Month: January 2017

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Three, Part Two

The rhetorical gymnastics being played right now are astonishing. This should be pretty easy for all of us to figure out, if we’ve been paying attention to Trump.

He’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do.

He made a big deal during the campaign about needing to ban Muslims, specifically, to the point of reading his policy in Presidential style during the campaign. Rudy Giuliani admits it’s a legal trick to disguise it so this Muslim ban will muster its way through the courts successfully. Sean Spicer said today it’s not even a travel ban, just extreme vetting. Now Trump can tell his Christian supporters, who can’t wait to start a war with Muslims, that he got his ban, while the media fights with Trump about using the term “ban.”

During the campaign, Trump also doubled-down on the idea that the Central Park Five were guilty, even though extreme vetting proved to be horribly, horribly incorrect in that tragic case. Police officers extremely-vetted five random kids into prison sentences for crimes they didn’t commit…and Trump still thinks they’re guilty because extreme vetting has to work.

Trump still believes in torture, although he’ll “defer” to the specialists! I’m assuming that he’s going to give the thumbs-up to torture behind closed doors and attempt to keep the reporters in the dark about it…at least until he feels safe enough to wheel one of his unlucky nay-sayers onto a television stage, strapped immotile, upside-down to a flatboard, ready to demonstrate to America how water-boarding is effective and keeps America safe!

He wants us to think Obama’s to blame because our last President designated these seven countries for extra scrutiny with visas and green cards, but we all know Obama would never have approved of this executive order. It’s also okay for Trump to do this because Obama did it himself to Iraq!…even though, there was a terror attack on a military recruitment station in Kentucky that called for the action. Trump cannot point to any such recent terror attack. In fact, every terror attack used to defend this executive order has been performed by terrorists NOT from any of the seven countries on the list! Trump’s going to have to stand up on his own two feet, and stop pointing to Obama for the mistakes Trump makes.

Trump wants us to believe that he’s protecting us by detaining members of the seven countries and putting them under the hot spotlight of good, old-American gestapo police-questioning in order to find the bad guys…like some God-awful buddy-cop movie. And why not? It seems like most Americans think that’s how America’s supposed to be: like in the movies! You know, where all the Muslims are trying to kill America’s white people! Ah, I remember the good old days when it was the Ruskies trying to kill America’s white people in the movies.

A lot of Americans are stupid enough to cheer him on because he’s fulfilling campaign promises that will come back to bite them in the ass. We are paying for the wall, he did start a trade war with a bordering country, and Steve Bannon will be in charge of the military! In fact, I’m being kind. It’ll be ass-rending, not just a little bite.

There’s also a lot of Americans, like me, that are just as stupid. I stupidly continue to try to make logical sense out of Trump’s agenda, when he told us exactly what he’s going to do for the last year and more: He’s going to take over this country and fix it in his image.

I am most chilled because he did say he was going to kill family members of the terrorists, and that’s one of the first things he did in Yemen with Seal Team Six (as if he wanted to mimic Obama’s surprise attack of Osama bin Laden). An eight-year-old girl, daughter of a terrorist, shot and killed ten days into Trump’s presidency.  One of our Seals was killed too.

There are 5,000+ soldiers in Iraq right now, partnered with the people affected by this ban. I doubt they even care about the whole “religious test” as much as they care about all the times Trump is caught saying we should have taken all the oil, and who knows, maybe there’ll be another chance to do it right!

Trump’s doing everything he said he would do, so I am most scared for my country’s soldiers right now, stationed in Iraq.

Mr. Trump, you are endangering lives, and you can protest about protecting us all you want. You are endangering people. Get it in your head, Mr. Trump. You don’t know more than the generals.

This country–indeed, this world–is not your play-toy, Mr. Trump. If you’re looking to start a war and are testing the waters to see who you can trust before you go full-on military state with America, then, sir, you are going to start losing your legitimacy quickly with every American. You already lost it with me, but I promise you this, when Americans start dying, sir, we, as Americans, do not fall back in line. Maybe the Democrats in Congress are looking to fall back into line so quickly, but my brand of American does no such thing. We fight when we need to, and there are plenty of Americans who did not vote on November 8th that would like to contribute to the conversation at this moment.

Mr. Trump, slow it down, and start listening to the people, or we will revolt…and I will be happy to be a part of it.

You don’t scare me, Mr. Trump. I look forward to the eventual insulting tweet; in fact, here, let me write it for you:

This is the problem with America: mouthy teachers who should be doing what they’re told. The Maniacal Professor’s a fool. Sad. Maybe he should be waterboarded.

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Three, Part One

“The New Style”

For the first installment of my maniacal rant for 2017, I’d like to write about how I’ve grown and stagnated as a writer and teacher, and ultimately how I’d like to progress before the conclusion of this first year of the American Apocalypse:

On day one of our composition classes this semester, I told my students that I’m less concerned about mechanical error and formatting mistakes in their papers than I am interested in emphasizing the sentence style, paragraph coherence, and overall content, unified by an argumentative thesis throughout the structure of the essay as a whole.  I know good spelling, complete sentences, and formal tone are important for writing good essays, but they are certainly not the most important things.

Robert Pirsig wrote in his magnum opus, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that the “thing that depressed him was prescriptive rhetoric…the old slap-on-the-fingers-if-your-modifiers-were-caught-dangling stuff. Correct spelling, correct punctuation, correct grammar. Hundreds of itsy-bitsy rules for itsy-bitsy people.  No one could remember all that stuff and concentrate on what he was trying to write about.”

Pirsig’s on to something here. Many students constrain their writing voice because teachers have drilled into students’ heads that writing is about following the rules. I might suggest that good writing is more about breaking the rules than following them.

I’ve learned that, perhaps, the most important things about writing are 1) being honest with yourself about what you write, 2) scrutinizing everything you read and hear as an argumentative claim, and 3) writing without fear because of whomever may read it, whether it be family, friends, or co-workers.

The first item requires a life-long journey of learning about one’s self, as we fashion an identity that allows us to communicate with one another more clearly and comfortably. Most anguish about writing comes from not having enough confidence to express authority about controversial topics. For many young college writers, it’s potential anguish about speaking openly in disagreement against political ideas, religious rules, and argumentative subjects learned from elder family members, high school teachers, or supervisors at their local starting jobs. Becoming a better writer means to write openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from others, and learning to communicate with honesty. To be colloquial, I’d say I’ve learned that to write better, one must shovel through a lot of bullshit to get at the truth of the New American Rhetorical Situation.

The second item requires a writer to read texts, to become an authority on all the content about us in this complicated world. In this age of Trump, there is much potential argumentative content which is available about which to write. That’s a mouthful, but it’s absolutely necessary to pay attention by reading more…by paying attention instead of ignoring politics and religion, thereby allowing people in positions of authority to retain bad ideologies from both American institutions.  Self-identifying as a writer at a very early age, I’ve maintained some tendencies that have been beneficial, including voracious reading of literature, the news, and popular culture.  Sampling as much language as possible is ultimately the best way to become a better writer and speaker, and this has become an academic mantra.

The third item is a recent thing I have learned about myself, and it concerns my own personal stagnation as a writer. I have written to this point in my life with respect for my fellow Republicans and Christians, although it has been a waning respect. This past year’s election has seen the cessation of any modicum of respect from this writer for Republicans, since they aligned with Donald Trump. For eight years, I have seen a steady stream of propaganda from the Fox News network, based on invalid logic, hate speech, and drummed-up emotional fear, which my family and neighbors digest with regularity. Fox News contributors like Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Ben Carson, and Mike Pence have draped themselves in crosses, demanded to be voices for good Christian Americans, and distorted the goodness of Christian ethics through illegitimate argument. Some white American Christians sleep with their fundamentalist Bible under their heads, hoping that Jesus will come back and take them to Heaven while all the liberal infidels are left behind to suffer for their prodigal sins. This is unhealthy behavior, yet it’s drilled into our children’s heads in the White American church. I know this because it was drilled into my head, coming from a family that attended church too much and often targeted schools and teachers as being the environment and agents of the secular evil responsible for the end of blue-collar America. Facebook has been an eye-opener, as I have read the most appalling arguments, many of which come from people I love, who fostered me, and taught me about life, about what I thought it meant to be a good man. Unfortunately, I’ve been reviewing past conversations and revising opinions about what it means to be a good American citizen and Christian today.  It’s discouraging and revealing, especially since many of those people do nothing but complain about what I write…

So, a new style must be adopted. In order to become a better writer and teacher, I must stop filtering the content of what I write and say through the sieve of false conservative ideology, based on the old-person voices in my head from those who voted for Donald J. Trump, the voices that have tried to say it’s okay to discriminate based on ill-defined subjective arguments using concepts like sin, evil, and promoting violence, the voices that promote prejudice and avarice, the voices of those who are constantly trying to tell me I’m wrong, the voices that attempt to repress me based on their own false sense of offense, while attempting to counter-explain ethics and morality back to a diligent student, teacher, journalist, rhetorician, and philosopher, all of which are societal roles consistently belittled by Republicans.

I no longer give those voices power in my rhetoric. I hope to evolve as a better ethical professional as a result.

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.