IN OUR TIME …

The theory goes something like this …

At whatever age you become famous, that’s the age at which you stop growing emotionally and intellectually. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it sure would explain a lot of people, from Michael Jackson to Elvis. It’s one of the reasons I’m so adamantly against the creation of child stars. So many of them have to re-learn how to live in society once the cute wears off and they realize they don’t want to spend their lives on a TV or movie set. Anyway, I digress …

Whenever I watch Paul McCartney in an interview, I always think to myself, “He’s really only 22 …inside. That’s when he became famous.” And when you start looking at the world through that lens, a lot of things start to make sense. Don’t get me wrong …I love Sir Paul and his body of work. But he does still kind of embody the spirit of a 22-year-old …and that may be our gain as music consumers. You don’t want a 50-year-old man writing silly love songs …you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

This theory of stunted development, always leads me to more questions about where we stop understanding things; where we stop evolving. All of us know that one guy who still has a ponytail or a mullet. He’s a walking memorial to reaching your peak hair potential in 1989, and just saying, “I’ll never do better than this.” He looks in the mirror EVERYDAY and still says, “Yep. This works.” Or we know the girl who got her hair and makeup just right, around 1998, achieving the perfect “Rachael.” And while Jennifer Anniston hasn’t rocked a “Rachael” in almost twenty years, our friend is still flat-ironing her way to 90s greatness …in 2018.

The passing of time can be brutal to humans because we have this special type of hubris that allows us to think the world started turning on the day we were born. Given this special brand of narcissism, we often fail to realize there are children coming up right behind us who have no idea about our experiences or points of view. I think about this concept often …almost to the point of obsession.

In my show, I do a mash-up type bit about Elton John records and old gospel songs. It’s a true story – a funny story – and it usually works for most audiences. But I did it once for an audience of teenagers and they had no reference point for the basic premise. They didn’t know the songs and they didn’t really have a concept of having to be in church if they didn’t want to be. That’s an attitude from MY generation …not theirs. The whole thing fell flat because …well …quite frankly …they weren’t born when all the stuff I was talking about was happening. It’s all ubiquitous to me. But they’re not me.

It honestly doesn’t take that long for large swaths of a population to change their attitudes about things. When he was a kid, one of my father’s best friends was black. This was during southern segregation and my father often recounts how he an his friend would dare each other to run inside the other’s designated restroom. At ten-years-old, after breaking the law over and over, they both realized (upon comparing notes) that all the restrooms were exactly the same. And segregating them made absolutely no sense to the boys. My father says that he was certain his generation would get rid of segregation because they understood the stupidity of it.

If you tried to reinstitute racially segregated bathrooms right now, literally everyone on the planet would look at you weird. We don’t do that anymore. And we haven’t in almost sixty years. My generation wasn’t raised with it, so I can’t even fathom the idea of it. But there are still people of a certain age who think that might actually be a thing, one day. Those people are pretty much rocking idea mullets …they just don’t know it.

Some (maybe more than some) people view life through an old prism of another time to inform their political beliefs. Barbara Streisand sounded like one of those people, this past week, in her recent comment about women who vote how their husbands want them to vote, etc, etc. When I first read it I thought it was a joke or a fake news meme. Then I did some research and found that it was a true statement. And the first thing I thought was, “idea mullet” or “concept Rachael.”

Literally ZERO people, in 2018, believe that men are dictating how their wives vote. Society just doesn’t work like that anymore. Maybe it does in some weird commune somewhere, or in a select household here or there, or in an Islamic country. But by and large, men don’t wake up and expect the “little woman” to have breakfast on the table. They don’t sit in their suit and tie and read the paper, then splash Burma Shave on their face before climbing into the 1958 Studebaker and dashing off to their Mad Men job, where they drink bourbon all day and call women “doll” and “angel face,” demanding coffee and donuts for the next meeting with other men who came from the same morning routine.

It doesn’t work like that anymore. That’s a caricature …a stereotype …a punch line. It’s fodder for period piece movies and kitschy commercials. Does that mean there’s not sexism in the world? Of course not. Does it mean misogyny is over? Nope. But the notion of wives being ideologically subordinate to their husbands, without their own concerns and issues and political autonomy, is just a notion from another time. The world has moved on.

As a history buff, I know all too well that history can repeat itself in horrible ways. But sometimes, we see patterns of the past …because we’re FROM the past …and we need a new haircut.

R

THE REAL SANTA CLAUS …

I choose this as my seasonal profile pic every year. But you may not know the story behind it …

The year before this was taken, my wife and I took our daughter to see this very same Santa …for the last time. She pulled his hair and yanked his beard, grabbed his hat and constantly went for his glasses. She was officially too hard for Santa to handle. A 4-year-old with Angelman Syndrome (the rare genetic disorder with which she is afflicted, that presents like severe Autism)  is hard for anyone to handle. And it was almost impossible to get a picture with him.

This Santa (in this pic) pulled us both aside after we took Isabella from him, and prayed over us. He told us how much he admired us for taking on such a challenge and that he loved us for doing it. He told us it was going to be okay, then he wished us all a big, jolly Merry Christmas …the way Santa always does. My wife and I stood at Santa’s big chair and sobbed like children.

The next year, we took our new 1-year-old baby boy to see him. We just wanted some kind of normalcy in our life; just ONE picture with our “typical” child that wasn’t strained and didn’t involve us sweating from trying to keep him still or being worried about him doing damage to anything, the way we’d worried about our daughter for half a decade.

We waited for what seemed like a lifetime to get to the big chair, and our son was irritated, whining and crying the whole time. But we wanted …maybe even needed …a good memory; a sweet moment. We just wanted a simple Christmas picture to remind us that things could be okay.

By the time we got to Santa, the 1-year-old was out like a light. We weren’t sure what to do. There was NO WAY we were waking a sleeping baby and throwing him on Santa’s knee. Not after what we’d asked Santa to endure the year before.

As soon as Santa saw us and the sleeping baby, he said softly, “Give him to me. I have an idea.”

He took off his glasses and grabbed a little picture book …then posed like this with our sleeping boy. It was absolute magic.

Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. I know him to be a true thing. And every year I post this miraculous picture to remind me that sometimes there’s magic in the most unexpected of places. And maybe everything IS going to be okay. You just have to believe …

Years later, that same 1-year-old was at a crossroads of belief. As a 7-year-old he asked me if there was really a Santa Claus. I just smiled and said, “well …even if he isn’t exactly what we think he is, Santa Claus sure is a good idea. Don’t you think?”

That seemed to be exactly what he needed to hear.

Enjoy the holiday season, everyone!

R

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BEST SHOT …

This week, a good friend of mine (and many others here in Music City), Jimmie Allen, hit the tippy-top of the country music charts with his debut single, “Best Shot.”

Getting to the top of any chart, anywhere, is a seriously difficult achievement. People don’t realize what it takes to get there. It takes a great song, of course, but it takes hard work and savvy and smarts and a great team and a committed label and even some luck. All of that starts and ends with the artist being “worth the climb” for everyone involved. Take it from an artist who never got there …the ones who do, are special.

I’ve been watching Jimmie’s career for about ten years, now. We met at the gym, where he was working. He came to Nashville with nothing and actually lived in his car for a while. As the story goes, he hung curtains behind his driver’s seat and placed things in such a way in the car, so that when he skyped his mom, she would think he was in an apartment and not worry about him. Jimmie would sleep in that car, then clean up in the gym …then go to work …then get off work and go kill himself, lifting and running and keeping himself in shape. Then he’d be out writing or playing or networking.

I wish I’d known he was sleeping in that car. He could’ve stayed at our place. Anyway …

At first, Jimmie was just another one of the slew of dream chasers you run into in this city. And I cheered him on quietly, but wasn’t sure he was going to make it. After a while, I was secretly hoping he would choose a different path …one that was easier and not as heart-breaking. Once I got invested in Jimmie as a person, I just didn’t want to see him get hurt or have to sacrifice any more than he already had. But nothing could stop Jimmie and no amount of disappointment could sway him from his goal. He. Just. Kept. Going.

He went through many incarnations on his journey. If I remember correctly, he fronted a pop band for a while …then fronted a country band …then tried to be a solo pop artist …and then …and then …and then …and so it goes. Sometimes, Jimmie would disappear for months (sometimes even years) at a time, while he was touring or working a different job or going to check on his mom up north. Jimmie’s journey was taking him a bunch of different places and I couldn’t keep up with all of it. But I kept cheering for him. Then, one day he would show up in a Taylor Swift, Pepsi commercial or on American Idol …then I wouldn’t see him again for months.

Then, out of the blue, I would see him again in the locker room …getting ready to go kill it in the weight room. I was usually just trying to get to the sauna or hot tub. Anyway …I ended up writing a song or two with Jimmie, even though (at the time) I wasn’t sure why I was doing it and I definitely wasn’t sure why HE was doing it. My heat as a songwriter cooled years ago. Still, he showed up excited and we wrote a couple of songs together. I’ve always enjoyed the process with him. What you learn about somebody in a writer’s room is where they are coming from …what their soul is about …how they process life.

Every time I was in that room with Jimmie, I always realized I was working with a good soul; somebody who deserved to get a win. Sometimes you’re working with people and after they leave, you really couldn’t care less if they succeed or not. They are chasing the brass ring just like everybody else. They’re in the mix and you just wish them well and move on. When Jimmie would leave, however, I would always think to myself, “Man, I hope that dude gets what he’s after. I’d sure like to see that. But I fear it might not happen for him.” As much as I was always pulling for him, I knew he had some pretty big hurtles to clear if he was going to be a country music star. A lot of us who knew and loved Jimmie, secretly knew it …but we never wanted to say it out loud or put it in the universe …for his sake. His talent and heart were as big as they come. But we all kinda feared that might not be enough.

Now …years later …here he is with a number one country single and a full touring schedule for the next year. He did it! And I couldn’t be prouder or happier for him. If I never see any other kind of redemption happen in this business, I can honestly say that the success of Jimmie Allen is one of those things that balances the scales of justice in a business that very often rewards the worst of human instincts and crushes the angels inside us all. Jimmie’s success makes me believe again.

I’ve seen a bunch of people get to the top of a lot of different charts. I’ve been there as a songwriter a few times, myself. I’ve got friends who are superstars and I’ve been blessed enough to have been a part of some really famous happenings. So what makes Jimmie’s story so special? Why did I maybe root a little harder for him? Well, he’s the FIRST black country artist to have a debut single go number one. In other words, Jimmie Allen hasn’t just found success …he has made history. And the thing that’s so cool about it is I doubt Jimmie will talk too much about that part of it. He’s about the music and the songs and doing the work.

I’m sure there will be a lot written about this achievement in the coming months. Someone will find controversy in it somewhere, and I have no doubt that social commentary after social commentary will be made to fit all sorts of agendas. Jimmie might find himself in the middle of all kinds of whirlwinds he didn’t ask for. Then again, maybe not. Who knows? I love the fact that he has been embraced by the country audience. And maybe his skin tone isn’t a news story anymore. Nothing would make me happier than for it to not be.

All I know is in a world where we can find things to argue about at the drop of a hat, the success story of Jimmie Allen is a breath of fresh air just in time for the Thanksgiving season. If you’re looking for something other than politics, to talk about around the dinner table …talk about this. It’s the great American if-you-set-your-mind-to-it-you-can-achieve-anything story …and it’s all true. I’ve been witnessing it first hand, for a decade.

I guess, most of all, I’m just happy for my friend. He worked his ass off. He stayed focussed. He stayed positive. He would not be denied. And he got there.

Congratulations, Jimmie. Those of us who know you, know you’ve always been giving it your best shot.

R

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BENDING OVER BACKWARDS …

I decided to hold my pee and go home …

I had just had a meeting in one of those hip, new eateries in Nashville, and I thought I’d visit the restroom before braving the completely out-of-hand traffic. But upon getting to the bank of restrooms, I discovered there were four rooms – all male/female accessible. And there were seven women standing in the area. And suddenly, I was completely confused.

Men and women were coming out of those rooms all willy nilly and I suddenly panicked. I wasn’t sure which room to go in. It just felt weird and eerily disordered. The men’s room used to be a regrouping station, where dudes could nod at each other, burp, fart and scratch without offending anyone. There was some comfort in the idea that the two genders had separate corners to which they could retreat, powder a nose, change a tampon, cover a mustard stain or adjust a penis, then head back out into the battle of the sexes. The TWO sexes.

But I was face-to-face with the new reality. We’re all going to have to learn to share restrooms, now. Why? Because we are trying to accommodate a third gender; those who might be in transition from one sex to another. Never mind the fact that there is no such thing as a third gender …not according to science, anyway …we are still so determined not to offend, in this country, that we are building our businesses in deference to one of the smallest minorities in society. And we’re accepting a social movement as a scientific one. But listen …no matter how inclusive you want to be, there are still only two genders.

Now, before you sharpen your hate-comment-pencil and give me a lesson in “being woke,” let me freely admit that I’m an old white guy who might just be uncomfortable with change. Let me also admit that I believe in accommodating minorities. The Americans With Disabilities Act has been a great thing for marginalized people. And has given a lot of access to people who might not have otherwise gotten it. Yes …as a society we should value everyone. I get it and agree with it.

Still …

The bathroom incident made me think about the lengths to which we will go, in this country, to fix things that might not have actually been broken, and to prove our support for concepts. Hear me out …

Truthfully, I’m probably a “situational democrat” when it comes to a lot of things. I think a lot of people are. Being kind and inclusive and nonjudgmental is where I tend to land …it’s at least where I want to land. But I’m always frightened at what kinds of laws people on the left are going to enact and sign. They tend to allow wonderful concepts and theories that they want to be true, to cloud the empirical reality of what actually is true. And I personally find that dangerous.

Legislating absolutes in order to accommodate the theoretical, is where we lose our way as a free society.

I speak with people all this time who just, as a matter of course, blame the weather in their hometown on climate change, when even climate change scientists admit that current weather patterns are probably not being affected by whatever climate change is. But we so want it to be true, that we personalize it to our own zip code. If the summer is unusually hot, we have this ominous feeling that we somehow haven’t passed the right laws yet. Or if there’s a really bad hurricane, we start questioning if we’ve elected the right president. When maybe …just maybe …it’s just weather and billions and billions of humans had to deal with it long before we were a gleam in our gender-normative parents’ eyes. Maybe we should build stronger levies and lean into more innovative ways of mitigating our violent planet, rather than wringing our hands about our involvement in twisters and flash floods. Again …maybe I’m just an old white guy.

In California we are witnessing this very thing in action. I have read, for years, about issues with forest management and wildlife management and water management. There are places in California drying up because diverting water there will endanger a species of lizard too small to be seen with the human eye. And this is where the democrats always lose me. At the risk of sounding like a red-state brute, humans are a species too, with the right to act in human self-interest. Sometimes, micro-lizards just go extinct. Sorry. If I were in charge …we’d move the water.

Native Americans used to manage forests by doing controlled burns and clearing dead foliage (firefighters call this “fuel” for a reason). We’ve got pretty good forensic evidence to that affect. But in our current environmental climate, we have this belief that the minute a bulldozer shows up, man is destroying nature, when maybe man is helping nature with that bulldozer. Maybe managing the forest is better than letting it overgrow then burn for a solid month. Again …old white guy talking.

Another old white guy in Europe decided to identify as someone twenty years younger, last week. While I understand his thinking and I really want his concept to be true, the empirical often makes us face hard realities. He’s not 49 …no matter how badly he wants to be. There are only two genders, no matter how much we bend them. If you’re in a drought …go get the water. Climate change isn’t why fires start. They’ve been starting for centuries and they can actually be managed before the Santa Anna winds carry them all over the state.

No matter how much we bend over backwards to make things true that we so want to be true, true always wins in the end …and singing “Imagine” over and over again, won’t change it.

My wife and I used to have some neighbors (from California, ironically) who desperately wanted their cat to meet our dog and become friends. When I told them that our dog would rip their cat to shreds if we tried that, they got visibly upset and stormed off. We all want things to be warm and fuzzy youtube clips, of dogs and cats hugging each other. But as I’m tying this, my current dog is barking and snarling at the cat next door. And his intentions aren’t good.

Sometimes, it’s best to just accept how things actually are.

R

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10 ELECTION DAY RULES …

Ten rules of thumb on this election day:

1. Let’s all agree on a two-day waiting period before we start calling each other Nazis.

2. If politics is your religion and the state is your God, consider meditation and/or alcohol. They will both help you cope.

3. If you don’t understand the difference between LEGAL immigration and ILLEGAL immigration, let everyone who walks into the polling place today cut in front of you, while you’re trying to legally vote. It will start making sense.

4. If you are voting in your own self-interest, you can’t demonize people on the other side, who are doing the same thing.

5. Just because there are those who disagree with you on politics doesn’t mean they want people to die in a pile, having never experienced love or the joy of painting.

6. Just because I vote for a particular candidate, doesn’t mean I own everything they say or do. Voting is pragmatic at best. I can’t wave a magic wand and make these people as smart or articulate as me. Neither can you. We can only buy the house that’s for sale.

7. If my side wins, it probably won’t mean everything I want it to mean. If your side wins, the same holds true. We elect humans …not dogs.   So we can’t expect them to be perfect.

8. Jesus wasn’t an American and the only thing he ever said about politics was “render to Caesar the things that are Caesars.” Elections are basically about how we choose to organize ourselves. Don’t get too spiritual about it. And don’t start “God shaming” people who don’t vote like you. If Jesus wanted me to vote like you, he would’ve made you smarter. Again …humans. (see #7)

9. Stop offending Canada by only wanting to move there if a certain American election outcome doesn’t go your way. Canada is a nice place. They deserve to be treated like a real country and a first choice …not just a backup. Move there or don’t.

10. If your side doesn’t win today, you don’t need a day off or therapy or a “a few weeks to process.” And you definitely don’t have PTSD. That is fucking offensive. Stop it. Drink your way through it like the rest of us.

Happy voting everyone!

R

 

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MAGIC DIRT …

“Welcome to Nashville, now ya’ll go home,” is a famous bumper sticker in my hometown.

The influx of people to Nashville, Tennessee is currently mind boggling. For those of us who are natives, or at least have lived here for several decades, our little well-kept secret is out and we are watching and experiencing the consequences of maintaining a nice, kind, clean living environment.

“Voting with your feet” is something Ronald Reagan used to talk about. It’s one of the tenants of Federalism and the tenth amendment. All of that is pointy-headed talk for …if you don’t like how things are being done in your city or state, you can move somewhere where they do it differently. This is why big, sweeping federal programs, that affect every state the exact same way, should always be tempered and thought a lot about before they are enacted.

Healthcare is a prime example of such a thing. There are states that have tried universal, government-run healthcare in their state. And those who want that, can move to that state. As it turns out …it doesn’t usually work that well …but I digress.

Migration and immigration is one of the primal forces of human nature. We move to the food. We move to the weather. We move to the money. We move to the opportunity. It’s as natural as breathing. And there’s nothing wrong with it. People have been doing it for millions of years …or thousands, if you’re a young-earth creationist.

In life you really only have two choices: stay and fundamentally change your home, or move to a different home. We all do this in the micro and the macro. We talk a bout fixing up our current place …or buying a new one. Should we renovate or build? Should we stay in Phoenix or move to Albuquerque …or Nashville?

For some parts of the world, those questions are deeper and have more repercussions? Should we stay in Honduras or march north? Should we fight the existing power in our home country …or fight the power in another one?

There is no magic dirt in the world. People move because human conditions demand it. People pour into Tennessee because we have no state income tax and the cost of living is still manageable …although Nashville is pricing itself out of “manageable.” People come to America because they haven’t had a sufficient revolution in their own country …so they want to come to the one that did.

But very often, these days, people forget what the concept of “moving to different dirt” is. If you move to different dirt, you are moving to become part of the community established on that dirt. Not to bring the very dysfunction you’re running from …to that dirt. If I moved to California, I wouldn’t try to change California. I would move there to become a Californian …that’s why I don’t live in California. I go there to visit and then …I come home to Nashville.

We’re watching a caravan migrate from South America toward the United States. They call themselves “asylum seekers.” Okay …if they say so. But I keep noticing weird things for asylum seekers. I keep seeing them proudly wave the flags of their oppressive countries. That seems strange to me. If they want to become Americans, I would think they would find some old glories to wave. I would think they wouldn’t want any reminders of the dirt they were fleeing.

At some point, after they turn down asylum in the Mexican dirt, they’re going to stand on the precipice of our dirt. And they will come face-to-face with the green and cammo of our military. And a new controversy will rage on the airwaves. The lines of reasoning are already being written on each side. The narratives are already in place: if you don’t want them to come in, you hate “brown people.” If you want them to come in, you want open borders, etc, etc.

All of this is being played out as our president raises the question of birthright citizenship. And I, for one, think this is a conversation we’ve been needing to have for decades.

There are some fundamental questions we should all ask:

how many people should we allow onto our dirt?

What if every person in south America wanted to come here for assylum? Should we allow it? Could we allow it?

What about every person in India? How about China?

Are there any repercussions from trying to assimilate large groups of people into different cultures all at once?

What if a couple from Germany came to visit the United States and see the Grand Canyon. The wife is eight and half months pregnant. And while viewing the world wonder, her water breaks and she goes into labor. She is helicoptered to a local hospital, where she gives birth to a nine pound baby boy. Should that boy be an American citizen automatically? Or is he a German citizen, who just happens to have been born in Arizona?

And finally, when considering immigration policies, I think when the caravan finally arrives, we should force all those in the front of the line …to the back of the line …and bring all those at the back of the line …to the front and give them preferential treatment. If those who were in the front make a fuss, we can simply tell them that they are o good company …along with one million other people standing in line to become LEGAL citizens of the United States.

Our dirt is not magic dirt. We just found a better way to organize ourselves and produce goods and services. We are not racists just because we ask for people to respect the process of entering our dirt. And I, for one, have pretty much had enough of being called that. I live with a brown person. I’m not scared of them and I don’t hate them.

I feel about them the way I feel about all those non-Tennessee license plates I see driving all over my once-sleepy little town …did you think this through before you came? Don’t mess with our coolness. It took us a long time to get it this way. Be cool or go home. And finally, if you’re gonna be here. BE here. Don’t come and complain all day. Add the good your brought from wherever you came from. Discard the bad you left there.

And don’t drive slow in the passing lane!

R

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CHEROKEE PEOPLE …

Mules are sterile.

Horses aren’t and donkeys aren’t. But when they (horses and donkeys) mate, they make a mule …and that’s where it ends. I guess that’s natures way of saying, “this doesn’t need to go any further.”

Nature or God or evolution or whatever you want to call it, tells us certain things loud and clear. Frogs and crocodiles don’t get down together. There are no “frogadiles” anywhere. To my knowledge, there are no dog/mountain-lion hybrids. Species breed within their species. That’s how you know they’re ONE species.

Where am I going with this?

One of the ways we know humans are all …well, humans …is that we can interbreed with any race. A white man and a black woman can produce children. An Asian woman and a Mexican man can produce a child. Any human, from any “race,” can reproduce another human …that will become a mix of those two races.

So, are humans really anything but ONE race?

As the story goes in my own family, my great, great grandmother (a Cherokee girl) was walking the trail of tears, when an Irish tavern owner, who’s tavern was just outside Nashville, bought her away from the tribe and married her. Then they produced my great grandmother, who married a man who’d been left (as a newborn) on the doorstep of some German immigrants inside Nashville. Those two produced my grandfather, who hooked up with a grocery store owner’s daughter (they stayed “hooked up” for the next 60 years) and produced my father …who married a preacher’s daughter (who’s great-grandparents had come to America as Irish, indentured servants to the transcontinental railroad) from Mississippi …and they produced me.

I married the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who’d produced her with an orphaned white girl from Clarksville, Tennessee. Because of some health issues, she and I couldn’t produce anyone (I guess that was nature’s way of saying “this doesn’t need to go any further), so we adopted a little girl from rural China. Then we adopted a little boy from Mississippi …who is 1/16 Cherokee, kind of completing the Cherokee circle. For the first ten days of his life, the Cherokee nation held the right to take my son away from us and bring him into the tribe. They chose not to …so now he’s being raised as a little white boy from Brentwood, Tennessee.

If you see my family, you will automatically categorize us as “white people.” We are anything BUT white people …and yet, we really couldn’t care less about whatever strains of humanity are flowing through our veins. Do those things make us, us?

Racism is the strangest of all ignorances. The idea that someone’s skin tone and physical makeup would make them inherently “something,” is akin to actually thinking girls with blonde hair are really dumber than the rest of us. And yet, I hear “blonde” jokes all the time …FROM BLONDES. I know it’s all in good fun, but it does speak to the fact that somehow we need “other” to make fun of.

We all have questions about the different races that we never say out loud. We all secretly wonder why people with black skin seem to have overall better athleticism than people with lighter skin. We all see the stereotypes of Asians playing violins and crushing math problems …literally on TV shows and in movies. Anyone who works in the entertainment business has heard all the “Jews run this town” jokes. And if you are raised white (or even just look white) you are deluged with white stereotypes constantly, both subtly and overtly. It’s just in the air; White Men Can’t Jump, the “white man’s” overbite (it’s a dance), “slow and white” (referring to white runners) and on and on and on.

Of course the granddaddy of all “white” bashing is the idea of “white privilege.” And to the probable shock of some of my readers, I do believe in such a thing as white privilege. Although I think of it more as cultural or majority privilege. The majority always has a certain leg up in society. That’s pretty simple math. The idea of America is certainly to level that playing field, so that my great, great grandmother (the Cherokee) would have as much privilege as my great, great grandfather (the Irishman). Something tells me, however, that neither of their lives carried much privilege.

This past week, we’ve been inundated with video clips and news reports of a United States senator getting a DNA test to prove she has some sort of genetic heritage. I’d like to say it has been the silliest thing I’ve ever seen in American politics …but after the last few years, I fear it doesn’t even crack the top ten. Taking DNA tests to prove our genetic bone fides is us continuing to wallow in tepid racism. Why does it matter if someone has Cherokee blood? Because everything has become about race again; who has the most oppression on their side; who came from the worst circumstances, etc. It’s silly and it should be joked about …often.

Meanwhile, while SENATOR Elizabeth Warren is squeezing out an oppressed ancestor, ten generations back, the rest of America is going to work and dealing with the immediate and not really caring what great grandpa was. Because we all know – in the now – that it doesn’t matter. The point is that we all came from somewhere. And we all got herenow.

All of our “racial differences” are actually “cultural differences” when you actually break it down. The skin actually means nothing. It’s just the covering. But I sometimes fear that what it’s covering is not yet illuminated enough to drag us out of identity politics once and for all. What made Martin Luther King Jr a timeless visionary and a true American hero was the fact that he saw beyond the colors. He saw that humanity was simply one great family with one great story and that the tribes we came from were ultimately incidental. In his view, if we could set all of that aside, we might be able to achieve great things. I guess we’re still not there.

In that spirit, I actually have a dream that one day my little “white” boy will not have to take DNA tests and produce ancestry charts to prove his “Cherokeeness” in order to be seen as “authentic” to anyone. And I hope his bloodline isn’t used as a qualifier to get him into college. Maybe one day he will just be seen as a “man” and be judged solely on the content of his character …although on second thought …never mind …I digress.

Maybe one day, my daughter will just be seen as Isabella …her own person …not just an Asian girl, with an Italian name, being raised by a Mexican mom and a white dad.

Maybe one day, all those DNA tests, that tell us where our ancestors migrated to and from, will be simple parlor games that mildly interest us, rather than badges of honor we have to wear like uniforms.

 

R

OUTRAGE FATIGUE …

(LANGUAGE APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE)

For two solid years, we have watched a protest or a march almost every weekend, in this country.

We’ve seen hashtag movements and we’ve heard celebrities lecture us. We’ve watched news journalists publicly melt down and we’ve seen former presidential candidates hurl insults and innuendos toward not just the current, sitting president, but the people who voted for him. We’ve read Facebook posts and tweets and Instagram memes, telling us we’re idiots if we believe this or that or if we don’t believe this or that. Yes …we’ve heard and we’ve seen.

So here’s the deal: we get it. All of this is duly noted. I would contend that all positions, on all sides, are understood. Got it.

Over the past few weeks, we have all heard – until we almost cannot hear anything else – how women have been treated through the years. It is a shame and something to be rectified. There is no doubt about that. And as someone who has always been a champion of women; a former first-grader who got pulverized on the playground once, for coming to the aid of a little girl getting made fun of; a former teenager who put his life in danger to stop an attempted rape, on a Greyhound bus to Kansas City; a current father of a daughter with special needs, who watches over her like a Buckingham Palace guard; I welcome the new conversation about how men should treat women. I welcome it with every fiber of my being.

But, in the welcoming of that, here’s what I’m not willing to do …

I’m not going to legitimize a claim that a man was a gang rapist in college, without a little more proof than, “I’m pretty sure I saw him standing by the punch bowl at one of the TEN gang rape parties I attended …AS. A. WOMAN,” without someone – ANYONE – backing up that claim.

I’m not going to legitimize the claim that “I think he waved his penis in my face …I THINK it was him. Although I was really drunk,” without someone – ANYONE – backing up that claim.

I’m not going to simply accept a “recovered memory” (which are proven to be flawed around 40% of the time) that a man tried to rape someone 36 years ago, when literally ZERO people who were supposed to be there, can even remember being there …much less corroborate an attempted rape claim.

Look, for me, this isn’t about not believing women and only believing men. I loved Bill Cosby. He was my TV dad. But Bill had too much verifiable evidence against him and he needs to rot in prison. And my heart goes out to all the women he hurt.

I don’t know if Brett Kavanaugh should be a supreme court justice. I don’t know him. I don’t love or hate him. He might be a piece of shit as a human being. But the notions and protests that have surfaced, in the wake of his confirmation, have pushed me, and I think millions of others, to the point of slamming our hands down and saying, “ENOUGH!”

It’s all duly noted. We hear you. Trust me …we hear you. But you officially asked us to stretch our suspension of disbelief too far.

Two days before the Ford letter was released to the public, I was working with a retired Army veteran, who was recounting his final years in the service. He was in charge of investigating military misconduct claims. Part of that job was investigating rape claims. His counterpart, in that particular duty, was a woman who did those specific investigations. There were plenty of those claims that were substantiated. Too many. But this woman occasionally uncovered rape claims, by military wives (who’s husbands had been on long deployments), that turned out to be false. Apparently, when you’re three months pregnant, and your husband has been gone for five months, some women decide rape is easier to explain than good, old fashioned infidelity.

So pardon me if I don’t believe ALL women …ALL the time. I’ve been lied to – by credible women – enough times, myself, to know that lying isn’t exclusive to men.

Denying that women cannot lie is denying them their basic humanity. It is, in and of itself, a form of sexism.

Now, men are coming out of the woodwork to apologize to women as a gender, and somehow try to make up for their own sins. John Mayer (who has screwed more actresses than Disney) stood on a stage this past week, and went into some convoluted diatribe about his own indiscretions and how sorry he was and how WE (yes …WE) as men, have some stuff we need to change.

Hey John …you made your choices, bro. Own ‘em and move on. Don’t drag me (and US) into your world. We don’t live in it. While you were balls deep in Jennifer Anniston, I was probably holding my daughter’s head, trying to keep her from choking to death on her own vomit, during a seizure. I don’t need or want any part of your pathetic cry for absolution. Most guys don’t. We’re not John Mayer. We’re raising kids and paying mortgages and trying to be good guys and decent husbands. If you want to stop being a womanizer …then stop. If you want to stop playing “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and using it to take advantage of doe-eyed starlets …we don’t create your set list …you do.

The good men of the world abhor attacks on women. We want to live in a world where there is no rape, no assault and no fear of us as men, by women. But much like racism, we will never be able to eradicate all of it …just by blindly believing people we don’t know. The Duke LaCrosse boys would have some thoughts on that. Every individual case has its own set of facts. And just because something happened to you as a woman, doesn’t mean Brett Kavanaugh did something to Christine Ford. Just like just because John Mayer gets booty calls from Jessica Simpson doesn’t mean I do.

We can teach our sons to be good men and we can police our own actions. But the protests and marches and screams and tweets, calling for the death of a supreme court justice, and being thankful that at least “we ruined his life,” and the constant drum beat of how “old white men” are inherently evil …well …all of that is simply getting old. And I, for one (as an aging white man), am starting to simply tune it all out. I’m starting to disengage from all women I come in contact with almost involuntarily.

And that’s a shame. Because there is a real conversation to be had, here. Unfortunately, we can’t hear each other over all the screaming.

 

R

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THE WASHINGTON GENERALS …

I am not a Republican.

A lot of people think I am because I lean conservative in certain areas; fiscal matters, constitutional rights, etc. And I end up voting for Republicans because they usually represent my interests. Believe it or not …it’s okay to vote in your own interest. Anyway …

One of the things that has always intrigued me about Republicans (and people on the right, in general) is their absolute inability to shape culture …or even connect with it, in many cases. Republicans, the party that freed the slaves and signed the 19th amendment (guaranteeing women the right to vote), and nominated the first African American to a cabinet position (D. Eisenhower), and appointed the first African American Secretary of State (G.W Bush), and nominated the first African American FEMALE Secretary of State (same), and voted in greater percentages for the Civil Rights act of 1964 than Democrats, have allowed themselves to somehow become the default bad guys of society. And if not the bad guys, at least the “ignorant” guys.

Now, they do themselves no favors by putting up candidates who say patently stupid things like “legitimate rape” or telling jokes publicly about Abraham Lincoln getting groped by Ruth Bater Ginsberg in 1862 (a Facebook meme that was barely snicker-worthy, anyway). But the main thing Republicans have never figured out (although I think I see Lindsey Graham having a life epiphany, in real time) is exactly what they’re up against. They don’t have a clue about the end game or who is backing it.

A friend of mine recently got back from traveling around the world, shooting a documentary. This person was trying to tell a story about one thing, then stumbled into a web of communist revolutionaries. The accounts of how deep and dark the lines of misinformation and corruption run, was almost hard to follow and difficult to believe. Every sort of mind game that can be played …is being played. Every sort of deception that can be perpetrated …is being perpetrated. Every person who stands in the way …is removed. Nothing is off limits and the ends justify ALL means …ALL.

Why?

Because statists believe they are doing God’s work. They have substituted a deity for the state. And they worship at the altar of centralized power and control. And they genuinely believe that that sort of construct is the only way to move the human race forward. Once you embrace something that existential, all bets are off. And everything is on the table when it comes to removing obstacles in your way. The greater good is in the balance. You’re a soldier. And it’s war. I’m not saying all people on the left are communist revolutionaries. But they embrace their beliefs with the same zealotry. And, above all, they play to win.

People on the right tend to be philosophical in their approach to politics. It’s theory. It’s “constitutional.” It’s maybe even moral. But mere philosophy and belief in what “should be” will never stand up to absolute, soaked-to-your-core belief that your opponents aren’t just wrong …but evil and bad for the world. If you believe with all your heart that the confirmation of a certain judge to the Supreme Court is going to be the end of freedom for women …forever …what would you be willing to do? How far would you be willing to go to stop it? And would any and everything be on the table?

The Republicans have been playing like the old Washington Generals used to play against the Harlem Globetrotters. Competent …yet destined to lose. They get close …it’s almost a tight game …but they’re just no match for the free-wheeling athletic geniuses whirling the ball in every direction and walking away with the inevitable win. And it’s happening again …

Now, for the record, I actually don’t care if Brett Kavanaugh ever puts on a SCOTUS robe or not. I’m not in favor of overturning Roe V Wade (for several reasons …although I don’t think he would do that anyway) and I couldn’t care less about somebody who went to Yale and has worked for the government his whole life. These aren’t my kinda people. Although he does seem to like beer and have a good time. Maybe we could hang …but I’m probably not someone they would allow into the country club …unless I was performing.

But as an observer, who has been in on a LOT of strategy sessions, determining how to sell the buying public something they don’t even know they want yet, I can see a script and a narrative being written right before our eyes. And once again, the unwitting Republicans are falling for Medowlark Lemon’s dribble through the legs routine.

First …the people who control the language, control the high ground in any debate. Second …the people who control the visual images, control the public perception. Third …humans move in herds and all you have to do is steer them by an inch, to steer them by a mile.

What’s about to happen to Brett Kavanagh is this: a new allegation against him will surface, every single day of next week. Either another woman claiming something sordid, or a witness who now maybe thinks they do, after all, remember something that happened back in 1982 will come forward. Or, something as simple as friends coming forward to refute what those yearbook innuendoes meant or asserting that they saw him pass out at a party once, could emerge. That calls EVERYTHING he has ever said into question.

These stories will lead Good Morning America and Today, with ominous music lead-ins into the serious graphics, then be reported by stone-faced, credible-looking (and sounding) journalists. Then, the day’s news will be chewed up and spit out and finally used as fodder for punch lines that will punctuate the late-night shows, complete with right-on-cue laugh tracks and rim shots. The public perception will get imprinted with still-frame pictures of Kavanaugh’s face in a grimace or strange contort. Facebook memes will circulate. And celebrity videos are probably being done as we speak. All these images burn grooves in the brain. And we will start to dislike Mr Kavanaugh …a lot. And even if you don’t believe something …with enough stimulation in the other direction …you will find yourself believing it, or at least accepting the premise. Because there will be too much in the air. Too much to digest. Too many people to stand up to. Too many images to refute.

With enough time, the industrial media complex can make you believe your own mother is working for a drug cartel. So you’d better hope they’re on your side if you ever decide to be a voice in the wilderness. If you’re a Republican …they are not on your side, no matter what the truth may be. You should know that going in.

By the this time next week, Brett Kavanaugh will be a footnote in history. He will never wear a SCOTUS robe. And he will be ruined as a man. And the truth about what actually may or may not have happened in a house, in Maryland, in 1982, will STILL not be known. The people who believe her …will still believe her. The people who believe him …will still believe him. But the big, wide middle, who are swayed by images and voices and perception …will have purchased the movie tickets and suspended their disbelief long enough for the case against him to have been made. The Democrats played this game to perfection. And the Republicans were unwitting participants.

This is how we (the entertainers) get you to believe things. We just say it loud enough and long enough and credibly-looking enough. And eventually you say, “well …I suppose Madonna really IS a great singer. I mean …everybody else thinks she is …and I like that one song …so …whatever …I’ll buy it.”

I’ve seen it happen a few dozen times. And it’s not about special talent or special vision or right or wrong or any of those surface pursuits. It’s about one thing and one thing only: the will to play to win …no matter what it takes.

One side has been playing to win in this debate. The other side has simply been scared to lose.

Well, their fears are about to become a reality.

R

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THE NEW PURITANS …

“Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks …”

That’s a lyric …in a song …by an artist who now does game shows and TV commercials. Oh, by the way, that’s the chorus and it’s probably the tamest part of that song. I really can’t put the rest in print …at least not here.

I could literally fill this entire post with x-rated, misogynistic lyrics that are considered mainstream, and probably being sung by a nine-year-old girl somewhere, right now.

No, this isn’t going to be an “art bashing” piece. I’m a first amendment crusader and always stand up for freedom of speech and expression every chance I get. I am also a Snoop fan (of sorts) and I’m not here to bash him either. However …

I was born in the summer of love. And so I’ve lived through the sexual revolution (and the rock era) in real time. I was also raised under the watchful eye of a strict Church doctrine. So, like so many my age, I’ve been in the eye of the cultural hurricane my entire life.

I remember Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” coming out and sparking controversy. I can still hear the sermons. I can recall, in great detail, the emergence of Prince and the firestorm he set off with so many of his songs. Oh yes, I remember Tipper Gore (Al’s wife) making a federal case (literally) out of Darling Nicki and the horrible things it was going to bring about in our society. By today’s standards, the lyrics in Darling Nicki could be on a Disney track. But I digress …

The point is, we were all warned about the pushing of the sexual envelope. We were told time and time again, about the dangers of treating sex casually and the horrors it could unleash. But those people were prudes. They were do-gooders. Bible-thumpers with no worldly wisdom. Those stuffy preachers, in suits and ties, were just wound too tight with too many “control” issues. Those puritanical hypocrites were simply trying to keep true joy and wisdom and understanding and illumination from us, the bold pioneers.

And so, we pushed the boundaries. We took consequences off the table. We took judgement off the table. We admired those willing and able to stretch our reality. We worshipped the rebels and tried to emulate them. And in some ways, we did find some truths we hadn’t yet found. In some ways we did shatter some norms that needed to be shattered. But we turned the world upside down in other ways.

We encouraged both men and women to shake off any sexual restraint for decades, through music and culture. It hasn’t been preached directly, like those old-timey preachers used to do it. It has been more insinuation, encouragement and coercion through concert chants “come on and start me up!” I love that song, by the way …and that’s the conundrum.

I wasn’t told how to specifically treat women on dates, when I was young. I DID, however, understand that you don’t go any farther than the girl is comfortable with. Nobody had to tell me that. It seemed self-evident. But there was a greek chorus blaring in my brain, constantly, saying, “Rock Me Tonight” and “Bust a Move” and “I Just Wanna Use Your Love Tonight” and “Give It To Me Baby” and even (to some degree) “Baby it’s Cold Outside (which has always felt a little rapey to me – but we sing it with a smile at Christmas time) and on and on and on and on.

The overtly sexual culture I was raised in, made me often think that most girls were down for anything; that they were sex fiends and would be willing participants in whatever debauchery was on the menu (although I didn’t seem to actually know any of these girls), and that everything seemed to be on the table. You just had to get them “loose enough” or “in the mood.” We were all under the impression that being uptight and prudish about sex was out-of-date and some weird throwback to another time – even those of us raised in church.

Then, the worst thing of all happened …we actually met some of those girls and found out that they did, in some cases, exist. We watched porn and we saw behind-the-scenes shows about rock stars and movie stars and how available all kinds of sex was to them …at all times. Then, we immersed ourselves in the rap culture and finally decided that, as was expressed earlier, “bitches ain’t shit.”

That mentality has unfortunately grown and evolved and produced some painful experiences in our society. And now, we find ourselves with a new, almost puritanical backlash.

Literally EVERY woman I know (or have ever heard of) is claiming victimhood to some form of sexual assault. Literally. Every. Single. One. So, either nearly all men are predatory in some way, or we’re defining “assault” on a sliding scale. Was my going for second base, in the back seat of that car, in tenth grade, an assault? Did her blocking my hand mean I was crossing a predatory line? I honestly don’t know, anymore. My culture was telling me it was all normal and playful and that everybody was dong it and that I (and she) should too. But now, can that be remembered differently? Can it be remembered as an “unwanted advance?”

(As a side note, the tenth grade example is completely fictional. And I categorically deny any “blocking” incidents …anyway …)

The new puritans aren’t fire-and-brimstone preachers, warning of the justice of hell. They are lawyers warning of prison bars and life sentences. And the culture as a whole is scratching its head, wondering what’s on the table and what’s off the table.

Let me be clear …rape and assault is nothing to trifle with. It’s horrible for the victims and it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But I often wonder where the line is. Can telling someone “it looks like there’s a pubic hair on my Coke can” be seen as some sort of sexual misconduct? According to Anita Hill, it can. And that makes me question everything I’ve ever said to anyone …even in jest. It makes me question this very piece. It makes me think a lot about what to tell my son, when he asks me about how to deal with women, whether he’s on a date with them or not.

Obviously, we’re currently in the throes of the Brett Kavanaugh fiasco. And this isn’t about that. Not directly, anyway. But the attitudes that are on display in the center of it, as well as the #meetoo movement, are something of a re-set for male/female relations. Everyone, including rock stars and rappers, is going to have re-think everything. And maybe that’s a good thing.

And maybe all those stuffy preachers, yelling and screaming at us to “shape up” and “stop messing around,” and “watch what you put in your brain” were onto something.

 

R

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