I started casually reading X-Men comics in junior high school and have been dipping in and out ever since.
X-men are different, and they’re powerful, and thus people are afraid of them. The overarching theme of the X-Men comics, of course, is that ordinary humans distrust, persecute, and falsely accuse mutants. Ordinary humans call the X-men names and stir up fears about what awful things they might one day do, even if they haven’t yet. But still, the X-men keep coming back to save humanity’s butt time and time again. Somehow they manage to swallow the rage and care enough about the world to keep coming back.
And that’s what I kept thinking about during the Democratic convention.
Hillary Clinton is powerful and different. She won’t—maybe can’t—stay inside the old boundaries, and she has the brains, will, and power to actually make a difference in the world. And that makes people furious and try to tear her down.
You might think I’m talking about the e-mail kerfuffle, the one in which conservative FBI Director James Comey said that he and his investigation team unanimously agreed not to recommend an indictment and people are still screaming about it. Still screaming even though Colin Powell did the same thing, and also no one seems too bothered about the 22 million e-mails that the Bush White House ran through a private RNC server and then disappeared.
Or you might think I’m referring to the two years’ worth—including eight separate investigations and 33 hearings—of Benghazi screaming by a Republican-led committee that admittedly had its knives out for Clinton and still didn’t manage to find a damn thing that indicated any wrongdoing on her part. (Not that this has slowed Republicans down one bit from continuing to scream about Benghazi at the convention and their sock hops and just sort of generally in public places like libraries and hot dog stands, under the general theory that if you keep acting like there’s a scandal there, someone will assume that there must be.)
But I’m not talking about those, because as long as both “scandals” have been churning up these somehow incendiary non-results, they must seem like blips on the radar to Hillary Clinton. Because she has been fending off political and misogynist slime and walking through walls of bullshit in order to help people since the ‘70s.
This is a woman who got in trouble as a First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States for the crimes of wanting to use her brain and law degree. Much of her early work involved helping children, such as working to stop young teenagers who had been jailed for minor crimes from being housed with adult criminals and going undercover to investigate school segregation, but still that was unfeminine and unseemly and unmotherly of her, presumably because good moms only take care of their own kids and set other people’s children on fire. And then practicing law with her law degree was an outrage, because witchcraft and how did she claw off her homemaker’s ankle monitor, anyway?
I don’t know if you were around and paying attention in the ‘90s, but this is a woman who took years of heat for wearing a headband, for chrissakes. She wanted to have her hair out of her face and the crime, apparently, was in using a practical thing that many other women were rumored to use instead of a cantilevered system of wild romantic curls held up by bejeweled strands of golden gossamer. Allegedly serious political pundits took time to worry about Hillary Clinton’s headband and what great swaths of America and the First Ladyship it was ruining.
And it is at that point that many good people would have said “to hell with every last one of you” and retired from public life, emerging only to give the press a double finger while slowly rotating in a circle to make sure everyone got the full effect.
But Hillary Clinton did not. Instead, she absorbed the headband scandal and kept moving forward, coldly, bitchily, unnurturingly trying to implement a universal health care plan so that people wouldn’t die because they couldn’t afford medical care.
(And eventually she developed the defensive Campaign Pantsuit. Can we talk about what a next-level, five-dimensional, hyperjudo move the Campaign Pantsuit was? Clinton spotted that people were never, ever going to shut the fuck up about what she was wearing or what her haircut was, so she solved what she could: She made the pantsuit her uniform, her super suit. A male politician can get away with the same suit and tie until roughly the end of time, but Hillary knew she’d get in trouble for that, and she countermoved there too. She wore The Pantsuit in rainbow colors, different each time but still the same. And she kept wearing it, over and over, until people had talked themselves out. It was a rope-a-dope move, and it took years. But it happened: Eventually, the press got bored and only mentioned the pantsuit in passing and then moved on to talking about what Clinton was saying. Or at least to how harsh and naggy her voice sounded while she was saying it.)
But that was just a beginning. We weren’t going to leave it at throwing tar and bile at Hillary Clinton for doing things and having bangs.
Someone started a fake story about Hillary throwing a lamp at Bill that still survives in spite of multiple debunkings. Molly Ivins noted that the lamp story was part of a Republican political strategy of throwing fake-but-juicy anti-Hillary stories to news and talk shows to see what stuck. And they kept throwing because our press is dumb and we are dumber, and stuff kept sticking. And most of us uncritically lapped it up. Which is why you’ve heard that Hillary Clinton is frigid while having multiple affairs and also conceived Chelsea with another man while also being a stone-cold lesbian. At least we could be sure that Hillary being a ball-buster was true since that was an element in all of them. And it seemed right, the ball-busting thing. She was different and smart and powerful, at least, and it seemed like ball-busting must fit in there.
And all of that might have been funny in private if that was where we had left it. But we didn’t. The Clintons’ close friend Vince Foster committed suicide and, in the middle of what had to have been profound grief, she and her husband were accused of murdering him (there were only five separate investigations that each decisively cleared her for that one), or maybe, the whispers said and the media picked up, he had really committed suicide and Hillary had driven him to it.
And then it was time to bring in Ken Starr to investigate the Whitewater land deal—a deal the Clintons lost money on—for literal years because, well, no one is sure why now, but hey, it was the Clintons, and surely if Starr dug enough for years, actual years, he’d find something they had done wrong in association with it. Which worked great except for the part where he fucking didn’t.
But that was OK because the Republicans were really solidifying their strategy of shouting that there was a scandal until people believed there was one — Surely you’ve heard Whitewater brought up and quickly passed over this election season as though there was a real scandal attached, yes? — and besides, they’d dug up Bill Clinton’s affairs, which, under the bold leadership of serial adulterer Newt Gingrich who was in the middle of having an affair at the time, really generated some filth to fling.
And as bad as the tarring of Bill Clinton by hypocritical family-values adulterers (and one child molester) was, at least Bill had actually done something. Hillary, in addition to having one of the most personal aspects of her marriage smeared all over every form of media for months at a time, was in an unwinnable position. She was an evil, modern, bad wife if she left and a doormat and a betrayer of all women if she stayed.
And either way, professional buttholes got to talk about how Bill was driven to have affairs because Hillary was a castrating bitch or a secret lesbian or having affairs of her own or completely sexless or maybe she was trying to steal Bill’s essence for the Luciferian rituals she was holding in the White House bowling alley or whateverthefuck horseshit theory people got to say on television because someone somewhere maybe said it and Hillary is a different kind of woman who has powers we don’t understand and so anything that seems bad and threatening sounds about right.
And as we watched the Democratic National Convention last week, we were treated to the liberal media, the same ones who during the RNC gave Trump’s multiple affairs a pass even though he’s the one who had them, bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs again. And did so in a way that bafflingly, amazingly, suggested that the affairs that Bill chose to engage in somehow reflected badly on Hillary. (And yes, cable network that’s supposed to be The Liberal One, I am talking about you. Classy move. Thanks for inspiring me to stick with CSPAN for the rest of the week.)
And that particular boomerang of tar and bullshit that whipped back around from two decades ago wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was watching Republicans get rewarded for years of screaming scandal in the hopes that people would believe there really was one as thousands of well-intentioned Bernie voters swallowed it all up.
Because even though Hillary Clinton is, for real, one of the most honest politicians in America today, it just feels like something’s off. She’s too different, too powerful, a little too scary. Something must be wrong there, right? And with all those accusations of scandal, surely one of them has to be true, right? Didn’t she do something bad with Whitewater or Benghazi?
When Hillary stepped onstage at the convention, shining in her white super suit, the dazzling culmination of all the pantsuits, I had a moment of terror when I thought she would flip us a double bird, tell us we had finally screwed up and been horrible to her one too many times and refuse the nomination. She could have walked away and lived on an island for the rest of her life, drinking tropical rum drinks and laughing her responsibility-free ass off at the news.
But she didn’t. She keeps coming back because for some reason she loves us. Or at least believes that there are a bunch of us who are worth helping.
I don’t think Hillary Clinton believes she can save the world. But I do think she believes she can hammer away at chunks of it until she makes it better, and I would like to see her have a clear shot at doing that.
I don’t care if she is one kind of feminine versus another. I don’t care if she’s a natural at laughing for public consumption or dancing on talk shows. I don’t care if it turns out that she really is a ball-buster. I don’t fucking want a president I can have a beer with. I want my president to be earnest and wonky and to know more than we do. I want her to keep doing what she believes is right even when we’re busy focusing on idiotic details and slandering her.
I want her to know that sometimes we’re awful and still think it’s worth it to keep coming back.