Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heritage is a Dish Best Served Old

A lot of articles lately quote Southerners afraid of one thing: Loss of heritage.

Heritagectomy.

Southerners fear, more than anything else, a removal of their history. They also fear a realization of it.

Appomattox, I'm not kidding, is a foreign word to most Southerners.

Heritage.

Here's the thing: Heritage is not a thing that is taken away. It is a thing one carries about like junk DNA, still in one's very fiber even as he or she continues to evolve, change, grow, and gain distance from that heritage. To be in possession of a heritage, one must be in possession of a past and a future. To have a heritage, one must not be in full possession of a present.

In other words: The past is in you, no matter how useless it is. To have a heritage, you must be in the future at some distance from your own past, and if you keep trying to make that heritage a present, well, you're a stagnant asshole incapable of growth, change, or lacking in any of the adaptation techniques necessary to prolong the species.

As a Southerner, I get the need to celebrate the brave time when my region of the country rose up against the Northern devil, or whatever. Truly, it's a tough call to say some of the grunts in the field just fighting to keep their families safe were traitors and racists. Perhaps some of them weren't guilty as charged--perhaps some of them were just impoverished and desperate young men dying for a cause they didn't fully comprehend just because they wanted to protect Ma back at the homestead.

But does that warrant willful ignorance 150 years later? It's a dry irony to say this, but does slavish dedication to an idea so far gone in the past--gone with the wind--call for such modern dedication?

150 years ago, there was a very dedicated and determined thought that actual human beings were so awful they could only survive if we treated them as cattle. In 1920, those humans finally got the right to vote. Those humans were women.

Heritage is not a thing on which to cling. It's a thing to toss aside, and look at with considerable distance. To keep heritage as a permanent thing--always present, always constant--is to turn it into something else: It is to turn it into a stagnation.

It's like he's pan-handling.
Removing Civil War memorabilia from public lands is not a removal of heritage. Absolutely, we must continue to sift through the dust of our national heritage, to understand how that dust created the soil of our future. But to say this is a denial of heritage, this progress, is to forget we're leaving a heritage of our own, and a pretty poor soil upon which others may build, cultivate, and grow.

Again, here's the thing: If Southerners continue to cling to the past, the past will cling back, pull down, and smother them. That stupid flag will mean nothing to future generations because it will be a shroud wrapping a very large part of a very united country, covering decay and nothing more.

Heritage is junk DNA. Carried with you, and no one knows why. "The South will rise again." Sure. But before that happens, "That strand of DNA involving gills in your neck" will be activated. We'll all regrow neck-gills before the South Rises again, if the South keeps living in the past.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

This Thing of Depression....

I don't mention it often, because there are so many people in my life with larger and more pressing issues, and because their issues seem more important and more pressing. But I suffer from depression.

It's true!

I know, I think, how to manage it. I know when I'm too depressed, and I know how to ask for help, and I know when I'm thinking of jumping in front of a train that I'm having an off day. So I don't jump in front of the train.

In those fleeting moments--and all phenomena are fleeting--I recognize life is something I'd rather have than not have. And the mood passes, and the train passes, and I step into it and travel onward.

Depression is tough. Sometimes it feels as if I'm an idiot for submitting to the worthless and awful way it makes me think. Sometimes it comes at me and I think, well why am I wasting this perfectly good train arrival by not leaping in front of it?

Of course I know that would ruin a lot of peoples' commute. Leaping into an oncoming train is like committing suicide: a selfish act. Public masturbation.

True fact: Mussolini didn't make the trains run on time. People say he did, but he didn't. And even if he did, he would've avoided hurling himself before a train. Out of respect for the commuters, he'd've allowed himself to be hanged from a lampost.

Which is what happened! The trains in Italy worked because Benito Mussolini never jumped in front of them.

He also didn't own his own rope.

I have depression. It's a terrible thing. No more terrible than what other people have, but it's a thing. So this, a silly article about a show I've never watched, made me smile. It made me smile because people are currently in a moment of understanding--they're suddenly kind, and empathetic, and good. Not a month ago, there were stupid flags still flying, and homophobic marriage laws in place.

I cannot hate my own depression. It is real, and it is mine. But I can, for one moment, appreciate that depression is shared. Greg, who deals with my moods and fights his own demons, knows the struggle.

What the hell is Supernatural?

Comic-Con just had an incredibly emotional and inspiring moment—and it was a complete and total surprise. It happened during the Supernatural panel, and there wasn't a dry eye in the packed house.
The CW series ended its panel with the packed audience of more than 7,000 fans holding up candles for star Jared Padalecki's Always Keep Fighting campaign. Padelecki recently opened up about his battle with depression, and started the Always Keep Fighting campaign to help people struggling with depression, self-injury, addiction and suicide. The surprise candle moment came about in support of his AKF campaign.

"I'm holding the candle in my pocket right now, I can't let go of it," Padelecki told E! News moments ago, right after the panel. "At first I didn't know what it is. I thought people were holding up their iPhones or something. And then someone handed me the note explaining it and I found out what was really going on. It took everything in my power not to cry.

Along with the candles that were passed out to the crowd came a note: "Everyone is given a candle that burns just for them. When your flame flickers and you fear it will go out, know not seven the strongest wind lasts forever; and there are other lights to guide you even in the Darkness…And when your candle burns bright, you can ignite the hearts of others and hope will spread like wildfire…Always Keep Fighting, and you'll never fight alone."

"I just want to say thank you, so much," Padalecki told us of his message to the fans who organized the candle surprise. "It's stuff that I have dealt with and I'm still dealing with so it means so much to me. I hope the fans feel support from me the way I feel support from them. I love them all very much. I really do. Fight for each other. Love each other. Always keep fighting."
"I'm so humbled," he added, wiping away a tear. "With the Always Keep Fighting campaign, it feels a lot like it's grown into something bigger than I ever could have imagined. And it's the same with the show, and this character and guys I've been working with for 11 years now. It's so cool and so, so humbling. I feel like I'm the old guy here! I've been here for 11 years doing Comic-Con but it's such a cool experience. I mean, this is what I dreamed of as a kid. I am so, so humbled."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Someday the Mountain Might Get'em, but the Law Never Will

Being Southern in New York City is exhausting.

Being gay in Alabama, doubly so.

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The thing about Alabama is that the state name is so full of A. Every other letter is an A. If you removed the A, the name of the state would wreck Vanna White. A contestant asking for a vowel, and choosing 'E', would leave poor White stuck beside the board hoping for one tile--one solitary tile--to light up.

Elebeme, btw, is too Hebrew-sounding for Alabama. And I say that as a Elebemian who grew up across from a synagogue.

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What I learned in high school, in Alabama history, was that the Civil War was less about civility and more about States Rights. Not human rights. Humans were beside the point, in my Alabama history class. What we were taught was this: The reason there was a Civil War was because the North tried to tell Southern States what to do. The war was not over slavery, but over the broken promise set forth by the Founding Fathers that all states would govern themselves.

Obviously, when it came to setting up the 'federal' part of the Constitution, the Southerners were on a bathroom break.

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Elebeme. Heh.

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You know why it is exhausting to be a Southerner in New York City? Here's why: You (or I) are constantly trying to assure concerned individuals that the South is not full of nuts.

It's true.

A Southerner in NYC spends most of the day repeating a phrase that becomes a mantra: "You don't understand: there are a lot of nice people down there." And again: "No, really: There are a lot of kind people down there."

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What I was not taught in Alabama History classes was this: George Wallace. I mean, of course, we covered George Wallace when I was in school, taking 5 fucking years of Alabama History classes. But we didn't go into the George Wallace thing. What we discussed was his heroic stance against federal law, his martyrdom, and his eventual absolution. Not kidding. When asked about George Wallace, I was taught to say the following:

George Wallace was a brave man who stood up for his beliefs. He stood in a schoolhouse door, and he stood until he was shot nearly dead. He believed Alabama was better when segregation was in place. And they shot him for his beliefs.

I was taught this while setting in an integrated classroom!

And I met George Wallace once. He was in a wheel chair, and unable to stand for anything. He patted me on the head, let me set in his lap, and years later I realized what a sad, sad man he truly was.

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So, it's exhausting being Southern here. True story: when the RNC had their rally at Madison Square Garden in 2004, I marched against it, and had to shut down a group of marchers using a Hitler poster to imply George W. Bush was a new Hitler.

The march itself was nice. I went alone. A sunny day--sharp edges along the route were etched in yellows and marchers were mostly washed in delightful highlights, reflections from buildings and direct sun from... the Sun.  A delegate from the RNC commented to me that standing down-wind from 'the hippies' might fry nose-hair, but negativity was mostly ignored.

Except for one pocket of protesters. They were well-meaning, I'm sure, but they were jabbing Bush-as-Hitler posters into the sky as if they wanted the sky to bleed. FOX News used these protesters, later, as evidence that the Left had become unhinged. What FOX didn't show you was that a lot of others attempted to intervene, attempted to explain the demonstration wasn't helping. Nazi is a specific thing. Godwinning is not, in fact, winning.

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All these years later, and people are still defending racist iconography. People still forget what Nazis were like, and what the South was like, and what George Wallace, standing in a school door, was like. You can use the iconography in an ironic way, a genuine way, or a rebellious way: in the end, that shit is just an insult to unity and peace. If a symbol means so much to you that you're angry about its removal, then you clearly do not have the stomach to understand most of history.

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Today, a State senator from South Carolina, during a debate over the removal of the stupid flag at the State Capital, tried to turn the discussion to marriage equality. The Senator bemoaned the fact that just a few weeks prior, the White House was draped in "the abomination colors".

Flags. What gets me about the discussion right now--the discussion about Confederacy, about homosexuality, about legitimacy--is that most people really, truly feel George Wallace, for all his faults and regardless of his regionalism, was correct: Right or wrong, he took a stand. He stood up for what he believed, and was shot down, and we should celebrate that.

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George Wallace, and the Confederacy, did not take an actual stand. You know what's difficult to do?

Continue to explain there are good people in the South, when the evidence keeps creeping in the other direction.  Southerners: For the love of god, let the flag go.

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