It’s the Little Things

There is an interestingly imperfect crime thriller out right now called The Little Things that might help us all process how it is that Donald Trump has once again seemingly gotten away with his crimes scot free.

It stars Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as two guys tasked with meting out some form of justice to a sociopathic, creepy criminal third guy (played by Jared Leto) who has spent a lifetime pushing the boundaries of right and wrong for his own amusement and grizzly personal gains (Note: In this case, fast cars and serial murders) and gleefully getting away with it.

Also getting away with that rockstar greasy hair #onlyJL

It’s a rivetingly weird yet ultimately unsatisfying film you can watch on HBO Max, much in the same way the travails of Trump continue to be a disgustingly compelling yet consistently unsatisfying piece of our history available at any time, day or night, on just about any channel of your choice.

The latest Trump crime of the moment, which can change depending on the time of day, week or month you’re reading this, would be the incitement of the violent, bloody insurrection into the Capitol Building on Jan. 6th by an armed, riotous mob of Trump supporters, some of whom were carrying Trump flags, others of whom were sporting Confederate flags and almost all of whom were shouting things like, Hang Mike Pence, Hang Mike Pence!, as a gallows they constructed for that very deed stood outside the building just mere yards away.

Totally normal stuff… nothing to see here #yikes

While it doesn’t quite qualify as serial murder, it was an event where five people died, including one police officer in cold blood, and hundreds of others were injured or maimed for life (Note: Another police officer will lose an eye, still another some fingers, and still others ____________).

Despite seemingly endless compelling footage that showed Trump bellowing, frothing and egging on his people, many of whom he knew were heavily armed and most of whom had their D.C. trips paid for by his campaign, the Senate could muster only a 57-43 vote in favor of his impeachment (Note: Ten more votes were needed for a 2/3 majority). 

This energy entirely

This despite Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, one of those NOT GUILTY on impeachment votes, proclaiming in a fiery speech right after that Trump was indeed:

…Practically and morally responsible for the events of that day, no question about it…The people who stormed the building, believed they were acting on the instruction of their president.

How Mitch McConnell sleeps at night

To me this seemed eerily similar to the young woman at the top of The Little Things who, when driving her car and gleefully singing to the B-52s Roam late one night on a darkened highway, gets chased down by a guy in expensive boots and a revved up auto.

Sometime later at a police station she knows in her heart of hearts it IS Jared Leto, especially since she, like those senators, was an eyewitness to his criminal attempt.  

Yet somehow, when faced with the prospect of fingering him, she also falls victim to what can only now be referred to as a McConnell moment.

Is that a thing now?

She knows yet she doesn’t know, she wants to step up but hesitates to do so, she commits to speaking out but the imperfections of the legal system allow her to slip out of her civic and, indeed, moral responsibilities.

Though perhaps she, and in turn McConnell, never had any intention of helping to begin with.  And who could blame them?  Because for most humans it is ultimately, and always has been, about SELF-PRESERVATION. 

No matter how many little things land in the column to vote one way, when YOU and yours ALONE are the only thing in the opposite column well, we all know what your final vote will be.

Pretty much!

That is, if you’re THAT kind of person.  But um, how many of us aren’t these days, in a movie or in real life? 

That’s the question the film, and this impeachment trial asks us.  And right now the answer isn’t an attractive one.

Any of the fire Sen. McConnell had mustered in his speech began to quickly flame out, reducing him to an amorphous puddle of word mush when he explained that  legal precedent dictated that the Senate technically can’t impeach a president who was already out of office.

Also.. this

It was pretzel logic at its worst, since the Senate on that Monday had:

a. ALREADY VOTED that they COULD have these hearings in the first weeks of the Biden administration.

b. That the vast majority of conservative and liberal legal scholars proclaimed very publicly in the preceding few weeks there was no such precedent prohibiting it, and

c. That it was McConnell himself who, just weeks before, when he was SENATE MAJORITY LEADER and could dictate such things, was the person who REFUSED to have the Senate hold the impeachment trial when Trump was IN office in the first place.

This guy really thinks we’re stupid, huh?

These pesky little details seem to both serve and haunt McConnell and the other Republican senators each time they opt to NOT hold a multi-criminally accused mastermind like Trump to the spirit of the law and choose instead, to get too caught up in the letters of it.

Each proclamation is a calculation, and every vote becomes a maneuver.  Each piece of evidence is weighed and put in the yay or nay column when at the end of the day the only column that matters is the one that will personally serve EACH OF THEM best.

There is no real truth or justice because all it comes down to is the law that they CHOOSE to see.  This law has nothing to do with the spirit of truth or justice.  It lives only in the shadows of self-preservation.

Denzel… help us understand

In Little Things, Denzel is haunted by a mistake he made in the past that exiled him from respected detective to ordinary beat cop in a non-descript county. 

Rami is a big city detective prime for a mistake because of the pressure on him to solve a big city crime before he puts his wife and two little girls on the front lines of danger OR the feds swoop in, take over his case and steal HIS glory.

Meanwhile, Jared is the dangerous mastermind who taunts them with quick and endless bon mots, breadcrumbs towards would-be VERY high crimes committed in plain sight and counters their backtalk with ominous threats in coded language that everyone can understand and yet no one can seem to legally prosecute.

Not gonna work here

The film asks us to ask ourselves just how much bad we’re willing to tolerate or cover up for or ignore in the name of what WE think is right.

This week Trump’s Senate impeachment hearings once again asked our government and its representatives a similar question:

Just how much can we allow in the name of what WE believe? 

Sadly, in both cases, the answer didn’t have much to do with the law.  Rather, it was about the people or persons tasked with carrying it out and what personally benefitted them.

A bunch of little things that seem to always willfully ignore the BIG THING standing right before us.

Blink 182 – All The Small Things

Landslide

In 1974, Stevie Nicks wrote her enduring and now iconic song, Landslide.   In it she reflects on the challenges of change in one’s life and imaginatively uses the various images and seismic shifts in nature to relate her thoughts and feelings.

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down…

ICON

Like many creative artists, Nicks was using her talent to express what was, for her, the inexpressible at that moment.  She and her boyfriend, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, had little money and, despite some limited success and encouragement, she wondered whether to continue with her relationship and musical career or, instead, simply leave both and, well, go back to school.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, I don’t know….

Is this just a Stevie Nicks appreciation blog? #maybe #whynot

Little did she know that the following year she would become a part of Fleetwood Mac and the band would explode with a string of hit singles and albums that would earn them worldwide fame, fortune and eventually even a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

And 40 years later a viral TikTok video

Not to mention, many of their greatest hits would be written by Nicks herself and that she would go on to have her own hugely successful solo career.  And that she and her great love affair with Buckingham would indeed end.  And that she and this world famous band would break up, reunite, then break up and reunite, and break up again until even their worldwide fans lost count.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Landslide lately as I’ve spent my days being haunted by the prospect of democracy enduring and the hope (yet fear) of an electoral landslide.

I swear this hasn’t been me for the past month #promise

Moreover, I’ve been petrified by the thought of our country’s ability to withstand either and move on even semi-intact.

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too

Watch it

Strangely, it is at this point in the song where there is a long, poignant musical interlude where no words are spoken and we are all, indeed, meant to feel, think and reflect.  So it seems appropriate at this moment to consider the crystal clear shift of Americans as we fully take in the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election vs. where we stood four years ago.

2020 Electoral College (270 needed to win):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 306
  • Donald J. Trump: 232

2020 Popular Vote (and still counting):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 78,686,795
  • Donald J. Trump: 73,102,757
I’m not gloating I swear #OKmaybealittle #itsearned #WOO

2016 Electoral College Results (270 needed to win):

  • Donald J. Trump: 306
  • Hillary Clinton: 232

2016 Popular Vote Results (final tally):

  • Hillary Clinton: 65,853,625
  • Donald J. Trump:  62,985,106

Geologically a landslide is the sliding down of a mass of earth or rock from a mountain or cliff.  But society, being what it is, long ago appropriated that word for its politics.  As a group we freely, and universally, now consider landslide to mean an overwhelming majority of votes for one party in an election.

Crushed?

Certainly we don’t want to get further down into the weeds at what constitutes overwhelming since we now occupy an American space where we find ourselves fist-fighting (and worse) in the public square over whether it should be a moral, and perhaps legal, requirement to wear a mask when coming within six feet of others during our current global, and airborne, viral pandemic.

AGHHHHHHHH

Note: COVID-19 has so far killed over 1.3 million people worldwide and murders close to1500 Americans daily. Total infections are 53.8 million to date, 10.9 million (almost 20%) of which are in the U.S.

So to be fair, let’s bend over backwards and use the measure of our outgoing POTUS. The guy who tweeted right after his Nov. 2016 win, and restated publicly, privately and throughout the world various iterations of these same thoughts about what constitutes overwhelming and thus, landslides, via his many surrogates over the last four years, in proclamations such as this:

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide . . .”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 27, 2016

“CNN is so embarrassed by their total support of Hillary Clinton and her loss in a landslide, that they don’t know what to do.”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 28, 2016

And —

Me, not having to think about Kellyanne ever again

With 306 established as the legitimate mark of victory and DEFEAT, now might be a good time to remind everyone, especially those who this year LOST, that with the above musical interlude over this is the point in the song where the prior verse again repeats, and by doing so asks us ALL to once again truly rethink, and reflect, on all of our very human natures:

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
and I’m gettin’ older, too
I’m gettin’ older, too

What? My birthday is this week? No we’re skipping 2020

Now as a writer, I will admit that I am prone to attach superhuman power to the words the best of my fellow writers put together, whether in prose or dialogue, comedy or drama, or anything in between. 

But after the last four years I gotta hand it to Steve Nicks for decades later giving us a way to move forward, individually and en masse, when our backs are pressed against the wall. 

Did I mention ICON?

That’s why this weekend, and hopefully from now on, I take a lot of comfort from her concluding verse.  Rather than a shift in weather patterns or a deadly collapsing of the universe as I knew it, it finally offered me massive glimmers of light through the resounding power of reinvention:

So take this love, take it down

If you climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the SNO-O-O-O-WWWW covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide will bring it down

Listen, none of this is ever without risk.  But when you get a chance to level what wasn’t working away and leave behind an avalanche of tweets, it’s hard not to celebrate the sight of a newly imagined playing field and all the potential it offers moving forward.

Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”