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Saturday, November 16, 2013

THE DRUNK MAN AND THE PARROT

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It is a hard time to take anything seriously. The mystery of the obvious stumps a lot of our  politically minded public figures. I like to think, surely they don't "represent" us, but they do. It's like the goal is now the bottom. The latest comedy I've seen several times was a quip from Sarah Palin noting that the new pope is "kinda liberal." Wildman comic Bill Maher's response: Wait til she finds out about Jesus. His jest speaks for the entire time we've had to endure the "Christian Right" harp on taxes. Hearing them makes me laugh. Didn't Jesus say something like, Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's? My take on this saying has to do with paying taxes without making a fuss. For me, personally, it has something to do with staying out of politics. The people who claim Christendom for themselves in the realm of politics exhibit little but venality toward others. Compassion among them is a four-letter word. These are people, who, if attending the crucifixion, would say, "Gimme that spear! I wanna stick him too!" I see them in my mind's eye doing this when they pat their own backs calling themselves Christian. It fails to be a bother to me, because they're only fooling themselves. Back in the 1950s I saw this coming when fundamentalist preachers started turning toward the political arena. The belief system does not stand up well to public scrutiny. Inevitably, the belief system, the fog of dogma around "the word," will be picked apart and declared lunatic. This has already happened, and the reaction has been that they're being denied the right to worship.

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Yesterday I spent some of the day with my friend Kathryn. We went by a local diner for pie and coffee, really just a chance to sit face to face and talk for awhile. An old boy we both recognized, but neither of us knew, was sitting at a table nearby. He had the angry white man look of somebody who listens to Limbaugh "religiously." He spoke in our direction asking what we thought of Obamacare. Kathryn said she didn't pay attention to the news. I said I have medicare, it's of no concern to me, and we went on with our conversation. We were not going to jump into that bucket of shit. Just by speaking, he told us where he was coming from. He wanted to gripe out loud. I don't like to be short with somebody, but in a case like this, I can't be short enough. We were not going to let him get started. He's the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving who keeps everybody miserable with his rant. And, by God, he's a Christian. Aint no two ways about it. Kathryn and I talked about him without talking about him, talked about the American white man's mind after a quarter century of Limbaugh mind whipping up artificial anger in white working class men. We spoke of two women we know, both going through divorce, desperate to get away from abusive white men. In both cases, the man was of the Limbaugh rant mind. We felt sorry for the old boy in the restaurant wanting so badly to rant and nobody to listen. At the same time, I felt little to no patience for him, the same as for a Jehovah's Witness at the door interrupting the day pushing their agenda.

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We had just come from visiting a friend of ours who had a white man staying with her at the moment. He was drunk and getting drunker. Neither of us knew him. We both read him for a wild card, no guessing what he might do in the next minute. I took it upon myself to keep him calm by encouraging his talk about himself. It could have gone off into blubbering tears over mama or throwing a fit of rage, anything in between. I didn't feel like it was a dangerous situation. It was a dumb white man drunk. Keep him the center of attention and everybody is happy. Kathryn told me later she didn't know what to do about him, how to talk, anything. I felt at home. Just another white guy in a world of white guys who have issues galore and can only address them drunk. He was tremendously hung up inside, twisted in knots probably in early childhood, needing the liquor to soften the hard edges of guilt and self-loathing. I felt I understood the guy. I can identify with somebody who wants to get shit-faced drunk. It feels great on the inside. It just looks stupid on the outside. I don't ever have a problem with somebody being drunk unless it's a mean drunk. We all have our own issues and issues don't get solved overnight, no matter how fast you go at them. It takes years on the psychiatric couch to really start getting insight into dealing with our issues. Guys growing up in a world where it's an embarrassment to expose that you have issues, or to talk about them, or even own up to them, hold so much emotional turmoil inside they often become time bombs. One unpredictable moment sets them off. Getting good and drunk every now and again acts as a release valve in a pressure cooker. The ones that need to get drunk the most are the ones with the most pressing issues.

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By the time Kathryn and I were having our pie and coffee, we were wondering what kind of day this is. We talked over what we were seeing and how we were feeling about what we were seeing, not with judgment of the particular individuals, but seeing people locked into their minds such that they miss everything going on around them. I'm wanting to pull my own mind away from the old belief that what I think matters beyond myself. We complain an awful lot because we believe what we think matters beyond ourselves. I want to withdraw my mind from "out there" to "in here." I felt like seeing those two men, one after the other, were telling me that wasting my mind on illusions of what is going on "out there" is distracting me from what is important "in here." I take "in here" to mean the heart, living by the heart, thinking by the heart, feeling. "Out there," I take to mean the constructs of the mind, agendas, even beliefs. I see venality comes out of too much emphasis on mind. The self-centered nature of the "Christian Right" is all mind. None of it comes from heart. The Christians operating from heart are not making the news. In both cases of the men we saw, the drunk man and the parrot, I could honestly say to myself: There but for the grace of God go I. Without the grace of God, I would be both those men in one. I don't mean to imply I thought they were bad people. I saw them unfortunate people, as I would see myself without the grace of God. I can't imagine living without the grace of God.

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