Thank you for having patience with me as I try to figure out what my column should be going forward. With the darkness we face ahead I find my drive for collection has waned in the face of potentially losing everything. When it comes to playing in public tournaments I am no longer certain I could go without incident, either of having to call out hatred or being the target of it, or both. And when I find myself in need of stress release, Magic can never compare to the feeling I have when I’m in flow playing Overwatch. I don’t think I’m done with the game. I still love it, and I hope the next few sets live up to their potential. But for the time being, my focus has strayed.


Here’s what I have been focused on instead.




In this tweet I took the location data from the 2016 National Trans Survey, an instrument to which I contributed, and tried to offer hope for young trans kids coming out into this hatred. It can be easy to think you’re alone, that no one has ever felt the way you do, if you grow up rural, and I say this from personal experience. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, close to community but not amidst it, and that was hard enough. But the map of respondents tracks population density trends across America. Wherever there are people, there are trans people. And it’s important to remember that at a time we are being actively driven out of the public square.


Chelsea Manning is still imprisoned. She has tried to kill herself, for which she was punished in an act of utter depravity by the justice system. She has spent much time in solitary confinement, which melts minds, and she has been forced to conform to male grooming standards despite her trans identity. This is the torture she has faced under Obama; imagine what she will face in the lawless and vindictive Trump administration. And all this for being manipulated by a hacker into performing what was, on the balance, a public good. While Obama still has the power to pardon her, he should.


I can’t tell which is more unsettling: that so many people are fine with a kleptocrat stripping everything of value from the institutions of our nation for personal benefit, or that so many people voted for Trump because Clinton was too corrupt. Either way, it is clear that Trump will not be constrained by rule of law. As someone who faces targeted state violence should we end up walking one of the more fascist paths ahead of us, I find this all deeply unsettling. Russia fucking owns Trump, he’s put out an “open for business” sign to get other nations to give him money, and he’s in violation of the law from day one due to steps he’s already taken. All this, and we can’t even see his tax returns, itself an admission of wrong-doing. Watching as the GOP finally confirms what we all know, that their principles come second to their lust for unrestrained power, has been deeply depressing. I didn’t want to be right about all Republicans being craven, hateful, or greedy.


This matters. First off, NoDAPL (the proposed oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois) is still in play. We got the temporary assurance of no lease granted which sucked the wind out of the momentum they had gathered, but it is clear that Trump, who owns stock in the company behind the pipeline, will not continue to stand in the way of their predations. And this is even as one of the pipelines in the rough vicinity of DAPL was recently found to have spilled over 175,000 gallons of oil, the exact scenario underpinning the sovereign tribe’s resistance to a company running this pipeline underneath their water source. And all on behalf of a fuel which is no longer cost effective, in an age of solar and wind options, and the use of which only further hastens the ecological apocalypse which threatens to wipe Miami, and many other coastal cities, off the map.


But that’s not even why this matters. This matters because this is how fascism works. The government gives the people tacit permission to act violently or indifferently to vulnerable people, and then the people on the ground do the damage of their own volition, either out of fear of unthreatened consequences or to curry favor with the regime. Voluntary compliance is dangerous. The government, any government, should never be given unquestioning obedience when it makes extra-legal demands. But that’s the direction we’re headed, and it scares me.


Finally, this is an example of something I have tried to talk a lot about in the last year. A universal basic income, a mincome, seemed much more likely when I thought Hillary Clinton would win.


Side note: HRC was overcome by fascism, partisanship, and implicit misogyny. If you think you’re the one person whose disdain for Clinton comes from a place of purity, you are a fool. This stuff works on a subconscious level, which is how the woman seeking power can be seen as a ruthless liar when the kleptocrat with documented lies is seen as a brave truth-teller. These things are tropes, and we judge women more harshly for them, resulting in the most qualified presidential candidate in my lifetime being overthrown by some reality show despot who can’t even win the popular vote.


But back to the point. We haven’t lost the decent jobs in this country due to outsourcing. Outsourcing is a relatively minor factor in the decline of the American middle class. We have been getting our asses kicked by mechanization, though! Robots can do all the things that used to require humans in factories, and so many American factories require workforces a fraction of the size they once were. We are beginning to see robots replace cashiers and other retail clerks, and soon we won’t even need human drivers (and if you think they’re stopping at self-driven taxis, you are mistaken). America has come to a place where there are no longer enough jobs for everyone to get one. And since America is also a place where the party in power seems to think the unemployed deserve their situation, a strain of Calvinism that is keeping us from even discussing this challenge, that means a class of the perpetually poor, struggling to scrape by with under the table income and criminal enterprise.


It’s short-sighted and self-destructive, and it doesn’t need to be this way. Even if you can’t see the moral argument for making sure no American has to struggle financially to survive, at least you should be able to recognize that this would be the smart play systemically and economically. People in abject poverty can’t buy things. We spend way too much money on the military as a shadow jobs program (these factories tend to be located across a number of congressional districts to maximize buy in). Let’s instead cut the unnecessary militarization and instead spend 25% of our budget on making sure that everyone in America has cash to spend, whether or not they work. We don’t need to spend 57% of our budget on foreign adventurism. Every new missile could instead be a basic income for 60 people. Instead we spend that money on the Iraqis and Afghans, giving them something they actively don’t want and killing scores of families who are just trying to get by like you or me.


The most effective stimulus is stimulus spent on the poor, because they have no choice but to spend all of it. Money doesn’t trickle down, it wells up, and the raw number of individuals this would help is massive. And it includes you. If your response to this is “why do they get to sit around and I don’t,” just quit your damn job and see what that life is like. You’ll be on team mincome in no time.


Save the work for the people who want to do it.




And this is just a smattering of the ideas I’ve been grappling with since the election. Compared to them, Magic just feels a little inconsequential. I hope that the next year proceeds to prove my fears overblown. Clearly I doubt that will be the case. But this is just my own calculus. If Magic provides you solace in these troubling times, then that’s awesome for you! I do not mean to rain on your parade. Hopefully I will get back to that point soon. In the meantime, though, you are going to have to bear with me as I work to stabilize this column’s identity. I suspect as the future becomes more certain, so too will the focus of this column.


Until then, stay safe out there.


Jess Stirba believes that all life is valuable, and that a fetus is not a life; the co-option of the “pro-life” term by a death cult has ruined the meaning of the first clause when not accompanied by the second.

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