A long-winded rant from an insecure pseudo-intellectual. (Or: Is There Such a Thing as an Alprazolamic Delusion?

Sometimes I feel like intelligence can too easily be ignored based solely on lack of strength. I’m an intelligent person. I know this. I have street smarts. I’m wise. I’m aware. But I’m not always informed. As a result, I’m not often strong about defending my convictions. As such, I don’t often impose my thoughts about politics and such on my friends during the occasional political discussions they have. Of course, it happens that a number of my friends are very fervent in their political beliefs, and to engage them in discussion about these beliefs is to place oneself under the scrutiny of their judgement of one’s personal knowledge of the political arena. My political awareness, both locally and nationally does not run deep. I’m under no delusions about this fact. The question is: how much of this lack of current event knowledge is self-imposed?

(Well obviously it’s all self-imposed. No one is blocking information from reaching me. What I mean is, how much am I subconsciously preventing myself from keeping myself in the know?)

I’ve seen the sort of blow-out arguments that occur as a result of basic disagreements. I remember my parents arguing over dinner about things. I’ve watched my father and uncles disagree vehemently with my grandfather on issues regarding race and religion; both trying to argue the points that they’ve known their whole lives. Neither party could necessarily be considered fundamentally wrong, as far as the times in which they each respectively came of age is concerned, but every party is probably indisputably wrong in assuming that they were right.

The problem was that after witnessing these “discussions,” I never felt like anything was solved. It was nothing more than a bunch of screaming, yelling, anxiety, and unease. It was just a bunch of drunken or caffeinated (or both) people trying to make other people believe that they were right about stuff. And maybe they were. But as a kid watching this crap, how the hell was I supposed to know who was right?

I remember one night in particular. There was a strong argument going on at the dinner table at my Aunt Gloria and Uncle John’s house. My grandfather was still alive and my twin cousins were not yet born, which means this took place no less than 22 years ago. The adults were around the dining room table arguing about something while I was in the living room. Unbeknownst to my family (probably to this day) I discovered a Playboy magazine beneath a bunch of other periodicals in a small basket near a chair in their family room. Now as a current subscriber to Playboy myself, and as my uncle was actually probably younger at the time than I am now, it’s important to state that I consider Playboy to be more like a GQ, or a Men’s Health, or some other such magazine, as opposed to an adult girly-mag. But as an 8-12 year old boy, this was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. If I’m not mistaken, this was the issue featuring Joan Collins. I was mesmerized. All I remember is flipping through the pages thinking about what a wonderful thing I was seeing (a naked woman — and a famously well-known one, at that) while all the stupid adults kept arguing about crap that I didn’t understand. I think that moment was defining for me in that I don’t think I ever wanted to understand it.

What’s the point in arguing about things with people whose minds will never change anyway when we could be looking at naked ladies!?

But I guess that’s what makes this world what it is.

I’ve learned over my years that we’re all fucked up in some way. For some of us, the fucked-up-edness (as it were) is a bit more disguised, where as for others it’s relatively blatant. We all learn to deal with our own issues in certain ways. And we all continue on with our lives hoping to prove to the rest of the world that we’re not actually fucked up. We do this by demonstrating our resolve in discussions over politics, religion, sports, the best way to mow a lawn, and so on. The problem is that everyone wants to be right, and seldom is anyone wrong.

Politics is nothing more than a sport. Everyone wants to back a winner. You’re a Republican or a Democrat. You’re a National League fan or an American League fan. You either like NASCAR or you make fun of it. But the truth is that we all want the same thing. That part is easy. The tricky part is that none of us knows what it is we want. Yeah, we want tax breaks. Sure, we want someone who will defend us from terrorists. Of course, we want a leader. Certainly, we want a person who will help us prosper. But how the hell can any of us tell whether one person will be so much better than another. Perhaps the exception is our current president. (“Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech.”) Although, as I think about it, a majority of the jobs I’ve had in my lifetime have come through some sort of nepotism, so how can I criticize others for reaching ranks through similar means. Of course, my jobs haven’t put me in direct command of the most powerful military force on Earth, but still, you see my point.

But I didn’t start writing today to share my thoughts on politics. I love Barak Obama, but I can’t necessarily express to you why I do. Maybe it’s simply because I trust the beliefs of those closest to me, and they, in turn, believe in him. Perhaps this is naive. But frankly, I’m not a whole lot different than I was when I was fifteen. The catch is, I’m much more powerful now than I was then — now I can vote.

Laugh if you want. I’m one vote. Big deal. The thing is, we’re all idiots. We’re all worried about shit we can’t control. We all get worked up over things that we’ll never see resolved and as a result, we make things worse. We’re definitely moving in the right direction. We’re actually lucky enough to have witnessed a Democratic nomination race between a woman and a black man. Can any single person reading this who was alive and aware 20 years ago ever believe that this could be possible? Geraldine Ferrarro was Walter Mondale’s choice for vice-president during his presidential campaign in 1984. It’s doubtful that her selection for this post cost him the election (he was defeated in a landslide by incumbent president Ronald Reagan), but it took 24 years for a female to once again become a significant player in a presidential race.

The problem is that the most remarkable thing about the Democratic race wasn’t that anyone was celebrating what we’ve experienced, but rather that the two unlikely, yet allied party members who were running against each other may have done nothing but ultimately hurt one another. What the hell is up with that? It’ll be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Obama hurt his chances in the overall race for president. It’ll be even more interesting to see if he actually chooses her as his potential vice-president.

I’m tired. That’s what I am. I’m tired of trying to fake caring about this election, even though I do feel strongly about it. The fact is, my life isn’t going to be a whole hell of a lot different whether a Republican or a Democrat wins. I don’t own property. As of right now, I don’t even have a freakin’ income to have to worry about being taxed. Come January  21, 2009, regardless of which party had the honor of watching their candidate inaugurated into office the day previous, I won’t go to my mailbox to find an envelope full of health insurance waiting for me. I’m struggling financially because of the choices I’m making. Not because of the choices a popular vote and/or Electoral College made (or didn’t make). But god forbid I should appear uninformed.

It doesn’t mean I don’t care. I do care. More than I’ll probably ever actually let on. It’s just simply not more important to me than it is to be able to create a wonderfully written sentence; or to come up with a beautiful musical melody.

Here’s an interesting question: if you had your choice, would you rather trade places with John F. Kennedy or John Lennon? Or how about Ronald Reagan or Roald Dahl? Perhaps the choice between George Washington or George Gershwin?

I’ll almost always choose art, over politics. But that’s not to say that I’ll choose frivolity over freedom. Whatever the fuck that means.

A political debate or the rantings of a crazy bald man?

I don’t discuss politics very often. You may have noticed I’ve never written about anything political since beginning this blog. When my friends have political discussions/debates/arguments, I generally sit back and listen. I let my own opinion form in my head and will occasionally throw in my two cents, but I get more gratification from watching other people get all bent out of shape while trying to express their ideas. I also don’t feel that I’m as educated about many topics, nor as up to date on my current events, as many of my peers. Not that I’m completely oblivious to the world around me, but I’m simply not as politically minded as the next guy.

But every once in awhile a conversation comes along where I can’t help but get a little worked up about something. Often it’s a result of my buttons having been pushed just right along the way. But I’d say it’s more often a situation where someone is coming so far out of leftfield, that I can’t imagine how anyone would actually think such a way.

So last night Brad and I are at the bar and we’re having one last drink before heading home. We’re talking with another quasi-regular at the bar, Joe. I like Joe. He’s a bit crazy, some might say, a fast talking New Yorker with a definite confidence about himself, but generally an alright guy in my book. But last night Joe let a few of his opinions out and I couldn’t help but argue back with him. I’ll try my best to recount some of our discussion.

It basically began as we were talking about cigarette smoking and how much less we’d actually smoke if Chicago were to pass the anti-smoking law in bars and restaurants. But then Joe, a guy who sounds like he was born with a cigarette in his mouth, began to explain how by passing a law like that, all Chicago would be doing would be to encourage cheating. He explained that banning cigarettes would be like prohibition. And what would happen is that bars would start setting up secret back rooms that people who wanted to smoke could sneak off to. He believed there would become cigarette speakeasies. He didn’t seem to understand that cigarettes themselves would not become illegal, just smoking them in certain public areas. In other words, if I wanted a cigarette I wouldn’t need to sneak to some hidden back room, I could just step outside. In 1916, if I wanted a drink, I had to sneak into some hidden back room. But his argument was that if you had a choice between two bars, would you choose the bar that had the smoking room, or the one where you had to outside. Which was a legitimate question, but all things being equal, I might pick the smoking bar.

But his argument wasn’t about this. Nor did the fact that if the city did pass this law they would offer bars the opportunity to declare themselves a tavern if they wanted to pay a city tax, thereby allowing them to continue to allow cigarette smoking. No, Joe was too focused on the fact that the government would be trying to make decisions for its citizens. An issue which could have many arguments made for or against it, but one which Joe’s only argument was that it would be prohibition all over again.

But then the conversation turned to cell phones and driving. Not long ago Chicago passed a law banning the use of cell phones by users who were driving without the use of a hands-free device. This is a law I was actually in favor of because I can’t stand getting stuck behind someone who’s holding a phone to their head while driving 20 miles an hour and trying to hold a conversation while at the same time trying to decide which entrance they want to use to pull into the T.J. Maxx. But Joe’s big problem (although I think he ultimately agreed he liked the priciple behind the law) was that this opens a whole new can of worms as far as the ability of the police to be able to arrest an individual for things worse than the cell phone use.

His example was a scenario where Brad would leave the bar that night to drive the two blocks home. He would pull up to the end of the block and would be on his cell phone. A police officer would see this and pull him over. The end result would be that the officer would detect that Brad might have been drinking so he’d ask him to step out of the car where he would begin to administer a field sobriety test. While the test was in progress, the other officer would search the car and find a joint in the ash tray, an illegal handgun in the glove compartment, an eighth of cocaine under the seat, and a kidnapped Portuguese family in the trunk. So what started out as an ordinary cell phone violation could turn into an arrest for driving under the influence, possession of narcotics, and kidnapping topped off with a weapons charge. He found this to be incredibly unfair.

Obviously, my argument was simple (I shouldn’t even type it here): if you’ve got all these illegal items in your car and you’re also driving drunk, what the fuck are you doing putting a cell phone to your ear when you know that’s illegal too. Wouldn’t you try to avoid every possible reason for getting pulled over in that situation. If you get busted for ancillary charges in a situation like that, then you deserve to go to jail.

On top of that, Joe actually believes that the judicial system in this country is backwards. He thinks that individuals charged with a crime should be considered guilty until proven innocent. I was so appalled when he said this that I had a hard time even arguing back on this one. His main case in point was, naturally, O.J. Simpson. He believed that if even one actual murderer were put away because of this system, then it would be worth it. Not to mention the probable hundreds of individuals that would end up serving time for crimes they never were even remotely connected to. Isn’t the fairness of our judicial system one of the great liberties we’re granted in this country?

I don’t know. I’m probably not doing justice to the complete absurdity that was spewing from Joe’s intoxicated brain last night. I don’t know how much of what he was saying was simply drunken blather intended to get a rise out of Brad and me, or if he actually felt this way.

I also highly doubt that he’ll ever see this post, but on the off chance that he does, Joe, lemme know, do you really think these crazy things?

I don’t know that this was necessarily a “political” discussion we were having as much as it was a sort of legal morality issue, but it was hard not to want to get a little worked up over some of this stuff at first. But then once Joe stopped making sense and we recognized what we were dealing with, it became easier to laugh it off.

I still would rather eavedrop on others arguments rather than get involved. But every once in awhile it’s fun to get into the mix.

Just thought I’d share that with all of you.

Rock the Vote!

Remember Gary Hart? The former political playboy who ran for president so many years ago? What happened to him? Any one know?

How about Jane Byrne. Anyone remember her? She’s a former mayor of Chicago. The first female mayor of Chicago. She was proceeded by Harold Washington before the Richard M. Daley machine started it’s dynasty.

I once shook hands with Jane Byrne. It was at a street fest right in my old neighborhood. She was walking through a crowd and I happened to be standing right there with a handful of candy. She reached out to shake my hand and while transferring the candy from my right hand to my left hand, I dropped some of it. She looked down and said, “Oh, I think you dropped some candy, honey.”

I was probably eight years old at the time. I looked down at the candy and looked back up at her smiling face and said, “Shut up, bitch and quit worrying about my candy. Instead how ’bout you get some goddamn computers in my school and get those freakin’ gangs out. I know I dropped my candy. I’m holding it. I’m not an idiot. But if you keep funding Chicago Public Schools the way you are right now, I probably will be an idiot by the time I’m all grown up.”

No, no. I kid. I didn’t really say that. I actually just mumbled “thanks” or some crap like that and wandered off to find some ice-cream or something.

Anyway, the reason I was asking about Gary Hart and Jane Byrne is because I thought it would be awsome if Gary Hart ran for president again with Jane Byrne as her running mate.

Their bumper stickers would read: Hart-Byrne.