Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Other News...

Periodically some bit of headline news excites comment all over the talk shows and editorial pages as to how whatever just happened proves once again what a great people we are here in the U. S. of A. and how it is all onward and upward and nobody since the dawn of time was ever so - goddamn it, let's just admit it, good - as us-here Amurricans.  I recall one old news sensation years ago that received this kind of commentary when a toddler fell into a well in Texas or Kansas or some such place where folks are true Americans and love their Jesus.  The entire community rallied round and as tense hours passed and people prayed and worked round the clock, especially the newsmen, to finally successfully get the child safely out.  People stopped what they were doing; in Texas hundreds of black men were NOT dragged to death behind pick-ups for a full week as every thought was turned toward the safe extraction of the baby.  It seems in my memory that the baby's name was Jessica, although I could be confusing that baby with some in vitro kid - it seems that all babies were named Jessica at the time, just as all the young actresses famed for their hotness now seem to be named Jessica Something-or-other.  Implicit in all the coverage seemed to be the idea that if the baby had been Baby Indira in India or Baby Ingrid in Sweden, the locals would have passed heedlessly by on their way to work saying, "Hmm. baby in a well?  Good luck with that!"  But we were the wondrous, caring Americans and we, well, dammit, we CARED!

I have this attention span that is akin to that of a mayfly; I get sick of just about any news story somewhere around the second time I hear it (third, if it involves nudity) and I tend to read the OTHER news when one of these stories breaks (and breaks and breaks and breaks) which leaves no columnist or newsman or talk show host so filled with non-stop self-congratulatiory bloviation.  So in my quest to find out what America is all about, I was following the OTHER news story that was going on about the time of Baby Jessica's descent into a well, where every effort was being made in Florida to keep two little boys who had tested HIV-positive from going to any school where other, more decent children might come in contact with them.  That deep faith in God's protection which Floridians are so wont to proclaim when somebody ELSE is at risk did not seem to come into play when the issue was HIV, so the good citizens of Florida felt that that do-it-yourself spirit, which is such a hallmark of the American character, must be relied on.  What these enterprising parents and their allies did was burn down the home of the the two little boys.  "If yuh don't live int this-heah district, yuh cain't send your kids to ouah schools!" was the general consensus.  And, of course, who can live in a burnt-out house?  So God's will was accomplished without God having to lift a finger.  

This habit I have of reading ALL the news came into play again this week when I could hardly get within ten feet of an opinion spewer, if he wasn't on one of the Murdoch enterprises, without hearing about the triumph of the American spirit of fairness when the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy was scrapped.  Apparently there are gay people who want to die for their country and - hey - at last we are going to let them do so.   I shall leave aside the illogic of people who hate gays supporting a position which actually saves gay lives (if I felt that way, I'd FORCE them to join the military and to fight in the front lines).  At any rate, as I say, my attention wandered after just a few minutes of these chatty folks pissing all over themselves in the sheer ecstasy of America once again showing the way to such countries as hadn't already integrated their gay citizens into their armed forces without nearly such a struggle or subsequent orgy of self-congratulation.  So I looked at the other news to see where we as the greatest nation that ever lived under the special dispensation of a loving god, and lo! what did I see?  Well, for starters, just down the road from me a piece another young boy was hounded to death because he was perceived to be gay.  This boy, who was 14, had been bullied for years because he was gay.  So let's say it started when he was 10 or 11.  How gay can anyone be at that age?  

The Catholics, Ku Klux Klan, Mormons, Focus on Families and similar Christian groups seem to take the position that being gay is a decision that someone makes at some point in his or her life.  Outside of rape, having sex IS, of course, a decision, but that doesn't seem to be what I hear from these sects and organizations.  Their position seems to be that a person decides what he or she will want, not just what her or she will actually do.  One apparently decides ahead of time what will flash across one's mind when one glances at a person or object.  I was raised a pretty strict Catholic; in fact, I was a much stricter Catholic in my youth than my parents were at the same time (with my bi-polar Dad it was an off and on thing - one week a pagan hedonist, then next week sack cloth and ashes - but his median mode was slightly less all-or-nothing than mine was when it came to sin and issues of right and wrong).  So I know a bit about this type of thinking.  

The reason - I suspect the ONLY reason - I did not commit suicide when I was a teenager was because nobody seemed to know I was gay.  I had a lot of friends; and my family, on down to the cousins once-removed, liked me or so I felt at the time.  Kids who were uncontrollably and visibly effeminate had a much harder time than I did, but there were so few of them and the general awareness of homosexuals in my school was so vague and non-specific.  Now there is such awareness at such an early age, that fewer kids can skate by the issue as I once did.  My belief, when I was young, was that were I to be exposed as gay, my family and friends and everyone else, without exception, would feel nothing but repulsion and disgust.  As soon as I reached an age where I understood the concept of Judgment Day, my vision of it was of a horde of people I knew gathered in a vast arena (I visualized something like a great colosseum with people on rising tiers so they could get a good look) staring in horror at me standing alone in the middle as they saw written across the sky by celestial planes of some sort spewing the text in smoky letters like an ad for beer or suntan lotion, of a minute by minute account of what I had been thinking all my life.  Not what I had DONE, because I hadn't done anything at that time, but of what I WAS.  I recall that for some reason the faces I was always most aware of in this vision were not those of my family or fellow Catholics but of the Lomaxes, our neighbors who were a byword for probity in our town and whose five sons were popular and athletic and just such darn real men.  I found this vision almost unbearable, but like those people who are scared of everything yet can't resist renting every horror flick that comes out, I couldn't turn my inner gaze away from it.  To this day, whenever I hear a reference to Judgment Day that is the first visual that crosses my mind.  

I just can't see that poor kid in Buffalo CHOOSING to embark so unpopular a course.  And why would he?  What would possess a 10 or 11-year old to be something that didn't even promise any physical gratification anytime in his near future?  I know that if I made a choice as to preferences in my partner's gender, these preferences were in place when I was three or four years old, because I clearly remember what still feels, when I recall it, like a physical yen for certain men in my surroundings.  I liked a lot of girls, but there was never an erotic tinge to this liking; with many of the males there was that element of lust, as far back as I can remember.  I flat out KNOW, in short, that I had no choice and I am equally positive that this boy in Buffalo never had a choice either, as to who he was and what he was drawn to.  And one of my great take-aways, the great gift that I was given by this knowledge, was that those who spake in terms of certainty on this topic were either lying or were willing to to state as fact something they did not actually know anything about.  When someone tells me as fact a thing I know to be false, then I know that someone is not to be trusted in pronouncements of any sort.  Maybe other races or other nations or other beliefs are NOT inferior, maybe I do not have to be in church every seventh day, maybe there is not some guiding - let alone loving - intelligence running the show and totting up my performances for later punishment.  

It took years to work this through of course; more fear was instilled in me by Holy Mother Church than anything else before or since, and fear is the hardest thing to eradicate.  I have heard the argument that the safe course is to believe because if you are wrong you get nothing, whereas if you choose unbelief and are wrong you get the Judgment and it ain't gonna be in your favor.  Of course, this is a false hedge.  If I choose to live as a believer in the unbelievable I give up entirely the only life I have for nothing.  Maybe those beans WILL grow a giant beanstalk that reaches riches in the clouds, but this kid ain't betting his cow on that proposition.  

So I am waiting for the next chapter in the breathless tale of the specialness and gosh-darned goodness of this here America and its specially selected by God - and designed just for us! - mission.  And I'll fill the wait with all those OTHER news stories - the floods, the mothers killing their kids, the tornadoes, the coal mine disasters, the hurricanes, the fires, the droughts, the recessions.  I understand that these little bumps in the highway to our apotheosis are there because we don't believe ENOUGH and so forth, but still, I am strangely unpersuaded to send my love offering (and nothing says 'love' like a cheque, we thank you and God thanks you) to the would-be chroniclers of this destiny.  There is an urge in each of us to be lackeys, to get that autograph, get our picture standing next to someone greater than ourselves, to be told what to think, but I am holding out for something just a tetch more comforting.  And think of the special pleasure I will provide for all the godly when I am burning in the afterlife along with all those gay kids and foreigners, while they can watch and withhold their help, just as they did in this life.

It'll be just like Earth all over again for them.  Not just Earth: it'll be just like America!


  1. I hear you, David. So sad about the kid who just couldn't wait for it to get better. The trouble is, we maybe get one grade level or group to have a vague awareness that being mean to certain people is a bad thing, and then comes along the next, younger group, doing the same rotten crap and needing to educated because it seems to be a genetic, natural, animal-instinct sort of thing to do--pick on the vulnerable.

    My faith has varied from great to weakly hopeful throughout my life and I credit it with getting me sober--but after many years of sobriety and facing the difficulties of life without the help of drugs or alcohol, all I can say at this point is--I'm not an atheist. I know that because of the resentment I carry towards whoever is to blame for the things I can't fix in my life. But it's okay with me if you are (an atheist). And I'm not proud of it, but I'm no longer as drug free as I would like to be but the ones I'm using are legal and prescribed.

    This is a chancy thing, commenting here. I am compelled to try to write something comforting. I comforted Miz Angie right into disappearance. Please don't you do that.

  2. Flooz - Yeah - what is it with the disappearance of Miz A? She not only disappeared herself; she took all her writing with her. I trust that it was not your comfort alone which drove her to do so - although you never know.

    And I think freedom from drugs is greatly overrated, so enjoy all those legal hits you are apparently feeling just a tad guilty about. Freedom from the chains of superstitions about some angry being watching your every move hoping to pull a gotcha means freedom from a whole lot of guilt. On the other hand are drugs without guilt all that enjoyable?

    As to atheism, it strikes me as a particularly silly designation - it is like calling horses non-unicorns. Believing there is no god is in itself a belief and I don't have any beliefs on a topic that is so fundamentally craven, pointless and usually used by the mean-spirited to point a false moral when trouble overtakes someone they have been wishing ill for quite some time.

    Your reference to 'it getting better' seems to hint at that website for gay kids which urges them not to kill themselves. I certainly think it is well-intended, (and it usually does indeed get better) but what these kids need is personal one-on-one contact. After all this child of whom I am speaking had himself posted an encouraging message on the 'gets better' website. I am planning to start a website for the kids who hounded him to death called "It Gets Worse", pointing out that for most heterosexual kids the peak is in junior high or high school when they are busy bullying and that life, love and career for them will most likely be a long trajectory downward toward unemployment, out-of wedlock kids and a future driven by ever more feckless Congresses who will deny them any services or old-age assistance whatever while informing them that everything is their own fault. Perhaps they will kill themselves before they do harm to anyone else. One can only hope.

  3. Thanks for your visit to sixtyfivewhatnow! Great advice, indeed.

  4. It was an interesting visit; you write interesting things. And if you take said advice, I suspect someone in future will be grateful - although you'll have to take that on faith. Besides, I live to serve.

  5. David, I just looked at my own page after months and months of not even glancing at it. I saw your note to me that you'd left just today, and you hit the nail on the head. When you read I'd lost 5, well, add 2 more to that since. I just feel at a loss, sort of unfixable at the moment and I seem to cry at the drop of a hat. Happy things make me cry, sad things make me cry, and sometimes nothing at all makes me cry. Never knew a bod could hold so many tears and for so damn long. Mind boggling. Obviously this is why I don't write or visit and comment -- who needs a whining person around. Now don't get me wrong, there are moments something strikes me SO funny and I start laughing. The problem is, then I can't stop and that's not so good either. So I keep to myself a lot right now but I don't sit and feel sorry for myself. I already know why I feel like I do, it's more like almost constant panic attacks: heart pounds, hard to breathe, and a cross between a looming fear feeling and pure exhaustion. Part of me knows I need to really talk to someone but the other part of me gets so embarrassed that I can't bring myself to do it. Catch 22, and I hate it. God. This is nothing like my usual self. Well, I just wanted you to know that I so appreciate that you actually get what I mean and you understand that feeling of...I guess helplessness would be the word. It's all turned into a real eye-opener. Thank you, David, for running over to my old page and taking the time to leave me such warm words. It made my day, really it did. xxx

  6. ...and PS. I just read your post and without a single doubt, I feel exactly the same way you do. If only you lived closer you could come on over and join me in the ranting at the news. There was one night this summer when the front door was open and some neighbors were taking a walk. All of a sudden they heard, "Are you freakin' kiddin' me???" coming from my house. They said the fire in the tone made them come to the door to see if I was ok. Ahhh, yeah, your company would have been nice to add to the fray :)

  7. JennyD - I know it is you and not an imposter because you just CAN'T comment with out a PS!
    There are two kinds of depression - the PTSD or reaction kind - where you are depressed for a specific cause or event, and the other kind that comes for no real reason (although there may be a superficial trigger - the clue is that the fall is deeper and longer than the trigger merits and secondly it comes over and over and over). You sound as if you are suffering from the first kind. I recognize the feelings, although I have had a life long struggle with the second kind. I conquered panic attacks long ago, but not the cyclical descent into anger/sadness. When you are IN them, the two types look alike. If you feel like you should talk to someone you probably should. Your gut is right. At our age losses are inevitable. The pride that keeps you feeling embarrassed is actually only one more symptom of the depression. Depressed people always set up some self-defeating noble principle such as don't be a whiner which is just a self-deluding way to continue the spiral. Actually, if you can make yourself write it will help (we can choose to read it or not, after all). But you probably need to talk long and often to someone who will listen. The key to understanding depression as an aberration from rational thinking is that it is ALWAYS a Catch-22. Doing almost ANYTHING is the best cure - physical exercise of any kind - even - or especially -walking; and socialization - but not where you go on spirals of ranting at news events, or the system- these can be just escalating the rage and looping - only those where you rant at the evil and unfairness of your personal sorrows. Of course everybody but you knows what you should do, just as everybody but me could solve MY problems in 10 minutes. Grieving takes time and cannot be hastened, but those aspects of it which paralyze you are not grief, but depression and should be addressed. Since there will be more losses inevitably, learning how to deal with them is crucial. You wouldn't try to set your own broken leg, so why do you think you can fix your own depression? Your gut that says 'talk' is telling you something. If you can't talk honestly - including the whines - with a friend, find someone who is trained to listen. If you have faith in the clergy, let one of them earn his keep for a change. If not, then look for local grief support groups or find some kind of counseling. I also suggest not watching the news for a while. It never really changes anyway - just the names vary.