Insert Catchy Title Here

You know those false images we all have?  The ones we know are false, but still use for jokes and assumptions and all kinds of other nuttiness?

You know the ones I’m talking about: rural folks are all inbred morons, city folks are all pampered incompetents, Germans are all evil and nasty, Canadians are all nice, Australians are all drunk…

All of those are illustrations of what I’m talking about….well, except for that last one.  That last one is pretty much true.

Here’s one I’m at least as guilty as everyone else in using, if not more so: Americans like to wallow in isolation and ignorance of the rest of the world.  Friends of mine in Europe love to point to stats like just 42% of Americans holding passports (compared to 76% in Britain, for instance).  Americans, they say, just don’t want to go anywhere, or see anything, that isn’t the US.

Now, as someone who has travelled pretty extensively, I’m gonna call bullshit on that one.  As someone who has travelled the length and breadth of Europe, I’m also gonna have to point out something that most of my European friends — especially those who have never been here to the US — like to ignore: America is pretty stinkin’ big.

Look at it like this; I’m about to drive 14 hours to go visit my family.*  If you aren’t aware, I now live in Montana, right outside of Yellowstone’s northern boundary, while my family is (mostly) still back “home” in northern Colorado.  NoCo is, in terms of the US, right-next-door…fourteen hours away.

*And get yelled at for my recent anti-Trump post, I’m pretty sure.  *sigh*

To put that little jaunt into perspective, a fourteen hour drive from London puts you in the Orkneys, for pete’s sake.  Want a nice long drive from Berlin?  You’ll get to freaking Romania in that same fourteen hours!

Okay, so why do so many Americans never leave North America?

Do you have any idea just how much there is to see?!  Add in Canada and Mexico, and I would have to drive a minimum of those same 14 hours in order to reach the “end” of any road (in this case at the Pacific Ocean)!

Travel is about something different for everyone.  It’s about different cultures, or different histories, or different scenery.  It’s about external activities, or about internal satisfaction.  It’s about education, or entertainment, or exploration.  It’s about whatever the hell you want it to be about, when you get right down to it.

Now, I’ve made jokes and comments about those who “never want to leave home.”  I’m guilty of using that “shorthand” of misguided and foolish assumptions to make a point from time to time, but all you have to do is remember something I talked about a few posts ago.  All you have to do is remember that key we writers — we humans — should never lose: perspective.

All that being said, here’s a little perspective for those who wonder why I picked this particular prejudice to make my (admittedly allegorical) point:

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Since I haven’t done one in a while, here’s a little musical accompaniment…because you can’t go wrong with a good song!

Wait, Didn’t I Once Promise to Ignore Politics?

So I’m sitting here, having coffee while I wait for a friend…

“Hey, I’m early, let’s kill some time with the news!”

Of all the good ideas I’ve had, that one is right up there with “…of course I’ll take you to an occupied bear den!  The cubs are super-cute when they’re at home…”

Ahem.

link_CRUqKZKKFRGAlAFTlfPdN5TEw3cvwdL4,w1200h627Anyway…the news…

I think I prefer the angry momma grizzly, thank you very much.

A few random thoughts and notes based on what I read, then, in no particular order:

  1. “Editing” the Constitution — *sigh* look, I know the language in there can be a problem.  I know the concepts and compromises from 200+ years ago can bring pain and outrage now, but “editing” our past isn’t going to solve anything.  It would be much better to use the language and concepts and compromises as the basis for teaching.  For teaching how things have changed…and how they haven’t.  Both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are more aspirational than concrete, anyway, so they make wonderful tools for teaching middle and high school kids about reality — both the reality of now, and the reality of two hundred+ years ago.
  2. Whites Need to Speak Up…or Shut Up (which one kinda depends on who you are reading) — One of the things I’m not going to do is try to divine peoples’ emotions and motivations, and to advocate who should or should not be able to speak.  Skin color does not change the validity or honesty of what a person has to say, and that is flat out the only way to look at it.  To argue otherwise is to simply flip the script of racism, which leads to nothing but the tit-for-tat bullshit we are starting to see every day.  That being said, I’ve chosen to keep my own mouth shut and listen.  I listen because I don’t know.  Oh, I know the history and sociology and intellectual side of race and the US…but I don’t know.  I’ve never been pulled over because of what I look like.  I’ve never been followed by store employees because of my skin or hair.  I’ve never felt the sting of violence and hate and fear because I was other.  I’ve kept my mouth shut because I don’t think I can add to the discussion at this point.  Instead, I would rather let the eloquence of others speak with the power and authority of experience and authenticity.  But that is my choice, valid for me alone.  It in no way means that “no white person should ever discuss race” as I’ve read some suggest.
  3. Apathy vs Delusion — this election promises to keep poli-sci programs, not to mention generations of “political strategists,” busy with examples and lessons for generations to come.  Leave aside the names involved, and all of the emotion and judgments contained therein, and just look at the dynamics of the race itself: you have one candidate, running on a broad range of supporters that numerically should be able to dominate the opponent.  That range, however, has very little enthusiasm or energy.  They support, but they don’t do so with any real intent or drive.  On the other side, you have a candidate with a small base of supporters who in no way represent the nation at large, but have all the energy and dedication in the world.  They will believe anything — do anything — their candidate says, and they will do so in the most aggressive and offensive ways.  So, politically, which wins?  4 years ago it was passion and rage, running against a shrugging nonchalance, but will that hold true today?  If I weren’t living in the midst of this, it would make for an interesting modern lesson on the historical examples and dynamics I have studied for so long.  If I weren’t living it.
  4. The Company You Keep — As a child I was taught that your character is defined by what you do, and by the company you keep.  Now, that outlook has been put to the test more than a few times in some of the, uhh, “shenanigans” that have made up my life, but it is something I long ago took to heart and have tried to live by.  Enter Donald Trump.  If he is defined by what he does, and by the company he keeps… *sigh*.  Sorry, folks, but I’m lost with this one.  Since I don’t want to get into a 5,000 word diatribe — one that George Will did much, much better here — I’m going to focus on just one thing: Trump’s choice to keep company with traitors.  He has chosen to laud and irretrievably pin himself to the “heroes” of the Confederacy in the Civil War.  That is the company he has chosen to keep: those who chose to pick up a weapon and fight for slavery.  Sorry Donny, but that there is ‘nuff said…you are thoroughly defined.
  5. Recrudescence — yep, COVID is coming back, and it’s coming back hard.  Nope, conspiracy theorists and denialists, this is NOT just “another flu.”  Nor is it “fake news” made up just so the left can go after Trump and the hard right fringe that is today’s GOP.  Coronavirus and COVID-19 are very much real, and still very much a threat.  If you are getting your news on COVID solely from Fox News, Powerline, OANN and Townhall…well, I can’t help you.  You may have chosen to put yourself in an echo chamber — as is most definitely your right and privilege — but please do the rest of us a favor and stop assuming those echoes mean a damned thing to anyone else.

Okay, so this bit isn’t really a part of the “list,” it is just…

It is just a thought, and a (sorta) plea: people change.

Yes, this post went a little “rant-y,” but I couldn’t stop myself.  I have friends and family who still expect me to be the good conservative Republican I once was.  Sorry, folks, but I ain’t that person anymore.  I’ve changed.  I’d like to think for the better, but there is no question that I very much have changed.  One of the biggest of those changes is that I have no more patience for the willful ignorance and demented worldview that characterize both extremes.

Quite simply, I want nothing to do with either.

Live and let live, that’s it.  That’s what matters to me.  That’s also how I judge any and all politicians and others who claim to “lead.”

Every day I become more libertarian.  Every day I become more convinced that this overwhelming drive both sides have to dominate and rule the lives of everyday folks is what is driving us to a second civil war.  I wish I could say we could stop this slide, but I’m pretty sure we passed the tipping point years ago…if not decades ago.

But, hey, when that war comes, well…

No one does memory, and monuments, better than the Central Europeans — a reminder of the costs:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Hard Way

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Because, well, you can’t go wrong with a good Dickens quote!

So, anyway, getting to my post…

Err, more specifically, getting to reactions to my last post: either I’m an over-reacting loon who is trying to turn a “minor flu” into the Black Death…or, I’m an under-reacting loon who is trying to turn the “the new Black Death” into the common cold.

Got it.

As a writer, by the way, if you ever manage to piss off both political/cultural sides, you’re probably doing something right.

I’m gonna let both sides keep going in their preferred brands of tunnel vision, by the way, without further addressing that particular topic.  Nope, instead I want to touch on something that we can all* pretty much agree on: we’ve had it pretty damned good.

*Yeah, right, all.  When did all of us ever agree on any-freaking-thing?!

One of the consequences of this epidemic may — hopefully — be a return of the hard-won wisdom that we have lost over the years and decades.  Look, let’s boil it down to the basics — it is, depending on our age, our grandparents or great-grandparents who last had to learn the hard lessons of survival amidst disaster.  It was they who last had to truly learn how to be self-sufficient and careful.  It was they who last had to well-and-truly worry about care and consequences and the cold, bitter hand of reality smacking them on a daily basis.

For those of us born in the US or Western Europe in the last 75 years or so?  Yeah, we’ve had it pretty freaking good.  Be honest — at least with yourself, if you can’t be honest with anyone else — who among us has had to truly learn the need for savings?  Who among us has had to truly worry about the damned world ending?  Who among us has had to develop a personal relationship with fear and disaster, and life lived on the knife’s edge of death?

Oh, I’ve courted death…I’ve been in situations where my life was on that knife’s edge for survival.  No, I never fought in a war — wrong brother for that one! — but I have done stupid shit, beyond frolicking with bears and chasing wolves.  I’ve done stupid shit like hike this trail in the midst of a biblical thunderstorm:SkyRim_01-670x1024

As I was saying, I’ve been on the edge of disaster, but — and this is the important bit — I CHOSE that edge.  I chose it every single time.  Worse (or better, depending on your outlook), I chose to walk that edge in situations in which I was knowledgable and in control.  I did not have it thrust upon me.  I did not have the Universe itself cry out to me, “You think that’s bad?  Hold my beer!”

My grandparents did.  Like so many others of their generation, they lived through the best of times, and the worst.  The rest of us?  Yeah, the “worst of times” has not really been on the radar.  Not yet, anyway.

Let’s be clear, COVID-19 is not the worst of times.  It’s not even close.  If you want the worst of times, go re-study what the Bubonic Plague did to the world.

What this current epidemic is, however, is a nice little reminder of just what could happen.  It is a Black Swan event to clue us in to just how bad shit really could get.

We’ve been complacent.  We’ve been comfortable.  We’ve been, if you want brutal honesty, soft.  We’ve had it too good for too long.

We have to re-learn the wisdom that we’ve spent so many years disparaging.  We have to re-learn the value of saving, of having money put aside to cover our asses when the world falls apart.  We have to re-learn the necessity of being able to handle our own stuff: to fix a leaky faucet, to repair minor car problems, to protect our friends and family.  Crap, a huge percentage of our population has to re-learn the ability to simply walk a mile!

To be even more gloomy-blunt — for when things really do go to hell — we have to re-learn to forage and hunt, and to survive.  A common isolation joke in my little corner of Montana is, “Who cares if the store is closed?  I’ve got plenty of ammunition…”

And, no, I’m not going all join-a-militia-in-Idaho crazy, thank you very much.  What I’m saying is that COVID-19 is a reminder that the worst really can happen.  Our forebears learned that lesson the hard way, and now we have to, as well.

Musical Note — the song below, for those of you who disparage video games (for which I’ve written, goddammit!), is from the soundtrack of a game.  It’s a great song, off a great soundtrack album, and it kinda fits our world of isolation and quarantine and looming disaster:

Who Do You Hate?

So, pretty much anyone who has read this blog for more than a couple of posts  knows that I tend to stay far, far away from “current events”.  While I’m a political addict, it is historical politics that I love.  The current state of US politics…well…just reminds me, historically speaking, of where exactly we’re heading…

It’s a rare thing, then, when I take up a current news story and turn it into a post.  A rare thing, but not one that I’m going to shy away from when something in the news pisses me the hell off.

There was a story over the last couple of days that did just that…piss me off, I mean.  Okay, more than piss me off, it completely incensed me.

Like any good story, however, there needs to be some backstory and scene-setting before I get into the action itself…

I’m adopted, as are all of my siblings.  I am, quite literally, the embodiment of a line I once wrote for Connor about the families you choose.  I have some pretty strong opinions and thoughts on the whole area of “unwanted” children, but I’m going to do my best to dodge that whole morass of argument and counter-argument for this post.

Suffice it to say, I would not be here to write these words were it not for the choice of my parents to adopt me.

We argue, we fight, we disagree…

We question each other, we struggle with each other…

Hell, I know with every fiber of my being that they have wondered — like pretty much every other parent in history — just where they went wrong with me…

But…

But…

But, that doesn’t change a freaking thing.  They are my parents, and I love them.  They chose me.  They chose to give me a home.  They chose to love me.  Even with everything I’ve screwed up in my life, they chose me

There’s your background for the rest of this post.

The post doesn’t start there, however.  The post starts with a story I read in the news.

It was a piece about some holier-than-thou, judgmental piece of crap telling an 11-year-old kid that he shouldn’t thankful for being adopted — for finding parents who loved him — because those parents happen to be gay.

I can’t even begin to express how angry I am.  Nor can I express just how much I despise and detest those who would make it their life’s mission to condemn and destroy any who do not conform to their own ideas of the “perfect” life.

This boy had suffered through the foster care system for years…

This boy had had two failed adoptions before…

This boy had finally found a couple who chose to love and support him…

And then some ass-wagon of a substitute teacher did her best to destroy whatever tiny bit of stability the boy had finally been granted in life.  She wanted to destroy it not because his proposed parents were serial-killers, or Nazis, or violent revolutionaries, but because…they were gay.  There was no worse sin, to this woman, than two men making a family…and who gives a fuck about a young child’s happiness, anyway, when “religious principles” are at stake?

Damn your religion, you intolerant asswagon.

Let the kid have a family…let him have the care and protection of the family that chose him.  Take your hate and intolerance and holier-than-thou bullshit and follow it into the trash bin of history where it belongs.

To the boy from this story, and to his new family, all I have to say is this:

Congratulations!