Magical Thinking

Joe Biden told an audience in Omaha last week that Mike Pence is a decent guy.   Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon chose to differ in an editorial in the Washington Post and so do I.

Mr. Pence’s lifetime leadership role advocating against the LGBTQ community, including support for conversion therapy (most heinously during the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s as an alternative way to curtail the spread of HIV), opposition to gay marriage, banning trans people from serving in the military, and attempting to legalize discrimination against gays due to religious beliefs (with proposed legislation and/or laws to back all over the above) does not make him decent.

It shows an empirical pattern of behavior that bears additional scrutiny, particularly for someone currently serving as the Vice President of all of the U.S. in 2019.

This is a real product you can buy on Amazon. You’re welcome.

The same could be said of Electoral College POTUS’s rambling two-hour speech at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) this weekend.  In perhaps his grandest of grandstanding, he threw out his usual invectives that American citizens who oppose him, as well as the media and fellow elected officials who choose to investigate his behavior, are people who don’t love our country.

But perhaps worse yet he continued to defend his self-professed love affair with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, who he claims had no knowledge of the torture and eventual death of an American teenager under his government’s hands because he told me, despite the universal agreement of our own intelligence agencies that this was not the case.

NOT fake news

It is the same argument he used to defend Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin over the last two years when American intelligence across the board provided him clear evidence that Putin directed manipulation of the 2016 election.

It is a similar kind of illogic that in those two very public hours at the podium caused him to scream, where did that come from?, in reference to Congress’ current plan to look into his finances as a way to reasonably prove his business ties to Russia in light of numerous recent accusations from members inside his own campaign that this is indeed the case.

This same blind rage also caused him to proclaim from the podium that these people are sick for wanting to check his deals.

Nice try

And it is, finally, what caused him to come up with yet a new nickname for the chairman of that House committee – my Congressman, Adam Schiff, a former California U.S. Attorney.  Before this large group of conservatives, in that same two-hour speech, broadcast worldwide, our de facto POTUS referred to that duly elected congressman as LITTLE SHIFTY SCHIFF and his work as bullschiff.

And they’re both orange!

Nice, huh?  Especially for a 72 year-old man some people call the most powerful person on Earth, partly because most conceded long ago he forfeited the usual U.S. POTUS moniker of Leader of the Free World.

Magical thinking can sometimes help get us through the day but it can never, ever make untruths into truths, fantasy into reality or sputtering, fantastical bile-soaked lies into objective evidentiary fact.

This weekend I finally caught up with a film my students had been recommending me to see for several years, Swiss Army Man.  It’s a story about a suicidal guy (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who finds a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) that he is able to ride to some sort of civilization through the body’s flatulence.

Ummmm…

The guy then lives off the water the body expels from his mouth in sudden gaseous spurts only to find about halfway through the story, the body actually starts talking to him.  It turns out said body’s name is Manny and in order to keep him alive the suicidal guy has to re-educate him about the joys of being human.  This being an American film the guy also, in the process, begins to discover his own humanity again.

The film’s dramatic questions are many but primary among them becomes – is the guy imagining that dead Manny can speak or is Manny some sort of divine miracle that sporadically comes to life?  In other words is Manny ultimately indestructible and does he truly possess the unexplainable ability to enable a mere mortal to appreciate life on its own very messy terms.

The Chair’s recommendation

Would that there was a Manny somewhere who could point out the bumps in the road and make it all better for those of us who too often than not these days live in the belief that it will all NOT be okay.  (Note: The film was released in a pre Trump-Pence 2016)

I consider myself one of those people sporadically and part of my current journey is to work hard enough where I don’t succumb to my inner belief that the countless negative forces in the world have conspired lately in some nefarious master plan to bring us all down – both collectively as a society as well as individually.

This meme is me until Trump is out of office

To be clear, this is not my overriding philosophy but certainly, left to my own devices, it could be.  I have a real talent for assembling events of all kinds in a viable order that could much too convincingly confirm to most of you whatever misguided or guided (at least in my mind) point I am trying to prove.

In popular parlance, it’s what’s called writing talent.

In depressing real life, it’s what enables me to be the most persuasive and darkest of pessimists if I so choose.

But in the loveliest, lightest and most seductive moments of reality, it can also easily move me to the other extreme in seconds.  What that means is it can get me to convince not only myself but others, through the use of philosophy and said rosy perceived reality, that somehow it WILL all magically be okay even though there may be more than a few signs that this is pie in the sky fantasy thinking is  not likely to at all to come true by any reasonable objective standard.

Neither, of course, is the way to go.

I see no problem with these rosy shades, Chairy.

We MUST have hope against the odds and take steps to do our jobs and live our lives and overcome the negative to create the reality we want.  More commonly, that’s called the hard work of getting out of your own way.

On the other hand, we can’t PRETEND that a divine Manny WILL somehow magically appear (or has appeared) and guide us to right the wrongs in our world or society just because we wish him or it to be so.  That is equally misguided and it is what’s more popularly referred to as “magical thinking.”  Or worse.

Joan Didion wrote a book and a play on this theme entitled The Year of Magical Thinking after the death of her husband the day after the couple’s recently married daughter fell into a coma due to pneumonia/septic shock, only to eventually die herself less than a year later.

Chairy, what are you doing to me!!

The idea that one can become so traumatized by traumatizing events that one pretends bad things didn’t happen, aren’t happening or at the very least can be resolved – and that if one dreams with just the right amount of acuity one’s loved ones at any moment could conceivably walk through the door and one’s present reality could instantly become a thing of the past – is tempting.  And that there is meaning in the smallest of events that we can then assemble to divine us through our despair on a magic carpet of made up reality is undeniably hopeful, albeit sometimes intuitively necessary.

YES, whatever gets you through, I can hear some of you saying.  Well, perhaps.  I mean, if it guides one through the grief process and doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one has the right to demand you live in the truth of despair, seeing your glass as perpetually half empty as I too often do.

this also helps me sleep at night

The trouble begins when we wish world events or real people in our lives to be something they are clearly and objectively not.  Especially leaders we don’t know personally.  Because it then gets exacerbated when their associates start to adopt the party lie to get whatever agenda they want past us, twisting themselves into pretzels of illogic in order to do so.

Meaning you can’t explain it any way you like for yourself.  At the end of the day 2 + 2 simply cannot equal 5 — much as any of us would like it to.

Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – John Lennon (feat. Elton John)

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Basket Case

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-20-34-pm

The iconography of the US represents freedom and diversity. Of course, this is theoretical. No icon, or its iconography, is 100% real. It’s an ideal to strive to at best. It’s a fictional image, at worst.   Still, and purely by comparison, it would not be an understatement to say that the United States does have more diversity and freedom than most places in the world and that those words, though not perfect, are as good as any to represent the principles upon which this country aspires to and was founded on.

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

This week is the 15th anniversary of 9-11, the day multiple terrorist attacks exploded the Twin Towers and Pentagon and caused 3000 plus lives to be immediately lost – not to mention the respective bombings, wars and various other mega-skirmishes spawned in its wake that cost the lives of tens of thousands of others.

That said, not a bad week to reflect on freedom and diversity in the U.S., wouldn’t you say?

Hillary Clinton stood up at a fundraiser this week and categorized HALF of the supporters of Donald Trump for president as being a basket of deplorables. She elaborated to define this group as Islamophobes, sexists, racists, homophobes and various other ists or obes. If you’ve been paying any attention at all you know who they are. The people who almost daily voice or post nasty remarks that categorize anyone who do not agree with them as anti-American or threaten and/or insult the dissenters by focusing on some element of their personal selves – be it race, sex, ethnicity or sexual preference.

Truly headline news

Truly headline news

If you’re not quite following or don’t agree, here’s some help. Examples of the latter would be things like calling Mexicans murderers and rapists; singling out Blacks as police haters who primarily live in poverty and are dangerous criminals who should go back to Africa; generally referring to most or even all Muslims as anti-American and advocating they all be thrown out of the US; coarsely categorizing women they don’t like in terms of their body parts, looks and FemiNazi tendencies; and condemning LGBT Americans as a corrupt influence on the general moral fabric of the country, particularly when it comes to raising children.

I’m not sure if these people make up 50% of Trump supporters. It could be slightly less. Or it could be significantly more if they were forced to take a lie detector test. Of course this is my opinion – but it’s supported with the thousands of articles and speeches on the presidential campaign I’ve heard or read about in the last year and a half.   And that’s more reading than Mr. Trump admittedly does himself.

Well.. that's if you don't count anything more than 140 characters

Well.. that’s if you don’t count anything more than 140 characters

What is surely true by any reasonable conclusion, based on what we see and read, is that the 50% number is at the very least in the ballpark. That said, I’d be willing to go as low as, say, 33 and a third in order to get my point across. I’ll bet I could even get the vast majority of us vs. them to agree on that.

Here’s the thing – you don’t bring a noodle to a gunfight.

Or as Sean Connery’s Malone tells Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness re capturing gangster Al Capone in The Untouchables:

“He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.”

Donald Trump has in the last week praised Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un for their strong leadership and popularity in the polls of their respective countries –thoroughly ignoring that both rig pubic opinion by exiling or murdering dissenters, many of whom bear a resemblance to or are supporters of the types of people his aforementioned deplorables despise.

He also gave a speech this weekend where he proudly said all he cares about are making the best deals for the country and if this meant liking or acting like Russia, and North Korea it was immaterial to him.

Let freedom ring. And screw diversity while we’re at it. If we can get the equivalent of a $5,000,000 NY condo at the bargain basement price of diversity and/or freedom – hell, let’s live it up in gulag-like luxury. Who cares what it cost cause it won’t cost a lot.

Or will it?

Not everything is measurable in money and deals. I, for one, hate gold gilt. Nor was I ever partial to the color orange, except in juices. And tempting as it is to do a luxurious comb over, when you get to be a man of a certain age, I’m gay enough and manly enough to realize that living in truth, especially when it comes to your pate, will ultimately trump the illusion or perverse fantasy of imagining yourself as a 2016 Gorgeous George with a1970s Farrah ‘do in the long run. After all, there comes a moment when your control over time, not to mention your money, will cease and all that you’ll be left with is your actual mirror image. (Note: Ask Sumner Redstone).

I'm looking at you too, Larry.

I’m looking at you too, Larry.

Which is really the point. Some 15 years since the collapse of the Twin Towers what do we see? If we are to believe they hate us for our freedom, we still have to at least aspire to our principles, don’t we?

This starts with truth – not faux facts or fantasy beliefs. From both sides. It is not easy to run for election without offending someone or exposing oneself to inscrutable scrutiny. This means admitting you didn’t always do right when it came to drawing within the lines of each governmental guideline throughout your political career. And admitting your past and present mistakes. But more to the point it means you don’t lie, malign and slander whole ethnics groups, religions and even sexes when they dare to criticize you. Nor do you make up facts like whether you supported past wars or if you have any sort of plan at all for how you will govern (other than a secret one). Not to mention, it requires you to occasionally read a book, apologize when you misspeak and study the facts as they are – not how you wish them to be.

In short, it requires a look in the mirror.

Own your basket.