Sunday, October 28, 2012

Geopolitics on a Small Scale

Running errands on Friday I had occasion to drive through several parts of my Virginia county - Albemarle.

When I landed on the shores of Virginia in 1986, Albemarle was described to me as a county of primarily middle to upper class residents, with an interesting share of the fabulously wealthy and famous.

I wasn't surprised to discover that many of these were active in Republican politics. 

Since the county's largest town, Charlottesville, is home to the University of Virginia, and supposedly crammed with intellectuals, it is assumed to be more liberal....and it is.

And there are a number of artistic types - both successful and aspiring - who make the county their home and who generally are  considered to be liberal. Some, such as John Grisham and Dave Matthews, have given voice to their support of Democratic candidates. 

Despite this, much of the county has eluded the fulsome labels of wealthy, educated and artistic as testified to by the a number of Republican yard signs.

This does not necessarily signify that if you are a Conservative you are poor, ignorant or both, but it does seem to work out that way.

The odd thing is that while many of the large estates will display their preference for the GOP candidates - in line with their economic interests - the vast number of those proclaiming allegiance to Romney/Ryan/Allen/Hurt live in modest homes....some of them even little better than shacks.

Parked in front of these are trucks with pro-gun decals and the yard is littered with plastic toys and dead cars.

Or, sometimes, it's a modest but buttoned-up residence that will fly an American flag and possibly display a Christian symbol of Christ's love on the family car, right next to an anti-gay statement of some kind. 

There is some satisfying variety in this still essentially bucolic environment. But, even though I am aware of this, I am still bemused by the  devotion of the massive numbers of the least successful among us to a concept that is utterly antithetical to their own best interests.




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Music for a Milksop

Mitt sounds like a mechanical parrot with a supply of recordings taped for special occasions.

Last night was "Highlights of Obama's Greatest Hits"  and "Music to Pander by".

Has this man no shame? He is now on at least the tenth iteration of his theme, "I Can Be President Because I Have a Square Jaw".

It is painful to watch him because he seems to have no moral compass at all. Usually, a politician, without deep convictions can fake it. But poor Mitt has a face and constitution that cannot hide his fear that people will find out what a quivering mass of equivocation he is.

That story of his dressing up to impersonate a Highway Patrolman to accost drivers in order put them down and  to assert a phony dominance, is so revealing of this man's abiding fear that he is, at heart, a nonentity.

His role as a bishop in his church also allows him to wear a mask and attempt to effect a future-altering change in someone's life; someone who doesn't recognize that the bishop is nothing but a cardboard cutout of someone to be revered...even feared. A role he can't pull off in his own skin. 

And Ann, his wife, knows it; and he knows she knows it. That wooden embrace after the second debate was so illustrative of what their relationship probably is. I had a vision of him in a diaper and Ann spanking him. Mommy was not happy with him.

And yet, the pundits are saying he has a real shot at inheriting Dubya's role as another blot on America's copybook. 

"Skim milk masquerading as cream."

His is a life Gilbert and Sullivan could have set to music, and probably did.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Side Order of Reason

I accidentally ran into Voltaire this week. 

He said (among thousands of other things):  "Love is a canvas supplied by Nature and embroidered by imagination."

Pretty damned smart for someone born just at the dawn of the Age of Reason. 

Anyone ever disillusioned by love certainly cannot deny the wisdom of this, as well as a few other thoughty contributions he made to our compendium of understanding the nature of mankind.

Further, this clear-eyed cynicism can be applied to all kinds of human emotions and endeavors.

Take "faith," for instance - and I surely wish someone would.  

Faith requires that you suspend everything that life - unbound and unfettered - can teach us of our world. Why?  Because every instinct at our disposal - supposedly provided by an all-seeing god - would instruct us to believe that that which we cannot see, feel, smell, taste, hear or instinctively or intellectually comprehend, simply does not exist.

So, if it requires "faith" for you to believe that someone "up there" is managing your affairs, and the individual affairs of 7 billion people - including zygotes in training - and has mapped out a course for your life where everything happens for god's purpose and unreasoning reason, you might be deluded.

And if your "faith" requires you to love your fellow man, and you find yourself denigrating, fearing, generally loathing some varieties of your fellow man and wishing him dead and gone - you might need a frequent refill of god's love.

Take a tip from Voltaire and try a side order of reason. You might find it more durable.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sex A-peel

Watching the debate last night and viewing the commentary ensuing from it this morning, I had one of those "aha!" moments that suddenly clear the fog, open your eyes, see behind the curtain, clarify and reveal a truth that may have been around since the beginning of time, but only reaches the shores of your consciousness by dint of someone hammering it home.

That is this: Sex - meaning appeal and attraction and desire - is a player in every damned thing that human beings do. And maybe even more prominently in elections. (Look how just one letter separates it from a word synonymous with sex). Surely proof enough!

One of the funnies making the rounds this morning is a photo of Bill Clinton with an expression that could be described as "devilish" as he thinks he'd like to know more about Romney's "binder of women."

Our Bill has already established that he is an alpha male. And it's this that surely got him elected, hated, loved, scorned, resurrected, loved (still) and now, revered.

President Obama is not so randy as our Bill, but he is unquestionably a take-charge guy who doesn't ask permission. His charms are a little less blatant and more translatable to likeable.

Both these males have a great sense of humor and an ability to reach out and touch people. Very appealing. Very attracting.

Now, look at poor Mitt. He is a fakir and he has a prissy walk. 

To the non-discerning, he appears manly in that he has taken his father's millions and, through what his wife calls "stinginess" and through a lot of fancy tap dancing....(allowed because he used his father's sex appeal)....he has achieved a stature that would never have come to him had he begun life as most of us obscurity.

The phoniness of his walk and talk became so evident last night just by watching his expressions and the look of defeat in his eyes every time one of his rehearsed moments was stifled by the real alpha dog.

The story of Romney dressing up as a highway patrolman when he was a young man and stopping motorists to instill superiority is  irrefutable and sickly evidence of his need to look like a man, but his absolute impotence in achieving it without props.

Americans are not fond of impotence, and I am sure it is not in  Mitty's stars to have a Viagra moment.




Monday, October 15, 2012

Pretty Dirty Things

A couple of interesting things arrived on my Face Book page this week. One was a notification by a Lutheran Church that it has opened its doors and its mind to what the religious right considers to be flotsam,  jetsam and no-account trash.

These former church rejects, whom the holy rollers of yore, today and tomorrow consider worthy only of extinction, exclusion and punishment, are different from those bigots who judge them in that they don't always act, think, believe, look or behave the way they should. 

"Should" meaning the acceptable way the people who are filled with god's love and compassion do - and insist everyone in the world do under penalty of ostracism or much, much worse.

Any social or religious non-conformity fills those with crocodile  brains with terror and causes them to dance about, shoot off things like their mouths, as well as their guns, and try to pound the offenders into the dirt in every way possible - including literally.

These godless creatures who have so offended the pure in heart and soul are worthless and even if  they have a central nervous system, breathe oxygen, sleep, weep, bleed, feel, love, hate and hunger , they must not be allowed to exist.
When they are the wrong color, it's difficult to differentiate the "right thinking and behaving" people from the reviled "others" and it is therefore necessary for the "good" to keep close watch for any "bad" behavior, which is behavior that is not approved by church and god and, particularly, by parishioners.

And even more particularly, parishioners who are running for public office. 

But which god is on deck?

The other interesting item that arrived on my Face Book wall was an image of a small block with 3,500 teeny, tiny black dots. The legend on the graphic explains that each one of the dots represents one of the 3,500 known gods in recorded history. 

It goes on to explain that "your" god is represented, and colored red amongst the black. It even tells you it is smack dab in the middle. Even so, it takes a while before you can absolutely identify it.

The few gods worshiped today - two or three of which have caused centuries of pain and bloodshed - are simply the newest. 

Not the best, not the mightiest, not the only.....just the newest. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Treachery of Teabaggers

In the tradition of the game of venery introduced by James Lipton in his book, "An Exaltation of Larks", where some usual  interpretive collective nouns - such as  a gaggle of geese and pride of lions - are listed, as well as some more colorful ones, I have joined the game.

I offer here a selection of collective appellations to apply to some of the pols campaigning throughout the bible belt:

A treachery of teabaggers seems apt.  But so does a sounder of swine. Or, how about a glut of goons? A larder of loonies? A kneeling of know-nothings?  Taken all together....a plague of religious fundamentalist politicians.

Inspiration is infinite.

Seem over the top? Not as over the top as these nutsos. We have an array of candidates swinging their way into the hearts of the hideously religious inhabitants of the least well educationally endowed states in our Union. They are totally bereft of brains if they are taken  in by the likes of Paul Broun.

Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia, a medical doctor and a member of the House Science Committee! publicly and vocally has stated that he does not agree with the most basic tenets of scientific process and critical thought.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell... And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

The other specimen of abject mindlessness is Republican legislator Charlie Fuqua, running again for legislature with financial support from the Arkansas Republican Party and U.S. Reps. Tim Griffin and Steve Womack, among others.

Here is an inspiring example of Arkansas at its finest. It is giving serious consideration to electing this prince of a fellow even after, or - since it is Arkansas - maybe because he has announced his support for executing, offing or otherwise legally murdering recalcitrant children.

Citing this most excellent solution to bad behavior as God's will, he explains it, apparently seriously,  in his book, "God's Law, the Only Political Solution". 

Bad kids have to die. Vote for him and the law of the land in ancient Israel comes alive.

Religion has flipped it's marbles and the inmates have taken over the asylum.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Small Sunday Service

I think it's generally conceded by people who think about things like this, that nature is careful of the species, but careless of the individual.

This of course flies in the face of the liberal point of view that everyone is  important, or, as our President likes to say, "Everyone is entitled to a fair shot."

It's a complicated issue and made even more complex by the dichotomy presented by our  religious/right and atheistic/left  factions.

The religious adopt what could seem to be the egalitarian point of view: Every human being, including zygotes, should be equal and enjoy life - at least until they die a natural, if painful, death, or require execution.

They don't care how they live...sick, poor or starving....just so they are not allowed to slip the surly bonds of earth before appropriate suffering.

Whereas we atheists are generally in favor of allowing the old and ill to check out early, and permit the elimination of any inconvenient or unhealthy zygotes that pop up in our wombs.

But we want to feed and offer succor to the world.

It's a puzzle, isn't it?


Friday, October 5, 2012

People From Porlock

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge was living near Porlock, a British  coastal town, he wrote the glorious poem, Kubla Khan:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man......

This famously unfinished poem is purported to have been conceived in an opium-induced dream. 

The dream was interrupted by an unexpected visitor - possibly a politician looking for Coleridge's support.

Puff! The dream was gone and the poem is unfinished.

Since the literati agree this is a tragedy of some size, it demonstrates on what slender threads hang the important things in life. 

People from Porlock turn up every day in every way....and we can't guard against them and remain in society.

They take our attention, bleed us of our creativity and our time and generally upset the equilibrium of our lives.

But now they can be managed. If you live your life entirely on the Internet and Face Book, nothing can disturb your dreams unless you let it.  Or you don't have to dream. You can spend hours reading, researching and learning. You can interact with people all day and all night. Or, you can sleep all day or all night.

Some of us have found the Internet to be the "pied a terre" we have dreamed of. Free rent and it makes no demands of our time that we don't allow. Also, it is filled with an infinite variety of people and information. Friends come and stay, or they our whim or theirs. No fuss, no muss. 

And you can share a meal without having to cook or wash dishes. 

You can find someone to talk to a 3 a.m., or you can disappear for days on end and not inconvenience anyone....if you leave a note. 

I suspect the danger in all this enhancing of - or submitting to - such a purely cerebral life is that we may lose our ability to move.

That being the case, our needs would be spare....and so would the regulations that rule our lives. Maybe we could even avoid all the political haggling since people wouldn't need to care about much of anything that wasn't right in front of them. Everything in life could be virtual.

I suppose that it is worth considering that Coleridge had a better way to deal with life as an opium eater. He just immobilized his brain and tuned out of the world instead of on or in to it.

But then he had to get up and answer the door.