COVID-19: Lessons Learned

I’m reflecting on what I think we can learn from this time of pandemic, social distancing, lock-down and quarantine.

Many Invisible People Are Essential

We love to talk about nurses and doctors as heroes, and they no doubt are. But so are the health aides and hospital custodians. So are the EMTs and lab technicians.

So are the cashiers and food handlers and truck drivers. So many previously invisible people are now the ones we depend on for our lives. Many working in healthcare, especially health aides, do not themselves have affordable healthcare. The cashier at the grocery checkout is risking their life for what falls far short of a living wage.

I hope that when we have these conversations again about universal healthcare and raising the minimum wage and even universal basic income, we remember the time when we depended for our lives and our loved ones lives on people we normally ignore without a second thought.

Many Visible People Are Unnecessary or Worse

So many large companies are going to distribute billions to stakeholders while laying off their work forces, or refusing to provide hazard pay and basic safety gear. There have been dozens of outbreaks literally caused by the greed of those in corner offices.

Many of Us Can Work from Home

So many chronically ill and handicapped people have been told they can’t do a certain job because the job can’t be done working from home. I have heard this story so many times, over and over. And yet it turns out that many of us can in fact work from home. Yes, it sucks sometimes. But it is definitely possible, and if someone spent more time learning how to work from home really well, they could do a great job in many situations without having to be able to come to the office.

Investor “Risk” Is A Lie

When someone makes an investment – say, in a rental property – it is said that they are taking on a financial risk, and because they are taking that risk, we do a lot of things to help them in a capitalist economy. We definitely favor the investor over the worker, the owner over the renter, and so on, time and time again. Businesses serve their investors, not their workers. It is far easier to evict a renter than to fight a landlord. And when push comes to shove it is clear that the investor is not the one who is risking at all. It is the worker, the renter, who is actually taking on all of the risk. Risk flows downstream, not up.

The landlord risks losing some income – the renter risks losing a home. The owner risks some income – the worker risks their livelihood, possibly their access to healthcare. Our economy values ownership over pretty much anything else. It is not the investor who risks, when the risk is real.

Nature Flourishes When Left Alone

So, it turns out there weren’t dolphins swimming in Venice’s canals – but there were fish, and it was possible to see the bottom for the first time in I don’t know how long. All around the world, air pollution is diminishing. People in India see the blue of the sky for the first time in a generation. Confused animals are wandering through cities, wondering where all the noisy primates go to.

Stories like the dolphins swimming in Venitian canals speak to a deeper desire in us, I hope, to see nature flourishing around us. Not to just drag ourselves through disposable lives, anesthetizing the pain of watching the world around us die however we can, but to live and see life around us and be happy about it. Can we do that? Maybe?

We Can Consume Less

My family is learning this on our individual level, and what some describe as “economic collapse” I can also describe as “slowing our hysterical plunge into ecocide.” The fact remains, if we all just sort of decide to, we can consume a lot less. We can eat out less and drive less and fly less and garden more and cook more and do more with the things we already have. COVID-19 has done what 50 years of environmentalism wasn’t able to accomplish. All it took was some existential fear, I guess. But I hope we learn from this, and come out of this pandemic time having gotten a taste for not ruining the world at breakneck speed.

Pay A Living Wage

Everyone deserves a living wage. Everyone. Don’t think so? Go to Hell.

When a crisis comes, we find out that some people are more essential than we thought. This will probably surprise us with each crisis that comes. So just to be safe, let’s pay everyone who works enough to live as a result of that work. That means food, shelter, education, healthcare, safety. Other countries do it. Why can’t we?

Universal Health Coverage

Everyone who thinks it’s OK to be too poor to go to the doctor needs to sit down and shut up, forever. Even if you are a selfish narcissist, you have to acknowledge that universal healthcare would be great for slowing down a pandemic and swiftly responding to it. Instead, we get to play the life-and-death guessing game of “We have nowhere near enough tests so we have no idea who is sick.” I hope we survive this fun game we’re playing, instead of caring for each other.

Ignore the President

Never, ever, ever, listen to Donald Trump. Don’t read his tweets. Don’t listen to his words. Don’t read the chyrons beneath his words. Don’t read his letters or go to his websites. Don’t read his name on the side of his ugly buildings.

The sounds that come out of his mouth and the sounds that come out of his anus are of equal value, and the right response to both is to gag, cover our noses and mouths, and leave as quickly as we can. Period. He is a vile, narcissistic, ignorant, inveterate liar. He will never not lie. He will never say a single wise, intelligent, or helpful thing. He never has in his entire adult life, and he never will.

Listen to Experts

Some smart people go to school to study One Thing very closely for years and years. When these smart people talk about their One Thing, sit down and listen. You can ignore their opinions on Other Things if you want, but not that One Thing, and definitely not when that One Thing means life or death for millions of human beings.

Anything else you’ve learned from your ‘rona time?

Capitalist Exploitation Reflex

Brothers Who Hoarded 17,000+ Hand Sanitizers Forced To ...

I wonder if this guy wanted to be famous? Maybe he just wanted to exploit thousands of people for profit. Well, now he’s famous.

The problem isn’t billionaires – billionaires are a symptom. The problem is capitalism. The common lie is that capitalism is the functioning of free markets, but this has never been the case on any large scale. Actually, capitalism has always demanded slavery in some form, because capitalism has always been exploitation.

We can see what I’m calling the “capitalist exploitation reflex” at work right now, as we adapt to the coronavirus and watch opportunists do things like drive across three states to buy up all of the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes so they could price-gouge people on Amazon and Ebay, or buying up toilet paper rolls so they can sell them for $5 each out of the back of their car. Under capitalism, this is perfectly rational behavior. If you aren’t hoarding and price-gouging your neighbors in the midst of our shared fear and uncertainty, you’re the sucker.

In order to address this exploitation, Amazon and Ebay had to temporarily suspend capitalism. They had to actively prevent the so-called “free market” (which is never, ever actually free) from setting prices the way economists relentlessly teach us markets are supposed to. They had to set price maximums and cancel the accounts of price-gougers. And of course they did – we always punish the small-time gougers, while we let the big-time gougers run everything. We are, after all, capitalists.

The cruelty isn’t a glitch, it is demanded by the system. It is poisonous, diseased billionaire-ism, and it infects many of us whether we know it or not. It shows up when we are anxious, and some of us immediately begin to frantically hoard and exploit. Hoarding and exploiting are the two basic instincts of the capitalist.

This isn’t vapid “all are sinners” kind of reasoning, this is a specific system playing out in predictable, horrifying ways again and again across time and throughout the world. It isn’t that markets exist – they always have. People get together and trade things with each other without any outside encouragement. Capitalism is not markets – that’s just capitalism’s marketing. Capitalism is hoarding and exploitation, deep down to the core. It exploits everyone it touches, relentlessly, blindly, like a blasphemous idiot-god from a Lovecraft story. (From a Christian perspective, I would say that it is literally a blasphemous idiot-god, and we its idolatrous servants)

It is a dragon that breeds dragons, and we need to slay it.

Our True Addictions

It is common to talk about how people are addicted to technology. But I don’t think we are addicted to technology at all. I think we are addicted to what technology offers is easy access to: each other, games, and stories. I think that a large number of companies have found that these human needs can be leveraged and made highly profitable, especially if they are allowed to exploit them without limits, as they currently do. But even calling these ‘addictions’ is a misnomer. They are just fundamental human needs which many of us are trying to fulfill through digital technology.

Addicted to Each Other

It helps me when I remember that most of the folks I encounter on social media are starving. Not physically, but emotionally. We just aren’t built for this nonsense. We are not made (whether by God, evolution, both, aliens who seeded Earth with life, etc) to stare into a flickering screen alone seeking social connections. We only do it this way because our society doesn’t work.

Every few years, we find that people have fewer friends. The average white man in the United States right now has zero close friends. Zero. First our society uprooted all of us, so that we do not have a sense of place or lasting in-person relationships, and then to address this we developed Web 1.0 and then Web 2.0 and social media. These are the things that would connect us as never before, and they have. What they cannot replicate, however, are the in-person relationships that every single human being craves. Without those relationships, we’ll starve, and like starving people, we’ll end up willing to try to eat almost anything.

Addicted to Games

Every soldier’s kit historically included gaming pieces. I’m not an expert who is certain this was always true, but this does seem to be broadly true. So when you have to decide every ounce you are carrying, whether you want to carry that marching hundreds of miles through all weather, whether you want to wear that into battle, one of the most important things soldiers have with them are gaming pieces of some kind.

Gamification is a term that’s come to common use over the last decade or so, driven by people like Jane McGonigal and others who are learning how to use games as leverage in shaping human behavior, whether our own behavior or that of others. Gamification would never succeed if people weren’t already strongly inclined to love and play games.

I would personally go farther to say that we are, as animals, strongly inclined to play. You can observe stingrays playing; whales breaching; dolphins passing around narcotic puffer-fish like a ball. The more I learn about animal intelligence and animal behavior, the more I learn that animals play. One of the forms that basic living need to play takes is the human obsession with games.

Addicted to Stories

Humans love stories so much, we impose stories on seemingly random events. That, at least, is how people without supernatural beliefs account for those who have supernatural beliefs, but it’s also why we impart meaning to noises in the dark or see faces in objects. Confronted with a world with no table of contents or user’s guide, we create stories out of what we experience, and those stories in turn help us navigate more of the world.

People will live and die for stories. Right now, tens of millions of Americans are committing collective suicide for the sake of the story: Make America Great Again. They are eagerly voting against their own best interests, exacerbating problems that will destroy the lives of generations to come, for the sake of that story. Stories drive our triumphs and our failures, as individuals and as communities.

So What?

In order to flourish, I think that we as human beings need to find better ways to be connected to each other, better ways to play and play games, and better ways to tell one another stories. Right now we are locked into multiple exploitative, extractive, destructive, suicidal systems that provide a version of those things only to use them as leverage to commodify us. Fortunately there is a very long human history of knowing one another, playing games, and telling stories. We have a lot of practice in doing these things; we just have to understand what it is that we need, underneath all of the noise and consumerism that is currently strangling us all to death.

Playing with Gender in D&D

Playing with Gender

This all started with goblins, but ended up being this little brainstorm I had during Save Against Fear. There are little kernels of this idea in D&D already, but I wanted to play out a view of sex and gender for the major intelligent species of D&D that fit with the lore as it is but was more interesting than just assuming two sexes and two genders in every case (which is ridiculous even with humans alone, not to mention every other intelligent species in D&D).

Note: this is not me wishing we could have lots of discussions and arguments about pronouns, multiplied times all of these intelligent species. That does not sound fun for me. He, she and they should cover it for these options in my opinion.

Goblin Gender

Otherwise this will be alphabetical, but I’m starting here because this was the first thought I had that led me along this path. I’ve always wondered about goblinoids: goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Where do the drastically different body types come from? Do they intermarry? Can they interbreed? In previous editions they were just an outlier – where most intelligent species are ‘humanoid’ they are over there, the ‘goblinoids’, the other.

I realized, wouldn’t it be fun if all goblinoids are the same species, except they have three sexes, and the three types of goblinoids are their three sexes? So one sex is goblin, and one sex is hobgoblin, and one sex is bugbear, and it takes all three to reproduce. They all are born goblin-ish, and then have a big growth spurt if they are going to grow up to be hobgoblins, and then another growth spurt to become bugbears.

If you ask them how they make babies with three sexes, they of course attack you, because that’s an incredibly rude question.

Dragonborn Gender

Dragonborn (and maybe lizardfolk as well) are hermaphroditic with three genders. A dragonborn self-fertilizes when they are ready and lays a clutch of eggs. This is taxing and difficult, and when the dragonborn hatch they are much more helpless than normal for reptiles and require years of care like human infants and children. So the three genders are the One Who Lays, the One Who Guards, and the One Who Gathers. The first one is obvious. The second gender is taken on by a dragonborn who takes responsibility of guardianship for the layer and for the young. The third gender is for the dragonborn who takes responsibility to go out into the world and accomplish what needs to be done to support all three – hunting, gathering, earning gold, whatever.

Dwarf Gender

Dwarves have two sexes and one gender. Every wonder why all the jokes about dwarf women having beards and looking a lot like dwarf men? That’s because dwarves only have one gender. Though males tend to have thicker body and facial hair than females, they all are performing the same gender for all intents and purposes. Perhaps there are nuances there visible only to fellow dwarves.

Elf Gender

Elves have two sexes but are genderfluid over time. When you meet an elf, you are meeting someone on a 700 year long journey of exploration.

Gnome Gender

Ancient gnomes had a very strict system of two sexes and two genders. Modern gnomes are all transgressive about how they perform gender, and often take on aspects of the genders they see around them among other intelligent species. Intersex gnomes are held in high regard, meaning that they now functionally have three sexes.

Half-Elf Gender

Half-elves are normally born to human and elven parents at some point in the elf’s centuries-long life. What they call their parents could be unique to a particular half-elf, and they might very well be born to a mother who later, when the half-elf meets them as an adult, is now a man, and possibly even a father to new children. So half-elves tend to cling to their human side for stability, or embrace the fluidity of their elven side.

Half-Orc Gender

Half-orcs raised with orcs are given their purpose from the gods. Half-orcs raised with humans tend to choose and perform a human gender, though sometimes they encounter orcs later in life and are given a purpose then.

Halfling Gender

Halflings have two sexes and three genders. The three genders for halflings are male, female, and bachelor, in honor of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. And, as far as we can tell, Merry and Pippin and Gaffer Gamgee and loads of others. Of course, women can be bachelors too. No self-respecting halfling would call her a bachelorette.

Human Gender

Humans have two sexes and three genders. But you don’t need terminology for this. You just describe men and women and intergender/nonbinary people, and then some of the men happen to be trans men and some of the women happen to be trans women. You have a lot less baked in bigotry, which is fun anyway.

Some Other Thoughts

Kenku Gender

Kenku keep their sexes secret from outsiders, though most assume they have two. In a kenku community, there is the gender of the sitter and the gender of the builder. A sitter is the one who primarily sits on the eggs while they develop, though a group might trade off on this activity, one tends to be primarily. The builder is the one who is responsible for building a nest, initially to garner the interest of potential sitters.

Orc Gender

Until adolescence orcs do not acknowledge gender. At adolescence, an orc goes into the wilderness to commune with the gods (this could be a metaphorical urban wilderness). The gods tell them their purpose and place in society, and that is functionally their gender. Some will have the purpose of parenting, but others won’t, and the part in society they perform is more important than what other species tend to think of as gender.

Want more posts like this, more often? Want early access, and Patreon-only posts? Plus a Discord community? Then support my Patreon!

Shame Is Good.

Often when we say “shaming”, we mean “humiliating.” That is, when one person tries to force a feeling of shame on another person as a way to harm them or coerce them. This is an unfortunate change in the meaning of the word, because shame is good, and crucial to social and emotional life. A healthy relationship with shame is just like a healthy relationship with anger or fear or happiness, in that it does its job. But what is shame’s job?

I go with the work of Paul Ekman and others here in the area of discussing a handful of core emotions that serve social and evolutionary purposes, each of which one can find in every society all over the world. One of those core emotions is shame. (For a rough course in this theory, watch the film Inside Out. Seriously. It’s amazing, and they did their homework) Shame’s job is to acknowledge wrongdoing and remorse as a way to reconnect a person with their community. This is the face of shame (sometimes feigned, but consistent and recognizable):

The Universal Expressions | Oh, Not Him Again

Ironically, in some cases we see this expression on the face of a person who is denying wrongdoing, but that’s what indicates that shame is a deeply-rooted and universal expression – it comes up unconsciously in one’s face when the emotion is present, and it looks similar cross-culturally.

In brief, shame says “Yeah, I screwed up.” And in our evolutionary past, when being ostracized could easily mean starving to death or being eaten, it was crucial to allow people to acknowledge wrongdoing and seek reconciliation in order for them to survive.

Shame is not a popular feeling – this whole post came from an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine (more than one friend, but one in particular), wherein he says that shame is the root of evil and should be rooted out. The thing is, when I talk to him about what he means by “shame”, he doesn’t talk about the universal emotion described above and unconsciously expressed in our faces. Rather, he is talking about humiliation, or shaming, which is completely different in my opinion.

Shame is an acknowledgement; shaming is an assault. But we confuse the two, and I think it’s a significant problem. This problem is exemplified by Donald Trump.

I think that the core element of Trump’s personality, which as driven his rise to power, his persistence despite massive moral, financial, and professional failures that would have sunk anyone else long ago, is his utter inability to experience shame. He is pathologically shameless, and I think this lies behind everything else about him – the grandstanding, the weird obsession with gold and his hand size, picking fights randomly, punching down, cheating everyone in his life, betraying allies at the slightest sign of disloyalty, and constant lying.

If Donald Trump were capable of shame, he would be an entirely different person. A far more tolerable person. He’s exactly the kind of person who would be ostracized in order to be devoured by wild animals 20,000 years ago, but in a media-driven age of radical capitalism, he instead becomes a brand. He becomes unavoidable, irresistible for some. He becomes President, because why not? His image is that he is untouchable, the “Teflon Don”, because nothing can bring him down, and the key to that untouchability is his apparent inability to experience shame.

What Do We Do With Shame?

This is a key question as we continue to reorient society to be a place where more people are heard and their concerns taken seriously. Women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and others are, in fits and starts, over decades of conflict and struggle, making a place for themselves in our white supremacist, patriarchal, hetero-normative, etc. culture. Nobody knows how to do this. We have to dismantle some things, and build up some new things, and unlearn a lot of deeply ingrained habits, and learn new life-giving habits, all at once, in public, while the world burns around us. A non-trivial challenge, one might say.

The purpose of shame is to visibly acknowledge wrongdoing, that a transgression has occurred, and to prompt one to make amends and be re-integrated into the community. But how do we do that in a way that is fair?

In the past, there was a “boys will be boys” mentality applied to the wrongdoing of white males in the United States, as well as in the case of institutions that enforced white supremacy like the police. There were never real repercussions for wrongdoing – certainly nothing resembling justice or equity, even less so reconciliation. This mentality still exists everywhere it is not actively being brought to light and rooted out. There is a lot of work to do.

One response has been to burn people down when their wrongdoing is brought to light and acknowledged. People who are critical of this impulse, like most recently Dave Chappelle in Sticks and Stones, call this “cancel culture.” The sense is that if someone is caught in wrongdoing and called out, they are cancelled and that’s it. No more from them in the public sphere, ever. The problem, I think, is that there is no way back. A healthy person who feels appropriate shame and wants to make amends cannot do so, and is treated very similarly to someone who is shameless and spiteful and never admits any wrongdoing. Given this situation, where shame cannot function healthfully, successful people will find that shame is a liability and we will encourage more Trumps and Trump-ism.

Shame is crucial, but for shame to work, there has to be a way back. Otherwise we are punishing healthy shame, and it’s hard to blame people for working hard not to feel that shame if they can avoid it, and keep that shame from moving them to reconcile.

Want more posts like this, more often? Want early access, and Patreon-only posts? Plus a Discord community? Then support my Patreon!

Curse of Strahd: Non-Racist Vistani

I haven’t run Curse of Strahd (one of my players hates vampires so I’m not likely to do so any time soon) but I have read through it, and have read about it, and parts of it are racist AF. Here’s a great article that lays out how the depiction of the Vistani and mongrelfolk in particular are deeply racist. I’m going to talk more about the Vistani – the mongrelfolk have been in D&D monster manuals for decades and need their own consideration, in the context of all of the racism that is baked into D&D.

I’m not going to go through all of the problems and questions of Curse of Strahd either – I think there are things that a DM can adjust about the module, and other things that require some more consideration, and which definitely might or might not be good for a particular group; there’s a lot of violence against children baked in that I would have to remove, for example. (Pun intended)

I was thinking about the Vistani and how I would run them, because there are some aspects of them as a story idea that I like. I like that they can travel between worlds, and that they are the only ones who can traverse the Mists of Ravenloft. What struck me is how similar they could be to a carnival or circus – I imagined adolescents of the multiverse running away to join the Vistani, and I had my answer.

The Vistani is a carnival.

Now, there are plenty of stereotypes about “carnies” as well, though they tend to have more to do with social status than race, as with the Roma on whom the Vistani are obviously based. The advantage of a Vistani carnival, however, is that it can divorce the idea of the Vistani from race or species entirely. They are bound together not by ethnicity or even culture, but by sub-culture and profession. They are entertainers who wander from place to place.

I think that this retains a lot of what’s potentially interesting about the Vistani while getting rid of most of what’s problematic. You can still have a fortune teller – she can even be “Madam Eva”, a changeling playing up to tropes and stereotypes about fortune tellers at carnivals. Some of them can still be shifty thieves, since people who wander from place to place are more likely to take a loose view to the laws and customs of any place in particular. They can be insular, secretive, and highly loyal to one another; they can be exotic and play to tropes if they want because they are entertainers. They can even keep the reputation for stealing children, coming from young people running away to join them periodically. They can retain their dramatic, colorful dress, as I can see them taking on articles of clothing and jewelry (and magic items) from the various places they travel as a way to mark how long they have been part of the carnival and how far they’ve traveled.

The key is that none of this is linked to a real-world ethnic group, or even an imaginary one. None of these traits are intrinsic to them, and you can just as easily find honest, forthcoming, or even boring Vistani, because Vistani just means something like Circque du Soleil or Ringling Brothers. Oh, the Vistani are in town! That’s so fun! Also, the Vistani are in town, so watch your coins.

Given this idea, I think it would be cool if the Vistani kept showing up in all kinds of campaigns. You need some random group of people to give the PCs some cryptic hints or sell them some magic items? Hey, look, the Vistani. And so what if these particular Vistani happen to all be kenku and loxodon with a fire genasi ringleader? Now something racist has become something cooler, more interesting, more versatile, and more fun.

Want more posts like this, more often? Want early access, and Patreon-only posts? Plus a Discord community? Then support my Patreon!

Maybe Comedy Was the Problem All Along

It’s only with great pain, and after long consideration, that I would write something like this. But I’m coming to the conclusion that comedy, which I once saw as a force for good in the world, and which has been literally life-saving for me in the past, might in fact be a huge contributor to the political horror-show we see in the United States right now. The misuse of comedy is without a doubt a problem, but it is such a pervasive smokescreen for genuine bad behavior that I really have to wonder.

The Heady Days of Jon Stewart

When Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show, it was a revolution. Before that, fake news comedy shows were almost unheard-of. He created a whole new major genre in entertainment and news. Millions of people tuned in two watch The Daily Show for years, and for many of us, it was our primary source of news. I can’t count how many times I learned about something going on in the country, or in the wider world, that I would have never known about without The Daily Show. Probably hundreds of times. And I laughed every time I watched, and it made me not want to die the way normal news made me want to die.

The Daily Show felt like something was happening. Something Important. Maybe the Fool could truly rein in the False King! Huzzah!

The Rise of Colbert

The Colbert Report was not like anything else. Nothing I’d ever seen, anyway. The guy got parts of the international space station named after him. He became a cultural phenomenon – for educated liberal types, anyway. He was like Jon Stewart 2.0, simply eviscerating conservative hypocrisy night after night. The problem was, the conservative hypocrisy only got stronger. They only grew in power. At the height of Colbert’s popularity, the GOP took over 3/4 of state legislatures and a majority of the governor-ships as well. 2010 happened, they got to gerrymander district lines, and we’ve been suffering ever since.

See, the problem is we thought that conservatives were capable of shame. We have since learned better.

Now Nazis are Comedians

This is one of the most common defenses I see deployed on behalf of white nationalist and professional trolls in places like YouTube and specifically the Joe Rogan Experience – they’re just being funny. It’s comedy. It’s irony. Why is everyone so upset? What about free speech? Blah blah blah Nazis. “I was just being funny” is a classic attempt at justifying awful behavior – that’s nothing new. What seems to be relatively new is that it is being used to excuse public behavior that is bigoted bullshit.

Milo Yiannapoulos is not a fucking comedian. Alex Jones is not a fucking comedian. Trump is not a fucking comedian. The alt-right is not a comedic movement, it is white supremacy and Fascism. They aren’t joking, and we should never treat them as if they were joking.

Dammit John Oliver

One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen in a while happened on Last Week Tonight a few months ago. First off, in case it wasn’t clear, I don’t find Trump the slightest bit entertaining. He was a boring piece of trash as a reality TV “star”, and a boring piece of trash making his cameo appearance in Home Alone 2, and a boring piece of trash on Howard Stern. He is boring and stupid and crass and a towering, self-satisfied ignoramus – the very worst kind of ignoramus.

As a result, I genuinely don’t understand people who otherwise seem quite intelligent, like John Oliver, who find him entertaining. But John Oliver recently had a bit where he talked about how Trump consistent gets us by being funny, mostly unintentionally, in the midst of all of his ignorant and bigoted rambling. At the end, a banner comes down, and balloons, and the banner reads “You Got Us.” Because, according to John Oliver, Trump does get us, again and again, by getting us to laugh at him while he says and does horrific things.

But by just presenting this as a fact, John Oliver is doing more harm. No matter how funny someone’s abusive spouse is, you don’t point that out while the abuse is ongoing. Even if a hijacker cracks jokes, it doesn’t matter until you escape. Trump is a monster, not a comedian. He’s taking hostages, not taking a bow.

It Happened Again Just Now

As this draft has been languishing, Trump had yet another racist tirade, and this sycophantic commentary came from Dear Leader State TV:

Of Course, Fox News Delighted in Trump’s Racist Tweet

Trump is the “comedian in chief.” Ha ha ha white supremacy and death threats. Comedy gold.

Another Coda: Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones

We get distracted by treating monsters like comedians, and we also get distracted by treating comedians like monsters. Where do we focus our energy? Because the time and attention we have isn’t infinite. So do we focus on Dave Chappelle once again making jokes about trans folks? Or focus on the increasingly genocidal concentration camps in which we are now indefinitely detaining people? Do we work to cancel Chappelle, or do we work to cancel Trump? And the dozens of white supremacists he’s put in power? And the dozens of others he’s put in charge of needed programs solely to destroy them? Sure, take a moment to vent on Twitter about what you think is Chappelle’s bullshit – but remember that he’s not a Nazi. The real Nazis are rising to power, and many of the people comedians make fun of, Nazis just want to exterminate.

Want more posts like this, more often? Want early access, and Patreon-only posts? Plus a Discord community? Then support my Patreon!