Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Danger of Judge mentalism

I've written about this before, but it seems a good time to revisit, with the death of Michael Jackson and rampant affairs in the Republican party (especially presidential hopefuls, it seems).

There is no end to those who would cross the line from Judgment (MJ was strange) to Judgmental (MJ molested children). I made the mistake myself the other day when I referred to him as a pedophile on Facebook, forgetting he had been cleared of all charges in his child molestation case.

It wasn't a fair statement, tho we all do wonder.

The truth is we don't know. And now, as soldiers say, G-d will sort it out. It's the shade of doubt that makes me bristle at people pronouncing labels and slurs.

When we don't have all the facts, we often leap to conclusions that are flawed, and ungenerous.

A few days ago many of us thought that Gov. Sanders, (SC) was off hiking for a week. We speculated that maybe he was hiking naked, since Naked Hiking Day was on June 21, the Summer solstice. It was funny, harmless.

How wrong we were. He was on a hike, so to speak, and surely he was naked. But his admission of an affair showed how far off we were.

We were all curious because, after all, he is a very public figure, like MJ. But to reserve judgement is to say "I don't know all the facts." And sometimes it is good to say "I haven't lived that person's life."

It takes a certain degree of arrogance and self-righteousness to be judgemental. We feel morally justified in "calling a spade a spade". But what if we are wrong? How much damage did MJ suffer by being constantly scrutinized?

He was clear about his abusive upbringing - his Dad once beat him with a belt while holding him upside down by one foot. Michael was also clear that the paparazzi's invasion in his private life was cruel and unusual punishment.

Ironically, it was Michael holding his infant son out over a balcony for the press in London that makes it clear he suffered from his own lack of judgment. And yet, that doesn't justify the constant barrage of interest in every detail of his life.

We must give people some privacy and respect.

I think we are a world of consumers on crack. We crave the intimate details of the lives of others, as if it's our next fix and if we don't get it, we'll die.

Die of what? Of boredom with our own lives? Of having no where to turn for pain relief if we DO take the time to look at our own lives, and find it lacking, instead of feeding off the juicy minutiae of celebrity lives?

We are constantly looking for entertainment and "medication". Movies, TV, sex, drinking, over-working, even crippling worry about the economy, which damn few of us can do anything about.

Any form of distraction will do.

In the end, here is the result: our constant craving makes the paparazzi relevant and well paid. The junk food media practically stalks public figures, including our government officials.

I have met the enemy, and it is us.

We ourselves drive intelligent people away from public service.

Who among us wants to go into public service? Or want this for our children? Very few. I would never submit to the kind of constant attention that pulp fiction writers (not journalists, but those hacks, tabloid-like reporters) put on our public servants.

It wasn't always this way.

John Kennedy was taught that along with great privilege comes great responsibility. How many of us teach that to our children today?

We have let the paparazzi pierce a veil of privacy, beyond reasonable reckoning. With that, we subject our leaders to too much stress. And they fall like flies. Why? Because they are incapable?

No, because they are human. Just like the rest of us. We want and crave heroes, leaders that inspire, then we crucify them on the poll of public opinion.

Don't get me wrong, we desperately need heroes and heroines. People who are upright and honest, courageous and intelligent, bold yet humble. But we demand too high a price.

As a result, and in spite of their best efforts, our entire system - the democracy should be made up of dependent on strong, honest, smart people to run it, suffers.

Even John McCain, in my mind an honorable man, fell to the temptation of playing politics, working the media, working "the system".

So first we should give our public figures - both performers and public servants - more privacy. And when they fall, allow a degree of Grace to let them recover.

But one last note - we all hate hypocrites. The fatal flaw leading to Republicans' demise? Constant rhetoric about "moral fitness" to serve and "family values" (as they define them). Governor Sanders was very outspoken in all his moralizing when he voted to impeach then President Clinton.

At least Clinton never claimed to be a saint. I don't ever recall him being self-righteous.

I've always said what happens behind closed doors is none of our business. What happens within a marriage is on sacred ground, and again is never any of our business. Once upon a time Republicans believed this too.

When someone who preaches upright behavior then falls from Grace, we perhaps should be more concerned about their self-righteousness and judgmentalism, than their poor judgment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A friend posted a link to an interesting article (um blog post actually) by Linda Holmes on the term "cougar" being applied to women who are attracted to younger men.

I heard that "cougar" was being used this way last year, and didn't think much of it. Frankly I didn't consider it insulting, but rather a cultural quirk. Not worth a lot of thought.

I do think that women going for younger men is s'amusant (self entertaining). I suppose it isn't fair to say that boys become men with some degree of difficulty, but I've found it true.

Some say women grow up the moment they conceive. Whatever play time they've enjoyed gets pushed back, often with their sense of identity as independent women, in deference to the truly OLDEST profession - Motherhood.

Continuation of the species trumps all, and requires being patient enough not to club your mate for asking stupid questions about your headaches, (which normally don't include the very rational "Can I make dinner tonight honey?" or "I'll do the laundry and clean the bathroom because I know you are working hard in there.").

Or worse than not helping, mates take your lack of attentiveness personally. Nevermind that you are growing a human being in your amazingly heretofore "normal" body. Yeah, we learn patience from our men, so we can nurture our children.

So women as cougars? Sure, no judgment here, but Why??

If good men are hard to find, (with a nod to Mae West's version of this truism) then how does finding boys seem hard?

In my experience it's easy. And lots of them are all "grown up" technically, but never quite crossed the Bridge to Full Adulthood. As another saying goes, growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional.

And how is pursuing boys fun? Once upon a time I taunted an overeager guy on the interstate, by calling his work and reporting that he had been making a spectacle of himself during the Atlanta rush hour. I noted that first, I'd never consider meeting someone in a traffic jam, and second, he wouldn't know what to do if he'd caught me.

Older women certainly know what to do if they catch a young man, but wow, that's like a real cougar catching a bunny. Whatever. No sport in it.

Last night I read about a California cougar (real feline) jumping a biker in 2005. She nearly lost her life, and she outweighed the cat by 3 lbs! It was a young male that had eaten another biker just a few days earlier. You may remember the story.

She fought hard, bruising her knuckles with hitting it, and was smart enough to turn her head, chin toward her shoulder, as she'd learned in self-defense class to do when someone is trying to choke you. The cat was going for her jugular.

Then her friend shocked her by coming after the cat, yelling full-bodied obscenities, (esp the F word - shocking from a normally religious, mild mannered woman). She then grabbed her friend by the foot and refused to let go, preventing the cat from hauling his catch into the woods for a snack.

Other bikers came along and helped chase the cat away.

Sure, calling a woman a cougar could be a compliment. And yet, while gorgeous, they are dangerous predators.

I wouldn't want one stalking my son.

I think human predators* lose a lot - like class and self-respect. Hunting and catching easy prey just isn't interesting. Toying with them? Yeah, ok, could be harmless fun. But don't take it too far. Afterall, many of us have already raised boys. Have too often been married to them.

Real men don't want or need their women to be their Mama - and they sure as hell don't want to be chased or stalked. Any self-respecting woman wouldn't dream of it. lol
*humans hunting humans

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dads and Fathers and Real Men

It's a beautiful day in Atlanta. Which is to say that at noon it's less than 90 degrees and the humidity doesn't knock you to your knees as soon as you walk out the front door.

I love being here with my Dad and Mom. I'm sure my sleepy hug around his shoulders this morning wasn't as cute as when I dove into his arms at 4 years old, many many moons ago, but maybe it means more in a small way. He helped get me this far. Still sustains me with his faith in me.

He spent a lot of years working grueling jobs in kitchens and the restaurant industry to take care of us. When his heart got squirrely and he had to be on disability, he helped support us with a fruit and vegetable stand on Memorial Drive and then later, once healed up, with computer work - back when they needed people to change reel to reel tapes. (lol) There were some years in high school that I'd work until closing at Wendy's and then he'd pick me up to go with him to help deliver the Sunday papers in boxes all over the city before dawn so the bills got paid.

Those were hard times, with me working two jobs, sometimes without our having much in the fridge, but they made me stronger.

There were five of us kids, and he managed to put food on the table, keep us off the streets, and sometimes even had some wisdom to share.

When I turned 16 he gave me a $100 bill and commiserated with how hard it was to be a teen, remembering his own youth. Then he paused, and pointedly said, "As hard as it is to be a teenager, honey, just know... that it's all downhill from here on out."

(Being an irritatingly eternal optimist, I have always wondered if "all downhill" means it's going to go to crap, or it's all easy, like when you coast down a hill on your bike?)

I took it with the conflicted cynical view of a teen. Now I see it as a paradox, that "downhill" means both entropy and coasting. It's the path of least resistance.

Dad took a lot of those paths, like we all do. But I'm still impressed that he did the things that had to be done. These days, when I play barmaid, I appreciate all over again that work is work, and while all of it has dignity, it ain't easy!

My biggest struggle is to tame my monkey mind, when work is slow. I joke that I'm about to chew my leg off, when everything has been cleaned, and there aren't any customers, and interesting conversations with co-workers and patrons have dwindled.

I imagine Dad had the same struggles, being gifted with a quick wit and mind. It makes his work all the more meaningful, to know that while he did manage plenty of restaurants, and was a "turn around" guru, that he mostly just had to do the grind - deal with kids who didn't show up for work, customers who couldn't be made happy, and stupid accidents on the prep line.

But this is what Dads do. They do what has to be done. And this is what Daddy taught me - that you do what you have to do and you get through.

Unlike fatherhood, so exalted on this day, it takes more than sperm to be a Dad. Real Men become Dads. They don't let the grind of work or other daily distractions keep them from being role models to their kids. They work hard but they also show up at games, and take their kids fishing, or maybe just make breakfast on weekends. They cook on the grill, light fireworks, and fix the cars and then somehow let you cry when you bust your knee, but don't let you wallow in it.

Anyone can become a biological father - I had one of those too. He meant well but could never fully step into the role. It required more sacrifice than he could make. We repaired some of that before he died, in '98, but not enough. Fact was he didn't know how to do relationships, tho he tried. Because I was blessed with my Dad, John, my biological Father didn't have to try to fill those big ole shoes. I think Edwin was happier on the sidelines.

Dads figure out how to stay connected to their kids. They let their kids grow up, refusing to do for us, and push us to do for ourselves, learn from our mistakes. They encourage us and exhort us to become more.

We want more than anything to make them proud. That's because approval doesn't come easy. Ideally, we have to earn their respect. But never doubt their love.

And while they become more human, imperfect and even maybe a bit frail as we all age, we know that they did their best, and that is how Dads keep our respect.

The best Dads make the best husbands too - they show their kids how to love and respect themselves, AND the woman in their life. They keep their word, and slog thru good times and bad in a marriage. They put their wives in the front seat - as partner, and helpmate. They are romantic and sweet and show how grateful they are for a woman who loves them all the way thru. Despite their faults.

Even tho they got divorced years ago, Daddy dancing with Mommy was one of the most important lessons I ever learned. That's what love looks like.

Great Dads demonstrate courage and how to have fun, and think deeply about things, even if it's just how a trout sees the world. And they teach us those things, sometimes directly, but often just by doing stuff with you.

Ultimately, it's about having a shoulder isn't it? A shoulder to cry on, a shoulder to hug, a shoulder to lean on, and laughter that makes you pound on that same shoulder, in tears.

Over breakfast today Mom and I were talking about hawks. I mentioned that a red-tailed tried to take my biggest hen, years ago, tho she was at least 10 - 12 pounds. Mom asked if it killed her. Shortly I replied, frowning, "No, I did."

Well, Mom and Dad weren't going to let that go. I had to confess, squirming inside, that I'd put the hen, injured, into a box with sevin dust because I thought she had mites. They laughed like hell, (I had to join in) and Daddy commented I should have buried her under the tomatoes (which need sevin dust sometimes).

Then he reminded me of the goldfish I killed, at age 7, while cleaning the bowl with hot water. (How was I to know they didn't like hot water? I didn't use soap!)

What a sweet moment, with a man who has informed more of my life than he'll ever know. From my love of country music (which he calls American Opera), to my appreciation for a corny sense of humour, to my passion for dancing, to my taste in men.

See, he's not just my Dad, he's Daddy. Still growing and changing, even if some of that is more crusty and bad tempered. Hell, he's earned it. Still inspires me to do more, while he's still creating trouble, if no longer on a Harley.

Love you Dear Old Dad :D