May 2010

At The “Crudest” Level!

I know that we Americans are duty-bound obligated to see the cup as half full but that is not what I see. Or, what I feel.

The BP oil spill has a dystopian “Blade Runner” feel to it. America has become a corporatized, militarized nation state where unfettered capitalism and “The Forever War” are repeatedly run-up the flagpole and while we all mindlessly salute, our heritage is rewritten and our future subverted.

I just finished a fantastic read titled, “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo. The author writes, “Can it be that what provides for us is the very thing that poisons us? Who hasn’t considered this terrible possibility?”

Most of us, that’s who. We don’t question authority. We seemingly either ignore events (cocoon) or listen to radio wackos wax idiotic about how if, if only, we returned to the core “values” of our Founding Fathers all would once again be right in America. What simplistic blather. Such core values as blacks are three-fifths a human being or only propertied white men can vote? Since 1848, America has been on an imperialistic romp of historic proportions. Of all the wars of the 20th century, I would have participated in exactly one, WWII. The “Greatest Generation” got off easy in one regard, they actually fought in a war justified by events.

We pat ourselves on the back and say what wonderful fellas we Americans are. We’re spreading the benefits of democracy and capitalism, don’t-cha see. Tell that to the Vietnamese, Chileans, Guatemalans or Iraquis. And now the Afghans. Tell it to the families of the tens of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded Americans who died in the 20th century for what? So that local markets remain exploitable for the likes of a United Fruit Company?

This is what General George Washington WARNED AGAINST upon leaving the presidency in 1796, “Hence, likewise, they [America] will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.

This is what General Dwight Eisenhower WARNED AGAINST upon leaving the presidency in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Right On Dwight D! Both generals nailed it cold. They called a spade a shovel and is it any wonder we have dug such a monstrous hole for the nation? We’re burying ourselves! We’ve been sold out, folks. We’ve been handed a bill of goods, that large national corporate interests are necessarily America’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The BP (Big Polluter) oil spill was avoidable. If the interests of human beings and of the environment were of equal consideration to corporate profits, regulatory oversight would have been strict and enforced. They aren’t equal. Understand that. Please.

BP represents at the “crudest” level what America has become. Think of the oil plume that is consuming the Gulf as a metaphor for what corporate special interests are doing to our American republic.

And despair.

I Want To Be A Trophy Wife!

I’ve been thinking of really great jobs I might want to someday give a try. And I just know this isn’t going to be politically correct and all, but I think being a trophy wife would be simply swell. Peachy keen!!

Before America got all snooty about equality and things a girl, okay, things a WOMAN could or should not do, being a trophy wife was IT! I look at Vogue Magazine and Architectural Digest and Town & Country and I wonder what do these women do to earn the baubles on their fingers or the third house in Costa Rica and then SHAZAM it dawns on me, TA DA!, trophy wife perks!! I want’um!

For years one of my favorite things to spot on Winter Park’s Park Avenue is the guy, oh, about 60 years old pushing a pram that’s holding a screaming snot-nosed, one-year old and maybe he’s clutching the hand of a tugging two-year-old while his Princess window shops. I juuuuuust love it. He’s got that proverbial deer-in-the headlights look and the wife, all decked out in heels, a short skirt, skimpy, frilly La Perla undies (you just know they are), with a rock the size of Rhode Island is carrying bags. She’s had the requisite “boob” job, maybe a chin implant and now she’s, Oooooh-La-La purrfect. Uh, Daddy, pay the clerk. Now!

What better way to have it all than to have someone else pay for it. If, at the end of the day, you travel extensively, wear exquisite clothes, drink Dom Perignon Rose by the magnum, have a housekeeper, nanny and a boytoy of a personal trainer and, well, “Daddy, pay the clerk. Now!”

Let’s ratchet this up a bit. Let’s say you are Vogue model beautiful. Long, forever long, lean legs. Long, lean abs. A New England pedigree. A face that would, indeed, launch a thousand ships. A sultriness with a surly indifferent attitude. A blasé ennui mixed with a first rate intellectual curiosity. “I’ve seen it all, dahlin’.” Throw in a four-year Yale degree in 19th century French literature, a stint at that Frick (or Morgan) in the backroom organizing esoteric shows on the coins of the Hapsburgs. Perhaps, an MA from the London School of Economics and a year or two at the World Bank doing pilot programs in Kenya, teaching women capitalism.

You’re on the slopes of Aspen wondering what to do with the rest of your life? You’re almost 30 for god’s sake! and that incessant bell in your uterus won’t quit clanging and up slides (on Daynastars no less) a graying, laughing bon vivant who has the raucous look of insatiable randy fun (and the money to pay for it). He just reeks of wealth. What’s a goil to do?

And the next morning, after an exhausting night of nonstop athletic, mindboggling, I’m-in-heaven-sex, you fly off for Bali in his private Bombardier Learjet 85.

He’s sold his business for $600 million, unloaded both his “troublesome” old-model wife two years earlier (and the offending bimbette) and now wants a second chance at getting life right.

What’s a girl to think?

Uh, Daddy, pay the clerk. Now!

The Incredible Shrinking White Boy

“Hon, how come you’re such pudgy slob of a numbchuck,” asks the clearly exasperated wife?

“Oh, now Dear, I can’t seem to help it. I really don’t have much for brains, my receding hairline matches my disappearing scrotum and my witless behavior mirrors my lackadaisical ambition. I’m just your average American white boy you see on TV, don’t-cha know.”

It is said that that which is ridiculed is often a cultural clue as to who actually wields the real power. In these daze of political correctness, every segment of the American populace is virtually off limits for ridicule and evisceration but America’s favorite punching bag, white boys. I get that, I do.

I’ve poked fun at Big Dumb White Boys myself. As a lifelong, card-carrying white boy I can unabashedly wield the ax of humor and scorn at rabid rednecks who have historically felt threatened by women, minorities and Gays. Frightened, frightening white boys. How else do you deal with such ignorance and ilk. Besides hope that they are all eventually vascetomized. With ridicule and scorn. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s appropriate.

Yet. For the 28 years that I had children in my home, I did not own a TV. Why, you might ask? Answer: Would you want an open sewer line running through your living room? Oh, was it because of the violence and sex that is so prevalent on television? No, that wasn’t the issue. Three reasons primarily. 1.) TV is about repetition. You see the same constant assortment of characters and issues repeatedly presented day after day, week after week. 2.) TV offers simplistic answers (ads & programming) to serious problems, with unimaginative stereotypes filling in for humanity. In 22 minutes, complex issues are presented, reduced and resolutely resolved. It’s fairy tales and illusions. 3.) Time spent in front of the tube means time not spent reading or doing other endeavors (that I value). And as a parent that is my prerogative.

What set me off on how white boys are being portrayed is a recent Digiorno Pizza Advertisement on TV.

Scene: Four “soft” men consisting of two pudgy black sidekicks and two pudgy, balding smudges passing for white boys are sitting in the living room eating pizza. They are shoveling in the food faster than you can say “Digiorno!” The camera pulls back and there are huge muddy footprints everywhere in a room covered in beige carpeting. Obviously these men had just walked in, sat down and started eating pizza.

The buzz-kill of a wife enters and in essence asks, “Hon, how could you be so damned stupid and inconsiderate? We just had the carpets cleaned!”

The pudgy, balding white hubby says, “Dear, it was the pizza delivery man who did it!” Snort. Gobble, gobble. Snort. Hah! Hah! Are you laughing yet? They give her a bite of the pizza and it simply couldn’t be store bought because it’s soooo delicious!

The wife exclaims, “Mmm-Mmm good,” and seemingly forgets that her husband is a childish, lying, inconsiderate moron.

Oh, you mean that pudgy smudge of a white boy husband passing as a man?

Yea, he’s on TV all the time.

The Meaning of Life

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?

Lyrics by Burt Bacharach

I Googled “What is the meaning of life?” There were a little more than 38 million results (definitions, examples, cites, etc.). I thought that number exceedingly low.

The meaning of life is a challenging question. The answer, for me, doesn’t simply or quickly roll off the tongue. Does it for you?

That has to be a difficult question even for a believer in a personal god (which I am not). Maybe not, however. “Existing ever after in the glory and grace of God.” How’s that for a speculative attempt at what a true-believer might define as the meaning of life? I imagine it is something like that or a variation on that theme.

But that is not what I am after. That doesn’t seem like life to me. It sounds more like being some groveling back-bencher in the hosanna-chorus of a jealous deity (See: Exodus 20:4). Booooring.

No, what is the meaning of life for a human being here on Dear Mother Earth? I want to differentiate for the sake of this exercise between human life and all other life on the planet. I feel/think our species is the only species that has the reflective ability to consider this question. This fact, however, does not, in any way, diminish the inherent value of all life. How you want your hamburger cooked notwithstanding.

I got on to this quest (actually I’ve been on it all my life) because I am a speaker in search of a topic. I was reading (in Sunday’s NYT’s) about Kenneth Starr. You remember good ol’ sheet-sniffing Ken Starr of Clinton impeachment fame? He’s recently been made President of Baylor University. He was asked if America was a Christian nation? He said no it isn’t, “because of religious freedom.” Not only that but he said you don’t have to believe in God to be an ethical person. Well, you could have picked my jaw off the floor.

I’ll be touching on such matters (plus the meaning of life!) next Tuesday, May 18th at 10:00 AM at the Winter Park University Club located at 841 North Park Avenue. This is open to the public and I hope YOU will consider attending. Plenty of convenient parking. Just walk right in and ask, “Where is that fool Jepson, speaking?”

The world is a better place because of the Winter Park University Club (in spite of its facilitating my speech. Hah-Hah!). It fosters independent thinking by providing a forum for diverse opinion. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. The University Club of Winter Park confronts that idea head-on by fostering an environment of independent thought and tolerance. The motto for the University Club is: Intellectio Sodalitas, which translates to: Fellowship in Knowledge and Understanding.

With fellowship and sistership in mind, I encourage my more thoughtful readers to consider joining the University Club of Winter Park. For less than half the price of a Coke a day, fellowship and knowledge is yours. Join.

Keep your hands off my daughter, Bub!

What to make of Republican men and the few Schlafly-like Republican women who drink the Kool-Aid and vote with them? Florida’s cracker Republican legislators. My goodness, what an assortment of simplistic, moralizing hypocrites. What an intellectual embarrassment. It is as if they are bereft of any knowledge of history, particularly the history of the West.

Just the most cursory understanding of history will show that for thousands of years, it has been a relentless slog for women to escape the oppressive, brutal yoke of authoritarian male dominance. That men considered/consider women inferior is an indisputable historical fact. That the United States at the end of the Civil War awarded the right to vote to freed slave men decades before America’s women speaks volumes as to the status of women.

Republican men today are a holdover to an age when women knew their place and did as they were told. Shut-up Woman! Be Quiet Woman! Sit Down Woman! Republican men do not believe in the intellectual integrity of Florida’s women? They do not believe that a woman should be allowed (or is capable) to determine for herself her future. They do not believe Florida’s women have the intellectual capacity to think and make decisions for themselves (as individuals). Father knows best, don’t-cha-see.

Republicans would like a future that has all Florida’s daughters registering their uteruses at the onset of menses. The state of Florida (government) would own a woman’s body as long as “it” was capable of reproducing. From age 12 or 13 to age 50, Florida’s females would be under the control of the state. That’s our Republican’s brave new world (“1984?”).

Let’s not be confused as to the crux of the issue at hand. Reproductive choice (including abortion as an option) is about control of a woman’s body. When Republicans put in place obstacles, hurdles to a woman’s right to reproductive choice, Republicans are saying to Florida’s women, you are not capable of thinking for yourself and we will do it for you. You are female, after all! Therefore we know, as Republican men, what is best for you. Daddy knows. He does.

If pregnant, woman, you will take your fetus to term. All women, regardless of circumstances. That is what Republican men would do to Florida women if they could (federal law prohibits the outright ban of all abortions). But they can’t, so they institute cowardly, shameful laws that put in place obstacles to a woman’s right to decide what is best for herself.

Republican legislators do not respect Florida’s women. They consider them as children. They do not believe women are capable of making decisions for themselves without government restrictions, regulations and oversight.

Is it irony or just sheer monumental hypocrisy on the scale of Mt. Everest that has Republicans constantly saying we have too much government in our lives but, for Florida’s fertile women, not nearly enough? You sanctimonious Republican hypocrites.

Folks, do not be distracted by THAT. The fundamental issue of choice (of reproduction) is who owns a woman’s body? The woman herself or government (men)? It is the ongoing historical struggle women have been fighting for thousands of years. Freedom.

To the chauvinistic, misogynistic Florida Republican state legislators, “Keep your creepy, cowardly government hands off my daughter’s body!”