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November 24th, 2015
They Have Always Existed. But Where Did Decency Go?
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream the other day, from Jim Wright, who you should follow…
It’s not that these people exist…
…it’s that you live in an America where they are cheered
That’s it. I mean…the gutter was always visible to us, but in the same way the grotesque carnival sideshow tents were always there to peek into. You could tune in the screaming pulpit thumpers on the radio dial if you knew where to look. There were phone numbers you could dial to get recorded messages from Birch Society crackpots and white supremacists. Every now and then you got a pamphlet handed to you by a man whose stare made you want to stay out of arm’s reach. There were late night talk show on the UHF band, like The Joe Pyne Show, that you might tune in to for a laugh, only to switch channels soon after because you felt like you were suffocating listening to so much hate, so off-handedly spoken into the camera.
Now the gutter is front and center in the national conversation. Only it’s not a conversation anymore because the gutter doesn’t do conversation. It just screams in your face, and then laughs when it sees that it can still shock you in a place you thought you weren’t shockable anymore…
November 14th, 2015
No…This Isn’t Asymmetrical Warfare…
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
The death cult chose its city well—Paris, secular capital of the world, as hospitable, diverse and charming a metropolis as was ever devised. And the death cult chose its targets in the city with ghoulish, self-damning accuracy—everything they loathed stood plainly before them on a happy Friday evening: men and women in easy association, wine, free-thinking, laughter, tolerance, music—wild and satirical rock and blues. The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding…
-Ian McEwan, Message From Paris
I appreciate the argument I’m hearing more vocally now, that there is more than just a little chickens coming home to roost element to this latest attack. Jim Wright writes that “We created this”, and he lays the blueprint of it out in meticulous and sickening detail. Yes. We created this. That is to say, we gave ammunition and delivered recruits to the culture of death McEwan speaks of.
But make no mistake, that culture of death seeks revenge against us not for the wrongs we have done to the people of the middle east, but for living, for embracing life, for embracing joy. It makes use of the desperate, the wounded, the broken, but it is not engaged in “asymmetrical warfare” as I’ve heard said. You want to see what asymmetrical warfare looks like, study how the Viet Cong waged war against the French and Americans. They killed American soldiers. Lots of them. And like the Viet Cong ISIS has also taken its war to the enemy, and chosen its targets accordingly. The gay men they’re throwing off rooftops. The women they’re stoning to death. The school children and their teachers they’re massacring. The historical artifacts they’re blowing up. The works of art they’re hacking to pieces. Compare and contrast and then consider who and what the enemy really is.
Revenge you say? Yes. Absolutely. Revenge against the living. Revenge against beauty, against intellect, against the human heart and soul for existing. Soft targets are they? Cowardly attacks on unarmed people who can’t shoot back. No. Just…no. They went after the same hated enemy in Paris that they’ve been murdering at home. Those were not soft targets but simply The targets.
Yes, we Did bring this on ourselves. As Wright says, “Terrorism grows like bacteria in warm agar, among the destruction and ruin of war. Terrorism grows in the gaps between civilization.”
“We could have rebuilt that civilization after the Soviet Union pulled out.” says Wright. “We could have made the Mujahedeen our friends. We could have. But it would have cost us money. Our money. Lots of money, vast, vast sums of it. It would have taken decades of sustained commitment. It would have taken effort. And so, instead we left. Fuck it. Not our problem.”
Well it was our problem. And it still is. We fed the beast. We need to stop doing that. We need to practice what we preach to the world about liberty and justice for all. The power of an idea is not in what it can destroy but in what it can build. If all we bring to bear on the Middle East, or anywhere else, is bombs and bullets, subversion and assassination then you have to forgive the world for thinking our ideals are no better than any tinpot dictator’s. Perhaps we stopped believing in the power of our ideals because those ideals require work, and bullets and bombs and covert operations are so much easier. Just press a button. Just pull a trigger. Just send someone else’s children off to war. Perhaps the chickens that came home to roost were the bills due on the ideals we preach but can’t be bothered to practice.
But don’t mistake the desperate wounded people the beast gives kalashnikovs and suicide jackets to for the hate that wages war on civilization vicariously through them. Doing everything Wright says we should have done would not have mollified it. It would have made it hate us all the more. But at least it wouldn’t have so many willing tools.
by Bruce |
So soon is it after Veteran’s Day, so many are in a rush to go to war.
I know the feeling. We all do. We’re human. We bear in ourselves the ancient blood of the killer apes that walked upright on the African plains so long, long ago. We are not so far removed from them we don’t feel the pull of it. It is instinct. The hated Other challenges us, and we long to sink our teeth into them. To defend the Tribe. To protect our young. And because killing is an ancient pleasure handed down to us from the long ages of Earth. It’s the one that won’t admit that you should fear, because those ancient terrible lusts might one day take them by surprise. And in an instant, the human identity is shed.
We are more than that. The killer lives within us, but we are human, we are civilization builders, artists, and dreamers, and we don’t have to listen to the killer ape. Let us think before we act. Please.
There’s a poem…The Old Astronomer…I’m sure every astronomer knows it for these beautiful lines…
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
It’s in my will that my ashes are to be scattered in my beloved California, on a hill overlooking the Pacific near the Garrett family lands. So I will have no tombstone, but if I did I would want those words engraved on it.
To the people who planned and instigated this killing…to the people now rejoicing in it, calling for war and more war…war against the infidel, war against the hated Other, war just for the pure pleasure of war…all I can say is, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you’ve lost your memory of what it is to be human. I’m sorry the killer ape has taken your soul away from you. I’m sorry that hate has emptied everything from within you that could have been decent and kind and noble. There are worse things that can happen to a person than to die. I see them in you now. I wish you could see them too, but you have fallen into a pit I’ve seen very few claw their way back out of. I’m sorry you are lost.
But you need to understand something. We have seen the Pillars of Creation. We have watched the stars being born, and dying, and hurling their flesh back into the universe to began the dance all over again. We have seen the horizons of other worlds. We have harvested light from the first galaxies. And we are not fearful of the night.
July 26th, 2015
Would You Like The Knife Served With Or Without Love?
by Bruce |
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Oh look…the same damn thing I’ve heard a zillion times already…
No. There is absolutely nothing new about this. It’s the same old, same old. True there were lots of ex-gay outfits that claimed they could turn gay into straight. But there were always those who simply offered counseling and support for celibacy. Back in the 1980s, before the internet opened to commercial use, a user on the gay BBS I did volunteer work for, David Morrison, dived into a very rigidly conservative form of Catholicism, renounced his former gay activism, and signed on with their “Courage” (sic) ex-gay group which since 1980 has been counseling gay people against having sex. Eventually he wrote a book, “Beyond Gay”, where he argued among other things, against what he was calling “cheap sex” before he left G.L.I.B.. (He later wrote a column for the New York Post, titled “What Crime Of Hate And Anger?” in which he argued that Matthew Shepard had it coming, because he had a history of risky sexual flirting with strangers. Loving The Sinner. The right wing site Eutopia reprinted it, along with a deftly edited portion of my letter to the Post challenging it so they could wag their fingers at those of us who value our “certitude of experience” over their “certitude of Truth”…)
The neat thing about the anti-gay industrial complex is its convenient fluidity. Don’t like all that vitriolic gay bashing rhetoric? Well just walk right over here where we don’t do that. We =Love= the sinner. No, really! Think all that love the homosexual stuff is a lot of pussyfooting around what god plainly condemns? Well right over here we have all the fire and brimstone your cold little heart desires! God Hates Fags and so do We!
We can stick the knife into your gay neighbor’s heart any way that makes you comfortable…with or without love.
December 10th, 2014
Staring Into The Pit…
by Bruce |
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I link to Andrew Sullivan reluctantly, Very reluctantly, but I have to give credit where it’s due too. This livestreaming he did on the torture report is very good, the outrage in it genuine and worth sharing. You should feel that outrage too.
“The barbarism was the very opposite from a few bad apples at the bottom of the pile, as they tried to persuade us at Abu Ghraib. The bad apples were at the very top of the chain of command, rotting this country’s reputation and honor from the top down. And those begin with Bush and Cheney and Tenet. They are now wanted men. And they will go abroad again – at their legal peril. And so America becomes a legal sanctuary for war criminals. As long as they are our war criminals.”
Like a lot of Americans, I believe in that liberty and justice for all stuff, and government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I want so much to be proud of the way my country embodies those principles. Civilization stands or falls on them. But it is not always so. Just ask the native Americans, just ask the sons and daughters of the slaves, just ask the peaceful protestors of any decade who felt the club and the boot. Mary Renault, at the end of her novel about the poet Simonides, wrote “In all men evil is sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.” That sense we often feel among us, of American exceptionalism, ought rightly to impart a sense of obligation, as something every generation is called to live up to, because we are human after all, and with the potential for great good comes the potential for great evil. But too often powerful evil people manage to turn that sense of ourselves and our purpose into cheap bar stool nationalism, an excuse to congratulate ourselves as we look the other way at the evil done in our name, in the name of our country. They need to be held accountable. Or history will hold us accountable, and laugh at all the times we waved our flag as if it stood for anything more than a place on a map.
December 4th, 2014
What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding? Let Me Explain…
by Bruce |
This came across my Twitter stream today…
@teamyasumura: “For Real: When first on TV in 1966, ‘Star Trek’ was not shown in many Southern states because it portrayed integration.”
I remember watching a broadcast of the Emmy awards when I was a kid. I Spy had only been on for one season but one of the production crew, not sure who now, won an award for the work he’d done on the show and on the podium after accepting his little statue said he wanted to thank the producer. “Sheldon Leonard”, he said, “has a lot of guts.”
I had no idea what he was talking about and I was 13 years old so I let it slide. It wasn’t until many years later, when I read about how some local TV station owners in some parts of the country would reliably get up in arms whenever a show wasn’t sufficiently respectful to race bigots, that I saw what he was talking about. Basically in 1965, by casting a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the two series leads, he was thumbing his nose at a lot of TV station owners, who between them represented a lot of potential audience.
My generation thought we’d lived to see the day our country put all that behind us. We were wrong. Horribly, laughably, wrong. All that peace love and understanding stuff we believed in didn’t amount to crap. The bitter rage of the gutter only deepened, and bided its time.
I think some part of me did eventually see it, about a decade or so ago, when I first read about towns that buried their community swimming pools, rather than allow blacks to use them too. I remember being stunned. You buried…the whole goddamned pool?? We failed to understand the power…and the potent venom…of race hatred. We failed to appreciate how hate alone can sustain the hater for decades, for generations all carefully taught. And now it is all coming back. We achieved nothing. We were irrelevant.
November 19th, 2014
by Bruce |
You should read this by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless.
This entire episode probably grieves him and other black Americans worse than it does me, but I am put into a very dark place by it. I deeply respected this man, not simply as an entertainer but as a moralist.
Coates talks here about an article he wrote for The Atlantic that was published 2008, after following Cosby around the country for a couple years as he lectured the black community on morality. He writes that Cosby, “…was not speaking as a man sent to assure a group that racism did not exist, but as a man who sincerely believed that black people, through the ethic of “twice as good,” could overcome. That is the core of respectability politics. Its appeal is broad in both black and white America, and everywhere Cosby went he was greeted with rapturous applause.”
Perhaps there’s an answer in there, better than the cynical one; that when all is said and done, humans are no damn good. That’s almost where I wanted to go when it finally hit me that he really did these things.
Bad enough that white racists are going to be pointing at this as though it were proof of every filthy lie about black people they can imagine. Worse that everyone might take it as further proof that humans in general are no damn good. When someone you once idealized as an example of the better things within us turns out to be…this…it leaves you a little emptier inside, a little less reluctant to give up on the human race. But misanthropy is just another way of giving up, of taking the easy way out when you discover life is harder than you thought.
I was this same kid Coates talks about himself being. I have not been raped, but I have had the same experience with bullies he did. Maybe this is what gives the outcast boy a greater sense of sympathy with the fear women have to constantly live with…
Rape constitutes the loss of your body, which is all you are, to someone else. I have never been raped. But I have, several times as a child, been punched, punched/stomped/kicked/bumrushed while walking home from school, and thus lost my body. The worst part for me was not the experience, but the humiliation of being unable to protect my body, which is all I am, from predators. Even now as I sketch this out for you publicly, I am humiliated all again.
I know that feeling well. And this is why the accusations ring true to some of us, even in the absence of proof…
And this happened when I was a child. If recounting a physical assault causes me humiliation, how might recounting a sexual assault feel? And what would cause me to willingly stand up and relive that humiliation before a national audience? And why would I fake my way through such a thing? Cosby’s accusers—who have no hope of criminal charges, nor civil damages—are courting the scrutiny of Cosby-lovers and rape-deniers. To what end?
And this is why it is so excruciatingly hard for some of us to accept…
It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.
I didn’t pay that much attention to Cosby’s moral sermons at the black community, because it felt like listening in on a family argument that really wasn’t any of my business. White Americans have their own house to clean up and that other Americans have their issues is neither reason nor excuse for ours. When Cosby’s moralizing to his black neighbors did cross my mind I felt torn. “Twice as good” isn’t fair, isn’t right, is proof if it’s anything of the pernicious failure of white middle America to look at the stranger’s face and see ourselves. But I believed in the principle right enough, if not “twice as good”, then good at the very least: that to change your world you must become the change you wish to see. Set an example. You can preach at people until you are blue in the face and it just goes in one ear and out the other.
And there’s the problem. Cosby went on a moral crusade. I stayed out of it, because I am white, and we have our own house to get in order. But how many times have gay people seen this behavior? And I despair whenever I hear gay people conclude because of it, that morality is nothing more than the bigot’s scold, a weapon the powerful use to keep the rest of us down. Morality is our friend. Right and wrong really do exist as objective concepts. Otherwise, why care about what Cosby did. A lot of people, a lot of the same sort of people, drape themselves in moral robes like they drape themselves in the flag. Patriotism isn’t the last refuge of a scoundrel, religion and morality are. Remember this: often, very often, people will go on moral crusades so they don’t have to look at the wreck they’ve made of their own inner lives. The true moralist preaches by example.
October 14th, 2014
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Disease Vectors…(continued)
This was making the rounds this morning…
This is the gutter’s response to the head of the the National Institutes of Health’s comments the other day that a decade or more of republican assaults on science and research has had consequences. Oh no, says Erickson…we were simply reigning in all that wasteful spending on frivolous things like why lesbians are overweight.
Of course, obesity is a health concern, and it’s a fact that Americans are generally heavier now than in decades past, so that makes it a public health concern. And if we can get a handle on the causes of obesity we can improve the health of Americans and Americans can live longer and healthier lives and hopefully it reduces public spending on health care. But Erickson’s kind don’t think that way. To really understand how they think, you have to get past the gratuitous insult to lesbians in what he’s saying. Because beneath that what he seems to be saying is he really thinks it’s tragic the money didn’t go to an Ebola vaccine.
And if that doesn’t make you laugh out loud you haven’t been paying attention to Erickson and his kind, because without a doubt if that money Had gone to Ebola research he’d have been loudly bellyaching about all that money being spent on Africans and the republicans in congress would have gleefully cut the funding for it…ostensibly on the grounds that the money should be spend on the health of Americans instead. But of course…Africans!
Because disease doesn’t matter unless it’s killing people who matter, and black Africans don’t matter any more than homosexuals matter. And when disease Does start killing people who matter, then it’s Why Aren’t You Doing Something!!!
October 13th, 2014
by Bruce |
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Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.
“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”
“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
August 13th, 2014
The Gutter Speaks…
by Bruce |
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“He had it all, but he had nothing. He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside. I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has. Talk about low expectations and general happiness and so forth…” – Rush Limbaugh on the death of Robin Williams.
I would rather suffer the burden Robin Williams had and let it beat me down like it did him, than endure that empty void Limbaugh has where a conscience ought to be and let it put a smile on my face while it tells me I’m so much better than all those bleeding hearts.
June 6th, 2014
The Degeneration Of The Republican Party
by Bruce |
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In 2004 they swift boated a presidential candidate. In 2014 they’re swift boating a POW.
May 21st, 2014
A Wee Question…
by Bruce |
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I’ve said this before, much to the distress of some liberal/progressive friends, but here it is again: I have no problem with private gun ownership, I see it as an eminently democratic right, IMO the second amendment does confer a right to individual Americans to own guns, and yes as a matter of fact I own a few myself. And I take responsibility for owning them seriously as I do my automobile. I obey the laws. I concern myself with safety. And I have nothing but contempt for people who use them recklessly, even if they’re not actually breaking the law. That goes for guns, automobiles…anything people use that can do harm to other people.
I’m an American liberal. I believe that public spaces convey public obligations. From respect for the environment to seemingly mundane day-to-day things like traffic safety, the common public spaces we share together are a mutual responsibility…and at minimum that means they are safe to use. Or to put it another way, the common ground that is too dangerous to occupy is more properly called a Battlefield. The last time the shared common spaces of Americans became battlefields we called it a Civil War and it killed more Americans than all our other wars put together.
As a liberal I go even further and insist that even the private workplaces must be at minimum safe to occupy too, since we all need to work to earn a living. I grant that some occupations are very dangerous but also very necessary for the good of all. That said, working in a fast food restaurant, let alone eating in one, does not strike me as one of those occupations.
So I hear Chipotle wants customers to not bring their guns inside their restaurants. So while I’m shrugging my shoulders and and thinking to myself, so much so reasonable, and moving on apparently other people are bursting veins and threatening boycotts.
What the hell is wrong with you? Just…what the hell is wrong with you? No…Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?
If Chipotle said they wanted gays to stay out of their restaurants because Jesus! you’d be dog piling on it like you did Chick-fil-A. You’re bellyaching that same-sex marriage is going to destroy civilization….
…Does This Fucking Look Like Civilization To You!
They say guns don’t kill people, people do. And that’s true. It’s always the person. The idol is always false. We give meaning to our material objects, they don’t give meaning to us. A weapon, any weapon, finely, skillfully, beautifully made, by a master craftsman, is a noble thing. Until the moment a runt gets their hands on it. Because runts don’t build civilizations, they tear them down so they don’t have to know what runts they are. But let it be said that, unlike those two, not all runts look like they’ve spent their entire lives in mom’s basement. These guys for instance, bear a heavy responsibility for the decay of American society…
All these voices on the right bellyaching about Morals and Traditional Values, and Social Decay and really they don’t give a good goddamn about any of it. None of it at all. They get up on their stages in their suits and ties and slicked down hair and they wave the flag and talk about law and order and it’s all bullshit. Behold the new minutemen at the battle of Chipotle! I have a question…
Thank you NRA for turning a pastime that brought pleasure and even taught a few values to thousands of Americans into an idol for anti-government troglodytes. Thank you for turning the basic democratic right to own your own gun into a totem for ignorance and hate…the very things that kill democracy. You don’t love this country. You don’t even love guns. What you love is power. You loath the peace and prosperity and brighter future Americans have always sought, if it means everyone can have a share of it too. You’d rather it all came crashing down into anarchy and chaos if it means everyone can dream the American dream too, not just powerful white men.
April 13th, 2014
Merely Because I Put A Knife Into Your Heart Is No Reason To Call Me Hateful…
by Bruce |
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It seems the militant homosexual conspiracy has caused some feelings to be hurt…
Correspondence from a reader with traditional Christian beliefs
One of the sophistries you encounter early on when you walk (or are shoved) into the fight for gay equality, is that treating bigots like bigots just makes you a bigot too. And sure as the rising sun they were canting it loudly after Brendan Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla. Conar Friedersdorf, took to the pages of The Atlantic to wag his finger at all the militant homosexuals that wouldn’t gracefully forget the multi-million dollar child molester smear campaign Brendan helped to finance, and just let bygones be bygones. And low and behold, he gets fan mail from someone with sincerely held beliefs…
It’s so rare for me to see gay marriage supporters saying the things you have said, and I desperately wish more gay marriage supporters would say those things. You understand that being opposed to gay marriage does not necessarily stem from hate. Very few people seem to understand that, and I am so sick and tired of my beliefs always being misunderstood. It seems like gay marriage supporters never actually take the time to understand traditional marriage supporters. We’re all automatically labeled as “homophobes,” and that’s an excuse they use to stop listening to anything we have to say.
If only they listened, they would understand that we’re not the evil, hateful bigots they think we are…
Sick and tired are you lady? This graphic came across my Facebook stream just now…here, let me show you sick and tired…
I was fifteen when the Stonewall riots happened. This man would have been maybe 5. You’d think the world he grew up in would have been better to him than mine but it wasn’t all that much. And for those gay kids growing up in strongly fundamentalist homes still have this same life ahead of them.
But then, homosexuals don’t love they just have sex…so Friedersdorf’s starry-eyed fan doesn’t have to feel badly that the knife in that man’s heart has her name on it too. God made sex just for men and women to have in the context of a godly marriage and if homosexuals have their own special burden to bear…well don’t we all?
Everyone sins. Everyone has an innate desire to sin, unfortunately. Some people’s innate desire is for homosexuality. I understand when gay people say that they can’t help having those feelings. I understand that hearing “you can change if you pray and try hard over time” is extremely difficult. Maybe we Christians haven’t talked enough about how we believe that everyone is a work in progress, including ourselves.
This is arrogance disguising itself as humility. The wolf in sheep’s clothing telling itself that it really is one of them and just happens to have a taste for lamb chops every now and then. Lady, if you really thought you were no better than the rest of us you wouldn’t be treating your neighbors lives like they’re your stepping stones to heaven. Your Gay Neighbor Is Not Your Work In Progress!
So many desperately lonely people in this world. But if gay people aren’t lonely, love lorn and despairing then the righteous aren’t being righteous enough. Jack McIntyre, one of the first clients of the first ever ex-gay ministry, Love In Action, wrote the following just before he killed himself…
I am not asking you to sanction my actions. That is not the purpose of my writing this at all. It is for the express purpose of allowing each one who will read this to know how I weighed things in my own mind. I don’t want you to think that, ‘I alone,’ should have been the perfect person, without sin. That would be ridiculous! It is the continuing lack of strength and/or obedience and/or will power to cast aside certain sins. To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.
Sick and tired are you lady? Look at that…a gay man kills himself rather than make another promise god he knows he can’t keep and you are sick and tired of being called a bigot are you? You wish gay people would just listen to you do you? We listen all right. Jack McIntyre listened. The roll call of the dead is full of gay adult and teenagers that have listen to the likes of you. Perhaps it’s time you shut up and listened to us. We are not your work in progress. We are not your stepping stones to heaven. Listen to us if your conceits can stand to hear another voice besides your own. Your kind have been killing us for centuries. When you haven’t killed us outright than through that living death prison of the heart you demand we make of our lives so you can go to heaven. Stop. Just stop. The only thing being compromised by letting us live our lives is your hubris. Stop mistaking it for righteousness, it is turning innocent people’s lives inside out, it is killing people and it is dragging you deeper and deeper into the gutter.
Your work in progress needs a lot more work. Cutting your neighbor’s ring finger off isn’t getting you any closer to being a better person.
March 25th, 2014
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Fred
Death only closes a man’s reputation and determines it as good or bad. -Joseph Addison
I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. -Mark Twain
I’ve lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children – they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life. -Tony Kushner, “Angels in America”
In his book African Genesis Robert Ardrey wrote one of the more eloquent analogies for the grandeur of time and the curtain death places between us and the past, so often overlooked when pondering the origins of life. He asks the reader to place themselves on a lonely narrow California beach where foggy mountains slope down into the sea…
…let us make two assumptions. The first, not difficult, is that the visible horizon is just ten miles away. And secondly, we must assume that our sea is death, and that it is rising. This is not too difficult an assumption either, thanks to the lonely beach with the muted cries of a few distant gulls, and no other living thing. It is a sea of death that we face, stretching beyond the visible horizon to the other end of the once-living world. The death-sea rises, slowly and eternally as it has always been rising, covering all things that it touches. It laps now quietly at our narrow beach, the present.
Where the little waves fall back not twenty feet across the shining sand, we see revealed the rotting, moss grown, Spanish hulks of the Great Armanda…A gentle trough between two incoming swells reveals for an instant not a hundred feet from where we stand a cross…Hammurabi’s Babylon is lost beneath the water amidst shifting sands. We cannot see it, for the sea has risen too high. Eighty yards from our little beach, however, what seem to be three rocks break the incoming swells and make white water. They are, of course, the pyramids at Giza.
Nothing breaks the surface of time’s ocean beyond the pyramids…Had we the courage to wade out into this sea of no return, and to swim out a few strokes, we should find a sandbar just below the surface. These are the fields and pastures of those Middle Eastern peoples, nameless and forgotten, who domesticated wheat and barley and cattle and sheep… All that we call civilization stands between the sandbar and the shore…
…the beach we stand on is the precarious present. It will be swallowed before long as other beaches have been swallowed, and a new one will form just behind us…
I think of this image often when confronted by death. In Ardrey’s sea the ten mile horizon becomes a million years, and each one after that another million, and not many horizons do we travel before the short distance between the sandbar at the beginning of civilization and the shore seems almost laughably, terrifyingly small, let alone our lonely little beach. The joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that we’re dead for so long.
I strongly doubt there is an afterlife and the concept seems awkward anyway. If you’re still there then there is no after, only metamorphosis of some sort. And even then the question becomes, of what sort. Do we still have anything left of us that can be thought of as human? In the end, what Tony Kushner said is true; what we want is not so much an afterlife as more life. But I don’t think there is even that.
But there is something. Our lives are as though little pebbles tossed into Ardrey’s sea of death. At the moment they hit the water and disappear we are gone. But there are ripples that fan out and away from our lives: The reputation we leave behind. The things we did to our neighbors in this life. The good and the bad.
There is no point in doing unto Fred as he did unto the rest of us because he won’t be bothered by it, he’s gone. You could think of picketing his funeral as a poke at the little tightly wound church of hate he left behind, but the point is without Fred that little ball of bile would not be. Fred was the problem and now Fred’s gone and he won’t care what you have to say about him now. His last chance of earthly redemption is gone. He done passed the Last Chance station and now it’s too late to get off. He will always be Fred God Hates Fags Phelps. Perhaps that was how he wanted it in the end anyway, to be remembered for what he hated, not what he loved. But at the end, could he even remember anything he had once loved?
There is nothing wrong with being angry at Fred. There is nothing wrong with that feeling of contempt for the man. He earned it, worked hard for it, and probably right up to the very end was immensely proud of it. But stand quietly at his grave, respectfully because this is your destination too someday, and let the life that once was be a warning. Hate does not share power within a heart. It will systematically kill every other thing you have in there, everything fine and noble you ever were or ever could have been, and take from you all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love you might have shared, until there is nothing left inside of you but hate itself. To picket a grave is pointless, there is nothing there anymore, only the ripples of what once was spreading gently across the sea of death. For all his picketing of the dead, and all the obscene hatred he vented at the mourners, he was powerless to stop or alter the ripples of their lives, and all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love that were shared, gently spreading outward in time. All Fred had within his power was to change the nature of his own reputation, his own life’s ripples and he did not. He hurt a lot of people, but he destroyed himself.
Stand quietly. Say a prayer if you have one in you. Will this world be better for your having walked in it? Then let him go. Don’t bury yourself along with him.
[Edited a tad for clarity…and some additional thumping…]
January 25th, 2014
Stare Fleetingly Into This Pit…
by Bruce |
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If your German is nonexistent or as poor as mine you will need Google Translate to read this Der Spiegel article but I highly recommend it, and then following the link at the end to the more in depth article on this man’s life.
He signed with “Your Heini” or “Your Daddy”: In Israel, according to a newspaper report hundreds of letters from Heinrich Himmler have surfaced. The documents were apparently kept for a long time in a private household. The Federal Archives considers them to be genuine.
[Note: Google translation awkwardness in this post was corrected freely by me…my apologies to native German speakers if I got it wrong.]
Der Spiegel comes right out and says without Himmler there would have been no Holocaust, and their reasoning is that while yes the Nazi leadership were violent antisemites and ultimately on board with the final solution, it was Himmler who kept pushing mass murder as a policy forward at critical moments, simply by virtue of his utter remorselessness. He kept going where others hesitated, or simply never thought to go at the time. And that was simply, chillingly, because killing did not stir him emotionally one iota. He was neither attracted to it nor repulsed by it. It was simply a thing he regarded as necessary. That infamous quote of his, “It is because we can do such as this and still remain moral men, that we are great” captures him perfectly.
He was no raving vein throbbing ranter. Der Spiegel says of him:
Himmler is not a charismatic figure like the coarse and abusive Röhm, no pulpit thumper like Goering and no rousing demagogue like Goebbels. Steaming mobs, hypnotized masses – this is not the world of apparatchiks with pince-nez. He has other talents: He’s hard-nosed as Röhm, nerves stronger than morphine dependent Goering, and even more ruthless than the cunning Goebbels. This is where the evil hides behind the mask of the banal.
To the end he lived inside his own world, utterly disinterested in the human story beyond. To kill millions and then sit down to tea and cakes with your fellow Nazis as though nothing much happened, you need not to care that those people had lives, let alone thoughts and ideas of their own worth listening to. It is all just so much irrelevant static. A telling detail, according to Der Spiegel, is that after he’d concluded the war was lost he still believed he could work a deal with the allies to help keep the communists out of Europe. He bragged that after the war without him Europe would be in shambles and that he only needed one hour with Eisenhower to convince him of it too. But in the end he ducked down the same escape hatch Hitler did. I sometimes wonder if the prospect of killing himself moved him any more than the millions of others he killed, or whether in the end he simply did it because it was necessary.
I find it stunning there is not more written about this man who, in my opinion, even more than Hitler was the very heart itself of the Third Reich. That might be because the very banality of his person seems superficially to make him appear uninteresting. When you look inside the man, seeking to know what it was about him that was missing, that made everything he did possible, it stuns you to discover how little there is in there to begin with. And that leads to a very disturbing place, which may be the other reason he isn’t widely written about.
The myth that won’t die is the Nazis, and the War, and the Holocaust were possible because of an innate character flaw in the German people. It’s self serving bullshit. The reality more likely is that there are many Himmler’s walking among us right now, right this instant. Quiet, prim, orderly men of orderly habits, and what they’re missing only is the power to act on their belief of what is necessary for the greater good.
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