Noun

Patrophy: (n.)

The withering and degradation of one’s national pride.

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The Republican party is brazenly represented by a racist sex offender whose stated policy on immigration is to steal children from their parents and lock them in cages.

The Republican party stonewalled President Obama for nearly a year to steal a supreme court seat from the American people.

The Republican party is currently steamrolling the Judiciary Committee into appointing a man accused of numerous counts of sexual violence and refuse any attempt to investigate the claims.

The full measure of this is too much to stomach.

If this is what it is to be American, I can’t honestly claim to honor it.
If these are our leaders, there isn’t anyone I can follow.
If this is what we stand for… there isn’t much left to believe in.

 

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Noun

Doubtbreak: (n.)

The spread of disease caused by people’s irrational and baseless skepticism over vaccination.

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Anti-vaccination is not an idea. It’s the opposite of an idea. It’s a fevered, irrational panic without merit, sense, or decency.

It is the worst kind of selfishness: the baseless refusal of data empirically gathered, analyzed, and proved, pared with the arrogant assumption that your right to be wrong supersedes everyone else’s right to not get sick.

Life is already hard enough – not only here, but for people all around the world for whom the relief and luxury of vaccination isn’t even possible. Millions of people get sick and they die because they lack the access and infrastructure to avail themselves to this technology you so thoughtlessly toss aside.

120 cases of Measles to date. Of a disease that was all but eradicated thanks to vaccination.

This doesn’t have to be a problem. And yet it’s becoming one.

And that is absolutely fucking heartbreaking.

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Noun

Ambleguity: (n.)

The bumbling, directionless gait of the lost, the elderly, and those staring into their smartphone.

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You know when you’re walking…

Let’s say you’re at a mall or something. And you’re kinda angry to be there because malls are horrifying and gross and way too goddamn big and they smell like depression dabbed in cologne… and you’re trying to just get a goddamn pair of khaki pants (you refuse to call them chinos, because who authorized that name change?) but to do that you have to sift your way through a clot of sneering, obnoxious teenagers who slurp Orange Juliuses with the blithe indifference of a creature too blinkered and boring to be aware of its own mortality, and they’re all standing in a henge of kiosks hocking bright, cheap tchotchkes – bubblegum colored weaves! The Zero-G Yo Yo! Some crappy RC helicopter emblazoned with the Albanian flag! – and once you finally lace your way through, you’re pleased because you see the store ahead of you… but there, directly in your path, is some pocket-sized grannie with a sky blue knit cap who’s shuffling from foot to foot, not even looking where she’s going, just slowly floating along like some lost and derelict moon drifting aimlessly through space… and you try to go around her, but she oozes in your path, and so you dart a bit left, but she lurches that way too, and you find yourself on the balls of your feet, waltzing with some woman who doesn’t even know you’re there… and everything’s making you mad, but you can’t really be mad at everything so instead you just funnel all of your frustration at the back of this little old lady’s head even though you know deep down that she doesn’t deserve it, and she’s hopefully really sweet (but she’s probably a little racist) and you say, “Lady…” but not as under your breath as you had intended, and she jumps a bit and turns her head and looks at you with eyes that say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I used to be so much faster…” and it puts a chill to all your hot blood, and you stop for a moment and think of how stupid you are to get so frustrated – to be in such a hurry all the goddamn time to get wherever it is you think it’s important to go… so you blink, and you say, “I’m sorry,” and she smiles, and then you walk into the store buy your pants…

That ever happened to you?

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Noun

Indeference: (n.)

The rote and meaningless portrayal of solemnity.

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One of the strangest things about getting older is realizing the moments that are clearest for you aren’t necessarily shared by the young. I’m always a little shocked to remember that for teenagers and even some 20-somethings, 9/11 has very little personal resonance. Or at least, an ever diminishing return on significance.

Never has this concept more clear than when I was a teacher.

Every year I’d assign my students an essay or article about 9/11 – most often Tom Junod’s heart-shattering Falling Man – then spend the entire class discussing it, their memories of the day, and what those meanings and artifacts have come to mean now. It was a hit at first… students pounced at the chance to approach an emotionally taboo moment in their lives and dig into it – get out their knives and flense a day they experienced as frightened children, armed now with the nascent sophistication of their burgeoning adulthood. But as years and semesters went on, my students’ memories and anecdotes grew fuzzier, less immediate, less distinct. The point of view in their recollections subtly shifted from a sharp, rambling first: I was in Geometry, and the vice principal came in and whispered to my teacher. She looked so freaked out, and she said that something happened, and we had to go home, and I knew something was wrong because there was this whole line of busses outside already… to something bereft of both detail and feeling, not so much recalling their memories as reciting them as if they were read from an optometrist’s chart… I remember my parents were in the kitchen? No, the living room. My mom looked sad, I think. 

I was in bed when the first plane hit. It was right at the start of my sophomore year of college. I was living in my first apartment. Very adult. Very exciting. My roommate came into my room and woke me up, insisting that there’d been some accident in New York; I should come see, it was all over the news. We spent the next thirty minutes watching the tower smolder on CNN, we hunted through our fancy new place, dropping books into our bags – we had class in an hour. When the second plane hit, we stopped. At some point we sat down. Didn’t move. I watched the towers collapse in my apartment that morning, bundled on the couch in my pjs beside an untouched bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. We watched it all with barely a word. And then we got dressed and went to class.

It’s bonkers in retrospect, but then everything is bonkers in retrospect. Absolutely nothing had prepared us for something so upending and uncanny. Indeed, when I arrived on campus I found I was not alone. Students ebbed across campus, dutifully shuffling from class to class; teachers half-taught their lessons, half-counseled their kids; classmates sat in shattered silence, entranced by the dream of it all, until their cellphones rang, and they exploded from the room desperate for news from their family. My university would cancel classes later in the day, of course. But for a few hours that morning, we all drifted together.

Eight years later, I took a job teaching at that same university… and every semester the sights and smells of campus autumn did their Proust thing. I’d walk into class on 9/11… and have to teach something. The day was normal. And that baffled me. I wanted to understand 9/11 as the evolving social metaphor it was becoming, so I started nudging my students to dig into the symbolism of it all – the remembrances, the rhetoric, the countless towers silhouetted as windshield decals, and the repeated insistence that we Never Forget.

I started assigning a short essay on the form and language of that phrase – Never Forget – “Why do we say never forget, opposed to always remember to commemorate 9/11Do the two statements convey the same sentiment? Which do you prefer? Why?” The answers I got were varied. Conversation lasted all class long. At least in the early years. Like I said… as time wore on, the farther my students got from the significance of 9/11.

I’ve always found Never Forget a troubling phrase. For one, I’m oppositionally defiant, and don’t like being told what to do. For another, I’m often skeptical and impatient of maudlin shows of dutiful remembrance. They ring hollow to me – and expect a unified response to something we all experienced, yes, together… but ultimately, terribly alone. We remember and we mourn as individuals – our experiences are ours… as are our forms of remembrance. There’s something tiresome, and to me horribly disrespectful, about how commodified our remembrances have become – bumper stickers, t-shirts, and decals, syrupy gifs and memes and schlocky slogans all insisting upon a certain tenor and tone of how we remember. Or, rather, reminding us not to forget. We’ve branded a national tragedy. And brands are ultimately empty promises, written in the language of sincerity. Invented by men like me to sell something. 

Never Forget has always been too easy to say, and too little to deliver. It requires nothing more of us than obeisance. It calls upon no action. Demands no reflection. Summons no alteration in our behavior. It urges no understanding of what caused it, nor wisdom for how best to combat another moment like it. For those who remember 9/11, Never Forget demands our static, silent, horrified appraisal. It’s a symbol now. Sacred in the public imagination. Deified by the dogma of our tweets, and shares, and likes. It’s content.   

For those too young to remember 9/11, it will doubtlessly shrink into the horizon… dwindling further into meaninglessness with every year. You can’t forget something you couldn’t remember in the first place.

9/11 makes me sad – for its own tragedies to be sure. But what saddens me most about it all is how little it means on any other day. We hurl ourselves into portrayals of mourning on 9/11. But what about 9/12? Business as usual. Two weeks from now? Three months? It’s gone. We’re back to the same blithe motions of 9/10.

We never forget. And as such, we’re never called upon to learn. We’re never expected to look at our own behavior. Demand more of our leaders.

Yesterday, John Bolton – Trump’s National Security Advisor – threatened the International Criminal Court, an organization designed to investigate and punish (among other things) those responsible for genocide and mass killings. The ICC had criticized the US military and intelligence departments for reports of torture and rape in Afghanistan. In response, our government threatened the ICC with sanctions.

I can’t help but feel that such imperious ego, such rage and indignity, such staunch refusal to observe the norms set by our neighbors, is the kind of thing we should have learned not to do by now. I can’t help but feel that we’ve learned nothing.

Always Remember.

 

 

 

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Noun

White Wail: (n.)

White people’s obsessive persecution complex in response to multiculturalism an economic justice

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I try to avoid extreme positions. It’s not that I don’t have extreme feelings; nearly all of my feelings are extreme. Ask anyone who’s watched me talk to or about my cat. I’d compose arias to the little goblin if I could. But in nearly everything else, I strive to stay somewhere in the middle… for perspective if no other reason. I’m a centrist in my politics. A relativist in my morals. And a moderate on nearly every subject except Shakespeare (I know), astronomy, and sandwiches.

And my cat. He’s the best. 

But there is one absolute I’ve developed over the years – something ironclad:

Rich white people need to stop complaining about their own victimization.

Immediately.

I say this as a straight, white man of the upper-middle class born in the 1980s. When it comes to the span of human history, I’ve won the goddamn lottery. Everything has been handed to me. I’ve wanted for nothing. I’ve experienced personal pain and tragedy, of course. I’m human. But in nearly every respect, life has offered to trim the crust from my sandwiches from the moment I slipped into being.

Fellow white people, dudes mostly… here’s the deal: We’re not victims. Not at the hands of racial and economic justice, anyway. We can’t be – it’s fundamentally impossible for us to be so – because the very mechanisms of victimization were built by people like us long ago, belong to us to day, and ultimately turn and churn for our benefit. We are the beneficiaries of a broken, unjust system built on denying equal access to justice, money, land, and basic human dignity. For further reference, I urge you to either consult the whole of human history, or just look around the world right now. Both the past and the present are the footnotes to this concept. I urge you to consider them.

I’m not going to say someone can’t be rich – I don’t know enough about economics to really understand the ramifications of such a concept. And I’m not saying that a white person can’t be proud of their cultural heritage. I’m an Italian-American, and I’m super happy about it. I get to wear black and be neurotic and just fundamentally make better meatballs than you do. It’s tons of fun. But here’s the thing, y’all. White people can’t claim victimhood. Ever. That’s the cost of owning pretty much everything… you don’t get to whine when your ownership is criticized. We could dismantle the mechanisms of white supremacy. We could offer reparations for what our ancestors took through force. But we don’t. And therefore we can’t claim the dignity of victimhood. It’s that simple.

So stop. Stop debasing yourselves with the term. And please bring a swift end to the theatrics of it all. We’re not benighted. We’re not beset. And we’re not at war. Not yet.

It isn’t “class warfare” until your head is in a basket.

Until then, it’s just people trying to get their share of the pie.

 

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Noun

Repravity: (n.)

A horrific event that happens over and over and over and over again.

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I watched a few episodes of Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary this weekend – four of em, right in a row. It was a lot.

Today, I’m struck by an irritating sorrowful pang. A reminder of something I kinda already know – an exhaustion informed by the undercurrent of cynicism that grows as one gets older.

How much of our history – long and short – is just the same dumb story told over and over again? I realize this isn’t a new question – it’s already been aphorized into meaninglessness – history repeats itself – and so forth.

I know. We all know.

But still.

It’s a hard lesson to be reminded of – how all of life, history, and even the world itself so often seems a long, arduous, gorgeously told tale of utterly stupid and entirely avoidable tragedies.

Modern society is basically crappy, mid-afternoon tv reruns of old miseries…

Police officers shooting, harming, or otherwise abusing African-Americans, and then refusing to hold themselves accountable.

A seemingly endless parade of mass shootings, and the tepid irrational debates that follow, but never lead anywhere.

Idealistic citizens bravely taking to some city square to protest the crimes and injustices within their government, only to be met by tear gas, riot shields, and truncheons.

The utter disaster that is the American Electoral system.

The climate change debate, unfettered by scope, science, or sense.

The reminder that every war since WWII has essentially been the same war fought for the same lack of justification and without any perceivable end.

Santayana said we would repeat history if we don’t learn from it. But learning about history teaches me is that history teaches us nothing. Rather – we are learning – just the wrong lessons, is all. We learn how to do the same cheap, wicked, awful things more quickly, with greater efficacy, from a greater distance. We learn how to recycle the same abuses, faster.

I don’t want to think this way. I just do, is all.

Is this really the best we can do? Is this it? This is who we’re going to be?

How are we in the same species as the Mr. Rogers and the Carl Sagans and the Jim Hensons out there? Where have they all gone?

I’m feelin’ it today, you guys.

 

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expression, Noun

Carpe Denim (n.)

Ancient Latin Expression – “Seize the jeans.”

When one finds a pair of pants that flatters the bum, buy as many pairs as possible.

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Socrates famously stated that the only thing he truly knew for sure was that he knew nothing at all.

Well… far be it for me to claim a greater wisdom than Socrates… but there is one thing I know beyond the borders of my ignorance – and this be it:

When you’re fortunate enough to find a pair of jeans that fit well and sculpt your ass with kindness and flattery… buy two of them. Buy as many as your balance will allow.

Seize the jeans.

For who knows what spills or stains or crotch blowouts will come…

Life is short. And often ill-fitting.

So Carpe. Carpe denim.

Seize the jeans, friends.

Make your ass extraordinary.

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