Simply Stated

Let me for a few minutes be clear.  We bandy politics and philosophy daily, there is a give and take which makes us who we are, and the vast majority of it—at work, at school, on weekends, among friends—is good. The free exchange of ideas is the very basis of who we wish to see ourselves as a country.

Comes a point, though, when the belief that all ideas are somehow equal and equally valuable must be challenged and disposed of. This is a toxic notion, a slow poison, and in its later stages results in an inability to discern reason from fear, truth from propaganda, morality from tribalism.

If someone tells you that you should be afraid of  some superficially-defined Other, that person is not your friend.

If someone tells you that if not for Them, all our problems would be solved, that person is a liar.

If someone tells you that you are more valuable than someone else because you look one way and They look another, that person is using you.

There are those—politicians, all, whether they serve in political capacities or not—who benefit from the rest of us being afraid.  They categorize, sort, and judge and tell you to do the same on the basis of traits that are at their simplest none of your business and at the most complex entire fabrications that resemble fact but are nothing but fantasy.  All they want is the power you will give them by accepting their version of reality.

It could not be clearer that  none of this is theoretical. The cage doors have been flung open and the jackals are loose. We have always had the hatefilled, the small-minded, the stunted souls, the corrupted among us, but they stay usually in their rooms because—usually—the rest of us refuse to allow them valence. That changed. They received day passes.

Shooting up a synagogue, a church, a school, a nightclub, a concert because the shooter is so blindly afraid does not happen in a void.  Someone stoked that fire, then stood back, counted the votes from the newly-frightened, and judged it a win.

This is not who we once thought we were. There are those implying that this is somehow insurmountable and to deal with it we have to go farther down the road of disowning our dreams and our decency and, by the way, keep Certain People “in line.” 

They aren’t hiding anymore and the argument that both sides are equally at fault has worn into threads.  Stop listening to the fear mongers.  More, take away their pulpit.

We should not allow ourselves to be defined by body count.

64

I turned 64 over the Archon 42 weekend. I have never been wished happy birthday to my face so many times. It was gratifying, amusing, and a little unnerving. I generally feel no one pays much attention to me. Not in a bad way, just that “normal” for me is pleasant indifference, quiet oversight. 

Archon 42—the jokes are too obvious to repeat. If I’m an answer to anything, I am unaware of it and would be most surprised.

What do I think of being 64? At one time, I would be ten to fifteen years past  average mortality. I’m still healthy, though. I still work out. I still work. I still create. And, with certain provisions, I still look forward to each day.

I have carved out a patch. Sometimes I imagine friends finding me dead at the keyboard, the last paragraph of some timeless piece of prose unfinished on the screen.

But I know better. I don’t write timeless prose. I try to tell a good yarn. I try to write what will not bore, what may bring a smile or a quiet “Ooh, that’s not bad” to the reader. I write largely to please myself and I still think that’s good advice, but I have learned as well that I don’t often know what will please me, so it’s all an exploration. And occasionally the undergrowth is just too thick to get through.

This past year I finally turned me photo site into a purchase site. You can, if you wish, go there and buy some work, which I also hope will cause smiles and appreciations.

I’ve read a bunch of books, as usual, but I’ve also read a number I might never have gotten to were it not for my job. The reading group I host at Left Bank Books has become a rather satisfying gig and I’ve expanded it in a few ways that I hope will make it even more interesting.

Not all is perfect and some things are thoroughly not good, but overall it’s fine. I have good friends, especially Donna, and that is something I find more and more important over time.

So, yeah. I’m 64. Fuck it. Just a number. 

Meantime, you can often fine me here—which is not where it appears to be.

Be well. Check back from time to time. Read a book. Buy a photograph. Be kind.

Later, folks.

Poll-Less

Here’s a thought. November 6th is fast approaching.  It could be argued that we have not seen a more important mid-term in decades. I can’t think of one, other than all those that people stayed home in droves from and allowed a minority to vote a broken congress into power.  We have a chance this time to start fixing some of that.

My suggestion—stop paying attention to polls. They have nothing to say to you personally.

Seriously, polls are like click-bait on the internet. They track trends among certain demographics and are often so targeted that they leave most people out entirely.  Even the good ones have in-built flaws. For the most part, they’re annoying and often harmless, but sometimes…sometimes…

Part of what went off the rails in 2016 is an artifact of polls. All but a couple told us there was no way the election would go the way it did.

And a lot of people took them at face value, said “I don’t have to worry about it” and did something else that day.

Before anyone jumps all over this and suggests I’m blaming this on one thing, I said “part of what went off the rails.”  The polls added to a number of problems.  But I believe that voting according to polls—or, worse, not

The only poll that matters is the election.

I would suggest everyone stop answering those irritating cold calls “We’re conducting a poll” robo-things that use what we say in who knows what manner to derive reports that may have no real utility in terms to making rational choices On The Day.

Everyone believed the polls that said this guy would lose by double-digits.

Stop it. Look at the candidates, look at their records, look at what they say, then look at your own situation and try to see how what they say, have done, or promise to do will impact your life.  We’re hiring staff to run the country on our behalf. Does an employer check a poll on how popular a candidate for a job is or what people think of him or her as opposed to someone else? No. Resumes, past performance, conduct during the interview, can this person do the job.

A great number of incumbents have said and done things of late that are, in my opinion, simply unacceptable. The track record of this congress in terms of how I want my country run has been simply execrable. That’s the only poll that matters until November 6th, when the one that counts happens.

Polls, I suspect, make some people complacent. Don’t do that. Vote like you have no idea who will win. Vote for what matters, not what the spread suggests. Stop listening to the distractions.

And please—vote.



Clueless

Some people think if they throw enough words of the “what if” or “but then” variety, anything can be twisted out of shape enough to render even the most toxic subject harmless.

Take sexual harassment.

The presumption on the part of some men that a woman is there for their entertainment underlies the casual fecklessness of the entire frat-boy mentality.  They excuse themselves with all manner of absurdity. “She was there to party” “her clothes” “she didn’t say no” “she laughed.”

That last one gets me every time.

I worked with a man for nine years who used that as his justification for a level of “flirtation” that bordered on intimidation. Every attractive woman who came into the store could be a target for his brand of locker room humor and he excused himself from charges of harassment by saying “But they laughed.” Which to him signaled they were having a good time and what he was doing was acceptable.

He seemed tone deaf to nervous laughter. He was oblivious to the rictus of “I can’t believe you just said that.”

Gradually, they stopped coming. We lost business. One good friend complained to me about it and I advised her to call him on it. She did. Immediately afterward, his comment was “I had no idea she was such a bitch.”

“She’s not,” I said. “You’re just such an asshole.”

He looked genuinely hurt. I patiently tried to explain what he was doing that was wrong. Maybe he didn’t want to get it, but I still believe that he was so steeped in the culture of the Fifties and Sixties that he just couldn’t accommodate the idea that what he had been doing all his adult life was fundamentally wrong.  Disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating.  “But they laugh.”

This is who he saw himself as and he thought it was cool.  He thought I was being a whiney liberal. 

But we lost almost all our female customers of a certain age and physical description.

Now he did ask one question that got me thinking. “If I say the same things at a party, I don’t drive anyone away.”

Well, I had to question that a bit, but—

The difference between a social occasion where everyone is perfectly free to walk away and a business environment wherein the parties are trapped by a set of necessities which do not allow easy egress. In order for them to walk away they have to be willing to break a business arrangement. They have to find another source for what they need. They have to start over to build a relationship.

None of this has a damn thing to do with making yuk-yuk over sexual innuendos and flirtation.  There are costs involved.

Of course, there are always costs involved, just that some of them are not so immediate or monetary. Loss of respect, at minimum.  Actual fear. Women who may realize that they’re quite glad never to be alone with you. The easy intimacy of friendship lost.

Not to mention just adding to the general toxicity of a culture that takes as given, usually unstated but always there, that women are there for a man’s pleasure.

And those who reject that?

The oblivion of being recategorized and cast out.  At best. Punished at worst. Punished by assault, but actions based on the assumption “Oh, she really wants it even if she’s saying she doesn’t.”

Underlined by ridicule.

But it was all in fun! After all, the boys were laughing.