Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kicking and Screaming

Matt Bryant kicks field goals for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s very rare that a kicker be in the limelight unless he either makes, or more often when he misses a game winning field goal. This week was a little different though. Matt Bryant’s infant son just didn’t wake up on Wednesday morning. He and his family had to bury their son on Saturday and then on Sunday, Matt Bryant suited up and played in Tampa Bay’s gave versus the Green Bay Packers.

He’s not the first and he won’t be the last person in the history of the world who uses their job to find a little peace in a difficult time. He’s not the first or last person to use sports, in particular, to help him through a tragedy. I could write for hours about those subjects and about the amazing job Bryant did, contributing 3 field goals to the Bucs win, or the emotional post game press conference he gave.

It’s truly an inspiring and emotional story and it’s more than gotten it’s due, so I’ll move right along and poking fun. Oh no! Don’t worry, it’s not Bryant or his team or family that I have in my sights, it’s the sports announcers.

During the course of a season, it’s easy to forget that commentators, pre and post game show hosts and ESPN talking heads are, in many cases, former athletes themselves. The networks all learned long ago that the way to hide the fact that these men have absolutely no training in their field is to use an extremely easygoing and informal format. The idea is to make it seem like a group of guys—the kind of group you may find on any couch, watching any game, but made up of famous former players, has fun busting each other’s chops, talking about the games and lending their insight whenever they might have some.

This is all fine and well when the subject is just football. After all, these former players do have an insight that most people will never get on the game and the frat house format is one that seems to be a natural fit for the tailgate crowd. The problem comes in when sports, as they often do, become larger than just a game as it did this past Sunday. The complete inadequacy of these men as commentators on the subject of anything but football becomes all too apparent when something like this happens.

My problem is with whomever it is that’s running the asylum. There’s always at least one trained professional in the mix, a broadcast journalist. For every ex-jock color commentator, there is a trained play by play guy. For every set of grunting Neanderthal retired players and coaches on the pre-game set, there’s a professional there to help keep the focus. So, when tragedy strikes, when a game becomes more than a game, when life rears it’s ugly head and invades the sanctity of sport, why not make it a rule that only the guy with the proper training as some kind of journalist get to do the reporting?

As I watched the game, I wanted to strangle the announcers every time poor Matt Bryant came onto the field. Being a former athlete may give a man the right to tell us what an athlete might be thinking in a purely sports related moment. But unless you’ve woken up one morning to find your child, dead it his crib, don’t assume that you might possibly know what’s going through his head.

And back on set, this isn’t something that everyone has to chime in on. We don’t need analysis from the former players and coaches on the subject. We don’t need to hear a roundtable debate on the subject. We don’t need commentary. We need the somber facts, given to us by a professional broadcaster and a shot of the apes nodding their heads respectfully before one among them says, “On behalf of myself and all of my colleagues, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bryant family.”

The end.

To steal a phrase from our presidential candidates, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still just a pig. No offense to the pigs on set—it’s great that you found a career after your playing days, but really, stick to oinking about the game.

Next week, you can be certain that one of these former jocks will have an “exclusive interview” with Matt Bryant. One of these guys who rarely goes a week, by the way, without making fun of kickers and reminding us all that they aren’t really athletes like the rest of them—one of them will sit down with Matt Bryant and conduct the interview. Invariably, there will be at least one really awkward moment in that interview when the jock says something that makes you squirm a little bit.

When it happens, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. And remember that the reason they didn’t send the trained broadcast journalist to do the job that the former pro athlete is doing is—you. You’re much more likely to tune in to watch the interview if they attach the name of a big time former jock to it. Screw being sensitive to the grieving father. This isn’t about the story. It’s about the ratings.

Tune in. Tragedy is cool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Common Sense and Plain Dealing

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that, “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.” With all due respect to R. Waldo, I would have to argue that nothing astonishes men so much as basic manners and politeness. Then again, who knows; we live in a world devoid of common sense, plain dealing, manners and politeness—so maybe we’re both right?

The quote from R-Wal popped into my head today as I was leaving Dunkin Donuts—though to be fair, I’d attributed it to Mark Twain at the time. I was walking out right behind another man, an older man who held the door for me.

I befuddled him by saying something so amazingly rare, so agonizingly unusual that I believe I may have sent the poor old fella into a momentary shock. You know what it is don’t you? You’re right. I pulled out the big guns. I hit him with the big T-Y. I caused him to choke a little bit on his donut, to water a little in the eye, to pound his chest in hopes of inducing a heartbeat.

Yes, that’s right. I said, “thank you.”

That wasn’t the funny part though. You see, it was one of those double sets of doors with a little vestibule in between. And with the grace of goldfish in the microwave, he somehow staggered to the next door and experimentally held that one for me after he walked through it as well.

I’m going to be honest with you here. At this point, I was pretty much fucking with him. I’d already checked heart palpitations, choking and watery eyes off the list—I figured it couldn’t hurt to go for bug eyes, profuse sweating, nausea and the coup de grace of fuckery most heinous, the faint.

So when he held the second door for me and I caught it with my coffee cup-filled hand, I put the most charming smile on my face I could possibly muster, I gave him a wink (oh yes I did!) and I said something to him that he’s sure to be relaying over and again to his incredulous friends at McDonald’s later this afternoon over senior-priced coffee and cheeseburgers with extra pickles. I said, “Thank you sir, have a good one!”

I didn’t get the faint I was going for, or even the bug eyes—if I’m being completely honest, but I was gifted a look of confusion that rivaled what you might expect to find on the face of a proprietor when a Wookie walks into a barber shop.

That was good enough for me.

On one hand, I find it hard to believe that someone could be so completely and utterly incredulous over someone showing them simple courtesy, but maybe it’s just me who’s skewed of view. After all, I’m the guy who holds doors for people all the time—women, men, seniors and kids, and usually winds up saying a too-loud YOU’RE WELCEOME to them after they’ve passed through without so much as an acknowledgement to me. No nod. No tip of cap. No smile. No words of thanks.

It aggravates me. But it’s the norm now. I shock people by being polite and I’m shocked when they aren’t. Perhaps the world has passed me by. Maybe I’m the fool for holding on to something that’s so obviously and regretfully a part of our history and has no place in our present or our future. Maybe I’m the problem.

But if that’s the case, then shame on all of you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Old Man and the Me

I am nothing if not a man of the people (and to know me is to know what an indictment that truly is). And it just so happens that because of who I am, that I tend to encounter the most special, the most unique, the most interesting of those people when I go out amongst them.

And so it came to pass that yesterday, I set out in search of a Target gift card which would be the present I’d be giving to a child who’s birthday celebration I’d be taking part in later that night. I’d assumed this would be an easy task. Every grocery store has a kiosk with gift cards in pre-paid denominations. All that was left to do was to head a few blocks west to the local Jewel-Osco and pick one up.

The problem was that apparently Target is the only major retail chain that doesn’t participate in this gift card bonanza—at least not at Jewel-Osco. So, after leaving there, I thought I’d try the local Walgreen’s and it was in the parking lot there that I met him.

I could tell he was special right away because as I got out of my Jeep Liberty, while sitting in the passenger seat of a car one spot over, he pointed at the silver medallion affixed to the side of my chariot that reads TRAIL RATED and asked me, “Is that thing trail rated?”

The way you respond to such a amazingly stupid question depends greatly on the person doing the asking. Only a pretty girl or a senior citizen had any hope of an answer sans murderously pointed sarcasm. My special friend was the latter, so I looked at him, looked back at the medallion, looked at him again and simply said yes.

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a dissertation on car frames, the automobile industry, ambidextrous people, hammers, general anesthesia, health care, retirement, youth today, and of course, how he was unaware that the Liberty’s were trail rated.

In between each subject, he hastily pointed out that I probably had to be going and he didn’t want to waste any more of my time. I smiled politely and started to go on my way when he’d invariably start off on another diatribe.

Eventually, I just stopped trying to escape, leaned up against the front fender of my Jeep (right next to Trail Rated medallion—just in case I need to reference it again) and took my medicine like a good little boy.

Through the course of this very one-sided conversation, I came to learn that he was recently retired over the past couple years. He was in a cast and sling because he’d hit his hand with a hammer and done damage to his tendons. The cast was on his left hand. He was lefty. The day before had been the last day he’d be able to shave himself for quite some time. He didn’t mention wiping his ass, but we shared a look and both thought about it.

He felt useless. He talked about his own Jeep, a Grand Cherokee (which isn’t Trail Rated) and about how he couldn’t drive it now, about how instead he was dependant on a chauffer. He never said if his chauffer was a wife, a child or a grand child, a neighbor or a friend. I assumed that someone who cared about him was inside picking up some prescription for him though.

He was a man had grown accustomed to people listening to him. I got the impression that he was a man whom at one time had an audience and was now reduced to accosting young men in Walgreen’s parking lots with pick-up lines as lame as his had been.

When it was all said and done, when he finally said that he didn’t want to keep me any longer, that I must have things I needed to be doing—and actually meant it, we said our goodbyes, I wished him luck and went about the business of finding my gift card. It turned out that Walgreen’s didn’t have them either. It looked like it was off to Target for me.

The funny thing was that I couldn’t get that old man out of my head as I drove there. I think, when it comes down to it, all any of us really want is to be heard. All we ever want is an audience of our own, who listens to what we have to say, whose opinions we value and whose debate we always welcome. We want our thoughts and ideas and our rants to be validated.

It’s why, I suppose, I write. Even if some days, my audience is myself alone, it’s good to know that my thoughts and ideas are out there, somewhere, available and real. It’s what makes me a man of the people, and keeps me from being nothing. I think I gave that gift to the old man yesterday. It’s the gift you all give me every day, perhaps without even realizing it. It’s why today’s theme is a very simple, but very important one: Thank you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Waiting til...this year?

Cubs fans have learned to spend their lives waiting. Waiting for the other foot to drop, waiting for the championship that’s eluded us for the past century, waiting, is simply what we do.

Tom Petty once said that the, “waiting, is the hardest part.” I’d normally qualify that by mentioning that he was talking about love, not baseball, but the truth of the matter is that perhaps no love is so true as that between the Cubs and their fans.

The Chicago Cubs have, for years, toiled in mediocrity and worse. Every so often, they tease us just enough to make us believe that this just might be the year, that this time, it may be real, that curses will be broken and droughts ended and every time, invariably, in the end, we’re left crushed and defeated.

So, days like this past Saturday are rare ones indeed. For one day, after one game, for a little while at least, we Cubs fans learned what it’s like to exhale. The Cubs clinched the divisional Championship and a spot in the playoffs. The sports world in general has been expecting this all year and so nationally, not much fuss was made. On the same day, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays clinched their first divisional title in their short franchise history and that news seemed to trump what was seen as the inevitability of the Cubs winning theirs this year.

Inevitable isn’t a word we Cubs fans can understand or appreciate though. Sure, we all believe somewhere deep down that a Cubs World Championship is inevitable—that it will happen at some point, that fate can only deny us for so long, but we also know better than to believe that it may actually happen in our lifetimes.

So, with this Saturday’s win, and the subsequent celebration we fans were afforded the rare opportunity of taking a couple of days off. We can learn the joys of breathing deeply and relaxing. We can watch a game and not live and die with every single pitch. We can actually lose games through the rest of the season without any anxiety.

Of course, this only lasts a week or so. Soon the playoffs begin and our throats will tighten, we’ll inhale and hold, our anxiousness will return—and all will be magnified. That’s the way the playoffs are for any fan of any team though. We Cubs fans simply practice it all year long.

Now it’s time to enjoy our week off though. There’s no need to wait for the other foot to drop because we’ve already assured ourselves a place in the big dance. And while we’re still waiting for our long sought World Series Championship, we can rest and relax content, knowing that we’ve earned a chance to compete for it again.

Normally, this kind of peace is reserved the offseason, for the winters when hope rebuilds inside of us and renews itself for another shot at another quest for that which eludes us. We’re not used to having this time to rebuild our hope as we rest up for the next phase of the journey. And so it is, with hope renewed, breath exhaled, anxiety temporarily relieved, we look to the future and dare to believe that this might really be the year.

Please God, let his be the year?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free OJ

It never fails to surprise and amuse me at how un-American we American’s can be and how quick we are to ignore the rights that our forefathers fought and died so we could have them.

Case in point: O.J. Simpson is on trial, once again. This time it’s for robbery and kidnapping instead of double homicide, but he’s on trial again none the less. He’s accused of breaking into the hotel room of a man who had a bunch of O.J.’s personal memorabilia, holding him at gunpoint and stealing it from him. O.J. claims that he was merely stealing back family heirlooms that were stolen from him.

Every discussion I’ve had about the trial has involved at least one person who has put forth the following opinion: Well I hope they convict him, even if he’s innocent, because he should be in jail for murder anyway.

Wow.

The sad part is that these people who express these opinions and the water cooler tag-a-longs who nod their heads in agreement are essentially wishing that old OJ be denied some of the most important rights we as Americans have. We are innocent until proven guilty. We have the right to a speedy trial before a jury of our peers.

It appalls me that there is no outcry over this rush to judgment. Why is it that our country has a segment filled with righteous indignation any time any time there is a perceived injustice involving a person’s right to carry a gun, but no outcry over like the Gestapo-like treatment many feel OJ should have to endure?

I honestly think that we’ve been so spoiled here in the land of the free and home of the brave that we take for granted what it means to be free, and the bravery of those who fought to make and keep us that way.

What makes our country great isn’t the right to own a gun, it’s that we cannot be falsely imprisoned, that we have a chance to defend ourselves against accusations made against us. The original OJ Trial, when he was accused of the murder of his wife and her alleged boyfriend was decided upon by a jury of twelve. They, unlike those of us who only got the highlights on CNN, listened to all of the testimony, all of the evidence and they decided that he was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Does that mean that OJ didn’t do it? No, of course not. What it does mean though, is that as a citizen of the this nation, that he was deemed innocent. They didn’t rule that he was likable. They didn’t rule that he was a good man. They didn’t rule that he wasn’t capable of murder. They didn’t even rule that he was innocent beyond all doubt or question. He was proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.

The public, largely influenced by the media-created clusterfuck coverage, had their own verdict though. OJ, in the hearts and minds of the American people is, was and always will be guilty as sin. Just like the Salem witches.

Which brings us back to this current trial, the facts of which most of have not bothered to learn, and the overriding opinion that once again, OJ is guilty—and even if he isn’t, that this jury should punish him for crimes that he was “guilty” of in the past. The same people who display the yellow, Support Our Troops ribbons and will tell anyone who will listen how they honor the ideals and principles the men and women of our military fight for, so casually and hypocritically want this man to be convicted whether he is guilty of this most recent crime or not.

We are spoiled by umbrella of freedom under which we live. It protects us from the rain and reign of tyranny and oppression. Because we have never experienced those things, we take our rights for granted, and we so absentmindedly and willingly are willing to fling them aside whenever and wherever it feels appropriate.

We poke holes in our umbrella of freedom and they may be small holes, but we keep poking away. We think that a drop here and a drop there don’t matter. Soon enough though, those little holes will widen, they’ll join together and become larger holes. It’s raining out there America. Why are we so eager to get wet?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Breeding License

One of the most shocking and saddening parts of hurricane Ike and it's aftermath are the stories coming out about the people who tried to weather the storm in places like Galveston--and chose to do so with their children.

Now I'm all for population control through stupidity, so I think it's awesome that some people decided to stay behind in places that officials knew would be hit hard. I think it's great that some people chose to ignore warnings and put themselves in the path of a huge, life threatening storm. Some people just deserve to die and in situations like this, they prove that not only are they not sane, productive members of society, but that it's really best to remove them from the breeding population thereby increasing the average intelligent quotient.

The problem is that a lot of these fucktards have already bred and passed on their stupid-genes to innocent kids who, unlike their parents, do not deserve to die. So when stories trickle out of the areas hit by the hurricane about parents using permanent marker to write their kids names and social security numbers on their arms so that their bodies could be identified if they were killed is absolutely appaling.

As a parent, what do you tell your child as you're writing on their arm? Authorities come by and plead with you to leave, they tell you that you are risking death. It's on the news. Every channel offers dire predictions for the catastrophe about to occur. Children are perceptive. They know what's coming and they know it's dangerous, no matter how much you may feel you've "protected" them from the gravity of the situation.

They see the policemen that you've taught them to trust come knocking on your door. They hear them yelling at you, telling you to leave--leave at once! You ignore them. To placate them, you take the marker they offer and scribble your name on your arm along with your SSN. Then you turn to your child, your frightened, innocent child and you mark their arm as well.

What do you say to this child? You are marking their body for identification after death. You are, whether you realize it or not, telling this child that he or she may die. That child removes the "may" from that equation and decides that they will, in fact, die.

Being a fool is not a crime. Those who ignored warnings, stayed behind and were killed took their chances and got their due. I just can't understand how a parent could be so selfish as to allow a child to stay behind with them? What possible reason could you have for subjecting a child to this? With Katrina as such a fresh example of the power of hurricanes and the deaths they can cause, how can you risk the life of a child--your child?

It's unthinkable that there are people out there who can be so foolish. Sadly though, its what some parts of our society have become. And sadly, it's what will be passed on.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

How Soccer Mom's Ruined the World

Multi-millionaire professional football player Vince Young, the quarterback for the Tennessee Titans is sad. You see, people keep booing him because he sucks. The fans of that particular team seem to think that for the amount of money he’s being paid that the very least VY could do is to not suck quite as hard as he does.

Vince sees it differently though. His mommy—yes folks, the multi-millionaire professional athlete’s mommy has stepped into the fray—feels that fans are being unfair to her baby boy. She says that he doesn’t even want to play football anymore because he’s so depressed. She blames the ignorant fans who are being big meanies to the apple of her eye. I blame her.

This is just an example—albiet on a larger stage—of something going on all over our country. It’s a result of scourge of America, the blight of our times, the most evil force this country has ever fought: I’m speaking, of course, about soccer mom’s.

Now, when I say soccer mom’s, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not singling out mom’s who’s kids play soccer. I’m talking about sports mom’s in general—basketball, baseball, soccer, swimming, hockey, badminton, what-have-you. They are the, “self-esteem Nazis.” They are the, “everyone wins,” coalition. They are the “my kid is a genius, star athlete, perfect specimen, best looking” person ever to walk the face of this earth federation.

These are the people who emphasize fairness in all things, complete and total equality and despite their misguided attempt at making a better world, they are actually destroying our youth.

The movement started a while back and I got to see it first hand as a youth coach and athletic director for middle school aged kids. I attended the athletic board meetings and watched as the bored, unfulfilled housewives asserted themselves and nagged, bitched, whined and complained until they got their way—as a way of feeling empowered and important, in the name of the ideal of fair play.

These soccer mom’s found willing allies in a select group of men who have played an equally vital role in the destruction of our youth, the picked-last-for-kickball dads. You might remember these guys from gym class as the guys who had to wait until the very end when captains were alternately selecting their teammates. These are the guys who had no athletic ability and no desire to play sports, but who were made to stand through the picking of sides until the very end, when the athletic team captains would loudly ask their newly picked team which of the “losers” left would suck the least.

All grown up and still carrying that chip on their shoulders, this group of dads were willing accomplices to the steamrolling soccer mom’s and a revolution was born. Winning and more specifically losing, have been de-emphasized. Everybody wins, is the new catchphrase. Working hard and improving skill were overlooked and playing time was doled out in equal parts. Everybody plays!

These parents decided to place a cocoon around their kids and rob them of the valuable lessons that sports can teach. In the real world, everyone does not, in fact, win. In the real world, everyone is not given equal time and chances. If you want to get ahead, you have to work harder than everyone else and if you don’t, you lose.

The generations of everybody wins kids is reaching adulthood now the real world is crushing them like bugs. They are apathetic because apathy is what was taught to them. It can be argued that these parents, the soccer moms and last-picked-dads were well intentioned—boosting their children’s self esteems and fixing wrongs that were perpetrated upon them when they were kids. I’m not so sure the motives are that pure though.

What I witnessed was a group of dads out for revenge and a group of moms who desperately needed to cling to some notion of their kid being superior—destined for better than they have it.

The idea that ever child is special is cute and quaint. It’s just not true. Some kids aren’t as smart as others. Some aren’t as artistic as others. Some aren’t as athletic as others. Herein lies the problem. Square peg, meet round hole, round hole, this is square peg.

What these “concerned” parents should have been doing was helping their kids find out where their talents were and encouraged them to succeed by using those talents. Instead, they picked athletics as their battleground and won their war. What they should have done was placed the highest emphasis on the area the child showed the most potential in and encouraged them. If the kid wasn’t an athlete, but showed promise as an artist, then the time spent at practices and games would have been better spent at art schools and camps. If the kid was charismatic and had a flair for the dramatic, they should have been enrolled in acting classes and local plays.

The thing is that we ARE all special. We’re just not all special at sports.

Had these parents not been so hell bent on ruining athletics, they may have seen that the best path wasn’t one in which everyone wins-everyone plays, but one in which their child was best suited to shine. Had they been willing to think back to their days of waiting until the end to be picked, they might have realized that self-esteem doesn’t come from a game where score isn’t kept or in which everyone plays the same amount of time, but from succeeding.

These soccer moms don’t want their kids to turn out like them—bored and unfulfilled. So their answer is to build them up, place them on a pedestal and see no wrong in anything they do. These dads don’t want sons to suffer the humiliations they did, so jump on the bandwagon and the resulting problems they cause are going to become an issue for all of us.

Learning to lose is important. It’s in losing that we gain the desire to win—and when that child becomes an adult, in business and in life, winning means something. Fair play and equality do not exist. If you want something, you have to earn it, you have to fight for it, you have to put the work in to gain success. These parents are robbing their children of one of the greatest introductions a kid can have to the real world.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the opposite end of the spectrum, because it does exist and is also readily able to be witnessed in youth athletics. These are the rouge coaches, many trying to relive past glories, who are simply out of control in their need to win. These coaches are as much instigators of the problem as the previously mentioned parents, albeit in a more indirect way.

These rouge coaches stir the pot and instigate the soccer moms and last-picked dads into action. And rightfully so, because these coaches are menaces of an equal degree, the problem lies in the way these coaches are dealt with. Like everything else, our country deals in polarized views and no one ever seems to understand that neither extreme can ever be right.

This all brings me back to our friend Vince Young and his Mommy. He was a star in high school, where his talent alone carried him through. He was a star in college where he worked a bit and got some good coaching and that combined with his talent got him through again. Like a funnel, he started off in a wide pool that has been getting more and more narrow. He is now on a stage with the very elite, the best of the best and proverbial going has gotten tough.

Vince Young isn’t going to get going though. He chooses to be sad. He’s not the best anymore. He’s not getting by anymore. If he wants to remain elite, he has to work for it, he has to win it, he has to persevere and overcome the obstacles placed before him. He chooses to sulk instead. And his mommy is mad because people are booing her baby boy. She’s calling them out and telling them that they are all wrong, still coddling the monster she created.

This is just the beginning. And it’s just the brightest example of this phenomenon. The stories are becoming more and more prevalent of parents calling companies that have turned their kids down for jobs to complain, of parents calling employers to complain about the unfair treatment of their kids by their superiors. Mommy and Daddy are coming to the rescue of a helpless generation, because they don’t know how to stand on their own. They don’t know how to succeed. They don’t know how to work hard. They don’t know how to win.

Utopian societies have never been achieved, but take a good look at the next crop of kids who are set to become adults. They all arrive on pedestals. Worship them, or face the wrath of their angry mommies!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11

I get into arguments over this every year when I write about it, and I’ve been writing about it for four years now, but except for the most glaring, obvious and unavoidable ways, I think that we, as a country, have largely forgotten 9/11.

The predictable arguments arise that we are still in a war that was a result of that day, that we have to get to the airports earlier, that we feel the effect of the Patriot Act and those are certainly valid points if I was talking about the effects 9/11 has had on our government, but that’s not my point.

When I say that we have largely forgotten the events of 9/11, I’m very simply talking about the hearts and minds of the people. In the cycle of grief, a psychologist would call this phase Acceptance. I can’t help but wonder if we’ve reached that cathartic stage far too soon though?

Acceptance is the final stage in the grieving cycle, and as the name implies, it means moving on. I think that by and large, we’ve moved on. And while that would be a good thing if this grief cycle was personal, I can’t help but wonder if it’s right for us collectively?

The indelible images of those planes crashing into those towers, the images of those towers crumbling to the ground are still and will forever remain in our minds, but they are a bit fuzzier than they used to be. They have taken on a movie-like quality, now that they are removed from the gravity of knowing that thousands of people had just died. The images are still horrible, but the result of those images seems lost and the lack of context makes them somehow weaker.

In an interview this morning on the radio with Mark Suppelsa, a local news anchor, I learned that on days like today, there is always heated debate about whether or not to show the images of the planes colliding with the twin towers because any time those images are shown, the stations receive complaints.

The country who claimed, “We Will Never Forget,” seems to want to do just that. Don’t show us images that might make us sad. We can have our moment of silence, wear our flag pin and talk around the water cooler about where we were at that fateful moment, but don’t make us watch it again. Don’t make us see the terror on people’s faces. Don’t make us think about the gravity of it all. Let us keep it all in the periphery. Let us talk about it like they were the events in a movie or a book we’d read a long time ago. Let us be detached.

It seems that once we reached the healing step of acceptance, that we, as a country, found it easiest to move forward by reverting to another stage of grief, denial. Grief is a lifelong process. It really has no end and it’s not uncommon at different times for people to slip back into different stages in the cycle, but we’re not talking about the death of a single person here. We’re talking about the slaughter of thousands. We’re talking about an execution. We’re talking about an act of terrorism—a word, coincidentally, that has lost it’s punch as a keyword in every speech given by every politician made since that day seven years ago.

Our elected officials have done a great deal to stunt our grieving. We’ve become so disenfranchised with the individual politicians who have so closely associated themselves with a War On Terror that we forget that it is a war. We forget our united resolve to see the perpetrators of 9/11 brought to death or justice that was so prevalent in the days and months after the attack—during our Anger stage.

I’m not one to call for war, or killings or violence, but I can’t help but ask the question—should our feelings about our government and the way they have handled the aftermath really equate to a free pass for those who have attacked us? Should we not still be resolved in demanding justice? Shouldn’t we be actively defining what that justice should be instead of giving blanket disapproval for an unpopular war? We choose to blame a single man because it’s easy and convenient and allows us to be free of guilt. He has played his part, no doubt and his blame is beyond question, but he is ours, elected by us to do as we want and so his failures are our own.

His villainy is so prevalent that we want to disassociate everything he’s done from our collective conscience. We want to undo all he has done. As with all politics in a two party system, everything is polarized. Yes or no, black or white, with us or against us are the battle cries of those in the argument, but I ask, if we look back and instead of insisting on an absolute at one end of the spectrum or the other, if we had insisted on a refocusing on the task that we demanded be undertaken—instead of the task that we had deemed to be of ulterior motivation, if that may have been something that we all could have rallied around?

We are a nation of symbols today. We outwardly show that we have not forgotten, we show that we are all patriots, we show that we remember. How shallow our symbols have become though. Time and frustration and revision have dulled us to what happened that day seven years ago. We call to complain that the images are too graphic when we see them on television. We are so ardent in our disapproval of a man and his war that we demand it end and fail to see a larger picture. We vacillate between acceptance and denial and blur the lines that connect them.

Despite the symbols we wear and display today, we are a nation who sees the events of seven years ago with blurred edges that threaten to fade a bit more with every day. We use our symbols to fool ourselves into thinking that’s not true, but it is, and I can think of no higher disgrace to those who lost their lives that day, than that our pettiness has so thoroughly faded the absolute horror of that day.

We pledged that we would not forget and I suppose we haven’t when it comes down to it, but perhaps we should have pledged that we would never distort—because that, we assuredly have.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts:

Well, we’re still here, so I guess the Large Hadron Collider didn’t kill us all huh? Of course, it’ll be a few months before it’s up to full power, so don’t get too cozy or anything, okay? And if, by chance this one doesn’t kill us all, cheer up, they already have plans for a more powerful replacement!


That said, something good has already come from the experiment, Kim Jong Il, under the enormous stress and pressure of having to worry about someone other than him destroying the world went and had himself a stroke. Is it wrong to hear that a guy had a stroke and be happy about it? First Castro, now KJI, you’ve got to figure Bush is next in the whole, strokes for megalomaniacal leaders campaign right?


Speaking of President Bush having a stroke, what happens if the side of his mouth that he currently talks through is the one that shuts down?


I’ve officially reached the point in this election process where I’d prefer to have a pig and a pitbull, both wearing lipstick of course, than Obama, McCain, Biden or Palin as the leaders of my country.


Now that I think about it, Dick Cheney speaks out of one side of his mouth too. Note to self, watch the candidates speaking—don’t pay attention to the bullshit coming out of course—find out if they have the full usage of their mouths when speaking. Vote for the pair that seems to have the best oral control—coincidentally, the same way I choose my dates! Come on, it’s better than choosing based on the lies their all telling, isn’t it?


Read back a bit. I warned you all about Ike. That is all.


The one balled wonder, Lance Armstrong is coming out of retirement to ride in that little bike race they have in France every year. That’s nice. I hope the reporters finally ask him the questions that count this time though. I don’t care about his trysts with the Olsen twins, or about doping allegations, just once I want a reporter to ask him the only thing we all really want to know about him—which side of the seat does the remaining ball ride on Lance?


Hey Jerry Seinfeld, nice commercial about nothing! Who knew that Bill Gates jiggling his ass would be the highlight of a commercial with you in it huh? Is it just me or was there something slightly homoerotic about that commercial? Leather. Ass wiggling. One man—who isn’t a shoe salesman—helping another put his shoes on. I’m not saying…I’m just saying. You know, not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Tom Brady is out for the year with a knee injury. That may suck if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots, but how cool is it if you’re Tom Brady huh? Not only do you not get the crap beat out of you for the next few months, but you get to have Gisele Bundchen as your personal nurse! THIS is the stuff fantasies are made of folks.


Finally, this losing streak by my beloved Chicago Cubs must be getting to me. This morning, I went through the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts for my usual summer fare consisting of a large Iced Coffee and an order of hash browns. When they brought the Iced Coffee to the window, it was a medium instead of a large. The window girl got very frustrated and I thought she was about to open a can of whoopass on her staff, but what she did instead literally left me speechless.

She walked down to where the Iced Coffee was, got out a large cup, put more ice in it, then poured the contents of the medium into the large glass with extra ice and brought it back to me with a smile on her face.

I literally stared at her with my mouth wide open for what seemed like 4 or 5 hours. I was too stunned to speak. Noticing that I was having a little trouble moving on, the girl smiled at me and said, “have a nice day!”

So, I left and tried to have a nice day with my medium coffee in a large coffee cup and I’ve got to tell you, when 1:30 pm came around that the LHC didn’t wipe out existence, I was actually a little disappointed.

You just can’t win. At least I can’t.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Scientology vs. France

The Church of Scientology is on trial for fraud in France. Apparently, a woman who said she paid the church more than $34,590 for lessons, books, drugs and an "electrometre," a gadget which the church says can measure a person's mental state got herself all up in arms over none of it working.

I feel the need to write on the subject as quickly as possible, because I’m sure the French will be surrendering promptly, but I have some major problems with Scientology and will take the opportunity to throw them under the bus.

My issues with Scientology are two-fold. There is the glaring problem I like to call The Katie Holmes Conundrum and then there is the whole thing where the religion is based on a science fiction (fiction meaning “made up”) book.

The first issue, and one that is a bit personal to me, is the Katie Holmes Conundrum. You see, Katie was destined to be the mother of my children until the Scientologist’s personal messiah-like figure, Tom Cruise, brainwashed her and turned her into a zombie.

Now, I have to take umbrage with both Maverick and his church over this offense. Sure, it’s true that I’d never met Katie Holmes, that my prospects for ever meeting her were dim at best and that even if we had somehow met I have to acknowledge that it is possible, however unlikely, that she could have been immune to my boyish charm, but who are kidding here? Joey Potter was destined to be mine, and Tom Cruise stole her from me!

And that alone, I could deal with. I’ve had girls stolen from me before (not really, but they say it helps your audience connect if you humanize yourself). It isn’t the theft itself that pisses me off as much as it’s the whole turning her into a zombie-like stepford wife. I like my gals a little spunky and it’s like he put a tap in her and drained all the spunk out. I’m devastated. Not only can I not have her now, but I don’t even want her which is a bit saddening really. So obviously, for that reason alone I’m justified in my hatred of Scientology.

But even before Maverick stole Katie away from me, I found myself to be a little bit incredulous toward this whack-job religion. It’s not so much that they based a religion on a science fiction book as it is which science fiction book they chose.

I mean, if you’re going to be a certified loon and worship characters from a work of science fiction, at least pick the best available work out there! I mean, if Tom Cruise and Vincent Vega decided to be Jedi, I’d still think they were completely batshit, but at least I’d think they were batshit in a good way.

I mean, the people that take StarWars too seriously (and okay, I may or may not be on the fringe of that) are a bit nuts, but at least they are nuts in support of the greatest movie of all time, not some crackpot fringe book about aliens that don’t even have light sabers! I mean, the Force is something you can believe in, at least it’s based on an amalgamation of the beliefs of the worlds major religions. Scientology, on the other hand, is a certified, drink the kool-aid and board the mothership refuge for people who were previously only united in their mastery of creating cardboard cutouts to wear proclaiming that the end was near.

It’s just simply ridiculous that Scientology even exists and I know this case isn’t going to be in the courts for long, the French will be pulling down their pants, bending over and begging Scientology to be gentle and use lube in less than a week, but while it is, before us and in the news, I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak out against it!

And Katie, if you’re still allowed to read and somehow come across this piece, if you can still comprehend the words and this happens to spark some sort of epiphany that helps you break free of the lock this quack religion has over you, before you completely overcome your brainwashing, it may not be a bad idea to repeat the following mantra until it is the very core of your being.

“Chubby guys wearing Cubs hats rule! I want one of those!”

That is all

Monday, September 8, 2008

Big Bang

The Large Hadron Collider is not a gay porn movie. Seriously, it’s not. Read it again, a little more slowly this time. There you go. See, that wasn’t so controversial after all, now was it? No, the LHC is much more benign than gay porn, in fact, it’s probably nothing but science stuff, unless of course, we all die because of it.

No worries though, this little experiment to recreate the “Big Bang” has long odds on actually causing a black hole to be formed, wiping us instantaneously from existence. Various scientists put the odds at 1 in 150 million, 1 in a trillion, 1 in 50 million, 1 in 4 billion or 1 in 100 million depending on from which scientist’s ass you prefer your life-threatening odds to come.

So, if at 4:30 CST on Wednesday, we all suddenly blink out of existence, you’ll know that, in the name of science, you were killed because the odds were similar (depending again on which scientist you believe) as the odds of being killed in a shark attack, or elected president.

You may be thinking to yourself, about this time, that George W. Bush was elected president, twice. Then you might wonder if the risk of being blinked out of existence should really be equal to the odds of that having happened once. You might also be wondering why the leg of your pants is suddenly warm and wet. It’s called peeing yourself and it’s normal under the circumstances, so don’t worry about it.

So, why are these scientists so busy risking killing us all? Well that’s simple. They want to prove that they are right about how the universe was created. Oh yeah, and to study effects to see what else they know that is correct, and what might not be.

Yay science! Being right is important. It’s much more important than, oh, I dunno, say being alive.

The arrogance and idiocy of science is staggering. Call me crazy, but I believe that when conducting an experiment in the name of science the first question you should ask is this: Can what I’m about to do cause the end of the world? If the answer is yes, no matter what the odds might be, it’s then time to take a step back and see if, perhaps, the information we hope to gain from the experiment is worth not only dying for, but taking the rest of the innocent people of the world with you?

These questions have been skipped by the scientists in question because being right is very important and offers them the chance for the kind amazingly awkward high fives that only scientists and Chinese gymnasts could ever be capable of enacting. Though, I doubt any of the scientists will be pointing up at God in a gesture of thanks when they’re done—they’ll probably just point at themselves instead.

So, the point is that this thing is happening one way or the other. All of the major countries have signed off on it. Apparently, the thought of it being the “1” part of the ratio isn’t that much of a concern. So, if you have any unfinished business that needs to be taken care of, or if you really want to go out in style somehow, you should probably start making your plans now.

Odds are good that you’ll that live to see Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so don’t worry too much. Just know that the odds do exist that somewhere, a scientist will say, “oops.” And it’ll all be over.

Friday, September 5, 2008

9021 Ho!

I’m going to part with a nasty, embarrassing secret. I could actually get my man card revoked for sharing this information, but I figure I have enough testosterone banked up to offset even an offense this egregious.

So, here it is, the dirty, rotten little secret. I used to watch 90210 back in the day. Yeah. I know.

But it’s true and I cannot deny it. And as long as I’m taking skeleton’s from the closet I might as well let you know that I watched Dawson’s Creek to, but that was all for Katie Holmes before the aliens got a hold of her and turned her into an anorexic zombie (seriously, would someone feed that girl? Ethiopians are holding telethons to get her some food!).

Anywhore, back on point, I was admitting that I had once been a faithful and weekly watcher of the show 90210 and can recount story lines, characters and answer 90210 trivia with the best of them. Sure, it was mindless trash, but it was trash that I got hooked on. I blame my stupid freaking sister—it’s all her fault!

After a couple of weeks, she told me that I just HAD to watch this program. I must have lost a bet or something, but somehow she got me to watch an episode and spent commercials relating events from the past episodes to help make the current episode make more sense—it’s funny how vividly I remember that day, though it was something of an aberration for us to have been getting along so well, so perhaps that’s why I do.

Anyway, I watched it from about 3 episodes in through the entire run of the show. It’s safe to say that I was a fan. God help me, I was a 90210 fan. I was possibly the only straight man in the world who couldn’t miss an episode.

I mention all of this and make these embarrassing admissions because there’s a new version of 90210 that hit the airwaves for this fall and I found myself unable to avoid it. I watched it. I watched the entire 2 hour long pilot episode. God help me, I’m the only straight male in the world who watched the damn premier of the new 90210!

The new generation closely follows the original story of the first. A family moves from some Podunk town in the Midwest to Beverly Hills and BAM! Culture shock! Trouble fitting in! Temptations! The difficulties of being middle class in the midst of the richest, most spoiled kids in the entire world!

This reincarnation of the old formula actually involves a black guy too! Don’t worry though, he’s not living in 90210 with a black family—in order to add cultural diversity to the show and still retain a sense of racist realism, the black guy is the adoptive son of the white family from Podunk, Kansas.

However, after going through all of that trouble in the name of realism, they screw it up by not having a single one of the female cast members sporting outrageously large fake boobs! Seriously, I though this was supposed to be Beverly Hills? Don’t the fake boob trees grow in harmony right along side the money trees in these kids yards?

I’m sorry, I don’t care how petty, snotty, stuck up and spoiled these girls act, without the fake boobs to go with their Gucci and Prada, it all seems like a sham to me. And don’t even get me started on the fact that in the two hour long season premier, not a single dog was seen in a purse!

The girls are all very doable until they open their mouths to speak—with the exception of the girl from Kansas who is doable even after she speaks. My problem with the girls—and the guys for that matter is that they actually seem to be semi-age appropriate. On the original 90210, teenage kids were played by actors in their mid-30’s so there was no guilt associated with picturing them naked.

On this new version of the show though, the actors seem to be much more age appropriate which to an old time 90210 fan is more than just a little disturbing. I’m used to the “kids” only being about 5 years younger than the “adults” and this idea that kids should play kids is just a little spooky to me.

There were some pleasantly surprising revivals of those old characters too! Kelly Taylor, the hottest of the old generation 90210 is back as the school guidance counselor and sister to a student there. Brenda, who left the original show to battle her bout with constant and unrelenting all month-long PMS was even there as was Nat, the owner of the Peach Pit.

It was nice of them to throw a couple bones to those of us who were fans (ouch, I cringe every time I write that) of the original show. Though once again, on one hand they coddle us and then on the other, they throw us to the dogs. I’m speaking, of course, of the complete and total lack of superfluous sideburns on the guys.

Sideburns are to 90210 what the mustache is to Magnum P.I., without them, all is for naught. Don’t bother. It’s not worth it. The burns from the original 90210 have been a lasting image of cool to me and countless other guys okay, just me, ever since Brandon and Dylan first graced the small screen low those many years ago. So firmly entrenched are those enigmatic sideburns of 90210 past that is only through the pleading and begging of the girls who currently cut my hair that I ever allow them to chopped off.

But this new version of 90210 is sideburn-free. They seem intent on following the trends of fashion instead of forging ahead with their own. It’s sad, because if 90210 is going to become popular again, the least they can do is make sideburns popular again too!

No comically enormous fake boobs, no sideburns, no 36 year old men playing teenagers, no dogs in purses—you call this 90210? I’m sorry, but I think not. A hip new show? Perhaps. A network companion for the already popular show Gossip Girl (which I am happy to say I know NOTHING about), maybe. But 90210? No, I’m sorry. It just didn’t live up. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Now please excuse me while I go do something manly to remind myself that I haven’t gone too soft. Anyone feel like going to Hooters?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Crust

I get it now. The upcoming presidential election is now defined. It’s not a question of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. It’s not a matter of where you stand on economic issues or foreign policy issues or the war on terrorism. This election boils down to one thing and one thing only:

Do you prefer your crusty old white guy on top or on bottom?

I watched Sarah Palin give her speech last night—my first real chance to judge her and as she spoke it became crystal clear.

The Republicans offer me the crusty old white guy on top with the pretty one who speaks well on the bottom. The Democrats, in contrast, offer me a pretty one who speaks well on top with a crusty old white guy on the bottom.

Where, oh where do I want my crusty old white guy?

It’s hard to say. The world loves a crusty old white guy. Unfortunately for them, neither is really fat enough to gain the Santa Clause vote. I know that I personally prefer my crusty old white guy to have a long white beard and a jelly belly—and a red suit is something that only a crusty old white guy or a pimp can ever truly get away with if we’re being honest.

Neither is tall or thin enough to get the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Gandalf contingent. In the absence of a Santa Clause, having a crazy old wizard isn’t a bad second option, but neither of the crusty old white guys in this election strike me as being wizardly which is a shame, because let’s face it, we could really use someone in charge that has a bit of magic to them.

I have to hand it to McCain in the whole “Who would you rather have as a Grandpa” battle. I mean, he’s got the cool war stories to start with, he totally looks like the kind of guy who might pull a quarter from behind your ear and you can imagine him sneaking you a beer on a fishing trip when you’re 14. Biden—not so much. But McCain loses the Grandpa vote because of his wife. Any woman that old that can inspire wood cannot, under any circumstances be considered grandmotherly and since they are a pair, I’m afraid the grandfather vote is lost.

So, neither of them really distinguishes themselves against the other. Then you have the pretty ones who speak well. Sorry Barrack, I don’t swing that way. And Sarah, you had me right up to the point that you described yourself as a pitbull with lipstick on. That’s just disturbing.

So the question reverts back to the one thing that may be important, in which order to we want them? Pretty Speaker President with Crusty White Guy VP, or Crusty White Guy President with Pretty Speaker VP? Unless McCain or Biden can put on 50 pounds and start acting jolly all the time, this is the criteria on which we have to make our decision.

I, for one, am stumped. I’m not sure where I prefer my crustiness? I’m not sure where the crustiness will better serve our country? Both candidates have lost my respect and all credibility by choosing VP candidates based on what they were told to do instead of what they want to do—regardless of how good either VP candidate they may be or become. They have perfectly balanced out the electoral proceedings though.

Each is offering the same package in a different order. It’s like ordering a happy meal and receiving the toy on top one time and on the bottom on the other. It doesn’t really make a difference does it? The meal still tastes like shit and the little plastic toy is still going to break after 10 minutes of play anyway.

I give up. I want to be excited about the election, but how can I be? They’ve perfectly balanced each other out. Crusty White Guy cancels out Crusty White Guy. Pretty Orator cancels out Pretty Orator. They’re all full of shit on the issues. If these candidates can’t have the conviction to pick a VP that is in line with their beliefs for what makes the country a better place—and instead pick them by demographic information, well how strong will their conviction be on the issues?

Bend over America. We’re about to get fucked again. Which order would you prefer it in?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

She's Only Seventeen

Let me try to get this straight: Some little 17 year old Hannah Montana doll-toting kid named Bristol is all good and knocked up. The father is a self-proclaimed “Alaskan redneck.” And now, not a single newspaper, newscast or political conversation can take place without their inclusion? Is that about the size of things?

Let’s put politics aside for a second, shall we? Let’s forget that little Bristol is the daughter of the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of Vice-President for just a brief moment. Just take a deep breath and put all of the political rancor and divisiveness on the backburner.

Now, try to remember back to when you were seventeen years old.

Really, take yourself back there and try to remember who and what you were as a seventeen year old kid. Now, through no doing of your own, imagine the biggest screw up you’d ever made to date (and please don’t debate with me whether or not getting knocked up at 17 is a screw up—it damn well wasn’t on purpose, okay?) became THE biggest news in the country.

I’ve read articles about how her mother is a hero for teaching her daughter a pro-life stance and about how having this baby is a testament to their family values. I’ve read articles saying that she is a bad mother for being so na├»ve as to think that only teaching and encouraging abstinence would outfit her daughter for the real world.

I’ve heard this seventeen year old girl’s pregnancy both glorified and vilified by those seeking to enhance their own agendas but what I haven’t heard is someone taking a quick moment to wonder what’s going through this poor girls head right now and how it might affect her entire life.

She isn’t running for office. She’s trying to get through high school. She’s having a baby—that she may or may not want, but certainly must feel she has no choice in the matter. She has a babydaddy who doesn’t want the baby. She has simultaneous celebrity with admiration and villainy with contempt from the public. She has people calling her a hero and a whore.

She has a mother, whom she undoubtedly wants to please. She has the shame that ANY seventeen year old girl would have at having to tell her parents—her deeply religious and conservative parents—that their little girl isn’t such a little girl anymore. She has raging hormones and emotions. She undoubtedly thinks she’s in love. She undoubtedly worries that her Alaskan redneck might leave her. She can’t turn on the television without seeing her own face. She can’t pick up a newspaper without reading about herself.

She has to listen to a bunch of grownups sit around and talk about the “pregnancy strategy.” How can we spin this for us? How can we turn this against them? How can we use you little girl? How can we use your unborn baby? How will they use her against us? How will they use the baby?

TMZ, the gossip site ran articles yesterday about Bristol. They ran articles about what a “hunk” her beau is and speculating about their future. The “respected” news outlets weren’t much better as the line between news and sensationalistic gossip becomes blurred to the point of eradication.

All the while, a seventeen year old girl, a scared girl, a girl who must feel completely alone in the world looks on. She is helpless. She is without choice or option. She must play the role that might help Mommy get elected. She must do as she’s told.

A seventeen year old girl is now the centerpiece of political talk, opinion and thought. A seventeen year old girl who is not running for any political office is under our microscope. A seventeen year old girl—a kid, is the subject of ridicule, debate, policy and principles. A seventeen year old girl feels the weight of her mother’s political career. A seventeen year old girl feels the weight of a life as a teenage mother. A seventeen year old girl feels ashamed and embarrassed and humiliated by attention she never wanted. A seventeen year old girl feels the eyes of the world on her.

She is an island. She is being formed as an adult, as we speak, as we write, as we discuss, we are shaping her—and not for the better. We are influencing her life forever. She did something that thousands of kids her age do every year—she got pregnant while still in high school. She has to face that, just like they did. She has that difficult road to face with her friends and family and parents—but she must face it all in front of the world. She must face it knowing that one little misstep could mean disaster for her mother.

She is a seventeen year old girl. She is a kid. She is a child.

To their credit, both sides of this campaign have gone on record to say that these family issues are not a part of this election—Obama going so far as to say that he will immediately fire any of his representatives who disparage Bristol or her situation.

The media is not so kind. The media wants the story. Sex sells. Sex and politics sell double. And there is no regard for the girl, for the seventeen year old girl, the hero, the whore, the sinner, the saint, the role model, the problem with kids today, the example, the antithesis, the expecting mother, the clueless child.

I’m not sure I could handle the weight of the world at 33 years of age. I remember back to who and what I was when I was only seventeen and I know I couldn’t have handled it then. The globe is too large to rest upon such slender shoulders. But there we place it. Stare. Gawk. Point. Talk. Use.

Feel better? Make your point? Help your side win? Good for you. Congratulations. You must feel good about yourself. You are a patriot. An American.

Behind closed doors, in a pink bedroom with posters of Justin Timberlake on the wall, a little girl is crying. She’s only seventeen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So it goes

And away we go! In two months we’ll have elected a new president. The Democrats have had their convention and the Repubs are having theirs this week. Both candidates have picked their running mates and both are taking heat for their choices. Obama, Mr. Change hisownself, picked a crusty old white guy who claimed that Obama was too inexperienced to be the Commander-In-Chief, a long-time, career politician, Joe Biden.

Why would he do such a thing? Well because our boy Joe has a ton of experience, specifically in foreign policy and the Obama campaign thought that would be good. So, Washington insider Joe Biden it is.

The more surprising pick was in crusty old white guy John McCain picking a former Miss. Alaska for his running mate. Sarah Palin was the mayor of a small town just a few years ago. Then she got elected to be the governor of Alaska, which many of you may be surprised to find out isn’t actually a part of Canada. Now, she’s campaigning to be the Vice-President of the United States. Not a bad 5 year plan there.

The thing about both picks that bugs me is how calculated they are in terms of getting votes. Obama has a perceived weakness, so he goes against his CHANGE message to pick a potential VP who has underwear older than himself. McCain recognizes a chance to capitalize on the disgruntled Hilary supporters who wanted her to be—at very least—Obama’s running mate, so he picks a woman.

If Obama can look me in the eye and tell me that if he were to die in office, that Joe Biden would forge on in the name of Change, I’d eat my shoe. If McCain can look me in the eye and tell me that of all the choices he had, that Sarah Palin is the most qualified person to lead our country should he die in office, then I’ll eat the other one.

Sadly, given the chance, these professional liars could pull it off and I’d be biting through the tough leathery taste of shoe polish for breakfast tomorrow.

So, my question is this, when the two people we have to choose from for the most powerful office in our government each lack the conviction to pick the person they’d truly like to have as their running mate—choosing instead to listen to strategizers and committees and planners and marketers who are basing their opinions strictly on vote gathering potential—then where do you sign up for Canadian citizenship?

Joining the Eh-Team isn’t my first choice mind you, but I can deal with only so much idiocy and I think if I worked really hard, I could learn to say aboot.

Mr. Obama, Change means standing up to the committees and planners and marketers and stratagizers and forging a new and exciting path. You almost had me believing you were legit in your dream of change. Joe Biden is not change.

Mr. McCain, it’s sad that we live in a country where women will vote for you because you have a female running mate, but that’s the fact. You probably will pick up a percentage of “Hilary Supporters” because of this move—which is a sad reflection on those women because Hilary and Sarah couldn’t be farther apart in their views. But let’s face it, Obama’s going to get a large portion of the black vote just because he is black man. So, you’ve picked this unknown, unproven woman to be your running mate because your party is so devoid of women and minorities that this was your best shot.

For both of you, your choice in running mate was all about PR and nothing about what you stand for, what you envision for your country, nothing to do with your plan for our country. In both cases, we’re one heartbeat away from something completely different than the product you’ve been trying to sell us.

That’s unnerving.

I know that racism still exists in this country and I genuinely worry that some bigot is going to shoot you Mr. Obama. And if you die, I’m left with President Biden.

Let’s face it, you’re no spring chicken Mr. McCain, the older you get the higher the chance some part of your body is going to say, “no more—I’m done.” And if you die, I’m left with President Palin.

Neither choice thrills me. Biden is more of the same, he’s the anti-Obama, there’s no change under President Biden, there’s no sweeping reform, no bringing together of the parties for the greater good. Palin likes to hunt and fish and is against abortion. That’s great. Half a term as governor in Alaska and a few years as a mayor of a small town are not the training ground I want for my President.

We have two candidates, so insecure about their ability to win this election that they have already sold out in an effort to squeeze a few votes here and there. Honestly, if either of them had picked a partner instead of a symbol, they’d probably have won my vote right then and there.

As it is, I’m left, once again, to weigh the lesser of two evils. As it is, any excitement I may have had about this election being a turning point for our country has been spoiled. And the United Sheep of America don’t even seem to notice. We fail to see the forest for the trees. Once again, we fall for the brightest advertisement, the best marketing, the most dazzling presentation—and fail to look for substance underneath.

Ooh! Shiny! Sparkly! Pretty! Vote cast. Election won. America. So it goes.