Friday, November 22, 2013

What you can do



I was born a week after Kennedy was inaugurated, and I remember a melamine serving tray, of all things, the surface of which contained those famous lines about doing for your country, and the date of that event.  It sat propped against the kitchen wall for years when I was a child.  Even from the banal absurdity of the serving tray, those words could not be dimmed or made trivial.  They were perfect words, and they represented a promise about the future.

But we never saw that promise fulfilled. Instead we became, as conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison so famously observed, a nation of Hamlets, certain that we had been cheated of our birthright, but unable to prove or do anything about it. 

And for sure we wailed like Hamlet, and struggled like him against the yoke of undeserved authority, and pointed at every ghost on every parapet, certain that this time, we would finally be believed…and then, eventually, with the passage of each subsequent decade, ever more certain that we would never be believed.

Those who took our future away were never caught, never punished.  The trial never really began and never really ended.  And so it was with us as Americans.  We were lied to as a matter of necessity, then of policy, then of habit.  We expected it.  We learned to look for the lies before any words were even spoken.  Because of course there would be lies.  We would be cheated.  It was who we were.  Nothing had changed, or ever would change.  We became hardened and completely cynical, because everything that happened – Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Gulf Wars – everything in the decades that followed proved that we were right.

I dispute none of that.

Except it’s all wrong.  

When you realize that it was just one guy who changed it all, and not a conspiracy of the powerful and wealthy, then you realize that we cheated ourselves.  We blamed everyone: Johnson, Castro, the Mafia, the Secret Service.  It was because the corporations wanted the war in Vietnam to continue so they could expand their military industrial complex. It was because JFK was going to replace Hoover; it was because he was going to shut down the CIA.

When really, it was a guy who idolized Fidel Castro, and who didn’t want the Kennedy administration to kill Castro, as we now know it attempted to do, many times.

It was one guy.  It was one guy with a beef.  And all the wailing and pointing at ghosts - it’s just us wanting the truth to not be the truth, because the truth means that our enemies are not necessarily mighty.  The truth means that it doesn’t take a cabal of wealth and power to derail the America that we want to have.  It just takes one person, and that person is us.  We cheated ourselves, by not seeing the truth.  We wanted it to mean more than it did.  Because then, it would not be our fault that we gave up on that promise.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And you can tell everybody, this is your song.




I have come to the conclusion that it’s not Christmas unless I am newly in possession of every available variety of Avon Naturals shower wash.  This occurs because my mother, an Avon Lady in remote Nebraska, cleans out her sample cabinet every year and sends me a box full of soaps and lotions that smell like bubble gum approximations of fruits, and cosmetics that seem more appropriate for a daughter half my age.  Still, I tear into the box every year with relish, and look forward to briefly sporting taxi-hued eyelids and glittery pink lips that are then washed away in raspberry-scented showers.  This year, I’m sure because I am currently unemployed, she also sent me a check for an amount large enough that it inspired in me, her 50-year-old daughter, not a feeling of happiness or relief, but of shame.  So I sent her an email thanking her, but also broaching the subject that the amount was, I felt, more than she should be sending.  I got this in return:

I am sure you remember the Christmas you and your friend won one of Marsh's money cards, and you bought us presents.  Mine was Windsong, so the other day I was ordering from my drug store and needed a few bucks to make free shipping, so I bought a bottle of it!!!!  I still love it.  Don't tell anyone your Avon Mom bought Windsong!!    

Sitting there at my desk in my bathrobe, I read her email, closed my computer, walked into the living room where my boyfriend was watching television, and burst into tears.

It was 1974, seventh grade, and I was thirteen years old.  A boy liked me.  His name was Mike, and he wrote a poem about me, the first verse of which I can still recite from memory:

You’re a special lady
 A little kinky maybe
You sure know what’s going down
Just to see you makes me glad
That I found
Someone like you

What do you want?  It was the ‘70s, and we all thought Rod McKuen and Bernie Taupin were poets.

Mike was a little chubby.  Just a little, though, and his height and broad shoulders allowed him to carry it well.  He wore the dark turtlenecks and corduroys that were favored by the serious, non-athletic boys of that era.  He had pale skin and plenty of freckles and thick, coarse red hair that was cut to look like he was wearing an orange football helmet.   But he loved science fiction, and his favorite subject was English, and he was smart like me, and funny, and in our moments together between classes we were beginning to formulate our first tentative theories, fueled by the more sensitive musicians that populated our local Top 40 station and the pages of Creem magazine, that adults, and particularly teachers, didn’t really care about us at all.  Plus, the ruination of the Earth by pollution and greed was imminent, we both concurred.

Mike had a job as a bag boy at the local Marsh’s grocery store, and that Christmas, he asked me to go with him to the Marsh’s annual employee Christmas party, which was being held at the fanciest restaurant in our small town.  The restaurant was called Emily’s, and it was dark inside with candles on the tables, and one wall near the entry was all rocks with water trickling into a pond at the bottom where patrons of the restaurant threw wish-laden pennies.  Next to the waterfall was a stuffed brown bear standing on its hind legs and with front paws raised back in a menacing manner.  As you might imagine, it was not the kind of restaurant that a kid forgets about easily.  I had been to Emily’s only once or twice before on very special occasions in the years before my parents divorced, so I was pleased to be doing something that was reminiscent of my previous life, and not the one I was living now where I fretted with my mother over the paying of rent and how much my school shoes cost.

That night I wore my best maxi dress, the one with the black quilted skirt and the ruffled yellow collar.  It was over a year old and my skinny wrists hung too far below the ruffled cuffs, and the hem was a little too high on me now as well, but I was glad that I had something that I considered fancy enough for Emily’s.  When I opened the front door, Mike was standing there in a tie and sports jacket, and with a red carnation corsage inside a clear plastic shell.  It was all quite impressive, and I might have begun to feel nervous about how I was going to act the right way and say the right things if Mike’s mother, who was to chauffer us that evening, hadn’t been so calm and friendly.  After she dropped us off outside the restaurant entrance, Mike took my hand in his for a few brief seconds before he opened the door for me.  I don’t know why it hadn’t really occurred to me earlier, but I was on an actual date.

All the guests were seated at large round tables with white tablecloths and pinecone centerpieces, and we were the only teenagers at our table.  All the rest seemed to be older female cashiers and their bored husbands, whose conversation I remember consisted mostly of remarks about the quality of the establishment’s prime rib.  When the waiter came to ask us what we wanted to drink, Mike thought for a moment, and then ordered a Pepsi, and I ordered a Shirley Temple.  At the time I was proud that I had been in so many grown-up bars with my mom that I knew how to order a real mixed drink with a name, even if it was kind of a kiddie drink, and it seemed to have made an impression on the staff as well, because when I ordered another from a different waitress, she laughed and exclaimed “Oh, you’re the Shirley Temple!” 

At the end of the evening, there was a drawing for cash prizes from $25 to $200, and the store manager called my name for the $100 prize!  When I walked past the bar on my way to the front of the room to claim it, the bartender said “Hey, Shirley Temple won!” and he clapped for me.  The waitresses heard him, and soon all of the staff in the dining room appeared to be applauding and calling out “Shirley Temple!  Hey, good for you, Shirley Temple!”

As I was walking back to the table, it occurred to me that Mike would probably be disappointed that he didn’t win, and I knew that I should share my money order with him.  Mike’s mother was there at the table waiting to take us home.  I told Mike that I would split the $100 with him, and he looked surprised, but I told him that I had planned all along to share if I won, because I wouldn’t have won if not for him inviting me.  I don’t know why I’d told him that my act of generosity had not been spontaneous.  Maybe I had surmised that by appearing to have thought it out beforehand, I would seem resolute, and so avoid any discussions of the deal.  I don’t know, but in any event, he quietly accepted his half of the prize, and as I glanced around, I remember his mom looking at me with an approving smile.  People I did not know were walking up to me and congratulating me!  The evening was an unmitigated success! 

That’s all I remember.  I take my mother’s word for it that I used my $50, which was a considerable sum for a teenager in 1974, to buy Christmas gifts for my brother, my sister, and her.  I do remember that Windsong bottle sitting on my mother’s dresser, because of course her mother’s dresser is an altar of worship for every girl; I’m pretty sure I could still draw my mother’s jewelry box and hand mirror from memory.  And I hope she forgives me for squealing on her regarding her recent purchase of non-Avon perfume.

But so there was that email from my mother, and there was me, trying to tell my boyfriend the story, while still sobbing, of the Marsh’s cash prize and how I had forgotten what I’d done with the money and when he asked me why that would make me cry so hard, all I could only say in response was, “I was a good kid.”

By the end of 7th grade, I had broken up with Mike, such as we were, because I just didn’t feel romantic about him.  Not like he wanted me to.  I did still truly want to be his friend because I felt like no one else understood me the way he did, but he was bitter about being relegated to “just a friend” status, and then soon thereafter his family moved away.  He wrote me another poem right before the last time I saw him, which I still have, in his handwriting, on lined yellow paper, the last verse of which is this:

I think I’ll be a lot better off
Lost in a trillion
Knowing that somewhere
You’re out there.

I’m still out here, Mike.  It’s not easy, sometimes, but I’m still out here.  I miss you.  I miss all the Mikes.  I was a good kid, and I’m still out here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's only a model



I had expected it to be more difficult.

All of the other anniversaries I had ignored, switched past the programming to a movie channel, turned off the radio at work, gone outside and spent the day puttering in the yard, or at the beach pedaling my bike or wandering amidst the tourists on the boardwalk.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even know where I spent those days, so studiously had I ignored that they were those days.

But this year, I found myself at the airport, returning home from Denver.  I found myself standing in the enormous, snaking line of travelers at DIA, watching officials from the Department of Homeland Security on television screens placed at the end of each switchback of the queue drone on about the importance of the process to which we were about to submit ourselves.  It was difficult to place much importance in their arguments, given that the situation required all of us to not stop and listen to the officials on the screens, but to shuffle past them and out of earshot and then eventually into the sphere of another screen, where another, different official was going on about another different aspect of their argument, the gist of which was, of course, that everything was fine, and we were all an important cog in the machine of everything being fine, in spite of the mildly 1984-ish feeling of never being able to walk outside of the  glow of those screens, or to not see the not-too-broadly-smiling faces of officials in navy blue blazers and unremarkable haircuts.  Everything is fine, citizens.  Everything is just fine.

As I approached the Transportation Security Administration agent who checks boarding passes and identification, I began to hear snippets of his conversations with those ahead of me.  He asked one woman what is the state flower of Arizona?  I could not hear what she answered him, but he smiled and said “That’s right,” and checked her pass with a red pen and sent her on.  To the next gentlemen in line he asked what ice cream franchise operated in the airport to which he was returning home, and the gentleman thought for a second, and then said “Baskin Robbins.”  And the TSA agent again said “That’s right,” and then the gentleman added, as if to further cement his familiarity with the franchise, “They’re good,” and the agent concurred that they were, in fact, good.

I was a tad dumbstruck by what I was hearing and I searched the face of the agent to see if I could determine if he was being serious, or merely trying to lighten the mood, or perhaps even attempting to pass the long hours of his day amusing himself by toying with us, his captive prey, in the same way the a cat allows a mouse to think that he is winning at escape before he brings his paw down again upon the mouse’s neck.

It occurred to me that the situation unfolding in front of me resembled the scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in which the knights must correctly answer the bridgekeeper’s questions before passing over the Bridge of Death to continue their quest: “What is your name?  What is your quest?  What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

Would I get a difficult question?  I didn’t think I could tell him what the name was of the bar in the Burbank airport in which I almost always killed time before my departing flights.  Or maybe, like Sir Lancelot being asked his favorite color, I would get an easy question, like what brought me to Denver.  Would I tell him that it was simply to visit my sister, or would I say, trying not to look too self-satisfied, that I had successfully assisted her in her search for a wedding gown?  Was that too much?  Would that much detail be suspicious, or even merely annoying?  Don’t try so hard, I thought to myself.  You’re always trying too hard.

Nevertheless, I mentally assembled a checklist of home state trivia.  State flower?  California Poppy.  State bird?  California Quail.  State tree?  California Redwood.  Probably that government employee Alex Trebek up there was no match for a flora and fauna nerd such as myself, I thought.  I got this in the bag. 

When it was my turn, I thought to smile in a relaxed way, and to look him in the eyes, and then he glanced over my boarding pass and said “Burbank, huh?  That’s a small airport.” 

He looked at me. 

“Yes, it is,” I replied. 

And he checked me off with his red pen and waved me on my way.  I picked up my bag and then moved along to the line for the scanners.  And I instantly knew that the point of the question was not to know the answer, but to allow the questioner to hear you speak, to evaluate the ease of your tone and the origin of your accent.

I felt that combination of triumph and disappointment that all nerds feel when they’ve over-prepped for a test.

And then I wondered, if all of your life, you cannot help but compare and contrast the events you’re experiencing to those that formed you, that occurred in your childhood, then why don’t we give our children a better baseline than a series of brick and mortar Skinner Boxes, in which they are tasked with distinguishing themselves to those that operate the boxes from a horde that must be, if only by the relentlessness of its onslaught, indistinguishable?  No wonder so many children feel as though they can’t win.  They literally can not win, and those that think they have are merely more successful at deluding themselves.

It’s not the best mindset with which to begin a journey home.

Especially since I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go home anymore.  I haven’t been sure for a long, long time now.  For ten years, I haven’t been sure if I even wanted to go home.

It’s not that I don’t love my boyfriend, my pets, my house, my yard and the intermittently successful life I have fashioned for myself on this piece of land outlying the second largest collection of Americans in the world.  I do.  I do love all those things.

And it’s not a question of loving them enough.  Loving them enough to overcome the other stuff.  It’s more that loving them is irrelevant to the other stuff.  How could that be true?  And yet, ten years in, it seems pretty damn true.

I used to be able to push this feeling I had aside.  All those years of yelling about what a fucked up mess we were making of this country, I still thought of it as my home, my place, my country, I guess because I thought that someday the trauma would end.  I would no longer feel like I had to jump out of this speeding car that was headed in a place I did not want to go, a place that was a crazy, bad place to be.  Bad for everyone.  Why couldn’t they see that?  Why wouldn’t they listen to the people that were screaming about the bad direction we were going in?  Where did they think this car was going, to a good place?  To a place where we were all safe again?  Couldn’t they see that was wrong?

I guess I thought that someday we would collectively, as a people, stop and decide to go somewhere else.  I thought that when we changed leaders, and we started to officially do less bad stuff as a people, that I would feel different.  That it was our actions as a nation that mattered.  But inside, it didn't seem true at all.

And I didn’t figure it out until just the other day, when I saw them, those people on the other side, screaming “We want our country back!”

Hey, I remember thinking, that’s my line.


Because remember when we said that?  But it was about the other guy?  Remember when he did stuff that we thought was wrong?  Criminal, even?  And we were not being listened to at all, or taken into account in any way?  Remember?  I’m not saying we were wrong to think that.  We weren’t wrong.  I’m just saying that now they feel that way.  They feel that same way, and how can they?  How can they feel the same way that we did?  What the Left is doing, and trying to do, it’s not wrong for the country, it’s not evil, it’s not illegal or against the Constitution, but they’re saying that it is all those things, just like we did.  How can they say that?

I don’t know how they can feel now like we did then.  But it makes me feel like giving up.  It makes me feel like nothing I have is of any use. 

It makes me feel like I have no home.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chiaroscuro




So lately I've been thinking about Pete Rose being excluded from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

No, seriously, I have been thinking about it.  Because I think it's bullshit.  It's the Baseball Hall of Fame, not the Not Betting On Baseball Hall of Fame, which he should definitely be excluded from, and, by the way, I should definitely be in, because I have never bet on baseball, in spite of having a wicked hot dream in October 2004 in which Johnny Damon personally guaranteed me, between make-out sessions in the Fenway dugout, that the Curse was "so ovah."*  

But if baseball is the quintessential American sport,** then our attitude about Rose's ostracization from the Baseball Hall of Fame is also quintessentially American, because we are as a nation so sort of comically terrible at viewing our famous people in any kind of nuanced way.  Rose was a bad boy and so he must be punished, the end.  

A couple of days ago, some friend of a friend wrote a short essay, which made the social media rounds, on the death of Amy Winehouse, and in which he chastised the public at large for being angry at her for being a junkie.  I understand his point that Amy Winehouse owed us exactly nothing, but if you ask me, anyone who feels angry at Winehouse because they feel like they had a stake in her life through her music is showing a much more invested approach to her art than someone who's main argument appears to be that we should not speak ill of the dead.  Because, you know, she can't hear us anymore.  And speaking as someone who grew up with an addict, I understand being angry at junkies.  Personally, I can shake my head at the colossal self-involvement that it takes to make those life vs. junk scales come down on the side of junk every single goddamn time, and ALSO marvel that she managed to create such beautiful and evocative music. 

But I'm not here to eulogize Winehouse.  Listen to the song "Back in Black," one more time if you want a eulogy, because she's only about 10,000 times more brilliant than anyone else could ever hope to be on the subject of Amy Winehouse.  So, in short, please please stop hectoring people about their feelings about a dead junkie singer, oh social media scold.  If it upsets you so much, stop reading Yahoo comments for fuck's sake. 

And of course I could bring up the media makeover of Rupert Murdoch, who, after his testimony before a Parliament committee, morphed magically from ruthless greedy bastard scumbag yellow journalist and bobby briber to sad old man who nods off during questioning, and so therefore in spite of being a notorious control freak and micro-manager, is now not even aware of anything going on anywhere in his empire, ever.  The chorus of people, and I'm not even counting the yammer heads on Fox News, who suddenly felt sorry for Murdoch - poor, old, out-of-the-loop Murdoch, was really pretty shocking.  

And yet entirely predictable.  Because he can't be evil AND an old fool at the same time, can he?

Look, I know Murdoch's not the Devil, because the Devil doesn't exist, but whoever that fucked-up long-ago biblical scribe was who first invented the Devil - he was definitely thinking of someone exactly like Murdoch.  Because what's more terrifying than someone who can carry the most powerful nations in the world in his pocket, and who can buy their opinions and subvert their legal processes and write their narratives to benefit himself?  Murdoch owns our history, my fellow citizens, so if you feel good about that, then you're in luck, because the Teabaggers, and their contradictory priorities about NOT wanting Obama to cut Medicare or Social Security, but YES wanting the Republicans to cut entitlements, are born directly out of that uptight Aussie sphincter.  They've set up their lawn chairs and unfurled their hilariously dumbass opinions in front of every media outlet in America, and the media can't get enough of them.  They love the Teabaggers, and why not?  They're custom made for the 24 hour news cycle, because their opinions can be constantly and continuously analyzed forever without ever making any sense.  So they are not going anywhere anytime soon.  

A couple of weeks ago, a sort of semi-humorous essay was written on Jezebel about how the author felt bad about rooting for the USA over Japan in the Women's Soccer final, because, well, Japan has had a rough four months.  And I suggested in the comments section, also semi-humorously, that a sure-fire cure for feeling guilty about rooting against Japan as a nation was to remember that they are as a nation capable of some pretty nasty business, i.e., the completely senseless slaughter of dolphins and illegal selling of their meat to schoolchildren, the slaughter of protected whales and the decades-long stalling of meaningful whaling agreements at the IWC and bribery of its members, i.e. you know, your standard nasty nation business.  Please note that I did not accuse the women's soccer team, or the victims of the earthquake and tsunami, of anything.  I was of course vilified.  Because it's Japan's turn to be a blameless victim nation, and whatever the fuck we do, let's not allow any nuanced thinking into any discussion of world affairs, ever.  I've been told it's in bad taste.  

And if your mind is naturally wandering now to 9/11, so did mine.  I recall saying at the time, on some now-defunct blog, that of all the crimes of the Bush administration, the very worst was telling us that al-Qaeda hated us for our freedom.  Because it was more than just a lie.  More than just a self-serving lie, even.  It was a red cape waved in front of a bull that had been speared by the picadors within an inch of his life.  And so the bull charged ahead, blindly, hating, branding as traitors anyone who dared ask why, listening to every lie that reinforced our infantile notions of ourselves as blameless, perfect patriot heroes, which we are not, none of us.

I love my country.  I endeavor to one day deserve her.  But for now, it appears I'm just a nuance monkey.




*Yeah, I know Damon's not from Boston.  IT WAS A DREAM.

**It's not.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

This is where we swam



I get why Nancy Grace wants to whip up outrage over the Casey Anthony case.  It inflates her ratings, which increases her TVQ and her net worth.  And I get why the prosecutor would want to cast the verdict as the greatest WTF ever in the history of jurisprudence, because he brought the case under the wrong charge and with insufficient evidence, and then tried to convict the defendant in the Court of Outraged Moms.

But why on earth this country was witness to such an emotional display by, as I so even-handedly put it on Twitter yesterday, the "self-righteous indignation monkeys," is a trickier question.

I have no idea whether Anthony killed her child or not.  But given the murkiness of the evidence in the case, I doubt that yesterday's verdict is significant for any reason other than so many people seem to be so upset about it.  Personally, I resent the prosecutor's strategy of trying to convict Anthony by casting her as a drunken whore, because I think that it damages women everywhere, and perpetuates the idea that women, especially moms, can only be chaste, self-sacrificing martyrs, or else we are guilty of failing society's expectations, and as such deserve whatever charge an ambitious camera-hungry prosecutor can make stick.  And also, speaking as a drunken whore myself, I resent the implication that we're necessarily toddler-killers.  I have hardly ever advocated toddler-killing.  I mean, sure, on airplanes, but I think we can all agree on that.

Look, I know dead babies is sad.  But you know what, besides Tot Mom, actually does kill a hell of a lot of children?   (And no, Leah Remini, it's not psychiatry.)   

Ask the EPA.  The EPA knows what kills, cripples, and permanently disfigures and disables children.  It knows what gives babies brain damage.  It knows what shuts down their internal organs and puts them into comas.  And the EPA does more to prevent the taking of childrens' lives in one minute than all the tsking, yammering heads on television will ever do.  And if you doubt this, or even if, holy shit, you're just interested in the health of the next generation, check out what the EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection is up to, because it's pretty damn impressive. 

And, needless to say, like every other governmental agency that looks after the people, (that's people-people, not corporation-people) they're under attack by Republicans, including those who wish to become president in 2012.  But this is not the ordinary "less regulation!" attack that voters hear every election cycle.  This time, they mean it.  They don't just want to appoint a bunch of industry hacks to head the agency and play fiddle while the Cuyahoga burns, because, unfortunately, even under Republican hood ornaments, the agency remains full of a bunch of career do-gooders who take their jobs seriously.  So, what they want to do is de-fund it completely and take away not only its teeth, put its tongue, lips, mouth, voice, everything.  

But why especially now, you ask?  I mean, beside the fact that the Republicans have never been more in the pockets of the industries that pollute our air, water, and land?

Well, whatever the reason, I'm sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with fracking.  

I'm sure it has nothing to do with our struggle to find inexpensive domestic fuel, and especially now with natural gas being touted as a clean energy source that can replace fossil fuels in certain applications, and the need to extract oil and gas from the ground cheaply becomes more urgent to U.S. companies, and therefore the need to control the EPA becomes more urgent, because we wouldn't want some ole' big government job-killing agency to tell us that it's a kind of a huge deal if your tap water bursts into flame, now would we?

And since we're asking rhetorical questions, why aren't the TV ladies crying over self-proclaimed mother of 28 Michelle Bachmann's threats to shut down an agency that saves the lives of children every goddamn day?  Why is that?  Why would the media be afraid to attack a woman who wants to hurt children?  I'm pretty sure Nancy Grace and Julie Chen have heard of the GOP, and so I can't imagine what they could be waiting for.


Friday, June 10, 2011

You may already be a wiener!



This week, I was reading a story about the 46th anniversary of Americans’ right to use birth control, and – huh?  What’s that you say?  46 years since what, now?

Yeah, in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the ruling declared unconstitutional a state law that forbade the use of birth control - and I’m not talking just birth control pills here, I’m talking any birth control device or drug, used by anyone, including married couples. 

This ruling, made in my lifetime, mind you, has been decried ever since by conservatives claiming that we cannot construe freedoms where they are not specifically spelled out by the Constitution, and that the majority 7 justices who made the ruling were being “activist.”

Sound familiar?  And are you, once again, trying to wrap your mind around the idea of freedom-loving small-government conservatism being opposed to a freedom as simple as sticking a sock on your dick?

Because make no mistake, the conservatives of today would have supported that Connecticut law, and would have decried that “activist” ruling.

And I’m not talking about some early ‘60s version of Boehner, Cantor, Pence, Sessions, et al.  I’m saying take those exact same Republican jackasses, with their current sensibilities; send them 46 years back to a time when the highest court of the United States was trying to decide whether to allow American citizens the right to use otherwise legal birth control and I guaranfuckingtee you that immediately after the decision, they would be urging the Congress to pass a bill to strip the operating budget of the Supreme Court, and planning to launch an amendment to the Constitution that would forbid interfering with the Earth-bound destiny of God's little bundles of joy.

Don’t think so?  How about if I told you that the Griswold in Griswold v. Connecticut was Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut?

It's just so typical of this fucked up country that we choose as our boogeyman a plucky, low-rent little organization like Planned Parenthood, which is comprised of underpaid doctors and overworked nurses and harried administrative people who devote their hours to explaining to dumbass teenagers that pouring Bud on your boyfriend's dick won't make his sperm too drunk to swim.

Because by all means lets ignore the bankers throwing people out of their homes, and the arms makers and the oil men who keep sending us to die for the rights to Middle East crude, and the kids murdered on the streets every day warring over who gets to sell drugs on which corner, and the schools where they're being taught to love football and Jesus instead of science and mathematics, yeah, lets ignore all that, because some fucking Jezebel somewhere is sitting on a table in a paper apron being told that it's her body, after all.  Yeah, that's the real goddamn emergency.

Some fucking asshole said to me the other day "Well, you know that MSNBC is no better than Fox, don't you?"

Well, I walked away from that argument, because it wasn't the time or the place, and to tell you the truth, the dude who said it has his head so far up his ass that not even I can scream loud enough for him to hear me.  But let me just outline my response here, because it's something that comes up for me a lot.

No, they're not the same.  

Yes, both networks are full of windbags who love the sound of their own yammering, and yes, both sides revel in the scandals of the other, and blow the missteps of the opposition out of all proportion, yes, in that way, they're very similar.

Here's how they're different.  One side worships money.  And they will do or say anything, anything to make and keep more of it.  They tell anyone who will listen to them that we're all alone in this world, and we should look out for ourselves, and the way you look out for yourself is to keep other people from getting something that you would like to have.  So let's make sure the billionaires and corporations pay no taxes, so that the black woman in line in front of you at the checkout can't buy Dove bars with her food stamps.

And the other side, as flawed and cheating and douchebaggy and pompous as we are, believe that we're all in this together, and that we have an obligation, as the most powerful country on Earth, to set an example of compassion and peace.  We should lift each other up, with our dollars, with our ingenuity, and with our love for each other.  And then we should take that lesson of how you do that, and teach it to anyone in the world who asks it of us.

That's right, I'm suggesting we should become Canada.  Only with less hockey.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Asking for it




There are now four different posts begun and abandoned in my post corral, so don’t think I’ve been sitting here for two months doing nothing.  They were abandoned because they sucked, because I yammered on or meandered across various topics aimlessly, or because I committed the bloggy sin of TMI.  I mean, as much as I would like to believe that y'all would be fascinated by the details of my menopausal symptoms, I know better than anyone what makes my readers skim my semi-carefully-crafted paragraphs over quickly, looking for Boehner jokes.

Don't worry readers, I'm not going to elaborate on the many ways in which my hot flashes make me feel like killing everyone I know.  I have no desire to become the Erma Bombeck of the 21st century.*  But it's difficult, when you wake up drenched in sweat for the 14th time in one night, and then can't get back to sleep because you keep thinking about how little ultimately seems to have changed for women since you first became one, not to feel like the Right's war on women has become a little personal.

And after all, it was feminists who were the first to observe that the personal is political, and why wouldn't we still feel that way today, when we must still suffer the fools of (self-proclaimed) small government, with their big ideas about how they can make women conform to their own personal ideals through legislation?  Because of course anti-choice legislation is not really about preventing abortions, if it were, then the annual funding of Planned Parenthood might approach the subsidies we already pay for March Madness and SUVs.  Or to put it more succinctly, Planned Parenthood prevents more abortions in one day than all the bullshit so-called pro-life Jesus warriors put together since Roe v. Wade, combined.


And let's face it, when the governor of South Dakota, a state that is already on my list of top ten states I cannot hide in, tells the women that pay half his salary that he passed the new 72-hour-wait-and-mandatory-Christian-harangue law because he hopes "that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices," he doesn't really hope that women will "make good choices."  He hopes they will be inconvenienced enough or poor enough that the law will force them to carry their pregnancy to term.  He's treating the women of his state like they're 3-year-olds who have to sit in a corner until they learn to behave, and you'd think the women of South Dakota, no matter where they come down on the issue of abortion, would feel insulted by this treatment, whether they actually had to be subjected to it or not.

But that's too much to hope for, I guess.  Female solidarity has ever been a tricky thing, and the Right's indignation over sexism waxes and wanes according to whether anyone has insulted half-governor Sarah Palin in any particular week.  So the political climate is always balmy for a-holes like Mark Krikorian of the National Review, who accuses several female members of the Obama administration of being nagging, pants wearin', ball-bustin' shrews, and also to say rather plainly that our president's virility has been diminished by allowing his female counselors to, well, counsel him, and that he is a less effective leader, and we are therefore less safe, because he listens to women.  If this were true, lord, can you imagine what would happen if a female were actually president???  Every nation in the world would feel free to terrorize and/or carpet bomb us!  

So, no testicles in the Oval Office clearly = open season on America.

Unless it's President Sarah Palin, of course.   Which forces me to conclude that the only female politicians that the Right trusts to safeguard our nation, are the astoundingly stupid ones.  

No?  You explain it then.

If you haven't already seen Krikorian's inane diatribe, don't bother to read it.  Like the Republicans' daily legislative assault on female autonomy, it's all about women getting too big for the britches they shouldn't even be wearing.  I experience a form of it myself almost every day when I get into comment wars with older white men whose writing starts to take on that distinctive, shrilly defensive tone that they lapse into whenever their entire world has been shaken to its foundations by being contradicted by a woman.  I also experience it when the routine passing of a car on the freeway becomes a battle of retribution the other driver must wage in order to prove that his automotive virility has not been usurped by a middle-aged woman in a station wagon.  It's funny how much more rapidly such men suddenly feel inspired to drive when they see who it is who wants to pass them.


It's sad, really, not just because some people will never change, and you have to wait for them to die or to be too old to hobble into the voting booth before our country can take its next step forward, but also because it forces you, a woman, to continually react to other people's ideas of what is appropriate conduct for your gender.  As far back as I can remember, I've listened to other people feel absofuckinglutely free to comment upon the way that I sit, stand, walk, talk, swear, the frequency with which I smile, my failure to follow appropriate body hair removal guidelines, and whether my menstrual cycle might be affecting my judgment.  And they felt that freedom because I am a woman, and was I aware that I was deviating from how women are supposed to behave?


Frankly, I wish I spent a whole lot less time thinking about what it's like to be female.  Or I guess I wish I didn't have to.  And I don't understand why, in the aftermath of CBS reporter Lara Logan's sustained sexual assault by a mob of male protestors in Egypt, some people are saying, effectively, that there are certain places where a woman provokes an attack simply by being a woman.  

They’ve got it wrong, obviously.  There are no "certain places."  It’s every place.  


And now Egyptian women themselves, welcomed as fellow protestors during the revolution, are being intimidated, harassed, tortured, and excluded from the political fruits of their labors.  Because let's face it, if you intimidate women, tell them it's too dangerous where they are, or that the work is too hard, or that they should be at home looking after their families, or that they are too old or too fat or too ugly to deserve success, or that there's only room for one woman in here and so their real enemies are other women who want to take their slot, then you knock out half the competition in one fell swoop, right?  

I don’t have any answers for it.   I can’t even get most of my readers to make it to the end of this post, once they’ve figured out it’s one of those boring feminism diatribe pieces.  I’m not pissed about it.  I can’t be.  Lord, if shit like that pissed me off, pissed would be all I ever was.




*Unless, of course, there's any money in it, in which case - kids make you crazy!  Amirite, ladeez?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I would like you to dance



Is there any way to avoid contemplating your accumulated wisdom when you approach a momentous birthday, such as, say, your 50th?

I would love to do exactly that.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I would love to be the person who would love to do that, but I'm afraid I'll need another 50 years or so to achieve that kind of self-disinterest.

If there's anything I've learned, and I think, you know, there is, it's that in spite of what everyone says, no one gives a shit what you think about them, really.  They just don't want too big of a hole blown in their own idea of who they are.  Once I figured that out, I started worrying about what people thought about me, and what they thought I thought about them, a WHOLE lot less.

Which is not to say that I worry less.  I worry the same as I always have, otherwise known as a lot.  I think I am genetically disposed to worry.  I worry so much that I sometimes believe that it defines me, as in:

I fret, therefore I am.

or

If a tree falls in the forest, it will damage your house and your insurance won't cover it.

or

And in the end, the love you take...will probably be way more than you deserve.

You get the idea.  So if that last bit didn't get the point across that I'm not really the best person from which to solicit advice, then geez, you might just be stupid enough to actually benefit from my advice.

So here it is, 50 years of wisdom, earned the hard way.  Well, not exactly the hard way.  A pretty soft way, actually, considering everything. 

BELLS ON WISDOM:

Don't ever fight with your girlfriends.  That's what boyfriends are for.

If you learn the difference between "its" and "it's," no one will ever think you are stupid.

When you see some jerk giving a waiter or a cashier a hard time for no reason, speak up.  You'll feel good about yourself, and you might even get some free stuff.

"Sexy" Halloween costumes are actually neither.

Don't ever date anyone who quotes Ayn Rand to you.

If you freely admit when you don't know things, people will regard you with respect and awe.

Women who are being abused really want you to call them on those made-up excuses that they give.  Trust me.  Ditto women who are throwing up their food to stay thin. 

"The Little Prince" is a dumbass book.  Don't let anyone tell you different.

Nothing makes a person happier than telling them that you thought about them when they weren't even there.

It's never too late to have better taste in music.

You know that saying about how you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?   So true.

Be realistic about how much booze you can drink.

Don't let people hurt your feelings by calling you fat or ugly.  If they're calling you a pretentious asshole, however, a little self-examination would not be out of order.

Before you go sticking it to the man, you should make sure you understand who the man is.

There's nothing wrong with a little schadenfreude.  It's not a profession, however.

And regarding relationships, resist the temptation to count coup on your partner's head.  You must remain absolutely and steadfastly on his or her side, always.  And not just when other people are around, either, but even when it's just you two.  For example, when your partner breaks a wine glass, the correct response is always "That's okay, it's just a wine glass," no matter how many have been broken in the past, no matter how stupidly they have been broken, no matter how many times you warned about their breaking.  Because, no matter all the circumstances, it remains only a wine glass.  Not a metaphor for your relationship.  Just a wine glass.

And that's all I know, I guess.  Except for one more thing.

Contrary to what the current crop of Republicans think, this country is a work in progress.  Our Constitution did not spring forth fully formed like Athena from the head of George Washington.  And I'm sure I don't have to tell my readers - although apparently I do have to tell Michele Bachmann - the Founding Fathers did not eliminate slavery.  Many of them didn't even want to.  I daresay all of them were deeply flawed, and if you read the Constitution, and I mean the whole thing, not the tidy version read on the House floor at the beginning of the 112th US Congress - a deliberative body that promises to bring new meaning to the word "incredibly fucking stupid," you would see that we have struggled all along to form a more perfect union.  I don't understand why, for some people, to admit a thing's imperfection equals an unbearable admission of frailty, or irrelevance, or obsolescence.  Maybe admitting that those that began this country, while accomplishing awesome feats under the circumstances, didn't even come close to getting it completely right, is akin to facing one's own mortality, and so it is to be avoided at all costs, even if it means engaging in mind-boggling feats of reality-denial.

And speaking of the Tea Baggers, I guess then the one thing that I can agree with them on is that growing old sucks ass.  It sucks hard ass.  Although unlike them, I have resolved to grow old without growing afraid.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?



Well, now that the shooting has once again died down, and those on the sidelines have stopped comparing themselves to Jews and anyone who doesn't agree with them to Hitler (What?  You didn't know that "Mein Kampf" is a liberal manifesto?), I guess we can all finally take a sincere look at ourselves and what role our own attitudes might have played in our cocked-up national zeitgeist.

Or not.  I mean, who are we kidding here?  There will be lots of examination, or the 24-hour news channel equivalent, anyway, but no real change.  President Obama, in a speech that was apparently designed to appeal to Arizonans in that it was long on references to the Bible, heaven, heroes, and gumption, and short on self-awareness, asked us to make sure our debate is "worthy of those we have lost."

I think Jon Stewart cut more quickly to the bone when he said that it would be nice if our political speech didn't so closely resemble the ramblings of a crazy person.

But I get why our president is compelled to point out that a high road does indeed exist.  I'm just not sure why he feels the need to take it all the time.  Especially when the White House is surrounded by idiots with placards exclaiming that "high road = socilism."

Not to mention that the tea-baggers are using the events in Tucson as a fundraiser, and the very gun and clip that the shooter used are selling out in gun stores across the country.  Yeah, the right wing is definitely going to be turning up the paranoia on gun control, with one genius even suggesting that members of Congress be allowed to carry guns on the House floor, a position that I must admit seems fairly attractive to me at the moment.  In fact, I think the only place in America where Republicans don't want guns is at Republican political conventions.  That's right, you have to go through a metal detector and surrender your firearms to get up in that mug.  They must not be reading their own literature about how an armed citizenry makes you more safe.

But it seems to me that those who died in that parking lot in Tucson were unlucky enough to have been labeled guilty by association to Representative Giffords, a woman who had apparently become the obsession of a defensive white male with a fondness for guns who had the good fortune of living in a state whose motto is "home of the defensive white male with a fondness for guns." 

But the question is not whether Sarah Palin's adenoidal sniveling awakened a sleeping Manchurian Candidate - so far, the shooter seems to have been the only white male in Arizona NOT preoccupied with McCain's vice maverick - but whether our culture eased him along on his path.

I don't know the answer to that question.  But I think neither do you.  And so in the absence of any definitive blame-laying, which would be summarily ignored by the tea-baggers anyway, I think that a reasonable course of action would be for the Right to stop pretending that President Obama is the anti-Christ and Democrats are his demons sent to plague the Earth, and for the Left to, once the Right has stopped doing that, stop saying that the Right is doing that.

Because here's the thing about that whole "violent rhetoric" argument that nobody seems to be acknowledging: it matters not one whit what that asshole's political leanings are.  The point is, that when you insinuate, especially from a position of power, that your political opponents are less than human, that they deserve a "Second Amendment solution" nudge nudge wink wink, YOU LEGITIMIZE THE VIOLENT YEARNINGS OF EVERYONE, LEFT OR RIGHT, CRAZY OR SANE.  I mean, John Wilkes Booth didn't kill Lincoln with the expectation that Southerners would regard his actions with horror and shame, now did he?

And secondly, the rhetoric on the Left does not equal that on the Right.  It's a nice try, Fox News, but it just ain't so.  We don't put rifle sights on their candidates, or if we do, we stop it and apologize, we don't claim that they're fucking "surveyor's marks," or whatever dumb childish shit Palin's camp offered up, I mean surveyor's marks?  Really?  So did I miss all those tweets wherein Palin urged her mama grizzlies "Don't retreat, re-sight your coordinates for proper bearing to the azimuth!"?

And once more, for the record, not allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, and not allowing gay couples to marry is not the "other side" of the issue, it's the wrong side.  It's the side of all that is backward and mean and fucking Evil Empire about us.  And letting citizens die because they can't afford medicine is not the conservative view of the health care debate, it's the fucking immoral and wrong view, and I would like to stand up and be counted among those who wouldn't mind if our president just goddamn said so for once.

I just hope that Obama realizes that compromise is not some kind of honorable end in itself, it is a path to what we want - no, make that what we need.  It's a path to what everyone in this country needs, whether they're able or willing to admit it or not - let's not forget that.  So yeah, Mr. President, take that high road, and speechify about how we all need to respect one another, and then please go back to Washington and drag those motherfucking scared shitless morons with you into the 21st century.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Us, everyone.


Over the holidays, Spooney and I indulged our obsession with "A Christmas Carol" by watching every version we could trap within our DVR web.  Spooney is partial to the older films, which he refers to as his family's "classics," as if they were broadcast for, and belong to, his clan alone, and I dig that.  However, I love above all others the 1984 George C. Scott version, even though he is rather well-fed for a Scrooge and also not so convincing in his character's giddier moods as others have been.  The Scott version does most succesfully pull off the darker moments, though, and for me it is the darker moments that elevate the tale above the rest of the sickening pap the holiday season is wont to produce.

Because for me, Dickens's entire message can be distilled down to the following exchange between the miser and the second spirit, wherein Scrooge inquires about the hideous, groveling, ghoulish children that hide inside the spirit's robe:
'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.
I remember watching "A Christmas Carol" as a child, and I remember my ears pricking up when the ghost said "but most of all beware the boy..."

Because why beware ignorance more than want?  After all, it seemed to me that you could be ignorant and happy - in fact my hometown in rural Indiana provided many examples proving that you could indeed be thus - but it was almost impossible to feel content when you didn't have sufficient money to pay the rent or the power bill or buy enough food.  I was rather newly acquainted with the last reality, and although my instinct was to trust my own experience, still, there had to be something to what Dickens was saying, or else the tale around that message would not be so exaulted in such a beloved medium at such a spritual time of year.

I must admit that I have labored, intermittently, to understand his point ever since. 

And I think that the audience of "A Christmas Carol" is tempted to view ignorance as being embodied by the poverty-stricken characters of the story, consumed as they are with their petty needs, and deprived as they are of the education that could improve their condition, or indeed, as our last elections have shown, even identify those responsible for their condition.

But I have come to believe that the ignorance that spells our Doom is not the ignorance of the unfortunate, but the ignorance of Scrooge himself, and those like him.  It is a self-imposed ignorance, perhaps, or perhaps one into which so much is invested that it is, ultimately, a most devout stupidity.

Much is made of the smugness of the liberal.  It is said that we always behave as if we know better, as if we know what others do not.  Well, I'll let all you so-called conservatives out there in on a little secret:

We do know something you do not know. 

But we're not going to tell you what it is.

You may figure it out for yourselves, however, after you have been visited by 3 spirits.

The first, the Ghost of America Past, will show you visions of our forefathers, and you will hear them, with all their imperfections, try to craft the foundation of a government that would free us from the tyranny of state religions, and from a class structure that sentenced all but a lucky few to a lifetime of laborious misery.

The second, the Ghost of America Present, will walk you down the corridors of hospitals wherein the fate of the patients is decided not merely by the graveness of their conditions, but by the figures in their bank accounts.  He will escort you through our capitol halls and meeting rooms, so you may overhear our lawmakers conspire to allow corporations to rule over citizens, and he will lead you through the foreign battlefields where you may witness our young servicemen and women grasp for a meaning to dignify the deaths of their comrades.

The third, the Ghost of America Yet to Come, will give you a brief glimpse, for a brief glimpse will be all that you can bear, of a future where cities sink beneath oceans, green landscapes shrivel and turn to dust, and humans retreat to those smaller and smaller bands of Earth wherein life is still possible.  Then you will see what shall come to pass if these current shadows remain unaltered by the future.

The bell will soon toll one.  It is not yet too late.