The problem with electing as president a habitually lying reality TV personality is that you sort of lose track of what’s real. Even after the national embarrassment of making Donald Trump president, I didn’t expect him to actually take office. He didn’t want that, right? He just wanted to win. Surely, in the days before anyone tried to swear him in, he would appear on television and give us all a stern lecture about the importance of taking our roles as informed voters seriously. Then he would hand things over to our next president, the real one. That’s not happening. Remember the jokes we all made two summers ago about how hilarious President Trump would be? That’s what’s happening. Today is Friday, and our intuitive sense of what’s real is not as reliable as we think. Won’t you dream that you woke up with me?
On Sunday, President Obama announced that he would be leaving a seat open at his State of the Union Address for the victims of gun violence. This morning, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced that he, too, would leave one of his guest seats empty, to protest abortion. “I have reserved it to commemorate the lives of more than 55 million aborted babies, the chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world,” he said, adding that he would not attend the address himself. In light of these changes, the updated guest list is as follows:
“I’m not politically correct,” says the person who is racially, sexually and anatomically correct. The 1990s’ favorite straw man is back, possibly for real but definitely as something to fret about. For the last several days, Yale has been embroiled in debate over an email professor Erika Christakis wrote suggesting campus administrators not supervise students’ Halloween costumes. Students were outraged, calling for Christakis’s resignation and demanding that Nicholas Christakis, her husband, apologize. “You should not sleep at night,” one student shouted at him. “You’re disgusting.” It is pretty disgusting when a man refuses to apologize for his wife saying kids should get to wear what they want. This seems like another troubling indicator that today’s college students are less interested in free speech and more interested in enforcing a simplistic ethos of identity. But what if they’re not?
On Saturday, protestors aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement shut down a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think police violence against black people is a huge problem that the United States is, for the most part, still ignoring. I think activism—particularly activism by protest—is by definition disruptive and unpopular. You know what reduced institutional racism in Ferguson? Rioting in the streets. So you cannot criticize an act of protest for being inappropriate, because that’s the point. You can, however, criticize a protest for being ineffective, and I question whether Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford achieved what they wanted on Saturday.
The picture above shows Officer Daniel Pantaleo applying a rear naked choke to Staten Island man Eric Garner in the moments before Garner’s death. The NYPD forbids choke holds, because they can kill people when applied improperly. In the picture above, Pantaleo fails to get his elbow below Garner’s chin; instead of applying pressure to the carotid arteries, cutting off the blood supply to Garner’s brain, he presses against Garner’s throat, potentially damaging his trachea. But an autopsy found no injury to Garner’s windpipe. He died of cardiac arrest, which just happened to result from four officers using explicitly prohibited force to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. As you have certainly heard by now, none of those officers will be charged. A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, who testified that he was merely trying to wrestle Garner to the ground. Today is Friday, and the police are above the law. Won’t you stagger beneath it with me?