If I were to tell you that my heart was putty in your hands

would you mold it to fit yours?

Or would you mash it flat, pound it into the table

drop it on the ground to pick up all the detritus

you walked through before?

If I were to tell you that I don’t know if I can get close

would you live and let live, trusting that I  will find my way home?

Or would you get angry that you cannot possess all of me at once

On your terms?

The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.

Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.

I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.

Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.

Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.

Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled?  Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?

All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people.  Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it.  “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.

So, stupidity is universal.  Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.

Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid.  Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.

So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public.  Start locally, and work your way up from there.  I’ll wait.

Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious.  Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”

Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior.  Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means:  he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.

Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing.  After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?

Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement.  Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.

No?  You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past?  Why not?  And so it goes.  Knowledge can be used two ways, no?

Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were.  You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts.  Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts.  In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.

The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep.  It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level.  Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help.  Reinforcing consequences will help.  If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences.  Live and learn.

Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not.   Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them.  Never. You can eat them. Or not.  You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.

And now, I present to you, our government.  Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government.  I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.

Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?

They know the general public is stupid.  They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise.  They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life.  Set. For. Life.

See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise.  No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.

The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name.  The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.

They. Don’t. Care.

Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?

Nope.  Why not?

Surely they want to stay in Washington.  Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.

How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass?  How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.

You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.

They are professionals at reading us, the stupid.  They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents.  They may SAY they are, but nope.

So, here we are.  Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.

Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent.  Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.

In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.

 

 

This depression spreads more like a slough or a valley of barren dusty bowls of tinny wind chimes and

wind that whistles through a crevice or two in trusting minds that all will be fine if one just keeps on

through just one more day and one more night

Really?  Another day of this muddy cloud?  Another hour of active, yearning boredom for comfortable satisfaction?

The arid sunset promises another day of static from mortality

that whispers in that bare murmur of voices that grow louder

with every death of a past lover, a beloved relative

The tongue of grief is sharp, lashing out wildly while

soft righteous regret smells like burning natural gas from

an iron stove that used to bake biscuits and boil stock pots

of beans flavored with tasty bacon grease

Hang on just one more day, I say

slog through one more hour

chew just one more kernel of popcorn

that tastes of tears and stereotypes

 

In between here and there lies a place of quiet

a place of no longer yearning for others’ attention

or affection or respect

It’s a place fully alive to absolutely everything in the universe that exists

to know the mysterious workings of things

It does not love or hate or boast of arrogance

nor bow in humility

to be fully alive and quiet in the now

In the flow of a silent eternal rhythm

 not watching

clocks or calendars or seasons changing

The essence of unbottling this quiet

belongs to nothing and everything

but exists on fairy wings, those mythical sprites

that flit in the gloaming of life that possesses

more yesterdays than tomorrows

I never thought that my best friends would have been objects instead of people, but here we are.

I liked to smoke.  I loved to smoke.  My favorite time of the day was early morning, with cup of coffee in hand, pack of cigarettes on the table, and an hour to leisurely peruse Facebook and Twitter before my caregiving responsibilities came into play.

I cherished the twin jolts of caffeine and nicotine, and to a lesser extent, the solitude to indulge in those old friends.  Of course, at night, there was nothing better than a few beers, a lot more smokes, and hitting the hay with a pleasant buzz.

Then, the virus happened.  It started like my usual infection that happens every year at the same time:  sore throat, headache, nasty asthmatic cough.  I took my usual store meds to keep the symptoms to a dull roar and continued to do my usual, albeit with the added stress of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away.  I powered through, prepping for the big day, hacking and blowing my nose, smoking less and drinking more.  Alcohol is a disinfectant.  The logic seemed impeccable, really.

Then, my roommate started sniffling.  Started wheezing.  By Friday, she was puffing like a steam engine.  I was somewhat concerned, but not unduly so.  Although she indulged in the same habits, her smoking took a big hit.  She just couldn’t draw a deep breath.

By Saturday morning, she sounded like Darth Vader and looked like him without the helmet; grey, sickly, weak around the eyes.  Her stubbornness would not let her even touch her rescue inhaler until it was too late to do any good.  Off we go to the ER.  She spent six days in the hospital, struggling to draw a breath, taking breathing treatments and injections every two hours.  I had another day of self-recrimination and smoking, until I gave it up, too.  There was no way I could continue to smoke after what I saw her go through, even though I hadn’t planned to quit, exactly.  It just happened.

So, this Saturday, she will be two weeks smoke-free, on a strict heart-healthy diet, one drink limit, and as much walking as she can handle, which is to say, not much right now.  my drinking is down to one beer a night.  I didn’t plan that, either, but it happened.  Sunday will be two weeks smoke-free for me.

My so-called best friends ended up not being my best friends after all.  They didn’t care about my wellbeing.  They just wanted to kill me.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?  I can live without them and I have more free hours to do what I really want to do.  I thought I would be depressed, but the opposite has happened.  I feel more energetic, more positive, and I cook a whole lot more because I feel like it again.  I’ve noticed that my back no longer aches when I walk a lot.  I don’t get in a hurry to finish something so I can have a cigarette and a beer.

My roommate still has breathing treatments for the next few months, but she sounds better now breathing-wise than she has in years.

As for me, I’m still taking doctor-prescribed meds, still sniffling, still keeping a headache, and still smoke-free.  The gut-punch of wanting a cigarette happens and I let it come and go.  If I could train myself to not smoke in the car or the truck and be happy with it, I can train myself to not smoke anywhere, anytime.  I thoroughly enjoy my one beer and don’t miss the other five or six at all.

I once thought that being an adult meant doing what I want when it turns out that real maturity means doing what is necessary and liking it for the sheer joy of having the choice to make good decisions.

This week has had more twists than a Dairy Queen soft cone made by some high school nerd with a penchant for culinary flair.  Annoyances include two, count ’em, two back to back instances of crappy customer service.  I mean, really.  I’m not much to look at, but I don’t make dogs bark or small children cry and hide behind their mothers.  To be crappy at customer service, one must be an active asshole, and by that, I mean, this must be one’s goal in life–to make others as miserable as possible without actually taking a crap in someone’s pocket and smashing it against their skin.  That annoys me to no end and I won’t let them get away with it.  I don’t say anything when it happens because after all, this is an open carry state.  I write emails.  I am very polite, of course.  It’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.  As I’ve gotten older and less apt to let things like that slide, my writing is more fun than ever.  I enjoy crafting a witty little nastygram about Miss X treating me like I just kicked her dog and insulted her mama’s biscuits.

That being said, I am flummoxed by recalcitrant bureaucracy and the petty little autocrats intent on running their little fiefdoms as they see fit.  Those people . . . I got nothing.  Today, I received a letter dated March 6th, saying that my case was closed because my information was never received.  How can this be?  I sent it via certified mail, by fax, and called to follow up.  But I received a call on March 9th from the office to let me know that I had until March 14th to submit any more paperwork.  That call was actually informative and very positive.  My temple started throbbing when I read the letter.  Lord Baby Jesus in the cradle.  Those people.

I was raised to not challenge authority, because, well, authority.  My rebellion has always been directed inward.  My liver hates me, my pancreas is no longer speaking, and my back took a hike years ago.  My motto has been, ‘Screw you, I’m gonna hit myself in the head with this hammer and then, you’ll know something!’  Insert eye roll here. It’s not a motto to live by.  Not going to go off on a tangent about this particular quirk.  I’m almost sure it involves Southern Baptist guilt, and neurotic guilt like that is a tooth numbing dissertation.  But it sure does make some purty poetry, so I will keep it around a while longer.

I like both platforms.  Really, I do.  Facebook was fun when I first joined.  It was exciting to be able to reconnect with old friends and stay in touch with family.  I could have long chats for hours, catching up with everyone, liking their posts, feeling as if I am a part of their lives.  It is comforting on a certain level to be able to let someone know I am thinking of them, and when they read it, I know they are thinking of me, at least for that moment.  I could invite people in to see my pets, my dinners, my collection of craft brews.  I felt comfortable sharing my activities, my whiny days, my job.  The boundary lines are roomy, up to a point.  After a while, the honeymoon was over.  People can only take so much complaining before they start giving advice.  The advice phase lasts about as long as the falling out of love phase in a marriage.  Then, people either start really jumping into one’s shit, or they just go away–ghost the whole thing.  After a few years, though, strong friendships can be formed and family bonds severed.  It happens.  That’s where people start getting choosy about what they post and they continue to grow.  Whether they grow together or grow apart depends on what they are willing to do to keep the relationship alive.  It’s a familiar place, as broken in as a favorite pair of shoes or faded polo.  I look at them and hang on to them because they still serve a purpose, albeit much narrower than in the beginning.

Twitter is the opposite.  It’s like 50 first dates every stinking day.  It’s exciting, addictive, soul-sucking.  It’s as demanding as a mistress and as flighty as a girlfriend.  Every day there’s something new.  Every day, all day long, breaking news, twitter wars, trolling, and somewhere under the noise is a steady hum of news, research, articles, exposure to new cultures, diverse opinions, creators, artists, teachers, journalists, politicians, leaders, celebrities, lawyers . . . and they are all accessible.  Unbelievably so.  I can send a tweet to Chely Wright and she just might respond.  I can make a pithy comment on a Julian Castro tweet, and he might even answer with a pithy comment of his own.  There are few boundaries between people and stars.  There’s a level of trust and an element of danger, just like a psycho girlfriend.  The sheer volume of information can become crazy-making.  Woe to the neophyte who wanders into a timeline that is already rolling along and try to be clever.  It’s like trying to jump on a moving train while wearing a gunny sack.  Pragmatic elitism exists as a desperate filter to at least move the noise to an acceptable level.  There are bad neighborhoods and good neighborhoods, just like every city in real life.  It takes a certain level of street smarts to navigate unscathed through them.

We need these platforms–to inform us, to make us think if we want to.  They can become echo chambers of confirmation bias, and they can impel us to educate ourselves and find out the truth of what is out there.  I don’t know anything about reddit or 4chan or instagram because I waste enough time already with these two sites.  Being curious can lead me all around the world and back home again.  I become a little wiser and more willing to explore, as long as I understand on a visceral level that these two platforms are for me to use, not for them to use me.