Tag Archive | commentary on popular culture

May the Fourth Be With You

I first began my journey to understand Kent State as a result of a woman who confided in me regarding her husband’s wartime PTSD. She was at that time working with Alan Canfora on his life-long project to bring the Kent State Massacre back into the national spotlight. For Alan and his friends who were either maimed, wounded like him, or slaughtered, justice has yet to be served for the heinous offenses of May 4, 1970.

But today, as I perused the black and white photos from that long ago weekend, I began to notice a pattern in those photos that brought back memories from my own childhood, memories of 1970.  “Justice served,” was hardly a theme from my childhood and in that sense all of the progressive left activists of that day share with me a sense of profound loss so awesome, so intimate and so astounding that we may not perceive the gigantic nature of its presence in our lives even to this day. Were it not for this one, singular pattern of commonality in those pictures from the days preceding and soon after the Massacre, I might have missed the presence of a beast that came to invade my days, my nights and my in-between times well into my adult years.

Not everyone grew up in a home that featured the emotional and psychological impacts of the Great Depression in the stark terms I had.  During my childhood my father railed against it all fiercely with a ferocious loyalty to Roman Catholicism and a dedication to hard work that one would have expected would lead him to great financial reward, or at least a few plaques on a museum wall somewhere.  And while his retirement, which I expect will be greatly shortened by his misspent loyalties, is certainly more comfortable than almost anyone I will know when my time to retire comes, he gave much more than he will ever receive.

But by 1966, the path he was on drove him to pull me to his chest and just wail the tears of a man overwhelmed by circumstances well outside of anyone’s ability to control, or even offer a word of solace.  Unbeknownst to me he had just had to commit his wife, my mother, to another three month “vacation” at Agnew’s State Hospital, a sanitarium for the mentally ill, and much later, the criminally insane of  Oracle Corporation.

This was my only recollection of significant early childhood discord and this, my older half-siblings would tell me only after I was well into my adulthood, was the third time in my lifetime that my mother would have her, “nervous breakdowns.”  She had had them many times before during their childhoods, and on the two occasions prior in my lifetime, my older siblings cared for me while this man who was then clutching me for connection, disappeared back to his hometown outside of Philadelphia for three to six months at a time.  So this pitiful heap of tears and despair  had twice declined to continue down the path he chose in 1960-61, finally determining that leaving me, and now my younger sister,  as my mother’s first husband had done to my oldest siblings, was something he would not do.  As my life would later unfold and my oldest sibling’s life story would unfold, this key circumstance was a brilliant stroke of good fortune.

Until now I have done my level best to keep the potential granted to me by my father wholly intact and unexplored, buried under an avalanche of frozen gin and lime.  While there are things that my father would not do, there have been feelings and experiences since that time I could not appreciate or make any sense of whatsoever until now.

The horror of the Great Depression, the world largely unknown and unexplored by my fellow Salinasian, was felt in the bone marrow of my mother, my blood and the woman for whom my heart has beat most truly.  Whether I wanted it to, or not.  As I would be told, again many years into my adult life, perhaps as an act of contrition more than any good judgment on anyone’s part, there were stories that arose from the plains of the Dust Bowl only to land in the relative comfort of the stinging heat of the San Joaquin Valley.  Human beings become depressed when times get hard and stay that way, so depressed that they will literally do anything for a second’s relief from the combination of sadness, grief, anxiety, panic and alienation that only a group of humans can inflict on one or more of their social piriahs.  In this case, the rich landowners of California’s Central Valley and the family of a young girl from Lookeba, Oklahoma, a land which to this day is disproportionately consumed with concerns of the Devil, Jesus and a god that continues to escape knowledge.

I do not know what passes through a mind so twisted with alcohol addiction and the depression that drove it to mount his daughter, a young girl not more than six or seven years in age, repeatedly, but the sense of the unfairness of it all did not escape him.  He left change for candy on her dresser afterward, next to the cigarette butts he had tried to extinguish in the ashtray but had missed.  The same cigarette butts that my mother would use to signal her children and husband that another break with reality was coming, another spasm of misunderstood memory was demanding to be heard.  The same cigarette butts that six decades later would cause her to nearly burn down the duplex where my oldest sister had placed her, hoping against hope, that my mother would someday be able to care for herself without lapsing into psychosis.  That time it wasn’t about running naked through the halls of Agnew’s State Hospital, clanging her false teeth over the iron bars of a jail cell in Reno, or even taking the California Highway Patrol on a high speed chase that ended with her snapping the axle on her sportscar at the age of sixty seven.  That time it was about victimizing an innocent family living next door to a ticking time bomb of unhealed sexual victimization and injuries committed against an innocent soul by a human being smart enough to avoid detection from the authorities of his day, but sick enough to spread illness across multiple generations.

Not unlike the individuals at the top of the social order before, during and after the Great Depression who modeled a laissez-faire, devil-may-care attitude about living in community with the baboons, chimpanzees and outright reptiles concealed under the skin of alleged human beings.  We are all products of our times.

The times in which I have lived, times like May 4, 1970, times like November 22, 1963, times like February 21, 1965, times like October 9, 1967 and times like April 4 and June 5, 1968, times when men kill other men and women to bring to an end the potential given to them by an allegedly loving God, I send out this message in a bottle to you because I am uniquely qualified to do so.  I have known both madness and sanity, I have known trauma and its aftermaths and I have been gifted with a unique insight into how the madness of this day in 1970 is linked with all of these miserable dates of regrettable human history.

The link is, of course, Brylcreem, a petroleum product used as a topical hair dressing by men of historical moment since, at least, Elvis Presley.

This oily goo was on almost every establishment toady’s head that weekend in May, 1970 and its ubiquitous presence forms not just a satire sublime, it has foreshadowed every case of traumatic brain injury coming out of the Middle East at present, every case of PTSD that came out of Viet Nam that lead to children growing up with unresolved PTSD well into their adult years and it even slimed its way onto the head of my father to awful effect.

Brylcreem — “a little dab’ll do ya’.”

Brylcreem signaled the end of Western Civilization.


Given: The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Living with an intractable problem that has been successfully solved is a lot like moving away to a foreign country. Or Texas. One can judge a foreign land based on externals and never move to that foreign land based on one’s findings. Many times a person’s externally-oriented judgments come to be proven accurate. However, no reasonable person can argue that individuals experiencing intractable problems in their lives have learned to properly identify a solution to their problems and then implemented the prescribed solutions. The first whiff of spent Betadine in an asylum generally cues new visitors to the obvious fact that they are not observing people living comfortably in a solution that is working for them.

In those few brief, pre-olfactory moments in the formation of a judgment regarding what one sees taking place in an asylum, I observed human beings in motion. The motion may have been with or without a specific purpose driving the individual to meet their basic need for air, water, food and shelter. Most often these individuals seemed externally comfortable until an attempt was made to interact with them from a basis of common understanding. Human beings cannot communicate with each other without a shared and shareable set of common symbols and meanings to interact with. As anyone who has ever interacted with a clinically insane person will attest, the clinically insane are operating from inside of a system of thought that only the most highly skilled and trained health professionals have a chance to comprehend – it is a fully self-contained reality. Sometimes even the best health professionals cannot gain access to the abbreviated or exaggerated version of reality occupied by the insane: they are living inside of a problem that they, themselves, cannot solve. They may not even recognize a problem exists or that they are unable to effectively communicate with other human beings. Truly very sad.

If an intractable problem is to be solved, a solution must be brought to the location of the problem, wherever that location may be. Just as in chemistry, the solution must then be permitted to dissolve the boundaries that defined the problem in the first place. Once the existing problem is absorbed into a solution set that incorporates a clear understanding of what the problem actually was coupled with a set of beliefs and actions that serves to keep the original problem resolved, our original problem is no longer intractable. In other words, our toughest problems cannot be solved by applying solutions generated from within a troubled system of thought. A problem that can be solved from within a system of thought cannot truly be intractable. Intractable problems, problems which repeatedly resist solution, require a newer, larger system of thought that must be adopted or the problem continues to separate the insane person from the rest of the physical world around them.

Like a lot of “seekers” in our world, I have tried a variety of systems of thought in order to resolve the problems I have come across as an adult child who grew up in a psychological theme park of mental illness and substance abuse. I tried talk-therapy, gestalt therapy, trauma resolution therapy (for five years), committing to being a positive person, reading the Bible, going on spiritual retreats, A Course in Miracles, medications, addictive substances, Moderation Management, Rational Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous. I have even tried playing the guitar, taking more or less exercise and just not thinking about it. Then I tried mixing and matching one method with one or more of the others, when I was not busy trying to clean up the wreckage I left in my wake.

Precious few problem-solving systems of thought have been as thoroughly road-tested and documented as the system of thought provided to the world by Bill Wilson, the Twelve Steps (TS), the Twelve Traditions and the members in and out of the professional community who have, over the years, utilized TS “tools” to restore the lives of millions of alcoholics worldwide. It is true that this system of thought has failed most people, but this has been, in my experience, because systems of thought cannot be successfully judged as effective or ineffective by individuals who refuse or are unable to observe the system from the inside, out. If a problem, such as living in and around the mentally ill in a dependency relationship, has become as intractable a problem as it has in the United States of 2010, we must first accept the obvious: we do not have a viable solution that has, or can be, implemented. The time has come for each of us to humble ourselves and face the fact that either one or all of us are “nucking futz.” The solution may yet be upon us; however, the solution has not been placed anywhere near to the “location” of the problem.

By way of commiseration, most of the individuals who successfully utilize TS do not understand how or why the steps worked for them, creating a cult-like, “miracles and magic,” atmosphere in most TS meetings that can be suffocating for anyone who has had a snootful of people treating them like an escaped mental patient. The bar was made very low by Alcoholics Anonymous out of Depression-era necessity and under it a veritable bell-shaped curve of human incompetence, mediocrity and utter brilliance has passed and in about those proportions. Impatience with one’s self, or others, is punishable by one of the slowest, most painful, most heart-breaking deaths by suicide a human being could tolerate dragging themselves through. Such is the illness of alcoholism and drug addiction, a truly hopeless state of mind and body. Welcome to Twelve Step recovery and, “La Crème de la Scum.”

How could anything like an imaginary cloud being of “love” even bother to create such a pathetic illness responsible for the deaths, traumas and handicapping of tens of millions of people, globally, every year? How lame can any of us truly be to find ourselves skulking around roomfuls of people who want to talk about “Jeebus,” “tha-bibul” and “gawhhhhd?” A new, lower than whale-shit level of lame is what we have found and, along with “Father Knows Best” reruns and proclamations of daily miracle sightings, we have manifested a veritable host of turd merchants all wanting to help us help ourselves. Their way.

As a person of a somewhat intellectual bent, I can assure the reader that by following a few very unchallenging, almost insultingly simple, steps, a person can move their lives from a place of zero hope and negative prospects to nearly twenty years of recovery, a sense of peace and contentment (and for me, sobriety) that has surpassed my expectations and certainly my given life’s potential trajectories. Having had a number of relatives who preceded me in death, deaths caused in no small part by the abuse of alcohol and other addictive substances, I believe I can speak with relative assurance on that point. While I cannot say that I began my TS journey as an agnostic or an atheist, I can honestly confess that I do not understand why the word, “god,” is ever uttered in or out of any TS meeting. No verifiable empirical evidence for the existence of a supreme being is possible, let alone available, and yet human arrogance demands that we abrogate the obvious and substitute it with a tripartite delusion, labeling it as “faith,” and ostracizing the hell out of anyone who disagrees with us or has a different opinion. By the Twelve Traditions religious or spiritual debates are not a part of the suggested TS program, nor would these be a legitimate aspect of any TS meeting, and yet the debates find a way to rage on. “It’s not religion, it’s spirituality,” unless one doesn’t believe in a god like the group’s god, in which case one can expect a lot of friction between members. TS meetings are autonomous fellowships designed to extend hope into a community where only despair has been the sole comfort. The autonomy really inculcates the local culture and local mores, so if a person has always found philosophical trouble in a local community, trouble will eventually find them in a TS fellowship in the same community. The good news is that most people who benefit from the TS thought system learn that the majority of their problems with their local community were caused by their own misperceptions and misguided notions, making “tit for tat” the absolute best anyone in disagreement with them could ever hope to achieve. Such individuals tend not to attract a lot of stable friendships. In those cases where the local community was actually the major aspect of the person’s inability to thrive, the odds are very high that they were not alone in their troubling observations; an oasis of like-minded souls may very well be closer than such a person imagines. Failing these possibilities, TS fellowships exist around the world now; a community of more than 40,000 with an attractive appeal to a person should have an even dozen compatible individuals available for fellowship and community.

If being real, vulnerable and transparent to a host of friends has an attractive, if unrequited, appeal, a TS fellowship may have a big chunk of life to offer such a person.

If no possibility for a loving supreme being exists, the possibility of formulating a creative solution to a global dilemma does. In a pinch everyone is willing to at least try something that works. I had to open up my mind, take a lesson from Ken Wilber and recognize that holarchies exist and one cannot truly know a holon without first attempting to view the world from the inside, out. Everyone should move to Texas. </end pitch>

The business at hand is very grave, indeed. The lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum. In an old Texas idiom, “we’s in a heap a-hurt.” Into such a hopeless situation, a TS solution can offer a way out along with plenty of insight and hope for a better day. But we do have a few simple questions to ask and two requirements. If the answer to either requirement is, “no,” then the beatings will continue until morale improves. The two requirements are as follows.

1. Can you/we be honest with yourself/ourselves?

2. Are you/we willing to commit to a solution and a process that may change everything you/we have ever known to be true about your/our reality?

What an order, right? Obtaining agreement from even one person to these two requirements would be something akin to a miracle, let alone an entire culture. Happily, only one of us has to meet these requirements and one of us is twenty years down the road from you, gentle reader. So our choices are to meet these two requirements or continue to suffer from the effects of the problem, whatever the source of the discomfort turns out to be. Perhaps human beings may stumble upon another way out of this mess we have gotten ourselves in to, but one would think most approaches have already been tried and given a fair hearing as of, say, twenty years ago. A person of healthy temperament does not have to contemplate the choices offered here for very long at all; a person of addictive temperament, a person who would crawl through ten miles of thorny underbrush just to have eight seconds of relief – these unfortunate folks can spend decades mulling over these very simple requirements.

Once the transformation from the problematic system of thought to the solution-set system of thought takes place for one person, the willingness and faith in the process spreads quite rapidly. Alas, most individuals do not possess the stamina or the constitution to tolerate a reality that appears founded in quicksand. For these individuals more community support and experience is required to lift them up and out of the thinking that generated their part of the overall problem to begin with.

Why are we, the victims, required to do anything at all given that we did not cause these circumstances to come to pass?

Time for all of us to be rigorously honest and real. We – you and I, gentle reader – are the folks who are experiencing the pain behind the misbehavior of the few psychopaths we have allowed to slime their way into positions of power and moment within our society. Our society. The time for making excuses and fixing blame is over; it is our collective asses on the line here, not just the misanthropic malcontents down the street who burn through three jobs a year when they are feeling relatively stable. Even if we have been exceptionally active in organizing and staging protests against the onslaught of these craven fools, we cannot honestly suggest that we succeeded in accomplishing anything but, perhaps, a delay in the development of recent, and apparently well-planned, events. With each delay we simply pushed into the future the time when the attempt at global enslavement would transpire, perhaps congratulating ourselves that the end would come after we were long dead. No such luck, as it has turned out. When facing down a leviathan like the collective mental illness of an entire species of intelligent life, one needs to pack a large lunch and ask for a lot of help along the way, or at the very least demand that useful assistance be provided.

We might disagree about some of the details, but one thing is certain: we are powerless to stop these bastards and the autonomy some of us were fortunate enough to experience as children has been stolen from what remains of our lifetimes. Think about that distinct possibility for a moment. In every real sense, our lives have become unmanageable by us – we have outsourced our very existence to the whims of a cabal of criminal and near-criminal enterprises. For some of us, our lives have become unbearable, empty husks for which no solution seems possible. I know from personal experience that desperation is the fuel which powers the revolution in consciousness required to make our lives worth living again.

Or, at the very least, we need to be willing to hope that this is so.

Some of us have lost all hope, resorting to suicidal behavior and dysfunctional cries for help. All any of us have to offer each other, effectively, is the faith that comes from experience: honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to change one’s life can work wonders. Human beings can be very resilient and crafty if given the proper motivation. Should enough of us become familiar with a path that can restore disturbed human beings to some semblance of sanity and share that path with one another, we will have played a big role in doing what life brings us to consciousness for: evolution, the increase of fitness for survival and the joy of simply being alive while tapped into the marvelous machinery that is our known and unknown universe(s).

Branded By Jeebus

At this point, I need to interject yet another honest matter of fact to all believers in a loving supreme being: whistling in the dark does not help. Ranting, chanting and charismatic experiences do not alter the fact that when push comes to shove the god worshipped in organized religion is

precisely the opposite deity from the one believed to be empowered with all of our ego-inflating praise and snake-handling nonsense. My experience has been that any amount of fear or panic present in an individual bears witness to a god of human evil. Banal and mundane though it often is, we each lose our faith in a better tomorrow and pick up the charge of a life none of us wants in a battle of inches against our own egoes. In any confrontation where the opponent is permitted to choose the weapons, battlefield and terms of surrender, the outcome is certain.

A supreme being of anyone’s understanding can never be successfully defined: the instant anyone attempts to do so they have failed because of the meaning of the terms, “supreme being.” Non-conceptualizable entities, once labeled in any way, have been placed inside an all-too-tiny box in the mind of the labeler. Using the single word, “god,” becomes a potent prayer to have the god of lack, limitation and misery manifest itself, and this is precisely why organized religion always becomes a superb vehicle for channeling the world’s misery – they have dared to label their supreme being and worship the “graven image” of their definitions.

Emptying one’s self of graven images of a supreme being as the agnostic or atheist has committed themselves to do allows what has always been our birth right as human beings to come forth and manifest. Compassionate, caring and constantly aware of the presence of a mortal end, the atheist and the agnostic feel alienated by the worship of a god that may or may not have any relevance to our survival as a species. In fact, plenty of evidence exists that the worship of organized religion has played a significant role in the destruction of the human species. The “faithful” as they are often fond of calling themselves, believe that only faith in what cannot be empirically experienced can be called, “faith.” This is an error. Placing faith in a solution strengthens the communal belief in that solution. Placing faith in what could be delusional, or what could be someone else’s delusion, only makes human beings vulnerable to exploitation. A loving supreme being could not want this for its creations. However, an unloving supreme, or lesser, being could not get enough of such “praise.” The conundrum of this dichotomy is not lost to atheists and agnostics; allowing the level of cognitive dissonance inside a human mind that organized religion demands be present should not be considered a legitimate form of worship by any thinking person; this is mind control and mental illness, not a search for the honest trust of any matter.

I do not find fault with anyone’s freedom to believe in a supreme being of any sort; my problem begins and ends with individuals who use proscribed beliefs as a means of dividing the human family into pieces too weak to solve the problem of species survival. All are One. Anything less than Oneness is not whole, the original meaning of “holiness.”

Honesty, hope for a better tomorrow and faith in our ability to identify and implement a solution to our intractable problems opens the door to higher possibilities. When faith is not strong because we still do not have the confidence of experience behind us, we must have hope that this experience will come and that our contribution to our problem must be what can be corrected to reveal what has been missing from our lives inside of this “asylum.”

The meat of TS recovery is the fearless and searching moral inventory. Forget the origins of TS in the Oxford Group and the endless moralizing and shaming of one’s self for being less than a perfect human being. All that is required to accomplish a useful and productive inventory is the belief that life is better than death, that life is, ultimately, a beautiful experience not to be missed. The warm feelings of a sunset shared with one’s children or one’s lover, these are examples that bear witness to the possibility of the existence of an abundant, beneficent life force that would not be whole if any part of what is truly treasured in anyone’s life has gone missing at any time.

Connection with one’s subconscious mind, by definition, cannot be directly and consciously achieved. But one’s behavior patterns over time can certainly leave a trail of breadcrumbs back to the source of one’s own life force. Agnostic or theist, everyone experiences these patterns in our lives which confound and confuse us. Addressing these issues directly never seems to work completely. What is needed is a lightning rod of self-recognition that can bring the conscious and unconscious selves on a path towards congruence. This is the stuff from which peace and contentment are made.

Vacation Spot?

The lightning rod of self-recognition required is our resentments against people, places and things. If one believes in a love-filled abundance of Everything possible, then resentments are the termites that serve to rot the stability of one’s relationship with one’s self. A list of fears, too, should be written down. All of this should be written down. Something deeply meaningful transpires when a person writes down their resentments and their fears. What we begin to see as these resentments and fears are placed on paper is the edge of an awareness of just how self-defeating our behavior is, can be or has become. Do not attempt this process completely alone; invite a trusted and experienced friend in for a peek. Balance and moderation should be the final outcome or the process of inventory has not been completed.

Sharing these lists with another human being, feeling the personal content present in them, seeing how we have set ourselves up for failure repeatedly – we become ready to release the beliefs that buttressed the self-defeating cycle of behaviors. I guarantee that once a person accepts that their beliefs do not work for them, the beliefs that have blocked their personal evolution will be dropped like a hot rock. It is in the release of dysfunctional beliefs that the healing can begin of itself. No special incantations or rituals are required. All of this is as simple as properly dressing an open wound.

Identifying what wounds we have as individuals and which wounds we share as a community is beyond the scope of this essay, except to suggest that such wounds exist. These wounds have formed the basis of our many dysfunctional systems of thought that are both fed by, and which reinforce, our dysfunctional beliefs.

Beliefs cannot be critically appraised in a direct manner; the behaviors that these beliefs tend to generate must be examined along with the often painful consequences directly associated with the behaviors. Once the individual and the community recognize and accept the origins of troubling behavior, the release of the beliefs happens almost of itself.

As Bill Wilson and the first 100 sober drunks suggested in their book, Alcoholics Anonymous, “instincts on a rampage balk at inspection.” The flurry of assaults on civil liberties within the United States and abroad, the rampant destruction of cultures and civilizations, the callous treatment of the sanctity of human life – these observable and arguably self-defeating behaviors point to both our unwillingness to inspect our systems of thought and the urgent need to do precisely that.

My Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation Among the Towers

I wish I had a good excuse for not writing much this past Summer.  I did notice a slight spike in trips to my blog for September 11, which I appreciate, but I am having trouble writing about much of anything anymore.  I find nausea to be my friend and constant companion.

When David Crosby, formerly of The Buffalo Springfield, burst onto the stage at Monterey Pop and announced that JFK had been assassinated as the result of a criminal conspiracy, the year was 1967, nearly four years and a million dreams after that dreadfully fateful day in November, 1963. 

It was Spring, 2007 before I was able to personally shake the hand of, and offer my heartfelt gratitude to, Professor Steven Jones in the Salt Lake City Airport for his service to our country, the former United States of America – roughly six and a half years after 9/11/2001.  It has been nine years and a million nightmares since 9/11/2001 and the only accountable parties presented for public consumption have been nineteen Arab Muslims with box cutters.

The bastards have beaten us down once again.

Frankly I have grown tired of writing and chit-chatting about social injustice and the wars that defile the very unsung heroes who have fought and died in them for all these years.  War is a racket, true, but the game is played on a court that is owned and operated by a global elite who dislike being held accountable or having a lot of attention paid to their activities.  The existence of these individuals has been a finger in the eye of social democracy from the beginning and until there is an appetite for what must be done to rid ourselves of this scourge I feel I am shouting down a bottomless pit.  A strange and peculiar combination of psychopathy and heart must exist in an individual with the stones to walk up to a Dick Cheney or a Karl Rove and simply dispense justice quickly and cleanly.  Not that these individuals are anything but stand-ins for the real culprits, the real monsters, behind this fascist takeover of planet Earth; my point is simply to suggest that peculiarity serves to tag any individual who might be thinking of acting along lines outside the recommended public agenda or proscribed discourse. 

Jon Stewart’s timely, and unwelcome, interjection of 9/11 Truth into a mix of Tea Partiers and other racist misanthropes reminds me of the hold corporations have over our media and the power inherent in the agenda setting function that media always serves.

As I pen this weighty tome, “My Trip to al Qaeda,” blasts my sensibilities in high definition along with Lawrence Wright’s passionate, if unilateral, acceptance of the storyline that Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were behind the felling of the twin towers of the WTC on 9/11/2001.  With all due respect to Mr. Stewart, Mr. Wright and the respect I have for their showmanship, no Arab fundamentalist could have planted the explosive demolition charges necessary and evidently used to drop those towers at near free-fall speed.  Gentle reader, such a feat as felling those towers in less than 15 seconds is not physically possible without months of unfettered access to the superstructure of those towers, nor without the foreknowledge of a sizable cabal with a large economic stake in the outcome of such a catastrophe.  The problem with so much of the truth – the roundness of our very planet being an example of one such truth – is that it is so beyond our ability to believe or conceive of its possibility.  It can take centuries for human beings to swallow such truths as, “the world is not flat, but round,” and, in the meantime, a great deal of money can be made by those of us who are less delusional than our fellows.

None of this is to suggest that all is well in the realm of fundamentalist religions of any stripe.  To the contrary, the piety of Islam and the forgetfulness of the New Testament Christians of the importance of justice combine to form a combustible mixture that well-moneyed powers have been using for centuries to keep us at each other’s throats while selling armaments to both sides.  Power can never be trusted to act justly on anyone’s behalf, and absolute power cannot be permitted to represent any consortium anywhere on this planet.  The price of an apathetic response to absolute, or near-absolute, power is death.  The price of confrontation may also be death, but such a death could inspire further resistance to what every man, woman and child knows in their heart to be true: freedom rings, everything else feels like the resonance outside of a tin horn.

What we must do next is decide whether we will live or if we will die.  Death is easy and comes to pass regardless of what we demand our life be made of.  Life, on the other hand, is a choice to join with all the vitality of the universe and take all the steps necessary to preserve, protect and defend what we know represents the best of our humanity.  We must extinguish the Death Cult that has ruled this planet for far too long and we must replace it with a consortium of leaders who choose life and believe in the equality of our fellows under an umbrella of social justice once and for all time.

The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 19: To Those Unfortunate Few Who Have Been Left Behind


Don't Be Like Rick...Don't Get Left Behind

Don't Be Like Rick...Don't Get Left Behind

Apparently the Governor of the State of Texas, Rick Perry – a man rumored by the Austin Street in 2002 to have been interrupted, en flagrante delicto, with another man by his wife, has the supernatural ability to foretell the future.  Governor Perry is using his new-found powers, perhaps granted to him in a “mumblefest” with Reverend John Hagee, to force the cancellation of a meeting that would have demonstrated, perhaps beyond a reasonable doubt, that Cameron Todd Willingham was executed unjustly, unfairly and irresponsibly by the State of Texas during Governor Perry’s watch in 2004.

But Governor Rick Perry sports an excellent haircut and should receive some mention here at the ‘diaries.

So glad to see Governor Perry using his psychic abilities only for the Good.  Maybe he can do a travelling psychic duet with clairvoyant John Edwards – I’d love to see John Edwards “ping” all over the stage because of all the decent, innocent people Rick Perry and the GOP have sent to their untimely deaths in the last 20 years.

The murder of Cameron Todd Willingham by the State of Texas has recently been brought to the fore by a  Baltimore-based arson expert, Craig Beyler, who was hired to render an opinion by Austin attorney Samuel E. Bassett and the Texas Forensic Science Commission that, as of a week ago, he headed.  Beyler exudes credibility as does attorney Bassett, but neither of these two characteristics have anything to do with Governor Perry’s preternatural capacity for fortune telling nor for his capacity to sport an attractive coiff…so they had to go, “bah-bye.”

CNN also reports that two previous expert reports, presumably financed during Willingham’s appeals process, also determined that the deaths of Willingham’s children were not due to arson, but Beyler’s report, the most recent and the one wilting Perry’s coiff, was the first one commissioned by the State of Texas.

Let us pause for a moment of reasonable doubt.

Nine of the top fire investigators in the United States have all concluded that there was no evidence of arson in the fire Willingham was convicted on intentionally setting and which caused his children to perish.

From the death gurney, Willingham cursed his wife – a woman he had been accused of physically abusing, attempting to render an obscene gesture to her even as the paralytic drugs were being administered that would later cause his death.

What sometimes happens to women caught in a web of domestic abuse – and, yes, they fit a profile just as their abusers do – is that they will turn to stronger, more powerful males to seek for help in dealing with a situation that is often, and increasingly,  lethal to one or both parties.  Police officers – the single male versions of which fit a psychological profile, too – love to be of service to damsels in distress.  This affect does not serve male police officers well as they are statistically incapable of sustaining long term relationships or avoiding the trap of alcoholism or drug addiction throughout their careers in law enforcement.  If you know a retired police officer who seems pleasant and kind, give him or her a random hug because they could probably use one.

Back to reasonable doubt.

If you are a Texas-born male of the stubborn variety, a man who has managed through sheer grit and determination to survive the kind of childhood that has a high probability of breeding a domestic abuser, and you happen to think your marriage to a physically attractive female is due to anything other than dumb luck, you are a complete imbecile.  Texas has a habit of both breeding them and executing them with needles. 

If you are a Texas-born male police officer who thinks he does the right thing by tampering with evidence or unduly influencing a legal investigation because you feel “sorry” for the wife of a complete imbecile –  or worse, because she blows you in your cruiser on one of your many breaks in exchange for paying closer attention to her tendency to pick up men by their penises and beat herself to death with them – you deserve to discover that there is not enough alcohol or enough of any drug in the world to soothe your aching conscience.  Run, do not walk, out of law enforcement, and consider yourself fortunate for having had the chance to serve relatively honorably.  If you continue to decorate your rut with lumber and “collars,” you will become the Thing you hated the most and sought a career in law enforcement to eliminate.

If you are the Governor of a State like Texas – that can mean only one person at this point in history – who not only willfully allows this kind of nonsense to continue unabated, but is actually righteous about passing this steaming pile of crap on to the next unfortunate occupant of your lowly place in public service: you deserve to be outed for your hypocrisy, your complete lack of honesty, your deviant behavior and your abject, bellicose failure as a human being.

Yes, if it will make those unfortunate Baptists and Evangelicals who are subliminally enraged by the fact that they are still, at this late date, waiting to be “raptured” feel better, I am your Jesus for today.  I am passing judgment upon ya’all — or, “ye,” if you prefer.  I reckon I can have the whole job done in about a day hence my original promo, “Day of Judgment.”  Come one, come all.  Tickets are going fast.  Come see whose behavior was worse than your’s and who still got to live a pretty nice life, anyway.

By way of addendum, I think that it is important to mention the fact that being condemned to burn in a Hell of your own creation is no excuse for treating absolutely everyone in your path like they are the cool places only you get to walk on on your way to meet with your beloved Lucifer.  Nor is it any excuse for befouling the planet on which you were born like it is some kind of glorified privy where you can hide your liquor as well as lighten your personal burden after eating what no one should digest, or swallowing what should never have been consumed.  This is your Today-Jesus talking here and I am commanding you to wake the Hell up, already!

In one last ditch attempt at saving all of your putrid, lurid Protestant souls, I am commanding you to shave off all of your hair and live every waking moment that remains in complete and utter gratitude for every tiny, seemingly insignificant kindness you get to see or experience.  If you fail in this regard, I shall smote ye and all of your Amway downline with month after month of poor economic performance, vicious cross-line infilitration by your fellow churchgoers and numerous and sundrie infections of both bladder and yeast.  A Kaiser roll unto your many houses say I!

Thus spake Zarathrustra,  a man whose hair looks nothing like Rick Perry’s nor whose jawbone comes anywhere near Rick Perry’s ass.

Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 18: Nazi Germany Ain’t Motown

Motown Comin' to yo' town

Motown Comin' to yo' town

“You tell me lies that should be obvious to me
I’m in so much love with ya’ baby that I don’ wanna see
If the truth makes love last longer
Why do lies
make my love stronger?

Ain’t that peculiar?” 

 — Marvin Gaye

I loved Marvin Gaye’s music…probably the most redeeming aspect of the phenomenon that was to become Barry Gordy.  No more raw, nor unfiltered, nor uncensored, account of the illness of addiction has ever been broadcast in the popular media before or since the days when Marvin Gaye’s lyrics punctuated the creeping fascism of the 1960’s and 70’s.

When I heard of Marvin Gaye’s death as an adult, it hit me as hard as the death of Louis Armstrong when I was seven or eight.  That Gaye had died under circumstances so common in the lives of addicts and so reminiscent of untreated addiction only made his death seem more tragic.  When Louis Armstrong died, the pain came from the sudden and shocking revelation that someone had lied to me about death, about the fact that it wouldn’t hurt, about the fact that the German Nazi lady down the street and her opinion of Satchmo as, “just another nigger,” wouldn’t shatter my illusions about love and how its purity would prove victorious in the fight to save the human race from itself.

Marvin Gaye spoke the truth; everyone else was feeding me lies and wishful thinking.

The popular media is no longer in the business of broadcasting the truth and has not been for some time – not without an unhealthy, untruthful and widely publicized counterpoint that sounds more like an echo from 1930’s Germany than 1960’s America.  In 1960’s America I could name my yellow Labrador, “Satchmo,” as a reflection of what I and my mother considered to be a statement of unconditional love.  My collision with 1930’s Germany, however, meant that Satchmo would drink the leftover antifreeze the Nazi Lady left outside like a bowl of water, shit himself nearly to death on her prized patio, before wandering off someplace lonely to die a wretching, miserable death.  Satchmo loved me unconditionally; Nazi Lady loved me with a number of conditions related to my performance.  Those conditions were easily met by me most of the time, but I did have a number of assets in my favor over which I had little or no control.  Condition one, I was a cute-looking kid.  Condition two, I could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner faster than any of her children even if she blended it up and fed them through a straw.  Condition three, I was smarter, for my age, than either of her two sons.  Condition four, I naively saw her as a source of love and nurturing that I could not obtain from within my own home.  This last condition, of course, changed as I began to experience the full range of emotions and behaviors that the women in my world who were raised during the Nazi occupation tended to exhibit.

Nazi Lady stole from her tenants.

That she had tenants was certainly one in the plus column for her that complimented her husband as a Midwestern American, government civilian employee with a Depression-era learned neurotic compulsion to scrimp and save that would make the Indian on a wooden nickel scream and cry for mercy.  What kept Nazi Lady around, however, in spite of their obvious age difference, was a shitload of life insurance, a fact she had no problem revealing to my mentally ill, though not entirely permanently out to lunch, mother.  I guess the fact that my mother didn’t seem entirely engaged with reality meant that she could use my mother’s attention as a confessional.

Nazi Lady always covered her bases and was an absolute clean freak.

Everything had to be in its place at all times, reflecting a homey-ness and sense of welcome that was vacuously absent for said home’s occupants.  If Nazi Lady wasn’t pleading and coercing her children to eat faster, work harder or jump higher, she was chasing them out of the house so that she wouldn’t have to follow behind them and clean up the evidence that people actually lived there.  Everyone got a free pass on the first visit, of course, since they were visitors.  After visit one, however, you needed to respect the placement and display of precious objects Nazi Lady had taken great pains to steal from her tenants.  No, that’s not entirely accurate.  Nazi Lady stole from her neighbors and relatives, too, but only things like towels and dishware – things that could not be readily identified.

Nazi Lady liked fattening up small animals that she could then feed to her son’s pet King snakes.

Nazi Lady felt that it was critically important to teach her sons the truth about nature and the natural world.  She had no problem turning us loose in her backyard with our BB guns to protect her many fruit trees from marauding birds.  In one case, a family of sparrows had the misfortune of building a nest in what they must have thought was a piece of vacation real estate.  We did our job murdering the parents with sublime efficiency.  Nazi Lady did her job rescuing the chicks and feeding them oodles of noodles until they either died or became bloated and fat.  The one remaining chick was given his last meal before she gathered us around and dropped the too-fat-to-fly sparrow chick into the hutch that held the King snakes.  “You see, Bubby?  This is what happens when you don’t move fast enough!”  The snake swallowed the bloated little fruit-eating thief head first quite quickly.  I thought it was pretty cool at the time, watching those dirty little birdy feet walking down the throat of the hungry black and white snake.

Nazi Lady didn’t like fair fights.

As soon as my mother made the unfortunate mistake of informing her sons that all was not well with their mother, that perhaps Nazi Germany had taken its toll on the judgment of a neighbor who might otherwise be deserving of respect, Nazi Lady brought forward the truth about my mother.  My mother was an alcoholic.  My mother drank too much.  My mother was a liar.  And she told these facts to the loving eight year old son of said criminal, perhaps so that I might dissuade my mother from opening her lying mouth to anyone else in the neighborhood.  Of course Nazi Lady was essentially correct in her assessments as was my mother, but my mother was ahead of her by at least a dozen shock treatments and medical incarcerations, so the truth coming from my mother’s mouth had a very interesting way of sounding like pure babbling horseshit.  Could Nazi Lady actually be correct about my Mom?  The thought enraged me so much I couldn’t contain my ire. 

I kicked a hole in our screen door at home.

I later lived in sin with the daughter of another Nazi Lady for nine years and never married her lying, two-faced, emotionally-disturbed ass.

I laughed in the face of said daughter when it became clear that her lying, corpulent ass was finally catching up to her, that everything she touched was actually dead or near dying.  She laughed right back since she was able to fuck her way into keeping the house we had bought together.

So I moved to Texas, to the original scene of some imaginary crime, and have made a point of getting in the face of every Nazi-loving, fascist, brain-dead pig I could corner and let them know just how fucked up their thinking and behavior has been, will always be, it’s hopeless, put a gun in your mouth and pull the mother-fucking trigger and put us all out of your misery – you Nazi-loving, Fox-News-watching, flag-waving piece of human waste. 

But I’m not bitter.   I love the ignorant masses.  There are so many of them and so many to choose from.  I love hearing the marbles spin and spill in and out of their ears. 

Here we sit, in Texas, on a death-watch, guns at the ready, waiting to see which one of us is going to pull the trigger first and declare the competition finished and over with.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought we won the Second World War.  I thought the Nazi’s ate cyanide pills to escape the indignity of having their neck’s rung from their skulls…I thought the Nazis were bad, evil people who killed Jews just for the sport of it…I thought the Jews were the victims of the world…I thought Christians were supposed to love Jews no matter what….

Ain’t that peculiar?

The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 17: The Current Racism

Sometimes A Klan Rally Is Just A Klan Rally

Sometimes A Klan Rally Is Just A Klan Rally

Now the right wing glue-sniffers are attacking ACORN, Justice Sotomayor, Aunt Jemima, Mr. Bojangles, and (acting) President Barak Hussein Obama.  Next up: Al Jolson.

I suppose it all started when the Egyptians, in a brief moment of sanity, released the Jews from bondage to spend forty years trying to understand why freedom wasn’t truly free.  There was certainty in bondage, even if such certainty was miserable.  Humans are nothing if not adaptable, and if given a choice between a duel of wits with the Sinai Desert , or trusting the largesse of a benevolent dictator, most people tend to lean towards the devil they know.  Onward through the fog of victimization and the tyranny of oppression.

As “free” men and women, we are free to wander the desert for as long as we wish, but I know of no human person who could, or would, tolerate being lost anywhere with their family for forty minutes, let alone forty years – and that goes double for being lost in any kind of a desert.  Methinks the whole “forty years” narrative was an allegory…on the banks of the Nile…with or without meaningful interpretation.

The choice to opt for freedom does not come easy to anyone at any time – or at any level of psycho-emotional development.  Like most things in life, freedom is a process and processes can be thought of as having bony elbows and hardened knees.  Most everyone realizes this important fact unless they happen to be a teenaged child or young adult.  In which case I am an advocate of tripping the little darlings, saving the rougher fare for the thirty-five year old non-relatives who have not learned to discriminate between bull feces and shoe polish. 

Ethnocentrists – a polite term for racist – seem to possess the fecund, counterfactual imagination that one, or a basket of, ethnicities offer all that could possibly be necessary for human life to sustain itself on this planet and beyond.  If we maintain open-mindedness long enough to follow this line of reasoning to some definitive conclusions, we arrive at such treasures as, “we can see accurately well into the future,” and, “we have supernatural powers not possessed by others.”  While absurd on their face, such beliefs are not far-fetched leaps of logic beyond the “faith” required to believe that dead people can reanimate themselves, or that we are all under the moral surveillance of an omniscient sky-spook whose job it is to mete out justice to one and all – simultaneously.  And while this paints most every religion with a broad brush, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the latest heap of effluent tossed onto the American political stage has been primarily the work of a fundamentalist, Zionist subculture within the United States which believes that humans fed dinosaurs, willingly and unwillingly, and that the entire planet is only 6,000 years old.  The zeal possessed by this subculture extends well past the point of credulity, past mere delusional thinking and lands smack into the outright insanity of, “it is because I was reared to believe that it is so.”  In point of fact, the zealously religious are among the most racist creatures on the face of this planet.  In activating the fear-based core components of any religion – be they phantasmagorical or merely perceptually-based science – we virtually ensure the emergence of racism and prejudices of all kinds to rear their ugly, demented little heads.

By way of intermezzo, I did just refer to perceptually-based science as a form of religion. 

For those not used to poring over journal articles or who are not familiar with the intercollegial backstabbing that takes place in the hallowed halls of academe, let me just point out that the existence of your physical form relative to anyone else’s is an article of faith to science.  Meaning, of course, that there is no certain knowledge that the fundamental building blocks of which we are all made actually exist anywhere at any time — we take it on authority that our interpretation of our perceptions means what we have been taught it means. 

By this logic, I make no absolute distinction between current scientific evidence that is tainted by human interpretation and much older human-tainted evidence based on outside organizational authority — both, in time, lead to the same sort of lunacy that we are observing taking place, right now, among the fundamentalist evangelical right-wing of the former Republican party and their corporate “amen” section. 

One can make the argument that the religion of Science is self-correcting, but my observations have not born that belief out to any greater degree than the self-correction that has taken place in most standard religions.   In a pinch, I would opt for the religion of Science over most every other religion, but this prejudice still leaves a huge gap between legitimate, age-old and sage tribal knowledge and the best of current scientific conclusions.  I and Ken Wilber agree that both sources of knowledge are crucially important to living a happy, meaningful human life. 

My disdain for the behavior of those who choose lunacy and pathological fantasy over more grounded, scholarly and spiritual religious interpretations reflects my belief that most religions lead to a variety of loathsome “us versus them” confrontations of which the current racism is clearly associated. 

For the scientifically inclined who remain unconvinced that two or three major intellectual revolutions in the Philosophy of Science have taken place just in the last 100 years, I am not alarmed.  Eventually the positivistic certainty with which the scientifically-consecrated enoble their own thinking and perceptions will come beating on their skulls to deliver, unto them, the requisite humility of the saints.

Restoration of sanity is a process and like everything else requires both a willing student and a clearly presented, easily grasped curriculum. 

Evidence of racism is evidence not of a poorly presented curriculum but, in the present case, evidences a strident, arrogant denial of the most obvious matters of fact.  There is no learning failure taking place in the case of racism, there is only a dedicated unwillingness to look at all of the evidence that is as plain as the nose upon the human face. 

I do not mean to be dismissive of  matters of obviousness since there are, by some accounts, over two billion (2,000,000,000) sense impressions available to our perception at any given instant in time.  My point is that we are not lacking for any information here.  What we are lacking is a reliable apparatus or process for sorting through all of this information and coming to some competent conclusions before the moment leaves us in the dust and we are served up, yet again, with another moment and another two billion slices of information to sort through.

In a pinch for time, racism is one of many processes human beings use to sort through all of the information that our existence makes available to us.  Hard as it might be to believe, only a dozen or so generations separate us from a period in human history of such hostility that, had we engaged one another during the twentieth century with the same enthusiasm for bloodshed that we once did a handful of generations ago, we would have mindlessly murdered twenty times the one hundred million we actually did slaughter during the twentieth century.  For those keeping score, that would have been that two billion number again.  What this means is that for most of human history we have been brutally bludgeoning one another to death, or running in mortal terror from someone who wanted to brutally bludgeon us to death.  War, terror, running – these are all snappy events that do not suffer contemplative types very well, if at all.  We need to get to the point and we need to get to the point quickly… because the (fill in the blank with your favorite social piriahs) are a-comin’.

Communities of shared values have been, in fact, THE way human beings have adapted to the threats we have encountered from each other for most of the time our peculiar genetic encoding has been in circulation.  Racism and religion walk foot in mouth together in terms of needing to get snappy, if not impolite, before someone I do not know drills a spear or an arrow someplace where I know it does not belong.  Build a wall, dig a moat, fashion a drawbridge – fairly quickly people develop a prejudice for family and community and a strident, if not arrogant, suspicion of anyone trying to worm their way into our Keep.  “Famly values,” as it has been used and misused in the present moment of cultural morality has been nothing more than an encoding of the term, “racism.”  It is not by sheer coincidence that as soon as Ronald Reagan started on his peculiar bandwagon of “family values,” that more demonstrably ill people of color were rounded up and thrown into more and more prisons, as a percentage of their total population, than demonstrably ill white people as a percentage of their total population.

Ethnocentrism = racism = war = religion = insanity.  Since most people harbor an affinity for both ethnocentricism and insanity, peace and the pursuit of happiness only require we rid ourselves of racism, war or religion, as single entities, to weaken the entire tangle that represents the pursuit of our unhappiness.  We have already tried to rid ourselves of racism and war to no avail…both have snapped back into prominence with a vengeance.

I propose, then, that we simply rid ourselves of religion.  We can still go to church, if we like, but methinks it is time to stop giving religion a free ride in the tax department.  And I, for one, will stop sending money their way that will not be spent  strictly on the flock of which I am a member.   No more tithing to an overarching, aging bureaucracy in some far-off land.  All politics are local, and so is all community.  I am done with religion as a means of creating a moral compass for the great unwashed masses, or as a means of saving my bacon for a better time and place.

The time is NOW, and always has been; the place is HERE and will always be.  

Let us choose to love one another simply, responsibly and compassionately – right here and right now, in this very moment.

Barbershop Diaries Volume I, Issue 16: Living Life Beyond the Test Pattern


I'm Fine...Just Will Need Some Help Extracting This Chair Cushion Once We're Done Here

I'm Fine...Just Will Need Some Help Extracting This Chair Cushion Once We're Done Here

I never fully appreciated just how deeply I could sink my fingernails into the chair of my barber as a child.  One would think I was sitting in a dentist’s chair, and as it turned out, I reacted in this same completely unconscious manner with my dentist.  As soon as someone put their fingers inside my mouth and I heard the buzz of the drill, my mind would go elsewhere and my fingernails would keep me from floating off the planetary surface.

I have no explanation for why my barber’s chair elicited this same response in me.  Perhaps it was the buzzing of shears, or the incessant commands to hold still – tilt left, tilt right – that put something in me on red alert.  Not that anyone in the barbershop realized that just under the barber cape my knuckles were an iridescent white.  I was striving to be a picture-perfect consumer of male grooming behavior and with a high degree of precision I succeeded.  But it is to suggest that nothing of much import seemed to come my way unless I had previously removed myself from any personal consideration, or ceased allowing myself to experience any modicum of personal satisfaction as the result of “my” achievement.  Given that bleak forecast, getting out of bed every morning was a step into the heroic.

It was not until I had grown much older, experienced physical intimacy with women and then deigned to allow a massage therapist to touch my bare back that I began to loosen my hold on the arms of all modern torture devices, whatever form they might take.  Something had to give and it had to be in me not because there was something obviously wrong with me, but that everyone else had run out of reasons to contribute to my self-destructive behavior.  I hated myself, but I wanted you to love me so that I could then be justified in hating you, too.  Not exactly a conscious-level plan on my part, just a preponderance of the extant evidence.  This frame seems to fit the evidence well because I can see myself rolling and tumbling in the shame of it all to this very day.

Don’t get me wrong: I am positively joyous ninety five percent of the time.  But the other five percent of the time makes me want to poke out my eyes with a sharp stick.  The other five percent of the time I am caught in an obsessive web of want so sticky that I wonder if I will ever be able to just let it go and move on.  Inevitably I do, of course, but where in the hell does the motivation, desire or inspiration come from to go forward once the glasses are all empty and the party is officially over?

I remember running the stairs in our high school stadium.  The first few flights were easy, but then the burn started to take its toll and it began dogging me every step of the way.  I could still move my legs up and down, but I couldn’t really feel them anymore.  When I did feel them they told me to stop, that this was nuts, that there was no value in going any farther – but I couldn’t stop: you were still doing it, so I had to, too.  You were still giving it your level best, so I couldn’t let the team down.  And so it was the team and being a part of something bigger than myself that drove me to explore the area outside of my normal limits of endurance.

But where the hell does team spirit, or motivation, come from when, for more nights in a row than you can remember, you find yourself waking up alone to the glow of a test pattern illuminating your barely furnished living room?  And forget about the motivation to pursue this sort of sport to its logical conclusion, where does the desire to stop one’s self from picking up a shotgun, pointing it in one’s mouth and pulling the trigger come from?  It certainly will not be team spirit because I can attest to the fact that the “team” has long since found something more entertaining to do with their day than wait to see your head explode in a spray of red mist.  They can see that sort of thing most every day on cable television…before the test pattern shows up.

Fear of death might come close, except for the fact that I have seen death come and take its prisoners several times now, and not one of them seemed to put up much of a fight.  Once the diapers came out, once the wheelchair became a necessity, there was a quiet resignation that the fight had gone on long enough, that the fear was a waste of time and oxygen.  There may have well been some residual fear of death but I can assure you that there was an even greater fear that the torment would go on.  Still…no shotguns, no exhortations against a cruel supreme being and no drama.  There were even, at times, moments of contentment and peace.  One last walk up San Jacinto, one last trip through the old neighborhood to see children playing in the water and somewhere where the air is fresh, clean but thin, the yoke would leave its shell behind.  What was left behind would gladly be left for others to feast on – it had long since passed its expiration date, anyway.

We are at this place as a nation and as a people.  We have allowed ourselves to become the objects as well as the spectators of scandal after scandal, as if watching ourselves being eaten alive by parasites represents some call to a higher purpose, or a part in some drama foretold by an alleged supreme being who obviously cares nothing for our peace or our collective shame.

In these days of torment and torture, the demons sound like angels and the angels sound like demons.  These are the times that try men and women’s souls.  We ache for the heroic, but we refuse to turn our backs on all the scandal, envy and gossip-mongering.  We receive justice, but then we complain because it is devoid of mercy.  Those who can see no justice, no mercy and no heroism in the world are blinded to it by their choice not to see it.  Or, having seen it, move to trample it under foot.

Sometimes getting a haircut can be heroic.  But giving one never is.