Getting Along

Why can’t we just get along?

Why does Vladimir Putin choose to attack and attempt to put Ukraine under his control?  Why did Donald Trump choose to orchestrate a coup and attempt to put Government of the United States of America’s under his control?  Why did Dick Cheney choose to invade and attempt to put Iraq and its oil under his control?  Why did Adolf Hitler choose to conquer Western Europe and attempt to put the world under his control?  Why did Joseph Stalin choose to invade, annex, and put Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan under his control?  Why did Alexander choose to conquer and put the world under his control?      

We conquer other countries because we covet their land, minerals, oil, timber, agriculture, workers.  Too often we view conquered and others who speak, believe, and behave differently than we do inately defective, even sub-human.  Nazi Germany considered Jews as a mongrel race.     

I resist clichés, but it’s important to understand that presidents, caesars, emperors, czars, kings, prime ministers, dictators, and warlords are the visible ten percent of the iceberg.  Below the waterline, the rest of us maneuver and manipulate. 

For humankind’s earliest progenitors, life depended on controlling our environment and cohorts.  Bears and wolves viewed Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons as dinner!  Logically, the biggest, badest, caveman tended to survive.  Hunkered by the campfire, survival of individuals and our species hinged on the strong and clever claiming dibs on the last scrap of roast beast and unrestricted liberty to pass on his genes.

On the heels of our cave-dwelling experience, humankind’s need to control grew more sophisticated and clannish.  Through the Dark Ages and Renaissance warring fiefdoms conquered distinct areas of what became Europe.  This scenario predated and played across Asia and Africa. 

From caves to continents, Cave Bears to Atomic Bombs, our need to control other people is rooted in fear.  Rationale thinking recognizes wise and tragic sides of fear.  Our caveman experience validated the wisdom of fear.  Fear of nature, fear of people who appear, speak, believe, and behave differently than our Clan.  We teach children “stranger danger.”  Wise, because a tiny fraction of people wants to hurt us.  Tragic because the vast majority do not!          

Regarding Anne Meara, his wife of sixty years, funny man Jerry Stiller observed—as memory serves—she’s “not hard to live with. You just have to put up with her.”

Will humankind ever realize Jerry’s wisdom and  “just  .  .  .  put up with” each other?

Troubles

“I am an old man and have had a great many troubles,
but most of them never happened.”
Mark Twain

My initial sense was that my “troubles” are (1) fear of being punished, (2) worry that I’ll screw up, blunder, make a mistake, (3) guilt over something I did or failed to do.  On further thought, all my troubles subsume under Fear.  An irrational, childish fear that, ten days after my eighth birthday, I somehow caused Daddy’s death.  I am responsible and deserve to be punished! 

I just turned eighty-five.  Claiming that my troubles are rooted in Daddy’s death seems a stretch, a copout.  This said, anyone who’s had a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or close friend die knows the emotional impact of a significant death dims and evolves but never “goes away!”  It becomes part of who we are!  Decades after a significant death, a mundane event: picture, sound, smell, touch, triggers those old emotions.

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5” recognizes “Dissociative reactions (e.g. flashback)” as symptomatic of “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”  Labeling flashbacks a “Disorder” seems open to question.  My online Marriam-Webster defines the “transitive verb disorder (my emphasis) .  .  .  (as) 1: to disturb the order of, 2: to disturb the regular normal functioning of.”  But, what is more in “order,” more “regular normal functioning,” more rational, than emotional reaction to an in-your-face, too-close-to-home, reminder of a traumatic experience‽ 

To appreciate why I link my fear, worry, and guilt to Daddy’s death, it may help to understand that I view my first eight years as idyllic.  I cruised down Life’s freeway in a new Lamborghini.  Suddenly I hit head-on with a Kenworth eighteen-wheeler!  I sustained life threatening injuries.  The scars never go away!  Something bumps, a flashback!  It hurts!

I have solid reasons to label those formative eight years “idyllic.”  On July 3, 1931, thirteen months after my parent’s marriage, my sister May was stillborn or lived a few hours.  Five years and nine months later, April 3, 1937, I subjected Mama to twenty-some hours of hard labor.  Despite my rude entrance, after losing sister May, it is easy to appreciate my parents’ joy at last having a healthy baby boy.

Evidence of my parents’ love includes an 8x14x4 inch Book of Remembrance: my ”Notification of Birth Registration,” hundreds of pictures, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, a family tree with photos, pages of individuals’ birth, marriage, children, and deaths back, in some cases, more than five generations.  Mama left a 2x2x3 foot blue metal trunk with a shoe box containing my baby clothes and string of wooden beads which may have been my “teething ring,” a wallpaper-on-cardboard covered collection of “Deans  Compositions,” a half-dozen scrapbooks, albums containing once significant black-and-white “snap shots” of now-anonymous people.  What to do with it all?

Back to fear, I should note that rational fear evolved for damned good reasons!  When we lived in caves, lions, tigers, and bears were clear and imminent threats to life.  Looking into the jaws of a charging Grizzley, the old flight-or-fight response was eminently rational!  In our “civilized” world, with urban gunfire a staple of the Evening News, looking into the muzzle of an AR-15 of 357 Magnum, fear is our rational, go-to choice!

In the end, viewed with Mark Twain’s wisdom, the bulk of my troubles, my fear, worry, and guilt, are wasted energy. 

Wearing the Pants

A Facebook photo has two man wearing tailored jackets and skirts.  Ignorant of correct wardrobe vernacular, I label their ensembles “suits.”  As usual, I can’t find the Facebook post.  As I recall, of the over two hundred comments, the majority subsume under sentiments like “ugly,” “ridiculous,” “can’t believe it.”

In Grandpa’s era exposed female anatomy was limited to face, hands, and feet.  A photo of a woman in black, ankle and wrist length swimwear was labeled “indecent.”

When I was a lad, decades before “Father Knows Best,” literally and figuratively, in families at least, “men wore the pants.”  Women wore a dresses or skirt and blouse.  In the backwater where I grew up, ladies wore “slacks“ only to picnics or camping.

Post-WWII, Esther Williams’s swimsuits evolved from one-piece with shoulder straps to two-piece.  Then a strapless one-piece and “Just wear a smile and a Jantzen.”  Despite being labeled “risqué” and “scandalous,” banned from the Miss World Pageant in 1951, the Bikini proved irrepressible.  Then the Thong!

Today my observation is that casual, business, even formal and in church, the majority of women wear, in a word, “pants.”  Styles range from baggy, holey, and designer jeans, to casual and fashionable trousers.  Younger—sadly some not-so-young—females wear “tights” leaving nothing to imagine but the crack.  At the Mall, I observed a sweet thing in red, thigh-length, shorts which, with a swatch of cloth at the crotch, might have been painted on.  

If a yesteryear Life magazine had published photos of today’s Spring Break at Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach with near-naked females cavorting in the sand, or Olympic Games Beach Volleyball with near-naked females diving for a ball, 1950’s era readers would have gawked in shock and disbelief.  Learning how, seeing men wearing skirts, we now gawk in shock and disbelief, will future generations smile at our quaint notion of who wears the pants?   

QAnon

The easiest, cheapest, and surest way to destroy a country is from within. There is far more compelling reason to doubt QAnon’s bogus claims than to believe the Kremlin is QAnon‘s headquarters.

EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW

Monitoring lab test for the United States government, a young man falsely certified a positive marijuana urinalysis as negative.  For this foolishness, he served 27 months in federal prison.  Now middle-aged, the erstwhile offender bears the stigma and consequences of being a “convicted felon.”   

January 6, 2021, President Donald J. Trump orchestrated and ordered a seditious assault on our United States Capitol, Congress, and Constitution.  In the aftermath of this attempted coup, Attorney General Merrick Garland is pursuing upward of 700 Trump MAGA minions.  Around ten percent have received criminal sentences.  The rest await trials or plea agreements.

Their Commander in Chief, Donald J. Trump, remains unindicted.  Before confronting would-be King Donald’s Legal Eagles, it is imperative the Attorney General builds a proverbial ironclad case, cross every “t” dot every “I.”  He must not screw this one up!    

Chiseled above the portico of the United States Supreme Court building is, EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.  If, for falsifying a single document, the Law locks away a young man for over two years, and Donald J. Trump remains unindicted, rampantly spewing his lies and vitriol, in Mr. Bumble’s words from Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, “the law is a ass – a idiot!”

The Answer

Fox News asked Donald Trump, “What should we do about Ukraine?”

Trump’s answer, “Well what I would do is, I would, we would, we have tremendous military capability, and what we can do with our planes, to be honest with you, without forty-four-year-old jets, what we can do is enormous, and we should be doing it and we should be helping them to survive and they’re doing an amazing job.”

Well, there you have it!  Plain and simple!   

If Donald were president, instead of shooting, poor ol’ Putin would be sweating bullets!

M*A*S*H Wisdom

M*A*S*H’s Major Frank Burns captured today’s Rightwing, Trumpian mindset:

“The way I see it, if we don’t all march in step, if we don’t do as we’re told, if we don’t follow our leaders blindly, there’s no hope of saving our freedom.”

Suffering

 January 9, in “Five Truths” I wrote, “Happiness is our default.  Suffering is a choice.”  Today, I see Ukrainians massacred and fleeing Vladimir Putin’s missiles; I see Americans living on sidewalk and in tents.  My cavalier claim about suffering demands serious scrutiny.

People denied food, shelter, and healthcare, victims of war, famine, earthquake, tsunami, suffer!  In hindsight, I’m chagrined to realize the “choice” I had in mind is a luxury a fortunate few, like me, can afforded, what someone—Albert Camus?—labeled “existential angst.” 

I remain convinced happiness is our birthright.  Genes and life screw it up.

Dictators

If you’re puzzled by Donald Trump’s fawning over and obvious envy of Vladimir Putin, it’s simple.  The wannabe American and real-life Russian Dictator are alter-egos, matched, sociopathic, narcissistic, Sixth Grade Bullies!  Incarnations of Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler.

Will it never end?