Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dumber Than We Look

It's old news now -- over a week old in fact -- the Harris poll that drew such shocking results as 24% of Republicans believe Obama is the antichrist. Plus, he's a Muslim, non-citizen socialist who's doing many of the things Hitler did ... blah, etc, blah. You can't Google a search for the poll without getting countless blog posts. It seems everyone has said something about this poll, and for good reason I suppose. In case you haven't kept up here is a nice summary I found along with some interesting analysis.

I couldn't leave it alone so I dug deeper and found the complete results of the poll on the Harris website. The poll is related to John Avlon's book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. I plan to check out this book because it: A) Sounds right up my alley and B) I'm very intrigued by this quote from the author (in response to the Harris poll stats):

"These new numbers are shocking but not surprising – they detail the extent to which Wingnuts are hijacking our politics. This poll should be a wake-up call to all Americans about the real costs of using fear and hate to pump up hyper-partisanship. We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing our country in the process. Americans need to remember the perspective that Wingnuts always forget – patriotism is more important than partisanship."

I was not going to write about this since it has been drawn out by so many others. However, this morning I read a couple of stories about the arrest of the Hutaree wackos next door in MI, OH and IN. As my very patient wife-partner and better half can attest, I get worked up by such stupidity. Sometimes really worked up. I am an idealist at heart. But pragmatically speaking, I believe my greatest character flaw is the tenacious, yet erroneous, belief I hold that all people can be civil, intelligent and respectful. We can live courageously and take responsibility for our actions. We're smart and resourceful and confident in all the best, slightly above average and heavily gilted Lake Wobegon sorts of ways.


In America we might look pretty and have nice houses, big cars and cool clothes. We can eat like royalty to excess. We can firm our wrinkles, bleach our teeth, plump our pleasureable parts and suck out our cellulite. We afford exorbitant gym fees because we can't be bothered to sweat in the name of practicality or physical labor. We pay immigrants substandard wages to perform those tasks for us.

We might look like -- hell, we may actually believe -- we have it all. And we do; as long as "it" means "shit for brains." We are a pathetically stupid nation. This is an undeniable fact in spite of No Child Left Behind, higher rates of literacy/graduation and greater numbers of young people attending college. Some folks are getting certificates and degrees and whatnot, but aren't learning a goddamned thing about how to be intelligent and productive members of society.

Wingnuts and Tea Party-ers are saying they're fed up. Well, I'm saying, "Fuck you, Wingnuts and Tea Party-ers. I'm tired of your bullshit and the bad rap you and the rest of the putrid-brained people abusing their American citizenship are giving us the world over. Push off."

In fact, sensible friends among us, you'd do well to tell these people to fuck off too. Now, you may be wondering how can someone who espouses tolerance be telling others to fuck off? The distinction is simple -- I am not asking anyone to adopt any belief or accept any religion; I am simply saying that anyone who tries to get folks to do such should be stopped. Free speech does not encompass maiming or killing, or condoning such acts. If you don't get that you have serious road blocks to your development.

It's that simple.

I posit this: America would be a better place if we had far fewer people who believed they were ordained by god and carried some divine rite. You godly people are ignorant, weak and feeble because you replace intelligence with blind faith and rely on the hope of divine retribution. Fuck off.

Our country was built on humility but we outggrew our breeches. One may harken to the olden days of god-fearing citizens like it was some sort of golden, pure age. It was, but not in a naive way. Conservatives want to say we've lost our morals. Liberals want to say we are stretching our destiny.

Early Americans feared god because they were ironically humble; taking on huge rivers, unchecked storms and unscaled cliffs did that I suppose. As soon as dams were in place and bridges built exltation was in order. Who needs fear the natural world since mankind can tame it all?

The not-so-good part was the eradication of all indigenous people who were non-christian and would not convert. That phenomenon seems to have changed little these days. Now everyone with a bible study passport, an iPod and a plane ticket thinks they're a theologian. You're chaff, I assure you, in that whole wheat equation. Dumbasses, every one. You are doomed to repeat history and it will bite thee in thine ass.

Here's a taste of my creed -- to hell with religious zealotry and fundamentalism. Quit living life like you're right and others must therefore be wrong. Polarity of thought is useless. Morals exist without a god to carve mythical tablets or men to forge sacred scriptures. You can keep making them up but they will still be conditionally false and wrong.

Come on. Seriously. If you have enough brain power to craft dogma and defend empty positions based on faith can't you dream up a few positions based on square logic and reason? So what if I and we are all heretical -- can't you overcome reason and science that are based on "usurping god's law?" What the fuck ...

Friends, Romans, countryfolk ... give up your stupidity in the name of ... . ?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lance Just Gained Some Cred

While I have never been a huge Lance Armstrong fan, the guy has his moments that make me think 'Hell yeah.' I just caught this story on the electronic wind where Lance lambasts an ESPN radio host for encouraging motorists to run down bikers.

C'mon ... really, Tony Kornholer of ESPN? I suppose I worry about average folks in their automobiles harboring these sentiments, because I confront them in realtime when I commute by bike. But do we truly need (rather, should we condone) higher profile people with command of broadcast media going off on these insensitive and ignorant rants? Hate mongering should not be a part of anyone's job description. No one should be allowed to broadcast death threats.

This ESPN radio 'professional' was quoted to say: "The last time I looked, the roads were made for automobiles," he said. "We're going to be dominated as if this was Beijing by hundreds of thousands of bicyclists ..."

Thanks, Tony Kornheiser, for adding yet another stick, fanning the flames of a ridiculous throwback to red scare paranoia. Why must you and so many other ignorant Americans like you defend driving and consuming fossil fuel consumption with such a zealous fervor, as if yours is the last true religion?

Honestly, find a way to re-examine your reality. (Hopefully your employer will nudge you by releasing you from your obligations with ESPN.) In the meantime, please keep your ignorant comments to yourself and others of weak-minded ilk.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Network News

For some oddball reason I watched about 35 minutes of major network news last night. I was tired and just wanted to sit on the couch. I intended to read over some things, but I decided to turn on the TV. What were the stories that are really shaking things up? Hell, I don't remember. Among the things that were emphasized the most: a strong possibility that MN will adopt a sales tax on clothing, a couple who went into labor during their wedding reception (it was god's wedding gift, since we wanted to be right in his eyes before the birth of our kid ... uh, did you miss that premarital prohibition part?) and the fact that Minneapolis isn't lifting the single side parking ban despite consistent warm temperatures and ice melting away from the curbs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Path to Enlightenment

I moved to MN in 2002 and came to Mpls the following year. April, my wife-partner and best friend, was the first person I met at random in this new city. I was seated in a tea shop. She pulled up on her bike. I watched her from the moment she glided in front of the window, locked up, came in and ordered. She spoke first. I guess it was just meant to be.

I've been a cyclist for many years -- junior road racer, part-time commuter back in Tennessee and someone who skirted the cycling scene in previous lives. I was an ardent cyclist but not someone who embraced the bike for a true transportation alternative. I was reminded of this tonight as a friend and I shared a beer and the topic of riding on busy city streets came up. I thought back to my own impressions from not so long ago.

The first date April and I went on was aboard our bikes. I had just got my only bike -- an old Cannondale Delta V -- running again and rode to her apartment on Lyndale Avenue. We pulled out of the parking lot and onto the main road. I was new to the city, as well as new to city riding. Even though Mpls is, to me now, hardly what I'd call "city riding" back then it was weird and intimidating. April, who had several years of Twin Cities commuting experience under her belt, took the lane undaunted. I remember distinctly thinking she should ride more toward the shoulder. Some guys in a car passed and shouted cat calls at her. She simply replied, "Come on, is that all you've got?" and rode past. I was exhilirated by the whole experience and enamored with her.

But tonight, as Seth and I talked about people being scared to ride in the city I realized how that is a part of my not-so-distant past and how hardened I have become to routinely pedal in lanes while diesel engines idle and rev behind me, passenger cars wizz by at greater-than-safe speeds, horns honk and drivers occasionally shout their judgments against my presence on the road. That memory from seven years ago is bright but is distanced by experience and my current reality.

So what should I do with this memory?

I do what I do now as a matter of course. At one time we owned two cars. I sold mine a few years ago reasoning it was a superfluous expense and selling it would make me commit to riding my bike all the time. Perhaps that was not necessary because I am committed to riding anyway. As a bonus, I love riding; I love being outside, engaging the reality of weather. I suppose that helps.

I don't preach to others about riding. We all have to make our own choices. I won't tell you to fuck off for driving if you don't tell me to get the hell out of the road. Live and let die, right?

I do feel where I ride and how I ride set an example to sympathizers and haters alike. I intentionally rode down a multilane, major road today (France Ave) with the thought "Drivers need to see cyclists. They need to know we are here." I don't need Critical Mass or a posse of fellow wheelpersons. Whenever I do this I ride according to all rules, as if I were also driving an auto. It's a fun game because the 'opponent' is never of singular motivation and friends are always among them.

The road is the western boundary to a series of shopping meccas. It also happens to be the most direct route to my job and a road that gets first priority for plowing, so I often take it when there's snow. During a snowstorm drivers give me loads of berth. I got mixed results today because it's sunny and the ice is receding and people act like our whims can rule the world again since Mother Nature's gone on a bender and cut the apron strings.

I feel especially violated when an environmentally sensible car with a bike rack attached buzzes past me. Who are these drivers? I want to know. How can someone who obviously also rides a bike pass me in their car and score a total naught for self-awareness and respect? I presume, far too often, that any two people who co-inhabit the Earth, let alone a few million roof rack owners, can feel the same.

And I am reminded of one of my first impressions of the person I was to later discover I had more in common with than anyone. In that moment she was out of her mind, or so I thought.

That was summer, and by fall we were connected. April announced she was buying a new bike. Her friend who worked in a shop had her talked into a fixed gear that was a conversion of an old road bike. I knew road bikes but WTF did "fixed gear" mean? I did some web research. On Old Skool Track I read about the Zen of fixed riding, as well as plenty of tales of what can happen when things happen. I asked April if she knew what she was getting into -- she could die riding this new bike. But before long I was convinced I should try it for myself.

That memory is so recent that I can still remember the inflections, the verbage, the smell of the room. Yet, here I am living something wonderfully antithetical to what I defended a mere 7 years ago. Not with fixed gear riding, but with bikes in general. Bikes are my life at the moment, in such a way that even if my career was no longer bikes, my life would still be bikes.

In one way or another, we all astonish ourselves because we need to be astonished. Latching onto beliefs and ideas is a personal choice that is astonishing. Letting beliefs and ideas guide one's life is comforting. After all, who doesn't want comfort? However, never questioning or challenging the adaptation of beliefs and ideas is the stagnation of human intellect.

I do what I do now -- and think how I do now -- as a matter of course.