Thursday, January 8, 2015

Robbing Oxygen

A few weeks back I was in a Cracker Barrel restaurant south of Atlanta, Georgia. The place seemed crowded for a Monday lunch, but it was the week following Xmas.

Our family waited in line. Kids were antsy. Traffic had been bad. We weren't expecting to wait for seating. April and the kids fidgeted. I stood still to take in the surroundings, eventually studying the party behind us in line. They knew a person from the party ahead of us. All locals. Their familiarity belied them. Their accents were spot-on. Their uniforms commingled golf shirts and real tree.

They spoke of the holidays, family health problems, trivial frustrations. Then, they spoke of politics. Libya and Russia, something or other.

"Well, he ain't my president."

"He ain't MY president, either!"

The first, and older, protestor then told a story I couldn't make out. I heard only bits about monkeys throwing each other on the train tracks followed by a reference to our President. As a monkey.

Relating this later to April at our lunch table she was appalled. She hadn't heard any of it. Thankfully.

I watched the table of men across from us. They were unconnected to our line studies. I observed their interactions with the African-American waitress serving them and us. I noted their tone with her. No quintessential "southern courtesy." No lilting 'ma'ams' or 'why, yes pleases' or any other stereotypical southernisms we glorify and prop up in our cultural rhetoric.

Come to think of it, I only witnessed those 'isms' as a young person, and we now only see those interactions in movies and such, occurring between white people.

In fact, I witnessed among those three fellows a restrained, yet wholehearted, lack of civility in the face of what was clearly a hellish day at a restaurant with ill-equipped management. In the faces of these white men, bodies bedecked in ridiculous modern garb glorifying golf, camouflage, and their agribusiness employer, I instead saw the faces of entitled gentry marooned on a tract of land over two centuries ago. The reassurance of dominion and sovereignty fresh from the mouths of their forebears ebbing their domineering arrogance.

I felt a slight twinge of shame I hadn't spoken to the good ole boys behind me in line earlier. But I remembered I would not have had the restraint to be civil. And civility is paramount, in the South, even when one speaks of racism, sedition, or hypocrisy.

Picking battles. Saving energy. Like not wasting air on oxygen thieves.

At the table, as our family endured the longest wait for our food, I had plenty of time to look around. At the multiple black families. At biracial couples and kids. At the table of eight that included an extended family of Asians, including grandma including small children. I studied this scene. I thought about the men in line.

I concluded my silence meant nothing. Because the ultimate reality would correct the situation. In due course and given time.

The reality frightening these small-minded relics is not even new. It is not a result of moral decline, a departure from precepts, or some prophesied nonsense. The reality is reality. It has been happening all along. Centuries long.

People exist, and love, hate, kill, and fuck. And live and have to go on. Color and religion and class don't matter so much as circumstance.

My South, my home, you are the hallows of ancient circumstance on our nation's shores. By god, you have so much to learn, so far to go.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year.

I resolve to be kind. Kinder.

I resolve to fix as many broken things as possible. Rather than buy anew.

Corporate idiots are telling us to not think. Not fix. Instead, buy. As usual. Worse yet, they are instructing us to be afraid. Afraid of things that are statistically implausible.

Ebola. Terrorist attacks. Race riots. Societal dissolution.

Their masters have instructed them. They have bought and paid for our elected officials, our government. We should all see this, but we don't.

We keep buying.

That is how our capitalist culture makes money, after all. We begrudge the necessities of life while glorifying the ostentatious. Oh, it sucks to fix a furnace, while two weeks of well earned vacation are vanguard. Why deal with the NOW when you can masturbate on the titillating unknown?

(Not that we should eschew the downtime; our culture is pathetically lacking in time off.)

Those of us who can should try to live like people beyond our means. Which, like those above us, means disregarding the rest. We've worked hard. Screw the moochers.

America, "middle class America," you cannot look beyond your small-mindedness enough to glimpse the sad truth.

You/we are now propping up a lie. And we are helping the liers to rob the cookie jar dry.

Here is an idea. Holistic thinking. Man, that sounds liberal and new age, doesn't it?

However, it's more a matter of survival. Holistic thinking means examining the long view. Does something really make sense for you, your family, your community, your town, your state, your world?

Take Wal-Mart as an example. Folks celebrate the arrival of a new Wal-Mart store in their town. Cheap stuff that is readily available. But the average shopper doesn't realize they are subsidizing those cheap prices. Whoa. That's liberal talk. Right? A $.50 avocado is a $.50 avocado.


No matter what you are buying at Wal-Mart, you should add at least 20-30% to the purchase price. You are buying an illusion of low prices.

When you buy an item from Wal-Mart, or other discount retailers who market on price you are subsidizing their underpaid and under-benefitted labor force in the form of federal and state subsidies, like food stamps. And other public assistance. Yep, that's the truth.

You think you are getting a good deal. You get to travel down the road and vent your frustration in an entirely different, and seemingly unrelated, venue when you bark about handouts. Welfare. Damn those ne'er do wells. Sucking off the system.

But too many of those 'ingrates' you bemoan are actually gainfully employed folks trying to make a difference. They want to support their families; they care about their communities.

Reference the fast food workers' movement. It ain't all high school kids looking to get a break, people. Mothers and fathers are trying to live off those jobs.

You have been fed lies again about the mythical underclass who loves to not work and be handed everything. A beautiful lie since it makes you go to work and work harder, against benefits and recompense, to defeat them. That mythical underclass is a tiny percentage of people. Yet enterprising politicians inflate it to get you worked up (while they siphon monetary kickbacks that would boggle you).

Everywhere I have used "you" I mean "we." I, and all of us, play a part here.

Let us all make good decisions in 2015 that support sustainability.