July 7th, 2004


Back on the horses

By now you've figured out that my Fourth of July post isn't up. It will be eventually. I doubt anyone cares. The reason that it's not up is because I committed to making an effort towards living, not just sitting around contemplating life, and thus I was forced to go to Bryant Park to watch All The President's Men with a friend. It was a decent time, I read some more Schnitzler, lay in the shade on a blanket, and did a little people watching. It was more laid back than I've been in some time. There were some amusing moments, chief among them was when what I thought was a little brother older sister combo on a nearby blanket turned out to be a couple of lesbians. The moment when the one I thought was the little brother rolled on to the sister and kissed her passionately on the lips was a bit of a "Uhhhhhh" moment. Probably the most interesting part of the afternoon/evening/night (I left my home at about 4:45 and arrived back at 12:30) was when my friend's father showed up. I'd heard a good deal about him, and apparently we'd met before, but I didn't remember him at all. He was a short man, with a build that made him look like his DNA had wanted to make him a midget and then decided against it at the last moment, so he had a bit of the thick stockyness one associates with little people, but not enough that you would notice it if you glanced him in a crowd. He sat down on the blanket we were reclining on and neurotically informed us that he'd only be there for a few minutes. You could tell that he felt that he was intruding, but neither of us minded. I am incapable of begrudging someone some time with their father, especially on a sunny summer day in a park. My friend's in his early 20's, and he wants to go to grad school god knows where. Who can tell how many more of those kinds of memories there4 are left for them to make. I probably only have a dozen strong memories of mine, and I know for damn sure that I wish now I'd spent fewer hours out with my friends or in front of the Nintendo, and a lot more time with my dad. It's cliche to say that you don't know how much time you have with your family, but cliches aren't cliches because they are wrong. Death lurks around every corner and in every nook and cranny of this world. My cousin was recently within a block of an explosion caused by a faulty underground electricity router. It blew a parked (and empty) car in half. Frozen waste drops from an airplane and crushes a farmer in his field. People are prone to saying "life is what happens when you're plans go awry" but death is what happens when you're looking the other way.

Anyway, the father was an interesting fellow. He reminded me a lot of me, with off the cuff lectures, introspective running commentary, biting self-criticism (he called himself a mean, vicious, person. While he was definitely neurotic and pushy, I sincerely doubt he's actually mean-spirited, especially given the disposition of his son.) It was an interesting experience, and he had some interesting claims to make. He told me that I was being foolish by not holding my tongue on the Dachau and Anne Frank jokes, because I'd develop a reputation for being offensive (ship has sailed) and might inspire a backlash from those I offend (been there, done that.) I didn't tell him that I am trying to make a life out of being creative, though, and perhaps that would have changed his mind. Self-editing is essential for a writer-person, but self-censorship is not. Nietzsche was profoundly full of shit, but he managed to have an impact by saying what he believed, and sneaking important tidbits like "God is dead, we have killed him" in among the piles of crap about supermen and such (he had the good sense to put that in the mouth of a character, but it didn't matter for the controversy it brings). I regret the things I don't say more than those I do. He also had extremely strong views on movies and books, challenging me all over the place. That's fine, though. He's not only a generation older than me, but he's the father of someone I've known since adolescence. They automatically get to pull the seniority card. The way I see it, after you become an adult, other adults have to treat you as such even if they are significantly older, but people who knew you as a youth get grandfathered in, so to speak.

As for the movie, All the President's Men, it was mediocre. It's not that there were glaring flaws, except the sudden and undramatic ending, but there were no real strengths either. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford were fine, but it's not like their performances were spectacular in any way. There were all kinds of loose ends throughout the film, and very little in the way of intense or interesting drama. It was a nice movie to sit on a blanket and watch in a park with a friend, making MST3000 style jokes and discretely checking out the women, but that's about it. Is it worth 2 and a half hours of your life? I guess it depends how old you are and what your other options are. Not much more to say, to tell the truth I was never fully focused on the film.

I rarely post quizzes in my journal, but I have in this case for one important reason:

Your LJ Soap Opera
LJ Username
Your spouse: lordofthelies
They'll have an affair with: rdg
You'll have a retaliatory affair with: ed_gashlycrumb
Your rival: temujin9
Who will try to kill you? _simeon
Chance you'll survive till the end: - 100%
This quiz by sarcastro - Taken 31968 Times.
New - How do you get a guy to like you?

If you'll note my marriage partner, you'll see that it is my currently dormant fiction journal. That could either be read as the encouraging idea that I should wed myself to my creativity for the sake of my future, or it could imply that once again another party has determined that I'm not really cut out for relationships with other people, and should be contained in my own orbit. I think I'll choose to read it both ways. Of course it's entirely arbitrary, but these sorts of things make me chuckle. I enjoy being recognized for my lack of romantic prowess.
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I thought it was the Fourth of July

It should be cliché to say that Independence Day means many different things to many different people, and did even as the founders put the finishing touches on their famous declaration and prepared for the inevitable war with Britain. It should be cliché to talk about the central message of the declaration, which is that complacency is the natural state of mankind, but that when the degradations and injuries visited upon a people by their governing body becomes too great a price to bear people have the right to rise up and demand redress of their problems. It should be cliché to talk about the contradictions inherent in a system that declared a universal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while excluding women from the second two and blacks from even the first. It should be cliché to take this time to actually read over the declaration, read the constitution, and discuss the ideas that lead to their formulation and from whence they derive both their towers of strength and their pitfalls of weakness. It should be cliché, but it is not.

The Fourth of July has become about flag-waving, fireworks, potato salad, and a day off from work. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of those things, except perhaps excessive flag-waving, but they do not represent what Independence Day was really about. If you read the declaration, one of the most striking things about it is how much is devoted to critiquing the colonial governments of the Americas. While the ideals of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, self rule, and accountability are all in there, the majority of the words are devoted to pointing out the failings and flaws of the current regime. The Declaration of Independence was an eloquently phrased 18th century version of Twisted Sister’s “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

July 4th should be about looking at our own government, seeing how well it serves our needs, and challenging it to improve and serve us better. Remember that in the Declaration it states that governments rule by the consent of the governed. They can only tell us what to do so long as we are okay with that. The right to revolution is written into the Declaration as clear as day. Safety and Happiness are mentioned in the declaration. Patriotism is not. Those who claim that July 4th should be a time to celebrate our founders (and, it is implied. our betters) willfully miss the point of the holiday. We are not, or at least should not be, celebrating merely the one revolution that happened to produce our society; we are celebrating the very idea of revolution. We are celebrating the sacrifice and danger inherent in making demands on those in positions of power, and the fact that individuals are capable of defeating an empire if there are enough of them and they want it badly enough. This is not a time to blindly cheer our troops and leaders and whatever our country is doing at the time, it is a time to audit our government and seeing if it is truly acting in the interest, and by the license, of the people.

I would submit that this government is not. Our war in Iraq was popular only thanks to a campaign of misinformation waged on us from the top echelons of our government. Our government seeks at every turn to curtail our rights and deny even citizens of these United States due process of law. It has fought tooth and nail for its ‘right’ to secrecy to supersede the people’s right to know what our leaders are up to. It has perverted tax law to serve business and the wealthy few, it has waged war on the IRS rather than tax cheats, and it has lied about what it is doing at every turn. The crimes that our current government is guilty of are at least comparable to some of the crimes for which the British government was indicted by our founding fathers. This should ring bitter in our ears on this holiday above all others.

So why are we allowing this to happen? It is because America has become the land of complacency. One of the most common refrains you hear today when you complain about this country, or indeed any institution that you are a member of, is that you ought to either love it or leave it. This is the most complacent and unsatisfactory argument out there. The answer to challenges should be either explanation, as to why things are better as they are, or why the cost of change would be too great, or actual change. July 4th 1776 took place during the enlightenment, an age when reason was prized above all else as the appropriate motivator for action. If we want to honor our founders then we should revive that ideal of reason as the guiding light of the nation and opt for debate over dismissal, no matter how great the challenge being made or how cherished the institution being challenged. This is not the case, people are all too happy to wave a flag, jump up and down, and declare that they are satisfied with the way things are. They are happy to take the position that the Tories (who we like to forget were a majority) took during the revolution. When we venerate Jefferson, Hamilton, and Paine we are venerating the radical left. When we praise Washington we are praising the rebel leader. It is easy to forget these things. America has become fat and lazy, not just or even primarily physically but of spirit and mind. We have seen the budding plutocracy grab power, we’ve seen our young men and women sent off to the sand to die in a colonial operation quite similar to that undertaken by the British when they wished to regain control over their 13 colonies in North America. What’s the difference between the suicide bombers and Washington’s guerillas? It’s a matter of technique and honor, but not of intent. The majority of Iraqis support the American occupation? The majority of Americans supported the British occupation. These are things to think upon.

What am I suggesting as the solution? It is not armed rebellion, I do not think we are at that point yet, and as a practical matter the current U.S. military machine dwarfs in power the redcoat wearing British army. It was not hard to find guns and knives among farmers who needed weapons to protect their livestock and livelihoods from a variety of predators. There aren’t many F-14 Tomcats owned by the urbanized population of our country today. More importantly, though, we still have our votes, and though they are manipulated, gerrymandered, and sometimes outright discarded, we must use them. We must find candidates who represent us and overwhelm the scoundrels at Diebold and among the current parties with the clamor of our voices at the ballot box. The majority might disagree, but the majority does not vote. It is our duty, to our founders and to our country, to mobilize those who do have correct ideas to get out and cast their votes, and to change the minds of those benighted souls who have been won over by propaganda. Talking about politics is not rude or divisive; it is the definition of patriotism. It is what Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin did before that fateful day.

Politeness has no place except as a tactical maneuver in this war for hearts and minds. Get out there. Be rude. Get in people’s faces and challenge their thinking, challenge their complacency, challenge them. I’m not saying that I am perfect in this respect, because I am not. I do, however, recognize that flaw and I’m working on it. There were nights when John Jay preferred mulled wine and light conversation to working on forging a more perfect union, but they were few enough for him to have his say.

Educate yourselves, urge those around you to educate themselves, make up your mind, and work to make this country better. That will serve it far more than any amount of praying, cheering, or repeating hollow rhetoric ever could. Independence day is a time for independent thought, for cynicism and suspicion, and for initiating change. Take advantage of it.

P.S. I realize that this is July 7th, not the 4th. That’s okay. I’m just declaring my independence from the Gregorian calendar system, and demonstrating that we shouldn’t limit patriotism and caring about our country to the days designated to us by our massas in the big house.
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