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Something like madness

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

You just get numb to it after a while.

The news filtered through the work-day haze, as it usually does. A co-worker sent me an instant message.

“Another school shooting. In Florida.”

I don’t think I even blinked. It just seemed so….routine. Being alerted of a school shooting is like being alerted that a winter storm is on the way. It’s the way we do business nowadays. It’s shameful, but that doesn’t make it not so.

The news dripped out. People were wounded. Shooter was still at large. Then….fatalities. Four. Six. A dozen. And the final butcher’s bill…

Seventeen.

180221-florida-shooting-tease_qodg0mThe only oddity here, it seemed, was that the shooter didn’t save a bullet for himself (it was, of course, a male….). He was arrested. We’ll see a lot more of him in the coming months surely. The new poster boy for weird, angry, white alienation, with easy access to an AR-15 and gobs of ammo. That last bit nearly goes without saying these days.

There’s an unworldliness about these things now….like it’s happening in an alternate universe. The 24 hour news cycle, along with social media, keep us all filled to the brim, yet somehow staggeringly disengaged at the same time. Florida suddenly seemed a million miles away. I went through the rest of my day, the equivalent, I suppose, of a temporary moral shrug.

But then….you get snapped back. You see your own child.

There was a photo that grabbed me. You’ve seen it over and over again by now. Only the location changes. Yet another frantic mother, squeezing her child. Her face was etched with millions of years of evolution….a mother protecting her own. But the day…..it was Valentine’s Day….but also Ash Wednesday too. I’d forgotten the latter. On the woman’s forehead was a large, black smudge. A cross.

How many thoughts and prayers have been offered up to the heavens over the last few decades after mass shootings? Probably 1000 just counting Congress alone. …..and that’s no exaggeration. We wear out our knees in prayer, bleating like sheep towards the sky while dodging the cross-fire hurricane. And somehow, these “thoughts and prayers” (what differentiates the two, I wonder?) disappear into the ether, f not entirely ignored, then surely unanswered. Because asking the clouds for help in protecting your child when he or she goes to school is a tricky business.

You’d have better luck with Congress and the President. They can turn “God, please don’t let some pissed off white kid shoot my 7 year old” into, “no son, you can’t have that gun because it’s against the law. Off you go…you little shithead…”

I mean, that’s their job. To keep the country safe. They’ve done some crazy things in order to do so in the past too. So..

Take off your shoes before you board that plane. Get rid of your mini-bar sized bottles of shampoo and mouthwash….and hope your name isn’t the same as some other dude who happens to be on some dark “no not fly” list. And that little sippy cup your baby is holding? Yea, we’re gonna need that bubba….

But, alas, we gritted our teeth and got used to it. It might be idiotic and a tad…er…theatrical, but we can talk ourselves into the fact that the powers that be, not always the brightest bulbs in the room, probably mean well. Nobody wants another 9/11

Just as nobody wants another school shooting. Right?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

We all know how this story ends. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Republican lawmakers are tripping each other to be the first to offer the aforementioned “thoughts and prayers”, while the President took to Twitter, not to talk about the ridiculous ease in which a mental defective can procure a AR-15, but to scold the dead kids for not being vigilant enough in informing law enforcement of the killer’s obvious weirdness. Trump later addressed the nation as our designated healer and chief and somehow never once managed to use to word “gun”. He pledged to “ease pain” but, much like how he was gonna pay for his wall, was a bit short on specifics. As in, he didn’t offer any at all.

Meanwhile, before the bodies were fully removed from the school (bodies survivors were forced to step over in order to get out of the building), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went on right-wing talk radio and pledged to protect, not children, but guns. Kids don’t give Paul Ryan millions in campaign contributions, after all. So I guess it’s not personal. It’s strictly business.

And the rest of us….most just kinda sit here, painfully aware of the moral cowardice of our leaders, but for whatever reason lacking the will to get off our collective asses on election day to toss them over the side. And a very vocal minority just shrugs and says, “dead kids are the price of freedom I guess”. Until, of course, it’s their kid….and that red white and blue turns all sorts of grey.

But that’s not today.

Today it’s once again somebody else’s kid.

And thus we descend even further into apathy. And, to the rest of the world, something like madness.

In a bit..

–tf

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None of this is normal….

January 17, 2018 2 comments

None of this is normal. The fact that it seems normal now, due to repetition, doesn’t change the fact that it is not normal at all. The childish insults. The flagrant lies. The almost casual racism. The constant appeals to the lowest common denominator. Whatever standing we had in the world has eroded, and we’ve largely been left to our own devices as the rest of the globe watches in worried fascination. Nearly every utterance is something inane. Every decision is driven by petulance and mean-spiritedness. Every press conference is a shit-show of easily disproved falsehoods and distortions and Orwellian pronouncements…a bizarro alternate universe where, to echo the aforementioned Englishman, war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength (and Trump is the same weight and height as Albert Pujols).

We’ve gone from offending individuals, to offending races, to offending entire continents. And none of it seems to matter. The President’s supporters seem to revel in it, literally like pigs in shit. Forget Teflon. Stuff doesn’t bounce off the man. Rather, it all sticks and emboldens him.

flagThe more outrageous his idiocy, the more they circle his wagon, defending the indefensible like Sean Hannity on laughing gas. His talking heads invade news shows looking like David Duke’s family tree, a brazen cast of stupid white people who would be tossed out of any self-respecting city council meeting for wasting everybody’s time. Republicans lawmakers either remain silent, like somebody in the waiting room who won’t admit to farting, or will grovel with so much obsequiousness one wonders if they’ve been morally castrated. And finally there’s Trump, sitting in bed watching Fox and Friends, cheeseburger in one tiny fingered hand, his even little-er dick in the other, trying desperately to jizz over the picture of Hillary on his nightstand before Melania wanders in looking for her green card. Nothing to see here. Move along. It’s the new normal. And as such, we grow weary and care less and less. That first nail driven into our head? Hurts like hell. The 567th? Ain’t so bad.

Truth used to matter. Decency used to matter. It doesn’t anymore. We let it happen. We’re all to blame.  So when that North Korean nuke is falling on your head, it probably won’t do you much good to blame its trajectory on Hillary’s emails, but have at it bubba.

Does anything think he didn’t fuck a porn actress and have her paid off by his crooked lawyer? What’s astounding is that we know it’s true, and we justify it by saying “of course he fucked a porn star and had her paid off by his crooked lawyer, because he’s Trump”, and that’s enough to move the story to page 12….if indeed it’s reported at all. Meanwhile, Clinton being blown in the oval office remains the 5th gospel of the right-wing bible.

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing. But there will always be more good men than bad. It takes work to be a dick. Effort. A suspension of reality. To be legitimately evil is to be perpetually pissed off, to careen through life in some sort of perpetual road-rage….hating all who differ from you….hating all that you do not understand…..being unwilling to step into the shoes of another, and not feeling the lash on the back of another. A lack of empathy, in other words. A spot-on description of our current President and his staff perhaps, but not one that applies to the vast majority of Americans. We’ve got better things to do, more important things to concern ourselves with.

And, as such, we’ve been too damn busy. We do little but roll our eyes to combat the cancer in the White House. So it spread. And spreads. A malignancy that might be too big to be cut out at this point. How many steps are we, really, from having a David Duke as President of the United States? It sounds absurd on the face of it, but not much more absurd than Donald Trump, back in 2015, an avowed racist, a spectacularly failed businessman and reality TV star, becoming the leader of the so-called free world by getting poor white people to think he cares about them. Even Trump himself didn’t count on Americans being that fucking stupid. His was a PR exercise, a vanity license plate campaign meant to increase his own market share. He had no intention of actually winning. Winning made his wife cry.

No. Hillary would win and he would remain on the golf course and in his tower, nipping at her heels via Twitter….like men with small appendages are wont to do. He would link up with Fox news, the propaganda wing of the Republican party, attack women in private and brown people out loud, and hope his Mar a Lago retreat wasn’t washed away by some global-warming induced natural disaster….because that would be hard to explain to Joe the fucking Plumber, eh?

And yet, here we are. Churchill warned the world to never underestimate the stupidity of the average voter….a warning we neglected to heed with self-destructive glee. As a result, a child-like imbecile is in the White House, making Stalinist pronouncements about the free press, and sounding like Lester Maddox behind closed doors. A man of constant dog whistles, firing up Fox News viewers 140 characters at a time. Perhaps the ugliest of ugly Americans. Is ours a great country or what? 

Well, it used to be. Maybe it can be again…….if we’re not too busy or shell-shocked to take it back. Or if we refuse to learn from history, which has taught us that monstrous evil can sprout when fear preys upon ignorance.

In short, we’re most likely doomed.

In a bit..

–tf

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Godspeed Pat DiNizio

December 23, 2017 1 comment

The year 2017 has sucked on many levels. Somehow Donald Trump is our President. We nearly elected a pedophile to the US Senate. We’ve managed to kick-start the cold war. Nazis are feeling suddenly emboldened. We’ve been battered by global-warming induced hurricanes and floods (yet continue to elect people who claim global-warming isn’t real), and currently our most populous state is on fucking fire. We live under a potential mushroom cloud because some dwarf in North Korea watches too many Hollywood movies. We’re racist. We’re mean. We’re frighteningly susceptible to the most blatant forms of idiotic propaganda. Our collective IQ has plummeted. When history is written, the year 2017 is going to come with a large * asterisk. Or a least a very large Parental Advisory Sticker.

Oh, and I lost my Mom. So there’s that.

Musically, we lost Tom Petty. We lost Fats Domino. We lost Check Berry. We lost Greg Allman. We lost Chris Cornell. And we lost Pat DiNizio.

The latter hit me the hardest.

pat-dinizio-2682-2-1-819x1024You may not know Pat DiNizio. But as the leader and songwriter of The Smithereens, he fronted one of the great underrated American bands, for over 30 years. (the first CD I ever bought was “Green Thoughts” by The Smithereens) They had some radio hits in the 1980s (“Blood and Roses”. “A Girl Like You”. “Only a Memory”), and then seemingly disappeared. Except they didn’t. They continued to release great records (“God Save the Smithereens” is my personal favorite)  and tour….ignored by all except a small, dedicated fan base. DiNizio wrote 3 minute pop gems, as tight as the sheets on an army cot. Simple, instantly, insanely memorable…..filled with crunchy hooks and heavenly harmonies and the wanderlust of one who refuses to give up on love. Timeless music that will only sound dated when the Beatles and Buddy Holly and early Who singles start sounding dated. He was frequently great….always good. The Smithereens never released a bad record.

In the last few years DiNizio was doing 50+ house concerts a year….playing acoustic shows in fan’s homes for $2000 a pop. When he got sick, these same fans rallied around him via online campaigns and helped pay his medical bills. He was as down to earth as a rocker who had touched the sky can be. He worked his ass off, and loved every minute of it. He never spoke down to his fans. Even something as modest as a stage made him nervous. He preferred to perform among a crowd, not perched above it.

And when he died I was gutted in a way I hadn’t felt since we lost Kurt Cobain. Ironically, I’ve since learned that Cobain had the Smithereen’s debut “Especially For You” on a permanent loop in Nirvana’s tour van during their early years, and tried to recruit Especially For You producer Don Dixon to work on Nevermind.

What made Cobain so special was his supreme gift for melody. Underneath the blitzkrieg, Nirvana songs are as melodic as anything McCartney ever cooked up. And one of the songwriters Cobain tried to emulate was Pat DiNizio.

What it all boils down to is this. If a band makes great music in the forest for 30 years and nobody hangs out in the forest anymore, is it still great music?

Like Cobain, I now travel with the Smithereens for company. I’ve listened to nothing else since DiNizio passed. It makes me happy. It makes me sad. As a songwriter it makes me jealous. I wish he was still here.

Pat DiNizio, a man responsible for some of the most enjoyable 3 minute snippets of my half-century long life, is dead. So yea, it’s been a shitty year and this is simply the cherry on the sundae.

But it’s the music that matters to me. More than the silly politics and all the dumb racist fools who clutter my world these days. When I close the car windows and turn “A Girl Like You” on….at Spinal Tap-ian volume….I’m at least reminded of what we’re capable of. And that gives me hope. And I’m reminded that it’s possible to do it all with class and decency, with grit and determination, with humor and a lack of hubris, with honest hard work, and with a merry band of friends who share your rock and roll dreams.

Thank you Pat DiNizio. For everything. Godspeed.

In a bit..

–tf

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Where do we go from here?

December 9, 2017 Leave a comment

I don’t know where we go from here. I really don’t. We’re in uncharted waters. The President of the United States has implicitly endorsed a child molester. The Republican leadership, in their disgraceful silence and “let Alabama voters decide” dog whistles, have done the same. Even if he didn’t molest young girls, Alabama’s Roy Moore should have been pelted with rotten fruit the minute he walked on a public stage. He’s a repulsive human being. Homophobic. A blatant racist. A man who shits on the idea of the separation of church and state. An embarrassment to his state and his country. Mean as a rattlesnake and dumb as a 10 pound bag of fertilizer. The fact this he was deemed too creepy for even his hometown mall should be just be another nail in his well deserved coffin of shame. But instead….

171204131505-01-donald-trump-roy-moore-splitMoore is about to be elected to the United States Senate. Alabama’s republican voters either don’t believe the multiple credible accounts of Moore being a predator, or they don’t believe that being a sexual predator while running on the now typical “family values Jesus 10 commandment sharia law is coming etc…” platform is a disqualifying….you know….thing. (It is disqualifying if one is a democrat, of course…see “Conyers…Franken et al”). A large bloc of Moore’s support comes from women, which, in case you are keeping score at home, disproves the theory that ignorance has been largely perfected by dumb white guys. Sorry ladies.

George Wallace was paralyzed, so I’m not sure if he’d be able to roll over in his grave, but something tells me even the Nathan Bedford Forrest of the 20th Century would be groaning over this one.

And what of our nation’s leader? A man quite familiar with credible sexual assault accusations, currently fending off 19 of them. His defense? That every single woman is lying. The response of his supporters? “But her emails…..”

The President is leading the charge from his bully-pulpit, tossing red-meat over the Alabama border last night from a rally in Pensacola, Florida that sorta resembled something cooked up either by the Klan or the editorial offices of The Daily Stormer. The rest of the world looks on in appalled fascination. To a large degree, our nation has gone completely batshit crazy……allowing a pathologically lying, ignorant buffoon with a 4th grade vocabulary to become our moral compass. The man bragged of being able to “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”, and for once, he didn’t appear to be lying. Defenses I’ve personally heard of his support of a sexual predator include “but it’s Alabama”, “but he denied it”, “but her emails (seriously, people have invoked Hillary)”, “these women are all lying”, “this is what you get for 8 years of Obama” and “I don’t care, my 401k is doing great”.

This is Twilight Zone stuff, people. I mean….how low can we go? Are we not already approaching the water table?

And hey, I get it. I’m a libtard. A communist. A socialist. Whatever the insult du jour is. Bring it on. I really don’t care. You don’t agree with me. I think you’re nuts too. We can meet at a bar and drink to our mental illnesses.

I’ve got some far out views….I think college should be free for one (if only to prevent the staggering national dumbness required in electing Trump in the first place). I don’t hate brown people. I don’t hate gay people. I don’t give a shit that NFL players kneel during the national anthem to protest what they see as systematic racism. I want to slash your precious military budget like a paper-mache doll and use the savings for social programs.  I always considered Reagan a total knob. I don’t think Hillary Clinton drinks the blood of pre-aborted babies. I’m a raging atheist who wants to tax all of your silly little churches. I’d love to come and take all your automatic weapons away. And I don’t want to build your ridiculous fucking wall. So there. I said it. I’m the enemy.

And I’m just as patriotic as you think you are.

But still, I think sexual predators are a bad thing. And I always assumed you did too.

But now, we disagree on even THAT.

You are about to support the election of Roy fucking Moore to the United States Senate….in the midst of a string of ongoing Congressional resignations for sexual transgressions,….all the while taking your cues from a man who bragged of being able to “….grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” A contemptible, misogynistic piece of shit who just happens to be the President of the United States.

Well fucking done. Don’t just blame Alabama. This one’s on you too. Hell, maybe it’s on all of us.

In a bit..

–tf

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One would think…

November 12, 2017 Leave a comment

One would think that in this at least we’d be united. We’d come together as one to agree that a well documented pedophile is not fit to be a United States Senator.

One would be wrong.

So there it is. America, 2017

In a bit..

–tf

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And so it goes. Again.

November 6, 2017 Leave a comment

And so it goes. Again.

I write these things for me. You can agree with my sentiments or not agree. I honestly don’t care. I like to keep a record of what I was thinking when such craziness occurs. It helps to keep me grounded. It helps to make me feel normal. And it reminds me that I was on the right side of history. Then, And now.

texas-church-mass-shooter-identified-by-locals-as-devin-kelley-2-medI do feel like I’m repeating myself, but it’s less because I’m derivative and more because the same shit keeps happening over and over again. We arm ourselves to the teeth, legally and otherwise, and seem intent on slaughtering each other like hogs, in places where one might not expect hog slaughtering. A concert. A school. A church. We’re numb to it. It rates a shrug….perhaps a few mouse clicks. One or two social media comments to rile up the fanatics, and then we holster our ideology until it happens again. Next week. Next month. Tomorrow. The next mass shooting is probably already in the works.

We’re morally bored. Dead kids? Meh. Dead pregnant women? Meh. Not kin to us so…..

Toss off the ubiquitous “thoughts and prayers”, argue about the true intentions of guys arguing over flintlocks  200 years ago….then find something to binge on Netflix.

Short of some sort of Trumpian “extreme vetting” of angry white dudes, what exactly are we doing? Not that dead people and their families don’t appreciate your thoughts and prayers and all that, it’s just that they don’t seem to be helping much. The latest set of victims were deep in thought and prayer already….and then this dude wearing body armor and carrying what’s being called an “AR-15 variant”, whatever the fuck that means, riddled them with  bullets. I’m sure it matters to some what he was carrying, but the dead no longer give a shit. For obvious reasons.

Information on the shooter is coming out. Typical white trash. Abused his wife and child. Abused pets. Court-martialed out of the military for being a loser. He was a felon. He wasn’t supposed to legally own a gun, but wasn’t flagged during any background checks (apparently because the Air Force didn’t enter his conviction in some database), which makes sense to somebody I’m sure, but not me. His facebook page proudly displayed a pic of his illegally obtained gun, buy nobody really gave a shit. America. Guns are like porn.

His crime is not labeled terrorism because he’s white. If he was brown, Trump would have called him a deranged animal and Twitter-threatened him with free tickets to Guantanamo Bay. But these days the only thing that forces Trump to put DOWN his phone is when a white guy kills a few dozen innocents.

Our fearless leader is as inspirational as a bag of kitty litter. Looks for your moral leaders elsewhere, bubba.

After most-recent-angry-armed-white-dude did his killing….the shooter was chased by a guy with a gun….the “good guy with a gun” from the NRA narrative. A brave man for sure. He deserves the accolades he’s receiving….that’s all I got to say about that.

But even THIS bit is ideologically twisted….Fox News is jizzing all over themselves over this part of the story…..and taking it a step further in saying that what we REALLY needed was for armed “good guys” to be INSIDE the church during the service. So thanks hero, but next time Geraldo really would prefer if you weren’t late. Because you didn’t show up until after they were all dead.

(Just wait for the armed-carry goons to start volunteering to pass along the collection plate in a church near you. See how safe you feel when that dangling shoulder-holster hits you in the face, bubba.)

A country musician named Caleb Keeter was part of the concert in Las Vegas when that shooting happened. This is what he said….no doubt pissing off Nugent and Kid Rock in the process, but still…..

“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night… We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”

It became personal. See how these things work? Our stomachs get twisted when we hear about cancer, because we’ve ALL been touched by the disease in some way. Nancy Reagan became an outspoken advocate for embryonic stem-cell research only after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Before that? She stuck to the “life begins at conception” talking point, and considered it immoral.

Was she a hypocrite? Or did she truly believe one way, and then flipped, like Keeter, when the proverbial bullets started whizzing past her head?

Paul Ryan and his ilk? They don’t care….because it’s not their kids….their homes…their schools….their churches. They are politicians. By definition they are narcissists. The world is what they can touch and feel. The rest is shadows…..worthy of “thoughts and prayers” but not much else.

It’ll happen again. And again. And perhaps someday…..just about all of us will have been touched personally by these mass shootings…..the way we’re all touched by cancer.

And then, the better angels of our nature will come together, unarmed, and truly make America great again.

In  a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Are we really no better than this?

October 29, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s been less than a month, and as a nation we’ve already forgotten. It’s just another Wikipedia entry now….a future trivia question. Perhaps the subject of an upcoming book or two……maybe a network news magazine segment during sweeps week.

Fifty eight people killed. Well over 500 injured. By another pissed off white dude with guns. Motives unclear……but “white and pissed off” will do until something that makes more sense comes along. Welcome to making America great again.

ct-las-vegas-shooter-brain-20171029-001In the immediate aftermath we once again swore that this time, something, anything, would be done. The usual suspects said the usual things….the same talking points were trotted out. Conservatives offered so many”thoughts and prayers” than God finally told them to cut it out. Liberals scoffed at deity references and vowed to take on the NRA this time……campaign contributions be damned.

Of course all of this was happening when the cameras were rolling. Politicians love nothing better than the timbre of their own bullshit, and the opportunity to score cheap partisan points while riling up their respective bases. Essentially, half the country ended up arguing with the other half via facebook comments and on Twitter…..sometimes even managing to do so without misspelling every other word. Trump ended up providing the leadership we’ve come to expect, tweeting about kneeling black football players and throwing paper towels at thirst ravaged Puerto Ricans. Absolutely nothing changed. So we’re right back to where we were, awaiting yet another unknown dotard with an arsenal to start spraying bullets in a crowd, or in a classroom. And when that happens, the cycle will start anew.

Cue the hand-wringing.

Are we really no better than this? Do we value human life only within the brutal rhythms of the 24 hour news cycle? I’m continuously staggered by our lack of collective memory….by the seeming randomness of our empathy.

Reporter Carl Bernstein says our nation is in the midst of a “cold Civil War”…a phrase I initially rolled my eyes over but soon wished I coined myself.

As a nation we’re racist and sexist and homophobic. In a pinch we’re also astoundingly generous and progressive. The stupid shit we say is not always mirrored by our actions, and the stupid shit we do is not always mirrored by our internal beliefs.

We elected as President a man who is wholly supported by American Nazis. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. If we elect a man who is supported by racists, does that make him a racist? Does that make us racists? Is it even possible to have this type of discussion nowadays?

We stare into the face of scientific evidence and reject it. We accept as truth any lies that buttress our own beliefs. The truth itself has become largely irrelevant. In a cold war we feel entitled to our own version of the truth.

It already feels that Las Vegas was part of some alternative universe. Something that happened a long time ago….that we can barely remember. Except for the families and friends of the dead and wounded….it may as well have not happened at all.

In a bit..

–tf

 

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