Friday, April 11, 2014

The Surreality of Now

April has always been a melancholy month for me, but this year the craziness of the present has overcome the wistfulness of the past, because some of the social and political events going on have left me laughing and crying at the same time.

Let’s start with a little item out of Pakistan. A nine-month old baby was officially charged with attempted murder, because he, along with his father and grandfather, were part of “…a mob protesting against gas cuts and price increases [that] stoned police and gas company workers trying to collect overdue bills…” according to an NBC News affiliate. As pictured above, the baby cried while being finger-printed; later tried to play with reporters’ microphones while the media interviewed his father; and is now in hiding in an undisclosed location. My favorite line was that this incident “…has thrown a spotlight on Pakistan's dysfunctional criminal justice system.” Yeah. And these people have the bomb…

There have been several recent articles about the growing increase in sexual desire and activity among the aging and elderly – which has resulted in an increase in STDs, but also hope for folks in their 60s (like me) and 70s and 80s, too. But my favorite story on this phenomenon came from a CBS News affiliate about a nursing home in West Babylon, NY, that was being sued by the son of one of the residents after a male stripper performed there. “A 16-member resident committee had requested the September 2012 performance and the nursing home paid the $250 fee,” explained an attorney for the home. This is a picture of one of the old ladies stuffing money into the stripper’s briefs:

I could show you a photo of the U.S. Supreme Court, but why bother? You know what that 5-to-4-Right-leaning-crowd looks like. What I can’t show you is what’s been going on in their heads lately. Their most recent decision on money in politics, McCutcheon Et Al vs. Federal Election Commission, on top of the previous Citizens United decision, as well as their gouging out a core portion of the 49-year-old Voting Rights Act, breaks my heart and blows my mind.

How can these people (the five Conservatives) truly believe that allowing more money into the already overpriced and corrupted political process is a good idea – or harmless at worst? After the blatant and still ongoing efforts in many states to make it harder to vote for young and old people and people of color, how can they think that any portion of the Voting Rights Act has become obsolete? I know that none of the justices is stupid. So what am I, or any American, to think: that they’re uninformed, or racist, or mean, or on the take? If the top court of the land is fucked up, where do we go from here?

I’ll tell you where: from Democracy to Oligarchy. If for some reason you don’t know what that is, it’s a form of government in which all power rests in the hands of a small group or class…like, say, the very, very rich and their friends: the very rich and the plain old rich. And the first order of business of an Oligarchy is to suppress the will (and possibly existence) of the vast majority that isn’t them. The second task is to make sure that the different members of that majority see each other as the enemy, the problem, rather than join forces against the tiny minority with all the money and power. The third task is to make day-to-day survival so difficult for the vast majority that they focus the rest of their time just trying to put food on the table. It also helps to do things like gut social programs as deeply as possible, keep basic education mediocre and higher education unaffordable, and turn your own religious beliefs into laws, so that people are more concerned with being sinners than citizens (that only partially works).

And whatever you do, make it harder for people to laugh – because as all survivors know, laughter makes fighting the good fight easier.

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