Friday, November 28, 2008


thanks. for that. and the other thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

i just couldn't resist

when i saw the headline: "monks brawl in jerusalem"

i don't even think i need to write anything.

i watched it without any sound (at work) and had to keep from giggling. what a wonderful thing, religion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

on the same type of seriouser note

i'm glad i'm not em's jackolantern, because it had just really its bottom teeth gnawed off by a raccoon animal or a 'possum animal or a misguided supercharged nocturnal plaque being.

on a more seriouser note

i'm glad i'm not my jackolantern because it had its face eaten off in the middle of the night by raccoon animals or 'possum animals or starving nocturnal inconsiderate children.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

on progress

i won't try to claim that it was a major consideration for voters in this country, but there's a topic i've heard some discussion about that i feel is in DIRE need of some deconstruction: "is america ready for a black president?" several months ago, the question was accompanied by "is america ready for a female president?"

while i think it may be worth a few minutes in the broader span of a lifetime to discuss the answer of such questions, the larger-picture-considering, point-at-the-elephant-in-the-room, asshole in me is stomping up and down and screaming at the top of my lungs "WHO THE F*#K CARES?!" it's not because i think the answer is obvious, or completely irrelevant. it matters a great deal to black/woman candidate deciding whether to run or not, and it matters to their opponent - but aside from those directly involved, the discussion is entirely academic.

just as the race of a candidate in and of itself should have no impact on a voter's decision (in a perfect world), whether a population is 'ready' for their leader to be anything but old and white shouldn't even be entertained while one makes up his/her mind.

i don't claim this is any sort of revolutionary idea - but that's part of the problem. it should be a non-issue, and my belief as such is tied strongly to my feelings and beliefs about progress. not about a particular example though, as simply electing a black president is not progress - this is not an endorsement or celebration of Obama's victory, but that doesn't mean i'm not happy about the outcome. my point is that a discussion of race is not a discussion of value, and i think the most effective means of growing up socially as a nation have much more in common with Rawls' 'veil of ignorance,' than they do with a strategy of likelihood or gauging our population's ability to 'handle' change. real change on this scale is usually brought about somewhat violently, not as an epiphany to be reached once we've achieved some abstract state of tolerance - and i think it's set in motion most effectively by changing the expectations of your surroundings.

the difficult conclusion that i've come to is that sometimes, the mob-rule quality of democratic society should be disregarded - not often, but i believe there are cases in which responsible citizens and leaders need to ignore the majority, and disregard the attitudes of large groups of people. in a country like the one we live in, it is perhaps the only way that significant progress can be made, and that's a difficult pill to swallow, but i believe it's true.

this country wasn't 'ready' for the civil rights act, or for integration in public schools. they happened anyway. people fought it, people died, people persevered. i have no sympathy for those who didn't get their way in that decision. they were wrong. i don't care how popular being wrong was - it was a victory for egalitarian democracy. and it was a victory for humanity.

i'd argue that this country wasn't even 'ready' for the americans with disabilities act of 1990. as with any great new expectation/law, those who can get away with holding to outdated notions (either for personal comfort, or financial gain) will do so as long as they can. it's absurd that states have to pass laws mandating that mental health be covered under health insurance policies 18 years after the ADA.

but the fact that we're cleaning up the pieces decades down the road doesn't mean the sweeping change was made prematurely -- indeed, i think it more than confirms the need for such action in regard to equality and 21st century society's ethical standards. the point is to create an expectation of equality. when the bus leaves, it will drive slowly, and that's frustrating for progressive and modern minds - but at least it's being driven with some authority. and there is nothing wrong with leaving the 12th century, and those stuck in it, behind. i wish religious leadership (and not just islam, but overcoming fear and hatred of women, homosexuals and other religious groups seems to be a greater challenge for islamic nations) would be able to reconcile honor of the sacred with a respect for human fallibility and growth -- but for now, i'm willing to stay cynical, only expecting such integrity from the secular side of citizenry.

i've grown more severe about this issue in recent years, and my own expectations have spread to domains i used to leave alone. i think most of us theoretically disagree with the use of unfairly discriminatory terms, but when the 'chips are down,' (sometimes literally) we laugh at racist jokes, mimic people with distracting disabilities, and think that to condemn the occasional poke of fun is just taking things too seriously -- bedwetting liberalism to some. but i think my own thoughts about human psychology and sociology have shifted as of late - and i think apparent overcompensation is just what humans need in a time that requires a near universal leap of attitude-ical levels. in the book "anger," Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the age-old practice of 'punching a pillow,' to 'release' anger. it seems our modern understanding of physiology and its relationship with behavior leads us to a very different conclusion,
and Nhat Hanh proposes it as such:

                    "Expressing anger is not always the best way to deal with
it. In expressing anger we might be practicing or rehearsing
it, and making it stronger in the depth of our consciousness.
Expressing anger to the person we are angry at can cause a lot
of damage.

Some of us may prefer to go into our room, lock the door,
and punch a pillow. We call this "getting in touch with our
anger". But I don't think this is getting in touch with our
anger at all. In fact, I don't think it is even getting in
touch with our pillow. If we are really in touch with our
pillow, we know what a pillow is and we won't hit it."

Now, i understand that his style of writing may take some getting used to, and many consider this sort of thinking laughably childish -- but i would contend that such a reading is an inaccurate, lazy one. sometimes, basic ideas get misread as complicated ones, and i think changes in attitudes are about changing our environment and our patterns. our emotions are not disconnected from our rational expressions, and to act as if they are - to express violence behind closed doors - is ignoring the influence feelings and actions have on one another. for example, breaking the patterns and attitudes of an alcoholic are most effective when they are universal. recovering alcoholics don't have a 'harmless' couple of beers from time to time, and they can't believe that it wouldn't be a big deal - not only because of the physical addiction, but because of the power and growth potential of repeated behaviors and unexamined attitudes.

behavior is a model of physiology, in my mind - consider muscle memory, and how long it takes for a quarterback to fix a 'bad' throwing motion. consider plain old memory - and how we can actually fool ourselves into inventing elements of an event that never happened, simply by repeating the memory a certain way in our brain. it all has to do with the pathways of signals, the strengthening of connections, and our physical or psychological comfort level with what happened the last 9,000 times we threw a ball with our elbow too high, had just one beer without telling anyone, or told a joke about niggers, towel-heads, or crackers. we may have perfected a spiral-on-a-rope, enjoyed the taste of a brew without getting out of hand, or filled the room (including the black friend who's just so cool about everything) with laughter.

but when it's time to throw a fade pass with some touch to the corner of the endzone, our mechanics will fail us. when our wife asks us where the last mgd went, and we lie, our patterns failed us. when our black friend stops showing up for poker night, and your buddy's kid takes the fifth spot - and learns how hilarious it is to make fun of people because of their skin color - our harmless exceptions are failing a whole new generation.

so, as someone who generally can't stand the ACLU, who thinks affirmative action usually ends up being a disgrace to everyone involved, and thinks the 'unity' of any individual race or religion or ethnic group isn't really unity at all - i know that the fight for equality and fairness is just as corruptible as any other, just as susceptible to overfeeling and underthinking, and vice-versa. but when the 'readiness' of my country to accept leadership based on skin color, or gender, or favorite ice cream topping, or hat size, is genuinely brought into question - i think it's time to grill the moderator, and demand valid topics of debate.

we're ready for much more than outdated religious standards and 'guidance,' bigoted shit farmers, the mob of the recent right and the empty promises and do-nothingness of the aging left. at the very least, it's time to start turning our static modernism into some real expectations. so go apologize to your pillow.