Why Normal People are Voting Trump

By Michael Wertz

Imagine you’re a Republican or more essentially, just anti-Democrat. Imagine that though you’d love for government to be smaller and more conservative, what you really want is for it to work. To be able to efficiently solve problems with as little intrusion into your life as possible.

Now consider the reality of these strategic actions by “mainstream, establishment” Republicans:

1. They refuse to simply consider a Supreme Court justice nominee thereby compromising our judiciary.

2. They declined to even meet with the White House to merely discuss a budget thereby compromising our executive.

3. All of this comes on the heels of seven years of unprecedented obstructionism where the GOP seems to think that taking your ball and going home is the same as governance. So yeah, you guessed it, thereby compromising our legislature.

By pursuing these tactics, Republicans are making each problem worse and increasing the the potential intrusiveness of any eventual solution. In other words, the exact opposite of how’d you’d like the system to operate.

Again, imagine you’re a conservative person who just wants government to work. Your options are Ted Cruz, the guy who single handily shutdown the government for grandstanding that accomplished exactly zero other than raising his profile. Or Marco Rubio, a “mainstream” senator who, on the rare occasion he actually shows up to vote, is as obstructionist and unoriginal as his brethren.

  
How could you be anything other than angry at this state of affairs? So angry in fact that at this point, issues and rationality don’t matter. You just want someone to reflect and amplify your anger towards a Republican establishment that makes every problem worse by refusing to do anything, even their jobs. So what if that someone is a ranting, lunatic, demagogue who just promises to make “America Great Again.” How? No one knows and its not important. He’s not them and that’s what matters. That’s ALL that matters. The Republicans brought the scourge of Trump upon themselves and the sweaty handwringing over his ascent would be funny if only the stakes weren’t so high.

But the stakes are high and this stuff does matter and no, it’s not too much for Democrats, Republicans or Independents like me to ask that the government function. This is not a case of “each party is to blame” or “All politicians are slimy” or “Democrats do bad stuff too”. No. When you make that argument, you lighten the weight of responsibility that falls squarely and rightly on the shoulders of the Republican leadership which, as a matter of STRATEGY has decided to simply obstruct at every possible turn. As a result, we all suffer the disfunction that gives rise to anger , that gives rise to irrationality, that gives rise to Trump.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, I’m not sayin vote Trump–but I understand.

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American Culture of Violence at Root of Charelston Shooting 

  

Other than the horrific fact that there are nine victims and grieving families in South Carolina, the worst of this shooting is its normalcy. We’ve had so many mass shootings, random murders and general carnage that there is no level of headline font size that makes this surprising. There is no expression of outrage, no matter how sincere, that can mask the damnable normalcy of violence in our country.  

The core problem here is not limited only to the availability of guns, the persistence of racism, or the inadequacy of mental health care. All of these things orbit a cowardly unwillingness to acknowledge and address a cultural psychosis that results in us having a higher tolerance for and willingness to engage in a regular level of violence not seen in other developed countries.  

It’s guns. It’s health care. It’s racism. It’s xenophobia. Its poor education. It’s religious intolerance. Its the counterproductive insistence that the USA is “the best country in the world”. It’s us. We the people are not holding ourselves accountable for our penchant for violence.  

Feeling at a loss? Don’t worry, we can take up this discussion after the next shooting. 

THE FIVE TYPES OF US FANS RUINING SOCCER FOR EVERYONE ELSE

Photo by Jia Wertz

Photo by Jia Wertz

I’ve always been curious why American sports fans have been so slow to love soccer with the same passion as the rest of the world. The most common explanations for our soccer apathy – Americans grow up playing other sports, have a saturated sports market, and until fairly recently didn’t have a competitive national team-are all true but don’t feel like a complete explanation for why so many Americans still look at this World Cup as just a pleasant way to pass the time before the start of “real” football season in the fall.

The answer seemed so elusive until I spent a few weeks talking soccer with American friends and fans ahead of my trip to Rio de Janeiro and then it suddenly became obvious as Cristiano Ronaldo’s contempt for his teammates:

Hardcore  American soccer fans are incredibly irritating and the last type of people  new fans of the game would  ever want to sit next to at a bar.

Now hold on, before all you soccer people start throwing Robben-style temper tantrums as if you’ve been bitten by Luis Suarez (awesome name drops by me), pay to attention to what I am NOT saying:

  1. I am NOT implying that American fans don’t know the game. In fact, the opposite is true,which is kind of part of the problem.
  2. I am NOT arguing that American fans lack passion. The level of passion is again also part of the problem
  3. I am NOT saying that soccer isn’t a great game beloved by billions. It is. I acknowledge that so save all your World Cup vs Super Bowl stats
  4. I am NOT speaking as a person who doesn’t like soccer. True, I’ll probably always prefer hoops and football but I appreciate all the things that make soccer a great game.

So calm down, spare me your “soccer is so much better than [insert any human activity]” messages, and see if you are among the:

 FIVE TYPES OF US FANS RUINING SOCCER FOR EVERYONE ELSE

1. The Defeatist.

The Defeatist in Action. Photo by Jia Wertz

The Defeatist in action.
Photo by Jia Wertz

These are the world futbol sycophants who think the quality of even the worst team in Europe is better than every single team the US has ever had. The Defeatist attaches a conversational asterisk to every American success with “wait till we play The Netherlands or Germany then you’ll see real futbol (they also pronounce football as “futbol” as if they weren’t from Connecticut).

Enough.

The truth is there was not a single team in the World Cup that the US could have defeated that would have be a bigger surprise than a collection of college and minor league hockey players defeating one of the most powerful teams ever as the US did when it beat the Soviets at Lake Placid.  I watched every second of Germany v USA at Copacabana in Rio among tons of German fans sweating bullets that we were going to win.

We are not far off so stop measuring progress by the quality of our losses and taking moral victories from noble defeats.

Photo by Jia Wertz

Photo by Jia Wertz

2. Superiority Complex Fans: Soccer players run more than any other athletes. Soccer is the most sophisticated sport. The Super Bowl is only big in the USA but the rest of the world doesn’t care. Soccer is so beautiful to watch because its just like life.  I could go on though I imagine that if you’re like me then you’re probably ready to hurl your computer out the window.

If soccer is so free from blemish then why do Superiority Complex Fans feel the need to be such obnoxious pests in reminding us all the time? I think soccer is great but imagine if Zoe Saldana spent your entire conversation explaining why she is so beautiful? You’d barely be able to tolerate your next ten dates with her. These people are the bastard siblings of…

3. Inferiority Complex Fans: Here is the thing that confuses me the most about American soccer fans: why do they care so much about who else likes soccer? What is it about rooting for soccer in America that makes its fans so damn insecure? Talk to any of these fans for more than thirty seconds and you get hit over the head about how soccer is the biggest sport in the world, and more kids play soccer than football and three times more people watch the World Cup than the Super Bowl etc. etc. etc.

Photo by Jia Wertz

Photo by Jia Wertz

So what?

If you like soccer, then just like soccer and stop lecturing the rest of us. When you meet an American football fan, even a stupid one like an SEC fan, and tell them you don’t like football, you don’t get a speech about why you should. Tell an American soccer fan you don’t like soccer though then pull up a chair and get ready for conversation more painful than talking to someone who loves kale.
4. Bob Dylan Soccer Fans: I once told a friend that I never really got into Dylan’s music because his singing too often sounded like unintelligible warbling. After recoiling in horror that I would ever voice a criticism of “Bob” my friend actually said, “if you don’t like Bob Dylan its because you don’t understand the complexity and nuance and artistry.” This person was so emotionally invested in the sanctity of Dylan that they interpreted any criticism at all as a problem of ignorance without considering the validity of the argument.

I know Bob. I know.  But your fans still you and the USMNT. Bottom photo by Jia Wertz

I know Bob. I know. But your fans still love you and the USMNT. Bottom photo by Jia Wertz

Bob Dylan soccer fans operate the same way: Think the game is too slow? Its because you’re too impatient. Too much flopping and diving? You don’t get the gamesmanship. Think the sport should be doing more to fight racism? It’s better than it was, you’re just new to the game. Match fixing is so endemic that it threatens the legitimacy of the sport? Crickets.

Just because soccer is adored doesn’t mean its beyond reproach and just because a guy in a KC Chiefs hat is saying that the concept of stoppage time is idiotic doesn’t make it any less true.
5. Indie  Band Soccer Fans:You know that person who takes special pride in saying that their favorite band (or worse yet favorite DJ) is some group that only they and the band’s family members know exist? The human earwig lecturing about how you shouldn’t listen to the radio and “corporate music” because its not real art like what’s’ being played by some guy on a Macbook in Prague? Then when that guy finally gets mainstream popularity their original fans resent the new fans for being too late in recognizing his greatness?

Photo by Jia Wertz

Photo by Jia Wertz

Congratulations, you’ve just met the Indie Band Soccer Fan. These are the guys who have been yammering incessantly about the greatness of soccer but are now angry at the supposed ignorance of all the people who decided to finally heed their advice and watch the  game albeit with a few thousand friends in a local park while expressing bewilderment at why offsides is a penalty instead of strategy.

Look, I get it. Soccer was your secret little underground indie band that instantly made you cool when everyone else was into football/U2 and basketball/Jay-Z. I understand, I was into Mos Def and MF Doom back in ’98 so I see where you’re coming from. But think of it this way: right now in some hipster bar in Brooklyn is a guy annoying the hell out of everyone about the time he saw My Morning Jacket play in front of 12 people. Don’t be that guy.

 

THE ANTI-HERO, THE ONE CHARACTER WALTER WHITE FORGOT TO KILL

SPOILER ALERT!

After six seasons of murder, meth, and mayhem, Walter White has finally gotten what he undoubtedly deserves, a lonely, graceless, death on the floor of a drug lab lamenting the loss not of his estranged son or gutted wife, but the power that both made and destroyed him. The capstone episode of Breaking Bad satisfied on virtually every level as  all the loose story lines were wrapped up. The drug dealer with any hope of redemption escaped. The irredeemable dealers died quick and brutal deaths and the innocent were left a chance to rebuild their lives. There was no frustrating speculation surrounding an ambiguous ending a la The Sopranos and no sense of the futility that accompanied close of The Wire. In the end, show creator Vince Gilligan did nothing to jeopardize his claim to having created the greatest show ever.

But in giving the show the ending it deserved, did the audience get its due? Wouldn’t we have been better off if Walter White had lived to kill the one character he let escape: the anti-hero?

The last several years of the so-called golden age of television has delivered impeccable story telling born of brilliant writing, spotless execution, and force of nature acting. However, more than any other element, the concept of the anti-hero has been the fulcrum on which the new television empire has balanced. Walter White takes his place alongside Omar, Stringer Bell, Tony Soprano, and Don Draper as reprehensible characters that audiences can’t help but support. By killing Walter White, Gilligan has let the audience off the hook of examining why we allow ourselves to root for characters that are wantonly morally bankrupt. He’s also made it all the more likely that Hollywood will give us plenty more chances to do so.

Walt’s death let us all slip our conscience out the backdoor secure in knowing that since he dies in the end, justice is ultimately served. That might have been true had Walt been forced to truly reckon with the consequences of his actions. Instead he appeared and disappeared like a ghost in the house of his former business partners, his wife, and in viewing his son from afar. In his last moments with his former partner Jesse, he eyed him through the rearview mirror as Jesse sped away. By the time the police arrived, Walt was dead (from what was apparently the least painful gunshot wound in history) Walt didn’t die so much as he evaporated.

Walt’s death may close the door on Breaking Bad but leaves the window open for Hollywood to continue to pump out tortured anti-heroes who, like Walt, will get what they deserve in the end. The lost opportunity is that had Walter White survived and gotten away cleanly to live a comfortable life in small town Vermont, he might have broken the trope of the anti-hero which is starting to feel more than a little worn as a character device. Walter White’s survival would have prompted more than just discussion about Gilligan’s fantastic work. It would have bolted shut our moral escape hatch and locked us into an examination of why were rooting for Walt in the first place. Instead, we get an excellent ending to an excellent show but will be forced to continue to live with, in much less capable hands than Gilligan’s, the anti-hero; the one character that Walter White forgot to kill.