The title alone makes me very happy. I bought it today.
But I’m afraid to try to start reading it. What if I actually can’t? We’ll see.
I have always had enormous respect for the Office of the President of the United States. Why? Well, because I was taught to. That’s where god and jesus and the golden rule slipped into my worldview, too.
When I was a kid, when my grandmother was still alive, her point of view on politics was this: Republicans are for rich people. Democrats are for the rest of us. That’s as far as she went into politics says my mom.
I know, too, that both my mother and her mother loved JFK. Like everyone else, they were devastated when he was assassinated. It was the end of the innocence in so many ways.
Growing up where I did, when I did and around whom I did, I can say that compared to most, my own innocence—a kind of ignorance about the real world “out there” that permitted a strong sense of optimism to take hold and remain—lasted longer than most my age. Even so, my innocence bit the dust much earlier and more gradually than it did for my forebears.
And speaking of age, I am as old now as JFK was when he was elected. There’s some perspective; quite sobering, in spite of the fact that his name shines a broad-yet-specific light on the beneficent potential of the Office of the President.
They called it Camelot. There was wonder to the world, promise of bright futures here and above even the skies. Today is darkness. The darkness that exists in the long, cold shadow of the dogmatic. Those who’ve violently grabbed hold of certainty have forgotten that doubt is good. Questions are important. Challenge to authority is not only healthy, but necessary. Respect can thrive even against doubt, inquiry and challenge, when humility and uncertainty drive us not towards consolidation of power, but towards solutions and betterment.
Put another way: when you have no doubt about your abilities, your decisions, your place in the world, there can be no betterment. What impetus for change when you’ve settled in your own mind that you are perfect and unassailable?
JFK spoke at a Yale commencement ceremony. A quote from that speech:
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic … Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
“The comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Did JFK predict the Right Wing Christian movement?
Nice to think so, but societies over the ages have been poisoned time and time again by the intrusion of religion in the affairs of state. Dogma breeds impatience, a twisted irony if there ever were one.
The current occupier of the Office of the President has no doubt that Texas only executed genuinely guilty people, that Sadam Hussein was a “gathering threat” to the rest of the world, that invading and occupying Iraq as the right thing, that warrantless surveillance is legal.
Confidence? No, dangerous hubris. There is no debate, no questioning, only choosing between black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. I have had doubt about each president that has occupied the Office throughout my life. Doubt is the necessary first step, but only a first step. I have come to conclusions about each one, and changed those opinions as needed. This President has no doubts about his own righteousness and correctness. That leaves no room for the rest of us to doubt, and so I use my lack of doubt and make a simple charge: this man is dangerous; he hates our freedom.
Paris was taken back to jail. Everyone will say she deserves it. Everyone will say that she doesn’t deserve all the celebrity and attention she gets, but who keeps paying attention to her??? Yes, you got it, the same people who find her undeserving.
I have a more laissez-faire about the celebrity. It happens and it will always happen so long as a critical mass of people waste time and energy on voyeuristic fantasy at the expense of their own self-improvement. That’d sound horribly Right Wing, except that I don’t take that extra step in insisting that they change their lives or seek to punish them for their behavior.
Anyway, now I feel bad. Sure she’s spoiled, but so would you be if you were as famously manor born as she is. The flipside of being spoiled, however, is a deep fragility due to insulation from “real world” trials and tribulations.
On top of that, her deep-seated expectations of privilege and “having things taken care of” summarily failed her. Sure it’s not hard time she’s serving, but relative to her circumstances, I expect it’s viewed as such.
Of course the whole return-to-jail stinks of passing the buck and saving face in the blast of negative public opinion; I don’t believe the judge is any hero for his actions. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he used his own privilege as a judge to elevate himself—that is, if I weren’t in the middle of an apology for casting aspersions.
Remember the last time your own expectations and your own worldview (however humble) were radically interrupted? Even at your own hand, it’s shocking and horribly, horribly painful.
So I feel guilty for having lashed out, not that it would matter what I said at this long financial and cultural distance from her, but that’s also not the point. The point is that I say this for myself. Not to abate my own guilt, but to own up to a mistake.
And to remind myself why bitterness simply costs too much.
Poor Bush Twins Paris Hilton. After just three days, she’s “reassigned” to “home confinement” citing “medical issues”. Other websites have hypothesized that she was simply refusing to eat prison food, so they sent her home.
Not surprising so far, really. Greased palms rarely palpate properly.
But whither the “home confinement”? Technically, she’s limited to 4000-5000 ft from home.
So she’ll just have to have the parties at her house for the next less-than-three weeks. Poor, poor Paris.
It gets better! Her original sentence of 40+ days was going to be reduced to 23 if she showed “good behavior” behind bars. Wouldn’t you say that refusing to eat should be considered ill behavior? I sure would. Even moreso: she showed up just before midnight on Sunday, and was “reassigned” and left the jail in the early hours of Thursday. Let’s do some math: let’s say she left just before 4am this morning (I’m granting her a lot: knowing her, “early hours” meant just after midnight). So that accounts for 4 hours to Monday 4am. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (I’m counting on my fingers, such is my life). A total of approxminately 3 days, 4 hours. So why did she get “credit” for 5 days of jail?
All of this while those of us without such resources languish at the hands of bureaucratic finger-pointing. Wondering about the title? “Spell the word ‘world’ backwards.” Can you? Then you passed what passes for a test to determine the intactness of your concentration faculties. Hurrah!
Now, I always try to avoid bitterness, at least on this blog. I gave myself a rule way back when, when I started this blog: that everything I publish here remains here. Culpability is the best way to remain a responsible writer.
Maybe I’ve succeeded in avoiding bitterness in these pages in the past? Probably not. Definitely not with the publishing of this entry. I’m sure (??) I’ll brush it off soon enough.
Today marks four years since I started this blog. Goods, bads, ups, downs. Too much writing, too little writing. Good writing, awfully bad writing. All me.
It started here:
Eerily, the entry’s content (ignoring the god-spamming comments) lends strong advice to my current me. It’s strange how pain, stress, debilitation can make you forget who you are. The option now is choosing to restore or accepting that is is now was.
I suppose we shall all be back.
We know what we are, but not what we may be.
— William Shakespeare
I had realized quite some time ago that the worse my mood, the smaller my world. Or perhaps the smaller the world felt, the worse my mood. I’d go with the latter if in some odd ways the two sentiments, if not reflexive, at least bleed back into one another.
The above quote is perhaps the shortest quote of Shakespeare’s that isn’t just some silly idiom still in common use today, but it says everything.
At least these days.
Most who would read the quote might find comfort in the first part. After all, knowing one’s self carries power, and power appoints itself a measure of comfort.
But for me, it’s the last part. The most comfort to be had for me is living in a large and open-ended world where all futures may not be lived, but nonetheless any future is possible. And not yet known.
There’s a joy in knowing there are as-yet-unencountered experiences, people, ideas, loves, even losses. There’s art in the possible, no matter the medium used to convey it.
But now? Now I’m stuck. One cannot live without income, cannot have income without work when the safety net removes itself from under you, cannot work when the required faculties fail. In being stuck, there is no future because there is no forward motion. In being stuck because of chronic pain, there is only pain and no possible.
The world is smaller than it’s ever been. Care to guess at my mood and well-being?