The Storm Above Lady Liberty

Presently, America rests upon the cliff’s edge of political supremacy.  As Democratic doctrine and Republican dogma vie for influence over a national melting pot, distraught citizens fret over an uncertain future.  But how did we get here?

At its inception, American offered a promise – the new nation would have pre-ordained rights and divest itself of monarchical rule.  In the Federalist and Anti-federalist papers, Madison and Hamilton posed arguments about the proper role of a centralized government.  The Founding Fathers established an institution balancing the power of government with its citizens’ demand for Independence. In hopes of an opportunity to better their lives, immigrants poured in from across the globe.  Meanwhile, political parties promised assistance to new voters in the form of government programs or tax breaks, all the while swelling and shrinking the government ledgers.  Presumably, the population learned lessons about effectively governing their own nation.

On the international front, as America’s capitalistic economy gained veneration, fascism, socialism and communism fell into economic disrepair.  America became a destination for entrepreneurism and a bastion of freedom.  With Lady Liberty lighting the way, the masses came, emboldened by America’s promise, but steeped in the traditions and cultures of their homelands.  Over time, American idealism turned into something sludgier.  People brought their beliefs with them, and slowly America’s temptation of freedom turned into a less-free sentimentalism.  Immigrants arrived in America’s airports and crossed her borders believing in the American dream, and then worked to remake her dream into their own vision.  The consequence was an America that looked very different than what the Founding Fathers devised.

Today we have reached a point of ideological equilibrium.  Half the nation is now a government-dependent population, and the other half is a population of independent citizens.  But the questions remain.  In a sympathetic society, what is the proper balance between individual responsibility and government intervention? Programs like Welfare, Social Security, and Health Care all create a culture of dependence.  Obviously we cannot let Americans fall by the wayside, but too, we cannot continue to take from those well-off to pay for the those not as well-off, without jeopardizing something sacred to this nation.

The idea that government will provide for its citizens is a double-edged Damoclean sword that protects the poor, but also, subjugates their will.

Individual independence though, also wields a sharp blade.

Empowering ideas- about holding a job and supporting oneself, or one’s family, about utilizing one’s inherent gifts to manifest a life – fail before a populace which lets it’s brethren suffer the horrors of poverty, and poor health and deficient educational systems.

I don’t have all the answers here, but this election seems to see this nation pivoting toward something.  Will we remain the world’s lone bastion of individual freedom that can find a way to offer everyone an equal shot at something greater, or will we turn toward the model of older and more experienced nations that suggest government should serve as the caretaker of its citizens?  I guess the real choice is whether you believe in America’s people, or the men and women who represent them.

When it comes to candidates, I always ask the following question: When there is a discrepancy between your personal principles, and what your constituency wants, will you abandon your principles and vote with your constituency, or will you abandon your constituency and vote your personal principles.

In my opinion, the answer explains their belief about the role of a representative.  I am tired of corrupt bureaucrats staking their claim to be leaders.  In a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, it’s time we had someone representing the people.

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By ccxander

Freaks!

An American visits a cemetery and notices an Asian gent placing a bowl of fruit on a grave.  “When do you think your friend will be eating that fruit?” he asked.  “About the same time that yours will be smelling those flowers,” the other man replied.

This story clarifies a point about the ethnocentricity of cultural biases.  The way we do things makes sense to us, but not necessarily to others.

I did a little research on body language today.  I guess the post World-Series ritual of bear hugging and jumping up and down, like third-graders hopped up on too much Yoo-Hoo, sort of made me curious.  Plus, I recently returned from Italy and, just trying to get street directions, I spent more time bobbing and weaving than Manny Pacquiao.  Not to mention the living in LA thing, where middle fingers rise as often as Hollywood-producer erections.

See, I was always taught to express myself with words, so the idea of translating a thought with a gesture, just didn’t inspire confidence.  But now, having studied the topic a bit, I realize how intimidating this hyper-gesticulation thing can truly be.

Indians move their heads in ways that say “yes” and “no” at the same time, and messing this one up can get you a taxi ride, shot at, or laid – so gaffing here could have serious consequences.

In Iran, thumbs up means “Up Yours,” which, at present moment, means you’re either about to have your head cut off or to feel something nuclear headed your way.

In Brazil and Turkey, the “okay” sign is obscene, so when you signal your approval of a recent wax job or morning brew, don’t be surprised when Lucia or Yağız kicks your ass.

In Greece, putting up a “talk to the hand” sign is called a “moutza” and will get you chased from the nation.  Same goes for Korea and Pakistan, so I’d suggest putting your hand in your pockets there – by the way, hands in the pockets in the US means you have something to hide or you’re a sexual deviant, so cheers!

Did you know, in Britain, the phrase “I’m stuffed” means “I just had sex.”    I’m horrified no one told me that before I ate at the buffet.  All I know is there are gonna be some curious Brits when they hear what I have planned for the Thanksgiving turkey this year.

OK, to my point.  There are a lot of cultural idiosyncrasies that can annoy you – people slurping their food and closing in on your personal space and talking loudly enough to be heard three nations away.  But maybe we shouldn’t judge them so venomously.  After all, our open-armed hugs and aversion to toplessness and uncomfortableness around swordplay, probably seem just as curious to the greater world.

 

I’m just saying we could all be a little more accommodating about this stuff.  After all, how boring would life be if everyone was the same!

By ccxander

New word of the Day: Smelderly (def) old person odor

Did that 8:00 a.m. Apple thing today, the one where you slow-walk in, with your protective helmet and the lower lip drool, and try to articulate that something is wrong with your RAM or Gigabyte or Hard Drive, and the “four-year-old-girl-genius” behind the slate counter starts giggling at you with the same amount of empathy old people get in freeway fast lanes. She puppy-dog tilted her pierced face at me, reached out a tattooed arm, pressed the on-switch, tapped keys the way hyperactive kids play Whack-A-Mole, and then handed it back to me and said “it’s fixed,”  before I could even tell her the damn problem!

The point is, I had a little extra observation time on this uneventful Saturday morning at the shopping mall.  Perhaps it’s my ignorance, but I was un-aware malls serve the dual purpose of economic consumption and senior citizen track workouts. As I hoisted and tilted my morning cocoa bean addiction, I was suddenly in the midst of a particularly aggressive AARP stampede.

To my left, a grey-haired gent wearing a low cut sweater and sporting the sort of scrunched neck that disappoints vampires and suggests one of his parents may have been a Pez dispenser, blew by me.  I could actually smell the mothballs in his wake.  Four seconds later, I heard the scuffing waddle of a blue-haired woman whose hips shouted lifetime of secretarial work.  She’d worked herself into a stunning emphysemic wheeze as she hurtled down Level One on her way to what one can only imagine was a post-workout Denny’s breakfast.  I thought, “Oh, how sweet, an old couple racing.”  Apparently, however, this is the status quo for weekend mornings.

Over the next fifteen minutes, I witnessed what your average thinking man might assume is a Senior Olympics training ground (Viagra,Testosterone and Estrogen jokes withheld due to serious lack of blogspace).  Sketchers-wearing women emerged blowing white baby powder from their skeletal walker frames, their mouths lubricated by things caramelly and butterscotch.   Patient nurses guided arthritic arms and palsied limbs through step after wobbly step.  With rear ends sagging inside long white pants, scaly, crocodile-ish men limped along the floor trying to ignore the instinctive pull of eyes-to-ass, for fear of offending the young department store working women whose current state did not yet include Depends garments.  If you listened close, you could almost perceive the hearing aids’ whine.

I’m pretty certain I should be happy about this seemingly inconspicuous gathering of old people.  After all, they are getting exercise in a safe place and probably stimulating the economy with their mid-workout caffeine needs and frequent restroom-disposables requirements.  But there’s just something a little scary here –  sweaty old men and women with aggressive grimaces, awkwardly enhanced by loose dentures,  bearing down on innocent mall patrons – and I find it intimidating.

I hear there’s a thing called the Geek Squad – people who come to your house and fix your  technology.  They say the kids are old enough to drive and they don’t laugh at you when you ask questions like “So what’s the difference between an iPad and a laptop?”  More importantly, they don’t come surrounded by angry herds of regenerative elderly people who suck oxygen from aluminum tanks on their way to Gold Medals or hospitals.

Perhaps it’s a rumor.  Perhaps I’ll have to spend the next thirty years navigating this labyrinth of aged humanity.  Whatever the end holds for me, if you ever see me jogging through malls with a vacant Alzheimers-ish stare and a potent garlic smell, please….tackle me and bring me home.

By ccxander

New word of the day: Empatheater (def) the staging of human compassion

Something bad happens – car accident, illness, anxiety-producing incident. You endure post-experience psychological trauma and then re-enter society with the sort of feeling a beach ball has when pressed under water.  Your friends, in humanity’s quest for empathy, surround you with compassion and love, offering supportive remarks and sympathetic hugs.

They bring oddly-shaped sugary foods and post awkward Facebook comments and say things like they are “there for you” and “here if you need anything” and “just a phone call away.”  They “drop by” because they were in the neighborhood and “check-in” just to see if you need anything.  Their voice attains an aged shake about it, as if the onset of Parkinson’s is hitting the vocal chords.  They develop abrasive foot bounces and tilt their heads with the cultural deference we all assume in foreign cultures.  They end conversations with elongated “Sooooo’s” and promise to come back tomorrow.  It is the human method of comforting another member of mankind.  These are socially acceptable customs.

But then too, there is this.  Some of us don’t want to hear your…. NO, WAIT, let me try that again, with a little more compassion.  When we are stuck in a state of sadness, when suffering or misery attaches to us like a gay man’s lisp, when the morning’s sludgy mind and lingering silence continue into the waning hours of sunlight, we do not need you piling it on like it’s some Thanksgiving turkey plate.  I understand that you’ll feel better commiserating by telling your saddest and most parallel story.  I appreciate that you think I will feel better if you illustrate that you, too, have issues and that my misery does not reside in solitude.  I identify with your desire to empathize by surrounding me with as much depression as possible until I’m so thoroughly disgusted with the emotion that I’ll leap from the two-option precipice and into the vat of happiness just to avoid the overwhelming sense of despair.

But there might be a better solution here.  Perhaps you can be a beacon of joy, a spotlight to the world of optimism.

Rather than shrouding me in the cloak of despair, liberate me with wings of bliss.  When I’m down, don’t join me in the hopes that I’ll find companionship, lift me in the hopes that I’ll learn to soar in solitude.  Alas, perhaps that would go against our nature, but one can always hope…but then, that’s kinda the point isn’t it.

 

 

By ccxander

STUDYING IN THE SCHOOL OF LIFE

I’ve pushed four decades from the ice sheet of my life, and in that time, developed some theories on adolescence.  Better put, there are things people should have told me when I was younger – don’t talk politics or religion with friends, everyone is bitterly fighting to overcome their own personal sadness so they can find a moment of happiness, getting laid young builds self-confidence – the important things.  Depending on the parentals to provide a complete education, is sort of like asking Michael Phelps to teach your kid how to use floaties – sure Phelps has the experience, but the poor little guy isn’t ready for all of that knowledge.

Someone should write a book, an honest claim to adulthood’s lessons.  Yea, yea, I know that’s the type of philosophical discourse we get when we’re on the tail end of our college debauchery and heading out into the “real world. ”  Presumed life-theologians spout clichés about hard work and discipline and enjoying life to the fullest—stop and smell the roses but watch out for bees and what not – and all the other bullshitty stuff that you intuitively know but are sick of hearing from every authoritative figure you’ve ever met.  Commencement speeches suck! Except for this one…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/20/fiction

No, I’m talking the genuine stuff, the wisdom of the aged and experienced, things that come to light after one hits the bottom of a liquor bottle or loses a child or builds a billion dollar business only to find out his/her spouse was fucking the pool boy/girl and spending the rest of the day in discreet rehabilitative therapy.

Now armed with two scores of life, I often wonder what I would tell my fourteen year-old self.  Probably things like:

The system is built backwards.

You will spend most of your energetic years working your tail off so you can spend your non-energetic years seeking adventure.  Don’t do that.  Wander in your youth, explore cultures and peoples, and stop chasing paper Presidents.

Don’t fake it. 

You will spend a great part of your life appeasing other people’s wishes.  Your parents will want the best for you but you shouldn’t compromise your inner desires and put on a front for your entire childhood in hopes of meeting their goals.  You will hear the phrase “make a good first impression,” but don’t buy into it, because the first impression you make should be genuine – good or bad – because if you are false, YOU are going to spend the remaining part of your life dealing with people who have formulated their opinion of you based on a deceit.  And don’t fake it with yourself, because you will face many moments in life where you feel that gut check, the cliff’s edge of your own personal principles and needs, and you will feel incredible pressure to defer to society’s desires.

Religion and politics access the limbic system.

Although few people spend time on the profound, many dip into the pools of politics and religion with the sort of open-blistered toes that cause screaming and ranting.  They form strong opinions on matters and, even though logic may dictate otherwise, will push the argument from an emotional standpoint.  Oftentimes, wars result.  If you are going to discuss these matters, maintain a soft voice and spend more time listening than talking.  Oh, and the whole notion that freedom of religion has become a political hot-button makes about as much sense as Dr. Seuss writing porn.

Life is hard.

Except, perhaps, as an aside from some over-tanned crocodile who wears cardigans and smells like feet,  no one ever tells you that life is hard.  There are broken promises and people who will hurt you for no reason and shopping carts that pull to the left and drivers who won’t turn right.  There are tests and things that will put you in bad moods and televised crimes and senseless murders and babies that won’t stop crying and nervous moments before important speeches.  There is guilt about being late and athletic losses and tax audits and overpriced dinners and bank fees.  Friends will cheat and lie and display un-paralleled greed and launch into magnificent tirades over something as insignificant as too much milk in a just-purchased coffee. With a chin held high and a positive spirit, you will have to navigate this daily wretchedness, and it will erode your optimism the way Blow Pops disappear, until you are left with that uncertain gummy feeling of a chewed up life.

There are seven billion personalities in the world and some won’t like you.

Chances are pretty good you are going to serve as someone’s freezer burn. It’s ok.  Let it be.  There is no reason to spend time trying to earn the respect or appreciation from someone who has not expressed interest in you.  Drop the ego.  The pond is large enough such that you’ll never meet again.  Go find another fish. But for God’s sake, put some deodorant on.

 People are the same.

You’ll hear it in simple clichés like “He puts his pants on one leg at a time,” but there’s more to the story.  People have basic drives, genetically wired as it were, as though Darwin knew he couldn’t depend on our intellectual wherewithal.  Regardless of race, or color, or gender, or maladies, we’ll protect children, and want to smile, and feel sad when preyed upon, and have childhoods and histories full of pain and suffering.  We’ll want to tell our stories to people and we’ll feel shame and embarrassment when we mess up.  In spite of our cultural differences, in spite of our prejudices and ethnocentric ways, at our cores, if you can just find a way to wade through mankind’s external characteristics, you will find humanity’s humanity.  Only then can you truly know people.

I know there’s a lot more to tell and perhaps some of you will post your own comments to enlighten us all.  As for me, I’m off to sleep, hoping I can dream about that educated fourteen-year old who goes through life a little easier next time.

By ccxander

Rep. Resent

Back in 1789, the first Congressmen were soldiers, planters, farmers, merchants, lawyers and teachers.  They left their homes on horseback and journeyed forth to represent the concerns of their districts.  Their interests lie in forging greater prosperity and protections for their people back home and their charge was considered an honor.  Today we have honor amongst thieves.  It seems every week we read about corruption or waste or inappropriate contributions/deal making, and no one beneath the dome is willing to call foul for fear of being revealed.

Too often there are conflicts between what the people want and what (as he/she perceives it) is in the representative’s best interests.  Today, we’ve reached a point where the goal of representation has transformed into the goal of re-election.  Imagine the following scenario:

My constituents ask me to write a request for a $600 million government loan to subsidize a new factory dedicated to US manufacturing, a factory that will create jobs and future opportunities for college graduates.  As I am constructing the bill, a neighboring Congressman wanders over and asks me for my support of his $74 billion dollar defense project, one which will employ thousands in his district and guarantee him the next election. He is willing to offer me co-sponsorship of his bill and will have his campaign kick down some serious dollars toward my re-election in exchange for my support.  The caveat: He needs me to forego the $600 million for my district so he can use those funds for his project.  At the cost of more jobs for my district and the cost of my constituents’ livelihood, I give up my project to ensure my re-election.  When campaign season rolls around, I’m going to puff out my chest and brag about working with my fellow colleagues and how my support has helped employ thousands of Americans, laughing all the while as my campaign coffers fill with checks from special interest groups.

The arrogance of power has destroyed the dream of the Founding Fathers.  Did you know, that in order to maintain their anonymity, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton used the pseudonym Publius to sign the Federalist papers.  Imagine: politicians sacrificing publicity for the public benefit.  It’s almost unthinkable today.

Seems to me, the biggest problem in Washington is the politicians’ belief that they not representatives, but leaders.  They will abandon their constituents in favor of their own personal principles, and thus become slaves to external forces like lobbyists or corporations or private donors.  What we really need are some people who understand that the role of representatives is representation.

 Rep·re·sent·a·tive

noun

1.a person or thing that represents another or others.

2. a person who represents  a constituency or community in a legislative body, especially a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or a lower house in certain state legislatures.

adjective

3.serving to represent; representing.

See anything about self-interest in there? Read anything about protecting one’s professional role when it conflicts with one’s representative responsibilities?  In my opinion, the role of a representative is to educate his/her constituents, to offer point and counterpoint and argue the merits of the positions, and finally, to listen and respect the voice of the people who put him/her in office.  The sad reality is that our representatives believe the public was smart enough to elect them into office, but not smart enough to make decisions for itself.  To me, the solution is simple: If they can’t respect the voice of the people they represent, then they are not entitled to represent us.  Perhaps it is time for a new generation of Congressional folks, ones who will do their job.  Alas, 18 days will tell the story.

By ccxander