Tag Archives: politics

FGC #288 Persona 5

Today’s article contains game-long spoilers for Persona 5. It’s pretty much just focused on the villains, but, ya know, you’ve been warned.

So stylishPersona 5 has inadvertently caused me to ask a superficially simple question: What is the threshold for villainy?

Persona 5 is the story of the Phantom Thieves, a group of swanky teenagers that stylishly steal “hearts” from people with wicked desires. They start pretty small with a local gym teacher, but, by the end of the story, they’re using their powers to literally shift the balance of political power in their country. One way or another, despite a capricious general public, the Phantom Thieves and their leader, Stylin’ McSavvipants (aka Joker), are always on the side of good, and never use this power to, I don’t know, screw with some random shop keep’s inventory so they can actually afford new shirts every month. In short, while the SMT/Persona series generally enjoys a bit of moral ambiguity, there is never any question that the good guys are the good guys, even if they seem to doubt themselves in a few too many overly long dialogue scenes (and I guess this just reinforces that they’re good, right?). The Phantom Thieves are thieves, but you’re constantly reminded that they’re less protagonist criminals like Walter White, and much more like Robin Hood (who, incidentally, also makes an appearance).

So, naturally, this means the antagonists for our heroes are bad guys. The Phantom Thieves only steal the hearts of the corrupt, and, lucky for those of us that want an 80 hour game, here’s a whole host of justified targets. Let’s see here, aside from the previously mentioned gym teacher and politician, we’ve also got a plagiarist, a con artist, a corrupt businessman, and a (kinda sorta) crooked cop. She’s… uh… on the edge of both definitions there. Look, “single minded prosecutor” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. Regardless, the point here is that, even though a couple of these targets could conceivably be seen as sympathetic at various points, they’re indisputably villains for the purpose of their vignettes. Sae might come around eventually, but she’s undeniably as much of a threat to the Phantom Thieves as Piggy Kaneshiro when you’re exploring her cognitive palace.

Except… this is kind of where we run into problems.

MeowAll of the bosses come with a very prominent time limit and consequences for missing that all-important deadline. Kamoshida is going to have Joker and Ryuji (and, ugh, Mishima) expelled. Madarame and Sae are going to have the gang arrested. Kaneshiro is blackmailing everyone, and Shido and his hacktivist cronies are going to screw with Japan on a national level. In other words, if Joker decides to just blow all his time at the diner drinking fruity tea, he’s going to wind up in some kind of waking hell, one way or another. Even if you want to claim the Phantom Thieves are somehow morally gray (which, again, absolutely not the case), they always have a relentless reason to do the right thing. Cover thine butt, and save the world while you’re at it. To be absolutely clear, those limits are on the table, and reinforced by a big honking sign that is constantly on the screen (“9 days left until you make Mishima really sad”).

But, deadline aside, it seems like the characters genuinely want to help things. Ryuji and Joker agree before the expulsion is on the table that Kamoshida has to be stopped. Madarame is first named for abusing his pupils, and the Phantom Thieves immediately stick him on the burn board. Kaneshiro is a known criminal (even before everyone knows his name), and Shido is clearly a dishonest politician that would be bad for Japan. These are all real personality types of real people that can all be easily identified in reality. The Phantom Thieves want to stop criminals? Awesome! I want to stop criminals, too! We’re all on the same page.

But… Persona 5 can’t just leave well enough alone.

Hail to this guyLet’s take Kamoshida, the first “target”, as an easy example. Kamoshida is introduced as a teacher that doesn’t seem to have Joker’s best interest at heart, and then his second appearance alludes to probable lewd times with teenage student (and party member) Ann. Shortly thereafter, it is confirmed by Ann that adult teacher Kamoshida is creeping on the teenage girl, and then he winds up sleeping with Ann’s friend, Shiho, in what he (or his shadow) seems to note as a “consolation prize”. So, if you didn’t feel like reading the rest of this paragraph, Kamoshida is established as committing statutory rape in the opening hours of Persona 5. Once more for the oldies in the back of the audience: Kamoshida is a teacher that is a rapist. That… should be enough.

But Persona 5 can’t leave well enough alone. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his victim attempts suicide in response to the shame of the situation. Kamoshida is a rapist, and he also conspicuously physically abuses the male students on his volleyball team. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his “other self” literally tries to murder and imprison the main characters, including some kind of rape-ish altar thing with Ann (again). And, yes, Kamoshida is a rapist, and he introduces the active threat of “you’re going to be expelled”. Kamoshida is a rapist, but look at all these other reasons he’s a bad guy.

And that’s kind of a problem. What’s more, it’s a very contemporary problem.

Not a crookI finished Persona 5 shortly after the culmination of the first 100 days of President Trump. There have been many hot takes on this presidency in progress, but the most egregious comment seems to have come from Donald Trump himself, who commented that, “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work, but this is actually more work.” And of course Donald Trump enjoyed his “old” life! He said it himself, he was rich and famous enough to just grab any pussy he could find! Or he could insult the handicapped in front of hundreds of people, and they’d cheer for him! And let’s not forget that time he yelled at a baby. Or claimed, in front of millions of television viewers, that not paying your taxes “makes you smart”. Or… oh God, I have to stop now. It’s… it’s too much for my gentle heart to remember everything that happened back in 20XX. Where was I? Oh yes, Donald Trump is somehow the president of the United States of America, and, while he didn’t get the popular vote, there are enough people in the US that are perfectly okay with Donny that he is our one and only president. No matter what happens in the rest of human history, Donald Trump became President of the United States.

And I feel like maybe that wouldn’t have happened if we, as a people, could recognize a bad guy.

Donald Trump is not a crook. I want to believe that he has ties to Russia, but, until we get some cold, hard, usable evidence of that, I silently sit and acknowledge that we’re likely stuck with this orange mess for a full four years. Similarly, the obvious profiting from the presidency that the Trump business is enjoying is flagrant and awful, but not technically against any laws (or at least any laws that wouldn’t also oust the majority of our government). In short, in an “innocent until proven guilty” society, Donald Trump is a perfectly upstanding business person turned politician. He may have had a few legal dust ups over the years, but they’re all behind NDAs and gag orders, so, basically, Donald Trump is a good person. He has done nothing wrong.

I'm playing a gameExcept, morally, by any standard, Donald Trump has done many terrible things. To once again revisit the “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, that’s rape. That’s a grown man who has enjoyed every advantage possible in his life advocating that if a woman isn’t giving you what you want, you go ahead and take it. That is, in short, plainly stating that 50% of the population owes you what you want for no reason other than you want it. That’s abhorrent. That is not “locker room talk”, that is plainly a bad thing. A person said a bad thing, and, given evidence of saying similar things for thirty years, one can be pretty confident in saying that person is a bad person. Or, at the very least, he says and thinks a thing that absolutely should not be encouraged by him or anyone else. We can all agree that women have a right to have sex with whom they want, and not just who nebulously wealthy people say they should have sex with, right? Female autonomy good, rape bad. We can all agree on this, right? So why the hell is Trump president?

And, ultimately, I feel it keeps coming back to a fear of labeling a spade a spade. While it’s generally the prerogative of jackasses to declare “safe spaces” and “tolerance” as nothing more than political tools for liberals trying to “score points”, you’ll hear nothing but “innocent until proven guilty” when your average republican says something outlandish like “women can biologically control contraception” or “I have no idea how insurance works” (paraphrasing). I’m sorry, do you need a safe space to say your completely wrong and hurtful statements? And, with the current shape of the government, it seems like we’re in for at least another two years of cranky old white men claiming they know everything, and, when they say something completely wrong, just laughing it off as a “gaffe” or “maybe you’re actually the one that’s wrong”. And not enough people see something wrong with that! Evidently a healthy portion of the population believes that you have to be a cackling super villain to be a truly bad person, as opposed to, ya know, just a senator that literally wants to steal healthcare from babies.

FISTS!And, yeah, if I’m being honest, if you’re still reading this article, I’m preaching to the choir. But that’s the important thing here, you might be on the side of the good guys, you might be a benevolent Phantom Thief, but not enough people are standing up and saying, “no, that’s bad and needs to stop”. And how many people is enough? Well, I’m going to call it a win when this thing actually stops. I’m not naïve enough to believe we’re headed for some marvelous utopia where all are equal and a single mother doesn’t have to work three jobs to support her “all my children should be alive” habit; no, I’m just asking for a world where maybe we don’t have a damn game show host representing our country. I’d be happy with a zero tolerance policy for presidential cabinet members with KKK affiliations. Hell, show me one damn senator that would be happy to have the healthcare coverage of the average citizen (which is, by the by, approximately zero healthcare coverage). We are living under the yolk of “bad guys” every day, and they might not be driving anyone to suicide or actually physically abusing teenagers, but they are doing repugnant things with absolutely no oversight, and I don’t see a Phantom Thief making any changes to their hearts.

Readers, I implore you: be better. Stand up to bad guys, even if their sins seem small, because, give them enough latitude, and we’ll all be doomed. And no magical persona is going to save this world.

FGC #288 Persona 5

  • System: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Glad to see someone decided that humoring the ol’ PS3 crowd was a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Number of players: There’s only one Joker in this deck.
  • I just like crabOther bad moves: Madarame isn’t just a plagiarist, he killed a dude’s mother. Okumura isn’t just a slave driver, he’s killing people and prostituting his daughter for political gain. Shido isn’t just a conniving politician, he’s also responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to the main character. By comparison, the final boss’s usual plan of conquering the world seems practically tame.
  • Odd one out: The only (main) boss in P5 that doesn’t fit the “bad guy” pattern is Futaba’s deceased mother, or, to be more accurate, Futaba’s perception of her deceased mother. I would love to see more of this in the Persona series, as the bosses of P4 were far too exaggerated for my taste, and the bosses of P3… didn’t have anything to do with anything. It seems like conquering past traumas through JRPG battles would be enough to fill a boss roster… but maybe while avoiding stuff like Kanji’s panic at the gay disco.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I really liked the change to gameplay that wasn’t really a change. Wait, let me try that again. Basically, the whole “ambush, hit weakness” thing has always been a Persona trait, but it’s turned up to eleven for P5, so your sneaking and enemy knowledge is basically make or break now. This is great, because it keeps the same style you (I) loved from previous Persona games, but makes it feel more like “thievery” and disabling oblivious guards rather than the old style of conquering a dungeon. Other than that, it’s a Persona game, so you already know whether you’re going to like it if you’ve played P3/P4.
  • Crimes against Goggles: What is happening here?
    WHAT!?!

    This will not be forgiven!
  • Just play the gig man: It’s worth noting that I could have also written a much less political article extolling the virtues of this soundtrack. I could listen to this thing all day, though The Whims of Fate aka The Casino Theme is somehow my favorite track. I really have no idea how the vocals on that never get old despite playing for a healthy portion of a very long dungeon.
  • Favorite Persona: Mona’s Zorro is the kind of ridiculousness I’d like to see more of with the “mascot” characters. Zorro is imposing and goofy in all the right ways.
  • Favorite S-Link: I always fall for women on the student council. Always. I don’t know what this says about me.
  • Did you know? Hifumi Togo the shogi player was originally designed as a playable character, but got demoted to S-Link somewhere along the way. Maybe that’s why she seems so totally disconnected from everything…
  • Would I play again: It’s golden.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis! Wise from your Gwave! Please look forward to it!

My eyes hurt

Vote 2016 Part 2: One Week Later

I’m not a Democrat. I’m certainly not a Republican. I consider myself politically independent, because I’m a precious little snowflake with completely unique views on all the issues. I take the time during every election to sit down and research every candidate, and then I make my pick based entirely on the facts, using cold, emotionless reason to make my choices. I am a voting machine, almost literally.

So it was unusual when, last week, I voted for every single Democratic candidate, and not a single Republican. I did this because I plainly could not bring myself to vote for the same party that even marginally supported Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s national campaign of hate for 99% of the world’s population was a bit too much for me, and I could not in any way support the institution that sat back and said, “Yes, this is fine. Please do this more.” Yes there were Republicans that chastised Trump for… grabbing pussy? They were okay with everything else? Especially the “Mexicans are rapists” crap? That got the man fired from NBC, but, no, the Republicans were pretty extraordinarily cool with that. I was not, and I could not in good conscious vote for any institution that was.

But I was evidently the minority. Okay, that isn’t true, Clinton did win the popular vote, but it didn’t help. Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America, and, God help us all, he will be our sitting President for the next four years.

And, in trying to discern how we got to this point, I remembered my own brief political career.

This will surprise absolutely no one, but I was kind of a nerd in high school. I was the morning DJ for our in-house television network, a member of the computer club, and I fooled around in the school play my senior year. But before all that, the club I joined before I even technically attended high school (they start early!) was marching band. I had been in “band” since fourth grade (I was a nerdy middleschooler, too!), and despite some of my friends dropping out of the activity to pursue “cool” endeavors like track or basketball, I was going to stick with marching band. It was a lot of effort for very little fame or recognition, but I’ve got my trumpet, I’m going to blow my horn on that football field like a champ!

Only problem was that I wasn’t very good at it.

I wasn’t terrible. I’ve got quick fingers (for some reason), and the ability to move in time with other marchers, but, ultimately, I don’t think I ever had the lips for it. Or the rhythm. Or the endurance. Or the ability to memorize music. Or the attention span to ever practice for more than five minutes. In retrospect, I probably could have been the best little trumpeter in the history of trumpeting, but I’d rather be playing Final Fantasy 7 (released opposite my first marching band season), and I was pretty much just in the band to hang out with my (predominantly extra nerdy) peer group. I was never going to be first trumpet, drum major, or even a remotely good role model for the incoming freshman, so I basically just resigned myself to being a marching band “body” in the formation.

But I did realize where I might be able to make a difference: band management.

My sophomore year, I ran for band vice president. I ran on a platform of electing me, an underclassman, as vice president now, so I could learn the ropes, and then make big changes when I was inevitably president the following year (and I’d be a Junior President, not a Senior, which would mean I’d actually care about the band because I wasn’t about to graduate out in a year). I ran on a platform of issues within the band that I’d make it my purpose to reform, and I did my best to appeal to the valuable freshman vote, because I figured they’d have the most reason to support an underclassman with their interests at heart.

I lost.

I… wasn’t terribly surprised.

The following year, my friend Toni decided to run for band president. Toni was not a political person, and only volunteered for candidacy because the graduating seniors thought she would be a good president. Toni was not super popular, she was simply that kind of person that fails to exist in teen movies: well-liked, generally personable, but not ever going to be prom queen or class president. Her greatest accomplishment was not offending practically anyone. Suffice it to say, she was not exactly a shoe-in for band president, but she chose me as her running mate. She remembered my campaign from the previous year, and basically said, “Hey, wanna be my VP? Nobody else wants to do it.” She… might have literally said that.

So I agreed, and we had a week to prepare for the “election”, which would take place after everyone running for office presented a short speech on “why you should vote for me (us)”. We did nothing during that week. We didn’t canvass the voters, we didn’t try to grease the gears of democracy, and I don’t think we even actually saw each other. We kind of ran in different social circles, so, meh, we’ll throw something together on Election Day.

And throw something together we did. In the fifteen minutes before practice started, Toni and I worked out a kick-ass speech, mostly written by yours truly. It had slogans. It had audience participation. It involved a random conscripted dude (who I’m pretty sure had a crush on Toni) tossing a tennis ball on stage so she could prove she’d “catch” any incoming problems. It was a thing of beauty, and, to this day, one of my greatest regrets is that it was not recorded or in any way transcribed, because it was one of those rare occasions in my life where I can safely say I went from zero to hero inside of a half hour.

And we won. Despite running against some of the most popular kids in the marching band (Ha! Oxymoron!), we achieved victory. When I canvassed the band geeks about my (surprising) victory a little later, the most common response was, “Well, I voted for you because you put the most effort into your campaign.” That was, as I’ve said, complete bullshit, but it was bullshit no one recognized. We won on a platform of a complete lie, and I’m still proud of such an achievement.

Now, I obviously want to draw a comparison between my own stupid little marching band campaign and that of the woefully under qualified and already-backpedaling President Elect, but there’s a coda to my story…

Unlike my losing sophomore run, my victorious junior Vice Presidency was predicated on a platform of “hey, why not”. Toni and I had no real “plan” for the band, and the following year… Uh… Well, sorry to say, but I don’t think there was a band student government. I remember showing up for one meeting in the Fall, and past that… No, I think we literally did nothing. Toni and I straight up failed the band geeks, and I want to say the reason the Class of 2001 Band Trip was “nowhere” was entirely on us. We went to California in 1999! 2001? Nothing. The following year, there were no band government elections, and the director simply chose the smelly kid to be president by right of “she’ll probably actually do something”. As a result, I felt as bad as a teenager could possibly feel about marching band student government, which isn’t really that much. Does this impact how often I make out with my girlfriend? No? Okay then.

But it’s that feeling that I want to talk about. It’s that feeling that made President Trump.

Look, that stuff earlier about not being a Democrat? It’s bullshit, I know I’m a Democrat. About 90% of my beliefs align with Democratic Philosophy, and much of the Republican platform makes me downright ill. Right off the top of my head, I don’t think I could ever vote for a party that so vehemently indicts a woman’s right to choose (and it doesn’t matter to me whether that’s because of a genuine belief, or a desperate need for the evangelical vote). And, as I’ve been reminded in recent days, I have a lot of friends and family with similar beliefs. Even the people that seem to be just generally in my orbit (local business owner I’m kinda friends with, retired secretary from a job I had fifteen years ago, ex-mistress of a dude I used to be in a band with) all seem to vaguely Democratic, and it makes me think that these people are my friends and support group because we share similar temperaments and beliefs. It’s a stereotype, but the archetypical “all bluster” Republican is not the kind of guy (inevitably guy) that I can deal with on a frequent basis, so people with those tendencies have fallen by the wayside as I’ve aged. It’s almost entirely by accident, but I surround myself by likeminded people, and they’re mostly all Democrats (or at least, evidently, very anti-Trump).

And, honestly, I feel like a great problem with my social circle is that we’re all a bunch of weenies.

Yes, we talk a big game. Yes, we post those dank memes about our favorite candidates. But, when you get down to it, I think I have exactly one (1) friend on my entire buddy list that is active about actually getting off her ass and going to political rallies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of my friends hold up a protest sign for anything but eating meat, and I can very safely say not a single one of my friends has ever stood up to law enforcement for any reason (because I know my friends, and if it happened to a single one of them, they’d never stop talking about it, ever). We’re not fighters, but again, I feel like my social circle breaks that way is because I don’t like fighting. Who needs the aggravation?

And I keep coming back to that stupid marching band election. I keep coming back to how thrilled I was to win, and then how useless I was as an actual politician. That was just on the meager level of a high school marching band (here’s a tip, a high school marching band has never dramatically impacted international politics), but it’s still an event that sticks in my mind. There, at the age of sixteen (or so?), I had already determined that I might be a great showman, but I’m a terrible leader. Or vice-leader. Whatever. Point is that I could use theatrics to win a position I’m not trained for, but that wouldn’t make my qualifications any less insubstantial, and, ultimately, the people that voted for me would suffer. I’m certain I’m not the only one of my friends, not the only Democrat, with this experience, and I’m sure there are a million Democrats out there that are fit for public office, but don’t want to descend into that “dog and pony show” sphere that Is the current political arena. Any of these Democrats could make a killing in the political field, but who wants to be subject to the circus that is modern day politics?

Well, maybe someone would like to step up and be the next “Democrat version of Trump”. Here’s a fun fact: a Democratic Trump might be a crazy misrepresentation of his or her party, but they couldn’t be nearly as racist as the Trump campaign! And that’s important!

Look, we all know the world we live in today. I spent months making that Bohemian Rhapsody video for the #200 entry, but I know that I could get about twelve times more hits if I just posted a video of my mother’s cats chasing a laser pointer. They’re such silly kitties! How many people here have ever posted a link to Youtube, and added the qualifier, “oh, wait for it, it gets good after fifteen seconds”? Think about that. Think about what it means that you have to convince someone to wait fifteen seconds to get to a good part, and think about what it means that you know most people won’t even bother to do that. We all know we live in the information age, and, if, you know where to look, you could literally download every song that has ever existed, right now, for free, and be listening to the entire playlist by dinnertime. You could be playing the entire NES library right now, for free, and the only reason you’re not is because you have other things to do with your time. And that’s the crux of it, with so many avenues available, we no longer have to worry about being bored ever.

So why do we think a “boring” candidate is ever going to work again? Why did Clinton campaign on policy and facts when her opponent could literally deny what he said seconds earlier midway through a sentence? Why, in the age of hundred word tweets dictating the course of popularity did we ever think winning five hours of live debates would mean anything? How many people actually watched the debates? And how many people actually voted? The answer is ten million less Democrats than voted for the audacity of hope. Let’s face the music, people, politics is entertainment now, and the American public is going to vote for the best entertainer. Trump might wind up being the worst President in the history of the nation, but, dammit, he’s funny to watch. And that’s enough for a lot of people. That’s enough for sixty million people.

And if you want to claim there were a pile of other reasons to vote for Trump, consider how many of those reasons come down to his ability to properly articulate his position and project his own beliefs. He’s a great businessman? No, Paris Hilton was able to grow her inheritance at a better rate than a guy who did nothing but try to please his daddy for decades. He cares about the little guy? No, his long history of business ventures tells the story of a man who absolutely will not pay for anything unless legally forced, and that includes paying small businesses and craftsmen. He’s going to get jobs? Sanction foreign powers? Build a wall? How? He never presented a worthwhile answer to any of those important questions. And, probably his biggest plus, he “feels the pain” of the disenfranchised, he knows the plight of forgotten Middle America, and he’s going to make America the great nation it once was… Except, come on, guys, he’s a wealthy New York City trust fund brat. He’s a “Washington outsider”, yes, but only because no other political party would touch his odious ass over the last seventy years.

But none of that matters, because Trump presented himself as a genuine man who would fight for your rights. Even after… everything… that happened during the last year, he still denied every last allegation, and never wavered on his own belief in himself. I said all along that Trump wasn’t running for President, he was running for Trump, a position that had to be Trump at all times. What I didn’t expect was that so many people wanted Trump to be Trump, and that’s all it takes to become President. People gobbled up Trump hook, line, and sinker, and now we’re all on the sushi table.

I know I’m defeating my own point by throwing 3,000 words at “we need to start thinking like punchy little youtubbers” (Christ, I can’t even think of a concise way to say that), but this is what the world needs right now. Yes, I mean “the world”. Trump is going to be bad for everybody: for proof, just ask Mexico how their market is looking right now after merely the promise of Trump taking power. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I’m not worried about Trump nuking the whole of humanity… and the fact that such a thing is even on the table now is striking. One way or another, Trump is going to be the end of a lot of things, and whether or not these are things that you care about, he’s going to have an impact on the rest of Western society.

And it all wouldn’t have happened if the Democrats hadn’t run, in short, a nerd.

People want their cat videos. People want their ten second memes. People want a candidate that says one thing, and says it over and over again. People want the showman. The Democrats ignored this, and we’re all worse for it. We, every single Democrat, ignored this simple truth. It might have been for the right reasons, but “the right reasons” aren’t going to keep the polar ice caps from melting, or from children growing up in a world filled with racism/misogyny/homophobia. Yes, we’re all afraid of being that ineffectual band vice president (or that might just be me), but it’s time to get out there and do something, and posting nonsense on Facebook isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Run the clown. Join the circus. We literally cannot do any worse than the man that was just elected.

Make Democrats great again.

Vote 2016 Part 1: Naive Optimism

LoserMuch though I loathe to admit it, this is a blog, I am a blogger, and, God help me, I’m pretty sure it’s required by law (BLOGGER LAW!) that I talk about the election. Strap in, my lovelies, it’s time to talk politics. We covered religion last time.

Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’ve had a post like this in mind since last year when I started this damn site. In my head, I’ve always seen myself as a gentle, loving creature, floating around the world wearing flowing robes and softly imparting my patience and wisdom upon all who would hear it. This magnanimous version of Goggle Bob would take the day before the election, and post one simple statement, “I don’t care who you vote for, simply vote.” And thus, my blogger duty fulfilled, I would retire to the atrium to feed orphaned baby bunnies. Perhaps later I would smoke a pipe while reading the New Yorker.

Suffice it to say, this election has changed my plans.

In a way, I feel like it always had to be this way. My first real “remembered” election was Clinton vs. Dole, which, from a child’s perspective (well, technically teenager) was basically “old man vs. young man”. Clinton was freewheeling and loveable, Dole was an old fuddy-duddy. I didn’t understand policy or economics or even really “liberal vs. conservative”, simply that Bill Clinton came off as a 21st Century Man, and Bob Dole repeated his name a lot. … Yes, I’m basically admitting that my political views came entirely from shallow Saturday Night Live sketches. I was an informed little non-voter.

LoserAh, but the 2000 election, Al Gore vs. George W. Bush, now that’s something I’ll always remember. While I was personally a Gore supporter, I tried to maintain that earlier mentioned benevolent neutrality, so I was something of a political Switzerland to anyone that happened to ask me about my views. And that happened surprisingly often! I remember with perfect clarity a pair of classmates asking who had my vote, and, upon hearing my “I try to stay out of that stuff,” I received a retort of, “You have to care about this election! Don’t you care if a woman can get an abortion!?” To be perfectly honest? I didn’t. I figured I had about as much political sway as a housecat, so what’s the point in worrying about such a thing? Not like it particularly impacted me at the time, anyway. I’m pretty sure that, thanks to public high school sex education, I was going to be wearing six condoms if a woman so much as came within seventeen yards of my jeans. Abortion, war, economics? I understood all these concepts, but they seemed to impact me about as much as my toothpaste choice. Mint or plain? Whatever.

Then the 2000 Election actually happened. I was for Gore, but Bush won in the highly contested final hour. Say what you will about elections being stolen or what have you, but, one way or another, it didn’t instill a lot of trust in our newly elected president. Shortly thereafter, I had a front row seat to 9/11 (I can still close my eyes and see that black cloud that hung over NYC for a week… I’m not speaking metaphorically), and the war that followed. That war… did not make me happy.

LoserLook, on one side of my family, I’m descended from Quakers. On the other side of my family, I had a very vocal grandmother that described World War II and Vietnam and “all our good boys that died” as practically the worst thing that ever happened to our country (twice). I’m basically genetically disinclined toward war, and the idea of a “warmonger” president riles up my conscientious objector blood. It also doesn’t help that I was draft age when this was going on, so, even though I am a tremendous coward, there was that looming threat of maybe getting shipped off into a warzone for no good reason. If only for his promoting “the War on Terror”, I was going to vote for Bush’s opponent in 2004 if the Democrats ran an actual elephant. And, what’s more, I made my opinion known to anyone that would listen. I didn’t seek out conflict, but if someone asked, I’d list the issues. Searching for WMDs? Slamming our National Debt back into the negatives? There was probably a third thing! I don’t care! Get that damn New England born wannabe Texan out of the White House! Jon Stewart agrees with me!

And it didn’t take. We got another four years of Bush.

That election probably colored my political beliefs more than anything before or since. I was convinced that people weren’t that stupid. It had to be a trick. It had to be wealthy kingmakers manipulating our democracy. No, I didn’t believe it was the Illuminati or some vast conspiracy that traced back to lizard people (incidentally, why are people always so afraid of lizard people running our government? I think lizard people might be a fair ruling class), but I did believe that the Republican Machine had grown too powerful, too “good at it” to ever lose an election again. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing? Evil was greasing the gears and keeping the tank rolling, good was being polite and… neutral. Geez, was my own general detachment from politics hurting my own interests? By this point, I had friends and family members actually serving in this war. Could my own complacency lead to their deaths? My God, the Democrats need to take back the White House.

LoserWhich brings us to Obama. Full disclosure: I supported Hilary Clinton in the 2008 primaries. It wasn’t because I agreed with her policies, gender, or that I loved that our presidential line could go Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton (okay, maybe that last thing was a factor); No, I supported Clinton because I felt like she was the only way we could battle the Republican machine. Clinton was mean, she “worked” like a Republican, and she fought and bit Obama every step of the way. Obama was… polite. Obama came off as smart and reserved, two traits I admire, but terrible when fighting a political war. And he was also black, and his name rhymed with “Osama”. To be absolutely clear, I had no problem with these factors (name rhyme rarely impacts my voting), but I figured there was absolutely no way our clearly racist country would ever elect such a man. We had barely (barely!) gotten over the phrase “Muslim terrorist”, how was the nation going to vote for a secret Kenyan?

(Completely unrelated to anything, but anyone remember how there were cries of “secret Muslim” and that Obama’s (Christian) pastor said a mean thing one time? People are weird.)

But, somehow, against all odds, Obama won. It may have had something to do with the economy being in a death spiral, but an actual, honest-to-God democrat was back in the White House for the first time since I was in high school. Those eight years had seemed… very long.

Obama was a wonderful president, from not only a presidential perspective, but also as a human being. Obviously, I’ve never met the man, but he seemed to be consistently thoughtful and obliging. He was not the graduated frat boy we saw helming the Bush administration, nor the playboy that was Slick Willy. Both of those previous presidents seemed to only want the position for the power it bestowed; Obama was president seemingly to make the country Loser(and world) a better place. In a way, it feels like Obama was the ideal “philosopher king” of yore: a wise and just ruler that solved problems through diplomacy and empathy. And maybe a few drones. Pobody’s nerfect.

And then we have today.

It’s… hard to be okay with anything that is happening in this election.

First of all, to be clear, I like Clinton. Like, actually like her, not just like her for the presidency. I like her policies, I like that those policies have actually evolved over the course of the campaign, and I still like that she’s a pitbull that is likely to go for the Republican jugular. This is not a woman that, at any point in her career, rolled over and said “hey, you guys do what you want, I’m cool with whatever.” This is a woman that has the potential to get things done as a president.

But she’s following the least politic-y politician in my entire lifetime, so it’s hard to get excited. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of Bernie Sanders, but I envy his supporters and the fervor they still seem to possess. That man was a truly different candidate, and, love him or hate him, he at least knew how to get his base excited. It didn’t… uh… help. But good hustle!

LoserBut on the other side of the aisle. Whoa, boy. I could write an entire article about Trump and what he has exposed about the American people. Racism is over? Nope. Misogyny is a thing of the past? Don’t think so. It’s “just the anonymity of the internet” that makes people assholes? No, my Facebook feed says otherwise. I can see you there, with your name in bold, blue letters, posting a meme about Beyoncé wearing yoga pants being exactly the same as Trump committing sexual assault. Trump has somehow managed to bring out the absolute worst in people, and the really scary thing is that people revel in it.

So, even putting aside literally everything about the Republican platform (like, say, women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, or the whole damn healthcare thing), there was never any way I could vote for Trump in good conscious. When you have a candidate that, again, brings out the absolute worst in the population of the country he’s supposed to lead? No, no you can’t let that kind of thing continue. I know that a Trump loss isn’t going to simply make all these disenfranchised people disappear (they’ll just disappear from the news’ radar), but the idea of people that are so okay with… hate… being empowered by “their” president…. I’ll be honest, it downright scares me. In a way, I’m just as fearful of the future as they are, but for completely different reasons.

So, yes, this is my blog post telling every American reading this post to vote Clinton. I’m with her and all that riot. I’m not excited about her, because I want a metaphorical Obama Jr., but she’s the only real choice in this election. America is already pretty great, vote for the woman that is going to keep it that way.