RL278 - Felix

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: Everybody has their Pablo, referring to talk about immigration control where someone's a neighbor who was called Pablo had been sent back to his country although he was great. John and Merlin conclude that everybody knows a case like that.

The show title refers to a kid in John’s dad’s elementary school that the teacher just randomly called Felix because there were two John’s in the class.

This episode was recorded on January 23rd, 2018 (5 weeks before it was released).

John’s tooth is still missing a week after he lost it. He hasn’t even called the dentist yet.

There was a big rainstorm in Seattle. John’s family, especially his mom and sister Susan, really cares about the weather. Susan likes looking at the stars as well. Stars are what we call "old weather", because we are seeing what a star looked like millions of years ago.

There was a problem with congress a few weeks ago and John was counseling Merlin not to fret about it or even follow the story, but it is hard. This happened in the after-show, the dark show, that you can’t listen to, because it is only available to subscribers.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Getting your mind blown by philosophy (RL278)

The entire universe could be just a molecule in the thumb of some giant who has his thumb up his ass. Merlin wonders if children today still get these reveries when they contemplate the idea of infinity or other related things. They have Netflix and SnapChat and don’t have time to contemplate things that are recursive and hurtful to the brain. When John was a kid, those things were not part of popular culture and when he heard something in Animal House or when Donald Sutherland was passing a joint around, it still had the force of novelty. If you grow up soaked in that stuff, it will be harder to get to a place where your mind is blown, but the moment it actually occurs to you, it still has to be "Kapaw"! Merlin has a terrible time blowing his daughter’s mind. He tried many times, for example to get her freaked out about infinity, but she just won't be freaked out about it.

John thinks about String Theory all the time, but he still struggles with it. Some things he just can’t resolve. Does P = NP? Are there multiple universes? Merlin had very little exposure to philosophy before college. When he read som existentialist stuff in his gap year, it made him very interested in philosophy, because it seemed like ”universe in a finger" with a graduate degree. Epistemology was very fascinating: How do we know what we know? Merlin was just a simple farm-boy from Cincinnati and that kind of stuff would bend his brain. "You think, therefore you are!" He even wrote a paper on Descartes and in the last paragraph it had the very memorable line ”So who is this guy we call God?” It was the kind of thing he was doing in 1986. ”Don’t put Descartes before the horse!” is a sentence that John put in a paper in 1991. Their professor in CHID allowed them to be creative and he wrote a song about Descartes in the style of Jonathan Richman. He might even have said ”We Kant!” and a lot of other stuff like it. The other students were slow-clapping. There are a lot of things that constitute an education. Don’t let your school get into the way!Don’t let your anthology recapitulate your philogyny! Said the 30-year old townie with the bong who wants you to play his tape or buy his CD that contains almost all Reggae music.

Women’s march 2018 (RL278)

John went to the women’s march in 2018. The year before, some complication kept John out of it, but this year he went. Once the march got going, it is really exciting. A lot about it moving forward felt exactly how you would hope it would feel. There is the comedic aspect with empowered little girls carrying signs that their dad had made for them. John was marching behind a group of women from the carpenter’s union wearing hard hats and jackets. They were not representing the union, but they were just carpenters telling their often-neglected story. We don’t typically look at a construction site and see the inner politics of who is there. When we talk about equal pay for equal work or we talk about the workplace, we typically picture an office environment.

At rallies like this there will always be some grey area of organizations who use the opportunity to pitch their big program as well. Of course the labour unions are there asking for support because they have a lot of women in the union. You can make a case for that, but it is really more a cooptation of the idea. A group of all men was holding a banner saying ”Support the freedom struggle of Palestinian women!” and they had a bunch of material about how Israel is committing a genocide. It would have been something else if there had been some women there, because it just seemed like they had been putting some women sauce on it. Another iteration was a group to ”Protect the elephants”. A lot of these people had a raid at one particular corner where the march was turning and John wished he would be standing there in a knee-length leather car coat from CostCo asking ”You want to check out my CD? It is all about women!” All that respect for women can really only be expressed on the Philips compact disc format. This shows you how fractured things are right now!

No one in America is on the other side of the isle anymore. 98% of the people in America look at a carpenter woman in her hard hat and go "Fuck yeah!" No-one thinks anymore that there shouldn’t be female carpenters, not even the most conservative voter in Alabama, There are always going to be dicks, no matter what their political affiliation, both men an women, who will start laughing when a woman shows up to do the work on their kitchen, but that is mostly because of lack of exposure. It is a little bit shocking to them, but it doesn’t mean they hate it. It is like Lowly Worm showing up to do your kitchen work and you are like ”You are a girl worm!”

"Who lets that Mr. Frumble drive?" This guy got a lot of problems! There are plenty of cops in Richard Scarry’s World. Sergeant Murphy is just as careless, he literally rides a motorcycle onto a plane full of people.

Two women in their 60s, both about 5 feet tall, were marching close to John. At first they were not clearly a couple, but one of them was holding a small hand-lettered piece of laminated notebook paper that said ”We are not going back!” and as the march progressed, John realized that they were married and they gave every indication that they had been together for 40 years. They were not demonstrative, they were not even holding hands, but they were just walking together with this sign! It was so powerful and John honestly believes that most people on either side of the political isle, confronted with these two actual human beings, are not going to be against them. The people who are against gay marriage are against it because they are against an idea and against a notion that we are trying to cram it down their throats. For them it feels like a threat which delegitimizes their idea of a family. It is like the new Ghostbusters ruining their childhood!

There are couples like this even in Alabama and when confronted with actual people, pretty much everybody with the exception of a few crazy zealots is going to look at them and make an exception for their aunt and her friend. On the left we idealize a world where everybody is completely forward-facing about who they are and they are accepted broadly by everyone. On the right side of the isle, there is a lot of prehistoric social thinking, but confronted by actual people, no-one can deny a thing like that. You cannot look into their face and tell them that they are not entitled to be together, that this is antithetical to what America is and that they are evil. There are definitely parents who reject their own children, but they are fewer and farther between.

The reversed roles between liberals and conservatives (RL278)

It is crazy that Trump has finally given the lie to the idea that the politically conservative people are the ones who are the scolds and the moralizing finger-waggers who hold people to their standards. In the past this would play out with things like ”You don’t have to make this cake for gay people” or ”You do not have to provide women’s healthcare services”, but now there are fairly well-documented allegations against the president and it doesn’t seem to matter if Mike Pence is totally cool with it. Not only did Trump have relationships with sex workers while his wife was pregnant, but he is famous for riding on a private jet with that pedophile guy who would get teenagers. He was the source of a lot of the New York Post stories about Marla Maples and he encouraged her to publicly say This was the best sex I’ve ever had. He thrives in an environment of people thinking that he is a very competent horn dog.

At the time when Bill Clinton was being hounded for his dalliances, his indiscretions and his predatory behavior, we assumed that this hunt was being motivated by the religious right that we have been talking about for 40 years. We called them prigs and thought they were pursuing this out of a sense of overactive moral indignation because they feel obligated by their faith and ethics to call these things out. It gave some clarity to the division between left and right, because we on the left could see them bound by a code that included their religion and their culture. It was internally consistent and they were an understandable and worthy adversary, even if we didn't agree with a lot of the fundamental premises. It contextualized the left, because the liberals were the progressive, the empathetic, the open-minded, and the multi-cultural who needed to incorporate things from around the world. Sometimes these cultural differences can be advantageous. This was how the left saw the social aspect of left and right, which wasn’t always true.

Back before the civil rights movement, the Republican party was mostly focused on economics. They had a pretty liberal view of what a person should be able to do in the privacy of their own home. From a certain Libertarian standpoint your home was a temple. It was the Democrats who were all about segregation. Before WWII the Democrats were not socially progressive. Today we are in a situation where the right side of the isle has made it clear that although we are Christians and we believe in God and in our country, we think that Trump is doing a good job although he is a coke-fueled prostitute-abuser. He personifies everything that the right would normally hate, but he is sticking it to the liberals and that is what they love! In a very strange role reversal, the left has now become the moralizing scolds who are very much driven by a collective energy using shame and a lot of the things that we 40 years ago, when those things were in service of a different ideology, would have called moral majority tactics.

Expectations before the 2016 presidential election

John went to his High School reunion in Anchorage right before the election in November 2016. He talked to a bunch of his pals who were all golf pros, snowmobile salesmen and die-hard Trump people. They told him that he doesn't see what would be coming, but John knew that the world would move into the future under a Hillary Clinton administration. His pals said that Trump was going to win, although John was convinced that he was never going to win in a million years. By talking to them over the course of a long reunion weekend, John realized that they thought that they were the fun ones, they were the ones who know how to party and they had the real temperature of what America is all about! They have the Ted Nugent version of fun and as they looked at John and his liberalist culture, they told him that Liberalists don’t have fun anymore and have become so uptight. It was a caricature of the left. The left used to say about the moral majority that they had no fun and were caught up in arcane and archaic ideas of what people are. It was the time John got off Twitter because he felt like he didn’t know anything anymore and he was in the upside down.

Merlin says that people tend not to go back to their original feeling, but they tend to only go one way, in particular about DACA. Once you know these people and have talked to them, you very rarely become more strident about thinking that they should be thrown out of the country. Gay marriage is another example. There aren’t many people who start out as pro gay marriage or pro DACA and go the other way. Linus from the peanuts once says to Lucy that he loves humanity, but it is people that he hates. In a recent article McSweeney parodied a journalist who was going out to Trump voters.

Some reporter went down to the conservative South-Western corner of Washington where they grow a lot of Cranberries and asked how it feels down there now that we are cracking down on immigrants. The sheriff and almost everybody they talked to said that they want to crack down on immigrants, because they are rapists and criminals coming into the country. On the other side, based on that same law, they took their neighbor Pablo, who was a great dude! He had been there for years and had been invaluable for the community! Everybody has their Pablo! They also got the guys working on the Cranberry fields! Those people don’t extend it to the abstraction.

Denying statistical facts

John follows a German statistician called Max Roser on Twitter. Roser stays above politics and is always posting graphs with very interesting takes on things. For example, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa have a far greater college graduation rate than people born in the US. It is impossible to argue with statistics and it provides an abstraction that is much easier for people to see. If you watch Cops every week and ever single person they pull over is black, it must mean that every criminal in America is black. That is much easier to apprehend than the fact that the people who immigrated from other countries are the most educated and the best qualified people because it is really hard to immigrate to America. Even people who are entering the country illegally are people who are aspiring and seeking something great and not people who are complacent, lazy and dumb. Nobody makes it all the way to America and gets the same shitty job they had back wherever they were coming from because they are lazy. They are enterprising! Speaking as a Liberal, it is very hard for John not only to feel like his views are better, but also that his views are more accurate. People see immigration as a zero-sum game. Everything an immigrant gets, who has been treated like shit for their entire life, is something you don’t get!

Conservatives showing the middle finger to somebody who is not even watching

The president wants to put import-taxes on solar technology, which is one of the bright spots in growth. One of 5 new jobs is in solar and now they are making it more costly to have this huge exploding growth area that could actually benefit the same people who still think they are going to go back into the mine any day. It is a really intriguing example about the cultural divide that we are experiencing right now. A lot of people in America will celebrate the new taxes based exclusively on the idea that it is a big middle finger to the hippies.

A couple of years ago when John bought his Suburban, admittedly a hilariously old janky American truck, he drove across the country and encountered many people burning coal. This means they put a giant smoke stack on their diesel truck and adjust the mixture so that it sends huge black clouds of smoke out of their tail pipes when they slam on the gas. There is no purpose in that other than to give you that Ted Nugent Fuck You. They are not driving those trucks in the middle of San Francisco, but they are driving them in Nebraska. They are saying Fuck You even to the mere idea of a Liberal. Because there aren’t any liberals around them, they are doing it as a middle finger to people who aren’t even watching.

Those people have strong feelings about their real enemy, who is a caricature of someone like John or Merlin (John and Merlin are certainly closer to this caricature than to the audience at a Darius Rouker concert), someone with a college degree who thinks they are smarter than you and who wants to ram their ideas down your throat. It has nothing to do with the fact that you are getting along pretty well with your gay neighbors, but has everything to do with a vision of a future universe where there is no manufacturing in America anymore, that it has all been outsourced, the government is in charge of everything, they take your guns away, except that the government allows you to do whatever you want, including being a pedophile or a sex-with-animals-person or whatever it is that they extend this criticism out to.

Those people have this weird idea of a liberal who wants to have complete lawlessness on one side of the world where they are going to have Caligulan Bacchanalia, but who will also take away everything that gives your life meaning and joy. You will no longer be allowed to worship your God, to salute your flag, to support your troops, or to have guns. Instead the liberals will tax all your money away and give it to undeserving poor abortion-having trans-people living on welfare. This is their perception of the liberal vision of the world. They think that a lot of liberals are leftist dupes who haven’t been taking the red pill. The jews are controlling our government and the liberals are in this daze of almost romantic thrall to the idea of inclusiveness that is going to create a world where we are under Sharia law.

It is almost like the environmental protection guy in Ghostbusters I who was the only good guy in the film and who is the worst version of a Carter administration bureaucrat. The only way he makes money is by causing trouble and hardship for hard-working Americans who are just trying to bust a ghost! It is politically a weird movie because the Ghostbusters are academics, and they are ”Devil may care!”, but they are politically pretty Trumpy in terms of how they approach dealing with government bureaucracy.

The lesson of the cookie-cutter thriller is that the quiet stern dad knew the truth about the world the whole time. Libertarianism combined with no other conditions is what we would describe as a Patriarchy that is riven through everything. Until fairly recently, our take on that was a lot more complex than what it is now and it feels like we can no longer afford to be complex. For John it felt that this is just a time for him to sit out, because it is very hard for him to look at things and not see the complexity in them. When you talk publicly about complex ideas, you are immediately challenged, because complexity doesn’t line up. We are living in a bicameral world that feels very black & white and you can’t really approach anything in a public facing way anymore without taking a pretty dogmatic side. John just can’t swallow that! A lot of the things we see as the American spirit is historically not inextricably connected to white supremacy or to patriarchy. Distinctively American attitudes that made us proud for 200 years are individualism, the can-do spirit, and all that sort of go-get-them-USA stuff. A lot about it is true or interesting. On the right side of the isle they felt that they were the inheritors or protectors of some of those enshrined ideas. On the left there are a lot of liberal patriots, including John.

Seeing positive into the future of America (RL278)

People on the left saying that America is a garbage country and always has been, are deeply and profoundly wrong, although it might feel good to say and it might make you feel like you are on the side of the revolution. It is a challenge to remind ourselves that if you watch the news every day and if you see the bad things that are being reported in the way that they are, this feels like a time where evil is ascendant, but actually things are getting better every day in every way and the rule of law is going to triumph. John believes in the American experiment and he doesn’t believe America is a trash fire. You can go back to 1780 and compare America's founding to every other nation on Earth, you can go back to 1865 or 1900 or anywhere else in history and do a line-to-line comparison to what was happening in the United States and you are going to find that the US does not compare are very evil to very many places. The UK abolished slavery a lot sooner than America did, but sooner by a factor of only 40 years. It is not like Britain had outlawed slavery in 1500 and America was some kind of South Africa that persisted, but it was an evolving process.

To look back on the history of America and say that they have blood on their hands is only to fail to look back at the history of the world and see that everyone has blood on their hands. There is no nation on Earth that is absaught (?). The nation of Belgium continued to exploit their colonies in Africa until the 1950s in ways that would burn your eyebrows. They were brutal in the Congo, which is the entire central Africa, but nobody looks at Belgium and says they did something wrong there, or maybe the Belgians themselves do. The whole idea that America is a terrible place is just wrong. America has been setting the tempo for 200 years when it comes to extension and expansion of rights for the greatest number of people, when it comes to political rights and social evolution. All that has been happening in America and other countries have been following in their wake. There are a lot of Europeans who want to point to their own country’s contribution, but you would have a hard time making a case that many countries in Western Europe have been working on that project any earlier than 1960. The UK is obviously a separate dispensation, but it is not like they have been a liberal democracy this whole time.

James P Cannon, Herbert Hoover or Warren G Harding might not be the best examples of American exceptionalism, but most people who were in the White House at least bought the best lies about America. Bill Clinton might not be the best human being, and Merlin is not here to rehabilitate the reputation of George W Bush who may have been a not very bright dry drunk, but he probably believed the better truths and some of the most interesting lies about America that enabled us to get through it from week to week. Barack Obama believed it big time! Less than 2 years ago we called George W Bush the worst president in history and now we wish we could go back to a day when the president knew on which side of his body his heart was on. Setting aside all the Narcissism and the mental stuff, Trump is somebody who clearly does not like the real stuff that has made America great and has no respect for the agreed-upon lies that made America pretty good. He doesn’t care and he is fine to burn it all down. Being persuaded by the last general he happened to talk to is bad enough, we could survive that fine, but the check on that should be the people who know better in congress, whatever side you are on. There is a reason they call it politics. It is not ”polyfriend”!

Merlin posted a really cool painting of Cthulhu the other day with two guys in a robe running away from it. The New Yorker stock caption he gave to it was ”Well. Let’s not diagnose from a distance!” How far is it going to go? Is it the worst that keeps us all up? Is it going to be Little Rocket Man shooting at us? What is it going to be before people will go ”Dude! You got to fucking dial it down! You got to at least learn to pretend that you are the fucking president!" Merlin is not here to whitewash over the very problematic history of the United States. He believes in the self-fixing nature to America, even though it takes a long time, and even though it is not happening right now. People say that it may take 30 years to undo what has happened to the EPA at a time when the environment is just crumbling and the numbers are there for all of this stuff. Nobody is standing up! You got 100 grown-ups over here and over 400 on the other side! Why aren’t they being the grown-ups? Some of of them benefit greatly from being able to not get Trump mad at them on the Internet, and the rest doesn’t have the political will or votes to be able to do anything of substance. What is it going to take to get us back to near anywhere we could be? Some of the stuff is as bad as what was happening in the 1950s and 1960s, it is like we lost 50-60 years somewhere!

One of the things that has been talked about in the early days as a strength of Internet is that you would be able to tailor your newsfeed to fit your interests. Now here we are and everybody is watching their own individual newsfeed. Merlin's and John's newsfeeds are in full-on panic mode all the time and project a doomsday scenario, but that is not an accurate picture! There is damage being done to the environment, but there have also been a lot of improvements. Even during the Obama administration we have been doing a lot of damage, it is not like we went from Avatar to Blade Runner in two weeks and won't ever get back to Avatar. Instead it is a continuum and progress is being made. John always cautions for getting into a news cycle, because news is built on creating panic in people. It is very hard to take one big step back and not be in a state of panic. In fact, panic feels like action! It feels like you are engaged or that you are doing something to be in a state of anxious stress all the time. With Trump there is no putting that Genie back into the bottle! Something has changed irrevocably.

Trump and the congress are a product of 50 years of ground game that the conservatives have been playing and that the liberals have failed at. It is partly in the nature of the two animals: Liberalism thinks of itself as an overarching worldview and liberals believe in the philosopher king. If people are educated, they will make good choices. Therefore we need to bring education to places. If only people were educated, they would naturally be liberals. That has been the focus ever since the civil rights movements. For example, Buzzing is a program where we wanted people to interact with each other. We attempted to combat racial separatism by almost force-wedging people together, but it was based on an idealistic premise that we could educate people by showing them.

The right had a much more pragmatic approach to American politics. Their goal was to get people elected to the local school board and to the county council. Once they would get somebody in there, they would gerrymander the districts so that this district no longer included any black neighborhoods and this district was going to look like a paint splotch, but that didn't matter, because they were not trying to create a world of egalitarianism and they were not trying to work according to the premise that all people aspire to their highest selves. Instead they were trying to get political power in Congress and they were going to do it methodically and with a military-like strategy. 25 years ago we started talking about all these school boards that were denying the theory of evolution. Who are these dingelings? From the leftist perspective, they were just some small-town dumb little Oklahoma problem. Evolution is a widely accepted theory and every smart person believes in it! The leftists did not worry about it and did not put their people on those school boards. They just assumed that our higher selves would eventually win.

As a result we are now living in a world where Congress is not made up of people who went to college, started a successful business, had an altruistic sense of American political process, fought in the good war and went to Washington trying to make a difference. Instead, Congress is full of people who were strategically sent there to accomplish a pretty narrow mission to hamstring the government, limit its power and give the right to decide whether the theory of evolution was true or not to the local school board, which they had already stacked with people. This has been the Republican game for 50 years! The left considered themselves above this kind of college football. Their ground game was basically all devoted to this long history premise that the more people are educated and affluent, the more they will take an interest in civics. Once you have a complex idea, you very rarely go back to a simple one. What the left didn’t consider was that you can’t just hand a complex idea to a kid and all of a sudden this idea will trump the kids' parents, grandparents and church. The left has done a very bad job of playing football and the current political situation is a product of that.

The conservative side of the country has done a very good job of characterizing the left as shrill and out of touch, because it is very easy to pick and choose among the theories promulgated by the left and find one that seems bonkers to a church-going person in Ohio. All you have to do is put that on your brochure and say ”Look what they liberals want us to do! They believe that all kids should have sex-change operations!” Where did you get that? For a lot of grandmothers in Ohio, that is all they need to hear. How does the left get their ground game back? It isn’t even in the nature of liberals to have a ground game, because that is not how they think. The left has to acknowledge that they are losing in a battle against a team that has a ground game. They are not doing a good job of convincing and John doesn’t know how to improve on that and how to get Neil DeGrasse Tyson out to the world. He doesn’t think that an Oprah-presidency is the way to go, but he does like how many women are now running for office! Seattle has their first female mayor in 100 years, which is a good and encouraging sign, even in conservative places! You can’t argue with female legislators. A majority female Congress would be such a different animal and it wouldn’t matter if they were all Anita Bryants.

John doesn’t know the antidote to the present moment and to the feeling that we are constantly on the verge of war, famine, catastrophe, and how we can fund our government for more than 3 weeks at the time. It is insane, but it is not unprecedented. In 1972 George Wallace ran for the US presidency strictly as a racist and he had a strong following up until the 1990. There have been crazy times before! What are movies going to do in the future when they want to cast someone for the role of the president of the United States? Even when it was a science fiction movie, you used to look out for someone who seemed serious, but how do you cast the president now? You could have anybody! It could be Bobcat Goldthwait!

Nevertheless: Every time John sees a bunch of young lawyers at an immigration building, sitting Indian style on the floor, frantically doing pro-bono work to file injunctions, he is reminded that this is a fucking great country! Look at what happened at the airports when the travel ban came down, that was an amazing moment! What if that hadn’t happened and if the presence of that kind of pushback had not been an evidence at that time? Where would we be now? If that doesn't happen anymore, that is when you look at your country and say that the place is full of decay and rot, but it did happen and therefore we can have faith in who we are and what we are doing!

Kids don’t see races anymore (RL278)

Merlin and his daughter went to see The Greatest Showman feat Volverine, the very heavily fictionalized story of P.T. Barnum. His daughter has declared it to be her all-time favorite musical and it might even be her all-time favorite movie. Merlin found it an okay movie. His daughter couldn’t believe that up until the 1960s it was illegal to marry somebody from a different race. Everybody regardless of their race and sexual orientation are all cool to her, which feels encouraging! it is no longer that one black kid, or that one mentally disabled kid, it is just a whole bunch of different kids. That feels like a pretty big move over Cincinnati, Ohio in 1967 to him!

John does not only think it is encouraging that Merlin’s daughter can’t comprehend it, but he thinks it is the truth of the matter. John’s daughter is almost 7 and she has never referred to somebody by their color. It was just how you would talk about people, but because we are modern people, John has never said ”It’s the black guy over there!” or "The reason why they are using chopsticks is because they are Asian!” Merlin’s generation was raised to believe that the easiest way to identify people was how they were different from the normal thing which is me. I == normal. John’s daughter does classify people and her primary way is boy/girl. She has two little friends and one of them is so light she is almost Albino, and one of them is from India. The two of them are very close friends, and Marlo sees them as almost indistinguishable from one another, because they are both the same size. To John they look like the black & white chess queens of a very small and interesting chess game, but to his kid they are classed the same, because they are littler than her (sic). John doesn’t find it only encouraging, he finds it fait accompli. We are better and that can only produce… Merlin interrupts him to say ”They are better!”, but John stays with ”We are better!” Merlin is not saying that their kids can’t see a difference, but how different is a distinction by skin color from deciding who your friends are based on the color or length of their hair or which backpack they use. It would seem so arbitrary. But kids are assholes!

Merlin still has the memories from his time in Cincinnati and even of his own behavior. Calling it a conservative town is a very nice word for describing what went on there. It was more than Larry Flint! It was a KKK headquarter and they had all kinds of things going on. You crossed the border to Indiana and it ain’t no Berkley over there.

In John’s dad’s elementary school in 1927 there was a black kid with the name of John and a white kid with the name of John, so the teacher told the black kid ”Now you are Felix!”, as in Felix the cat. John’s dad ran into him in the 1970s and exclaimed ”John!”, and John said ”It’s Felix, Dave!” He had been Felix his whole life. From the time he was 7 years old he had been Felix and it never occurred to him to not be Felix. John’s dad knew him as John, but the Felix identity had taken over him, probably when he went to High School. His dad had friends of all races, he played basketball with the Japanese and his best friend his whole life was black, but it would never have occurred to him to describe somebody without describing them by their primary characteristic, which is their skin color or race. Of course he would say ”The black guy over there!” John and Merlin have grown up in that world, but when they teach their kids, they don’t talk like that and their kids don’t, because that is just not how they order the universe. When they talk to their kids, they are going to figure out a new ordering. John and Merlin make incredible mistakes every day when they are saying terrible things that their kids are going to roll their eyes at, for instance their terrible dad jokes like ”Don’t put Descartes before the horse”. They would never say that to their children. John really wants to create a new world for them!

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