Monday, June 29, 2015

Rabbit in the Willows

Nothing of much importance to say today.
But I had a dream last night that someone was coming to get me; that he was looking for my house, and that he was more than single-minded about finding where I lived.  In fact, he was dogged in his determination.  He was a faceless, nameless stranger wearing a baseball cap with the shadow of its bill falling just over his eyes.  I was not afraid at first, but became increasingly concerned because of the vagueness of his appearance.  He had a smile that betrayed, what I now believed to be, his sinister intentions.  His face changed between that somewhat innocuous smile and the common cliché of a wicked grin.  It moved back and forth like someone talking out of both sides of his mouth.  It was rather disconcerting that I could not get a solid fix on his appearance, or, consequently, on who he happened to be, particularly since I remember some suit and tie business guy proclaiming that appearance is everything.

A cold nervousness took root in my stomach, then rose up from within me as I thought about this man, his probable mission, and the expected consequences for me if he, in fact, did find my house.  I pictured the 22-caliber handgun with silencer that he would use, the one that assassins typically utilize to dispatch their intended victims.  I pictured him knocking on my door as if he were from the gas and electric company on some routine inquiry.  I pictured myself opening the door, and the man raising that cold black pistol from his waistband and coolly putting one live round in the middle of my furrowed brow as calmly as if he’d just shot me in the head with a rubber band like kids do.  I fell beneath my own lifeless self.  He stepped over my crumpled body on his way to the kitchen to get a drink of water from the faucet.  I saw him stepping over me again to exit back through the door, careful to pull it shut on his way out.  He glided down the front porch steps, down the long walkway to the curb, and slid rather gracefully behind the wheel of a car as vague in my mind as the man’s own face had been in my doorway.

What I had pictured had not yet actually happened in my dream.  It was just my instinctual summation of what was about to happen.  As the dream continued I found myself at the kitchen table ruminating over a cup of old reheated coffee, mouth parched and dry at the thought of being found by this man.

And then, as I lifted the cup to my mouth for that first sip of nerve- calming relief, and the hope of drinking in even a small measure of courage, I heard a faint, but distinct knock on the door.  I was trembling like a rabbit cornered by a fox in the willows when a voice in some kind of eastern European accent calmly, but with very deliberate clarity, called to me through the door, “Mr. McIntosh, I’m here.” 
I began shaking even more vigorously, like the proverbial wet dog, and thought frantically about where I could hide.  But I held my breath, frozen to my chair, scared to even set my cup of coffee back down on the table for fear of being heard, when a second knock came louder, even more pronounced than the first.  “Mr. McIntosh, are you in there?  Mr. McIntosh, your taxi is here.  I’m sorry for being late, but I had a hard time finding your house.  I’ll be waiting for you in the car, out front by the curb.”

In my dream I allowed myself to finally exhale, like a pent-up hurricane breaking free of its inhibitions.

Like a big welcome sigh of relief.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Insane Speech Police

It has recently come to my attention that some directives have been issued from the desk of Janet Napolitano (the president of the University of California system) to the faculty and administration of all the schools in the state.  Ms. Napolitano leads the university system comprised of 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program. The UC system has more than 234,000 students and about 208,000 faculty and staff.

Her directive consists of the following (what she calls) potentially offensive, racist or sexist statements that should be banned from use by anyone within the system.

* America is a land of opportunity.
* America is a melting pot.
* There is only one race, the human race.
* I believe the most qualified person should get the job.
* Why are you so quiet?

Statements that we’ve all heard, that many of us have used, and that, for all intents and purposes, are not meant in an offensive, racist, or sexist context.  And yet, Ms. Napolitano has proposed banning the use of all of the statements in order not to offend, or hurt the feelings of, well, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  anybody.
I’m not making this up.  This is the mentality she not only holds, and is promoting, but insisting on as well for those who work in the UC system, and for all those attending the schools. 

Now let’s look at these phrases:

America is a land of opportunity. 
Well, to say such a thing is to imply that Lebanon, or Afghanistan, or Cuba, or wherever, are not lands of opportunity.  And we wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings now, would we? 
Nor would we want to think so positively about our country.  It might reinforce our own bias towards the U.S.
Better ban these words. 

America is a melting pot. 
This statement would imply that we take in immigrants from all around the world; every ethnicity, from every culture, political persuasion, religious belief and ideology; and that these diverse people find common ground here in America.  What a concept.  We better not express such a grandiose perspective about our own country.  It could cause some hurt feeling in Saudi Arabia. 
Ban these words.    

There is only one race, the human race.
Now this would imply that we are all created equal; that we ought to recognize our similarities, our common origin, and our inalienable rights as humans.  But wait, that would tend to unite us rather than dividing and sub-dividing us into social, ethnic, political, economic, religious, and sexual/gender groups.  Can’t let that happen.  Smaller groups are easier to control than a people united would be. 
Better ban these words. 
I believe the most qualified person should get the job.
Now this is just an outrageous and egregious statement all together, and it most definitely should never be spoken out loud.  After all, if I were an employer I would much prefer hiring the most unqualified, the most unprepared, the most ill-equipped, the most immature, the most unkempt, and the most contentious applicant possible.  Wouldn’t you?
That being the case, we better ban these words.

Why are you so quiet?
Never ask this question to any living person.  It could be overheard by an Asian bystander who would experience it as a deeply offensive and racist question.  We must protect all people at all times from being hurt by our words, even if those same words are being misinterpreted. 
Yes, we better ban these words.

In fact, let’s ban even the discussion of banning these words,
or even thinking them.
You never know who might be listening.
And who might be offended.

Thank God for Ms. Napolitano.
Without her we just wouldn’t know what to do.


Thursday, June 11, 2015


I remember when I used to take pictures of other people.  What a novel occurrence that has become.  In today’s world I just take photos of myself.  Sometimes there are other things in the photos with me, and sometimes there are other people, but it’s usually just me.  Yes, I like the world to be all about me.

Here’s me in the line for the outhouse at Bonnaroo.  Here’s me in front of the bar in El Sobrante.  Here’s me in the mirror taking a picture of myself in the mirror.  How do I look?  Here’s me checking my Facebook.  Here’s me eating a carrot in the car.  Here’s my feet walking down the street.

What has become of me?
One of these days I’m gonna just get over myself.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bruce Jender

You’ll have to excuse the pun, the misspelling of Bruce Jenner’s name.  It was not designed to diminish or ridicule him, only to get your attention.  And now that I have your attention, let me say that it looks like the known world is weighing in on him transitioning from a man to a woman; and the war of social-politics connected to it is fully engaged as well, like dogs and cats locked together in a cage.  Everyone is taking up sides.  One side applauds him, promotes him endlessly, calls him brave, and elevates him to hero status.  And the other side says that what he’s doing with his gender transition is disgraceful.  They say it’s perverted, they say it’s morally reprehensible, and appalling beyond words. 

Mr. Jenner is not without fault himself.  The Bruce / Caitlyn Jenner publicity campaign has been skillfully mapped out, and is in full swing.  There is money to be made here, and you can bet he’s going to profit from it.  He says he wants to help other transsexuals to feel good about themselves, and to be able to live comfortably in society, and in their own skin.  A noble concern on his part.  And I have no doubt that his intentions in that regard are good, even beyond the financial incentive. 

Now, I don’t have a problem with Bruce Jenner.  In fact, from what I know of him, I kind of like him.  I empathize with him for the pain and confusion he has evidently endured through his life, and I sympathize with his personal struggle.  I’ve had struggles of my own.  Not his particular kind, but struggles, nevertheless.  No one knows another persons pain without having walked in their shoes.  However, a person willing to understand that pain should also be willing to hope that Bruce would be able to find solutions for his dysmorphic disorder that does not involve surgically and chemically carving himself into a woman.  It is a psychological/emotional issue that was born within him, and it is fixable. 

The truth is, Bruce will never be a woman, and I think the people who are supporting him in that direction should be ashamed of themselves.  The struggle is between Bruce and his thinking, and not between Bruce and his body.  I understand that it is easier to support someone in what they want to do than to actually tell them the truth.  And it is the coward’s way of supporting those they care about.  They know it deep inside, and so does the object of their support . . . . . . . in this case, Mr. Jenner.

I recognize quite acutely that the truth is not a popular notion in today’s world.  We prefer to create different definitions of healthy than to define a particular condition as unhealthy.  And just as Bruce must come to grips with his own demons, society will have to come to a different standard of honesty and integrity in order to actually solve some of the problems we are, in fact, creating for, and among, ourselves. 
Although I believe that Bruce is too far down the road, too strongly committed to turn back, I do wish the very best for him.  I am not a hero worshipper, or a condemnation screamer, but I do fear what is statistically, and experientially born out; that he is in for a very unsatisfying and painful future, even in spite of his money and notoriety. 

God bless you Bruce. 
I hope you find your way.