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June 27th, 2018

Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

 

We’ve a long and dirty fight ahead of us. It’s okay to be angry. But don’t become anger. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t become fear. Because then you will forget why it mattered that you were angry and afraid. It matters because love matters. It matters because without love and trust and hope, and dreams of what could be, civilization is not possible. Then there is only the jungle. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t let the jungle in. You will get lost. Remember you are not anger, you are not fear, you are human. Remember the possibility of love is why it matters.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

May 10th, 2018

Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

I’ve been a couple hours wandering around the March for Science rally zone near the Washington Monument with my camera. I’ve grown up in the Washington DC area and this is a familiar routine for me. So many marches and rallies I’ve attended and documented as a photographer, occasionally for a small local newspaper, but mostly to satisfy some inner need to turn my camera eye on current events. But today I begin to feel my age. My body wants rest now. And…food. Being a local, I know there is a hot dog kiosk run by the national park service near the old Smithsonian they call “The Castle”, and with some regret because I know it’s going to make me miss some good shots, I make for it. 

I walk further and further away from the crowd around the Monument, but not so far that I can’t hear the speeches. Once upon a time I felt lucky that I lived so close to such an important focal point of current events like the nation’s capital. Now I live in Baltimore and I can’t just hop on the subway and stroll down to the Mall with my camera bag. I have to pick my battles. As I did for the rally in front of the Supreme Court during the arguments on same sex marriage, I got a hotel near Union Station so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic on I-95. I figured the subway was also sure to be mobbed with science marchers that day. I wanted to just walk out of my hotel room and spend the day in the middle of things, then go back and take a nap and maybe find a good place later for dinner.

Now I’m standing in line at the hot dog stand wondering if I can even make it through the rest of the event. I get my food, and a diet soda, and wander over to an empty table and chair. It’s been drizzling off and on here and most of the seats are wet, but I find one that’s close enough in to the kiosk that it didn’t get rained on.

Eventually a man and wife couple about my age come over and ask if they can have the empty chairs next to me. I tell them sure, but they’re probably wet. The man goes to get some paper napkins to wipe the chairs off and his wife sets their boxes down on the table and we begin to chat. She’s a science teacher in a deep southern state, and here to support her student’s education. I have a spiel I go into about how it was Khrushchev who gave me my good science education because he scared the hell out of us with the launching of Sputnik and suddenly teaching kids science was a good thing. As her husband joins us she tells me of her struggles teaching science where teaching anything that flatly contradicts fundamentalist dogmas can get you fired, if not shot. We chat amicably her husband joining in from time to time to say how much he supports his wife and admires her determination. 

The wife finishes up her sandwich and gets up to leave. She has a friend she has to meet up with. The husband is tired from all the walking and stays behind for a while. I know how he feels. We began to chat about making the trip here and how nice DC usually is this time of year. In the distance we can hear the speeches from the rally stage. Someone is comparing Trump to Nixon. I shake my head sadly. No, no…I was there… The husband says disgustedly “Now they’re getting political again.”

If I was a cat my ears would be pricking up now. “Well,” says I, “Nixon at least had some experience in government and politics, and he was smart. Trump is no Nixon.”

He shakes his head and says with more than a touch of bitterness, “Nixon was framed.”

In an instant I’m 21 again and I’m hearing that shifty voice on the TV again and all the memories of that time, and the anger and frustration and outrage come rushing back. But I’m not actually 21 anymore and I don’t jump up on my pulpit and start thumping away. I’m a 60-something and I’ve just had a head on collision between what was then and here I am now, and my voice fails me. Probably that’s for the best. It was such a nice conversation we were having. Maybe he sees the astonished look on my face, or hears it in my sudden silence. What the hell!? But we agree without saying so that our conversation is now over and because I’m four decades removed from the 21 year old I used to be I leave it at this. We part amicably. 

I toss my hot dog box in a nearby trashcan and walk a short distance away. I can still hear the speeches in the distance, but now I just want to go back to my hotel room and sleep. It seems now that any food makes me tired. But also my legs are starting to hurt. I think about the shots I’ve managed to get so far and decide to just skip the march. I remember Don Juan’s warning about the forth foe and allow myself to feel even more gloomy. The walk back to the hotel is going to be about as much as I can handle now. But I know there is more to it. I’m 63, and reckon I’m just beginning my walk into the country of old age. I still find it hard to really believe. A therapist I was seeing after mom died told me once that I “present young.” It was the only thing she said to me that managed to make me feel better. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore my body’s insistence on it. And I’m coming to realize that the weight of everything I’ve seen in my life seems to somehow add to the fatigue. So many times I’ve let my guard down, only to have reality suddenly jump out at me and laugh in my face. I want to believe in the human status. But humans make that so damn hard.

You present young… There is no such thing as growing up. There is only growing. That, ultimately, is why we practice science. To learn. To discover. To grow. And if you’re not doing that you’re just waiting to die and life is so damn short. How can you just let it all slip away like that. A joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that you’re dead for so long. There is so much, so painfully much that you will never know…how can you let everything you Can know get away from you? The earth is round. Evolution happens. Global warming is real and burning fossil fuel is causing it. Trickle down economics is grift. Nixon was a petulant resentful cheat and yes…a crook!  We are all on Newton’s beach, finding this or that pretty sea shell or pebble while the great ocean of truth around us is all undiscovered. But at least we can find those.

I turn toward the Capital dome and start walking…and thinking… 

The first foe is fear. You walk into the unknown and it scares you and you back off and then you’re finished before you have even started. Defeat the first foe, defeat fear, and you will learn and you will grow and a moment will come when everything becomes clear. And so you have encountered the second foe: clarity. Its weapon is certainty. You believe you know all there is to know and you stop searching further, and again you are defeated, because that clarity you think you have is just a small part of a greater whole you will never know. Defeat the second foe, realize that for all that you do know, it is only a small portion of what there is to know, and taken by itself it is almost always wrong. Then you will be wise and strong in your searching. Your knowledge will grow and you come to realize that knowledge is power and you begin to seek out even more knowledge and bask in the power it brings. And so you have encountered the third foe: power. Its weapon is hunger. Now your knowledge is a powerful weapon you can turn on your enemies, but it is never enough and you want more. And more. And even more, because as you become stronger so do the enemies you encounter, and so you will seek knowledge only for the power it brings, and so you have become a tool of power. Defeat the third foe, realize that power is never yours to have, but only to yours to hold in trust for a short while, that you are never its owner but merely its guardian, and do not hoard it, but pass on to others. Then you will continue to grow and learn and continue down the pathways of knowledge, though the weight of all the years you have now spent learning and growing begins to bear down on you. And so you will encounter the forth and final foe, the one you can never completely defeat but only push away for a time. The forth foe is old age, and its weapon is fatigue…

I go back to my hotel room and take a nap. I miss the march entirely. Later I wake up and it’s not nightfall yet, so I go back out with my camera, and wander the streets taking pictures of the discarded signs and march ephemera…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

February 12th, 2018

Openly

News is flashing all across the Internet tubes about Adam Rippon’s bronze medal at this year’s winter Olympics. And the news articles I’m seeing now are all very positive and hopeful that this represents the dawning of a new era, where athletes can be honest about themselves, not just to the world but more importantly to themselves. Because the closet is a ball and chain sapping them of their strength, limiting all they can be, and you can’t accept limits and expect to reach the Olympics. In a recent interview Adam Rippon put it this way…

“Being gay isn’t what defines me, but it’s a big part of who I am and I like to talk about my coming out because that’s when I started to own who I was as a person,” said Rippon, who spoke to TeamUSA.org on the topic in honor of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month. “That’s what’s important, not the being gay part but at some point — gay or straight — you need to own who you are. You can’t be afraid of who you are or else you’re afraid of your own potential, and if you don’t own who you are then you can’t grow.

“When I came out was when I was able to breathe. When everyone knew, I didn’t feel like I was hiding anything. I didn’t feel like I was putting on a show. I was being me and it was easy. It was a lot easier to be me than to be who I thought I was supposed to be.”

In another interview, which I can’t find again now, he relates how, having failed to qualify in prior Olympics, he became determined to seek out and deal with anything within himself that was holding him back, keeping him from finding and owning his place of strength. What he eventually figured out was it was the closet that was playing a big part in keeping him from getting there, and that when he came out, it was not only liberating, it allowed him to grow as an athlete, find his strength.  And he made it to the Olympics. And now he’s a medal winner.

All my life I have watched the closet suffocating people. Good people. Decent, loving, hard working, beautiful people. This is truth: the closet is no sanctuary. It is a prison. Maybe now is not the time for you to come out. But for you to be everything you can be, that time must eventually come. Find a way to make it happen. Don’t accept the half of a life in exchange for security. The security of the closet is an illusion, and we only get one life. 

They’re calling him and Gus Kenworthy the first openly gay U.S. athletes to compete.  Actually according to Smithsonian Magazine that honor belongs to Robert Dover representing the United States in 2004 in the equestrian events. The first out gay athlete to compete in the Olympics was English figure skater John Curry, and he did not come out voluntarily, but was cornered by a hostile press about his sexual orientation after his win.  He acknowledged it, and later gave the traditional victory performance, which allows the media to call him the first out Olympian.  But he operative word here is ‘openly’, as opposed to ‘outed’. In fact Lots of gay athletes have competed at the Olympics. But fear of hostility from officials and judges, both at the Olympics and in their home countries, kept them closeted.

And it still does for many. Already I’m hearing stories about closeted athletes confiding in Rippon and Kenworthy. So it goes. Yes, it’s progress. Yes, every tiny little inch of that progress, every tiny little baby step forward, comes with a torrent of pain stabbing at beautiful hearts that never deserved any of it.

Someday…someday…we will all shine…


Adam Rippon, photo by Rick Bowmer, AP

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Openly

July 5th, 2017

I’m Sorry

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I wasn’t braver back then. It might have made a difference in both our lives. Maybe.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I’m Sorry

April 23rd, 2017

The Science Of Shadows And Light

I went to the March for Science in Washington D.C. More about that later. But I’m back home now, and the first thing I did naturally was offload my digital photos onto the network drive. I’ll put them into Lightroom in a bit and post a new photo gallery later. The rally was taxing enough on my sixty-three year old body that I had to bail out before the march actually happened, and retreat to my hotel room. But I got a bunch of good shots at the rally on the Washington Monument grounds so I’m happy.

Later, after my legs recovered a bit and I got some energy back, I took a dinnertime walk around D.C. and snapped off a few shots with the mini Hasselblad (Sony) of what was left of the march ephemera after all the crowds were gone and the streets were nearly empty and it was still drizzly because I’m a weird old fuck and I was in a gloomy mood just then. If you’ve seen my art photography here you know what was coming. And I wasn’t sure even as I was taking those shots whether or not I wanted to include them in a gallery of shots of the March for Science. What comes out of me at those times when I’m doing it for the pure art of it is pretty dark. I can see that photographic eye in everything I do and I don’t really like it. But it’s worse when I’m not working on a theme or an event. Then it’s the pure inner photographic eye that comes out. I was pretty sure none of that belonged in a gallery with the science march.

As I wandered, I found a street sign…one of those historical markers D.C. has been putting around town. This one told me the studio of Mathew Brady was nearby  on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that it was relatively unchanged from when he lived there. So I tried to find it just to nod in fellowship to whatever memories might still be lingering there…

Mathew B. Brady was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War. He studied under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who pioneered the daguerreotype technique in America. -Wikipedia

But of course it had no marking plaque or even a street number over the door so I’m still not sure I saw the right one. But something had drawn me there. Obviously since I’m at the March for Science, I count myself as a person of science. But I am also an artist, and those two sides of me were excruciatingly difficult to reconcile when I was a teenager, until I read Jacob Bronowski’s little book, Science and Human Values.  I try to be rational about things, but there are moments when I feel moved by a spirit I have no name for. That was one of them.

I am not a camera, the camera is me. What comes out of it is me. But also what was actually there. The reality within and without. The cold grey drizzle. The nearly but not quite empty streets. What I saw. How it made me feel. In no other art are both those things quite that literally true. The photographic image is fixed by light entering the camera and it exists in a fixed time and place, but the what the photographer sees is within and timeless. Brady was the first to show us what war looks like via the camera’s unflinching deterministic eye. But it was also a mirror held up to ourselves. This too is human. In retrospect it was a perfect sort of serendipity being drawn to Brady’s studio that evening because probably no other art owes as much to science as photography. Chemistry, optics, the physics of light. The camera shows us what was there, and in the process tells us what it is to be human. Whether or not we want to know it.

 

Mathew_Brady_1875_sm

 

reflection-sm

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Science Of Shadows And Light

February 1st, 2017

No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

…it is bigger, richer, more urgently felt than you could ever know…

 

One thing I love about this ad is the open acknowledgement of how immigrants were treated even back then. It’s so refreshingly honest about our history compared to the rainbows and unicorns version I got back in early grade school. We were so proud of our little melting pot back then…back when we were competing with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. Not so much anymore.

If a certain German someone and I were still on emailing terms I would have loved to share this with him. But now I’m not even sure he’d appreciate the sentiment in it. It’s one thing to be determined to follow your dreams. It’s another to be determined not to have any. But some of us still believe in our dreams…rough hewn and broken though they may be… Here’s to you Herr Busch. Here’s to you Herr Anheuser. Prost!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

December 23rd, 2016

Understanding

Brought me to tears, this. Especially since the company that produced this ad, Kodak, has been such a big part of my life and they’re struggling now to hold on in this digital age (note that the filmmaker shot this in 35mm). They could have just kept silent but not only did they not do that, they went far beyond simply making a boilerplate statement of diversity: they showed us all a film about love. And now…when so many people need it so very much.

 

 

I think this may just be the best Christmas present ever. Thank you so much Kodak: from a gay guy who’s been an amateur/sometimes professional photographer since he was a teenager back in the 1960s-70s (who still loves his film cameras very much). I wish I could have grown up in the world your filmmaker shows us here…but I am glad that other gay kids will now…thanks to folks like you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Understanding

September 12th, 2016

Magical Stabs From The Past…

Facebook likes to throw these little “See Your Memories” things onto your news page. They can be fun…like all those memories of past road trips…or they can be achingly bad…like the bleeding painful posts I left when Claudia got run over.  This one came up a few days ago…

first-disney

 

A certain someone who works there, whose nickname I will not speak (Hi!), had urged me to come down after I told him I wasn’t much interested in theme parks. We were having one of our hour+ long phone conversations. I was all about the road trip I told him. Just the year previously I’d written in a blog post “My favorite form of vacation is to just throw my maps and my cameras and my luggage in the car and just drive. I love taking long cross-country road trips.” “Come on man,” he said, “it’s your heritage. Baseball, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse. What’s wrong with you?”

So it was that 7 years ago I checked in to Walt Disney World for the very first time. I wanted to see him again after all those years, but I was also very intensely curious about this second of the great Walt Disney theme parks Walt Disney created, or at least envisioned before cigarettes killed him: what eventually came to be was not the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that he’d imagined.

Even so, it is huge…absolutely huge.  I was feeling overwhelmed the moment I drove through those Mickey Mouse gates. But I’d done my research, and bought tickets with the park hopper option so I could wander around like I knew I was going to want to. Several years later while at a private Gay Days party at Typhoon Lagoon I discovered how much fun the water parks are. I’ve had the deluxe annual pass ever since. Then three years ago I rented someone’s DVC points and stayed at Boardwalk and before that vacation was even over I’d joined DVC.

And so it was, and so it is. I’m old enough to remember watching Wonderful World of Color when Walt Disney was still alive, and the moment I walked into Epcot it all came back to me, and I’ve been returning every year since. For a while back in March (Hi Thomas!) I figured my stays there were at an end. But A Certain Someone was right after all…it is my heritage. And more than that…it’s my reminder of that future I looked toward back when I was a kid. I’d forgotten how much of that was crafted by Walt Disney. I’d forgotten how much of a Disney kid I really was.  He had one foot in Main Street USA and the other in Tomorrowland. People forget that about him. In a time when one of our two major parties turns itself into the party of white supremacy, threaten the foundations of the republic, and a Donald Trump can be in reach of sitting in the oval office with the nuclear button close by, I really need that reminder of the human status. 

 

 

I have a job now helping to build that future. And Reckon I will probably keep making the trip to Walt’s World for as long as I can.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Magical Stabs From The Past…

September 7th, 2016

Go Ahead And Stare Back Into Me…I Don’t Care…

Maybe the good in the world doesn’t outweigh the bad after all. But it’s still the good. It’s still worth believing in, still worth living for.

Maybe even more so.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Go Ahead And Stare Back Into Me…I Don’t Care…

August 11th, 2016

Morals

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

trump-loving-christians

Since the late 1970s, conservative Christian leaders have claimed their political engagement is about morality. They have claimed it is about character. They have claimed it is about values. They have claimed it is about biblical principles. Pious preachers, thunderous televangelists, and moralizing activists have sold America a bill of goods about their pure motivation for decades. But evidence indicates that evangelical political engagement is really about cultural influence, social dominance, and power.

Full article Here.

I was raised in a Baptist household. A Yankee Baptist household, as opposed to a Southern Baptist, but let’s not go into that now. The backstory is my dad was…not the best of examples for a young boy and the elders of mom’s side decided that the best thing for his spawn was that he go into the ministry for the sake of the stain on his immortal soul. And also possibly, as a rebuke to the father. Well, it didn’t take. Most of it. But something of the pulpit thumping fire and brimestone tent revivals I attended did. H.L. Mencken once said “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” But for me it’s step up to the pulpit, spit on my hands, wave the Good Book high and start pounding and sweating.

In the USENET days I argued against the bigots from what I regarded as the moral high ground. Once as I began a sermon, one of them shot back at me that I really, Really didn’t want to get into an argument about morality and homosexuality. I told him that was exactly what I wanted. Then I cleaned his clock. Because: what Jonathan Merritt says here. It was all just a fake. A fraud. A pose to sucker in the rubes. To reassure themselves they weren’t just a bunch of bar stool bigots. We are decent moral people who object to your imposing your sinful lifestyle on the rest of us. But no…Al Capon had more moral scruples than any of them ever did.

If I could say just one thing to my people it would be this and I’m stealing now from a certain author who I also despise, but had a few good lines: Reason and morality are the only tools that can deliver us to that better tomorrow. And now we see, in their wholesale support of Trump, finally, unambiguously, that the right has dropped them. Because ultimately their claim to them was false: They were unwilling to pay the price, to walk the walk not just talk the talk. So they just swiped them out from under the rest of us. And we, to the extent we bear any blame at all, let them convince us that reason, and especially morality, were against us. We were unbiblical, unnatural, immoral sexual outlaws. Our sexuality was irrational, a defiance of the natural order, perverted and degenerate. Reason and morality said so. They said. And we listened. But listen to them now. Listen to them venerate Trump.

Reason and morality. They say that men do not change, the reveal themselves. And so they have. Reason and morality. They were the ones who had no right to bear those things.

Pick them up: you do.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Morals

March 19th, 2016

Love Them…Even If They’re Not Loving You Back Right At This Moment…

I looked out my bedroom window this morning to see a beat up car parked in the alley behind the house with a pressure washer hanging out of the trunk. The car looked abandoned so I went to check. Two older men were in the alley further up and the younger of the two (he looked to be in his forties) was cursing up a storm. These two and several others were working on a neighbor’s house further up the alley. She’s doing a big home remodeling job and these were her contractors.

Okay…fine…the car isn’t an abandoned junker, it’s just some guys doing work on one of the houses here. As I walk back to my backyard the younger guy follows me a short distance away, still cursing up a storm. He’s angry at the older man, who is apparently his father. So this is a father-son home improvement team. There seems to be discord in the company.

So he’s following me back to what I assume is his car, all the while complaining that dad doesn’t know crap, dad isn’t treating him right, dad never takes his side in an argument. Dad is old and cranky and set in his ways, he says to nobody in particular, and he doesn’t know crap and he never takes my side. I’m his son, he’s supposed to take my side every time.

Yes…he really says that. No, he’s not some entitled youngster he’s a middle aged guy and from the look of him life has been a long stretch of bad road. You would think by now he knows it doesn’t always work that way. I get back to my backyard gate and he looks at me and says, “Right? That’s how it’s suppose to work…right?”

And I look him in the eye and say, “My dad died robbing a bank.”

And immediately his tone changes. Hey I’m sorry mister…yeah we’ve had bad times too. Well maybe dad isn’t so bad after all, even if he is old and cranky and set in his ways. We part amicably, I wish him well.

Love your dad, even if he is old and cranky and set in his ways. You never know how its going to end.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Love Them…Even If They’re Not Loving You Back Right At This Moment…

January 6th, 2016

Some Days You Really Miss Rod Serling…(continued)

I think now my little Twilight Zone fantasy can be better. As I wrote it the other day it’s kinda obvious. What it needs is more of that humanity Serling and the writers he brought on board back in the day gave it. (and yes, I’ve been tweaking it ever since I put it up, but I think now I’ll just stop…). I think now that a better progression through the events of history would be if the men around Fearless Leader gradually began to see how wrong it was for them to appropriate the history of those events for themselves, and the tragedy of those who actually did come face to face with tyrannical state power, and as each change of scenery happens more and more of them begin to question what it was they were there to protest in the first place, and turn to the people they suddenly find themselves with and…apologize for comparing themselves to them.

And as they do this, fewer and fewer of them pass on to the next scene in history until the only one left is Fearless Leader, who never learns the lesson.

And maybe the last scene isn’t Tienanmen Square and instead of Sand Creek it’s that wildlife preserve but during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s and Fearless has been dropped in the middle of a roundup of the Indians who once lived there but were force marched out so the white land owners could move in. With the Union Soldiers is one of the old Land Barons mentioned at the beginning of the episode but he has his father’s face and he tells Fearless that they have to get off His land and Fearless says (not really getting that he looks like all the other Indians to this man) wait…not me…it’s our land…at which Land Baron shoots him…or the soldiers drag him off…and we get the closing narration…

standoff land history

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Days You Really Miss Rod Serling…(continued)

January 5th, 2016

Some Days You Really Miss Rod Serling

This came across my Facebook stream, in relation to the militia kooks occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon…

twilight zone oregon federal building standoff-sm

In case you haven’t read by now, the militia heros that declared themselves ready to occupy the cottage at the preserve by force of arms for years if necessary until the government ceded the land to them…didn’t bring with them any food…

19492266-standard

Internet ridicule has swiftly followed…

send snacks

Somewhere else I read they were also asking for socks.

This is all very good snark material, but that picture of Rod Serling got me to thinking about what he’d have possibly made of all this. The Twilight Zone wasn’t merely comic book weird tales and amazing stories. Within its otherworldly take, Serling took on the social, moral and political issues of his time, and because his stories were so good as to be timeless, ours as well. The more you watch those old black & white episodes, the more you appreciate what he managed to accomplish in the Hollywood system, and the more you miss him. If TV was a vast wasteland back then, it’s a toxic landfill now.

You can imagine it opening with the militia, (which Twitter quickly dubbed Y’all Qaeda) talking to reporters from the front door of the cottage. Perhaps the local sheriff steps forward to beg them to leave peacefully before anyone gets hurt. The townsfolk don’t want you here, we’re a peaceful law abiding community, the men you’re defending were found guilty of setting fires on public land by a jury of their peers. They could have killed those firemen and rangers. Please…just go…before anyone gets hurt. And the militia spokesman with the cameras rolling (this is late 1950s TV) just recites his boilerplate about freedom, tyranny and the lawless federal government taking our land and persecuting the ranchers. Waving his rifle in the air he says he and his men will occupy the land for as long as it takes and like the patriots who fought for America they too are willing to die for their cause if it comes to it. 

…at which point the camera might pan over to Rod Serling, who might say something along the lines of…

Meet [name of militia leader], American patriot, who with his men has just invaded a small wildlife sanctuary in a remote part of Oregon to defend freedom from the scarecrows contained within pamphlets and newspapers printed by extremist madmen. But tonight those scarecrows will step off the printed page and accept his challenge, because what he and his men don’t yet realize is the land they have occupied…is in the Twilight Zone.

The camera backs away from the militia news conference, and begins to pan over a gathered small crowd watching the proceedings. We hear the militia man arguing with the sheriff in the background, while various townsfolk express their opinion that they should leave before someone gets hurt. Others that they have a point, the federal government doesn’t seem to listen to the people anymore. Someone says they’d listen if more of us voted. Somebody else whispers that they’re not fighting for the ranchers, they’re fighting for the old land barons who owned everything here including the water, before the government cut them down to size. 

The camera comes back to the scene in front of the cottage. The sheriff warns the militiaman that the longer they stay the more likely someone will get hurt. The man repeats his claim that they are willing to die in the fight against tyranny.

The scene changes to night. The camera pans from armed watchmen outside to the interior of the house, where we see these guys are just playing soldier. They brought plenty of ammunition but nobody figured on food and the water to the cottage had been turned off for the winter. There is some argument about what to do next, but the leader is still in control. Unfortunately, he’s just a schoolyard bully in a grownup body. He has neither military experience nor common sense. They bed down for the night.

Then they wake up to find themselves in a Jewish ghetto surrounded by SS men. They have some weapons, but now there is a military force arrayed around them, not a small town sheriff and a few men.  Now we see what they’re really made of and none of them are even close to soldier material, nor martyr either: they’re cowards and it shows right away, first in the leader, who like all bullies collapses into a self pitying heap when confronted with anyone bigger and stronger. His men quickly follow. The Jews in the room with them look on in disgust. The soldiers outside begin firing.

They all die. Then they wake up again in teepees at Sand Creek surrounded by soldiers. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Then they wake up again and they’re in a southern black church during the civil rights days surrounded by a lynch mob led by the local sheriff. Again the cowardly behavior. Again the looks of disgust from the people in the church.

Then they wake up in a small house in ancient Rome, there is a makeshift cross on the wall…Roman centurions are outside. The men rend their togas and try to wave white surrender flags out the windows while the Christians inside look on in disgust. The centurions  break down the door, charge inside with their short Roman swords…

…and they wake up in Tiananmen Square…

…at which point the camera pans over to Rod Serling, who might look into the camera and say something along the lines of…

Every tyrant is a thief and every thief a potential tyrant, and the items of value for their taking are more than simply money and land, but also culture, history, and valor. These things, intangible though they are, contain the sum of all wealth and human nobility that ever was and will ever be, and while they may be stolen and worn for a time, they can only be lived by the those who have earned them. A word of warning to anyone who would cast themselves in the role of martyr in the defense of liberty: you might just get an audition…in the Twilight Zone…

Of course, Rod Serling would write a better story and better words to speak to the camera than I could ever put in his mouth. But a kid who grew up in the black & white TV days can still imagine what it would have been like.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Days You Really Miss Rod Serling

December 24th, 2015

Age And Wisdom

Regards Kentucky’s new governor, that quote of H.L Mencken’s about democracy being based on the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard kept coming back to mind. Whilst looking it up I stumbled upon this one…

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
-H. L. Mencken

Yeah. About that. There’s this beautiful quote of Issac Newton…that I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. The wisdom there is this: that even if you take care to walk though your life with your eyes open and your mind curious, you will still only see what was there for you to see. And that portion is very small.

Don Juan (I’m showing my generational age group now) said that the second foe was Clarity, and that to defeat it you had to keep in mind that your knowledge was merely a light in the path before you, and you do not see what is on either side of that path. Jacob Bronowski said that all knowledge is bound within an area of uncertainty and we must treat what we know with humility. As people get older, myself included, they tend to put great stock in their accumulated life experiences. But you have to be careful. Yes, it was real. But it was only the smoother pebbles and prettier shells you found. There was a greater ocean around you that you will never know.

That doesn’t mean your life experiences are worthless. It was real. It was wonderful. But you need to keep in mind that it was only a part of the whole. And that greater part is huge. Infinite practically. You learned a lot. Treasure it. Pass it on. But remember: the ocean remains.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Age And Wisdom

September 24th, 2015

Notes On Atheism

Despite his stance on same-sex marriage, and the sacredness and dignity of same-sex love and romance and sex, I’m finding myself just thoroughly touched and uplifted by this Pope. Today he had company with the homeless of Washington D.C., rather than dinned with the city power elite. And he told them that “The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person.” Whether or not you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was god incarnate is beside the point. Those people surely needed food for the soul as much as their bodies. For a moment they would have felt loved, and Valued.

I’ve written here often about a passage from the biography of Mary Renault, who gave me a vision when I was a teenager of that sacredness of same-sex love that I so badly needed. In it her biographer quotes her as saying that politics like sex was a reflection of the person within, and if you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and in your politics when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that. To that I would only add religion. If you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your religious beliefs and your spirituality when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that.

That includes atheism. The stereotype of atheists like myself is we’re arrogant, uncaring, selfish. But it’s the inner person that matters, not the clothing of their politics or religion. They say without religion there can be no morality. Atheists reply that religion has been responsible for some of the cruelest, bloodiest passages in the history books. But it’s the person. It is always the person. Everything else is detail. I am an atheist because belief simply stopped making sense to me. Love, kindness, trustworthiness, lending a helping hand when you can…these things have always made sense. I could sit here and type out rationalizations for why, and maybe you could type out some theology to prove my rationalizations are just empty hand waving, and then I could say the same about your theology. It’s all just reflex. What matters is the heart.

I could wish this pope could see the people for the homosexuals. But unlike Ratzinger, I can’t imaging him ever excusing violence toward us. Or anyone. His religion is his logical frame of reference. But the heart within is a noble one. When he made company with the homeless of the nation’s capital, he preached to both them, and to the high places. It was stunning.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Notes On Atheism

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