An Open Letter

Dear Person with Clipboard,

I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to sign your form and give you my email. I don’t want to give you my money. I’m already registered to vote. I give money to the charities I support every month like clockwork. I’m sure you represent some fine organization with beliefs that I support, but you personally I find reprehensible.

As I approach, I don’t make eye contact. I am wearing earbuds. I’m charging fast, like a rhino. I am sending off vibes not to bother me. I literally use the words, “I don’t want to talk to you” when you get close. But that doesn’t stop you from shouting at me, from waving at me with both hands, from physically obstructing me so I have to duck and weave to get around you to get on the Metro and go to my second job. Do I need to wear a sign? Would you respect it if I did?

The next time you block my way to the Metro station, I’m going to keep walking in a straight line at top speed. Yes, it’s rude to knock people down, but it must take rudeness to combat rudeness because I’m all out of ideas.

You, clipboard person, are a blight on the urban life that I otherwise prize, and I’m demanding you stay away from me.

Best regards,
Jeremiah Murphy

Tipping the Scales

I don’t believe in justice. I think it’s a made-up thing, like Santa Claus, for us little people to feel better about how helpless we are. It doesn’t exist. Now, it doesn’t make me any smarter that I am aware of this, it doesn’t give me any comfort, it’s just something that’s true. 

How can you believe in justice when our prisons are filled with people who committed mild infractions or nothing at all, being guilty only of having a shitty public defender? Did you know that the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the police to lie to you in an interrogation? They can say literally anything they want to get you to confess, and there’s nothing stopping them. So when they’re not shooting unarmed black teenagers in the back, the cops are conning them into admitting something they never did. Their job isn’t to protect and serve, it’s to arrest and convict, and they’re really good at it. 

And while the poor are in cages, the rich can do what they want. Remember Televangelist Jim Bakker? Not only did he commit adultery and rape, but he stole no small amount of money from his own church. What’s he doing now? He’s still a successful televangelist and a moral leader among the faithful. Remember George Bush? Remember the president that we imagined was the lowest we could possibly go? Remember how he lied to the country and led us to a war that killed well over 4,000 American soldiers, an unknown number of contractors, and at least a million Iraqis? Remember how this war destabilized the region, leading to the rise of ISIS? Remember how he made financial decisions that benefited his friends and caused the greatest stock market crash since 1929? What’s he doing now? He’s home in Texas, relaxing, painting pretty pictures, and hanging out with Ellen Degeneres. And if you think that Donald Trump is going to face any consequences for violating his oath of office and the Constitution and the American people, you live in a dainty little bubble that has got to be sunny and bright, and I wish I was there because out here is bleak.  

It would be better if I believed in an afterlife. That’s how you Christians (the ones that aren’t spitting on women and torturing gay people) get through this, isn’t it? They’ll get theirs in the end? The problem is, the aforementioned Jim Bakker believes the same thing, except he’s the one going to heaven—him and Joel Osteen and all of those who separate naive people from their money and get filthy rich doing it. Among evangelical circles, Donald Trump, adulterer, rapist, thief, liar, is the chosen one. You may believe he’s going to hell, but according to their reading of the Bible, he’s going to sit at the right hand of God. Who am I supposed to believe? 

It pains me to see Mitch McConnell strutting around, smug and safe in his job and his position as a millionaire. How, if some miracle happens and he loses his seat in November, he will just move onto a lobbying job and become richer than we can imagine. He, more than anyone, is responsible for the destruction of our democracy, and he’s going to be rewarded for it until his comfortable death, surrounded by friends and family and holy men telling him how good he is. It pains me to see it, but I’ve accepted it, like I’ve accepted a lot of unpleasant realities that are out of my control, and I won’t be disappointed when another asshole gets away with it. All I can do is control things I can control and live in the best tiny world I can possibly live in.  

Life isn’t fair. It never was. 

Who Asked You Anyway?

Classic Doctor Who Will Always Be Superior to New Who: A Thesis in One Episode 

I was recently discussing the Classic Who serial, “The Stones of Blood,” with my sister Rachel. The villain of that adventure is Stonehenge. I don’t mean a extra-dimensional monster that exists in Stonehenge. I don’t mean the Space Druids who built Stonehenge returning to fulfill its nefarious purpose. (Both of which would make excellent episodes of Doctor Who.) I mean the slabs of rock that make up Stonehenge, eating people. And the stones didn’t shoot lasers or fly or have big teeth. They slid along the ground at a speed of a sloth on Dramamine stuck in molasses. 

Somebody pitched this at the writers’ table, and the showrunner (Douglas Adams, I think) said yes, make this dream a reality! 

The ability of a monster to be convincing on Doctor Who rests on the ability of the actors, especially the one playing the Doctor, to sell its menace. Do you think Jodie Whittaker or Peter Capaldi or even David Tennant could face down a foam boulder on wheels being pushed by two key grips offscreen and be terrified? Tom Baker could. Nowadays they show off an actor in a fortune’s worth of makeup or an artist’s rendering of what the CGI is going to look like, and the Doctor barely has to try. Back in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, they had a hundred bucks and the wizardry of imagination constrained. Nowadays they have a pretty good idea of the formula and what worked. Back in the seventies, even after the show had been on for over ten years, they had no clue what they were doing, they just knew it was working. 

I love the new show. I bought season 12 on iTunes for a lot of money, and I haven’t regretted it (even after that resort episode, yuck). The monsters could fit I to any sci-fi/fantasy show, and the most exciting plots of New Who are like last Sunday’s episode, fully self-referential to its own mythology. Arguably, the most exciting plot of Classic Who was that the Doctor meets an art thief who was actually an alien whose ship visiting ancient Earth was split up into a dozen or more selves linked psychically over the centuries who convinces Leonardo da Vinci to paint seven copies of the Mona Lisa so he can steal one and sell all seven at top price so he can finance his time machine to go back to his space ship and keep it from exploding but that explosion is literally the first spark of Earth life and if it doesn’t happen, humans won’t exist. What’s more fun, the revelation that the Doctor’s past may be a lie, or the Doctor wandering into an adventure that has no idea what genre it is? 

In conclusion, New Who lacks the sheer audacity of Classic Who, and unfortunately, as the audiences are more sophisticated and TV is being considered art, we’ll never see a show like that again. 

In Defense of the Empire

I’m thinking about the original Star Wars trilogy, and if we look at it only in terms of what we learned in the original trilogy, was the Empire that bad? Sure you hear about how bad the Empire is, with its ruthless something or other, but who do you hear that from? Princess Leia. A terrorist. You don’t see any of the ruthlessness they talk about in any of the planets they visit (although, to be fair, the only regular planet they visit is Tatooine). The symbols of oppression, the Storm Troopers, are checking vehicles for stolen droids that were used by the terrorists to smuggle classified data. That seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a law-enforcement group to do. Basically, from what little we see of day-to-day life in the Empire, planets are self-sufficient and not really bothered too much. It’s a system of government that functions pretty well. Dissolving the Senate is not particularly democratic, but the Empire had been a dictatorship for twenty years, and spending all the tax dollars on a vestigial branch of government seems kind of wasteful. 

Am I forgetting something? Oh, yes. Alderaan. Grand Moff Tarkin ordered the destruction of planet Alderaan, ending billions of lives. Evil? Not so fast. Exploding countless innocent people because they might have some connection to terrorists is a pretty routine thing the United States does. And, yes, Obama did it too.  

Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Grand Moff Tarken are three very evil people, so they say. But they’re trying to run a galaxy here. They’re assholes, but maybe they’re just pragmatic.  

I guess I’m saying that the original Star Wars movies are pitched to us as a clash of good versus evil, but we have to take a terrorist’s word that the bad guys are really that bad. Imagine you were living in the Star Wars Galaxy, and you worked a nine-to-five job, and you were married and had kids, and your best friend was an alien who spoke to you in their alien language, and you spoke to them in English. Now imagine you turned on the news, and you hear that some teenagers in fighter jets are blowing up military bases and shooting a bunch of troops. The worst part is, it is absolutely killing your commute. It’s not clear from that point of view who’s good and who’s evil. 

And when you think about the Empire in the terms of a government that has to take care of billions of billions of people of all races and nationalities that is being attacked by guerilla warriors, what does that say about us? As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as plucky rebels overthrowing a ruthless, evil regime, but we’re really not, are we?  

Myth Understandings

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Who were the Founding Fathers? Were they philosophers and heroes who stood up to the tyranny of King George III and created a form of government that had never been seen before and enshrined the rights of their citizens to be protected from their own leaders? Or were they a bunch of obscenely wealthy businessmen and slave-owners who were so entitled that they felt like the law didn’t apply to them, and they crafted a system of government that protected the rich from the votes of the common people? Can we really know for sure? 

Let’s look at a more recent myth. Was Ronald Reagan a brave, powerful communicator whose confidence and good nature brought an end to the Cold War and ushered in a decade of prosperity, optimism, and catchy music? Or was he an actor who forgot he wasn’t a real cowboy who brought us to the brink of nuclear war while turning his back on an epidemic and setting in motion a series of financial, social, and governmental philosophies that have led to the collapse of the American middle class? Can he be both? 

Let’s dig deep. Real deep. Is Jesus the literal son of God who came to the Earth to perform miracles and update his father’s laws and to die as part of a human sacrifice designed to free mankind from the shackles of the first sin? Or was he Yeshua, a carpenter and rabbi who embarrassed the other rabbis and was executed for being a nuisance to the provisional Roman government, and may or may not have actually existed? 

I ask myself these questions a lot. Was John Lennon a musical genius and a disciple of peace and love for all humankind? Or was he a monster who beat and imprisoned his wife? Was John F. Kennedy the human embodiment of hope? Or was he a frat-boy womanizer? Is Joss Whedon the creator and soul of a feminist icon? Or is he a misogynist? I know what the facts say. I know what people believe. So what’s true? 

I guess it’s all a matter of faith. 

The Left Stuff

This was recently brought to my attention, and it’s brilliant in its simplicity. If you have a difficult time understanding white, male, hetero, cis privilege, i.e. if you think that your life has been challenging even by virtue of being white or male or straight, and you’ve had to work hard for everything you have, and you kind of resent being told that you have it easier than women or people of color and that you should feel bad for being born white, male, straight, and into the right gender, then think about this.  

The Western world is righthanded. The mouse on your computer, the layout of your car (in most countries), the set-up of your desks—at work and at school, scissors, and even the act of writing itself, is for righthanded people. You don’t even realize it. But try being lefthanded. You have to buy separate scissors, or you have to go into your computer preferences and change the set-up of your mouse, or you have to adjust to operating from a different side of your body. Have you ever seen a lefty write? They have to contort their arms around the paper so as to make the ink go the right way without smearing it.  

Being righthanded doesn’t make you better, and it doesn’t mean everything is handed to you, and you’re not a bad person for being a righty. But ask any lefty, your life is actually a little easier because society is constructed for you, and not them. A lefthanded desk or scissors isn’t any kind of special privilege that takes away something from righties, it’s just an attempt to make their lives a little more normal than they currently are.  

This applies to different races, genders, and sexualities.  

SJWs, of which I know many, pass this onto your friends who are having a hard time with the concept. It might help them understand. 

Blue State Blues

Something to keep in mind for 2020 as it starts to get ugly out there. Donald Trump didn’t win the White House by convincing the majority of America to like him. He did it by convincing the majority of America to be so disgusted with Hillary Clinton that they stayed home. He accomplished this by manipulating the right-wing media and the mainstream media, getting a little bit help from the Russians, and getting a lot of help from Democrats. People don’t remember this, and I’m anticipating some of my friends to comment on this post telling me otherwise, but five years ago, Hillary Clinton was a reasonably popular public figure. She wasn’t toxic, and she was a sure bet for the presidency. One primary and several exaggerated scandals later, she’s the least favorite politician in America.  

This tactic worked in the low-turnout elections in 2000 and 2004, when two decent statesmen were so dragged through the mud that the public, who didn’t really like George W. Bush, were even less sure about those guys. The Trump campaign took this and elevated it to a grand guignol, and they’re on track to do it again. Try going onto a forum manned by Democrats and mentioning a candidate’s name and see how fast and furious the attacks will come. Bernie’s washed up and crazy. Biden is a clueless Boomer. Mayor Pete is an evil capitalist. Warren is condescending. A Democrat can, right off the bat, tell you five things they hate about the other candidate, but they can tell you may be one or two things they love about theirs.  

Voting not-Trump isn’t going to win the election. It didn’t work in 2016, just like not-Bush didn’t work in 2004. What worked in 2008 and 2012 is that we had a candidate who, despite his flaws, we liked enough to unite behind. The only candidate who has people united behind him is Trump.  

I don’t know what the solution is. The allegations against Buttigieg are awfully troubling, almost as much so as the verbal diarrhea that comes out of Joe Biden’s mouth. I don’t trust Sanders, and his followers are really off-putting. The one I’m behind is Warren, but anyone will tell you they have “problems” with Warren (I haven’t been able to get people to tell me what those problems are), and according to the Bernie people, her health care plan will effectively torpedo any chance for us to ever have single-payer. Democrats are amazing about finding flaws in their own people.