Everyone wants to be someone else

I remember watching an interview with a young woman on TV, I don’t remember her name, but she was an athlete in the para olympics.  She was missing a leg and ran with a prosthetic.  She didn’t dwell on her misfortune; she said in the interview, “I like who I am.” And I thought, “that’s weird.” Not because it’s weird that someone without a leg could feel that way, but because it was weird to me that anyone could feel that way.

It should be weird to a lot of people.  Because everyone wants to be something different,  If you’ve got straight hair, you want it to be curly, if you have curly, you want it to be straight.  People think they’re fat when they aren’t, they want a different shape to their bodies, they want to be creative, more focused, smarter, prettier, more outgoing.  Sometimes they want to be dumber (and happier).  It’s not usually as extreme as the guy who had plastic surgery to look like a lion, or even those who want to be a different gender, but it is common to be unhappy with who you are.

Dennis Avner

Dennis Avner

Whoopi Goldberg (a black woman who chose a Jewish stage name) had a routine in which she portrayed a young black girl who puts a shirt on her head and said, “this is my long luxurious blond hair.”  The routine continues with the girls mother saying “you can sit in a vat of clorox all day and all you ever going to be is black,” which Whoopi then tells us is true, cause she tried it and got burned.

I thought it was weird to like yourself, probably because that might have been one of the first times it dawned on me that it could be that way. There was a time when I wanted to be an actor because I loved pretending to be someone else.  I am often frustrated when I travel, because I want to do more than visit the sites, I want to live there, to know what it is like to be one of the locals.  I don’t even like the pictures of us, my family, that my wife puts up in our house because I want to forget who I am and how I’m defined by others.  Maybe I should have been an actor, but I couldn’t have gotten roles playing a black man, or a woman, because they would give those to black men or women.  So where is the outlet for people who want to be that different?

Does anyone really know why a guy wants to be a girl?  Or vice versa?  We accept it.  We don’t really know where it comes from, but we accept it (at least some of us do).

Kaitlyn Jenner has been in the news lately.  She takes to the publicity more than, say, Lana Wachowski ever did but this isn’t new anymore.  And now there’s Rachel Dolezal who was masquerading as black. I know people who are so accepting of the transgender, and think Rachel Dolezal has a serious mental illness. But it seems to me that transracial, so to speak, is less extreme than transgender, because race really is a construct, especially in the US where most black people are actually mixed, and some are more white than black, but by the American definition, unless you can and choose to pass, then you’re considered black. You are segregated by custom if not law, into a group, which becomes and then maintains a distinct culture. But we are all human. The genetics that are different between black and white are primarily limited to superficial things like skin color.  To say different is to align yourself with those who justified their racism with the notion that blacks were not even human.

If there is a difference between black and white it is because society segregates people based on the way they look.  The way society treates people who have any African heritage, whether it is that they get punished for crimes that whites don’t, denied the vote, or even killed without consequence, nurtures a common experience and a bond not unlike the bond of people that go to war together.

That’s not based on genes but on what we can see. The American Dream, as Malcolm X suggested, can be an American Nightmare just because you’re perceived as part of the black race.

Why would anyone choose that?

I’ve seen it written that Rachel Dolezol’s experience belittles the struggles that black people have to endure. I want to know how? Does it belittle black people to say that black is beautiful? Does not this say to young black girls that they are worth something, that they have something that at least one white person wants? If you are black and proud of it, wouldn’t you feel lucky, not because you can get the shit kicked out of you by the police for no reason, but at least to be born as something you can be proud of.  And can’t you feel sorry for someone who wants to be you but isn’t?

By abdicating her throne, so to speak, by giving up her white privilege to live 24-7 masquerading among the people she loves, is not an affront. And it does not detract from the cause of Justice, especially when she is working for the cause in the NAACP. And if the publicity distracts from more important stories, that isn’t Ms. Dolezal’s fault.

Carlos Danger

I started playing the drums when I was in 2nd grade, so it is somewhat natural to me when I get around to it.  It’s been a number of years since I picked it up again, although it still feels like I am returning from a LONG absence.

I play Jazz a lot and used to sit in on a local jam session, but I also like to play more popular forms.  Some guys I know have put together a cover band, have been playing together for a few years and have gotten pretty good.  After some time and much deliberation they have settled on the name Carlos Danger, and though I didn’t like the name at first, it has grown on me and I hope they never change it.

CD

Carlos Danger

A founding member and the solid foundation of this band is their drummer, so no room for me on the traps, but I’ve jammed with them on a number of occasions crashing their rehearsals with my conga drum.  They have been recruiting me to actually join the band, but because I always say, “yeah, I’d like to do it, sounds good, maybe so,” and never show up, they found some other caucasion.

But this other guy couldn’t make if for their gig yesterday at the pig roast (not kidding) and so they asked me if I would sub.

I did. They pulled me away from another party to rehearse with them for 4 hours Saturday night, on the other guy’s drums. As has been typical they had to twist my arm.  “I haven’t been practicing,” I said.

“So practice at the rehearsal,” they said.

Turns out they were right about everything.  I would not have practiced that hard at home.  And though I really didn’t want to leave that party (everyone brought a growler full of beer), after we played a couple of tunes I was like, “who would rather be at a growler party?  I mean, we’re making music.”

conga

Playing the pig roast

Plus this guy’s drums are better than the 35 year old skin I own and easier to play too.  I smacked the shit out of them for 4 hours straight.  And then with sore hands I had to play the gig the next day.  I was worried about that, but, you know, play in pain.  A little more beer helped.

I didn’t learn how to play hand drums in second grade, I started with sticks, began learning the drum set in seventh, and hand drums not until high school, and it still wasn’t my forte, but I learned from the best. And even though I don’t play all the time, their influence has stayed with me and I can call upon it when I need it.  Thank you to Don Babatunde Eaton, Edwina Lee Tyler, Rudy Bird and Ivan Hampden, Jr.

I think I did damn well, and I’m usually pretty critical of myself (the band sounded good too).  There’s always room to improve, and I took some risks for sure, but the crowd and the band’s feedback was positive. Now the only problem is they already have a conga player, but can a band really have too many percussionists?  I don’t think so.

Prometheus the Xangarelic

I first started blogging on a site called xanga and my user name was Prometheus.  I was there from the beginning, that is, when xanga began, and there were only a handful of us.  Later, when we were overrun by teenagers and the Chinese (I’m not kidding) we used to call ourselves “xangarelics.”  But at the beginning it was pure blogging.  Ordinary people with interesting and complex thoughts writing not about one thing, as is the conventional advice if you want to attract “customers,” but we wrote about everything.  It was what blogging should be.

That was the past.  Xanga is a ghost town now.  The site moved, and tried to reinvent itself, but now even old readers can’t find it.  It’s a ghost town, but it still exists.

Suddenly, I started getting emails that people are commenting on some of these old posts!

I’m popular again.

Wow, awesome weblog layout! How long have you ever been running a blog for? you made blogging glance easy. The total glance of your site is fantastic, let alone the content!

What are they selling?

Remarkable! Its really remarkable article, I have got much clear idea about from this post. – from “insoles for high arch”

Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and definitely will come back in the future. I want to encourage continue your great job, have a nice day! –  from Foot Pronation.

I used to be able to find good advice from your blog articles. – from Hay Day Hack Tool

That wasn’t very complimentary.  I’m not buying their app.

Whеn I originally comented ӏ seеm tto have clicked the -Notify mе hen neww comments ɑгe added- checkbox annd fгom now οn ԝhenever ɑ сomment іs added I get four emails ԝith tthe samе comment. There ɦas tto be a wɑy уou arre aable to remove mе from thаt service? Apprciate іt!

The first comment from that person.  A trick, I think.  I’m not falling for it.

Howdy would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re utilizing? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you suggest a good web hosting provider at a reasonable price? Thanks, I appreciate it!

And

Good blog you have got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!! – from Spartan Wars Cheat

{sigh}

Keystone Cops

These days, it’s getting harder and harder to like cops. And I even know a retired cop, and a cop married my cousin that lives in California and who I see once a decade or so.  Truth is I don’t know that many cops, but I know they are human.

I had to call on the police recently because my car was hit.  I was on the highway, in moderate traffic, and someone knocks the back bumper off it’s brace, cracks my brake light, damages the quarter panel and moves my car in the lane. Then he (she maybe, I didn’t see) drives past me inches from the rest of my car and leaves the scene.  Car still driving (this piece of shit takes a licking and keeps on ticking), I say, “hey,” and hot tail it in pursuit.  I follow the guy (let’s say) for a good 10 minutes, trying to memorize the license plate number, which isn’t working cause I can’t find a pattern to help me remember.  So I take out my phone and try to take a picture of it, hoping not to get into another accident while I’m steering with the camera in both hands, I got one, but the lighting is off and the license plate glows with blown out highlights.  People try to get in between us, but I work my way back behind him and then something occurs to me.  I have my phone in my hand. I can use it to call the police.  So I do.  I give them the license plate number, and not just because they said, “we don’t recommend that you confront the individual Sir,” I pull over and wait for an officer to arrive so that I can file a report.

When he shows up, he takes his time getting out of the car.  The lights are so bright I can’t even look in his direction.

So I’m just waiting there looking the other way.  Except when I was taking this picture.

20141211_190938

He comes out and talks to me, the lights still flashing of course.  He finds out from me that I told the operator everything he wants to know (and I don’t remember so good anymore) but that’s good because he has all that.  Back in his car, he looks up the license plate number I called in, which takes a very long time and he eventually emerges to inform me that he has an address and a name and that he will, personally, when he comes on duty the next day at about 2PM, go see if he can find the car, and if there’s evidence of the accident, he will write a ticket, but, he tells me not to expect too much because if the person has moved, there won’t be much they can do.  Five days or so and the report will be ready, he says, and if he can get insurance information I will be able to find it in the report.

“Thanks.”

So I call a couple of weeks later.  I’ve been driving this piece of shit around happy as a clam.  I didn’t get around to calling for a couple of weeks.  I pushed the part of the bumper that was hanging off back into it’s grooves and was good to go.  I find that I love this car even more now because it’s so beat up.  But I call.  They tell me that I can pick up the report at the station. I ask whether he found the guy and noted any evidence.  In other words “is it worth it for me to pick up the report?”  My expectations had been set low.

“I don’t see anything beyond your account of the accident.  Do you want me to have the officer call you?  He’s on duty tonight.”

“Sure,” I say.  Modern times.

And he calls.  That’s service.  But no, wasn’t able to find the guy.  “Sorry,” he says.

“So, he moved or something?”

“I guess so.”

“But isn’t he required to keep his address up to date?  Isn’t that also the law.  Does it at least go into the system so it will come up if he’s ever pulled over for something?”

“Well, yes, there will be an APB in the system, but there’s no way of putting him in the car at that time.”

“So I’m just out of luck.”

“Sorry about that, Sir.”

If I actually cared about fixing my car, I would be irate. But I love my car the way it is.

This is what I don’t understand.  The government keeps all kinds of information on us all the time, they make us register our cars, and renew it every year and pass emissions.  They also track our calls and take our fingerprints to even get a license. They can track us by our phone’s GPS and they probably do, but we can’t even find the guy when we know who he is, who owns a car that was involved in a hit and run.  And I think it’s a bad enough crime.  It’s worse than speeding.  Or running a red light when no one is around  Or rolling through a stop sign.  He left the scene of an accident that was his fault.  And why?  Doesn’t it make you suspicious that something else was going on, that he was drunk, didn’t have insurance, guilty of some other thing?  He shouldn’t get away with it so easily.

If it were me and I ran from the scene of an accident, I’d be scared shitless that I’d be caught.  But apparently all you have to do is park your car somewhere else for a few days and wait.

Television police are better than that.

Reminds me of a story about my great grandfather.  He was in the union, back when the police would beat you up for being in the union..  They called him Patty, as in Patrick, only his name wasn’t Patty or Patrick.  He wasn’t Irish, he was Jewish, and his name was Abraham, but for some reason, no one knows why, they called him Patty.  And he worked as a glazier and he was in the glazier’s union.  He may have even been part of management, like one of the union’s founders, I’m not sure.  But there was this kid who also worked at the union.  The kid was opining on some matter or other and by all accounts was an idiot, at least that’s what I believe, because I’m taking my great grandfather’s side even though I never met him.   Patty tells him to shut up. “You’re only here as a favor to your uncle,” he says, who happened to be a mobster, or so the story goes. Then the kid pulls a knife, but the fight is broken up.  Patty goes home and waits on his stoop, because he knows the kid is coming.  Sure enough he does and Patty shoots him.  At this point the kid backs off saying, “ok, ok.”  That’s how I heard it so I assume he wasn’t killed.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure.

And so the way this story ends, according to my grandfather, is that Patty had to hide out on the rooftops for a few days while the police looked for him.

Then they gave up.

So times haven’t changed, really.  They gave up then, and gave up now looking for the person who hit herbie, the love Honda (just kidding, my car doesn’t have a name.  My wife named a car Otis, once, also a Honda, and then it was totaled and she was really upset).

But it’s just  “Oh well.  Couldn’t find him.”

While I’m on the subject, here’s another story about Patty.  His son, my grandfather, the one who told the other story, also worked in the union, after his father died.  He ran the union for a little while in fact, the Glazier’s union in New York City. Later on, when he was older, after he had been banned from running the union, over some trumped up conspiracy charge, he got my younger brother a job there.  Now my brother is a work of art.  His appearance is eclectic and ever changing.  At one time he sported a mohawk.  I’ve known him to wear tails, for no specific reason.  He changes his facial hair periodically and he used to wear two different colored converse sneakers which he bought at the dollar store before they became trendy again. He was in a rock band, you feel me?  So my grandfather, who was old fashioned enough to tell you to get a haircut, but would smile about it and didn’t belabor the point, got him this job. And by all accounts he did well.  I’m sure he did, my brother is a smart guy, and can push papers around, or whatever he did there.  I don’t know.  Then one day one of the older guys runs into him and says, “so you’re Sidney’s grandson?”

“Yeah,” my brother says.

Then he looks my brother up and down and says in this old jewish croak of a voice, “Patty woulda kicked your ass.”

But they can’t send him a letter at his address of record?  Maybe it would be forwarded, if he even actually moved.  It could say, “you’re car was reported to be party to a hit and run. Govern yourself accordingly.” If I were to actually replace the bumper and quarter panel and light that would be a waste. The car runs. I have no problem with it.  If I fixed it, it would only be to pretend it was something it’s not.

But there could be a hold put on his yearly registration, until he gets his address up to date and at least shows his face. They could deny him his sticker.  Maybe by then we won’t be able to prove anything, but he would have to undergo some measure of inconvenience. That’s all I want.

I mean it seems lately like cops can kill black people and nothing happens, they’re good at that, and we don’t hear much about the good cops standing up against it (when they do they are attacked by organizations like The Fraternal Order of Police), but they can’t do a little leg work when someone is actually trying to take advantage of them?

This is worse than selling single cigarettes without a license to people who are so poor that they can only afford one cigarette, for which a man was killed by police. I want to like cops, I do. That’s all I’m saying.

Chicken Shit

ACLU

I took this picture in San Francisco in 1985 because she was wearing an ACLU shirt

My father in law used to be a chicken farmer for Tyson.  After the chickens were removed from his houses every six weeks or so, he would allow local farmers to come get the chicken shit to fertilize their crops.  My wife wanted some chicken shit for her tomato garden, and so she asked him if he could bring some from South Carolina to Georgia, and he did.  She also wanted him to bring this beautiful cedar chest that her great uncle had made, for the kid’s toys.  So he brought the cedar chest filled with chicken shit.

You know what else I hate?

When people on facebook get pissed off at someone else on facebook, but instead of addressing the person directly, by private message or even in public, they cloak it in a general statement that rails against people who do that particular thing.  ”If you’re an asshole by doing this or that specifically, rest assured your comment will be deleted,” then they delete your comment, so you know you’re the asshole, but they hide behind the fact that it was just a general statement towards all people who happen to do what you just did, and not at all directed at you or at least not JUST at you.  That’s chicken shit.

And because the statement is typically general, hordes of Facebookers file in to offer their support, “I hate people like that,” they say.  “Happens to me all the time,” they say.  “You don’t need people like that in your life.”  I agree, but wait a minute… is she talking about me?

I had never actually borne the brunt of such a denunciation, though I had seen plenty, and always wondered about the other side. I’m not a common denominator, I promise.  It has happened to me so far only once.  A friend of mine, at least I thought she was, posted something political on her page.  I took it as the start of a conversation because isn’t that what it is when you say something first? When you post something in a public forum?  Are you not inviting comment and opinion (albeit respectful as it should be)?

I don’t often get into fights with people.  I’m generally non-confrontational.  In fact, I avoid confrontation even when I shouldn’t.  But I will debate, in environments in which I feel safe (like online) or I’ll state my case calmly and with civility whenever I can.  I’ll even tell a racist (and I have), “I just don’t see it like that,” and I’ll tell him why.  It has happened to me that someone felt comfortable telling me her racist views because of how calmly I address them, and that gives me a chance to be honest.  Now if someone starts in with me, I won’t pull punches.  I’ll defend myself.  I live in the south, but I’m not full of southern charm.  I’m from New York.

She lives in New York now, the one who wronged me.  But she’s originally from Kentucky.  And I understand that some people aren’t worth arguing with, and if you’re tired of arguing with right wing republicans because you’re already from Kentucky and you’ve had enough of it, ok.  If you’re sure you’re never going to change a person’s mind, why waste time?  But if you post something on your page, I’m assuming you’ve opened the floor to discussion with other liberals, at least.

Before I go on, let me say that I have always considered my own sites, pages, blogs, to be free speech zones because I want it that way.  I respect other people’s opinions, and accept that it is what they believe whether I like it or not, and I assume that their views appear reasonable to them.  And they will never change if we don’t talk about it, and if we shut them up, it won’t stop them from saying the same things somewhere else where maybe no one will counter.  And also, I could be wrong, and if I am I want to know it.  So it’s very rare that I will delete a comment off my own page.  But I don’t expect that of everyone.  In fact I reserve the right to delete anyone’s comment, even though I hardly ever do it.  Certainly if the comment makes the person look bad, I’d probably prefer to leave it.  And if if their arguments sound reasonable, I’d prefer to accept the challenge, make the best argument I can and let the chips fall where they may.  The only comment I ever actually deleted was my wife’s, but I don’t want to talk about that. Suffice it to say I did it to protect her, though she didn’t see it that way. 

Bottom line, I believe that the answer to “bad” speech, if you will, is more speech, not less, a response, in other words, not censorship.  But that’s me.  You can delete the comments of anyone you disagree with, that’s you.  You also have the right to say anything you want about me.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

So, I knew this woman from an online fiction writing class.  We had never met in person, but we read each other’s work, which can be personal, honest and even intimate.  After the class was over, we became friends on facebook. We have mutual facebook friends too, from the class, students and the teacher.  And politically we were basically on the same page.  She’s posted more than once in support of the American Civil LIberties Union which endeared her to me.  My dad ran the American Civil Liberties Union for 22 years from 1979 to 2001, and the New York Civil Liberties for 11 years before that. I grew up in the ACLU.

When she moved to New York, and was looking for a job as a lawyer, I reached out to my dad to see if I could maybe put her resume in someone’s hands.  Maybe he had been retired too long at that point, or maybe he didn’t want to try for someone I never even met in person (I guess he was right about that), so it didn’t pan out, but I was on her side.

Now, before the incident of which I’m about to speak, there was another discussion between us, which in fairness I should disclose, because the history apparently played into the thing, for her.  It was our first disagreement as far as I remember. In brief the argument had to do with mixed income housing in NYC, and whether or not people renting the “affordable” rent units deserved to have all of the same amenities of those renting at market rate, particularly when the developer took tax credits to provide affordable units.  In the end we agreed on many points, that minimum wage should be increased (really had nothing to do with the issue, but demonstrated a shared liberal sensibility), that mixed income communities are a good thing, and even that if taking the tax credit required the developer to provide the same rights and privileges to both higher income and lower income residents, then that was a contractual obligation I would consider legally binding.  I reserved judgement, however, on the intent of the credits, because I didn’t know.  This was a question of fact, upon which my opinion would turn, and I didn’t just take her word for it.  This was important because I wasn’t sure I cared if people paying less got less – as long as they could still benefit from the advantages of living in a wealthier neighborhood, the schools, the police protection, the location by the river, near a park etc. Those are the advantages that accrue to lower income residents of mixed income communities even if they don’t get access to a pool, a gym, a doorman, concierge services, or whatever.  My reservations bothered her, it was obvious.  And I secretly harbored a bit of judgment towards her because of sentiments she had previously expressed which seemed to equate the financial situation she found herself in, six figure debt from a private law school that she couldn’t pay off, with those who struggle to survive on minimum wage.   To me it looked like she was spending money while complaining she didn’t have any.  She did everything right she complained, and I privately disagreed.  I didn’t want to argue that with her, but I thought she made a mistake borrowing that much. Everyone makes mistakes, it wasn’t the mistake I judged, it was that she didn’t own it, even in retrospect.  I’m not so liberal to think that her debt should be forgiven and that my taxes should pay for her private education.  I went to public schools.  My kids go to public schools.  You know why?  Because I can’t afford private school and I know it.  I didn’t say any of that, but some of what I did say, that people weren’t necessarily entitled to luxuries they couldn’t afford were directed at that, and I believe were taken by her to mean that I was unsympathetic to the poor.  I was only unsympathetic to her.  But my beliefs aren’t necessarily fixed either, and I like to hear what other people have to say.  Was I argumentative?  Only to the extent I didn’t accept what she believed simply because she said it.  No, I was not.  And I did not lose respect for her over it, at least not much.  In fact I admired her liberal sensibilities even though I didn’t necessarily agree with her on everything. We went a couple of rounds and it seemed like we were repeating ourselves, so I let it go.

Maybe a month later she posts something on her site about the Koch brothers and how Citizen’s United set them free to spend unlimited sums on Republican causes.  Another political post.  Citizen’s United, if you don’t know, refers to a relatively recent court case in which a conservative not for profit “corporation” called Citizen’s United went awry of campaign finance law.  They tried to distribute a film they had made that was critical of Hillary Clinton (a candidate I voted for when she ran for president), shortly prior to the election.  That happened to have been illegal.  At least it was until “Citizen’s United” struck down the law as a violation of the first amendment’s protection of freedom of speech.

The decision is largely condemned by liberals enraged about corporate influence who believe that it opened the door to unlimited spending on campaigns.  My father, the, as previously mentioned, retired director of the ACLU, an organization that has become in popular vernacular almost synonymous with liberalism (though it is technically non-partisan) – had been outspoken in defense of the decision.  He argues that it is great ruling for liberals and that what it actually did is widely misunderstood and misreported. He wrote a piece on it soon after the opinion came out, which he published on the Huffington post.

My friend’s post also referenced the Koch brothers, infamous republican financiers who I do not happen to like, and blamed Citizen’s United for what they have been able to spend on right wing objectives. That isn’t true, first of all, because they are not corporations, and Citizen’s United only addressed limits on corporations.  And even if they were corporations, it is still questionable because Citizen’s United didn’t address what corporations could contribute to campaigns.  It addressed what is called “independent expenditures.” I don’t argue it as well as my dad, so I posted this, and this alone, on her page.

“I know you are a fan of the ACLU.  You might be interested in this:”

And I included a link which came with a teaser.  Here you can see how it looked, what she saw, and in case you’re interested in reading it, you can follow the link.

Understanding the Citizens United Ruling

www.huffingtonpost.com

Liberals who denounce the Citizens United decision fail to appreciate what a great ruling it was for the First Amendment, and what a huge victory it was for freedom of speech and against government censorship….

Later that day I see this on her facebook page (and subsequently confirmed that my comment was gone)

If you post argumentative comments or articles on my fb wall in response to my posts containing my political views, I will likely remove it. It is not your job to educate me or assume that I hold the views that I do because you have failed to introduce me to your opinion. I’m well educated, I get paid to think critically. Furthermore, I come from a background that saturated me in every possible shade of Republican philosophy, economic and moral. And I have concluded that most of those positions are dead wrong.

So the chances are that whatever article or comment you feel moved to post is not news to me and isn’t going to change my mind. Furthermore, I refuse to engage in flame wars on fb. You believe what you believe, I believe what I believe. If we’ve decided to engage in a respectful debate, I very much doubt the venue is my fb wall.

Post what you want on your wall but rest 100% assured, if you’re being rude or argumentative, your posts on my wall are coming down.

I love that so much.

Glutton for punishment that I must be, I returned to the scene of the crime, with this:

Maybe you misunderstood what I was trying to say.  That article was written by the retired director of the ACLU, who happens to be my father.  I can see how you might have expected it to be critical of the ACLU the way I introduced it.  If that’s the case and you want to reconsider, here is the link again.

Understanding the Citizens United Ruling

www.huffingtonpost.com

Liberals who denounce the Citizens United decision fail to appreciate what a great ruling it was for the First Amendment, and what a huge victory it was for freedom of speech and against government censorship..

She deleted that too, and wrote this to no one in particular:   

I would prefer private messages if you feel that you must be argumentative. I’ve seen way too many fb disagreements turn into public brawls. There’s literally no reason for it.

So I private messaged her, like she suggested these combative, public brawling, flamers should, as if I were one, and began this conversation:

Is it unreasonable for me to assume that if you post something in a public forum that you’re up for some discussion?  It happens that I’ve discussed Citizen’s United with other liberals, like the two of us are, and have convinced a few that it’s a actually a good decision. It happens to be widely misunderstood and misreported.  I mean, you called me a Republican!  Did you even read the article?      

I read the article.  I don’t think you’re a republican.  I was making a larger point that addressed quite a few comments I’ve had recently – this was not merely a response to your post.

I think it’s disingenuous to say you aren’t addressing me when you’ve deleted my comment which is what you said you’d do in your “larger point.”  The person you’re really addressing either knows you’re talking to them, or people you’re not addressing may think it (in my case, you’re not denying it) and that seems to me more combative than anything I did or said, and certainly not constructive. You may be highly educated and paid to think critically, but you come off as conceited.

I am not conceited.  Other people including the four dissenting justices didn’t agree with the opinion of the court. You started this whole thing by intentionally being argumentative on my wall when I think I have made it clear that I won’t have debates publicly.  I remove that kind of stuff and I always have.  I don’t go onto your wall and start flame wars.  I also don’t think I have any obligation to justify my opinions, just as no one has to me.  I used to engage in open fb debates but realized that it turned into people basically yelling at each other online and no one came out the other side changing their minds. If people don’t like what I write they are welcome to unfriend me.

So hyperbolic to say that I was argumentative when all I did was offer an alternative opinion, by posting a link to an article that was written by someone I had reason to think you respected.  Do you even know what flaming is?  I am, in fact, open to hearing why you believe what you do.  Maybe you could convince me of something.  I think I could convince you of something.  On the other hand, if you read the article, and completely disagree with it, maybe there is no point, unless you just don’t believe the article is factual.

I do not think I deserved the disdain that you more typically reserve for your conservative brethren in Kentucky with whom you obviously have (probably justifiable) issues.  But I’m not them, and I quite frankly feel like I deserve an apology.  If I don’t get one, that’s fine, but I think I will unfriend you.

I have not attacked you personally.  My posting something that was addressed in general to facebook was not a personal attack.  Every now and then I post similar things because I don’t like getting into fb arguments with people.  I also think that recently, every time you have posted on my wall, it has been you arguing with some liberal political view I hold.  That gets old quick.  I am not here to try to convince people to agree with me and I am not interested in having those discussions.  I have the viewpoints I have based upon my life experience and my own research.  I read the opinion, I read the dissent.  I agree with the dissent.  And I don’t have a desire to rehash it.  Life is too short to spend it arguing with people.

I don’t think I owe you an apology because I have not done anything to you.  I have not singled you on fb nor would I.  

If you feel you need to remove me, that’s up to you.

I don’t need to, but I want to. Because I don’t see any reason to interact with you if I can’t respectfully speak my mind.  I’ve shown you no disrespect, yet you accuse me of it.  I can’t understand why you would even bother coming to opinions if you aren’t willing to articulate why you have them after starting the damn conversation.  Except that you didn’t start a conversation – because you “previously made it clear” (like I read every one of your posts) that you don’t want people to do anything but agree with you.  As for that other “argument” we had I listened to everything you said, and agreed with you on more than you seem able to acknowledge.  I can’t express honest doubts and questions about the particulars of an issue? I’m just trying to make sense of things like any reasonable person would.  And then you accuse me of flaming you like I’m bullying or something?  Like I’m calling you stupid?  I wouldn’t have engaged you if I didn’t think you were intelligent.   But there’s no use in conversing with someone who is so sure of herself that she has developed fixed beliefs that she refuses to reconsider. That’s a characteristic more typical, by the way, of republicans.  If you don’t even want to debate liberals who don’t agree with everything you believe at the onset, then fair enough. It was nice knowing you.

In the end we washed the cedar chest with a hose, and though we were worried it would ruin the cedar, it didn’t.  Once the chicken shit was washed away, it smelled wonderful again.

50th Birthday Blog

If living to 100 is the same as getting all As in school, a perfect GPA, that explains why most people don’t. Of course, there are a few who manage to live beyond a hundred. They must have done some extra credit for the ultimate teacher (or maybe they did something wrong, and had to stay after class – it all depends on how you look at it). But 100 should still be the gold standard.

Maybe it just satisfies that side of me that likes things to be easily divisible, I don’t know. But I think turning 50 is like halftime; take a break, a party and a show, and start fresh.

50

Or course we all know those, among our friends and family, that weren’t fortunate enough to make it through the first half. Let’s remember them as we also recognize that most of us won’t make it all the way through the second, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a hundred years for which we should plan. Even if it is unlikely that I make it that far, or that I’ll understand what’s happening when I do, that doesn’t negate the notion that fifty can be a hell of a midpoint, because the first ten years or so (maybe fifteen or twenty) are certainly formative. We can shave off years at the beginning and the end, when we calculate how long we have to work on ourselves and fifty can still be the midpoint of the meaty years in between.

So what now?

Can I suddenly become the person I failed to be in the first half? I’m going to say yes. Because I see the seeds. I am already growing in ways I had begun to think I couldn’t, without even realizing it was happening. I have achieved things I thought I had missed out on. So often I have looked back at my college years, for instance, as my daughter begins her own college stint, and  wished I had been less shy, had opened up to friends, had more fun, allowed myself to be more emotionally intimate, if you will, more honest. But those four (ok, six) years were not the only opportunity I had for that, even though we are sometimes led to believe they are supposed to be the best years of our lives. I am living, now, much of what I wished I had lived then, in a close knit community in which I have friends in nearby dorms (houses), who I hang out with regularly, drinking beer and whiskey if we want to, playing poker and pool, or just hanging out listening to music (even sometimes playing it). And over time they have learned things about me that embarrass me, quite frankly, as I have of them, and we’re the closer for it.

So it isn’t too late.

I am who I wanted to be then, to a certain degree. Why not take it another step and finish some writing projects? Just because I have never done it before doesn’t mean that dreams aren’t attainable, even in, or especially in, the second half of life.

I’ve tried to celebrate turning fifty in many ways this year, and at every opportunity. It started in January with a trip to reconnect with old friends at the party of an old college chum, who I hadn’t seen in almost thirty years. Tim Vogl’s 50th birthday party in Tucson was awesome.

tucson2

See?

Then later in the year I flew to New York for my best man, Aaron’s, surprise party. And as, one by one, old friends on facebook dropped the bomb, I counted down. All year I enjoyed saying I am almost fifty, because I can celebrate but still not actually be there. And it pleases me somehow that, always one of the youngest in my class (I was still 17 when I first got to college), I am also one of the last to fall. But now that the day is here, what does it mean?

Nothing. Everything. Whatever you want it to mean. My grandmother was fifty the year I was born. She would have been a hundred this year. She didn’t quite make it all the way.

And it wasn’t that long ago that I put together a video for my mother-in-law’s 50th birthday, edited on a computer, which was not so easy then. My daughter, the one starting college this year, had already been born, she was two and a half, which means that it was only sixteen years ago. I’m only sixteen years younger than my mother in law? Can that be right?

So what is in store for me?

As I contemplate all of this in my favorite coffee shop, trying to gain some kind of special perspective on age, I see little kids, laughing and giggling, banging sippy cups against the table, because they love the sounds that make us old people cranky. They act like they’re drunk but they’re not (at least I hope not). They have the capacity for joy that we sometimes lose, not just because life is no longer new to us, but, I think, because our bodies are older and we don’t physically feel as good as we used to.

So let me not forget how important it is, if I’m going to start anew, to feel good. It always was and it still is. So if that means I have to exercise, eat right, take vitamins, write more, and drink a little alcohol, like when I was first discovering Tequila as a new college student and the law still allowed drinking (yes, I’m that old), or even if I have to quit it when it comes time to do so, then it’s worth it. If it means I need to stay out of debt, in order to keep the stress at bay, then it’s worth it. If it means I need to care less what people think, be who I be and say what I think, then it’s worth it.

It’s about time, that’s what I say. It’s about time I turned 50. What was I waiting for?

Everyone wants to be free

I’m not a rule breaker. I recognize that many rules were created because they worked well for somebody else, but still, I feel this enormous pressure to do what they did.

I am so focused on my daughter’s college or not college decision (yes college or not) because of what it would have meant to me when I was her age. I knew what I wanted then, but I didn’t know that I knew, and therefore I was easily shaken of all confidence once I got there. I don’t want that for her.

I want her to go to college, but I want more that she knows what she wants and acts on it with conviction. I want her to say, “fuck you dad, only I know what’s right for me.”

I wish I had said that, but to who? Probably myself. “Fuck you self. You don’t know what I want.”

She and I, still (it’s never too late, is it?), need to do what we know is right for each of us. We need to say “fuck you,” to the world, “you’re not the boss of me.”

I honestly don’t know what’s right for her. If I thought I did it would make it harder to back off. It’s hard anyway. I’m scared to seem like I am encouraging either choice. But I find myself needing to tell her that it is ok to decide on the less conventional, and that feels like an encouragement. I even showed her the Robert Frost poem.

And she is not the type that has always yearned for freedom the way Robert Frost and I have, or is she? Isn’t everyone? Who doesn’t want to be free?

Tell Us How You Really Feel

Phil Robertson, of the Duck Dynasty, and this may be an understatement, is somewhat ignorant about homosexuality.  The only real sin, after all, is hurting somebody.  Nevertheless we want to know what he thinks, about homosexuality and other things, like what makes black people happy, and how all great evils, like the NAZIs and the Japanese, resulted from not being Christian. And let’s be fair, he may have known some black people who were happy despite being poor. Good for them.

Bottom line is we should want to know what he thinks, not so we can punish him, but so we can teach him something.  Whether he chooses to learn or not, others can also share in the lesson. In fact, his statement put the world to listening for a response, and it is the perfect opportunity to craft one.

And should we really blame him for saying what he thinks?  If he doesn’t say it he will never be challenged.  This is true for us as well. If we don’t express what we really believe, no one will ever argue with us and we will lack the chance to appreciate another’s perspective.  We are all ignorant of something.

So, I don’t think A&E should fire him, or suspend him or punish him in any way.  These are his opinions.  Instead they should release a statement, their opinion, which hopefully would go something like this (and just in case they want it I hereby give them permission to use what I am about to suggest word for word):

“The views that Phil Robertson recently expressed in an interview with GQ magazine, that homosexuality is a sin, that it is illogical and equated with bestiality are not shared by A&E.  We consider his statements to be born of ignorance and as a company we stand in support of diversity and of the rights people should have to live their lives as they see fit.  This is not a reproach of Christianity, but to the belief that Jesus wants us to judge homosexuality, a belief that we do not share.  Nevertheless, we do not consider it our responsibility to censure Mr Robertson from expressing his views, but rather would use this opportunity to foster a debate that might change minds.  We consider it our obligation to respond to the statements made by one of our own, to make clear where we stand, and to encourage others to do the same.  In the words of Ira Glasser, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union, “the answer to bad speech is not less speech, but more speech.”

It might piss off some of Duck Dynasty’s supporters, but if Robertson has free speech, so do we all.  That said, the Constitution only protects him from the government.  A&E has no obligation to give anyone a voice, if they don’t think it serves their purpose. They can, if they desire, respect the spirit of free speech, but if the audience doesn’t like what they produce, it doesn’t matter the reason. It’s not their business to lose money.  So I’m not saying A&E has any obligation to do anything in particular, just that I think this would be the best route.

I read the article.  His views were not any different than those we have heard over and over often from political candidates. Are we supposed to pretend they don’t exist by making people like Phil Robertson shut up?  He has little influence to do anything but foster debate, which we can use to turn public opinion.  It’s not like he’s the President, or a Senator, or Congressman, or Governor.  Them we have to be more concerned about.

Phil Robertson makes duck calls and has a reality show.  He’s a character, good and bad.   I was not particularly surprised by anything he said.  Was anyone?

Connecticut

Sometimes talking to your children really helps you to see how they see things. Like when my daughter explained to me what she likes about Connecticut.

My parents have a house there near the beach, but we hadn’t been there in three years.  She’d like to go again, she says, and we say maybe.  The summers are always so busy, some of it is because there are other things that they want to do, like the Spanish Immersion program my oldest daughter went to in June, and some is travel that we like to do because, well, because we can.   I only have so much vacation.  But it bothers me that the kids don’t get to go to Connecticut to see my parents at their house, near where I spent almost all of my summers when I was growing up.

She wants to help her Grandma in the garden, she says.  She’s worried that her siblings will interfere with that.  They won’t, I tell her.  How do I know?  I visualize it.  That’s also how I know we’ll have world peace someday.  And though faith does not play a roll in my spiritual beliefs, it does here.  She loves that the house is so open, she tells me, and how it feels to shower all the salt and the sand out of her hair, and the ping pong table in the basement.  Is it still there, she asks.  Probably not, she says.  Why wouldn’t it be, I say (it wasn’t).  My brother’s bicycle from when he was a kid is still there, I say (it wasn’t either).  She remembers all of that and misses it.  She wants to do it again.

I want you to do it again, too, I say.  Let’s make it happen.   Thank you, for getting through to me.  I didn’t say that part.  I just thought it.

I Have Found My People Here

If someone starts up a competitor for facebook, I think they should call it “The Woods.”  Because facebook is like a forest where you meet up with people you used to know who may or may not remember you. And then, because you are older perhaps, or because time has proven to you that whether these people like you or not isn’t really going to change anything, you are more honest with them than you ever were before.

I recently reconnected with another old friend, in the woods. I didn’t know her very well then, even if I thought I did, but we had shared something formative.  We were in a play together about children in a concentration camp called I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

Ronald Reagan once said that he had helped to liberate a concentration camp, but he had only done it in a movie. That’s kind of sad, but I also understand it.  I sometimes feel like I was there too, and I still empathize with the characters we pretended we were.

“Hi Honza, it’s Raja,” she says, using our character’s names.

“Raja,” I say back. “How have you been?”

And after 35 years, we’re talking about that play, what it did for us and how we still feel about it.

I am surprised to find out that she, who was always so quiet, was the black sheep of her family. She went to “City As,” an alternative school in New York, for troubled kids, at least that’s what I always thought it was.  Even so it sounded so much better than real school to me.  I just wasn’t screwed up enough to go there.

And she was in a drug program before she was 16 (this would have been after I saw her last).

She tells me she was probably too young for that play and it manifested in wacky ways back at home.  She’s now an herbalist living an ordinary life, by her own account, and I’m an accountant, writing on the side, I tell her, and trying to be un-ordinary.

She asks me if I have a blog.

“As a matter of fact I do.”

I’ve even got some poetry on there, I feel compelled to tell her.

I sometimes tell people that I think I write good poetry, an irrational conceit, really, because I don’t even particularly like poetry.

Then it dawns on me where I picked up what love I do have for it.  In Terezin.  I Never Saw Another Butterfly was a poem before it was a play.  It is a play about children who drew pictures and wrote poems on contraband pieces of paper which they then buried so the Nazis wouldn’t find them.  I get to wondering to what extent my poetry was influenced by theirs.  One of mine:

It’s my winter now
Cold so long my toes feel numb
My head swims in blood thick
And my bones have frozen
I keep thinking about my toes
And then I dream
About friends who don’t remember me
And wake to work done at a desk
My thick blooded head
and stiff neck and shoulders
Move in shudders only and yawns
And I can’t get warm

One of theirs:

He doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth’s aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open up your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if the tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.

–Anonymous 1941

Isn’t it interesting that mine is kind of down and theirs is so uplifting?  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Makes me feel ashamed for writing stuff that’s so depressing.

She tells me that she appreciates the honesty and candor in my writing.   But I often think that I am not as honest as I should be.

Years after we performed that play, I read Elie Wiesel’s Night, and I remember being struck by how free he really was after it was over.  He had lost everyone, including his father only at the very end.  This was freedom to the extreme.  You wouldn’t have to worry about who you might hurt by anything you could possibly say, because everyone you cared about was dead.

“Goodbye,” Raja said in the play.  “It should have been posted at the entrance instead of that lie that greeted newcomers, ‘work makes us free.’  It was goodbye, not work that made us free.  What did we have to fear when we had said goodbye to everyone we had ever loved.”

I didn’t have to look that up.

This one I did:

For seven weeks I have lived here
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court
Only I never saw another butterfly

Pavel Friedman 1942 died 1944 at Auschwitz.