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10 Things to Leave in 2018

Have you ever been so ready to turn the page?

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The most important thing 2018 gave America was the hope that this hellish fever-dream that started with the election of president Donald Trump might finally be breaking. And that is something to celebrate. You know what else we can celebrate? My fourth annual New Year’s list of the 10 Things to Leave in 2018, presented here in no particular order.

1. OLD WHITE GUYS

The midterm elections sent numerous old white guys packing, replacing a number of them with a dynamic and diverse slate of women. Twenty of the 34 women who were elected to Congress for the first time will replace male incumbents—many of them old, white, and conservative. There were a few notable exceptions, such as Houston congressman Gene Green, who retired, and El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke, who surrendered his seat to run against senator Ted Cruz. 

In Harris County, nine-term Republican congressman John Culberson was ousted by attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, and Harris County judge Ed Emmett was defeated by Democrat Lina Hidalgo. 

Congressman John Culberson, R-Houston

The anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ Culberson lost in a Houston district that hadn’t elected a Democrat in more than 50 years. Culberson spent most of his time in Congress blocking mass-transit initiatives and investigating whether there is water on Europa, an icy moon orbiting Jupiter. Hidalgo, the first female and first Hispanic county judge, is a 27-year-old immigrant and Stanford graduate.  

Some have chalked up these flips to Beto-mania and straight-ticket voting, rather than great campaigns and good candidates. But either way you slice it, the result is the same. These are seats that have always been disproportionately occupied by old white guys, and the next Congress will look a lot more like the country it represents. 

If you’re concerned about what toppling the patriarchy could mean for you, rest assured that there are still plenty of old white guys in power. They’re gonna be fine—for now. 

2. VIOLENCE 

Violence ruled the front page throughout 2018. Most of it involved mass shootings across the country. No region was exempt. The most notable massacre near Houston was the school shooting in Santa Fe, where several students were killed while in art class. You could drown in statistics telling us that the country is becoming increasingly violent with each passing year. 

Violent crimes against the LGBTQ community have skyrocketed by an estimated 86 percent since 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Transgender women continue to be murdered at an alarming rate, with little attention from the mainstream media. Some of that blame can be laid at the feet of groups like the US Pastor Council, an innocuously named organization that started in Houston and is growing. The Pastor Council intentionally spreads lies about the LGBTQ community to stoke fear and gain political influence. The group’s most notable win was the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2015. Although they haven’t had as much success since taking their show on the road, their message of hate and fear continues to motivate supporters. The price of their treachery is the blood of the LGBTQ community, and they seem to be fine with that. Not very pastor-like, if you ask me. 

These groups have been assisted by legislators willing to draft discriminatory legislation such as the anti-trans bathroom bills, one of which floundered and died in the Texas House in 2017. The author of that legislation, GOP representative Ron Simmons, was defeated by Democrat Michelle Beckley in a major upset on November 6. Let that be a warning to the other ideological legislators who would rather harm the state than govern it. 

Kanye West (Twitter)

3. KANYE

Where do you begin with Kanye? By the end of October, the performer-mogul-Kardashian-spouse issued a public mea culpa for his erratic behavior over the preceding months. In September, the MAGA-cap-wearing artist had a televised meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, where Kanye rattled on for more than 20 nonsensical minutes and lauded the president with hugs and praise. This was after a similar rambling performance on SNL, where he also donned a  MAGA hat and said he had been bullied by the cast for his support of Trump. However, the most egregious of all of Kanye’s ramblings was probably his on-camera declaration in May while visiting the TMZ newsroom: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years . . .for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” Needless to say, the backlash was swift, but it didn’t seem to hurt his record sales. He scored his eighth number-one album with the release of Ye only a few weeks later. His ninth album, Yandhi, dropped November 23. Apparently the MAGA crowd loves Kanye. Just prior to last month’s election, he said that he is now distancing himself from politics. We think that’s probably a good decision. 

4. HARRIS COUNTY CLERK STAN STANART

I know that in this day and age you aren’t supposed to make fun of how someone looks, but (trigger warning) I am going to do just that. If a Muppet made a wish to become human and that wish was granted, you’d have lame-duck Harris County clerk Stan Stanart. 

You may be wondering: who is Stan Stanart? Stanart is the man in charge of elections and marriage licenses, to put it simply. When marriage equality came down in 2015 and LGBTQ couples went to get licenses, Stanart was the one who made a desperate last-ditch effort to deny them for several hours. He’s also the guy who was so bad at running elections that our polls were court-ordered to stay open an extra hour on Election Day last month. He is also the guy who wasted $2.75 million in taxpayer dollars developing a voter check-in system that never saw the light of day. And he is also the guy who posted anti-semitic propaganda about George Soros on his campaign page. He is the literal worst. And he is finally gone. 

See ya down at Fraggle Rock, Stan.

5. VOTING MALFUNCTIONS

2018 marked the last time Texas voters could vote a straight-party ticket, and that’s probably a good thing. During the election, many Democratic voters reported that their choice for senator was changed from O’Rourke to Cruz when they attempted to vote a straight-party ticket. Republicans also reported similar scenarios in which machines would delete their votes for Cruz altogether. The Republican-appointed secretary of state issued a statement saying the malfunction was due to user error and that voters needed to double-check their ballots. One wonders if their response would have been so dismissive if the error had helped the Democrats. I think we can guess the answer.

Barbecue Becky

6. #BARBECUEBECKY

Living while black has never been easy, and 2018 reminded everyone of that, over and over and over again. It seemed that every few weeks, a new video went viral showing some sad white woman calling the cops on a black person for doing the most mundane of  things. In each of these instances, the Internet would crown the antagonist with a new moniker. You may recall the sad white woman in California who called the cops on some black children for selling water while black: #PermitPatty. One of the most virulent of those videos was of a sad white woman in Oakland who called the cops on a family for barbecuing while black. When the video of her histrionics went viral, she was named #BarbecueBecky. Despite video after video humiliating these sad white ladies, they still keep calling the cops. If this weren’t so potentially dangerous for the black people they harass, one might think it was funny. It isn’t.

7. FALSE EQUIVALENCY

When 12 pipe bombs were sent to Democratic party leaders in a mass-assassination attempt by Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc in October, Republicans equated it to a series of verbal assaults by liberal supporters against GOP party leaders in restaurants. This tendency to draw false equivalencies has been evident for some time on news-entertainment channels like Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official communications received more media attention than any other issue, including an audio tape of Trump bragging about committing sexual assault. Meanwhile, panel after panel of talking heads will debate issues such as the Charlottesville riots as though there could be some positive or productive purpose for white supremacy. These false equivalencies lack any sense of objectivity and serve to mislead less-critical-thinking viewers. 

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and El Tiempo proprietor Dominic Laurenzo

8. EL TIEMPO

In August, amid family separations at the Mexico border, attorney general Jeff Sessions had the audacity to dine at two Tex-Mex restaurants during a visit to Houston. However, it was only El Tiempo Cantina that made the mistake of posting a photo of proprietor Dominic Laurenzo, a Trump supporter, and the now-former AG on the company’s social-media sites, with the caption “We had the honor to server [sic] Mr. Jeff Sessions . . .”

The LGBTQ and Latinx communities in Montrose, home to two El Tiempo locations, took special exception due to Sessions’ anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant positions, including his family-separation policy that was (and still is) putting kids in cages. After the hashtag #BoycottElTiempo began trending, the company removed those social-media pages and issued an apology. I imagine they learned that no one in Montrose wants a side of Trump with their Tex-Mex.

9. THE ANONYMOUS NYT OP-ED LETTER WRITER 

A person who claimed to be a senior staff member in the Trump administration authored an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times in September. The writer attempted to soothe a justifiably concerned citizenry by saying that “unsung heroes” in the White House are preventing Trump from doing even more damage. The duplicitous author stated that there are “adults in the room” and went on to list policy accomplishments. The letter, if authentic, is tantamount to treason, even if the writer is part of a figurative dam holding back floods. The situation robs the American people of a clear understanding of what their president is doing, and puts major policy decisions in the hands of unelected people. This just isn’t how America is supposed to work. 

Roseanne Barr, left, and Megyn Kelly

10. MEGYN KELLY/ROSEANNE

In a failed attempt to attract Trump supporters, major networks hired questionable
talent to make their networks great again. It didn’t work out so well. In May, Roseanne—hard on the heels of her top-rated revival’s debut—tweeted that former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, looked like the result of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes having a baby. Her show was swiftly cancelled a few days later. 

Then in October, Megyn Kelly, struggling with a not-so-top-rated hour on Today,
pondered on-air about how white people dressing up in blackface wasn’t such a big deal when she was younger. Her show was cancelled the next day. But you really can’t blame Roseanne or Megyn Kelly for being clueless; they’ve always been clueless. It wasn’t a secret. We should really blame the networks for being too stupid to recognize how clueless they were when they hired them. 

Grenita Lathan

DISHONORABLE MENTION: THE DYSFUNCTION OF THE TREACHEROUS HISD BOARD

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the Houston Independent School District. State regulators loom over the largest district in Texas with threats of a takeover, and HISD superintendent Richard Carranza resigned this year after a short tenure to lead New York City’s school system. Things came to a head in October when HISD trustee Diana Davila led a misguided coup to remove interim-superintendent Grenita Lathan and replace her with former superintendent Abe Saavedra.  That surprise 5-4 vote violated several open-meetings laws and embarrassed the community. 

The HISD board seemed to be in a tailspin for several days after the raucous meeting, but cooler heads (and threats of criminal charges) prevailed when a unified board and a reinstated Lathan gave a restrained press conference where Davila apologized and trustee Jolanda Jones, one of the four blindsided by Davila’s motion, pledged that they would “work to improve [their] behavior as adults, and treat each other with respect.”

That’s probably something we could all stand to work on.  

This article appears in the December 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.  

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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