Monday, November 14, 2016

I don't have it in me for a witty subject line, sorry.

In putting together this week's episode of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser, which covers the touching tale of a spraypainted frog named Greenpeace in "Frog Story," and the story of Venus trying to help a black teenager stay in school in "Venus and the Man," I couldn't help but keep the results of last week's election close to hand.

How could I not? As I sat here editing discussions of environmentalism, raising your kids with compassion and care, and both the power of education and its flaws as it's currently constituted, all while simultaneously absorbing the results of the vote, I thought about my fellow citizens of the United States. And how we all have a stake in all these things: our planet's health, our children growing up safe and loved, able to learn and grow.

It's tough when you see the face of hate, of short-sightedness, of fear, staring right at you. When you see children all across America bullying other children because of where they came from, because of who they are. Those bullies had to learn it from someone, right? And you think of their parents, those parents who themselves have worries, distractions, concerns, all legitimate, that mutate under the economic duress that they're experiencing into blind bigotry, hatred, tribalism, anger... racism.

There was a somewhat mawkish sentiment expressed back during the Cold War, most notably by Sting, that "the Russians must love their children too." That we couldn't look at people as ideological enemies if we also saw them as human, as having humanity, as having families they loved and wanted the best for. I thought about that sentiment a lot while editing this episode.

Herb and Bunny are about as far apart from Cora and Arnold as possible, socio-economically. But the concerns they have are, essentially, identical.

Herb loves his daughter. But he accidentally spraypainted a frog belonging to a young girl who loves nature and the environment, and he has to deal with the consequences as best he can. He has to grow and realize he has to be honest with her about death. Because he loves her.

Cora has spent years working as the cleaning woman at a radio station with only one black employee in order to fund her son's college, and now he wants to quit school because he's making more money on the streets. But Cora can't abide it. She wants him to go to college. Because she loves him.

These stories are about the same thing. About our children, and the world we want them to inherit. And if we started from that frame of mind when talking to people very different from us? We might actually get somewhere.

I haven't felt too optimistic about the future of America the past few days. Doing this podcast had awakened me to a lot of the ways that we've lost something undefinable in this country; you've heard us talk about it a million times.

But today, everything feels lost. Every bedrock belief in American democracy and society, every myth of fair play and teamwork that I was told and then retold myself through my adult life, gone. But not in an instant. Not as a result of this election, but as a result of nearly four decades of very deliberate neglect. Our polity has now lost all of its safeguards for the powerless.

My only hope now is that someone, somewhere, will remind us that the people on the other side, whatever side that may be, also love their children, too. And that we heed that message before it's too late for America.


  1. Very well expressed, Mike. Among the post-election commentary I have read over this last week, yours was a near-perfect balance of mournful sadness and realistic assessment of what can be done now to recover the best in American political life. As for these two episodes, they are two of my favourites in the entire series. And so I appreciated how you made these two very funny episodes very poignant as well, given what the fictional early '80s parents(and their children) in them are hoping for. BTW, I will humbly suggest you might have chosen "Bunch of damn gangs living in a round neighbourhood" as the subject line of this week's preview. I say that, thinking about how we (Americans, Canadians and the world) are all as baffled and disappointed as Arnold with the answers society has given us to our deepest questions.

    1. Thanks Terry. I like that post title a lot! But I feel like I should keep my original frustrated defeated vibe, because I'm still there.

      I really hope you enjoy HMOTD 032 tomorrow. Rob, myself, and our guest Mandy are really proud of it.