JAWBREAKER VS. THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT
I wanted to be polite, be all professional and journalistic and stuff, and just start this column out with “It’s a strange time,” to something like that. Something wry, understated, you know. But forget that.
We are fucked.
Well and truly fucked. We’ve known this, yeah – but the levels and depths our fuckedness continues to change shape, its dynamics continuing to shift. The fuckeration is always there, friends, but we keep testing its depths and our toes have yet to touch bottom. We’re fucked, every day these people are in power.
The difficulty – one among many – of daring to have empathy in this era, in Trump’s America: our government commits so many shocking missteps, showcases so many grievous acts of corruption, so frequently dismisses protocol or legalities in the face of unmitigated greed and cronyism, that it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with it all (1).
Things move at light speed with these assholes (2), murderous, deadly speed, and what was considered incomprehensible six months ago is now unsurprising. We march, and march again. We call our representatives only to find their voicemail full or disconnected. They are afraid to hold town halls, these members of Congress. Afraid to face roomfuls of angry, frightened constituents. Some of us are lucky enough to have reps that voice our concerns, that vote our consciences, though they’re pretty rare. The Department of Justice prosecutes a woman (with a potential sentence of up to a year in prison) for laughing during Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing. She is found guilty. Meanwhile, the DOJ refuses to charge the cops responsible for killing Alton Sterling with any crime. That is the disparity we’ve become used to but never fails to shock us. Missile launches against other countries are okayed over cake at the President’s private business, he haltingly muses over why the Civil War was such a big deal, becomes petulant and angry when challenged by a reporter about wiretapping claims.
Days later, it’s all old hat. There are, after all, new travesties to digest.
And through it all, here we are. Just trying to make it through the day without succumbing to the unknown. We just want to live, right? Just want to live our lives?
We have jobs to do, jobs to look for, jobs where we grudgingly or gratefully work overtime (3). We have families, partners, friends. We have shows we want to go to, fests to clamor or ridicule. Records to listen to, bands to dismiss as sellouts. We have cars that won’t run, buses that are late, bills that get juggled one month to the next. We have lives. It’s perhaps the biggest accolade a government can have: those rare instances in which its citizens can move unhindered throughout their lives without worry of what is being done in their name. Done “for” them, or to them. (And as a straight white dude, I’m certainly able to enjoy this more than many. In Trump’s America, that’s only solidified. And still the fear – for myself, mostly for others – has only grown and grown.)
But it’s a façade, right? To quote a certain band, “Someone’s always getting the short end of the stick.” There are a lot of targets now with these people. And not worrying about the evil shit that’s being done to us – to our friends and loved ones, our communities, even people far removed from us - seems a grand luxury lately. Seems impossible, actually. At least for me.
But that’s the question at hand, right? That’s what’s killing me: How do we reconcile our daily lives with what’s going on around us? How do we move through a world that suddenly seems malicious and gleefully, darkly ill intentioned? That seems to be reveling in its own malevolence?
How do we balance giving a fuck and letting the fear and anger crush us?
Case in point: Jawbreaker’s playing Riot Fest. Big reunion! People are shitting themselves, man! Huge news! People have clamored for this shit for years. It seems almost surreal to a lot of us, the fact that this show is happening at all. All of these bygone bands resuscitated, brought coughing and blinking back to life. Jawbreaker elevated all the more for their sanctity. And it’s something that eeeeeveryone’s got an opinion about, and why not? Why shouldn’t we give a shit? It’s a band that means so much to so many of us, right? Some people bemoan that it’s a huge outdoor show with an exorbitant ticket price, as if a band that fetishized is going to reform and do a tour of VFW halls again. Other people are like, “Take the money and run, boys.” And thusly the back and forth begins, online and otherwise. Opinions are hurled, gauntlets thrown. Everyone is talking about.
Through it all, for me - there’s just that struggle to give a fuck, really. You know?
The same day the Riot Fest announcement was made, Mike Pence stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and ominously warned North Korea that “the sword stands ready,” whatever the screaming blue fuck that means. The day before that, Trump called Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan to congratulate him on a referendum that consolidated his power amid frenzied protests of vote-rigging. How do we do this? How do we stay involved, stay active, and still manage to frame it in a way that doesn’t lead to hopelessness or burnout?
A revamped version of the AHCA was rammed through the Senate yesterday. No debate, no one viewing the bill, no investigation by the Congressional Budget Office into its ramifications and effects. Some Republicans admitted to only skimming the bill – or not reading it all. It feels like we’re teetering on the collapse of something vital, and it sucks to have to wobble on that precipice every goddamn day.
The results, if passed, will be pretty unilaterally catastrophic for the lower 2/3rds of the country. Pre-existing conditions – which can be grounds for getting premiums jacked skyhigh, or outright denial of coverage by an insurance company – include but are certainly not limited to, um, acne, sexual assault, AIDS/HIV, pregnancy, domestic violence, mental health issues, obesity, and my personal favorite, “sexual deviation or disorder.” School special ed programs will be devastated by Medicaid cuts. Families making under 75k a year (again, roughly 2/3rds of the US) will ostensibly go without insurance due to the inevitable rise in premiums. This is what America wants? This is our grand vision? That a woman who dares to report her rape – and all the ensuing social stigma that goes along with that – may now also be denied insurance coverage because of it? That’s what we envision as ideal? Are you fucking kidding me?
It’s a dark time. Dark. It’s a Draconian, shitty, ungenerous, frightening time. This is a brazen, balls-out attempt at enriching a few, and shows overall the GOP’s pretty fucking casual indifference to human suffering. I’ve spent the day alternating between cataloging the list of my friends and family that something like this could affect and feeling a profound shame at how quickly we’ve turned this dark corner in American history. How fragile this shit all seems. I’ve been ashamed of my country before, not infrequently. But this brazen, ugly dismantlement is a jaw-dropper, this lack of care towards citizenry, the outright contempt involved... shit’s bananas. This whole notion that both parties are the same, that voting doesn’t matter – those are some cute little adages that are really being put the test these days, aren’t they?
So that’s my question, that’s what churns in the guts: how do we do this? How do continue to struggle? How do we manage to give a shit about Jawbreaker and still fight the good fight? Right now so many of us feel lost, overwhelmed. The lights seem to be dimming. And we’re, what, 3+ months in? 7% into the presidential term? That’s nothing! An eye blink! Our troubles haven’t even fucking started.
How do we keep moving forward? How do we not become paralyzed?
How do we give a shit about the little things?
(1) On Twitter, activist Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) does a great service to us all when she publishes a weekly summation of all the ways in which the Trump administration is slowly steering us towards authoritarianism. It’s heartbreaking and stunning to see all of these acts listed together, week after week, but it’s also a vital reminder.
(2) In the writing of this column, I listed a few examples of recent events committed by the administration. Sadly, in the few days of putting this column together, with the passage of the screaming shit-ball that is the AHCA being passed 217-213 through the Senate, all of my examples seem moot and old-timey. That’s what I’m talking about, that daily kind of “What horror will they visit upon us now?” feeling.
(3) Uh, if you rely on overtime to get by, better grab it while you can, folks. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/05/02/house-republicans-just-voted-to-change-overtime-rules-for-workers/?utm_term=.729d4c42ef68