Monthly Archives: August 2012

Why Todd Akin is Important

Once again, cable news manages to miss the point entirely. Lost in the media debacle surrounding Rep. Todd Akin’s overt ignorance of biology, his insipid apology, and who is denouncing or supporting whom, is something much more disturbing to the few remaining rational Republican voters. The Grand Old Party which so many have relied on through the years to be a counterbalance to runaway liberalism is presently struggling with severe case of delusional psychosis. And it is losing.

It’s not that some in the GOP disapprove of Akin’s barbaric perspectives regarding acts of violence against women. It’s that if not for the bad press they would have all agreed with him. His overall views on women’s rights are totally in step with the GOP platform. Where it was not always the case, it seems that virtually every Republican now, not only is vehemently anti-choice, but has little regard for women in general. Which begs the question, what could drive an entire political party to embrace such a regressive social policy?

The reality is that the Christian right now determines the medieval domestic civil policy of the entire GOP. As such, there is a concerted effort on behalf of the party –at the behest of their evangelical base– to control the reproduction process, and sexuality as a whole. Historically –and without exception– this has been the primary methodology that religious fundamentalism has employed to further their political influence. Without having to read any history books, we can see the same affects in the Middle East today.  Beyond that, religiosity demands that the GOP unilaterally deny science and womens’ rights, –not to mention health care and college affordability– and move the country  towards a Christian theocracy.

Yet despite the fact that religious fundamentalism has never, in the history of mankind, lent itself towards a more prosperous society, be it educationally or economically, this doesn’t seem to warrant much concern by Republican voters.

Part of the problem as to why the voting public doesn’t seem to appreciate the gravity of the regressive social and science policies of the GOP… is that to truly understand them, one would have to read the bible. Then one might be able to understand how a political party, having had their civic policy dictated to them by religious extremists, could be so regressively ignorant in regards to scientific evidence and human rights. Rather than rely on snippets and platitudes spoken by evangelists and their anointed politicians, Republican voters would have to open the bible for themselves, and read the words in their proper context. But evangelical politicians –those who hope to tear down the wall of separation between church and state– know that won’t happen.  American Christians are too frightened to remove their psychological burkas.

Although they won’t admit it now, Akin was perfect for the GOP before his verbal gaffe… so much so that despite his obvious lack of basic scientific knowledge, he represented the Republican party on the house Science Committee. Not only does he not seem to understand how babies are made, he believes that the Earth is somewhere around six thousand years old. He’s not just stupid, he’s F%#*ing nuts. And he’s not alone, the party is replete with religious crazies who deny science and women’s rights in favor of biblical scripture.  

To the cowards in the GOP who are now denouncing him, it wasn’t what Akin said, it was how he said it. The entire Republican party –fearing a reprisal from Christian right–  has vowed to overturn Roe Vs. Wade, and deny women sovereignty over their own bodies. But the Republican party –*MY* Republican party– is now chock full of lunatics, and people too fearful to stand up to the Christian fundamentalists who have taken over their party. Gone are the days of “pro-choice” Republicans, or even one who believes the scientific evidence of evolution. From Michelle Bachman’s Islamic witch hunts, to Rick Santorum nausea over separating church and state, to trans vaginal probes, to Mitt Romney’s pandering of those less than sane assertions… the party –to coin a phrase– is over.   

Todd Akin is important because his idiocy has exposed how socially regressive the entire Republican party has become. No matter how hard they try to back away from him, they can’t, because his views are their views. While the Republican premise of categorizing rape is absurd to any rational person, I think we are having the wrong discussion. Rape victims aside, who are the Republicans to tell any woman anywhere what to do with her body regardless of the circumstances? Even if a woman were to terminate a pregnancy after a consensual one night stand… it’s her body, and her choice. The further we move away from that, the more focus remains on pretending a zygote is a human being, and rationalizing legislating away women’s rights in the name of Christianity.

But Todd Akin’s, and moreover, the Republican party’s ignorance goes way beyond women’s rights. It extends into every facet of sociology.

 Unfortunately, to be a Republican in 2012, you have to capitulate to crazy. What makes anyone believe that a political party with such a backward social/civic policy and a disregard for scientific evidence would somehow adopt an economic policy that would magically translate into prosperity for the middle class? Have the Republican voters become so fearful, and rationally compromised that they have no understanding that the same mindset that demands unequal rights for different citizens also warrants unequal economic rights? Do they not understand that theocracies have always taken both money and liberties away from the populace?

But here’s the thing… the Republican party is no longer Republican. Eisenhower and Reagan were nothing like this crop of far right ideologues, and both would be referred to as “RINOs” by members of their own party today. The corporatist leadership that runs the GOP has simply usurped the Republican name in order to put forth a distinctly un-American agenda. Corporatism and theocracy are a perfect symbiotic union, both serving to enhance the others objectives… and the corporatists who control the economic policies of the GOP want a frightened, ignorant, religious proletariat.

But that’s another blog, for another time. 🙂

Over the Line

We are a nation addicted.

More than we have a chemical dependency on caffeine or sugar, America is addicted to the synaptic comfort of lies. There is a documented pathology that defines one’s psychological inclination to speak purposeful misrepresentations –whether it be to appear more grandiose, or victimized– resulting in the narcotic high of attention. Yet slightly lesser known, and certainly less publicized, is our collective addiction to believing the lies we want to hear. Among other negative net effects of this cultural obsession with perfidy, is that the very language we speak has become compromised.

For the past few weeks, we have been covering stories on UnLearn TV that involve allegedly “offensive” comments made by comedians which have caused public “outrage”. But as it is with all of the lies we chose to align ourselves with, proclamations of sanctimonious indignation have little to do with what the claim actually is, and more about garnering attention for one’s self. There are a lot of things that many people don’t find funny. No one who is rational seeks to impose their version of what is, and is not funny on the rest of the world, based solely on their own socio/political sensibilities.

If humor truly offended someone, then why wouldn’t they simply leave, or change the channel? What else, other than their need for attention would motivate them to endure something they despised, and then call attention to it? Moreover, why would they feel compelled to impose their piousness on others? Without going into great detail, I will state now, and for the record, that anyone who gets offended by a joke when there is real pain and suffering going on every day is not only detestably, and delusionally self important… they are lying when they make such claims. 

And in the spirit of lying about the true reasons people enact a deceptive animus over satire… there is a randomly moving line where it applies to what can, and cannot be made fun of based solely on who is saying what, and who the humor is aimed at. The determination of whether one is “crossing the line” is usually dependent on their celebrity status, and socio/political affiliation. It is like a politically correct nepotism, whereby some people are permitted certain accordance’s, while others are not.

However, the difference between political perception and reality is prone to how things are spun. Lies are then protected, and exposed thusly. There is, in my mind, a false perception of influence within the zeitgeist where it applies to free speech. It begins with who is asserting the lie that they are offended, and how they’re regarded. Then –depending on their credibility– those who make such assertions can easily coerce a group of like minded people to feign being transgressed upon themselves, as if their vapid opinions matter at all. From there, the (in my opinion, unwarranted) fear of negative perception causes networks, media outlets, and sponsors to react in a manner that they would not have otherwise, and censor protected free speech at the behest of people who use political correctness as a tool to acquire socio/political leverage.

That is where the first amendment becomes compromised. 

But where it applies to comedy, it is an art form which is dependent on the first amendment. While our Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, it says nothing about anyone’s rights to not be offended. Yet pundits continually lie about their motivation for pretending to be offended, and often do so while hiding behind the very same first amendment they are assailing. Then that lie is compounded by those who want to believe it. Yet the real lies are the ones we tell ourselves when we adhere to such blatantly duplicitous humbug. As it is with all forms of political correctness, it comes at the expense of the truth.

We know –all of us– that becoming aggrieved over humor –whether it is funny or not– is actually about expressing our anxiety about a myriad of other things, and that we are scapegoating a joke teller, or someone whose lack of eloquence allows for conveniently addled interpretations. So if you are truly offended by jokes… or if you feel that satire should have a time limit… then might I suggest you get the hell over it, and stop lying to yourself. If you don’t think something is in good taste, then don’t listen to it. It’s not that difficult.

Funny is subjective, and freedom of speech comes at a price. Sometimes, the price is having to endure some things that do not coincide with our personal sensibilities. But the cost of protected free speech is definitely worth it. Comedy is perhaps the last venue that can speak truth to power. Maybe that is why it is constantly under attack from those who use political correctness to lie about their agenda.

So if you ever wonder whether a joke you’re hearing is crossing the line, perhaps you might want to consider, that there is no line.

Artificial Pride

As it is with most healthy, red blooded heterosexual American males from the suburbs, I love sports. However I would rather chew tinfoil than to watch a bunch of Europeans kick a ball around for hours. Yet once upon a time, I found myself in a room full of testosterone laden, ethno-centric soccer fans, who for some reason seemed to feel that a game of grown men playing kick ball not only warranted their attention, but their passions as well. The match, as it turned out, was between Italy and Ireland.. and it was reflected in the tribal exuberances of those watching. I was in a Clockwork Orange-like soccer purgatory, being forced to watch a horrifically boring sport while surrounded by rabid Irish, and Italian Americans.

So in the spirit of “when in Rome” –or in this case lower Manhattan– I decided to ask a few pertinent pastime questions of someone who appeared not to have lost his mind, as to aid my soccer illiteracy towards becoming barely soccer literate. It seemed that the deafeningly vociferous hub-ub was occurring because Italy was heavily favored, yet Ireland was winning. Then it was explained that the United States would stand a better chance of achieving a medal with Italy eliminated. So being an American, I decided that I would place my hopes on a win by Ireland, so as to better my own country’s chances.

In an amazing cultural dynamic (to me, anyway, but apparently not to most people) this choice was akin to an ethnic betrayal. Being of pure Italian decent, I was supposed to root for Italy. I found that people who resembled me, if not for the Cro-Magnon slope of their foreheads, and who spoke in what is known in the common vernacular as “Paisonics” were legitimately angered at the thought of a fellow Italian rooting against our common nation of origin. When I reminded them that my grandparents were born in this country, it seemed not to matter. We wops had to stick together… “Minchia, wutda F&%$ is wrong wit You?” I had, for all intents and purposes unintentionally violated the rules of ethnic protocol, and sided against my culture of origin.

But here’s the thing, and maybe it’s just me…

The entire concept of ethnic pride escapes me. Why would one be proud of something that they had nothing to do with? It’s not like anyone worked hard to choose the culture they were born into, let alone what culture their ancestors were born into. It’s not like anyone has ever scored the winning point in the “my culture vs. the rest of the world” badminton tournament… or that anyone’s singular intellect vaulted their country of origin so far above the median I.Q. that it had won them the coveted “international smartest nation” award. Hell, most of the people watching this soccer match with pride could barely spell their own names.

Much of this began under the John F. Kennedy administration, when he prodded the voting public to get in touch with their ethnic roots. One can only guess at the motives for doing so, but the result has been a probable, unintentional division of our citizenry. Instead of standing United, we now wave flags for countries that were fled to start a better life in America. Then we continue the disaffection by hyphenating our Americanism with our country, continent, or culture of origin, as if that would set any of us above, rather than simply apart. Now more than ever, we are Irish -American, Italian- American, Hispanic- American, African- American, Jewish-American … rather than simply Americans. Our melting pot of cultural assimilation has become a mosaic of separate entities. Perhaps it’s time for someone of note to brave the potential retribution of culture warriors, and call an end to our purposeful division.

But I think President Theodore Roosevelt said it best back in 1907:

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

No one should honestly give a damn about what country people, they have no connection to other than geography, came from… especially if they have made the conscious choice to make America their home. If any of my direct ancestors did happen to accomplish something special, then I am glad for them, I guess… but what would that mean for me? Did they pass down “super special holy cow you’re wonderful” genes to me? Does Darwinian rule suggest that only positive indigenous traits handed down to future generations to only people of *your* ethnic background? It’s like every idiot who believes in reincarnation. All of them seem to be descended from royalty. None were ditch diggers in their past lives.

 If I am to gain a sense of pride, it should be for things *I* accomplish… and if pride is to be extended vicariously, then at most it should apply to family. But for my great great uncle Carmine who ran a terrific horse trade… or even the Roman who invented the aqueduct? Please explain why *I* should take pride in that? “Hey, you’re lazy and good for nothing… but be proud that you came from X” … Really?

And while for some reason I seem to be genetically encoded to be able to understand the slightest innuendo in any Martin Scorsese movie, that is kind of cool, but still nothing to be “proud” of. I’m happy that I don’t have to lean over to the nearest paisan and ask what the hell is going on, but proud? It would be like having pride in my inability to keep my hands at my sides while I speak. These are things I had no control over… and if I had been switched at birth with a baby from another culture, my experiences would be entirely different.

There are certainly things –many things– I am proud of. But none of them have to do with  anyone who is dead for thousands of years, and who lived in a land across the ocean. And if I am to have an irrational sense of geographically specific pride, it will be to the country –not just of my birth– but of my choosing… The United States of America.

… and come to think of it, that whole “putting a man on the moon and defeating the Nazi’s” thing was pretty cool, too.