Saturday, February 18, 2012
Sexism will never change until those "important" books for girls are also read by every boy, until men get pissed off by the subjugation of women, until men join and understand the feminist movement as well.
Racism towards any group will never end until it keeps the oppressors up late at night, until those who belong to the privileged group speak loudly and clearly about how this is all our issue, until certain oppressed racial groups (mainly blacks) stop promoting pain as a black issue, and allow members of other groups to join the fight as well.
Homophobia and moral condemnation of the GLBTQ community will not change until the hetero-gender-abiding-religious-or-non-religious understand that no one is free until all of us are free; until love, not interpretive doctrine, not fear, gets embraced; until all of us realize that we are a reflection of the animal kingdom at large; therefore, if homosexuality is 'wrong' in form (orientation) or action (behavior), then it should not exist as a natural occurrence within the animal kingdom. However, it does exist, not as an anomaly, but as a natural part of most animal groupings.
Class-ism can only be rendered inoperable when those in power speak alongside with those who lack power; when we see family as more than genetics and neighborhoods and cities and countries and borders; when the walls of Jericho come crumbling down between us; when we can taste the salt in the others' tears, and realize that we are only stronger with the other.
The idea of the bully and their arch enemy, the victim, will never be resolved to those of us who are bystanders stand together with those who have been victimized, and all of us look at the cruelty within ourselves before attempting to remove it from others; when we stop the idea of us versus them, and instead, replace it with us AND them, until we finally realize that there is no 'them': we are us.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
It’s the People that You Meet
I’m at a rest stop in Massachusetts, grabbing some food. There is a man sitting next to me. He looks like he’s seen his share of rough days. I just eat, minding my own business. I’m certainly not going to stare at this guy. And then, out of nowhere, he starts a conversation with me.
I can’t recall his name, so I’ll call him Bill. He drives an 18 wheeler for a living. He tells me all about how it works. The hours. The miles. The lack of sleep. The sleep-deprived hallucinations. The roads. The independent loneliness. He tells me all. He then starts to tell me about his family. They live in Texas, and he gets to see his wife and children every few months. He recognizes the difficulty of being a dad and husband when you are never around.
He has many children. I forget the exact number. His children are from two marriages. He admits that his first marriage was a disaster. He was abusive to both his wife and children. His older children hate him, and he doesn’t blame them.
I find myself wanting to hear more stories from this stranger. We start talking about places to travel. He gives me some off-the-beaten-path places to visit, roads that are most certainly less traveled. I take mental notes.
We start talking about how short life is. I briefly tell him what I do for a living. He has no meaningful interest in it, and I am comforted by his honesty. Still, I do strike a chord with him when I mention that our lives are but brief breaths of air. He vigorously shakes his head. Then he leaves me speechless with his final story.
One night while driving the dark roads of America, he was in a conversation with one of his best friends, who also happened to be a truck driver. They were keeping each other awake, as both were worn out from the taxing day. Bill was driving in mid-America; his friend was driving in Virginia.
At one point, his friend shouted out, “Oh, s**t!” Bill responded, “What’s wrong?”
“I loss control of my truck, and flew off the edge of the cliff. Oh, man, I’m going down. Tell my wife and kids that I love them.”
My mouth was open. “What did you say? What did you do?”
“Nothin’,” he retorted. “I just said, ‘I’ll miss you, man’, and then there was a loud noise. And then there was silence.”
Conveniently, he had to head back to his truck, and I had to head back home. I had 250 miles to go, but I didn’t want to drive home; I just wanted to keep driving. I wanted to drive on the straightest path possible that wouldn’t take me over any cliffs.
I will never be afraid to love her,
to see her for who she is:
a gypsy, the tarot card reader,
who interprets the laughter behind my smile.
And it is to this Spring breeze, where I have
found Winter’s ice melting, useful water
for the growth of roses that have fed off of
carcasses in those frozen months.
Where shall I go so as not to be alone with loneliness?
Or not to be so blindly slain onto piercing rocks,
because of distracting sirens? I seek to be near
her who has proven to be the music that hums
when all else is silent. Yes, you, soul of my soul,
creature of winged growth, flap now, dear heart,
rise to meet me, for we are of other plains, and not even
ashes can keep us buried.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Delaware License Plate Syndrome
During this past summer, I was driving to Delaware with a former girlfriend who had lived and attended school in the area. As we were driving, she pointed out to me that in Delaware the less numbers/letters (digits) a license plate contained, the more money the license plate cost. I was astounded by this information; I started paying attention. I saw cars with four, five, or six digits, and I noticed that the license plates with four digits were often attached to luxury cars. So, of course, I needed to research this new intrigue.
In Delaware, state issued license plates contain a combination of six digits. Any decrease on that number, you will pay for its luxury status. In fact, some license plates have been known to cost upwards of $3000. “Wait a minute, did he just say, ‘three thousand dollars’?” Yes, sadly, I did. “But why would anyone want to pay that high for an obnoxious tracking device?” Because, my friends, it’s an obnoxious tracking device that costs upwards of $3000, and only the (daftest) elitist can afford such triviality.
Still, this issue does highlight important questions: what is it about money and status that corrupts individuals into believing that they are more valuable than those who own or have less? What is it about money that deludes our sensibilities?
The same former girlfriend also told me about the following story. There is a woman, married to a very powerful and wealthy man in New Jersey, who had a ‘girls’ night sleepover at her house. During this gathering, the women drank a few bottles of wine, laughed, gossiped, and did whatever else women do during those séances. After two bottles into the wine, the host realized that she had made a terrible mistake. She and her friends drank two bottles of the $2000 wine. She was petrified as to how her husband would respond; after all, it wasn’t an occasion where he got to partake in the valuable, liquefied fruit. My interest in the story certainly wasn’t the same as her fret.
Even a sommelier would agree, a $2000 bottle of wine does not necessarily surpass in quality or taste a bottle of wine that may retail at $30. Perhaps it should, but it is not a given premise. What’s more, the women drinking the wine did not experience a qualitatively different response than they would have experienced had they drank less expensive bottles.
What possessed this wealthy man to have such expensive bottles? He likes wine, and of course, the Delaware License Plate Syndrome (DLPS): he’s a status seeker. Would it be a shock to anyone if I passed on to you that this man holds a vocational position of power and decision making? Would it be a shock to you if I told you that he is under federal investigation for embezzlement, bribery, and money laundering? By possessing these bottles of wine, the wealthy man bamboozled himself into believing that he was somehow worth more than one who did not possess these bottles; that $2000 bottles of wine allow him to be more established in this life than those who do not possess this. The DLPS has quickly become his downfall, as well.
As a collector, I must make a distinction, however. I understand the lure of collecting oddities and valuables. I have been a collector all my life. It started with, and continues to include, baseball cards. But I enjoy collecting many things, some trinkets stranger than others; some of great value, some only of intrinsic worth. There are things I collect that I know I will sell for a quick profit. There are other objects that I enjoy reading or watching or organizing, and they are not for monetary gain. In my life, I’ve collected matchbooks, lighters, fireworks, books, beer labels, movies, CDs, knives, covert military equipment (non-lethal), photography, $5 bills, stories and quotes, stamps, and probably a lot of other stuff I can’t recall. For me, though, it has nothing to do with status. It has everything to do with interest.
There are wine connoisseurs who are fascinated by the taste and intricacies of wine and grapes. They realize that some of the bottles of wine they purchase cost quite a bit financially, but it’s worth it to these drinkers to have that bottle because one day they will enjoy the complexity of its taste. Kudos to these individuals. I do not knock them or others who are interested in collections based on provisions of fascination and happiness. That’s cool, even admirable, at times. I just have an issue for the possession of things based strictly on the idea of status and image, as if, by possessing certain things, one is scurried into a higher plain of existence. I have a problem with purchasable license plates with the sole intent of advertising status. It’s rather annoying, and without a doubt, sullied with idiocy.