Saturday, April 28, 2012

Crazy-10, Darwin-0

Ya know, sometimes I’m glad I’m on the downside of my lifecycle because lately it seems like the whole world done gone plum loco!

Okay, maybe I don’t mean the entire world. There are some sane and rational places left, and as soon as I figure where they are, I’ll be happy to clue you in. But I can tell you for sure that Tennessee and couple of other places aren’t on that list.

The Tennessee legislature never ceases to amaze me when it comes to choosing to spend its time (and the public’s money) dwelling on issues that will do nothing to solve the 8% unemployment there or their dismal educational rankings among the nation’s schools. Instead, they seem to spend an inordinate (and if you ask me, downright creepy) amount of time focusing on the sexual and gender mores of its citizenry. It’s as if the entire governing body is made up of the John Lithgow minister character in the movie Footloose.

This state, which forces an abstinence-only curriculum on their schools, ironically ranks in the top ten states when it comes to teenage pregnancies, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that when you tell hormone driven teens not to do something that feels that good, they are bound to listen. 

I’ve written about these folks in past blogs, and particularly the one entitled Let My People Pee, in which they tried to pass a law prohibiting transgendered folk from using the public facilities of their new gender. In that case, they wanted to station guards outside public bathrooms to prevent bodily waste from accidentally co-mingling with that of the other gender, and thus spawning a new Sodom and/or Gomorrah.

The latest adventure of this august legislative body (am I allowed to say body without inducing spontaneous orgies in Tennesseans?) is to ban hand-holding in their schools because it is, get ready for it, a “gateway sexual activity”. It makes me wonder what is going on in their public schools. Are students so horny that they break out in to spontaneous intercourse on their way to creationist biology class? It seems to me that if they really want to ban such urges to merge, they ought to also pass a law against serving apples at lunch, since that’s what caused Adam and Eve’s downfall. That makes about the same amount of sense as banning hand holding.

Now, you would think that something as crazy as this would pass with only the thinnest of voting margins wouldn’t you? In fact the Tennessee Senate passed it by a vote of 28-1, with the lone, sensible dissent coming from Sen. Beverly Marrero, who said

"All of us realize that abstinence is the absolutely only way to prevent any kind of sexually transmitted disease." But teens contending with raging hormones need honest information, not unrealistic nonsense about how hand-holding leads to getting knocked up. And really, with a Sex Ed program like this, it's a shock that Tennessee ranks in the top 10 for number of pregnant teenagers, isn't it?"

Guess who will be eating lunch alone in the Tennessee Legislature’s lunchroom from now on?

Why stop there though? If hand holding is a gateway sexual activity, what happens when you combine it with alcohol?  It’s crystal clear to me that the Tennessee legislature should convene in emergency session and pass legislation banning such bar drinks as the Mountain Dew Me, the Slippery Bald Beaver, the Bend over Shirley, the Butt Sex, the Suck, Bang and Blow, Sex on my Face, Sex on the Beach, and finally, The Blow Job. But then again, what would the male members of the Legislature have to titter lasciviously about in the bars after all their hard work a-legislatin all day if not for these drinks?

 It’s interesting to note too that all of these drinks are female oriented and not particularly complimentary to women. Perhaps these good ole boys should teach their men folk a little bit more in the way of respecting women and not assume that just because they hold hands with them, that it is the gateway to sex.

Abstinence, along with gender preference and sexual identity is a personal choice, not a legislative one, and the Tennessee legislature needs to get their collective libidos in check, get some therapy, and get back to the business of rescuing their state. Tennessee is, after all, the Volunteer State, and abstinence et al should fall into that category, not the “do it or you’ll be fined, fired or imprisoned” one.

As crazy as Tennessee is, it seems to be getting a run for its money by Arizona. Apparently the 110 degree ‘dry heat’ seems to be getting the better of them, because in the last couple of years they have passed laws that among other things, allows you to bring a loaded, concealed weapon into a bar, forbids welfare recipients from having the “niceties” of life such as cable television or a car, repealed KidsCare, a health plan for poor children, and an immigration law which allows the police to demand “papers” from anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant (Colonel Klink for Governor!). Oh yes, they also have a law that demands presidential candidates provide birth certificates if they are to run for President of the United States in Arizona. Hmmm... I wonder what made them come up with that one.

But the one that takes the cake, at least in the United States, is a newly signed law by Governor Jan Brewer (female) that has determined, through exhaustive research I’m sure, that life now begins before conception.

Well of course it does Arizona! Everyone knows that. And unicorns live in New Jersey, along with stepping on a crack being the leading cause of breaking your mother’s back.
What the hell is going on here?

What’s going on is that is that there is a patriarchal cabal taking place in our country. This is a concerted, unified effort by ultra-right wing to keep the power to achieve real social change away from women and every other social and ethnic minority. The ole boys who have managed to keep us all in check for a good long time are losing their grip on directing the show and they know it. And so the only way they can effectively keep women barefoot and pregnant is to effectively take away control of their bodies. And shame on Jan Brewer for being a traitor to her own gender for the sake of some stupid governorship and for being a toady to the machine which funds her campaigns.

But I’ve saved the best for last.

Al Arabiya News has reported that in Egypt, the majority Islamist Parliament has drafted a law entitled the Farewell Intercourse Law, which would entitle the husband of the deceased woman to have sex with the corpse for up to six hours after the death. Why six hours? I don’t know, but can only surmise that even Islamist extremists have an “icky” rule when it comes to necrophilia.

To be fair and balanced, Moroccan ‘cleric’ Zamzami Abdul Bari, claimed that the woman should be afforded the same “privilege” with her dead husband. Well, thank goodness for that. What a progressive society!  Can Tennessee and Arizona be far behind?

The truth is, as crazy as we Americans view the habits of those fundamentalist religious radicals “over there”, we have an ample supply of them here as well. All have as primary goals suppression of free will and thought. All achieve their goals through oppression and elimination of expression in the name of God or Allah. All are self-anointed power hungry bullies who use intimidation, fear, and severe consequences to enforce their power. The only difference, however, between what happens ‘over there’ versus ‘here’ is that our crazies cloak their insanity under the guise of democracy.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!   

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thank God I'm a Heathen.

When I was seventeen years old, I was the smartest human being to ever grace the planet. Oh, there was nothing left to learn I believed, because I had been born with an innate knowledge of everything. I was particularly unreceptive to anyone older, wiser, or more experienced in the ways of the world. As a result of my youthful idiocy, I also became one of the most stubborn individuals on earth. Why else would my first car have been a ten year old, 1960 Rambler American, which refused to ever start and whose new car smell was ‘mildew’? Yes, I had been warned repeatedly against buying it by mechanics and friends. But their criticisms of the wisdom in throwing one hundred hard-earned summer job dollars down the drain fell on deaf ears. I was firmly convinced that I knew better, and that the car was not only salvageable, but that with just a couple of  dollars worth of parts, I would soon be tooling around town in it and thumbing my nose at the naysayers who doubted my genius in getting such a bargain. Through sheer stubbornness and hubris, I maintained this position right up until I paid the towing guy thirty-five dollars more to haul it to the junkyard, which I assume is where it rests until this day.    
You see, the inherent and inevitable down side to being stubborn is that unless you are correct in your opinions 100% of the time (an impossibility, I’ve since learned), hubris, the root of stubbornness, prevents you from redacting previous opinions without losing face. If you are a sensible, mature, thinking human, you will learn to be open to new ideas, weigh their validity, and eventually make an informed decision based on data, rather than emotion. For the chronically stubborn however, logic and common sense has no place in your decision making process; maintaining power and position is all that matters.  

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though being a leader of an organized religion these days requires a Doctorate in stubbornness. Let’s take a look at a recent brouhaha instigated by Pope Benedict XVI, over some recent statements made by, of all people, (gasp) nuns, the second-class citizens of the Catholic Church.

A recent New York Times article (4-18-12) by Laurie Goodstein, with the headline, The Vatican Reprimands a group of US nuns and plans changes opened with the following:

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest
and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying
that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems”.

Wow. That’s pretty serious stuff. You have to get a little jittery when a pope uses words like “rein in”, “investigation” and “serious doctrinal problems”. Can you say Inquisition? Gee, I wonder what crime these nuns gone wild are guilty of? Could it be Heresy? Blasphemy? Gluttony? You know how much nuns love angel food cake!

According to the article, the members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, dared to question church teaching on male-only priesthood and homosexuality. What’s more, the Vatican added insult to injury by accusing the rogue nuns of promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”. And as if those ‘crimes’ weren’t worth at least two hours on the rack, these sinning sisters of God were chastised for “focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping silent on abortion and same-sex marriage” according to Ms. Goodstein’s article.

I have to interject something here. When this article was brought to my attention by a friend, I found quite difficult to believe it was genuine and not the product of The Onion, a satirical and brilliant online magazine, or one of its many imitators. But then I began to recollect my own years of being associated with the Catholic Church and all doubt slipped away.

As a product of the pre-Ecumenical Council Catholicism, I still bear the scars and guilt of many of its ‘teachings’. Among those lessons was that of the infallibility of the Pope. I was taught that because he was the authorized representative of God on earth and leader of one true holy and apostolic Church. He was by virtue of his election by fallible men, now infallible. As a child, this made no sense to me. It makes even less as an adult. What is to stop anyone from declaring themselves infallible and then legitimizing such a claim with threats or reprisal? That being said, if the Pope is infallible, and his directives are correct 100% of the time, why then is this Church so flawed? Well, the answer is sort of a Catch 22. If you accept that the Pope is infallible, then you also must accept all that he says as gospel. Thus, these nuns are way out of line and in direct violation of the Church’s doctrines. If however you find that the idea of a human being infallible somewhat discomforting (as many Catholics do), then you open the Church’s teachings up to scrutiny and criticism, two things it has always been able to suppress in the past through ostracism, violence and torture.

Having spent the first twelve years of my life deeply immersed in the Catholic faith, I can tell you that in general, nuns are pretty cool people. They live austere lives for the most part, do all the grunt work and get none of the perks that the priests do. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at the patriarchal arrangement that the men in the Catholic Church have set up for themselves to see why they balk at allowing women to become priests. Why what would happen if women were suddenly allowed to be equal?  They might become bishops or worse-Pope.

As for challenging the Church’s view on homosexuality, it’s about time someone did. With all the disgraceful behavior of some of its priests coming to the foreground after years of cover-up, maybe it’s finally time to admit that voluntary celibacy is an impossible myth to live up to. Maybe it’s also time to put aside the idea that sex, straight or gay, is something shameful and sinful and allow these religious folk, who want nothing more than to spread love and charity in their communities to simply be allowed to do so. And maybe then, the Catholic Church will start to see its ranks begin to grow again instead of exponentially shrinking as it is now.

How can someone who claims to be infallible even entertain the idea that those who purport to be Jesus’ messengers spend too much of their time on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage? It just boggles my mind.

Perhaps a little radical feminism is needed in Catholicism. Surely it couldn’t hurt. One needs to only look around and see that there are female ministers and rabbis doing God’s work all over the world. The Bible itself is rife with strong, proactive women championing its cause. Joan of Arc led an army and was executed in a most unpleasant way in the name of the Catholic Church. Bernadette was chosen to have beatific visions and Mother Teresa changed the world with her simple message of love for the poor. Why doesn’t the Vatican get it then? The only answer I can come up with is that of stubbornness based on hubris. And the last time I was in a church, Pride was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

But the Vatican won’t yield to change now because to do so would be admit that it was wrong. And so it will continue to see its congregations and its clergy members diminish over time. It will not listen to the opinions of those more connected to the real world than they. And eventually, it will, like my old Rambler, wind up in the junkyard of religions with a place in history alongside the others who have disappeared.

There is a place for religion in the world, I believe. For all of its flaws and contradictions, the idea of it is one that binds most us morally. Even Karl Marx could see the value of it. His quote, “Religion is the opium of the people” has been battered a bit because it is taken out of context. Here is the actual piece, and it is worth reading.

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.

For religion to work, truly work, it must resolve to make heaven on earth, not beyond it. It must put aside its haughtiness and hypocrisy and acknowledge its humanity. If it believes that we are children of God, made in God’s image, then we are all equal and fallible. To use the idea of God and a distress-free afterlife as a means out of one’s earthly distress is the true abomination. The problems of the world don’t come from gays marrying someone they love or abortion or radical feminism. Those are being used as targets to control people. Freedom to think and challenge conventions are the answer, not repression and ‘investigations’ of those who dare to speak up. Jesus’ teachings or any of those of the world’s religions aren’t based on fear, they are based in love.

I truly hope that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious stands its ground and doesn’t succumb to the Vatican’s bullying. Prove Marx wrong and make us all believers that this is not a heartless or spiritless world. Claim your right to question and better those things in which you believe and others of like mind will find you.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Resolve, Re-solve.

Well, I’m a little overdue, but I’ve finally made my New Year’s resolutions! Yes, I know that it’s nearly May, and believe me, I WILL NOT PROCRASTINATE is right at the very top of my list, but I take this stuff seriously and feel that it is worthy of nearly 5 months deliberation.

Okay, I lied. Procrastination is the ONLY thing on my list of resolutions. Actually, there really isn’t really a list per se, since I never got around to making one. There’s just this nagging feeling that no matter what I think about doing, somehow it will never manifest itself into word or deed.

There is a saying that reads, “Procrastination is the thief of our tomorrows”. If that is true, I should have died in 1986 because I can find a reason to put off anything.

Take writing, for instance. In 2002 I started a book about my experiences growing up around mental illness and alcoholism. By all accounts of those who read it, it was a pretty good book. I received lots of emotional support and people were asking almost weekly, “Hey, how’s the book coming along?” Of course I’d respond, “Great! It will be finished in about a year.” Of course I didn’t say which year, and the damned thing is still sitting in a file cabinet drawer with the other two books I’ve started and never finished.

And then there’s this blog, which is probably the only successful thing I’ve ever written. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put off writing it, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t wannnnnnaaa.

Well see, now that’s an interesting, insightful glimpse into the workings of my psyche that I’ve never noticed before. The adult in me wants to write constantly, simply because I love watching these things come together. It’s like figuring out who the killer is in a mystery novel, you know? And then of course there is the sense of accomplishment in seeing how many folks actually read the thing. So, that’s a positive, I guess.

But then there’s this little kid inside me-this miserable, rebellious, snotty child who resents any kind of authority. And when she feels the pressure of others to produce something, she says “fuck you, no one is going to tell me what to do”, and moves on to something else. The kid logic of course is of the I’ll show them variety; but of course I’ve only ended up hurting myself over and over again by running away.

It happened in comedy too. The minute I got successful, I got a writer’s block that rivaled the Berlin Wall in size. It got so bad that I had to run away yet again. True, the transgender part of it was an obstacle, but the truth is I could have gotten back much earlier than I did. I ran away for one reason only; I was afraid of being successful. And I’ve done it with every job, and every relationship that I have ever had.

What makes it so aggravating is that I know what the problem is. I know that I possess the innate ability to be successful, or to lose weight, or to love someone and accept their love in return. The adult in me understands it. But it’s that damned kid who can’t quite get it. And as foolish as that statement looks to me on the screen as an adult, the kid locks herself away from people time after time in order not to be hurt again. It’s a never-ending battle between ‘adult’ me and ‘The Kid’ me.

Now before you all start thinking, well, she just suffers from depression, let me stop you. I know that already. Yes it is depression and about a half dozen other things. Sometimes it’s worse than others and sometimes it is entirely manageable. Sometimes I can catch it before it goes blooey and  head it off at the pass. But it always begins as it is now; with the gnawing dissatisfaction with the way things are and an intense desire to just wish the pain away.

The truth is, I’m just afraid. The fear inside me is getting so bad, that lately, instead of procrastinating forever, I am beginning to just sever things rather than waiting to see how they work out. So, in one way, I am dealing with the procrastination issue, albeit in a negative way.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just that in old age I am realizing that I no long have the luxury of time to work through the fear. Even at this late stage in life, when success seems just within my reach, I will walk away in failure rather than face success and the problems that brings. Like an old boxer who should just stay down and take the count, I keep getting up and fighting some more in the hope that maybe this time it will be different; but it hasn’t up till this point.

Usually the pattern of defeat goes like this. I get charged up about something and plunge into it totally unprepared. It’s like getting on the famous Atlantic City Diving Horse without any training and expecting a smooth plunge with nary a ripple. And when that doesn’t happen, when I break something emotionally and don’t have that immediate success, my fears begin to take root. Sooner rather than later, I always seem to find a reason to sabotage it. And more often than not, I seem to take down the good people who believed in me as well. There is an abrogation of their trust which only serves to justify this sense of not feeling worthy of anything remotely joyous.    

See, now there’s another insight! Failure has always been a comfort for me. By laying low and staying under the radar, it was impossible for people to see me. But to succeed at anything would have meant facing people’s criticisms of my work or love.

I wonder how many people find this state of mind to be as debilitating as I do.

I’m feeling the cycle begin again, which is probably what prompted me write this. Believe me; I had originally intended this piece to be a humorous at worst and funny if possible. Sometimes though, you just have to let the fingers on the keyboard go where they want, and hope for the best. That’s the part I love about the creative process. The downside to spontaneous writing is of course this; what if you, the reader just gets fed up with my whining about childhood and fear, creative paralysis and just go watch Dancing with the Stars instead? What if all you want to read is the funny stuff and I can’t produce it today? It’s a bit manic I know, but such is the bane of the writer.

The answer to the question for whom am I writing, goes way back to the very beginning of this blog. Back in December I vowed that for once I would write for my pleasure and not my potential readers’. My hope, of course, was that you would join me and connect, and you certainly have done that beyond any expectations I had. For that I thank you. But honesty must prevail here, above all things or there is no point in writing at all. Writing for the pleasure one gets in the approval of others is just mental masturbation. And when the audience leaves, so does the pleasure. I think it is far more fulfilling for me as a writer to explore and report the reasons we do things. In the long run, it will benefit my writing and thus make future essays perhaps a bit more interesting, don’t you think?

Moving right along though, there are dozens of other resolutions I’ve made over the years that have been overturned by The Kid’s oppositional defiance, such as becoming a comedian instead of 9 to 5ing it for my entire life. Of all the things I’ve attempted and been moderately successful at, stand-up is the one that has filled gaping voids in my heart and given me great joy as well as its inverse.

Hey, an interesting thing just happened between paragraphs. I just got a phone call from a comedian friend of mine and in the course of a three minute conversation; he brought up the subject of his phobias and fears... totally unsolicited from me! How weird is that?

I guess we all have bugaboos that jump out of the darkness in disguise and try to scare us. It makes you wonder how most of us get through the day sometimes.

Maybe resolutions aren’t the way to go after all. To resolve is such an adult word and it carries the connotation of consequences for not following through on it. Besides, most of those resolutions fall by the wayside after a very short time anyway. I want something that’s going to last.

 Perhaps what I need to do is parent myself a little- you know, try to coax The Kid into growing up. I know that the rule book of life that I’ve been using is the same one I used to protect myself from the crazy that I experienced so long ago, so maybe it’s time to institute some new rules

And so what if I don’t fix myself totally? Trying to do that would be an endless task, because I would always find something new to work on. No, maybe the best thing is to just let it all unfold, not fight it and most of all not fear it. Success doesn’t have to be monetary; that isn’t it. Success, for me at least, is in seeing something through to the end, regardless of how it ends. Some stuff will work out the way I had hoped, and some won’t. But I will never know how it ends if I just walk away from it.

Okay, there’s my resolution for 2012; think stuff through and be sure you want to attempt it. And once you attempt it, don’t give up on it. Yeah, that’s one I can live with.

Tonight’s essay was necessary; for me and maybe for you too. That is my hope. Now I have to go write a comedy sketch for my Wednesday night Show, Julia Scotti’s Comedy Test Kitchen. I wonder how it will end.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!



Friday, April 13, 2012

Are You lookin at ME?

I’m a big fan of paranoia, and I would be a lot more vocal about it if I weren’t afraid of being hauled off the street and thrown into a black van by burly thugs as I walked leisurely to Mr. Gower’s drug store for a sasparilla. 

I say this because paranoia has run in my family for generations and we’ve grown comfortable with it. True, I can’t sit with my back to a window because at age six my mother had me convinced that an errant bullet would come crashing through the window and cause my untimely death, but I’m okay with that. And you may not believe this but about twelve years ago, a bullet actually DID come through my window and nearly killed me. And no, it wasn’t my mother sitting in a sniper’s nest outside, trying to teach me a lesson.

The first time I realized just how paranoid I was occurred on November 22, 1963, the day that President Kennedy was shot. I remember lying in bed that night fearful, teary and certain that Lee Harvey Oswald had not acted alone, and the person who had really shot the President was not only still on the loose, but climbing up the side of my building with the sole intention of hiding out in my second floor bedroom.

Even now it creeps up behind me occasionally and taps me on the shoulder just to let me know it’s still around. Today for instance, I was checking the stats on this blog and saw that one person from Italy had read it. Right away I’m thinking, Jeez, I hope it wasn’t the Pope reading my Easter essay. He might be really pissed, send a cadre of secret Swiss Army guys to kidnap me, and take me back to Rome for a little “renouncement” of my heathen ways, if you know what I mean.  

Of course that is more than a bit egotistical, even for me. I doubt that the Pope reads this blog, right? I mean he has a lot more on his plate and is so backed up with work. Look how long it took him to forgive Galileo. Still, someone in Italy read it, so why not him? Naw...couldn’t be.

The good news about embracing and assimilating paranoia into my DNA is that finally ... FINALLY, the entire country is catching up with me. That means either three hundred and some odd million people are mentally ill, or I am a visionary!

Think about it. As a people we are convinced there is danger EVERYWHERE. Just look at any news source on a daily basis and you can see it. Here’s a partial list of just how paranoid we’ve become. For example, we live in dread fear of

1. Global warming
2. Homosexuals
3. Mexicans
4. Mexican homosexuals
5, Any Middle Eastern country that starts with the letter “I” or ends with “stan”
6. The Chinese
7. Guns
8. Conservatives
9. Liberals
10. Mexican Homosexual Liberals and Conservatives
11 The Government
12. Anyone who is religious
13. Mexican Homosexual Liberal Religious Conservative Atheists         
14. Fracking
15. The economy
16. The Mayans
17. The Muslims
18. The Mormons
19. The Mennonites
20. The Methodists

By the way, no one is really afraid of Mennonites or Methodists. I just went overboard on alliteration. The Mormons however, are a crafty bunch, and if you’re gay, try to stay on their good side. 

Things got so paranoid here in America that for a while, even breast milk was under suspicion for containing dangerous toxins. BREAST MILK for God’s sake! Next it’ll be exploding suicide puppies or terrorist cats connected with an international ring of felines know as Al-Cat-A

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
-          For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield, 1966

You were soooooooo right Buffalo Springfield. Paranoia does indeed strike deep. So much so, that over the last three to four generations we have become a frozen nation who are afraid to step out of the box  for fear that we might be labeled as a dangerous non-conformist. The onslaught of information that overloads us constantly is gnawing away at our individuality. We are gradually learning to march in lockstep with groups rather than skipping along merrily to our own tune.  And why? Because more and more, we are being told to fear this or hate that, or that this group is planning to hurt us, while the other group cries out and says the same things.

We’ve got to stop believing everything that a few people tell us, folks. Stop believing the news, the politicians, or the radio station that tells you what music you should like or dislike. Stop believing the Facebook crazies, the bloggers, including me, and start thinking for yourself. Read a book. Think. Form an opinion and stick with it based on what you know, not what people scream at you from a box in your living room.

I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that all of this was some genius, Machiavellian plot to reconstruct society into a kowtowing group of sheep.  Of course, I can say   that because I’ve already admitted to being generationally imbued with paranoia. But you don’t have to. You can still think for yourself, can’t you?

Don’t be afraid to challenge convention. Today, right now, and from this day on, THINK before it’s too late. Or you may wake up one day and hear yourself say,

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
everybody look what's going down

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It isn't finished.

I think I need therapy. This morning, as I indulged in the orgasmic daily experience that is my morning coffee (black with 1 Splenda) I flipped on the television to find the movie musical Godspell running. After five minutes of watching, I turned to Katy, my replacement cat, and said, “These people are stoned and this is a stupid movie”, at which point I flipped off the TV, grabbed my rainbow emblazoned mug o’Joe, and came here into my office to write. Tried as I might, I just couldn’t seem to focus on the topic I wanted to cover, which was the state of race relations in America because something about my reaction to the movie bothered me immensely. I may still get around to the original topic by the end of this entry, but I can’t promise you anything.

Sitting here yet again in front of the blank computer screen, desperately searching for that magical combination of words to form an attention grabbing opening sentence, I kept going back to my comment to Katy. Why did this Love Generation version of the Bible fill me with contempt for the people onscreen? Why was their naiveté and innocence about as inspirational as a Mitt Romney extended version recording of God Bless America? And why was I talking to a cat?

Part of the explanation for my malaise could probably be explained by the fact that it was 6:30 on a Sunday morning and I was pissed at Katy for waking me up way too soon. She, like me, is a creature of habit, and doesn’t understand any break in routine. At 6:30 each weekday morning, she stands on my chest while I’m in bed, puts her head close to me and meows very loudly in my face. This is her subtle cat way of letting me know that she’d like some breakfast. As smart as she is, she knows not that Sunday is a day to sleep in.

But the real issue I took with the movie was that it represented a time in my life that seems so distant and alien to me now. When Godspell was new, so was I. I had the future to look forward to and all the power of creation at my disposal. Nothing was impossible, including leaving this world a better place than I found it. I truly believed that peace, love, and understanding were not just a slogan for my generation, but a way of life. What was the mantra of my idealistic youth has given way to a rapidly increasing realization that age has caused my ideals to callous over; and that bothers me tremendously.

I doubt that therapy can help me recover the endless anticipation, idealism and excitement I had when I was young. After all, I’ve seen too many things both horrible and joyous to be that naively blissful. At this stage of the game it is probably foolish to think that mankind has a chance to evolve into a society that actually lives by the principles of Jesus as opposed to just using them to exploit a personal motive, like greed, intolerance or hatred.        

I used to wonder what the world would be like if everyone’s individual voice could be heard. In my Godspell years, my immature thoughts and fantasies fully accepted the idea of a world where love replaced hate. It seemed so possible then.

“Some men see things as they are and ask why?
I dream of things that never were and ask, why not? 

How many times over these last forty or so years have I heard the words of Robert Kennedy echo in my head so loud and clear whenever a new war breaks out here or there, when unspeakable travesties have been perpetrated on innocents, when buildings are reduced to nothing but a pile of smoldering ashes, dust and bits of charred bone? How many more times like those are yet to come during my lifetime and beyond? And how much more hatred must be spewed upon the earth until the day comes when there is no turning back?

This Internet, this wonderful magical thing that mankind has invented, has allowed us all to speak to one another in a way that has never been seen before. We have the opportunity to reach out and reduce our differences to meaningless dust. But it seems that more and more, we are shouting at one another instead of listening. We are turning the Internet into a modern day Tower of Babel instead of embracing a light of understanding. There is no longer civil discourse going on; it is being supplanted by the venomous demagoguery of those whose bullying philosophies can garner more numbers than their opponents.

I mentioned earlier that if possible, I would get to the race relations issue and this seems like as good a time as any to do so.

My diatribe today was inspired in part by an article that appeared in the Huffington Post. It had to do with the firing of a National Review writer, John Derbyshire, who wrote an article about the “talk” that white parents should have with their children when dealing with black people. I won’t even dignify Mr. Derbyshire’s article with quotes from it (you can read it yourself), but suffice to say that when as conservative a publication as the National Review calls the writer’s views “appalling”, you know it can’t be good.

The article appeared in an online magazine called, ironically enough, Taki’s. Not being one to take the word of one reporter, I went to Taki’s to see for myself what this purportedly ‘libertarian’ magazine was putting out for publication. What I found not only blew my mind, but made me a little sick to my stomach too. Among the top ‘reads’ were columns with titles like the aforementioned “The Talk: Nonblack Version”, and “Trayvonasaurus Rex”, which is a thinly veiled attempt to paint Trayvon Martin’s killer as the victim (I don’t know that he was or wasn’t and am waiting for more information before I decide).  

Also listed as ‘most popular’ were articles such “Multiculturalism: When will the Sleeper Awake?” and finally “Keep your Ovaries out of our Wallets”, a story about the recent Sandra Fluke controversy regarding contraception. I don’t know if this ‘magazine’, which is published by someone named Taki Theodoracopulos, is an attempt at satire in the vein of The Onion, but I suspect that it isn’t and ‘Taki’ sincerely believes all the venomous dreck which appears there.

It’s not that I find opinions that digress from my own intolerable. I love a good debate, provided that there is an intention to enlighten and teach in doing so. But it seems that more and more, civil discourse has given way to uncivil disgust. Instead of sharing opposite opinions we seek to shut them down and shut them up. This kind of intolerance can only end with polarization, clan hatred and violence. It has to stop.

Civilization, if it is to survive, must learn to accept the fact that not all people are the same, and that they cannot ever be forced to be so. I hope that the fragmenting I see so much of online is simply the over zealous exercise of free speech that has heretofore not been available to the masses. Average people are getting to speak for the first time in history and perhaps we are just in the infancy of understanding.

So, maybe I don’t need therapy after all. My idealism might be a little dented and rusted, and arthritis prevents me from running through a field picking wildflowers to hand out to strangers, but it is still there. And if this is the journey that humanity must take, then I can do a little here and now and maybe I won’t feel like the place is worse off than when I got here. Of course, it would be lot easier if you pitched in and did your part as well.

Over time perhaps, long after I’m gone I fear, the soot that has covered Jesus’ teachings over the centuries since His death can be scrubbed away, revealing the beauty and simplicity of what He really meant. From neighbor to neighbor, maybe we can all see each other more clearly, follow each other more nearly, and love each other more dearly. But it won’t happen overnight. We must work at it... day by day by day...

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat some Easter Pie. Abbondanza!