January 26, 2017
In the aftermath of Mike Pence’s attendance of Hamilton at which the cast delivered a harsh but courteous address to him personally, Trump unleashed a series of tweets bemoaning that the theater should be a “safe and special place” that attracted a storm of media and social networking attention.
The same week, Trump settled the fraud case against Trump University for $25 million.
“It’s just a distraction!” people yelled about the Hamilton debacle.
And though it may have been intended that way, the then president-elect’s tweets actually conveyed an entirely real message about how he views the proper role of the performing arts, free speech, and dissent in American society, and it was not benign or trivial at all.
On the day that we celebrated the collapse of Republican efforts to undermine the Office of Congressional Ethics, Merrick Garland’s chances of being confirmed to the Supreme Court were rapidly running out, and, lacking any evidence whatsoever that those events were connected or that the attempt to hobble the OCE was anything but a rushed, arrogant, disorganized power play, I saw another Facebook denizen declare:
“I knew it! This was just planned to distract us.”
(Never mind that Merrick Garland’s nomination had languished for most of a year; it was not news. It was not unexpected at all that it was going to expire without action from Congress.)
A few Republican legislators dared to rebuke Trump for his tweets mocking John Lewis; I note this is an interesting piece of information regarding who in the GOP might be more willing to openly oppose him on other matters. I’m told “pay attention if you want, but know that it’s just a distraction.”
I’m just gonna throw this out there:
There are a lot of bad things happening all at once right now. Some of them are really big deals and some of them are less so. That doesn’t necessarily make any one of them a “distraction” from any of the others.
We’re also going to have things go right, and just because something goes right in the midst of other things going wrong, doesn’t make it a distraction.
We might not be able to control very much right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t meaningfully influence outcomes, and when we manage to do that, even if our victory was relatively minor in scale, does not make it a distraction. It makes it a lesson in what we did right and how much further we should reach.
Seizing on the issues that we can influence strongly and immediately does not mean that we were “distracted” from something that meant more. Sometimes that may be true, but it’s not just automatically true that if we saw a chance and took it, that we were “distracted.”
There’s no shortage of things that need doing right now. There’s no shortage of things that need attention. Very few of them are inconsequential. Sometimes we’re going to benefit from unity of purpose and sometimes from diversity. I’m not saying not to be conscious of how we’re using energy, but just because something isn’t everything, doesn’t make it nothing.
That bad things will keep happening doesn’t make good ones not count.
One of the ironies is just how distracted they really are.
Trump is not on the same page with his Secretary of Defense about the value and legacy of NATO.
Trump is not on the same page with his Republican congress about the actual content of the ACA’s supposed eventual replacement.
The Republican congress was not on the same page with Trump or their constituents about the OCE.
Trump has to have his television time restricted like an impulsive child.
Trump is distracted by the hijinks of National Parks Service employees on Twitter.
Trump is distracted by dissent over the size of his fandom.
Trump is upset that protests and marches have disturbed his ability to “enjoy” the White House in the way he feels he should be able to.
We are not distracted. There are 63 million of us and one of him. Our resulting ability to pay attention to more than one bad thing at a time is not distraction.
Let’s not give undue time or energy to Twitter drama, but the fact that there are people paying attention to the content and implications of what he says directly to the American public on a media platform used by millions, is not distraction.
There was a time not that long ago at all when I thought that he was frighteningly good at derailment and distraction, but I’m not so sure of that anymore.
I say keep him that way.
September 19, 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” —Mitt Romney
I am actually not one of the people whose character you insulted the other night at your private donor event, in footage now made public by Mother Jones Magazine. You see–and this may come as a shock to you, as it does occasionally to people when they learn how much money I actually make, or who think that freeloading is easier to do than it actually is–I pay federal income taxes.
I mean, sure, I can barely afford my rent, my health insurance, the steadily rising cost of public transit, and the $300 in unexpected repairs that my computer needs, and may be applying for food stamps this month because even though I worked steadily all summer, the work was chronically underpaid and I’ve run through my savings…but I still pay federal income taxes. I say this not for your pity or anyone else’s; this is just how it is. I pay federal income taxes, and I’m very, very happy to do so. I have a fondness for the trappings of civilization, I think the social safety net is a good and moral idea, and I’m glad to be a contributor to those things.
But let’s take a look at some of the people who you did call entitled victims with no interest in taking responsibility for their own lives. Because I don’t think they are who you want us to believe they are.
People who find themselves exempt from paying any federal income tax may include, but are not limited to: People who receive tax credits for dependent children, or for being the sole head of a household; people who buy their first home, or an environmentally friendly vehicle; who suffer an initial loss in the course of starting a new business, or who make improvements in energy efficiency to their home or business. People with more than one income source who can deduct half of the self-employment tax they pay on freelance work, or charitable contributions, or the costs of private health insurance or health care if they don’t get insurance from their employer. They include students who still manage (or need) to work part-time during high school or college. They include people who survive primarily on disability or Social Security, or are financially supported by their families, but who volunteer or do other informal work in their communities.
They include people who work full-time, and yet still do not make enough money, particularly if they also have children, to be legally liable for federal income taxes under our current tax code.
Do these sound like people with no interest in taking care or responsibility for their own lives to you?
But no, I have a feeling that images like these, of people who are benefited by the tax code because they do economically or socially advantageous things, are not what you meant to evoke to your donors. People who in fact are doing the opposite of not taking any care or responsibility for their lives.
You meant to evoke a bogeyman image of a lazy bum who purposefully refuses gainful employment and would rather sit around collecting government benefits, mooching off the hard work of the rest of us just because they can, and who will vote for anyone just to protect that status.
And those people do exist–I’m sure they do, because wherever there is any system of benefits or safeguards, there are people who will figure out how to take unfair advantage of it, among the rich as well as the poor. But that is really, really, really difficult to do these days, in our current system of welfare benefits, if you are a non-disabled adult with no dependent children and no work history. (Hell, it’s difficult to get benefits if you are legitimately disabled, generally requiring more than one appeal no matter the validity of your claim.)
This leaves about two possibilities that I can think of. Either that, one, you don’t know very much about how our tax laws work and how responsible, working people can benefit from them to the extent of winding up owing no federal income taxes, and you don’t know the difference between people who reap tax advantages by working and people who choose not to work, and you don’t know the difference between people who work full-time (or more) and still don’t make enough money to pay taxes on and people who think that the world owes them everything.
Or, two, that you do know these things, but you thought that you could win some advantage or approval with a few rich and powerful donors by smearing these people, and so you did.
You either know nothing about the lives and economic situations of nearly half of our citizens, or you see them only as pawns for your own advancement, whose character, work ethic, and well-being mean nothing.
Either one leaves you unfit to be President.
I, on the other hand, believe that if we don’t hang together in times like this, we will surely hang separately, so non-freeloader that I am, it doesn’t help you to tell me that nearly half of my fellow citizens are economically or morally disposable moochers.
I believe, unlike you, that the vast majority of our citizens and not only a little over half of us, both desire and are capable of doing something worthwhile with our lives and making this country a better place, and that valid ways of doing that are not confined to occupations that wind up making you an arbitrary amount of taxable income.
And this is the reason that I will vote for Obama and not for you. Not because I’m a freeloading entitled victim who pays no taxes and just thinks the government should provide for me. But because I don’t like how you treat people.