There have been many reasons why I have stayed silent until now, most of them involving sheer exhaustion, and a considerable commute. But with every passing day, I find that my incredulity has grown at the sheer incompetence and buffoonery that is issuing outward from this nation’s capitol in what can only be equated to some sort of pus-filled discharge. As I lay down to bed, to put the day firmly behind me, I tell myself that tomorrow will bring reason and resistance, that this series of unspeakable events will not be allowed to continue any further.
And then I wake up and am shortly thereafter proven wrong.
During the primary season, I postulated that this country was sick, and that we faced three choices as to how we could address it. The first was to go and see a trained professional, take the damned medicine, and start to get better. Unfortunately, that option was removed during the Democratic Primaries (which caused me to think back on the anti-vaxxer movement).
Hillary, I said, was technically medicine, though more of the over-the-counter variety. A dose of DayQuil to keep us going another four years, and hoping we might rough it out before then. Here’s the thing: while not actually harmful, DayQuil can be dangerous, as it allows you to ignore your symptoms, which can potentially result in far greater harm. Alas, that option was also removed from us at the end of Election Day (much as Sudafed is kept under lock and key because people say you’ll use it to make meth).
Trump, I said, was the unabated fever. He would be the crucible in which we would find ourselves. Like a fever (which is the body’s defense mechanism), Donald Trump’s ascendance was a perfectly natural response toward an illness. But, also like a fever, if left unchecked, or if the illness is too strong, can be just as harmful. Trump would either kill us or cure us (and not in the way he might imagine).
We would either rally together and say, “No more!” (to continue the metaphor, rally the immune system and battle back against the pathogens), or we would cease to be (dead). We would face our finest moment of decency against unutterable vileness, or we would succumb to the lies and hatred, at which point, perhaps we didn’t deserve the right to be Americans anymore. Either way, we’d have earned our fate.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, I realized that I would not live in fear. Life was uncertain and terrifying enough as it was without stirring in an extra helping of existential dread. And when I moved down to California, and was exposed to a plethora of cultures and beliefs, I began to understand that, deep down, most people, at least on an individual basis are, more or less, okay.
But we all get caught up in our daily lives, our struggles with the little things (and larger), and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all more similar than not, want the same things more often than we do not. That we have more in common with one another than we might be willing to admit.
It’s far too easy to turn your frustration on someone you’ve been told is the root of all your problems, especially if it’s patently obvious, upon quiet circumspection, that there is no way that they could truly pose a threat to you. And yet we so rarely have even a precious moment to ourselves, that we allow the hatred to wash over us, and drag us out to sea. Even if we keep our heads, and can dismiss the lies out of hand, by the time we realize what’s going on, there’s nothing we can do.
Someone once said that it is possible to commit no errors and yet still lose. That someone was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, but that’s of no moment.
The fact is that we are facing a crisis of conscious on a national level, and the time to act has come. Do we allow ourselves to dream of a time which never was, back when America was Great (By this, of course, I am aiming a subtle nod to the reality that the Greatness of America was predicated upon the Misery of anyone who was White and Wealthy)? Or do we face ourselves at last, admit, once and for all that there’s a chance that the time for this nation’s greatness has not passed, but rather, has yet to come?
There is a darkness spreading through the Western World, in the form of imaginary shadows seen from out of the corner of the eyes of men who have proclaimed that theirs is the only “true” democracy. There has been a normalization of hate, a subversion of free speech, and false cry for equality demanded by those who have against those who haven’t.
This contest is not truly White versus Everybody Else, Straight versus The Entire Spectrum, Christian versus the Godless Heathens. It is, as it has always been, about those with Power and Money against those who would like to stop being Powerless and Poor.
It is not enough to recognize this threat, though it would be a hell of a start. No, it will take more than the shaking of heads and the despairing of fragile hearts. The time will come when there can be no other action to be taken but one bourn from the ragged wounds from which gush rivers of innocent blood.
Together, there is nothing which we cannot manage to accomplish, but as long as we accept the notion that there is nothing we can do, then we will fulfill that prophecy to its final letter, watching as we’re stripped of everything which we hold dear, and left with nothing but mumbled recriminations. And it wasn’t as if we didn’t know that it was coming. Or perhaps we just believed that it would never be our turn.
And when all we have left are words, let’s launch them, then, like a storm of flaming arrows toward the very heart of darkness, that their burning glories may light the way for Truth to follow.
Now is the time for action, before the price becomes too high. Let us remember words uttered from the past by people who sought to hold us down, and take them for our own. Let us look them in the eyes and Just Say No.
I often wonder how much longer it will take for the majority of us to stand together and demand what is rightfully ours. A push toward a livable wage is a beginning, but there has also got to be a call to reckoning of that multitudinous horde of corporate interests who are more concerned about the almighty dollar than the health and general well-being of their employees. I wish that I could say that this is a recent blight upon our nation, but the truth is that there has always been an aristocracy in these United States, and its members have only bestowed the bare minimums of liberty upon the rest of us to keep us docile, bedazzled by the illusion of self-determination. Everywhere I turn, it seems that it should already have been more than enough for us to have summoned ourselves to action, but it seems obvious that, despite foreknowledge of their plutocratic legerdemain, we have fallen into their trap, and turned upon ourselves instead of banding together and focusing upon the task of redressing tyranny. This is not to say that we do not have issues to settle between us, but it must be acknowledged that the tenor of the acrimony between each group and peoples has been conflated with a steady stream of malcontent-inspiring misinformation. If we are too focused upon the vulnerabilities of our brother’s throat, we are less likely to see the predators stalking us from just beyond the tall grass.
Our nation was founded as an excuse for the wealthy to establish their own base of power, beholden to no others, but in order to garner sufficient popular support, had to be framed in such a way as to appear to, by its very existence, afford protections and human rights to those who would otherwise have ever gone without. I don’t believe that it was the intention of those wealthy, white men to set down a culture of true democracy, but in their compromises made to rally the common folk to fight and die for their revolutionary cause, they inadvertently laid down the instruments of their own eventual dissolution, should we be smart enough to take the powers reluctantly granted to us, and throw their words back in their faces. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is just as stirring today as it was centuries ago, and perhaps it is finally time to apply its passionate call to arms against the stagnation and incalcitrance of those wholly owned and subsidized mouthpieces for the interests of the ultra-rich. Of course, this will never, can never happen until we learn to set aside our differences and demand the justice which we’ve been promised since before we knew that Columbus was no hero.
I know, I’m going off the rails once more on one of my pinko commie rants. But, it seems to me that our institutionalized poverty, which is constantly attributed to the least among us, is nothing more than a tool by which those who have the most to lose by an equal redistribution of wealth are using to control us. The undocumented workers in fields who wither beneath the scorching sun are tangibly contributing to the benefit of a nation which tells them they are categorically unwanted, while the CEO’s with golden parachutes inflate their own importance and subsist upon the blood and sweat of the faceless masses forced into wage slavery because they’ve got no other option. I mean, which seems more likely: That it is a group of people living so far below the poverty line that even the notion of approaching is tantamount to achieving the American Dream are the ruination of this country, or that said designation belongs to a handful of wealthy, self-important figureheads who can hire high-priced loophole seekers to ensure that they pay the bare minimum of what they must, while demanding ever more compensation for such illusionary doublespeak as “synergy”? Meanwhile, we are set upon each other, fractured into tiny mobs lined up along the issues which weren’t all that divisive before we were told that they must be, too busy focusing on what we imagine (or are told) that our invented adversaries possess to ever make a concerted move against our true nemeses.
I would like to see one week where no one goes to work; where we the people shut down the entire country and demand a higher standard of living. Let the immigrants and citizens stand together, the blacks and whites united; straight, gay, transgender, bi, all gathered for the common purpose of demanding recompense from the broken system which we’ve tacitly empowered through disaffection and ennui. Let us join with the Native Americans in calling out the government on its history of mendacity, and the men shout loudly with their chromosomal other halves that no one should be paid less than one hundred cents on the dollar. We have been fed the tale that the United States is the Greatest Country in the World, so let’s throw their hyperbole back into their faces, and demand to see this country which we have been told we occupy. As it stands right now, Americans are truly only exceptional in our ability to look the other way, and think only about ourselves. We allow ourselves to get caught up in whichever manufactured scandal that we’re supposed to give a shit about today, unable or unwilling to think past the talking points and do anything other than impotently rage that there is nothing we can do to change anything, because what difference can one person truly make?
Eventually this revolution will arrive: it’s only a matter of time. There are only so many distractions and misdirections which we will endure before we are left no other option but to shout loudly that we will tolerate this no longer. So why start now, you might rightly ask, if this change appears to be inevitable? To that, I would only respond, How many children must die, either in body or soul, before we are willing to do something, anything about it? How many must continue to suffer before we’ve finally had enough? And so I sit, deafened by the Cacophony of Wonderment which screams it futility into my ear, and wonder what it will take for me to start to make a better world for my son and grandchildren to inherit when I’m gone.
Despite trying to remain as low on the food chain as financially possible, I seem to have been drawn smack into the center of a roiling drama between two of the managers at work. The GM, who it turns out isn’t leaving after all, is quite put out with the manager of my department. My manager, on the other hand, is at the end of his fuse with the GM, who seems, according to my manager, incapable of understanding the need to make the store attractive, and of hiring enough people so that the rest of us can actually accomplish what is expected of us. One of them runs by the numbers, and seems the type to view a drop in sales not as the fact that the store is all higgledy-piggledy, but as a simple trend in sales, and therefore cuts down on staffing accordingly. That, and the fact that corporate seems to know better than those of us doing the actual work just how long everything should take. Never mind that our lovely customer base rips through the store like a natural disaster, and the employees who are supposed to pick up after them know even less where things should go than our customers.
My manager seems caught between shifting targets. First, he got tagged because he was following the directives of the GM, and suddenly we saw a shift in how we were doing things. Corporate wanted things to look nicer, and my boss seemed almost happy to oblige them. But, because we are facing a dearth of employees, this means that the warehouse is generally packed, especially if we have to spend the man hours to rearrange the store (as we had to yesterday), which apparently is also unacceptable. The fact is that we need more people, but it’s really hard to find anyone halfway decent who is willing to bust their ass in high gear for a part-time gig, making minimum wage. Of course, my opinions tend towards those of my direct boss, as he actually seems to give a damn about his work, whereas, though I may, in fact, be incorrect, the GM seems jarringly removed from the day-to-day operations of the business, more content to monitor everything from safe within the office, pouring over the labor and sales reports while glancing at the security camera monitors to make sure that everyone is, at least, appearing to be busy. Not that I’ve slacked off, but the key to surviving this, should someone not actually want to work, yet unwilling to inadvertently summon him, is to merely look busy. Walk with purpose. Carry boxes. That sort of thing. Ah, the lessons learned while ditching class in junior high!
I mention all of this because today the whole damn thing came (mostly) to a head. The Back-of-House manager called in sick (for Truck Day), and we got the GM instead. Personally, I believe that this may have been some passive aggression on the part of the BoH boss, as he’s also been getting frustrated by the lack of space remaining in the warehouse, yet also increasingly irritated by the “Do this! No, wait! Do the opposite! Sorry, do the first thing! Why are you doing it like that?! Do it the way I told you!” style of leadership that he has been forced to endure. Were I to speculate, I would suggest that he actually wanted the GM to see how unrealistic his goals were with the number of people we have. Of course, this sailed right over the GM’s head, and instead he voiced his frustrations that the store wasn’t as he wanted it. Wisely, I kept my mouth shut, as I well and truly to not want to get involved in this power struggle. I suppose that I could have thrown my boss under the bus, seeing as how it would have curried favor with the man with whom I worked today, but I just have too much respect for my boss. And I completely agree with him.
In addition, this was also a minor stumbling block on my way to livable wages. I know for a fact that I can do the job as my boss explained it to me. And I know that I could most likely do the job as described to me today by the General Manager. But honestly, while both jobs are similar in many regards, the fact is that, at their core, they are fundamentally opposed. I don’t know that I really want to do the work that the GM is envisioning. Too much cracking the whip, with little to no regard for the needs of the lowest-paid employees. Of course, it’s not like I have a lot of options at this point. I mean, as bad as I would feel about abandoning my boss, if a decent restaurant called me up and offered me Manager Money, I would probably drop everything and jump ship, especially if the commute was reasonable. As it stands right now, I have no idea what’s going through the GM’s head in regard to my promotion. He was full of piss and vinegar while we were unloading the truck, and for about an hour afterward. To his credit, he stopped short of blowing his top at the lot of us for all of the things he felt we were doing to sabotage ourselves. And he even (at least in front of everyone, as opposed to just myself) refrained from laying the blame directly at my boss’ feet. Well, kind of. I’ve been in management too long to fail to understand what “Ultimately it’s my fault for not communicating better” means. In manager-speak, he straight-up called my boss out and ripped him a new one, in absentia.
The rest of the week will be dedicated to clearing out the warehouse, and I’m grateful that my two long days for the week are done and gone. I imagine that there will be a confrontation when my two bosses meet again (think Cox and Kelso in that episode of Scrubs (actually, that metaphor works frighteningly well)). Somewhere in the balance lays my future.
What exactly is the American Dream, anyway? The answer changes with every person you ask, but the general feeling is that, if you just work hard enough, sacrifice enough of the best years of your life, you will be rewarded with a modicum of prosperity. It used to be home ownership, but that now seems out of reach for the majority of us. It used to be a family, but many among us fear that they do not have the resources to provide for said offspring, so they are abstaining. It used to be the notion that you could work one job and provide for yourself, and for those who depended upon you, but that hasn’t been achievable for decades. Maybe it’s that your voice will be counted in this representative democracy of ours, that is, if the politicians haven’t managed to redistrict you into obscurity, or allowed themselves to be purchased wholesale by corporate interests, more concerned about short-term profitability than long-term sustainability. And besides, at this country’s founding, the only people allowed to vote were land-owning white males, so the idea that your vote actually counts is a recent notion, and delusional, at best. The American Dream, whatever it may actually be, seems more like a fever-induced nightmare for so many of us at this point, that maybe it’s finally time that we wake up.
Do I love my country? A silly thing to ask, especially on her birthday, but a question without an easy answer. In regard to the ideals for which this nation stands, at least to me, then yes, I would have to say that I do. But in practice, I cannot even bring myself to acknowledge it as we pass one another in the frozen foods aisle of the discount supermarket. Maybe I am only so disappointed in the land of my birth because I see just how far we apart we stand from those ideals, and how we’ve let ourselves be led into civic impotence by the flow of money and retention of elected officials who have only their pocketbooks and status in mind as they consistently fail to enact any legislation which might actually benefit a larger swath of people than the super-rich. I understand that one might feel beholden to the money which got him elected, and which he’ll need if he wants to get elected again, but the disparity is glaring, and the only reason that no one can do anything about it is that we are constantly pitted against one another, squeezed forcefully into arbitrary boxes and told that anyone who disagrees hates America, and that it’s up to us to save it, while also being reminded of just how little our voice matters, in the grand scheme of things, so why even bother?
George Washington was unabashedly against the division of our representatives into political parties, saying of the political party:
“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
He saw what the parties of the day (Federalist and Whig) were beginning to represent, and he tried to speak out against it, much as Eisenhower tried to warn America about the looming threat of the military industrial complex. And, much as it was with Eisenhower, the warning was generally ignored. Both the Whig and Federalist parties managed to implode, giving rise to the Republican and Democratic parties with which we are currently burdened today. Never mind that the stances of the parties at their inception more resemble that of their opposition, these two juggernauts have been on the national stage for so long, it seems unlikely we will ever rid ourselves of them. And while it continues to require obscene quantities of cash to even entertain the notion of running for office, national or otherwise, I don’t believe that we will ever be free of them. They are large, unwieldy beasts, the both of them, able to direct gushing rivers of capital toward the candidates of their choosing. There are very few examples of independents (outside of very local markets) who have ever hoped to compete against these two storied institutions. And so third-party candidates are most often relegated to the role of the “vote-splitter”, should they even make it to prominence on the ballot.
Here’s the thing: we are not the sum of the issues which our political party has decided for us. I know Democrats who like guns, and Republicans who don’t hate gays. I know Democrats who believe in a god, and Republicans who don’t much care for war. No one whom I’ve spoken to thinks that our representatives are doing even close to a decent job, and I can’t think of a single person who likes the fact that abortions exist. To be clear on that last point, abortions are never anyone’s first choice. They are invasive procedures that can (and have) scarred the mother, emotionally and physically. And yet, sometimes they may be necessary. It is up to the woman to decide. But no one, I believe, would prefer to use abortion as their preferred method of birth control. The point is that we do not always toe our party line, and often are forced to vote for people who are the lesser of two evils, sometimes just to prevent a political majority in one or more houses of Congress. It shouldn’t be this way.
My solution is to abolish political parties, get corporate (and yes, union) money out of elections, publicly fund candidates equally, so that we can vote our consciences instead of checking a line of boxes based upon whether they are preceded by an “R” or “D”. I also think that representatives in Congress should make no more than the minimum wage in their district, and have access to only the benefits which are available to the worst-off of their constituents. This, of course, will never happen. There’s too much money to be made in the purchase and ownership of congresspeople. But I don’t think that we will accomplish anything close to resembling an American Dream for everybody until we do something.
I’m going to say the same thing that I said seven years ago: I refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even if Senator Barack Obama hadn’t been the most electrifying man in political entertainment, I would still have chosen him over Mrs. Clinton because I just cannot bring myself to help put us on that path. I’m not talking about how she embodies the sell-out, bought and paid for representation of the multinational corporations and special interests, or the fact that she’s a woman; almost everybody else in national politics is just as bad, and I couldn’t care less about the ramifications of her reproductive system. The fact is that since 1989, two families have held the highest office. Right now, that’s twenty of twenty-six years. Should Hillary be elected president, that will mean that those same families will have been running the executive office for (at least) twenty-four of thirty years, or 80% of the past three decades. To be fair, through 2008, the Bushes and Clintons had controlled the office 100% of the time, but a run of possibly twenty-eight years between two budding dynasties was just too much for me to stomach. Just so no one accuses me of playing favorites, I’m also proud to declare that I won’t be voting for Jeb Bush either.
It’s bad enough that we’ve been reduced to a two-party system, I cannot accept that we’re freefalling toward a two-family system. And from there, all it takes is some social mingling, and we’ve got the beginnings of an empire. Sure, it seems unlikely that people today would accept the totalitarian rule of a single family whose power passes down through heredity, dispensing with the antiquated notion of democratic participation, a system which is widely regarded with disdain and apathy. I mean, we’ve got a couple of brothers who seem intent on using their vast wealth to control the country, but they’re so well shrouded in the shadows which only unlimited wealth and power can buy, that people do their best to simply ignore what little evidence has come to light. But we prefer to think that our officials are elected, and a straight-up power grab reminiscent of the republic which we’ve tried to emulate is still a little far off from being socially acceptable. But I can see how it might be done.
First, you limit public options down to two. Then, you field candidates from two families, alternating them every couple of election cycles. Each of these presidents will be popular with their voter base, at least until the end. From there it’s only a matter of time until those two families begin consolidating power. In the outside world, the War on Terror seems to drag on without end. We continue to give up liberties in our attempt to hold those who might seek to do us harm at bay. Politics have become more of a distraction than ever before, with scandal after scandal shoving actual news deep into the disappearing newspapers, and mentioned almost never in the twenty-four news channels’ broadcasts. Meanwhile, we’re running out of resources, and because of the myth of the job creator, those in economic power continue to run roughshod over both environment and ex-employees. We’re soon out of water, the weather patterns having made the United States a nation of climatological extremes, and the party of deniers has finally accepted that there is some sort of problem, but there is nothing to be done, as we are past the point of no return. On the bright side, Florida finally sinks into the sea, and we are no longer bound to its insanity. The union of two families finally comes to pass, and the product of that union ascends to sit upon his golden throne, ruling over the American Empire as it falls from major player status to a dimming third-world power.
Okay, I’m willing to admit that I may be overreacting. It could just be that I have spent my entire life watching the country which I love embark upon a quest to make itself irrelevant. If I was the type who believed that the End of Days was not only inevitable, but just around the corner, I probably wouldn’t be as worried as I am. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? The apocalypse comes a little early. I cannot bear the dumbing-down of everything, nor the flailing of religious fantasy as it seeks to drive us back toward the last time it was relevant. I hear constant cries for a return to a more theocratic rule, never mind that the last time it was thrust upon us, it took the courage of band of heretics to drag us out of those dark ages and push us toward the light. In a time when we could feed the world, drive up the standard of living and the quality of life, we fall back upon the superstitions of millennia long gone, and incite the world to war.
It’s time to put a stop to this. It’s time to look toward hard-earned knowledge to guide us into wisdom instead of flipping through antiquities to find something to justify our prejudices. Or maybe we should go the other way, and embrace something more ridiculous. Let’s put an actual cartoon up for an election. I hereby announce the candidacy of Ranger Bob for President in the 2016 election. He ran in 2000, but we wound up with a different deranged type of cowboy instead. I think that the time has finally come for us to formally usher in the Age of Insanity. Let’s cast aside enlightenment for edicts from the past. Let’s toss out reason in favor of fervent faith. Corporations will always do the right thing because otherwise they’d soon be out of business. The rich create the jobs, and not the workers who spend their hard-earned cash. The poor are just lazy, and hard work will always result in unbridled success. We’re not responsible for climate change. Voter fraud! And corporations are people, despite the fact that Texas hasn’t ever executed one.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Let me just start by saying that I’m not sure if I’m a shining example, or cautionary tale, but I said that I would write this, and write this I will. Sometimes there are things so important to me that I have to actually get out of bed and put pants on, that I can be taken just a little bit more seriously when I begin my long-winded defense of things I care about. Other times, I just say I’ve got pants on, and sort of go from there. But this is definitely a pants-wearing moment. For some reason, the one place that I actually wanted to spend time during those carefree years before adulthood (aside from in the high school bleachers with my girlfriend) is facing a possible closure due to the fact that… I don’t know… kids these days? Unlike so many other places that adults wanted us to go, back in the day, I still remember that we actually wanted to hang out at the Teen Center. Obviously, part of that was its prime location, not more than a couple of minutes’ walk from anywhere on campus, but more than that, it always held that feeling of being organically cool. No one there came out and stunk of old people trying to “get us.” More, the staff there engaged us like they would with any other human beings, and it engendered a level of mutual respect.
Don’t get me wrong, we were still teenagers, and not above testing the boundaries, and seeing just what, exactly, that we could get away with. I mean, sure, my girlfriend and I were asked to stop sucking face (on a couple of occasions), but we weren’t judged for having been making out. It’s easy to gloss over one’s memories of youth, insisting upon the adoption of a bitterness that comes with growing up, but that’s something that we never had to deal with. I remember always being treated with respect (and more than I deserved most times), and never told what I should do, but rather, encouraged to go out and make the right decisions. I can say that for a fact, I avoided so much more trouble than I otherwise would have, simply by having somewhere to go, and something to do. At home, I faced anger and disappointment for not being the person that I was expected to become, but in that little building, sitting beneath the shadows of those concrete bleachers, I was always warmly welcomed. And now, a couple of decades later, I realize that I really do miss that place, and those people, and I wish that I had something similar in my current life. Maybe what we need is a Wayward Adult Center, with snacks, warped pool table, and an NES.
Sorry, got a little off-topic there.
What really meant the most to me, and allowed me to become the adult that I am today (still alive, and moderately well-adjusted), were the staff members who chose to spend their time there. They were the parents that we wished we’d had, the ones who didn’t judge us. I can still remember Shannon taking time out of her day to sit and listen to me expound upon my heartbreak every time a new girl broke my heart, and she helped guide me through the dark times of my depression when even I didn’t really know what was going on. And it wasn’t just me that she took the time to help, nor just Shannon to offer. I always felt that no matter who was working, I had someone upon whom I could rely to help me through the most confusing years of life. And even though I began complaining about the “kids these days” beginning sometime around 1999, the fact is the Teen Center has somehow managed to maintain its youth connection and remain relevant to kids over almost a quarter of a century is a testament to how badly young adults just want to be accepted, in any generation.
The Teen Center was an exemplary alternative to the plethora of unsavory distractions of which we might have availed ourselves, and so it must remain. Perhaps the taint of time has yellowed in my eyes the character of youth, but I feel that more than ever, a place like this must exist, must reach out and help young adults make the bewildering transition from little kid to productive member of society. Even now the youth have begun to drift away upon the tides of interwebz, and it’s up to us, those who have made it through to the other side and come out alright, to help keep the doors open and get the kids off their internet machines and sat down upon a couch and talking to other people currently in the same room. Using their voices. And maybe even learning what a belt is for.
There are some who will say that maybe the Center’s time has passed, and that the kids these days no longer need an anachronism such as that. And here is where I must disagree. More than ever, we need someplace safe for the kids to go, where they can practice what it’s like to be grown up, before they face real consequence for failure. Those of us who were lucky enough to have had this resource available must stand proud and extol its virtues from the rooftops (or, should one wish to avoid a charge of misdemeanor trespassing, the streets), and help to keep The Center of the Cool Universe massive enough to exert its hold upon those who need it most.
As I have been preparing this, I was also asked to share any pleasant memories of the time that I spent there. Unfortunately, trying to remember specific happy things from two decades past is a little daunting, but I do have a quilt of snippets which I can share with you. The first time I went to the Teen Center, I believe it was following a middle school dance, or something involving Commodore, anyway, and I walked up to the this building nestled into the backside of the high school (how rad was that?) to see a show that some local bands were putting on. I used to spend my weekend evenings (because I was broke and had no girlfriends) at the Teen Center with my group of friends and played role-playing games- out in the open. For a date, I bought Independence Day on VHS and brought it to the Teen Center to watch with my girlfriend at the time, the logic being that the theater was too expensive, and this way, I’d still have a movie at the end of the date. It took me a few years to figure out the look that Shannon had in her eyes when I told her my Master Plan. It was amusement and sympathy. But, to her credit, she didn’t say a word as I sat my girlfriend down in front of the television set and proceed to the lay the groundwork for no longer having a girlfriend. She even gave us the room, though there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy, mainly, I believe, so that my shame would be more manageable. And I still can’t play pool, as I learned on a warped table, and if that sounds like negativity, then you’ve never seen me make the impossible shots, which somehow are the only kind that I can make.
I’m including humorous moments and self-deprecation, but the fact is that I spent the majority of my teen years there, and never once was I made to feel unwelcome. It was always nice to know that there was someone there to be on your side, to listen to your problems and nudge you in the right direction. Let’s come together now, and help out this institution. Let’s re-establish the Teen Center’s Non-Profit Status and get the kids back through the doors once more. It’s not a matter of telling them that it’s cool; it’s simply a matter of being cool. I know that it has been a while since we were cool to kids, as some of our own would most likely gladly tell the world, but these issues never really change, and if there is one thing that I believe in, it’s that the world will always need a Teen Center with someone like Shannon Buxton at the helm.
I know, I know. I promised you all that I was done with these After Dark: Blasts From The Past. But I saved out this one for two reasons: 1) It’s my anniversary, and I might just want to sleep in, and 2) I still feel the topic is relevant today.
Go ahead, enjoy it!
A Lesson in America and the English Language
October 10th, 2008
When I was six years old, I received a lecture from my best friend’s grandmother. We had be running around like six year olds, and I had said that I hated something. I don’t remember what. But just seconds after I’d said it, my friend’s grandmother said to me, “Don’t use that word.”
“What word?” I asked.
“Do you really hate [said thing in question]?”
“Well, no… I just really don’t like it.”
“Then say that. You should never say ‘hate.’ It’s such an ugly and violent word. Say what you mean.”
Feeling unjustly chastised, I agreed, and my buddy and I went on playing.
That memory has stuck with me for two reasons. The first, because we all hold on to embarrassing moments and remember them far better than our happiest. And secondly, the older I get, the more I realize how right she was.
In my life, I genuinely hate maybe only a couple of people. Trust me, they are very bad people whose names start with the letter “J”, and, honestly, hating them hurts me more than them. Unless I see them in person.
Why am I bringing this up? Proposition 8 in California. For those of you who either do not live here or are unaware, Proposition 8 wants to overturn the California Supreme Court’s overturning the previous Proposition 22 from 2000, which banned same-sex marriage in the state by amending the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.
In the interest of transparency, I have always been against this proposition, and on November 4th, will cast the same vote.
What bothers me in the analysis, is the call for “tolerance.”
I tolerate the old person in front of me in the register at a fast food joint for counting out pennies for her senior coffee.
I tolerate the woman with 3 shopping carts at the 99 Cent Only store ahead of me in the checkout line, arguing with the cashier over obvious things (Why does this receipt say $5.95 for this item? I thought everything here was only 99 cents! (Mind you, she had purchased 6 of the same item)).
1. To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit.
2. To recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others).
3. To put up with; endure.
a. To answer affirmatively: accept an invitation.
b. To agree to take (a duty or responsibility).
2. To receive (something offered), especially with gladness or approval: accepted a glass of water; accepted their contract.
3. To admit to a group, organization, or place: accepted me as a new member of the club.
a. To regard as proper, usual, or right: Such customs are widely accepted.
b. To regard as true; believe in: Scientists have accepted the new theory.
c. To understand as having a specific meaning.
5. To endure resignedly or patiently: accept one’s fate.
I have excluded medical definitions, although they are interesting in the context of this post.
So people talk about tolerance like its original meaning (from Latin): To bear. Whereas acceptance focuses on its origin: to receive.
Therein lies the difference. Are we only to bear the existence of those who differ from us, or do we receive them into our lives? If everyone is equal, then the choice is obvious.
Unless people are saying what they really mean.
Point After (In the spirit of Football Season)
Gay used to mean happy. Are we so self-loathing and morally bankrupt a people that we seek to demonize and ridicule happiness?
Just a thought.
See? I used to go on all sorts of moral and ethical rants back in the day as well.
I’ll be taking this weekend off to celebrate my anniversary, but don’t worry: I’ll be back on Monday with something that I’ve been meaning to write about: The Teen Center on Bainbridge Island, Washington. And if you absolutely cannot live without my rambling words, feel free to peruse any of the other 98 posts I’ve written since I started this blog.
Thank you for support, and I look forward to your continued readership.
Now go outside, and have some fun, and come back on Monday for my 100th Post (which coincides with the 100th Day I’ve been running this blog).
I’m still feeling absolutely wiped, despite spending the weekend in a sort of convalescence. I’ve only begun to believe that I am on the mend as my usual level of pain has started to return. That was the wonderful part of the weekend (if one can count feeling horrible and coughing up a lung or two as wonderful): my legs and back were pain-free, and I only had to worry about fever and mucous production. Now I just have a lingering headache, a cough that won’t go quietly into the night, and that familiar stabbing pain that punctuates my every step. Aside from all of that, though, I’m feeling pretty good. Well, good enough to try and put in a day at the Home Office. I’ve told myself that I won’t turn off the cable news until I’ve written my blog entry for the day, and all the nonsense on my television is only making this headache worse, so I had better get to it.
It makes me want to rule the world with an iron fist. I’m tired of seeing all the slick, pretested messages and the conscious tomfoolery of those in power who seek out prosperity for themselves and their own, while hanging the rest of us out to dry. I’m tired of watching the parade of the worst of humanity, and listening to the inane judgments of anchors trying to fill a slow news day. I mean, I laid out my plan for the betterment of all mankind several times on this very blog, yet apparently no one has been reading it. Either that, or they simply aren’t paying that much attention. If we could all just sit down with one another and talk, we might discover that we have more in common with our polar opposites than we might have imagined. I know this to be true because I am a bleeding-heart liberal, and my family is made up of war hawks and 1% apologists. And yet, when you put to rest the tired rhetoric and talking points, it turns out that we actually feel quite similarly about several key issues. It’s when each side gets lost in their own political code words that the walls are raised and communication fails.
Current events are bleeding into my brain, and the headache has just put in a Jacuzzi. I said it in 2008, and now that the 2016 Presidential Campaign is apparently underway, I’ll say it again: I do not want a Clinton/Bush rematch. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I will not vote for Jeb Bush. It’s bad enough that we’re stuck with a two-party system, I cannot even tolerate the notion that we could be stuck in a two-family system. And given enough time, it’s easy enough for two families to become one, and therein lies the road to empire. Worst case scenario? Sure. I mean, it’s not like there are any other parallels in this country to the Roman Empire. I read an opinion piece while I was still on The Island, blaming the fall of the American Empire on our fading values, as in, the secularization of the country. That seems to be the go-to answer these days: everything would be all right if it weren’t for those godless heathens. Maybe I’m just being over-sensitive, as I am not actually in possession of a hearth.
But I’m not going down that rabbit-hole today. It’s easy to fall back into dystopian fantasies when surround by hopelessness of today. But things are bad enough without inventing things to fear. At least, that’s what I scream at Fox News every time it happens to be on my television. But that idea of a Bush/Clinton dynasty keeps percolating in the deepest reaches of my brain, and it makes me worried by its utter plausibility. And that’s just the sideshow meant to distract me: that line of reasoning is turning sharply away from where from where my attention should be, which is the rising oligarchy which seems no longer content to remain hidden in the shadows. When money can buy power, and power controls the frame of the debate, it sometimes seems hopeless to the single voices of the common men and women. Hold on, let me get my tinfoil. Sorry, I had to pop a baked potato in the oven.
I apologize if I seem a little all over the place today. I’m still feeling pretty blah, and I just can’t seem to find a rhythm to sink myself into. My wife just informed me that Spring Cleaning is coming early this year, as we’re going to excavate our bedroom, just to see if there is still, in fact, a floor. The downside to moderate prosperity has been the accumulation of things, and with my wife and I sharing a room with the Minkey, it’s not that surprising that we’ve begun running out of space. Well, actually, we’ve been out of space for quite awhile, but as my wife and I were working opposite shifts, it wasn’t necessarily as apparent. I guess that means the clock is ticking for me to find a source of steady income. When the adult kids and our grandson move out, we’ll have all the space of which we have been dreaming these past few years living as a giant family. I look forward to just how empty this nest of ours will appear, though missing out on my grandson will take some getting used to.
But with a daughter on the way, our grown-up kids are aware that we simply cannot fit the lot of us in the same two-bedroom apartment that can’t even fit those of us who are crammed in here at the moment. I wonder if my grandson will realize just how lucky he has been to see his grandparents every day, to spend time with them and enjoy the benefits of a multi-generational familial experience. I hope that we will be lucky enough to spoil our coming princess, and that she will choose to seek us out, just as her brother has done. Okay, maybe leg room isn’t everything. I know we can’t keep living like we have been, but when I get down to the things which I will miss, I find the face of my precious little toddler in a gigantic grin as he plays and runs around the living room chasing after (and being chased by) his uncle David. I wish I had a few million dollars, so that I could set us up in a nice couple of houses next to one another, where we could live nearby, but no longer beneath the same roof.