Saturday, September 17, 2016

Childhood vs. Adulthood, Explained

Here's one of the main differences 'twixt childhood and adulthood: as a child, during those relatively rare occasions I found myself in a "buffet/all you can eat" situation, I'd eat the bare minimum amount of "real" food I could get away with, to save room for all those scrumptious desserts. Now, I'm likely to skip dessert to leave room for all that scrumptious "real" food.

Last night Jeff and I went to a very nice sushi/Japanese seafood buffet, where I ate rather more than I should've in one meal. Then, I spent the rest of the evening hearing strange noises. Maybe it was the sound of my digestive system struggling to process a larger payload than usual -- or maybe it was the child I used to be screaming at my adult self from across the gulf of years: "You had the chance to eat chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate cream puffs and chocolate dessert crepes ... and you gave all that up to eat raw fish? What the hell is wrong with you!!??"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 Fetishism Dishonors Those Who Died That Day

Q: What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow?
A: The government can't milk a cow for 15 years and counting.

I have a confession to make: I'm udderly (see what I did there?) sick of 9/11 fetishism.

On December 7, 1956, was the U.S. government still using the Pearl Harbor attacks to justify why key parts of the Constitution should be considered invalid? Of course not – even though that was the height of the Cold War, when our country faced a no-joke existential threat: the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to make humanity go extinct.

About a year ago, CNN ran a documentary series called “The Seventies,” with one episode dedicated to the rise of terrorism in that decade. And that episode genuinely shocked me. I of course have only childish memories of that time – I vaguely recall wondering why grown-ups who flew on airplanes thought saying “Hi” to someone named “Jack” was such a terrible, awful, no-good thing to do – but now that I'm an adult looking back on that era, I can see why Americans (and Westerners in general) would've been justified in thinking the entire civilized world was falling apart. There were some particularly bad weeks wherein there would be major airline hijackings every day – not only in the United States, but throughout the Western (non-Communist) world. Bombings were downright commonplace too, as were kidnappings and assassinations of even the rich and powerful. Yet America was able to get through all of that without gutting the Bill of Rights and making a holy fetish out of fear.

What the hell happened, to make early 21st-century America behave so much more helplessly, cowardly and reactionarily, compared to the craphole America of the 1970s? In the 70s, we'd just lost our first war (Vietnam); our economy was in the toilet (stagflation); there was an actual no-joke nationwide gasoline shortage thanks to the Arab oil embargo; the Cold War meant we had to live with the genuine existential fear of knowing "Our number-one enemy on the world stage has a nuclear arsenal sufficient to wipe us out in 15 minutes" -- by any objective measure, 1970s America was in far worse shape than the America of Sept. 10, 2001. So why did the latter America fail so spectacularly, when first it faced adversity?

It's not as though the majority of the Powers That Be, circa 2001, were entirely different people or an entirely different generation than those from the 1970s -- many of the young or middle-aged PTBs from the 70s still held power in 2001. And every power-broker in 2001 was old enough to have personal memories of the 1970s, even if they were not yet members of the "leadership class" back then. "Learning from history" for them would not have entailed reading books about how things were before their time; it would simply be a matter of remembering their own personal experience.

I'm sick and tired of being told it's my patriotic duty to be afraid, and that defending the constitution is synonymous with dishonoring those who died fifteen years ago. Nine-eleven! Never forget! – now bend over and let the TSA fondle your genitalia before allowing you on an airline flight. Nine-eleven! Never forget! – now don't complain about the NSA spying on your electronic communications, but do tell yourself Edward Snowden is a traitor for bringing such unconstitutional actions to light. Nine-eleven! Never forget! Never stop being afraid! Because if you're not still terrified fifteen years later, that supposedly means the terrorists have won.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Great Moments in Bad Timing: Oklahoma Earthquake Edition

Luckily, none of my lower-Midwestern friends suffered any damage in the 5.6 magnitude earthquake which struck Oklahoma (and rattled six states in all) last night at 7:02 p.m. Central time, though all of them felt it enough to post WTF-type comments on social media. I did a quick search for news stories about the quake, and in addition to the many, many mainstream media stories discussing the "largest earthquake in Oklahoma history," I found this little gem which published only a few hours before that historic earthquake, headlined "Oklahoma has fewer earthquakes thanks to new fracking rules."

Of course, any journalist or nonfiction writer runs the risk of having what you write go obsolete sooner than expected, but I still winced with vicarious sympathy when I read that.

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