This is, by no means, any sort of endorsement of any of the film/TV/radio-drama adaptations of this work—all of which either entirely miss what gives this story its lasting power, or convert a fundamentally profound work about kitchen-table American politics (i.e., the only kind that actually matters) to a moderately stupid and lazily nihilistic creature features.
Read the novella (which is also the first story in Skeleton Crew—a whole book of classic King shorts that costs just a couple buck more than the standalone novella—and is bootlegged here).Ignore the monsters and the titular mist; watch the people.And never lose sight of the final word in the story.
The Pseudopod team always does great work, but I’m especially thrilled with what the reader—Rish Outfield—has done here; the story has lots of voices, and he captures them all.Such a treat. (For those less inclined to audio drama and more to old-fashioned reading, they have the full text of the story posted, too.)
“The kids here don’t get out much – spending almost 22 hours a day indoors.”- @jacobsoboroff is one of the first journalists invited inside America’s largest detention facility for migrant children pic.twitter.com/g6EiwFBdBY
My point here: This is not a “concentration camp” by any modern conventional standard (in that “concentration camp” connotes harsh conditions, overcrowding, and general neglect if not outright abuse). Here’s a New York Times description at what they saw at this specific migrant internment center:
Most of the boys are from Central America. Many of them smiled, waved at or shook the hands of the reporters touring the site. They were asked by the reporters and Southwest Key executives, in Spanish, “How are you?”
The constant reply was “Bien, bien,” meaning “OK, OK.” The media was not allowed to interview the children.
Some were leaning back, getting a shampoo at the sinks in the shelter’s barbershop, where a striped lit-up barber’s pole spun outside the door. They lined up in the cafeteria for dinner — chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables. Some played pool, or joined a tai chi session in the rec room. One teenager sat at a cafeteria table with his head bowed and hands clasped, praying silently. Another told the cafeteria worker who served him dinner, “Gracias, Miss.”
Everywhere, some of the shelter’s more than 1,000 employees hovered nearby — they sat at the ends of the cafeteria tables while the boys ate dinner, watched “Moana” with the children in the old loading docks and escorted lines of boys in the hallways.
The vast majority, Southwest Key officials said, crossed the border unaccompanied.
Still, calling these “concentration camps” runs the risk of continuing to erode the general American understanding of the heinous magnitude of suffering endured bythe Jews and others interned and enslaved by the Third Reich, or the Americans of Japanese descent imprisoned by the U.S. government, or the countless others who have been confined, reeducated, absorbed, and exterminated by the smooth-grinding wheels of governments.
On top of that, calling these “concentration camps” is a disservice to progress and to these specific children.
That said, saying that “these aren’t concentration camps” is in no way meant to suggest that what’s happening here is good; it’s getting overcrowded, it’s unsustainable, they’re starting to set up tent villages (in Texas, in the summer—lack of rigid shelter and HVAC is a huge drop in livability outside El Paso). This is precariously close to starting the inevitable slide into what we all would recognize as concentration camps.
But, goddamit, right now we are very close to doing the Right Thing™ here: Most of these kids are showing up at the border without parents or guardians; it is right and good to shelter them, feed them, protect them, show them Moana. That’s what a country dedicated to the huddled masses yearning to be free should be doing.With proper action, there is an opportunity here for these centers to level up to being well-run refugee centers.
We should call our reps, and say as much: I want unaccompanied minors to be sheltered and fed.I want those who’ve been abused, or whose home places have been made unlivable by gangs or failed governments, to have access to asylum.Kids who have braved the elements and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, they’ve got True Grit; I want to know how they can become my neighbors and fellow citizens.🇺🇸
SUBJECT: The PotUS sanctions bigotry, assists persecution
Dear [NAME TK],
I was truly and deeply dismayed this morning to read the President’s remarks on the recent NFL decision to fine players who kneel during the National Anthem.Specifically:
“You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Just to be clear, I don’t particularly care for football, nor for labor practices within the NFL.If that employer wants to set a weird (to me) rule about how to comport oneself during pre-game musical performances, then that’s for those employers, their employees, those employees’ union, and the courts to sort out.
I’m not even that concerned to hear a President so blithely unaware of existing First Amendment precedent; sure, I learned about cases like West VA State Board of Ed v. Barnette in middle school, but not everyone benefited from my fine education, and not every President can be a noted Constitutional scholar.
But I’m extremely concerned when I hear a sitting U.S. President breezily opine that a group of people who believe differently than he “shouldn’t be in the country.”I grew up in a community with a very small number of Jehovah’s Witnesses—folks who, for religious reasons, do not pledge allegiance or stand for the National Anthem.As a Jew, I did not share their beliefs—but I was taught, by my family, my faith leaders, and my teachers, that their beliefs were worthy of my respect.More to the point, I was taught that their beliefs were due equal protection under the law—just like mine.
Violent crime in general is trending down in the U.S., but hate crimes continue to climb—and speaking out against any element of that rising tide of hate and bias seems to run the risk of having a target painted on your back by a big bully, who we inexplicably permit to continue to bludgeon private citizens from his bully pulpit, uncensured.
Mick Mulvaney currently heads the White House Office of Management and Budget (which you likely don’t care about), and serves as the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which you really should care about). Last week he was pretty damned brazen about being totally fine with prioritizing lobbiest/industry wishlists over the welfare of your average American, provided that 1) the average American in question wasn’t from his home state and 2) the lobbiest in question had ponied up (for real; he straight-up said this to a roomful of bankers. Once again, we’ve crossed the line into cartoonish super-villainy.)
Anyway, he’s unfit to serve, both because he’s actively averse to the mission of the agency he’s heading and because he encourages corruption. Here’s what I wrote to my reps; maybe you wanna contact yours today.
subject: Mick Mulvaney is unfit to head OMB/CFPB
I’m writing as one of your constituents, deeply concerned about Mick Mulvaney’s current roles in the Executive Branch.As was widely reported (and, I believe, confirmed by Mulvaney himself) this past week, he has a “pay-for-play” policy for lobbyists and special interests:
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney told those gathered at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”(He then went on to urge those gathered to buy influence.)
Not shockingly, those lobbying for payday lenders donated roughy $63,000 to his various campaigns. Earlier this year, in his role as interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mulvaney dropped probes and enforcement actions focused on payday and high-interest lenders.
Given current reporting and his own statements and conflicts of interest, Mick Mulvaney seems generically unfit to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, and nauseatingly unfit to serve as the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—let alone White House Chief of Staff (his rumored next role).
For that matter, I’m not particularly comfortable seeing a man who so clearly accepts corruption as a “cost of doing business” return to the Legislature—but that’s for the people of South Carolina to sort out, may God have mercy on their souls.
Thank you again for your time and for continuing to fight the Good Fight in D.C.
Long story short: Mulvaney the current head of the Office of Management and Budget, and last week the President also made him acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).This is a little odd, since Mulvaney is on the record calling the agency a “joke” that he’d eliminate—but that’s all just talk.What’s fundamentally rotten is that Mulvaney received roughly half a million dollars in donations from financial organizations that have been fined muy mucho dinero by the CFPB.
I’m not casting aspersions on Mulvaney or claiming he’s done—or would do—anything wrong; I’m sure he’s a great guy, and plausibly has many good ideas that make him highly qualified to filly two essential 120-hour/week gov’t positions.But just as a thought experiment, say you had a kid in day care, and that day care hired someone who seemed like a fine pick and totally passed the criminal background check, but had also accepted millions of dollars from a group of notorious and powerful pedophiles.Would this cause you concern?
Anyway, please take a minute and call your reps, and explain that you think there is maybe a moral hazard here.
Listen: There is going to be a major attack on U.S. soil between now and, I dunno, probably the end of January 2018. (I personally think it’ll be earlier—possibly by mid-October—but depending on who is attacking, I think they might wait as late as Xmas/New Year’s in order to maximize mayhem).
I’ve been saying this for months, but I think most folks thought I was kidding.I’m not.
REMINDER: We’re likely 2 to 4 months from a major US soil attack. PotUS will use it to consolidate power. https://t.co/wiy1XddbSC
A disorganized defender cannot defend.When your opponent is disoriented, you strike.It’s elementary, and holds in many fields: In business negotiations, in chess, in Go,in court, in bar fights and boxing matches, in battlefields and hardened bunkers.
Readers of a certain age will recall that the success of the 9/11 attacks was widely attributed to a “failure to connect the dots” within the Executive Branch (especially within intelligence and foreign affairs agencies).Why did we fail to connect the dots?Because there were empty seats throughout the administration, and the folks in many of the filled seats were still coming up to speed.
Rewind 11 months from 9/11, and you’ll recall we had an insanely close presidential election that ultimately needed to be decided by the Supreme Court.As a result, when G.W.Bush took office, his team had significantly less time to pull together their nominations than was the modern norm.100 days in, he was still behind, with only about 35 confirmed nominees (there are several thousand positions that need to be filled by any incoming president, of which about 577 are considered vital by experts).200 days in GWB had 294 nominations confirmed, roughly half of the most vital positions.In other words, on day 200 in office, G.W.Bush still had 283 empty seats in vital parts of the Executive Branch, and many of the seats that were filled had folks sitting in them who’d only had a couple months—maybe just weeks—to digest, consider, and route huge amounts of intel.About a month after that we notably “failed to connect the dots” and 19 dudes crashed four airplanes with the net result of 3,000 humans being cooked and crushed in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania farm field.
I was teaching school that day, back in my old life.I stood in a room with a bunch of troubled teens and watched folks jump out of the World Trade Center towers rather than burn inside. I walked outside with a coworker.Our school was under several flight paths, but the sky was perfectly clear above us, no clouds, no contrails, no planes, because every plane in the nation was grounded.
But, man, that sky, so blue.So clear.
Within a year I was on a “selectee list.” For the next eight years every time I flew I was pulled out of line, searched, patted down, swabbed for explosives, questioned, stripped down to socks, pants, and undershirt. But, you know, whatevs, right?Terror.Safety.Patriotism.#America.
But my mind wanders.All apologies.More to the point:
How’s Trump Doing?
How’s Trump doing, in terms of getting the right folks in the right seats, and thus preventing another major attack and loss of life on U.S. soil?
As of August 4, when the Senate left town for its August recess, Trump has nominated 277 people for key posts, has had 124 confirmed, and has withdrawn eight of the nominations, according to CNN’s tracker.
The Partnership for Public Service has identified 577 executive branch positions as being particularly essential — and Trump has only successfully filled about a fifth of them.
If I were a gambling man (and we all are now, here in the Zone of Maximum Mayhem) I’d put my money on #3.
Yeah, North Korea seems like an obvious choice: They can hit the U.S. mainland with any number of missiles, and they have a nuke small enough to mount on such an ICBM.They probably don’t have the reentry ballistics quite right just yet, which means the nuclear device won’t detonate properly, but a goddamn intercontinental ballistic dirty bomb plowing into D.C. or NYC is 1) well within N.K.’s capabilities and 2) not something you walk off.
But launching such an attack is actual suicide for that country—especially with our current PotUS—and regardless of what we say about the Kim regime, he’s not an actual lunatic; he has a country to run and a dynasty to maintain.Given how he’s behaving now, and in the absence of us launching a pre-emptive strike, I don’t see N.K. nuking us before Xmas.(See alsoNorth Korea’s latest launch designed to cause maximum mayhem, minimal blowback)
(All of that, of course, assumes the tests they’ve been firing have indeed been tests, and not a killdeer-like misdirection.If N.K. can cripple us in a first strike—say, by nuking LA, NYC, and DC in a single salvo—well, then I imagine they will, and probably sometime this fall.)
So that leaves us with Domestic Terror.I’m thinking it’ll be White Supremacists.The PotUS has done a lot lately to make them feel empowered, and those among them with basic arithmetic and reading comprehension skills absolutely understand that there will never again be a White Majority in this country.But that doesn’t mean it won’t be “Islamists” born in Newark or Peoria, or Antifa/Black Blocers looking to head off the impending pogroms, or good ole Militia/Sovereign Citizen folks (who despise the PotUS just as much as the Antifa folks do).They’re all in the same gang, at heart.
But who fucking cares, right?People are going to die—your friends and neighbors—at the hands of your other friends and neighbors, and a lot more are going to suffer, and we are locked in on those rails now, inextricable.These are how these dots connect, and it is far too late to do anything about it before it happens.
(Alternately, listen to and consider this:Episode 790: Rough Translation in Ukraine’cause maybe I’m wrong, and we’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.And maybe we’re already gone—or, hell, maybe I’m the misinformation that stumbles out of Bethlehem to be born. Your call.)
I hung out with Amal Graafstra at a Penguicon a few years back (we were both there on the DIY Track: He was installing RFID and NFS chips in people’s, I was teaching folks to build little synthesizers), and so this snippet caught my eye while I was reading this article about the shelf-life of homebrew technological body modifications (e.g.,installing a magnet in your fingertip or a chip in your hand):
For me, though, the metaphorical value is the point. The magnet was a little piece of the future, and its slow loss coincides with a period of pessimism that’s much bigger than me. To get a sense of how popular biohacking hardware still was, I emailed Dangerous Things, which produced my NFC implant and sells a variety of other chips and magnets. Founder Amal Graafstra told me that sales had been going up, until the 2016 presidential election — when no one bought anything for a full week.
Shaken, Graafstra sat down and thought about who was buying his products. “Really it just comes down to people that are excited about the future in a very basic sense,” he says now. “I think one way or another, people lost faith in humanity, and in a sense lost faith in the future. And had much more pressing current concerns than, ‘What am I going to do with this cool implant?’”
This got me thinking about the President, and his extremely high level of confidence that recent strong performance in the markets is because we are so confident in him.
Consumer confidence is purportedly at a 17-year high (other figures put it at a 15-year high, but close enough), and business confidence may be at an 8-year high, but look at a chart and you’ll see it was at a 5-year low twice, first plummeting after Trump entered the race and then again after he won and then making a huge recovery in Q1 of 2017.To me, this looks a lot like folks being really relieved that, even though the Worst Thing had happened, the world didn’t end—and that certainly matched my experience, as a small businessperson, and the timbre of conversations I had with clients (even those who theoretically “won”).
Meanwhile, although he likes to kvell about how good he’s been for the markets, I’ll note that he’s taking credit for a trend that started in the first quarter of Pres. Barack Obama’s first term, and has continued ever since.
They should teach this interview in journalism schools to show how you stop someone from lying on live TV. pic.twitter.com/VZ6TgjM3wa
Hell, I’d be turned away, and I’m a highly educated, highly articulate, decently well-off white(ish) person with some little shred of public notability.
Trump’s “merit-based immigration” is a bullshit system that
favors big-money investors who want to buy citizenship while simultaneously draining all the best technical minds from the developing world and consigning them to being well-paid slaves at the pleasure of major tech companies.
It’s callous, crass, penny-pinching robber-baron capitalism that will to jack-shit to stem illegal immigration, create a class of disaffected young men with weak ties to their American communities and strong ties to their home countries, and leave the average American worker to fight for jobs picking cotton, making Starbucks, and driving Uber.
In the weeks since Charlottesville there’s been a fair bit of “What can we[*] do about hate?” talk—on social media, in NYT and WaPo and Slate op-eds and think pieces, out on the street and around supper tables.As someone in a class of folks disproportionately on the receiving end of the most resent paroxysm of hate, I have a suggestion:
Take “Awesome Baby Steps”
EXAMPLE: Last week the skatepark in my town—the one my son and I go to, the one lots of kids in this area (and, notably, lots of brown kids) use—got hit with motor oil (intended to ruin the concrete for skating) and dozens of swastikas and slurs.
The city, of course, responded in no time, and had it all clean in hours—God bless ’em.
I went to skate there the next and found two things:1) that the park was uncharacteristically busy for an early Saturday morning, all happy families showing resolve; and 2) it was covered in this new chalk graffiti
It’ll sound dumb, but this made me feel better.This, in fact, moved me to tears. Folks punching Nazis in Charlottesville did not move me to tears or make me feel safer.Neither did folks tearing down statues (although I nonetheless applaud that, and more so applaud the many cities who have covered and removed statues in the meantime—because tearing down the participation trophies handed out to white supremacists, nominally honoring traitors, is what you should do after winning a war).
But kids coming out with chalk to make sure I knew that they continued to welcome me in civil society did make me feel better. In fact, it made me feel better in excess of the amount the defacement had made me feel awful—and that slap in the face had left me livid and enraged and absolutely nauseated with a dread so atavistic that I sorta imagine it’s more akin to what a mouse exposed in vacant stubble feels than to any un-fun emotion an employable White man might know. (This isn’t to say that White men don’t know bad times; it’s to say that there is a very specific flavor to being history’s perpetual prey).
Those kids with their chalk, that was an Awesome Baby Step. It didn’t take much—not much money, not much time, not much risk—but it made me feel a great deal better. The pay-off was totally disproportionate.
Again, I know this likely sounds silly. “Dave,” you’re thinking, “You know us! We see you every day when you’re walking your dog; we nod at each other and wave. You know we’re cool with you!”
Listen: You can never, ever presume that the folks targeted by hate can continue to feel confident that you are OK with them being Americans. Don’t argue with me about it being stupid or paranoid or insulting—it’s just a fact of life. In fact, the ability to look at rank-and-file White people with confidence and feel that this person has your back is the first thing to slip. After all, someone voted for Trump, despite all the things he said. Someone buys those Confederate flag stickers, someone goes to those rallies, someone breaks out the spray-paint, someone dials in the bomb threats. It’s just not a possible state of affairs that every White person I see is one of the “Good Guys” and all the bigots are magically somewhere else—but also close enough to trash my skatepark, flyer my streets, drive through my neighborhoods, vote in our elections, etc., etc., etc.
So, here’s one example of an Awesome Baby Step you can almost certainly do almost immediately:
Start being super friendly to people of color every day
Nothing crazy, just always make a point to smile and acknowledge and greet—like, constantly: When you pass on the sidewalk, walk into a building, at the checkout line, whatever.
The best case scenario is that these folks—who may have taken some hateful shit recently—feel less on the outs with the country. The worst case scenario is people think you are just a super friendly person.Either way, none of us think “This person is coming to hurt us.” It’s either a win-win, or just a win.The odds are with you.
(If this seems disjoint—what with me mostly talking about anti-Semitism to this point, and now I’m talking about people of color, and the Venn Diagram of “brown” and “Jewish” in America is frightfully close to just being a pair of tangent circles—just know this: My lived experience, and that of most Jews I know, is that White people who are shitty to people of color are fairly likely to be shitty to Jews, too.)
Another Baby Step in Being Awesome:
When folks get targeted with words of hate, take a moment to counteract that with words of support
EXAMPLE: Our local Jewish Family Services got a bomb threat last Monday.(In case you don’t know JFS, they aren’t an agency specifically offering services to Jewish families, but rather a non-profit founded by Jewish families to offer services in general, sorta returning the favor for the support many of our families received as refugees in the 20th Century). Our local JFS is the primary agency handling refugee resettlement for Syrians here in Ann Arbor. That particular building is also a food pantry for struggling families in general. So, threatening to bomb them isn’t just an attack on Jews: It’s an attack on the poor in general, and immigrants of all sort.It’s a mean, small-hearted, fucked-up thing to do. (Not for nothing, but if you are a White person pissed off that White families are struggling, I can tell you for a fact that JFS is handing out food support to just those exact White families that you, as a White Supremacist, want to see helped. So, really, what the fuck?! Let us feed your people, OK?)
You probably feel bad learning that some jackass felt the need to totally derail a day of JFS trying to help immigrants and poor people (people who, more so than most, can hardly afford to “come back tomorrow; we’re closed because of a bomb threat.”) Maybe you want to bend the arc of the moral universe back toward justice—but don’t know what to do. Try this:
Call JFS, tell them you support what they do, and make a donation—even a tiny one.Multiples of $18 are a traditional sum among Jews (it’s symbolic of Life), but anything is fine—or just voicing your support: 734-769-0209
As a Jew—as one of the JEWS that was told last week that his skatepark and his wife (a “white woman”) were not for him, that he should DIE—I don’t particularly care what is in any of your hearts, because your heart isn’t going to kill me.
It’s your hands that will kill me.And so I’m watching your hands.I am wary, because wariness is what got my grandfather (Z”L) out of Ukraine before he joined his father in a ditch.Wariness is what got my Aunt Lola (Z”L) through Auschwitz and to these shining shores.
Right now, your fingers dialing the phone, your voice, your words, your eye contact and smile are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Use them to take awesome baby steps.
It is 2017:You can take baby steps toward white supremacy, or baby steps away.There’s no standing still anymore—because there never really was.
[*] “We” in this case has disproprtionately—sometimes explicitely, more often implicitely—been White people (and nominally White people, like myself). So I’m addressing that crowd—but let’s be real: These baby steps work for all of us. See also MLK’s 8 Commandments.