411. It’s over… right?

 

The oligarchic Olympiad of the most un-presidential presidential election ever conducted on this planet is now over, isn’t it?  Please, God. Make it stop!  Two years and at least five billion dollars have produced…. what?  The Despicable with fewer votes loses. The Despicable with the larger number of votes gets to pull taffy with congress and the media for a while, until a hearing, special prosecutor, impeachment, or some other pair of concrete boots get shackled in place. But no, that does not even add up. The Despicable with the most popular votes lost, thanks to the electoral college system.  It’s hard to say which ruthless political hyena is the bigger loser. Oh yeah, but the biggest loser is our country, unfiltered and driven by idish fears where neither issues nor facts mattered in the end. Only the twin towers of fear and hate stood. Just take the gloves off and get violent. Take the mufflers off and get hostile. Turn the conscience off and spit all over the Other. Let there be no talk of reconciliation. No. No matter who won, it is a matter of Reload not Respect or Rapprochement. Fact deniers become verdict deniers and then history deniers. If you start with a pair of liars, you end with a frothing ocean of lies, breaking on our shores in wave after sickening wave of verbal garbage.

“But he lies more.”

“But her lies are worser.”

“No, he’s the worserest.”

“I know what you are, but what am I?”

And the wounded nation groans for the next generation.

I don’t ever recall the pure hatred of the other side as opposed to the firm declaration of difference in directions being outlined. My first election pitted Jimmy Carter against the un-elected, suddenly promoted in scandal, Gerald Ford. Good trivia question there:  which U.S. president was never elected president?  Oh, political science majors are drooling while googling. John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, and Chester Arthur are the others who moved from vice to full president after calamity. Death opened the door for these guys, whereas Watergate opened the door for poor old clumsy Gerry Ford, who was not even elected Vice President, to stumble through. Spiro Agnew was elected twice. Remember him? However, these stories pale by comparison to the political pornography we have been subjected to for the past two years. Death would have been more noble for the office of the President than drowning in this moral sinkhole of 2016.

The media have functioned as porn film makers. They are just giving the people what they want, so they say, while raking in record ratings and earnings. Pollsters, pundits, professional blatherers have all gotten on the porn wagon. It is its own parasitic industry, ticks feeding on the blood of a bleeding nation. Fear and hate keep audiences glued to their favorite news outlets, drinking their favorite flavor of hallucinogenic Kool Aid. The political porn stars, Don and Hill, are hideous caricatures of character, so flawed on so many levels.

And we are the insatiable audience for this reality television, twitter feed, Facebook war on civility. Peephole creepers. Is it over yet?  No. The new stink is just beginning.  That skunk odor will help sell air fresheners and cigars, and trips to mythical places that have never existed. The campaign culture bar was lowered below ground level so that future political limbo dancers will have to knee walk through Hell, heads bent backwards, sucking the dirt from the soles of the same old special interests, shamelessly squirming to dodge custom made land mines. Hey, it’s what ya gotta do.

“The name of the new boss is the same as the old boss.”  Oh, that won’t do. Let’s go full credit to the Who…

THE WHO     “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the songI’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Sure, it will be different. Sure. The triumph of fear and hate sandblasted the electorate’s moral compasses, leaving nuclear ghosts where soulful people used to reside. Ever seen a nuclear ghost?  They are the shadows of folks whose bodies were annihilated by atomic bombs in Japan.
Onward, patriots. It had to be done, this scorched earth political assault. Once we stopped seeing the Others as  human beings and demonized them, the bombs had to drop, right?
But it’s over now, right? Wrong.
Revisit Dover Beach sometime, it ends this way…
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

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334. International Blogationalism– Greatest Hits

A really neat feature of  the WordPress blog tool bag is the tracking of hits by countries. At the end of  a day, week, quarter, year or all time, I can hit the country summary prompt and get a list of all the countries that have accessed my site. I am amazed, of course, since I find my writing hard to understand, and I am the author. I think I am. Pretty sure I am. At least it started out that way.  Anyway, I have had to go to the map three times for countries I did not know existed. In alphabetical order they are the Faroe Islands, Kyrgyzstan, and Reunion Island.  Now my little Blog globetrotters, can you guess where these places are located without Googling?  I didn’t think so.  Allow me to geo-educate you.

About the time I had my first hit from Reunion Island it happened to be on the news cycle as parts of Malaysian flight 370 washed up on its shores. The astute blog reader will recall that I wrote about this doomed plane way back in Post 210. Lost. Not my best work, but then, what is best when you are spreading psychic fertilizer as a hobby? Now, true, I had to look it up since I’d never heard of the tiny nation either. It’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Why oh why were they cruising my blog? Perhaps they were lost or hungry since my blog title is a popular food. Imagine their horror when they tapped into my site via dial up, after waiting 3o minutes for a new recipe, and finding my soporific prose served on a delightful platter of greens. A lot of hangry islanders who won’t be inviting me to their next Reunion…unless they are cannibals.

I wrote about genocide and mentioned Namibia in post, 209. False Springs and  Genocide. Dang if I didn’t get Namibian hits. Actually they were nibbles. Now I can sort of understand that connection because I mentioned them by name. And Namibians have so little food in general that they usually just nibble to make it last longer between famines. But Kyrgyzstan?  I had to look it up– landlocked and mountainous in Central Asia. Apparently they have wi-fi there, glued in among China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.  I’ve often wondered where the Stan came from.  My unvetted theory is that a guy named Stan the nomad traveled through that region selling early model vacuum cleaners and got jiki with various women– Kazakh, Uzbeki, and Tajiki. Not to mention their cousins Afghan, Paki, and Turkmeni. [I have ruled out Lichtenstein from this list. It’s seems improbable according to my in depth research. Plus, what an unfortunate name for a girl, Lichten. What were the parents thinking?] Now I am theorizing that I will get some blowback hits from these countries, perhaps offering to hack me to pieces for insulting them or questioning the virtue of their female ancestors. I plead ignorance in advance. Can I get an “Amen” on that, Blog Nation?  [A thunderous AMEN rumbles across the globe.]  Okay, okay, that’s enough. STOP ALREADY!!  I didn’t ask for a tsunami.

Let’s see, where was I?  Yes, I wrote about how to make vodka in post 91. Brains and Potatoes. I am not saying what I’m saying here, I’m just saying it– a bunch of Russians lit me up. That post was a call to use one’s brain for the good of mankind instead of pickling one’s brain with home made alcohol. I can’t say for sure, but I think most of the Ruskis checked in for the recipe I scarfed off an internet site. Please don’t cut me up and make Irish Whiskey from my old carcass, Komrades.

Perhaps the best example of bait and switch blog posts was post 204. Local Navel Dancing, live, Tonight 6-8 p.m. I still get hits on that from India and the Middle East, which is why I have the justified fear of being hacked to pieces, not for false religion but for false advertising plus bad manners.  I blame the whole incident on Suzanne and Gary who basically forced me to go to an Indian restaurant with them while belly dancing was erupting at waist level, i.e. my eye level. I’m still in therapy for the disturbing visuals.

Okay, the Faroe Islands are located between Scotland and Iceland. Sail to the Shetland Islands, pet the adorable ponies, and hang a left at the fork. If you run into Norway, you took the wrong left, so turn around and take the right one. (Yogi Berra paraphrase) Speaking of Norway, in an old and bizarrely prophetic post, 158. Totalitarian Penguins, I mentioned that the Norwegian slice of Antarctica will be the launching pad for penguin revolution and total world domination. “Whaaaack Whaaaack”. You can’t make this stuff up….well, I guess you can if you have a fevered imagination and no job and are devoid of a conscience. Fortunately I meet all the above criteria.

So, you may be wondering how the name came about for the Faroe Islands. Yup, you guessed it already. The Egyptian connection ties this little known nation to the Empire of Egypt. If you know your Bible well, you know that Moses was set adrift in a basket and found by the Pharaoh’s people, then raised as an Egyptian until a bunch of plagues broke out and Revelation Zombies overthrew the Death Star. Just trust me on this.  Unbelievably at the same time Moses was basket skiing on the Nile, another prince and future Pharaoh was set out on the same river, which is why no one noticed when the baby shuffle took place and the wrong Egyptian baby was brought into Pharaoh’s house. The real heir apparent, named Sam, sailed right out into the Mediterranean Sea, where his little basket continued to float with the currents and winds, past Cyprus, Gibraltar, Portugal and other countries that have hit my blog posts before the internet had even been imagined.

Sam eventually washed ashore on the rough rocky beaches of what we now know as the Faroe Islands. He was greeted by wild wooly people known as the Wooly Bullies. They took him in and sang around fires in the winter nights. Sam somehow recalled his pre-Pharaotic life in Egypt. The people were so amazed, but one called it all a sham. And you know that they all got together and cut a record in the early ’60’s called “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

 So kids, it’s important to know your geography really well just in case your plane disappears or your baby floats away, you need to make vodka, dance navelly, survive famine or overthrow the world. If you can’t find a globe, you can just trust my blog posts.

 

 

 

298. From Vigils to Vigilantes

It’s a thin spiral line that threads across the evolving concepts from vigil to vigilance to vigilantes. Let’s begin at the center of the spiral. A vigil is a period of intentional wakefulness spent watching and usually praying when sleep would be expected, e.g, staying up all night watching the Holy Eucharist in a Catholic Church. Or the Victorian habit of a death vigil, where watchers would observe a dying person, waiting for the precise moment when the soul left the body. ..WATCHING THE DEAD:

Supporters of Chan and Sukumaran lit candles during the vigil in Sydney's Martin Place which reflected another vigil held at the port town of Cilacap opposite the island where Chan and Sukumaran were put to death at 12.25am Sydney time

“It is no longer the custom to watch the dead — an excellent omission, for many of those vigils were unseemly in their mirth. Some friend or relative sits up in order to give the dead any attention necessary. The preparation of the deceased is always attended to by some kindly friends who are not members of the family, and that agonizing duty is spared the afflicted ones. It is more thoughtful for someone to volunteer to remain with the family, through the long sad night hours. It makes the grief and loneliness of the house less oppressive.”

Since the vigil concept predates electric lights, candles are de rigueur for vigils… to light up the darkness in a dynamic dancing fashion. Klieg lights just won’t do. Too constant, artificial.

 At the center of this spiral is a single open-eyed sentry who wills himself not to close his eyes beyond an instant shutter blink.  A vigil in Roman times was a sentry, always on the look out.  I recall little vigil lights in the Catholic Church I grew up in, red glass glowed to show a prayer in actuality. I noticed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on a recent trip that they are still used to represent a deceased loved one or a prayer, as if to say, “I’m still thinking of you, watching, waiting, missing you. You are on my mind.” Each candle is a dutiful little soldier on watch against the creatures of darkness.

Now step out and over a few orbital rings to the planet Vigilance. It’s a state of constant scrutiny, awareness, attention or observation. Imagine a Secret Service agent scanning a crowd for bad guys rushing the White House.  Never mind; that’s a bad example. Note that vigilance is not a natural state of being; it is forced, learned, and acquired somehow through experience. Often times that experience includes fear and the activation of our reptile brain, the fight or flight part that exists to ensure our survival. We expect our TSA agents, police and soldiers, prison guards and doctors, airplane pilots and food inspectors to be vigilant. But we all know, expecting vigilance does not equal getting vigilance. Human beings fail. So we have vigilant security systems that are machines, and they fail also. Let’s face it: even determined hyper-vigilance fails sometimes, no matter how many layers of redundancy are wired in. Flight 370 is still missing without explanation. The Twin Towers are also missing with explanation. What we know and don’t know defeat our delusion of vigilance and invulnerability.

The B side of Vigilance is that it’s exhausting and tedious. How many tubes of toothpaste must one inspect before his mind becomes fried or twisted? Never forget, never … becomes remember sometimes. At least be symbolically mindful.

“No, I don’t think it’s cancer.”

“A pilot wouldn’t crash his own plane? That’s absurd!”

“Those guys? I know they’re convicted serial killers, but they’re always nice to me. More pie, Bubba?”

Remember the Alamo!  (to rent a car) Remember the Maine! (for vacations) Never forget Pearl Harbor, (their sushi is excellent).  We forget. Vigilance combusts and exhausts like the spent oil in a vigil lamp. No one likes to admit it, but the sooty proof is everywhere.

And finally we come to vigilantes, the self appointed marshals who bust loose when life seems unjust and out of control. There is no test or credentialing involved. No court or magistrate. Just bring your anger or fear or inflated ego to a neighborhood watch or police auxiliary. George Zimmerman comes to mind. He was just a guy with a gun who wanted to “help” society. Or maybe he was a loose wing nut who made himself judge, jury and executioner. In any event he killed a young black man on a rainy Florida night… because George inserted himself into the crosshairs of a community watch. He chose to use violence to protect the property of society. He ignored the police warning to back off. And finally he claimed he had to kill that young black man in order to protect himself and our way of life. It was an odd moment of juris prudence when he was found not guilty of Trevon Martin’s death, strangely inspiring another vigilante a few years later to try and make justice out of chaos.

The other day I saw a picture on FB that had a gun next to a Bible. The accompanying message was something like, “I have to be armed to protect my religious experience now in the post-Charleston shooting era.”  How on earth do you justify guns with the Bible or the Bible with a gun? I just cannot imagine Jesus carrying a firearm. It’s an absurd proposition. Even when Peter went all vigilante in the Garden of Gethsemene and cut off a soldier’s ear, Jesus healed it in peace. A bit ironic that all the disciples were supposed to hold a vigil that night, but each fell asleep, leaving Jesus alone and unguarded. Odd that the one who could not hold the vigil, who would deny his savior three times later that same night, was the very one who went all vigilante. When things appear to be out of order, it is tempting to exercise control, even violence, to reset equilibrium. But what you wind up with is some sort of Fascism that honors violence and celebrates the end justifying the means to it. No, stick to the single candle and fight the creatures of darkness that way.

 

286. It all began innocently enough…

How many times have you heard a tale of woe and misery begin with an introduction like that? “It seemed like a good idea at the time…. and then everyone died.” In earlier posts I detailed many impulsive adolescent excursions– climbing on the roof of a furniture store to watch the x rated drive-in movie next door; the mid- night ride of Raul Severe; the mid-night ride to Ocean City; the mid-night ride to pitch a tent in the dark and wake up foodless and foolish; the mid-night ride to hit a deer on the Dulles Access Road. (Note the “mid-night ride” theme being developed here.) Yes, all these adventures and many more began innocently enough. Many times after partying late into the night with friends at my apartment in Richmond, Virginia I got the brilliant mid-night idea to hitchhike to Williamsburg and visit my friends Mark, Bob, Gerard, and Dan and their friends, uninvited and totally unexpected. Hey, no one had a personal phone back then. Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone lost an eye or their lease or their relationship with a neighbor. But it was always fun rolling down the 60 miles of Route 60 that separated our worlds.

Now you may not know that folks truly do lose eyes, especially unsupervised boys. It’s not just a line that your parents yelled at you, “You’re gonna put an eye out!!”  No, in an exhaustive 4 minute search of four internet sites on ocular trauma I found no supporting evidence for my following assertion– Boys are eleven times more likely to damage an eye than are girls of the same age. I refer instead to my own anecdotal records to support my assertion. In my neighborhood two boys lost one eye each due to play activities.  Unbelievably, they lived nearly across the street from each other on The Parkway, a nice name for a through street in a cookie cutter housing tract built in the 1950’s and ’60’s outside of Alexandria, Virginia. Virginia Hills was the name for the cookie dough housing development pressed there by a disembodied Divine thumb. The sameness of the sameness was both comforting and numbing, depending on your level of consciousness or coma. I’ll always recall sticking my thumb up at the foot of The Parkway in 1978 to begin my journey to Los Angeles. The Divine thumb was upon me then. But back to the boys.

First there was Lee. He and a bunch of us were playing with toy cap guns and sticks and plastic weapons. It would have been in the mid 1960’s. We were shooting at one another across the Scholls’ half completed rec room. Then Barry brought a real bow and arrow to the plastic gun fight. Incredibly he launched one steel tipped arrow over the crest of the roof just as Lee looked up. The cold steel Arrow met and destroyed the warm soft Eye.  Lee was lucky to live. Somewhere in my memory I see his dad carrying a limp Lee up the street like Atticus Finch carried Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Which is a confabulation because it was Boo Radley who carried Jem home.)  That one unretrievable moment defined Lee and Barry forever. It was truly tragic.

Like cancer and sex, drug use and domestic violence, pedophilia and adultery, this story took on taboo qualities. Everyone knew the story and the fall out that followed, but no one ever talked about it, as I  recall. Barry lived in the shadows, though, like Boo, unable to unshoot the arrow or turn back time.

Years later the other Eye boy Steve was riding around in a Jeep with his buddies. They were old enough to drive that summer. The good idea at the time was to throw cherry bomb explosives out of the Jeep’s back window where Steve was riding. Problem was that he threw one which bounced off the car door frame and it then exploded right in front of his face, burning his soft warm unprotected eye to a fried egg state. In one stupid second Steve’s life changed forever. His promising baseball career ended that day as his nascent anxiety grew tenfold. I can only imagine what that sort of self inflicted disability does to one’s self esteem.

In both cases you just shake your head and ask “WHY?” Maybe mumble something about “such a waste!” Yet, 40 and 50 years later there is some evidence that these guys persevered and made good lives with only one good eye. I suspect they grew cautious over time and a bit more prudent about their health and their kids’  health. Still not something talked about… “Hey, how’s the EYE?” And why should it define someone’s life. Do you ask your neighbor, “How’s the DUI?”  “Oh, good, good. How’s that assault charge comin’ along, Bob?” There is the old saying that goes, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Not that Lee and Steve became kings, but maybe royals. Both graduated college.

Grieving your own mortality at a young age is not entirely a bad thing. I’d bet that neither of these one-eyed royals had a mid life crisis because they had dealt with death and disintegration as kids. Heck, Lee was a very good baseball player despite the missing eye. Think about that for a while, blogtators. It’s hard enough to track a curveball coming at your face with binocular vision. Now cover one eye and try to hit it or avoid it. Pretty amazing if you ask me. More amazing was that Lee had a sneaky good pick off move to first base, faking a look with his left eye and peeking over his right shoulder with his good eye. See, the kids on the other team didn’t know his left eye was glass.

So tragedy depends on when you look at something, I suppose. St. Paul said it this way,

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)

When all the kids are called home to heaven by their heavenly Father, I hope we will see clearly and purely. Perhaps what was begun as a good  idea will eventually end innocently enough.