Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tours of the Trump Wall

Mexifornia: 2050

We are now offering exclusive tours of the Trump Wall, which for a time years ago separated us from our ancestral home in the region then known as California. 

The Wall has been fully restored. Throw a wet rag against the high voltage fence and watch it smoke and fry. Toss a melon across the trip-gun perimeter and watch it explode. 

At the Wall Resort and Theme Park, photograph your loved ones in actual burned-out hulks of the Jeeps and SUVs in which Americans who called themselves Minutemen patrolled the Wall. If you are feeling particularly brave, and want the most realistic experience possible, visit the water torture ride, where your boat stops under a waterfall until you push a button indicating that you have had enough. (One caution: it is recommended you stay inside the Wall Resort and Theme Park to avoid the unpleasantness of the white beggars.)

Visit the virtual reality booths to experience for yourself the sensation of the angry mobs in America in 2020, when the Wall was built. Listen to old interviews of our ancestors who were separated from their families. See the agonizing footage of children reaching out to their mothers as the Wall went up between them. Watch old newsreels of The Donald himself touring the Wall, standing on top of it and squinting into our land as he oversaw the construction of the gun towers ordering that the gun towers, remnants of which remain to this day.

Walk across no-man’s land to buy tequila and art at the shops at the base of the Wall. Go to the Museum of Walls to see the history of other famous walls, beginning in China and England and extending into the great walled Italian cities, where the old fortifications are now pleasant parks for Sunday promenades. 

Although the science was not well developed in The Donald’s time, we now better understand the great paradox of his behavior. How could he have thought he would succeed? He had been to the Great Wall of China. He had been to Tuscany. He had been to Berlin. He had seen those quaint artifacts of that barbaric past.

Discover the answers to those questions at the neuroscience exhibit, where you can see holograms of the sections of the brain that control paranoid irrational behavior. See actual scans of The Donald’s brain, which was preserved by our liberators for later study. The gray matter lesions that led to the Wall are easily seen on the scans. 

As a novelty, have your own brain scanned to see if you yourself are at risk of narcissistic   megalomaniacal delusion. Included with the Deluxe Wall Spa Package is a session with a psychiatrist, if you are worried that you might be a threat to anyone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Come and Show Me that You're Mine

Remember the song Twist and Shout? 

Ah, glorious 1962. About the last year I thought I was a good dancer. After the Twist, it all got too unstructured for a poor white boy with middling rhythm.  

But it’s not dance moves that hearing the Isley Brothers exuberant recording yesterday got me thinking about.

“Come on and twist a little closer now, and let me know that you’re mine.”

I’ve just been in London, where Burkas abound. It’s a little unnerving to see women completely draped that way. 

“Baby I’m yours, and I’ll be yours until the stars fall from the sky,” sang Barbara Lewis in 1965.

Those were years when love meant possession.

My own awakening to the fact that I might be looking at love wrong came in 1974, when I heard Linda Rondstadt sing:

“Love is a rose,
But you better not pick it, 
It only grows when it’s on the vine.
Handful of thorns and you’ll know you’ve missed it.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.”

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard her sing those lyrics (LA, on the freeway, where one tends to spend a lot of time in LA). I had been so indoctrinated by the Isley Brothers and Barbara Lewis that hearing Linda's song was something like realizing for the first time that something I had taken for granted—like Republicans and my father’s immortality—might be wrong.

I wondered if I would have the guts to do that. To leave love on the vine. I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but it sounded wild and free and desirable in that way of things you want but can’t be sure you will get.

Music stirs the soul (and often other more clinical parts). It moves us like nothing else. In that way, it teaches us. There is no curriculum. No common core. You can hear what you want to. Learn what you want to.

In matters of love, the course catalogue is varied, but it tends to focus on sex and passion. There is an obsessive and possessive aspect to love. Nature arranged it that way, for the perpetuation of the species. But that primitive urge to possess someone has outlived its usefulness.

Woman power has been rising in the charts lately. Chrissy Hynde, Pink, Beyonce. These women won't be possessed.

The misogyny of rap is a troubling holdover. Really, we need to drop that whole violence against women thing.

When my sons Chris and Nick were very young, I used to sing them to sleep. One of our favorites was a Bette Midler song that I thought I liked just because it was a nice song. But I see now that it talks about love the way I would like my sons to think about it.

"When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun's love,
In the spring becomes the rose."

Monday, August 8, 2016

How I Spent My Summer

Summer is the growing season. On the earth, and in an individual life. Spring pokes up the fragile green shoots that by summer become robust. If they’re going to grow to the sky, summer is when they’ll do it.

I spent my summer hoeing and planting and watering, with hardly a moment to spare to consider whether I was working the right plot. I had my 40 acres. I worked them hard. They were fruitful. And when I wiped off the sweat as the fall came, I surveyed what I had done with some satisfaction.

Then the cool winds began to blow and the leaves tumbled out of the trees onto the lumpy ground that now lay fallow, or if not exactly fallow, dormant, waiting for a new farmer. I had time to look around and see the other plots like mine, all waiting to be tilled, and down the road, farther than I could see, I knew there were others like me, their work done for now, resting, waiting.

Tending that plot enabled me to raise my family. That is our Darwinian imperative, and so by that primitive measure I have been a success. But as I look out over the ground I have no further wish to till, I am not exhausted, and I think there must be more I can do. Surely survival, as important as it was, as it is, is not now the end of our quest.

We evolved brains that give us the power to move mountains, to erect skyscrapers, to make breathtaking art and music. These are more than survival skills. These are the power to create new realities. But individually, we all start first on the journey of mere survival. Find a job, a mate, raise children. 

Some of us end up, by design or by chance, in fields where what we do helps others. Medicine, science, etc. I often wish I had been one of those, working on cures for disease instead of corporate tax loopholes and ways to raise capital to expand a business.

I understand that we, as a people, as a society, are the sum of our parts, and that the part we each play in that arithmetic is important. And it is true that over time the ant hill of humanity gets generally bigger and stronger, and that it could not without the individual contribution of each of us. Still…

Since I’m unlikely at this point to discover a cure for cancer, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help us do more than survive, or at least survive better. Perhaps it’s just the current political season, or the immigration fears in Europe, but it seems to me that one thing in particular stands in the way of humans living peacefully and prosperously together.

What is it? A lack of empathy.

Not for your children (well, not most of the time), not for your immediate neighbors or family, perhaps, but beyond that, in varying degrees, pretty much everyone else. Certainly we have no empathy for the bastard who cuts us off on the freeway (even though he may be rushing his son to the hospital). No empathy for the suicide bomber in the Middle East (even though he has come to believe that his martyred death is his holy duty).

The better we know people, the more we are able to see things from their point of view. The obvious difficulty is that we just don’t have time to get to know one another, especially not someone from another culture halfway around the world.

Stories can introduce us, though. The characters in our stories show us what they want and the difficulties they face. That understanding opens the door to empathy, and empathy to tolerance.

If we had that—tolerance for our rich diversity and common humanity—we could all go back to tending our plots and taking care of our families, secure in our personal safety and dignity.

I may be tending a different plot now, but I’ll always be a farmer. Telling stories calls upon the same faith and optimism as tilling the soil and waiting for the rains to come. Will the seeds dry up and blow away, or will they bear fruit? We’ll see.