I’ve just been scrolling through the onslaught of comments about Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military. My first thought was primarily: how the hell does what someone has in their trousers impact on their patriotism or desire to serve in the armed forces? Surely anyone who’s willing to go to places where their legs could get blown off is a feat in itself and whether you’re a man, woman or neither, it warrants respect. I saw a comment which of course came from a balding man with a red face that said: ‘it’s a mental illness, good to get rid’. In my opinion knowing full well that you could die in a war over oil or a religion you don’t believe in or have any stake in is the red flag, not someone wanting to be who they are. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for those who serve in the military both in the UK and elsewhere; with family members serving in the RAF but the thought of it to me, is something I just don’t understand and probably never will – unless of course, I’m conscripted or something. It’s an equation I can’t work out which is ironic as I’m not very good at maths anyway. So, anyone who stands up and proclaims a love for their country so strongly that they’re willing to possibly die for it is deserved of our admiration not persecution.
There’s the argument that medical treatment is costly on the military which surely, coming from the US government is entirely hypocritical considering how badly they failed soldiers in the past by getting them addicted to morphine. That’s another argument entirely but isn’t the whole point of America that it’s an idealistic nation founded on egalitarianism and liberty to do what you want and be who you are? Or I could just be missing the point of ‘land of the free’ entirely.
This whole announcement and reactions to it – which themselves are a real kick in the teeth for anyone with any faith left in humanity – really stirs up the larger question to why everyone is so concerned with what other people do and who other people are. Why are we, as human beings seemingly constantly outraged about people who are different or do things differently to the rest, especially when these people are doing nothing to encroach upon anyone else’s way of life? It’s not a typical conservative issue as seen here in the UK with Scottish Conservatives being openly gay and advocate for all LGBTQ+ rights so I can’t work out what it is. In all fairness to those hoping to pray the gay away from their kids or co-workers, the hot and heavy change of the 21st Century of people no longer being afraid to say might be daunting.
I was in a play in sixth form about transitioning called Pronoun by Evan Placey. There’s a great line that says that the idea of being tolerant is bullshit as to tolerate is something you do when ‘people’s music plays too loudly on the bus’. It’s true, we live currently in an emerging tolerance culture where we are coming out of the era of shame and repression. We’re not at normalising yet apparently because of the amount of unsubstantiated hate I’ve seen in comment sections alone today. It was Frank Underwood in House of Cards who said ‘you can’t get from a no to a yes without a maybe in between’ and as simplistic as it sounds we’re into ‘maybe’ as a global society regarding equal rights for everyone considering how progressive some nations are and how backwards others are – looking at you, Chechnya.
Personally, I think that everyone cares far too much about who or what people are. I honestly couldn’t care if someone was transgender or cisgender or straight or gay or anywhere on the Kinsey Scale. It was in Batman Begins that Rachel said to Bruce: ‘it’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you’. People in general need to take that on board a lot and stop caring about things that will never actually affect their day-to-day lives. I’ve quoted a lot in this but it really goes to show the sorry fucking state of it all when fiction makes more logical sense than our reality featuring Donald Trump.
So, the battle for net neutrality is waging in the US and while protected by EU legislation, I still look at it with the same look that you give to a fully-grown man passionately kissing a body pillow at comic con. It reads simply as ‘what the fuck’, which in this context isn’t even a question anymore it’s become simply a statement at both the man with his body pillow and the late stage capitalism we all find ourselves in. Having a television in the UK requires you to have an expensive licence to pay for the glorious BBC and in-part, Channel 4, and that alone makes me want to throw the thing out of the window to claim back the one-hundred-and-fifty-pound fee. Which in turn, makes me far more irritated by the fact – as a hopeful immigrant to the US someday – that soon Americans will probably have to pay that bit extra if they want to go onto Facebook as part of some weird social media package lovingly brought to you by Comcast.
I was watching an interview with our lord and saviour Kevin Spacey when he said something to the effect of that sometimes he thought that the story lines in House of Cards were at times unbelievable, something he was proved wrong by the evolving political and social environment of the USA. It goes without saying that at some point that the strange satire is no longer restricted to the US and becomes a global thing where politics has become more of a scripted reality show than Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Just take a look at the recent UK election when Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ nation came crashing down and became the ‘coalition of chaos’ that she warned would happen if votes were cast for her rival. The night, for me, was summed up by the line-up from Mrs May’s own constituency where she stood on the same stage as actual Lord Buckethead who then dabbed.
Surely that’s the metaphor for our current political climate. Lord Buckethead dabbing gets thunderous laughter while Paul Ryan does the same in a bit to say ‘hello fellow kids’ and the reception is cringing faces. Every day a new scandal about the Trump family emerges from the woodwork and everyday people jump to defend him or attack him throwing around words like ‘libtard’ or ‘impeachment’. It’s got to a point where I find myself living in a Monty Python sketch and like The Meaning of Life, it’s starting to get old and drag, becoming more and more nonsensical.
I try not to talk about politics – try and fail. It’s a polarising subject mired in hatred and most importantly: irony. The irony most explicit comes from a single headline: ‘Donald Trump voter despairs as Mexican husband set to be deported’, courtesy of the Independent. Another nail in the coffin to demonstrate how darkly comic the world seemingly written and devised by the League of Gentlemen – just today I was asked by the barber, ‘are you local?’.
I’m sat here watching Fear Thy Neighbour which is a stark contrast from the UK’s Neighbour from Hell, and it strikes me that every situation seemed to have been escalated by guns. Now I’m not damning anyone’s right to bear arms but I can’t imagine a scenario in Channel 5’s typical demonization of the working class show reel, that wouldn’t go completely tits up with a Glock.
Hell, in the US show, most of the contributors are taking part some ten years or so after the events with one at least dead or in prison. Dom Littlewood’s show often takes place not even a year later and while wholly less interesting, Mr and Mrs X are still alive and well, still disgruntled with Mr and Mrs Y across the street. It’s hard to comprehend the actual physical danger in these peoples’ lives compared to ‘you built your fence to close’.
I have no doubt there’s any less danger in the UK than the US which perhaps has as many unhinged strangers next door. Our problem in the neighbourhood where I lived in was the ‘hoody’ gang who had planted themselves in the playground just in front of the house which was regularly set on fire. As a kid, I was terrified but when I return to the family home now, I see the same gang and its new members: kids I used to yell at as a prefect, and now they look as scary as horror movie’s bonus features disk. Would that scenario be different if those little fuckers where packing more than socks down the front of their tracksuit bottoms?
On the flip side of the argument if we all had those guns there’d be less of a threat. It’s almost as if for everyone, our homes are our own nation with foreign policies and different cultures even. Down to whether or not we choose to eat meat or even smoke in the garden rather than the house. This is where I understand the Second Amendment because the phrase that our homes are our castles is totally an understatement because they are at the most primal level, our nests where we choose to keep our families, our legacies, and precious belongings. If we had guns in the UK that arsehole kid outside probably wouldn’t have thrown crap at the windows and perhaps my parents wouldn’t have banged on their door. Say what you will for the second amendment, if it does anything, it sure does promote some level of politeness.
I was in my local corner shop today, buying myself a weeks’ worth of Tilda boil-in-the-bag rice and something caught my attention. Aside from being diverted by the extremely good deal on Maryland cookies, I saw an array of equally depressing newspaper headlines. The York Press was reporting on a cinema closure; The Sun had some reality show gossip as major news on its front, drawing in those ever-diligent news hounds; The Guardian was perpetuating the claim that the Grenfell Tower fire was political murder and the front page of The Mirror looked like something from a scene in the film Idiocracy.
The depressing selection, like a satirical cosmic chocolate box, made me think about the newspaper industry on a whole. In the UK at least, most news outlets on the television make the claim that they are always ever impartial yet when it comes to our newspapers it’s a political free for all. Considering most of the major papers are owned by Rupert Murdoch, it’s not a complete surprise why the Conservatives won the election. On a side note, it’s becoming clearer that the influence of print journalism is dying as its readership, considering it was only today that a government was formed, nearly three weeks after the election.
My English teacher told me during the linguistics module of my course that The Sun has a reading age of seven years old. ‘Britain’s most popular paper’ happens to only be that because it’s the easiest to read similarly reflective to the LadBible’s online popularity. Perhaps the slow death of the newspaper is simply down to humanity’s growing laziness in regard to reading. Has it really got to a point where we don’t care about what we’re being told as long as it’s being served in easy to digest chunks? I can’t speak for other territories but I doubt the problem is local to this fair, green isle. Arguably, it can be easily transferred to rolling news channels, where the sound bite would be a far more powerful narrative to whatever agenda perpetuating it, than the actual story – enter all this damn fake news and click bait.
It’s going to be, and in a sense, has become a constant cycle. Readers will turn to social media news sources for sake of ease; the papers will adapt to accommodate the readership; the news channels will perpetuate the problem until an entire week’s worth of news can be boiled down to two words. Those words being: ‘shit happened.’
I’m at university and it’s as if I’m the only moderate in existence. The centre doesn’t seem to be appealing to the masses anymore exemplified by hordes of Facebook keyboard warriors fighting it out in the comment section of some inflammatory article on the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park yesterday. Meaningless buzz words such as ‘red pill’ and ‘cuck’ are being thrown around with everybody losing their minds more over the words of some burnout from Oslo has used rather than the atrocities taking place on seemingly a weekly basis in the UK. Even the people calling for support for the victims and not making a vile attack on civil liberties a political, virtual throw down are being shouted at through cyberspace. I can’t think of an atrocity that has taken place in the past year that hasn’t devolved into people on either side of the aisle using it as a way to push one agenda or another.
Being able to see merit in both the right wing and left wing has become such a taboo in our globally divided society especially demonstrated in university cities where the right is hounded to the ends of the Earth for saying ‘hey, maybe Trump’s intentions of an economically viable America isn’t such a bad thing’ while the leftist who shouts ‘die cis scum’ at the top of their lungs in the city centre goes viral and revered by the masses. On the other end of the spectrum in the pubs of our cities and villages across the UK and perhaps the world, the opposite takes place only rather than economic viability, Trump’s policies on wall building are hailed. Being in the middle of politics is like being bisexual with people on either side confused and terrified shouting at you – and I – to pick a side.
The lack of choice to make your own opinion; being forced to pick a side by establishments such as The Guardian or The Sun and the equally polarised Milo Yiannopoulos or Michael Moore, I find in itself an attack on my right to free speech. Even places that promote free speech like Facebook and Twitter create echo chambers with ‘suggested pages’ and click bait to put the individual in a neat box to fill a site quota. You are either left or you are right, the middle is a lie we tell to our innocent children so they can both believe in Santa Claus: a man who dresses in red and hands out free gifts to the world; and that we have to experience some form of pain to earn money, a lesson that forms the basis of the Tooth Fairy concept. Right?
It strikes me as obvious since those on either side of the argument keep saying it to me and to each other: ‘liberalism isn’t viable’ and ‘conservatism isn’t viable’.
They say life is all about moderation so why does this not apply to our politics? It borderline depresses me how divided people are on things, and yes, I do understand that we as a species will always have our own opinions, but it seems the digital age has ushered in casual extremism from both sides of the aisle and that no one seems to look at it with even the slightest scepticism. Growing up in a family where one side was left and the other was right, sitting on the fence has become comfortable like a bed of nails to a sadist. The fence is a unique viewpoint that more should adopt; you’re able to see the perfectly manicured grass in the right garden, the well-constructed decking in the left garden, all while being able to observe the unfortunate abundance of dog shit no matter where you look. I for one, do not enjoy the idea of having it all over my shoes and would encourage anyone to join me in that philosophy by saying: ‘stop throwing shit at each other like animals, have a beer and get on the fence. There’s plenty of room.’