The bad apple orchard

*chuckles* I'm in danger!

First, I want to say that yes, I straight-up forgot to send this newsletter at the beginning of the month. I’ve been busy! I just moved to a one-bedroom apartment, and I’m spending much of my time obsessively checking Craigslist and vintage furniture Instagram accounts for stuff to acquire; moving to a new state + living with roommates for four years means not having basic things like chairs. I’ve also been volunteering with the Democratize ComEd campaign—which, in case I haven’t rambled on about this to you, advocates for Chicago not renewing its agreement with ComEd at the end of the year and instead creating a municipal, democratically controlled energy utility—and it’s been busy. Turns out it takes a lot of work to mount a grassroots campaign against a massive corporation that will stop at nothing—even literal bribery—to curry favor with all of the state’s power players (including the “watchdog” group that’s supposed to be coming out against this kind of behavior)!

I decided to send this out on a mid-weekday 1) to change things up a bit and 2) because my mind is reeling from last night’s debate. Woof. I have a few friends who smartly avoid watching debates live in favor of checking the recaps the next day (I do this with awards shows because they make me uncomfortable). But I guess I hate myself so I decided to try to watch at least some of it in real time.

Basically: it was a debate where Trump gave a shout-out to a known white supremacist group and somehow Biden still wasn’t the runaway victor. Trump resorted to the tactics of a grade-school bully, and it kind of worked? It was basically “stop hitting yourself. Why are you hitting yourself?” over and over. I don’t blame Biden too much, though; for anyone who wasn’t cool for most of K-12, you know that bully tactics, as dumb as they are, wear you down over time. It made me think of how when I was in Girl Scouts, one time I told some of the girls in my troop that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up (as an adult who is bad at science and terrified of outer space, I’m not sure what was going on there), and the ringleader of the group—and also my consistent bully since pre-school—responded, “Why don’t you go to the knowledge store and get a life?” What she said made absolutely no sense, but the rest of the group thought it was hilarious and I ended up quitting the troop soon after. Strident stupidity backed by power is really effective, especially in this country.

I think in dealing with the Trump Problem, there were two schools of thought: we either put forth the most milquetoast Democrat candidate who will appeal to the country’s centrists, or we counter Trumpism with his ideological opposite. I thought the latter strategy would be more effective, and I could absolutely be wrong, and also it doesn’t matter—we’re Team Milquetoast now. Blue no matter who, right? Again, I can’t blame anyone because the Trump Problem has made it impossible for any normal rules to apply or to even think clearly. We’re in Chaos Mode (Trump is a Gemini so this makes sense). Where I do take issue is that, because of the Trump Problem, this situation is so fragile that even pointing out that Biden is a flawed candidate is seen as tantamount to supporting Trump. But ultimately, I have empathy for the people in that camp because things feel so out of our control with this very important election. Even if turnout is high and Biden claims victory, the republicans seem intent on casting doubt on the results. I understand the anxiety.

But I do want to say, with the huge caveat that I AM VOTING FOR HIM, that I was disappointed with Biden’s performance last night for a number of reasons: Specifically, him saying “I do not support the Green New Deal,” despite the fact that the Green New Deal definitely influenced his proposed climate plan, which is a good start but doesn’t go far enough considering the urgent climate crisis in front of us. Sure, I was under no illusions that Biden would support the GND. My hope has always been that we get this guy in office and keep fighting for a climate plan that more aggressively decarbonizes and doesn’t rely so much on market solutions. But to hear him completely dismiss the plan and not push back enough on Trump’s “radical socialist” characterization of it, and on his untrue assertions that the GND would ban cows (???) and airplanes, was discouraging. But again, like I said, simply talking with Trump ruins any chance at normal discourse.

Also, I just wanna say that the word “radical” gets a really bad rap. I think of this quote from the book A Planet to Win: We We Need a Green New Deal:

Our word radical comes from the Latin radix, meaning root: radical change is systemic change that tackles root causes rather than merely addressing symptoms. Is that too much to fight for in the United States?

On this topic of root causes, I was also disappointed by what Biden said about policing—he trotted out the whole “there are a lot of great cops but it’s just a problem of a few bad apples” line. And, again, I was not expecting Joe Biden to get on national television and say “ACAB! NO JUSTICE NO PEACE! FUCK 12!”, but I didn’t think he would repeat a theory of bad policing that’s been so throughly debunked.

First, the whole “bad apples” metaphor is misused anyway: people think that a “bad apple” is one that’s not representative of the rest of the apples and doesn’t “spoil the bunch"—but the original metaphor comes from the fact that a bad apple emits its bad apple poison everywhere and does spoil the bunch. And really, with things like powerful police unions, overfunding of police departments and a lack of funding of mental healthcare programs and schools, hefty budgets for misconduct settlements, and the “code of silence” among officers that allow police officers to murder Black people with impunity, you could say that police forces around the country are veritable bad apple orchards, creating and supporting fields and fields of bad apples.

Bad systems create bad people who do bad things. That’s why we need to get to the root of these systems to change them, or even destroy some of them altogether. But perhaps addressing these systems is too much to ask in a debate where Trump made fun of Biden for going to a state school.

When I vote in a few weeks I’ll vote for Biden, and you should do the same, but I hope that we can all develop the imagination to think beyond what’s being served in this bad apple pie (I’m sorry), because these times call for it. We could all stand to be a little more radical.

Unsolicited recommendations

I had a few scary articles about climate change and the election I was going to link here, but I think we’ve all had enough of that. Fun recommendations only!

I watched the movie Ready or Not recently and was not prepared to like it as much as I did. It was just so FUN—the kind of movie that makes you yell at the screen back when we could go to movie theaters and do that. And it’s not very scary for those of you don’t like horror (it’s more of a cartoonishly bloody thriller I would say), and all the carnage is offset by the movie’s dark sense of humor.

Pen15 on Hulu is back for a second season! I’m not done yet but already it’s been so emotional for me to watch, and also super funny. I have such tenderness for the two characters, who are in seventh grade around the time I was (2000!). I really forget that the actors playing Maya and Anna are grown women. This season ramps up the angst and body horror of being a teenage girl.

I can’t stop watching this TikTok.

If you like dipping your toes in the worst this internet has to offer from time to time, I highly recommend Garbage Day, the newsletter from Ryan Broderick (co-author of the most powerfully cursed listicle on the internet, Buzzfeed’s annual “worst things on the internet” list, which I don’t even feel comfortable linking here). It’s a digest of all things garbage, from bizarre TikTok influencers who may or may not be the product of advertising companies to the growing influence of QAnon on social media.

Can you make a decision for me?

So like I said earlier, I recently moved into a new apartment. At first I decided that I wasn’t going to get a microwave—I’ve always found them to be kind of gross, and I can reheat things on the stove and in the oven, plus I may eventually get a toaster oven—but then I remembered that I wouldn’t be able to make my beloved mug cakes! Is a mug cake reason enough to buy a microwave, or should I just stick with my toaster plan? By the way, my counter space is already rapidly vanishing so I probably should’t get either appliance.