The Dance

Hush! They’re playing
our song, notes strong and
defiant, self-reliant

Rugged individualist,
lone pugilist
against
the world.  No sense in panic–
the frantic beat is enough, don’t you think?

The floater sinks and the
sinker swims, so many sins, so little
Time.
The mind is not the monster, nor
the hero in the heavens. News at Eleven;
breaking story: how much more we gonna take
before the dam breaks?

Hush! They’re playing our song…

…And the dance goes on

Bleeding_Heart_Vine_(Clerodendrum_thomsoniae)

 

American Idiot

Donald_Trump_2_March_2015 (Image by Michael Vadon)

We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

– H.L. Mencken

Has anyone ever considered that maybe a Trump presidency is exactly what this country deserves?

They say that hauntings are the result of past trauma, passions accumulated through the years and then released in a catharsis of spectral manifestation. If that is true, I would like to submit this as an explanation for the remarkable, yet not entirely incredible, success of The Donald’s presidential campaign thus far: as a nation, we are being haunted by the ghost of ourselves.

Trump, as a political thinker (if such is an accurate term for the regurgitative extrospection he exercises on camera) is the immaculate culmination of the phenomenon known ’round the world as “the ugly American.” He is our national id, as Jon Stewart (may his memory increase) so aptly noted after the initial announcement. He is everything we want, but are too afraid of social sanctions, to say. Since Trump can afford to ignore those sanctions, he is rapidly becoming a collective escape valve for our inner sociopathy–the means whereby we dump our boiler, lest the Overlook explode around us, blanketing us all in a cloud of radioactive Fox-planation…

But this is nothing some pundit or other hasn’t already said. The salient point here is simply this: we asked for it.

I recently asked a Dutch friend what he thought about our two-party political system. It does not, he said, allow for nuance: two parties mean two sides to any given issue, black and white, right and wrong (interchangeable according to the views of the speaker). Yes, we have “third parties” and “independents,” but I think Ralph Nader’s political career is indicative of those groups’ viability. Two parties, two teams, two ideological armies locked in rhetorical stalemate.

Add to this the fact that politics is considered a “career,” and that anytime someone dares to mention term limits they are immediately shouted down (by the very people who spend all their time complaining about “imperial presidencies”), and it’s a wonder we’ve made it as far as we have as a nation. It’s not democracy; it’s pure dumb luck.

Given the incessant pissing contest in which we’ve engaged the whole world since the 1950s (at least), it was really only a matter of time before somebody ended up pissing on us. I’ve never quite figured out the dismay with which people react to terrorist threats and/or attacks on US soil; of course they are a bad thing, an evil thing, but to expect anything else is simply naive. One cannot spend his days tossing bombs over the back fence without assuming that, at some point, his neighbor’s gonna toss one back.

We have rested too long on imaginary laurels. We police the world but consider ourselves accountable to no one. We are not the watchdog; we are the bully. And we worry now that Trump’s foreign policy will alienate potential allies? That cat, my friends, done got out the bag.

Ultimately, we can’t talk productively amongst ourselves, which means we can’t talk credibly to our “allies” (defined, lately, as “whoever we aren’t bombing today”). And underneath a thin veneer of cosmopolitan globalism, a strong current of pre-1940s isolationism still flows: there is a fine line between exceptionalism and “go-fuck-yourselves,” and Donald Trump seems determined to erase it, one idiotic tweet at a time. The longer we insist that we don’t need the world (that we, in fact, are the world, Coca-Cola and all), the more likely it becomes that the rest of the world will realize it doesn’t really need us at all. At that point, it won’t matter who’s in the White House, because we’ll all be in the dog house.

Perhaps what we as a polity need is a swift kick to the groin, as a reminder of our unmitigated hubris. And what better stand-in for Uncle Sam’s crotch than good ol’ D.T.? And it’s an honest mistake: he is a bit of a dick.

If the prospect of Trump in the Oval doesn’t get us to sit up and take notice; if The Donald doesn’t inspire us to re-engage one another in some sort of peaceful and constructive way; if we continue to be so deeply inspired by idiocy, well, then…I give you…

Trump 2016:
When we can’t pretend we aren’t who we are
anymore…

Thinking Out Loud

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If butterfly wings,
having sired the storm,
presage a chaos yet to be born...then
                                regardless of form
beauty is beauty and
                                      fire is warm.

And if, once washed, the bowl remains         full,

then life is not over
no matter the pull

Last but not least 
                                              the feast.

First Step

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The moment of recognition
right before the end;
begin to understand
the future lies not behind but ahead.

Collision between one and other–
everyone’s brother, nobody’s friend.
Cold is the flame
that gnaws at the frame of existence

In one instance, at least, a reprieve
no thievery here. Never
Fear–the normal wear and tear
will take you before you can grasp

the questions you can’t ask
or have answered. A glance
from the corner of down-turned eye
and a sigh of relief

the chief of these is
the first step of many

Another Day

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The world was never my oyster
at best a broken toaster
just enough to burn your fingers
when you try to take the slices
pleasures can’t be vices
a maze that’s full of mice is just
another day at the races
so many faces so little voice
and every thought’s a choice between
living and existing
and all the while
a hidden smile insists on
persisting.

Turn that frown upside down–

then let the tear-waters rise
until you

drown

Keep Your Words in Your Own Mouth, Please!

churchsign2If you have nothing nice to say,
then don’t say anything at all.

– My mother
(and millions more just like her)

So…I just got back from a conference in Pasadena, CA, at which I presented a paper on social media, and the ways in which they affect our ability to engage one another in meaningful dialogue. One of the topics I discussed, by chance, was the Internet meme. The presentation went rather well, I think, and I was going to write a follow-up post for my bloggy thingy here. And then, I got a forward from my father-in-law, well-meaning spreader of whatever rumor floats his way on the wings of cyberspace, fact-check free:

church sign

Dearborn, Michigan–out to kill us all!!!!! Except…wait a minute…that sign looks a whole lot like this one:

demosign09Exactly like it, in fact! Could it be that someone completely fabricated the “Kill America!” message, and then spread it, knowingly and maliciously, around the Internet as if it were the truth, the whole truth, and…well, you get the idea? Unheard of, right? Who would do such a thing?

After five seconds of research and a very helpful Snopes.com page, followed by a moment of righteous indignation at the intellectual and moral dishonesty of the person who did this…I remembered something. Something I’d seen on the blog of a friend who, supposedly, has taken it upon herself to expose the lies told to the masses by organized religion:

baptist-church-sign

And that looks a hell of a lot like this:

demosign1Before my father-in-law’s forward, I had no idea that “Church Sign Maker” even existed. And, having spent a few years in the church sign business myself, I’ve seen my share of ridiculous messages in front of church buildings. So, I bit. Hard. I even laughed at some that I saw on fellow bloggers’ pages…like this one:

7cfdd7bb76566d7413b2b863281e4681

Which, once again, looks a whole lot like this:

demosign3Now, I know that these last two images are not exactly the same (the one above has a larger foreground, etc.), but they are obviously images of the same sign. And that’s the point: who knows which one, if either, is real? That’s what the meme does, people. It bends the truth, even when based on a partial truth, to the point that it’s no longer distinguishable from the lie.

Now, I should have known, me and my tirades about memes and what they do to our ability to relate to one another. But, you see, I trust the person on whose page I saw these things. Trusted, anyway. Now, how am I supposed to know what is real, what is true, in her ongoing crusade against religious “untruth”? My father always told me: Two wrongs do not make a right. What of that? In fighting a lie, is it acceptable to use a lie?

Because, at the end of the day, that’s what these things are: lies. Inventions. Like the “Dearborn sign,” and equally harmful. We can use memes to put our words into the mouths of anyone we want, anyone we don’t like, in a way that creates an illusion of truth and makes them responsible to the masses for something they never even said. And it cuts every which way. Welcome to the world of digital propaganda! We don’t need to discover evidence and expose the truth. We can simply create the truth out of whole cloth.

It’s amazing how our “enemies” conform to our expectations when we’re the ones crafting their narrative for them…

So, next time you try and tell me, my friend, that Christians are the problem, that they’re the ones obstructing productive dialogue, spreading a harmful false message and preying upon the gullibility of the masses, check yourself.

Who’s obstructing whom?

Perhaps

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Perhaps
if I were tall and blonde
if my profile picture belonged
on the cover of Vogue or Elle–
Ah, well!–
You never can tell a face by its features,
or beautiful thoughts from beautiful creatures.
If anyone could, none would be teachers.
And now,
I think,
we ought to go behind the bleachers.