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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

72

Excitement and loss
devastation and heroism defined
Infamy and focus, "We're in, we're in!"
Destruction and pain on all sides

Propaganda and body parts
Cartoons and evil defined
A tear for the dead and a shout at the hunted
"How could they have been so blind?"

Lines drawn in the sand
A new standard of living to be idealized
those removed beneath the notice
of men with profits to realize

The jungle sings its cruel song
The shadows laugh and destroy
Technology emboldens but fails to deliver
Just the tallest of the toys

To each, his need in turn
From each his strength in time
fine until true natures emerge
Push back, push back, must hold the line

Corruption held up as the lesser
Two evils or three or four
The warm and well fed with no reason to see
the eyes of revenge at their door

The height of hubris beckons
"An idea to be changed!", we're sold
And the retribution we watched again and again
is the reason for it, we are told.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Doris from Milwaukee had this to say...

I read a news report today about a five year old who was arrested, (actually, held in police custody), for bringing a gun to school. The gun was in his backpack, and went off accidentally. No one was hurt, thank goodness.

The administration of the school said the boy will be dealt with as per their zero tolerance policy toward weapons in school. The story happened in Tennessee, which happens to have a statute that says children under the age of nine can’t be charged with a crime, so, thankfully, this five year old baby is not going to the slammer.

One thing that made this story absurd, (among the many, many things that made this story absurd), were the comments below the story. Things like, “Where were the parents?” and “It’s shameful how people let their kids do whatever they want.” And on and on. The people that commented were very clear in their disdain for the parents of the five year old, going so far as to advocate the removal of the child from their custody.

Most interesting, though, was that no one… not one… commenter asked questions like, “was the gun brought from home?” or “did the gun belong to a family member of the five year old?” That would have been easy enough to check. No one asked any questions of the reporter, who obviously didn’t feel it was pertinent to include such details. They were content to simply slam the parents as unfit, incapable morons who were destined to destroy the life of their child, and, God forbid, anyone who came into contact with him.

People just swallowed what they were fed, and puked forth their knee-jerk opinions. It wasn’t even mentioned that there must be more to it than what was reported.

At some point, news went from, “story-follow up- close” to “Event-slanted implications-commentary by people not connected in any way with the story”.

When did this happen?

News, especially news online, has given away its integrity in exchange for “community” with people who are commenting on only what they are told. As long as they reinforce the narrative, they are encouraged to “contribute” to the “conversation”, which is just another way for news organizations to shirk their responsibility of providing all the facts. Some will go so far as to remove comments that don’t fit into the narrative they are creating.

This actually happened on March 28, 2012. A Fox News webpage carried a video touting the “ridiculousness” of a NY City Board of Education request to the state that the companies that create standardized testing remove certain words from tests.

The words suggested to be banned were pretty silly, and the “reporter” stated that it was being done to protect students’ feelings. After listing the silliest words to be banned, an “expert” was brought on to commiserate with the host over the liberalism running rampant. The contributor maintained that the state was making this a mandate, while the host decried the “knowledge gap” being created. The “far left agenda” was cited as the underlying cause.

Now, while they mentioned the fact that these words were to be removed in tests, the mood of the piece was that these words and their related topics were not allowed to be taught at all. The real underlying scream was that liberals were robbing our children of real facts, and would create a knowledge gap that could not be surmounted. The host even read a quote from someone in the NYC Department of Education, so the fact that it was a request and not the harbinger of doom as it was portrayed was certainly available. Just not stated to viewers.

Completely omitted from the report was the fact that this was a request made by the NYC DoE, and as such, had not yet been approved by the state. Just requesting it seemed to be enough to make it “news”.

When I posted to this website that this particular omission equated to their reporting only half of the story, I felt that I had at least done the honorable thing. Within an hour, my comment had been removed. All comments agreeing with the sentiment of the piece remained… six pages of them.

This is an extreme example, (FOX NEWS is just touchy like that. But, people that disagree with them are just liberals, anyway). Most outlets will allow for some back and forth in the comments. All of the major and most of the minor news outlets do this to some degree. You can get into a verbal slugfest with people of all stripes if you so desire. All of a sudden, my opinion on Benghazi or the Sudan or Ghana carries the same weight as Doris’ from Milwaukee and Bob’s from Wichita. But, you know what? I don’t know shit about Benghazi, or the Sudan or Ghana other than what I’ve been told by these same newscasters. Neither do Doris or Bob. That means that, while all of us may have opinions, they are worth exactly zero on the actual news and information scale. So, why are they included?

Because we like it.

We like to see our names on TV, in print, on the web… as long as someone else feels our opinion deserves to be heard, we keep sharing. For advertising-driven media - that’s a no-brainer. If putting your name on screen will get you to keep coming back and maybe buy a little sumptin’ from our sponsors, well, then we’ll be putting your name up there on the screen!

It had to happen.

It’s because America has a weird obsession with fame. Many of us feel that we deserve to be famous. Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga and a boatload of other talentless hacks are paraded in front of us all the time. If they can be famous… well, anybody should be. Getting your opinion read by Carol Costello on CNN is like getting your nipples pinched, (in a good way). “Look, Honey… she said my name! On the TV!”

As long as we believe that our opinions deserve to be heard, they’ll keep putting some of us on the news. The rest of us… maybe next time. That keeps us coming back. Because next time, we’ll really cut through the haze surround that story. My lucid and brilliant opinion is going to get me noticed! Then, when they need clarity, they’ll contact me! Soon, I’ll be considered an expert, and news agencies around the world will contact me for my valuable insights… I’ll be famous. Presidents, heads of state, all will want to know what I think. Yeah, that’s it. Famous. I’ll show ‘em. I’ll show ‘em all…




Monday, August 12, 2013

Judge You? You Betcha!

I saw a graphic today of a biker - tats on both arms, long, ZZ Top beard, shades, do rag, you know, the classic American biker. The graphic had text that read something along the lines of, “I may look strange to you, but I cried when my daughter broke her foot and my mom is proud of me…” and so on. The thrust of the piece was, I guess, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. A noble sentiment, but I have to ask…
Hi, I’m America… have we met?

If you have a long beard, are covered with tattoos and look like you will eat souls given half the chance, people are going to think a variety of things about you… and not all of them will be pleasant. Is that right? Is that the way it should be? No. Of course not. But, is it true?

Abso-fucking-lutely.
(See? I used a curse word. Doesn’t that conjure up a preconception about me?)

The way we look, the way we dress and the way we interact with others shapes the way they look at us, feel about us and interact with us. That’s the truth, whether you think it should be that way or not. It just is.

Imagine this:
I walk into a supermarket, wearing shorts, an old t-shirt and sandals. I step up to the customer service counter and ask where I might find a jar of pickles. I’m polite. I smile.
The lady behind the counter is also polite. She smiles, albeit hurriedly, and says, “Aisle 4”.
Now, I walk into the same supermarket, step up to the same counter, but this time, I’m in a suit and I have a knotted brow, (it makes me look busy). I’m still polite when I ask, “Where might I find the pickles?” The lady behind the counter may tell me they are in aisle four, or she may ask what variety I was looking for, and send someone to bring the pickles to me. When they hand them to me, that person will inevitably call me, “Sir”.

I’m still the same me. The only thing that has changed is the perception of me from those around me. And my clothes fit a bit more snuggly, (I haven’t bought a new suit in a while).

Here’s the thing. It is wrong for people to judge you based on your appearance. We all know it, and we all still do it. Yes, you do… shut up. So, if you want to look like Edward Scissorhands, or a young Ice T or Dusty Hill’s stunt double, great. More power to you. You wear that style like you invented it. But, when the straight-laced mom pulls her child closer, telling them, “No, this way, Honey - we don’t talk to strangers”, she means you. Stranger. As in, stranger than her. That’s part of the gig. You chose to adopt that look, that uniform, (and, let’s face it, we all wear a uniform of some sort), you get the American judgement that comes with it.
Quitcherbitchin’.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hope for Us

I was out picking up some stuff, and I wanted a pretzel. I went into the mall and got one, (actually, I got a cup of pretzel bites, but I digress). I paid for my order, and the change was about 85 cents.
I was heading into the bookstore not far from the mall when a young man approached me. He asked if I had change for a dollar. Reaching into my pocket, I told him I didn’t think I had a full dollar’s worth.While I was comically drawing forth quarters and nickels I asked him what he needed. He replied that he needed change for the bus. Having retrieved all of the coins I carried, I proceeded to give the handful of money to him. He offered me the dollar.

I waved it away, and unceremoniously dropped the coins into his hand. He accepted it gracefully, but his face told me he wasn’t used to accepting such charity. Not wanting to offend him, I turned and said, “Do something nice for someone else today.”

A smile broke out on his face. Few things in my life were as dazzling and warm and wonderful as this kid’s smile. It was like a rainbow after a storm. It was brilliant and beautiful and glorious. “I will.” he promised. Nodding and smiling, he disappeared as I entered the bookstore.

I searched for the word that would describe how I felt. I was drifting through a bookstore, surrounded by the works of authors great and small, and the feeling would not be named. The only one that even came close was “redeemed”. Not because I had done something so wonderful, nor was it because I was in such dire need of redemption. It was simply that I felt humanity, in that one small moment, had lived up to its potential. One person reached out to another and found what they needed and more without a moment’s hesitation. Paid for with a smile, and that was more than enough to cover the tab.

In that moment I realized that there is hope for us. Hope for humanity.
I'm not trying to arrogantly assume that my daily antics could or should be a model for anyone else's life. I don't assume to be a role model or an example of virtue in any form. But, I can't deny the unplanned humanity that young man and I shared in that singular moment. It wasn't scripted. Neither of us had time to think about how these actions would benefit us or prove anything.

It was real. It was genuine. I was lucky to have been a part of it.


Monday, May 27, 2013

We Help.


My wife and I. We help. We volunteer. We helped a bunch of people do a job today that needed to be done. Not for any grand or glorious purpose. Not because the fate of the world, or our nation, or even our town hung in the balance. Just because some people we hold dear needed a hand.

As you might know from reading my irregularly-posted nonsense, my kids belong to a theater troupe. It’s not just any troupe. It’s not a star factory where the talented ones are pushed forward while the average kid is relegated to carrying as spear. It’s the kind of troupe where the shy kid gets a few lines just to give them an excuse to speak in public. Where the little one gets a key line or action to perform, so they and their parents can burst with pride at the end of the show. It’s the kind of troupe where every kid is welcomed, and made to be part of the family. The kind of group that is a non profit, where they rely on parent volunteers to help pull stuff together and make things happen for the kids.

Today was moving day.

For the last year, the troupe was utilizing a theater space that was, for many, a dream come true. Big dressing rooms, big stage… it was a real, bona-fide theater and the kids loved it.
But, like so much in life, time has a way of sneaking up on you and yelling “time’s up!” in your ear. We all knew it was coming, but when the curtain closed on the last performance, it was still kind of sad, still kind of wistful, still a bit melancholy.

And not just because we knew that all that stuff that had accumulated over the course of a year had to be moved.

But, it did.

Background flats, buckets of props and an endless parade of bins full of hats and shoes and tutus and canes shaped like flamingos. A caravan of mini vans and pick-ups traveling from the theater to the rehearsal space. A few achy muscles and a huge bunch of smiles, high fives and well wishes… and the job was done.

I remembered the past today. I remembered my uncles who fought, and those who died, so that we can continue to rule ourselves here in the U.S.A. I remember why we have the day off and why it’s so much more than National Barbeque Day. But, I chose to skip the parade, the trip to the museum or the cemetery. I chose to look forward instead of back. My wife and I chose to help some folks who continue to look forward, spending their time helping kids become better adults. And, we weren't alone.

I saw some people today. People packing bins, lifting boxes and moving stuff. I wasn’t surprised to see any of them, because when you volunteer, you tend to see the same faces over and over. The faces of the people who stand up, give of themselves and pitch in. They are the class moms, the little league coaches, the den mothers and all the others who give their time and talents to make the world a bit better for our kids.

Does their involvement mean their kid gets a bigger part in the next show? No. Not at all. It doesn’t work that way. If it did, there would be a lot more people volunteering. No, their involvement makes it better for all of the kids. Even kids they don’t know. The greater good, and all of that.

Today was a day for looking forward. Today was a day where I got to spend some time doing a good thing with some great people. Today, I didn't make the world a safer place, but maybe, along with my wife and a handful of good souls, we made the little bubble we inhabit a better place for our kids.

I’ll put that up against a parade any day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

They hate us, and we listen anyway

You can't have America without freedom, although the last president and the current one have certainly tried to remove as many freedoms as possible. Even though, to me, the Second Amendment means the National Guard, (and it's painfully obvious to me that it doesn't mean you can own a howitzer or a bazooka just because you want one), I have to wonder... why not? Why can't I own a bazooka? What if I want to not just kill a deer, but completely obliviate it, just for kicks? I'm an American. I can do whatever I want, as long as I don't run afoul of any laws or hurt anyone, (whichever is easier to explain away in court).

The answer finds me pretty easily. If I wanted to completely obliviate a deer with a bazooka, that would be CRAZY. Hence, I shouldn't own a firearm of any kind, (because I'm fucking insane... just to be clear). There's no reason for me to own an assault rifle, so wanting one brings my sanity into question. Hence, I shouldn't have one. It seems fairly self-evident to me that wanting to have a weapon that serves no purpose other than killing other humans is paranoid at best, sheer lunacy at worst, and so, if you want one, you shouldn't have one by virtue of your crazy-headedness.
I have fired handguns. I once even dated a girl who had a concealed carry permit. And carry, she did. It's all good. I don't get the allure. But I know some people do.

Some people just dig it. They love the power, the sheer awesomeness of being able to impose their will. They like to hone their skills, hit that bulls-eye and feel comfortable in the knowledge that if they ever need that ability, they have it.
Some people feel that having a black president, (come on, let's be honest here... it's just us), or a democratic president, (as if there's any real difference between parties anymore), means that there will eventually be a civil war of some sort. They need to feel like they will be able to defend their homes, David Koresh-style, when the ATF come to take their guns and religion away. Others feel that when the One World Government finally raises it's Illuminatti-controlled head, they will be the last defense against those who would take away the soverignty of the United States.

Apparently, they haven't thought that all the way through. If the U.S. government is complicit in this take-over, I'm not sure who these freedom fighters are fighting for... but that's another story.

This isn't an SNL sketch. There are folks, our fellow Americans, who feel this way. Some are batshit crazy, but most are not. Most are simply tired of watching our America-ness be taken from us bit by bit, like an army of ducks constantly snipping at our freedoms. They're pissed and they have stopped listening on this question, (or any question), because all they hear are the crazies from the other side. The uber-liberals who want to do away with all firearms.

And herein lies the problem.

Liberals are supposed to be just that... liberal. Liberal in their thoughts. Accomodating in their approach. Listen, consider, suggest goodness for everyone involved. Not simply shout from the rafters that those who disagree are ALL lunatics who must be stopped.

This is how things are supposed to work: Crazy people like the leadership of gun rights groups say something that would be laughable if it wasn't so unbelievably tragic. They say something like the solution to gun violence is more guns. Everyone should have a gun. Then, a calm and concerned, (but no less crazy) liberal puts forth an opposing view, like all guns should be banned and we should have a national campaign of doing away with these nasty things. Then, everyone takes a deep breath, and the adults come out to find a reasonable solution.

But, that doesn't happen anymore. Fox News, MSNBC, et al hang their hats on the extreme view because it stokes your fear, and that's good for their ratings. They don't give a shit about your rights or how you feel. They want you to watch, and buy products from their advertisiers. That's it. If they can get you to do that by supporting your fear that a dangerous black man is a secret muslum and is going to take away your guns and make your religion illegal, so be it. If they can do that by making you feel that all conservatives are backwoods bumpkins who want to strip women and gay people of any rights at all and take all of your money to give to their corporate masters, great. That's what they'll do. And they'll keep doing it, keep feeding the beast. As long as the crazy people are yelling at each other, you will be watching the show that most closely alligns with your viewpoint, and it will become hardened.

The problem with a hardened viewpoint, a view of the world that won't, can't or simply refuses to change or even accept the possibility of change is this: It is the way of the crazy person.

When we become polarized, we refuse to act. We can't see the compromise that is necessary because we're too busy rooting for the demise of our opponents. Well, let me let you in on a little secret, there, Sparky. Your opponents are your neighbors, your fellow Americans, people you otherwise would just agree to disagree with over coffee.

The newsmongers of your choice have successfully wrangled your fear into making you distrust your neighbor. They have managed to get you to see them as the enemy, (if they disagree with you), or a kindred spirit, (if they watch the news you watch), without any regard for what you actually think about them.

The last freedom, the freedom to decide whether the guy next door is an asshole or not hangs in the balance here.

Meanwhile, the people who actually care the least about you are seen as the only heroes who can save you, and the crazy people on both sides are all we get to hear.
Sane people put forth proposals and are shouted down by lunatics. The lunatics are given equal airtime as if their position deserves equal airtime. IT DOESN'T. Just because someone wants a bazooka doesn't mean his, (or her, ferchristsakes!), viewpoint is just as valid as someone who wishes to explain why having bazookas in a residential neighborhood is a bad idea.

So, liberals. Suck it up. You can't listen to those who would lead you to Utopia. Utopia is a great idea until you put actual people in it, and then it gets all fucked up. A world without guns would be a great place, but people would still kill each other with hammers, or ice picks, or novels about sparkly vampires. You can't legislate stupid away. You need to compromise.

Conservatives. Shut the fuck up. You need to compromise. You can't just continue to call people who don't agree with you unAmerican. They are your neighbors and they care more about you than the right wing nut jobs who claim to speak for you.

Crazy people: if you think the solution to a tragedy like Sandy Hook is to put armed guards in elementary schools, I can't waste any more time on you. Armed guards would deter sane people from doing things they WOULDN'T DO ANYWAY. They are not going to stop someone on a mission from God, or someone with an axe to grind. Maybe they would cut down on the body count, and that would be good, but is that really the only solution we can come up with? Is making the resource officer the first priority target the best idea we have? Seriously?

We, as Americans, need to stop listening to these buttplugs pretending to speak for us. We need to stop buying into their arguments because they are the closest thing to our own that we can hear above the din. We need to start listening to the quiet voices, the sane voices, and let the shouters tear each other apart without us watching.

Because really... they hate us. They want us to fail. They want us to be scared, angry and fearful of leaving our homes. I can't think of anything less American than that.