June 2012

Shame On You.

Ah, fatherhood. Granted this is from a male perspective but if I were to assess who got/gets the short end of the stick (no pun intended) I do believe it is women. I’ve taught history for years and one of my favorite “prompts” particularly for my male students is “Why have men historically treated women so poorly, held them in such low regard? Where did such ideas/feelings originate?”

You can name on one hand (counting fingers) the ancient civilizations that treated women with any semblance of equality. Interestingly, Ancient Egypt was one such culture that did “okay” by women. Ironically or tragically, as the case might be, Egypt today is not nearly so enlightened as their ancestors were, oh, about 3,000 years ago. Women have not fared well by religion. Pick any religion.

It is inexplicable to me why my/our male ancestors were such chauvinists. Why? Why treat women as inferior, secondary or incidental? Why not offer to women the same rights and privileges as those extended to men? Any number of explanations is offered. Size. Ferocity. Job/task delineation. Female sexuality. Fecundity (no man knows for sure). The time factor required for babies (to be self sustaining). Offspring require stability and protection. Regardless, once civilizations began forming (say 7,000 years ago) sexism was institutionalized for sure. Women have suffered ever since.

Imagine our world today if, for the past 10,000 years, all women had had the same opportunities as men, had been consulted and experienced comparable leadership and educational opportunities? I venture to say (speculate) that our world would be a much different place. Here is a modern day example: when you look at much of the Muslim world today, the way women are considered is how women were treated for much of history. Whenever I see a demonstration “for change” in Islamland, I seldom, if ever, see women. Those boys (indeed) have never matured as men, as civilizations.

But as immature, repressive and fearful as many Middle Eastern men appear when it comes to the female “sex,” we have—do we not—a ways to go here in 21st century America.

I recently had a repairman in my home. He commented on some additions in my backyard and I quoted him a dollar estimate on costs. He said, “Oh, I could get into that, if only I could get my child support cut.”

I’ve heard this quite a number of times in my life. Haven’t you? If only, if only I could get my child support cut. It’s a common/frequent lament of those who father but do not live with their children.

Not three minutes later I hear from the repairman that he has five, count’um, five children and one has Down Syndrome. And this father wants to cut his child support. I jokingly asked if he’d been “cut?” He laughed. Haha! No—as if I didn’t already know—was his answer.

A big gamble in life (and it has always been the case) is the bet women make with themselves that if I breed with this man, will he be “there” for the long haul (and all that that implies)?

Is it any wonder birth rates are declining? If history has taught Western women anything, it is “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Billions of women for thousands of years have paid the price. The real shame? That men have acted so. Abominably.

Twenty-Two Second Lobotomies

I recommend the hour-long Moyers and Company TV program, which airs Sunday mornings on PBS. Bill Moyers has been around for years. Most of us were introduced to him as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House press secretary. His show presents “important” issues with knowledgeable people in an attempt to add fact and intelligence (reason) to our national discourse on politics and governance. Moyers is the only such show on politics that I am currently watching.

I’ve quit watching the network news or any of the cable programs devoted to politics. I was never able to bring myself to watch (other than for a laugh) the FOX programming of Dreck, Inanity and O’Really. Glenn Beck drank the Kool Aid. Inanity is as his name suggests and O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone” is a loopy contradiction of terms and should be more aptly named “No Facts Zone.”

The MSNBC stable of show hosts has become dreary, too. Matthews, Sharpton, Maddow and O’Donnell continue to shill the company line provided by Democrats. They see “victims” everywhere and what is government going to do about it? Oh, I’ll start watching again this fall but what are summers for, but vacations? Relief.

Most Americans get information on their communities from their local TV stations. What passes for news is presented in 30-minute evening segments that are so insulting to the intelligence as to be comical. In 30 minutes, how much airtime, on average, is devoted to substantive news on our communities? I’m not talking about sports or weather but information on our local or state governments, transportation or essential school news. Research indicates twenty-two seconds. That’s right, folks, 22 seconds.

Instead we get a TV talking head describing how Abraham Oliver poured gasoline on his girlfriend, all accompanied by off-camera moans. Then, a “Live at Five” segment announces an elderly sexual assault in Titusville. And, yes, of course, a video of thieves conducting a nighttime pawnshop heist in Ocala. OCALA! And how about a closing 12-second segment on Casey Anthony being sued for defamation? I’d rather have a colonoscopy. What’s that? They are one and the same. No, watching local TV news is a lobotomy.

On his June 3, 2012 program Bill Moyers interviewed psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind. Haidt discusses moral psychology and its implications for our political system. He acknowledges personally moving from a liberal perspective to a more conservative one as a result of his lifelong research and writing. Haidt asserts that politics is really religion from the perspective of sacredness. (What it aspires to accomplish.) And that tragically for the nation we’ve moved to a Manichean confrontation where each side (conservative/liberal) believes “we’re living in reality and the other resides in Lala Land.” I’m fighting for good. You’re fighting for evil. And of course, you don’t ever compromise with evil.

I have never thought Republicans evil, they’ve just sold out. Much like their Democratic brethren. Our political system is corrupt, our politicians corrupt (I am sure your congressman is “quite” the exception). Our Supreme Court is on retainer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the number one job for the president is fundraiser (and all that that implies and money buys).

Jonathan Haidt offers two solutions. No demonization of the “other” side and clean-up congressional corruption. Good luck with either.

Oh, a “Live at Five” exclusive! Lindsay Lohan to play Casey Anthony. Details at 11. Lobotomy anyone?

Dancing Cheek To Cheek. I’m In Heaven.

Even imperfection itself may have its ideal or perfect state.
Thomas de Quincey

Quickly disabused. Whenever I am confronted with a problem or new idea I immediately ask, “What is the ideal?” Why not begin from the ideal? We do not start from that perspective nearly enough, either as individuals or collectively, as a people. Robert Browning summed it up so well with, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

I so like Browning’s précis, it clearly constructs what human beings can be, which is aspirational. We aspire to be . . . and our only limitations are our imaginations (oh, and a viable plan, hard work, capital and doggedness). All my readers are intelligent—what else could you be—so you have quickly determined the one “fly in the ointment” is: from whose ideal are we working? Isn’t that always the rub? But not when fantasizing about one’s self.

My daydreams about myself involve a number of qualities that 1.) I do not possess or, 2.) possess in insufficient quantity. A quality I do not possess is higher math. I would like to be able grasp in my bones, oh, string theory or quantum mechanics or how mathematically there might be seven dimensions instead of just the one (yawn) we humans experience. Perhaps, if I really, really applied myself I might become knowledgably conversant in such matters but I don’t think so. Oh, I can read (and comprehend) a synopsis as well as the next individual but I’m talking about grasping the nuances and the underlying theories. Understanding mathematics for me must be like what a true believer in god must experience. Bottom line – you just take it on faith.

If I were remaking myself, I’d add three inches (Height! Three inches taller!). I’d have Smokey Robinson eyes (green) and look like myself, only no turkey neck. I could have been a weatherman (a contender) on Channel 6 only I’d have insisted, “No side shots!” But, alas, sigh. But for turkey neck I could have been one of those happy-smiling TV guys who exist (come alive) for bad weather.

But that I could dance like Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. This has been a fantasy of mine ever since I first saw what these guys could do with their feet (and minds). Effortlessly graceful. Except, of course, the effort was monumental. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Grace, these men had elegance.

I was prompted to think about what the ideal male would consist of last week and the first two things I noted in my chapbook were 1.) write like Mark Twain and 2.) think like Emily Dickinson. The things I genuinely value besides relationships are ideas and writing. Oh, and of course, beauty, music, art, architecture, design and . . . I inwardly laughed when Emily Dickinson so quickly rolled-up from the recesses of my mind as an ideal for being male. Where did that come from?

It came from an appreciation of what Dickinson accomplished—so much from so little. I have all her poetry and has anyone ever so wonderfully captured the humanity (potential) of our species. Passionate vignettes of life and what it means to be alive (to think, to feel). To be human. Imperfect as we all are.

But my gawd, to dance with Ginger Rogers. Hum it, “I’m in heaven.” Perfection. Or, damn near close.