Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Dark And Twisted Fantasies And Fallout From The Days And Nights Of George The Second

                                As with so many Americans,the only attention I pay to the supermarket tabloids are glancing at the cover briefly on my way to the checkout line. Sometimes I giggle to myself at the alleged misadventures of over indulged celebrities,or shudder inwardly with anger with the often racially motivated hatred leveled at President Obama and the first family. Very very few times have I actually seen anything on these gossip papers that deeply impacted on me or,on a deeper level revealed any hint of a possible truth. This is what happened when I saw the following picture on the cover of the Globe this week. I actually found myself lingering looking at it. The next night I was watching a program about Saturday Night Live in the new millennium. And they began talking about how Mayor Giuliani appeared on the show with a group of NYC fire fighters and police when the show came back on the air following 9/11. And like fast forwarding through a slide show,a flood of insane memories flashed before my eyes.

                      I recalled the first day in my life I voted. I was so proud,and so struck with horror that night when the tampering of the ballots was revealed and George W Bush become the countries 42'nd President.  I then recall walking back and forth across the street from where I lived,accompanied by my dad,on the afternoon of September 11'th,2001. Everyone was inside glued to the saturation news. Entertainment tonight reported movies and TV shows being withheld due to "patriotic sensitivity". They believed the entire nation was under attack. People in my own neighborhood began looking at me and my family with terrified expressions-wondering if our dark skin complexions indicated Arab heritage,possibly of the Muslim faith. And I remember that faith being constantly linked to anti American terrorists in everyday discussion on the street. Friends and neighbors all around me watched as their children,all near my age group,volunteered for Operation:Iraqi Freedom. On my end anyway,very few came back alive. 

                        That was just the beginning. In 2004 another election came around. I waited with bated breath for John Kerry to be elected the 43's US president. But he backed down on his position as a stop the war candidate at the last minute. And GW did what his father did not: he got in for a second term. I lived my life everyday watching helplessly as people I'd known for years began to lose their homes,their jobs,much of their property. Every day people began saying they knew this war on terror was draining the economy. But most of them did nothing. All of a sudden people began to realize how much of a problem the Bush administration was with Rumsfeld,Ashcroft and Vice President Chaney. Even arch conservatives. Again I saw inaction. For the first time,myself than being in my mid 20's,I began wondering if the United States social and political info-structure was about to completely collapse. 

                      Sometimes when I am running errands,I see a monster pickup trick with a tattered bumper sticker with a cartoon of GW Bush's face with writing next to it saying "Do You Miss Him Yet?". I understand where this is coming from. And I respect freedom of speech. But on a deeper level,I really think this exemplifies not only much of America's apathetic numbing to the facts of the first decade of this new millennium,but that it also goes far beyond the dubious effectiveness of George W Bush as commander in chief. My generation is categorized as Generation X. They were often a generation who alternately celebrated and lamented that they never had a war to fight. And thought they never would. Well they got one,and they volunteered. There was no draft. When someone does something wrong without knowing how wrong it is,they are acting in ignorance. If they do the wrong thing knowing full well of their wrong doing,they really are acting from pure stupidity. Sadly that ethic of stupidity defines that era for me. And my continued shame about it.

                    Was I myself stupid? Was I one of the few who saw what was going on? Those are difficult questions to ask. What I wonder is how many Americans feel as I do now? That they chose voluntarily not to value important things for the sake of their own stress level and frame of mind. In retrospect I realize how psychologically damaging the administration of "George the second",as the anti nuclear activist Helen Calidcott calls him,actually was to our society. That administration used the media,through censoring film,TV and literature to try to distort the constitution,and American's civil rights. Now there is a distrust of anyone trying to use politics to enact social change. More so I think than after Watergate. The fear runs deep into people's sense of low self esteem. It makes them doubt themselves-even treat their friends,family and neighbors somewhat shabbily due to their own worry and stress. I've experienced a great deal of this syndrome. And continue to even now. And to end this all where I started-that little blurb on a supermarket tabloid. All this mass cultural confusion from a man who might've been the nations president while dealing with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. I don't know whether he can really recall or not his years as president. But millions of Americans such as myself sure can.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Selfish Behavior: The American Who Is Always Trying To Blame Something

           This is an image that made an enormous impact on me the more I think about it: the President of the United States weeping before the American people upon addressing them in regard to the Newton Connecticut school shooting shortly after it had occurred. It is such a sympathetic and human expression. And above all expresses great selflessness. From my end,it seems that most people around me view selflessness in terms of how much money one has and how willing they are to freely share it. Actually it goes far deeper than that. To be totally honest,most Americans would have to admit that many of us have become selfish thinkers caught unawares. After all so many of us are spoon fed a daily diet of often impossibly hard work,family concerns,news from all ends about global warming and international military tensions and an almost crippling inability to productively coordinate time. The  result is too many people looking for a scapegoat. They blame their parents. Blame their children. Blame their bosses. Or as the the rhythm and blues artist Andre' Williams states so perfectly in song,they blame it on Obama.

            President Obama for his part is always talking about the need for Americans to take a good look around them and see different ways they can correct problems around them on a purely local level-very much an extension of JFK's saying of "ask what you can do for your country". Unfortunately the majority of Americans are not the idealistic futurists they were in President Kennedy's era. They have become hardened and cynical people for a hardened and  cynical age. So the President now has to be both a political leader and a psychologist to an emotionally needy nation who are looking,both on the liberal and conservative end,to be told exactly what to do but at the same time are too bitter to do anything but "criticize the messenger" as it were. Hence all the anger and hatred aimed at the President and often his supporters. In this blog I am going to define this in the persona of a a hypothetical character sketch of a man. He could be your son,your brother,your father or your uncle of any race or creed. But he's an American living in today's world.

          Suppose you have a young boy who is born in a big urban area in the late 1960's. He's an early member of what they call Generation X. His mom has started a second family with his father. But this young boy has learning disabilities and said father doesn't know how to deal with it. So he makes a lot of mistakes along the way. The boy also has to deal with abuse and a violation from a half sibling. As this young boy because a young man,he begins to meet up with the wrong crowd. He ends up drunken,thrown into a field by people who aren't really his friend.  His room is always a mess. When he reaches 18 he tells his family he's going the military because he is convinced this will make a man out of him.  His parents or his siblings don't approve but what can they do? He's grown up and can make his own choices even if they are bad ones. This man goes through boot camp. He ends up in and out of two different relationships,both of which ended after he proposed marriage. Than there is a third. They decided to get married. 

           What happens is that his sister decides to get married the same summer. Both siblings share one older half sibling in common. They were always a parental figure to the two. And they decided not to go to either wedding due to travel inconvenience so neither will feel slighted. The sister getting married totally understands. The man does not. He was more needy,and still is. He feels slighted. For the next decade or so he maintains this marriage. He has two children of his own,a boy and girl after his mother dies. He can barely make it to her funereal. Furthermore his son turns out to have Aspergers syndrome and presents him with further more challenges. 9/11 comes along. The now proud Marine,having dragged his family all over the world wherever he's stationed,goes to war. Everyday his family might receive notice he was killed or wounded. Than he tells his wife he had an affair overseas. It isn't long,while she's bent over backwards to raise their autistic son and growing daughter,that she discovers receipt slips indicating her husband had had over thirty extra marital indiscretions in many different places.

          The man's family face many crisis of their own-from health problems to personal ones. He hardly calls either of his sisters. Or anyone else in his family. He then voluntarily accepts a second tour of duty in overseas,where he experiences a traumatic event-killing a non combatant in the line of fire. He refuses to resolve the fact he has PTSD from this. Afterwards,he and his wife file for divorce. In hardly a years time the man marries again,to a woman who wants to use his military penchant to help her ailing daughter. This too ends in divorce,this time with the man shelling out a great deal of money. His worried older half sibling calls him on the phone at this point,trying to express their thoughts and concerns about him. He bitterly emails them saying they want to be left alone and have their own life. This being said in his early 40's. By the time his full sister is getting remarried after her divorce,he announces he's engaged to a women who came all the way across the country and gave up her own life to be with him.

        By this time he is facing the damage done to his first family. His only daughter is in mid adolescence and is highly disappointed in him for his irresponsible behavior. And it would seem his challenged son has found another father figure in the man who replaced him in his ex wife's life. He becomes angry,solitary and bitter. He no longer enjoys his career in the Marines. He's loosing sleep. He is questioning his sexuality. His family have also reached that conclusion all around,but he refuses to hardly admit it to himself let alone them. He then invites his two siblings halfway across the country to attend his wedding. Neither accepts,citing both the distance and (between each other) his thoughtless absenteeism with the rest of his family. His father decides to offer a compromise Easter dinner closer to the rest of the family. After discussing it with his fiancee,the man loses his temper and writes an angry email to his father and siblings accusing them of never being their for him. Now the man faces loosing what little family he has left over his inability to handle the problems he himself mostly helped to created.

        Most importantly,this story is not about me. This is a story I've heard,in variations,repeated many many times within many many families across the country. It represents the distrust and misunderstanding that is created when someone like this man feels backed in a corner. When changes in his life have come so thick and fast that he feels that he can no longer place himself in his group. When he feels he can no longer trust his own judgement when it comes to dealing with other human beings. The end result is a reversion to the mentality of  adolescence,of seeing oneself as immortal and essentially the only person that really matters in their life. It stems  from insecurity and self esteem damaged long ago. It's an individual problem. One that's become so prevalent it's become an American problem. And those afflicted with this are often totally unaware that it's happened. For those like myself who know of situations like this,and dare to question and debate them even to the chagrin of people close to them,it's an issue that really speaks to what kind of people we as Americans really are. And what,we feel,the harshness of the modern world is doing to us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weary Of A Winter Wonderland

                                What you see above you is a photograph taken on over ten days from  when I write this,outside the dining room window where I live. On February 9th,2013 the upper East Coast was hit with a massive 'Nor Easter. This squalling snow storm gusted into the state of Maine in particular with 30-60 MPH winds and snow fall that was at roughly 32 inches in Southern areas of the state. It broke a record level of snow fall in the state that was set in 1979. It took almost a week or so for some of the more isolated areas to recover. Since that time,there seems to have been one winter storm,though not as severe as that blizzard,bombarding the state with snow and freezing rain. I've lived in this aggressive wintry environment for my entire life. And this storm that just occurred, mainly due to the fact it caused no loss of electricity for me personally,is in fact second only to another storm that occurred 15 years ago in another decade,another century and for me another place.

                           It was a Thursday-January 8'th,1998. A friend of ours had been visiting that day as she was moving to Boston. Since we had no Internet in those days,she of course said she'd call and write. Since the beginning of the year there had been one day of snow followed by one of freezing rain. On this day it was snow. Massive amounts of it. Only seconds after our guest left for the road,I turned on the television to begin watching ER and the power went off. We turned on the radio. The power was off for hours. I remember my mom,dad and I sitting around the table listening to my little battery powered SW band radio. Representatives from both local electric companies urged people to stay inside,not panic and to accept the conditions until they improved. I was 17 years old. I was extremely frightened. I don't recall what I ate when I went to sleep. When I awoke,it was to half of the power in the home. One half of the electricity was out,the other still off.

                          Since it was calm outside that day,the people in the apartment complex where we lived started helping themselves and others. Our maintenance men helped us move our refrigerator into the corridor so it would work. And there was this big blond auto mechanic named Wally who helped us shovel our car out in turn for us helping him get his car out of a snow bank. For the rest of the time I lived there,he considered me and my family friends and I never have forgotten Wally's kindness. Especially considering he lost hundreds of dollars worth of food and never asked anyone,even us,for a thing. Soon enough things slowly returned to normal. Our neighbor loaned us movies like Peggy Sue Gets Married and we managed to take a trip to our local Borders Books & Music where I picked up a rousing Isley Brothers CD called Go For Your Guns that kept my good spirits up. In a few days,full power to our complex had restored. No one had a particular name for it of course. But my family and I had just survived what is now known as the Ice Storm of '98.

                         Now that so much of my social life is online,I have known and befriended people who live in environments where they've never known such weather conditions. It's created a great deal of social awkwardness for me. Could someone born and living Austin Texas or Oakland California actually conceive of a climate where,for a good three months out of the year,there was a risk of weather conditions so dramatic one physically could not leave their home to go to work,see friends and neighbors,shop for groceries or other necessities? After 1998,this environment made a tremendous impact on my own personality even if it hasn't for others who live in the same conditions. In the warmer months,I don't often find myself living a selfish lifestyle. I am looking for new friends and interests to preoccupy me during difficult climactic times such as this. I am utterly convinced that anyone who thinks that extreme climates have no lasting effect on our way of life would be well advised to endure a storm such as the recent Nor Easter or the ice storm of 1998. Perhaps that would make all the difference for such a person.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Is Anybody Still Jumping For Joy?

                                      It's been over six months since my last blog on this page that I created. One of the reasons had to do that I felt there was more to be said through the medium of YouTube. However,as I'm sure most of you reading this now know I've decided to put off uploading anymore video blogs on YouTube for the time being. There are a number of reasons why. Through my own experiences in life,I'm convinced these videos contain enough inspiring (and hopefully enlightening) anecdotes to make a difference in at least the daily life. After a great deal of effort on my part to promote these videos to a wider audience,these video blogs were only getting a small number of views relative to what they deserved-to what a lot of people's good and important videos and blogs deserve.  Yes a lot of it has to do with the fact that there are too many people out there who want to spend more time looking for new ways to harass others and hurt their feelings. But at the very core,I feel the inherent reason for this lack of interest is pure joylessness.

                                    Joylessness is a quality I've observed gradually increasing in people over the course of the last couple of decades. Day to day life,from family to pop culture seems to celebrate and often almost advocate it . People used to find joy in creature comforts that may or may not have been good for them such as chocolate, alcohol and tobacco. All of these things have been shot down by the mass media with an enormous smear campaign combining basic truths about health with a massive guilt trip. Those who found happiness in travel have faced a equally similar fate,as the economy has effected the price of fuel to the point where a new and psychically destructive phenomenon has become heavily implemented: the "staycation". Most important from this end is how the joy of music in our lives has all but disappeared. Whether it be pop,hip-hop or alternative music,the main reason behind most of it seems to be to make money and exploit the listener in some way.

                                    To my eyes we're still very much living in an environment defined by schadenfreude,or without pretension as shameful joy. Between reality TV that is hanging on aggressively to popularity and the comedy of this time frame,people seem to find happiness and laughter at either the expense of others or the attempts of previous generations to help others feel happy. While it is true one should never force happiness on another,what happens when you discover you cannot feel it inside anymore? Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety seem to be diagnosed in alarming numbers. Is there any wonder why? Personally I think we could all learn something from the 60's/70's counterculture in this regard. It's appropriate to take our dreams seriously. To look to music,art,literature and film to inspire us rather than merely empty our wallets. And one wonders how much good it would do if a lot of us,if we felt happy,just jumped in the air and shouted "YES!",and the people who might normally stare in disgust decided to join them. Joy for joy's sake is definitely something more than worth contemplating.