Step One: Admit You Have a Problem?

by Flynn Washburne, September 27, 2017

Like a lot of people these days, I'm watching a lot more TV news than I used to, and definitely more than is recommended by mental health professionals to remain compos mentis. Also like a lot of people, I take gleeful satisfaction in the various and ongoing failures and shortcomings of the president. It's natural that I should feel this way, in that the failure of one's enemy is by definition a success for oneself and Trump, as the enemy of reason, intelligence, kindness, inclusion, honesty, morality, self-control, tolerance, sanity, logic, wit, charm, fun, and art, being in direct opposition to the values which, if not always personally practiced by me, I absolutely cherish in a chief executive, could logically be considered something of a bete noir.

However, and unfortunately, Trump is more than the bloated, bloviated sack of poison garbage currently monopolizing the airwaves and holding our collective attention hostage. Yes, he is a criminally incompetent nincompoop, but he is also, in a very real sense, America, and his failure is, by extension, ours.

Recall the Clinton era, when Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr, et al, along with a substantial segment of the voting public, were ready and willing to sacrifice the prosperity and operational effectiveness of the country and government just to "get" Clinton. Recall how we enlightened liberals scoffed at their pettiness, their puritanism, their inability to see the big picture. Granted, it's a different kind of situation, and Trump tells more and far more egregious lies every day before breakfast than the "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" that got Bill impeached, but the rule still applies: the failure of the President is the failure of the country. Impeaching the fool, while a tantalizing thought, will ultimately cause more problems than it solves. Have you seen what's waiting in the wings? That scary glitter in Pence's eyes is religious fervor, and there's nothing on earth more dangerous than a powerful man in the grip of divine frenzy.

I'm not suggesting that we wish for Trump's unqualified success, as that would probably result in his re-election, but reveling in the failures of his fiasco of an administration is not helpful and does not reflect well on the character of those who do it. I am just going to lower the bar way, way down and hope simply that we can make it to 2020 without an active nuclear confrontation, civil war, or global inundation, at which point we hopefully elect someone not quite so utterly deranged, regardless of party affiliation. No place to go but up! Meantime, I'll just ignore him and hope he goes away. If you think that's a childishly apathetic position to take, I ask you: what good does hand-wringing and tying myself in knots do? Or pinning myself to CNN and breathlessly awaiting the next bombastic tweet or unprecedented gaffe? None whatever.

There is a popular bumper-sticker claim that "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. " It's true. There is, and always has been, plenty to be outraged about. But if it's true, then so necessarily is its reverse: if you're not paying attention, then you're not outraged. There's a lot to be said for blissful ignorance. Outrage in and of itself does not benefit anyone. If you want to direct that ire by taking to the streets and manning the barricades, by all means do so. Our country was founded on revolt and if nothing else, the presence of a lot of clearly dissatisfied people expressing their displeasure vocally and violently will serve to counterbalance the love-fest rallies that seem to sustain the president' s massive and massively fragile ego. But otherwise, try going about your business as if he doesn't exist and focus on the things that enrich and beautify your life. You may find that after a time he doesn't.

Certain members of Congress it seems find themselves unable to contain their outrage and are peeling off from the pack and refusing to play anymore, justly concerned for their political futures. This is the wrong tack. I say our legislative bodies should, as a whole, get together and do whatever the congressional equivalent of patting Trump on the head and sending him off with a shiny new toy is, freeing them up to conduct the business of government without interference.

I would like to express one more small bit of outrage before thrusting my head into the sand. One of the latest things Trump is on about is affirmative action, claiming it "deprives deserving white students of educational opportunities." Leaving aside the blatantly racist and specious nature of this comment, I will only say that if someone can absolutely assure me that this willfully ignorant, demonstrably stupid man, who communicates in both writing and speech at the level of a 10-year-old, who does not understand basic math, fundamental scientific precepts, and is ignorant of the essential historical narrative of the country he purports to lead — if you can convince me that this bozo was accepted — and succeeded — at Penn and Wharton without benefit of bribery, cheating, lying, and legacy entitlements, and completely on his own merits, then I will admit he's got a leg to stand on, but I will guaran-goddamn­tee you that far more — infinitely more — deserving people of all colors have been deprived of education by rich, elitist, entitled, entrenched assholes than by affirmative action.

Now. Unless he actually eats a baby or something, kindly respect my position well outside the Trump-loop. Imagine my eyes screwed down, fingers in ears, going, "La-la-la-la-la, I can 't he-ear you…"

It's no secret that drug addicts are not the most well-informed people aound.

It's not that they're necessarily stupid or incurious — although, to be fair, many of them absolutely are, shockingly so — it's that any subject not directly related to the acquisition and ingestion of more drugs is a waste of precious and dwindling resources and therefore of zero import or currency.

Take me, for instance. Under normal circumstances I like to stay on top of things and aware of what's what. Not just the big stuff — who's in office, who's at war, who's merging with whom — but the fluff, i.e., who's dumping whom, who's topping the charts, what book has the rabble feigning literacy, who won the weekend box-office war, etc. maintaining a general level of awareness that ensures against getting caught flat-footed in conversation, regardless of who I might be chopping it up with.

Conversely, when I'm in the thick of it and chasing the sack, I literally most of the time don't know whether it's night or day and will often go out to get, for instance, my license renewed at two in the morning. In a couple of unbelievable yet completely true examples, I once saw some footage of the Challenger explosion in 1988, more than a year after the fact and said, "What the hell was that?", and, in the summer of 1993 made reference to President Bush and had never heard of anyone named Bill CLinton. I got through an entire campaign season without a single word or image sinking in, and while that might seem an enviable state, once I sobered up it was a little scary and I had to call around to make sure no one had died while I was otherwise engaged.

Trump-addiction, while a pale reflection of the chemical version, is nonetheless a problem and should be addressed and treated. For my part, realizing that some of my last thoughts before falling asleep were excited musings about what Trumpian mischief and misdeeds would be reported on the morning news was a clear warning that I had a problem. It is neither honorable nor helpful to wish for another's downfall, regardless how despicable a person he is. Actively effecting his defeat would be one thing, but standing on the sidelines and vicariously thrilling to his ignominy doesn't seem sporting. Of course, neither does his vicious, bullying style of governing, but there's no need to sink to his abysmal level.

I've made no secret of the fact that I think 12-step programs are a colossal waste of time, energy, and resources and just another way for evangelical Christians to back-door weak-minded fodder for their insidious machine. Drug and alcohol dependence is a real and serious pathology requiring treatment, but boring people to death with a never-ending (literally) barrage of slogans and dogma is kind of missing the point.

Still, I think that I and others afflicted with this perverse need to monitor our buffoon-in-chief 24-7 could benefit from some of their practices, namely outlining the problem and addressing its treatment through a series of steps. Like, Step One: Admitted we were powerless against rubbernecking the multicar pileup that is the Trump administration. Step two: Came to believe that turning off the TV and all related news alerts could restore us to sanity. Etc. I'm not going to bore us both with 12 of these things, because twelve is way too many steps for pretty much anything. If in fact alcoholism could be cured with steps, it would take exactly two. Step one: stop drinking. Step two: go about your business.

On a completely unrelated note, I would like to bring up another issue which my newfound senses of responsibility and community involvement require I address.

In a recent issue in the Off The Record section, URL directions were provided to a website listing all the inmates paroling to Mendocino County granted early parole by Prop 57. I don't know if I'm on there, but in the interest of transparency I should report that I have had 23 days lopped off my sentence, meaning I will serve only 6.68 years of my 8-year sentence instead of the initially prescribed 6.74 years.

Now, I feel I've done a pretty good job as an inmate and have taken advantage of such rehabilitative opportunities as have been afforded me. My only disciplinary issue was for getting beat up, but unfortunately the prison criminal code assigns equal blame to the puncher and the punchee. I served 10 days in the hole and 30 days loss of privileges, learning a valuable lesson about my face being in the path of fists in the process. I have tried to be polite and respectful at all times to both staff and inmates, have maintained irreproachable standards of hygiene, and kept my bed neatly made. Therefore, I feel that this slight bit of relief is not out of line, but if anyone feels otherwise I am more than happy to, in the interest of remediation, submit to such further punishment as is deemed necessary by you the public to square the ledger, up to and including slapping, soaking, public berating, punitive tattooing, yard work, hotboxing, no TV, restricted to garage, good talking-to, fence repair, or poop-scooping. Whatever you can come up with, although the only thing you have to fear from me in the future is being such an exemplary citizen that I make the rest of y'all look bad. Still, I would like to hear no grumbling about the deficiencies of the penal and legal systems. My pound of flesh weighs the full sixteen ounces, I am as thoroughly castigated as a man could be, and am aimed Onward and Upward.

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