Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It

You know what’s funny about religious folk who believe in Satan as a literal being? They’re always looking at bad shit in the world and their lives from the vantage point of Satan attempting to usurp them in some way or the other. ‘Satan is tempting me’, ‘Satan is behind this global catastrophe that has savaged the established order of things’. What was Satan’s biggest sin supposed to be? Wasn’t it Pride? What is more proud or presumptuous than assuming that you were born into a system signed off on by God and any attack against that system comes from the adversary? Allow yourself to consider this: what if Satan took over a long time before you were born and established his own status quo, and taught all of the entities you received instruction from as you grew up—parents, religion, culture, government—to teach you to see them as the holy truth? What if the bad shit you ascribe to satanic action in the world is really just the resistance against the world Satan has created? To assume that your original orientation is representative of the truth is supremely arrogant.

He Never Laid a Hand On Me

The fact that I, a relatively thoughtful, progressive minded 37 year old man just realized how deeply messed up the following observation is, raises a completely different set of questions for me to reckon with.

But, it just occurred to me how terrible it is that when women of prior generations (our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc.) would reflect on their marriages after their partner had passed, or were just in a stock-taking kind of mood, it would be very common to hear the following assessments levied in a tone of gratitude:

“He never laid a hand on me”

Or

“He came home every night”

Or

“He was a hard-working man”

What an incredibly low bar husbands throughout history have had to jump over. Regarding the first one, since when do we get praise for not being an abusive piece of shit? This bit of praise is an indication of the degraded state women in our country have had to accept for themselves; expressing joy that the man who owned them chose not to hit them. A subtle implication is also that he chose not to hit her,but he would have been fully in his rights to do so.

There is also an indictment of man as a gender in this praise: it is the suggestion that man is inclined towards violence. It’s like saying, ‘I swam through the shark tank and the shark didn’t even take a bite!’

For anyone who likes to extol the virtues of manliness, this should be offensive to you.

On the second one, it seems to suggest he was faithful, but that’s not really what it’s saying. ‘He came home’ means that whatever else may have been going on outside of the home, at least at the end of the day he comes back. I am the one who gets to wash his underwear.

The final one is often left for men who had no other redeeming qualities. He worked hard, it drained the soul from him, he was an empty husk at home, had no joy, was unrelatable to his wife and children and the changing world around him, but at least the electric was kept on.

This makes me sad, and makes me realize that we—as a society—are not even close to out of the woods when it comes to equality and progress. The wounded, fearful men of our country—predominantly white and undereducated—and  their obedient, wounded wives, just elected as president a heaving postule of toxic masculinity, fearful chest-beating, and regressive ideology. This vote is a cry for help to some extent; the mewing of a wounded animal. As much as their pain has been inflicted upon them by their fathers, they have retained a striking obedience to authority and empty symbolism. The personal pain they will not look at is transformed into fear of the other, and antipathy towards the government, Hollywood, liberal elites, etc: those who would dare suggest to them ‘a better way to live’.

‘No thank you’, the Trump voter says. ‘I’ve made it this far without any guidance. I’ll pass on yours’.

This is why they are so triggered by the concept of safe spaces. This is why they are bothered by minorities being given equal rights and voice: where was their safe space growing up in this absurd patriarchy? Where was their voice and rights when dad would come home drunk

But, they might say, ‘At least he came home’.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Frieda and Josephine

I have 2 cats.
Frieda came first,
I drove for hours
To pick her up
After seeing a posting
On Craigslist
Because she looked
Like my previous cat
Stevesie—
My favorite cat ever—
All grey with a white belly,
Who was a perfect Buddha
Of a cat, very loving
And calm,
But died suddenly and young,
And not long after the end
Of my marriage,
Tearing another small hole
In my heart,
But it was one hole too many.
Frieda was not like Stevesie.
She had no chill.
She was all energy and
Playful biting and clawing.
I accepted the appropriateness
Of this: an attempt to make
One living being
A replacement for another
Always turns against both of you.
Later, feeling Frieda needed a friend,
I went back to craigslist
And found the cat who would become
Josephine. Another kitten. A calico.
I picked her up and took her home,
And she hid for the first month
In the couch, which she accessed through a slit
That Frieda had put in the back of it
During one of her playful kitten rampages.
I coaxed Josephine out eventually.
There was a brief power struggle between
The two cats. Frieda quickly established dominance,
And there was peace in the house.
Frieda has a wanderlust though. Ever since
She was a kitten, she would arbitrarily run
Out of an open door, jump out of an open window,
Or—in one extreme case—claw through
A window screen.
Just to get out, just to explore the neighborhood,
Probably also to honor that distinctly animal
Instinct to get laid.
At first we would freak out when she left,
But she would always come back.
Eventually we learned to respect her strong will,
And let her out when she wanted out,
Not worry too much while she was gone,
And greet her like a traveling friend when she returned.
Awhile after the ecosystem in our house had been
Established, Frieda left for an extended period.
While she was gone, Josephine doubled in size.
When she came back, she was scrawny,
And Josephine chased her under the bed,
And would growl at her whenever she came out.
Frieda stayed under the bed. She would urinate under there.
I would research the conflict, attempt mediation,
But to no avail.
One day Josephine caught Frieda at the food bowl,
And chased her out of the front door.
And that is where things stand to this day.
Frieda is now an outside cat, and Josephine has
Won the kingdom of our small house.
As I type this on the porch swing outside, I see Frieda
Sunning herself in the driveway.
I just filled both her food and water bowls (outside)
And Josephine’s (inside).
I don’t understand animal politics, but I have to reflect
On The battle between these cats.
Yes, Josephine owns the inside, but Frieda owns
The outside, and—most importantly—herself.
This kind of freedom may put a cap on life expectancy,
But looking at her now, in the sun, stretching grandly,
I have to remember that old saying about quality over quantity.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

On Language Barriers

I just heard a woman at Mt. Storm park say a typically beautiful sounding sentence in Spanish, and then immediately translate it for someone on the phone: ‘That means your sister peed in her pants and I’m taking her home.’

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

4th of July, part 2

I expressly remember complaining to my English teacher in 10th grade after having to read 1984 and A Brave New World back-to-back (among however many other dystopian books and short stories) ‘Okay, Jesus! We get it! If we’re not careful we will fall into an authoritarian state! Fuck, can we talk about something else?’ And she smiled knowingly and said something cryptic, and I’ve justified the fact that I had to read all of these shitty, heavy-handed warnings over the years because the population has to be wary...and now we’ve elected a fascist government who joyfully obfuscates the truth to a willfully ignorant and compliant electorate, and all I can think is that maybe banking on English departments in the Midwest defending the concept of democracy all by themselves wasn’t the best bet in the long run. Happy 4th of July!

4th of July

It just occurred to me that posting something critical of the domestic or foreign policy of the U.S. (even a critique of how we treat returning veterans) is frequently met with the rejoinder, ‘Yeah, try to post something like this in another country!’. Which is akin to saying, ‘Yeah, maybe my boyfriend cheats on me constantly and gave me the clap, but at least he never hit me!’. Which is an incredible lowering of the bar.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

On Criticism of Cardi B

 I hate people who dissect Cardi B in ‘think pieces’. It pisses me off to see some pseudo-intellectual mine her entire being for material to support whatever worldview they are pushing, delegating her entire existence to a footnote in their grand philosophy. First of all, Cardi B is 26. Why do we feel entitled to indict her entire being over some mild to non-existent infraction upon our preferred social outlook? I can tell you this: I didn’t know shit when I was 26, and I barely know shit now at 37. Cardi B is a gifted performer with charisma and a compelling personal narrative. Maybe we should hold off for a second? Maybe we shouldn’t expect her to be Howard Zinn at 26? Maybe that’s not what she even wants to be? Jesus, I don’t know. Let the woman breathe!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Social Work

As a case worker, I have intentionally absorbed a very stoic worldview, and rely heavily on a dark/absurd sense of humor to navigate this environment. I care for my clients and work as hard as I can to help them succeed, but the human condition and our society is unpredictable, so I make it a point to stand outside of any given situation, and to focus on celebrating the small successes.

Today a client of mine who has had a lot of anxiety over her situation got matched with housing, and when I showed her the e-mail about her match, she cried with joy. Her whole spirit changed. It was infectious and inspiring, and it cracked my demeanor and made my heart swell. This job can be very hard, but when it’s good it is very good. I’m going to allow myself to enjoy this moment of euphoria.