Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sometimes a Dick is just a Dick

Sigmund Freud was the first to describe the phenomenon of transference, in which a subject transfers their feelings for one person to another person, or redirects their feelings toward an event on to a different event. It is not an unusual pathology in a serial killer, for instance, to believe himself to be the victim, and to transfer his feelings of guiltiness and rage onto those he victimizes.

I once had a rather difficult time with a mentally ill woman whose MO was transference taken to a stupefying level. She was assigned to the same precinct as me once when I served as a Judge of Election in Chicago.

Chicago. You don’t have to be crazy to be a Judge of Election here – but it helps!

The voting place was in the lobby of a senior center, of course, and of course the judges were all seniors except me. I was doing it for the cash – then 80 clams for about 15 hours of work – nothing to sneeze at when you normally spend your days pretending to fill yuppie coffee cups with decaf for crappy tips. Also, since I was politically active, I found that if you were working as a judge of election, the campaign office couldn’t make you stand outside the polling place on Election Day holding a goddamn placard or handing out fucking leaflets and taking the abuse of people whose inclinations ran toward your candidate’s opponent. The best part is that when I'd inform whoever managed the volunteers that I could not work outside of the polling place on Election Day because I was working inside the polling place, they were usually impressed and believed me to be an even greater martyr for democracy than they did when I was merely a campaign pawn. But really, all I wanted was to be inside in a semi-heated/cooled room on a semi-comfy folding chair, instead of outside in whatever hellish weather Chicago had decided to dish up.

So what for most people would have been a clear case of “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes” ended up being a win-win for me.

I learned a lot of things being a judge of election in Chicago. For one, candidates would absolutely come right into the polling place and bring you candy or donuts or whatever. I mean, in full campaign garb with aides and balloons and buttons and shit. And when I told them they had to leave because it is illegal to electioneer in a polling place, they definitely give me that “you’re new around here, aren’t you?” look.

Plus, there is, or at least there was, pretty much a cop assigned to every precinct in the city. Sometimes they would actually stick around for their entire shift, too. Yeah, Election Day is probably an overtime bonanza for cops. And cops are great to talk to because they have amazing stories. Unlike the seniors, who never seemed to have anything to say except that the folding chairs were very uncomfortable, and that they couldn’t hear me, and that the huge print on the registration documents was too small for them to read and I needed to read it to them so that they could then tell me again that they couldn't hear what I were saying.

Rinse. Repeat.

One year I worked all day with a younger cop who told me he’d been shot three times and stabbed once. All in separate incidents, too. His beat was in the infamous Cabrini Green housing project. I asked him who at HQ had it in for him and he just laughed and shook his head and told me that that was a story for another time. He was a cool guy, though.

That was the same year I had some asshole looking over the voting booth partition at his wife while she was marking her ballot. He was actually pointing at her ballot and criticizing who she was voting for! So, I told him to stop.

Me: Sir, you can’t do that.

Asshole: What? Are you talking to me?

Me: Yes, sir. You can’t spy on people while they’re voting, and you certainly can’t make comments about their choices.

Asshole: It’s okay, she’s my wife. (he resumes his criticism)

Me: I don’t care who she is, sir. You can’t do that.

Asshole: Oh, for Pete’s sake. (to his wife) Will you tell this girl that it’s okay?

Wife: Leave me out of this. I am trying to vote.

Asshole: (to his wife) What?

Me: Sir, if you’re finished, you need to leave the polling place.

Asshole: Are you kidding me?

Me: No.

Asshole: Oh, come on! Who do you think you are?

Me: I’m a Judge of Election, and if you won’t leave because I say so, then I’m sure this nice policeman will show you to the door.

I swear to god readers, that I said exactly that. And I swear to god that that fucking awesome cop took a step forward at that moment and rested one hand on his holstered department-issued .38 revolver, and with the other hand, gestured toward the doorway.

You know, it’s moments like those that make life worth living.

Another time, the polling place was in a firehouse, and we had to set up right alongside the engines. When I went to use the restroom, I noticed that a picture of Mayor Daley (fils), who was then embroiled in some rather nasty negotiations with the firemen’s union, was posted in the middle of their rec room dart board. Let’s just say that Hizzoner had become quite a popular target. In the middle of that Election Day, the firehouse got a call, and all the vehicle doors suddenly went up in preparation for the engines to pull out, and I had to dive on top of the judge’s table to keep our voting records from blowing out the doors and into the middle of Lincoln Avenue.

Or was it Halsted Street? I don’t remember. But I do remember the year with the crazy woman judge. First of all, she was a Republican judge, which was kind of crazy in itself, because there were no discernible Republicans in Chicago, and you usually had to wrangle some Democratic judge into playing the Republican just so you could fulfill your fairness quota and get your polling place open. Anyway, most of the day this crazy Republican Judge of Election sort of yammered away, kind of to herself, taking a moment out, from time to time, to announce to the entire room what tv show she was missing, and what she thought was probably happening on that show at that particular moment.

Then, for no reason that I could fathom, she walked into the middle of the room and decided to speculate, out loud, on the probable ethnic backgrounds of various candidates, and how their ethnicity would affect their ability to perform their jobs. She started by announcing that she was pretty sure that a particular candidate was a Jew, and that Jews were not the most trustworthy of people.

I was stunned. Several voters stared at her with jaws gaping. Seeing as how there was no sympathetic cop around that year to help me out, I grabbed one of her senior friends by the arm and hissed at them all that they had to stop her. They all shrugged. That was who she was, they said. You couldn’t stop her. After several minutes of absolute mortification, I finally thought to suggest to that crazy bitch that she was neglecting her ballot box-stuffing duties, and that seemed to bring an end to her discourse.

The next day, I called the Republican ward office and told them what happened, and said that I wouldn’t want that woman representing my party. I thought it was nice of me, considering how she was making a jackass of herself whilst where a large badge that said “Republican” in bold red letters. The woman on the phone thanked me profusely for calling. I thought that was the end of it.

Until I was called in to testify downtown at a hearing to remove her, officially, from ever being a Judge of Election again.

Yeah. I took 80 bucks away from a crazy old lady.

Anyways, during my testimony, her “defense strategy” was to accuse me of everything she had read in the statement that I’d made regarding her actions on that day. So, the crazy lady would stand up periodically and point at me and say, for example, “That’s nothing! You know what she did? She called the alderman a Jew! In front of everyone!” Or she would say “Well, she said that Mexicans didn't even bother to vote!” Or “Well, she said the ballots didn’t have to total up exactly right!”

And each time, I would reply, “No, that’s what you said.” Over and over, I corrected her, until I was so completely frustrated and worn down that I finally actually contemplated, for a moment, just confessing to everything myself, because it would have been easier than having to answer back to every one of her transparent fucking idiotic lies.

So, I suppose you all heard that Dick Cheney this week accused Obama of “politicizing the Justice Department.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Perhaps there are no better words to eulogize Ted Kennedy than those he used to eulogize his own brother Bobby in 1968. It is a brilliant speech that builds to these famous lines:

"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

There was a time when we all thought that that speech would be all Teddy would be remembered for.

Poor Teddy. Teddy the baby brother, the fat one, the fuck up. Teddy who came too late to benefit from the press's reluctance to air the soiled skivvies of the Kennedys. But in the end, Teddy reformed himself and became the best thing he could have become: a wealthy man who fought against his own interests and for the benefit of those less privileged than he.

It is a shame that he died without passing health care reform. If all those senators on the other side of the aisle who have occupied themselves today with expressing their affection for their old nemesis, the Lion of the Senate, would only consider how they might more appropriately honor him.

I know that they don't want to pass a bill that would be viewed as a Democratic success story. Social Security and Medicare were both passed by Democrats, and are two of the most popular, ahem, socialist programs in the history of that legislative body. The Republicans don't want a repeat of those victories, plain and simple. And if you think their obstruction of reform amounts to much more than that, then I have a little bridge in Chappaquiddick I'd like to sell you.

But those distinguished senators should consider that instead of obstructing an acheivement that will save thousands of American lives, and impove millions more, they might instead reflect upon some lesser known words of the Lion:

"Surely we can learn to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us, and become in our own hearts, brothers and countrymen once again...Moral courage is a greater commodity than bravery in battle, or great intelligence. Yet is is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change the world that yields most painfully to change."

Friday, August 21, 2009

The crowd goes wild

Some of my longtime readers will remember this post from nearly two years ago, in which I rail against the worship of political unicorns.

It starts out like this:

Anyone out there who still believes in a politician who is without strategic lapses of morality, even his or her own morality, please come and stand next to me.

So that I can kick you in the ass.

Look, baby, politicians compromise. That’s what they do. They can not, and do not, get where they are without compromising. A lot. More than the most jaded among us would like, in fact.

Ad infinitum, in perpetuity throughout the universe, forever and ever, amen.

And ends like this:

Because I am tired of you fucking idealistic Democrats. Because once you find out your candidate is human, you become the most tiresome, whining, petulant, bitter people on the face of the earth. You swear you will never vote again, ever! You issue stern warnings to your friends that even though you do not agree on any issue, you will vote Republican, because at least they’re not stupid Democrats! You are the people I see walking around with a martyred expression and a “Ron Paul for President” button. You are the people standing at those tables outside the grocery store, trying to convince me that Lyndon LaRouche is not a card-carrying loon.

And so people, I hope that this little incident from the Obama campaign drives home my point, which is that there is no magic candidate. There is NO ONE running in this race who hasn’t done some pretty stinky things because he or she thought it would help them politically. There are no fairy tale contenders. No Prince Charmings, no wizards, no vaguely Christ-like talking lions – nothing.

Except for Kucinich, who I’m pretty sure is some kind of elf.

Ha! Ha! Kucinich jokes! Remember those?

But I stand by my post, and it’s more relevant now than ever, as scores of lefties begin their quadrannual migration away from the balmy climes of idealism and into the frigid regions of realization that their candidate is, after all, a politician, and no politician has ever succeeded at being a politician without also being a politician.

To translate this into more prosaic language for those who are too busy donating their old Shepard Fairey t-shirts and deleting campaign videos from their hard drives to be able to catch my drift – to translate this for them – Obama is doing the best he can.

Yes, I understand that it’s not good enough for you. And that’s fine. Continue to push for what you want, of course. In fact, please do, because it’s my personal belief that the leftist agenda is where all, or in fact any, hope for us lies. Please, make a stink. Write letters or emails. Vote in online polls. Give your elected representative a piece of your mind, goddammit. Write smug, long-winded political rants on your personal blogs. Please. Really, please. Because without the left, the middle is in the right.

Know what I mean?

What you should please not do, or at least please not do in front of me, is fucking whimper about how disappointed you are that Obama is not who you thought he was. Because who the fuck did you think he was, and, more importantly, who the fuck are you?

Obama will get a health care reform bill with a public option passed if he can. If he can’t…he can’t. Now, you may not like that. I don’t like it. I think a health care reform bill without a public option is fairly close to being a fucking oxymoron, and I’m not alone, by the way. And you may disagree with what constitutes the “can’t,” but you should also realize that we have only the tiniest crumb of an idea of the stuff of which that “can’t” consists. There are ten thousand ways he tries that we will never know about, not because we shouldn’t, but because that’s just the way our government rolls. He will bargain away things that we would rather he didn’t. He will pay any price he considers worth paying to get what he wants. That’s how it works. And you can argue the value of the chips all you want, but you can’t put the system on Obama’s head. Sorry. It’s not within his power to change that. And if he told you that he could, he was lying.

Is that shocking to you? Really? If so, may I recommend that you give up the following of current events, and instead immerse yourself in the glorious world of science fiction? You’ll have lots of company, and no one will ever make you know the name of another congressperson or cabinet member or undersecretary of the blah blah blah ever again. Sure, you’ll have to learn Klingon, but at least SoH DIchDaq Hegh tlhej quv!

And I swear, you can hate Obama for making you believe that he could change the world if you want to, but it’d be just another foolish action by just another fool. Obama is not the boss of us. He’s not king. He’s not your god, either, he’s just a good player in a very fucked up game.

And besides, who’s not to say that he hasn’t already changed the world? Maybe we’re just not looking in the right place. Obama stepped up and volunteered to be our collective Jackie Robinson. And sure, he’ll be in the history books just for managing, and I’m still not sure how he did it, to get elected president. And if he also accomplishes something in the next four to eight years, he’ll get credit for that, too, and lots of it. But in the meantime, he’ll have to take a few spikes to the shinbone. He’ll have to listen to the taunting, and the name-calling, and he’ll never be able to answer back the way he’d really like. But that’s what he signed up for. He could’ve stayed down in the minors, but he didn’t. And so, the pressure’s on him. I hope he can take it. I hope that he, like Jackie, keeps his head down and learns to shut out the insults and plugs away the best he can.

And you know what? Here’s something I wouldn’t admit to just anyone: I believe he has my best interest at heart. What he can manage to accomplish in this ferkakta cesspool of a rich man’s world, is another story.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's people!

Look, it’s not ignorance I object to, it’s willful ignorance. Americans have made a religion of elevating their opinion, or their “gut,” to such an extent that it occupies the same rarified strata as the facts, and the worship of this religion of ignorance has gained such a foothold in American culture that its proponents were even able to propel their King of Dumbass Kings, George W. Bush, to the highest office in the land for 8 long, unabashedly and gleefully ignorant years.

But what do you expect from a country in which NASCAR drivers are admired as heroes, and activists like Al Gore are reviled as dorks and losers?

And before the liberal sniggering begins over the admittedly inexplicable worship by one half of this nation of dudes who excel at driving cars fast in a circle, let me propose a less popular target amongst the latte-swilling crowd: Lance Armstrong. Because the hero worship of Armstrong is such a typically American load of horseshit.

I have nothing against Armstrong personally. He seems to be very good at riding a bike. He also survived gonad cancer, which is great for him, but my point is that surviving a disease isn’t a selfless act. It is an act of immediate self-preservation. It may be inspirational for those who suffer from cancer, and perhaps those enamored of brightly-colored formulaic arm accessories, to recall Armstrong’s various feats of strength and stamina, but nothing he has ever done, including enduring the taunts of Frenchmen, will ever make the cancer of a single one of his fans go away. You know who might make cancer go away one day? Some dork. Some long-hour-working, incredibly smart and dedicated dork in a lab – just like the other smart dorks in different kinds of labs all over the world who are, at this very second, calling up Al Gore and saying “You know, this whole global warming thing is looking a little worse than we thought. Could you maybe make another documentary, or win another Nobel prize, because no one seems to give a shit. They’re all too busy watching alpha rednecks drive cars very fast in a circle, or wondering if Lance Armstrong emerged from the mountains with the yellow jersey.”

Maybe the global warming people should come up with their own stretchy colored bracelet. It could be green, to commemorate the color the earth used to be before the oceans rose and our civilization was reduced to the plot of a spectacularly bad Kevin Costner vehicle. I’m not sure what they should write on the bracelet, though. Lance’s says “LIVE STRONG.” Maybe theirs should say “HOLY FUCKING SHIT WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!”

Again, I’m not impugning Armstrong’s character. And I don’t mean to pick on athletes in general. Athletes, usually, just want to play and get paid. It’s our culture that worships or condemns them out of all proportion. And ultimately, it’s wrong to blame the fiddle for the incineration of Rome.

And speaking of allusions to the demise of a great civilization, if the McCain/Palin platform wasn’t the very embodiment of Nero fiddling, then I’m not sure what could possibly ever be.

Palin, the acknowledged heir apparent to the Dumbass crown, continues, long after the point when anyone should be listening to her, to yammer on about completely stupid, disingenuous self-serving crap. And her inexplicable worshipers – who apparently follow after her because she’s a mom*, or because she drops her Gs, or whatever stupid goddamn reason they follow her, continue to think that she makes sense. And why? Because – here we go again – they feel it. In their guts.

Well, maybe it’s better if they think back to their school days, back to when education perhaps actually meant something to them, and think what their teachers would’ve made of what passes for acceptable political discourse these days. Yeah, maybe they should ask their old English teachers what they think of Sarah Palin, because I’m pretty sure that the two words that won’t pass their lips in response are “makes sense.”

Goddamn but the whole country seems addicted to dumbassery these days, whether it’s the fucking stupid old people who think that now that Charlton Heston is dead, the US government is finally free to initiate Operation Soylent Green, and euthanize their moronic asses under the guise of healthcare reform, or the comically enraged white dudes who believe all the congressional and radio and TV yammerers who say that Obama and Sotomayor are racists.

Yes, they’re my favorite dumbasses of all, those who refuse to see that an acknowledgment of the struggle is not an endorsement of favoritism. But then, the only thing those old white dudes have to struggle with is to not say the N word when their mike is live.

I dunno, though, we’re all so invested in the ignorant and the dumbass, how can we just give it up, cold turkey? How can we put down the reality television and the Fox News and the “Transformers” franchise just like that? And what would happen to Christianity, if people stopped attributing the outcomes of their lives to a mythical being, and believed that their own actions had the power to move us all forward? Would the world crumble? I mean, more than it already is?

Stay tuned, readers. The pendulum may have reached the furthest point on its dumbass swing, which, if true, means we may finally be on the verge of an age of enlightenment. We may, as a collective human society, finally begin the essential movement forward and away from our own destruction.

Or not. You know. What the fuck do I know? All I know is that I am beat, and besides, all those episodes of “Bridezillas” on my DVR aren’t going to watch themselves.

*Like there's never been an ignorant one of those.