Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sadly, No Dice...

Well, it's been four weeks since the Democrats got their clocks cleaned. Other than deciding to start calling myself a Democrat now instead of an Independent, I haven't really done much of anything in that vein, unless you consider continuing to pay attention to politics, choosing what's pragmatic over idealism, and taking the long view doing a lot. More of the same, basically, cooling things down at least least until the fur starts flying for real in the next presidential campaign. Then I imagine I'll be heating up a bit, along with everyone else.

What's surprising is how calm I've remained over the last four weeks. I'm still disappointed, of course, but the only thing I didn't know for sure was how badly the Democrats were going to get clobbered on election day -- at it was pretty hard. If there's a silver lining here, it's that it was the Blue Dogs who got clobbered the hardest -- the progressive types lost a handful of seats in comparison. So as much as I've railed against self-styled progressives since restarting the Medley, I know that the general stock of the Democrats' representation in the next Congress will be an improvement over what they have in the current one. I'm not upset.

Long view. Cooling it for a while. Better luck in 2012.

More surprising to me, although it shouldn't be, is that I've noticed something about the Tea Party folks as well: they're not exactly happy right now. You'd think they would be. They certainly deserve to be happy. Remember when Obama won two years ago? People on the Left were dancing in the streets all over the country. But again, I shouldn't be surprised. After George W. Bush won a second term, they didn't seem too happy then, either. In fact, more than a few of them became boiling mad -- probably because they expected us to just give up, lay down, and die in response to the prospect of four more years of the Bush administration, and we didn't do that. I'm guessing that the Tea Party folks are going to repeat that same routine in the coming months when we don't go away this time around, either.

In fact, I know they will. Look at the makeup of the Tea Party movement. Its members have six factors working against them, and here are five of them: most of them are older than the median American age, they're overwhelmingly white, they're overwhelmingly conservative, they're overwhelmingly Christian, and when you look at the demographic trends in this country over the next few decades, it becomes clear that old, white, conservative Christians are headed the way of the T-Rex.

If this is starting to read like a recent Tim Wise essay to you, that's not coincidental -- I've read it myself, even printed it out. What Wise did was explain why he thinks that, over the long haul, this year's election day rout will prove to be one more empty victory for the "white right." But when I look at this through the worst-case-situation lens, I see the same ultimate result: even if the "white right" spends the next thirty or forty years successfully repealing all of the progress achieved during the 20th century and systematically crushing all of its enemies, they will not only still end as losers, they will end far worse off than they will if Tim Wise's assessment comes to pass.

In other words, it's in their best interests to let their enemies have their way instead. They don't like us, that much is obvious. Many, if not most, of them outright hate us, and we all know that some of them are not above threatening to resort to "Second Amendment remedies" once in a while. Or actually resorting to them.

That's the sixth factor they have working against them. Don't see why?

All you have to do is read the last four hundred-plus years of history on this continent, consider how these "white right" types and their ancestors have treated all kinds of people who were different from them throughout all that time, and you can see why. These people have just completely missed, in biblical fashion, what may be the most important moral lesson their own Bible has to teach them: you reap what you sow. Hell, folks, I learned that lesson a looong time ago, and I started embracing Christianity in earnest just a few weeks back.

Then again, my understanding of Christianity is very, very different from what seems to be teir own general take on it. They pick and choose what parts they will follow, and I'm the same way -- I'll bet that virtually all Christians do this. But the parts I place foremost in my approach are ones a man like Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I admire tremendously, would surely approve of -- keep in mind that you reap what you sow, treat others the way you would want them to treat you, assume responsibility for your actions, and so on -- and I temper it with things that any self-respecting atheist would appreciate, such as "beware of false prophets," along with many of the things Jesus is credited with saying when he walked into the synagogue, knocked over the tables, and told the moneychangers where to get off. (Confession: that's my favorite part of the Gospels.)

The white conservative Christians, on the other hand, have this view of Christianity I find rather distressing. I see mostly gray areas everywhere I go in life; to them, life looks very black-and-white. That's a toxic outlook, but it's one they have clung to for centuries -- the last president didn't say anything new under the sun when he said "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists," he just gave his kind's worldview a new formulation. I say you reap what you sow; they think you can do whatever you want if you have exactly the right set of religious beliefs, which is to say, their own set. I say treat people how you want them to treat you; they say, "Do it to them before they do it to you." (Note: I didn't come up with that -- one white conservative Christian I've known over the years actually described his philosophy to me in that one sentence. As the years rolled by, I realized that he had lots of company in the philosophical department...) I say take responsibility; they say, "Take what you can get while you can get it." (Who among us hasn't heard that one?) I say beware of false prophets; they will gravitate toward anyone who tells them what they want to hear, in much the same way a fly gravitates toward a pile of shit.

I say that they are deeply confused and conflicted Christians; they say that I am un-Christian and in need of conversion at best, evil and deserving of extermination at worst.

Well, all right, let's look at this deserving-of-extermination bit for a minute. This approach has been threatened, and sometimes applied, to so many groups over the last four hundred-plus years more than anyone, "white right" or otherwise, cares to remember or admit -- native Indians, African-Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Irish-Catholics (go figure), Germans, Poles, Italians, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, Latinos, on and on and on this cult chant goes. Tim Wise sort of hinted in his essay that if the "white right" hasn't gone all-in as a White Nationalist movement by now, then it might as well, judging by the way it has not only made enemies in every group of people that is different from their own, it was the initial aggressor in every singly case.

This group has effectively spent the last four centuries painting itself into a corner, and from the way it has been lashing out at others ever since a man with a black father got elected President of the United States, I would say that the fact that you reap what you sow has started to dawn on the bulk of them, they don't like it, and they are desperately looking for any way they can to escape that fate so they can go back to believing they can go on "doing it to them first" without fear of reprisal.

It ain't gonna work, no matter whose side prevails in thirty or forty years. I take the long view, as do many on the Left; they only look back nostalgically to a period that existed on American television in the 1950s. If they were capable of taking the long view, they would see that their best bet is to surrender to us. We're not going to do to them what they have done to us -- we're trying to put an end to this nightmare once and for all, remember?

We're going to offer them a choice: either change your violent, hateful ways and join us in building a better future for everyone and the generations to come, or stay the way you are, go back to your latter-day sundown towns, and leave us the fuck alone. We're not going to shoot or lynch you -- the hate crimes bill Obama signed into law back in 2009 covers you folks, too, so try to relax for a change.

Why? Because you need us. Why? Because you reap what you sow. No? Um... yes.

Because if you did somehow manage to get rid of all your enemies, one way or another... well, let's go beyond colonial times on this continent and look at what your European ancestors were doing to each other for centuries. War, famine, destruction, death -- look familiar?

How about their religious outlook? The one that not only inspired all those unnecessary European wars, but interpreted the New World they found when the fled Europe as The Enemy, and the people they found living there as savages in need of conversion at best, destruction at worst? How many notes can you name that tune in?

That's why you need us, regardless of our religion, our skin color, our ancestry, our sexual orientation, or our whatever -- we're what's keeping you old conservative Christian white numbskulls from killing off each other.

And deep down, you know I'm right -- you won't have any more scapegoats to pick on, so you'll have to turn on each other. You reap what you sow, whether you damn well like it or not.

And hey, y'all brought this on yourselves. The rest of us have been trying to wake you up since the early 1600s. You want to blame us for not trying hard enough, go ahead -- unlike you, we tried to bridge the gap between us.

Sadly, no dice...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More Jim Yeager...

Remember when I wrote about C.? He was the fellow Fur Affinity member who had relapsed on alcohol and drugs, and I thought for sure he was a dead man walking.

Well, he's doing all right these days. I was wrong. And not too long ago, I drew something for him depicting our "fursonas" -- his being a rat, mine being a bear, titled "Don't You Dare Forget About Me...":

Most of the time, I'm a real bastard -- that's just the way I'm geared, I guess. But if you get me one-on-one, and I can see that you're a good spirit... well, you can judge for yourself. On the outside, I'm pretty scrawny and small as bears go. But on the inside, I am pure bear -- loyal and loving to my allies, no questions asked.

One of these days, I'm gonna meet up with the little rat up there. And I intend to make sure that it will be one of the happiest days of his life...

Monday, November 22, 2010

And Now...

Some King Crimson...

This old queerboy is still blogging, just so you know. Enjoy...

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Love Is Human...

I got off the bus at Three Chopt and Patterson around 9:30 PM, on my way home from the print shop. I decided to drop in on Martin's supermarket at the Village, the store that used to be a Ukrop's outlet, which is right there at that intersection. Some new potatoes, some Spanish rice, and some burger patties were among the items I thought I'd take to work tomorrow. I've been spending so much time at work this year that I figured I'd take my little George Foreman grill to work a few weeks ago, and started cooking my own meals there. Not only is that what I'm doing, my slowly deteriorating health is deteriorating even slower because of this. I'm still working harder than I should be, and it' still gonna kill me eventually if I don't put a permanent stop to it. But there is much to be said about striving for a well-balanced diet on your own terms.

Anyway, I'm digressing. I shopped at Martin's and then started the forty-five-minute walk to my apartment. This long-assed walk was a result of something I did, long story short. The city buses do run to within a one-minute walk to where I live, but that ends around 7 PM, and these days, that's the earliest I get off of work. I start work around 11 AM now, and work until whenever, based on what my workload is. Suffice to say, fuck it, I'll walk. And I don't mind -- it's rather therapeutic. I manage to clear a lot of awful garbage out of my head between start and finish on most weeknights.

But not tonight.

I was walking home, clearing my head, nothing unusual. As I've previously noted, I'm calling myself a Christian now. I was thinking about that as I was walking. Some might say that means I'm walking with Jesus now. I disagree -- in my mind, I'm walking toward Jesus now, or I hope I am. And that means greatly readjusting the contours of my own thinking.

And as I was walking down the road, in the relatively unlit dark, a truck coming my way not only slowed down, it veered uncomfortably close to where I was. First thing I thought: someone wants to do something to me.

Reflexively, I actually stepped into the road, looked in the direction of the driver (I couldn't see anyone, since it was dark outside), and barked, "What the fuck are YOU lookin' at?!"

I don't know if the driver even noticed that, but he or she did veer back toward the yellow lines, pick up speed, and drive off as I stood there glaring at their receding tail lights.

Then, I started loathing myself for reacting that way.

That, folks, is the kind of change that is happening to me these days. That's what's up with me.

I hate getting mad, even when I can't help it. It jars my mind, it hurts my heart, and it cripples my spirit. And the kicker is, I know this will never end. I just have to deal with it all as it comes.

This is what I call the hopeless human condition. Or as I now call it: to love is human. No matter what. I do not love whoever gave me that panic attack tonight. But I have no idea what that was all about to them. I have to let it go. I have to forgive.

And I've started applying that to many facets of my life. There's something about forgiveness that makes you wiser, if not stronger. It empowers you in some rather strange ways. It's almost counter-intuitive. But it's definitely real and potent.

Me, I just want to be happier, healthier, kinder, and stronger than I am. And every little bit I achieve toward those ends lifts my mind, my heart, and my spirit that much more. It's a wonderful feeling, I have to tell you. And I can't help wondering why I didn't figure this out sooner...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Giving Christianity A Try...

I don't know if you caught this over at skippy's place last week, but I've decided to consider myself a Christian now, and to act accordingly. An explanation from me is in order, since I've declared that I'm finished with skippy, and I've declared myself an agnostic time and time again.

We'll start with me blogging for skippy. Back in August, I basically lost my shit over at his place, over two things: one, recurring and increasingly incendiary disagreements with his readership over the way Barack and Obama and the Democrats were doing things, and two, the fact that I'd asked skippy to revoke my blogging privileges, but he wouldn't do so. It got to the point where I just intentionally posted some hostile remarks about skippy on his main page in an effort to force him to drop me -- and when he wouldn't do that, I posted some even more hostile remarks. When that failed to get any response from him at all, I proceeded to delete several dozen posts I'd written for him, stopping only when I got tired of the ponderous process of deleting posts Blogger has.

Eventually, I started posting for skippy again, and he thanked me for that. Later on, feeling lower than a snake's asshole, I sent skippy an e-mail saying that I was a real prick to him this year for no reason, and that I was very sorry for acting that way toward him. There is a really ugly side to me that I readily acknowledge, but at the same time, I have long tried to keep others from seeing. And the harder I try to hide it, the uglier it looks when it finally breaks loose from my grasp. That's what happened back in August. Skippy had nothing to do with it, he was just on the receiving end of my hostility.

Then there's me declaring myself a Christian. What I said and came to regret saying over at skippy's place had a part in that, but the truth is, this has been a long time coming. I had this to say about embracing Christianity over at my Fur Affinity page:

...I do not consider myself saved, whatever that's supposed to mean. What I've done is adopt a particular framework that I think will help me live a better, fuller life than the one I'm currently living. I think of Jesus as a guide, not a savior -- I've said and done too many cruel things to even begin to imagine myself as being saved, and I have to live with all of them. Maybe I haven't acted that way here at FA, but over the course of my life, yes, I have. And I don't want to be like that anymore.

I don't know, something about turning 40 made a change in me. I started thinking about a lot of the hateful things I've said and done to people over the years, and it just made me feel horrible inside. And frankly, I deserve to feel that way. All I want is to stop saying and doing those hateful things.

That's all me becoming a Christian is about. I'm not going to start handing out religious tracts to people on the street or anything. I just want to live a better, happier life -- or, failing that, I want to not impede anyone else's pursuit of their own better, happier life...

This isn't about salvation. This is about, well, doing unto others as I would want done unto myself -- which is precisely the way skippy treated me, even after I treated him like garbage. It's a testament to skippy's character that he still lets me post for him, and a condemnation of my own character.

This embrace of Christianity didn't happen overnight. It started years ago, when I started reading books by people like Bruce Bawer, Karen Armstrong, Chris Hedges, and John Shelby Spong. Before that, I'd read books by skeptics and atheists that had convinced me Christianity was dead in the water through the inaccuracies and contradictions in the Bible that they'd listed. I have not lost sight of any of those. It was the insights of Bawer, Armstrong, et cetera that gradually made me realize that yes, the Bible is riddled with errors, but I was missing the larger point: we're all human, and no matter which religion we turn to, we all want to know who we are, why we're here, and where we're going. I have chosen Christianity as a framework in this regard, mostly because it is the framework that deals with these question that I am most familiar with -- if that framework had been, say, Buddhism, I would have started calling myself a Buddhist.

I didn't accept Jesus as my savior, I chose him as my guide. I have read the New Testament, and after several years of pondering all things spiritual, moral, ethical, and humane, I think I would do quite well in taking heed of many of the things attributed to him there. That's all.

Make no mistake, I'm still a perverted bastard, and always will be -- I bought a couple sex toys recently, and I'm rather annoyed over not knowing why I don't have them yet. I know I'm a sinner, and I won't try to hide it. What I want to do is not sin against, or damage, anyone else -- that's what makes my heart and my spirit hurt, not what Lucifer and I mutually agree to do together.

Do unto others as you would want done unto you. It's really that simple.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This Is Almost Too Cool...

The fifteen smartest cities in America. It's a slideshow. No one region has a monopoly -- these cities are fairly well distributed across the country.

But having been born and for the most part raised in Massachusetts, I had to post this. Guess which city came in first.

If you said the hub of the universe, grab yourself a frosty. Cheeahs...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Let Me Tell You How America Works"...

I caught this over at Balloon Juice a couple days ago. I didn't touch on it at the time, but it keepspopping up in my mind, so I guess I better deal with it.

I've been saying for years that the eligible voters who don't vote on election day are a big part of what's wrong with this country, and I still stand by that. But there's another group of eligible voters that are an even bigger part of the problem, and I've totally overlooked them. This guy explains it:

...But if we'd gone to an actual party, then we would've missed a special lesson from a Murray supporter named Buddy Foley, 65, a pianist and handler-wrangler who won't say what he handles or wrangles (besides the Stella Artois in his hand).

"Let me tell you how America works," says Foley, who wears a plaid shirt, a mallard-print tie and a woodpecker feather in his fedora. "You have Democrats voting for Democrats and Republicans voting for Republicans and then you have these people down the middle who are -- " he lowers his voice " -- undereducated, and are trying to make a living and do the best for their children, but they're so busy that they realize two weeks before an election that, 'Gee, I better start watching TV to get some news,' and by then the richest [expletives] in America have shoved their [expletiving] money into attack ads and that's what this middle group of people sees, and they vote accordingly and they're the ones who steer the country"...

Fuck me running if that ain't the truth. That's exactly what happened four days ago. And in 2004, most likely. I have noticed the swing-voter phenomenon over the years, but somehow, I never placed much importance in it.

And there's something else I never took into account when it comes to politics. I already know I'm going to vote Democratic the next time around -- nothing is going to change that, if only because I consider myself a pragmatist and not an idealist, and there is simply no other viable party for me to turn to. But I've never really applied that standard to people who are going to vote Republican no matter what. I keep thinking that maybe enough of these people can be reached, the same way many others who voted Republican all their lives were persuaded to side with Obama two years ago.

But persuasion only works when the need to try a different method is obvious, as it was in 2008 when the tanking of our economy began accelerating at an alarming rate. Most of the time, it's about conviction. If you're a person who pays enough attention to politics to have a general understanding of what's going on day by day, then your mind is already made up, one way or the other. If you're a Republican and you know you're going to vote Republican the next time around, you and I could argue back and forth over all the issues from now until election day, and neither one of us would persuade the other to change his vote.

But that's fine. I may disagree with you on many, or even most, of the issues, but at least you are paying attention to what's going on. In my book, that's good enough -- one person, one vote, and how you choose to vote is none of my damned business.

The problem is, we have three distinct groups of voters in play here: politically aware people who vote Democratic, politically aware people who vote Republican, and politically obtuse morons who have made too many babies.

Guess which group I got a major beef with...

David Sirota Is Pissed...

And I mean really pissed:

...In the past, I may have contributed to some sort of organized pushback. But not this year. No, this time I can muster only one Cheney-esque response to the whole grotesque kabuki theater surrounding the inane "Future of the Democratic Party" debate: Go fuck yourself.

Evan Bayh and Third Way and The Democratic Strategist and the DLC and all the professional pundits and cable-TV zombies and D.C. spokesholes - all of you soul-raping corpses and shit-eating poindexters paid to appear on my television screen and scream at me about liberals ruining everything, please, I beg you on behalf of the silent irritated majority: Just go fuck yourself.

Go fuck yourself because all of your arguments are about what policies should be pursued to rescue Democratic politicians' electoral future, rather than about what policies are needed to rescue, say, the fucking country's future. Additionally, go fuck yourself because if you know so much about winning elections and if you are so sure conservadem-ism/Blue Dog-ism is the way to win said elections, how come it was the conservadems/Blue Dog candidates - not liberal candidates - who lost the most elections this year?

Also, go fuck yourself because the fact that you are even trying to create the same old bash-the-liberals debate exposes you not just as substantively wrong, but as professionally employed to despoil our culture with bullshit -- and specifically, with bullshit that you know is bullshit. That, really, everyone knows is bullshit...

Dayamn, David! Now that's what I call a wicked rant.

I'm disappointed in the way election day went, but I'm hardly angry over the way things played out on Tuesday. One reason is because a good chunk of the Democrats who lost their seats deserved to lose, by which I mean the ignorant asses known as the Blue Dogs. (Click on the link in the blockquoted text above for a basic rundown.) So while the Democratic representation in Congress will be much smaller in January, its makeup will be a lot better, it's something we can build on by running Democratic candidates who aren't of the Blue Dog variety, and hopefully, the people who didn't go out and vote this year will have come to their senses in 2012.

Which is an awful lot to hope for, I know. But I survived eight years of the Bush administration. I consider this more of a setback than anything else. Though the next couple of years could be ugly...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yeah, That'll Solve Everything...

Facepalm-inducing headline of the day: Exit poll: Nearly a third of gays voted for GOP.

That one headline right there contains a great chunk of all the ignorant shit I have to put up with from people who are supposed to be my allies on a daily basis.

And homosexual people voting for the party that wants to take away what equal rights we've gained because the party that has endorsed those ones we have hasn't gotten around to endorsing the rest of the equal rights fast enough for them, is just one iteration of this shit. If it's not that, it's so-called progressives opposing an actual shot at health care reform because the bill doesn't contain every single thing they want, thus threatening to kill reforming health care for probably another fifteen years. And if it isn't that, it's the PUMAs who threatened to vote for John McCain or a third-party candidate because Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 and Hillary Clinton didn't.

When it comes to those of us on the Left, Walt Kelly said it best through his comic strip character Pogo Possum: We have met the enemy, and he is us. The circumstances in that particular strip were different from the ones I'm complaining about, but the basic idea behind them is the same for both.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: it ain't easy being me...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Next Day...

Boy, last night was a lot of fun, wasn't it?

Anyway, I went to bed around the time the Republican gains in the House hit fifty. That was overkill, at least to me. It was not a good day for Democrats, to put it mildly.

Speaking of Democrats... I am one now. A newly minted one as of last night, as I watched the election news get worse and worse. I'd been calling myself an Independent voter since I was 18. But yesterday's election was the seventh in a row in which I've voted Democratic, and I know I'll be voting Democratic in future elections.

Granted, I have some serious problems with the way Democratic politicians have been doing things, especially over the last two years. And the rift between myself and self-styled progressive voters, whom I see more as ideologues than anything else, isn't getting any smaller -- and that rift is minor compared to the one between them and the Dem politicians. However, the Dem politicians, the progressives, and I all agree that we should campaign and govern on principles and policies that are not only open to anyone who wants to embrace them, but apply just as fairly to those who do not want to embrace them. We do hold positions on certain issues that whole, large blocs of Americans find questionable, if not objectionable or even obscene -- health care reform, making gay marriage legal across the nation, a woman's right to have an abortion, and ending capital punishment, just to cite four examples.

But the driving force behind positions like these is a desire to make America a place that is more just and worth living in for everybody, not just the people who would directly benefit from these sorts of changes -- to build, in other words, a more perfect union. Or, as I like to put it: progress, not regress. I don't know how many times I've heard someone say there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats. Well, the difference is, we want to build a more perfect union, and the GOP doesn't -- our approach is inclusive, theirs is exclusive, and you can take your own good, hard look throughout American history and decide which approach is the better one for yourself. I've done that, made my own decision, and have more than enough confidence in it that I feel no need to proselytize. The record speaks for itself. I'm a Democrat.

Progress, not regress.

Sure, my side lost pretty badly yesterday. Wasn't the first time.

Tomorrow's a new day...