Am I Optimistic?

It’s so difficult to not get taken in by the headlines and be depressed, especially if you’re a baby boomer Democrat like me.

Conservatives targeting public libraries and their funding to ban books they don’t like

Indiana lawmakers ban abortion statewide with few exceptions

A 38% approval rating for Pres. Joe Biden, the worst ever recorded for a president.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  gleefully proclaiming to a crowd of his fans, my pronouns are kiss my ass.  Not to mention Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) authoritatively stating most Americans are Christian nationalists, despite all rational facts to the contrary.

Evergreen

But those are headlines, half-truths and provocative click bait that don’t tell the whole picture.  Still, it is easy to believe any one of these digestible thoughts in their entirety, or at least partially, because it takes time and energy to unravel them.

The fact is many Americans don’t have time or inclination to address these and many other issues, especially at the speed with which they’re hitting us.

And most of us definitely do not have the energy. 

For the majority of us, what little intellectual space we have left has to be doled out towards paying the bills and eluding the next airborne national/international virus.

I mean, polio is back?  POLIO????

I truly cannot

Nevertheless, and in truth, this week was a win for Dems like me, and for the country.

Voters in Kansas – a red state by any measure and somewhat of a bellwether for broad conservative thought – resoundingly rejected an abortion law that could have opened the door for the state to altogether OUTLAW abortion.

Toto, we’re home! #NoPlaceLikeKansas

July had an unexpected and exceedingly strong U.S. jobs report of more than half a million jobs added, bringing us back to pre-pandemic levels and more than doubling even the boldest predictions.

Gas prices dropped 70 cents per gallon in the last month from a record high and are predicted to further plummet back down to manageable levels.

The Biden administration tracked down and killed the #1 most wanted terrorist – Ayman al-Zawahri, the current head of Al Qaeda, and mastermind of 9/11 as Osama Bin Laden’s #2 in command, after a more than two decade search. 

Congress is about to pass a historic $740 billion bill that will tackle climate change and move us towards clean energy, reform the tax code to benefit average Americans, and take drastic steps towards getting prescription drug prices under control.

And this was all accomplished over a two-and-a-half week period when Pres. Joe Biden was twice diagnosed with Covid, the latter a rare rebound case.

Sleepy who?

If I were an optimist, which I generally am not, I might even write, who knows what could happen in the months going forward now that he’s testing negative?

The above events and my intermittent Ping-Pong thinking on all of them, reminds me of a life lesson I have to actually keep reminding myself of daily

It is always darkest before the dawn.  

Or as Shelly, my second mother and an avid reader, used to tell me to cheer me up –

Life is like a great book (Note: No, NOT a box of chocolates!) – you turn the page and you never know what can happen.  Good and bad.

Is this… optimism?

It is disorienting to be met with such anger and vitriol by people who don’t agree with you, not to mention your, ahem, lifestyle, whatever that might be.

But it is not determining of what awful things will literally occur in the world or in your life.

It is merely a take on a viewpoint or event you can’t control.

It is a snapshot, a fact, a statement or a misstatement at any given moment.  It is indicative of what is from a source, but not necessarily predictive of what will be. 

Certainly, it is not predictive of your day, unless you want it to be.

Whatever Francis!

This of course doesn’t mean I still don’t want to push Ted Cruz into a vat of his own bullsh-t or tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to go f-ck herself while she is suspended upside down in Macy’s window.

It only means I know the difference between my fantasies and reality. 

And that what I will actually choose to devote my time to do, much less believe, on a given day, is in my hands, not theirs.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” – viral Janitor performance (from ABC News)

Life in the Upside Down

So how was your week?

Did you know the fourth (and final?) season of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix?

What about that sequel to Top Gun, the trashy, watchable and massively popular 1986 film starring Tom Cruise that I never quite liked (Note: Oh, who cares, Chair?!) but yet managed to be moved by (Spoiler Alert:  I can’t reveal that moment but it’s as cheap, effective and mind-numbingly obvious as anything to come out of the 80s).

Anyway, do you know that Top Gun: Maverick (2022) is having the biggest opening of any Tom Cruise film EVER this Memorial Day weekend, grossing upwards of $260 million internationally?

Everything old is new again

I bet you didn’t know THAT.

But even if you did, who cares, right?

Because none of it truly matters when you’re livin’ life in the upside down.

If you don’t get that reference, the Upside Down is the crazy underground alien world we were first introduced to in the first season of Stranger Things.

It is an evil, ruthless, violent dystopian place where anything can happen and you will more likely than not, not survive.

Think of it as, well,  an American classroom in the midst of a school shooting.

Too soon? 

I don’t think so.

Might as well just cut off the top of the pole

I can tell you that episode one of ST’s fourth season opens with a short sequence that ends with a series of cuts to the maimed, bloody corpses of a group of pre-teens at the hands of…  Oh, well, why spoil the fun?

Just know that the Duffer Brothers once again have their hands on the deadening pulse of America. 

So much so that several days ago there was a warning card inserted right before the episode began that lets us know this season was shot a year ago, and that we’re saddened by the recent blah, blah, blah, etc. etc., etc….

But talk about prescience.

It’s like Eleven could sense… the most predictable thing

On the other hand, maybe these images, cuts and, well, shots are just the kind of thing we take for granted these days.  And what are writers anyway except a delivery system of artistic truths for the masses to see and contemplate and feed upon?

At least that’s how I talk about us when I’m at my most cynical.

And this would be one of those times.

There is no sense to be made of the shooting deaths of 19 children and two of their teachers at an elementary school in the small town of Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday because one can’t make sense of the insane and nonsensical.  That’s what makes us categorize those events as such.

Senseless

And yet there is no lack of would-be sense makers trying to deny the obvious with lies, tortured statements and contorted half-truth answers to the obvious.

Here is a list of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S, over the last two decades.

The majority of these were done with military style weapons like the AR-15, the gun of choice for that 18 year-old shooter at Uvalde.  The gun the NRA backed Republican Party refuses to ban. (Note: Heck, they don’t even want universal background checks).

And there is a reason for that.  This gun can shoot a bullet a second, eviscerating the flesh, bones and organs of its human targets like no other weapon in our history.

It’s speed and efficiency has made it BY FAR the most popular and PROFITABLE  gun out there.  And that’s quite an accomplishment since at this point there are way more guns than people in the U.S.

You read that right.

Who else is mad as hell?

No wonder the shooter bought two of them in the course of a week, along with more than enough ammunition to kill all those kids two or three times over.  And no background check required,  you can’t even get two handguns until you turned 21 and, anyway, these AR-15’s are much quicker, faster and FAR more fun.  Speaking from the merely logical perspective of an 18-year-old, they are the best and most efficient way to achieve your goals.

And yet we’ve got the Texas governor (Abbott) and senator (Cruz) on TV mansplaining to us all sorts of things.

– It’s single parent families and a lack of religion that has helped create all this.

– It’s mental illness (Note: Duh) in the last 20 years, especially because you used to always be able to buy rifles at age 18.

– It’s a excuse to take away everyone’s guns, a Democratic hoax to take over and politicize every single awful thing in the world to their favor rather than address the issues real Americans care about.

– Only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns.

Of course, in reality Texas ranks last of all states in the country for money allotted to  mental health services and effectiveness in treating them.  It is also one of easiest states in the country to buy and possess a gun thanks to recent legislation signed by Gov. Abbott that vastly expanded gun rights.

The fact is, you can buy and carry pretty much any type of gun anywhere at any time. 

As for that final statement, more than a dozen police officers, all of them presumably good guys with guns, stood inside that elementary school on the opposite side of a classroom door where a bunch of children 10 and under lay bleeding, screaming, terrified and begging (Note: via recorded 911 calls) to be rescued.

Make it make sense

But the good guys were wrongly ordered to stand down by their supervisor when they should have gone in, or so it’s being said right now.  This was a different story than was announced on Tuesday.

 And it might get even worse by next Tuesday.

But suffice it to say, there is nothing simple about this story that any good guys vs. bad guys scenario might possibly address.

As much as the top elected officials in Texas and in the world of Republican politics want to make this into a simplified tale of life in the wild, wild west.

It is nothing of the sort.

This is life right now.

And as long as we remain the RIGHT side of the aisle up, we will stay forever in the upside down.

Lady Gaga – “Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick)