Who are we?

Who are we?

As my wife and I were lamenting the impending Trump Presidency, it occurred to us that aside from ourselves and our wee brood, the remainder of our extended family (20+ all told) was politically conservative. Of course, we’ve known this for years but in the past we had always reveled in our progressive charge…now, not so much. Now it is we who are the hunted.

The first time in my adult life that I recall feeling patriotic was in 1980. I was 21 and finally eligible to vote. I remember how somber the nation was during the Carter era. Inflation was through the roof, Iran was holding us hostage and mocking us in the streets as we failed miserably at a brazen rescue attempt. And then along comes Ronald Reagan. Within hours of his inauguration, the hostages are freed. Yes! The USA isn’t cowering to you towel-heads any longer. Fuck with us and Reagan will level your sand castles quicker than you can say “Alibaba.” (It would be decades before I discovered that Reagan had zero to do with Iran freeing the hostages.) A year later, the space shuttle Columbia zipped around the Earth about 40 times and landed in the desert. Afterward, we lashed that Shuttle atop a 747 and flew it back to Florida. Hello? We just flew a jet into space and back…strapped it to a 747 and flew it home to its launchpad. Who on this planet wants to compare notes with the USA? 3 years later, I swelled again with pride as I read Ken Follet’s best selling account of Ross Perot’s mission in “On Wings of Eagles.” Wow! Are we bad-asses, or what. Only we weren’t the bad guys…we were the good guys. So there you have it…A vote for Reagan, the Space shuttle program and Ross Perot. The 3 apexes of my U.S.A. patriotism. It would be 25 years before I felt that way again.

The 9/11 attacks didn’t piss me off. Well, of course they did, but more so they intrigued me. I was as shocked as anyone, but I wasn’t roiling with vengeance. I distinctly recall thinking: “Wow, somebody really hates us…I wonder why?” It took awhile for the answer to surface, but the Cliff Notes summary was this: Not everyone appreciates our arrogance. Unfathomable dollars and a few thousand bodybags later, in walks Barack Hussein Obama II. Seriously? Less than a decade after the September bombings, and you think America is going to elect a man, a black man no less, whose very name riles the hatred we feel toward the Middle East? And this, this Hussein fellow is going to defeat a decorated war hero and assume the office of Chief and Commander of the most powerful nation on Earth? Good luck with that.

On November 4, 2008 I was 49 years old and moved to tears. It marked only the 4th time in almost 30 years of my adult life that I had swelled with American pride. I wasn’t alone. As the news spread of Obama’s landslide victory; the world literally danced in the streets. I can think of only 4 other times (during my lifetime) in which the majority of the world rejoiced in unison: (1) The Apollo moon landing. (2) The end of the Viet Nam war. (3) The fall of the Berlin wall. (4) The freeing of Nelson Mandela. And now…make it five. I was so goddamn happy for these United States of America, I was giddy. The world wasn’t cheering for Obama – the world was cheering for us! They were proud of us for having the wisdom and strength to honestly address our penchant for war and elect a pragmatist. They were proud of us for reconciling a horrid history of social injustice and giving hope to millions of people of color. They were happy for our enlightenment….happy that we had tamed our ego, if only for a moment, and allowed rational benevolence to take its place. It was a special time in our nation’s history.

My how the mighty have fallen. In the aftermath of this 2016 Presidential election, a barrage of excuses and explanations have boiled over.

  • Clinton was distrusted and disliked.
  • Trump represented change…manly change.
  • The pundits misinformed the electorate.
  • The Right resented the Left’s political correctness.
  • The disenfranchised were tired of being denied a voice.
  • The middle class wanted change…at any cost.
  • The emails doomed Hillary from the start.
  • The pollsters screwed up.
  • Weiner and Comey killed Hillary’s gallop down the home stretch.
  • She should’ve concentrated on blue collar workers.
  • Trump supporters were woefully underestimated.
  • Black and Latino voter turnout was low.
  • Women didn’t support Hillary.
  • Hispanics didn’t turn away from Trump.
  • The 3rd Party skewed the results.
  • The electoral college is to blame.

I left a couple blank in case you wanted to add your own.

Gospel: It’s not about how Hillary lost or how Trump won. It’s about who we are as a nation. This might leave a mark, but we are a nation of racists, homophobes, xenophobes, sexists and religious hypocrites….goes without saying (which is why I have to say it) that we’re also an unintelligent lot. For those of you that don’t particularly care for how that sounds, you may seek refuge in the 18-25 demographic. That group of youngsters was shown to have known better than to vote for a glorified carnival barker. That’s a promising ray of light at the end of a long, long tunnel…but it remains to be seen how that demographic politically morphs with age. So, back to what a disgusting nation we are. Too broad a brush? Okay, disgusting ½ nation. For those of you, my wife included, who contend that people other than racists voted for Trump…I say: Bullshit. Turning a blind eye is tacit acceptance. When you accept, you condone and when you condone, you enable.

Here’s another nugget: Just because you’re kind to your darker fellow man doesn’t mean you’re not a racist. It’s not enough to say; “I don’t litter.” You must also pick up the trash of those that do. Employing, or working with, or living beside, or your children playing with people of different ethnicities and races…doesn’t exempt you from racism. You must also empathize. You must not only walk in another’s shoes, you must look closely at your own path. Yes, I know… you’ve grown weary of the “race” card. No one helped you get to where you’ve gotten in life. You didn’t come from a rich daddy. You worked your ass off for everything you’ve achieved and you’d appreciate it if those bitching about their plight would do the same. You think ALL lives matter. You take offense to the term “white privilege” because you don’t feel privileged in the least. I get it….I really do. But there are a few other things that you don’t feel: Acute racial scrutiny, for one. Shameful social rumblings, biased marketing in every shape and form, a daily struggle for acceptance as a man and not a color, the shallow kindness offered by those pacifying their feeble consciences, the pockets of tribal community shared with the disenfranchised, the seldom number of times you are mistaken for the “help,” the ease with which you hail a taxi, secure a loan or book a hotel room. Wait. I get it… I really do. You’re not responsible for those things… or slavery either, for that matter. That shit was before your time and we have got to move on.

Agreed…we must move on. The thing is, democracy’s latest goat-fuck has unequivocally proven that we are ill-equipped to do so. Not only do we lack the capacity to “move on,” we lack the will. In fact, we willfully refuse to budge. This inability, lack of will and embolden pig-headedness of the electorate isn’t a result of anything on the aforementioned list of Hillary/Trump excuses. And it’s not the embarrassing underbelly of an otherwise advanced nation. It is who we are. Look around. Routinely discriminating and offending on the sole basis of skin color isn’t happenstance; it’s in our DNA.

  • We look away when Mississippi has the white-sheeted balls to proclaim its flag is about southern heritage. Blacks are incarcerated at 6 times the rate of whites. The Ku Klux Klan just endorsed the 45th President of the United States… and he let them! The mayor of Clay, WV referred to Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels.” But hey, free speech, right?
  • We (which includes women) are unable to affirm a woman’s right to choose. Texas, the poster state for birth control, just shuttered half of its abortion clinics. Last year, full-time female workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Barely 2 generations removed from women’s suffrage and only a few decades removed from credit card approval, 40% of women consciously vote against the party that represents their interests. It doesn’t take a theologian to know from whence that obedience derives?
  • Unauthorized immigration has been declining for almost a decade, but today a majority of Americans favor a wall across our Mexico/US border with 75% favoring deportation of illegal immigrants. We are a whisker away from the “extreme vetting” of an entire ethnicity….but first, we’ve got some sacred Native American lands to desecrate and a water supply to contaminate.
  • We’re 2 steps away from bakers refusing to bake wedding cakes, clerks refusing to sign marriage licenses and a narrow Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage…and some old white guys in the North Carolina legislature are sacrificing jobs, revenue, corporate opinion and national ridicule in order to keep transgender men and women from using the same bathroom they’ve been using for years. “We don’t care how you yankees do things up north, boy.”
  • Christians account for 3/4 of the political party that just elected a draft-dodging, thrice-divorced, corporate shyster and alleged sexual predator. We no longer even attempt to mask our hypocrisy.
  • Roughly the same number of people (60%) favor the manufacture, sale and possession of assault rifles as do the number of people who oppose Obamacare. Just makes you want to chant “USA! USA! USA!,” doesn’t it?

Look at us. This isn’t my dark view. This isn’t a bunch of pissed-off rednecks demanding a slice of our government. This is who we are…all of us. This is America. Of course we do some fantastic things for the world, but let’s stay real here. We are not a transformative nation on the brink of progressive societal evolution. Hell, we’re not even accepting of our own,  just when do you think we’ll be accepting of others? And as long as we’re laying the cards on the table: Our exterior ain’t that shiny either. Not just fat, we’re morbidly obese. Not just a few of us either…over a third of us. We’re also loud. We’re arrogant and belligerently defensive of our loud, fat and exceptional asses. How arrogant? Shit you not, there is a World War II movie in theatres now. That’s a 70-year-long self-patronizing glory-ride that only serves to stroke our militaristic egos and discourage diplomacy. Thanks Hollywood. How arrogant? Arrogant enough to think that even the dimmest of us could spot a snake-oil salesman when we saw one. Inside and out, this is who we are. If we were a candy bar we’d be an unenlightened chewy nougat of intolerance covered in creamy milk-chocolate grandiosity.

Does this sound like low-brow cynicism? Because that’s not the intent. The intent is to open your minds to the notion that “we ain’t all that.” For every moon landing there’s a baseless war. For every Shuttle launch there’s a Sandy Hook. For every Obama there’s a 2016 election. The point being: Trump isn’t some political fluke. He won bigly because you and I live in a country where the few are charged with the hopeless task of dragging the majority into the 21st century. That task is both a noble objective and a disgusting assignment. This shouldn’t be a chore. We shouldn’t have to calmly (so as not to demean them) convince half of the electorate that just because our political toilet is clogged it doesn’t mean it’s okay to shit in the sink. It’s like telling a drunk he’s drunk. That argument only makes sense to the sober. But here we are…trying to push that fat, wobbly red-neck out the back door only to have it revive itself long enough to yell “yippee ki yay motherfucker!” and fall back into our arms and puke. This is who we are…a half-drunken mess. It will take decades for this country to dry out and sober up, and as soon as it does it will make a beeline for the liquor cabinet. “Hi, my name is Uncle Sam and I’m an alcoholic.” Hi Sam!

Fuck Sam. In one fell swoop this country went from being my homeland to merely my birthplace. Does that sound petty? It’s not; it’s real. Think of it as family. Which do you prefer: the company of friends or relatives? And if this sounds like some selfishly indignant tirade spurred by my disgruntlement over a single election….you (like this country) are half right. I’ve lived a good life and I’m about 15 minutes away from taking a dirt nap, so really… personally…what do I care? And to clarify, I’m not pissed; I’m disgusted. I want to kick drunk old Sam in the nuts because I was supposed to be part of a generation that could proudly hand over the reigns to my kids. Now this shit. Fuck Sam. And fuck me for not recognizing my own arrogance in the notion of a rational electorate. Only I’m not that naive – I expected setbacks and resistance from a proud white nation. And I knew this country had a repugnant history… I just never thought we’d revert to it. What do I tell my kids? How do I explain this cultural disaster? How do I spin the fact that the fight for universal healthcare, that push for gun control, those marches for equality, that Iran nuke deal, that concern for planet and that black family in the White House…those weren’t embedded stones along the road to an enlightened America. Those were just sidewalk chalk murals …easily erased by the torrents of bigotry. Seriously, what’s the lesson here? Treat the ignorant with respect? Heed their cries for an antiquated voice in the shaping of our nation’s future…or else risk the political equivalent of a sink full of shit?  Nice.

We sit here. We wait, powerless. We survey this circus, or we look away. We fume with disdain and absolute shock at the enormity of our inaneness, or we contemplate our own failures as we plot a new course. And when the pendulum returns we will assess the damage. We’ll make grand plans and once again they will be met with fervent reproach. And so it goes. There will be no winner because there is no end-game. This is who we are. We are indelibly flawed by our ignorance and eternally shackled by our history… the two things we cannot change. We may be brought together by a common enemy, but only until we can return to our respective safe zones and likeminded ilk. We may make incremental societal advances, but they will be fragile, at best. There is no lofty goal for us to aspire to and this isn’t our great nation’s journey; this is merely our nation’s process. This is how the sausage is made. This is who we are.

America(n) Rules

America(n) Rules

Rule #1: Don’t be a fucking idiot. Idiots don’t think rationally, they just spew emotionally. Yeah, social media is a terrific vessel, but don’t make it a toilet.

Rule #2: We ain’t going back. Ever. Roe v. Wade ain’t coming back up for a vote, religion ain’t entering our schools, bakers aren’t going to discriminate and there will never be a wall on our southern border. That ship has sailed. Find something new to be pissed about.

Rule #3: No one’s coming for your guns. They should and I wish they would, but that’ll never happen. So there, Ted Nugent …you win.

Rule #4: We suck at war. Yes, we were raised on Clint Eastwood versions of ass-kick’n Americans, bravery and grit…but the fact is, it’s a nasty business and we have a history of failing miserably. Also, know this: We don’t have brave men and women of the armed forces…we have kids in uniforms. So cease with the glorious reruns; the world has changed and it’s high-time our view of it followed suit.

Rule #5: The chances of Congress enacting “term limits” is on par with their impending pay cut. Ain’t gonna happen…ever. So stop bitching about what a sorry lot they are. That’s how it works; you get elected to stay elected and you stay elected to represent yourself.

Rule #6: It’s only a matter of time before we adopt a single-payer healthcare system. We determine how long that takes, so don’t write your congressman…write your local newspaper. Let the media do the heavy lifting on this issue.

Rule #7: Fuck off with your techno-bashing. A nation full of people walking around with their noses glued to their phones is a good thing. It signals information gathering, entertainment, interpersonal relationships and up to the minute enlightenment.

Rule #8: The curtain’s been pulled back on Christianity. We are the first generation to say what our parents were thinking all along: If what you’re selling was true, you wouldn’t need to sell it.

Rule #9: Grow a pair. If you see or hear bullying, racism, misogyny or xenephobia …speak up. You’ll never need to apologize for standing on the right side of history and the chances are good that someone will have your back.

Rule #10: Cease with the exceptionalism. We ain’t the greatest nation on Earth; we’re one of the many wonderful countries that stake a claim in this world. We each have treasures and warts…and this ain’t a competition.

Look at you, America

Look at you, America

It should never have come to this, but it’s not Donald Trump’s fault. Quite the contrary, I say more power to him for catching a wave and shredding it. This is America, after all. I don’t really care that he’s a bigot or that he yuks it up “locker room” style. It doesn’t bother me that he’s not terribly intelligent or that he’s the last to realize what a tasteless buffoon he really is. The world is full of assholes. Hell, I’m one of them…but here’s the thing. I don’t nurture assholeism. I don’t spur the manifestation of the least desirable human characteristics in people. I don’t broadcast seeds of resentment and bitter indignation. More importantly, I know the difference between patriotism and nationalism. No America, Donald’s not the fucktard in this equation; you are.

You’re the first to wax patriotic over a 2nd string quarterback kneeling during our national fight song. You’re quick to (for fuck’s sake) attempt to rename a side item, “Freedom Fries” and to proudly proclaim the asinine axiom “Freedom isn’t Free” … and now you want to make America great again with Chinese ballcaps? You. Yes you, you obese American patriot —you are the problem. You, the guy who thinks we’re undisputedly the most exceptional country on the planet because we defeated the Germans 50 years ago. You, the red, white and blue-neck who thinks the 2nd Amendment was written with assault rifles in mind. You, the self-righteous baker, who doesn’t want to serve “different” people. You, the holier-than-thou deist, who thinks the absence of prayer in schools has ripped the moral fiber of our nation. You, the war mongering GI-John Wayne, who thinks our foreign diplomacy eventually boils down to bombing our way out of any global quagmire. You, the sanctimonious right-to-lifer, who thinks the answer to a multifaceted issue is “just say no.” You, the faith-filled skeptic, who believes in an invisible God but mocks the evidence of climate change. You, Truthers, Birthers and Sandy Hook hoaxers — you are the problem with this country. Your inability to reason is directly responsible for P. T. Barnum incarnate getting a whiff of the world’s most powerful office.

Truth be told: Donald knows bullshit when he hears it; you don’t. You hear Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson and think, “Yes, someone’s finally telling it like it is.” Donald hears those clowns and thinks, “Nice work fellows, but you can’t con a con.” You watch FOX News and shit your pants over everything from a PTSD marine stuck in a Mexican prison to Ebola to the Syrians supposedly strolling their baby bombers through your neighborhood. FOX isn’t to blame for that propaganda; you are. You watch Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews and surmise W Bush is a dolt, Cheney orchestrated the IRAQ war and Reid and Pelosi are just trying to help the poor. Are you starting to connect the dots here? Here’s another clue: Jesus ain’t the problem with Christianity….“Christians” are.

Yes, we have a divided nation, but it’s not a political divide. It’s not an educational, housing, wealth, health or opportunity divide. Disparity will always have a home in those sectors of society. No, the reason we suffer as a divided nation is because half of us are idiots. Don’t take offense; we’re not talking education here. We’re talking about non-rational thinkers…and here’s what you need to know about them: They know no geographical or socioeconomic bounds. The fact that these dregs of puzzlement cross all zones of our society is quite the phenomenon, but just as remarkable is the ease with which they assimilate into our personal folds. You may hold the fondest, life-long admiration and respect for someone, only to witness a cringe-worthy projection of ignorance tumble from their pie hole. That time-stamped moment of fractured logic is also the exact moment your psyche jolts your perception. It’s not “game over” for your interpersonal relationships, but it’s damn sure “game changer.” This is how families, friends, lovers and virtual ilk…split. And it’s a good thing they do, as we can’t have everyone tacitly burying their heads in the sand in an effort to keep the peace. This is not to say we shouldn’t be accepting of others and mindful of diversity. This is to say, don’t be a schmuck and perpetuate the idiocy. If you hear bullshit, call it.


As a born-again atheist, you’d think that I’d be topping the skepticism charts — and you’d be wrong. There are those among us who will readily put aside a lifetime of experiences in lieu of a fantastic alternative. Just so you know, I’m not singling out the Area 51/UFO theorists, the faked moonshot folks or Pat Roberts. (That’s a different category altogether — not so much idiocy as tinfoilishness.) No, what I’m referring to are the modern era conspiracy peeps and partisan blowhards who readily suck up FOX News, Ted Nugent, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, Breitbart, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter…and… Huffington Post, Michael Moore, Ed Shultz, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. Those partisan hacks are easy to identify; and like Donald Trump, they are not the problem — their believers are.

Granted, women will mindlessly vote against their own well-being. And the poor will remain malnourished by the lip service they receive from the left. The evangelicals will vote as blindly as their faith. Old white men will beat their imperialistic chests despite the risk of body-bagging their sons and daughters. The 1% will, for the most part, remain indifferent. Xenophobes and racists will scratch and claw to keep things the way they “used to be”…never once considering how horrific things “used to be.” But here’s the thing you need to grasp: Diversity of thought refers to opposing or differing opinions on a spectrum of issues. It does not refer to rational perspectives vs. emotional cluelessness. It’s not a shouting match or a battle of ad hominems and tasteless memes. If you’re really that adamant, or that adamantly repulsed, about an issue, don’t you owe it to yourself to take a peek at the other side of the equation? Otherwise we’re just orchestrating an unwinnable pissing contest. The fact is, we don’t move forward without some honest introspection, and the certainty with which this country is struggling to rise above the political fray is emblematic of its inferiority.


This may sting a little, but take a look in the mirror, America. You were once the world’s star — and now look at you. Your shining countenance is now a bitchy resting face. Racial and homophobic blemishes you once vanquished with a smidge of concealer are now age spots that require laser surgery. Your supple skin tones are now leathered, war-torn drapes of flesh. Your agile prance into the future is now a seditious plod. While you were cataloging your photo albums of glory, time crept up beside you. Take a look in the mirror now, America. You are molting. In a few short decades you will barely resemble your former self. The transformation is inevitable, and yet, like the aging movie star and the tattered old war veteran, you are saddened to leave the fame behind. Well, that’s your dumbass — but fear not, America of old. We will always love, respect and appreciate you, but it is indeed time for you to go. Please don’t sully your accomplishments with a tantrum-laced curtain call. Please don’t risk the embarrassment of our having to escort you out of the 20th century. Go with your dignity intact. No, the new America won’t look or act anything like you did during your prime. Nor should it. The new America will be stronger than you, not through brute strength, bravery and human sacrifice but through wisdom, pragmatism and respect for others. The new America will be friendlier than you, more inclusive, more tolerant, more talented, more capable, more exciting, more innovative, more diverse, more intelligent and more peaceful than you. And just like you, the new America will have a plethora of domestic and foreign problems to reconcile. The new America will succeed, stumble and fail…and renew again. So really, this is just a process. We are a dynamic entity. We cannot, nor will we ever, find a sweet spot in our growth and cling to it as if we’ve accomplished our goal as a nation. The only constant state along our journey is the state of transition. So go ahead and love your old-school mores. Sit back and smile with pride as you recollect your history. And absolutely question the direction we are now headed, but don’t obstinately attempt to hold back time. We are evolving. Your hair is thinning and you’re in the back seat now. Please don’t indiscriminately bark driving instructions — the rest of us will just smirk at your comb over and seriously contemplate leaving you behind at the next stop.

Ron Hesmer

POST ELECTION UPDATE: Forget what I said about leaving the 20th century…we’re gonna be here awhile.

November 6, 2016