Double Trouble

I’m finding it an especially interesting time in history to be gay and Jewish.

I say interesting because I don’t live in a war zone, my life is not in danger and my general risk of being leveled for either on an average day in Hollywood involves someone making a nasty remark about me or my kind within earshot.

I don’t make the rules

For the latter they’d get an earful from me and this might affect my safety if I get unlucky enough to talk back to a crazy person, as my sister constantly reminds me. 

But it’s a calculated risk I’m willing to take (Note: Among so many, these days) since that’s pretty much been my behavior my entire life.

… and I’m stickin’ to it!

Of course, in a moment my life can radically change. 

The Ukrainian people are currently living testimony to that.  So is the history of each generation of gays and Jews that came before me.

Ukraine gets slowly reduced to rubble daily by Russian mortar ordered by an anti-Semitic dictator who paradoxically claims to only to want to stop the Nazification of Ukraine by doing this.

But, well, Ukraine’s Pres. Zelenskyy is Jewish and he won in a landslide in a general election so, um…where is the logic in that?   

proceed…

There is none except the logic of disinformation.  There is also the idea that in order to achieve the greater goal of safety (nee dictatorship-like domination) we can use whatever means or illogical argument necessary to destroy the lives of those less powerful. 

It’s enough to get you thinking, which is the last thing any dictator or politician bent on rolling back the rights of any minority wants.

To whit, the Florida Senate and House last week passed a bill now generally referred to as the Don’t Say Gay Bill even though it’s official title is the Parental Rights In Education Bill.  #Tricky.

Here we go

Essentially what this bill says is that there can be no mention whatsoever about gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom, which includes the use of the word gay.  It also lets any parent sue any teacher or school that allows it.

That methodology didn’t work well for the 1990s relic of a bill about gays in the military, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and will be even worse here. 

I say this as both a teacher and a former third-grader. 

The minute anyone told me I couldn’t saya word as an 8-year-old boy was the moment I managed to say it.  Never mind my behavior as a teacher.

You know I’m pressing that button

This is why I so appreciate and love the response of Hollywood celebs to the inverted logic of this disinformation campaign/bill.  And it probably accounts for why I decades ago relocated to the left coast to begin with.

And to my knowledge, none of the three of them are even GAY!

I will spare you what me and my fellow gays are saying.  Though I’m sure if you searched far and wide, or merely called a few names in the membership roster of the Log Cabin Republican Clubs nationwide, you’d find some supporters of that bill.

No minorities are monolithic in their opinions of what to like and/or support.

I, for one, am one of the few gays who never got Sex and the City; wasn’t a fan of Britney Spears or Madonna; and truly dislikes the work and persona of Andy Cohen and every Housewives TV series that he has poisoned the earth with.

God he is so rich

However, I am not so threatened that I’d engage in disinformation or twisted logic in order to prove my point to try and stop them. 

You might argue that the stakes on that aren’t as high but have you seen the scientific studies on what occurs in the  human brain after watching a dozen or more episodes of Watch What Happens Live?

It’s something like this

The point is when you try to exterminate words and thoughts and people on the basis of the category they fit into you’ve planted your feet atop a very slippery slope of morality and logic.

Many young people these days recognize this.

Two of them from my Jewish subset – first year Harvard students Avi Schiffmann, 19, and Marco Burstein, 18 – LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AGO started a website to help the now 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees that has quickly garnered worldwide activity and huge attention

UkraineTakeShelter.com became an instant free Airbnb for Ukrainian refugees, with more than 4000 listings worldwide of rooms, apartments, houses, condos and school dorms for those forced to flee their homes on a moments notice.  The boys launched the site in three days and since then numerous other countries and cities are following their lead with similar programs.

Heroes

Not only that, but they are now expanding into providing transportation to Ukrainians from their hiding spots, as well as offering shelters for animals and providing a means to report bots (nee Russian infiltrators) attempting to lure them into danger.

On the other side, we have a renowned Jewish Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, 55, a man who has spent the last twenty years lavishly spending in the U.S. and Great Britain huge portions of the $15 billion plus fortune he made in Russian oil under the auspices of the Putin regime and via his close relationship with that dictator..

Despite a white hot hatred for the U.S. and NATO it’s always been the dictator’s plan to infiltrate key Russians in the west in order to slowly and avariciously turn the cultural tables on us and generate pro Russian western propaganda through his affiliates.

To that end, Mr. Abramovich has used his personal means to buy many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate on New York’s upper east side and in London; acquire hundreds of millions of past century and contemporary art work; and buy and reinvigorate UK’s almost defunct Chelsea soccer team with enough expensive players to ensure them an unprecedented array of championships in the early to mid 2000s.  This in turn purchased him relationships with some of the top power players in the world, including the Trump and Kushner families.

.. and that feels kind somehow

Then, in 2018, after Russian spies poisoned a couple of people in the UK and things got a little too hot for him, Abramovich bought his way into Israeli society and citizenship through generous donations to hospitals, universities and Holocaust exhibits.

Yet all the money in the world, a disrespectable percentage of which he did once leverage, can now not spare him from the Putin Stink and worldwide sanctions on his financial fortune.  Nor will it prevent him from morphing into an international pariah in real time and before our eyes.

Sorry not sorry

When the hospitals, universities and Holocaust museums you once so generously bought into announce one after another they have severed their relationships to both you and your money, it’s hard not to see where his third act is leading.

It also shows you that we Jews, like we gays, and we humans of any type, can either surprise or horrify you.

Resist lumping us together or you risk becoming the new world pariahs.

Barbra Streisand – “Don’t Rain on My Parade”

2022 and Beyond

As we enter into the third year of the COVID pandemic, I’m optimistic.  

Did you know the flu epidemic/pandemic in the early 20th century lasted two years and perhaps beyond into a fourth wave? 

What makes us think we’d be any different?  Besides our vaccines, we have a lot more ways to get close and get infected.

Never leaving the house again

It’s so easy to think the horrible will never end, the future is bleak and that it won’t EVER be as good as it was.

When I catch myself going down this rabbit hole I’m reminded of what the late, great Stephen Sondheim lyricized in the vastly underrated Merrily We Roll Along.

…That’s what everybody does

Blame the way it is on the way it was

On the way it never ever was…

On a lighter metaphor, movies were not supposed to exist once television was born and theatre, well, that would soon be spoken as widely as Latin.

The Tao of Moira

So much for prophecy.

Movies are still here but the way we access them have changed.  The same with theatre.  And television.  And music.

Who remembers DVDs, VCRs, eight tracks, tape decks and…radio?

I mean, radio as a primary art form that’s on the front page or brain of anything?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

But on that latter point, who listens to PODCASTS?  

New Pod from a Chair Episodes coming soon!

You are so no better than your great grandparents.

Social media is not the revolutionary means to the end of the world but the evolution of a world where change knows no end.

Yeats famously prophesized in a 1919 poem, the center cannot hold and we’re still here. 

This despite the fact that phrase was pilfered and rephrased by any number of 1960s social revolutionaries who saw the end coming, and was recently used as the title of the Netflix doc on the life of writer Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold.

RIP Joan

Totalitarian reign and pushback.  They leave Afghanistan, we desert Afghanistan. Our weapons of mass destruction, they lied about weapons of mass destruction, our existence teeters on the brink of mass destruction.

This is not to minimize any one of the above issues or their many cousins that are nipping at the heels of all of our destructions.

It is simply to remember that despite all of these changes certain core issues and ways of humanity are ALWAYS the same. 

It’s simply the players, scenery and mode of import that makes it feel different.  To US.

I imagine this is what both Sondheim AND Betty White knew well before their ends.

We’ll miss you girl

On that note, it’s hard to lose our beloved elders, isn’t it?  But by anyone’s measure, living to 91 and 99 is almost more than we can ask given the realities of human frailty.  Yet, we never get enough of people we love, like and admire from afar and near.

This is a particularly heart ripping truth when it comes to our closest friends, family and loved ones. 

Death can be random and cruel, particularly when it comes to the young, but it’s also rote and predictable.  It’s always been the way of the world.  We can extend life a bit but THAT will also NEVER change.

At least as far as we know. 

That is, unless you have Irishman level de-aging tech available to you

Which brings us back to the exciting but scary part that has so many of us freaking out about 2022; what we DON’T know.

Which is….A LOT.

My late second Mom, an avid reader, once told me when I was feeling hopeless and down that life was like a great book, you never know what will happen when you turn the page. 

Expect the unexpected, weather the storm of horribleness and celebrate every second of luck and good fortune that will inevitably come your way.

This, if you have a field

If this sounds like a Forest Gumpism, a movie I could never stomach, it doesn’t to me.  Her advice wasn’t akin to life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, even though it might be read this way now.  Rather than being about the randomness of life, I took it as the certainty that a good piece of story will always deliver to you; the ups and downs, the inescapable heartache and the always to be counted on moments of joy.

Though perhaps, for me, it was simply the book/story metaphor.  I could relate a lot more to that than some stupid container of processed sugar able to undo you or reward you beyond your wildest dreams depending on what road you decided to paw.

OK but pizza might work

It could have also been the messenger. 

My second Mom, meaning my stepmom – a parental figure who only becomes such by coincidence of marriage but can truly emerge as a lot more than that depending on who they and you are – was not a habitual advice giver and problem solver.  Though always, she was honest.  Some would say to a fault.

So when she took the time to challenge me with a metaphor of what life truly was (and would be) it compelled me to listen.  And woke me up from my malaise in an instant.

I think this idea is what sustains me through so many problematic moments, both personal and societal.

OK, but also pizza

That the secret is that not one of us, the most talented or smartest or even both that any human can be, will solve any of these issues on our own.  Nor are we likely to even manage to get through them.

We depend on each other.  Not only the people we love and trust but on all of those charlatans who we loathe. 

The best of them show us the way to survive and grow.  The worst of them try and seduce us into drowning in their bile and cynicism.

Except this guy. F*** this guy.

Not that I haven’t been known to be a cynic or offered my own bile out into the world, dressed up and spewed out as wisdom at times.

It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to become wise enough to understand what is being offered (and why) from each source and to move forward in the best way possible.  And I believe the most difficult part of this is recognizing that you – yourself – can be quite an unreliable narrator. 

They (Note: Whoever THEY are) say trust yourself, but that doesn’t always work.  When you suspect you – yourself – are not to be trusted you need to turn to people like your second Mom, one among a small handful of someone elses that we all need to cultivate, that inner circle of truth, and then decide what the best options are.

You can’t sit all alone in your room and figure it all out yourself.  That’s myopic and creepy and just plain dumb.  And it will NEVER get you through 2022 in any sort of meaningful or even pleasing way.

Deep thoughts

Once I realized this small fact and made it into a strategy, I became more optimistic.

A group effort with you at the helm but never as sole narrator and dictator, benevolent though you might think you are.

No ONE of us is to be entirely trusted.   But together, with the benefits of our small group (Note: Which doesn’t mean isolating from the thoughts and logic of the rest of the world at large), we will see a way forward.

Through 2022 and into plots twists and turns we never could have imagined or pulled off by ourselves.

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” – Jennifer Hudson from SING