Wednesday, December 30, 2015

History’s History and It's Not Quite 2015 Again (Or 1916 Either)

History’s History and It's Not Quite 2015 Again
(Or 1916 Either)



Maybe “repeat” isn’t the right word, 
Not quite wrong either:
Refamiliarize. Recur. Emend?
Not quite right 
Either.

Maybe “past” isn’t the right word,
Not quite wrong either:
Rear-windowed. Behind us. At an end?
Not quite right 
Either.

Maybe “over” isn’t the right word,
Not quite wrong either:
Completed. Finished. Over-ripened?
Not quite right 
Either.

History’s past:
Histories past:
History’s passed:
Histories passed:

Clinging and clawing and discarding
The 2015 of Clubs along with
Trumps and Clintons and Bushes, structures:
Institutions and unfair, stacked decks,
Gray spades and bleeding hearts
And blood-licked, diamond-tipped 
Pitchforks.

Dick Clark’s drooping pomme from 
Heaven to Anderson and Kathy
And confetti, the faux organic:
Celebrations and cop barricades:
Between mobs and gods and 
Fear and democracy
And faith. 

Perched between poem and prose,
Nestled between beats,
And uneasy asyncopation:
Protean, indulgent essaying:
Tangent to story: myth:
Pause hyperactively.
Resting!

Rhyme is the right word:
And wrong too.
Nostalgia from two lines ago:
And wrong too. 





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Remarkable Tidings

Remarkable Tidings 



Recently, in a storied, New England Museum of Art, I stood in front of a painting of Christ on a cross. Beside me a beautiful Reform Jewish family, punctuated by twin girls, fought to gain control of voice volumes and squeaky, scampering feet. When at last, the first-grade bundles of energy were wrapped, I heard them cry out to their yarmelke-topped father: “Tell the story again.” I listened hopefully as they stood—innocent and excited—beside me, eyeing the same ab-perfected, long-haired, halo-sporting figure. I tried to not overhear. Of course, I listened with every bit of my heart.

After an elaborate dance--Na'ale Na'ale or was it a cha-cha—around the subject, the uncomfortable father began his story, “So this baby was born in a barn,”only to be cut off by the boisterous inquisitors, “No, tell it like Mommy did.” 

With every ounce of frustrated energy, I clenched my palms: self-induced stigmata. 

What about the story of Jesus—the man to whom this gallery was dedicated—made this handsome and otherwise articulate father of two uncomfortable? Was it the concept of "savior" when sin and the need for salvation had not yet been taught; of virgin birth when birds and bees were still years into the future? Was it a liberal bias against religion (yarmelke-as-fashion-piece) or, more specifically, disdain for modern, "fundamentalist," Christian boogeymen? 

He had married, I intuited from my (self-?) righteous eavesdropping, outside of his “faith” and although he may have required his wife to take part in a “traditional Jewish” marriage celebration, never bothered to learn about the faith--mythology--that she continued to carry in her bosom.  I granted that this young, progressively minded father simply did not know the story of Jesus. It occurred to me that, while the story has replayed itself in many faith communities with different names and in different settings over many thousands of years, there may be very good people that haven't heard the story of Jesus or recognized the universality--independent of religiosity--of the story. 

In this, the season set aside to celebrate Jesus and Judaism, allow me a moment to share this story of love and understanding for those who’ve—for whatever reason—never heard about Jesus: a remarkable man highlighted in the story of his birth, life, and resurrection.

A young woman—a teen girl, really—claimed to be a virgin in a time when a woman could be killed—at best ostracized—by a husband who discovered otherwise on his wedding night. She was pregnant and he believed her—goaded, perhaps, by a dream of an angel who identified the fetus as divine—anyhow. Trust and love.

A superstitious and jealous territorial warlord, fearing that prophecy was being fulfilled, sought to murder the child who was born to the virgin; he sent spies to ferret the child out so he could be killed. The Wise Men found the baby Jesus and instead praised his special place among men—predestined for greatness. They kept the location of the baby secret so that he could escape the wrath of the spiteful king. Hope and protection.

The baby was carried by his birth-mother and earthly father to a foreign land where they would be protected from the evil forces that wanted to destroy him. To his parents, he was but a child. Some recognized him, even as an infant, as able to become a king. Refuge and promise.

The olive-skinned baby grew into a strong olve-skinned man, the son of a carpenter, to become a carpenter. Inspired by love, he spread a message of peace. He ministered to the poor and underprivileged in a way that was anathema to traditional religion of his day. He transformed religion by empowering common people; he shared a path to paradise that resided in the heart-and-mind instead of ritual-and-sacrifice. Generosity and faith. 

He transformed from carpenter to teacher to leader. He was always the life of a party, a master storyteller with a power to perform—magic—what some might call miracles. He surrounded himself with young, energetic, sometimes broken men who traded their sinfulness for his vision of hope and egalitarian love. He respected the sanctity of a woman’s body. He made the boundaries between heaven and earth less clear; he redefined what a god should be by granting clemency in the name of what he allowed to be a collective, “Our Father.” Brotherly and Rabbinic.

Ultimately, he became popular among his tribe for the gospel of hope he shared among a conquered people. The prevailing power structure, threatened by his teaching that undermined established governmental and religious institutions, tortured and murdered him as a caution against insurrection. Truth and sacrifice.

After his mob-sanctioned murder by the state, he was found to be alive—and elusive. He rose from the dead a far more powerful force than when he was alive. Whether a myth or ghost or saintly spirit, he continued to inspire the best in people. He became a beacon of goodness, a symbol for salvation, a way to touch the divine by embracing the weakness of flesh with forgiveness, healing, and love. Life and paradise.

The story of his birth and life and death gathered the power of myth—though to many it was as true as the sun rises—and he became an inspiration for humankind. If he is not god, or the son of god, or part of some ecclesiastical theory, he is remarkable for his impact upon the world. If he is god, or son of god, or part of some ecclesiastical theory, he is remarkable for his impact upon the world. Myth and reality.

Whether standing before a 9th Century woodcutting in a New England art museum, in front of a Christmas tree at a sprawling Mall at Millenia, an alter at midnight on December 25th, or in the living room of Muslim, Jewish, or atheist friends any day of the year, this story and this man—from conception to crucifixion to resurrection—inspires. Praise and thanksgiving. 

Through my clenched teeth and under the cloak of my museum voice, I wish I had shared what I knew with this family for whom a picture was worth at least these thousand words. This Jesus is not a religion, he is a template for the American story. He is a template for all people in all parts of the world. This Jesus stands for all the good and resilience that resides in all of us. 


Read the article in WatermarkOnline:






Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pointing Fingers

Pointing fingers

With a sight on my cuticle, I aim.
With my thumb, I pull the trigger,
Off flies the bullet of self-righteous
Indignation, armor piercing words.
Occasionally, my middle finger double-
Barrels the sinister device.

From behind my Constitution:
  History and activism at odds,
Free from hopelessness. 

With a sight on the tv screen, I aim
At far off combatants, enemies a
World away, with others’ automatics,
With others’ childrens’ fingers, in the
Name of war, in the name of God,
Safe in my bunkered parlor.

With a sight on my canon,
  At them, there.
With a sight on my musket.
With a sight on my rockets
  Red-glaring.
With a sight on my mustard gas.
With a sight on my atomic bomb--
  Nuclear
With a sight on my napalm.
With a sight on my drone,
  At myself.
With a sight on my IED,
  Alas, us.

With the sight removed, I fire.
Indiscriminately, into crowds,
Praying for innocents, collaterals,
Released to heaven too soon--or
Maimed by blunt spreadshot-- blameless
Save proximity to evil and aimlessness.

From behind my rights:
  Civil, human, endowed, to live,
Freed from hopelessness.

With a sight on my privileged fear
From within my safest garrison,
Behind words, behind warriors, 
Behind crusaders and jihadists,
Behind demagogues and tribal chiefs:
Fire! I change tides, scorching earth. 



Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Terrorist's Primer

A Terrorist’s Primer:
Or 
How to be a Successful Hateful-Evil-Jealous-Power-Hungry Monster 


1. Capitalize on hunger and economic inequity (or other nebulous human right) to stoke anger of local undereducated mob.
2. Link hunger and economic inequity (or other nebulous human right) to bastardized reinterpretation of history.
3. Link unverified, now accepted, history to a local “minority” party.
4. Wait patiently until minority gains attention of local “mainstream” majority.
  a. Mainstream majority will attack it first with words and then with laws and then with bullets.
5. If minority party survives #4, at tipping point, isolate physical attacks against quasi-innocent members of mainstream (ie: supporters of current institutions; mid level bureaucrats and their families are ideal).
6. Build simple, rhetorical binary against oppressive mainstream. 
  a. Condition locals to think in uncomplicated binaries.
7. Attach brand of political minority to an ideology.
8. Attach ideology to a religion.
9. Selectively reinterpret religion to bring in line with ideology. 
10. Build foreign enemies by proxy. A foreign supporter of the existing power structure is an enemy.
11. Attack local mainstream, including innocents, more widely and more violently, brand as attacks against proxied enemies.
12. Continue local attacks until proxied states are forced to respond with words and symbolic gestures (sanctions, “humanitarian” support).
13. Infiltrate local, poorly-organized mainstream institutions under auspices of “protecting” locals. Remove local leadership, redefining movement as legitimate, new mainstream.
14. Repeat 13 in various regional locations until resources worn too thin to sustain conquest.
15. Reallocate resources from conquered territories toward defenses and aggregating power.
16. Consolidate religious and political platforms into one.
  a. build myths—injecting just enough true, verifiable fact to seem legitimate—that include martyrs and “better times” that existed just beyond the memory of the oldest remaining citizens.
17. Rebrand movement, local proxies are no longer enemy.
  a. claim to be legitimate state, even if only outposts are far flung and inconsequential. 
  b. create a new center of state (capital). 
  c. challenge proxy enemies to recognize as legitimate government, knowing they will not.
18. Name foreign enemies as instigators. Call on revisionist histories, religious redefinitions, and contrived ideologies established earlier to prove foreign hostility.
19. Kill or chase off former mainstream, solidifying geographic position and control of resources; rape and/or impregnate locals as possible to establish next generation of sympathizers (and propagate myth).
20. Force formerly proxied, now direct enemies, to harbor refugees on “humanitarian” terms.
21. Name  refugees as enemies/combatants  of new state.
22. Attack refugees on foreign soil.
  a. justifies attack on foreign proxy.
  b. solidifies control over locals: die, leave, or join.
  c. infiltrate refugees with some human weapons to be used in future attacks on foreign enemy.
23. Wait for military response from foreign enemies, directly or indirectly (via original state actors or actual local “freedom fighters” which may or may not be in its own step #1).
24. Fan local “David/Goliath” mythology. 
25. Close down local access to education and information.
26. Set up “military” outposts in civilian centers near schools, hospitals, and religious centers.
27. Blame continued hunger and (now) violent local deaths because of foreign attacks on “civilian targets” on foreign enemies.
28. Solidify hopelessness among locals.
  a. use bastardized religion and promises of freedom in afterlife as only source for hope.
29. In absence of sophisticated weaponry, convert human bodies into portable, expendable weapons; use human weapons locally as practice for foreign attacks.
30. Attack foreign enemy state using humans as weapons.
  a. immediately claim responsibility in name of (bastardized) religion, NOT politics. 
  b. immediately singles out minority groups within enemy state that also subscribe to same religion.
31. Threaten to attack foreign enemy again. This needn’t be followed up with actual attack.
32. Attack allies of (formerly proxied, now actual) enemy using humans as weapons; weaken resolve of allies 
33. Allies of enemy EITHER:
  a. respond to local attacks by standing more strongly against attacks (counterattacks/retaliation); this further endangers locals and further solidifies narrative of “the world is against us.” OR
  b. don’t respond with strength; this plays into the narrative that, “we are blessed and winning.”
34. Threaten to attack allies and/or enemies again. This needn’t be followed up with actual attack.
35. Attacks on the soil of enemies cause internal political strife for enemies, further weakening the resolve against the hostility. Local dissidents fall in line with proof of power of new leadership.
36. (Formerly proxied, now direct) enemies tighten up controls on liberty in exchange for security, perhaps using #7, #8, #9, #10, #16, #18 above.
37. “Terror Option” established.
  a. enemy resources redirected away from their own internal needs.
  b. enemy resources redirected away from humanitarian support for original problem (in #1 above) and toward fighting.
38. Strike foreign enemies and their allies briefly, occasionally, and violently just often enough to maintain “Terror Option” and political paralysis.
39. With world on heightened alert, original local instigators consolidate power and burn through local resources until either:
  a. imploding under unsustainable resource burn.
  b. being destroyed by instigated foreign enemies.
  c. becoming the new institution against which a new set of hateful, evil, jealous, power hungry monsters emerge.
40. Go To #1

Chances--A BLACK KETTLE excerpt

Chances

My great-great grandfather founded this funeral home in 1903.   Formaldehyde and ethanol course my veins. Death, to me, is a state as important as the state of New York; death houses more souls. Although I am not spiritual, I do have a strong respect for the departed.  In addition to my financial and generational connection with death, I also have a tangible connection with the bodies that pass through here.  You might say death is my life, my personal metropolis, my Big Apple.

People call me lucky.  Statistically, I have found myself in the outer extremities of the bell curve more than a couple times.  First off, I am lucky to have been born into a family business that keeps me comfortable and my needs supplied.  That is, perhaps, the most normal thing about me.  I am, on both sides of the family tree, descended from the stateless nation of Armenia.  My grandfather's father came to America and was stalled in Ellis Island because he could not prove his origins:  "Where are my papers?"

Eventually, for an unspeakable favor my grandmother performed for the paper-keeper, they were both granted entrance to America and its gold-paved avenues. 

Long used to wandering, they did not settle in New York City as many of their contemporary immigrants did.  Instead they migrated south until they landed in this large city that would, eventually, by the end of my father's generation, become a small metropolis.  South of what the natives knew was the Mason-Dixon Line, they found they could achieve instant social status just above the negroes whose own mobility was constrained by grotesque generational tethers to a land that grew strong by their labor and warped by the guilt that came along with it. 

Free to take advantage of their European ancestry--gypsies though they may have been--they accepted the assistance of a locally confirmed bachelor who asked his own special favors of our Armenian-turned-American patriarch.  In exchange for a few acts that, in light of what he allowed his wife to perform to secure their entrance to America's teeming shore--in the shadow of Miss Liberty-- he acquiesced and performed admirably; he bought stability and favor. His suitor-benefactor provided the training and skills to assume what would eventually become the family business:  bequeathed upon the beneficent lecher's death. 

Generations passed; the memory of this sacrifice--neutered by success--became unaffectedly institutionalized in the family mythology.  Despite the family line, we all know that one does not succeed by hard work alone.  Thus, we continue in this business-of-death and thank the stars for shooting luck our way. Of course, we take every opportunity to pull fortune in our direction.

As if being born wasn't enough to confirm the luck in my genes, I have been blessed over and over again. If the luck didn't start three generations ago, it at least started in the womb. I was conceived as one of three. My overly fertile mother released three eggs.  My overly fertile father fertilized us all. Only I survived the trauma of a double ectopic pregnancy. While my short-term womb mates did not make the full trip into life, the luck that they might otherwise have brought into the world seems heaped upon me. I am lucky enough for three people.

I have been struck by lightning and survived it. At the age of eighteen, I hit a patch of ice and slid off a bridge into a nearly frozen river. Plane crash? Yes, here I am.

By right, I should have been my own client more than a few times.

I have been a million-dollar lottery winner not once but twice. My first trip to Las Vegas, I dropped ten dollars into a dollar slot machine and, on my third spin, hit the three-times-pay triple-red-Pharaoh progressive. When the bells stopped ringing, I was signing a 1099 form for two-hundred-sixty-thousand dollars. 

In my senior year of high school, I--a goofy, pimply, sousaphone-player in the marching band--took the prom queen's virginity on a casket. "I've never done that before," she protested.  I thought she meant the part about having sex on a walnut box with a dead body in it. Because it was my first time, I missed all of the telltale signs of her burst hymen. I never spoke to her again. She never spoke to me again. She is now a nurse-orderly, aged beyond her years and severely underemployed at an Alzheimer’s home. Our paths still cross in awkward silence. When removing her former patients--my new clients--from her facility, I sometimes catch her staring weirdly at me. I’m the undertaker, and she's the one who creeps  me out.

I have a freakishly large yet amazingly muscular--from what I have been told and seen--member. I have confirmed this with research in medical journals, random pornography, and based on my own experience working with hundreds of corpses. I have never seen a penis as big as mine. Though I have yet to marry, or find a life-partner, I find many opportunities--often centered on the need to assuage the emptiness brought about by sudden loss and bereavement--to flex my tool without any of the complications or strings that might otherwise accompany sex. Making love to a woman who has not been penetrated since her husband’s demise is like re-taking her virginity. Giving by nature, I receive intense pleasure from providing it.

Statistically, I am one in approximately ninety-six billion. The earth's population will have to turn another sixteen times before fate shines the same collection of achievements upon a single person. Likely, by that time, such a person will be a robot or Martian.

When word spread that the asteroid would hurtle into our area and that some chunks would not wholly disintegrate, I looked forward to the event with the macabre joy that only those in the business of death would understand.

While nobody should wish death on anyone, especially an untimely one, death is, nonetheless, a most natural part of life. I sleep well at night knowing that the treatment my firm provides to the newly departed is beyond expectations. We provide the most dignified and comfortable eternal slumber possible.

I always get the high-profile cases. When a falling boulder crushed a bus filled with high-school football players, when a bear mauled a family of campers, when the mayor died, when the mayor's wife passed, and when the mayor's mistress mysteriously fell over a loose rail at a ski lodge, the services I provided were both thorough and perfectly appropriate to the situation. I am as recognized for my discretion as I am sympathetic artistry.  Sometimes the bodies--corpses--are mangled or burned or crushed beyond recognition and I offer a refined and peaceful memory to the family who will only have one last chance--often a chance that they would kill to recapture in life--to kiss their loved one's forehead.  

Although we have four locations spread across the metro area, I still take an active part in at least eighty percent of the preparations. I am not an absent owner; I am a hands-on partner in much of the work that bears the name of my family's funeral home. We actually took on a re-branding four years ago, when my father retired, in which the old "funeral home" became "eternal preparations."

I recently began considering my legacy: my lack of an heir. Meanwhile, I impart my wisdom and experience upon my employees, treating each like a son or daughter and instilling healthy respect for the artistry of our trade. In addition to the earlier-noted calm that I like to share with bereaving women, I am highly attuned to building and preserving the brand. It is important to me that our family name is the go-to in the death business. 

I knew that there would be loss of life involved in today's calamitous events. We received no warning. How long the cosmologists and politicians knew about this will be a matter of speculation for quite some time. I am certain that, when the dust clears, heads will roll. Meanwhile, I will do what I do. I will prepare the victims. I will console the heavy-hearted. I will thank luck for keeping me in business. Likely, I will comp a few preparations for those whose family cannot afford our--frankly, more expensive than all competitors--superior services.

I happened to catch the local news report while I worked in the basement. Sometimes, I just get into a cleaning mode. I keep a sixty-inch television in the main prep area.  I awoke this morning and just wanted everything to shine. While much of the new generation has moved to plastic and ceramic tools, I insist that we still use stainless steel: one of the legacy items that the families never see but that is a matter of quality and pride for us. Incisions are finer, sutures are tighter, the looks of repose more reposed.

Usually, I leave QVC on for white noise, but even QVC was interrupted by "official news and information." I began switching channels until I found what seemed to be the best signal. "Meteors, some the size of grapefruit, will hit the ground today."  At first, I thought that this was isolated to our area, but then conflicting reports made it seem as though the incident was more widespread than initially reported. Broadcasters briefly cut to a reporter in the field but then the screen went to snow. I clicked through the stations and found no signal.  I picked up my phone and discovered the same thing. No communication--in or out.

I heard explosions and decided to investigate. I climbed the stairwell toward the first-floor lobby to see flames. Fire engulfed my building and I heard more explosions, nearer, louder, more ground shaking.  Without compunction, I charged into the open air where once an anteroom stood.  The bravery, fueled by a charmed life, raised the question that the most eminent statistician in the world, were he still alive, might well have wondered.


"What. Are. The."

WWW.BLACKKETTLE.CO

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seasoned, Stuffed, and Thankful

Seasoned, Stuffed, and Thankful



For gardens and knowledge from Chaos.
For virgin birth, grace, and forgiveness.
For crayons, bagged Legos, and telescopes.
For summers with Grampa.
For those first words uttered.

For Sunday school and Bible studies.
For history class, chemistry, and proofs.
For algebra, experiments and faith.
For spring breaks and homework.
For essays and scripture.

For puppy loves and soft broken hearts.
For first loves, for missed love, for this love.
For all the trysts, loves, and trusts in between.
For cool winters’ kindlings.
For cuddles and carols.

For piles of musty leaves to play in,
For crisp blue skies and migrating jays.
For annual family convergences.
For fall gold reflections.
For Bodies Electric.

For this excess to scatter and share.
For dearth and lack and despair: hunger.
For all the pure and bad reasons I am.
For all seasons I can.
For more words, for more ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fantasies

I
Fantasies
 

Full disclosure:
1. I’ve been a contributor to the Jeb Bush campaign for president since before he announced. Since 2000—when he was in his political prime—I have been chomping at the bit for his turn in the White House.

2. I’m a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. 

3. I have had dreams about Rob Gronkowski that have nothing to do with football.

By all rights, Jeb should have been the Bush to beat Gore in 2000, the man to guide us through 9-11, the man to lead education reform and administer a “No Child Left Behind” that actually lived up to its name, the man to prescribe answers to Social Security and national healthcare,  the man to combat Al Queda and prevent a two-front Middle-East quagmire, the man to reshape the Supreme Court, and the man to reign in the Fed’s decade of easy money. He was smart enough, conservative enough, and just wonkish enough to make things like procurement reform (how the government buys stuff) and trust fund solvency sexy—or at least relevant.

But he wasn’t that Bush at that time.

In the fifteen intervening years, America and the world have changed considerably. The challenges of W’s administration have become the seeds for the reactive crises over the next seven years. Technology, Occupy, Iraq, the Great Recession, and the Tea Party have reshaped American politics in ways that make the simple, “common sense,” solutions that worked in 1996 seem juvenile. 

And then there’s Fantasy Football.

In the most telling moment from the third GOP debate, Jeb was asked about his Fantasy Football team, to which he answered, “I'm 7-0 in my fantasy football league. Gronkowski is still going strong." In fairness, he followed this up with a tepid warning about the lack of regulation over the new form of online gambling, but what he obviously considered an applause line overshadowed the serious response that he was obligated to make.

This is where he lost me, when I came to recognize that he is not necessarily the man for these times. 

How can a self-respecting Floridian (former governor and citizen of Miami!) cheer against the Dolphins? Because that’s what fantasy football does, it dismantles the real-world cohesion of what is arguably the ultimate team sport into disparate and unaccountable constituencies whereby disinterested third parties ignore away the humanity of the athletes in exchange for their monetized value in a fictitious universe devoid of all those reasons that we, as Americans, should love competitive sportsmanship. 

He chose Gronk’s stats over the Fins on the eve of the Thursday showdown between the Patriots and the hometown boys from Miami (Gronk is on my own sort of fantasy league, but that is not particularly germane to this specific political discussion). While I applaud Jeb’s recognition of modern pop culture and of its intersection with the complexities of technology, his response more resembles demagoguery than deep understanding. 

Of course, this is all metaphor for something much more troubling. 

First of all, he hinted that there was a space for government to ensure the fairness of the billion dollar betting industry that has grown up around fantasy football. He, in effect called for bigger government and protections for people that are stupid enough to gamble online. Where’s that personal accountability that is the mantra of modern American conservatism? 

Secondly, if we consider the logic behind the “fantasy” mentality, we find bubbles around the constituents of a team. In fantasyland, a tight end operates independent of his quarterback, both of whom succeed or fail in a vacuum that discounts defense and special teams and coaching: the rest of a carefully constructed corpus that, at the level of the NFL, succeeds and fails together. 

The United States economy does not operate in a bubble independent of foreign relations. The value of our dollar is tied to the success of China’s middle class, oil fields in Central Africa, and to navigable channels exploited by trade partners as ice sheets melt and re-form in the Arctic. The permeability of America’s borders remains tied to the availability of promising jobs to our north and south. The wealth of the most successful Americans is protected only to the degree that the other ninety percent is able to maintain their own standard of living. Civil rights and education and the arts can only thrive in a nation where the most basic human rights are protected. None of these constituent realities can be taken in isolation; a full respect for the interplay of each of these issues within a single cohesive and overarching policy provides the only truly acceptable approach to this nation’s issues. 

Finally, fantasy football turns people into numbers: into stats: into wagers and bets. It discounts the hard work of team-building and the value of the collective “we.” America is not simply quintiles. America is not simply debt ceilings. America is not simply test scores. America is not simply unemployment rates. Rather, America is a complex set of interdependent citizens: teachers and plumbers and insurance agents and software engineers and unemployed car-builders and underemployed college dropouts and professional football players and fantastically successful entrepreneurs and, yes, wealthy quasi-royal families. 

America is a team made up of great players, middling players, and third stringers. We cannot simply dwell on the greats, or give passive nods to those players that the fantasy draft stuck us with. We have to figure out how to make the team we have—not some fantasy—continue to win.  There is nothing ideologically conservative about imagining away the complexities of American society. Fantasy is not a solution.

As fantastic (!) as a nation of Gronks might be, a tight end does not a nation make.

So, chiming in from the straight-talking end of the stage during the same debate, New Jersey’s Chris Christie—far from a sure bet to win the GOP nomination—responded in a way that I wish Jeb had: “Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football? We have - wait a second - we have 19 trillion dollars in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us, and we're talking about fantasy football. Can we stop?"

Yes, Chris. I think we can, because, Jeb!, we have much better and consequential—truly fantastic—things to do.

Read the article in Watrmark:


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bleeding Borders

Bleeding Borders



The human body’s largest organ: skin.
A casing for our bones, blood, and muscles:
Hearts and guts and minds and brave, cherished souls:
Innards in-held and faux-fleetingly safe.

Cities and states, skin-like casings:
Uncut sausages and cakes and puddings:
Nations from war, flame-fraught in dark kitchens
And fatted on lambs and equality.

Paris: as American as Gotham,
London, Benghazi, Moscow: satellites
Beaconing like Voyager: gold records
Beyond Milky Way’s borders: unbounded.

Like refugees and immigrants, banished
From their homes—expatriated by war.
From ancient map-lines hazardously drawn,
Nations from fictions; nations from nothing.

Explosively, souls released from their skin:
Spirits fly high, unbounded: borderless.
Shattered homes, tanned hides, beheaded, expelled,
The ins turned out and the outsides turned in.

Pounds of flesh, megatons, desert-extracts,
Flowing along tributaries: long-since
Dried Canals. Dammed, damned on gun-powdered hands,
Defenseless, cursed with nothing to defend.

Ideas as weapons, stateless enemies  
Without their own borders, seek caliphate:
No tank, nor drone strike nor Kevlar too strong.
No wall high enough, no skin thick enough.

Organs hum in memoriam: lost skin,
Notre Père: Allahu Akbar: Praise God.
Gods that pre-date each others’ own, prophets
Against the flesh of heavens’ fantasies.

Libertines all, Parisian all: shadows
Of the guillotine’s razor sharp memory,
Jail-stormers and Rights of Man declarers,
Alighting the world with fraternity.

When borders touch, skin to skin, hands in hands,
Embraced in sweating sorrow, moats from tears,
Blood from whines, spirits join with the fallen
Angels and ascending devils, fire-bathed.

Mourn, humanity, for bleeding borders,
For those whose caskets we flag-pall, for those
Poor huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
For those on Lady Liberty’s roster.

Dress, humanity, your bleeding borders,
In red, in white, in blue: torn, bandaged skin.
Press chest to chest and erase the boundaries
Between organs, heartbeats, and grieving kin.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dreaming in Form

Dreaming in Form


I only dream of you.

I only dream at home,
With you right by me,
Lying, curled-alpha, with the cats:
Snore-purring in bleary slumber.

I only dream at home,
Awake, asleep, naps.
In our shared dawns, nights, noons, and dusks: 
Nostalgia casing overtime.

What we once celebrated in its newness
We now celebrate in its familiarity: 
In repetition.

Hugs, kisses, and naked stuff.
Dinners and lunches.
Night-cappers.
Trips to Publix.
Long bike rides.
Margaritas.
Michigan.
Vegas.
Top Dollar.
X’s and O’s.

Hellos and see-ya-laters.
Chili and pot roast.
Judge Judy.
Teasing Luna.
Phineas
Treating Francis.
Basil, mint.
Catnip.
Big Brother. 
Garth Brooks, Trisha.

As much ours as sunshine, firm ground and fresh air:
Ours by adoption, owned jointly, bred domestically:
Partnered uniquely.

I only dream at home,
Our base together,
The safest place I’ve ever known:
The only place I’ll ever need.

I only dream at home,
In recollection,
In hopes for today’s tomorrows:
In the nowness of everyday.

My dreams come true with you.






Thursday, October 29, 2015

Four Greek Elements, Five years

Four Greek Elements, Five years



Past the itch, proverbed precipice,
Where goodwill gave way to good nature.
Beyond the stones of fine and well:
Deep, Artesian, and icy.
Our Water.

No turning back, passion flickers,
Moments warmed by daily flames, candles:
Seasonally scented, three-wicked:
Aromas of unity.
Our Fire.

Building higher walls around us,
Crumbling brick barriers between us,
Making a home for big breathing.
High-ceilings, granite, cross-breezed.
Our Wind.

Lounging in the comfort of you,
And you in mine, together reclined.
Spring planting, soil-tilled, tending blooms,
Culling weeds, bagging foliage.
Our Earth.

Sweat, tears, tea, bourbon, gin, soda.
Pumpkin Spice, Leather, Spring Streams, Beach Breeze.
Kitchen, beds, yards, catwalks, spare space.
Loveseats, stools, couches, flowerbeds.
Our Hours.

Ours altogether, all at once,
Sated, warmed, buoyed, grounded, rich-lived.
By moments, elementally:
Each day loving you still more.
Our Love. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Property Axes

PROPERTY AXES




I’ve discovered a patch of invasive, non-indigenous flowering weeds on my little patch of American soil. While I wait for the herbicide to kick in, I’m going break out a hatchet to keep it from spreading to my neighbors’ lawns. I’m going to do my duty as a good citizen, destroy an otherwise pretty bed on my own property, and protect the fragile native ecosystem. This process may look self-destructive, but it must be done. Stand back, friends, election day is coming. 

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declares, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Many conservative arguments for States’ rights are rooted in this simple yet powerful clause. Strict constructionists have used this to justify local control over such important institutions as education; it’s invoked in arguments about abortion and gay marriage. Let’s not forget that little squabble about local hegemony in the 1860’s. 

On many of these issues, as they relate to the Tenth, we Conservatives proclaim that the nearer our elections are to our address, the more valid they are. Let the Feds protect our borders, endorse basic freedoms, and guarantee our contracts. We’ll handle education, infrastructure, and policing locally. 

We know our communities, we know our neighbors, we know our children’s teachers, the cashiers at Publix and the complexities around which utilities should service which neighborhoods. Just as we claim the supremacy of the local in how we spend—budgets are little more than an expression of values and  priorities—we also prefer that the funds we contribute remain close at hand in their allocations. Fundamentally, the idea of being taxed so that our hard-earned dollars are spent in others’ communities flies in the face of what we consider good government practice.  We want our neighborhoods policed according to our own standards. We want school curricula to reflect our local value sets. There are real and legitimate roles for municipal government and they require funding. 

In Jeffersonian terms, we want to cultivate our own fields. 

A wholesale anti-tax approach to governance does not jibe with our needs. More importantly, it does not jibe with the responsibilities of citizenship.  It is one thing to argue that our federal taxes are an imposition. If that argument is followed up with an argument against local taxes that would fill that gap, then we have neglected our duties as they apply to the legitimate needs that government must provide. We Conservatives cannot proclaim that the federal government should be out of the education business (or the healthcare business, or the infrastructure business) and then complain when a municipality makes a claim upon our wealth. Naked and Afraid is not an option on Lake Davis. Scorched earth leaves us all, eventually, starved. 

Do we want A-rated schools where our neighbors’ children learn a spirit of acceptance? Do we want a world class performing arts center? A venue for New Years’ bowl games? Professional basketball, soccer, football, hockey? Do we want a thriving and bustling downtown? Do we want to attract medical elite? Do we want our home values to increase and the quality of life in an ever-expanding periphery to rise? Do we want neighborhoods that welcome us and value our lives? 

These are not free! As simple as the ideological arguments may seem, First Baptist and the DeVos family have not covered all of this. It’s one thing to proclaim that the federal government hasn’t a place in these issues. It’s an abandonment of our responsibilities as citizens to also proclaim that local government doesn’t deserve funding. It’s a disingenuous position rooted in greed. It’s an abdication of the duties of citizenship.

Certainly arguments about accountability and the proper allocation of resources raised through taxation—in our case, sales and property—are valid. Consider that such arguments lose credibility in the sunlight of the Tenth Amendment from behind which we prefer to swing our rhetorical machetes. We cannot NOT be taxed at all. Government and institutions have their places in modern America. If we want them controlled locally, we need to fund them locally. 

When I learn that my property is subject to a higher millage rate, my anti-tax libertarian side reacts viscerally. But my federal-republican- good-citizen-neighbor side says, “Yes, I want the police to be here in five minutes when a suspicious stranger loiters in front of my home; Yes, I want my brick street maintained just well enough and speed limits enforced to prevent it from becoming a shortcut from downtown to the airport; Yes, I want to safely walk to the new performing arts center; Yes, I want a fountain at Lake Eola; Yes, Veteran’s day Parades; Yes, Pride Parades; Yes Magic; Yes City!; Yes, local control of educational standards and curricula; Yes, community partnerships that bring children’s cancer centers and locally planted gardens  for community-conscious doctors, engineers, and teachers to grow and thrive in.”

We, especially those of who are most affected by local taxation on consumption and property, have the most ability to vote with our feet. If we are displeased with the amount of local taxation, we can move to another jurisdiction where we are less imposed upon. And yet, we spread our roots. We are invested and our investments pay off; if they didn’t we WOULD move. Instead, we seek equilibrium based on valid market forces. Those powers, “Not delegated to the United States…are reserved…to the people. “ We make our pacts with our communities to meet the needs that we don’t trust the federal government with. Incumbent upon us is to give our neighbors, our councilmen and mayors, our governors and legislators, and our water and soil commissioners the resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities. 

If we do not, then we have no solid ground upon which to stand when the Federal government attempts to fill that empty ground with more non-native greenery. 







 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Four Fathers

Four Fathers

Besides the obvious,
The sperm donors,
The issues from whose loins
I grew:
More fathers.

Crile.
Sam.
Pete.
Bob.

Genetic meaning,
Heir of Christ, Jahweh,
David (aren’t we all?)—
I knew,
Adams. Lots.

In human events’ course,
There at nation’s birth,
Revolution’s call,
Fought through,
Forefathers.

Tumultuous youth disbursed,
With models besides
Pep, Peter, Pop, Grampa.
Men who
Stand with me.

Civics, history, mentor,
Encourager, Crile, challenger,
Groomer: national Pride
Made new.
Pushed, pushes.

Language in skin, words
Made whole together.
Sam Salving my wounds: Sweet
Worldview.
Reaffirms.

First friends’ father,
Then-present surrogate,
Pack dad, politicker: San
Pietro.
Pre-Heavened.

Mother’s princess-maker,
Prince-ing me by marriage.
Not just “step,” but Bob “is,”
Dad too.
Walk-walker.

Birth to spirit, to thought.
Birth to lifebloods fraught.
Born before, reborn again,
Anew.
Forefathers.

Jefferson.
Lincoln.
Kennedy.
Reagan.

Cosmic orgy: Four fathers,
Beyond blood heritage,
History alive: concurrent. By
These few,
Super blessed.









Monday, September 21, 2015

The Other Sams: Football Kickoff

THE OTHER SAMS: Football Kickoff





Perhaps the line that runs between Michael Sam, Sam Singhaus, and Tim Tebow is not completely straight. I’ll admit that it is pythagorean and that the angles of right are bisected with complements that dance—in what some might call uniforms but others may prefer to think of as costumes—through the gridiron. It’s the start of football season, after all, and Miss Sammy is the only guaranteed star here along the I-4 corridor (our new obsession with soccer and the Buc’s new quarterback notwithstanding). 

Traditional arguments for public-private partnerships, between sports moguls and their host cities wrap around money, community-building, and victory. Even when professional sports teams are middling, at least the traditional arguments go, they provide opportunities in the form of ancillary tax revenues, tourism, and quality-of-life bonafides for corporate neighbors’ recruiting. Unfortunately, much of the (true, vetted) economic scholarship on the subject argues that a new Burdines brings as much economic boost as a new soccer team (for instance), even when they decide to build their own facility.

Republicans always like a good economic argument.

Assuming that, just for a moment and to move onto the grander point of this article, the economic impact of a sports team is only ten percent greater than a Dick’s taking over the empty third Dillards at the Volusia Mall, why might communities want to embrace a new sports franchise (or venue) when the returns are so little? What can the Buc’s bring to a city that a new library or civic center can’t? Why shouldn’t a municipality subsidize that Burdines instead?

There aren’t many things that groups which include Mike Sam, Miss Sammy and Timmy T. can get behind—that cross the borders of partisanship—than a winning team to rally around. Witness the recent winter celebrations of all things Bolts in Tampa this year. 

And so, why? 

The people that step into the sports spotlight fulfill a need that we, Americans, all have deep down: to be the best at something. Regardless of what Charles Barkley so disappointingly asserted in the nineties, we look to sports figures as role models. We want those athletes whom God has blessed with superhuman ability to also be leaders off the field. We invest ourselves—publicly, privately—in them.

Whether this is fair or not, we pucker at Michael Sam’s kiss felt round the world as a victory for Pride. We look at Tim Tebow’s unassailable Christian faith as a victory for another minority—the outspoken “walk the walker”  in the the otherwise secular locker room. We see these men and we cheer for them. We want them to succeed, not just at football, but in life. We want them to be what we cannot all always be: leaders and victors: personal Jesuses. 

We install our own dreams in them, each according to our needs and to their abilities. 

What happens when they fail? What does it say about us—as investors—or about our aspirations as a people when they fall short of the glory of either God or, in our case, the gays? What of us, when we have invested so much in the success of Michael Sam and he quits, shoving an un-lubed middle finger at the Canadian football team that scraped him off the bottom of the NFL’s collective cleats?

Unfortunately, we are all embarrassed. His unprecedented and unrepentant retreat dealt a blow, not merely to the pride of the SEC that spawned him, but to the LGBTQ community (assuming his ridiculous self-promoting stint on DWTS hadn’t already done so) that claimed him. He solidified the rest of the world’s discriminations that gay men can’t cut it in professional sports. He was, at best, a flash in the pan: allouette (a lark).  At worst, he set back the timeclock for anybody else to come out in professional sports. He wasted the thunder that a legitimate, hard-working, blessed star might have struck in the absence of this Michael Sam.

And Tim Tebow, good God, even Seminoles (this one not excepted) and Mizzous have to love him. He, while concurrently embracing dying children AND supporting the unborn AND working on his throwing technique, has become the (triangulated) poster child for all-Americanism.  The Tim Tebow Foundation, which raised $4 million during his first year in the NFL, continues to reach out across politics and religion: fulfilling the wishes of children facing life threatening disease, helping kids in the developing world that suffer from treatable disabilities, and supporting abandoned and homeless orphans, just to name a few of its downfield targets. 
He makes us all want to be in that conference—if not legitimizing true Jesus-centered humanism. He is the anti-Sam, working hard for a second, third, and fourth chance: never quitting.  Now forced into a punting situation, even as the Eagles have closed the door on Tebow’s status as a third-string professional quarterback, he falls back deep into the pocket of our hearts. The reality, though, is that he too has failed to live up to our public-private partnership in him. He may continue to lead, but he no longer carries the panache of the  sports world (TV, that’s different). He has failed us in no smaller way than Michael Sam. 

Differently—separately—but equally:  failed proselytizers.

Don’t get me wrong about Michael Sam. I want him to succeed. I was one of the thousands of people that made his jersey the second best selling in the NFL of 2014—before he ever played a down for the St. Louis Rams (and before he was cut, and before he was cut from the Cowboys, and before he quit the Allouettes (PUNT)). I wanted him to be “our” Tim Tebow. He had all the promise, but none of the follow through. He asked to be a role model when he came out publicly. He failed as a role model in his private meltdown. 

Ultimately, neither Tebow nor Sam have proven out to be the role models we wanted. Maybe I expected too much. After all, there are millions of Americans that don’t have a platform like professional sports from which to glow. Because he won’t be leading an NFL team shouldn’t diminish the value of the good works Tebow does. Because he won’t be sacking quarterbacks shouldn’t diminish the fact that Michael Sam was brave for becoming the face of an otherwise-invisible group in the world of professional sports. But, however unfair it may be, they lose credibility in their works because they are no longer center-stadium.  

Finally, back to those stadiums. 

For every Tebow and Sam whose careers veer from the gridiron to other venues, there are many more good-hearted, generous, successful athletes whose activities serve as examples that hard work, persistence, faith, and sportsmanship provide returns. There are specimens of genetically blessed humanity to make us all proud of our species and of our potential. Every player on a football field is a promise and a promise fulfilled. Those stadiums become civic meeting-places, where all varieties of people can come together and for a few hours each week find community where it might otherwise seem to not exist. 

Now, I fear I have played to a tie on the economic argument as well as the argument for role models. Does this diminish the “community argument?” 

Sudden death overtime: I think the answer is, “No!” We may have lost the single-faced polarizing forces in individuals Sam and Tebow, but we have not lost the communities that polarized around them. Economists argue that, despite a difficulty in monetizing such benefits, the “public goods” and “externalities” of Tim Tebow and Michael Sam provide ongoing returns. They were good investments in community and in ourselves. In these men, we were given something to cheer for. Football is a team sport.

Buc’s fans are still—losing season after losing season—Buc’s fans, after all.

We have space that, were it not for professional sports, would not exist. If nothing else, we have pre-game and halftime shows where sousaphonists get vast audiences, where “students of the week” are honored, where veterans are thanked, where the National Anthem is proudly sung, where pee-wees—aspiring athletes in their own right—get a feel for turf under their young feet, where Kiwanians honor teachers, where we are reminded that, deep down, we are a community of communities. 

Externalities. Community. Unlike a library or a performing arts center—two also-important institutions—we are encouraged to interact together in public celebration of our private similarities. 

In choosing our role models, though, there are other venues to consider, other stages whose financial impacts may be ten percent lower than a Beall’s or Fashion Square Piercing Pagoda. We have models that are strengthened by and for their relationship to other parts of a wider community.  We have those types of leaders who have never wavered, nor been waived.

Let’s look no further than downtown Orlando and its perennial entertainer extraordinaire. Season after season, venue after venue, show after show, Sam Singhaus carries himself with grace and aplomb. We see, in the two sides of Sammy, the best of Timmy T and Mikey S, minus the failures. Resilient and consistent, even as Parliament House changes bankruptcy statuses and Southern Nights changes names, Sammy is our All-American dragster.  We can all admire him for never giving up, for never getting cut, and for always representing us—Republicans and Democrats, Seminoles, Knights, Bulls, and Gators; Bolts, Buc’s, City, and Magic alike—in a way that we can all carry proudly in our bosoms and under our pads: public-private. 

Let’s look to Sam Welker, a huge-hearted high school English teacher from Gainesville, whose commitment to education is as impressive as the decades invested volunteering as leader and adult advisor to America’s largest youth service organization, KEY Club

Let’s look to Good Samaritans, to the extent that we are their heirs—even if our venue is Sodom—to give selflessly of our flesh, pillars of salt, and our safety. 

There is a place for professional sports in our world. There is a place for defeat—even outright failure—in our world.  The winning argument for sports is not based in dollars or in professional role models. Rather, it is based in community: a community that is triangulated by the likes of Tim Tebow and Michael Sam, but that has the strong and sturdy right angles of the proud and resilient winning records—the geographic trilateral I-95-I-4-I-75, ceteris parabus—of our Miss Sammies, our  Sam Welkers and the good Samaritans all around us. 





Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Rice and Tea

The Rice and Tea



The price of tea in China?
No less important today than when
The question was first asked.

Capitalized.

What has it to do?
The price of beans in Mexico? Apples?
Vodka in Russia? Apples?
Guns in America? Apples?

Exchanged.

Separated—freed from
Vast otherness, from
Pilloried witches, from
Selfless billionarism, from
Sustainable freedoms.

Bogeymen.

We consume our rights like
They consume their staples:
Orally, verbally, intensely:
Speech, assembly,
Jingoism, xenophobia,
Arm-bearingness:
Upward mobility:
Safety. Oil. Religion.

Strawmen.

United—bound to
Common myths, to
Oaths, love, and allegiance, to
Selfish entitlements, to
Neighbors’ fleeting freedoms.

Unaccounted.

Self-evident, indeed.
Like laziness. Like Apples.
Like imperialism. Like Apples.
Like violence. Like Apples.

Shared.

The price of tea in China
Is our excuse: why it matters.
Now, what was the question?

Consumed.
Answered.




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I. Miss. America.

I. Miss. America



To many of the circles in which I roll, I am the frustrating liberal—the poet. In the world writ larger, I am the flaming conservative—the economist. This odd schism between beauty in culture and sustainability in finance plays out in a label I claim for myself: PoetEconomist. As much as we like to eschew labels, we find ourselves answering to and for them: Believer, Rationalist, Gay, Conservative, Patriot, Aging, Obamaniac, Republican. These labels –badges—may look as seemingly contradictory as the sash I sew them onto. Paraphrasing my yet-living political hero, John Huntsman (Reagan, Kemp, and Jefferson are dead), I am without labels. Really, that’s a nuanced  misrepresentation too. I, probably like you, wander through my respective trendy downtown district wearing a sash that displays many badges: labels.  As I inhabit this America, that sash oscillates between Boy Scout (I miss America!)and Pageant contestant (I, Miss America). Either way, not unlike you, I am as concerned with the fit, finish and lie of the sash—how it accentuates my chest and triceps, how it offsets my skin tone and eye color—as those multicolored accomplishment-totems that adorn it.

Many of those badges, probably like yours, were earned by being less than Christian, by failing in my ideals: by being thoroughly human and completely hypocritical. I, like you, have failed to live up to what the universe (or God) might have expected (or predestined) for me. Like tying knots—a newly available badge for us—we have mastered similar basics. Many however, probably like yours, were earned by being a good citizen and human: by loving those who would hate me.

So, why should we be on two sides of some imaginary divide? What are these constructed differences between us? We all wear satin/cotton/ cotton-poly, multi-badged sashes, after all. Our sashes match in nearly every way. We all walk across the same stage: swimsuits, oaths,  and stilettos: sashaying:  sashed.

Really, I’m vers and ddf. U?

“As a gay Republican,” in this, the Central Florida media equivalent of Che-Gueverra-meets-Stonewall, “write about how you can be this unicorn in a political party that hates myths.” Of course (Mr. Manes), the Republican party is a party of myths. I’d say the same—and do, here—about the Democrat party. We Republicans have small government and a founding father (Abraham) that freed the slaves.  We Republicans also have fundamentalism, military transfer-payments, and provincialism. In fairness, you Democrats have your myths too: Jesus was a socialist, fiscal responsibility is a personal attack on otherness, Andrew Jackson (remember that “Trail of tears?”) couldn’t possibly have also politically fathered modern progressivism (hey, Elizabeth Warren!).

But there’s another “we.” The “we” that joins us—you and me, independent of our constructed political bents—by our inclinations toward each other. So, here we are, wearing our sashes and competing for first-runner-up: or is it Eagle Scoutism? We are much more alike in our sashiness than in our faux ideologies. Down to the finger pricks from sharp needles upon those badges that may otherwise be ironed-on, we all bleed the same color. Red, right? Or, maybe it’s blue? Don’t we all need oxygen in our extremities?

Speaking of blood, if we analyzed our collective DNA—the rainbow badge on our sashes—we would all go back to John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, stormers of the Bastille.  Classical Liberalism informs everything we take for granted in America. We are all liberals in the “classical sense.” True, there are shades of our lifeblood that call themselves tea-partiers, socialists—periwinkle to pink—and Donald Trump (speaking of odd pageantry), but we all believe that individuals matter, logic matters, incentives matter, and love matters. Right?

So, too, are we—you and I—the heirs to another strain: Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, Stonewall rioters.

Save the very few staunchest ideologues, we are—from our first fabulous breaths—hypocrites. We are forced into political stances that fly in the face of our true and consistent beliefs. How can anybody right a platform that values life and be both against abortion and for capital punishment? How can strong advocates for small government also advocate for giant transfers disguised behind a bloated military? How can voices for civil liberty also seek to limit the free exercise of religion? We all don our sashes and wear them to our parties; we hide our inconsistencies behind purple drinks and bright white smiles.

We are as alike as we are different. We are, as Classical Liberals, both collective and individual.

And so, we, as Central Floridians, sport that I-4 sash across the bosom of our state. From Daytona to Orlando to Tampa, we are all—at least—Miss Congenialities representing a cross-section of our collective America. We bask in our myths and our couture. We dwell in our fabulous ghettos and in our shades of purple.

As we enter this unbounded season of soundbites and substance-less backbiting, let’s remember that we all bleed. We all, in this community, sport our own sashes. Our badges may be different—like our experiences and our proclivities—but our goals are the same. Arguments are not ideologies, they are entrance-points for discourse. If we can agree on toothless fellatio, can’t we agree that debt as a percentage of GDP should remain in check?  If we can agree that we deserve equal standing under the law, can’t we agree that even as others blazed that idea before us, we are responsible for advocating the same values into the future? If we can agree that we need to share this and protect our planet, can’t we agree that sustainability is just as important as advocating for personal responsibility? If we can agree that America should be a land of first chances, can’t  we also  agree that it can—with our nearly boundless collective wealth and resources—also be a land of second chances?

Let’s agree that institutions—Constitutions, marriage, gay bars, gender, parties—were built in the past, exist in the now, and have room to evolve together.

Likewise, don’t many of us represent ourselves as “social liberals and fiscal conservatives?” The lines defined by such institutions  don’t always make sense when we are forced to choose. Which political party best aligns with the scintilla of difference between where we fall on the scale of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism? Choosing one over the other—Republican over Democrat—denudes neither our gayness nor our Americanness. All it says is that our Classical Liberal endowments curve one way or the other. Few of us have, once we’ve made it to the sack, kicked out a guest for an inconvenient curve to the left or right.

An alignment with a party that continues to evolve, to reach out, and to include “others” does not indicate a hatred of our “gay badge,” rather it indicates what we Republicans prefer to consider bravery. Instead of creating our own pageants, we wear our sashes as good citizens, good neighbors, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. We respect otherness as an institution. We are not “self-loathers.” Self loathing is different from celebrating the entire sash, even as the rainbow badge front-and-centers. It’s easy to sit at the pretty table when you’re pretty. It takes balls, we gay Republicans would argue, to face down our bullies: to force them to eat with us. Self loathing is manifest in much greater ways than whether or not you think the state government should support an economic albatross in the form of a rail system that would never be sufficiently utilized between Tampa and Orlando.  Self loathing is quite different from questioning carefully culled statistics about Obama’s economic successes (largely the result of an independent Fed’s actions that have been both consumption-stimulative and federal debt service minimizing). Self loathing is different from celebrating the entire sash, even as the rainbow badge front-and-centers!


Ultimately, you and I can—and largely do—agree on the same set of challenges while still disagreeing on the solutions. If you can see me, a gay Republican, as something more than a cartoon represented by the three seconds of quotes and thirty minutes of commentary around my party’s wingnuts, I can see you as somebody who respects institutions, safety, and rule of law despite your party’s wingnuts. And even if not, let’s strive for discourse, big smiles, busty curves, and shoulders back. We are all sisters and brothers…and, emerging others.

We will disagree. There will be political winners and losers. This of course, rooted in classic, liberal, capitalist theory, makes sense to those of us who curve to the right.

Over the next several issues of Watermark, you will see me express strong opinions on issues. Likely, you will see me tend toward historical and economic models that inform my experience, education, and morals. You’ll see my poet and my economist. Taking stances that may support Republican political expediency means that I am neither a partisan hack nor a self-loather. I have a stronger ideology: this Classical Liberalism that you claim also guides me. Our goals are similar; our methods may look different. You may disagree with my positions.

At the end of the pageant, though, all I want to do is show you my badges. But you know what? I want to see yours. I want to compare sashes. I want to know about your talents: your T. We need each other: gay Republicans need reminders about beauty in the world: gay Democrats need reminders that sustaining that beauty requires an efficient allocation of scarce resources. We all want sustainable beauty. We, in this broad, diverse orgy of pageantry, want each other.

Now that we can tie knots, let’s move on to doing what we are genetically predisposed to do: be beautiful, perform brilliantly, give substantive interviews and blaze trails across the arts, sciences, history, and future of our collective America.