Watching the chaos from the aftermath of Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor in the Octogon of UFC 229, I felt a tangible sense of tribal fury. Russia and Ireland. Champion and contender. Victor and vanquished. Combatant and spectator. Humans are followed by the contradiction. Choose a side. Pick a team. The only two states of matter: alive or dead. Continue reading
It’s not time to talk about gun regulation when people use guns to kill for fun, politics or revenge. It’s not time to talk about human contributions to climate change when hurricanes sustain category five winds for 36 hours or dump five feet of rain in a few days. It’s not time to talk about health care when GOP politicians are rushing a vote on damaging legislation through secret meetings. It’s not time to talk about the antiquated electoral college despite two of the last five popular vote count winners losing the election. Continue reading
To begin, we go back in time to the end of WW2. The Japanese lost the war and were forced to relinquish control of their annexed Korean territory which they had established in 1910 and cruelly administered. The Soviets, who had only entered the Pacific theater of the war weeks before, were given temporary authority over lands north of the arbitrarily decided 38th parallel whereas U.S.A. was given the lands to the south. Continue reading
2016 has been a good year to be cynical. We’ve seen breakdowns in American politics, policing, and public opinion. Continue reading
ISIS spread across northern Iraq like a fire in a cornfield. We know they sacked the major towns of Tikrit, Mosul and others, commandeering the US supplied arsenal provided for that ragtag national army of deserters. They opened bank vaults, unlocked prisons, murdered civilians, and tipped any sense of balance in the tinderbox that is modern day Iraq. Continue reading
Money is a quantifier of a certain kind of success, but a poor identifier of intelligence or ethics. Money is cherished, almost worshipped nowadays. Money gives you choices. But, it’s a corrupter, a powerful, insatiable brute. It creates an addiction that affects the world. Drugs affect the user and his or her loved ones. Imperious wealth affects the globe. Continue reading
The “news”/media is a fickle, transitory, grasping, obsessive, strange monstrosity disseminating stories of bullshit hyper-reality, politically partisan features, and the occasional war coverage. TV stars, Hollywood, and strange local happenings provide a bulk of the daily diversionary “news.” If we were ever actually presented with real journalism, provided with the information regarding Monsanto’s farming deviousness, the dubiousness of “The War on Terror”, Wall St.’s gambling ways, all the global banks’ selfish complicity in crashes, bubbles, bursts, setting of mortgage and interest rates, or even the insatiable stream of tainted lobbyist money which has now inseminated D.C. politicians’ corrupt and decadent wombs, we would hopefully rise to the streets in protest for revolution! But, I think we would just change the channel. And that’s why they don’t report on those things. Networks need eyes to feast upon advertisements proclaiming the appeal of the new artery clogging pretzel burgers or dual-layered cheese pizzas; antidotes to ennui such as jealousy invoking flashy cars or big, strong, manly pick-up trucks, followed by make-up, medicine, cell phones and Disney to round out the 3 minutes of the covetous advertising nightmare ingested every fifteen minutes in TV-land. It’s the cycle of television and 24-hour “news” channels. “News” is in quotes here because networks decide the “news” based on their company’s allegiances and sponsors, thereby making it subjective and only an idea of what is news.
As an expat, all my news is gleaned from online articles, The Daily Show and word of mouth from my friends in America. However, sometimes there are stories that don’t slip between the cheese-greased cushions, and are headlines for weeks in the States and elsewhere. Anthony Wiener’s genitals and the new prince of Cambridge, George, were popular this week. We have two different stories, with different appeals, but no doubt, they were the headliners.
Anthony Wiener is actually old news because he did this same embarrassingly childish sexting business last year. He was busted, kicked out of office, waited, schemed, posed for People and arranged his current bid to return to politics in the NYC mayoral race. He is such a dweeb to get caught sexting again. He is such a little geek, probably with a prudish wife who won’t play his sex fantasy games. He is such a loser to text his lascivious ideas, instead of just doing them like a truly depraved person. He is like those annoying dogs that bark ferociously before running away as you approach them. He is a man of many words and no substance. But, why are we surprised? Politicians are not looked up to as moral anymore, if ever. They are not the best examples of Americans anymore, if ever. They are not real people with real personalities anymore, if ever. They are corporate shills, paid sponsors of lobbyist interests. They live and vote, lost in a chaotic, greedy sea, without checking their moral compass, figuratively looking into the darkened corner where the hazy outline of their real employer sits listlessly watching his acquisition’s ambitions of making formative changes to the American political and social landscape rot like fungus on a fallen tree. Politicians are elected by citizens but molded by corporations. We shouldn’t be surprised by Wiener’s goofiness. We should be surprised by the lack of interest in true political crime: i.e. the failure to pass gun legislation, legitimate campaign finance reform, closed-minded divisiveness or overall financial regulation reform. We should not see the Occupy Wall Street movement as represented by the fringe hippies and idiots popularized by the media, but rather as calling attention to a true, horrific, worrisome feature of modern American life where less than 1% of the country maintains the monopoly of wealth, not trickling down through taxes and expenditures, but stockpiled in shady off-shore accounts by the avaricious and crooked for unknown motives. Unknown might be too friendly a term, their motives, as any rich man in history, is to preserve their wealth and thereby, their power, usually by any means necessary.
As we devolve into the future of a middle-classless America and poverty overtakes the urban centers, we look for distraction. Here, in this vibrant and varying world, we find Kate Middleton and her little baby. They provided a welcome disruption from global turbulence by expressing the world as it could be, seen through the eyes of an innocent, cute little child. She is a beautiful commoner; he is the descendant of a once massively popular, slain former princess. She is a classic woman with genteel charm; he seems to have gotten his mother’s grace and his father’s undesirable hairline. It’s not hard to understand this story’s allure. As evinced from my Facebook friends’ posts, having a child is a major life-changer, complete with messy food pictures and baby on the beach updates. We like to see happy couples with happy babies. It helps stir away the bitter aftertaste of murder, conspiracies, wars, deception and killer robots of the day-to-day. It doesn’t matter that they are British royalty, living among guards in protected, ancient castles. We can feel connected by seeing pictures and understanding the mutual joy of a new life.
Sometimes, the new is full of Wiener’s and sometimes there are nice, pointless headlines about babies. Whatever it is, we’re all doomed.
I went to an all-boys high school. We had four or five female teachers in the whole school and an all male kitchen staff. Those haggard teachers were the most confident ladies ever to give detention. We must have looked at them like the goddesses they were most certainly not. The two newest editions to the female scope at that school were a short, mousy looking girl with bad acne and a pear shaped black woman with a penchant for Sinead O’Connor hairstyles. Needless to say, they became popular on our hormone-riddled campus. I know I looked at them with naïve lust; yet somehow unsure about their merits as a figure for such lustful inspiration. So, when a female of the species arrived onto the campus of Malvern Preparatory School, a silent alarm went off perking all of our collective dog-ears into overdrive. One such example was during our yearly foray into legitimate theatre. During middle school, a troupe performed Orwell’s dystopian future of Newspeak and Big Brother, 1984. All I remembered was the dull lighting, people saying “comrade” too much, and the time when the girl took off her dress. I was barely a teenager and didn’t know about sex at all. But the upperclassman had at least seen pictures and knew that sex involved taking dresses off, but after that, I imagine most of them would have been confused and shy. Nevertheless, her dress hit the floor revealing a pink nightie and a pair of long shapely legs. They embraced and lay on the bed as the curtain fell. Before the dress crumpled onto the stage floor, the young Malvernians hooted like the boys at the USO watching some singer-stripper shriek and shake through her latest hit. I think the poor actress might have expected it, or if she didn’t I wonder if she was disappointed in our lack of appreciation of her courageous acting, or if she was happily pleased her carnal frame could elicit such a response. Either way, that’s what I remember most from the performance. (It’s a burned memory, just like the time that mousy looking teacher picked me up, in her own car, to go to school early, to take a “test.” I was sure I was in for a story to make all the boys jealous. But actually, I just took my make-up Spanish test as she drank a coffee.)
I watched the John Hurt version of 1984 last night and it was awfully depressing. The world presented was full of intentional lies, torture, inverted sexual perversion, overreaching government, faux meat, dreary clothes and tedious, monotonous production statistics. There was no pleasure; except happiness for the nightly hangings, no emotions; except for joy about acknowledging the meat as non-meat but liking it anyway, no sex; except for the illegal kind that evidently gets you the mind erasing treatment reminiscent of McMurphy’s experience in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The protagonist, Winston Smith, reminded me of this new character Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. They both have a feeling that what they are doing to help the government is wrong and aim to seek the truth. Snowden talks about how he left a good job with good pay because he felt too complicit in the illegality of NSA espionage. Smith talks about the wars Oceania is fighting against Eurasia or East Asia depending on which truth is truth that week. Snowden mentions how truth against power is never easy. Smith mentions how winning is not important, so much as creating the illusion of winning over a dangerous enemy thereby maintaining the war. The war in the book is tantamount to our War on Terror. Big Brother can change the name of whom they are fighting, just like America’s “Big Government” can change the name of our enemies so long as those combatants fight under the comprehensive flag of “terror.” American foreign policy is well known to be self-governed, hypocritical and sometimes tyrannical. We’ve allowed dictatorial or corrupt leaders sympathetic to American corporations or ideals to stay in power and often removed (or attempted to remove) popularly elected leaders in coups or assassinations. It’s not really a secret; ask Chile, Congo, or Cuba, just to name the “C’s.” Americans are very surprised and usually concerned to learn about the surreptitious and illegitimate tampering with other nations’ sovereignty. We are even more surprised, concerned and angry when we find that tampering isn’t only abroad, but actually recording and accessing our phone and Internet records.
September 11th changed America forever. The Patriot Act, War on Terror, FAA body scanners, and Homeland Security are all post 9/11 features of the new way of American life and loss of privacy. Many were happy to sign up to be spied on immediately after the attacks with the emotions of seeing the towers fall. But, as time passed, and no attacks occurred, we were left wondering, did the wars help, did the access granted to FBI, CIA and NSA help, did killing Bin Laden help, or did nothing help, and we are still as vulnerable as ever to a style of kamikaze jihadist warfare that can never truly be eliminated? Did Big Brother find the newspeak words: ‘War on Terror’ that he needed to ensure “forever war?” When will we not be terrified of a possibility of terror? Will there be more pictures of presidents on battleships with banners proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” for us to cheer jingoistic chants of “U.S.A.” and wave our flags patriotically while feeling less terrified for a week? 30 years after the movie, 60 years after the book, are we closer or farther away from living under Big Brother’s watchful eyes?
The always delicious, sometimes obfuscating gay rights fast food chain Chick-Fil-A had a slogan that read: “We didn’t invent the chicken sandwich, we just perfected it.” They are correct; their chicken clouds my thoughts some days knowing that a feast of crispy nuggets and hot sauce dripping, extra pickled, peanut oil fried chicken sandwiches are so far out of my reach. I love that restaurant. Waffle fries, when salted correctly, beat all other fried potatoes. I’m pretty sure that they could not only fund anti-gay groups, but also fund pro-gay groups and still stay in business. I’d bet all my savings that despite their stance on homosexual relationships, there was a gay couple in a Chick-Fil-A the day after the news broke sitting in a corner booth, guiltily scarfing down fried yard bird saying to each other: “Getting married isn’t THAT important, is it?”
All chicken aside, I believe the USA could have a similar slogan to illustrate their collective history as a 237-year-old nation: “We didn’t invent gun violence, we just perfected it.” America loves guns more than any fried food, including Twinkies, Oreo’s or butter. Our media reports it daily, our movies glorify its power, our military uses them with devastating efficacy and our major cities are polluted with their influence. We all know the news of last December in Newtown, of last summer in Denver, of VT, Columbine and so on. There is gun violence all over the world, but it seems the “New World” has the most frightful statistics of late. There are the known offenders of Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and, of course, USA.
Africa is still the world leader of total murders; however, the majority of those murders are not GUN murders. More likely machete or strangling, who knows? I don’t claim to understand much about that large, intimidating continent, besides, it’s not like Africa is looked to as a stable continent in the forefront of civil rights and world peace. Yet, I doubt America is either anymore. How could we be? We’ve been involved in so many wars and skirmishes and interventions and secret bombings and coups and overthrows that the world may well see us as a hindrance instead of a helper.
American foreign policy is well known to be destructively self-interested, and that’s great, if you’re an American. Other countries and other innocent people have not fared so well. I’m digressing only to show how our obsession with guns led to the overarching, omnipresent military industrial complex that we find ourselves so firmly rooted to today. Americans must share in this blame. Americans are on TV expounding the virtues of a well-armed populace. There are those worried about some futuristic dystopia where Americans follow the helpless (read: GUNless) citizens of Cambodia or USSR and are taken hostage by a tyrannical government hell-bent on enslaving its own populace to toil in the desolate coal mines of West Virginia and oil fields of now treeless and lifeless Alaska to power the thought police helicopters that report to King Obama. As if a ragtag band of bearded, underwear recycling, soup can stockpiling Doomsday Preppers would be able to take on the most efficient and proficient army of the modern world because they were able to express their 2nd Amendment rights to own a few handguns and an AR-15. It’s a flawed argument that we need armaments to protect ourselves from our own government. Another flawed argument is the old: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” That didactically silly idea stops as soon as you accept that sometimes a gun misfires, is dropped and goes off, an errant drive-by gunshot kills a pedestrian or gun is mistakenly thought to be unloaded. Guns kill people much easier than knives. People are required to operate them, and humans make errors.
So, what is it about America and the serial killers, the gun obsessions, the self-defense theories, and the 2nd Amendment proselytizing? We were born through revolt is the easy answer. But, I think it’s more ego based. I think America likes being the dangerous place it is. I think it is in our national character to tolerate killing because we have been exposed to and justified it for so long in our politics, cities and our lives. We have over 13,000 murders a year, political assassinations, televised suicides, murder/suicides, abortion, death penalty, DUI manslaughters, as well as the seven major wars of the last 100 years. Death is all around us, as it is in any country, but somehow America reacts differently. We are sad and preachy to ease the pain, and then when someone suggests change to prevent another tragedy, there is uproar. What are we hiding? Who are we protecting? The NRA is the scapegoat of liberals, but they, like any other group in a capitalistic society is guarding the bottom line. It just so happens that their bottom line is soaked in blood, whereas somebody like the pharmaceuticals bottom line is doused in overmedicated mental illness and depressed teenagers on Prozac.
Why don’t we look for an answer with our greatest natural resource: Hollywood. Our last ten best picture winners: 5 of the last 10 have featured guns in major roles, and besides The Artist, The King’s Speech (during a World War) and Slumdog Millionaire (set in a very dangerous place), the other two were violent—with a female boxer dying and a Middle Earth war. Violence is sexier than sex sometimes—if sexy can mean attractive and interesting. It’s at least more tolerated than sex. TV and movies don’t have to edit out the atrocities of death, but damned if a nipple slips at halftime or a thong is shown during primetime! Even our comedies have guns: Dumb and Dumber, “Harry, you’re alive! And you’re a terrible shot.” Our favorite childhood movies: The Goonies—the Fratellis have a gun in almost every scene, (although the guns are more props to show they’re bad guys.) Even romantic comedies can sometimes work a little gun violence into the mix: The Bodyguard, Whitney was targeted by a stalker with a gun disguised as a camera. Also, it seems that all our futuristic movies involve guns. It’s like we can’t even imagine a future where there are none. Even Demolition Man, where there was a leader crazy enough to completely outlaw guns, thereby turning everyone into calm law-abiding citizens eating Taco Bell and never cursing; it turned out he was actually crazy and purposely allowed a gun-loving criminal and a gun-loving cop to blow that peaceful world up with a few leftover guns from the museum. Even the imaginative, inspired writers of southern California can’t create a world where gun violence doesn’t exist. In the 21st century, we look to our celebrities for guidance, and if they’re all firing guns and surviving to Live Free and Die Hard again, or surviving a Skyfall and multiple gun attacks, then why can’t we?
More gun legislation probably won’t help. It’s not like we pass a law and all the crazies and baddies will show up like Kevin Spacey in Se7en and turn themselves in to the authorities with bloody hands and admit they were wrong. The 2nd Amendment protects our right to have guns, but if we’re going to get all Constitutional, let’s let the 1st Amendment out of the bag also and get some real free speech and real freedom of assembly. Don’t push away those Occupy Wall Street people because they don’t fit Wall Street’s greedy, insatiable agenda. Let the naked poets sing, let the NC-17 movies play; let the freedom of speech extend as far as we can take it. If you want no limits to what kinds of guns/ammo you can own including the maddeningly idiotic armor-piercing bullets, then lets have no limits on the other great freedoms. Allow a mosque in lower Manhattan, nudity on television, or protests by the insane and hopeless Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK. I think you can see the slippery slope of either more or less legislation. Those men who created America did a good job, but it is a different world now. Perhaps it’s better to have no naked chicks kissing on the channel opposite SpongeBob. Perhaps it’s better to keep religion in neutral areas where there wasn’t a massacre (tell that to any Native American tribe.) Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to limit ultra-effective killing machines and metal penetrating ammunition also.
America is a great country, a violent, hypocritical, generous, diverse country. We produce amazing people and products. We lead the world in many ways. Our goal in the future should be to lead the way to peace. The old Roman expression: “If you want peace, prepare for war” is apropos for this argument. We are certainly prepared for war, so perhaps peace is on the way. It most assuredly will have to start in the Homeland.