Thursday, March 22, 2018

Evangelicalism in the Marketplace

I have an uneasy relationship with religion.  It started when I went off to Regis College as a freshman in 1966.  I fully intended to get my BA in English and Education and then toddle off to St. Thomas for my seminary training.  It didn't work out that way.  It would be the cool and fun thing to say that I discovered the liberating effect the girls at Loretto Heights and Colorado Women's College had on my libido, but that is only a small part of the truth.

Mostly it was the liberating effect Jesuit priests had on my world view (and my libido).  Father Boyle used four letter words in class.  Father Maginnis seemed to take delight in making freshmen squirm under his relentless interrogations.  Father Daly, the poor priest who had to live in O'Connell Hall with the freshmen class, was a sadist and enjoyed nothing more than paddling boys for the slightest indiscretion.  At least, it seemed that way to me.  These were not holy men like Father Sanger at Our Lady of the Mountains.  They were worldly, told off-color stories, drank alarming quantities of scotch, and laid great dinner tables.  But more than that, they were brilliant.  They were also arrogant, misogynistic, and often mean-spirited.

I had a double major of English (24 hours) and Theology (21 hours) with a minor in Philosophy (18  hours).  My senior year, I had an English seminar with six students and one priestly professor.  We met three times a week and the last weekly meeting on Friday was always held at Ernie's on 44th and Federal.  Ernie was a pretty good piano player and we gathered around the piano bar and talked Shakespearian tragedies.  My senior Theology seminar met in the Theology office above the student union building. To give you an idea of the general ambiance of the class, the professor walked in one afternoon and proclaimed, "I'm wearing my Burger King pants, the home of the whopper."  After that, we immediately launched into a discussion comparing what we knew of Schillebeeks (I forgot the spelling) and our current reading of the works of Karl Rahner.

All of that combined to make me a lapsed Catholic, but it also informed my faith.

I just got through reading a long article by  Michael Gerson in THE ATLANTIC ("The Last Temptation"), an attempt to explain how evangelicals have lost their way.  In the third to last paragraph, he says, "At its best, faith is the overflow of gratitude, the attempt to live as if we are loved, the fragile hope for something better on the other side of pain and death.  And this feather of grace weighs more in the balance than any political gain."

My faith doesn't go as far as his.  I can't bring myself to have the same belief I had as a teenager that there is "something better on the other side. . ."  But I think my faith is just as strong.  In fact, I think it is stronger.  Which is harder, to love and be loved because that is the way to a better something on the other side, or to love and be loved without the hope of any everlasting reward?  I used to teach Bible as Literature and I always tried to drum home the point that the Bible wasn't a story about God, so much as it was a story about the power of mankind to love, even to love something as ephemeral as a God.  I never said this to my classes because if I did I would have gotten into too much trouble, but I've always believed that man's faithfulness gave God existence, not the other way around.

Because of my training and beliefs, I've always looked at evangelicals as a kind of spiritual joke.  Here is what H. L. Menckin said about William Jennings Bryant after the Scopes Monkey Trial (If you've seen INHERIT THE WIND, Gene Kelly plays Mencken.):  "a tin pot pope in the Coca-Cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards."  For me, evangelicals have always been willfully stupid people who reject science and huddle around their anachronistic certainties.  And, of course, this worries me because those are the people that elected Donald Trump.  And when I consider evangelical support for perhaps the most unchristian president in history, I have to add hypocrisy to my indictment.

It is hard for me to say this because my mother was something of an evangelical.  She spoke in tongues for Christ's sake!  My brother is also evangelical.  So is my oldest sister.  They're good people.  They aren't racists, at least they believe they aren't racist.  But they believe all kinds of things that are demonstrably false and there is nothing you or I or anyone can do to change that.

Evangelicalism wasn't always as absolute as it is today.  It started with an embrace of abolitionism and a belief in the redemptive powers of faith.  As such, it was an optimistic belief.  It premised itself on the idea that men of good will can make the country and themselves better in preparation for the second coming.  Of course, the second coming didn't come.  And despite all the assurances, it probably isn't due anytime soon.  Therefore, what was once an optimistic world view became pessimistic.  The world is going to hell in a handbag.  Or, to use the words of their latest "savior," "Our country's going to hell," or "We haven't seen anything like this," or "It's a disaster and only I can fix it."

Evangelicalism is also adversarial and angry, thinking that the modern world is against it and mocks it.  And since the world is against them, evangelicals are willing to forgive a few transgressions in their new prophet.  He doesn't really tell lies; he speaks a larger truth.  One Evangelical minister actually said that we should give Trump a "mulligan" on his past sexual transgressions.  They are seemingly willing to ignore every decidedly non-Christian thing Trump does as long as the White House continues offering an open door to evangelical Christians, as long as the White House continues pandering to their wants and needs.  They really believe that Trump will manage to get Roe v. Wade overturned.  They really believe that Trump will protect them from the immoral influences of people from "shit hole" countries and that those very countries will pay for walls, both physical and psychological, that need to be built.

The point I am most taken with in the article is that the biggest contributor to the moral decay of evangelicalism is that it lacks any "organizing theory of social action."  Catholicism has such a theory.  It can be expressed as an "if . . . then" relationship.  If you are pro-life on abortion, then you should be pro-life on immigration or capital punishment.  If you espouse family values, then you should decry the breaking up of families by jack-booted immigration officers.

Like all of us,  Catholics ignore most of these "if . . . then" demands, but at least they might feel guilty about it.

There are clearly good evangelicals.  The evangelical movement has helped countless more people than it has hurt.  That is undeniable, but their willingness to sacrifice anything resembling a moral structure simply for the sake of pursuing their political agenda has made their status as a religious movement highly questionable.

Here is the final paragraph of this terrific article.  "This is the result when Christians become one interest group among many, scrambling for benefits at the expense of others rather than seeking the welfare of the whole.  Christianity is love of neighbor, or it has lost its way.  And this sets an urgent task for evangelicals:  to rescue their faith from its worst leaders."

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ten Tiny Book Reviews

Today this is Katherine.  Jim has been making scrapple and between steps we've tackled our together-puzzle we do every Sunday morning.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was on in the background.  

While Jim cooked, I tidied up a few business bookkeeping things like inventory & a payment I received yesterday. I looked at our checking account & tracked anything that used to be tax deductible.  I haven't figured out the new rules so I am soldiering on with the old rules until I learn differently.  

Then I checked last week's to-do list.  All done there.  I backed up into late January.  Not so good.  Undone item #9 was to catch up on my tiny book reviews.  I haven't written a word in ages & this seemed a good way to put my toes in the writing water again.  Instead of the other tedious items on my to-do list, I am catching up on my wee book reviews.  

In the last four months I read 11 books.  If I wait any longer, I will never remember them. They are presented in chronological order.  Just so you know.

1. One Summer by Bill Bryson.  The book discusses huge numbers of historically important events that converge in the summer of 1927.  Babe Ruth, various Presidents, Sacco & Vanzetti.  The career of Charles Lindbergh glues the narrative together.  Fascinating stuff.  Non-fiction.

2.  Commonwealth by Anne Patchett.  An accidental visit to a christening ends up with divorces & marriages as the result of partner swapping & an odd bond between the six step-kids evolves.  The book asks the question: Who owns our stories?  One sibling tells their story & a novel about them is the result.  Makes you wonder if any of us have stories of our own.

3.  Origin by Dan Brown.  The book shows off Barcelona wonderfully.  The art & architecture descriptions made me want to go there.  The Brown trope of a cult Catholic group exists with a bit of a twist this time.  The dark-haired beauty is there as well.  It is ultimately about the goods & evils in technology ( a poor man's The Circle).  A fun & fast read.  Not great.

4.  Monday Night at the Blue Guitar by James Starkey.  This is Jim's first book.  He is working at getting this & the other two published.  I read it the first time in Santa Fe on the patio of our casita at La Posada maybe five years ago.  I love that memory.  I loved re-reading it too.
     The book follows Jake Merced, high school journalist, as he discovers a mystery at a music store called The Blue Guitar where midnight concerts with dead jazz greats materialize on Monday nights. Jake's English teacher, Mr. Sanger who is nearing retirement, likes kids & hates the phoniness of schools.  Both Jake & his teacher have initiations held together by one teaching Catcher In the Rye & the other reading it in class.  
5.  News of the World by Paulette Jiles.   Spoiler alert on this one. A 70 year old ex Civil War soldier finds himself returning a Kiowa captive (10 year old white girl) to an aunt and uncle.  He begins with a sense of duty, but he regains love & joy through the little girl & he kidnaps her back from the torturous Prussian immigrant family he returns her to.  The book is about the messages of our lives.  "Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally, but it must be carried by hand through life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed." The man is buried with his war messenger badge and this note: "He had a message to deliver, contents unknown."  Exquisite book.  

6.  Beezup by James Starkey.  Jim's second book.  Jake & girlfriend Kristen are in Estes Park tracking down missing teen piano prodigy Billy Beezup who may have been kidnapped.  The book is an ode to the Colorado mountains & great food.  Jake bounces between seeing Kristen at the prestigious music camp she attends in Estes & coaching a recreational softball team in addition to working at the Four Season's kitchen in downtown Denver. There are chase scenes and interesting camp characters & tense moments & sweet moments & interesting comments about parenting when it comes to softball and music.  The end is wonderful.  

7.  100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  A wondrous book following the Buendia family & the town of Macondo.  The first Jose Arcadio creates the town & becomes lost in the insanity of lost & failed dreams juxtaposed to the monotony of life in Macondo.  His solitude is spent tied to a chestnut tree in the midst of his delusions chatting with his dead friends.  Ursula, his wife, holds all of life together for generations.  Each generation finds a descendent in solitude in a silver shop or the house or estranged from the family.  The solitude is deadly.  The beautiful town is destroyed by civilization--government, religion, business (the banana company does the most harm), nobility, elitism, greed, & debauchery all play their parts. All is circular.  Spirits of the dead help and live with the living, but even they vanish.  Wish I'd read this years ago.

8.  Slaves to the Rhythm by Terry Connell.  Terry is a dear friend & this is the story of his caring for Stephan (a remarkable man and the love of Terry's life) as he progressed through an AIDS diagnosis and death when the epidemic first happened.  Terry juxtaposes the tragedy of his life tending to Stephan to his Catholic upbringing with 10 brothers & sisters. Efficiency was all & FAITH trumped FAMILY.  Terry's struggle to maintain through Stephan's struggles highlights the good his family taught him while attacking his family's lack of compassion for him.  They coped with his gayness, but not his relationships.  The book made me think of dualities constantly in a very Joseph Campbell kind of way.  The love & loss duality & the pain & beauty duality dominate the diary sections where Terry nurses Stephan.  Fear & desire dominate the family sections where delightful details highlight his Philadelphia upbringing.  I learned so much. 

9.  Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo.  Spoiler alert again. This is the one day experiences of ultra-rich Eric as he rides in his limo, has sex with two women & his wife, sees an anarchist protest (rats are released--creepy), sees a famous rapper's funeral in the streets, and finally talks to his driver, his bodyguard (Eric shoots him) & his childhood barber.  He participates in a movie scene.  He destroys his financial empire and sees himself shot in the fancy computer stuff he's created (think Minority Report) at the end.  Then he is shot.  Thank God.  This is a dark world.  The structure and writing are spectacular.  The post-modern world is not my cup of tea though.

That's it for now. A small to-do done & I'll go upstairs & cross off wee book reviews on my to-do list. Thanks for listening  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Remembering Dale

Dale Bartkus died last month.

Kathie and I were in Mexico for the first few weeks of January and didn't hear about Dale until a week after we got back in town.  We knew he was struggling and we should have expected this news, but it is still a shock.

I've probably never told him, but Dale was one of the giants in my life.  He took me under his wing almost immediately after I entered the halls of Green Mountain High School for the first time.  He--I can hear his magnificent voice now--cajoled me into becoming a faculty representative to JCEA.  He taught me how to do that job and he taught me about the politics surrounding teacher unions and negotiations with the administration.  He was instrumental in alerting the editor of "The Insight" to my rather breezy style in memos to the staff and I ended up being a long time columnist.  So, what little fame I managed to accumulate in Jeffco is largely due, again, to Dale's influence and that magnificent voice.

He helped my teaching more than I ever admitted to him.  He was the one clever enough to get the department to buy COMIC VISION, the book I used to teach Humor in Literature.  He insisted I read the Bergson essay in that book and that essay became the foundation of so much of my teaching for the next thirty-five years.  He introduced me to Mary Ellen Chase's BIBLE AND THE COMMON READER, an indispensable book for anyone attempting to teach Bible as Literature.  We sat during planning periods and talked about those two works and so many others.

Dale's knowledge was encyclopedic and sometimes really irritating, the way Dietrich's knowledge pissed off Barney Miller, but it was always accurate, insightful, and offered with love.  We didn't need to Google stuff when Dale was in the department; we just asked Dale.

He taught me about drinking Dos Equis and eating clams and listening to jazz and appreciating art and even about the difference between the active and passive voice.  He modeled what a man should do to maintain the nuts and bolts of his life.

Mostly, he taught me how to be reasonable and fair minded, although I still have a hard time with that lesson.  I remember when I first started talking to him.  One day we were talking about the advantages of a life long career as a teacher and I snapped back that I wasn't going to be JUST a teacher for the rest of my life.  My stint at Green Mountain was only until something better, more lucrative, more fame producing came along.  I was such an asshole back then.  Dale, instead of being hurt, or snapping back, simply said--again in that deep voice--"That's a threatening statement Jim."

Once we were in the lounge and a colleague who shall remain nameless came in braying about something JCEA had done that was outrageous and she launched an ad hominem attack on both of us. As Dawn Troup used to say, I started "getting the jaws."  I was ready to lay into this creepy bitch, but not Dale.  He calmly and rationally explained JCEA's position, told her he understood her concerns, and gave her the numbers to call.  He never raised his voice.  He kept a smile plastered across his face.  He acted like an adult in a situation where most adults would have punched her out.  I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but it is a moment I will always remember.

Kathie and I were among the first inductees to Green Mountain's Hall of Fame.  I appreciate the honor, but Dale should have been there first.  I was at Green Mountain for all but the first two years of my career and I can tell you that no one loved that school and that neighborhood more than Dale Bartkus.  He was devoted to the place and he modeled that devotion to all of us.

More than that, he loved the kids that filled his classroom.  He worried about them.  He wanted to know everything he could about them.  He gloried in their triumphs and cried over their tragedies.  I wasn't there, but Kathie remembers a funeral for a beloved student who died in a tragic car accident on highway 93 (I think) between Boulder and Golden.  Dale and Kathie were in attendance and after the the ritual was over, he asked Kathie if he could hold her so he could weep in someone's arms.  Now, with Dale gone, I know just how he felt.

And he was so madly in love with Carol, so awed by her talent and her brains.  He loved his boys, Tony and Nick, their wives, their children.  I can't imagine the depth of their loss.

Dale Bartkus was first and foremost a teacher.  He taught me the greatest lesson of all.  Being "just" a teacher might be the most fulfilling life of all.

Thank you Dale for everything.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Andrew Sullivan, Intersectioinalism, LGBT Rights

I'm reacting here to a Facebook stream I started when I did my weekly posting of Andrew Sullivan's blog.  Sullivan's point in the blog, I think, is to explain why the huge gains LGBT folks have made in recent years now seems to be receding.  Sullivan, a self-proclaimed conservative, maintains that the gains were largely due to the efforts of the non-left LGBT community to emphasize its similarity to the more traditional, heterosexual, bible thumping community.  LGBT folks can raise kids at least as well as their heterosexual friends.  LGBT folks can buy into the "American Dream" the same way everybody else can.  LGBT folks can espouse the same patriotic virtues as straight people can, etc.

He, and here's the rub, goes on to say that members of the new left or far left or intersectionalistic millennials have politicized the issue.  Not only must the "traditional" community accept LGBT rights, they must embrace those rights unconditionally.  Not only is same sex marriage legitimate, but it is somehow more legitimate than traditional marriage.  Not only should transgender folks be able to use whatever restroom they damn well please, but anyone who looks under the stall to see if the person next door has his/her feet pointed the same way is by definition a sexist, racist, fascist jerk.  If one does not instantly accept everything the new left is demanding (gender equality, racial equality, an end to economic disparity, an end to all war, etc.), then that person is morally bankrupt and should be condemned.  Sullivan thinks that this brand of Intersectionalism is at least as bigoted as the bigots it is fighting against.

I think Sullivan is right.  The take no prisoner position of the new left is preposterous.  Let me share three anecdotes.

The most recent one happened yesterday.  I discovered that Jake Mendez, a former student, has the lead in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at the Aurora Fox.  I hope to make it out there next weekend.  Anyway, I was telling Bud about Jake's good news.  Bud was happy for him, but had never heard of HEDWIG.  As I was in the process of explaining the plot to  him and why the angry inch, it was clear that the idea was an uncomfortable one for him and the chances of him running out to catch the show were slim.  Does that mean Bud is unredeemably bigoted?  In the movie version of HEDWIG (one of my favorite films), when the middle class white folks at the Denny-esque restaurant are outraged by Hedwig's trans act and walk out, does that mean that they were all evil patricians bent on taking away rights?  I don't think so.  When Kathie and I saw the film at the Esquire years ago, we were, I'm fairly convinced, the only straight people there.  After the film, we went to the Blue Bonnet for Mexican food and a former student who spotted us in the audience at the Esquire came up to our table and said, "Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Starkey.  I saw you at the film and wanted to come over and tell you that I'm gay."  With that proclamation, he walked away.  Well, thank you for sharing that.  I thought it was a great moment.  I know some other folks who would have reacted differently.  I don't agree with them, but I understand their position.

Years ago when Franny was the Managing Editor of "The Times-Delphic," Drake's newspaper, she was confronted by a large contingent of black students in an evening meeting with the administration.  It seems that even though a black group won the dance competition (some competition), the paper printed a picture of a white group instead of the black winners.  Outrage!  Franny explained that the picture of the white group was the only art she had that would look good on the front page.  The black group's photos were all (ahem) too dark and would have ended up looking like a smudgy blur on the front page.  I understand the black outrage, but Franny made the only choice she could.  I'm sure many of those black protesters are still convinced that my daughter is a racist.  They're wrong.

Finally, in the early days of Chris' business his company did lots of weddings and his photographer was incredibly gifted and one of Chris' best friends.  He took the photos of Franny's wedding and they were terrific.  However, Chris' photographer friend finally listened to his body and his brain and decided to have a sex change operation.  In the lead up to that operation, the photographer started dressing like a woman because the hormones he was taking made him want to start getting used to his new identity.  The problem was that his appearance pre-operation would have been funny if it weren't so grotesque.  Young brides freaked out at the way their wedding photographer looked (they hadn't seen the quality of her work) and Chris started losing business.  Chris stopped using the photographer and ended up losing a good friend in the process.  Was Chris being a sexist bigot, or was he being a well-intentioned businessman?

Those are the kinds of questions that Andrew Sullivan was wrestling with in his article.  I think they are legitimate.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Senior Economics

I just finished reading an article in the January/February ATLANTIC ("Choke-Proof Food" - Rene Chun) Which talks about the problems an aging population is posing for Japan.  A fourth of the country is now over 65.  By 2060 that percentage is projected to rise to 40.

This, according to Chun, does not bode well for Japan's economy.  Elderly drivers are causing more accidents.  Old folks are falling off too-fast escalators.  Chun doesn't mention it, but I can imagine what the lines in grocery stores are like with shaky codgers digging through fanny packs for valuable coupons.  And what about the rash of coughing fits at huge all-you-can-eat buffets?  It gives one pause.

But the Japanese, ever resourceful, are figuring out a way for this onslaught of seniors to turn into a cash bonanza.  Escalator companies are enjoying the rising (so to speak) need for slow speed escalators.  Self driving buses for seniors are going into mass production.  Shopping carts are being equipped with magnifying glasses.  Video arcades are installing benches and games designed to ward off dementia.  Arcade Staffers are getting certified as "service attendants."  But the biggest economic coup has to be Softia G, a nutritional therapy product from Nutri Co.  Sofia G provides the means to turn "hard" foods into pureed blobs.  With Softia G a senior can, for example, take a salmon steak, puree it in a special blender, then reshape it into a salmon steak complete with grill marks, and then wolf it down without needing someone to stand by who is expert in the Heimlich Maneuver.  This is an idea whose time has come.  Just think how much quieter it will be at The Golden Corral.

There are other products whose time has come.  I'm thinking of starting a new business (the new tax overhaul will certainly facilitate this) to fill this senior niche.  Kathie saw a special report on some Sunday morning show that highlighted a large blue plastic boot-like contraption that would enable seniors with stiff backs to put on their socks without having to bend.  Let the market do its thing and boost these blue sock thingees into an investor's dream come true.

Two way earbuds would be a godsend for a lot of the seniors I hang out with.  Set them on receive and they act as hearing aids.  Reverse them to block out unwanted noise at hipster restaurants.

Coupon organizers would be nice.  It would speed up lines at the grocery store and prevent millennials from being apoplectic as they wait in line behind some old codger.

A Geezer Alert app would be welcome.  Seniors, the ones who still remember how to work a smart phone, could simply point the camera at themselves and take a picture.  The app would supply immediate advice about that day's outfit.  Do things match?  Do you really want to wear those calf high white socks with your wingtips and shorts?  Are you making an embarrassing attempt to look younger than you are?  Such an app would go a long way toward smoothing over embarrassing social interactions.

I'm saving my best idea till last.  How about walkers that can instantly convert to shopping carts with the push of a button?  A wobbly old person might be using his walker to cruise the mall.  If he sees someone walking toward him looking sympathetically toward his sad device, he can simply press the button and Voila, he's pushing a shopping cart. "Hey, I'm not old," the old guy might say. "I'm homeless."  Think of all the humiliation that will save.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Waiting By The Stage Door

I have a recurring dream where I am in the basement holding Willa tightly while waves of radiation from an inevitable nuclear cataclysm slowly eat away at us.  In another fun dream, I am with all four of my grandgirls in the wilderness that used to be the C-470 corridor.  I am helping them, Cormac McCarthy style, find food and drink while fending off attacks of marauders transformed by nuclear devastation.  Those are my dreams lately.  I don't dream about stupid tax bills, or presidential faux pas, or frustrating Bronco games, or even about verbal fights with all the black Republicans at the Y.  I dream about protecting my grandchildren.

I don't worry about my health as much as I used to.  My children and their spouses are pretty much who they are and I couldn't be happier with them.  No bad dreams there.  And as much as I still worry about Kathie's health, I don't dream about dread cancer scenarios any more.  My grandchildren have become my primary focus, number one on my agenda.

Before Boss Tweet's election, I mentioned to a conservative friend at the Y that the environment was my main issue.  I didn't want my grandchildren growing up in a world where they would have to tread water.  Bob, my friend, said he didn't want his grandchildren growing up in a country that had an unsustainable debt.  That's why he was going to vote for Trump.  I wonder what his rationale is to the $1.5 trillion Trump and his minions are going to add to that deficit and eventually to the national debt?

Oh well, if my dream scenario comes true we won't have to worry about debts or treading water or anything anymore.  I take a perverse comfort in that.

In the meantime, I will bask in the glow emanating from my grandkids.

We saw Chris' production of "Home for the Holidays" at Lone Tree yesterday afternoon.  My twenty-three year old grandson Sage was up on stage singing bluesy versions of Christmas carols and engaging the audience with his huge voice and even huger smile.  Sammi, who had recently tripped on the stairs at her home and could barely walk, was there in the kids chorus being a trooper just like she always is.  And there was Brooklyn, who is always the only person on stage I can look at, moving and singing like only she can.  I cried through the entire production because it was so damn good.

A lot of my life has been spent waiting outside stage doors to congratulate my kids after great shows.  When they were in high school, I never missed a performance and even made it to the majority of their rehearsals.  I was so proud of them, but mostly I loved living vicariously through their achievements.  The same thing with the grand kids.  Sammi came out first and was assaulted by hugs all around.  Sage came out a few moments later and I hugged him and assured him that he was the best one in his row.

Brooklyn always seems to be the last one out of the dressing room and yesterday was no exception.  The thing is that every emotion she is feeling is immediately written on her face.  God, how I love that face.  I remember after a show at PACE a few years ago, Brooklyn just stood right outside the stage door waiting to be loved.  I'll never forget the little smile and the anticipation written all over her.

Yesterday was a little different.  In the second act, she missed her entrance and had to stay off stage for the "Twelve Days of Christmas" number.  It was her one solo in the show and she blew it.  One of the other kids saved the day by singing Brooklyn's lines.  Brooklyn was devastated and her barely dry tears were clear for all of us to see.  I think she might have been a little afraid to face her father.  I don't blame her.  Future super stars aren't supposed to miss entrances.

On the other hand, what's one missed cue when there was that glorious, tear stained face to contend with?  I'll bet she has recovered nicely.  All I know is that I can't wait for her next performance.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The end of White Male Privilege: What has the world come to?

There is an episode during the first year of "The Andy Griffith Show" where Ellie, Fred the druggist's niece, is new in town, just come back from pharmacy school in Mount Pilot I suppose.  Andy ends up asking her to the town picnic and dance that weekend and she agrees.  Of course, Andy, more Barney-like in the early seasons, somehow tells himself that he was tricked into asking her out as part of Ellie's devious scheme to get a husband.  He is convinced when Opie comes home with a free ice cream cone given to him by the desperate female.

He tries to throw her off the track by getting eligible bachelors around town to go into the drugstore and flirt with the new female druggist, but Ellie gets wind of Andy's behavior when Opie--it is always Opie--enters and repeats some of Andy's lunatic ravings.  Ellie quickly informs Andy that she wouldn't go to the picnic and dance with him if he were the last person on earth and to prove it she throws herself at the next person to walk through the door--wouldn't you know it--Barney.

It all ends happily.  Ellie and Opie, with Andy acting as chaperone, go to the picnic.  The episode ends there.  One can only wonder what happens after the dance.

I think it was my son Nate who once commented--if it wasn't him, it should have been--that the answers to all the questions in life can be found in "The Andy Griffith Show."  I just saw the above episode for the umpteenth time this morning on Sundance and it has crystallized my thinking on sexual politics.

Andy's attitude, while exaggerated, is kind of a cultural norm.  Men are full of themselves.  They can be shy and bumbling, the little dears, but eventually they'll act like assholes.  Women, at least the ones we are bombarded with on situation comedies, usually end up in control of the relationship and make their male halves look like bumbling morons.  But the thing is that this woman-in-control thing is always portrayed ironically.  As if to say, we all know that it is the man who is in charge, but wouldn't it be funny if it were the other way around?  Some joke.

Look at the difference in how we talk about acting out sexually.  Before the recent storm of sexual allegations--every "famous" man in America must be looking over his shoulder--male sexual predators were called leches, ladies' men, wolves, cocksmen, sugar daddies, babe magnets, studs, etc. Besides the term rapist, I can't think of a single term for a male sexual athlete that has a negative connotation  What do we call women who act out sexually, either for real or in our male imagination?  Slut.  Whore.  Hot for It.  Gagging for It.  Hot to trot.  Ho.  Easy.  Nympho.  I cannot think of a single word to describe this behavior with a positive connotation.

Definitions belong to the conquerers and it is pretty obvious who is doing the defining in this situation.

But it looks like things are changing.  "Me too" is starting to do a little defining of its own and that has only added to the rash of bad years old white males, the ones in my demographic, are having.  It appears at first glance that white males have regained their precious supremacy, at least for a little while.  But that doesn't change the fact that for a long time now, white males have been noticing the steady erosion of their power.  Long time neighborhoods have been changing their complexion.  It won't be long before whites are in the minority.  They already are in some areas.  (You can tell which because those are the areas that have been the most heavily gerrymandered.)  There are gay people on television!  There are lesbians getting married!  A black family occupied The White House!  A woman had the temerity to run for president!  Worse than that, women have the vote!  And as a final insult, it looks like women want to be equal sexually as well.  It is one more entitlement being stripped away from white male privilege and it is scaring the shit out of them.

Those poor white guys, embodied by our President, are discovering (well some are) that they can't talk the same way they used to.  They can't act the same way.  And if they want to get along, they can't even think the same way.  Trump's crotch grabbing braggadocio secured him a lot of votes.  Old white guys who tend to vote for all things Trump think that's the way you're supposed to talk.  To see a beautiful woman in front of you on the golf course and to comment that there is nothing better than great pussy is what a man's man is supposed to do.  I'll bet John Wayne said stuff like that all the time.  And if Rock Hudson hadn't been gay he would have probably said the same thing.  But now, if you are a member of the fake news media, you get fired for saying, thinking, or doing such things.  Of course, if you are a Republican running for office, you get elected.

What has the world come to?