Pacifism: My Passing Fancy

"Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day" --Headline: The Onion

“Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day” –Headline: The Onion

“From pacifist to terrorist, each person condemns violence–and then adds one cherished case in which it may be justified.” –Gloria Steinem

I’m a bit of a pacifist.  I can admit it.  I say I’m a bit of a pacifist because I still deal with really violent thoughts–with almost no provocation–most of the time.  The other day my family and I were sitting in a restaurant, enjoying our respective meals, when this man and his mother walk in (at least I hope it was his mother, she could’ve been a Cougar who was misinformed about the proper shelf-life of said behavior, but I digress, the “mother” wasn’t the issue, the man was).  He was a ruddy and rotund man with the fashion sense of an irony-impaired Bruce Vilanch.  But–beyond that–he walked with a swagger…the kind of swagger you might expect from a hunter who just dropped an animal large enough to feed his whole community.  This guy’s accomplishment was finding a well-promoted dining establishment.  He was so fucking proud of himself for conquering a task that could be achieved by a 5 year old with a smart phone.

I wanted to punch him as soon as I saw him…I mean really punch him…like when you think about punching someone, but instead of a solid punch after which the guy (or lady; I’m not sexist…ladies?) falls to the floor and stays there, this punch (the hypothetical punch I’m imagining in this moment) goes right through his skull…all the way through…entry wound…exit wound…the whole bit…and he’s just suspended there looking at me like: “What the fuck just happened?”  And I’m looking at him like: “I just happened…I’m what the fuck just happened…that’s me.”  Then I pull my fist back through and he just drops to the floor…and maybe seizes-out…I don’t know…the details get cloudy at this point…but in the end he’s lying on the restaurant floor with his brains marinating in a grayish-pink puddle.  I don’t know where that thinking originates…I don’t know why I was thinking that…but I do recognize, if I’m being honest, it is…decidedly…un-pacifistic…

Pacifism is not a popular life-choice…it makes people uncomfortable.  I have a friend who calls pacifism boring.  He’s, of course, right (they are rare moments, when Matt is wrong)…it is kind of boring…there is no conflict in pacifism…there is no hero’s journey in pacifism.  Nobody wants the Incredible Hulk to come out and give a quick lesson on resolving conflict with our words.  I guess the pacifist version of the Hulk is a calm and peaceful Bruce Banner, so yeah, case in point: boring!

The argument that I can’t understand–to be honest it makes me want to skull a body–is that pacifism is a utopian construct that’ll never work.  It is as popular as it is intellectually lazy, the sentiment: “Oh yeah let’s all get together and talk through our issues and get to understand one another and hug and it’ll all be okay.”  I’m not advocating unfettered hugging, but the rest is exactly what pacifists are asking we try.

All we are saying is give peace a chance (I borrowed that from somebody…either Jesus, or somebody bigger?).  Give it a chance.  Is that unreasonable?  Let’s get down to it.  We’ve tried the other way for thousands of years now…over and over again shedding blood over the most insignificant issues wrapped in the most manufactured minutia…so committed to the concept of force are we that in the U.S. we spent around half of a century in an arms race supposedly meant to aid in the peace process between two super-powers that actually nearly bankrupted one and left the other with such a hunger for war that it now goes out and manufactures reasons to pick a fight.  “Iraq aided Al Qaeda…no we meant they had terrible weapons with which they meant to harm the west…no what we meant was Saddam was an asshole.”

It’s true Saddam was an asshole, but who isn’t?

I can’t wait for the day when a President declares “open-season” on all of the asshole leaders in the world…then he (or she…ladies?) is sitting there, proud of the announcement they just made when, all of the sudden, a well-armed murder of troops storm the oval office and the president is like: “What the fuck guys, I didn’t mean all the assholes…I meant most of them.”  Then she (or he…fellas?) is carted off and hung…

Whatever–the point is: we’ve tried the non-pacifist way…we know it doesn’t work…it never has.

So why not give the other way a shot?  If it doesn’t work you guys can tell us: “We told you so!”

You guys love that shit…

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On the Art of Survival: One Incompetent’s Opinion

and then they were gone...

and then they were gone…

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” –Aristotle

Anybody seen these shows on T.V. that highlight end-times preppers?  I could never be a prepper, I don’t have the attention span survival requires.  I learned this sad fact while playing Call of Duty 8: Revenge of the Whistleblowers.  It’s a game where-in your character sits in a basement hacking NSA Agents’ twitter accounts pretending to be them and apologizing to their wives for made-up affairs…I know; it’s convoluted.  Anyhow I was sitting there playing about half-way through mission 3: “The Regression of the Phoenix” when I became very bored.  I wasn’t in to it.  It was too much.  And that’s me sitting in my comfortable living room, on a couch, beer within arm’s reach, a toilet just a pause click away, heat, electricity, every creature comfort imaginable.  I was out.  That’s when I thought to myself: “I’m just not cut out for this sort of thing”.  I was born to live in civilized environs.

Who are these people that fetishize the breakdown of society?  What do they have against a heated Japanese toilet with sphincty-rinse?  Who are these people that jump to the idea of revolution at the mere utterance, a muttered utterance, a mutterance (that’s mine), of gun control.  When was the last time you used a gun for something important?  Because I use ice-cold beer and hot and cold running water every fucking day.  Think about what you are sacrificing.

So impatient am I with the concept of survival that I warn anyone who gets into a car with me, before we set out on the journey, that if there is even the slightest car accident and one of them dies, or is knocked unconscious, that I would begin eating them within 15 minutes–tops.  I’ve seen survival stories where people wait days before eating the dead among them.  What is the point?  You’re merely delaying the inevitable.  If we are in trouble and we’re unsure when rescue will arrive I know that I’ll be eating well…and I don’t mean your thigh or ass…I’m going sweet-breads.  For me it’s all about the heart and liver…maybe some brains.  15 minutes that’s my threshold…I don’t care if I hear sirens in the distance…they might not be coming for us…they might not even be real, for all I know they’re a product of my brand-new-concussion-reality that I just received as a gift from the dashboard.

I have a friend who is into this survivalist thing…I mean deep.  He has all of his stuff ready to rock…he has, what they call, a “bug-out” bag; which is a backpack loaded with the essential supplies needed to get to somewhere safe and plot your plan to free the lemmings from the surly shackles of tyranny.  I don’t know all of his plans…preppers are cagy.  But I was with him one time while he was making this bracelet…it was super-cool looking…it was made with braided cord like: three and half million feet of it.  He was braiding it by hand and I asked him about it and he told me it was a survival bracelet which is basically a really convenient way to carry a shit-ton of cord on your person.  It was clear from that encounter that I wasn’t built for survival…on a mental level.  He was sitting there making a bracelet for a pretend day that might never come, and he looked so happy.  He looked like a grandmother knitting a new hat for her granddaughter.  I mean, I think the inner-dialogue was different.  Where the grandmother might be thinking of cold days made cozy with the tender love of grandma’s hands, my buddy was probably thinking about choking out some zombified despot who had the misfortune of stumbling upon his forest-compound, and now my buddy thinks the zombie-wanderer is after his powdered eggs.

And that’s the rub isn’t it?  All these people who are preparing for the end of it look upon people, who haven’t gone to the same lengths of preparation as they have, with disdain.  They think things like: if you aren’t prepping, you’re already dead.  They justify abhorrent behavior, like killing people who have found their hide-out.  So if shit really does hit the fan even at a fraction of the velocity survivalists expect, the earth will be left to re-population by hyper-vigilant, hyper-paranoid assholes whose view of humanity is just a tad bit more hippy than Stalin’s.  I mean if you really want to see if survivalists could rebuild society, you need only put Alex Jones and Ann Coulter in charge of a compound with a population of about fifty like-minded people and see how that works out…I think that’s a very apt simulation…I’d love to see that…there is a reality program that I would feel comfortable calling: “Preppers”.  Just a cross-section of humanity calling each other sheeple and screaming at each other to “wake up” and “face reality”…I figure: “do the math” would be an oft used assholism in that show (this is a pitch by the by, I’m talking to you: Jeffrey Bewkes, and Leslie Moonves.  This is a CW vehicle, to be sure).

That just leaves me wondering: what’s the point?  You work your ass off to survive really horrible shit so that you can be stuck with a bunch of emotionally broken people for less than a generation before society implodes again…and the concentration of crazy is just going to become thicker and thicker…and the gestation period of chaos shorter and shorter.  I’ve seen the exponential rise of crazy on reality television…we all have.  I remember watching the first Real World on MTV and thinking how crazy it was to film the human equivalent of putting two small crabs into a Dixie-cup.  Fast-forward like ten, or so, years and you have Jersey-Shore which is nothing more than an exponential power-up of crazy version of the Real World…an explosion of lunacy that even the most jaded and cynical television exec would have to admit: “I did not see that coming”.

And that is us.

Just a bunch of human crabs stuck in this Dixie-cup fighting over beans and rice, becoming less and less human until our devolution becomes so complete that all that remains is a single-celled organism that splits and kills the other…just a lightning flash of life and death undetectable to the naked eye over and over into perpetuity.  What is the fucking point?

I’m a bit of a prepper myself.  I have my bug-out plan.  Currently, I’m testing various syrups to see which flavor is most compatible with the barrel of a pistol.  Because, even though I know I’ll only have the gun in my mouth for the blink-of-an-eye period one needs to squeeze the trigger to its perch, I do not like the taste of metal.  Plus: I have a strong gag reflex.  It is my strongest characteristic.  Like I said, I’m just not cut out for that sort of thing…

I’m too soft…

Breaking Hard is Up to Do With a Vengeance

Dying broke in paradise...

Dying broke in paradise…

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” –Arnold Bennett

So we did it.  The house sold.  We packed up a shipping container with all of the shit we could stomach…plus a bit more (come on, we’re ‘Mericans), and left the mainland for the Garden Island in the archipelago known as Hawai’i.  We are a week-ish in and I can say, with little hesitation (only the amount allowable by prudence, and my inability to commit to anything, including my own thoughts), it is foreign.  Everything is different…even more so than I expected.  And I love it.  That is, when I’m not consumed with hating it.

Moving to Kaua’i reminds me of my first try at surfing.

It was a cold Saturday morning.  The time was 6 in the morning…yes: 6.  I was standing knee-deep in a body of water that is, on average, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4444444 Celsius), give or take a variance so miniscule it requires no more of your time, called the Pacific Ocean, off the beach in the town called Westport, Washington.  The jetty was to my right as I gazed toward Japan.  There was a low cloud bank and I could not see my friend Smitty that well…I could only hear his derisive chiding (a form of surfer encouragement meant to draw you deeper into the water).  I was anxious, but in no real danger.  The surf was mild (about 3-5 feet), I was rocking a full wet-suit (borrowed w/ no gloves, hood, or boots), and I had a long board (the length of which I can’t recall, but I was assured that one could “get up on it in a swimming pool” which is to say: it was stable).  The under-tow or rip-tide was unappreciable.  Still, I hesitated.  I think I mentioned this before, but it bears the weight of repetition: it was cold.

There is a world of separation, in terms of commitment, with regard to being knee-deep in cold water (any temperature south of 98.6, really) and balls-deep.  But if you want to surf, you gotta get your balls wet.  This, of course, doesn’t apply to you, ladies…nor does it relieve you of the hook.  Any lady who has surfed cold water can tell you that their lack of testicles makes surfing cold water no more comfortable.  The Northern Pacific Ocean is nothing if not an equalizer.  It posses the special ability to make everyone’s private parts, regardless of how affable and outgoing they are in everyday life: shy.  ERA?  YES!  That being said, there is no time, not in Chronos, nor Kairos, that can be aptly described as: “the right time” to get one’s privates wet with 40 degree water.  This is an epiphany that strikes one when building up the courage to go deeper at 6 in the morning standing knee-deep in the springtime waters off the coast of Washington state.  But you know the old adage: “If you want to surf, you gotta get…”, you get the idea.

Everything in Kaua’i is an exercise in the preceding concept.

There is no time that feels like: “the right time” to do any of the things I have to do.  Everything from looking for a car, looking for a house, looking for a job, whatever, requires me to push the boundaries of depth at which I am comfortable.  And I am faced with the struggle of resisting the temptation to shrivel into myself every single morning.  It is the kind of discomfort that I need.  There-in lies a noble impetus to get outside of my head and meet with people on an unlevel playing field where “white privilege” is not a thing…in as much as this privileged white person can tell.  I have been 20 years out of practice in procuring any of these things from a square even near the number 1.  And I am at square one…plus a little start-up cash.  But here cash means a lot less than an 808 prefix in your phone number.  I thought I had a willingness to change everything…to go with the flow…but my phone number that has followed me for a decade plus 2?  I don’t know…

It’s petty, I’m aware.

It would be impossible for you (my lovely half-dozen to one-full-dozen readers) to over-estimate how much I under-estimated this move…but what do you do?  My suit’s already wet in the worst possible way…

George and Charleen

My mom and dad

My mom and dad

“We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.” –Henry Ward Beecher

In June of 1973 I was born to two people whom I love dearly.  This was to be the beginning of two of the most complicated relationships I have had to date, though none of us knew it at the time.

My parents were married on January 8th, 1972…Elvis’ birthday…or the day he died?  At any rate, Elvis reminds me of parents’ anniversary every year.  Elvis is good for little else.

I’ve never understood what drew my folks to one another.  One might read that last line and think that I am being ungrateful or indelicate, but allow me to be clear: I am so thankful for my parents, for giving me life, and providing me with a stability at home that some never enjoy.  Regardless how tough times got, my brothers and I always knew we had a warm place to live, meals to eat, and parents who loved us to their best understanding of the concept.  I only mean I’ve never understood their attraction, they’ve always seemed so different to me.  It must have been something strong because they’re still together to this day.  I have come to learn that that kind of commitment renders all hair-splitting moot.

My mom was born into a stable family.  She came late.  Her brothers and sisters were all but grown.  Her oldest niece was only one year my mother’s junior.  She was, what is known (at least in polite society) as, a change of life baby.  Mom relayed to me that this made her childhood home a very loving and secure environment.  There was never a lack of care providers between her brothers and sisters.  I believe they numbered 2 boys and 2 girls.  I’ve only met them a few times in my life, and they all seem like good, solid citizens.  As idyllic as this set-up would seem to the casual observer, it was by no means perfect.  My mother has never complained about her childhood (that I can recall), but she has said that there was an unspoken expectation to “perform”, to put the best foot forward, to fake it ’till you make it.  When I imagine the circumstances that led to my folks’ commitment to one another, I am tempted to wonder if that pressure pushed my mom toward the young trouble-maker she’d one day marry.

My dad was the oldest born son in a family that would eventually include 2 more boys and 5 girls (I think)…he was not the oldest of his siblings, he had an older sister.  I think, if one were to consult his druthers, he would like to have been born first…regardless the sacrifice.  To hear stories of dad’s youth one might think that, in a town so small, populated with so many ne’er do wells engaged in varying makings of consternation (in the estimation of local law enforcement), a deal had once been struck between the town’s founders and the devil himself.  The specific impetus for my father’s assholery is far less mysterious (my dad considers himself proudly among the ne’er do wells).  He had a need for attention that his folks were either unable or unwilling to satiate in any way that resembled: healthy.  I’ve had a few occasions to meet his parents and I can report, with confidence, that my childhood was a lot more loving than my dad’s.

As though God wanted to give us more evidence of his faithfulness…and his sense of humor, my folks found each other and made a family.  They made a difference.  They are partially to blame for who I am.  My dad’s strong work ethic, my mom’s stubbornness, my mom’s optimism, my dad’s realism, my mom’s sense of justice, my dad’s willingness to help whomever, whenever, wherever (with only the tiniest bit of complaining [generally])–all of these attributes conspired to be the foundation of the man that I am…for good, or ill.  They’re not just responsible for me and my family.  They’re also culpable (at least part so) for my 2 younger brothers who’ve made great families in their own right.  This all because two lunatics were crazy enough to think they could make a run at: “till death do us part”.  It’s hard to imagine.  But if imagining it were easy, there’d be no reason left to try it.

Happy Anniversary George and Charleen.

Shaking Anemia

airport restaurant

airport restaurant

waiting in an airport restaurant…where fearful men use their hair to hide their foreheads…

it’s a stasis…a womb from which the melee can be observed…it appears even more frenzied than it felt when I was in “the shit” (to borrow the nomenclature of: The Kids)…

now I enjoy an Italian Sweet Sausage from a woman named Jodi…it is just the fix to steel my courage and suppress my shakiness…

inspired, I dive into my messenger bag for my pad of paper and feverishly scribble down some words…

no matter, most will be discarded once reason is restored and sugars are balanced…

the sausage comforts me as I contemplate the possibility that I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life (this is no small feat; though many things change, the “Biggest Mistake of My Life” competition remains contentious week in and week out)…

it is the perfect salve…

though there is no dignified way to eat it, my dignity becomes less and less relevant in the embrace of an L.A. local IPA…