Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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An open plea to the Electoral College

Dear Electors:

You don’t need to be told this is a pivotal hour in world history.

In only days, you’ll meet and cast your votes to determine the fate of the world. Perhaps most of you, when you were selected to represent your states as Electors, looked at your role mostly as an honor, an expression of your patriotism, perhaps a noble way to participate in our nation’s process of government. The entire world, people from Taipei to Tallinn, know it is more than that now.

Your voting body was created for this moment. To quote Peter Beinart, from the Atlantic:

“It is ‘desirable,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, ‘that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of’ president. But is “‘equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.’ These ‘men’—the electors––would be ‘most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.’ And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—‘the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.’”

You probably didn’t expect it to be true when you became an elector. However, the moment for you to discern and investigate is here.

I’m pleading with those of you in position to do so, no matter where you identify on the political spectrum, to act in whatever way necessary to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.

I share the same concerns over the threat posed to our constitution, political system—and also to global stability—that has been expressed in recent months by so many statesmen, political scientists, journalists, columnists, educators, former and current intelligence officials, and many other professionals. If you do not share their views, if you do not believe that the president-elect is a threat to world peace, if you do not feel he is unfit to act as president on account of his conflicts of interest, his business practices, his misogyny, blatant racism, ignorance of the constitution, unpredictable behavior, narcissism and addiction to praise, assault on scientific consensus, assault on the Bill of Rights, assault on factual information, or his gaslighting claim that our intelligence community is a factory of conspiracy theories, perhaps you will finally be concerned by his potential exposure to blackmail by international adversaries and bribery by foreign governments.

Surely, this last bit must concern even those who loathe Hillary Clinton and the American establishment. We might prefer reruns of Happy Days to TED talks, the NFL to MLS, but we should all agree that a president even potentially exposed to manipulation by foreign governments threatens us all.

It’s true we’ll be in peril no matter what you decide. Our nation has been damaged by this election—it has allowed our most heinous demons to surface—and we’re going to struggle and suffer, some more than others, no matter what decision you make. You might feel that by keeping the demagogue from office you’d betray the people and system, triggering some kind of upheaval. I’m begging you to compare that possibility to another: that you might be protecting the people from harming themselves in a way they never expected, from losing to a narrative written on a rug about to be pulled from under their feet.

I’d like to think that 100% of us would stop a young man from running around a field of stumps with a screwdriver in his mouth, no matter how dramatically he protested against us. The fire department still shows up if our neighbor sets fire to her own house, and doctors will stitch up our self-inflicted wounds. We have laws and customs designed to mitigate self-harm. The Electoral College is an expression of this, as conceptualized by a man, Hamilton, virtually all Americans currently admire.

One way or another, you’ll get to tell the story to young people who will one day wonder why you acted as you did. At minimum, think about what you know of the man you stand to empower, and weigh that against what you’ll tell the kids living in his aftermath, whatever shape it takes.

“I exercised my duty to uphold the will of the people and the system.”

“I exercised my duty to keep the office of the president from falling to a man who was not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

I’d trust, given the circumstances, they’ll understand.


“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?” 

Alexander Hamilton, March 14, 1788


Image of Alexander Hamilton from Wikipedia

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Brain damaged American football players

Frontline tweeted this report less than an hour ago. From the article: “…New data from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on traumatic brain injury has found evidence of a degenerative brain disease in 76 of the 79 former players it’s examined.”

I feel it is only a matter of time for the links between brain damage and violent behavior to become clearer. However, I don’t believe any of this matters. We Americans will continue to purchase the NFL and support its sponsors and the businesses affiliated with the sport, no matter what investigations or scandals reveal about the culture, or what studies quantify about the actual brutality of the game.

I’ll come clean: concussions really don’t bother me, not by themselves. If grown men want to slam their heads into one another, or enter a ring and attempt to knock each other out with heavy blows, that’s their very entertaining business. It requires naiveté or delusion to see what football players do and to conclude that this sport is healthy on the head. The “concussion scandal,” if you can call it that, is minor compared to the reality of a league whose brass and governing bodies see domestic violence and child abuse as tertiary, even annoying issues when compared to their profits, sport or overall camaraderie.

But what if brain damage is intimately linked to violent behavior? I don’t believe Adrian Peterson whipped his son’s testicles because he has brain damage; I believe he was raised in a culture that equated child abuse with sound rearing, as some idiotic percentage of American parents think hitting children has benefits. (Those same people feel hitting a dog in public is a crime.) It might be true, given what we’re learning, that the act of slamming one’s plastic-encased head into another plastic-encased head is the act of creating violent people, men who will take our their aggression on strangers, lovers and children.

It’s one thing to love a sport, as the Romans did (and I am not among those who fetishize the comparison of Rome and America, but it’s convenient in this case), that leaves men dead in the sand. It’s brutal, but there’s no illusion. In contrast to them, we’re engaged in conversations about safety and discipline procedures. We’re so attached to this game, so invested in the love of our teams, that it’s clouding our vision, and we’re spewing a bullshit narrative.

What would it take for America to turn away from this game? What would it take for us to seek out a different form of community on Sundays? A child’s beaten testicles, a knocked out wife and a league office that says, “Who cares”? Now a study that confirms over 96% of studied brains were damaged?

Nope. Not enough.

Game on.

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Roger Goodell needs a translator

You might be confused after hearing Goodell’s press conference.

That’s because the commissioner of the NFL needs a translator. I’ll offer my services. Here’s what he said:

“Fuck you. It doesn’t matter what I say or do, whom I care about, loathe or feel indifferent about. You will still tune in. You will still buy my sponsors’ products. So be pissed off if you want. The network carrying the Super Bowl will announce its price for advertisements shortly. Again, fuck you.”


No more NFL for me

This past weekend I watched my last NFL game. The game has been bothering me for a long time, but I always stopped short of shutting off the tube, deluding myself that it was enough to be mindful of the game’s flaws. Being a fan has provided me with wonderful experiences and memories, even friendships. But I can no longer associate myself with this culture.

I am not a former high school player. I don’t see how it matters. Yes, I buy the arguments about how football builds character and responsibility. But plenty of cultures (er…all except Canada?) do not play American football, and plenty of American children never put on pads. You can’t possibly believe the vast majority of human beings  are irresponsible and lack character.

Gardening builds character. So do chess, meditation and swimming. Ballet teaches responsibility, discipline, body control, focus, determination, fitness, respect for one’s body, healthy expression of oneself, and ballet dancers perform through pain. Those lessons and that kind of perseverance are common to many activities, especially when performed by someone serious about them. American football, as a culture and society, offers no unique or superior lesson. Those football players I knew in high school and college who felt superior were sadly, tragically deluded.

Yes, most athletes, whatever the sport, are decent people. Some are less than angelic. We should look up to them with caution, and deifying them is foolish. Make your arguments about hockey thugs and footballer (I mean soccer) goons, many full of themselves. If you love American football so much that you’re willing to look past this latest cover up, to rationalize it away, or even to blow it off as unimportant, your certainty should not motivate you to argue with a guy who’s stepping away from consuming the sport. Neither you nor the game will miss me. My absence will have no effect.

And that’s exactly the point. If we’re angry and offended but continue to watch, it’s hard to convince anyone we’re all that angry or offended. If we keep the game on, our offense, large as it might be, will still remain smaller than whatever positives we believe football provides.

As a fan of the sport and long-time supporter of this league, therefore a participant in its culture, often a consumer of its advertised goods, I’m being asked to define the positives. Are they available in no other community or space? Is there no way to disassociate myself from an organization that pooh-poohs domestic violence? That question is inescapable, and the answer is obvious.

They won’t care about our protests or any noise we make. They will only care when the cost of a Super Bowl ad skydives. This year, even in the aftermath of the recent scandal, I predict the price will have risen since last February. And that will show what we truly value.

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My NFL (Chicago Bear) Addiction

Recently, I’ve come to realize that my relationship to Chicago Bears’ games is troublesome. I wrote about it for The Good Men Project. You can read the article, titled “Five Bothersome Things About the NFL”, here.

The article is the first one contributed to The Good Men Project by our new Sports Editor, Liam Day. Follow him on Twitter @LiamDay7 for updates on more posts like this.