The Human Condition of Toxicity

This is not a tale of our environment trashed and gone rogue on our poor souls. This is the story of just one woman – a woman who I both despise and pity, a woman who is obviously evil and hurting. So does the latter negate the former? Maybe, in theory, but not in practice. Our actions are our own, no matter what the extenuating circumstances – maybe not in the eyes of the law, but in the practice of the person and the outcomes they beget. For it is not some statute or former case that decides this sort of guilt, but the suffering of the innocent players. A well-paid lawyer can turn his eye to her actions, but no one in her cross-hairs can.

Okay, that’s a rather overblown beginning just to talk about a regular person in the regular world going about her life in a regular job among regular professionals. So what makes her so evil? That is the question – and that is why I am torn about her. I had the opportunity to work with this person for about a year. It began with warnings about her from those who knew her, but I saw none of the serial negativity they described. In fact, it appeared we were on an entirely different track. She seemed to like us and what we did, she even, and this is where I should have seen it coming, acted as if we were in cahoots as she quickly denigrated her colleagues conspiratorially almost immediately when we were alone. I was taken aback as it was entirely unprofessional, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Mistake, that.

Needless to say, she turned. Her vitriol was soon pointed my way, and you could see that the cahoots was now among others and we were the denigrated and trashed. It’s mostly over, and I certainly don’t judge myself in her eyes, and I’m angry and even shocked that she gets away with what she does, but ultimately I pity her. She’s old. She’s alone. She’s bitter. I can imagine that this is her purpose – so much easier and more powerful to be small, malevolent and angry than to do the work required to make good, make friends and even love. She fills her emptiness with that contempt. She doesn’t deserve that life. Something outside her led her there. No one chooses to be that toxic because there’s never a happy ending. Only endings. And lots of them.

I can’t despise her. I can only feel bad for her. I’m a karma guy. I believe, despite my reality-soaked, scientific enlightenment bent, that somehow she’ll have to pay for these actions, but then again, maybe she already is. We reap what we sow, not in some distant imagined place of suffering, but right here and right now. Bless her.

Fire and Flintstones

I was reading something about the ineffectiveness of various youth programs around the United States and was struck by a thought that rarely enters my mind: oh, t’were it we only had more fire and brimstone! Well-meaning liberals (and some conservatives surely) put their grand efforts into turning troubled and disadvantaged kids around at every corner. And they mostly fail, but that is not for lack of effort. There is such a giant stew of reasons – ranging from rap music to broken homes to lack of jobs to under-funded schools and missing parents – that something like after-school basketball just can’t make much of a difference. The kids spend a couple of hours a week in some well-planned utopia and then the other 165 in reality. And reality sucks for most of those we are trying to help.

But back in the day, see, religion had an iron grip on many kid’s minds. Yes, they were also more likely to be from two-parent homes, the union kept dad working, there was no such thing as thrash metal and Facebook, and watching too much Flintstones was what parents feared most about the effects of the media, but it was the Sunday sermon that often prevented the slide from good boy to juvenile delinquent. The real horror of burning in hell for lifting a pack of bubble gum held some sway back in those days. And while my own opinion is that it was (and is) tall tales long ago concocted by men wanting to control other men, women and children, Jesus man, it worked!

His wife was small, diminutive

His wife was small, diminutive,
kept order in the place they lived
made lists of things and scolded him
when he bought something on a whim.

The girl was round, voluptuous,
she ordered fries and chicken strips
chewed bubble gum she shared with him
before they worked out in the gym.

His wife would wait at home and cook
and clean and read another book
and glare at him when he came in
fresh showered with a sheepish grin.

The girl would go out to the bars
and drink and dance under the stars
and send him pictures and silly notes
he read in the closet behind the coats

that smelled of must and of his wife
to whom he’d promised all his life
that day when she seemed worth it all –
open, caring, beautiful.

But now she’s scrunched and crumpled up,
filled with contempt, her loving cup,
tired and weary, wrinkly and prudish,
so, really, was he being all that brutish

by wrapping his arms ’round something so soft,
so round and moist that lifts him aloft,
that giggles and smiles and laughs at his jokes
and teases and tickles and fondles and pokes?

Must he avoid this happiness
to uphold a law that was really a guess?
Should he stay with scrunchy or go with the lass?
The answer, he knew, was of course, yes.

I don’t like tube socks.

Allow me to come out at this point against tube socks. I know it’s not a huge issue on anyone’s mind right now what with the slow economic recovery and that lady with flesh-eating disease, but tube socks just really piss me off. They don’t fit…anything, but some piece of wood shaped exactly like a tube sock. And that seam at the toes does whatever the fuck it wants! Might’s well just toss a piece of wire into your shoe and allow it to land where it may. And there being no heel means there’s never a heel. You can wear it a thousand times and work in a thousand heels, basically inflating the sock in every direction nine inches from the toe so you’ve got some tricked out cotton Japanese lantern, drunk on sake, making very little sense. Ever. Tube socks are bad.

On a related note, no human has walked this earth looking better with a Mohawk than they would bald. Truism, that.

I’m generally not one to be all political, but…

This really concerns me.

If Richard Lugar and I had a beer we could probably find a few things we agree on and a few we don’t. But he’s a rational, intelligent man. A very good man as far as I can tell. The fact that the Republican party – as it stands today – would toss a man like that really worries me. There’s no center to the party. It’s just angry folks unskilled in governing and especially the give and take of politics. They get the take, but have no idea of the give. Listen to this:

“’Richard Mourdock’s victory truly sends a message to the liberals in the Republican Party: voters are rejecting the policies that led to record debt and diminished economic freedom, and they will continue to be rejected in elections throughout America,’ said Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman who is now president of the Club for Growth.”

“The liberals in the Republican Party”? This guy’s got creeping paranoia all over his intellectual lawn. Rational Republicans are at a crossroads. Do they allow the tea party to drag them into that world or do they wrest it from them (can they wrest it from them?) and bring back the GOP that once – while had the disagreement of some liberals, at least garnered some respect for their abilities and willingness to compromise to make this country a better place. As soon as the party becomes more important than the country – which is the direction the Republicans have been charging in for a few years – the country is screwed. Welcome to screwed.

Mr. Lugar, your party, apparently, is over.

I love people, but

I think I’ve had an epiphany of sorts – or maybe I was just able to put into a simple, tidy little phrase something I’ve known all of my life, but haven’t quite understood so simply. That is, I love individuals, but I don’t care for groups of people. In fact, I really don’t like groups of people much at all. I may even hate them – mostly. This is why I’ve always said, and with some weird pride, “I’m not a joiner.” I would often then go on to enumerate that which I will not join: I don’t want to be a part of your religion, book club, biker gang, ultimate frisbee team and so on and so on. It is not that I don’t like those in and of themselves, but I do not want to be a part of them. But at the same time, I love the individuals who make them up. Well, not all of them of course, but would give them all the benefit of the doubt, not as the group, but as individuals, in the beginning.

I am definitely suspicious of groups. They are unnerving for a host of very good reasons: They are dangerous; they are often possessed by mob mentality (even in small groups); they are often self-righteous; they allow individuals to be lazy and force others to pick up their slack, they are physically large and can lose control of that physicality, and on and on. Think groupthink. That is not to say that I am some sort of whacked-out every man for himself libertarian, or rugged individualist (whatever that means) as I’m really not all that rugged and I do love those I love dearly – my family, my close friends and co-workers – and I love to be around them. I even understand the need for and desire to help one another as individuals and even as a society (big group, that one).

But still I chafe at the little trappings of groups; god save me if I have to dress like a group of people beyond whatever I would normally choose for myself; scheduled and regular meetings I am certain each knock a good 20 minutes (beyond the wasted time of the meeting itself) off the end of my life; I can feel my ultimate demise inching toward me each time I am forced into a group experience not of my choosing. Little bits of me die within.

And I wonder even at the logistics of it all! How on god’s green earth do people round up large groups for biking, or ultimate frisbee, or to re-enact some bygone battle with muskets and period outfits(!) for that matter? That is a great mystery to me, but then again I am imagining 45 me’s at the end of the phone line receiving the invite: “Hey, wanna come out and meet a bunch of us at…” Nope.

But let me say again, I’m not anti-people – just anti-bunches-of-people. I’m also averse to concerts, sporting events, bullfights – wherever great hoards of humanity pile into a confined space. One could be crushed! I love the idea of Woodstock, but would have blown my head off to have had to be there for more than 15 or so minutes – even clean and sober; add some acid or mushrooms or even whatever weed they were smoking back then to that experience and I might have simply physically honestly exploded into individual atoms rather suddenly, simply ceasing to exist entirely.

People who know me gave up long ago inviting me to join anything. And I don’t think they love me less for it. I think they, as individuals, accept that. As a group, they could turn up at my door in the middle of the night with pitchforks and torches and stakes and demands of my skills for ultimate frisbee every other Thursday down at Como Park – rain or shine! What a nightmare!

Nina in the Bright Light of Day

See! This is what we're talking about! Jammies, that semi-retarded star, good stuff!

Oh, no, Nina, say it ain’t so! After climbing into bed last night with the relaxing nocturnal Nina from Sprout’s Goodnight Show, the soft purring nighttime assurances, the quiet smiles, the come-hither seduction exuding from her every evening pore, I woke this morning to a veritable horse’s head in my sodden bed. Nina! On the Sprout Morning Show!

Not unlike waking drunk next to a barely remembered one-night stand yanked from a bar stool at 2 AM and drug home in a fit of whatever happens happens, stinking of booze and soda pop, make-up smeared over the pillow and in some sort of creepy jackson pollockian face, there was Nina, filled with grating morning glee! Her voice an octave higher and 25 decibels louder. No! Get out of my house! Get out of our shared imaginary bed, you shape-shifter! You siren whose rocky shores come to light only as the sun rises, but, oh, oh, oh, much too late my trusting soul!

Ugh! There she is feigning to duck from the fake raindrops and hamming and hugging her shoulders for the cold ear-muffed phony sun; soon she’ll be high-fiving Chica and spewing inanities like “You go, girl!”

In the evening, she’d have smiled at the drops of rain and simply and elegantly wrapped herself in a warm subdued shawl and assured us all that it would be all right as we drifted off to sleep together to the rhythm of the raindrops on the sturdy rooftop.

But alas, the veil has been lifted, the make-up scraped off, and this lady of the evening walks unsteadily in the bright light of day. The decent people turn their heads; others gawk. Who is she? Why is she here? For shame she is here! For shame!

Hey! I wonder what’s going on over at Nick, Jr.!

Damned Kids

That damn kid. There he was again. 4:30 am and whining from his room down the hall wanting to come into our bed. We had been holding the line. He’s four, for the love of Van Winkle. He can sleep in his own damn bed. I went in and scolded him. He said he was afraid, he couldn’t sleep. “You have nothing to be afraid of!” I told him. “Go to sleep!” I walked back down the hall, pissed off with him for waking me from my own deep slumber and climbed back into bed. But there it was…

That damn video. That “father” beating his daughter with a belt over and over and over. The day before I had come across it on the internet. It had become quite the sensation. The girl, a regular victim of her big, tough “dad’s” beatings, had set up a video camera and captured it in all its gory. Some six years ago, it turns out. I had been on the phone listening to a nice-guy vendor drone on and on about that which I didn’t care much and had clicked on the “Yes, I’m 18” link and then on “Play” and didn’t hear much else the nice guy said. I watched for a while, my blood going from 98.6 to boiling point in no time flat. This “man”, this “father”, was whipping his daughter with a belt – did I mention over and over and over?

Apparently he is a Texas FAMILY LAW judge (the flaccid “Don’t Mess with Texas” tough-guy slogan manifest in this sad peon).  I wanted to reach in and rip that twisted pathetic scrap of garbage’s throat out and shove it down his, well, throat. I quickly turned it off feeling as if I’d been smacked around for about an hour. The nice guy finished his spiel, I think, and it was over. But it wasn’t. That damn video’s been stuck in my head ever since.

It’s all so complicated. His violence inspires my deep wish for his incarceration in the Texas prison system and many, many tortuous years as both bitch and punching bag to the biggest, meanest men there. As a Texan and judge, you can bet he claims to be a deeply religious Christian man, which can be a) appalling to enlightened Christians, b) explained away as “Hey, none of us are perfect and he just needs to repent, and receive the full-on forgiveness of the Lord”, or c) “Well, the Bible does tell us that we’ll spoil the kids if we spare ‘em the rod” (or belt, I suppose).

Then there’s the technology/shame aspect. This kid absolutely schooled the old tool with a video cam and YouTube. I would encourage every child who receives these sorts of physical or emotional beatings to do the same. Drag the cowards (who, of course, perpetrate in the privacy of their own homes mostly) right out into the open. Let the neighbors, the friends and family, the clergy, the teachers, and everyone else with internet access see exactly who they are but are too afraid to show. The WikiLeaks of child abuse.

Then there’s the sad fact that probably won’t help much either. There are 7 billion people on the Earth as of Monday (or so they say), and if we take an incredibly conservative estimate and assume that 10% of these 7B people would do the same to their children for whatever personal, cultural, or religious reasons, we’ve got 700 million people who belong in stockades in the town square covered in loogies and hurled feces by my reckoning. That’s a lot of stockades.

So what can a guy do?

There was nothing I could do about the tiny Texas coward – or any others like him, I don’t think. They have their rods and fists and belts and terribly low self-esteem and tiny penises and whatever, and they have their privacy and they even have their supporters. They will never go away. They will beget and subsequently beat another who will very often do the same to those they beget. These things tend to pass on through generations like crippling disease, until someone is strong enough, smart enough and kind enough (and fed up enough) to stop the cycle and raise their own children with the sort of power not of violence but of intelligence and compassion (and a fair amount of parental trickery, to be honest).

I couldn’t sleep now. I just laid in bed thinking about all this when there he was again. My four-year-old whining. I got up and walked down into his room. “You can’t come in our bed,” I said, firm with breaking this bad habit his mom and I had created for ourselves, and climbed into his bed. I could see in the half light his surprise as he laid his head down on my shoulder and threw his arm over my chest. His breathing slowed, then turned to tiny snores.

The Grover BORGquist

The Grover BORGquist: resistance, apparently, is futile

The Grover BORGquist descended upon the Publicant’s and entered the party through the bottom, taking the easy path past the least of them; then veered right again and captured most of the rest of them. They signed themselves over, pledging themselves to assimilation with the BORGquist, They gave in and gave up on independent thought and action. (‘Rolled over and took it up the sick bay,’ might say.)

Cantinacrats

Meanwhile at the Democantina, all hell was breaking loose again. The party was on, everyone was represented – locals, freaks, foreigners – and everybody was demanding to be heard, like barkers at some whacked out baazar and there was no order because there were too many people and too many opinions; factions; ‘factionistas’ one man opined. Cantinacrats. But the music was good.