We still don’t have widespread testing and contact tracing, so those numbers could be even higher.

People are taking to the street during the pandemic. Many are wearing masks, but how much will that matter when they’re all in close contact with each other? How much will the virus spread while people are calling for justice?

In some cities, police are using tear gas to control crowds. Sometimes they use the gas preemptively. Imagine that. Tear gas used during a pandemic that attacks people’s ability to breathe.

What the United States needs in order to get through these crises is leadership. Unfortunately, we have Trump.

Trump, exacerbating the race tensions with his racist dog whistles and his complete lack of empathy.

Trump, with his lies and incompetence, dangerously suggesting that maybe people can inject bleach in order to fight the virus.

Trump, ignoring the briefings about the virus and choosing instead to play golf and downplay the danger by saying “it’ll clear up like a miracle in May.”

Finale

I don’t want to end this with the taste of that man’s name in my mouth. It leaves me bitter and angry.

Instead, I will implore you to consider empathy.

When I talk about empathy, I’m not referring to the magical ability of Counselor Deana Troi from Star Trek. I’m talking about something much simpler than that.

Empathy is about trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It’s about taking some scenario and imaging how it might make someone else feel.

Remember George Floyd. Imagine what it must have felt like to be pressed to the ground, the hard, gritty concrete scraping your skin, while another man is over you, their knee crushing the back of your neck.

Imagine instead that it isn’t you being murdered by the police on camera, but your brother or sister. Someone that looks like you. Someone that lived a life like yours, laughed at the same jokes you laughed at, loved their friends and family the way you love yours.

That’s empathy. That’s what the world needs more of if we’re to make our current shared reality greater than it is.

05/24/20

Games During the Pandemic

Work and games occupy my time. After I reached the end of Breath of the Wild, I played Factorio. Once I launched the rocket, I dabbled with some older games still sitting on my computer. No Man’s Sky. Grand Theft Auto V. Darkest Dungeon.

After watching someone stream it a little bit, I played Griftlands. The card aspect of the game triggered an impulse to open up Magic the Gathering again, but I resisted. If I slide back into that hole right now, I won’t have the strength to pull myself out.

Last night I installed The Witcher 3. I haven’t played it yet. I’m afraid it’s going to be like Skyrim where I have it and I want to play it, but the size and scope of the game intimidate me away from spending actual time in the game.

I still want to write. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the page.

With all of this focus on games and distraction, I slid sideways into game development. I started an online learning subscription and delved into some Unity 3D tutorials. I still remembered quite a bit from when I tried to teach Unity and programming to some high school kids, so I picked it right back up. I now have viable clones of Flappy Bird and 90% of Bomberman, thanks to the tutorials.

The ultimate goal of the game development is to take the pen and paper game I developed when I was much younger and make it digital and cool. In the game, you build robot dogs and pit them against other robots in an arena. No dogs, actual or figurative, are harmed in the game, which I think makes it more ethical than Pokemon.

I haven’t written any code for the game yet. Honestly, I’m still unsure if Unity 3D is the best fit. Unity 3D is good for solo developers. I looked briefly into Unreal, but that engine path is better if you have a team, or if you’re a digital artist.

Making my robot fighting game a reality will be cool on its own, but there is another reason why I want to work on it. I reference it in Spin City. At the back of my mind, there’s a few neurons misfiring, saying “if you get your intellectual property out in the world through a game, it will improve your chances of getting a book deal.”

Really, I just think it would be cool and to play this game and share it with the world.

I still want to write. In the last few months, I haven’t written any new fiction. I haven’t touched the novelette which I intended to finish by the beginning of May. Ideas for stories still float through my mind, but even thinking about writing has been painful.

This post, ostensibly about games, is an attempt to make me write something. The word engine within my brain seized, its gears gummed up and its inner workings unresponsive. The blog is my way of smacking the side of the machine with the flat of my hand, hoping to shake something loose and get it moving again.

Stay safe, everyone. And be kind to yourself so you may be kind to each other.

03/28/20

My Reaction to the Pandemic — or — How I Beat Breath of the Wild

At the beginning of this month, I decided I would try to put myself out in the world more. I said on Twitter (half joking) that it was the #MonthOfBrian. I intended to focus outwardly.

I arranged to go to Portugal, Italy, New Zealand, and a third Writing Excuses cruise. Along with a handful of minor successes, it felt like momentum. People won’t be able to discover my writing if I hide in my garage.

The reality is I entered March with a lot of bluster in order to stay positive and suppress bad, counterproductive feelings. My emotions are irrational and non-negotiable, so I decided to work around.

When the reality of Covid-19 hit home, all my plans went out the window. The trip with Sierra Nevada College canceled first. I recently heard New Zealand WorldCon is canceled, though I personally haven’t received notification. The final decision hasn’t been made the Writing Excuses Cruise, but let’s be real. It’s a cruise. It will be canceled.

I responded to all this by not responding. I all but disappeared from social media. A handful of people reached out to me to check in, and I told them I’m fine.

Am I fine? I don’t know. I would rather have nothing to do with my irrational, non-negotiable emotions. Critical self-analysis has not been my highest priority. Avoidance is the name of the game, both personally and socially.

During this crisis, I try to do the best I can for Melissa and the kids. I work during the working hours. I contribute around the house. In the evening, I play Breath of the Wild.

I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been making plans. I’m not interested in books or movies or music. There’s work, the family, and the nightly video game distraction.

At 2AM today, I finished Breath of the Wild. The game was fantastic and I enjoyed it. But now what?

I used the game to avoid reality, but I don’t think I can do that anymore. I should write. I need to write. I don’t know if I can. Right now, going to that place where the words live is like sticking my naked hand into a hot oven to pull out a pan.

As they say at the end of the podcast, I’m out of excuses. It’s time to roll up my sleeve and get back to work.

03/1/20

VLOG #4 – Perseverance

It’s March 1st, the beginning of The Month of Brian, and I thought I’d kick it off with a brand new VLOG post!

Today’s VLOG is advice for how to persevere as a writer.

There’s a huge gap of time between this video and the last. The biggest reason for the delay is that I changed hardware between #3 and #4.

My fourth VLOG was going to be called “The Lies of the Writer.” Previously on my blog, I wrote about Fears of the Writer. Later, I wrote a guest post called Pride of the Writer. My next VLOG was to be another in that series. I wrote the script, took my new Surface into my backyard, and tried to record it.

It didn’t work out. The software I used didn’t like to share camera and sound resources, so I didn’t make it very far.

Then life got busy. Mostly work, but also writing projects. I like writing blog posts and making VLOGs, but these activities are at the bottom of my priorities.

Today felt like a good day to try again. And now it’s done!

Let me know what you think of this video. And please share any ideas you may have for future VLOG posts.

02/9/20

What If Trump Loses the 2020 Election?

Today, let’s imagine the future together. We will keep in mind everything that’s happened with this presidency since 2016. Let’s imagine the near future unfolding, informed by the events of the recent past.

The Run-up to the Election

As the year moves forward, Democratic candidates will continue to snipe at each other, doing some of Trump’s dirty work in tearing each other apart. We will have one viable candidate against Trump, but they will be bruised and battered by the gauntlet they traversed in order to secure the nomination.

From the vantage point of February, it will either be Bernie, Pete, or Warren. I’m hoping for Warren, but this prediction isn’t based on my wants. As it gets closer and closer to crunch time, either Pete or Warren will bow out gracefully. Bernie will hold out until the convention, even if it doesn’t look like he has a path to victory. He’ll make sure that the fight goes as long as it can go, just like he did in 2016, because he’s running for himself and not for the country.

Some of the Bernie supporters will continue to be monstrous, but Russian bots and social media propaganda will bolster them and make them seem even worse than they are. Putin seeks to complicate and ruin our election. He doesn’t really care which candidate wins the election as long as we’re in disarray. Money will flow into Facebook just as it did in 2016, Fox News will continue to misrepresent the truth to put a pro-Trump slant on everything, and those of us that are paying attention will feel like we’re in hell.

For anyone that values truth and integrity, this summer is going to suck.

The Election

In spite of all the propaganda, the Russian money, the Trump lies, the Fox News smears, and all of the other covert assaults on our democratic process, people will show up for this election in huge numbers.

Some people will show up because they’re tired of kids getting separated from their families at the border.

Some people will show up because the destruction of landmarks along the border in support of a border wall is the last straw. Mexico didn’t pay for it. The proof of the ineffectiveness of the wall is overwhelming. The cost cannot be justified. The inherent racism that is woven into into every slat and support of the wall is too much to swallow. Whatever the aspect, some people will find the wall itself to be a compelling reason to vote Trump out of office.

Some people that read the Mueller report, that paid attention during the Impeachment hearings, that have read the headlines about Trump lining his pockets at his resorts by charging his security detail $650/night… he’s done enough illegal or amoral activities from the White House that a good number of people will show up to vote because they know that right is right and wrong is wrong.

Some people will show up because they’re concerned about climate change, and they remember how Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement. They remember how he shredded Obama legislation intended to fight climate change. They read the news, how the antarctic reached temperatures higher than Orlando this year, the highest ever recorded, and they know that we can’t trust Trump to lead us to a viable solution.

Some people will show up because they’re sick of the hypocrisy. They did as he said and “read the transcript” to find that Trump and his family attacked Biden over issues of nepotism, while Ivanka and Jared line their pockets in government money they’ve “earned” through nepotism.

Some people will show up because they are economists, and they can see how Trump’s tariffs and deficit spending is not promoting the economy, but hurting it. They know that the job growths are smaller than they should be, and in areas of industry that are not significant in contributing to GNP. They see that manufacturing jobs are actually down, that the indicators are pointing at a coming recession, and the responsible thing is to change course immediately. These people also know that for the last 25 years, the economy has taken a dive under Republican control, and recovered under Democratic control.

And yes… some people will show up because they genuinely like the candidate that made it through the gauntlet to vie for the Presidency.

Just like in 2016, Trump will lose the popular vote. But this time, Trump will lose too many of the key states he needs to secure his victory. It won’t be a landslide. It should be a landslide, but there are still too many people in the US that aren’t paying attention, and will simply vote for whichever candidate claims to be a Republican.

This November, after a record turn-out, the American people will demonstrate that the majority of them have a conscience and a soul, and they will vote Trump out of office.

But What Happens Next?

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Trump will not concede.

Trump will refuse to leave the White House.

Trump will declare the election a sham. He’ll say it does not represent the will of the people. He will declare himself a winner and blame immigrants and illegals for inflating the numbers. He will state that the news media, the enemy of the people, were out to get him from the start and that they’re responsible for posting false results.

He will fire people that oppose him. He will call for investigations into his opponent, the one the American people dutifully and rightfully elected to be their next leader.

Trump lacks grace and refuses to admit when he’s wrong. He does not listen to criticism. When the American people state in a loud, clear voice, “We do not want you as our president,” do you really think he’ll listen?

As a people, we have given up civility. There will not be a reasonable, rational discussion about Trump’s refusal to leave the White House. His loyal followers will say he’s right, and they will be ready to show up with weapons and fight for him.

The courts will offer conflicting rulings. Trump has appointed so many Republican shills as federal judges over the last 3 years that it will be a crap-shoot as to how they will rule.

The truth won’t matter. The facts won’t matter. The Constitution does not matter and neither do our laws. Reasonable discourse will be drowned out by the shouting and the name calling and the threats.

We will fight. People will get hurt. Nationally, we’ll be less secure. Industries will grind to a halt. We will know poverty and hunger and strife like we haven’t known for a century.

Is It Really That Hopeless?

I’m describing a plausible scenario, but I’m also allowing pessimism and fear paint the scene with the bleakest colors possible.

I think I’ve described Trump’s reaction perfectly, based on his behavior the last 4 years. However, I may be underestimating the American people and the institutions we have in place.

We have to show up in numbers to vote Trump out. If we show up in sufficient numbers, if our voice is loud enough, even the die-hard Trump supports suckling off the Fox News teat will be unable to deny that he is no longer the President, and they’ll dismiss his lies and tantrums for what they are.

Then we can get back to trying to make the world a better, freer place.

02/4/20

Let’s Talk about Picard

I was tempted to talk about politics again tonight, but the internet is already on fire with what went down in Iowa, and with the State of the Union address. Reality seems pretty terrible right now, so how about a nice distraction by visiting the utopian society of Star Trek?

* Spoiler Warning *

Before I get too far into it, I want to give a quick warning that I will be getting into the details of the first two episode of Star Trek: Picard. If you have not watched the show yet and you want to experience it with as little foreknowledge as possible, this is where you should turn away.

You have been warned.

Let’s get into it.

Star Trek: Picard starts on Earth, opening with black-clad, masked combatants transporting into someone’s apartment. They use a knife to murder a sideways-blinking alien while trying to abduct a young woman.

… Okay, remember when I said we could all use a utopian distraction?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I enjoyed the first and second episodes of this new show. It’s beautiful, familiar, with a great score and some fun action scenes. I appreciated all the callbacks to TNG. The show is good! Star Trek: Picard has been put together by people that know what they’re doing.

It does make me a little sad, though. The character of Picard always represented the best of Starfleet to me, with his integrity, his scientific approach, and his tendency to lead with diplomacy rather than violence. That’s what Starfleet and The Federation is supposed to be! That was Roddenberry’s dream.

Starfleet is no longer that. They turned their back on an entire species in need and let untold millions die. Starfleet is so bad that Picard, still the man of integrity and compassion, quit in a huff.

It’s hard to look at The Federation as the good guys anymore, which from my perspective, hits a little too close to home.

I’m also disappointed that androids are banned. They’re referring to them as synthetics, which… you know I just spent the last year and a half writing a novel called Synthetic Dreams, right?

Anyway, I was hoping to see a future where people like Data were common. I want to see a future where the children of mankind’s technology thrive and teach us how to be better people. Instead, they were co-opted by a mysterious, rogue organization.

Fear rules The Federation. It kept them from saving the Romulans when their star went nova. It keeps them from exploring the new life of synthetics. It hinders them from being their best self, which doesn’t sound much like a utopia at all.

It really must seem like I don’t like this show, but I do. I’m just disappointed because the future is not as bright as I hoped. That’s particularly difficult to swallow right now, when I’m trying to find hope wherever I can.