Pay Attention Please--This is Serious!
How Humor Helps Us Deal With the Stress of Living in Trump's America
I sympathize with you, my fellow progressives. It's hard keeping up the enthusiasm, the concentration and the stamina necessary to slay the evil foe which is the Trump Administration. Throw in your personal life struggles and challenges and it seems an insurmountable task. Can we dare to expect any let up from the stress?
To be truthful, no, the stress isn't going away magically anytime soon. But, in the meantime, there is a way to cope with it. This is the coping mechanism Freud didn't write as much about as denial, but it's certainly much more fun. I'm talking about humor as a coping mechanism, if the above meme hasn't given it away yet.
I've been a fan of political humor for a long time. I remember my teenage brother bringing home a comedy album called The Watergate Comedy Hour. We all sat around laughing our socks off as it played on an ancient device called a stereo record player. Sure, we had our whole summer wasted with the Watergate hearings preempting all the good TV shows, and then we had to endure the international embarrassment of our president resigning, but at least we got a few good chuckles out of it. (Rich Little made a killing out of doing Richard Nixon impersonations, too, as do rubber mask makers of Nixon masks to this very day.)
The idea of the "court jester" of medieval Europe or the "holy fool" or heyoka in the Lakota spiritual tradition is almost a universal paradigm. Comedians have bravely ridiculed and scolded the powers-that-be in order to bring about an ounce of sanity and possibly evoke some compassion from our benevolent dictators--that is, our elected officials--since time immemorial. Two of my favorite court jesters currently are Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight and Moment of Clarity fame and Jimmy Dore of TYT Politics' The Jimmy Dore Show. If you haven't check out their wit and wisdom before, watch the videos posted here and you'll see why they've become respected independent journalists and political commentators in their own right. (Warning: adult language used.)
What I like most about Jimmy Dore is that he's not afraid to point out the bleeding obvious (to use my British husband's words). Jimmy will not let anyone off the hook for screwing with our so-called democracy and impoverishing our fellow Americans. No one gets a pass by pretending to be a progressive. Every public figure is put in his or her place and held responsible for his or her actions. No exceptions. Jimmy's humor is at once biting and refreshing. There's no tolerance of mindless bull-chips on The Jimmy Dore Show. You said it, you did it--you own it.
Lee Camp's Redacted Tonight is a comedy news program like no other. Not only will you laugh until you cry, you will actually learn something significant in the process. What can I say? For intellectuals who take our society's ills and foibles to heart, Lee Camp is our patron saint. He's assembled a first rate cast of fellow comedian-correspondents to work with him as well--John F. O'Donnell, Naomi Karavani and Natalie McGill. While worshiping at the feet of Lee and company, we come to see the surrealness and absurdity of life on this planet in the modern age. With his comedic guidance, we find the courage to poke fun at the stress and put it in perspective, learning to deal with it without resorting to jumping off the nearest overpass.
Lee has a companion show, Redacted Tonight VIP, where he interviews movers and shakers in the progressive political world and alternative media/journalism scene. In addition to his TV and YouTube shows, Lee writes and records the podcast Moment of Clarity which offers instant insights into our human condition, just so you know you're not the only one who feels the same way about how screwed up things are.
Court jesters are smart folks, and we'd do well to heed their wise words and cutting comedy. So, the next time the Political Revolution is overwhelming you with its seriousness (because it is serious--it's our lives and planet at stake after all), turn on Jimmy Dore or Lee Camp and company and laugh along with them. The Political Revolution can wait a half hour or so, but your funny bone needs all the humor it can get now.
Democracy at Risk
by Sean Nestor
A popular viewpoint in conservative circles is that democracy is actually a really bad thing, because it is "mob rule, allowing 51% of the people to vote away the livelihood of the other 49%."
This ignores the historic importance of democracy -- "rule by the people" -- as an antidote to aristocracy -- "rule by an elite." It does not occur to opponents of democracy that aristocratic elements in society have a vested self-interest in leveraging their wealth and power to suppress democracy through misinformation and misdirection.
It assumes the worst of human beings, cynically equating power with abuse. The logic here is that all power (that is, ability to influence) will result primarily in abuse, so the best way to minimize abuse is to minimize the number of people with power. But this ignores the best way to limit abusive power is to ensure that it is distributed rather than concentrated. The greatest crimes against humanity have been committed by elites who have concentrated power into their own hands, denying the self-balancing nature of distributed power, which is the hallmark of democracy.
It also assumes that democracy is limited to simple majority voting -- which intentionally excludes the many non-electoral ingredients of a democracy like a free press, strong public debate, quality education, and various forms of protest and direct action. Democracy is far more than merely casting a ballot. (After all, even one-party dictatorships hold elections). Democracy is any system where the institutions of power yield to the will of its constituency by whatever means that requires.
And finally, where elections are concerned, it quietly downplays that
democratic elections are not contingent on simple-majority voting. You can have representative democracy that is balanced through proportional representation, consensus voting, 2/3 majority voting, instant-runoff voting, and many other methods that can be applied depending on the levity of the decision to be made.
Aristocratic elements like to conflate democracy with the highly dysfunctional US electoral system, because they know how bad the current electoral system is at meeting the needs of the many. It actually is much better at meeting the needs of the elite few, but, through well-financed sleight of hand, they have been successful at convincing voters the solution is in reducing democracy, not increasing it -- even though we've been reducing democracy for over forty years with obviously terrible results.
But in a way, their point is made. What good is democracy if the elite few can manipulate the public into maintaining their own oppression by using democratic processes to undermine democratic institutions?
The answer, as always, rests on us. Democracy requires a citizenry that is informed and engaged, and one that refuses to slip back into the dark ages of aristocracy. If we fail, democracy fails. If we succeed, democracy lives to fight another day. As someone wise once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
Bio: Sean Nestor is an educator and activist from Toledo. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio and Co-Chair of the Lucas County Green Party.
Sorry to add to your stress, but the following is a very serious matter of election fraud and needs your immediate attention:
Democracy Is Under Attack in the
197th District of Philadelphia:
Cheri Honkala of the PA Green Party Takes on Election Fraud
If you haven't heard by now, (March 21) Tuesday's election was overflowing with voter intimidation, electioneering, and likely fraud.
This district, the poorest in Pennsylvania, has already suffered through two state legislators resigning on fraud charges, a scheme to put someone on the ballot who doesn't even live in the city, and now are effectively having their voices silenced through a sham election. There are even pictures of a ballot box being at an opponent's "victory" party--a victory party held before the ballots were even counted!
It's a very dangerous situation exposing the machine in Philadelphia, so I've gone under police protection for the time being.
Regardless, alongside some Democrats and the local Republicans, I will be filing in federal court for a new election, a full investigation, and prosecution of those involved. We ask that you contribute $27 to help cover these extensive legal feels. Fighting for election integrity so we can know the real choice of the 197th district is the right thing to do.
Our team had hundreds of volunteers working on election day, and here's some of the things they reported:
- At multiple polling places, Democratic poll workers and committee
people are located inside the polling place, handing out the Emilio
stamp and literature; not 10 feet from the entrance to the polling
location as required by law.
- Receiving unrequested "help" inside the polling booth.
Realizing after one has already stamped that they stamped the wrong
name, which means that the election official must have replaced our
stamps with Emilio's stamp during their "demonstration" of how to
- Tables outside and inside setup with literature for my
opponent. People being told that these tables have "what they need to
vote," and making them appear as if its the voter sign-in tables. People
being told to vote for my opponent at the actual sign-in to table.
- Officials telling my volunteers that they cannot put up posters
because this is a "Democratic district." Telling people that if they
are registered Democrat, that they must vote for Emilio.
- And, sadly, so many more...
A trans-partisan coalition is coming together to end this legacy of corruption -- but we need your help. Please chip in $27 or whatever you can afford to help with the legal fees over the coming week or weeks as we challenge these fraudulent election results and their blatantly coercive techniques.
This campaign has been a microcosm of dysfunctional and corrupt corporate politics. We have seen the local, establishment media try to shut me out despite prominent endorsements and the best ground operation of all the candidates. We have seen political mob bosses call me up and threaten me after I refused to instead just run as a Democrat. I've had my tired slashed. Our volunteers have been frisked and had unexplainable car damage. And, yesterday, I took the advice to receive police protection through the remainder of the legal action.
Democracy is under attack in the 197th district of Philadelphia.
Even in face of the risks, my team and I are fighting back. Please stand with us, and please support us by helping to cover both the legal fees and continued wages for my key staff so they can continue to afford to keep eating and paying rent during this unanticipated but necessary legal action.
Now is not the time to abandon the 197th. We are all the 197th.
Candidate for State Representative
197th District, Pennsylvania
Promise yourself you will watch Lee Camp and Jimmy Dore on a regular basis from now on. Promise yourself that you will keep things in perspective and not allow the distractions of made-up diversions (such as "Russia, Russia, Russia!") to steal your time and energy away from what really matters--fighting for our democracy. Until Medicare for All is enacted, Citizens United is repealed, and the New Glass-Steagall Act becomes law (and our EPA and other environmental protections are safe), we can't let our guard down. The fate of our country and our world depends upon us.
To quote Lee: "Keep fighting!" (A little laughter helps, too.)