Election Day, 2019


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So I just returned from voting and I have to admit that I am disappointed.  Now where I live, while pretty densely populated, is a political nowhere zone, and in an election year where literally everything is local you find enthusiasm very limited.  Many people do not bother to vote.  What I noticed was that most of the crowd was elderly (and their caretakers, whether family or professional, the family members asking idiotic questions as though their mother or father had completely lost their mind, thus probably making them ineligible to vote, or merely under the influence of somebody else, incapable of making up their own mind).


Anyway, other than a specific question that I cannot imagine a single person voting no on, (it is meant to protect children from violence), these were the only categories I had to choose from: 2 Judges of Superior Court, 4 Judges on the Court of Common Pleas, 3 City Council members (which it alerts the voter to the fact that this is a four year term), a local district attorney, the 6-year term of a Magisterial District Judge, 5 School Directors of the district that my children attend, 2 Councilors at-Large and then, running unopposed, there is something vaguely referred to as ‘Council,’ an Auditor and the Constable.  If some of these political titles are confusing or mean nothing to you you are not alone.


I arrived at the polling place, and as is always the case I was set upon by Republicans and Democrats, shoving sample ballots and specific propaganda for candidates they represent, each side begging me to vote for a “Strong Republican” or “All Democratic” ticket.  The opposing sides seemed on the most part friendly, although all of them clearly believed one another to be imbeciles.  To one of the partisans I handed the other partisan’s paperwork and he laughed, presuming that I was on his side.


I repeat that such a minor local election is traditionally under attended, but this is a terrible mistake on the part of those living in a community.  Sure, the categories are unexciting and the news made is pretty minor, larger cities having elections for Mayor and other higher profile positions.  But you know the cliche:

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Or, to put it more purposefully,

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Your local school board, the judges that interpret the laws or impose the customs for holidays and celebrations, those city councilors that make wild decisions based on the paranoid ranting of a neighbor who supported them, all of this matters.  These people form the attitude of a whole community, whether pro or con, be it way too enthusiastic or crushingly and hopelessly cynical.  Such attitudes bleed directly into the larger statewide and national elections once they come around, mostly independent people inspired one way or the other by they support or loathing of one of these otherwise meaningless individuals with impressive sounding jobs.


It does not matter specifically who I voted for, at least in disclosure in a piece such as this, but I voted in every category.  I also made the first write-in vote of my life, challenging one of the unopposed candidates who lives up the street from me and whom I cannot stand, and scribbling in–and this is absolutely true–‘Satan.’  It makes me wonder if the indifferent polling place might find zero people voting in the unchallenged election and finding the Dark Lord winning.  I wonder if he might come up from Hell to serve in office, perhaps doing at least no worse than anyone before him.  Although I do not believe he is a resident of this district (or even the state), so I doubt he is eligible for office.


And so to end I wish to once more state that every election matters, no matter what meaningless asshole is running for a seat you have neither an interest in nor an understanding of what that person is supposed to do and why it matters to anyone.  It is about the feeling of the community, about an understanding of where exactly it is that you live.  This is why all of this is important.  Now watch the news this evening, see whatever nonsense they focus on (switch around and see the various biases on display), and then get ready for 2020, which might just be the most vicious election in the history of our nation.

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I Want I Want I Want


I want, I want to talk about a few things but fear that none of this is relevant.  For a long time now I have been swirling and ranting and playing games with words and the world as it is not just to articulate reality, but as the sort of self-therapy that many writers use language to understand themselves.  There is nothing so special about my life, about who I am and what I intend to be, and yet the very idea of this, of this blog, creates the sort of self-absorbed nonsense that everything else that I write seems to condemn.  I try not to write about myself, to display my personal anxieties and fear, and yet sometimes there is nothing else worth saying (at least as far as a self-absorbed writer is concerned) than whatever it is that has gone wrong with my life.


There are a handful of pieces where I have talked about depression, about the mental qualms and illness that somehow overtake so many people.  I suppose I am among this crowd, this bleak, pretend class of people who are so caught up in whatever fantasy they convince themselves is the truth that they can no longer function and find themselves wondering what purpose there is to bother go on living.


I am not suicidal–long ago, in the darkest phases of my life, I convinced myself that I was far too arrogant (and deep down way too impressed with myself) to ever bother wondering if the world would be better off without me.  This is not the issue, and I want to get such things out of the way.  Sure, I am mentally ill (there have been far too many doctors confirming this, regardless of second and third and fourth opinions, to doubt such meaninglessness any longer), and there are plenty of doubts that overwhelm me to bother reconsidering the lax optimism that is a vague afterthought.  I have no idea why I am exposing this to whatever public is left to bother wondering anything about whatever I have to say (since dropping the cost of advertising I have discovered that most of my so-called followers were shams, random algorithms based in foreign lands that pretended to follow me and which have been proven false, the readerless toxins that allow folks such as me, and most of you as well, to believe that the world is taking notice and that more than the handful of actual readers and followers are paying attention to the random thoughts all of us consider in those momentary times when whatever we believe might somehow influence the world).


I am frankly not quite so arrogant (my arrogance trends in different directions, more self-satisfaction with the idea that I understand things than the messianic belief that if I state something I might alert the world to its problems).  No, this whole blog has been about articulating ideas that fall into the outside pieces which I write professionally, those longer term stories that should actually reach a small audience.  I understand that plenty of people are merely seeking answers to the horrible questions that oppress them and this is the bog I try to function within and swim desperately to the shore of; this dank sewer of misery and mistrust that consumes so much of the larger world.


I do not wish to bitch and moan about whatever is wrong with me, about whichever concerns obsess me from moment to moment, nor about my biases, or ideas, or political fixations and social concerns.  All of that is ultimately bullshit and no matter how self-righteously we rant about what is right and what is wrong I hope that all of us can recognize this.  There are plenty of words we can offer to condemn whichever opposition oppresses us, and there is much more we can mock and condemn, seeing the damnation of the others before whichever morality we ascribe to ourselves.  All of this is finally meaningless, this disrupted world, where everything and everyone is at war with itself and the fabric of society has been corrupted so deeply that whatever view we choose to promote is not so much reality as it is something to destroy, some insane ideology where the flaws are so clearly on display that there is no point in even considering them (should you ascribe to a slightly different philosophy).


God, religion, political parties, and all of those vaguely organized systems are part of the cruel wrong we have imposed upon ourselves.  It is what makes people so uncertain, so horrible, so consumed by either guilt or superiority that everything, from everyone, comes across as a different sort of insanity.  Yes, we are all insane, at least on a smaller scale.  I know that I admit to my own admonishment, to my own uncertainty and confusion as my otherwise confident arrogance rants on and on and on.  I truly believe whatever it is that I have to say, at least in the provocative moment.  I just hope that the bulk of you realize, that whatever issue you raise to the faith of divinity, I hope that you might understand that all of us are doomed, condemned to whatever minor idea we consider to be the meaning of life.  There is no meaning to life, other than eating and shitting and reproducing, the concepts that otherwise consume us more a distraction than biological necessity.  I wonder how we finally compare to let us say the tube worm, an utterly mindless creature capable of surviving deep inside the magma (or even the outer core) of our planet.  We should realize, finally, for all the complaints and arguments we have to offer that make our lives so angry and misplaced, I wonder if we can realize that this grotesque creature living deep inside our planet and mocking our ideas of a soul is only interested in eating, fucking, dividing itself into immortality and finally dying without realizing it was ever alive.  I wonder if such primordial existence is actually more evolved than the miserable creatures we have decided that we are.  I wonder if we should even bother.  I wonder.  I wonder . . .


The Jealous and Painful Art of Biography


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There are only two types of biographers.  Yes, our subjects might be different; the focus of obsession can range anywhere from the greatest artist or inventor to the most abject failure.  We talk about sports, about politics, cover massive stretches of history, and devour current events.  The biographer writes about everything and yet I stand by my claim that only two styles exist.  There are those who probe the living, while the majority study the dead.


Telling the story of a person still alive brings certain complications that the historical academic is not forced to consider.  Think about the great biographers of today: Jon Meacham (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=jon%20meacham&cm_sp=det-_-bdp-_-author), Ron Chernow (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=ron%20chernow&cm_sp=det-_-bdp-_-author), David McCullough (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=david%20mccullough&cm_sp=det-_-bdp-_-author), Doris Kearns Goodwin (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?bsi=0&kn=doris%20kearns%20goodwin&sortby=17&prevpage=4), among thousands of others, the above only in the English language and all four of them Americans.  But each one of them–every book they have written save the random essays and occasional memoirs–deal with significant figures from an increasingly distant past.


Those who discuss people still living are compelled to deal with the ego and attitude of their subject not merely in an academic way, trying to paint the figure as accurately as possible.  No, we must cope with hurt feelings, allegations of misinterpretation or even lies; we must face the chance that our subject might wind up hating us, or sue us, defame us–they might even try to destroy us.  It is very hard to write about the living without descending into either hero worship or tabloid slur.


I am presently writing a rather intense biography of a living individual.  Recently I spent nearly a week with them at their home and rolled about, following their life in nearly every capacity, recording most conversations, scribbling notes non-stop, and interviewing every person present who are a part of their lives, no matter how slight.  It was exhausting.


The job of a biographer of the living is to immerse themselves in another person’s life, to discard your own identity and transform, mostly, into a fly on the wall, even while directly engaged with different people.  The process of interviewing someone, who are often on the defensive, the primary subject, perhaps, willing to tell all (or not, sometimes even inventing a past that can be, sometimes with very little work, disproved), their family and associates are usually more interested in protecting their intimate than telling their story.  This can make work very difficult.


Now of course some friends and family are more than willing to spill the beans, to confirm every rumor or deny even their fame, but this is more perspective, one of the most important perceptions to cover to paint the story in the light not just of how the subject sees themselves, but of the impact they have on others.  Interviewing people requires quick reads of the willingness or unwillingness, of nervous confusion and enthusiastic chatter of the individuals the biographer needs to complete their work.  Empathy is an absolute necessity as, again, the writer as cipher, denying themselves in the name of, perhaps, art, must do everything to understand whatever it is a person is saying.


Interviewing itself is a performance, one of the more complicated ad lib games you could possibly play.  One must adapt to whatever quirks the individuals might have, coming across as an expert on one hand, while playing dumb should whomever you are talking with prefer to offer a lecture.  Sometimes you have to be funny, at other times sympathetic.  One has to learn who a person is before they can really talk to them, to gauge their limits, to reconcile with opinions you might personally find objectionable, and to gain a rather deep psychological insight into another person, sometimes far deeper than anyone you have ever known.


The trip I took, covering a major event in my subject’s life, provided me with consecutive 18 hour work days, physical labor included as my job allowed me to join in the preparations and the actual functioning of the event.  I am not used to working quite so hard.  Yes, I might sit here bang banging away at the keyboard for hours and hours and hours, piecing words together like the mathematical jigsaw puzzle they really are, finding the right place and then withdrawing, flaws still and always remaining.  But this particular ordeal forced me to be surrounded by people all day, every day, another thing quite foreign to me.  Again, it was exhausting.  When I finally did lay down to sleep it was more like passing out, my dire unconsciousness providing blank dreams and total darkness.


And then I would wake, earlier than everyone else in the house (the subject’s mother was there, along with occasional other house guests, all of them deep night owls like the rest of us).  After about three hours of sleep I would have some time to myself, roaming around the house and taking pictures, writing notes, evaluating certain interesting quirks of living arrangements, and the collection of things selected to provide the background of a life.  I listened to the tapes and recounted interviews and experiences, and even wrote some first draft narrative in a notebook, occasionally crossing things out and reworking them, some of the scribble scribble incomprehensible.  I provided academic detail based upon ideas certainly learned at the university while also reveling in the fact that life was there, spinning around and around and out before me.


Such an experience of living will be with us long after my subject and I are dead.  This is the final difference between the two sorts of biographers: with one you get a speculative history, providing personality to significant events in a person’s life; with the other you get more of a peep show into how a person lives, how they interact.  What you get is a portrait of contemporary life, the sort of history that goes on to provide the future historians with a living and breathing viewpoint of how things used to be.


The Farce of US Patriotism


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Instead of the transparently obvious suggestions toward the left that they are traitors (a rarely factual statement used more as deflections from our most low, selfish and basic instincts, instead let’s challenge the right, blaring their ‘pro-Americanism’ on bumper stickers and smug, angry intolerance over anyone they believe might think differently from them. (Of course plenty of ideas coming from the liberal side are treasonous, but they are easily dismissed as pipe dreams devised while passing the bong around Cody or Dakota’s college dorm).  It is the radically declared patriotism of the right that needs some attention.


Again, I do not wish to challenge the left in this piece, but it is important to state that there is plenty of condescending elitism in their own worldview disagreements, but theirs are mostly philosophically academic and thus easily ignored.  On the right their treason hits us where we actually live.


The  United States of America.  A quaint title from a lost past, our nation’s history constantly re-imagined and reinterpreted like some latter day rephrasing of a bible set to justify modern ends.  But we are not ‘united,’ and haven’t been for a very long time, the eleven year interval after the Civil War and prior to the dawn of Reconstruction being the closest we have ever come since the days before Washington.


I want you to read a few quotes before we dive into analysis, and see if you are aware of the direction our nation’s collapse is going:


“The Electoral College prevent(s) a few states from taking control of our country. I do not wish our country to be ruled by TX, CA, NY & FL.”

“Better being ruled by CA and NY!  We ended up with crap like Trump and George W. Because of TX and FL.  Every vote should count! There are more sane than insane people in this country! That’s why Gore and Hillary won the popular vote!”

“I agree that “every vote should count,” so why would I support a scheme that overrides my vote and lets voters in other states elect the President?”

“You could’ve come right out and said you don’t want liberals to win. Now you know how my liberal vote counts in Republican Indiana. ”

“. . . if we take away the Electoral College then many areas of this country will not have a real voice. Not everyone in this country agree on beliefs, morals, religion, finance, immigration, health insurance etc etc. Diversity is what makes our country incredible. If we only listen to the votes in our major cities then we will miss a lot!!”

“The Left is pushing us toward chaos.”

“. . . just open the national election to California and New York and don’t waste your time with the 48 other states. Maybe each county in every state should get one electoral vote and if you remember what the map looked like when it was colored with Red and Blue counties, you see what would have been the case in 2016. Even New York and California had a lot of red. And furthermore, no one in the media or the Clinton camp including Hillary herself cared about the electoral college when it was October of 2016 and she was ahead in the polls. And then to add to it, Hillary expressed such shock when Trump said he may not accept the results and then who was it that didn’t accept the results?”

” It must be hard to know that you can’t win without cheating.”


These are just a handful of the comments either defending or condemning the electoral college, ultimately an antiquated system of Democracy (or for those who wish to correct me, of a Constitutional Republic).  Because such a system does not actually show the truest representation of a united nation’s views.  Were the place united then voting would be the popularity contest it was meant as, not some regional mosh of angry voices shrieking “what about me?”  And I am sorry, but a state with 800,000 people versus one with 35,000,000 should not have the same impact on the nation.  Sure, they vote statewide for individuals running their internal structure, and perhaps one of their bold leaders will emerge to become a major voice of representation on the national stage, thus circulating the suppressed views of a distant minority.  But this does not change the fact that the majority should rule, regardless of how stupid the majority often is.  The more people supporting a cause or action should be the one’s who have the final say.  Thinking otherwise is kind of like flipping the board of a game over because you are losing and screaming that it isn’t fair.


But instead we get things like this:

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And such self-declared patriots promote themselves

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Yes, these folks claim to be aggressively patriotic, daring anyone to stand against them with their guns and glazed eye devotion to an idea they seem to hardly understand.  After all

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Is this the sign of a ‘united’ nation?  Such patriotic blather, the “America First” nonsense is not truly about supporting the idea of the nation, about the freedom inspired by those fine, increasingly ancient words of the Declaration of Independence.  No, now it really is ‘me first,’ and let the nation follow.  It is my land and to hell with anyone who doesn’t see the truth of my singular ideology.  They are the

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The left, of course, usually attempts to intellectualize their condemnation of their rivals, arrogantly assuming whomever they are targeting is too stupid to understand what they are saying

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Of course such a tactic is pointless, whomever it is they wish to attack not interested in what is being said, most of them not too stupid, but too disinterested to bother.  In the end it merely becomes a cheap joke for the like-minded.  At least on the right they know how to outrage those they believe to be traitors

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Compare this to the flaccid liberal attacks:

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Sure, the point may even be valid, but it does not catch you attention like

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This divide between Americans is more cause for concern than who it is in the White House at any given time or which party runs Congress.  It even surpasses the make up of the Supreme Court (although their influence, ultimately, is far more profound on the fate of the nation than the small-minded partisan bickering that covers the every day movements clashing into nothingness on the public stage), and is what we should be most concerned about.  Remember what Abraham Lincoln said while he was campaigning for President?

(the full statement reads:)

Of course this statement did not originate with him

And yet for some reason every drifting side declares itself the truly moral, the singularly patriotic.  There can be no patriotism, no love of any country, if you believe that your way is the only way and all rivals are enemies.  It is simply paranoia, intolerance–it is outright selfish hatred.


Like the world in this globalist internet age, where communication is the push of a button, and every stupid thing you may have ever sent is saved forever, we too have gotten much smaller.  We hide ourselves away, living behind these screens and ranting to no one, hoping that someone in a passing moment might notice our screed.  Often the only response we achieve are negatives, disagreements, trapped there in your lonely room, giving you the proof you need about point you wished to make.  We are all enemies, we tell ourselves.  There is no purity outside of my illusory realm.


Stop calling this nation the United States.  We are with increasingly rapidity severing ourselves from each other, all the warnings of the founding fathers about the delicacy of a country coming true at once.

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And yet the battle continues in a place that was never meant for warfare.  Tune in tomorrow for even more divisive action . . .


*(This is a separate remark for any long time readers: starting tomorrow, 10/24/19, I will be out of town on assignment until 10/29, and so will likely be unable to add anything to this site.  I will be attending the Third Annual American Horrors film festival in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which I am sure I have mentioned recently, writing a commentary that will appear shortly thereafter on a few online horror magazine sites.  It will not be reprinted here because, well, I’m getting paid for it.  I will let you know where and when once I return, and then we’ll get back to the collapse of politics and society itself.)


The Optimism of Racism


“Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns, he washes the blood off his hands and works for the universal brotherhood of man, with his mouth.”

–Mark Twain


Not every racist is a terrible person.  Now wait–wait wait wait, before you condemn me for such a statement.  I’m not done.  I am not talking about tiki torch carrying screamers, or some klan-robed scumbag masturbating to thoughts on race war and genocidal fantasy.  I am not bothering to consider those smug, smarmy, truly wicked cops smiling as they gun down unarmed black men.  No, the sort of person I am thinking about is the quiet racist who does not even believe in inequality.


For some people you can understand their racism: a white women gang raped by a horde of black monsters, or a black man treated like shit and sometimes beaten their entire lives–certainly never given an opportunity to thrive in the white man’s world.  We can understand this and often even shake it away, giving in to individual experience and figuring that every sort of hatred can be justified given the proper context.


Going back up for a moment to the opening quote, Mark Twain himself was not a racist.  Modern sensibilities seem to consider him one from his constant use of a certain word over and over again in his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780140390469&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used).  If one were to give a closer reading of (or actually bother reading) the book, what they would find is a staunch attack on the very idea of racial prejudice, on the demeaning quality such views have on everyone.  When I was in college I was a student teacher for a semester, and my professor had me teach the book to a group of young liberals in the dawn of the radical university political correctness of the early 1990s.  I had people shouting at me–white people, mostly, angry with me for having the “racist book” on the curriculum at all, wondering why I didn’t chose, instead, something inspirational by one of the great African-American authors, and not a tired old racist screed by “another old white man.”  I responded rather bluntly.  I asked, “Can you tell me who the only two human characters in the book are?”  This stumped them, mostly, their ideas on what the novel is about based on the complaints of others who had also never read the book.  One or two of them would sneer out “Well Huck, obviously, because the book is all about him!”  “How is he good?” I then asked, still trying to be a teacher.  No answer.


“Know who the other decent person is?” I addressed the whole class.  My professor was smiling at me.  He knew what I was about to say.  After about a minute of murmuring silence I blurted out, “It’s Nigger Jim.”  Gasps, two people storming out to complain to whichever Dean they believed (and who probably did) share their biased sensibilities.  For those who remained I followed up with a discussion of the ‘N’ word, about what it’s etymological meanings are, how it has evolved, and the shift of its purpose and usage throughout modern times.  I discussed how Twain’s overuse of the offensive term, applying it as he did to the sainted runaway slave Jim–even making it part of his name–undermines the power of the word itself.  Most of the students were skeptical, but they left no longer offended.  It was a lesson in the power of words and how every single one of them has an appropriate context.


But this is just a sidebar to the larger point I wish to discuss today.  Why did I title this piece “The Optimism of Racism?”  How can hatred in any way be positive?  Well, unlike the misanthrope, who hates everyone equally, seeing all of man, as Twain did later in his life,

as hateful, the racist actually sees hope in the future if only their people could ascend to or reclaim the throne of humankind.  They even see decency, however mistakenly and misguided they might be, in certain people of their own shade or ideology.  There remains a dream within the back of their minds (or sometimes right at the front, if they are of the virulent stripe condemned at the beginning) that somehow people can be saved.  They do not scream apocalypse, but renewal, salvation, a perverted purity that can finally form their own selfish paradise on earth.


Such views are far different than, say, Joseph Conrad, another true misanthrope mistakenly written off as a racist.  One of his great books, Heart of Darkness (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780553212143&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used) has been roundly condemned by modern day liberal academia as racist for its brutal depiction of African natives of the Congo, regardless of the fact that every character in the book is a monster.  I remember one of my professors, who refused to assign anything by Conrad regardless of the theme of the class being “Early 20th Century British Literature,” and instead dedicating an entire lecture to what a terrible racist Joseph Conrad supposedly was.  I wondered aloud, actually interrupting her, what relevance this had to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780156628709&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used).  This led to me being yelled at and called a Nazi by some hysterical student at the back of the classroom, followed by a nodding smile from the professor.


The truth is that Conrad hated everyone, as could be summarized by a brief Christmas greeting he wrote to one of his friends in 1923, a few short months before he died:

One lives too long.  Happy X-mas.


In no way am I defending racism as a belief or practice.  But it is important to note one undeclared bigotry within the whole anti-racist ideology (and let us avoid the cartoonish white nationalist “Anti-Racist is a code word for Anti-White,” as celebrated in hideous Neo-Nazi recruitment websites like this ridiculous nonsense:




I mean, listen to these fucking imbeciles, if you have the stomach for it.  All it is is whining paranoia about so-called “white genocide,” and a moaning lament about how all other countries in the world are for the native people–“African nations for Africans,” “Asian nations for Asians,” but wonders why so-called “White nations” are forced into multiculturalism, forgetting all about human history.  Europeans brought other races into their lands as slaves.  In the US the actual natives were wholesale slaughtered.  The white man has been the chief invader of the world as far back as we can record, having developed better weapons technology faster than the generally more peaceful natives of other lands and warmer climates.  This is not to say that Africans and Asians and every other sort of native aborigine the world over did not engage in warfare over land and food and outright tribal hatred, but those superior weapons of the white man were original tried out among himself, crushing every culture they came into contact with and making it their own, murdering each other when they did not have a clear visual difference to attack over perceptions of belief.)


But the undeclared notion is the actual prejudice of anti-racist crusaders, not the weeping barks of the white nationalists, but the boiling hatred of those who believe their intentions are just.  Perhaps they are so blinded by a sense of righteousness that they cannot even see the behavioral similarity they have to staunch segregationists.  They might proclaim that they don’t hate anyone, but they certainly hate racists, as though removing them from humanity itself and cursing them as a lesser species, deserving of all the debased shame they have read about and watched on television.  It is no different in intention if the target is changed.  This is something worth remembering.


I hate radicalism of every sort, and this is what I have mostly written about, not just in this essay, but all throughout Recording Editorial History–both the hypocrisies and the threat such absolutism offers to civilization.  And so it is important, I believe, to recognize those we might disagree with–even those whose opinions we find offensive–and stop lumping them in with the true monsters at the extreme, acknowledging their genuine optimism, no matter how hopelessly misguided and fundamentally wrong they are.