Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

"I decided talking to a conservative is like talking to your refrigerator. You know, the light goes on the light goes off; it's not going to do anything that isn't built in to it. And I'm not going to talk to a conservative anymore than I talk to my damn refrigerator." ---Utah Phillips (1935-2008)


Pick up my New York Times from the hallway outside our apartment door this morning and start perusing the headlines before my daughter would wake up. First one I notice is an article titled, Climate Change Doubt Is Tea Party Article of Faith. I start reading the article and it opens with a scene of an incumbent Indiana Democratic congressman defending his climate bill vote in front of a hostile crowd full of people self-identified as part of the "tea party" movement. He calls global warming real and indisputable, just like the vast majority of scientists who know anything about climate.

He is showered with boos. This is the next bit of the article:

...including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”


And here we have the fundamental problem with trying to talk sense to conservative Christians. Put the facts in front of their face, shower them with reason, use real data to make your argument and you will be wasting your time.

The liars that are Glenn, Rush, Sean, Sarah, et al; a 2,000-year-old piece of poorly written fiction. This is who they will choose to believe, this is where they get their "truth." These sources give them the narrative as they want it to be and that's good enough for them, no matter that it flies in the face of all common sense or what the actual truth might be.

This is how it is possible for Obama to be simultaneously a Socialist and a Nazi. How he is trying to make you enroll is big, bad, government-run socialized health-care and also take away your Medicare. How he wants to redistribute the wealth and is also the puppet of Wall Street bankers. they believe every one of these things about him, never mind that they are all contradictory of each other. I suppose that makes it just like believing in their bible.

They are stupid and they are very proud of it.

This country is fucked.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Screw Tolerance

Things are heating up for gay rights issues in this country. "Don't ask, don't tell" is gasping at its final breaths and the issue of gay marriage is winding its way through the court system on its way to an inevitable showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court, and even if it loses there the next generation of Americans - the ones who are now in their teens and twenties - will legalize same-sex marriage anyway.

This is all great news, as the bigots - though it has taken way too long - are losing again. That is always a good thing. It has been, and still is, a long hard-fought battle for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in America. We're winning the argument, us progressives, because, well, the argument on the other side is stupid.

There is one aspect to the argument that comes from the liberal side that I do have an issue with. It seems that since the 90s we have been urging people to be "tolerant" of the queers.

I say, fuck tolerance.

Gay is not something to tolerate and it sends the wrong message to the bigots and hate-mongers of the world.

I tolerate the asshole walking down the street texting who bumps in to me, instead of elbowing him in the face like I really want to do. Because in a civil society I need to resist those urges, even if someone deserves it.

I tolerate the moron on the subway listening to his headphones so loud that everyone can hear his music, instead of ripping his iPod out of his hands and crushing it with my foot. See above reason.

I tolerate conservative bible-thumpers, instead of stabbing them in the throat. Because there are too many too kill them all and it would be very messy and tiring.

The point is, you don't tolerate something that's not bad because there is nothing to tolerate. By using this word you are giving credibility to the bigotry. You are saying it is OK to think of homosexuals as sinners who are going to hell, but just be hush-hush about it.

Look, if two people enter a committed relationship with the intention of spending their lives together, regardless of their gender, it is either a) something to be celebrated and honored, or b) something to not give a shit about at all. Period. There are no other options. And you can switch back and forth between the two. I have friends and family that are answer "a" and others that are answer "b."

I'm not sure who decided on this "tolerance" mantra many years ago, and I wish I could find out what they were thinking. I suspect that comes from the left's own faulty tolerance. Specifically tolerance of fucked-up religious beliefs. Too many people on the left try to cling to their own religion that they go too much out of their way to respect the religion of others. So we ended up tip-toeing around their religion and the result is asking them for their tolerance. But in that process we give credibility to their dumb religious beliefs and we head down the road of respecting all sorts of asinine things, from polygamy to female genital mutilation. Where will it stop?

What we are supposed to say to these people is, "fuck your religion."

And there are only two real reason we have to make in our argument of why their religion should be fucked:

One is, your religion has nothing to do with what should or shouldn't be against the law in a secular nation. If you want to live in a theocracy go ahead and move to Saudi Arabia or the Vatican.

Second, I call bullshit that this is really about your religion, anyway. There are tons of things in the bible that you choose to ignore (like slavery or selling your daughter being just fine and dandy with your god) so why are you so hung up on this one? I know why, and it has nothing to do with your religion. It's because the thought of two dudes doing it grosses you out. (And let's face it, if only women were queer they would have been allowed to get married years ago, because even your most conservative born-again guy thinks two chicks getting it on is hot.) OK, maybe not all of you are grossed out by it. As we've learned from several militant "anti-gay" preacher-crusaders, some of you are turned on by it and it scares you.

But you know what? Just because gay guys can get married doesn't mean you have to have sex with guys. Or watch those guys have sex.

Hey, truth be told - and I'm sorry my gay friends - a couple of guys going at it kind of grosses me out, too. I thought maybe I was hipster enough in college and my years in Seattle in the 90s that maybe I could go gay or bi, but I just don't dig the fellas.

One night out at a bar in Seattle one of my gay pals planted a big old kiss on me, wet and sloppy with a tongue in my mouth. I acted all cool about it, but in the back of my head I was thinking, "Yuck! Gross! Ewww!" Just wasn't my thing, you know? It certainly affirmed that I'm straight, no question. (I later told said friend that I didn't enjoy it and he never tried to do it again, and we stayed friends. Just like I would do with a girl I was friends with but not attracted to.)

But just because I didn't dig it why would I try to stop him from sticking his tongue (or dick for that matter) down the throat of some guy who does? Why would I care? I was never in to black girls either - just never had any attraction to any - but that doesn't mean I should want to stop other white guys from hooking up with black women.

People have incredibly varied sexual and relationship preferences - an infinite amount, really - gay, straight and bi. They don't have to be in to the same thing as me for me to be OK for them to exists, or even be friends with them.

People are attracted to who they are attracted to, for reasons they only have to explain to themselves, and that's a beautiful thing. To try to keep them apart is such an asshole thing to do. It's as stupid as hating people for being left handed.

So fuck tolerance. As the bumper sticker I saw years ago said, "I don't tolerate differences, I celebrate them."

I think we need less tolerance in the world. Specifically, we need to stop tolerating people who use an over 2,000-year-old piece of fiction as an excuse for a pass on their fucked up bigotry.

I will never, not ever, tolerate them.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Put That On My Tab

I like a good bar.

Scratch that. I LOVE a good bar.

There are very few places I'm happier than a great bar. Give me a nice wood bar counter, a stool (preferably with a back), a hip and talkative bartender who knows how to pull a draft just right, decent and varied beer selection, tasty pub grub, a good jukebox, some friendly and interesting folks sitting at the bar and, for good measure, a small stage for music and I'm as happy as can be. The best bars have no TVs but that's not a deal breaker. So many bars have TVs these days that it can be hard to find one without them.

One of my favorite things about going to bars has always been striking up conversations with other people sitting at the bar. I just love being able to chat with other people sitting there drinking beer. A bartender that you can talk to is also essential. This is why I hated living in Boston so goddamn much. In three years not once was I able to chat up a bar patron or bartender. Hell, bartenders in Boston are such assholes (and apparently don't care about their tips) that I've sat at a bar in that town for up to ten minutes with an empty beer glass in front of me before I finally get asked if I want another. The TV show Cheers was such a fucking lie.

The best thing, though, is when you are talking to someone and when the bartender brings your next round somebody says, "I got this one."

Now, being bought a drink in a bar is never about getting a free drink. Unless you are a total dick you will end up picking up just as many of the rounds as the other guy. Or if the other person just really insist on picking them up. That happened to me on a train ride from New York to Chicago last year. I shared a table in the cafe car with a young lawyer going from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh who kept buying every round of the Sam Adams and wouldn't hear of me paying for any of them.

But for the most part it is not about getting some free drinks. No, what is nice about picking up rounds is that you are saying to the other person, "Hey, I'm enjoying hanging out and talking to you so I want you to stick around."

I know it may sound goober-istic and hokey, but there is something beautiful about that kind of basic human connection that often seems to only be able to happen over alcohol. I once heard the conservative columnist David Brooks theorize that the reason there was so much antagonistic animosity between the political parties in recent years was because people in Washington didn't drink together anymore. Not my favorite guy in the world, but I thought he made a great point.

While these kind of connections may not be good for the liver, they do seem exceptionally good for the (for lack of a better word) soul.

And they can happen without warning in the most unexpected places.

I was in Poughkeepsie, NY one night with a few friends for a Wilco show back in 2004. Four of us were walking around looking for a bar in downtown Poughkeepsie to go to before the show, not wanting to hang out in the line for several hours like the other Wilco geeks. My friend Noam was one of the four and he was going to school in Poughkeepsie at the time, but Vassar kids don't actually go to the bars in town so he knew nothing about any of them. Those Vassar kids are a confusing bunch.

The four of us walked up around the corner from The Chance Theater, where Wilco was going to be playing and came upon a nondescript bar with big windows in front. It was fairly well lit inside and we could see people shooting pool and a good amount of the crowd inside. It appeared that every person in the bar was black.

"We HAVE to go to this bar," said Ronen, a guy that I had met in Boston through the Wilco message board, ViaChicago.

Now remember, we're in town to see Wilco, a band that competes with OK Go, Radiohead and The Flaming Lips for title of World's Whitest Rock Group, with fans to match. And the four of us were no exception, despite my buddy Noam's love of hip-hop. He's still an Upper West Side Jew.

So we grab seats the bar. Oddly enough, with a bar full of black people, the bartender looks pretty rednecky, even sporting a mullet. We order four beers and the girl with us, a friend of Ronen whose name escapes me, says she'll get the first round. The bartender says, "That's six bucks."

She replies, "I've got all four."
"Yea, that's six bucks," he says.

I loved this bar immediately.

So we're sitting there chatting and most of us are getting close to the bottom of our first mug of beer when the bartender comes over and puts four shot glasses upside down in front of us. What the hell? We all kind of look confused at the bartender and he tells us that the next round is on the guy at the end of the bar (the upside down shot glasses were markers for the bartender to keep track). We look down to the end of the bar and there is a black man probably in his late 50s or early 60s sitting there, wearing a suit and hat combo that can only be pulled off by older black dudes. Made me think of Lightnin' Hopkins in his later years.

Guy raises his cocktail to us and we raise our beers back to him. He then came over to talk to us. Told us that he wanted to buy us a drink because out of "all those white kids going to that concert" we were the only ones who came in to that bar. "Kids" being a relative term I suppose, I was 33 at the time. He thought that was cool of us. And it was true, there was nobody from the Wilco crowd in this place and it was practically spitting distance from the club. I don't think there was a closer bar.

He stuck around our side of the bar and we had a grand time talking to him. Eventually we would have several of the bar's regulars hanging around with us, shooting the shit. Just about all of them asked us who we were seeing that night and responded with, "Who's Wilco?"

I'm pretty sure that at least three other guys in the bar that night bought our rounds and I know the bartender himself treated us to two. I don't think I spent any money before we left for the show.

(A humorous side story to this night - The only other white person in the bar besides us and the bartender was this middle-aged woman who totally fit the description of "barfly" and was all over Noam, who happened to be all of 19 at the time but had a fake ID. She was in to him in big way, to the point where I think she even tried to get him to go to her place.)

We were having such a great time there that we skipped the opening act and barely made it to the club for Wilco's opening song.

One of my favorite nights ever in a bar. We made just an amazing human connection with a really nice group of people. And yes, the result of that connection was being completely shitfaced by the end of the night. But I think you'd be hard pressed to think of another place besides a bar where such a thing would happen. I doubt the night would have been as fun or social if we were in a coffee house. Would anybody have bought us a latte?

There's something about a bar. It is a beautiful thing. Especially when somebody else is buying.