William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just Half-An-Hour Into The Future . . . Or Maybe, Y'Know, An Hour And Some Change. Sci-fi, politics, visual arts, music, writing, fantasy, and general weirdness. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either, really. But don't let that stop you.

The go-to site for fans of science fiction writer William A. Hainline. Also the go-to site for non-fans, or anybody else who wants to follow what this curmudgeonly weirdo is doing with his free time.

On The Movies That Wake Us Up

I remember the month and year I became “politically aware.” December of 2005. It was an ordinary day, like any other. But it did not end like one. At 5:35 (I think), I stepped into Great Escape cinemas one person, and at 7:50 (or so) I exited a different one.

Let me set the stage: I was a “good citizen.” I was vaguely liberal on a few social issues, and vaguely conservative on others. I supported the President. Sort of. Even though I quietly made fun of his mannerisms here and there. I also “vaguely” supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or the troops. Or something. I was mostly politically unaware of what was going on around me. I had a muddy “both sides do it’ attitude toward Democrats and Republicans, though I really wasn’t sure what “it” was or why I should care. I didn’t know what a “libertarian” really was or what that meant. I didn’t know or really care who was on the Supreme Court. I got my news and commentary from Fox and CNN. I didn’t watch the Daily Show. I stayed away from topics like race and gender and feminsim — because those tended to start fights — and I did not know what “ableism” and “ageism” were. Plus, I didn’t really know enough about any of those topics to have really formed an opinion on them yet. I was ignorant in the extreme, and my ignorance formed a kind of blissful little cocoon that protected me from reality. I knew I was vaguely angry about the way that gay people were treated — because I knew people who were gay — and I knew that I didn’t like organized religion at all . . . but those views had not yet crystallized into actual political positions for me, because I didn’t yet understand how they were connected to the overall political landscape in Washington, nor how they played out across the country in everyday political settings, nor how they factored into the global political playing field . . . and how they were connected to other political issues and voices that mattered. In other words, I was a sheeple, quietly grazing in the fields of plenty provided for me by the mass media and the dominant paradigm.

Then I heard about a new movie coming out from the Wachowski Brothers. I had liked The Matrix, and so I was intrigued. I had never read Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel V for Vendetta, though I had loved Watchmen to death (though again, even in Watchmen’s case, the political messages had blown right over my head; I was very young when I read it). But hey, it was allegedly a futuristic, dystopian superhero film, and that sounded good to me. But I couldn’t get my friend Greg nor my friend Tonya interested in it. So, one evening, I went and saw it alone.

Hoh. Lee. Shit.

It may seem silly to say (and yes, I know the “problem” with using Guy Fawkes as a historical rallying point), but the tone and narrative of V for Vendetta shook me, and woke me up but good. All at once. And in a hurry. It was blinding, like having a pair of sunglasses torn off your face in the blinding afternoon heat. In the space of two hours and some change, thanks to the Wachowski Brothers and their film, my consciousness was ripped open and scrambled like the bowels of a tourist in Mexico who has made the mistake of ordering the spiciest thing on the menu, and then drinking a gallon of the native water . . . and then taking some laxatives. It was an astonishing and awakening moment for me, one in which so many things all clicked in my head at once. Like the tumblers all fell into place at the same time, like the clockwork gears of a combination lock all ticked into position at the same exact moment, and suddenly, I could see.

I left that theatre a changed person. Rattled to the bone, and suddenly very afraid for the world. I knew what was up. I suddenly understood my friends who were more political than I was; what drove them, why they did what they did; what their values were and why they had them . . . and why I now could no longer be friends with some of the more conservative of them. I had a sudden feeling of desperation — of the need to do something about it — all of it — though I had no idea what exactly I could do. I felt powerless and trapped, insignificant in the greater clockwork of the body politic and the greater political machine. I had been galvanized into suddenly giving a shit, about so many things it wasn’t funny, and the more my head whirled and spun with thought, the more things I found I suddenly gave a shit about, suddenly had an opinion on, suddenly had to do some research on in order to find out more, to know more, to realize more. And the more research I did at home that night and the nights beyond it, the more troubled I became; the more the galvanic charge built up in me, and the more of a progressive I slowly, gradually graduated into. The more I was pushed leftward, in other words; the more I studied the issues, the greater sense of wrongness I felt at the then-current situation, and the more I felt in my gut that things had to change, somehow, or else the world would perish from an orgy of corruption and indulgent, ignorant buffoonery on the part of conservative politicians everywhere.

Now, in the age of Donald Trump, I feel that the message of V for Vendetta — both the movie and the book, for they are very different creatures, owing to the fact that the movie is very much “inspired by” the book and not strictly “based on” it — is more timely and prescient than ever. It speaks to the days we live in now. Even though the film takes place in a dystopian England of the near future, it might as well take place in the America of today. Neo-Nazis run riot in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, killing an innocent woman, and the President issues a lukewarm response; the Russians might have been directly responsible for his election to the Presidency, and yet we have an electorate where 35% of the voters literally do not care that this is the case . . . and in fact still cheer his so-called “victories” when he champions police brutality and the denigration of our Muslim and Hispanic citizens. Yes, V’s immortal words — “these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition!” — though whimsical, are a fitting description of Trump and cronies like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. Never did I think I would fear my own government as I fear this one; never did I think I would have to. I had my beefs with President Obama — contrary to popular belief, he was not every progressive’s “dream come true”; he had a lot of warts that we progressives were not happy about — but never under his watch did I go to bed wondering if World War III was going to break out because of his Twitter feed, nor did I fear that due to his encouragement — or his lack of discouragement — Neo-Nazis might decide it was a good idea to set up camp in my home town and throw a big ol’ book burning party. We know, after all, that Trump doesn’t like to read.

So perhaps it’s time to dust off those books, movies, and TV shows that first “woke” you. Revisit them. Pay homage to them. Revel in them once more. Look upon them with fresh eyes in this age when being woke matters more than ever, and also, try to see them, once again, through the eyes you once saw them through . . . the eyes of a Sleeper. Let them wake you all over again, perhaps in new ways. And then — share them with someone who needs waking up. You probably can’t wake that person up on your own. And the movie, book, TV show, or comic book you share with them probably won’t do the job all by itself, either. But who knows? It might open the door a tiny crack. It might nudge them toward awakening just a little bit. It might push them closer to the edge of awareness just a tiny, small fraction more than the were the day before. And before you know it, you might just have a woke person on your hands. You never know. You can at least try.

Good luck. And remember, it’s like V said: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

About This Whole "Russian" Thing . . .

It is with great dismay — but not without, I gotta admit, some serious schadenfreude — that I have been following the news as of late, with regards to our current Cheeto-faced President, Donald J. Trump, as he finds himself embroiled in an absolute ton of trouble. As it turns out, the Justice Department has now appointed a "special counsel" to investigate his erstwhile presidential campaign's connections (and the connections of his various associates) to Russia, to find out if there was any direct collusion with them to influence our election process. I can't say I'm surprised — are you? Well, you shouldn't be. Donald Trump is a con man and a grifter — this we already knew — and he is so obsessed with "winning" that it isn't too surprising that he would go to any lengths necessary, even cheating, to secure a victory. Especially a victory over the party of "the Black Guy," then-President Obama, or "the Woman," Hillary Clinton. It would not do his white masculinity any favors to be seen as having been "beaten" by either one of these individuals or even their chosen political party . . . Had he been, his frail, white male ego would've been crushed into a singularity and, like the nascent seed of our fair, present-day universe, would have then exploded outwards, destroying him and everyone around him. Of course, one could perhaps argue that we've been witnessing that very same process already occurring, albeit in slow motion, ever since he first took office back in January of this year. And whenever the Trumpverse undergoes a period of rapid inflation, we see more shakeups in his staff and more drama unfold across his Twitter feed. I'm thinking that we need a whole new field of physics in order to study this phenomenon, but I don't think we have the mathematics needed to tackle it just yet.

The thing is, though, as I recently read in a Diary on Daily Kos, we need to ask ourselves, "Why are we doing this?" With "this" meaning: "Investigating Trump and Russia." For the most part, most of America is simply not convinced that Donald Trump was behind (or that he colluded with) an ongoing calculated Russian attempt to interfere in our electoral process for over a year and a half. No, most of America is more concerned with more immediate and personal issues, such as, "Will I still have health insurance six months from now?" Or, "Will I still have a job next month?" Or, "Will I lose my house?" Or, "Will I ever be able to retire, or send my kid to college?" They care about Donald Trump alright, but they care about how what he does affects them and their day-to-day lives. They care about his policies, and whether or not those policies will make those day-to-day lives better or worse (here's a hint: Worse. They will make them way worse. But you knew that already.) Don't get me wrong: Many people do care about whether or not Russia affected the openness and fairness of our electoral process; they're simply not convinced that Donald Trump is either (a) smart enough, (b) capable enough, or (c) corrupt enough to have worked with Russia to do so. Maybe they still need some convincing, maybe they're on the fence; maybe they'll never believe it. The important thing is, they care more about judging Trump based on his performance as Commander in Chief than they do about judging him for what he might or might not have done in collusion with the Russian regime right now.

So that's what we ought to be focusing on more right now: His tremendously bad performance as President. He's a train-wreck, and everyone knows that. He sucks. He's obviously unable to perform the duties of the office. He's not only stupid and ill-informed; he's grossly incompetent, and it shows in everything he does. He's a liar and a con man, and it shows more and more every day. He can't hold his staff together, he can't control the leaks coming from his White House, and he can't seem to grasp even the rudiments of basic national security. Hell, let's assume for the moment that he is guilty of collusion with Russia (and I personally think that he is)  . . . If that's the case, then he can't even manage a decent cover-up operation without spilling beans left and right and letting everyone in on the secret. He can't even cover his own tracks well. He can't manage his staff, either; they constantly bungle even routine communications with the press. His Vice President is out there lying on the airwaves day after day, messing up in one interview after another, and not because of a problem with his own messaging or staff, but because, half the time, Trump goes on Twitter and contradicts what he says. The man is a walking dumpster fire of problematic crises that tumble into one another like dominos and they keep . . . on . . . coming.

So let's focus on that, why don't we. Let the investigation take care of itself. If he's guilty (and it's looking more and more like he is), that will sort itself out and we will hear about it forthwith. We'll know. Trust me — the media loves a good roasting, and Trump's goose is ripe for the cooking right now. The media has smelled blood in the water, and the sharks are currently circulating. Even the Republicans are spooked now; they're distancing theirselves from Trump more and more with each passing day. Hopefully we'll soon get an Independent Commission on this from Congress. If we get one, then we'll get some answers maybe. But until then, we need to keep laser-focused on what really matters, and that is Trump's gross incompetency as President, his inability to lead, and his terrific ability to constantly put his foot in his mouth and embarrass himself. Of course, as he does so, he embarrasses all of us as a country as well. That's the downside to that. But I would rather us take a few scrapes and bruises to our national pride right now than see us go through World War III due to a moron who can't keep his mouth shut.

The Case For The Arts In Times Of Political Trouble

You know that meme, the one with Winston Churchill, where he's asked about cutting funding for the arts, and he responds with, "Well then, what are we fighting for?" Yeah, that never actually happened. Check Snopes, you'll see. It's an apocryphal quote. What Churchill actually said was this: 

“The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them . . . Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” 

Which, i think, is a much better quote. Because it's so damned true. Also, as a fun historical anecdote, check this out, from ProfessorBuzkill.com:

In 1940, the Battle of Britain was looking bleak. London suffered daily bombings from the Luftwaffe, and German invasion of the island seemed imminent. Kenneth Clark, the Director of the National Gallery in London, wrote to Churchill and suggested that their paintings and artworks be sent to Canada to keep them safe from damage or capture.

“No,” Churchill replied, “bury them in caves and cellars. None must go. We are going to beat them.”

And that’s what they did.

So Churchill was actually more of an Arts-saving badass than that meme gives him credit for. And we need reminding of words and deeds like this in times like these. For now, we are living in the age of Donald Drumpf, the Orange Man, the man who in his version of the federal budget (which I'm hoping gets axed to pieces by Congress and put back together again like some Frankenstein monster, with at least some of the cruelty and stupidity removed from it), which cuts — no, cuts is too light a word; it slashes, it guts — funding for the Arts and Humanities. It completely eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts. Yes, it just gets rid of it. Defunds it entirely. It's gone in Trump's budget. Poof, goodbye. In Trump's world, all that matters is military spending, not writers, artists, poets, actors, musicians, or dancers. Nah, fuck those people. We don't need them. What do they contribute? According to Statista:

The global film industry shows healthy projections for the coming years, as the global box office revenue is forecast to increase from about 38 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to nearly 50 billion U.S. dollar in 2020. The U.S. is the third largest film market in the world in terms of tickets sold per year, only behind China and India. More than 1.2 billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. in 2015. There are about 5,800 cinema sites in the U.S. as of 2015. About 14 percent of Americans go to the movies about once a month, seven percent go see movies in the movie theater twice or three times a month, whereas 37 percent go a few times a year. This is a considerable share taking into account 53 percent of American adults prefer watching movies at home.

And...

The revenue from the global book publishing market is forecast to slightly increase in the coming years, growing from around 113 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to about 123 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. British company Pearson is the largest publishing house in the world as of 2015. Besides Pearson, Thomson Reuters, RELX Group, Wolters Kluwer and Penguin Random House are also leading book publishers in the world. The U.S. has by far the largest publishing industry, followed by China and Germany.

"Yeah," I can hear you saying. "But andy, that's Hollywood. And that's the Publishing industry. That's not government funded!" But oh yes it is. Where do you think big-time Hollywood actors, writers, directors, and technicians get their start? How do you think artists live and stay alive and learn their craft while they're still trying to hit it big, while they're still small-time players, while they're young and dumb and just trying to scrape by? Many do so with the aid of government funding. Many start out in small venues, in local theater, and in publicly-funded venues as well. Many of them get their feet wet in school, in college, or apply for grants to study their craft. A lot of them need the Endowment. Without it, we're going to come up short on talent in this country . . . really quickly. Without the Endowment, in just a few short years, Hollywood and the book publishing industry — as well as the news industry, journalism, and other industries that rely on talent pools from the Arts and Humanities — are going to be coming up short, too, and we as a nation are going to pay the price for it. We will fall behind. This will cost us economically. And it will also cost us a piece of our soul, as well.

Because above all, that's what the Arts give us. Our souls. Neil Gaiman has a famous quote that says that Fairy Tales aren't there to teach us that dragons exist; they're there to teach us that dragons can be beaten. (And right now, we have a dragon in the White House, believe you me.) Art inspires us. It speaks to our spirit. It enriches us inside. It is the one thing that bridges the gaps that stand between out intellects, our memories, our imaginations, and our hearts. It is the language of the soul, spoken universally between all peoples of all nations. Art is philosophy made concrete. It is our values and our metaphysics, and our epistemology, our ethics, turned inside-out and made into physical thIngs that we can see, and touch, and hear. It is our politics, made real and intimate so that we can interact with them in real-time and really see them for what they are, what they represent. Art is a way of closing the distance between disparate peoples. It is what we do when we take our thoughts out of our heads and place them in the context of each other, of society, when we have the courage to take a sample of who we are share it with others for them to learn from, critique, appreciate, and explore. Art is a reflection and a prism of our essential humanity. Without it, we are just jazzed-up apes stumbling around in fancy hovels, tweeting on iPhones about the latest craze in banana fashion. We need our Arts. And if Trump can't see that, then he is the ape.

Like I said — I have hope that at least some of Trump's Republican colleagues are at least not half as backward and regressive as he is. I have hope that at least some of them have half a brain and will see that the Arts are as necessary to this country as oxygen is to the lungs, as blood is to the heart and the body, as food is to the stomach. I have hope that our elected Representatives have not so totally abdicated their humanity that they have forgotten that those movies they like to watch and those books they like to read (if they do still read, that is; some of them make me wonder at times) came from somewhere — from a living mind, a beating heart, a thriving soul, one that was, most likely, nurtured and bore fruit because of the Endowment, because they got a leg up in the beginning. And I have hope that my hopes are not in vain. Because if they are, then a dark day is dawning. One in which we return to savagery, and where the only Art we know is strewn upon the walls of our caves and hovels, and the only thing we know is drudgery and pain, the pain of a People who have forgotten that Art is the gateway to — and the nectar of — the soul.

 

A Rather Political Post: Re-Engineering Our Constitution & Democracy 2.0

So, Donald Trump's edition of the federal budget is out, and it's as Draconian and cruel as you might expect. It slashes programs that poor people depend upon, right when they need those programs the most; it is hateful in the extreme, and it does away with funding for the arts and sciences alike. Oddly, and in perhaps a cruel twist of fate — and cue the Schadenfreude in the extreme — the people who will be most affected by Trump's latest display of malice and cruelty are going to be the people who voted for him. That's right: The people who are most likely to be affected by Trump's proposed budget cuts are the same people who voted him into office, the poor and those in rural areas. It would be funny if it weren't so goddamn inhuman and tragic, so horrible and evil. And yes, evil is the word for it. And, what's worse, is that these will also be the people most affected if Obamacare is repealed, which is terrible. These people will first be subjected to cuts in programs that benefit them and that they need in order to survive; and then, they'll have their healthcare either stripped away from them, or, have their premiums raise so high that they'll be unable to afford them; even if they get their healthcare from their employer, they'll still be affected negatively. The truth is, a lot of people are going to die because of this evil man's evil policies, and he doesn't care. And, he doesn't give a tinker's damn that the people who are going to die in the highest numbers are the people who put him in office, the people whose good will he rode into power upon. He doesn't care one bit.

But that's also what happens when you have too many people dependent on "the System" for subsistence. I should know; I'm one of those people. (I'm not one of the people who voted for Trump, mind you; I voted for Hillary, because I believe in sane and compassionate leaders, not sociopathic ones.) No, I'm one of the poor folks who is stuck on public assistance and who is hanging on by his fingernails for survival. Trump thinks I don't deserve to do so, though. No, he thinks that I deserve to die. Obviously he thinks this, or he wouldn't have released a budget — or crafted a "healthcare" plan (more like a "doesn't care" plan, if you ask me) — that explicitly tells me to go screw myself and die in the gutter.

According to Trump, and the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, I don't deserve to live. I don't deserve the meager existence I am allowed to achieve on public assistance. Instead, it would seem he thinks that I deserve, intrinsically and inherently, simply because of who — what — I am, to have less than everyone else. Not because I didn't try to work (I did, for years) and not because I don't want to work now (I would've liked to continue working, and would love the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society). It's not because I don't have a lot to offer the world (I think I do). No, simply because. I don't fit in with their Ayn Randian view of the world, where only movers and shakers get to survive and prosper. They tell me with their budget and priorities that I am less; I am worthless; I am nothing. Therefore, I don't get to live. I am a drain, a burden on others, a useless thing. They tell me I am deserving only of death, and of being tossed under the wheels of society and ground into fine powder. I am to be discarded and thrown away, because I am differently-abled. I am different, and therefore, I have no place in their world of big fat cigars and crooked congresscritters.

Which brings me to my next point.

Our elected representatives — including the current President — do not understand that we demand honesty, integrity, and transparency from them because they WORK FOR US. They don't understand that they're SERVANTS. They truly don't grasp the concept of civil service, and that their job is to PROVIDE that service; to do what we ask of them; to look out for our best interests in addition to their own. They don't comprehend the concept that their job — their whole purpose in going to work every day — is to cater to the needs and desires of the people who elected them. That's us.

Instead, they spend all of their time catering to special interests and corporations. These are fictional people; in other words, people who only exist on paper. The real people — the people who, by and large, pay their salaries with their hard-won tax dollars — mostly live in paycheck-to-paycheck, go without healthcare or basic necessities, and suffer enormous deficits in fair credit, lending, job opportunities — oftentimes on the basis of sexual and racial discrimination — while they sit there, catering to corporate will, the rich, and others in power. They ignore the plight of the decent, hardworking men and women who voted them into office. It's disgusting, unfair. and morally repugnant . . . and it's broken. The system — our government — is broken. It needs fixing. And the only way to do that is to update it. To attack it at the level of the source code, the most basic level. But in order to do that, we need to change that source code; we need to go back to our founding document, the Constitution, and change that, at its core, in order to update it so that our government once again works for us instead of against us.

One of the problems with our current government is that it was never meant to grapple with many of the social issues facing us today: The rise of the mass media and the speed of modern journalism; instant communications between individuals and groups; the idea of the never-ending political campaign; corporate personhood and corruption; identity politics; political factions run amok; the rise of global capitalism and globalism in general; the Internet breaking down so many societal, regional, and national barriers; the demise of gender, racial, and other social barriers; the rise of feminism; the corruption of law enforcement; the growing specter of white nationalism and other fascist movements; the radicalization of various religious sects and movements; I could go and on, and on, and on. Our Constitution and our Founding Fathers' vision for our country was brilliant, and, well, visionary . . . but it was not all-encompassing, nor was it the be-all, end-all solution to every conceivable problem we might encounter in the present day. It needs improving. It needs a makeover. It needs us. It needs revisiting and revision. For instance, with the rise of the Internet and secure online transactions, there's no reason why we can't have more of a direct democracy now; a world in which everyone votes, referendum-style, on a plethora of issues facing our communities, our cities, our states, our federal government. For another instance: Congress still uses paper to do almost everything. Let that sink in for a moment. Paper. They still use paper to do almost everything. This is the twenty-first century, and they still use paper to do almost everything. Can you tell me what could be more wasteful and time-consuming? What could be more arrogantly wasteful and time-consuming? And that's just two examples of things that need changing. There are others. We are living in the future, right now. We can change this. We can change the system we've engineered. Because it is an invention. it is, after all, a piece of engineering, a machine. It's all a big device. "Society" is the applied technology of the theories of political science. That's all it is. All we need to do is change the implementation protocols. It's all right there in front of us, if only we have the courage to come together and get some crap done. We must re-engineer our government, from the bottom-up, from the code-level up, if you will. Because if we want to change the System, we must start with the source code.

Luckily, our Founding Fathers left us a way to do that, via the process of Constitutional amendments. Over the years, there have been many amendments to our Constitution. The Bill of Rights is the most famous set of them; it enshrines our most important freedoms — such as the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, the right to due process, etcetera — and the other amendments do other important things: There's one that ended slavery, one that gave women the right to vote, and one that gave us the right to elect our senators rather than have them appointed by state legislatures. What we need now is a whole new set of amendments that grapple with modern social issues. First and foremost, we need an amendment that sets forth a set of Principles of Equality, wherein we declare that every man and woman on Earth — not just in America, but everywhere — is equal to every other, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, creed, color, economic status, or nationality, and that we affirm that we recognize the freedoms guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as belonging to all people, of all nations, period, full-stop . . . and that we brook no compromises on that idea. All people, everywhere, equals. Further, we need an amendment that sets forth a standard of protections against discrimination based on the standards of equality set forth in the previous amendment — just in case there's any misunderstanding about those principles, to act as a double-safeguard against infringement. However, we would need an amendment which leaves the right to decide how those protections are implemented up to the individual states, on the condition that they were implemented to a reasonable minimum standard. This would ensure that a standard of federalist separation of powers between the states and the federal government was maintained.

We also need amendments which re-engineer certain aspects of our political society. Starting with the duties and responsibilities of our congresscritters and their loyalties to the People first and foremost; rules that govern the proper roles of lobbyists in crafting legislation; new guidelines that enshrine the freedom and the sacrosanctity of the press as the "fourth estate," to curb the abuses that we've seen administrations like Trump's carry out against the press. We also desperately need an amendment that ensures the continued freedom and openness of the Internet and our telecommunications systems. One important distinction that we need, that I feel an amendment could provide, is one that separates individual from corporate personhood; such a definition could also have important bearing on the never-ending "abortion" debate, as well. (I'm strongly "pro-choice," if you're wondering; I simply feel that we need to cut-off the deadly "pro-lfie" people before they can use this wedge issue any further.) We further need an amendment that further guarantees the right to peaceably protest, in addition to the protections which the first amendment already offers, and that preserves the proper role of — and protects against the overreach of — law enforcement; this would help law enforcement and protestors respect each other's roles when it came time for the two to meet on the playing field of political action. We need an amendment as well that preserves the sanctity of our elections from interference by corporate power — in other words, one that combats the influence of the dreaded Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court — and one that ensures the fairness and openness of our elections and that protects us from the corruption of "big money" being involved in them. Hell, if you ask me, we also need mandatory voting in our country, and to declare Election Day a national holiday so that everyone is guaranteed the right to vote, barring no one from participating in elections, even convicted felons. (Yes, I believe in second chances, and I believe that everyone should vote. Everyone.) These are just some of the changes we need to make to our Constitution.

However, the process for amending our Constitution is a long and messy one. One way to do it is for two-thirds of the state legislatures to agree to a Constitutional Convention. If the states vote to call a Convention, then they do so, and can vote on an amendment directly. If they vote and the amendment passes, then voilà, we have a new amendment to the Constitution. End of story. But to date, no amendments have been passed this way. The usual way it's done is thus: First, any proposed amendment has to go through both houses of Congress; either house can propose the amendment as a joint resolution. And, in order for it to pass, said joint resolution must be approved by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House and the Senate. Since the President has no role in the amendment process, the joint resolution, if Congress approves it, does not have to go to the White House for approval like a normal bill does. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) then forwards the newly-approved amendment to all fifty states. Next, the proposed amendment, along with any information prepared by the Federal Register, is mailed directly to all fifty states' Governors. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their state legislatures (or, the State calls for a Convention). Now and then, one or more of the state legislatures will vote on proposed amendments before receiving official notification from the Archivist. If the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 out of the 50) approve, or “ratify” the proposed amendment, then finally, it becomes part of the Constitution. Huzzah!

Now granted, that's a lot of hurdles for any potential amendments to have to clear. Especially when you consider the number of amendments we're talking about, and the nature of those amendments. These are not small issues, nor are these trivial ideals which we're attempting to enshrine into Constitutional law. No, these are lofty goals to set our sights on, and they require us, as a People, to be acutely aware of our moral alignment as a nation, of where we want our country to go now and in the future, of the direction in which we want our nation to travel, insofar as its general character is concerned. To that end, before any such amendments can even be considered, we need to change the political landscape in Washington considerably — meaning that we need to elect a far better Congress than the one we currently have. Our currently Republican-controlled House and Senate need a good cleaning-out party, and at the very least, need handing over to a Democratic (or even Independent) supermajority with strong Democratic (or Independent) leadership coming from a Democratically (or Independently) controlled White House (even though the White House has no real role in the amendment-making process, it would help to have them in our corner). In order to do this right, we first need strong Democratic and Independent House and Senate candidates who are eminently electable, which means grooming those candidates at the local level first. This means that we need to run candidates for everything from local mayors, to school board leaders, from defense attorneys to judges, from county clerks to sheriffs, and from various administrative staff to state legislators. We need to groom progressive Democratic and Independent candidates at the local and state levels and run them tirelessly, and then prep them for federal office and then run them at those levels later on. Rinse, repeat. This is a long game that needs to be played with an end-goal that is years in the future, but that is kept firmly in sight and focused, on-target, at all times, that goal being to elect a forward-thinking, progressive government, purging regressive thinkers and getting rid of old-guard conservative thinking. Then and only then can we begin the real work of reforming our government at the source-code level, the work of amending our Constitution so that Democracy 2.0 is possible in reality.

Because it is possible. We can change our government and make it work for us again rather than working for just the rich, the corporations, and special interests. We can take back our country from the moneyed interests that have stolen it from us, who have hijacked our senators and congressmen and who have wrested away control of the System from those who rightfully should control it—"we the People." We can once again steer our ship of state for ourselves, and make our congresscritters answer to us, and not the corporate world that currently directs and commands their attentions and political fortunes. We voted them into office; let's remind them of who their bosses really are, shall we? Let's take back control, starting at the local level, starting with our communities and municipalities, our cities and our states. Then let us move upward, and take on the federal government, and then, let us attack the source code, the actual foundational principles of the government itself, and make lasting changes to the System itself so that it works for the People and their "general welfare," not against it, just like Article One says it should.

The goal is not just getting "fired up, ready to go," to use Obama's words. The goal is firing the useless politicians and bureaucrats who have rigged the system in their own favor and who have stacked the deck against the common good of the People. The goal is being able to one day look the corrupt politicians of our current System in the eye and tell them, “STFU. We have something better than you, now. Clean out your desk. We don’t want or need you anymore.” And so we can tell the occupant of the White House, “Hey. You. You’re fired.” Because that really would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? To tell him that? To fire his orange butt, to kick him to the curb, to cut him out of our collective anatomy like the useless appendix that he is? We could, you know. (Fire him, that is. I'm not in favor of cutting people out of our collective anatomies, because . . . eeww, gross.) We hired him, after all. He is a public servant. He serves at our pleasure, at our disposal. I mean, I get why he was elected. He was elected because people were fed up. Angry. Pissed off and hungry for change. The trouble is, when you elect a bull to manage your China shop, crap's gonna get broken. Bigly. And that’s what Trump is — he’s a bull managing a China shop. A rampaging, angry, senseless bull who’s horny and looking for a cow to get busy with. And he’s headed for the granny in the spotted dress who’s currently shopping on aisle six. And he must be stopped. The only way to do that is through action. 

So for now, though, as pertains to the current President, what can we do but Resist and protest? We have no other choice. His weakness is that he thinks we will roll over and just take it. Let's not do that. Let's speak up, and let our voices be heard. Contact your congresscritters. Call the capitol switchboard and contact your representatives and senators; tell them to vote "NO" on Trump's budget and on Trumpcare. If they get enough of those calls, they'll sure as hell listen to the volume and the numbers even if they don't like the message they're receiving. Also, write to your senators and representatives. That helps, too. Express yourself with eloquence and logical argument. Use facts as weapons. Organize friends and associates.

And—run for local office. Run for school board. Run for county clerk. Run for Congress! Hell, you’ve got a shot. Anybody’s got a shot. (Hell, if Trump can get elected… anybody can get elected.) And if you don’t want to run for office, volunteer to help somebody who does want to run. Offer to run a phone bank, or print up signs, or go door-to-door and knock. Offer to gather signatures. Put together petitions for worthy causes that you believe have a chance. Or start a political blog and try to gain some traction that way for a cause that you’re interested in, and try to maybe put together a mailing list for like-minded people. Get together with friends and discuss issues and develop a plan of action for resistance that includes maybe some or all of the above. Download the Indivisible Guide to Resisting Trump, and read what it has to say. There’s all kinds of ways to change the System from within, if only you know how to get started. By working together, one person at a time, one connection at a time, we can set the roof of this mofo on fire, and once it’s burning, well . . . we don’t need no water.

So that’s my two-cents. Constitutional Convention maybe later, positive political action right now. Resist. Do what you can to make the world brighter. And remember: He’s a bull in a China shop, headed for the granny on aisle six. Yank the bull’s tail. Give granny a fighting chance.