Finding Optimism

POST 1069

Third in a series (see Ignorance and Lies and The Underlying Disease)

Stand Up
I asked [my friend] what we would do if 150 crazy people — a mix of deranged narcissists, political extremists, weirdos, conspiracy theorists and other assorted friends of theirs — showed up suddenly on the perfect deck [where we sat overlooking the ocean]. I wanted to know if he thought we’d fight with them or leave.

“Obviously,” I told him, “we would leave.” He agreed. Crazy people make normal people want to leave.

That’s exactly what we must not do if we hope to provide a cure for our terrible national disease and exit the craziness. Leaving would guarantee a ramping up of the crazy, the vitriol and the siege against the design of the Founders. They had lived under the thumb of despotic King George III and they knew the perils and the pain of autocracy. Our leaving would be capitulation to the forces seeking to undermine the very strength of our nation, our democracy.

So, don’t leave. Stand and fight back. Fight forward. Fight in every direction for your freedom, your rights and for everyone and everything you hold dear. That means standing up to the ignorants and the liars, like Ron Johnson, Jim Jordan, J.D. Vance, MTG, and all the rest of the extremist crazies. Stand up for equity and justice. Stand up to the 50-year-long war to disempower you, make rich guys richer and impoverish the rest of us. Stand up.

A Parallel

Today’s shrill voices and the violence, the threats and the chaos, the crazy and the stupid are all around us with propaganda and lies and visions of doom. Those voices aim to scare good people into capitulation. Those who give up – who leave, to use Steve Schmidt’s term – are today’s version of Neville Chamberlain and his capitulation to Hitler and tyranny.

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Having given away the Sudetenland (then part of Czechoslovakia) to Hitler, Chamberlain came back to England from Munich in 1938 claiming, “Peace for our time.” Less than one year later Germany invaded and overran Poland and a year later began bombing London in the Battle of Britain. Here is the message, the learning:

  • Capitulation never works. It never brings peace. Never.
  • It only emboldens the bullies to do yet worse.

On October 29, 1941 things looked overwhelmingly dark for Britain. Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited The Harrow School, which he had attended years before. Here, in part, is what he told the boys that day:


” .  .  .  this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Steve Schmidt is right: “Crazy people make normal people want to leave.”

But we aren’t going to do that. We’re going to stay and stand up to protect our democracy and our self-rule. We’re going to stay and stand up to the hatred and thwart the cruelty. We’re going to stay and stand and fight. We must not – we will not – leave.

We will never, never, never, never give in.


I received a private reply from very long time friend Frank Levy to a recent Disambiguation, Ignorance and Lies. He’s given his permission to post some of his comment – many thanks to him for that..

My experience living among these American ethno-fascists [he lives in a deeply RED state], seeing their racism, watching them legislate for destructive and terrible policies for anyone that does not look, vote, pray, or love the way they do, watching them commit crimes of violence and hate against those very same people, watching them live out their misogyny and need to subjugate and humiliate women, and experiencing their virulent anti-Semitism leads me to two truths.
One, these people are who they are and they do what they do because they have been taught by their mommies and daddies to hate all the people their relatives hate (thank you South Pacific), and who [they believe] their religion teaches them to hate (thank you Christian Bible and Quran).
Two, they are who they are and they do what they do because they fear losing their privilege and power to the very people they despise and hate. And they hate democracy, while at the same time proclaiming themselves true patriots, because they know that they are a minority and that in a fair election they and their ideas are losers.
So, here is why I think your optimism is misplaced: you can’t undo this kind of hate and fear through conversation and education.
I believe Frank is right, that conversation and education won’t make a dent in the certainties of the fearful, the haters and the dispensers of cruelty, so I replied,
Our national salvation doesn’t lie in conversions of the BillyBobs and the vitriol droolers – as you put it, the ethno-fascists. Rather, it lies in activating everyone else.
We cannot wipe out the hatred and thuggishness in those who feel the imperative to hate and to be thugs. Their identities are wrapped up in that cruel package, making change for them impossible. What we can do is to overpower them at the ballot box and in legislatures, making their institutionalized bigotry and mania for domination of others a powerless thing, perhaps no more than an artifact.
Maybe the more remote polling places and mail-in ballot drop boxes will be returned to North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Maybe millions will have their names restored to the voting roles in Georgia, Virginia, Arizona and Texas. Perhaps an overwhelming defeat will make Kari Lake shut up.

It’s entirely up to us to make that happen. That’s the reason for optimism.

Obstacles to Optimism

Last Thursday a chunk of the MAGA extremism cult (please forgive the redundancy) came to Manhattan to parade themselves as brainless suck ups to Trump. They violated the gag order that

Judge Merchan placed on Trump and, in effect declared that they renounce justice.

Matt Gaetz (R-Young Girls) announced that he’s with the Proud Boy felons, saying, “Standing back and standing by, Mr. President.” Having already created chaos, these cheaters are attacking our justice system for being chaotic and broken. That’s what the extremists do: they break government, then blame Democrats for the ensuing chaos.

Also on Thursday, the news of Justice Sam “The Insurrection Man” Alito and his upside-down distress flag crashed into our Constitution. Is there nothing that is below him and Justice Clarence “Free Vacations Man” Thomas? Oh wait .  .  .  never mind.

The Republican pollution of the Supreme Court by insurrectionist sympathizers has driven disapproval of the Court to well over half of Americans. A few decades ago being a Supreme Court justice was the most highly respected profession. Now it doesn’t even make the top 20. It’s pretty hard to be optimistic about that.

Since impeachment isn’t going to happen and the Court’s newly drafted ethics guidelines have no teeth, perhaps now it’s time for Biden to pack the court with four additional justices, each of whom, refreshingly, has a moral compass. That would give us something to be optimistic about.

Today is a good day to be the light

  • _____________________________
  • Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
  • Fire the bastards!
  • The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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5 Responses to Finding Optimism
  1. Debbie Reply

    I would argue with Mr. Levy’s contention that the Christian Bible teaches hate; in my church we stress the lessons of love for all contained in it. Rather it is the interpretation and selective references made by those who fear losing control and power that reinforce hate. Otherwise, I heartily agree with his analysis.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      I think you have it right, Debbie. The problem isn’t as much the Christian Bible as it is the poisonous ways people twist and pollute the messages, this for their own self-serving reasons.

      Thanks for your comments.

  2. Frank Levy Reply

    Jack – Thank you for sharing my note of a couple of weeks ago with your readers.

    You are right, this current Republican iteration of anti-American lawlessness and vitriol can only be defeated at the ballot box. And that is the greatest reason not to be optimistic. If the polls are to believed we are headed to another Trump presidency with lightning speed. That is truly frightening. And as a Jew, it is more frightening than for the average white Christian. It seems counter intuitive, but if Trump wins, the only safe place in the world for Jews to live will be Israel, which has its own version of an ethno-fascist at the helm, Netanhahu, at least for now.

  3. Jim Altschuler Reply

    My optimism wanes a little more each month. It wanes a little more with each mass shooting, with each repetitive spewing of vile, despicable lies, with each woman treated as a subservient, lesser person, every person of color demeaned, every non-Christian treated as a leper.

    BUT, amazingly, I still have some optimism left, some hope that the damaging evil inferred in this blog can, with patience and persistence, be overcome.

    • Frank Levy Reply

      I find myself feeding off your optimism, because, if nothing else, I don’t like my never-ending pessimism. But, we do not have the luxury of patience. Time is truly running out for this fragile democracy. November is do or die, and it is only 6 months away and things are not looking good right now.