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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Decades as an orchestral musician taught me the value of practice. Years of woodworking taught me the wisdom of the planning and the pre-cut double-check. A stint running a newspaper press taught me the dangers of over-confidence. Twenty summers working in my gardens taught me the peace that can come from taking the long view.

With that as preamble, it’s probably not a surprise that I am approaching my retirement with forethought, prudence, and not a few contingency plans. (more…)

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(Note: I’ve tried to start this piece about eight different ways, including caveats, trigger warnings, and explanations as to why I’m addressing this to men and not to all folks, regardless of their place on the gender identity spectrum. To be totally honest, I’ve only seen this behavior in cisgender males, so that is to whom I speak. Feel free to change the pronouns to fit your own experience.)

Now . . . that said:

Dear Men,

I’ve seen us do some stupid-ass stuff in the past, and I’m fully aware that we will continue to do stupid-ass stuff in the future. Some of this stupid-ass stuff is so outrageous that it takes us out of the genetic equation entirely. Other stupid-ass stuff merely (and hopefully) teaches us something, something like “let’s not do that again.”

Most of this stupid-ass stuff results from our testing the limits of our abilities (and/or physics), to see if our abilities are in sync with reality. For instance, I once believed I could, in one jump, go from both feet firmly on the ground to both feet on the countertop. Whilst wearing clogs (hey, it was the early ’80s). My belief, as it happens, was misplaced. My shins still bear the scars. Lesson learned.

However, some of our stupid-ass stuff hurts people other than just ourselves. Sometimes, we hurt others more than ourselves. And sometimes we hurt only others. These are harder lessons to learn because the ones we hurt, well, often they’re the ones we love most, and they hide their pain because of their love for us. We, not seeing their pain, continue on with our stupid-ass stuff, ignorant of the damage we cause.

Case in point: fear of marriage. (more…)

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Ages ago, I had a golden ticket.

It opened gates that were closed, gave access to forbidden lands.

My trusty US Passport, respected throughout the world, allowed me to depart the country of my birth whenever I chose, but could not guarantee entry to all nations beyond our borders. It was, simply put, insufficient to get me into the places I wanted to go.

I needed a golden ticket.

I needed my vaccine passport.

Should I have balked at the requirement? Should I have, with hackles raised in righteous indignation, told these other, these lesser, these pipsqueak nations to go straight to hell because by god, I was an American, and no one was going to put restrictions on my absolute sovereignty? Is that what I should have done?

Was I weak? Was it a sign of a lax morality, a milquetoast nature, or a spineless lack of patriotism when I subjected myself to these jabs? Was I exposing my cowardice when I exposed my arm to these vaccines? Was the mild ache in my shoulder from the smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria, and tetanus jabs some sort of reaction to this un-American act? Were the symptoms of cholera and typhus I experienced (due to the live vaccines administered), were they merely a sign of my own turpitude?

No. Such sentiments would have been as ludicrous back then as they are today.

And yet, here we are, arguing about this exact thing.

Public health and safety are the primary purposes of government. A pandemic, such as the one we experience today, is a threat to public health. Our best tool against it is an effective vaccine, distributed as widely as possible so that, as a nation, we can grab the brass ring of herd immunity.

But not everyone admits this reality. For some of our nation’s people—certain demographic groups, political parties, and even entire states—public health and safety are set aside while, with a misguided sense of outrage, these folks stand up and shout to the rafters their creed of individual freedom. These sections of our society feel that their personal privilege trumps any greater concern, for others, for neighbors, even for loved ones.

And so, we are stuck on this carousel, spinning ’round and ’round, suffering wave after wave of resurgent infection and death, and the brass ring remains tantalizingly out of reach.

Vaccine passports are going to be a reality. Just as when I was young, fresh-faced and dewy-eyed, wanting to visit lands unknown and experience cultures as alien to me then as the beliefs of these deniers are to me now, nations are going to require proof of vaccination before entry is permitted. You can rail and shout your fleck-spittle manifesto of faux patriotism and American exceptionalism all you want; without proof, you shall not pass.

More to the point, due solely to the calcified stupidity of this sizable proportion of our society, we cannot even trust one another and this vaccine passport may be required domestically as well. Want to see your home team compete against the visitors? Show you’ve been vaccinated. Want to experience that arena concert? Prove you’ve had the jab. Proof, or go home.

This is the future, and ironically, it is a future that these deniers are making manifest by their very actions. They are causing this reaction, just as that typhus vaccine caused my body to react with fever, chills, and sweats. The body politic is fighting off the viral infection these deniers represent.

Don’t want the jab? Fine. Don’t get it. It’s your choice. You have that freedom in this country. But Americans are not demigods walking amongst mere mortals, and actions have consequences.

So don’t act surprised when you get turned away from a nation, an airport, a venue, a concert, a restaurant because you chose to value your privilege above the health of others.

Get your jab.

Get your golden ticket.

k

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Regular readers (and I have a few) may have noticed I did not post last week. Also (possibly) that I’m late with this week’s post.

There is a reason for that: oral surgery.

TL;DR: I had a wisdom tooth that had to come out. It did, but it did not go quietly. I’m healing and I’m getting better.

Long version: (more…)

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“Cancel culture” is scary. It can destroy reputations, bankrupt businesses, stifle dissent, and ruin lives. 

At least, that’s what conservatives tell me.

And they’re not wrong.

(more…)

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I am right-handed, and I live in a right-handed world.

It’s the hand with which most of us write. It’s the hand we use to salute, take an oath, and offer in greeting. It’s the side on which we seat our most trusted allies. It’s the hand we deem dexterous, while the left hand we label sinister.

It’s not surprising that our left hands get short shrift. We right-handers often think of them as the clumsy, oafish sibling to our dominant hand. We use these “lesser” appendages to write joking notes in a purposefully childlike script, and to deliver less-than-flattering compliments.

I do not look at my left hand this way.

My left hand is pretty damned amazing. It’s stronger than my right. It can hold something rock-steady while my right hand tinkers away for hours. Having been a musician, I can tell you that my left hand has just as much dexterity as does my right, perhaps more. Oh, sure, my right hand is quite adept at making squiggly lines on a sheet of paper, but can it play Beethoven or manage the tricky fingerings of a Hindemith sonata? On a keyboard (piano or computer), they each match the other for adroitness.

When I’m working a project, which hand always gets injured? Not the left hand, despite being the one (literally) doing the heavy lifting. (Exception to this rule: when cooking, the left is always the injured party, but that’s only because the right hand is the one holding the knife.)

While my left hand cannot throw worth a damn, it can catch like a boss; throw me a baseball, a Frisbee, an apple, or a set of car keys, and my right hand will fumble it, bobble it, mistime the grip, while my left hand will bring it home every time.

My left hand is my support, my brace, my counter-balance. It is the lifter of sacks and the grabber of railings. It is dependable, fearless, powerful, perseverant, uncomplaining. Above all, it is modest, content to let its partner take the glory; it seeks neither praise nor the limelight.

So, let us raise a glass with and to our non-dominant hands. Let us recognize that it is the disparity between right and left that creates their synergistic whole, a partnership that has conquered the world. Let us admit that our non-dominant hands are as important, in their way, as their mirror images.

It is their differences that make them strong.

As with many things.

k

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I do not believe

. . . that all cops are bastards

. . . that all pharmacists want us sick

. . . that all lawyers are heartless

. . . that all Republicans are stupid

. . . that all Democrats are socialists

. . . that all conservatives are evil

. . . that all progressives are anarchists

. . . that all Blacks are criminals

. . . that all Whites are racists

. . . that all Arabs are terrorists

. . . that all Hispanics are gangsters

. . . that all men are pigs

. . . that all women are bitches

The world is greyer than this

Much, much greyer than this

On these points

And a million other ways

Thinking so

Denies

Everything

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