It’s Not A Generation Gap, It’s The Grand Damned Canyon

2D95D309-98DE-4487-AEF9-A3E97964D9ABErr, this’ll be an awkward post…and also something of a long one, I think.  Remember my long-time words of warning: I don’t plan or outline these posts, they are purely organic, from brain-to-keyboard with only one read-through for editing & revision.

Oh, crap…if I have to explain myself before I so much as get to the theme and intro, I have to wonder just how badly I’ve taken leave of my senses…

Okay, so…well…I took leave of my sense a long time ago. I took leave of my senses when I walked away from a good six-figure job in search of a life that was actually fulfilling and worthwhile to me, rather than one that was about collecting a (good) paycheck and making other people happy.

Ahem, never mind. Let’s keep that particular closet door closed, shall we?

First off, a reminder that I sit pretty much outside the generally accepted “teams” in American politics. I think both sides idiotic, and that both exist and work only to benefit the few at the top by exploiting and abusing those at the bottom.

But…

But, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a historian and something of a political junkie. The first part of my day is reading…reading a shit-ton about politics and news, both here in the US and elsewhere in the world. The important thing, for me, is that I read a bit of everything. I will spend time with a piece from The National Review, then immediately follow that with something from The Nation.

I make it a point to take in material and ideas from all points of view. I don’t have to agree with what I’m reading, but how in the hell could I ever expect someone else to read and weigh any new & different ideas I may express if I’m not willing to do the same? Ideas and opinions are not communicable diseases, no one’s character or beliefs will be “infected” by reading things with which they don’t agree…

Whew…okay…that’s done. Shit, 330+ words of set-up, and only now am I ready to get started on what I actually sat down to write — is 8:00am too early for scotch?

I read an opinion piece this morning that got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about the differences in today’s politics. Not the differences between the teams, but the differences within them. Now, look…my politics and beliefs are pretty damned different from what I grew up with, and from anyone else in my immediate family. But I’ll be damned if I’ve ever had the energy to sit down and write about the hows and whys of those differences.

1A73C0FF-925F-48B3-A883-38E7C4E2EE49Now, maybe it’s because I’ve been completely immersed in the “world” and outlook of younger folks for the last couple of years (given the trilogy of stories I’m writing), but I’m incredibly conscious of the differences between generations at the moment. And, no, I’m not talking about the bullshit judgmentalism of those who attack and blame other generations: “Millennials are all lazy and entitled brats” or “Baby Boomers are evil fucks clinging too long to money and life” or “Gen Xers are hypocritical asswagons making everything worse”. No, I’m talking about the very real differences in outlook and beliefs, the very real differences that create not just different dynamics, but entirely different ways of looking at the universe, that are all-but mutually incomprehensible between generations. And it’s not just politics, it’s social and cultural and economic, as well.

The simple fact of the matter is that those differences are just getting worse; my parents live in a totally different world from their children. And my generation? We’re not quite that disassociated, but we’re close — far too many of my generation are following our parents into a world of blinders and knee-jerk beliefs/responses that are already old and “out of date”.

And the worst part? Far too few people even bother to notice the disconnects, let alone worry about what they presage for the future. That socio-political conflict I see coming in the next couple of decades? Yeah, it’s gonna be generational, too.

Okay, so what got me thinking about all of this? This particular opinion piece: “How Conservatives Can Win Back Young Americans.” Now, look, I know it’s the Weekly Standard…I know that, if you’re not of a very specific political group (a small group, at that), that magazine might as well be Serial Killers Weekly, but remember what I said above: ideas and opinions won’t kill you.

Hell, personally, I think Noam Chomsky is (politically & economically) a raving lunatic.  But he is also one of the smartest men on the planet…and, yes, I read the hell out of him as part of my Linguistics degree.

I posted the link above because I think the piece is a worthwhile read. For folks of the conservative political stripe — yes, Mom & Dad, I’m talking to you! — it’s worth it for the political advice. For folks like me, who are not on either team, and even for folks on the liberal/progressive side of the field, it is worth reading for what are, in fact, pretty good insights into some of the generational differences at play in the US today.

We cannot bridge gaps, let alone solve problems, if we aren’t able to understand the them…and the perhaps the biggest gap today, and the fastest growing problem, is the vast, yawning chasm between the younger generations and the older.

P.S.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to write a coherent post about politics while blasting a Stevie Ray Vaughn live album? I really want to be outside at a concert somewhere, right about now…

 

P.P.S.

Okay, so it has nothing really to do with this post, other than illustrating one aspect of the Democrat-Republican divide, but I still think the chart below is hilarious (given just where I do all my writing):

E5EBFD57-6B36-400E-ACE2-15881CEB04B6

Back To Kindergarten With You!

I made a mistake this weekend.

Umm…

Okay, so that particular opening ain’t terribly helpful, let alone surprising.  Maybe I should elaborate: I read the comment section on a news story. And not just any news story, but one about Barbara Bush’s funeral.

Now, look…in many cases, I like comment sections. I’ve mentioned before that they are far-and-away the most entertaining part of any story about “flat earthers” — or any conspiracy story, really — and they can be seriously fun to peruse at the end of sports stories.

B39BD0E7-46E5-43D8-B357-D8F7E46516C3They can also, from time to time, provide a counter-balance to the biases and editorial slants that all writers bring to their stories (whether consciously or not). Unfortunately, those same comment sections can also be the worst cesspools of hate, anger and utter vitriol on the face of the planet.

They are also a pretty damned good barometer of just where I fear our society is headed.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter who you like or dislike. Just as it doesn’t matter how much you like or dislike them. That’s your business. Liking someone who I don’t has no bearing on your worth as a human being, nor on our ability to be friends. That’s just plain common sense…or at least it should be. Any person who decides another is stupid — or evil, or malfeasant, or any of the other insults folks like to throw around — based solely on their politics and who they like, however, is the problem.

I can hear what you’re thinking right now: but those are online comments, those are the anonymous posturings of weak, vicious people who would never have the “courage” to utter anything like that in real life…

Maybe.

Cute siblings teasing each otherSadly, I know far too many people — good people, in general — who fall into that very same trap to have any real confidence in humanity. I know far too many people who can watch or read a news story, and attack one side or the other in the most virulent, personal manner. I know far too many people who do judge the “worth” of others based on who they voted for, or who they read, or who they support.*

*Do I REALLY have to mention again that this is in no way absolute? David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and the rest of the dangerous psychos, have no part in this discussion. See my posts about Roy Freaking Moore if you want insight into my limits…here, here and here.

To give this an anecdotal, personal slant (since this is a personal blog): I have more than once mentioned my own libertarianism, and the fact that I voted for neither “side” in the last election. Yeah, I’m that guy, the one who “threw away” his vote on a third-party. If you think I don’t get judged and attacked by both sides because of it, I want some of what you’re smoking…

The bottom line, to keep this on the topic I started with, is that a person is neither evil nor insane simply because they believe differently. Barbara Bush was not a Nazi, nor was she the wife and mother of mass murdering war criminals. She was a woman of dignity and strength who tried her best to reach out to all Americans, and to be a wife, mother and grandmother with whom we could all find some common ground.

To those who DID post the comments: whether you like her or not, whether you agree with her or not, dehumanizing and attacking a 92-year-old who just passed says far more about you than it does about her.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s time for our entire society to go back to kindergarten and start over…

 

Shut Up and Listen

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”  — Isaac Asimov

imageShut up and sing.  Or write.  Or play.  Or any other occupation…

That’s a favorite phrase among a certain kind of folks nowadays.  Of course, what those folks really mean is “shut up…if you don’t agree with me.”

Now, there’s a belief out there that it is conservatives that embody that drive.  And, to a certain extent, there is a strong element of that among the more vocal and rabid “conservatives”.  But, just as much, the same belief and impulse holds true on the left.  Liberals can point to talk radio hosts and TV talking-heads, but conservatives can point just as much to college campuses and, well, more TV talking-heads.  And me?  I point to (pretty much) all of them.

And, no, it is NOT worthwhile to get into the tit-for-tat bullshit of “Well, they did it first!’

“No, THEY did it first!”

“Well, you’re a poopy-pants!”

“No, YOU’RE a poopy-pants!”

Is it any wonder why the most hated professions in the world are politicians and reporters*?  Even lawyers rank above them, for pete’s sake…

*To which I will add media talking-heads & “political-pundits”.

Let’s put this argument to rest right now: art, and especially writing, has always played a political role…and it always will.  Most often — and worse, to those who hate & fear voices that do not toe their particular line — that role has been to argue against the problems and abuses of the day, according to the artist’s personal perceptions and opinions.

Shit, Shakespeare’s Richard II is one of the most overtly political plays ever written.  Virgil’s Aeneid was written as pure political propaganda.  The Canterbury Tales had true political significance…Twain…Dickens…Fitzgerald…Wolfe…  And that’s just a handful of names, limited for reasons of word-count and space.  Hell, if I get into the poets, I could spend a good three seconds of thought and add another hundred names.

But, you know what?  Everyone deserves that freedom to express themselves.  Not just writers and singers and artists: athletes, and plumbers, and engineers, and astrophysicists….well, maybe not astrophysicists, those folks are freakin’ weird.  The point is: if you have an opinion, and sincerely held beliefs, it is not just your right, it is arguably your duty, to behave accordingly.  And it is manifestly NOT someone else’s job or right or duty to tell you to “shut up”.*

*And, before you ask (or yell): I fully realize that at-work and at-home are two different things.  I am trying to stay high-level and general in this post; I do not want to get into the briar patch complexity of when and where you are “allowed” to express yourself…

Once again, if you don’t like the message, don’t read, or listen, or watch.  It’s that simple.  Honestly, there are plenty of messages out there that I do not like, and therefore do not “consume”.  In the end, Person A cannot compel someone else to toe a specific line of belief or action.  But, just the same, Person B cannot compel someone else to agree with, or partake in, their beliefs or actions.

It really is that simple…and it really does go both ways.

No, the “command” to shut up and write (or sing, or play, or whatever) is one of the stupidest and most futile things imaginable.  If you don’t like the message, don’t read…or listen, or whatever.

Or, and let’s just try this on for size, YOU could shut up and try to at least envision another point of view.  You could try to understand, maybe even to learn.

Or you could live a bubble where the only voices you hear are those that agree with you.

What a miserable world — and life — that would be…and, sadly, pretty much IS right now.

Do you know what we call people who are utterly convinced that their every thought and opinion is 100% sanctified, righteous and correct?

Psychopaths.

And politicians.

But I repeat myself.

This Is Not Us

Sometimes I just can’t help myself…sometimes my love of history, and my life experiences, overcome my libertarian, ignore-DC-at-all-costs leanings.

The US has always been strongly and openly patriotic.  We have always — well, mostly always — been very supportive and appreciative of our military.  I usually keep my associations with that part of life private, but even I wrote about it once, in this post.

But, even with our propensity for open patriotism and the close (although declining) relationship between the civilian and military spheres, we have never really gone for outright militarism.  We have celebrated those who fought and bled and died, but never have we celebrated the tools of war.  Never have we valued and celebrated the power and lethality of our military over its humanity.  Instead we have valued and celebrated our friends and relatives, our neighbors and peers, who bear the burdens of those weapons, rather than the weapons themselves.

We are not Russia.  We are not North Korea.  When a nation — when a society — turns to celebration and glorification of its power, rather than of its people, a line is crossed.1  A line, and a crossing, from which there is no stepping back…

Now, it turns out, Mr Trump wants to have a parade.  He wants to have not a parade like those we have known in the past, but rather the opposite.  He wants to glorify the tools and weapons of war in ways the US has never done.

Look, I’m not a partisan of either stripe.  I neither hate nor love Trump…I just want a government that freaking works.  But, the nice thing about neither hating nor loving the man is that I get to call things the way I see ‘em.  And the way I see this “parade” idea is that it’s damned well insane.

When the soldiers of WWII came home, this is the kind of parade we threw:

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When Bush senior arranged a celebratory parade after the Gulf War — one aimed to also celebrate and acknowledge those who fought in Vietnam — it looked like this:

President_Bush_greets_General_H._Norman_Schwarzkopf_who_leads_the_Desert_Storm_Homecoming_Parade_in_Washington,_D.C_-_NARA_-_186434

What we do NOT do are parades like this:

nintchdbpict000322444369 Военный парад на Красной площади 7 ноября 1990 года

Or like this:

Report-North-Koreas-military-parade-to-include-fighter-jets-artillery 468a168249305b39b42bf3ae03846bd31

Shit.

If a parade we must have, then let’s do it right.  Let’s do a parade that celebrates the right thing…the thing in our military that really matters: