If you're like me, and I know I am...
Friday, October 17, 2014
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
On Sept. 11, 2001, I became painfully aware that I'd be writing the phrase "On Sept. 11, 2001..." for years to come. It was pretty obvious by brunch time that day that we were living through zeitgeist-altering events that would shape the new millennium pretty drastically and for quite a while, too. What we didn't know at the time, what we could not have predicted, was that our country would turn into a Terry Gilliam inspired paranoid comedy where business-as-usual would be the real devil in the details.
Take the current state of our nation's airports. Now, if you're like me -- and I know I am -- then you don't mind being publically groped by strangers or photographed in the nude by them so long as they have plausible deniability or an abundance of natural charisma. Protests about civil liberties aside, most of us don't mind a few silly security measures or even a host of monotonous questions and inspections. But what is difficult to come to terms with is when these measures become so laughably predictable in their knee-jerk responsiveness to grand failures that they offend reason and undermine the system they purport to protect.
As I learned at Iowa State, a little depravity goes a long way whether safety is an issue or not. But even if full body scans and prurient pat downs were able to keep us perfectly safe in flight, these measures stop no one from walking into an airport with a steamer trunk full of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, a gasoline can and a Zippo. For all the security on the concourse between you and your plane there is nothing more daunting than a couple of stupid questions from a bored ticket agent before that. Wile E. Coyote could successfully execute a terror plot at an airport without a ticket for a flight. It just isn't that hard and anyone with an imagination could cook up a scheme.
And yet every time some fool or zealot attempts to detonate their clothing in flight, we invest in millions of dollars worth of equipment and procedures experts admit aren't actually keeping us safe. The underwear bomber would have made his way easily through an x-ray scanner and an aggressive pat down. Airports are as vulnerable as they ever were and jets are only moderately safer due to a more vigilant flying public.
What we have here is business-as-usual dressed up as "new and improved." It's the same scam ad men use to sell detergent. We don't have safety so much as the illusion of safety. Something bad happened and it made us feel better for a while to know somebody somewhere was doing something. So long as nothing really bad happened again, we were content to take off our shoes in public and believe with all our might that double-checking everyone with a beard was working.
The problem is that crises always prompts the greedy to find the profit in our fear. Every industry in this nation has a lobby in Washington and security is no different. Manufacturers of the "naked scanner," awkwardly named Rapiscan, have a contract worth $173 million and employ former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff as a consultant. According to reports in USA Today and the Washington Examiner, security firms have been doubling their efforts and dollars in D.C. There's lucre to be made in security and you had better believe your privacy and safety are the last things on anyone's mind but yours.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
You know you are getting old when you start thinking of college students as the "kids these days." I suppose it was inevitable I would hit an age when I could no longer prop up my hipness in the face of change. I have tried for as long as possible to maintain youthfulness. I have used a combination of staying in school for an obscenely long time, only making friends with people 10 years or more younger than myself, avoiding long-term employment and never saying things like "well, THAT'S different."
Most importantly, I remain willing to adapt to new trends like swearing on basic cable, social networking, sandwiches with chicken breast buns, the "Star Trek" reboot, green technologies, the information age and even "Jackass" in 3D."
Failing to keep up with change will give you a case of future shock big enough to kill a llama. The worst cases leave you a broken shut-in afraid to leave the house, but the mild cases are almost as bad. They create in some minds the idea that coolness peaked when they did. That is never the case.
People stuck in another decade will tell you no good music has been made since Starship broke up and that rap cannot possibly last even though it has been around since the 70s.
I will admit that I am more old-fashioned than I care to admit in some areas and on one subject in particular. That subject is more taboo than strip poker on Sunday. If you are sensitive, turn away now because no one wants to force you to absorb the following opinion. Ready?
I have a lingering attachment to corporal punishment. We need to bring back into vogue the well-measured, non-angry form of physical repercussion for failure to acceed to demands that was last popular when I was a kid.
Just to be clear, I despise abuse as well as the abusive, but I think it is wrong to equate simple spanking with abuse. To the contrary, sparing the rod spoils the child, but more importantly it just feels right to advocate a modicum of physically-imposed discipline. It was good enough for grandma and she raised six kids with relative success.
Grandma was right to spank because children are not morally responsible individuals capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong when presented as mere theory. You cannot have an intelligent discussion with a five-year-old about the ethical consequences of their actions. You cannot explain to someone who has no real understanding of pain let alone a realistic concept of mortality why they should not run out into traffic. "Why" shouldn't enter into it, only "because I said so."
There are plenty of good kids out there and I don't intend to demean them in any way. Quite the opposite. Kids who misbehave around adults are anything from a bad example to a torment to good kids. Good kids know as well as adults do that ill-mannered children lack discipline. They want us to make those kids behave for their own benefit.
By the time kids get to their teens these days, they are uncontrollable if they haven't learned proper etiquette already. I do not blame the media, sugar or whatever reality star is the haps this week. I blame the namby-pamby policies that make it impossible for a parent to grab their kids by the arm in a public place and tell them if they do not stop screaming, they are going to get paddled in front of the whole store.
What happened to the America of the past, the one I knew and loved growing up? When parents could spank their kids for pushing at the public pool or give them a mild slap on the mouth for cussing? What happened to that country where parents could threaten their kids to keep them in line? Does anyone honestly think we are living in a better country for sparing the rod?
I believe wholeheartedly that there is nothing wrong with your kids knowing that if they cross the line, they've got a whoopin' coming to them. Respect, common courtesy and healthy fear are not always things you can teach a child about. Sometimes it takes a spanking.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Thinking about this week's election topic, I could not help but remember a touching, personal story. When I was 6, my grandmother pulled one of my teeth out. The tooth she removed, with surprisingly little effort on her part, was right next to the loose one she had intended to pull. There was much wailing and not so much with the gnashing of teeth. Within the hour, the loose tooth I had been "fiddling" with fell out on its own. This resulted in two very important lessons being learned, in a very visceral way, by me. The first lesson is to never underestimate an old woman with a powerful grip, a clean, dry handkerchief and no patience. The second is never trust an interloper.
Of course, my grandmother felt terrible about what would constitute torture under the Geneva Convention. I know her regret was earnest because back in those days you could just about smack a kid with a log chain at a grocery store in front of a cop and not get so much as a ticket for noise pollution. She never said as much and I may be reading into things, but I believe if she could remember the incident, she would say she acted rashly out of personal irritation as opposed to a legitimate interest in what was best for everyone.
So it goes. Every generation has growing pains, obstacles and noisome interference to deal with. In this upcoming election, Iowans are being bombarded by outside interests to remove three Iowa Supreme Court justices for ruling unanimously a year and a half ago that the state has no vested interest in prohibiting same sex couples from entering into wedded bliss, such as it is. Having read the ruling and being a fan of well-written jurisprudence, I can find nothing particularly biased about the decision. In fact, it's a model of pure legal reasoning so airtight you could can tomatoes in it. It's probably the best written legal opinion since Brown v. Board of Education. It makes me emotional just thinking about it and the best part? It's pure Iowa values written by Iowans for Iowans with no interference from outsiders (http://www.politico.com/static/PPM104_090403_iowacourt.html).
Agree or disagree, but in an impartial system you win some and you lose some. That's how you know it's impartial. If you get your way all the time, then something IS wrong.
Do Iowans need help deciding Iowa issues from groups based, according to The Iowa Independent, in Mississippi (American Family Association), Washington, D.C. (Family Research Council), Arizona (Alliance Defense Fund), Georgia (Faith & Freedom Coalition) and New Jersey (National Organization for Marriage)? I don't think so, but then I have faith in Iowans to decide their own fate unlikepIpes Rep. Steve King who is happy to collaborate with interloping outsiders.
The most offensive piece of doublespeak being pushed this season is the "Vote NO to Activist Judges" campaign which would have us destroy our great tradition of a non-political judiciary in the name of keeping our courts "activist free" through political scheming which would virtually guarantee that any future judges would have to be political, partisan campaigners. The kindest thing anyone can say about this campaign is it's like pulling perfectly good teeth.
So let's set aside agendas for one moment and operate from a place of pure, unadulturated, utilitarian pragmatism. Let's use the kind of "enlightened self-interest" that would have made Ayn Rand smile quietly to herself.
According to Jennifer Merriman, communications/new media organizer for OneIowa, there are very good reasons of self-interest why no one should consider politicizing Iowa justices. They are: "Voting out the justices will not reverse the marriage decision. It will not change how justices are chosen. Voting out the justices will make them more likely to take popular opinion into account when making decisions. If one is opposed to gay marriage, one should know that popular opinion is weighing more and more toward gay marriage every day. Voting out the justices WILL make it more likely that a defendant will face a prosecution that's donated to the justice's campaign."
Connie Ryan Terrell of Interfaith Alliance Iowa offered good questions voters should ask themselves when deciding how to vote.
"Do voters really want to have this battle every two years? Do they really want to have to spend millions every two years? Do they really want judges who blow with the wind on whatever 'popular' opinion is every two years? Do they really want judges who are beholden to the other side’s special interest (whatever that happens to be) every two years?"
Greg Jerrett is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Possible column topics whirled around my head while re-organizing my library this week. There is something humbling about being the caretaker of many great volumes of philosophy, science, politics and literature. It's not just the dusting involved -- though I confess it can be tedious -- rather it is the sheer magnificent weight of great historical thinkers that makes one feel as significant as a dirty penny in a jar of new nickels. Especially when one lives in an age of spare change.
With a Templeton Rye in one hand and a homeless copy of "Moby Dick" in the other, I was struck by the notion that no one knows ahead of time just how important their work will be when viewed in hindsight. Nor should we focus so hard on outcomes that we short change the process. Had someone told Melville he'd die broke, he might have chosen another line of work. Had he known his work's future worth, he might have written a sequel ("Moby Dick 2: They Still Call Me Ishmael") gutting our love for the original.
We live inside the big picture we help to create. We spring from cultural traditions we maintain as much as change. For better or for worse, we build the future from the bricks of the past and the mortar of right now. The quality of our work will be judged by generations yet unborn to parents and grandparents yet to be. We have an obligation to do our best because the only condemnation the future can ever teally saddle the the pastwith is that "the people of that time didn't try hard enough to be better."
So as we approach Nov. 2, I feel ethically, if not morally, obligated to discuss the election. First up, broad strokes. In bombastic times, I feel the need to make my positions as entertaining as possible without yielding too much dignity to populism. But then I remember that popularity, populism and politics are all rooted in the same notion of people-pleasing. It is no coincidence that people love to watch and vote for the next "American Idol" pop singer more often and more consistently than they pay attention and vote in boring local, state and mid-term national elections. These merely effect our lives.
It's about perception, investment and return. Even if one pays each time to vote for the next "idol" and their choice doesn't win, most viewer-voters don't feel they've wasted their time -- ironic as this might seem to Ruben Studdard fans. This is because no one perceives that they've been robbed. They were going to watch anyway. No one lives or dies by the outcome and if their contestant wins, they feel a part of that success. A week later, they can forget all about it and move on to the next reality/talent show.
Politics and talent shows can both be entertaining, but political contests rarely result in victory for the most talented participant. The only commonality between talent shows and politics is they both make good use of narrative to change the outcome.
"A narrative" is just a fancy way of saying "a story" without it sounding like a complete fiction. We all have a story, but how we tell it changes how we are perceived. Sometimes, people fudge the details, highlight their best points or just lie with varying levels of success. Sometimes, storytellers are so good at telling their story it doesn't matter so much what the truth is. Anyone who's read Hunter S. Thompson knows this.
An entertaining story overshadows dry issues and confuses voters. Political action groups depend on it to get their way. They're convinced of their righteousness so it doesn't matter if you are too so long as you vote the way they want you to.
Political victories can be hollow ones. Even the best are about as hair-raising as paying your bills on time but the long-term goal of a stable democracy is worth our diligence.
This election, please familiarize yourself with the issues. Vote your conscience, ignore the noise of outside influence and remember that process is the point with history our only judge.
Greg Jerrett is a freelance writer, marketing consultant and not a paid spokesman for Templeton. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I'm often fascinated by how parochial our coastal cousins appear when talking about those of us living in what they condescendingly refer to as "the fly-over states" and patronizingly as "Middle America." They mean "hicks," of course, but like to think we don't "get it." They know nothing of our ways and lump us all together. They don't appreciate the diversity out here or the complexities of our lives, which aren't mysterious or idyllic, just different from theirs. And only a bit.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Kay had eyes like a shark. Black but less soulful and more predatory. Thats not true, really. I just like to ssy it as if it were.
The truth is she was damaged goods. At least she was when she wanted to be, but then who isnt?
A3 But then who doesn't when it suits them./Kay once told me in a late night phone call that she lost her virginity while being date raped.]
A4 She made it up. Added good details even like "I guess he felt he was entitled to it" and "I said no, but it was over before I knew it."]
A5 I figured out for myself months later she was full of shit. She never confessed to anything even when thoroughly busted.
A6 Kay was obsessed with finding a boyfriend, but she wore a shirt that said "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."
A7 It would have been funny if it weren't so sad and ironic. Worse for me, I loved her. I guess I just didn't like myself very much.
A8 That fact goes some way toward explaining why Kay wasn't the first to get under my skin the way she did. Hell, she wasn't even the fifth to do that.
A9 I was hooked on fixing other people. Well, women. Focusing on them made it easier to ignore myself, my flaws, failings and relationships.
A10 You can't see yourself if your back is always turned to the mirror. My back was turned and I was running as fast as I could.
A11 It's funny how easily "running away" can be rationalized into "running toward something" -- love, happiness, success and other phantoms.
A12/ Kay was real enough. At 19, she was smart and sexy in an eccentric, coffeehouse way. She held out the promise of love and friendship...
A13...wrapped around a vacuum of neediness that made the super-massive blackhole at the center of the galaxy look like a clogged sink.
A14 Funny thing about black holes is that they aren't black at all; they're quite bright. Their gravity creates a shell of dying light.
A15 They're also created by what astrophysicists call "a singularity." Metaphorically, black holes focus only on themselves.
A16 So in that sense, Kay offered something to the world: a way for scientists and psychiatrists to describe complex ideas to laymen.
Narcissism bordering on solipsism.
A17 "Imagine a black hole as a sophomore college coed," Neil Degrasse Tyson might say. "One desperate to be the center of attention.
A18 "Because of poor self-esteem and daddy issues, she lacks luminescent beauty. She can't outshine others.
A19 "But she can suck the energy from a room or the will from everyone she gets inside her gravity well. That's the power of a black hole."
A20 Besides lieing about her rape, Kay committed a great many other sins. Some were merely omissions; others were in a category of their own.
A21 Cries for attention were weekly. If her period wasn't late, she was deaf in one ear. Once she was driven to the ER for a lost tampon.
A22 She'd call 5 times a night in crisis mode to ask what boys liked her. She'd ask for the answer "as a percentage" but that made no sense.
A23 Having a boy was worse. He drank too much and couldn't come or came too quick. Did that mean he didn't like her? Did she deserve this?
A24 She once drooled on me while reading over my shoulder. I couldn't help but think it was on purpose. Seriously, who does that?
A25 Compassion was the fastest way to earn her contempt. Use her then walk away? She'd love you forever. Or until she had the upper hand.
A26 She burned through people like dessicated corpses leaving nothing behind but carbonized remnants of good will and bits of bone.
A27 She didn't like herself much. Hurting friends hurt her. Isolated her./When she finally killed herself, no one was shocked that she had.
A28 The only eyebrow-raising detail was she set herself on fire. It was a brutal homicide and she was her victim. Message sent and received.
A29 I had to hand it to the crazy bitch; she made an impact. Everyone who found her despicable or laughable blinked at self-immolation.
A30 You see this as a stranger's news story and wonder what possessed them. An unbearable, existential pain? You romanticize it instantly.
A31 When you knew the victim-love, hate, indifferent-it's personal. What could I or should I have done? That's the point. You're in it now.
A32 Detachment is out when there's a story to tell. "Remember the chick who used to hide in closets at parties? Well guess what SHE did."
A33 And "Weren't you friends with her? Did you see the signs?"/I don't know it all, but I know this: self-immolation… has no warning signs.
A34 What's the difference between drama & melodrama? A cry for attention or help? Successful suicide or botched fake attempt? Beige or ecru?
A35 The distinction is intent. To observers, that combines subjectivity, opinion, reflection, consensus. The dead don't intend anything.
A36 They might have while alive, forming their plans, writing a note, pulling a trigger or, in Kay's case, lighting matches. But not now.
A37 If forced to form a conclusion, I'd still offer it as multiple choice. I can see her playing with the matches, thinking about burning.
A38 Maybe she'd even burn a few magazines to watch the celebrities on the front crinkle and blacken. She'd make the connection to herself.
A39 See how long she could hold her hand to flame. Smell burning hair. How long could she hold a flaming page until she had to drop it?
A40 Exploring the boundaries of what she could feel included vodka and Xanax on top of Effexor, Wellbutrin and endless Marlboro Light 100s.
A41 On any given day she could swing from manic, anxious harpie to cold, emotionless zombie; all points in between, below and beyond.
A42 At what point is it OK to bail on a fragile nutjob? How many times can YOU be fucked over and get away with it? Once? Twice? 15 times?
A43 I've found my tolerance pretty high. I have more empathy than a grown man should and a sad desire to feel needed as a love surrogate.
A44 I'd benefit from a slightly more egocentric outlook. Waiting to be appreciated by others is high irony if you don't appreciate yourself.
B1 It's not true that no one gets what they want, but it is pretty rare for people like me. It requires an astute sociological imagination…
B2…and the will to live as the person you want to be not as the person you were born to be. The middle class never understands this.
B3 Their sense of entitlement is innate. They might know hard times, but their hard times are never made worse by the assumption…
B4…they don't deserve everything they can get their hands on. The entitled believe hard work pays off because for them it does.
B5 They can ignore inequity because if anyone can be denied what they've earned, what anyone deserves becomes questionable.
B6 Life isn't fair and justice has a price. Only the fear of retribution stops anyone from testing the limits of these concepts.
B7 "Life isn't fair," taken to its rational conclusion, negates the social contract utterly. It works as an aphorism only in moderation.
B8 Americans disdain empathy for this reason. Pity acknowledges weakness as part of the human condition. twitter.com/deathandgravy
B9 Being a self-aware human being means acknowledging that at any moment you might be the next to beg mercy in a cold, uncaring world.
B10 Reactionaries call for fewer social safeguards after benefitting from them. Irony is dead; sarcasm flourishes like flies on its corpse.
A45 "A work in progress." That's what Kay called herself the last time we talked over 10 years ago. I'm sure we differed on the subject...
A46…of who needed more work. We had argued about breakfast of all things. She'd make plans with me then blow them off; leave me waiting.
A47 Nothing new. This time was just the straw that broke the camel's back right before the camel got its head bashed in with a jagged rock…
A48…for crying "uncle." The weak and stupid deserve what they get, right? If a grown man can't save himself from the caprices of a girl…
A49…who's emotional instability is unquestionable, demonstrable and ongoing, he's not really worth saving.
A50 After expressing my disappointment at having been stood up once again and my hope that it should never happen again…
A51…Kay screwed my roommate that night and made sure I heard the entire thing. I'm sure it struck her as a wily form of revenge at the time…
A52…I was grateful for such a grandiloquent "fuck you." It was liberating. Like coming to terms with getting your toe cut off.
C1 "Amputation" carries a bluntness thinly camouflaged behind it's elegant Latin root, "amputare." It's a word that carries more horror...
C2…than the concept it obfuscates because of its construction. At least it does when a doctor looks at you and says ...
C3…"We have to amputate part of your foot." I can tell you honestly, it's the worst part of the day—for both of you—bringing to mind...
C4…bloody Civil War images and a reflection of the mixed, sick feeling you get looking at an amputee with pity and revulsion.
C5 A reflection because even though you don't know it yet, you will look at your own naked, mutilated foot the same way and mourn.
C6 Modern medicine has eliminated the graphic audio-visual effects of amputation. There's no blood spattering or screaming, but…
C7…there is still the realization, the clarity of knowing like faith, that whatever else you do, you are only so much meat. Long pork in clothes.
C8 We speak of the animated flesh in hallowed terms. A sin of the flesh offends God, after all. Hubris, that's the real Hamburger Helper.
C9 Physically, you feel nothing while they cut. Psychologically, you feel better than ever—truly positive. Narcotics are brilliant.
C10 Conscious, but stoned silly, you note quietly to yourself the funny, little things that happen in the OR during your amputation.
C11The docs played "Name that Tune" on the oldies station. I chimed in as Asia came on. "Are you awake?" asked the nurse. "Yeeaaah," I said.
C12 "Can you feel that?" "Nooo." "Pass the bone-cracker, please," the doc said. "But I could stand to be a lot higher right now," I said.
C13 The return to reality is not a smooth ride. With a foot covered thick in bandages, you can delay the inevitable for only so long.
C14 The inevitable happens two days after surgery. Wound care changes the dressing and you see what's left of your foot for the first time.
C15 Laterally, the foot sans small toe and metatarsal looks like mortadella—ground pork flecked with white chunks. Bone, fat and infection.
C16 A deli clean slice to be sure. The visible man's foot. You make jokes for psychic defense. "At least now I can wear Italian loafers."
C17 The nurses laugh like they're working for tips, but eventually they all read your chart and as, "Why did you wait so long to go to the ER?"
D1 I couldn't swim until I was 12. I learned in 10 minutes when a sadist PE teacher thought he'd get more time than that to shame me.
D2 I nearly died in a crowded pool at 9. No one noticed until I'd done all the hard work of drowning—panicking, splashing, aspirating.
D3 I think it would have been a temporary setback before a great personal rebirth had my mother reacted with maternal concern.
D4 Instead of reassurance and hugs, I was frantically berated for causing a pre-partum, post-resolution primetime panic attack.
D5 And yet it still took three years and a stranger to teach me to swim. There was a lot of existential ennui in that weird span of time.
D6 I remember thinking often that I could've died in that pool. Not piteously, but in an attempt to embrace my own life without fear.
D7 My parents made life a grind. They were plagued by self-doubt, fear of failure & the judgment of others. I'm surprised I learned to walk.
D8 I never felt good about surviving let alone being alive. I wanted to. I gave myself the speeches I thought my parents should have.
D9 One imaginary motivational included the homily, "After you've faced death, everything else is pretty much gravy." And it should've been.
C18 In the months leading up to my first amputation, I had become increasingly despondent. Even before the first foot ulcer, I was sick.
C19 Cardiomyopathy from the blue, uncontrolled diabetes and low thyroid were nothing compared to a crippling depression I'd had since 13.
C20 Everyone think they know what depression is because they've been depressed once or twice. This is a fallacy and a disservice to depressives.
C21 It's like saying you understand cancer because you had a mole removed once. Depression poisons everything. It is physically painful.
C22 It makes existing illnesses worse and creates new ones. It can't be shaken off any more than a broken leg, Parkinson's or leukemia.
C23 Worse yet, depression makes you not want to think about whatever the hell else is wrong with you. It makes you ignore your blood sugar.
C24 It makes you forget to take your meds. And it can make you ignore an infected toe until it is so black and dead you can smell it.
C25 And even then it can make you think, maybe I could wait two days until I see the new Star Trek movie and then go to the emergency room.
by Greg Jerrett on 6/08/2010 06:55:00 PM
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Any revolution requires creative destruction. While part of me would love to "jack some sh!t up," violence isn't my bag. I just want to have some options, a new way of working and living. That's all the revolution I need. I'm tired of being a wage slave, a pawn, a cog. I don't need to be a big man. It would just be nice to be a man.
by Greg Jerrett on 4/14/2010 05:24:00 PM