Friday, August 09, 2019

Specific Things that are Terrible About Trump

This picture is a protestor from El Paso who didn't want Trump to visit after the mass shooting there. In fact, none of the victims in the hospital wanted to see Trump when he visited. And why would they? The person who tried to kill them posted a manifesto quoting Trump's speeches.

True to form, while visiting grieving families Trump bragged about his crowd size. It's so bad, guys. He is so bad.

Trump seems to me to lack the capacity to serve as president. His interviews and speeches make me think he has suffered some kind of cognitive decline. During the first few months of his presidency I honestly expected the 25th Amendment to be seriously considered. Of course, I'm not a doctor and the 25th must be invoked by the vice president or cabinet. This will never happen because the people closest to Trump are among his greatest enablers.

Next idea: impeachment. I'm actually in favor of it as a matter of principle. If there were ever a person who deserves to be impeached, Donald Trump is that person. I know it won't result in him being removed from office. But I say we let senators such as Mitt Romney go on the record of history for all time to say that Donald Trump is unimpeachable. See if that makes Tagg and the grandkids proud.

So we are left with only one way to solve this problem—electing a different president. I'd like to suggest some reasons why people should not vote for Trump in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

While his supporters tend to be extremely vocal, they can't defend Trump from the kinds of things I mentioned in my last post. His behavior is indefensible. At best they claim that other people [who aren't running for president and who aren't currently the president] are also bad. It's not a counter argument that I find at all persuasive.

The only other argument I've heard in favor of Trump goes like this: We stomach his repugnance because of all the good he's doing.

Many people have told me that they decided to "hold their nose" and vote for Trump in 2016. I don't think the analogy is apt. You might "hold your nose" to vote for someone with a misspelled word on their campaign sign. However, as we gear up for 2020 the repugnance of Donald Trump is so serious and so apparent that I hope people will not hold their noses and vote for him again.

This holding-your-nose argument in favor of Trump is founded on moral compromise. I don't generally think the ends justify the means. But let's say I'm up for making a Faustian bargain. How good is the deal we're getting with Trump? Here are the tradeoffs people seem willing to make:

Tolerating racism in exchange for a good economy
Ignoring corrupt behavior in exchange for conservative judges
Sacrificing the safety of children (and others) to protect the 2nd Amendment

I heard Anthony Scaramucci say in a podcast that Trump is pulling off an economic miracle. And many MAGA folks tout the economy. Fair point.

I personally am not rich enough to benefit from his tax incentives. I actually hope your are. Great! Our 401K (which I feel lucky to have) is doing fine. And for that I'm grateful! Economic indicators like the GDP and unemployment are good. Srsly, yay!

I have to say, economic "miracle" seems like an exaggeration considering that under Trump our national debt has soared (weird, considering it's a prosperous time). But listen, I'm not the one who ran on fiscal conservatism and a promise to eliminate federal debt. I don't mind paying taxes and I embrace government spending—especially for programs I believe in like Project Read. *Would be fab if our huge deficit were actually funding adult education programs. It's not. Trump's budget proposals cut spending on adult education every year. Luckily, bipartisan congressional efforts usually save it. (But it really does just feel like luck at this point.)

Meanwhile CEOs are using their federal tax cuts to buy back more stock. Not fab.

At any rate, if I were benefitting more directly from this alleged economic miracle, I think it might feel even grosser for me to look the other way while Trump dog whistles at white supremacists. I hate to think there would be a price to my complicity with this president. I refuse to accept his racist behavior even when my 401k does great. Trump is running on white nationalism because that's where the heart of his base is. It is unconscionable. If you act like a racist, court the vote of racists, cater to racists, and say things that make racists happy, guess what? You don't get my vote no matter what.

Don't think his behavior is unconscionable? Ok. I mean, I wouldn't want to get caught on the wrong side of your car at a rally in Charlottesville, but, Ok. Agree to disagree. At least grant me this: You can't tout Trump's economic miracles while continuing to use economic grievance as your excuse for racial resentment. Those undeserving brown people you want to "send back" because they're taking your jobs? Sorry Charlie. Unemployment is down and jobs are up. You can't have it both ways.

Besides, this argument for looking the other way when the economy is good is bogus. The GDP was higher than Trump's during President Obama's second term. Did republicans make concessions to Obama for pulling off this economic miracle (during a major recession)? Did they hold their noses and confirm Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice because of the economy? They did not. Garland wasn't, by the way, a hold-your-nose prospect. He was well liked and even praised by Orrin Hatch until President Obama nominated him and Mitch McConnell enacted a stonewall against him.

The argument about the economy is disingenuous.

Next, having conservative judges (or at least, judges that Trump picks) on the Supreme Court seems to be another thing people are willing to sacrifice moral behavior for. I don't get this at all. If you ignore corrupt behavior you disagree with in order to get conservative judges who will punish corrupt behavior you disagree with, what have you gained?

The Supreme Court had to stop Donald Trump from adding an illegal citizenship question to the U.S. census. His goal in doing this was to undercount vulnerable populations. The Census Bureau has partnered with Project Read to teach people about the purpose of the census and to assure them that their answers won't be used against them. I personally think what Donald Trump tried to do was dastardly.

Additionally, the Mueller Report outlines crimes and instances of obstruction of justice that Donald Trump is involved with, though his position as president shields him (for the time being) from being indicted. Thirty-four people were indicted as a result of this report and the seven closest to Trump plead guilty and were criminally charged.

You know how the big guy at the top who benefits the most from scams and brags the most about being a controlling boss who knows everything and always gets his way is never involved in the shady dealings of the people who work for him? Sure, Trump is innocent until proven guilty. But let's not completely ignore his behavior while he functions as the leader of the free world because we trust him to appoint prudent judges.

Repeatedly, horrifyingly, we find ourselves in the wake of a mass shooting. While other countries have lowered the number of casualties from mass shootings, America remains at the of top the list. This is disgusting. It's also solvable. But some people, Donald Trump included, seem to believe that the death of innocent people—often children at school—are the price of doing business with the 2nd Amendment. I believe the 2nd Amendment is anachronistic and willfully misinterpreted by people who take a lot of money from the NRA. Such as it is, the 2nd Amendment is not weakened by gun regulation. We should 100% ban assault weapons. We've done it before and we should do it again. It helps.

Has your child ever texted you from under their desk during an active-shooter drill? If not, stop talking. If yes, and you still promote gun owners' rights over children's safety, what is wrong with you?  Every mom I know favors common sense gun control or more. What even is happening? It doesn't have to be like this. This tradeoff is unacceptable. How can people go along with it? Why don't legislators do something?

These tradeoffs are not worth it. We're getting a terrible deal.

I don't feel confident about the integrity of the upcoming election. We've been warned that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and we have no reason to think they will stop. As Republican Robert Mueller testified to Republican Will Hurd, "They're doing it as we sit here."

Donald Trump has done nothing to root this out or make our elections secure. In fact, he discouraged the director of national intelligence, Dan Coates, from investigating it. (Dan Coates, now leaving the White House, is my pick for the anonymous New York Times leaker.) A good president, worthy of re-election, would work hard to take care of this problem. He's not a good president. He's not worthy of re-election.

I don't feel proud about the way Donald Trump represents our country and I have not been inspired by anything he has ever said or done. The paltry return on this gigantic moral compromise has not been worth it. Americans are getting the short end of the stick—and why should this surprise us? Donald Trump has always bragged about shorting contractors, taking advantage of investors, ruthlessly negotiating, punching back, and playing dirty. To him, everything is a zero-sum game. His voters may have thought he would use these tactics on behalf of the United States and, I guess, occasionally he has—but only if his interests line up exactly with the interests of the country because he is ultimately and only self-serving in every instance, in every facet of his life. Prove me wrong. You can't. I wish this weren't true.

When Trump was elected he seemed so awful and unqualified to me I figured there must be a lot of good stuff I didn't know about that he's doing or promoting which made so many people excited about him. There's not.

The more I find out about him and what he's doing the more discouraged I feel. And it's actually much worse than I thought it would be when he was first elected. Truly, I have a visceral, gut-level, hatred for and distrust of Donald Trump that feels exactly like the Holy Ghost warning me against bad behavior and dangerous things, but it's not just that. There are many compelling reasons why Trump should not be re-elected.

Friday, July 26, 2019

If I Don't Write This, Bees Gonna Fly Straight Out My Face

When I was a teenager my church added the young women values to our personal progress program. I had to memorize one of them for a talk: Integrity—I will have the moral courage to make my actions consistent with my knowledge of right and wrong.

I have thought about this value every day since Donald Trump became president. He is motivated entirely by self interest and not by notions of right and wrong. Similarly, the people who surround him lack the moral courage to speak truth to power. It's a sad state of affairs. This hasn't been a typical administration change that occurs every 4-8 years with its accompanying growing pains. The Trump presidency marks a singular low point in U.S. politics.

Recall what the Deseret News editorial board wrote in October 2016, just before the election:
"We prefer to stand for something rather than against someone. But this is one of those rare moments where it is necessary to take a clear stand against hucksterism, misogyny, narcissism and latent despotism that infect the Trump campaign even as we hope for a more auspicious future of liberty, prosperity and peace for the nation."
I wish 2016 had gone a different way—any other way. I voted for Hillary Clinton, but I'm sick of the misogynistic and stupid things people say about her so, let's not. Do you know who I wish were president right now? I wish Jeb Bush or John Kasich were president right now. There was even a time when I was rooting for Marco Rubio to be the republican nominee. I know! I laugh about it now.

Besides Trump, every other candidate was a basically normal, minimally deserving human being. If one of them had been elected I would have gotten riled up from time to time about a few issues I really care about, but life would have gone on. And I would have remained mostly unaware of the dark arts of Mitch McConnell. Sure, Mitch McConnell is an unprincipled power-grubbing pod person, but I could have lived with that knowing that some day he and his wife will have to be everyone's servants in the telestial kingdom, which is going to be so funny.

Instead, the situation is much more troubling. Donald Trump is terrible.  He never rises to the occasion. His better angels can't be found. He stokes racial grievance and emboldens white nationalists. He disparages U.S. allies, disparages U.S. citizens, disparages U.S. government agencies, breaks commitments, doesn't read briefings, won't listen, isn't articulate, isn't transparent, flouts rules, loses his temper, coarsens discourse, diminishes American values, and has made America worse by virtue of his presidency.

Here's a reckoning of the non-partisan issues that bother me.

Character Flaws and Moral Shortcomings

Donald Trump has multiple, credible rape and sexual harassment charges against him. Let's set that aside.

[Even though I DON'T and I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY ANYONE WOULD.]

He regularly lies, is unprepared, uses inflammatory language, swears, wastes time, misspells words, is mean to people, feels sorry for himself, talks bad about people, and embodies the opposite of everything I've ever taught my children about being a good person.

Do you like having this kind of a person as our president? I hate it.

Cheating for Personal Gain

Donald Trump has been compromised by his financial interests since the first day of his presidency. Everyone knows this. All presidents "divest" when they get elected so their businesses don't have an unfair advantage while they're president—like how Jimmy Carter had to divest from his peanut farm. Not Trump. Why? Because where all former presidents were bound by tradition and decency, Trump isn't.

Trump regularly cheats for personal gain. It's not fair. Consider two examples: 1) The $100k membership fee for Mar a Lago doubled to $200k shortly after Trump was elected. 2) When Donald Trump stays at Trump Tower in NYC, the American tax payers pay for the Secret Service to occupy a whole floor in the apartment building. All of this money goes into Donald Trump's pocket.  He's profiting off of the presidency. Not fair.

The other problem with Trump's behavior is that it opens him up to extreme outside influence. Ever feel indebted to people who shop at your store or give you a good deal? What about people who loan you money? The president has deep financial entanglements with other countries, especially Russia. This is not ok if you're the leader of the free world, sis.

Gangster Mentality and Obstruction of Justice

Trump and his cronies behave like thugs. It's so unbecoming.

Here's something that happened and it takes zero detective work to figure it out: Russia interfered with U.S. elections and helped Trump win. This help was welcomed by Trump (not rejected and not reported). Trump won. Then Trump reduced sanctions on Russia. Quid pro quo.

Trump tried to cover up this endeavor by saying his team was simply wishing Russia a "Merry Christmas" and talking about adoption. Just because it's unsophisticated and totally obvious doesn't mean it isn't obstruction of justice. Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort have been charged, tried, and convicted of all kinds of mobster-type stuff like tax fraud, bank fraud, and lying to the FBI. No actually, we're talking about the Trump administration, and not some third-rate Barzini operative from Godfather II who—I'm sorry to say—even Fredo is smarter than.

Here's another thing that happened: Trump had an affair (or let's say he didn't, if it makes you feel better). Trump used campaign funds as hush money to make sure the woman didn't say anything before the election.  Well, this is illegal. And Michael Cohen is going to jail for violating campaign finance laws while his unindicted co-conspirator sits behind the Resolute desk.

These people? They are the worst.

GOP Enabling

Trump is bad, but our system is designed to survive bad presidents. There are processes in place for executive oversight. After the disappointment of the election, I remained hopeful that Congress would act as a check on the president's power. Recall the news about my former representative and oversight committee chair Jason Chaffetz the day the Access Hollywood tapes came out:
"After the leaked tape, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Mormon politician, pulled his support for Trump. 'I'm out. I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine,' he said." 
I know. He laughs about it now.

With few exceptions, republican members of congress have become Trump enablers. It is grotesque. The failure of my local leaders to speak truth to power has been particularly disappointing to me personally. Maybe it was naive, but I expected the leaders who represent me and who share my faith to care about the issues I care about and to feel bipartisan repugnance toward Trump. This has not been the case.

John Curtis voted against the resolution condemning Trump's racist tweets. Voting for a resolution condemning racism is, like, the least you can do. And this resolution was going to pass with or without his vote. So I guess holding out on condemning Trump's racism was. . . a . . . symbolic vote?

Gentlemen from Utah: That ain't it.

Immigration and Detention Centers at the Border

The worst thing about this administration is its treatment of families and, especially, children in detention centers at the border. Children who arrive with parents have been intentionally separated from them by the U.S. Border Patrol to deter people from coming here. It doesn't work and it's inhumane.

Did you know that record keeping on the border has been so poor that the government now admits that hundreds of children are likely permanently orphaned because the government has no ability to reconstruct who they crossed with and who their parents are? This is just one hideous fact among many.

What's happening at the border is wrong.

I disagree with the unkind things Trump says about Mexicans, that he thinks American members of congress should "go back where they came from," that he wants to ban Muslims, that he wants to reject asylum seekers and refugees.

Every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should have sympathy for asylum seekers and refugees because our church was founded by a ragged group of them. One of the raggediest of founders, Joseph Smith, said,
"If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a 'Mormon,' I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race."
For me the worst part of all of this has been discovering that there is an audience for Trump's divisiveness. Granted, low-information voters didn't know exactly what they were getting, but plenty of people did know. The writing was on the wall before election day:

via GIPHY

I still can't believe it. And it's not just strangers from other places who went for Trump—Utah went for Trump. Many of my family members, students, ward members, neighbors, and friends voted for him and approve of what he's doing. I'm trying to see other viewpoints and understand how this happened, but I can't get over it and I refuse to accept that I just need a more cynical outlook on politics.

It's not right. None of it.

David Frum writes in his book Trumpocracy, "As Trump's enablers are careless, cynical, shortsighted, morally obtuse, and rancorous, so Trump's opponents must be thoughtful, idealistic, wise, morally sensitive, and conciliatory."

This is basically what I'm going for. Join me! Also, if your representatives have moral courage and will listen to you, call them. Most of mine don't, and won't, so I'm at a loss. But I'm prepared to keep my faith in democracy just to spite them.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

More Than You Thought I Could Write About Rivers Cuomo and Weezer

Ok, so I'm just going to tell you everything. It's a lot.

My husband and I were at dinner with a friend who invited him to a Weezer concert. Christian was busy but I was free, so I invited myself to go along and take the extra ticket. The Pixies were the opening band—I was excited about that. I have only ever been a casual Weezer fan. I bought one of their albums when it came out (Pinkerton). I didn't know much about Rivers Cuomo other than that he's a vegetarian. I got a Pixies t-shirt before the show started. They were great.

Then Rivers Cuomo totally won me over. The show was terrific. It's one of the few concerts where I have gone from meh to ZOMG during a live performance. I really loved it. And I developed a theory about Rivers Cuomo: He's not being ironic, ever. I think he's totally sincere. This is counterintuitive. It's the glasses that throw you off. Hipsters, of course, traffic in nerdy glasses, their 5th-grade t-shirts, and not caring. But I think Rivers Cuomo cares a lot about being a rock star. He's not embarrassed to try really hard. I find it endearing and it made for a special show, but not everyone agrees because, I guess, everyone cool hates Weezer now?

I listened to every album and read every article about Weezer after the show. A lot of critics are pretty tough on Rivers Cuomo. And I noticed that a lot of people who went to the show were posting things on Instagram like, "In spite of myself I loved it." Apparently it's in style to hate Weezer, and that bummed me out because I found myself wondering if I had bad taste in music. As listening to music becomes more performative (we post about it, people can see what we listen to online) new factors are encroaching on our enjoyment of it. Knowing everyone's opinion about a song before we even hear it can be useful, but it also predisposes us to like it or not, or to feel dumb about liking it. Well, that's no fun.

I take issue with some of the bad press Weezer gets. People disparage Rivers for being a meme king or a troll; people hate the video for "Pork and Beans" and think the "Africa" cover is not artistic. Agreed! But if memes and Twitter are what a certain sector of the listening population pays attention to, why isn't it regarded as a smart strategy or a cool way to pivot and stay relevant in the digital age? Why is it negative for Weezer to try to be where the kids are? I think it's especially rich for a certain sector of the listening population to be purists about how art is dispensed when they only know about "Say it Ain't So" from Guitar Hero. 

I've also read comments about Rivers Cuomo ranging from "Ew, dad," "He has a turtle-neck and wrinkles around his eyes," to "Creepily, Cuomo never ages." If you think I'm being a little bit sensitive/defensive as a woman/person aging in a hyper-critical society hyper-focused on appearance, you got that right. 

Also, while I believe it's fine for listeners to latch on to music at any time without any understanding of the cultural context of that music, if you're going to write a review of a Weezer concert describing the stage design as a "cozy diner" demonstrating zero understanding that it's a re-creation of the "Buddy Holly" video (itself a re-creation of a set from Happy Days), directed by Spike Jonze which both launched the crossover success of Weezer and left Cuomo conflicted about whether it was the video, and not their actual music, that made them famous, I'm not impressed. Because the whole vibe of the tour seems to be the band embracing the past and accepting something that they used to recoil from as prickly rock stars but who have now resigned themselves to: playing oldies while also continuing to put out new records at a pretty fast pace that fans notoriously hate. This seems to be the whole plight of the rock star who stays commercially viable (a miracle, really) while having that viability used as a criticism against them.

Is it weird that I'm identifying with Rivers Cuomo so strongly on behalf of women who are trying to be successful, who then get criticized for the very behavior that made them successful? 

The experience of listening to Weezer's whole catalog of music all at once has been poignant for me. I was listening to their greatest hits before the concert. "Say it Ain't So" came on and my son asked me about the words. I knew that "Heine" was Heineken and I thought "Stephen's" was booze too. But no, Stephen is the stepdad. This song came out when I was a married adult. I didn't pay attention to it at the time. The story unfolded as my son screamed the words, "Dear daddy, I write you, in spite of years of silence. . . . This bottle of Stephen's awakens ancient feelings. Like father, stepfather the son is drowning in the flood."

It's a great song. No wonder it continues to resonate. It resonates for me as well, even as an adult, and especially as an adult watching my son belt it out like he really feels it and knowing that he couldn't possibly really feel it in the same way I do because his dad is here and he doesn't have a stepfather and I'm glad it doesn't resonate for him in that way. And it's nice to know that by the time I noticed this song, Rivers Cuomo himself had reconciled with his own dad and, in fact, had written a song eight albums later which included the line, "Forgive your foolish father. He did the best that he could do." While not applicable in every case [mine], it's a nice sentiment. 

However, not all criticism of Weezer is unfounded. Their music is problematic for me. Some of Weezer's music (surprise!) is regressive in their views on women. OK. So we're looking back over 20 years of music. At what point do I forgive Rivers Cuomo for "No One Else" or "The Girl Got Hot?" Does it matter that he knows he's a pig and a dog and that he's sorry? Can I tolerate "I'm Your Daddy" which seems adorably inspired by Rivers' little girl when it includes the line, "You've got the brains the body and the beauty. . ." ? That's gross, Rivers. You have a daughter now. Quit doing that. Incidentally, that daughter is half Japanese—I only bring it up because Weezer songs tend towards Japanese fetishism which. . .  is. . . racist? If you marry a Japanese woman after fantasizing about a Japanese teenager, does that redeem the song? If you become, by all accounts, a doting and hands-on father to an actual "half-Japanese girl," should you stop singing the song about them "doing it to you every time"? Am I gross or complicit for listening to these songs? I don't know what, exactly, to make of it but there does seem to be a reckoning coming for racial and gender insensitivity.

To make matters worse, Rivers Cuomo also maddeningly posts on social media asynchronously with memes and quotes from his followers shielding his real feelings about current events—his prerogative, of course—but some clarification would be nice because, and this is my final point and the thing I've struggled the most with: As a newcomer to Weezer fandom I find myself in the company of some fans who are pretty different from me. When a band has as many songs as Weezer does, you can pick your favorites and discard the others as outliers. I pick the cute and clever, the quirky and beautiful, the ones with pretty bridges. Other people think the songs I hate are representative of the band. For them the cute songs are the outliers. The thing is, I'm repelled by a lot of these other Weezer fans. Their comments, the things they say—Ugh. Not my crowd. And yet, I'm really into Weezer. It's perplexing and, again, I'm not sure what to make of it. If I were Rivers Cuomo, I would shield my true feelings on current events too because he's either going to alienate the ladies like me who find him interesting and endearing (probably not the largest segment of his fans) or really make the dude bros mad—and they're scary.

Grantland has this to say about the early Weezer fanbase, "The Blue Album was a record made for people who preferred watching to doing, before the internet came along and turned everybody into watchers. What exactly were you watching in "Only in Dreams"? A guy not get the girl. It was better that way, because Cuomo's core audience of alienated teenage male virgins preferred the camaraderie of those who did not get the girl to actually getting the girl, because what in the hell do you do with a girl?"

Oh my gosh. Are Weezer songs founding documents for incels?

All of this makes for an interesting tension in Weezer and, really what I'm talking about here is Rivers Cuomo. Does his body of work tell the story of a man struggling with toxic masculinity and misogyny who changes through the transformative experience of marriage and raising children? If Rivers Cuomo is just a dirtbag, I'm not interested.  It all hinges on his self-loathing. If he is aware of his baser instincts and has made an effort to change, this male narrative could be valuable. The life he ostensibly lives (as a faithful husband committed to his family) redeems or at least reframes the repugnant parts. Just as the 70-year endurance of the marriage between Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth renders speculation about his infidelity not moot, exactly—but it does give us some perspective.

And so it goes for every person. It takes a whole lifetime to mete things out.

Friday, October 12, 2018

We're Reaping a Crop of Trash Planted by Frat Boy Culture in the 80s

I am probably more nostalgic about the pop culture of my youth than most people. I consumed a freaking ton of it both passively and actively while growing up. Correct me if I'm misremembering, but we didn't do as much back then? I didn't participate in sports or clubs or go anywhere or take vacations with my family very often. Here's what I remember: Piano lessons, One year of 4H, and a trip to Disneyland.

I wasn't deprived. It was normal for families and kids, especially, to have a lot of unstructured time. Now, filling our schedules to the point of busting is a point of pride. And we do it to kids' schedules too. In fact, my kids had quit more activities before preschool than I participated in during my whole childhood. Most of my memories are tied to shows and songs and characters. So when people like me started having kids we wanted them to experience all the things that meant so much to us when we were little. I ordered Schoolhouse Rock videos and the whole Danger Mouse series for my family. Truly, it's one of the great joys of parenting to revisit that stuff with your own kids.

But not all of it holds up.

I've become a much more discerning cultural critic since becoming a parent. There are a lot of movies that just don't stand the test of time and that I would never share with my kids. I first noticed this with Goonies. It has so much more swearing than I remembered. But you don't remember it, you might say. So your kids won't either. But that's not the point. If I'm telling my kids they can be articulate, funny, cool, and acceptable without ever swearing, I need to put my money where my mouth is and show them good examples of this. That's why parenting is hard. Now, when kids get a little older you don't have to teach in absolutes. They can understand exceptions and nuance and, in fact, older children should learn how to navigate a world that may not share their values with integrity and without being too judgmental. So there are all kinds of little discrepancies peppered through art and media that you have to consider before you endorse it for your own kids.

But what I want to talk about is different than that because we find ourselves in the middle of a cultural moment—a moment defined by the #metoo movement and heralded by an obscene chauvinist becoming the president of the United States. This moment is also marked by enablers who dismiss or downplay the bad behavior of a fellow tribe member in exchange for power. The indignant, angry behavior of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing and the moving testimony of Christine Blasey Ford struck a chord in me and in all of the women I know.

We believe her because we are her.

In the context of #metoo, Molly Ringwald writes about her conflicted feelings about 16 Candles and the scene where a drunk girl becomes a punchline for our dreamy protagonist who chooses not to "violate" her but instead lets a nerd take a crack at it. Ugh. It wasn't until John Hughes died in 2009 that I first considered his movies from an adult's perspective. His movies were, hands down, the most influential movies about teenagers I ever watched. The soundtracks, in particular, were so great. And, unlike horror movies which seemed like the only other movies about teenagers at the time, sometimes women had actual lines in them. John Hughes included the female perspective and he included the outcasts' perspective, which was something we craved. Unfortunately, to get at those angsty truths sometimes the outcast sexually harassed and occasionally molested the female.

Kavanaugh supporters, #metoo dismissers, and so-called anti-feminists rationalize past bad behavior of men by say "those were different times" and, as I mentioned above, they were different times. Every time is a different time. But even in those times it wasn't right to molest or objectify women. Trauma caused damage then as it causes damage now.  Men made chauvinist jokes and laughed at women, sexualized and objectified them, accepted zero responsibility and were not held accountable for their actions then just as they do now.

Tell me again, how were those times different?

Kavanaugh himself referenced Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High in his confirmation hearing as the movies that influenced his yearbook committee. Art reflects life; life reflects art. For sure, art doesn't have to reflect my values for it to be good, valuable, or legitimate. But at this point in time, in order for something to resonate with me and to be worth buying, watching, looking at, or listening to it has to try harder to be better. When I was a kid I didn't have the wherewithal to think critically about the shows I watched. Now I do. I have the benefit of seeing how the guys who grew up on Animal House turned out and I am not impressed.


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