Life in the Upside Down

So how was your week?

Did you know the fourth (and final?) season of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix?

What about that sequel to Top Gun, the trashy, watchable and massively popular 1986 film starring Tom Cruise that I never quite liked (Note: Oh, who cares, Chair?!) but yet managed to be moved by (Spoiler Alert:  I can’t reveal that moment but it’s as cheap, effective and mind-numbingly obvious as anything to come out of the 80s).

Anyway, do you know that Top Gun: Maverick (2022) is having the biggest opening of any Tom Cruise film EVER this Memorial Day weekend, grossing upwards of $260 million internationally?

Everything old is new again

I bet you didn’t know THAT.

But even if you did, who cares, right?

Because none of it truly matters when you’re livin’ life in the upside down.

If you don’t get that reference, the Upside Down is the crazy underground alien world we were first introduced to in the first season of Stranger Things.

It is an evil, ruthless, violent dystopian place where anything can happen and you will more likely than not, not survive.

Think of it as, well,  an American classroom in the midst of a school shooting.

Too soon? 

I don’t think so.

Might as well just cut off the top of the pole

I can tell you that episode one of ST’s fourth season opens with a short sequence that ends with a series of cuts to the maimed, bloody corpses of a group of pre-teens at the hands of…  Oh, well, why spoil the fun?

Just know that the Duffer Brothers once again have their hands on the deadening pulse of America. 

So much so that several days ago there was a warning card inserted right before the episode began that lets us know this season was shot a year ago, and that we’re saddened by the recent blah, blah, blah, etc. etc., etc….

But talk about prescience.

It’s like Eleven could sense… the most predictable thing

On the other hand, maybe these images, cuts and, well, shots are just the kind of thing we take for granted these days.  And what are writers anyway except a delivery system of artistic truths for the masses to see and contemplate and feed upon?

At least that’s how I talk about us when I’m at my most cynical.

And this would be one of those times.

There is no sense to be made of the shooting deaths of 19 children and two of their teachers at an elementary school in the small town of Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday because one can’t make sense of the insane and nonsensical.  That’s what makes us categorize those events as such.

Senseless

And yet there is no lack of would-be sense makers trying to deny the obvious with lies, tortured statements and contorted half-truth answers to the obvious.

Here is a list of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S, over the last two decades.

The majority of these were done with military style weapons like the AR-15, the gun of choice for that 18 year-old shooter at Uvalde.  The gun the NRA backed Republican Party refuses to ban. (Note: Heck, they don’t even want universal background checks).

And there is a reason for that.  This gun can shoot a bullet a second, eviscerating the flesh, bones and organs of its human targets like no other weapon in our history.

It’s speed and efficiency has made it BY FAR the most popular and PROFITABLE  gun out there.  And that’s quite an accomplishment since at this point there are way more guns than people in the U.S.

You read that right.

Who else is mad as hell?

No wonder the shooter bought two of them in the course of a week, along with more than enough ammunition to kill all those kids two or three times over.  And no background check required,  you can’t even get two handguns until you turned 21 and, anyway, these AR-15’s are much quicker, faster and FAR more fun.  Speaking from the merely logical perspective of an 18-year-old, they are the best and most efficient way to achieve your goals.

And yet we’ve got the Texas governor (Abbott) and senator (Cruz) on TV mansplaining to us all sorts of things.

– It’s single parent families and a lack of religion that has helped create all this.

– It’s mental illness (Note: Duh) in the last 20 years, especially because you used to always be able to buy rifles at age 18.

– It’s a excuse to take away everyone’s guns, a Democratic hoax to take over and politicize every single awful thing in the world to their favor rather than address the issues real Americans care about.

– Only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns.

Of course, in reality Texas ranks last of all states in the country for money allotted to  mental health services and effectiveness in treating them.  It is also one of easiest states in the country to buy and possess a gun thanks to recent legislation signed by Gov. Abbott that vastly expanded gun rights.

The fact is, you can buy and carry pretty much any type of gun anywhere at any time. 

As for that final statement, more than a dozen police officers, all of them presumably good guys with guns, stood inside that elementary school on the opposite side of a classroom door where a bunch of children 10 and under lay bleeding, screaming, terrified and begging (Note: via recorded 911 calls) to be rescued.

Make it make sense

But the good guys were wrongly ordered to stand down by their supervisor when they should have gone in, or so it’s being said right now.  This was a different story than was announced on Tuesday.

 And it might get even worse by next Tuesday.

But suffice it to say, there is nothing simple about this story that any good guys vs. bad guys scenario might possibly address.

As much as the top elected officials in Texas and in the world of Republican politics want to make this into a simplified tale of life in the wild, wild west.

It is nothing of the sort.

This is life right now.

And as long as we remain the RIGHT side of the aisle up, we will stay forever in the upside down.

Lady Gaga – “Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick)

Mother of all Choices

I don’t know about you, but I like to have choices.  This is one reason I tend to overpack when I travel, even for a weekend.  

I can barely decide on what I am going to wear each day, much less the day after tomorrow in a different city.  Given global warming and the toxicity of our environments, a forecast of 78 degrees FOR a Tuesday can mean 46 degrees ON that Tuesday.

If this reads like a flippant way to get into the #1 news story in American life, it is.

You knew where I was going…

How else can we right now treat the leaked draft of a new Supreme Court ruling that will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case and rescind a woman’s choice on whether to terminate HER pregnancy, even in the case of rape or incest, if a state so chooses?

Yes, we ALL need to demonstrate, fight, scream and, most importantly VOTE for pro-choice candidates if this draft becomes law once this ruling, or some variation of it, gets released in its final version next month.

Not now, not ever

But for right now the sheer hubris, audacity and basic on-the-record manipulative lies being perpetrated on the American public with this edict – basically because of three far right Trump appointed, judicial conservatives rammed onto the Supreme Court in order to purposely create this very majority opinion – should not to be treated with respect.

In fact, it should be treated for exactly what it is.  

That’s all.

A mountain of cleverly worded intellectual pretzel logic law horse traded by an orange-faced, aspiring dictator who still couldn’t win his re-election campaign.

A diarrhea of paragraphs meant to perpetrate a dogmatic, oppressive, religious agenda on a heretofore secular country. 

A betrayal by a small group of the most powerful judges in the land, the three most recent of whom committed moral perjury in their confirmation hearings so they could gain a seat to do exactly this – roll back our rights to those of half a century ago for the first time in American history rather than moving them forward.

The ultimate offensive, cynical stupidity of this move will haunt both the Court and the Republican Party for decades.

Please vote in November!

According to a recent Pew Research poll, 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  Support for abortion with restrictions would score far higher.

And the Guttmacher Institute, a respected organization that studies sexual health and reproductive rights, recently estimated that a whopping 24% of ALL U.S. WOMEN will have an abortion before the age of 45.

What this means is that the anti-choice Handmaid’s Tale movement is outnumbered, and by A LOT.  As a gay person it reminds me of the similar approval numbers right before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality – aka the passage of same sex marriage – seven years ago.

Did I mention VOTE IN NOVEMBER?

Of course, the difference is the equality ruling reflected where the vast majority of the country stood on civil liberties while this 2022 curtailment (Note: Or whatever you want to call it) of Roe v. Wade favors minority rule and taking away our long established freedom of choice.

I don’t usually read or promote the conservative leading Wall Street Journal, but this short opinion piece claiming that somehow these conservative justices didn’t lie in their confirmation hearings is a prime example of the level of hypocrisy the American public is being asked to absorb whole, and unlubricated.

Again, for the seats in the back!

Dodging questions that could expose them as anti-choice, the Trump judges all admitted that 1973’s Roe v. Wade fell into the legal category of stare decisis, a legal term which translated literally means to stand by things decided.

In fact, Justice Kavanaugh, that bastion of women’s rights, testified the issue of Roe had been reaffirmed many times, specifically noting legal precedent is critically important when it comes to judicial rulings.

But heavily implying you’re not touching that precedent and changing your mind about the case  is not the same as saying you absolutely won’t touch the case and change your mind!!

Who could have seen this coming??

That is the argument used by the WSJ editorial board, which is similar to the argument Lucy gave Charlie Brown before she moved the football.  Or the one that one grade school bully posed to me before he grabbed my tuna sandwich and left me with his hot lunch of rancid meatloaf, lukewarm beets and a teeny, tiny mini-carton of sour milk. (Note: Yes, this was the sixties.  And we shouldn’t go back).

Of course, all this wordplay does nothing for all the anger I have on behalf of young people – particularly women – who will now have to deal with this needless crap for the next, numerous decades.  The money spent, the energy expended on sheer dictatorial nonsense is enough for me to wish I could make every season of Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale required viewing in each classroom and courthouse in red state America.

Their new favorite superhero

Not that the majority of them wouldn’t side with the Gilead powers-that-be or send out a posse led by a Ginny Thomas clone  (Note: Our real life Aunt Lydia) to land me on the WALL.

The salacious, infuriating side story in all this mess is the one President Pancake Makeup told to Howard Stern in 2004 when he found out his then girlfriend, Marla Maples, was pregnant with the unborn fetus that would eventually become his youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump.

As he tells it, his exact quote was, Excuse me, what happened?, followed by a sarcastic, Oh great, and the proclamation, Well, what are we GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?

UGH

As a fellow guy who grew up in his hometown of Queens let me translate that for you.  It means, and I paraphrase, how soon can you get an abortion and okay, I guess I have to pay for it.  See Allen Weisselberg, give him the receipt and he’ll reimburse you on your way out.

Something like that likely would have happened if Ms. Maples didn’t speak up and say to him,  Are you serious?  It’s the most beautiful day of our lives.

To which Trump once again replied, Oh, great, either sarcastically or in a serious but placating manner.   I will leave it up to you to CHOOSE the line reading that makes the most sense.

But however you interpret it, this much is clear.   Those at higher income levels will always have the right to choose

Either way. 

I, for one, fully respect whatever choice a woman makes.  What I don’t respect, and reject, are a bag full or hypocrites in robes being propped up by a party full of foaming at the mouth conspiracy theorists, would-be dictators and immorally bankrupt, power hungry just–for-the-sake-of-it stooges.

Luckily, we have the numbers on this. 

And come June they can kiss our collective asses. 

Hairspray – “You Can’t Stop the Beat”