July 2007

Got Anymore Of That Dip?

Everybody is a victim.   That is a characterization rightwing talk radio has about modern America.  Every minority (Hispanics, Asians, blacks, American Indian, et al), every sexual persuasion (Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, cross-dressers, etc.) every human group (southerners, Iowans, rural poor, stutterers, feminists, high school dropouts, illegal aliens, women, gimps, wimps, limps & nerds, bald men and impotent men, too) that has ever suffered is a victim.

Yes, by contemporary standards anyone alive is potentially a victim.  Treated rudely, cut-off in traffic, spanked as a child, slapped as a male, propositioned as a woman, sexually objectified (hopefully?), denigrated as a minority, ridiculed as a white male, feared as a black male, dismissed as a Hispanic male, ignored like the homeless, vilified as the “indifferent” privileged  (Oh, those poor, poor misunderstood wealthy), abused by the clergy (all of us?), well, you get my point.   The list of “hurt” and  abused is nearly endless.

But I’ve left out America’s newest and biggest minority. America’s fat. Poor babies.  They can’t help themselves.  They’re victims to their own gargantuan appetites.  Got anymore of that dip?

Disclaimer Follows: Because of the “sensitive” nature of this essay, I feel obligated to say some of my best friends are overweight.  Some are pleasantly plump.  Some are Rubeunesque.  Some have guts. Some have tires.  Some are just plain fat.  I lov’um all. None of them assert victimhood (around me).

My daughter went to see the remake of the movie Hairspray with John Travolta.  I saw the John Walter’s version years ago starring Miss Divine.  Loved it.  Campy.  Witty.  Fun.  Great songs and dancing.  It didn’t take itself seriously and it put out the message of, “Gee, why  can’t we all just get a long?”  Let’s sing, let’s dance, let’s laugh and oh, by the way, skin color don’t mean a damn.  Oh, and sure, fat folks have feelings, too.  So, cut’um some slack and call’um anything but late to dinner. Ha!

“Dad, you’re not going to like the new version,” my daughter said.  She continued,  “The songs and dancing are  great. Good acting.  But, but a key message is that fat is perfectly okay.”

She knows my sentiments when it comes to the feedbag challenged.   Can you supersize my thighs and butt, fella?   Yea, I’ll take a steak sandwich.  What?  Only half a steer?

I said to my daughter, “What?”

“Yea, it’s like the movie is asserting that fatness is the new, the new . . .”

I laughingly interjected, “The new blackness.  Fatness is the new blackness!”

“Oh, Dad,” my daughter tched, tched!

Let’s set some things straight.  You’re born black.  You don’t overtime grow black (except, maybe, Bill Clinton. And I applaud him for it!)  I believe some men are born gay.  You are female.  You become fat one spoonful, one mouthful at a time.

I do not give two hoots about America’s fat folks.  Whatever the reasons they’ve determined that that shopping cart full of chips has their name written all over it, that is their business.  Self control.  Not today, chump.  I’m a victim.  Of my genes.  Of my desires.  Of my upbringing.  Of my education. Of my race.  Of my poverty. Of my diet.  Of my emotions.  Of my circumstances.  Besides, it’s hard!  It’s really, really hard not to put on weight.  Not much fun either.

Aside: if diet soda is the preferred soft drink of America’s fat, what aspect of it is diet (as in weight loss)?  Observe who buys diet soda.  It’s the biggest marketing scam of all time.  Diet soda!  What a disconnect!  I don’t think so.

Fat as victims? A minority?   Hardly, if you believe statistics, demographics and your own eyes.  Fat folks as victims of what?  Standard seating?  Regular dinner plates?  Clothes that are actually sized?  Fat jokes?  Hardly.

If anything, fat has gone mainstream.  Fat is America.  Fat is beautiful.  Fat is freeing.  Fat is acceptable.  All fine by me.  Truly.  Yet.

Fat is unhealthy. Fat is deadly.  Fat is expensive (think national healthcare, think diabetes & heart ailments). Fat is an unappetizing and unappealing aesthetic. To me.  Fat is also a choice.

It’s a lifestyle choice, fer gawd’s sake.

To claim that being overweight makes you a victim is baloney.  Supersized baloney.

Uh, pass that dip, will ya, fella? Yea, and the chips, too.

Reach Jepson at: MEDIAmerica.US


Right At Home.

I’m more of a man than any liberal. Ann Coulter

Sadly, that may be true.  Interesting that that rightwing dipstick, Ann Coulter, claims she is more of a man than any liberal.  I’m unsure of her meaning but what would have been wrong with stating that she was more of a woman than any liberal?

Whether women are better than men I cannot say—but I can say they are certainly no worse. Golda Meir

Evidently to Ms. Coulter, being a liberal man is suspect.  No, being a liberal man is the equivalent to being a woman. Intriguing to me, is why would Ms. Coulter put her own sex down when castigating liberals?

It begs numerous questions. What is wrong with being a liberal?  Why is it particularly onerous to be a liberal man?  Why, by implication of Ms. Coulter’s fatuous logic, is it worse to be a liberal man than a woman?

I consider myself a liberal man.  If, by liberal, you mean that there are legitimate reasons for humanity (a nation) to cooperatively work together to make society more free, open, accessible, healthy and inclusive.  I am unsure what is negative about that.  I want minority rights protected.  I want an open and transparent government.  I want a government that doesn’t pursue war as just another policy option.  I want the poor fed, housed and educated.  I want a judiciary beyond suspicion (beyond reproach).  I want a government that isn’t in the pocket of special interests, neither liberal nor conservative interests.

If, by liberal, you mean that every American is part of the home team and that if a woman finds herself pregnant and determined to take her pregnancy to term she is provided pre-natal care and that after delivery mother and child have access to quality medical care.  A level of service equivalent to the health care received by any of America’s more privileged families.

I want fewer poor, and support an aggressive policy of free, safe and accessible birth control readily available and encouraged (incentivized, if you will).

I want the government to mind its own business, to stay out of every American’s bedroom (straight or gay, single or married).

I want a woman’s right to reproductive choice (including abortion) as cherished and inviolable as the right to vote.  Reproductive rights, in my book, are more fundamental than even the right to vote (think about it).  You have the right to vote but not the right to your own body?  Go figure.

I’m also a liberal man who supports capital punishment (sorry, there are crimes so heinous you forfeit your team membership).  Guns? Sure, I support restrictions (vigorous and comprehensive screenings and background checks for every gun purchased) but I do buy into the bromide: when guns are criminalized only criminals will have them.  As a matter of fact, I’d send a pistol and fifty rounds to every Muslim woman in the world with the advice, do the right thing–protect yourself. Ha!

I’m a liberal man who would legalize every peaceful illegal immigrant already here.  I would. I would also secure America’s borders.  Not because I don’t want anymore “brown” people but because I do not know how, as a nation, we begin to tackle any of our pressing problems without first controlling our population.

I’m a liberal man who wants to have a national discussion on exactly how many Americans do we want at the table in 50 years.  We are at 310 million Americans today.  Ask yourself this: What is a good number for our population to become?  A billion?  We’re approximately the same size geographically as China and India, do we want a billion at the table?  500 million?  All wanting affordable healthcare.  Education.  Housing.  Whatever the number, we have no hope of achieving it with our porous, sieve of a border.

I’m a liberal man who wants to conserve what we have left of our natural environment.  Every additional human requires transportation, oil, infrastructure, healthcare, housing, schools–all constructed and provided at the expense of existing flora and fauna.  America is going to be one solid city, up the Eastern seaboard from Miami to New York City.  Ugh!  Can we please stop and think first.

I’d welcome Ann Coulter as a liberal man.  Unfortunately, as arrogant and rude as Ms. Coulter is (I suspect she may already have the requisite cojones) she lacks what most rightwing ignoramuses lack, a reflective brain.

Stay where that is appreciated, Ms. Coulter.  You’re always at home, Ann, on America’s infantile right.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Violence Works!

I know I’ll be accused of heresy. Or, something.  But why is it much of the Islamic world applauds the 9-11 mayhem?  Why do young men and women strap bombs on themselves—often killing themselves, their Islamic brethren and Westerners?  Why do we take off our shoes at the airport (ironically enough, like Islam at prayer), muttering a sarcastic, “Oh! Thank you, Osama?”

I do say that, every time, I walk barefoot through the airport.  Grittingly so.  And, I tip my hat in begrudging amazement to the man, for getting America to jump through such absurd hoops.

“Good Boy.  Good.  Jump here.  Now!”

Why does America spend billions on war and preparing for war?  Why is Islam feeling so chappy (my son’s expression)?  The way the United States acts (historically) on your behalf around the planet, to what degree is that a factor in how the world views and responds to America?

And, even if America did pull all of our troops out of all Islam (but Afghanistan), what about Israel?

My reaction to violence is, sure, stanch the flow (9-11). That is a given to me.  But at some point, I’d access the bright minds to “sum it up” and “lay it out.”

Who is the enemy and why?  And, to what extent can we minimize the violence  (terrorism, war, genocide, ignorance, sexism)?

Let’s acknowledge a fact. Violence becomes vested.  Whole bureaucracies form, livelihoods and reputations are made.

Think the Irish conflict.  Catholic and Protestant terrorism. Imagine. For decades.  If there is peace, what happens to the combatants (leaders and foot soldiers). “What will I do with my life?”  I believe that conflict was made worse and prolonged by the vested leadership of the IRA and the Protestant Unionists.

On a different scale, recall President Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 speech, four days before Jack Kennedy’s inaugural.  He cautioned about a military-industrial complex and of maintaining large standing armies.  Is/was Eisenhower credible?  He seems credible to me.  Eisenhower cautioned about violence becoming vested.

About pork and corruption, and profits and jobs.  And politics and policy.  And, governance.  Violence is a vested American industry.  But that is not peculiar to our culture or our way of life.  Many countries are as America. Or, vice versa.

Nor is violence, as a vested industry and government bureaucracy, a modern phenomena.  Romans had similar issues, similar results.   Think Prussia under Frederick the Great.  Imperial Great Britain  (Rule Britannia!)  I’m just offering scale here. Earlier times confronted similar challenges.  Only different.  But violence as a collective large-scale option is not a new phenomena.  The more we gear-up for violence, I’d venture a guess, Golly Gomer!, we’ll find it.

Okay, we have powerful interests, vested in violence, on all sides (of every imaginable conflict) that want the status quo maintained.  (Violence as a viable, operational option—always available, I might add).

A key American challenge is recognizing that fact when we instruct our “bright minds” to offer us intelligent options (To the questions I posed in the first three paragraphs). My questions among many questions.  

“What do you question?”

If, the only people at the “answers table” are tied to the industries and bureaucracies of violence, how intelligent is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to hear it all.   And, I also want to hear from this generation’s General Eisenhower, too.   As well as, historians, anthropologists, economists and environmentalists.  The “answers table” needs to be large and intellectually inclusive. And, transparent.

I want democracy at the “answers table,” too.

One last observation, the absolute only way you and I have any say in the matter (short of selling our stock) is through our elected officials.  But they, too, are part of Vested Violence For America! The VVFA! Their slogan:  Violence Works!

So, Progressive!  So, Now!

I like it.  Think Randy “Duke” Cunningham, disgraced California Congressman.  Think any number of examples.  Democrats, too.

Now don’t forget, we’re talking jobs here.  In every state (Congressional and Senatorial districts, too).  Talk about vested.  Did you say, jobs?

Do I see conspiracies, sure, some.

But basically what America has become is a factor of voter ignorance and apathy.   Ignorance.   Apathy.   Both can be overcome.

Will you take the pledge to overcome ignorance and apathy and rightly and loudly proclaim:

Violence Doesn’t Work For Me!

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Life’s Sweet Spot

Is not this the true romantic feeling—not the desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you?  
         Thomas Clayton Wolfe

As I write this my homeoffice stereo is playing the Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson Trio performance of the George & Ira Gershwin tune, “How Long Has This Been Going On?”  “Sweet” is a popular cultural expression at the moment.  And, boy, is this music sweet.

A short plug follows for 89.9 FM Radio.  If you like jazz and have yet to stumble onto 89.9 FM (Thank you UCF), I have a treat for you.  They play first rate jazz. Listen!  Sweet!

I’m regularly in yoga on a Sunday morning. This past Sunday was no different.  Except.  To my immediate left was my daughter who had decided to accompany her parents to class.  For the first time.  Sweet.  Very sweet.

Yoga is about breath and concentration and for me, it’s about touching my toes. I hadn’t touched my toes in over 50 years and can only now achieve that benchmark at the end of a vigorous yoga class.  This meager accomplishment after five years as a “yogananda” (my brother’s humorous made-up word for me as a yoga practitioner). It’s a process.  Sweet!

As are our lives.  We’re born.  We breed.  We die.  If one were looking for the meaning of life, that about sums it up.  We toss in a little filler like jobs, relationships, amusements (art) and the like but fundamentally, the meaning of life is the process of being born, reproduction and death.  That, on the surface, appears simplistic but it’s undeniably the human condition.  The rest of life, too.

It actually is not simplistic.  It’s complex and quite literally has taken us (humans and all of Earth’s life) billions of years to achieve.  There have been trillions upon trillions of evolutionary “failures” to achieve Earth’s complex life forms.  Hats off to evolution!  Wouldn’t you agree?

And one of evolution’s neat little hat tricks is human beings.  As my sister Sandra so often says, “We (humans) are the universe talking to itself.”  I like that. We are talking stardust!  Sweet.

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another—it’s one damn thing over and over.  Edna St. Vincent Millay

Ha!  Ha! That Edna!  She missed the point.  She was, no doubt, being ironic (irony is a, if not the, most delicious form of humor) and didn’t miss the point at all. But much of life can have that feel (quality) to it.  It required an unimaginable number of failures to achieve humanity—over and over again—to get Earth’s life to actually say, “Sweet.”  So, too, our daily lives.  At times.

I am fine with folks deluding themselves with notions of an afterlife (such sentiments can also be “Sweet”).  It’s just not me.  Regardless, our ability to interject (articulate) the notion of “Sweet” into our process is what makes being human special.  A consciousness for our humble origins (as if stardust can ever be humble) and the knowledge of our predestined outcomes. What then are we left with?  The sweetness of life.

All the stuff in between the process of being born, reproducing and dying.  The sweet stuff.  Of being alive, of having a consciousness of the momentary nature of life and the perspective (ability) to joyfully say, “Sweet” to it all. Joseph Campbell said it so well, “to live joyfully in a world of sorrow.”  Our challenge.

I know what provides me the kick to my step.  It’s music. And art and literature. It’s great food and better conversation.  It’s laughter over the inane. It’s wonderment over the profane. It’s irreverence, beauty and excellence (subjective, of course). And, of course, it’s your daughter in yoga with you.  Among other things. Sweet.

What’s that?  Don’t forget the sublime.  Never.  Sweet.

The meaning of life?  We know it.  We do.  So what?  It’s what we “do” with our time that transcends (for each of us individually) that meaningless meaning.  We’re looking for each moment’s “sweet” spot!  That’s what we humans have.  Moments.  Sweet!

Mark Twain said, “Let us endeavor to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”  For the loss of a well-lived life!


Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Proud To Be
An American

As a child, the Fourth of July was my favorite holiday.  I lived in a time of Cherry Bombs and Silver Salutes, of fireworks so earth-shatteringly loud that you absolutely knew the cops were on the way, (And, frequently they were.)  of shattered mail boxes, sky-launched five gallon pails and of hands I was, at times, afraid to look at, so painful, so convinced I was that I had blown off a finger or two.  Yet, five minutes later, tears of fear dried, I was relighting my punk.

I lived in the best of all possible worlds, in Iowa.  Bordering South Dakota and Nebraska, both just a bicycle ride away to glorious displays of illegal-in-Iowa fireworks.  I skipped the things that went-off in the sky for things that went-off with a ka-blam.  My 13th Fourth of July had me walking the streets of Sioux City with over 9,000 ka-blams in an oversized handbag.  It was a glorious time.

I celebrated the Fourth yet didn’t really reflect on what it meant.  Sure, I knew the stories of our Founding Fathers as did pretty much every kid of my age, but I lacked the perspective only time provides.  That, and reading and listening to credible historians and reputable political scientists describe why America is great.  Or, at least why we have the potential for greatness.

Someone recently e-mailed me asking me what my political persuasion was.  They had identified with my writing and thought I might be a conservative.  I thought about it and got back to this individual that I was definitely not a conservative as in Conservative Republican.  No, I said I have a well-defined libertarian streak with a liberal penchant for a collaborative, co-operative polis.

I believe there is a constructive role for government that transcends road maintenance and national defense.  I’m a Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt kind of American,  a mixture of mind-your-own business independence with a what-needs-to-be-done to make America a better place for all, sense of optimism.  America is an opportunity to get it right.  To get it better.

Republicans would have us believe that Social Security is an American failure, that safeguards protecting our environment or workplace safety or regulations ensuring the safety and quality of our food and water supplies are a socialist ruse to now be abandoned—auctioned off to corporations, that internationalized corporations will see to it that America is taken care of.  You bet they will.

I am proud to be an American.  We started (1776) as a vision of what might be.  We have but one peer worldwide and that is the vision we have of ourselves, of what the American dream may yet achieve.

I applaud diversity, tolerance and acceptance.  I acknowledge our historical mistakes (the tragedies of the American Indian & slavery and of environmental degradation) but I also applaud our attempts at rectification and redemption.  We are not perfect.  America is flawed.  But, by gawd, we try to make amends.

Yet, I have never been more ashamed of my government than I have been these past six years.  We have an administration that intentionally undermines our Constitution, pits Americans against one another and illegally, immorally and with deceit and arrogance, tragically took our nation to that Mideast dungpit of an Iraqi war.

Time after time, instance after instance, the Bush Republican administration has circumvented the law to further cronyism and corruption.  Our nation has been callously sold and frequently not even to the highest bidder.  The Bush Motto: Sold—One Government Agency After Another!  Down the river.  Our government. Us.

It’s a dichotomy.  I’m proud to be an American yet ashamed at the same time.  I didn’t feel such anguish over Johnson’s war in Viet Nam or Nixon’s White House abuses.  This Bush Republican government is a new, historical low for perfidy, modern day corruption and, worse, of perpetrating a pinched, warped vision for America.  We can be so much better.  We can.

A friend sent me a small digital device called Bush’s Last Day that counts out the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Bush administration is replaced. As I write this essay it reads: 568 days, 8 hours, 39 minutes, 34.4 seconds.  But who is counting?  Ha!  I am!  As is much of America and the world!  We can do so much better!

Even Goldwater Republicans are in despair. Yet, do not despair, America.  Our shame is but temporary.  Reread Walt Whitman.  Embrace a better vision for your nation.  For surely it must come.

May the Fourth of July, 2009 be America’s joyous day of renewal.  And, of course, of firecrackers.

Reach Jepson at: