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August 13th, another sad day in the not-so-United-States-of-America. This is the bleak day following those deaths and all that racist ugliness down in Charlottesville, Virginia, an ugliness amplified by the mealy-mouthed comments from Trump, the guy who has been emboldening racists and division for going on two full years, his voice, his opinions, his toxic narcissism poisoning the soul of this nation, his face everywhere, with no day passing without some new affront to the spirit from him, or from those who support him.

fellow snowflakes

Most every day has been sad since November 8, 2016, the day when yet another clouded election installed yet another right wing monstrosity in the nation's highest office. This time, that monstrosity was so monstrous, however, he's been busy making the Bush/Cheney fiasco look almost benign, though for all that, much of what they did or advocated was fairly similar. More war, more defense spending, more voter suppression, more assaults on the environment, on unions, on an equitable sharing of the tax burden, on health care, on government that doesn't simply further the aims and interests of the oligarchy.

The people who have for so long supported this foul agenda now like to refer to people who don't as "snowflakes." They lump all liberals, Democrats, progressives, secular humanists, human rights activists, environmentalists, feminists, decent human beings, and even public employees together, all of us effete, elites, and wimpy little melters who thaw and turn watery whenever something upsets us.

We are stereotyped as people who need "trigger warnings" if there's any likelihood a word, an image, or an idea might affront or offend us. We are targeted as hypocrites who didn't like free speech, intolerant of differences of opinion, who are, in fact, the "real" racists. The right wingers have had quite a few ways of categorizing us, of course, characterizations promoted and purveyed by hate mongers and division distributors like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and that gang of gabbling gestapo-esque goons who have been so busy propagandizing Americans for a couple of decades now.

The stream of sludge from Drudge and other people--including some who are now called "moderate"--has been unrelenting. And it's done what it was meant to do--emboldened hate, widened division, elected an obscene and dangerous man, installing a rat's nest that included Bannon, Gorka, Miller and assorted other white supremacists, neo-Nazis, death trippers, and greed freaks.

When those propagandists tagged us with slurs like "snowflakes," it wasn't hard for them to do. In fact, they've been doing it for ages. We were the pansies, the people who wore the peace symbol ("the track of the American chicken"). We were "soft on Communism," "bleeding heart liberals," "pointy-headed intellectuals," effete elitists who were out of touch with the real world. We were the spawn of Dr. Spock, the baby doctor whose book helped produce a generation of spoiled brats who became peaceniks and hippies. That generation led directly to this current whiny bunch of cocooned college twits who demand "safe zones" to shield them from unpleasant ideas and restrictions on free speech even on college campuses.

We are sneered at with references to "Kumbaya,"seen as unrealistic in our views about human nature, a touchy-feely bunch of airy-fairies. Going all the way back to the McCarthy era, the Adlai Stevenson "eggheads" were ridiculed as hopelessly out of touch.

Americans preferred military minds, or good ol' boys you could drink a beer with, then roll a faggot when you got drunk. Real Americans made sure the "coloreds" knew their place, and they know it was okay to force your attentions on an unwilling female who secretly wanted those attentions from a real man, not their limp-dicked libtard husbands.

Those of us anywhere along the spectrum the reactionaries saw as left of them were portrayed, and continue to be portrayed, as people who cared more about owls and snail darters than about jobs, who were remote from the concerns of working people.

Thought and thoughtfulness were suspect, always, producing indecisive types who overthought everything, making them sappy oversensitive Phil Donahue clones or candy-assed Alan Alda types. Those of us anywhere along the spectrum the reactionaries saw as left of them were portrayed, and continue to be portrayed, as people who cared more about owls and snail darters than about jobs, who were remote from the concerns of working people. We were cloistered in Ivy League schools, remote, cushioned, well-paid and well-ensured tenured snobs who never got our hands dirty, hated guns, loved gays and cross dressers. We were socialists and atheists and namby pamby who supported a nanny state that would, if allowed, weaken the national character, eradicate rugged individualism, and destroy the hegemony of the white race which had built the best damned country in the world.

Taking all that into account, it was probably inevitable that some slack-jawed high school dropout scribbling copy for Sean Hannity to read from a tele-prompter would come up with terms like "cupcake" and "snowflake," playing to the tough guy machismo of the Master Race of the La-Z-Boy Recliners, the guys who are living in their moms' basements, or the overweight middle-aged losers who spend their days having their disappointments explained to them by anger merchants of the alt.right, yet another term for "same old shit but with a harder sell." Guys who fantasized about all the pussy they could have grabbed if they had been in Hitler's SS loved hearing about the "snowflakes" who would melt before their Aryan might.

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But the problem is that those of us on the left have truly made it easy for them to affix those words and these definitions upon us. Our cowardice on a range of fronts is woven into the historical record of the last 50 years, along with our insipid PBS-y cosmology, our own Ned Flanders-style assumption of our own goodness, our alienating self- righteousness that can be fairly stomach-curdling even to our own kind. The liberal guilt wallowing conducted in the basements of Unitarian churches, the ideologues who turn left wing politics into an endless game of jockeying for purity, and our propensity for fighting with one another over doctrinal differences or strategy while taking our eyes off the prize facilitated the cheap shots the fascist and their sympathizers take at us.

We've handed our real enemies a lot of sticks to beat us with. We have looked like "snowflakes." We have engaged in a game of political correctness that seemed all too often like thought policing, not discourse, that was frequently petty, as though political affiliation was a high school clique that expelled people who just weren't cool enough. At one college back in the '80s, a school known for its "progressive" image, women were shunned if they shaved their legs, a violation of feminist values. At a range of places, the constantly revised codes of "progressives" seemed designed to winnow out the impure. Eat meat? You're not one of us.Voted for HIllary? You're a corporatist. Condemn Islamic terrorism? You're a militarist and a Zionist. Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary? What a sell-out, man. All too often, "progressives" seemed to prefer exclusivity, kind of like that goose that flew in ever- decreasing concentric circles until it flew up its own ass and disappeared.

We were snow-flakey. I spent my life in community colleges, the lower rung of higher education, teaching English among a coterie of colleagues at four different colleges in two states, most of whom talked a lot about their commitment to liberal values. Among themselves. And though they were protected by tenure, hard to fire, they mostly kept quiet outside their own ranks. They might let slip some of their political views in their classrooms, where, as one colleague boasted to me, he "fought for the revolution," but when it came to putting their identities and their opinions on the line, they often faded into the woodwork.

They may have believed in equality, environmental protections, and all the slogans, but they also believed it was best to keep one's head down in the foxhole, that a low profile was a survival tactic, that talking back to right wingers in print or on talk radio was a waste of time. So they didn't waste that time, didn't expose themselves to flack, didn't argue with the increasing volume of right wing bullshit that was flooding the nation, allowing the fascists and the troglodytes to control the dialogue. When they did speak out, it was a tepid and usually a cheap shot at Obama, or Hillary, or someone else who hadn't lived up to their own high standards of what a real "progressive" ought to be. They couldn't bring themselves to speak out against greater evil where their names could be taken down, but they were loud in their protestations of unwillingness to support "lesser evil." So they enabled greater evil, then congratulated themselves for it because they would surely have done the right thing if only they had been given better candidates. So it was Nader, or Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson, for Christ sakes, because they wouldn't be caught dead colluding with Clinton or Gore.

Progressives also tarnished their "brand" by rushing to salute Julian Assange or Glenn Greenwald, just as they had embraced a phony firebrand like Ward Churchill back in the 90s, all people who played upon legitimate concerns about American imperialism or American crimes at home or abroad, but were silent on a range of other evils, especially when committed by people or groups that had been designated as off limits.

Crazy-ass Christians were fair game, of course, and it was ok to generalize about all Christians on that basis, but silence was observed when it came to crazy-ass Muslims because any criticism of some nutjob ISIS-loving Imam was "racist," or it encouraged bigotry toward all Muslims. The people who preached the redundant gospel of "critical thinking" didn't apply that standard when they rushed to accept the always-welcomed broad brush condemnations and characterizations of the U.S. from these shadowy players like Assange, Stein, et. al.

And we muddied our image with a boutique array of concerns and issues and crusades and causes, the "identity" politics that was, on its face, inclined to divide us up. We never managed to find, or care much about finding, an umbrella under which we might all cluster.

But here's the thing about snowflakes: when snowflakes are compacted, when we come together, we make a snowball. If we could focus, if we could unite, if we could recognize the true enemies of "progress," we might actually become progressives, would stop giving running room to the reactionaries. If some of us would just knock off playing into the hands of fascism, could start by speaking out, loudly and often, and not just in the company of the like-minded, we might make headway. If we'd stop veering off into counter-productive allegiance to self-defeating third party diversions, if we could rise above small divisions and the always-loud appeals to the long tradition of left- wing bickering over doctrinal purity, we could defeat this tide of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and madness Trump and his supporters represent.

If we could just focus on the very real and very obvious elephant in the room and knock off the bullshit, we could re-establish the will of the majority because, on issue after issue, the majority shares our values. Hell, even with all that sniping and in-fighting and chickenshit Hillary bashing from the left last year, she still won the popular vote.

jaime oneill

Snowflakes unite. We're cooler that way. We don't get watery, don't melt, and we gain force and mass that way.

Jaime O'Neill