When the Big Speech is Over: The Post Mid-Term Elections and a Brand New Round of Truth Speak

I have long been suspicious about the adamancy of  true believers. It’s not nice at times, and it definitely reveals my own impatience and in fact even snobbery, but nevertheless, when I hear people utter parroted news speak I realize sooner or later they will issue a new incantation explaining away either the limitations of their previous thoughts, or why they collectively or individually failed at their objectives.   To me,  those who believe something so piously have elected to wear on their psyche Kevlar blinders to block out the occasional sliver of  critical thinking.   Few realize the more obvious limitations and vulnerabilities of any dogma.  Which often dooms them from the get-go.

The irony of most true believers is that they believe themselves to be open thinkers.   They are open to any new thoughts as long as they can perceive them as  far inferior to the their own.   Should those posing alternate perspectives not acknowledge their insufficiencies, the true believer launches into a flurry of clichéd  diatribes.  Or, if faced with the plausibility of alternate reality  they may withdraw entirely from the confrontation, pulling in their heads  like turtles in a shell.  So much for quality discourse.

In the world of the true believer, his ideology is never suspect and no matter what results are achieved, there exists no such thing as failure.   Failure, the true believer contends, should be deemed as relative.  It is not failure that his party or group has acquired, it is in his eyes a limited victory.   Those who set out to run the twenty six mile marathon and struggle to make it past ten city blocks might deem it a victory of sorts.   But for the rest of the world, this is failure, not achievement.   Which leaves the  true believer to issue his fall back position,  they “tried, and did the best they could.”

What is then confusing to the true believer is that not everyone is buying it.   Not everyone is a lifetime subscriber to the nauseatingly pervasive “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.  I know I am far too results oriented for that.  My own fault, maybe.  My own impatience.  But like a fair amount of the world,  I believe this very attitude severely limits innovation and performance.  I believe it dresses the stage for reduced expectation.   Rather than set new standards of performance, our reflexive readiness to resort to the “we did the best we could syndrome”  let’s us  beg off and otherwise rationalize our  collective sloth and personal  limitations.  We do this nationally, and we do this as individuals.     We have forgotten that success doesn’t really need to be explained.  Failure requires a million excuses.

A perfect example is the recent mid-term election.   I cite this not just to pick on the Democrats, but to also take note of the cycle of apology and explanation that ensues after  such an event, all as a substitute for relative lack of action.   As we all know, the Democrats were soundly beaten.  For mid-term elections, the incumbent party losing twenty to thirty seats in the House is considered acceptable.  The Democrats lost more than sixty three seats in the House and six seats in the Senate.   Let’s face it, nobody likes to get his ass kicked.  Or let’s say, unless you are a masochist, you don’t like getting beaten to a pulp.   However, that’s what happened in the recent mid-term elections.

While it was clear to some, in my opinion the more astute, the Democrats were failing at their message, Democratic pundits went on TV and instead of reaching out and communicating gave some rambling examples of their accomplishments.  These virtues were garnished with laments that the average American just didn’t understand all the good that was done for them.   In essence, the party of the people was claiming before the cameras that the party of the people no longer knew how to communicate with the people.   Which is true.   It seems that every rambling utterance that emanates from the Democratic Party elicits more confusion than resonance.   The messages are obscure, tangential, and without any emotional focus.

Coming from an age when Democrats were roll up your sleeves and bang it out in the gutter types, we now see a Party that is either so diverse its objectives are diluted, and with all its education and high minded ideas out of touch with much of the American middle class.  Why?  Because if you are alleged intellectuals, academics, media people, or other members of the Democratic Leadership who are driving its train, chances are you don’t come into contact with the average American Joe.   Democratic leaders and supports really don’t talk to the guy running the tire shop, the small business manufacturer, the owner of a modest IT company.   Middle management and even the majority of senior executives. You may believe they do, but they don’t.   Okay, maybe during election time.   There is no personal contact, and there is no political contact.   Once upon a time when diverse types actually lived in the same communities this was the backbone of the Democratic Party.   This and labor.

Well, labor has been diminished and the true middle class, the small business owners and technocrats, the truckers and healthcare workers, are largely being ignored.   Big news here,  organizations like the Teachers’ Union are not the middle class.   The underclass worker is just that, underclass.  The poor are the poor.   None of them, despite all rhetoric to the contrary are middle class.  If you are out to save the middle class, then it would be helpful to know who and what the middle class actually is.

The person running a business or holding onto a job at some local business with a house, two cars, two kids, and the bills to pay for all of it, this is the middle class.   This is not the poor or the underclass.  This is the middle class.  This is the pissed off segment that doesn’t really want to hear some weak rhetoric about “sacrifice” and that it takes a village.  What they need to know if if they can get credit for their business or if their jobs won’t be shipped off to Timbuktu.   Before they want to hear about contributing to the well being of others, they want to know how they will pay for their mortgage or put shoes on their kids’ feet.   They want to know how they can care for their own family members, whether it means putting their kids through college or caring for an aging or dying parent.  They want to know now and not with some promissory rhetoric posed by a bevy of politicians and academics who have never run a business in their lives.    They don’t want to hear how the government will take care of them but rather how they can take care of themselves.

The middle class is complex.   In the modern age, it is difficult to pinpoint.  It may be dissected economically but  as never before social and cultural tastes will differ.  There may be the same salary levels, but this is a segmented market with its different tastes and different priorities.   The advertising industry knows this.  Politicians do not.  The person making fifty grand in Topeka is probably more drawn to lawn care and less drawn to Broadway Theater then the person making fifty grand in an emerging neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Each to his own.  The middle class covers a broad spectrum and to attract that spectrum to your way of thinking you have to find some common ground.  You have to be direct and not ramble in the abstract.  In short, you have to know who they are and what they are.

Other than the buzzword, the Democrats have little idea about the broader spectrum of the middle class.  They sort of  have a vague notion of the urban middle class and they certainly devote their focus on the poor.  Not to besmirch the poor, but let’s face it in a global economy in a time of economic crisis, it would be a damn sight smarter to focus on those who can pull you out of the crisis and set you back on a path of global competition.  When it comes to restoring jobs and global competition, all hand wringing and obligatory rhetoric aside,  for sure as hell the poor ain’t driving that bus.   I don’t want to sound cruel here, but it’s is relatively easy to figure out what the poor need and want.   Simply put, the socially marginalized want to be included.    Not an easy task, but  that directive is a lot simpler to figure out than the needs and wants of a very segmented and therefore complex middle class.

The Republicans figured it out.   The have done a far better job at communication than the Democrats.  Strategically speaking, they have out messaged and for the most part outsmarted the Democrats in strategic terms.   Mind you, this is a case of style over substance, and by no means do I believe the Republicans have the right idea.  The previous eight years offer bitter testimony that they, too, don’t have a clue.  But they do have a better line of bullshit.  They are better organized and there is no mistaking their message, no matter how spurious that message is.  They are masters at taking Democratic niceties and twisting them to the Republican advantage.   They show the Democrats to be weak and tentative and they run through those whole like like a Mack Truck through Paper Mache.

As for truth speak and the party line, prior to the elections I watched one Democratic pundit after another cite Democratic accomplishments, mostly followed by the deep chagrin that much of the nation wasn’t embracing these accomplishments.   President  Obama, they contended, had done so much and was so under appreciated for all he has wrought under much resistance and great duress.   Some alluded to his weaknesses, but most held the party truth speak talking about his character and great strength.   How much he cared and what a fighter he was.   In all, before the election, the Democratic position was we have done so much for so many; it is their fault that they are such idiots that they don’t understand our political largess.   Reality didn’t seem to be a factor, even in the face of overwhelming samples that the Democrats were heading for disaster.  Democratic supporters, rather than confront the situation head on and examine why they were not reaching the public with their message, preferred instead to cling to their rhetoric and take up residence in that turtle’s shell of denial.  This may offer temporary comfort, but it is not very strategic.  Nor is it particularly intelligent as more often than not it will only exacerbate the negatives.

What was missing of course, was the reality.   Case in point, and I know some have argued vehemently otherwise, that the president blew opportunity big time with the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf.   The resulting catastrophe severely damaged what amounts to the 29th strongest economy in the world, the Gulf Region.   Forgetting the fact that Energy Secretary Salazar, an oil guy, was warned that the necessary drilling protections were not in place, this was President Obama’s version of “you are doing a Heck of a Job, Brownie.”   I know all the lamentations that the President was doing the best he could and that he had no magic wand to wave and the other horse shit that was offered up as lockstep and lame excuses.   But the fact is, in seeing British Petroleum as a partner, rather than demanding they seal the well, billions of dollars were lost to that economy.  Tens of Thousands of people lost their livelihoods.  A culture that had existed for centuries was devastated.

Of course once the President did lean on BP, the leak was sealed.  After a hundred and something days, miracle of miracles, they found a way to seal it in less than a weak.   According to the news media and most Democratic pundits, mistakenly believe the crisis was all over.   All’s well that ends well   Everything was fine.   No, it was not fine.  People were outraged.   Maybe those who lived elsewhere and perhaps didn’t really care about what they deemed a bunch of Cajuns and Southern Crackers, thought that after a brief time out everything was back to normal.  But the Democratic politicians and their supporters knew damn well, in a literal sense  the Party was over.   The Democrats had just lost what little they had initially retained of the Gulf Region.  With the exception of  Democrats like Mary Landrieu and her brother Mitch, icons and real supporters of their native state, you can kiss it goodbye for many other Democrats.

Of course, I can’t think of any  Democratic  pundits who diverted from truth speak and pointed out on the cable shows that you can forget about gleaning votes form the Gulf Region.    Not a mention as it would not fit into the lockstep dogma that the public just doesn’t understand us.  No one pointed this dreadful inaction in time of crisis as Presidential failure to step up to the plate.  No one pointed it out that this may be endemic of a behavior pattern few could discern amid the impassioned speeches from an inexperienced politician who was never forced to confront adversity of this magnitude.   No, not a peep about indecision or possible behavior flaws.  Nobody was  saying, despite all the time constraints and opposition, the President wanted the job,  and this is the job.  Again for the cheap seats…this was the job he signed on for.

Instead just prior to the election, we heard the party line about the encroachment of the Tea Party.  Oh the Tea Party, a bunch of racists who were determined to undermine the Democratic efforts in spite of their own self interests.   And, sure, it’s true.  Big news there are racists living in the United States.  And being bigoted assholes, there is no doubt racists will be emboldened under times of economic weakness and national indecision.   The worst part of this country will emerge for sure.   All this seething and underlying bigotry, be it racism, sexism, or Antisemitism that seethes beneath the surface will pop up like so many oil blisters in the La Brea Tar Pits.

But did that throw the mid-terms to the Republicans?  Doubtful.  First off, what of the 53% of the voters who voted in Presidential Election?   It would seem there were not enough voting racists then to really move 63 Democrats out of office.  That would mean the majority of the country is not just biased but vehemently racist.  Some would say so.  I wouldn’t.

Did a commanding majority suddenly transform itself into racists and vote out Democrats on order to get back at their President?  Maybe.  Makes sense if you stick to the party line.  One of them, anyway.   But the thing is as it the final results have established, with the exception of the Latino vote,  just about every demographic group moved some of its voters from the Democratic to the Republican column   Even African American voters pulled the Republican lever more than they had a couple  of years ago.  In the 2008 Presidential election, Bush and company garnered a meager 4% of the African American Vote.    But in the 2010 midterm elections, of the African Americans who voted, nine percent voted Republican.   More than double.   So then with every demographic but the Latino voters switching in varying degrees in favor of the Republicans, either every hidden racist decided to expose himself or many truly believe the not only the President but the Democratic Party had not fulfilled his promises.   I don’t know the answer here.  I really don’t.   Nor do I fully understand how many voters in need of Democratic policy bought into the Republican rhetoric.  Maybe they sold it better.   But the results are what they are.   So before I assign the explanation of the Democratic debacle to the Tea Party, Racism or to other simplistic rhetroic, I would   review more thoroughly the bigger picture.  But then that’s me.

Look, while I write this for a broader audience, a mixed bag of conservatives and progressives, and whatever else who read my blog, I realize much of this would fall on deaf ears.   And like I said, I don’t by any means have all the answers.   I realize, too, that recalcitrance and vilification is an essential part of rhetorical lockstep and the blind faith in the party line, so I don’t harbor much expectation.  Although, now that the ass kicking is over and we see a few pundits coming to their senses.   Increasingly, there is growing concern by various columnists and politicians that our President may not indeed be all that he can be.  There is increased frustration with him within his own base and among the media folk who drive it.  We are not talking about the Republican flacks here, but writers and personalities who tend to lean toward the Democratic view of things.   They have been watching now for a couple of years, and now, all apologies and excuses notwithstanding, they don’t like what they see.  They realize that exhortations about what do you expect the President to do, and he has had so little time, is falling on increasingly deaf ears.   And as a party, the Democratic Party, if you are getting your ass kicked, lame excuses for indecision  just won’t cut it anymore.

Perhaps it becomes apparent when you put in an inexperienced politician to handle one of our worst national crises, despite his great speech making, he is just not up to the job.   Perhaps when President Obama consistently negotiates prematurely against his own best interests, he fails to understand the principles of negotiation.    Perhaps, despite what all have said to the contrary, his team of advisors and cabinet, with some exception, are second stringers who have no real political leverage, except they are great political campaigners or that they got really good grades in school.   Perhaps the excuse that he hasn’t had time is insufficient, as the country was promised one thing and got another.  Perhaps the few band aids that helped shore the dikes against the economic flood placated the true believers but not the rest.   Perhaps claiming that the mean ol’ nasty Republicans beat up on the heartfelt, well intended but ultimately incompetent Democrats has any real currency to the family trying to pay its mortgage.

Perhaps it is time to stop with the convenient but ultiamtely unproductive  rhetoric and lame excuses.  Perhaps it is time to do the smart thing, the adult thing, and try to understand in often painful but realistic terms why the Democrats screwed it up so badly.  Our adversaries and global competitors could care less for our lame excuses.  Our global competitors and our professional sports teams are well aware that not everyone gets a trophy.   Our global competitors and our sports franchises are well aware that those who do  get the trophy are the ones who are able to pull it off in spite of the adversity, the obstacles, and the biases against them.   Perhaps it is time to cool all the jargon and like the sports teams, review the playing films.  Analyze things carefully and without prejudice.  See what you did wrong and where you messed up.     Make the rewarding distinction between catering to the  the middle class and having your head up your ass.  And then, cut out the crap and try to get  it right.

Close Encounters With the Tea Party of Beverly Hills

You don’t often think of the City of Beverly Hills and the Tea Party in one sentence.  But, nevertheless, there they were in some odd form of cosmic convergence, demonstrating to the more ardent supporters and the merely curious that populist  outrage can emanate from one of the more expensive zip codes in the United States.   Here, just a mere block or so north of the famed  Rodeo Drive where upper end manufacturers, excluding  maybe Ralph Lauren, import and showcase their designer wares from Italy, France, and just about every other place but here, the Beverly Hills Tea Party is banding together to take its country back.   Will that be cash or charge?

I am not one to cast the usual knee jerk aspersions on the Tea Party.   Must of those have been repeated ad nauseam and the disparaging remarks have done little to either understand it or suppress this often erratic and ragged movement that, despite all, is moving forward as an influence to be reckoned with.   I may agree with very little of what it stands for and may find Tea Party theories and practices both erroneous and convoluted, but the anger most feel to a large extent  is to some extent justifiable outrage.   The fact that this country has been sold down the drain by certain corporate interests and the toadies that pimp and whore for them is truly the American crime of the century.

People who once had respectable jobs have been put out of work and their once gainful employment has been outsourced at a cheaper rate to countries where the cheaper labor can best save the corporate bottom line.  Stock prices increase, but people continually not only lose their jobs but find fewer in the downsized marketplace.   Where there were once decent manufacturing jobs, there are meager and humiliating service center jobs.   Certain industries, like Elvis,  have left the building.   Unless there is a serious reevaluation of the true and long term cost of their loss, they aren’t coming back in the foreseeable future.

Consequently, people have not only lost their jobs, but have depleted their life savings.   Many no longer have retirement portfolios and the once relied upon pensions have either been seriously diminished or vaporized in the series of bankruptcies and the assorted mergers and acquisitions.  All that crap about the late life second career rings hollow and obnoxious when your money is gone and you can’t find a job.    Many Americans have lost their houses, their cars, their dignity, and are facing the prospect that they have just raised the first generation of children who will probably not fare as well economically as their parents had.  In a country where the ongoing belief was that economically speaking the kids would always do better than their parents, the grim reality is that this may not be the case.

The Tea Party and its incumbent protest aspect is in its essence really nothing new to America.   Its name of course is derived from the first visible protest against British taxation of its colonies with the much vaunted Boston Tea Party that every third grader learns about in lore and legend.   “No taxation without representation, ” and then none of your damn tea.   There are elements of the Tea Party in the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania, in the 1790’s and the Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts in the late 1780’s.   Roots of the Tea Party can be attributed to President Andrew Jackson and his much heralded “Jacksonian Democracy” that brought a more populist element to government.   Even Thomas Jefferson, it could be argued, was an early perpetrator of this vague ideal, as he opted for the agrarian and state’s rights sensibility over Hamilton’s Federalist theory.

In the twentieth century there are threads of the Tea Party in various campaigns.  There are roots of it with Ayn Rand and her “Objectivism” philosophy.   You can find the  Tea Party or populist philosophy, using the term loosely here,  in the 1960’s with Alabama Governor George Wallace’s Presidential candidacy.   Wallace’s Presidential campaign was feared by Democrats and especially Republicans.  Come election time, he ended up with 13.5 percent of the popular vote.    Not bad.   But Ross Perot, another you could attribute to the early Tea Party movement, topped Wallace by garnering almost 19% of the popular vote.    Had Perot in the end not seemed so off the wall by insisting there were doctored photos of him and threats against his daughter, and had he not selected retired Admiral Jim Stockdale as his running mate,  a man who in his later years was not what one would call the world’s most coherent man, Perot would have garnered an even higher vote count.

As for my encounter with the Tea Party, it was purely happenstance.   We were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard a few Sundays back when we noticed this gathering in the park.  At first, we had no idea what it was and though it was yet one more arts and craft show where in cloth wrapped booths vendors displayed typically bland art in between the makeshift yogurt and frozen banana stands.   But we didn’t see the booths, really, and the park contained too few people for the typical art show.   We saw printed and hand painted  signs proclaiming that this was indeed the gathering of the Beverly Hills Tea Party.   There in the park, before the big wrought iron and brass sign that proudly proclaimed this park was in Beverly Hills there stood a bevy of America flags and sound speakers blaring out in limited fidelity with a whole lot of static patriotic songs that were were familiar with and some with which are best considered arcane.

It was over 100 degrees outside.   But what the hell, it’s not everyday you get to see the Tea Party in the relative convenience of your own back yard.  So there they were, holding signs up against big government, Obamacare, wanton spending, and all the other stuff they are known for.  A few “take our country back” signs that some believe are filled with racist innuendo.  Among the predominantly white faces there were one or two Hispanic people, one or two African Americans, and more than a couple of Persians.  Beverly Hills for those who don’t know may have the largest Iranian/Persian population outside of Iran.  Of course the trio marching around with fife and drum in woolen frock coats and three cornered hats, in the hundred degree heat, fit demographically into either the category of  total commitment or theatrical lunacy.   Take your pick.

Unlike most Tea Party events you see in the news, this was much calmer than the sound bite video that tends to grace Internet sites and cable TV.   While some looked the part of the Tea Party, a good number of the women were quite attractive.  As were some of the men.   This is Beverly Hills, after all, and not some muddy high school field off some exurban highway exit where if you keep going another three minutes you will find yourself at the local Wal-Mart.  America is at best a stocky and overweight nation, but here in the Beverly Hills Park, there were but a scant few scooting around in those electric ass scooters the allegedly handicapped and physically lazy buy through the very health insurance they claim to deplore.  Hell, even the hand painted signs were spelled correctly.

Not all were as determined and single minded as the media would allow.   While the organizers did their best to gather the flock, and while the few vendors behind the makeshift tables peddled Beverly Hills Tea Party emblazoned tee shirts and baseball caps, there were those who appeared a little uncertain about their being there.   Under my obvious scrutiny there were a few people who were shy and a bit sheepish about protesting the  socialist government takeover of Beverly Hills.   Others clustered in groups under the shade of the old growth Oak Trees and fanned themselves with the paperboard brochures.   In all, it was a peaceful gathering that carried the kind of tentative vibe when you find yourself sitting a little too close to someone else’s picnic table.

The main theme of the speeches was fiscal responsibility.   We didn’t really stay for the speakers as it was hot and we were bored, and late lunch was beckoning down by the ocean.   But anyone who follows anything knows the Tea Party maintains a relentless desire for fiscal responsibility.  In fact,  it was partly the wanton spending and subsequent economic fiasco has inspired the advent of the Tea Party.   It is a political group whose inception has been fueled by the reflexive reaction to the collective bamboozle.   Since forming, the Tea Party has gained group and now poses a threat to not only the Democrats but the Republican Party who erroneously assumed these people were securely in their pocket.    In walking around the grounds I heard one well intentioned soul offering ill advised and unwarranted suggestions about how best to approach the forthcoming elections.  The man he was talking to, tall and not without his share of testosterone promptly admonished, ” we have an agenda of our own.   We intend to take over the Republic Party.”

This statement may seem like heady stuff.   But historically speaking, it serves as the same political metaphor that inspired myriad radical political elements to move in on the moderates and then once installed in legitimate government, move out the moderates and really let those banners fly.    Hence in history the revolution and then the counter or second phase of the revolution.  The rhetoric of accommodations followed by the subsequent introduction of the firing squad and the guillotine. In fact one of the few places where the moderates took power through revolution and then retained power without the radical element taking it to its bloody extremes was in that faraway land called the United State of America.  But now, if nothing else, the Tea Party can be the first truly viable third party.   That may even lead to the formation of political coalition.   Doubtful, but possible.

I am not saying this is the big Tea Party plan.   But that’s a long way from here.  In its incipient political stage, the other key thematic through line is the general mistrust of government.   The Tea Party hates the government and sees it as a wasteful abomination that inflicts upon its people intrusive and unworkable policies that only add to the already overwhelming burden of trying to survive.  Different Tea Party candidates wish to nullify the 17th Amendment that provides for a progressive income tax, and the 18th Amendment that enables the popular election of the United States Senate.  Others want to rid the federal government of everything from the Department of Education and Department of Energy, to the Departments of Internal Revenue, Commerce, and Homeland Security.  I am sure there are other departments that would be given the ax, but these are enough to focus on at the moment.

Of course this all seems absurd, but like other absurdities, such disparate individuals as Nazi Propaganda Minster, Joseph Goebbels, Soviet Leader, Vladimir Lenin and pioneer psychologist, William James have stated in common, “if you say something enough, people will eventually believe it.”   It’s a paraphrase or composite of the three statements, but that’s the general point.   Goebbels, by the way, detailed nineteen points of propaganda that remain remarkably relevant this very day.   And the fact is there are millions of people are believing what most of us see as absurd on its best days and totally bat shit in terms of governmental management and oversight.   Enough people are believing this to put some of the Tea Party in office.  It has been speculated that eight Tea Party candidates have a chance of being elected to office.

In some ways, as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, this stands to reason the Tea Party, in fact, would end up a presence on the American political landscape.   Because the fact remains that government in recent years has performed neither effectively or responsibly.     It has committed to economic folly and imposed itself  where it was often uninvited.  Conversely, and with bitter irony, it has  eliminated regulations that  have allowed  bandits with a briefcase to run off with the store.

But then here is the Tea Party.   They rant rave and make some outrageous statements.  Some but not all are racist, or homophobic, or Bible thumping bigots who see subversion in every environmental issue.   Of course there is a lot of tough talk about kicking out the immigrants and  eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs whether they make sense or not.   The Tea Party sense of fiscal responsibility is kind of like your parents finding out you used your allowance money for candy and not the wretched school lunch, so now they are going to deny any money and starve you to death, just to prove their point.     There is also the fearful prospect and collateral damage sustained by their anointing their lunatic candidates so they can govern the asylum.    With some the consequences of forty years of failed policy has just made them crazy.   Yes, they may appears fools and awkward, subject to derision, but who is the greater fool?  The Democrats who didn’t take them seriously?  Or the establishment Republicans who  believed they could manipulate them and use them for their shock troops, and then file them neatly inside their pocket.   And the end of the day who are the fools?     The Tea Party or those that let them gain power?

The Lessons of History, as once admonished by the exceptional couple, Will and Ariel Durant, are tough for us to learn.

The Planet of the Wanton Geriatrics

Life can be cruel at times.  Life can be filled with contradictions.  Contradictions that become paradoxes in our day-to-day lives and as the years progress  leave us wondering,  what the hell happened?   The cruelty part is that there is no going back, no modifying the order of things or adjusting priorities.    Despite all good wishes and inspiring messages to the contrary, in pure existential terms we are left at the end of a cycle in possession of our triumphs and losses, our insights and misgivings.    Life in hindsight becomes a mathematical puzzle of sorts, but with escalating complexity as our perception of events and their outcome is constantly mutating, leaving us to readjust the pieces as time goes on.

There are different versions of assessment and readjustment, each filled with mixtures of satisfaction and regret.   I am not talking about the macro stuff here, the atrocities and eco-disasters, the flagrant disorders of the world.  Catastrophe is relatively easy to assess and reconcile on the macro level than the universal eventualities that sooner or later enter our lives.   Aging is one such area where the large, universal picture eventually makes a very lasting acquaintance.  With aging comes its usual accessories, health issues, frailty,  culminating in an intimate howdy do with our own mortality.    Such concerns are all out there, until that one day when you look in the mirror and start to think, “do I know you?”

But like it or not, we have all been programmed to deal with aging and mortality.  For the most part we think happy thoughts.  You turn on the TV and there is some saccharine commercial to remind you of all the tender moments you experience with friends and family in your approaching dotage.   We get the Lion King Circle of Life Routine , and we are encouraged that our brief blip on the radar screen may be filled with meaning and purpose.    We take heart in the acts of familial succession  and the belief we will reincarnate as we have before.    We project in the back of our thickening skulls that upon our return we will access the lush life, refusing to believe that in past lives and the ones beyond it we were meager peasants whose greatest triumph was now getting trampled by the noble’s horses.

Without all this concern for mortality and the afterlife there would not be much of a market for religion and corny movies.  All those Hallmark Cards and Kodak Moments may be selling at a discount on the dusty back bin of the  Dollar Store.   Mortality is perplexing.   It gives us food for thought and a sense of spirit and a glimmer of eternity.   It keeps us in line.  Or it doesn’t.    But few ever scoff at the notion that somehow, in some way, I am paying the price for my deeds and misdeeds.

But honestly, this is all the easy stuff.   Life and death; there’s nothing to it.  Whether you are stuffed in a hole or return again to repeat the same mistakes or make different ones, this concern is really a piece of cake.   Because at the end of the day your beliefs may give you comfort, offer solace at that heavy trafficked intersection of doubt and faith.   But the morning after, whatever you believe becomes moot.  Unless you hit the jackpot by guessing correctly on the Eternity Betting Pool  and then your journey to the other side rests comfortably on auto-pilot.

What isn’t easy is sex.   Sex is fraught with cruel paradox as if the great creator did some custom body work on Adam and Eve as if for the purpose of a practical joke.   Doesn’t really matter if it is Adam and Eve, Adam and Adam, or Eve and Eve, or any combination therein, the fact that each group is victimized by biology and its staggered time frame for sexual desire.    It is no secret that men are more interested in sex at an early age, their late teens and twenties.  Men have sexual thoughts about once every twelve seconds, barring distractions like earthquakes and fires.   And even then….  Women on the other hand may have sex at an early age but according to one study in the British Medical Journal that was also reported in Time Magazine, that for women that full blown libidinous activity doesn’t kick in until their late twenties.   The article reported that women are not having more passionate sexual fantasies between 27 and 45 but they are actually having more sex than women 18 to 26.   Sounds hard to believe, but, hey, its Time Magazine and the British Medical Journal, after all.  Who would know these things if they didn’t?

The theory is associated with evolution.  In a nut shell, in her younger years, a woman didn’t have to work so hard at sex to become pregnant.  It was only a matter of time.  Fewer times.   But over time and with aging having children was a greater challenge and as women had children at an older age, the sex fantasies and desire kicked in to accommodate the advancing years.

Here is the passage from Time Magazine

Here’s how their theory works:

“Our female ancestors grew accustomed to watching many of their children — perhaps as many as half — die of various diseases, starvation, warfare and so on before being able to have kids of their own. This trauma left a psychological imprint to bear as many children as possible. Becoming pregnant is much easier for women and girls in their teens and early 20s — so much easier that they need not spend much time having sex.”

I believe there is more involved that physical evolution.   Reportedly, in women, the libido takes a breather, while for men it keeps right on going.    Boomer women especially, having been programmed to behave themselves in order to appear decent and marry the right sort of fellow, became sexually active a little later than the younger women of today.    Boomer women had to keep their legs crossed if they were going to be the good girl.  For extra money, the only call girling they did was to call their parents and beg for a larger allowance.   Or they worked in the college cafeteria or took a job as a waitress.  Alright, so come college they met a boy and the boy was nice…and they started to fool around.

It is only later in life that Boomer women start to smarten up and ease off the guilt that was fire forged and ice hardened by concerned but fearful parents.   Time is passing, and opportunity is dwindling.  Before you end up having heart-to-hearts with a pet iguana there is time for a virtual fling.   Some women, to avoid labeling and scrutiny even move to different and distant places.   Santa Fe in the years I lived there was fraught with single Boomer women on the prowl.  The difficulty was there were so few men, and the men who were single or available made the Peter Pan Syndrome appear the lexicon for ancient and sage-like wisdom.  Like I say, life can be cruel and full of paradox.   Even the married women aged 27 to 47 have more sex than younger or older women.  Sexual peak and all that.  As for the fantasies, let’s say more than a few do not involve their present partner.

But then, as the report contends,  after that hot and heavy decade or three of sexual desire, replete with fantasies and late night longing, the warranty on the libido begins to lapse.   The Cougar business notwithstanding, the  hunger is  more for the lascivious display at Yogurt Land than the sexual encounter.   The report, or the study, as with any other study, has its flaws.  Older women may be divorced or widowed, or are less inclined to gab it up at gray haired mixers.  I don’t know.

And there are the men.  Their trajectory is dramatically different.  They start off strong and then start to flag as they approach or enter middle age.   It is a mixed bag of reasons.   This is not to say men of this age have allowed women to corner the market on sexual fantasy and romantic pursuit.   But it just ain’t the same.   Suffice it to say they are far more interested in 3-D than a D-Cup.  Unless the D-Cup is actually on the 3-D Television, and then the may go off on his lonesome to remember old times.

But then something kicks in and as men get older they get horny again.   Go figure.  Just when you thought it was safe to crawl back between the sheets.   Back a few years in history,  a man confronted the dreaded reality that the brain may still be filled with desire, but the penis has downshifted to a lower gear.     Lust over limpness, if you will.  So in was once upon a time the awkward but somewhat natural order of things, both spouses acclimate to the new conditions of age and erosion and spend more time showing their friends more pictures of their grandkids or that wing ding at Lake Havasu.

An equilibrium of sorts had been established.  But along comes Viagra.  Men become randy old fools and, according to the report, women tend to other matters.  Statistically,  67% of the men between sixty-five and seventy-four were sexually active.   Only forty percent of the women in same age group were sexually active.   A third of the men in the age range of 75 to 85 said they had sex within the last twelve months.  Only 17% of the women in the same age group can make the same claim.  Frankly I am impressed by the men, not so much that they had sex but at that age they can still remember they had it.   As for the women, as noted before, the report did not take into consideration some easily identifiable extenuating factors.

Alright, so what has this been doing to senior America?  And you believed their main concern was losing their Medicare.  Unh uh.   Aged boners are messing up the fire drill.   Older men are zipping up the Sansabelts and jumping the reservation.   At an age when their physical activity may be a a vigorous workout on the treadmill, they are sowing sin in Sun City.   Talk about an alliance among the willing.   They are jumping off their electro carts and cruising the streets for desperate hookers in a down economy.     According to an article in the Daily Beast, they are bringing back sexually transmitted diseases to hearth and home.    Imagine this doctor’s surprise when an eighty-year-old guy shows up with the clap.   They are leaving their wives,  and they are cheating on their wives.  Or, worse, they are forcing themselves on their wives.

The result is mixed.  According to the article, some women are enthused.  But most are not.   They thought this part of their lives were over and now the long retired  Jumping Jack Flash has nothing but time on his hands and a chubby.    Many women find such entreaties annoying.   But then, if they don’t for a few bucks or a couple hours distraction someone else will.  So leave it to good old American know how to produce a female version of Viagra.   The intent was to utilize  Boehringer Ingelheim’s  flibanserin, a drug for premenopausal women, as the new boost for women who report a lack of sexual desire.  Let’s follow the credo, even if there isn’t a market, create one.   Lots of high hopes.   But in two different studies the drug failed to show any increase in sex drive.  The elusive search continues.

Like I noted, there are exceptions to all of this and there are certainly extenuating factors.   But there is still no denying that life is cruel and full of paradox.   Not only as Elmore James once declared does he love her, but she loves him and so forth…but the sexual trajectories of men and women are so different their sexual encounters are torn asunder by bad timing and nature’s doctrine.   It’s hard enough to find love, and then when you do it’s sexual manifestation can become a total pain in the ass.  Perhaps in the end, our desire for satisfaction had disrupted the natural order of things.   At this time of life, Bill Maher joked, “maybe people shouldn’t be having sex.  It has to hurt,” he said. ” It hurts just to stand up.”

For me the bottom line is like all challenges, time will eventually sort this one out.  Or not.   And maybe those who resort to prayer, asking the Lord or the Goddess or the Universe, whatever, to sort out the rights and wrongs, to give them things, bring peace and prosperity, should beseech that same supreme being  that it would really be nice to rethink the math on the cycles of human sexuality.  Life is hard enough.

Botox And The Things We Do For Love

Emotionally speaking, we are a schizophrenic society.  Perhaps we are a schizophrenic world.   Quite often we have incredible needs where romance and sentiment are concerned, but we mitigate those needs with the crassness of survival in the modern context.  While we recognize a deep seated need to satisfy our emotional requirements we obscure these sentiments by approaching romance and marriage, even  relationships with our families, as some form of corporate merger or social detentes.   To our most romantic and sentimental instincts we add complex  layers of material opportunity and the cultural acceptance.

We buy into the movies, and the romance novels that manipulate our sentiments.   In media world, as opposed to the real one,  couples from the opposite sides of the spectrum, different cultural interests, ethnic backgrounds, economic stations, find themselves linked eternally.    The normal  obstructions of social norms and divergent interests,  to say nothing of peer pressure and cultural prejudice, withdraw from the sexual battlefield as love triumphs over all.  We can’t get enough of this stuff and buy into it, hook, line and sinker.

Media feeds on our  romantic idealism.   It manipulates our sentiments.   Now in the digital age we  are bombarded with these paint by numbers constructions from every possible angle.   We walk the streets and stand in lines, surrounded desire in fact our insistence on romantic denouement.   Often in paint by numbers, formulaic arcs, the illusion of true romance is served up to us at ten to fifty bucks a pop.    We wait in knowing anticipation while the fated lovers stumble over themselves and respective situations, overcome peer pressure and cultural differences, to finally reconcile their desire for each other so we the audience can reinforce our illusive pursuit of pure romance.   We buy greeting cards and watch endless maudlin commercials where parents race across the world to be home for their kid’s debut in their grad school play.   We watch endless commercials where families come together as one for that happy holiday meal.  Where they hug and eat and never argue.

In quest of love we do many things to ourselves.   We say things that we really don’t mean or even care about.   Sweet nothings, or broad generic terms of world peace and humanitarian considerations while berating the busboy for not cleaning our table.   We wear funny outfits that we hope make us attractive and then we become disgruntled when people are staring.   We once smoked cigarettes to look cool and sexy.  Now we smoke because it is a habit.  We take drugs, drink too much, eat too much, and more often than we care to remember we find ourselves in the sweet embrace of the toilet bowl at three a.m.

If you are male, you preen and shine and hope not to look as awkward and as uninvolved  on the first date as you most certainly will on the fourth or fifth date down the line.  If there is a fifth date.    You dress like a boy and think you’re a man and hope that you can somehow discover the equilibrium between looking like schlep and a cardboard cutout from Details or Gentleman’s Quarterly.   You get pierced and tattooed and claim it is not really an esteem issue but an expression of your individuality.   You bathe in cologne unaware that you are the only one who knows that smells like  a men’s room at fifty yards away.

If you are a male, you try to show that you are sensitive and caring, but that you aren’t just another pussy.   You avoid like the plague being categorized as a guys’ guy or a ladies man.  You try to be different from the pack, but not so different that your date or your lover starts to think you are strange and burdened by a hidden agenda where you secretly boast of a butterfly collection or bury skulls in your flower bed.   You go to the gym and run for miles, claiming it is all about our health when you know damn well you are far more attractive with an athletic physique than the slob who sits in the cubicle right next to yours.

You get your penis enlarged by adding fat tissue and cutting tendons that make it dangle more than nature may have first intended.   You do this to impress yourself and to impress her.  You wonder if you have impressed her enough that she will go to bed with you.   And then you worry if you were good in bed and and if you measure up to her previous experience.   You wonder how in the hell you can leave in the wee hours and not look like a shopworn cliche.   After all this, you visit your shrink who invites you back for another year of analysis.

But the price men pay for love, even when they actually pay for sex, is nothing compared to the gauntlet of tribulations that women must endure.   From bleaching to waxing, to shaving certain body parts that will itch for days, until you scratch like a monkey, showing off at the children’s zoo.   You get your first face lift at fourteen.   After which there is are future years where you engage in sessions of liposuction, ass and tummy tucks so that you still look good walking the unbearably painful walk of three inch heels.  You pluck your brows and paint your nails.  You wear perfume, but you worry if it is the right perfume, whether it defines you or makes you smell like just another slut.  You go backless and braless, you eat too little and then eat too much, only to show penance once again with your arms wrapped in the cold and familiar embrace of the proverbial toilet bowl.

You get stitched and sewn, tanned and tailored.   You wear clothes too tight and shoes too small.   You go blond, brunette, step it out as a redhead for a minute and a half and wish for the day when you can say “screw it,” I’ll leave it gray and live with those oh so natural, murky yellow highlights.   Like men you date and you wonder if you are attractive, if he really wants to go to bed with you.  You wonder if you are good in bed, if you measure up to his other lovers, or if his previous lovers were of the barnyard variety.   And then you wonder how in the hell you can leave in the wee hours of the morning and not look like a shopworn cliche.  And then your remember, it’s your place, so there is no escape.  After all this, you visit your shrink who invites you back for another year of analysis

You worry about aging, whether you are still attractive, and whether you are a sexual being.  You start worrying about this when you are eleven, and you don’t stop worrying until they put you in the grave.   You worry so much your brow wrinkles.  And then you get your Botox shots.  You realize Botox is not the best thing for you as the secret ingredient causes Botulism, a deadly poison.  A deadly poison that may in the long haul cause nerve damage.  But who cares?   You look better and this is then and later is later.  And by then you are dead anyway, so who cares?

So now what did they do?   New studies have discovered a relationship between paralyzing your nerves, which Botox does, and your inability to express emotion.   People on Botox are slower to smile or frown or show anything other than the stoic expressions the ancient Greeks used to proffer as a viable lifestyle.   According to the recent study, some of it summarized in the Los Angeles Times, among other place, Botox shots will confuse the brain.   Botox Shots, researchers discovered, block facial nerve impulses, seemed to slow the ability to comprehend emotional language. Emotional expressions apparently send feedback to the brain.   It is a combined effort between smiling and frowning and our awareness as to whether we are having a good time or a lousy one.

Simply put the reaction time between the stimulus and the emotion takes longer than it does for a senile geriatric to cross the street in St. Petersburg.   Facial expressions make the brain make sense of the world around us.  No facial expressions the world around us is tough to grasp, as if it isn’t tough enough already.    Stuff happens to you, and you don’t know what you are feeling.  Good times, bad times, there you be, unable to grasp whether you are ecstatic or really pissed off.   Or at least, according to the study, it may take awhile before the brain gets the message.

If we extrapolate this study, then for all we know, Botox could affect our sexual congress.    Enough Botox could freeze the facial expressions and delay the sensory signals to the brain.  It would be the orgasmic version of the late arrival.   It’s like showing up for the banquet when they have already removed the  dishes from the tables and folded up the chairs.   The Botox orgasm.   Between the big sensation and the “Oh God” screaming,  hours may have passed.  By then it is Sunday morning.  Your neighbors don’t know if you had an orgasm or you were getting ready for church.

Anyway…it’s not that I am critical of our vanity.  Observant, maybe, but hardly critical.  It is what it is, and far be it for me to provide any meaningful alternative where I don’t sound like a rescued speed freak from an abstinence ministry.  Besides, I am too vain for that.   People need to do what they do and in a world of chaos and uncertainty at least try to have a good time.

The only thing is, if you dose yourself with Botox, how will you ever know it?

Each to Its Own Disease

Everyone tries to declare how special they are.  While various groups debate their differences, define their histories and otherwise demonstrate their significance on what is becoming a very small planet, there is one undeniable fact that lingers in the back of our brain.   We are all going to die from something.   We may die quickly and violently, or we may linger and suffer before we pass on.  But the stark fact is sooner or later we are checking out of here.

It is almost funny that this is perhaps the one remaining single fact where there is little or no debate.  We argue about everything else.   We argue about the big stuff, and we argue about the little stuff.    We argue about global warming.  We debate the merits and deficiencies of race, gender, and sexual preferences.  We argue about gravity and the age of the Earth.   We can spend hours debating the morality of everything from where to buy the best pair of jeans to driving an SUV.   We argue whether we  Darwin evolved or were a product of a divine plan explained to us ever so precisely through umpteen religions and secular theories.    We argue whether cow farts and bottled water will hurtle out planet to its impending doom.

We argue incessantly.  Taking sides and shouting each other down  has become a major industry.  You can’t market complexity and nuance, because thoughts that are complex and nuanced are disturbing and prey on our insecurities.   We are more secure with crackpot theories than we are with uncertainty.    So we argue in absolutes,  and even then we prefer to keep our absolutes simple.   If they are not simple, you can’t buy the books, go to the lectures and otherwise listen to the pundits and politicians who cater to our particular set of beliefs.   Simply put, if you can’t put your thoughts on a tee shirt, they probably ain’t worth remembering.

But then every once in awhile some actual facts escape from spin cycle and we are confronted with their statistical reality. These are not the speculative statistics or manipulated statistics, positioned just  to validate our point of  view.   No.  Instead these are the types of fact that are actually hard to argue with.   The ugly truth as it is sometimes known.    These are the simple numbers that lay reality at your feet like an abandoned child that nobody wants to nurture.    These are facts that remain consistent regardless of the cause , blame or subjectivity.  These are the facts that leave little wiggle room, that are distinctive in their certainty so that debating them appears more like futile  buffoonery than rational argument.

Such facts?   Not only are we going to die, but we are actually killing ourselves.   Maybe it’s the lemming concept or the human version of the long march to the elephant graveyard.   Maybe its gross denial mixed with complex mixtures of stupidity and ignorance.   Maybe deep down we just don’t care.  Maybe our compulsion toward self-indulgence is so great that nothing, especially common sense, will get in the way of our collective suicide.

I am not talking here about the macro levels, the easy stuff, nuclear war,  global warning, and the death of the planet.  I am not even speculating on the probability of the sun eventually burning to the cinder or a meteor clipping us when we least expect it.   Even global starvation and massive pandemics are not on the table here.   Being invaded and eaten, as Stephen Hawking recently predicted, by aliens from another planet; we can forget about that, too. I am talking about how through our lack of responsibility we are in fact taking responsibility for doing ourselves in.

New studies report that nearly half the adult population in America has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.  One in eight is playing the quinella, where they have at least two out of three of these diseases.   According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, 15% of us are walking around unaware we are afflicted with at least one of the three diseases.   Which means to me,  folks can pontificate authoritatively about everything from the rash on our ass to the Rapture and the End of Days, and yet still walk around having no idea they are seriously ill.    We talk about lofty things like taking care of the planet and taking care of the poor, but yet we can’t seem to take care of ourselves.

What is even more interesting that certain diseases plague certain ethnic groups more than others. In America, African-Americans are prone to high blood pressure.  Those of European descent find high cholesterol gets in their way, while Latinos suffer more from diabetes.   Surely, there is some extension of these disease from one ethnic group to another, hands across the water so to speak.  Also, there are other serious diseases that afflict different groups.  I realize their are environmental concerns and individual or familial congenital defects.    And then, in terms of health and fortune, it sometimes boils down to nothing more than the luck of the draw. But for our purposes we can stick with the article and just these three diseases.

While each ethnic group seems more in peril from a particular affliction, the causes for each of the diseases are pretty much the same.   Mainly the causes revolve around smoking, a junk diet, obesity, and physical inactivity, better known as the sedentary lifestyle that makes the purchase of one of those fat mover electric scooters almost irresistible to some of the late night cable crowd.   I would think no irony should be lost on the fact that our true common ground is our self-indulgence and bad health.

I have often found it just a tad specious that just about every ethnic group likes to brag about its past.   Each ethnic group and nationality can go on for days about its glorious heritage and its contributions to civilization. There is no end to their performances and days of  glory.  Then.    It is not that a disbelieve their claims.  But often find myself searching for their particular relevance in the modern world.  I wonder if all the casting back to the past serves as a distraction from the vagaries of our present times.   I realize others will view a world through a different prism, but I tend toward the pragmatic and prefer to see how those past achievements can best be put to use in the modern day.   How do we put them to use, and where does it leave us now?

From the looks of things, it leaves us obese with hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.   All represented in one form or another in the same collective rut.   So in existential terms, regardless of  specific achievements attributable to one group or another, we are all sitting here, living in denial and dying sooner than we should.   If there is any consolation; it’s all pretty democratic.   No matter what our ancestry, half of us are taking the decided inaction to let the quality of life slip out of our reach.     We talk grandiose about saving the planet, but according to the recent study, we are having a tough time saving ourselves.

We talk about being sensitive to our surrounding, aware of the environment, our fellow creatures, and the challenges we are faced with.  But yet in terms of our own well being, fifty percent of us can’t get out of our own way.  We can’t hurdle our indulgences or come to terms with the realities of our own health concerns.     Yeah, sure, we like to talk about it.    We talk about the junk food, our carnivorous habits, and the polluted air we breathe.  We even see the doctor.  Yet here we are.

So I guess at the end of all this I am forced to wonder how are we doing to do all this planet saving when we can barely hurdle our personal afflictions?   Is there any real logic to fending off hunger, water shortages, and global warming, while we continually ignore the factors causing our own demise?   Here was are, ethnically speaking, all stuck with some kind of health burden and the best we can do is to skew the statistics to our own disadvantage.  Maybe in the face of loftier ideals, the notion of the best example is the way we take care of ourselves.