Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rescinding an Invitation to Hatred

Today I read a brief account of how authorities in the Czech Republic are kicking David Duke out of their country. You know – that hateful little former KKK leader who keeps running for political office, and was actually elected once by crazy people in Louisiana. Seems he was invited by neo-Nazis to hawk his new books. Seems he was suspected of running around telling the converted that the Holocaust never happened. Seems he thought Prague had speech protections like those enforced by the American South of the 1950s.

It doesn’t.

Actually, the Czech Republic is still smarting from the atrocities of World War II. They are so sensitive to this issue that they nurture an active dislike for people who deny the holocaust (against all evidence to the contrary) and “promote the suppression of human rights.” And, this dislike for people who claim that the wholesale slaughter never occurred manifests in an actual law against such denial. A law that they actually enforce.

They arrest you, and then they kick you out. Or jail you for three years. I guess three years of David Duke was not at all appealing, because they gave him until midnight to leave. I’d imagine he is high-tailing it back to the good ol’ USA right now, where we tolerate his views, because our laws protect nearly everything that spills out of the mouths of the crazy, the cruel and the hateful.

Good for us.

Don’t get me wrong. I am completely committed to our First Amendment, and quite partial to its protection of free speech. Say what you want. Say what you want to my face and I will respond in kind. Unless you really piss me off, and then I will either scream or ignore you, depending on how much you annoy me. That’s our mutually enjoyed right, right? To speak and not to speak. Yea!

But, I have to respect a country that remembers the extermination of their Jewish and Romany populations with horror, and will not tolerate anyone who seeks to bury the evidence of evil through denial, or who who sign on as producer for Holocaust, Part II.

Good for them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reality Bites

Is Reality TV Hell on Earth, or is it just Purgatory?

How else to explain why every lost, forsaken, misbehaving, and desperate celebrity (and I use the word celebrity in its most sweeping form) seeking to crawl back from the Ninth Circle sends their agent, publicist, lawyer, campaign manager or brother-in-law to get them a spot on the first available reality show?

And, we gleefully watch the eager hopefuls compete in the most entertaining and potentially degrading manner. We very rarely care about these celebrity attempts at revival, and forget about them when the season is over. There is a noticeable measure of cruelty in this voyeurism, and we are all - spectator and contestant alike - diminished. But they keep coming and hoping we will watch.

As if it will be redemptive. As if it is the first step back to the privileged life. As if it will salvage a reputation sullied by scandal - or worse - boredom. As if reality TV will cause John and Brenda on Oak Hill Circle to say, "Look at that former-rock-star-turned-soft-porn-queen bungee jump for sushi! She's got spunk! I don't care what OK! Magazine says about her! Let's buy her conveniently release retrospective CD, and watch next week!"

I guess now the producers are hoping John and Brenda will watch Rod Blagojevich competing for charity (sans kickbacks?) in Costa Rica on "I'm A Celebrity .... Get Me Out of Here!", and say, "Look at that former-and-soon-to-be-up-the-river-Governor Blagojevich racing toucans for charity! He's got cajones! I don't care what the courts say! Let's send money for his defense fund and watch next week!"

That is if the courts approve his trip to Costa Rica.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hypocritical Oath

There is no one more dangerous than the disillusioned.

Yes, we all break rules. Every day we cross some line, ignore some agreement, flaunt our freedom at the expense of something. But, we each have made a decision to do so, and probably decided to do so long ago, and probably announced it with pride, because those rules were not important to us.

But some things are different. Each of us has a list of truths and rules that we hold in our heads and close to our hearts, and those life-laws are sacrosanct. They spring from the place where our version of humanity rests. They are the lines that must not be crossed. They are the acts that send Mama Bear into a tizzy. They are the encroachments that launch revolutions. They are the trespasses that make us cry then shout then march then revolt. Because those are the acts that revolt us.

Mark Danner has “leaked” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report detailing the participation of medical personnel in the torture of CIA detainees. Good for him. Good for truth. And, too bad for the people crying because the report was leaked against Red Cross policy. See: Rules Needing Breaking. Too bad for the doctors who claimed to be doctors and used their talents to measure misery. Too bad for the doctors who convinced themselves that helping monsters to extract confessions under duress served mankind.

God must have become rather sick of our antics, subterfuge, and secret brutalities, so she created the internet. Good for her.

Maybe these “health professionals" can use it to brush up on morals.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Freakin’ Friday

So my parents.

My parents adopted this kitten named Friday, but my Mother quickly renamed her PITA. I love cats; I love Friday too. But she is the most aggressive cat I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of cats. Sure, she’ll cozy up to you when she is tired and wants to be stroked to sleep. But then she always wakes up, rested and predatory.

Friday stalks people. She must be placed in the basement when company calls, or she will harass them with her sharp little talons. Yes, I know cats don’t have talons, but that seems so much more accurate than the more domesticated-sounding ‘claws.’ Claws sounds like you won’t spend the next week dabbing Neosporin® on your legs. No, really. Cue: hawkscream.wav.

Yeah, Friday.

So I’m doing god-knows-what online the other night, and my mother IMs me:

Did I tell you about the feathers in the bathtub?

I think, “Friday,” but I am practicing not interrupting: No.

Friday is not allowed in my parents’ room at night. Something about not wanting to be murdered in their sleep. So, each night she has the house to herself, and one never knows what one will find in the morning. This particular morning, my Mother rises to go to the bathroom, and finds feathers in the bathtub.

“Friday, where’s the bird?” she yells.

Friday doesn’t answer. Who’d make her?

At this point, I’m wondering how a bird got into the locked house, but I know the standard answer will apply: “Who knows?” As in: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio … (My, but I seem to be on a Hamlet jag this week.)

My mother looks everywhere, following the trail of feathers. Then, she spies the little bird corpse lying neatly on the hall chest with the rest of Friday’s toys.

Mom, are you telling me that Friday brought a bird in the house, chased it around, killed it, tired of it, and then put it away with the rest of her toys?



Your father found the poor little thing. He thinks it tacky when her toys are left to lie around.


So, he put her toy away.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pieces of Man

Peeps just love to spout all intellectual about the state of man. How do they (sigh – OK Shakespeare’s Hamlet, damnit) put it?

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

And, Rosencrantz responds, My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.

Yeah, man.

What is man? Or, more to the point, what is the highest expression of man? What do we most admire? What do we most readily emulate? What is the virtue of man?

Is it his heart? His capacity for love, compassion, empathy?
Is it his creativity? Music, letters, art, innovation?
Is it vision? Science, art, mathematics, philosophy?
Is it intellect? Logic, judgment, something as uncommon as sense?
Or, character, humor, nurturing, community organization, pride, sanity, salesmanship?

What single characteristic best defines man? What is preeminent? How do we choose? Must we choose? How do you pick the favorite child without looking like an idiot or a lunatic? How do you say that the artist is more important than the scientist? That the thinker is more vital than the chef? That the mother is greater than the philosopher? The lawyer more eminent than the salesman?

Perhaps it is my environment, that egalitarian American perspective. But, I judge all these attributes, or vocations, or paths – whatever you wish to call them – so very important, in concert. None of us is homogeneous. We are all pieces of the dream, a brew swirling with all our particles, potentials and possibilities, congealing into who we are as individuals, what we care about, what is important. And, as goes the individual, goes the planet (yeah, we’re an egotistical species, no doubt).

So, when someone elevates one slice of the human soul as all ga-ga, I have to wonder why, and I have to complain. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go on with your intellectual self. Or your funky artistic self. Or your religious dogma self. Or your skeptical scientific self. Shake hands with your hillbilly self, or your snobby micro-brewery self. Or your literary contentious self. Or your disease ridden self married to your spousal political, emerging musically therapeutic self.

Separate yourself. Hone yourself into a brilliant diamondm sharp with that one great thing. Distinguish Yourself. Embrace your chosen bit, that lonely manifestation of man you champion, if you will. But when you finally realize that you are missing a piece – or a whole cardboard puzzle box o’ bits – of yourself …

Well, then.