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.


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


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. 


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.