Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘fall of Roman empire’

God bless America!… Well, someone should… If not God, then whom?

Whew, that last blog was a mangled mess of verbiage: words tossed together and plopped haphazardly onto a blog like some sort of twisted verbal salad, or like the mishmash on your daddy’s supper plate. “It’s all goin’ in the same stomach,” he used to say as you watched in awe…

Eating that mess is one thing. But having to read it? Well, sorry. Might just go ahead and delete it till I have time to rewrite the darn thing.

I promise you, I wasn’t drunk when I wrote it, nor was I insane. I was, however, mad. Mad as heck…  But that’s a given. Just look at this blog’s title.  But ya’ know…

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow, roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop, and everyone goes, “Awww!”    –Jack Kerouac (No one would write anything like that today and become successful, and that’s fodder for a future blog. He died in 1969, just as freedom as we knew it was on its slow, demoralized way out.)

Anyhow, the previous blog entry does need some serious editing, and perhaps one day I’ll get to it. But, as you’ve probably noticed, the time to edit just isn’t there.  (The time to do just about anything that we aren’t paid for isn’t there for most of us overworked and underpaid Americans these days, is it? Leisure time is virtually nonexistent for most of us these days. And frankly, I think that’s a part of the plan–no leisure time to think, to blog, to write, to ponder the mysteries of the universe or just to hone our typing skills. Certainly, there’s little time for political action, involvement or protest. Everything we do spend time on needs to bring us back some money, or else it just isn’t worth anything, as far as our falling society is concerned (and as far as our landlords, mortgage bankers, bosses, social service workers,  bill collectors, politicians and next-door neighbors are concerned.)

Perhaps what we need is a blessing. Which brings me to this latest blog entry. Is there a God? And would He, could He, please bless us, America? If there were a God, a Higher Power, a force of all that is good, a universal Creator, would he, could he (or she?!) bless the USA?

Uh, no. Apparently not.  And the answer, my friends, comes from a surprising source: Bobcat Goldthwait. A friend of mine once said that she never met a comedian who was not some sort of genius. Goldthwait seems to prove the point.  This oddball comedian  has come out of the closet, as it were, to reveal the  genius behind the weirdness. Who knew?

To wit:

“My name is Frank, but that’s not important. The important question is, ‘Who  are you?’ America has become a cruel and vicious place. We reward the shallowest, dumbest, the meanest and the loudest. We no longer have any common sense of decency, no sense of shame. There’s no right and wrong. The worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated. Lying and spreading fear are fine, as long as you make money doing it. We’ve become a nation of slogan-saying, vile-spewing hate mongers. We’ve lost our kindness. We’ve lost our soul.

What have we become? We take the weakest in our society and we hold them up to be ridiculed, laughed at for our sport and entertainment, laughed at to the point where they would literally rather kill themselves than live with us anymore…”

And with that said, Frank goes on a killing spree, slaughtering all the rude, discourteous, ugly Americans he can find.  Oh yeah. He’s a nice guy who does something that’s very much not nice, i.e., killing people who aren’t nice. So his dissatisfaction with the way things are corrupts him. He becomes, in a sense, meaner than the mean people he destroys. But perhaps he’s not really killing them for being mean. Perhaps it’s the stupidity, the dumbed-downedness that really irritates him. In that sense, he is triumphant. He succeeds in killing off some of the dumbest and most irritating people in our society–reality show stars, spoiled, rich brats, etc.

I admit, I didn’t enjoy the violence or the blood and gore but I think it was fitting nevertheless.

In fact, it is ingenious:  a movie about the decline of American culture that uses violence, blood and gore to make its statement, thus reeling in the ugly Americans who thrive on such titillation who will want to see this film but who probably won’t recognize themselves in it.

Actor Joel Murray nailed the role of the soft-spoken, polite, mild-mannered everyman, Frank, so well that I nearly cried when he beseeched his neighbor to please move his car. (The neighbor  repeatedly blocks Frank’s car.) Far from apologetic, the neighbor replies using what has become commonplace American “logic” these days:  “it’s your own fault if you’re a victim of my selfishness and greed.”

“You blocked yourself in, bro'” he says to Frank. Meanwhile, the neighbor’s wife is overheard in the background saying, “Tell him to park his car away from us.”

Frank is already late for work. He likes to park his car in front of his apartment. Finally, the neighbor reluctantly walks toward his car with the intention of moving it but he takes his time, looking over his car to see if there are any scratches on it before moving it out of Frank’s way. He’s also careful to reprimand Frank with, “Dude, you need to leave yourself more room.”  An American flag proudly displays in the man’s front window, just above the a/c and a bumper sticker remembering 911 is on the back of his car. He’s patriotic, proud of his country and the mean-spirited selfishness and greed that have become so much a part of it.

There is, however, some brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue here (Bobcat Goldthwait wrote this?), and that makes me think this movie could never possibly become a hit in the US, though it may develop a loyal cult following. As the film itself suggests, Americans don’t like intellectual discourse. They/We prefer cheap titillation. Instant gratification. Or whatever brings in a buck. Violence, explicit sex, blood and gore, yes. But thought-provoking dialogue? Where’s the remote? Next!

“It’s not nice to laugh at someone who’s not all there. It’s the same type of freak show distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. I’m done, really. Everything is so cruel now. I just want it all to stop…”

“Nobody talks about anything anymore. They just regurgitate everything they see on TV or hear on the radio, or watch on the web. When was the last time you had a real conversation with someone without somebody texting or looking at a screen or monitor over your head? You know, a conversation about something that wasn’t celebrities, gossips, sports or pop politics? Somethin’ important or somethin’ personal?…”

“Oh I get it, and I am offended, not because I got a problem with bitter, predictable, whiny, millionaire disc jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is, while I live in an apartment with paper-thin walls next to a couple of Neanderthals who, instead of a baby, decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air raid siren that goes off every f—‘in night like it’s Pearl Harbor. I’m not offended that they act like it’s my responsibility to protect their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals or that we’re supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don’t give a f— about yours or mine.”

Frank is speaking to his coworker who completely misses the intriguing points just raised. Fancying himself as the intellectual know-it-all, the coworker responds to Frank: “So you’re against freedom of speech now? It’s in the Bill of Rights, man.”

Frank patiently takes a moment to restrain himself then begins with:

“I would defend their freedom of speech, if I thought it was in jeopardy. I would defend their freedom of speech to tell uninspired, bigoted, blow job, gay-bashing, racist and rape jokes all under the guise of being edgy, but that’s not the edge. That’s what sells. They couldn’t possibly pander any harder or be more commercially mainstream because this is the ‘Oh no, you didn’t say that!’ generation where a shocking comment has more wit than the truth.

No one has any shame anymore, and we’re supposed to celebrate it. I saw a woman throw a used tampon at another woman last night on network television—a network that bills itself as ‘today’s woman’s channel.’ Kids beat each other blind and post it on youtube. I mean, do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I’m sure the girls from Two Girls, One cup are gonna have their own dating show on VH1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we are no longer interested in being civilized?”

Oh yes, indeed. Why have a civilization anymore when we are no longer interested (or perhaps capable of) being civilized?

Indeed. Indeed. I would say the only dispute I’d have with the film’s statement would surround the scene in which Frank loses his job. A receptionist of his employer accuses Frank of possible sexual harassment.  (He’d bought her flowers then sent them to her house. She hadn’t given him her address.) I appreciate the moral statement behind the scene. Yes, we as a society are too paranoid. Yes, we need to be more friendly, more loving and forgiving toward one another. Yes, we need to be free to connect with each other again and not be so afraid of others who are trying to connect with us.

Yes, yes, yes!

However…

Sexual harassment is a reality that many women experience. (I wish more men had empathy for women!) I can point to specific situations in my own life when certain men have made the workplace uncomfortable for those of us they found attractive but were unwilling to reciprocate. Basically, if you’re not interested in sleeping with them, some of those guys get vindictive. They’re bullies essentially, and they expect to get what they want. Or else. It’s one more glass ceiling women hit in the workplace. Sleep with that guy! Or at least respond favorably to his advances. Or else.

But as usual, I have my own take on everything I see. Yep, this is why I have no money. I think for myself. I express my own personal opinions. I think outside the box. And, sadly, I live in the USSA, er, the USSR, uh, I mean, the USA. And American society doesn’t like that sort of thing, especially when the thinking comes from us ladies.

No, no, no!

Are you with me, women? If you’re a woman and others think you’re “pretty” or (heavens to Betsy!) “sexy,” some men expect you to be available to them. If you don’t play the role of sex object (using your bod, ala Anna Nicole); if you insist on keeping those clothes on and developing your intellect and/or talent rather than keeping the focus on your, uh, endowments, then you’ll hit that glass ceiling so fast you won’t even know it hit you. (And ouch! That really hurts!) This is especially true if you try to get men to see you as a person and show no interest whatsoever in ever, EVER sleeping with or being fondled by them.

Point is, the receptionist at Frank’s place of work had reason to be a bit standoffish and concerned. Women do deal with stalkers, unfortunately, and violence against women is a reality and a part of our society’s problem.

But the ruthless reaction of Frank’s boss doesn’t make sense. No one talks anything over. There’s no diplomacy nor due process for Frank. He is accused of something and then he’s out–just like that. His coworkers seem happy that he’s being taken away. Dog-eat-doggedness and unhealthy competition is common in most offices these days. Americans have learned to compete with each other, to fight with each other, to fear each other, while at the same time displaying that flag and that ‘Remember 911’ bumper sticker as though the meanness we show each other is somehow negated by those superficial attempts at being a whole, cohesive society of people who truly love and support one another.

Well, I didn’t intend on writing a movie review, but here it is. Great film (except for the violence, though I understand why it is there. Americans won’t go to see it unless there’s plenty of violence.) Well-written. Great dialogue. Intriguing. Glad I got to see it. Maybe you will too?

And here’s hoping Goldthwait will continue to be successful in this country, in spite of his pesky habit of thinking. Perhaps he needs therapy? Ah, but don’t we all…

“god bless america” (lowercase?) was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and presented by Darko Entertainment in association with Jerkschool Productions.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/bobcat-goldthwait-god-bless-america-movie_n_1519387.html


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What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

So shouted Rush Limbaugh repeatedly into my ear one morning after I’d accidentally fallen asleep…leaving the radio on–a dangerous thing to do these days.

And it started me thinking.  Rush Limbaugh believes (or wants us to believe) that he’s advocating for freedom?  Whose freedom?  His own, I suppose.

Freedom is a concept I’ve always been attracted to.  Since childhood, I’ve always longed to be free, free from my highly dysfunctional family, the gangs of kids who attacked me on my way to and from school, my painful childhood, the poor city I grew up in, the working-class, blue collar prison that says, “You must be a working class hero.  Work shall set you free.  Just work.  Work, work, work.”

Then one day, you’ll wake up and realize that even though you’ve worked hard your entire life you still have nothing.  Nothing.  No matter how frugal you are, no matter how many necessities and desires you do without, no matter how hard you struggle and deprive yourself, you still can’t get any money saved up.  Any money you deposit in your bank account (if you can afford a bank account, that is) is just money you are keeping for withdrawal at the end of the month when you pay your bills.  There’s no vacation this year.  Nor the next.  Nor the next.  Not ever.  Until the day comes when you’re finally allowed to rest peacefully, and that will be a permanent vacation.  They say there’s no rest for the wicked.  But these days, I think that the opposite is true.  There is no rest for those of us who have good intentions, who want the world to be a better place, who are just trying to survive and live peaceably in this troubled world.  This is a world that supports and condones and rewards the wicked, the violent, and the mean-spirited, while it penalizes those of us who want things to be better.  Because, as we all know, making the world a better place means “socialism.”

And we can’t have that.

So let’s just get rid of those pesky public libraries, public schools, fire departments, police departments, hospitals, clinics, parks, and anything else we can think of that constitutes “socialism.”  I’m watching, sadly, libraries and public schools close down in my city.  Do you see this happening in your neighborhood?  I guess that would depend on whether you live in an affluent suburb or a poor, inner-city area.  You can guess which of the two would best describe my neighborhood.

We don’t need to pay taxes or to do anything collectively.  The heck with other people.  We’re all rugged individualists now.  So, everybody, just take a good look at yourself in the mirror and thank yourself.  Thank yourself for being you, and tell yourself you love you.  Feel good about yourself, take really good care of your health, and be the best you can be.  Because remember, in the USA, you are all you have.  If you lose your house, your car, your job, your mind, your spirit, your self esteem, (whatever!), you’d better just be ready to help yourself, pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  Don’t you dare ask anyone else for help.  Don’t even think about it.  We’re not all in this together.  We’re all in this alone, but together reluctantly.  The idea is to be alone, be very alone.  Suck it up and pick it up with those fraying bootstraps you inherited from your parents.  Since you won’t be able to collect social security when you grow older, I’m sure your parents will be ready and willing to provide for you in your old age too–unless they die by then.

Well, who needs a place to live and three meals a day anyway?  Did you know that eating is overrated?  There’s actually an obesity problem in this country.  People are just eating way too much.  So stop feeling sorry for yourself, and just be grateful that you won’t have an obesity problem because you can’t afford to eat enough to get fat.  Besides, if you read about Nazi Germany you’ll discover that many people went without eating, even suffered from malnutrition during Hitler’s reign.  Yet everything seems to be okay in Germany now.  So stop complaining.  Stop whining.  What’s a little poverty?  Builds character!

But I digress.

What I really wanted to post about on this blog was freedom.  The Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Republic-con, Tea Party versions–as well as some other notions of freedom–truly are intriguing.

For example,

Some people want to be free to speak their minds, even if what they have to say is in disagreement with those who possess great amounts of money and power.  They want to have the freedom to express ideas and opinions that other people just don’t like.

Other people want to have the freedom to oversee that speech, to prevent those people from saying things they think are offensive or harmful to others, or to themselves perhaps.  They want to control what is said or not said, to screen speech in all its forms–television, radio, film, poetry or novels.  To decide whose music is played on the radio, which actors will be cast on TV or film productions, which directors, producers, news anchors or writers will be allowed to participate in the process of disseminating information.  They see themselves as keeping the world in order and preventing chaos.  After all, allowing other people to be free to just say whatever they want can be dangerous, right?  Of course, these people who decide what speech is okay and what is not okay are human beings who can make mistakes or who can be corrupted by bribery or manipulation.  But what can you do?  Someone has to watch people and make sure they’re not saying things other people don’t want to hear, right?

Some people want to be free to walk down the street or drive their cars or hop on a bus or a plane or a train and travel.  They want the freedom to travel, to move around, to live or to visit anywhere they’d like.  (Of course, these same people will want to speak their minds anywhere they go too.   They just want it all, don’t they?)

Other people are concerned that strangers walking or driving down their streets might do them harm and would like to have the freedom to stop them.  They’d like the police to stop innocent, law-abiding citizens and just search them, search their cars, search their possessions, check their identity cards.  Are they US citizens?  What if they’re here illegally?  What if they intend to cause trouble in our neighborhood?  Who are these people?  I don’t recognize them.  Maybe they’re good people.  Maybe they’re not such good people.  I don’t know.  But if we stop them when we notice they seem different in some way, perhaps dressed differently, in possession of a different skin color from the type we normally see in this part of town, or maybe they speak funny, if we stop them and search through all their belongings we can determine whether they mean us any harm.  Or not.  (This is, of course, a violation of the 4th Amendment law that used to be in force here in the US.  The 4th Amendment was a law that stated that people could not be searched and that their belongings could not be searched or seized, unless it was known beyond a doubt that they were guilty of something.  A police officer would need to be ready to swear before a judge that he/she knew this person was guilty of something before the officer could search or seize the person or person’s property.  Of course, that law no longer exists in the US and for “good” reason.  We are in so much danger!  There are just so many people attempting to exercise freedoms.  These people need to be stopped, controlled, screened.  The authorities want to have the freedom to do exactly that.  But if they have the freedom to limit other people’s freedom…then other people lose some of their freedom… Oh dear, this does get confusing.

Corporations want to have the freedom to maximize their profits, even if that means laying off American workers and outsourcing labor to third-world countries, exploiting their employees and shortening their lifespans by practically working them to death, paying them tiny wages yet raising the prices of the goods produced and further cheating their customers by overcharging them for goods and services they’ve produced cheaply.  Corporations want to be able to dump toxic waste into our environment and to save money by not implementing safety measures that would protect our environment (as well as protect their workers) from harm.

Corporations want a free marketplace but only for themselves.  You as an individual are not free to stand on a public sidewalk and sell your handmade candles.  You’ll get a ticket, perhaps even arrested, for trying.  Yet a large corporation can dump toxins into our environment.  Are the CEOs arrested?  Jailed?  Do we see articles in the paper (or on the Internet) about CEOs going to prison for cheating consumers, their employees and the environment?

Yet we, the people, want to have the freedom to earn a decent livelihood, to provide for our families, heck, to have families of our own.  We’d like to live full lives and not have our lives cut short because our bosses overwork, underpay and uninsure us.  We’d like to pay the price that products are worth, no more (and certainly not ten times more.)  We’d like to buy products that last, not that are made to break.  We’d like the trees and the birds and, yes, the bees to still be around for our grandchildren.  We’d like for them to have the freedom to walk down a street, breathe fresh air and hear birds sing.  But what we want to be free to do impedes what large corporations want the freedom to do.  And, remember, they’re people too.  Under the law, at least.

Hmm… how do we resolve such conflict?  Seems that what some people want to be free to do conflicts with what others want the freedom to do…

I guess that’s the part of freedom that I don’t understand, Mr. Limbaugh.  Why am I not free to go on national radio and express my opinions about how I think things should be?  Why do you have that right and I do not?  Can you explain that, fat boy?  Because, believe me, I have a lot to say and I’m very articulate.  I may not be as fat as you, Limby, but my lungs haven’t been completely destroyed from breathing in the pollution, asbestos, lead and whatever else infests the poor buildings I’ve had to live in over the past few years, thanks to Republican policy.  I can speak.  And even if you and your cronies try to shut me up, I’ll always be here speaking–in the form and shape of someone else perhaps, but I’ll be here.  Ideas are bulletproof, Limbaugh.  Disenfranchise and discredit me, make it impossible for me to earn a living, or shoot me, if you will, but someone else will come along, someone louder and stronger than I am.  The more you try to shut us up and shut us down, the greater our numbers will grow, the stronger and louder we’ll sound.

You assassinated Kennedy, King, and I believe many other civil rights activists whose deaths were ruled as suicides.  But you can’t assassinate all of us.  And every time you kill one of our heroes, our anger silently grows.  And our mistrust of your system increases.  More and more of us are seeing the truth.  This is not a democracy.

Go ahead, destroy more of our heroes.  It only makes more of us wake up to see you for what you really are.   We’re starting to see your weaknesses too.  You’re bullies–like the kids in the schoolyard who tried to make the rest of us afraid of them except now we’ve grown. Now we realize that it is you who are afraid.  You want us to be fearful all the time because that is how you feel deep, down inside.  And the only way you can stop us from ganging up on you and stopping you is by convincing us that you are invincible and we should be afraid of you.  Well, guess what?  The emperor’s naked.  You are a tiny minority of wealthy, fat, spoiled, lethargic, white males.  We the people do most of the work, so we are strong.  We are powerful.  You need us to get the work done.  You need us to buy your poorly made products.   You need us to be afraid, so afraid of losing our jobs, of not having enough money, of not being able to survive in this world, that we’ll just go along with all your demands, that we’ll just do whatever you tell us to do.

Well, I for one am saying enough.  You can kill me, you can refuse to hire me, and I’ll become homeless and languish on the street or in some homeless shelter.  Maybe I’ll get raped and murdered in the street.  Maybe no one will remember me or want to know me.  Maybe I’ll be shunned and mocked by society, a “crazy” political activist, a “crazy” conspiracy theorist.  Maybe I’ll die painfully and very much alone.  But you still don’t have me.  I’ll never be one of you.  You’re not going to convince me to go along with your plans.

I refuse to work for the collections agencies or the homeland security offices.  I refuse to go along with corrupt corporate policy.  I’ll do my best to survive in spite of my refusal to go along with your wicked plans for this country.  But if I don’t survive, if I die of starvation or being beaten by your police officers for expressing an opinion you don’t like, then so be it.  I will speak to the Higher Power, the force of good which some people refer to as God.  I am accountable to my own conscience, to my own sense of self-respect.  I am not accountable to you.

Thanks really.  Thanks for destroying my country.  Thanks for destroying my life.  Because before I began suffering like this I didn’t know I had this strength within me.  I didn’t know my character was this strong.  As a child, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  The Nazi’s stranglehold over people’s minds really fascinated me.  I wondered, if I were a German alive during the Nazi occupation would I have gone along with Hitler?  Would I too have become a Nazi?  To have allowed myself to be filled with such murderous hate?

I am relieved to know that, as much as I struggle now, I have, at least, not become one of you.  I am not a courageous person.  I don’t think of myself as very strong.  But I am true to myself.  My inner spirit shall not be broken.  You can damage my mind, place me in solitary confinement, torture me at Guantanamo–God knows, you can do that!  You can beat my body and mind into submission.  But my spirit will remain alive.  You may not see it because you are not very intelligent in that way.  You lack a spiritual and moral compass.  You think that is your strength, but it is actually your weakness.  The money and power you wield (and that you value so much) will not last.  Hitler was defeated.  You will die too, one day.  But my spirit remains eternal because it doesn’t end with me.  The spirit of freedom, true freedom, love, kindness and respect for our fellow human beings; the spirit behind the desire for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” (as inalienable rights, not just for me or for you but for everyone, everywhere!) will never die in spite of your futile attempts to assassinate it by exterminating a mere human being who is only a channel, temporarily carrying that spirit until someone else’s turn comes along.

And I guess that’s why you’re fighting so hard now, to take away our civil liberties, to shut us up, to kill or imprison our heroes, because you know that you’re going to lose, eventually, to death–the master of us all.  Your attacks on “we the people,” are just attempts at postponing the inevitable.  And when you die, you’ll be replaced with new, young leaders who will not (if they want to survive) support your diabolical, malicious policies.  How do I know this?  Because your system is not sustainable.  Even evil-hearted men and women cannot support such an unsustainable system forever.  Eventually, you will destroy and demoralize this country completely and people will be unable to live in this society.  Their only choices will be to leave or to create substantial change.  Change will have to happen.  It is inevitable (sort of like death and taxes–the Tea Partiers not withstanding.)  You will die, as we all will, and you will be replaced.  And the new leaders who replace you, if they choose to continue your unsustainable policies, will destroy the entire world and then nothing will be left.  Either way, you and your corrupt policies will die.

But the force of good will continue to thrive somewhere else.  In another country, another land, or perhaps another spiritual realm, it will continue because the force of goodwill reigns eternal.  Opposing forces are just like waves in the ocean, sent to make the water move and grow.  But it’s the water, not the waves, that makes the ocean.

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