Sunday, August 21, 2016

Supplies!

The looming specter has arrived.  It's Decision Time.  Choices we make in the coming days will provoke arguments and turn family members against one another.  Our selections will have lasting ramifications.  Debating and bargaining will make you question everything.  As Summer melts into Autumn, we must face our fears and do that which we know must be done.  Election Season?  Fantasy Football draft?  No, Back to School Shopping. 

Why do I dread back to school shopping?  It is pretty simple, really.  I love my kid.  I kinda love shopping.  I do not love shopping WITH my kid.  Grace and I have varied ideas of shopping.  I'm a cheapskate that enters a store focused, with a list, hoping to leave with some bargains.  Grace, having precious little concept of time or money, enters hoping to leave with, well, everything.  When Grace goes shopping her normal inclination is to show as much restraint as Donald Trump without a Teleprompter.  She wants every granola bar/stuffed animal/sparkly sandals/bottle of Gatorade we walk past.  I reel her in reminding her of the difference between needs and wants, while simultaneously now really wanting one of those damn granola bars I just made her put back on the shelf.  Usually, Amanda - Wife, Mother, Master Negotiator- is present to serve as a buffer.  This year, because I'm an idiot, I donned my red, white, and blue leather jumpsuit and Evil Knievel-ed the shit out of back to school shopping while Amanda was out of town.  Grace and I didn't exactly crash at the bottom of the Snake River Canyon, but it was exhausting nonetheless. 

Maybe it was exhausting because we have hit those dog days of summer when parental patience runs thin. Grace and I have done a ton of fun stuff this Summer, but two months of playing cruise director and head counselor at Camp Dad has left me tired, my creativity tapped. 

"Attention Campers- Today's activities include: whatever you come up with.  You'll find the television remote and a box of Ritz crackers in the center of the living room floor.  See you in September!"

Beleaguered, weary from motivating summer reading, traversing highways, and finding sand everywhere, we parents stumble towards the finish line.  Eager for school to start, yet knowing we have this one more task to complete before Day One. 

For our family, school shopping has two parts: uniforms and supplies.  I guess I should be thankful that Grace wears uniforms.  Otherwise, with her indecision and unlimited options, I would never make it out of the clothing store.   Even with fewer choices, there are still sizes, colors, styles and prices to navigate.  Shorts or skirts?  Long sleeve or short?  Light blue or dark?  Even though we I devised a game plan, Grace would happily pick one of each and duplicates for good measure. 

Game Plan?

Damn right, there is a game plan.  How are you going to know what you need if you haven't done a proper prior assessment?  Before heading out, I made Grace try on every piece of uniform from last year to see what is salvageable from first grade.  If an article of clothing wasn't stained or too small we didn't need to replace it.  (Note to self: Make her buy all navy blue so stains don't show.)  I'm not saying I made a chart of all her uniforms, but if you don't go into that store informed you are going to be overmatched.  I don't have all day to wrestle stacks of khaki pants. 

Part Two is where Grace and I really butted heads.  For weeks, every time we walked through Walmart or Target, Grace would beg me to pick out school supplies.  Those giant bins of notebooks in the aisle called to her with a siren song.  She asked to look at back packs in each store we walked through.  And, of course,  you need cute, dangly things to clip to your back pack.  The buying of the supplies truly does irk me.  I don't mind buying sanitizer or tissues for the classroom, but why does Grace need a brand new box of crayons when we have a basket of 643 broken (but usable) ones at home?  Why a specific set of blue folders?  Blue shirts.  Blue folders.  Is she going to school in a mushroom?  Watching Grace select her supplies makes the task more tedious.  She stands contemplating the wall of supplies as if she were examining a work of art in a museum.  Looking over the details of each white board marker as if her life depended on selecting the correct one.  I've seen her make faster selections at a boardwalk arcade prize counter.  (Where I usually pray we have enough tickets to purchase a recliner in which I can relax while she leisurely spends her remaining tickets.)  Each item becomes a negotiating point.  She requests a six-pack of glue sticks; I counter with two.  She picks up a new pencil case; not when she has three at home.  She asks to buy the $7 markers; I say yes, as long as, this week, she uses the toilet paper that your hand pokes through when you wipe.  I'm kidding.  Sort of.  Back and forth we spar until I want to simply hand her my debit card and go wait in the car.  Finally, we make it to the car armed with all we'll need for second grade having spent more than the game plan, but (a little) less than I would pay for a boat. 

We reach the car in time to take a phone call from Out-of-Town Mommy who, with a hint of sadness in her voice says wistfully, "Oh, school shopping.  I like to do that with her."

Somebody hand me my Evil Knievel helmet, I need to go bang my head against a wall.   



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wasted

You know what really gets me fired up?  When I'm told my vote will be wasted if I cast it for Candidate X or Y.  I am happy to debate, argue, listen intently, and be wooed by your side.  My vote, though, is sacred and it's mine.  Choosing to cast it for a candidate that stands little chance of winning does not mean my vote is wasted.  It means I voted for someone that keeps my conscience clear.  There is no perfect candidate; I understand that.  Yet, voting for the lesser of two evils is no bargain.  Why would I vote "against" Donald Trump to ensure a Clinton victory when I don't like her either?  And vice versa?  So, let's debate all you like, if you'll stow that garbage about me wasting my vote.  I'll do with it what I please.

If you are on the fence, though, wondering which of the "lesser" to vote for, have I got a deal for you!  I'm ready to make this race to the bottom a three-way. (Ewww, sorry, that was a poor choice of phrase.  Like the stuff of nightmares.)   If the lesser of two evils is okay, why not make it the lesser of three?  It's like the old joke about two buddies being chased by a bear.  You don't have to be faster than the bear, only faster than your friend.  I may not be the World's Greatest Candidate, but I can make the case that I'm better than the Big Two. 

Let me make my case.  Let me tempt your taste buds.  What turns people off about Clinton and Trump?

Clinton's Email Scandal: Email leak?  No such worries here.  I barely know how to log on to my computer.  Is CompuServe still a thing? 

Trump's Temperament: That guy pops off more than Fat Albert's belt after Thanksgiving dinner.  I, on the other hand, keep it together seeing the worst of humanity while working retail.  I deal with homeless masturbators, messy magazine browsers,  If It Doesn't Scan It Must Be Free Lady, and Venti Iced Half Caf Soy CocoMoco Three Pumps of Raspberry No Whip Guy without stabbing someone in the eye. (Brief side note:  I have had Republicans tell me that the media is driving the narrative that Trump is a thin-skinned hothead.  No sale.  I have eyes and ears.  I have read his Twitter feed and watched his speeches.  I know a bully when I see and hear one.  I don't need the "news" to color my opinion.)

Hillary's Trustworthiness: You want trust?  Have you seen the photo at the top of the page?  I can even throw on an Abe Lincoln hat if you'd like.

Trump Doesn't Use Big Words:  I once won a fourth grade spelling bee and I own Word of the Day toilet paper.

They Are Both Hawks: I would suspend the drone program on Day One.

Trump Says Awful Things About Women:  I love women and I support Girl Power.  Although, I admit I am not a woman, so Hillary might have me there.

Dubious "Contributions" To The Clinton Foundation:  The only time I have dealt with foreign donors was when I answered that email from that nice prince in Namibia asking for help getting his fortune into the country. 

Trump Is Small-minded:  I have a huge head! See, opposites.

Trump Wants To Build A Wall: Relax, I have never built anything in my life.

Both Clintons Are Phonies: Could I BE anymore sincere? *wink*

Trump's Lost His Ass In Atlantic City: I once walked through his casino without losing a dime.

Clinton's Pant Suits And Trump's Hair(?):  Three words: My Red Pants

You see, America, I may be the best of the worst.  I'd like to think I'm more, what with my previously laid out  Peanut Butter Pocket Initiative and solid platform, but if it's the top of the bottom of the barrel you seek, I can be that guy, too.  As I said above, your vote is your sacred bond to our shared history.  Do with it what you like.  No matter what you choose it is not "wasted."  I would never tell you what to do with it, but I think you know the right thing to do if you want to get this country moving #EverForward. 

#Hailey4America  #Hailey2016  #FollowTheNose 

 





Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Girl Power

Recently, after watching a bunch of Comic-Con movie trailers, my wife, Amanda, confided she might be turning into a nerd. This news was backed up by her watching the Rogue One behind-the-scenes-look/trailer dozens of times the previous week.  Amanda has always tolerated my love of Star Wars, and to a lesser extent comic movies, watching the movies with casual attention.  I couldn't put my finger on why she suddenly had a lot more interest.  Trust me, the Justice League trailer didn't look that good.  Then it dawned on me: look what a few strong female lead characters can do.  Wonder Woman, Rey in The Force Awakens, and Jyn Erso all did, or look like they will, kick butt on the big screen.  These are characters my wife and seven-year-old daughter, Grace, can identify with as they blast across the galaxy.  I admit, this wasn't even something I thought about until we watched The Force Awakens.  A hero is a hero, no matter their gender, right?  It was only after watching Grace watch Rey that I realized a little something was missing.  Sure, she had loved Princess Leia in the Original Trilogy, but this was different.  This was the main female character, driving the story, engaging in tons of action, all while dressed in burlap rags.  (That last part is not insignificant, by the way.  Look at how other female supers heroines, such as Lara Croft and Black Widow, or even Leia in the gold bikini, are portrayed on the big screen.  Yes, they too demonstrate strength and courage, but if you don't think they are costumed and filmed in ways to enhance their "assets", then you are not paying attention.)  Rey was a strong female character that Grace could grow up with.  Not that Grace "needs" to have female movie characters as role models; she has some fantastic ones in real life.  I have tons of bad ass women in my life-Amanda, my mom, my boss, to name just a few- that Grace can aspire to be like.  Not to mention incredible historical figures, such as Amelia Earhart, that we have introduced.  But we all know as kids we pretended to be what we saw on television or the movie screen.  On the playground, I portrayed all my heroes, real and fictional.  From Han Solo to Eddie Murray to Indiana Jones, my imagination spun wild creating scenarios.  It's how our minds blossom.  So, yes, Grace, has real heroines to emulate, but I am happy that she also has some awesome fictional ones that capture her imagination.

Alas, as with any sea change, come the haters.  I remember reading internet comments after The Force Awakens debuted lamenting that, suuuuure, Disney just had to shoehorn a female lead in the movie to drive sales by bringing more girls to the theater.  Seriously?  These kinds of statements were laughable on two fronts.  One, of course, Disney tried to increase ticket sales by including a strong female lead.  Yes, Star Wars has always had many female fans, however, if you could grow that number, why wouldn't you?  Disney is in the business of making money, after all.  Two, and more glaringly obvious, is the crazy notion that a female be the focus of an action movie.  God forbid we tarnish our favorite space opera with a girl!  Thanks Disney, now we might all get cooties.  And just because you wanted to get more girls to come to the theater.  Because it couldn't possibly be because you had an interesting story to tell about a woman.  Especially one that is not simply a scantily-clad sidekick or damsel in distress. 

Again, I will admit, I was a little dense in thinking about this issue.  Even after The Force Awakens, I didn't really appreciate the level of outrage directed at women characters corrupting the domain of men.  Until a little remake called Ghostbusters sent the internet supernova.  A handful of the thousands of comments you could sort through if you'd like: 

"Lazy Hollywood film making "let's make a ghostbusters remake but with women!" Only soccer moms and feminist bimbos will watch that trash."

"Mark my words, the Ghostbusters reboot will be both pandering to feminazi's and completely unfunny to anyone not already a Michael Bay fan."

"F&*k you and your C#%tbusters."

"Wasn't it sexist to cast women for roles that had traditionally been held by men? We already know who the Ghostbusters are, and they are 4 men. Taking male roles and casting women in them is like casing Nicolas Cage to play Malcolm X."

Now look, count me in to the group that didn't really think a new Ghostbusters needed to be made.    Generally, long-awaited sequels and reboots, especially of a beloved movie such as Ghostbusters, are awful (I'm looking at you Blues Brothers 2000), or, at the very least, lend little to the original.  There are dozens of examples.  Mining old characters, providing suspect fan service, besmirching cultural touchstones, often in a cash grab, are usually reasons enough to skip the reboots.  I would have fine with never seeing a new Ghostbusters.  An annual (if not more often) viewing of the original sufficed.  For me, questioning a sequel has zero to do with the female cast.  The comments like the ones above are vile.  Why is it so awful to have females?  That's right, it isn't.  I may not have thought a remake was necessary, but I was fine with Lady Ghostbusters.  Once the project was official I knew I would watch it.  It's Ghostbusters, after all.  If nothing else, I would watch it so I could come here and tell you how awful it was. 

But it's NOT awful.  It's not super, either.  After watching it, from an entertainment standpoint, I could take it or leave it. Some of the jokes are hilarious, some fall flat.  I would not feel like I was missing out had it not been made.  But from a Dad view, I am damn glad I took Grace to see it.  She is a fan of the original film and enjoyed the reboot.  Enjoyed it enough that she wants to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween. Enough that she wants to have a Ghostbusters themed birthday party. (Both of which excite me and sent me scrambling for ideas.)  She never wanted these things after watching the original.  Yes, my seven-year-old identified with the all-female cast.  She rushed to show Grandma the cool way Kate McKinnon's Holtzman blasted the ghosts with her re-invented proton pack.  She wants the action figures.  She asked me if I could, for her costume, spray paint her hair black so she could be Patty (Leslie Jones) for Halloween.  (Incidentally, I don't even think it crossed Grace's mind that Leslie Jones is black and that she is not.  Kind of a proud papa moment, there.)  She is a fan.  And that's all I care about.  Whether it's Patty, Holtzman, or Rey (or even Chewbacca or Darth Vader, for all I care), I'm glad Amanda and Grace have characters to spark their imagination and enjoy.  Gosh, it's almost like a woman can do anything, even be President of the United States.*

*Just not this current nominee, please.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

B Smart, America.

This week's Republican National Convention has reminded me that watching political conventions on television is a bit like having dinner at McDonald's.  You know you shouldn't, but everything looks just appealing enough to dive in.  Then, an hour later, after a few crummy speeches, the horsemeat IED detonates in your lower intestine forcing you to spend the rest of the evening nursing your tummy ache of regret.  At the Clown Show in Cleveland this week, we have heard much more about stopping Hillary Clinton than we have about why we should elect Donald Trump.  Some speakers barely uttered his name.  When the Dems get Silly in Philly next week it will be more about how to dump Trump than the electability of Hillary Clinton.   This is what we are left with?  Two parties distracting us from their flawed candidates by demonizing the other?

America, I believe the phrase you are looking for is "Viable Alternative."  Sick of voting for the lesser of two evils, we seek another option.  But who?  Bernie's been beaten.   The roster of Republicans was Shock and Awful.   Gary Johnson is kinda boring.  Jed Bartlett is a fictional character.  (I know, it makes me sad, too.)  I don't want to say I told you so, but I think it's time you get cozy with the truth.  There is but one man for the job.   He is thinner (barely) than Taft!  He is more paranoid than Nixon!  He can leap nothing in a single bound!  It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ME!  Search for your feelings, Luke America, you know it to be true.  I'm your guy.  I tried to tell you to force a brokered convention in Cleveland.  Now we have to do it the hard way. 

If I criticize the current candidates for bashing others more than promoting themselves, then I guess I should lay out my platform.  With a limited campaign budget, there will be no grandiose, bloated, arena-filling, televised convention.  We'll probably just push together a few tables in the side room of the local Denny's.  Until then you can read my platform planks. (Not including the plank the two-party system is currently forcing America to walk.  Dad jokes!)   I have previously told you here, here, and here a few reasons why I am this nation's next best chance.  But I am not simply about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and foxy red pants.  Here are a few more reasons:

*Love who you love.  Marry who you want to marry.  If you don't want to issue a marriage license to a couple of dudes, then you don't get to work for that part of the government.  See you stocking my grocer's freezer, Kim Davis.

*Three words: Surgeon General Pikachu.  That dude (dudette?) has done more for child fitness than anyone in the last forty years.

*Feel free to own a bazooka, but you can only buy it after passing a stricter (or any) background check.  There's no reason you can't wait a couple weeks for ownership of your arsenal. 

*There will be an official National Sandwich.  I'm currently thinking cheesesteak, but am accepting suggestions.

*Smoke all the weed you'd like.  In your own home.  And don't drive under the influence.  Pot is not for me, but if you want to sit in your underwear all day burning tree and gobbling Doritos, what do I care?

*Goodbye church tax breaks.

*Goodbye Pittsburgh Penguins.

*We're gonna shelve this drone program.  We can not continue to indiscriminately drop bombs on innocent people.  I read an interesting article questioning whether Turkey would be justified in sending a drone over Pennsylvania to kill the cleric they say fomented the recent coup attempt.  Think about it, that is not much different than what we do.

*Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem will be my house band for all press conferences and televised addresses from the Oval Office.

(There's more, but the future First Lady and I need to put the kid to bed.  Tweet me more potential platform planks @Hailey4America.  Use #EverForward)

In conclusion, we have each candidate telling us why the other is bad instead of selling themselves.  Why?  Because they both stink.  So, rather than holding YOUR nose in the voting booth this November, follow THE Nose.  Write in The Big B.  Write in me, Bryan Hailey.  How could you possibly regret it?

#Hailey4America #EverForward #FollowTheNose

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Not Yet a Yogi, But Plenty of Boo Boos

For the last two years, meditation has been one of my tools to combat my anxiety disorder.  It helps me relax, get out of my head when I need to, and prepares my body to better respond when anxiety hits.  Recently, I decided yoga was the next logical progression in getting healthier in mind, body, and spirit.  I have toyed with the idea for years, encouraged by many friends to give it a go.  Figuring it was time to shed the extra of My Two Dad(bod)s, I finally got off my ample duff and dove into some beginner videos. 

So far, the yoga is fun, productive, and completely kicking my ass.  I had no illusions that it would be easy.  After all I'm about as flexible as a brick.   After my first session, I laid on the floor feeling that rewarding, "good" tired feeling which comes with expending effort.  The same tired I would feel after an afternoon of pick-up basketball.  The next morning, however, I felt like I had been in a street brawl. I'm using muscles that likely haven't been activated since I last played ice hockey a decade ago.  Little muscles that the next day say, "Hey, f%&ker, remember me?"  Little muscles that I should have been nicer to all these years.  Little muscles that were so neglected they nearly put me in traction last year simply for loading the dishwasher.  My elbow hurt for days.  My lower back laughed at me.  My surgically repaired knee barked its displeasure.  But by sticking with it, I am slowly whipping them all into line.  Of course, making progress is not the same as getting easier.  I still don't look great in my skin tight yoga pants.  (Let that image settle in.  You're welcome.  Do I really wear yoga tights?  Wouldn't you like to know.)  When the teacher instructs me to tuck my chin, I still have ask which one.  Many of the poses still present great challenges.  Humorous challenges.  I-could-probably-sell-tickets challenges.  Grace watches me practice with much amusement.  I laugh at myself trying some of this stuff.  It's like playing a demented game of Hokey Pokey.  Put your whole self in, put your whole self out, put your whole self in, trying not to quake or pout...

My favorite moment, so far, occurred while I was home alone, fortunately.  I was attempting a tree pose for the first time.  A tree pose includes balancing on one leg while tucking the bottom of the opposite foot against the thigh of the first leg, then stretching your arms skyward.  My first attempt went swell.  Much better than I anticipated.  Then I switched legs.  I lost my balance as I reached for the sky, but didn't want to bail on the pose, thinking that I could pull it together.  Instead I ended up hopping across the living room on one foot, like some sort of ill flamingo, nearly crashing into the couch and end table.  That, kids, is why you start practicing in the privacy of your own home.  I can only imagine the squeals of laughter had my girls been home.

As my practice deepens, my fitness improves, and my mind calms, I hope to shake loose a little enlightenment.  I could use it. I question everything right now.  I talk to my friends who have similar questions.  Are we good role models for our kids?  Are we saving enough money?  What the hell is happening in the world?  Do I have a job or a career?  Does that even matter?  When did Guns n' Roses become Classic Rock?  Call it our Gen-Xistential Crisis. 

For decades (holy shit!), I have wondered what I want to be when I grow up.  I always thought it would one day pop into my head.  I ponder. I ruminate on it.  I pray about it.  I talk to people.  I know dazzling entrepreneurs and people who knew what they wanted to be early on and went after it.  And I know a host of us stuck in neutral, convinced we were put here to do something different/better/more productive, but unable to pinpoint it.  Now, we wonder if we are trapped between the safety of our day jobs and the risk of taking the leap if we ever figure out where to jump.  We wonder if we are wasting our time and talents working for faceless corporations, municipalities, even families that give a hoot about little more than the bottom line.  As resources are stretched thin, we are asked to trust the system, to do more with less.  Lack of support and common sense from CEOs and superintendents tilts the scales towards ejecting and finding something new.  I'm convinced, were we to band together, we could save the world, or, at the very least,  put together a kick-ass fantasy football league.  Hopefully, when an idea strikes, I will be ready for action.  Until then I head back to the mat to breathe deep, seek inspiration, and play the weirdest game of solo Twister I've ever played.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Endurance Race

There's somethin' wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
We're seein' things in a different way
And God knows it ain't his
It sure ain't no surprise
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
There's somethin' wrong with the world today
The light bulb's gettin dim
There's meltdown in the sky
If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you're a better man than I
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'

So, maybe the great philosophers of Aerosmith are not the most esteemed guides we can seek, but these lyrics kept popping in my head this morning.  This song, Livin' on the Edge, was inspired by the  Rodney King riots of 1992.  According to Songfacts.com, the "song talks about how the world is a crazy place, but people remain stuck in their routines and refuse to change."  I graduated high school in 1992.  This time, this era, all the nutty things that have happened in the nearly twenty-five (holy crap!) years since, are my framework for viewing the world.  I read history, I explore the past, but we can only truly understand what we witness, what we live through, what we experience.  And what I see is in the last quarter-century not much has changed in Big Picture America.

O.J., 9/11, perpetual war, mass shootings, the Pulse massacre, the politics of personal destruction, police shootings, the New York Yankees, pseudoscience, internet bullies, decades of voting for the perceived lesser of two evils.  This list is as tragic as it is incomplete.  Today, the news gets worse every time we log on.  New horrific events occur too quickly to comment on the most recent horrific event.  Respect for others has dwindled.  Violence drowns out the voices of reason.  Too often, we see each other as a meme or a statistic.  A data point in an argument we hope to win.  I know young couples who wonder whether bringing a child into the current climate is a wise decision.  We are weary with worry.  We are discouraged  when a new gut punch seems to lurk around every corner. 

So, what do we do?  We could pack it in.  We could shutter our windows, crawl under the covers, and hope for the best.  Or we can absorb each punch, take a knee, catch our collective breath, then stand up to be counted.  For we endure.  And when we endure, America endures.  From dumping tea in Boston Harbor to saving the world in World War II to landing on the Moon, we endure.  Through Rebellion, slavery, Depression, segregation, assassinations, and war, we endure.  America endures.  It has not been easy, and never will be.  We are not yet close to where we want to be.  Our endurance requires constant vigilance.  A vigilance that requires listening to our neighbor, showing compassion, and sometimes quieting our ego.  A vigilance that requires learning how others live, not thinking we know their experience.  Seeking knowledge, wondering, asking questions.  Truly arguing and debating, not shouting the loudest.  I would tell the young couple to raise a family because, though the shadows loom large, there is hope and light.  Enough of us care.  Enough of us were raised right.  Enough of us are compassionate. Enough of us know violence is not the way.  Enough of us are ready to answer this fundamental question- Why do the things that should bring us together too often drive us further apart?

In the song printed above, Steven Tyler laments, "You can't help yourself from fallin'."  Sure we can.  We don't need an orange, poofy-wigged celebri-tycoon-itican telling us to make America great again.  America is great right now.  I see it in my little sphere every day.  I see it in the volunteers growing community gardens, literally providing nourishment to their neighbors.  I see it in those delivering blankets to the homeless on cold winter days.  I see it in social workers who dutifully open the next case file.  And teachers who far exceed their mandate, giving their own time, money, and love.  And someone who stands up to a cyberbullies.  We should celebrate the creators and innovators in our hometowns, in our little piece of the world.  Together, we  can positively influence our own corners of the country. It sounds desperately hopeful and na├»ve, maybe I'm just a boob behind a keyboard spouting empty rhetoric, but I know by working to change all the little pictures, we can actually change the Big Picture.  I know this because as We endure, so too does America.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Shit Happens Doctrine

Nearly two weeks after the Pulse nightclub massacre, I still don't know what to write.  I am unsure of exactly what I want to say or how to say it.  This attack stirs so many emotions within.  Probably because it hits three of the big ol' hot topics we like to argue about: Gays, Guns, and God.  As we mourn the forty-nine victims, most of us are seeking places to channel our outrage.  An act so heinous, so awful, sends us searching for understanding.  We want to know why, we want to know how, and we want to know how we stop it from happening again.  We lash out in frustration, looking for someone to hold responsible, looking for an easy solution.  We blame the NRA, homophobes, politicians, preachers, and Muslims.  Everyone has an angle.  Everyone wants his or her brand of justice.  We "like" memes, post links, and yell at the idiots on television.   Of course, there is no simple answer.  Not one we want to hear anyway.

Of the three big "G" issues involved, Gays is by far the easiest for me to reconcile.  I've written about my feelings on homosexuality before.  Love who you love. The real tragedy is that many homosexuals live in great fear every day, not just on mornings after events like Pulse.  Sadly, fearing ridicule and judgement seems on the low end of a spectrum that runs all the way to being afraid of being murdered because you were born differently.  Some want to celebrate America as this beautiful melting pot, but only if they can control the ingredients.

That brings me to Guns.  The big "G" with which I struggle the most.  I don't struggle with my personal feelings about guns; I abhor them.  I think most of our gun violence directly correlates to a fetishist attitude that guns are awesome and necessary.  An attitude that leads to casual behavior and an ambivalence towards the real repercussions guns carry.  Whether a country fella carries because it makes him tough or an inner city gang banger carries so he looks hard, the gun culture is a foolish exercise that is swallowing us up.  To the responsible gun owners who shoot only for hunting and sport, that keep your guns secured when not in use, that don't carry on your hip like some sort of Barney badass, I applaud and thank you.  Unfortunately, we don't hear enough about you.  Frankly, the dipshits who can't be trusted with their guns are becoming far too prominent.  Toddlers pulling unsecured pistols from purses, idiots brandishing weapons in church to de-escalate a dispute (good thinking!), Chicago men killing each other at a staggering rate - it's enough to make you go crazy.  I know, I know, I know-guns don't kill people, people kill people.  Really, though, it's people with guns that kill people.  Introducing a gun into a dispute can send it from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.  Guns have one function: destroy the target.  That is why I hate them.  Too often the ramifications are only thought of after the trigger has been pulled.  My store stocks thirty-nine gun magazines on the newsstand.  Granted, that's fewer than the knitting/crocheting section, but Granny is unlikely to wield a half-finished scarf as a murder weapon.  The magazines glorify violence and stoke fear.  They make guns seem like the best solution.  When we celebrate guns, they become mainstream.  When guns become mainstream, we become less vigilant with their use.  When guns are normalized, when the destructive power is made casual, guns seem like the best solution.  So, yeah, I'm not a fan personally.

You know what, though?  I don't make the rules.  That is where I struggle with Guns with a capital "G".  My personal wish that guns would not be fetishized, celebrated and carried in grocery stores at some point intersects with my belief in the Second Amendment.  I don't pretend to have all the answers.  I'm not advocating taking guns away from most gun owners.  Just because I don't think you need an armory in your home, doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to have one.  However, something has to give.  If I have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to legally drive (operate a potentially dangerous death machine), you can jump through some bureaucratic hoops to purchase a gun (a potentially dangerous death machine).  Let's close the gun show loopholes.  Let's have mandatory background checks and waiting (cooling off) periods.  Let's require safety courses.  Let's strike a balance between restricting criminals/the mentally ill from purchasing guns and upholding the second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.  The tired argument that usually follows is that criminals will always find a way to get guns.  True.  Maybe, though, we can limit the criminals that do.  Maybe we can save a life by restricting someone with a history of domestic abuse from purchasing a gun.  Maybe we can use common sense to help.  Maybe, instead of clinging to divisive soundbites and old rhetoric, we can find the middle ground. 

I used my third "G", God, mostly because I like alliteration.  In relation to the Pulse massacre, I mostly mean the holy war between ISIS and the West.  While I am much more likely to die by handgun violence, I am more frightened of ISIS.  Domestic attacks done in their name really are terror inducing.  Terror has come to our shores in a fashion we are not accustomed to.  Our enemy is incredibly difficult to fight because he is incredibly difficult to find.  We have gone from fighting an army "over there" to fighting terrorists trained "over there" to the guy from "here", the guy walking next to you at Disney World, wanting you dead.   No longer is ISIS recruiting American jihadists to come train at their camps before going forth to destroy.  Now, with only an internet connection and a Twitter feed, they recruit American citizens to attack other American citizens.  ISIS seemingly says, "Go kill a bunch of your neighbors.  We don't really care how you do it, whatever works best for you,  just make sure you tag us in the Instagram so we can take credit!"  How in the heck are we supposed to combat that?

I don't have a good answer on what we should do, but I know a few things we shouldn't be doing.  We shouldn't be dropping indiscriminate bombs.  Unless we are willing to turn the desert into a sheet of glass, we are not going stop the ISIS that way.  We shouldn't use attacks like Pulse as cover to close our borders and be bigots towards all Muslims.  We shouldn't consent to unfounded, generalized wire taps, email searches, and other government overreach.  We shouldn't continue to play the World's policeman, alienating in the process.  We have neither the stomach, nor budget for perpetual war.  We can not continue to incite the very hate that fuels our enemies.  

We may be the lone superpower, but in the Middle East, the United States, just a kid at 200 plus years old, is meddling in affairs that have existed far longer.  It has taken me a long time to come to the realization that maybe the world is just the way it is.  Maybe only time can heal.  Maybe slow tectonic shifts beyond our control are the only forces of change.  Whether across the globe, or in our own backyard, we can not fix everything.  Maybe some things are not to be fixed.  Maybe to live in a free(ish) and open society we must realize that sometimes awful things will happen.  Call it the Shit Happens Doctrine.  I know it sounds callous on the surface.  I know it is of little consolation to the victims of the Pulse attack, or San Bernadino, or Oklahoma City.  It would be of no consolation to me were my family involved.  I don't like it one bit.  I simply fear that no amount of restriction, no amount of legislation, no amount of aggression will ever make us "safe" enough. 

There are, however, things we can do outside of government intervention on any of these three Gs.  We can show empathy.  Maybe we make an effort to know our neighbors whether they be white, black, gay, or Muslim.  We can further educate about the dangers of guns.  I will continue to rail against the fetishists, or, as my friend calls them, "ammosexuals", asking them to stop celebrating the gun culture that takes us on a road to nowhere.   We can demand our preachers and imams promote peace instead of division.  We can set aside the politics of fear.  We can maybe, just maybe, invest a little faith in each other.  Perhaps, together, we can highlight the humanity in Humanity.